137 Together Forever - Headed by a Snake
Barza Keith, the Lone Shadowdark, helped shove Dragan through the entrance-way. Dragan had to duck low and struggled to squeeze through the doorway-- it was not an uncommon occurrence.
The small prison was run by the local Darktide enforcers and was notorious for keeping a light population.
Public execution was popular in Caractere.
"Is that Dragan? You ugly bastard! I see you got rid of the arm cast!" A sailor heartily greeted, "And Lone, too! What brings you two fella's to these parts?"
Several more sailors greeted the pair with nods. Lone and Dragan frequented the public houses, carousing with the locals. Dragan, in particular, made fast friends with the Darktide prison warden.
"Heyyyyy, Jules!" Dragan stretched the fingers of his hand, "Yeah, it's feelin' a bit better, thanks."
Lone smiled with chagrin, "Hey, Jules. We heard you got a, uh... wolf-person."
"Wolf? We don't have any Sea-- Oh, you mean the Weretouched kid? He's been rottin' in the cells for a few days, but uh..." The sailor grimaced.
Dragan furrowed his brows, "What'sa matter, bud? Somethin' wrong with him?"
The sailor placed a hand on the back of his head, allowing his crossbow to hang from the strap over his shoulder, "Well, just between you fella's an' me, the kid hasn't been having it easy in there."
Lone and Dragan exchanged worried looks.
Lone grimaced, "Can you explain that? Is he... okay?"
The red-haired half-giant gave a broad, friendly smile, "Hey, listen, Jules. We're here to post bail. What're the damages, man?"
Jules sucked in air through his teeth, "I'll tell you what, big man. We can't accept bribes. But eh... you know. Me and the boys could use a drink."
Dragan smirked, both eyebrows raised, "Howwwww about a keg from the Slutty Siren?"
The sailor took on a look of disgust, "That swill? Come on, Dragan. Y'might as well wring a whore's bath towel into a barrel."
"I didn't think it was that bad..." Lone mumbled under his breath.
The big man shrugged, "Take it or leave it, bud. You didn't have an issue with either the swill or the way you sucked on that whore's--"
"Whoa, whoa-- hold on there, big man." Jules held his palms forward, glancing around nervously. The other sailors on duty averted their gazes, pretending not to have heard. "I never said no."
Dragan scoffed, "Ch'yeahhh. Lone, wanna go grab that so the fella's aren't kept waiting?"
Lone rolled his eyes, "Yeah, alright."
Jules pat Lone on the arm, "Still mad about losing all that coin last night, Shadowdark?"
"Psh, no." Lone denied it, "My game isn't dice... It's the field of battle. And the wager is my life."
"Oooookay," Jules pursed his lips... "Anyroad, big man, follow me and I'll take you to yer guy."
Both Pale and Kimura Taree were ecstatic to have a picnic meal cooked by Sir Tycon. That morning, Tycon gave explicit directions for how to combine the Alizeaun bread sandwiches for minimum sogginess and maximum deliciousness.
Pale forgot most of it. And he had a feeling Taree didn't pay attention, either... but he figured they'd manage somehow.
The two had managed to find a secluded beach on the outskirts of the city. The rocks were too steep to climb for normal people, but Taree was a Martialist of the Ivory Judge sect and Pale was the future guild leader of Sol Invictus. Piece of cake.
Lunch was delicious (but probably not as delicious as Tycon had intended.)
The pair played in the seawater, looked at cool and interesting fish, compared shells, and even drove back a giant reefclaw the size of Corporal Horse.
They told stories from when they were younger... Pale told Taree more about his dad and his dad's stories of his mom. Taree talked about both of her parents, about Uncle Kakui, and about some of the drama she had with the other Martialists in the sect. She even managed to talk a little about her brother before she cried a little about it.
As the sun began to set, the pair sat on an unrolled mat on the rocky beach. Pale had wrapped a blanket around them both, keeping them warm.
"Pale?" the silver-haired girl looked up with hesitant eyes, "Everything feels like a dream."
The half-elven boy grinned, "Mhm. The ocean's pretty cool, especially how the sunset reflects on the water."
The girl snuggled into Pale's shoulder, "I mean... everything. Finally defeating Muto Hisato. Saving my sect. Oh my gods, leaving the sect... And then... Yeah."
Pale stroked the girl's head, "I know. Bad things happen. But good things happen, too."
Taree smiled, "Yeah, I know... I think... You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, Pale."
Pale laughed, playing with the girl's pigtails, "And you're the coolest person I've ever met."
Taree tackled Pale to the ground to hide the fact that she was blushing, "Beighhh!! Who told you to sweet-talk me, huh?!"
Pale was getting handier at wrestling. He shifted his body weight to unbalance Taree and rolled to the side, using the momentum so he'd be on top. It was a technique he'd learned from her.
"I'm pretty sure you were sweet-talking me, first," Pale grinned. He poked Taree on the tip of her nose with his finger.
Taree laid underneath Pale without struggling. She looked away, her face flushed.
"Huh?" Pale furrowed his brows, "Are you okay, Taree?"
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"Pale... Are we..." She gulped.
"Uh huh?" the boy prodded.
Pale smiled. He sincerely enjoyed hanging out with Taree. He didn't mind it, at all, that Boss Tycon kept assigning him to keep her company.
In a small voice, Taree whispered, "Are we gonna be together forever?"
Pale scoffed, "Pshh. Yeah! Definitely!"
The silver-haired Martialist looked up at Pale, her eyes bright, and her smile just as radiant, "Really?"
Pale nodded, "Yeah! At least until tomorrow, anyroad."
"At least until tomorrow."
Taree's face fell, her smile disappearing, "What... what do you mean until tomorrow? What happens tomorrow?"
Pale put a hand on his chin in thought, something he'd often seen Tycon and Dragan do, "Well, you and Mister Dragan are heading to Bael Turath tomorrow morning."
Taree kicked and punched, but Pale hurriedly stood up to avoid her strikes.
"Wh-wh-wh-hhhhwhaaaaat?!" Taree got to her feet, yelling, "What do you mean?"
"Uh, did I explain it wrong? You and Dr--"
"No! I mean-- Yes! I mean-- why didn't anyone TELL me?!" Taree's entire body was trembling.
Pale grimaced. He didn't know what to do with his hands, so he just placed them behind his back, "I... didn't think it was important?"
"WELL, IT WAS!!" Taree screamed.
Pale bit his upper lip, "Well... now you know?"
Tears began running down Taree's face, "I-- I can't believe you!!"
Pale didn't know why, but there was something about the way she was yelling that made his chest tighten.
In a burst of speed, she ran up the rock wall and scrambled up the rest of it-- up and away.
Pale stood and watched her depart. He knew he had f*cked up.
...Somehow, he got the feeling that Boss Tycon was going to punish him for this.