Eloise’s head snapped up at the sound of her name and she blinked a couple of times.
“Have we met?” she asked eventually
“Possibly a couple of times while waiting for our meal in the dining hall, but not to remember. I take it you don’t have an air or Illusion affinity”
A look of slight disappointment crossed Eloise’s face, but it was quickly replaced by one of resigned determination
“No, a pure Necromantic affinity.” Eloise replied, then looked shocked at Chloe’s complete lack of reaction.
“A pure affinity, that’s quite impressive.”
People with a pure affinity were rare. While not as versatile as someone with multiple affinities, in their one area of power, they were unrivaled. Chloe smiled to herself, Eloise was just getting more and more interesting.
“But I must admit I had guessed that necromancy was at least your primary affinity, not many other people would go around with a couple of skeletal crows on their shoulders.” Then Chloe Smiled openly, “Well with the possible exception of someone like me.”
As she said those final words she focused on the birds sitting on Eloise’s shoulders and drew some of her power through her illusion affinity. Two birds, the mirror images of those on Eloise’s shoulders, appeared on Chloe’s shoulders.
“It’s not a bad look you know” she finished
A smile pulled at the corners of Eloise’s mouth, but then fled.
“I would not recommend it, at least not unless you are especially fond of solitude.”
“Oh, that’s hardly a concern, solitude was always going to be my lot here.”
As Chloe saw Eloise start to focus on her, she carefully crafted an air spell. The spell would form a bubble of air around them, any sound passing through the bubble would be significantly muted. It wasn’t as blatant as completely blocking sound, but it would still make it far less likely that anything happening outside of the bubble would distract Eloise from her.
“Ash” She called through her link “would you mind trying to guide that dog through whatever it is the instructor is asking us to do? I would like some time without any distractions.”
“Certainly. Can I eat anyone who gets to close?” She could practically hear the grin in Ashes replied.
“No, I want to avoid distractions and if you eat someone it will cause a huge commotion.”
“What if I promise to be very subtle or very quick and thorough about it?”
“Well, you’re just no fun at all.” Came the amused reply, as Ash turned around and started to walk towards the dog.
“And what did you do to ensure that?” Eloise asked curiously
“How rude of me, I failed to introduce myself. I am Countess Chloe Yinara, heir to the March of Twin Rivers.”
“You have my deepest sympathy” Came the very sarcastic reply
“I know how that must have sounded, but I am not trying to brag, just explain. As far as why my rank matters, there are a few points you may not have thought of. Being heir to one of the most powerful families in Telkirin, a country that has a habit of conquering other countries whenever the opportunity arises, does not make me popular with the other nobles here. Oh, there are a few who would like to be friends, but they just want to get close so as that I will use my assumed influence to either prevent an invasion or to leave their family in control of their lands after a conquest.”
Chloe Gritted her teeth then snarled out the next part “And then there are the worst of the nobles, In the year I have been here, three younger sons from noble families, from countries that border Telkirin, have approached me. While the offers were fairly subtle each one effectively offered to tell me everything they knew about their lands in particular, and their country in general, if I would ensure that they were the holders of their family land after a conquest. I swear by all the gods, the only thing that allowed me to control my temper, when they tried to sell out their own Families, was the hope that they might be trying to get close to me to act as double agents.
Chloe sighed then and her tone became more relaxed “There are of course plenty of common born mages who would be happy to be friends with me, but all they really want is the opportunity of a court appointment or an officers rank.”
Chloe gave Eloise a determined smile, “Better solitude and the opportunity study in peace then the company of sycophants and traitors.”
Eloise gave Chloe a slightly bitter smile in return. “That may well be true but at least you had a choice.”
With the final word, Eloise’s right hand shot up, and reaching into the left sleeve of Chloe’s robe, grabbed the arm, just above the cuff of Chloe’s glove.
Chloe willed the imminent panic back, it had been hard enough not to flinch away or yank her arm back and she would not let an increased heart rate suggest to Eloise that she was scared of her. This moment was critical, and she knew it, skin contact with a necromancer would allow them to do any number of unpleasant things to you, and if they happened to touch somewhere you had a cut they could rip your soul right out of your body. Knowing that Chloe guessed that Eloise probably had not touched another living person in months, possibly years.
“I didn’t have that choice” Eloise continued in the same soft voice she had used for almost all of the conversation “People are too scared I might do something like this,” she said, squeezing Chloe’s arm slightly. “Or even something like this” She continued, pressing her sharp thumbnail gently into Chloe’s arm. Luckily for Chloe’s battle with her heart rate, there was not enough pressure behind the nail to actually break the skin, just enough to show she could if she wanted to.
Chloe sighed internally, she had wanted the little bit of protection the gloves gave her, this early on, but well, this seemed like the time for a grand show of trust. Carefully, not shaking Eloise’s hand off her arm, she pulled her gloves off. With that done she gently pulled Eloise’s hand off her arm with one hand and caught the necromancers left hand with her free one. Pulling the hands up and back towards her, she pressed them gently against her face, covering her eyes.
“Now let’s hope she takes the extra skin contact and the loss of my sight as a sign of trust” Chloe thought to herself, “and that it does not occur to her that with both of her hands pressed against me it is impossible for her to take anything out of her robes or from her belt. And this is another thing I hope she does not notice.”
She pressed a bit of her awareness into her link with Ash, and then through it, into her familiar. She had only been trying to see through Ashes eyes, but for a brief moment, the amount she was seeing overwhelmed her. She could see far farther than normal, and with perfect clarity. Everything was surrounded by colors and. Then everything disappeared, except for a focused view of a dog, and past it’s back, her and Eloise.
“You should warn me before you do that.” Came Ashes slightly reproachful voice, “It would take you a very long time to get used to how I see things and it wouldn’t be good for you. With a moment’s warning, I can change my range of vision to something closer to what you’re used to.”
“I don’t think that’s a lesson I will be forgetting anytime soon.” Chloe replied, somewhat shaken
“That’s because most people are idiots,” She said aloud, eyes still covered. “The fact that you made it into this academy, and have lasted this long, tells me that you are both a very intelligent and very self-controlled person. And it's not like all Necromancers are insane murderers. When you actually think about it, the fact that you are a necromancer if anything makes me safer, I mean even if it was in self-defense the mere fact that you are a necromancer means that if you kill somebody you would likely end up strung up from the walls, or at the very least, run out of the academy.”
Then Chloe gave Eloise mischievous little grin “Besides later in life I am going to have to let a necromancer touch me quite frequently for a few months, no harm in getting used to it now.”
Through Ashes eyes, Chloe watched as a torrent of emotions passed across Eloise’s face, Joy, fear, longing, and concern were ones that appeared most often before she got her expression under control. She stood there, looking thoughtfully at Chloe for a few moments, until Chloe broke the silence.
“By the way, what’s your dog’s name?”
The thoughtful expression faded, to be replaced with a more relaxed one.
“Her name is Sheila, and as you have probably already guessed she is my familiar.”
As she replied she took her hands away from Chloe’s eyes. Once her hands were down one started to rise back up, before stopping mid-motion.
“Would you mind? It has been a very long time.” Eloise asked hopefully, looking up into Chloe’s eyes.
“Not at all” Chloe replied with a smile, as she sat down, her back against the wall of the castle.
Once she was sitting down she extended her arm. Eloise sat down beside her and gently grabbed Chloe’s wrist. The rest of the class was spent in small talk about life at the academy. Eloise clearly wasn’t comfortable enough with her yet to tell her much about herself or her past, but Chloe was quite content with this.
“Let her grow used to being comfortable and happy when I’m around,” Chloe thought to herself triumphantly, “Once there has been time for those associations to firmly set in, well, we will see what comes then.”