Per our agreement, I, Azalea Ellis, am posting this content on behalf of Jaye Finch.
Month 3, Day 25, 5:30 p.m.
(Set between 148 and 149)
Thaddeus strode from his office towards the library administration center with a purpose, parting the stragglers in the hallways with his scowl. As he walked through the open doors, he preemptively glared at the administration assistants to deter any further amorous advances from the staff. In the past, he might have taken a malevolent pleasure in allowing them to embarrass themselves, but over time he found himself less amused by the prurient interest that Gilbrathans seemed to have with him. Perhaps, due in part to his expression or the end of term distractions, the behavior of the woman on duty was professional as she handed him a small message. He read it and immediately left, traveling towards the University exit and hailing a carriage once he was at the base of the cliffs.
As Thaddeus headed back to his favorite book store, a small, multi-story shop on the edge of the Mires, he mused over the latest incident he rescued his apprentice from. He had expected more surprises as he continued to assess the progression of Siverling’s abilities in their private lessons, but to learn that he could cast with a conduit touching any part of his body was as startling as it was intriguing. There were thaumaturges throughout history who, reportedly, could cast through conduit contact on any part of their skin. While this was not a topic that he was an expert in, one of the texts he recently acquired about the People contained a small anecdote about the ability, asserting that it was a genetic predisposition instead of a learned skill.
He had not been entirely honest with his students or his colleagues today, of course. After decades of attempts, he could barely cast a simple levitation spell with his conduit pressed in the crook of his arm or between his wrists. The overpowering riptide of magical energy that his Will effortlessly channeled slowed into the barest trickle once the conduit lost contact with his hands, as if he was a leviathan of the rainforest cut down to the roots.
But Thaddeus had no incentive to admit to other professors that he was not capable of performing fantastical feats of magic, especially those that his apprentice demonstrated with ease. Now that he had time to contemplate his earlier decision, Thaddeus decided that he made the correct choice on the way to the underground shelter–he would prefer not to draw more unwanted attention to his apprentice. Idly, he wondered if he knew of the thaumaturge who laid the foundations for Siverling’s exceptional control and force of Will, but he dismissed the thought. When the next term resumed, there would be plenty of time to sate his curiosity about his apprentice’s background.
As he exited the carriage and paid for his ride, the warming air filled his nose with the city scents, salt air, and the faintest stench of the Mires. The bookstore was one of many buildings in Gilbratha that had seen better decades, with several additions piling on top of each other to create a cramped, multi-story shop that catered to the esoteric interests of academics. He suspected that the shop may originally have been a front for criminal activity, considering the location and niche offerings. Perhaps it still was.
He ducked slightly as he walked in, breathing deeply to fill his lungs with the unmistakable scent of the old bookstore, antique texts mingling with the new in the dusty shop. The light crystals were dim but plentiful, and every nook and narrow aisle was adequately lit, with stools scattered in corners to access the shelves that reached to the ceiling. The proprietor stepped partway down the stairs and asked, “Are you in a hurry today, Grandmaster Lacer? Your order is here, but I received a small shipment of miscellaneous texts from an estate sale that are supposed to be from the Blood Emperor’s reign. I haven’t had a chance to evaluate their authenticity, but they struck me as something you might be interested in.”
“I have a few minutes,” he said as he followed the shopkeeper to the second floor and perused the crate. He found nothing of particular relevance to his research, but that was to be expected. He browsed the stacks, picking up a newer book that had information on pre-Cataclysm magical artificery. Rumors suggested that the University expedition may have uncovered artifacts in addition to the books, and Kiernan had hinted that he might have the opportunity to examine the haul–perhaps some of those items could be from before the Cataclysm? His lips curved upwards in a faint smirk, and he paused to rein in his thoughts. Excitement was no excuse for making baseless assumptions, no matter how fascinated he might be about the whispers passed between the faculty. The discoveries were almost guaranteed to be valuable, but it was unlikely that even a small percentage of the rumors he heard were based in truth.
The normal ebb and flow of the University gossip had been swept into a tsunami with the arrival of his mysterious apprentice, and while he attempted to ignore the inane chatter of the students, it was impossible to avoid completely. Even he had heard a few variations on the kraken rumor that started at the beginning of the term.
Thaddeus strongly suspected it originated from Munchworth.
His smirk widened maliciously when he recalled the petrified looks on the faces of the upper term history students last month when he assigned them demerit points for repeating the drivel. In any case, it did not matter. His new agreement with Kiernan would provide more than enough opportunities to indulge in petty vengeance that would be more satisfying to him than a simple cutting remark in a faculty meeting.
Thaddeus wondered how his apprentice ignored the ever-increasing outlandish rumors, and almost laughed to himself at the absurdity of his speculation. The real wonder was how Siverling managed to survive his first term, or even into his teens, with such a proclivity for recklessness. Practically, of course, he was an imbecile, but he was such a thaumaturgic prodigy that Thaddeus found himself willing to go to surprising lengths to protect the young man. He doubted that his guidance and criticism would be enough to keep Siverling from participating in perilous adventures in the following term, but Thaddeus was uninterested in wasting his time on someone who would kill himself before he achieved his Mastery. Perhaps he would have to find a different way to tailor his message to Siverling, as the boy didn’t seem to absorb his lectures about good judgment as voraciously as he consumed lessons in free casting.
As he walked down the stairs, he asked the proprietor, “I am searching for a gift to express my affection to someone I care for. A gift to communicate that I want them in my life.”
The older man attempted–and failed–to keep the surprise off his face, and walked to the counter. He rummaged in the cabinets beneath and pulled out a copy of a book titled Dream Work, putting it in Thaddeus’s hands. “Ah! A gift for a lover, perhaps? This is a personal fav-“
“Something more practical,” Thaddeus interrupts, setting the book of poetry onto the counter. He glanced about the displays and spotted a self help book with a trite title, leafing through it rapidly while tuning out the shopkeeper’s banal remarks.
He closed the book and set it with his other selections. How utterly appropriate. “This will do.”
The shopkeeper stared incredulously at the book, “I’m not sure if that will send the message you intend… Most ladies prefer something a bit more, ah, heartfelt.”
Luckily, Thaddeus was not interested in purchasing books of poetry for a potential lover, and he doubted that his apprentice would be unclear about his intentions after reading this particular book. It was not as if he was giving the young man jewelry, after all. He paid for his books, carefully storing them in a satchel he had created with a library’s worth of shelving tucked neatly into the folded space. One never knew when they might need to have the right book on hand. He nodded a brusque farewell and entered the darkness of the street, hailing another carriage to take him back to the foot of the cliffs.
As he rode up the incline to the University, he carefully removed the brown paper covered parcel of his special order from the folded space in his bag. He unwrapped it and held the three books in his hands with an almost visceral excitement. Blood, Bone, and Gold: Casting with Creative Conduits, Out of Bounds: a Timeless History of the Native Tribes, and Nomadic Tribes of the Continent, the latter of which was a series. An abundance of curiosity about the world was, after all, the first virtue of a thaumaturge.
In the back of his mind, a question remained. What if she did not live up to his expectations? What if his carefully constructed idea of the mysterious woman was flawed, and he had created a simulacrum of her that was nothing more than what he wanted to be true?
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PGTS is owned by Azalea Ellis and she retains her copyright to her books, characters, universe, and all related source material. She has my permission to publish this and any other writings I send her to her website or social media under the penname. Neither of us will profit off of this writing, and the story is intended for entertainment purposes only.