Epilogue – A New Role
Just more than a month and a half had passed from the day that the truth of who he was became known throughout the palace…then it had spread across the kingdom. Shock had been common, fear had been a bit more uncommon (quite surprisingly), but it had been the joy that had truly stunned him. Nine communities had been said to genuinely celebrate hearing he had returned and they were all asking him to come visit them. He was unsure about accepting any of the requests, though. He wasn't sure how those towns would receive him, considering he felt his story would have become more of an embellished legend than historical truth. But his princess had told him they'd do a progress around the kingdom after their wedding and visit those places.
She had refused to let her father call it off – and her mother and sisters actually helped argue for their match after seeing them interacting. A week after his true identity was revealed, she'd spent an entire day with her mother, the steward, the seamstresses, and her ladies-in-waiting, working in earnest to plan the wedding. She had officially presented him his diadem the evening after that – at dinner so everyone knew he possessed it and why. She was considering having him move his possession to her rooms before the wedding, too – considering Olsht now knew how he got to her rooms, which he was not happy to learn.
The people in the palace – from the youngest page to the oldest master – had been extremely wary of him at first, but the king's change in demeanor and the recounting of how he'd "drawn the darkness" from him had granted him some grudging respect and cautious trust. Of course, his true identity had also drawn a few of the apprentices to him – privately – to ask him if he'd teach them dark magic. He hadn't been shocked that Peligor had been among them. He told them all the same thing, though – that since he couldn't tell if learning dark magic would destroy them or not, he wouldn't teach them because he didn't want to be responsible for their death or their insanity.
Then there was the fact the two masters who had dark magic on them hadn't been in the palace since just after solstice, so he hadn't been able to find out what that magic actually was. He had gotten the agreement of the guards to let him know the moment either of them returned so he could check them over and dispel whatever it was if it was detrimental.
The nobleman who also had dark magic on him, however, Iratannus caught trying to leave after the man learned about him – but that magic was just protections and, no, he wasn't going to explain where he got them from but, yes, he did know they were on him. The man's teenaged son had the same magic on him, so he suspected the answer was that they knew a dark sorcerer like him and didn't trust Iratannus with the knowledge of who it was.
Then, among all the problems they were dealing with between Galst and his true identity, another – albeit more minor – problem arose.
An intense rain had come a month ago. His pretty mage hadn't remembered about the fact the stability magic he'd put up before he'd possessed Geldron was likely fading until after she saw the roof of the abandoned wing had begun to visibly sag. It was too late at that point for him to go try to save anything and she'd cried when the collapse happened only days later – half the roof caving in, taking the conservatory with it. But it had also finally gotten the king to bring people in to deal with it, after berating her for failing to tell them just how bad it had truly been.
Today they were discussing the findings from the engineers on how best to bring the rest of it down.
He had decided to stay out of it, knowing his pretty mage would speak on his behalf. He knew that formalizing the plan for demolition was the main goal, but he was worried about what they would do with his workrooms beneath the wing. He didn't want to lose them. He might need them in the future, especially since nearly everyone was always watching him for signs he was using dark magic. It was rather annoying, honestly.
But, right now, the hum of the workroom he'd chosen to work on a potion in was much like normal and it was…comforting. He hadn't been sure how things would turn out after the revelation that he was a blood mage, but he hadn't thought things would return to basically the way they had been when everyone thought he was Geldron but, for the most part, they had. The apprentices and masters were still quite suspicious of his projects, but if he sat and started working and wasn't acting overtly dark sorcerer they started to ignore his presence and he could work in peace.
While the distillation array he was using did its work, he ran through all he'd been told in the past days about matters in Kaivay March, though he was surprised he was still involved with that at all. Byram had taken the mantle of marquis and had gone to start handling matters in person. The two of them had, strangely, become something akin to friends in the previous weeks. The young nobleman was doing an excellent job regarding managing the march, according to both the justiciar's people who were still there and the steward Iratannus had picked (and that Byram had decided to keep).
Then his thoughts were interrupted when a hand slid over his shoulder and he sighed happily, because he would know that touch anywhere. "My pretty mage."
A kiss brushed over his cheek. "My helpful revenant."
He smiled, turning his head to look at her. "Please tell me you're here with good news."
"I am here with news."
"The demolition of the wing will occur once they've retrieved what's salvageable. The librarians are going to try to save some of the books from Ajerrin's private library, since it survived the collapse intact. The jewelry and other valuables are going to be hunted for. Artists are being brought in to see if any of the paintings can be saved. They're going to carefully dismantle what's left of the stained glass window since it was barely damaged in the collapse. I'm thinking of finding a way to incorporate that glass into the conservatory."
"So the conservatory is approved?"
She nodded as she slid into his lap, despite his precarious seat on a stool. "And the garden courtyard. The gardeners are ecstatic over the thought of new beds to plant, but I'm going to let you work with them on that, so the outside garden can be as similar as you'd like to the one you used to have there."
Oh, he liked that. "I will insist on a greening witch being added to the gardening staff to be the primary caretaker."
"I already mentioned to father that we should invite one, but apparently most don't like living in the middle of the capital, which is why we don't currently have any on staff, but we're still going to put out an announcement to the kingdom at large that we're looking for a greening witch for the gardens."
"That…we'll talk about tonight."
He frowned. "Why not now? I'm not really busy."
"Ah, but you will be."
He tilted his head, confused and curious. "Busy with what?"
"Well, I know you've discussed the possibility with Olsht but Master Rysin finally convinced Father and Master Roshkel that since we now have access to a dark sorcerer who 'isn't a complete madman' that it would be highly beneficial to have you teach the royal guards, at the very least, to sense dark and blood magic. Roshkel also grudgingly said he needed to learn more about sensing dark magic, too, but he's leaving in a few days to help with matters in Kaivay and so they'd like the lesson to start today. Though…" She looked over the array he had set up. "Are you able to leave this?"
"It's just distilling a tincture." Two of the senior healers had warily approached him to ask about 'old remedies' for cataracts. He told them he knew one that worked wonderfully, but they might not like how it's made. Shockingly, they'd said as long as it was safe and wasn't blood magic, they'd be willing to try it. So here he was. "It can do its work without me here for several hours. I was more just waiting for you to get done."
She slid out of his lap with a smile and took his hand. "Then come on."
He followed her out of the workrooms, hand-in-hand. "I'm sure you're going to design the new conservatory. What are you planning?"
"Well, I have permission to use however much of the land from the old wing as I wish, but I probably won't make a conservatory that big. And…I'd like your input, because I want to have some echo of your citadel in it."
First the courtyard and now the conservatory? He stopped her and turned her to him, kissing her. "You are a wonder, my princess."
The smile she gave him…he'd never get tired of seeing it.
Then they continued on to…wherever she was taking them. Or, well, Nalfrin was guiding them, actually. They returned to the cellars of the South Wing, to the same area, though not the same chamber, as he'd taken his oath in. The way the corridor and chambers were made here, he was pretty sure this was once the royal prison when the palace was first built. Now that was located under the healer's wing, which he'd learned when the justiciar had asked him to help her with ensuring the dark sorcerers from Galst weren't going to cause problems. He'd also gotten to help interrogate them, which had been lots of fun, even if he hadn't bled them at all.
As they neared the room he knew they were headed for, he stopped and sighed exasperatedly at the feel of powerful shields that gave away the presence of someone within. After excusing himself, he translocated back to his room and then returned to his pretty mage – he couldn't go to the corridor, which meant it was encased in similar magic as the Royal Wing. He hummed while he set fire to the bundle of herbs he'd pulled from his private potions kit and then murmured a spell into the smoke before guiding it into the room. A moment later he smirked when the hacking coughs started.
That was the start of a very lengthy lesson with the Chief Battle Mage about subtlety and discretion. He instructed him in how to have effective shields against dark magic without announcing his presence with them. He also told him to be aware of scents of any sort, as smoke was an ideal medium for carrying dark magic spells and, thankfully, the man already had a good filtering spell, but he helped him improve on that. He also strongly suggested Krins learn gestures for his most used spells, because if he was ever muted or having a coughing fit like Iratannus had caused with the smoke earlier – or even hoarse, for some spells – it would be potentially life-saving to know those gestures.
When he left to go check on the tincture, he could see how the Chief Battle Mage, who had been scowling every time they saw one another in the past weeks, had changed his opinion of having a dark sorcerer among them now. There was still cautiousness there, he was still wary, but getting straightforward help for defeating dark sorcerers from a dark sorcerer had clearly helped him consider Iratannus as a possible ally, not an enemy.
It was difficult to wait until that evening to hear what his pretty mage had to tell him, but he did wait…though the moment he was in her rooms, he immediately asked her: "So what news do you have for me?"
"I talked to Father about you having somewhere to do your magic since it's probably best for you to not do that in the palace. He's very grudgingly agreed to let you keep your workrooms for your 'vile magic' as long as you allow them to be inspected, without notice, to ensure you aren't bleeding people or weaving worrying magics. We're to work out how to provide access to them, since you won't be allowed to block them off, but it also has to keep others out that aren't invited in."
He just stared at her. He hadn't expected the concession – at all. He'd feared he'd be forced to do any dark magic in full view of the masters – which worried him, since some of them had seemed interested, even if none of them had actually asked for lessons like the apprentices had. "How much effort did you have to put into convincing him?"
"Not as much as I'd feared. I think he, like many others in the palace, are already growing accustomed to your presence. You just have to make sure you continue to give no one reason to doubt your trustworthiness."
"I'm not going to purposefully do anything. That would cause too many problems. You all have enough of those already without me adding more by acting questionably."
"But you're helping to remedy our problems, my revenant, as I keep pointing out to Father." She kissed him. "You'll get there. You're going to earn their trust, their respect, their admiration."
"I hope you're right, pretty mage. I don't know if I'll ever stop fearing my presence will destroy the kingdom."
"So you say…"
"Yes, so I say." And she rose up on her toes and kissed him.
Thank you for reading the first of Safondra and Iratannus's stories! If you enjoyed it, please leave me a review to let me know! :) I posted the first chapter of the second story - "The Perpetual King" - after I posted the epilogue here. If you read it, I hope you'll enjoy the continuation of their story. Thanks!