December in Hungary is a bitter time of year, more so in the mountains around Coeris. Temperatures rarely get above freezing, and occasionally hit -20 C or lower. Snow blankets the ground, and a chill wind is wont to blow, cutting the skin of anyone foolish enough to let it through their clothing.
So the young man walking through the streets of the small town is well wrapped-up, swathed in layers of cloth and fur. It isn't snowing currently, but his thick boots crunch on last night's snowfall, and his fur-lined hood swathes his head against the wind. He pauses briefly where the mullioned window of an inn leaks some warmth onto the street, pulls a sheet of paper from his pocket, and reads it once more. Salve... Returned to Andorra... informed the masters of your desire to transfer... I gave a favourable account of your talents... The masters are pleased to invite you to petition in person... arrive on the fifteenth day of January... Vocis ex Tremere. He refolds the paper into his pocket and walks on.
Favourable account... pleased to invite... Heh. Master Vocis, I am indebted to you. Now, to tie up my business here in time to make the journey. Crossing the road, he approaches an impressive house; two stories, proper glass in the windows, a large oaken door, and proper roof tiles off whose slope the snow has slid, creating humps on the ground on either side. The young man stands in front of the door, hesitating. He reaches up to touch the wooden pendant around his neck; then he checks himself, and knocks three times.
((He considered activating his talisman's Aura of Ennobled Presence, but decided he'd rather appear as he really is.))
A maid opens the door, and looks the visitor up and down with evident distaste. Yes? she enquires, sharply.
Good day. Is your master there? My name Antoine, from Coeris; he is meeting me before with gold-guild. I wanting half-an-hour with him speaking. With a look of suspicion, the maid nods and closes the door on Antoine.
Inside, she knocks at her master's study: My apologies, sir, but there is a young man at the door asking for "half-an-hour of your time". A most disreputable looking man, if I may say so, and his Magyar is appalling; but he claims to know you. An "Antoine, from Coeris".
The man in the study is a middle-aged man of some bearing. His clothes and furnishings are evidence of some wealth, tastefully applied. Several gold rings adorn his fingers, and paperwork lines his desk, each bearing the sign of the Honourable Guild of Gold- and Silversmiths.
Hrmph. Yes, I know the man. Isolde seems to have taken a fancy to him, God knows why. I'd best see him; it'll make a change from these complaints about the city's tax proposals anyway. Show him up. And bring us some Vodka. The cheap stuff.
And so, presently, Antoine finds himself in the study of his love's father. The two men drink each other's health, and swallow down the harsh liquor.
So. You have requested my time; I have granted it, although know that I have no desire to talk with you. But I know my daughter sees some merit in you, so I will hear what you have to say.
Antoine nods, starts to speak, then breaks off. He holds up one finger in a "wait, please" gesture, and pulls another sheet of paper from his inner pocket.
Thank you. I apologise my bad Magyar. If you please, talk a little more slowly? What I want to say is complicated, so I wrote it earlier. I read it now.
((I figure, with time to prepare, Antoine can make himself slightly more understandable with a pre-planned speech))
I think you do not trust me. Yes? This, I am familiar with. You know what I am? - Isolde's father nods, distastefully - So. My skills are a good thing for me, but there is a problem. They make me unwelcome everywhere. Your view of me is damaged.
But your daughter Isolde knows me as I am. I would like you to know me the same. Isolde's father chokes at the implication of this. Uh, no, not the same! I... I mis... mis-speak. I mean, you also see my true self. This is hard, but not impossible. If I may - uh - the words here are hard - lengthen? my shield? to you... no? Uh. There is a... a thing, a magic thing I can do which will clean your mind. If I may?
Isolde's father recoils in horror at the thought of having his mind cleaned. Merde. Uh, how to say... Oh! Wait! I have letter.
One more letter appears from Antoine's coat. It is addressed to Isolde's father, and sealed with the Imre's crest as a guildmaster. It reads as follows, in Magyar:
"Greetings, guildmate. The man before you is my apprentice, Antoine. I understand you may have some reservations talking to him - this is natural, but believe me that it in no way reflects his own character. It is an unfortunate effect of his magical talents. I imagine he has suggested that he extend to you his magical protection, that we call the Parma, as this will enable you to overcome your instincts. Please be assured that he means you no harm; the process is painless and has no detrimental or lasting effect on you.
I have explained the contents of this letter to Antoine, and he signs below in agreement to the following pledge: that if a word he says is false, that if you be in any way harmed by his actions today, then you may banish him from your guild, seek reparations of 50 guilders in the courts, and he further pledges to depart hence and nevermore court your daughter Isolde.
I suggest you give this letter over to one of your servants for safekeeping, so that there is no suspcion that Antoine could tamper with it.
Wealth be yours!
Wordlessly, Isolde's father reads, then pulls a rope by his desk. A manservant appears, and he hands him the letter, murmuring instructions. The servant disappears, and shortly returns to stand in the corner. Hmph. Very well, then. I have never fully trusted Imre either, but the word of a fellow guildmaster is as his bond. You know what your signature assures? Do not think I will not pursue it if you should harm me. My man there will watch to ensure you do not, but he will not interfere otherwise. Come then; give me your "Parma". Let me see you truly.
Antoine reaches out; touches the man; incants briefly, and concentrates. Suddenly, Isolde's father steps back, amazed. The disshevelled, shifty man before him now stands upright; he looks normal - likable even. I... I... This is... most strange. And this is not some trick? How do I know this is the real you, and not some trustworthy image you are projecting?
You cannot. But it is me, true. Now, may we talk as men?
... yes. Please, sit.
Thank you. I talk to you of Isolde. You are knowing she loves me, yes? Do you know I love her? No? I do. She is... ah, I do not have the words. Beautiful. Careful... no - car[/i]ing[/i]. And something else. I do not know. In my home, we say "Je ne sais quoi". I ... I...
Antoine breaks off. He takes a deep breath and plunges on.
I want marry her. We being happy, I think. But you also love her. I know. And... I leave Coeris. I go to Andorra, near Espain. I want Isolde come with me. I know this hard for you. So I ask. Your... ah, c'est quoi, le mot juste? - your blessage?
Blessing. I see. Yes, Isolde does love you. I believe she would be happy with you; and I suspect she may be unhappy without you. But still - Andorra? Would you tear my heart from my chest?
Yes, sadness, I must go. I not wanting you hurt. Maybe you visit sometime? Or us visit you? My folk can go long ways easily sometimes.
...and. I think your country has custom of... uh... "dowry"? No, no - I not want it. Be easy. I... offer the other. The opposite. I have gift to you.
Antoine removes a velvet pouch from his belt, and opens it, taking out a silver brooch; a simple ring with a pin for fastening, the pin in the shape of a feather.
I make this, it take three month. For you. It... uh... graved? Grooved? Gravy? Uh... it has words inside. I copy Isolde's name, in her writing. To remember her. It is magic - while you wear, you never wetting. Even in big rain. Even in... in lake! Just - not to wear all time, OK? Then bad things.
Isolde's father turns the brooch over, admiring it. It seems to mean something to him; not the value, but the sentiment, and the realisation that Antoine has taken much trouble over it. You... have my thanks. It is a pretty thing. And my Isolde always did enjoy watching the ducks - did you know that? No? Strange how these things work. It seems I have misjudged you, sir. I give you my blessing. I trust you will make my daughter happy. I have but two stipulations - I suspect you may be leaving before the wedding? If that is so, I insist that I be told when it is, that I may come and celebrate with you. And I want letters - make sure Isolde does not forget her old father.
Thank you, sire. It will be. Letters to fill your house; and we bringing them us-selves, if we abling to.
The two men rise, and shake hands affably; then Antoine leaves in search of his lady Isolde.