Time passed in a blissful (if chilly) daze, Kinnevar being an endless source of charming anecdotes about his deeds as a mighty warrior-mage, and his more interesting days as a raconteur, and freelance adventurer travelling the world, before taking up a position of power, influence and tiresome duties. On this, he spoke at great length, of how preferable it was to be free from the onerous tasks of leadership, how much simpler it was to be a sellsword adventurer, travelling the world and sampling the best it had to offer, from food, to drink, even companionship.
‘And that was how I found myself, in just a codpiece and a single gauntlet, jumping out of the window of the Ivory Temple, just as the Archdeacon blasted the door down, the High Priestess’s stocking still between my teeth! Really, it was all a simple misunderstanding, and it wasn’t as though their priestesses were sworn to chastity or anything.’
Janaxia took a sip of the wine Kinnevar had provided, and helped herself to another of the delightful biscuits he had been generous enough to offer. Despite their small size, they were quite filling, a sweet and light wrapping around a dense core, apparently of elven craft. Despite his foreboding appearance, he was delightful company, full of endless tales and anecdotes from his adventuring days, before he had ended up (as he put it) drafted into doing the thankless business of the family. Despite the decidedly chill surroundings, this was the first time she had felt so at ease with someone, without any worry of incurring Mother’s wrath, or Kivata or another of her siblings bullying her.
As his story finished, Kinnevar chuckled to himself, before standing up and heading towards the bookcase, making an arcane gesture, dispelling whatever protection warded it. One of the books, a fat, well-thumbed journal, bulging with bookmarks and extra pages, floated into his hand. The front was emblazoned with the sigil of an icy sword, picked out in silver, albeit covered with ink blotches and wine stains.
He looked at it for a moment, before holding it out in front of Janaxia. ‘This is my personal journal. I think you will find it educational, in a number of ways, and it may provide a few pointers for your magical skills. It also records many of my proudest deeds and achievements, so if you were to pay a bard to remember me appropriately, that would be appreciated. As your mother sounds a rather troublesome individual, then my advice would be to urge you to hone your skills as much as you can, and then become an adventurer. Those were the greatest days of my life, although some were a touch dangerous at times! And the romance, ah, fresh lovers in every town and dungeon, a new experience on every road!’
Janaxia wilted slightly at the thought of having to leave this sanctuary. ‘Could you possibly have a word with Mother?’
He shook his head, seeming regretful. ‘I am bound to this place, and cannot leave. And it is sealed so that only those of my blood can enter, which does disqualify your mother. A to-do with the local clergy, all rather awkward, I’m sure you understand. But this is a battle you must fight yourself. Although I may be able to help you with the immediate issue of leaving – I believe the week is almost up. If nothing else, then you will be able to re-join the household on your own terms. Come with me.’
With a heavy sigh, Janaxia stood, taking the journal. Past examination of his quarters had found several heavy chests full of elaborate clothing and jewellery, left behind by swiftly exiting partners, to which Janaxia had treated herself to a few choice pieces with Kinnevar’s blessings, now folded neatly into a bundle.
They returned up the long hallway, Kinnevar looking at the paintings depicting his deeds with a sigh of reminiscence, gently stroking away the ice on a few choice pieces. As they progressed, his movement slowed, streaming trails of energy trailing backwards into his personal chambers. He couldn’t quite make it into the basement entrance, having to give Janaxia advice from an awkward distance, the basement now seeming roasting hot after the continual ice of the last few days.
‘Most magic is all about force and compulsion. It’s about making things do what you want, and pushing them harder and harder until they do, or something snaps. But there’s other ways to make things happen – the Hidden Monks of the Iron Mountain nudge the energy within all things, and of course the bardic colleges have their own strange skills. Now, the runic circles, the breathing exercises, those are all just trappings. You know what you want to happen, you know that the key wants to help you, it just doesn’t know it yet. Think of it like a busy waiter – they have a lot of things to do, but you want them to help you first. Now, you can force them, but that will make the service worse, and probably get you food that’s been spat in. You want them to want to help you.’
Janaxia tried to get herself into an appropriate mindset, taking a calming breath, squaring her shoulders and setting her face into the polite smile of someone that was going to get their way, but without causing a scene.
‘Now, this is your house. That the door isn’t open is simply a mistake, it should be open, it wants to be open.’
She approached the door with a calm stride, reaching out a hand, gently commanding, trying to make herself feel confident, that the door should be open, despite what it thought about the matter. A soft click resonated, the key turning and the door creaking open. A jubilant grin broke across her face. She’d done it!
When she turned back around, Kinnevar was looking at her with something she took to be approval, although the red glow of his eyes was fading, as his energy was focused on maintaining his presence in the world. She forced herself not to cry, running back and giving him an impulsive hug, ignoring the cold burns from his armour, managing not to babble mindless thanks to him.
He stepped back, making an archaic bow. ‘It has been a pleasure, blood-of-my-blood. Thank you for listening to an old man’s stories, even if they must have been rather tiresome. I must sleep now, likely for quite some time, but please do come visit again, if you have the chance. If you should need them, please don’t hesitate to take any of my books – they’re certainly doing me little good!’
Warmth streamed in through the door, faint hissing sound starting as it ran into the chill air, starting a strong draught as the temperatures fought.
‘Thank you, Kinnevar! I’ll return when I can!’
She shed the coat, returning upstairs, hearing the thud of the metal door shutting beneath her. The sunlight stung her eyes, the house feeling strange after the last week of being stuck in an enchanted ice-chamber with an animated suit of armour possessed by her ancestor’s spirit.