It had taken some creative arrangement with his professors and a bit of loud cursing from Basilius, but Caius had managed to arrange on very short notice the round trip by carriage from Andaris to Bellesoir in Venora. The whole process had been irritating, rushed, and while he was very sure the visit requested by Oliver Venora, eldest and only brother of Darcyanna Venora, had less to do with the younger Gawyne's particular talents and more to do with how often he'd been seen with the blonde pianist, he wasn't about to refuse on the basis of personal inconvenience. No matter how uncomfortable the nagging feeling was that there was more under the surface of his somewhat formal invitation, he did his best to consider things from a more educated, professional one instead of from the more immediate, emotional one that gnawed at the back of his ribs from inside of his chest.
That said, he'd barely made it back to his room, let alone the carriage late in the morning of Zi'da the First. Wild, heart racing, Caius was quick to change clothes, to madly attempt to tell himself that everything that had happened, that had kept him away for the past trial and a half had perhaps been more dream than reality.
Only the young Gawyne hardly ever slept.
Everything had been real. Unreal. Beyond real. Something sarding else, and he didn't even have time to see Darcyanna, to tell her where he'd been or what he was doing, slipping his key under the mat in front of his door as his sign to the blonde Venora that he wasn't home but that his hearth was hers, Smudge always needing a cuddle and his bed for her even without him there.
And then, suddenly, he was in a carriage and blearily watching Andaris slip away. Whatever the heir-apparent Venora wanted, Caius might have over-packed reading material for the trip. Three sarding trials one way meant he'd have a lot of time to himself, even if he realized he couldn't really inhabit the interior of a carriage in the same way ever again. No, it would always feel a little different, distracting. So, he made sure to bring far too many books and not enough snacks, much to his disappointment.
That said, it was only a short matter of time, curled up in a few blankets and surrounded by his notes and books, the snowy landscape of southern Andaris slipping by fogged windows, that Caius was simply asleep. For breaks. Long, beautiful, uninterrupted stretches of sleep went by as Gustav avoided snowdrifts and a bit of ice, sloshing through muddied, rough roads, passing another carriage or two, and the printer's diri's far too busy mind greedily hoarded each precious break of sweet, delicious sleep it was allowed—the jacadon's share, for sure, and it was sarding everything
By the early morning of the third trial, the northern noble had made some headway into the start of this season's research for Professor Verigan, organized by date and first word all the snippets of information he'd managed to find on Treid's Sanctum (which was, admittedly, very light reading to be fair), worried far too much about Darcyanna alone without anyone else but Smudge for six trials too many, fretted about what Oliver Venora could have really wanted to see him for, and slept for well over half of the entire trip.
Caius felt like a new noble, crisp and dressed in an elegantly disheveled white shirt that may have had a permanent scuff of grease on the left cuff mostly hidden from view; his favorite brocade vest in the rich violet of his House colors, and comfortable, well-worn grey leather breeches tucked into even darker knee-high boots. Oh, and his thick, navy wool coat. This was, as far as he knew, a meeting of peace, and so he'd not donned his saber. He may have packed it, however, just in sarding case. He was even awake to see the lovely estate unfold out of the cold landscape and foggy windows, stirring and running permanently stained fingers through his ever-unkempt hair before Gustav opened the door and let all of the frozen, Zi'da air into the small space. It was finally once he stood in the courtyard and let the wind sting his lungs that the young Gawyne realized he was, indeed, nervous, that he allowed the weight of things he knew and things he felt settle uncomfortably into the pit of his stomach.
He sighed, warm breath a frosted cloud of mixed emotions.
Sard it all. This had better not be another Fates-be-damned fiery shitstorm. He had another three trials to even get back to Andaris so long as he survived to-trial.
The coachman was the one who led him into the estate and through the halls until he brought them both to the door of what was probably an office, a study, or Fates be praised a library perhaps.
Gustav opened the door when bid to do so and as he introduced Caius in a superfluous, formal sort of way, the young Gawyne's sharp blue gaze took in the man who rose to greet him, the older, darker-haired man who was Darcy's brother. Handsome and graceful as was expected of Oliver's House, the northern noble couldn't entirely bring himself to feel intimidated. He smiled, however, lopsided and warm, so well rested that he felt as though he could print newspapers for a handful of lifetimes and never get tired again, his heart racing, nerves tingling. Caius' handshake was firm, strong, and his fingernails still marked by the black ink of his passion,
"Lord Oliver Venora, it's good to put a face to the name I've heard so much about. Perhaps that thought is mutual."
The northern noble's tone bordered on the coy, the teasing, but he wasn't at all ignorant of the way the other man watched him. He did not return the judgmental glare, however, even if it already stung him. He was on the losing side even before he stepped out of the sarding Fates-be-damned carriage. What a cruel trick, and Caius was not about to play at a pissing contest. He was himself, only better after so much blissful sleep, and as far as he was concerned in this moment, he had nothing to prove, far more burdened by knowledge and feelings he was confident Oliver wasn't even remotely aware of,
"Thank you for having me. Even in the cold, quiet of Zi'da, Bellesoir is lovely."
The printer's diri could play at poise and manners. He found himself a seat once invited, removing his coat and running his palms over the brocade of his vest to smooth it. Even though he'd been sitting so sarding much for trials and probably could have gone more for a frigid walk outside, he willingly folded himself into a comfortable chair and watched carefully the brother of the young woman he'd become rather attached to over the briefest of two ten-trials.
He could have asked what he was here for, but Caius assumed Oliver would tell him either way.
So he kept his warm, curious expression and waited.