For a second I was thinking it didn’t work but then I noticed that the light I was staring into was a magical lamp on the ceiling of a room.
Slowly my senses came back to me, first I noticed my whereabouts on top of a bed, second my silent guardian at the door and third… Oh god, it smell like somebody hasn’t cleaned themself for a few days.
“How long has it been?”, I thought, “Something like 3 days since I last saw a bath?”.
She could worry later about this shameful appearance but for now her situation was the imminent problem. After she had heard from the magical construct that she was rescued by a man, she feared it was Ruck but after a short explanation she had an idea who was her rescuer and guardian while she slept.
She got up, without a single flinch of pain. “At least the construct did his job well”, she thought.
“Of course, what do you think was my purpose. Let you survive the fall but have you feel the pain afterwards?”
She was so surprised from the sudden voice that she let out a small shriek. Multiple things happened immediately after.
The person near the door snapped out of his trance and surveyed the room and found the princess sitting up on the bed, the princess noticing that she heard the construct’s voice in her head attempted to get the attention of her guardian.
“Just for your information, I´m currently residing inside of your pendant. This makes it possible for me to talk to you in the same way magical messages work, only that I can emit them directly into your mind. You just need to think in response to let me hear you.”
“This information you could have said before”, she said this out loud and her guardian, that she now recognized as her personal head spy and secret minion of her father, looked at her confused. He didn’t show it with his gestures but his eyes betrayed him.
She pointed at the pendant around her neck, “It can communicate with me directly inside of my mind. To respond I have to simply think it but he surprised me so I forgot and spoke loud out.”
The spy simply nodded, like he knew what a nuisance this construct was. Then he came closer and kneeled in front of her.
“Forgive this servant for having failed you. By your wish I'll accept any punishment.”
“No need to trouble yourself so much. Even I didn’t see this disaster coming, you did well rescuing me.”
“I won't discuss this further”, I narrowed my eyes, “This is an order.”
Her spy sank his head in compliance.
“As you wish”
“Anyways, where are we exactly? I heard that you escaped the royal city into the outskirts where the nobles have their leisure mansions.”
“We are currently in the mansion, and it seems abandoned, of the chancellor that betrayed you.”
“I see, hiding directly under the eyes of the enemy, or to say mansion of your enemies. I couldn't have had a better idea, you have done well.”
Her spy kept his head lowered but I knew my compliment reached him.
“For the time being I guess we are stuck here. Do you have any news on the situation in the city or palace? And what happened to my father?”
“After I escaped the city to hide with you, I kept my magical traces low to avoid worsening our situation. Besides the construct, we didn't use any large scale magic and after we got inside the mansion I stood guard and didn't use my familiar to check upon neither the city or palace”.
The spy raised his head and had a grim face, “Something that rarely happens”, were her thoughts.
“For your father… The last time I heard from him was when he ordered me back from your mission. After I found you, I prioritized getting you out of the vicinity of the chancellor.”
“There was nothing you could have done. Even I don't know where my father is since the chancellor told me that he did something to him to lower the seal on the palace.”
For now we have to leave the situation in the city by itself. We don't have any intel or forces to change the flow of the situation caused by the betrayal, also we don't know who we can trust.
“Do you know anything about Laruth or what happened to him after the party?”
He lowered his head even further than before as if he blamed himself even more.
“I'm sorry, I received no news or have any knowledge of his whereabouts.”
That aside, did you check the mansion?”, she asked.
“I made sure the vicinity of this room is safe but I didn't want to trigger any traps or magical alerts so I stopped after I confirmed this servant area was safe. For the following day and night I stood guard but nothing came or left the mansion.”
“I guess then we have a job to do.” I got up from the bed and started to leave the room but I was stopped.
“I can't allow this, my Highness. We don't know anything about this mansion and I can't allow myself to trouble you with even more dangers.”
I stared into his eyes for a few seconds before I responded with a deadly serious voice.
“I am the princess of this empire and as the fate of the emperor is unknown I'm the reigning queen until I confirm my father is safe or we get the news that confirms his passing. So I will do as I please and you. wont. stop me.”
Maybe I put too much of my suppressed rage into my harsh exhortation but I’d had enough for the time being.
Her spy couldn't hold it any longer and looked away and with that the discussion was over.
And so I and him both left the room and moved to the servant area of the mansion.
“This time I won't be surprised”, she thought whilst she pulled out her Mârden, last time this decided her fate, she nearly died.
I and him both stood in the central area for the servants, with multiple rooms, probably storage, kitchen and more private rooms. Everything was as if the servants would resume working soon.
They checked the rooms one after one and hoped to find something useful.
The storage was still filled with food and necessities, the kitchen cleaned and ready to be used, the private rooms empty and still with no one to be seen.
The entire servant area was abandoned but usable. During the time they checked the storage, her stomach was the only thing that protested.
Finally they arrived in the corridor that led to the rest of the mansion.
They didn't find any traps, magical or physical, but proceeded carefully.
She had the assumption that they won't find anything useful in the servant area, Ruck probably kept his more important objects or documents in his personal room.
They were currently inside the main hall, behind them the staircase to the next level, on the left the area they came from and to the right the other wing of the mansion they hadn’t searched yet.
Up until now they found nothing promising, only eye-catching luxury and other bravados that suited Fiven.
“I think he will have some hidden places around here where he keeps his secret intel but where are they? I have never been inside his mansion nor do I know of his personal room. The more time we invest into searching the area, the more risk we are running into”, while she was thinking, she surveyed the surroundings.
She turned around and saw her spy checking the stairs for traps, “For now we are concentrating on the main part of the house. I want to check the upper floors of this area. It could be possible that his office is also with his private rooms. I'm fairly sure that he has his rooms there.”
“Certainly that could be possible but why is your Highness so sure with that?”
The other wing of the mansion could also be for servants or other personal, I know that he doesn't like to be surrounded with commoners. The left wing also houses servants so he would occupy the middle.”
“So this would be the most dangerous part of the mansion. surely the chancellor wouldn't leave his private rooms without any defense. I know her Highness won't turn around but I only ask for me to go first. My life is nothing compared to yours, if the chancellor is going to claim this empire.”
She could only nod but her thoughts were different, “Your life is as valuable as mine, I care about my servants.”
To lose another close person would darken her heart even more.
Soon after they arrived in front of a double-wing door that was decorated in the same style like the rest of the mansion. It wouldn't be another room for a servant so she was sure that beyond the door was one of Ruck’s private rooms.
Her spy found a seal on the door, a silent alert that would trigger when the door was opened if the person was not invited, and was focusing on removing it. Other enhancements made it impossible to see what was inside the room so they weren't able to say what they will see.
It wasn't his personal strength, she knew, because he focused on techniques that benefited him more but he tried his best and after a few minutes he was finished. She also wanted to help but he straight up refused, “You will need every ounce of mana if we get in a dangerous situation to defend yourself, I won't allow that you use it now.”
The door shines in a bright light, magical circle with several layers and runes, fade away shortly after.
“It was a strong seal, it took a lot of concentration and mana to break it, but now it is safe to open the door without triggering the alert.”
“Good job”, she was praising him while taking the door handle to open it but got stopped by her spy.
“Please wait a moment, I want to make sure no other traps or persons are in the room, it would suit his character to install another trap only to catch intruders if they thought oneself safe when they would break the seal and open the door.”
She let go of the handle only to feel embarrassed, “Why didn't I think of that, normally it would be my job to think and plan ahead.”
After a few more minutes, his magical strength dropped significantly after removing the door and it took longer for him to check for traps, her patience was at the maximum.
“There are other enchantments in the room, several for commodities and private uses, and another trap but we should be able to avoid it as long we don't touch or move something inside the room. Also there is nobody inside, I didn't find any magical aura or traces. I wasn't able to confirm that it's safe to use magic inside so I would refrain from using any.
It would be possible to get rid of the other trap too but it would need a lot of time and mana, it isn't worth investing anything further.”
She noticed how he tried to suppress his exhaustion but his flat breath and the sweat drops on his cloths showed that he was exhausted.
“Take a rest, I leave the door open so you can see me and I won't touch or move something inside the room. I think that should be enough to calm your mind and body. No disaccords, if we are going to run in case of emergency, it would only be a hindrance to be completely exhausted”
He didn't say a word and sat down in front of the wall. For a second she thought she felt a spark of delight.
She opened the door and was greeted by a dim room, the curtains were closed and only a small ray of light illuminated the room. She wanted to open them but remembered that she couldn't.
She entered the room and looked around. Besides the usual luxury and accessories it seemed to be a normal master bedroom, a desk on the left in front of the windows, some furniture for clothes and a canopy bed in the right corner.
Her focus shifted to the desk and the papers that were on top, but after a quick view it were only some papers concerning the land of the chancellor and nothing of his recent activities.
Again she couldn't check further without removing the sheets on the top.
Her search was pretty fruitless and she was equally frustrated as she could only look but not touch anything. Back in the middle of the room she let out a long breath, the strain of this whole situation was increasing.
After a long breath and the short silence she heard something. She didn't notice before because her breathing was the only sound in the room but after remaining silent and holding her breath, once again she could hear weak breathing.
Fast but silent she backed out of the room and kneeled besides her spy.
“Didn't you say that there was no person inside this room nor magical trace”, she whispered.
“There was no signature inside this room after I removed seal. Only a exceptional mage could hide himself completely but the chancellor wouldn't hold back such a valuable resource in an abandoned mansion”, he whispered back with a cautious and worried tone..
It was faint short-breaths but she heard it, it didn't come from inside the furniture. The room was empty and the only possibility would be the bed, it was equally disguised with curtains but she saw on the left side a small hole letting her peep inside.
The only problem was that it was too dark to see anything and she wouldn't reach out into the darkness to confirm the source of the breathing.
As her spy said, they didn't know if it was safe to use magic inside the room and she didn't want to risk it.
“Wait, if I can't use magic inside the room shouldn't I be able to cast it outside and see what happens?”, she thought, “I guess it's worth a try.”
She started summoning her Mârden, shortly after a small light orb was floating in front of her. She let it fly into the room and waited on what would happen.
The light continued to float in the air, unchanging and nothing happened.
“I guess it only recognizes the incantation or flow of mana when you cast a spell. Bringing an existing one inside does nothing to it.”
She continued to manipulate the light ball from the outside and let it hover next to the side of the bed.
After a few minutes passed and she confirmed nothing changed, she entered again and headed straight for the bed.
As silent as possible she stopped before the curtains and prepared herself, she doubted there would be a sleeping mage that was so excellent in hiding that her spy wouldn’t notice him but curiosity killed the cat.
Finally she got herself together and looked into the inside of the bed and felt her heart clenching.
What laid on top of the canopy bed is not a mage or someone dangerous, it was girl.
“She could only be barely older than me”, she thought.
The girl’s breathing was flat and barely noticeable and after she noticed how the girl was dressed she knew what happened to her.
She always had the assumption that Ruck was barely a human being to begin with, but now her opinion of him fell even more.
The feeling in her heart got replaced with something above anger, displeasure and fury but at the same time sadness came over her.
“A girl my age and all she could do was endure. I wonder who her parents are and if they know what happened to their daughter. Maybe Ruck even killed them after he promised to the girl her obedience would save them.
It's nearly a wonder that she is still alive after she had to endure, this being Fiven.”
She tried to calm herself but every time she tried, this wild mix of fury and sadness would again come over her.
“I could never forgive myself if I let her remain here”