The Praedian Records

J.G. Phoenix

Lydia’s Golden Treasury

The Emancipating Blade


The Golden Treasury Item exhibit at the Tenebrae Estate was scheduled to end after the seventh day. Thanks to the Atoning Mirror, and help from Irving and Pharez, Enya had endured her inner darkness and taken invaluable insight from an older, more mature Enya that was yet to be. The revelation gave her the grace and the genuine smile she needed to handle even the most absurd requests from the exhibit’s many visitors. While the first two days had been harrowing for her, the following four were practically uneventful for Enya. It wasn’t until the seventh day, once the end of her shift came, that anything unusual happened.

“Almost all the visitors are gone.” Enya had made the rounds through the gallery several times and counted only four people left who weren’t a part of the staff. That meant it was nearly time to close the doors and start returning all of the items to the Golden Treasury. Enya would have liked to help, but it was getting late, the sun was setting, and her shift was over besides.

“Ms. Ward,” Felka approached her, “Before you travel home for the day, Master Wheeler would like to speak with you in his office.”

Enya wasn’t sure what to expect. Hopefully she hadn’t done anything wrong. Her intuition told her it could be important, but probably nothing bad, at least nothing bad that she had done. “Okay. I’ll head over in a few minutes.”

“Very good.”

The women parted ways and Enya continued through the gallery, looking over each display she passed and thinking back on the frantic week she had. While Etoile’s mirror had been the highlight of the exhibit for her personally, quite a few strange characters had come through the exhibit. Enya recalled a businessman from Cordaea who, despite some very clear rules about how the guests were to conduct themselves, made repeated attempts to purchase some of the items. Even had even asked Enya to quote him a price. Now she knew that this sort of thing was normal for Lydia and her people. Some people didn’t care about the rules. They could always solve a problem with money or influence. At least things had never gotten violent or especially loud.

Enya began to worry there was still a chance for an argument or even a fight to break out when she saw a gruff looking man and a blonde woman standing aggressively in front of Todd–Todd of all people. What was worse, Enya’s least graceful colleague was flailing his arms around and she could hear him talking from across the gallery. Her pace quickened as she tried to get within earshot and stop whatever this was. She didn’t care who was the problem, Todd, or the visitors, she just couldn’t let it escalate.

“Yes, the Fearful Howl,” the gruff man said impatiently, “the most important Draksy blade in the entire world, you know what I’m talking about.”

“Uh, no I don’t,” Todd fired back, exaggerating the man’s accent, “You are coming to see blade, da? Here is blade,” he gestured at the ancient sword on display behind him.

“Why does Tenebrae hire children to take care of priceless artifacts? You don’t even know about the Fearful Howl, one of the world’s greatest treasures! Either you are lying, or you are the dumbest one here. Which is it?”

“Let’s find someone else to help, Nestor,” the woman said, half turning away from the exchange. She glanced back at Todd and fixed him with a cruel smirk. “This boy doesn’t know anything.”

Todd was visibly irked by her remark, almost dropping his crude impression of the gruff man. “Nyet nyet, I am knowing lots of things. You are asking wrong questions.”

“Todd, stop!” Enya ran up and grabbed him, anchoring him on the spot, “Not one more word!”

“Oh? And who might you be, girl?” the woman asked.

“Enya Ward,” she introduced herself, quickly turning to the two visitors and bowing as deeply as she could. What a mess, she thought. Was it that hard to stay out of arguments with Lydia’s guests? What’s worse, Todd was making fun of their Draksy accents. She didn’t know why he had taken things this far but she was going to drag it out of him the second she was done making amends. “I am so sorry for his behavior. Whatever it is you’re looking for, I’d be happy to help you find it.”

“Enya-” “Quiet.” Enya cut Todd off with a sharp whisper.

The gruff man, Nestor, looked relieved, while the blonde woman’s smile never left. “Wonderful,” she said, “That’s a good girl.”

Enya still had fresh memories of her first encounter with the Atoning Mirror, and her dark reflection wasted no time in pointing out how eager she was to please others. She didn’t think much of it most days, but being called a ‘good girl,’ almost like some kind of dog, reminded her of that awful exchange. Her reflection may have had everything about Enya’s life twisted, but she wasn’t lying, something Enya herself would have to keep in mind going forward.

“Now,” Nestor began again, “the Fearful Howl. You know of it, yes? It has other names if you don’t know that one.”

“Fearful Howl,” Enya crossed her arms in thought. She knew for certain that whatever that item was, it wasn’t part of the exhibit; nothing–and Enya meant nothing–on display here had that kind of moniker associated with it. That didn’t mean she couldn’t figure out which item it was and explain the situation to them. Maybe if demand was high enough, this Fearful Howl thing could be part of the next showing. According to Irving, these exhibits were a quarterly affair, and the same items were never put on twice in a single year. There was no reason not to be optimistic.

“The Dread Blade? Toilless Blade, Dragon’s Tail,” Nestor tried one name after another, “Unlimiter, Strakh Voy, Graf’s Bane.”

“Enya-” She cut Todd off with her elbow this time and kept trying to think of an item that matched one of those names. Most of them sounded unrelated, as if the man was reaching for names completely at random.

“Hmm,” Nestor quickly ran out of ideas and looked to his blonde companion.

She shrugged at first. “Limit Breaker? Orlov’s Fang, perhaps? Emancipator?”

Emancipator. Enya had only come across the term recently, but she knew an item that fit that name. “The Emancipating Blade,” she said, bringing her palm and fist together.

“That must be it. Tell us, where is it?” Nestor asked, “Sabina and I came a very long way to see it.”

Oh. Enya realized they had a problem on their hands. She knew what the Emancipating Blade was, or rather, she knew an item by more or less the same name. It was a Section S item, just like the Condemning Mirror. Items stored in Section S were essentially personal defense tools Lydia kept to herself and her closest retainers. Enya was rethinking being optimistic in this situation. She wasn’t looking forward to telling the two Draksy visitors the item they came to see was strictly off limits.

Glancing at Todd again, Enya wondered if he hadn’t been trying to warn her this whole time. Regardless, nothing he was trying to do warranted being so rude. Running the Nestor and Sabina in circles was one thing, but there was no excuse to mock them. Everyone knew the Emancipating Blade was somewhere on the property, now, but their guests wouldn’t be allowed to look at it, no matter how far they came or how much they pushed. They came all this way for nothing.

“It’s,” Enya paused, suddenly taken aback by Todd’s blatant attempt to stop her from saying anything. He had to know that everyone could see him shaking his head and waving his arms. “Just … stop.”

Sabina chuckled when Todd finally stopped floundering. “I don’t think he likes us.”

“Not my favorite face here, either,” Nestor said, staring daggers at Todd.

“I’m truly sorry about all of this,” Enya said, opting for the most diplomatic stance she could muster, “The item you’re looking for isn’t open to the public for viewing.”

“Really,” Sabina’s smile faded quickly.

“Are you serious?!” Nestor stomped once, “We come all this way to see the most important artifact of our people, and all you have to say is you’re sorry?!”

“She didn’t have to say that, either,” Todd said, leaning aggressively toward Nestor. Whatever the game was, the jig was up, so he dropped his Draksy act and planted himself close enough to shield Enya. “It would have been better if you just got fed up and left in a big huff, but I guess we’re doing this now. No one sees that item. Period. End of story. You can leave now.”

Enya was already startled when Nestor got aggressive, but seeing Todd close in to match him and then tell the two Draksy visitors to leave nearly gave her a heart attack. She couldn’t quite bring herself to stop him, this time. There was more going on than she knew. Something about the Emancipating Blade itself that was driving this, with a lot being left unsaid on both sides. Enya didn’t have to think about it for too long before a vague idea came together for her. The Emancipating Blade was a Draksy relic. One would expect one of the most important historic artifacts of the Draksy people to be in one of their museums, not in the private collection of a Calman duchess. Nestor and Sabina made Enya uncomfortable, certainly, but their attitudes weren’t completely unjustified.

“You two children are working for a thief,” Nestor hissed, “That weapon belongs to my people. We have been denied long enough.”

Enya cringed. Nestor’s attitude had gone from bad to worse in the space of a few breaths. She thought he was only here to see it, but now he was making grand claims to it.

“Calm, Nestor,” Sabina soothed, “These two couldn’t do anything for us even if they wanted to.”

That was true, Enya almost nodded.

“The exhibit has come to an end,” Felka interjected, having approached the argument mostly unnoticed, “It’s time for any remaining guests to return to the main hall. The gallery is now closed.”

Enya checked the time and sure enough, it was the top of the hour.

“Tch, fine,” Nestor span around and made for the door at a brisk pace.

“Maybe we’ll come visit again, sometime,” Sabina smiled and turned to leave.

“Yeah, don’t bother,” Todd called out as the Draksy left, earning himself a swat from Enya.

“Could you seriously not have handled that any better?!” She at least managed to wait until the other servants had closed the doors to the gallery, but Enya was upset. Even with Felka standing right next to them, she couldn’t help but lay into him. “Why did you do that?!”

“Draksy asking about that thing are always bad news. Don’t bother making nice with them. They’d steal if it if they knew how.”

“A lot of people would steal a lot of things if they could get away with it,” Enya easily countered, “That’s no excuse to treat them like criminals from the start! You’re going to give us a bad reputation!”

“No I’m not.”

“That’s enough, you two. I’ll take over from here,” Felka calmly cut in, “Ms. Ward, your shift is over, and Mr. Brace, it’s about time for you to head up to the library.”

Todd sighed heavily. “Right, right.”

The library? Enya supposed there was some text Irving wanted translated, or something to that effect. Todd had more responsibilities here than she did, after all. Enya didn’t know how much longer his shift was than hers, since she was always on her way home by now, but she assumed his library visits were related to his vast knowledge of old languages and runes.

“I’ll go see Master Wheeler now,” Enya said, bowing goodbye to Felka. Before she left, she pointed a finger at Todd. “Behave yourself.”

“What are you my boss, now?” Todd gave a crooked smile.

“I refuse to let you drag our names through the mud,” Enya left with those words.

“You wanted to see me, Master Wheeler?” The words were barely out when Enya realized Irving wasn’t alone in his office. Lydia was with him, seated in front of his desk and half turned to face her. Enya hadn’t seen much of her benefactor and favorite author lately, though she knew that was perfectly normal around the estate. If she was here, then Irving probably wasn’t the only one that wanted to speak to her. “And good evening, Mistress Lydia.”

“Good evening.” Lydia’s greeting, that beaming smile of hers was almost too much for Enya to bear. The duchess always treated her like a good friend and not just an employee. It was more than Enya would have dreamed of when she first set out for Idolus.

“Before you head home today,” Irving started things off, “there’s something we want to discuss. It’s about your current living situation.”

“My current living situation?” Enya didn’t know what to think, at first. Was there a problem with the apartment she was renting? Of course there was, she thought; it took roughly an hour for her to get to the Tenebrae Estate each morning, and another hour to get back when she went home for the evening. As much as she loved working here, the journey was a bit of a hassle. Even so, she couldn’t afford to live any closer to the estate. It would take a hefty savings to rent a place anywhere near the outskirts of Roburo City.

Enya thought there might be something else Lydia and Irving took issue with, but she didn’t know what it could be. They both knew what her financial situation was like, as well as the price of living in Roburo.

“I planned to ask you sooner,” Lydia admitted, her smile morphing into something more apologetic, “but it’s been difficult to find the time. To be brief, I want you to consider moving into the dorms at Roburo University.”

The room was quiet for a moment. Enya was caught off guard by Lydia’s request. Roburo University was much closer to the Tenebrae Estate, less than a ten minute drive, so it could solve Enya’s commute problems. It was the same place she visited when applying for her current position, her and a hundred other people. What stumped her was the idea that she could just ‘move in’ with no one raising an eyebrow. “Aren’t those dorms specifically for university students?”

“Enya,” Irving stifled a laugh, “remember who it was that funded Roburo in the first place. Besides, no one said you couldn’t become a student there.”

Enya flinched. Her education had been extremely narrow in Clese, focused almost entirely on life skills. As a result, her writing skills were refined, she had a commanding grasp of her mother tongue, and she was a decent groundskeeper. On the other hand, Enya’s knowledge of world history was only just beginning to develop, her grasp of physics and mana were practically nonexistent, and she felt she would never be comfortable with anything in mathematics that went beyond the basics. Enya had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that even Todd was more qualified to become a student at Roburo University than her. Soon, that nagging feeling clawed its way to the forefront.

“Is Todd a student there, too?”

“He turned down the offer, actually,” Irving said, “He’s living here at the estate.”

Todd lived right here? In the same building they were in right now? His trip to and from work consisted of a three minute walk from whatever room he was in to the main hall, Enya realized. She had even more questions now.

Sensing her confusion, Lydia held up a hand to reassure her. “Don’t get the wrong idea, Enya. I wanted Todd to become a student as well. His parents would have been overjoyed, but he turned down the offer. He’s staying here in the servant quarters on several conditions.”


“His living expenses are part of our in-house budget, and naturally, he doesn’t have to go far to get here,” Irving explained, “so he remains on call for an additional four hours each day. He’s still a student, of course; as part of our arrangement, Todd agreed to further his linguistic and runic knowledge on top of his regular duties, though we try to overlap the two as much as possible. Everyone deserves a little free time.”

“So he works up to sixteen hours a day and has to study a lot,” Enya tried to summarize. That seemed fair to her. She was on call twenty-four hours a day back home and was still expected to be happy about it. Enya also felt Todd could use the extra discipline in his life, especially after the fiasco she witnessed earlier. “So if I stayed at the estate, I would have to follow the same rules?”

“I would rather you move into the dorms,” Lydia softly urged. Leaving nothing to interpretation, she said, “I don’t just want you to work for me. I want you to learn from me and my colleagues. We aren’t going to be seeing much of each other here, Enya. We’re both far too busy. However, if you become a student at the university, that would open some doors, as well as further your own goals.”

“Oh, right!” Lydia was a Fellow at Roburo University, and that was on top of being one of its original founders. While Enya still didn’t know how she could possibly be qualified, she doubted Lydia would have brought it up if it was impossible. She had all but given up on the hope of attending one of Lydia’s lectures as a student. It always seemed like buying her books and relying solely on those was all she could do. “So you’re saying that if I get into Roburo as a student, we can actually talk every now and then and I can even take your classes.”

“Precisely,” Lydia nodded.

“Her work schedule in the Golden Treasury will have to change,” Irving noted, partly to himself, “but anything worth doing takes some doing. Well, Enya, if you like the idea, we can start making preparations right away.”

“I love the idea,” Enya said, barely able to keep her voice down.

“You will have to show the Board that you’re committed,” Lydia warned, “but that’s the only major obstacle at this point. If you’re willing to fully commit yourself at Roburo, then I’m willing to sponsor you.”

Enya nodded deeply, ready to do whatever it took to get the Board’s approval. It seemed like this was the final piece of a puzzle, just what she needed to complete her new life in Roburo. “I won’t let you down.”

“Wonderful. We’ll need the whole day for this, so you have leave tomorrow. You’ll meet me at the university first thing in the morning, and I’ll set up a meeting with the Board. If all goes well, we can have you enrolled by the end of the day. There’s plenty more to do, but we can discuss that tomorrow.”

“Right,” Enya agreed.

“That was all we needed to discuss,” Irving said, “It’s getting late so we won’t keep you.”

She was apparently free to go now, but as excited as Enya was, she still felt like she and Todd had completely mishandled the Draksy pair from earlier. As far as she knew, neither Lydia nor Irving knew anything about it. They should probably hear it straight from her. Maybe Lydia could also explain why the Section S items were never even temporarily shown off to the public.

“What’s wrong, Enya?” Lydia noticed the sudden change in the girl’s mood.

Even Enya didn’t realize how tense she was until that moment. “There was something I forgot to mention. Two visitors were asking about a Section S item, the Emancipating Blade-” Enya was so startled when Lydia and Irving shot up from their seats that she nearly fell back a step. That was far from the reaction she was expecting.

“Where are they now?” Lydia asked. She was serious, like a garrison commander trying to defend their post.

“They left before I came here,” Enya winced, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know how serious this was. Todd was mocking them and trying to chase them off and I was so shocked that was all I could focus on.” As much as she hated to bring the focus back on herself, she had to ask. “Was I wrong? Did I mess up again?”

Lydia’s expression suddenly softened. “… it’s always the new people who have to deal with things like this, isn’t it?”

“Indeed,” Irving nodded. “You did fine, Enya, especially under the circumstances. Since they’re already gone, there’s no point in leaping to action. The Emancipating Blade is as safe as it ever was. What more can you tell us?”


Enya relayed everything she could remember about the incident and the two Draksy guests to Lydia and Irving. She tried not to throw Todd under the bus, but his over the top antics played far too big a role in the way Enya handled the situation to simply brush over. In any event, Lydia and Irving were both far less concerned with anything their two subordinates had done. Enya found that they were the most attentive, and the most tense whenever she quoted one of the Draksy. “Since it’s a Draksy weapon, they felt they had a right to see it.”

“That sounds about right,” Irving grimaced, “Well, at least they let the matter be for now.”

“For now,” Lydia said in a low, grave tone.

“Intuition acting up again?” Irving tilted his head at her.

“All day, today,” Lydia nodded, “I even called Ishmael back from the University. You did well, Enya. Todd’s heart was in the right place, as well.”

It was time, Enya decided. She wouldn’t have a better opportunity to broach the topic. “Can I ask why? You can summon Section S items right into your hand, right? Couldn’t you just show it to them once?”

Irving answered first, moving out to the front of his desk. “It depends on the circumstances. There are magical traps of all sorts out there, and thieves and assassins are quite common.”

Thieves and assassins. What a depressing thought. Lydia did so much good for those around her, yet there were people out there that would rob her, even kill her given the chance. Enya didn’t need Irving to remind her. The Roburo incident of 977 was a horror show, a major international incident, and the only proof she would ever need. It was another reason Enya looked up to Lydia. Idolus was attacked, nearly destroyed, and the duchess was left in a coma for several years. Despite that, she still dedicated herself to changing the world for the better. She hadn’t wavered, even after having her heritage used as an excuse to invade Idolus.

It was still a little disheartening to see such a seemingly small request rejected. Enya didn’t know if the Draksy were genuine travelers, or Lydia’s enemies, but she wanted them and anyone else she came across to be the former.

Lydia held out her right palm and gently spread her fingers. “Very few people asking about the Emancipating Blade simply want to see it with their own eyes.”

Suddenly, a surge of mana erupted out of the air just above Lydia’s palm. For a brief second, swirls of cyan and teal leaped and danced in a frenzy as small arcs raced up through their center. If Enya had even blinked, she would have missed the moment when the Emancipating Blade went from being a mere thought in her mind, to a real, tangible blade in the physical world. The mana quieted and disappeared, leaving a long sword floating over Lydia’s open hand. Slowly, she took the blade by its hilt, and held the Draksy weapon out in front of her for Irving and Enya.

“This is it, the Emancipating Blade.”

It was a most unusual sword: Every part of it curved in one direction or another, giving the weapon an almost organic appearance. The tip of the blade had an almost rounded taper that contrasted with its inward curving dual edges. As Enya’s eyes followed the edges of the blade down toward the hilt, the ancient weapon widened and widened and the edges vanished beneath several overlapping chitinous plates. They resembled elongated and extremely narrow scales, stretching from the top of the hilt to a quarter of the way up the blade. From the side, they reminded Enya of flower pedals, flower pedals that might spread out and down to reveal the rest of the blade. Unlike many of the more recent treasures she had seen, Enya noted a distinct lack of gold or embroidery on the Emancipating Blade. Despite its design, it had been intended purely as a weapon from its very conception.

“What do they usually want?” Enya eventually asked, “To take it?”

“There are three powers in this world,” Lydia explained, “three powers in particular that we prudens are bound to. We call them the Fundamental Powers: Creation, Destruction, Transformation. The artifs are tied to Creation and its nexus of power. The vas are tied to Destruction and its nexus. The muahns are tied to Transformation and its nexus. Most people can no longer use magic. They lack the time and resources, and even the freedom to become true mages.”

Enya didn’t know what any of this had to do with the Emancipating Blade itself, but she was curious about the Fundamental Powers. She only knew what she’d been told, which unfortunately wasn’t much. There were very few people who could claim to only have artif or ‘faber’ blood, and the same held true for vas and muahns. If they looked back far enough, just about anyone could find at least one of the others in their bloodline. Enya herself knew of at least one vas in her family tree, and quite a few artifs, even though she and her family considered themselves muahns. She was one of those people Lydia was talking about, unfortunately, one who couldn’t use magic. She hadn’t even been allowed to study it as a child. When even rural settlements had no direct access to mana, there wasn’t much point.

“We’ve fully industrialized to shelter the common folk from the crimson monstrosities roaming the world, and taken away their inheritance in the process,” Lydia continued, “This sword is from a time long before that, long before the prudens began to lose sight of who we are.”

Within the last few centuries, the use of magic for industrial and military applications had gone up exponentially. As a resource, a means of powering machinery in particular, mana was extremely efficient. Governments couldn’t afford to limit their consumption of it. The more they reined themselves in, the more easily their rivals could surpass them. As a result, the mana that once filled the atmosphere of Praedia was depleted anywhere near pruden settlements. Large mechanical siphons and wide spanning infrastructure connected mines, refineries, and storage facilities to each other, forming an enormous resource network throughout all the industrial nations.

For the people living there, gathering mana on their own was not only extremely difficult, but often illegal. They were forced to purchase what they needed from the local government. Mages were a rarity, and within the last few generations, the public’s understanding of magic and the mana empowering it had begun to diminish. Rather than shaping mana and controlling it with their minds, scientists and engineers used special devices designed by the few remaining mages in the world. Little by little, the prudens were losing their grasp on the Fundamental Powers.

“This sword first appeared in the hands of Emperor Arkadiy, the father of not only the Draksy, but all four of the Scattered Tribes.”

Emperor Arkadiy was one of the few historical figures from antiquity that Enya hadn’t learned about from Irving. She wasn’t familiar with the Emancipating Blade before today, but she knew well the great conqueror who invaded the Zavodian continent from a far away land, brought down the Thunderous Empire within a year, gave the continent its name, resettled millions of people, and then vanished from history, leaving no trace of himself or an heir to carry on his name. The Four Scattered Tribes were the remnants of Arkadiy’s army. They gathered in Central Zavodia before the Emperor’s disappearance, and then scattered in all directions. The people that migrated north became the Draksy.

“No one understood this weapon’s true power until after Arkadiy was gone. The tribes kept all of his possessions, all of his weapons, and the Draksy came to possess this, the Emancipator. Each of their leaders used it, destroying their enemies, carving out new territory for themselves. It was as much a part of their history as the Emperor was.

“This sword alters its wielder’s connection to the Fundamental Powers, freeing them from the limitations in their blood. That’s why the Draksy want it back. That’s why anyone with an interest in using it for war or reproducing it would like to get their hands on it.”

Enya wasn’t quite sure she understood Lydia yet, but she wasn’t the least bit surprised that someone would want to use a weapon like this for war, and even make copies of it. “It frees them from the limits in their blood?”

“I am a pureblood vas, for example.” Lydia turned to face Enya while keeping the blade held up in front of her. “Any finagling I could do with my Agian abilities aside, I have no potential in Creation or Transformation magics. For me, the Emancipator alters my connection to the Destruction Nexus, acting as a conduit of power. Because I’ve studied Destruction magic since childhood, combining that knowledge and conduit together pushes my potential in Destruction beyond any mage, any dragon, and any spirit. If a pureblood vas wields the Emancipator, they are effectively one with the Destruction Nexus. The same holds true for the artif and the Creation Nexus, the muahns and the Transformation Nexus …”

Enya waited for Lydia to continue, but she stopped short of something. Then Lydia approached her and offered her the blade. Enya was almost too scared to touch it. What would happen? Even after Lydia gave a reassuring nod, Enya hesitated, taking a long moment to gingerly take up the sword with both hands.

“And because purebloods are so rare,” Lydia said, “someone like you, Enya, with blood ties to all three pruden races, should you extend your knowledge far enough …”

Enya didn’t feel any different, but even as Lydia spoke, the understanding began to open her eyes wider and wider. She wasn’t a pureblood by any stretch of the imagination. However weak her ties were, she still had them, ties with Creation, Destruction, and Transformation. “Someone like me could become one with all three of them,” she said with a gasp. She always regretted never studying magical principles and teachings as a child, even against her family’s wishes, but now she felt even worse for having unknowingly squandered so much. The Fundamental Powers were the birthright of all prudens, not just the upper classes.

“Now you understand,” Irving interjected, “why we can’t simply let anyone who wants to ‘look’ at the blade do so. Few people have honest intentions to begin with, and what’s worse, history itself is a testament to what they would do with it. Without exception, every Draksy Emperor since Arkadiy has led one vicious campaign after another against their neighbors. Any weapon the Draksy have ever obtained, they have used, and with all the restraint and consideration of a hurricane.”

“Their empire was broken and in disarray for a time,” Lydia said, “That was when the Emancipator was lost. It may surprise you to know this, Enya, but I actually found this as a child.”

It was only a little surprising, thinking back on her reading. Enya knew from Lydia’s book, The Traveler, that the duchess had done a lot of exploring as a child and found many lost artifacts.

“I used to travel all over the continent with my parents. I especially enjoy poking around large ruins, something Zavodia is in no short supply of. Exploration has always been one of my favorite hobbies and the Emancipator was one of my very first discoveries, one of the earliest additions to the Golden Treasury.”

“Item 2-S-01,” Irving gave the designation. It was the first among the ninety-nine quick summons in Section S.

“I’m telling you this because I want you to know my reasons, both the rational as well as the sentimental. I want to keep it from falling into the wrong hands, yes; the same holds true for all of the items I’ve gathered over the years. Even so,” Lydia gently clasped both of her hands over Enya’s and the Emancipating Blade’s hilt. “this is my greatest treasure. It was the test of my character as a youth, as to what I would do with unfettered power. It protected me and my loved ones from some of the greatest threats we ever faced. It’s constantly reminded me who I am and what I’m striving for in life. It’s as much a part of me as my arms and legs.”

“I understand,” Enya said. Sentimentality wasn’t the greatest excuse to deny the Draksy one of their own cultural artifacts, but even she felt that, somehow, Lydia’s claim on the Emancipating Blade was just that little bit greater than theirs. She was still conflicted on who the blade belonged to in the end, but Enya knew one thing for certain: Lydia hadn’t used the blade to harm others. Maybe it wasn’t hers by right, but it certainly was by merit, for whatever that was worth.

Lydia had said everything she wanted to say on the matter, and the Emancipating Blade vanished out of sight, leaving only their hands together. “I hate to turn them away, but no matter what their intentions are, I can’t take that risk.” She let go of Enya’s hands and slowly backed over to her chair before sitting down. She seemed tired somehow. “Don’t worry, Enya. This is personal to me, but it’s nothing unusual.”

“It’s not?”

“Representatives from other nations have threatened war with Idolus over items in the Golden Treasury. A pair of Draksy making demands is nothing compared to that.”

Fair enough. While Lydia was right about the sheer difference in magnitude, Enya couldn’t help but notice just how stressed her benefactor was over the subject. The threat may have been minor, but it was a threat to her greatest treasure. That made the difference in magnitude, at least for Lydia, meaningless.

“I think I’ve kept you long enough for one day. You should head home before it gets dark.”

There was no chance of making it back before sundown, Enya realized, but she should still head out. She found herself glancing at Irving, instead of making for the door. Enya nearly burst into laughter when she realized why she was hesitant to leave. Something about this conversation felt unfinished, and now she knew what it was. Hopefully Lydia and Irving would be just as amused when she told them. “You know, Master Wheeler, these history lessons usually come with a song.”

“Goodness,” Irving chuckled, “It really has become customary, hasn’t it?”

Lydia covered up her smile with her hand as best she could.

“I don’t know, Enya,” Irving said thoughtfully, “The Emancipating Blade is perhaps the most important item in ‘Lydia’s Golden Treasury.’ I think Mistress Lydia herself should be the one to treat us to a song.”

Enya didn’t even notice Lydia flinch in her chair. The idea seemed like a novel one, and she was briefly carried away to an imaginary concert performed by an imaginary Lydia. “That sounds like a great idea.”

“Irving, you can’t put me on the spot like this,” the real Lydia pleaded, “I’m not an artif. I can’t conjure up songs out of the void the way you can.”

Irving let loose a hearty laugh as Lydia lost her composure. It was a rare sight, one even Enya couldn’t help but notice now. “I’m quite sorry, however, I must insist.”

Enya had to admit, if pressed, she would need a lot more time to come up with a song. The subject didn’t matter; she couldn’t get it done in just one day. That was what made artifs so impressive. Their memories, and their commanding grasp of whatever language they studied, made them masterful linguists and musicians. One just couldn’t expect the same from a vas or a muahn. “What if you come up with one and sing it later?” Enya suggested.

“Reasonable,” Irving smirked.

Lydia hung her head in resignation. “Very well. Come this time tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll have something. Consider it a reward for enrolling in Roburo University, Enya.”

“Oh, that’s perfect!” Enya was already onboard with Lydia singing about one of her own treasures, but she absolutely loved the idea of it being a reward for becoming a student. She was more motivated than ever.


As Enya left the Tenebrae Estate’s main building, she tried to imagine Lydia’s miniature concert and how she would sing about the Emancipating Blade. She didn’t have much to go on. She hadn’t known Lydia personally for very long, and didn’t even know what her singing voice was like. Enya didn’t even know if this would be something private, or if others would hear about it by tomorrow evening and show up. It could be overwhelming for Lydia, but Enya hoped that anyone who wanted to hear her sing would be able to.

Today was unusual for Enya, not just because of the confrontation with the Draksy, and Lydia’s explanation of the Emancipating Blade; today, Enya had a driver. There was no need to call a cab. A man with a uniform similar to the rest of the servants waited patiently waited for her by a black car parked in the driveway. It was a bit much for a young groundskeeper, but Enya tried to accept it as part of her new life. Lydia told her before she left Irving’s office that she would have a driver take her to and from the estate going forward. It was as much for security as convenience. Enya wasn’t going to argue with either of those motives, even if she was still paying for a fraction of the car’s fuel. It was only fair. Besides, her driver was quite pleasant. He looked to be just a bit older than Todd, with enough charisma and good grooming to cover both of them.

“I’ll be taking you straight home today if there’s nothing urgent, Ms. Ward,” the driver said, opening the rear door for her.

Enya stopped to think just in front of the passenger seat. “Groceries, mail, and library rentals,” she mused aloud. “No, nothing urgent.”

“Very good.”

Once Enya was inside, and the driver had started up the car, they were off. The driver introduced himself as Heinrich. That was a Calman name, which suggested he had a significant vas heritage. It was nothing important on its own, but their discussion about the Emancipating Blade was still fresh in Enya’s mind, and it had her paying special attention to that kind of information. Heinrich hadn’t given his last name, likely on purpose to ensure he and his new charge reached a more comfortable first name basis sooner rather than later.

“Some say my driving is a bit fast for their liking,” Heinrich warned, “Please let me know if you’d like me to slow down.”

“I guess I’m not in a hurry,” Enya said, partly to herself, “but if you can get me home faster, that would be nice. I want to take care of the laundry early in case something happens tomorrow.”

“You’ll be home within the hour, Ms. Ward.”

Just as they were pulling out past the main gate, Enya saw a figure outside the car, just across the street. He was wearing a conspicuous hoody now, but she could recognize that bitter expression almost anywhere after having only seen it once. That scowl was Nestor’s. At first Enya wasn’t quite certain it was him, due in no small part to the twilight. Everything about him was the same, even the way he eyed her black car with contempt. At least he couldn’t see her. At least, she thought he couldn’t see her. The car’s windows were more than just tinted. No one without exceptional magical abilities could peer into the vehicle, thanks to its own set of mana enhanced features. Even so, Enya could almost swear he was looking straight at her.

Nestor skulking around outside the Tenebrae Estate was worrisome. Lydia and Irving were right about the Emancipating Blade. Todd may have even been right about the Draksy. Enya could only hope Nestor didn’t stick around to make trouble for the servants. He could camp outside the estate all night if he wanted to, but it wouldn’t win him any time with Lydia’s greatest treasure, not so much as a peek.

“I can’t believe he’s still here,” Enya huffed as the car pulled away.

“The man back there?” Heinrich asked, glancing through the rearview mirror.

“Nestor. He was at the exhibit earlier with a woman named Sabina,” Enya explained, “They wanted to see the Emancipator. That obviously wasn’t going to happen, but they insisted right up until closing time. Todd really made a mess of things, too.”

“We do occasionally get troublemakers,” Heinrich said. “I’ll remember his face.”

“I’m sure they’ll give up soon.” Enya didn’t see the need for even her own driver to be on guard. On the other hand, he would know better than her. Even Todd was on point today, even if his methods were ridiculous. Enya wasn’t looking forward to the day when she was so used to his bad behavior that she stopped caring.


Once they arrived at Enya’s apartment complex, Heinrich let her out of the car and escorted her right up to her room on the second floor. Being let in and out of a fancy car was one thing, but Enya was blown away by Heinrich was the first impression of a male servant that she desperately needed when she first arrived at the Tenebrae Estate. She supposed Irving had made up for Todd in a multitude of ways, but still, Enya would have loved to be working alongside Heinrich, even if it meant being driven around by Todd. It was a better ‘arrangement’ in her mind.

“Thank you so much, Heinrich,” Enya instinctively bowed, “Not just for being my driver, but also for demonstrating how a proper Tenebrae Servant is supposed to behave.”

Heinrich smiled apologetically, likely thinking of poor Todd. “We try to be worthy servants for a worthy master. Always.”

“Exactly,” Enya nodded fervently. “My faith’s restored. Thank you again.”

As Enya unlocked her door and stepped through when Heinrich’s phone rang. Enya paused while he answered it.


Enya remembered that name. Lydia mentioned him in Irving’s office.

“That’s unfortunate. I’ll come pick you up. No, it’s no trouble at all, especially considering the situation. Yes, I trust her instincts as much as you do. All the more reason for us to move quickly.”

Enya wasn’t getting nearly enough from Heinrich’s side of the call alone, but she suspected this Ishmael was supposed to be somewhere and had gotten held up somehow. She didn’t know whose instincts they both trusted so much, but it did remind her of Lydia. She was renowned for her ‘financial instincts’ in particular.

“I’m on my way.” Heinrich put away his phone. “I must be going now, Ms. Ward, but I’ll be here in the morning to take you to the university.” He bowed to her this time.

“Safe travels,” Enya said, giving Heinrich a small wave as he turned to leave.

Enya turned on the lights and shut the door. When she turned around, she was back home, in a rather dull, mostly barren apartment. The walls were white, but somehow appeared a subdued, uninspiring gray to tired eyes, weighing down the mood of the living room. Not being able to afford much more than a bed and a futon for soft furnishings, Enya plopped herself down on the latter and stared at the far wall for a few minutes.

Tomorrow was a big day for her, and even as her seven days working at the exhibit began to finally catch up to her, Enya couldn’t help but mentally prepare herself for the Board members at Roburo University. She had to convince them that she was a good fit. Relying entirely on Lydia’s recommendation would only make them both look bad. Lydia hadn’t given Enya any details about how she was supposed to approach the meeting, so Enya hoped she had everything she needed.

Maybe it was enough to explain to them just what she’d put herself through to save up enough money to travel from Clese to Idolus, and rent an apartment here. If that wasn’t enough, Enya could probably tell them just a little bit about her work for Lydia, nothing confidential, of course, just enough to show that she was competent, dedicated, and a quick learner. Weren’t those all qualities of a good, teachable student?

Enya did all of her laundry early and set aside some clothes for the morning, making sure she was prepared no matter what happened. If something was spilled over one dress, she had another ready and waiting to go. If one pair of shoes was looking a bit too scuffed in the morning light, she had several other, newer pairs to choose from. She had a comb on her night stand and another on the dresser. Despite all these extra preparations, Enya couldn’t help but have a light dinner. Scraping together a larger breakfast to make up for it in the morning would be the end of her prep work.

Normally, Enya would do just a bit of reading before bed, even when she wanted to turn in early, but tonight, her plan was to go straight to bed. That plan was unceremoniously ruined when, just ten minutes after she laid down, there was a knock on the door. Enya’s thoughts were jumbled, as she had already been falling asleep. No one should be visiting her other than Heinrich, and not even him at this hour. A part of her began to worry, and she wondered if she shouldn’t just ignore the knocking and try to go back to sleep. Whoever it was wouldn’t have any choice but to try again tomorrow if she chose the easy way out.

The knocking continued, louder and more insistently this time. Whoever this was intended to rouse her from sleep if need be.

As quietly as she could, Enya slid out of bed and crept back into the living room.

The knocking was even louder this time. Even the neighbors had to be approaching wit’s end with someone clubbing the door with their fist.

Enya was really worried, now. Heinrich wouldn’t do something like this. An unlikely face came to mind, one she desperately hoped hadn’t somehow followed her home. Slowly, with painfully cautious steps, Enya approached the door. Another series of banging made her jolt. She covered her mouth, hoping her gasp hadn’t made it outside. She couldn’t get any closer to the door. Not now. She was too scared. Enya crumbled to her knees and started praying.

“Go away, go away, go away …”

She expected another fit of door bashing, but instead, the handle began to jostle and shake wildly. In that moment, Enya’s blood went cold. They were actually trying to force their way in. Heinrich wouldn’t do that. Even Todd wouldn’t try to do that. This was a real intruder. Slowly, quietly, Enya began to crawl backward away from the door toward the center of the living room. She glanced back in the dark toward the kitchen. Would a knife help her at all against whoever was contending with the front door? It was better than nothing, she decided.

Just as Enya stood up to go to the kitchen, the door handle bent all the way down and the door flew open. Enya only spared the dark intruder a glance before running. She couldn’t see anything but their silhouette in the dark, making it a wasted effort. Even so, her instincts were telling her it was Nestor. She had nearly made it to the kitchen and just barely managed to flick the lights on before she was grabbed from behind. She let out the loudest scream she could muster before a gloved hand flew over her mouth. There was more than one intruder, she realized. Desperation took over and she bit down on the gloved hand as hard as she could.

The second figure yelped, trying not to reveal themselves, but Enya could tell it was a woman. Sabina, maybe? It didn’t matter now. Enya kicked and struggled to get free, but she was in a vice grip, held almost two heads off the ground, and being carried back toward the door. All she could do was start screaming again, but even that didn’t last long before a cloth wrapped itself around her mouth and neck. With no options left, she used her hands to scratch and claw at the first attacker’s sleeves. His clothes were thick and insulated, so she couldn’t reach his skin or cause him any real pain.

Before Enya knew it, she was outside her apartment and being carried down the same staircase Heinrich had escorted her up not two hours earlier. Enya saw the get-away vehicle, an old truck with a large tarp over the back. There was already a driver waiting, and the engine had been running the entire time. She was going to be taken. Enya knew it, and she didn’t have any way to buy herself more time. What were they going to do with her? Would there be a ransom involved? Suddenly the Emancipating Blade flashed in her mind’s eye. That must have been why they were here. The Draksy, Nestor and Sabina, the driver, and anyone else involved. They were going to try to trade Enya for Lydia’s most important treasure, naturally. The shame she felt for being caught, and knowing how she was about to be used, drained the rest of the fight out of Enya. It was too late to stop any of this.

“Good girl,” Sabina’s voice came from behind.

The words smacked of arrogance. Enya couldn’t stand hearing them again, especially from that woman. The man holding her tossed her to two more ebon clad figures in the back of the truck, and they quickly bound Enya’s hands and feet. As soon as he climbed in, he revealed his face. It was indeed Nestor, just like she thought. The second Sabina was in the passenger side seat in the front of the truck, the driver peeled out of the parking lot.

“Time to find out what you’re worth, child.” Nestor didn’t look or sound nearly as pleased about the situation as Sabina did.

The two others holding Enya sat her up straight and kept her facing Nestor.

“You know why we do this?”

Incensed by the question, Enya violently shook her head and gnawed at the cloth over her mouth.

“Threats, violence, it’s the way of the world for people like us. You children thought Sabina and I were just disgruntled tourists, didn’t you? No no no,” Nestor shook his head, “We are servants, just like you,” he jutted a finger uncomfortably close to Enya’s face. “I am Nestor Vanya Novikov, Retainer of the last true ruler of the Empire.”

Last true ruler? Enya was more interested in getting free than listening to Nestor gloat, but the political situation in the Draksy Empire escaped her completely.

“You children don’t know anything,” Nestor sighed.

Enya didn’t know what he was expecting from her. She could barely even growl at him through the cloth in her mouth. Giving any sort of meaningful response was out of the question.

“Of course you don’t know about her. The Princess of Wyverns. She is our lord and master. The Fearful Howl is hers. Your Calman duchess has no right to have it,” Nestor poked at Enya’s face several more times, making sure he had her full attention. “If you had just taken us to it, this would have been simple, easy, but no one listens. No one ever listens until it comes to this. Threats, violence. This is the way of the world. It always has been and it always will be.”

A couple of hard knocks on the back window came, courtesy of Sabina. It was some kind of signal, based on Nestor’s reaction.

“She just made the call. Tenebrae knows we have you, child. If she agrees to give us the blade, you can go free.”

Enya closed her eyes. She couldn’t bare to look at Nestor anymore, but even more than that, she wanted to escape from what her imagination was showing her, a distraught Lydia. Enya’s presence here was never meant to cause anyone grief or turmoil, and what about the Emancipating Blade? That was Lydia’s most important treasure, the very thing she was about to be ransomed for.

“If she doesn’t,” Nestor said, his tone shifting to grim resolve, “you die.”

The terms were laid out, at least for Enya’s ears. Lydia had to give the Draksy the Emancipating Blade, or they would kill Enya. Neither outcome was even remotely desirable, but it was all up to Lydia now. Enya could only pray for a miracle, a way to be rescued from her captors. That was the only way to save both her and Lydia’s treasure.

So Enya prayed.

She prayed for hours.


Enya opened her eyes and saw the morning light beaming in through the truck’s tarp. Her restraints weren’t the only things binding her, now. There was something thin, with a bulky attachment tied around her neck. It reminded Enya of a collar, but she couldn’t see what it was or what it was for. She had been alone when she first came to, but only for a moment. Enya heard shouting, arguing, as one of the Draksy approached the truck. The first face she saw that day was Nestor’s. He looked just as angry as he had in the gallery, climbing into the truck and hauling Enya up by her restraints. Her elbows and shoulders took a lot of punishment from the sudden lift, and it was the most painful way to wake up she had ever endured, culminating in a hard drop onto the rough, dry mountain grass. The sun was blinding outside, and Enya couldn’t tell where in the world she was, or even how many of them there were.

“You see?! I told you,” Nestor shouted at someone Enya couldn’t make out, “Here she is! Alive! But for how much longer, I don’t know. I’m tired of waiting, boy.”

Boy? It wasn’t Lydia herself, then? Enya supposed that made sense. It might be too dangerous for her to come in person. Who did she send, then? Were they going to exchange the Emancipating Blade for her?

“Where is Lydia?!” Nestor wasn’t finished yelling, it seemed, and from the sound of things, they were expecting her, not whoever this ‘boy’ was.

“Sorry, we’re all you get,” a young man’s voice barely reached Enya’s ears.

It wasn’t Todd, though the thought of him being here was crazier than anything her imagination could come up with. It wasn’t Heinrich’s voice either, but the man said ‘we’re all you get’ implying he wasn’t alone. It was enough to make Enya fight to adjust her eyes to the light, forcing them open a little bit at a time. She had to see who Lydia sent to save her.

“Don’t you understand?! If you jerk us around, she DIES,” Nestor bellowed. His threat echoed down the mountain.

“Calm down,” the man said. “You just want the Emancipator, right? We brought that.”

“It could be a fake,” Sabina chimed in, “At least if Lydia was here, we could trace her magic and counter it if she tried something.”

“Or try to kill her,” the man said pointedly.

“Enough games! I’ll give you ten more minutes to get Lydia out here. After that,” Nestor turned to Enya, looking down on her with the same grim resolve as the night prior. “After that, you can try to fight us if you want, but you will die the same as her.”

The man sighed casually. “I guess we’ve got no choice, then. Time for plan B.”

He turned toward a dark elongated shape a few meters behind him just as Enya’s eyes adjusted to the light. She wouldn’t have recognized him even if he turned back to face them all. He was built differently from all the other men Enya knew from the Tenebrae Estate. He was fit and lean, like a runner, his dark brown hair was kept in a short ponytail, and he carried what looked like a long maroon colored staff in his right hand. She didn’t know anyone like that. Not yet.

Enya, Nestor, Sabina, and the other Draksy watched as the man bent down in front of the black mass and tapped his fingers on it.

It was strange to see at first, but as Enya focused on the dark shape, it quickly resolved into a black car. It was Heinrich’s car. The man with the staff was tapping the right passenger side window. Whoever else was inside, the Draksy couldn’t see them. Heinrich got out first and came around the back, presumably to let someone else out. Was it Lydia? Had she come after all? Wasn’t that dangerous?

The man with the staff quickly turned to the Draksy and approached them. “She’s here, but if you try anything, none of you are walking away from this,” he warned, pulling up his staff and giving it a good twirl for emphasis.

You try anything, and you’ll be picking up pieces of this child for days,” Nestor calmly spat back.

That was an eerily specific threat, Enya noted. She hoped that whatever was tied around her neck had nothing to do with it. If it was some kind of bomb, couldn’t they just set it off once she was free? She was still gagged and bound, so she couldn’t warn anyone. All she could do was hope it was as obvious to them as it was to her.

When Heinrich reached the back of his car and opened the door, he and his partner seemed to be the only ones that weren’t surprised, when Lydia von Tenebrae herself stepped out. “I’ll take care of the rest, Ishmael,” she said.

The man with the staff, he was the one Heinrich left to pick up the previous night.

“Sabina?” Nestor and several others had their eyes on her now.

Sabina squinted hard at Lydia. She must have suspected a body double, but that wasn’t the case. She nodded to Nestor. “It’s her. It’s the real Lydia.”

Could she tell just by looking, or was she using magic too faint for the eyes? Enya didn’t know, but she was glad to see that Lydia had come to rescue her. She was less happy about what would need to happen for her to get out of this mess. The Draksy’s plan wasn’t foolproof, but they were better prepared than Enya had been.

“Show me the blade,” Nestor demanded, “No stalling, you’ve had all night to get it ready for us.”

Lydia held out her hand and kept her palm facing the sky, just like before, and just like before, the Emancipating Blade appeared, erupting into existence beneath a torrent of excited mana and sparks. Enya knew now, Lydia was willing to give up the Emancipating Blade to save her life. She was happy to know that, but even so, she felt responsible for what was happening. If she had just avoided being taken somehow, if just one thing had gone differently yesterday, maybe they could have avoided this. Enya hated the bitter, defeated look on Lydia’s face. She tried to think of a way to free herself, so she could get back to them before the trade was made, but it was already too late.

One of the Draksy leaped to the front the group with a long black case in his hand. He opened it, and lightning exploded out from it. The violent arcs crashed into the Emancipating Blade and enveloped it. Lydia stumbled away into Ishmael’s arms as a burst of white mana was thrown out in all directions. A moment later, the sword was pulled into the case and it instantly shut and locked itself. The force of the retrieval almost sent it flying out of the Draksy man’s hands, but he kept a grip on it. Once he had his footing, he made a beeline for the truck before anyone could change their minds.

“Severing complete,” Sabina smiled triumphantly.

A severing was a kind of spell Enya had only learned about recently. Private ‘inventories’ like Lydia’s bound items to special magical systems, which allowed the owner to summon and dismiss the items at will. It was ludicrously expensive to operate one as large as Lydia’s, but these systems were powerful and versatile. A severing spell could remove an item from that system, stealing it from the inventory with brute force. The Draksy must have known that Lydia could summon the Emancipating Blade right out of their hands and back to hers on a whim as long as it was a part of the Golden Treasury, and so they severed it completely. Item 2-S-01 was now a blank entry.

Nestor knelt down over Enya. Again, he hauled her up by her wrist restraints, and again Enya could only endure the intense pain, her shoulders crying out for mercy. Nestor finally ended their relationship by forcing Enya a few meters closer to Lydia and Ishmael, and then throwing her toward them. Ishmael managed to catch her before she hit the ground. The Draksy all piled into the truck as the engine started up, and Enya started screaming through her gag. She had to warn them about the collar she was wearing before the Draksy got away.

“Enya,” Lydia winced.

No time, Enya mentally pleaded, there was no time. By some miracle, Ishmael opted to take off the gag first. “Are you-” “My neck! Take it off my neck,” Enya yelled as the truck drove away at speed.

Enya had been worried, seemingly for nothing. Lydia simply waved her hand over Enya’s head, and as if struck by a thousand microscopic blades, the restraints fell into small, thinly sliced heaps all about her. The collar had suffered the same fate, and its inner workings had been minced by the overwhelm Destruction spell. Whether it was a bomb, or something more subtle, it was broken.

“Anything else?” Lydia looked to Ishmael, who was already going over Enya’s entire body with his hand. He was looking for something.

“What’s he doing?” Enya asked. She couldn’t let that occupy her for long. The Draksy hadn’t gotten away yet. “Lydia, we can still catch them. You can get the Emancipator back …” Enya tried to convince Lydia, but the look on the woman’s face told her to leave it be. Lydia’s decision had already been made and nothing could change her mind.

“I’m sorry,” Enya hung her head. She could barely hold back her tears looking back on everything. She was supposed to help look after the items in the Golden Treasury. Now, because of her, the most important one of all was gone. There was nothing she could do to turn the situation around. Today was supposed to be a good day, the day she was accepted as a student at Roburo University and began her new life in earnest. Now, she felt like crawling into a hole somewhere, somewhere she wouldn’t be a problem for anyone else.

“No other traps,” Ishmael grinned, “She’s fine.” With that, he helped Enya to her feet.

“I’m sorry, Lydia,” Enya said. She wiped her eyes, but it wasn’t enough to keep her eyes dry. She felt like nothing but a burden to Lydia now.

“We should go,” Heinrich said softly.

“Come back to the estate with me, Enya,” Lydia said, holding out her hand.

“Why? This is all my fault!” Enya let herself fall, but Ishmael kept her from completely falling to pieces. “If I wasn’t here to get kidnapped, none of this would have happened.”

“I,” Ishmael was about to say something, but held back. He made eye contact with Lydia, asked an unspoken question, and then gently urged Enya’s head toward him. “It’s not your fault. We had a feeling something weird was going on. People have been poking around the estate for a few weeks now. You’re the only servant that doesn’t live at the dorms or in the servant quarters, so Lydia asked me to keep an eye on you until you were out of that apartment complex.”

“It’s my fault,” Heinrich quickly weighed in, “I didn’t think you were in any immediate danger. I thought I could have Ishmael brought to the apartment to watch the area before anything happened. It was foolish to leave you alone, Ms. Ward. You have my sincerest apologies.”

“If I hadn’t gotten held up in the first place,” Ishmael countered Heinrich, “you wouldn’t have had to make that call. It’s my fault.”

“N-no,” Enya took her turn to protest, picking herself back up, “Look at me. I’m completely helpless. I’m completely useless. Anyone who wants to steal things from the Golden Treasury just has to find me and throw me in the back of a truck. That makes it my fault. That’s why none of you should even bother with me anymore.”

“Please don’t say that, Enya,” Lydia said, visibly heartbroken. Enya felt a sudden pain in her chest. She regretted her words right then and there. “Please don’t say that.”

Heinrich and Ishmael quietly left the discussion. Heinrich went to stand by the car, and Ishmael stayed just close enough to Enya to keep her off of the rough terrain.

Enya trembled at Lydia’s words and the way she said them, afraid she might hurt the woman she idolized even more if she said anything else, anything at all. “B-but, isn’t it true? Isn’t it?”

“They took the Emancipator from me. Don’t let them take you, too.” Lydia held out her hand one more time. “Come back to the estate with me. Please.”

Even though there was nothing anyone could say that would convince Enya she wasn’t a liability that day, she couldn’t say no. She did everything in her power to reach Roburo, against the wishes of most of the people in her own family. Lydia was the very woman she was trying to follow, and she was the one asking Enya to continue, even after what had just happened. Enya wasn’t just another face in the crowd, hoping for a book signing, or insight into a problem, she was one of Lydia’s own people, now. She was someone responsible for the items in the Golden Treasury, someone Lydia was willing to help, even if it meant losing the most important possessions she had. There couldn’t be a worse time to give up, to walk away. Lydia had given up the Emancipating Blade to save her life; Enya couldn’t abandon her now.

Enya took one last look at the fleeing Draksy. Their truck was more than a mile down the road, halfway down that part of the mountain. They would never catch them. Enya turned back toward Lydia, wiped her eyes one last time, and reached out for her waiting hand.


“I can’t stand this silence,” Lydia groaned.

“I could put on some music,” Heinrich offered, his hand reaching for the radio dial.

“That’s thoughtful, but …”

Enya was resting her head on Lydia’s shoulder, completely drained from her ordeal. Heinrich and Ishmael had been in the front of the car, discussing the events that led up to the morning confrontation while Heinrich drove them back to the Tenebrae Estate. Eventually, they had run out of things to talk about. They had questions for Enya, but those questions would have to wait. It wasn’t the time to be dwelling on her Draksy captors. They were going out of their way not to mention them directly until the conversation dried up completely.

“I was hoping,” Lydia paused again, searching for the right word, “for some kind of closure.”

“Lydia?” Enya quietly spoke up.

“Yes, Enya?”

“Will you ever be able to get it back? The Emancipator?”

“I will get it back. Making a move any time soon, though,” Lydia smiled bitterly, “now that would make a lot of people very unhappy, not just the Draksy.”

“But it’s yours,” Enya grimaced, “The Emancipator belongs to you. I know that, now.”

“Thank you, Enya. It means a lot to me to hear you say that.”

“I’m serious,” Enya sat up and faced Lydia, “We have to get it back. I know me getting kidnapped is what started this, but I’ll help you. I’m going to study hard at the university, and I’m going to develop my own set of skills, learn how to defend myself, and I’ll help you get the Emancipator back.”

Lydia was visibly stunned by Enya’s sudden declaration. Ishmael leaned around his seat to see the commotion, while Heinrich could only keep an eye on things through the rearview mirror.

After considering the idea, Lydia had a question. “Is that a promise, Enya?”

“It’s a promise!”

Lydia smiled. “Then when the time comes, we’ll take it back.”

“I’ll be ready.”

“In the meantime,” Lydia made a soft pivot, “I’d still like some closure. Something has felt off ever since we got in the car.” She stared at the roof, seemingly lost in thought.

“Closure?” Enya wasn’t sure a situation like this could have any real satisfying conclusion to it. They had come out of this with less than they started with. Then again, that only felt half true. The Emancipating Blade was gone, but Enya felt that her bond with Lydia was stronger than ever.

Lydia sighed. “I know what it is. I didn’t get to sing for you.”

“Sing?” Ishmael gawked.

Heinrich narrowly managed to keep his eyes on the road and not look back over his seat.

“The song,” Enya remembered the reward she was promised. It seemed premature, but she’d be lying if she told anyone she didn’t want to hear Lydia sing. “Is now really the time? You’re singing about something we don’t have anymore.” Enya looked away, feeling guilty again. There was no escaping her helplessness in the loss of the Golden Treasury’s finest. “I don’t want to drag up any bad memories for you.”

Lydia closed her eyes.

It took Enya a moment to realize that Lydia wasn’t thinking of a reply, but mentally rehearsing.

In the north lies Creation, in the south lies Destruction,
in the west lies Transformation, in my hand the Blade of Emancipation

The ruins of old I would scour, the reward for my great endeavor
the blade turned my knowledge into power, a bond that no one could ever sever

From antiquity to the Treasury, from the hand of the Emperor down to me

I know not the hand that forged the great blade,
I know of the monarchs whose hearts were swayed,
Successors, aggressors, their wars are for naught,
oppressors, the lessers, the pain they have wrought

Creation, cast your light and show us the way,
Destruction, rise up and chase evils away,
Transformation, go forth and turn night into day,
Set them free, set them free, set them free

“I hope that someday, I can use the Emancipator to change the course this world is on. There is so much we can accomplish if the people are free to grow spiritually, again, to understand their birthright and use it.”

“You will,” Enya said, trying to sound reassuring. To her surprise, Lydia closed her eyes again and held out her hand like she did each time she summoned the Emancipating Blade. Enya knew the Draksy had used a severing spell on it, removing it from the Golden Treasury altogether. They had even sealed it in a special black case for good measure. Lydia wasn’t going to be able to summon the Emancipator this time, and Enya could only shift around uncomfortably as she waited for the inevitable failure, and the finality that would surely come with it.

“Enya, it’s time, put your hand below mine,” Lydia instructed her.

Enya was fighting back more doubts than she could handle, but she followed Lydia’s instruction and quickly put her hand in the same position.

Ishmael and Heinrich were confused at first, but Ishmael could sense what was coming as soon as Lydia began to focus. He stopped himself just short of climbing into the backseats with them. “Lydia, wait,” he pleaded.

Suddenly a thick blue haze engulfed Lydia. Enya could feel the mana passing through her with ease and converging on Lydia’s body. The sensation was subtle at first, but intense. She had never felt such a strong magical presence in her life. Whatever was happening, it had nothing to do with the Golden Treasury. It was a completely different kind of magic. Enya tried to put her free hand hand on Lydia’s shoulder, but the energies surrounding her were almost painful to the touch. The closer her hand got, the more it felt like it was being violently shaken at its foundations. Enya thought every particle comprising her hand would scatter to the four winds if this kept up. She pulled back, opting for her voice instead.


“She’s using Agia,” Ishmael said.

When Lydia opened her eyes, a black case emerged in its own dense cloud of mana and promptly fell into her and Enya’s laps. The air in the car cleared and all of the residual energies subsided.

“W-what?” Enya was convinced Lydia wouldn’t be able to summon the Emancipating Blade back, but somehow she’d done it. Could Agia really be that powerful? “What did you do? I thought they severed it?”

Lydia let out a deep breath and gently patted the case with her hands. “A song, and a sword. That’s just the closure I needed~” She fixed Enya with a big grin and said, “There are bonds that even magic can’t sever, Enya. Now don’t forget the promise you made to me.”

Enya was surprised to hear that brought up only a few minutes after the fact, but a promise was a promise, and she aimed to keep it, even if the Emancipator was already back in Lydia’s possession. “You can count on me.”

“Enya,” Ishmael held up a finger to make a point, “Try to keep your head down while you’re studying and training, alright? Lydia just used Agia, which is against international law. A lot of angry politicians and nosy journalists are going to be gunning for us for a while. Understand?”

“Really?!” Enya’s eyes darted back to Lydia.

“I’m afraid so,” Lydia smiled an apology.

“It’s not the first time she’s pulled something like this,” Ishmael shrugged, “We were practically overdue, anyway. Nothing we can’t handle, though, right?”


“Navigating rough roads is what we do,” Heinrich said.

“If you say so,” Enya said, mostly resigned to her fate. She just hoped she would be ready for whatever was coming next.

Recent Pinned Posts

Begin (2024)

2023 ended weirdly abruptly for me, but I got the shot in the arm I needed in order to hit the ground running in 2024. This year's going to be absolutely crazy, but for me personally, I feel my worst years are finally behind me. I'm ready to stop drowning in a sea of...

read more

Yamato Progress

Oh my goodness ... well, things may have slowed down exponentially compared to the first 24 hours of working on this thing, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been major progress. Check this out. The exterior is nearly finished (minus coloring) The catapults work...

read more