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Ishti

2017-2018 Winter Exchange Submissions!

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Hi, everybody! This is the official thread for the 2017-2018 Winter Exchange submissions! Go ahead and post your own submission and tag your recipient! If some submissions don't get posted for one reason or another, don't worry; we'll have them up in a timely fashion!

I'm gonna go ahead and say that posting full text and images is totally fine, and posting links to fanfic sites or art-sharing sites is also fine!

 

Here's my submission for @Mu11berry!!

Spoiler

Hi, Mu11berry! I'm so excited to show you what I've written! This year's theme is Rhen/Dameon.

I initially wrote "Categorical" almost immediately after receiving my assignment, but I didn't start reading your R/D fic until after I'd finished. I realized that what I'd written was uncannily similar to what you already wrote, down to the smallest details! I didn't think it would be fair to basically submit a copycat piece. Therefore, I decided to write some additional fic, and to submit all of it together as your gift!

Chronologically with respect to storyline, "Bookworm" comes first, followed by "Categorical", and then "Fight Club".

I hope you enjoy!
Ishti

Spoiler

Bookworm

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go to sleep.

Rhen’s eyes were fixed on the inn ceiling. They stung. She didn’t blink.

Go to sleep. Everything is fine.

She’d drawn a short straw that evening, so she was lying on her bedroll on the wooden floor of the attic suite. Lars and Elini snored on the beds to either side. She could hear her blood pounding in her ears. For the briefest of seconds, her eyes flicked to the space under Lars’ bed. She could see straight through to Galahad on the other side. What was I expecting?

Rhen glanced to the other side. Her view under Elini’s bed was obstructed by her own pack. She traveled tidily, all of her belongings snug in their place, always put away immediately after use--with one exception.

A well-loved, hard-backed book with a fraying linen cover, its inscription (“THE GLIMMERING by Esteban Prince”) faded by sunlight and wear, its bulk bearing the creases of generations of dog-ears, lay tented between pages 104 and 105 beside Rhen’s travel pillow.

She flared her nostrils. Everything is fine.

Maybe she shouldn’t end each day on the road reading from a thriller novel about a haunted inn.

Go to sleep. Go to sleep. Go--

A mouse squeaked at the far end of the room, and before she even realized what she was doing, Rhen jumped into a low crouch atop her bedroll, clutching the knife she kept under her pillow, her knuckles white.

The moment passed. An anxious shiver pressed Rhen back down onto her knees. She dropped the knife, which clattered bluntly against the floor, and hugged herself around her arms. Her heart was racing as she struggled to slow her hyperventilation. This is ridiculous. This is so ridiculous. This is completely, absolutely, entirely, abjectly--

“Rhen.”

She jumped again and curled into herself reflexively. It was just Dameon; Rhen knew his voice instantly, but her muscles were already tense. He’d sat up in his bedroll at the foot of Lars’ bed, his shoulders wrapped in a blanket, and he was looking at her with a troubled brow and a concerned pout.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

That didn’t mollify Dameon. He crawled from his bedroll to sit on the end of her own. She gulped--it was dark, but she caught peeks of his bare chest under the blanket, and she was reminded that druids spent much of their lives not only in spiritual tutelage but in physical training as well. In her opinion, no white mage had any business sporting pectorals so… developed. He wrapped the blanket closer, modestly obscuring her view of his toned torso, and fixed his eyes on hers.

“It’s not normal to leap to attention at the sound of a mouse in the middle of the night,” he murmured, keeping his honey-and-cinnamon voice low to avoid waking their neighbors. “What’s wrong?”

Rhen stuffed the knife back under her pillow with one hand and, using her foot, tried her hardest to slide the book further under Elini’s bed without attracting Dameon’s notice. “Nothing,” she whispered, a little sharper than intended. “Please go back to sleep; we have a long day ahead tomorrow.”

Dameon’s full lips twitched to the side, and Rhen’s eyes followed them. She couldn’t look at his face without her gaze snapping to those lips. She yearned to touch them, to know how they’d feel against her own, and she hardly cared whether he knew.

“The group is only as strong as its leader,” Dameon reminded her, “and our leader needs her rest.”

Rhen sighed through her nose. “I’ll get it. Far sooner if you lay back down and leave me be.”

“You can’t sleep, Rhen.”

“Like the Underworld I can’t!”

“No one could sleep carrying so much tension in their shoulders.” Dameon leaned against one arm, angling his body toward her.

Rhen felt herself growing warmer. “It was nothing. I… I was falling asleep, and I had a sort of nightmare. That’s all.”

She didn’t expect Dameon to lean forward against both arms, baring his entire sculpted torso as he reached under Elini’s bed and grabbed “The Glimmering” off the floor. He held it up and waved it at her. “You were reading horror before bed,” he confirmed.

Dung. “Yes.”

He sat up again, placing the book gently by the side of her bedroll closest to his. “Why would you do that?”

Rhen felt hot as a forge. “I… I’ve been meaning to read it,” she said, empty of excuses.

“Esteban Prince is a fantastic author, but you know his thrillers are meant to keep you awake at night.”

She was taken aback. “Wait. You read Esteban Prince?”

He chuckled. “Of course. He’s a classic.”

“Really?”

“‘The Red Furlong’ is my favorite, but I think ‘The Vapor’ is his best work.”

“I love ‘The Vapor’!” Rhen’s eyes were wide. “I thought the open ending with Davio was brilliant.”

“Prince really burst through the confines of his genre.”

Rhen’s pulse had slowed a little, but still beat heartily with excitement. She sat forward, legs folded beneath her. The shiver lifted from her shoulders as she spoke with Dameon, allowing her exuberance to take over in full force. “That’s why I like him so much,” she whispered, eyes sparkling. “He doesn’t care a whit for genre.”

“But I can tell his writing makes you anxious,” warned Dameon. “You oughtn’t read Prince before going to sleep--and you especially shouldn’t read ‘The Glimmering’ in an inn! What possessed you to do that?”

“I… don’t know.” Rhen rubbed her arms again, the chill suddenly back to trouble her skin. “Maybe that wasn’t smart.”

Dameon’s face softened, or perhaps it was the light. He drew forward, the blanket trailing behind him, an afterthought. Rhen could hardly see him through her jittering nerves, but suddenly, he was directly in front of her, his chin an inch from her forehead. She looked up.

Gods… he was far too beautiful for a priest.

Almost absently, he stroked a hand down the back of her head, his fingers weaving through her hair.

He broke her gaze, then, and pivoted on his knees to sit beside her. Rhen exhaled a shallow breath she didn’t realize she was holding. Dameon wrapped his blanket around his arms and, chaste as could be, draped one arm over her shoulder, softly cloaking her hunched back. He drew close until she could feel him against her ribcage, removed by just a meager layer of fabric.

It was only then that she realized she’d been shaking.

She shrunk into his embrace, leaning her head against his shoulder, and he held her just a little tighter, almost as if he didn’t want to admit to himself that he wanted her close. He always played the perfect gentleman, staying just shy of courting her, yet attracting her attention all the same. This night, however, she realized as she sat with him that his reticence to draw near felt less calculated and more… cautious, timid, like the hesitance of a child with his first crush. There was a human uncertainty here she’d never expected of Dameon. It made her want to pull in close, to run her hands over his chest and tell him she wanted everything he wanted, too.

But she was still shaking, and the rest of their party slept around them, and sometimes it was too hard to forget just how afraid she felt. She leaned her weight against him and allowed herself to tremble until the fear was gone.

Spoiler

Categorical

Dameon liked lists. He prided himself on being an analytical person, weighing pros and cons in every situation, mentally charting the behavior of those around him over time. He had a list for everything, from the Oracle's favorite foods (potato soup, cold and spicy rice noodles, and lemon pie, in that order) to the blessings he said every morning in the temple (the chant of breath, the blessing of creation, the sunrise exaltation, and the warmth prayer) to the people he trusted with his thoughts (the Oracle. That... was a very short list.)

The Oracle knew, he was certain, what she instigated when she arranged for him to meet that girl in the sun temple. He wouldn't tell her that his heart skipped a beat when the girl walked in, but she knew, without question. She probably arranged it somehow, divined their spark long before Dameon ever heard the name "Rhen Pendragon".

At least the Oracle didn't know that he colluded with Ahriman.

Or... maybe she did.

They were weeks into their quest, and Dameon wished he didn't have so many lists; he'd never spent time this close to so many people at once. There was Lars and everything he hated (scratchy blankets, walking through snow, the smell of cheese, Dameon) and Te'ijal's ranking of the potential tastiness of her human companions (Galahad, then Elini, Dameon, John, Rhen, Lars, and Marge last) and Galahad's long list of things in which he didn't believe (magic, vampires, elves, ghosts, dragons, fairies, werewolves, genies, the minor gods, militant squirrels, love). It was easy to categorize these people, break them down into their obvious parts and store away the discrete knowledge for later use.

Rhen, on the other hand, was not so simple.

He was attracted to her. This was obvious to him from the moment they met. What was less obvious was how clouded his judgment would become in her presence. She was a lilac butterfly flitting just over his head, and he couldn't reach high enough, couldn't pin her to his corkboard. She didn't fit together the way the others did. She was both the unwritten book and the author, pen in hand, ready to write something that might someday make sense, but still waiting. Still open.

They were in Sedona. Rhen told her gaggle of companions to disperse for a bit, relax, take in the fresh, stinky air. John stayed beside her, hauling a great deal of luggage. Lars left to find a sauna; Elini tagged along. Galahad visited the smith to have his blade sharpened, Marge popped into the saloon for a drink, and the heavens only knew where Te'ijal went. Dameon kept up with Rhen, hoping to get a chance to speak with her, but she and John chatted as if they were a single person, picking up one another's thoughts in one run-on sentence.

"Whew, I'm shaking a little. Thanks for carrying all that stuff."

"My pleasure. Caught a case of the chills, then?"

"No! It just feels weird, going back to the manor now, you know?"

"Yeah, after the guy who sold it to us tried to assassinate the king? I dunno, Rhen, maybe we should just stay at the inn."

"What, do you think it's haunted by the ghost of Lord Gavin's dignity?"

Every time she made a joke, every time, Dameon felt hot. He chuckled under his breath.

"Let's get a pet. I'm thinking a dog would be nice."

"Why a dog?"

"To sniff out other creeps and traitors."

John's words stung Dameon, but of course he'd never let it show. Creeps and traitors... He was certainly the second, and more lately, he was beginning to feel like the first. How could he pursue Rhen for Ahriman's gain when he genuinely felt something for her? He had to think of it less as beguiling her and more as... convincing her gently that there was more for her on the demons' throne than in the realm of mortals.

It felt increasingly hopeless as time passed. Her benevolence constantly surprised him--she helped that boy cross the ocean just to get him to school, she used her own potions to heal the ailing folk of Dirkon, she rescued King Lionel and returned him to his people... He doubted she could ever turn to the demons after all the good she'd spread. The running list of her kind deeds was a little too long for him to remember, sometimes.

His memory had been failing him lately. He couldn't even remember his own name when she made him blush.

Lord Gavin's party was one such time.

Rhen was a short girl, the kind who looked like a doll made of spun sugar, but he knew every lean muscle beneath her creamy skin--in his dreams, he knew them, anyway. The emerald dress she wore to the ball shimmered in the low candlelight, complementing the sparkle in her wide, purple eyes.

Dameon, of course, wore his druidic robes. The clean set. The set not covered in the blood of ravwyrns and orcs.

He was always smooth, mechanical, charming. The nobility loved it, but if Rhen found it attractive, she rarely let on. She was the type to laugh off any advances. She matched his charisma with her own steel grace, a perfect facsimile of the sword she wielded in combat. He didn't know if she liked him at all.

(This was the comprehensive list of things Dameon did know about Rhen:

  • Her best friends from childhood were two boys, Peter and Danny.
    • Because of them, she grew up roughhousing and playing pranks, a master of both sport and craft.
  • She has exceptionally long eyelashes, accentuated by her high cheekbones.
  • She didn't know how to cook until she worked in Rona's house.
    • She doesn't enjoy it.
  • Her favorite color is green.
  • She's allergic to pollen.
    • But she's okay with leaf mold, so she likes autumn and not spring.
  • She twitches in her sleep, but never talks.
    • She usually sleeps curled up on her side with her hands resting just above her head and her lips slightly parted.
  • She doesn't like that her nose turns up at the very end.
  • She has read a few dozen action novels, all of which she got from the peddler who visits Clearwater a couple times a year, and every single book on Dyonna's bookshelf.
    • She knows quite a lot about the parts of a ship and which insects are best for the production of aquifolium.
  • She prefers greatswords, but she likes to fence with John's rapiers.
  • If she laughs so hard that she scrunches her eyes shut, she'll sneeze.
  • She doesn't want to be queen.

That last one gave him small hope, and that hope may have been the only thing carrying him forward in his wicked quest.)

But... the ball. Rhen had secured only one invitation to the ball, and she could only bring one of her companions as a guest. And she chose Dameon. Not Lars, the noble, who would feel right at home, the one who could guide her through the motions of playing dress-up with rich snobs. Not Galahad, the Sedonan paladin, who knew everyone there and could introduce Rhen to anyone she fancied. Not... well, those were her only two rational options, but one way or another, she invited Dameon, and he didn't understand why.

And there she was, all shimmer and eyelashes and spun sugar, sipping from a crystal flute of sparkling cider and cracking jokes with the high chancellor's wife. He kept himself busy, skipping between aristocrats for the standard "how do you do, how are your children, isn't the Gruyère simply luscious this evening," but his eyes always drifted back to Rhen, checking what she was doing, who she was talking to. She was a magnet, and he had an iron heart.

(Another one for the list: she didn't small-talk. She dug in, extracted what was really on your mind, and made you laugh, reveling in the surprise you felt at your own laxity. Everyone reveled. It was plain on their faces that they never expected a wit like Rhen Pendragon.)

Dameon lost himself, hearing her finish telling the harbormaster a joke about barques, watching as the light in her eyes sparked him into roaring laughter, her smiling mouth ajar as she drank in his mirth. (Another one: her teeth were perfect, as was her arrowhead jaw. She was cut from marble by the hand of a sculptor.) She popped to attention as the ballroom orchestra crescendoed, and Lord Gavin, aperitif in hand, strode to the dance floor.

"My friends!" he called, sweeping his free hand to summon all of his guests. "Please join me in celebrating the phenomenal Sedonan Philharmonic Orchestra, who have graciously acquiesced to play for us this evening! As they perform for us, let us perform for them in joyous dance!"

Rhen rolled her eyes, a little smirk cavorting across her lips. That, Dameon noted, was one thing he could always expect from her.

He didn't expect her to hunt him down again.

She trotted over to him, arms loose and confident by her sides, and she looked up at him (she really was so short) and said, "Dameon! I've missed you this evening. Please come dance with me."

That, right there in that ballroom, was the first time Rhen Pendragon made Dameon really, honestly, unintentionally, thoroughly blush.

He'd blushed at her before. He made sure to pepper plenty of red noses into their first meeting in the sun temple. Of course it wasn't so difficult; he found her attractive, so summoning a little color to his cheeks didn't take tremendous effort... but he did it very deliberately. Everything he did back then was deliberate. He controlled the scene, or at least, he thought he did--and now, he felt the reins slipping from his shaking hands.

They danced. Although Rhen left to dance with other partners once or twice, she always came back to him. He forgot his mission. He forgot Ahriman, and he forgot how much he hated the Veniara Two-Step, and he forgot that he didn't quite feel like he was the right man to be her plus-one. She made him blush, and he forgot everything except how to waltz and how to look charming.

It was a little odd. He pretended to care for her, because under that, he meant to corrupt her. But under that... he did--

"Dameon."

"Mm?"

"You spaced out pretty badly right then, you know."

Rhen stood in front of him, wearing her sword-singer armor, her arms crossed. She looked a little worried. Lord Gavin's manor was just behind her--cordoned off with Sedonan royal guards, the windows dark in the daylight. He heard a door creak open at his back as John entered the manor they bought at the party over a week ago.

Dameon blinked the memory from his eyes. "So I did."

"That's not like you. Everything all right?"

"Oh! Yes. Yes, absolutely." I'm supposed to be wooing this girl... I need to snap out of it. "I was just remembering the last night we spent in Lord Gavin's mansion, actually."

She tilted her head, lowered her arms. "Oh, yes... before we realized he meant to kill the king."

Dameon winced internally. "I'm glad he was caught, but even despite his involvement, I think we made some fond memories at the ball."

"I don't know, Dameon. It's hard to remember that night fondly." She pushed through the front door to her manor, and Dameon followed. "Although the charcuterie was delicious."

"You mean... you have no positive memories of that night at all?" Dameon cranked up the hurt in his voice so it would be just noticeable, but below the charade, he actually was a little hurt. Dameon was never one to feel wounded; that made this strange ache especially troubling, a worrisome raindrop in an arid desert.

(In his head, he asked, "Shall I remind you?", and then he took her hand and led her in a waltz around the dining room table, and they spent an hour dancing and staring at one another and not saying another word, because Dameon liked it better that way, and maybe he was afraid of what would happen if they spoke.)

And then, in reality, she surprised him again.

She sighed and smiled wide--oh, gods, that smile--and looked to the ceiling, her arms crossed behind her head. A little color rose to her cheeks, and Dameon could feel his heart accelerate.

"All right... it was a fun night, if you forget about the man who hosted it." She didn't look him in the eye, still staring far above his head. "It was nice talking to people I haven't spent the past couple months babysitting. That, and... all right, can I tell you a secret?"

She was finally staring him straight in the eye. He realized he wasn't prepared for what that gaze did to him. "My lips are sealed, my lady."

"Ugh, don't call me that; you sound like Galahad." Her perfect nose wrinkled. "Well... I don't know how to dance."

They were standing in the main hall now, just past the kitchen; Rhen had turned heel and walked backwards while they talked, but she stopped before reaching the end of the hall. She smiled candidly and shrugged.

"But you did dance," said Dameon, raising an eyebrow.

"I just followed you. You know, you actually have this way of... showing me what to do without knowing it. Sort of adjusting yourself when I'm not where I'm supposed to be, as if you're the one who's not where you're supposed to be. So I learned from you that night."

Dameon paused. He bit his tongue. That... was something he wasn't aware of.

Her cheeks were a little pinker now. "I've also learned a lot about moving through rhythm from sword singing," she continued. "I have that magic in me. But really, it's not as if we had grand parties in Clearwater! Danny and I used to pretend to dance when we felt like playing nobles, but we had no idea what we were doing."

The laugh in her voice made his heart jump. He wondered how much more Rhen he could take before he lost his satiny cool.

"You were an excellent student," he said, and he was relieved to hear the smoothness in his own tone. "So excellent, in fact, I had no idea I was the teacher."

She stepped closer to him, her smile soft, her lips parted in the middle the way they did when she was very happy (another item for the list).

Why is she looking at me that way?

"You're an excellent teacher," she said.

His head was screaming at him, you have to continue on towards your goal, keep leading her further into your clutch, be evasive, be suave, don't touch her, don't TOUCH her, walk away from this girl and don't let her get hurt, go back to Aveyond and pretend you never met her, let Ahriman do what he wants with you, don't touch her, do touch her, run a hand down her cheek and cup her jaw and lean down and kiss her, kiss her, KISS HER oh my gods--

She turned away.

"Dameon."

His heart was thumping, his hands were shaking, his face was hot and his stomach was too (there's a new list: "Things Rhen Pendragon Does To Me When She Looks At Me Like That") and he wasn't sure how to calm it all down because never in his life had he felt like this before.

"Yes?"

"Why are you fond of me?"

He nearly collapsed.

Instead, he said, "What do you mean?"

She turned back to face him. "You've been flirting with me since we met, and it doesn't make sense. Back then, I wasn't sure what to make of it; you said so many sweet things, but you were always sort of... stony. But now, your pulse picks up when I'm near you, and you blush properly, all over your face."

"I..." Dameon swallowed. He was cracking. "My pulse picks up?"

"My sword-singer training taught me to pick up rhythms in the world around me. Plus, when we were dancing, it was pretty clear. But that didn't always happen, and... I don't understand you, Dameon. Did you like me? Do you like me?"

"Oh, Rhen, I..." He couldn't stop himself anymore. She sounded so sad, so confused. He couldn't stay out of her reach. "I do. I like you quite a lot."

"Why?"

Despite himself, he chuckled. "Would you like the abridged list, or the full one?"

That got a smile out of her.

"Just tell me a couple things, please."

"All right." Dameon cleared his throat as if reciting from a written compendium. "Your kindness and compassion are the brightest I've ever seen. The way you connect with people on a personal level, and the way you can make anyone laugh, is indescribably attractive. You crave knowledge and wisdom, and you're resourceful enough to learn anything no matter the obstacles. And..." He tried to seek her eyes, but faltered and cast his vision down. "...Among all of the flawless creations of the Goddess, you are by far the most beautiful."

That was the most honest thing I've ever said to another person.

Rhen held a trembling hand over her mouth as her face bloomed pink. He could see the smile in her eyes, and he couldn't help but smile back. He'd made his decision. He might as well enjoy it.

"Thank you, Dameon," she said finally, her voice wavering a little.

I don't care if she takes Ahriman's deal or if she's queen or if we run away together and hide out in the woods for the rest of our lives. I'm going to marry this girl.

It slipped out of his mouth, a murmur, unguarded. "You're the real adventure, Rhen."

And then, all at once, she swept in and pulled him down by his shoulders and kissed him.

The electricity humming through his veins exploded into a wildfire. He didn't know what to do. He wove a hand through the hair on the back of her head and pressed her in, and wrapped his other arm around her waist, trying so hard not to squeeze her or pull her closer or let her kiss him into the wall, even though he so desperately wanted her to. He just let her kiss him. When she finished, he steadied her as she stood back down on her heels.

"I suppose you're fond of me as well, then," he said.

She giggled. That was a little odd for her, too. "Yes, I am, actually. 'I like you quite a lot.' Is that right?"

"Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why are you fond of... me?"

You're just a demon's pawn, Dameon. Nothing she'll tell you matters.

But he wanted to hear it.

"I'm fond of you because..." She paused and hummed. He realized her hands were still on his chest, and he tentatively laced his own fingers over hers. She smiled. "I'm fond of you because you're a frozen ocean, walking through the world with a cool exterior, but when it's chipped away, there's a... a bounty of life, thoughts and ideas and traits, and it's all so beautiful, and I want to dive into it, because... you're an adventure, too, Dameon."

She buried her head in his chest. He hugged her.

When she composed herself, she looked back up at him and said, "You're also very handsome."

He laughed gently. "Thank you."

"Rhen!" called John from the kitchen. "Dinner's ready in ten! Mind fetching the kids?"

Rhen pulled back from Dameon, still smiling; he was reluctant to let go. "I think Galahad is eating with the knights," she called back.

"Tell him I'll feed his portion to the tiger if he's not here in ten minutes! It's frittata night!"

She shot Dameon her signature wily smirk. "Wanna go wrangle some hungry travelers?"

He linked her arm with his. "Sounds like an adventure."

Spoiler

Fight Club

“Oh, come on; just have a little fun! They’d all think it’s funny.”

“You think Lars would find it funny?”

“Well, maybe not Lars, but Lars doesn’t find anything funny. And anyway, we’re the only ones here; no one will hear.”

“You have a unique sense of morality.”

“And you’re smiling!”

“It’s… hard not to.”

“Ha. Good. But you take things too seriously. I’m just going to play this game myself, and you can pretend like you’re not listening.”

“Listening? To whom? I hear nothing.”

“Give me a corner of that blanket. So… Te’ijal versus Elini. I think Elini would usually win, but it depends on the terrain. Te’ijal would win in a forest where she could hide between the trees.”

“Hm.”

“Oookaaay… Te’ijal versus… Lars. That one, I think Te’ijal wins. Which means that Elini should beat Lars as well--buuuuut… Lars is tough to take down when he’s not panicking, and I think Elini would run out of mana before she could pull it off!”

“Mm.”

“Which makes this a sort of… rock-paper-shears situation. Elini beats Te’ijal, Te’ijal beats Lars, and Lars beats Elini.”

“Very tidy.”

“You are listening!”

“Once again, it’s very hard not to.”

“Geez… well, anyway, uh… Galahad. I wonder whether he would defeat Te’ijal in a fight.”

“He has the power of divine light on his side, remember.”

“Excellent point. I’ll make a bookie of you yet!”

“Oof. You wound me.”

“Rhen beats Dameon! Anyway, I’m still not sure Galahad could beat Te’ijal. He’s sort of… hmm… I don’t really know, I don’t want to say something… you know--”

“Pathetic?”

“HA! Oh my gods… Yeah, that’s the word I was looking for.”

“What about John?”

“What, John? Against whom?”

“Hmm… Elini.”

“John loses.”

“What about Lars?”

“John loses.”

“Marge?”

“Mm. Yeah, John loses. I think John loses no matter who he’s fighting.”

“Even if he was fighting me?”

“Well, you’d just keep healing yourself until he gets frustrated and walks off.”

“Pfft… all right, you got me. This is pretty fun. Do you need another pillow?”

“Nah, just scoot a little closer to--yeah, that’s good. You’re warm.”

“I’m glad we stayed behind tonight.”

“Oh. Me, too.”

“So… who beats Rhen Pendragon in a fight?”

“Real answer? Probably Te’ijal; I’m notoriously weak at defending against archers.”

“Real answer, huh? What’s the fake answer?”

“You.”

“Why me?”

“I couldn’t draw my sword against you.”

“That is incredibly sweet.”

“Ugh, I know. I feel the need to gargle ocean water.”

“I like the implication that you could draw your sword against any of the others.”

“Well, I don’t know, but Lars probably deserves it. And maybe Galahad.”

“Go easy, now; Galahad already has one woman looking to rough him up for sport.”

“We should probably do something about her.”

“Mm… probably.”

“Heh.”

“You know, you could defeat me pretty easily without drawing a sword at all.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“How?”

“Kiss me.”

 

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AAAA, exciting! Here's my gift, for @Ishti! <3 (Funny odds, huh?!)

The problem with getting you was I had so many options I didn't know what to pick, so I kind of just tried to combine as much things as I reasonably could.

giftexchange.png

And here's each individual picture!

Spoiler

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Spoiler

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Spoiler

melydiastella.png

 

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@Ishti I am writing this from the underworld because I am DEAD FROM THE COMPLETE BEAUTY OF ALL OF THAT!!! Is there a place I can rant review without interrupting the flow of this exchange or should I just do it here anyway? Because I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO SAY, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! (And don't worry about any of it being "copy cat," 1. it wasn't because you came up with it yourself, though we do have ridiculously close characterizations of them holy guacamole, and 2. I have written so much for them I would be shocked if anything made for them didn't look a bit like something I'd already done XD) (I have started rave reviewing here like seven times now and keep erasing it because I'm trying to behave but that was just so beautiful, please give me permission to vent somewhere)

@darwin Those are SO CUTE, you have such a lovely, distinct style!

My giftee is @Queen-of-Ice101!! So now you know why I have been so impatient, Queen!!!! Please forgive me for the winterness ahahaha, but I hope you enjoy this! And thanks for everything you do for me :heart::ice: (I'll post this on fanfiction.net too, so if the format doesn't work out here or something then it'll be fine there probably)

Spoiler

No Capes

_______________________________________

Actually they had been getting along fine for weeks before that. According to all credible sources this was due to the agreement they had established between them. (Some less credible sources, i.e. Yemite, babbled about it having something to do with neutrality and the position of the stars, et cetera, et cetera, blah blah blah, Mel fell asleep at this point and was late to breakfast as usual even though she was the only one eating.)

This “agreement” consisted of Gyendal promising not to call Mel by any disgusting diminutives, like "lamb" or... just lamb, really. (At least he never called her "succulent chopstick." That would be... ew.) And Mel had agreed, with great reluctance, to refrain from bringing up all the times she had bested him in battle, or the fact that the world had yet to be plunged into eternal darkness, or that those contemptible orbs were destroyed, and—

Well, the point is her portion of the agreement was of a significantly greater length than was his. And Mel was of the highly controversial opinion that this was so not fair.

And that is why one particular day, after what seemed an eternity of what Te'ijal described as wedded bliss and Galahad most eloquently called "heck," Mel finally took the opportunity to do what she had wanted to do from the moment the agreement had been established. It happened while she and Gyendal were coming back from a long day of Aislday shopping— which had been Te'ijal's idea, and Mel suspected originally it was Galahad's idea but the vampire paladin would never admit it— but anyway she and Gyendal were coming back from it, and Gyendal was walking in front of her down the hall, and his red, red cloak was billowing out behind him dramatically. And intimidatingly. Maybe even a little alluringly. Alluring, that is, in a way that made Mel walk a little faster and lift her booted foot a bit higher off the floor than she might have otherwise.

She couldn't stop herself, the idea was too enticing to abandon. She caught up to the billowing scarlet cloth, finally, and she lifted her foot and stepped— on— his— cape!

"Argh!" Gyendal yelled, his arms flailing out to prevent his inevitable fall—

Actually apparently his fall was evitable because, it didn't happen.

"Lam— Mel!" he protested, whirling to face her. "What do you think you are doing?"

Mel refrained from cackling— she'd picked up the habit from the witches who traveled through Ghed'ahre selling curses. Yemite loved curses, Mel liked Yemite well enough she supposed, stuff happened. But anyway, Mel did not cackle at this time.

"I'm just walking!" she said innocently, widening her eyes at him.

Gyendal shot a glare at her, but then turned around and continued down the hall.

He was letting it go! Ha! And Professor Gray thought she couldn't lie!

Mel smirked to herself, and then—

And then.

She did it again.

Or she tried to, but suddenly the red, red cloak was swished away and instead she was staring up into red, red eyes that were a tad bit too murderous for her to really feel very comfortable.

"Mel," he said, very slowly and distinctly and as though what he actually meant was I will kill you and not regret it remotely. He leaned towards her until she could feel his breath on her face, and he hissed, "Stop. Stepping. On. My. Cape."

If she shook it certainly wasn't out of fear. It was just that his breath was cold. Also, he pronounced his p's with a careful pop and it was... funny.

"You know," she began with great indifference, popping her hip like he popped his p's and pretending to examine her nails, "you could easily solve this problem by not wearing a cape."

She pointedly emphasized the p, and looked up to meet his red hot gaze with cool defiance.

He glared back.

She blinked and went back to her nails.

"Honestly, it's ridiculous," she informed him. She didn't have to look to know his scowl was deepening and his eyes were sharpening to two red points like the ends of twin poisoned daggers. "It drags on the floor everywhere you go." She pretended not to notice his building rage. "It has to be inconvenient. I bet it gets in the way of every simple thing you try to do."

"It's an intimidation strategy!" he protested, waving his arms angrily. "It heightens the drama!"

"In fact," she continued as if she hadn't heard him, "I bet if you didn't insist on always wearing such a pompous piece of cloth, you wouldn't have lost all those battles so miserably."

She had said it. Her end of the agreement was broken. Galahad would be ashamed. So would Stella, and Edward, and Ulf and so many others. But Te'ijal would laugh, and Mel would laugh with her. And Gyendal...

Gyendal.

Could vampires self-combust? He looked like he was strongly considering doing so, regardless. He had his arms folded across his chest, his hands clenched into fists so tight she could see his lifeless veins sticking out from parchment-white skin.

"Just think of it," she said, now smirking at him. "All your grand plans of eternal night and world domination thwarted by your poor fashion choices."

Surely that was the proverbial last straw. He would begin raging any moment now. If she was lucky he would kick that stupid vase she had been trying to get rid of for months, and then she could be free of the vase and that cursed agreement.

But... he wasn't kicking that vase. He wasn't raging at her. He wasn't even glaring anymore, he was smiling. Actually smiling! Why was he smiling at her?! Great, she had broken her husband--

"I suppose that is an interesting point," he hissed softly. And then, a mere breath later, "Lamb."

"Gyendal!" she squawked, feeling herself flush a bright angry shade of pink. "You promised!"

But he just grinned wickedly and winked, he actually winked. That was it. He was broken. She had broken him. She had only meant to irritate him, not drive him out of his mind! There was only one thing to do.

She must irritate him further.

With one quick movement, she grabbed the ends of his cape and wrapped them tightly around him— she had always been rather good with knots— and she pushed him against the wall and pulled his head down so she could glare into his eyes and be sure he understood the full magnitude of her undiminishable rage. And as much as she was concerned for him, she was full of rage; after all, he had called her lamb.

"Why don't you say that to my face?!" she shouted to his face.

"I did say it to your face! Lamb!"

Again! She had asked for one thing, that was all. She opened her mouth to retaliate. "I am not a baby sheep— mmph!"

His cold disgusting lips were moving over hers and this was greatly injust and also greatly concerning—

"Mel," he breathed against her mouth, and never mind about the other thing, here was the least fair and most unsettling thing that had happened that evening and even that month—

"Let's not fight,” he continued in the same low voice. “We must set a good example for my sister and her snack."

Mel meant to roar and seethe, until Gyendal was also roaring and seething and everything was returned to its natural state. But instead she snorted, and the worst thing she could think to say was, "Her husband, you mean?"

"Whatever she's calling him these days," he said with a wry smile. Then he frowned (and she quickly decided she would tease him relentlessly about his pouting later, when she felt like teasing again). "I prefer to call you Lamb."

"Well, I prefer to— to—"

They say showing is better than telling, so she showed him very decidedly what she preferred, which was—

Well, I am quite embarrassed to tell you, and I suspect Mel will repay me rather unpleasantly for my divulgence, but if you must know, and if you promise to exchange all the fluff for this invaluable information, I am willing to risk it.

You see, what the former Miss Mel Darkthrop preferred, was to be called Mel Ravenfoot, and to press her lips soundly against those of Mister Ravenfoot (who preferred to be called Lord Ravenfoot, thank you very much, you miserable mortal), and to live in perfectly happy wedded heck for the rest of her absurdly unfair life. 

 

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37 minutes ago, Mu11berry said:

@Ishti Is there a place I can rant review without interrupting the flow of this exchange or should I just do it here anyway?

You are SO SWEET. I completely forgot to post it on AO3 before running away! Do you have a username on AO3 so I can gift it to you?

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5 minutes ago, Ishti said:

You are SO SWEET. I completely forgot to post it on AO3 before running away! Do you have a username on AO3 so I can gift it to you?

(Hi I'm still here because I'm totally rereading for like the third time ahaha. I don't have an AO3 but if I need one to comment I'll get one this very moment, and I'll use Mu11berry unless the name is already taken. Thank you so much again!!)

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For MissArtisticDraws on dA. Hello everyone, I haven't been around lately, have I? :rhen_cry:

I'm currently cringing at the writing... But I know the thought's the one that counts, and Moonie would throw a fit if I were to rewrite this...

How does one hide posts!?!? Edit: Fixed! Thank you, @Ishti!

--

Spoiler

 

Kitty Troubles

When Edward and Stella bought the kitten for Jenna as her birthday gift, they should've looked after it overnight before giving it to the little girl. What chaos have ensued while cat-sitting for a night? One-shot.

--

Because the scene between Edward, Stella and the shopkeeper when they bought the little kitten for Jenna could've been expanded on a bit more. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to MissArtisticDraws on deviantArt!

-0-

"I want a kitten for my birthday," the little purple-haired child told Stella when said healer asked her what she wanted for her birthday. Stella had nodded happily, much too eager to cater to Jenna's request. As soon as she was done talking to the little girl and her mother, she exited the house with a giggly smile on her face, making Edward dread what was going to happen in the next few hours.

"Okay, so... What does she want?" he inquired Stella immediately after he saw her open the door to leave the large house, slightly irked at how they had been dragged into attending the birthday party of someone they hardly knew.

"A kitten," the lilac-haired woman declared proudly, taking Edward by the arm and  dragging him towards the shopping district in Veldarah. "And I know just where to get one!"

"Wait, you don't mean—" Edward objected, before he was shut up by Stella stopping abruptly in her tracks and putting her free hand over his mouth.

"Yes, yes, I am," the normally gentle girl said firmly. Edward sighed, his mouth still covered by Stella's hand. Nodding in defeat, he motioned for her to lead the way, and Stella's bright smile returned to her face before she pulled him into a familiar item shop.

As the smell of perfume and gift wrapping paper invaded his nostrils, Edward suddenly found himself face-to-face with a friendly-looking middle aged man.

"Hello, how can I help you today?" the man asked, a kind smile on his face. Edward bowed his head slightly as a greeting before he replied, "A friend of mine is here to get a birthday present for a child. Stella?"

Raising an eyebrow when he found that his companion hadn't reacted to his call, Edward realised that his arm was free from the healer's grasp. In slight panic, he looked around before spotting Stella's lilac head bobbing up and down in the middle of the shop.

She was kneeling down on the wooden floors, playing with something white Edward couldn't quite see clearly. Only when he approached her could he see that it was an adorable white kitten, nibbling at his friend's fingers.

"Oh, Edward," Stella squealed as the prince knelt down next to his companion, eyeing the cat curiously. "It's so cute! Didn't Jenna say that she would like a kitten?"

Edward exhaled deeply. "Yes, Stella, you just asked her barely ten minutes ago."

Rolling his eyes as Stella paid him no heed and continued spoiling the kitten, he turned to the shopkeeper who was still standing behind the counter. "How much for this kitten, shopkeeper?"

"You can have it for 10 gold coins," the man responded, looking up from his newspaper. Pulling out their coin pouch from his backpack, Edward fished the required amount of money out and gave it to the man, his movements slightly begrudging.

"Hey, Stella, get the kitten over here. We're giving it to Jenna tomorrow," Edward called out. He watched her struggle slightly with the playful kitten that was fidgeting quite a bit before she managed to successfully scoop it up into her arms and set her on the counter.

"Would you like it wrapped?" the shopkeeper queried. Edward and Stella exchanged a wary glance.

"Uh... You can wrap a kitten?" Stella questioned, her hand stroking the back of the cat's ears. The shopkeeper nodded as he pulled out some brightly coloured paper and began to wrap the kitten.

How he did it, the two travellers didn't understand, but in a few moments, the shopkeeper had accomplished in completely wrapping the kitten into a gift with nearly minimal effort, albeit with a few scratches on his face and arms.

Edward had been too awed by the cat-shaped bundle of wrapping paper, but Stella had already offered to heal the shopkeeper's wounds as extra thanks.

They left the shop with quiet steps, because according to Stella, "It'll scare the kitten!" if Edward walked like how he normally in his heavy, metal boots. With a roll of his eyes, he kicked off the boots and walked Veldarah's muddy paths with only his socks on.

He was none too pleased when they returned to the inn and his feet smelled like soil.

--

"Do you know how to take care of a cat, Stell?"

Edward's enquiry incited a look of embarrassment on Stella's face, causing him to slap his forehead in frustration.

"Well, no," Stella explained frantically, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly, "But I'm sure it can't be that difficult! Besides, it's only for one night."

"Yeah. One night, and that cat might go missing on us because it saw a leaf dropping from that tree." Edward replied sarcastically, cupping his head with his hands as he sat in front of Stella, the kitten wagging its tail on the table they were seated at.

Stella scoffed, unhappy at Edward's bitter behaviour at the kitten. "Oh, don't be such a sourpuss, Edward!"

"Yeah, whatever." the male muttered before yawning and rising to his feet. "I'm going to bed. If that cat goes missing, Stella, you're looking for it and I'm not going to help!"

Stella simply grinned at him innocently at that statement. "Of course you are, Edward, because it's already missing!"

"WHAT!?" Edward yelled, his eyes widening to become as wide as saucers. Quickly stealing a glance at the wooden table the white cat had just previously been standing on happily, he realised that it wasn't there anymore, and that the window behind Stella was wide open and there was indeed a tree shedding its leaves outside. "Stella!"

"Oh, come on!" the healer sang childishly, jumping to her own feet and grabbing her staff as she brushed past Edward. "Let's go, Edward. A wild goose, I mean, cat chase awaits!!"

"Stella— hey, Stella—!"

With another heavy exhale, Edward rubbed his temples and retrieved his swords from a corner in their inn room. This was the last time he was going to follow through with any of Stella's plans.

--

"Argh, where can it be!?" Edward grumbled, his arms crossed and lips curled in a frown. "Hey, Cupcake, get back here! ... Urgh! Stella, this is all your fault..."

Edward and Stella were hunting down the little white kitten in the dark city centre of Veldarah with only the aid of the light from Stella's staff to guide them (apparently, the Empress of Veldarah had deemed it unnecessary to have streetlights in her city) and the kitten's name that Stella had just thought up— Cupcake.

"Why're you so cranky, Edward? This is great!" Stella exclaimed energetically, making Edward shoot an unamused glare at her. "We're looking for Cupcake at 3 in the morning, and the weather is cool and nice and the best part is, no one's looking at us right now, which means no one is thinking about how we're both being total idiots!"

Edward grimaced at the memory where the both of them had danced on top of the academy roof for Stella's birthday and caused him to be the centre of gossip amongst the students.

"... Your airheaded-ness knows no bounds, Stell," he finally said with a heavy exhale.

They walked in silence for a few moments, Stella still sporting a bright smile on her face until a four-legged shadow crossed her vision behind the statue of the goddess.

"Wait, I see her!" Stella shouted, running towards the large statue and pulling Edward with her. By this time, Edward didn't have the energy to complain nor whine, so he followed her without a word, only a tired facial expression.

"... That's a gray cat." Edward said as Stella picked up a tom cat and stuck it right in front of his face. "Hey, why can't we just take one of these cats and give it to Jenna, anyways?"

"Because Cupcake's special!" Stella replied with a huff, putting down the cat and allowing it to run off.

"Stella." Edward said slowly. "No one will even notice!"

"I will!" Stella was very adamant.

"Stella!" Edward complained.

"Oh, come on, Edward." Stella protested. Oh boy, Edward thought. It's started again. "If Mel was here, she wouldn't like you whining like a girl!"

"Mel would agree with me on this!" Edward spat, stomping his foot like a child.

"No, she wouldn't!" Stella whined.

Edward opposed, obviously. "Yes, she would!"

"No, she wouldn't!"

"Yes, she would!"

"Yes, she would!"

"No, she wouldn—" Edward began, until he realised that he had been fooled. "Stella!"

"Well, you agreed!" the healer pointed out defiantly. "Let's continue looking for her."

"Stella, I want to go to bed!" Now, it was Edward's turn to whine.

"No bed until we find this cat!"

Edward sighed for the umpteenth time that night before he obliged. "Fine."

They walked on for another short period of time before Stella suddenly halted in her tracks, almost knocking over Edward who was traipsing on without so much of a care behind her.

"Maybe we should lure her out with some food..." she thought aloud, rummaging in her rucksack.

"Like what? Cupcakes?" Edward asked sarcastically, before he realised that it could actually be true. "Stella, if you actually have a cupcake in that rucksack of yours—"

"Of course I do!" the healer said, not missing a beat and pulling a traditional vanilla cupcake with sprinkles out of her leather sack. "Cupcake, here's a cupcake for you~"

Edward bit back his groan of embarrassment as someone opened their window and looked at them as if they were idiots who needed to be sent to a mental institute.

"Stella."

"Alright, alright! Home."

Edward wanted to kiss her feet the moment those words left her mouth, but kept his smooches to himself and also to Mel.

"Okay. And I'm telling you, Stella, if that cat goes missing one more time—"

"Oops!"

Cupcake jumped out of Stella's arms and was currently running towards a trashcan in an alley between some houses.

Edward groaned again and buried his face in his hands.

"Let's go, Eddy!" Stella shrieked joyously, chasing after the kitten.

-0-

"Happy birthday, Jenna!" Stella exclaimed happily, Edward not far behind her somewhere and stuffing his face with cupcakes.

"Mom, can I open it?" Jenna asked, taking the wrapped bundle from Stella. The two had spent the remainder of last night trying to wrap it again "Because Stella insisted," Edward would grumble.

"Go ahead, sweetheart," her mother said, stealing a quick glance at her as she pulled more cupcakes out of the oven. Jenna grinned and tore off the colourful paper bit by bit before she, in a fit of joy, lifted the kitten up and screamed with happiness.

"It's a kitten!!" she exclaimed, her eyes sparkling in wonder.

"Oh, you shouldn't have!" her mother said, now kneeling next to her.

Edward and Stella grinned. "It was no problem," Stella informed her.

Edward grimaced while still keeping a courteous grin on his face, hand over his pant pocket that hid one of Cupcake's poop pellets.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, Honey Butter Chloe said:

How does one hide posts!?!?

You see the icon that looks like an eye on the far right when you edit the post? That will create a spoiler, and inside, you can hide whatever you want!

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Oml I have so much excited spazz for you Berry, you shall be seeing a review from me on fanfiction.net very soon~

My gift was for the exchange was for @blue-water52 and I hope you like it!!  This is called Homemade Holidays :rhen_love:

Spoiler

A cheery fire crackled in the far corner of the many ornate bedrooms filling the Sedona Manor. The fire cast a warm glow over the room, illuminating the sword singer armour hanging on the rack and the violet haired young woman sitting on her bed. Melancholy hung around her as she gazed at the fresh sprig of holly in her hand. 

A soft knock on the door of her room made the female jump slightly, a startled look washing over her ruddy features. 

“Rhen, can I come in?” Called a familiar voice. 

“Uh, sure.” Rhen called, her answer a beat behind what would have been normal. 

At her words the door opened slightly, making just enough room for the more slender form of a certain green haired sorcerer to slip inside before the door was closed behind him. 

“Lars? Please tell me that Galahad didn’t break another dining chair throwing it at Te’ijal.” Rhen groaned, envisioning the mess already.

“Actually, no. They’re all actually coexisting pretty well.” He said distractedly, glancing away for a moment. “I came more here for....well I came to see how you were doing.” 

He trailed off then, Rhen staring at him in puzzlement. 

“How I was doing?? I’m not sick..” Then she considered her statement for a moment. “At least I’m pretty sure I’m not. Did Dameon say he sensed illness or something?”

Lars heaved a theatric sigh. 

“The Sun Priest never said a thing, I came here because of that.” Lars scoffed, pointing at the holly in her hands. “When that traveller gave it to us in talking about spreading the joy your face sort of fell. You’ve been absurdly happy all week before that after we finished our most recent task, so what changed?”

Rhen hesitated, purple eyes travelling from her friend and down to the green leaves in her hand. As she stared down her minds eye let the room around her fade, memories of a cozy cottage filled with the sound of winter sweets and the folk songs celebrating the winter solace dancing through her mind. She could almost smell the cinnamon-..

“-ehn? Rhen?? Helloo!”

The hand that settled on her shoulder to give a light shake jolted her back into awareness and she looked up at Lars with a slightly sad smile. 

"Back home right now in Clearwater they're having a festival, to celebrate the Winter Solace which falls today. Since I....was taken I haven't payed much attention to the holidays but when I saw that man it all just suddenly hit me." Rhen ran a finger over one of the leaves, "I knew him from a nearby village, seeing him again and receiving the holly we use in the celebrations just brought back memories."

Silence fell over the pair, the corners of Rhen's mouth drooping again. There was a shift from in front before and impatient sigh escaped a certain green haired male as he unceremoniously reached down to yank Rhen to her feet.

"Lars?! What-"

"We already have a moping and overall irritating member of this group, you won't add a second one or I swear I'll blast you all" He snarked, Rhen rolling her eyes at him as he continued. "So what you can't be home? It hardly means that you have to ignore the celebration, we can make our own right here."

His statement made Rhen blink in surprise before she slowly glanced around them, a small smile beginning to form.

"That's true, and I know the perfect person to help me make this a Winter Solace......"

At the suddenly mischievous gleam in Rhen's eyes Lars immediately put his hands up in protest, but there was no stopping the swordsinger as she in one fell swoop pulled all the blankets and sheets off her bed to dump over his arms.

"Hey! I have things I want to get done before we start off for the next part of the quest!" Lars protested in vain as he was pulled over to under the large chandelier hanging over an ornate carpet. 

"Can you create light that doesn't come from fire?" Rhen asked eagerly, ignoring her friends protest.

Indignation washed across Lars features before he finally let out a sigh and rolled his eyes, apparently giving in.

"Yes I can, I'll take care of that now before you get too excited and end up setting our manor on fire." He muttered, the rush of magic in the room snuffing out the candles as floating around near the roof incandescent green orbs.

"That's perfect!! And it's the colour of the holly even...." Rhen smiled softly before a look of determination pushed aside the melancholy as she went to work.

Grabbing a nearby chair Rhen placed it firmly beneath the chandelier, grabbing one end of a thin sheet from Lars arms to pull up with her as she stood on the chair and stretched up to loop the end of the sheet around one of the chandelier arms and tie it.

"Pass me another blanket end will you?? I'm going to turn this into the Maypole!" Rhen exclaimed with bright grin.

"You're going to fall if you aren't careful." Her friend sighed, though despite his words he handed up another blanket end for tying.

The young sword singer just laughed at his concern, leaning and bending as she tied blankets to the metal arms perfectly spaced for their improvised solace celebration. Soon she had tied all the blankets, except for one last one on the far end from where she was standing.

"Get off the chair so we can move it over." Lars ordered, moving towards the chair only to be hit in the face with the end of the sheet by Rhen.

"Halt thy steps! I can do it from here, I'll show you." 

Then without the least bit of concern for her own wellbeing the lilac haired young woman proceeded to brace one foot on the back of the chair and push off the seat to balance on the back.

"What are you DOING?!" Lars shrieked, sounding rather high pitched as he watched Rhen hurriedly tie the sheet just in time for the chair to tip forward and send her tumbling towards the ground.

The green haired male let out a startled curse, lurching forward to catch the young woman before she could hit the ground but before he could so much as touch her Rhen had already curled and twisted before landing lithely on her feet with a small cheer.

"Done!!"

".......Our quest is being led by a reckless idiot." Lars grumbled.

Rhen laughed at that, turning to grin impishly at her friend who muttered a few choice words under his breath as he grabbed the chair and moved it back to where it had been originally sitting against the wall.

With a light and excited laugh Rhen grabbed one of the sheets in a loose grip, twirling around the fabric before setting off in dance as she wove between sheets and attempted to sing the song that was traditional during the Winter Solace.

"You're dreadfully off-key." Lars complained, Rhen stopping her song and pouting a moment.

"I'd like to see you do better." She sniffed, turning her nose up at him teasingly.

"Alright then, I will."

His words brought Rhen pause as she stopped and stared at him, surprise filling her features as he opened his mouth and a soft but steady song began to fill the room, volume growing with Lars confidence.

Soon Rhen was dancing again, clapping and whirling between the fabric that moved in the breeze coming in her open window at the far end of the room. Lars song rose and fell with the movements of the dance, the sorcerer having all but entirely forgotten that the song he sang was one he had only ever heard from the mouths of the slaves he had once held such distain for.

As the song ended and Lars voice faded Rhen paused in her spinning and moving under the chandelier, turning to look at Lars who had been watching her antics with a barely there smile. 

"Hey Lars, c'mere a moment." Rhen singsonged, stepping out away from her improvised maypole.

Lars raised a brow, clearly uninspired by her call as he leaned comfortably against her wall. She snorted at his look, approaching her friend and catching his hand to pull him into the middle of the open space of her room. At her causal touch Lars eyes widened slightly, a soft blush lighting his features although he would have denied it had anything to do with the beaming sword singer holding his hand to his dying breath.

"Come on! I'm going to teach you the traditional dance!" Rhen urged, pulling him to the middle of the empty carpet and grabbing his other hand as she turned to face him.

"A  dance?!" Lars squawked, halfheartedly attempting to pull free.

Rhen tightened her grip slightly to keep him in place, cheeks pink from excitement and exertion as she nodded eagerly.

"Come on! You're a noble that's danced before right? This shouldn't be that hard for you." 

Lars gave a pointed sniff.

"I'll have you know I've been learning dance since I was a child, the kinds of formal dance that takes place in the empress courts. I would hardly know what to do during a commoners folk dance."

The moment the words left his mouth, hints of distain in his tone a sudden look of sheepish regret crossed his features, shoulders slumping slightly. There were some habits that died hard clearly. He moved to pull away once again but Rhen gave him a tug, causing the tanned male to stumble forward towards her.

"Well then it's only fair that you learn my dance, since you're not in the empress courts right now, you're in my room." Rhen stated, Lars hesitating before giving a slight nod. "Great! Now follow my steps as I go back...."

It didn't take long for the young sorcerer to pick up the steps she was teaching him, and soon the two of them were dancing around the carpet with only a few mishaps of Rhen stepping on Lars feet as he missed a step.

Their laughter floated through the window over the streets as the two teens let go of the weight of the quest on their shoulders for just a few moments, the room blurring around them as they spun and let their steps carry them around the ornate carpet. 

"Hey yoUWAH!" 

Rhen's statement was cut off as in her as in distraction her leg caught the blue robe swirling around Lars feet in time to his movements. With twin exclamations as they were brought to halt the two of them found themselves tangled as they tipped backwards and landed in a heap on the carpet.

Lars let out a loud oof as Rhen landed rather ungracefully on top of him, both of them staring at each other in shock as they processed what had just happened.

A moment of stunned silence.

Then at once both of them burst into hysterical laughter, Rhen rolling sideways to land on the carpet next to Lars as chortles escaped her. She gasped slightly trying to catch her breath as she recovered from the whirlwind of movement they had just abruptly fallen out of.

"That was fun, I haven't been this relaxed in forever." Rhen admitted, still slightly breathless.

Lars made a sound of agreement and Rhen turned her head to look at her friend. As she dropped her head to he side she found herself face to face with Lars, vibrant green eyes so close as they met her violet orbs. There was a heavy silence before Lars turned pink and abruptly pushed himself upright to stand.

"There's supposed to be a meteor shower tonight, come on." He tossed gruffly over his shoulder as he moved to her window and opened it fully.

Rhen scrambled to her feet, slightly thrown by what had just taken place but recovering quickly as she reached the window and climbed out behind her sorcerer friend.

"Careful." Lars said quietly as Rhen stepped out and wobbled slightly.

Reaching over and taking hold of Rhen's hand from where he stood above her he carefully helped guide her further up, Rhen actually allowing him despite herself as they made their way up to the flat portion over her room.

"It's freezing out here." Rhen muttered as they took a seat with their backs against the other peak.

There was a shuffling noise next to her and Rhen turned sharply only to flush as with a flair of blue fabric a warm robe was settled over her front and she was pulled into Lars side.

"To conserve warmth." He defended, refusing to look at her when the violet eyes young woman looked up at him from where she had been tucked under his arm.

A pleased smile flitted across Rhen's lips and she ducked her head to hide the expression from her companion, leaning into him slightly as she rested her head against his shoulder.

Silence fell over them as they gazed up at the sky, a soft cry of delight escaping Rhen as a shooting star flew overhead through the midnight sky.

"I know that this wasn't exactly the holiday you wanted at home, but did this at least help?"

Lars question broke the silence and Rhen looked over at her friend, the green eyed male gazing down at her inquisitively.

Rhen considered his question a moment before smiling softly, eyes sparkling as stars flew by overhead.

"Yeah. This was a wonderful Winter Solace, thank you Lars." She said quietly, leaning up to brush a featherlight kiss across his cheek.

Surprise flickered across his face before he shot her a crooked smile, dipping his head down to gently press his lips against hers. 

Moments later he pulled away, both blushing brightly yet wearing matching smiles as they settled back to watch the show. Rhen's head nestled against his shoulder. his cheek resting on the crown of her hair as they watched the stars celebrate the Winter Solace.

 

 

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@Mu11berry oh gosh, thank you!!

@Scrivener of the Gods this art is adorable. I really love how you drew Yemite’s face!

@Honey Butter Chloe this was fantastic! I got super excited when I saw the description and it did not disappoint! I love Stella’s brief firmness/determination to go through with her plan (and honestly to keep finding that dastardly kitten), especially contrasted to her more childish personality for the rest of the fic. It was really sweet!

@Queen-of-Ice101 This fic was so cute!! I love how you framed it around Rhen missing home. I liked her immediate change in tone from real sad to super excited. It was great to see Rhen and Lars doing a fun teenager thing like setting up for a holiday and dancing together in the midst of a quest!

@Danin this art looks super cool! I really like the specific shades of all the colors you picked and Mel’s expression! Also, the detail on Lydia’s dress!

@EsmeAmelia okay, hi, this is gonna be a little long because I absolutely adored this, thank you so so much!!! you combined like All of my favorites into something super domestic and cute. First of all I LOVE how you characterized Mel and Stella, and I love where you put them in their relationship. I really liked the undercurrent of them not knowing whether Stella's skated before or not and how you incorporated her memories into it. I thought the way you wrote their interactions was super sweet and absolutely perfect - Stella as fun-loving and encouraging and Mel's frustration and nerves and the two of them working together. Also I'd like to specifically say the description of "Stella's high and charming laugh" was so cute.

I also loved how you wrote Te'ijal and Galahad! I always really enjoy reading your fic for them. Particularly fond of Galahad's overconfidence and Te'ijal cackling at it. I thought Stella & Mel gossiping about them afterwards was cute too, and I enjoyed watching the four of them all interact together! Stella being a good friend and helping Galahad out (and I LOVED the detail about Mel thinking she was stronger than she looked).

To close, I'm gushing at both of my OTPs holding hands in the same fic, even if it is just for ice skating, as Mel so helpfully pointed out. (On that note; Stella's ~knowing look~ made me beam). Thank you so much for the fantastic gift!!

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