"Orrin, come on, already! I'm hungry." Tionna grimaced, heading out towards the next corner street of the market. I still don't exactly remember inviting her over for dinner in the first place...but it's not like me or my father to say no if she asked to stay. I've gotten used to her semi-forced company at this point. In fact, it's become a pretty endearing part of her charm.
However, as we walked back out among the rest of the shopping crowd in town...I couldn't help but to let my mind linger on thoughts of the beautiful boy that I had sheepishly run away from earlier. The thought of those hauntingly beautiful, dark brown, eyes just...burning a hole right through the center of my heart...it made me squirm like a greased piglet inside. Not in a bad way, but just uncomfortable enough to let me know that I had been seriously affected by the very knowledge of his existence, and the sensation had no plans of releasing me from my love stricken burden any time soon.
Love. Can I even call it that? I don't know that boy. I don't know anything about him. And yet, the entirety of my being suddenly feels as though it has been turned upside down just from the few moments that I spent nervously peeking at him from a distance. As though knowing anything and everything about him had become my life's sole purpose. He was *SO* very beautiful.
I can't say that I've ever been so involved in a feeling like this before...so I have nothing to compare to this weird fascination as of yet. But, with the way my heart seems to be vibrating warmly with every labored beat of its quickened pace...I can honestly say that I wouldn't know what to do with actual feelings of love if they hit me any harder than they were right now.
I wish I hadn't been such a coward. Now that I have missed my golden moment, I truly regret not at least taking a chance to smile in his direction. It wouldn't have been much...but it would have been something. I could have walked closer to him...inhaled his boyish fragrance...possibly even gotten the courage to lightly brush against his shoulder. Something to create a few infatuated moments worth keeping. Something to warrant this adrenaline filled rush of 'wiggles' coursing through my veins. Now I just feel...empty. Longing for something that I never had. Praying for something that I couldn't define. Maybe Tionna's right...I'm really not any good at this sort of thing at all.
We both walked around the shops for a bit longer, with me constantly glancing around and peeking over my shoulder...just in case the odds were in my favor and I caught sight of my beautiful stranger again. But alas...no such luck. I wasn't going to pretend that my fear of him would be any more under control if we crossed paths a second time, or that the outcome would be at all different than it was the first time...but I still craved the opportunity to stare at his radiance for just a little bit longer. Just ONE more peek to satisfy my emotional appetite, and drink in as many details as I could for later...in case I found the privacy to pleasure myself to thoughts of holding him close.
What a powerful series of dreams that boy would leave behind in my troubled thoughts. He makes loving other boys so shameless.
"They're coming in for another pass." Tionna said, pointing upwards as the swarm of sentinels came racing over the market in another furious pass. They certainly seemed to be quite flustered today. "Is any of this really necessary? Those winged monstrosities aren't scaring anybody, even in numbers. I could handle half of their disgusting swarm with my dual lashes alone. It's such a weak display of so-called strength."
"I don't know, Tionna. I think they might actually be on patrol for a purpose this time." I said.
"Whatever." She scoffed. "I say that it's just our so-called king's way of pretending to flex a bit of muscle that he doesn't have." We both watched the cloud of black creatures soared overhead, and she added, "My father says that anybody who has to go out of his way to prove his strength to the people, doesn't have any...and never did. If you ask me, anybody who claims to be scared of Lord Versis and his horde of lackeys should be ashamed of themselves. They'd see how weak he truly was if they ever had the guts to challenge him on anything significant. I guess it's more comfortable for them to act like mindless livestock instead."
With a grin, I said, "You know, my father tells me that I should stop listening to your royal conspiracies and straighten up."
"He WHAT?" She looked genuinely shocked, which made me laugh out loud. With a pout, Tionna replied, "This is no conspiracy nonsense. It's the truth. Those in power can only maintain that power by making the rest of us believe that they have any. That's a fact." She said. "Lord Versis can get punched in his smug face just like anybody else in the realm, were he ever brave enough to walk through the Dermian market himself. Where did we get the notion that he couldn't? We got it from HIM! And the people who support him. At the end of the day, hand to hand, he'd probably drop to his knees and beg for mercy quicker than most. The only thing protecting him is the outright lie that he's something more."
I will admit to getting a bit of a kick out of seeing Tionna get so riled up at times. It's entertaining, to say the least. But I gave her a poke in the side with my elbow to let her know that I was merely trying to get a rise out of her. It's a practice that fools her every time, but I think she appreciates it. I suppose it appeals to her naturally combative Ferran nature.
As we were turning one of the many, maze-like, corners of the Dermian market...I noticed a large group of people quickly dispersing from a small stage in the middle of the many booths set up outside. They seemed distressed. Some of them even scared. One mother was even covering the eyes of her two young sons as she led them away from the display, looking highly concerned and offended as some of the market security soldiers charged in to remove a performer from his platform.
Tionna and I looked on as they grabbed him by both arms and kicked over his table of tools and props. "What are you doing??? You don't understand! I'm just an entertainer!" The main pleaded, his little girl crying as she stood, helplessly, by his side.
"What type of sorcery is this?" One of the soldiers growled.
"What sorcery??? There is no sorcery here!" The man wailed, but couldn't help but to watch his small stage and booth get torn apart as the remaining soldiers ravaged it in front of the public eye. "PLEASE stop! You are mistaken!"
"Are you a magic user? You dare to bring actual magic to an open market???" The soldier grilled him, his accomplices holding both of his arms tight in case he attempted to fight back.
"It's a TRICK, sir! I swear! Merely slight of hand!" The man said. "There was no real magic used here today! It is simply a series of movements designed to deceive and give the mere illusion of magic. We travel from market to market, our name is known in multiple places around the realm. You can verify our acts with them if only you would..."
"Magic users are unwelcome here! Mystic arts are illegal!" The soldier snarled. "We will investigate this further. Come with us." He turned to his fellow security officers and said, "Take the girl as well. We'll get to the bottom of this...'slight of hand' he speaks of. But if we find any evidence at all of you being a practitioner of the craft...you can expect to spend a lengthy amount of time in PRISON, wanderer!" And without much of a resistance from anybody else in the area...the team of soldiers closed down the man's shop and marched him and his daughter off to be examined and interrogated for an alleged misuse of magic. A social offense that is very difficult to dispute once you've been accused of it outright.
My mother would know that better than anyone. That's why she has to stay so far away.
"THIS way!" Tionna smiled, grabbing a hold of my hand and leading me over to a string of food vendors on the Western end of the street. "Oh my...it smells absolutely divine, doesn't it? How much can we purchase? How much has Terion given you for food? Everything looks so delicious!"
I have to admit that it did smell good. Good enough to get my stomach to rumble in anticipation of getting a taste. We were getting ready to cross over to the other side of the street, but a small army of foot soldiers paraded by to block our movements. Three by three, all in step...weapons displayed in full view. Everyone was used to simply staying out of their way until they passed, but I could already see Tionna getting impatient with their disturbance, and I put a hand on her shoulder to keep her from making any unnecessary trouble. She has a knack for letting her temper guide her much faster than any sense of logic and grace would allow.
We waited for the soldiers to pass, all wearing the signature marks of Lord Versis on their minimal armor, and then continued on our way to the few smokehouses before us. "How many pieces of silver do you have, Orrin?" She asked me.
Reaching into my carry pouch, I counted, "Five...seven...ten...fifteen..."
"Wow. That's a lot."
"Well, I think my father did it mostly out of pity...over me failing my training today."
"You didn't fail, Orrin. Geez, you're so sensitive." Tionna said, walking by the various stands and examining the delectable treats that they all had to offer. "Making mistakes is all about you reaching your better self. That's not a failure, it's a vital part of the process."
"Well, if mistakes are a part of reaching my better self, then I'm going to end up being one of the most legendary warriors that has ever been born."
"You're so pessimistic. Brighten up, will you?" She said. "Ooh...look at the sear on that cut of meat! Well done for any cook that can pull that off with such exquisite skill. It's a work of art."
Tionna continued to drag me from one stand to the next, pretty much taking over the selection process. Then I heard a bit of a ruckus coming from behind us as one of the vendors tried to chase away a beggar from his shop. "Get out of here! Go on! Filthy vermin! You'll get no free meals from me! OFF with you!" He snarled.
The other man was rather tall, wrapped in tattered cloth, with long, severely tangled, fiery red hair, and a matted beard that reached down to the center of his chest. His eyes were sunken in, as if he hadn't slept in days. He had broad shoulders and a stocky build, possibly from loads of farm work or heavy hauls from one town to the next. He seemed much too able bodied to have to beg for much of anything, but I suppose the dark cloud of misfortune flies over all of our heads without warning from time to time.
While Tionna didn't pay much attention to the situation at hand, I found myself looking on, feeling a pinch of sympathy for the poor scavenger. The merchant began to push and shove him away from his booth, eventually taking a wooden stick to his backside in an attempt to chase him off. The beggar didn't put up a fight. Not in the least. In fact, he seemed to almost sadly appreciate his abuse, as he moved from the front of the merchant's shop and crossed the street to lean against one of the market's walls, and slide down to sit on the side of the road. There was such pain in his eyes. I could almost feel it.
Dirty, alone, shamed to bare bones...the vagrant surrendered himself to his fate, and chose to remain hungry, instead of inviting any further floggings from a cruel and dismissive crowd.
It got to me. It truly did. And as I looked at the ample amount of silver in my pouch, a yearning to do something to help this stranger in his time of need began to overwhelm me. I didn't have a wealthy man's stash of silver, but I had enough to spare a few coins for a fellow townsman in dire need. I did have a moment of hesitation, but it was brief. My heart wouldn't let me rest if I didn't do something good today. Besides...after losing my chance to speak to the most beautiful boy in all of the realm...I was compelled to make amends through this one small act of kindness.
I pulled three pieces of silver out of my pouch, and I started to walk over to where the beggar was sitting. Tionna asked me, "Wait...what are you doing? Where are you going?"
I didn't answer, I just kept walking until I was standing in front of him. The smell of him was slightly repugnant, but that was to be expected, so I made sure to breathe with a shallow respire. I simply held the three coins out on my hand in front of him, and he looked up at my eyes to see what was going on. I told him, "It's not much...but it should get you some bread, or perhaps some fruit. Hopefully it will carry you to your next bit of good fortune."
There was a long pause between us. He almost looked as though I was trying to trick or deceive him in some way. But I reached down for his wrist and turned his hand over to accept my donation. However...when I looked down at his wrist, I saw that his flesh had been badly burned in that particular area. The skin...twisted and damaged, blackened and blistered. I tried not to stare, as I felt it might be rude to do so...but a scar like that definitely has a tragic story behind it. Scars like that always do.
I dropped the silver pieces into his hand, and nodded with a subtle grin. "I wish you well." I said.
Tionna came over only seconds later, giving me a scowl as she said, quite openly..."What are you DOING??? You're giving your silver away? To this...stranger?"
"We have more than enough for a full meal, Tionna. I was only trying to help..."
"Your father gave you that for dinner. Not to support the self destructive behaviors of beggars and cheats in the market." She hissed, her tail becoming more active with her displeasure of my actions. "Look at him! Ugh...he smells like the innards of a rotting beast!"
"Tionna, STOP it!" I said, knowing that he could hear every word. "He's no different than any of the rest of us. What if it was YOU sitting there in his place?"
"It wouldn't BE me, because I would keep my life together and avoid such misfortunes." She said. "I swear, your bleeding heart is a wound that never heals."
"Maybe I feel good about helping other people." I said.
"You're not helping anybody." She replied. "This piece of transient trash is just going to use your silver to buy himself a jug of wine or some other opiate. Probably the same vice that turned him into a street urchin in the first place. It's filthy, Orrin. So filthy."
I said, "If he chooses to use one of his vices to escape the horrors of a life that has taken a dark turn...then I say let him have it. No man deserves to go hungry. And no one should be treated as though they are any less than the rest of us, no matter their social status. People deserve kindness. Compassion. And an opportunity to be seen and heard without judgement." I was happy to have the stranger hear that part, and he held the silver pieces in his hand, nodding to me with gratitude and a tear in his eye. "He draws breath from the realm just like the rest of us, Tionna. There's no need to pretend that he's beneath us when we've been blessed with such abundance."
"I couldn't agree with you more." Came a sweet voice from over my shoulder. I didn't recognize it, but when I turned around to see who was speaking...my whole body seemed to lock itself up as if encased in a block of ice!
It was the boy from the market! The stunningly gorgeous vision of absolute perfection that I had been fleeing from since I first laid eyes upon him. Oh my! Standing this close to him proved to be an almost terrifying exercise in infinite courage. I didn't think that he could be any more beautiful than he was at a distance...but he WAS! He truly was!
"I...ummm...hi..." I stumbled over words, an instant blush rushing up into my cheeks as my Quidarian eyes became tinted with a deep shade of dark pink. I made sure to lower my gaze to the ground, hiding my intense infatuation with the boy and trying to 'will' the feelings away so I could make eye contact again. So very pretty. Wow!
"Greetings." The boy said, his fingers lightly brushing some of his golden locks back to see me more clearly. Those eyes were much more addictive than I ever could have expected before seeing them up close. Light brown...with sprinkles of Summer green meadows thrown in. The effect was mind-blowing.
I then watched as he reached into his own pouch of silver, and matched my donation with three pieces of silver of his own. He placed it in the open palm of the stranger, and smiled warmly at him as his expression changed from one of loneliness and despair, to one of hope and gratitude.
Then the boy grinned at me, and said, "They say that silver can bring fortune to one man...but a sincere act of kindness can bring good fortune to many. Anything you give, willingly, to others...is sure to come back to you, two fold. If not more. I believe it's the realm's way of returning to a sense of balance, by paying back what it owes...whether it be good fortune or bad." Then he smiled again. "I prefer the good."
I was struck still. Not only by the vision of beauty before me, but the sound of his voice, and the fact that a boy this amazing was talking to me at all. I could, honestly, feel myself shaking in his presence. "I prefer...the...yeah. I mean, YES! Good is...ummm...good." What am I saying? I'm making a fool of myself. And hide your EYES, stupid!!! Look down! This is getting out of hand VERY quickly.
Tionna narrowed her eyes and stepped in between us. "Balance? Fortune? Kindness? Psh....sounds like a bunch of Kalo Temple nonsense if you ask me."
I tried to hold in a gasp as she said it, immediately shoving her to the side. "TIONNA!!! Your manners!" I turned to the boy and I said, "I am SO sorry! She doesn't mean to be so abrasive. She can't help it sometimes."
I heard Tionna growl angrily behind me, but the boy simply chuckled to himself in response. "No need to apologize. I've read many books and heard many tales about Ferrans and their razor sharp tongues. Don't worry, I actually find it quite fascinating. At least it's honest." He said.
Tionna, even though she gave him a suspicious, sideways, look at first...replied, "Hmmph...well, ok then. Maybe this preacher's son isn't so stupid and deluded after all." Omigod, she is SO embarrassing!
Thank the stars, he's being such a good sport about all of this.
"My name is Cerian." The boy said, and extended his hand to me in friendship.
And even though the thought of touching his hand...skin to skin...was almost too much excitement for me to handle without urinating myself, I forced myself to extend my hand in return. "Orrin. Orrin Zenn..."
His palm was so unfathomably soft. Warm. With a touch of moisture that felt almost 'intimate' to me when I noticed it. I could feel the air in my lungs rush out of me all at once, a tingle in my loins as my legs went weak. And as I found the courage to look him in the eyes again...I couldn't help but to think....
...When the creator invented the all encompassing power of love...this is surely what was intended.
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