Deft feline hands threaded a needle on the first pass. From that point on, seeming magic occurred in front of Apollo’. He watched as over the course of an hour seeming useless scraps of cloth were given life. Noxx talked as she sewed and her student listened. Since giving up The Art to help his friend Shadowbuni (who had caused a ruckus in the white mage community and was banished from it), the pair drifted to Jeuno to seek a new life. While in the metropolitan town, he had heard that a famous weaver named Noxx was visiting. He went to see her work and was stunned by the quality.
He leaned then that she, too, had once been a mage and now weaved a different sort of magic in the lands of Vana’diel. She was as beautiful as she was skilled and Apollo’s bald head blushed with his cheeks. At his galka friend’s unwanted urging, he approached Noxx. From that conversation an akward apprenticeship was formed. The next few years proved fruitful for Apollonious as he picked up the craft well and impressed his mistress weaver who had taken him to Windurst for training. Though Shadowbuni had no interest in such pursuits, he acted as a mannequin and model for his friend. As the hume increased in skill, the galka increased in arrogance (only stroking his ego more) and each in popularity.
There came the night that Shadowbuni bid his farewell to Apollonious. He had been hired by the royal family to come attend balls and be a courtier as well as a fashion model to the royal tailor. This was the same position that Noxx herself held once, though she spent most of her time in Windurst dabbling in the affairs of the guild instead of the royalty. While both were arrogant, she at least had more use for the Clothcrafting Guild. That was just the way she was. Very cold and impersonal. Very commanding. But the quality of her work was reknowned. Apollonious had been her only formal student to date.
His hands hurt every night from the sewing and weaving he performed, but all the pain seemed to melt away at the presence of his tutor…even if she was deriding him for mistakes. Lately though she had seemed more distant and showed up less and less. While Apollonious chalked it up to her being busy, or even that he was so skilled now that she didn’t need to loom over him (as the clothier’s pun goes), the former mage knew something else was going on.
“Where is it,” Noxx screamed as she barged in the room, “I know you have it. I saw you take it! How dare you!”
In a fluster, Apollonious could only stare with mouth agape. “W-w-what do you mean?”
“Don’t play dumb with me, hume!” The racial connotation stung deeply, “I should have guessed you were a spy! Who do you work for? The Guild? The Royal Family? The Duchy? WHO?” She started tearing through his room looking for something.
“Just what is all this about,” the apprentice finally said sternly.
“It’s not here. Where is it?! It’s gone! You must have already sent it to your contact! I’ve been set back years and all those secrets are now in danger of being let out!” Claws unsheathed from fingertips and fury burned in mithran eyes. “After all I did for you…after I let you so close to the secrets of the craft…”
One former mage began backing away from the other, getting toward the door out of fear. With a guttural yowl, the cat-woman pounced. A swipe caught Apollo’s side as he slid out the door and ran into the night. Behind him he heard mad screaming as his room, his life, all his possessions were ransacked and wailed over in a seeming lunatic fury. He ran as far as he could and cast a small cure spell he knew to help knit his flesh together again.
“Don’t ever come back,” he heard off in the distance along with a death threat. His life was never lower. His heart was torn more than his shirt and side.
* * * * *
Apollonious awoke from his vivid dream with a start. He looked at a steam clock on the nightstand of his room in the Holstry. “10:10,” he mused, “I’m late!” Fortunately for Apollonious, Timbre’s Timbers wasn’t far away, though he knew that Shadowbuni would be quite upset. The hume was arguably even moreso than the galka could be, but he made a promise to his friend and he was going to keep it. To top it off, the scars on his side began to sting with pain.
Minutes later and huffing, he staggered in, sitting across the table from his galkan sponsor.
Smugly but with an air of arrogance and snideness, the now Chadeaux-Bunee regarded him coldly. After a sip of tea he said flatly, “You’re late, Apo.”
“I know and I’m very sorry my friend.”
“Excuses are the nails to build the house of failure, and besides we are here to talk about clothing, not woodworking.”
At this point Apollonious uttered to himself the same question he asked before, “Why am I here?”
Overhearing it, Chadeaux responded, “You are here because I asked you to be here as a friend and financial interest. On top of that this competition is just what you sought for your career. Besides, you’ll get to see your mentor again.” Before a response could be given, the gaudily dressed galka commenced, “It is simple. Just do what I ask, and that is to do your best. I will handle your registration and material fees. Stick to the agreement we made in Jeuno.” With that a pouch of gil was tossed on the table. “That is yours for everything I mentioned and extra for your own uses. Take it. Trust in me, your friend. I have learned a lot since I left for San d’Oria.”
A reluctant fleshy hand took the gil.
“Good. Now be on your way. Tomorrow is registration and material pickup. Explore the town and reacquaint yourself with it. A lot has changed since you left.”
“Left,” the hume snuffed mentally, “more like was driven out. Why do I even bother doing this? Nothing is as it was. My friend has turned into a pompous and ridiculously-dressed ass, my mentor will most likely kill me on sight for no reason, and the town I was trained in does seemed to have changed with this looming war.” A sigh escaped his lips, but was disguised under a rising body from a chair.
Apollonious left Timbre’s Timbers to explore the nightlife Windurst offered and to reacquaint himself. Minutes later a tall robed figure took the hume’s place across from Shadowbuni. “Can we trust him? Do you think he can do it?”
“Yes,” the galka’s eyes darkened in the flickering lamplight, “I know he will. The mission will be completed as planned. I will personally see to it.”
“See that you do,” the figure was rather indignant, “there are higher stakes here than you can imagine and your precious life of silk and gold can be gone in an instant.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Silence was at the table.
“Do not fail me, Chadeaux.” The robed figure stood up and exited into the darkness. The galka now sat alone at the table in his red and blue striped pantaloons and jerkin.
“Do not fail me, Apo.”
* * * * *
The entire city was festive for the inaugural Clothes-Off. Banners and flags were flying. The cooking guild was overbooked with orders and had to recruit some bonecrafters even. This of course made the elites in the Clothcraft Guild smile as the others served them this day. Citizens of every country crowded the streets. Bazaars were everywhere, and as it happens every time there is an event, the sellers had inflated the prices on related items to a shocking level.
Apollonious made his way to the registration table. He signed his name as a representative of Jeuno and set out to purchase his required materials. After taking them back to his Rent-A-Room, the hume set out again to relive his happy younger days. Port Windurst was packed with travelers which impeded Apollo’s walk, but the water soothed him. He was walking by a warehouse when he saw a group of tarutaru children gathering together. He stopped when an interesting tidbit entered his ear.
“Didja hear what that kitty-witty weaver is doing now?” Said a taru boy.
“No, no. Tell us-well us,” came a communal response from the others.
“I saw it myself. I was on patrol for that nasty-wasty cat burglar when I saw a flash inside one of the huts in Waters!”
“Oooooh! What was it?”
“This kitty-witty was making clothes, but not sewing-wewing them! She gathered a bunch of scraps together and cast a magic spell on them! They came to life right before my eyes!” The small taru’s excitement caused his voice to rise. He hushed everyone when they started to murmur about it and saw that they had a hume audience. Small beady eyes stared at Apollonious who decided it was best to move on.
“Magical clothcraft? Could it be…?” A bald head shook, sending light from the sun in all directions. “Could it be Noxx? Could she have invented a new kind of magic?” His thinking was interrupted as a green-speckled galka stood in front of him. It was Chadeaux-Bunee.
“Do you have your supplies?”
“Do you need anything else?”
“No, I should be good.”
“Apo,” large hands rested softly on his shoulders, “if you need anything please tell me. Anything. You can’t lose this contest. I have faith in you.”
“Thanks. I’d like to think I can but this isn’t like anything I’ve done before, let alone prepared for. These are Vana’diels best clothiers. I hear that Gudan is favored to be Windurst’s bracket champion. He was around when I was learning and was a rival to Noxx, though he could never beat her.”
“She is representing San d’Oria. What’s more, Samalis has been sponsored by a wealthy Bastokan to epresent that nation.” The reply was flat and factual.
“I guess money talks here…”
“More than you will ever know. This event isn’t a game.”
“If Noxx is representing San d’Oria, why didn’t you sponsor her?”
“I tried and wasn’t received well. It seems you really did something to anger her enough to swipe at me under friendly terms. Besides, you are my friend and I know that you have what it takes. You got my career started. I pray that you won’t let it end.” He turned around and walked away. His awkward clothes and huge frame didn’t allow him to melt into it, but Apollo’ knew he shouldn’t follow.
“Tomorrow starts the tournament. I had better go and get my things ready.” The rest of the day was spent perusing the wares for sale and mentally stabilizing himself for the tournament to come. Apollonious still felt like there was a lot more to this and that he shouldn’t have blindly committed himself to his friend, especially this one that always seems to get himself in trouble and bring the hume down with him…