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Chapter Fifty: Monarch Intent
Field Marshal Lilian Bloodworth retd. was an old lady. An old and powerful lady who was to be obeyed, feared and respected in equal measures. There was none among those who knew of her exploits who was not also in awe of her. She was a living legend. Even retired, her influence in the military was no less that of the current Marshals. This made it incredibly hard to deny her anything which was unfortunate because the aide who had been assigned to see to her needs had no way to give her what she wanted at this time.
“My humble apologies, ma’am”, he stumbled. “I am afraid Lord Strapping is not available at this particular time.”
“Not available how?” she asked.
“I am sorry, ma’am. I do not know”, he pleaded.
Despite being a full half a metre shorter than him and seated, the old lady stared down at him and rated him with a single word. “Useless!”
James felt like crying. When their guest announced herself, he couldn’t believe it. He’d immediately volunteered and practically fought with his colleagues to be the one to receive and attend to the Lady Bloodworth but he doubted he would have if he’d known she’d be so difficult. He did not have a high enough rank to personally convey a message to Lord Strapping to talk little of bringing him to see her. Regrettably for him, that was what she wanted. He reached through the channels but all they’d tell him was that he was away from the centre.
“I am making enquiries right now, ma’am”, he told her. “I should have the information shortly.”
The old lady ignored him, causing him to stand there awkwardly. Fearing that she might be hard of hearing, he tried repeating his words only louder. Before he even reached the third word, she cut in.
“Do not speak to me until you have results to report”, she ordered.
“Understood, ma’am”, he responded, suddenly finding himself at attention.
Resigning himself to the corner of the room, he whispered urgently into his communication talisman making sure to name drop who exactly wanted an audience with their lord. Once it was clear to the folks on the other end the sort of person they had waiting, he was told to sit still and not do anything stupid. Minutes later, the nominal commandant himself was in the Waiting Room.
“Lieutenant-General Sean Grayson, Field Marshal”, he said introducing himself. “Please accept my apologies, for letting you wait. I was unaware you were here.”
“Sean…sean…sean” the old lady repeated as if mulling the name over. “I remember now. You became Augustus’ student a few centuries ago if I’m right.”
“Yes, ma’am” the man answered with a pleased smile. “Master had hoped you’d come but you were in closed cultivation at the time I’m told.”
“Yes well, I’m here now”, she told him. “Where is Augustus?”
“Master is away at the moment, ma’am. He went to see the fifth protector about a small matter but I’ve already let him know you’re here. He asked me to tell to give him a few hours and he’ll be with you shortly.”
The old lady nodded slowly at his words.
“If you wish, ma’am I can bring you to Master’s abode. I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable there. I can also get you something to drink or some entertainment whilst you wait”, he added courteously.
“What do you have?”
“Master has a fine selection of wine but I’ll admit I’m not much of a wine person”, he answered. “I can offer you some Jao tea that I recently acquired, if you don’t mind my presumption, ma’am”
“That’s alright. Wine is fine. Augustus is partial to nice brew that comes in ivory casks”, she informed him. “Do you know the one I’m talking about?”
The General nodded fervently.
“Good. Get me some of that! Also, I noticed that a rather large portion of you are gathered in the east. Why is that?” the old woman asked him.
“It is nothing to be concerned about, ma’am” the General assured her. “We’re just conducting the first assessment of our new recruits.”
“Oh! That should prove interesting”, she said.
Together, they left the Waiting Room, walking slowly out the door and into the air like it was nothing. Presumably, they were to the home of Lord Strapping. Neither of them cared that they had left a very dumbstruck aide behind. He had never seen the General act so servile before.
Valerian’s battle intent was similar to Reynard’s but at the same time, it was completely different. He couldn’t help but be dazed. He had been working on obtaining battle intent since the day Vorm revealed his own but nothing they’d done had helped him develop one. Today, just by confronting Reynard’s own, all the work he’d put into it had been made manifest and with it, Valerian could see his very own battle intent take shape.
Battle intent is a strange cultivating phenomenon. Will and fighting spirit made manifest. It could be centred on the self or sent into the world. It could suppress enemies or bolster allies. It could even be used as a medium to launch soul and mental attacks or to defend against them. You could choose to simply blast it out or use it as a base for proper techniques. There were even some who swore that gaining battle intent was an important task on the to-do-list towards the King tier. Vorm was one of them. However, all these were far from Valerian at the moment.
Valerian’s aura billowed, wrapping around his squadmates. He had been wrong. No. Not wrong, just headed down a different path. He had thought that his battle intent had to be like his uncles’, either focused on the self like Richards or made to crush one’s enemies like Vorm’s. Thankfully, after seeing Reynard’s, he knew better. Perhaps, even more beneficial for him, Valerian now understood himself much more than he did before.
He was arrogant. He knew that now. He believed Reynard was full of himself but it turned out, he was too. Valerian simply refused to be second best at anything. What made others special and him not? He was just as good if not better. The proof? He was heir to two incredible legacies. He had been born with great talent and intelligence and he was on the path to becoming the greatest array master the Kingdom of Bathar had ever seen to say nothing of his other ambitions. What among these put him beneath others? Reynard’s intent revealed him to be someone who wished to be the greatest under the heavens and Valerian was the same in this aspect.
However, he was not doing it all for himself. This was the most critical aspect that he had been missing. Reynard’s intent flowed into his men because he assured them greatness. He was the son of the heavens, all who followed him would enjoy their favour. All who helped put him on the throne would be granted nobility. Valerian found that some part of him resonated with that. With a start, he realised that he had been trying to materialise his fighting spirit whilst neglecting the very reason why he fought in the first place. No wonder he kept failing.
What was it that made Valerian fight? What caused him to leap into battle for the first time all those years ago in that small courtyard? The answer was family. What else could? Valerian’s reasons for fighting, his greatest ambitions all involved preserving and elevating his family. He wanted to be strong for them, because of them. To be great so they would be great. To be rich so that they would want for nothing.
Valerian wanted to be powerful but more than anything, he wanted the best for his family. That high tier he put himself on? That great stage he wanted to reach? He would put them there as well. If they fell he would support them. If they needed him, he would be there. Just as they had always been there for him when he needed it.
These two aspects of himself combined with the foundation he had already laid and with the peng concepts he had brought to the fore of his mind, composed his battle intent. Now complete, this battle intent burst forth like water from a broken dam. The authority of the peng shrouded him, manifesting as a will to dominate the world. A feeling of power and might, his ambitions, followed. There was also a clear undertone. Put your trust in me it said. So long as you remain with me, I will bring you greatness and bear you up with my wings.
Valerian looked at his squad. He had never had friends before coming to Strapping’s. All he’d ever had was his family. However, he had to admit, they had grown on him. They were the closest thing he had to family in this place. His newly formed intent wrapped tighter around them, slowly sinking into them.
“Do not resist!” he told them.
“Interesting”, Lady Bloodworth said softly as she watched the battle from the artefact she had been provided. “It appears the younger boy has comprehended a monarch intent of his own. This battle is about to become a clash of kings. Two kings in what…a single platoon? Looks like this centre really does foster geniuses. Augustus is doing well for himself here.”
General Grayson, standing meekly at her side smiled and chose not to comment on that. He did, however, comment on the topic of battle intents. “I’ve always wondered about monarch intents. How exactly do these kings get others to follow them? I was under monarch intent once and I could barely stop myself from falling in line.”
“They do not lie!” Lady Bloodworth told him. “It might be better to say that they cannot lie. Lies are illusions, without substance. They would never manifest. A monarch commands and empowers with his very self. The two in there are communicating their very will and heart, exchanging pledges of allegiance for power. To manifest, they must be true. If true then there’s no questioning it. The core self knows this even if the follower does not. This does not mean the terms are fair only true. It is up to the followers to decide whether theirs is a king they’d follow or one whose rule they’ll overthrow.”
For the members of Valerian’s squad, the surrounding events happened differently. They had been winning when all of a sudden, Reynard’s aura had billowed out to cover his squad. A few among them recognised what he released to be a battle intent. The rest figured it was some kind of benedictory technique. Next thing they knew, Squad Four’s auras began to change as well. They became more powerful and took on a strange note. Their essence levels and potency grew whiles Reynard’s strange aura technique hung around them like garlands.
Then, Valerian had an eruption of his own. His aura transformed in a matter of seconds, wrapping around them. Many were taken aback. This aura didn’t feel like the Valerian they knew. It was harsher and more dominating. It didn’t ask, it demanded they follow. Alarm bells started to go off but before they could properly react, this strange aura began to be tempered. A promise of greatness, of support and of might slipped in. It was communicated directly to them, not with words or essence but something intrinsic. They felt it connect with something deep within them.
“Do not resist!” they heard their leader say.
Choosing to trust him, they bathed in his intent, accepting his promise and agreeing to his terms.
Soon there were two armies facing each other warily. The first was composed of sons of heaven and the second, a league of conquerors. Despite being very similar, Valerian and Reynard were also quite different. They both believed themselves to be the best but whereas Reynard apparently saw himself as someone born great, Valerian saw himself as someone who had to achieve greatness. It showed in their intents. Reynard’s put him out there as a son of the heavens. He would be great come what may. Nothing could stop him. Valerian’s displayed itself as a will to dominate, to rise to might and power. One was a king born and the other, one who conquered.
Their differences were also made clear in their followers. Reynard assured his of the favour of the heavens. It was their boon to follow him and share in his greatness. They were to be rewarded because they had joined up with someone great. When he came into his own, they would be showered with some of his glory. Valerian promised his squad greatness. So long as they stayed with and supported him, he would carry them to lofty heights. He would fulfil their dreams. They would be rewarded so long as they helped him reach that great height. All they had to do was follow and support him and once he attained that height, he’d pull them up as well.
The lightning storm Laura summoned was fading and under it, Valerian and Reynard looked at each other across the battlefield. This time, they evaluated each other differently. The same way Valerian had come to understand Reynard through his intent, he had done Valerian.
“I knew you were interesting, Steelborn”, the leader of Squad Two yelled. “Sadly, an elementary battle intent doesn’t cut it this time.”
With these words, his intent grew stronger, far eclipsing Valerian’s own. His essence and that of his squadmates did same. As if this wasn’t enough for him, Reynard grinned and made a few hand signs and yelled, “[Adoubement].”
Pillars of light erupted where each of his elite stood and their essence practically doubled. Valerian watched in astonishment as their bodies shuddered before adjusting to the increase in power. He cursed, knowing the battle had taken a turn for the worse.
“Get them!” he heard his opponent command, spurring his men forward.
“Alen!” he yelled turning to the youth in question. “Do something!”
Understanding what was required of him, Alenwaa let the ward fall and began casting a spell of his own. [Benedictio Militis] The first person he pointed at was Valerian, who stood and allowed it to affect him. A red glow came upon him and his essence levels shot up dramatically under the benediction. Quickly, Alenwaa cast the spell on their other squadmates.
“The plan hasn’t changed”, Valerian said, sparing a glance for his troop. “You know what to do. James! Bohn. Your targets are almost here. Get into position!”
No sooner had he said these words that the elite were upon them. The air began to turn cold. The grass at their feet froze and a sheet of ice quickly spread over the ground as the vanguard of squad two approached them. Like his epithet suggested, the coldbringer brought winter’s chill wherever he went. Bolstered by his leader’s intent and spell, the effects of his ability were even more widespread than Valerian had predicted.
Every place George went became a Winterland, good for him and bad for any unaccustomed to the terrain and climate. His squad was obviously used to it. In fact, they were relying on the advantage it gave. There was a glimmer of essence at each of their feet allowing George and his squadmates to skate on the ice sheet he was growing.
“Tamara!” Valerian yelled, his breath visible in the suddenly freezingly cold air. They would be in trouble if they allowed the ground beneath them to become covered in ice. Their only hope rested with her countering the coldbringer.
“On it!” she responded as her counterspell came into effect. The spreading ice halted metres away from their team, going no further. The ice skaters halted in surprise and Valerian and his team, seizing this opportunity, struck at them. Fireballs, arrows of wind and numerous metallic implements shot at them. The coldbringer barely conjured a wall ice in time to block their attacks. With a shove, he shot it towards them but John was there to meet it. He grunted, punching the ice wall with a gauntleted fist and causing it to explode.
Leaping forward, he made to engage George. The shocked youth actually stood in stunned paralysis as the ice beneath him melted and his powers inexplicably stopped working. With no other choice, his squadmates ran past him to attack Valerian’s squad turning the field into a giant melee.
After trying several times and finding the surrounding essence unresponsive, George heard feminine laughter. Snapping his head over to glare at Tamara, he finally realised what was happening. Two arcanists could not control the same material. Tamara was somehow, preventing him from accessing the surrounding water attributed essence, making his abilities worthless.
“Hey, you icy bastard. My attributes are water and ice and guess what? I was here first!” she teased.
George actually had it wrong. Tamara wasn’t locking him out. No arcane disciple was capable of such a feat. What she was doing was issuing a simple command to their surroundings. No ice within 50 metres of her. As a coldbringer, all George did was create and control ice. She had created a zone where no ice could form and only liquid water could exist. Of course his abilities wouldn’t work. George didn’t know this.
Choosing to brute force it, he summoned all his essence to bear on their surroundings. Under the effects of Reynard’s intent, his essence was near twice his norm. If it was a battle for control she wanted. He’d give her one. Soon a strange phenomenon appeared. Ice began to form around George, slowly extending outwards but at the same time, it melted just as quickly. The edges of Tamara’s no ice zone were the same. Ice could form right outside but the moment it began to intrude, it would melt into water. The two arcanists were battling for control.
Tamara had the attribute advantage but George was more powerful and on top of that he held an absolute advantage in terms of essence quantity and potency. She began to visibly strain from the effort of suppressing him but held on. Letting George run loose was the same as giving the terrain advantage to Squad Four. Her squad did not know how to fight on ice and in fog. Unfortunately, John fought valiantly, trying to get close enough to knock the coldbringer’s lights out but George’s attendants held him back.
A streak of gold flashed towards the coldbringer. Valerian already had his [Rending Talons] out but before he too could get close a massive fire dragon flew past him, narrowly missing him. It flew around, intent on hitting him. Forced to take evasive manoeuvres, Valerian left multiple streaks of gold in his wake on his way into the sky. There, eyes narrowed, he turned to face Reynard.
The leader of Squad Four stood in the air on some sort of nebulous artefact. Three elemental dragons looking like coloured outlines with rune covered relics embedded in them swirled around him. They roared at Valerian looking incredibly lifelike and emitting actual draconic qi.
“That’s quite clever. I’ve never seen anything like it” he said, referring to the icy clash beneath them. “Why don’t you leave them to sort themselves out? Your battle is with me!”
Valerian said nothing, choosing to enter a battle stance instead.
The flamboyant youth thought nothing of it. “Tell me Steelborn”, Reynard slurred. “Have you ever fought a cloud?”
Valerian thought back to the Zebre and the arrogant show off he’d trashed to enter the finals, Kalian DriftCloud.
“It’s been a while but yes”, he answered.
Important change: Previously, I referred to George as a “Ma’rtarrena”. This is wrong. I made a mistake. I translated the term coldbringer much too literally. Whilst Ma’rtarrena does indeed translate into coldbringer or ‘cold brought here’, a person would never be called that. I had intended for the word to be the official name for his kind/sect. The people who bring the cold/frost. Thus, it should be ‘Tarrema’rna’ not the other phrase used.
This would allow for the parlance, ‘Atarre ma’r na’ or ‘He/one who brings the cold/frost’ and ‘Nerrba ne Tarre ma’r na’ ‘The people who bring the cold/frost’. It is more accurate too and a more proper way to refer to a person in my native tongue.
I am sorry. It was an oversight on my part. Please recognise the term to be Tarrema’rna from this point forward. I’ll find the time to go through and edit the released chapters to reflect this change.
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