With a dull thud, Ari fell to the ground the pain searing through his already bruised eye. He grasped at his face with both hands.
"What the hell?!" He heard Rhiannon cry out. He heard the sound of a scuffle, probably Finn trying to protect Ari from a further crazed attack from the fiery haired man. "Conall! What are you doing?!"
"I am so sorry my lady. But I couldn't stand him going away all night keeping you worried! I had to teach him a lesson!" Conall cried in defense. Ari groped at his eye as he was slowly helped to his feet by Finn.
"If anyone would hit him it should be me!" Rhiannon cried in anger as she pointed at the door. "Out with you! Now!" Rhiannon's wrath was a force to be reckoned with and Conall shuffled out of the bedroom like a dog with his tail in between his legs.
Finn helped Ari walk to his bed where he sat nursing his face. "Now don't think that that excuses you." Rhiannon continued, "Where did you go last night, and who the hell is this?!" She demanded with an accusing finger pointed at Finn.
Ari slowly released his face and started to open his mouth. But the voice that came was not his own.
"Finnbar Flurry My Lady." Finn said with a deep bow. He took a sweeping stroll around the room as he began to speak with her. "A seasoned businessman, advisor to Noble Lords such as your fiance, as well as veteran bodyguard." He cornered in his pace and walked towards her. "Your most noble and honorable fiance hired me as his personal advisor and assistant for the upcoming journey. That is of course if you, my most beautiful and wise Lady approve." With that he bowed again and brought his hand up in a series of twirls and flourishes. To Ari's amazement a rose appeared in the man's hand in front of Rhiannon.
The woman blushed slightly as she took the offered rose. Ari smirked though he still wondered how Finn had done such a thing. A surveying scan of the room reminded Ari that he had had a vase of roses sitting on a small marble table near one of the tall windows. What a trickster, this Finn.
"Well master Finnbar," Rhiannon started.
"Please my Lady, call me Finn." He said, staying in his bowed position.
"Finn," Rhiannon started again, "Are you sure you can handle the ardurous journey to the far land?"
"Most certainl-The far land?" Finn shot a glance at Ari, the noble nodded slowly to his new friend. "Well yes. Forgive my surprise, I merely thought that our expedition was one of secrecy. I did not know that everyone would know about it." Finn explained quickly.
"Certainly, EVERYONE knows. My husband to be is going to a great pioneer in the Far Land of Fionn. He will make peace with the foreigners and unite the two continents. My Ari is going to go down in history."
Ari rolled his eye.
"Of course My Lady. And your Lord has spent the night searching the courts and Noble Houses for someone suitable to accompany him on this journey. It was with his hard work and persistence that he found such a man as capable as I. So my Lady it is with honor I pr-" Finn stopped short at the sounds of Albor yelling again and more feet pounding before the door. Before long the doors flew open and there stood the short fat merchant beside the old woman Eadburga. Rhiannon wheeled on them, her eyes narrowing.
"And who-" She started, anger forming in her voice.
"My Lady." Finn said quickly, practically dancing over two the two angry people. With one hand set calmly on each shoulder he disarmed them both with a charming smile. "Let me introduce them for you. This is Eadburga." Finn indicated to the old woman. "She has been trained extensively, she was a handmaiden for one of the Imperial Councillor's niece. She was also the head of servants for a very wealthy Merchant-Noble family until, rest his soul, the old man passed away. Our High Lord Peldric has offered a very generous amount to hire her as his own servant where she will provided with the most comfortable accommodations and ease of life in return for her diligent service to our Lord." Finn said neatly.
Ari had feared so greatly when the two came in, but he watched in amazement as Ari's linguistic acrobatics began to set him free. Rhiannon seemed to be drinking it all in. Ari's chin nearly dropped to the floor. One word from the fat man could ruin them, but Finn quickly turned to him.
"And this well to do merchant is one of the finest of his trade. He has rose to the top of the merchant trade only to seek more challenges to his financial prowess. A honest and shrewd man, our Dear Lord Peldric in all his wisdom has decided to hire this man as his chief of finances and fiscal affairs where he will be receiving a MORE than handsome salary, accompanied by again the finest accommodations a High Lord of the Imperial Noble Court can offer." Finn said stretching his hands out as he explained the magnificence of his story.
"What are y-" The merchant had started, but Finn was much too quick.
"We are still negotiating, of course, milady. A woman of your impressive intellect must understand that these things can only be settled through long drawn out discussions with much frustration and more often than not; much coin." Finn gesticulated each point with his hands, he practically drew each word with his hands. The man was a magician with his linguistics and everyone had fallen under his spell. Even Ari. Almost. Ari listened in amazement as Finn wove his web around the ears and minds of the rest in the room.
Rhiannon's wrath was slowly waning, Finn continued in an unusually long explanation of why and how they had all come to be at this place at this time. He covered everything, it was all lies, but it was effective. The fat man and Eadburga seemed very interested in their own stories and even seemed to appreciate them a little bit. Finally Rhiannon's wrath was sated. After an explanation that eventually exacerbated everyone, Rhiannon finally stopped Finn.
"I understand. You seem to be a very well spoken man. I am glad Ari, chose to-"
"Please milady do not allow me to further tie you down here. You must have business with your husband-to-be. So let me take these two and leave you." Finn said quickly, gesturing to Eadburga and the merchant. Rhiannon's mouth opened a time or two but Finn's magic seemed to trap her just enough so that he and his newly found entourage could slip out the double doors.
"He is.." Rhiannon started.
Ari had made his way to sitting on the edge of the bed. He held his eye still and just nodded. "He is." He agreed with whatever she was going to say.
"Ari.. I don't like how you left last night." Rhiannon said firmly.
"I'm sorry." He replied weakly, slowly laying back on the bed.
"Ari.." Her voice came, pleading, it was as soft as Ari had ever heard it. It was desperate for something, it was meek it was..
"I'm very tired right now." Ari muttered as he scooted back on his bed.
"Can't it wait?" His words struck like a hammer on an anvil. He rolled on his side, covering his face.
"Very well.." And with that she was gone...
For a reason Ari could not define, every conversation they had after that was.. dull. Lacking a certain flair that was typical with their conversation. They spoke of many things and spent a lot of time together over the next few weeks, but Ari could not quite put a finger on the emptiness that filled their time. Things were very nearly ready. Ari had had to convince Rhiannon not to fire Conall, even though it went against his every fiber.
Everything had been put in order, and finally the day had come. The procession was large on the day of the departure. A large parade strutted through the city in honor of the brave heroes willing to cross the expanse of sea into the east and explore this far land. Even the Emperor made an appearance. Dozens of strong men carried his throne on their shoulders, his weak gaze rolling lazily over the people gathered. A tall raven haired man stood on the platform the throne rested on. The man was constantly by the Emperor's shoulder, his dark eyes piercing into anyone who should happen to look his way. But the somberness his eyes and stoic appearance brought were drowned out by the waves and waves of joyous music and cheering. At last the laborious celebration had come to near an end and all those who would be departing from Kazyra to the White Coast were assembled on the main road in the Middle District. The columns were thick and diverse. At the back were farmers, smiths, bakers, and many other men and women of different occupations that would be needed on the voyage. Many of them were people who had volunteered, probably seeking a fresh start in this far land. Then more people and then even more, some probably hired or blackmailed to go on this voyage. Then in the front were the important ones. All mounted on various different horses, but every beast was elegant and hand picked for this occasion.
Towards the front of the long columns and rows was the infamous General Varnava. He rode a large white stallion, a sharp contrast to his slick black military attire. The man had long black hair, and a grisly beard that gave the thickly set man an intimidating appearance. But what really astounded Ari was how he held himself. He looked so calm and at ease, though Ari knew that if anyone took one step too close they would be dead within seconds. A powerful looking man indeed. Ari thought it would be best if he kept his distance from the man on the voyage. Next to Fedya Varnava was a man that looked vaguely familiar to Ari. He was tall and wore the same uniform as Varnava, though Ari could tell he was no military man. He was far too smooth, too charismatic, too pretty to be a soldier.
Ari sat upon his own steed, emotionless as he stared out at all the people he would be traveling with. It ended up that he was not the only noble going, but there were actually quite a few going now. Though he was the highest ranking, it might be nice to have some of his own type around. Though by the looks of most of them they were most likely dull. At least he had Finn. Finn had certainly proven to be an entertaining fellow. Ari liked having him around, and even though he was not overly fond of Kojo he also appreciated the big mans presence. He was a decent fellow and Ari had a sense he was the type of man who would be loyal until the last breath.
Eadburga and the merchant who they had come to know as Herleif had both accepted jobs under the High Lord Peldric and for one reason or another decided they would take the journey across the ocean. Finn was a little more hesitant, though one day after returning from the market he very quickly had decided that he would also be going on the journey. Ari knew he should have made further inquiries about the man... but he didn't. He liked him and besides surface level information he did not pry at all. Ari did not know how he had come to be this way, but he approached the voyage with a certain lack of feeling. He was numb.. even when he and Rhiannon and he kissed for most likely the last time in a long time he felt no warmth as he once would have, he felt no love. He was hardened and empty. There was a distinct reason for that though...
"I just think it is the best idea to call off the engagement until you get back." She had said...
"Why the hell is that the best idea?!" He had yelled.
"Ari, do not yell at me!"
Their last night together had not been a pleasant one. Ari adjusted himself on the saddle, gathering the reigns into one hand.
"You want to fuck that prick Dairin while I'm gone?!" Something had shattered against the wall. He thought it was a vase.
"Ari! Stop it!" She was crying.
"Go ahead! I don't fucking care." He screamed slamming the door behind him.
Ari gripped the reigns in his one hand tightly as he relived the terrible moment. The pain started to creep in again to suffocate him, but he quickly drowned it out and embraced the void of feelings that he had been seated on. Why would she.. no. Don't think about it. Ari tried to take a breath, but it came shakily. Maybe if he stayed he could repair.. no. Leave it. He thought he heard someone addressing him. Just because it was called off didn't mean she.. stop it Ari.
"My Lord." Ari looked up slowly, it was Herleif. The man had shaggy hair that fell to his eyes. Since they had reconciled the man seemed to be quite the agreeable man. He had been very helpful in preparing for the voyage and had already been quite the hand to Ari. "We're leaving My Lord." Herleif said softly.
Ari looked up from his downward stare to find that the long parade was exiting the city. Inhabitants of the city were lined on either side of the procession cheering them on. Ari noticed that Kojo in particular got a lot of praise. Ari flipped forward his reigns and now his own entourage was moving with the much larger caravan.
His horse clopped forward, all the sounds began to blend into one. The sights were dreary and dull, nothing of interest. Just many foolish people watching even more foolish people go on a foolish journey. It was all just a bit foolish. Ari's eyes drug through the crowd watching him lead his horse to his doom. They all had their own stories.. certainly many of them weren't as wealthy as he. Most of them probably didn't have as.. pampered a lifestyle as he.. but had many of them felt the pain he was feeling? Then suddenly out of the crowd, there they were.
That pair of indescribably beautiful orbs. Two deep pools of blue piercing through the space between them to stab Ari straight in the heart. Rhiannon was there, in all her beauty staring at him sadly through the crowd. A chill sank into Ari's heart at the same time a ray of hope shot through him. Was she there to say she had changed her mind. To explain herself? Something of his thoughts must have shown on his features because she shook her head, slowly and sadly.
A feeling that Ari wasn't familiar with swept through his entire body. Without hesitation Ari jerked his gaze away and set it squarely on the back of his steed's head. His gaze would not leave that spot for some time. He would not see the caravan exit the gates. He would not see Rhiannon shrink back into the crowd sobbing madly. He would not see Dairin watching Ari leave with glee practically leaping from him. He would not notice the ancient man seated far above, reaching out his old wrinkled hand at the procession as if to stop them. It didn't work.