Jackal Among Snakes - Chapter 614

Published at 11th of June 2024 12:41:19 PM

Chapter 614

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Chapter 614: Top Ideas Guy


Argrave was having a moment rather similar to the distant past—something that inspired him to get into editing wikis to begin with. It was that feeling he got when he discovered something very fascinating about something he thought he was intimately familiar with. A wiki page for a character in a franchise that had a neat backstory, or a place in the world that inspired deep consideration; quite frankly, the wikis were often more compelling than the story itself.

His fascination was Llewellen. The man was an orphan of the ancient elven empire of which Onychinusa was the last descendant. Despite being an elf, he’d been made a slave to a spellcaster who he served for sixty-seven years. At the age of eighty, he embarked onto the path of magic. Rumor said it took him ten years to reach D-rank in magic. That detail had been confirmed in the dwarven music box that Anneliese had collected to learn his method of A-rank ascension.

To reach C-rank, however, it took him forty-two years. The time to reach B-rank was unknown, but again presumed to be several decades. With two hundred years of life under his belt by the time he got there, he was considered ancient for normal elves and quite old even for spellcasters. His magic affinity could be said to be among the worst. Most normal people could, with equivalent effort, reach much greater heights. If he were a human, he wouldn’t have reached that level at all.

But Llewellen bore a sobriquet. ‘Theorist.’ And that was what he was remembered for.

As Argrave read through his list of accomplishments, he recognized countless things he still used today that Llewellen had been a part of. He was responsible for the principles of moving and molding metal with earth magic, commonly used by the Order of the Rose, as well as most of their unique spells— [Electric Eel] among them. As it turned out, those were holdouts from the ancient elven empire. Llewellen had furthermore aided in the creation of most higher-level shamanic magics originating on this continent. Erlebnis credited him as the main pioneer behind all strength-enhancing enchantments used by the ancient elven empire, but his credit was stolen by another researcher of higher rank.

The list didn’t end there. He discovered druidic magic independently of the Veidimen, though never taught it to very many. He spent many years in the Great Chu, and was responsible for a great deal of their defensive systems—including, most notably, the forts that took their armies moments to construct and could self-destruct if taken by the enemy. The foundation of their recent military strategy came from an elf, if Erlebnis’ knowledge was to be believed. On top of that grand list, there was what Argrave had personally confirmed with others.

Anneliese’s A-rank ascension, [Life Cycle]. All of Raven’s knowledge about psychic magics. The imperial spells, including the spell parry [Requite] or the mental attack [Subjugate]. Even to this day, the mountain range that surrounded Blackgard was infused with magic from the A-rank ascension Llewellen had attempted. In a study where new contributions were singular, spread out among many hundreds and often hoarded for personal gain, Llewellen was a pillar of magical theory and the foundation for countless spells—even entire fields of magic.

His intelligence and skill, despite his considerable handicap, was such that Erlebnis himself had intended to reach out and recruit him for his cause. Unfortunately, he hadn’t survived until the cycle of judgment, so that conversation never occurred. He died ingloriously in an abandoned dwarven city that he might not inflict any innocent people with his fell power that was enough to shift even the landscape. Argrave had been the first to unearth him (in this reality, at least), and Anneliese had become the heir to his perfected A-rank ascension.

At the end of all these confirmed accomplishments, there were things he’d done that could make any decent spellcaster salivate. Rumors.

Rumor said that Llewellen had long been theorizing about spatial magic, psychic magic—both feats largely in the realm of gods, but Erlebnis had multiple accounts of Llewellen suggesting to others that the feats of the gods might not be so far from the hands of mortals. The Theorist wasn’t one to talk out of turn. There was evidence of that in [Subjugate]. Though a shamanic spell using spirits, it attacked the mind directly.

The problem was, Llewellen didn’t have a lair, a tower, or any convenient place where he kept his research that Argrave might pillage. He roamed—it was why he was able to talk to and influence so many people, but it also meant that a lot of that research was probably lost with him. The page Erlebnis had was filled with endless speculation about where the Theorist’s lost theories might be.

So, armed with this information, he returned to the one that had set him on this track.

Argrave entered into Raven’s room in the far corner of the parliamentary hall. The man was scrutinizing the sample taken from Vasquer. A strip of scales had been laid out across an obsidian table, and magic twinkled around it from countless sources.

“Do you have more information about Llewellen, or did I waste my time reading all of that? Do you know where his theories about psychic magic might be?”

Raven didn’t divert his attention from the sample. “Do you think if I knew where they were, I wouldn’t claim them? The man was a genius. No other magical practitioner reached his toes, even. If he’d been blessed with talent in magic as much as intellect, he would wipe the floor with all of us, today.” An eye formed on his elbow, and soon after, a mouth beneath it. “But then, perhaps not. Perhaps his lack of talent proved fuel for his relentless theorizing.”

“So, why did you direct me there?” Argrave demanded.

Unauthorized duplication: this tale has been taken without consent. Report sightings.

Raven stopped working, turning his full body toward Argrave. “I have some of his theory, as I mentioned.” He tapped a stack of books in the corner of the room. “I compiled them while you were reading. Furthermore, you have that spell, [Subjugate], that even Erlebnis was ignorant of. Are there more of Llewellen’s relics you have knowledge of?”

Argrave shook his head.

“Still, it should be enough.” Raven nodded sagely.

“Enough for what?” Argrave demanded.

“Do I need to remind you that you have the whole Order of the Gray Owl, and countless practitioners in the Great Chu, at your disposal?” Raven sneered at Argrave condescendingly. “It seems I do. If things are as you say, it’s past time to create a rather unprecedented research team in light of this emergency. Am I wrong?”

“Is a new field of magic something you can just…” Argrave snapped his fingers. “Whip up, like that? There’s a reason we’ve come so far without developing it.”

“The reason is that significant attention has not been diverted to it. People can pass by something useful for thousands of years, but until it’s scrutinized and experimented with, its potential is never known. Innovation comes from exceptional individuals who are generous enough to share their findings, or from focused direction from a higher authority. In this case, you.

“You’ve united most of the world, and have the knowledge of Erlebnis resting dormant in your head. If you can’t do something with that, you’re a dullard, imbecile, moron, and all other synonyms you might conjure. This world would amply deserve to be destroyed if someone so braindead could rise to the top.” Raven turned back to the sample. “Get to work. You can take the books.”

Raven’s simple explanation gave Argrave confidence enough to want to get started immediately, but the practitioner in him knew that it was never as simple as he said. Still… if magic might be viewed as technology, it had taken people countless millennia to rise from the point of using clubs and spears to something grandly complex like computers. Magic was at least as old as Erlebnis—one hundred and seventeen millennia—and likely far older. Given progress was disrupted, perhaps even directly halted, by the chaos Gerechtigkeit wrought, Raven’s point might stand.

Or it might not. Still, Argrave took the books.


Argrave sat across from Elenore. There were dark circles beneath her eyes as she stared back at Argrave.

“I can get Artur’s Hall of Enchantment to join. It’s grown in popularity significantly under the new patent system we established,” she summarized robotically. “The Order of the Gray Owl, however, is a different beast to wrangle. We have several individual Magisters we could entice, but you’d honestly need the influence of the new tower master, Tarah, to get them involved.”

“I can speak to her,” Argrave nodded. He knew Tarah. He recalled her as being a good-natured Magister who had a deep mastery over healing magic.

“But our frantic call to arms has caused some unrest,” Elenore continued. “In Orion most of all. He’s breaking things, unintentionally but often. He’s erratic, inconsolable. He wants vengeance, but I don’t think we can give it to him yet.” Elenore closed her eyes. “We have to announce Vasquer’s death. Then, we should hold her funeral not too long after. I believe that should quell some unease.”

“Maybe someone else should handle that. Anneliese, or Durran,” Argrave suggested. “I think we can trust them to do it properly.”

Elenore shook her head. “No. I want to do it.” She stayed silent for a while. Evidently reminding herself of Vasquer’s death had stirred up something, and a few tears escaped her eyes despite her attempts to hide them.

Argrave’s throat seized up seeing her sadness. “You want to torture yourself more?”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she dismissed him coldly, and Argrave chose to stay quiet.

“Why did it have to be her, Argrave? She was so kind, so full of warmth,” she said, voice tight and trembling with raw emotion. “I would go to her after a long day of work, sometime, and the pride she felt was greater than my own. Pride for me. She saw everything I did in the past. She saw me order the deaths of entire families, even, but she was still proud of me. I thought… I thought that nothing like this could happen to her. Who would possibly want to hurt such a harmless creature? I got it into my head that she’d watch us all grow old, that I could show her a life outside of that dismal cave she spent so much of her life. She was supposed to be welcomed back to her kin, Argrave. I was looking forward to helping her and Lindon meet so damned much.”

Argrave stood from the chair and walked around the desk, kneeling down before Elenore and holding her as he, himself, tried not to cry. He thought words would do nothing, so he stayed as silent support. She cried quietly, but held him tightly as though a tide threatened to sweep her away.

“…I’m tired, Argrave,” she said after a while, her grip slackening. “And I feel old.”

“Then sleep,” he offered.

Elenore pulled away from him, then wiped away her face. She looked back to her desk. “I have more work to do.”

Argrave knew any advice or insistence he had would only be met with firm indignance, so he nodded. Still, he made a mental note to ask some of the staff to help Elenore rest.

“I’ll go speak with Tarah. I’m thinking of having Anneliese chair the research team,” he changed the subject, knowing well Elenore would be uncomfortable if he insisted on this further. And maybe he, himself, didn’t like thinking on it too much.

“She would do well. Adept at leading and talented at magic,” Elenore nodded. “I’ll keep that in mind for those I contact.”

Argrave nodded, then walked for the door.

“Argrave,” she called out before he touched the doorknob. “Thank you. I’m… I’m glad you’re my brother.”

“I’m glad to be your brother.” He smiled sadly, then left.

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