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Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh)

The rain falls the same way it always does this time of year. Cold, light, and threatening to turn to snow at any second. Autumn is drawing to a close, and soon the road into Agate Pass will be snowed in, and the estate of Black Pine Crossing will begin its annual wintery isolation.

The wizard and the bench he sits on, carved from the trunk of a fallen tree, are uncannily dry for the weather, though that has less to do with the aura of magic that seems to follow him wherever he goes and more to do with the thick pine boughs above him. The trees lend much needed shelter to the little hollow where he sits, and serve to muffle the distracting noises of the world while he thinks. The sound of the rain that feeds the nearby river, causing it to swell and roar as it flows beneath the stone bridge that gives the settlement its name, loses its torrential quality here, growing muted and soft, more akin to music.

Jonathan Eris sits still as stone, lost in thought, with his hands grasped firmly around the black staff in front of him.

It will be nearing lunch time, and Maddox will begin to worry if he doesn't return soon, but the wizard just can't bring himself to move. It isn't only that his joints ache and grow stiff in the cold weather, no, but the thoughts within his head that keep him still. He stares at the black wood of the staff between his hands, and wonders if this will be the winter that he does not see the end of.

Even if the artifact he holds in front of him has extended his life far beyond what it ever should have been, he knows that his body cannot last forever. Many of the other members of the Court of Arcane Law have it far easier. Pamoyan and Coryn were both born immortal. The twins who made a pact with greater powers will never know what it is to age. Even Noah, human as he is, is bolstered physically by the natural magic that flows through his veins. And Ramona... Ramona can simply replace whatever fails with mechanical facsimiles that work just as well, if not better than the originals.

That, he knows from experience.

The wizard growls softly at the twisting pain in his gut that reminds him of his own mortality. And also reminds him that it would be best to eat something sooner rather than later.

"Fine, fine." He grumbles to no one in particular as he stands to his feet with the pop of several joints, and turns back up the long path toward home, his staff in hand. "Not that it'll be any different than it is any other meal..."

He wanders silently, letting the rain soak through his cloak and the simple, practical robes he wears underneath, and further. Could he dry himself with a quick and easy cantrip? Yes. Would he have to do it again in a matter of minutes if he wanted to stay dry? Also yes. Therefore, he just let it be. He could have a bath and change of clothes once he was indoors. Maddox would fret, of course, but that was his default state these days. Fretting.

The second Jon emerges from the forest proper and onto the curated grounds of Black Pine Crossing, he feels a tugging at the wards that surround the property. Someone is coming up the canyon road, and if they are doing so in such weather, they must be in great need. He huffs, knowing that whatever visitor dared to brave the steep and muddy road to get here will probably want to speak with him directly, and makes for the stables.

There, as expected, he finds his ever-frazzled chief of staff, saddling his bay gelding in a panic.


The ruddy-haired Maddox spins on his heel at the sound of his nickname, and breathes out a massive sigh of relief.

"Powers above, Jon, you had me worried." He leans heavily against his horse while he surveys his master's appearance, clearly trying to be subtle about it and failing miserably. "You shouldn't be out alone in weather like this, I was just about to ride out and search for you!"

"It's raining, Maddox. No, actually, it's more like drizzling. What did you think I was going to do, melt?"

"Or freeze." The redhead adds unhelpfully as he moves to put his gelding back in his stall, but freezes when Jon speaks up again.

"While you have your horse out, you probably ought to meet whoever is coming up the road from Agate Pass. If they're traveling in this weather, it's probably important."

Maddox stands, mouth agape, for a moment before nodding, though Jonathan doesn't stick around to watch his chief of staff struggle. There's a hot bath inside with his name on it, and if he wants to get comfortable and make himself scarce before company arrives, he doesn't have a moment to lose.
The young cowpoke has a wild look about him. Not in the sense that the man is deranged, no, not raving or brutish—though his size and his steed give him a certain flair of inherent intimidation. It’s his dark, unkempt hair, crumpled flat-brim hat, and waxed sheepskin coat which begin to speak of his familiarity with nature. A string of plump pheasants hanging on his back continue the conversation. Deer hides blanket the sluggish bull upon which Gable sways, and also form the side bags that cradle all his earthly treasures. The bulkiest and most precious of the bags stopped singing to itself and asking him questions around the same time the rain began. Now it breathes softly and lies still.

When the canyon highway begins to look like a private road and the scent of aged pine promises a break from the constant wind, Gable’s mouth floods at the thought of fresh venison from that same forest. Would the master allow him to reap from the grounds he is to care for?

Better question: what man wouldn’t like new, uncured meat for his dinner?

Even in the dampened air, Gable smells the stranger before he sees him. A man. A horse. Behind his sternum, his heart urges him to run. To hide. To hide is to live. With tremendous force of will and a shaky breath, he says, “Woah,” and pats the bull’s neck to bring it to a halt. He reaches down to the bulging side bag and pulls the flap down a little more firmly while he waits to be greeted. “It’s time,” he tells it. No answer. Gable only hopes he’d taught the child well enough to keep quiet once he wakes and hears voices.

Once the man and his bay come into view, a sense of dreadful finality and restraint admonish Gable again to turn tail. He swallows it down, knowing there will never be another chance like this before winter is fully upon the land. And possibly never another chance in his life to be so close to a cure.

He lifts his hand. “Good afternoon.” A country accent. Slow, but clear. “My name is Gable Kendall. I’ve got an ad here says you’re lookin for all kinds of help. I’d like to be of service to you, if the position is still open.”

High above Gable’s head, a creature scatters rainwater from the pine boughs as it pursues a gliding rodent. He pretends not to notice the flood of giant drops as they drum on his hat. Nor when the creature screeches like some terror in the night. But he can ignore the beast no longer when it drops out of the sky and lands between them with a ruffle of wings and a splat of bloody meat.

Gable blinks at the animal, then looks to the man. “...That’s Catcher.”

The griffin’s body is an exquisite mix of fur and feathers: the powerful hind legs of a wild cat to launch it into flight, talons in the front with which to grip, sleek tail feathers for stability, a soft spotted tummy to rub, and a sharp beak to pick every dab of meat off the bones of the flying possum it’s devouring noisily in front of them.

“He’s my eyes from up high when I’m tending a herd. Picks off snakes, chases off anything that’d scatter the stock. If you’ve got a rat problem, he’ll be your new best friend.”
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

Maddox rides out the second he regains his focus, spurring his horse out into the dreary afternoon in search of this mysterious company the wizard warned him was on its way.

By the time he finally meets the stranger on the road, the rain has managed to soak creep past his waxed leather cloak and is starting to seep into his clothes, and the gelding is beginning to complain about the mud caking his legs. Not that the animal wouldn't roll his entire body in the same mud simply for the sake of doing so given the opportunity. Rather, it's the principle of the thing.

"Good afternoon, friend." He greets the rough-looking man in a cordial, but guarded, tone. He expected whoever came up the road in this weather to look rough, and rough the man certainly looked. What he didn't expect was the cow. "Have you, now? Well, if it's work you're looking for, you've certainly found it. My name is Maddox Rex, I handle most of the administrative tasks for Black Pine Crossing. But this is hardly the place to discuss such things. Come, we can talk a bit on the road, and hash out the finer details once we reach the house--"

Maddox moves to turn his horse around so they can return to the estate, but doesn't get very far before the minuscule griffin drops out of the tree above them. The redhead jumps in his saddle, but the horse he sits astride doesn't move a muscle. Having been born and bred at Black Pine Crossing, the gelding is far too used to critters flapping around his head or skittering around his feet to be put off by Catcher's sudden appearance.

"Well... I can't say we have much of a rat problem, unfortunately." The man almost frowns, but thinks better of it as he actually does manage to get his gelding turned back up the mountain, continually glancing behind him to make sure Gable and his animals don't struggle to follow. "Master Eris is rather fond of pseudo-dragons, and so they take care of any rodents that crop up in the house. As long as he isn't the sort to get territorial and start fights, though, I'm sure your Catcher will be quite welcome"

Before he can stop himself, Maddox starts interrogating the man, trying to get as much information as he can about his skills and history: "You mentioned stock? Are you practiced in animal husbandry, then? Our prior stable hand left to pursue an education, and I've been looking after the horses since. If you're more the bookish sort I could certainly use some help with clerical duties. And Ari always needs more hands in the kitchen... honestly, we're so short-handed you could just about have your pick of work. We can always shuffle things around if there's something specific you have skills in."

While his chief of staff wades through the mud on his way back up the valley road, Jonathan himself hangs his damp clothing up to dry. By some stroke of sheer luck he was able to avoid his head cook on his way up to the third floor of the main house, where his private chambers were. Ariathel was an excellent cook, and one of the most reliable employees he had, but food was food and on days like today, where he was already sore from the weather, the thought of putting something in his stomach only served to upset the artificial organ even more. To put it plainly: He is not looking forward to lunch. Skipping the meal entirely is an unlikely prospect. Someone, be it Maddox or Ari herself, will be up eventually to force food into him. But procrastination? Yes, that he can manage.

With a hefty groan, he lowers himself into the magically heated water contained in the oversized half-barrel he uses for a bathtub.

Several small dragons curl up around the walls of the tub, purring contentedly at the extra heat. They don't like the cold either, though several of the smaller ones look tempted to join their caretaker in the water. It wouldn't be the first time, and Jon seldom minds, but they know the chill will only be worse if they leave the water once diving in, so they stay where they are. Sapphire, the matriarch of his collection, puts her claws up on the edge of the tub and rests her snout on his shoulder, making little huffing noises as she sniffs around his neck and ears.

"Hm? What are you doing?" He asks drowsily of her as she continues her poking and sniffing. She gives him a soft growl in return, and so he continues the conversation. "Have you got a smell up your nose? Something good, I hope. Something tasty?"
Glancing at the griffin, who carries the carrion jauntily with his head held high as he trots alongside the bull, Gable slowly replies, “No, sir. Not territorial, exactly. I’ll keep him where he’s useful and out of the way.”

A soft yawn and a wriggle in the side bag distract him briefly from the administrator’s line of questioning. Then all is still again. Gable’s brows pull together. “Yessir, of course. I thought the position required all of those things?”

He pulls a crumpled copy of the notice from his breast and scans the text as he explains, “I’ve been keeping lawns and plants since I could hold a spade in my hand. Cleaning and sweeping don’t bother me a’tall—and I can erase almost any stain out of almost any rug. Before this, I’d been a ranch hand. Horses, sheep, cows, pigs, and chickens; a few exotic species, too, but mostly the ponies and steer. Then Cook elected me as helper. Taught me everything. When he retired, I made three square every day for twelve hungry men and suffered no complaints for it; I like to cook nearly as much as I like to eat. I also read a fair bit and my penmanship is legible.”

Urging the bull to sidle up along the bay, he looks at the other man soberly and tells him, “I only want to be useful, Mr. Rex, and to have a place to lay my head. And if you like, I can repair most things, too. I know a little carpentry, and enough about iron and leather to make shoes and harnesses.” Gable’s lips part again, but he stops himself before the man can sense his desperation, or worse still, take him as a braggart. With a tentative smile touched by deep melancholy he finishes, “It would be nice to stay in one place for a while.”
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

Maddox gives a hearty laugh. "Heavens, no! If we were that picky, we'd never get anyone in here. It's rare enough to find someone willing to work for a wizard, much less someone with enough education and background to do everything on that list."

The redhead nearly frowns as he notices Gable's chatter take on an almost panicked quality. Either this man desperately needs a job, or he wants to get into Black Pine Crossing for another, unrelated, and possibly more sinister reason. It wouldn't be the first time someone had posed as a potential employee just to get the chance at assassinating Jon. Granted, that endeavor had gone about as well as a sparrow trying to fly through a hurricane. There were enough protective enchantments woven into the foundations of the buildings here that getting into restricted spaces was a challenge in and of itself, to say nothing of the wizard himself. Old he might be, but Jonathan Eris was nowhere near as frail as he might appear to a layman, still quite capable of slinging potent magic with a flick of his wrist, and wielding his sword with deadly accuracy.

The last time someone had made an attempt on Jon's life, it took them weeks to clean up the resulting mess.

"Well if it's consistency you're after, and you aren't averse to a little dirt, then it sounds like managing the horses might be a good fit." Maddox continues once Gabe manages to slow down a little, just as they start over the stone bridge and cross onto he estate grounds. "We don't have anyone else right now working in the stables, so it's just been me trying to take care of things in between my other duties, so you'd largely be in charge of yourself. Of course, that means the workload might be a little heavier, but I'd be happy to step in and assist if you find yourself in a bind."

The estate grounds, while not what most would call 'curated', are at least 'cultivated'. It isn't the work of a lazy gardener, rather one that values natural beauty above artificial impositions of order. The plants that line the gravel path they tread are all native, lupines and mountain orchids, making the estate feel as if it's built in the middle of a natural meadow. Not far off is the home of the wizard himself, a massive, three-story building that looks as though it's been rebuilt and added onto several times, as if it's outgrown itself over and over again. There are a few smaller outbuildings as well, one of which is clearly the aforementioned stable, given its shape and the proximity of several grassy paddocks and training pens.

"Does your bovine do best stalled or turned out?" The redhead asks as he dismounts and drags the barn door open to let the both of them into the shelter of the stable. "We try to keep a few extra stalls open with fresh bedding for moments like this. Unexpected guests and such."
“I’d think folks would be lining up to work for someone like that,” Gable replies innocently. He’d convinced himself thoroughly that the position would be filled by the time he reached the estate, and that his only hope of persuading the master into giving him a chance would have been his considerable work experience. To learn that he was both overqualified and the position was somewhat difficult to fill relieved quite a bit of his anxiety. Quite a bit, but not all.

“That suits me very fine,” he agrees about the horses. Keeping himself busy with labor will help ease his mind away from other matters, and the promise of solitude is an added blessing. “I’ll not bother you ‘less it’s urgent.”

Leaning to one side to examine the flowers along the path, he wonders if the wizard’s magic has kept them from fading in the cold, or if all the flora is a little hardier here, where the winters bite so deeply. If Gable had any magic to give, he’d certainly use it on something as deserving as flowers.

The magnitude of the house awes him into silence for the rest of the journey toward the stables.

With a good-natured chuckle he says, “I think he’ll prefer someplace dry tonight.” Truth be told, he’s not thinking of the bull’s needs, but of his cargo. Although Buddy is a pampered bovine, and this trek has demanded much from him.

Inside the stall Maddox shows him, Gable hangs the deer hide blankets out to dry and carefully eases each bulging pouch and bag to the floor against the wall. Catcher trails behind, sticking his head into every nook and stall, sniffing for snacks. He rubs against the legs of whichever horses allow it.

Assuming he will lodge with the horses, Gable asks, “Is the bed in the loft?
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

“Mages in general are an odd lot to work for,” Maddox muses as he ties the gelding to a ring mounted on the wall and begins removing the muddy tack, now that he doesn’t have to try and talk over the rain. “Magic is a dangerous thing in the wrong hands, and many laymen have a healthy fear of anyone who makes a practice of studying it. Most are demanding, and keep odd hours or environs for whatever their studies require. That isn’t even addressing the fact that many seem to have a strange idea of ethics when it comes to experiments… I’ve never known Master Eris to fit any of those qualities, but I’ve met some of the other members of The Court, and, well, sometimes I wonder which came first, the stereotype or the individual.”

He pauses the conversation just long enough to tote his saddle and bridle to a room at the back of the barn, where he hangs each up alongside several other sets of tack. Most are plain and functional, dyed in browns and blacks with simple hardware, but one rack in the corner bears a set that stands out from the rest. The leather is dyed a dark blue, with gold and silver fittings and more than a little decorative embossing.

Maddox continues as he finishes cleaning up his horse, brushing out the mud and shutting him in his stall with dry bedding and fresh hay. “Based on your background, I imagine you’ll be able to take care of most repairs and such yourself. If you need materials or anything from town, let me know. We try to make a trip once a week, if the weather is good. Ends up being closer to monthly, if that, once winter sets in.”

He stops, then, and considers the gentleman as he allows the bull into the stall set aside for him. He supposes it isn’t unheard of for stable boys to sleep in the barn with their charges, but up here where winters turned so bitter and cold and the snow could fall deep as a man’s chest? No. Jon would never allow it. He never had, and he wasn’t likely to start.

“Not exactly…” He tilts his head, watching the other man’s reaction closely. “Most of the first floor of the main house is dedicated to staff housing. Ordinarily, room and board are included as part of your compensation for the work that you do, though if you would prefer to take care of either yourself, your pay can be adjusted accordingly. Winters here are nasty, and Master Eris has never forced any of his former stable masters to sleep with the horses. The animals are perfectly capable of growing out their winter coats to keep warm. You, my friend, are not.”

He gives Gable a friendly smile, hoping that the humor doesn’t fall flat, then gestures to the bags propped up against the bull’s stall.

“Would you like help bringing those in? We can leave them in the entry hall until you’ve decided on a room.”
The man’s description of a typical mage raises Gable’s brows, but he chooses not to comment. Having never met a mage before, and having never been in the company of those who’d care to gossip and speculate about them, his expectations regarding Master Eris are quite blank. Although Maddox Rex’s comment about stereotypes makes him pity the man a little.

His eyes follow the administrator to the back room and catch almost immediately on that intricate blue saddle. Naturally, Gable assumes that this is the master’s tack, and makes note. Then he mirrors many of the same rote movements as his host, helping himself to a nearby brush and bin of hay. “I’ll take stock and make a list as soon as I can.”

Gable’s hand stops mid-brush at the news he’ll be lodging indoors. “Really?” It’s plain on his face that he hadn’t dreamed of such generosity. Then again, he’d never worked for someone so wealthy before.

With a nervous laugh at the joke, he pats his own bristled cheek. “I could try, sir.” Answering the part about pay adjustment, he says, “To be plain, Mr. Rex, I don’t have much need for money, so long as I’ve got a roof and meals. After that, coin’s only good for accumulating things or gettin drunk.” He thinks for a brief moment, then adds, “I might ask for a little cloth once in a while, when my shirts wear out. Or a book. May I hunt on the land if I share it with the kitchen?”

Turning to look at the bags, too, he wets his lips. “Ah… yes, I would. But I’m not choosy about the room a’tall. Please just show me one when we get in; I’d rather not leave my things out for someone to trip over, or… poke through.” He gives an apologetic smile, as if hoping not to offend the man by the mere suggestion that someone on his staff would stoop to intruding on a stranger’s privacy. “My unmentionables ain’t much to look at, but they’re mine. I’ll take the big one.”

He begins to follow the administrator out of the barn, but a young, urgent voice speaks up from the bag in his arms. Gable freezes and his eyes flash to Maddox Rex. It’s impossible the man didn’t hear the voice, even if it was too muffled to make out what was being said. Slowly he lowers to the ground, kneels, and lifts a toddler into the open air. The little boy has the same dark, sad eyes and tousled hair as his father. His pants are wet.

The boy begins to shiver against the sudden coldness outside of his deer hide cocoon. In a weepy, overtired voice he says, “It got all over! I didn’t mean to.”

“Oh, honey,” Gable murmurs. “It’s all right. You did so well. It wasn’t fair to make you hold it.” Gable unfastens his coat and wraps the boy tightly against his chest. Then he stands, head bowed in shame for being caught in a deception, and turns to Maddox Rex.

“Please… don’t turn us out tonight, sir. If you give me a chance, I’ll take care of him myself and still work just as hard. As soon as they see him, no one else will take us. I’ve tried.” He takes a deep breath to stop himself from outright begging and risks glancing into the other man’s eyes. Making sure the boy’s ears are covered, he says, “His name is Lee. He’s four and his mother didn’t want him.”
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

“I understand. Most folk save their earnings for personal articles, like clothing and shoes and extra bedding and such, or save up long term for a leave of absence if they wish to travel or pursue an education for a time. We can provide you with the basics, but more than that is typically up to the individual. A couple of our employees have family elsewhere, and most of their extra coin is sent off to support them… we try to be accommodating to all lifestyles, when we can. As for the hunting… that will have to be something we discuss with Master Eris.”

Maddox nods along and continues his explanation as he picks up some of the man’s smaller remaining bags and heads toward the barn door. He doesn’t get far, though, before the child’s cry freezes him in his tracks. At first, his expression is cautiously neutral, but it softens as soon as he sees Lee emerge from the bag. Clearly the child’s appearance has given him a lot to think about, as he grinds his teeth in contemplation. There isn’t judgement in his eyes, just… consideration.

“I… see. Well, I won’t lie to you, Gable.” The redhead sighs, and meets the other man’s gaze intensely. “Black Pine Crossing isn’t exactly the ideal environment for raising children. While Master Eris won’t say he’s the most fond of youngsters, he also isn’t cruel. I think if you explain your situation, he’ll understand, and there won’t be a problem. Especially if you can take care of him on your own as you’ve said. Not that I anticipate a shortage of people willing to help.”

His tense expression breaks just a bit into a softer smile. “Our head cook practically raised her little brother here, while she herself was barely out of childhood. She had quite a bit of help from, ah, one of me loftier members of the household.”

Maddox ends his last sentence with a sly wink, and readjusts the pack on his shoulders.

“Now, let’s get everyone inside and cleaned up so that we can take care of business before lunch, hm?”

The redhead only peers briefly at where Lee’s head disappeared to, hoping that news of impending food might lift the lad’s spirits a bit after his little accident, before turning again toward the path leading up to the main house. The way is muddy, but easily walkable with the gravel underfoot, and in mere minutes Maddox is holding a worn wooden side door open for Gable and his precious passenger. The hallway that greets them is long and quiet, a patchwork of rugs covering the stone floor and tapestries lining the walls in the spaces between the many unevenly spaced doors. Maddox pauses just briefly entering the hall, before heading towards one of the doors and opening it.

Inside is a simple living space with a bed, a trunk at the foot of it, and a little writing desk against one of the walls. There is a window that looks out toward the barn, and the lupine-lined paths that weave around the paddocks that take up the space between the two buildings. There is a stack of bedding on the presently bare mattress, and there are two sets of curtains set above the window; one light and gauzy, and the other heavy and dark, meant to help keep the room warm in winter.

“The door does lock.” Maddox begins as he sets the bags he carried just inside the door. “I’ll get you the key once all the formalities are sorted. There are heating and cooling rune-stones built into the foundation, so the indoors stays fairly warm even during the winter, but we can bring a brazier in if you need extra heat. There should be enough room to bring a cot in here for Lee, too.”
If he could be completely honest with the man—if the truth wouldn’t make him sound like a negligent father—Gable would tell him that any place with a roof was a more ‘ideal environment’ than the camps he and the boy have been living in.

“I promise I can,” Gable vows passionately, though it is reassuring to hear that the home has not been a stranger to other children, and to those who might even enjoy the toddler’s presence. It would be healthy for Lee to know some tenderness.

Never one to miss out on exploring new territory, the kescat griffin trots to keep up with the party on their trudge to the house. The rain, though steady, has barely dampened the new scents hidden in… the gravel! the planting beds! this patch of gnarled grass! His beak snaps up an armored cold-weather bug with great enthusiasm, though the morsel is not nearly as succulent as summertime prairie grubs.

Once inside the doors, Catcher banishes the rainwater from his pelt with a rustling quiver of fur and feathers. His golden eyes flick from wall to rug to ceiling rafter before settling in the direction his nose entices him. Where does this corridor lead…? It smells of tasty lizards.

The bedroom door might as well have opened to Shambhala, for Gable can hardly believe his good fortune. There is a bed, and there a desk, and there a trunk. The room is warm and dry, and he will not have to fight the rain to strike a fire tonight. Over there is the barn in plain view, so he will never feel too far away from his wards (but will also not have to smell them through the night.) There is nothing more he could ask for and, although the room is unfamiliar, it stirs a feeling that speaks of home.

At the mention of a cot, Gable looks down to the tuft of hair poking out of his coat and murmurs, “Would you like to sleep in your own bed?” Unsurprisingly, the answer comes in a vigorous shake and the small arms and legs around his midsection cling even tighter. Gable sighs softly and pets the lump. “If we push the cot against the bed, he might find his way to it eventually. Thank you.”

“These are for the kitchen,” he adds, putting Lee on the floor to unburden himself of the pheasant garland. The toddler still clings, and his large, haunted eyes peek out at the administrator from behind his father’s leg. Rather than young curiosity, his features are darkened with distrust.

Gable asks where they ought to meet Mr. Rex after getting changed, then bids him goodbye for now.

In a short time, the cowboy and his son appear again in clean, worn clothes with hair combed and faces scrubbed. Gable holds the toddler’s hand, and also a figurine carved from mahogany. “This is for Master Eris,” he explains, handing it off. The wood bears the spitting image of Sapphire. “When you said he likes dragons, I knew why I’d carved it.”
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

“Of course.” Maddox nods his thanks for the pheasants and slings them over his own shoulder. Ariathel will no doubt serve them at dinner, prepared in some creative way that no one else had ever heard of before. “There are communal washrooms further down this hallway. Women are on the left, men are on the right. There is running water and tubs for bathing. We’ll have a washbasin brought in as well when we bring the cot. When you’ve finished settling, just follow the corridor all the way out into the entry hall. I’ll collect you there once I have the necessary paperwork. There are benches along the walls, feel free to have a seat if you get there before me.”

The chief of staff gives one last look at the pair, sparing an encouraging smile for Lee before he leaves them be.

He makes for the entry hall, for the grand staircase that it probably more grand than Jon had originally designed it to be. Honestly the whole place has outgrown its original design fairly quickly. What the wizard had wanted was a quiet cabin in the woods he could retreat to and hide away from the world’s problems. What he ended up with was more akin to a small palace. Somehow it had managed to keep most of its rustic charm through the years, with the only thing covering the simple wood panel walls being tapestries he had accumulated over the years. He had always hated paintings, telling Maddox he found them cold and self-inflated. A tapestry could at least help keep the house warm by insulating the walls a bit. Not that the place needed it with the amount of magic heating it. Still, the braziers lining the large rug that sat in the middle of the entry hall blazed merrily with arcane fire that lit the whole room, and tapestries depicting a mishmash of art and historical moments hung from the walls. Even the supporting beams that climbed up into the rafters had curtains hanging off of them, that could be drawn to keep in heat or divide the room into a smaller space.


Platinum perches up in the rafters, watching as Maddox passes beneath him and up the stairs to his office, where he keeps enough papers to make a most excellent nest, though he never gives any of them the chance for it. He clicks his claws against the wooden beam beneath him, his tongue flicking out to taste the air again, fifth time in as many minutes. There is a strange smell on the breeze, and he does not like it. What he likes even less, is that it’s gotten stronger.

”I am the Queen’s Sword,” he thinks to himself, as silver eyes catch sight of the strange ball of fur and feathers that creeps into the room. ”If there is an intruder, here and now I will strike it down!”

He chooses stealth, though it is not his greatest strength. Not for the first time, Platinum wishes he possessed his Queen’s elegantly feathered wings instead of his own bat-like ones. Her hunts are soft and silent, while his are necessarily swift and violent. But he’s felt the Master’s ire when he’s killed what is not to be killed, and so for that he is careful as he creeps up on this thing, smelling its scent and watching its movements as he settles on a lower perch; a doorframe just slightly above and behind the creature, just out of sight.



The wizard stirs at the sound of Maddox’s call, coupled with Sapphire’s gentle tongue flicking over his ear. He stretches and groans, reaching his arms above his head in a long, satisfying stretch.

“Jonathan?” The redhead calls again, more concerned this time.

“I’m fine, Madds.” Jon calls back, then stands up and finally exits the tub of still-warm water. “Just fell asleep in the bath.”

“In the bath?”

“Yes. The bath.” The older man grumbles as he grabs the towel draped over the screen that hides him from Maddox’s view. Apparently his admission has done nothing to assuage his chief of staff’s fear, because the concern in his voice only increases.

“It’s unlike you to fall asleep in the middle of the day, sir. Even less in the bath of all places…”

“Maddox Rex, stop fussing and tell me who you met on the road. They must have animals, you smell like a wet dog.”

Jon heard the redhead give himself a self-conscious sniff, and smiles even though he can’t see the look on his face. Once he deems himself dry enough, he wraps himself up on a soft housecoat, then fastens the tie around his waist before stepping out into the room. Maddox is still frowning.

“I do not—“

“You do.” The wizard counters quickly while he crosses the floor to his wardrobe, which he quickly rifles through to find some clean, comfortable clothes to wear. “And horse. But that was to be expected. Is it Hayman again, bringing his hunting dogs up and wanting to track and kill the mysterious white stag I supposedly have on my property?”

Maddox snorts. The old hunter was delusional if he thought such a thing existed.

“No, no. It’s not that. It was a gentleman looking for work. Gable Kendall. He did have a bull with him. And a… child.”

“A child?” Now it’s Jon’s turn to frown. “Is it his?”

“Presumably.” Maddox sighs just barely catches the housecoat that’s thrown at him. “It looks like him. Maybe four or five years old at most. Both of them are terrified of being turned away. I said you talk with them.”

Conveniently, the redhead mentions nothing about how Gable had tried to hide the child’s existence starting out.

“Hm. So much for you handling the hiring. Where did you want to put him?” The wizard asks as he starts dressing in a set of practical blue-gray robes that come down just past his knees, cut at an angle, and some loose trousers underneath.

“The stable. He has experience with animals, and—“

“And if a child is going to be running around getting into trouble, the stable is a relatively safe place for him to do so.”

“… yes. Of course, this is your house, and the final decision rests with you.”

“Naturally. Now, I suppose you want me to meet our new stable keeper?”

“I said I would bring him to you, yes. I thought it would be best to go over all the specifics of his contract with you there.”

“Fine.” Jon sighs again, then gives Blackstaff a sidelong glance while he debates bringing her with him. He decides against it. “I’ll be at my desk in the library. Bring him up there and we can talk things out.”


When Maddox descends the stairs, the two newcomers are there in the entry hall, just as he expected, and looking quite a bit more comfortable than they did earlier. He’s caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the carved dragon, though.

“You can give it to him yourself, if you like,” he says, holding the figure out so that Gable can take it back if he chooses. “Master Eris is waiting for us in the library, reading through your contract as we speak. He’ll make the final approval once all the formalities are done with, and then we can all head to lunch and enjoy the afternoon!”

The chief of staff leads them up the same flight of stairs he cam down mere moments ago, then along the balcony to the right. To the left, the sounds of tableware being set out can be heard, but it grows fainter, then disappears entirely when they cross the threshold to the library. The whole room is cloaked in a silencing spell, keeping ambient noise out and conversations that occur within private to prying ears.

There are more windows in the library than there are in most of the rest of the house, and for good reason. The spaces in between the windows are of course lined with bookshelves, stuffed full of books, scrolls, folios, and seemingly random curiosities all in equal measure. It isn’t necessarily messy, but tastefully cluttered might be a better term for it. Several lounges and chairs are arranged between sets of shelves. One of the sofas has a blanket draped across it with a book left open on its spine, like the space was quickly vacated. There are two desks, one in each corner of the rectangular room, and behind one of them sits the master of the house, staring at a piece of paper and twirling what appears to be a small metal rod between his fingers as he does.

“Mr. Kendall, I presume.” The wizard says, glancing up briefly before turning back to the pages in his hands. He gestures to a pair of comfortable chairs on the other side of the desk. “Please, have a seat and we can discuss your contract.”
“Is he a giant man, Pop?”

Gable laughs softly, relieved by the wonder blossoming in his son’s eyes as they admire the wizard’s home together. Patiently he replies, “No, I reckon he’s pretty normal-sized.”

“Like you?”

Out of the mouths of babes! “A little shorter, probably. Why do you think he’s a giant?” He already knows the answer: Lee has never seen a house as large as this. Neither has Gable. The wizard’s doors are tall enough for him to pass through without nodding, though he still does it out of habit. The thrill in the boy’s reply causes him to smile even wider.

“His roof’s so tall! Why is there carpets on the walls?”

This time Gable suppresses his laugh. “Those aren’t carpets. They’re a special kind of art.” They pause in front of a knight shrouded in thorns and flowers and Gable lifts the boy onto his shoulders. “Somebody very patient used lots of colored threads and a thing called a loom to make them.” He knows very little about the craft, but the quality of each weave seems exceptional. It takes a great amount of restraint to keep himself from admiring the fine grain with his fingertips; little eyes watch closely and he wouldn’t want to encourage bad manners in the master’s house. “Which is your favorite?”

They make their way down the corridor to the benches in the entry hall, where there continues to be more interesting things to examine. For Gable, even the wooden benches lend some excitement to the afternoon. If he could be allowed one afternoon alone with them and his chisels…

He and the boy stand to attention when the administrator appears.

“Yes, I’ll do that,” Gable agrees a bit bashfully regarding the dragon, and tucks the carving under his arm again. He and the boy follow closely.

The aroma of peeled vegetables and sizzling lard and whatever else wafting from the kitchen excites his appetite, which had hitherto been suppressed by nerves. But even now, he can’t allow himself to be distracted by hunger. What will he say? If the man asks any pointed questions, he’ll have to answer truthfully… but is there any way of making the truth sound more appealing?

Not much is going on inside the kescat’s head as he skulks about the corridor. What is this? What is that? Can I eat it?

With his beak he tugs a loose tapestry thread until it snaps. His talons thoroughly squish a suspicious-looking lump in the rug. There is a large dead bug on its back against the wall—far too old and whithered to be a snack, but the perfect size to use as a plaything. One deft swat causes the insect to momentarily reanimate and fly across the hall. It lands with a tick.

What was that? Some other noise, besides the beetle. Catcher’s head swivels in every horizontal direction, then suddenly fixates upwards. Horror. Confusion. The griffin’s spotted wings puff and so does the ridge along his back, where fur and feathers seamlessly mingle. But he makes no noise or attempt to engage with the thing; if they were near the horses, he might not treat the lizard so civilly.

There has not been one square inch of the castle which hasn’t fascinated Gable’s imagination, but the majesty of the library overwhelms him to the point of halting in its doorway. The magical hush, the rows upon rows of knowledge, the vast windows—it’s unlike anything he’s ever seen before. Given the chance, he could spend his entire life in this room and never miss the outside world again. Except… that soul-stirring need for wide spaces under open sky, which has haunted him since long before the lycanthropy, would beckon him into the garden with a tome in hand as often as he raised his eyes to look outside.

Lee pulls forward a little, eager to see the rest of the room, and Gable wakes from his reverie. They cross to the desk and in a reverent tone he answers the mage, “Yes, sir. Thank you kindly.” Taking the boy into his lap, he lowers himself into one of the chairs and privately luxuriates in its softness on his weary behind.

With a tentative movement, he slowly forfeits the intricate wooden carving onto an empty space on the master’s desk. It had been far less embarrassing to hand the figure to the other man, who’d already been so lenient with him, but now the gift (which he had not known was meant for the mage sitting across from him until just this afternoon) felt almost dirty, like a bribe to ensure employment. Holding it under his arm for the entire interview might have been even more odd, though, wouldn’t it? Now it’s clear that he ought to have left it in the hallway. Oh, well. With his eyes trained humbly on his craftsmanship, Gable swallows before he explains, in what he hopes is a respectful yet relaxed tone, “I believe this belongs with you, sir.”

Gable quite liked how this particular carving had turned out, and was almost sad to give it up, though it would have felt more wrong to keep it: like withholding a lost animal whose owner suddenly appeared. The feathered dragoness stands about a foot high and has been shined to a polish; in his mind’s eye, she had presented herself to him as a soft-hearted beast, and therefore he crafted her with two smaller, less defined dragons for company: one who rode upon her back, and the other bumped against her face in greeting. Her head was tilted downward to return the affection. Contrasted by the knights and rich history hanging on the wizard’s walls, the sentimental carving feels a bit out of place…

Below Gable’s slightly worried expression, Lee stares fixedly at the mage, who has unknowingly been promoted from merely a wizard to the template for all wizards everywhere. All wizards everywhere now have graying hair, blue robes, large houses, and small metal rods they twirl around when they’re thinking. The boy waits to see what else all wizards are like, and whether or not he will like them. It is very possible he will come away from this experience pledging never to be friends with one, not ever. But he waits and he watches, and he studies the desk for anything that looks like it could be a candy dish.
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

Platinum mirrors the intruder’s posturing, puffing himself up with a hiss, and opening his mouth to display the many sharp teeth contained therein. He hops down from his perch, stalking right up to the kescat, his head bobbing this way and that as he tries to assess whether or not this creature poses a threat. From what he’s seen thus far, it seems to be about as intelligent as a year-old chick. Silly. Full of energy. Not particularly bright. Still, better safe than scratched up.

”Friend? Foe? Food?” He thinks mostly to himself as he continues giving the creature a good sniff. It smells like outside, like a fresh kill, and he can’t help but lick his chops. Another predator, then. He growls, considering the implications. Competition for food shouldn’t be a problem. The woman in the kitchen always left plenty of scraps out for them. Rather, he had other concerns.

Then, he has an idea.

Maybe this creature speaks the way he does with the Master? It would certainly make things quicker, and so he cautiously opens his mind to the fuzzy little thing, and repeats his question: ”Friend? Foe? Food?”


Jon opens his mouth to begin going over the contract, but stops short when the carving is set on the desk. It hums weakly with residual magic, and that, more than anything else, catches the wizard’s attention. As the gift has seemingly come out of nowhere, he is instantly suspicious, and reaches out towards it with no small amount of caution.

“Thank you…” He tilts his head thoughtfully and gently brushes his fingertips across the surface of the wood. The craftsmanship is impeccable, certainly a piece worthy of display, an… there. Evocation? A standard choice for demonstrating one’s magical abilities, but certainly presented in a unique way. Usually students might demonstrate their aptitude by lighting and snuffing a candle, or by freezing a bowl of water and then thawing it again. But this apparently enchanted carving that looked uncannily like the matriarch of his dragons? Perhaps there was some divination magic involved as well. Now that was uncommon to see in new students.

“I have to say, Mr. Kendall, I’ve had more than a few prospective students present themselves over the years, and most of them are quite a bit more forward about demonstrating their grasp of the arcane.” Jon’s expression as he speaks is purely thoughtful, though a smile tugs at the corner of his mouth periodically. “I do appreciate the subtlety, though. That seems to be something most prospects struggle to grasp. What I don’t appreciate is being deceived, though I suppose if you had done your research you might think honesty would work against you in this case…”

Maddox frowns from where he sits next to Gable, concern creeping into his voice again. “Sir? What do you mean?”

Jon doesn’t answer his chief of staff, just rolls his eyes and waits for the man in front of him to respond.
The kescat's golden orbs bob and weave with the lizard, and his wings pull forward to form an aggressive halo of feathers to make himself look as intimidating as possible. He returns the hiss and his muscular body grows ever more tense, especially in his powerful haunches. He’s prepared to launch himself at the snake’s head when… something halfway recognizable enters his mind.

‘Friend’ feels like the very large man and the very small human. ‘Foe’ is rattlesnakes. And food…

The griffin’s communication is rudimentary at best. He responds to the mental prompting by flashing images of live mice, pulpy carrion, and juicy grubs in quick succession, followed by intense curiosity that almost makes the shared experience a question. His feathers lower and he snaps his beak repeatedly to produce an inquisitive clicking sound.


Student? The arcane? Gable’s brows pull together, but then… the little clause at the end of the notice (a piece of paper he’d read more times than his own signature) rings sweetly in his memory and he smiles at the honest mistake. The mage must have misunderstood the redheaded fellow when he came up to announce Gable's intentions to work here; the cowpoke wasn’t applying for the magical apprenticeship, no. Just for the horses. Gable's lips part and he draws a breath to explain as much—but the mage’s next words shock him back into silence.

Deceived? Does he mean about Lee?

Gable’s first thought is to turn to the redhead and interrogate him with a look of severe disappointment. Did you tell him what happened in the barn? he seems to ask, though he doesn’t dare to startle the man by actually intruding on his thoughts. Of course, the administrator has every right to be honest with his employer about the less-than-stellar actions of their prospective stable boy… but Gable had felt sure he’d been forgiven and allowed an unbiased chance with the master of the house. When Mr. Rex seems to be just as perplexed by the accusation, Gable’s widening eyes turn back to the man across from them.

His mouth has gone dry. All that might stand between himself, his boy, and the bitter cold is a friendly ending to this conversation. With this in mind, he chooses his response very carefully. “Sir,” he wets his lips and adjusts his grip on the toddler, “I come from a simple place called Little Hen, and I’m a simple man. I’m here to take care of your horses and put a roof over my son’s head with honest means. I don’t understand what I’ve done wrong.” Looking at the figure in the mage’s hands he adds, “If the wood’s magic, it weren’t my doing. I can never tell if I’ve picked up magic wood until I start roughing it, then it tells me what it wants to be. But usually I just find normal wood and I carve whatever I feel like.

“I didn’t know it wanted to be with you til we got here. If you don’t like it, you can bury it.” His worried grimace suggests that the carving might say nasty things to him if he takes it back. That’s never happened before, but he’s not prepared to find out if it’s possible.
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

Platinum blinks at the sudden bombardment of images that hit him. His nostrils flare minutely while he contemplates the smorgasbord of tasty thoughts, and realizes just how simple this creature is. One mention of food and the thing has entirely fixated on that one idea, all posturing and contemplation of threats forgotten. Typical baby behavior. Except… it’s quite a lot bigger than most of the babies he’s used to handling. If he can keep his feet straight though, maybe he can pick it up and carry it? Things like this belong outside, don’t they? Messy, stupid creatures that roll in dead prey and don’t clean the blood from their muzzles after a hunt. How utterly unsophisticated.

Platinum stretches his neck out and mimics the clicking noise the creature makes at him as best he can, though it doesn’t sound quite the same. A second later the noise morphs into a soothing purr, and he carefully tries to position himself such that he can take the scruff of its neck in his mouth and tote it outside where it belongs. He doesn’t fancy the mouthful of feathers he’ll likely get, but he can’t just let wild animals into the house like this.


Jon blinks, his eyebrows lifting even a tad further in a mix of surprise and relief. He keeps his voice carefully neutral, sensing the other man’s heightening stress, and leans back in his chair casually. Diplomacy has never been his forte, but defusing a tense situation that he was the primary cause of? That he could do.

“Truly? That alone is more than most people pick up on. But if you have no desire to develop what natural arcane talent you possess, far be it from me to force you.” The wizard shrugs, and Maddox lets out a long sigh, his stress evaporating as the situation becomes clear. “A simple misunderstanding, then. If you are happy to care for the horses and leave the magic be, then I am more than happy to let that be the case.”

“Apologies, sir, I should have said something.” Maddox interrupts quickly, trying already to take the blame for a crime that is not there.

“No, Mr. Rex, there was no way you could have known.” Jon rolls his eyes and waves a hand dismissively at the redhead. He can’t help the slightly exasperated sigh that escapes him. “You’re an excellent chief of staff, Maddox, but you can’t sense magic worth half a bean. No one is in trouble, I am not cross with anyone, I was only surprised. Now, I believe it is in everyone’s best interest to put this loose cobble behind us and return to the task at hand…”

He shuffles through the papers in his hands one last time before turning back to Gable.

“It seems as though Maddox has already been over most of the basics with you. You’ll be paid every week for the work that you do, in addition to the room and board provided to you. The amount has been adjusted to account for the child’s meals as well. You may go anywhere on the property in your free time, provided you stay out of other’s personal spaces and don’t make yourself a nuisance, except for the third floor of the house. If you wish to leave the estate grounds during your free time, it is recommended that you do not do so alone. My wards only extend to the boundaries of the property, and mountain cats are more likely to go after a lone traveler than a group. Maddox will go over the specifics of your job duties this afternoon, provided everything is satisfactory.”

The wizard clears his throat and hands over the stack of papers for Gable to read through and sign.

“He also mentioned that you had some concerns you wished to speak of?”
Platinum’s attempt to relocate the griffin goes placidly for as long as it takes the kescat to understand what’s happening. Then Catcher lets out a horrible sound somewhere between a cat’s yowl and a woman’s blood-curdling scream, writhes, rolls, and flops onto his back where his powerful hind legs pop out at the dragon’s chest. He wouldn’t be much of a cattle guard if every purring snake could lull him into friendship, would he?

Once Catcher has regained his footing, he streaks down the corridor and hurls himself into an unsteady flight, knocking something off a table before gaining altitude. His mental bond guides him up a staircase and towards a hushed room. His yowls echo all the way.


What just happened? Or almost happened?

'But what arcane talent?' Gable almost blurts out. Other questions follow in a rush: What else could he do besides sense wood? Could he hurt himself or someone else if he didn't know what he was doing? Could he get rid of it? Did he want to?

He stays very quiet as the wizard forgives and brushes away all traces of what might have been a far more interesting conversation; in a mixture of disappointment and great relief, Gable accepts his benign fate with a murmured, “Thank you, sir.”

The cowpoke nods along to the rules of the house, though the term ‘wards’ is foreign (short for ‘wardens’, perhaps?) and he’s not sure how useful they would be against a mountain cat if it’s truly determined to pick off an individual, but very few critters bothered him anyway. That, at least, was a perk of having a 600-pound alternate identity.

“Concerns?” His face is perfectly blank and he holds the papers aloft for a moment, as if ‘stuck’ racking his memory for any concerns he’d raised accidentally. Meanwhile, Lee takes hold of the contract by its corner and pulls it down to eye level in order to inspect the tiny scribbles with grave professionalism. Glancing down to see the boy isn’t crumpling or tearing the paper, Gable allows it. “No concerns, sir. I only wanted to know if I’m allowed to hunt and forage the property if I share game and harvest with the kitchen. If you maintain herds of elk or wild mules or sheep, should I keep watch for rustlers?”

“Damn outlaws,” Lee growls dramatically.

“Hush, cucciolo,” his father whispers, hiding a startled smile. Gable lays the papers on the desk and begins to scan them thoroughly. Whatever the wizard answers regarding game, he signs the contract in a quick, neat hand. Offering the packet back across the desk, Gable meets the wizard’s gaze meaningfully. “Thank you, Master Eris.”

That’s when a familiar caterwaul pierces the air just moments before the griffin sails across the room and crash-lands onto the shelves at the back of the library. He doesn’t harm any of the books or scrolls, but his back claws scrabble to gain footing as he scales upwards, nearly to the ceiling. Discovering a gap large enough in which to tuck himself and his wings, he squeezes out of sight. His coinlike golden gaze fixates on the door, waiting for the dragon to come find him.

Gable’s mouth hangs open in disbelieving horror. Then all at once, he stands so quickly the chair topples over, transfers Lee onto his hip, and bows his head toward the mage while retreating from the desk. “H-he's mine. Must’ve followed us in. Won’t happen again, sir. Gods above…”

“Catcher!” Lee cries gleefully. His father locks him tightly to his chest to subdue the toddler’s desperate wriggling.

One stern look charged with rude telepathy pulls the furry beast from its hiding place and it lands beside the pair, mouth open to snap up a bit of dusty jerky from Gable’s pocket.
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

The silvery dragon lets out a sharp yelp as he is kicked away, but recovers quickly and takes off in hot pursuit of the creature. Odd, typically babies knew to be still when being carried, perhaps this one was brain-damaged? He's seen that before, when chicks are stepped on or squished or taken by foxes. They never stopped crying, and never learned which way was up.

But Platinum knows which way is up, and flaps swiftly after the ball of fluff and feathers as it heads deeper into the house, further and further away from the outside where it is supposed to be.


Jon lets out a puff of air that could, could, be construed as a laugh when Lee pipes up with his opinion of livestock thieves.

"There is a herd of elk that shares the mountains with us, a few small groups of whitetail deer, and smaller game. Moose come around occasionally as well. Go high enough up the slopes and you might even see wild sheep." The wizard shrugs. "There are a handful of folks in the kitchen who set out once every month on a hunt to restock the larders. I'm sure they'd welcome the help, though I understand the appeal of time alone in the wilderness. As long as you are wise with what you take and respect the land, I don't see an issue with it. We don't typically have a problem with poaching. Aside from Hayman, though he's never set foot on the property without permission, however begrudgingly it was given."

Jonathan nods and takes the papers back, leafs through them one last time, and folds them neatly atop his desk just before all hell breaks loose. Fur and feathers fly through the air with a screech, followed by silver scales and yet more screeching. The wizard stands quickly, magic gathering at his fingertips in preparation to cast, should the need arise. Luckily, he realizes quickly enough what the issue is.

"Plat!" The command in Jon's voice immediately has the silvery pseudo dragon's attention, even from where he perches on the edge of the bookshelf high above, ready to continue his investigation, or torment, of the kescat hiding there. The sharp snap of the wizard's fingers and the singular finger that points to a space by his feet is a demand Platinum knows well, and although he is clearly reluctant about it, he relents and glides downward to crouch, nose to the ground, at Jon's heel.

"No, not to worry. Such things are simply part of keeping animals in one's house." Jon sighs, then glances over at Maddox, who looks absolutely mortified even though he had next to nothing to do with the sudden conflict. "They fight enough amongst themselves, fights with other species are a given. I hope you'll forgive Platinum, he really is a good boy, just a touch overprotective at times."

The pseudo dragon's tail swishes at the mention of his name, but he stays glued where he was placed, continually glaring at Catcher from around the desk.

"Now, before I send you and Maddox off to join the others in the dining hall, I have one question for you, Mr. Kendall." Jonathan sobers a bit, folding his arms behind his back before looking the man up and down. "The child. Is he yours?"
Unlike Platinum, the kescat is not intimidated in the least by his human companion’s anger. The title Gable holds in Catcher’s fuzzy brain is friend and sometimes food, but nothing as strict as master. Seeing that the dragon has been subdued by one sharp word and a silly gesture, the griffin parades around the room, sniffing and marking with the glands along his cheeks wherever he goes. Gable keeps his eye on the little fool with a sigh. “Thank you, sir. There’s nothing to forgive.”

For not the first time since his arrival, Gable’s shoulders relax and adrenaline’s grip on his chest eases slowly. Master Eris is not a merciless employer, and that is a welcome change. If Gable can keep his child, his pet, and his own urges in line, this home might be the one in which Lee forms his best memories. That is a very warming thought.

“Yes, sir, I was told he’s mine.” No hesitation in his reply, yet something unspoken lingers in his expression. Glancing at the redhead, Gable sets the child on his feet and encourages him towards the chief of staff. “I’ll reckon Mr. Rex knows where to find the best seat in the dining hall. I’ll follow shortly,” he promises the grownup.

“I’m gonna take Catch’em,” Lee assents, leading the griffin by its wing. It goes willingly, snuffling the child’s pockets. Gable watches them for as long as he can before turning back to the mage.

“Lee is my blood, Master Eris, but I’ve got him without permission.” He rights the tipped chair near the desk, then stands behind it and worries the material with his hands. Restraint from expressing anger keeps his tone carefully neutral, though the cold hardness in his eyes betrays him. “I was on the range with the steer for days, sometimes weeks. I thought my home was a peaceful place with a little lady and a child, and I was working for them to keep that peaceful life. But a friend found me and told me what he’d seen when Alice thought nobody was looking. ‘I wouldn’t treat a slave the way she spoke to your son,’ he’d said. I came home in secret and saw for myself. Lee and I went away that same night.

“There isn’t a reason in my mind why she’d come tracking us all this way to retrieve the boy, but you ought to know,” he lifts his chin a little, “I’ll not give him up for all the gold in the world.” If Alice came with a blazing hand canon, if the authorities beat down the door, if a monarch personally threatened to gut him—he would never be parted from Lee again.
Jonathan Eris (played by Pengolodh) Topic Starter

Platinum grumbles and growls as he watches the intruder make itself at home in their home, but he stays put at his master's heel. There are a handful of other, smaller dragons who see this, hidden and quiet as they are among the bookshelves. They are more reserved, not so brazen as Platinum, but they've been watching the intruder too, and they've seen what happens when the intruder is attacked.


It isn't punishment. Just correction. The message is clear, and those who see will tell their siblings: The intruder is not to be attacked. Annoyed? Perhaps. But not attacked.

"Erm, yes, of course..." It takes Maddox a second to understand that the child is being foisted upon him for a moment, though even after that realization, he waits for Jon's nod of assent before taking Lee by the hand and leading him out of the room. He isn't thrilled to be leaving the wizard alone with someone who might as well be a total stranger. After all, the last person who had come seeking an apprenticeship had not only attempted to rob Jonathan, but when caught he actually tried to murder him as well. And all of that was after the man had already tried to murder the gardener. Needless to say, he isn't excited about the possibility that this encounter might turn out similarly, slim though those chances might be.

"Come along, Lee." The redhead says, trying to put such thoughts from his mind as he guides the lad into the dining hall. "I hear Miss Ari has been making apple tarts today. Perhaps if you eat all of your lunch, she'll let you have an extra, hm?"

The room is already abustle with activity, with many of Black Pine Crossing's staff already seated or helping to set out the last of the food. The windows at the back of the room mirror the library's, serving to illuminate the generous spread laid out for lunch. Most of the space in the room is taken up by three long tables with simple chairs on either side, though the center table also has a rather more comfortable looking seat positioned at its head. It doesn't take a genius to understand who that spot is reserved for, although it isn't often that the wizard chooses to take his meals with his staff. Typically, it takes either Maddox or Ari hunting him down to get him to eat at all.

"What do you think of venison stew?" The redhead asks as he settles himself in the chair directly to the right of Jon's, then promptly puts Lee on his lap. He takes a plate and surveys the large pots and serving dishes spaced evenly along the length of each of the tables, readying himself to fill the boy's dish with as much of whatever he asks for. "Looks like that's what's for lunch, along with bread rolls and mashed potatoes. Any thoughts?"


"I... see." The wizard nods slowly, considering Gable's story. He sees no obvious issue with the situation, although the dislikes the prospect of harboring a kidnapper, if the man can even be called that. It feels like a stretch, and whether or not the child was wrongfully acquired sounds like it would very much come down to a matter of opinion, but the possibility is still there. Well... if it becomes an issue, he supposes he can simply summon the local magistrate to deal with the matter. Domestic law has never been something he ever really cared much about, his specialty lies in enforcing the laws of the arcane and statutes that pertain to magic use. Outside of that? Black Pine Crossing is his home, and in the end his word is the only law that matters.

"If things are as you say, then I take no issue with his presence here." He shrugs and collects up the papers that had been somewhat scattered by the sudden activity of two fighting animals appearing out of nowhere, adding his own signature to the final page, making it a done deal. "While not common, there have been children living here before, and as long as the lad keeps his nose clean I don't think anyone here will intentionally treat him ill. See to it that you inform me if anyone does, however. I'll not tolerate that sort of behavior from those under my management."

"Now, I presume you'll be able to find your way to the dining hall?" He gives Gable a friendly smile, then tucks the wooden figure under his arm and heads for the library doors. "It's straight across, just that way. Maddox usually sits at the center table, that's were you'll probably find him. I'll join you shortly after I put these away."
Apple tarts? Never heard of them. The boy knows he likes apples, and Pop’s called the green ones ‘tart’, so he figures a slow nod of agreement won’t hurt. Catcher will probably eat them if they’re yucky.

The bustle of the dining hall momentarily disarms the boy to a full halt in the doorway. His eyes (so dark they mirror the hall’s enormous windows) widen, and he wrenches his hand away from Maddox to cover his ears.

Although he’d looked at Maddox with distrust in the barn, the man is his only safe harbor in this storm. After looking up with a scared grimace, Lee huddles close, afraid to be stepped on as they cross the choppy room. When they arrive at the table, his immediate instinct is to beeline for the most comfortable and safest-looking chair (the obvious choice) but does not protest when the nice man with funny hair sits him where he can see everything. And, boy, is there a lot to see!

It takes a minute of serious, calculating observance before Lee makes his move. His little arms don’t extend far enough to reach most of the pickings (and he’d be too timid to try,) but one hooked finger snags a fat purple grape and he gives Maddox a pleased side-eye while popping it into his mouth.

“Ven’son’s just a fancy way to say ‘a deer’, did you knowed that?” A little grape nectar trickles onto his chin. “You gotta hang ‘em up and peel their outsides off ‘afore you eat ‘em. I wasn’t ‘spose to see that part, but I peeked. I’m almost five.” As a worker brushes past their chair in a hurry, Lee reclines from the table to tuck himself against Maddox’s chest. Then he stays there, because it’s warm and calm.

The kescat may not be an indoor creature, but he knows his place when there’s food involved. He slinks beneath the table and watches the chief of staff’s knee, where the little human might drop something scrumptious.


The hard resoluteness in Gable’s face softens gradually. He must remind himself he is not on trial yet, and no one here has made him out to be an enemy. He agrees to inform the mage if Lee is mistreated in any way, though secretly, he can’t promise not to do something himself if that’s the case. At his size, a weighty glance discourages most unwanted behavior.

Wishing to make the most of what he imagines is a rare opportunity alone with the master, he speaks quickly before he can be sent away.

“Sir, you must know almost anything I could ever think to ask about…” a vague gesture to the entire room, then he wets his lips and glances at the wooden figure. The curiosity and temptation to revisit the 'arcane talent' subject is there, but if he only has this one chance to speak about what really troubles him, there’s a far more pressing need for other information. Speaking slowly in an attempt not to fumble the rehearsal, he explains, “One of the boys back home got bit by a lycan while he was out with the steer. It infected him. His life became very difficult. When he found out I was hoping to work for a mage, he asked me to inquire about a cure. …What should I write to him?”

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