Esquire Henry de Leon was a man who had entered the legal profession with the intent to do right. Somehow, he managed to do right and make a living for himself in Paris. At the age of forty-seven, he was trusted by the Roi and a great number of noblemen for his fair dealings. He shared his office, a quiet little building in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, with other esquires who held the same ideals of practicing law for the sake of justice rather than gain. It was just close enough to the Seine to hear the rush of the river, yet far enough out of the way to avoid the traffic of anyone seeking to sit by it or head to the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris. The sign that announced the building as his office was elegantly cast in iron with a gold accent. Other esquires and noblemen who preferred a grand showing tended not to grace their doors, but it suited them all just fine. Quite often, the best way to stay out of legal trouble as an esquire in Paris was to take on only a very small, select group of noble clients as those more inclined to flaunt their wealth tended to also get into more indefensible trouble and implicate their esquires.
He’d seen plenty of esquires fall from grace because they were tempted by the amount of money their client offered to defend them.
When Monsieur de Sauveterre contacted him about a young man he employed for a few months, Henry wasn’t sure what to make of the request. In his line of work and location, he was used to the standard requests: get my son off the hook for his latest escapade, help me set my affairs in order, sue this person for that travesty, etc. However, the request he’d received in regards to a Percival Leonhard was one that had definitely piqued his interest for its lack of specificity.
Percival needed something and Monsieur de Sauveterre was sure that Henry was the man for the job. The man couldn’t even say for certain how old Percival was, where he’d come from, or anything else that may have been useful in figuring out what the young man could need.
It is possible that he will not need your legal services, but I hope that you can extend a kind hand.
Monsieur de Sauveterre had never made such a vague request, but the man was never one to request something that wasn’t necessary. Henry had assured the man that he would at least extend the hand, but he wasn’t sure if this Percival Leonhard would take it.
You can only try, Henry, he thought. It was a sentiment that had seen him this far in life; so there was no reason to think that it wouldn’t see him a little further.
He glanced at the clock. Percival’s appointment was scheduled in his second appointment slot of the day. The first was an older nobleman who had come to see him about his affairs. He was terrified that his rather frivolous young daughter would squander away what little wealth kept them both afloat before she could be married or get a career of her own. Henry had simply advised him to set up a separate bank account for her and give her a firm allowance while drafting his will and submitting it to the Office of the Roi.
“Thank you, Henry,” the old man said. “My, if I had a son like you or a daughter, I would think this old heart might last a little longer.”
Henry chuckled, “I do not think you are old enough to be my father, good sir.”
The man laughed and brought to life the decades that had carved their way gently into his face. The man was nearly eighty years old, but it was a joke he liked to tell him given that the old man was still in possession of enough sense to seek out an esquire. Henry’s own father had died much younger and without such faculties. He stood up and opened the door for the man to usher him out. Given that Monsieur de Sauveterre had an impeccable sense of people, Percival should have been in the foyer checking in or had just checked in with the receptionist.
Henry felt the moment when the older man saw Percival. All the softness in his spine vanished and turned the usual slump of the old man’s shoulders into a rigid line. He stopped in front of Henry as he looked across the foyer at the man standing in front of the receptionist’s desk.
Well, he thought, let it never be said that Monsieur de Sauveterre doesn’t have a sense of Paris.
“Is he a knight?” the old man asked, “I don’t believe I’ve seen a man so large who was not in the service.”
“He is a new client,” Henry said walking him past the desk and Percival who only said a soft, French “hello” as they passed.
“Pray you be safe,” the older man cautioned, “I have heard that knights are prone to fits of rage depending on where they’ve been stationed. No doubt a man of his size was placed on the Zephrin border.”
“Thank you for your concern,” Henry said and wished him well before turning around.
The receptionist watched Percival sign the list on her desk with a gaze so hungry Henry wondered when was the last time she had been on a date. He didn’t think that he or the other esquires kept her so busy that she couldn’t date and enjoy her youth. In fact, he swore that she had been speaking of a recent beau that was courting her at least remotely seriously just that morning.
Perhaps, it is not that she is not courting, but that Percival looks to be a better option, Henry thought wryly.
After all, it wasn’t often that a man near her age walked into their office. Henry’s clients were usually older men with sons her age and without any sense. The other esquires both tended to deal with older clients.
Henry walked towards the desk and noticed the small, floating tower of luggage anchored in the foyer. Beyond the variety of trunks and bags that made up the stack, the largest trunk that formed the base and the large shield attached to it caught his attention. He knew that Percival was not a knight. Monsieur de Sauveterre would have known if he was since knights of French territories were duty-bound to announce themselves, and Zephyrinian knights usually did so by their demeanor. However, coupled with the large swords attached to his person beneath his traveling cloak and pack, Henry was hard-pressed to come to any other conclusion.
If not a knight, then some sort of warrior. Perhaps, he is from Germany near the English border?
“This is Esquire De Leon.”
Percival turned toward him, and Henry stiffened. It wasn’t a sense of fear; he was sure of that. It was Percival’s eyes that seemed red-rimmed with lack of sleep or weeping and a little vacant. Percival’s eyes were filled with a maelstrom and a Gordian knot of emotions that did not show in his expression. When their eyes met, he shivered at the spectral feeling of winter’s chill down his spine.
Percival watched him closely as Henry approached him from his right. If Henry wasn’t mistaken, there was a tension and wariness in Percival’s shoulders like the tension that Henry had seen in the shoulders of several knights while visiting the palace in Versailles. The man didn’t relax as Henry approached, but when Henry stopped walking, he did seem less inclined to pull his sword out. Henry counted that as a victory.
Large was the only word Henry could think of as he gazed at Percival. Logically, he knew that Percival was perhaps a head and a half taller than him, broad-shouldered, and heavily muscled, but he seemed so much bigger.
Magic, Henry concluded.
There was something in Percival’s bloodline that made him appear bigger than he was. Most people in France wouldn’t understand that and wouldn’t care to. They would simply avoid him on the street or be drawn to his mountain-carved features. Monsieur De Sauveterre made a good decision sending Percival to him if not for fairness then for willingness to do business with him. For one, he was carrying a pair of swords that were quite obviously real. Carrying a real weapon on the streets of Paris was unheard of unless you were a mugger, an officer of some sort, or a knight. The shield on his back looked to be made of a heavy iron and was large enough only for a man as large he was. The blank affect Percival seemed to have in not just his gestures, but all of his movements, was a bit unsettling. Not quite robotic but efficient, focused– Percival was a person on a mission and that was all that seemed to be holding him together at the moment.
In Percival’s left hand was a small notebook. He couldn’t make out the print from the distance, but he could tell that it was filled with impressive and neat cursive script from the straight lines of ink. Percival closed it and placed it in his pocket before offering Henry a hand to shake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Henry said taking his hand, “You must be Percival.”
“Hello, sir,” he said shaking Henry’s hand. His voice is without tone but held a quality that he recognized in his brief encounters with Zephyrinian knights and the Grand-Duc of Zephyrine.
There was no mistaking it: Percival was a mage of some sort.
He gestured ahead down the corridor that led to his office. Percival followed behind him, entered ahead of him, and stood to the side. He closed the door, waited for the silencing spell on the chamber to engage, and locked the door before rounding the desk. When he took a seat, Percival sat down across from him.
When they were seated, Henry realized that the vacant look in Percival’s eyes was a crippling exhaustion. His eyes were bloodshot, yet focused and bleary as if he was fighting sleep. It made Henry feel a little uncomfortable to imagine what Percival feared in his sleep so much that staying in the hazy space between alertness and sleep was preferable even after traveling from Troyes.
“We’ll keep it short for today,” Henry said, “Let’s start with what you’ll need from me, and we’ll go from there. The trek from Troyes is not a short one; you must be exhausted.”
Percival opened his bag and pulled a collection of documents out before he handed them to Henry without a word. Henry took the documents and watched Percival pull out a loop of golden thread. As Henry pulled the collection of paper towards him across the table, Percival busied his hands with making an intricate pattern.
There was something familiar about the thread and the process that tugged on Henry’s memory. Though the loop could not have been large enough to wrap twice around his own wrist, it seemed to gain in length with every knot that Percival worked into it.
Thread of Ariadne, he thought.
From what he remembered of history, it was supposed to be a never-ending ball of thread, but things got lost in translation, across continents, and across time that no one took the currently recorded world’s history at face value. If they did, they would have believed that once men based their masculinity on whether or not they wore tunics or not and would be no better than the English.
It’s history wasn’t exactly important. What was important was how it was used today. The thread of Ariadne was a magical metal thread that would never break, never fall short, and absorbed excess magic from whatever it touched. He knew that mages in Greece tended to use it to weave fate tapestries in the frenzy of visions, and healers prescribed the use of it to magic users and mages whose magic changed and grew too fast for them to control if their magic made it hard to focus.
Did that make Percival a trained mage, or had he been given the thread for meditation purposes as a part of training? Either way, the fact that Percival had needed to pull it out in his office meant that whatever was in the stack of documents caused him a great deal of anxiety.
Shocks of light twisted around Percival’s fingers and illuminated the gold thread in his hands as Henry opened the package and began to read. The first few pages were filled with general instructions meant for an esquire’s eyes about who to contact to settle an estate that Henry had never imagined would cross his desk.
“Helena Leonhard and Wolfgang Lang,” he read softly and looked at Percival in shock.
He’d met them both during his travels and had done business with both of them separately before they’d been married. He knew of the Leonhard and Lang family fortune as well. It was hard to believe that the young man trying to focus so much on the thread that it grew so long that it pooled in a glowing golden pool on the floor between his feet was their son. If he remembered correctly, Wolfgang and Helena had at least four children and had adopted quite a few more aside from those.
“And your siblings?”
Percival shook his head and let out a shuddering breath. He narrowed his eyes at the pattern in his hands as he worked tedious, gentle movements into the still growing thread. Henry watched the glow grow and fill Percival’s blue eyes with a white light for just a moment before drawing the paperwork completely out of the folder and leafing through it all. Only the first few pages regarded Wolfgang and Helena. The pages behind them were from Monsieur De Sauveterre about the account the man had set up for Percival in Paris and other financial concerns. He supposed that the man had not wanted to chance setting off Percival who was apparently still coming into his magic by asking any more questions than necessary.
“Okay,” Henry said, “I’ll need to ask a few questions. Is that okay?”
Percival nodded but did not lift his gaze from the glowing pattern in his hands. Henry forced himself to relax in his chair and remember that this was probably harder for Percival than it could ever be for him.
“When is your birthday?” Henry asked pulling out a piece of paper to start building Percival’s case file.
“July 15, 3883.”
Not yet seventeen, Henry thought. Gods, what could Henry do for him? No matter the how, or the why, of Percival being here, Henry was only an esquire. He had no idea how to handle a magically unstable sixteen-year-old with a will to a very large estate that should have been split between him and twelve other siblings, not to mention what would transpire regarding the family fortune. Would he have to represent Percival to get his fair share? Did anyone in the family know besides Percival that Helena and Wolfgang were dead? Was there another will that Percival had to contend with? What about his siblings’ shares? Percival would be the nearest living kin. Would the rest of his family fight him for that as well?
“Do you have anyone who you’d trust to be your guardian?”
Henry went through the list of his questions ranging from an address to reach him, Percival’s current occupation, current financial situation, and how long he had been without a guardian. By the time all of his questions were answered, Percival had woven an intricate design into the thread in his hands, yet it’s Henry who feels on edge. The glow in Percival’s eyes gets brighter as he finished whatever he was making.
It looks… like a wolf.
The glow vanished leaving Percival’s eyes a clear crystal blue. His eyes grew hard as he looked at the pattern in his hand, and the edge of his lips lifted into a feral snarl before he pulled it apart. As Percival stuffed the thread into his bag, it shrank, and Henry told him that he’d get started on his case.
“We can meet again when I have all the documents you’ll need to sign compiled. For now, given our assumed contract, I will be your legal voice. If you should find work or wish to enter into any contracts before you come of age, please forward them to me before agreeing. No need to make more legal trouble for anyone than necessary. In the meantime, enjoy Paris.”
Percival didn’t agree but shook his hand and thanked him once Henry had placed all of his documents back in their folder and handed it back to him.
Henry walked him to the foyer past the receptionist desk.
“If you have any questions, or need anything, please feel free to scrye, come by, or whatever is comfortable for you.”
Percival nodded thanking him again and stepping out of the door. Henry watched him walk down the street before walking back into the building.
The receptionist stood up and leaned across the desk. He shook his head at her.
“So, what can you tell me about your new client that won’t be a breach of contract?”
“I thought you were dating some nice lad here in Paris,” he said amused with her antics.
She pouted at him, “There’s nothing wrong with a girl exploring her options.”
“I’m pretty sure he’s not an option,” Henry shook his head, “Unless you’re into minors. In which case, I have to report you.”
She gawked at him and pouted, “Are you kidding me? He’s a minor?”
Henry chuckled, “Could you make me an appointment to see the director of the Zephyrinian embassy?”
She sat down and scribbled the note down, “How soon?”
“As soon as possible, flag it as important and regarding a minor.”
Not that the Zephyrinian Embassy was ever slow to respond, but he had a feeling that sooner rather than later was best to inform them of Percival’s arrival in Paris. Percival would probably want to have this all taken care of as soon as possible, and Henry was sure that Grande Duc of Zephyrine would be furious if the matter was left in the wind for too long.
Henry smiled. No matter what the young man had gone through, he was at least in good hands now.