The inevitability of death loomed over Dratus like the shadow of a predatory bird, descending upon an innocent critter. Even using the blunt side of her weapon, a strike with such force might have popped his bald head like an Acrilla egg.

Instead of the anticipated disgusting wet crunch that would have been the final thing his ears perceived before his soul departed its mortal coil, another sound echoed—a loud, metallic CLANG!

The clash between two weapons resonated across the dungeon. Just as Alexa's blow was about to reach Dratus, Saxum, who had spotted the approaching Captain of the Guard, swiftly drew his massive blade, known as an Equaver and crafted by the weaponsmiths of Morbis. He skillfully blocked the incoming attack.

Both warriors stood motionless as their weapons vibrated from the brutal impact. Alexa glared at Saxum with a sinister smile, while the Royal Ensis maintained his placid neutral expression.

-Are you insane!?- Dratus, who had landed on his rear from the shockwave of the weapon clash, snapped at Alexa. She, in turn, glared at him like a predator sizing up its prey.

-You three are the crazy ones. Who told you that you could go down to the dungeon without any supervision? I don’t care if the magus-damned Rex himself decides to visit the City Barracks; he will ask me for permission before going into the dungeons,- Alexa replied vehemently, her weapon still locked against Saxum’s.

-Sorry, Ms. Captain, ma’am. We just need to fetch somebody, and we will leave. I hope you understand,- Saxum spoke in a slow, plodding monotone voice, elongating most vowels. It was as if his usual strides took vocal form, almost like he was trying to talk to a child or making it easier for others to understand him, as if he were a child himself.

Before Alexa could respond to Saxum’s words, another sound caught her attention—a part of a chant she hadn't heard before, thanks to the shockwave of the weapon clash numbing her ears.

Flos, the only one not involved in this small encounter, had been observing from afar and chanted a spell of her specialty, infusing nearby cell bars with Vis and controlling them through a strange phenomenon some scholars from Urbis referred to as Lodism.

Before she could react, Alexa found herself under attack as several iron bars extended from the cells, twisting in the air like thorned tendrils of torment.

Attempting to take a step back and defensively swing her weapon, the Captain of the Guard barely managed to deflect a couple before they connected. The iron bars pierced through her armor, launching her backward against one of the stone walls supporting the steps descending to the dungeon.

-DAMNIT!- Alexa roared as she struggled to free herself, but the tendrils of iron had fused with her cuirass and pierced into the wall behind her, immobilizing her.

-You big and stupid oaf…- Flos approached with a dangerously harsh voice, as if her words were knives thrown at the Captain of the Guard.

-What did I do?- Saxum turned to face Flos, confused by her accusation.

-I’m not talking to you, you imbecile. I’m talking to her,- the Highborn Inquisitor said, glaring at Saxum before redirecting her attention to Alexa.

-Who the hell do you think you are, dirty gutterborn?- Flos approached Alexa, spewing venom with each word. -Where is the criminal you captured earlier today? We have permission to take her off your vermin paws.-

Flos continued speaking, her eyes locked on Alexa, who still struggled to release herself from the constraints of the spell.

-Speak now, before I decide to do the world a favor and end your miserable and meaningless life.- The Inquisitor's voice turned into a sharp and shrill whisper, more pointed than the metallic thorns she had created.

-I…- Alexa whispered, forcing Flos to approach her.

-Come again, you gutterborn trash. I can’t hear your disgusting voice,- the Inquisitor ordered as she got close enough to see the torchlight reflected in Alexa’s eyes.

-I don’t know. She was already taken from my hands,- Alexa said with a smirk, attempting to contain a fit of bellowing laughter.

A momentary awkward silence was cut short by the sharpest and shrillest scream Flos emitted, so acute it could have shattered glass.

-WHAT DO YOU MEAN SHE WAS TAKEN FROM YOU!? WHO TOOK HER!? WHERE IS SHE!?- Flos roared at Alexa, grabbing the Captain of the Guard by the lapels of her jacket and pulling down, causing some thorns to pierce the side of her neck.

-I told you, I don’t know, and I don’t care. Less paperwork for me,- Alexa responded, showing no fear, or at least trying to hide it if she was.

Flos struggled to find words as rage filled her like boiling water slowly poured into her very core. Her body tensed up and trembled, resembling an unstable alchemical concoction about to blow up, as if she were on the brink of an epic meltdown.

Dratus, having known Flos for a long time, attempted to defuse the situation before it escalated into something detrimental. Despite Alexa being a Lowborn, killing the Captain of the Guard without a valid reason could harm their master and their political group.

-Flos, there's nothing we can do here. We better leave and find out where she was taken by asking people around,- the older Inquisitor reasoned, hoping—almost pleading—for a miracle from the Seven Ancient Magus of imperial times.

-Torturing the Captain of the Guard will not benefit us and will only harm our noble cause,- Dratus continued speaking, and his peculiar accent seemed somewhat soothing to his companion, who had at least stopped shivering with barely veiled rage.

-Let’s just leave; the more time we waste here, the more time the other side has with the criminal and whatever Arcane secrets she possesses,- the bald Inquisitor approached his partner, almost whispering as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

A moment of quiet hung in the air, akin to the calm before the storm. However, in this case, the clouds were dispelled by a gust of common sense.

-You are right; there is nothing to gain by wasting time here. Our leader wouldn’t approve of my actions if I took this too far,- Flos sighed, turning away and looking at her partner.

-Then let’s do that. We have a lot of ground to cover if we plan to find her and whoever took her; most likely, Callis Nomene and his group are behind this,- Dratus reasoned, noticing that the peculiar group they encountered before had already left.

-You're right! Good! We can teach that trash noble and the uppity lowborn who are really in charge!- Flos said with renewed passion and zealous drive.

-See, you are already thinking positively, and that’s very important,- Dratus approved as he began walking toward the staircase. -Let’s go.-

Saxum and Flos followed him, but before they left, Alexa called out to Flos.

-Wait! I have useful information!- The Captain of the Guard knew she had to stall them as much as she could, but nothing came to mind as Flos turned around and approached her.

-This better be good, gutternborn,- the Highborn Inquisitor glared at Alexa, her voice sounding dangerously sharp.

-The one who took the prisoner,- Alexa spoke in her normal tone and slowly reduced her voice to a whisper to draw Flos in. -Who was it! Tell me!- Flos asked, approaching Alexa with zealous fanaticism in her eyes.

-It was…- Alexa started, but as soon as Flos was close enough, she spat on her face.

This turned out to be the best idea the Captain of the Guard had. Perhaps enraging Flos would keep her there, instead of searching for Callis.

This, however, proved to be a tactical blunder for Alexa.