Medievia Mudslinger

June 11, 2000

For the Love of Gold - By Archus

This is the city. Medievia City, Medievia. I work here...I wear a breastplate. It was the Day of Valor, the First Day of the Month of the Grand Struggle, Year 526. It was a bright and sunny day in Medievia. We were working the day watch out of Alchemy. My partner's Gannor. The boss is Captain Staelos. My name's Fridus.

7:19 a.m. Being the first of the month, the city's hard working citizens were eager to deposit their earnings at the Medievia City Bank. Today also marked the distribution of a new currency coined in honor of the mage Marious, Vryce's advisor on the war against the Catacombs. As a result, Captain Staelos had ordered Gannor and I to oversee security at the bank. We arrived to a detachment of three Guardsmen already standing positions in the modestly decorated bank, little more than a stone lobby for a huge mithril vault.

A Southern woman with dark skin and raven hair, the chief bankteller was once a merchant at Gdangus before being received in Medievia City for her remarkable business savvy. Jolyeia had been pacing behind the counter and checking in on her assistants ever since sunrise, eager to complete the transactions of the day. She greeted us cordially, revealing the relief in her voice. "Good morning, gentleman. Thank you for your help."

I extended my hand. "Yes, ma'am. This is Corporal Gannor. My name's Fridus. Teller Jolyeia, I presume?"

"You presume correctly, Sergeant. Would you perhaps like to take a look at the reason for the heightened security today?"

Gannor spoke up eagerly. "That we would, ma'am!"

She smiled and lead us to the vault. Sitting behind the mithril gate were iron cases teeming with the new gold currency. Jolyeia picked up a coin and handed it to us for inspection. It was a remarkable likeness of the old mage, his portrait in profile and staring defiantly downwards in disgust of the catacombs. The artist captured every detail from his neatly braided hair to the harsh pull of his eyes over his cheeks. A ring of stars surrounded the bust, and on the back of the coin rested the seal of Medievia. "Beautiful work, isn't it? Marious has approved wholeheartedly. Since we expect a lot of exchanges, we're carrying triple the amount of gold we normally do. That comes out to be three hundred million coins, gentlemen."

Gannor chuckled and handed the coin back to her. "All that for Marious? Well, the old man sure does deserve it! It's a work of art, all right. We'll see to it that the gold is safe. After all, gold is what we in Alchemy know best."

"Alchemy?" she said with a start. "But, I thought you were with Treasury."

I replied, "Alchemy in Medievia City is an offspring of Treasury. Treasury normally handles all matters of debt and economy, but when dealing with a large influx of gold, it is traditionally Alchemy's responsibility. Ever since the outlawing of turning lead into gold, Alchemy's first duty has always been the preservation of the value of the gold coin. Dealing with illegal sorcery is just a part of the territory."

"Speaking of which," Gannor said, "we need to take a couple of precautions." He slid a vial of misty potion out from his belt and swallowed the tea-like mixture. His eyes glowed briefly as the magic took effect, enabling him to see invisible, evil, and more importantly, the aura around magically altered objects. He looked through the cases of gold, letting the coins tinkle between his fingers while he searched for any sign of alchemy. "Looks good, Fridus."

Jolyeia confirmed, "It's all certified. A Greycap patrol ferried the coins in last night. This is one hundred percent pure Riverton gold."

11:50 a.m. As the morning drew to a close, the bank came to full operation. In the early morning, merchants had deposited and withdrawn millions in anticipation of the day's coming business. After that, adventurers and traders kept every teller busy with their transactions. Behind the counter, six imps constantly traveled back and forth between cities, updating ledgers and making banking a truly intercontinental process. As the lunch hour approached, Jolyeia expected to see triple the customers, all of whom had been eager to receive their new Marious coins. As usual, this was also the time for Gannor to be getting hungry. We decided to eat in shifts. I took up the post beside the counter while Gannor and two other Guardsmen walked over to Aramingo Avenue for beef and waybread, leaving our third man, Dooley, at the door.

Within ten minutes, a line had developed as janitors and clerks patiently waited to turn in their earnings. The imps worked nonstop, vanishing and returning as they scribbled on their ledgers. While the bank staff worked frantically to keep up with the transactions, I noticed Dooley peering down the street. The young man's curious expression suddenly turned to one of alarm. Over the tinkling of the coins and the chatter among the citizens, I felt the telepathic message he sent out over our Guardsmen's link. "A band of Orcs have gathered outside the Medievia City Bank. Request assistance." As soon as the message was sent, a howl resounded from outside. Dooley drew his blade as three of the grotesque, leathery-skinned creatures flung themselves at the doorway.

"Everyone down!" I cried. Bank customers and the tellers dove for the ground while I raced to Dooley's aid. He held the snarling, pudgy-nosed monsters at bay for the moment, but they were pushing him back with their shortswords. I drew my sword in time to deflect a strike from the right. I counted seven Orcs outside the porch, one of which sat on a covered wagon in the middle of the street. We pushed the Orcs back out of the building when the wagon driver rose up and aimed a wand at us. A gush of flame flew from the tip, manifesting itself into a massive fireball. An inferno engulfed the porch, forcing us back inside and scathing the attacking Orcs.

Dooley held his sword ready. "Can't say they're very smart, sir."

"Which is why they're so dangerous." I pulled a platinum wand from my belt and felt it warm up in my left hand. "They must be after the gold. No matter what, stay inside the bank." The Orcs had begun to recover, and now six of them prepared to charge. The wagon driver summoned another fireball, leaving us ducking for cover and his friends ready to charge.

Dooley struck down the first Orc, drawing his sword neatly across his chest. I pulled in tight beside him, drawing off attacks from his left side. In between parries, I aimed the tip of my wand at the Orc on the wagon and sent a volley of magic missiles at him. Thirteen glowing points of light shredded through his body, throwing him off the wagon wailing his death cry. The remaining five Orcs redoubled their attacks, but we held long enough for Gannor and the two other Guardsmen to reinforce us. Sandwiched between us, the Orcs fell quickly, and in rather remarkable acts of courage for ones such as they, none of them surrendered or fled. Within moments, the acrid stench of decaying Orc flesh filled the street.

Gannor wiped his sword clean against one of the corpses and nodded to us. " That was rather bold for Orcs. I'd expect that kind of behavior from the thieves of the Underground, but not from these beasts. Is anyone hurt inside? "

Dooley shook his head. "No, sir. They're just a little shaken up, that's all."

"Looks like lunch will have to wait for you, son," Gannor said lightly. "We need to keep the place secure while an investigation team arrives."

Dooley hung his head and sighed. "Well, no discomfort too great for a Guardsman, Corporal. I'll stand my post." He grinned meekly and sheathed his blade.

"Good man," I added. "Gannor, get the boys down here." I walked back inside to the frightened faces of the customers. "Jolyeia, your people all right?"

The chief bankteller laughed nervously and nodded. "Yeah, just fine. Thanks for asking." She glanced over at the vault and sighed her relief. "By Vryce, that was close. People have tried to steal from us before, but we've never been besieged! Gold fever, I guess."

7:15 p.m. With the majority of the day's business done and with three fourths of the new coins gone, Captain Staelos felt it was safe to resume normal bank security. Gannor had sent the three Guardsmen home for the night while he and I waited to be relieved by the usual night Guardsman. The imps were almost done updating their records, and the night staff had already come in to relieve the tellers. I spent most of my time staring out the doorway into the murky shadows, anxious to hear what the investigation team had come up with on the Orcs and their wagon. Gannor knew what I was thinking and leaned against the scorched doorframe beside me.

"Strange attack," I commented. "Orcs aren't much for robbing banks, and they usually don't fight the way they did. It doesn't make any sense. It was a dumb attack, and at the same time, they didn't seem like your average dumb Orcs. Something smells like spoiled banelar around here."

"Well, I had some banelar that tasted kind of funny for lunch..."

"That's not what I meant, Gannor."

All of a sudden, Gannor's gas, the Orcs' attack, and the nagging at the back of my mind came together and flared into a crisis. We heard Jolyeia scream from within the vault, so we dashed in with our swords drawn. Through the mithril gate, we saw the remaining gold glimmer violently, their yellow hues intermingling with white. One by one, the glimmering disappeared, leaving dark gray metal where there was once gold. Jolyeia hopped between the cases frantically, afraid to touch anything but desperate to do something to save the gold. Within a tick, all the sparkles tore through the money like locusts and seeped within the earth, leaving barren metal.

"Wha-what's happening!" Jolyeia cried. "Fridus, the gold!"

I telepathically called for an investigation team. Six city investigators and Keltivus, our senior investigator, arrived promptly with bags of equipment. Keltivus had been with us for decades. He had failed his mage training as a teenager, but he had learned enough to make him an invaluable asset to our team. Though he couldn't cast a fishing line into a pond, Keltivus had made it his life's work to study and chronicle all manners of the arcane. The plump, old researcher pushed up his spectacles and hovered over the shoulders of his assistants, looking like a phantom bobbing around in his official maroon robe. A thin curtain of gray hair fell from the edges of his head, almost in mock worship of his baldness. After an hour, he wobbled over towards us with a parchment in hand.

"Well, old lad?" Gannor asked hopefully.

Keltivus sniffed and replied in his nasal manner, "Doesn't look good, Gannor. We've studied the coins, and it appears they've all been turned to lead. From what you described, it was definitely Alchemy in the classical sense." Gannor had to hold onto Jolyeia's arms to keep her from fainting. "But we did manage to find one deposited gold coin with a very peculiar magical aura. I'll work on it tonight and have a report for you first thing in the morning. This all reminds me of something, but I'll have to refer to my library to be sure. Until then, can the bank go on?"

Jolyeia shuddered. "There were over seventy million coins in that vault, sir. That type of loss is not easily recoverable. We have a small reserve to help offset any crises, but after the trouble we had last year with the economy, we only have a reserve of thirty four million. If this isn't resolved quickly, we can throw Medievia City into a depression."

"Then we'll have it done quickly," I assured her. "Keltivus, I'll be waiting for that report first thing in the morning. I've got a feeling that those Orcs play into this. Jolyeia, would you please make out a list of all the customers who were here during the attack? Gannor, see what men you can grab to help us out with this case. I'll head over to the barracks and talk to Captain Staelos."

8:30 a.m., the Second Day of the Month of the Grand Struggle. Gannor had gathered our two other Alchemy corporals and three Guardsmen, among them young Dooley. We sat down in the conference hall to a breakfast of milk and pastries, as was our custom to beginning the morning briefings.

Unfortunately, there would be no humor at the table today. I began the session by reporting Keltivus' findings.

"Keltivus found a gold coin among the lead, and he has determined that the coin was the magical focus for an incantation that was made illegal hundreds of years ago. Now, for the young Guardsmen who are joined with us, a magical focus is an object with which a magic user can focus his energies to make certain spells work. I'm sure you've all heard of elemental stones, Mirrors of Ages, and Earth Crystals in your bedtime stories as children. This is alchemy at its most dangerous, gentlemen. This is the strict transmutation between gold and lead. Fortunately, this is a reversible process, but we have to hurry before our banking falls to pieces.

"This is the nature of the spell as according to the old tomes. Court magicians used to use this trick to run off with a king's fortune. They enchanted two coins and left one in the presence of treasure during the day. Near the treasure, the blood of six monsters had to be spilt, and immediately afterwards, a spell had to be chanted. By sunset, the very essence of the gold would be stolen into the earth, leaving only lead, and would enter the body of the second coin. From this coin, the magician could make an equal amount of gold out of lead as that which was stolen. Gentlemen, this is punishable by death by Medievian law."

Gannor slammed his fist onto the table. "Now it all makes sense! The Orcs were fighting us for the benefit of the spell. I betcha they were charmed! That would mean that someone who was in the bank at the time had to have made the incantation."

I smiled appreciatively of my partner’s instincts. "Exactly. Jolyeia's given us a list of the people in the bank at the time. There were thirty seven total, but only eight of them were mages. One of them has to be the one responsible. We split into three teams. I had Gannor send for these youngsters in case you lads weren't up for real Guard work anymore." Indignant chuckles went around from Gannor and the two other detectives. " Corporal Yeoloo, take Guardsman Norley here. Corporal Grask, you're with Guardsman Qualtat. Dooley, you're with us. Here's the list of mages. I've marked off who you should check out. We need answers by the end of the day, gentlemen. This is why Alchemy was created: to protect the monetary interests of our citizens from magic."

9:15 a.m. We left the barracks to meet our first suspect, an old mage by the name of Galsillus. We traveled by horse to his beachfront home, a shack that looked as though it belonged to a poor fisherman more than it would to a mage. We dismounted and kept Dooley between us. The boy had impressed me yesterday, and I wanted to examine his potential for myself. One day, he could be a valuable member of the Alchemy team. I rapped on the frail door, almost afraid that it would collapse. A grisly old man with a short white beard and thin silver hair opened the door cheerfully despite his appearance.

"Galsillus?" I asked.

"Yes, who wants to know?"

"This is Corporal Gannor, Guardsman Dooley. My name's Fridus. We're with the City Guard. We were wondering if we could ask you a few questions?"

"Why, certainly, certainly! Come in!" He seated us at a small table that dominated the one-roomed home. For a creaky little shack in bad repair, the furnishings were splendid. The simple table had four strong chairs, the bunk had been neatly made, and dozens of tomes sat patiently on the bookshelves holding up the walls of the house. Galsillus offered us some stew from the hearth, but we declined politely. When he had finally sat down, he asked, " So, what do you young wombats need of me, eh? Am I in trouble?" He cackled good-naturedly.

"You tell us, sir," Gannor replied sternly.

Galsillus' weary face grew grave. "All right, you'd better tell me what you want."

"Sir," I started, "you were at the bank yesterday at the time of the Orc attack. During that time, someone cast an illegal alchemical spell. Seventy five million gold coins now turned to lead."

"What? My gold is gone! And you think I had something to do with it?" he snapped incredulously. "Listen here, Guardsman, if I had taken all that gold, do you think I would be here in this shack? I study the magical arts, and my only income is what little gold my son can afford to give me when I see him every month. My business in that bank was family business, and now you're telling me that my money's gone and that I am responsible! I know nothing of alchemy. I'm a law-abiding mage, and the books on my shelves prove it. There's nothing in those books other than ways to maim and kill creatures! You may look around if you wish, but I assure you that there is no room in this shack to hide any secrets."

We conducted our search with misty potions and all, but we could find no evidence of any gold or alchemy. After an hour, I thanked Galsillus for his cooperation, and we prepared to leave. At the last minute, he said, " Guardsman, I realize that looking around here is a part of your job, and I,m sorry for my behavior. You must understand...As a loyal citizen, perhaps I can help you. I know nearly every mage in the realm, so if you would tell me who you're interested in, I might be able to tell you something. I want my money back as much as the next man." We agreed and showed the old mage our list. He looked through it carefully, shaking his head. "True mages have little do to with money, and all of these are true mages. But one of these men does need gold badly. You're looking for Kewpid."

"Kewpid?" I glanced at the list. I had assigned him to Corporal Grask. " What makes you so sure?"

Galsillus sighed heavily and gestured for us to sit down. "It was several years ago. Kewpid was a fine warrior who hired out his skills to guard trade caravans. He made a good living, and it was once upon a winter day when a caravan from New Ashton came near the city only to be ambushed by Kobolds. Kewpid was nearby hunting when he heard the cries, and he bore down hard on the little beasts. He single-handedly dispatched the ambushers and lead the caravan safely into town. The head trader treated Kewpid to dinner, and that's when he met his daughter, Asadora.

"Asadora was a beautiful young girl, cultured by education and fit from travel. What do they call it, Guardsman? Love at first sight? Humph. Took me three weeks to get my wife to love me, Vryce rest her soul. Why, I remember--"

"Just the facts, sir," I interrupted.

"Ah, yes. Anyhow, the caravan spent a week in Medievia City before deciding to head back to New Ashton. Naturally, Kewpid offered his services at a very generous rate, and the caravan brought him along.

"As they were about to reach the crossroads to Trilanisti, they stumbled upon what's called a dimensional vortex." Galsillus rose up to reach for a book on his shelves. "A Demon Lord had just emerged with a dozen Spectral Hounds, and they immediately fell upon the caravan. Demon Lords are not uncommon around these parts nowadays, but back then, they were the stuff of folk tales. Kewpid and the caravan crew fought valiantly. While the others fought the Hounds, Kewpid almost bested the Demon, and in desperation, the monster re- opened the dimensional vortex in order to escape. The vortex acted like a whirlpool, sucking everything near it in. The Demon and the Hounds were sucked back into hell, but before the vortex closed, it also swallowed several of the caravan goods and even Asadora, who was in close combat with a Hound near the point of escape.

"Ever since, Kewpid has made it his quest to rescue his love. When he could hone his warrior skills no more, he made a pilgrimage to Mount Vryce and gained the favor of the gods. They bestowed upon him the gift of mana, and he took up the arts of magic. Ever since, he has been a recluse. By now, I'm sure his power is quite great, judging by his perseverance as a warrior."

We took the story in, and though it was melodramatic, it was believable enough for Medievia. Dooley then asked, "But what would he need gold for? To buy equipment?"

Galsillus shook his head. "No, my good boy, no indeed. Why do you think Demons attack trade caravans? They fear gold! Gold is the purest of metals, representing everything that hell does not. Now, we don't know how, but the properties of gold can somehow be harnessed against the Demons. They fear anyone who can accumulate it, so that's why they try to prevent trade. It is a dark, forbidden magic that relies heavily on alchemy, but with all this gold at stake, I'm sure Kewpid must have discovered something in his research."

10:55 a.m. We notified Grask that we would be joining him in questioning Kewpid, leaving Yeoloo to look after the rest of the leads. After a short trip into the Medievia suburbs, we found Qualtat resting anxiously outside the gate to a rather ominous looking mansion. The old building had been layered in gray stone, looking more like a collection of fortress walls rather than a home. The architect had gone so far as to put turrets at the corners of the house, leaving arrow slits and archer stations to rain down hell from above. Qualtat told us Grask had left him to watch the front while he scouted out the back. We waited patiently for the corporal to return and told them Galsillus' tale.

"Well, there have been a lot of noises coming out of there," Grask said gruffly. He chewed on a bit of dried banelar. "Don't want to go in fighting on an empty stomach, but don't want to go in fighting on a full stomach, either."

Dooley wisely spoke up. "No need to go in fighting anyhow, sir."

I nodded. "Well said, Dooley, well said, but we probably have to expect it. Grask, what kind of place are we dealing with?"

"Two flights, each door just simple wood despite the walls. There's a back porch, but we’d have to get over the iron bars fencing off the house. As far as I can gather, all the noises are coming from upstairs. The house itself doesn't appear magical, but you never know."

"Fine work, Grask," I replied. "Dooley, Qualtat, Gannor, go out back and climb the bars. Grask and I will approach from the front. If there's more than two of us, the mage is bound to get a little impulsive. If we need you, we'll signal telepathically. Just come on in from behind if that happens."

The three left for the backporch while Grask and I approached the front door. We rapped on the wyvern-shaped knocker, but no reply came. Grask made a note on his writ of search and broke through the door. The home was not very well furnished, reflecting more of a warrior's lifestyle, but the walls were lavishly curtained to hide the smooth stone underneath. I glanced over the bare tables and the common thread among mages -- shelves stacked with books. We heard chanting and humming from upstairs. Grask insisted on going up first, so I followed him to a door that lead to what I could only assume to have been a study. Again, Grask forced open the door, letting out a waft of vapors that stung our eyes and noses.

The room was as barely furnished as the rest of the house, but an elaborate set of weapons, wands, and potions rested upon a rack to the right of the room while tomes and parchments had been strewn about everywhere else. Kewpid stood wearing ringmail armor and an elaborate cloak. He was well built, retaining the body of a warrior, but his eyes betrayed long hours of study and forbidden knowledge. Fatigue dripped from each of his powerful limbs, and anguish had nested itself within his noble face. Kewpid looked at us incredulously, seeming as though we had interrupted some deep meditation. Around his neck, he wore a simple coin that looked exactly like the one we had found at the bank.

"Kewpid!" I shouted. "You're under arrest for illegal alchemy and violation of the Anti-Orc Residency Act!"

He shook his head and growled, "You don't understand! Keep away!"

"No, friend, you don't understand!" Grask snapped. He walked into the room with his hand on his sword. "Give it up and return that coin!"

Kewpid cried, "You fools! There'll be a dimensional vortex opening here in minutes. You'll die if you stay here. I'm not responsible for protecting you!" He grabbed a bow and a shortsword bearing a frosty sheen from the rack. "Leave while you still can!"

And then all my nightmares came true. The left side of the room collapsed into a swirling pool of pink and red light. A dimensional vortex had just formed. I heard a growling voice cry, "Mandogs from hell! Do my bidding!" Suddenly, a phantasmal form flew out of the portal and began taking shape, a near gaseous dog emerged, drooling with vapors. It sized the three of us up and decided to lunge for the easiest target -- Grask. The beast flew off its ethereal haunches and aimed for Grask's face, but the corporal was quick enough to strike the beast down with his sword, causing the monstrosity to disappear into a mist that smelled something like year old stirge's eggs.

"I will not waste my energies protecting you!" Kewpid repeated.

I sent a telepathic signal for the others to come up while six more of the Spectral Hounds came through the portal. Kewpid shouted, "Show me your Master, Hounds! Vas Nox Hur!" Bolts of green acid leapt from his fingers, striking ferociously against the monsters and eating away at their forms. " Your Master!" As if on cue, a dark, clawed hand reached out from the portal and gripped onto the sides of the wavering wall. What came out still haunts me today. It had the face of a man underneath dark, leathery skin. He had horns and a flaming beard, but what was most disturbing was his burning scimitar and his black chainmail armor. The Demon growled, focusing his eyes menacingly upon Kewpid. I expected to see Kewpid hurl a fireball at the monster, but instead, a tear rolled down his cheek. "Hello, Asadora." I almost choked on my own spit. "It's been a long time."

The Demon snarled, baring his fangs. "You remember her, eh?" he growled. "No wonder you were able to attune your energies to summon me. She is no more, mortal. I possess her now."

Kewpid shook his head, sheathed his sword, and pulled an arrow from underneath his cloak. "No, not after today. I love her, and if anyone's going to have her, it will be me. This is your last chance. Release Asadora."

I wasn't quite sure what happened next; so many things occurred. Gannor and the two junior Guardsmen arrived with weapons ready. Asadora's Demon charged Kewpid. More Spectral Hounds came through the portal and attacked everybody. Before I knew it, everyone was fighting, but I always kept the corner of my eye on Kewpid's battle. The mage used his warrior skills well to dodge the Demon's scimitar while pounding him with magical frost shards. He seemed to want to distance himself from the Demon, dying to get a chance to use his bow. I soon realized that his arrow was the key to this entire mess. It was gold-tipped, probably tipped with the essence of seventy five millions worth of Riverton gold. I wasn't sure if it was right or wrong, but I had seen enough of life to know what there was law and there was humanity. Today, it was not a question of law.

"Guardsmen!" I shouted. "Put some distance between that Demon and Kewpid! Form up and push them back! Let him use his bow!" We pushed through the biting Hounds and came face to face with the burning scimitar. Dooley reached him first and persevered in parrying the monster's attacks. Why was it that all these magical types needed to have burning weapons? Not for the first or the last time in my life, my fingers were screaming to release the handle of my blade as it absorbed the heat. Every slash we made would not even dent the creature's armor, so all five of us struggled just to stay alive, to not fall underneath the tremendous weight of that burning scimitar. The Demon could easily have bested any of us, but we held out long enough for Kewpid to take his aim. I chanced a glance at the mage, who nodded curtly in my direction. That was the signal. "Everybody down!"

The arrow flew from his deft fingers, catching the Demon squarely in the chest, right between the links in the chainmail. Spittle flew from the creature's mouth as it fell, clutching at the sturdy arrow with his massive hands. At once, the Spectral Hounds retreated back into their hell, and the form of the Demon wavered and disappeared, leaving behind the body of a maiden lying on the ground, the golden arrow protruding from her bloodied chest. Even dead, she was graceful and beautiful. She had golden hair that looked as though it had been spun by the very sun, and though she had a body fit for combat, her skin looked as creamy and soft as a babe's.

The mage dove after her and plucked the arrow from her chest rather abruptly. He looked at us with tear-streaked eyes. "Please, we must hurry! This is not yet her time. I'm not as strong as I used to be, but together, we can revive her!" He pulled a glowing Heartstone from underneath his cloak, and we joined hands. Pieces of our life force flew into Asadora's body, and she heaved with new breath as her wound closed. Kewpid held her gently in his arms and slipped some green potion down her lips, helping to heal her.

"Shhhhhhh. Rest now. Rest. Welcome back to the world of mortals, my love," he whispered.

She opened her eyes, revealing deep green orbs that focused on the face of the man she loved. Asadora smiled with her dried lips, a smile befitting the gods. "Kewpid. Oh my dear, it has been so long, so terrible with that monster within me. I knew you'd find some way to save me."

Kewpid laughed and cried joyfully, sniffing away the sobs and letting the tears flow freely. "I'm sorry I couldn't do it sooner."

11:35 a.m. With Asadora back, Kewpid relinquished his golden arrow and gave us simple instructions on how to restore the gold. Grask and Qualtat hurried off to the bank, leaving the rest of us to clean up the legal implications. We adjourned to Kewpid's kitchen where he quickly prepared a griffon stew for all of us. The entire time, he hovered over Asadora protectively, not letting her out of his sight and always trying to keep a hand on her shoulder or in her palm. She returned the gestures knowingly and lovingly, much too strongly for any of us to be comfortable. It made the decisions even harder to make. He had broken a high law punishable by death, but at the same time, he could have done it for no better cause.

With the meal laid out, we all sat at the round table, silently at first. Kewpid and Asadora looked upon one another while they ate, sharing a meek smile as though they were shy and spending a meal together for the first time all over again. I had to break the silence. "Well, we do have issues to discuss, Kewpid."

The mage looked at me like an angry child waiting for a punishment while hoping to be let free. "I suppose we do."

Asadora clasped his hands in alarm. "Please, Sergeant, he only did it for me! "

I shook my head gravely. "That makes no difference. What he did is punishable by death. It is a matter of ancient law and the endangerment of the prosperity of the entire city. If your scheme hadn't worked, if you had died, if all the gold was lost -- it could have taken years for Medievia City to recover. If put before a trial, you could say nothing that would change the ruling."

Kewpid stared at me coolly, but not aggressively. "The gold is back in your hands, and your fair city is no worse off than it was before, Sergeant. I did what I did for the highest law of all, and no ruling can change that. I lost my Asadora once before. I shall not loose her again."

He meant it. Taking him in would require a small army of Guardsmen, and it would be more likely for us to die than him. I swallowed one last scoop of stew and laid my spoon down on the table. "I see." I felt Dooley's eyes burning against my cheek, waiting anxiously for an order. I looked at Gannor and also saw the dilemma in his eyes, the very same dilemma that threatened to tear me asunder. I glanced back at the couple, seeing the concern in Asadora’s face and the adamant stance in Kewpid's brow. None of this was worth it. "In twenty ticks," I said, "I will summon Guardsmen to arrest you. We will be waiting out the front door. My advice would be to leave out the back."

Kewpid relaxed his face and nodded in a show of gratitude. Asadora grinned and hugged Kewpid ever so tightly. I gestured to Gannor and Dooley, and we walked out to sit patiently on the front porch. Gannor kept on staring at me with a smile across his rugged face, but I was in no mood to smile back. He patted my shoulder and laughed heartily.

Dooley grinned as well. "You did the right thing, sir."

I looked at the young lad and smiled gravely. "No, Guardsman, I didn't. By my oath, I did exactly what I should not have done. But I would've had to risked the lives of at least nine Guardsmen to bring that man in, and men fighting for law can never compete with men fighting for love. It wasn't worth the effort, and it would have been cruel to destroy the only happiness he has ever known."

Within nineteen ticks, we heard the back door creak open. I gave them an extra five ticks before calling in for reinforcements. Six Guardsmen promptly appeared at the door, and I sent them on a futile hunt in the neighborhood. Soon, a gate watchman signaled that he had seen two people matching the descriptions of Asadora and Kewpid leave through the western gate to the city. They were out of our jurisdiction now, safe from the crimes of love they had committed in Medievia City.

To this day, I question what I did, and to this day, I still cannot get a straight answer from myself. I guess it was only human of me.