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.
“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.
Vidvan knew who Tavesh was long before he met him. His Master had taken in the soldiers who had returned victorious from their protection of the borderland. A large feast was put on for their celebration, along with the honor of being allowed within their Master’s walls.
The soldiers all knew what honor they had been given. Their captain was given such a seat of honor, next to the Master. Vidvan sat near enough to listen as the captain gave the story of their defence.
“I recommend to you Tavesh,” the captain said to Vidvan’s Master, gesturing with his glass at a soldier halfway down the table. “His technique and quick wits is equal to giving me a company twice as large.”
“Is that so?” The Master sounded amused.
Vidvan looked. Average height and weight, Tavesh’s body must have belied the muscle that the captain’s praise suggested. His auburn hair was shoulder length, but barely kept from being mussed by a piece of leather keeping it back. His brow was broad, skin olive and marked a few obvious places, with clear blue eyes.
“He requires a bit more experience, but I promise to you he will become one of your most staunch defenders, my lord. On that you have my word.”
Vidvan returned his gaze to his plate, trying to ignore the lump in his throat.
Tavesh never looked up.
Gingaopu. Picking it up was a reminder that he would likely never get a chance to bite into one again. Vidvan prepared himself to appreciate it to his fullest extent.
In texture and shape it was like a tangerine, but beyond that there was no comparing it to anything. There was a savory quality that usually only came in meat, combined with a faint sweetness that reminded Vidvan of a pie. A meat pie. Yet so much better.
“What do you think?”
“I could see someone building up a wealthy empire simply to have more ready access to this.”
His Master laughed again. “That goes a little far, but we appear to share a similar taste! I am glad you enjoy it, Vidvan.”
“It would be a crime to eat something after this.”
“Until the taste fades! You understand it well!”
Only after this exchange did Vidvan realize the room had froze around them. He had missed the point when they were not alone, that other people had watched in abject wonder that their Master had shared his gingaopu.
He straightened his robes and returned to work.
Vidvan’s master had a fondness for a particular fruit named gingaopu. It came up from the way south, from an archipelago where it was only known to grow. Because of that, it was very expensive all the way up here. His Master did not get it often.
It was one of the things everyone knew about. Vidvan knew he wasn’t the only curious one. But no one else touched that fruit. It arrived one day and would be consumed the next. There was no time to savor it. It could go bad and that would be his Master’s personal expense gone to nothing.
“You have never had gingaopu before, have you Vidvan?”
His Master’s voice was warm, but it wasn’t really a question. He would know that Vidvan had never even touched it before. If he had, that was stealing it from his Master’s own mouth. He would never do that.
“No, master. Though I have read about how it is gathered. Fascinating.”
“Well worth the trouble. At least, my coin says as much.” His Master laughed. He reached to his plate, where there was a single slice of it left. He held it out to Vidvan. “Here, try it.”
“Are you… well, it is an honor. My most gracious thanks.”
The crate had probably been forgotten at some point when they were moving the labs. Vidvan frowned, on his hands and knees, staring under the shelf at where the box had been shoved. He reached out and grabbed it.
He hit his head on the bottom of the shelf, wincing. “Yes, master?”
Only after he said that did he realize how strange it was. His master didn’t usually come down here. At least, not that Vidvan knew. And not in a capacity where he could sneak up on unsuspecting children.
“What are you doing?”
Vidvan pulled the box the rest of the way out from under the shelf, showing it to the man. His master knelt down to take it, opening it up to look inside.
While Vidvan’s curiosity demanded he look in, the lack of permission held him still. His master looked at him, twinkle in his eye. “Good. I like that expression. It means the instructors are doing their jobs well. How are you liking your instruction?”
Vidvan cleared his throat. “I… wish it went faster, master.”
His master nodded. Closing the box, he straightened his back. “I have a proposal, Vidvan. Would you like to hear it?”
It was a good proposal.