Paragon Of Destruction 141 The Tempering
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"Lady Snowcloud, novices aren't supposed to know about the Tempering," Elder Naran said, frowning at her.
"Recruits aren't supposed to undergo it," Snowcloud retorted sharply.
"He's hardly a usual recruit," Elder Naran said. "Even without the Blood magic, his raw strength is enough to match a powerful novice."
"But the Tempering kills even adepts," Snowcloud said.
"Some die," Elder Naran agreed. "But most survive, and grow stronger."
"What are the two of you talking about?" Arran cut in. He had absolutely no idea what the Tempering was, but from Snowcloud's reaction, it was clear it was dangerous. "What is this 'Tempering'?"
"The Tempering is one of the steps of the True Path," Elder Naran replied. "It purifies the body and mind, reforging you into something stronger. And right now, it is the only thing that might solve your predicament."
"He wants to burn you," Snowcloud said, anger still clear in her voice.
"Burn me?" Arran asked, looking at Elder Naran suspiciously.
Elder Naran sc.r.a.ped his throat. "I suppose it could be described that way. The Tempering involves using magic to slowly burn the impurities from your body, remaking you in the process. But it's something that all adepts undergo, and ultimately, it strengthens those who go through it."
"Only those who survive," Snowcloud interjected. "And none of them are recruits."
"He has a better chance than you might think," Elder Naran said. "The Blood magic will help his body regenerate, and combined with his strength, that should be enough." He looked at Arran. "But of course, there are risks, and ultimately, the choice is yours."
Arran frowned at the words.
While the Tempering sounded terrifying, Elder Naran seemed to believe he had a good chance of surviving it. And although that hardly filled Arran with confidence, it would be better than waiting for the bloodl.u.s.t to grow until he couldn't control it anymore.
"Will this cure me?" he finally asked. "Burn away the Blood magic?"
"It won't," Elder Naran said. "As I said earlier, the Blood magic is now part of you."
"Then what good is it?" Arran asked.
"The Tempering will not just purify your body," Elder Naran said. "As you reform your body, you will also acquire true control over it. If all goes well, once the Tempering is over you will fully command your body and its instincts — hopefully including those created by the Blood magic."
The giant Elder gave Arran an encouraging look, then continued, "You're quite lucky. Had you been afflicted with Blood magic after going through the Tempering, it would be impossible to bring it under your control this way."
As Elder Naran finished speaking, Arran gave the matter some thought. Elder Naran's encouragement and optimism notwithstanding, it sounded like this Tempering was a dangerous and painful affair, and even then, it wasn't guaranteed to help him.
If it was his only option he would go through with it, but not before making sure that there really wasn't any other path.
He turned to Snowcloud. "Do you have any other ideas?"
She hesitated before speaking. "We could return to the Sixth Valley," she finally said, though her voice was filled with doubt. "There are many mages in the Valley, and one of them might know a true cure." After a glare at Elder Naran, she added, "One that doesn't involve burning you alive."
Arran frowned at the answer. If they returned to the Sixth Valley, Snowcloud would fall into the hands of Elder Fang, and would not be allowed to leave again. That meant she would be unable to finish the cure for the Patriarch.
While he was surprised that she would do that for his sake, he knew it was too large a sacrifice to ask of her. Yet before he could say so, Elder Naran spoke up.
"They won't help him," the giant Elder said. "He's not even a full member of the Society yet."
"I could—" Snowcloud began.
"Using your position to force the issue won't work," Elder Naran interrupted her. "Your influence has already fallen too far. If it hadn't, do you think Elder Fang would have dared to order your capture?"
"Then what about you?" Snowcloud asked, though she sounded uncertain. "If he has the backing of an Elder, won't they help him?"
Elder Naran laughed bitterly. "If I speak for him, the Waning Sun and Iron Mountain will oppose me without even knowing the issue. At best, he will be sent away. At worst, they will try to have him executed."
"Then we can seek help elsewhere," Snowcloud said, not ready to give up. "I can ask Lord Sevaril—"
"No!" Arran interrupted her sharply. Ignoring Snowcloud's confused look, he turned his eyes to Elder Naran. "What if I search by myself? How long do I have?"
"If you don't kill again, you might be able to withstand the Blood magic for months, perhaps even years — if your will is strong enough." Elder Naran paused before continuing, his gaze fixed on Arran. "But do you think you will be able to avoid battle as you search for a cure?"
Arran sighed. Even without the bloodl.u.s.t, avoiding battle while searching for a cure would be difficult. And with the bloodl.u.s.t, it was plainly impossible. A simple threat or challenge would be enough to break his control, possibly for good.
"So the Tempering is my only option."
"It's also an opportunity," Elder Naran said. "a.s.suming you survive, you will gain the benefits of both the Tempering and Blood magic. While neither will help you control magic, your strength in physical combat will be terrifying — far beyond anything normal novices could hope to achieve."
Arran could see excitement in the Elder's eyes, and he understood that the man considered the situation an opportunity rather than a threat. While that did little to take away his own worries, he could not deny that the idea of surpa.s.sing other novices was tempting.
"All right," he finally said. "When do we start?"
When he looked at Snowcloud, her expression was dejected, but she didn't object to his decision — even if she disapproved, he knew she had no better options to offer.
"There is no point in delaying," Elder Naran said. "We will start right away. The process will take several weeks, and the sooner we start, the sooner you can move forward."
Without waiting for a reply, Elder Naran stood up and left the room, Arran and the others following behind him. They pa.s.sed through several hallways and descended a number of stairs, finally arriving in a large circular chamber with bare stone walls.
To Arran's eyes, it looked like it had once been a dungeon — or perhaps a torture chamber. But now, it was completely empty, lacking even a single piece of furniture.
"Take off your clothes and set your belongings aside," Elder Naran said. "Then sit down in the middle of the chamber."
"My clothes?" Arran asked with a frown.
"The Tempering will disintegrate them," the Elder explained. "As well as anything else you carry on you. Hurry now, this is no time for modesty."
Arran did as the man said, trying his best to ignore Snowcloud and Tuya as he disrobed and put his belongings in a little pile on the side of the chamber.
It didn't help that Tuya gave him an approving grin as he undressed, or that Snowcloud's normally pale face had turned scarlet. Quickly, he reminded himself that he was about to face an ordeal that might kill him.
When he finally finished and sat down at the center of the chamber, he covered himself as best he could with his hands.
"Now what?" he asked.
"Now, we begin," Elder Naran said.
Without waiting for a response from Arran, the Elder raised his hands, and a moment later Arran felt a painful heat flooding over him, as if he was lowered into a scalding bath.
To his surprise, he could Sense no Fire Essence coming from the Elder, nor could he see any flames. Whatever magic Elder Naran used, it was invisible to both his Sense and his eyes.
Gradually, the feeling of heat intensified. Where it had first been merely uncomfortable, it now began to hurt, causing a pain that seeped through his entire body. There was nothing for it but to clench his jaw and endure — he already knew it would get far worse.
Yet suddenly, the heat vanished, and when Arran looked up, he saw a shocked expression on Elder Naran's face.
At once, the Elder turned to Snowcloud and Tuya.
"What's the—" Snowcloud began
"Out! Now!" the Elder yelled. "And don't return until we emerge from the chamber!"
He roared the words, and although he had earlier treated Snowcloud almost as an equal, it was clear that this was a command that could not be disobeyed. After a moment's hesitation, the two women did as the Elder said, and Arran could see concern fill Snowcloud's face.
"What's going on?" he asked fearfully.
Elder Naran did not reply, instead making some gestures at the door and walls — creating seals, Arran thought, though he did not know for what purpose.
Only after he finished did the man turn to face Arran, who was now on the brink of panic. Yet when Arran saw the Elder's expression, it held no threat — only surprise and excitement, in equal parts, as if he had just made a great discovery.
"Why didn't you tell me?", the giant Elder said, his voice trembling with enthusiasm.
"Tell you what?" Arran asked, dumbfounded by the sudden turn of events.
"That you have a Destruction Realm!"
Paragon Of Destruction 141 The Tempering
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Paragon Of Destruction 141 The Tempering summary
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