Chapter 78. Talks Behind Closed Doors
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I give Kassandra a bit of time to get used to returned eyesight, then cough. She immediately snaps to attention, her face looking much livelier now, construct grafted into it notwithstanding. I hold up a conjured mirror in front of her, and her mouth opens slightly, as she traces her hand over the cheek, rubbing under her new eye lightly, then comes to scratch her nose.

"Gods above." - she whispers - "Talk about getting what you asked for..." She marvels at her new face, but then her expression snaps back into neutral. "Right. So, how do I care for them new eyes, girlie?" - she asks. Very practical of her. Sensible. I approve.

"Well, for all intents and purposes, those are your actual eyes now. Wash your face as you normally do, that should do the trick. The enchantment feeds off your own power, so until and unless you're dead, your sight is guaranteed." - I explain - "Do not try to remove the gems or the construct, they are a permanent part of your face from now on. Maybe ask the chef to prepare you a carrot salad every now and then, but other then that, don't worry about it. Now, let me show you a couple tricks you can pull with those."

"Tricks?" - she repeats uncertainly - "What kind of tricks?"

"Well, did you honestly expect me to just make boring old eyes with such intriguing materials?" - I tease, and reach out with magic, poking a certain part of enchantment. It's been linked to her nerves, she has enough of brain power to handle a few new controls - "Feel that? See how it changes the way you see?"

"Wat... WHAT IS THIS? Why is everything so... oddly colored now?" - she yelps, blinking rapidly, as she looks around.

"This is heat vision overlay. Cold on the violet end of spectrum, hot on the red." - I explain to her.

"Spectrum? Now what's that supposed to mean, girlie?" - she snaps back irritably - "...Oh, good gods, I can see what's hot!?"

"Rainbow, you know? Black's chilled, violet and blue are cold, green is cool, yellow is lukewarm, orange and red are hot and white is blazing." - I simplify for her, and she shudders, visibly making an effort to trigger the overlay herself.

"Well wreck me sideways and call me a banner..." - she grouses wonderingly - "And this... OOoh, let me guess. Give up on color to see the light better, aight?"

"Just so. Heat vision should help you move around in dark and figure out what is best not touched lest you burn yourself, brightness enhancement should be handy in the twilight. Now, those are mutually exclusive due to how they work. Here is the last option, and it is one you can use with all three modes." - I explain, poking the other trigger I installed - "Magic highlight vision."

"Good grief, this is how you see, isn't it?" - she muses, too flabbergasted to be properly cantankerous.

"Yes. Sort of. Unlike you, I perceive all four modes in the same time all the time. You can't, your mind only has so much devoted to sight, if I tried to make it all work in the same time, you'd go down with headache within minutes. It goes without saying I can see so much more, but those four options are the only ones reasonably safe for a human to perceive." - I finish the explanation - "Keep this to yourself, if you please."

She snorts. "Ain't no need to point that one out, girlie. If I let it slip I can see all of them enchantments now, every gods-bedamned noble would be sharpening a knife to cut me up." - she retorts - "You're not Argyl and Marra's daughter, perchance?"

"Not that I know of, no." - I confirm blandly - "Lastly, and this is important... Those are YOUR eyes. Explicitly. Even if they got their best chirurgions to transplant the device into someone else, all they would do would render them blind. Those are for you alone. Metaphysical connections are..."

And this is where we are interrupted by a whole procession of people barging in, Alphonse at the head. I can sort of see Hiram behind him, and there are more people in the back, but all of them are blocked as Alphonse stops in the doorway and stares at Kassandra in numb surprise.

"Geter helfn mir ... vos iz dos!?1Gods help me... what is this?" - he exclaims, extending shaking hand towards Kassandra's face.

"Ah, dos iz meyn naye aoygn, deyn majesti. Vi zey?2Ah, those are my new eyes, your majesty. Like them?" - Kassandra retorts, somehow managing to sound both peeved and coquettish in the same time. Good grief, that's disturbing.

He raises his hand... opens mouth. Closes mouth. Opens his mouth again. Coughs. Drops hand. Sighs. Steps in. Hiram behind him facepalms. "Aun dos iz di geveyntlekh Alyssa derfarung, fater.3And that's the usual Alyssa experience, father." - he offers sarcastically - "Many pardons for the sudden intrusion, lady Gillespie. My father was very concerned about your meeting with honorable seer and had persuaded himself that he should intervene before something, ah... unfortunate happens."

I chuckle. "Hans, now would be the good time to pass over the writ to his highness." - I suggest and the servant in question darts into the room, bowing deeply as he extends the note I wrote to Alphonse with both hands. Befuddled, Alphonse takes it, opens it up and reads. Then snorts.

"I... yes, I see now." - he finally proffers - "My apologies, lady Gillespie, I seem to have surrounded myself with overly wily retainers."

"Well, it was an interesting problem, so I'm definitely not complaining. Would you like to come in properly, have a seat? Listen to the details? I imagine you have questions." - I offer to him.

He rubs the bridge of his nose, shares commiserating look with Hiram. "Ir visn, ikh onheybn tsu khoshed az ir geven gants basheydn in deyn lebedik derklerungen fun meshugas az geyt in ir vekn.4You know, I am beginning to suspect you were rather modest in your vivid explanations of insanity that follows in her wake." - he mutters to Hiram, then turns to face me fully - "I believe I will take you on that offer, lady Gillespie. It seems we have much to discuss... outside the official situation. If you pardon the delay, however, I believe it would behoove me to invite your father and my esteemed colleague to share in the conversation."

I raise a brow at him. "Not Klaus?" - I inquire blandly.

He heaves a bellylaugh. "That crafty coot?" - he snorts out - "Him and Kassandra here get on like a house and fire. Complete with screaming and panic for everyone involved. Nah, I'll fill him in later on the details I deem pertinent."

The servants clear out once the king himself parks his royal posterior on the chair, Hiram taking up the couch. He leans to me conspiratorially - "Lady Gillespie, could I prevail on you to bring in Rafiqa? I believe you know the spell to just move her over from the airship to your room." Alphonse blinks at that, but nods his assent, and I step out to the bedroom to do just that. Oh, and to bring in Bridgit and direct her to brew some coffee and herbal tea. Rafiqa is more then a little nervous, but agrees to be teleported over to the castle without much issue, once I tell her Hiram is asking her to join him. The end conference in my room is me, dad, Bridgit, Abraham, Alphonse, Hiram and Kassandra. The rest of people are sent outside with orders to block the door and let no one in until ordered otherwise. Privacy, huh?

I have to hand it to Alphonse - even though his eyebrows make a valiant attempt to abscond right to his scalp, he visibly withholds from immediately interrogating Rafiqa and focuses on more important bits first. Namely, Kassandra's new facial feature.

"Let me sum it up, then." - he then begins - "My take on the situation is that Kassandra here came up to visit lady Gillespie and requested to be aided with her blindness, which, I believe, had been very eminently addressed by lady Gillespie. What would you say about your new eyes, you troublemaking woman?"

"Why, I could hardly be happier about them, my liege." - she returns rasply - "Really, I've received above and beyond what I asked, if you think about it. A real bargain at a price."

"And that brings us to the second part of it." - he continues glibly - "What exactly did Kassandra pay with for this service, lady Gillespie?"

I shrug. "A bit of Seer wisdom, your highness." - I admit - "I was curious as to how a seer would see me, and she had confirmed some of my earlier suspicions. Namely, that seers can see who is defiled and have a rough idea just how far their defilement went."

Alphonse is brought short by this. "...It does explain some things about your magical prowess, indeed." - he finally allows - "I have no doubt my esteemed colleague had already verified the matter extensively, so I am going to presume it happened by accident, correct?"

"Essentially so, your highness." - I agree - "I've always been interested in magic, so frankly, it was only a matter of time before I'd end up peering beyond the boundaries of reality. All in all, I believe I've been lucky in that my initial exposure was low-key enough to let me cope with it without some of the more unfortunate possibilities. Before you ask - no, I don't know how exactly it happened and wouldn't know how to reproduce it on someone else."

He shrugs philosophically. "Well, it is to be expected." - he agrees - "I would be much more dubious if you claimed otherwise. However, I am somewhat dubious about other thing. While seer's wisdom is indeed valuable, was it valuable enough to cover the costs of two gems and a quantity of silver? That is quite an expense, lady Gillespie."

I shake my head as Kassandra snorts - "Well, it would be, but silver and gems were provided by honorable seer herself. All I did was shape and enchant them. Five minutes of magic, easy."

At that, Abe leans forward, suddenly acutely interested. "You can actually cure blindness by replacing eyes like this?" - he inquires.

"Ahh... Well, sort of yes and sort of no, your highness." - I hedge - "You see, if it were my gems and silver, I probably wouldn't be able to, actually. The gems and the coins were given to honorable seer as a compensation for her injury, and she carried them on her person for years upon years, so the gems grew very attuned to her metaphysically. So to sum it up, yes I can theoretically craft the replacement eyes, provided the recipient of those eyes receives two suitable gems and a significant part of precious metal like silver or gold, and then keeps them on their person for at least seven years. The one who gives the gems must be in some way connected to the cause of blindness, at that. For example, if you, your highness, were to reward a knight who suffered loss of eyes in your service with aforementioned materials, then yes, I would be able to make them a replacement set of eyes once the gems become sufficiently attuned to them. Otherwise, no, body will simply reject the metal and gems if they are not metaphysically connected to injury and nurtured by exposure."

Kings exchange a glance and grimace. "So..." - Alphonse proffers finally - "Not the miracle cure but something of a long-term treatment for specific cases at best, then?"

"Just so, your highness." - I agree, and he nods.

"Well, that certainly puts a different spin on it." - he muses - "Just to verify, you do consider Kassandra's payment to be rendered in full, correct?"

"Quite so." - I confirm curtly, and he nods.

"Very well. Onto the second cause for this meeting, then." - he offers, and turns to Rafiqa.

"Sheikha Rafiqa bint Salaadin, I believe." - he proffers - "I do apologize for having to meet you in such clandestine fashion, but given the circumstances..."

She fidgets slightly. "It is entirely understandable, your highness." - she then offers - "Neither you nor I would like to give my father a cause to make demands of you, I imagine."

He nods - "Just so. However, this raises another question for lady Gillespie. What exactly are your intentions towards the Sultanate, pray tell?"

I shrug. "Well, as everyone present knows, I am the one who threw the curse on their nation." - I admit - "My reasons for this are twofold. Primo, I find the acceptance of slavery within Sultanate to be reprehensible and evil trait that I desire to uproot. Secundo, I am planning on using the circumstances to force Sultanate into ceding enough of Thousand Isles to me to claim as my own domain."

I pause and nod to Gerard - "As it stands, one of my brothers will be the primogenitor to inherit the Gillespie domain, and since I'm not marrying into another domain, I need to conquer my own. I believe Thousand Isles would suffice for my plans."

"Ambitious." - Alphonse mutters - "Presuming your plan works, would you be adverse to opening negotiations for extended trade? There is a number of exotic wares in the isles I wouldn't mind seeing more of in my kingdom, and my people would pay good money for southern goods."

"Certainly, your highness. As a matter of fact, I am currently preparing a nucleus of my own trading fleet to achieve just that." - I agree - "Obviously, I would offer the first pick of deals to my liege, but I am not in any way opposed to expanding the trade with the kingdom of Kraut within reason. However, I would ask of you all to table the exact negotiations until I am actually in control of the isles and determine just what wares and in what quantity could be offered. No point in splitting the hide of bear I've yet to spear."

He nods, and at slight nudging from Hiram, changes topic - "Well, this is all well and good, but the question of sheikha Rafiqa remains. How exactly do you see the situation with Sultanate unfolding on that front?"

"I'm sure you are aware, your highness, that it is common to send a relative as a guarantee of peace in such negotiations." - I offer - "Once the Sultanate is pressed hard enough to break, one of my conditions for lifting the curse would be that sheikha Rafiqa serves as such guarantee of peace. It would be very convenient if kingdom of Kraut could host sheikha at such time as a neutral third party. And if a certain crownprince might fall for an exotic princess in that time, why, I can hardly believe such a union would be seen as undesirable."

There's a lot of knowledgeable winks and tongue clicking at that. "Well, that is certainly a rosy picture you're painting, Lady Gillespie." - Alphonse admits finally - "And, of course, as the one who brokered the union to begin with, you can expect to count on that certain crownprince and exotic princess to hold you in high esteem."

"Within the reason, your highness." - I softpedal it - "That certain crownprince would become a king one day, he does have an obligation to hold the kingdom's interests first and foremost after all. It would be quite unwise of me to ask for concessions that would bring the kingdom to harm. On the other hand, there is always space for mutually profitable trade and cooperation between people who understand and like each other, isn't it so?"