When Gerald returned, he immediately escorted Lucy inside, to a room where a woman was waiting with tea on the table. Since the woman gestured for her to sit, Lucy did so. “I take it you’re interested in my paper, madam…?”
“Irieby.” The countess took a sip of her tea, then continued. “If all the paper you have to sell is of the same quality as what I have seen, I am interested in buying it for the prices you mentioned earlier.”
Lucy nodded, “It is. Here…” she reached into her pack and set a box sized for a ream of paper on the table.
Countess Irieby looked at the box and nodded, then gestured to the other teacup, “Why don’t you have some? I can’t say it’s the best tea ever on the market, but supplies have been somewhat lacking since the war started.”
Lucy carefully took a sip of the tea. If she had to, she didn’t mind leaving behind the ream of paper. It was better than making an enemy of a countess. However, from what she had heard Countess Irieby didn’t seem to be the sort to demand something be given up. Plus, she’d already said she had no problem with the price… Lucy wasn’t sure how to ask what she wanted.
“Do you make the paper yourself? I would be interested in buying more.” Countess Irieby eventually filled the silence.
“Ah… I do, but I am traveling so it might be a while before I have much more.” Lucy wouldn’t mind making a promise to stop by later with more paper.
“You could just make it here. Though, I’m sure you would be interested in finding your brother.” Countess Irieby took a sip at just that point, making Lucy tense up. “Douglas Lynwood passed through here a few years back.” Countess Irieby smiled, but Lucy couldn’t tell what it meant. “See the chair you’re sitting on? The fabric on that was torn open in an accident. That was one of the things he repaired during his stay.”
“Ah… Douglas… is he…” Lucy didn’t quite know what to say. She didn’t want to appear too eager to find him, but she wouldn’t mind giving up an entire ream of paper- even with its significant worth- to find information on him. She would give up more, even, but she didn’t have much else at the moment beyond her spellbooks.
Fortunately, Countess Irieby volunteered more information. “He moved on to Kheles after a number of months here.” At this point, the door to the room opened, and the butler Gerald entered. He didn’t say anything, merely placing a coin purse on the table in front of Lucy. Countess Irieby continued, “Do you speak Vospian? It would be quite beneficial if you were planning to go there. Though I wouldn’t expect your entry into the Endless Library to be easy even so.” Countess Irieby carried the same smile on her face, not showing any change. “Your brother learned the language while he stayed here.”
Lucy knew she had some suspicions because she mentioned the Endless Library. Had Douglas told her anything? Lucy couldn’t be sure. “Did Douglas talk much about our family?”
Countess Irieby shook her head, “He didn’t talk much at all. Or write, really. He didn’t seem particularly interested in conversation. Still, he was quite good at the repairs he did. His skills almost seemed… magical. If such talent runs in the family, I’m sure your paper making skills are similarly impressive.” Countess Irieby took a final sip of her tea. “Well then, I have many things to do, and I must be going. If you plan to journey to Kheles, I would save up for the trip, at least. Don’t forget we will always be willing to buy more paper.” She waved her hand towards the table, “Someone will come by to clean this up, until then have as much tea as you like.”
Douglas found that being just a few years older was immensely helpful when traveling. Not only could he take larger steps and walk more quickly, people took him more seriously. At least now he looked like a journeyman instead of a young runaway. Even so, Douglas kept an eye out for people trying to take advantage of him. While he couldn’t necessarily make a public fuss about it, if anyone did anything Douglas would make sure they ended up much worse off for it. Even if he didn’t have magic for something particular, invisibility alone provided ample opportunities. He could even walk into a noble’s house and steal straight from their vaults… though he wouldn’t. Well, unless they did something to him first.
He was a bit less hurried in his travels this time… mostly because he could keep up his expenses well enough, and because he didn’t really have anywhere to be. Certainly, he was going to Irieby… but that wasn’t somewhere he wanted to be so much as somewhere he could be. He’d rather be back at the library, though not with its current leadership.
In the end, Lucy chose to stay in Irieby for some time. She wasn’t sure if Countess Irieby’s words of what happened with Douglas were entirely true… but if they were, there was no harm in staying for a time. If the words weren’t true, there was no better place to investigate them than in the Countess’ own estate. Lucy wasn’t quite sure what to think when she mentioned she would be staying in the area to work on her supply of paper and Gerald immediately was able to bring her to a prepared room. It made it seem as if the countess was sure she would stay in the area… and accept her implied offers as well. Then again, perhaps the room was prepared just in case, to make it look like she was sure.
Lucy immediately started setting up wards around ‘her’ room. She wouldn’t deface the room with actual carvings… both because she could be caught, and because if the offers were in good faith it would be inappropriate. Even so, wards cast every day would do just fine. It was easy enough to set up- easy as speaking, in fact. After all, Lucy had been spending her last years entirely speaking the language of magic. Transitioning back to Bryrian had actually been somewhat jarring. It was perfectly serviceable as a language, but it felt so… empty, sometimes. She felt the same way about Vospian once she started learning it.
Lucy found her life was fairly easy at the countess’ manor. All of the supplies she needed were provided without her having to track them down, and the costs were repaid by her providing a steady supply of paper. Lucy could have made more, but she didn’t want to give away how easy it was. She felt the value of the paper she provided was sufficient, even with the costs of materials, her room, a teacher, and the small amount of coins she also received. More importantly, it was the agreed upon amount. Actually, with how nice the room was… Lucy couldn’t be quite sure if she was providing sufficient value. Paper was at a higher price now with the war… but a personal tutor for Vospian certainly wasn’t cheap either. Lucy couldn’t imagine the countess entering in a deal that was unfavorable to her, however, so she fulfilled her end as faithfully as possible… while doing her best to ask around about Douglas among the servants. It wasn’t strange to ask about her brother, though she didn’t probe too hard either. From what she heard, countess Irieby had treated Douglas well, but Lucy retained her caution.