- Fao Manor, a broken down estate in the Barony of Fao.
During the week between finding Olivin dead and the halflings arriving, Lucius is found, one noontime, sitting at the kitchen table watching Zyindra make the meal. With everything that has been going on over the weeks, all the duties to be attended to and the emergencies to manage, there has been very little time to just sit and enjoy the company of friends. So Lucius sits and watches, a rare moment of unmasked Luciusness before he became Baron.
"You should use those spice you used last night. Those were really good." Lucius says with a bit of hopefulness. "What were they called?"
"With last night's fish, I was using salted fish as a base, adding sliced onions, dill, parsley, raw garlic, and lemon, along with a sprinkle of cinnamon." Zyindra offers, happy to explain as she works. "That combination will not work nearly so well on this dried venison. The meat's texture is different, and it has not been pre-salted." Still she turns and offers a smile to the dark-haired young man behind her.
"I promise, I will find a good combination." Indeed, she is already simmering the meat on a pan with olive oil, letting the dried meat soak that up and loosen, relaxing and softening as she works in freshly ground peppers and a tumeric base cayenne juice not unlike a tabasco. The best smell in the kitchen, even so, is Zyindra's freshly baking small loaves of honeyed pumpernickel.
"How are you feeling?" Zyindra inquires, as she continues cooking.
Lucius gets up and goes over to the oven, taking a deep whiff of the aroma emanating from it. He fills his lungs with the sweet smell and then lets it out slowly before he turns around to face Zyindra. "Busy. I've been spending extra time to help train Mareet and make sure Cecile is ready to take the lead when we finally get enough residents to warrant a larger fighting group. Sebastian continues to bombard me with important items that need my decision right away and he fusses over every task. We've lost our Librarian who I'm pretty certain was more important than any of us could have imagined. We've got to find a new librarian with special qualifications, find that lost shard, destroy the creature that was my Cousin and ensure he doesn't find the Lost General. Then there is that strange man with the mushrooms and the other oddities all around us. And of course Dru is being Dru. I have no wounds, or other ailments. I am not sick in any way thanks to your adept skills and am assured that I am tick free. Overall, I suppose I can say is I am well, thank you. How are you feeling?"
Zyindra smirks a bit as Lucius takes his time delivering a rendition of all of the bits and pieces demanding a portion of his limited but vitally necessary attentions, but she listens patiently while she continues her preparations.
"I believe you are very right about our lamented librarian. In truth, I suspect he may well have been even more important than I believed, but I do not yet have proof enough to affirm my suppositions." she mentions, honestly.
"I understand all of the things weighing upon you, Lucius. I do sometimes wonder what else some of us can do to step in and assist you. I do what I can, but I also do not wish to undermine your authority."
"I am enjoying working on cataloging the new library, however."
"Oh? You have suppositions? What thoughts are you holding hostage?" Lucius teases, coming back to sit down on the stool near Zyindra. "I am glad you are enjoying cataloguing the library. I can assure you that is most helpful. I don't think I can handle rifling through so many books. Have you found anything of note? Perhaps something to shed more light regarding what this particular shard represents and why Olivin found it necessary to extend his life for so long?"
"No hostages." Zyindra quips back, as she continues cooking, busying hands as her mind processes. She has begun the effort of folding and refolding the meat in the pan as it soaks up the oil, and with it the flavor of the spices and such simmering with it.
"There are quite a few interesting volumes. I have managed to find what appears to have been Olivin's inventory, and I am in the process of cross-checking against the current contents of the library to see if there are any volumes present that are not in that inventory, or any that are missing." the redheaded teen witch explains.
"One of the things I was looking for was evidence of a personal journal. Thus far, the inventory is the closest I have found to that, but I will continue to look. I do not recall any specific texts on Obsidian, but I will go over the list a second time to make sure."
Zyindra pauses with the meat, leaving it to simmer on its own, as she opens the iron doors to the oven and uses magic to carry the hot loaf pans over to a safe spot on the counter. Quick and sure movements of her knife free the loaves from their pans, letting them pop out so that she can place them in a basket and cover them with a gingham-pattern cloth.
"I assume any texts with information on the Invaders would also be a priority for us."
"Invaders, previous Barons, geography of the area," Lucius notes as he leans over and sneaks a whiff of the simmering meat. "Anything like that would be helpful. I was thinking, have you considered his journal was in the books? Like margin notes or letters in the books themselves?"
"There are quite literally thousands of books. I am at this point about two thirds of the way through the inventory check." Zyindra offers, before she continues explaining. With the bread loaves tucked away in their gingham blankets, she moves to check on the meat once more, and the pan withe mixed veggies as well - some of their company don't eat meat, after all.
"I can tell you that they are all in excellent, indeed pristine condition. They have hardly been touched, except perhaps very lightly and gently, and they have been expertly and finely repaired wherever they might have previously had damage. There are no signs of margin notes, other missives, or any loose inserts in any of the books I have checked thus far. From what I have seen, I imagine Olivin would have considered such a thing sacrilege."
"What there is on the Invaders are simply copies of rather widespread texts. Nothing different or unique. The only data on the geography of the barony would be a copy of the original survey map - of which we already had one, though this one is a bit larger - and a copy of the original survey report upon which it was based. It is woefully narrow in scope, covering only from here to the watchtower."
"On the prior barons, there is a family bible covering the original hereditary rulers, and property records covering its various transfers. Until yourself, none of those have ever taken permanent residence within the barony. Originally given to a Scapolite general, and inherited by his son, the barony lay fallow when the Empire fell. The Onyxish Cryptocracy never filled the position, although the property was bought and sold several times, passing to various hands as a retreat. When it became a part of the Amethystish Empire it was eventually given to a baron who died without issue. He was eventually replaced by another, who died less than a year ago, also without issue. Then it was given to you."
Zyindra finally decides it is time, and removes the meat from the stove's heat, covering the container to keep the moisture and heat in. She does the same with the veggies, and then starts assembling plates. "That is what I have found so far. Not terribly helpful, I know. I am sorry."
Lucius gets up from his seat and takes the plates from Zyindra, standing in front of her and making sure he has her full attention.
"Don't be sorry," He starts, hesitating a moment as his gaze rests upon Zyindra. A swirl of emotions reflect in his face: uncertainty, sadness, love, anxiousness, determination. It ends with a stubborn, pleading insistence "You are not a servant or a child. You do not take orders from me and everything you do is a welcome kindness."
He fiddles with the plates like a nervous boy talking to a girl for the first time; his question skews from anything that might've been expected he would say next. "Do you think I've changed?"
Naturally the redheaded teen witch gives Lucius her attention when he seeks it, though she was trying to get those plates onto trays, and her hands itch to gather them up. "I was not trying to imply anything else, Lucius. Only that some disappointment in the current results would be only natural, and I wished it were not so."
She considers him for a bit after his question, perhaps mulling over the right thing to say or way to say it. "Haven't we all changed, at least a bit?" she first says, smiling. "I feel we all have, at least a bit. But I still see the person - my friend - that I knew, despite any changes. What there has been has been minor, and largely induced simply by the responsibilities thrust upon you. And their weight."
Lucius has watched Zyindra stack the plates, the silverware, and the cups. He has watched her fold the napkins and pour the gravies. Whether they were in Vesicule, Barony Fao or somewhere in between, he's spent plenty of time hanging out in the kitchen. He turns and places the plates on the appropriate tray and then moves to the drawer where the silverwear is hidden and starts pulling out the right amounts.
"I guess I don't feel like I've changed. The burden of the Barony isn't much different than the burden of my family. It's not exactly where I thought I would be but it's not dissimilar either. Sometimes I sense that my friends are treating me like I'm vastly different than what I was. Of course I didn't really expect to have any real friends, so I suppose that's different." As he talks, Lucius counts and recounts the silverware, stops and then starts again as he continues to talk. "You know, Olivin had collected books that my father had written."
"As I said, I feel whatever changes that may have occurred have been rather minor." Zyindra offers, smiling.
She watches him take care of laying things out without interrupting or fidgeting, recognizing that he wants to do this. Instead she leans against the counter while lightly stroking the head of her walking stick, fingers idly tracing patterns of the wood's shape around the pieces of totem crystals embedded in the stick.
"I saw the name." Zyindra admits. "But I had not been sure it was your father, or simply another who shared his name." Of course, she knows his father is a poet. But surely he is not he only poet of that name in Krystallos' history?
"I do not believe we are treating you vastly differently. I surely hope not." Zyindra answers at last. "Our mode of address may have changed, especially in front of others." Calling him the Baron, of course. "But that is only our effort - clumsy, perhaps - to reinforce your authority and support you in the eyes of others who do not know you as we do."
Lucius takes the silverware and places it on the tray. "I do not know any other Zachary Delanoire who has written the titles collected by Olivin."
He turns to face Zyindra. "I'm sure you saw the margin note next to the books in the ledger. Ever since I saw them, I can't get the words out of my mind. It's silly really. Why would I even care what he thinks? Or what anyone thinks?"
Zyindra glances at Lucius once more, and then away as they finish assembling the meal. "Of course I saw the notes. But I thought little of them." Which sounds dismissive, and is to some extent. But it is not meant to be dismissive of her friend's emotions, as she clarifies momentarily.
"I believe he was honestly expressing a hope, generated from literally hundreds of years of his own observations, that you might prove a better baron than the dozen or so absentee landlords who had come before, who cared nothing for this place, the people, or the betterment of these lands. And I should venture to say that you have already proven far better than all of those who came before."
"You are here, working daily to improve what you can in this place, and to build a future homeland for your own people and all those who might seek refuge here. And that lies beyond actually worrying over how to prevent the furtherance of the devastation visited upon Krystallos' lands and peoples by the Invaders."
Small circles of gray color Lucius' cheeks before he turns away to grab the cups and place them on the tray. "I guess that makes sense. He was relatively old and saw more nobility pass through the Barony than most."
He turns back to Zyindra again. "I know I've protested my assignment as the Baron of Fao. When I arrived at Borderpoint, when we met for the first time, I expected the beginning of years traveling throughout Krystallos for the company. I was looking forward to the freedom it would give me while still serving their needs. This assignment has changed all of that. But even though I would gladly give up this position, I know it's important and I know I need to succeed."
"And do you resent this assignment still?" Zyindra questions, turning to face Lucius rather than busying herself with minutiae and giving him the privacy to pace and express as he sees fit. This, it seems, she deems too important to simply toss off.
"Granted, you are no longer so mobile as you were expecting." The redhead nods at that. "But I daresay this assignment offers you more potential to help your people, and the Company, than you ever could have done." Of course, he has as much as said that, but it bears repeating.
"So too, it is not as if you are ensconced in a palace." Zyindra shrugs. "We go out and explore this land. And you with us. I daresay you have years of such explorations still ahead, before things could even begin to get so formalized and finished. Hopefully by the time all of that is done, you will feel more ready to settle down and stay in one place, and find the adventures of your spirit in what you can build."
Facing Zyindra head on, Lucius absorbs her questions and comments. "You're right."
It's as simple as that. Zyindra has spoken true what he's been trying to say.
"This position holds more potential than we could ever have imagined. To have momentarily caught the eye of the queen, despite my own misgivings about that, proves a potential windfall for generations to come. And I don't resent my position. I find it awkward."
A flicker of uncertainty and perhaps fear flashes across his face and he looks around the empty kitchen. He moves closer to Zyindra, his voice dropping so the only way he can be heard is if their heads are nearly touching. "The queen might know what I am, but she showed no sign of knowing who I am. In fact, she showed no sign of even knowing how organized my family really is. For now, the residents of Barony Fao are none the wiser either. What happens if such secrets emerge? Layered secrets keep you safe when you are mobile. Give up part of one to keep another and then move on. No one ever knows the full truth of it."
|Setting • People • Locations • Monsters • Journal • House Rules • Noteboard|