One of the things I hadn’t expected to learn as Morden’s aid was that he could actually be pleasant to work with.
We were discussing today’s Council business in his study, a small room panelled with dark wood that was located behind the administration blocks in the War Rooms. From where I was standing near the door, I had a nice view of a clear blue lake and rolling hills through an illusion window.
“You can tell Metis that I will be supporting her proposal nonetheless,” Morden said leaning casually against his desk.
“Why?” I asked, because unlike I would have assumed, Morden turned out to be someone who welcomed questions. “I wouldn’t have thought that the protection of normals is something you particularly care about.”
Morden shrugged. “It’s more a sign of good faith, really.”
“So something of a PR move to gain more popularity, like the White Rose thing,” I concluded.
“Ah, that certainly was a pleasant side effect of the operation, yes.”
“Side effect?” I tilted my head in confusion. “There was another reason behind it?”
Morden hesitated for a moment, then said, “I guess you could call it sentimentality on my part. It has never been an organisation I was fond of and I have to admit, I was quite glad to finally see it gone.”
I looked at him positively surprised. Of course, ‘does not approve of child prostitution’ was a very low bar – so low in fact it was buried at least six feet in the ground – and yet one that so-called Light mages like Levistus and Undaaris had managed to stumble over.
What surprised me more was that he admitted even possessing such a thing as sentimentality.
“Anyways,” Morden continued. “What else happened today?”
“Ictis wanted to know your position on the Item Trade Regulation act.”
“And what did you tell him?”
“That I would consult with you,” I said and waited for him to inform me of his position.
Instead he surprised me again by asking for my opinion. “Well, what do you think? You are the Keeper here.”
While it was true that it was the Keepers who would have to deal with implementing the act, my progress with getting any kind of work there had been none existing and I mostly opted for not wasting my time in my Keeper office at all. Besides, Morden surely wasn’t interested in my opinion on this, but was simply testing my abilities in accurately guessing his. Sadly, my divination was as useless in conversation with him as usual.
“Well, the Isolationists hope that regulating the trade of magical items would reduce the risk of them falling into the hands of normals and argue that thereby the act is in accordance with the Secrecy Clause of the Concord,” I began and Morden nodded.
“That seems like a sound proposal, doesn’t it?” he interjected, his constant half-smile close to a smirk now. It gave him an almost casual charm, contrasting and yet well suited to his generally polished, smooth good-looks. But the shiver it sent running down my back warned me to not let down my guard.
“Sure, but there is the problem of how you would go about realising it. Honestly, I don’t think the Keepers have the means right now to monitor every single item being traded,” I said.
“New task forces could be compiled, and sections of the work transferred to the administrative offices,” Morden suggested. Those actually sounded like rather good ideas the Isolationists would love to hear about. It confused me however, because I expected Morden’s position on this to be quite different.
“Yes, but I don’t think you approve.”
Morden raised a questioning eyebrow. “And why is that?”
I swallowed and continued. “Because frankly, Dark mages aren’t exactly known for liking or following Council regulations. And this act could make it very easy for Keepers to arrest them and to impound items deemed illegal. So no, I don’t think you’d approve.”
Morden smiled. “Oh, I agree, it most certainly is a ludicrous proposal,” he said, sounding pleased. “You may tell Ictis exactly that. Was there anything else?”
Relieved to have passed the test, I felt comfortable enough to complain about Jarnaff, who was Sal Sarque’s aid, and apparently had decided that if he couldn’t outright kill me himself, he’d do his best to annoy me to death.
“Believe me, Verus, I know what you are talking about,” Morden sighed. “Only that Councillor Sarque himself is at least ten times worse, because neither can I leave Council meetings, nor tell him to shut up… and he just keeps on talking so much.”
“He really doesn’t like you, huh?” I asked grinning, the thought of a despairing Morden forced to listen to other Councillors sprouting bullshit was quite funny.
Morden snorted. “That’s one way to put it. Did you know that in the beginning he would vote against whatever I said, simply out of spite?”
“Yes,” Morden said. “It was horribly childish. I’m sure that he would have voted to include more Dark mages on the Council, had I suggested a ban.”
My laugh caught both of us off-guard. I hadn’t intended it and the bright, happy sound startled me. I felt a tad embarrassed, but Morden just smiled at me and if I hadn’t known better, I would have mistaken it to be genuine.
We returned to our previous conversation about a seemingly never-ending list of proposals, payments and deals, but it lacked the usual tension now and felt a lot lighter.
“…lastly, an invitation for the Spring Ball arrived,” I finished my report.
Morden nodded. “Very well.”
“Seems like your kind of thing,” I said, counting myself lucky that unlike him I wouldn’t have to go. Making small-talk and good impressions at social events had never been part of my strong suits, while Morden never failed to be charming.
“Why don’t you call it a day, I’ll take care of these,” he said and gestured to the stacks of paper piling up on his desk.
“Thanks,” I said turning to leave. “See you tomorrow.”
Another surprise about working for Morden had been that he didn’t try to bully me by making me do all kinds of awful work, as I had sort of expected. He actually did all his own work, even the horrible paperwork part, which was something I’d heard some of the other aids complaining about. All I had to do was dealing with aids, a task that could be quite exhausting and frustrating, but wasn’t too bad overall. And even giving my report to and talking things over with Morden had turned out to be more fun than usual today.
Passing by Jarnaff on the way to the elevator, I gave him a polite nod and smiled, as I had seen Morden do with all the Councillors that hated him. My divination showed me Jarnaff glaring daggers at my back, but I ignored it and stepped into the elevator.