JACKAL AMONG SNAKES-Chapter 530: Potentially Devastating

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The most uptodate nove𝙡s are published on 𝙛𝙧𝙚𝙚𝔀𝙚𝓫𝙣𝓸𝓿𝙚𝒍.𝓬𝓸𝓶

Argrave stood on the bridge leading to Blackgard, holding Sophia as he stared down the valley where the river rapids clashed against the rocks below. He felt that his mind was moving much quicker than its waters, at present. They weren’t in Sandelabara any longer, where its citizens lived in some sort of strange limbo. This was Blackgard, with people he’d pledged to defend walking the streets with trust in him. They had tremendous defenses here, but somehow Mozzahr had managed to breach them all, and now lied in wait.

Mozzahr was clever, and it was prudent to assume he had learned a great deal about Argrave’s character. The former cult leader would surely try and use either the people close to him, or the people that he’d sworn to protect, as a tool to force Argrave’s hand. If Argrave entered the city proper where the population was dense, Mozzahr could use and abuse that fact. Even if Argrave avoided the city, Mozzahr might cause mayhem just for the sake of forcing Argrave’s hand.

“Is something wrong, Argwave?” Sophia asked.

Yes, Argrave thought.

“No,” Argrave said. “I’m just thinking about what needs to be done in the immediate future. I want to make sure you live comfortably here, Sophia. You don’t have anyone you know.”

“I know… I know you. Do you have a home?” she asked.

Her words gave Argrave an idea, and he asked Elenore through their mental connection, “Could I lure Mozzahr to the parliamentary hall? Who’s there?”

“Me and—”

“If you’re there, forget it,” Argrave interrupted her.

“Just as well. Even barring me, we have some members of parliament here.”

With another option written off, Argrave had time enough to speak to Sophia. “I have quite a few homes, but I’m not sure which one would fit you best. Do you like the city? Do you like the countryside?”

“I… just want windows,” Sophia said. “That’s all.”

Places without windows… there’s not many here. Just a few, and they’re all built into the mountain—Artur’s Hall of Enchantment, Hause’s… Argrave’s thoughts jammed. That’s right. Hause’s temple. It’s separated from the rest of the city, it has a goddess protecting it, and has only one entrance or exit. Even if she’s not as strong as she once was, she can be counted on to defend Sophia. If Mozzahr pursues me inside, we’d have him trapped. If he tries to flee, he’ll have to use spirits to warp away, which would cause Onychinusa’s spirits to intercept and transfer him to the deep ocean. And above all, I think I can head there without rising any suspicion, should he be watching.

“Let everyone know,” he informed Elenore. “I’ll be taking Sophia to Hause’s temple. She owes me her life, and I’m certain I can trust her with this. Besides, I’m certain we’ll need her help with Sophia, long-term. Don’t spook Mozzahr. I’ll tell you when everyone else can rush in.”

“Hause’s temple?” There was a silence as Elenore calculated things in her mind. “That is isolated enough, but you’ll be trapped with Mozzahr. I can’t communicate with Hause—she might not be ready to protect you. You could well die, Argrave.”

“No,” Argrave refuted Elenore’s worry, adjusting his hold over Sophia. “I won’t be trapped with him. He’ll be trapped with me. Ah—always wanted to say that.”

“Did you lose your wits?” Elenore asked incredulously. “I distinctly remember you telling me you nearly died last time you engaged him.”

“Trust me. It’ll be fine.”

“…alright. But I’m heading to Vasquer. With her perception, I can locate Mozzahr.”

“What? No!” Argrave protested. “What if Mozzahr is lurk—”

“I have Orion to protect me, and Durran is already frothing at the mouth, begging to teleport here to come to my rescue. I will go, Argrave. This is me telling you what I’m doing, not asking you if I can.”

“If you get hurt… I don’t know what I’d do. Just be extremely careful,” he commanded. “Contact me when you can.”

Argrave stopped conversing with Elenore, turning his attention back to Sophia. “I’m sorry, Sophia, but we do have to head to a place without windows for a little bit. We won’t be staying there very long, but there’s someone I need to introduce you to. Her name is Hause. She has a very special ability, you see. She can see someone’s potential. Do you know what that means?”

Argrave set off along the trail, alert as ever. Every walking figure in the distance might be the Castellan of the Empty, ready to make mayhem.

“Uh-huh,” Sophia nodded. “Daddy always said I had no potential.”

“Sounds like Norman talked a lot without knowing anything,” Argrave shook his head. “Hause’s the only person in the whole wide world that can see someone’s potential. And considering how special you are, I’m absolutely positive that she’s going to see something.”

“But…” Sophia tensed up. “What if she sees that I’m useless?”

“Honestly… that might be the most shocking result of all.” Argrave looked around, trying to act natural. “As a matter of fact, I can pretty much guarantee she won’t say that.”

“But what if?” Sophia insisted, a little fearful.

“Nothing will change. I’ll still be there, no matter the outcome. Don’t worry about that.” Argrave examined the silver bracer on his wrist. After the fight with Norman, it had no blood left. If he was going to use [Burst], he’d need to call upon his own blood. A less desirable outcome.

“What if I’m even worse than useless?” Sophia continued.

“Hey… are you saying I can’t see something precious? I say you’re precious. Do you think the great me could be wrong?”

Now that Argrave had involved himself, she was caught in a deep mental puzzle as her meek good nature battled against her low self-confidence. It gave Argrave precious time to indulge his paranoia, eyes flitting from the city sprawl to his right to the mountains on his left as he edged along the verdant meadows in pursuit of Hause’s temple. He saw neither hide nor hair of the former cult leader.

In the end, he made it to the building. Through constructed into the mountains, it still had some beauty to it. Since Argrave had last seen it, a grand arrangement of vines growing fruits, trees rising from the ground, and flowers decorating the path bloomed at its entrance. Raven’s ex-girlfriend of a few millennia was an avid gardener and had been bestowed with supernatural ability to weave plant life. It seemed Sonia had not been idle. Sophia seemed to like the entrance.

Argrave entered inside. He noticed a few citizens wandering about, and entered in calmly. The place was twice as beautiful within as it was without—a little garden, blocked off from the sun yet with all of nature’s bounty blooming all the same. Sonia received a few prospective worshippers, but the moment she spotted Argrave, broke away to greet him.

“Your Majesty. What brings you here?” Sonia greeted him distantly and politely. They had no special relation.

“I’d like to speak to Hause,” Argrave answered just as cordially. “Can that be arranged quickly?”

“Certainly. I will get her at once,” she bowed.

As Sonia walked away, Argrave contacted Elenore again. “Are you there yet?”

“Nearly. Half a minute more.”freew ebnove l.com

Argrave looked about the verdant temple, trying not to tap his foot nervously. The place was beautiful, sure, but he felt that Mozzahr might be lurking behind one of the many trees or giant flowery bushes. The worshippers within recognized him, pointing and referring to him with some degree of reverence. After a time, Argrave saw Sonia return. Following after her was Hause, garbed in pink and with an elaborate headpiece keeping her blonde hair braided upward.

“Your Majesty. I wasn’t expecting—” Hause began, but paused when her eyes locked upon Sophia. The goddess was quite reticent, usually, but he knew sheer terror when he saw it. She raised a hand up to cover her mouth, and began to tremble.

Argrave walked closer, and said in a low tone to the trembling goddess, “Be kind. She’s still a child.”

Hause glanced at Argrave and nodded. She took some time to compose herself, lowering her trembling hand and trying to avert her eyes from Sophia. He couldn’t be sure what it was she’d seen, but he knew it was obviously quite terrifying.

“I’m connected with…” Elenore’s voice cut into Argrave’s mind as Hause searched for words. She sounded pained and troubled. “…connected with Vasquer. She’s surveying the city. Gods, this is just as overwhelming as I remember…”

“Find him,” Argrave insisted urgently, feeling on-edge.

Hause looked at Sophia without greeting Argrave—she seemed too overwhelmed to remember courtesy. He dipped her head and said, “H-hello, young lady. Who might you be?”

“I am Princess Sophia Normansdottir,” she said with practiced elegance.

“I see. I mean… I hear. I-I am Hause.” She put her hand near her chest, still shaking. “Argrave—might I ask… might I…?”

Argrave didn’t let her babble further. “Before we begin, I need two things from you. I need you to treat Sophia very gently, and I need you to promise you’ll protect her.”

“I…” Hause looked at Argrave with wide eyes. After a few moment, she gave rapid nods. “Yes. Yes, I can.”

“Good.” Argrave lowered Sophia, setting her down upon the temple floor. She seemed hesitant to let go of him, but eventually came to stand on her own.

Hause continued to say something, but Argrave was waiting for word from Elenore. Then, it came, sharp as a hot knife and urgent as she’d ever been.

“Above, Argrave! He’s burrowing through the earth using magic!”

Just as she said that, Argrave looked up to see the ceiling split apart without so much as a sound. The white-haired elf Mozzahr leapt at Argrave with terrifying speed, silent fury warping his face.

A NOTE FROM NEMOROSUS

Next chapter February 12th, or shell out some shekels on Patreon to read everything available.

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