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"…on't do it! No!"
Melfina wakes from her daze to find Stark still standing in the corner. Today is the day. Everything out of her hands. And all Stark did all night was stand still as a statue, keeping a watchful eye on her, following his stupid orders. No words of comfort, no conversation at all. Just his dutiful silence. Some friend.
The commotion lures both of them outside. Melfina finds herself watching Cadence confronting Lord Luna, with Gwen standing by firmly in support. The Lord of West Luna does not flinch and holds steady the letter in front of him while an annoyed Lady Reba watches on.
"I'm not for sale! Not this time!"
"Go deliver it yourself!" Gwendolyne yells at her brother.
"I won't deliver that to my friend!" Cadence continues.
Pride swells Melfina's heart as they put in what fight they can. However, Lord Luna maintains an outward calm, warding off the onslaught. He turns toward Lady Reba, then notices the two who have emerged from the shop. "Guard Captain. I am in need of your services." Her elation deflates when Stark moves without hesitation.
"Deliver this letter to Merchant Vendor Melfina, and confirm that she has understood its contents."
Accepting the letter, Stark walks back toward Melfina.
"What are you doing!" she yells at him.
"Delivering a letter."
"It's my duty."
"I need more time! Gamblor-"
"-is a thief. He's taken your Tome and he's not coming back."
"At least make him do it! You're my friend! You don't have to do it!"
"I am a guard. He is my lord. I have my orders."
"What does this have to do with guarding anything! You're not some soldier guarding an important package! He's right there! He should deliver it himself!"
"I swore an oath. On my honor, I must do this." Stark extends the letter to Melfina.
"Vas flam!" she shrieks and a fireball is loosed.
The watchful Stark moves the letter from the fireball's path.
Her fury flares even greater. "Vas flam! Vas flam! Vas flam!"
Stark encases the letter in his hands and dodges. He moves quickly but cannot dodge them all. But as the last fireball strikes him, he spins away and it skips across his armor, leaving him unharmed.
How!? She throws two more, directly at him this time, but he evades them with ease.
Her anger transforms into tears. She stalks toward him, ready to accept her fate, but he pulls away when she attempts to snatch the letter from his hands. "Give me that!"
With a dutiful voice, he replies, "You have shown hostility toward receipt of this letter from the Lord of West Luna. I am required to read it aloud as proof that you have heard and understood its contents." He pauses for any response she may have, then proceeds when none arises.
"You, Melfina, have failed to pay your rent in a timely manner and are thus in breach of contract. As per our agreement, of which we both have signed copies, the premises in West Luna of which was originally named The Magic Arts & Crafts, are hereby forfeit to the Lord of West Luna, as well as all belongings contained within said premises. You are hereby evicted, effective immediately."
He hands her the letter. She crushes it in her fist and turns around back toward the shop. Stark quickly steps in her path. "You are no longer allowed to enter. I'm sure Lord Luna will let you keep something. But you have to speak with him first."
"My offer still stands, Mel!" yells Lady Reba with a self-satisfied smirk on her face.
The distance between them makes it easy enough for Lady Reba to sidestep the fireball.
"Arrest her! She has committed an aggressive act against an innocent bystander!"
"Don't taunt an angry mage," Lord Luna replies.
Lady Reba instantly flips moods. She pouts her lips and looks up at Lord Luna with wide eyes. "You are of course correct, Lord Luna." And she attempts to grab onto his arm. Lord Luna doesn't allow it, and Lady Reba's mood flips back. "Take my offer now, Mel, or I'm altering the conditions!"
"You now have to pay rent for your old room."
"I'll pay to have you sleep in your dog's mess!"
"You have to find your own place to sleep."
"That shouldn't be hard. Men seem to find their way into your bed easily enough."
"Your floor space rent is now doubled, and so is the percentage I make off of you!"
Melfina spits at Lady Reba. "That was my home! You won't make any money off of me."
"It's not your home anymore. And now neither is that," she points at The Magic Arts & Crafts.
With a silent shriek, Melfina stalks over the Lady Reba and attempts to grab a handful of her hair, but Lord Luna stops her.
"I'll hire someone to follow you and pick up every reg you find before you can pick it up. Without any seed money or the supplies that I'm offering you, you'll never get back on your feet. I can't wait for the reports to come in on each failure to start a new business, or each new hole and tear in your dress that can no longer afford to mend."
Melfina cries and Reba's smirk widens.
"Come Melfina. If Lady Reba will not help you out, I'll leave you with enough to get started on. Not enough to survive in Luna's competitive market, but enough for elsewhere. Let's go take an inventory of what you have."
Lord Luna proceeds toward the shop without a backward glance. Lady Reba hurries to catch up.
Cadence and Gwen try to comfort their friend but a new found rage grows from her tears. Mind focused, she grabs hold of her spellbook, moves her hands in precisely set interweaving circles, and speaks the words of power, "Vas cor por!"
What was once empty space between Lord Luna and the shop, becomes filled with her rage given life. Towering above even the antlers on Lord Luna's helm, the energy vortex looks down upon all those before it. A piercing stare somehow burns from a featureless face. Purple skin covers the rippling muscles of its humanoid upper half, but instead of legs it moves about on a tornado as chaotic as the emotions that created it. It will not turn on its summoner, but once let loose upon its enemies, it cannot be controlled.
Lord Luna steps back, pulling Lady Reba with him. With no weapons and no steed, the two are helpless before it. Before is can crush them with its massive arms, Stark's sword rains down upon it.
"Run my Lord!"
Stark sword flashes like lightning, but the vortex isn't truely made of flesh, making it hard to land a solid blow.
Back and forth they strike. Deliberate and surgical opposing wild and savage.
Stark sees an opening and strikes deep into the creature's chest. It has no heart, but it must have felt pain. A roar bellows forth from its core and a backhanded swing sends Stark flying through the air.
With the sword stuck in its chest, the vortex moves toward Stark with its hands interlaced into a massive fist and its arms raised over head, ready to land a crushing blow.
"...o something! Mel!"
Mel finds Cadence shaking her out of her daze. She didn't really mean for this to happen. So she responds. Please let this work, she thinks as she casts dispel. "An grav!"
In the middle of its swing, the vortex bends in on itself and in a puff of smoke, it vanishes. Silence. Then Stark's sword clatters to the ground.
Stark stirs and Melfina runs toward him. She heals his wounds as the rest gather around.
"You shouldn't have done that," says Lord Luna.
"I know," she says with resignation.
"He could have died today."
"You'll get no more sympathy from me."
"I know," she says. It barely comes out as a whisper.
"It's time you left."
"B... but. I have a twenty-four hour grace period."
"What more can you sell? No one will approach the shop today. Not now." Her eyes take in the destruction the vortex had caused. Dirt, grass, and water shards litter the area.
"I know bu..."
"Is it safe?" calls out a voice. Melfina's heart races as she recognizes it. Everyone turns to find Gamblor peeking his head out from behind a building.
Lord Luna ignores the question and inquires about his presence. "Yes?"
"Why yes it is, Lord Luna," Gamblor says cheerily, ignoring Lord Luna's tone, and flaunting the Tome of Lost Knowledge in his grasp. "And a beautiful day as well."
"I see you weren't able to sell the Tome."
"Oh of course not, my lord. It was never for selling. Just good reading for the trip." He flashes his teeth at Lord Luna while handing Melfina a letter.
With renewed strength, Stark snatches the Tome and shoves Gamblor back.
Gamblor opens his mouth and Stark's sword hand stirs. Before either can do more, Lord Luna commands a short and swift, "Silence!"
Melfina notices none of it. A smile beams from her face. She hands the letter to Lord Luna and as he reads the it, she pulls out a checkbook and walks toward the shop.
Lord Luna signals Stark to hold before he can think to follow.
"What does it say?" Mel hears Gwen ask as she enters the shop to find a pen.
It says I've sold the formula for my silent teleport tiles. MAGIC bought the rights to it, and they paid well.
"No!" screams Reba as Melfina walks back outside.
Melfina smiles a sweet smile at her ex-friend.
She steps up to Lord Luna and hands him a check. "Here's my payment. In full. All of it."
He nods. "I accept your payment. You will now pay taxes on any income you make as would any other resident of West Luna." He adds in a more menacing tone. "You will not attack my guards again, or you will be punished."
"Yes… Lord Luna."
"The shop is yours. Welcome to West Luna."
* * *
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