As expected, the ulterior motives hidden behind the excuse of an audience came into full view. It was unprecedented for the King to personally invite the champion for an audience, and upon seeing Lord Ravon, he had suspected something was up.
Kaidus lowered his head and bowed. “Forgive me your majesty, but I must-”
“Kaidus.” Lord Ravon interrupted him. “What are you doing son? Becoming a part of the nobility means you can live anywhere within the inner wards. Not only that, you will be given territory outside of Ferrent from his Majesty’s own land to call yours. It is not every day that his majesty awards such honors.”
“I understand, my lord. Even so, I must graciously refuse.” Not lifting his head, he declined without hesitation.
“Won’t you take a moment to think about it? Wouldn’t your parents want this for you?” Lord Ravon reasoned.
“It is not a matter of what they want for me.” Lifting his head, he stared directly at the King. “Your majesty, please do not be offended by my ungrateful words. I do not refuse because I wish to trample on your good intentions. I refuse, because there are things that I must take care of no matter what.”
“Things huh? Do tell.” The king retorted, unconvinced.
“I seek answers that Darsus does not have. There are also promises that I must fulfill.”
“What sort of grand promise could you possibly have? What answers are so important that you would forgo such privileges and deny me, your King?” The King questioned with a tone of irritation.
“The ill-fated kind, and answers that I’ve been striving for all my life. To give up on them would be to deny myself and everything I have done up to this day.” Without faltering, he gave an honest answer, leaving out the details.
He’d already told Zavon that he would annihilate Tal’hrus, and it was a promise he aims to fulfill. His search for answers is not something that he could simply discard, seeing how close he was to actually finding some.
“…” The King silently stared at him, trying to pick out any lies. Around them, the other members of the nobility started clamoring about the unexpected turn of event. “SILENCE!” The king roared, and the room went quiet once again. He turned to Kaidus. “Say the words and my resources are yours to do with as you will. Use them to resolve your business. Use them to find your answers. Just as long as you swear to me.”
“I cannot. I do not know how long it will take me, for it is unknown to me where my problems truly lie. Accepting such a thing would only besmirch your good name since I will be unable to fulfill my duties.”
Lord Ravon took a step forward and tried to say something but was stopped with a wave of the King’s hand. “I shall ask you once more, young man. Will you not pledge your strength to mine?”
“I apologize, but I have already made up my mind.” Reinforcing his decision, Kaidus bowed once again.
“Kaidus…” Lord Ravon was speechless.
“Thrice I have asked you. Thrice I have been denied. You have proven yourself a powerful mage and I will not rescind your title, but know that by refusing the offer, you have denied your king. May you live with the decision you have made today, for you will surely regret it. Get out of my sight.” With an icy tone, the King spat out words of dismissal.
“Your majesty, surely there is-”
“Silence Gelrin! I’ve wasted enough of my time with this useless peasant! Let him have it his way. One or two more mages makes no difference.”
“Your majesty.” Kaidus lifted his head and left the audience hall without looking back.
“Please allow me to escort the boy out.” Lord Ravon bowed, and with a dismissive wave of the king’s hand, he took steps to catch up to Kaidus.
Away from the Audience hall, “I don’t know what to say, boy. Five years I’ve waited for a chance to put you into his majesty’s graces.” Lord Ravon spoke solemnly, not looking at Kaidus but straight ahead. “I wanted to wait until you were out of the academy, but then you suddenly withdrew and vanished. You come back after three years, win the arms competition, and then single handedly destroy everything I have done for you. Everything is for naught…”
“You can start by giving me an apology, my lord. I came for an audience, not for this charade. You have my gratitude for all your good intentions, but I don’t need you nosing around in mine or my family’s affairs. We are fine where we are.” Kaidus retorted with an indifferent tone, irritated by the lord’s unwarranted meddling.
“Your family may be fine where it is, but did you ever consider what you could have done for the people of this country? What it would mean for Darsus to have one such as yourself standing at its core in a decade or so?” Lord Ravon stepped in front of him and gave him a gaze filled with expectations. “I may not know you well enough, but I consider myself a great judge of character. I’ve seen what you can do. I see what kind of a person you are. You may not believe me when I say this, but within you I see the most noble of qualities. Traits that are sorely lacking in these arrogant and vainglorious lords who flaunt their titles around like a mantle on their shoulders, vying for the King’s favor.” Lord Ravon countered.
“Then you do not know me at all. I am not as virtuous or as noble as you make me out to be.”
“Deny it all you want boy, but by hiding in the shadows of lesser men, you will only be doing the world a disservice.”
“That is where you are incorrect, my lord. The shadow is where I belong.” Kaidus replied, his tone clear and unwavering. “The world is better off not knowing the likes of me.”
“… If that is what you really think, then I don’t know what else to say.” Lord Ravon made a low apologetic bow. “I apologize for doing all this behind your back. If you truly wish it, then it will not happen again.”
They walked in silence until they reached the palace gates were the carriage was waiting.
“My lord,” Kaidus spoke after the lord issued for a carriage to be brought around. “Though I cannot be bound to this city, it is my home. It is where I grew up and where my family lives. I have seen its greatness. I have walked amongst its citizens and seen leaders such as yourself lead with honor and impartiality. It is already a great place and has no need for someone such as myself. I may have declined the proposition today, but know that I will do everything I can to protect this place that I love.” Finished, Kaidus got on the carriage that came around and departed.
“One day you will understand…” Lord Ravon voiced out loud to himself as he watched the carriage leave.
Evelyn simply watched as the boy left, unable to do or say anything.
She was shaken up and shocked at how easily she was defeated. Being the Iridescent Flames and a high Malgin, it was ridiculous how easily the boy had shattered her confidence.
Her sister Prim had always spoken about the boy, yet she had always though Prim to be exaggerating. Today, she saw for herself why her extraordinary younger sister spoke so highly of him.
Her firewall could not even be construed as a test, and in her second attempt, it took everything she had just to resist the boy’s magic before being utterly crushed. She had not expected such a one-sided outcome.
As Prim previously put it, the boy was: “like an endless storm of magic. Swallowing and devastating anything unfortunate enough to cross his path.”
It was even more terrifying to see the boy so relaxed afterwards.
She needed to do something. “Your majesty.” Evelyn stepped forth to stand before her King. “Forgive me.”
“Disgraceful. To think you of all people would lose to someone like that.” The king snarled back, glaring at her.
“I take full responsibilities for shaming the court mages.” She got on her knees and kneeled. “But your majesty, I do not believe anyone else would have been able to do better.” She lowered her head. “Excuse my selfishness but I, Evelyn Luciere of House Lithius, implore you to recall the boy and discuss this issue further. We must not lose someone like him.”
“There is nothing else to discuss, Evelyn. He’s made it quite clear that he will not swear fealty to me.”
“What would you have him do once he aligns himself to you, your majesty? Send him out on expeditions? Make the most of his magic? That child?”
“Forgive me, but I must speak my mind.” She pressed onward, keeping her head down. “There is no doubt the boy refused your good will, but it is very clear that he means no offense by it. I feel it would be best if we resolved this matter with the boy cordially, instead of leaving things as it is.”
“Nonsense, Lady Lithius. You’ve seen what he did. Such a simple individual should be imprisoned and his family flogged for putting his majesty through that humiliating ordeal.” A deep voice interjected from the side.
“Lord Belnir, I was speaking to his majesty. Please stay out of this.”
“I am more inclined to agree with Lixus. Why should I make amends with someone like that instead of imprisoning him for being a spy?” The king’s eyes narrowed, giving her an inquisitive look.
“Still not listening to reason are you, Sarjace?” A low voice resounded through the hall, originating from one of the side passages. Eyes turned to look, and an old man stepped out of the shadows and into the hall. Bald and without any facial hair beyond his long beard, the old man’s sharp eyes were staring and laughing at the room. Around him, he was wearing a dark blue robe with golden patterns on it, covering his whole body.
“Nylen…” King Sarjace scowled, seeing the Headmaster of Zorin Academy.
“Grandmaster.” Evelyn turned and gave a respectful bow.
The nobles hushed at the sudden intrusion.
“What are you doing here?” The king questioned with a displeased face.
“A little bird told me something interesting was going on today at the palace. To think such a thing occurred, it is quite unfortunate.” Nylen replied, answering without purpose. “As for your previous question about the reasons to make amends, let me show you.” He brought out his left arm from underneath the robes for all to see. A marble arm extended from a stump of flesh, moving and waving in the air.
“?! Grandmaster? What exactly-”
“The boy.” Nylen spoke, locking eyes with the King and cutting Evelyn’s question short. “This happened five years ago when I attempted to test his true strength. This, is the reason why you should be making amends and not be thinking about imprisoning him.”
Enveloped in darkness, the dim lights of thousands of houses and light apparatuses gave the city a haunting glow. Guards patrolled the streets vigilantly, making sure nothing shady occurred while the city slumbered.
In a house within the third ward, the entity stirred.
Making sure its master was asleep, an orb of light emerged from its master’s body, the events earlier in the day still fresh on its mind.
It had stood idly by as its master was ridiculed and humiliated. It had not interfered as its brothers bickered senselessly, disgracing their master even further. Because of that, its brothers were even now, still being restrained by their master’s powerful will for their uncouth actions. Yet for the entity, it was free to move as it pleased. It had waited patiently all this time. It was time to repay the humiliation suffered by its master.
Against its master’s will, the orb of light phased through the window, flying into the air.
Night crawlers, still out and about saw the night sky light up as a beam of pure white light emerged over the 3rd ward for an instant before shooting through the night sky, vanishing in the direction of the Inner wards.
The man was trying to sleep, but his mind was preoccupied with various events. The day had been an irritable day, and he could not help but feel frustrated.
He almost lost his temper in that hall today.
He had been courteous and generous enough to offer such a boon to the commoner, and like a stupid peasant, the boy unscrupulously shoved it back in his face. Three times he offered, and three times he was denied. Never before had someone humiliated him so.
The old man’s words today angered him and his thoughts delved on them, especially the old man’s departing words. ‘You are delirious if all you can equate the boy to is a mage of Malgin strength.’ The words rang in his mind, mocking him.
He knew that all the nobles who were there today held him in contempt. The bastards did not dare show it, but he knew what they were thinking.
Unable to sleep, King Sarjace sat up. Looking at his beautiful wife sleeping blissfully, he got out of bed and pulled the blanket to cover her before leaving the room, going for a midnight stroll to clear his mind.
Making his way to the chamber door,
‘Found You.’ A voice echoed in his head amongst his thoughts. Suddenly, the dark room turned bright as day.
“What is-?!” He yelped in surprise.
“For Your Insolence.” The voice spoke to him once more. This time, it came from behind him. Turning around, an orb or light was hovering by the window, illuminating the bedroom. The orb was pulsating, each time growing brighter than the last
“Who is it?! Who’s doing this?!” He barked, demanding answers.
“Sarjace?” His wife’s sleepy voice questioned.
“Humiliation. We Will Not Stand For It.” The voice replied, speaking sharply and fastidiously as if not taking breaths in between.
“Who are you?!”
“You Have Eyes Yet You Do Not See. I Relieve You Of Such Luxury.” The orb pulsed, hovering closer to him.
“GUARDS! GET IN- UAAAAHHH!” The orb pulsed one last time, and a hot intense pain seared his eyes.
The sound of the door opening along with guards and his wife’s shouting could not overcome his screams of pain. As the pain diminished, he opened his eyes to a world of darkness.
“NUAAAHHH!!” He cried out. His vision had been robbed.
Silent footsteps woke her from her slumber.
Two purple eyes sprung open and her mouth curved into a smile. Sitting up on the bed, he saw that it was barely past midnight. Moonlight shone through her window, illuminating part of the room.
She turned and looked at the person beside her. A young man of no more than fifteen with beautiful pale skin and a handsome childish face that attracted her the moment she laid eyes on him. The boy was naked, lying next to her without moving a muscle.
She gently caressed the side of his cheek, feeling his cold handsome face. She slid her hands down to his neck, touching where she had strangled him during sex.
“Forgive me, love. I couldn’t help myself.” She smiled, leaning down to give the young man’s cold lifeless lips a kiss before getting off the bed.
Stark naked, she moved to her wardrobe and donned a thin robe.
As she expected, there was a knock on her door.
“Mistress Kaval. Your guest is here.” Someone called from the other side.
“Did you bring him to the tower?” She asked, opening the door.
“Perfect. I’ll go see him right now.” She opened the doors to depart, “Oh, and Trav? Get someone to come remove that trash from my bed before he starts to contaminate my room with his foul stench.” She instructed, leaving her room with nothing on but the thin, almost transparent robe.
She sauntered through the halls of her keep, listening to the pleasant sounds of the night and taking in the cool air. Once in a while, screams from the dungeon’s torture chamber would add itself to the cacophony of insect noises, creating a perfect harmony of natural agony.
She made her way down to the ground floor and out the western side of the keep, moving to a secluded area she called ‘the tower’. It was aptly named because of the countless bodies impaled by earth spikes and left to hang and rot in the air, feeding the birds.
“Hello, Vaylen.” She greeted as she approached the tower.
“What is this sickening structure? The putrid stench alone makes me want to throw up.” The man asked, looking up at the tower.
The man was wearing a black cloak that covered him from head to toe, helping to hide him in the shadow of the spikes.
“I made it myself from those who displeases me. You don’t like it?” She narrowed her eyes like a predator eyeing her prey.
“I- uh. F-forgive me, I thought…”
“What? What were you thinking?” She asked, moving next to him and putting her face right next to his.
“F-forgive me… I wasn’t thinking.” The man quickly got down on his knees.
She quickly invoked an incantation and an earth spike jutted out of the ground, stopping right beneath the man’s chin. “Should I add you to the tower, Vaylen?”
“M-mistress, please. I b-beg you…”
“Just kidding,” The spike retracted and merged back into the ground. “I find this place quite repulsive myself, but it is a fitting place to remind all you bugs about who’s in charge.” She returned a gentle smile. “Well, let’s get down to business, shall we? What’s on your master’s mind this time? To have sent you all the way out here, it must have been quite important.”
With a quick incantation, two stone seats rose up and she gracefully sat down. Across from her, the man nervously took his own seat.
“M-mistress. My lord has been quite apprehensive about the escape of his younger brother. He wishes for confirmation to alleviate his anxiety. If that brat somehow gets back to Karathas, everything we’ve done for the last four years could be in jeopardy.”
“Such unfounded fears, good Vaylen. I assure you the boy will never make it back to Karathas. From the information my team has gathered, it seems they were sailing for Port Novierre, but the ship never arrived.”
“You don’t think…”
“That’s a possibility, but even if it’s not the case and they are still in Unotus, we will find them. Go back and tell your master not to worry.”