The smell of the food was a delight. The carrots were soft but not mush, just like the potatos and other assorted vegetables. The taste of the mutton was worth killing for as well.
It only proved how prosperous Viktor had become over the years. Savar looked about the room. Viktor had invited him to his private chamber for a meal and to discuss the future.
The furnishings showed where his coffers were spent. The curtains were Absionian Silk and the cushions they sat on were woven by Banesian hands. The craftmanship of the chairs and furniture were still Sokoran. There was rigidness to their construction that told him what he needed.
“It appears that everything if finally coming together, Viktor.”
Viktor simply nodded while finishing off a bit a mutton then sipping his wine to wash it down. “They are, Savar, they finally are,” he replied. “It’s hard to believe after so long.”
A little too well I should think… “Fortune seems to favor you. Or perhaps you have somehow managed to gain the aid of an Immortal?”
Viktor laughed. “If only, though I am not one of those fools who bows to graven images made by mortal hands,” he replied.
“Some take comfort in such things, Viktor. A wise ruler understands this and uses it to his advantage.”
A dark smile crossed the Thran’s face. “All the easier to manipulate them,” he responded and took a another sip of wine.
Savar leaned in. “Lets be open, Viktor. Partnerships only work when each party lays everything on the table.”
He paused, suspicion radiating in his eyes as he slid his plate away. “Very well,” he replied. “State your terms.”
It was surprising to see how serious he was. What are you up to? “I want Illhiem’s head and all the territory he possesses.”
“Is that all?” he asked.
Savar could hear the skepticism in his voice. Shrewd as ever.
“Tell me, Savar,” he said. “What would the other Thran think if I were to do this for you?”
“With our combined might, who could stop us?”
Savar leaned back, noting the concern on Viktor’s face.
“Have you forgotten about Henrik?” he asked. “His wolf riders are just as much a threat as Illhiem’s ballistas.”
Savar frowned. His logic was sound. Horses were expensive and if not properly cared for, wouldn’t last in the snows. When it came to cavalry, Henrik had the advantage.
“So we do nothing?”
Viktor smiled. “Think, Savar, you’re not a stupid man,” he replied. “If you were, we wouldn’t be trading Fern to the other nations. So on that note, let’s be honest, I know you’re selling it as a narcotic with the Dark Guilds of Absion.”
It was hard to keep a stoic face. Selling unrefined fern was a violation of their agreement. “A man would be a fool not to exploit its many uses.”
Viktor simply nodded, the smile fading from his face. “Indeed, he would, I once did the same. Time changes things and a man must be aware of it or get left behind.”
Savar instinctively tensed as Viktor suddenly stood and walked over to a cabinet by the window. He reached for a small bottle. The liquid inside was dark red, the color of blood.
“I have a new trading partner, one who wishes remain silent,” he said. “But he has the most exquisite wine I have ever tasted,” he added. “Would you like to try it?”
Savar stared at the bottle, the glanced back at Viktor. “I’m no stranger to posion Viktor, do you underestimate me so?”
Viktor sighed, emptied his stein and poured some of the wine into it. He drank from it, then refilled it. “Is this what things have come to, Savar?”
Something feels wrong about this. Viktor was beign unsually hospitable. Perhaps it was his eagerness for everything to fall in place? No, but whatever the game I have to play along.
Savar reached for the stein and placed it mouth near his nose. There was a sweetness that he couldn’t place. Most wines he knew of were sharp. “To the future, Viktor.”
Viktor was right, the taste didn’t disappoint. When he looked up at Viktor however, he was suddenly filled with a strange sense of devotion.
It’s all so clear now, the only future we have is one with Viktor taking the lead.
It was astonishing how quickly the Fern affected him. The adoration in Savar’s eyes shone bright. Viktor stepped back, soaking in the moment. Savar, simply stared back expectantly.
Savar quickly stood, pushed his chair back, then knelt. “Tell me what you desire, High Thran and it will be done,” he said. “All I have is yours.”
Viktor smiled, his heart thrumming with delight. This is too good to be true! It works so quickly! The possibilities!”
“Do any of your men oppose our alliance, Savar?” he asked. “Have any of them ever voiced their objections?”
“Men talk, Great Thran, as they are want to do in times of uncertainty,” Savar replied. “I confess that even I plotted to betray you when you were at your most vulnerable.”
Viktor flexed his right hand on reflex before realizing he was unarmed. I don’t know why I’m so surprised. I would have done the same. “I appreciate your honesty, Savar, from this point on that is in the past. We must look ot the future, to our future. Will you help me?”
The devotion on the Thran’s face when he looked up was striking. “I would give my life for you, Great Thran.”
Viktor smiled wider. “Good, now let us discuss this future properly,” he replied gesturing toward the table. “As we are in agreement, I can tell you everything.”
Savar simply smiled with an intense eagerness showing on his face. The thran quickly took his seat and sat there expectantly. Viktor sat in his chair, propped his elbows on the table and folded his hands together.
Just a few more weeks and everything will be in place.
“Concrentrate Naya, draw the power into you.”
It was difficult not to laugh at her. Humans expressions sometimes made it look like they were straining to releave their bowels. Naya seemed to excel at making such faces.
“Issfang, I just don’t understand,” she said. “This isn’t like what mother says or the others.”
Issfang sighed. “Naya, we’ve been over this. It is because they don’t understand either.”
“But druid magic is different from wizard magic,” she replied. “Elder Kala said so.”
Issfang clenched his fists. I should have just eaten her!
“Why are you making that face?” she asked. “Do you need to poop?”
His mouth fell open and then he fell back laughing. It was so strange, Issfang felt gut wrentching pain in his sides while at the same time he became filled with an inexplicable joy.
“Oh, Naya, I love you,” he blurted out still in hysterics. Did I just say that?
He we was too blinded by his tears to see, but he felt her arms wrap around him. “I love you too, even if you are a grumpy dragon,” she replied.
He couldn’t take it, the laughter wouldn’t stop. When was the last time I felt like this?
Eventually, he was able to regian his senses, but was still gasping for breath. Issfang wiped his eyes and saw Naya smiling wide at him. “What?”
She grinned. “Nothing, but I don’t think I have ever seen that look on your face before.”
“What look?! What are are you talking about child?”
She giggled. “Happiness,” she replied.
Issfang frowned. “I…I’m always happy!”
She simply giggled, shook her head and pulled away.
He crossed his arms. “I am too, don’t look at me that way!”
She simply stared back at him as if she knew better. Naya then sat, crossed her legs and closed her eyes. “Why is it different?”
Issganf sighed. Then looked around them for a moment. There were a few broken sticks and some small rocks of varying sizes. The canopy here was thicker which left very little snow. He reached for the rocks and sticks, and placed them neatly in front of him.
“Open your eyes and tell me what you see.”
Naya did and started at the assortment. “Rocks and sticks?”
Issfang smiled. “How do you know?”
“Because that is what they are,” she replied.
“Are you sure, maybe they are something else?”
She glanced that them again. Her expression showed her uncertainty. Issfang could tell she was looking for a trick, it wouldn’t be the firstime he had done so. Teachable moments often meant deceiving your students so they would look deeper.
“I don’t think they can be anything else,” she finally replied. She looked a little disappointment.
Issfang reached for one of the small rocks and placed it in his palm. “This is a rock, because all your life you have been told that this is so,” he said. “Druid magic, wizard magic and other magiks are the same. Those who practice their craft have been told what the thing is with understanding that it isn’t what they were led to believe.”
She looked confused, but curious. “So it’s all the same?”
Issfang nodded. “This was grandmother’s secret, the secret of our clan. This is what she taught my mother and what my mother taught me.”
“So if magic has no difference, why do people insist there is?”
“Because some, are taught it starts here,” he replied, touching her chest. “Others are taught it must be understood here,” he added touching her forehead. “Neither is wrong, but neither is right. For them the glass is half full.”
“So how do we fill it completely?” she asked.
“Few can. Their bodies, no matter how hard they train, can’t handle the strain. Sorcerers come the closest. Magic is instinctive for them. It is why wizards specialize in a particular field just like some druids focus on the healing arts.”
“So is it both” she asked.
Pride was the only word he could find to express the feeling welling up within him. Naya finally understood. “It is, but you have to learn how to put the two together. They aren’t separate, but like a dam blocking a river, until the dam is removed, it cannot become whole.”
Naya smiled wide, there was startling spark in her eyes. “Then lets break it!”
Issfang laughed. “In time, little one, in time.”