hree deliveries marked off the list, another five to go. If only people would hurry up to receive him, he could have been done already. Pharan looked around the small kitchen, leaning closer to the fire burning in the open hearth. A servant had come and gone with little more than the demand for him to wait and the offer of a chair.
Pharan waited. One bit passed and then another. Finally, a door at the far end of the room opened to admit an old Avriel lavishly dressed in silk—and blind. Pharan swallowed his protest.
“My apologies. I am afraid we only heat two rooms in this terrible season.” The old man closed the door behind him. “Lyvan Dovaren. Gwyth mentioned you brought a letter, from Athart?”
Pharan looked from the blind Avriel towards Gwyth who had assumed a position in the nearby corner. The servant cast him a stern look, wiggling two fingers. Pharan’s lips set into a thinner line, but then rose to his feet to bow to his host.
“Pharan Elluin. The embassy in Athart—”
Before him, Lyvan rose to his full height. “See—”, the old man turned half to Gywth. “I told you these fools would come to regret getting rid of me. Without doubt they now come crawling back in need for my advice. Who sent you? Was it Pryven? Varathin?”
“Ah, doesn’t matter. It’s always good to see people realize the errs of their ways,” Lyvan proclaimed as he dropped into a chair his servant had quickly pushed under him as he sat down at the kitchen table. “Elluin…”, he mused. “Your father’s a draper, no?”
“One of my sisters used to be tailor. She was very fond of your silks—I believe it was yours and not from that weaving mill down in the harbor.” Lyvan frowned. “…or was it?”
“The letters—”, Pharan started but was again interrupted by the man’s emphatic nodding.
“Yes, yes. The letters. I am afraid you will have to read them to me—my eyes aren’t what they used to be. You could pen a reply to my son in Athart too. Gwyth will get you quill and ink. Gwyth!”, he shouted to the man standing half a foot behind him. “And get some wine, too.”
A pause. “Of course, I will pay you for your time. No one should say I am getting parsimonious on my old days.” He laughed.
Pharan forced a smile. “It would be better your slave read the letters to you, I don’t know what they—”
“Gwyth can’t read,” Lyvan waved off. “Never teach your slave how to read I tell you—only gives them ideas. Look at Athart. So full of pretentious, insolent, haughty…”, he broke off as Gwyth stopped by his side to press a cup of wine into his gnarled hand. Briefly, he seemed lost in thought. “Anyway. How is the city?”
“The atmosphere is strange with the war in the north.” Pharan watched as Gwyth arranged parchment and ink before him on the table. “I don’t think I have ever seen so few of us around at the same time since my travels.”
Lyvan nodded. “See… that’s what I mean,” he said, his voice climbing. One of his wings knocked down a vase sitting on a chest by the fireplace. He didn’t seem to notice. “I rather be here, where the people have at least some
respect for our kind.”
Watching Lyvan’s slave hurry to pick up the glass shards from the floor, Pharan had a good idea what sort of respect the old Avriel commanded in Yithiral but he remained quiet.
Lyvan continued to talk. The old man talked as Pharan read the first letter to him (a longwinded acknowledgement from the embassy in which they thanked him for his service) and he talked as Pharan read the second and third letter (messages from aging colleagues who wished him well in Yithiral and hoped to hear from him sometimes). No one asked for his advice or even if he was coming back, but the first writing seemed to have mollified his host as he didn’t bring it up anymore. But then, maybe he had forgotten about it already. Lyvan continued to talk about his time with the embassy even as he dictated his letter. He talked as Pharan made a second fair copy of his notes after having botched the first; stopping only to admonish him for his waste of good parchment.
For the most part, Pharan only listened with half an ear. It was the moments when Lyvan mocked former colleagues over past mistakes, when he mentioned their affairs and little ignominies, Pharan paid attention, filing away what he heard for later. Still, he remained quiet.
By the time Lyvan had talked himself hoarse and they parted with the promise that Pharan would give his father his regards (if indeed he happened to be the draper his sister had been so fond of) Pharan felt richer than before his arrival—and not just in coins.