The night that Vibria had her heart broken for the first time, she decided that the right and proper thing to do was to go to the inn and drown her sorrows. She wore her favorite blouse (despite having been let out by Lucia, it fit rather more snugly that she would have preferred – which was surprising, considering how thoroughly Lucia had measured her bosom) and a long skirt, layered in a vain attempt to keep her warm.
She didn't really want any company while she drank, although a couple of men offered to console her in their drunkenly awkward fashion. Vibria rebuffed each in turn and ignored the insults they muttered under their breaths as they walked away.
She had just started on her third glass of wine, and was slightly annoyed that she was still sober, when she saw her maidservant enter the tavern and head straight for her.
"Maga, this isn't the right place for you right now," Lucia said with a worried expression. "I know you've had a rough day, but maybe it would be better if you came home."
Vibria looked up at Lucia for a long moment and blinked a couple of times trying to get the girl's face to focus. "Maybe you're right. But I'm not done drinking. I'm taking this bottle with me. And we should get one for you, too."
"Of course. I'll get a bottle, and we can get you back home, and we can get you to bed when you're ready."
Lucia found the serving girl and had a quick conversation with her, which resulted in another bottle of wine finding its way to Lucia's hand. She returned to Vibria's table just in time to see the maga stand up quickly. A little too quickly, judging by the look on her face and the way she wobbled in place for moment like a child's toy.
"So, this is what they mean by 'falling down drunk'," Vibria said, having just discovered one of Life's Great Truths.
"You're not falling down, Maga. I'll get you home. Grab your bottle, we don't want to leave it behind."
Vibria weaved her way from behind the table, Lucia walking with her nervously. Her free hand was ready to steady the maga if she needed it. Vibria grabbed her bottle and held it carelessly by the neck.
She managed to find the tavern's door on the first try, although she did have to alter her course a couple of times, with some guiding tugs and nudges from Lucia. It took considerably longer to get from the tavern to their home than it normally did, mainly because Vibria was weaving a rather circuitous route, and Lucia had to slip her arm around Vibria's waist and try to nudge her in the right direction from time to time.
Once the two entered the foyer of Vibria's sanctum, Lucia felt behind her to push the door closed and throw the bolt. Vibria looked around in the near pitch dark, with the only light a dim red glow leaking around the edges of the inner door from a dozen and more roaring fireplaces that kept the laboratory swelteringly hot.
"'s too dark," Vibria muttered, then spit a small ball of flame into the palm of her hand. The ball gave enough light to find the door, and Lucia carefully removed the bottle from Vibria's hand and placed it on a table next to the one she had carried.
"I'm not done drinking it yet," Vibria said as she reached for the bottle.
"I'll carry it, Maga," Lucia said as she deftly moved between Vibria and the bottles. "We just need to get inside first. Sit wherever you want, I'll get a couple of glasses."
"You're a good servant." Vibria patted Lucia on the arm, then fumbled with the doorknob. Lucia waited patiently for Vibria to open the door, then guided her into the laboratory.
The maga stopped abruptly just a few steps in and started sobbing. "Why would he make that for me if he thought I was just a tease?" She let the flame in her hand die, but the room was well lit by the plethora of fireplaces lining the walls.
Lucia looked at Vibria, then followed her gaze. The maga was looking at the mannequin that held her armour, which was topped by the enameled dragon-headed helm that Vulcanus had gifted her with a few months earlier.
"He was just trying to buy your affection," Lucia spat. She stormed over to the dummy and grabbed the helm, then went to a fireplace to toss it into the flames.
"Stop! Don't destroy it! It's too expen...eski...too pretty to destroy!"
Lucia looked at the helm "This thing? Exquisite?"
"Yeah, exquisite." Vibria said the word carefully. "Don't burn it. Put it where I don't have to see it, though. I don't want to be thinking of him every time I walk in here."
Lucia looked around, then carried the helm into the bedchamber and tucked it into the bottom of a wardrobe, piling a few blankets on top of it to hide it from sight.
When she returned to the lab, Vibria had managed to collapse into a chair and sat there with her head in her hands, crying.
"How could he do this to me?" she sobbed. "I love him so much, and when I told him how I felt, he went off and married that Fédora right away! He couldn't even..."
"Not right away," Lucia interrupted as she poured them both a glass of wine, filling her own glass substantially more than Vibria's. "He did stop and shag those four women last night, first."
"He what?" Vibria started to rise, but was stopped by Lucia's hand on hers. "Does Fédora know?"
"I'm sure she does. It was the talk of the covenant this morning. The girls seemed quite proud of themselves. Couldn't wait to tell the world that they let Vulcanus have his way with them."
"Lucky," Vibria muttered.
"Right," Lucia snapped. "Lucky to get used by a man only interested in getting his jollies, then marrying someone he knew would spread her legs for him and pop out as many babies as he wants."
"Lucia." Vibria started again to rise before falling back into the chair. "I won't have you badmouthing Anselm like that. I still..."
"Don't tell me you're about to say you still love him, after what he did! He obviously doesn't feel anything for you, or he wouldn't have run off like he did."
Vibria slumped in the chair and reached for her goblet, draining it in one fell swoop.
"I thought he did. He's the only one who treated me right in...years! Everyone else treats me like I'm a whore, or useless, or incompetent, or a thief, or..."
She raised her glass to her lips, only to frown when she realized it was empty. She held it out for more wine.
"Not everyone, Maga," Lucia said as she poured a dollop.
"You're right. You've treated me fairly since you started working for me. And thank you. I'm glad you're the one that got stuck with me.
"Stuck with you? Heavens, no, Maga. I wanted to be with you. I heard how all the other servants were talking about you, and I knew that wasn't right. So I volunteered, and I'm delighted to be here." Lucia smiled and cracked her knuckles. "And the others soon learned to keep their mouths shut about you."
Vibria's head had fallen forward with her chin resting on her chest, but she awoke with a start and looked around briefly.
"You seem tired, Maga. It's been a long day. Maybe we should get you to bed." Lucia stood and moved to Vibria's side.
"You're right. Only drunks fall asleep in their cups. And I'm not a drunk, I'm just a tipsy." Vibria started to get to her feet, and almost succeeded, only to fall back in her chair a third time. It took two more tries, and a little help from Lucia, to get her standing up.
"Just a teensy weensy tipsy with great bit titsies that no one else seems to want." She looked down at her breasts. "It's just you and me, boobies."
She lifted one breast. "We still love you," she said in a falsetto as she jiggled her breast. She then did the same with her other one, squeaking "That's right! We're a team!" She then dropped her breast and giggled.
"I'm drunk, aren't I?" she asked.
"A little bit, yes," Lucia replied with a blush.
"Well, I deserve to be. Isn't that what you're supposed to be when the only man you've ever loved runs away and gets married? And I may never find someone who's going to love me now!" Vibria started bawling and flung her arms around Lucia.
The maidservant, surprised, stood their awkwardly before she hugged the maga back, not quite sure what to do.
"You'll find someone," she said in what she hoped was her most reassuring voice. "Who knows, you might find the one you love right under your nose." She stood there holding Vibria and let her cry herself out.
"I'm going to bed," Vibria finally said as she eased herself out of the embrace. She turned and looked around for a second before she stumbled through the door into the bedchamber and pitched headlong onto her bed. She was sound asleep almost before she hit the mattress.
Lucia smiled tenderly for a couple of minutes as she gazed at Vibria. She got a bucket and placed it by the bed, then carefully lifted Vibria's legs onto the bed and pulled the sheets up to tuck her in.
She then undressed for bed and sat on her mattress, a few feet away from Vibria's, and watched the maga as she always did. She eventually pulled the thin sheet over herself and drifted off to sleep, perchance to dream of a day when they might share a bed.