Inferno Ascended Chapter 12

Chapter 12: TENETS

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As Grand Champion of the Armoric Games, Glax won his Symbolic Prize_ an obsidian spearhead, and several other sponsored gifts.

The imperial family was not present, but according to tradition, they sent an emissary who presented Glax with a complete *quadriga*. The 'mayor' of the city presented him with 100 amphoras of olive oil.

He certainly had no idea what to do with both great gifts, but the expressions of approval made him believe that he would have good uses for it all.

Starting by flexing his 'Lamborghini of the chariots' across the streets of Temnos, of course. He was the champion, and he was starting to have fun with it.

He 'let' Chriseis drive the vehicle, and she happily accepted. Controlling 4 horses by pulling a rattling glorified cart seemed infinitely more difficult for him than handling the robotic crab had been. He held the torch, while Chriseis headed for another hill.

They were going to speak to a pythoness, which in his accounts meant that the priest of the other cult had no divinatory powers. 'It was obvious he was a scam!' he thought spitefully.

But nothing guaranteed that the pythoness was also not a big scam. As they moved away from the city and the port, the beauty of the sky took on fantastic proportions. He could literally see the galaxy and a plethora of stars in the night sky. He gaped at the beauty of the landscape, in contrast to the hills and the sea opposite the city.

They left the chariot when they arrived on a long staircase. It looked like some kind of prank from the priestesses, making their clients go up a long way to them.

There was a mediator there, waiting for them and ready to advise them. The guy was a clinging, suck-up guy with whom Glax disliked immediately.

The couple soon got rid of him, and they started up the stairs.

Matt didn't know what to talk to Chriseis about. He had questions to ask, but that would weaken his position.

It would certainly seem childish to ask her where they would live, what her family was like, how they would live, and if she intended to have children soon. She could ask these questions too, but she was silent.

Then he sighed as if he were annoyed, and kept his doubts to himself.

Along the way, he saw a statue with a helmet and spear, beside a plaque. To break the ice, he asked,

"What is it?"

"Ah, you didn't go up to the pythoness, did you? The Principles. There is a statue for each of them until the end of the path." She spoke casually. This made him stop to read.

"A powerful hand doesn't just hold the spear." he read it out loud. As a way to find out what it meant, knowing that he should probably know what 'The Principles' were like as a Christian should know the 10 commandments, he threw the bait,

"What do you think of that?"

"Ah," she looked sideways. "Isn't that what we prepare for, and live for? I mean, we warriors. Sometimes a man has all the power in the world and has no compassion for the weak. Oh, not everyone is like the magnanimous Glax of Valosia!" She contained her laughter. "But... Apparently, not everyone in the receiving end will be grateful!" Chriseis mentioned Proctius' reaction, and Glax laughed.

"Well, I never meant to embarrass him. I even tried to make him see it was better to be one of the remaining 5, than to be one of the 91."

"Hmm. But then he would stop following the principle of Courage." She showed the sign that said 'Live boldly, for the gods are watching.'

"An Echelian like him would never chicken out. Would you?"

"Hmmm Is there a rule that forces an Echelian to waste his life in the face of a clearly superior enemy? When is there no chance of victory? For me, this is a serious problem of wasting resources and men. As a general, you should know that."

"Is that superior enemy you, in this case?"

"Did you marry me, or him?" he shrugged, with a smug smile.

She laughed. "You looked different back in that room."

"Are we going to get to the part where you explain your preference? Or did you already know that I had won?"

"I guessed it. You wouldn't even be there if you weren't superior to them. They were all the same. But you were there, a man from the frontier, who still keeps his long hair in honor of the purest tradition. I know there's something else in you... And this mask..."

Chriseis's brief speech confused him, of course.

So Valosia was on the border and instead of a rockstar, he looked like a hick?

He had no idea what she was talking about, and fell silent, in an attempt to suddenly appear philosophical. The plates followed one another, presenting the Echelian Principles.

'What is life for, if not to aim for grace?'

'Total commitment!'

'Don't break the lineup, don't go back.'

'Steady as a rock, pure as water.'

'Honor the Gods, your mother, and yourself.'

"Refine the words, keep the truth..." The Last Principle, already close to the circular building where the pythoness waited for her prophecies, seemed to challenge him.

"At this point, I want to know," his new wife suddenly grabbed his arm, and he turned to her in surprise and displeasure at the rude gesture. She had done this with her golden hand, and he felt it when her metallic fingers sunken on his flesh.

It was truly a machine, an artificial prosthesis, that went up to her shoulder, and not just a part of her armor.

"What you want to know?"

"Two things. The first. Are you really a devotee of the Ascended Gods?"

Glax swallowed.

How could he know that? He had a 50% chance of saying something very compromising. He had no way of knowing whether this was inconsequential or dangerous, except for the way she asked.

"Is that why you chose me? Why was there a possibility that I wasn't a devotee of the Ascended Ones? He took the metallic hand, taking it off his wrist, and holding it gently.

It was just a hard, lifeless object, rough from use. But he knew that there was a battery inside, where something strange and dangerous pulsed and fed the mechanism, which connected to the warrior's muscles. It was not ichor. It was something else. "Where did you get that prosthesis?"

Chriseis pulled his hand away, but Glax held on tighter, lifting his chin in silent questioning. In response, she quickly reached for his face, pulling on his mask.

It was Glax's turn to prevent it, pushing her hand away with his free hand.


"One day you will know about the Fist of Chriseis... When I know what is behind this mask."

He laughed. "Our bed will be complicated, my lady!" He looked at their entangled arms, and their unwillingness to give up their secrets.

"We must think of a way," she replied, taking her hands off first, and looking away.

He did the same, wondering if, by chance, he had managed to intimidate the tough general with all this small talk.

But his eye caught something unusual, and he suggested.

"Don't you want to go ahead, and have a few moments alone with the prophetess? I will be in a moment."

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