After the usual morning meeting, the research team splits up into various groups to focus on smaller tasks. Althea accompanies Nathaniel to one of the Library's laboratories; a few crates of artifacts have been placed here for examination and cataloguing.
Nathaniel: Well, time to see if any of this stuff is remotely authentic.
Nathaniel lifts the lid off of one of the crates and looks over the contents. "So, what do you think, any of this stuff going to kill us?"
Althea looks over the contents of the crate briefly and concentrates for a few seconds before shaking her head. "Doesn't seem like it."
Nathaniel nods and starts to rummage through the crate, removing and sorting items. "Junk; junk; junk; hmm, interesting...; junk; possibly significant..."
Althea meanwhile makes her way over to a counter with dozens of locked drawers underneath, and produces a labeled key from a pocket, unlocking one of the drawers and removing a pair of gloves.
Althea: This is mostly your show. The best I can really do here is maybe tell what races used these.
Nathaniel: You underestimate the value of the company of a beautiful young halfling maiden.
Althea fails to suppress a blush at this, but doesn't respond verbally, taking a seat at one of the workbenches.
Nathaniel gathers up most of the likely prospects and starts setting them down in front of Althea. "I don't think most of these are magical, but they at least look potentially authentic."
Althea nods, putting on the gloves and picking up one of the objects, then closing her eyes and concentrating.
Nathaniel sits down at the opposite side and gazes at Althea's face for a few moments before turning to another of the artifacts, turning it over and examining it closely.
The pair continue their respective examinations in relative silence for a while, Nathaniel eventually breaking it as Althea sets down one of the items and scribbles down notes on her impressions.
Nathaniel: So, how go your other projects?
Althea: Other projects?
Nathaniel: For one thing, I understand you and Illyvalen are working on some research for the Healers Guild?
Althea: More like I'm assisting her research and reporting to the Guild. She's done some really impressive work here, I'm surprised at how far she's come essentially on her own.
Nathaniel: And then there's your trips out to the Archive. Still looking after your atheist cleric friend?
Althea: Yeah. He's started making some progress. Actually managed to draw some surprisingly advanced divination sigils on pure intuition, though he did kind of have to be pushed into it.
Nathaniel: You think he'll get sorted out by the time your other projects are wrapped up, or have you thought about extending your stay any? I'm certain no one here would mind seeing you around a few more weeks...
Althea smiles and shakes her head. "Like I mentioned before, he's not really all that comfortable with Zil culture, on a few different levels. If anything, I may try to wrap things up a little sooner than I'd planned and see him to Breland."
Nathaniel raises an eyebrow. "Taking him home with you...?"
Althea: ...more like helping him get settled somewhere. I get the feeling he wouldn't do too well in Sharn, anyway. And I'd feel really awkward just sending him off somewhere without so much as some contacts.
Nathaniel: Hmm. Well, it'll be a shame to see you go so soon, but we all do what we must. Still, there's some time left before such an inevitability, and much left to be pursued in that time.
Althea just quietly moves on to the next object.
Silence reigns for a while as the two continue their respective examinations, but Nathaniel eventually speaks up again as Althea finishes a reading.
Nathaniel: Your family's not out in Sharn, right? What's it like, being out there on your own in a place like that?
Althea: It's really not much different from here.
Nathaniel: Hmmm... I'd tend to think at the least one would feel a lot safer here.
Althea shakes her head. "Upper Menthis isn't that dangerous. Besides, I'm not exactly helpless."
Nathaniel: Indeed not. Still, to be on one's own and in a place with... a certain reputation... isn't that difficult?
Althea shakes her head. "Not at all; the environment, and the measure of independence afforded, suits me well. Not to mention my family's business has little need for the efforts of a scholar."
Nathaniel: Hm. Well, perhaps I should visit this Morgrave University myself sometime, if it's such a liberating experience.
Once again the pair lapse into silence as Althea begins her next reading, and once again Nathaniel breaks it as Althea finishes.
Nathaniel: So, I presume you've had a chance to hear the Menthis chamber orchestra?
Althea raises an eyebrow. "I wasn't aware you were that familiar with Sharn."
Nathaniel: With much of Sharn and its culture, perhaps not, but I do try to keep up on the performing arts. A few very talented players here got their start in Menthis, not to mention some composers of note. Davidson, Robel, Teghran...
Althea: You're familiar with Teghran's work?
Nathaniel: Underappreciated genius, that one. It's a shame he produced so little. He deserved better patrons, that much is certain.
Althea: I've heard some of his unpublished work made it onto the black market.
Nathaniel: Really? The rumor mill out at Morgrave must be pretty interesting. Shame it'll probably just end up rotting away in someone's private collection if so.
Nathaniel: On a related but somewhat different note, I wonder if you're acquainted with the works of Allairyn Serias?
Althea: The Aereni Maverick?
Nathaniel: Indeed. It's a rare sort to be better known outside Aerenal's borders than within...
Althea: Better to seek new kinds of perfection and risk failure, than to be so beholden to one's humility as to dare not explore such potential. I've always felt there was a very enigmatic quality to her earlier works especially, like there was a new voice in the telling of a very old story, warning you that something's different about it now, that it may turn in a direction that you never expected...
Nathaniel: Not to impose too greatly on your time, as I realize you're probably planning to keep yourself pretty busy if you're going to be cutting this trip short, but it would be a shame to miss out on such an opportunity while you're here...
Nathaniel: The Korranberg Symphony Orchestra will be playing Serias' second and third symphonies next week. It would please me greatly if you would be my guest at the concert.
Althea hesitates, looking conflicted, and then sighs. "...I really don't think I'll have time, sorry."
Nathaniel: Such a tragic response; surely a workload which cannot allow you a single evening's respite is more than you should be expected to bear. Perhaps I can find some way to aid your efforts, that you might—
Althea rubs her forehead with two gloved fingers. "Nathaniel. Please."
Nathaniel looks down at the table and responds somewhat apologetically. "Right. Sorry."
Nathaniel looks back up after a moment, his manner back to normal. "It will be a disappointment to know you're missing out, but if that's as it must be, then so it goes..."