An abrupt wave of air from behind Tiffen propelled her even faster toward the mighty oaken doors that served as the sole entrance to the majestic guild hall. All of the straggler mages were suddenly rushing forward, and Tiffen saw why. The guild’s master at arms was trying to close the doors, no doubt by the order of Provius, who really couldn’t abide people being late to his meetings. It was a useless gesture however. The panicked mages running forward to gain entrance might have relaxed, as an older and calmer mage, walking slowly down the hall with the aid of his staff, called forth a hail storm on the doors that welded them open with ice. It also froze the master of arms feet to the floor, and his expression as the old mage passed by him was not a friendly one.
The mage smiled at the guard and flicked a small fireball at the floor, that melted the ice and freed the guard in an instant. The guard was grateful, but not amused.
Tiffen buzzed up and away quickly to avoid a scorching.
The large and lavish gallery had ornate but uncomfortable looking benches organized in three primary groups. The center section ran twice as long as the side groups, which were slightly angled toward center stage. A wide aisle was kept between each section. The front half of the rows were already crowded and the late arrivals scampered to claim the best seats remaining. The drone of conversations rose to the arched ceiling like the great hum of an infernal engine.
Tiffen spotted Wejamar at an instant. He had a great fondness for food, especially sweets, and in consequence was a large and rotund fellow, although lacking the jovial good nature so often attributed to such. With his shining hairless head, resting like a reflective globe atop the swollen oblong body, he was not easily missed.
He sat at the end of one of the few benches positioned on the dais, behind and oblique to the speaker’s podium. It was a placement of honor and power, though not quite as great as the center row directly behind the podium, where Provius sat in the guildmaster’s over-elaborate chair and was flanked on both sides by 3 mages of the highest regard and standing. These were the head mages of the various disciplines. They included masters of fire, water, earth, transmutations, and transformations. Tiffen thought Wejamar was a fair practitioner of all these mage arts, but even she knew that without being highly specialized, there was a limit to how high you could rise. Wejamar seemed to be at that height, and she didn’t think he minded.
Tiffen crossed the great room above the heads of the crowd and came to rest on Wejamar’s earlobe. She felt the slight tremble in his skin that let her know that he was aware of her presence. She had learned the hard way that this was important. Walking into someone’s ear without warning would likely be followed by a fat finger rudely crushing you into the darkness.
Now, having made her presence known to the expecting host, she walked quickly into his ear, being careful to avoid the spurious and unruly hairs that he refused to cut. It was just poor grooming she had often complained, but to no effect. She didn’t care for the inside of ears in general. The wax was often hot and nasty and once, being careless, she had gotten quite caught in its stickiness. Her rescue had not been a simple feat and she shuddered to remember it. Sometimes, like now, it was necessary, and it didn’t do any good at all to complain about it.
From inside the ear she could whisper, and just as importantly, if the creature had learned the skill and practiced sufficiently, she could hear them ‘speak’ through the small vibrations of the bones in their ears, without them making any noise. This allowed private conversations even when others were around, like now. She made her way carefully toward the inner ear, finding a spot in the bony labyrinth where there was an acceptable level of the external sounds without overpowering Wejamar’s internal voice.
“You’re late” he intoned.
This was a pointless observation as far as Tiffen was concerned, since being on time for a meeting she wasn’t invited too hardly seemed important. She ignored the comment altogether.
With great excitement, but commendable control, Tiffen stated matter of factly, “She knows.” She braced herself against the expected exclamation of delight and amazement.
“I know”, came the dull reply.
“We all know.”
“Yes, of course everyone knows. That’s why we’re meeting.”
“But…” Tiffen started, fumbling to comprehend, and deeply disappointed. “How?”
“Honestly, Tiffen, did you think you were the only one we had watching the girl?”
Tiffen felt suddenly devastated. She leaned back against a thick hair and silently slid to the floor, as it were.
“Don’t do that!” Wejamar practically yelled. “It makes my ear itch!”
Tiffen barely heard him. Her mind was replaying all the time she had spent in that achingly slow and boring world, where Zoe was the only one capable of even communicating with her. All her hard work teaching the girl about Aveena and her place in it. All for what? When finally she had something of real interest and import, she learns she’s what? A failsafe? A ‘just in case’. Somebody else was responsible for the important things?
Wejamar must have somehow discerned her thoughts. He was mumbling something about her being indispensable to their operations and they could never have gotten this far without her, and how she should be proud of her contribution, but she wasn’t registering any of it.