A Legendary Heart
As the pale gold light of the morning sun pierced through the long curtains, Richard felt his eyes begin to hurt. Too much time spent focusing on the intent behind Beye’s swordsmanship had tired him out, and as he relaxed the pain of trying to analyse something well beyond his current ability took hold of him.
Thankfully, a short meditation break managed to stop the tears flowing from his eyes. The biting cold power behind the sword strokes was overwhelming, but it had not been meant to harm.
It took a bit of time for him to feel the anomaly in the room, finally noticing the chest placed in the centre. He couldn’t help his shock for a moment, but he quickly realised that it had to be Beye. Although the magical defences of the castle hadn’t been expanded to cover aerial entry yet, the protection of the Eternal Dragon would have alerted him to anyone approaching the island with ill intent.
However, as curiosity immediately overtook him and he opened the chest, he immediately felt a chill running down his spine. This chest was actually a piece of spatial equipment, and it had many offerings within!
The head of a large, bizarre creature, what seemed to be an enormous heart that was still wriggling with life, and a delicate statue of an unknown organism that was filled with divine power. He could tell that these were all some of the best offerings with one glance, each one worth more than the devil skull he had offered for his first time. Converted to a gold price, they would be worth 30 million in total!
Still, he could only smile bitterly and shake his head. Beye refused to be indebted to him. Even with her ability such items could only be obtained by close shaves with death; it was evident just how desperately she needed these runes.
He closed the chest and thought things through for a while before asking four of the paladins protecting the place to carry the thing to the Church of the Eternal Dragon. When he told them the chest contained offerings, they immediately agreed to transport it.
With the paladins helping take the chest to the Church, there would be no incidents like the first time when many enemies had threatened to block Gaton’s path. Opposing them would be a slight against the Church itself, and with Ferlyn’s ability to peer through time nobody could hide their plots.
Still, he was incredibly nervous the entire way. The short journey on horseback had left him drenched with sweat, heart pounding into his chest like a hammer trying to break free. He’d assumed money no longer meant anything to him when he threw away millions upon millions to craft the three Lifesbane runes he already had, but now he understood that his concept of value had just changed.
Grand priestess Noelene greeted him at the entrance, a smile on her face, “Come with me, the High Priestess is waiting for you at the back.” Along the way, she also gave him a final appraisal for the ores and other items he had brought back on this trip from Faelor. The total value was placed at 3.5 million gold coins. When asked what currency he wanted that in, he asked for magic crystals without a shred of hesitation.
Noelene nodded, smile growing brighter, “Your ceremony this time will be hosted by the High Priestess herself, such a rare opportunity!”
Even the grandest of ceremonies were rarely hosted by Ferlyn in recent years. The high priestess had the ability to increase one’s chances of getting the offerings they wanted. On rare occasions, as a Chosen of the Eternal Dragon, she could even guarantee many requests. Such guaranteed blessings would require more grace than if it were offered at random, but that was a worry for the weaker houses. Those with true power only worried over how they would get the High Priestess to agree.
“The High Priestess? Why not Flowsand?” Richard was actually a little annoyed. The host of a ceremony earned a portion of the divine grace granted, and Ferlyn herself had told him that Flowsand was in need.
The priestess seemed to have expected this question, waving it off, “Flowsand has some important matters to attend to for a few days. Don’t worry, the High Priestess will be able to grant you whatever you require.”
Richard frowned slightly, but could only accept the arrangement. As they arrived at the spacious room in the back of the church, Noelene left him alone with Ferlyn once more. Perhaps it was because he was much more relaxed this time than the last, or perhaps it was a side-effect of his growth, he was impacted much more strongly by her unique mix of maturity and distant purity than before. These were qualities that seemed unique to her, giving her a sort of beauty that was impossible to duplicate.
The back of the church was void of any objects whatsoever, completely clean of any specks of filth. There weren’t even any pillars to support the domed roof, making the large hall seem rather plain. Ferlyn was seated on the ground right in the middle, shoes placed by the side.
Richard stared blankly for a while before snapping out of his stupor, walking over and seating himself opposite her, “You wanted me for something?”
Ferlyn looked him up and down, examining him for a while, “You’re about to reach twenty years of age?”
Richard made a quick calculation before nodding. All the travel had affected his sense for his actual age.
She smiled softly, “He was about your age too, but much more capable than you are now. I was young myself, and we thought the entire world would be ours one day. Ten years down the road, we started to doubt our thinking. Only then did we realise just how small we were, how powerless in the face of destiny. We had to sacrifice each other, bidding our last goodbyes.”
Ferlyn had been oddly calm as she narrated this tragedy, but Richard still felt his breaths growing heavy. It was like the weight of time itself was settling into this hall, growing more suffocating by the moment.
However, it was dissipated with a single laugh, “I seem to digress. It’s just that seeing you youths makes me think back to my time.
“Alright, I wanted to ask you a question. What do you think is the true cornerstone of legendary might? Is it bloodline, level, runes? Something else, perhaps?”
Richard thought it over for a bit, trying to test the waters with his reply, “Bloodline… No, not really. Grades are important as well, but compared to a grade 5 rune…”
“All of them, and none of them as well. The power of bloodlines isn’t all that mysterious once you realise how they work. An overwhelming majority of legendary beings possess powerful bloodlines, but not all were born with them. One can dig into hidden depths within one’s own blood as they grow more powerful, and failing that you could upgrade to a better bloodline or assimilate an entirely different one. The old dragon has his own blessings to help. Sooner or later, legendary beings will have some sort of bloodline. As for levels, you’ve been to Klandor and a battlefield of despair. There are many tales of legendary beings dying at the hands of saints.
“So, all that remains is runes. Runes are actually much more of a limiting factor than the other two, given how few saint runemasters have ever existed. In some ways, they form the bottleneck for growth.”
“So I should continue to focus on my runecrafting to reach the legendary realm?”
“Not exactly. Runes are an important factor, but they aren’t essential. All of Klandor’s legendary beings don’t use runes at all, and even the best ones of Norland don’t either.”
“What?” Richard was shocked.
“You’ll realise when you reach that level, but for now you should continue on your path. Stay rooted, focus on survival. As long as you progress on the path to power, be it runes, equipment, or divine weapons, everything has its worth.”
He nodded, “Then what exactly is the core of a legendary being?”
Ferlyn’s voice turned softer, “Almost all true legends, outside of those with extraordinary talents or special fates, have one thing in common. The heart. The heart to shrug off their defeats and carry on. The heart to fight through the most desperate of situations to achieve their goals. The heart to face their situations head-on without fleeing. The heart to remain positive in the face of despair.”
Richard grew a little dazed, finding Ferlyn’s description a little familiar.
When he was six years old, he had learnt happiness. A small tree seemed so magnificent to him in those times, the simple act of listening to his mother’s stories at the dinner table left him so blissful. The wild flowers of Rooseland seemed to flutter about and bloom at the sound of her voice.
At seven years of age, he had learnt perseverance in his tasks. He had plucked breadfruit from the trees all day long, giving his mother big baskets to prepare for his meals.
At eight years of age, he had learnt tenacity. He stood tall in the face of the bullying from those around him, but had the patience to not fight back.
At nine years of age, he had lost his innocence. He had hunted down a devilwolf from the mountains, remaining unwavering in the face of danger. He had learnt courage.
And at ten…
At ten years of age he had suffered an indescribable pain, a raging inferno filling his entire existence and forcing him to cut himself off from the world. Richard realised just how much his mother had taught him when he was young.
The heart of a legendary being… What Ferlyn was talking about now his mother had tried to instil in him all those years ago. She had meant for it to be a part of his life. It took a long time for him to raise his head once more, but when he did his eyes were bright.
Ferlyn nodded with approval. She had already noticed that Richard had the traits that would take him far along his path, even admired them in the dark. She was only pointing out that, so long as his general direction was correct, the specific path he took to power did not matter.
“Very well then, let us move on. I wish to ask you a favour.”
Richard was really surprised. Ferlyn was a titled priestess of the Eternal Dragon; the moment she voiced a need, countless legendary beings would fight over the chance to serve her. To be in her good graces meant a lot, from longer lives to greater power.
Richard straightened his back and replied solemnly, “I will do my best.”
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