Paragon Of Destruction 101 Questions
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Snowcloud's potion kept them awake while they ran, but as the days progressed, it began to exact a toll well beyond its disgusting taste.
As the days pa.s.sed, Arran's coordination seemed to weaken gradually, and he would fall regularly, tripping over roots and rocks that he normally would have seen a hundred paces away. It seemed that although the potion kept him from feeling tired, it did little to cure the actual effects of his lack of sleep.
In those rare moments when they weren't running, Arran's vision would sometimes randomly turn blurry, as if the world was still moving around him. Worse still was that at times, he would see shadowy figures at the edges of his vision that vanished the moment he tried to look at them.
At first, he feared they were being followed, but when he told Snowcloud about it, she informed him that it was a side-effect of the potion — one that would grow worse the longer they used the potion to stay awake.
Arran was beginning to fear that he would be driven to madness, when finally, Snowcloud stopped.
"We've gone far enough," she said.
When Arran looked at her, he was shocked at her appearance. Her eyes had dark rings around them, and her face looked gaunt and even more pale than usual. Had he not known better, he would have thought her on the verge of death.
"Are you alright?" he asked, feeling some worry. "You look terrible."
"You should see yourself," she replied with a weary laugh. "But I think it's time we find a place to sleep — neither of us can go any further, and this deep in the wilderness, there should be no risk of meeting other novices."
They found shelter in a small hillside cave among the trees. Although it could hardly be called comfortable, it was dry and concealed, and right now, that was more than enough.
As they entered, Arran took a thick blanket from one of his void bags and wrapped it around himself as he lay down on the floor of the cave. Although his void bags contained supplies that might allow for a more comfortable rest, he did not bother with them — right now, all he could think about was resting.
Within moments of lying down, he was vast asleep.
Arran's sleep was deep and dreamless, and when he finally awoke, it took him some moments to remember where he was. The previous days were like a blur in his mind, and he almost thought it had all been a dream.
Yet as his mind slowly cleared, he found that he was still in the cave, lying on the rock floor and wrapped in a blanket. Ignoring the soreness of his body, he shook off the blanket and sat up. When he did, he saw Snowcloud sitting next to a fire at the entrance of the cave, roasting what appeared to be several haunches of meat.
"So you're finally awake," she said without looking at him. "I've made you some food — it should help you recover a little faster."
"How long was I asleep?" he asked.
"No idea," she replied. "I only woke up a few hours ago myself. But I think we probably slept for a day or two, if not more."
Arran got up, then sat down next to her. Wordlessly, she handed him a piece of roasted meat, which he devoured in moments. A second piece disappeared almost as quickly, and it wasn't long before Arran began to feel slightly better.
"Do you have any idea where we are?" he asked when he was done eating.
As he spoke, he began to use Darkfire's Body Refinement technique, to heal and restore his body after the grueling journey. Although he had not noticed it while they were running, he could now feel that his body was covered in bruises, and there wasn't a muscle he had that wasn't sore from the days of endless exertion.
"We should be a few hundred miles southwest of the Valley's entrance," she said. "But I'll get a better idea of where we are once I explore the area."
Arran nodded, then focused all his attention on Body Refinement. Unless he recovered at least somewhat, there would be little he could do to help or contribute.
It took several hours, but eventually, the soreness disappeared from his body. His mind was still slightly foggy from the ordeal, but he could tell that this, too, would pa.s.s with time.
Now that he felt better, he remembered the promise Snowcloud had made.
"You said you'd answer my questions when we were safe," he said, unwilling to waste any more time.
"And I will," she replied. "But first, I have a question of my own."
"What is it?"
"Why did you decide to join me?"
Arran hesitated for a few moments before answering. There were several reasons he had chosen to join her, only some of them well-considered.
"Because I need a good teacher," he finally said. "The other strong novices all had numerous recruits. With them, I would be lucky to get even the slightest bit of personal instruction. But with you, I figure my chances of actually learning something are much better."
Snowcloud gave him a pleased smile at hearing this. "Then I will do my best to prove your choice the right one.".
"But what about you?" Arran asked. "Why did you choose to take me along? It can't just be because you owed the Governor a favor."
Although he had initially believed the explanation made sense, by now, he had figured out that there must be more to it. In her current position, she would not take the burden of guiding a recruit just to repay a favor.
"You underestimate the value of favors," she said. "But no, it wasn't just that. The real reason is that you're strong — strong enough to be a valuable companion beyond the border."
"Because I'm strong?" Arran felt slightly embarra.s.sed, but he continued anyway. "Then I'm afraid you'll be disappointed with me. I wasn't even strong enough to make it to the final rounds of the tournament."
"That's because you lack a proper foundation," she replied. She shook her head, then continued, "You have a staggering amount of raw power, but it's as if you haven't had any decent instruction at all. Once I give you some proper training, you'll see your strength rise rapidly."
Arran frowned. "How do you know that?" he asked.
Snowcloud had never even seen him fight, and although she had watched him train while they traveled to the Sixth Valley, that should be nowhere near enough for her to know how strong he was.
"You will understand once I begin training you," she said. "But first, you said you had questions to ask. Ask them, and I will answer."
The opportunity almost took Arran by surprise. He had numerous questions about the Shadowflame Society, and for months, they had gone unanswered. Now that he finally had the chance to receive answers, he had trouble even deciding where to begin.
"Why are Academy mages so weak?" he finally asked.
Of all the questions he had, that was the most burning one. Initially, he had thought Shadowflame novices were merely very strong, but his opponents in the arena had shown him that other mages were far stronger than Academy mages, too.
"You've faced them before?" Snowcloud asked, a curious look in her eyes.
"I have," Arran said. "And from what I can tell, Shadowflame novices are at least as strong as Academy Masters, if not stronger. But I've seen recruits on that level of power, as well."
"It's true that most within the Academy are weak," Snowcloud said, nodding thoughtfully.
"But why?" Arran asked again. "And if they're so weak, how do they control most of the Empire?"
"It's a long story," Snowcloud said softly. "One that has its start in the distant past."
"We have time," Arran replied curtly.
"I suppose we do," she said. "Very well, I will do my best to explain. Although I should warn you — there is much that I don't know."
Arran listened attentively as she began to speak. Finally, he would have the chance to learn about the differences in power between mages that had confounded him for so long, and he wouldn't risk missing a single word.
Paragon Of Destruction 101 Questions
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Paragon Of Destruction 101 Questions summary
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