There was a dangerous sense of calm in the dusty old study of the Vintner residence this chilly autumn evening. Nick had peeked in once or twice to check on the old wizard, and immediately realized that now was not a time to intervene. Chilly silence pervaded the lamp-lit room; once, Nick swore he’d seen a thin layer of rime frost encircling the desk as he’d passed by the doorway, ice crystals glinting on the floor in the dying light of the setting sun.
For half an hour, the elderly man had stared at the letter which had arrived only a few days prior. The handwritten note was from the elder Francis Rutledge. In summary, it announced his promotion to Margrave of the Southeastern American Colonies, and carried a message of “fair warning” that relations between the Red Court and White Council were “strained beyond repair”. Rutledge went on to so generously offer to “ignore your presence here in the Holy City. After all, what problems could a man of your advanced years and senility possibly pose to anyone?” He advised Radagast that if he should choose to become a “nuisance”, it would put Rutledge in an “awkward position”, and that the scions of his House “do hope any future unpleasantness can be avoided.”
Suddenly the layer of frost on the floor evaporated; the temperature of the study rose by nearly thirty degrees, and a burst of unseasonable humidity filled the air. Radagast flicked a hand toward a silver candleabra sitting on his desk, and the wicks of the five white candles it held burst into flame. He reached for a sheet of vellum, drawing his quill and inkwell across his desk with another casual and nigh-imperceptible magical gesture.
As the quill scratched harsh but ornate strokes of calligraphy across the vellum page, plumes of smoke rose from the letters, mingling with the fumes from the candles. I’ll show him unpleasant, thought the old wizard. I shan’t tolerate bullies.
Buen Saludos Cordiales Francis,
How gentlemanly of you to inform me of your recent elevation to Margrave of this lovely region of the Colonies, and in such a humble fashion as handwritten correspondence. I trust that this newfound prosperity suits you and your estate well in Charleston.
I have, indeed, retired from the White Council, revoking all oaths and privileges associated therewith, in hopes of living out my days peacefully and at leisure. You are too kind to permit my doddering presence amidst your ambitious operations in the Southeast. Your warning is well noted; I should never hope to prove myself a nuisance without due cause.
Rest assured that I, too, have had my share of unpleasantness during my centuries of practice as a Wizard, and little desire for more in my final years of life. Indeed, one need only look to the awkward situation in which the Black Court of Eastern Europe was left after Lord Stoker and I finished our work there in the 1800s to know how much I simply detest unpleasantness.
One can only hope that no such unpleasantness will ever be visited upon myself or those whom I hold dear, in this city or any other.
Radagast Vintner, D.S.D., C.S. VII