His desk was stacked with abandoned articles and bits of paper with hasty notes. He hadn't written much for the Gazette lately, using the excuse of being too busy with the Iron Hand and travelling to the duchy and Andaris. It had worked... for the most part. Andraska knew he needed to at least do a bit of writing if he wanted to keep his job, but lurking around and interviewing had been depressing after the war, and he wanted something fresh.
He approached the editor and pressed his palms against the desk, leaning forward while the woman had her head bowed as she previewed some documents. She didn't even look up from her work when she addressed him, "Yeees?"
Andraska was quick on the follow up, "I want to start something new in the Gazette," he gushed, rushing his words before she could shoot him down, "An advice column. The people aren't in the best spirits, since... the war, and everything. I thought this would be a nice change of pace considering all the blood and wanted ads. I could use a pseudonym, right?" He watched her hands slow in their work, and he could tell by the stillness of her body that she was listening. He continued, "People would want to buy more papers, to see if their questions were answered. Our sales would go up."
She finally lifted her face, her lips pursed in thought, "You want to write the advice?" she smirked, as if the prospect was amusing, but he took it as a good sign.
"Why not? I've been part of the upper class, but I'm working like the rest of you. I have been in a war, I've been to parties. Socialite or not, I'm the best of both worlds."
"What if women want advice on housework, will you advise them too?"
"I... will." He didn't know a lot about that particular topic, but figured he could learn, "We have a library for a reason. C'mon. We can put up a wanted ad, have people send stuff in. It will create a whole new relationship between our readers and the staff. Loyalty." And in case she still wasn't persuaded, Andras added a bit of bandwagon, a tactic he knew worked well in Sabbaisant, "All the biggest writer's in Sabbaisant are doing it..."
He trailed off, looking out the window innocently, but smiled when she rolled her eyes. "Then why aren't their names as big as ours?" she countered.
She relented, "If you can get me a mock write up, something edited and ready for print, I'll look it over," she noticed Andraska's growing smile and held up a finger, "But I swear to the seven Venora, if I hate it, we're not putting it in."
But Andras was already rushing out the door, ready to get his new assignment started.
He was surprised by how fast he received his first submission. Within hours of posting the ad on the city boards, a messenger was already delivering a letter to his desk. He snatched it from her hand, "Thank you!" Andras was giddy with excitement. Already his luck was proving to be true, and he realized she hovered by the door, waiting for payment, "Oh, yeah... Uh, the lady at the front desk will pay you, or... Put it on the Gazette tab?"
Was that a thing? He shrugged, sliding back into his seat and breaking the seal as fast as he could. Like a child opening a festival gift, he unfolded it and his eyes scanned the contents. It was... perfect.
Romantic intrigue! Unrequited love! Who knew the city of Andaris to be such a romantic? It read as follows:
Dear Gazette Advice Columnist,
The girl I thought I'd marry left Andaris last season and I don't know when she's coming back.
The trouble is, we weren't engaged. Not exactly. I've known her for eight arcs and we've been seeing each other on and off. We get along really well, and I thought that someday she'd come around to the idea of marriage. But then she left Andaris with another man (a man who she claims is "just a friend"), despite me begging her to stay.
She promised to come back and part of me wants to wait for her, but another part of me wants to cut my losses and move on. I'm twenty-five and ready to find a good woman and settle down.
I need some advice. What do you think I should do?
A Confused Knight
Andraska snatched up his quill and flexed his fingers. He mulled over the question. How would he handle it? Well, starting off, he wouldn't have been running after a woman for so long without reciprocation. This knight was trying to persuade the woman. Really? Momentarily, he wondered if he knew the knight in question, and chewed the inside of his lip, bringing his first words to the page.
Dear Confused Knight,
Andras thought of his own date with Margery, still so fresh in his mind. He thought of how it had went, and briefly questioned his own experiences in love... Maybe he wasn't the best person to ask... But then again, they weren't asking him, they were asking...
His eyes trailed across the room, the the stone walls and mahogany wood of the floors. The vial of ink caught his attention, it's contents murky and black as cole. Cole! That would be his name.
He smiled, finding inspiration in his surroundings: Gazette Advice Columnist? Please, call me Cole...
Andraska hesitated, a lesson from his childhood creeping into his mind. He thought of the twin goddesses, Pri and Pier and looked around. No one to bother him, and so he closed his eyes, and said a soft prayer, "Alright, Pri... Pier... You're all about judgement, so if you could help me out. I want to get this right, so I don't mess up this man's life. Just... give me some guidance, if you don't mind." When he opened his eyes, he felt more confident.
The words came easier now, more than once he marked out a line, readjusted, and continued his work -
Now, where do I begin? You're a knight in your very prime, and you're in love with a girl you've known for eight arcs, with no serious courting? Did she even ask you to wait for her? Don't even get me started on this “just friend” stuff. Point of the matter is, you can do better (...unless she's from Sabaissant. Those people defy natural law). Anyway, don't think of this as a loss, but as a gain. Love should be passionate and romantic. It should take your breath away and feel like home after a long day on patrol. If she returned those same feelings, there would be no doubt in your mind as to whether or not she cared for you. There should be no “coming around.” It's time to move on. Get you someone who will love as fiercely and as loyally as you do.
Cole of The Rynmere Gazette
As he wrote it, he wanted very much to know who was the knight. He wanted to give him more than just this advice. Whoever this was needed his help more than just in this instance. It was so embarrassing to pursue a woman and have her deny you. And to top it off, he was still wanting her! She ran off with another. Even if she came back and was ready for marriage, what would be the point? She had dismissed his feelings once, and a relationship went both ways...
He reread over his advice, editing out spelling errors and then aloud to check the flow. He wanted it to sound like his voice, but at the same time... not too much. Was it too obvious? Was it too tame? He mulled these things over, as he cleaned the tip of his quill with a nearby rag, watching the ink dry.
More than once, he looked up, hoping for another letter to come, but none did. Still, he was pleased with his work, but something was missing... Something... a little risque. Something with a touch of Andraska Venora. He needed to add it, not just for his sake, but for the sake of Rynmere, after all. He was going to be changing lives.
And, with a flourish of his wrist and grinning devilishly, the young noble wrote the next line out deliberately, as if talking to a friend and not a stranger.
P.s: he wrote, For future reference, begging is best kept in the bedroom.
"This is the submission?" the editor asked, smirking, "Someone sent this in?" She reread the paper, turning over the letter and then the answer in her hands.
"Yeah," Was it so hard to believe? "Pretty interesting. Told you people would need my help." Andraska had to withhold the pride from spilling out of his mind, "What do you think? Can we keep it?" He said this as if it were a pet, pleading with the woman to give him what he wanted. He wanted to help the people, not depress them with stories of destroyed crops or limited goods. Noble gossip was... boring and strangely personal, and he needed flexibility. He wanted room to breathe, "You know this is perfect for me, pleeease?"
The editor set down the papers, and smiled, "Okay."