A/N: Trust issues and thievery. =) It seems we also got our first troll rating of 0 stars. First hater, so we're in the big leagues now!
As Sarfina pushed her wheelchair towards the mansion, Dee got a chance to observe the mansion and its surroundings. The mansion was mostly made of white stone and seemed to be roughly T-shaped. The mansion had several large balconies, including a large round one above the main entrance. The mansion also seemed to mostly be two floors above ground, with no way to tell if there were underground floors without entering. Much of the walls were covered in decorative vines and ivy.
The grounds were immaculate and covered mostly in landscaped trees, bushes and flowers. Every bush was perfectly and neatly trimmed as were the trees lining most of the walking paths, while the flowers gave the feeling of growing wildly. Dee could see that feeling to be a lie by how perfectly the ‘wild’ image was arranged. Most of the backyard was not visible, and she suspected most of the garden to be there. The front was for guests and parties. There was a wide paved path for carriages and mounts that ended in a small plaza in front of the steps that lead to a pair of wide double front doors made of some black heavy wood. There was a small fountain in front of the main doors in the middle of the plaza, which forced any carriages to circle the fountain, allowing for a smooth traffic in case of large gatherings.
“I’m afraid the house isn’t very wheelchair friendly.” Sarfina whispered to Dee.
“That’s hardly a problem. I don’t really need one. The healers cleared me for light exercise, for as long as I don’t do anything stupid like fighting or running around with no regard for my health. In fact, wasn’t it you and Mazatl that brought the wheelchair with you? I’m pretty sure the healers would’ve allowed me to walk to the freelancer’s guild if I had asked.” Dee pointed out with a raised eyebrow.
Sarfina gave a small grin. “That was on purpose. It makes things go smoother if various people think that you are still injured. People tend to treat injured kids with more care.”
“Well, I think I’ll manage a house tour without.” Dee said with a small shake of her head.
‘The captain might be smarter than your memories gave her credit for.’ Croestia suddenly pointed out silently.
‘She probably is. My evaluation was most likely skewed by the so called interrogation she gave me. Fooling her was a bit too easy, but it might have been just because she has a soft spot for kids.’ Dee replied with her thoughts after a moment of consideration.
‘You might want to be at least a little careful for now. She can be very useful, but it’s too early for her to really trust you.’ Croestia advised.
‘I’ll keep that in mind.’ Dee replied curtly as they entered thought the main doors of the mansion, Sarfina offering Dee some unnecessary support for walking to keep up appearances for the servants.
Dee noted that indoors most of the stone walls were covered with wooden features with warm colors to give a more friendly and comfortable impression. The main doors opened into a large room that was clearly meant to impress guests that were most often received here. The large room was apparently the center of the T-shape, with two pairs of double doors leading to the three directions for a total of six pairs. There was a pair of curved and wide stone stairs leading to the landing of the second floor, straight across from the main door. Dee suspected that the landing would have identical doors, as well as a way to enter the balcony she had seen earlier.
The room was large enough to hold about a hundred people comfortably. She could see that the doors on the left lead to a large ballroom, so the mansion had capacity for large parties. The doors on the right were closed, but Dee could guess by the appearances of the doors that they most likely lead to the servant’s quarters, kitchens and so on. The middle doors would most likely be for the living space of whoever owned the mansion, in this case Sarfina, as well as guest rooms and various other rooms such as library, offices and so on.
Sarfina quickly confirmed her guesses as she explained that the function of the three main wings of the house. The left wing was for official business and parties, right for servants and the main wing for everything else. As they walked into the main wing, Dee noted that all of the walls had paintings of dignified looking elven nobility and battle scenes, several decorative weapons, as well as flags and pennants. They seemed to be the official trappings of House Arazana.
“Shouldn’t most of these be located wherever your family normally lives? They seem rather important and precious, if somewhat impersonal, for a house they built just for you.” Dee asked pointing out at the paintings and flags.
“Unfortunately my family has no lack of such items. They have enough to decorate a dozen mansions even without counting those adorning the walls of the main house.” Sarfina replied with a small mirthless laugh. “I told them I could make do without but as you can see…”
“Well, beats naked walls I suppose.” Dee replied, realizing this was not a subject she should go too deeply into just yet.
After touring the house and finding the library, offices, dining rooms and importantly toilets, they finally reached the area with the master bedroom. The hallway leading up to it had several doors for what Dee supposed were for guests and family. Maybe some of them were also meant for Sarfina’s future children. Each room seemed to have another smaller room connected, which Dee assumed were for personal servants. The master bedroom had two such servant’s rooms and was at the end of the hallway.
As they entered Sarfina’s rooms, Dee was unsurprised to see that it was rather sparse in decoration and clearly showed that a soldier lived here. There were some allowances for Sarfina’s apparent family status with a large dressing mirror and a huge walk-in closet with several apparently unused dresses. What were used were several pieces of light and heavy armor, as well as weapons and the equipment used to take care of them. There was also a large amount of books scattered around the otherwise fairly ordered room. Apparently Sarfina was an avid reader, but wasn’t so great at finishing books.
As the room was at the end of the main wing, there were large windows and a balcony that adjoined other rooms on three sides. As Dee walked to the balcony, she could see the large gardens and grounds that were hidden by the mansion before. While much of the gardens were decorative with flowers, trees and gazebos, there was also a sense of utility. There were several areas clearly dedicated for Sarfina’s personal training, as well as a large swimming pool that covered a sizeable portion of the garden. Dee had been shown the bathing area inside the house, so the pool was clearly meant for exercise.
“I see you noticed the good parts of the house.” Sarfina said from behind Dee with some pride in her voice. She might not have had much say in the construction of the house otherwise, but the back gardens were usually hidden from the eyes of the visitors, so she could at least make that part of the house useful. The pool in particular was her favorite.
“I see some things I’ll learn to hate in time.” Dee replied wryly, as she noticed some training areas that Sarfina would surely use to torture her when she fully recovered.
Sarfina formed a slightly evil grin, understanding where Dee’s mind was headed. “True enough, but at least we have the pool. Swimming is the best way I know for a woman to build balanced muscle and stamina while still remaining well proportioned. How’s your swimming?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never actually swum before. I’m slightly surprised that wasn’t taught to us by the Zabaniya, but I suppose the benefits weren’t good enough compared to the time and effort required. Also, my experiences with being submerged in liquid aren’t exactly pleasant.” Dee replied with a small shudder, remembering the times she had been submerged in boiling blood to give her fur the ability resist attacks.
Sarfina was slightly curious about the shudder and Dee’s words, but decided against asking further for now. She could think of several reasons for Dee’s reaction, and none of them were pleasant. Most of them were related to torture. “Well, that’s something you’ll have to learn to get over quickly, because your training will include a lot of swimming. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a good way to build both stamina and muscle at the same time. It’s also rather safe, and doesn’t leave you as unbalanced as many other similar activities would.”
Sarfina didn’t repeat that it was also something that would help build Dee’s appearance. There was no way a templar like her could avoid building muscle, but swimming would help avoid the excessively muscled and bulky look sometimes seen on some of the women and most of the men. Although holy power, and in Dee’s case her psionic power, were the most important part for their strength, it was also necessary to improve the body and muscles. She wasn’t aware that Dee had that part well covered due to the work Zabaniya had done on her, though exercise would still be useful for her too.
“I don’t mind learning, but there is a slight hindrance.” Dee said, while pointing with her thumb towards her two waving tails. Her fur was otherwise rather sleek and short and wouldn’t be a problem for swimming, but her two tails were rather fluffy and might get somewhat bothersome while wet. Add to that the fact that she would most likely grow more tails in the future, as her kitsune heritage did came from the famed nine-tailed fox.
“Oh right, there is that. Well no matter, it’s just something you’ll have to get used to. It’s not like beastmen or even animals have trouble swimming. I’m not going to let you run away from this so you might as well get used to the idea.” Sarfina finished with her evil grin back.
Dee’s room was the next large room right by Sarfina’s master bedroom. It was still rather barren as it had no personal effects or clothing. It was kept clean by the servants though. It soon became clear that Dee had nothing aside from the clothes given to her by the healers, especially since her clothes from Zabaniya had been destroyed. Dee wasn’t exactly sad about that loss. She also neglected to mention all the things stored inside Croestia as it would be a little hard to explain.
Sarfina sent the servants out to purchase the necessary personal effects and clothes appropriate for a templar in training. She also secretly ordered the servants to buy a couple of cute dresses as she hoped there would be a chance to dress Dee up in them later on, but those would remain a secret for now. As Dee was rather used to not having a lot of things, she was quite happy just to have a soft bed and a relatively safe place to sleep in.
Sarfina had already sent word to the healers that Dee would be spending the night, so she decided to accept Sarfina’s hospitality. Not that she had much choice. Sarfina seemed to be part of the “It’s easier to apologize afterwards than it is to get permission beforehand.” –faction. That was fine, considering Dee would most likely also belong to that group, although apologizing wasn’t her thing.
Now that she had a better idea about her level of strength, it was easier to practice the psionic techniques she had received from Croestia. She had received a meditation technique for cultivation and a technique used for combat. The combat technique was very promising and would be a slight exception to the rule of only learning one technique at a time, because this particular technique was something that would take a short time to learn but a lifetime to truly master.
She was practicing the technique after Sarfina left her alone. “This seems handy.” Dee half-heartedly said to Croestia as she managed to materialize a flickering purple shield of psionic energy. It didn’t have a proper shape yet, and the edges were fuzzy at best, but it was a start.
“Indeed. According to the notes my old self left, this should become one of the two most powerful techniques I have stored, once mastered.” Croestia replied in a satisfied voice. She was happy that her master seemed to be a quick study as that would make for a bright future.
The technique had two main parts, one for offence and one for defense. Dee was practicing the defense part first as she was already pretty decent on offence due to her training as an assassin. The technique allowed you to form either weapons or a shield from the user’s psionic energy. That in itself was pretty nice, as a sudden appearance of a weapon or a shield would be great when used correctly. However, the best part of the technique lied in how they could be used.
The user could utilize them normally as a standard weapon or a shield, or the user could activate the special ability at the right moment to strengthen the technique. On defense the shield could theoretically block any attack, as it drained the user’s power to strengthen the shield. The power used would be exactly enough to block the attack and not a bit more or less, which was great for efficiency as mages in particular often wasted power on too strong defenses, just in case of surprise attacks.
On offence, the psionic weapon could theoretically cut through anything and would once again drain enough power to achieve that effect and not a bit more or less. This promised a potentially unrivaled offence as the technique was capable of easily slicing a dragon in two if the user had enough power. Theoretically.
The problem was that the skill required quite a bit of mastery to use properly. You could put only so much power into the technique, and if the power was not enough to achieve the desired effect then both the weapon and the shield would simply shatter, draining quite a bit of power as backlash. As your mastery over the technique increased, the more power you could put into it and the efficiency also increased. At first it might take all your power to cut through a normal tree, but with increased efficiency you could do the same with almost no power used, even if the amount of power you had stayed the same. As you gained experience with the technique, you could also form a wider variety of weapons.
Currently Dee wasn’t even able to form the simplest shield, and she hadn’t even tried a weapon yet, but she could see the potential hidden in the technique. The potential surprise factor especially appealed to her as an assassin. “I wonder if I can make throwing weapons or even arrows in the future with this technique.” She mused mostly to herself.
“Oh, I though you would be more interested in creating a normal weapon. I would imagine you didn’t miss the potential applications of being able to slice your opponents weapon in two?” Croestia answered.
“Oh that occurred to me all right, but normal weapons are easy to get, plus I’m not planning on revealing my ability that easily. I think the element of surprise is more important. However, this technique, as well as the other one you gave me made something obvious. We have a problem.” Dee said with a small grimace.
“Which is?” Croestia asked with some curiosity.
“Getting techniques from you is all good and fine, but I really need a teacher. I have questions, but I have no one capable of answering them. That meditation technique in particular. I feel there’s something wrong with it, but I can’t quite put my finger on what. If I had a teacher, I could ask them. The real worrying thing is that there might be a hundred things I don’t know about, and I would have no idea until it’s too late.” Dee said still half lost in thought, trying to figure out what really was bothering her about the meditation technique.
“You could ask Sarfina. She would probably be willing to arrange something.” Croestia pointed out.
“That might not be as simple as you say. I get the feeling that psions capable of being a teacher are rare, and from what I can see, the templars don’t seem to have any available. I think she’s also more eager to teach me templar and holy abilities instead. Her willingness to give her best to find me a teacher that would distract from that path is a bit questionable at this point. Besides, I don’t want just any teacher; I’m going to need a really good teacher if I’m ever going to achieve any of my goals.” Dee said, finally paying full attention.
“So what will you do?” Croestia asked.
“I’m going to start by sounding out Mazatl’s opinion. She seems like someone who would be more receptive to the idea. And if I frame things well, she might even keep it a secret from Sarfina.” Dee replied with a tentative plan.
“And if she won’t help?” Croestia asked to prepare Dee for the possibility. Always have a plan in case of failure.
“I’m fairly sure that we can at least get some hints. However, it might be necessary to take some time with this. I’d rather take my time while improving in other areas than settle for a mediocre teacher.” Dee replied coming to a decision.
The next morning was somewhat interesting for Dee. First she had trouble sleeping properly, because the bed had been too soft. Although she’d spent some weeks using the bed in the infirmary, that bed was enchanted to ease the sleep of often troubled patients. The last five years of her life had been spent sleeping on a bunk that was often harder than the stone floor. Dee also had plenty of experience with the floor, as the masters and researchers usually just tossed her on the floor if she unable to move by herself. As such, she had spent just about as many nights on the cold stone floor as on the slightly less cold but equally hard bed.
She finally ended up sleeping on one of the support beams near the ceiling because that place felt both safer and more comfortable. Secondly, she had watched as the servants had entered her room near the crack of dawn to bring in some of the items they had bought the day before. Of course, she had been awake before they even touched the door handle, and the servants seemed somewhat disappointed that they had not managed to wake her up with their needlessly loud actions.
The servants could’ve brought the items in the previous night when they were bought, but they thought this was more troublesome for Dee. This wasn’t the only way the servants showed their disdain towards her. The items they had brought were at best shabby quality. Considering the area they were in, it must have taken them more effort to find these shabby items than it would’ve taken to find proper quality items. The message was clear though, Dee’s presence was unwanted. They wouldn’t say it in words of course, but they didn’t have to.
This was something she would have to deal with sooner rather than later. The silent condemnation of the servants didn’t even faze her when compared to things she was used to, but she disliked the smug disrespect directed towards her. If she didn’t deal with it, it would make her look weak and incapable. It would also be more problematic to live here if the servants were going to drag their heels at every turn. For now it was mostly harmless, but it might become important later on. Besides, dealing with it might even be fun.
She chose the most decent set of clothes out of the bunch before meeting with Sarfina. They were going back to the infirmary to do a final checkup, as well as to get Dee enrolled as a trainee. They would also have to make her living arrangements official, which would take some paperwork and informing certain people. The most important person of them was of course Mazatl, who’d now have to come here to give Dee her lessons. Or they would have to arrange for Dee to go to the saurian, whichever ended up working better.
They once again took along the wheelchair, although Sarfina did promise that the need for it would cease once they got Dee officially released from the infirmary. The chair was on loan anyway. The medical check was actually fairly quick, with the resident priestess using her powers to delve inside Dee’s body.
“Alright, there’s nothing really wrong with your body anymore, so you are cleared to leave. However, that’s not a license to get into fights straight away.” The dwarven priestess looked at Dee rather sternly. Dee assumed she looked sternly at everyone. She also assumed that her presence in the infirmary was in part an attempt to discourage anyone from getting injured again.
“Your condition isn’t completely recovered even though the damage is gone. I would start off with light exercise, but at the very least I’d avoid anything too strenuous for at least a week. Your rather unique…heritage is rather problematic when it comes to making a good diagnosis. That said, I wouldn’t stay idle either. It’s important to get yourself moving before long.”
“Thanks for your advice.” Dee replied with a small smile. She could already feel her werewolf heritage kicking in normally, so she was actually slightly better off than the priestess thought. No need to mention that though.
“As if your type ever listened to such advice. Nevertheless I give it.” The priestess scoffed. “On a completely unrelated note, could I ask Captain Sarfina to look into something for me?”
“Oh, what can I do for you?” Sarfina asked surprised.
“There have been several surgical knives going missing lately. We don’t have that much use for them since most of our healing is done magically, but we do need them on occasion. It’s rather bothersome, so if you would be so kind as to look into it?” The priestess asked.
“Surgical knives is it?” Sarfina asked back in a level voice, looking meaningfully at Dee on a hunch. Dee looked away with such exaggerated innocence, that it was obvious to Sarfina that she was the culprit. “Be at peace priestess, I have a hunch that I can prevent the disappearance of further knives, though I can’t be sure I can return what has already gone missing.”
“That’s fine. They’re rather cheap. It’s just that it would be bothersome to not have one when it is needed. I’ll thank you in advance.” The priestess either didn’t notice the look Sarfina had given Dee, or pretended not to. It was rather coincidental that she had brought the matter up with Sarfina in Dee’s presence, so the latter seemed more likely.
As they walked out of the infirmary, Sarfina couldn’t help asking. “So surgical knives? You think there will be further disappearances?”
“I’m rather sure there won’t be. They have rather crummy balance, so they’re almost useless for throwing. They’re also too flimsy to be used in a proper fight. They’re nicely sharp though, so if you catch someone by surprise…” Dee replied without a shred of shame.
“So why exactly did you pilfer knives?” Sarfina asked with another raised eyebrow.
“Half on instinct honed by training. No proper assassin ignores weapons when they are available and you’re unarmed. I also woke up in a strange environment with people I didn’t recognize. Of course I took the chance to arm myself. Though some proper weapons would’ve been much preferable.” Dee murmured the last bit in a low enough voice that Sarfina almost missed it.
“I suppose we did keep you away from any easy to steal weapons now that I think of it.” Sarfina mused to herself. It was a lot harder to steal a guard’s main weapon when they were so attached to them due to training with them day and night. Dee also hadn’t met that many armed people after coming here, not to mention finding an armory.
“You could at least take me somewhere I can get a set of decent throwing knives. Who knows when I might need them? The other templar aren’t exactly happy with me, and I’d rather avoid gutting one of your friends with a surgical blade. Also I want to test them myself, so no servants this time. If my life relies on them, I want them to be exactly to my tastes.” Dee pressed on as she noticed the opportunity.
Sarfina answered with a small sigh. “I guess we might as well. If I’m going to trust you enough to live with me, there’s no point in endangering you by not giving you means to defend yourself. Besides, throwing weapons won’t clash with your future training unlike how some other weapons might.”
“Also, can we visit the restaurant we went to yesterday? Their food was excellent.” Dee asked with a cheeky laugh.