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Wolf Hunt

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    “So, you’ve been sneaking out?” Louvel chuckled with a proud tone that made Wulfric feel sick.
    “I’m not chasing skirts,” Wulfric said, quickly trying to deflect.
    “I could hardly care what you’re chasing,” Louvel shrugged, walking to his bar for a drink. “My problem is the constable being at my door this late.”
    Wulfric huffed before crossing his arms, flinching as the movement reminded him that he bruised his shoulder. He had gotten caught by the police for the first time after a bar brawl, and he was dragged home quickly. At least, Wulfric assumed it was his due to his age since the police certainly didn’t believe that he was Karolis’ son.
    The way the constable’s smug smile washed off when Louvel confirmed his lineage at the door was worth it, at least.
    “I’m not apologizing,” Wulfric mumbled. He watched his father return with two drinks, setting one in front of him before taking a seat at his desk.
    “Well, the polite thing to do is apologize,” Louvel pointed out with an amused smile. “Do you want to tell me what happened?”
    “Bar fight.”
    “That’s it?”
    Wulfric nodded as an answer.
    “You know I won’t judge you if there is something el-”
    “Gale, no- I’ve just been sneaking out to go to the bar, why’s that a big deal?” Wulfric snapped. The fights had been the only way to keep his anger in check. He couldn’t find another way to let the rage out. His pent-up wrath had gotten worse after he started Nazaire’s class three weeks ago, due in part from invasive memories he wanted nothing to do with. The rest of his rage was from Edith’s “lessons”. What Nazaire taught him made it glaringly clear Edith’s teachings were a waste of time as she made no effort to actually educate him, but suppress him.
    “Well if this is a normal thing, I need to know if I need to be taking money from your allowance to pay for anything you’re charged with,” Louvel warned through a smile.
    Wulfric sneered, feeling the hair on the back of his neck rise. He needed that money to get his mother out from under Oda’s control.
    “If it’s not, I suppose I can let this one slide. After all, you just got off with a warning,” Louvel’s smile widened.
    What could he do? He needed his anger to not be tested continuously-
    “I want Edith to stop teaching me.”
    Louvel quizzically studied his son a moment. “We had an agreement.”
    “I’m fine with the tutors.” He actually wasn’t, but by comparison, they were saints. For all their haughtiness and arrogance, they were willing to do their jobs even if they felt it was going to waste. Edith was the only one who made everything so personal. He had learned far more from Nazaire than Edith had ever taught. “It’s just Edith I don’t want to learn from.”
    “Wulfric, my boy,” Louvel beamed, “I need you to keep taking her classes, so she’s kept busy. She’s gained a lot more free time now that Ariane can be tutored independently, and I need her off my back for the best interests of the family.”
    Wulfric watched Louvel down his drink before his eyes narrowed to the desk. How would it be good for the family? Unless he needed to keep Edith away. “… You’re still trying to find suitors for Ariane?”
    “Of course!” Louvel couldn’t look happier. “The sooner she settles to marry, the sooner she is her taken care of and out of the house. This frees up more of my time to ensure you’re ready to take over as head of the estate.” He picked up the glass that was in front of Wulfric to toast him before downing it.
    Wulfric frowned, rapping his fingertips against his arm to try to ease his growing queasiness. Ariane didn’t deserve to be shunted off like that. He had been trying to connect with his sister. Still, it was difficult when the only time they managed to be around one another was mealtime with the family, under the watchful eye of her harpy-mother. The best they got was hiding in the garden together for brief periods, and even then, it wasn’t much.
    “I don’t see why she needs to be rushed into a marriage; can’t everything be arranged with her still here?” Wulfric asked while attempting to reel in his annoyance.
    “Ah, here, let me show you something,” Louvel stood up and walked to the bar while waving Wulfric over. Louvel ran his fingers to opposing sides of the mantle under the bar, pressing his thumbs on the underside, which opened up two tiny pieces of wood. Once the parts were removed, a spring-loaded, inch thick compartment popped open. Louvel picked up one of the folders that rested inside and opened it to a very intricate letterhead before passing it to Wulfric.
    It had a lot of big words in it with a small script. As Wulfric struggled to read it, his father chuckled and spoke up: “It’s your inheritance, my boy.”
    “My inheritance?” Wulfric echoed.
    “Yes sir!” Louvel took the paperwork back and returned everything to its rightful place. “You will get everything; this estate, the treasury, the mines, everything!”
    “But why does Ariane need to be out of the way? If it’s your will, isn’t it already done?” Wulfric asked, eyes lingering on the mantle.
    “Yes, but her mother doesn’t know, and the longer I can put that off, the better.” Louvel sighed. “Poor thing. But you don’t need to worry about all that! Once you are heir, Ariane will be married off and out of the house, and Edith will calm down once she and I can fully retire properly.”
    “You’re going to retire?” Wulfric was quite skeptical of that.
    “Of course! What better way to enjoy the rest of your life than laying back and just enjoying everything?” Louvel laughed.
    Like you have done most of your life?
    Wulfric really disliked the idea, but perhaps he could find a way to convince him not to do it and, as an added bonus, get him out from under Edith’s heel. “Could you tell me more about the mines?”
    “Hm? Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. We have people in place for us, so it is all pretty streamlined.” Louvel pondered before sitting back at his desk.
    “Yes, but I should still know how to run it should something happen, or at least be taught the basics, so should something happen, I know what sort of person I need to hire to replace the one I may have lost.” Wulfric quickly sat across from Louvel, lacing his fingers together before resting them on the desk.
    Louvel considered it for quite a while, glancing from Wulfric to his own desk before he sighed. “I suppose you would need to know that eventually. Let me see, what can I teach you now,” and he began to rifle through his desk to find all relevant paperwork. “I suppose some more history would be fine, and I can teach you how to work with the paperwork when your script has gotten a bit better.”
    Finally, progress!
    Wulfric paid sharp attention as his father pulled open a map of their region. They were east of the Vestroen mountains. Still, their family-owned the mountain pass into a valley further south of their current position called Gelo. Apparently, all those mountains his family owned the rights to.
    “What sort of materials are we pulling out of there?” Wulfric inquired, and Louvel chuckled.
    “Oh, we take out everything. Everything has a price and we will empty those ranges out before. But the real moneymaker is this,” and Louvel pulled off his wedding ring to hand to Wulfric. It was a dark, onyx like metal with very intricate designs built-in. “We call it wolfram, and only Magicians can forge this metal out of its purest form,” Louvel proudly explained. “Because of this, many people from all over with Magicians want their hands on it.” He chuckled before slipping it back onto his finger.
    Wulfric realized he’d seen much of the material adorning the furniture in the home. He never thought much of it beyond black metal seemed an odd choice but figured it went with Louvel’s rich eccentricities - though he was not exactly wrong in that. It was still a show of wealth.
    “So Nazaire shapes it?”
    “Oh no, not Nazaire. He is from the family of Magicians that resides there. The Pasaro family have worked with this material for generations, and one thing that will make you a good business owner is knowing when not to mess with what already works. We have cousins out there, making sure things keep to that.” Louvel said with a smile, before pointing out a place on the map that had been marked. “There; that’s Rifare. Our family has done everything to keep that town as hidden as possible.”
    “So, one of our family members is in charge there?”
    Louvel nodded, proud Wulfric was keeping up. “That’s right! The Pasaros are sworn to serve us, and will do whatever it takes to keep that location safe. Not many people like going close to the Gelo valley thanks to the rumors about the Shadowlands.” He hummed thoughtfully before he flipped the map to look over something else.
    “Will I meet them?” Wulfric watched as his father seemed to be going over what looked at a bunch of rivers - or, perhaps, mine shafts.
    “One day. I meet with Zione once a year to go over everything, otherwise it is monthly shipments that come in and go through our distributors and sellers. You’ll meet them probably before you meet Zione,” Louvel switched the map back again, “and you will have to meet the whole family when you take over to renew their leigeoath, but don’t worry that’ll be a whole celebration.”
    Wulfric slowly nodded, carefully considering his next question. “Why don’t you have more magicians here, then?”
    Louvel laughed so loud, and sudden it startled Wulfric. “My boy, if anyone knew what we had in those mountains, we’d become quite a target!”
    “…No one knows we have them there?” Wulfric leaned back in his chair as he watched his father go about finding a cigar to light.
    “No one, not even your stepmother, so it’s best we keep those little details under wraps, hm?”
    “Then how do people think you get the wolfram?”
    “I only distribute the raw elements,” Louvel waved his hand dismissively. “I could probably sell things made by my Magicians, but there is still an artistic skill required that honestly, I care very little about. Let others deal with such arrangements.”
    Wulfric leaned away from the cigar’s smoke in his seat while considering things. For the rest of the morning, Wulfric worked to keep his father’s attention. Any questions about the mines were asked quickly to not give Louvel a chance to send him off. Eventually, a servant came to find out if they were having breakfast in the office, which Louvel agreed to. They had various maps out by that point, teaching Wulfric how to read the plans for digging and how to spot known problem areas.
    It was well after breakfast when another knock came, and Edith let herself in.
    “You’re late,” she addressed Wulfric, who met her disapproving look with a glare of his own.
    “Sorry, dearest, Wulfric was learning about Rifare today,” Louvel beamed, gesturing at the mess the office had become in the hours of their discussion.
    “Well we have an agreement, my dear husband.” Edith snidely remarked before pointing at Wulfric.
    Blood boiling, Wulfric stood up, but Louvel quickly caught Wulfric’s sleeve. “Just one more minute, my sweet. Why don’t you go into the hallway and let me finish up this last bit?”
    Edith stared down at Louvel darkly before she spun on her heel and marched out. Once she was out the door, Louvel yanked Wulfric close.
    “Listen, as fun as this all is, be sure to not bring this up to Edith. She means well but finding anything from last night out might be too much for her nerves with all she has going on. You understand, right?”
    Wulfric nodded, and Louvel released him.
    “That’s a good lad. Now hurry along, not good to keep your mother waiting.”
    “She doesn’t want to be called that,” Wulfric reminded his father as he headed after Edith.
    “She’ll grow to appreciate it,” Louvel called after.

 


 

    That night Wulfric watched Nazaire through drooping eyelids. Nazaire was covering all the usual command lessons, how to speak, how to speak clearly, how to enunciate, how to talk in such a way it leaves for little interpretation but Wulfric could scarcely listen. After Edith’s scolding for him being late for lessons, Wulfric exhausted himself by focusing on ignoring her for the day. On top of that, he hadn’t actually slept in a full day and then some.
    None of the lessons stuck tonight. Instead, Wulfric studied Nazaire’s eyes as they flicked about the page he had scribbled notes on. He had managed to finally pinpoint what about Nazaire kept sending chills down his spine.
    “So, how do you get your eyes to glow like that?”
    The Magician blinked once. He needed a moment to recover from the interruption before looking over the rim of his glasses towards Wulfric. “I was born this way.”
    “So it’s a hereditary trait?” Wulfric’s tone lifted with his question. He had begun to learn about blending inheritance through one of his tutors earlier this week, and it had been about the only exciting class he had so far.
    “It is. All Magician’s eyes glow.” Nazaire invited Wulfric to come closer while he removed his glasses. “We have a ring we are born with, see?”
    Wulfric leaned as close as he dared to examine the ring around the Magician’s iris. It was a brilliant blue, which offset the near-grey hue of his natural eye color that he hadn’t noticed before.
    Much like-
    “Only Magicians?” Wulfric suddenly sputtered out, withdrawing from Nazaire and as he started to tap the tabletop with his fingers.
    “Yes.”
    Silence fell between them as Wulfric’s mind raced. Nazaire caught Wulfric’s hand to stop the tapping, earning himself a well-earned glare as Wulfric yanked his hand free of the man’s touch.
    “…Do you know someone with glowing eyes?” Nazaire asked carefully. His body was stiff, eyes locked on Wulfric intently.
    Wulfric scanned the man a moment before looking down at the Magician’s hand. “Yes, I’ve seen it twice. You’re the third. All of you have the same blue glow.”
    Nazaire’s deep breath caught Wulfric’s attention. “When would this have happened? Just a time frame.”
    Wulfric adjusted to tap at his arm instead, staying out of Nazaire’s reach. “One for her whole life, for a couple of years now. The other I met last year, and only a few brief times.”
    “The other you met was an adult man?”
    “…Yeah?” Wulfric didn’t like that question, and thinking about him made his skin crawl. He switched to rub his arm in a vain effort to ease the goosebumps.
    Silence fell between them again as Wulfric watched Nazaire considering something. When the older man seemed satisfied, he gave a slow sigh.
    “My young lord, I am required to inform the family when I know of a Magician, especially if one is unclaimed.”
    Wulfric’s entire body tensed before he sneered. “Or you’ll what?”
    Nazaire lifted a hand, “You are part of the family, so I am upholding my Obligation by informing you. But I will caution you that the child you know is not safe if they are not with a noble.”
    Yvette!
    Nazaire was quick to grab Wulfric’s arm when Wulfric gunned for the door.
    “Let go!” Wulfric snapped.
    Nazaire complied but rose to follow Wulfric. “My Lord, you cannot act rashly. If the child has not been found, then there may be time, but you need to have a plan,” Nazaire begged.
    “And why do you care?” Wulfric turned to face the old man, staring him down defiantly.
    Nazaire calmly folded his hands in front of him. “For many reasons. The biggest is I am a Magician, and I understand the weight of the Obligation. I would not ask this of any child if I were able unless I knew the child would be safe, and with this King’s history, I know they will not be.”
    Wulfric’s anger eased, but he remained cautious as he eyed the Magician carefully, searching for any signs of lying. “Why not?”
    “Because I am the only resident Magician here in Ennara; the other is Sombre’s court magician who frequents here,” Nazaire explained. “The previous Magician died being pitted against her brother in a battle to claim him from another Noble’s home.”
    Wulfric noted the pain in the man’s eyes and decided he wasn’t lying, at least not about that. So the King couldn’t find out; that should be easy. “Would she be safe here?”
    Nazaire’s eyes softened and seemed to ease at the question. “I don’t believe so. I trust your family would treat her well, but I don’t know if His Majesty would demand her out of loyalty like he did the Ardelean family.”
    “Oh… wait. So the King killed off the Magician because he couldn’t have him?” Wulfric frowned.
    “He intended to just take the Magician for himself,” Nazaire clarified. “But the damages sustained were too great.”
    “But doesn’t the King have his own Magician?”
    “He did, yes. But the Ardelean family had their own, and he suspected them of treachery.” Nazaire sighed, pulling his glasses off to rub at his nose. “It was a deplorable and needless death.”
    “That sounds… so stupid,” Wulfric huffed.
    Nazaire rubbed at his eyes for a moment, his intake of breath a little shaken before he slipped his glasses back on. “It was. Because of that, I don’t think it’s wise the child comes here,” Nazaire calmly explained.
    “But where else could she go? She and m-... they are poor.” Wulfric had some money to help relocate them, but he didn’t have much, and not a lot to sustain them.
    “Let me speak to some people I know. They may be able to safely hide them for a time until we can work something out more long term.”
    Wulfric hesitated before he gave a small nod while rubbing the back of his neck. What if he was wrong, what if Yvette wasn’t a Magician? Or worse, what if she was, and Nazaire was right about the King, or intended to hand her over?
    “Fine, I’ll talk to them about it tomorrow.”
    Nazaire’s eyes widened. “Are you not going to the Gillet’s event?”
    Wulfric could only stare in response.
    “I am curious why no one told you. Tomorrow’s event is at the Gillet estate, and the family has been invited to attend. I suppose your father wanted to spring it on you,” Nazaire heavily sighed as he fixed his glasses. “It will be at midday, and if they are going to spring this on you, I imagine they are going to take up your whole day in preparation.”
    Wulfric groaned. After he ran his hand through his hair, he began the walk towards his bed. “Of course they will. Fine, we’ll see, I’ll talk to them whenever I get the chance.” Wulfric paused at the table. “You won’t tell anyone about this?”
    Nazaire set a hand to his heart. “My Obligation is the Karolis Family must know, not how many nor who exactly. My Obligation is filled by telling you, and I have no intention of telling your parents who may take her and sell her off as they did my own children.”
    Wulfric narrowed his eyes away from Nazaire to study the tabletop. He wasn’t sure how much he trusted it, but he didn’t want to give the man an Obligation, in case their rendezvous would get found out. “Alright… I want to go to sleep, it’s been a rough day.” Wulfric waved a hand towards Nazaire dismissively before continuing towards his bed.
    Nazaire gave a bow. “Of course, My Lord. Tomorrow will be quite a trying day.” He gathered his papers up and left after bidding goodnight.
    Wulfric flopped down in exhaustion, staring up at the canopy of his bed.
    Was Yvette really a Magician? And if it was hereditary, how did she get it?