Graduate Funding (The Keep)old air blows in gusts, sending goosebumps down your arms. You don’t come to the left tower often. Its one of the older towers in the Keep, and for whatever reason, its not as well furnished as the others. Without carpeting and tapestries, its vulnerable to the ravages of whatever the weather may be, which is great for the talvars that like to roost here but not so wonderful for you right this moment. Your steps echo on the uncovered stone, sending a group of talvars flitting by the windows. Something bright and small, maybe an opulus velox, follows behind, but is gone by the time you peer out the window.
Oh well. You continue on, and knock on room 47, the numbers on the door faded and the wood warped with age. It swings open with a creak almost immediately, and the familiar rush of the sense of magic being used fills you.
You notice immediately that you are not the only mage who responded to the letter. At least seven other magi are here, some of whom you know and some you don’t. The room itself is sparsely furnished, and the only two chairs are already occupied. An unkempt bookcase spills over with scrolls and tomes, and there is a quill on the floor next to a blotchy inkstain. The scent of herbs fills your nose.
And in the front of the room, next to a smoking beaker and a bored looking pair of opulus velox, stands a blond man in frayed green robes. Small white feathers dust his hair and shoulders. He looks up when you enter and breaks into a smile.
“Great!” he says when he sees you. “You’re here!” One of the velox tilts its head at the sound of his voice, which almost echoes in the mostly empty room. “My name is Kaidan Featherstone, and I’m a researcher. Well, going to be, but I’m almost a full fledged researcher!” He puffs out his chest, and you stifle a laugh. He fits right in with the birds on his desk, one of whom puffs its chest out also.
“So, before we start, yes, I’m going to ask you for gold, just like the letter said. But its for a good cause, I promise! Hear me out?” He turns pleading eyes on everyone in the room.
When you nod, Kaidan breaks into a grin. “Thank goodness. With everyone helping, this might actually happen!” Eyes bright, he moves from his leaning position by the wall, swinging an arm out to indicate the table. “You see this? It’s going to be a potion. A fertility potion.” One of the other magi in the room, a freckle-faced girl, giggles. “But this one will be special. Some pets, like those poor velox, never breed within the walls. They just can’t produce offspring in the castle, so close to the influence of the crystal shards their owners keep, and no mage ever gets to help raise their young. But if I can complete this,” he jabs a finger at the smoking beaker on the table, “I’m sure they’ll be able to! Imagine the possibilities, to study such rare creatures and how they reproduce!”
You nod, swept up in his enthusiasm.
“But…” his shoulders slump. “My mentor retired to Voltar. He didn’t want to work on it anymore, and he took the research funding with him. Without that, I have no way to get the resources I need. I only need a paltry amount of gold from each person..." He tapped his chin, his gaze distant. "The total will probably be somewhere in the millions, and then I’ll complete the potion, and become a full mage…”
Your eyes water when you widen them so much they hurt. Somewhere in the millions?! That’s absurd. The other magi in the room exchange glances.
“No!” Kaidan says, waving his hands. “It’s not that bad, I swear! I’ll take anything. 1 gold, 10, whatever you’re willing to give. If everyone helps…” he swings his gaze around the room, “I think this can really happen!” One of the veloxi shakes on his desk, puffing itself up for warmth, and a snowy white feather drifts to the floor.
“Please,” Kaidan says, clasping his hands in front of his chest. “Anything you can spare. Please? It’s for a good cause! If enough people help, I'm sure I can do it!”