William wasn’t much of a morning person traditionally, but he had come to enjoy them more recently. On one particular morning, he passed Lila in the hall. “Oh, are you on your way to see Lorelei?”
Lila nodded, “Yes, I have some things to talk about with the Archmage. I hope she’s awake…”
“She is.” William waved and continued on.
“Good.” Lila started walking further down the hallway. Then she stopped and turned around, looking back toward William… then toward the end of the hallway where she was walking to. Her face scrunched up as if trying to figure something out, before continuing toward the room.
Later that day, William also encountered Matfey. “Oh, Josef! You’re back! It’s been a long time. Where have you been?”
William grinned. It was good to see his enthusiastic friend again. “Oh, you know, travelling.”
“For a dozen years? You should tell me about it. But guess what? I’m now a certified, official mage.” He smiled smugly, then sighed. “I’m in charge of academy requisitions, which should be important but I feel like I spend all my time haggling over prices. Everyone wants to charge more, but nobody wants to pay more.” Matfey shook his head.
“That’s just how it is. Even for vegetables and meat, people only care about the price they pay, and not how much it cost to produce. Speaking of which, I should go see my family.”
“Yeah, didn’t you have a little sister?”
William sighed, “I only got to see her briefly. She’s umm… reasonably old now.” William supposed that was the sort of thing that could happen in a world without widely available instantaneous communication everywhere, but normally he would have at least sent letters home. It just wasn’t possible at the time. Even though gevai had a different sense of time, it was still quite a long period, especially considering the relative youth of his parents and siblings.
William and Lorelei met in her office. It wasn’t his favorite place to meet, since it meant there probably wouldn’t be interesting scientific discussion or something else pleasant, but sometimes it had to be done anyway.”William…” Lorelei smiled faintly, “If our relationship is to be public, we’ll need to plan certain things. Since it will likely become known eventually anyway, we might as well use it to our advantage.” Lorelei folded her hands, “Since you are young, people will underestimate you, at least at first. This will be briefly useful, but maintaining an appearance of weakness is not. Negotiations involving the lords have logic as more of a secondary concern than power.” William nodded. “As for personal power… you are not lacking in that department. As for military power, both you and I are somewhat lacking in that regard. I can call upon a reasonable amount, but I cannot draft troops, if it came to that. You don’t yet have any, but we can work on that in the future. For now, we must plan for the upcoming council.”
William nodded again, “I do have some experience with politics, as annoying as they are.”
Lorelei waved her hands, “That’s fine, but you don’t have to worry about that for now. I’ll deal with most of the talking. You can help me with something else though. I need you to cause a little bit of trouble for somebody.”
“I usually try to avoid trouble… but who?”
Lorelei shrugged. “I don’t know yet. We’ll find out. And… though you try to avoid causing trouble, you seem to do it anyway. I imagine you’ll yield better results if you do it on purpose. Anyway, someone is bound to try to start something at the council. They’ll find fault with you, me… or us. So, when they look for trouble, give it to them.”
“Ah, I understand what you want, but I don’t know if I can do ‘a little bit’ of trouble.”
Lorelei grinned, “Well, by a little I meant anything short of killing them, really. Try not to break the furniture or windows if it’s owned by anyone we like. It will be a good way to establish that you are strong and won’t accept insults.”
“I can do that. Though, now I’ve thought of something. My family… I was thinking of going to visit them. However, if I offend a lord, I’m worried he might take revenge on them.”
Lorelei frowned, “Hmm, that is a problem. There are several options. First… cut off ties with your family,” Lorelei paused when William grimaced, “I’m not saying you have to, but it’s an option. The second option is to make sure they’re strong enough to defend themselves. That’s not a perfect solution, but most lords would see it beneath themselves to go find farmers to cause trouble. They wouldn’t do that much unless you started a real feud.”
William sighed, “Neither of those options are super appealing. Though I suppose the first option is better for my family. Are there any more?”
“Well, there are some variations of things. For example, if you got to the point where you’d have a real feud with a lord you could just kill him. There might be personal consequences, but your family would probably be fine.”
“Hmm, I imagine killing people would cause trouble for both of us.”
“It would, but we could handle it. Though, you might have to kill a bunch more people. It would be better to avoid that as long as possible.”
“It does sound like it would be easier if I didn’t have a family… but I still care about these people, and don’t want to just cut ties with them.”
Lorelei nodded. “I understand. My family… I wouldn’t have given up on any of them.” She shook her head, “The only kind of people who don’t care about their family are people like the Demon King. Though people avoided crossing him because he was so powerful he scared the piss out of them. Plus there was always the threat of him coming back later to kill them even if they killed him.”
“Hmm. I wish I could use that one, but I’d really rather not let people know I could come back. Plus, I’m not entirely certain I will.”
Lorelei shrugged. “That’s the problem with small sample sizes. Personally, I’d prefer you never have to find out. Listen, don’t worry about it too much. If it really comes down to it, we can bring your family here. The academy is very well defended, probably better than most lords’ castles. Better to remove them from a comfortable life than let them get hurt, anyway.”