The sound of my enchanted quill scratching the paper resounds throughout the quiet room, almost putting me into a trance with its softness, and the orange light of the sunset taints the gentle colors of the office, giving it a wistful air. The restless capital slows down, but only temporarily as the nightlife is about to start, and it's just as lively as day life.
Loctar sleeps on my lap, and I dare not wake the little dwarf. He'll likely chastise himself for sleeping during his work, so I'll let him sleep as much as he wants for now.
My hand eventually gets tired, so I stop writing and try to relax. I literally can't move or else I'll wake up Loctar, which is starting to give me a cramp, but it's worth it for him.
Now that the sound of my quill is gone, the slight snoring of Loctar and Grosnok fills the air, and I start to become sleepy, too.
I look to the side and admire the Throne of Ascension near the edge of my window. The spiral "staircase" of white mansions looks almost golden with the sunset, which shows how a noble and their gold are two things extremely hard to keep away from each other.
One day, they'll recognize Rabanara for all of the sacrifices we made to preserve the Shore of Leaves. One day, we'll be allowed to climb that "staircase," and finally receive the rank that belongs to us. One day, my work will be done.
A knock on the door makes me jump, and adding to Grosnok's sudden snort, Loctar wakes up in a fright and jumps out of my lap.
I almost reach to pull him back to me, but a sudden wave of disgust stops me, and I let the moment pass.
"Yes?" I ask out loud and keep my face neutral while my two men recompose themselves.
The muffled voice of one of my secretaries comes from behind the double doors. "My Dame, Rabanara has sent a message, and the League has called for a meeting," she nervously responds.
I glance at the sleepy duo, and they both seem to be fully awake now. "Come in."
The door opens a small amount, and a small werecat woman enters the office. She keeps her head low, but she still glances at Grosnok. This time he's fully dressed, but his pants are tight enough to leave an outline, which the secretary notices, making her blush.
He hasn't met with Silvane in quite a while, so I believe he deserves a little treat.
I make note of her name for she may be interested in "serving" my men.
She stops before my desk and hands me a thick letter, and I raise an eyebrow in curiosity.
"The meeting is to be held in two hours at the usual location," she adds, then bows.
"I see. Thank you, you're dismissed." I wave her away, and she immediately turns around. Her innocence is adorable, but it'd do her good to "open herself" some more.
I open the seal, marked with Larana's symbol, and pull out a long folded scroll.
Loctar perks his head while Grosnok walks behind me to read it, and all of us nearly stop breathing with the shocking news.
Wolf Ryder has reappeared as a True Noble, immediately assumed the Lordship of the Western High Forest, and now has a fleet of airships crewed by [Soul Trap]ped spirit Chimeras at his beck and call.
His new draconic body parts are fascinating, really, especially if he also acquired a draconic cock, but the way Wolf mentioned his "condition" is ominous, at best.
The fact that Osaria Este, or Parado, which she currently goes by, is his concubine makes me angry, but the Gods stopped me from cursing her, so she may be innocent, after all. Rico is long dead, and his taint grows weaker by the day. It may be best to let that one go.
After getting my stupid feelings under control, I start to focus on what truly matters, the Chimeras. It's almost undoubtedly that he's the conqueror of Legado since its apparent decay coincides with his reappearance. And since he somehow acquired a fleet, what else did he unearth from Arreira's tomb?
Arreira's Heavenly Weapons and Heavenly Armor aren't accounted for, but the Elders could have been just hiding it in fear the emperor will want it for his princes.
There's also the mountainous cloud that came out of the dungeon. Some adventurers claim that it was a monster, but it was released along with the other animals that lived inside the dungeon, so the veracity of that is questionable. Unless it's a tamable monster, which is very concerning considering it might have relations to Ryder or Arreira.
There's little evidence to even speculate about that, though, but every noble in the land will worry about its association with Ryder. Nobody likes unknowns, and he has more than any living person in the realm.
In the end, if Ryder has acquired a fleet, there's no doubt he also acquired more power along with it. I believe the meeting of the League will be about this topic. It's already common knowledge someone in Katasko tried to fuck with him, so the High Forest might end up pulled into the Purification because of it.
"Wolf Ryder? Isn't that the same boy we fought alongside against the husks in Rabanara?" Grosnok asks, his baritone voice delightfully massaging my ears.
"The very same," I answer amusedly.
Grosnok makes an odd sound as he searches for words. "That kid? A True Noble? Are you sure he wasn't carried by the women around him? He was also the only man in his fellowship…"
"Envious?" I tease him lightly as the Seductress tries to rise to the surface.
"I can barely take care of you…" He grunts a little awkwardly and shifts in his feet.
I motion with my finger and he comes closer, then I grab his furry hand and give it a few pats, showing him the Saintess. "People are born different," I comfort him kindly.
"I don't envy him, that sounds like a lot of work," Loctar comments, his childish voice sounding fresh in my ears.
"It is, that I can assure you," I reply like the Saintess and boop his little nose. "But it's worth it."
He twitches his nose and leans closer to continue reading the scroll.
I turn my head sideways and answer Grosnok's doubts, "I'm sure that most of the other nobles might think he has cheated to acquire this title, but I know that he's perfectly capable of it. Ryder has the power to rule as Crown Lord" -a very juicy idea occurs to me, making me grin- "… and I'm sure we'll have important business with each other."
Grosnok becomes concerned, furrowing his eyebrows, which makes him look rather menacing, but I know he's as soft as a doll inside. He knows my grin means I have a plan, but he doesn't know if it'll be "good" or "evil."
After the summary, Larana lists every bit of evidence that supports her reasoning, so while it's interesting to me, the other two don't have a reason to continue reading, and they return to their work.
Once the sun finally sets and the moons start to become visible in the sky, the time for the meeting arrives.
I put on my contact lens and drink a small amount of the mushroom concoction. The nightmares are long gone, but I still enjoy drinking it as it helps calm my nerves.
After I start to feel its effects, I leave Rabanara's embassy through a secret [Eternal Gate] that takes me to the underground bunker of the League. Loctar will remain in the embassy to finish his work while Grosnok will act as a bodyguard because I love how the "Strength"-deficient nobles cower near him.
I leave my personal arrival room and enter the corridor leading to the main foyer. A few hundred low nobles and other assorted aristocrats are gathering there, hurriedly coming out of rooms and searching for the League attendants that will take them to their seats.
They chatter incessantly about meaningless things, taking the meeting as more of a bother than anything they should worry about. This is fine by me since they hardly have a say in the business of the League unless something truly controversial becomes the topic, which I doubt will happen this time.
Their conversations are so dull I feel more interested in admiring the bland imperial architecture than paying attention to what they're saying. I've already risen above them, even though I have no land or imperial title, so I have no reason to dawdle here.
Grosnok opens the way for me, and I exit the foyer and enter the conference hall where the meeting proper will be held.
I walk down the steps of the audience, then walk onto the center stage and cordially greet the other delegates. Lower Lords, wealthy merchants, representatives of circles of magi or mercenary companies, and a few ranked imperial nobles. An eclectic choice of members, making diversity our strength.
All these different parties have united here for only one reason: surviving the Purification from the sidelines.
I sit at the spot reserved for me as the representative of the Shore of Leaves, and we wait a short while until the audience is let in, then the meeting is allowed to start.
Centum Apeiltik Tavros rises from his seat, and that's all that's needed to silence everyone. Level 10 [Intimidation] is enough to make me wet, but it's still weaker than my Eyes of Authority. Even Grosnok doesn't react to him, appearing as a majestic statue as he stands behind me.
"The League is now in session. Announce the first topic," Apeiltik's imperious voice magically resounds through the hall. He's a prime specimen of an imperial if I've ever seen one, but he lacks the "primeval" air men like Grosnok have. He's far too "civilized" for my taste.
The secretaries start the discussion, and they have such perfect Andraste they must have a few levels in the language skill. Though their tone is perfect, they don't speak about anything interesting, and I quickly bore of listening to them.
After a few meaningless topics, the main course is served.
A secretary stands and soberly reads from a scroll, "Immediate reports state that Wolf Ryder, a possible half-imperial, half-Thornian of unknown birth, has taken over the Western High Forest as the Crown Lord alongside his harem, which includes the previous Crown Lord's daughter, Yulania Este."
Then he repeats an abridged version of Larana's report.
Apeiltik wastes no time to interrogate me, "Dame Anara, haven't you done business with him before? It's known that you've met with him." His tone is just subtly accusing, trying to pry my secrets.
I nod graciously and stand up, then I lie so perfectly only the Truth-Seekers could unmask me, "I've met him, certainly. Once in a mere party for adventurers, and a second time to offer him a job under me, but he refused. As some of you might know, his werefox Blood Slave is friendly to my brother's silver elf Blood Slave, and they became friends during his time studying in the university, but I don't have any sort of relationship with Lord Ryder."
"A pity," Apeiltik flatly remarks and takes his attention away from me.
"Isn't it possible he's Dame Anara's brother? He does seem to have Sir Haaran Anara's 'appetite' after all," a belligerent delegate surmises.
Grosnok and I glare at the delegate, making him cower in his seat from our combine offense. "There's absolutely zero reasons for my family to hide our members from the public. It'd actually be a massive benefit for us if we had someone as talented as Wolf Ryder, to begin with. There's no reason for us to hide him."
"This isn't the place for speculation, Aguenas," Apeiltik warns him, his glare piling on.
The delegate breaks and fully backs down, "I apologize, and I withdraw my statement." He bows apologetically and tries to disappear in his seat, but he already did some damage to my reputation. The members of the League are all cowards or extremely wary of danger, after all.
I sit down and steer back the conversation, "Back to the topic at hand… we were talking about Wolf Ryder's history."
"It's no secret his fellowship was harassed by Katasko. Could he be persuaded to join the Purification?" A delegate immediately asks what we're all thinking.
"The Elder Council is as stubborn as Elaria's. They won't let him drag the High Forest into this," another delegate retorts.
"They have been opening up since Laurelai and Elaria started taking their corner of the market. They even invited halflings to their territory," a third chimes in.
"They deposed Crown Lord Mavel Este exactly because he opposed such measures. The Purification and integration with the Imperial Army is just the next step," a fourth piles on.
"We need to open relations with him, or at least pit him against Decien Alkimeonids," a fifth suggests devilishly.
"He'll have to come here to swear to the emperor, so we could act then," a cunning delegate adds on.
The tide is quickly swinging, so I need to strike while it's hot.
I rise from my seat and let the Princess take charge, "Do not contact him before I do. I wish to secure a deal with him related to the Chimera spirits he's now governing."
Apeiltik stands up and immediately goes for the heart, "Is it related to the Lapis Waterway?" His sharp mind is an annoyance sometimes.
I nod and admit, "Yes. The Chimeras are land-bound by [Trap Soul], and I could help them immensely by supplying Lord Ryder with enchantable gems to bind their souls to."
Apeiltik narrows his brown eyes at me in suspicion, but I don't even need to try to resist his [Intimidate] because [Mental Pain Conversion] does all the work for me, though it does make me wet…
"The empire or even the League would benefit more from these supplies," he states sternly. The audience even stops breathing just to hear my response.
"I wish to bring him to my side," I retort composedly, and the audience burst with murmurs.
"Are you sure that's wise? You know how dangerous his kind is," a delegate cautions me.
"It's thought that he might be responsible for summoning the Grim Giant used to break through Escanso's Shell," another fearfully announces. Someone who can easily bust into their fortified castles is rather nightmarish for them.
"He's Gifted," a third asserts, also sounding frightened, and his words cause clamor among the audience.
"We must pit him against Alkimeonids," the devilish delegate insists.
"Will you bring someone as dangerous as him to our side?" Apeiltik presses on, somewhat cooling the hysteria that's starting to build.
"No," I state fervently, almost letting the Princess slip. "I said I wish to bring him to my side, not the League's."
The hysteria starts to die down along with the murmuring.
I send a glance to all of the delegates before I continue, "I want to lay down the groundwork for after the Purification. The League will be meaningless once it's over, so I want to secure allies for the future."
Apeiltik stares at me for a moment, then he nods respectfully and sits back down, so I follow.
The League leaves it to me to introduce him to the Purification, but they make it clear they don't want to bring his "Good Luck" to our side. This is fine by me since now nobody will interfere with my plans.
The meeting ends shortly after, and I decide to return the next morning.
I don't have time to rest. The first thing I do is visit the Lapis Waterway in the morning.
Loctar stays in the castle since he's a "posh" dwarf who doesn't like the underground.
I jest and tease him, but the truth is that he just hates damp places.
Grosnok and his fellowship escort me along the bustling mine. Being merciful has returned a lot of profit this time as they're very loyal and dependable. Grosnok might even accept becoming my knight. Him also having a huge cock is just a bonus.
I observe the blue rock of the Lapis Waterway. It's brittle, making it easy to mine, and it'll make for valuable pigment, but that's just on the surface.
The miners work steadily, their picks striking against the blue walls, breaking chunks of stone off, and exposing the real treasure below it, gems. Not just water-attuned gems, but a wide variety of elements, indicating that there might be a dungeon or something else very magical nearby.
The dwarves and the few gnomes flock to the glint of gems every time one gets exposed. Their little hands eager to grab and feel the precious crystals so that they may evaluate it.
The Lordsguard itself is present, and their stern, watchful eyes make sure none of the miners feel tempted to steal from the Lordship. They could likely sell these gems for their weight in gold, but they might not live long after that, so there'll be none that will try.
I didn't come here for an inspection, so I go past the miners until I reach the first rest point. Over here the sound of falling water almost fully drowns out the clangor of picks striking stone.
I find Dad meditating near the waterfall, inside a hut that protects him from the water, but also serves to surround him with white noise.
I leave my escort behind and walk in.
"Vanea," Dad's calm voice greets me the moment I walk in.
"How did you know it was me?" I ask confusedly.
He smiles without opening his eyes. "I think I felt your presence. I might be on the brink of learning [Sense Presence]."
"Sorry to interrupt," I apologize and take off my shoes, then I sit down on the pillows before him.
"On the contrary. It's good to see you well, and active…" He whispers the last part wistfully, and it makes me feel guilty when I remember how I once behaved, but it's all long in the past, and I would change nothing if I could go back in time. Nothing.
I stay quiet, so he continues for me, "I assume you're here for Wolf Ryder."
"Yes. I want the gems from the Waterway," I state. We have a lot of gold, so just selling them will be a waste when I can acquire something better.
Dad nods so gently I feel like he's overflowing with peace. "You may. You're the one who made it possible, after all. Though the elves of Antano are complaining that you swindled them."
I snort and wave my hand dismissively. "Let them complain, they were the ones who didn't care to inspect the Waterway before selling their rights to it." Then the mirth runs out and I become serious. "But know that Silvane is the one who secured the Waterway," I correct him.
He smiles warmly, showing how relaxed he is because of how easily he smiles. "How kind of you to say that, but you're the one who thought of this plan, and the one who taught her how to 'negotiate.'"
I sigh and close my eyes. Maybe I should join him in meditation for a short time if it can make me as relaxed as him. "I don't want to take all the glory. We have so few friends that we have to greatly reward those who remain loyal to us."
"You may love her more than Haaran does," he comments with a kind tone, but I feel an undercurrent of teasing.
"I don't know about that. He really loves her, in his own way."
He snorts and goes silent.
Now I just need to wait for Wolf to survive the Lordship Ceremony, but I know he will. His Fate is too strong to end so soon, and not even the Purification will be enough to stop him.
Hall of Fame of Patrons
The patrons who support Rupegia shall have their names sung by the bards for they deserve the glory and honor. Their names are:
Prince Creamy Spinach.
Lord Andrew Meyers.
Lord Samuel Lim.
Lord Michale Erwin.
Lord Nathan Vanbrunt.
Lord Mattirro Draca.
Lord Joshua Tal.
Lord Joxsan Herrera.
Lord Sean Drake.
Lord Brody Haugan.
Lord Mike Bartter.
Lord Cardinal Steiner.
Noble Salty Panda.
Noble Mild Fracas.
Noble Shawn Plumley.
Noble War God.