Paragon Of Destruction 139 Titan
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Yet as Arran moved to draw his blade, Stoneheart stopped him.
"No need," the novice said, voice at ease. "That's my cousin. If she's here, it means my uncle must have sent her."
At once, Arran relaxed. Not just because the woman wasn't an enemy, but also because if Stoneheart's uncle had sent her, then Snowcloud would have made it to the castle.
As they approached, Arran got a better look at the woman, and only found himself growing more startled at her appearance.
She looked to be in her late twenties, and although she was thickly muscled, other than her size she was well-proportioned, with long black hair that flowed down her shoulders like a waterfall and a face that was quite beautiful.
Yet her size… that was enough to make his eyes go wide with astonishment.
Everything about the woman seemed oversized. She towered above the recruits around her, her shoulders dwarfed even Stoneheart's, her legs were like marble pillars, and her b.r.e.a.s.t.s—
"If you keep staring like that, I'm going to expect a ring," the woman said, some amus.e.m.e.nt in her voice.
The blood drained from Arran's face as he tore his eyes away. "I'm sorry," he stammered. "It's just… you're so…" Realizing he wasn't making things any better, he quickly shut his mouth.
Stoneheart coughed softly. "Ghostblade, this is Tuya Naran. She's an adept, and my cousin."
"I apologize, Adept Naran," Arran began. "I didn't—"
"Tuya," she corrected him. "I take it you're the one who started that little wildfire in the distance?"
She pointed behind them, and when Arran turned to look, he was surprised to see dark clouds of smoke filling the sky. Even if he had known the fire would be large, he had not expected it to grow so vast it would darken the sky itself.
"I am," Arran said, but even as he spoke, his thoughts had already moved on to other matters. "What about Snowcloud? Is she all right?"
"Lady Snowcloud is fine," Tuya replied. "But Father sent me to retrieve you without delay, and on that note, we will be leaving now."
With two giant strides, she was next to Stoneheart, then slapped him on the shoulder so hard his knees nearly buckled. "Good to see you, cousin. When you reach the castle, we'll share a drink or two."
"Wait!" Stoneheart said, sudden shock in his voice. "You're leaving us behind?!"
Tuya frowned, then gestured back to the group of recruits, where Arran now saw two middle-aged men standing. He had been so distracted by the giant woman that he had entirely failed to notice them.
"Two adepts should be enough to keep you safe," Tuya said to Stoneheart. Then, she turned to Arran. "Ghostblade, let's go!"
Without waiting for a reply, she dashed off into the woods, cras.h.i.+ng through several small trees without seeming to notice.
Arran shot a dumbfounded look at Stoneheart, but as he did, a loud voice sounded in the distance. "Stop dawdling!"
Stoneheart shrugged. "Go. She doesn't like to wait."
With a final nod to Stoneheart, Arran rushed off in pursuit of the giant woman. Dumbstruck though he was by the sudden turn of events, he was comforted with the knowledge that both the group and Snowcloud were safe.
It took him some effort to catch up with Tuya, her ma.s.sive strides carrying her forward with a speed he could only barely match. When he finally reached her, she tossed him a glance.
"So," she said, her voice calm despite the thunderous sound of her footsteps. "The Blood magic. What's it like?"
Between his shock at hearing her speak of Blood magic so openly and the effort of keeping up with her, it took Arran a few moments to think of what to say.
"Glorious," he finally replied. "Terrifying. It's like your blood is on fire, and all that matters in the world is killing. Everything else becomes meaningless in comparison — even your own life."
Tuya didn't respond, but when Arran looked at her, he could see that her expression was contemplative, as if she was trying to make sense of his words.
"Have you encountered Blood magic before?" he asked.
"Several times," she said. "Father has long tried to study it, but those affected aren't usually interested in talk — if they're even capable of it."
"He wants to study me?" At once, Arran began to wonder just what it was that Tuya's father had in store for him.
"Of course," the giantess replied. She stopped talking for a moment as she smashed a tree out of her path, then continued, "But he'll also try to save your life."
"Save my life?" Arran already understood his life was in danger, but it seemed that Tuya knew more of the ultimate outcome of Blood magic. "What happens if I don't get help?"
"Without his help, you'll become a blood-crazed demon," she replied. "Every time you kill the rage will strengthen, and the further it strengthens, the more you will want to kill. Eventually, someone will step up and put a stop to it."
She gave him a brief glance, then added, "From what I've heard, you've seen a fair amount of battle already."
Arran swallowed hard at those words. What she said was true, he knew. Even with the battle at the valley days behind him, the bloodl.u.s.t was still there. He could still control it, but if it grew any stronger, he had little doubt that it would overpower his reason.
"Can your father help me?"
"No idea." Tuya's voice was unconcerned as she spoke. "He'll try, and in this region, that's as much as you can hope for. Many others would just kill you and be done with it."
Although the answer did little to rea.s.sure Arran, right now, his problems were many and his options few.
If she was right about the eventual effect of the Blood magic — as he knew she was — he didn't have the time to search for other solutions. And even if he did, he wouldn't know where to start looking.
Still, this was exactly the sort of situation he dreaded — one where he wasn't in control of his own destiny, where the choices of others would decide what happened to him.
He much preferred the heat of battle, bloodl.u.s.t or not. At least there, he could determine his own fate, sword in hand, standing or falling by his own actions.
But that was all idle musing — right now, he needed help, and he knew of no others who could give it.
For several hours, they ran in silence, Arran struggling to keep up as Tuya effortlessly charged through the woods.
With both of them being mages, there was no need to rest or stop as they ran, and they traveled a distance in hours that would take the group of recruits and villagers days to cover.
When evening fell they had already left the woods behind, with their surroundings gradually changing into a landscape of rolling, gra.s.sy hills, speckled with the occasional copse of trees and — to Arran's surprise — quite a few farms and cottages.
The light was beginning to fade when suddenly, as they were scaling a steep hillside, Tuya spoke up.
"We've arrived," she said, not even a trace of weariness in her voice.
Arran looked around for some moments but found nothing.
"I don't see—" he began, but the words died in his mouth as they topped the hill.
Now, he could see a large, shallow vale stretching out ahead of them. At its center stood a large walled castle, and nearby lay what looked to be a large village or small town.
Yet that was not what caused him to go silent. Rather, it was the vast camp that stretched out around the castle, covering miles of land, with numerous campfires already visible under the darkening sky.
At a glance, he thought the camp should hold tens of thousands of tents, if not more. It was an army, he knew at once. An army of Shadowflame novices and recruits.
Paragon Of Destruction 139 Titan
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Paragon Of Destruction 139 Titan summary
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