Touch Of Fate 272 Treasured Descen

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"Refuse?" Tal asked.

Sera sighed again. "While the prince could probably rescind the t.i.tle, I don't think it will matter much at this point. The precedent has already been established, so it's best to simply work on mitigation. Which is why Mike is going to do his best to lay low for the foreseeable future."

"That shouldn't be too hard." He replied amiably.

The Oracle gave a dirty look. "I'm serious. You will need to try harder than you usually do. The alarmists in other countries will be watching you closely to see what your intentions are. If you avoid doing anything overtly dangerous to their interests, they might be more willing to write this whole thing off as an overly ambitious gesture from an inexperienced prince."

"You act like I'm incapable of keeping a low profile." He shot back.

Both of the women fixed him with blank looks for a few moments.

"Alright, alright. I'll do better this time."

[Maybe there is some kind of disguise skill I can pick up. Alternatively, I could try to make some kind of disguise item with Artifice. Not sure how I would go about that, though. Fake would be the cla.s.sic method, but lens crafting technology in this world hasn't exactly reached that point yet. Could I make it some kind of headwear? Like a hat? Some kind of hat of disguise?]

He broke off his internal debate as Sera continued. "I'll take that at face value for the moment, but we will have to be careful going forward. You especially need to avoid appearing like you are gathering power and influence. That means you can't topple any governments, form any extranational military forces, or seize any territory during our travels."

"Do you really think we have to worry about that?"

She gave him another blank look.

"Hey! I've done some crazy stuff, I'll admit that, but I've never founded my own country or harmed any existing governments, and I have no intention to."

"Let's try to keep it that way." She shot back blandly. "Now we do need to discuss the more pressing matter."

"What's that?"

"The First Prince has granted you a choice of three items from the Royal Treasury. You should know that this is a traditional reward given to the individual with the greatest military accomplishments over the course of a war. It's considered a high honor, but it does come with some unspoken rules that you will be expected to follow."

[Of course it does.] Mike thought to himself, already feeling a little tired out by the whole situation.

Sera continued in full lecture mode. "While you can technically pick anything, recipients typically save the first choice for an item of monetary value that they will then either use for the development of their holdings or donate it to the church of the G.o.d of your choice. This is meant to demonstrate the awardee's dedication or piety. Since you don't have any territory, and I don't think you are particularly religious, I'm going to recommend that you instead give it back to be used for the reconstruction efforts. It may be considered a bit unusual, but doing that should help alleviate concerns that you are building your own power base."

"Is there any way in particular I should do so?" He asked, figuring that if a money-obsessed person like her was willing to give away a portion of his reward, then she must have a pretty good reason.

"You should have a steward or a minister accompanying you on the trip to keep you informed of the protocol, so I would just recommend picking something that looks valuable and informing them that you would like it to be given to those most affected by the invasions."

"Sounds simple enough."

"Now, your next two selections are supposed to be for personal use, but they vary on their intended purposes. The second item is traditionally a tool that will a.s.sist you in your duty, demonstrating your commitment to the tasks that have been a.s.signed to you. Depending on the individual in question, this is typically either a weapon or some kind of magical device. Since you are only loosely a.s.sociated with the country, I think you can get away with just grabbing something that looks useful for your skill set."

Mike nodded to show that he was still listening, even though his gaze was focused on the crowds outside. As far as he could tell, the populace was already in the process of starting the night's festivities, despite the fact that it was only mid-afternoon.

"The last item is traditionally a free choice among any of the items stored in the treasury. That said, I recommend that you avoid anything too valuable or historically significant. As someone not tied to the country, it would be frowned upon to take something on the level of a national treasure, especially since they've already allocated you enough wealth to live comfortably for the rest of your life."

"So to summarize, I should grab a weapon, a minor useful item, and something valuable to give away. Is that about it?"

She nodded, "More or less, but since I fully intend on going with you, I'll make sure your choices are acceptable."

"Will that be alright? I figured something called the Royal Treasury would have some pretty strict security."

"It might," Sera conceded, "but considering the stories I've heard about the place, I doubt they'd be worried. Besides, I have the distinct feeling that if I leave you alone, you'll come back with something ridiculous."

He briefly considered arguing against that insinuation, but quickly realized that it would be a losing battle. Unfortunately, his track record would work against.

"We're here." Tal announced suddenly, saving him from having to reply.

Glancing out the window, Mike saw that she was right. The line of carriages had just pa.s.sed through the palace gates and were in the process of lining up to disembark their pa.s.sengers. Within a few minutes all of the awardees were out in the courtyard, before being split into two distinct groups.

Most of them were taken towards the administrative offices of the palace, where they would be receiving their monetary rewards, proofs of n.o.bility, and paperwork for the acquisition of territories. Mike, Tal, and Sera, however, were led through a series of dark corridors and staircases heading underground.

After several minutes of travel, they eventually arrived in front of a ma.s.sive door. While it looked like it was made of wood, it's surface glistened slightly in the light of the magic torches, indicating that it probably wasn't quite what it appeared to be. Three metal bars stretched across it from floor to ceiling, held in place by ornate looking locking mechanisms.

The door was flanked by two Royal Guardsmen, who were apparently a.s.signed to guard the vault. Besides these imposing guardians, there were two other men who were dressed in the elaborate robes of government functionaries. As soon as Mike's group approached, the older of the two stepped forward to introduce himself.

"Greetings, Sir Dragonknight, I am Torthan Kandis, the Minister of the Treasury. My secretary and I will be escorting you through the vault while you make your selections and presenting Miss Talitha with her reward, which is stored below."

"Good to meet you." Mike replied with a smile. He looked over at the heavy door. "Out of curiosity, will we be getting our other rewards here?"

[I don't think I have the storage s.p.a.ce in my extradimensional sack to carry out five million gold coins. Maybe they have some sort of cart system in place.]

Torthan blinked, and then chuckled. "No, this is only one part of the Treasury. Specifically, it is the Royal Vault, where we keep the kingdom's treasures. More mundane currency is handled upstairs, however, in your case we intended to provide your monetary reward in the form of a line of credit through the Adventurer's Guild. a.s.suming that's acceptable for you, sir."

Mike hesitated for a second, not really sure how to respond. It was probably a decent option, but he didn't really know enough about the economics of this world to be sure. He was starting to realize that he was continually out of his depth in these kinds of situations.

Sera leaned in and whispered in his ear, "This actually works out well, since this way we don't have to worry about transporting or converting that ma.s.sive amount of money during our travels."

"That will be fine." Mike finally replied with a nod.

"Very well, then please follow me and we shall take you to the vault." The minister moved over to stand in front of the ma.s.sive door, squared his shoulders, and announced in a loud and commanding voice. "I come in the company of heroes! As the appointed representative of the King of Almir, I demand that these doors be opened to allow us entry, that my charges can avail themselves of their richly deserved rewards!"

As soon as the last echo of Torthan's words faded, the three metal bars across the vault door began to slide into the floor slowly. While the mechanism worked, the minister's secretary stepped forward and began to explain. "The Royal Vault is protected by enchantments that have been in place since the palace was built. It is necessary for even duly appointed representatives of the Crown to state their intended business. Failure to provide sufficient justification can lead to that individual's entry rights being permanently revoked."

"I imagine that would be troublesome for Ministers of the Treasury." Mike murmured while watching the mechanisms of the door operate.

The secretary smiled, an oddly jubilant note to his voice. "Oh, indeed! Loss of entry rights often spells the end of a minister's career, which is why they take special care when choosing the wording of their requests."

Feeling slightly creeped out by the other man's strange enthusiasm, Mike was relieved when the vault door finally creaked open, revealing another stone corridor lit by magical light fixtures.

A more relaxed looking Torthan turned back towards them, "Now, if you would come this way."

He led them through the tunnel and indicated a set of painted yellow lines while giving them a brief overview. "Please stay inside these lines for the duration of our time in the vault. There are a number of security features that will prove quite lethal should you fail to do so. According to our historical doc.u.ments, the original structure of the vault was the first portion of the palace to be completed. Some sources even indicate that it might have incorporated old High Elven ruins into its structure, although those claims have never been verified. That said, much of the vault remains something of a mystery, so I must insist that you follow the marked path and do not touch anything unless you are given explicit permission."

With an audible swallow, Sera moved into the very center of the pathway, making sure to keep both of her arms close to her chest.

The tunnel they were walking through began to decline and twist to the left until it felt like they were descending a sort of spiral shaped ramp. They continued for close to ten minutes before finally arriving at a landing of sorts. The tunnel went on for a few more meters before splitting into several different pa.s.sages.

There, a humanoid figure dressed in a simple grey robe waited to meet them. It was vaguely masculine in shape, but most of its features were obscured by a combination of its thick clothes and a raised hood. Not wanting to be surprised by a sudden reveal, Mike used Appraise.


No. 59

Magic Item (Tier 3, Rank 4)

One of Caretakers, a variety of magically animated puppet created by Ghalia Khardonis to guard and maintain the Vault. Thanks to the quality of their construction, these puppets can operate indefinitely and they maintain a shared control network that allows them to operate as a sort of hive mind.


[So basically maintenance robots? Huh.]

"Sir Dragonknight, what would you like to see first?" Torthan asked.

"What are my options?"

"Practically anything you can imagine is stored here, but they are all sorted by item type. There are dozens of specialized storage rooms, but our most popular choices are weapons, armor, utility magic items, magic materials, alchemical items, gemstones, art objects, and artifacts. If any of these peak your interest, then simply tell the Caretaker and it will take us there."

[Hm, what should I pick?]

Touch Of Fate 272 Treasured Descen

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Touch Of Fate 272 Treasured Descen summary

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