Wuxiaworld > Advent of the Archmage > 471 The Northern Duke

471 The Northern Duke

Orida Fortress

Duke Abel tore a piece of paper into pieces in a rage. "All sad, pathetic excuses for men. Seems like I was too soft on all of you!"

The document was a report concerning the turnout rate to a military draft he had authorized in a small town in the North. He had expected 3000 recruits from the place, but only 2000 Warriors were sent back to the fortress, which was only two-thirds of what he had demanded. Duke Abel was not at all satisfied by this.

At that moment, Abel could feel the bloodlust rising in him. His nose twitched unconsciously, and his hand reflexively moved towards the handle of his sword. There was an insatiable thirst growing in him.

He craved the smell of fresh blood. He wanted to see a blood mist spray out of a body when it was cleaved open by his sword. Most of all, he wanted to hear the sound his sword would make when piercing through the flesh of another man, as well as the anguished scream of his victims. He delighted in the murder of small children, especially little girls. Their soft bodies were like pieces of tofu; one smooth slice of the sword was all it would take to cut through their flesh, which offered little to no resistance to the blade.

No, he must not think such thoughts. Should he let himself dwell on them any longer, he feared that he might once again resume his murderous rampage outside the walls of the fortress.

His hand gripped tightly on the sword's handle, then let go of it for a couple of times. As a result of this, his palm was now slick with sweat. After around ten minutes, Duke Abel finally managed to suppress the urge in him to kill.

He let go of the sword's handle and began reading another document.

Just then, something flashed in the corner of the wall. He immediately had a hand on his sword, and upon raising his head, saw a dark figure standing in the shadowy corner of the wall.

"Who are you?" Abel demanded.

"Who I am isn't important. What's important is that you are now in a precarious position, my dear Marshall," said the dark shadow, its voice sounding almost pleased about this.

Abel laughed out loud. "Ha, I've already attained Legendary power, it would not be a stretch to say that I am the strongest Warrior in the fortress. On top of that, I have with me more than 50,000 Warriors in the fortress. Who would dare attack me?"

The shadow breathed out a name. "The lord of Ferde, Duke Morani."

At the mention of this name, Abel's face froze up. In an instant, he had changed into a completely different man. He had enough reason to dread Link, the Legendary Magician. Not only did he possess formidable magic, but Ferde also supplied a majority of the fortress' resources. To offend Link would mean a disruption to that supply of resources, and the whole fortress would be forced to survive on its stockpiles for at most two months.

After those two months, the Warriors would all be without food, and the fortress would collapse on itself.

"Why would the lord of Ferde confront me without reason?" Abel anxiously said to himself.

The black shadow chuckled softly. It was a sharp, whistle sound, which made Abel uncomfortable. He was itching to dive at the intruder and cut him in half, but for now, he would like to hear what it had to say next. So he managed to restrain all murderous impulses in him for as long as he could.

The shadow then spoke once more, "Because of the power you've gained. You're growing stronger through the act of killing. Did you not find it strange, this craving in you for blood and murder?"

Though its voice was soft, in Abel's ear, it had sounded like a thunderclap. "Yes, what kind of power derives itself from murder anyway? Even the demons aren't capable of this. I've been feeling more and more bloodthirsty lately. If I were to go one whole day without killing someone, I would feel ill at ease and even find it difficult to sleep at night. I even found myself going through the memory of killing a little girl just now... How is this any different from a demon?"

He had already sensed that there was something wrong with him, but he dared not go into it further. Now, as he reflected on his past actions, he could not help but work up a cold sweat.

Duke Abel had not felt the least bit horrified while indulging in his killing spree. After hearing all this said to him by someone else, though, he could not believe he was even capable of such a thing.

Who was behind the dark shadow?

"You hiding in the shadows, show yourself!" Abel drew his sword out. If the intruder chose not to reveal himself, he would not hesitate to kill him where he stood.

The figure chuckled again and stepped out of the shadows. It was a little girl dressed in a black silk dress. Her body was somewhat serpentine, and her features were exquisitely sculpted and sturdy. She looked at Abel with a sly smile.

"Ah... You're... It's you!"

Duke Abel took a step backwards. His mind was thrown into disarray. The girl looked exactly the same as the angel of light who had granted him his power. The only difference was their clothing.

"Yes, it's me. I was the one who had gifted you the power of murder. Thanks to me, you've become a Legendary Warrior. Shouldn't you be thanking me?"

"You... You're a demon!" Duke Abel realized he had been tricked.

The girl in the black dress violently waved a hand with a look of disdain on her face. "Don't lump me in with demons. Those pea-brained brutes are nothing more than my slaves. Oh, my dear Marshall, try not to be too hung up on who I am and start worrying about your current predicament. As far as I know, Link's on his way to the North, and he already knows about your little secret. If I were you, I would start thinking about how best to defend yourself against the Magician's wrath."

Abel fell back onto his chair, muttering, "It's useless, I'm no match for someone who can extinguish 1000 demons by himself. What's the point of reaching Legendary if I can't even go up against that kind of power? I'm finished. My hands are stained with blood. There's no way he would forgive me for what I've done... I'm ruined, ruined!"

Duke Abel began cradling his head and mumbling to himself, with fear, shame and anger all mingled up in him.

The little girl laughed again. "What a coward you turned out to be. Aren't you supposed to be Duke Abel, the marshall of the northern army, with countless Warriors and Magicians who have sworn their allegiances to you? What have you to fear from Link and his entourage of no more than ten people?"

"He has the power to wipe out an entire army by himself!"

"That's because no other Warrior has ever been an equal match for him. But now, you're a Legendary Warrior like him, not to mention the fact that the Warriors in the fortress are all ordinary men. Do you really think he would risk using any area-of-effect spells on them? No, he won't. These Warriors will serve as nothing more than a human meat shield against the Magician. Do you understand?"

Stunned momentarily by those words, Duke Abel's rage finally overcame the fear and shame in him. "That's right, I'm the marshall here. Link has no right whatsoever to judge me. He's just the whelp of a viscount. No, I won't succumb. I'll fight. I must... I must end him!"

The bloodlust that Duke Abel had been suppressing in him all this time finally erupted, with a faint red aura radiating off his body. There was now a blood-red gleam in his eyes.

"Yes, that's it," cooed the girl in the black dress softly. "There's a small town called Gladstone 100 miles north from here where the rage epidemic had once again reared its head. You should take your men there to keep things under control. There are around 10,000 people living there, by the way."

Abel felt a sudden chill in his blood at those words. He roared at her, "Leave me!"

"As you wish, I've already said what I needed to say. Whatever you do next is entirely up to you." The girl in the black dress retreated back to the corner of the wall and vanished into the shadows.

Duke Abel sensed that something was off. The guards outside should have rushed in immediately to check on him as soon as he started screaming and shouting in the room. However, nothing happened when the girl had vanished without a trace from the place.

Duke Abel slumped back in his chair, not at all bothered to check with the guards outside. His bloodshot eyes stared absently at the ceiling of his study, as the words of the girl in the black dress echoed still in his head.

Gladstone, the rage epidemic, the murderous demon, Link's judgment... These words swirled persistently in his head like a curse hanging over him.

After a long while, Duke Abel finally shouted, "Guards! Guards!"

The door to his study opened, and a young Warrior entered with a look of reverence as he gazed at the duke before him. "Marshall, how can I be of service?"

"Go, bring my daughter Annie to me!"

"Yes, Marshall." The young Warrior then stepped back out of the room.

Abel took out a pen and paper and began writing a letter. As he scribbled on, his words became even more muddled up. Once or twice, he stopped writing altogether and stared at the paper as if he could not decide whether to tear it up or not.

In the end, he could not bring himself to do such a thing.

A few minutes later, he finally finished the letter and inserted it into an envelope. He then sealed it up with his coat of arms, and at that moment, the door opened once more. Annie, who was wearing green-black leather armor, entered the room, her face cold and indifferent. When she saw her father, she spoke coldly, "What are your orders, Marshall?"

"Take this letter to the North and give it to Master Link. He is now on his way here. Take Kanorse with you, too."

"Yes, Marshall." Annie took the letter from him and then asked, "Anything else, Marshall?"

Duke Abel knew why his daughter had been acting so distant towards him. She had objected to his genocidal campaign against the common folk back in Garrason, but he did not heed her words.

"That's it. You can go now. The sooner you leave, the better! Remember, do not give this letter to anyone else, even if they claim to be doing it under my name. Understand?"

"Understood." This provoked a strange look from Annie, but she went off to carry out her orders nonetheless.

After a while, Duke Abel heard the sound of hooves outside. He quickly looked out of the window and saw that Annie and Kanorse had left Orida Fortress on their horses.

Like a trapped beast, he paced the room for half an hour, thinking of what to do next. Suddenly he shouted, "Guards! Guards, come quick!"

The guards outside rushed into the room. "Marshall, is there something wrong?"

"Princess Annie and Kanorse have betrayed me. Contact M13 immediately! Have the commander there send someone to apprehend them! Quick, time is of the essence, under no circumstances are they allowed to escape our grasp!" Duke Abel roared.

"Yes, I understand." The soldier hurriedly went out of the room to carry out the marshall's order.