Will I ever be free?
Lanik watched her shrink into herself, and a pang of guilt quickly overtook him. He didn't know how his brother did it, or any of the other slave owners to be completely honest. The captain was never a materialistic man, living simply and humbly despite his position in Imperial hierarchy. It was a big jump, to suddenly being responsible for an actual person -- an elf no less. They were a proud and dangerous people, ones not to be trifled with if the whole ordeal with Marcus had taught him anything. And yet here was one, docile. He could let her go but.. . from what Darian had told him progress on the Aetherion front was overwhelmingly successful. If the Imperial war machine continued on the path it usually does, it wouldn't be long before Aetherion would fall and elven slaves would be common place. He couldn't imagine what some of the other slave owners would do to her. Despite being an Imperial Lanik was not cut from the same cloth as those with more barbaric tendencies. Perhaps she would come to an understanding in due time that he was only trying to save her life, and spare her some morality during her stay here. Would she ever be free? He sincerely couldn't answer that question.
Lanik diverted with a command, "Put on the collar and follow me, I'll show you the estate,"
Lanik led the two to the kitchen. It was an exquisite build, shimmering of vintage origin something akin to a woodsman's cabin. There was an island in the middle, the counter constructed out of a solid hunk of a tree trunk that Lanik had made himself for his final project in the Carpenter's Guild. Above it hung garlands of exotic herbs wildly colored pink, blue, red and green. There were pots as well, assorted utensils and plates all neatly stacked here and there on counters riddled with jars of spices. As fancy as the cooking area was, it looked like it hadn't been used in ages. The Captain was never a talented cook, and father and daughter usually frequented nearby dining establishments for anything culinary related.
"The kitchen's here. If you can cook, you're more than welcome to.. uhh," he picked up a spatula, inspecting it closely then putting it down, "If not Marië and I usually go out,"
He then took them to the living room, the first place Erudessa would have seen when entering the Wintergate home. Antique furniture dotted the place, all pieces Lanik had built himself. They were beautifully crafted with exceptional attention to detail. Against the far wall was a fireplace, a large-bellied pot suspended between two iron hooks inside. In the corner was an old guitar and an older violin, an instrument Marië had just begun last year. Above the stone mantle was a picture of the legendary Gregoir Wintergate, Lanik's father, poised triumphant with gray hair signifying his seniority both in achievement and age.
"Here's the living room. Marië or myself are usually in here. You'll have to excuse the violin, Marië's just started and needless to say she has a bit more practicing to do,"
He turned, striding past the elf and walking outside through the backdoor. Going outside they entered the garden, a true spectacle boasting of all species of fauna. It was a large lot, a greenhouse in one corner, and lugubrious shed in the other and the rest of it sectioned off into neat squares of vegetables and other produce. It was still night out, but the moonlight essence illuminated the outside just enough to cast faint shadows against a blue twilight. The moon was big and bright with stars twinkling overhead, sending blessings to the earth from millions of miles away. Lanik turned to face Erudessa, about to give another one sentence explanation before locking a gaze on her figure. Maybe it was the way the nightly ambiance accented her willowy outline and starlit hair, because Lanik up until that point had never noticed it before... but it was there, despite being coated in his old baggy clothes. He stared at her deeply for a moment.. . then looked away, obviously flushed and blushing.
"And this is... the garden..," he stammered for a bit, something unusual for him, "We.. . do garden here," he gulped, cursing under his breath once more and pushing past her quickly and leading the two to the attic.
Lanik's footsteps clomped hard against the simple oak staircase that lead into the highest point of the house. It was here where Lanik and Marcus would stay when father made his political expeditions into the heart of Midhaven. The captain pushed open the trapdoor, climbing in and extending Erudessa a hand when he was inside. It was a fairly small space. A dusty bed tucked away in one corner and a single dormer window the only source of illumination. Webs clung onto the top corners of the room where ceiling and roof met. On the far side of the room was a desk with a rickety chair to which Lanik walked over to. On top of the desk was a picture. He picked it up and stared at it for a awhile, as if lost in the moment.
It was a picture of Marcus and Lanik, young and innocent with arms slung around each-others shoulders, a big smile plastered on both their faces. Back during a time where the two boys held no responsibility other than to themselves and to each other and the youthful pursuit of happiness. How times were much simpler back then, something Lanik longed for even now. He glanced up. On every wall was a poster size schematic little Lanik had drawn up as a child. Some of them were outrageous ideas, like vehicles of war made out of wood and stone propelled by a magical engine with tracks that could crush any obstacle. And some were docile, realistic, like more efficient models of windmill components and siege weaponry. Lanik picked up one of the scattered schematics off the desk, studying it for a moment before realizing his guest. He pushed the photo of Marcus face down, almost forgetting Erudessa had been there all along.
"The attic will be your quarters during your stay with us, at least while we're in Midhaven," he glanced up to her, "Excuse the mess.. . I haven't been up here in awhile,"
He brushed himself off then walked to the trapdoor, "Settle in for the night. Marië and I will take you out to the market in the morning to get you some clothes. I'm sure you don't want to be garbed in my things for any longer than you need to,"
He began to step down through the trapdoor, but he stopped, looking over his shoulder.
"I don't know if you'll ever be free Erudessa, the way the Imperium works makes it hard to say," he sighed, "Just.. try to make yourself comfortable. It might be awhile. Plus I know I'll --," he held his breath, redirecting his statement, "Marië will enjoy your company,"
Lanik descended the stairs, his footsteps getting softer as he distanced himself from the attic.