21 Lady Evangeline
Upon waking up, Drake was briefed on the latest event.
Looking at his subordinates, Drake could only feel pride.
Although there were many more casualties than originally expected, Drake smiled. After all, he had nearly lost everything, including his life, in the latest battle. And after waking up, he looked around him and found himself in the prestigious Alm Castle!
After recovering for a few more days, Drake planned on conquering and establishing himself in the Alm Valley. The quicker he would do that, the better it would be. After earning enough influence in the region, money would flow in his treasury in a matter of years, and he would probably earn a noble title.
As for finishing the war, the Viscount Frey couldn't possibly take back the Alm Castle unless he left his own castle undefended. As for Knight Harrold, the consecutive battles against the Blood Raven mercenaries and the Snakes had weakened his army to the point that the old man was no threat at all. In fact, if Drake could locate him, he could easily march towards his army and crush them with his heavy cavalry and suffer little casualties in the process.
However, Drake's mind was rather focused on the harvest of the war: over 8000 gold coins coming from the Barret family's treasury, a Frey Bastard worth hundreds if not thousands of gold coins of ransom depending on the Viscount's fatherly love, over a hundred war prisoners that Drake planned to use against the Viscount if he came forward to negotiate.
Drake never planned on thoroughly crushing the Frey Household in the first place. He wanted to show everyone that the Moonlight Family's momentary weakness linked with the Viscount Allan's injury was nothing but rumours. And he indeed succeeded in it.
Of course, everything didn't go the way he wanted to, and the Battle of Alm had left some scars in his belly…and his fighting spirit. His talent, and breakthrough had led him to overestimate his own strength. He thought that with the help of his biochip, he would make the best decisions, and he indeed followed probabilities and tactics recorded by books, but in the end, theory and reality were too different. There were too many variables to solely base one's decisions on probabilities and experience.
"We managed to capture the acolyte who was the cause of this…unexpected enemy in the Alm region. I remember that the Knight Barret talked about her being able to predict the future before falling in battle.", Lewis said in a low voice.
"Oh? Do you believe him?"
"When I was young, I didn't believe in magic, sir. However, the Viscount ended up encountering one in a war, six years ago. I witnessed everything, from the acolyte's fearsome fireball and magical shields. Hence, I do believe in her ability to predict future, though I am not sure of the 'cost' of such magic."
"What do you mean?", Drake was interested. It was the first time he heard someone talk about magic so openly. Most of people who were aware of the magic's existence were either acolytes themselves who hid their powers similarly to Gallan, or war veterans. However, magic was kind of a taboo in this world, for some reasons.
"Everything comes with a price, and divination is probably a field that is very demanding. I witnessed the acolyte who was casting fireballs on the Dark Legion burning himself up. His momentary slip up allowed Lord Allan to behead the poor old man."
"I am curious though…Are acolytes so common that you can find them in some rural wars?", Drake asked, truthfully interested in the matter.
"The Magical Court has been known to support the crown for generations, and most of their members are actually heirs in influent noble houses. Hence, if these noble houses are threatened, the acolytes belonging to these noble houses intervene, though the Magical Court never dispatches acolytes officially when it comes to internal fighting."
"I heard that the Golden Lions have been thoroughly eliminated and their loots confiscated by the city guards. It should suffice to pay back my debt to the Blackwater's treasury."
"My lord, I don't think the Clary Town's raid can amount for the five thousand gold coins you…"
"Whatever. At least, the silversmith Tyrion will appreciate my gesture, and since I have won the battle, nobody will go against me, don't you think?"
"I wish to talk to the acolyte. As for Lara and Yara, summon them to the throne room after I'm done with the acolyte.", Drake asked.
"Right away, my lord", Lewis answered a clear voice. He whispered a few words to the guards and then started to walk alongside Drake.
In the Alm Castle's dungeon, hundreds of chained men and women were peeking at Drake and Lewis. It must be said that most of the prisoners were either soldiers that Drake captured or criminals who broke the law in the Alm Territory and apprehended by Sholis' city guards.
Only one woman seemed to have retained her grace: the acolyte woman. She obviously had a noble background, judging by her elegance and grace. She had blond hair, and her eyes were flickering in a yellow light.
"A truly supernatural being, huh?"
She was a beauty, but rather than looking at her as a woman or a lady, Drake preferred looking at her as an acolyte. Nothing more, nothing less.
"I am Lady Evangeline Hurlier, and I evoke the 6th law of the Porfield Constitution: I demand proper treatment for a noble like myself, the acolyte spoke.
Drake was surprised, but then smirked: "You're in my dungeon. If I were to open this door and tell these prisoners to go and murder you for freedom, they would do it. Do you really think that the kingdom's laws matter in this place?"
"Judging by her pale face, she must have some intelligence. She does understand threats, huh!", Lewis said, in a very overbearing voice.
Nobody talked in the dungeon. The dungeon guards were people that Lara hired herself: very arrogant and dangerous people who possessed the charisma required to settle an atmosphere of fear in the prisoners' minds.
Most of these guards were actually from Blackwater City, veteran mercenaries, criminals who repaid their crimes through service as city guards as well as some retired adventurers. All 11 dungeon keepers knew how to deal with these prisoners and how to make them…oppressed.
"Don't you have any moral? Treat her with respect!", a prisoner suddenly shouted, obviously angered at Drake's threat.
Drake suddenly winked at Lewis. It was time for some mental test.
"Huh? Lewis bring me a dagger. This man said something distasteful. And I heard that humans lose their usage of words if they lose their tongue!", Drake said in a loud voice.
Drake didn't plan on torturing the prisoners. He did plan on torturing the acolyte's mind until she answered his every question. With her lady-like appearance, she was bound to have a virtuous mind, and she would definitely not approve of barbaric acts of torture.
As expected, a voice reverberated through the cave.
"Don't you dare torture this man in front of me! If you do that, I will commit suicide and the Magical Court will hunt you down!", she shouted, hoping that the name of the organization she belonged to would plant some fear in the young lord standing in front of him.
"Mm? This is not how it works, though. The Magical Court would never intervene in such a…mortal matter. Furthermore, the King himself seems to have granted me membership to the Magical Court!"
"What? How is it…Only prominent counts and upper nobles possess membership to the Magical Court! How could a mere Viscount heir acquire one?"
Drake then picked up a sigil out of his pockets, a sigil that represented the magical court. Astonished, Evangeline closed her mouth while feeling true despair.
"I have a deal", Drake said in a clear voice, while looking straight in Evangeline's eyes.
"Can I refuse?"
"Well, if you want to die, along with every Frey Soldiers and those I am going to march against as soon as I hire more soldiers. With my heroic victory despite being outnumbered, many mercenaries will prefer to side with me rather than the old, outwitted Viscount who cannot get out of his castle because of the Count Faraday's hostility."
"…", Evangeline looked down, similar to a weakened, injured puppy.
"I will spare you…and treat you as a proper lady until the Viscount Frey gives me the gold coins for the ransom. I won't be too difficult either, only asking for a thousand gold coins for your person, even though I could ask for far more than that. I won't kill or torture the other Frey soldiers either. I will ask for ransoms as well and treat them…as proper war prisoners. In exchange, you will offer me your guidance on magic knowledge, and answer every single one of my questions without lying or without any intention of doing me or my Household's harm. Last but not least, I also want you to be my voucher so that I can attend the Magical Court Academy and learn magic."
Evangeline pondered for a while, before saying: "This is too good to be true. Don't you think you deceive me so easily! I am an acolyte after all. You can torture me, and you don't have any morals, from what I have seen of you today. I've always been a good judge of characters."
"Indeed, I could torture the answers out of you and force you to vouch for me this way. Torture has always been a very good means of getting answers…", Drake said, "But I want right answers and a proper voucher. And providing you with what you want will guarantee me exactly that. Thus, I am once again asking you to consider my offer. Be aware that a Moonlight always keep his promises. Honour has always been one of our virtue."
Evangeline looked at Drake in a new light. She always knew that he wasn't your average 15-years-old nobleman. But who would have expected such...a scheming mind to actually exist in a noble heir!
The conditions were fair, and she wasn't exactly in any position to negotiate. She looked at Drake's squire, Lewis, who played his role perfectly. He was toying with the Frey soldier who spoke up for her, sniffling him as if he were meat, and making frightening grimaces to torment the mind of the poor Frey soldier, who was barely in his twenties. At some point, he peed on himself, releasing a bad stench in the whole cell.
'Indeed, Lewis wasn't called The Bonecrusher for no reason…', Drake secretly rejoiced in his mind.
A few seconds later, Evangeline gave in: "Fine, I will teach you everything I know on magic, explain the books I had in my possession with the best of my abilities and answer every one of your question, as long as you keep your words. But you need to be aware that even if I vouch for you as a member of the Magical Court, you will still have to go through a certain number of tests, most of which will require magical talent. If you don't have enough affinity with magic, then even if I were a Magus, there would be very little I could do for you."
"I know I have magical affinity. Ever since I woke up, I can feel...someting different. The air is the same, the smell is the same, my eyes are the same, but for some reason, I can grasp my surroundings much clearer. I am a well-read man. I know that it means that my spirit has awakened"
Evangeline continued: "Alright, since you have the confidence to say so, I shall become your voucher and satisfy your curiosity. I, however, will need to see the prisoners at least once a day. Please allow me to write a letter to my family, so that they can convince the Viscount to pay as soon as they can. The quicker you have the money, the better it is to you, right?"
"Your first request, I will allow. As for the second, I need to see how you act before agreeing. If I give you everything, won't you be able to just play around and waste my time on useless things and go back on your words?", Drake smirked.
He might look like a 15-years-old boy in his current body, but mentally, he was still a war veteran. Negotiating with the enemy wasn't his forte, but he still had plenty of experience, at least enough to deal with a twenty-years-old shut-in mage-like woman like Lady Evangeline.