Armour put away, Vorm allowed himself to be ushered in to meet his uncle. His own father had been the magistrate’s elder brother. Sadly, he died young. Thus even though Vorm grew up with his mother he had an incomparably precious relationship with his uncle. Valan was not just his uncle, he was also his teacher and his father figure.
He counted himself as fortunate. His father may have died but having Valan as his uncle afforded him the things that made him who he was today. He was the leader of Cragsveil’s military, commanding four thousand, five hundred men and women. What some called the O’be clan curse had worked in his favour turning him into a recognised powerhouse with abilities others could never fathom. Again, it was Valan who gave him the guidance necessary for that to happen.
When a subordinate informed him of the magistrate’s troubles he tossed everything aside. Despite coming home from an extended deployment and a lengthy campaign he did not go home to rest or to his wife and children. Instead, he rushed to his uncle’s house. This was more than enough to show how much he valued this particular uncle of his.
“So … you were gone for quite a while this time but I did not hear any news of battle at the Pronged Gap!” Richard inquired.
“There was none”, he answered.
“I was about to head back when I received intel that a Dire Daemon had made its way over the boundary and was causing chaos along the East. I decided to deal with that before coming home. It took longer than expected.”
Richard chuckled, a single dire daemon would never delay him that long. “A Horde Lorde huh? The newcomers are always so brash. They honestly think that despite the fact they could not make it out in the Wildlands they can run rampant here.”
Vorm couldn’t help but smile. He shared that opinion. Still, this particular Horde Lorde had some reason to be cocky. It had many powerful subordinates and a proper grasp of the properties of its element. It would probably have risen to the profound tier soon. Thankfully he got there in time to stop it.
The two men had never truly been close but they had similar dispositions. Nevertheless, they took the time to catch up a bit before Valan came out to meet him. Once the old man came, however, Richard made an excuse to leave knowing that they needed to speak privately.
“Good morning uncle!” Vorm began.
“Good morning Vorm. Hope all is well”, the magistrate answered casually.
“All is well Uncle. I have come about the matters concerning Valerian and yourself”, Vorm stated simply. He had to cut to the chase. If he did not and ended up drawn into the magistrate’s pace it would be dinner before they were done.
“Ah! As I suspected. Tell me, what have you heard?” the magistrate added.
“I learnt of Valerian’s outstanding prospects, of his dual force nature and the rumours of his crippling disability”, he answered.
The magistrate’s eyes hardened. It was nearly imperceptible but Vorm caught it. Not only was he that good but he had also known the man all his life. He wouldn’t dare say that the man was bare before him but he could certainly notice when he hid something especially now when he was watching closely for a reaction.
“Valerian is not crippled. His is a problem stemming from his mother’s legacy”, the old man stated matter of factly.
“Yes. I heard that too. Only I was told it was an excuse you were using to avoid admitting that your defective blood had been passed on” Vorm pushed.
It seemed harsh but he knew from experience that he had to do it. He had to push his uncle in order to have the full story come out. He wanted that. Not an hour long lecture that would have them skim the subject and the issues involved then retiring for tea before a second session. He was here for information, not a lesson. He would get it.
“What is it you wish to know Vorm?” the magistrate asked blandly.
He was neither blind nor stupid. He knew exactly what his nephew was doing. He didn’t approve but he knew that the boy — no — man would keep pushing until he had his way. After he had tried so hard to teach him patience too.
“Let’s start with what happened exactly?” he replied finally leaning back in his chair.
The magistrate did same reaching up to stroke his long beard as he did so. Then he set out to weave his tale. Vorm did not stop him. His uncle was the best narrator and storyteller he had ever met. He settled in looking forward to what he had to say. This led the magistrate to smile. Little Vorm always loved a story.
“My dear nephew. I hope you remember my stance regarding cultivation and the proper age for children to start it”, he opened.
“How could I not? Because of it I only began cultivation when I was ten”, Vorm answered.
“Good, good. Then, does it not strike you as odd that Valerian is cultivating at the age of eight?” he questioned with a small smile.
Vorm was startled. It was only now he reflected on it that he realised that it was strange. His uncle had always maintained that it was stupid and unnecessary to make children begin cultivation before they were ten years old. He argued that true progress in cultivation only begun with the onset of puberty and anything before that would only help with the foundation. So apart from establishing some of the basics such as control, there was no basis for starting so early.
This flew in the face of the general practice that had children begin as soon as they were able. However, the magistrate cared little about that. He pointed out that the overemphasis on cultivation was what allowed children to grow up empty-headed and ignorant. Besides the basic numbers and letters, the only things they knew had to do with cultivation. This was a serious shortcoming that could lead to problems in their future.
The head start wasn’t worth it in his opinion. Not when there would be next to no physical growth till puberty, meaning that training would be unable to show its results. Or the fact that it was during puberty that natural essence absorption peaked to facilitate the changes, making that the best time for even arcanists to train. Even a person’s own essence would be stimulated during this period doubling the effects of all efforts.
Thus, he felt that the years before were better spent on more scholarly and childish pursuits. If training the body and the essence was not very effective why not focus on the mind. After all, these were children they were talking about. How many had the attention or comprehension to make any meaningful gains when they were forced to train instead of play at so young an age?
However, if you spent time teaching them the things they would need as adults you’d not only broaden the knowledge but their minds as well. This would help with their comprehensive abilities and develop them into more balanced adults.
This was a conviction he had held for most of his life. A conviction that had caused Vorm, Richard, Jonas and even Valiant to be forced to wait until they were ten to even begin cultivation. They were forced to sit through boring lessons on politics, strategy, philosophy, cultivation theory and other such subjects whilst their colleagues were busy with their baptisms and transformations. You would have thought they were to become scholars.
Nonetheless, the effects of their lessons revealed themselves when they began actual cultivation. It was like they cultivated their minds first before they progressed to their bodies and energies. Each of them was far ahead of those same peers who started before them.
He was a medial Arcane King, a reputed spell caster and famed commander. If Richard had not suffered his injury he would definitely be a king as well. Jonas was an expert array master of the second circle an achievement that couldn’t be overpraised and Valiant … he had outdone them all.
For his uncle to go against his own convictions and let his grandson cultivate at his age, there had to be a reason. “Why?” he asked.
“I see it’s begun to dawn on you”, the magistrate said smiling. “I was forced to let Valerian start so early because of a small discovery we made nearly three months ago”. Then he began to tell his nephew some of the events of the last two months.
“You’re saying that Valerian’s body is somehow self-cultivating?” Vorm asked bewildered.
The magistrate nodded sagely.
“And that the reason you are buying all these resources is to provide it the fuel it needs to continue?”
Again the old man nodded.
“You are sure that his condition has to with his mother and not yours? That it has nothing to do with the O’be curse?” Vorm asked for the second time.
The magistrate looked annoyed. “Do you think that I of all people will be mistaken on this issue?”
Vorm thought about it and decided that it was very, very unlikely. There was no one more knowledgeable about the O’be and their curse than his uncle. The man had searched and researched for so many years trying to understand his defect and the source of it. There was no way he would not be able to tell if Valerian’s condition was similar to his or not.
“Have you spoken to the elders? Get them to know what is happening. With their support you will probably find other ways to help Valerian” he suggested.
The magistrate merely snorted in anger. “The elders! Forget them! Most of them do not even know about Valerian’s special physique. That was classified a secret on par with the O’be legacy. When Valerian woke up and the problem was first discovered I broached the issue. They actually nearly considered it. Then they remembered that I was a crippled wastrel and immediately concluded that Valerian’s problem was my fault”.
As he spoke he couldn’t but think back to the moment when the great elder pulled him outside. Unlike the ignorant Elder Grant, she as a great elder was in the know about the true nature of his condition and the O’be legacy. But all she did was ask whether he was sure that Valerian’s condition had nothing to do with the O’be curse. He assured her that it was not.
However even as he spoke he could see the disbelief on her face. He knew then and there that he wasting his breath. Which was easier to believe? That the inability to move qi was related to a mystery legacy belonging to a missing woman of whom little was known or to the one curse they knew with similar effects. The great elder looked at him and informed him that be that as it may the clan would have to withdraw its support. It could not afford to waste resources.
The meeting held later was just a formality. The issue had been decided there. The elders were already of a mind that Valerian was as crippled as he was and were prepared to cut their losses early. They only held off on his arcane cultivation because they did not want to be seen doing so without proper proof. But to them, there was no need. Not when it was so obvious.
At first Valan had been infuriated but eventually, he too began to doubt. Could Valerian’s condition really be traced back to him? It would fit. He knew nothing about his daughter-in-law’s true origins. Who is to say she even had a legacy? What if this was all just another form of the curse?
Thankfully, good news came just in time to break him from his downward spiral. From that moment he knew what to do.
Vorm looked at his uncle unsure of what to say. He knew how touchy the subject was but he was not sure that the old man was making the right decision. To bet everything on an untried theory was too reckless. Uncle Valan did not do reckless.
“Are you sure there is no other way? Perhaps we should invite some experts to come and examine the boy. They could find something to help”, he broached.
“Find what?” the magistrate barked.
“I have narrowed the problem to a blood legacy he inherited from his mother but without knowing what that legacy is we can do nothing. It could be that he needs a special cultivating method, or a special device, or substance, or environment or any other number of things. We can’t know because we have no idea what the legacy is.
“If there’s a problem, we wouldn’t know. His legacy has not revealed any obvious characteristics that we can use to deduce its nature or origin. Thankfully we can tell that it is active due to it transforming his body. The best we can do is wait for it to reveal more of itself. But we have no idea how to do that as well. So we are banking on it doing so during puberty or when his one of energies, probably his qi, reaches the gathering or condensation stage”, he elaborated.
“That is…” Vorm began but he could not continue. He could not see any way out of it. They were backed into a corner. The only other route was to ask Valerian to give up on his qi cultivation which was obviously not even an option.
“But after that, what then?” he was forced to ask.
To call someone a tellurian when he did not even practice a qi cultivation method was a stretch. Their importance to cultivation could not be overstated. Even if Valerian got to the qi gathering stage what then. He could only ever be an inferior cultivator for the rest of his life.
“Even I cannot see that far ahead”, his uncle admitted. “With luck, something would change by then but if not once his meridians are open there are alternative methods of training we can try”.
“Qi tempering! You’re planning for him to undergo qi tempering when he achieves qi movement” Vorm realised with some distaste.
Once a tellurian succeeded in opening his eight meridians he could move his qi through them. They would become roads or channels allowing him to distribute his qi throughout his body and move his qi to wherever it was needed. It was only at this stage that a person would have control over his qi and be able to use it to perform skills or enhance his body.
Qi tempering was an ancient form of tellurian cultivation, from a time when cultivation methods with true mysteries were not so widespread. They strengthened qi in a variety of ways and could have some very good effects. However, they lacked any inherent mysteries making them inferior to actual cultivation methods for the most part.
Many were still used today but only as supplementary techniques, not mainstay ones. Plus, besides some really old clans and tribes very few had any qi tempering methods worth a damn. For Valerian to practise such methods as his primary form of cultivation was as good as cutting his path short. He could never even dream of reaching the higher tiers.
Vorm shook his head dispiritedly. ‘Is this really all we can hope for?’ he asked himself dispiritedly.
“Don’t look so glum”, his uncle ribbed.
“You might look down on qi tempering but the actual techniques are better than you think. Also, not all hope is lost. These are just things for the meantime. I’ve got feelers out searching for any information on his mother and her origins and I have contacts that might be able to get us some qi tempering methods of the king tier when the time comes”.
Vorm was incredulous. Sounds of shouting distracted him for a second and caused his eyes to flick towards the entrance but he ignored them for the sake of the conversation he was having.
“You want to begin a search of the same kind that drove Valiant mad with obsession and resulted in his disappearance?” he broached in a careful tone.
“Yes”, the magistrate said softly, gaining that look he always did when his son was mentioned. “We have to. If there’s any chance it may help Valerian we have to take it”.
“I’ll handle that”, Vorm suggested. Best to keep the old man away from the matter. Then to change the subject he asked. “You know, I have never spent much time with the young man. Is he really as bright as you all say?”
That got a smile from the old man. “Hah! Recently I’ve been forced to admit that even I underestimated him”.
“Really, do tell?” he asked now honestly curious.
“He has achieved a perfect arcane vessel theorised in the Manifold Elemental Incarnations!”
Vorm was gobsmacked at the news. He made to say something when the sounds of the commotion in the front yard heightened, cutting him off.