Fandom: Tanya Huff's The Fire's Stone
Pairing/characters: Darvish/Aaron, Chandra
Warnings/notes: post-book. The request said 'hot chocolate or just chocolate' and given that it's been pretty hot around here lately, my muses were in the mood for something cold and sweet, rather than hot and sweet.
After two years of living with them, Chandra had learned the signs that told her when Aaron and Darvish were Up To Something - although she suspected most of their plans originated with Darvish, with Aaron merely going along and making suggestions. She'd also learned that, while half the time she didn't really want to know, the other half of the time, she did.
Generally, neither Aaron nor Darvish put up too much of a fight once she made it clear she knew they were planning something that she wanted to be informed about. In fact, it sometimes occured to her that if she hadn't been so busy with her studies and her duties as her father's heir, they might well discuss their plans with her from the beginning. Of course, a Wizard of the Nine did not involve herself in juvenile schemes to play a prank of a certain stuffy courtier who'd made the mistake of making a disparaging comment about Darvish' sense of fashion, or even in a somewhat more mature scheme to help one of Darvish's dressers get over his infatuation with his prince and hook him up with a nice boyfriend, who might not be of royal blood, but who also wasn't married already.
This time, Chandra had had the feeling Aaron and Darvish were Up To Something for two ninedays before she decided she'd had enough. Jacobi had been suffering from a heatwave for most of that time, prompting Chandra to retreat into her private rooms which ought to have been kept at a reasonable temperature thanks to several spells, but still seemed sweltering hot when Chandra stayed in them long enough to forget what it felt like in the rest of the keep.
Rajeet suggested she ought to view the weather as a way to test her concentration. However, Rajeet was miles away, involved in one war or another, and Chandra suspected that wherever Rajeet was, it was a lot cooler there. If Rajeet thought anyone could concentrate in this heat, she was free to come back and demonstrate - until she did, Chandra reserved the right to disbelieve her.
Whatever Darvish and Aaron were up to, Chandra had been sure it wasn't worth leaving her rooms for. She did question Aba, simply because the old woman seemed to know almost everything that was going on inside the keep (except, Chandra suspected, Darvish and Aaron being lovers as well as friends, which was probably a good thing for everyone concerned) and also because with Aba, it was either ask questions or answer them, and Chandra was reluctant to admit that ever since the heatwave had hit, she'd done little of use, except trying to figure out how to produce a cool breeze out of nowhere.
Aba mentioned Aaron coming back from the market with several large bags, and him and Darvish having claimed an empty store-room as their own. From the kitchen, they're requested and received several buckets of milk, as well as a considerable quantity of sugar. All of which told Chandra exactly nothing, except that possibly, some sort of drink was involved.
One morning, Chandra decided she might as well go and see what was going on, since she really didn't have anything better to do, especially not reading letters from people who seemed to think that her Most Wise Highness only had to snap her fingers to put an end to the heatwave, and had only failed to do so because she was unaware of how uncomfortably hot it was. (Both Aaron and Darvish had been highly unsympathetic when she'd shown them one such letter, pointing out that she was the one always bragging about how a Wizard of the Nine could do anything if she put her mind to it, which was completely unfair and an unjust accusation to boot.)
In spite of the early hour, the heat seemed to hit her like a wall the moment she left her rooms. Chandra comforted herself with the thought that once she returned, her quarters would feel blissfully cool - for at least a few hours. Most of the servants she passed seemed dazed and listless, more interested in staying in the shade and not doing anything too tiring than in her, which suited Chandra just fine. Aba'd told her where Aaron and Darvish were doing whatever it was they were doing, and it was only when Chandra'd knocked on the door that it occured to her Darvish and Aaron might be sleeping in. Not in one bed, Chandra didn't think - that would have been bound to set tongues wagging - but especially Aaron wasn't used to this kind of heat, so he'd probably try to -
Apparently not, given that he was the one who'd opened the door, looking more awake than anyone else Chandra'd seen so far. His shirt was partially unbuttoned, Chandra noticed.
Before she had a chance to offer an apology and suggest she'd come back later, Aaron moved aside, inviting her to come on in. As she did so, she saw Darvish, looking up from -
"What is *that*?" Chandra asked, staring. If either Darvish or Aaron had been wizards, she'd have assumed it was some sort of magical device, but given that one was a prince and the other a thief, she didn't have a clue as to what the contraption of tubes might be.
Darvish grimaced. "An ice-making machine."
"Correction: it's *supposed* to be an ice-making machine," Aaron said.
Darvish groaned but didn't argue the point.
"When Dar heard about the predicted heat-wave, he figured it'd be a nice surprise for you to set this thing up," Aaron explained, as Chandra examined the machine.
"Shahin mentioned having seen one in Ischia, where a traveling merchant was selling flavored ice. With great success, I should add," Darvish said.
"And with great reluctance to share his secrets," Aaron added. "No surprise there, considering he's probably made a small fortune thanks to his invention."
"And now he's made *another* small fortune selling Shahin the drawings for a machine that's obviously not doing anything." Darvish kicked one of the tubes.
Chandra frowned. "A machine like this would obviously require some sort of spell, possibly two or three, on different parts. Didn't Shahin mention anything about that?"
"The machine always remained covered in public." Aaron shrugged.
"Shahin's smart, but he's not a wizard," Darvish said.
"Mm-mm." Chandra absently chewed on her lower lip. "Why milk?"
"Well, according to Shahin, the merchant not only offered several *tastes* of ice, but also two different *kinds*. One was, well, like ice, but the other was more creamy."
"Ice-cream." Chandra tried out the word. It sounded ... tasty.
"The merchant, a guy named Haagen, by the way, didn't want to give Shahin any recipes, but he did mention that the difference was due to his using milk rather than water for the second kind of ice."
"I told Dar we should get a Wizard of the Sixth to take a look, but you know how he gets when something doesn't go his way." Aaron shook his head, hiding his smile from Darvish but not from Chandra. She smiled back almost before she realized she was doing so.
"What do you need a Wizard of the Sixth for when you've got me? Although I'm thinking that this type of spell might also be used by a Wizard of the Ninth or even the First." Chandra considered the matter for a few moments, before she decided that she was *not* going to contact Rajeet about this problem. She'd been a student long enough; she could figure this out on her own.
"You seemed rather ... busy," Darvish said slowly.
"Doing very important things, undoubtedly." Aaron's expression was one of utter innocence, but Chandra knew both him and Darvish well enough to know when they were teasing her.
"Right," she snapped. Her gaze fell on several bags that were lying in a corner. "Well, I'm here now, so you might as well tell me as much as you know, because I'm going to help you get this thing working."
She didn't miss the grin Aaron and Darvish exchanged. Perhaps she'd deserved it; the Nine Above knew she was glad for a break from her studies and duties.
"One of the flavors of 'ice-cream' that were for sale was chocolate," Aaron said, picking up one of the bags and opening it to show her the brown powder within. It smelled strongly and more bitter than sweet, not quite like Chandra remembered chocolate to smell, the few times she'd eaten it.
Her thoughts must have been visible on her face, since Aaron continued: "Naturally, cocoa is only one ingredient; we'll have to add sugar and milk to make it actually taste good."
Naturally, none of them had any idea *how much* sugar or milk they'd need to add. Chandra began to think this project might take a lot longer than the time she'd need to come up with a simple freezing spell. Ah well, the eventual reward had better be worth it.
'Chocolate ice-cream' sure sounded nice ...