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Velran knew he was trapped. He watched quietly as the blue sapphires that powered the protective barriers surrounding his residence shattered one by one. Soon, all the barriers to his residence had been broken, and Velran knew that it was only a matter of time before the intruders would find him.
He poured himself a glass from his oldest and most expensive wine, and stared at the deep, red color. He took a sip, and ran the liquid over his tongue. It had a heavy taste; the taste of a significant number of gold coins that could have been better spent somewhere else.
He tossed the wine bottle away from him. At the height of its arc, he threw the wine glass at it, the two colliding in a shower of glass and red liquor.
He found the vase of baika, and poured himself a double sized cup. He tossed down the harsh yet sweet alcohol, and poured himself another. He deserved to enjoy a few drinks.
The sounds of heavy footfalls drew near, and soon Velran could hear loud pounding on his door. There was a trap door that he could use to escape, but Velran wasn't going to use it. What would be the point in running away? With ten thousand gold coins on his head, there weren't many places that he could run to where he wouldn't be immediately recognized. It didn't really offer him much confidence that if he was killed, the reward would only be half that amount.
The door finally came down with a thud, and three men charged in. One was a paladin, judging from the insignia on his armor and shield. Another looked to be a ranger, with a longdagger in each hand and a bow on his back. The third was a slightly short and stocky man with a large axe.
The paladin was wielding a blade with a unique hilt design, and Velran instantly recognized Icecutter. Velran guessed that it was what had allowed them to get inside his barriers. Velran laughed unpleasantly at the irony.
"Why are you intruding in my residence?" he asked.
"You are the evil wizard that plagues these lands, causing the peasants to starve. You are also the one who kidnapped the fair and beautiful princess. The king has bid us to slay or capture you and retrieve his daughter." The paladin replied, his voice strong and vibrant.
Velran coughed, and laughed harshly. "Causing the peasants to starve? If I really had the power to control the weather, do you really think you would be standing here? Instead of blaming me, you should blame your dear king's high taxes and his constant wars. I'm sure the peasants wouldn't starve if he didn't requisition half of their supplies every harvest."
"We won't fall for you trickery, or of your twisting of the truth. We know you've conspired with enemy nations against our kingdom, forcing the king to defend his borders against constant threat. We will defeat you and receive the reward for your head." This time it was the ranger that spoke, his voice filled with conviction.
The axe-wielder lifted up his weapon, and agreed. "We don't want none of your words, just the gold for your head! Enough talk. Let's get to fightin'!"
The three began to cautiously approach him, weapons on the ready.
Velran realized that there would be no arguing with them. He grabbed his staff and focused his energy through the jewel that sat on the top of the intricately carved rod. A blue ball of lightning flashed from the jewel, and raced towards the intruders. The paladin stepped forward, and raised his sword, and the ball of lightning seemed to be sucked into the sword.
Velran had known it wouldn't work, but he'd wanted to see if it was the real Icecutter or simply a high quality imitation - and buy him some time to grab and charge three of the rubies on his desk.
The intruders, seeing how easily the paladin's sword had taken care of the lightning ball, grew bold, and charged at Velran.
Velran tossed the three rubies at the intruders and immediately threw himself on the floor.
The room exploded in a flash of blinding red light, and then filled with the screams of injured men.
When Velran's sight returned, he stood up, staff at the ready. The axe wielder and the ranger lay unconscious on the floor, blood flowing from many wounds on their bodies. The paladin still stood, but though the sword had absorbed the magical blast from the explosive ruby, his body was still riddled with shrapnel. Small trickles of blood from many tiny wounds traveled down the paladin's body, like many tiny rivulets combining into a fast moving torrent.
The paladin's sight fell on the unconscious bodies of his two allies, and his face contorted in rage and anguish. "No! You evil wizard! I'll make you pay!" Screaming, the paladin lunged at Velran, Icecutter glittering with absorbed magical energy.
Velran parried, but the speed of the strike forced him to step back. He thrust his staff at his opponent, but the paladin expertly dodged it. The paladin raised his weapon and brought it down for a crushing blow. Velran could just barely bring up his staff to block the attack. Icecutter flashed a bright red, and the Velran's staff snapped cleanly in half, its jewel in fragments.
Velran fell backwards onto the floor. The paladin gave him no respite, and struck at Velran's head. Icecutter clashed into Velran's personal barrier with the sound of a small thunderclap. The force of the blow shattered the sapphire Velran wore at his neck, leaving him defenseless. The paladin sneered, and lifted his sword again to deal a killing blow.
It never came.
Instead, the paladin fell over sideways, a dagger that had somehow found a chink in his armor embedded in his ribs.
Velran turned to look at his savior. Emelai, even without makeup, was still breathtaking. The only thing that detracted from her beauty was the blood on her right hand. Looking at her attire, she must have just returned from meeting her intelligence contacts in the town.
Velran picked himself up off the floor. "Thanks," he told her.
Emelai looked him over, nodded, and then went to check the two unconscious bodies.
"I don't have the skill or the magic to save them, and I know you're weak at healing magic. The paladin might have been able to, but unfortunately, he's dead." She stated, matter-of-factly.
Velran watched her check the dying bodies, and wondered about when Emelai had gotten so used to this.
"If these could have found us, no doubt others will soon be able to find this place as well. We should leave immediately," she continued.
Velran picked up the blood covered Icecutter. He stared at the blue tinged blade, and the interlocking pattern of jewels on its hilt. Velran sighed, and went to pour himself a cup of baika.
Emelai looked at him suspiciously. "What is it?" She asked.
Velran paused, and then replied. "I never intended to be a rebel. I just didn't want to keep making weapons like this one. I just wanted to run away and live my life peacefully."
Emelai grabbed him by his robe, her eyes furious. "You have a duty to the people, to save them from that tyrant. He launches raids into other nations whenever they have something he wants. The people are starving to finance all the wars he causes. His soldiers walk around doing whatever they please, and you want to just run away and live your life peacefully? Go cry the gods a river, because you're going to continue helping me overthrow that wicked tyrant for that old lady who lost her farm, that poor farmer with only one hand, that young woman who lost her husband, my mother who he killed, and everyone else that he's hurt. So stop moping and get yourself together!" She shouted, ending in a crescendo.
They were both silent for a while.
"Lead on princess," he smiled.
"I told you not to call me that," she replied, and led the way out of the room.