Chapter 1086 Internal Strife Part 2
"As for the creature, I agree that its behavior is odd, but no more than that of the other members of its kin. Like Mage Ernas reminded us, the same happened at the Laroxya mines.
"After being discovered, the creature fled without harming any of the workers. Whether you consider Mage Ernas's testimony convincing or not, Archmage Deirus, she is innocent until proven otherwise." Queen Sylpha glared at Velan until he took a step back.
"I find her report as believable as it's suspicious the fact that the traitorous Great Mage Nuragor was your pupil, Velan. There's no doubt his loyalty lay with the undead.
"We've traced all the conversations and movements prior to Kallion's death. Several persons confirmed to have witnessed him displaying abilities only a thrall could have and after searching his apartments, we've discovered enchanted items belonging to the Dusk Court.
"On top of that, several survivors witnessed Great Mage Nuragor fighting alongside the undead during the coup. Tell me, Velan. Did Kallion change overnight, are you so incompetent that you failed to notice you were raising a snake in the grass or were you part of his schemes?"
The Queen had privately interrogated Wyra and Rotha, the two surviving members of the Crystal Shield guild who had heard Kallion speak on behalf of both Deirus and the Undead Courts.
Unluckily, their testimony was even more useless than Phloria's in a court of justice, but that didn't mean the Royals would let things slide easily.
"When I met Kallion Nuragor, he was just a brilliant youth eager to serve his country." Archmage Deirus kneeled in a sign of contrition. "Maybe I trusted him too much because he reminded me of my lost son, but I would have never taken him in if not for the many letters of reference the Association wrote him."
His attempt to use Yurial's death to solicit sympathy made every parent in the room want to puke and put Kwart in a bad spot.
"The Association has indeed many responsibilities, Velan, but it was you who took him as an apprentice just like it was you pushing for him to become a Great Mage. Do you deny it?" King Meron said.
"No, your Majesty. I failed to see Kallion for what he truly was and there's no excuse for it. I'll accept any punishment you see fit." Deirus said.
'I failed to see that he was an incompetent fool. How could he possibly be so stupid as to gloat before completing the deed? More importantly, what the heck happened to the two armies I sent there?' He actually thought.
The Undead Courts had conducted their own investigation as well, finding no plausible explanation for the slaughter of a battalion strong of 500 elder undead.
'I had invested a lot of resources into Kallion and his Nuragor household. Yet after falling for Jirni's trap and losing the Blood judgment, the Nuragor household was already crippled.
'Now that they have lost the only Mage in their family and are branded as traitors, I wouldn't be surprised if the Nuragor disappear faster than the Deirus. Kallion destroyed my reputation and my relationship with the Undead Courts in one fell swoop.
'I can only lay low until things settle down and use that time to plan for my next move. Taking on the Ernas now that my entire faction is under scrutiny would be suicidal. I must cut my losses and pin the blame to useless idiots like Kwart.'
"Archmage Deirus, because of all the services you rendered to the Kingdom in the past, you'll not be arrested nor will your assets be frozen. However, until a thorough investigation has completely cleared you of all suspicions, you are hereby forbidden to leave the country.
"On top of that, your privileges within the Royal Court are temporarily restricted and you can't have any contact with your fellow suspects in the attack. Kwart and Onia are among them. You'll receive a more detailed list before leaving this room.
"Any transgression will be considered an act of treason and punished accordingly." King Meron's words made the three Archmages turn pale for the first time in years.
Not even Jirni's plan to stage Balkor's return had dealt such a huge blow to their plans. Deirus had no children anymore, so he couldn't care less about Balkor. Yet losing Court privileges and having some of his most powerful allies cut off his contact list was almost a death blow.
Jirni inwardly curled her lips in disgust, angry with Deirus for not leaving any trace she could follow and with herself for having yet to find a weakness she could exploit. Deirus loved no one and was already dismissing his lands bit by bit over time.
She had even considered spreading a plague, but it would have caused Deirus no pain. On the contrary, it would have garnered him compassion and support, if not even further boosting his status in the case he managed to find a cure.
'Velan only has two things left: his magic and his reputation. I could take away the magic with Balkor's venom, but the bastard never moves alone, and giving Dyta enough manpower to overcome his detail couldn't possibly go unnoticed.
'This incident has dealt a huge blow to his reputation, but depending on how he deals with the issue, Velan might even rise to new heights. If my enemy has no weakness, then it's up to me to create one.' Jirni exchanged a grim look with Orion.
She usually didn't involve her husband in her plans because he was too a good man and his conscience wouldn't let him sleep at night. This time, however, his blood ran almost as cold as Jirni's.
Touching their children had been the last drop that had awakened the sleeping dragon. He cared no longer for something as trivial as morality and having Orion's talent at her service opened Jirni countless new possibilities.
As for Onia and Kwart, they had no direct involvement in the attempt on Phloria's life nor with the Undead Courts. Unlike Deirus, their bloodline was safe and they had too much to live for to gamble everything on blind revenge.
Onia wanted solely to have justice for the friends she had lost in Kulah. The Headmistress had helped Deirus because she considered him a means to an end, not an ally. Yet all she had achieved was losing the trust of the White Griffon and a Royal Restrict Order.
She could feel her seat as Headmistress of the Black Griffon slipping from under her ass, just like it had happened to Headmistress Linnea years before. According to some rumors, after running away from the Kingdom, she had literally drowned herself in alcohol.
She had become a cautionary tale among Headmasters, birthing the idiom: "Those who do not swallow their pride choke on their own puke."
Kwart was in the same boat. He had provided Deirus with political support to keep the army from overtaking the Association. Lith's achievements belonged to the army, just like Jirni's, Orion's, and those of most of the Ernas Household.
To him, they were all enemies. He had no personal grudge against them, it was strictly business. Deirus, instead, had become an Archmage by giving the Association his full support over the years so he was Kwart's best bet against the army.
Or so he had thought.
Kwart's life revolved around his work, hence to investigate him meant to investigate the entire Association. Any dirt that would come out, no matter if completely unrelated to the Undead Courts, would hasten its fall.