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20.5. Extra: The Evening Visit

Alexandre sat with his elbows on his desk with his forehead resting against his steepled hands, locks of golden hair hiding his face. A polished wooden clock ticked back at him. All around his office, small tables with stacks of papers hovered about; a few occasionally bumped against the Grand Magister’s person, as if to remind him of their unfinished states.   “I have sooooooo...much...paperwoooork…” he groaned.   Another table brushed against him.   Alexandre seized up, hunching his shoulders as he waved his arms. “Enough! This isn’t working!” The tables ceased their floating, the office now littered with paper stacks. “Nnnnggghhh! I can’t do this alone. Where’s the voice in my head to force me to do all of this when I need it?” He glanced at the clock again: half past eight. Just about when he would regularly retreat from formal affairs.   The door to his office swung open as Sylv Peth rushed in, green robes fluttering around him. The half-elf seemed to look around in a panic before his gaze homed in on Alexandre.   “Ah! Grand Magister! Thank the divines!” Sylv exhaled.   “Yes. Yes. I’m quite fine, Sylv. As I assured you!” Alexandre chuckled before waving him over. “Now, I need a bit of that nagging to—”   However, it took only a moment for the relief on Sylv’s face to warp into panic. “Oh! You must make yourself scarce! Immediately! There is a—You are currently with, uh—I mean to say, you are currently meeting with—The other you—that is to mean, your copy—”   Alexandre quirked a brow. “For Faenorias’ sake, Sylv. Just get it out. My simulacrum is currently having an audience with someone? Why the fuss? Who is it?”   “Sir, it is—”   Sylv gulped as another voice called behind him, the tone deep and steady. “Good evening, Grand Magister Faeien.”   A figure clad in noble garb of blue and yellow emerged from the dim hall of busts, moving past the secretary with a calm purpose. A golden badge displaying the crest of the Gaventon family shone from its perch near his left shoulder. His shoulder length, silver blond hair—just barely coiffed—glistened with the touch of light from the archmage's study. With his hands still held behind his back, the golden gaze of a man approaching middle age regarded Alexandre, who still sat behind his desk. Vesius IV's demeanor did not change even with this lack of deference.   “Ah! Welcome--” Alexandre rose from his seat. “Dearest cousin. Fifth removed.” Alexandre beamed and then, noticing the man narrow his gaze, amended, “Archbishop Vesius IV.”   The Grand Magister moved towards Vesius, pausing only when his own visage walked into the office after the noble lord. Alexandre sighed as he fixed his gaze on the simulacrum, “Couldn’t you have done a bit better?”   The other Alexandre gave a nervous smile and shrugged. “He’s quite perceptive, you know! Saw right through me after a few minutes! As astute as one would expect of the Gaventons!”   “We’ll need to work on that.” Alexandre placed a hand on the side of his head, eyes closing for a moment while a tired sigh escaped him.   The copy gestured at the stacks of papers and mused back,.“Ha! As if you’d have time!”   “We’ll see. Now, get out of here, you handsome angel! Shoo!”   His double returned the order with a cheeky grin before disappearing through one of the doors leading out of the office.   “Always a handful, that one,” Alexandre huffed with a light laugh. He returned his gaze to Vesius, patiently watching him, and then briefly regarded Sylv, who had remained frozen by the doorway. “Leave us then, Sylv. I will call you when this meeting finishes.”   The secretary swallowed and looked between the two men. “Yes, Grand Magister.” He then promptly turned on his heel and walked out of the office, the verdant robes barely masking the hurriedness of his pace.   Then, the silence hung in the air for a good minute, until the steady voice broke it once more.   “I would have thought the Grand Magister to be above the usage of...tricks.” The golden gaze stayed locked with his as the brow furrowed. “Especially ones that I imagine tread the fine line of what is permissible by his organization’s codes.”   “A bit of a grey area, sure. However, I am permitted a simulacrum, for reasons of safety and value to the Society,” Alexandre scoffed before stopping for a moment and returning an equally pointed gaze to the younger man. “Though, I certainly don’t think I am the only one deserving scrutiny. What is a member of the Order of Avalon doing in my tower? I have yet to receive the standard three day’s notice regarding a visit of one institution’s representative to the other.”   “You would be correct. However, I stand before you as the Lord of Gaventon, in a private audience.” Vesius’s gaze did not falter.   Alexandre quirked a brow. “Huh. Didn’t think you the type, cousin. Though I suppose you would not be the first official of the Order to doff your robes for more...private matters.”   “Again, I am sure you would be correct. Certainly with your intuition.”   The Grand Magister narrowed his eyes in turn.   “Though my current status is not one which has been obtained through acts of such underhanded implication. I have relinquished my position within the Order of Avalon…” Vesius swallowed, the calm of his expression shaken for but a moment. “Indefinitely.”   “Gave all that up just to visit me at your leisure, cousin?” The lightness in Alexandre’s voice betrayed the contemplative twist to his expression as he studied Vesius’s now ragged features, the admission seemingly cracking the otherwise steadfast demeanor. The Grand Magister’s mind whirred with the significance of Vesius’s words. “No. No...I suppose the matter you came here for today must be very serious indeed. Regarding your city, I presume.” He gestured at the seat in front of his desk to which the lord quietly nodded.   Vesius looked to the chair for a moment longer before moving towards it. “Indeed. And all those allied with the Gaventon name.”   “And so you came to me for aid? How flattering, Vesius.” The Grand Magister waved over a tray with refreshments.   Vesius glanced at the tray and then back at him. “You are experienced and knowledgeable. With resources that vary from that of the Order of Avalon’s.”   “So I am just a means to you then.”   “Perhaps. But with a rapid escalation of conflicts on two different fronts against my family, I ask your forgiveness if I am not so congenial.”   “What is it you want exactly?”   Another long pause stretched between the two men, interrupted only by the clangs of silverware as cups of tea poured themselves.   “Why are vampires stirring trouble in my city, Alexandre?”   The Grand Magister sipped his tea without so much as a change to his expression. “Vampires? Wouldn’t the Order be a better party to discuss such a topic with? Actually, I have been told that they have been quite active in quenching the threat in Vesium.”   “Responding does not mean successfully putting an end to it.” Vesius raised an arm onto the desk, fist clenched. “And I am no stranger to the tales of the Yevgens, who themselves were no strangers to magic.”   “Tales, Vesius. Tales. Interesting as they may be, I do not see why this would be a matter to turn over to myself or the Arcane Society when the Order is already involved.”   “Despite your attempts to play a fool with me, Alexandre, I know better. We all do, despite the rumors. I doubt that the Society’s dealings with the Yevgens, if not yourself, end at mere exposure to their tales.”   The Grand Magister released a drawn out sigh. “Vesius, if you seek magical services of some sort, to ward against a possible onslaught of undead in your city, then the Arcane Society may oblige. For a cost, as always. However, the Order of Avalon still would be your preferred source of aid.”   “I know the Order of Avalon already has its resources stretched beyond the borders of Grandia, especially with this war limiting their jurisdiction even further.” Tensing ever so slightly, Vesius continued, “A matter only exacerbated by recent lacking in leadership. Not including my own.”   Alexandre’s pinky barely twitched around the handle of his teacup. With a cooled tone, he continued, “What do you expect to gain from this, Vesius?”   “Information. And, if you are so willing, aid.” The lord leaned more toward the desk. “Let me make it clear that I do not expect you take nothing in return, cousin. As I can be of aid to you as well.” He regathered his steady demeanor as the Grand Magister locked onto him with a dull blue stare. “Why are there vampires in Vesium, Alexandre?”   “I do not know for certain.” The archmage’s jaw tensed for a moment. “Not yet.”   “I see.” Vesius pulled back into his seat, his golden eyes unflinching. “Then, as a sign of good faith, I will offer the first piece in our exchange …”   Alexandre raised a single brow and set the cup down.


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