-11th Ward Mystiks Guild-
Sneaking a quick glance to his left, Troyle spied his lord and friend Alzin Shuziel Varath quietly looking forward ahead.
The man’s dignified stance and calmness which had visibly declined during their interrogation had already returned and equally terrifying alongside it, a newfound focus.
Seeing his lord’s unwavering demeanor, Troyle quietly smother his own nerves and rigidly straightened himself, unsure of what to expect as the Crucible’s thick double doors began creaking before them.
As the thick metal slabs effortlessly swung open, a gust quickly swept into the room.
Forcing a shiver out of him, Troyle hastily crossed his arms as the bone piercing chill made its way into the gaps of his clothes, licking him lightly before being subdued by the final verses of an incantation.
“There is a carriage awaiting us out front. My colleague and I shall escort you both until we have reached your destination.” A man wearing the white and red of the Mystiks guild spoke, walking forth to stand in the opened doorway. Tall with a defined and robust build even with his red and white guild cloak on, the man was one of two who had withdrawn them from the black cells earlier. “Please, follow me.” With the brief instructions, the man nodded to the other mage behind them and stepped out.
Though still quite early, unlike their dark cell or the dimly lit antechamber in which they were now standing, the light of dawn was already glowing softly outside.
Looking to his left again, Troyle caught his lord taking a deep breath.
Neither a tired yawn nor an exhausted sigh, it was heavy and solemn. Filled with unyielding purpose and determination, it could only be the decisive breath before an irrevocable decision.
With another resolute breath and a swift readjustment to his impeccable posture, Lord Varath followed the mage outside.
Having already made up his own mind alongside the lord, Troyle quickly trailed behind them.
As they silently made their way across the paved pathway, the stillness of early morning was all that accompanied them. Even as they entered the spacious guild hall in which they had passed through a few days ago, the tumultuous warzone that was happening around them then, was nowhere to be found. Instead, the great hall now was more akin to a silent and somber graveyard filled with an eerie calm.
Just as he had seen before, the chamber’s various shifting rooms were still there. The pure whiteness of the marble that seem to glow as they meld into or emerge from the walls continued to do so. Even the men and women who were moving about the four-story grand chamber as if cogs within a larger system, cycled through their actions. There would have been nothing to be wary of, were it not for the lack of suffering that was grossly missing.
“The sick rooms are enveloped with spells of silence.” Someone answered from behind him as if noticing his uneasiness.
Surprised, Troyle turned back to see their other escort watching him curiously. A younger woman, she was perhaps in her mid-twenties.
“It helps to keep those who are in too much pain from waking others up at night, while allowing us to work without distraction.” The mage continued to explain, having easily read the look of curiosity on his face.
“I see…” Taking another look as they approached the center of the guild hall, it was just as she said.
Many of the segmented rooms around them were still occupied by lords and ladies who had suffered a multitude of injuries. While some of them slept peacefully, others were already up and being attended to by members of the guild. Yet, he could hear none of what was happening. No screams filled the hall, no cries from loved ones, and no grunts of pain nor groans of distress from the patients. All that existed around them as they made their way through the great hall, was an eerie peacefulness within the midst of visible agony.
Spotting a delirious man twisting and turning in one of the rooms as they passed, Troyle subconsciously raised his right hand up to his left shoulder, feeling for the nonexistent scar of an injury that was no longer there.
“Kaidus…” He voiced quietly as his thoughts slowly deviated from the few hundreds within the guild’s care to the probable thousands of civilians that were scattered across the various wards. While the guards had sent words that both their families were fine, the same could not be said about many others.
“Where are you?” He wondered, knowing just how invaluable the boy’s unnatural healing abilities were in such times.
“Pardon me my lords, but we’ve got company.”
The mage who had been walking in front of them spoke up and the man’s voice instantly withdrew him from his own sullen thoughts. Shooting a glance ahead, Troyle spotted a familiar man standing outside between the building’s entrance and their carriage.
Both his arms instinctively reached for his swords but quickly halted as he remembered his situation. Weaponless, he cautiously moved in closer behind Lord Varath to keep guard.
With a right arm completely wrapped in bandages along with parts of his left arm and upper torso, Lord Huin Xoras Ravon, the new head of the Ravon house stood patiently as if he had been waiting for them. Supported by his son, there was an amiable, almost spirited smile on the lord’s face.
The man’s son Vion, on the other hand, was armed with what appeared to be a slim one-handed sword.
Mindfully urging his son to release him as they approached, “Heard you two were finally coming out. How was your stay?” The lord straightened himself and greeted them cordially as if nothing had occurred between them.
“Four days in a dark cell? Refreshing. Afforded me plenty of time to think.” Lord Varath sliced back as they approached each other. “How about you, my lord?”
Huin’s smile immediately dissolved. “Alzin… I’m sorry.”
“Me too.” Not slowing or halting his pace to exchange pleasantries, Alzin Varath continued walking.
“Alzin wait!” The injured lord hastily grabbed onto Lord Varath’s arm with his own bandaged fist and bit down a pained howl. “There was no other way. The guild would never have believed you without empirical evidence. *COUGH!* You both would have been left to rot in those cells until- *COUGH!* *COUGH!*”
Vion hastily rushed forward, quickly supporting his father as Huin toppled due to the bought of coughing.
Not looking away from the carriage in front of them, “… I saw the look in your eyes, Huin. Not even you believed that I was innocent.”
*Cough!* “Alzin, please…”
Ignoring the plea and without further acknowledgement, Lord Varath proceeded forth toward the carriage.
Following closely behind, “My lord?” Troyle reluctantly stopped as Lord Huin Ravon also painfully took hold of his arm.
“V-Vion.” With a single word from the lord, the man’s son stepped forward and presented something.
He had not paid any attention to the younger man beyond his initial glance, but seeing the weapon, Troyle perked up.
“I believe this belongs to you.” Lord Ravon spoke quickly before muffling another cough.
The weapon was the very sword that he had surrendered to the mages days ago.
From the droplets of moisture upon its fine blade, it was a fair guess that they had been waiting out there in the cold for quite some time.
Reaching out, Troyle took hold of the weapon as it glistened sharply in the morning light.
“About what happened… I had to know. Forgive me.”
An apology filled with shame and regret entered his ears, prompting Troyle to look at the lord.
Possibly a result of his injuries, the man before him appeared haggard. The powerful presence that day in the crucible was nowhere to be felt, the domineering posture then now looked meek, and even his unruly demeanor was docile… almost pitiful.
And yet, he could not forget the man’s overflowing intent that day.
Whether it was blind anger or because of cold logical calculations after hearing what was said in that room, the man’s actions were still not something that could be brushed aside so lightly.
Mindfully recalling the attack that was veering for his friend’s stomach and his own actions that evening, “Apologies, but that is not for me to decide.” He replied, giving a curt nod of appreciation for his sword before quickly excusing himself, completely ignoring the younger man’s subtle change in expression.
-11th ward. Zorin Academy-
Master Keral stood up from his seat and stretched his arms and fingers, yawning tiredly as they cracked and popped. Lethargically mouthing a few words, the two lightstones that had dulled behind him immediately burst into life once more.
Allowing a deep and exhausted sigh to escape him, he sat back down, completely oblivious of the morning light that had already made its way across the room.
On the desk in front of him was a short stack of texts and booklets that he had managed to look through in the past few busy days. Documents that the deceased headmaster was in the process of combing through for reasons unbeknownst to him, or any of the other masters.
With another deep and defeated sigh, Master Keral slumped into his chair as his eyes slowly wandered about, trying to make sense of the thousands of books that had fallen haphazardly around the room.
Much like Ferrent, the headmaster’s office itself was in complete disarray. The shock of the battle had thrown the carefully organized stacks of books all over the room, and now he could no longer tell which pile contained the books that the old man had deemed necessary for his research.
With a few words of command and a tired wave of his hand, three books rose from the mess and hovered over to him.
Exhausted but unwilling to yield, “Just what were you looking for?” Keral questioned as he continued to try and wrap his head around the deceased headmaster’s secretive conducts.
Yet just like those before them and without any clues as to what he was seeking, before long he found himself lost and wandering again in his own mind.
“Grandmaster…” Keral painfully spoke aloud, remembering how just a few days ago, the old man had been in his very position, quietly perusing through whatever was in front of him with purpose.
Looking back at it now, he regretted not pushing the old man about the research.
‘Why are you bothering me so early? Don’t you have a class to tend to?’
Words that he had heard dozens of times before in this very room swirled silently around him and Keral closed his eyes.
‘Needlessly worrying about me will do nothing for the both of us.’
An ancient and weathered face immortalized in exquisite black marble manifested before him. Wrinkled and callous with a playful scowl, as usual, he was no closer to discerning the old man’s expressions or thoughts.
‘No…’ Keral wordlessly thought to himself, remembering his mentor’s face as it was encased in marble. Headmaster Nylen had been smiling.
Even before his committal to the stasis of the eternal, the old man had appeared as if he was at peace.
Upon that evening when they found him, far beyond sorrow and anguish, the headmaster’s frozen expression had been that of a smile. As if he had been grinning in his final moments upon that throne of stone high above the storehouses, quietly overlooking the city one last time… almost like he knew what would happen all along.
A voice called out to him before he even had a chance to notice that the door to the office had been opened. Looking up, Sven, one of the scribes was standing at its doorway.
“Yes?” Keral tiredly replied.
“I was instructed to inform you that Master Drilm has called for an emergency meeting with all available masters.”
There were already seven others within the meeting room by the time he arrived.
Master Drilm Tildton, the person who had called the meeting in the first place stood up and ushered everyone to the table where he had been sitting.
Master Zaele who was standing by the window wordlessly obliged, immediately walking over toward everyone.
Master Hamin along with Master Juvol who had been whispering to one another ceased their isolated discussion and also quickly joined the group.
Already seated and waiting patiently were: Master Gorzon the head of Arkane Studies, Master Borus the head physician, and Master Zara, one of the few supplementation masters.
Keral moved to take a seat and before even sitting down, the room glowed briefly as Master Drilm, Master Zara, and Master Juvol all finished their incantations, completely sealing the room with three different layers of protective magic.
Verifying that they were all present and waiting on him, “I apologize for the inconvenience of pulling you all away from your tasks in such trying times, but this matter cannot wait.” Master Drilm spoke, voice filled with trepidation and secrecy as he pulled out a rectangular parcel from within his master’s robe. “These were hand delivered earlier by the Ice Sage of Dumierre, Lord Darvont Elutus Kalzorr himself. They are also to be burnt after those who can be trusted have seen its contents.” Carefully undoing the parcel onto the table, Master Drilm wordlessly fanned its contents out to reveal over two dozen pages of written documents. “Please, take a look at them.” He shakenly added as he began an incantation.
Except for Master Drilm himself, the various papers began sliding across the table, spreading themselves amongst the others within the room.
Keral held down his curiosity and quietly eyed the written reports before him. Yet, as the words upon the pages surged into life within the confines of his own mind, he could feel his body beginning to tremble.
Of the five documents before him, three of them were filled with statements from those who had been there in the Valaei mountains of southeastern Darsus. Eye witness testaments about an unknown entity that had descend upon the mountain while Ferrent’s expeditionary forces were in the midst of battle.
“Pure white like sunglow, it had taken the form of a man.” One of the witnesses had specified.
“…it did not fear the mages. Instead, it had massacred all who stood in its path without slowing a single step.” Another statement from a man who had seen what happened to those that attacked the entity.
“Like staring directly at the sun for a prolonged period of time and then closing your eyes.” The apparent and closest explanation for what those who were there at the time had seen.
“It was mana incarnate… so dense and unfathomable that I dared not force myself to move.” A mage belonging to the mercenaries had confessed. It was a sentiment that many of the mages who had been there also shared.
While most reports were the words of those hired for the expedition, all had been verified by four guild mages and a handful of knights who were also there at the time. The incident itself seemed to be largely the reason why the problems there had been resolved so quickly.
Another of the papers was an official report from a guild mage whose team had been tasked with reconnaissance on a particularly group of brigands.
Within, instead of the usual observational report, what was written was a statement full of delirium and fantastical assertions.
A story about a black serpent as large as a hvaral, thrashing through the earth and swallowing whole, the formidable fortress of those they had been watching.
How just like the reports from the Valaei mountains, the presence of such a beast had forced them all to cower and fled for their lives without a second thought about what was happening to those caught within the beast’s grasps.
The fifth and final paper, consisted of a couple statements from those who had been involved in the rushed trial of one Lord Alzin Varath and the head of his guards, Troyle Paltos merely days ago.
Carefully placing the five pages down onto the table before him, Keral voicelessly looked around to see that everyone was just as visibly shaken as he was. He looked at the portly Drilm, and the man gave him a questioning look as if asking to see if he was done.
Keral nodded back.
Without addressing what they all had just read, Master Drilm waved his right hand and the seven stacks of papers shifted around the table.
Quickly recognizing that his first five pages were merely the beginning, Keral quietly began perusing the new pages before him.
As they continued to read in silence with the periodic exchange of papers,
“This can’t be right…”
Keral looked up from his own focus to see that Master Juvol had stood up from her seat. At a glance, he could see that her eyes were filled with curious disbelief while her mouth quivered with apprehension as she hastily moved away from her seat.
“Master Juvol?” He questioned, noticing that the others had also stalled their intrigue.
“I must confirm something.” She hastily replied.
“What do you mean?” Master Drilm questioned from his seat as they all gave her a curious look. “Juvol?”
Halting her steps before the door, Master Juvol turned back to them.
“That report from Drend Myrfire. I have seen one of those names before in the tomes within the Locked Library. If it is what I think it is, then we must be certain.” She answered, voice careful and silent like a whisper as if she had just seen a ghost.