It was a Dark and Stormy night-Or at least that's what some people might have felt it was. The loss of a loved one was always a searing pain, and within the short time span, it had yet to let time dull it at all. The owner of this great heartache had holed himself up in his cottage, and had been notably absent from his duties, both on the grounds and at school. A few soft knocks at the door revealed the presence of a visitor of some kind. When an answer to these knocks was neglected, a second series could be heard, a little firmer and more insistent.
From within the cottage the sound of rustling clothes and a chair scraping the ground could be heard. After a few long moments the sound of a turning lock punctuated the wait. As the heavy wooden door swung open a disheveled Ruarc came into view. His hair was unkempt, his clothes wrinkled, and deep bags hung below his bloodshot eyes. For a few beats longer he simply stared out the opening, almost sizing up who it was, and as faint as it was he appeared surprised by the visitor; or at least like he was expecting someone else. "Can Ah help ya?" he asked, his voice sounding hoarse as if he had not spoken in the time of his absence.
The offending visitor at the door would be found to be a familiar face- that of the tall blonde teacher and mage-knight known as Adrienne DuMonde. She smiled, softly, as a greeting, though much sadness existed in the expression. "Hello, Young master." she greeted Ruarc, simply.
"Ms. DuMonde," Ruarc nodded back, though the gesture was slight and easily missed. "Suppose Ah can guess why you're here, aye?" He looked almost bitter about the matter, as though he would prefer skipping the matter despite feeling like it would have happened sooner or later. "If its not much else though, Ah'd rather we skip the whole 'come back ta school' talk."
"Actually..." She put a hand into one of her pockets and rummaged around a bit, looking for something. Eventually she found it, it was what appeared to be a letter, a bit worn with age and travel. Written on the front, obviously in Raiko's handwriting, were the words 'To Ruarc'
"She left this for you" the Frenchwoman remarked, holding it out for him to see.
"May I come in, first?" she asked, not wanting to let Ruarc get off so easily.
The Irish boy seemed to chew on the thought for a few blinks, strongly considering shutting the door. At least it would have been easier that way, for as he looked at the letter held out in front of him he felt his eyes watering up again; tearing down the emotional barriers he had spent so long trying to build between him and the fact that Raiko was gone. After a long, wavering breath Ruarc swallowed his fears and hesitantly took the letter; his hands were shaking.
"Alright," he said rather bluntly as he opened the door the rest of the way to invite the woman inside. The inside of the cottage reflected Ruarc's own appearance. The once tidy homestead was in disarray, and an air of gloom hung about as nothing moved further in. Ruarc slowly made his own way to a chair that he had been occupying before the interruption and slumped down, before waving a hand towards the chair opposite the table. From his seat he stared at the letter, still working up the courage to open it knowing he would likely start crying again; this time in front of somebody else.
Adrienne followed solemnly behind Ruarc, but instead of sitting down made her way into the small kitchen. She cleared off the clutter, and found a teapot amidst the mess, filling it with water and setting it on the stove to boil. Having accomplished that, she looked around for some tea to begin preparing. "I haven't looked at the letter yet, but I think I know what it says" she said, looking over her shoulder at the downcast druid.
Ruarc did not notice what Adrienne was up too. The entirety of his focus was on the letter in his hand, and during the time his guest was getting tea ready he had made a couple of attempts to open it. It was during one attempt that she spoke up, startling him as he had his hand on the flap of the envelope. He ended up opening it on accident, but it was open all the same. Freezing once more he was unsure about whether he could handle what was written inside.
Taking a deep breath, Ruarc's sensible side, which had been buried beneath depression, resurfaced. "Just read the letter, it can be no worse than what has already happened," he told himself under his breath. Slowly he pulled the paper free of the envelope and opened it up. He had not even read one word yet, and he already felt a tear working its way out as he saw Raiko's handwriting again. Working his way over the letter it became clear that it was intended as a will, which made Ruarc feel as though there were a lead ball in his gut. He felt as though he must have been misreading it, because while he knew Raiko cared about, he was having a hard time processing that she had left him with the deed to the mansion and the grounds he had tended for her. "She," he started, but paused briefly to wipe away a few stray tears, "She is leaving me with the deed to this place?" Turning, he looked to Adrienne for some form of confirmation, since she seemed to think she had an idea about the letter's contents.
Adrienne turned from the tea, just as steam began billowing from the spout of the teapot. "Ah, so that's where those papers went," She commented, smiling softly. "Seems she found you were the most responsible one." The Frenchwoman took the pot off the heat and began making two cups of tea, one for herself and one for Ruarc. "She had been speaking to me before about her plans for the mansion, I'm sure there's more information about it in that letter"
While his sorrow had not gone away, Ruarc was starting to show more of his old color as he had something in his hands that he could work his way through. He was now leaning forward on table as he read through the letter carefully. After all, even if she cared about him, he was the last person who would expect, or really even want, a mansion. "So," he mumbled as his mind worked through everything, rousing itself from its haze, "She intended for the mansion to be put to more use than just being a place to live. Some magical refuge of sorts? And she feels... felt... that in her stead Ah could see ta making it happen?" It sort of made sense to him, the words at least. The motive he was still having trouble understanding, also why she even had time to write this will; he felt almost betrayed that Raiko would have had a feeling that something was going to happen to her, and that she wouldn't tell him about it.
"So she wants me to turn this place into a place where magic folk can come and, what, learn more? Organize?" Ruarc said, still working his mind back into full functionality, but now also bouncing the thought off of Adrienne who had since finished prepping the tea.
"It's called a guild" Adrienne said, setting a cup of tea down for the beleaguered Ruarc. "She spoke of it with me on a couple of occasions, after all you mages began to gather in the area." The Knight sat herself down opposite the Druid, and began to sip her tea. "Basically, it's a safe place for mages to gather socially, as well as to allow their talents to be used in a constructive manner through organized jobs and quests."
"Heh," Ruarc chuckled lightly, with a hint of bitterness lingering on the end, "Sounds like somethin' she'd think up." He reached out and grabbed the cup of tea and took a measured sip, finding comfort in the warming drink. "So, the mansion is being left to me, so that I can turn it into a guild house for a variety of mages, as we use our abilities to, uh, do jobs in the community. Alright, still a little unsure, but say I agree to take the mansion. What then? How would Ah even go about trying to set something like that up?"
The Blonde sipped on her tea a bit more, deep in thought. She put the cup down and tapped her lip a few times, as if still thinking. "Well, It wouldn't surprise me if she had plans on making all that happen. In fact I believe she had already put a few of them in motion, regardless of what happened to her."
"Ever the proactive one, that girl," Ruarc said to his tea before drinking some more.
"Indeed. Unfortunately, I have no idea what those plans were if they exist at all." Adrienne frowned a bit, thinking. "I can offer you my assistance in this endeavor, I'll be sure to get the message out to all my contacts, as well as go to the Occultus about the process of making it official."
Ruarc tapped his thumbs together as his hands wrapped around his teacup. He could not help but feel like something as official as this was looking to be would be securely in Adrienne's domain. There was a part of him that did feel like that thinking was wrong, after all, if Raiko thought he was the man for the job then she must have been right somehow; she always was.
"Thanks, tha' will be a huge help," Ruarc started. "Ah s'pose tha' while you are takin' care o' tha', I will get back to doing what Ah usually did. Takin' care o' this place, and gettin' it fit fer a group of mixed mages to live and learn 'ere."
Adrienne opened one eye at the Irishman as she sipped her tea, setting it down thoughtfully before replying. "Speaking of mixed mages, You have a group of friends whom are all grieving just as you are, and whom could use the distraction." The teacher looked around Ruarc's now messy cottage, observing what had changed since the last time she had been inside, several months prior.
"I think it will be a healing experience for you all, something that can hopefully bring you all together and create something stronger than what was present before. Solidarity is something that Raiko certainly desired, and it would be a fitting legacy for you to help create in her honor."
That made Ruarc hesitate. He knew he was not the only one grieving, but he could not help but feel like seeing them would expose the still raw nerve; a confirmation that this wasn't just a bad dream. A faint rattling could be heard as the boy's teacup, or rather his hands, had begun to tremble. Bringing his hands and the cup up toward his mouth to drink again, he instead used them to cover his face; a couple of tears fell onto the table.
"I don't know if I am strong enough for this," Ruarc's thought accidentally slipping out loud.
Ruarc's accidental slip of humility almost amused the Frenchwoman, were it not for the circumstances. She paused a moment, letting the druid collect himself before she replied.
"That, Young master, is exactly why you must go to your friends. Your strength alone will never be enough. but the strength of you and all your friends? I don't believe it can be beat."
Archives of Occultus Magica's beginnings, ten years prior to the current story.
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