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The Archmage stood in front of the three of them with an unreadable expression. An uncomfortable silence was hanging in the office until, finally, the Archmage sighed.

 

“I am disappointed that nobody thought to send for me,” he said, “But I am not angry. To tell you the truth, I am extremely proud of you three. The hamlet of Arizi, the compound, and the Academy all owe you an extreme debt of gratitude.”

 

Miguela felt her body relax at Archmage Belvi’s words and noticed her friends also seemed to relax.

 

“But, I will need the entire story, every detail,” Archmage Belvi said, walking behind his desk and pulling out a wooden box of writing utensils.

 

“You two shall record, and since these memories are not magikally assisted, I will be stopping you for questions,” he added.

 

The three of them passed nervous glances back and forth.

 

“You are not in any trouble, I promise you. I am concerned with the nature of this witch, and any information you provide will help the Academy immensely,” he explained with a chuckle,

 

Miguela felt relieved but remembered that they did not act alone.

 

“I am sure you have heard some different versions of our excursion already and are aware other people were involved,” Miguela said.

 

The Archmage looked at her and smiled. “Ah yes, the guard and the adventurer,” he said, pausing to scratch under his robes. “I am most interested in the adventurer. He sounds like a remarkable individual I would like to meet one day.”

 

“Well, about the guard. He won’t be punished, will he?” Miguela asked.

 

“Scryer Miguela, I am afraid I have to do something. I cannot allow undocumented travels from the compound. I know the rules seem rough, and perhaps I should create a system that allows scryers to go to the hamlet with some light protection. But for the sake of appearances, I need to do something. I have talked with Poe, and I decided to reassign him to caravan duty for a month or two. After that, he will be back. You have my word,” Archmage Belvi explained.

 

Miguela gave Henna a reassuring look before they started recording the events of last night. Miguela went over the details to the best of her ability. It was strange that when she scried, the memories were crystal clear, but her true memories eluded her at times. The Archmage made her go over her conversations with Koal and the witch multiple times. He seemed more interested in the bounty hunter than the witch who cheated death. The session finished hours later.

 

“I cannot thank you three publicly, but I want you to know that you did humanity a service. However, if there is a next time, I will not be as lenient because I want to believe that was just a youthful misjudgment, and next time you will go through the proper channels,” the Archmage said, standing up with a stretch and a yawn.

 

They all thanked the Archmage and were leaving when Archmage Belvi spoke again. “Actually, Scryer Miguela, could you stay for a moment?”

 

Miguela was exhausted but did not dare refuse his request after being let off without punishment. Caecilia and Henna gave her looks of encouragement as they closed the door behind them.

 

“Yes, Archmage?” Miguela asked, turning to face him.

 

“I meant what I said. I am very proud of you. You saw injustice and broke the rules to correct it, even at the risk of your future. That is admirable.”

 

“Thank you, sir. But, I have learned my lesson, and it won’t happen again.”

 

“I will believe that when I see it.”

 

They shared a chuckle, and Miguela decided to ask a question that’d been bothering her since she came to her senses.

 

“While I have you alone, sir. I would like to ask a question,” Miguela said.

 

The Archmage nodded, eyebrows raised.

 

“The witch believed that scrying was necromancy. Why would she think that?”

 

“I am not sure. The witch did not seem fully sane. I figure that living for centuries devouring ley virgins who thought they loved you would take its toll on one’s mental faculties.”

 

That was actually -- a reasonable answer. The witch did appear to have lost touch with reality.

 

“You said you met this bounty hunter the day before, am I correct?” he asked. Miguela, distracted by thoughts of the witch and necromancy, nodded absently.

 

“Is there anything you can tell me about that conversation?”

 

“I met him two times before last night. The first time, he was overly rude to me. However, the second time we met, he overheard me speaking with the barmaid who knew one of the victims. He said he could find Avio’s path if he had something that belonged to him. So I brought him a clump of Avio’s hair. He led us to the shack using the hair and a magikal compass, as I explained earlier.”

 

Scratching his chin and nodding, the Archmage said, “Thank you for putting up with these questions. But please understand that I have a responsibility to keep not only the compound safe but also the hamlet of Arizi as well, and with what just happened with the witch, I figured it couldn’t hurt to be a bit more vigilant about checking on strangers.”

 

Miguela had not thought about the possibility that the bounty hunter could be a danger to the hamlet. She should have gotten more information about Koal when she had the chance. Perhaps, with the Archmage’s permission, she would go back into the hamlet to look for him and get more of his story.

 

“No, thank you, sir, for the understanding you have shown us today,” Miguela replied honestly. The Archmage smiled.

 

“Get some rest. You have earned it. We will resume our work after your scheduled visit,” Archmage Belvi said, and Miguela gladly took her leave, heading back to her chambers with nothing on her mind besides sleep.

 

When she finally made it to her chambers, she saw her riding dress soiled by the witch’s blood on her bed. Sitting atop the dress was the dagger she used to end the witch’s life. She picked it up and placed it on her nightstand, saying a small prayer of thanks to her father for the blade. Miguela grabbed the dress, tossing it from her bed, deciding she would burn the thing tomorrow. She noticed a square scrap of parchment fall from the dress’s pocket to the floor as she threw it.

 

Miguela picked the fallen scrap of parchment off the floor, noticed that it was a decent grade of paper, and flipped it over to find a message.

 

Miguela,

 

You proved to be a person willing to help people in need. I fear that you and even your friends might be in danger and are unaware of it. I cannot tell you how or why because, to be frank, I do not know for sure myself. I can tell you one thing, do not trust Archmage Belvi. He is not what he seems. Therefore, you should treat anything he does with the same suspicion you would give a poisonous viper. Please heed my warning and be safe.

 

-Koal

 

Miguela stared at the message, not believing what was happening. The thought that the Archmage was too interested in the bounty hunter crossed her mind more than once today, and now with this message, it seemed that the two were somehow connected. So the questions were, what did Koal know? And why did it worry the Archmage so much? It could be a scam of some sort by the bounty hunter. She wondered if she should report this to the Archmage immediately but decided that perhaps this would be best to keep as her secret for the time being. Miguela worried if she would be able to sleep, but those fears were unfounded because she fell asleep as soon as her head touched the pillow.

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A note from CKJ5

If you like what you are reading, you can find more epic adventures in the Five Kingdoms universe on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

link: https://www.royalroad.com/amazon/B09VKC3TRR


About the author

CKJ5

  • Tokyo, Japan

Bio: Charles K. Jordan was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. He attended university in his home state, as well, where he studied Information Technology. After graduating, he decided to move abroad to experience more than what he had seen in the United States. He found his way to Japan in 2003, and since then, he has called Japan home.

Charles K. Jordan was always drawn to fantasy, sci-fi, and adventure. When he was a young child, the first novel he read was Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe, and from that point, he was hooked. Since then, he has found inspiration and heroes from various writers in all forms of media. Some of his heroes include Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, Quentin Tarantino, Terence Winter, Garth Ennis, and Glen Cook, just to name a few. Ever since that fateful day that led him to pick up Bunnicula, he knew his calling in life would be to create and hopefully contribute to someone’s growth and dreams.

Charles K. Jordan vowed to himself that no matter what happened in his life. He would never stop dreaming, writing, and creating.

The Five Kingdoms of Cordizal series available on Amazon:

Book 1: Scourge of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VK3JZ8V

Book 2: Dogma of the Five Kingdoms

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09VKC3TRR

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