Chapter 36 - Ambition

Leon sat in a daze in his ruined courtyard for several more hours before his stomach growled loudly enough to grab his attention.  This finally brought him out of his stupor, his hunger forcing him to realize how unseemly his behavior had been.  He understood that there was nothing wrong with mourning, but he had almost completely shut down.

He got to his feet with a sigh and with one more look to the cairn, he walked to the ice shack.  He had no desire to cook anything, so he just grabbed some bread and a couple dark blue fruits, and started walking back outside, until he remembered one of Artorias’ last instructions.  The sleigh was over in the corner, still laden with everything Artorias had brought back from Vale Town.

Leon went over to it and took a look at what was packed away on it.  It was almost all food and Leon began taking sacks of grain, fruit, and potatoes and tossing them over in a nearby corner.  Buried beneath all the food was a leather bag.  Leon grabbed it and immediately opened it.

What was contained within was a magnificent long coat, made of the Snow Lion’s fur and trimmed with its mane.  It wasn’t bulky, so Leon could fight in it if he had to, and was damned stylish to boot.  There was also quite a bit of extra fur still in the bag, as the Snow Lion had been very large, but what drew Leon’s eye was the last item in the bag, a small necklace made from one of the lion’s fangs.  Leon hadn’t even realized Artorias had taken one after skinning the lion.

His fingers closed around the fang, and he fought back tears.  His sorrow didn’t last long, though, before it was replaced by rage.  His hands began to shake again, but where it was out of shock and sadness before, now it was out of extreme fury.  In his sixteen years of life, Leon had never truly been in a position to experience such intense anger and rage, and he stepped back from the sleigh, putting the lion coat down.

He tried to suppress his anger, but now that it was upon him, he couldn’t.  His body became filled with adrenaline and his killing intent soared.  He burst out of the ice shack and grabbed a woodcutting ax out of the storage shack.  In his blind rage, there was only one thing he could think to do.  Walking over to the charred remains of the five men he’d burned the day before, he began wildly smashing with his ax.

There wasn’t much left from the bonfire, but there were a few bones that now crumbled to ash under his onslaught.  It didn’t last long, but he felt a little better when it was over.  What little remained of the five who attacked the fort was now crushed and scattered to the wind.  But with this small amount of catharsis came some mental clarity.  It wasn’t long past noon now and Leon knew he couldn’t stay here.  Even if the obelisk was still intact and keeping the wraiths and banshees away, he knew he was still too weak to deal with most of the creatures in the forest.  Leon estimated that he wouldn’t last a single month in the Forest of Black and White without Artorias.

Leon looked at the lion’s fang in his hand again.  This was his hunting trophy, and he would wear it proudly.  He put the necklace on, and after a brief moment where he glanced at the stone cairn, he quickly went to his house.  He grabbed the largest backpack he had and packed a few changes of clothes.  Returning to the ice shack, he put enough food to last three days in as well.  Then, it was on to Artorias’ house.

His father had far more possessions than Leon, most of them far more valuable as well.  The best example of this would be the longsword that had almost never left Artorias’ side.  Despite its simple and unexceptional look, that sword had been passed down through House Raime for generations, serving mages of all calibers, from first-tier novices to seventh-tier titans.  Archduke Kyros had given it to Artorias after his first battle, so he could continue to protect the House.  Now, it was Leon’s turn to take it up.

But the sword wasn’t all there was, as the books Artorias had were also extraordinarily valuable.  Most were historical or cultural texts, books that Artorias had Leon read during their lessons.  Others were more practical books on the basics of magic or compilations of legends and myths.  Leon examined each and every book, sorting them by importance.  By the time he was done—and there weren’t many books so he was done fairly quickly—he had chosen four to take with.  The first was about defensive wards and enchantments, the second was the history and legends of House Raime, but the third and fourth books were untitled and beyond rare.  One was a detailed explanation about the enchantments and magical formations devised by House Raime, and the other was an introduction to House Raime’s signature lightning magic.

Next, Leon took out Artorias’ maps.  These maps were far more precious than the rest of the books, as they showed the hidden passages through the Frozen Mountains that had been discovered by the Raime Archdukes, and the Thunder Kings before them, among other things.  Leon selected a few choice maps from the collection, one that showed his chosen path south, another was a map of the Great Plateau, one more was of Teira, and the last was of the old palace complex in the city, even showing the location of the private Archives.

Finally, Leon moved on to the wooden box from under the obelisk.  It had a locking enchantment placed upon it, but the lock wasn’t even as robust as the locks placed on the doors of the fort.  The box was locked more to keep insects away from what was inside the box.  But even with that in mind, Leon dispelled the lock with surprising ease.  He suspected that Artorias had written the enchantment to allow him to open it.

The box was very large, almost big enough for Leon to curl up inside if he wanted.  But, oddly enough, there wasn’t much within.  There was a smaller box that contained three metal tubes with one hundred silver coins each and a couple of documents.  These documents were of the utmost importance for Leon and Artorias, as they were their birth and citizenship records.

In addition, Artorias had packed away a card made of gold, with the words ‘Heaven’s Eye’ printed on one side, and a string of numbers and letters that Leon couldn’t quite make out due to the heavy enchantments placed upon the card.  This card would allow its holder to access the accounts and vaults associated with it.  Leon decided to give the bank in Teira a look, now that he had the card.  He wasn’t too worried about them leaking his identity, as even he knew of the Heaven’s Eye Merchant Guild’s reputation.

So, into his pack went the books, maps, his birth records, the silver coins, and his golden card, and around his waist went his family’s sword.  All the other books, maps, and documents went into the chest.  Leon was about to lock the chest, but something occurred to him.  He went back to the ice shack and grabbed the rest of the lion’s fur.  He couldn’t take the pelt with him, there was still far too much of it for him to be able to spare the room.  So, he placed the fur inside of the box.  It wouldn’t rot away within, and Leon planned to hide the box, so he could return someday and take everything else he couldn’t carry.  These books and maps were all very rare and valuable, after all, even though they weren’t important enough for him to pack.

He knew exactly where he would hide the box, too.  He walked over to his house, ax in hand.  With a few good swings, he cut away some of the wooden planks that made up his floor.  The supports and foundation of the house slightly raised it above the ground, but Leon wasn’t planning on hiding the box in that crawlspace.  Instead, he grabbed a shovel and began to dig.

The work went surprisingly quickly.  Leon was momentarily confused as to why his body felt so vigorous and energetic, but when he inspected himself on a whim, he realized that his bone marrow was producing mana!  He hadn’t even noticed in his stupor of the past couple days, but his bones had finally fully adapted to magic, and he had become a third-tier mage!  His heart beat in excitement, but he wasn’t particularly in the mood to celebrate.  So, instead, he turned back to his work, but that small amount of good news was just what he needed to put the spring back in his step.

By the time he was done, the hole was about five feet deep, and the sun had almost fallen past the mountains in the distance.  Leon didn’t mind; he’d wanted to get a good night’s rest before leaving, anyway.  He grabbed the box and placed it down in the hole, then pushed the mound of dirt in his living room over it.

Now, he was largely done with his preparations.  There was only one more thing he needed to do when morning came, then he could leave.  There was no way he could leave before then, though.  He couldn’t just stay here, either.  The wards in the walls could keep the banshees away, but a determined ice wraith could still force its way in.  It would take a while for the wraiths to realize that the fort was now vulnerable, but Leon would be long gone by then.

This was going to be his last night in the only home he’d ever known.  He walked around the fort, burning every detail into his mind.  He’d known that he’d eventually leave, but he never thought it would be under such circumstances.  A deep melancholy set in, as he finally came to the small pond behind his house.

He took off his clothes and jumped in, knowing that it would probably be his last bath for a while.  Without realizing it, he fell asleep as he relaxed.

He awoke just as the sky was beginning to brighten, and when he realized the time, he moved swiftly.

First was breakfast.  Some bread, fruits, and dried meat saw his belly filled.

Then came the harder part.  There was no guarantee that those who sent that kill team here wouldn’t send anyone else, so he didn’t want to leave anything behind.  He ran through the buildings one more time to make sure he wasn’t missing anything, then he grabbed his pack, put on his lion’s fur coat, and secured Artorias’ sword around his waist.

On the outside of all five buildings in the fort was a small runic circle, placed on the back wall protected by a sliding wood panel, and operated just like the runic circle that destroyed the obelisk.  Leon placed his hand within each one in turn for several seconds, channeled some magic into the circles to activate them, then stepped back and waited for the fire runes carved into the foundations to do their thing.

It started slowly, just a little bit smoke, but the flames started by the runic circles soon consumed the storage shacks and the two houses.  The remaining pelts caught alight, and the food in the ice shack became more than a little overcooked.  What remained of the storage shack collapsed upon all the tools and spare materials it housed, but Leon didn’t care about any of it, as it had all been acquired in Vale Town and was thus of relatively low quality compared to what he would soon see in the south.

It took the houses slightly longer to burn, but the flames that spread over them were relentless and they joined the shacks in a conflagration in due time.

Leon calmly watched his home burn.  His heart wept, but he managed to keep his eyes dry.  He glanced at the cairn and steeled himself for the future.  He found his mind turn to a conversation he’d had with his father not too long ago.  Artorias had told him that he was ready for his Mana Glyph.  This mark would come to represent him, and its creation was not to be taken lightly.

Leon knew what he wanted his to be, now.

Deep within his soul realm, a dramatic change was happening.  Nothing about the island itself was changing, but a small amount of the Mists of Chaos that surrounded the island were being pulled in towards the throne.  The mist gathered, condensing into an extremely bright light.

Sensing this event, the Thunderbird very quickly came back, flying out from the mists to watch.  After several more moments, the force pulling on the mists lessened, then vanished, allowing the endless mists to be pushed back off the island.  But that bright light stayed.

It hovered over the throne, occasionally pulsing, but otherwise not doing much else.  But, the Thunderbird continued to watch with patience.  That patience was rewarded, as the ball of light began to form a line of floating runes, then it curved downwards until it formed a simple runic circle.  After a few more minutes, the runes finished forming, and the light died down somewhat.

The circle floated down and burned itself into the back of the throne.  The Thunderbird couldn’t help but laugh when he read what it said.

‘I am Leon Raime, son of Artorias and Serana, descendant of the Thunderbird and future King of the Heavens!’

[HAHAHA!  YES!  I would expect nothing less!]  The Thunderbird’s eyes narrowed in approval and it beat its wings in happiness.  This Mana Glyph was far simpler than the vast majority, but it perfectly represented Leon.  Leon himself had no desire for opulence and luxury, but he wanted to find his mother and avenge his father, but to do those he would need strength.  He knew he was far too weak right now and only by aiming for the absolute peak would Leon find the power he needed, even if he couldn’t even fathom what that meant right now.

But, he would.  The Thunderbird couldn’t do much more than what it had already done, but it knew that it only had to be patient for Leon to gain the power to come here himself.  At that time, the Thunderbird felt it would be much more willing to speak with its descendant than it was when they first met during Leon’s bloodline awakening.

So, it was with an elated heart that the Thunderbird flew back into the mists, confident that it had its first proper successor since the old Storm King died, over eighty thousand years ago.

As for Leon, he took one last look at the cairn, then he turned around and descended into the tunnel, leaving the fort behind.

---

The Thunderbird wasn’t the only being that had been closely watching over Leon these past few days.  On an island at the center of the sea that lay at the heart of Aeterna thousands of miles to the south, was an immense stone tower.  At the very top of this tower sat a man.  There was a look of profound surprise in his eyes after he saw Leon slice open Artorias’ chest and leave the golden Heartwood seed.

“Well, this boy is just full of surprises, isn’t he…”

---

---

So, where will Leon go now?  What will he do?  Regardless of what happens next, he won't just be some kid along for the ride anymore.  From now on, he'll be front and center.

Please consider heading over to Royal Road and leaving a rating or review, it helps out a lot!

Chapter 37 - West

Chapter 35 - Burial