I’m back in my blue noble attire. It’s odd how many emotions one can associate with clothing. I hate the traditional Cowled Wizard robe in a way, but it feels comfortable and natural, it is mine. This dark-blue silk vest, these tight black pantaloons with the soft-leathered, blue boots underneath, the jewellery and obligated the hat with the plume leave me lukewarm, but in them, I feel like I’m dressed up, in someone else’s clothes. As if I’m pretending something I’m not. Even the ring with the family crest feels oddly around my finger.
While there is no reason for that. I AM a noble, I am of House Savin. If anything, I should feel naked without the ring. The cowl is what hides my face, not the plumed hat.
I drop the matter. They are clothes. They perform a role of protection, decency and communication and that’s it. I will continue them to wear it whether I spend time on the issue or not. I reach our small estate and nod my head at the two door guards, Soran and Ken. They politely murmur a greeting. They don’t know that I’m a Cowled Wizard. Only Mina does, as it would be improper to have her cleaning my room without telling her it is the room of a wizard.
The front door opens and I enter in the hall. It’s cool inside compared to the streets, subject to Athkatla’s harsh sun. I place my hat on the rack and sigh in relief. I’m home. Inhaling deeply I smell egg, bacon and tea. That smells like someone’s breakfast, and there is only one person who would eat breakfast at this hour. My lips curl upwards as I feel better. Istan is at his breakfast table. Hearing his fork and knife clatter against the plate I wait for him to finish in the hall when Mina suddenly comes out of the kitchen with some clean dishes.
“Lord Tas! I hadn’t expected you this early!” She curtsies.
“Special circumstances.” I answer curtly. Mina is no longer scared of me. Hard to be afraid of the person whose tunics you wash I suppose. But I know better than to talk about magic with her. “Is mother home?”
“She went out for tea with Lady Yistev, Lord Tas. Should I prepare anything for you?” There’s a touch of eagerness in her voice. My mother never allows Mina to cook and I guess it’s a blow to her pride. I’m about to say no when my stomach reacts to the promise of food by rumbling slightly.
“Just some bread and fruit please. I shouldn’t spoil my appetite for dinner.” I answer.
“Ah come on Tas. You’re too skinny as it is and you’ve skipped breakfast. Besides, Mina’s omelette is exquisite. Mina, ignore my ascetic brother here and get him something so he won’t faint before dinnertime.” A voice behind me sounds.
I turn around and frown at the grinning man before me. “Brother! You can be excused, but we eat at regular times. You know what mother thinks about…”
Istan’s grin grows wider. “I spoke mother before she left Tas. She spend ten minutes telling me how about you were going to look like we were starving before long and that she’d start locking the front door so you wouldn’t be able to get out without breakfast anymore. I don’t think she’ll object to my intervention here.” He smiles at Mina. “And bring me another plate as well, Mina. I’ll eat it while I make sure Tas finishes his plate.”
Mina curtsies again with some more zest and walks into the kitchen while I allow myself to be dragged at the table. Sitting down on the other side of the table I look at my brother. His clothes are similar to mine, except green, with more jewellery and gold trimmings. Still, he looks a lot different than me. Of course, he’s a head and a half taller than me and he has shoulder-length brown hair. But that’s not what it is. It’s the way he carries the clothes and himself. Many nobles look just like some guy dressed in silk with a lot of useless jewellery. You know he has some power because of those clothes, but you behind his back one speculates how funny it would look if he fell in the mud with all those fancy clothes. I look like that.
But Istan wears the clothes as if he was born in them. I know his hair looks smooth because he carefully takes care of it, his face looks completely smooth and perfect because he personally spends almost an hour a day carefully preparing his visage and his muscles have grown to their size by loyal training. His eloquent way of speech and broad area of knowledge acquired by expensive tutors. But when you see him going about his business you’d swear that all those things come as easy as breathing to him. I’ve seen elves making bows to him and looking surprised at it.
“Good to see you, Tas. You’d think we were avoiding each other on purpose.” He finishes off his omelette and smiles. “I guess that’s what you get with different hours. How come you’re home so early? I’d think the Cowled Wizards would have plenty to do after what happened at the Promenade. Mina told me some insane mage blew up half the shops there.”
I shake my head. “Not that many, but a distressingly high amount nonetheless. However, the guilty parties were caught and dealt with.”
“Did you do it?” Istan chuckles. “I know I wouldn’t be able to tell anyone, but it’d be amusing to know the mage half the town is talking about was caught by my little brother.”
“I… wasn’t there.” I say. For a second I consider telling Istan about Relandis, but chide myself for the thought. Istan doesn’t unload his problems on me either.
Istan nods, seriously now. “It might be better that way. The rumours say quite a few of your people died. Mother was beside herself with worry. She thought you had been called to fight there and had died. She was about ready to go for the Council of Six building and demand an explanation. What happened to the guy anyway?”
“You know I’m not allowed to say anything about that, brother. He won’t return to Athkatla, that’s all.” I say, trying to keep the gloom out of my voice..
“Right, right. Cowled Wizard secrets. No problem. But can you tell me anything about why you had to leave so early? No need for details but…”
I hesitate a moment. “It had… something to do with the incident.”
Istan now looks worried. “Right, now I know there’s something wrong. What happened today, Tas?”
“I’m just a bit tired.” I quickly say.
My brother’s face doesn’t change. “You want to try that again?”
I avoid his gaze. “It’s work related. I will deal with it. It’s my responsibility to do so. You have enough worries.”
“Tas. I’m worried now. And even -no- especially if you’re not going to tell me, I’ll be worried for quite some time. So I might as well know what I’m worried about.”
I sigh. I guess I’ve got no choice. “One of my friends died there. Melanos came to tell me that.”
Istan flinches and goes slightly pale. “What… oh man… And I start talking about that as soon as you get home. I’m sorry, Tas. I…”
“You couldn’t have known. And it’s understandable you want information. I am coping adequately with the loss, don’t worry.” I reply with a calm voice. Mina enters and puts two omelettes in front of us. I grab my fork and start eating slowly, hardly tasting the dish.
“It makes sense you’re home early then. Drat. And they’re all about your age, right? Damn… that’s… that’s way too early.” I see Istan has trouble finding what to say. But then, so do I. So I just nod and take another forkful of egg.
“Look. I’ve got a meeting with some suppliers in an hour, but when it’s necessary, I get sick really easily, and I’ll send Ken to warn them, so if you want to talk or listen or just have a drink or whatever…” He trails off.
“No. We all depend on your work as a merchant. I’m not about to interfere with that. Besides, there isn’t much to say. But… thank you for the offer, brother. It is appreciated.” It is actually. In an egocentric manner, it feels good to know my brother would break appointments to share some misery.
“Are you sure? I’m worried about you Tas. You’re always so serious about everything. I…” He throws his hands up. “I’m sorry, I’m forgetting that you’re a twenty-five year old experienced mage now, not a sixteen year old boy. What I mean is, talk to me when you feel like it okay? I’m telling you, I CAN get rid of some hours.” He pointed at my plate. “And finish that omelette. Really Tas, I can’t blame you for getting little sleep without being a hypocrite, but try to get some more food down. I know you eat healthy, but try to enjoy it.”
The usual requests. I roll my eyes slightly. “Yes brother.” I take a piece of omelette and try to taste it. It tastes like egg. I’ve never been the kind of person to appreciate gastronomy. The less time I spend eating, the better. After three bites my automatism kicks in and I’m absentmindedly shovelling in the food again. Less than a minute later I carefully place my knife and fork at the side of the plate.
“At least you finished it. So, what are the plans for your free day?” Istan asks.
The question surprises me. I have to admit I didn’t spend much thought on it. “I assume I will spend some time studying to get my mind on other things. I need to prepare for tomorrow too.” When I’ll have to introduce Amanos to the others. As I ponder this a yawn manages to escape my attention.
Istan twirls his fork between his fingers. “I think that last suggestion is the best one, even if you didn’t make it intentionally.
“I’m not that tired, brother. I have things to do.” Another yawn erupts, despite my best efforts to stave it off. My eyelids suddenly feel a tad more heavy. Blast. This talk of sleep and the warm food seems to have an effect. Istan seems to be doing his best not to look smug. I give a glare before looking away.
“Okay, so perhaps I am a bit tired. Regardless, sleeping during the day will disrupt my sleeping rhythm.” I say, but I feel my mind turning to sleep the more I talk of it.
“Staying up well after midnight reading magical theories is messing up your sleeping rhythm. This is about fixing it. Come on. It wouldn’t do to have you fall asleep at the dinner table, now would it?” Still that grin of his. I sigh and surrender. I rarely win a discussion with him. I guess he’s just too trained at convincing people. Besides, he is right. If I stay awake now, I might be in poor shape tomorrow as well.
“Very well. I will have a small nap on the sofa.” Another yawn. I suddenly feel exhausted. I get up and walk to the very comfortable looking piece of furniture. “But you make sure you do not arrive too late at your appointment.” The cushions receive me warmly and I allow my head to sink back.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be on time.”
The footsteps fade away as I close my eyes, and I feel my mind quickly drifting away. Guess I must have been… really… tired….
Cowled Ones 6
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