Thoughts from the Otherworld

 
 

"Older once again, Nightingale," Endahren said. He smiled at the silver-haired man who had just arrived to his and Calvier's home. It was evening, and the three had plans to go out to celebrate the day.
"You know I never age," Nightingale responded calmly, and smiled back at him. "You should be careful of what you say, you old man."
"Me? Old? Never." Endahren laughed, and patted Nightingale on the head. "Anything you want to do today?"
"Not particularly. We'll see if something comes up later."
"If you come up with anything, tell me."
It would soon be a year since Endahren had moved to Bastok, chasing after Nightingale. Endahren didn't know if they had been happier back in San d'Oria, or now here in Bastok. He guessed it didn't matter. While the relationship between the two hadn't changed, there had been other trouble to Nightingale in San d'Oria. So now they were here. Eventually, Endahren knew he had to leave, but the time wasn't yet. And a lot could happen yet.
"I got a letter from Ellanore today." Ellanore, his fiancée. He wasn't quite certain how much of the situation she understood. Nightingale knew of her for sure.
"How is she?"
"She's...left. To go adventuring. I was pretty certain she was going to end up doing that, but it's still somewhat of a shock." Nightingale nodded silently. While he did know of her, Endahren had never quite managed to figure out how he felt about her and her relationship with him. They would marry eventually, that was something Endahren had no intention of changing if Ellanore herself didn't wish it. It had been settled a long, long time ago. He felt it wouldn't be right to break it now, not after all these years.
"I had that feeling too. Adventuring fits her, somehow." Nightingale looked thoughtful. Lately he'd been doing that a lot. Endahren was starting to suspect Nightingale wanted to go out himself, find some adventures. Sometimes, he could swear it was like an epidemic. Everyone he loved would eventually leave like that.
"Hullo. I thought I heard your voice." It was Calvier, walking out from his room. "Happy birthday and all." Nightingale thanked him. The two weren't especially close, but they got along well enough. Calvier sometimes joined Endahren and Nightingale when they went out in the evenings, although most of his spare time he spent with Irene, his fiancée. Irene was a nice enough girl too, Endahren thought, but she wasn't too enthusiastic about partying. Not that he really blamed her for not joining them, if you weren't interested you weren't interested.
"Shall we go then?" The three walked out, happy enough to forget all worries for the night.

 
 

Hi Ella!

Writing this in my lull time at the store, since it occurred to me it's been so long since I last wrote to you. Time has flown past here in Bastok, end the store itself is doing reasonably well by now. Calvier and his girl Irene - remember, I wrote to you about them the last time? - got engaged. A bit of a shocker, that. But I figure it's a good time for them, what with him expecting to take over the store pretty soon. Hopefully they'll find happiness.

Got a letter from Jenare a bit ago, says he's finally ditched his family and left to adventure. I thought you might be interested in hearing something like that, since you've always wanted to leave yourself. I don't really know what it is with all of you, sometimes it seems like all the people I get to know better want to leave everything behind for the uncertainty of fighting their way in the wilderness. I suppose it does have its own draw, though.
But my point was - it can be done. I know you're unhappy there.

Say my hellos to your family.
Endahren

 
 

Endahren leant against the counter and sighed. It was getting dark outside already.
It had been several days since he and Calvier Arandant had opened the Bastok branch of Merchell Daily. It had been a busy week, moving to Bastok and setting up the store, not to mention getting used to life in this place. The store had opened reasonably well, but there was much more work ahead of him now that people's first curiosity was filled. More fliers to be handed out, special offers to returning customers, generally spreading the word of this new place to buy your necessities from.

But he supposed he was getting used to this now, living in Bastok and taking care of the store. There were bound to be surprised in store yet, but the groundwork was done. That left him with more time to brood. He was in Bastok now, but what could he concretely do to help now that he was here?

His thoughts were interrupted by the door opening. "Welcome! Welcome to Merch-" He stopped his words short when he saw the person who had entered. A short silver-haired elvaan, with a face pretty enough to be a girl's. It was Nightingale, the reason he had wanted to come to Bastok in the first place. He was looking around carefully, taking in the wares laid out around the shop.
"See anything you like?" Endahren asked in a low voice. Nightingale looked at him and gave a small smile.
"Maybe."
Endahren smiled back at him. He had been too busy to exchange more than a few words with Nightingale since he had moved in, mostly just to reconfirm that Nightingale knew where to find the shop. But he hadn't visited the place until now. Endahren hadn't been all too certain he would, before being taken here at least once. Nightingale was most careful about not infringing on what he saw the private life of people, and since Endahren lived right above the shop, he had been worried that this would count as too private.
He walked to where Nightingale was standing and hugged him. He had been worried what the other was doing, all by himself. The last time they had had the time to see each other properly, Nightingale had seemed quite down. Endahren's thoughts flew back to the day. It had been last month, he had come to Bastok to check out the building for the store and take care of preliminary business in the city.
"I've missed you." Endahren looked down at Nightingale, who looked back at him. That was right when it happened. Endahren had forgotten they weren't in a very private place. Calvier walked in.
When he saw the two embracing each other in the middle of the shop, gazing into each other's eyes, he stopped. "Ah..." There was a pause. Both Endahren and Nightingale turned to look at him. "Right! This must be Ellanore then? Your fiancée?" Endahren couldn't help it. He burst out laughing, holding on to Nightingale for dear life.
"...you find the situation amusing?" Nightingale asked him, annoyed. He looked affronted. Calvier blinked at his voice, which wasn't very low but still unmistakably male. Then he blushed.
"Oh...sorry. Misunderstanding." Endahren continued laughing.

 
 

Endahren looked down at the yard below. A familiar sight. Almost too familiar, and it brought him some pain to look at it. Almost everything brought him pain at the moment. He supposed it was only temporary, but it wasn't a pleasant experience. Nevertheless, this was his decision.
"I'll miss you terribly, you know that Jenare. Right?" He turned his head away from the view below a slightest bit. He wasn't quite prepared to face the other man yet.
"I will miss you too. Naturally, we are friends." Yes, friends. Nothing ever went right in Endahren's world. Life was too complicated. Perhaps, in a way, this temporary move to Bastok was an attempt to get away from that complexity. But how much would it really help? Everything would most likely still be the same when he returned. Clueless friend, clueless fiancée, and another friend, this one desperate. He loved them all, he could admit that to himself. He loved them so much it hurt. He sighed and turned away from the window. Before he had time to reconsider, he stepped up to Jenare and hugged him tightly.
"Don't go doing anything stupid while I'm gone," he mumbled. He could sense Jenare's confusion. He was a naturally reserved person, not used to displays of emotion like this. Finally, hesitantly, he felt Jenare's hands on his back. The pain inside him flared to life. It could never be. It could never, ever be. "And I know you've stopped writing to that kitty of yours. You start that right up again, you hear? You're not only hurting yourself, but her too."
"I... I will." Endahren knew, the subject was painful to Jenare. His father had been stubbornly against any sort of contact with a mithra, and his death had made Jenare stop his correspondence with the girl. He pressed his forehead against Jenare's shoulder briefly. Life was never easy. His advice was sincere, but it didn't make it stop hurting. He stepped back from the other man.
"Write to me too, every now and then. I'll be busy with the store and all, but I can always spare the time for an old friend." Jenare nodded. Not wanting to delay the goodbyes, Endahren left the room. His old room, above the first Merchell Daily store. The room he had lived in all his life up to now. He could hear Jenare following him. The two made their way to the street below, and separated with brief and wistful but friendly smiles. Jenare headed back home, Endahren to the airship docks. On to Bastok, and a new life.

 
 

"Wow, I'll never get used to these Bastokan buildings," Endahren remarked. His words echoed in the empty space of the slightly dome-shaped first floor of the building. It was a nicely sized two-floor building near the river in the port area of Bastok. You could see the river and the airship docks from the second floor balcony, neither was too far.
"You build differently in San d'Oria?" That was Calvier, Endahren's future orderling and apprentice. While he was an Elvaan, he was born and had always lived in Bastok. He was a nice enough red-hair, Endahren supposed,, although had no clue about life in San d'Oria. He would have to learn, the shop was going to sell San d'Orian specialties after all. Some customers were bound to ask about San d'Oria's food and customs besides just buying their food ingredients here.
"Most definitely. Buildings here don't seem to have any corners, for one." He eyed the circular space dubiously. How would he ever get used to living in such a place? How could any furniture be neatly arranged if most the walls in any space were rounded? "In San d'Oria, our houses are straight and sturdy. Now, I want to see the living quarters. Let's go upstairs."
"Of course. Right this way." Calvier led Endahren to the outside, where the stairs were located. The layout was quite inconvenient, Endahren thought. Even in the dead of winter - not that it ever really got very cold this far south - you would have to walk outside for a little before getting to the store. It couldn't be helped, though, they hadn't been able to secure a building with the stairs inside instead of outside. They existed, but in those the building's layout didn't give itself well for opening a store on the lower floor.
They walked in, and Endahren looked around. He supposed the place was nice enough, at least for temporarily living in. It would certainly be a change of pace. "And the furniture will arrive tomorrow?"
"Yes, if nothing goes wrong." Calvier had to check the papers he were carrying for that. Endahren thought he would have to make the boy exercise his memory a bit. Even if it was just because he was nervous, there was no excuse for not knowing such things without checking. It was fine with customers, customers appreciated if you could show black on white for what you said, but there was no need to put up a front now, not for him.
Endahren leaned on the wall next to the open balcony door and looked out. There was a lot to do in this place, hopefully enough to take his mind off of things. His treacherous mind flew back to San d'Oria and certain people in it for a moment, but he let the thoughts go immediately. For better or for worse, this would be his new home for the next year or so. Bastok had something much more important right now.

 
 

Endahren sat down beneath a tall tree. He was out here with Ellanore, he had volunteered to take her out to Ronfaure to practice her bow skills on. He was no soldier, but he was fairly confident that together with Ella they could hold off danger enough to retreat to a safer place, if danger even approached this close to the city. Which was unlikely in the first place, as the forest this close to San d'Oria was heavily patrolled.

He looked on as Ella walked back and forth around the small clearing. She didn't feel like resting so soon after getting out of the city for once. Her parents usually forbid her from doing things like this, but this time Endahren had talked them over. He wanted to talk to her. Or at the very least spend some time with her.
He wasn't yet too certain how he would approach the issue in his mind, if he did it at all. He had just felt the need to do something for her, probably out of guilt. She was his fiancée after all, and what did he do all day long? Pine after another person. Not that he'd ever been very faithful to the engagement, but this felt somehow more wrong to him than mere fooling around.

Ellanore walked to him and crouched down, looking determined. He looked at her, surprised of her sudden approach. "The truth, please. Why did you do this for me?"
Endahren looked away and thought. She had gotten more perceptive recently. "I think a friend of mine is in trouble. I don't know much, but..." He fell silent. Ellanore put down her bow and sat down properly.
"Why would you come to me because of it?" Endahren didn't really know it himself. Perhaps it really was the guilt.
"Perhaps as an apology. I want to help him, but I'm fairly certain it will take most of my time and energy. It's... complicated."
Ella nodded, and looked away. "It's not good leaving your friends. You should help him." She sighed. "But I still do not understand why you would need to tell me about this."
"We're engaged, Ellanore. Even if it was decided for us, I'm still supposed to get to know you. Spend time with you. And don't get me wrong - I want to do that. It's not my meaning to ignore you."
Ella stood up suddenly. "Once, you said you'd support me. There would be no reason for me to do otherwise, even if I've never stated it." She strode farther away, but Endahren still saw she was blushing. He smiled sadly. And here he was, making trouble for their lives. He hoped no one would get seriously hurt by this mess. But now that he had the permission to do so, he wouldn't let Nightingale suffer alone. He'd attempt to help, no matter what it cost him.
He stood up and walked after Ella. There were rabbits to catch.

 
 

When Endahren stepped into the Rusty Anchor that night, he somehow knew immediately that something was wrong. He looked around. Jenare was in. That was rare. He dind't usually spend all night here, and the hour was getting quite late. Endahren hesitated for a moment. He didn't really know what the trouble was, but he could imagine. He took a deep breath and walked to the table.
"Hey, Jenare. Didn't imagine seeing you here at this time." He sat down. Jenare looked at him and blinked.
"Ah, Endahren... good evening." Now he knew something was definitely up. It must be that dratted girl. After last Valentione's day, the two had been spending way too much time together. Endahren knew, although Jenare had never said a word of it to him. It was obvious enough. He made a mental note to ask around tomorrow, and to pay Vera a visit. He didn't really appreciate someone screwing around with the mind of his friends.
He tried to think of something to say when his eyes fell on the mug Jenare was nursing. "How many, exactly, have you had tonight?"
"Several," Jenare answered, and took a deep gulp. Endahren looked at him carefully. "I didn't have anything else to do tonight, so why not."
Endahren nodded slowly. This might need some correcting. But tonight...he glanced at the door quickly. He'd momentarily almost forgotten, but he'd promised to meet Nightingale here tonight. "Ah, that so. Need company?" He didn't really know what else to say. Nightingale was coming, but this was Jenare. Nightingale wouldn't mind, right? "I'm meeting with a friend tonight, we thought to see what we can find to amuse ourselves out at the city tonight. See the sights and all, he's only recently moved here."
"That why you've been so busy lately?"
Endahren nodded. He felt vaguely guilty. So Jenare had noticed he was avoiding him. But he might as well tell him something now, it wasn't like it was a big secret or anything. Well, not the mere fact of knowing Nightingale, anyway. "Met him a couple months ago." He reached to Jenare on an impulse and drew the other close. "You really look like you could use some cheering up tonight. You'll join us, right?"
Jenare was silent for a while. "I do not have anything else to do, for certain. Are you sure it's fine by your friend?"
"He's called Nightingale." Endahren looked up. Said boy had just walked in, and was looking at the two of them. He let go of Jenare, and continued. "He's a bard, recently come in from Jeuno." He gestured for Nightingale to join them. Jenare was sitting back up, still close but not quite so close. After a small pause, Nightingale gave a slight nod and came to the two of them. "Here he is now..."
"Hi! Sorry, did you have to wait long?" Nightingale threw a questioning glance at both Jenare and Endahren.
"Not at all, just arrived. Nightingale, this is Jenare, a long-time friend of mine. Jenare, this is Nightingale." The two looked at each other. Endahren felt weird. He hadn't imagined this meeting would happen quite this way, or it ever happening in the first place.
Nightingale smiled at Jenare. "I think Endahren has mentioned you before."
"He has?" Both of the boys, one with silver hair and the other with black, turned to look at him. He had? He cast his mind for something to say.
"Well..of course. You're a good friend of mine."
Jenare gave an amused chuckle and looked back at Nightingale. "It is an honor to meet you, certainly."
"Likewise." Endahren relaxed. This wasn't really too bad. The two of them seemed to be getting along rather well.
"He'll be joining with us tonight?" Nightingale looked questioningly at Endahren. The question surprised him. For a moment, he felt like he couldn't breathe. He knew very well what Nightingale referred to, and it wasn't just a tour of the city. He tried to gather himself. No thinking of that. Definitely no thinking of that.
"He will. I mean!" That could definitely be taken the wrong way. "For the tour. Of the city. Two minds can come up with interesting sights much better than one, right?" He laughed nervously.
Nightingale was visibly amused at him. "It shall be interesting. But I've wanted to see what the night-life of San d'Oria has to offer for a while now. I hope it's not too much trouble."
"Ah, not at all. I'd be glad to be of help." Jenare nodded solemnly at Nightingale. Endahren felt like he badly needed a drink himself. This might not go quite as smoothly as he had hoped just a moment ago.
"Shall we go then?" Nightingale smiled brightly and stood up.

 
 

Endahren woke up. From somewhere below came the scent of freshly baked bread. It made his head ache. He hadn't come home until late into the night, and could really use several hours of sleep more. He had even considered spending the night somewhere else since he knew he would inevitably be woken up in the morning here, but had decided against it in the end. Not that he would have had many options for that, since he hadn't had a gil to his name by midnight.

His cheeks burned when he remembered why that was. Nightingale, the boy had given as his name. Certainly not his real name, but it wasn't as if he needed to know the real name. Nightingale was good enough a name, and fitting besides. What he remembered of it, the boy sang like something out of this world. Although he admitted to himself that the impression might have been due to his severe intoxication by that point of the night, he had sobered up considerably after it.

Endahren sighed and wished he could have stayed asleep for a bit more. But judging by the position of the sun, someone would come disturb him at any time now, if he didn't quickly show himself downstairs. While the morning after Valentione's day wasn't the busiest day in business, that was no excuse not to be prepared for the customers. He looked out the window. The sky was partially obscured by clouds, although the sun still managed to shine too brightly for his tastes. There was frost on the window glass, obviously melting in the warmer temperatures of late morning.

He got up and wondered how Jenare's night had gone after he had left. He much doubted anything serious had happened, knowing his friend, but somewhere deep inside there was a part of him that was scared and whimpering in a corner. He supposed there was no denying anything to himself by now, but tried not to think of it. He'd get over this. He was never hung up on any one person for long. A good thing too, for he supposed Mr Delouvien, Ella's father, would kill him if he did. Even as it was he was constantly in trouble trying to keep a balance between his private life and his public life. Sometimes he wondered how long he could keep this up. Even his resources weren't infinite.
Having made himself look presentable, he scrambled downstairs for a bite of something to eat before work. This was going to be a long day indeed.

 
 

Endahren took a swig of his beer. He wasn't quite certain anymore how he'd ended up in an up-town tavern, but here he was. And he'd had a very bad day. First, he'd made the mistake of introducing that slut of a girl to Jenare. Then he'd left the two of them alone, and hadn't even been able to find Gellenneu and the rest of this usual gang, nor pick up a girl for the night. How he hated spending Valentione's day all by himself.

"Still moping away here in a corner?" The voice was bright and belonged to a silver-haired Elvaan youth that was approaching his corner. The boy was impeccably clothed and was wearing peculiar gloves. He was a bard, or more accurately, a bard's apprentice. The name he had given was Nightingale, and Endahren had talked with him earlier tonight. He was afraid he might've said a bit too much of what was ailing him.
"Yeah, still here. No place like a dim corner to drown your sorrows in." He saluted the boy with his mug and drank the last of it. Nightingale chuckled and supplied him with another mug.
"What, just mead?"
"If you drink, you might as well drink something sweet. All that beer's got to taste a bit dull after so many mugs of it." The boy smiled at him teasingly. Well, boy... this 'boy' was around Jenare's age even though he was so small, and he never called Jenare a boy anymore. Even though it might be true, technically. "And truthfully, you might make for better company if you clear your head a bit."
Endahren grimaced at him. That was technically true, but he didn't particularly feel like being sober tonight. He raised the mug of mead to his lips, and felt a light touch on his hand.
"I know I brought you that, but would you rather reconsider?" He looked down and saw the boy's honest grey eyes. Momentarily, the face was overlapped by another, a one with black hair. But the eyes, the eyes were the same... He took a deep breath and looked to the side guiltily. There was the reason he'd started talking with Nightingale in the first place. He reminded him too much of...
He put down his mug. "I suppose you're right. I think I'll be needing some fresh air, then." The silver-haired apparition smiled at him sweetly and helped him up.
"Let's go up at the balcony. It wasn't too crowded when I last checked." Well, of course it wouldn't be, Endahren thought as he followed Nightingale unsteadily. The upstairs was reserved for performers today. The tavern had apparently hired many to entertain their customers out on Valentione's day. Not that this place was ever really very empty, if what he'd heard was true. He'd been here once or twice only, but this place had a reputation for being one of the best taverns in the city. Also one of the more costly, and farther away from his home than he usually went when he wanted to have a good time. There were many perfectly good establishments closer to home if he wanted to do that.
When they reached the top of the stairs, a breeze of fresh air greeted them. The door to the balcony was left open to bring a little ventilation to the packed tavern.
"Mmm... Feels so good, it's getting a bit stuffy down there." Endahren agreed with the statement, although he hadn't even noticed it in the situation itself. He'd been too busy feeling miserable. He took a deep breath of the chilly night air and stepped out. It wasn't much colder than it had been earlier, and maybe even warmer. The weather was good enough to sit outside in, at least for a while. "Oh, we can sit here." Nightingale walked to a bench to the far right of the door they had come through and sat down, patting the space beside him. The moonlight gleamed off his hair, making them glow. Endahren swallowed. Once again, he saw a flash of a different person in Nightingale's place, and the thought of that person inviting him like this was really rather thought-evoking. Not unpleasant, but it made him think of things that could turn unpleasant if ever attempted to bring forth into reality. He cast his eyes up to the skies, stepped forward and sat down. Altana help him now, but he had no intention of backing down at this stage. And it's not like the boy wasn't attractive, far from it.
When he sat down, the boy shuffled closer and leaned on him. "A bit chilly here." Endahren sighed faintly and drew his right arm around him. "Not too much, I think." He looked down at the the boy - Nightingale, he should really learn to use his name - and stopped. It was a funny world. Before the last sunset, he had still been thinking of spending Valentione's with Jenare. Then Vera had shown up, and her being Arienne's fiancee's younger sister, and Arienne having unceremoniously dumped the girl on him so she could go have a peaceful evening with Vichuel, he had had no choice but to invite her with him for the night. He should've known it would mean trouble. He didn't know Vera too well, but he thought he knew enough.

"Stop frowning. It doesn't fit you." Nightingale lifted his head and looked directly at him. His face was close, Endahren could feel his breath on his face.
"How did you know I was frowning?"
"I could sense it. You get a sense for that stuff when you're an entertainer like me." Endahren nodded thoughtfully, and without thinking of it any further, drew closer to Nightingale and kissed him. His lips were a bit chilly, but soft, and his mouth was warm enough. It was sweet, sweeter than it probably should have been.

 
 

Endahren sighed and looked out at the sea, leaning on the railing. The sun was just setting, and the crisp air made his breath billow out in a white mist in front of him. It hadn't been a good day for him, although he supposed it had been for several others. Two others in particular, that exceedingly polite friend of his called Jenare, and that slut of a girl Vera. He supposed he should have known to expect something like this if the two were ever brought in contact with each other. Jenare was too young and naive, and that attracted girls like Vera. And for Jenare, attention from a girl like her was rare and welcomed, at least according to what he had seen before becoming too exasparated at his own stupidity. But maybe that had been a mistake too, leaving those two alone like that.

Endahren sighed again and sank his head in his hands. This wouldn't be good at all, he just knew it.
"Feeling better, Endahren?" He looked over his shoulder at the familiar voice. It was Jenare, holding out his cloak. He had forgotten it in the Rusty Anchor in his hurry to get out. But since Jenare was out here, what had happened to Vera?
"Thanks," he said, taking the offered clothing. "Yeah, I'm better. Ready to party all night!" While he didn't like hiding it, there was no way he would let Jenare know he'd been only getting moody because Jenare had paid too much attention to a girl. Pretending was the way to go here. And anyway, the experience might do Jenare some good. Loss of some of that naivety and all? Somewhere deep in his head, a small voice said that he didn't want that to happen even if it might be useful for his friend. It sure wasn't useful to him. He ignored the voice.
"You really shouldn't do that, your father would be angry. You drink too much in the first place."
"Oh, c'mon Jenare. It's Valentione's day and I don't have a girl! Even Ella's ignoring me. I deserve some booze."
"As long as you won't complain to me about your hangover tomorrow." Endahren laughed. They both knew he was going to do that anyway.
"Where'd you leave Vera?"
"I excused myself for a moment when I noticed you'd forgotten your cloak." Ah. So that was it. He felt a bit disappointed. For Jenare, saying that he'd excused himself for a moment really meant just that, and implied he was heading back in right away since his task was done. He never went back on his word, not that Endahren knew of.
"Ah, is that so... well, I think I'm gonna head out and go find Gellenneu and the others. I sure won't be having any luck here, you know." Of course, just an excuse. He didn't want to stay and watch Vera flirt with Jenare any longer.
"I'll be seeing you tomorrow then. Take care now." Endahren nodded, and they both went in their own directions, Jenare back into the Rusty Anchor to be enticed by that girl, Endahren deeper into the city to find his friends. Endahren supposed this would be a frequent occurrence from now on.