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BenevolentManacles

Writer's Block

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Writer’s Block


 

 

The Imperial Palace was a quiet place at night, except for in the office of the Archchancellor. It was well known to the courtiers and officers of the court and the privy that his office was to be undisturbed entirely when the clock struck midnight, for with disruption he found it seldom possible to set his mind into motion. Yet this evening, he had grown restless. The room was covered with the eccentricities of the man without order. On the one side there were paintings; things he had sent for from across the Empire and beyond, depicting the nymphs of the old worlds, dancing in the forests of Malinor, enticing a humble knight to betray his vows.

 

A ghostly mistress bathes herself under the cascading waterfalls of the mountains, lit only by a blue crescent. The images were strewn about in a reckless mess, barely any properly hung, with some damaged and torn by mistreatment or lack of care in the shipping of them.  On the other side, there was nothing but drink. Barrels stacked on barrels, overturned and leaking, half empty and half full. Despite his best efforts, John had failed to even finish the dozens of bottles that he’d scattered across the shelves, though not for lack of trying. Most remained with what they had left only by virtue of his boredom with the flavor.

 

Square in the center sat a desk crafted of rosewood and capped with mahogany, which one might catch the scent of if the liquor was not too overwhelming. Behind the desk, a man with a quail feather quill grasped tightly in his fist as he stared at the page before him. His unkempt form had been made straight by his most recent marriage. His hair had been cut short, but not so short as to not allow the light curls of his head to cascade just over his forehead when he cared not to brush them back. His beard was cleanly treated and fit the form of his face in place of the bellowing beards he’d had of old. With an exclamation of profanities, he threw the quill across the room with little care. The tip found itself lodged into the breast of one of the nymphs in the foremost piece and stuck there, destroying yet another thing he had demanded with his mind in some comical, lecherous place. 

 

In the only organized crook of the room, abreast to the large walnut door, adorned with elegant details of the ocean waves on the fringes, a slender figure stirs from her reading. She looks up towards the man, nudging the ebon locks from her face with a jut of her head, squinting at him skeptically. She closes the book over her thumb, and offers the sly sort of smile he’d come to expect. 

 

“Dawdling again?” 

 

John sighs, running his fingers through his beard slowly as if he had not heard her, lost in thought. He gazes down at the desk, entranced in his procrastination. The woman respired quietly, setting her book on the nearby shelf. She pushes herself from her chair, wandering over to him with a purposeful gait before resting both her hands on the opposite side of the desk and leaning over it to view what her husband was examining so closely. Much to her humor, the paper was blank. She tapped the parchment with her index finger twice, silently prodding him for explanation.

 

“Treaty,” he mumbles, wading himself out of the depths of his imagination. “You know I hate these sorts of things.” He takes the paper in hand, raising it to his face and turning it over, as if something would appear on the other side by sheer will. 

 

“I always assumed you liked treaties,” she remarks, leaning back from her station over his desk. 

 

He laughs some at his wife’s comment, glancing up at her, pushing the parchment away. It cascades slowly to the ground, landing gently to blanket one of the empty bottles that had rolled behind him. The stench of him is enough to make her reel her head back. “No wonder you can’t write anything of substance- you’re drunk more than half the time.” 

 

“Come now, I’m not so bad. It’s not any more than a quarter!” He quips in response, grinning at her. He leans back in his chair, contemplating the woman for a moment. Many say she had inherited the stygian locks of her mother, and her father’s sad, silvery eyes. She was too young for him, many courtiers had whispered, but he cared little what the nobility of the court felt. She had stolen him, distracted him even from drink, even from his first wife and the children he had by her, whom had been lost at sea for nearly a decade.

 

She removed her hands from the desk and took her stride to his wake. She placed her hands on his shoulders, seemingly for comfort at first, but instead gave him a strong push to steady his chair’s lean, the feet of the chair slamming on the floorboards with a weighty thud. He let out a rich laugh at her show of force, and she released him. She plucked the quill from it’s place on the nymph’s chest, and returns to him, taking his hand on hers and sliding it carefully between his fingers. She kneels slowly, lifting the parchment from the bottle it had grown to comfort, resting it before her husband and flatting it out with a quick motion of her hands.

 

“You’ve got work to do,” she commands, leaning forward plant a tender kiss on his cheek. She took off from his flank, traipsing back to her place in the corner, resuming her seat in the dusty velvet armchair. She pries the book from the shelf next to her and sighs in frustration, realizing she had lost her place. The fluttering of pages in the background provides John a reprise from the silence that had accompanied his previous foray into scrivening. He lets out a long sigh, closing his eyes for a moment. 

 

“That’s right,” he declares confidently, dipping his quill in his glass inkwell and putting it to paper.

 

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There was no shame in a failed cantrip, the mage recanted to himself.

 

And yet as the life of a sickly flame hissed into oblivion, Simon Basrid could only curse himself. The man had been humbled before, countless times, but only at the undoing of others. Magic was a hard lesson to the proud scion of Rhen who suffered failure with as much grace as a fat squire. 

 

“Your papers, m’lord!”

 

The Rhenyari’s serving boy, a flaxen haired youth by the name of Adam who he could never quite scrub the slums from, barged into the quiet study with letters piled high over his head. Simon still could not decipher his true age. The Sutican street rat the fledgling sorcerer found in his travels had the frame of an eight year old boy, but proved able at all manners of minor errands with the finesse of a true squire. It never occurred to the Rhenyari to be thankful, though – one dose of praise and Simon feared that the boy find another patron, one ‘more worthy’ than a Farlander of Ba’as.

 

Yet while the Chancellor of Rubern, Procurator of Kaedrin, Wolfcatcher Royal of the Empire and Monsignor of the Curia stumbled through the great tower of parchment in muddled reflection, he noticed the seal of that great drunk of Helena. ‘Another treaty?‘ he’d ponder.

 

As he lifted and sifted through its contents, the cold brew of envy and empathy that defined his relationship with the merry d’Balain muted for a time. Simon was in better spirits as of late, and as he looked to the boy, he muttered behind the parchment. 

 

Give the Archchancellor my regards. A bushel of figs, blood oranges, and pitaya from the gardens, a vial of black absinthe, and a pouch of winesalt. Red Chrysanthemum for his lady wife.”

 

And so the young boy bowed once and rushed his way, and the Basridi kept to his study. The other letters Adam brought made fine fuel for a masquerade of shadows as the mage set work to his craft once more.

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