I rose with the others, there was to be no irregularities in our schedule despite the new duty I had taken on. We talked little during breakfast, we still each knew what tasks were at hand
Shaping and setting stones continued as usual and we finally got to building the first arches as we had planned. I made sure to project the interior of the arch as strongly as possible so that the others could set the stones on the outside. Once the arch was complete, I could let go of the projection and the arch would stay stable by itself.
Pillars and arches started to grow and I was happy with our progress. But even with our fast progress, the work ahead was still considerable. Even after we had built and secured all the stone arcs and pillars, we would have to cut and set the wooden planks as well, a task I had not yet even sourced the material for.
The days went on and on. I fulfilled my duties to the village and to Valdissa. In my investigations I soon found that the odd tubes of brass that leaned next to the bolt of cloth were the key to the process of dyeing.
These brass tubes were big enough to house the bolt of cloth and showed signs of being tightened around it using simple transmutation magic. They had slits and holes that aligned perfectly with the patterns and colours and when looking very closely, I saw that the inner walls of these cut parts had indeed traces of dye on them. I deduced that magic was used to guide the dye through the holes and make sure that it would not leak or sap away from their accurately designed paths. As the dye travelled through the layers of cloth, they formed that pattern that was designed mathematically in three different dimensions: first the two dimensions of the cylinder’s surface, then in the third as it travelled through the cylinder’s inner space.
The secret of the cloth was open to me now, although the exact pattern was still unclear. Valdissa, true to our agreement, told me much more of what she knew. How the cadres organized, how their jurisdiction worked, how they vouched for one another and kept each other in line. It all sounded complicated and intricate and truly like something that could not easily be faked and that was just from what limited insight she could gleam from handling the old magus’ papers and appointments.
There also changed some things in how we lay with each other, Valdissa and I. She asked what I liked and when I answered, she did just that. After we were done, I let her lay her head on my chest and put my arm around her frail body. Right after the act, her body was warm as if feverish and she breathed heavily as if in panic of suffocating, despite her part being the most inexhaustive one it could be. But just shortly after, she was as if freezing and her breath as if disappearing. She eventually told me of her debilitation.
“I was born weak, my mother said, too weak to cry, only to whine and groan. When the healers took a look at me, they said I would not survive the month. Even as I did, they predicted my death within a duoch, each and every duoch.”
I put my arm around her even closer as she continued to let me in on more personal secrets.
“I cannot wander with the caravans, I cannot work hard and no man wants to take me, knowing I would not be able to wander with him, for as short as I may have to live.”
I listened to her pain yet could not entirely understand her motivations for this agreement. I still let her talk.
“I do not want to fade away. I want to leave something behind. I know a child will most likely take my life, but I want to give mine up for another.”
I had questions to her chances of success, but I did not voice those. “Why me then, why not another one who lives here? It would not be hard for you to seduce them.”
“If I am to give my life for another’s chance, it should be the best chance there can be. You’re a mage, maybe my child will be too. I tried the old Magus, but he was too stubborn in the rules of his cadre and so was his apprentice. You’re a stranger, Havel. There is no love, I promise you that, even while I’m here with you.” She moved a slow hand over my chest, feeling for all my skin’s hair and impurities. “You will be gone soon, not worrying about the honour of any cadre.”
She had obviously planned things out for long; she was aware of her chances, the cold determination in her voice told me as much.
“I do not want to fade away.” With that, silence returned into the magus’ chamber for a long time.
As usual, she gave me some writing implement, took the sheets and we left the room and everything that had transpired within behind.
I returned to my desk, packed my implements together and readied for the large communal dinner. I could not deny that my companions’ glares grew wearier of my absence. At least Sarita and Brad. The Professor still ate with his niece every day and reported to us her state. It was obvious she was lucid again and although weak, on the best way to recover from her sickness. After he had returned that day from their dinner, he told us we should visit her the next day, that she would be glad to see us.
It was that night that I noticed something odd about Brad. He would usually quickly go to bed and fall asleep, having had much taxing work behind him, but that time, his snoring would not set in. I was almost asleep when I realized that and decided to start snoring in fake myself, hoping it would fool Brad.
It did not take long for Brad to get up out of his bed, grab something from below the bedframe and leave the room. I waited for his steps to reach the end of the hallway, then I got up. I had a crucial mistake to halt.