Keeral respected Lord Rhuitaure, he truly did, but there were times he wondered about his mentor. It was not Raithea’s virtue, or the rightness of what he was doing that Keeral questioned, but he still dared not speak out about his concerns. Since Raithea had rescued not only him, but his family from a life of misery he trusted his goodness. The questions he had were more general ones, how he had risen to his position, what his goals were. He knew better than to ask, for the last thing he wished to do was to anger his mentor. It was not that he believed the terrible rumors spread by those envious of Lord Rhuitaure’s standing, it was simply that he knew how fragile a position he was in and he had no desire to take any chances.
Still, he wished that he could ask Raithea questions more openly for so much about him was a mystery. He made it clear that his appearance was due to a curse of some form or another. Raithea surely took a lot f time to try to break it. Especially considering how old Raithea was. Certainly in all the years he had been alive he would have found some way to break the curse. Yes, it did cause those foolish enough not to understand who they were dealing with to underestimate him, as his ten-years old appeareance was sweet and innocent as every Elvin child seemed to be, but in Keeral’s opinion the disadvantages far outweighed any benefits there might have been.
The reasons for his wanting to know more about the curse were dark, especially when he was worried about his family. That curse actually filled Keeral with a mixture of hope and frustration. He longed to find out the source of the curse and dreamed of somehow using it to his advantage, perhaps to trick the human invaders into bringing the wrath of something immensely powerful down upon themselves, or even harnessing that power for himself to turn it against the humans and free his people. For what young boy did not dream of being a hero, the sort who legends would be told of in the ages to come?
That was something he had learned much about during the time he spent reading, heroes and legends. His interest in the history of his people had extended to their mythology and the individuals those tales spoke of. It was fascinating to learn of the great sorceresses and magic workers from long ago and the deities and demons that populated the times of legend. raithea seemed to know a lot about these times, he lived then and then he was cursed but there was something holding him back, some plan that had yet to come to fruition. When he pressed Raithea about doing something, anything, to better their people he would be told to be patient or given a long lecture about the situation and the value of prudence, depending on the mood Raithea was in and how much time he had.
It was frustrating for Keeral to be told to wait, but he respected Raithea enough to do as told, especially since Raithea seemed to be speaking from experience when he told of how important a trait it was to be cautious. Still, it was difficult for Keeral to follow such advice, as wise as it may have been. So he read the history of his people to keep their culture alive and so that he could feel a part of something so much bigger than himself. The Elves had been there for so much longer than the humans, had such a rich culture, yet they had lost to the invaders. To understand this he turned to the human histories.
The most recent accounts appalled him, but Raithea encouraged Keeral to read them when he learned of his interests, telling him that it was good for him to understand the humans and to be angry at them for their lies and atrocities. Keeral preferred to stick to the human’s oldest accounts of their land and myths, for the humans in those stories were so strange and alien in their ways that they may as well been another race entirely, yet there were some things that never changed over the ages. From the start humans had been a savage, bellicose people. Their story of creation was one of war, where great powers fought until the world was made to the liking of the winners. Following the lead of their creators, the humans spread and conquered, their tales full of hero kings who rode at the head of invading armies, bringing empires to their knees at the point of a sword, and magic workers who used their powers to make horrible, destructive spells to raze cities and burn fields to ash.
The closest thing to any of this in Elvin history and legends were the long vanished demons and other, darker, unnamed powers. Though he had not yet brought it up with Raithea, Keeral secretly suspected that there was a connection between the monsters of legend and the humans. It was prudence that kept him silent on the matter since Raithea disapproved of any talk of demons and unspeakable powers. To Keeral this was proof of how upstanding Raithea was at heart, proof that the stories spread were lies. That was the reason he never approached his mentor about the rumors to prove that they were false, in his mind there was no need to. The truth of who Raithea was, as far as he was concerned, was irrefutable.
Even when the horrible stories came from individuals he trusted on other matters Keeral was able to disbelieve. He understood where those rumors came from and it was the same reason that Raithea encouraged him to learn of the history of humans, because it would be the key to their undoing. Until humans arrived no Elf had ever made war, no king had set out on a mission of conquest, and no magic worker had plotted the deaths of thousands. These ways were unique to humans, which had resulted in the downfall of the Elvin Empire. Raithea clearly understood this, that to drive the humans away it was necessary to think like them, to use their violent nature against them so that they would tear themselves apart from within. The rumors were spread because other Elves were unable to understand that Raithea was not inherently horrible, he just emulated some of the negative traits of humans to use against them. Surely Raithea would never stoop to the mindless atrocities that humans were capable, no true Elf could.
“Stop woolgathering,” a deceptively soft voice spoke out behind him.
The gentle admonition caused Keeral to look up from the text he was supposed to have been transcribing.
“I’m sorry,” he started to apologize, only for Raithea to cut him off with a shake of his head.
“Don’t be sorry, be busy. The King wants copies of that manuscript in Low Common and I told him that you could do it,” it was a unique trick that Raithea had, the knack for combining a dire warning and a compliment into something that could be frigthening in some way, “He’d rather I not waste my valuable time with such matters and it’s best that he sees how useful you are as my assistant.”
“Of course Lord Rhuitaure,” Keeral said as he tried to find where he had left off in the text. The last bit he had transcribed had been about the currents of the stars and their effect on different sorts of magic, but that section went on for several pages.
“He knows I’ve taught you to read in Old Elvin, he doesn’t know that I’ve been teaching you magic as well, so he values your skill as a translator far beyond what he should,” Raithea gave another one of his mixed compliments, “It’s my hope that eventually he will decide to lend your services to some of his Wizards and Nobles. They’re all too lazy to learn what they think of as a slave tongue, fools that they are, and it will be valuable for you to go out and see what’s happening elsewhere.”
“But my family, Lord Rhuitaure, what will become of them if I were to leave?” Keeral knew that most of the assistance that his family received came directly from Raithea, but he still worried what could happen to them if they were gone for any length of time.
“I gave you my word that I’d keep them safe,” Raithea’s expression darkened, taking of a harshness that was out of place on his otherwise youthful features, “Do you doubt me?”
Then he laughed at Keeral’s stunned expression, letting him know that he was not as angry as he had seemed for a moment, or that he was willing to let the almost insult pass, “Don’t worry about them now, worry what will happen if things continue the way they are. You’ll do them more good out in the world gathering information and bringing it back to me. I may have eyes and ears through the palace, but they cannot be everywhere. I’m trusting you to work for me elsewhere, watching and listening, then bringing what you learn to me. There’s no tidbit too small to be of use, it would do you well to learn that.”
“Yes, of course,” Keeral finally found his place and went back to translating the text into the human’s writing system.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Raithea gave him a smile that was pure venom, “When you get to the part about ‘illequaa sei’taff’, ‘life water’, it would be an easy mistake for someone so early in his education to read it as ‘illequaa siet’affan’ and translate it to ‘silver water’.”
Keeral stared at his mentor wide eyed as the implications of the suggestion sank in, for that was what it was, a suggestion. He was to deliberately sabotage the treatise on alchemy he was translating and in a most horrifying way. In alchemical terms illequaa sei’taff was a harmless salt solution, noxious in taste if one were to drink it on its own, but a vital component in many healing potions. Illequaa siet’affan was strictly for use in the transmutation of substances into higher states of magical order and an insidious poison if consumed. The symptoms were indistinguishable from madness or possession and Raithea was suggesting that he deliberately mistranslate the text so that it was listed as being a necessary ingredient in potions meant to cure the any number of ailments.
Surely the human Wizards would know better if they were to begin mixing the ingredients, for they had to know what silver water was, yet at the same time the amount of confusion that would be created as to which was to be used in more exotic formulae would create no small amount of confusion. If they failed to catch the mistake though…
He looked at Raithea, hoping for some affirmation that he understood correctly.
“Their Wizards are hardly that wise, their alchemy primitive at best,” his mentor laughed, “Did you know that they’re only aware of four of the six states of magical order and that they still believe that we live so much longer than them due to magic?”
Ah, so that was why the human King was so interested in Elvin alchemic texts being translated into a language his magicians and scholars could easily read. It had never occurred to Keeral how little of Elvin learning that they had managed to absorb, nor had he given much thought to how much Raithea had taught him.
“I understand Lord Rhuitaure,” Keeral said silently, astonished by it, before he went back to work on the translation.
“Very good,” Raithea’s smile softened into an expression that was almost kind as left the room, leaving Keeral to ponder over the valuable lesson his mentor had given him that day.