84 Chapter 84 Return to the Barbarians
As they crested the hill to see the barbarian valley, Joseph couldn't help but break out in a wide grin. His feet hurt and he wanted a bath so bad, he imagined they could smell him from there. As they drew closer, the sight of cook fires made his mouth water. He was tired and hungry for real food.
"It's good to be back to civilization," he told Stella.
"It's good that you had the ability to channel your mana into your body so you didn't get too tired," she replied.
He glanced over at her, suddenly realizing she didn't have that ability. She looked tired. They both needed a good rest.
Turning back to the camps ahead, his mind went back to everything he still had to do, and almost cried. At least the gift from the god of magic allowed him to continue training. He had learned about twice as much as he would have, had he not been able to practice all this time. Even though he hadn't sat down and practiced it the way he had been, he had still earned the gift himself.
"Why do you work so hard to do things on your own, instead of using the system, Master Joseph?" asked Stella long before they reached the camps. It was almost as if she had been reading his mind.
"I don't trust anything I get for free. I have no idea what actually generates these Life Points that we use to get things. Anything it gives me with points, I'm worried it could take away. If I work on it myself, using my own blood sweat and tears, it's okay for it to reward me for my own hard work. Does that make sense?"
"I suppose I never thought of it that way," she said uneasily.
"Well, at least our goals align enough for the system to let us stay together. That's nice."
One of the barbarians, riding a horse, spied them, and rode over.
"Little ones, you look tired, would you like a ride back?" He obviously didn't know who they were, but Joseph didn't care.
"Oh, yes! My shoes are completely worn out! They were never intended to march all over the winterlands and kick ancient abomination butt."
His eyes went wide in shock as he seemed to realize who they were, but he still offered to let them ride his horse. He assured them it would be fine, he could walk back on his own. They had but to leave the horse with anyone, as his ownership was marked on it.
They were welcomed back with warm baths and a feast. They washed before they got into the tubs, and then the water was changed for them to bathe again. There was dirt, grime, smoke and countless other layers to wash off.
As he bathed, he made sure to line up the base runes for his AMCC to learn them. He enjoyed learning the actual magic himself, but the boring staring at runes could easily be passed off to the magical center. He couldn't wait to see what all the runes he had learned in the temple were.
Settling back into a chair, a slave arrived with a cup of tea. He used TEST FOOD and PURIFY FOOD out of habit, but there was nothing wrong with it. It wasn't as good as Stella's that she made for him, but she like to spoil him, he thought.
Chug, the leader of the barbarians, and Tekaun, the leader of the shamans, arrived. They were anxious to speak with him. Chug went first, describing all of the small groups that had shown up from the mixed tribes since he had left. They figured there must be between 19-20 thousand barbarians now. They were both a little sad, because they were sure more than half of them must have died.
"I'm glad I killed the creature when I did, then," said Joseph, taking another drink of his tea.
"Creature?" asked Tekaun.
"The creature you sent me to kill was a sealed fragment of an extremely powerful being and someone deliberately unsealed it. That was what caused the fog. It was getting stronger with every life it took. Don't worry though, we completely destroyed it. Its very existence has been ended."
"Ah," Chug looked at Tekaun, who was staring at him in great admiration, "Other tribes want to leave and not follow Chug now that fog is gone. They fear contract with great Kenrick."
"Kenrick?" asked Joseph looking at Stella in confusion.
"That is the title our people have bestowed upon you," explained Tekaun.
"Ah, well, that's nice," said Joseph, not quite sure how to accept another title. He already had so many.
"Others want Kenrick to prove self with magic so they see. They not see before and not believe. Chug very busy with many challenges."
Joseph could see that he had added another line to his necklace.
"I have spoken with the other shamans, and they are not happy that you will be leaving so soon after having just gotten back. Many fear this contract you have made."
There was a noise at the tent opening, and Logan, one of his guards, stuck his head in.
"I'm sorry to bother you, Master, but there are messengers from both Daniel and Walter."
"Send them in," said Joseph with a sigh.
They both entered, looking very tired and kneeled, waiting for him to acknowledge them.
"What do you have to say?" he asked, concerned about their appearances.
"Master, there are troubles in the towns. It is requested that you return as soon as possible."
"I will head back tomorrow. You may leave now to let them know, or you may rest tonight and return in the morning as well."
They both nodded in thanks, and turned to leave.
"Oh, Child of Prophecy, please speak before the people, before you leave," spoke up Tekaun.
Rubbing his head, he knew this was going to be tiresome, but he nodded. They all quickly left the tent, and his people, who were incredibly happy to see him, fell in behind him.
Standing before the crowd that had been gathering every since he had first ridden into the camp, he looked out over the people from the rocks they had assembled in front of the leader tent.
"It has been told to me that some of you doubt my powers. It has been told to me that some of you doubt my ability to lead. It has even been told to me that some of you doubt the size of my manhood. I had enough power to kill the creature that sent the fog that you ran from. I have the ability to lead you to the south where there is food for your children to eat. As for the size of my manhood. I survived with only my best friend through the icy fog and the dangers of the north for a month with no help from any others."
He held up the fangs he pulled from the winter wolves and dire wolves.
"We slew winter wolves and dire wolves on our way north. We slew ice trolls who prey on your tribesmen in the long winters. And we slew winter wraiths that come upon you and steal the heat from your blood and the breath from your lungs. Who among you can claim more?"
He paused for a moment of uncomfortable silence as the barbarians look around before beginning again.
"I completed the test of magic in front of many of you. Do you not trust your fellow tribesmen? Would you have me compete also in a test of might? My power is for killing my enemies and not to entertain you in some spectacle."
He cast PURIFY AIR about 50 feet above him and focused on making a large area about 5 feet in radius of pure oxygen.
"Which of you would challenge me? Who among you can resist my power? It would shame your ancestors and traditions should I use my full power to be 'tested' in your ring."
He sent a double rune FIREBALL straight into the mass of pure oxygen. It blew up, but also kept burning. He waited for the roaring whoosh to settle down. Many of the barbarians took cover.
"I offer you a choice. Come with me for one year and see my abilities and decide then if you wish to keep following me, or stay here and starve to death with your children as they waste away in front of you. Everything north of this valley is dead. It was frozen solid. It will be years or decades to restore. I respect Chug and agreed to a good deal for you as I want you to become my people. I leave tomorrow. While I came to help your people, others came to trouble my own. I have no more time to convince you."