A clap of thunder resounded behind him, the downpour he had been expecting finally roaring down upon the earth just as his feet touched the marble floor of the entryway. Rafael glanced to the servant – he could only assume the man worked here as an attendant- and moved fully into the room, turning to watch as the man struggled to close the door. The man’s thin, tweedy arms hardly looked capable of holding Rafael’s luggage, let alone closing the heavy door. The wood was old, and heavy.
Sighing, Rafael set his suitcase down and then stepped closer to the mousey man. “Move,” he said, snorting as the man startled and turned to him with wide eyes. He was in no mood to be polite in his tone, though some part of him twinged inwardly with guilt.
“S-S-Sir?” the man stuttered out, eyes darting every which way, except at Rafael. Normally he had a great deal of patience for servants and those ‘beneath his station’ -as his father put it- but he had spent several hours in a rickety carriage, and his rope of patience was wearing thin. The man couldn’t even look him in the eyes, just continuing darting about as if he was in the middle of committing a heinous crime.
The man did not move, and so Rafael had little choice; without responding verbally, Rafael moved past the man, and pushed against the heavy door. It closed with a resounding thud, with the sort of finality that sent a chill down Rafael’s spine. He was not normally a superstitious man- but something inside him shuddered at the darkness which swam within the entryway as the doors closed. Beyond the heavy doors, Rafael could just make out the sound of rain beyond- as if the storm was miles away and not just outside.
Frowning, his brows knitting together, Rafael turned to face the servant who stood beside him.
The man looked to be nearing his fifties, with wrinkles at the edge of his face. He wore a suit of the previous decade’s fashion- mismatched even, and patched at the edges. Likely picked out from some rich man’s unwanted clothing. Out of season, and ill-fitting; common wear for a man of his station, but it rankled Rafael to see a worker in such a state. Even his father made sure their servants were dressed well, if only for appearance’s sake. They were cared for tenderly, as though they were a suit worth hundreds of dollars instead.
What was worse, he looked weaker than a man responsible for opening heavy doors should be. He stood a head shorter than Rafael’s own sizable 175 centimeters, and even through the mass of extra clothing the man wore, he was small, and thin. The man had a mousey face, and while Rafael had at first thought he might have thought ill of Rafael, it was perhaps some sort of tic the man had. His eyes shifted every so often, looking every bit a mouse waiting for the claws of a cat to come down upon it.
Clearing his throat, Rafael turned to glare at the servant, who was watching him with awe. “No need to call me Sir, I believe titles and lineage matter little here?” he muttered, narrowing his eyes. He hadn’t been born with any title, and though his father was involved in politics and came from old, old money- that hardly concerned him. The fifth removed relative of some noble court- or something- was what William Clark was so proud of.
He was certainly his father’s son, through the bloodline. But, he had been born a bastard, in more than one sense of the word according to his father, including the literal. The fact that he was the only son born to him was the only reason he had been given the blessing of future inheritance. Little as Rafael wanted it.
The servant’s eyes bulged out, clearly uncomfortable with the idea of addressing him as anything else but with his title. “Of course n-not Sir! I-I mean-” The man blanched as he realized he had just disagreed with Rafael. He recovered after a moment, clasping his hands together in a fashion that reminded Rafael of an oily rat. “You are, Rafael Clark, yes? W-we have been expecting your arrival,” the servant stammered, his drawn face pulling even tighter.
“Yes, Rafael Clark in all of the splendor and glory of the Clark name,” Rafael frowned, feeling another twinge of guilt. He didn’t like making workers upset- it reminded him too much of William, and the last thing he wanted was to be anything like his father. “In any case,” Rafael said, moving past the man, to return to his luggage. “I suppose you will bring me to my quarters?”
The servant stammered some sort of response, half squawking when Rafael grabbed his own luggage. Rafael watched as the man tried to grab his luggage from him, but simply waved him away. He was neither weak, nor an invalid, and it was odd that he seemed so intent on helping him carry his bag. The ‘students’ here were supposed to be here either in punishment, or because their family and society found them to be failures. He wouldn’t have expected anyone to be falling over their own feet to help such a student carry their luggage. Granted, many of those in residence here were from wealthier families- which might have explained the man’s incessant need to…grovel.
Seemingly giving up, the servant pulled out a handkerchief, and mopped his damp brow after heaving a sigh. “No, the Headmaster wishes to see you first. An…introduction.” The man trailed off, growing even paler than before, though Rafael hadn’t thought it possible.
“An introduction?” Rafael echoed, blinking as the man slunk around him, and started down the hallway to the right without waiting for a response. Rafael frowned, but shook his head, deciding not to question the man for now. Despite his short stature and frail appearance, the weedy little man had already made it halfway down the hall. Rafael readjusted his suitcase, and then set off after the man catching up quickly with his longer strides.
As Rafael took off after the man, he jerked his head to glance behind them, seeing the movement of a shadow. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end, feeling a faint draft fluttering through his curled locks. He paused a moment, straining his eyes to see into the opposite hallway, steeped in darkness. It felt as though there were eyes upon him; an unsettling presence lurking somewhere just beyond sight.
For a moment, Rafael stood in place- but when nothing jumped out of the shadows, Rafael frowned, and brushed off his feeling as mere paranoia. It had been a long day, and he was jumping at nothing. Rafael turned, and hurried after the servant, unsure if he should be eager, or wary at the incoming meeting.