Chapter 93: Into the mist (1)

Several armies had converged on the Steppes, these were hardened soldiers and elites of the expeditionary forces. After weeks of trudging along the Steppes to exterminate any local natives they found, the expeditions had finally arrived at the location where a large town with a citadel was under rapid construction. With the aid of magic and talented engineers and laborers, it wasn’t too difficult of a process to construct the town and accompanying citadel with barracks to house large numbers of soldiers. It was still mostly a husk of a town, but the fortifications had been the first to be worked on and completed. It had already been a few months since construction began and a mixed force of elites from all the participating churches was already garrisoned in the city. With the supply lines secure, soon caravans filled with supplies and the necessary resources would come pouring in.

The town currently had a wall reaching a height of 50 feet and there were some further fortifications under construction around the town. Although it would take more time to fully complete all of the planned fortifications for the town and citadel, the defenses were satisfactory for the time being. It could at least keep an army out for an extended period of time and it would be enough to defend against any of the local wildlife and monsters. All in all, it was a proper base of operations for further expansion and exploration.

Most of the expeditions had succeeded in their initial mission, although the number of natives they had encountered less than what they expected. They had done their best to contain the tribes in the local region in order to control the spread of news for the time being. It was necessary to gain time for the negotiations with the dragons and their actions had met with success, at least until they heard what happened to the northern churches. This had put a stain on the mission of the expedition and many ridiculed them for their failure. A heavy gloom encompassed the northern church’s expeditionary army and morale was at an all time low. The nightly howling of anguish of the remaining Direwolf didn’t help to alleviate this situation.

This had been a constant headache for Archbishop Ragnir who had been met with a series of setbacks which he would need to take responsibility for.

“We are finally here.”

Ragnir calmly moved the curtain of his carriage window while looking out at the town under construction just off in the distance. Bishop Girard was seated across from him and he too felt melancholy. As the second in command of this expedition, he too would have to take responsibility. They couldn’t allow any more failures.

Ragnir turned to look at Girard while the curtain fell, “We have to make sure that everything else goes smoothly. It should be assumed that the Orcs will soon know what is going on, but it’s only a matter of time before the dragons are convinced. Even if the Dragon King doesn’t help personally, just sending a few dragons and the Dragonmen army would be enough. Too much is at stake here.”

“Are you so certain the Dragon King will agree?” Asked Girard.

“What choice do they have? The population of dragons and their kind are limited . They have been on the decline for a long time now and there are hardly any left on the continent. Even if dragons are born powerful, so what? They are destined to be materials, to be reduced to a resource, for our weapons, armor, potions and magical devices. The Dragon King is not a fool. Even if they are able to hold back our expansion now, it is just delaying the inevitable. He will make the right choice, it is the only way to ensure their survival.”

“But those tribes that escaped, won’t they inform the larger tribes? What if the horde arrives first?”

Girard couldn’t hide the nervousness in his voice. This was a major concern which was entirely their failure.

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“Nothing can be done about it now. We already sent word to those dragons who are in support of our negotiations. We can only hope they have a solution. I am more concerned about that Shelise and the Legendary being accompanying her. You have hidden Brock well? It wouldn’t do to have those two come into contact with each other. For now she has been quiet and stayed to herself and soon she will most likely move on to the other camp. We have to ensure that he is kept hidden once we enter the citadel. I don’t want to lose such a talent and with her brother already dead, she won’t remain long after she finally accepts that reality.”

“She seems pretty adamant about him being alive, could we be mistaken?” Asked Girard.

“Bah, he was just a weak fool who couldn’t accept the reality of his circumstances. The only thing good about him were his subordinates. Truly a shame to lose those few who were by his side.”

The Archbishop had his doubts about the whole situation, but he was still dismissive of Aleks. There was no way he could ever accept the reality of Aleks being too powerful for him to sense and so it never occurred to him that Aleks could have been the mastermind behind their misfortunes or that he was still alive.


Meanwhile, elsewhere, Aleks had finally met with the adventurers who had been sent out to explore the Steppes ahead of their army. They had brought Aleks and his people to the edge of one of the most dangerous regions of the Steppes. It was a region that was found between two extensive mountain ranges which were impossible to cross. One could go around the mountain ranges which spanned for hundreds of miles, or one could go through the center of the two mountain ranges, but it was too difficult of an endeavor to cross over them and no one who had ever tried returned. There were other more safe passages which people could traverse so no one dared venture to this place.

Of course, going through the center would lead you into that very region which none had ever returned from. This was exactly the place that Aleks had sent them to find. Although he had known the general direction of the Origin which called out to him, he was uncertain of the exact place to gain entry into the center of this immense pair of mountain ranges which bordered the Steppes and the lands beyond where the vampire lords ruled.

It was a place that was completely devoid of life. There were no animals or people to be found within a wide vicinity of this entrance, as if even animals could feel an instinctual fear of it. A thick mist covered the entrance of the valley from one mountain range to the other. This was a distance of at least a mile, so anyone could tell how strange the nature of this mist was. As long as one did not step into the mist, they would be fine, but once you stepped in there was no coming back. Those who had gone too far in to explore had never returned and this was without exception. No matter how large or small the group, no matter how skilled or talented, no one had ever returned once setting foot in there.

So, it was strange to the adventurers tasked to find this entrance that Aleks would wish to try. It wasn’t so far fetched though, there were others in the past who were interested in this place’s secrets. In their mind, this was a folly, and they had of course stipulated that they would not set foot into the mist no matter how much Aleks offered.

Aleks’s army camped a short distance away from the entrance to ensure that they didn’t accidentally go too far into the mist. These were the slaves he had purchased and that Lenia had trained every day. They had become a cohesive force that was well trained and although they had not yet fought in many conflicts, they were already seasoned warriors. This was an army that could hold its own against an elite force of a similar size. Lenia was very proud of this feat and often showed off their discipline to Aleks. She was hoping to receive his praise, but he would normally only nod his head without saying a word.

He seemed to have many worries on his mind. It almost seemed as if he bore the weight of the world on his shoulders, or at least that was what Lenia thought.

“Master, do you really need to go in there? It looks dangerous… I heard the adventurers talking about this place. They said no one ever returns from there. Are you certain this is the place?”

Lenia could feel the ominous aura that seemed to be deeply embedded within the mist. It was clear to her that it was not of natural design and that the mist was extremely dangerous. She was concerned for her master and couldn’t help ask him nervously about it.

Aleks, who was wearing his luxurious robes and with his mask hanging at his belt, looked towards Lenia briefly before staring into the mist in the distance.

“This is the place that I must go. In there, that is where I am meant to be. I can feel it calling out to me, summoning me. I could choose to ignore it, but then I would be choosing to ignore my revenge. I must obtain it, that is only way I can move forward.”

Lenia didn’t ask anything further and looked on with a worried expression. Nelay also stood near, but she was completely silent. Although she didn’t say it, or try to stop Aleks, she was also concerned.

“Don’t worry, I will not die. In there, I have to face my past in order to continue moving forward. That is the danger I will face and it is something I must face alone. This is something that I must overcome regardless of what I do in the future, or else those demons in my heart will never release their hold over me.”

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