The much vaunted hero of the Kharlan War was an idiot, or so Alice thought.
They’d met in an odd, secluded location one day, as if their meeting were the most natural thing in the world. The real nature of it was surreal, inexplicable even, but it had taken weeks for Alice to muster up a single complaint regarding the hero’s twisted character. He had been ideal until then, being strong and fearless, a tyrant and mastermind, and a half-breed.
The last factor wasn’t important to her; it was important to Mithos, who’d instantly favored her for it. Fine though that was, the possibility that he’d overlooked all of her qualifications out of whose blood she had peeved Alice beyond words.
She’d been greatly intrigued at first, entranced by his authority and all the power to which he’d laid claim. He had to have been the most powerful being to grace the soiled earth and barren sky, and it was no question that those under him feared him as a prey should its predator. Yggdrasil—or Mithos, which sounded so weak in comparison—clearly understood the pros of using fear to rule. From that experience, there was something enticing about the way he never grew nervous when she played with the tip of her toy rapier, rather watching as if the scars it had etched onto the backs of others were an ordinary routine.
Yet she learned after an extended period of acquaintanceship that Mithos, too, feared. As the pieces gathered together, she recoiled in disappointment and disgust—mostly disappointment.
A ruler who feared was weak. As if it couldn’t have been any worse, his fear involved a person, and the thought of it made Alice want to blanch. She could no longer look at him the same, his perfect image ruined by his greatest wish that, to Alice, was also his greatest downfall. When he noticed her apathy and moved to confront her in that boyish naivety of his (which had to be a lie, really, considering he could contend with fossils), she simply turned on her heels, eyes shut and chin pointed up, and strutted away.
Flummoxed, Mithos called out: “Alice? Where are you going?”
“Oh, somewhere.” She clicked her tongue. “And I don’t need you to follow me around like some kind of pet. I already have so many!”
When Mithos began to stammer, clutching for words at her sudden enmity, Alice giggled mirthlessly.
“What, did you think that things could stay the same after that little secret?” she asked. Without break, she continued: “You should have kept quiet. Everything you said made you sound weak.”
By then Mithos had recovered, and he stood straight, his expression darkening.
“Weak?” he echoed. “What gives you the right to say that?”
“I have no rights,” she retorted, tapping the elastic blade of her rapier against her palm. “I’m a Halfling, remember? Like you. Oh, and do you know how many half-elves have lost their family? You’re not the only one without a sister. Or a mother, or a father, or whatever it is that people care about these days. So why don’t you open those shut eyes of yours and not be so hung up on the small details, hm?”
Perhaps she resented the fact that he held so desperately onto the dead, when it would have been better to let go; to hate the parent or sister that had died for being weak to abandon their loved ones. The thought merely turned her mood sourer, and she lowered her chin to stare Mithos in the eyes, daring him to fight back.
He did, and his display was less pathetic than she’d anticipated. It still was pathetic, given that the taint of weakness now marred his appearance, but there was the distinct vibe of danger radiating off of him. All adoration he’d held for her had gone, replaced by a blind hatred that he so often directed at humans and elves. The shock of her turn lingered in the air, overshadowed by his quiet fury.
“Martel is a small detail?” he echoed again. “Don’t be so full of yourself. What do you know? Martel is a goddess.”
Against her better judgment, Alice burst into laughter. It was not her typical giggle, the kind of laugh one would expect out of a girlish child, but something more unhinged, if not as much as Mithos, who seemed to lack self-control.
“Wasn’t it you who made that rubbish up? In case you haven’t realized it yet, I don’t believe in your church.” As her ill mirth died down, she leaned forward. “I hate it, actually. Should I thank you for ruining my life?”
The small detail slipped out of her lips before she realized it. When she did, she frowned. The tapping ceased, and she gripped the rapier tightly, her knuckles slowly turning white. Then she stomped, loudly.
“Now look what you’ve done!” she cried.
Glowering, Mithos spat: “What did I do now?”
“Because of you, I’m stuck with these stupid small details!”
“Martel is not a small detail.”
“No, you’re right. She’s not even a small detail, because she’s dead,” sneered Alice. “Dead people don’t come back. Be a good boy and accept that!”
They quarreled so, and it only lasted a brief while longer until what remained of their civility was lost. Mithos was livid beyond any concentration necessary for magic, his judgment blurred enough that he strode forward and, with a great inhalation, muttered a few incoherent words before slipping into near hysterics. He frantically justified the stupid small details (not for himself, but to prove that she was wrong) and raved about a dead woman who’d been dead for over four thousand years, and the final stretch of his madness gained him Alice’s hand.
Silenced by the deafening slap, Mithos pulled back, his hand on his cheek. Although he felt no pain, the force behind the attack had been strong enough to repel him by a step. Out of his negligence, he had been unprepared. Few had dared to ever approach him, much less touch him.
It should have angered him more and he should have raged, but something about the hit was sobering, having knocked the impulsive drive out of them both. They were quiet in an instant.
Alice shook her hand. It was numb beyond belief for striking what looked like flesh but felt like stone.
“And—and what was the point of that?” demanded Mithos, flustered.
“Don’t ask again, because I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Maybe I just got tired of hearing you talk. I know I’m tired of talking to you.”
“But,” Mithos started, finding himself caught on a single point, “Martel is not a small detail. Why won’t you understand?”
“And I already told you, she isn’t even a detail.” said Alice crossly. Then she asked: “I wouldn’t understand because you’re in love with someone who’s dead. What’s the point in that? You think you can bring her back? How long have you been even trying? It’s already been thousands of years, and you’re not even close. It’s pathetic.” She enunciated every word carefully, as if she were talking to a dumb child.
Mithos was not at all short in his arsenal of rebuttals for the things she said, but it was also true, in her perception, that the majority of them were repetitions; redundancies that she would turn a deaf ear to if confronted with them. She’d heard a good deal of them in rapid succession from his earlier muttering, and it had taken effort to refrain from rolling her eyes. It was not to say that Mithos was a rambling idiot: He was terrifying, then and even now. However, the idea that they were having such a ludicrous conversation had turned off many a warning in her mind. From that point on, Alice had not once pulled her punches.
If he gave in to unreasonable violence, then it only proved her point.
“Well, I’m off. This has been so tiring,” she said.
When she turned—again—to take her coveted leave, Mithos called—again.
“That human you’re always with—how’s he better than Martel?”
Alice stopped mid-step and stared ahead, her back still to Mithos. She tensed up at once, recognizing the human in question immediately, but gave a noncommittal huff and adopted a tone others oft thought maddeningly innocent. And fake.
“Because Decus, you know, is alive. See? I’m not clinging to the dead like you.”
“You’re clinging to a human,” Mithos judged, his voice deep. “I don’t see how that’s better.”
“Oh, that’s another thing.” The tapping resumed. “Unlike you, I’m not shortsighted enough to care only about race. I wouldn’t have cared if you were a human, as long as you were strong. And if I don’t trust Decus, it’s for a reason other than what dumb race he was born into. Distrust isn’t the same as clinging. Got it?”
“For someone who claims to be in the right, you sure use a lot of words to justify yourself.”
“I think it’s better than repeating everything, don’t you? There’s nothing wrong with a touch of eloquence,” she said sweetly.
There was a pregnant pause, save the rhythmic tapping by Alice. They said nothing for a while; no refutes from Mithos, and no additives from Alice—until there was a quiet set of steps turning distant, and, after a short pause of that, Mithos said: “Whatever.” Then he was gone, like a ghost. A thing dead and long gone.
The corner of Alice’s lips twitched upward, yet she had no inclination to laugh or giggle.
She was the same in stoic disposition once she made her way back and rendezvoused with Decus, who clearly saw the cloudiness in her eyes but acted dumb all the same, as per the usual. So he was annoying, and his annoyingness, while in fact annoying, distracted Alice from the messy breakup of a most interesting relationship. Decus knew nothing about this mystery person she’d been seeing (only the knowledge that she was seeing someone), and he had the sense not to ask, burning with curiosity though he was.
Her distracted state must have been overwhelming, for Decus stopped his odd gestures and finally asked: “Alice, what happened with that person?”
“Hm? Oh, him. He was starting to be stupid, so I left.”
Despite the frankness, Decus was content with the answer and dared not press the issue lest he upset Alice, who continued down the path. She’d elected not to ride one of her beloved pets and insisted upon tapping the rapier against her palm, even when her hand grew red and numb to the repetitive motions.
Alice desired to toss aside her memories of the (weakling) hero, but her mind, at least for today, was clouded. In the end, she gave up on this fruitless course of action and did all the things she hadn’t wanted to do in her mind, a repetition of a single word that mirrored, in her fine opinion, Mithos’ mannerism: stupid, stupid, stupid—and it continued to the point she unwittingly called Decus so, disheartening his dramatic heart.
Her mood was in terrible shape all the way to the late evening, and she had trouble sleeping even after turning in early. Yet the second sleep claimed her, she was calmer than ever and slept soundly, bundled warmly in her lonesome.
When she woke, she did so with a clear mind. There was little of Mithos left, save the impression of a little boy playing big boy—and admittedly something grander that left her sighing inwardly in perpetual disappointment. It was nothing that hindered her performance, so she allowed the small details to fester, and at a later point decided to do herself good with them by using his as an example of what to never, ever do so long as she breathed and maintained a sense of pride.
In the end, she cast aside that pride and lost herself to the grief, and not a part of her laughed at the weakness.