Darynn smiled as he pulled the robes tightly about himself. Although inside the council chamber the fires had kept the meeting comfortably warm, outside the chill of winter easily permeated the halls of the Administration Building on the College. As he walked away he had the distinct taste of victory in his mouth. He thought back... it had only been minutes earlier...
"Master Darynn," Teltirray had said, approaching him.
"Master Teltirray," he had replied gracefully.
"I wish to thank you. Your teaching of Aimeé has been wonderful. Her learning is spectacular, her skill growing appreciably in the six months you have known her. I admit, I had misgivings. After all, your... preference... did not encourage me to send her to you." He positively sneered the word 'preference,' a sure sign to him that Teltirray was still dealing with him fairly, if uncomfortably. There was no double meaning here. "I thought you had nothing to teach. I see that your knowledge of, well, men, applies to her skills very clearly." The grin he gave Darynn made the blood run cold. He wondered how much of that 'skill' was applied strictly to the healing arts in a sense of self-preservation. "I thank you, especially since you have taken upon yourself an increase in the time you spend on her training, beyond our agreement, without asking for an increase in the cost."
"Master Teltirray, Aimeé presents a challenge. I hope you do not take this wrongly, but I feel I am learning from her as I have never worked with a woman before and feel most uncomfortable doing so."
Teltirray smiled, taking Darynn's words exactly as he had expected. "I understand. Still, I appreciate beyond words what you have done to her."
"It has been a challenge. I am grateful to you."
"I apologize for interrupting you. I see you are in a hurry."
"No, merely anxious to return home. I have much to do tonight."
"Then I shall not keep you any longer. Good day."
"Good day." Teltirray had departed.
Darynn walked down the hall, enjoying his success, celebrating with quiet happiness the nurtured hope that Aimeé might survive Teltirray's abuses unharmed and that she might someday register at the College as a student... under his aegis. So complete was his self absorption that he didn't notice the woman at the end of the hall until her hand reached out and dragged him aside. "What?"
The woman stepped back out of reach as his hand came up in a defensive posture. "Whoa, Darynn! It's me!"
"Right, right! You could scare a body half to death if it didn't freeze in here first. Don't you mages believe in heat?"
"Unlike your usual clientele, mages are not likely to walk around unclothed. What are you doing here?"
"Came looking for you. I need to talk to you."
She nodded. "You're hoping she kills him, aren't you?"
"I have no idea what you're talking about," he said as he put up privacy spells as fast as he possibly could. Before she could speak again, he put his hand up to silence her. Open mouthed, she stared, then nodded and closed it again. "Now then. As I was saying, I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Aimeé and Teltirray," she said, lowering her voice to a whisper. "Some of the stuff you've been teaching her... you're hoping she kills him, aren't you?"
The room she had pulled him into was one of the side classrooms, with the teacher's desk close to the door. He sat down on it and folded his hands in his lap, grinning. "I won't cry at his funeral."
"Don't you think he'll get the least bit suspicious?"
"If he does, that's his problem. I've taken on an apprentice, Bethsany, and I usually first teach my apprentice those things he needs to survive. And besides, most of what I've taught her are spells that a select group of your clientele, and me if I were interested in women, find extremely exciting."
Bethsany's mouth cracked into an echo of Darynn's grin. "I see. Do you really think she can do it?"
Darynn stared out the window where the first heavy snow of winter was falling, making the fresh, cold air hazy and covering the campus in a layer of white. Trees were bending already with the heavy weight of packed snow and from his vantage only one brave (or foolish) soul was trying to make his way across the quadrangle. Inside the classroom, however, only the sound of breathing could be heard; the privacy spells Darynn had put up kept all sound from leaving, but it also kept sound from entering as well. No-one would investigate; privacy spells were amongst the easiest to learn, the most common to use, and the most respected. Mages valued their privacy. And Darynn was an archmage. No-one would interrupt him.
"Ultimately, Bethsany, of all the people who will ever need to defend themselves against Teltirray, if anyone can do so successfully, I think she can. I think he's given himself a challenge he's not up to."
"I don't have your magical skill, Darynn, but I have to agree with your observation. She's strong. I just hope she's strong enough."
Darynn looked out the window again. "I think we'll know before the snow melts."
"That's not a lot of time," Bethsany sighed. "I'll help in any way I can."
"Just keep teaching her to be strong, Beth. That's what she really needs. Encouragement."
"I'll do my best," she nodded, turning to leave. She reached for the doorknob, then stopped and turned around. "Darynn, I know you don't care for women's ways, but you've always been kind to me and my girls. I don't understand why, except that we understand each other." Her mouth curled into an unpleasant snarl. "I've seen what he does to the girls he gets. Get him. Please."
Darynn merely nodded as she left, closing the door behind her with a click. He turned his stare out the window again, watching the snow come down in slow, dry sheets of white.