"So he disappeared?"
A brightly lit room. The soft glow of crystal lamps, the somber tranquility. The faint smell of paper and ink. Everything about it was quaint and homely. A sanctuary. A retreat.
It was here that Elias stood, an open book in hand. It was always a fascination of his, reading. So much information to be absorbed, so much wisdom to be contemplated upon. This time however he had a book open for a different purpose than mere curiosity.
"Yes. We searched the area, no one matched the descriptions we were given and none saw anyone suspicious either."
Strange. "They didn't leave through the front, and someone would notice if it were from the back." Elias tapped his chin. He examined an illustration, an old map of the city. " Appears I was right. That place is right above an old sewage tunnel."
"Sewage tunnels, Your Grace?"
"Indeed." Elias nodded. "Many sewage tunnels used to lead out into the docks where they'd dump the city's waste. This stopped when more were built that led out downriver. Needless to say, the old tunnels were left alone. In times past these old tunnels had been used to smuggle contraband into the city. I thought all the passageways had already been found but this one seems to have escaped discovery." The man pondered a moment. " I wonder if the owner back then had some sort of deal with one of the officials in charge of the investigation." He thought aloud.
He chuckled softly. "So that's what they did. Disguising themselves before they even exited so no one could track them. Smart. Most wouldn't have paid that much attention to detail. And regular folk wouldn't take much notice of them either, but they didn't take that risk." There was slight praise in his tone. "They're very cautious if nothing else."
It wasn't hard to figure out what happened so long as you knew a bit of history about the area.
And people tended to take it easy once they thought themselves safe. Make foolish mistakes.
Rarely did someone so young have the experience needed to take such careful measures.
To escape even Sir Vael's thorough investigations they would have had to rid themselves of their current looks.
But the question was, why?
Why take precautions like that at all? Why run away?
Elias quickly guessed: They had something to hide.
Even if they merely didn't want the attention of a Noble, even if the young man didn't like that daughter of his, there was no reason to be so paranoid.
Their actions were suspicious, too much for what the situation warranted.
"We don't know what they look like now, searching that way would be useless." Elias closed his book gently, taking care not to somehow harm the aged thing. "We do, however, know how many they are. Broaden your search, look for groups of four. Three young adults, one child. Disregard gender. Start by the docks. I'm betting someone noticed them. After that check the furthest Inns from the area."
"The furthest, Your Grace? I see. Understood."
WIth how cautious the group was it's unlikely they'd pick the nearest Inns. They'd take their time in choosing a location. They would assume someone might find where they came from and begin searching the Inns nearest their exit point.
As for the docks, younger folk would not usually be found among the rough and foul-mouthed sailors, especially not a child. They could change their looks to an extent but their ages would be harder to hide. And though it's not a certainty that people would take note of every person they pass by, noticing a child in a place one normally wouldn't be seen is still possible.
It'd have caught someone's eye.
"Yessir." Vael bowed.
"Moving on, my daughter, I understand she shut herself away?"
Since he summoned her here she would have usually come straight to him. Doing this, therefore, was very much outside her behavior.
"She did. The servants say they heard soft sobs coming from her room, she probably cried herself to sleep." The man reported. "She's not even eaten yet either from what I understand."
That did not sound like his daughter.
"She's never acted like this before." Elias commented, frowning slightly.
"She's never really been in love before." The Paladin had a wry curl to his lip. "I was told by Voorhis that she was quite attached to the young man. He seemed to make advances towards her as well. Although," He added, " Since it was said he was very cold to her just the night prior, I'm not sure what to make of it."
Elias, however, did.
"Did she interact with anyone aside from him?"
"Not really, no," Vael answered. "He kept her busy with him until they arrived."
And that confirmed it. "A distraction." He mused. "Did anyone meet my daughter prior to the last leg of their journey?"
Vael nodded. "Once. A girl apparently went to speak to her early in the morning before they left. I didn't mention it since they weren't sure who the girl was, they assumed she was a member of the Haddocks."
"Doubtful. How did he treat her before that?"
"Distant. But it didn't last long. Her Holiness is a very beautiful young lass, after all. Must have worn him down, can't even think of any man his age being able to resist her charms. " Vael's brows furrowed when he caught the look Elias sent his way. "Wait. You think her talking to the girl is why he suddenly had a change in attitude."
It wasn't a question.
Vael had a tendency to underestimate others at times, thus he didn't immediately make the connection and simply considered it a matter of Her Holiness Lady Seraphina having gotten the boy to finally lower his guard.
He thought so because she did indeed attract many eyes, and what man could remain cold to her for any real measure of time anyway?
...Apparently this one, he thought. If it were really just an act, or rather a distraction like what the Patriarch believed, it meant the boy wasn't one to become addled by just physical beauty alone.
"That is the logical conclusion to make, yes." Elias replied drily. " Go to her. Get an answer."
"It will be done, Lord Patriarch." He answered. "But about the boy, when I find him what do you want to do?"
Elias smiled faintly, his eyes unreadable. "He saved my daughter. I should show my thanks." Whatever the youth had to hide didn't really matter to him, he was merely curious about it. Nothing more.
This meant that if she hadn't become so attached to him Elias would not have cared to meet him at all. At most he may have recruited him as a prospective talent due to his achievements and naturally strong body. Perhaps he'd even have had Vael mentor him a bit if he showed true promise.
Now, though, things were different. Seraphina was a special existence, with a special purpose. Her role in the future was of utmost importance.
She had many responsibilities, and falling for a random stranger would only complicate things.
He couldn't force her to do anything, but her sense of duty would make up for that.
This time however what he had to ask of her was no simple matter.
At any other time this would not be a problem, but as of right now her feelings for that boy would just make it uncertain that she'd ever agree to what was needed from her.
So those feelings had to be thoroughly broken, to the extent that not even a fragment of affection for him was left.
Only then could Elias be sure she would be obedient.
In order for that to happen, he had to be brought here. If he simply disappeared from her life like this it was possible there would always be lingering feelings for him in her heart.
And even that couldn't be allowed.
Elias closed the book with exquisite care.
They were not new but rather had survived through the ages to end up in his hands. And he was not unaware of this fact.
"Alright. Onto other matters." Elias idly fingered the jewel hanging around his neck. "How is our little wolf?"
Vael's face grew severe. "We don't know." A neutral tone. "The news just came in: Someone's been killing off the men we had stationed near his estate. Combined with the fire and the occurrence at Lord Alderton's home, it's safe to say we've been compromised. And unfortunately, the ones we had watching him had a day where their memories showed signs of tampering. It was during that time he left the estate, which means his whereabouts are now unknown."
Vael had dreaded being the one to tell the man this development. He knew how important the boy was, him running about unsupervised when they had just gotten close was frustrating to the extreme.
With his father and that old spider's attention diverted they thought they would finally have been able to enact their plans. As such they'd spared no effort in ridding him of his defences.
And now, when he was vulnerable, with no one to guard him, he just...disappears. How can that not make one want to rage?
And true to his expectations, Elias' next words became as hard as steel. " Find him."
For a moment, it looked like the world darkened. Maybe it did.
An unreasonable command was issued. Vael wouldn't even know where to start, the possibilities endless.
But he didn't dare refuse.
"Yes, Your Grace." Was all Vael could say.