164 Interludium 5
No one would have ever believed Milea Genys, if she told how before becoming the Gorgons Empire’s Magic Empress, she was just a second rate magician of humble origins.
What set Milea apart from her fellow students, was that despite she hadn’t been deemed worthy of being accepted into one of the big academies, she had never stopped believing in in the infinite potential magic held.
Ever since she was a child, she had read the stories of the Magi of the Empire until she knew them by heart.
– “Many of them have an unclear past, were considered trash for most of their lives, until they have found their path to greatness. Whatever they discovered, I can find it too. Talent is not just innate, you have to develop it. There must be a way to break through my limits!” –
So, Milea decided to follow their lead instead of accepting a menial job, like the other graduates from the minor academy, the Red Basilisk, she attended. Milea didn’t visit the hometowns of the Magi, nor she travelled through the places recorded in their biographies.
– “Gods know how many people journeyed through those locations. If there ever was any clue, it would be already known. Worst case scenario, the first one to found their legacies took them for himself.” – She thought.
So, Milea decided to bet everything on rumors and legends, hoping to find the proverbial kernel of truth. What she found, instead, were tourist traps and hoaxes that costed her most of her savings, and in more than one occasion, almost her life.
After months of useless traveling, she had lost over ten kilograms (22 pounds), the care for personal hygiene and most of her trust toward mankind.
She wasn’t a beauty, but a fresh and naïve sixteen years old girl had a strong allure to certain men, and since she travelled alone, Milea was often considered an easy prey. At least until she revealed to be a mage, and left her assailants crunchy and well roasted.
One day, she heard of a cursed mountain, from which no one ever returned. Some rumors talked about an evil spirit dwelling into a cave, others stated that on the mountain slopes there was a gateway to the netherworld.
When she expressed her interest to visit such place, no one offered to accompany her and the locals tried to discourage Milea. In her experience, that was a plus. It meant there was really something.
Reaching the destination with a flight spell proved to be child’s play. There was no trace of monsters, the birds chirped loudly while fawns and squirrels would fearlessly come close, letting her cuddle them until they lost interest in the new visitor.
The surrounding vegetation was so lush, that Milea thought it had to be the most elaborate prank she had ever suffered. More than cursed, the place seemed out of a fairy tale.
The cave was in plain sight, the trail leading to it was clear from weeds, as it was often used. Once she got closer, a shiver went down her spine. The cave was perfectly arched, while the walls and the pavement were too smooth to be natural.
Curiosity got the better of her, so after activating a spell to light the way, Milea went in. The corridor wasn’t high, around 2 metres (6′ 7″) high, and so narrow that only one person at a time could pass. She took note of those details to calm herself down.
Whoever lived there couldn’t be too big, and in case she was forced to escape, being outnumbered or surrounded wasn’t a problem in such enclosed space. The tunnel stretched downwards for several hundred meters, and when she finally reached the end, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
Milea was in a library bigger than her hometown. It was a single circular room, with bookshelves extending on multiple floors, connected by stairs and enchanted elevators. The library’s dome had a glass ceiling, from which Milea could see the sun, as the first floor had glass doors leading outside into a wood.
The whole thing made no sense, she was supposed to be underground. Milea cast her doubts away, using her flight spell to explore the library. Tomes and scrolls were orderly arranged by topic.
Among them she found ancient books written in unknown languages, legendary grimoires that were supposed to be lost in history, and even recent ones like her academy’s textbooks.
Then, her eyes met a book spine with the inscription “Magus Lochra Silverwing’s Grimoire” carved in golden letters. She took it out, opening a random page and discovering that it wasn’t written in code.
She spent the next hours sitting on one of the many couches, trying to learn from her most beloved Magus, the foremother of modern magic. Yet the only thing she understood, was that despite all her studies and the centuries of magical progresses after Silverwing’s death, the Magus’ wisdom was still beyond Milea’s reach.
Milea was really tempted to take the a few books as souvenirs.
– “Even if I prove to be uncapable to step up my magical abilities, I can always sell them and settle for life. Just one of these books is probably worth more than the entire Red Basilisk academy.” –
In the end, though, she decided to put the grimoire back and leave empty handed.
– “Even if I managed to sell them, instead of getting killed, those poor books would just become the trophy of some pompous idiot. Here, instead, they can help someone like me, but with more talent, to achieve her dreams.” –
“Well thought, human!”
Before she could turn around to discover the owner of that voice, the space around Milea blurred, Blinking her in front of the master of the house. The new room was as big as the previous one, but instead of bookshelves it was filled to the brim with gold, platinum and gemstones the smallest of which was as big as her fist.
Ingots, coins and jewels were piled up randomly, forming small hills, surrounding a literal mountain of treasures, atop which there was the biggest creature she had ever seen.
Leegaain’s form was so huge it was impossible for Milea to see its entire body. The dragon’s black scales were bigger and thicker than a tower shield. Milea’s whole body was barely the size of one of its claws.
She couldn’t avert her gaze from the creature’s yellow eyes, the pupils a vertical slit, resembling those of a cat. Its heartbeat was deafening, while the simple act of breathing produced gales strong enough to force her to seek shelter behind a gold pile.
“I’m sorry.” It said after noticing her distress. “I almost forgot how fragile humans are.”
The noise stopped, and so did the wind.
“You have come into my home and acted as a guest, and that deserves a reward. You didn’t arrive here in a righteous frenzy to slay the beast, nor acted as a marauder, giving knowledge the respect it deserves.”
Now that the fear was leaving her body, Milea could notice the bony protuberances on its head, resembling a crown, and the gentle curve of the enormous membranous wings resting on its back.
“Choose one thing, in my home. Be it riches, knowledge or a weapon, its yours to take.”
“I want knowledge!” She blurted out before the dragon changed its mind.
Leegaain chuckled in satisfaction, it was an interesting fellow indeed.
“Name a book, and it will be yours.”
“I don’t want a book. The knowledge I want it’s yours. Please, teach me how to become a Magus!”
Leegaain was flabbergasted, that was something it hadn’t predicted.
“So be it.” It nodded.
In the following months, Leegaain taught Milea the secret of the Awakened ones.
“Very few Magi in history weren’t Awakened ones. The principle behind it is simple, but achieving it is incredibly rare. No matter how strong a mana core is, it cannot generate a flow strong enough to be detected.
The only way to Awaken, is being able to perceive the world energy that surround us, and let it flow inside you.”
Milea was sitting cross legged, with her eyes closed, while Leegaain was curled up around her, gathering a huge amount of world energy through Invigoration (AN: his version of Invigoration. I’ll use terms you already know for simplicity’s sake), to make it easier for her to perceive it.
“There are only two ways of becoming an Awakened one.” He kept explaining, his tone giving Milea a rhythm to follow during her breathing.
“The first is to feel the world energy by yourself. The event is very unlikely, unless you reach a state of enlightment, find a place much more abundant than normal of world energy, or you are a newborn.
Newborns are empty things. The mother gives them life, the world gives them mana. If only they could be taught, creating an Awakened one would be easy.
The second way, is to be Awakened by a Guardian like me. That’s how my old friends Tyris and Salaark create their new toys, giving them power but not knowledge. I’m different from them. I don’t care about any country anymore.
They betrayed me, so I abandoned them in return.”
Milea really wanted to know what was Leegaain talking about, but she was afraid to lose her focus.
“The Gorgon Empire can go die in a fire for what I care. I will not set it ablaze but I will not extinguish it either. But I digress.
An Awakened only enemies are other Awakened ones, be they humans, evolved from magical beasts, or even worse Abominations. Just like us, Abominations came in all kinds and forms, just like Guardians are born, so they grow into Eldritchs.
The most dangerous Abominations are those that manage to possess a suitable body, be it bestial or human. Here is what you have to be wary of…”