Alzin Varath spoke as the iron gates of the 11th ward Mystiks Guild came into full view.
Startled and taken aback by the sudden mention of his name, Troyle turned his weary gaze away from the window. “Yes?” He answered, finally noticing that his legs had been drumming nervously against the side of the carriage.
Vastly different from his own despondent expression, the lord’s face was calm and collected. Even against the egregious claims levied against his name, Lord Varath had yet to lose his composure and even now, was still evaluating their situation.
“We will be there soon. Have you cleared your thoughts?”
Troyle’s body tensed.
Though it was but a misunderstanding, there was no denying the fact that he was becoming more apprehensive as they drew closer to their destination. “I… my lord. What is going to happen to us?” The intonation in his own voice felt like nails through his very being.
“I am uncertain, for the intricate workings of the Mystiks guild still eludes me. But what I do know, is that the judiciary powers granted to the guild is absolute. Were we to be declared guilty of this confusion, it could mean our immediate executions.” Lord Varath candidly replied, not mincing words. “Or at the very least, the seizure of all my assets and the exile of my household. Of course, that goes double for yours as well.”
“Execution…” Troyle echoed the word as fear descended upon him. Different from the distinct terror of being locked in mortal combat, the terror of the unknown was gripping tightly at his flesh.
He looked up to see the lord carefully scrutinizing him.
“That thing from your sword- your son’s familiar. Can you call upon it?”
Seeing the Lord’s hopeful eyes, Troyle lowered his head. “No.”
He had tried on various occasions after learning of the familiar’s existence. Yet all his attempts had ended in failure.
“I see…” Lord Varath groused silently and laid himself back on the carriage seat.
Lamenting what he had done, he looked down at his helpless and unarmed self.
Kaidus’ familiar had disappeared without a trace, and not wanting to make the misunderstanding even worse, he had allowed his other sword to be confiscated.
He was naked. A swordsman without a sword riding into the unfamiliar. It was the worst kind of situation.
“Looks like we’re out of options. For now, once we arrive at the guild, walk behind me and keep your eyes peeled as usual. Let me do the talking. I will try and clear our names.”
Troyle lifted his head and looked up.
There was a determined expression on the lord’s face. It was one that seldom revealed itself, but it was evident that the man was quite serious in whatever endeavor was to come.
Taking a breath to calm his nerves, “Understood.”
It did not take long before their carriage was through the iron gates and they were being escorted toward the guild’s grand hall.
At least four stories tall and constructed of white stones, they entered into a large and extensive chamber with dozens of adjourning walls that seem to rise from, or meld into the ground.
The shifting walls had created dozens of rooms throughout the chamber and within those compartments, a number of notable lords and ladies were in the process of recuperating.
Throughout the chamber, stairs to the upper floors were manifesting and dematerializing as physicians hurried along, moving from room to room with their assistances in tow.
Not speaking a single word, their two escorts led them through the busy room and further in the depths of the organization that was the Mystiks Guild.
Sunlight trailed down onto them and Troyle looked up to see that they were outside.
Surveying their surroundings, the large building they had just passed through was but one of three interconnecting structures linked together by a number of arches and footpaths. He looked ahead, and saw that each of the buildings had a route leading directly to a large black dome at the center of the clearing.
His astonishment immediately ceased upon spotting a handful of figures clad in the red, black, and white of the Mystiks Guild standing before the structure.
Lord Varath’s precarious voice wafted back to him and Troyle quickly adjusted his stride, seeing that the lord’s steps had suddenly lessened.
As they advanced toward the group, the mages who had been waiting deftly fanned out and surrounded them.
“You both may go.” A woman bade, not moving from her position before the black structure.
A number of years younger than them both, the woman was undoubtedly an exceptional beauty even amongst her peers. Her green eyes captivated them as they approached, and from her unwavering gaze, it was as if she was analyzing their every step. Tied in long green locks, her emerald hair flowed down to her side like a calm river alongside her beautiful pale face. Unlike the others who wore the duo colors of the Mystik’s guild, she was clad in a pure black robe with golden inlays around her shoulders. At the center of her robe was a golden crown, denoting her position as a mage of the royal ward.
With respectful bows toward the woman, the two mages who had been accompanying them immediately turned around and departed.
“I am Evelyn Lithius, the Iridescent Flame and court mage of his majesty King Sarjace J. Roulus Dalzon the Twelfth. I believe you both have been made aware of why you are here. Please, if you will.” She gestured to the building.
“Does the guild mean to have a trial right here and now?” Lord Varath asked aloud, his calm all but relinquished as they stood within the circle of mages.
“An issue of this magnitude cannot be postponed, my lord. The allegations against you are quite… heavy.” The woman curtly replied. Turning away, she began moving toward the doors that were now opening on their own.
“Wait!” Lord Varath cried out, halting the woman’s steps once again. “I assure you. This is all a mistake. An honest misunderstanding! If you would allow us to speak to Lord Torkux, we can-”
“Four broken ribs, a dislocated jaw, fractures in both arms, and multiple bruises throughout his body.” The woman interrupted, listing a number of injuries without turning to look at them. “Along with internal bleeding and a punctured lung, my colleague Lord Valk Torkux, the Incandescent Flame may not even survive through the night.”
“That… that can’t be. We didn’t…” Lord Varath’s stringent tone immediately deflated into a stammer.
“One of the Fives named you upon the grounds where we found him. As another of the Five Flames, I am here on his behalf to oversee this matter.” The woman stated solemnly and stepped toward the black double doors that were now wide open. “Let us not waste any more time. Seeking the truth at leisure benefits no one.”
Troyle stood frozen, vividly recalling what had transpired.
Kaidus’ familiar had indeed fought the guild mage, throwing the man around like a doll. Yet never in his wildest dreams had he thought to consider that it could have inflicted such damages.
“Go on.” One of the mages ordered from behind.
With heavy steps, Lord Varath stalked toward the entrance.
Discarding thoughts of fleeing and barely clinging onto his dignity, Troyle reluctantly followed after.
Holding tightly onto the reins of his father’s large diumsha, Huin Xoras Ravon stormed through the beaten streets of the 11th ward as thoughts of why and how circulated in his mind. His frantic pursuit had led him to the Varath household, but he had been too late and was now racing to the Mystiks guild.
‘Why did you do it? How did you do it?’
The questions hounded his relentless mind as the allegations from the mages locked itself in his thoughts.
Of those within the nobility, the Varath household and his very own Ravon house had always gotten along. His father had been a friend of the deceased former Varath head and even now, their children were close due to the nature of their two households.
“Why, Alzin?” He questioned against the thundering hooves of the diumsha.
The man was neither a mage nor a warrior. Beyond the man’s wits and acuity, even a newly trained squire could best him. Yet for his own father, the Knight Commander and a Raiha spellblade to have suffered defeat at the hands of such a person, it was inconceivable.
Arriving at the Mystiks guild, he passed the exhausted beast off to one of the many aids and rushed into the grand hall.
“Gerard!” Huin shouted, catching sight of the first person he recognized.
“Lord Ravon. Welcome.” Much younger than himself, the mage returned a polite bow.
“Alzin and his personal guard. I know they were brought here. Where are they?”
“They-” As if noticing the urgency on his face, the mage’s curious expression stilled. “In the Crucible, my lord. They were led inside not too long ago.”
“Thank you.” Without further words, he turned and rushed toward the back exit.
The Crucible stood in the distance as he left the grand hall behind him.
Though two stories tall and quite a large construct in itself, the structure was but its entrance.
The true body of the Crucible extended far into the earth, and stretched almost as wide as the guild’s three great halls combined. It was where enemies of the crown and mages were imprisoned, and where the darker aspects of the guild hid itself from prying eyes.
“My lord. What business do you have with the guild today?” A man stopped Huin as he approached the Crucible’s interlocking double doors.
Wearing the guild’s trademark white and red, the man was on alert as denoted by the traces of mana exuding from him.
“I have come to see my father’s murderers with my own eyes. To hear their answers with my own ears, and to deliver retribution with my own two hands.”
“The Lord Knight Commander’s death is a great loss for us all.” The man made a solemn bow. “But this is a different matter, my lord. I implore you to wait for the guild’s verdict.”
“I washed his blood away with my own two hands!” Huin shouted, recalling the state of his father’s body when they first brought him back to the manor. “I will not stand here and twiddle my thumbs while you all sit around asking one pointless question after another. You will allow me inside, Byrthan, or I will make my way inside.”
“Ha…” The mage gave a disappointed sigh. “You know I can’t do that, Huin. Please don’t try to force your way inside again.” The man stepped forward and with an incantation, six thick shafts of metal ruptured forth between the two of them.
Lowering his posture and placing a hand on his sword, “I’m serious, Byrthan. I will not think twice about stepping over your unconscious body again.” Huin shot back at the mage.
“I let my guard down the last time.” The man replied, bringing his hands out before him in a circular motion as if he was molding the air. “This time will not be the same.”
“I’m not here to play. If you will not move, I will force you once more.”
“My apologies, but I have been strictly instructed to not allow anyone through until the trial is over. Not even for someone such as yourself.” The mage replied with an unyielding stance.
“Then please pardon my transgression… again.” Gripping the hilt of his sword, ‘Ravon blade, 5th form. Blooming.’ Concentrating mana into his arm and then into the weapon, Huin Ravon flicked forward with lightning speed, sending a horizontal shockwave through the air.
“Tch!” Clasping his hands together, “Expand!” The mage shouted, immediately drawing his hands apart as if pulling something malleable.
The iron shafts quickly stretched like dough, forming an elongated wall of steel between them both and absorbing the shock.
Not waiting for his acquaintance to make the next move, Huin dashed forth at the wall. His body enhanced by mana and his sword rippling with power, he slashed through the metal like paper and kicked them away while making his way forward.
Bringing both arms in front of him in a defensive stance to catch the flying sheets, the mage quickly stepped back and slammed the ground with the tip of his right foot. Bending down, he smashed a fist into the ground and a blast of stone burst outward before him.
Seeing the magic attack, Huin twisted his body to the left as the jet of rocks grazed the side of his leather jerkin. Quickly lowering his center of gravity, he swiftly closed the gap between himself and the mage. Changing his grip on the sword, he swung at the mage with the hilt of his sword, aiming for the man’s side. “Ku-!” Unlike the last time, his attack was solidly repelled by a swirl of mana.
“Don’t underestimate me!” Dragging his right foot across the ground in a semicircle, the mage spun forward with a swift upward kick.
The ground where his foot had scraped exploded upward and dozens of fibrous vines whipped through the air, thrashing in conjunction with his movements.
Catching something else in his periphery, Huin hurriedly parried the vines and hastily backed away from the mage. As he retreated, sheets of metals began raining down on his positions, forcing him even further back.
“Like I said. This time is going to be different.” The mage declared, seeing the metal barriers between them.
“We’ll see about that.” Huin irately replied as he stood up. Changing his posture into that of a two-handed stance, he bought his sword before him, ‘Ravon blade, 5th form. Blooming.’ He tightly clutched the weapon with both hands and angled it forward toward the mage.
Pouring an abundance of his mana into the sword, the blade began glowing as the weapon heated up within his hands.
Seeing the outpouring of mana, “W-wait! There’s no need to go that far!” The mage screamed while frantically trying to put up a magical defense of his own.
Raising the sword with both hands, “True form, Crescent.” Huin edged forward with his right foot and swung downward.
A beam of light flashed outward like the crescent moon, surging along the path of the swing in a diagonal arc.
Etching a deep smoldering scar along the ground, it stretched as it flew through the air, searing through the handful of metal walls like they were made of water.
Yet before his attack could reach the mage, dozens of mana barriers quickly manifested in between them. As each barrier burst into thousands of light fragments, others quickly emerged to take their place, slowly absorbing the force of the powerful swordarte.
“Stop this at once!” A woman’s voice thundered through the air.
“L-Lady Evelyn. Hahaha…” The mage gave a stunned laugh, thankful to be unharmed.
“What is going on here, Byrthan?” Evelyn questioned, stepping out from the Crucible’s double doors. From her body, an explosion of mana was spilling outward and swallowing the entire area.
Brought back to his senses, Huin slowly looked around them.
Not only did the Iridescent Flame Evelyn Lithius herself come out to stop them, a dozen of others mages had surrounded them and were still casting barriers.
Sheathing his sword, “Lady Evelyn.” Huin quickly lowered his head to hide his embarrassment at the uncouth display, “I have come to see my father’s killers.”
“My lord. If I say no, what will you do?”
“I am a brash man, so I will definitely do something that I may regret.” Huin replied, not lifting his head. “But allow me this favor to see Alzin Varath. Allow me to seek my answers, and the Ravon house shall be in your debt.”
“It sounds like I do not have much of a choice, do I?”
“I hope you will accept my apologies should you refuse.”
“Huin, haven’t you had enough?” The mage Byrthan interrupted. “This is the Mystiks guild. Even if you are the next Lord Knight Commander, the ceremony of transference has yet to be performed. What you’re doing right now can only be taken as an attack against his majesty’s peace.”
“Peace be damned, Byrthan!! Did you not see what happened today or are you really that blind?” Huin spat back. “Our Lord Knight Commander is dead. My FATHER is dead! I believe I am entitled to some answers from those who were there at the time of his death.”
“You do know that there is-”
Evelyn quickly moved in front of Byrthan, stopping the man. “I am sorry for your loss.” She voiced, lowering her head sincerely toward Huin. “Though the inquisition has already started, if you would like to witness it, please follow me.” Lifting her head, she straightened her robes and strolled back through the double doors.
“No matter how you bend my words, we did not kill Lord Gelrin!”
A familiar voice echoed down to them as they ascended the spiral stairs toward the trial chamber–located on the top floor of the Crucible.
Looking ahead, the walls had come to an end and the beginning of the domed ceiling was already curving overhead.
“But you do not deny the grave injuries inflicted upon Lord Torkux, the Incandescent Flame, do you?” More voices resonated down to them.
“Do not mind it. I will cast a sound barrier once we have arrived.” Evelyn reassured, seeing Huin’s odd glances.
“Of course. Such a feat is nothing for one as yourself. Forgive me.”
“There is no need, my lord.” Evelyn politely replied as the top floor came into view.
A spacious second floor, the stairs had brought them up to the inside of the dome. Protruding from the back walls were rows of stone seats stretching throughout and around the room, all facing the center where a large semicircular table was situated.
Sitting on the rounded end of the stone table were five guild mages in their guild cloaks.
On the flat end of the table, was the head of the Varath house Alzin Shuziel Varath, along with his personal guard the red headed swordsman Troyle Paltos.
Whispering an incantation, Evelyn’s mana surged through the room and she quickly ushered them toward the table.
“Ridiculous!” An old but not yet elderly man roared, “A simple familiar would not have been able to do anything to one of the Five Flames. Had Lord Torkux wanted you dead, it would have been as easy as spitting for him!”
‘A familiar?’ Huin stopped as the word entered his ears.
The encroaching darkness earlier that day quickly came to mind, along with the face of a young black-haired youth.
“It is the truth whether you believe it or not. His lordship mistook us for the commander’s killer after my guard here had already dispatched the real killer, that of an aleithian man. What happened to Lord Torkux was unfortunate but it happened in our defense.”
“And yet you have been unable to prove the existence of that which aided you both. Where is this familiar?” The mages countered.
“I’ve already explained that!” Alzin Varath exclaimed angrily before quickly calming back down. “It disappeared into the ground after clashing with Lord Torkux.” He tiredly eyed the five mages. “As you are all well aware, I am but a powerless Mahj. My guard here is a magicless swordsman. Do you all really believe that we can overcome one of the Five Flames? That the two of us, can defeat a man who is known for his outstanding magical capacity and combat prowess?”
The five guild mages looked at each other. “This is not getting us anywhere.”
“We’ve told you everything. You will not believe what we have said, and we cannot prove ourselves.” Alzin Varath concluded, sitting irritably on his chair. “What happens now?”
“If that is your final stance on the matter, then you and your guard will be condemned to the black cells.” Evelyn skillfully intercepted the conversation and calmly sat herself down on one of the vacant seats next to the other mages.
Having not moved toward the table at all ever since hearing words of a familiar, Huin quietly stood and watched from behind.
“The black cells?” Alzin Varath repeated, his voice shaken up a bit. “For how long?”
“Until the guild has done a thorough investigation of both your houses.” Evelyn promptly replied. “Of course, that would mean investigating your businesses, partners, outside connections or affiliations, and so forth. I hope you understand.”
“You… you hope I understand?” Alzin Varath sat up straight and slowly took a deep breath. *BLAM!* “How do you have the nerves to sit there and ask me to understand this?!” He screamed, having slammed both fists onto the table. “My household lost two innocent guards and I have been fighting tooth and nail for the past turn, trying to bring their families some semblance of justice. Yet because the offender is related to the crown, I have been forced to wait and crawl around mindlessly like a fool, only to be turned away without my issues ever being acknowledged. Where was the Mystiks guild in that?!” Clenching his teeth in anger, he eyed the mages with fury. “Today… this city succumbed to the most devastating attack I have ever witnessed. Hundreds, maybe even thousands are dead and instead of spending your time out there… instead of spending MY resources that I have poured into this city to help those that have been impacted by this- this cowardly attack, we are instead here in the holiest of grounds to accuse me of colluding with the enemy? Where is the justice for my men? Where is the proof that I have acted against this city? Acted against the crown?”
Shocked by the tirade, a dazed silence quietly pervaded through the room.
“We are innocent in this. What happened to Lord Torkux is truly tragic and if I must, I will take full responsibility for the matter.” Alzin Varath continued, having broken the awkward stillness and claimed their attention. “But after having faithfully served this city my entire life, I will not sit here and quietly accept that I am a traitor. That I or my house had anything to do with what happened this day. That my guard or myself had any hand in orchestrating the Lord Knight Commander’s death.” Holding his ground, he did not dare to back down.
“… I believe you.” Evelyn finally conceded. “The Varath house has always performed their duties faithfully, and their contributions have always been generous. Rest assured, as a member of the Lithius house, I will personally see to it that your innocence comes to light.” Standing up from her seat, she lowered her head. “But please, I beg of you both. Until your innocence has been proven, please stay here for now. I fear that should words of what allegedly happened get out, you will both be in danger.”
“There is no need to wait.” Huin finally addressed the room and made his way to the table. “If it is just confirming their innocence, then we can sort that out right now.”
““My lord.”” The mages all greeted and nodded to him one after another.
“Huin? What are you doing here?”
Not taking his eyes off Alzin, Huin stepped to stand in front of the normally impeccably dressed man. Looking him up and down, Alzin’s fine clothes were marred with dirt, scrapes, and sweat. There was even a charred mark running down the man’s left shoulder.
He then looked over to the red headed guard.
From both of their ruffled appearances, they had undoubtedly been arrested and brought to the guild before having a chance to change or do anything.
“I have only one question for you, Alzin.”
“Huin. If it’s about your father, we didn’t do it.”
“I want you to answer me with complete honesty, or I don’t know what I will do.”
“Please, Huin. You know me.”
“Answer me truthfully. Did you or your guard kill my father?” He demanded, staring sternly into Alzin’s eyes.
“No.” Alzin Varath replied, his voice firm and unyielding. “I would rather die, than betray your father or this city.”
“I see…” Taking a step back, Huin lowered his hand to his sword. “Alzin. Please die for my father and this city.”
“Stay your hand!” Evelyn screamed from the other side of the table, seeing what was happening.
With a firm grip on his sword, Huin unleashed a burst of mana and slashed out at the man before him.