Chapter 91: The Final Test

806 61 3

I find an odd irony in the results of the Eight's struggle. This may be because I've been a military man, but I have found that civic militaristic self-sacrifice has been born out their attempts to snuff out civilization. Inspired by the Eight, if you can believe it. Look at the new Alberion Ranger Corps, or the Tesidium Army. Paragons of rigorous discipline, they are everything the Eight despises.

-The Necromancer's Notes, Codex 55, Vol. 2, Uncategorized.

***

Two Years Ago

***

The other Rangers called it Hell Week. And, to be fair, they were dead-on.

It was a fully-comprehensive examination of every skill they had learned, not just book-knowledge, but in application.

Iako blinked and shook his head as the sea spray woke him. The rocking of the boat made him want to fall asleep, but he had to be vigilant. However, it was easiest to be vigilant when one was well-rested, not when one only had five hours of sleep for the whole week.

There was nine of them in the boat, and no one was talking. Iako studied the horizon and resisted itching his face. The nine of them had a mission, one of the last training exercises, different for each squad. In their case, they had to infiltrate an old castle, apart from the main island, a crumbling wreck.

The strongest three of them were rowing. Laidu, of course, was one of them. His amber eyes were set forward in steely determination. Behind him, an Erinyan named Jain Han, of Qin, worked the middle rows. And behind them, Eikagor, the massive, dark blue Kai'Draen, was the real force behind their craft.

Raddas and Gial sat at the bow, and right behind them, a Vesperati's ears pricked up at any sound. Halech, that was his name.

There was a third human and a Calixa with them. The human, Theophrastus, was an alchemist; the Calixa, whose name was so long and unpronounceable that everyone just called him John for convenience's sake, was a thaumaturgist. They wore the loose tunics and leather armor everyone else had worn on their final trial. But Iako had suggested another small addition to their wardrobe.

War paint.

Iako was used to the war paint he wore, a mix of black, steel grey, and navy blue. He looked back at Laidu. The dragon Changed was mostly covered in steel grey paint, but his eye sockets were colored navy blue, along with a line that extended past his lips, tracing the upper jaw shape of his skull. His horns, normally an off-white color, were colored black. Eikagor merely had to mark his face with lines of grey and black, though he had washed his hair with some herb that took the ash-white to pitch-black. The rest of them were similarly pigmented. 

"I heard Denan's going to try something else tonight," Iako said to Laidu.

"Of course he is," Laidu said. "He think's I'm a monster."

"Dislocating his arm a few times over doesn't help with that," Iako advised his friend. 

"Well, he shouldn't have tried to mug me in the shower," Laidu said. "What kind of man tries to mug another while they're washing up? It's like challenging a man to a duel when he's naked and unarmed. Which I was. That's just dishonorable."

"That's no excuse for being unprepared. A tribesman challenged me to a duel in a similar situation," Eikagor said absently. "I broke his neck." He shrugged. "And he was dressed and had a spear." He said it dispassionately, the same way one might have talked about swatting a fly. 

Fever BloodRead this story for FREE!