Cinderella dug into the neckline of her dress to pull the dragon emblem out. She studied it with new appreciation.
“It will cancel out any weak levels of magic. The mage’s freezing magic was amateur leveled—one can judge so by the radius around him that he froze. He was usually confined to one city block. Which yes, was enough, but a master mage would freeze at least three blocks, and I would rather not think what a fully credited enchanter could do,” Friedrich said. “The necklace can also neutralize poisons, but to do that you must smear it in your foods and drink first. Your kitchen servants are trustworthy, so I thought it was unnecessary to mention that particular feature to you.”
“Friedrich, this must have cost you a fortune,” Cinderella gaped, staring at the dragon with new appreciation. Magical artifacts of any kind were highly prized, but one that had the power to block magic—even of a low level—never mind the poison, cost as much as a small manor.
“It cost me nothing,” Friedrich said. “Because it is mine.”
“And you’ve been walking around without it?”
“I live with 600 soldiers trained for all types of combat. You live with several dozen servants who have only recently become acquainted with the art of farming. You need it more.”
“Putting the necklace aside, after learning firsthand of the mage’s magic, my men chose to attack him from afar.”
“Ah, yes, with the arrow,” Cinderella recalled. “It must have broken the mage’s concentration.”
“No, it sealed a bit of his power—which gave them time to get closer and completely cut off his magic.”
“Is that what those paper seals were?” Cinderella asked, interested.
“No, you will not be able to produce those to sell,” Friedrich said, correctly interpreting her bright eyes. “It requires a magician with certain strengths to build magic-binding seals.”
“Oh,” Cinderella said, her shoulders slouching.
“They cost a pretty penny,” Friedrich said. “Perhaps it would be worth it to see that the Army employs such a magician. They are scribe magicians—not enchanters—so I suppose it might be cheaper to employ one than buy the seals in bulk through the Veneno Conclave.”
“If they are so expensive, why did my guards have them?” Cinderella said.
Friedrich stood. “Because there have been several attempts on your life. I assumed it was only a matter of time before a dark mage or magician tried his hand at killing you.”
“…What?” Cinderella said. “H-how?”
“Various methods. My men have stopped each attack before it could even begin, which is why you never noticed.”
Cinderella stood as well, her expression stricken. “Has anyone tried killing you?”
“Anyone from Trieux?” Cinderella asked, her voice taut like a harp string tightened too much.
Friedrich rubbed his eye. “It offends people that I cling to you,” he said.
Cinderella sat down on her pallet, dazed. “Then the mage was right. We are divided.”
“Surely that cannot come as a surprise,” Friedrich said. “You have been subjected to scorn because of me, and you seethe with hatred for Queen Freja, like most of your countrymen.”
“But that doesn’t mean I want anyone to kill over it,” Cinderella said.
Friedrich’s expression softened. He again crouched in front of Cinderella and ran a hand through her silky hair. “Sometimes I forget just how good you are,” he murmured.
“Do you feel hate towards Trieux?” Cinderella asked.
Friedrich shrugged. “Why should I?”
“Because you have also made sacrifices for your country,” Cinderella said, placing her finger tips on the Colonel’s black eyepatch.
“Do you mind that I am missing an eye?”
“Does having one less eye make me less attractive to you?”
“Friedrich,” Cinderella warned.
“Then, no. I can’t say I mind—now. But you are right. When it first happened, I was quite bitter,” Friedrich said.
Cinderella slumped. “Then the mage was right; Trieux and Erlauf are seeped with hate.”
“The hatred will lessen over time.”
“It’s been three years, Friedrich.”
“And the mage. He referred to a ‘we.’” Cinderella said.
Friedrich sighed. “Your brilliance is sometimes a curse. You remember the attempt on my life?”
“We have learned that the assailants were hired by a mage. The mage was not acting alone. She was a part of something, as far as we are aware, organized under no name or governing system. This force, whoever or whatever it is, seems intent on conquering lands. The royal offspring of many countries have been attacked. Some of them survive and free themselves—as Prince Severin did. Others…We have not seen such wide spread co-operation between forces of darkness since the Snow Queen’s time and the Enchanters came to power,” Friedrich said.