The Care and Feeding of Magical Creatures
Azalea Ellis posting on behalf of Jaye Finch, per our agreement.
Late afternoon during the first few days of the break between Sebastien’s 1st and 2nd term
[Honeymoon Suite Inspired, Absolutely, Definitely Not Canon or Canon Adjacent in the Past or Future]
Thaddeus walked back from his meeting with the University administration, musing about his recent interference in his apprentice’s personal life. The Dean of the University refused to allow students to stay in the dorms over the break because the dormitories were scheduled to be cleansed magically, and the wards were to be strengthened and re-cast in preparation for the following semester. The University had grown increasingly paranoid about the possibility of a student triggering a mass break event, especially after his apprentice’s dramatic incident with one of his colleagues at the end of the winter term. Warding specialists had been summoned from several major arcanums to assist with the monumental task, and the University administration had spent the last few weeks working closely with the Red Guard to update their containment features. He had, of course, been consulted, but he had no interest in sacrificing the precious few weeks of the break when he could delve deeper into his research. The Dean had been eager to express his complete confidence in student safety measures for the next semester, and he reassured Thaddeus that his apprentice was welcome to stay in the dormitories or future breaks. Of course, the Dean was a fool. No amount of planning could prevent the inevitable.
But that was why they hired Thaddeus, after all.
He had complete confidence in his skills to deal with most potential threats that could erupt at the school, but he cursed himself for the string of decisions that led him to this afternoon’s failed meeting. Allowing his emotions to get the better of him was one of his few lingering bad habits.
He suspected his desire for company–for a companion–had spurred him on to make an exception for Sebastien Siverling’s intellect and exceptional talent, taking the young man on as his apprentice. He had imagined spending a few hours a week on private lessons with Siverling, being able to split his attention between the additional exercises and grading coursework, with no other disruptions to his life.
Initially, Thaddeus had rejected the idea of acquiring a feline companion because the care and feeding of a pet would require a commitment of his time, possibly more than he desired. Cats were demanding, curious creatures that might disrupt his work flow. . . Or, worse, spill coffee on priceless texts and leave ink prints on his belongings. He doubted that any affection he had for a cat would last if his research were to be destroyed.
Contrary to his expectations, in a few short months he found himself spending more time on Siverling than he possibly could have spent caring for a pet. He found himself losing sleep, chasing the boy about the city to rescue him from his own reckless idiocy, and even resorting to petty bribery to keep the boy out of the hands of the coppers.
Offering to let his apprentice stay at his cottage until he could convince the school to allow him stay in the dormitories for the summer was yet another mistake.
Now, after two days of Siverling sleeping on his couch, he had been forced to reassess his prior assumptions about his apprentice’s competence at life. The young man wasn’t semi-competent, he was utterly inept. Instead of sleeping, he stayed awake casting spells in the middle of the night. Instead of eating, he downed a cup of coffee and disappeared to the library until they kicked him out. Thaddeus supposed that the lure of the library was at least partly responsible for Siverling’s gaunt appearance, but a lecture on the many ways a thaumaturge could break their Will by neglecting to fuel their body’s basic needs was still not enough to get him to show up for dinner.
He supposed he should be grateful that Siverling was, at least, fastidious about his personal hygiene.
He walked up the winding path to his home and placed his hand on the door, opening it with a scowl as he released his hair from its tie and stepped inside.
Siverling was sprawled on the floor in the living area, with the carpet rolled back and draped on his overstuffed chair to provide access to the floor. The boy was outlining a complex spell array, and although Thaddeus could not see the Circles in any detail, he wasn’t similarly spared from seeing the rest of the room.
The boy’s luggage was tucked in a corner, but his satchel was hanging open off of the desk chair. It appeared as though the entire contents of the bag had been upended on Thaddeus’s previously neat floor. Components, books, pens, and chalk littered the smooth stone. Mathematical equations and smeared notes and gibberish covered the floor, with lines linking frantically from idea to idea, connecting notes on the baseboards to the floor where the boy kneeled.
Thaddeus closed the door behind him slowly and firmly, pausing to allow the sound to penetrate his apprentice’s thick skull. The boy tensed, turned around, and opened his mouth as if to speak – and then quickly closed it.
Perhaps there was some small amount of sense buried deep inside his brain.
Thaddeus leaned back against the door and raised an eyebrow. Siverling swallowed audibly, and tentatively said, “It’s not… Well…” He cleared his throat and his poor attempt at an explanation evaporated in the air between them. “I got carried away. I apologize. I’ll clean this up immediately.”
Thaddeus said nothing, allowing the silence to sink into the room as he watched his apprentice start to erase the chalk markings on the floor with his ink-stained fingers and a handkerchief. He watched, letting the minutes pass as his glare waned into faint amusement. Before he allowed himself to shed his annoyance completely, he checked the desk and end tables for any damage to his precariously stacked sheafs of papers. He was certain that there must be a mug of coffee somewhere amidst the chaos.
He found the nearly empty mug on the floor–thankfully safe from any priceless historical texts or his manuscript–and rescued it and an overturned ink pot from creating any further messes. He could clean the entire room up in a fraction of the time, of course, but his apprentice was the one responsible for this disaster, and he would require a small amount of time to muse on his mistakes. Thaddeus, realizing that most of his lingering irritation could be attributed to simple hunger, went to the kitchen and toasted bread to prepare several sandwiches. By the time he finished preparing their dinner, Siverling stood tall and composed at the entrance to the kitchen.
Thaddeus handed him a plate and waved him to the table, waiting until they were both seated to speak. “The Dean and the University Administration will not allow you to stay in the dormitory over the break.” He took a bite of his sandwich and watched his apprentice carefully. There was no reaction other than the flash of emotion deep within Siverling’s eyes that he quickly replaced with his usual mask. Thaddeus assumed the emotion was horror, and continued to eat, perversely enjoying the charged silence that stretched between them.
“I can find somewhere else to stay. I tried to explain to you before that this is an enormous miscommunication. Dryden—Lord Dryden–is not nearly so bad as Titus made him out to be. I do have other friends in the city. . .”
That was most certainly not an option. Thaddeus had no reason to doubt Titus, but even if his friend’s story about the unhealthy obsession Lord Dryden harbored for his apprentice was partially true, he would not allow Dryden to have further interference in his apprentice’s life. The young man had already proved that he was foolish enough to put himself under someone else’s control, and that could interfere with Thaddeus’s plans for his future. He finished his first sandwich and continued to the next, still carefully watching the young man sitting across from him.
“I told you that you would stay here until you could resume living in the dormitories. I see no reasons to change our arrangement. However, from this point forward, I expect your behavior to change.”
Siverling stared at him for a few moments with his dark, assessing gaze, and nodded, then turned his full attention to the sandwiches on his plate.
Thaddeus watched him finish the plate of food with a faint sense of satisfaction, and decided that, perhaps, he should be grateful that Siverling didn’t shed.