Disclaimer: Noblesse isn't mine.
Broken Glass (Part 4)
There was not a single candlestick, dram of oil, or scrap of wood to be found in this house. There were more than enough lamps, but nothing to use as fuel. Food was just as sparse. A few quarts of dried oats was the only thing salvageable, and even that rang with an air of question. Frankenstein added that to his supply list as well. How had the master survived like this? He glanced into the great room. The man had not left his window since last night. It was almost what he would expect of a child. Honestly, was he to be the servant or the caretaker of this man?
Frankenstein cleared his throat by way of introduction. "I will gather firewood now."
The man did not acknowledge him.
"Excuse me, then." Frankenstein nodded and slipped outside.
He would need kindling and dry wood immediately. Then, he could stockpile greenwood in preparation for winter next year. Next year? Was he thinking that far ahead already? Surely it would not take him that long to escape. Dry wood would be enough for now.
Frankenstein collected fallen branches from the ground until his arms were full and walked back to the house. This magnificent of a mansion, and there wasn't a single cart or horse on the grounds. Nothing at all to hull large quantities. At this rate, it would take hours. Should he use his powers? He glanced up as the window. The master had not moved from his perch. Wait until he is preoccupied to do such things. Appear as harmless as possible for now.
And the master. Was he harmless? He seemed so inconsequential as he stood in the window. But was he weak? Hardly. He must be powerful if a prisoner was left in his care so readily, and the Kertia clan leader had said that the man had captured him. He only remembered small fragments of that night but nothing of the master. Frankenstein clenched his fist, feeling the muscles in his arm tighten, and released it again. He needed to test his strength, to recall what had happened to bring him here, and if that man had been present at his capture, then he knew at least part of the missing pieces.
Frankenstein emptied his armload of wood into a pile outside the door and lifted his hand in a slight wave.
The master did not greet him, but his eyes shifted briefly to the side.
Frankenstein smiled. That was a start. A glance was better than nothing. "I will prepare our meal."
He dusted off his hands and hurried into the house. The chimney would need cleaned before he could light a fire. There was so much to do. The mansion may be elaborate, but it was also decrepit. He swept the chimney, knocking the creosote loose from the shaft and placed a cap on top to prevent animals from nesting inside. With that task complete, he dumped the oats into a pot of boiling water and waited for it to transform into a tasteless porridge.
Frankenstein tapped his knuckles against the doorframe of the great room. "It's ready."
He returned to the kitchen and scooped globs of porridge into two bowls. It looked nothing like the food he had been served in prison. He would have to master culinary skills if he stayed here for an extended period of time.
Setting the bowls on the table, he sat down to his meal. Should he wait for the master? Play the part of a humble servant and tend to his every need before eating himself? No. Do not give ground that was not taken. It would be better to start off on equal terms. He ate his meal slowly, allowing it to cool while planning out the rest of his schedule.
Food came first. He would have to scavenger the surrounding area for edible plants and gather seeds to start a garden. What could not be found in the forest must be purchased from the marketplace. Frankenstein's eyes swept over the dining room. It was grandiose but in ruin. Was that a reflection of the master's wealth? Once great but now depleted. Or was it the result of his character? He had neither the interest nor the skills to upkeep such an enormous house. Either way, something must be done, and there were plenty of valuable items to sell if the house could not afford the maintenance.
Frankenstein took the other bowl from the table and walked into the great room without announcing his presence this time. He placed the bowl on the windowsill in front of the man and waited for a reaction. None came. "I will purchase more supplies soon. This will have to do until then. You should eat."
The master stared at the bowl for several minutes before reaching for the spoon. He managed one bite and dropped the spoon into the bowl again.
"Is it not to your liking?" Frankenstein frowned. Of course it wouldn't be. He had barely choked it down himself, and even that much had been through stubborn determination.
He turned on his heels, backtracking his steps through the kitchen and searched the cabinets until he found a container of sugar. It was old and the granules stuck together, forming a solid white brick, but it would be better than the blandness of the porridge. He broke the sugar into smaller chunks and, returning to the great room, dumped it into the bowl.
"That should improve the taste." Frankenstein waited as the master tested the food again. This time, his reaction seemed somewhat more favorable. He would have to add sugar to the supply list. "I will return to my work now. Enjoy your meal."
Frankenstein hurried into the depths of the forest, venturing much farther than necessary. Far enough for complete privacy. He paused next to a tree and listened for any sounds of someone following him, but from what he could tell, the master had not left his window. No one was near. He could spend a little time evaluating his power before gathering plants.
Test it slowly, cautiously. If his imprisonment had been the result of losing control of his powers, then repeating that loss of control would be very possible if he pushed himself too far. Start with something small.
He pulled his powers to his fingertips. Little purple lights sparked from his hand. He remembered the light. This much was safe. He thickened it, grew it, into a steady flame. The air began to chill as a lurid presence crept into the atmosphere. This, too, he remembered. It was uncomfortable but he could bare with it. Frankenstein waited, allowing his body to acclimate to the aura. It pooled around him, but he could control it so far.
A little more. His fingertips darkened, transforming to black as the light enveloped them. It spread up his arm, and he could feel his strength increase. Sense the magnitude of power available to him. Taste the curiosity to explore it. The power enticed him to push forward. It leapt past his elbows and crawled upward toward his shoulders, forcing itself upon him as it began to sting. This was too much. Frankenstein cut off the flow of power, forcing it down. The power surged in resistance, fighting back against him. The sting sizzled into burns as it scorched the skin on his arms and wrapped itself around his neck.
We curse you.
That voice! Frankenstein pushed harder, pounding against it and shoving it down. Anything. Anyway to suppress it. That voice was the last thing he remembered. Whatever had happened before, that voice had been the start of it. Repressing the pain, he focused his mind on diminishing the purple light. Not, not light. It was illuminated darkness. He hardened his will, determined to trounce the power into submission as it slowly ebbed. Finally, it shirked back into dormancy.
That was too close. His sleeves were torn. Frankenstein rolled them up to conceal most of the damage, but it only revealed the burns on his arms. He rolled them down again. He wouldn't be able to hide the damage regardless. This was the only garment he owned. Add clothes to the supply list. As for the power, it was difficult to manage but not impossible. He needed more practice. Next time, he would study it properly. Chart his own limitations and look for warning signals that he had exceeded those restrictions.
He should return to the master before he became suspicious. Frankenstein swung an empty sack from his shoulder and filled it with fruits and nuts and vegetables until it overflowed. This much should last a few days. It would give him a little more time to learn about the monetary system before finding the market. They could live off the land indefinitely if they must.
Frankenstein nodded to the master once the house was in sight. Immediately, he carried the bag to the great room and held up his spoils proudly. Keep that man's eyes on the sack and away from his injuries. Not that he would even bother to look. "I have returned."
The master's face turned toward him slightly.
Frankenstein lowered the bag as the master met his gaze. Was the man interested in the supplies? Hungry? Before the porridge this morning, when was the last time he had eaten? "Is there anything you would like me to prepare?"
His eyes shifted downward to the rips in his sleeves.
Was he worried? Frankenstein tugged at the tattered cloth. "It's just ripped a little. I will mend it soon."
The master stretched out his hand, eyes lighting with the movement. Bits of material began to fall from Frankenstein's sleeves as new material twisted around his arms. The man's eyes faded, and he turned back to the window without a word.
Frankenstein touched the new cloth, sweeping it through his fingers. It was real. How? He let his hand fall to his side. "Thank you."