Chapter Forty-five: A Broken Legacy
Valerian worked silently, using his skill at metal manipulation to draw out veinlike tendrils of titan bone that had wormed their way into the walls and ceiling. They pulsed with a warped variation of his essence signature, drawing on the world essence around them in a manner he found eerily similar to an arcane ward. His phantasm, although indignant, worked beside him. The apparition took the reduction of its newly created territory personally. Still, it did the work required of it. It had no choice. Lady Bloodworth made her intentions very clear. Fix the damage they had caused or suffer the consequences.
Sighing, Valerian held out a palm, a repair array coming to life around it in less time than it took to blink. The pieces of wood and stone flew back into place. All the cracks and furrows went away, and the wall’s original colour slowly restored itself. He had become incredibly skilled at the repair array these past two days. The aspect of authority was already proving its might. Commanding world essence had never been more natural. The newly awakened spiritual powers helped too. It felt like he had eyes on the back of his head. It was a strange but welcome feeling.
Remembering the rumour about his great-grandfather regularly blanketing DaleGuard with his own to spy on people, Valerian tried it out. His field of awareness expanded, pure will and spirit billowing out like fog to cover everything in the vicinity. Behind him, the giant spectre stiffened and turned to look at him curiously. Due to its nature, it was sensitive to spiritual energy allowing it to literally feel what he was doing. Valerian noted its expression with his new senses, mentally, he was in awe at how dense it had become.
Before, it was smokelike in consistency and indistinct in direct light. Now, only the slightly translucent nature informed you that it lacked physical form. Thankfully, it had compressed itself to fit in the hallway. Valerian could only imagine how big it would be if it were outside, free to assume full form. There were not its only changes. Golden lines shone in its pseudo-flesh, like gold filigree on steel armour. The design went all the way up to circle its head like a circlet. From this pattern, Valerian could sense the power of his aspect, superficial though it was. However, Valerian had the feeling that there was something deeper within.
He pushed and the phantasm accommodated him, albeit with a grumble. Under the thin veneer of his authority, Valerian discovered nothing. The apparition was nothing but daemonic true essence bound together by a spiritual presence he could only now sense.
‘That cannot be all!’ Valerian told himself. There had to be more. Maybe he was not going deep enough.
Forcing his daemonic self to co-operate, he delved deeper. Guided by his experiences in checking his peng memories as well as his ascension, he dived deep into the heart of the steel monolith. He had to know what made it tick. It had no core aspects and being a ghost no daemon core, still there had to be something more to it. Valerian was compelled to find out. Working in tandem with the phantasm, he achieved just that.
It was all he could see. Metals of every kind. Some, Valerian recognised. Others were straight unknowns.
From the earth
Born of essence
Refined by fire
The Living Metal
The Colossal Tyrant
A heart that pulses but does not beat
A body of treasure
A valiant spirit
An unquenching drive
He saw it in his head. A dark cavern, a giant vein of metal. Then, the image changed to an underground lake of fire with masses of molten metal mixed into its magma. It changed yet again, this time a simple block of unrefined titan bone at the centre of a dense amalgamation of metal element essence. Charged, this block drew more minerals to itself like a lodestone until a vast mass had built up. It was same for the ore vein and the same for the molten metal. They drew to themselves; the vein shrinking, condensing into a single point. The liquid metal gathered in its magmatic crucible.
Time passed without meaning. It could have been any number of years; centuries, millennia, ages. Unperceived, an abrupt transformation occurred in the gathered metal. Valerian had no idea what caused it. He only saw its effects; a further gathering of essence, the pulsing of the metal and a form of energy, he swore was spiritual in nature. The spark of life had been lit in the metal. It was not content to stay put.
A unique flame formed around it, its heat working inward to remove whatever impurities remained. It was only in the case of the molten one that this was unnecessary. Ultimately, a recognisable body formed underground in each case; breaking free from the stone, rising from the flame, yelling its arrival to the entire world.
True to form
Growth through strength
Eternal alloy, admixt metal
Ruler of the Earth
An everchanging shell mounted on the father’s bones
He saw it, something other than the monolithic birth. This one was a true familial memory. His ancestor, Menhirion standing on the mountain, roaring with dominance. Multitudes of daemons bowed before him. The earth itself followed his whims and all around, streaming veins of metal wove through the mountain proclaiming it as his. All its treasures were his to bestow. All its inhabitants were his to rule.
Metal is yours for the taking
You are the law
You are the truth
“Did you fall asleep with your eyes open, Valerian?” someone asked with a laugh.
Take it! Take it all!
Earth gave us strength
Heaven gave us wisdom
We are the inheritors of the father
Advance to the truth
Enshrine the path
Mend the broken legacy
A new titan forged on the bones of the old
“Hey, Valerian!” came an insistent voice. “Quit playing! wake up!”
He dived deeper. Deeper than he had ever dared do with the peng. So deep, he could barely see it. THE FIRSTBORN! An awe-inspiring figure, the Metal Laws given form. THE FATHER! He raised them, giving life to the minerals of the earth. They rose from the depths of the earth. His children, blessed with his will. Carriers of his legacy. He was gone, but they remained. When the path was mended, he would return. This he knew in his heart and core.
“VALERIAN!” yelled a figure in the distance.
“What’s wrong with him?” This was a new voice now. No, two new voices. The noise was increasing, distracting.
“I don’t know! He’s just staring at nothing.”
“My god look at the phantom’s eyes!”
“SHIT! Is it eating his soul? I’ve heard that can happen.”
“I’m calling Bloodworth!”
Valerian came to, forced back to reality feeling like boiling water had been poured into his bed with him still in it. The first thing to greet him was Lady Bloodworth’s face. The old lady peered into his eyes, her right hand cradling his head. Around her stood his fellow disciples with worried faces all around. Behind him, the phantasm collapsed into plumes of smoke and motes of light. Spent, it was drawn back into his body.
“Shitty elemental bloodlines!” she said. “It’s always the same thing.”
She examined him further, lifting his eyelids to check the responsiveness of his pupils. Groggy, Valerian swayed unsteadily on his feet. With a quick slap to the cheek, Lady Bloodworth forced him back to full wakefulness. He made to protest, but she cut him off.
“You’ll be alright.” Turning to the other disciples, she continued, “You did not even need to call me for this. He would have run out of spiritual energy sooner or later. Following that, he would wake up a day or two later with a splitting headache and a body filled with lead, but it would be a fitting punishment for his foolhardiness.”
“Come now then”, she called to them. “This is as good at time as any to learn about bloodlines and legacies. That way you can avoid ending up like your friend here.”
Walking out of the side door of the east wing and into the backyard, the old lady made straight for the new pavilion. The others followed, unsure but obedient. Only Hue stayed behind. Worried, she walked up to him and placing a hand on his shoulder, she asked. “Are you okay?”
Valerian shook his head vigorously to clear out the fog and run a few circuits of his essence. This freshened him up almost instantly.
“I think so”, he replied. “What happened?”
“Master says you got lost in your bloodline’s roots, whatever that means”, she informed him. Glancing behind her, she how far the others were getting.
“We better catch up”, she said.
“I had not planned to bring up this subject so soon. However, extenuating circumstances have made it a priority”, Lady Bloodworth began. “Today, we will discuss the greatest kind of inherited legacy; bloodlines.”
The five apprentices were sitting cross-legged in a circle on the essence convergence dais, their teacher pacing around in the middle.
“Bloodlines are incredible; extra power you do not have to work for, merely develop. They grant many abilities, come in different tiers have different tier and forms, but they all come from the same source; Verre itself. In a way, Verre’s Gift, the ability to cultivate is the first true legacy, the first-ever bloodline, and all others are simply offshoots of it”, she informed them.
“Who can name three sources of bloodlines?” she asked.
Wynna raised her hand and was called upon. Answering, she said, “Most bloodlines come daemonic ancestry or divine bodies.”
“The difference being?”
“A daemonic bloodline comes from the intermingling of the species whilst a divine body is granted directly by Verre through fortune, happenstance or as a reward.”
“I asked for three”, their teacher reminded her.
The scarlet haired girl floundered for a few seconds before finally finding what she looking for. “You can also gain a bloodline from practising certain cultivation methods or ascending the tiers.”
“Good! Excellent actually!” Lady Bloodworth praised.
“In this circle, we have every kind of bloodline”, she revealed.
“We have those that come from daemonic ancestry”, she said gesturing at Valerian and Wynna.
“One resulting from a growth in cultivation”, she added, as she stopped in front of Hue. “And finally, we have five divine bodies.”
It took a moment for Valerian to realise she was referring to all of them. Quickly, he remembered that condensing a preterm aspect before the lord’s ascension granted a low-tier divine body during the baptism.
“Of course, your divine bodies are not bloodlines”, their teacher pointed out, resuming her circular pacing. “Your kids, however, they will inherit bloodlines relating to your current divine bodies. All of them trash, of course, but bloodlines, nonetheless.”
“In the simplest definition of the term, a bloodline is a power borne by the blood and passed down in a lineage. It is the purest form of inheritance and in most cases, the most convenient”, she explained.
“Taking the most common form of bloodline, daemonic legacies. All you need is for one of your ancestors to have had carnal knowledge of a daemon at one point or the other and presto, you’ve got special powers. It could be a giant, or a titan or even a tick. If you carry its blood, you inherit its power. Divine bodies are similar. All you need is for an ancestor to be lucky enough to be blessed by Verre and just like that, you’ve made it. A clear cut path of power will open before you”, she mocked. “It will not be easy. Far from it, some bloodlines suffer from harsh requirements not to mention, you still need to cultivate normally. However, your path will be straight and clear. That let me tell you is more valuable than longevity.”
Her steps paused, and her eyes drifted away in thought, but her mouth continued speaking. “You will have only one major problem, the bloodline shackles.”
“Take Valerian, for example”, she said gesturing toward the unexpecting Steelborn. “His clan is descended from a steel monolith. Steel monoliths are class four daemons, This means full-grown, most of them will reach the Sovereign tier without too much trouble. That’s the equivalent of a Human Emperor tiered cultivator.”
Giving this news a few moments to sink before continuing she added, “Steel monoliths are elementals as well. That means their powers are tied to the elemental laws allowing them to channel the concepts for their benefit. Few know this, but steel monoliths are actually titan childe. They are disinherited and probably illegitimate but still, titan childe.”
Valerian felt his phantasm seethe in resentment at her remarks. Only its awareness of the fact that it was powerless to do anything except die in front of her prevented it from manifesting itself in a fit of rage. Lady Bloodworth watched him with an appraising stare, looking for something. Whatever she saw must have pleased her because she nodded and continued with her lecture.
“Unlike a proper titan childe like Wynna or myself. Steel monoliths carry no substantive inheritance from the titans. None can say for certain, but it is believed that steel monoliths were created by one of the metal titans as soldiers in a forgotten titan war. When that titan was returned to Verre’s embrace, his war machine kept running and even today it litters the earth with his illegitimate children.
“Again, while this is likely truth, no one knows for certain”, she reaffirmed. “Even if it is not true. From the moment they are born, steel monoliths are ready for battle. They fight, conquering vast swathes of land in an ever-growing radius from the site of their birth and subduing everyone they come across. The only real check their growth is their own bloodline shackles. They are class four daemons, and class four daemons is all they can be.
“Theoretically, a titan’s bloodline should reach the sage tier at very least, further evidence that their legacy is broken. A few bloodlines are even at the Incarnate tier. Of course, that’s only in theory. The reality is vastly different. The Blazing Spirit bloodline of the Gavriels is a sage or profound inheritance. That too is our limit. For you see, bloodline inheritors suffer from two major problems. The first is the bloodline shackles that keep us bound within the limits of our bloodlines and the second is decline.
“Decline is the tendency for bloodlines to grow weaker with time”, she explained. “For many bloodlines, it is akin to a slow death.”