Chapter 168: View From the Sky
It didn’t surprise me when Elder Rahdeas came to visit me, telling me how he had brought home an infant human boy. I was familiar with his kindness; I, too, had been a recipient of his goodwill after all.
He had taken me away from the cruel streets of the upper caverns, giving me food and shelter in his own home. Treating me as if I were his blood, he taught me to read and write and, after finding out my natural inclination toward magic, even taught me the basics of mana manipulation. But even then, I was cautious. Growing up without a home or family taught one to be suspicious of everyone.
There was always a nagging thought that maybe this man was just nurturing me to sell me off one day. However, that wasn’t the case. Years passed happily and my suspicions had long since evaporated—I had come to consider myself his son.
After graduating as one of the top conjurers in Earthborn Institute, located in the capital city of Vildoral, I had been selected to be one of the trainees to become a guard of the royal family.
The Greysunders were greedy and looked down on their entire race, always discontent with how they were perceived—inferior to the humans and elves. But I served the king and queen faithfully and with the highest respect; that is what Rahdeas taught me.
After decades of serving the royal family faithfully, talk of choosing the next two lances came to light and I had become one of the candidates. At first, I had planned to drop out of the private tournament; if I had wanted my life bound to someone, it would be to no one but Rahdeas.
Rahdeas had respected this decision until the day he brought home the boy he named Elijah. Without giving me any detail of how he came across a human infant, Rahdeas urged me to become a lance that would serve the royal family faithfully. I argued, saying the Greysunders were not the ones I wished to chain my life to, but Rahdeas assured, with utmost confidence, that it would only be temporary and that I would be bound to him in the end.
I had learned from serving as a guard for the royal family that the Greysunders had been in power since the creation of Darv, yet Rahdeas was somehow able to guarantee otherwise.
He was the man I respected as a father and savior. Even if I disobeyed the king, I wouldn’t disobey Rahdeas.
Another decade passed and the human boy grew under the care of Rahdeas, and for the first time in history, the lances were knighted in public. Rahdeas was kind but also a man that, despite his love for his people, kept his thoughts to himself.
He never told me what he meant when he said my soulbond with the Greysunders wasn’t permanent. He never told me why he kept our ties a secret from the boy. He never explained who exactly it was that told him that this boy was supposed to be the savior of the dwarves.
“You’re quiet, Olfred,” Rahdeas said from the other side of the large circular room. “What’s the matter?”
“Nothing, my lord.” I pried my gaze away from the window and faced the man who’d raised me.
“Olfred! I told you to just call me Rahdeas when we’re alone,” he scolded gently. “Now take a seat. Have a drink with this old man.”
“I have grown old as well.” I took a seat across from him, receiving a goblet.
“The view of the moon is magnificent, is it not?” he sighed after taking a large swig from his goblet that seemed tiny in his large hand.
“It is,” I agreed.
“What an ignorant misconception made by humans and elves. They think that just because we live underground, we prefer caves over buildings. With those unbearable gales that cover all of Darv, did they not stop once to think that we didn’t construct tall towers and buildings because we couldn’t?”
I nodded, looking out the window once more after taking a sip. “Ignorance leads to false assumptions and interpretations.”
“Very true. But times of change are upon us.” Rahdeas idly traced the scar running down his left eye. “The time has come, my child.”
Reaching over the table, Rahdeas gently grabbed my wrist, clasping his hand over mine. “Are there any doubts or hesitations clouding your mind?”
“None… Father.” The word felt foreign to me. I had never said it out loud despite always thinking so. However, I knew I would regret if I didn’t say it before my time came to an end.
The corner of Rahdeas’s eyes crinkled in a gentle smile as he held onto my hand firmly. “Good, good. My only regret is that you won’t be here to see the triumph of our people. If only you had been bound to me rather than that asura.”
I shook my head. “There are some things we cannot change. But there is one thing that I wanted you to know.”
“What is it?”
“I know your ambitions for our people, but that is not why I am doing this. Our people were the ones that had scorned me and beat me while I was on the streets. I just want you to know that the reason I can do all of this without a doubt is because it is what you desire.”
Closing his only able eye, Rahdeas nodded slowly. “Good child. Very good.”
I sat down at the edge of my bed, removing the pin that held my hair up. My bond let out a soft grunt of acknowledgment before falling back asleep, leaving me to the silent peace of the night.
Tess’ voice echoed in my head, her words conflicting with my priorities.
“…‘to<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>tell you that I love you again,’” I repeated softly to myself. There were only a few things I truly wanted in this lifetime. It wasn’t fame, power or wealth; I had that and more during my previous life. What I wanted—and the reason why I was fighting this war—was simply to grow old with my loved ones, something I wasn’t able to do as Grey. For that, I was willing to go against any enemies, asuras or not.
What I had trouble fighting was the temptation to throw everything away. There were times when I wanted to just escape to the edge of the Beast Glades with Tess and my family.
Greed constantly questioned my every move.
This isn’t your war, Arthur.
Your legs are near-crippled and you have scars all over your body; haven’t you done enough?
You’re fighting for your people again. You did that in your last life and look where that got you?
Letting out a sigh, I realized why I was constantly pushing Tess away, giving her excuses or roundabout answers for a later date.
I was afraid.
I was afraid that if I let her in, my greed would become uncontrollable—that I would throw away Dicathen to save the few I truly loved.
Time trickled by while I was lost in my thoughts and by the time I realized, the rising sun, covered beneath the clouds, had given the sky an orange tint.
Removing the luxurious attire I had been wearing since the event last night, I slipped into a comfortable shirt and vest, tucking in the ends of my pants into my boots before draping a thick cloak over my shoulders. “It’s time to go, Sylv.”
Sylvie’s bright yellow eyes fluttered open. Hopping off the bed, she walked beside me, watching me as I carefully applied the special bandage to hide the large scar on my neck. ‘I’m ready.’
Before heading toward the stairs, I stopped by my sister’s room and knocked on her door. “Ellie, it’s your brother.”
The door slid open, revealing my sister in mid-yawn, her hair frizzy on one side and flat on the other. Behind her, laying on his belly beside the bed, was Boo. He peeked at us with one eye before going back to sleep. “Brother? What’s wro—”
She stopped mid-sentence, staring at my clothes. “You’re leaving again? Already?”
I forced a smile that didn’t quite reach my eyes. “I’ll be back soon.” I pulled my sister into my arms.
“You don’t have to come back soon, just come back alive.” She squeezed me tight before pulling herself away. Ellie kneeled down and did the same to my bond before getting back up. My sister smiled widely but tears had already begun welling up in the corners of her eyes.
I tousled her nest of ash-brown hair. “I promise.”
Making our way down the stairs, I was greeted by a chirpy Mica and stern-faced Olfred at the front of the corridor leading to the teleportation room.
The gruff, elderly dwarf, who came up to my shoulders despite his ramrod straight posture, immediately turned away from me upon my arrival and headed down the hall. “We’ll be traveling by flight rather than through the gates.”
General Mica, on the other hand, strolled leisurely by my side. By the smile on her small, creamy face, one would think that she was on her way to a picnic.
“Mica’s excited to finally go on a mission with you,” she said as we trailed behind General Olfred. “The other lances talk about you, although not all of it is good.”
“Do you always refer to yourself in the third person?” I asked.
“Most of the time, why? Is it making you fall for Mica?” she winked. “Mica may look like this but Mica’s a little too old for you.”
“What a shame,” I said, unable to help the sarcasm leaking out of my voice.
“Let’s hurry, time spent on this journey means time spent away from the already existing battles,” General Olfred barked as the soldiers standing guard in front of the landing room swung the doors open.
The artificers and workers inside dropped whatever it was they were doing and saluted upon our arrival. One person, however, walked toward us with an innocent smile.
“Elder Rahdeas,” General Olfred greeted, bowing deeply while Mica and I simply dipped our heads.
“Lances.” Rahdeas’s smile deepened, the scar running through his left eye curving. “Excuse my intrusion; I merely wanted to send you all off in person.”
“It’s an honor,” General Olfred replied.
Rahdeas walked to me, staring at me silently with his weary eyes. When he smiled at me, I couldn’t help but wish this person wasn’t a traitor—that I had suspected him wrongly.
I still regret the fact that I wasn’t able to protect Elijah, and even the thought of persecuting and ultimately killing the very man who had raised my friend like his own blood left a bitter taste in my mouth.
Rahdeas placed a large hand gently on my arm. “You must be rather fatigued from your previous battle. By the asuras, let’s hope that your suspicions turn out to be false so that you may hurry back and get some proper rest.”
While his expression and gesture seemed genuine, Rahdeas’s words seemed carefully picked. Nonetheless, I replied with a smile. “Yes, let’s hope.”
Maybe I am being too suspicious of him, I thought. He was Elijah’s caretaker, after all.
‘While that may be the case, you shouldn’t take that into account so heavily in regards to your suspicions now,’ Sylvie advised.
Letting go of my arm, Rahdeas gave one more meaningful nod to his lances before walking toward the back of the room.
Olfred led the way to the port on the other side of the large room. “We’re ready to depart. Don’t fly beneath the clouds.”
“Will your bond be fast enough to keep up with Mica and Olfred?” Mica asked.
The prideful Sylvie let out a puff of air through her nostrils before transforming into a full-sized dragon. The ground of the castle trembled as the workers around us instinctively backed away despite seeing my bond before.
“I’ll manage,” she rumbled as her long tail swept me off my feet and placed me on the base of her neck.
The wall in front of us lowered in a drawbridge mechanism as the floor beneath us extended into a large skydock.
Immediately I was nearly thrown off by the screeching winds buffeting Sylvie’s large body. While the roof and the multiple terraces were protected by a transparent barrier of mana, we were hit with the full force of the winds at an altitude of more than twenty-thousand feet.
Our voices lost in the wind, General Olfred merely pointed in the direction we were supposed to head. Immediately, General Mica and Olfred took off into clouds.
I can never get tired of this view, I thought, looking out as the morning sun became more prominent, casting an ethereal glow on the clouds.
‘Agreed.’ Sylvie sucked in a deep breath before spreading out her wings. Letting the wind carry her body off the dock, we followed closely behind them, not knowing what the outcome of this journey might be.