Gran Soren to many was a city of glory; the crowning jewel to man's slaving efforts of labor over the course of several decades. The rich district was the envy of any poor man that looked upon it from the simpleness of the Craftman’s Quarter, and each worked and toiled his life away in the foolish hope that he'd someday live there. They knew it as a vain effort in their hearts, but try themselves to death besides.
To Alister, the district was nothing more than a rotten stench of corruption and greed that offended his nose. He wished to avoid it altogether because of this, but his duty as arisen would not afford him the luxury.
“Here you are, arisen. Awarded as promised.” said ser Maximilian in his usual superior voice as he handed the albino Bowman his payment. “Now the roads, as I hope, will be free from those abominations.”
“So long as there are Salvation about, ser, I fear that your hopes are only just that.” responded Alister as he placed the golden coins into his purse. The knight in front of him sighed tiredly.
“Unfortunately, you may be right. The longer those brainwashed zealots are permitted to draw breath, the more dangerous the roads will become without end.”
Alister merely hummed and stole a look behind him to his companions. They both looked impatient and bored and the Bowman could sympathize. He would much rather be anywhere but the city.
The arisen prepared himself to leave right as his arm was caught by the man he had been conversing with.
“Before you go, I've information for you.”
“Oh?” Alister turned back towards him, suddenly intrigued.
“Should you go to the inn tonight, you may find it more… bustling than its usual scene.” The archer could feel that Maximilian was hinting towards something and decided to play along.
“Is that so?”
“Aye. Many folks will arrive to celebrate a holiday known only to our humble city.” Maximilian then shifted, Alister noticing that he was trying to discretely rid himself of an uncomfortable ride up in his armor. “You should take part, ser. If anyone deserves a night of leisure, I'd say it's the arisen!” the knight laughed as he clapped a hand playfully on Alister's shoulder before turning towards his soldiers and barking orders. Alister left before it got messy.
As he made his way down the stone walkway, he rolled his shoulders and grunted when they popped. He left his bow to his room at the inn along with his cape and his sore back thanked him for it.
A holiday known only to Gran Soren. It wasn't strange to him, Cassardis also had its own little celebrations that circled around the harvest, the birth of a healthy new baby, a marriage or coming of age. What did confuse him, however, was the cause of their celebration. What had they to celebrate that they didn't already everyday? Everyone in this city carried themselves as if everyday was cause for holiday, so what could this be about?
The arisen gently gasped and sidestepped out of the way of oncoming children as they charged past him. He smiled at their laughter, remembering, for a moment, how it was to he back in his village. Coming back to the docks from a long fishing trip and hearing the children's bald feet tapping against the wood as they ran to greet him and his fishing partners.
They held their hands out for their family's nightly share, nodding their heads excitedly when they were told to ration it carefully.
He remembered the sound of crashing waves at the shore, the smell of fish and salt, the feeling of sand between the toes of his feet.
Alister closed his eyes and pictured himself back there, feeling the mist in his face and the rope on his hands.
He would be lying to himself if he didn't admit that he wanted to go back. To before he became arisen, before the dragon, before the burden his new responsibilities weighed upon his shoulders now.
Oh, if only he could go back. If only for a day.
“Master?” A hand on Alister's shoulder pulled him from his daydream and placed him back into reality. “Master, are you feeling ill?”
Alister smiled. He supposed, in a way, he was. Homesick was the proper term for it, but that wasn't truly a proper illness. He just waved a hand dismissively.
“No, no. I'm quite well, Thommern. Just reminiscing.”
“Are you planning to attend the party that Maximilian told you about?” asked the warrior, the tone of his voice suggesting that he hoped the arisen would say no.
“Well, what do you both think about it?”
“I would rather we not waste the time,” spoke the other, larger pawn, Ener. He stood with his arms crossed over his chest. “I see no point in staying for a pointless celebration when nothing has been done to warrant it.”
“What of the celebration of, well, life ?” Alister argued. “Everyday is a gift, not a promise, after all.”
“Then humans would party every morn to night and never cease.” Ener pointed out. “If man has to pick one day of the year to appreciate the life gifted to him, then he does not truly appreciate it at all.”
Alister pursed his lips and leaned against a railed ledge. The pawns had no desire to stay for the party and Ever made a good point as to why . But at the same time, Alister felt as if Maximilian was right. He did deserve a day off. After all, who deserved it more than he?
“I'm going.” Alister said aloud and moved his feet towards the inn, noticing that patrons were already filling in. The pawns huffed and followed obediently, despite them not wanting to. “I think I should allow myself time to relax, don't you?”
“If that is what you believe and want, master.” said Thommern lowly.
Alister smiled again. The arisen business was too serious for a happy sort like him, why shouldn't he have some fun? He hoped that his companions would try to enjoy themselves and let loose, but he knew the outcome would only be the two of them pouting in a corner.
That would just be of their own accord, then.
He's never seen the inn so lively. Tables were filled past capacity and sever girls were flying in and out of the kitchen, rarely empty handed. The laughing was loud and contagious, the singing merry and happy and Alister had to join in on his favorites. They welcomed him with full tankards and open arms as he told the tales of his adventures as a legend.
The food was hearty and filling, eating enough to feel as if he would burst at a last bite. The drink was strong and knocked many ‘a weak man down. Alister had already out-drank a brute or two and felt the ill effects in the form of dizziness upon standing up. It caused a roar of laughter when he fell right over, forming into cheers when he got back up again.
He decided he was done drinking for the night.
A large, heavy and bearded man clamped a sweaty hand on Alister's shoulder and dwarfed it in comparison to his meaty paw. He couldn't understand the words spoken to him past the slur, but he laughed when the man did and that seemed to be good enough. The man took a large help of his drink and passed out with his head on the table. Alister stood and lightly pat his back before making his way through the crowd to the outside.
The fresh air he breathed did wonders for his head, taking him from the dizziness from his intoxication and bringing him back down to Earth. Even through the thick doors of the inn, Alister could hear the rowdiness of its patrons. Laughter exploded as he pressed his back against the building, intensifying for a moment as someone opened the doors and stepped out. The arisen turned his head to view who was now standing next to him.
“Ah, there you are, ser!” exclaimed a drunken Maximilian gleefully. The scent of the fruity alcohol was strong on his breath and Alister only laughed.
“Here I am!” he said, extending his arms out for a moment for emphasis before letting them drop to his sides again.
“I have someone I wish for you to meet,”
“Aye, she's a sweet lass and very interested in meeting you.” The smile on Maximilian’s lips turned sly and Alister's vanished. “A way to relax, eh?”
“I… I'm afraid I'll have to decline. I am not-”
Maximilian guffawed and and waved his hand to dismiss the comment. “Nonsense, ser! You deserved a chance at love same as any man. Wait here, I shall fetch her!”
The knight disappeared back into the chaos behind the doors and Alister breathed a hard breath, raspberrying his lips as he exhaled. The man meant well, he knew that, but Alister wasn't keen on waiting for him to return with a girl that would inevitably be denied by the arisen.
Alister slid away as soon as he was afforded the chance and went behind Caxton’s shop the Craftman's Quarter, appreciating the calm and quietness the further he went away from the celebration.
Not one farmer was left in the field and he did not hear the sound of a hammer banging against hot iron. The quarter was practically dead and it was almost disturbing, were it not so peaceful.
A lone pawn sat outside of their guild writing away at a scripture in their lap. Alister watched them work as they wrote by candlelight, wondering what they could possibly be writing about. Did the pawns have their own religion? Rules for life? Behavior? What did they do so differently from humans that it required entirely new scripture that wasn't already written?
Or maybe the arisen was reading too much into it. It was certainly a possibility, given how drunk he was.
Eventually, Alister left the pawn to their work and came down to where the fields sat and walked along them. He held his hand out to feel the stalls of wheat along his palm and fingers. The wind picked up and rustled the unharvested crop, sending a chill down his spine and a content hum sounded from his throat.
This quarter held the only peace within the city, Alister thought, so it quickly became his favorite area.
He wondered, for a moment, if Maximilian looked for him when he realized the arisen had gone, and if he was forced to tell the young girl he found of the man's disinterest.
Alister knew he should hold some guilt, but he did not. He never asked Maximilian to find someone on his behalf, he did it of his own devices. Nor was he grateful for the effort, it only served to drive him away from the party he was enjoying because he wanted to avoid an awkward scene.
The man sighed. He was becoming angry for no fair reason. Maximilian didn't know why the arisen was so adverse to the idea, hell, Alister wasn't even completely sure why either. The very idea of spending the night with a woman Maximilian provided, or any woman for that matter, just didn't appeal to him. Maybe he believed that he was too busy? He didn't want to get attached for fear he would not return? Surely being the arisen was enough to keep potential suitors away in and of itself.
“Arisen, over here.” a familiar voice drew his thoughts away and he turned his head towards the source. It was Thommern, the pawn was leaning his back against a tree with his arms crossed over his chest. He wore nothing but the tight, black under clothes that he wore underneath his usual armor.
“Where's the rest of you?” Alister teased as he sauntered over.
“I have left it with the guild. I did not trust my armor and sword left within an inn full of drunken fools.”
Alister found himself giggling, struggling to hold back a snort at the questionable look Thommern gave him. “You speak your words with such a savage volition.”
The pawn raised a brow and to Alister, for some reason, it was hilarious. “Are you drunk, ser? I smell the alcohol on your breath.” Thommern seemed honestly shocked and Alister wasn't sure if it were amusing or sad on his behalf.
Alister only shrugged and Thommern sighed.
“I suppose I should not be surprised. You humans often turn to alcohol to soothe your troubles, I have found.”
“And pawns do not?” Alister asked, a smirk gently tugging at the corner of his lips.
The pawn shook his head. “We have no desire nor need to consume it. We would rather deal with our issues head on than to hide from them and pretend they do not exist.”
“And what of those who merely drink for fun?”
Thommern looked appalled and confused.
“There are some who do that?”
Alister nodded. “Aye, myself included.”
“What purpose does that serve? Why would one wish to intoxicate themselves for the purpose of fun?” Thommern was utterly baffled by the arisen’s words and Alister in true was made entirely amused.
“Are you saying one should not partake in alcohol unless drowning sorrows away?” Alister challenged playfully.
“It is my belief that one should not partake in the beverage at all. I see no point in it.” Thommern responded matter-of-factly
“And what of me? You believed I had troubles to drink away?” Alister approached the pawn with a type of hunger he wasn't aware he possessed.
“You are arisen, ser. There are burdens that come with that title.”
“Along with its advantages.” He stood closer to the pawn, a slight redness on Thommern's cheeks. “At least, I believe them to be so.”
Thommern turned his head away and chuckled nervously.
“I, uh, fail to see the advantages you speak of, master. After all, you were torn from your home and trusted into a world of violence.”
Alister gently grabbed the pawn’s chin and his face to look back to the man in front of him.
This was not the beginning of the arisen's flirting. It had started rather recently, ever since they took down the griffin that resided within Bluemoon Tower. It was a word or two passed and Thommern was unsure how to process what was said to him, as he was unaware of what it meant.
They were always just harmless words, however. They didn't mean anything.
Or so the pawn thought.
Now Alister was closer than he ever has been and he was touching the other man. His eyes were looking right into Thommern's with desire and hunger and something the pawn had never seen directed towards him before.
“May I?” asked Alister and Thommern was taken off guard. The arisen's voice was a low whisper, loud enough only for his companion to hear it.
“I… I suppose.” Thommern wasn't sure of what he was agreeing to, but with the way the arisen's voice was he found it difficult to deny him.
He felt an immense heat rush into his face once he felt the arisen's lips upon his, his fingers scratching the bark of the tree he leaned against. Alister's eyes were closed but Thommern's remained open to perhaps scan for any who may be nearby.
Everyone had been at the inn, enjoying their pointless holiday but Thommern still felt nervous. This felt wrong. He was only a pawn, not human like Alister was. Alister deserved to be with another human were he interested in romantic companionship.
Despite this thought, Thommern did not pull away. He couldn't ignore the way his stomach flipped as he was kissed but he wasn't sure what he was supposed to do in return. He grunted at the hands that held his waist and pulled him even closer still to the arisen. Alister removed his lips a moment before planting them on the skin of Thommern's neck.
Thommern finally closed his eyes, allowing himself to enjoy the contact, the feeling of Alister's body against him, the warmth of it. The taste of the fruity alcohol still lingering on his lips the feeling of a gentle smile tugging at its corners. The pawn relaxed his body and sighed again, Alister responding by holding him tighter still.
This was still wrong. This very action was like spitting in the face of fate itself. Thommern was interfering with a balance, a system. A system that no one, not even himself could possibly try to come to understand.
But it felt… Good.
Thommern pushed away only at the sound of another voice calling for them. It was Ener.
He scolded Alister for wandering and causing Ener to enter the “den of iniquity” to look for him. He only grew more annoyed when the arisen's response was laughter.
Thommern was left hoping that the distraction would keep Ener from seeing how red his face was.