Paragon Of Destruction Chapter 359 - The Desolation

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Kaleesh reached out and grabbed one of the bottles of wine that stood on the table, pouring both himself and Arran a gla.s.s.

"Since I already paid for the wine," he said, "it would be a shame to let it go to waste." He took a sip from his gla.s.s, and as he tasted the deep-red liquid, a look of surprise crossed his face. "Better than I expected. You should have some."

Arran, however, had no interest in wine, and he gave the captain an impatient look. "You said you'd tell me about the enemies we'll face in the Desolation."

"And so I will," Kaleesh said. "But first, I must explain some things about the history of the Imperium."

"History?" Arran asked flatly. While the Imperium's history was doubtless fascinating, he was far more interested in the enemies they'd face. But it seemed Kaleesh had no intention of getting straight to the point.

The captain laughed. "No need to look so impatient. The Imperium's history is inexorably linked to the Desolation and the Blight."

Arran did not reply, instead taking a sip of his wine as he prepared to hear Kaleesh's explanation.

"As the priests tell it," Kaleesh began, "the Darian Imperium was once the greatest power in the world. As wealthy as it was large, with lands so wide it would take a lifetime to cross from border to border, and featuring more magnificent cities than one could visit even in a thousand years."

Arran raised an eyebrow. "That sounds implausible."

"I don't disagree." Kaleesh nodded, then continued, "But this is how the priests tell it, and although they are given to exaggeration, there is no one who knows more about Darian history than they do. So listen closely, but take what I tell you with a grain of salt."

"I'll keep that in mind," Arran said. "So I take it the Darians' glory did not last? What happened?"

"The Imperium was attacked," the captain said. "By a horde of vicious demonic creatures. Supposedly, they were human once, but their bodies and minds were twisted by the blasphemous use of magic — again, the priests' words — until only monstrous abominations remained. This horde of creatures is what the Darians call the Blight."

"The Imperium was the greatest power in the world, but they couldn't fight off these attackers?" Arran asked, unable to keep a skeptical frown from appearing on his face.

"Supposedly, the Imperium had been at peace for many generations when the attack came, and the Darians were unprepared for war." Kaleesh shrugged. "Either way, they suffered defeat after defeat for thousands of years, their lands dwindling further with each pa.s.sing year."

"The war lasted for thousands of years?" Arran asked. He could barely imagine a war that lasted centuries, and he wondered whether this was another of the priests' exaggerations.

"That is what the priests say," the captain said. "And as the Darians fought, their society was slowly transformed to one focused only on war — a society of warriors."

At this, Arran finally began to understand the nature of the Darians' strange society. "And that's how they brought their enemies to a halt?"

Kaleesh shook his head. "It wasn't as easy as that. Even as grew stronger, they continued to suffer defeats, losing even more of their lands. When the Imperium was on the verge of breaking they beseeched their G.o.ds to help them — and their plea was answered."

Arran instantly recalled the strange creature he'd met in the caverns, and its talk of the brothers who'd thought themselves G.o.ds. "What happened next?"

"The G.o.ds went to war," the captain replied simply. "And they did what the Darians could not — they drove back the Blight in a devastating battle, the powers they unleashed so great that the land was ruined for thousands of miles around. This ruined land is what the Darians call the Desolation."

"But if the G.o.ds defeated the Blight," Arran asked, his brow furrowed, "why are the Darians still fighting it?"

Kaleesh laughed. "Clearly, the Blight wasn't defeated. It was driven back, but ultimately, the Darians' G.o.ds lost. Few of them returned from the battle, and those who did were gravely injured, on the verge of death. And as the G.o.ds lay dying, they shared their blood with the Darians, granting them the power to continue the fight."

Arran made an ugly face. "That doesn't make sense," he said. "How could G.o.ds be defeated?"

"I don't know how much of it is true," Kaleesh said with a shrug. "Nor does it matter. What matters is that the war continues to this day. And to the Darians, this is the only war that truly matters — the endless battle against the Blight."

He paused briefly. Then, with a serious look at Arran, he added, "Their conflict with the Shadowflame Society is but a trifle compared to that — a means to secure a path for their eventual retreat."

Arran could not help but feel a surge of worry at the captain's words. If what the man said was true, it meant the Shadowflame Society had yet to experience the true might of the Darian Imperium. And yet, the Ninth Valley had already lost its first war against the Darians.

But after a moment, he realized that there were still things missing from the captain's tale — the nature of the enemies they'd face in the Desolation.

"It's an interesting tale," he said. "But you didn't answer my question. What kind of enemies will we face?"

Kaleesh laughed. "I already told you — the kind of enemies that can kill G.o.ds." Seeing Arran's nonplussed look, he continued, "The Desolation is vast, and the deeper one enters it, the stronger the enemies become. Go far enough, and you will encounter foes that even Lords cannot match."

"I take it we're not planning to go that far," Arran said, though with some doubt in his voice. By now, he understood all too clearly that while the captain planned his battles well, he did not shy away from risk.

"I'm not ready to die quite yet, so no," the captain replied. "But the farther we go, and the stronger the enemies we slay, the greater our rewards will be."

Arran frowned. "So what are these rewards?"

"The G.o.ds' blood," Kaleesh answered. "And before you ask, I do not know what sort of power it holds. But what I do know is that receiving the G.o.ds' blessing will allow us to enter the Imperium's colleges and learn their secrets. And that is where the true treasure lies."

For some moments, Arran pondered everything Kaleesh had told him. While the captain was clearly more interested in learning the Darians' techniques than he was in the G.o.ds' blood, the opposite was true for Arran.

If the strange creature from the caverns was right, Arran's Blood Ruin comprised the power of two of its brothers — two of the Darians' G.o.ds, presumably.

Just the thought of gaining more such powers was enough to make Arran's heart race with antic.i.p.ation.

The Blood Ruin alone was enough to make him all but invincible to many enemies. If there was a way to further increase that power, or add new abilities to it, then that was a chance he could not pa.s.s up.

And if winning that power would also give him the opportunity to learn the Darians' techniques, that only made the deal a better one.

"All right," he said, careful to conceal his excitement. "I'll join you in traveling to the Desolation."

Kaleesh gave him a broad smile in response. "Excellent!" he said, excitement clear in his face. "With you at our side, the Wolfsblood Company will be unstoppable!"

Arran could not help but smile at Kaleesh's unabashed enthusiasm. "So what's the plan?"

"First," the captain said, "I will keep Rannoc to his promise. After we receive our citizens.h.i.+p, I will ensure that the Wolfsblood Company is well-equipped — enough to give us a fighting chance in the Desolation. With Kadun's blacksmiths at our disposal, a month or two should be enough to give us all the tools we'll need."

Arran nodded. "And then?"

"And then," Kaleesh replied, "we will travel to the Desolation and show the Darians what outsiders can do." A big grin crossed his face, but a moment later, he frowned. "I suppose that to you, the journey itself will be useful as well. While we travel, you'll be able to learn more of the Imperium. That is the reason you came here, is it not?"

To this, Arran did not respond. Even if Kaleesh already knew who he was and why he had come to the Imperium, he still did not feel confident discussing it — not even here, where no curious ears could hear his words.

Kaleesh did not press the matter, however. He downed his gla.s.s of wine with a single big gulp, then stood up, clearly impatient to leave and start work on his plans.

"Let's go. The sooner we get our citizens.h.i.+p, the better. With the battles that still lie ahead of us, there's no shortage of work to do."

Arran finished his wine — it really was surprisingly good — then stood up as well. "What if Rannoc breaks his promise?"

The captain frowned. "I don't imagine he will. But if he does… I suppose he'll share Kadun's fate."

Paragon Of Destruction Chapter 359 - The Desolation

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Paragon Of Destruction Chapter 359 - The Desolation summary

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