97 The Royal Robe
Vivienne Rocher was writing in the sales at sun's end when she heard a light knocking at the door of the Royal Robe.
'Stars and stones, I should have extinguished the lighting,' she thought as she moved towards the door. Who could it be this time? She had treated her entitled noble customers with professionalism for the entire sun and it made her exhausted. Young, insistent wizards-in-training claiming a modicum of noble blood were unfortunately common visitors after-hours. She had little patience for the notion, though she had far more than her father did.
She opened the door to find a child, a half-elf like herself. Wisps of sandy-blonde hair peeked down his oversized wizard hat, framing the child's large eyes. In the boy's company was a similar-aged silver-haired maid, and a full-helmeted knight wearing the colors of Duke Tavor.
Duke Tavor's people had unflappable nerves. His mages were rude, arrogant, obviously cruel, and always, without a doubt, self-entitled. If the rumors were true, the Duke only sponsored mages similar in personality to himself.
Less than a week prior, Vivienne took the liberty of reviewing her father's books concerning the shop's accounts with the man. What she found tainted her opinion of the Duke and his subordinates growing even worse.
Vivienne adjusted her thick glasses and prepared a firm tone, "I'm sorry, Young Master, the Royal Robe is closed for the evening. Our opening times are--"
"I'm sorry, Miss Rocher," the boy offered a rolled-up scroll. "We're here on official business from Sir Duke."
The shop wizard hesitated. The calm, polite voice of the child was incredibly contrary to what she'd expected. Maybe he was new? Knowing the group was ultimately from Duke Tavor, Vivienne remained wary. She took the scroll and examined it for trickery before opening it...
"There has been an issue with the Duke's last shipment," the guard said, his voice low and echoing in his helmet. "We wish to recover what goods we can. We will purchase them back at market price plus any inconvenience."
Vivienne quickly read over the contract. The boy was a sponsored magician on the very sun, "And the Duke so kindheartedly offered to pull his product before its inferiority damaged his reputation? Forgive me, Sir Knight, for my skepticism."
The guard lifted up his helmet, revealing a youthful face and strange golden eyes. Vivienne couldn't see his ears or hair, but she could easily assume the man had an uncommon bloodline. Her gaze immediately softened. People with rare bloodlines did not often have kind pasts.
"The Duke would prefer the loss of a bit of coin to rotting in jail, young miss," the knight smiled. He seemed apologetic for his actions, even though he was merely doing his duty.
The situation sounded serious. "Come inside out of the cold," Vivienne offered.
"My thanks, Lady Rocher. My name is Pall Reynard," the boy introduced himself as the trio followed her inside. "These are my retainers."
"Yo," the knight waved. "Tycon."
"H-hello, Miss. My name is Taree." the young maid curtsied. It was a little unrefined, but Vivienne could feel her sincerity.
In a few minutes, Vivienne had collected several high-end swords and charms, all boasting at least First-Circle enchantments, "The Duke's metalworks all sell quite well. They're very popular even amongst low-level warriors and magicians. What kind of problem did you say they have?"
"We haven't been told much, Miss Rocher." The golden-eyed knight swept a hand over the collected items and they disappeared in a flash of magic.
A magical storage item? Vivienne hadn't discerned the magic's source, so it must have been uncommon. She furrowed her brows in suspicion. These people weren't ordinary at all.
The knight produced a note-- a promissory note with Duke Tavor's unmistakeable handwriting. The terms were very generous and she couldn't find a hint of deception in the paperwork, so Vivienne signed.
After Knight Tycon took back a copy, Vivienne gave a deep sigh. "I must be honest, Sir Tycon. As excellent as the Duke's goods are, I do not plan on continuing our business relationship. Are you aware of the rumors surrounding his reputation?"
The knight gave a troubled look, glancing back at Wizard Pall. Vivienne blushed, realizing her mistake. She had addressed the young knight instead of his master, the younger wizard. She tilted her head forward, inwardly cursing, and her glasses fell off.
Her vision returned as the young knight placed her glasses back on her face. He spoke with a teasing smirk, "We come from far away, so have no news of the city. My young master only earned a sponsorship this morning but... is there something amiss?"
BANG BANG BANG.
Vivienne turned towards the door, to the loud, obnoxious knocking.
"Excuse me, I have to handle--" Vivienne turned to find the trio missing. She still held the promissory note in her hand. And she'd gotten a clear look at all three of their faces. If they were thieves, they were very bad ones.
Vivienne rolled her eyes and groaned. She hoped the three were real and not just a leftover curse or delayed illusory trap or a ghost. Working in a magic shop was never boring, but often troublesome. She decided to answer the door before worrying further.
"I'm sorry, sirs. The Royal Robe is closed for the--"
"Outta the way," a rough-looking man wearing a fanged reptile skull on his head pushed his way through.
Vivienne grit her teeth as she watched several more men walk in, each wearing the distinctive blue and red tabards of Duke Tavor.
Vivienne's serene and slightly curious evening had quickly turned into a terrible one, "Empty night! What do you want, Nagini?"
"Don'tttt play coy, whore. We're here for the reagentssssss. Volcanic assssssh, obsssssidian." The skull-helmeted Nagini grabbed an enchanted knife off of a shelf and spun it in his palm, "The Duke demandsssss it!!"
Vivienne adjusted her glasses, trying her best to remain calm. She held an almost instinctual fear of the bone and leather armored warrior and Nagini was being more pushy than usual. For a moment, she wished the golden-eyed knight was still around. She gazed at the other solemn faces of Duke Tavor's other guardsmen and she knew it was foolish to argue with Nagini's words.
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"I am Vivienne Rocher, daughter of Councillor Jean-Philippe Rocher. How dare you threaten me in my own shop!" As foolish as her actions were, the Duke had crossed Vivienne's bottom line and she refused to stand down. Her father would forgive her, as long as she followed her heart.
Nagini slammed the knife into a wooden pillar, "Pathetic. Bitch. Why do you ressssissssttt?"
Vivienne gulped, "I know what the Duke is doing, Nagini. He's trying to open a portal-- trying to break the Gatekeepers' laws! He'll bring ruin upon the city!"
Some of the guards looked to each other in confusion. Yes! Not all of Duke Tavor's guards were corrupt. Vivienne held onto a shred of hope in her fellow humans.
"A sssssshame you know too much." Nagini pointed and drew a quick line across his neck with his gloved thumb, "You there. Sssssstrike her down."
Vivienne's heart sunk as she felt a guard grab hold of her neck. Metal on metal rang in her ears as the guard drew his sword and raised it to strike her.
She shut her eyes tight. Her father would get revenge.
"Wait!" A familiar voice called out. She opened her eyes to see Knight Tycon, one of the missing guards, among their number, "You can't kill her."