First Bowen was posthumously awarded the Silver Feather, one of the highest awards that can be bestowed upon a Rider. He could have escaped without risk of life as we were outnumbered but chose to disrupt the Wyvern flight to give others a fighting chance against insurmountable odds.
They awarded Smithson and I Bronze Feathers despite my protests that I did not deserve recognition for letting my wingman die. Smithson took me aside and told me to accept the award to honor his memory.
Grand Magus Falkenrath made some long speech that this was the highest medal awarded to an Initiate. I missed most of it, I’m not one for listening to long speeches about how great I am. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Senators and their ilk.
Graduation came a few weeks later, we were sworn in as Third Class Magii. It felt odd being a true Magus, even though I didn’t feel any different. As Thirds we didn’t live in the barracks, but had our own private, if small and Spartan, rooms.
It was great to see Nana, Marinda, the miracle baby Jorgen, and his mother, who I learned was named Ophelia.
Nana hugged me crushing my new robes a bit. It still felt awkward wearing brown third class robes. “Victor look at you. You’re so dashing in your Magus robes.”
“Thanks Nana it’s good to see you again too.”
“You look half starved! Why is it every time you leave my care for a bit you drop a few stone weight? Don’t they feed you here?”
I chuckled, “Yes Nana, but I need to keep my weight down if I’m to ride on my Raptor.”
Marinda was absently chewing on one of her fiery red braids. “Victor… umm can you…”
“Can I what?”
“You know… take me up on your falcon?”
I didn’t know what to say for a long awkward moment.
Nana shook her head, “Nonsense Marinda, you know it wouldn’t be proper for a Magus to go flitting about the skies with a young lady on his lap.”
She frowned like she had just seen a ruffian kick a puppy.
“Well Nana, Marinda is practically family isn’t she? I’ll see what I can do.”
“You mean it? Thanks Victor.” She said as she threw her arms around my neck.
Raven came over with a grey haired but strong woman, “Victor aren’t you going to introduce me to your family?”
“Yes of course,” I gestured to each of my companions, “Raven, this is Nana, she’s my… surrogate mother, This firey young woman, is her adoped daughter Marinda.” I held out my gloved finger for the baby boy to grab, “This young lad is Jorgen Junior, he’s the one who fell from heaven twice, and his mother Ophelia.”
The young widow smiled, “Pleasure to meet you.”
“Family, this is Third Class Magus Raven Rivers, and…”
“My mother, Roshani Rivers.”
Hugs, handshakes, and the like were exchanged. We spent the better part of an hour in the banquet room having light refreshments and talking to the families of the graduating initiates. Spoon’s father was not what I had envisioned. Yes he was a shrewd businessman but he knew his son could act like a little emperor.
After a while Nana found me as I took a bite of a profiterole pastry. “Ah good, you do eat.”
She slid up close and tugged on my brown robe to get my ear closer to her mouth. “This Raven girl is cute but what about Carolyn?”
I swallowed hard. “It’s… complicated.”
“Nonsense, affairs of the heart may be confusing at times but they never are truly complicated.”
My head began to hurt, I looked around, no one was nearby so I figured I’d unload on her, “I like both of them, but Carolyn threatened to kill Raven if I don’t choose her. Magii are not forbidden to marry, but it would be unseemly for one of a higher station to fraternize with those of a lower. And someone wrote with magic ink on my letter from the Council that if I hurt, Carolyn I’ll beg for a quick death. So yes, things are complicated.”
Nana stood stunned for a moment, I could tell she was thinking, hard.
“What no advice?”
“Victor, it seems to me as if you are standing on a precipice with a raging fire nipping at your heels. You can choose to immolate yourself or jump and hope to survive with shattered legs.”
“That’s very comforting, thank you.”
She gave me a friendly pat on the hand, “Look Victor, I would love to tell you what to do, but I don’t have the faintest notion of how to help you.”
Marinda and I were able to sneak away and take a quick flight on the back of Windrider. The girl at first was terrified and clung to my robes like a frightened child. After a few moments when she realized she wasn’t going to fall off, she cried out in joy.
Once we landed I saw she was wearing the biggest grin I’d ever seen on her face. “Thank you brother.” She said then skipped away.
A few hours later after the family members had left for home, or lodging in the city, I retired to my quarters. I sat on the edge of the bed and tried to bore a hole in the floor with my headache. What I wouldn’t have given for a couple of ibuprofen.
Umm Victor, you didn’t know about modern pain pills back then.
True but I do now.
As I sat stewing in my self-pity there was a knock at the door.
The door creaked and swung inward. Raven was standing in my doorway, lit by my lone illumistone. I waved her in and shut the door behind her.
“What are you doing here?”
“You have a lovely family…”
I cut her off with a finger across the throat. I opened a desk drawer and pulled out an inked stone with white symbols on it.
“What is that?”
I shook my head and whispered the command to activate it. “Moenia aures habent.” The air in the room seemed to thicken for a moment as the ward began glowing. “It’s a privacy ward.”
“How did you manage to get one of those?”
I smiled, “I studied the ward of Magus Cooke, and made my own.”
“How does it work?”
“I’m not sure, but it does use Mind White, so I’d imagine it’s like our comm stones but in reverse.”
It was then that it dawned on me, I was alone in my room with Raven. “Why are you here?”
She dropped her robes to floor.
“Wyvern take me. Put your clothes back on.”
“What?” She asked as she stood in the middle of my room in her underclothes. “What’s wrong? I thought you… you didn’t seem to mind the last time. In fact I seem to recall…”
“Please, put your robes back on.”
She did, slowly, which made it that much more agonizing, “There is that better?”
“Yes, please have a seat.” I pointed to my lone chair.
“Why are you so afraid of Carolyn?” She asked. I hadn’t expected such a direct question.
“Well I… umm.” I took a breath to compose myself, she sat there expressionless. “I do not know how to tell you this.”
She rubbed the scar on her head, “Just tell me.”
I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure how she’d react to the news that a Magus Lector, had threatened to kill her.
“Stop being a silly little boy and tell me.”
I sighed, “Fine. Carolyn told me in no uncertain terms, ‘don’t make me kill her.’”
She sat silently, working through what I had just said over and over in her mind. Her expression became one of disgust and anger. “Why? Why would she want to kill me?”
The pounding in my skull redoubled, “She is or was in love with me, and I believe is jealous of you.”
“Why would she be jealous of me?” She asked leaning forward in her chair.
“You’re more beautiful, exotic, and younger than she.”
“Do you really believe such things?”
I swallowed hard, “I do.”
She kissed me, pressing her dark lips against mine. I kissed her back, to the hells with Carolyn.
A while later we separated and I asked, “What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know.” She said with a coy grin. “Right now? Some more kissing.”
I couldn’t have stopped her had I wanted to.