“What reason do you have to be in my chambers… at this hour, Sorcerer Giovaro?” A tall woman with long, dark hair asks from the doorway. Her silky green dress cascades to the floor where she stands, the silver belt about her waist glinting in the candle light.
“Ah, Mistress Kristelli. I did not expect you so early. It’s a pleasure to see you again, so soon after our last… disagreement,” The cleanly shaven man replies. His greying hair is greased back from his pointed face. He wears fine clothing: a silk shirt beneath an embroidered vest, and a thick cloak to mark his sorcerer’s status. Kristelli wrinkles her nose at the hint of roses coming off of him. She always hated the plant.
“Is that what you call it, a disagreement?” Mistress Kristelli scoffs, arching an eyebrow as she gingerly approaches her desk at which the Sorcerer stands, one hand resting on his waist, the other holding a goblet of wine.
“Let’s not make it more than what it was, Mistress. I’ve come to make amends, so to speak,” Giovaro smirks, his eyes twinkling.
“I will wither the day that sentiment is true,” Mistress Kristelli snips back. She stops before the desk, clasping her hands tightly before her. The candle light flickers intensely at her approach and she struggles to restrain her breathing. Eventually, the candle stabilizes.
“Now, now. You don’t mean that,” Giovaro lifts his hand toward her. She remains still as he rests it on her cheek, his fingers trailing along her jawline. “It’s unbecoming, truly. No, I mean what I say. I’m here to make amends. We would be far more productive if we worked together, don’t you agree?” He smiles as he tilts his chin.
“Don’t touch me, Giovaro. We are not equals,” Kristelli says sternly, grabbing his hand with unnaturally fast reflexes.
Giovaro clicks his tongue. “Come now. I come in peace and still you try to villainize me? Why? What if I told you I had changed? That I had a change of heart and was actually moved by your words?” He asks with emotion in his tone.
“I would never fall for a lie such as that. I know better. Why did you come here?” Kristelli asks again.
“I told you already, I’m here to make amends. Will you not drink with me?” He removes his hand from her grasp and features to the empty cup on the desk next to a pitcher of wine. “I found it in your cabinet. A fine selection indeed,” Giovaro indicates before moving to the chair positioned beside the cold hearth. He flicks his hand toward the cold logs and fire leaps to life. A wave of warmth spreads through the room, bringing the scent of sage with it.
Mistress Kristelli looks to the cup, then to the Sorcerer sitting in her chair. She exhales slowly, stepping behind the desk to the cabinet and removing a new goblet. She can never be too careful around a sorcerer, especially this one. Turning to the desk, she waves her hand over the pitcher, searching for his usual tricks or enchantments. The wine appears untouched.
Giovaro sits silently waiting by the fire as she reaches into her desk, removing a vial with a poison equalizer all the same. She empties the contents into her goblet and then pours herself the wine. If Giovaro meant what he said, he would have waited to open the bottle till she was present, assuring her that he hadn’t tampered with its contents. She sets the pitcher back on the desk and joins him by the hearth.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Giovaro apologizes, waving his hand once more to summon a second chair for her. She eyes it before slowly settling into the soft, leather cushions.
The scents of the fire and sage fill the room. Kristelli brings the cup to her lips, eyes on Giovaro. She tastes the wine, then rests it on the arm of the chair. “You are ever persistent. Is there no way to tell you no?” She asks him coyly.
“It’s very difficult, I promise you. But I assure you, our previous disagreement has opened my eyes to the possibilities. I too, thought it nearly impossible, but I can’t deny any longer that what you proposed is the best way to approach this… delicate situation we find ourselves in,” He explains pointedly.
“I’m sure if I had such a sway over you with words, we would have come to an agreement much earlier, would we have not?” She asks skeptically.
“Mistress Kristelli,” She interrupts him.
“Yes, of course. I admit, it is mostly in part my own fault that you and I have been so against one another. I have much sown the seeds of doubt about your gifts and yes, I was responsible for the trials you faced in your position,” Giovaro begins.
“Oh, I knew it from the start. You aren’t admitting anything I didn’t already know, Giovaro.”
“Perceptive, yes. I must give you that. Perhaps you are more my equal then I first anticipated,” He nods, scanning her carefully over his wine glass.
Kristelli nearly laughs, “Perhaps? This only occurs to you now?” She says with more than a little disgust.
“You’re right, this is not a good start. Let me begin again.”
“Please, do entertain,” She smiles with amusement. Having him stepping so nimbly with his words is exactly what she likes.
“Mistress Kristelli, you have undoubtedly surpassed me, even in the craft. Unexpectedly so, if I might add. I no longer wish to oppose you, but to take you up on your suggested alliance. Together, surely, we would be more powerful than the emperor himself, which would put our nation in a near pinnacle position among his majesty’s opposition. There is nothing greater than that, as you so clearly pointed out to me the last time we met.” Giovaro lifts his goblet, the red liquid glimmering in the firelight. “To us?” He proposes, holding his hand in waiting.
Kristelli hesitates a moment, mulling over his words. They seem a little odd, but she can not find the reason for her initial feeling of distrust. She admits, she’s shocked Giovaro even saw passed his own egotistically long nose, far enough to see the meaning behind her defensive front. The balance was always her most important priority, especially in regards to their craft.
Slowly, she lifts her glass, her chair creaking as she leans toward his. “To us,” She smiles.
His eyes flicker and her breath hitches as black hands wrap about her shoulders, a glint of a blade as it pressing up against her throat. Her goblet smashes to pieces as it hits the floor, wine staining the hem of her silk dress as she’s hoisted from the chair and pulled backward, toward the door.
Giovaro’s face turns grim and he scowls at her attacker, setting his glass on the table beside his chair with a slow, menacing air. “I would not be to callus if I were you, young man,” He warns.
“Be quiet!” The man shouts in Kristelli’s ear, causing her to yelp. The voice, it sounds familiar.
“Now, we’ll hear you out. What is it you want?” Giovaro asks caustously.
The man tugs Kristelli backward again, “Nothing! Magic is an abomination! You’re Devils! Every last one of you!” He shouts.
“Duncan, why?” Kristelli questions, recognizing the voice of her trusted assistant. “This isn’t like you. I’ve helped you-“
“I said quiet! I don’t need your lies.”
“Duncan, lad. Listen. You don’t want to do this. It won’t end well,” Giovaro warns softly, taking a small step toward the two. Despite her being held hostage, Kristelli gawks at Giovaro’s threat against her wellbeing. Would he really avenge her murder if it were to happen tonight? Could he truly have changed so quickly?
Duncan tenses, “It doesn’t matter. It’s already done.” He drops the blade from Kristelli’s throat and thrusts it into her side.
She feels it, hot like fire as it slides in, burning as he withdraws and lets her fall where she stands. The rooms spins as his footsteps grow distant. A light flashes from Giovaro’s hands and the sound of his body hitting the floor follows Kristelli’s. She gasps for air. How could she have been pricked by the thorn she so carefully pruned against?
“Kristelli!” Giovaro drops to her side, kneeling over her. His hand presses to her side, holding the wound.
Kristelli takes a rattling breath, “It’s Mistress Kri-” She coughs as she attempts to correct him.
“Honestly, at a time like this?” He sighs, shaking his head. “Allow me,” He turns his gaze to her side and she feels him pull the material back to assess the wound.
He’s quiet, for a moment, then he smiles. “Lucky for you, this is but a minor wound. As I said, it would not end well for the boy.” She coughs again as Giovaro starts to cast a spell of healing. A warm yellow light fills the room and Kristelli finds herself bathed in a calming warmth. She watches Giovaro, surprised, but also thankful. She should have been more careful. Did she shut the door? Has she been followed? Duncan is the last person she would have expected such an outburst from. After all she’d done to heal his family and take him in after the contraction of the plague, given him the funds to support them as well. What would have brought him to such an end?
“There, it’s done. You should be fine now, if but a little stiff, Mistress,” Giovaro offers her his hand while slipping the other behind her head as he pulls her up.
“Thank you, but really, I’m okay now,” She insists while cringing with the slight ache in her side.
“It’s not a problem. I’m happy to help,” Giovaro dismisses, assisting her to her feet.
Kristelli sways slightly on the spot and she clutches at Giovaro as her cheeks flush with embarrassment. “I’m sorry to trouble you. I-” She pauses, eyes pausing as their eyes meet. Her heart thumps erratically, and Kristelli isn’t sure if it’s from the near death experience or the shock as to the change of the Sorcerer Giovaro who still holds her steady. “I didn’t expect this, of you, nor Duncan. How… how can I repay this debt?” She finds herself asking, unable to take her eyes off the Sorcerer.
“It’s nothing, I insist. Here, you need to sit. It’s a shame, your wine and your dress, both ruined in the same night. I shall have the seamstress prepare you a replacement and I will replace the bottle of wine with one of my one.” Giovaro settles her into the chair which he had sat in, minding the glass on the floor in front of the fire. “Please, don’t worry yourself over this. I will have one of my own stand watch over your apartments tonight if it will put your heart at ease. How do you feel?” He asks, the tone of sincerity thick in his voice.
“I’m…” Kristelli pauses again, searching for the words, but finding her mind clouded and distracted with Giovaro’s demeanor. This is very unlike him, isn’t it? “I’m shaken, to be quite honest. I just need some time, perhaps.”
“Yes, that would be best. Well, maybe we can conclude our business another night then,” Giovaro stands, turning to leave.
“Wait!” Kristelli commands before she even realises why.
Giovaro stops, turning to look at her. “Yes, Mistress?”
She inhales slowly, eyes trained on his. “Don’t leave, not yet. It would be a shame to waste the evening. Won’t you stay?” She asks, gesturing to the second chair.
He smiles and moves to the chair. “Of course. I wouldn’t mind at all, Mistress.”
“Don’t be so formal, Giovaro,” She feels her cheeks warm as she says his name. Kristelli shakes her head, trying to dispel the overwhelming feeling of want she is experiencing. “Kristelli is fine,” She mumbles, finally able to make herself look away.
“Kristelli,” He repeats. “I’ll remember this.”
“Oh, don’t flatter yourself,” She quickly retreats into herself.
Giovaro chuckles, leaning forward to reach for his glass on the table next to Kristelli. It’s slightly too far, however, and he rests a hand on her knee as he stretches. Her head snaps toward him, the connection she feels strong and urgent. His touch sends a shiver up her spine.
“My apo-” He begins, only to be cut off as she leans forward. She ignores the stiffness in her side and grabs his cheek in her hand. Their lips touch feverently and Kristelli loses all control in that single moment.
She’s never before felt this way about anything, other than her craft. She’s devoted everything to it, forgone any sort of relationship in order to better herself in the balance. But now, in this one instant, it matters not. Nothing is more important to her than Giovaro’s hold on her, his lips against hers, nothing except his love.
Kristelli slips off her chair and into his lap, expelling the remaining distance between them. The fire in the hearth intensifies, reacting to the raging feelings in her heart. The room begins to get hotter and it soon becomes too warm for even the silken dress she wears.
Giovaro pulls back, to Kristelli’s utter surprise and holds a finger to her lips. The fire light dances across his angular face, making his cheekbones look more prominent than Kristelli remembers them. “I’d say your chambers might be accommodating, wouldn’t you, Kristelli?”
Kristelli feels her lips curl at the thought. “You are bold,” She smirks. “Are you certain you didn’t slip something into that wine?”
Giovaro rolls his eyes and shakes his head. “That I did not do. I can promise you. Here, let me make things more comfortable.” He holds her close, and Kristelli nearly faints from her own thoughts running away with her as the room shifts. The fireplace and chairs are quickly replaced with a large, chilly room with a four poster bed, draped with long, silver velvet curtains. Windows, shuttered, cover the wall to her left, while a hearth behind her springs to life with the fresh scent of roses. The two of them sit on the cushioned bench at the foot of her bed.
Their eyes connect once more, and as though struck with an arrow of feverish passion, they spring to their feet and begin pulling at each others clothing. One thing leads to another, and the night slowly begins to wane into morning with neither of the mages getting an ounce of sleep.
Kristelli sighs against Giovaro’s chest, thoughts swirling while he gently twists his finger around a lock of her long, dark brown hair.
“Is this how you meant working together last night?” Kristelli asks him softly, tapping a slender finger against his bare chest.
Giovaro hums in thought, “Not precisely, but I won’t deny, this is a pleasant, and welcome outcome.”
Kristelli chuckles lightly to herself, “Yes, I suppose it is. I never, not in all my life, expected anything of the sort. I’m confounded by the reasoning behind it. But even now, I cannot come up with a reason why not to.”
“Then don’t. Give in for once in your life, Kristelli. Let yourself love. We will be all the more powerful for it,” He tells her, lifting her chin with his finger till their eyes meet.
She feels compelled at his gaze and smiles as the soft scent of roses comes off him. It’s a pleasing scent.
“Yes. You’re right. Whatever was I thinking? This was clearly meant to be.”
“Yes, it is. All in due time, Kristelli. How soon you all will see everything that is meant to be.”
She sinks into his embrace with a smile, humming, blissfully unaware of the snare closing in around her.
By Kayla West