Even though he had been through the process before, Racieus still found the teleport process disorienting. He found the area that he returned to equally disorienting. He was surrounded by at least three hundred and thirty three cheering bodies. He was picked up by the mob and passed around the room, which he now recognized as the assembly room. Eventually he was brought to the stage, where a waiting Lieran congratulated him, but there was something else behind the happiness on his face. Something had happened, and Lieran wasn’t amused. He gave Racieus a few more moments to bask in the applause, before holding his hands up and waiting for quiet.
“Something has come to my attention. There was deceit in play during the tournament this evening, wasn’t there Racieus?”
If the room could have gotten quieter, it would have. All eyes were on the halfling, who was very confused, wondering how he had come under suspicion of cheating, and why Lieran, Lieran, of all people, believed it. “I-I, I don’t what you are talking about. I didn’t cheat.”
Lieran looked hard at the halfling, his disbelief cutting Racieus deeper than any knife could. “Is that so? Well I have five witnesses to the contrary. Would they please come forward?” Racieus face went from disbelief, to confusion, to hatred, as he was Taryn and his group step out of the crowd, smug looks on all of their faces. “Please explain your allegation.”
“My friends here, good fighters all, encountered the runt here and engaged him. Obviously he was over matched, but none of the blows they landed on him caused him to be eliminated. He somehow made himself untouchable!”
“And how do you know this?” asked Lieran.
“I was accompanying my friends, when they fought the halfling. I, as a member, respectfully waited for the battle to end, but of course, with my weapon unable to eliminate the halfling even without his advantage, I was also defeated.”
“That couldn’t be farther from the truth! You piece of-”
“Enough.” The guild master commanded, and Racieus fell into stunned silence. “Are there any who would dispute this claim? The halfling obviously thinks it to be false. Can any back this?” The inquiry was met with silence. And then, after a long moment, a voice rang out.
“I can.” Though he tried to mask it, Taryn’s face drained slightly of its color. Lieran either didn’t notice, or pretended not to, and gestured for the speaker to step forward. Racieus’ eyes bugged out as he recognized the speaker as the girl. She stepped up to the platform, and Lieran nodded at her, prompting her to speak. “I fought the halfling for the tournament. I do not mean to brag, but I spend the majority of my time in training, and while I had heard whispers of his fighting prowess, I didn’t believe them. I was wrong to do so. I have not seen the halfling’s equal among any of his kind, nor any kind in this guild, and I believe he wouldn’t need to stoop to such tricks to beat this group and their leader.”
Taryn was fuming by the time the girl finished, while Lieran seemed to be holding back amusement. “Well if you honestly believe that, then perhaps we could have a demonstration. What say you Taryn?”
The thief was again looking worried, but he only had two choices: decline and call mockery to his claims, or accept and hope that his fellows could back up his claim. He opted for the latter. “Let it happen.”
Racieus rubbed his hands together in anticipation, gearing himself up for a different fight than earlier. He wouldn’t have the dark, and he wouldn’t have as many walls. Many of his advantages had been stripped from him. He looked down at the floor as he drew his weapons, and missed the glee that flashed across his teacher’s face. Lieran, ever a bit of a joker, had no intention of letting the duel play out. He more steps ahead of Taryn and his group than anyone realized. As the doppelgangers stepped forward, Lieran, plastering a look of confusion on his face spoke up, “Taryn, why do you have your compatriot’s weapon?”
Furrowing his eyebrows, the thief immediately began to object, “This? This is mine! Whose did you-” and he trailed off as he realized the setup.
True fury took the stage on Lieran’s face, and Taryn shrank back before the guild master even began to speak. “Is that so? You don’t mean to say that you blatantly lied to me earlier did you? Do you take me for a fool boy? What’s more, I was out surveying the town, making sure the tournament was proceeding smoothly, and watched the battle myself! Is there anything you wish to change about your story?” The thief had been backing away as the human assassin was speaking, and when he finished, Taryn turned away and fled.
“Would anyone else like to try and fool their guild master?” Lieran asked chirped happily, as if he hadn’t just intimidated a man right in front the mob of people. Of course, there was no response, and in the silence, the doppelgangers slunk away. The girl moved to follow, but the guild master stopped her with a hand. “So it is clear, there was never any suspicion about Racieus here.” He turned to look at the girl who seemed nervous, unsure of why she was bid to stay. “He is a fine halfling, and an excellent fighter, and you couldn’t have lost to anyone better.”
“Taryn has been demoted back to a recruit for his actions. Should another event like this happen, he will be expelled from the guild. In his place, I have decided to make you, um… what is your name?”
“Eira” she said, taking her turn to be in disbelief.
“Then you, Eira, as the second place participant will assume Taryn’s spot. At the bottom mind you, as if there had been two openings all along, but still, you,” the guild master reached over and dragged Racieus in, “as well as our victor here, are now full members of Tri Triocha Tri.”