Of Armor and Bone: Chapter 37
Silvus could see the ridge in the distance past the Arcanus’s back. The rough cliff side was just taller than the trees before it, while above on the plateau, most of the vegetation grew low to the ground. His view bobbed up and down as he attempted to guide the unfamiliar horse in the formation. He quickly looked back in the distance, where the worn-down figures of his men had been aggregated into the group of magi. Even farther behind, the tallest peak of the range glinted with the sunlight’s reflection in the remaining snow.
Silvus urged the animal to quicken its pace with a poke of his heels. The horse’s feet splashed and smacked loudly with each hard step into the muddy road. Charlstine glanced back at him as he approached.
“That’s the Lyeys ridge beyond us.” Silvus said, pointing up ahead.
“I know it. Rocky, steep.” Charlstine nodded. “I’ve traveled this way many times. Won’t be terribly pleasant in the mud, either.” She mentioned, looking down at the hem of her light blue cloak which dangled dangerously close to the plodding hoofs of the horse.
“As much as I hate to slow us down, I believe we should stop there for a rest. Several of my men are still in poor shape.”
“We shall stop.” The Arcanus said. “In fact, that is where we will make camp.”
“There is still ample daylight.” Silvus said, looking up towards the clear sky.
“We will stay. It will be easy to look for an incoming army from there. Not to mention, defend from such a place.”
Charlstine took one last glance at Silvus. “You may stay shortly to address your men’s needs, but I shall have you continue onto your home as soon as possible.”
“Continue?” Silvus puzzled. “For what reason?”
“This is something you should not involve yourself in.”
“This is our land.” Silvus rebutted.
“The powers you would wish to combat are not belonging to a particular land.”
Silvus caught his horse slowing slightly behind Charlstine’s. He nudged it once again, causing the animal to speed up.
“You’re telling us to stay away from this conflict, then?” He said lowly.
“You haven’t faced that army. You don’t know how they move… how they sound when they descend upon you.”
“What difference does it make?” Chalrstine shrugged proudly. “After your men fell to them. They rely wholly on powers that we are well versed in. It matters not how they hold themselves in battle.”
“You cannot purge the power from their armaments like you purged your fellow magi- those who did not wish to conform to the Order’s laws.” Silvus rebutted.
“Are you so sure?”
Silvus tilted his head to the side suspiciously. “What do you mean?”
“The power that they hold is an imitation of one my people pioneered long ago.” Charlstine began. “It originated with a Xiandolan in fact. Before King Halmalch’s bloodline rose to power, the land was divided, constantly fighting over their meager resources. Such a vast area of land, with little to offer.”
“Unlike Tulefore, our people blessed with ample natural resources so that we could act upon our god-given right to spread our Empire across the sea.” Silvus added.
“Indeed, some would agree.” Charlstine remarked. “It is said that Xiandol could barely dig up enough iron to forge a proper sword. However, we know of one- an individual of magical blood- who first attempted to infuse his own power into a weapon to make up for the poor quality.”
“And did he?” Silvus asked.
“He did, and not just one. Tools, pieces of armor, as well. Not at a pace to supply an proper army, mind you. Xiandol continued to squabble for decades, while our mage-turned-blacksmith continued to work away. It’s been said that during some of the fighting, the weapons were lost to the land, and found their way into various hands- even to Tulefore.”
“So that’s it?” Silvus huffed. “Nobody knows who this person was?”
Charlstine adjusted her posture atop the horse. “We believe he wore himself out, giving up the craft and passing away before he could tell anyone else the specifics of the art. What we do have, though, are those weapons and possibly armor still out there as evidence of his experiments…”
“We don’t have a count. A hand full, at best.” Charlstine shrugged. “There is one hidden away in Arkyan. It seems to have lost much of its power. But clearly the others out there have been studied in hopes to recreate the process.”
“I see. So Xiandol has…”
Charlstine nodded slowly. “The power is potent, but not perfect. Mr. Chin revealed revealed to me a method for… influencing the energies in the armor. Facing the Xiandolans will be a simple task for us.”
Silvus let out a low, heavy breath through his pursed lips as he allowed the horse underneath him to slow slightly. He rolled his head back to look at the mixed group of travelers; the handful of the Tuleforians- mostly unarmored, and the seven magi who had stepped forward to aid Charlstine.
The road through the thick trees swerved back and forth slightly. The ground began to slope upwards as the ridge grew before them. The roughly carved switchback was stained dark with the rain from the night previous. The muddy earth of the road became narrow as it caught up to the vertical walls before them.
Charlstine slowed her horse to a trot as she tapped at its sides to guide its ascent up the steep pathway. The group began to file up two at a time. Silvus allowed the others before him, eventually trailing behind the last of the men. He held his breath as the horse fidgeted, slowly keeping the pace behind the others.
Silvus slid down off the horse and steadied his shaky legs before guiding the animal a safe distance away from the edge. In the distance, he could see bits of the city on the horizon. His soldiers had already gathered up, pulling provisions out of their sacks.
“Lend me your ears for a moment.” Silvus announced, approaching the group slowly. They quickly straightened up and faced him stiffly. “At ease.” He returned, waving them down.
“The magi are stopping, so we figured we would be able to rest as well.” One man spoke up.
“For a bit. The Arcanus and her people will hold here.” Silvus sighed. “We must return to Tulefore City. The Emperor must be made aware of our situation.”
“But sir-” Another spoke up.
Silvus held up his palm to stop the man. “It has been decided.” He shook his head. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Charlstine looking him down before returning her eyes to her group.