For the past year, Loys had spent nearly every waking moment, six days a week, inside the magical workshop of the lovely Tranquillina. The first half of that time had comprised his training: he meticulously catalogued all of the equipment (that which he knew how to name, at least, and learned what he could of the rest) and read mysterious numbers off of wax tablets to the maga as she carefully moved working surfaces a thumbspan this way or that. While the final result was certainly orderly and impressive, he didn't really see the difference from how it was when he first was allowed inside. Still, his efforts seemed to satisfy her, and for the next six months he stayed by her side (rapturously, by her side!) as she carried out snippets of whatever incantationery she was working on; she got really tired (she worked even longer hours than he did, in the summer), and his alertness definitely earned her gratitude on one occasion he still couldn't bring himself to bring to mind. But after Christmas, she informed him that she would be spending a good deal of the winter in the library, and his tasks in the lab became fewer, humdrum, and (most of all) less alluring. With more free time on his hands, he had taken to hanging out in one of the parchment preparation rooms, the process of making the precious writing pages fascinating to him.
The percamenarii and their assistants were, as a rule, bent old men with swollen joints and chemically stained fingertips; but there was a girl, perhaps a year or two older than he, who helped clean up the lime and chalk and loose hairs from the treatments. She proved very friendly right away, although her behavior sometimes struck Loys as unfathomable. For instance, she had apologized for the odors in the chamber, but he, comparing it in his mind to working around dozens of exposed human organs for months at a time, had said that from his perspective the scent was delightful; for some reason she had blushed deeply and blinked even more energetically at him while they spoke. Today, as their conversation opened with talk of the severe snowstorm, she claimed to be quite chilly (how, he could not imagine, as the parchment factory was nearly sweltering); after she repeated the claim a few times, it occurred to him to offer his jacket, which she wore with half-lidded eyes and a renewed intrusion into his personal space. Currently she was displaying disproportionate interest in his ability to translate the dullest phrases from French into Latin, but she seemed to be enjoying the pastime and it indeed passed the time.
Suddenly, a peremptory woman's voice springs forth from somewhere behind his scalp: [sup]"Come to the library immediately."[/sup] While the girl is mightily startled, Loys's face lights up, and he flings a hasty goodbye over his shoulder at the girl (gotta remember to ask her name again, he remarks to himself) as he tears out of the workshop. A bit of foot traffic on the only path cleared from the parchment factory to the main house tries his patience, not to mention making him curse himself for leaving his jacket with what's-her-name. But he reaches the mansion without further crisis, flies up the stairs to the regio entrance (the guards seem a bit spooked today, he notices), and coasts to a stop at the door to the library, where Tranquillina is already beginning to ask for his assistance. "You and Choiniere," she nods to the servant standing at attention nearby, "will attend our visitors' every need. If they need it, if they wish it, it will be theirs. Your job is to make sure they have nothing in the wide world to possibly complain about. When Cumhachd" (it must be the strange pronunciation that makes that lovely face grimace so!) "requires something, one of you goes to fetch it, the other stays against the possibility that she has another request before the first returns. There will be watchmen posted on call over the night, but otherwise you both are with her at every moment. And I want to know everything she asks for, after you have granted it. Your job is not to spy on her. But anything you do happen to hear, you will tell that to me too." While Choiniere seems only politely resigned to these duties, Loys embraces them gleefully: bringing Tranquillina information she wants provides him higher joy than nearly anything else could. By the time he is finished expressing his flowery gratitude for the task and hearty acceptance thereof, the maga is already halfway down the hall.