Aedor counted two-hundred and forty-one of them. With his Gate of Perception open, it was an easy task, despite the distance across the snow.
Each of the Dark Mages wore robes of black that contrasted against the white of the snow and the spiraling tower that reached into the sky behind their forces. Among them, Aedor counted three Dark Mages that had also opened the Fifth Gate of Perception.
Aedor smiled meekly. This army of awakened mages was a threat to any country all on their own, and each of the Perceivers was destructive as a hurricane. But he knew that what laid in the spire beyond their forces was far worse.
“They’re the ones that summoned him,” Aedor said to the young man standing beside him.
The young man, who was in fact not young at all, did not say anything in return, but Aedor continued as if a question had been asked.
“After the summoning, Izirath renounced the allegiance of the Dark Robes. The fools thought the Demon Lord would do as they wished after reviving him, but the Demon Lord did not. Izirath disappeared. Then, some thirty years later, the King of Karrdentia beheads a farmer woman for blasphemy against the crown. Next thing you know, the kingdom of two million has been wiped off the map, and a spire tall as an eagle’s reach stands in its place.”
“The demon lord had taken a wife and was living in peace?” the young man said. He was of average height. Two battle-axes of black steel, one small and one large, were mounted on his back.
“That’s what the rumors say. Some commoners across Visseria are even siding with the Demon Lord for getting his revenge against the kingdom. Now the Dark Robes have returned, hoping their lord will continue his destructi—Oh-” Aedor turned his head to the army of dark mages. “-They’ve begun casting.”
Multicolored auras were rising among the Dark Robes.
“… All of them,” Aedor said with a quiver in his voice that he failed to hide. “They must have finally noticed the number of your gates.”
Each of the two-hundred-and-forty-one mages had began gathering aura. Some forming spheres and spears of destruction, others chanting buffs.
“Lizard’s breath, some of them are really strong,” Aedor said and raised his hand above his head, palm out. “Aedor’s Shield.”
A dome of golden light descended over him. It was his only original spell, but he was proud of it. Even his master had yet to break it.
Aedor turned and looked to his side. He blinked. The young man standing outside his dome had not moved. “…Master, are you certain you are not in need of any defensive measures?”
The young man did not reply and before Aedor could say anything else, the wave of destruction descended upon them. The destructive energies exploded against his shield, turning his surroundings into flashes of blinding light and thundering annihilation. The spells were even more powerful than Aedor had expected. If he had not put up the shield, he would have been completely pulverized.
He looked at where his Master had stood. A thick cloud of smoke and dust surrounded him obstructing his view, but Aedor’s eyes were of the Fifth Gate, and so he saw the world clear as spring water.
His master was entirely unharmed. His manner was that of someone who might have just exited the warm pools of a hot spring.
Then Aedor saw his master’s lips move, and he heard words that were barely more than a whisper. These were words of magic, spoken with practiced quiet so that the enemy would not know what was coming. But Aedor heard each syllable like the striking of a bell, for his ears were of the Fifth Gate.
“Rule of Ruin, Sixty-One, Pointed Pillar.”
A beam of light exploded from the plume of smoke, blowing it clear, shooting across the snow. His master twirled his pointed index finger in the air. His motion made a squiggly line as if he were writing a signature. The beam held onto his finger and followed all the way across the expanse of snow, tracing loops through the army of Dark Robes.
It was over in seconds. Two-hundred-and-forty-one awakened mages had become several thousand pieces of sliced limbs and appendages.
There were no survivors.
Aedor found his breath caught in his throat, and he slowly released it as he took in what he just witnessed. The Dark Robes were a secret order of powerful dark mages that had existed for centuries, no, millennia. And Aedor had just watched their complete decimation in the span of moments.
He turned his eyes to his master. Once again, he felt awe, respect, and of course, as always, envy. He ached to learn the spell, but his master had not taught it to him. That was partly because his master did not believe Aedor was ready for such power. But Aedor knew it was also because of the spell’s difficulty, although when his master casted it, it looked as if he was choosing courses on a menu.
The young man looked up at the tall purple spire. Aedor followed his gaze. Only now did he notice the power coming from it. Aedor felt a pang of shame for not catching it sooner. This was followed by the relief that his master did not appear to notice his mistake. His master would have chided him once again for ‘missing the essence of the matter.’
As Aedor let his Perception touch upon the spire’s leaking aura, he realized the true deficit of his mistake. Though the dark powers originating from the spire were hidden and subtle, they were leaps and bounds greater than the army of Dark Robes. Any normal mage would not be able to sense such things, but Aedor was of the Fifth Gate, and the Gate of Perception allowed Aedor to sense all things.
The more he Perceived the spire’s power, the more his heart turned cold. The rumors were true, the Demon Lord’s power was immense.
Aedor had never felt anything like it before. His master’s powers had frightened him when he first sensed them, and just moments earlier he had been in complete awe of his master’s prowess. But this… this was something entirely different. The halos bleeding from the spire was not only superior to his master’s, it was more terrifying in its substance.
The Demon Lord’s magic was black and sickly and sticky. It felt diseased, as if even perceiving it could corrode a man’s soul.
Aedor felt himself take an involuntary step backwards.
“The spire is held together by the Demon Lord’s magic,” the young man said, as if he was only noting a detail in architecture.
Aedor looked at his master. How could he be so calm? Surely he too could feel the power coming from the spire.
His master stepped forward in the snow, walking toward the spire.
Aedor wanted to tell him to wait, but he could not get his mouth working. It only opened, but no breath or sound escaped.
“Aedor,” the young man muttered. He was already many paces away, but he knew Aedor could hear him through his Perception.
“I might not make it out of this one.” The set of black battle-axes clinked on the young man’s back as he walked. “But if the spire falls, it will mean I’ve won. Come find me afterwards. I’ve decided… I’m going to take a break.”
Find him? Take a break? Was he going somewhere? What was he taking a break from? Aedor was relieved that his Master did not ask him to follow, but he was unsure of what it meant.
He wanted to ask his master if he could win, if they would see each other again, if his master would finally teach him the Spells of Greater Ruin when it was over, but Aedor could barely manage a single sentence for he feared his voice would betray the cowardice he felt in his heart.
So Aedor kept his response short and formal, which he hoped would be fitting for the occasion.
“It will be done, Master Stormblood.”
A Note from the Author
Thanks so much for reading Tipsy Pelican Tavern Volume 1. If you enjoyed this book and would like to stay up to date on short stories, art, and new releases, please join my newsletter here! I’m currently actively working on Volume 2. Stay tuned and thanks so much for reading!