(121-02-15) An Archmaester's Ring
An Archmaester's Ring
Summary: Thane receives the Valyrian Steel ring and the position of Archmaester that goes with it. He also meets a very suspicious stranger at the conclave.
Date: 15/02/2014
Related: Black Sick, A Change of Luck

Healer's Hall, The Citadel

The Healer's Hall of the Citadel is a long building with a high arched roof. It is only a single story, perhaps to spare the necessity of carrying injured or ill people up and down stairs. The corridors are very wide, and floors are made of broad smooth flagstones, polished by generations of feet. The plastered walls are lime-washed to a dull, clean white. There is very little decoration. Even the golden-oak doorframes are simple, and their color is faded with frequent scrubbings.

The long hall is lined with many doors. They're unevenly spaced — some lead to large hospital wards with many beds, some to smaller and more private sickrooms, and some to laboratories, workrooms, and libraries of various sizes.

The rap upon Archmaester Luckin's office door comes hard and sharp. Maester Thane finds that using his staff is more likely to get attention. Finding the door slightly ajar at the knock, he pushes it open to let himself in. "Archmaester, are you here? I must speak with you."

The old man is in here, building a tiny wooden model of a ship. How very un-healerly of him. He's using little forceps to do it, though. He looks up from this task and says, "I am, Maester Thane. Do come in. What is it, has something troubled you?"

Thane steps fully into the office, shutting the door behind him and making certain it is secured. He draws back the hood of his robe and nods gravely. "Aye, Archmaester." She sighs, stepping to better stand in Luckin's field of view, the ship between them. "I realize you may not believe that I truly have visions, but I ask that you humor me. I've seen something that might suggest you are in danger."

Luckin sets down the little bit of wood he was adding to his toy. "I see," he says. "Very well, I'll humour you. What danger might that be? Do have a seat, if you like. Lemon-water?" He doesn't seem very concerned about this danger.

"If my dream is to be taken literally, it will come from the Warlocks of Qarth," Thane says, pulling over a chair to sit down. "Are you planning to give a lecture before the Conclave?"

"Of course," says Luckin. "To further the healing knowledge of those who are visiting, I will give several. You suppose that the warlocks of Quarth intend to stop me?" He pauses, and pours himself a cup of water from a pewter pitcher. It does have slices of lemon in it. ""Are your dreams often to be taken literally?"

"Sometimes," Thane says, meeting Luckin's eyes. "I saw the shadow of the dragon before it came. I didn't think it was literal. But I was wrong. I suspect it also represents something more, but I cannot be certain. In this case, I rather doubt I'll see you and a warlock grappling to the death while the Conclave looks on. But the fact that your life was threatened in my dream suggests that there may be a danger. It may be that the warlocks will take issue with something you intend to say, and try to stop you. What will you be speaking on? In the vision, you were here in the Healer's Hall. It was a large meeting. Probably something significant."

"Certain aspects of herbalism," says Luckin, meeting Thane's gaze with his own kindly blue one. "More advanced than most who have earned a silver link might have. Later, I will demonstrate some methods of repairing wounds to the belly. Not that they are reliable, but they are better than certain death. Why would warlocks care about these things?"

"Herbalism," Thane muses, scratching at his chin. "Do you have a syllabus on your lecture? It might provide some clues as to their interest."

Luckin shrugs. "You will have to make a copy for yourself if you want one," he says. He gets to his feet and moves to another desk. He's got several in here. He pulls a sheet from the drawer and sets it in front of Thane. It seems to be a list of lesser known herbs and their healing properies. News, yes, but nothing unexpected considering the source.

Thane looks over the list, shaking his head with a sigh. "Nothing stands out. They've been known to use poisons. I don't supposed you've made some incredible antidote discovery recently." He snorts, half-joking. "In my dream, the warlock looked like you. There were two of you, trying to strangle one another. But one had blue-black teeth. Not unlike the stained mouths of the warlocks."

"Unfortunately," says Luckin, "I haven't made such a discovery." He smiles. "Well, if the dream is to be taken literally, I need only avoid myself, and the danger will be averted. So that's a comfort."

"These warlocks are masters of illusion. Just continue to humor me. Be careful. I'll stay nearby during your lectures and keep an eye out for anything suspicious." Thane rises from his chair. "Even if you're not in danger, there was a reason I dreamed of you. I have to decipher what that is."

The old man smiles, kindly, and reaches to pat Thane on the hand. "All right," he says. "And will you be waiting to meet us after the Archmaester's conclave? I suggest you do." He pauses. "And shave."

"Shave?" Thane seems marginally incredulous at the notion. Grumbling, he nods. "Very well. I'll be there, trimmed and proper." He gives the Archmaester a respectful bow of his head before moving for the door. "I'll see you soon."

Luckin laughs. "All right, then, don't," he says. "Keep your Northern whiskers, lest someone mistake who you are. I shall see you again in a few hours."

Thane with another nods, Thane steps out, shutting the door firmly behind him. Time to go make his beard look like something presentable. Shave, indeed.

Seneschal's Courtyard, The Citadel

This stone-paved courtyard is plain, but pretty and clean. It is, perhaps, not a favourite area of the Citadel's students — it is here that punishments are doled out according to the sentences given within the Seneschal's Court.

The Court itself stands on the North side of the yard, a long gracious building with high arched windows. Other domes and towers house lecture halls, libraries, laboratories and studies.

To the East is an arched stone bridge crossing the Honeywine, wide enough for a cart, but not for two to pass one another. The Isle of Ravens, with the towers of the Ravenry, is visible in the river.

The Archmaester's meet in the Seneschal's court. And those who wish to hear whatever decisions they come to are left hanging about, outside. There are many new faces, all these visitors. It may be that the crowd is comprised more of visitors and earnest acolytes than anybody else. Citadel residents are used to this, and don't want to wait around for such ordinary sets of decisions.

Thane has shaved. Not the entire beard, but his ginger whiskers are trimmed and shaped into something slightly more "civilized". He stands among various other maesters, awaiting the proclamations of the Archmaesters. As is often the case, he stands alone among his colleagues, just a bit more space given him as they talk around him, but rarely to him.

There's one man who ends up close to Thane. A newcomer. He has a shaven head, blue eyes, a thin sickly-looking sallow man, who's come near to Thane not to be companionable, but to take advantage of that little bit of space.

Thane generally prefers his solitude, even in a crowd. Feeling the figure standing so close, he bristles silently, but keeps his gaze civil and casual as he looks over to the man.

The man looks back at Thane. His eyes are the same pale blue as Luckin's really. He's standing close, it's a crowd. After a moment it becomes clear that this person has the most awful breath of any human being to ever tread the soil of Westeros. Somewhere between rotting meat and rotting fruit and shit. It's familiar.

Thane's eyes go immediately to the man's lips, examining the color carefully. Squinting as his eyes water up at the stench, he dares to speak. "They'll likely just go on about new raven protocols or how gold is to be spent on Citadel maintenance. It isn't all that exciting."

The man's lips just look pale. He nods to Thane, and says nothing.

Thane's eyes drift to the maester's chain worn around the stranger's neck, making note of the links he sees. "Who are you?" Thane asks, taking the direct approach. He addresses the man in High Valyrian, "<Perhaps you prefer a more civilized tongue? What is your name?>"

The man raises his eyebrows, or at least, the skin on his head where they ought to be, there's no real amount of hair there, and replies in the same language, "I am Maester Fayn." Then, he gestures at the doors to the court, a slightly irritable movement. The Archmaesters, the Seneschal among them, are coming out.

Thane glances to the doors, but pays little heed to the man's irritation — something of a specialty of Thane's. He clutches his staff firmly, leaning back slightly to take the weight off of it. "Where are you assigned, Maester Fayn?"

The man grunts ill-temperedly. At his place in front of the court building, the Seneschal begins to speak. He starts off with. Numbers. Numbers of novices. Numbers of acolytes. Numbers of links forged this year. 'Maester Fayn' seems unduely interested in this.

Thane continues on as if oblivious to the fact that he's being an utter pest. "I'm curious, as I've never been assigned to a house, myself. And these days…bollocks, it's all research and busy work. Sometimes I think they're just trying to be rid of me." He gives the man a good-natured chuckle, nudging him with his forearm as if they were old friends.

Maera comes across the arched stone bridge that spans the Honeywine to the East.

Many have gathered in the courtyard, waiting to here the announcements of the Archmaesters after their conclave. There aren't as many maesters as one might expect. But among those present is Maester Thane, standing attentively, and looking surprisingly groomed. Even his scruffy beard has been trimmed and shaped to look presentable. Though the Archmaesters have emerged to make various dull announcements about Citadel business, Thane continues to speak quietly to the man next to him — a thin, sickly, shaven-headed maester showing signs of irritation with Thane.

Maera stands amongst the non-maesters that are waiting for the verdict of the conclave, a green cloak thrown over her shoulders and her arms crossed over her chest. She exchanges words with a man standing next to her quietly as they wait.

The Seneschal has counted out how many new Maesters were made this year, how many acolytes, how many novices entered the Citadel, how many illnesses cured. He moves on to start listing the activities of Maesters in the North. There's not much to say on that matter. And then the Stormlands. Numbers of illnesses. It's dull. Luckin is standing with the rest of the Archmaesters, in a row behind the Seneschal. He appears to be falling asleep, leaning on his staff.

"It's my own fault, really," Thane goes on harassing the bald man. "I've never quite fit the mold of a proper maester. I study things the others consider unsuitable. You might find them interesting, though. Have you ever read a manuscript called 'The Undying'? Fascinating material."

'Maester Fayn' turns his head and hisses at Thane, "Silence!" His teeth are normal, white teeth, but his tongue is dark.

Maera smiles politely at the man next to her, and nods at something he says. She keeps her polite face on.

Thane does go silent, if only for a moment at the glimpse into the man's mouth. His tone turns from the jovial fool to the grim, serious occultist. "Why are you here? Where did you get that chain?"

And now, having been droning on for some interminable period just waiting to arrive at this classic opportunity, the Seneschal says, "And, this year, we have determined that one man be raised to the rank of Archmaester. It is, of course a rare honour, and we are please to see that this ring, so seldom worn, will once again grace the hand of a wise man. Maester Thane!"

Maera will clap politely when others clap.

Thane's eyes are drawn to the Seneschal at the mention of his name. For a moment, he's wondering what trouble he's gotten himself into. Oh yes, there was something about a ring. "Don't go anywhere," he growls at the man calling himself Fayn. He turns to approach the Archmaesters, ignoring the stares of disbelief from some of the maesters still lingering about.

Luckin perks up at that. It seems like he enjoys the murmuring of disapproval, even. He smiles. The Seneschal does, too, though it's a less kindly smile, and not entirely approving.

Maera must notice the looks of disapproval because her lips curve up into a little smirk, and she continues clapping.

Thane stops before the Seneschal, bowing his head respectfully. "I'm honored beyond words," he says plainly, not a man prone to speeches or embellishment. His eyes briefly meet Luckin's face, but he does manage to stifle his own smirk.

The Seneschal nods. "Maester Thane," he says, "You have already vowed to serve Westeros with all the powers of your mind and your courage. There is no need for further promises. However, if you have words to speak in recognition of this oscasion, or vows to make concerning your future service as Valyrian Steel Archmaester, speak them now." It seems to be expected that Thane will speak. Everybody's staring.

Thane sighs softly. Damn it. He nods, turning to face those gathered. "Words. I won't deny the power of them. But I also believe in the power of action. My service to Westeros has ever been through taking an active hand in nurturing and educating its people. As Archmaester, I will further dedicate myself to the deeper mysteries of the world, so that the Seven Kingdoms will never be caught unprepared for threats from beyond." Thane doesn't expect any better reaction to his chosen field of study now than he's ever gotten before. But the Seneschal wanted words, so he got them.

The Seneschal doesn't seem impressed. The vistors and acolytes and novices standing in the square seem to expect more, or at least, aren't entirely sure that the speech is over until Luckin starts to clap. The rest of the Archmaesters, and the crowd, follow.

The Seneschal sighs, and produces from his pocket an old weirwood box, with Valyrian steel clasp and hinges. He holds it on his palm, out for Thane.

Thane bows his head again, taking the box. There is a slight pinching of his lips as he opens it to reveal a wide ring of Valyrian steel, its surface etched with various symbols of occult significance — all warnings to remind the Archmaester of the dangerous forces he deals with. He doesn't breathe for a moment as he slides the ring onto the middle finger of his right hand. As he exhales, he marvels a bit at how warm the metal is against his skin. He lifts his hand up, first to his fellow Archmaesters, then to the gathered audience. It's a simple gesture, just an acknowledgement without embellishment.

And Luckin nods his head, and continues to clap. The others follow his lead. The seneschal glances at him, and gets a nod.

The Seneschal declares, "That will conclude todays labours. Many may feel it is time for celebration. In The Mother's name." He doesn't sound particularly pious when he says it, it's just the thing to say. And that done, he turns away and heads back into the court-hall. Luckin remains where he is. The others begin to wander in their separate ways.

Thane's eyes fall briefly on Luckin, then turn back to the crowd, searching for a particular bald head.

The crowd's all started moving. If 'Fayn' is still there, he's put his hood up.

Maera claps along with the crowd. It isn't exactly a rowdy crowd, and the clapping is rather restrained. As the crowd moves forward she goes with the flow.

Thane steps up beside Luckin. "Archmaester, do you know a Maester Fayn?" As he scans the crowd, his eyes find Maera, and he beckons emphatically to her with his hand.

"Doesn't sound familiar," says Luckin, leaning on his staff. "But hard as it may be to believe, I do not know everybody. Why do you ask, Archmaester?"

Maera approaches the two archmaesters, "Congratulations." She tells Thane. That said, she falls quiet as he and Luckin speak.

"I met a man calling himself that, in the crowd. This may not mean much to you, but his tongue was unnaturally dark." Thane scowls as he tries to pick the man out of the throngs. "The Shade of the Evening stains the warlocks' mouths." He bows his head to Maera, "Thank you, m'lady. Please stay close. I have reason to believe that Archmaester Luckin may be in danger."

"In danger of falling asleep," says Luckin. "Lady Mormont. A pleasure."

Maera's brow raises, "This is why you ought to have a link for not getting yourselves murdered. Did you run out of metals before getting there?" She bows her head to Luckin, "Archmaester."

"Retiring to your chambers sounds like a find idea," Thane says to Luckin. "If there is a threat, it likely won't come about until your lecture. But…mind what you eat and drink until then. Just to be safe."

Luckin does have eyebrows, almost bushy ones even, and he raises one at Thane. "You think your warlock will attempt to poison me?" he says, interested.

"More likely he'll attempt to poison you, Archmaester Thane." Maera says with a little shrug. "Perhaps you should confine yourself in your chambers and watch what you eat and drink?"

"I doubt it, m'lady. I wasn't in the dream. But yes, Archmaester, poison is in their repertoire," Thane sighs. "My vision saw you struggling against yourself. Poison can turn a man's body against himself. Perhaps it's a stretch of reasoning, but I have to consider everything."

Archmaester Luckin smiles a bit. "I will keep it in mind, Thane," he says. "But if I am to be poisoned, I am in the best possible place for it."

Maera gives Thane a thoughtful look, "Is that all you saw in the vision?"

Thane shakes his head ruefully at Maera. "I believe I saw the House of the Undying, itself. There is no longer any doubt in my mind that we are dealing with the warlocks." He turns fully to Luckin, "Goat's milk was essential the last time we dealt with warlock poison. This man…he stank of that black ichor. I believe he may be the very warlock that poisoned Lord Stark's party in the first place."

"Then I am fortunate in that I have a taste for goat's milk," says Luckin. "And that is troubling. I will warn the others, lest this poison that caused the illness of Stark's men break out here. You say it was a fog, yes?"

"Why would he show himself to you?" Maera asks with a shake of her head. "I don't doubt you. It just seems a bit foolish on his part. And why the archmaester?" She looks to Luckin, "It was like incense and fog."

Thane nods. "Though we have no idea if it can be delivered by other means. As for showing himself to me, I don't think he did. He didn't seem to know who I was, and he was trying to pose as a 'Maester Fayn'. Though I'm sure that he slipped away the moment he heard that I was named Valyrian Steel Archmaester. For now, I need to look into the Citadel archives for any record of a maester by that name."

Luckin frowns. He starts to scan the dispersing crowd of Maesters and Novices and Acolytes himself.

"I will stay with the Archmaester while you look." Maera says, "But, I won't taste your food for you."

Thane nods gratefully to Maera. "Thank you. Keep an eye out. He's sickly looking, bald, no eyebrows to speak of. His most telling feature is the hardest to see — his tongue. It's stained dark, likely a dark blue-black."

"That won't be necessary," says Luckin. "But thank you, Lady Mormont. I have important matters to attend to, myself."

Maera sucks in a breath, "As you wish." She glances to Thane.

Thane sighs. "Just try not to be alone, Archmaester." It's going to take awhile before Thane is comfortable calling the man just 'Luckin'. "Be careful. I'll check in with you later." Without further ado, the newly minted Archmaester sets off to the archives to investigate the mysterious Fayn.

Luckin nods. He too, goes off, back to the Healer's Hall.

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