The Greybeard was as Rianne had left him. He sat behind the desk in his cramped study, poring over some document. Rianne stood before the desk, since he occupied the only chair. After yesterday, she knew better than to wait for him to acknowledge her.
“So am I to be your apprentice?”
“I’ve said as much.” He sounded distracted and still did not look up. “And you should already have some inkling of how I feel about people who make me repeat myself.”
Rianne didn’t hesitate. “If I didn’t, I could guess somewhere just this side of hostile, since that seems to be how you feel about most people.”
“Most people? How would you know that? Perhaps I just act this way toward apprentices who have too high an opinion of themselves.” As he spoke, he finished reading the document and signed it. He still hadn’t so much as made eye contact.
“Someone has to think well of me. If my master won’t, then I’ve no problem filling in the gap myself. You’ll not shake my self-confidence with simple rudeness, at any rate.”
“Yet since it must be shaken…” He inked half of a binding in the bottom corner of the document. When he touched the binding, the document vanished. Only now did he look up at Rianne. “Is it not a shame that the process cannot be simple?” he finished.
“Maybe for you.”
He sighed and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. “Shouldn’t you be begging me to teach you ancient and powerful magics or something?
“Actually, I’d settle for you giving me my robes.”
His eyes narrowed. It seemed that Rianne finally had his full attention. She started to regret it almost immediately.
“The ones you are wearing seem to cover you sufficiently,” He said. “They are not frayed. They keep out the cold. They force the young men to at least make some effort, whether it be of romantic overture or just imagination.”
Rianne felt an immediate pang of anger, but controlled it. She knew she was entitled to the symbol of her station, even if the Greybeard saw fit to give her a hard time about it. “When a master takes on an apprentice, he is responsible for providing her with robes appropriate to her new station.”
“I am the most powerful mage in the Three Kingdoms. Do you really expect me to bow to the will of a little girl who wants a pretty new dress?”
“That’s a bold claim that I have yet to see evidence of,” Rianne snapped, “It seems, in fact, that all you do is talk. You have not sought out my mind, nor bound me to be truthful in your presence. You have not warded yourself against a seeking. You have not even performed the simple warding that would let you know that someone is seeking you. The most powerful mage in the Three Kingdoms, and you do not even use the most basic skills taught to clerics and children.”
“Why would I bind you to the truth when I do not intend to be truthful?”
He was perfectly calm, and that gave Rianne pause, but only briefly.
“Still you talk, and in circles at that. You claim such power, but I’ve seen nothing from you but insults and doublespeak. I’ve no indication at all that you are even a passable mage, let alone a great one.”
He scoffed at that, and though he remained calm, there was a subtle edge to his voice. “I am unwarded. Seek my mind if you wish. Bind me to the truth.”
“I could not presume to bind the Gre-“
“NO TITLES!” He roared. Standing abruptly, he flung his chair backward into the shelving behind him. The chair broke, as did the shelves and many of the books on the shelves crashed down. He continued his tirade over top of the commotion. “No symbols! No honor! No prestige. No respect, and no pretty dresses. You want clothing appropriate to your station? Well, I have none to offer. I have not yet found a cloth so vile. You could go naked, if you wish. You could smear your body with excrement and parade through the streets and the shame you feel would not even begin to suit your station.”
Rianne didn’t move, forcing herself to keep her composure. If he could hold his ground against her rage, then she could return the gesture. Though, admittedly, his anger had been somewhat grander.
“I don’t understand what I’ve done to earn your opinion of me. I am only here because I want to be a good apprentice—a good mage,” she said, as calmly as she could manage.
“Then you should leave. You will find no good mages here.”
“I… You really believe that.”
“Yes. It would seem that I am already breaking my promise to you. I will endeavor to lie more in future lessons. For today, we are done.”
She turned to leave, but he said after her before she could reach for the door, “You’ll find your new robes in your dormitory at the academy. You are free to wear them if you wish. However, I would advise you not to flaunt the prestige of your station until you have felt the responsibility of it.” He practically spat the last.