67 Chapter 67 Chug
The line of travelers included Joseph, Stella, Stephan, Derek, Joseph's four guards: Logan, Dylan, Sam and Todd. There was also his swordsman teacher, his etiquette teacher, and ten other slaves chosen for various roles. They were all ready to go in about an hour, to follow the barbarians back to their valley.
Derek was ready to sign the contract to follow Joseph when he returned. The day prior, when he had met with Joseph alone, Dominic had chewed him out upon returning to the mage tent. He was ordered to report everything that transpired between him and Joseph. He informed Joseph that all of the mages were sworn to do everything that Dominic ordered them to do, regardless of whether it could be considered treason or not. He didn't feel comfortable with that, and was very willing to follow Joseph, as long as he could guarantee his safety from Dominic and the other mages.
Joseph made sure that Daniel was informed, but they were too pressed for time for him to do anything about it at the moment. It would have to be the first thing he addressed when he returned. He made sure to grab several more magical contracts as well.
As they traveled, Stella informed him that she had managed to get several bags of charcoal dust so that he could cast his DETONATE spell again. He shouldn't have even been able to cast it without learning FAST FIRE first. FAST FIRE increased the speed at which fire burns. DETONATE instantly combined all of the surrounding oxygen into the targeted substance. The system had informed him that as soon as he learned FAST FIRE, he would be given the opportunity to recreate DETONATE to try and make it even stronger or cheaper to cast in mana. He was hoping to find some saltpeter before then to make it insanely more powerful and less expensive at the same time.
He had finished learning SHAPE FIRE, and was looking forward to studying FLAME JET while they traveled, but instead spent most of the time talking to the barbarians.
The chieftain of the barbarians was named Chug. He was both younger and smaller than many of the other barbarians, but they cautioned him not to underestimate him. He was incredibly smart. He had beaten all other competitors for the role of leadership, with combat trials, so even though he was smaller, he was still a barbarian and several times more impressive than any of the king's men to the south.
Joseph learned a lot about their customs too. Every time a barbarian killed something large, they would keep a tooth or claw as proof, hanging their trophy on a necklace they wore around their necks. Whenever they wished to challenge someone, they had to offer up something from their necklace so that if they lost, the winner could have proof of their win. Some of the hunters never tried to become a leader, and thus acquired huge necklaces to show off. The chieftains often had the biggest necklace in the tribe, and according to the barbarians, Chug had the largest of any of them. He had defeated all of the chieftains who arrived at the valley where they were staying, and became the Great Chieftain. They told him they were hoping more would come from the north, but the deadly fog was a huge threat.
The tribes had been running from the fog for the past three months, only stopping to hunt before moving on. It had grown to encompass the entire north, and now it was starting to move south. There was one more big tribe, that the three men spoke of, that was supposed to join them by now, but had not. They had passed the tribe while fleeing the fog. The tribe had stopped after a large successful hunt, and were trying to pack the meat up to continue moving. They had been too low on food to pass it up and leave it. The men were afraid the fog may have gotten them.
When Joseph crested the final hill, and viewed the valley the barbarians called home for the moment, his breath was taken away. It wasn't really a valley, only that there were hills far to one side and mountains far to other, with a river flowing down the middle. Encamped below them, at least 13,000 barbarians spread out.
As they traveled down into their midst, the barbarians greeted them, and began to follow in order to witness the spectacle of a child leader from the south. A short man stepped out from the leader tent when they finally reached them. Joseph could tell he had a strong magical bloodline, but he couldn't tell which kind. The man's necklaces lay upon his chest in layers, telling who he was before he ever uttered a word.
"I am Chug," he announced, pounding his chest in greeting. "Welcome, Master of Stella."
Joseph smiled, "Greetings Chug, Great Chieftain of the northern lands. Word of your greatness has spread to my people. I am Joseph, son of William."
His etiquette teacher rested his head in his hands, but Chug seemed to be very impressed.
"You speak well, Joseph, son of William, Master of Stella, chief of the south."
Joseph particularly liked the fact that he didn't add any modifiers such as age. He thought he was going to like him.
"I accept you as a chief, but many do not. Many here do not respect as they should. You must prove your worth to them. Then we will talk."
"How do I prove myself?" Joseph asked, nodding his understanding. There was quite a crowd around them, and he was a little unhappy to see that their toddlers were almost as big as he was. It was worse than the king's men calling him a five-year-old.
"I proved myself with combat. You are too small. You would not win against big barbarians."
"No," Joseph agreed, thinking his head was probably the size of some of their smaller muscles.
"There is another way. I do not know if you can do it."
Chug looked at him, uncomfortably. It was obvious he was unsure if it could even be an option.
"What is it?"
"The shaman's test. It is rare for a shaman to be chief, but you have magic."
Joseph nodded, much to the surprise of Derek. Stephan at least knew he could cast Test Food.
Chug watched him for a moment, then nodded and stepped back to show him four shamans. They stepped forward.
"We know your magic is different from ours. We shall overlook unusual ceremonial differences."
"Thank you," said Joseph. The four were clothed in furs of unique colors and patterns. Their faces were covered in various tattoos and symbols. They all had necklaces depicting the teeth or claws of only one type each.
"The first part of this test is to prove you can call on the spirits."
Joseph knew this meant he had to prove he could cast magic. Nodding, Stella moved everyone back away from him.
He had been itching to use his new spell SHAPE FIRE, and now seemed like the perfect time. Taking a deep breath, he let it out slowly, expelling mana as he did. CREATE FIRE was made without any hand motions or words uttered. He willed the fire into the shape of Selena's form that she had taken in the world of flames. He knew he could only do this because it was a purely magical fire and he was controlling the mana tightly.
As he focused on the rune SHAPE FIRE, his control increased exponentially. It went from a vague female form, to the exact form of Selena. She smiled down at him and gave him a wink, but he was so focused, he didn't notice.