Blantie (cirithmusings) wrote in plot_bunny_inc,

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story title: none
Challenge: pet-peeves
rating: PG-13
characters: Verence and Hayden are characters from another much larger work, and so some things may not seem well-explained or may be left without any explanation at all. I've been doing a lot more with Verence these days and he keeps getting closer and closer to my heart. Since he's so damn fiesty all the time, he has plenty of pet-peeves.
universe: my own. This takes place in an inn, Pithi-cun, in a typical harbor city called Troutport.
warnings/disclaimers: suggestive slash. If you steal these characters or any ideas therein, I shall kill you. They are precious to me.
summary: just an average day at the inn, until an old friend drops by.

No day was ever like the one before it at the inn of Pithi-cun, elfin for "Cat's eyes". New flaces flooded in with the new ships, and the market met these newcomers head-on. Everyone wanted a part in the elven trade arrangement. The two races tended to avoid contact, the exception being Troutport markets. War or peace, rain or shine, commerce had a furtive talent for finding a way to conduct and prosper, by or against the rules. It was fact at one point in time that humans and elves avoided seeing one another altogether. It wasn't until about three hundred years before this particular year that they came together on the shores of Caefin and suggested contact... not for societies' sake, but for trade. No matter how much distaste one race held for the other, they both knew how to be mutually beneficial. Since the days after it began, eleves have developed a keen taste for southern spiced rum, and humans love Lenoria Sten's radiant pearls. Elves enjoy Caefin's more roughly textured linen while humans fancy the exquisite sauces of Tereth City's kitchens.

But taste in commerce was the only thing these two peoples held in high regard about the other.

Verence Xaia now resided in Troutport, having been "washed up" some years before, as he often refers to his exile from Tereth (thieving had a way of meriting that end in elven society). His living quarters in the back of the inn were modest, but then he didn't really need more; he was hardly in them. The inn itself was his home. He ran it, he took care of it, he cleaned it, and if it wasn't for him, the place would tumble down all together.

"Where in Harcadia is that hallet wrench?!" came the impatient voice of the innkeeper. After a prolonged silence he rolled out from beneath the brewer, annoyance plainly written across his brow, but his lips quirked in a fashion that told someone who knew him he was amused. "Has it got you by the tongue, Gorio?"

Gorio smiled, shuffling through Verence's careless pile of tools. Verence would have organized them, but he used and took each out of order so often that it wouldn't make organizing the metal box worthwhile. Gorio's human fingers, a bit shorter and chubbier than the elf's, but just as experienced, dug through the bundle of bolts and nails and past a blacksmith's chisel to find the item of his search. "It almost nipped me by the finger, anyway, if not the tongue. Put this damn thing in order, will you?" But Gorio knew, trying in vain to hide his grin, that his elfin boss would do nothing of the sort. Ever.

He tossed the metal down to Verence with a snort. Gorio had lived in Troutport all his life, working around the Harbor as hired labor for years and now as second handsman at Pithi-cun. IT had started five years before, with his labor crew's project of expanding Verence's new holding. Actually, the place was a wreck when Verence bought it, but, being an elf as he was, he'd managed a low price and used the coinage he'd saved to hire Gorio and his men. To Gorio's thinking, it was a good pay, good food, and he later found, good company. Unlike on the docks, no one was on his tail for touching a quiet shipment he wasn't supposed to know about. Gorio found Verence to be an interesting and safe, and very un-elflike, companion, and so had stayed on as an extra hand whenever one was needed.... which was atleast once a cycle, if not every few days.

Even after living in this city, though, (which has Tereth-types in at the Harbor almost every day) Gorio still felt wary around elves. They were considered a risky people to deal and be with; foreign and strange. Elves kept their distance from humans for the most part, and so humans were just as eager to return the favor. But to Gorio, Verence was different. The innkeeper seemed more human than anything else, like one of their own. He was sure Verence was happy to have that image, too! ...Except when old elfin friends from Tereth came to visit once in a while. Then Verence would revert back to his old elfin nature. However, there was a bitterness in Gorio's boss that stung him whenever it made itself apparent, and it almost made him feel guilty... but for what he had no idea.

Verence had a typically fiesty attitude that would intimidate the strongest and largest of humans... unless they were idiots. In those cases Verence had to teach them to be intimidated. As if to accentuate his point, vulgar banter followed by a gritty laugh echoed through the doors. Verence sighed, his aggravation giving the air a sharp bite that would chip a drell's tooth. Gorio grinned; this would be amusing.

"You shouldn't have said that," Tessy, one of the more requested serving maids, said with a grin at the offenders, waiting for the inevitable sight of the owner. Sure enough, Verence appeared at the back of the common room and sauntered to his high-ground behind the counter. He wasn't exactly muscular himself, but he had a spice to him that clearly wrote "Just try me, numb wits!" across his forehead whenever his lips parted for speech. No one crossed him; no one bothered to try, especially since it was his inn. His slightly dimpled cheeks made him charming when he smiled and wicked when he was in a foul mood. A worn, green rag held back the shoulder-length wisps of hair and also conveniently covered the fine tips of his ears. (It was no secret he was elfin, but Verence didn't want to make a grand show of it either, for safety's sake. Though, the silver hair despite his young and sharp-featured face gave away his heritage clearly enough.)

He leaned on the hard wood, his chin in his palm as his arctic eyes fixed on the burly fellow. "Back again, are we, Poncey?"

Muscles up and down the man's arms flexed and rippled as he turned to lay eyes on this new mischief. His expression fell flat when he recognized the Owner of the Cat's Eyes, probably berating himself for not knowing the liquid ring of that voice by now. The foul Ponceraht stored away his indignance and gave the elf his best smug grin. "I never get enough of your fine drink and service, Master V."

Verence wasn't convinced, and an eyebrow displayed it. "The service you're looking for is on Third and Twenty-seventh."

Amused "Oooaah!"s resounded around the room, and several richly dressed travelers raised their glasses to him with congratulatory grins. Even the man's cronies gave him pats on the back at his defeat and continued eating. But Ponceraht wasn't about to lose his footing to an elf. "And I'm supposin' you've got those two streets bookmarked in your Troutport map book!" He snickered to himself.

It's true that most elves didn't stay around Troutport Harbor long; it was, afterall, human territory. The ships were unloaded, they stayed the night, and left the next morning with the new cargo, or some even loaded and left the very same night. ....But then, those elves had the choice of going back.

"Poncey, you nisser-log, I have been here for eight years next cycle. The only maps I'll be needing is one for my boot to find its way up your sorry arse and out the door."

Ponceraht bared his teeth in a snarl while his drinking partners laughed uncontrollably.

Verence reached for a bottle of rum, but looked up again with an afterthought. "Oh, and sweaty little chicklings from Twenty-seventh's coup are not for me, if you hadn't noticed."

"Stupid bigot," a voice Verence recognized as Jengel's barked.

"Bigot?" He echoed with a laugh. "What an ungrateful pig you are. I feed you at night, and sometimes lay you outside when you pass out--without added fee." Verence finished with a theatrical toss of the bottle and, upon catching it, pouring a drink for a bright-eyed Haluen merchant.

The merchant, flaunting a full purse, flashed a smile at Verence. "You serving dinner yet?"

Verence took the hint easily enough. "For you, I'll get Chaucie started on the stove early tonight." He nodded to Tessy and she scuddled into the back with her light skip.

"I thank you." He took an eager sip, and a satisfied "ah" came after he swallowed. He contemplated the drink a moment longer, then turned his attention to the innkeeper, his tone congratulatory. "You keep a hard eye on the place and keep it clear of trouble."

"I thank you," the elf replied. His head tilted to the side as he diligently polished a copper serving platter. A few gentle wisps of silver came down to hang in his eyes. He brought his elbow up to brush them away, leaving a dark smudge across his face to mesh with the other dirt and cooking greases. He merely sniffed and continued polishing.

The merchant cleared his throat. "May I ask you a personal question, sir?"

Verence cocked an eyebrow. "You may ask. I may not answer."

"You are the only elf I know of who has taken up residence on these shores. I would like to know why you stay."

Extended silence. Verence stared at his reflection in the copper, set it down, and turned his back to the man, shining the metal once more. "At the moment Poncey is sober and playing dice. The real fun begins when he gets too much of my cheap stock and loses ten silvers!"

The old man chuckled, his sincerity twinkling across his round cheeks. "Very well then. You want to be private, well I can't blame you. But back to the inn. I imagine keeping this place so well is quite a chore for your stronghand every night."

He finished with the platter and hung it by a chord, leaving it to swing with six other identical copper siblings like a cheap facsimile of a windchime from the high hills of beautiful Obelis city. His busy nature bade him start on a scattered collection of wet mugs behind the counter.
"I have no stronghand. I'd rather take care of the 'wags m'self." An indulgent grin slithered across his lips as he caught the merchant looking him up and down in disbelief.

"Uh... begging your pardon, I mean no affront, young sir, but... you don't seem the type. If you know what I mean." Verence blinked. "Well--I really don't know much about elves. Do you have... much, eh, muscle under that skin 'a yours?"

Verence could tell by the man's expression that truly no offense was intended, and he was inclined to laugh, but contained it. He could just picture the old Pheliinian staring at his lithe form, imagining what elfin magicks lie beneath it. The thought of him "magicking" one of Poncey's types out the back window into the mud--or snow, depending on the cycle--gave him a sinister bolt of amusement.

"Are you suggesting your old human bones are bettr than my strong, young, healthy ones merely because your ears have more curve and your legs more weight?" Verence was jesting, of course. After eight years in this part of the continent you get used to human prejudices when humans are all you've got. But the game was too enticing to pass off, and it was going to be a long night. He needed to be in high spirits before the late night, rowdy crowd set in to ruin the mood.

"Of course not, master 'Keeper, but, with all due respect, I'm not the one in the vulnerable position. You deal with ruffians all the time; ones much larger... and with many more friends than you, I'd think."

That always stung. Verence kept his calm air about him and locked his jaw in nonchallant severity. "I think there's more than one vulnerable being here."

"Oh?" came the doubtful, but curious reply.

"You see, I am the one behind the bar. That means I take your orders and you take what I give you. I have this lengthy wooden bar here as a curtain should I decide to slip something toxic of my choice in your meal or drink." Another doubtful look from the merchant. Verence beamed innocently, raising his hands in defense. "I would never do that, of course, elves being a curtious people, but--" he ran his fingers along the bar's edge, his eyes glittering slyly as he took slow, leisurely steps to the kitchen. "Don't you ever wonder?"

That got a reaction, to the satisfaction of the elf, and he slipped through the kitchen doors to come nose to nose with Gorio, who was grinning like a cat.

The afternoon passed into evening and so did the harbor crowds. The elderly merchant of no-name (Verence hadn't cared enough to ask) had long since finished his early meal and gone, leaving a hefty payment for the trouble. ....Another reason why Verence liked to keep the place clear: these merchants, traders, and passing entrepreneaurs, all of them had full (and if the Harbor was having a lucky day, over-flowing) purses with a heart and sense to share a bit. The local filth made a mess of the place and took up space that could have potentially gone to wealthier customers.

The usual pre-midnight crowd was in for drinks, and, really, as long as they kept quiet and cornerly about it Verence didn't care. But at this point of the night all his favored customers are in their rented quarters, and Verence is left with only the downscale tripe of after-hours.

"Dak, I swear if you don't get your rat-pasted paws away from my hired help, you'll be thrown in with the scum water and sharks!" He pulled back, aimed, and sent a wet rag soaring across the room with a swish and then a satisfactory slap in the thug's face.

The ragged Dak did not appreciate the gesture, and Verence caught, out of the corner of his eye, a hand moving to a belt. A knife? It seemed that way. He thought the idiot might take it personally.

The thug came at Verence awkwardly, his unsteadiness presumably due to his tally of drinks for the night. Anger and indignance flushed across his face, and his eyes were red and overly round, his pupils dilated.

By the time he barreled into the counter, Verence had already effortlessly leapt up on the counter, hovering down by his calfs with one arm held out for balance. The other hand pointed forward, his thumb and two foremost fingers outstretched. The fingers met the man's throat, and Dak almost immediately fell unconscious to the floor, his knife skittering across the wood.

There was utter silence, save for the light clank of Verence's boots as they met the floor again.

Then, "Still abusing the kitters?"

Now Verence was the flustered one in the room. He spun toward the voice, breathed once, and then smiled a smile a god would be jealous of. "By Áttiqe's grace! When did the wind blow you in?"

Street light from outside poured in over the newcomer. The figure came away from the doorway and opened his arms to embrace the innkeeper, hair the shade of redwood falling around them both.

Verence eagerly ushered the newcomer over to the bar and snapped impatiently for Tessy. One by one the room went back to its own discussions and drinks, and the awkward stillness dissipated and then was no more.

"Haogasili came into Meduga Bay a little after sundown."

"Ah, ah, good! I've been without your good company for more cycles than I care to count, if you catch what I mean," he said, his eyes spheres of good-natured accusation. "I am not angry, though; never angry at you. How are your followings, Hayden?"

Hayden casually took a seat and propped his elbows on the wood. "Not as good as they could be, but then I've only myself to blame for that. I'm in Troutport on business."

Verence grinned and nudged a copper compote stacked with cheeses and grapes, implying they were for Hayden to take. "And will you be earning these funds the ol' fashioned way, or are you only in port for a few days."

"Just a few days." He winked. "Don't worry, I will not be recruiting you into anything illegal, by port standards."

"Oh, I'd not care if you were. I am always here to help you out of and into precarious situations, as always," Verence said with a sidelong glance.

Hayden eagerly rummaged through the stack, but then looked up, staring at nothing in particular as his brow furrowed. "It smells of a thick sour smoke in here. How in Harcadia do you cope?"

That brought a chuckle from the innkeeper. "It wears off and airs out by morning. The place is always fresh with sea breeze at morning, and a bit after midday the entire building takes on the scent of Chaucie's warm breads, and later, whatever meals he is starting on, or an early smoke accumulation from the fire." He paused, in thought. "Usually, though, I just smell cedar, alcohol, and cooked cow. This is my home, and how I know it well!" He finished with a dramatic wave of his hand and beckoned to another serving maid by the name of Lily Rose.

The edges of Hayden's lips twitched, almost smiling, as he drifted far off into a world of depressing nostalgia. Tereth seemed a much emptier place without this vivacious soul gracing it.

"Lil! A monstrosity of a glass of Beckory Dew for this lovely gentleman."

Lily Rose stared at her employer, perplexed. "--What?"

Verence sighed. "Beckory melon cordial and gin. Throw them in a glass and give 'em a whirl. ...Moreso the cordial."

The serving maid processed it and took on a look of profuse concentration as she set to work fetching the essentials.

Verence kept his voice low. "Sweet girl, but honestly, she's as lost as a bird egg in the ocean. I swear she makes it for you everytime you come." He gestured with one hand, as was usual, when he spoke. "The melons are fresh from the Bandezi islands last waning! And I happened to make the cordial just two mornings ago, you lucky bastard. So did you come alone on this business of yours that, I gather, shall remain unspoken?"

Hayden had been watching Lily stir in the gin, the girl wearing a look of utter disgust as she did so. He received the glass with a smirk, wondering what it was about gin that humans couldn't handle around these parts until he realized Verence was saying something grating to him. "Demons aplenty, Vai, if you wanted to know so badly you could have mentioned so, and I'd have spilled all."

Verence glared at him in good humor. "Actually I don't much care; I trust you to be careful and careless at the same time and come out on top. I just wanted a stone to throw at you." He stopped, his lips pursing in amusement. "Ah, what an old nickname you used! You make me feel young again."
"You are young, you cufit*," Hayden returned with a broad smile.
"Right. So who did you come with?"
"Just Linbe. He will be with Kinlojorin until midmorning, which leaves me here for the night. ...Unless you have an objection."

Hayden took the initial sip, steeling himself for that inevitable sour fire. It hit, as expected, and his eyes became little more than slits, his cheeks sucked in so far he thought they would collapse.

Verence had been waiting for it, and when "the face" came he clapped his hands together, laughing at the ceiling.

"How long has it been since I saw you last? Six... seven cycles?"

Hayden shrugged his long strands from his shoulder, letting them fall down with Verence's on to the pillow. He noted that Vai's bandana was gone--probably on the floor, with everything else. "I think so. And even longer since we did this."

Verence snuggled into the inviting embrace, tired and devoid of any will to get up and clean out in the common room, as he should be doing. Eh, I left Gorio in charge. He will take care of things tonight.... unless it's true that this inn can't keep itself upright wiuthout me.
"Yes, well, I wasn't feeling particularly frisky last time. Although, bastards a dozen, if I'd known you would be seven cycles until coming back, I would have dragged you in here anyway!" He felt Hayden laugh and he smiled, giving a lazy stroke across the arm draped over his waist, then pulled the sheets up to their shoulders against the chill. "Humans get boring. I always look forward to your visits."

Hayden smiled back, his eyes glowing in the soft light from a candle they'd left lit by the door. But then something Vai had said hit him, and his expression went grim. "When you say humans are boring--you haven't been... conducting with any, have you?"

"By Áttiqe, of course not! I may have never been much for morality, but when it comes to sexual ethic I know the rules! I haven't forgotten; elves with elves, and humans to their own. ...I don't know if that applies to men, seeing as no children could come of it, but still! I don't." He nestled into the recess between Hayden's neck and shoulder, sighing deeply. "It is... difficult sometimes to keep that unwritten law. When you've been pushed out of your home, branded a thief, the bridge gone behind you... you live each day, each night surrounded by them--by humans. And then they're all you have." A quiet sigh, drenched in longing. "I tell you, Hayden, I have dwelled on this continent eight years, and I've had Pithi-cun for five. I became more human every day that passed, and now I'm suprised when I cut myself and see green instead of crimson*(2). Suprised! And then I think, 'Oh wait... it's perfectly normal. I'm an elf.'"

Hayden lay motionless, listening as Verence truly opened to him for the first time in a long span of years.

"If you remember, I tried to be optimistic about leaving Tereth," Verence continued. "And this place, the harbor... it suits me. Every day is something new and brings new faces to meet. I think of it as home now. Even if Magnificantre does what it intends to do.... Hayden, I don't think I could leave. I would go back for a time, but I think I would miss Meduga Bay and this life I've made for myself."

"I knew it had come to that," Hayden assured, resting his head against the other on his shoulder. "Now, you said... it was difficult to keep the rule?"

Verence chuckled. "I am still elfin, and so I will abide by the code. You worry about me too much."

"Do I have reason to? Tell me what you meant by it."

Verence never thought he would tell this to anyone. Though, if he were to tell someone, it would be Hayden. "I've come to know them better than anyone you could dream up. The temptation becomes so strong sometimes. I've met two eretin*(3) who would have, if I'd have let it deepen, become my soul-mated. But then something they do reminds me what they are, and then the thought of Altavonine*(4) with them repulses me." He felt a disheartening lump in the back of his throat as he forced out these next words. "Our father ingrained the lesson too well."

They had been close friends since childhood, when Hayden's parents had taken Verence in. But they had always been just that: close friends. It was only after Verence began Pithi-cun that they became intimate, but even then it was for comfort, not for love. Hayden genuinely cared about Verence, and the thought of Vai still depressed now after eight years made him ache. "What were their names?" Hayden asked softly, holding his friend tighter in comfort. He hadn't known about this at all; hadn't even guessed.

"The first was Torraine, a few cycles after I hit the shore. It pained me to see the elves sailing in and out of Meduga Bay everyday, able to return, so I decided the city of Rivis would be my safest bet. There would be plenty of work there and no elves to get in my way. I... met him rather awkwardly." He grinned distantly at the memory. "He offered me work at his brother's smithy, and I told him I knew nothing of the trade, which... led to me explaining what I had been doing in Tereth. It intrigued him, and he told me the truth about himself: that he had some thieves of his own working beneath him for 'a little local guild'." Verence chuckled and laid back on the pillow. "Not the most accurate of words to describe the Bush Throves," he stated simply. Hayden's adorable laughter only made him laugh more himself. The Bush Throves gang practically controlled Rivis, the Pheliinian capitol.

"What happened? You didn't get involved, did you?"

"At first I did, but then not only did he want to bed me, he wanted to share me with his two bosses. So much for any sense of love there. I conked him over the head with a kettle, took his money, and used it to pay some half-wit to let me hide in his cellar for a cycle." Verence didn't hear it, but he could feel Hayden's chest heaving with laughter.

"Verence, that sounds typical of you. At first sight of trouble, you flex your wisdom and come up with the conk them over the head plan." Of course, there was much more to this story, Hayden knew. The two had almost soul-mated, Vai said. But this Hayden kept to himself and let Verence keep secret what secret pinings he may still harbor.

Verence grinned. "Not true! It just so happened that that was my easiest way out. Aside from my distaste for him, I had grown tired of Rivis in those few cycles anyway; it has nothing to offer. I never stay in one place, you know that!"

"Yes, I do," Hayden replied mischievously, his eyes shifting down to catch the other's reaction. "In fact, it continues to amaze me that you have been not only in Troutport, but have remained with Pithi-cun for five years now...." Verence bit his tongue as Hayden continued, "Am I to understand that the wild, unchecked youth that was Verence Xaia is finally stabilizing?"

Verence groaned. "Hai, stop stifling my reputation right in front of my eyes. If you want to kill me, just use your hands."

"Hah!" Hayden snapped, coming to his knees with a glare of pure amusement aimed down at his friend. "I knew it! I've known it for years! You admit it."

Verence merely rolled over, burying his face in the pillow in defeat.

"Come, come, face your victor." Hayden reached around the other, trying to pull him out from the embankment of his pillow. "You know, being tamed isn't as terrible as you make it seem. Pithi-cun has given you a solid cause to be proud of; a place to set your heart to. I can easily see why you call Troutport your home now."

Verence finally surrendered to the other's searching hands and showed his face again. "You just spent the night with me. You tell me if I've been tamed."

"Hah! Well if you put it in that context, you're still a careless savage."

Verence grinned, satisfied with the response. They settled down amongst the sheets, sitting across from eachother and basking in the light of candle and moon. "I have developed an unhealthy dependence on your visits, sweet. Honestly, I'm not looking forward to the day you soul-bond with someone; our after-hours fun will be out of the question. Ah, we'll have to keep to drink and good conversation.

"Me... become soul-mated." Hayden laughed at the notion. "No one would love me. I'm a scoundrel. But, come what may. We'll just have to enjoy it while we can." And with that, Hayden pounced and landed ontop of him, kissing Verence's hair across the pillow. He laid back again, stealing the smaller woolen blanket from the other's clutches. When a truce was ordered and Hayden's possession of the extra blanket was silently agreed upon, he spoke again. "I hear plenty of talk around from travelers, and the like, about the Cat's Eyes and it's well-catering, high-class owner."

An intrigued "hmm" echoed in the quiet loom of the early hours. The sun wouldn't rise for several more, but everything in the Harbor started early and ended late, which left little time for an innkeeper to sleep.

Hayden smiled at the curious murmur. Verence seemed so simple and innocent away from Tereth, the land that had corrupted him. Actually, the land was innocent as well. It was Hayden and Evong that had corrupted him. Whenever Hayden came close to finding peace within himself, the guilt came back as strong as the day it cursed him: that should have been him banished. Not Verence. Verence was never born for this.... and yet, the more he pondered it, the more natural Verence seemed here. And Vai handles the people well, except--
"I swear, I don't know how you do it. Granted, that man tonight was drunk and uncertain on his feet. But it could have happened with someone sober and three times your size and bulk--" His expression firmed. "And with three other friends just as humiliated and who would hold no shame in stabbing an elf."

Verence brushed it off, tapping the other's chin and radiating his typical air of cool confidence. "Rubbish. They're nothing more than a pet-peeve. They can't lay a finger on me, and if they decide they can, I have a few tricks up my sleeve."

"Your confidence is disgusting, Vai," Hayden warned, his tone condescending.

Verence ignored him and crawled up to a tiny chamber above the bed Hayden hadn't noticed before; he doubted many did, judging by its clever camouflage. The chamber was metal and locked in an uncommon elfin manner, with no keyhole or visible inconsistencies. Indeed, most would think of it not as a safe but as a blank metal square in the middle of a stone wall--the result of a drunken constructioner. Verence tweaked the two left bolts, which had unrecognizably longer sides than the others, covering a seal two inches from the end of the metal plate. He ran a sharp fingernail through the seal and swung the door open.

Hayden's expression went quizzical as the other pulled out a small case emitting an acute scent of pine. "I wasn't that good, was I?"

"You cocky bastard," Verence retorted. "I'm paying you because money is why you came to Troutport to begin with."

Hayden blinked, wishing he didn't have to feel this embarassed this early in the morning. "Ah.... Linbe was with Kinlojorin collecting an old debt. Verence, I had no intention of raiding the Cat's profits."

Vai could sense Hayden's discomfort, and his grin broadened as he faced the wall again to hide it. He could still catch "Hai"--Hayden's loving nickname--offguard after twenty-five years of friendship. He turned back and, handing the small case, with force, to Hayden, added, "I have several such coffers. Don't worry about me here. My needs aren't many, nor are my expenses extravagant."

"I have noticed." Hayden gestured to the stained, rag-worthy trousers and clasp-up shirt (at one point in time it may have been white) on the stone floor. Vai had also been wearing a maroon jacket earlier, though where it had fallen Hayden didn't know. "Though, it remains unclear to me why. Of course, you were always so modest and humble-looking in Tereth, decked out in our spoils and costumes."

Verence gave a warning glare that spelled trouble in his own good-humored way. "I am always at the inn, so there's no one on which I'd care or need to make a lasting impression that can't be made just as well in old clothing. And... new garb gets filthy too quick to replace, so, really, there is no point in buying fancier clothes because when I'm not under the brewer with pliers and lubricant, I'm crawling up the roof with thatch, having kitchen greases and oils splattered on me, smelling of alcohol without actually consuming it, frightening the rodent population out of residence, kicking the riffraff around--which is dirty work, let me tell you--"

"All right, all right, I see your point of view!" Hayden conceded, letting his head fall sideways onto the other's. His arms found themselves wrapped around sheets and elf again, and they sat quietly together, waiting for some sign of sunrise. Verence had changed so much over the years. Hayden knew, taking a mental step back from the bias, he miself had not remained the simple child, either; the fearless child who cared nothing about his future, nor the world of "economics, death, and unrequitted love" his elders tried to warn him about. He and Verence had been little chunks of topaz, blissfully ignorant and unfinished in a world of shelves. Time and age had picked and chiseled them, and Verence was turning out to be an honest, hard working, and beautiful creature... while Hayden knew he himself needed a great deal more chiseling.

Verence had the Cat's Eyes; his first major responsibility and his last stronghold of sanity in a world that had washed its hands of him. This place spoke volumes of Vai's new sense of responsibility and dedication and stood as a monument to his growth. It was his ongoing project, and it made him a good man, capable of loads and oddities that would cause any other to shrink away and abandon it.

Hayden had a dedication as well: Magnificantre. Every moment of rational thought usually ended up being reserved for those people and their plans. He had a cause, and a small force with which to make it a reality. ...So why didn't he seem as molded and matured as Verence did?

He looked past Verence, out an ajar shutter to the west, and noticed with a groan the lamplights being extinguished in the brothel at the end of Oklan street. "Demons a plenty, it's late! Vai, we need to get some sleep before you open in a few hours."

A light snore rose to answer him.

*cufit [coofit] = the equivalent of a twit
*(2)"....and now I'm suprised when I cut myself and see green instead of crimson." = Elves have green blood while humans possess red.
*(3)eretin = humans
*(4)Altavonine = an individual's vision of utopia. It would roughly translate to the idea of 'heaven'.
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