The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

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Armor of the Unburdened (First Draft)

by | Feb 19, 2021 | Chapters, LGT, Pinned, Praedia, Writing, ZAP

I’m glad I made my deadline, though that just means it’s right back to work.

Like I said before, the first drafts will be posted on the blog, but I’ll be cleaning things up over time and the newer versions will be in the Records section of the site. This particular chapter will be updated here.

I’ll have the next one up as soon as possible. Enjoy!


Armor of the Unburdened

“You’re hired,” Lydia’s words opened up a whole new world of possibilities for Enya. She’d never forget them.

Enya was let into the estate of Duchess Lydia von Tenebrae by one of the servants and followed her. The magnificence on display made the new hire’s head spin. The Libero Chapel had its share of Classical Clesian splendor, but none of that held a candle to the home of a living legend. Everything was its own work of art. The patterns on the marble floors erupted from the walls and converged at regular points along their path. The mana conduits so common to large buildings in the east were expertly and painstakingly crafted to complement the walls and surrounding decor. As striking as things looked inside the estate, there was a warm harmonious glow tying the various elements together. Enya wondered if all of it had been conceived by a single person. At the very least, she knew the architect had to be an experienced faber.

The servant escorted her to an office on the first floor. Enya was expecting to see Lydia inside, perhaps reading or chipping away at another book. It would be a good opportunity to ask for a book signing. Enya even brought her favorite along with her in her bag for just that purpose.

When the servant let her inside, Enya saw two more servants. The one sitting behind the desk was middle-aged with thin grayish-brown hair combed back and out of the way. His outfit was similar to the other male servants but had accents on the cuffs and near his collar that gave Enya the impression he had some kind of high rank or seniority over the others. He was busy reading over a document and didn’t seem to notice them coming in.

The other servant was a young man closer to Enya’s age. His chair rocked precariously back and forth as he balanced himself with his foot on a leg of the desk. The way he wore his uniform was almost terrifying to Enya, coat open, shirt untucked, and thoroughly ruined with a pair of old gym shoes. Enya half expected her arrival was the last step in a series of moves to get rid of this louse. Why else would he be sitting in this luxurious office if not to be formally let go? What else could those documents be but damning reports about him?

“Master Wheeler,” the woman escorting Enya spoke softly, “This is Enya Ward. She’s the new hire you were expecting today.”

“H-hello,” Enya stammered, acutely aware she was no longer a spectator. “I’m Enya Ward. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

The middle-aged man smiled and stood up from the desk. “Good day. I am Irving Wheeler, Master of Mistress Lydia’s Golden Treasury. No need to be nervous.”

“So she’s the new one?” The young man didn’t get up, he merely craned his neck around for a better view. He was far from impressed. “Looks like a broom pusher,” he shrugged.

Enya grit her teeth. He wasn’t exactly wrong, but she and her family were groundskeepers for the Libero Chapel. Not ‘broom pushers.’ Groundskeeper at least had some sense of pride attached. And who was he to talk about her that way? If he didn’t look so proud of himself, Enya was sure she could crush him flat with a few scathing remarks of her own. There was nothing to do about it, though. She was here for her sake, not to get into a squabble with a scruffy boy who wouldn’t be here tomorrow.

As Enya’s escort left, Irving stepped around the desk and approached her with an open hand. “Ms. Ward, from now on, you will be working here on the grounds. Since today is your first day, consider it an orientation.”

“I’m happy to be here, Master Wheeler,” Enya shook his hand, “I promise I’ll do my very best.”

“Hmm. Quite the contrast,” Wheeler shot a weary glance at his other subordinate. “Todd, get up and introduce yourself.”

With a sigh, the irreverent Todd stood up and turned to face them. That was when Enya noticed a small stain on his shirt. As if Todd wasn’t offputting enough, already. It was faint but it may have been a tea stain. Coffee maybe? Both seemed almost too refined for him.

“Todd Brace,” he introduced himself, “We’re in the same boat so you can take it easy.

Enya wasn’t sure about taking it easy. That wasn’t a luxury she could afford back home.

“Trust me, the job’s not complicated. Lydia just needs people she can trust to keep everything organized. She loans out items, we get them prepped. They come back, we put them away. Easy work, easy money.”

For having been so vague, that was a surprising amount of useful information. Enya’s first impression of Todd was still an unmitigated disaster, but she was ready to forgive the broom pusher remark. Todd hadn’t mentioned any custodian work, but Enya had a sneaking suspicion he was the type who weaseled their way out of real work as often as possible. Not her. She could handle this. That had to be one of the reasons Enya was chosen over so many other applicants at the university. That and, again, her predecessor’s exceptionally poor conduct.

“I suppose that is one way of looking at it,” Irving shrugged faintly. He started out of the office and motioned for Todd and Enya to follow. “Let’s head down and show you around the world’s largest private inventory.”

“Lead the way, Master Wheeler,” Enya said. She forgot about Todd and followed after him.


Enya’s expectations of the Golden Treasury were evolving as she saw more and more of Lydia’s home. At first, she envisioned a library but stocked with a quarter as many display cases as books. From there, a tonally subdued complex of rooms with plain–heavily reinforced walls, and rows upon rows of special items. The polished warmth of the main building’s interior slowly crept into the picture.

One thing Enya concluded would have to stand out was the entrance. If all sorts of treasures would be coming through, it had to be large enough to allow the staff to move things in and out. Maybe there would be large double doors reinforced by runic locks, unsealable only with a golden key.

After a couple of minutes of walking and Enya’s impression of the Golden Treasury changing several more times, the group arrived at a long ramp deep inside the main building. The ramp was shallow and flanked by two staircases. A pair of large doors stood near the bottom of the ramp-staircase combination, almost three meters down and fourteen meters from them. It wasn’t far off from what Enya had been imagining for the entrance. She was only surprised that they were going underground.

Then she thought about it a little more.

“Here we are,” Irving said.

“That makes sense,” Enya nodded to herself, “Where better to keep a private inventory than a basement?

“Quite.” Irving led them down the right staircase and toward the large double door at the bottom. “This is the service entrance, so you won’t be using it outside of work.”

Just the thought of having to force those heavy doors open by herself made Enya shrink. She didn’t think she could manage it, much less without disturbing anyone.

She watched as Irving led them right up to the doors to try and learn how to properly open them. She didn’t see any handles or levers anywhere, so there had to be some sort of trick.

“Open up, now,” Irving said with just a hint of impatience.

Enya thought there might be someone on the other side that could let them in, but lights flashed between the doors and out of every crack, as if mana were active and overflowing through them. Then, the doors began to part and slowly glide into the walls to either side. There was a faint grinding sound as the doors opened, but nothing like what Enya expected to hear with such heavy slabs sliding over the floor and into the walls.

There were no markings on the floor, no residue, and no tracks for the doors to rest on. The design of the doors protected the floor from any kind of wear or damage. Just inside the area behind the doors, the marble floor transitioned to something resembling concrete, with more obvious mana conduits running along the walls and along the floor.

“Is that a hallway?” Enya’s nearsightedness was playing tricks on her. She couldn’t see the end of the path in front of them, and the harder she tried to make it out from a distance, the longer the hall seemed to get. She was starting to regret not taking a cab to the estate. Her legs were still sore and she still had a long day ahead of her, orientation or no.

“It’s not as far as it looks,” Irving assured her. “This service tunnel leads to more places than just the Golden Treasury.”

“Oh.” Come to think of it, the Duchess used to be Idolus’ Primarch, and this estate here in the capital had been her home since at least that time. It was only natural there was more to the Tenebrae Estate than Enya knew.

“Hey, thanks!”

Everyone followed the voice to a pair of men, more inventory workers like Todd. No, not quite like Todd. They wore their coats properly, tucked their shirts, and wore matching shoes. They were rolling a hefty black case toward the service entrance and had just reached the top of the ramp. “That’s great timing. We were just bringing this back.”

“Hmm,” Irving placed a hand on his chin and eyed the case carefully, “Which item is that?”

“King Mnemos’ armor,” one of the workers answered after double-checking the case’s ID.

“Ah, King Mnemos’ Unburdening.”

“What’s that?” Enya asked. All she could see was the case and the two handlers approaching them.

“Right. We’ll take it from here,” Irving said, “We have a new hire,” he gestured at Enya, “and I want to show her how we do things.”

“Good idea,” the worker handling the case from in front nodded. The two finished their part by bringing the case down the ramp and leaving it with Irving, Todd, and Enya. They waved to them and went ahead of the small group, eventually rounding a corner and vanishing deep in the service tunnel.

“So, what’s King Mnemos’ Unburdening” Enya asked again.

“The armor has no name,” Irving said, “However, its legend is still quite well known here in the east. King Mnemos wasn’t the only one to wear the armor, so we’ve taken to calling it the Armor of the Unburdened. A fascinating cautionary tale if you can endure its predictability.

“Why don’t I tell you the story while we return the armor?”

A chance to learn more about one of Lydia’s treasures? How could Enya refuse? Also, that long service tunnel made any story sound enticing. “I want to hear it.”

“I don’t,” Todd sighed as he inspected the case, “but whatever. Regale us with your legends, Irving.”

Enya scowled at him. How much longer until Irving delivered Todd the bad news and he was on his way?


“The story of King Mnemos actually begins with the previous King, his father, Evander,” Irving explained as the group started down the service tunnel, “The Kingdom of Wells was losing whole swaths of territory to invaders from the west. It’s nearly always from the west, it seems.”

“You know some of us have heard this story before,” Todd said impatiently, “like several times. Could you try to make it interesting?”

“Interesting?” Irving cocked an eyebrow at him.

“Can’t you focus on pushing the armor and stop being rude?” Enya countered, ready for the drama if it came to that, “Please continue, Master Wheeler.”

Todd leaned toward Enya. “Hey, I’m doing you a favor. You’re so happy to be here but hearing the same stories with no twist or new angle can get stale. By the way, try to tone it down with the reverence. You’re not going to get canned for just calling him Irving. ‘Master’ is just something the housemaids say.”

Enya was pinning him with daggers. It was one thing to be obnoxious, but now he wanted to drag her down to his level? “I wouldn’t dream of it! In Clese, we’re respectful to authorities and our seniors in every field.”

“I really doubt that.”

“It’s true!” Enya huffed. She was torn between wanting to hear the story of King Mnemos’ armor and an explanation for how such an annoying boy could be employed in a lavish–and frankly famous–establishment. “You’re terrible! Master Wheeler, why does he work here? There were a hundred people at the university that looked better for this job than both of us. I don’t understand.”

“It’s alright, Enya,” Irving said, “Whether he knows it or not, Todd made an important point before. Mistress Lydia needs people she can trust in the Golden Treasury. Likewise, King Mnemos needed people he could trust with the secret of his armor.”

“People she can trust,” Enya repeated the words, trying to find the deeper meaning behind them. She had no doubt there were adequate measures in place to prevent outright theft, but there was clearly more to this. There had to be if a louse like Todd was still here.

“Now then, the armor. Let’s see if I can’t pique Todd’s interest this time.” Irving took a moment to clear his throat, and then to the surprise of both of the young workers, he began to sing.

“My king, anointed and dearest Evander, returned to the earth from whence ye came.”

“A song?” Todd’s pace slowed, “I never get songs with these old stories.”

“And I never get any enthusiasm out of you when I tell these stories,” Irving smirked, “Funny how that works.”

Enya laughed. It was a relief to know that Irving could handle Todd so easily.

“Now, from the top.”

My king, anointed and dearest Evander, returned to the earth from whence he came.

Majestic, undaunted and peerless defender, all men fight on in his glorious name.

Prince Mnemos they shout, for I am he, his oaths heralded the gilded crown.

The Vandals raze cities in spite of me, the king’s armies would strike them down.


A curse was upon me, my fear took hold, he dared not make war at fourteen years old.

The Mystic, he soothed me with tales of the bold, of men unburdened and clad all in gold.

He granted me peace and I summoned my knights, they journeyed north to find the land.

To persevere through most perilous fights, the unburdening armor was near at hand.


The Mystic’s tale spoke of a cursed tomb, a tomb for the unburdened warrior.

Its dangers have led many men to their doom, they all sought after the armor.

We must not wait here while my kingdom burns, their countrymen shall surely die.

My heart, for the armor and battle it yearns, the unburdening armor’s light on high.


How long did I tarry within that place? A season passed while he fought the grave.

The armor’s light revealed my face, no longer a boy but one of the brave.

Inscriptions tell tales of a solemn act, forsaking knowledge of every deed.

Donning the armor shall seal the pact, for power, for courage, and every need.


The contract begins, these words did I speak, it was not of his own accord.

This armor I bear for the sake of the weak, the knights’ refrain he could ill afford.

Laughter and mocking returned with my sight, a plot most foul and for decades discrete.

Those wicked servants were full of delight, the words he did speak, the contract is complete.


The King, anointed, yet only a boy, returned to his youth by his legend’s own claim.

His memories all lost in a dastardly ploy, decrowning the king was their ultimate aim.

The armor was gone, I knew not where I erred, for him, his past they would not regale.

The Mystic appeared and my life was spared, in exile, King Mnemos would hear his own tale.

Irving had led the group to a large open area underground. They arrived before Enya even knew it thanks to Irving’s song.

“What about the rest?” Todd said as he began guiding the armor’s case down a ramp, “You just skipped over the war with the Vandals and Mnemos’ people trying to get rid of him.”

“Of course,” Irving chuckled, “This song is partly from King Mnemos’ perspective and partly my own. He lost all knowledge of the war after being tricked into removing the last piece of the armor by his servants. I couldn’t possibly include verses about that off the top of my head.”

“Oh, you just made all that up on the spot. Fabers …”

Enya knew a fair number of full-blooded fabers in Clese, and improv was something most of them were quite good at. They prided themselves on being able to come up with new songs for services in the chapel each week. She didn’t know what to expect working for Irving but she had plenty of enthusiasm for his singing.

“So we’re missing parts?” Not knowing the original story, Enya had been bobbing and swaying along with Irving, mostly oblivious.

“Perhaps I’ll come up with something from the Mystic’s perspective next time,” Irving teased.

“Or maybe an omniscient perspective instead of Mnemos’,” Todd said insistently, “not that it should really matter. You should just tell us what happened without trying to get in character.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re finally taking an interest in all of this, Todd. It’s quite refreshing, I must say.”

“Forget it. Do what you want, Irving.”


More ramps and stairways led down into the deep archives of the Golden Treasury. The walls were plain, plated with metal, and lined with countless compartments. The rows stretched on in both directions just like the service tunnel, with only occasional gaps that formed aisles. There was no telling how far it all went, but Enya suspected the Golden Treasury was much larger than the mansion above it.

Irving continued to lead them through the vast inventory until they reached the place where the Armor of the Unburdened was kept, inside the deep storage area. Irving stopped them just short of a gallery where numerous item cases were positioned away from the walls. Some of the cases were missing, exposing strange insets on the floor. Enya figured their case belonged on one of them. There was little in the way of markings or other identifiers that could help her guess which one.

“Welcome to Deep Storage,” Irving said, making sure Todd and Enya stopped, “The Golden Treasury is made up of several layers, somewhat mimicking the Agian hierarchy of spells. The first layer is the ‘Retrieval’ layer. The second is the ‘Inspectory’ layer, and the third is for deep storage. While they’re somewhat self-explanatory, I’ll have you know that Mistress Lydia can summon any item from the Golden Treasury at any time. The staff is limited to the retrieval layer, however.”

Something began to click for Enya. “Is that why we can’t just send items back with mana?”

“That’s part of it,” Irving smiled, glad she was quick on the uptake, “Most of the staff aren’t mages to begin with and those that are can’t be expected to bear such a tremendous burden.”

“Better to move the heavy stuff with calories than mana, right?” Todd said.

“Yes, and as part of the agreement to loan out items from Lydia’s inventory, we need to decouple them from the security system. Otherwise, bad things can happen. Well, that about sums it up. Now, Enya, you’ve been wondering about Todd here, haven’t you?”

Enya wasn’t sure she wanted to know why he worked here anymore. She was almost afraid to hear a justification she might actually agree with. Either way, it was becoming increasingly obvious that Irving had no intention of replacing Todd with her. Whatever was happening in the office earlier wasn’t what she thought it was.

“You don’t have to tell me,” Enya looked away from them both. She didn’t need to hear whatever it was that made Todd better qualified for this job than her. It was enough to know that his obnoxious behavior was completely overshadowed by it.

“Then he can show you,” Irving said, stepping over to the case containing the armor, “Items in deep storage are often associated with runic systems and languages that can be quite incomprehensible to the uninitiated.”

With a heavy sigh, Todd snapped his fingers to get Enya’s attention and then knelt down in front of the case. “Look at this,” he said as he held an open hand out in front of the face of the case. He brought it up and toward himself slowly, leaving increasingly energized mana in its wake.

Enya could see words appearing on the case, outlined by the glowing mana. She came closer to try and read the text, but even the letters were completely foreign to her. “What’s it say?” she turned to Irving.

“I haven’t the foggiest,” Irving shrugged in amusement, “Or at least that’s what I would say if Todd hadn’t translated it for me. That is the full account of the Armor of the Unburdened from its original bearer to King Mnemos. It’s written in one of the acer dialects.”

“He translated it?” Todd had Enya’s attention again.

“Yes, he did, but bear in mind that the acer didn’t chronicle anything regarding King Mnemos, at least not to my knowledge. Todd translated the text into their language when we loaned the armor to them. He could just as easily change it to Laytier or a more common language.”

“My family’s really into that kind of stuff, so I grew up around it,” Todd half explained.

Enya could tell he wasn’t interested in going into the details, but she didn’t believe for one second that he could excel beyond Irving in anything by just being around the right people. “You didn’t just grow up around it. That would be like me becoming a good groundskeeper just by watching my family. You need the experience to know how to pace yourself and build up endurance.”

“Indeed,” Irving nodded in agreement, “Todd’s parents taught him every system of writing they knew and he helped them with their work. I’ve yet to stump him with a system he’s not at least familiar with. It’s quite remarkable given his heritage. Just this morning he put the final touches on an ancient war correspondence the Roburo scholars were busy scratching their heads over.”

Was that the document Irving was reading earlier? “So that’s why.”

“Enough about me. Let’s get started.” Todd began inspecting the case with both hands, feeling around its corners while Irving and Enya watched. “Before we put items back, we have to stabilize the mana flow and sync it back up with the system here. After that, we put it onto its slot and it’s officially back where it belongs. That’s the whole procedure in a nutshell.”

“Stabilize the mana flow.” Enya was a little embarrassed to hear it explained in those terms. She didn’t even know what he meant by that. Todd really was more qualified to be here than she was. No amount of politeness on her part could make up for the sheer difference in expertise and usefulness.

An alarm sounded. It was just loud enough to get Enya reaching to cover her ears. She only stopped so she could hear Irving.

“Not often this happens. Let’s see what the problem is.”

“Attention. Item 3-A-340 has gone active and is no longer under control. I repeat,” a voice came in through unseen speakers overhead.

“What’s that item?” Enya asked. As soon as she did, the alarm thankfully stopped.

“I haven’t seen it myself,” Irving said, “but I know it’s of Sulan origin. Some kind of old machine. Mistress Lydia found it recently and decided to keep it rather than hand it over to the Sulans.”

“Think we should help them out?” Todd said, “That’s not far from here, and Sulan tech can be pretty nasty.”

“Perhaps, but …” Irving glanced at the armor’s case, concern in his eyes. The timing could have been better. “I don’t like leaving the armor out here like this.”

Todd flashed Irving a mischievous grin. “Let’s take it with us. One of us can put it on and be the bait.” Before Irving could finish glaring at him, he quickly added, “Kidding! Kidding! I doubt the armor’s contract still works anyway. Let’s just have Enya keep an eye on it while we’re gone.”

“You want me to wait here?” Enya glanced back and forth between the two men. She supposed she could do that. If dangerous machines or magic were involved, she wouldn’t be able to help them anyway. At least she could keep an eye on the armor. This was probably the best opportunity she was going to get to prove to Irving that, while she wasn’t as knowledgeable as Todd, she was at least dependable. “Okay. I’ll keep the armor safe.”

Pressed for time, Irving agreed. “We’ll be back as soon as possible.”

Enya watched Irving and Todd until they had jogged all the way out of view. The Golden Treasury was a colossal place. There was no telling just how big it was, or where Item 3-A-340 was. It was probably close enough for Irving and Todd to intervene if they hurried, but Enya couldn’t be sure beyond that.


Looking more closely at the armor’s case, Enya tried to make out the words again. It was completely foreign, and yet somehow Todd understood it. Todd, the same boy who couldn’t keep his appearance together or show due deference to his superiors could still read and write circles around her. Enya shook off the disappointment as hard as she could. “You have your job, now focus.”

Minutes passed and neither Irving nor Todd returned. There were no new announcements, and no one else had come through the area. Enya was all alone.

“What’s going on?” She was used to spending time by herself at Libero Chapel, but this was markedly different. For one, her job was never to simply stand around. She should have at least been tidying up anything that looked out of place. The only thing out of place right now was the Armor of the Unburdened and its large, glowing inscription-covered case. Todd hadn’t done his part yet, so Enya wasn’t inclined to try moving the case back.

Ten minutes later, Enya found herself inspecting the armor. Just like in Irving’s song, every forged part of it was golden. The years had taken their toll. The luster was long gone and the armor looked almost fragile somehow. Curious, Enya carefully reached out with her finger and lightly tapped one of the armor’s bracers. Nothing happened, but she was less worried about damaging the armor. She carefully picked up a bracer, surprised by its weight at first. The armored glove came with it, and Enya held them up to get a better look at them.

“King Mnemos actually wore this.” For decades, apparently. The thought nearly made Enya recoil, but she kept holding the bracer.

She was still alone, and Enya was starting to wonder if she would be here like this all day. Whatever that Sulan machine was, it was keeping everyone else occupied. Maybe something bad was happening and being stuck here would keep her from ever knowing about it or being able to help. Her grip on the bracer tightened as the thought nagged at her.

“What should I do?”

The thought occurred to her once: put on the bracer, but she could tell at a glance the armor was forged for someone more than twice her size. It would never fit her. She was just about to put the bracer back onto the case when the ground shook. A noise almost like an explosion and the tremor nearly brought her to her knees.

“What was that?!”

The cold metal gauntlet on her cheek brought her attention back to the armor. She didn’t realize she’d been holding the bracer so close. “That’s … that’s not how armor works,” she said, trying to laugh it off.

That noise and the accompanying tremor were serious. Irving made it clear this wasn’t a normal occurrence in the Golden Treasury. Enya couldn’t do much, but maybe she should try to find some way to help.

Enya slowly rose up to set the bracer back. “What then? Put everything back and then go right back to waiting? What if they’re in danger? What if Todd had the right idea after all?” He had suggested taking the armor with them. Joke or not, things were almost certainly getting dangerous for them. Enya wanted to help and not just stand there, but it was all starting to seem pointless. Not only did Enya herself not have the right body to wear the armor, but neither did Irving or Todd. The armor was clearly meant to be worn by a tall and stalwart man.

Enya put down the bracer and let herself fall into a sitting position just in front of the inscriptions on the case. “None of us can wear it, so even if I take it to them, it won’t make a difference.”

Defeat was bitter, and Enya tried to recall Irving’s song to pass the time. She didn’t remember all the verses, but some definitely stuck out in her mind.

“A curse was upon me, my fear took hold, he dared not make war at fourteen years old. The Mystic, he soothed me … with tales of the bold …”


Something didn’t feel right all of a sudden. Enya looked up past the inscriptions toward the armor. She couldn’t see it, but she remembered clearly just how big it was. How could a fourteen year old boy put on something like that? And yet the song was clear about what happened. A fourteen year old somehow managed. “Donning the armor shall seal the pact, for power, for courage, and every need.” Maybe the armor would take care of the fitting issue. If it could handle every need, then surely it could handle that.

Enya stood back up and looked over the set of armor one more time. “Let me try something.” She picked up the bracer again and carefully slid her hand into it. It was embarrassingly easy to get it on. Her fingers slid effortlessly into the affixed guantlet. Enya could tell right away that she would be dangerously clumsy wearing the whole armor, at best. “That’s what I was worried about,” she sighed.

Just then, the armor began to glow, bracer and all. Enya was about to take off the bracer, but it suddenly shrunk down around her arm until it fit perfectly. Now she understood the reason. Anyone who was willing to wear the armor could wear it. It was just that simple. She wasn’t irrelevant just yet. She could help them. Enya might get in trouble, but she would regret it if she sat here doing nothing with such a powerful artifact while someone nearby was hurt or killed.

She decided to put on the other bracer, and as soon as Enya made that decision, she heard herself say, “The contract begins.”

Her hand leaped to cover her lips. “What did I just say?”

Another tremor came, but there was no loud blast accompanying it. Enya looked up and saw dust falling from overhead. Structural stress was never a good sign. The Sulan machine was still wreaking havoc somewhere nearby.

Enya put on the bracer and just like before, it shrunk to fit her. She pressed on but she was worried about more than just everyone’s safety. The Armor of the Unburdened was a set of magical armor. King Mnemos wore it for decades and lost his memories after he was tricked into removing it. So what would happen to her if she tried to use it? Maybe, she reasoned, she could wear it for just a few minutes. The sooner she took it off, the fewer of her memories would be lost. It wasn’t the most encouraging idea, but it seemed better to put the armor on herself and be Todd’s ‘bait’ than bring it to him or Irving and expect them to put it on in the middle of a crisis.

“Am I doing the right thing? What if there’s an unbreakable rule about this?” She wasn’t stopping in spite of herself, fastening the armored belt in place as soon as she was finished with the breastplate. All that was left was the helmet. Enya held it in both hands and glanced briefly at the armor’s case. It was empty, but the glowing inscriptions were still there. She’d gone too far to turn back now. The worst that could happen to her was breaking some taboo only to arrive too late to make a difference. “Please forgive me, but I can’t just stand by. Whatever this machine is, I’m going help stop it.”

Enya put on the helmet and a bright light blinded her, and all she knew for certain was that the armor’s power was fully active.


“The contract is complete,” Enya heard herself say, her senses quickly coming back to her. She was dumbfounded to see the armored belt just now leaving her hand. Irving had graciously accepted it from her as if everything was fine. Todd stood a safe distance away with an insufferable, knowing smirk. Even Lydia, of all people, was here now. Enya was terrified with her here. Irving might have been more understanding about the situation, but breaking the rules in plain view of the very person who hired her, the owner of the Tenebrae Estate and everything inside it, and her personal hero, that was just too much for Enya to take.

Irving wasn’t the least bit bothered by the situation, nor was he surprised by Enya’s face. He handed each piece of the armor to Lydia, who promptly placed them back into the open case. No one said a word to Enya at first, despite everything.

“What happened? Can someone please tell me?” She was scared and couldn’t hide that fact from anyone. She followed Irving expecting Todd to be sent away, but it was far more likely to be her after a stunt like this.

“Are you serious?” Todd said.

“Y-yes, I’m serious,” Enya fired back, “I was just putting on the armor and now everyone’s back. It’s like I was daydreaming.”

Irving chuckled and even Lydia stifled a laugh as Enya’s eyes darted between the two, desperately looking for answers.

“Wow, did you really forget?” Todd shook his head, “I guess that armor still works then.”

“Why did you ever doubt that?” Irving cocked an eyebrow at him, “Anyway, are you satisfied with your little experiment, Enya?”

Really, how could she be? Enya didn’t remember anything that happened after putting the armor on. Not a single detail. She didn’t even know how long ago she’d taken the armor. Enya was afraid to ask how long she had been wearing it. Still, it had to be done.

First, she knew a deep and sincere apology was in order, to Irving, and especially to Lydia. “I’m so sorry,” Enya forced her head down and clasped her hands together, “I shouldn’t have put on the armor, not even in a panic. That was by far the most disrespectful thing I’ve ever done.”

“Hah,” Irving’s shoulders hopped, “what a paragon, this child.”

“I promise I will never ever do something so brazen and dishonest again, Mistress Lydia, Master Wheeler.”

“Ugh, tear your coat while you’re at it,” Todd winced at the scene.

“It’s alright, Enya,” Lydia said. She came right up to the girl and placed her hands on her shoulders. “As it turns out, you were very helpful in the end.”

“I was? What happened with the Sulan machine? How long was I wearing the armor?”

“Two days,” Todd said.

“I’d say just about thirty-eight hours,” Lydia clarified.

“What?! Why did I wear it for so long?!”

“Unfortunately, we can’t answer that,” Irving said, “Not in any meaningful detail, at least. Perhaps one day.” He was apologizing in his own way, but there was no hiding his amusement.

Lydia brought Enya’s attention to the armor with her hand and said, “While you did help us with a serious problem here in the treasury, you went behind Master Irving’s back. No one was hurt in the end, but we decided the most appropriate punishment would be to leave you in the dark regarding the incident. You agreed, and so it is.”

“You seriously don’t remember?” Todd cocked his head at Enya, “You said it was the right thing to do just a few minutes ago.”

“That does sound like me,” Enya admitted. She might have accepted any punishment, she felt so guilty for what she’d done. It was little comfort to know she did manage to help. Enya still felt terrible knowing that this was the first impression she’d made on everyone.

Fortunately for her, Lydia came prepared. “By the way, it’s only a small thanks, but here,” the duchess held out her hand and in a burst of latent mana, a book materialized. It was Enya’s book The Traveler by Lydia von Tenebrae.

Enya accepted the book, a whole host of new questions leaping to mind. She only brought the book with her in the hope of getting it signed, but she had no memory of asking Lydia about it or handing over the book. The way it appeared out of thin air meant Lydia had added the book to the retrieval layer of the Golden Treasury. When and why was beyond Enya, another piece of information missing from her time in the armor. Maybe, then, Enya mused, just maybe, there was a reason for it. She opened the book cover looking for anything that was different.

She was positively delighted to find Lydia’s signature. “Thank you so much, Mistress Lydia! I promise I’ll never use anything in the treasury again!”

“Easy girl,” Todd held up his hands, “That’s not the problem.”

“Yes,” Lydia nodded, “I have no issue with you using the armor if you need to–we certainly needed you to this time. I only ask that you follow Master Irving’s instructions and respect his wishes. I placed him in charge for several reasons, but most of all because I trust his judgment.”

“I understand,” Enya said, feeling much better about things. She didn’t just have the chance to do better going forward, but the motivation and gratitude to make it happen. “From now on, Master Wheeler, I won’t do anything like that without asking you, first.”

“Wonderful,” Irving beamed, “You’ll do quite well here with that attitude.”

“Now,” Lydia gestured toward the armor and its case, again, “would you do the honors?”

“Yes!” Enya handed her book to Irving and then approached the case. If Todd had finished with his part, all she needed to do was push the case onto its slot. That would complete the procedure and officially return the Armor of the Unburdened to the Golden Treasury. She knew the case was heavy, even without the armor, so Enya wouldn’t underestimate it. She got the wheels turning with some effort and carefully rolled the whole thing into place. The floor seemed to latch onto the case from underneath and lock it into position. Enya took a step back as mana conduits appeared on the case. Light flowed up through them for a moment, and then the case went dark again.

“Thank you, Enya.”.

“Well done,” Irving said, offering back the book and Enya’s bag with a wink, “on both of your assignments.”

Not one to be left out, Todd hastily added, “You did good, kid. Trust me, I was there,” and gave Enya a thumbs up.

“I’m here to serve,” Enya smiled, bowing after accepting her things from Irving. “What’s the next item?”


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