A mere few moments before it all came crashing down, the youthful duke's son found himself simply marveling at the architectural wonders presented all around him, completely unawares of the secondary presence within that same room...
"Fine-cut marble flooring, with every single tile having its own unique artistic symbol etched into its surface..." Pondering the sheer display of wealth I was standing on gave me those legendary stomach butterflies. One single piece of this floor likely cost more than my collective rent and considering how many apartments I had to get in order to facilitate constantly having to be on the move, that is no small sum of money.
More than the floor beneath my feet, there were a myriad carpets and banners sprawled all around, all etched with the dynastic banner of the Lumenhart bloodline; that of a stalwart knight, bearing a legendary longsword and riding atop a magnificent pegasus, the mythical beasts angelic wings stretching from edge to edge upon each and every banner.
Gilded with an otherworldly silver, the very bookshelves that filled this Library seemed to gleam with a shine of equivalent arrogance and luxury, their luster penetrating even the dark atmosphere of the place caused by the terrible storm outside. Several armor stands were possesed of an likewise stunning shine, carrying upon themselves overlapping plate that seemed to have been polished to an almost glass-like shine, reflecting every stroke of thunder with their sheer material magnificence.
Even the windows themselves were clad in gold, with velvet tapestries serving as mere woven barriers, poorly defending the Library beyond them, though appearing splendorous nonetheless, kind of like fallen celebrities, really. "LE-!" A dry, hoarse voice echoed throughout my ears as I was awoken from my supposed stupor, the wealth of this place, of my home, giving me more than a simple moment of pause.
Just as another avatar of nature's pure violence surged in the background, coating the room in seemingly infinite, stretching darkness, I turned my head around and saw my, or rather Leon's, aunt, poised to dash towards me with an implausibly worried expression. She was a strikingly beautiful woman for her age, incredibly fit, healthy and possessed of a long, golden hair that somehow shone even brighter than the manifestations of material luxury all around us. How this woman managed to get to forty and remain single is a mystery I don't think even omniscience can solve.
But then again, she is a knight with more than twenty years of service under her belt. That she looks as good as she does, no- the fact that she is even still alive is likely proof enough of her valor and strength. To have survived so long in an endless war against demonkind, against hell itself is... I found myself smirking lightly. My family seems to be full of such characters, each of them worthy of tale and honoring in their own right.
Which reminds me...
I should probably try to match them, right? Work hard to become part of my new family properly.
Ah, she's staring at me. Oh no- what kind of face am I showing right now? Shit, I should act more my age!
Quickly turning what I thought was a smirk into a bright smile, I began to run towards Sofia in as much a childish way as I could. "Auntie Sofia!" An exclamation of fake joy left me just as another surge of thunder roiled itself in the background, drenching the room in a deep, vast darkness. Suddenly, a terrible pain seemed to finally break through all the adrenaline and sheer confusion that I was feeling, as I spotted a blot of blood flowing down the left side of my head. Turning slightly around by instinct, my childish skips caused me to miss a step and promptly trip over my own feet.
I began to fall, but my body didn't react to any signal I sent it. I could feel time slow down as the world around me went dark again. Years and years of living a panicked life have honed my inner animal to perfection and yet, it wasn't enough. My eyes closed against my will as the wonderous, marble floor in front of me was coated in a firm plastering of what was most likely my own blood.
... Oh, how beautiful you are, my dear, splendorous vigor!
Another onset of a quarter of a day had passed, an otherwise unlikely group of people had been collected in order to diagnose and heal the youthful duke's son. One, an infamous inquisitor, another, the foremost apt healer of the city's churches, the next, a renowned medicine-man prized for his skill in alchemy and physical treatment, and the last, an elderly court mage, summoned from a nearby county at the behest of the duke himself, to oversee and ensure the safety of the boy. Now however, the treatment was complete and the boys family, specifically one of his aunts and an uncle, found themselves seated in a lavish room near Leon's own bedroom, set to discuss and gleam the truth of what had just happened. Thankfully, the storm had passed in the meantime, giving rise to a beatific autumn morning. Surely, they hoped, the positive change was a good omen!
"Thank you all once again for coming at such short notice." Sofia was quick to point out for the third time, her panicked heart only slightly healed from the sheer horrors she'd witnessed. Neither she nor her brother slept at all this night, having spent its near entirety watching over the four healers and their formerly lost family member.
"Twas' of no consequence, my lady. It is our privilege and honor to serve the Lumenhart lineage." A curt bow was offered to her ladyship, as the man in question took a seat.
"Indeed. Though such journeys are best done in moderation. My olden heart can only take so much travelling! Ha ha!" The oldest among them let out a cheery laugh at his own expense, slapping his elderly knees and then instantly wincing as if to prove his own point.
An infallible grunt of displeasure was heard from a corner of the room, as a grim, scarred man, the veteran of countless duels and battles, spoke with a lisp. "One should be glad of heart that we hath made it in time, I would think. None may know of what could have happened to the boy otherwise!" He appeared angry at something, showcasing a clear distaste towards the Lumenharts in the room.
Leon's uncle remained silent for now, his eyes dreary with palpable tiredness.
A feminine voice made itself known as the priestess and only magical healer of the group, lightly turned her head towards the grim inquisitor leaning against a corner of the room. "Harkon. We are in the presence of nobility. Do not shame the church with your reprehensible impoliteness and take a seat."
With another scoff, the man made his way to the center of the room, seating himself on a sofa opposite to Sofia's seat. "Now then, could someone finally explain what happened to my nephew?" Finally, the uncle spoke, his voice and tone betraying a terrible exhaustion, as well as no small level of worry.
"Tis' all but confirmed, I'd say. The boy suffered from a devils assault!... and somehow seems to have won, though I'd expect no less from a member of the esteemed Lumenhart family." Harkon was the first to respond as the others fell silent, their expressions turning grim and almost deathly.
The merest mention of demonic influence of these events was enough to send shivers down both the Lumenhart's spines. Sofia latched on to a sliver of new hope as she calmly took in the latter part of the inquisitors sentence. "A d-devil's a-a-assault? A-and he... he w-won?..." She sputtered out, her speech a lot more broken than it was mere moments prior, fraught with disbelief and gladness in equal measure.
Noticing the distress of her fellow woman, the priestess took Sofia's hand in hers and smiled, even as her eyes remained closed, showcasing a measure of inner peace. "Be at ease, my lady. What the inquisitor means is that the young Leon was suffering under a demonic possession or at the very least, the attempt at one." Her voice soothed the poor woman, though her words did not.
"... attempt?" Leon's uncle asked with a barely quirked eyebrow, his hands shaking in both fear and revulsion. The four looked at each other, before each gave a surprising nod towards Harkon. After all, grim and gruff as the man was, he was the authority on this particular matter. "Fear not, Lord Geoffrey , your nephew is safe, sound and most importantly, free of any demonic corruption that would mark him as a danger in the eyes of my organization."
Having delivered these words in as much a comforting manner as he could muster, Harkon then let out a breath and sighed with pure melancholy. "Alas, ... I'm sure you know this, being holy knights both of thee, but defending against the mental machinations of a devil, of any devil, is a terrible experience. How a child managed to win this mental battle is beyond my capacity to understand but..." Harkon turned towards the elderly mage before finishing. "The victory twas' not without appropriate cost..."
The elderly court mage nodded solemnly towards Harkon and then turned his attention back to the Lumenharts. "What the Lord Inquisitor claims is true, I'm afraid. The sheer level of damage to the boys soul is, well.. 'extensive', to say the least." His words sent the duet into another spree of shivers and uncomfortable shudders, as the old man threw a look at his youngest companion, the man quickly catching on that it was his turn to speak.
Clearing his throat, the doctor quickly added to the story. "Fear not, my lord and lady. Physically speaking and despite the scalping wound on his head, the boy is fine. Or at least, he will be. My beautiful colleague here had done magnificent work with her healing magic and what was left behind is more than curable with continued doses of the medicine I've provided. I shall deliver more upon my next visit as it will be required, but this should be enough to last a month." He handed them a green-tinted white box full of all manner of pills, as well as a slew of paperwork, seemingly full of instructions of how to use them.
Geoffrey nodded at them both. "Thank you. What about the spiritual side of things?"
The priestess took in a sharp breath, seemingly trying to steel herself as she held Sofia's hand somewhat more firmly, hoping to give comfort to the aunt before she spoke her next words. "As with any demonic possession, the boys mind and soul have suffered extensively. Far too much for me to be able to heal. He is not corrupted, but his wounds, both physical and mental will likely cause him to experience some form of constant confusion, perhaps even memory loss. Erratic behavior not characteristic of Leon's former self should be expected..."
"But not tolerated." The Inquisitor sharply finished in her stead. "Forgive my interruption and my lack of politeness, but should the boy showcase extreme levels of uncharacteristic behavior, he may yet need to be brought to an altar of cleansing, just to be sure that he is pure."
This much was to be expected from the inquisitor. After all, tolerance of the formerly possessed was more than simply a popular pathway for a myriad of demonic incursions, abusing and exploiting the hope of their victims families to its fullest. The Lumenharts, as well as everyone else here, understood that it was for the best.
"Is there any way we can ease his ails?" Sofia turned to stare directly into Harkon's eyes as the man produced a small bottle of teal-white liquid. "Here. I'm sure you already know, but this is one of the highest quality holy waters produced by the Church. Its... an unorthodox method, but I've seen it work plenty of times to be sure. Have the boy drink some of it, in very small doses, once a day. Should any corruption yet remain within him, this will cleanse it... and should a devil still be hidden within him, drinking the liquid will expose its presence, at the very least."
Sofia's expression twisted in pure outrage. "Have Leon drink this?! Inquisitor! Holy Water is alcoholic! The mere though of giving alcohol to a nine year old child is-" She was stopped by the raising hand of the low-born doctor, the same man who greeted her so warmly mere moments prior. "While I agree with you, my lady, that giving alcohol to a child is preposterous..." He nodded towards Harkon in a uncharacteristic motion that seemed to surprise the Lord Inquisitor. "The weight behind a possible remnant of demonic possession is far worse. Such terrible energies oft cause the bodies of the demons victims to rot while alive and no medicines I can provide will help him then. Listen to the Inquisitor, he's a grim man, but that is with good reason."
She went quiet after that.
They all did, for a few, brief yet inexorably long moments. Inevitably, it was Geoffrey whom broke the silence, the mans lustrous golden mane seeming to flow in the air as he shifted in his seat. "What of his head? The hair turned completely white, paler than the thickest snows I've ever seen. Did the devil cause that as well?"
Coughing into his fist, the elderly magus was the one to respond. "While I'm sure my colleagues here would love to attribute it to all manner of superstitions, the boys change in hair is due to the damage to his soul. The trauma he had experienced during the battle with the devil has scarred him deeply enough to cause direct changes to his physical form."
Then he continued after taking a sip of water from his glass, the exquisite tableware being brought in by silent caretakers and servants. "But not only negative changes have happened. It seems that the boys experiences have managed to awaken his magical potential... which is, uhm... strange, to say the least."
"Leon has awakened as a mage? But how? He was born without any mana!" Sofia blustered out before she could stop herself, causing her brother to give her an uncomfortable stare. To merely mention this was a wound on the family honor that his uncle barely tolerated, though the news of Leon's supposed magical awakening brought the man some reprieve and hope. "Strange? How? Explain."
His simplistic tone betrayed tiredness and noble arrogance in equal measure, as the elderly magus merely chuckled in response. "Well, to put it bluntly, the quantity of the boys mana is still miniscule. Barely enough to be able to cast a simple fireball, perhaps even less but... but the sheer quality!; my divines, the quality of his magic surpasses some of the arch mages I've met in my time!"
Geoffrey quirked an eyebrow towards the man in a questioning manner. "The quality? How is such a thing possible? The quality of one's mana is dictated by their wisdom."
Nodding towards the lord, the court mage spoke with a slightly more serious expression. "My only working theory is that while being stuck in combat with the demon, the time within that accursed mental realm flowed differently. For us, it may have been only half a day, but who knows for how long the young Leon had been fighting against the devil within the confines of his own mind. Regardless, the experience has sharpened him greatly..."
Taking in a breath, the mage continued. "His soul is much darker now, clouded with hatred and bloodlust not that different from the devils... but he is still human. The only explanation was that he changed rapidly during his battle in order to adapt and achieve victory against such impossible odds. Whatever he may have learned, however much knowledge he may have gleamed and from where is beyond me, but the soul is a vast, unexplored subject and the wonders that one may learn by simply delving within themselves are the matter of legendary tales and likened to the whims of the gods themselves."
Procuring a small vial of bluish 'liquid', the wizard continued after placing said vial on the table in front of them all. "As you may recognize, this is your bog-standard mana potion. Teal, light blue if you're lucky and commonly used by our troops every single day to aid in the fight against the devils. One of these potions can restore the magic of the common man in full after sipping only the top of the vial."
He turned to look at the Lumenharts, his expression completely serious now. "... your boys mana isn't teal or blue." He seemed to pause for a moment, either for drama or because he hardly believed what he was about to say himself. "Its bright red. Sharper and hotter than the lightning we all witnessed yesterday. Potent and volatile, too."
"Indeed. Young Leon's quantity of mana is barely perceptible, but what he does have is unnaturally potent. Earlier, Sir Laux mentioned how it was barely enough to cast a single fireball, but in reality, should he gain control over this minor amount of magic, young Leon could very well forge several pyroclastic bursts instead." The priestess finished for the elderly magus, much to the mans dismay, yet he said nothing and instead took the opportunity to take another sip of his drink.
Silence once again took hold of the room, its occupants unsure of how and when to continue it. This time, it would be Sofia to break the silence. "So, what are we supposed to do now? Is there truly nothing we can do to help him apart from merely offering medicines?"
The doctor was quick to respond with a bright smile. "Please, my lady, there is plenty that you can do! I may not be an expert on souls, such as Sir Laux over there, but all that any wounded soul needs is the comfort and care of an understanding family." To the doctors surprise, the elderly man nodded in a sage manner. "Aye, this much is true. Regardless of his suffering, the only way to heal the youth is with gladness and love!"
"... I trust the Lumenhart family won't have a problem with me staying around for a time, just to watch over the boy and gauge his purity?" Harkon quickly added on, effectively shattering the hopeful atmosphere as quickly as it formed, much to the dismay of everyone else.
"Of course, Lord Inquisitor. I shall see to it that your lodgings are suitable and nearby to those of Leon's." Geoffrey added on as Sofia seemed to nigh burst with outrage. "What?! NO! The lord inquisitor may stay, but NOT anywhere near the child! The last thing our little Leon needs right now is a grim old man filling his head with needlessly accusative statements!"
Before Geoffrey could reply, the mans face twisting with sheer disbelief at his sisters outburst, Harkon rose a hand to calm the room. "Lady Lumenhart, I know that myne presence here is unwelcome, but please remember that I am under the direct employ of your eldest brother, the duke. Who I am asking to oversee is the man's only son. I personally see the duke as one of our kingdoms greatest heroes and the last thing I would dare wish for is to somehow damage your dynasty."
Then the man knelt before the two Lumenharts. "Thee have my words and pledge; should the boy end up corrupted, the matter will be settled to the best of my ability and in private. The Holy See has already been notified of this event and we are all in uniform agreement that thy dynasty must be provided with all the resources it needs to solve this matter as delicately as possible."
With that, he rose and finished his words. "... and should I prove to be unworthy of thy trust, I am very much replaceable. My only wish is that justice is done, not that I am there to personally deliver it."