Zafira’s return to the Northpoint Mage’s Guild was not a happy one. Almost immediately after their return from their outing, she had learned that her new apprentice was already causing trouble. “One day you will have a child who is just as bad as you!” The words of her angry father rang painfully in hear ears when she had learned of the damage caused. Granted, the situation was not unreasonable.
Nala was defending herself against a couple of muggers. Who knows what could have happened otherwise? However, having to pay for damages done to the immediate surroundings was an inconvenience. Fortunately, Cockatrices are worth well above and beyond their weight in gold. “Just you wait Zafira bint Abdul-Mughni bin Najib Chén-Al Yasir. As an Alchemic Thamaturge, one day you will take on an apprentice and, you too will know just what manner of monster they are.” Words of wisdom given to her by her primary instructor that were discarded as senseless dribble came back to haunt her even now.
Zafira splashed water on her face with a sigh and regarded herself in the mirror. She still felt stiff after succumbing to the petrifaction effects of the cockatrice’s touch, but that would pass soon enough. As she stood in only her undergarments, she noted the bumps and bruises that were customary for those traveling abroad and well away from comfort. Fortunately, there was nothing permanent.
As she reached down to gather another handful of water, her eyes were caught by the pendant still locked around her throat. Damn you Veskar. What in Allah’s name did you give to me and where did you get it from? She had meant to look into that. But when had she had the time? Not even an hour the city and already the world had been thrown head over heels.
First some crazy overzealous religious fanatic had claimed victory about finding a Shadow Mage, as well as uncovered and destroyed several Skaven plots to disrupt the city. How was it that this moron called Sir Kath was somehow being lauded as “the savior of Northpoint” while her own acts—the acts of Patris—were all but forgotten? Had they not secured peace talks with an alliance to Grimnar in an effort to stem the Skaven hoards that were growing bolder every day? Had she not only unraveled a Skaven plot that would see the death of every citizen in Northpoint as well as formulated a counter as well as found their likely hiding place?
Had the entire entourage just not returned from eliminating a breeding pit for a new breed of Rat Ogre that would surely devastate the defenses of Northpoint? And at no extra charge, they had also stopped a plot by Skaven mages from attuning themselves to the Elemental Nodes—which would have given them a devastating advantage on its own, as well as once again aiding one of the holdings House Vorloi.
Are these deeds not worth mentioning? How is this “Spear of Light” twit somehow better than her? Than Patris? Than all of them?
In addition, there was the matter of assisting Shan-Yu with his own problems. Cymeric, the same Shadow Mage that “Spear of Stupidity” had tracked down and chased into the Undercity, was found to possess knowledge that should have been lost. Whatever is in that man’s head is apparently needed by Shan-Yu and his master and so the scum must be saved. Fine. She had no love for Cymeric, but just by hearing about this Kath moron and his actions allowed her to overlook that. She would help Cymeric. If not for Shan-Yu’s sake alone, then for the sheer pleasure of bruising Kath’s over inflated ego. If she could see him buried, that would be better still.
Zafira eyed the bathtub that she could easily fill and heat. After spending so much time out and away from civilization, even its rudimentary forms such as Northpoint, the urge was almost overwhelming. “But I don’t have time…” she muttered ruefully “…not yet.”
Stepping away from the wash basin, Zafira twisted her fingers idly in a complex gesture, the end result of which had the effect of breaking the water down into its alchemical components. “Apprentice!” she yelled after disposing of the water. Her irate thoughts translated easily into the tone and inflection of her voice.
Nala Jiong-Xu, the daughter of Tai Jiong-Xu, a distantly related uncle on her mother’s side, peeked her head in cautiously. “Yes Mistress Zafira?” Nala asked. Although the young woman was quite headstrong and possessed a fiery temper, Zafira had temporarily put the fear of Allah in her. As a favor to Jiong-Xu, Zafira had agreed to take on Nala as a temporary apprentice and student. At least until the merchant could arrange for the budding mage to attend a real academy.
“I need to speak with Sir Patris on some things… or at the very least blow off some steam.” Zafira began as she started pulling fresh clean clothing from the wardrobe. “I do not know how long I will be gone, but in the meantime I need for you to ensure that my traveling clothes are properly cleaned. I will see to it that they are mended, so you needn’t worry about that.” She took a deep breath and looked to the other woman. “After that, I need for you to work on making some potions. It is not difficult work, as you simply have to follow the instructions I have laid out in the laboratory, but it needs to be done and it will keep your hands from being idle and you out of trouble.”
Nala frowned. “What? That is far beneath me and my abilities, and you know it.”
“I know that it is beneath your ability, but I am not so sure about your talent.” Zafira retorted.
“But that is the work of servants! I should not be reduced to doing your laundry! And whatever it is that you use to make those potions is stinky. I won’t do it.”
Zafira blinked a couple of times and felt her own temper rising. So much for the fear of Allah. “…one day you will take on an apprentice and, you too will know just what manner of monster they are.” And then she relaxed. “Fine. I will do it myself when I get back. I didn’t expect that you would be able to do either task properly anyway.”
“What? How dare you!” Nala retorted irritation. “I could make those potions just as easily as swatting a fly!”
“Are you sure?” Zafira said as she pulled a thick robe about her body. “After all, it is beneath you. I would think that you would have something far more important to do than–-”
“I’ll make your stupid potions. And you know what? I’ll make them better than you ever could!” Nala snapped.
“Right” Zafira returned with a roll of her eyes. “And I’ll bet that you’ll finish the medicine for Sir Kamarov as well while you are at it, won’t you?”
“Why not? I could do it and I could do it better than you ever could. My daddy said I could be an alchemist if I wanted to.” Nala countered.
Zafira only nodded as she pulled a pair of sandals onto her feet. “I’m sure he did.” She said as she stood up and brushed down the simple ‘Mage’s Robes’ she had acquired and looked at herself in the mirror. A little heavier than what she preferred, but given the temperatures, they were warmer; and warmer is better.
Satisfied that she was at least not a total mess, Zafira turned to Nala and folded her arms under her breasts. “Alright. Fine. If you think--”
“I know I can do it.” Nala interrupted with impatience.
“--think you can do it,” Zafira continued, ignoring the interruption. “Then go on ahead and prove it. I will meet you in the laboratory.”
“I will!” Nala said with an indignant huff. She then turned on her heel and stalked out of the room.
Zafira could not help but smile to herself as she gathered a couple of pens and notebooks. She suddenly wasn’t as upset about current developments, but that would change when she started thinking about them. For the moment, she savored the small victory over Nala Jiong-Xu. It did not resort to violence or threats, and Nala was doing as she was told. That smile secretly broadened as Zafira caught sight of Nala in the mirror as the young woman slinked into the bedroom, snatched Zafira’s traveling tunic and trousers and vanished. I’m going to have to make sure she doesn’t burn those out of spite. Zafira mused to herself as she closed the door to her quarters behind her.
In the hallway, Zafira’s hand reflexively went to the pendant around her throat. It still felt warm, just like it did on the night of the New Year. Her eyes closed as her back came to rest on the cool stone wall behind her. Memories of the reaction, the sheer onslaught of raw magic power exploding forth with a level of power that was mind-numbing, destructive and harmless all at the same time.
The Wakinyan, a bird just as rare (if not more so) and majestic as the Phoenix, filled her mental view then. While the Phoenix was drawn to fire and sources of intense heat, the Wakinyan was drawn to Magic and their own potent sources of all kinds. What did this mean? Did the reaction that night actually grant birth to a Wakinyan? No, it was too large to be that young. More likely it was either drawn there by the sheer nature of the place, or it was already there and was simply awakened by the magical explosion of a potent ritual gone horribly wrong.
But what did that have to do with the amulet?
Zafira gave a frustrated sigh. Right now she wanted nothing more than to lay back in a nice hot bath, or cuddle up with a few books to figure it all out—the amulet, the Wakinyan or any other perplexity; any would do. Even the idea of completing that remedy was looking promising at this point. All of which were things that she could enjoy doing, or even be relaxed when she did it. But this was important and it really couldn’t wait, lest a precedent that had already started become the standard.
With an irritated growl, Zafira stalked down the hall towards Patris’ quarters.
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