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"Yes you. Who else is here besides you and me? Now listen. You might not have to bring an Archbishop."

"There are two more options you can try if you can"t bring an Archbishop."

Aldrich was sweating bullets, if the two remaining options are just like the first...

"This is going to be a bit much, so come here sit by the fire, take a deep breath and try to keep all your questions till after I"m done."

Aldrich walked stiffly to the bonfire and took a seat so he was facing the reclining chair.

"Now listen carefully, the second option is, acquire a grade 6 wondrous item, it"s power must be soul related, and someone who can use it properly,"

"Third, get a grade three necromancer to help you or capture one, bring him here. These are the only ways that I know of."

Aldrich was confused, "aren"t necromancers being chased by everybody? They"re heretics! they worship the lord of undeath!."

"Ah, I guess even a country bumpkin like you knows that, huh."

"What is a grade three necromancer anyway?"

"A grade three necromancer is a necromancer that has ignited three symbols of his crest."

Aldrich felt his head hurting with all the information being dumped on him like this. Seeing this, Harvick decided to slow down a little.

"Alright let"s start with the basics. A Crestmaster is called that because they have a crest on their forehead simple right? The crest is the source of power and all abilities. The master part of the name is because as you master the abilities of the crest the more symbols you could ignite.

The crest appears like a ring with a cross in the middle dividing the ring into four equal parts-which is why some call it the holy ring-these parts are empty until you ignite your first symbol and as a Crestmaster grows stronger he ignites more symbols.

The necromancer in question has to have three ignited symbols, by the way an archbishop has ignited all four symbols. And I have only one."

Aldrich was always confident in his smarts and he already was familiar with some of these things through Mr. Krynt.

Harvick was silently allowing Aldrich to think through all what he just heard.

"A necromancer? That option is unrealistic, all necromancers are bloodthirsty and inhuman."

Their foul powers broke the sanctity of death and defiled the bodies of the dead. Heretics beyond salvation. Even god almighty, in his infinite mercy, wouldn"t forgive such acts. Perhaps that too, is a sort of mercy.

Working with disgusting heretic is absolutely impossible for Aldrich. Not only was it extremely difficult and dangerous to find one, even if he did then what? The next thing he knew he"d be a zombie.

Next is the grade 6 wondrous item, Aldrich knew very little about wondrous items other than some common knowledge and that they are mostly found in ruins and dungeons. But the fact that the item was even mentioned in the same breath as the two options is already indicative enough about the difficulty of obtaining it.

Lastly and ridiculously enough the most viable option is to bring an Archbishop here to heal Isger.

"Wait why do I have to bring these things to here, why can"t I just take Isger to the capital and petition an Archbishop to heal him? I heard some people managed to do that."

"Did you now? Well, regardless of wether these stories are true or not the reason is because currently, as you can see; this man"s body is dying. When I use my ability on him I can preserve his body so long as he remains within my house."

Aldrich was incredibly frustrated by the constantly popping obstacles, but kept a cool head as he knew this time he must figure everything out before he made any rash decisions.

"On the other hand, there maybe some methods that could solve this issue that I am unaware of. The problem is this man"s soul is missing, what must be done is to retrieve it wherever it maybe. I don"t suppose you have any idea about this, do you?"

Suddenly the image of the bloody corridor appeared to Aldrich so vividly that he believed he was there again for a moment. Aldrich decided to be honest, after all Isger"s life depended on it and he had nothing to gain by keeping it a secret.

Although it might sound like an insane story to a normal person, a Crestmaster was anything but normal.

After Aldrich retold his story, Harvick was eerily silent, and stared at Aldrich pensively for what felt like a long time before he sighed, "ehh, I don"t think you"re lying but... that story is... hard to believe, if such a specter really roamed around here I would"ve been able to feel it instantly."

"Something like that couldn"t have left no traces at all, but I hadn"t even suspected. And you say that thing tormented you for years? That makes no sense. And to top it off a normal farmer was not only able to enter into your nightmare but also severely damage said monster?"

"Mr. Isger isn"t a Crestmaster?" Despite Isger"s denial, Aldrich already believed that he was a Crestmaster in hiding.

"He is not. I am sure of that. I"m a cleric, in such a close proximity and him being defenseless, I can easily tell. He is as ordinary as they come. At least I thought as much.

It"s not that I don"t believe you, it"s just possible that the specter cast some illusions on you or maybe your own mind did. Then again, this doesn"t explain how a man lost his soul so cleanly. How could so many contradictions exist together like this? Have I grown too old? The outside world changed this much? Fascinating!"

"Give me that sword for a moment." Harvick ordered.

Aldrich was hungry for answers, he was sure that understanding the matter better would make saving Isger easier, so he handed the sword over.

Harvick unsheathed the sword and looked at it closely. Then he shook his head, "this is a very good sword, excellent even, it is unusual for a farmer to have such a sword, but it"s just a normal sword it doesn"t even have a single charm on it."

Aldrich gritted his teeth in bewilderment, in the end nothing significant came out of it. He wasn"t even at the starting line.

"A piece of advice." Harvick talked with a grave expression, "you must never mention this part to anyone. Especially about how a normal man fought a specter. The majority of people will scoff at your story but some people might want to check just in case... the things they would do to you... I am warning you, keep this part of your story to yourself."

Harvick talked with such a ferocity that Aldrich got a little scared of him.

"If someone came looking for Isger, will you protect him?" Aldrich had to ask now.

"Protect him? I"m not really into violence but worry not nobody can find us here without my say so."

"It"ll take at least two months for me to reach the capital, can you preserve him for that long?" Aldrich nervously asked. Two months was a decent amount of time.

Suddenly Harvick looked at Aldrich strangely. "You"re not thinking about this right, boy. How will you travel to the capital in the first place? You know travel is costly and dangerous too, right? Say you were able to make it to the capital in two months by some miracle.

"What then? How will you meet an archbishop? You"re not thinking that it"s going to be easy right? And if so, how will you convince such a higher-up to set foot to some god forsaken village to save some farmer"s life?"

Aldrich felt like he suddenly fell into the river on a winter night. Harvick spoke only the truth, someone like him was more likely to be murdered and robbed on the way to the capital on such a journey.

And how will he convince an archbishop to heal Isger. Aldrich still did not forget the lesson he just learned, people are not going to do favors for no reason. Would an archbishop be willing to talk to someone like him? No, this is an impossible task.

"Mother is right, I"m useless and worthless, There is no way someone like me could even hope to save Isger."

"Well that"s the bad news." Aldrich looked up at that remark, hoping there"s some good news.

"The good news is that I can keep Isger alive for at least two years maybe for a third if he was lucky. I mean he"d probably have most of his physical functions."

The deadline was much better than expected.

"And you"re not just a normal human anymore. It might not be entirely impossible after all. Can"t you feel it? Your crest is about to form."

Aldrich felt his forehead in disbelief but didn"t feel anything. His bewilderment turned to anger as he asked, "are you messing with me right now?! This is not the time!"

Harvick put his hands forward in a defensive manner, "will you listen before you blow up? Damn, kids your age are all over the place. I am not joking. Just because you can"t feel it doesn"t mean I cant."

"Really? Shouldn"t I have an empty crest? Mr. Krynt told me all initiates won"t be able to control their crests." Aldrich was still suspicious.

"Well first it starts slowly it usually takes a month for the spirit to grow enough. That takes time, once it grows enough your empty crest will appear."

Aldrich was glad, but not as happy as he thought he would be. The heaviness of his mission weighted on him greatly.

"What should I do?" Aldrich decided to ask for advice since Harvick was an experienced man, and being a cleric he might have some connection to an archbishop in the capital.

"Let me first ask you, Aldrich what is this man to you?"

Aldrich was taken back by the question.

"What is Isger to me? That"s simple"

"Isger is my employer, when I was looking for work to feed myself and to pay off my mother"s debt, he and Mr. Krynt gave me a chance. Thanks to them my situation got a lot better. So Mr. Isger is my employer, he is also my benefactor, my savior and my friend."

Harvick stroked his nonexistent beard before closing his eyes and saying, "your friend huh? Well if you care about this man then my advice to you is; to let him die peacefully."

These words hit Aldrich like a hammer to the head, and the rage he felt afterwards was mind-numbing.

"Now before you get angry listen to me."

Aldrich forcefully stopped himself from punching Harvick in the face.

"I did say that I could keep Isger alive for two years and I certainly can, however during that time Isger will be experiencing torture-like pain. To be frank, accomplishing any of the three options is a difficult matter even for me. If you fail, Isger will die a miserable death and would have suffered for nothing. You have the final say."

Only now did Aldrich understand what Harvick meant. If he really cared about Isger he should let him die peacefully now rather than wait in suffering for an unlikely rescue. It was logical, rational. But... but...

"You keep him alive until I return."

Aldrich couldn"t find it in him to do that. Knowing well that his selfishness might have condemned Isger to a painful death.

"Sure, I"ll keep him alive until then." Harvick replied nonchalantly.

"Did I make the right choice?"

"The right choice? I never said I knew what"s right and what"s wrong. I don"t know. We will find out later after everything is said and done. Were you right? Were you wrong? Whatever it maybe, it will be very interesting don"t you think? Hahhaha"

"One more thing, don"t you dare tell anybody my name, got it? If you do our deal is off and I will personally rip Isger"s head off and send it to you.

You are man now and the most important thing when dealing with men is respect and if you break your word to me then I will take it as an insult, you will regret it, the result is unpleasantness for the both of us. You wouldn"t want that would you?"

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