030 – Dark roots
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Retcon-ish time. || Magus will be replacing Magic-user, Magi will be the plural of Magus || Arcane will be replacing Magic ||

“Please…” begged the patriarch of the Riean Clan, Sharick Riean, in a quivering voice and on his shivering knees. “H-have mercy…”

The pompous and arrogant head of Clan Riean could no longer be seen anywhere on this faded shadow of a man. The most notable attribute of this pale imitation was his incessantly shuddering shoulders.

Before Sharick, Azaela brandished her saber, just inches away from his throat.

She stared vacantly at the cowering man. With a chilling tone, she uttered, “you don’t deserve any pardon.” She offered none of the merciful words Sharick desperately wanted to hear.

Sharick shrieked when the cold steel brushed the skin of his neck. He begged again but his voice tangled on his dread. His botch was only natural as the entirety of his clan was no more than a hollow, with the only Master-level Magus laid dead beside him.

Botching his words was the least of Sharick’s concern.

To the likely future of his demise, Sharick recalled the transpired events just hours ago, when dawn had just broken through.

Armed to teeth, the Dragon Knights had appeared out of a sudden in front of the main house. Azaela stood at the head of her small battalion. She demanded to be shown of the Clan Vault on the suspicion of housing a Dragon Artifact.

Sharick had made the blunder of receiving Azaela in person.

When Azaela noticed the slight but brief bulge of Sharick’s throat when being threw with such accusation, she knew the information was right.

The information she had gotten from a mysterious benefactor.

It happened just half a day after Gerald was send to retrieve Qyoni and while she was looking for the forefather of the former, a Sparrow Familiar found its way into her notice. It belonged to none of her affiliated or allied factions nor the temple. The Sparrow however, held an important message. It pointed to Clan Riean with a list of their misdeeds and a peculiar endnote, disclosing the possibility of the clan in possession of a Dragon Artifact.

Banking her honor and integrity, she moved on the disposition of a small ragged parchment.

When the patriarch denied her demand and accidentally flaunted his tell, she commanded her brethren to carve their way in. And carve their way in, they did. With just four Dragon Knights, Clan Riean perished off the face of Midas Valley in a single morning.

“Open the vault,” Azaela urged without a shred of expression. It didn’t took her long to figure out if the artifact was to be store anywhere in the clan, it would be the Clan Vault.

Hesitantly, Sharick turned to his right, where a large double door easily reaching over ten feet entered his eyes. It was the entrance to the Clan Vault, containing the clan’s wealth and treasure. Naturally, such a door was layer with defensive enchantments, enchantments that required hours or even days to be dispelled. The multiple scars and blemishes on the double door was proof that it could not be forced open like any simple door. Azaela had even blasted the door with a concentrated Arcane Bolt but it left only a patch of scorch mark on the door.

“Open it,” Azaela impelled the pathetic former patriarch again.

“I-I can’t…” Sharick stuttered on his terror.

Azaela pressed her blade deeper against his skin which raised a tiny yelp from the man, or what’s left of a man.

“We’re already ruined,” Sharick gazed down as he said. “All of the prominent merchants have seized their trade with us two days ago. Our backers have abandoned us. And my son is nowhere to be found…. I have nothing… this is all I have left…. please…”

“Sharick Riean,” Azaela uttered coldly, “do you remember your daughters?”

The patriarch’s trembling stopped. In his pause, his sweat and blood froze.

“How much did you sold them for?”

“I-I didn’t…” he stammered.

The Wing of Aeryo sighed and placed her foot just slightly in front of the weeping patriarch.

In the next instance, Sharick found every fibre of his body was pull to the ground by a fierce and unrelenting force. His face hit the ground hard and and his nose cracked against the mossy stone floor. He cried out his pain but the floor muffled his pitiful voice.

“I didn’t’ have a choice!” he screamed. “They are my Lords. What was I suppose to do!?”

Azaela arched an eyebrow. “The livelihood of four girls in exchange for the clan’s perseverance. That’s the price, you seared on them. Your clan is worth four of your daughters, going by your acumen. Your whole clan is an abomination.”

“They were my daughters! I can do what I want with them!” Sharick wanted to scream as such but even the heinous Sharick knew he was no longer in any position to be arrogant and he would only dug himself to an early grave if he persisted with his pride.

“This city doesn’t cease to disgust me,” saying so, Azaela suppressed the boiling rage within herself. If it wasn’t for her intended, she swore she would have already stormed the city with all the Dragon Knights she could rally.

She grimaced as she drew a trickle of blood around the sniveling man’s collar.

“W-wait! Wait!” he shouted for her to stop. “We can make a deal!”

Azaela stopped. “Deal?”

“Y-yes! Yes, yes! A deal!”

She stayed silent.

Taking it as a hint of interest, Sharick’s face brightened. “Although the vault held only a few articles that could truly be called treasures, take them all. They worth tens of millions to the right person. A-and of c-course, you can have your artifact back too! I’ll leave this city before noon! I swear!”

Azaela stared at the miserably beseeching Sharick without a sound. Even her breathing could only be heard if one strained their ears.

Drooping her shoulders, Azaela released the invisible hold on Sharick.

Catching his breath, Sharick got back on his knees. “How about it?” He gazed expectantly. “It’s a very fair trade, no? On behalf of my clan, we swore to divulge nothing of your activities today.”

“Sickening,” she muttered.

A silver streaked across the air.

“W-wha—” Before even a full word could be uttered from the patriarch’s contemptible mouth, a crimson ring formed around his neck as his head slipped right off. His whole body following right after.

Azaela clutched at her trembling hand which she used to spill the blood of another condemned. It took her some effort and a few seconds before her hand finally ceased its anomalous motion.

“Um… don’t we need him for the doors, Captain?” asked a reed-figured knight, donned in the lightest metallic armor, trotting down the mouldy steps. The Dame was even thinner than a sickly person but her gait showed the peak of her health.

“We don’t, Dame Ellirin,” Azaela answered without a glimpse to the abruptly appeared Dame. “Since you’re here, I assume everything above has been taken care of?”

“Reasonably so.”

Azaela narrowed her amber eyes.

“Rest assured. No one of importance escape, Captain,” Ellirin hurriedly responded with her hands flaying around.

“Bold of you to make such statement, Dame Ellirin, when you’re the one who contributed the least,” said a colossal knight as he walked down the hoary and musty stair at a mooring and heavy pace. When he reached the bottom of the steps, he straightened his posture and fixed his stare at his commanding officer. “Captain, every involved individuals are either in chains or hell. The perimeter is also secured.”

Azaela merely nodded before turning her attention back to the double door.

“I took care of the three top Elite Magi, Matty,” Ellirin pointed out.

The colossal knight with southern features glared. “My name is not Matty.”

“Mathareo. Yes, I know, but I’m afraid I would bite my tongue someday from saying your name.”

The tanned skin knight groaned but made no effort for a retort. Unlike the Blue Rose or Gerald, he wasn’t keen in competing to have the last words in an argument.

“What of Sir Deyro?” Azaela asked.

“He’s on the roof, I believe,” Mathareo replied. “He will be on watch until the work is done, Captain.”

“Good,” Azaela said without a glimpse back. Her eyes remained locked on the double door. She approached the ten-footer doors and gave it a few firm taps. A filling noise resounded.

“Do you think they actually have a Dragon Artifact in their vault, Material?” asked Ellirin as she shared a glance with him.

Ignoring Ellirin’s absolutely flawed pronunciation of his name, Mathareo asked back, “is your fate in the Captain so little?”

“I’m just speculating, Matty.” She rolled her eyes. “If they really have it, why are they still only lesser nobles?”

“Finding a rare stone doesn’t guarantee wealth. Finding the right buyer does. And if it’s made known that one is in possession of such treasure, one may find themself six feet under before a buyer can even be found.”

“But how could the Clan have gotten their hands on such an artifact in the first place?”

Mathareo peered dubiously at Ellirin. “Have you forgotten everything we have learned in the lessons?”

There was a brief pause from Ellirin. “Perhaps,” she answered with a wandering gaze.

Mathareo sighed. If it was anyone else, Mathareo wouldn’t mind enlightening them but towards Ellirin, he could only heaved in resignation.

Within Captain Azaela’s small battalion, Ellirin was the least erudite, and everyone knew that. How was she able to become one of the revered Dragon Knights was still a mystery to many, but Azaela wasn’t one of the many. This prompted her sub-peer and subordinates to look to her for answers on various occasions but she would kept her silence every time. Since then, many suppositions regarding Ellirin were crafted.

One of which, was that Ellirin was in fact a Master-level Magus in spite of her inanity.

“Anyways,” Mathareo stirred the topic with a cough, “how do we open the vault, Captain?”

“We break it,” Azaela said, dully.

She exchanged her current saber with a large two-handed sword through her Storage Ring. The sword had a guard atop of the dark birch hilt like any other sword but this sword had another small guard just slightly above the bottom of the blade1Basically, a Zweihander. The shimmering blade of the huge sword cast off a to and fro glow of dark crimson and brilliant vermilion.

With only a glance, any seasoned warrior could tell the impracticality of the large sword but with Arcane, impracticality was only a reality due to one’s limitation and imagination in the arts of Arcane.

But to the eyes of the Dragon Knights, it drew out their gasped of awe.

“Is that—”

Ellirin was about to ask but she was hastily preclude from her question by Mathareo.

Ellirin stared confusedly at her fellow knight but the response she was given was merely a faint shake of his head. Even if she was feather-head, Ellirin knew the insinuation that filled her fellow knight’s eyes. And she didn’t pursue more.

While such diminutive scuffled happened in the backdrop, Azaela wielded the large sword with dexterity and ease, despite the irregular proportions,

Without any thrilling devising, Azaela swung the sword horizontally across the double door.

Instead of snapping into half like it was naturally suppose to, the double door cracked into a shape of a web before shattering away like glass.

The phenomenal sight raised the eyebrows of everyone present, except Azaela. Quite the opposite, she furrowed her brows.

“What was that?” Ellirin asked.

“Doesn’t matter for now,” Azaela responded impassively. “We’re not here to admire their adroitness.” With that said, she took the first step into the vault.

The room was smaller than they anticipated but it housed not a small number of treasures and jewelries. Some were even artifacts long believed to be stolen. Some were quite recent.

“How did they managed to even get away with all this?” Mathareo raised a question in the minds of everyone in the room.

“Good question, Sir Mathareo.” Azaela agreed.

Lesser nobles could not possibly have this much wealth stored without the notice of the Lord Governor or at least a few of the higher nobles.

“Do we get to keep all this?” Ellirin casually asked.

“No,” Azaela shot her down. “All of these here are now the property of city. The following course of action will be at the city council’s2the true bigshots of the city, Devetra is, of course, one of them. discretion.”

“That’s a shame,” Ellirin mused. “So, how do we go about finding the artifact.”

“We don’t,” Azaela answered and held out the erratically shimmering blade slightly above her shoulders. The shimmer turned into a gleam as a similar glow requited from a within a stained golden bowl with approximate diameter of two feet.

From within the blemished golden bowl, lay a rusted steel gauntlet that wasn’t much of a relish to the eyes. There were chips and scratches all over the armament but the discolored orange gem embedded in the middle was what caught the Dragon Knights’ eyes.

“Oh,” Ellirin muttered.

“I’ll be damned,” Mathareo exclaimed.

A jumble of emotions began to brew in the heart and mind of Azaela as her eyes grew wide at the veracity of a presumably fortuitous parchment of information.

“Just how deep do the dark roots go?”

7