GGCE 17 – The Empire’s Capital (3)

“Well… It was found when just a few months ago when Father Emperor decreed an expansion of the collapsed Catacombs below. We were only able to free the heads as we don’t have enough slaves to mine every day.” He wasn’t too sure why the heads seemed upset her. He looked to the heads too, feeling unnerved by them. He never liked coming here since the heads were unearthed. Sometimes, he felt like they could talk to him, and he didn’t like that at all…”

Avery stared at the skulls intently. An urge to destroy them began to slowly build up in her like a boat slowly taking on water. She felt herself getting angrier the more she thought about it. “Brokenwing… That disgusting monster shouldn’t even have a tomb..” She thought, but she caught herself. “Brokenwing was just an NPC…” She didn’t know where that thought had come from or where these feelings were coming from. “Let’s talk about it later.” She said hurriedly as she urged the group to continue on.

. . . .

Looking out a large transparent window as dawn broke, Avery sat on the cushioned seat-sill overlooking the Noble Quarter from the diplomat’s lodging on the western edge of the Dragon Palace grounds – the tomb of the Brokenwing. It was still mind-boggling why someone would choose this place as the seat of their power, but she didn’t put much thought into it. People in power will do what they will. She wasn’t running the empire.

Previously, they had to report to the Palace affairs, something akin to an office. It wasn’t the actual place other monarchs or diplomats would report to, but since it was the prince bringing her in, he could just bring her directly to the head of Palace Affairs, which turned out was the department that ran everything from cleaning to checking in state-guests. Prince Randol had told her the office wasn’t as grand as the one the actual state-guests would report to, but it was quicker since she was already on palace grounds.

Her room was similar to a grand suite at a five-star hotel, or at least, what she’d imagine one looked like from what her friends described them to look like and whatever pictures she had seen on the internet.

The room was built with near perfect stone-bricks. The floor was laid with polished dark-oak planks with several fur rugs littering it. A large king-size bed sat on the right side of the room, adorned with thick tan blankets and plush pillows. Two large couches sat center-room facing each other with a small table in between. A single desk sat just behind on the opposite wall of Avery with writing amenities neatly placed on top. It felt luxurious… and lonely. A single servant girl, the little rabbit she picked up yesterday, stood anxiously by the door. Her eyes hadn’t left Avery since she woke up.

She slept nude, but she pulled out her other change of clothes, black cargo pants, and a black long-sleeve shirt. She adorned her armor that morning before tucking away her dress and cloak. Her sword hung at her side from her belt as she left her perch and walked towards the door. Once she was almost at the door, the servant girl inched away as if scared to get in close proximity to her. “Why are you scared of me?” Avery asked, her hand on the door handle when she noticed. The girl only lowered her head, unsure of how to answer. With a sigh, Avery let go of the handle.

“I’m not going to do anything to you, so can you at least tell me why you are scared?” Avery said, her face softening to consul whatever fear of her she had. “A-Answering Lady Avery… I-I don’t know if you’re holding yesterdays… Mistake…” The last part of her sentence parted from her lips in a whisper. Her eyes kept going to her to the floor then back, over and over again. Avery could only feel irritated at her behavior. She decided to leave her be for the moment and left the room.

Stepping into the common room, one of the two knights stood by her door and greeted her. “Good morning, Lady Avery.” He chirped, his voice gruff. “Where’s the other guy?” Avery looked around before noticing it was just him. Hearing Avery’s name and her voice, Navara appeared from her room that sat directly across from them. “I told them to guard you in shifts.” Navara jumped in. She was dressed in a dark-brown tunic with black cotton pants. Calf-high leather boots were laced up on her feet as she trotted over.

Seeing as the answer was given, the knight only confirmed it. “As the Lady says.” Navara bowed her head slightly. ” I hope you don’t mind too much.” Avery only shook her head. “Nah, it’s alright. To be honest, I don’t really see a need to have things like guards or a servant.” Navara only shrugged at Avery’s confession. “They’ll come in handy here. There are certain things made easier with them. “

. . . . . . . . . .

With the sun at his back, Fenrir overlooked the valley. His old eyes taking in the sights, trying to gather information.

He had followed his Mistress’s scent from Fable’s End and nearly caught up with her until she went down into the valley. He reasoned with himself that it was because she was with the humans that he backed off at the last second causing him to lose his chance. He sat up all night, overlooking the fields of grain and fruit. Waiting to see if she would come out again, but now that dawn came, his body felt lethargic. He had not eaten anything since he had given chase.

But the sight of his master’s back made his heart flutter. Memories of all those previous adventures rushing to him, days-long forgotten. However, old age curbed his pride. It only took him half the night to come to terms that it was not the humans that scared him off, but his guilty conscious holding him back. All these years that have passed by. All these days he lived happily while she was entombed in the mountain where she was supposed to be just a bodiless soul in eternal sleep.

Now that she was back. Now that he saw her… Fenrir was unsure how to approach her. Of all the years he lived and the children he sired. Before this woman, he was still that cub Lord Edward gifted to Avery in the Eternal Forest of the Free Capital. Maybe it was just his old age clouding his mind as he grasped as the fleeting memories that surfaced the night before.

With the sun kissing the valley’s floor, Fenrir felt its warmth on his back. With it, he decided he would sit on meeting his Mistress for another night. For now, he’d sleep and enjoy the sweet memories that came with the rising sun.

He laid down and curled himself on the mountain’s peak with his eyes overlooking the valley, he closed his eyes to rest. “I’m too old to be running around like before…” He complained. Something akin to a smile on his maw as his mind drifted away in the sea of memories before they could escape him again…

. . . . . .

With the light of the new day filling the Throne room, servants had rolled out a long velvet rug that reached the foot of the throne before rolling down the stone steps and onto the marble flooring below. It then was sprawled out to the mouth of Brokenwing’s tomb. Padded chairs were then set out on either side, six chairs long with twenty rows each until the front was about twenty feet from the throne’s steps.

Each seat was reserved for a noble or their representative, with higher ranked beings closer to the throne. Three seats sat on a lower tier on each side of the throne for the council members. At the moment, only the Emperor, Prince Randol, and Prince Desmond occupied the morning court. The prince’s knelt before the steps of the throne while two knights adorned in golden armor protected each side of the steps. The Emperor looked down with brown eyes, his grey hair cut short to his scalp. Age did not dull his eyesight with the help of potions and magical artifacts.

His eyes were as sharp as daggers and, thankfully, not real daggers as his gaze bore into the top of Desmond’s head. “As a Prince, did you believe I would allow such waste of life for nothing?” His voice deep, but raspy from age and use. Rage burned in his voice, yet it was not for the lost lives. No, it was because he could finally vent towards this child he so hated. “This expedition was promised to yield treasures from the lost era. Was this not promised, Prince Desmond?” His right index finger tapped on the dragon’s skull with impatience as he looked for any reason to punish the hated prince.

“Yes, I did give that I did promise that, and I kept my word. They, however, already have an owner.” He paused a moment to glance up slightly to read his father’s mood. His father loved money and women over his hatred for him, so dangling this before his nose, he wanted to see if he could pique his interest. His father, clad in fine robes and furs, arched his eyebrows with interest and rubbed his hands together like a greedy merchant. “Hm? And where is this owner and what is the treasure?” The hate hadn’t vanished from his father’s eyes, but greed won out. He could always hate him afterward.

“Sir Ter’yut, please bring in Lady Avery!” Prince Desmond called out and from a side passage, the orc came out, adorned in grey meteor iron armor while escorting Avery who was dressed in her mithril armor. She strutted aloofly down the rug before she stood next to the princes without kneeling or bowing. The orc had briefed her on the relationship between the two princes and their father. To which Avery had no respect for the man now. The Emperor didn’t bother to nag her on the rituals between ranks as he sat forward with wide eyes. His intense gaze was aimed at Avery’s beautiful face, to which, Avery could only compare it to a horny geezer in the retirement home checking out the new nurse.

Disgusting.

The man was gaunt, traces of his once handsome face was gaunt with sagging skin. The man was only in his sixties, but he hadn’t cared enough to tend to his health before he lost his looks to his ways. Now the man was licking her all over with his eyes and Avery fought every primal instinct to lodge her sword into his eyes. A few minutes went before the old man regained his composure. “So is this… Lady Avery, correct?” He gestured with a smile to her. “Yes.” She answered with a forced smile, trying to keep the peace.

“Lady Avery is the owner? What exactly is she the owner of?” His eyes never left her face before it ignored the armor and studied her curves. “Her armor is mithril, bearing the sigil of Holypaws, the guild of the Earth mother. She also bears the Holy sword Excalibur.” He listed off her gear and the Emperor finally snapped from his unsightly state. “M-Mithril armor and the sword of myths?!” His eyes finally registered the existence of a weapon and armor in his presence that was not an authorized guard. “Guard, bring the High Magnus!”

That wasn’t his concern anymore as he licked his lips at this big prize that fell into his lap.

One of the two golden knights jogged out of the chamber and disappeared into a side-passage. It took nearly a half-hour before the guard returned with nearly twenty knights armed with steel weapons and meteor armor escorting a man in his thirties with salt-n-pepper hair who Avery could only think of like a rat. The man was shorter than her with big ears, beady eyes, and a big nose. He was dressed in deep-blue robes that were embroidered with protective runes, but they didn’t glow like Avery’s runes, attesting to their inferior quality.

“You called for me?” His tone was none the least respectful as he strode over. “I was- ” he stopped mid-sentence as Avery who stood around lazily, apparently bored, dressed in the most beautiful magical items he had ever seen. As a mage, he could sense the magic coursing through the armor and it was grand. “We called you to appraise the equipment of Lady Avery.” He said impatiently. “I can already tell you that her armor is more powerful than everything in our vaults combined.” He said as he rushed over to examine the armor closely, but was swatted away by Avery’s hand “Don’t touch me.” Avery growled. It was the first time the Emperor had seen her show anything other than the forced smile and stoic expression.

He was slightly charmed by it. “Guards! Punish this insolent bitch for daring to lay her hands on me!” The High Magnus said indignantly. He was considered the most powerful mage in the Empire! He could raze a town if he wanted to and no one could stop him, yet this girl dared to swat him away?! Never! The guards came forward, drawing their swords. The emperor was about to step in and stop them, but Avery punched towards the rat-like mage with an open palm, fire burning in her hands as she smashed it into the man’s chest. “Fuck off!” She growled.

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