It was late in the afternoon, and the sun was starting to descend. The light that poured in through the westernmost window of Aarindarius’ study was tinged pink, and cast long shadows from the bookcases, but still bright enough to read by. The wizard himself was sat on the sofa, one foot resting one the opposite knee, his attention firmly lost in the book he was holding. His long, wispy hair was trailing over the back of the seat, and seemed to glow against the light from the window.
At the opposite end of the sofa, his apprentice sat in a similar pose. There was a book in her hands too, but it was quickly clear that reading it was not priority. Every few minutes she would glance up at the older elf and her eyes would trace the outline of his face as though memorising it. A moment later she would look down at the book again - and would manage to read perhaps a page or two - but eventually her attention would be drawn away once more.
If the older wizard noticed, he made no indication. Apart from the occasional rustle of a page being turned, all was silent.
Finally, it was Aarindarius who broke the still. He closed the book and stretched slightly, before rising to his feet and edging around the side of the sofa, heading for the stairs. He stopped when a voice piped up behind him, and turned.
“Where are you going?”
The younger elf was sitting up, peering over the back of the sofa with a vaguely eager air. The book she had been reading was now laying face-down on the floor, forgotten.
“I have work to attend to in my study” he said, and then gave the open tome a purposeful look “Please don’t leave books like that.”
His apprentice picked the book up hurriedly and then scrambled to her feet. “Can I be of assistance?”
At that Aarindarius gave a tired smile. “Vaarsuvius, you haven’t even enquired as to what I’m working on. I’d really prefer if you continued with the reading work I’ve assigned you.” The apprentice glanced down guiltily at the book in her arms, frowning, and Aarindarius turned back towards the stairs. Vaarsuvius watched as his red robes disappeared up the staircase and out of view.
Reluctantly the apprentice returned to sofa, curling up against the cushions and opening the book again. The heavy, narrow font was as unyielding as ever, and after re-reading the page three times without taking in a word, Vaarsuvius gave up.
The stairs to Aarindarius’s study were carpeted, and Vaarsuvius’ soft shoes made no noise as she wound her way up to the top floor of the tower. The door was light wood and well used, and she opened it the first fraction of an inch without making a sound. Slowly, carefully, she pushed it wide enough to slip through into the stairwell, and edged up the steps until she could see into the room.
Aarindarius was sitting at his desk, partially turned away from the stairs, and his head was bent over whatever he was writing. Vaarsuvius watched intently, and a slight thrill of excitement leapt in her chest at the thought that he didn’t know she was there.
The wizard suddenly moved, and the apprentice ducked down, her breath catching. For a minute she remained frozen, hardly daring to breathe - but when she worked up the courage to look again she saw he had only been reaching across for a different quill. Still breathless, Vaarsuvius settled down on the steps with a rather ecstatic grin spreading across her face. Aarindarius remained oblivious.
She happily watched him for a while, and when it seem as though he wasn’t going to do anything else she opened the book she was meant to be reading. After another glance towards the desk, she focused her attention once more on the words in front of her. For whatever reason she now found she could focus on her task.
As usual, once she got into it the book proved interesting and perfectly comprehendible, and she quickly made up for lost time. In fact, she was so engrossed in an essay on the implications of Charm spells that she forgot her initial reason for coming up to the study.
The young elf visibly jumped as Aarindarius loomed into view, the book slipping from her hands. Heart leaping, she stood up from where she had been huddled out of view, and gave Aarindarius a nervous smile that ended up as more of a grimace.
The older wizard frowned and shifted uncomfortably, his eyes fixed questioningly on his apprentice. “…Did you need help with something?”
“N-no… the light up here is better suited to reading.”
Aarindarius nodded slowly, still staring. When it was apparent that he wasn’t going to say anything further, Vaarsuvius stooped to pick up the dropped book, holding it up as though as proof.
“I think I shall go to my room to finish reading.” She mumbled, and keeping the fixed expression as she backed down the stairs. Once the door was shut behind her, the grimace turned into a real – albeit nervous smile.
Oh, that had been fun. And she’d almost been caught; she’d have to be more careful in future. Vaarsuvius paused for a moment to consider where this line of thought was going. Aarindarius… he was fascinating, really, in a way that had come to light slowly but surely. Further observation would be crucial in helping to sort out these feelings, provided she remained undetected.
Or maybe she actually wanted him to catch her spying on him.
Still chewing over that though, she reached the door of her bedroom and wandered inside, absentmindedly bolting the door behind her. A wave of one small hand later and the surroundings were illuminated by four points of light, bobbing out of reach above her head. The room was a reasonable size; about the same as the other guest room, but in place of a second bed was a large desk, currently littered with parchment and books. Shelves lined the flat wall, covered in keepsakes, clutter, and more books - some of them journals altogether filled with of over half a century’s worth of lesson notes. The floor was partially covered in scrunched up parchment and discarded clothes: the marks of both long term residence and typical adolescence.
Vaarsuvius chucked the book onto the desk, scattering some recent work, and flopped down onto the bed. Made of solid, heavy wood, it and obviously hadn’t been moved for years, if ever. It was pushed into the corner against the outer wall, leaving a small gap where the stonework curved; Vaarsuvius reached down here, searched around blindly, and then pulled out another journal. This one did not contain notes on anything relating to the arcane, but recently Vaarsuvius might have prized its contents just as highly.
Vaarsuvius grabbed a quill and a bottle of ink, and settled cross-legged on the blankets. As lights gathered above her at the ceiling, she turned to the most recent page and wrote:
I begin to wonder if I am not becoming a little bit obsessive.
Then, pausing only to re-ink the pen, she continued.
I find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on my studies when I am not under his attention. It is almost as if I have lost the will to do anything without the intent for him to notice, and yet I am sure he does not realise what he means to me. Even I myself am unsure; I have only ever felt this enthusiasm - this feeling of wanting - with regards to magic, and even then it is not quite the same. I watched him today without him knowing – a new low, I wonder, or a new high? Either way, I will do it again. I keep trancing about him – certainly nothing unexpected given that I’ve spent most of my life under his tuition – but the memories my mind chooses to focus on seem solely those of affection. Affection which I suspect my subconscious mind chooses to misconstrue.
Vaarsuvius truly did pause here, as though preparing to make a leap.
-Maybe this is only lust? I’ve thought I’ve imagined-
I find my mind keeps returning to ideas which make for a certain amount of social discomfort. I try to avoid eye contact at such times.
Vaarsuvius sat back and re-read what she’d written, waiting for the ink to dry. Out of curiosity, she carefully flipped back a few pages:
…smiles at me…
…remembered the time when…
… seems I have come to take for granted what I’ve always had. It has taken me this long to realise that Aarindarius is more than a teacher to me. Maybe he is the one thing I would prize over my current knowledge of the arcane arts. I do not know why I have come to this conclusion so suddenly, but I cannot help but feel I must act on it in some way.
Well, that had been the start of it.
Vaarsuvius closed the journal and tucked it down the side of the bed, and then returned the ink and quill back to the desk. She slipped out of her robes, and folded them loosely into a pile before burrowing under the blankets and sheets. A lot to think about. She waved the lights out of existence and then folded her arms behind her head, gazing up at the shadow of the ceiling.
So many memories.
Vaarsuvius sat attentively on the sofa; legs crossed loosely, her chin resting in the palm of one hand. Beside her Aarindarius sat holding a book, although it was currently closed and one of his hands was resting gently on the leather cover. It was late afternoon, and at his apprentice’s insistence the older wizard was testing her on the previous week’s lessons.
“How far can one see and hear on the Ethereal Plane?”
Vaarsuvius’ attention was wandering. Her eyes kept being drawn to the hand resting on the book, pale, the fingers slender and tapered. Very much like her own hands, only hers were smaller.
“Sixty feet.” She answered easily, glancing up to see her teacher smile.
She didn’t really need his help revising, of course, but if she hadn’t asked he would only have disappeared into his study or picked up a book to read. She liked talking to him, especially since at times like this he was likely to have some interesting fact, or an anecdote about using a particular spell back when he was an adventurer; she just wished she herself could use some of those higher level spells. Especially the Evocation.
One day, she was going to be just as clever and powerful as Master Aarindarius was.
“Hmm.” The older wizard watched the child lean forward, eager for the next question. “And if you wanted to transport someone else to the Ethereal Plane with you?”
“Very good! I don’t even remember covering ninth level spells.” He raised an eyebrow questioningly, smiling again as his apprentice blushed.
“You mentioned it, so I looked up the spell while I was reading about Transmutation. If that’s okay.”
He ruffled the young elf’s hair affectionately. “Suvie, you’re doing fine. I’m simply impressed by how much initiative you take over your studies.” Vaarsuvius practically beamed.
For a moment Master Aarindarius smiled down at his apprentice contemplatively, and then raised his head to stare across the room, lost in thought.
“I remember one time that spell saved me and a friend from what could have otherwise been a terrible stick. We’d been in a dungeon crawl for a few days, and we came across a corridor with mirrors covering the walls and floor….”
Vaarsuvius settled down to listen to the story, letting the words drift over her and flow into cohesion. She decided then that she was going to stay with Master Aarindarius forever.