Fire Emblem: Apotheosis

Fire Emblem: Apotheosis

[Private] Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.

1,326 readers have visited this universe since Nemeseia created it. Aethyia are builders.

Copyright: The creator of this roleplay has attributed some or all of its content to the following sources:

https://fireemblem.fandom.com/wiki/fire_emblem:_three_houses

Introduction



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Our mistrust of the future
...makes it hard to give up the past.

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The continent of Fódlan is host to three nations: to the southwest, the Adrestian Empire boasts the longest and most storied history, occupying the warm southern reaches and claiming the vast majority of access to the world's oceans. To the north lies the Kingdom of Faerghus, frigid and mountainous home of hardy warriors with a fierce streak of pride and independence. And in the east, the relatively-young Leicester Alliance is led by its council of Dukes, keen-minded politicians all. Though history has seen these lands part from one another, what unites them still may be in its sum much more powerful.

For all hold in common the faith of the Church of Seiros, she who is said to have received a divine prophesy from a progenitor goddess over a thousand years ago. Legend tells that Seiros, accompanied by the Four Saints and the Ten Elites, was gifted power from the goddess in the form of Crests, manifestations of divine power borne in the blood and bone of their recipients, and relics, powerful sacred weapons that sang and burned in the hands of these Crest-gifted warriors.

Alongside these fourteen chosen individuals, Seiros rose up against the Founder-King Nemesis, and after many long, hard years of warfare, struck him down in single combat on the Tailtean Plains. Seiros's allies included the first Adrestian Emperor, himself gifted with her own Crest, and it was through this alliance that the Adrestian Empire was founded, to span over the whole of the continent.

And through the many generations since, all of Fódlan has been shaped by the lingering effect of these gifts. From the ancient Empire to the proud Kingdom to the unconventional Alliance, every nation on the continent has at every time determined its nobility by the provenance of Crests. Over time, their appearance has become rarer, the children born with the goddess's gifts fewer and more valued for the fact. Nowadays, even some of the oldest noble families in Fódlan are Crestless, and such a turn of ill fortune often portends the fall of a house from the status it formerly enjoyed.

Still, the continent is stable and at tenuous peace, each nation for the moment at relative accord with its neighbors, though of course international tension is at times inevitable. It is during this time of precarious balance that the heirs of the Empire, Kingdom, and Alliance all enroll at the famous Officers' Academy of Garreg Mach Monastery, there to be taught in the arts of leadership, magic, and combat by some of the finest instructors the world has to offer. Perhaps, hope those in the know, this confluence will at last herald the end of tumult between the nations and bring true and lasting peace to Fódlan. For though students at the Academy are arranged into Houses depending on their nation of origin, this year there are also to be mixed exercises and instruction, as well as plenty of opportunities for interaction outside of class.

It is certainly a fine opportunity, but when the very first inter-house training exercise is interrupted by a bandit attack, it is unclear whether any chance for unity will survive, or if the deaths of the three heirs will see it wither on the vine...

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Toggle Rules

The GM of this roleplay hasn't created any rules! You can do whatever you like!

Taking place in...

Fódlan our primary setting

A continent divided into three different factions: The Adrestian Empire, The Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Leicester Alliance.

The Story So Far... Write a Post » as written by 2 authors

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Tuesday the 21st
Horse Trails - Evening - Cool
Cyril Eisner


The route Senka had chosen for them ran almost directly alongside one of the many small streams that flowed into the lake at Garreg Mach. Given enough time, Cyril was confident it would taken them around to the back side of it, near where they'd had her birthday celebration. He'd noted that she was still wearing the pin he'd made for her—it warmed him a little every time he saw it. He didn't think he could recall anyone ever appreciating his little hobby before, but then again he didn't regularly go handing out such things. He didn't have time to make many to begin with, and even then he ended up unmaking them most of the time. They hadn't ever seemed right as gifts, either. He'd spent several weeks trying to get the design right on that one, to integrate the lockpick properly and so on.

Exhaling gently, he let his eyes trail along the creek, which shone rather like a silver ribbon against the darker landscape. The thought surprised him slightly; he'd never been one for poetic speech or metaphors. It probably wasn't a very good one.

Shifting his eyes away, he rested them momentarily on Senka. “So I suppose this is the part in the nefarious scheme where you simply let things percolate for a while to observe again later?" There was a rich thread of amusement in his tone; oddly enough he was already smiling.

She huffed lightly, shifting her eyes to meet his. “Of course," she replied simply, smiling in his direction. The smile was a little different though, as if she were grinning in the same mischievous way Mercer usually did. It smoothed out a moment later, though, and she shifted her gaze back towards the scenery. “They needed this. After all they have been through... they deserve to enjoy something light and beautiful. I know that Sorcha will resent me for a little while, but I'm alright with that. And Vridel, well..." she trailed off and smiled again.

“How are you faring, lately, though? Are you well?" she asked, her voice laced with something like concern.

He huffed softly, unsure why she'd feel the need to be concerned about him. As it seemed to Cyril, by far the greater share of the problems going around affected his students directly, and himself only as someone who happened to care about them and take their protection seriously. “I'm fine," he said softly. “I'm actually... to be honest I don't think I've ever been... happier." He frowned slightly, aware that this could possibly seem quite insensitive, especially given recent events.

“Not that I enjoy what everyone has been through, but—I suppose you know this, but the life I have now is very different from the one I had before. Better. And oddly enough less likely to kill anyone, for whatever that's worth." He lifted one hand from his reins and rubbed at the back of his neck, feeling as he sometimes did that he wasn't quite expressing himself properly. Still, he was pretty sure she wouldn't hold it against him, which was nice to know.

“What about you?" he inquired, tilting his head at her.

Her expression softened considerably as did her smile. “I think, for the first time in a long time, I'm truly happy. I haven't... it feels like I haven't been able to express myself this way since before the Tragedy. It's nice to know that I haven't lost my smile, completely, and I'll always be grateful to you for helping me find it." She was staring at him as she spoke, her eyes intent as they seemed to be as of late.

“And, well..." she paused, turning her attention to the back of Libi's head. “Like I told your father, you've... you've given me a new reason to live. I don't feel like I'm such a burden to everyone, and... it feels nice to know that. That I'm not defined by what I am, or the Crest I bear. Even if everyone knows that, now, I'm still me. It's still taking me some time to understand what that means, and to fully accept it, but..."

She shook her head and glanced back at him. “I think I can, eventually."

A new reason to live? Cyril was genuinely surprised that he'd done any such thing, though he supposed the 'you' could well have been plural. Either way... he felt a rare welling of outright happiness, tinted with... affection? He thought that might perhaps be what the feeling was called, and he wondered if perhaps it wasn't showing on his face. He could certainly feel his expression relax, and his father had noted that when this happened, his eyes warmed until they were almost a different color, a richer version of the usual darkened gold-amber hue of them.

“I'm glad," he said simply, turning his attention briefly to the trail ahead of them. “If I can ask... what's the reason?" He wanted to know, somehow, what she'd decided to live for. What made the world keep turning for her. For so long, Cyril's life too had been without much purpose, but he too had changed. What was once a simple matter of living to survive, to make it through whichever battle was next and make sure his father and their men did the same... there was so much more to it now. It felt... almost like the entire world was different from what he'd ever thought, and the difference was them.

“The reason?" she stated, pursing her lips and glancing at the reigns in her hands. “Hope," she replied after a moment of silence. “You've given me hope, and helped me find my heart in it," she continued, glancing in his direction. “I used to think that it was stupid to hope for anything, but now... I hope and wish for a lot of things. I wish to see the world my friends will create, and I hope to help them do it. I wish to see all of their dreams come to fruition, even if mine do not. I can be happy knowing that all they've been through, every obstacle and pillar in their path, was worth it because they finally achieved their dreams. Whatever they may be."

“More than anything, though, I hope that you'll always be there to guide us. Even... even after we leave this place, I hope you'll still be there for us when we need you. I..." she paused, though, and furrowed her brows. She didn't say anything after that, and returned her attention back to the trail.

It gave him a chance to study her profile. He didn't try to hide the fact that he was doing it—she'd given him rather a lot to think about. The words she spoke had at once warmed and concerned him. Senka had come a long way, he thought, since he'd first met her, but he knew that what lay in her history was not the kind of thing that was simply dealt with.

Guiding the horse beneath him more on instinct than by conscious effort, he brought her up alongside Libi until they were walking close enough that his and Senka's feet almost brushed. He leaned slightly, trying to catch her eye. When he thought he had it, he spoke quietly, almost too much so to be heard over the ambient sounds around them, the trickle of the creek or the chirping of the insects or the motion of the horses.

“I'm here," he murmured. “And, if you need me, I'll find a way to be there, even after you've left this place behind. It might take a while, or be less than I'd like, sometimes, but... for as long as I'm alive, all you have to do is say the word. I promise."

He knew not what compelled him to make such a vow, but he knew he wanted to. Knew he wanted to be there, for her, as long as she felt she needed him. Had any use for him at all. The others, too, to be sure, but—whatever the truth of its nature might be, he could not and would not deny that there was something special about her. About Senka. Perhaps there had been ever since the night she'd woken him up screaming next door. Cyril had never been helpful in that way in his entire life before, but somehow... somehow, he'd been able to help her. His feelings, his desire to be helpful, had meant something to her. And her pain, the person beneath it—

Those things had meant something to him.

There was a flicker of something in her eyes, then. It was hard to say what it was, exactly, having passed just as quickly as she furrowed her brows. “I couldn't ask that of you, to make such a promise as that. It's... it's more than enough that you're already here with us, with me. I... I'll always need you, and rely on you, Cyril," she continued, her eyes hardening for just a moment before they softened again.

“I'm able to overcome so much because of everything you've done. It's more than I already deserve, and for you to make a promise like that..." she trailed off, shaking her head softly. “I couldn't ask you to make that promise. You'll have your own life to take care of after I leave, and I... I'll be," she couldn't seem to find the words she wanted to say, and her eyes dropped to her hands again. She took in a soft breath, and regarded him with a soft smile.

“Thank you, though. For everything."

Impulsively, he found himself reaching for one of her hands with his own, drawing it into the space between them and squeezing gently. She'd done something similar for him once, and he remembered it having a certain... comfort to it. “You don't have to ask," he said, tone soft. Maybe it seemed like an imposition to her, but he didn't regret making the promise, and he didn't want to take it back.

“And the truth is... I won't. Have my own life, I mean. Not in any important sense. I wasn't really living, before I met all of you." He released a soft gust of air, not really amused but something adjacent, wry and a touch self-deprecating. “Meeting you... it's the first time I've ever thought I matter. Because if I could help you, do something for you when you needed it—maybe it meant something that I was born at all."

He looked down at their hands, tracing his thumb along the backs of her fingers. Slowly, they were becoming a swordswoman's hands, as strong and capable as the rest of her, but they were still small in his. Softer than he was used to. “And now that I know what it is to... to care this much—I don't think I could stand to go back to what my life was before."

She took a sharp intake of air, and for a moment, she stared wide-eyed at him. It was as if she were seeing something in a different way for the first time, and there was a slow coloring to her face. She didn't take her hand from his, though, and merely stared at them. Her eyes softened a bit, though, and there was a small smile tugging at her lips.

“I do not know why you'd say such things like that. They're... not something you should say to someone like me, but thank you," she spoke, repositioning her hand so that her fingers were intertwined with his. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze as well, before sighing softly. “I cherish you more than I have a right to, and... I don't think I could, either. Stand to go back to what my life was before this."

“It wasn't as bright as it is, now, and I think... I think that has a lot to do with you. I... erm," she cleared her throat in a nervous manner, as if what she was about to say was embarrassing to her.

Somehow, this provoked something similar in him, and Cyril felt his own face heat a little bit, too. He swallowed thickly, knowing in a distant sort of way that he wanted to say something about the 'someone like her part'—if it took every year he had left, he wanted to help her stop thinking of herself that way—but his tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth, and words were slow to form. He wasn't really an eloquent speaker to begin with, but he could usually manage to produce words.

Well say something, the girl supplied helpfully, or she won't know what to think! You're so bad with women, honestly!

Not sure exactly what that had to do with anything, Cyril nevertheless blurted the first thing that came to him. “Because they're true," he said, trying to explain himself even if he had to do it clumsily. “You're—you're a special person, Senka. Even if you don't believe it. I do. I know, so." He swallowed, losing the thread and grimacing faintly at himself.

“I hope... I hope you get everything you dream of."

Senka huffed lightly before she was laughing at him. Perhaps it was their own embarrassment, or something she found funny, however; she shook her head at him. “I'm not special, but it means a lot that you think I am," she replied. “But maybe one day I'll be able to get what I dream of. I... honestly don't remember what my dreams were before, but I think... I think I have new ones. What about you, Cyril? What are your dreams?" she asked, tilting her head at him as if she were studying him.

The question caught him a little off-guard. “I... I don't really have any," he admitted. “I mean, I dream about things, of course, but I don't have any aspirations, really. I guess I've always thought that one day my father might want to retire, and then I'd probably run the company, but—it was more of a supposition than a desire."

She arched a brow at him. “So there's nothing you want or desire, now? No dreams, or aspirations that you've come to want?" she asked.

Oh! I know this one! This is where you're supposed to say 'you'!

It took great effort to maintain a neutral expression when the girl interjected again.

What? That sounds like a come-on.

That's because it is, you idiot.

He pushed the girl's intrusive thoughts out of his mind, trying to think seriously about the question. Even if she was mocking him, though, something about the answer stuck, like he couldn't quite expunge it from his thoughts. He'd been very careful, thus far, not to let himself think of his students in such a way. He recognized that Senka was beautiful, of course—no few of them were. But it hadn't been and wasn't something he could acknowledge in any way beyond the dry, objective facts of the matter.

He was sure he'd been silent for too long, but when he replied, he thought he was at least honest. “I want..." he pursed his lips, looking out at the creek for a moment. “I want you all to live," he said at last. “Live well, and live long. To be safe, and happy. That's what I want."

Senka huffed lightly at his response, her hand squeezing his again, though it seemed she wasn't quite aware she'd done it. “I suppose it is a reasonable wish, one that I shall do my upmost to help you achieve. And for what it's worth, I know I'm happy, more-so than I've ever been, because of you," she replied, and the smile on her face conveyed it, her happiness.

“Shall we see what we can find to bring back as a sample? I'm sure the others have all gathered something by now, even if it wasn't really required. The objective, I think, has been achieved."

The smile returned to his face at that, and he nodded simply. “Let's."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Nemeseia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Friday the 24th
Outside Garreg Mach - Evening - Cloudy
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer thought it was hilarious that Teach's dad suggested a party, of all things, for all of them. While he wasn't against it, he knew that a particular individual wouldn't find it appropriate. Not that any of them cared what she had to say about it, except maybe Thea, but Mercer found he was looking forward to the party. Currently, he was on his way to meet the group. They had agreed that it would be best to meet during the evening, and leave the monastery so that they could actually enjoy themselves. Mercer was almost certain that Thea and Sorcha were too young to be drinking; and he knew that they would be.

But there was a first time for everything, he supposed. He found he was the first one to arrive at their designated meeting area, and he sighed to himself. He should have lived a little more up to his reputation as a lazy ass who didn't want to do much, but it was becoming exceedingly harder to do so. He was up during class lectures, paid attention when the professor's spoke, and actually participated in some of the class debates. They were nice, to be sure, but Mercer felt like he was becoming a little too comfortable. And that needed to stop. He couldn't allow himself to do that, because that meant someone in Derdriu would find out, and try to use it against him.

Shaking the thought from his head, he crossed his arms over his chest and waited for the others.

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Teach and Jeralt were the next to arrive, each of them carrying a rather impressively-sized cask over one shoulder like it weighed nothing whatsoever. Teach even waved at him ash they found a decent flat spot of ground to set the things down on. Following not too far behind was, surprisingly, Professor Manuela, who was carrying several blankets and such for the ground, it seemed. Devon brought up the rear with a shovel, for some reason.

“We plan on burying someone?" Mercer asked, arching a brow in Devon's direction. It was at this time that Dierdre and Sylvi appeared, though Dierdre gave Mercer a flat look.

“Maybe you," she replied, causing Mercer to snort. Sylvi rolled her eyes, holding onto a basket of sorts. Perhaps it had food in it? Mercer couldn't tell. Dierdre was holding a similar basket, and it was possible they both had food inside.

“I guess we're just waiting on Vi, Thea, Sor, and Sen," he stated, shaking his head. It wasn't long until Thea appeared, holding onto what looked like napkins. Maybe they were bringing food?

“Sorry, I couldn't find the napkins and I had to have help," she stated as her excuse. Mercer grinned slightly.

“Are you sure that's what it was? Maybe you were just distracted by something, or maybe someone?" he stated, watching as her cheeks turned a bright pink.

“You shut your fish face, Mercer!" Thea huffed lightly, and made her way towards the others. Dierdre snickered softly as did Sylvi. Mercer just laughed.

When Vridel appeared, he was carrying a smallish crate in both hands. It was stamped with the word 'flammable' in red lettering on the outside, but other than that gave little indication of its contents. He set it down near the casks, rolling the sleeves of the shirt he'd worn under his tunic. It was still a little warm out, though no doubt it would cool quickly as the evening wore on.

Teach had taken the shovel from Devon and was using it to dig what seemed to be a roughly-circular hole in the ground, shallow but wide across. “If you can all collect some loose wood, we can get the bonfire going," he said simply.

“We already have some," Senka called out as she arrived with Sorcha. She had a small bundle of logs in her arms, though they didn't seem to bother her if they were heavy. Mercer arched a brow at her, however; he didn't say anything. She placed the bundle on the ground, and glanced in Sorcha's direction.

“So, a fire with some drinks? All we're missing is the music and we'd have ourselves a little dance," Mercer stated, grinning lightly before shaking his head. Senka rolled her eyes at Mercer, but made her way towards Sorcha. It was only a moment later when Professor Hanneman showed up, looking a little out of breath and flustered.

“Sorry I'm late, I was caught up with—"

“Your Crest research, yes, we are quite aware, Professor Hanneman," Dierdre deadpanned as she glanced in his direction. He huffed something indignant, before pursing his lips together. It was enough, though, that Thea chuckled lightly before she set to helping Manuela place the blankets down on the ground.

“Theoretically there's music," Jeralt replied with a shrug. “Cyril here can play a lute, if anyone happens to have one, and I've got a couple guys bringing a drum or two."

“Ohhh," Professor Manuela seemed very interested in this development. “You should have said so! I've a lute, and a number of other artifacts from the old opera days. I'll be right back." With a wink, she turned and hurried off in a flutter of white and teal robes.

Teach, who didn't seem to have heard the commentary about him, finished with the fire pit about then, and set about layering the wood inside, first some of the thicker logs around the outside and then in a tented pattern more inwardly. He lit it with a touch of magic, then stepped back to give it space to grow.

“This is a pretty neat setup," Sorcha said with a bit of a smile. She looked slightly nervous for some reason, but it seemed to fade quickly enough in the company.

“All right." Jeralt drew attention towards himself, taking a tin cup from a pile of them and tossing it to Teach, who caught it one-handed. “I'd say don't go crazy, but that's kind of the point. There's plenty to go around, so don't be shy."

Another cup flew through the air towards Mercer, then Senka, then Hanneman and Sofia, then Dierdre, and so on until everyone had a drinking vessel. “Food's in the baskets. Hop to it, kids."

Mercer didn't hesitate, and made his way towards the first cask to pour a drink for himself. He was used to this, after all. Besides... they could all let loose and enjoy themselves for once, right?

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Friday the 24th
Outside Garreg Mach - Late Evening - Cloudy
Vridel von Hresvelg


The bonfire had since built itself into a roar, and the food and drinks were flowing freely. A few people were picking at the instruments Professor Manuela had provided, but for the most part the focus hadn't shifted that much yet.

Vridel was a little impressed by the Professor and Jeralt, to be entirely honest. The amount of alcohol the both of them had worked through so far greatly exceeded the next person, and it didn't really seem to be hitting any of them. After the first shared round, most everyone had been drinking at their own pace, which for some of them was quite slow indeed. Sorcha hadn't so much as touched anything yet, even; he wasn't entirely surprised.

Mercer seemed to be working on his second cup, and was grinning at something Dierdre said. Senka, however, looked to be taking her time on her second cup as well, though Amalthea hadn't so much as finished her first. It was her first time drinking if the sour expression on her face was anything to go on. Sylvi seemed quite content to go at her own pace as well, finishing her first cup in time to pour herself a second one. She either didn't mind the taste, or she had had a few drinks in her life, before. Professor Hanneman had yet to touch his cup, though, and was staring at it as if it were something to study.

“Alright, you light weight. Let's see who can drink the most, then!" Dierdre shouted suddenly, pointing an accusatory finger in Mercer's direction. He merely held his hands up in defense as if that would protect him from Dierdre's wrath. His eyes, however, landed with Vridel's, and he grinned in that mischievous way he usually did when he was up to something.

“Fine, I'll challenge you, but how about we make it more fun? How about everyone gets in on the game, hm? What do you say? Shall we see who can drink the most?" he stated, causing Sylvi to roll her eyes. Amalthea merely pursed her lips in Mercer's direction as Senka shook her head.

“Do I have to? I'm not... this isn't easy to drink," Amalthea stated as she glanced at the cup in her hand. Mercer, however, nodded.

“Everyone has to participate, otherwise it wouldn't be any fun."

"Hey now, no forcing anyone," Jeralt said mildly. "Willing participants early. That said... who wants in?" He raised his own hand, demonstrating the response he wanted. The professor shrugged and raised his as well, as did Professor Manuela, grinning from ear to ear. Devon, Sorcha and Sofia opted out, but surprisingly Reynard put his hand up. Senka seemed to think about it no longer than a second before she raised her hand. Mercer had his hand already raised the moment Jeralt suggested it, and Thea seemed to give it a little more thought before hesitantly raising hers. Dierdre had her hand raised, but Sylvi and Hanneman seemed to opt out as well.

Vridel considered it a moment, then raised his hand as well. Why not?

"All right, that's a pretty good number. So here's what we're gonna do. We need someone sober to do pours so everyone gets about the same every time. Sorcha, you'll do." He pointed at her with one of the fingers wrapped around his cup and nodded. "Then we go in rounds. Anyone who can't get their drink down in thirty seconds is out. Time between rounds is just long enough for Sorcha to get everyone's glasses filled back up. If you pass out, you lose. If you puke, you lose. You can give up whenever you want. Otherwise, there's no rules. Sound good?"

The participants nodded, and everyone sorted themselves, so that the contestants were roughly in a circle near one of the kegs. Sorcha quickly filled the cups and distributed them—fortunately they'd all written names or initials on theirs so there wasn't any confusion.

"All right," Jeralt said. "Round one's a go!"

Vridel picked up his glass, downing the ale inside with a few quick gulps. Everyone else managed to do the same, and the game moved to round two.

Mercer seemed to down his drink rather quickly during the second round, doing so in only two quick drinks it looked like. Senka managed to get hers down in a few quick gulps as well, but Thea seemed to have a bit of trouble, coughing a bit before setting her cup down. Dierdre didn't want to be outdone by Mercer, it seemed, and tried to get hers down in one quick gulp, but managed to cough on it.

“Ugh, how can anyone drink so fast!" Thea stated as she pushed the cup away from her. Her cheeks were tinged with a light pink color, and her eyes were narrowed at the others. “It burns too much when it goes down," she murmured before glancing at Vridel. She pursed her lips before pushing a sigh through her nose, and glanced back at the others.

He couldn't help but smile to himself, accepting his cup back when Sorcha filled it. He was honestly a bit surprised Thea was participating at all, but then it was sort of like her to try something new just for the experience. He supposed if he'd been as sheltered as she obviously was, he'd have been similarly-inclined.

“You can try holding your nose," he said. “Taste has a lot to do with smell." He also kind of wanted to see her try to hold her nose and drink, as he thought it'd be rather cute, in a silly way.

Jeralt called for the next round, and Vridel downed his cup. Reynard, the Professor and Jeralt were obviously holding quite steady still. Professor Manuela looked almost bored.

Amalthea quickly glanced at Vridel before doing as he suggested. She pinched her nose closed, and took a drink. As soon as she released her nose, she pursed her lips in his direction. “Ugh, that didn't help at all, Vi!" she stated before shaking her head. Mercer downed his cup rather quickly, however; Senka still seemed to be going at a reasonable pace.

“I'll pass on this next round," she murmured, placing her cup behind her so it wouldn't get refilled.

He snorted softly, reaching over to ruffle her hair and bending a little to speak near her ear. “Since you're out, maybe you wouldn't mind cheering for me?" He was feeling a little competitive, after all. Just perhaps not in the way those taking the contest seriously were.

Rounds continued to pass, and Vridel found himself glad for the endurance of long social events in the Empire, where not being able to hold one's liquor was culturally considered to be weakness of a sort. It was the same in the Kingdom, actually, and the potato-based spirit they favored up there was, in a word, disgusting.

Manuela was starting to look a little unsteady by round five, but didn't take herself out until after round seven.

Senka had stopped by round six, having either resigned, or could no longer keep going. It was hard to tell. Mercer was still in the game by round seven, though Dierdre had stopped after the fifth round. She was currently next to Sofia with her arms wrapped around her. She seemed upset about something, but it was possibly due to the fact that she lost to Mercer. Sofia was patting her back consolingly, but rolled her eyes when Vridel looked in her direction

“You can do this, Vi!" Thea stated, apparently inclined to take Vridel's suggestion to cheer for him. Her cheeks were a darker color, now, perhaps due to embarrassment. “You've only Mercer, Professor, Reynard, and Captain! You can outlast them!" she continued, smiling brightly up at him.

“Oh, a cheering section," Reynard mused as Sorcha filled their cups for the eighth time. Vridel was quite starting to feel the effects now, the world blurring in a warm, pleasant sort of fashion.

“I think perhaps our other spectators should declare their loyalties as well," the other man continued, scanning the crowd. “Let's say... anyone who backs the winner doesn't have to do cleanup."

“Uhhh... I pick Sir Jeralt?" Devon said, almost making it a question.

“Oh, I'll pick Vi, then!" Amalthea exclaimed, raising her hand as if she were trying to answer something. “What about you, Dierdre, Senka, Sylvi?" she asked, glancing in their directions.

“Cyril," was Senka's reply. Dierdre narrowed her eyes in Mercer's direction but pointed in Reynard's direction.

“I'll pick Reynard," she stated, sticking her tongue out in Mercer's direction. He laughed, though, as Sylvi rolled her eyes.

“I choose Jeralt," was Sylvi's response. Hanneman merely shook his head, and didn't pick anyone. Manuela looked amused, but shook her head too, leaning heavily into Hanneman and wrapping both of her arms around one of his. His face took on a faint pink color.

Sofia considered the remaining contestants, then smiled slightly. “Professor Cyril," she said confidently.

Thea leaned in close to Vridel, though, so that her shoulder was brushing his lightly, however; she spoke in a hushed voice with her eyes kept out in front of her. “You've got this, Vi. They don't have anything on you."

Vridel was highly amused that no one had chosen Mercer, but there was an even funnier idea than that on the table, so he made use of it. “Sorcha hasn't picked," he observed. The brush of Amalthea's shoulder against his was nice, but in his half-drunk state he didn't think it quite good enough. Fortunately, there was an easy solution to this, and as his cup was being filled he leaned over to pick her up, depositing her directly in front of him, his legs shifted out to either side, so he could wind his arms around her waist from behind and set his chin on her head.

“This okay?" he asked, low enough that only she'd be able to hear.

He could hear Amalthea swallow rather thickly as she slowly nodded, perhaps as to not disturb his position. “Y—yes, it's fine." she stuttered out. She placed her hands on one of his around her waist, but didn't seem to do anything else. She was slightly warm, and it was easy to tell from the tips of her ears that her entire face was red. He smiled a little, tilting his head slightly to breathe in the scent of her hair. It was quite pleasing; Vridel let his arms wind just a little tighter.

Sorcha was saying something about neutrality since she was pouring, but Jeralt apparently wasn't having it, as Vridel had suspected might be the case.

“Oh come on, kid. Just bet on someone. We know you're not going to cheat."

She muttered something under her breath; Jeralt leaned forward as though he'd had trouble hearing. “What?"

“I said I'd bet on Mercer," she repeated, loud enough for everyone to hear this time, and quite grumpy about it. “Not having anyone betting on him is just pathetic, so I guess I better."

“I always knew you loved me, Sor," Mercer stated, winking in her direction.

“She's being sympathetic, Mercer. She feels bad for you; it has nothing to do with love." Senka was grinning, though, so it was likely said in jest.

“Oh, but is this going to interfere with your drinking?" Amalthea stated suddenly and remained still. “If it does, you can let go, or I can... I can, um, move?" she didn't sound so sure if that was something she wanted to do, though.

“Hm," Vridel pretended to consider the question, feigning offense. “Are you saying you want me to let go, Thea?" He could of course, read the reluctance in her tone perfectly well, and knew what it meant. But that wasn't the same as making her say it. And he did want to hear her say it.

“Of course not! I just... I'm," she stuttered again, her hand squeezing his as if to reaffirm her statement. “I just... I don't want to get in the way of your victory," she murmured, her hand tightening over his.

“Never," he murmured, raising his glass for the next round.

Though he hardly wanted to lose, since she'd gone through all the trouble of cheering for him, he really thought he'd won in the only way that mattered already, and had no desire to drink himself sick when there were so many other interesting things to do with the evening. So he tapped out after the ninth round, finding that, while the world wasn't quite spinning, it was certainly pleasantly tilted.

While the others prepared for the next round, Vridel set his cup aside and buried his face between Thea's neck and shoulder. She had such a clean scent to her, with a faint hint of florals—from the greenhouse, probably. He thought there might even be a touch of sweetness there, from all that proximity to baked goods. In his hazy state, Vridel almost tasted her skin to find out, but distantly he knew that was the kind of thing he should probably hold off on. So he made a vague grumbling sound because he couldn't, and sighed against her neck.

“You smell good," he told her bluntly. “It's... distracting."

She had tensed when he did that, and swallowed a little thickly, again. She managed to relax, but from his close proximity, he could hear the beating of her heart, and how fast it was going. She was nervous, that much was easy to tell. She pulled a strand of her hair over her shoulder, though, and smelled it.

“I'm sorry, I don't mean to be. I try to make sure my hair is washed as often as possible, and... I try to find new things to wash it with," she murmured softly as if she were truly sorry that she'd offended him, some how. “If it's... too distracting, I can try something else, next time," she spoke as if there would be a next time they would be this close. She took in a soft breath, though, and wrapped her arms around his.

“I really thought you were going to win."

Vridel chuckled. “I got bored," he murmured. “Something far more interesting right in front of me, after all." Brushing his nose to her temple, he set his chin back on her head.

“You're the good kind of distracting, don't worry."

She made a strange sound when he did that, but took in a shuddering breath. “Okay," was the only word she seemed to be able to say. They remained quiet for a moment longer before she finally spoke again.

“Hey, Vi," she started, pausing only for a moment to swallow. She pat his hand with hers before saying, “I... um, never mind, it's not important."

“No?" he asked, drawing out the word. “Are you sure? I think what you have to say is important."

Gods near and far, he was drunk.

She actually shook her head, this time. “No, no it's not important, I promise!" she stated. “I just... I was going to say you smell nice, too," she murmured softly that it was hard to hear her, properly. “And, well, I think you're a good kind of distracting, too. So, um, please don't leave, yet?" she didn't seem too sure if that was the right statement she wanted, but it was also possible that she was under the influence of her drinks.

This was likely her first time, considering she had a sheltered life, and Lyanna was likely not to expose her to it.

It was honestly a perfectly-innocent version of a sentiment Vridel had heard too many times in his life to count or even care about, but from her it produced a strange warmth in his guts, one he didn't think he could blame entirely on the alcohol—or even on having a lovely woman in his arms.

“Worry not—I've no plans to go anywhere, yet."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner

0.00 INK

#, as written by Nemeseia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Friday the 24th
Outside Garreg Mach - Evening - Cloudy
Senka Rinaldi


Senka knew she was slightly under the effects of alcohol. She felt like touching something, and the feeling was rather potent. She had always been a rather physical person. She enjoyed touching things, or being touched in return. It always brought a sense of comfort to her, but she couldn't understand why. It just did. Unfortunately, Sorcha had been the only person she could get that from, however; she'd recently been able to receive it in the form of a gentle hand squeeze from Cyril, and the occasional hug from Amalthea. It was nice to be able to do that again, and now... now there were people who didn't mind if she did touch them. Whether it was to play with their hair, give them a hug, or simply lay a hand on their shoulder in a comforting manner.

She missed these things so much.

The contest, however, seemed to be going strong. Mercer was still in the game along with Reynard, Cyril, and Jeralt, however; Mercer seemed like he wasn't going to last much longer if the look on his face was anything to go by. Her eyes slid towards Amalthea and Vridel, and the sight produced a small smile. They were currently sitting with each other, though that wasn't quite right. Vridel had Amalthea between his legs and was resting his chin on her head. It was, dare she say, cute. She shook her head, though, and glanced at the remaining participants as they entered their tenth round.

“Ugh, I'll have to pass, now. I can't," Mercer paused with a slight hiccup. Senka felt her lip twitch slightly upwards.

“Same," Jeralt said, with a wry grin and a slight shake of his head. “Too old for this shit."

That, of course, left Reynard and Cyril, both of whom had rather excellent poker faces. It went three more rounds before Reynard shook his head. “Done," he admitted, waving a hand in front of his face. “I'd prefer to survive this, and I think the Professor could keep going all night."

“Looks like we have a winner, then!" Jeralt clapped Cyril on the shoulder. With a bit of good-natured grumbling from those who'd lost their bets, everyone dispersed a bit.

Cyril blinked slowly, eyes vaguely hazy, and nodded slowly, turning to Senka with a small huff. “Wise bet," he said, a slow smile spreading over his face. He sounded the faintest bit proud of himself, actually.

“I've seen you drink, before," was her reply. She offered him a smile, and stood from her spot to sit next to him. “And I knew you would prevail over Mercer, at least," she added, bumping her shoulder into his. She didn't know what compelled her to do it, only that she wanted to. “Your father and Reynard were the only other ones I wasn't too sure of, and picking you seemed like the more logical choice at the time."

That, and she wanted to pick him, for some strange reason.

He chuckled softly, the sound warm and rich, if perhaps a bit fuzzed at the edges. His words were like that, too—he wasn't slurring by any means, but lacked the precision of his usual diction. The shoulder-bump, he returned, gently like he was afraid of knocking her over by using too much force.

The others seemed to be making themselves comfortable; Sofia and Deirdre were sharing a small pile of snacks; Manuela almost seemed to be dozing off on Hanneman, who was talking animatedly about crests to Devon, who nodded with wide eyes, face slightly pink beneath the darkness of his complexion. Whether this was because he was also drunk or because Sylvi seemed to have claimed his arm was unclear. Further away, Jeralt and Reynard were standing by the fire, talking in low voices about something or other. Probably not Crests, at least.

Cyril was still regarding her with gentle eyes and a smile. “We used to do this kind of thing with the mercs sometimes," he said quietly. “If we weren't around a town or anything. This is... nicer."

Senka huffed lightly and sighed. “I'm glad to know you lump us in with the mercs," she stated, though she was clearly teasing him about it. Honestly, she didn't mind. He said that this was nicer, and that warmed her heart, somehow. “I agree, though. This is nice, and it makes me remember times that were like this: warm and loving." The last time she'd felt like this was right before the massacre, however; she was coming to terms with that, and making happier memories. She was doing what her parents wanted her to do: she was living.

“I sometimes thank fate for bringing us all together like this, because..." she paused for a moment. Her expression softened along with her eyes and smile. “Because I have people that I love and care about, now, who care about me. It makes it feel like I have a family again, and I'm thankful for it."

Even if they were not related by blood, she did consider her small group of friends as that: family. It produced a pleasant feeling in her chest every time she thought about it, and she found herself leaning a little closer towards Cyril.

He accommodated as though it were the most natural thing in the world, shifting an arm to rest it companionably across her shoulders. “Pleased to be part of it," he said, shifting the hand at her shoulder so it carded briefly through her hair. It seemed almost purposeless, a gesture he did without thought, at least until he caught a loose strand and tucked it behind her ear, humming softly.

“I didn't ask what flowers you liked," he continued, something in the timbre of his voice apologetic. She could feel him lightly touch the pin a moment later, making sense of the statement. “I wasn't really sure how to do it and keep the surprise."

She blinked slightly as she glanced in his direction. “My favorite flower? It's the larkspur," she replied effortlessly. “I've always enjoyed them; they're some of the most beautiful flowers I've seen, and they used to grow abundantly in our gardens," she spoke spoft, resting her head on his shoulder for a moment as her eyes narrowed slightly. The gardeners who used to tend to the palace's flowers always made sure to have a secluded spot for her larkspur. She enjoyed when her mother took her to the gardens to watch them bloom.

“This one, though," she stated to reach up to the pin, “is fine. Lotus flowers are beautiful as well." She thought all flowers were beautiful, but there was something about the larkspur that always managed to catch her attention. The lotus pin, however, seemed to be changing that, slightly. Maybe because it was a gift he'd given her. She pushed the thought immediately from her mind, and cleared her throat softly.

Her hand found his free one, grasping it to intertwine their fingers together, and giving his hand a light squeeze.

His hand clasped easily with hers; the other seemed not to quite still; he actually shifted the thumb softly up and down her neck, from just beneath her ear to where to began to curve into her shoulder. “If it's not too painful to talk about," he started, shifting so his legs were stretched out in front of him. They were close enough to the fire to be comfortably warmed by it, but not overheated. “Would you tell me more about it? What Duscur was like."

Cyril kept his tone very soft, no doubt still aware that the vast majority of those present did not know that was where she was from. “What your family was like."

She shook her head, careful not to disturb his hand from its spot. “It's not as painful as it used to be, talking about it," she replied, softly. Taking a deep breath, she began thinking of where to begin. “My father, as you know, was King Disma. He... was a good father. He always made time for me, smiled whenever he saw me, and was the one who taught me how to bake. He had a bit of a sweet tooth, but," she paused, recalling her father's smile.

“Mother was a little strict with him about that. She didn't like when he ate too many sweets," she huffed lightly. She recalled a fond memory of her mother scolding her father, and he merely stood there, hand resting on the back of his neck with a nervous smile on his face. “As a king, though, he was fair to his people. Duscur isn't exactly the most fertile place, and doesn't have much in way of resources, so it was difficult for the people whenever they had droughts or there wasn't enough food. We did have minerals and other materials that the other nations needed and used."

“But mother did her best for the people, using her magic to aid those who were in need. It wasn't an easy thing, but... we were happy." She sighed softly, shifting so that she was a bit more comfortable before glancing up at him.

“Maybe one day, after Sorcha ascends the throne and I'm able to get Duscur back... I can show you Duscur," she stated. It wouldn't be quite the same, she knew, but she wanted him to see her homeland, for some reason.

“Is that what your dream's about?" he asked, seemingly referencing the dream she'd spoken of briefly before asking him about his own, the other day when they were on the trail. “Getting Duscur back?" He shifted slightly, bringing them into more solid contact at their sides. He still had his cup next to him, but was working through its contents much more slowly now.

“Not just getting it back," she supplied softly. “I want to rebuild it; make it stronger than it was so that... they never have to go through that again. Most of my people... they're only a handful left, but I want them to have a place to call home, again. Being in Faerghus isn't the same as being in Duscur, and I know that they feel as lost as I do." She loved Sorcha, dearly, and Senka would always be grateful to her for saving her life, however; she wanted to rebuild her home. That didn't seem quite right, though. Glancing at the others nearby, somehow it felt like she was home. But this wasn't just about her. She had an entire people to think of.

“I'm not sure how long it will take, though. I'm the last of the royal bloodline, and if... something were to happen to me, I don't know if I could bear to fail them that way. As the last Rinaldi, I have to..." she paused, pursing her lips together. What did she have to do? She sighed heavily, though, and clutched Cyril's hand a little tighter.

He returned the grip with a reassuring squeeze, the fingers of his other hand moving back up into her hair. He didn't disturb how she'd pinned it, but he did comb his hand through several times, as though neatening it, though it was doubtful that really had much to do with it. He made a soft sound of sympathy, and shook his head faintly.

“That's a lot for one person to bear." The words were quiet, almost tender in their gentleness. “But you know... you've already taken the first steps. You're here, learning as much as you can about how to lead, how to defend them and how to make use of your magic to help them, just like your mother and father did. You saved them from the creature, and found Espera again. You're rebuilding it even now. Perhaps not as fast as you'd like, but no one can do everything at once."

She smiled softly. “I did find Espera again. I was happy to see him alive and well, but," it didn't feel like enough. She needed to do more, something that would help them, further. “Maybe one day I'll be able to share this with someone who will help me rebuild Duscur," but in what way, she wasn't sure, yet. As a King? As an advisor? Or perhaps as a friend, like the one she sat next to? The thought produced a strange fluttering in her stomach, and she could feel her face burning slightly. She was blushing, she knew that much, however; she willed it down as best as she could.

“And we saved them from the creature. I couldn't have done it on my own, you know," she stated, the smile on her face turning into a light grin.

He returned it, his face for once open and as easy to read as anyone's. The grin made him look almost boyish, like someone who really was the same age as his students. “Did we?" he said, his tone oddly light. “I'm afraid I don't remember. Memory loss problems, you know. I've always had them." It was clear he hadn't actually forgotten the details, but the smile tugging at his face indicated he was having a bit of fun with the pretense, his eyes faintly narrowed at the corners with it.

Senka felt her brow arch. For some reason, that sounded like a challenge to her. She wasn't entirely sure why, but it did. She tilted her head somewhat from it's spot on his shoulder so that she was close enough to whisper into his ear. “Do I need to help you remember, then? I'm sure there are ways for problems such as that to be dealt with, but," she pulled away after trailing off and grinned at him. “Because the way I remember it, you were the one who asked if there was something I could do to help you."

“That sounds right," he murmured, nodding with false sagacity. “But it fits with my earlier hypothesis: in which I, a mere humble mercenary, contributed very little, and you—" there, he tapped her temple with the tip of his index finger—“the brave and noble future Queen of Duscur, singlehandedly brought down the fearsome beast on behalf of your people."

He was teasing her, it seemed, if in perhaps the gentlest way she'd ever been teased before.

She chuckled lightly, though she wasn't quite sure what caused the blush on her face to appear. “That is not entirely true. You dealt the final blow, and I merely assisted," she replied, pushing her shoulder into his before pulling back. She tilted her head in his direction and held his gaze for a moment, moving her hands so that she could hold his face in her hands. His eyes were really a beautiful shade of gold, and the way they shone at the moment...

Before she could fully understand what she was doing, she turned Cyril's head to the side and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. “Thank you, for all that you've done for me, Cyril. I really do appreciate it."

His eyes widened; he held stock-still until she'd shifted back to speak. She could see his throat work as he swallowed, and the faintest shade of pink dusted his face. “You, uh." It seemed she'd caught him entirely off-guard. For a moment, his eyes darkened somehow, an intent look crossing his face to go with the strange tension in the rest of him.

But then it eased, and his face smoothed out. “You're welcome, Senka. Anytime."

“And if there's anything I can ever do for you..." she trailed off for a moment, and bit her bottom lip. Her lips tingled from the contact they had just made on his cheek, and she felt like her stomach was doing those strange flops again, however; she would not quash it. She would, instead, let it fill her with the strange warmth it produced.

“If I may ever be of service to you, just tell me how. I..." she pursed her lips together as she paused again. She what? What did she want to say to him that felt like it weighed heavily on her tongue? There was a word she wanted to say, but she couldn't find it.

“I want to help you the way you've helped me." That would have to do, for now. She laid her head back on his shoulder, after that. He was really comfortable, despite his physicality.

“Just be you," he replied, so quietly it was almost a whisper. “That helps more than you know."

That was a strange thing to say. To be herself? She stopped the thoughts before they could form. She was learning to accept herself, slow as it was. If he wanted her to be herself, then she would have to try to continue.

“As you wish," she replied, shaking her head. “I do mean it, though, Cyril. If there is ever something you need that I can help with... will you let me?" This seemed important to her, somehow. “You've made a similar promise to me, and I want to make one to you, as well."

He considered it a moment, then nodded slightly, giving her hand another gentle squeeze. “If I think of anything else, I'll be sure to let you know, since you're doing the same for me." His lips quirked into a smile. “I think we both find it easier to offer help than ask for it, but I'll try if you will."

“It's a promise, then."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd

0.00 INK

#, as written by Aethyia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Friday the 24th
Outside Garreg Mach - Late Evening - Cloudy
Sorcha Blaiddyd


Celebrations were beginning to die down, and Sorcha was feeling a little tired, duly. It turned out that Professor Cyril could play the lute, and sing, too—he'd taken just long enough to regale them with a silly drinking song and a few things they could dance to, before the music had been taken over by a few of the others with instrumental talent. It turned out Sofia was something of an aficionado, able to play both the harp and flute quite well.

The box Vridel had brought turned out to contain small fireworks, things that made pops and sparkles and the like, but by now they'd worked their way through those. Several people had fallen asleep or passed out already—she couldn't be too sure which, in most cases. She couldn't help grinning to herself when she noticed Senka had in fact fallen asleep on Professor Cyril's shoulder. He was still awake, but being careful not to jostle her. Sylvi had passed out over Devon's stomach, it seemed, and Dierdre had fallen asleep and was tucked into Sofia's side.

Devon was sprawled on his back, snoring lightly, on one of the blankets, where Professor Hanneman still seemed to be talking about his research. Professor Manuela was listening with half an ear at least; Reynard and Sir Jeralt were playing some kind of card game on another.

Sorcha had finally acquired a cup of ale, on Jeralt's insistence that he needed help finishing the cask. She was looking into it dubiously, seated a bit away from the fire on an otherwise-unoccupied blanket.

“You're staring at it like it's going to bite you, or something," Mercer spoke suddenly, close enough that he was hovering over her shoulder before pulling back. He plopped down next to her, though, and laid his hands behind his head, and glanced up at the sky. “If you don't want to drink it, you don't have to, Sor," he continued, closing one of his eyes and keeping the other one open and on her.

“You can just dump it; I'm sure Captain Jeralt won't mind a bit, and understand."

She pursed her lips. It was sort of hard to explain her reluctance; it wasn't as though she was afraid, or thought drinking was inherently bad or anything. It was just...

“I don't mind, really. It's just... I got to thinking. It's sort of tradition, where I'm from, that when someone turns sixteen, they're given their first drink by their family, as a way of sort of... welcoming them into adulthood, a bit. Not that they're fully an adult then, but it's sort of a step. It's not a big deal, just the sort of thing my father would have sat me down in his study and done. Maybe."

They hadn't really been close. Sorcha had loved him, dearly, but her father was also a king, and in some ways that seemed so far away from her. Like he was a distant star, visible but unreachable, and she stuck with her feet on the ground. “There's supposed to be a toast—it's stupid. But I never did it, and I guess I'm a year and some too late."

Mercer rolled on his stomach, then, and pushed himself up. Without a word, he left her. It was another minute, though, before he returned, a cup in hand filled with ale. “How's this supposed to go? Dear Sorcha, you're a young woman now and I know you'll be a capable queen, someday?" he stated, lowering his voice as if he were attempting to sound more like an adult than anything. He was doing a poor job of it, though, and the grin on his face suggested that he knew he was.

“Or is it something less silly?"

Sorcha snorted quietly, shaking her head. “I have no idea, honestly. I guess probably some people do that. Take it really seriously and talk about being an adult or something. My father probably would have talked about our duty to our country and people." She shrugged. “I'm guessing some people just make a little one to the future and drink, though."

She paused, tilting her head a little at him and offered her cup forward a bit. “Like... here's to the future, may it be good to us. Or something." Maybe that was silly, too. She'd not spent too much time considering what her father might say; it was difficult enough just imagining him spending a moment alone with her. She had little basis for how that worked. In fact... the most vivid and personal memory she had of him was the night he died. And what he'd said to her then...

She thought maybe she was doomed to disappoint him.

“Hm," Mercer stated, staring at her with slightly narrowed eyes. “If it's something simple like that, then maybe..." he trailed off and lifted his cup to hers. “May Sorcha always keep her smile so that it can keep my days bright and full of hope for the future," he spoke in such a serious tone, and his face conveyed that he was being serious. He bumped his cup into hers, before taking a drink from it.

Sorcha flushed, bringing the cup to her lips immediately to disguise it. The ale wasn't so bad; she certainly didn't have the problem Thea seemed to have with too much burn or anything. Still, she wasn't going to rush it, and so after a couple of swallows, she settled it down again between crossed legs. “Are there any traditions like that in the Alliance or Almyra?" she asked, both for the subject change and because she was genuinely curious.

“Things people do when they become adults, or close?"

“We're required to make our first blood sacrifice." He said it with such a straight face that it sounded as if he were being completely honest about it. He snorted softly after a few moments, though, and shook his head.

“Nothing like you do. In Almyra, we're considered adults when we make our first kill. They usually take everyone who is coming of age out to hunt," he replied with a shrug of his shoulders. “In the Alliance, it's a bit different. For young women, they have a rather lively dance, but for the young men," he pursed his lips for a moment as if he were trying to think. “We're required to do bow tournaments of sorts. It's not a typical one, though, because the bow is the Alliance's Specialty. These tournaments are usually designed for showing courage by facing an arrow being shot directly at you. You can't blink, you can't flinch, or move in any way. If you do... well, you can imagine what happens."

Sorcha considered this, nodding slightly after a moment. The Alliance tradition especially sounded rather draconian, but it wasn't so different in Faerghus. “You probably know by now that military service is compulsory for able men in my country," she said, looking down into her cup again. When had it almost emptied? “There's some people who don't really consider a man a man unless he's shed blood in battle—his own or someone else's." She pursed her lips—frankly, the thought was ridiculous on so many levels it was hard to name them all.

She looked back up at him, seeking his eyes where he sat in front of her. Though the fire was to the side, she felt the greater warmth, the greater draw, from him, and this fact terrified her. If she didn't keep talking, she feared what she might do about it.

“You've done that, then? The—the thing with the arrow?" She knew that if anyone had the steely nerve required, it was him. He might not act like it, but she knew.

“I did," he replied easily. “The person who was my archer was..." he pursed his lips together and took another drink from his cup. “Gloucester. You can imagine how many times he tried to actually hit me. I think one even sliced the side of my temple," he stated, brushing his hand over the side of his face as if to put emphasis on it. “But he was always a terrible shot. Never really good with the regional weapon of choice."

Sorcha didn't think about it. Feeling an irrational spike of worry—he was here and just fine after all—she set her cup to the side and rose onto her knees, lifting one hand to brush over the same spot at his temple, half-expecting to see a scar. “That's worse!" she said, only whispering, but with emphasis. “He could have easily hit you somewhere else if he's a poor shot!" She couldn't believe the Alliance would do something like that, when there was a risk of political disagreement getting someone killed. Or just... bad archery doing the same.

Mercer grinned slightly, but grabbed her hand and pulled it away from his face. “He actually almost did hit me," he chuckled pulling her hand towards his heart and holding it against the spot. “Right here, you know. If I hadn't caught it, I probably would be dead. Don't expect me to go catching arrows, now, though. That was a one-time thing. Couldn't do it again even if I tried," he replied lazily, keeping her hand over his heart. It was beating at a steady rhythm, calm-like just like his expression was.

Her heart almost sank a little when he pressed her hand to his. The beat of it was steady, like this was any other conversation. Hers, meanwhile, was pounding so hard in her chest she was surprised she couldn't actually hear it, and her face was warm. “I—I'm sure you could," she said, attempting valiantly to keep up the thread of the conversation. “Maybe not every time. But when you really needed to." It was a compliment, of a sort, though about as awkward as the rest of her was in this situation.

“Oh, and what would you do if I didn't catch one when I really needed to?" he asked, arching a brow in her direction. It seemed almost curious in a way, as if he were interested. There was a slight skip in his heart beat, then, before it resumed its calm beat.

“You—you want to know what I'd do if you were shot?" Sorcha couldn't hide the edge of distress that the thought put in her voice. It had happened, of course. On the battlefield, they were injured sometimes. But something about the question struck her differently from talking about a graze or even a glancing stab, the kinds of injuries they might fight through. “Well I know a little white magic but... but don't get shot, okay?"

It wasn't exactly an answer, maybe, but she hadn't quite understood the question to begin with. Her eyes fell to where he still held her hand against his chest, and the pink on her face deepened before they turned back up towards his. “Please."

He rolled his eyes at her a bit, shifting so that he could look her directly in the eyes when he spoke next. “I meant if it were something that couldn't be healed by magic, nor any other means. If it were a fatal shot. What would you do?" his tone was light when he spoke, but there was an edge to it. Something at once desparate and curious to know her answer. Maybe it was the alcohol in his system, but his heartbeat began to pick up. It wasn't beating like hers was, but it wasn't as calm, either.

“And I couldn't make that promise to you. Not getting shot. It's... it comes with the territory, you know."

“W-why are you asking me that?" Sorcha's voice cracked over the question. Something about the situation, or maybe his tone of voice, wouldn't let her laugh the question off with a joke about 'good riddance' or some other mean thing that she could deadpan at him when the mood was a lighter one. Instead she found herself really imagining it, really imagining an arrow finding him in the heart during a battle, or something...

Her vision blurred; she blinked, and hot tears streaked down her face. Ineffectually, she swatted him with her free hand. “Why would you ask me that?" she repeated, so soft and raspy she wouldn't be surprised if he couldn't even hear her properly. “Stupid—you're being stupid." The words were hushed, more miserable than harsh, and she struggled to swallow around the lump in her throat. She couldn't seem to dislodge the image from her mind—or maybe it was in her heart, now. It certainly felt like it, like someone had squeezed it in their hand and refused to let go.

“Because it matters to me," he spoke softly, pulling her close to him and using his free hand to wipe away some of her tears. “I want to know if I've left the same impression on you as you've done to me," he continued, pulling her close to him so that he could wrap his arms around her in a comforting manner.

Stupid.

How could he not know? How could he not know they way she felt? How the big tangle of horrible things in her guts scared her half to death? How when he so much as tugged on one of the threads, like now, it felt like she was going to come undone? How could she care so much about someone she'd only known for half a year?

And yet there was a very real sense in which she'd known him so much longer than that. Carried some tiny fragment of him with her for so long. Clung to it, to the reminder that somewhere, there was someone in the world with the kindness and patience to want to cheer her up, spend time with her, instead of simply being irritated that she was crying.

And in the six months, well... how could he not know that their practices and silly contests and the time they spent flying were her favorite times of the day or week? How could he not know how much she relied on him, how much having him in the sky with her in the battles they faced made her feel like she could do it, like she could make it out the other side of each one? How the only reservation she had about their engagement was that for him it was a favor for a friend, while for her it was like a dream come true?

It seemed like it should be the most obvious thing in the world. The impression wasn't the same at all, because he wasn't just a dear friend, or a trusted companion—he'd stolen her whole heart. And something told her she'd never get it back.

Sorcha could bring herself to say none of this, not when it meant he might pull away, might unwrap his arms from her back, so instead she slid hers around him in turn, clinging tightly. “You're so stupid," she accused without heat. She probably sounded like the petulant child he'd first met, and part of her was mortified, but the rest of her couldn't care, could only tighten the hold of her arms.

He huffed quietly, disturbing her hair a bit as he squeezed her a little tighter before relaxing his hold. He didn't let go, though. “So I've been told," he muttered, adjusting himself so that he could reposition her in a more comfortable position. Once he seemed satisfied, his hold on her tightened again. “But that's alright. As long as I'm your stupid, that's all that matters," he nearly whispered it into her ear, his breath ghosting over it before he rested his head against hers.

It was such a strange thing to say that Sorcha didn't quite understand its meaning. She put it down to how much he'd had to drink. Maybe she'd had too much, too. It would explain why the entire world felt like it was tilting, though she'd not had that much, really. It would also explain how she'd somehow wound up in his lap, and why that didn't seem like such a bad idea at all. It was comfortable, and like she'd told the others, it wasn't though she affected him so much it would be weird.

Satisfied with her hazy logic, Sorcha settled a little better, muttering something she only kind of realized she was saying. “Well, you are right now." She squeezed her arms around him to emphasize the point.

He chuckled lightly, resting his head on top of hers. “That's all that matters," he muttered softly, before his faint breathing could be felt on her hair. His arms had relaxed, but they were still wrapped around her, and it felt like he wouldn't let go. Not any time soon, at least. It wasn't a moment later that Sorcha could hear a soft snore escape him, and it was easy to tell he'd fallen asleep. He whispered something, though in his sleep.

“I love you," but it was hard to pinpoint the source for his words.

The sleepy murmur hit her in the heart; Sorcha felt her chest clench. He was drunk and unconscious and she couldn't let herself take him seriously even if he weren't, but... Goddess, how she wished it were so.

Turning her face in towards his chest, she did her best to suppress a quiet sob, not wanting to wake him, and stayed like that until the last couple tears had squeezed from between her eyelids and she, too, was asleep.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Senka Rinaldi Character Portrait: Amalthea von Kreuz Character Portrait: Mercer von Riegan Character Portrait: Cyril Eisner Character Portrait: Vridel von Hresvelg Character Portrait: Sorcha Blaiddyd Character Portrait: Jeralt's Journal

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#, as written by Nemeseia


I.Y. 1180 - Wyvern Moon - Saturday the 25th
Trail to Gronder - Late Morning - Drizzle
Mercer von Riegan


Mercer groaned lightly, rubbing his eyes to shake them loose of debris. Yesterday's festivities left him with a bit of a headache, and he'd been surprised to find that he'd been entangled with Sorcha all night. He hadn't meant to fall asleep like that, but... last night was a bit hazy for him, too. He remembered they were talking about something, but he wasn't sure what. It felt important somehow, but he shook the thought from his mind. Thinking too much made his head hurt, and he'd rather not be in any pain until they reached Gronder field. It was at least a two day ride before they'd arrive, but that meant they were all traveling. Rhea, for some reason, decided to travel in a rather lavish carriage.

If Mercer hadn't known any better, he'd say it was fit for royalty, the way it was trimmed in gold and silver. It had the Crest of Seiros engraved on the sides, which made it obvious it was the church traveling, never mind that the large banners were being carried as well by some of the cavalry members. While he didn't mind riding a horse, he currently wished he was mounted on Sir. The air in the sky always made him feel better, but instead, he was surrounded by all the members of his house, Sorcha's, and Vridel's.

Teach was somewhere, too, but he wasn't really paying much attention until someone rode up beside him and kicked him with their foot. He glanced to spot Dierdre, glaring at him for some reason. What did he do now? “Sofi has an herbal remedy if you need it," she murmured. Mercer snorted softly through his nose.

“Is that how you get my attention? By glaring and kicking me?

“It worked, didn't it?" He couldn't argue with that logic. He shook his head, though.

“I'm fine, thanks." Dierdre shrugged her shoulders, and pulled the reins on her horse so that she was riding beside Sofia again, and possibly conveyed his reply if the way she was speaking was anything to go by. He couldn't really hear her.

Teach, to the contrary, seemed to be actually doing quite fine. Despite his victory, he and his father seemed to have been responsible for clearing the evidence of last night's party and prepping the animals for march. He was, at the moment, handing a canteen of some sort to Professor Manuela, who wore a grimace and hadn't quite managed to neaten her hair all the way, and Senka. He had one in his own hand as well, that he'd periodically sip from as they rode. Steam wafted from the top of it.

Sorcha was riding next to her best friend, looking faintly disturbed. She kept shooting odd glances in his direction, but did not approach. Devon, Sylvi, and Reynard seemed to be mostly fine, though very time Devon looked at her he blushed, which was pretty obvious. Hanneman seemed quite content, chatting amicably with a nearby soldier, possibly of his Crest research. He really loved talking about it, but it also could be that he was just using it as a way to talk to himself without seeming stranger than he already was.

Vridel was probably a bit hungover, too, but he didn't look the least bit dissatisfied except whenever the carriage hit a rut in the path behind them, which unfailingly make him frown, or sneer, or some other thing, no doubt at the reminder of the person inside it. Fortunately, the Knights were in charge of its security specifically; the rest of them just had to ride.

He didn't really blame Vridel, though. He knew quite well of Vridel's disdain for the archbishop; most of them held it for her. She wasn't a pleasant person, though it was still anyone's guess as to why that was. Instead, he nudged his horse a bit so that he fell in line with Vridel, offering him a lopsided grin. Thea was, adorably, on Vridel's other side, but she seemed rather content and happy. She was wearing a rather large smile on her face, and her eyes almost seemed to sparkle in the sun. He would have chuckled if he knew it wouldn't hurt his head.

“So, is the bad fish giving you a headache?" he asked.

“The stench is overpowering," Vi replied dryly, wrinkling his nose as if he did in fact, smell something unpleasant. He sighed a moment later, patting his blood bay horse idly on the neck and glancing briefly at Thea before returning his attention to Mercer. “You doing all right, by the way? You look a little queasy."

Mercer snorted unceremoniously. It was worth the shot of pain through his head, though. “Nothing I can't handle," he replied. “I'll be fine as long as I don't have to think much, or do much," he added, frowning slightly to himself. He would be fine in another hour or so, anyway.

“What about you? Do you want me to see if Sofia will part with her herbal remedy for you?" he began, though his lips pulled up into a grin as he leaned in a little closer towards Vi. “Or do you want me to ask little Thea if she has something special to give you?" He was teasing, of course, but that didn't mean he couldn't have a little fun.

Vi arched an eyebrow, a satisfied little smile crossing his face briefly before it faded and he shrugged. “No need," he said breezily, speaking at volume enough to include Thea in the conversation. “Amalthea is already quite helpful with particular magics. I'm feeling rather hale, actually." He side-eyed her, as if watching keenly for her reaction to this statement.

Thea looked slightly disturbed for all of a second before she pursed her lips in their direction. “But I haven't done anything like that, yet," she spoke, moving Sunflower closer towards Vridel. Mercer snickered softly, though, at the last statement. Yet. He arched a brow at her and leaned over a bit. It almost put him in front of Vi, but he was nice enough to keep out of the prince's personal space at the moment.

“So... does that mean you thought about doing something? Like what?" he stated, watching as her brows furrowed slightly. She pursed her lips at him, though, as her face took on a little color.

“That is none of your concern, Mercer. And I meant that if he needed me to use my magic for anything, I'd do what I can. You all know I'm not very good with it, but I try," she murmured, which only served to cause Mercer's grin to grow. So she had thought of something; she just wasn't going to tell him. “And Vi knows that if he needed me to do anything, I will. So, you hush," she continued, giving him a light glare, but Mercer couldn't take it seriously. It looked too much like a wet kitten trying to glare at him, and it was adorable. It wasn't intimidating as she was probably hoping it would be.

“Is that so?" he stated, pulling back so that he was sitting properly in his saddle. “You hear that, Vi? Thea says that she'd do anything you ask her to."

Vridel hummed, as if considering this offer quite seriously indeed. “And here I'd never thought much of my luck," he mused, a lopsided half-smirk curling one side of his mouth. “But it seems I'm a lucky fellow, indeed."

When it came time to name his demands, however, he only extended a hand towards Thea, almost as if for a shake. “Perhaps the lady would oblige me with one of her patented restore spells?" From the little glimmer to his eyes, he was expecting this to mean something to her beyond the surface implication of the words.

To his surprise, Amalthea actually pouted in Vridel's direction. It seemed that it did, indeed, mean something to her. “That was... alright, I was a little jealous." She muttered the last word so softly that Mercer almost missed it. Jealous, she said. Of what? What was she jealous of? Mercer shot Vridel an arched brow before Amalthea took his hand, white magic already at the tips of her fingers. Her hand, however, didn't go completely to Vridel's. Instead, she leaned over a bit so that she could place her fingers on his temple, as if that were where it was truly needed.

“Now I'm a little jealous. Why don't I get to experience this little patented spells?" he murmured, aware that he was pursing his lips in a pout. Amalthea rolled her eyes at him, though.

“If you were nice like Vi, maybe I would, but no. You're a stupid fish face, so..." she stuck her tongue out at him, causing Mercer to laugh.

Vridel himself looked like a cat who'd just taken a canary to the ranks of the recently-deceased when Mercer was rather unceremoniously shot down. “Step off, stupid fish face. You can ask someone else if you need healing. Hers is mine." He narrowed his eyes, a touch of seriousness in his expression despite the lightness of his tone. It disappeared quickly, though, and he caught the hand at his temple, bringing it to his mouth for the lithest of brushes.

“I am indebted to your kindness, fair lady," he murmured, releasing her fingers a moment later.

It took a lot of restraint for Mercer to not laugh at how utterly adorable Amalthea's face was when Vridel kissed the back of her hand. Her face turned a bright red color, and she made a strange sound that sounded almost strangled.

“Well that's not entirely fair, and here I thought I was your favorite person, Thea," he stated, pursing his lips in her direction. She huffed lightly at him, causing Mercer to smirk.

“No, I never claimed you were," she muttered. Now Mercer was slightly curious, and he slid his eyes towards Vridel.

“Then who is your favorite person, Thea?" She smiled at him, and Mercer knew she was caught.

“Vridel, of course. Why wouldn't he be? He's been more helpful to me than you have been, though I think almost everyone has," she replied almost effortlessly. Mercer nearly fell out of his saddle from laughing so hard. He earned a few stares from the others of their group, but he didn't mind them.

“Ouch, Thea, I'm hurt." She just shrugged her shoulders.

“You think that hurt? Wait until the battle. The Blue Lions are going to win, and we'll end up crushing your house," she replied, a large grin forming on her face.

Vridel chuckled. “You know, I wouldn't be surprised. You Lions are quite formidable." he arched a brow over at Mercer, flashing half a grin. “The Deer, on the other hand... well they're just pathetic."

“Hey now, that's just rude," Mercer retorted, pursing his lips at Vridel. Amalthea nodded her head in agreement, though, which made Mercer feel a bit better about the statement.

“I don't think that's fair to the other members of the house. After all, they have Mercer as a leader," she replied.

“Low blow, Thea. Low blow," he replied, placing a hand over his heart and feigning a hurtful look. She merely smiled at him, something smug, causing Mercer to laugh. He had a feeling a certain someone was rubbing off on her.

“That's a girl," Vi said, reaching over to ruffle Amalthea's hair.

“Don't get too cocky, Vi—you're going down, too." The new voice was Sorcha's, and he knew even just from the sound of it that she was smiling as she spoke. She and Senka rode up alongside the three of them.

“Oh probably," he agreed. “Everyone in my house but Reynard is useless, and I'm just an empty-headed flirt, didn't you know?" He fluttered his eyelashes at her with mock innocence, referencing of course how rumors about him tended to paint him.

Mercer laughed, rolling his eyes at the commentary. “I would switch Houses for you if I were not so attached to this one," Senka stated, nodding her head in Sorcha's direction. “But unfortunately, your house is not as enticing. I'm afraid I'm going to have to stay with the Blue Lions."

“You could always come to the Golden Deer."

“I'd rather not. You're the house leader; that's enough of a reason to stay away."

Sorcha snorted a laugh at Senka's remark, and nodded seriously. “Clearly, I am the more desirable House Leader," she said primly, sniffing with false imperiousness.

“Why does everyone always gang up on me?" Mercer murmured, though he wasn't offended. Actually, he was rather pleased. Even if they were trash talking him, he was glad that they were all together, doing this.

“Because, Merc, it's easy. And you mostly leave yourself open to it, which everyone knows you shouldn't do," Thea supplied as a way of answer. He rolled his eyes, but smiled.

“If she says it, it must be true," Vridel quipped smartly. “So I guess we'll see which of our dumb asses manages to eke out second place tomorrow, eh fishstick?" He arched an eyebrow at Mercer.

Mercer snorted. “If it's anything like last time, it won't be you," he replied easily enough. He was, oddly, looking forward to the battle, now.

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