Idle hands were a devil’s tools. That was what Josian’s elders had always said to him as a younger man, even if he considered himself a well-behaved and polite lad. But in the case of the young men who made up the squires of his house, he would be inclined to agree. Two pairs of young, idle hands with everything to get up to in the world… That needed remedying.
“Liram, Arving! Come here for a moment,” Josian called out. Two boys, neither older than 15, looked up at him with wide eyes. They shared a glance before clambering to their feet in a whirlwind of limbs to answer the knight’s call. They all but skidded to a stop in front of him, eyes wide as saucers staring back at him like frightened animals.
“Ser Arrin! We weren’t up to nothing bad, honest!” a ginger boy, Liram, said. He looked to his partner, Arving, who nodded furiously as if it would help their cause.
“We finished our morning chores early and Miss Alara in the kitchens said we could go enjoy some sunshine! We were just having a nice chat, nothing mischievous or bad or anything really,” Arving seconded. As they fidgeted under his gaze, Josian gave them a soft lopsided smile. They were already trying to plead their case to him after only a couple of words. He had never made it a habit to get onto the boys for anything before, so it seemed that their guilt was clear.
“Now, who said anything about trouble? Do you have something to tell me?” Josian shook his head and tutted. The boys shared another anxious glance. Before either of them had a chance to open their mouths to protest, he said, “How would either of you like to train with me today?”
None of the training or counsel in the world could have prepared him to deal with the energy and excitement of two boys, but for the betterment of both the boys' discipline and their House, he managed. He spent the better part of the morning in the training grounds with them, watching them attack training dummies and correcting their form when needed.
“Ser Arrin, could we maybe spar with you?” Liram asked at length. His wooden sword dropped to his side as he turned his full attention to Josian.
“You’ve yet to master the fundamentals and still ask to spar with me?” Josian cocked an eyebrow. “No. Ask me again when you can strike with proper form and maybe I might be inclined to accept.”
“But Ser! How are we supposed to learn if our opponents don’t even move?” Arving whined. “Plus we want to see you in action! We heard many tales of the mighty knights of our House from our mums, we want to see for ourselves!”
“Are you asking me to spar or peacock for you? Whatever it is, the answer is still no,” Josian said. The boys slumped their shoulders and made exaggerated noises of disappointment.
House Clarembaunt was not normally so quiet. The lord of the house left on horseback about an hour ago with a small party consisting of two or three knights and a squire. Emeril hadn't asked where they were going and retreated into his room to enjoy the momentary peace. The afternoon autumn sunlight seeped through his window and threatened to encroach every inch of Emeril's bed-chamber, save the dark, small study in the corner where he sat. A writing desk covered from view by a lavish silk curtain.
With shut eyes and an open palm, Emeril concentrated on finding the reservoir of the light deep inside of him that he always knew he possessed. An energy source that when pulled from, would allow him to manipulate and bend the power of light to his will. However, as he probed for it, he could sense that his ability to reach it, and wield it, has weakened. Frowning, his search became more incessant and frantic, but to no avail.
Ah! Power burst from his fingertips, and he could hardly control it before nearly tearing his room asunder. His eyes went wide as he struggled to withdraw the light, grabbing his wrist in an attempt to stabilize his hand, and flexing his palm...
The illuminating power that flowed uncontrollably from his fingers dwindled as fast as it appeared.
There was something deeply wrong, Emeril realized. An ability he had been able to conjure as easily as the drop of a coin for most of his life had become something he now had to practically wrestle with to get it under control.
Frustrated, he abruptly stood and pulled aside the curtain he had been hiding behind before a somewhat comforting thought dawned on him...
"...I can still channel it through my sword," he mumbled, more of an attempt to cease his troubled thoughts than anything else. At least he was still able to fight, but his options were limited.
The suffocating quiet of the castle was broken by the sound of chatter from outside. The voices came from below his window, which he stepped over to investigate. To distract himself, he supposed, from his plight.
Ser Arrin stood below, seemingly scolding the two squires in training. Emeril watched with intrigue as he leaned half his body on the wall beside his window.
'He can read the young boy like a book,' he noticed with bemusement.
They retreated to the training ground which Emeril could only partly see from his window. He hadn't noticed, however, how long he had been watching absent-mindedly with his thoughts elsewhere until he noticed two golden glowing eyes staring back at him from the glass. Emeril scowled back at his reflection. Glowing eyes that did not usually glow on their own, mocking him and reminding him of his weakened state.
Desperate to test his limits, he supposed he could join Ser Arryn down in the training yard and ask for a duel. Not something he'd normally do, as a lord's son... Emeril often felt quite disconnected from the people that served him. They were on polite terms, of course, but he wasn't so dense that he couldn’t recognize that the lack of... friendship, with any of them, was a product of his own distant behavior. Other than the fact that it would be considered improper by other lords, ladies, and lord's sons that he was acquainted with. Well, he was sure Ser Arryn would be inclined to anyway, even if it was an odd request.
After another bout of deflecting the two boys’ newfound scheme to fight him, they only gave it up after Josian promised he’d show them something another day. He shooed them away back to Miss Alara so that she might put them back to work. And now, he would be able to straighten the training grounds properly.
Despite the headache their begging had ended up giving him, Josian was grateful for the boys giving him something to do. His duties as of recently had been of no consequence or had taken little to no time to perform, which left him itching to find something to busy himself with.
The ladies in the kitchen and the maids were surely tired of seeing him. He was always a hair’s breadth away from getting on his knees and begging them to let him help. He was beginning to feel pathetic!
Bracing his shoulder on one of the dummies, Josian leaned his weight into it and began to push. The roar of it sliding across the cobblestone echoed through the training yard. He did the same to the other one and he pushed them both up against the castle’s walls.
The fabric of his sleeve caught on the dummy as he straightened, exposing the blackened skin of his forearm underneath.
Ordinarily, Josian would be quick to recover it. He didn’t spend all these years retaining the guise of the great knight Ser Arrin of House Clarembaunt by being careless, after all, but something in him drove his fingers to the edge of his sleeve to reveal it further.
His sleeve gave way to orange, dim luminescent lines amidst a backdrop of black that ran up the length of his arm and disappeared up into his shoulder. His finger traced a particularly whorly part, and he was reminded of crystals he’d seen in a cave once.
Josian had come to hate these markings. They branded him the firstborn son of House Perryn and a descendant of some bear deity he did not have the care to remember the name of. They haunted him every time he undressed and reminded him that he was a coward and an idiot and, of course, life could never be so merciful as to put someone more capable and deserving in his privileged position.
A position he so selfishly discarded.
A dull ache started in his chest and he frowned. Many, many men would have committed atrocities for a start like his in life, but the death of his parents had affected him more deeply than he would like to admit to anyone. He had broken under the weight of his grief and his responsibilities that didn’t even give him a moment to mourn... So he ran, and worst of all, he left little Alluin and his beloved sister Lusia behind.
Josian’s head was spinning. He readjusted his sleeve and pressed a hand to his forehead, eyes closing in an attempt to right himself. What was happening? Everything was fine just a moment ago. He cursed himself that even after all these years, his guilt still seemed to find a way to eat at him and send him wallowing in self-pity.
He had been so caught up in his head that he didn’t notice immediately that someone was approaching behind him. His first assumption was that one of the boys had come back to bother him, so he turned with a tired expression to send him away again.
It was not, in fact, one of the squires.
“Milord,” he breathed, his lips parted. His mind was so out of sorts that it took him a moment to readjust and face Emiril. Embarrassment began to swim in his gut.
“My apologies,” he said with a bow of his head, “May I assist you?”
Before making his way to the training yard, Emeril made a short detour to the armory below to change into a light set of armor. Someone was there to help him, to his relief, the rugged stablehand Chapman who often took to the armory to polish things when there was naught else to do. Though, he had to quickly interject when the man reached for a heavy breastplate and remind him that he only desired to wear a few pieces.
When Emeril arrived at the training yard, he was pleased to see the knight in the same place where he spied him from the window. It was when Emeril got closer that he realized he might have caught Ser Arrin at the wrong time. He had been clutching his head as though in pain. Has sickness taken hold of him?
Emeril stopped a few paces from him so as not to overwhelm him… something he managed to do anyway. Seeing the embarrassment plain in the knight’s expression, Emeril gave him a polite smile. “Not to worry,” he assured him, watching with interest as he bowed his head. “Well, yes. I could scarce find a thing to do up in that boring castle,” he complained, making a languid gesture in its direction.
“And,” he added, taking a glance around the property to spy anything of note. All he could see from the training yard was a maid collecting some articles of clothing from a laundry line, a lone knight keeping watch upon the battlements, and someone taking a mare out of the stables for training. Other than that, the front yard of the castle was painfully uneventful, and all he could hear was the sound of the wind whispering through the trees. “My intuition tells me that the workload has been quite dull out here, as well,” he said, voice tinged with amusement.
It was a fine day, Emeril thought. Trees with leaves as red as a blushing girl’s cheeks fenced the yard on two sides. The branches on them were so long that they spilled over the perimeter and made for comfortable shade when one needed a break. It was warm, but an occasional breeze would blow through the yard to tousle their hair and wrinkle their clothes. Pleasant. And something he fully intended to take advantage of before the winter arrived.
Emeril could see why people spoke highly of Ser Arrin. It was of Emeril's personal opinion that Ser Arrin set a perfect example for the other knights to look up to; loyal, always willing to help, never shirking his duties, (as far as Emeril knew, anyway. Some things could be covered up, not that he cared much.) As Emeril got a better look at him, it was clear the knight didn't skip out on proper training, either. He was broad-shouldered with a good amount of muscle on him.
Not only that; from what he could glimpse of Ser Arrin's ability to fight throughout the years he's known him, his skill with the blade was extraordinary. Emeril was deathly curious to know how he learned to fight so well. A spar with him would by all rights be the best he could get in a hundred-mile radius, he thought. And with that in mind, Emeril had fewer doubts about coming down here.
"What I’m trying to say is; care to spar with me?"
Josian’s embarrassment faded at Emeril’s reassurance and he felt his shoulders relax. He didn’t realize he had been so tense. He only hoped his lord didn’t notice.
His head was still whirling, but not as intense as it was before. What shoddy timing to be losing himself! He’d only wished he had more time to collect his thoughts. If Lord Emeril had come down a minute or two later, he’d have been more fit to receive him. For a brief moment in time, it was a conscious effort to pay attention to what his lord was saying.
“It has been rather wearisome, if I may be honest,” he said, a smile playing on his lips at his amusement, “But at least it’s peaceful, yes?”
He could appreciate how easy it was to be around Emeril compared to his father and other lords. They were not friends — he supposed not many knights had a friendly relationship with their lord or lady, but their exchanges had never made him feel uncomfortable or less than he. He thought himself lucky he would be able to serve him after his father.
It seemed this day Emeril had, unknowingly or not, wanted to surprise him again.
“A spar? Milord, are you certain?” Josian hoped he would not be misunderstood by his questioning. It wasn’t as if he was afraid of causing his lord harm, far from it. He knew Emeril could handle himself from the handful of times Josian had seen him fight. It was just such an odd request…
Yet not one he would be so simple to decline.
His eyes trailed down the length of Emeril’s body, studying him. He had heard the castle’s laborers praise their lord in hushed tones once; that to see him fight was an illuminating and inspiring experience, and that to serve someone as strong as he was a blessing. Josian never gave it much thought after that, but he did not doubt their words, of course.
The opportunity to not only see such a spectacle with his full attention but to experience it firsthand made his chest flutter with excitement. It was an honor, he realized, to perhaps finally have met his match in combat with his lord.
“If that is what you wish for, then I would be glad to accept,” he replied. Josian bowed once more with a flourish and retreated to one side of the yard to prepare himself.
Cool autumn air tickled his nose as he breathed in steadily. He flexed his fingers in front of him, testing, before the air around his hands changed. The light around them shimmered, refracted as if the stars themselves were somehow materializing in his grasp. In a blink, he had summoned his sword, which was now heavy enough that he had to wield it with two hands.
"I'm gracious, Ser Arrin. Please feel free not to hold back,” Emeril encouraged, all too aware of the knight's tendency to stay humble. A sort of excited tickling sensation settled in his stomach as he watched Ser Arrin's great-sword materialize into his grip. It occurred to him suddenly that if his sword didn't work as it should, he may be stuck hurtling himself down a road that led to him inevitably embarrassing himself. Even so, his pride wouldn't allow it. Or so he hoped. He did have an outward image to uphold. Emeril swallowed his doubts and approached his opponent with renewed vigor as an indistinguishable, colorless object twisted and formed itself into the shape of a sword by the hand lowered at his side. Emeril advanced upon him, intent on making the first blow.
Each time Ser Arrin's great-sword sliced heavily through the air, Emeril would raise his own sword to greet it, take a step back, and lunge forward when he saw an opening, only for Ser Arrin to return it in kind. The knight displayed exceptional awareness and reacted accordingly to Emeril's advances as though he could predict every movement before it was done. The two of them recited the movements to this rotation with practiced ease, for a while (not unlike knowing the steps to a ball dance,) until Emeril decided to introduce a bit of excitement to their little spar.
Emeril stepped back from the knight, putting a considerable amount of space between the two. He held his sword out in front of him as it slowly began to infuse itself with something bright and blazing. A trembling breath tumbled past his lips as he could sense what was previously out of grasp returning to him. He watched with a satisfied gleam in his eye as a radiant whitish-yellow glow fully encompassed the blade that would act as a conduit for him to summon his spells.
Excellent! It wasn't lost after all… he could even feel the tips of his fingers tingle, almost as if the divine energy itself was threatening to spill forth!
With one swift motion of his sword, something in the shape of a spear so luminous it rivaled even the brightness of the sun manifested itself in the sky above their heads. It rained down with so much force the segment of cobblestone beneath split into dozens of pebbles. Remnants of his holy magic weaved through the stone in erratic, unpredictable lines that resembled liquid gold. The stone itself, though, bore a permanent, ugly mark from the impact. A mark Emeril may find himself lamenting over in the future.
Emeril had always found appreciation in the way the light was so conveniently versatile. Holy energy that was by nature pure and healing, yet it still burned with such merciless, scorching heat when the user's intent was to inflict pain.
It was important that Emeril not put a lot of force behind the holy spells. Although Ser Arrin seemed as sturdy and resistant as a boulder in the face of his attacks, and swifter than someone who wielded a massive claymore had any right to be. Emeril couldn’t help himself; it invigorated his very soul whenever he got to steal a glimpse of the focused gaze of his worthy challenger.
It was to this that Ser Arrin retaliated with his own elemental prowess in kind, much to Emeril's delight. The adrenaline tingling in his veins pricked his skin with goosebumps and placed fervent energy into the way he bounced on his heels to dodge, weave and parry. Stones would hurtle towards him to collide with his bursts of light; both would shatter upon impact.
Ser Arrin's great-sword swept into Emeril's side and slammed the breath from his ribs. Emeril nearly doubled over, yet it didn't escape his notice that the blade which struck him had been carefully turned onto its flat side so as not to cut him. Emeril gathered his wits and straightened himself enough to evade the same sword that rendered him breathless.
They exchanged several blows, and by the time Emeril felt he was beginning to tire, the both of them had sweat glistening atop their brows. When their blades next met, Ser Arrin's strength was so palpable that Emeril felt he had to do something before he broke beneath his strength. He pulled back his free hand as another spell began to form in his palm. Several sharp bolts of light flew past the both of them in a flurry.
Emeril's eyes grew wide when a flinging bolt of light sliced a thin line through the cloth covering Ser Arrin's arm and gave way to red. Ah... Emeril guessed it was a good time to stop. The sound of labored breaths penetrated the silence that fell between them. Emeril relaxed his body and allowed his blade to sag towards the ground, looking onto Ser Arrin's wound with concern.
It was a blessing his father wasn't there to watch. He might have yapped in his ear about how unbecoming it was for a future lord to show worry over a servant receiving a scratch. Seeing as Emeril was born into the lap of luxury, he had no issues with, well, making orders, asking for things... however, it struck Emeril as distasteful to show no care for the people that served their house. It was commonly thought that in the arena, the only measurement of power between two people was strength, not their rank. In the King's annual tournaments it was always entertaining to see a lowborn, who never had the chance to reap the benefits of an endless well of resources to improve, defeat a man of higher status. So in this situation, though 'twas merely a sparring session, Emeril thought it okay to deviate from the 'norm' and treat Ser Arrin as an equal.
"How is it?" Emeril called out to him breathily. "I... did not mean to strike you with such force," he admitted. "A healing spell should seal it just fine."
When the servants of the castle had said Lord Clarembaunt’s son was illuminating, he didn’t think they meant quite literally.
Even among the clashing of their blades and the crumbling of rock, the discovery of Emeril’s ability to wield light took Josian by surprise. How did he never know about this power? Was it such a secret that even one of his knights was left clueless, or had he never paid attention to his lord so carefully before? Well, he mused, there was nothing he would not learn from this perspective.
Josian kept up with Emeril’s luminous assault with his own elemental incursion, his stones somehow effective in subduing the physical manifestation of holy light. He was being mindful to not injure his lord, even when he faced his consecration of the courtyard.
Suddenly, time seemed to stand still. He had never seen this side of Emeril. He was by no means religious, but he could have sworn he saw a divine being from the heavens come to smite him. He could have moved out of it, should have, but the image before him tethered his feet in place. His eyes widened. It felt like he wasn’t in control of his own body anymore; like he was watching a disaster happen through another pair of eyes as the bolts descended upon him.
He stood still for a moment after, chest heaving from the exertion. His vision was unfocused as his sword slipped from his fingers, disappearing into a swirl of something like stars before it had a chance to clatter on the ground.
Josian tasted salt and wiped the corner of his mouth. How hard did they go against each other? His hair was glued to his forehead by sweat and he felt hot. Emeril’s voice seemed to pull him from his curious trance, directing his attention to his wounded arm. There was a cut that carved through the dark fabric of his sleeve and into the darker flesh of his arm, the pain searing. It looked less deep than it felt. Damn… had his lord seen? Would he recognize it?
“‘Tis nothing, my lord,” he offered Emeril a smile as reassuring as he could muster in his circumstance, clapping a hand over his abrasion in an attempt to stop the bleeding and cover his now-exposed skin. “I’ve suffered worse. You shouldn’t worry yourself over me.”
Straightening, he flicked his sweat-drenched bangs out of his eyes, hoping Emeril would keep his distance. He was hesitant to let his lord approach him, lest his many years of cultivating his persona were squandered.
“It certainly would make for an interesting scar… I don’t suppose many men get to say they were pierced by holy light.”
Emeril had spent most of his morning reviewing the scrolls his father had a servant deliver to his room as soon as he awoke. Emeril had returned to his bed and laid for an hour with his eyes immovably fixed on the ceiling, thoroughly exhausted. After a while, the excessive softness of the feathered mattress and pillows beneath him had then become the source of a restless type of discomfort. He tossed, turned, and readjusted the positions of his limbs several times a minute.
It had been a while, but he still spent most of his time in bed deliberating over whatever he was going to do about his current predicament. It was not too bad, but having total control over the light made itself rather useful. For example, having a ball of light in his hand to guide the way through the night was too convenient not to lament the partial loss of his power. There was, of course, his weapon.. but it would be a peculiar sight for someone to spot their lord attempting to navigate the dark halls of the castle with his sword out to light the way when he could have just taken a candle! Gods…
Not to mention that if his father found out, something disastrous would certainly ensue...
The sound of footsteps coming from another room down the hall disturbed the silence. It would be none other than the domestic steward Chancel, the only one given unrestricted access to his rooms, seeing as how there was a guard barring entry to his personal wing of the castle.
Emeril removed himself from the bed and adjusted his clothing before exiting into the solar. "Chancel," he called.
Chancel was an older man of middle age with specks of grey sprinkled throughout his hair, face lined with wrinkles that betrayed his years. He had been in House Clarembaunt's service for many a year since before Emeril was born, and Emeril's father had rewarded him for his loyalty by lavishing him with promotions and gifts. The man paused in the middle of his tidying and turned to Emeril. His stern, tired expression softened at Emeril's call. "Yes, milord?"
"Please send for Ser Arrin to meet me in the courtyard and have someone prepare his and my horse. I should like him to accompany me on my visit to town," Emeril said, giving a gracious smile.
"Of course," the man gave a respectful bow and took his leave.
Emeril waited for Chancel to leave before he gave a sigh and searched out his wardrobe. Leathers, for riding. A pouch of coins for his bag, and a cloak...
Emeril thought of the knight as he dressed. It had been a fortnight since their spar with one another, and it had crossed his mind several times since then. It was fairly interesting that such an experienced fighter existed in his own house's order of knights. A gem hidden in plain sight. Yes, he thought, if there was anyone he desired to be accompanied with during trips on horseback; it would be Ser Arrin. It was always a pleasant and companionable interaction whenever they spoke to one another.
Lord Clarembaunt had been on his case ever since he learned that Emeril often left without any type of escort, insisting he takes a knight. Assaults in the road from vicious packs of bandits were a rare occurrence, but still, a possibility one should be mindful of. Not that their other knights were incapable, but Emeril was practically itching to see Ser Arrin fight again.
Emeril was pleased to see two horses waiting out front. He approached his own and she fidgeted almost restlessly as he attached a small pack to her saddle. She was a well-trained mare, but she was still thorough in her efforts to distract him as she nibbled on his pockets and cloak for any hidden treats. He breathed a laugh at her mischief and ran a gloved hand along her neck to appease her. It was about time he had taken her out for a ride...
Josian had been performing maintenance on the weapons in the armory for the better part of the morning. He sat slouched back in a wooden chair, one of his legs tucked underneath the other with a short, double-edged blade laid across his knee, swiping a small white cloth in straight strokes over the edge of the blade. Once he was finished, he returned it to its scabbard and repeated this process on another sword.
Josian’s spar with Emeril had been multiple days ago, but there wasn’t a morning since where he did not think back to it at least once. His thoughts still favored that one specific image, the one that painted his lord in front of him like he were the product of some holy coupling of the most beautiful, seraphic kind of being and a spirit of vengeance.
He laid the sword flat against his thigh as shame suddenly flooded his gut, eyes closing. He leaned forward to rest his elbow on his knee and rested his face in his hand, his fingers rubbing slow circles on the back of his eyelids. This wasn’t anything world-shattering; he’d seen plenty of men fight before, even had some sort of elemental power used against him in a similar vein, but those men had never quite haunted him like this.
What self-respecting knight even thinks of their own lord like this so often?
His relief from trying to rationalize these thoughts came in the form of Chancel. “Ser, Lord Emeril requests you accompany him to town. He awaits your presence in the courtyard.”
“Of course,” he sighed, sliding the sword that had been balanced in his lap back into the scabbard with more force than he intended to. It sheathed with a loud ‘clink!’
Josian had seen his lord in passing since that spar, and each time he felt his brain turn to mash. He only prayed that his face didn’t betray his addled thoughts. But this was good, he thought, perhaps a normal outing with his lord would smooth his ruffled feathers and set him back to a normal line of thinking.
Josian met him in the courtyard as he was told, clad in light armor from the armory, and smiled warmly at Lord Emeril. He greeted his own horse, a gelded destrier, with a couple of strokes on his neck before he mounted from the ground. Gathering the reins in his hand, he frowned deeply and cursed 10 generations of his ancestors because his hands were shaking. Why was he acting like this? Why did he still feel ashamed? It wasn’t as if Emeril could tell what he’d been thinking since last they’d met.
“Is there any special occasion, milord, or are you just looking to get outside for a while?” he asked, trying to steer things into a comfortable atmosphere for himself. Silence always ate him up inside, always made him retreat inside his head, and disturbed his peace… except instead of the usual despair he felt about his family and cowardice as a boy, it was replaced by something much less traumatizing, so perhaps he should have been grateful instead.
He tried to settle his focus on something, anything else, like the way his hips swayed to the movement of his horse or the clicks of his steed’s horseshoes. He dropped the reins over the horn of his saddle and opted to smooth the flyaways and readjust the band keeping his hair up instead of meet Emeril’s gaze.
“It has been a spell since I have seen the town... I think the last time I was here, there was a pair of bards that everyone enjoyed. They were quite good. I wonder if they’re still here...”
Their horses kept a steady pace, trotting lightly along the dirt path that twisted through the forest. "Just looking to get outside. This will allow us to enjoy ourselves for a brief moment in time," Emeril answered. Worry slowly began to cross his expression as realization dawned on him. "You weren't too busy, I hope?"
Having a ride with someone like this whilst making idle chatter brought forth memories of times long past. Images of three children playing tag in a garden and riding horses through the trees resurfaced and brought a small smile to his face. Emeril's friends from his childhood, Jasper and Liana, a brother and a sister his age who hailed from House Thomme. Emeril remembered the very day they had arrived at their gates, weary, sad, and accompanied by an escort knight bearing the sigil of their house. At the time, House Thomme had been involved in a feudal conflict with another house who'd resorted to snake-like tactics of infiltrating and attempting to assassinate the unsuspecting family in the night. The castle; a symbol of all that House Thomme had worked for, burnt to the ground into a pile of rubble and ashes during the conflict. The Thomme family's two children were secretly whisked away during the disaster and brought somewhere far away, lest they were killed. Emeril's father-- a longtime friend of Lord Thomme-- out of the kindness of his heart, allowed the sorrowful children to become his temporary wards until their teenage years when they were safe to return home.
The memories Emeril kept of them, though, were bittersweet. He was sure if Ser Arrin could see his eyes that he might discern a distant wistfulness in them. Joyful childhood moments to reflect on never failed to remind him that he was lonely, Emeril realized. He caught himself staring in a distracted trance as his horse's lovely braided mane rose and fell from the strength of the autumn wind, braids beating rhythmically against her neck.
Was it an urge to isolate himself? He couldn't bring himself to attend dinner events or spontaneously cross half the world to visit House Thomme. Events sounded nice, in principle-- but every time he participated, he would already find himself socially exhausted within a half hour. Other than that, Emeril constantly found himself fixed between an intense desire for friendship and a contradicting tendency to withdraw whenever a person expressed an interest in him. Frustration always rose in him whenever he pondered over that fact of himself.
Motion in his peripheral vision made him turn his head and catch the knight adjusting his hair, revealing parts of his face that were often covered by dark, wavy strands of hair. A fleeting thought entered Emeril's mind that, he realized in alarm, he should dare not entertain. It did not escape his notice, however, that Ser Arrin appeared to be either tired or as though something was amiss with him.
Was Emeril blind, or daft? Or both? Each time he decided to bother Ser Arrin, the man seemed to be out of sorts.
Or perhaps, was it Ser Arrin's own thoughts that were plaguing him? Emeril was quite familiar with those.
Emeril appreciated his efforts to create conversation. "They're rather talented, aren't they? That bard duo frequents the tavern quite a bit once the sun sinks below the horizon. Not that I go there often," he quickly corrected, a slight grin gracing his face at his own folly. Emeril wasn't one for chitchat, though in the other man's company he felt a growing, foreign urge to drone on about nonsense. The only thing stopping him was that it would surely deteriorate the knight’s sanity.
Emeril held the reins in one relaxed hand and turned his gaze over to his companion. "Fond of music then, Ser Arrin?" Emeril teased. There was something in the man's polite, stoic personality-- one that perfectly befits a knight-- that made Emeril want to meddle with it. Mainly to get a reaction. A stone wall that Emeril oddly enjoyed to see falter or soften in some way. Ser Arrin's responses tended to be playful or match his amusement, which Emeril delighted in greatly. Emeril briefly wondered if it was wrong of him to force this man along with him to momentarily cease his seemingly eternal boredom.
Soon enough, the two of them passed beneath an overhead sign welcoming them to the market. Dirt roads changed to smooth stone beneath them and homely cottages with small, fenced-in farming patches shifted to multi-storied homes and shops made of stone and brick. Buildings and stalls stood parallel to one another on either side of the narrow street they traveled down. They passed by a group of laborers unloading a new shipment of goods. Emeril spied sacks of sugar and spices being transferred from carts, and other miscellaneous items being removed from pack-mules.
Emeril swerved his horse in front of a trough and pulled on the reins to signal a stop. He swung his leg up over the side of the horse and dropped to the ground, gathering up the reins to tie them to the post in front, giving his mare enough freedom to drink. Emeril removed his pouch of coins from his bag as discreetly as he could, cautious for pickpockets, and peered over his horse's back at Ser Arrin. "Well," he began, awkwardly, "I don't want to bother you. You could stay over here if you'd like, or you could join me in perusing those obnoxiously showy fur carpets?"
“Yes, quite busy going behind the squires and doing their work for them,” Josian replied with a shake of his head and a quiet sigh. He stole glances at Emeril during the ride to town, his eyebrows knitting together as he noticed an emotion he couldn’t place on his lord’s fair features. He decided it would be best for both of them to not bring it up. The last thing he wanted was to embarrass his lord, or himself, with his poor social competency.
Josian felt more at ease as they rode. He had not the faintest idea how Emeril had calmed a few days’ worth of confusing thoughts from his mind in minutes. It was his personality, Josian guessed, that made it so easy to be around him.
“It’s not the worst place to spend your evenings, if I’m honest, so I wouldn’t judge you too harshly if you did,” he replied, returning Emeril’s smile. He hoped he could make his lord comfortable with him as well. He hesitated for a moment after, unsure whether to divulge such an embarrassing fact about him, before sheepishly continuing, “I enjoy music. I used to play the lyre when I was younger… I was terrible, of course, but my calling was not to be a bard.”
He regretted sharing that almost immediately.
Josian was no stranger to the market; he’d been here plenty of times with a few other knights, and sometimes their ladies, when they’d ask to go to the tavern or to look at things none of them could afford and daydream. He wondered if they would run into anyone he knew.
Following Emeril, Josian dismounted, the stone crunching beneath his boots as he landed. He loosened the cinch on the saddle, which elicited a long groan from his horse. It was as if the beast had puffed full of air the entire ride and just deflated.
Josian had never quite bonded with an animal before — when he was younger he always found it strange to enjoy the company of a being that couldn’t talk, but as he grew older, he found he didn’t enjoy talking much anyway, and he had grown quite fond of his gelding. He took the horse’s face in his hands, pressing his cheek to his horse’s and sliding his fingers up under the noseband to rub at the itchy spots underneath.
His eyes flickered about the market. Everything seemed business as usual so far, so perhaps he might have been spared an awkward encounter with an acquaintance in front of his lord.
His attention was diverted back to Emeril, his face half-turned to look at him. He raised an eyebrow at his proposal. “It wouldn’t be a bother, milord. You’re not imposing on me.” He hitched his horse up to the post before continuing, “I wouldn’t dare to leave you to tackle those showy fur carpets by yourself.”
Though looking through said showy fur carpets was something entirely out of his realm of knowledge, but perhaps he’d be useful in warding off anyone unwanted. He didn’t consider himself very friendly-looking.
“I don’t remember you ever requesting a knight escort before. What made you send for me specifically?”
Emeril's eyes grew in surprise at Ser Arrin's small confession. It was certainly the last thing he expected. Judging from what seemed like regret churning in Ser Arrin's expression, Emeril could see that the man was nothing short of uncomfortable. He deliberately chose not to dramatize his reaction to the discovery, though it was tempting, "I would like to hear you play one day if you're ever up for it," he told him with a gentler tone, devoid of the teasing lilt it held previously.
It was to Emeril's relief, though he was reluctant to admit, that he wasn't imposing on the knight after all. He lifted a hand to his mouth and could barely resist letting out a brusque laugh at the sarcasm evident in Ser Arrin's tone, "Ah, so the serious knight does have a bit of humor in him today!"
Ser Arrin was full of surprises that day, it seemed. Emeril turned and stared at Ser Arrin; stupefied, brows twitching to raise after the question reached his ear. It wasn't Emeril's intention to, well, flounder there, but how would he answer him properly if he didn't even know the answer himself? The earnest curiosity of the question had successfully dumbfounded him, whether that was his intention or not (definitely not.) It took Emeril a moment to gather himself and realize he was making himself look a fool.
"Well," Emeril turned his eyes away and calmly fiddled with the satchel on his horse's side as if to give off the impression that he was distracted, "Is it so peculiar of me to wish to know my knights better? I felt as though I didn't want to go alone anymore, and I chose you because ever since our spar, you seemed like an enjoyable fellow to be around. Just a feeling I had," the smile Emeril gave him was possibly more thin and restrained than intended.
Emeril gave his horse one last perfunctory pat on the neck before turning abruptly and beckoning to Ser Arrin to follow him through the bustling energy of the market.
Not only a center for buying, selling, and trading, the market itself acted as a social hub; the main public area where those from several neighboring towns came to meet, exchange information, and gossip. All around him Emeril heard the raucous melody of people chatting, laughing, and bartering. There were too many heads for Emeril to count, and he thought with some mild contempt that he could discern some noble ones amongst them. Worried of losing his companion in the turbulent throngs of people, Emeril would occasionally turn his head to see if he was still near him.
After the two of them passed the thickness of the crowd, Emeril released a sigh through his nose and made to the furs that had caught his eyes previously as they rode into town. Emeril slowed his walk now that he had the freedom to relax, and allowed his gaze to travel along the exotic furs and skinned hides on display until something absolutely terrible caught his eye. "Ser Arrin," Emeril addressed the knight, eyes considering a brightly colored piece of drapery lined with fur hung up in front of them, "You strike me as a man with fine taste. What do you think of this? Garish?"
A gravelly voice rang out over the noise of the crowd, rough and accusing, and to Emeril's displeasure; it sounded like it was sent in his direction.
Emeril turned to face whatever conflict was about to unfold in front of him. Hands fisted in the front of his cloak and pulled him forwards, making him stumble. A man's face was mere inches from his own; dark murky eyes with overblown pupils staring back at him. His face was smeared with grime and his breath stank tellingly of an overindulgence in ale.
"You the thief what stole my coin! Snuck right into my pockets!" He rasped, breath washing over Emeril's face in a hot wave.
"I did no such thing," Emeril protested, turning his nose up at the accuser.
In his leather garments and one of his simpler-looking cloaks, Emeril's appearance from behind might not reveal his wealth at a first glance. Emeril tried to inch his face further away and was forced to watch as the man scrutinized him, gaze searching. His eyes found the golden embellishments that decorated his clothing here and there, and a metal clasp shaped into the symbol of his house laid at the dip of his collarbone, holding his cloak in place. The man's eyes slowly went wide upon his realization, and his forceful grip on him relaxed. Once Emeril thought the drunkard realized he had the wrong person, the man's wide eyes narrowed at him again; condemning and vitriolic, drunkenness clouding his judgment.
"A rich man taking from the lesser, aye?"
"I've no reason to," Emeril objected through gritted teeth. Over the man's shoulder, Emeril caught sight of a sneaking figure, as cloaked and blonde as he. He - or she - looked startled when their eyes met and took off. "You're wasting your time with me. The real thief is escaping with your coin."
Josian felt the tips of his ears burn at Emeril’s teasing. He hadn’t meant to make a joke, but he felt a warm feeling in his chest at his lord finding humor in it. “I only meant I wouldn’t leave you alone.”
He stared at Emeril’s tight-lipped smile and a sudden feeling of worry swam in his chest. He hadn’t realized it might strike a nerve, but he knew better than to speak with such familiarity to someone so far above his station. Not to mention they weren’t even familiar to begin with, so he quickly sought to rectify his mistake.
“I meant no offense, milord, of course you may do as you wish,” he said with a shake of his head, “It wasn’t my intention to put you on the spot, I apologize. I am honored to know that you would find worth in this lowly knight.” He smiled, hoping his conscious attempt at humor this time would earn him forgiveness.
To say Josian felt like a dog trotting at its owner’s heel would have been an understatement. He kept close to Emeril in the throng of people, occasionally bumping into his back and spewing apologies every time. He stuck to him so closely in the event something unfortunate were to happen, but he seemed to gravitate closer than was appropriate for a knight as they walked. This had to stop! Why was it whenever he was around Emeril he was reduced to an idiot?
When the crowd thinned and they found themselves underneath the market tents, only then did he let out the breath he did not even know he had been holding. He put as much distance as he was comfortable with in the market between him and Emeril. Surely this way he could keep his idiocy to a minimum.
He stared dumbly at the atrocity his lord held in his hands. It was ugly, even someone with no interest in drapery like Josian could tell, and he tried to train the horror out of his features. “Milord, surely you don’t mean to purchase--”
They were interrupted by a confused drunkard. Josian tensed as Emeril was grabbed and his eyes lowered as he scrutinized the man before them. He could scarce believe this man would be so brazen as to put his hands on his lord while he stood right there. It disturbed him deeply for a reason he couldn’t name.
“Alright,” he finally interrupted at yet another baseless accusation, “Enough!” With little patience left, he grabbed the drunkard’s forearm and pulled him away. His expression, already looking irate, soured even further by being in such close proximity to this man.
“I will go get the coin, they have very few places to hide here. You,” he spat venom as he whirled back on the man, “will go nowhere.”
This trip somehow turned into such a pain. He wasn’t a stranger to playing peacekeeper, but this seemed like an entirely different beast. He never had to defend his charges against such a vexatious individual before, but he was sworn to his duty and he would honor it no matter how trifling the situation might seem.
“Sit,” He grit his teeth as he gave the directive to the inebriate as one would to a misbehaving dog, his hands on the guy’s shoulders directing him to take a seat in a nearby chair. “Don’t. Move.”
As he knew it would be, it was quite easy to track the culprit, even through the thick herd of people. There were very few exits and he had been around this part more than enough times to know where one might hide if they wanted to stay hidden. He had expected he’d corner the culprit, ask politely first, then perhaps intimidate them, get the coin, go home…
But what he hadn’t planned for was the familiar face he saw the thief offer the pouch to.
“You’re such a good lad. That mongrel didn’t give you any trouble, I hope?” A comely red-haired woman cooed to the cloaked culprit, her fingers reaching out to push the hair out of their eyes.
“Dianna?” Josian faltered. A small sliver of him hoped it would not be her, but he knew better than most that fate was not kind.
The woman, Dianna, froze. Her hand shot out by instinct and grabbed the delinquent’s wrist to yank him behind her. Dianna’s eyes narrowed like a cornered beast to look Josian over, before recognition relaxed her features. She smiled at her childhood friend, though she did not release her grip on the boy behind her as if she viewed Josian as a threat that would only take from her that which she was willing to protect.
“Rinny! You were the last person I’d expected to see here! You look well,” she beamed.
Dianna was one of his four close friends he made after he assumed his Arrin identity. He’d lost touch with them all eventually, as was inevitable, but he never had expected any of them to end up as common rabble. It pained him to see someone he had held dear to him have to resort to such measures. He didn’t know quite what to say, nor was he willing to apprehend either of them now.
A swell of relief came over Emeril as the man’s invasive grip was wrenched from his cloak, removed altogether by Ser Arrin. He parted his lips and released a long breath he hadn't realized he was holding, taking a moment to smooth out the front of his clothes, when he sensed someone's staring eyes in his periphery.
“Apologies,” he offered awkwardly to the merchant across from him who handled the fur and pelt sales; but the man gave a respectful bow of the head and returned to his business, saying nothing to Emeril but mumbling ruefully to himself, “Man’s always drunk, always up to somethin’ bad…”
Fortunately for Emeril, most of the attention that was making him feel suffocated before was fleeting; gone as quick as he had it as the public's attention was drawn elsewhere.
Thievery must have been such a common occurrence here, then, for it not to have caused a major disturbance...
He observed with unbridled fascination as Ser Arrin seized the drunkard, dragged him away from Emeril, and ordered him to sit down. The forceful command behind Ser Arrin’s tone was triumphant in its purpose to intimidate. The stumbling alcoholic complied easily to Ser Arrin's demands, not that he had much of a choice; though the disdain written plainly upon his face revealed exactly how he felt about it. He squirmed in his seat with an urge to rebel but stayed still otherwise.
It was part of what Ser Arrin was paid to do, but Emeril appreciated it nonetheless. It would have done House Clarembaunt no favors to have Emeril be seen in town bearing his sword against a common civilian. It always was enjoyable to marvel firsthand at the capability and professionalism of his knights, even in a sort of ridiculous situation like this.
Ser Arrin didn't venture far, Emeril discovered.
Emeril's eyes were drawn to Ser Arrin where he was hesitating in front of the thief and a woman Emeril didn't recognize. Emeril couldn’t hear every detail of their conversation; but Ser Arrin and the lady with striking hair as red as a fox's pelt seemed to exchange pleasantries, her drastic shift in demeanor revealing that the two of them were on friendly terms. Upon hearing the endearing nickname Rinny, the reason for Ser Arrin's reluctance to act became clear to him, then, though there were two decisions they could make here, and they were both equally as wrong as they were right.
Emeril approached carefully so as not to frighten them, coming to a slow halt as soon as the boy took notice of him and further withdrew behind the young lady protectively shielding him. Sensing the boy’s discomfort, the woman’s head snapped in Emeril’s direction and her baleful stare was like a pair of daggers piercing into his skull.
He reflected on his words from earlier, 'this should allow us to enjoy ourselves for a brief moment in time,' and he had to swallow down the scoff that was beginning to rise from his throat. To be honest, Emeril could hardly believe that out of an unnecessarily guilty twinge in his chest he was fixing to free some thieves of their crimes so he'd alleviate his knight's worries. The last thing he wished to do was betray his knight's trust, while he was in the process of trying to befriend him, and if he did, he reckoned he wouldn't be able to live without the regret lingering somewhere in the back of his conscience. Likely to come back to torture him on sleepless nights. One more thing that differed between him and his father, he supposed.
"Let me know how much of it was stolen. I will give back the same amount of gold to the man out of my own pocket," he said, hand reaching into his own cloak to withdraw his pouch. Wide, fearful eyes only stared back at him from behind the woman. The blonde lad continued to hesitate, making no move to concede to Emeril's order.
Emeril felt his patience rapidly beginning to fade. "I only wish to know the amount. I wouldn't reject an opportunity such as this, lad," he told him sternly, expression growing more and more exasperated as the moments passed.
While seeing his friend after these many years brought him some kind of comfort, Josian had only wished it had been under more favorable circumstances. He had lost touch with her and had the faintest clue about where she had ended up, only that she had been with Ronas. Ronas was the nephew of a rich lord and was well off on his own, and would have never left Dianna to fend for herself like this. Where was he then, if she were here alone? The thought made his face draw together in worry.
“Dianna, why didn’t you come find me? I haven’t gone anywhere, and you know my aunt would love to see you. Truth is she’d kill me herself if she found out you’re here,” he said gently. There were other questions that he burned to ask, but he shoved them in the back of his mind for now.
“We hadn’t spoken in years. It’s a bit unfair for me to only show up and beg for help,” she replied with a shake of her head. She let go of the boy’s wrist, but placed her hands on her hips as if her small form could still shield him from Josian. Hesitantly, she continued, “I’m done relying on men anyhow. I’ve learnt my lesson.”
Josian could fill in some of the gaps now. Ronas and Dianna’s feelings for each other were apparent to everyone but themselves, even when they were younger. By the time Josian took his knightly vows, the two were nearly inseparable. The last he had heard was that they had moved away together to get away from Ronas’ uncle’s family.
He could guess how well that went, however. While Ronas had been privileged enough to have had enough money to support both of them comfortably, he was also cursed with a temper and a love to drink. Josian had even met him because the man wanted to fight him. He knew that even though Ronas loved Dianna, she would not stay with him if he refused to change.
This was the worst situation he could have imagined for either of them. Ronas was an idiot and would get himself hurt, and Dianna was a pretty woman alone with no money for herself, let alone a boy.
The arrival of his lord seemed to worsen these feelings for a moment. The initial shock of seeing Dianna here had made him forget who he was here with and what he had followed them out here to do. Though many years had passed, Josian liked to think he knew Dianna’s heart. He didn’t know if the boy was her son — though he doubted that theory much — or if he was just someone she took in, it wasn’t just her alone in the world anymore. She could do without, but she wouldn’t let the boy go hungry. She wouldn’t have stolen from those who struggled just as much as she did under normal circumstances, he knew she was only doing what she had to do to protect those she cared about.
If only he had known, he might have spared her, and whoever this boy was to her, a life unlike the one she led now. But while he can do nothing about the past as it were, he could certainly do something in the present.
“Milord, I—” He fully prepared to advocate for them, but was cut short by Emeril’s offer to cover for the pair. His heart pounded annoyingly in his chest.
Dianna looked just as surprised as Josian, if not more. She glanced behind her at the boy and her voice dropped low to speak to him as privately as the situation would allow. With a jerk of her head to Emeril’s direction, the boy finally, reluctantly, offered the bag of coin back to him.
“I’m sorry, truly. I wish my state of affairs were different, so I wouldn’t need to… Anyway, I cannot accept your offer,” she said, her eyes dropping to the clasp at Emeril’s collarbone. The thought of taking coin from a lord’s son unsettled her visibly. Ugh!
“Then don’t. Take mine instead,” he interjected, swapping the bag for one from his own pocket before she could say no to that as well.
“Rinny…” she trailed off as Josian shook his head at her.
“I’m not hearing it. You’re not indebted to me, do not pay it back. You only owe my aunt a visit.”
Dianna warred with herself for a minute. At length, cautiously, she turned to the boy and set the bag into his open palm. She sent him away with a gentle push to his shoulder. Her face betrayed very little of her thoughts.
“I could arrange a visit with Auntie,” she said. A smile crept up on her pretty face as she threw her arms around Josian’s neck, but the hug was over before he could so much as even pat her back.
“Thank you, milord, for your generosity. I am appreciative of your offer,” she said, bowing with a hand over her chest. “Arrin is lucky to be serving you. Not many would be so kind.”
Josian would agree; he had thought the very same himself many times since their spar. Though this was something of a different beast, something close to his heart. He cared for his friends very much; they were the only thing he had left aside from his aunt, who wasn’t even his blood. For Emeril to stick his neck out for this woman he knows from a hole in the ground, for his sake… He had a deeper respect for his lord than he did before.
“Rinny, where is Fenian?” The world stopped spinning so fast Josian felt he might topple over. That was a name he’d forcibly forgotten about, left in the past as the man it belonged to should have been.
“Dead, Gods willing,” he replied, ignoring the horrified look Dianna gave him.
Emeril went through the most arduous efforts to reign in the urge to drop his jaw and balk at Ser Arrin like a fool. There was not a point in having her take his knight's coin over his own; Emeril had enough of it and more.
It was a success anyhow. There was the matter of her being either a tad too prideful or too afraid to take coin from Emeril, unwilling to be indebted. Whichever it was, it was difficult to discern from her expression. Judging by the considerable fatness of Ser Arrin's coin pouch, they would be well off for a small while until the funds were depleted and they would be forced to scavenge once more.
The earnestness reflecting in her eyes and gentle timbre as she thanked him admittedly brought some warmth to Emeril's heart. Still, he'd hardly let it show other than slightly through the small smile he gave in response. He was uncertain how he’d have gotten her to accept his coin otherwise if Ser Arrin hadn’t convinced her to take his own. "I suppose he is, though I am equally as fortunate to have Ser Arrin," he said, laying bare his appreciation.
Though the other two knew of his presence, Emeril began to feel like an eavesdropper, almost; an encroaching sense that he shouldn’t really be privy to any of this information. He shifted where he stood as a slight discomforting feeling he couldn’t pinpoint rose in him. He went from not knowing much of Ser Arrin's life to suddenly harboring a few intimate clues in the span of only a few minutes. The sentiments the both of them held toward this aunt of his, however, warmed his heart further. He could see an apron-wearing woman smiling widely in his mind’s eye, welcoming everyone and anyone with home-cooked meals and a warm hearth.
Emeril was grateful that he’d been trained spectacularly in restraining any shred of surprise he might have felt from showing on his face. The horror that crossed Dianna’s expression was painful to see. He didn’t deem it appropriate to intrude any longer on this conversation of a dear, dead man that Ser Arrin and Dianna seemed to hold close to their hearts. Emeril glanced at Ser Arrin, "Excuse me," he interjected, tone inheriting a more sympathetic, somber note, "I will have to return this. Should you come looking for me, I shall be in the direction from whence we came."
Before he forgot, Emeril turned to address Dianna, "Oh, Miss. If you ever find yourself in another moment of struggle, please give us a visit. House Clarembaunt would be obliged to help." Emeril offered a cursory nod and made his leave.
He quickened his pace through the market streets praying to any god willing to listen that the drunk was still there, else that entire ordeal would have been for naught. When he could see him as he approached, he thought his patron deity must have heard him.
"Your coin," Emeril said curtly, extending an arm to let the stolen coin pouch dangle loosely in the space between them, within the man’s immediate reach. It was captured almost instantly from his grasp with a peculiar swiftness that he'd yet to see from the man insofar. Emeril would have handed it off with more grace; yet he couldn’t say he particularly relished in being manhandled like the guy had gotten his probing, dirt-caked fingers on some dog he'd meant to scold and beat. Thinking back on it put a terrible taste in his mouth.
The man parted his lips to speak and then promptly shut them, silence ensuing where Emeril thought there would be some sort of verbal acknowledgment of the situation from the inebriated individual in front of him. Emeril raised a brow at him. His patience had already worn thin, yet he thought he could determine a trace of regret swimming in the constant shifting of the man's gaze. It was enough for him, so he turned with his cloak billowing behind him and sought to get some clearer air elsewhere.
The market was still fraught with crowds, though as the late afternoon approached the evening, some of them began to disperse. Unexpectedly, the rising and falling of musical notes produced from the strings of a lute lovingly caressed his ears as he stepped through. A musical duo clad in multicolored motley stood in the center of an ever-growing mass of listeners, who all displayed varying degrees of captivation and admiration. The very same bards he spoke of earlier with his knight. Emeril found himself slowing his steps, letting the sound of music take over his mind and put a distance between him and his thoughts. Well, good; he would rather not dwell on what just happened and the embarrassment of it all.
The assortment of things that embraced his senses emerged feelings of nostalgia; the familiarity of the harmonies coming from the lute and song and the scents of sweet honey-bread whispering past with a design to titillate. Sweet buns that were decorated with sprinklings of powdered sugar and glistening honey that trickled down the sides sat innocently behind a protective glass display. Liana was quite fond of those, he could remember.