“Director Goodsky?” I sputtered incredulously.
“Y-yes. Although, ‘director’ doesn’t seem to be appropriate anymore seeing as how I was stripped of that t.i.tle. Who would’ve imagined I’d meet you in here, Arthur,” she replied weakly, and by the audible pant in her speech, it seemed as if she had suffered considerably.
“Stripped of your t.i.tle? I don’t understand. What is going on here? Why are you here, Director?” I leaned against the metal bars of my cage in hopes to hear her more clearly. From the source of her voice, I deduced that her cell was diagonally opposite my own, but because of the way the torchlights were set up, most of the cells were still in darkness.
“We will get to that later. Arthur, how did you end up being locked up? With your ability, I a.s.sumed you would be able to fend well enough for yourself or at least escape if necessary.” There was a hint of despair in Cynthia’s voice as she asked me.
“Tessia was held captive by Lucas and I had to use most of my mana to fight him. When two of the lances appeared, I didn’t have enough strength to escape,” I sighed.
“I…I apologize, I don’t quite follow. The half-elf boy, Lucas?”
It was obvious that Director Goodsky wasn’t aware at all of the recent happenings at her own academy, which I found unsurprising since she would’ve surely been there to help if she had known. I filled her in as detailed as I could in the quiet of the dungeon, only being able to a.s.sume that her silence was indication that she was fervently listening.
It was hard to tell whether the other cells had prisoners inside as well, but the information I was revealing wasn’t exactly confidential so I caught Goodsky up until the events of what had just happened with the Council.
“Can you describe for me how exactly the boy, Lucas, seemed to you when you fought against him?” Goodsky asked.
“Apart from the ma.s.sive increase in his mana manipulation capabilities, I noticed that his physical appearance was different as well. Let’s see, he had this sickly, gray skin tone as well as dark lines, which I a.s.sumed to be his veins, running down his face, neck and arms. His hair color had changed too; it wasn’t blond like I remembered it to be, but it was more of a dusty black and white color. The Wykes family had always been known to have a keen fondness of elixirs, no matter what the side effects may have been—”
“No elixir on this continent has the capabilities to enhance the user’s mana core that drastically Arthur. And, you weren’t able to catch a glimpse of what the leader of this whole disaster looked like?” Director Goodsky interrupted, her voice edged with frustration.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t arrive in time to see him. Why?”
“I just wanted to confirm some things, but I think I already have a basic understanding of the whole situation. I knew it was bound to happen, but not this soon. They’re moving forward with the plan much too quickly.” I could hear the director’s footsteps echoing as she paced insider her cell.
“What do you mean you knew it was bound to happen? Who are ‘they’? Director Goodsky, I’m beginning to have a nagging suspicion that I truly hope I could denounce as simply my lack of judgement…”
There was a brief pause from both of us where only the flickering snaps of the torches’ flames broke the still silence of the dungeon.
“I cannot say, Arthur. I am bound by forces beyond anything either one of us can hope to go against. I am truly sorry.”
“A binding? Huh, I see. How convenient. And is there a way to remove this binding?” I asked in response, sounding more sardonic than I had meant to.
“I have searched for decades on this matter, and all were futile,” Director Goodsky let out a deep breath, ignoring my tone.
“Then the reason you are locked up here is because…”
“From what you have told me and based on what I already know, it seems I have been made a scapegoat that the Council wishes to utilize as a convenient excuse for all that has happened recently.”
“Why would the Council need a scapegoat?”
“I cannot say the reason for this as well,” she replied. There was clear frustration in her tone, but not directed at me, but rather at herself. “Arthur, it is painful for me to continue talking about this. Even the very thought of mentioning what I know to someone activates the curse. We should both get some rest; heaven knows we’ll be needing it.”
Letting out a sigh, I stepped away from the metal gate and leaned my back against the rigid, stone wall of my cell. Even without the artifact binding my mana core, I was still unable to use any sort of magic here.
With nothing else to do, my mind began racing with different thoughts.
We were inside of a floating castle located above one of the deepest ends of the Beast Glades. a.s.suming that I could escape with Sylvie and Director Goodsky, would we even be able to make it out of the Beast Glades alive? Sylvie was out of the question since her recent transformation had left her in a state only slightly better than a hibernating bear. Goodsky was a silver core wind mage, which might be enough for us to fly back.
I backtracked my plan after realizing the three of us would still probably get wiped out. On our way here, the two lances had to constantly release a strong killing intent to ward off any beast. Even then, they were cautious enough to hide all of our presences at times. It would be near suicidal to think we can simply fly over the entire Beast Glades.
After what seemed like hours of deliberation, I could only click my tongue in frustration and roll over on the cold floor to try and get some sleep. It was impossible after all. It was becoming harder and harder to push down the sensation of hopelessness creeping up the more I continued to plan for our escape.
BLAINE GLAYDER’S POV:
“What the h.e.l.l was that, Glayder? I thought we had an agreement?” the former dwarf king barked out after slamming the door of my study.
“Yes. I am well aware what the agreement is. Rest a.s.sured, you will have my, and my wife’s, vote, Dawsid. However, even you cannot make me spout out such irrational accusations at the boy who had just saved the entire future generation of this continent, including my children,” I responded icily, pouring myself a gla.s.s of aged liquor.
“And, I’m saying that there will be no future generation if you do not side with me! Arthur and his bond has to go. That was the agreement. They have to be brought back to Him if we’re going to even have a future in this continent.”
“I know what the stakes are, Dawsid. I do not need you badgering me every moment you feel insecure. What you and I are doing is betraying the entire population, you realize that, yes?” I hissed, staring at the dwarf who wasn’t much taller than I was even when I was seated.
“It’s not considered betraying if this continent was already bound for annihilation. Blaine, you and I both know what is going to happen to Dicathen, regardless of whether we try to save it or not. We have to look beyond that and try to salvage what’s important to us,” he consoled, his hands gestured in a placating manner.
“If that’s what you tell yourself to sleep at night, go ahead. What we’re doing is abandoning our people so that we can save our own a.s.ses,” I scoffed, shaking my head.
“That is what I tell myself! What He promised isn’t a bad deal! Your family will all live and serve Him just like my family will.”
“And what of our people, Dawsid? What will He do with the citizens of Dicathen? If even the Kingdom of Sapin and Darv aren’t safe after we promised allegiance to Him, what will happen to the Kingdom of Elenoir?”
“Bah! The elves have always been too old-fashioned and righteous for their own good. That old geezer, Virion, would never allow Alduin to side with Him. It’s a shame too, but, unlike us, the elves won’t realize what being a leader truly means. Just imagine, Blaine, the technology, the riches that He and his people will bring to Dicathen! Immortality, unrivaled martial strength, and infinite wealth will no longer be just a fantasy for us, but be only a matter of time!”
“Mind your words. I am following Him because of my family. Do not lump me together with the likes of you, who is abandoning your own race for the sake of personal gain. Im sure you can imagine what He will most likely do once he arrives. What will become of the rest of the three races? Most likely either a genocide of some form, or if he’s smart, he’ll make them all his slaves.”
The former dwarf king was rendered speechless by my response; his mouth moved as if he was trying to refute my argument, but no audible words came out.
“Nevertheless, my wife’s love for our children seems to heavily outweigh that of the entire human kingdom, and my duty to preserve the Glayder blood will always triumph, so rest a.s.sured, we will side with you. Hopefully, my ancestors will forgive my actions as this will be the only way to save the Glayder line,” I sighed in defeat.
Dawsid lifted his hand up, about to pat my shoulder when I gave him a sharp look. Feigning a dry cough, he excused himself, leaving me to my own dark thoughts in the silence of my study. Staring blankly at the extravagantly decorated room, furnished with rare wood carved by master carpenters, embellished with rare gems and metals worth more than a small town, a sense of dread and guilt began surfacing in my stomach.
These luxuries meant nothing to me. All my life, what I wanted was to be the strongest mage to make my father and my ancestors proud. Yet, it was blatantly obvious that my talent as a mage was subpar compared to even countryside peasants. Only through spending an enormous amount of resources on mana strengthening elixirs and aids was I able to barely break into the red stage. Even towards my own wife and children, I caught myself harboring feelings of scathing envy.
I had always been ashamed by this but there was little else I could do. Even having control over the two lances did not help my feelings of inferiority, instead, it was a daily reminder for me that in order to properly rule over my own people,I needed to be guarded at all times because I wasn’t strong enough to fend for myself.
Was I truly making this decision for the safety of my family and myself, or, like Dawsid, hungered and yearned for power incomparable to other mages? Being at the pinnacle of where my people would fear and respect me solely because of my strength, and not due to the protection the lances I had in my control; was that what I truly wanted?
After an hour of contemplating, I realized in my inebriated state that no amount of alcohol could wash this miserable feeling away. I stumbled over my own feet and toppled onto the ground. Losing my grip on the gla.s.s I was holding onto as I fell, it shattered on the floor ahead of me; the shards embedded themselves into the arm I used to break my fall with. I could only curse in frustration at my own inability. How pathetic was I, stumbling and being cut by mere gla.s.s. Had I been born more talented, more powerful…
I picked myself up, ignoring the bloodstains on the ground, leaving the shards of gla.s.s in my bleeding arm while staggering to my bedroom. I could smell the stench of liquor in my breath as I let out a deep breath.
Memories of when I had first met the boy flashed in my mind as I trudged towards the door that now seemed so far away. Even before my children started speaking of Arthur from school, he had left a deep impression, enough for me to see him as a figure of great importance in the future. Perhaps the only thing greater than his strengths as a mage was his poor luck in being involved in this conspiracy.
“I’m sorry, boy…” I mumbled under my breath. “I would like to believe that it is for the good of this continent that you become a sacrifice.” Even as I said this, the words sounded empty to my ears. I had hoped saying it aloud would provide some sort of self-a.s.surance, but what I felt for Arthur wasn’t grief or sympathy.
Stronger than the feelings of a king sacrificing for the greater good…
Even stronger than the weight of a Glayder trying to keep his bloodline alive…
I felt this soothing sensation of my dark envy being resolved with the death of this boy. I loathed myself for this, but what of it? I am Blaine Glayder, fourth of his name, yet my talents as a mage don’t even amount to a single drop compared to the ocean that is Arthur Leywin. Why should that boy of no origins carry a power that is better fit for me?
I unlocked the door and wobbled unsteadily, denying the maids rushing to help me.
“I’m sorry, boy,” I mumbled again. “It is for the greater good…”
“For my greater good.”