Trophy Wife – Chapter 5: Orc Love

For over an hour, the pupils practiced. While none of them caused an issue like Fenthick had, only a few got everything correct. Some of their summonings failed. Some of their abjurations failed, but no one was hurt, and everyone seemed to learn from their mistakes. When they had all attempted it, they were sent back upstairs to their spell books to begin the process of taking notes on what they’d learned so that they could study and remember it later. Herodius, tired, began climbing back up the tower leaving Perianor and Sharn in the basement. As he began to clean up, he stopped and turned to her. “So, did you see anything that interested you, Lady Sharn?” he asked curiously.

Sharn grabbed a broom to help him sweep up the talc as she thought for a moment before answering, always having thought better with her hands busy. “You,” she rumbled softly under her breath before clearing her throat and speaking louder as she studied the symbols. “I noticed that some of the failures happened when they faltered in the chant or hesitated to bring out the candle. What is the purpose behind that? I also noticed that the strokes on some of the students were different, less crisp, does that make a difference?”

Perianor shrugged as he began to answer, “It can. While magic is indeed a combination of precision in preparation and intentional movement, it is also every bit as much a study in the application of will. The preparation serves two purposes. Some of that purpose is actually technical. I believe the Master spoke to you of grounding if I overheard correctly?” At her nod, he continued, “That is the science of magic. But the symbolic circles we have the students draw are not, strictly, necessary. A simple roundish loop will do just fine. The act of drawing it, however, the thought that goes into what the symbols mean, helps to focus the mind and crystallize the will so that when the wizard releases his power, it does precisely what he wants it to.” He continued to clean for a moment, then finished, “The power of a spell does not come from the preparation done, but from the will gathered and released. The preparation is simply the lens through which the will is focused.”

Sharn nodded and gave him a smile, “Sorta like when I use my spyglass to see a distance away, yeah?”

Perianor nodded. “Exactly so.” He hesitated for a moment then, in a much softer voice continued, “May… May I ask you a question, Lady Sharn?”

Sharn smiled at him. “Always,” she rumbled. “I may not have the answer, but I will always allow the question.”

Perianor nodded, then thought about how to phrase it without embarrassing either of them. Finally, he spoke, “I found a rather odd thing in my room this morning. A necklace with what appeared to be… bear… teeth? Did you…?” He paused, embarrassed anyway, “leave it there?”

Sharn smiled at him and replied simply, “Yes. It’s a gift for you, do you like it?”

He smiled, befuddlement still on his face, “It’s… nicely crafted. Thanks?” he offered.

Sharn looked at him intently, then nodded slightly, “You’re welcome.” She patted his shoulder. “I’m going to go wish the old man a good night. See you later this week,” she beamed and headed out, her mind pondering what to give him that would be better than bear claws, proof of her ability to protect. Perhaps he needed something more… exotic. She pondered some more. Maybe a nice book, or components that Herodius commented about being hard to find. She nodded to herself and left the tower with a bounce to her step and murmured under her breath, “Of course. As a human, he would want human gifts.”

Four days passed before Sharn returned to the tower, slipping in just after dawn. Her clothes were freshly cleaned but weariness shone on her face. She snuck up the stairs and crept into Perianor’s room, laying out on his desk the snow roses, hayberry bushes and the silvermoon wort that Herodius mentioned being the most difficult to find. She paused, looking down at the sleeping form of Perianor for a long moment before lifting the blanket higher on his shoulders. Then, slipping out silently a few minutes later, she headed back to her cabin for a good sleep.

About half of an hour after Sharn had left, Perianor awoke and stretched. A good night’s sleep had done him good. He walked, still waking up, over to the washbasin and splashed some water on his face. Looking in the mirror, his eyes drifted over to his work table in the reflection. That was when he noticed the plant life now on his desk that was not there last night. Snow roses and hayberry bushes? He wasn’t planning on doing any far-scrying divination soon. And silvermoon wort? He’d only cast a spell of arcane intercession in his initial training. While they could grant the caster virtually anything that his heart desired, the cost was high and it had a tendency to go awry. It is not every wizard that can focus so precisely on what it is that he desires to bring it into reality from nothing at all simply by the asking. Was Master Herodius wanting him to practice again to cement it in his knowledge?

Perianor shrugged and left his room, climbing the stairs to go ask his Master. Arriving at his door, he knocked softly, calling, “Master, are you awake?”

“Of course, Peri. Come in, my boy,” the familiar voice sounded through the door.

Perianor entered his Master’s room. “Master, I’m sorry to bother you, but when I awoke this morning, I saw the snow roses, hayberry bushes, and silvermoon wort you left me and was wondering if you were wanting me to work on my far-scrying and intercessions again.”

“Far-scrying and intercessions? Boy, what are you on about? I left you nothing,” Herodius looked at his Primus confused. “I know full well how difficult it is to collect those reagents and the cost for doing such magic. I would not ask you to do so for simple practice beyond your examination. Only if there were a need.” He looked confused as he murmured to himself thoughtfully, “By the stars, even I have only cast those spells a handful of times in my life, thank the Maker.”

Perianor was completely befuddled, “If not you… then…,” he pondered for a moment but came up empty, “who?”

“Lad, I know not. But those reagents are near priceless. Let’s get them properly stored in case they’re needed at some point,” Herodius shrugged. While he was indeed not certain who had left the reagents, the old man had not lived to be as old as he was without developing the ability to make a very shrewd educated guess and be mostly certain of its correctness.

A few hours later Sharn returned to the tower to watch over Perianor and to check on Herodius. She rumbled softly under her breath at the missive she had received from town and was seriously debating it mentally before asking his input. “Old man, you awake?” she rumbled up the stairs after Terrik let her in again.

“I’m old, not dead, stubborn woman. It’s mid-morning. Of course I’m awake,” the headmaster’s voice echoed down the stair. “Come up, if you’ve a mind.”

Sharn patted the student on the shoulder and climbed the stairs. “Wasn’t sure if you decided to take a nap,” she responded as she reached his room. “Got missive from the others today… they found a city wizard.” She grumbled and handed him the letter before crouching by the door. “I dun like it, I only traveled with them cause of you. If yer not there, why should I be?”

Herodius shrugged, “That choice is yours, and yours alone, Sharn. Ye must follow your heart either way, and I’ll not stand in its way.” He thought for a moment, then continued, “They’ve got to live their lives same as we. I wish them the best and will look back fondly at our adventures together. I simply fear for the safety of our poor town with just you and I to stem the tide.” He looked down at his wrinkled hands and graying beard before adding, “In case ye’ve not noticed, I’m not as young as I used to be.”

Sharn huffed and waved a hand dismissively, “I’ve got twelve strapping young men eager to learn the blade, and my people are heading back this way to settle with the spring. Won’t be just us to protect, but nothing says we have to go find trouble.” She huffed and leaned back against the wall, “What concerns me is they didn’t even seek me out before inviting this new one along… most city folk don’t even tolerate my kind.” She rumbled softly and closed her eyes. “My head says I’d be better served here, emissary between my people and yours over traveling the lands, but my heart will miss the wilderness’ call. Our people need me here more than this group does.” She huffed and stood. “Thanks, Herodius.” When he offered her parchment and quill she wrote quickly, her letters crisp and uniform as she wrote the return message that was simply to inform them of her retirement and wish them luck in finding another to assist them in her stead.

As she took the missive and went to leave his voice stopped her, “Sharn…?” the questioning evident.

Sharn stopped and looked at him curiously, her head tilted slightly. “Yes, Herodius?” she replied.

He looked at her intently, though he was unable to keep the corners of his mouth quite still. “Someone that frequents my tower has developed what appears to be a keen interest in exotic botany. Would you by chance have any idea who it might be?”

“Maybe, someone thought flowers would be an appropriate human gift,” she responded softly.

His gaze remained intent for a moment and Sharn could almost swear she saw gears turning in the old man’s head. A slow smile crept across his face. “You know, perhaps that’s it. Well, as long as the giver realizes how dense some of the occupants of this tower can be and are willing to be patient with them…,” he trailed off, his eyes looking knowingly in one direction which she distinctly noted was not hers.

Sharn wrinkled her nose slightly, then grinned at him, “The giver will be as patient as needed until it’s no longer needed. Have a pleasant day, I’m off to send this,” she murmured before stepping out and heading down the stairs, pausing to peek in at Perianor’s room before continuing down to the ground floor and looking at the class for a moment. Then she slipped out again and went about her business.

Over the course of the next several weeks, Sharn came and went from Herodius’ tower. Each time, she stayed long enough to have brief conversations with Perianor. She was able to tell him about her childhood and the orc tribe that was coming to the area. He told her of life as an orphan and the kindness of Herodius in taking him in. They discussed her adventures with his Master, his training in the Art, and the town that they both called home.

The conversations were nice, friendly. And Perianor almost didn’t register her coming and going from the tower anymore, so familiar was the occurrence. She was not an interruption. She was Master’s, and his if the truth were told, trusted friend and ally. Many of the commoners in town avoided the tower and the grounds around it. Not Sharn. She proudly talked with those whom she had protected of the virtues and benefits of the service of a resident wizard and his students. There were not many whose minds she could change, especially with her being an orc, but that did not stop her from trying.

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