With a tremendous crash, Trajan slammed his hammer into the last of the mages that continued to resist his advance on the bridge. Before him lay one last barricade between himself and the teams he’d sent ahead, which Avremar and his Legate had already set about destroying.
Behind him, four thousand Legion soldiers waited patiently. They had suffered no casualties, partly because of their spectacular armor and shields, and partly because Trajan had gone out in front of everyone and drawn most of the attention from the defending mages. His armor was burned in places where spells and the occasional arrow had been fired at him, but nothing had gotten past it, let alone his stoneskin. Avremar and the Legate, too, were unharmed, thanks to their own armor.
Finally, the barricade came down and the battalions could pass. There were no more obstacles in their way, as Leon and the others had already removed the final barricade.
Seeing the dozens of dead and injured mages on the ground, Trajan shook his head in disappointment. “What a waste…” he muttered. Still, when he approached the two teams, he wore a bright smile and he heartily said, “Good work! All of you, good work!”
“Thank you, Your Highness,” the five knights said in response.
“Everyone, you should know what to do! Get to it!” Trajan barked, and the Legion soldiers behind began to stream into the guild district. Only one of the battalions stayed behind with the Prince, while the others separated into their companies and began efforts to find the rest of the rioting mages and put out the fires.
Grim went with one of the companies, and the three knights from the other team split away as well. Out of both teams that had been sent to attack the bridge from behind, only Leon, Alix, and Anzu stayed with Trajan.
“I saw your magic from the bridge,” Trajan proudly said to Leon as soldiers streamed past them. “You did quite well.”
Leon knew exactly what Trajan was referring to: the color of his lightning. When he first started using his lightning magic, it was silver-blue, but he soon came to learn when training with Trajan that most lightning mages used golden lightning. It was only House Raime that had that color of lightning, so he put in an enormous amount of work to mask its color. It had taken him ten months of intense study, but the solution he eventually came to was to slow down and disperse his magic. This was an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish, especially when in combat, so he placed another enchantment upon his gauntlets that helped him to decompress some of his magic until it resembled that of other bog-standard lightning mages. So long as he wore his armor, he could use his power with impunity, and no one would ever connect him to his family’s magic.
This weakened his power a little, but given how well he performed in battle, Leon wasn’t too concerned. He also demonstrated how far his knowledge of enchanting had come when he included one more enchantment to disrupt the one that weakened his power, just in case his magic ever needed that extra little bit of punch.
The other enchantments in his gauntlets that aided him in channeling his magic power remained untouched, though.
“That being said,” Trajan continued, “was it unavoidable to kill all of these mages?”
Leon frowned a little, but he nodded and said, “Those that didn’t need to be killed ran away…”
“I see…”’ Trajan said sadly. But, he didn’t have the luxury of mourning such a loss of life while the guild district burned around him, so he quickly suppressed those feelings and moved on. “Let’s finish this!” he said firmly.
“I’m with you, Your Highness,” Leon replied.
Trajan led the way down the thoroughfare. It was a straight shot to the main square of the district, where the most powerful guilds in the city could be found. Now that he was past the barricades, he could see that the square didn’t seem to be burning; the light that illuminated it was the white-blue of street lanterns rather than the red-orange of fire.
Trajan walked confidently down the streets toward the central square. With Leon, Avremar, and his Legate at his side, and a battalion of soldiers at his back still in formation, any mages that saw him marching decided against challenging him. And he knew a few saw him, as he was periodically releasing his magic senses.
A mile and a half later, his group arrived at the spacious square, where another battalion was waiting for him, this one led by Minerva. The square was so large that even with a thousand soldiers moving around and preparing to storm the halls of the three guilds in revolt it still felt empty and desolate.
“Your Highness!” she called out upon his arrival.
“Dame Minerva!” Trajan responded. “I’m glad you’re here! What’s the situation?”
“We’ve locked down the halls of all six major guilds!” Minerva reported. “We’ve also established contact with Eternal Glory, Seventh-Fold, and Saber. Their lower-tiered mages evacuated when the rioting and looting started, but their stronger mages have been holed up in their respective guild halls to prevent the looters from entering.”
“And Sanctified, Iron Dove, and Bluefire?” Trajan asked, glancing at the guild halls in question.
“No contact yet,” Minerva stated. “However, we know that there are people within—we’ve seen them in the windows—but we’ve been unable to make much progress with the enchantments sealing the doors, yet.”
“That’s not going to help them…” Leon muttered.
“Indeed,” Trajan said with a sour look on his face. “If they had come forward to negotiate, then things might have been different. As it is now, we have to assume that those within those guild halls are hostile.” He turned to Avremar and the Legate and ordered them to help get the gates open, while he ordered the Tribune leading the battalion to aid in locking down the square. It would be a while before they breached the gates, so while they stood by, they might as well keep an eye on the halls.
“I want to speak with the masters of Eternal Glory, Seventh-Fold, and Saber,” Trajan said.
“We’ll get them out here,” Minerva responded, and a Tribune with her instantly sprang into action arranging for messengers to be sent to the three guilds.
While they waited for the masters to reply, Leon took a few long looks at the guild halls. The smallest was Sanctified’s guild hall, but even then, it was still immense. It appeared to have a similar layout to the Cradle, with four wings of the building forming a cross and a big dome in the center, only it was made of gleaming white marble and granite, and the dome was topped with red ceramic tiles. The outside was also splendidly decorated with blind arcades, statues, and murals.
Iron Dove and Bluefire, meanwhile, favored a more austere look. Their guild halls were square monolithic buildings without much in the way of decoration. In fact, the only decoration each had was a marble statue of what Leon guessed was a dove outside of Iron Dove’s hall, and a gigantic brazier filled with blue fire outside of Bluefire’s hall.
Each of the halls was surrounded by tall stone walls, and Leon could tell that these walls were heavily enchanted just by the vast amounts of magic flowing through them. The steel gates were even more so and were so well fortified with enchantments that the Legion soldiers attempting to get through them were utterly failing.
“Remarkable places, aren’t they?” Alix asked Leon as she joined him in admiring the halls.
“They sure are,” Leon responded.
“Do you regret not signing up with a guild instead of the Legion?” she continued, cocking an eyebrow at him.
“Not really,” Leon answered honestly. “They’re obviously powerful guilds, but they’re still not much compared to the Legion.”
“And they clearly pay their mages so little that the mages start small rebellions,” Alix added with a giggle.
“That too,” Leon said with an amused smile. Seeing what lengths guild mages went to in order to try and protect their assets from their own guilds ensured that he had no regrets in signing up for the Legion. He may not have nearly as much freedom as he could have in a guild, but he at least didn’t have to actively protect his possessions from higher-tiered mages.
“You know, I thought about quitting the Legion and joining a guild instead after Hakon’s raid,” Alix mentioned.
“Did you?” Leon asked.
“Mm hmm,” she responded. “I didn’t particularly want to be in that kind of position again, trapped in a tower with nowhere to run to, surrounded by wild warriors wanting to tear me apart…”
“Do you have any regrets?” Leon bluntly asked.
Alix looked at him, then to Anzu, and then to Trajan. “Nope!” she quickly answered. “I’m right where I want to be!”
Leon couldn’t help but smile at the unexpectedly warm and friendly statement. And while Alix couldn’t see his smile behind his helmet, she did notice that suddenly Leon seemed to not know what to do with his hands and he turned his head away from her. She knew he was smiling and was feeling embarrassed, but she was still quite happy with where her life had gone, and that she had said as much.
“Where’s all this coming from?” Leon quietly asked. “Don’t get me wrong, I consider you a friend and appreciate that you’re happy with our circumstances, but this is still a little out of the blue…”
“Yeah,” Alix admitted, “I know… I just don’t want to be suddenly killed by a fifth-tier mage when we storm these halls and die not having said these things…”
“You’re not going to die,” Leon said with such confidence that Alix couldn’t argue with it.
“I’m just glad to have said it,” she replied with a happy smile.
As they spoke, the three guild masters of Seventh-Fold, Saber, and Eternal Glory came out and met with Trajan. They assured him of their loyalty to the Kingdom and that their mages had taken no part in the rioting. Trajan asked if they were certain about that, and they responded that they would not be defending any mages who were captured, and they wouldn’t raise a fuss about any who were killed, regardless of which guild they belonged to.
Satisfied for the time being, Trajan let them return to their guild halls and turned his attention to the three guilds that were the cause of this mess, and Bluefire in particular that was at the center of it.
“Command staff, to me!” the Prince shouted, and all of his personal knights and high-ranking soldiers began to congregate around him.
“What’s the word, Your Highness?” asked one of the dozen or so Tribunes.
“We’re going to wait for the last battalion to show up,” Trajan explained, “and then we’re going to launch simultaneous attacks on the guilds. If anyone surrenders, take them prisoner. If they resist, then do what you need to do.”
“Who will attack where?” asked Minerva.
“I’ll have you take your people and bring down Iron Dove. Sir Attius can handle Sanctified when he gets here. I’ll deal with Bluefire personally,” Trajan said with a dark look in his eye. “I’ll leave the specifics of getting into those guilds to your discretion. Let’s get to work!”
“Yes, Your Highness!” the Legates and Tribunes around him responded in unison. Instantly, the square was filled with the sound of barking orders and soldiers rushing around following them.
“Ursus, you’re with me,” Trajan growled to Leon, to which the younger mage nodded respectfully.
The two walked over to a secluded corner of the square, away from the bustle around the three target guild halls. They were accompanied only by Anzu and Alix. The latter at first wanted to wait a respectful distance away, but the Prince told her to join them as well. As she was Leon’s squire, she hadn’t interacted much with Trajan, but he still treated her just as he treated Leon, which was considerably well.
“I haven’t had a chance to speak with the two of you since you returned from that vampire hunt. How did it go?” the Prince asked, allowing his face to break out into a light smile.
“It went flawlessly, thanks to Sir Adalgrim. We got the monster,” Leon answered.
“Good. I hope you learned something accompanying him today, he’s one of Minerva’s top knights. I assume then, that there were no problems fording the river?” Trajan continued.
“None to speak of,” Leon said.
“Well done, boy,” Trajan proudly replied. “I saw your magic from the bridge. You’re turning into quite the knight. I see little of the brash, reckless seventeen-year-old I feared you would turn out to be when Aquillius told me of what happened in the Crater Tribe.”
Leon’s face turned a little red and he shifted his gaze in embarrassment.
“… That being said, I think we could still work on your restraint.”
“Your Highness?” Leon asked in confusion, seeking clarification.
“I appreciate that you wanted—that you both wanted to test yourselves in a combat situation, but the essence of being a knight is not just killing the enemies of the Kingdom. Can you honestly tell me that you only did what was absolutely necessary? I think a good number of mages killed today could have been saved if we were all a little less zealous…”
Leon frowned a little. He couldn’t really refute Trajan’s claims that he could’ve spared some of the mages that he’d killed, but he also wouldn’t say that he hadn’t done what seemed necessary at the time.
“I’m not going to overly criticize—as I said, you’ve done remarkably well given your youth and level of experience—but just try to only lift your sword in the direst of circumstances.”
“Isn’t this one of those circumstances, Your Highness?” Leon asked.
Trajan sighed, then said, “I suppose it is. Many of the mages we capture today will be found guilty of treason and rebellion and executed, but many of them won’t be. They’ll be imprisoned for rioting and looting, but they’ll serve their time in prisons or I’ll send them to work in mines in the Royal Demesne. Killing them gets us nothing and deprives this Kingdom of potential.”
“I will… try to stay my blade when I can,” Leon conceded.
“That’s all I ask. How about you, young lady? How are you doing?” Trajan suddenly asked, pulling Alix into the conversation. “I can tell already that your aura has grown much more stable in these past few months since your ascension, I think you might reach third-tier quite soon!”
“I am doing well, Your Highness,” Alix quickly replied with a proud tone. “I have been training as much as I can, and I hope to serve you and Sir Leon well.”
“Such politeness! Even after all this time!” Trajan said, almost bursting out laughing. But, as he continued, he turned much more serious. “Listen, you’ve made great strides in your training, but you retreat behind the Tribunes if we encounter any fifth or sixth-tier mages. Dames Ateia and Romania will be accompanying us in our assault on Bluefire, stick with them.”
Alix wasn’t thrilled at the Prince’s order, but she knew that she couldn’t do much against mages that were so much stronger than her and would likely only get in the knights’ way. She regretfully nodded.
“Good. Now, let’s get ready to breach these damned walls!” Trajan loudly shouted as he led the group back to the rest of the soldiers.
Thank you to my Sixth-tier patrons:
Efflorescence - Sir_readsalot - Michael Garfein - Zachary Spencer - I Dewa Bagus - Eric Parker - Kyle J Smith - Story Seeker - Bruce Fritz - B liz - Jacob Hill - Scott Paris - James Nagy - Eric Austin - Sidney Lucas
Please visit Royal Road and leave a rating or review!
Patreon (Up to 15 chapters ahead)