All elves, no matter the kind, had very long memories, and Caius Cornelius Veritas Vocula was no exception. Perhaps that was why he formed grudges so easily? Every miniscule slight and conflict stood stark in his mind, and he utterly despised all forms of disrespect.
Fortunately for him, his long life as an adherent to the Triarchic faith had granted a fantastic boon to him in the form of a vastly underestimated virtue: Patience.
Why risk oneself when one could simply wait for opportunities to fall to them?
And as if Lucere herself had blessed him, had answered his prayers once again, another opportunity fell in front of him as that demonic brat Julius was finally dealt with, appeasing the grudge he had against the human. Unfortunately, he was denied the satisfaction of dealing with Goldforge personally, but he supposed whatever he could have done to the brat wouldn’t compare to the horrors of the Dark Lands.
And he even had a trophy as well.
Caius smirked as he stared down at the demonic sword that once belonged to Goldforge, almost unable to stop himself from displaying his reward. Confident though he may be, Caius wasn’t arrogant enough to believe he could simply display the sword as it was and not attract the ire of the brat’s companions. He truly did pity those foolish heroes for believing someone so demonically corrupted, one that outright spurned his attempts to aid him, should be allowed in any way to aid their most sacred of quests.
Reaching a hand out, Caius traced his fingers along the sword, marveling at the craftsmanship. He was certain a master had crafted it, and it irked him that a caustic brat somehow gained possession of it. Likely stole it like the miserable thief he was…
However, before his hand could fully trace down the blade, he had to retract it as lightning sparked off its steel.
“GAH! Damned, foolish weapon…” he muttered to himself as he healed his fingers, the sting fading in seconds. He really should purify the weapon as soon as he could…As much as he loved his new trophy, it had no need for its powers. Hopefully, he could keep the fascinating colors in the steel once he kept the damned thing from shocking him…
Suddenly, a knock came from his door, cutting through his internal grumblings, and Caius once again put on a calming smile as he sat down on his throne. “Please enter.”
His smile widened even further as he watched one of his guards walk in with a replacement sheath for the sword. Now he would be able to properly display his new trophy without anyone noticing who it originally belonged to.
“Thank you, young Zudo. If you would please assist this old elf with placing my new sword on the wall, I would be eternally grateful.”
“Of course, Your Holiness.” The guard bowed, then moved over and sheathed the sword before it had a chance to spark up. And in a few short steps, the demonic sword was up against the wall, now perfectly ensconced in a pure gold sheath. Zudo still remained though, turning to him. “If I may speak, Your Holiness.”
“There is no need to ask, young Zudo.”
The guard bowed once more. “I thank you, Your Holiness, and apologize for any vexation I may cause you.” He straightened. “Two of the previous heroes are asking for a meeting with you, Your Holiness.”
Caius frowned. “…Didn’t they head into the temple?”
“It appears that they left Sir Torahiko in charge of the young heroes while they came to see you, Your Holiness.”
Well, that was certainly annoying. He hadn’t expected them to come back so soon, nor that they would entrust the safety of the heroes to a Gorokivan chieftain. Certainly, Torahiko had a decent pedigree, but he was less than a minor noble in the grand scheme of things…Regardless, it would seem odd to deny them, and he had already prepared a lie to tell them.
“Please, send them in.” Patiently smiling, Caius readied himself for the two heroes and once they entered and Zudo left, he stood to meet them.
“Greetings, noble heroes. How may this old elf help you?” He put on a more genial smile, channeling the idea of a wise, helpful elder as the human and minotaur stepped into his office.
“Yes yes, greetings your esteemed holiness and all that,” Yew mumbled, not even bothering to look at him. Thankfully, the human “hero” was staring over at Caius’s displayed armors instead of at his newest acquisition, so it was likely the bizarre brat was just interested in his decorations. Again.
“Sorry for him. Thank you for meeting with us on such short notice, Your Holiness,” Vlahos said, actually bowing respectfully like a proper soul raised with actual manners.
“It’s fine, my child. It’s no trouble at all to meet with you both,” Caius lied as he kept up his genial smile. It almost irritated him how clearly little the two had changed in the decades since he last saw them, but perhaps that would work to his advantage. If Vlahos remained deferential and Yew distractible, then the situation almost resolved itself. “May I ask why you requested a meeting with me?” Instead of going into the temple like a proper hero?
“You may.” …Fantastic to see how little Yew had changed.
“Again, sorry, Your Holiness,” Vlahos spoke up, her back straight as she stood at attention, her hands clasped behind her back, “It’s just been a while since Julius checked in with us, so we wanted to know where he ran off to. We’re not saying it was something you did or anything–”
“I might be,” Yew mumbled, his gaze now on the paintings.
“–We’re really not,” Vlahos contradicted, frowning at her companion for a moment before she looked to Caius once more, “We just need to keep track of him. He tends to cause trouble when we’re not keeping an eye on him.”
Hm. Well she was clearly trying to appeal to him. Somewhat sloppily, but no one ever claimed minotaurs were known for their manipulation skills.
Still, he was planning to answer her anyway, so may as well play along. “Well, where he is going is simple to answer,” he began, smiling again, “At the moment, Julius is going to the Frost Lands.” A simple enough lie, and wouldn’t it be quite the shame when he disappeared en route? Perhaps Caius could spin some tale of leviathans dragging him to the depths…or just claim the Demon Lord tired of him and vaporized the irritating brat. Perhaps the latter, could motivate the Dro boy.
“…What?” “Eh?” Ah, and now both of them were looking at him. They both appeared to be confused, which was to be expected.
“Why’s he going there?” Yew asked after a moment. He had an eyebrow raised questioningly, which was somewhat irritating. Just the way it quirked, the inherent skepticism, chafed to Caius.
“If you must know, I asked him to. Given the unfortunate incident of the Lightning Core being stolen, I felt it only proper to be prepared for whatever Valondrac does next. And what better way than to ask our neighbors to the north for reinforcements? They aided us just as such in previous instances, as I’m sure you can recall.” Whether they wanted them or not. Ah, if only those irritating foreigners would actually mind their own damn business and stop acting like some old alliance between Lucere and the frostlanders’ sulking god gave them the right to interfere in matters that didn’t concern them.
“That…makes sense, sure,” Vlahos agreed, like a smart girl, “But why would he go there without informing us?”
“You know how he is, always wanting to get everything over with as soon as possible. And I’m sure he also wanted to meet Miss Charlotte and Miss Yuliana.” Caius gave them both a gentle smile. “He did seem quite happy when I mentioned the two.”
“…Really? Jules was excited to meet Charlotte and Yuli?” He blinked for a moment. Why was Vlahos skeptical now? Her tone had completely changed. She was supposed to be the anxious one, Yew was supposed to–No, no matter, it was a simple error.
“Well…it appeared so to me,” he replied, reevaluating matters, “Was there some form of fallout between them?”
“No, but Yuli is in the Sun Lands. And Jules knows they are.”
“Huh? Oh, well then…” Shit shit fucking shit– “…My apologies, you’ll have to forgive me. It seems my memory isn’t as strong as it once was.” He chuckled, not showing any of his immediate panic at what was easily the worst damn screw up he could make, the kind of oversight that ruined thousands. “I did send some soldiers to the Frost Lands to intercede with the Paladins of Khioni, but I sent Julius himself to the Sun Lands to fetch Yuliana and-” Damn, what was the other one? “-Ellen.”
“Yes, of course.” Yes, it was all coming together. “In fact, that’s why he went off so quickly, so he could meet his little sister.”
“Hmph. I’ve heard enough. Pontiff Vocula, you’ve made too many mistakes in your lie!” Yew suddenly shouted, pointing a finger dramatically at him.
“…How so?” Son of a–what was it now!?
“First and foremost!” Pointing to the sword, Yew smirked. “That is clearly Julius’s sword!”
“You don’t seriously expect me to believe that you just so happen to have a broadsword the exact same size, length, width, and diameter as Julius’s sword with the same hilt, the same pommel, and the same Redforge crest?” Continuing to smirk, Yew stepped closer to Caius and placed his hands on his desk. “As for your second mistake, there’s simply no possible way a high elf like you would forget something that happened only a few hours ago.
“Though I suppose it is possible that you may have contracted a disease that affects your memory, which, while sad if true, isn’t likely given you still hold this seat of power,” Yew continued, his accusatory tone suddenly shifting to a sympathetic one and then to a considering one as he contradicted then agreed with himself.
“And lastly!” Once again accusatory, Yew dramatically pointed at Caius. Again. “Jules doesn’t have a little sister!”
Caius blinked, staring at the finger only inches away from his nose, then up at Yew, slowly processing the bizarre man’s statement. “…What?”
“…” He paused and glanced towards Vlahos, who’d just slapped her open palm against her face. Facepalmed, right, that was the word.
Yew didn’t appear to notice though. Instead, he held up his finger and wagged it, like he was chiding Caius. “It’s very simple, my dear Pontiff! For you see! Julius Goldforge has an older sister, not a younger one, and she just so happens to be Margrave Brascul, the Archduke of Orindaco, which isn’t precisely relevant to this conversation but does most certainly relate to it do to it clearly being the source of your error!”
“…Would you…care to explain?” What in the holy fuck was happening right now.
“You see, Pontiff Vocula, you have clearly made a number of errors in this situation, all stemming from matters that you’ve gotten confused on-”
“Doug, can I stop you for a second?”
Yew blinked, then turned to Vlahos. “Er, now? I was sort of getting into a groove here.”
“Yeah, kill the groove. So, uh…I’m just gonna come out to say this. Jules has a younger sister.”
He huffed in amusement. “No? Tizzy, he has an older one. You remember Margrave, correct? Very intimidating woman, deeply frightening, threatened to drown me at least twice?”
“…Doug, Ellen’s Julius’s younger sister.”
“…I don’t follow.”
She let out a deep sigh. “Doug. Ellen Silvershade, our Elly, nice gal with silvery blonde hair, is the younger sister of Jules, our pal with blond hair, and Brascul, the scary lady with blonde hair.”
“Tizzy, not all blondes are related.”
“Those three are.”
Yew raised an eyebrow again. By this point, Caius wasn’t quite sure what was happening but he didn’t know if he should stop it. “…No, no, I would know if they were siblings, that’s not something I would actually forget.”
“You’ve forgotten lotsa shit before,” Vlahos pointed out.
“Yes, but this is a very significant thing about two people I’ve known for years! How could I possibly-…” Yew paused, frowning. “…Did anyone ever tell me they were siblings?”
“…I’m an idiot, aren’t I?” Yew finally asked, now pouting.
“Yeah, you are, and we’re gonna have a talk after this to figure out what other obvious things you might not know, but for now-” And now Vlahos was pointing at Caius. It was a much more subdued point, but her finger was pointing at him nonetheless. “Fess up. The hell did you do to Julius?”
Oh, so now they were back to this. “What makes you think I did anything-”
“Objection, deflection,” Yew suddenly spoke up again.
“Sustained,” Vlahos said, apparently playing along with whatever that was supposed to be. “Seriously. Talk straight.”
Ridiculous brats… “Miss Vlahos, Mister Yew, I assure you, I have done nothing to-”
“We literally saw a giant plume of fire erupt from the dome up here and fly off into the sky. Now, I don’t know if your apparently shit memory can help you with this, but your town’s got four guardian angels. What’re their elements again?”
“Fire, water, air, and earth,” Yew recited with a cheeky grin.
“I would’ve put the emphasis on fire there, but yeah, those. And they all work for you, right? Now, sure, I could buy that maybe Jules was willing to go along with some bullshit to appease you, especially if it meant going down to visit Elly and Yuli-”
“That’s Mx Yuliani Demenok to you, by the way,” Yew added.
“-but you lied to us already, which means you’ve got something to hide, and that over there is definitely Jules’s sword.” She jerked a thumb towards the empty sheath–
Caius turned with a start and stared at the empty golden sheath that hung on his wall, devoid of the demonic sword.
“…Okay what did you just do to Jules’s sword?”
For a brief moment, a part of Caius wondered what he did to anger Lucere enough to be put in the middle of such an irritating situation. The rest of him was mentally swearing up a storm like the son of a sailor he was.
“He didn’t do a thing,” Yew suddenly spoke up in a far colder tone than before, “Julius’s sword just went to its master because he called to it. Likely unintentionally, because he hasn’t done so before, and likely because he was pushed into doing it because he’s in danger. So, Pontiff Vocula, would you like to finally tell us where you took our friend?”
“…No, I don’t think I will.” Caius stared evenly back at Yew as the human dared to outright glare at him. “You don’t seem to understand your position here, Doug. Have you forgotten who you’re speaking to?”
“No, I haven’t. Now tell me what you did to Julius.”
Caius kept his face neutral even as the former ‘hero’ leaned towards him with obvious anger in his eyes. “Hm. I think it best you leave now, Mister Yew, before I have you removed from the city entirely.”
And the bastard had the gall to smile. “Try it.”
“Fine. Enjoy your swim.” Caius casually snapped his fingers, allowing himself a small smirk again.
And then snapped his fingers again. And again.
“…” Yew was smiling a great deal wider now.
“…What did you do?”
“Oh, just a simple trick known among the adherents of Hymn, the god of sound in case you’re too stupid or senile to remember of any god aside from your fancy ‘triarchs’, called mute. You can understand what it does from the context, can’t you?”
“…You understand, I have further means of-” Caius couldn’t hold back his flinch as Vlahos abruptly slammed a hand on his desk, glaring at him from beside Yew.
“You understand, we wanna know what you did to Jules, and you’re pushin’ this much farther than it needs to go.”
Caius finally let himself scowl, glaring back at the impertinent, arrogant brats thinking they could intimidate him. “I am the mortal voice of Lucere herself, you insubordinate cunt! In an instant, I can command thousands of angels to swarm on this position, not even including the Cardinals you so clearly fear!”
“Yes, except you can’t because I’ve literally been layering ward upon ward around this office since the instant we entered,” Yew countered, “So nyeh.” And then he actually stuck his tongue out at-
“WOULD YOU STUPID BRATS TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!?” Caius finally shouted, standing and slamming his own hands on his desk. “YOU CAN’T COME INTO MY FUCKING OFFICE AND ACT LIKE CLOWNS WHILE SPEWING IGNORANT ACCUSATIONS OVER AND OVER AGAIN! THE INSTANT MICHAEL GETS BACK HERE, I AM GOING TO-”
“Oh, so it was Michael that abducted Julius.” Huh?
“Does that narrow it down at all?” Wait, why was Vlahos talking to Yew?
“In a sense. We’ll need some form of material relating to them if we want to track the trail with any degree of success.” What.
“Would he have anything?” …Vlahos was pointing back at Caius now. Why was she pointing at him?
“Likely, yes, due to his ability to, apparently, summon them.” What was happening right now? And why couldn’t he make any noise?
“Hm. That works out then.”
“How so?” Yew asked as Caius started feeling at his throat, trying to figure out why he could not seem to make any noise at all.
“We need some leverage to get outta here safe if anyone spots us.”
“Ahhhh, smart. See, this is why we need you around, you have both the strategic mind and the lack of scruples that keep us on track.”
“Yeah yeah, you’d be lost without me. Now c’mon, make with the sleep stuff.”
Yew smirked again. “Gladly.” Then he raised a hand towards Caius and there was a brief flash of a surprisingly cozy looking light–