House Vorloi was cold. Colder than Patris thought it would be—than it should be. The climb of the stairs was tiring, and the corridor was long. The light in here was cold, and the torches burned dim. Strange lights, smells, and sounds came from the end of the corridor. Behind a large, reinforced wooden door.
Patris approached the door with trepidation, and as he was about to knock, a voice came from within.
"Enter, Patris," spoke Zafirah.
Patris opened the door, "How did you-?"
"The rhythm of your feet on the floor was indicative of a man of your stature—the sharp sound of heel-toe indicated that you were a man of nobility. Since you're the only noble man who dares enter my laboratory, I assumed it was you."
"And if it wasn't me?"
"The wards on my door would have killed you."
Zafirah waited patiently as Patris worked out what that meant.
"You wished to discuss something Patris?" Zafirah inquired.
"Yes." Patris' tone of voice taking a sharp turn to deep-set anger. "We need to discuss your performance in the last mission."
Zafirah lifted a finely sculpted brow as she looked towards the knight. "Very well..." She began as she pulled a pair of dark goggles from her eyes and rested them upon her forehead "...I guess this reaction can keep, since it is you after all." There was only the slightest sense of mirth in her voice. While she had calmed down over their time working together, Zafirah still was a little arrogant.
As the exotic spellcaster stepped from behind the work bench she pulled off the thick, heavy work gloves she was wearing as well as the equally bulky leather apron. "It's not much, but please make yourself comfortable. I will be with you in a moment." She said as she draped both the apron and gloves over a deep sink, which she took the liberty of using to rinse off her hands and forearms.
"There." she said as she toweled off her arms and face delicately. "Now, what was it you wish to talk about sir knight?" There was no arrogance in Zafirah's voice. No mirth. She was all business now, just as if she were answering questions during one of her several lectures on the finer arts of magic, arcane or even seemingly useless bits of information about strange houses that pop up out of nowhere.
Patris folded his arms across his chest. His face is immovable. His presence fills the room. "You are Pathetic. And I can no longer accept this rate of failure from someone who claims to be as good at magic as you are. First, when you struck Ragnar with the fireball, I forgave you. Then Martin fell victim to one of your lightning bolts—I don't care if you can't control it after it strikes, we discussed this, you shouldn't have cast it into combat! Then you very nearly killed the victims in that horrible house and unleashed a demon on us. And more recently you struck Sir Gurov while he was in the middle of deadly combat. He was our charge, Zafirah—we were protecting him! And now you almost killed the prisoners we were fighting to free!" Patris spreads his arms open wide, taking in the room. "You claim to be a wizard of great power!? Where is it!? You boast of being deadly in combat!? How!?" Patris draws his hand across the intervening space and points a condemning finger at Zafirah. "You are nothing more than a blundering apprentice—messing around with a force you know nothing of! Any child can burn down an inn—but it takes a great fool to murder friends and innocents." Patris turns to leave. "I have forgiven you these five times—But no more. Lucia Vorloi will be my charge during the upcoming mission. If anything untoward happens to him, or anyone else, I will blackmark your name from here to hell and back. Prove to me that you are the alchemical thaumaturgist you claim to be, or I promise you—you will never practice sorcery again. You will be good for nothing except your flesh—and I doubt any man will tolerate you long enough for that."
When Patris had begun his tirade, Zafira looked as if he had physically walked across the floor and slapped her across the face. The sheer audacity of these words actually prevented her from providing a retort immediately. Only when he had turned to leave was she able to place her chaotic thoughts into words.
"H... how dare you!" She stammered. "How dare you talk to me, the valedictorian from the Royal Academy of Elemental Thaumaturgy, the best, most affluent academy of Molnai!" Lesser Alchemical Thaumaturges would charge a hundred times what you pay me for only ten percent of the expectations and a mere fraction of the aggravation!"
As Zafirah began her own rant, she stalked from her place near that deep chemical sink towards a shelf, which, among other things, carried an ornately decorated scroll-case. She gingerly removed this case and then hurled at the knight, who caught it easily. "Those are my credentials sir knight, if you actually care to read them. If you are incapable of doing so, have one of the scribes translate it for you."
She stalked towards Patris now, either unintimidated or simply too angry to care about any retribution... or a combination of the two, her long brown and red hair billowing behind her. "Do not presume, sir knight, to tell me what I know about my art, MY Science! While I am certain that your education in various fields are exemplary, I could instruct your teachers and instructors about various mathematical and scientific spheres! So do not presume to tell me of my own capabilities, when I, Zafirah bint Abdul-Mughni bin Najib Chén-Al Yasir, command the very energies of destruction and creation! I know the calculations that your so-called-god used to create this world—if your religion's mythology is to be believed and those very are at my disposal!
"While my work is an exact science, something I would not expect you to understand, bringing such energies into play on a battlefield is not! I have requested numerous times that you wait for me to bring my power against our foes and yet you refuse to listen! While those past events were, and still are regrettable, do not forget that you, sir knight, you led them into my line of fire when I had requested that you at least wait for me. You have continued to ignore my words and advice and then accuse me of misdeed? How dare you! Do not forget that it was I, not you, not House Vorloi or your precious Order of the Griffon that saved this city on our most recent foray. I unlocked the plot, I determined the most probable location of the Skaven warren, while the others in this city were still attempting figure out what was going on. Yes, it is entirely likely that they would have unraveled the mystery... but not until it was too late to do anything about or everyone was dead.
"You would do best to remember my accomplishments, the work that I do for you and your own mistakes before blaming me for anything." Zafirah took a breath, paused and exhaled, her own anger spent for the moment. "I will show you that I am the force of nature you require Patris... but only if you show me that you are the leader that you claim to be and the Hero that this country needs."
"I am the Hero this city needs, Zafirah, I don't try to kill innocents and friends." Patris' face took on a darker look, "I don't care if you can calculate the exact surface area of my horse's ass—you can't do anything with it! Allow me to make this comparison before you start screeching again. You are like a student fighter.
You know how to fight, and can perform the required patterns upon command. But what you don't know how to do is fight. Sure—sit here in your lab. Make exact calculations—fine! But they don't amount to much when you can't use them for any practical purpose.
"And the battlefield is my science, Zafirah. Don't call every one of my accomplishments a mistake either—it is you who are mistaken in not changing. I have not failed to perform in battle, while you refuse to adapt to it. Why should I take your advice on battlefield tactics when you fail every time?
"What is it going to take, Zafirah? Are you actually going to kill one of us these days? Am I going to have to explain to some poor child that we saved everyone except her mommy because you killed her? Am I going to have to show you the burned corpses of your friends? What is it going to take? Will you damn this city and everyone in it?
"These credentials you are so proud of." Patris flips and catches the scroll tube. "Are only important to you because they are your only success." Patris turns to leave, and rips open the door. "When you prove worthy of them, you can have them back."
And with that, Patris exits and slams the door behind him—knocking over and spilling Zafirah's most recent chemicals all over the floor.
Zafirah blinked when the door slammed, stunned at what had just been said. Another blink when the precariously balanced glasswork succumbed to the embrace of gravity as expensive chemicals, potions and other alchemical mixtures soon covered the table. Her eye twitched reflexively when the sounds, then scents of numerous chemical reactions reached her senses. With a growl she pulled open the door and stormed out into the hallway.
"You get back here you <Arabic Explicitive>! I'm not done with you yet!"
She stormed towards Patris, stopping far too close for comfort with her hands on her hips. "Now you listen to me and you listen good! I have been to the greatest schools in the continent of Molnai. I have worked my way out from under fists and thumbs far larger than yours, your Order of the Griffon and the nobility of this city combined! I do not have to take such treatment from you and I refuse to do so.
"I am not your thrall, I am not your slave and you will not treat me as such! I follow you because you pay me and I am here because your entourage was the first opportunity for employment. You have no power or sway over me, and I assure you, that should I so choose to walk out those doors to work for someone else, there is nothing you could do to stop me.
"You have a problem with my performance? Fine. But remember, as an employee it is my job to do what you tell me to do. That said, every action I have taken, I have taken under your orders, either directly or implied, so therefore before you criticize my action or inaction, remember that I was doing what you told me to do.
"As my employer, you have every right to be unsatisfied with my performance in any given field for whatever reason. That said, you have several options at your disposal, but the confiscation of my personal property is not one of them. I handed those to you to look over, not for you to keep. If you are not going to read them, then I demand that they be returned to me immediately."
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