Brie and Ecks head for a set of stairs leading to the second floor leaving Caleigh to repair the equipment damaged by Tami. They can hear her griping at her subordinate. A library of books lines the upper level which is set further back than the lower level. These books contain various types of information about Eiris. There are books of spells written by the Mages from the Uutalh Region. There are books of science and alchemy written by the Alchemists from Eshtar City. The alchemists thrived on science so their teachings are used by students in schools in various kingdoms including Arcana. Books on mechanics from the Steamists in Myst lined one row on one side and books on music by the Elven musicians the Lyllies lined a row on the other side. The writings of other intellectuals from philosophers to philanthropists reside among these writings.
In the rear of the library where the recorded history of Arcana is kept sat the mystic ruler of Arcana. He is dressed in white robes with Red Star crest on the back. His moonlight hair draped his shoulders. He brushes back a couple shimmering strands as he read over the notes of his predecessors. Mostly, he has been toiling over the writings about the White Sage Balthazar Aradon who sent the Dark Priest Vevito Carnello to the Shadow Zone after dispersing the Relics of Arcana across Eiris to keep them safe. He has been searching for a clue as to the whereabouts of the Relics. His search has yielded nothing. His Grace sighs. Balthazar ensured that no one would find the Relics without a challenge. He has clearly taken the secrets with him to his grave. Perhaps this was a result of his desperate attempt to keep them out of the hands of the Dark Priest and his followers, he thought. His deep blue eyes scan through each paragraph, each word, and each letter. A clue—any clue!—will suffice. The White Sage Xehtus Alpex lifts his head as Brie and Ecks approach.
“Your Grace,” Brie says respectfully.
“Lord Alpex,” Ecks says with a slight bow of his head.
So he can be respectful, Brie though peeking over at Ecks.
“First Lieutenant Ecks and Second Lieutenant Auburn, it is a pleasure,” White Sage Xehtus said. He stands. “To what do I own this visit?”
“Lieutenant Ecks has found another Relic, Your Grace,” Brie respectfully spoke.
“Excellent,” White Sage Xehtus looks at Ecks. “So what do you have Lieutenant Ecks?”
Ecks takes the ring out of his pouch and hands it to him. The White Sage holds the ring gingerly. He holds it up to the light, looking over it the way a jeweler would to see if the item is of value. There is something familiar about the ring. His Grace flips backward through the pages of the book he was reading until he finds the page with information about the ring. He looks between the picture of the ring and the ring itself. He confirms that the ring he is holding is one of the Relics.
“Ah yes, this is a very valuable find.” White Sage Xehtus is fascinated even though he has read through this book a dozen of times. He looks at Ecks and Brie and goes on to explain the Relic. “This is the Ring of Fenrir. It is both a powerful and dangerous Relic.”
“Why is that?” asks Ecks.
White Sage Xehtus looks at the open page and reads along. “According to these notes, the Ring of Fenrir increases the wearer’s overall status.”
“Overall status?” said Brie.
“Yes,” the White Sage says, and then goes on to explain. “The ring will grant the wearer increased intelligence, stamina, or strength. If a mage were to wear it, their magical powers would be more potent, allowing them to cast stronger spells with ease without the need to learn them otherwise. Or say if a physically strong creature such as a troll or an ogre came in possession of it, their incredible strength would be godlike.”
“Plus, trolls and ogres are incredibly durable,” Ecks added.
“You’re right,” White Sage Zehtus agreed. He thought for a moment about a powerful creature such as a troll or an ogre wearing the Ring of Fenrir. Trolls are known for being able to break boulders with their powerful fists. Their cousins the ogres are capable of ripping a tree out of the ground, roots and all. If, for any reason, either of them came into possession of the Ring of Fenrir, not only would their immense strength rival a god’s but their bodies would be nearly impervious to various types of weapons. That would be truly terrible, he thought.
“Perish the thought should that have happened,” he finally said.
“Yeah, but dwarves on the other hand,” said Ecks.
“Bleh, dwarves had the ring?” Brie said, twisting her face in disgust.
The White Sage rubs his chin in thought and says, “If I recall, dwarves are very fond of gold and other such trinkets, and they tend to be miserly with their finds. If one of them had the Ring of Fenrir that means that dwarf’s stinginess was unbearable.” He asks Ecks, “How did you manage to retrieve the ring?”
“Let’s just say it wasn’t easy,” Ecks rubbed the back of his neck, “especially when it comes to Beldarr.”
“Beldarr,” White Sage Zehtus said.
“Beldarr is as miserly as dwarves come. Even his own kind keeps their distance,” Brie said.
“Yeah, dwarves are normally not combative but Beldarr put up a heluva fight,” Ecks said, stretching his back which still hurt from a blow he received in his tussle with the old miserly dwarf.
Dwarves are collectors. They are constantly on the hunt for things to add to their collections. Lost rings and other jewelry, broken weapons of a long forgotten battle, lost or misplaced ones from current conflicts. They’ll even collect remnants of a camp that have been carelessly left behind—pots, pans, tents—things of that sort. Dwarves are also merchants and will part with their treasures for the right price but not without reluctance. However, if an object catches their fancy, parting with that piece will be difficult. If one tries to take a dwarf’s treasure by force, the dwarf will defend his horde. Despite their small stature, they are incredibly strong. Beldarr found the Ring of Fenrir some time ago. Jewelry has always been his bane and parting with it would like giving up a limb. Ecks tried to negotiate for the Ring of Fenrir. It didn’t go well as the ring had made Beldarr more miserly and unruly than usual. The fight wasn’t easy but Ecks managed to secure the ring. Though Beldarr was grateful, or as grateful as a miserly dwarf can be, he still wanted payment for the Arcane Relic.
Ecks remembers this agreement and says, “By the way, Beldarr wants collateral for the ring.”
“What, you bargained with that parsimonious imp?!” Brie said in shock.
“Actually it was a frugally dwarf,” Ecks retorted. “The imps are actually quite pleasant this year.”
“Why you!” Brie started before a chuckle from White Sage Zehtus catches her attention. She looks at him. “Your Grace, please don’t encourage him,” she whined.
His Grace raises a hand with a smile still stretched across his handsome face. “What’s important is that the Ring of Fenrir was recovered and Lieutenant Ecks and Miss Willow have returned safely.” He then asks Ecks, “Oh, how is Miss Willow by the way?”
“She’s alright,” Ecks started before White Sage Zehtus cuts him off.
“Hopefully you brought her back in better condition than last time,” His Grace laughed. Ecks rubs the back of his neck. He chuckles nervously.
“Your Grace,” Brie knew she had better stop White Sage Zehtus before he gets too involved in with Ecks, “don’t you think we should get the Ring of Fenrir to the vault?”
“Of course Miss Auburn,” he responded with a kind smile. Then says to Ecks, “Lieutenant, keep up the good work as always. And please limit Miss Willow’s drinking to just one mug of ale.”
“Easier said than done,” Ecks, with a light scoff, said. He then turns and heads to the first level. “Later,” he waved.
Brie was about to scold him again for his lack of respect but she just sighs heavily and shakes her head pitifully. If telling him numerous times before about proper respect hadn’t done anything, why would it matter now? She lets the matter go, this time.
“How does he expect to reach captain status with that attitude?” she asks.
“Actually, Ecks is qualified to be a captain.” Brie couldn’t help but be taken aback by this. Curious and confused, she looks at the White Sage as he goes on. “A couple months ago, Ecks took the captain’s exam and passed top-rank. However, he refused the title.” Brie asks why Ecks would refuse such a prestigious honor. “According to Ecks, he is more content with where he is right now. He may not seem like it but Ecks has the potential to be an excellent captain. But he doesn’t have the discipline. That is where you and he may be in agreement with. However, Miss Auburn, understand that no matter his title, Ecks will always be Ecks.”
Brie watches Ecks as he leaves the Research and Surveillance Room. Him as a captain, she thought. Her contemptuous sneer fades as she thinks about what the White Sage had told her. It wasn’t but a couple years ago that she and Ecks were both second lieutenants under Captain Lucius Altone. She had thought of him as another amateurish upstart who spoke louder than his actions at first. Soon after, she witnessed first-hand the skills he was capable of. Ecks spoke loud but his actions spoke louder. He lacked respect for authority, often rushing into a battle without regard for commander or comrade. This upset Brie. While she followed protocol, Ecks followed his own rules. She has argued with him on numerous occasions about his carefree demeanor. Ecks’ response to her would be: Relax, would ya, or Sure, when you pull that stick out. How he can be so light-hearted, she always wondered, and he has the potential to be a captain. Brie sighs. It is true. Ecks has skills nearly unmatched by any other knight. It’s no wonder he has become a first lieutenant before her and that he now qualifies to be captain. Maybe that carefree attitude is—
“Miss Auburn.” Brie looked at the White Sage. “Shouldn’t we get the Ring of Fenrir into the vault?” he smiles warmly.
Brie returns his smile. “Yes, Your Grace,” she says.
White Sage Zehtus heads to a bookshelf in the back right corner. He takes hold of the torch next to the shelf and rotates it down. The wall to his left shifts back and swings open to reveal a staircase that descended into darkness. He holds up his left hand, taps the wall with one finger and a glyph appears. “Come Miss Auburn,” he says looking over his shoulder at her. Brie follows the White Sage into the passageway. The stone door swings close and slides back into place.
(Have a look at my novel Defenders!! Volume 1 and Volume 2 are available for Kindle and E-book device!! Head to the J1 Bookstore and click the links!! Check my awesome fan fiction: Dante vs. Bayonetta and“Fury Rages On: Kratos vs. Asura!!”)
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