It was nine in the morning before Luis was forced awake by Lisa. He wasn't hungover, but a little nauseous and upset for waking up so late.
"I tried every half hour since sunrise, you finally showed a response almost two hours ago!" Lisa shouted.
"Damn, damn...We'll be out of here at noon..."
"The time of the battle..." Lisa trailed off.
"Battle? What bat--Oh, yeah, that thing," Luis stepped into the hallway and walked to the stairs. He found a still set table with plenty of leftovers and a broken glass on the ground. "...Oh, well, that's spoiled, give it to the compost pile." He said. "And who broke that glass!?"
"Considering that it's the one you drank out of all night..."
"Oh...Well, I'll punish myself later! Is everyone else awake?"
"Awake and about, Philippe just got out of the bath if you want it."
"I'll be in for an hour," Luis nodded. "Oh, and I'll remodel those things when we've gotten on the road."
"Don't we usually set off at night?" Lisa asked, following Luis to the bath door.
"Yes, but I was too drunk to remember what I was doing," Luis replied. "This place won't be around much longer anyway, it's not like anyone's going to see anything and live to tell about it."
"...I love your concern for your fellow man."
"Fellow what?" Luis closed the door to the baths. He shouted, "I am no mere mortal, I care not for weak humans!"
"Wizards are not superhuman!"
"We like to pretend we are! And don't call me that! I'm too young to be a wizard! Let me bathe in peace and start preparations!"
Lisa sighed. She went to the door. Philippe and Qiang were removing the gate and securing it against Qiang's guard house. Any loose objects in their rooms were secured on the ground, curtains were closed.
Simon was in back to feed Raghupati. "...Raghupati?"
No response, the sea turtle hadn't surfaced. Simon splashed the water. No sign. With a sigh, Simon took off his shoes and waded into the pond. "Raghupati!?"
Lisa came around back. "A little cold for a swim, isn't it?"
"Raghupati hasn't come up...Do you know the breathing spell?" Simon asked.
"No, only Vincent and Luis know it," Lisa shook her head.
"He would have come up by now, especially for breakfast."
"He might be in the forest," Lisa suggested.
"In the forest?"
"Raghupati sleeps in the water, you know," Lisa replied, Simon got what she was hinting at with a quick nod. "Dry off and help us get ready for the trip."
"How does Chateau Tisane move around?"
"That's a surprise," Lisa forced a smile.
Simon got out of the pond, shivering slightly. "I shouldn't have done that, but... Well, it's bad enough without Vincent, I don't want Raghupati to take off, too."
"Raghupati wouldn't leave Luis," Lisa shook her head, following Simon to the main doors. "Luis feeds him too well. Who else would spoil him with cakes?"
Simon laughed with a shiver. He stopped at the doors, looking at the carpet on the ground.
"Relax, you won't be the first to track water through here, it happens all the time," Lisa nodded. Simon went up to his room to change. "When you're done, go to the library and take all of the rocks and minerals out of the display cases, just put them on the floor."
"All right," Simon called from the door to his room.
Everything was ready just a little before noon. Luis brought everyone to the gap in the wall where the gate had been. "It's time we got out of here."
Simon spoke up, "Luis, I can't find Raghupati...He's not in his pond."
"Raghupati's running an errand for me up ahead, he'll catch up later." Luis replied. "Now, it's time you saw exactly how we move Chateau Tisane..." Luis smirked. He walked to the fountain, tapping the shell of the tortoise statue.
Isaac smiled proudly. His formations were perfect and his bandits were finally obeying his orders. He was torn whether or not to just charge the sloppy lines of Glen's guards or first launch a few volleys of arrows at them. Most of his men were cavalry, with only a few dozen foot troops and twenty dedicated archers. Glen's men outnumbered them, but not in any way that would be advantageous against him. Glen could have had triple the men of Isaac and Isaac would still see victory.
Isaac held a signal fan in his hand, he had drilled the troops on signals since he wrote the challenge to Glen. Glen rode to the center of the mile and a half of snowy field between the city and the mountains with two soldiers. The weather had warmed up over the past few days, there were patches of grass and dirt here and there.
Isaac rode into the field with a pair of soldiers as well. He met with Glen in the center, bowing his head with a wide smile on his face.
"I suppose there is no chance we can talk of peace," Glen asked.
"You allied yourself with a thorn in my side," Isaac replied. "Had you chosen better friends, I would not resort to such measures."
"Why do you hate Luis Hyde so much?"
"He is a drunkard and trickster, I cannot consent to defeat from such a man." Isaac replied. "However, because he seems to be invincible, I must strike something close to him."
"Luis Hyde is but a traveler, he comes and goes from place to place as he pleases. He is not even a resident of The Golden Monarchy. I hardly see how we should be blamed for what he has done to you."
"Life is not fair, dear Mayor," Isaac replied. "I must take my anger out on something, and your rather pitiful guards are a decent substitute for Luis Hyde's spine."
"I'll see you on the field," Isaac bowed his head. He rode back to his men, Glen did the same.
Glen addressed his troop. It didn't help, he sounded frightened for his life. Vincent was in the very back of the formation with the newer recruits, he could barely hear him. He tried not to tremble like the others. One man next to him finally lost his nerve and ran back into town, throwing his weapon away and tearing off his armor.
Vincent sighed, "...I won't turn my back to Isaac."
Isaac, unlike Glen, had full support of his men. They could barely hold themselves in place as Isaac put down the enemy. "Their lines are weak, their men untrained! I see them running away at the mere sight of us! Think of when we're driving our weapons into them!"
The men cheered.
"You wanted a battle? You wanted blood? This is it!" Isaac drew out his sword.
A violent quake shook the ground. Horses knocked off their riders, Isaac tried to keep his own under control. It lasted for a good few minutes, making a gradual stop.
A few men were shaken, but more so for Glen's troop.
"It's just a quake! You have nothing to fear!" Isaac shouted. In the distance, there was a massive cloud of dust and smoke, it seemed to cover the entire town and surrounding area. "...The wizard? ...No, no, it can't be." Isaac whispered to himself. "I heard rumor he was leaving, anyway, that's probably his exit."
In Glen's lines, people were huddled to the ground. It was absolutely pathetic, only the veterans that Qiang had trained showed little fear. The new recruits were effectively useless. Vincent was the only one who showed no sign of fear from the quake. He stood in the back, the only one who didn't duck when the quake struck.
Glen sighed, "Fight your best, men, for if you don't everything, everyone we love will be gone by sundown." He drew out a sword, ordering a march forward. Isaac began the same.
Both armies made a sudden stop when a tremor shook the ground. It lasted only a second, but another soon followed. Isaac ordered his men onward, while Glen ordered his men to stay put and await Isaac.
"March in formation! We'll intimidate them first! Savor this moment, men!" Isaac ordered.
Vincent held his spear tightly as Isaac made a slow march forward. As they were closing in, he was abruptly knocked off his feet. He landed on something hard and felt like he was soaring through the air.
Isaac stopped his horse, his men stopped behind him. "Damn that man!" He saw that cursed sea turtle lift one of Glen's soldiers into the air. It soared off to the side of the town, where the dust cloud was thinning.
Vincent rolled onto his stomach. "R-Raghupati!?"
Raghupati made his way through the dust, making a landing through a small patch of trees and through the gap in the wall. Luis, Lisa, Philippe and Qiang were waiting. "L-Luis--"
"I told you I wasn't going to help," Luis spoke sternly. "But what's helping isn't me!"
"I am not violating my oath to the Sacred Wizards Council of Alakazam, or whatever I wrote, at all," Luis said.
"He's the look out," Lisa replied. "Go visit him, he probably didn't see you two through the dust."
Vincent took off down the path.
"Dear heavens..." Glen's jaw dropped at what he saw.
A tortoise...A tortoise the size of a mountain loomed over the battlefield, emerging through the dust. Chateau Tisane was atop its shell. Every step it took, the ground shook. "M-Men! Scatter back into the city! Maintain defenses there, I believe Luis will take care of Isaac himself!"
The guards that hadn't already run back into the city did so, cheering on Luis.
Isaac was furious. "CHARGE!" He screamed. "THAT DAMNED WIZARD WON'T WIN!"
His men charged, the tortoise stood in front of the town and with a mighty swipe of its left front claw knocked the cavalry aside. With that simple display, it started its own charge against them. The bandits scattered in all directions, doing whatever it took not to be crushed under its feet.
"No! No! No! You cowards! Bastards! Get back out there! Burn the city! Kill everyone! It's just a turtle! JUST A TURTLE!" Isaac screamed, charging through the retreating men on his horse. Nearing the tortoise, Isaac's horse tried to turn back. Isaac pulled on the reins, screaming until it finally knocked him off. He hit the ground tumbling, getting up onto his hands and knees.
A bandit knelt to Isaac, helping his up. "Boss... We can't win! We gotta--"
"No! No! No!" Isaac got up, drawing his sword, screaming madly. "There are only five orders a soldier can follow! If he can fight, he fights! If he cannot fight, he'll defend!" Isaac ran straight for the tortoise flailing his sword wildly. He even cut a few his own men without even realizing it, he saw only one target and one chance to get to Luis: Climbing on that damned monster's shell and killing him with his bare hands. "If he cannot defend, he'll flee! If he cannot flee, he'll surrender! It he cannot surrender--" The tortoise made for another swipe, hitting only Isaac. Isaac's sword shattered on impact, he was launched through the air. He bounced twice on the ground before skidding to a stop. Two nearby bandits carried him with them in their retreat.
Simon watched as the bandits retreated into the mountains. "...Amazing... A tortoise..." There was a raised stone tower atop the tortoise's head, he could see everything.
"That's why the gem cavern is shrinking, the tortoise is healing its shell." Vincent spoke up, approaching from behind. "The explosion made a crater too deep into his shell."
"V-Vincent?!" Simon turned, staring at Vincent in disbelief. "You're..."
"Raghupati got me," Vincent shrugged. "I shouldn't have doubted Luis."
"Damn straight," Luis muttered. "I never agree to any binding contract that doesn't have loopholes in my favor."
"Where did this tortoise come from?" Simon asked.
"Raghupati is a twenty-five year old giant sea turtle, distantly related to a deity," Luis began. "This is a seven hundred year old giant tortoise that is the direct descendant of Xuanwu, the Black Tortoise Deity of Northern Beiguo. Neither are immortal, but Raghupati's kind live for about two or three hundred years, while Xian here lives for at least...Well, no-one knows, we haven't seen a dead one yet. All I know is my great, great, great grandkids will be riding him. He's not even full grown yet."
"He lives off the ground itself, his claws become roots and absorb minerals miles below the surface," Luis said. "That's why when he heals that part of his shell, you see those gem stones. They're excess minerals stored in his shell in case he's starving, like fat in our bodies." Luis looked down. "Glen should be following my instruction any time now."
"What?" Vincent asked.
"I told him that in the horribly unlikely event that he won he should chase whoever's left to their hideout. I drew a map and everything." Luis said. "I was being a pessimist for the sake of the town. If Isaac saw a bunch of happy-go-lucky troops, he'd know something was up. I actually should thank you for going over there, your showing up and saying, 'Oh, my jackass wizard friend is going away the morning before the battle' probably sent morale skyrocketing!"
"Er..." Vincent hung his head. "You planned this all along?"
"Excellent job, my young pupil. One day, you will be able to manipulate Simon like that," Luis pat Vincent on the back. "Until then, you may practice on Philippe. He's much easier to predict."
"So, getting drunk last night...?" Simon asked.
"Feigning most of it," Luis replied. "I usually leave at night, so no-one sees Xian. However, if I'm too drunk to drive the tortoise, well we have to do it in the morning."
"I'm sorry I doubted you..." Simon hung his head. "I..."
"No, no, I'm glad you guys did take up a stance against me. If you just blindly followed me while I let an army of evil bandits destroy a city, I'd be really worried about the kind of people I hang out with." Luis looked down, shouting. "XIAN! How about we head out to sea for a while? I could use a vacation! You willing to be my tropical island for a year or two?" Luis then turned to Simon and Vincent. "You might want to grab onto something."
Xian nodded. Violently. Luis, Simon and Vincent held onto handrails in the walls of the tower for dear life. When Xian stopped, Luis calmly called down, "Thank you! Head to the nearest ocean! Maybe a year around Sousciel would be nice!"
Simon and Vincent had trouble standing up. Simon was especially dizzy from the whole thing.
"I know, better warning next time," Luis shrugged. "Come on. I'm hungry, and I bet Vincent could use some tea." He started back to the castle.
Vincent laughed, "Thank you, Sir Luis. I'm sorry for ever doubting you."
"Stop apologizing! I'm just glad everything worked out. Now come on, I could also go for some lapsang and whiskey."
One year later, in Golden Fields...
The town square had dedicated a statue to Luis. It was a tortoise with a castle atop of it. It was dedicated to the "Heroes of Gold Fields" and bore the name of everyone who lived at Chateau Tisane.
Pierre's was the busiest bar in the city, hosting all kinds of memorabilia of Luis, as well as two drinks named in his honor. One was an ale called 'Hyde's Reserve,' it was the spiced ale he loved so much. The other was 'Wizard's Tea,' a pot of lapsang souchong with three shots of fine whiskey.
Richard's clinic was now two stories tall. He never turned down a patient, always giving free treatment to anyone who couldn't afford it. Mayor Glen helped fund his work. He was training three assistants based on Lisa's own teachings.
Daniel Vulpe had changed his mind about Luis, but had been kicked out of the town guard for his heavy drinking. He left town after that.
The town guard became a well-trained military unit within that year. Their standard issue shields had tortoise shell patterns etched into them.
The former site of Chateau Tisane had become a rich mineral spring, named "Hyde Springs." The water was in high demand for its supposed healing benefits.
Pierre passed a pint down to a guard. It was a busy day, the first anniversary of the battle. The town was throwing a festival in honor of the victory and his bar was packed. Everyone was ordering either Hyde's Reserve or Wizard's Tea.
As he made a pot of Wizard's Tea, a waitress approached the bar. "What's the order?"
"A messenger just dropped this off," the waitress said, holding an envelope addressed to Pierre.
Pierre opened the letter:
I just ran out of that spiced ale. I'll be by in about a month
with Raghupati to pick up a dozen barrels, or whatever
you can spare. Hope you're doing well.
Pierre laughed, "I'll have to order some more, I'm almost out as it is..."
"Who's it from?"
Pierre simply put the letter on a shelf, next to a basket of "magical fairy corn."
Outside, a messenger in a hooded cloak walked through the square. He wanted to have a drink at Pierre's, but had to be on his way back immediately under strict orders. He did stop to look at the new statue, particularly the plaque:
In Honor of:
The messenger stamped his foot, screaming, "I can't believe it! They spell the turtle's name correctly, but not mine!?"
Well, I don't know what to say… Thank you for reading this story, I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you to everyone who reviewed it.
Regarding Isaac, I'll leave his fate after being tortoise-slapped up to the reader. His final words in the story are based on one of my favorite quotes from Romance of the Three Kingdoms:
"There are five operations for any army:
If you can fight, fight; If you cannot fight, defend.
If you cannot defend, flee; If you cannot flee, surrender.
If you cannot surrender, die."
-Sima Yi (Style: Zhongda), Chapter 106
I based some of Isaac's character on Sima Yi, while making some allusions to Zhuge Liang (Style: Kongming) through Luis. Congratulations to anyone who picked up on them.
If you plan to review the final chapter, I'd like to ask one question: Who was your favorite character?
Sorry if it sounds stupid to ask, but it's something I like to know.
Thank you, everyone,