There was a faint knock at the door, I jerked in surprise. Hours had passed since I had moved, I had been lost in my work. I blinked to clear the daze from eyes. I stood and walked around the stone disc on which an abstract form of lines, nodes and tangled concepts was glowing faintly in primary colours, it was nowhere near complete, but I smiled at my progress.
I edged open the door, it was Sophia.
“Tristan, dinner is here,” she informed me.
“Oh it’s that time already?” I asked. I had been in there longer than I thought
“Yep, what ya doing? You just vanished,” Sophia asked curiously.
“It’s nothing just a little project,” I replied evasively.
I sidled through the gap in the door and pulled it closed behind me.
Sophia turned her head, trying to see behind me. I was fairly sure that I had closed the door quickly enough that she couldn’t see anything.
“Come on then, I’m famished,” I instructed. I walked briskly through our new home to the main living room.
I stopped abruptly, enough that Sophia crashed into me.
“Oww!” she exclaimed.
I turned to her.
“Why didn’t you tell me that we had guests?” I hissed under my breath.
“Excuse me for thinking that you may realise the food didn’t walk itself up,” she replied snarkily.
I plastered a smile on my face and continued my walk into the main room. the large table was set a simple meal of glazed pork and vegetables upon it. Four spaces were set, one for me, one for Sophia, and two for our guests. Jase and a woman I vaguely recognised, but couldn’t place, were sat at the table, chatting softly to each other.
“Tristan,” Jase greeted me “Nice to see you could join us. This is Avery Martin,” Jase indicated Avery with a hand. “She has agreed to be your aide. Temporarily, while you adjust to the new arrangements. We will discuss if it becomes permanent at a later date. If everyone is agreeable.”
Avery for her part did very little, I got a dignified nod from the older lady.
“She served in much the same capacity in the early days of your training. Being a mage doesn’t often lend itself well to the more mundane realities, such as eating and sleeping. Our research and studies take so much of our focus. So, having a matron around has proven to be essential. We did try to instill a more balanced lifestyle in your generation, It doesn’t appear to have worked that well.” Jase joked.
Avery smiled slightly, the act looking very unnatural on her serious face.
“Avery, I’m pleased to welcome you, and more than happy to have your services,” I said with a forced smile. I may need the help with Sophia, but I managed fine on my own.
“Good, you clearly haven’t eaten all day, and by the looks of it, neither has your apprentice, eat and I will tell you my actual job role. Master Jase has left a lot out,” Avery instructed firmly
I picked up my fork and began to eat
“My duties in regards to you are to make sure there is food in the suites, clean clothes, and clear spaces. In regards to Sophia, I will be her nanny at times that it’s required, such as when you are otherwise engaged or she is between lessons, I will ensure the basics are done. I do similar for the whole mage academy,” Avery Martin said primly. Her whole demeanor screamed formal. From her tight blond bun, to her high collared clothes. For such a young woman she felt old. She couldn’t have been older than thirty.
“That sounds fine to me,” I said after swallowing. The meal was wonderful. I looked across to Sophia who was just pushing her food around on her plate. “How about you Soph?”
“Uh. What?” Sophia said, her face a picture of cluelessness.
“How do you feel about Miss Martin being your nanny?” I asked slowly.
“Oh right. Um, yeah sounds fine,” she replied half heartedly before resuming her food manipulations.
Jase was looking between Sophia and I, clearly trying to work out what was wrong.
I shrugged. I didn’t know anymore than he did.
“I think the young lady is worn out, if its alright shall I put her to bed?” Avery asked.
I looked back at Sophia, she was pale and had deep shadows under her bloodshot eyes. I instantly felt awful for leaving her alone this afternoon.
“No, I will do it,” I said. “Soph, you had enough dinner?”
“Yeah, I’m tired sorry,” she muttered. Her head drooping.
“Let’s get you to bed then,” I stood and held my hand out to her.
Sophia dragged herself out of her chair and grasp my hand in her own.
“If you will excuse us?” I asked politely.
Jase and Avery nodded, granting us leave.
“Come on Soph,” I led the exhausted girl to her room.
“A moment,” Sophia said before darting into the room with far more speed that I would expect.
“Come in,” she called through the door.
I opened the door to the dim glow of the globes, Sophia was in bed already, the rich blue covers up to her neck
“Is everything ok?” I asked as she squirmed in the bed.
“Umm, yeah it will be. I’m just tired and I miss my mum,” she confided, her eyes dry this time, she just look sad.
“It will get better, I promise. I’ll do everything I can to make things easier for you,” I vowed passionately.
“I know Tristan, thats what Jase said too. Could you tuck me in please?” Sophia asked
“Sure,” I crossed the remaining distance, and push the covers in tight around her. “Is that right?” I asked unsure if I had done it correctly.
“Yep, cosy. Night Tristan.”
“Night Sophia,” I said before walking to the door, I looked back over my shoulder
She was laying there her eyes closed, already asleep. She looked like one of those elemental children from the stories my own mother used to tell me. Pale skin and red hair like a flame. Maybe Sophia would like to hear the stories. I’ll ask Orb if he knows where I could get a story shard from.
I made my way back to the main room, Jase and Avery were waiting patiently for me.
“Sorry about that,” I apologised to them.
“Don’t worry about it Tristan. She’s lovely,” Jase said amicably.
“I see you have some idea of how to care for a child then,” Avery commented as she eyed me carefully.
“I’m making it up as I go along,” I remarked honestly, a tiny laugh slipping out.
“Well we shall correct that then Tristan,” Avery said hotly.
I must have offended her somehow.
“Its getting late, and while I enjoyed dinner, I have a project to work on,” I started before Jase interrupted.
“A project? Tell me about it,” Jase almost begged his curiosity getting the better of him.
I smiled a small sly smile and said, “ Soon Jase, its not ready for other eyes yet.”
Avery just sat there watching us.
“Okay, my boy, I will be wanting to look at this project of yours soon,” Jase cautioned me with a laugh.
“I shall take my leave now,” Avery stated just before standing and walking out the door.
I watched her leave. “That was abrupt,” I commented.
“Shes like that, hard to deal with, but a lifetime of dealing with us, will do that to a person,” Jase joked, “So whats this project?”
“What’s this about a son?” I countered.
“Now isn’t the time Tristan,” Jase just sounded tired all of a sudden.
“Fine I’ll let it go for now. You can see the project in a few days. I may even want your input,” I offered.
“I’m sure it will be something special, I can wait. It was nice being able to spend some time with you outside of work Tristan,” Jase smiled warmly at me, “ I will see you soon. I had best get back to my own work.”
“Thank you for coming Jase, I appreciate all the help you are giving us,” I said, once again at a loss for what to say.
“Think nothing of it,” Jase brushed it off negligently as he stood.
I walked him to the door, quickly said goodbye and headed back to my own workroom.
I blinked groggily, I had a pain in my neck. The glow from the consoles screen was extremely bright. I pulled my head off the console.
I must have fallen asleep. A yawn forced its way out of my mouth, I worked my head and shoulder around to ease the pain.
On the disc in front of me was my project. A complex interconnected tangle of glowing threads, woven in intricate detail. The disc held the fragile weaves in stasis so they could be properly tested and reworked. I took a deep breath before I looked again with my other sight. The influx of stimulus worked better than coffee for waking up.
My project was beautiful. Each line connected in just the right way. The magical network that I had based on organic systems was all set up. The learning weave ready to be activated. All I had to do was implant the base skills, bind the matrix to the form I had prepared and integrate all the separate systems. I had high hopes that this would work, I had spent most of my time plotting it all out on the console.
The archives were full of abandoned projects, many mages attempted golem creation, this was the culmination of one that I had studied during my training. I had been tinkering with the learning weave, trying to improve it. The shard that Lyphia had given me had been the breakthrough that solved it. Full integration, instead of enhancement of certain skills. This wouldn’t be a machine or a tool or an empty vessel, this would be a work of art, alive in a way few golems ever were, discounting Orb, who was remarkable.
My lingering tiredness fled in the face of the passion I held for my art. I took a step around the console to touch the lattice I had created. I gently summoned my magic and used it to pull the individual systems together slotting them in like puzzle pieces. My enhanced sight helped me find the exact locations I needed in the dense mass of magic, as I sensed the minute variance in the nodes. I spun a few connective threads to properly link the concepts. There done, now just the body. I drew away my hand being careful not to disrupt anything. I stepped back, and waited. The moments ticked by with agonising slowness.
The mesh held.
I let out a sigh of relief.
Everything looked stable. The body was behind the console, I had just finished testing it before I’d crashed, it was an old style that had gone out of fashion, they were often remembered as soldiers in the Mage-kings Armies, but I’d modified it with some very complex concepts, that had given me more than a bit of trouble. The base material was stone, wrought into humanoid form, although nearly twice my size. It looked like a statue at first glance. The dense rock was a pale, off white, flecks of mica glittered on the surface. The engraved glyphs layered in a complex weave to grant senses, as well as anchor the glowing lattice I had labored over. I closed my eyes and concentrated. I used small bursts of magic to turn off the stasis disc. My sight was swimming as the now active matrix swelled, its links solidifying into temporary connections running through the initialisation program. I could feel the power levels rising as the program completed.
If this works I will be a step closer to my masters piece, I thought to myself.
<Name?> came the unspoken question.
“I name you Airis,” I commanded.
<Accepted. I am Airis. Where is my body?> it asked.
I sent a thread of magic through the constructed stone form and another to the awakened mind I had named Airis.
Airis used my threads to navigate, overlapping its major nodes with the glyphs I had carved in the body. The power levels started draining then, as Airis drew itself into the form.
A moment later the body moved. A shimmer formed over the surface of the stone which distorted the shape. The stone flowed into a new shape, colour rose from within. Standing before me now was Airis, but his body was that of a young boy.
A smile creased my face as I looked into his eyes. Someone was home. I’d had to use my memories of my self as a nine year old to model the shape accurately. It was almost perfect. He was even wearing clothes similar to what I had worn at that point in my life.
“Airis, is everything alright?” I asked as I noticed the lack of facial animation.
“Yes, I just have a lot of non standard structures. This will take time to adjust to,” he said.
I winced, he had my exact accent and inflections, “Sorry about those, I had to use a standard core for you, so your abilities aren’t preset. Your weave is flexible though, so getting used to the non standard parts shouldn’t take long.”
“Why can I shape shift?” Airis asked curiously. His, I say his because it was the only way I could think of him, eyes locked on to mine. It was eerie talking to a younger version of myself, maybe I hadn’t thought this through as much as I thought I had.
“There are reasons why, one is your current task. You are to be Sophia’s companion and protector. I would like you to become her friend if that is possible,” I replied earnestly.
“You should know my limitations. You created me. I need to be around my creator the majority of the time. I can’t be away from you,” Airis said.
“The fact that you know that, shows just how different you are,” I said with pride as I leant in to examine some of the finer details of his now active conceptual architecture. I could see the threads connecting his systems weaving tighter in places as the integration grew more ingrained. “You have access to a great deal of information, I managed to connect a data node that I created. It has a lot of magic related knowledge embedded in it, as well as some limits that I’ve had to place on you for now, but back to the point. You don’t need to be around me. Your body has a personal link to the magic, I worked really hard to find a way of doing that.”
“For what purpose?” he asked.
“I can’t be around all the time. I have work to do. I also can’t be a friend to Sophia. I’m her master, I can be nice to her, but if I’m her friend it may undermine my ability to teach her. I made you for a few reasons one of them is to be there for Sophia.”
“I will restate my first question, why can I shapeshift?” Airis asked. His face had started to animate more now.
“So you can be the friend she needs. It’s hard to get attached to a chunk of stone,” I said.
“Ah,” Airis said.
“Airis, I am very pleased to meet you, but I should go to bed. Do I need to restrict you to this room?” I asked.
“No I will calibrate my systems. There is no need to confine me, I have no desire to see anything else yet,” Airis said.
“ Good night then,” I said before I turned and walked out of the door.
I was exhausted and as much as I wanted to get to know the capabilities of my golem, I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it properly, now the big rush of creation had faded. I threw myself onto my bed, not even stripping off, the glow of satisfaction hummed deep in my chest. I was asleep with in moments.