Saun 19th, 718, Evening
Creeeeak. “Come in, come in!” a raspy-voiced woman echoed, her husband not far with an ax. The elderly were rare in Yaralon, and so William gave her a nod of respect. “A customer, a pretty girl - or are you a boy? These old eyes aren’t quite what they used to be, you see!” she smiled, toothless. Smelling the air, William took a deep breath, the scent of herbs lingering in his nostrils as he glanced across the many incenses and oils behind cabins and littered out over tables. He paused before the ledger on the counter, putting on a smile to ease her worries. “I saw you had a shrine. To Ashan, correct?”
“My hubby Aldrak might not appreciate the Spring, but it is true that I do. Welcome.” She extended a shaky hand. “Get the door for our guest, will you?” she asked, and the crotchety old man rose with a grunt, opening the wooden door of their mud-walled building to the brick-walled gardens behind that the lady had tended to for all this time.
“Thank you, sir,” William said to the elderly man, and then to the woman. “Thank you, ma’am.” He gave a slight bow, respecting the safety of their home and business, trying to ease their concerns. William’s wet, soaking body quickly strode across the warm, water-absent dirt of the fragrant hut. There was much on his mind, this evening, and he sought time to relax and mull over the events of the season. In all, the memories of recent times were far less vexing than the bitter regret he still held deep within, like a little black mark he couldn’t scrub clean no matter how hard he tried.
The garden of the shrine was dignified. Well-maintained, and the couple had gone to great efforts to keep the rain from battering it. There were billowing sheets to funnel the water elsewhere, towards a muddy pit at one end of the property and beyond through a hole in the wall, out to the street to join the flood. There was but a single spot to sit, a spot where William was sure the old lady from before had sat many times in her prayer, next to the shrine.
Some things were best left forgotten, and Will knew this well. For Arcs, he’d dwelled upon his feelings of separation, from family, his literal disownment for such a petty reason as being born to the wrong mother. A slave to a noble who rarely gave her credit where it was due for her hard work. Now, as he sat upon that bench beneath an awning within this sweet-smelling shrine of Ashan in the yard of a Perfumer’s Guild, he remained lost in thought, stroking over the soft fur, feathers, and scales of his closest companion in all the world as the familiar joined him upon the bench.
What will I do now, Yaal’tiesh? he asked, staring off into space.
I do not have those answers, William, the familiar growled pleasantly, content as it were.
For a brief moment, the world appeared so vast that he’d gotten lost, but that luster was quickly dimming as spirits became the norm of his life, traveling the skies like birds, masquerading as birds, feeding from food as if they were birds. It was just another natural, spiritual ecosystem like the rest of the world, and yet it already seemed mundane, but out of touch. Maybe I am rationalizing my spirituality too much. He stared down at the scar upon his arm, as he had done so many times before. Sometimes you do have interesting answers, he mused. You surprise me, my little fluffywuggins.
The warmth of that chin lifted from his knee, the familiar sharing his feelings against being called such things. Don’t call me that... word again. I don’t like what it represents.
Very well, birdiepup, William replied.
That one as well.
...I don’t like that one either. Yaal’tiesh had never played this little game with a human before.
My fuzzytufty~ William mentally cooed, smiling wide with this shit-eating grin.
Is this how humans really are? the Ose-Bori wondered, asking a rare question.
William finally chuckled and rubbed through his spine. It’s alright. You’ll always be Yaal’tiesh to me, even if I call you different. They are names you are given when people like you, he explained. If you really cannot stand these names, I can stop.
There was a long pause. ...Don’t, the familiar responded. I am conflicted. This isn’t something I feel often, Will. The teen continued to rub his friend in all the right ways, but to outsiders, his hand was casually feeling up the air.
Then what do you feel?
I don’t know how to describe it.
Maybe we both have lots of questions for each other that we need to work through. William almost found himself mumbling the words, chewing them back with a tilt of his chin.
That makes sense... A dismal huff puffed from ethereal nose.
Maybe I should start answering some of them, even if I might be wrong? I’ve been tense lately. I should relax. The boy slowly shut his eyes, thinking long and hard beneath the awning, beneath the boughs of a still standing tree, one of few still healthy in Yaralon. The pleasing scent of that perfume mingled with the cool air here, the rain hardly keeping it at bay, helping to drown out the sounds of the world into a thrumming, singular static that pushed away all distractions. Breathing it in, listening to the sound of nature for what it really was... it was a wonderful sensation, something to focus on... and slowly forget about, helping him to clear his mind. In Spring, he thought, it would bloom into something fragrant like the countless trees of Rynmere. Letting a deep, fresh breath of air into his lungs, he gathered everything else, all of his thoughts that he could scrape away from the walls they bounced upon, and visualized them all being wrapped up by a net, wadded up, and tossed away with the flowing wind of his exhale. A calm crept over him, and he opened his eyes to take a snapshot of the rainy grove, which seemed somewhat different now, as if there was something ethereal about the place he couldn’t quite understand. This place, one of the few places in Yaralon still green after such harsh rains. Then he shut them, holding that image in his mind, thinking long about it, associating it with Ashan in his mind.
This is Ashan. He thought back to the green, blooming fields of Spring, of his season. That is Ashan. All around, he could feel himself drifting to and fro, before opening his eyes once more to see a breeze of leaves blowing by that had no business being there, and a single flower coated in the pollen it was waiting to release resting in the browning grass. They know this. His mind wandered to the shrine, tying together the picture, hand squeezing the mane of his familiar gently. When he next shut them, his mind condensed and squeezed, before relaxing, oozing out to cover everything, inviting in the chaos of his dreams and allowing him to think on what he truly wanted.
In this state, his mind was so free to wander that he found himself drifting to his past, remembering those many days and nights he’d spent mending the boats at the harbor, hammering nails, sweating entire cups of mead from his body in the heat of Saun. Working to make something of himself, to spite his father, or maybe to find himself. Was it really me? Or did my father push me in this direction? Maybe it’s both?
An idea began to unravel from the formless reality of his experiences given purpose, creativity tethering itself to the action. From this, the ideas were melded together by his mind, until it dawned on him. Yaal’tiesh, I wish to become closer. In all the ways we are different, I seek to understand, and for you to understand me. I think I wish to work towards this, to be stronger in spirit, for us to be stronger together. Once more his eyes drifted open, and he gazed down upon the content form of his other half.
The familiar did not answer him, but William knew silence often meant he approved. He was only the type to speak when there were things to be said. Corrections, mistakes, concerns, interests. William wrapped another arm around the Ose’bori and pulled him close over his body as he leaned back against the wooden frame of the bench, eyes setting to dim crescents that gazed upon him, his familiar looking right on back. Is this supposed to feel nice? it asked him through their bond, lips unmoving as always.
This does feel good. We should sleep like this more. Even with the chill of the rain, you are warm and dry against me. Perhaps tomorrow, after I work the forge, we could head out into the plains and you could be yourself for awhile? Perhaps that will bring us closer together.
...I think that would be wonderful. The city is so tiring.
I know, Yaal, I know. He stroked the ears of his familiar softly, and his hand stilled as he slowly drifted off in the shrine, his mind drifting to Emea through his soul, Yaal’tiesh following him as they played and danced in the tall green grasses of a better place.