The seething storm that was Zafirah flowed down the halls of House Vorloi. The Alchemic Thaumaturge coasted on pinions of air that surrounded her body like a miniature whirlwind. The alternating pressures of warm air coupled with the ambient cooler air granted her flight when she used the spell to its full effect, however currently her feet only barely skimmed the ground and so only tapped into a mere fraction of that spell's power.
When she had actually invoked her Raywing spell, or that she had actually cast it at all was the last thing on Zafirah's mind. She was livid, and it showed as she powered forward. The appearance of the oncoming magic user moving faster than many people jog had its desired effect: people got out of her way and they did not attempt to keep her from her tasks. Someone muttered something about meddling in the affairs of wizards or some such nonsense.
In her haste, she had almost bypassed the man she was going to see. Almost. She turned sharply, the young sorceress brought herself directly in her target's path, the fleeting gusts of wind scattering away from her harmlessly as her concentration was diverted to the man in front of her. "Patris," She began the irritation evident in her voice, though it was not directed at him. She had been thinking again, that much was certain. "Just the man I was looking for. We need to talk."
"Yes," Patris began, "I was looking for you as well. I see you passed the Page on your way here." Patris looks past Zafirah towards a bewildered young lad, "Would you ah...." Patris nodded in the direction of the ground beneath her feet.
Zafira blinked and nodded. It was then that she realized that the spell was still quietly active. With a gesture, and a snap of her fingers, the winds subsided and vanished, leaving her feet firmly on the floor. She then looked like she was going to say something, lifting a finger in preparation.
"Before you begin, let me say a few word, yes? I believe the 4th floor Arboretum is usually vacant this time of the day. I don't think our conversation should be overheard by the common folk." And with that Patris turns to lead Zafirah up the stairs of the Mages' Guild.
She blinked and let her hands slip into the confines of her robes. "Yes, it is. I sometimes go there to think, or to gather materials for my potions. It shouldn't be a problem if privacy is your concern."
As the two walk off, a sound is made. You can't hear it, of course, but it is the sound of a stiletto sliding effortlessly back into it's oiled sheath. Another sound, which you also cannot hear, follows the first and is that of soft padded feet walking across cobblestone. What you do see, however, is the small humble form of a Skaven chef making his labored way across the Mage's Guild courtyard—no doubt the years of service have taken their toll on him.
The Arboretum is a massive greenhouse on the fourth floor of the Northpoint Mage's guild. Within, are various plants of all kinds, some natural, some unnatural, some experimental, and some rarer than diamonds. Without, the walls of the greenhouse are made from pure glass—no metal riggings at all. Mage-crafted and perfectly smooth, the glass is porous enough to let air in and out, but maintains appropriate moisture and temperature levels.
There are many mage's life's works inside the Arboretum, and not just anyone is allowed. As the pair approaches, the apprentice at the door recognizes Zafira and then pauses. Then she looks at Patris; noticing his large, muscular body and finely chiseled features. The apprentice—ahem—notices how downright clumsy Patris looks.
"What ah, business brings you to the Arboretum, Mistress Zafira?" The apprentice asks.
“I was just discussing some business with Sir Patris Nulmen here, and I thought it would be a grand idea to bring him to the Arboretum to show him one of my staple resources for the potions that have kept us alive. He is my guest, and he can be trusted." Her words to the apprentice were accompanied by a few subtle gestures as well as a particular inflection in her voice that told the young woman to leave them in peace.
The young apprentice nodded, and opened the doors for the pair. Stepping inside the Arboretum, she motions to Zafirah and Patris to follow her. They wait as the apprentice pulls a record book from the shelf and places it on a small desk. Handing Zafirah a quill, the girl gives Zafirah a knowing smile, "Zafirah, please sign in. And I believe your latest experiment is in the third wing on the left." The girl bows and exits the Arboretum, sitting back out at her post in the hallway.
Zafirah blinked a couple of time in response to the girl's words. `Third Wing'? Her experiments were usually conducted in the laboratories in the basement, and she had never bothered to venture anywhere near the Third Wing. She shook her head and signed the book, filling out the logs appropriately before moving onwards.
Zafirah closed the doors behind the girl and made her way to towards the center of the enclosure, her eyes flicking towards the doors once more to ensure that the apprentice would do as instructed. Satisfied, she turned her attention to Patris. "Alright, we're alone now. You said that you were actually looking for me. I can only assume that it is pretty important."
"Well, yes." Patris admitted, "Here," and he hands her a finely scrawled scroll case. "I apologize. I was wrong to take this. I guess... I don't know." Patris turns to look out at the city. "I've been frustrated with House Vorloi, namely the lack of recognition of my abilities and prowess as a knight. I took out that anger on you, and I'm sorry." Patris turns back to Zafirah, "I can see now that you were right. I was blind to everything but my own glory, and I was not giving you your tactical space. Will you forgive me?"
The sorceress was struck silent by Patris' words. She numbly took the scroll case and gave a slight nod. After she had recomposed her thoughts she gave a soft sigh. "I accept your apology. I understand that events can seem quite stressful."
"Though I find it interesting that you mention that your association with House Vorloi frustrating, because that is exactly what I wanted to speak with you about."
Patris gave Zafirah a confused look, "I don't understand how it is relevant to you... but go on."
She raked a hand through her still-windswept hair. "Patris…" She began. It was difficult for her to say start, at least without sounding like an arrogant, glory hog herself. "…I, well, we have done a lot for Northpoint in general and House Vorloi in particular. It is pointless to tell you what we have done, in both your name as well as for the common good—you already know what we have done."
She sighed softly and looked at the scroll case in her hands as she continued. "But I somehow feel… unsatisfied. I left my home so I could find glory and adventure. I have had plenty of the latter, and I crave more still. But I have received little of the former.
"I am well aware of the social differences between my culture and yours. I have attempted to adapt with varying degrees of success. I am also well aware that this could be a factor in how I am received. But that is not exactly what has gotten me so upset."
"It's the glory, isn't it?" Patris interrupted, "We've been living these past two and a half years underneath the shadow of House Vorloi... I had no idea it was affecting anyone but me."
She gave a slight nod. "It is. I do not think I would have thought much of it myself until we returned from our latest adventures. Even then, the only reason why I have even gave it any critical thought was because in the time it took this 'Sir Cath' to kill a few Skaven and round up a psychotic criminal, we managed to destroy a major resource of the Skaven for a secret weapon, disrupt a binding ritual which I have yet to divine the implications of had we not done so, and then do a favor for the House that resulted in my petrifaction, and quite nearly the death of Squire Martin simply because we were in the neighborhood." She pauses to breathe, "How is it that this knight somehow receives more recognition and glory than we do? I find it impossible to believe that somehow we arrived before word of our deeds did."
Patris clenched a fist and muttered under his breath, "Heretic." After a moment he relaxed and continued, "I'm personally seeing to it that news of our actions spread. I'm asking Ragnar to spread the word." He paused. "You know, they asked me to keep word of the Nodes quiet. Do you know why?"
Zafira blinked and cocked her head to the side. "No, why? It makes little sense. I would think that if the location of the nodes were known the Guilds or independents would seek to take control of them."
"There wasn't much of the nodes remaining when we left...."
She gave a sight shrug. "Physically, no there was not. But that does not mean that the lines that they tap into were also destroyed or the sites rendered completely useless. I would have to look into the matter... but that still makes no sense. Is it because there is no proof? No evidence of that act?"
"My guess was fear. The powers that be don't want the common folk knowing that the Skaven had amassed such an army and were commanding the forces of the world itself." He exhales slowly. "But I—we stopped it. Stopped the Skaven from destroying the city." He looks back out the window, the morning sun beating down upon the city. "And no one knows it."
Zafira frowned at this revelation and stood beside Patris as he looked out the window. "That serves no purpose. If war is on the doorstep of the common folk, then they need to prepare for it as soon as possible. Regardless of the fear, those people need to know that they are in danger and be aware of their surroundings."
She then looked at Patris and shook her head. "This is not the first time we saved the city and it went unawares by the general populace. Remember that infection that we put an end to after our dealings with Grimnar. That got almost no fanfare or recognition either. And for what? Because those in charge want to keep the people dull and in a false sense of security? That seems like a poor reason to me."
"I can sense their... need to keep the populace placated." Patris said. "But we're talking about successes here, not failures. If we had failed to stop the nodes from being joined, then yes, don't tell everyone. Then there's real panic to be had." He folds his hands back to his sides and turns to Zafira. "I just don't know what to do about House Vorloi. I don't think that getting married for the sole purpose of 'conveniently' breaking my oaths is such a good idea."
Zafira nodded in agreement. "I can understand wishing to keep the populace in such a state. Panic would solve nothing at all, especially if there is something to be done to prevent an outright invasion. But to keep them thoroughly in the dark about the efforts that the Skaven are attempting and our efforts to halt them makes no sense. One would think that such things should be made public knowledge."
She then considered Patris' words about his oaths. "My father always told us that it is a poor businessman who willingly violates a contract simply out of convenience. It establishes a bad precedent and gives the impression that you are not trustworthy. However, I do not think that you separating yourself from the House, either through marriage or other means, is necessarily a matter of convenience. You have worked very hard for House Vorloi and while they pay our way, they have yet to give you a cut of the profits…so to speak."
Patris sighed. "Do you think I should bring it up with House Vorloi?" Patris massages his temples and frowns, "I can't even imagine how I would go about doing that without sabotaging any benefit I could garner from them still."
Zafira looked to Patris for a few moments, and then turned her thoughts inwards. She closed her eyes and took a long deep breath. "My father is one of the wealthiest men on the continent of Molnai. He is a merchant by trade, and he has tried with varying amounts of success to instill his experience onto his children. From the perspective of a businessman, or rather in your case, an employee of sorts, you should at least inform those above you of your lack of satisfaction with your current standings. Be polite and professional, but also be firm. Let them know that you are not satisfied and why. If House Vorloi's intelligence networks are potent enough to discover a breeding pit in the middle of nowhere, then they should be aware of any efforts to pull you away. That said, you should point out what the competition is offering if the matter comes up. Allow them to make a counter-offer. If they are unwilling to beat the competition's offer as well as ensure your satisfaction, then you should leave. Quite plainly, if they do not value you as the hero you are and treat you and your people accordingly, then they do not deserve to have you in their service Patris. It is your right to find those that will accept and value you for the man you are. House Vorloi be dammed."
"Yes, well, I'm not that satisfied with the competition's offer either...." Patris muttered.
She lifted a brow. "But it is at least better than what you are receiving now, yes? Remember, a smaller house may not have the resources that a larger one possesses."
"I'm not talking about that... I'm talking about marriage. Getting tied down."
Zafira blinked a couple of times and perched herself on the edge of a stone shelf. "Forgive me if I do not understand the exact nature of the problem. I was given the impression that marriages worked here in a similar manner as they do in my homeland. They are of convenience and for the betterment of one or both families. I had thought that was how things were done here...or at least that was the impression that I have of this possible marriage proposal. Is that not something you want?"
"Perhaps I am a naive fool, but if I'm going to spend the rest of my life with someone... I want it to be a woman I like, love even." Patris pauses to breathe, "Not because the Vorloi Patriarch thinks he can take credit for the actions which are mine."
Zafira's answer came almost a bit too quickly. "So get another wife when you find one that you love. I still don't see the problem."
"You're not familiar with the term love, are you? I'm not talking about a passing affection; I'm talking about something that should last a lifetime. Something exclusive, unique... you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?"
She considered his words for a moment and then gave a slight nod. "Oh, I am aware of it and I know what you are talking about. I guess it is not uncommon for a man in my homelands to have one or multiple wives that are nothing more than marriages of convenience, while he has a woman that he loves with all of his heart."
Patris sighed, "Well, here you only get once chance."
"Mmmm...." She mused with a slow nod. "I see the problem now. Well, have you at least met this woman? Perhaps anything that is said may only be hearsay. If love and lifetime happiness are the deciding factor here, then you should at least meet her before writing her off out of hand. Who knows?"
"Agreed, and nothing more than finding out who she is should spark some interest from House Vorloi."
She nods. "Exactly. They get curious as to why you are even looking at a woman in another house and ask you about it. You present your reasons in a polite manner and then let them try to make a better offer. Should they ignore this, or refuse and it turns out that things could work out with this woman, so much the better."
Patris hesitates before responding, "Yes. I blew up at Martin earlier, and I asked him to make the courtship official without really thinking it through. I'm glad my decision wasn't completely without merit. Speaking of which, we have probably tarried here too long, and I noticed that we didn't enter the Third Wing."
Zafira mused as she hopped off of her perch "Well, at least a hasty courtship that ultimately fails is better than a hasty denial that--" She blinked. "...what? The Third Wing? I have no idea what that apprentice was talking about. I don't have any experiments up here and I have never been to the Third Wing."
Patris smiled, "I am actually curious to know what is over there." He says as he starts working his way among the rows of plants towards the archway. After passing through the archway, they are greeted by a menagerie of rare and beautiful flowers, their scents strong in the air. The glass in this wing is deeply colored, and makes some interesting patterns among the flowers.
Zafira blinked as her eyes adjusted to the colored light and started to take a closer look at some of the plants, muttering something under her breath about the strange color and leaf patterns. It was not until she looked over at Patris that she understood the purposes of these particular plants, or this wing. She suddenly felt very self-conscious and her hands moved to cover herself, despite the fact that she was completely clothed in some of the worst clothing one could find to accentuate the female body. "Ahhh... Patris. I... really don't think we should be here." Her golden brown face now bearing an embarrassed crimson to her cheeks.
"I ah... had a peculiar thought. What sort of dowry do you think I could get out of your father?"
After signing out, the Zafira and Patris close the door to the Arboretum behind them, chatting it up with the apprentice outside. From inside the greenhouse underneath a plant and dirt littered workbench, a small nose and set of whiskers pokes out. Veskar mutters at the now sealed and watched door to the hallway, "Now that, is a problem."
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