“You know you didn’t have to come along, mother.” Deryk clutched at the swinging velvet rope over his head as the carriage jostled along the gravel road up to the Universite.
She waved a gloved hand at the comment. “Hush. You’re uptight enough as it is. It’ll be expedient for me to be there rather than you be middle man for the next month, concerning yourself over what I want for you. In this moment, consider if he will be what you want in a partner, not what I want from you. That much you are already doing by at least looking, finally.”
“It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking before.” He studied the pastures gliding by the small windows.
“If you were, you didn’t let anyone else in on it.” She set away her embroidery in frustration at the carriage’s unpredictable movement.
“I didn’t want to deal with the fallout if someone got the wrong idea.” He caught her bag before it could scatter its contents on the floor. Setting it on the purple horsehair padding next to her black and white pinstriped skirts, he contemplated the years she had been wearing mourning clothes.
“Marcus was right. You are difficult to drill holes in.” She twisted the latch on her bag to keep it from a repeat experience.
“I try.” His smile sank as the wrought iron gates of the Universite came into view. A massive converted monastery perched on a short cliff in the heatherlands. Away from the cities in every direction, it was placed to be of its own rule. A neutral area from which the world’s elite and wealthy could be catered to. “Why would someone go to a Designer school willingly?”
“It is not for a lack of opportunity.” His mother turned to peer through the window.
“They have jobs. They have money. Yet, they become Designers? Are we certain they are such a good school to work with? What if they have more nefarious motivations?” Deryk posited.
“Cold feet now, Deryk?” His mother turned back to a more comfortable position.
“I would not wish for anyone to tie themselves to me if they were in ill-fated straights.” He pulled at his cravat to sit it lower from his Adam’s apple.
“The school has been investigated thoroughly not only by the Queen but by other royals. They have not found it to be participating in questionable dealings.” She set a placating hand on his shoulder. “And every person considered for the Univeriste first needs a patron. Both parties have to agree to the patronage. And every one of them has had a complete and thorough background check to make sure they are not being marketed.”
His feet were cold and leaden, as was his stomach and his heart. It was not that his mother was incorrect with her information. It was that he did not completely trust any royal to be forthcoming with their information.
“If you are unsure after meeting this Mr. Van Dermarch, you are not obligated to continue. It will do enough to show the Guild leaders that you are listening and trying to find a middle ground for their own reassurances.” She startled as the carriage shifted from gravel to cobblestone.
“Presenting Mister Deryk Goldsman and Madam Angelica Goldsman for a Mister Albrecht Van Dermarch.” The steward pressed open the oak door for their entry into the headmaster’s ample sitting room. Within were a pair of men. One standing, hand trembling at his waist as he ducked a perfected bow. The other, significantly older with a grey salted beard, sat at a massive desk skirted on both sides by a pair of floor-to-ceiling windows. Behind him hung a portrait of His Majesty the King, Her Holiness’s father, sitting upon a resplendent white gelding.
“Mister and Madam Goldsman, please.” The headmaster motioned to the series of armchairs surrounding a low coffee table on a plush powder blue carpet. He took his time in rising, joints creaking in protest.
“Mister Baier.” The younger man, red-headed and lithe in appearance, turned between the guests and the headmaster, uncertain of procedure. He deferred to his instinct and helped the headmaster to one of the seats at the table.
“Aren’t you a good boy, Albrecht.” The headmaster patted him on the elbow and sank into one of the armchairs.
Albrecht turned back to the audience he had been requested to meet with. “Good afternoon. My name is Albrecht Van Dermarch. It is a pleasure.” His accent was distinct to Savia, heavy-toned and smooth.
Deryk studied his structure with interest as he rose to shake the man’s hand. Freckles in massive radial bursts peppered his face. His curly hair, barely tamed with enough wax a maid would faint, was quaffed and tied at the base of his neck with a thick ribbon. His suit was of decent tailoring, though it did nothing to hide sleek muscle honed from military duty and working at an artisan’s bench. Callused hands told Deryk that Albrecht had not given up his craft yet in hopes of becoming a Designer. “Deryk Goldsman, and my mother, Madam Goldsman.”
Albrecht licked his lip nervously and sat down. “Albrecht Van Dermarch, sir. You requested a showing of my pieces?”
“Probably not the proposal you were tutored on?” Deryk laced his fingers in his lap.
Albrecht looked to the headmaster for some direction before resigning himself to the fact that the man would only play silent witness to the conference between potential patronage. “No. Um, no, sir. I – no, that was not what I was expecting. I did bring with me the pieces you requested though, if that is really what you wanted to see?”
“We can discuss the potential of other duties you were prompted on in becoming a possible Designer. However, as you might know, I represent the Goldsman’s Guild, and any partner I would take would need to show competence in a craft equal to our work.” Deryk set out his parameters.
“Yes- yes, sir.” Albrecht rose and retrieved a series of small wooden boxes from the cabinet behind the sitting area.
Deryk studied the little boxes, not much larger than a parcel to hold a single saucer and teacup for transport. Once Albrecht had laid out the five cubes, he seated himself once more. “Would you like for me to?” The glassblower motioned to the parcels.
“If you would, please.” Deryk leaned forward with interest to see what types of bobbles and trinkets the ex-royal guard might produce. The first package contained what appeared to be a simple orb. Upon closer inspection, he sucked in a breath. Within the tiny ball was a world of ocean fish and coral, rendered into minutia. “You have an eye for detail and a fascinating concept of colour.”
“Thank you, sir.” Albrecht’s reply was soft as he carefully nestled the piece back into its protective packaging and turned to the next box. Deryk had to wonder if all the pieces were going to be tiny worlds. He could see it now. Something to stand on the same stage as his rings and necklaces. Little wonders that women throughout the Queen’s cities would be going mad for.
Lifting the lid on the next box, Deryk had to reassess. This one was instead packed differently, in strewn news clippings and padded wads of wool. A pulled crystal-clear horse on a grass base. Saddle and bridle rendered in absolute clarity. He would expect such detail from a lost wax brass. To find it in glass was breathtaking. “You are not just a glassblower.”
“No, sir. I know my way around a pipe, but I do perform other functions in the shop as well.” Albrecht hesitated to put the creature back.
“Do you enjoy working in the shop?”
“I did, sir.” His voice was cautious, and his eyes were captivated with his own work.
“I hear a distinct note in that statement, Mister Van Dermarch.” Deryk dared not touch the delicate horse, afraid to break it. He could see it in the Queen’s sitting room, easily decorating a mantel during Lantern’s Night.
“It was my father’s shop and now my eldest brother’s.” Albrecht allowed it to be explanation enough.
“You either do not wish to work for your brother, or your skills are not appreciated for what they are.” Deryk made the observation.
Albrecht replaced the horse and opened the third lid. “It is not that it is unappreciated. It is that I waste my time on trivial matters.” Within this box was what at first appeared to be a simple glass ashtray. In removing it and holding it to the light, Deryk had to reassess. In the afternoon light, the carving within it sent shattered rainbows skittering across the room.
“Trivial matters?” Deryk laid out a hand. This particular object made him less nervous to handle, and he was curious as to the method of carving in the lavender-pink that left clear geometric patterns across it.
“It is that father, now my brother, works as a subcontractor of the Savia Glassguild in mass production of shades and panels for the street lamps. In my desire to understand the extent I can push glass, I deviate from their mission and what provides the dividends for their folders. As a Designer, I’ve removed myself from the family and broken from the Guild. This would not be an acquisition of the Goldman’s Guild of the Salvia Glassguild.” He took back the ashtray Deryk handed him and replaced it in its packaging.
“That is reassuring. I do not desire or envy those with political motivation. Who taught you how to make these if the shop is in mass production? You were in his Highness Volder’s employment as a royal guard for a couple of years.” Deryk wanted more information on this sidestep from the family business.
“It is not uncommon within Savia for all men to contribute some time to the military upon turning sixteen. I had the fortune to be selected for his Royal Guard because of my particular disposition to detail. Having served my three years and finding that my employment was underutilized, I returned home. In doing so, after having been freed from my family’s standards for a time, I found my brother’s rule,” he shifted in his seat, slicing his finger on one of the shreds of paper upon opening the fourth box, “uncomfortable.”
“And your teacher?” Deryk pressed. A master craftsman he must have.
“Self-taught.” Albrecht’s face glowed red as if he were in trouble. Deryk left that announcement alone as Albrecht tended to the packaging. He sat with a master craftsman who had developed his skill to such a level. Any praise in this particular moment would sound hollow to the artist.
The fourth box contained a dessert drinking glass of a whimsical nature Deryk had not expected. A soft grey iris as the cup with the stock and foliage as the stem and stand; it could not hold more than a nightcap of liquor. “Is this why each of your pieces is small? The ability to work an item in a timely manner without observation or without infringing upon materials?”
“As you say, sir. Each is small in that we waste enough glass on stringers and malformed canes that my brother finds it easier to allow me my whims when the shop closes for the night as long as I clean up. It is not that my other brothers leave their duties, but that I enjoy my quiet.” Albrecht set the cup back in the cradle of wool.
“I find quiet, the late evening, and lamplight to be a time when I can truly craft for myself too.” Deryk gave a small piece of himself to the interview.
“You are a craftsman yourself, Mr Goldsman?” Albrecht asked.
“Yes. I may represent the Guild, but I do sit at a jeweller’s bench more often than not.” Deryk stared pointedly at the last box. If what he had seen had been the lead-up, he could not fathom the surprise awaiting him.
“It’s like listening to piano, isn’t it, sir?” Albrecht’s smile caught Deryk off guard. A shot of heat robbed him of thought as the man lifted the lid on the last box. A series of sheets of green glass all twisted carefully upon themselves contained a hollowed space, a man swimming through a cavern. Slanted in the light correctly, the man almost moved.
“It is not that you are a simple glassblower, Mr Van Dermarch.” Deryk hesitated over the piece, the delicateness and difficulty ever-present in the imagination and execution. “It is that you are an artist of miniatures asked to paint the outside of a house over and over again. You have no room for growth in a medium you were blessed with. You have a saint’s touch.”
Albrecht glowed under the compliment, hanging his head to hide his bashful smile. “Surely this is not what you wished to discuss at length, Mr Goldsman.” He recovered his embarrassment to pointedly acknowledge the Headmaster and Madam in the room.
“In all honesty, it was. I am privy to the knowledge of what is usually requested in these meetings. It matters not to me your appearance if this is what you are capable of. Your aptitude is phenomenal enough. To admit, though, it was initially your photo that did draw my interest. I did not realize your complexion was so enchanting.” Deryk allowed himself a moment of charm. He genuinely wished for Albrecht to join with the Goldsman’s Guild as an artisan.
“You flatter, sir.” Albrecht’s breath hitched.
“Are you set on becoming a Designer, Mr Van Dermarch?” Deryk asked.
“I find the prospect of it to align with my current values, Mr Goldsman.” The man settled into his chair, no longer needing to share the more intimate part of his soul with a set of strangers.
“Your feelings upon having a male patron?” Deryk waited on Albrecht’s reply as a maid came in and served tea.
“I find it to be a good match.” Albrecht carefully handled the piping hot teacup.
“Do you have questions for me, Mr Van Dermarch? I realize this has been an extraordinary meeting from what you have most likely already been through several times.” Deryk offered.
“It would be too presumptuous, sir.” Albrecht tried his tea, burning his tongue in the process.
“Asking you to undress for me to inspect you like a lamb for the butcher feels presumptuous to me, Mr Van Dermarch.” Deryk pinned one of the many institutionally accepted methods of patronage under his disapproving tone. “If I required another butler to oversee the runnings of my house, I would have gone to the Academy to acquire one there. As it is, you have listed yourself with the Universite, and hence, I would think it imprudent of me to offer you a position within Goldsman’s Guild on your talent alone.”
Albrecht, taken aback at the comment, rubbed one thumb with the other as he contemplated the patterned blue carpet beneath his shined leather shoes. “I would, then, if you say it is not presumptuous to ask, sir, as one craftsman to another, as you say, one potential equal to another, do you have any of your pieces I might see?”
Deryk smirked at the request. “It is how we communicate, is it not?” Reaching into his coat pocket, he withdrew a black velveteen-covered box and set it on Albrecht’s side of the table. Albrecht, calloused hands careful, took up the box to investigate the contents. Flipping open the hinged lid, within it, he studied the products. Gold bars, tiny, no longer than the length of his pinky nails, ended in pairs of arrowhead cut emeralds and rubies. Chains, slim and feather-light, dropped from each minuscule arrowhead tip to create a semicircle.
“You made these, sir?” He carefully extracted one of the bars to study it in the late afternoon light. Fire shot through the rubies and emeralds, casting coloured spots on the table.
“I did. Reading a description of your personage, I estimated what might look good on you. What your resume told me of you.” Deryk nodded once.
“I am not familiar with its usage, sir. They are not a type of cufflink I have ever seen.” Albrecht admitted.
Deryk cleared his throat, glances flicking between his mother and the headmaster. “They are not meant for clothing, Mr Van Dermarch.”
Albrecht furrowed his brow as he contemplated the tiny bars. Investigating the intricacy, he found the arrowheads twisted from the shafts, exposing a sharp post with a set of threading for the ends. A light lit in his eyes. “Earrings?”
Deryk shifted uncomfortably at that assessment. “Um. Well. No, Mr Van Dermarch, but within the same function.”
“Nipple piercings, Albrecht.” The headmaster interjected, breaking his silence. Deryk raised a gloved hand to his own mouth to hide the heat creeping up his face at the bland assessment.
“When did you even have time to make those! I thought you said you were busy with the Queen’s Jubilee commission.” His mother pressed, ignoring the use of the ornamentation.
“I – well. It was a simple enough thing.” Deryk drank his tea. Albrecht had been rendered mute at the revelation. He had not dropped the jewellery in disgust, though. Instead, he was interested more in the fineness of the threading and the smooth glide of the arrowhead.
“Thoughts, Mr Van Dermarch?” Deryk swallowed the last of his tea.
“I have to wonder. I’ve seen medicinal bottles and such. How small could I get a proper thread?” He mused, fascinated.
Deryk snorted at the assessment. “You. I like you. Will you let me be your patron?”
Albrecht looked up at the question, his eyes wide. “Really, sir? You would like for me to become your Designer?”
A single burst of a laugh shot from Deryk at the question before he reigned in his response. “I would like a great many things, Mr Van Dermarch. Inclusive of a week-long trip to the oceanfront and access to all the fudge served on Lantern’s Night, but I realize I cannot have all that I desire. This is a partnership. What do you want?”
Albrecht stalled, surprised. “I-I, well, as you said, I would like a lot of things. This. A craftsman with another. I could enjoy this. You are interesting and different. I think – I think I would like for you to be my patron, yes.” He reached a hand out.
Deryk took it, shaking it with confidence. “I look forward to what you will show me, Albrecht Van Dermarch.”
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