“Did you… you didn’t get what I asked for, did you?”
Vidvan had the grace to blush. “I’m sorry. It took me so long to get to the shop that it was already shut.”
Iqbal rubbed his forehead. “Really? Oh, fine. Next time, you do what I ask first. There is little point in me helping you out if you can’t do any shopping.”
Vidvan put down his bag, clapping his hands in front of himself and lowering his head. “I’m so sorry, Iqbal. I’ll do better next time. I’m getting much more familiar with the city.”
It wasn’t immediate, but Iqbal nodded. “Yes, yes. I understand. Just do better next time.”
Vidvan couldn’t believe the amount of slack he was being given. However, with the day he had had out with Tavesh, he couldn’t bring himself to worry about it.
He had somehow managed to surprise Tavesh. Maybe he hadn’t expected to see him out here. As Vidvan shouldn’t have been out here, he was surprised too. Not at being outside. He had planned that.
But for once, he hadn’t been trying to find Tavesh.
Vidvan tried not to spend too much time readjusting his cloak. “Hello, Tavesh.” Oh, he sounded like a fool.
Tavesh’s surprise faded away, replaced by a smirk. “Any plans?”
Well, Vidvan had had plans, but none of them seemed as important now.
Vidvan’s master was a very calm individual. Collected, informed, content. One wouldn’t think he was stressed at all by being in control of the largest city in the known world.
But that was the known world. There was plenty that was unknown. Vidvan pointed this out, his master nodded, and mentioned that they would soon fix that. Vidvan figured he meant that they would learn more about the outside world and fill in their maps. Vidvan studied these maps, written accounts of the places, known ways to travel through the different environments. He compiled his notes and would give them to Iqbal, who would either throw them back in his face or (after a bit more pleading) hand them up further to their master.
Who would take them and eventually read them. Then he would return to Vidvan’s chambers, papers in hand.
“Vidvan.” Calm, with a slight smile on his face, his master. “I want you to add this into your primary research.”
Vidvan wasn’t sure how that would work at first, but he nodded nonetheless. “As you will.”
His life within the walls was exactly what he wanted. So no one would guess when Iqbal helped him outside.
Vidvan was settled back at his station when Iqbal came to him. He was tugging at his perfectly groomed beard, making it less perfectly groomed. Vidvan didn’t know why he bothered with it if he was going to mess it up in public.
Then Iqbal grabbed Vidvan by the ear. “Ow! I’m not a child anymore!”
“Are you not?” Iqbal hissed, dragging him from the station. He let go of Vidvan’s ear by the time they reached the hallway, but Vidvan knew better than to do anything but follow him. All the way to Iqbal’s chambers. Which was when he turned on Vidvan with the words he dreaded to hear the most. “You left?”
Vidvan felt the blood drain from his face. “I-I…”
It occurred to him that he should have lied, but now it was too late. “You know what will happen if someone finds out?”
Vidvan blinked. “Someone has found out,” he managed to say without stuttering.
Iqbal pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Stop being an idiot! It doesn’t matter that you are the Master’s favourite! He will still have you sentenced to death!”
Well, he knew that was always a consequence. “But you aren’t reporting me?” Iqbal smacked him with the palm of his hand, right into the centre of his forehead. “Ow!”
“I can’t believe you’re supposed to be so intelligent!”
Vidvan rubbed his forehead. But his panic had subsided. Funny, he wouldn’t have thought that Iqbal liked him enough to protect him. But as he had, Vidvan couldn’t doubt it. Not at all.
His heart felt like it would break out of his chest. Vidvan couldn’t even decide which was the greater cause for that – the fact he was breaking his Master’s trust or the thought of seeing Tavesh.
The world outside was even larger now that he wasn’t stepping into it with someone at his side. And while he knew where the barracks were, it became hard to breath when he considered nearing the place. Someone would see him, recognize him. Or, even worse, not recognize him and question why he was there at all. There was no way he could get out of that.
Instead, he went into the city. So many people lived inside the walls Vidvan had always lived in. But there were so many more people out here.
It was hard to breathe.
It was hard to stop from smiling.
Vidvan refused to have missed the boat. Not a literal boat, of course, but his one chance to have spoken with Tavesh. Ruined by his inability to comprehend someone breaking his Master’s law.
The problem was leaving without being caught. The problem was leaving. The problem was that Vidvan should not disobey his Master’s orders, no matter what some other person had done. He should have said something.
But it had hurt no one. There was a reason for this stringent security, but Vidvan couldn’t equate that to Tavesh’s death. He couldn’t believe someone risked their life to learn his name as well.
Therefore, it only made sense to return the favour. Vidvan prepared to make his escape. Just this one time.
Vidvan nearly had a heart attack, wheeling about from where he stood at his desk. There was no confusing who stood there in front of him – Tavesh. That was surprising enough, even before Vidvan considered all of the other reasons the man could not have been there.
“Wh-what?” Vidvan didn’t sound nearly as surprised as he felt, but there was still plenty of it.
“Your name,” Tavesh said again. “Is it Vidvan? I’m making an educated guess.”
Vidvan nodded, trying to pull himself together. “You shouldn’t be here. How did you get in here?”
“I’ll leave. But I had to know your name. My apologies.” Tavesh made an exaggerated bow.
He had to know that Vidvan could have him killed for this. Accusing someone of entering the tower when they weren’t invited. Which he could not have been. If he had been, he would be accompanied. No one else was here.
Then he left, before Vidvan could say anything else.
He looked out of the window the same moment Tavesh looked up.
Why he was within the walls didn’t make sense at first. Eventually Vidvan noticed the captain with him. They must have been summoned for some reason. But it took him long enough to see that, because from the second floor it was more than a coincidence of looking in his general direction.
Those blue eyes were focused on him. After a moment of non-reaction, Tavesh smirked. He gave a flimsy salute, something that could have been confused for swatting away a fly.
Vidvan probably should have done something in return, but instead he simply stood there like an idiot. Maybe placed his hands on the window sill. Even as Tavesh looked away, returning to his stride alongside his captain.
That was the moment Vidvan knew he was more than interested, he was lost in the gaze of someone he barely knew. Which didn’t make any sense. Didn’t make any sense at all.
Yet he wouldn’t let the feeling go for the world.
“I am about to examine the new barracks. Accompany me.”
Vidvan’s heart nearly burst out of his chest. For three reasons, not just one. First of all, his Master was showing increased preference for him, which was enough to quicken his heart’s pace, hoping that he would not ruin these opportunities. Second, the barracks were outside of the tower. He finally got to leave, for no reason than to accompany his Master.
Third, if it was the barracks, maybe Tavesh would be there. Vidvan wouldn’t conceal from himself how much interest that held for him.
He kept himself in check and followed. Only after a moment, two, did he consider how strange this was. Inspecting such things was beneath his Master. There were other people who could accomplish this, not wasting the Master’s precious time. He wanted to ask.
He didn’t want to ask. He didn’t want to ruin the moment.
They followed the overhang which was connected to the outer eastern wall to where all forms of the army were centralized. The ground they walked on out here was similar to that just within the walls.
Vidvan was nevertheless captivated. Almost so much that he didn’t notice the fact he did not see Tavesh.
Iqbal’s glasses were always a curiosity to Vidvan. They were nothing like the other pairs of spectacles he had seen. The frames were not made of metal, as they tended to be. For a place that prided itself on its steel, avoiding the obvious was more of a curiosity than the actual material that Iqbal used.
“What do you need?” Iqbal asked as if he was trying to get along. While he might not have been scowling, Vidvan could hear it in his voice.
“I wished to ask you a question about your lenses,” Vidvan began.
“What question would that be?”
He had many questions, so he had phrased that incorrectly. Then Vidvan had to ask the least important question first. It just came out. “How difficult was it to find such a pair? It would have been easier to go with a metal frame, no?”
Iqbal shook his head. “Easier to find, perhaps.”
That didn’t answer Vidvan’s question, nor did Iqbal explain himself.