12 Ymiden 715
“I think they’re admirable.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” he said sneering, “You fall head over heels for a good story,” Azrael pushed up the sleeves of his tunic, the green fabric bunching at his elbows, “You see him and think, ‘Oh, a noble knight chosen by destiny! Woo woo,’
” A terrible imitation, made worse by the sloshing of ale against his tongue, “I’d wager you’ve fancied a date with one of them.”
“I- That’s just rude!”
Yeva lowered her embroidery hoop, a look of horror flashing in her dark eyes. Her cheeks were dusting with pink and she swatted at the Avriel, “I don’t love a good story,”
she grumbled unconvincingly, “And they’re not even knights, you’re just drunk.”
“You don’t like any of them?”
“I don’t know any of them,”
she glanced up from where they sat on the stoop and began to admire the boy - no, man - speaking to a stall owner selling fresh jars of honey. He was in his early twenties, hair as black raven wings, and eyes like smokey rain. Dressed in the tell-tale armor of the Warden’s of Lake Lovalus, his plate reflected polished light, ethereal and accented in blue cloth. A protection rune was carved into the breastplate and he laughed at something his conversation partner said, “I’m sure some of them are nice…”
she sighed and pushed her needle into the back of her fabric, “They have to be.”
“No one has
to be nice.”
Yeva pulled the thread through, smirking as the red string ceased, “That sure explains why you’re being such an ass.”
Azreal snorted and then choked, coughing in the mix of his mirth. By the time he caught his breath, the handsome warden was saying his goodbye and heading down the street. He had a jar of honey and was tapping a tune on its lid. Yeva watched him disappear around the corner and looked over to see Azreal watching her.
“You’re clever,” he reached out, stroking the curls of her hair. So close, she could smell the sage on his skin. The affection felt intimate - almost too intimate for just the two of them- and the redhead tried to think of a joke, a jest. He spoke first with a sudden grin, “Clever, but insufferable.”
She rolled her eyes and knocked her leg against his. His attention faded when he took another drink and he sat silently, judging the citizens of Rharne until he felt the need to voice these opinions. Yeva defended the blatantly harsh observations, half her attention on her friend, the other half on the the poppy flower she was trying to stitch. After awhile, Azreal became bored and his groans increased in audibility.
Eventually he leaned his shoulder against hers and lamented his daily struggle, but this too, he grew tired of. His eyes dropped to her handiwork, “What’s that supposed to be?”
“A flower, see?”
she tilted the wooden hoop and ran her fingers across the black outline. It had been done with a back stitch, and now she began filling in the petals with imperial red, although she was beginning to have her doubts. Compared to her mother’s handiwork, her own lines felt jagged and lackluster. Hovering over the craft, she chewed on her bottom lip until the skin was raw.
Yeva searched his face for a sign of a smile; was he lying? “I know it’s not the best, but-”
“You don’t have to explain yourself.”
Azrael took a drink, watching her.
she was surprised by how much she wanted to do so, the need to defend her incompetence a bird with beating wings, struggling to fly from her throat. Yeva pinched her lips closed, conflict tightening her face while fingers traced the edges of the thread, twisting the embroidery hoop, “I know, but, I-”
Azreal was smiling, and licked a bit of mead from the corner of his mouth, “Can’t take a compliment?”
“That’s… not true.”
She frowned and he set the bottle down beside him, the glass wobbling on the cobblestone. Turning to face her more fully, the Avriel slipped his hand beneath a waterfall of hair to cup her face, “I think you’re an intelligent woman worthy of my company,” His talons were pinpricks against her skin, gentle but devastating sharp; a silent threat in the possession of another. But not Azrael, Yeva trusted him. She froze in her vulnerability, but not for the physical differences, "You're loyal, and generous, and infuriatingly naive," She wanted to speak, to say anything, and was beginning to realize that maybe the Avriel was right. He spoke again, soft and sharp syllables forming a foreign dance she didn’t know the steps to, “You put them all to shame.”
At once, Yeva opened her mouth and Azrael smirked.