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Chapter 1641 – Trust And Lies (Part 1)
The citizens of Zeska were grateful to Lith not only for his services, but also for making the lives of the commoners better.
After listening to his arguments, the fear from his power move turned into grat.i.tude that cracked the will to oppose the Kingdom at any cost. Yet it wasn’t enough. The memory of all the times that Ranger Quaron had protected them and the faith they had in him were stronger than any word.
‘I realize that Archmage Verhen might have wiped our city off the maps earlier and that I have no way to stop him from casting another of those magical monstrosities.’ Commander Eman thought.
‘Yet I can’t stand him slandering a good man like Alman Quaron nor will I surrender out of fear. If they destroy Zeska, the food will be lost as well so Verhen has to be cautious.
‘On top of that, I have no guarantee that the moment we open our doors the Kingdom will not execute us all as traitors. If we have to die anyway, we are going to take down with us as many dogs of the Royals as we can.’
“How dare you accuse our savior?” He replied. “I’m aware of the many things you have done for us during your time as a Ranger, yet after you retired to pursue your own interests, Ranger Quaron stood by the side of the people.
“He has saved more lives than I can count and helped every single village of the region more times than I can remember. A loyal friend is way more trustworthy than a retired hero turned countryside n.o.ble. Unless you have proof of your claims, of course.”
“What proof do I need besides my reputation and logic?” Lith said. “You know what I did and what I am capable of doing. If I wanted to, nothing would stop me and my regiment from marching inside Zeska yet here I am, reasoning with you.”
A tower of golden light emerged from under his feet. The construct grew in size until it brought Lith at the same level as Commander Eman, allowing the two men to look each other in the eyes.
‘Dammit, I had completely forgotten about Light Mastery.’ Eman thought. ‘There’s no array in the city that can stop it and it would take Ranger Verhen seconds to conjure siege towers that would make our walls useless.
‘Our weapons and wands are but toys compared to what he can do.’
‘Dammit, I had completely forgotten about Light Mastery.’ Captain Pelan thought as his face turned green with envy. ‘It’s such a rare discipline that’s almost considered a myth.
‘If only I was the one knowing the secrets of Light Mastery, I would put Verhen under my heel and repay him of all the humiliations he inflicted upon me. G.o.ds, why did you grant such power to a moron that wastes time with useless blabber instead of recapturing the city and killing the traitors?
‘First, he wasted a powerful spell, and now this? I can’t wait to submit my report to the Royals and make Verhen pay for his incompetence.’
“As for your “loyal friend”, have you ever stopped to consider the origin of all the supplies Quaron provided you with? Do you think that a Ranger is some kind of miracle worker that can conjure anything out of thin air?
“As a Ranger and a Forgemaster, all can I say is: I wis.h.!.+
“All the coal to keep you warm, the fabric for your clothes, and even the fresh fruit he gave you all came from the Kingdom, carried through the Warp Gates, and stored inside special dimensional items crafted by the Royal Forgemasters.
“Why do you think that not one of the cities with a Gate has joined you in your rebellion?” Lith asked.
“Because the Gate allows the army and the a.s.sociation to instantly send reinforcements. They simply have no way to oppose the tyranny of the Royals!” Eman replied.
“Please!” Lith replied with a sneer. “If the citizens really revolted, the soldiers would be outnumbered one thousand to one and the local mages would undoubtedly sabotage the Gates.
“No, the reason is that unlike you, they didn’t rely on Quaron to carry and distribute the supplies. Everything that came out of the Gates would be delivered by the army whereas Quaron exploited the winter lockdown to feed you lies!
“You may have no reason to trust me, but at least trust your brain. Where did he take all of that stuff?”
“He used the Gates to reach the richest regions of the Kingdom and bought the supplies we needed.” Eman said.
“With what money? Rangers are paid in silver, not in mountains of gold.” Lith replied.
“Our money, of course! We gave Quaron what he needed to buy the strict necessary from the black market-“
“Are you telling me that you paid overinflated prices for what was rightfully yours?” Lith cut him short. “Did you at least check for the Royal seal on the boxes?”
“Of course, there was the Royal seal! Those were stolen goods.” Eman replied.
“They were stolen alright. Stolen from you! Can’t you see how ridiculous this story is? Stop letting a bunch of convenient lies cloud your judgment. Think with your head.” Lith pointed his finger at the Commander, making him feel like an idiot.
He could see on the faces of the city guards that their faith in their hero was wavering, along with their will to fight until the bitter end. Lith then struck the iron while it was still hot, taking the Royal Decree out of his breast pocket and handing it to Eman with Light Mastery.
“If you cease this madness now and open the gates, I have been granted the authority to pardon all of you. The Kingdom needs Zeska as much as you need the Kingdom and a city without its people is just a bunch of buildings.” Lith said.
“That’s not what is written in here.” The Commander read the decree carefully. “The Decree states that my people will be detained and investigated.”
Now that the seed of doubt of having been duped had taken root into his mind, Eman had become cautious of the fine prints.
“You are wrong.” Lith shook his head. “Not your people, only Quaron’s accomplices. No matter how difficult the past winter may have been, three months is too short a time frame for a single man to fool so many cities into rebelling.
“Ranger Quaron must have had someone inside the city that kept the façade going while he wasn’t here. Someone who fed you lies to fuel your anger and make you grow hostile toward the Kingdom.
“Someone with the clearance necessary to open the city treasury and the vault from which you took those weapons.” Lith pointed at the alchemical tools that the city guards had used and then at the enchanted weapons and armors they wore.
“A Ranger can request the necessary codes but it requires a good reason whereas city officials know them to be capable of defending the city even in the case it’s under attack and the Ranger is unavailable.
“My guess is that those who armed you also took part of the gold for themselves if not even a few artifacts.”
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