Blowing his bangs off his forehead, Eris muttered a string of curses under his breath as he tried to tame his hair. He hated the rainy weather as it is, did it really have to go messing with his hair, too? As if he didn’t have enough to stress about. Angelique was on schedule, fortunately, but what he hadn’t expected was Katya’s sudden update--apparently, Feliks was going to be a little early. Perfect, because he really missed getting reamed by the guy.
After smoothing out his hair, he gave up and went into the living room instead. The slightest tapping of fingers on a keyboard caught his attention, and he rolled his eyes. “Ismene, give it a rest, I told you I needed you today,”
He called, foot tapping the ground impatiently.
At first, she seemed to ignore him, but soon after she joined him in the living room. She was a woman of average height, chestnut-colored locks pulled out of her face and held back by a hair pin. Her green eyes observed Eris for a moment before she would stand in front of him, a perfectly plucked eyebrow raised.“Angelique just arrived,”
She informed him as she gestured to the door, and right on cue, the door bell rang. “I still had time.”“Please cut the sass, Alderman is made of the stuff and I’ll already have my hands full with Feliks,”
Eris gestured to the door.
She shrugged, but strode across the room gracefully as Eris rubbed his temples. The woman opened the door, coming face-to-face with Max. Her expression was settled into something that looked more bored than anything, though she didn’t look at him for too long as she stepped to the side.“Master Eris, Maxwell has arrived,”
She announced, closing the door.
Max entered the house with all the confidence of someone who lived there all his life, looking particularly dashing in his lavish combo of a hoodie and sweatpants. He would’ve taped a shittily-made sign that said ‘Fuck Eric Samael’ to his chest, but he didn’t come up with the idea until he was halfway to his destination.
Servant girl was quiet, which he liked; no pointless small talk. He swore the chauffeur girl gave him a Look when she saw his outfit. With any luck, Eris would keel over from the sheer horror on the spot when he got a peek at it. “Master Eris, huh? Is that what I’m supposed to call him?”
He asked half to Ismene and half to Eris, projecting his voice to make sure the vampire heard it too, “Nice place, Eric.”
Ismene gave what could have been interpreted as either half a shrug or a slight stretch to the shoulder, her gaze set ahead as she guided Max to the living room. Eris let out an audible groan as he watched the pair walk in, one hand to his forehead. The kid lived
off spite, he was sure of it at this point. What part of ‘decent’ did he not understand?! As if Feliks needed more ammo against him.
Eris refocused his irritation, running his hand through his hair. “You should, but you can barely get my name right as it is,”
He replied bitterly, motioning for Ismene to stand next to him. “This is Ismene Avalon, and likely who you’ll be working under after you graduate.”
He introduced her, and she gave Max a small nod of acknowledgement, taking a step away from the vampire as he leaned towards her. “My most trusted mage and beautiful to boot, she does the work of ten people and keeps it all in that gorgeous head.”
Ismene gave Eris a wary look before looking at Max again. “Nice to meet you,”
The lack of enthusiasm was obvious, although it turned into pure disdain as Eris pulled her into a hug. “Please, sir, Mr. Vasiliev will be here any moment now.”
Max gave Ismene a small wave as she was introduced, then outright laughed - yes, laughed
, not snickered or snorted - as she got pulled into the hug. It was uncharacteristic and frankly, unsettling, but Max composed himself into the barest hint of a sly grin rather quickly. She seemed tolerable, unless she turned into a real slavedriver behind closed doors.“That’s great, I do the work of half a person so you can cover my slack,”
Max replied to Ismene, then focused back on Eris, “Speaking of names, what’s this guy’s name again? Calling him Fecal Vassalship might make him mad.”
Oh yes, he was going to have fun with this. Served Eris right for throwing that ‘favor’ at him.
Eris gasped at Max’s misnaming, nearly dropping Ismene but managing to put her down and wrap an arm around her shoulders, much to her displeasure. Great Anastasia, he thought that the kid had misnamed him just to piss him off, he didn’t think that he actually forgot Feliks’ name. “Feliks Vasiliev,”
He repeated the name slowly, though he changed his mind as he shook his head. “Feliks. Just Feliks, or don’t even call him by his name. Do not insult the man, he’s liable to turn around and leave at that level of disrespect and you need him just as much as I do.”
He threw out the warning sooner than later, knowing very well Feliks would happily walk right out of the flat flipping Eris off if he felt it was justified.
Although now that he mentioned it, he needed to give Max another heads up as well. “Speaking of which, it’s likely he will be arriving with the Viscountess. She will be treated with respect, we’ve been business partners for decades--and if she is mistreated, Feliks won’t hesitate to take it out on both of us if you insult her,”
He was more serious as he spoke this time, his tone urgent.
Max had no intention of insulting either of them, but it was nice to see Eris was afraid of this guy. It made his real plan sound even sweeter. Anyone could be assigned a disobedient pet; Max acting out wouldn’t garner much more than a passing snide remark. He needed to make Eris look stupid
.“Yeah, yeah, be polite to the missus, I get it. Feliks, though. I can’t believe I’m on a first name basis with Mister Vascular already. I’m touched.”
Max flashed a shit-eating grin briefly toward Eris.
Outside, a dark-haired young man scowled at the sky, jabbing a bronze-tipped ebony cane into the ground. He struggled a bit to emerge from his limousine, but refused the driver’s help nonetheless, warning the man off with little more than a sharp, grey-eyed glare. When he finally made it out, he made his way around the car to the opposite side, clearly favouring his left leg and leaning a little heavier on his cane than usual. When he arrived, though, he opened the door with practiced poise, expression softening to something resembling fondness as he offered his free hand to the other occupant.
A delicate hand gladly took his, followed by the rest of the vampire as she emerged from the car. Despite the look on the man’s face, it was met with a rather gentle, loving expression of gratitude. She wasn’t bothered by the rain, more focused on the young man, but she dared not speak a word of protest, instead dutifully following along and playing the role of his lady.
Her eyes did, however, briefly wander the area, landing on the man as she would smile at him. “Thank you,”
She said rather cheerfully.
It looked like the man wanted to keep scowling, but for a moment the irritation broke and he looked to the blonde woman, an inch or so taller than him in her modest heels, almost bashfully, dipping his head. “Of course,”
he assured her, though his former irritation came back near-immediately when he had to manoeuvre around a puddle, eyes flashing back up to the black sky. “I’m instating a ‘rain’ fee,”
he informed the woman bitterly.“I will make sure to update the invoice,”
She replied, unfazed by his tone as the pair walked. “Pandora’s son can fit any bill, add as much as you please.”
The man laughed, a mocking sound. “Oh I know,”
he replied, “he’s already getting a fortune in house call and rush order fees.”
The woman patting his arm gently, the pair navigated themselves through the building to Eris’ door. The woman adjusted her blouse, exhaling a breath as she listened in to some minor movement within. One voice she did recognize, though she raised her eyebrows as a small bark was also heard. She pursed her lips as she chose not to comment, instead waiting patiently as the man rapped the ball of his cane on the door.
Eris gave Max an odd look at his comment, though at the knock, he released Ismene. The woman fixed her hair as she walked past the pair, smoothing out her blouse before opening the door. She bowed respectfully to the couple, stepping back to let them in. She took their coats wordlessly, hanging them up before gesturing to the living room.“Master Eris, our guests have arrived,”
She announced, leading the pair and offering them the couch.
As Max turned toward the arriving couple, his composure broke momentarily. This guy was young; not vampiric young, but young-young. That was surprising, if the guy was a mortal, Max would’ve assumed he’d at least be some doddering old eccentric. He certainly walked like an old fuck, at least. But the real shocker was the fact that he had some vampiress hanging off his arm; and a viscountess, apparently. He hoped the guy was at least milking her for all she was worth, because otherwise, that was just gross. It was like watching a sheep lock lips with a wolf; completely unnatural.
As Max schooled his face back into a neutral nonchalance, he bowed to the couple wordlessly. He still had cards to play, and unlike with Cinnamon, he knew exactly when to play them this time.
Eris straightened up immediately, putting on an award-winning smile. He waved at Ismene, who got the signal and walked to the kitchen for a moment. “Welcome to my humble abode, so glad you could make it,”
He stated cheerfully, gesturing to Max. “This is my newest mage, Maxwell Alderman. Maxwell, this is Feliks Vasiliev, and his wife, Viscountess Katerina Vasiliev.”
Feliks glanced around as he entered, eyes falling first on Max and raising an eyebrow at the bow. He didn’t bother to hide the judgemental up-and-down look he gave the mage, studying his clothes before glancing up to his face, and didn’t cover up his distaste at what he saw.
Eris’ greeting was met stone-faced, Feliks looking like he barely contained an eye roll when it was over with. “Gets a little less humble every time you drag me here,”
he commented dryly, looking back over to Max. “Is this the one you sent me those piss-poor measurements for?”
He asked, leaning a little this way and that for a better look at Max rather than Eris.
The vampire let out a slightly forced laugh, though it was accompanied by the Viscountess’ chuckle of amusement, so at least it wasn’t alone. He cleared his throat as Ismene returned with a tray, a pair of bottles with a pair of glasses accompanied by a variety of hors d'oeuvres. She settled it down, picking up the bottle of blood first and offering it to the Viscountess first.
Katya declined it politely, looking at Max as well. “He’s a handsome young man, isn’t he?”
She asked Feliks.
Eris kept his initial comment to himself, replying instead with, “Yes, Feliks, and that, Katya, is why I require your husband’s services tonight.”
Feliks shrugged, making his way to the middle of the living room and motioning for Max to follow. “Hard to tell under that tent of a hoodie,”
he replied to his wife thoughtfully before addressing Max. “Lose it. And what are you, mute? Say something, you’re making me think Eris cut your tongue out or something.”
Finally, his cue. Max looked to Feliks with his best innocent face; he was nothing more than a bright-eyed boy who didn’t know a thing about scary vampires and prestigious tailors, after all.“Um, sorry. I was trying to be polite, Mister Vasiliev,”
He responded in the most sheepish tone he could muster, “And what’s wrong with the hoodie? Eris said it looked fine…”
His voice trailed off as he covered his mouth with his hand in pretend thought; doing his best to suppress a snicker. Take that, you D-list fuck. “I don’t think I was supposed to say that out loud…”
Max mumbled afterward and hurriedly pulled his hoodie off.
Feliks stared incredulously at Max for a moment, caught somewhere between laughing and suppressing a shiver, before rolling his eyes. “Fuck, even I could pull off groveling better than that when I was your age,”
he sighed, casting a knowing look to his wife before turning a bewildered face on Eris. “Did you put him up to this?”
He didn’t wait for a response, examining Max with a critical eye. “If you’re going to put on that kind of a show, you have to really sell it,”
he commented absently, “you know, really imagine your life is on the line. Although, with a vampire like Eris I can’t entirely blame you if you don’t quite have the fear of Anastasia struck into your heart.”
Ismene offered Feliks some wine as he circled Max, pulling the tailor from his tangent. “Oh, what does he have you doing this for?”
he asked Ismene, tone a lot more sympathetic than he’d taken for anyone else thus far. He shook his head at Eris. “This is like sending a race car on a grocery run, Eris. Ismene, don’t worry about that, just set it back down there please and go do something more worthy your time.”
He gestured to a side table nearby.
Turning back to Max, he shot him a warning look. “Oh, and don’t call me mister. I’m not that old.”
Eris’ voice died in his throat as he pinched the bridge of his forehead. He didn’t know which was worse, Max trying to throw him under the bus or Feliks throwing that bus back at him. He should ask Ismene to make the ground swallow him up, between the pair he was sure one of them was going to end up further embarrassing him. Were they in a secret contest or something? He looked up as Ismene gave Feliks a polite bow, and he couldn’t help but glare at her. Traitor.“I’ll have a glass before you go, Ismene,”
He muttered as he practically threw himself on the other couch, scowling as he crossed his arms.
Max shrugged. He was hoping to keep the persona up a bit longer, but he got what he wanted regardless.“Sorry, I was pretending to be this pathetic guy I know, but apparently I should’ve undersold it a bit.”
Too much Retriever, noted, “It’s nice to meet you, Eris talks about you a lot.”
He was still going to be fake, of course; it’d be prudent to get this guy to like him. “I dunno how much Eris filled you in, but half of it was probably wrong.”
Max wanted to know exactly what kind of flowery crap Eris was suggesting before he agreed to any measuring, because there was no way that his overly-extra ass just said ‘My mage needs some armor made’ without any dumb additions in the name of fashion.“He talks about me, does he? What, does he announce it every other night when he emails me for updates?”
Feliks almost laughed, though there wasn’t much humour in it. Stepping back from Max, he closed his eyes and murmured an incantation, snapping his fingers once. Suddenly, a black leather supply bag materialized on the table nearby. “Katya, set up for me please. I’ll need the tape measure first,”
he spoke succinctly, but his tone betrayed a certain fondness. Katya busied herself laying out the needed supplies, handing a flexible measuring tape to Feliks before taking up a pad and pencil herself.
Wordlessly, Feliks used the top of his cane, an ornate and heavy bronze ball, to poke and prod Max into a posture resembling upright, having him hold his arms a little away from his body. “He told me you needed an entire wardrobe made,”
he replied, a little exasperated, as he snaked the tape measure deftly around Max’s waist. He took his measurement in an instant and moved quickly between spots with practiced ease, reading each one out loud for Katya to record. “He also told me you’re looking for some armour, something flexible and compact. I’m thinking a modular chestpiece should do nicely. Even though I’m not an armourer--”
he raised his voice a little there, the comment clearly directed at Eris along with a pointed look, “--I don’t think it should be a problem. You are a metal mage, yes?”
Max’s eyes flickered to the viscountess as she worked at Feliks’ beck and call. He really had her whipped, huh? Damn. He wasn’t sure if the guy was lucky or if she was just weird - after all, she was calling Max attractive earlier too. “Yeah, I’m a metal mage. Honestly, I thought you were just going to be in charge of all the padding underneath and pass me off to some other guy for the metal bits,”
Max mused as he dutifully let Feliks measure him, “I was thinking vambraces too, at least. I need something on my arms. Some sort of pin mechanism would be ideal too, I’d like to be able to get them on and off as quickly and as hands-off as possible. Leg protection’s not really my concern, so you can skip that if Eric’s feeling cheap.”
As Ismene handed Eris his glass, he scoffed loudly. “Feliks Vasiliev is the most on-demand designer of the decade, his wares do not come cheap,”
He stated bluntly.“That’s why I figured you might wanna save a buck or two on such a premium service. I’m being considerate here!”
Max chimed in smugly.
Katya looked up from the notepad, feigning surprise. “Perish the thought, Eris insisted that this be the priority--he cancelled his own fitting for you,”
She reminded him, a wide smile on her face as she turned her attention back to the measurements. “He must be very kind to do so.”“Katya, please, don’t give the kid any weird ideas,”
Eris muttered. “He’s already boggled by you being here, you’re going to give him an aneurysm.”
The blonde finished writing before looking up at Max again, giving him a small smile. “Is he? I hadn’t noticed,”
She said. “Do you find me odd, Maxwell?”
Absolutely.“Not in the slightest, Viscountess. Though I’ll admit this is the first time I’ve witnessed a vampire of your status jotting down notes for a tailor.”
He looked to Feliks momentarily as the man was sizing his midriff, “Is tailor the right word? It feels underwhelming.”
Feliks couldn’t contain his grin as Katya messed with Eris, moving on to measuring various places on Max’s arms as he spoke. “Well, I suppose I could be your dressmaker if that better suits your fancy, but I have a feeling tailor will do just fine.”
He smirked as he measured his way through Max’s arms in record time, moving up to wrap the tape around his neck. “Vambraces I agree with - you’d look like a turtle or something wandering around in a chest piece with nothing on your arms - but I worry the traditional tube shape will get in the way if you’re intending to wear this every night.”
Feliks spoke almost as if to himself, though he did more directly address Max next. “I was thinking something more narrow, with enough material to be molded to suit your needs after the fact. How good is your affinity control?”“With the way Eris talks about you, I was expecting you to walk through the door with laser eyes and fire breath; forgive me if the title seemed a bit mundane.”
Max thought for a minute, internally debating between a partial lie or a simple omitted truth. Oh, what the hell. “My control’s alright. Not where I want it to be, but I think I more or less have force modulation down. Moving multiple objects at once is still a mess unless they’re all moving in more or less the exact same pattern.”
Honesty would probably get him better equipment in this case, and it wasn’t like Phallic Vanguard’s opinion of his skillset really mattered. “I can work with anything, though. Don’t give me something designed for an idiot when I can work with big boy toys just as well with a little practice.”
Eris openly rolled his eyes, although he figured now was as good a time as any to get the metal out here. He looked around for Ismene, remembering that she had taken the first chance to dip out with the light sound of keyboard clicking faintly heard from a distance confirming as such. Placing his glass down, he shook his head at Max, dismissing his comment.“What an active imagination on the kid,”
He said, clearly displeased as he walked out. “Let me get the stuff.”
Chuckling a little at the laser eyes comment, Feliks shook his head. “You just started, you’ll learn,”
he reassured Max. It was barely there, but a flash of nostalgia passed behind his eyes. “For now we’ll choose a shape that’ll suit your needs without you having to change it too much. Later on you’ll be able to reform the pieces depending on your preference.”
Watching Eris drag his ass out of the room, Feliks couldn’t help but smirk. Moving to the couch, he sat on the arm, leaning his cane against his leg and placing his hand on the ball atop it, titanium wedding band glittering. After a moment, Feliks pulled part of the ball off the cane, the metal stretching like clay.“Here’s what I’m thinking,”
he spoke as he worked, motioning for Max to come over and produce his arm. The ball of bronze in Feliks’ hand stretched itself into a bar, and then further into something resembling a half-pipe. He placed it on Max’s arm to make a few more adjustments, and soon he had something like a rough bronze mock-up of a vambrace. “I think this would be good to begin with; protective, but not encumbering,”
Feliks explained. “Once you’re more practiced, you’ll be able to manipulate it to your heart’s content.”
He demonstrated by stretching the plate so it formed a tube around the arm, and then into something resembling a thin bar along the arm ending in a spike, before returning it to its original shape. He looked to Max. “How does that feel? It won’t be this heavy.”
Bastard just had to show Max up, huh? Whatever. “Yeah, that’s fine, but wouldn’t a full circle around the arm make more sense? Probably easier to attach too. I think you misunderstood me, but I literally wanna be able to pop these things off and throw them at people’s heads.”
Max was a simple man with simple dreams, what could he say? At least he knew freely molding its shape was somewhere within the realm of possibility for him, that made things easier.“I’m all ears if you’ve got ideas on places to stick subtle sharp things too. Forks up my sleeve just don’t cut it for me.”
Feliks chuckled, shaking his head. “I admire your resolve, but a full tube will be unwieldy. These plates can be secured to the arm pretty simply, but I think I know what might work for you.”
Removing the vambrace, Feliks pulled it in two like taffy, ending up with two unevenly sized pieces. The larger one was shaped similarly to before, and the smaller formed another half-pipe on the inside of the arm, flush with the top plate at the wrist but stopping several inches shorter than the top plate toward the elbow. The pieces were secured with two small pins on each side before Feliks let the full weight of the metal rest on Max’s arm.“Better for freedom of motion than a full tube, but still offers protection to your veins. You’ll have to levitate it to assemble it.”
Feliks motioned to the vambrace. “Go ahead, try it out.”
Max’s arm dropped as the weight suddenly fell on it all at once, but he quickly raised it again to test out the motion. Weight aside, it felt good. No real mobility loss, and it was about as protective as wrist armor could be. He held his arm straight out, with his hand balled into a fist. Simple enough. Outward, then forward.
The pins popped out on either side, hovering just outside their sockets. The bottom plate dropped off Max’s arm, but stopped its descent before hitting the ground and rocketed forward, barely missing one of Eris’ droll little house decorations before circling around to land in Max’s waiting hand. He then clasped the plate back on the underside of his arm before locking the pins back in place.“I like it,”
He muttered simply.
The blonde missed the show, coming back into the living room only to hear Katya laughing to herself. He raised an eyebrow at her but otherwise didn’t react, placing down a box on one of the tables. Opening it up, he carefully slid the metal onto the table’s surface, brushing some dust off of it.“This is a titanium-steel alloy, think it’ll do the job,”
He told the pair, knocking on the cube. “Heavy enough to protect and do damage, light enough to move around in. After some getting used to, anyway.”
Max felt his magic resonate with the metal before he saw it, turning at the intrusion to face Eris upon his return. Titanium? Fuck, Eris really went over-the-top with this. He kept his arm held out for Feliks to retrieve the bronze he’d shaped into the prototype vambrace, but was fully focused now on the sheets of metal resting on the table. “Did you just casually have that laying around or…?”
He couldn’t help it, he had to ask. This was a bit much, even for Eris. Well, not quite, it wasn’t solid gold or anything. Though that would probably be terrible armor. Maybe some kind of trim? No, don’t give that leech any ideas.
Eris looked at Max quizzically, eyes flickering from the metal to him. “No, I bought it for today,”
He said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “If I’m going to be spending a small fortune on you, you’re going to have the best.”
Katya’s smile widened, her posture more relaxed as she watched the scene unfold, her chin resting on her hand. “Hmm...I think I can empathize with wanting the best for your mage,”
She said as she shifted in her seat, eyeing her husband as she watched him work. “I told you he was kind.”
The blond rolled his eyes again, patting the metal. “Say what you will, I’m not the type of person to half ass quality,”
He huffed as he moved back to the opposite couch, taking a seat more gracefully as he watched Feliks literally work his magic. “Low quality means less durability, more repairs, more problems, more headaches. Think of it as a long term investment, you get your money’s worth and then some.”
She didn’t seem to buy anything he said, but she watched Max happily. “In the future, Maxwell won’t even need measurements. He’ll just do it on his own after getting the supply,”
She said, seemingly nostalgic. “He reminds me of Feliks when he was young, too. A little harsh and frosty around the edges, but a burning fire determined to burn inside.”
As the others spoke, Feliks examined the cube of metal, eyes glinting like steel. He picked it up with his magic, turned it, weighed it, even tested its elasticity a little before returning it to its cube shape and letting it settle on the table once more. He didn’t seem to come out of his calculating reverie until Katya spoke again. “Lyubimaya, pozhaluysta...”
he gently chastised her, though his voice betrayed more of a fond amusement. He shook his head and slid off the arm of the couch onto the seat, a pained sigh escaping him as he sunk into the cushion. He rubbed his left hip. “We both know how that turned out,”
he let out a dark chuckle, tossing a knowing look to his wife. “Maybe it’ll serve him better than it did me.” “And you,”
he pointed to Eris. “I must say, I’m impressed. I half-expected you to send me a coil of copper for the rose gold aesthetic and call it a night.”
He rolled his eyes and turned to Max, talking as he collected his prototype. “You’ll get more than your money’s worth with me, but don’t swallow too much of that ‘quality’ talk. He’s right, but he also knows full well that if he’d have given me shit material, I’d have spat in his face. Especially after the trip I’ve had.”
He fell back against the couch. “Katya, get the camera please. I need to do some sketches.”
Eris further sank into his seat, displeased. Why was everyone so surprised? It was actually kind of annoying, and he couldn’t stop himself from sulking and busying himself with his own glass. He’d have to minimize this little group getting together, he didn’t appreciate the mood of the room at all. He caught Katya’s look of amusement, though he gestured to Feliks and said nothing. Katya subdued her grin as she stood, bringing out a blank sketchpad, a stick of charcoal, and a small camera.“Please hold still for a few moments,”
She told Max as she handed both pad and charcoal to Feliks. She fiddled with the camera briefly, concentrating on it before the shutter would open up. Holding it to her eye, she snapped several photos from different angles, walking around Max as she did so. “This is my favorite part.”
She admitted, checking the camera’s screen to make sure the pictures she took were satisfactory.“You’ve gotten better with it,”
Eris commented, resting his elbow on the arm of the couch. “Practice makes perfect,”
Katya replied, though she then looked back at Max again. “Are you enjoying learning magic at school?”
She asked him. Feliks returned the metal from the vambrace to his cane once the pictures were taken, and took up his sketchbook and charcoal with a quiet thanks, attentive eyes flashing between Max and the paper as he scratched away.
Max eyed Katya warily after dutifully holding his posture for the photo. He really didn’t like talking to vampires, but at least when they were rude he knew how to handle them. Viscountesses with a young human fetish asking about his time in school was not a situation he was equipped to deal with. “It’s alright. I’d like to be better at it, but it’s… neat?”
He liked magic, just not all the sociopolitical baggage that came with it. His affinity was a bit situational, but hardly the worst. Not that he’d risk voicing that in front of Fetus Valkyrie and have it be interpreted as an insult; or worse, turned into a lecture about the merits of metal magic. “I had a rocky start, I guess.”
Feliks chuckled darkly, though his attention remained on his work. “I know the feeling.”
Katya's gaze turned slightly frosty, azure eyes glancing at Eris, who returned her gaze with mild confusion. She closed her eyes for a moment before looking at Max again, her gaze softer. "May I ask what you mean by 'rocky'?"
She asked him politely.“My magic doesn’t work like most people’s, apparently,”
Max answered flatly, “It took one hell of an ordeal to even figure out what my affinity was, then I get told it manifested more like some half-senile old man’s magic rather than a competent young person.”
His arms shifted slightly before returning to their prior position, as if he were going to throw them up in mock-surrender and then remembered he was being sketched. Maybe he could use that as an excuse to seem incompetent so Eris would stop making him do things. No, then he’d have to deal with the leech bullying him for it, and that was even worse.
She nodded slowly, side eyeing Eris. The vampire either didn’t notice or didn’t care, irritable enough as he decided to occupy himself with his phone on other things that needed his attention. Shaking her head at him, she turned her attention back to the mage with a friendly expression. “He hasn’t been giving you any trouble, has he?”
Katya got right to the point, outright ignoring Eris’ scoff.
Max paused a moment. Could he get him in trouble here? Doubtful, it wasn’t like Eris actually did anything other than nag. At this point Max was pretty sure he was meaner to the leech than the other way around. “Nah, he’s harmless. Or really good at appearing nonthreatening.”
Max flashed a smirk in Eris’ direction as best he could without moving too much and interrupting Feliks’ sketch. Eris actually investing in his request meant Max wasn’t getting as much smug satisfaction out of publicly embarrassing him as he normally would, but if he focused on that stupid ‘favor’ he’d have to do eventually, Max was sure he’d find a way to enjoy the situation.Harmless
, what the fuck. That was almost as insulting as...getting insulted. Eris’ game was entirely off today and he didn’t like it whatsoever, and what was worse was that everyone
could tell. He had all but thrown in the towel at this point, more focused on finalizing the appointment he had with Duke Horvath tomorrow. At least Feliks wasn’t tearing into him as much as usual, though he was sure something would come up any second now.“Yup. We’re best buddies,”
Eris replied dryly. “Wells and Eric against the world, it’s a real hoot.”
Katya grinned as she nodded in approval. “How delightful, I’m so glad,”
She seemed relieved, relaxing against the couch fully. “There are too many instances where vampires attempt to assert their dominance early in the relationship by intimidation or physical abuse. Leaving your old life behind is never an easy thing to do, but at the very least your new life can steadily go in a beneficial direction.”“Oh, don’t worry, he tried. Didn’t work, but he tried.”
Okay, Max was having a good time with this again. Eris’ lack of a rebuttal made it especially pleasing; was he genuinely stumped or just too wary of these two to care?
Feliks huffed out a laugh at Eris’ defeated response, but otherwise stayed out of the conversation until then, finally setting his charcoal aside and looking up. “Eris’ bark is worse than his bite, and even then it’s more like yapping,”
he added smugly as Eris rolled his eyes, gesturing for Max to come over to the couch. “Here, take a look.”
The tailor had drawn more in that time than it seemed, a number of rough sketches of Max in various poses and outfits spanning the page. A few showed the preliminary design of Max’s armour, looking more like a series of layered plates than one solid piece of metal. It almost didn’t resemble traditional armour at all, shaped with defined angles and cutting a slim silhouette. Another, more detailed sketch was a front view of the chest piece half-disassembled, whose construction seemed designed to be taken apart and put back together again with a series of pins and latches.
The other side of the page was taken up with a handful of sketches of more normal outfits: button-up shirts worn untucked with collar undone, yet cut in such a way as to remain semi-formal; a leather jacket here, a wool coat there, all paired with simply cut jeans or slacks. Finally, there was a single sketch of a slim-cut full suit, the right and left sides of the jackets sporting various different lapel, cuff, and hem shapes as if to compare options.
Feliks glanced between Max and his sketches, searching for a reaction. “What do you think?”
Max scanned over the clothing sketches in disinterest. It just looked like a pain in the ass to him, though it did seem like the tailor had put in effort to not compromise comfort with whatever the hell Eris considered fashion. The armor diagram caught his eye much more intently. The harness obviously had several defensive flaws, though he did
say he was willing to settle for less protection, so he couldn’t blame Feliks there. The disassembly pictured was worth the minor risk involved, he assumed; until he could freely mold what he was wearing, adaptability was a more important design component. Hell, that was the main reason he even wanted the armor made in the first place. It wasn’t like anyone was going to stab him, he’d just rip the blade out of their hand anyway.“Not too keen on the outfits, but I doubt I would be on anything passing for high fashion to begin with. It works.”
Max made a pointed gesture to his sweatpants. With any luck, he’d be able to weasel his way out of wearing any of that crap to begin with. “The armor looks good, unorthodox design but I can definitely work with it. What goes under it? I was thinking silk.”
His voice grew a mischievous lilt on the last statement as he shot another glance over at Eris. He’d embarrassed him, now it was time to bankrupt him too. Maybe pure gold thread on the trimming. Was that a real thing or just something they say in movies to make the nobility seem richer?
Feliks grimaced at Max’s pants, shaking his head. “I get that you have this whole quiet rebellion thing going on, but do at least try to wear something other than whatever you dug out of the homeless shelter lost and found,”
he insisted. “You’re not poor anymore; take advantage of it. You can’t expect anyone to respect you if you don’t first respect yourself.”
He was more pleased at Max’s response to the armour. “Clever,”
he complimented. “Silk is ideal. It’ll keep you cool, with the added benefit that it can stop arrows from penetrating too deep.”
He rubbed his bad hip ruefully. “Of course, you’ll probably be able to deflect arrowheads pretty easily in the future, but one can never be too careful.”
Respect? Max didn’t care what some random background extras thought about how he looked. As far as he was concerned, the fashion travesty he’d shown up in today was a functional outfit. People in noble circles really needed to get their heads out of their asses.
As for the silk, he blinked a few times at being praised for his accidental genius. He really only picked it because it sounded expensive, he didn’t know it was viable too. Then again, one often gets what they pay for, so price and quality were bound to be intertwined.“You never know, stone arrowheads are a thing. Not a civilized thing, but a thing.”
He effortlessly played along with Feliks’ assumption. “I’d imagine those things get sweaty though, so a range of them would be nice to have. Personally, I think blue is my color, but Eris swears red brings out my eyes.”
Feliks chuckled knowingly, nodding. “I’ll order a range of colours,”
he agreed, looking over to Eris. “Well? Aren’t you curious too?”
He held out the sketchbook, expecting Eris to get up and take it.
The blonde looked up from his phone at last, a mildly interested look on his face as he stood. He kept his phone in one hand as he took the sketchpad from Feliks, eyes studying the sketches. Excellent work as always, there wasn’t anything he could find wrong with anything. He took the challenge of designing armor to heart, so that was one thing out of the way. Now he just needed to get everything else done and maybe he’d actually get a real day off during this break if he was lucky.“Looks good. I’d like to prioritize the armor and have everything delivered directly to the academy,”
He replied as he handed the sketchpad back to the designer. “Thank you very much.”“Excellent,”
Feliks accepted the pad, handing it off to Katya to be packed away. The bag he’d materialized didn’t look big enough to fit it, but it sank in effortlessly nonetheless. “I can’t guarantee a delivery date on that armour until I meet with Sacha, but with a little something to grease his wheels I’m sure we can get it to you by the end of your break.”
He turned to Katya, flashing her an affectionate smile. “Could you draw up a quote for me, please?”
She took out a much smaller notepad, pen scribbling for a few seconds and going down farther and farther until she nearly hit the bottom. Ripping the page out, she offered it to Eris with a smile. “This is a rough estimate which accounts for labor, materials, sizing, the house visit, and an assortment of other fees,”
She said as he took the paper from her.
Eris didn’t even get to glance at the total before noticing the absurd number of fees. There was the typical ‘Eris fee’ Feliks so lovingly named after him, the email fee he got for apparently checking in on him too much over email, the ‘house call’ fee, rush order fees, and--“Rain fee? What?”
He blurted out loud, looking at the tailor. “I can’t control the weather!”“You can control when you call me here,”
Feliks retorted, knowing as well as Eris did that Ivanov Designs had a wait list for appointments that was longer than Eris was tall. “Consider it an… ‘inconvenience’ fee.”“There’s already an inconvenience fee!”
Eris pointed out, annoyed. “You’re already asking me for an arm and a leg, give me some wiggle room, here.”
Katya gently rubbed Feliks’ arm, frowning at Eris. “There would be a substantial increase considering the original order was only for one suit, and now you’re asking for an entire wardrobe and armor--the latter of which we need to get in contact with a specialist with their own prices,”
She reminded him. “And with Feliks’ workload increasing exponentially with the end of the year coming around, he’s stretched thin as it is.”
The blonde looked like he wanted to argue, but unfortunately, she was right. He grimaced at the paper, folding it in half and tucking it into his jacket pocket. “Alright, then,”
He muttered, straightening up.
Feliks patted Katya’s hand in thanks, leaning to give her a kiss on the cheek before labouring to his feet himself. It took a moment, the tailor’s face betraying some of his pain, but he refused to be helped, taking a moment to stretch before nodding to Eris. “I knew you’d understand,”
he commented coyly, shooting Eris a smug grin before he offered his hand to Max. “It’s been an unexpected pleasure meeting you,”
he said sincerely. “Feel free to contact me if you remember anything else you need for that armour. Eris has my information.”
Max took the offered hand and shook it politely. “Certainly. I’ll try not to stream-of-consciousness every idea I get over email like some people.”
Good, he was in this guy’s good graces, which meant he had more cards to play on Eris. Hell, even the way this meeting played out gave him something to taunt the leech with; this was likely supposed to be a session of Eris and Feliks taking turns mocking his fashion sense rather than Shit-On-Eris day.“Fantastic,”
Feliks chuckled, patting Max on the arm. “Good luck with your studies. And you,”
he aimed a pointed, judgemental look at Eris. “Try not to shit yourself too much. I know it hurts, but when have I ever disappointed you?”“Yeah, yeah, you say that, but I’m pretty sure you’d double it if it wasn’t already highway robbery,”
Eris replied, waving Feliks’ comment away. “Ismene will see you out, I need to straighten out details on my trip tomorrow. Have a safe trip home.”
Katya couldn’t hide her own amused expression, brushing her hair off her shoulder as she smiled at Max. “Best wishes to you, Maxwell, I hope you enjoy school,”
She carefully looped her arm around Feliks’, batting her eyelashes at him. “Shall we go?”
Feliks glanced at his watch, grimacing. “Oh fuck, yes we shall,”
he replied, a little more hurriedly. Closing his eyes, he murmur-snapped his supply bag back into nonexistence and tapped his cane on the floor, taking the lead to the door. He could briefly be heard asking Ismene about a skirt suit he’d made her, but soon enough the pair was gone, Ismene closing the door behind them.
Max turned to Eris after the duo were out of earshot, lowering his voice just for good measure, “Is she always like that?”
Either the Viscountess was just weird - unsurprising given her marital… tastes - or she was hitting on him. She definitely took an interest in him, at least. Very concerning.
Eris ran a hand over his face, blinking at Max’s question. “The Viscountess has a...soft spot for mages. I still don’t get it,”
He muttered, shaking his head. “But uh...yeah, she’s a mage rights activist, or at least an advocate. Probably would’ve ripped me a new one if you so much as hinted at being treated poorly. Believe it or not, her father, Alexander Vasiliev, would’ve given Lady Sinnenodel a run for her money on mage cruelty, so I have no idea where the hell she got this cute little happy vampire wife act from.”
A mystery indeed, but he wouldn’t linger too long on it. “The marriage is entirely unnatural, but if that’s what floats their boat, then who cares,”
He shrugged, snatching his glass and downing the rest of the blood in it.
At least Max wasn’t alone in thinking that marriage was fucking weird, though the backstory was interesting. Maybe it was simple rebellion against daddy, who could say? That, or she really was whipped.“I should’ve played up the battered wife act more, then,”
he said with a shrug, putting his discarded hoodie back on. “Thanks. I wasn’t expecting you to commit so much to this, honestly.”
His apology was flat, but genuine. “Now, where’s… fuck… Angela? Annabelle? Take me home, Eric.”
Eris shrugged again at his response, albeit he waved the mage away. “We’re best buddies, remember? Better to minimally get along than be at each other’s throats,”
He replied, taking on a teasing tone as he strolled past Ismene. “Make sure to get Angelique to take him home, please and thank you.”
He instructed her, deciding to make one more attempt at grabbing her.“Yes, sir,”
Ismene side stepped Eris, the two frozen for a second before Eris continued into the house. She relaxed, motioning for Max to follow her to the door. She stared at him for a moment, looking as if she wanted to say something, but after letting out a small sigh, she seemed to change her mind. “Right, then. I’m sure she’s waiting downstairs, but if she isn’t, just come back up and I’ll take you home myself.”
After a few seconds, however, she stopped, looking at Max. “You wouldn’t happen to be involved with Count Sinnenodel, would you?”
She suddenly asked.
Max followed dutifully, arching a brow at the sudden question. “Depends what you mean by ‘involved’,”
He mused with a slight shudder, “I know him, I know his mage, and I know he and Eris are buddies. No idea what he’s gaining from it, though.”
She was practically Eris’ secretary, she had
to have context on his schemes.“Just tell me what you want from me and I can probably answer you faster, I’m not snooty or anything.”
He hated these word games, especially among mages, and extra-especially among mages under the same vampire. Weren’t they on the same ‘team’ here? “Sorry. You’re right,”
Ismene said, turning fully towards him. “By involved, I wondered if you hailed from his territory, but I suppose it’s not relevant anymore. But I’ll do as you say and get right to it: there is no trusting the count or any mage under him, especially with rumors of a fracture between the two princesses happening sooner than later. Count Sinnenodel is supposedly firmly allied with Princess Ryner, but you can only trust a Sinnenodel the same way you can trust seeing a snake in tall grass.”
She paused for a second, continuing, “I guess ‘be careful’ is what I want to say. As irritating as he is, I do care about Master Eris. But obviously he’s spending his time with the count and...call it intuition, or something.”
Finally, the juicy bits. Personally, he liked Nox marginally less than Ryner, but after that stunt the other night, her stock at the Alderman Exchange was dropping in value quick. “I don’t trust Cinnamon as far as I can spit and I never did, so don’t worry about that. I think Eris has a plan, but fuck if he tells me anything.”
Then there was the issue of their ‘association’... Max might as well just rip the band-aid off, “They fucked though. Which is creepy and weird.”
The metal mage waved his hand dismissively, as if to send the thought away as quickly as it appeared before any detailed imagery could appear in his mind.“Eris seems to like Ryner better too, but is he bold enough to actually take a side?”
Ismene looked like she had tasted something foul, raising her hand to pinch the bridge of her nose. It looked like she shared Max’s opinion on the relationship between the two vampires, but there was the tiniest dismay as she squeezed her eyes shut. She still listened carefully, dropping her hand when Max asked his question. “Taking a side with one princess over the other? I don’t see why not. But taking a side against that...count, I don’t know. From what I’ve learned, it will not be in the immediate future, at least, but it will happen sooner than later,”
She frowned. “I suppose if I find out more, I could let you know.”
Max couldn’t help but grin the barest amount. He really was toppling Eris’ whole house of cards today, wasn’t he? Lucky for the leech, Max wasn’t that
vindictive.“I don’t see why we couldn’t collaborate. You’re privy to master’s dealings and I’m assigned to regular playdates with Cinnamon’s pet. And I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m an idiot, so he might not notice any political savviness mixed into my innocent little questions,”
Max suggested, hoping he didn’t sound too sinister there. In a really roundabout way, it was for Eris’ own good.
The young woman nodded, taking her phone out of her pocket. “The title is hard to drop after twenty-three years, so I’ll just have to accept any snide remarks about it,”
She unlocked it and offered it to Max. “I’ll take you up on that offer, seeing as I can’t be there, anyway.”“Loosen up, Izzy,”
Max teased as he punched his number into her phone. Full disclosure? This was totally worth owing Eris a favor over. But Max would never admit it, of course. He handed the phone back without putting in a name for the contact, assuming she had some stupidly formal naming scheme in her phone that would’ve been thrown off with a simple ‘Max’. She seemed like that one girl who had five hundred highlighters on her desk in class to color code every note she took.
She entered his first name into the empty field, pocketing her phone shortly afterwards. “Considering I’m the favorite mage, this is as loose as I can get,”
She shrugged, continuing the walk. “That’s what happens when you’re born into mage families. But at least I do as I please.”
She accompanied him down to the towncar, where Angelique waited. Ismene gestured to Max, and Angelique opened the door for him. “Enjoy the rest of your evening, Max,”
Ismene bid him farewell.
Max flashed her a quick thumbs up as he ducked into the car. He felt obligated to say something nice, but she was already getting too personal for his taste and he did not want to deal with that baggage.“I think it’ll be hard to top this experience, I’ll be honest. Take a break sometime, Eric never shuts up about it.”
He quickly pulled the door shut before she had a chance to respond; none of his good deeds ever went unpunished so he wanted to get out of here quick.