(Set sometime after Fetch Quest)
If, several years in the future, Theophilius had the inclination to think back on where his Grand Plan first started to unravel, he might be forced to concede that it all began with that sofa. Not an inauspicious sofa. Not an unclean, nor particularly uncomfortable sofa - at least, in its natural state. But, two dread variables conspired to make this furnishing a virile anathaema to his heretofore successful connivings.
Firstly, its location: the house of one Arche-mage. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, its dimensions: in theory permitting two average humanoids, but in practice, permitting several enthusiastic paper golems, and one - very crushed - Theophilius.
It must have been something to do with the proximity. The eagerness in their faces, the excitement and pride in holding forth on various topics pertaining to magic, which - even when they were talking Fracturing - Theo had to scramble to keep up with. Over the course of the afternoon, it became more and more difficult to think of the golems as mere servile facsimiles of humanity, and more and more fitting to think of them as a gaggle of highly strung and incredibly gifted paper children.
All of which - though Theo only had the barest inkling of it on the walk back to his Acryn lodgings - would be exceptionally deleterious to the current state of his domestic life, and his Plan.
If you followed Theophilius back to his lodgings, you might chance to see on his bed-stand a worn and weather-beaten tome. And if you secreted yourself inside his lodgings at night, (impracticalities aside - let us, for now, imagine some convenient vantage-point; a closet, say, which still permitted light to enter in) you might also chance to see him lift up and open that tome with reverence, intoning the words within in a clear and practiced rumble of authority.
The work in question was Astartus’ Almanack of the Nobilyte, and it had been Theo’s bedfellow since the fateful day he’d found that poor child’s body in the interior of Thys.
Astartus had this to say on the definition of what constituted a noble: ‘One of refined Taste, and great Dignitie, owing to their Blod, whom the lesser Classes & sundry Creatures serve willinglie and with great Fervor’. And that, of course, was why Pig was so important. Theo could affect Dignitie and Taste and make a very good show of it, for sure. But unless he had a lesser someone serving him willinglie, he might as well just be any old nobody. He might as well still be any old nobody.
And all of that was rather ruined by the growing suspicion that Pig wasn’t just a machine - a prop to be used in his play for nobility - but something else, something like a child: a lonely child from a horrible place who’d escaped on a sliver of good fortune. And if that was so, then he - Theophilius - had a duty of care towards Pig. A duty of care that he had been neglecting.
It was a harrowing thought.
Later on, in the workshop, Theo hastened to complete Pig’s ‘reward’ - he had painted one of its rusted gears with red paint, as a sort of commendation. Pig was eyeing the tin of red paint with a dopey kind of smile. He must remember to lock it back in the cupboard, or else there would surely be no end of mischief.
“All right! Just about done. Here you go, Pig - a red gear for Distinguished Service.”
“Oh! Ohhh! It’s so pretty! And it’s me. Which makes me so pretty! Thank you, thank you, Master!”
Theo screwed his face up a little. “Ah….I’m glad you like it, Pig.”
“I can’t wait to show it to Sev! She’s coming round tomorrow, and it’s going to be so. much. fun.”
“Ah…yes. Actually, ahm, about that. I have a strange sort of question to ask you Pig, and I hope it won’t come as too much of an impropriety. But I’ve been thinking about things and, well. How would you feel about calling me…father?”