Taking the side of everyone's least favorite blonde - but that doesn't mean it's a bad story, right!
The more I read Emperor Mage the more I actually like Varice. I honestly believe she loved/loves Numair. And useless as she may be, I'm convinced the woman isn't stupid.
I do hope you'll enjoy, and review.
Is That So Bad?
Varice Kingsford did not know if she should be elated or terrified when she saw the entire Tortallan delegation for the first time.
Of course, the one thing she wasn't, once the initial onslaught of emotions faded, was surprised. She'd heard very vague rumors from the Northern lands about the powerful mage Numair Salmalin, a black robe from their own university and had been more than capable of putting two and two together. And he was hand of the king, as trusted as that Lioness woman.
But he was here. Here, by all the gods! The place he'd had to flee for his very life! The Emperor obviously had granted a pardon – he wasn't so scatter-brained as to return to a place where he was still publicly wanted – but why? And what for? Varice may not have been the most powerful when it came to mages and Gifts, but she knew people. And this was the most unlike Ozorne ruling she had ever witnessed or heard of. Like even those who were utterly devoted to the Emperor, Varice feared him. Having Arram back within his reach scared her even more.
But he was HERE, and even an instantaneous suspicion for his safety couldn't strangle her sense of joy, seeing Arram again. He looked as handsome as she recalled. Not quite the same, she realized, but just as handsome nonetheless. He looked older. Well, he was older, clearly, as was she. He'd filled into his tall frame, looking less like an underfed bookworm and more like the powerful man he evidently was.
"Arram." She hadn't known what else to say. In fact, she was suddenly hit, as he looked up at her, dark eyes widening, he may not remember her. He had a life in Tortall, didn't he? Possibly a family… She tried not to think of that. She was just happy to see him.
His voice was soft, almost like a loud whisper. Awed. Varice herself felt awed, having braced herself for him to not remember her at all. Pleasantly surprised, and feeling more delighted by the second, she laughed breathlessly.
"The same old Varice Kingsford," she responded, as he took her hands, "I'm surprised you remember me."
The smile he gave her brought back a vast collection of very good memories. He kissed both hands in turn and gave them both a squeeze, "How could I forget you, my dear?" He said. His voice was the perfect smooth tones of a man well trained in courtier's compliments. And although the compliments themselves were just as practiced and ready-made, his bright smile and the simple idea of having him before her brought her to more laughter as she guided him to sit without another thought.
Simple flirtations seemingly finished, Arram attacked her with questions. Varice couldn't keep her smile down – he truly hadn't changed. The young man she remembered courting her was just as curious about everything. He never mentioned the Emperor or his thoughts on the impending peace talks, and she wasn't about to bring it up. She suspected, even as he listened in fascination as she spoke of additions to the university, that he did not want to be in Carthak. With how his life here had ended, Varice supposed she could not blame him. She could only do her best to make him feel at ease.
She once again thought of what his life in Tortall might be like when a slave brought word that the girl Verilidaine and Arram's old teacher Lindhall Reed had gone to look at His Grace's birds. Arram relaxed his shoulders. Until that moment, she hadn't been able to tell he'd been tense.
"Verlidaine?" She asked, curiously. She hadn't seen the official ceremony of welcome for the delegates, and aside from Arram and The King's Champion, she had know further knowledge of who was along. She suspected further dignitaries, but a girl? Belatedly, she realized she had seen a girl with brown curly hair in the group Arram had been in before she'd whisked him away. Being perfectly honest, she just hadn't felt the need to pay attention to them.
Arram grinned suddenly, a different kind of smile than the kind he gave her, but quite possibly the happiest she had seen him, "My student," He explained.
Varice relaxed and sighed internally at her actions. Suppose he had taken another lover? How could she hold it against him? She had not held anything resembling claim to him for nearly 10 years. She was being petty, but she couldn't stop herself. "Somehow I knew you'd be a teacher," she said lightly. "You admired Master Lindhall so much, I knew you'd try to become him."
"And I'm failing most spectacularly, let me tell you," he replied, laughing. "No one has his patience, myself least of all. Daine's, rather spectacular success, are do to her skills, not mine."
She did not recall him being so humble. Then again, she knew him as the Emperor's best friend, the most powerful mage the University had seen in ages, tall, handsome, accepted. He had very little reason to be humble. "You're proud of her, aren't you?" She remembered that this girl was the one said to have Wild Magic, magic Arram had tried to prove existed to many. She hadn't believed him either, but was happy to hear his efforts had not been in vain.
"Extremely," he said, cheerfully. "I suppose I'll have another chance to properly introduce you both."
Something in his tone made Varice fully realize how she had taken him away from his companions without any care for them at all. Really, he didn't much care for the idea of a delegation to begin with. Of course, she was happy they were not going to war, especially when they had every right to – but this was another instance of un-Ozorne-like behavior. The fact that these northerners were quite possible walking into it did not give her an entirely favorable opinion.
All the same, they were Arram's companions and she owed them some semblance of respect. But she would not feel guilt for taking any chance to catch up with him, and no one could fault for it. These Tortallans could spend all the time in the world with the man, when they were home. She could not.
We're not DONE, dearies! No where close! This just felt like a nice entrance. Soon enough our blonde will notice her ex-lover's behavior when it comes to his student in a bit more detail. Right now she's just too happy to see him to care about anyone else at all.