I sat on the hard floor of the arena, racked with sobs, I spend a long moment trying to control my breathing to stop it, there was an odd hiccup as I suppressed it. I wiped my eyes to find Velar standing next to me. Well, over me.
“Come on, there is no need for tears,” Velar said, as he looked down at me. He offered a hand.
I nodded more to myself than anything, and stood on my own.
He lowered his hand and his smile slipped a touch. “ Can we talk a moment? I understand that you might not be feeling up to it though. Jase and Fion mentioned what happened,” he said with what was apparently sincere concern.
“If I’m a Mage, then you’re my boss, I kinda have to talk to you,” I agreed reluctantly.
He gestured up the step out of the room.
We fell into step, him to the side of me. The twins had pulled themselves up, and followed along behind like dogs.
That really didn’t put me at ease, two lethal, legendary mages, that had shown themselves willing to harm me, at my back. I could feel an itch start just between my shoulder blades.
“It doesn’t need to be like this Tristan. I’m sorry you feel hard done by, but we have to be sure,” Velar said. his hands moved in large expansive movements as he talked. his voice was gentle but firm. He sounded a bit like my father. That brought me up short.
“Stop it,” I said. I turned to look at him. The twins hung back, but close enough that if I tried to harm the boss man they would kill me.
“Stop what?” he asked, an expression of guileless innocence on his face.
I wasn’t buying it, a powerful man is never innocent.
I thought briefly for a moment. I checked my feelings and thoughts. I almost dismissed it, but something wasn’t right. I cocked my head to the side as I looked at him. There was nothing to support my growing suspicion, but I had screamed at the man because of a vision already. I may well be past the need for evidence.
“Stop whatever you are doing to influence me. It’s not necessary. I have to hear you out. You’re the leader of the bloody wizards,” I said slightly bitterly.
His face changed to one of pure surprise.
“You could feel that? I thought that was impossible,” he looked at the twins who looked ready to kill me right now. They seemed equally surprised. “Of course I will stop, I just wanted you to be more comfortable.”
“You think you’re the only being that’s tried to mess with my head? Just say what you want to say and leave me be.”
The familiar friendly tone evaporated, now I was talking to the head wizard. “Fine, Tristan. I want to know several things. One, what is your involvement with Brak?” he left it hanging in the air, waiting expectantly for me to answer.
I resumed walking. I need the time to think.
Brak was the wizard that captured us. With Iason Alerus, Vance and Lessor. The ones from the foundry. Why ask me?
“My involvement with them is nothing, I have none. They on the other hand, seem to go around blowing places up,” I said with a detachment I didn’t feel, I was angry again. Dealing with them, with this, more things that kept me from my duty. Which at the moment was the newly awakened child upstairs in her bed.
“Fine I will accept that answer for now. Two, when did you learn sigils and reading? We received a report of a mage developing reading, but we thought it was wrong. Turns out it wasn’t,” he said firmly, but there was something else under it. Something I couldn’t put my finger on.
We walked through the deserted halls of the academy, I didn’t really know where I was going, but I soon saw the end of a hall that looked familiar, I aimed in that direction while I considered my answer.
“Reading happened after an encounter with a god, well supposedly a god. Sigils, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I don’t know sigils,” I said in a rush, anything to get this guy to leave me alone.
“You used one. It sent the twins flying. How can you not know?”
“Look, I’m tired and not in the mood for this, can we move on? I need to see my apprentice” I said.
We were now in a well travelled part of the academy, my suite of rooms just down the hall.
“Tristan, whatever you may think of me, I suggest you put it behind you. You have a bright future with us. Don’t let the past colour your judgement,” Velar said.
I looked over to him, the impression of a jovial uncle, lingered around him, but it was tinged with sadness. His laughter lines, creased deeper than they should be.
“I don’t really care about the past, I’ve done my share of things that I’m not proud of. But how could you do it?” I asked in earnest.
“The nobles oath was insidious, we had very little choice. Some of us could fight it, others were left little more than shells, puppets. There were horrors, but the worst part is do their bidding or worse would happen. They died so that others could live,” he said
“That is the crap, rationalise it anyway you want, it was wrong,” I said.
“Yes it is. It was wrong and it’s still wrong. I have to live with that and a great many other things that I wish I didn’t. There is a reason there are no nobles now,”
I looked back at the twins, they looked grim.
“Not just them,” Velar said with a chuckle.
“If you will excuse me, I have a little girl to see,” I said as we reached my apartment door.
“One moment, I heard you have made a very special construct.”
I stopped, panic flooded through my my hand clenched on the door handle as the breath went out of me.
“I would be interested to see it, Jase says you are very talented. With all the reports about you, I have to agree, but it would be nice to see evidence with my own eyes.
“Is this just academic interest, or something more?” I asked as I eyed him with suspicion.
“Oh, Calm down,” he said with a laugh, his kindly facade back on. “I’m just curious. I love golems. I don’t mind that you ‘may’ have broken a few rules. We aren’t such stick in the muds about little things like that. If you had made a warrior, then I’m sure we would be having words.” The faintest hint of menace, radiated from him with the last words.
I froze, then tried to cover it.
“Ah, I would rather see to my apprentice right now,” I hedged.
“Is there something you need to tell me?” he said. He was looking at me intensely once again.
Those rainbow eyes are disconcerting, particularly when they were focused on me.
“He’s a warrior, for design purposes. I made him to be a protector. And he is still a very early step in my project,” I said before I even realised.
I stopped and blinked.
“Thought I told you to stop it, I said harshly.
I opened the door ready to go through and slam it behind me.
“Hold, Tristan. I’m still a leader and secrets have a habit of coming back to bite me, so forgive me for the invasion, but I will make no more excuses for it. You don’t want someone in your head, I can understand that. Learn to protect yourself,” Velar said.
“Fine, I can’t protect myself from it yet, so leave,” I said, maybe harsher than I should, but I was done tiptoeing around people.
“No, let me see the golem. I don’t want to pull rank on you, Mage”
I opened the door and walked through, I turned to close it behind me to find a foot wedged in the frame.
“Move your foot,” I instructed.
“Tristan I like you, but don’t push your luck. You live on my sufferance,” Velar said without heat.
It struck me cold, my whole life depended on this man, who I had been treating like he was beneath me.
“Sir, I apologise,” I forced myself to say as I opened the door. “It’s been a trying day.”
Velar chuckled at that and stepped into the room.
The twins attempted to follow.
I looked to Velar, “Can they not come in please? I doubt it would be conducive to my apprentice’s health.”
“Oh, of course,” Velar nodded to the twins, who took position on either side of the door. Guarding.
Good luck with that, I thought.
I called out “Airis.”
“Tristan, you’re back. What was that all about?” Airis’ child voice replied. The actual boy followed along shortly. He stopped in the entry of the room.He was a boy again.
I let out a small sigh of relief, I’d had my doubts about showing him to be harmless as a giant stone man.
Airis stood looking between Velar and Me. If it hadn’t been so serious I would have laughed at his expression. Perplexed just didn’t cover it.
“Relax Airis. This is Velar, the head wizard. He wanted to meet you,” I said helpfully. “Oh, is head wizard the official title? That’s all I even hear you called.”
“Sir,” Airis bowed.
I guess all that information I had implanted served some good.
“No, head wizard isn’t the title, it’s arch wizard,” Veler said amused. “It’s nice to meet you Airis.”
“Airis, how’s Sophia?” I asked worried.
I started to head toward her room.
“She’s awake, Lady Lyphia, is in there with her,” Airis informed me.
I stopped in my tracks.
“Lyphia? Here?” I looked down at myself, I was a mess. “Do I have time to bathe? Change my clothes?” I asked in a rush of words. My heart raced. All thoughts of Sophia fled.
Airis shrugged and Velar laughed.
Helpful of them, I thought before continuing on my way.
Sophias door was closed, I could hear the faintest of murmurs from beyond it. I tiptoed to my door, which was opposite, I reached the handle. As I went to turn it, I heard a door open behind me.
“Hello, Lyphia” I said without turning.