327 Magic Key
Tycondrius checked his pocket watch. With the time displayed, Athena Vanzano should have returned from her classes at the Academy. While there was still over a bell before evening training, he wished to discuss something with the young lady in private.
He casually strolled through the manor, still somewhat annoyed by the lack of decorations. From the way dust and discoloration had gathered, the manor was... cluttered in the past. With those items removed, what was left was an irksome sense of emptiness.
The large waiting room contained a single gaudy couch, an end table, and multiple bare shelves.
It offended his aesthetics.
The couch could be pushed against the wall. All the shelves but one could be removed. A simple rug could tie the room together-- a dark red, perhaps... a powerful color. Arranged well, the room would still be spartan, but it would appear open. Simple, but purposeful.
A clay pot with a green plant wouldn't cost too much...
The walls could be painted a lighter color... then the dark-wooden floors could be replaced by a lighter complementing color. A low, flat table on the central rug would be sensible... Then that wall didn't appear to be load-bearing-- it could be knocked down to create more open space...
No... Tycon took a deep sigh. He would not spend his own money on the manor. When he restored House Vanzano to glory, he would advise Athena to hire an interior decorator that could work with a low budget. An elf... or a human capable of achieving an elven style would be ideal. Similar to training and cooking, simplicity was more than capable of bringing about the most wonderful results.
Tycon arrived at Athena's door, gently rapping upon the wood with his knuckles.
"Come in~" Athena sang.
Tycon had come to associate the young woman's bell-like voice with hard work and honesty. She was indignant at times, in particular when she was treated roughly during training. It was a cheap trick Tycon used. Such provocation motivated her. Admittedly, such encouragement was usually unnecessary. The young lady was hard on herself, even harder when she felt that she was lacking.
Athena strove to succeed in all that she did. In Tycon's current life, she was his second-most-diligent student.
"Good afternoon, young lady." Tycon opened the door, "I have something to..."
A white flash of movement crossed the room. Tanamar of House Vanzano was standing in a corner... not hiding, but back-straight, perfectly still.
Tycon's first thought was that he interrupted something. Intimacy, perhaps. But Athena had so readily invited him in?
The blue-haired noble girl was sitting on her bed. She smiled brilliantly, unabashed, and radiating... purity. It almost hurt Tycon's eyes.
"What's up, Sir Tycon? It's not time for training, yet, is it?" She tilted her head, "Are we going someplace farther than the beaches?"
Athena didn't seem surprised by either Tycon's appearance or... Tanamar's reaction for that matter.
Athena had a simple room, mostly devoid of... things, much like the rest of the manor. She had a bed, a desk and chair, a dresser, and an insultingly small mirror. Her only decorations were a rug and a mount for her armor and gear.
To compare Athena to another member of Sol Invictus... Tycon expected the ever-serious, sharp-eyed Seldin Korr to have this level of no-nonsense room. Korr liked stuffed dolls and whimsical art.
...Then again, Korr was not lacking in coin.
"Ahem," Tycon cleared his throat. "Anyroad, I'm glad it's only the two of you... I wanted to ask you--"
Tanamar was slowly lowering his body down to the floor. As steady as he was, Tycon's eyes kept catching the movement. It was distracting.
"Young man, could you please stop. Perhaps you can sit down like a normal human being?"
"Yeah, why are you standing all the way over there?"Athena patted the space beside her, "Come sit down next to me!"
The young footman pursed his lips and obediently walked to the bed. He sat an entire fulm away from his mistress... but was still within arm's reach.
Athena grabbed his hand. Tanamar tried to shake her off. She did not relinquish her grasp.
...Tycon decided he was not going to try and decipher the situation, "Athena, is there a snake skull somewhere in the manor? A magical one?"
It was probably cursed, too. The 'Snake Cult' was an organization that dealt with the dangerous and unknown rather than the structured and well-researched.
Athena idly swung her legs back and forth. She happily held Tanamar's hand, softly humming to herself, "Ummm... No. I don't think so?"
Tanamar frowned, "Athena..."
"Oh, maybe!" Athena hopped up, finally releasing her grip on her unwilling servant. "My brother, Maximus-- he brought back things to the house, sometimes."
She walked over to her dresser, rummaged through the bottom drawer, and produced a brass key, "Want me to show you?"
Tycon raised his eyebrows. He was used to asking things of his own guild members and receiving nothing but irritation for his troubles. Sometimes, he felt like they purposely acted like fools to irk him.
That the young lady was so intelligent and so helpful often surprised him.
His gaze softened and he nodded in approval, "Yes. Please lead the way, young lady."
Athena waved Maximus' key in front of an empty bookcase in a just-as-empty study. The bookcase and wall turned transparent before fading away, unveiling a stone stairwell that led down.
Tycon frowned. Spatial magic... it must have been. The solid wall had entirely disappeared... and he found no signs of a mundane mechanism. He doubted he'd have been able to find the Snake Cult artifact without Athena's help.
"Ehehe," Athena giggled. "Magic key!"
Tycon lightly applauded, causing Athena to curtsy like a proper noblewoman.
Well played, Maximus of Ezyria. You've hid your secrets well. What else have you left behind besides a dying family name and a loving sister that you don't deserve?
Holding a lantern, Tanamar led the way down the stairs with Athena close behind.