• Graded • I Won't Tell If You Don't

Finn please

With the escalation of hostilities between Etzos and Rhakros, a series of small walled towns is being established as a network of early warnings and defenses against Rhakros' reprisals. Only the very bravest and most formidable of characters should risk themselves on the Witches' Wilds frontier.

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• Graded • I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Ivanthe » Sat Feb 03, 2018 11:54 pm

Cylus 15, nighttime

When darkness was needed, night always fell by slow, stubborn inches that left him coiled in knots like an anxious viper.

Ivanthe had spent the last shreds of daylight puttering uselessly around the outskirts of Foster’s Landing, shortbow in hand to prove his excuse of “I’m a hunter, new to the area, just looking around.” He’d only gotten questioned two or three times, and all by concerned passerby rather than suspicious guardsfolk; he knew he shouldn’t be annoyed with his luck holding relatively steady, but he couldn’t help it.

The sun was so damn slow.

He hadn’t wanted to waste so much focus on the camp atop the hill just overlooking the little port town––if he’d had his way, people would simply leave him alone and there would be no need for skulking at all. But adults were very persistent, and they liked entitling themselves to his business whenever his answers felt too odd. Does your father look after you alright? was usually the first suspicious question, whenever he used the “He’s out hunting,” excuse to explain why no adult was ever in his camp. When he dodged the first mess, they’d begin to grow suspicious of the actual truth––when they demanded to wait for his father’s return so they might, that was where the real trouble began.

All these things are your size, the most recent unwanted visitor had commented. Does your father carry all his things with him? Ivanthe had managed to bullshit his way out of that one well enough, but it pressed home a problem he’d been putting off for some time: all of the personal effects in his camp clearly belonged to him, and an especially keen eye could spot the striking lack of adult-sized things in a supposedly adult-run home.

Ivanthe needed to deal with that before any especially keen eyes came too close for him to bullshit.

He just needed a few things to put here and there, like clothes or boots, and he couldn’t bring himself to buy them. There would be people around shops, and if someone learned he’d been the one to make the purchase instead of an actual father, the entire point was defeated.

The camp on the overlook outside town was busy, with people coming in and out in small packs fairly regularly. The few rumors he’d pried out of his concerned bystanders had mentioned a quest of some sort; there was a group of returned treasure hunters on that hill..

If it was true, then it might very well be the best chance to fix his little problem.

As soon as the shadows were long enough to hide in, Ivanthe slipped out of Foster’s Landing. He headed parallel for awhile, then came at it directly from the east opposite the last shades of violet on the horizon. There he paced, a cub not quite confident enough to brave a den of strangers.
By the time things quieted enough for the boy to finally slink out of the roughage, the moon was risen and the murmur of supper had long since died down.

There were still people moving here and there, but they were few and far enough to hear clearly; Ivanthe was hyperaware of everything that reached his ears, and it kept him from even stepping foot between the tents proper. He’d thought this through, and he hated they way his terror crippled him. He needed this. He needed just a few tiny things to base excuses on––he needed anything that could help ward off unwanted eyes.

There was a burned-out fireplace on the northernmost edge of the camp, only a few glowing embers amongst the ash with no one to keep them alive much longer, and beyond that was a wagon. Ivanthe was almost tempted to disregard it––the thing was empty save for some barrels that he had neither the strength nor interest to make a pass at––but he stopped dead in his tracks when he got close enough to see the side.

Clothes. Freshly washed clothes, fitted for great mountains of men, hung over the wagon walls to dry overnight. And between the wheels, yes, Ivanthe could see boots!

Temptation yanked on him like a leash. There was no one in sight, but that meant he had to do something now; he just needed one thing, a single pair of boots would be enough.
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Sun Feb 04, 2018 8:33 am

I Won't Tell If You Don't

Image

________________________


He was supposed to wake early the next trial, to make plans for the return journey to Etzos, but sleep wouldn’t come. No matter which way he turned, his mind kept racing, kept lingering on the what he’d seen in the ruined city. With a sigh he got up from his straw mattress, cast the blankets aside, and slipped on his coat and boots to help shield against the nighttime cold. He groggily tip-toed around and between the snoring bodies of the other members of the travelling company trying to avoid rousing any one of them.

Before him the grounds stretched out at least two-hundred feet before sloping into a cliff face. The tall grass waved slowly in the wind, reaching up to his knees in places except where it had been flattened around a handful of tents, carts, and other equipment that was scattered across the plains. Further to the south a treeline emerged, crawling onto the flatland like a wave washed ashore and in the middle of the woods stood a large, towering tree.

He’d stuffed two raisin buns into the pockets of his coat, earlier that day. They fed him well enough during the expedition, but he simply always had a spot left for a little more. Besides, there was plenty food to go around. Within a few bits he’d made his way up the incline where a lonely covered wagon looked out over the edge. He wasn't quite sure why it had been left there, but it made a good sitting hiding spot regardless.

He swam through a few lines of clothes hanging out to dry between the wagon and a nearby tree before he hoisted himself up into the wagon and navigated around the barrels therein. The opening faced the north and looked out over all of Foster’s, bathing in the light of the triple moons. He jumped out the other end of the wagon and sat down, hidden from sight, and stared into the cloudless sky, ablaze with starlight.

The fire near the wagon was close to dying, but Finn reached out regardless. The heat was still enough to make a spark fly up from the fire and toward his hand where it remained like a small, flickering candle. He pulled out some grass to feed the flame ablaze as he didn’t possesses the skill necessary to keep it alive by himself for more than few trills. It was as if fire itself was teasing him, testing his resolve as he tried to bring it to show off, to jump from one hand to the other, to snake around his arm and make leaps into the air. For trials now he’d tried to improve, but the flames always petered out after a few jumps.

He was just about to begin his practice when the earth’s voice called to him in a whisper. Something was approaching, but not large and heavy like the weight of armed men, but light and gentle. The flame jumped away from his hand and back into the fire where it disappeared with a sizzle as Finn tried to listen for any footfalls. For a while he heard nothing but the wind and the flapping of the cloth covering the wagon, but then he heard a little rustle amid the grass. This time he turned and lowered himself to peer under the wagon. It was hard to see in the faint light of the moons, but he made out two shadow of two small boots. Guard? Pirate? No they were too small for that, and the feet were too close together. Besides he hadn’t heard the tell-tale rattle of armour.

Yet it wasn’t until the pair of boots carefully approached, and he was absolutely certain that they didn’t belong to a guardsman, that he stood up and revealed himself. “Hello?”

Just a few feet removed from the back-end of the wagon stood a boy with pitch-black hair, dressed in hunter’s attire and carrying a bow. Despite expecting to see a small person, he was still surprised to find a little hunter there. The camp was too close to Foster’s Landing to be a good hunting spot. Perhaps a spy for the pirates that freely roamed the Landing? No, he didn’t carry any of their usual attire.

“Wait,” Finn said instinctively, keeping his voice low. He’d been in the boy’s position a few times himself, caught by surprise and on the verge of fleeing. “I’m unarmed.” He showed his hands, one of which clutched the last bits of the bun he’d been eating. It wasn’t entirely true however. Should the little one try anything funny, he could call on his elemental friends to make the earth uneven beneath the boy’s feet, or befuddle him with a sudden gust of wind. “Maybe I should run,” he added with a nervous smile as he nudged his head toward the lad’s bow.

“I’ve got one too,” he added in an attempt to defuse the tension. He slowly lowered his arms again and stared back, through the wagon, at the small hunter with a frown plastered on his face. “Who are you? Odd place to go hunting,” he added as he cocked his head. Not to mention that the child was likely more prey than predator.
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Ivanthe » Sun Feb 04, 2018 2:28 pm

Image

There were three pairs of boots set against the wheels of the wagon, each of different sizes. Ivanthe only needed one; he was a thief by necessity, not profession, and it felt unwise to risk taking more than was absolutely necessary. The largest pair of boots, then, along with one of the bigger shirts. He kept his bow in one hand for comfort more than actual need as he swept up what he needed, wrangling them roughly into a solid grip and then breaking into a fierce, relieved smile––one of the few genuine smiles Ivanthe had felt since… a very long time ago. This wasn’t much, true, but it was something.

“Hello?”

The air itself seemed to shatter, right alongside Ivanthe’s flicker of accomplishment. He locked up, breath freezing in his throat as a shadow appeared from the other side of the wagon. A cold, salty wind blew from the sea, sweeping past the smell of smoke and supper and filliing him with the scent of spray. Out of the wagon’s shadow stepped a young man––no, a boy. A young boy. Not that much older than Ivanthe himself.

A nest of short brown hair caught the last bits of emberlight, but it was outstripped instantly by a pair of bright, echoing blue-green eyes. Ivanthe’s attention went straight to those eyes, noting and disregarding their color in favor of what lay in them. He looked first for anger, then disgust or offense––anything that could possibly lead to danger. A small lifetime of practice left him balancing on the edge of a wire, ready to grab the surest route to safety.

Wait. The boy said it with his voice, but he also said it with his heart; Ivanthe reached briefly for the Tangle before him, particularly for what lay at the very top.

What he found was unfamiliar, but it rang similar to other threads he knew well. Not quite wanting, not quite giving, it was felt vibrantly but was also the soft blue-gray color of non-violence. While Ivanthe wasn’t such a curious boy that he’d forget danger in favor of answers, he did have a knack for deciding things quickly––and the feel of this emotion, he decided, was not dangerous.

Half consciously and half from habit, Ivanthe reached again for that blue-gray feeling that was similar to calm, wait, invitation, non-danger, the other boy’s very intention in ever asking Ivanthe to “Wait,” at all. He Strummed that single feeling at the top of the Tangle, playing gently along every part he could find and working his way up, back, delicately closer to the Tangle itself and toward whatever piece of the boy’s heart it had come from. Ivanthe didn’t want to change it, merely keep the single non-violent feeling higher and louder than anything else––like, say, wondering what a strange little boy was doing with a shirt and boots that were obviously too big for him and obviously stolen.

Unarmed. The boy showed his hands peacefully, one curled around what looked like half a bun, then jerked his head toward Ivanthe’s own weapon with an anxious smile. Ivanthe shifted nervously, but did not run; there was still no sharp change toward danger, and for the moment it seemed like Ivanthe had the upper hand in terms of preparedness. Since there hadn’t been an immediate shout of alarm, the hunter’s stomach didn’t knot any tighter than it already was.

The first real question asked was of who––the standard who are you and what are you doing, though phrased more… playful than usual. Less demanding.

“I…” Right. What exactly was he supposed to say, arm full of someone else’s clothes? Ivanthe knew what battles could be won and which couldn’t, and there was no way in Idalos he could hope to bullshit his way out of this one.

So, knowing full well that he had no possible way to lie, he simply dropped to the truth. As slowly as he was capable.

“I’m Ivanthe,” he answered simply. “Who are you?” Then, barely a heartbeat later, “What are you eating?” Better to ask the questions than to be asked, if he could help it.

Again Ivanthe reached out to play softly along the blue-gray strand of emotion, hoping to keep it at the forefront as long as possible. He also straightened out of the defensive hunch, mirroring the other boy’s non-threatening stance and planting the tip of his bow casually against the ground––his own deliberate sign of peace.
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Sun Feb 04, 2018 6:25 pm

I Won't Tell If You Don't

Image

________________________


Finn chuckled a little as the strange boy fumbled. He was about Molly's height. . . His bright gaze returned to the little boy, tainted by a hint of sadness, though he was quick to mask it.

He knew exactly what was going through the youngster’s head because he’d been there, on the receiving end of prying eyes, reaching for words that stayed stuck in his throat. What he didn’t know was that the innocent looking boy had a trick up his sleeve.

“Ivan- Ivan-te” he repeated, not sure if he’d heard it right. He couldn’t quite place the name, but the boy had an accent that betrayed he wasn’t from these parts, his voice was far too gentle for that. A smile parted his lips then. “This?” he asked in reply to the boy's question. "It's a bun. I was eating a bun," he said, feeling a little strange to confess to something so mundane in the middle of the night to a complete stranger. He fished the other one out of his pocket and presented it in the dim moonlight. “Want it?” he asked in a hushed voice. The offer was sincere, though he might not have made it as quickly if his tangle hadn’t been tampered with.

Regardless of whether Ivanthe took the crumpled bun or not, Finn’s eyes shot to the bow again. The child could've been his younger brother, though his hair wasn't quite so dark and he believed any missing O'Connor sibling would be a little less skinny and speak more coarsely. While he noticed the boots and shirt the boy clutched in one hand, he didn’t think too much of it and any suspicion soon faded, tempered by Ivanthe’s magic.

“I’m Finnegan,” he said as he turned to lean against the wagon’s side, “but everyone calls me Finn.” His lips settled into a thin line as he weighed his next few words carefully and when he spoke again, he did so in a hushed tone, as though he was imparting the secret of life itself. “I don’t know about you but-” he scratched the back of his neck, “I’m sort of not really supposed to be here.” It was late, after all, and even though his travel companions weren’t his parents, they acted like it sometimes. “Same goes for the buns. Let’s say they... .fell into my pockets, hmm?” A little glint showed in his eyes as he stuffed the last bit of his own bun into his mouth. “Fwortwanly thweres nwo eviwidwence,” he grinned and yet he still managed to look hungry by the time he was done devouring his midnight snack.

“In plain common,” he added once he’d wiped the last crumbs off his mouth, “don’t peach.”

A bout of silence would follow if Ivanthe still remained, but just when the young hunter thought he could slip away, Finn spoke again.

“Are you alone?” The Empathy had avoided him asking any of the more pressing questions, such as why the boy was sneaking around in the middle of the night, holding a pair of oversized boots, but didn’t hold back any question that welled up out of genuine concern.

“You look cold,” he noted pointedly when the boy had answered, or dodged, his previous question. He pushed his back off the side of the wagon and gave a little shrug. “You could probably sneak into the stables if you need a place to sleep. They’re just on the edge of town. I have to feed the horses first thing in the morning, so I could wake you and you could get out before anyone notices you were ever there.”
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Ivanthe » Sun Feb 04, 2018 10:58 pm

ImageThe boy took a moment to mull over Ivanthe’s name and try it on the tongue; once Ivanthe nodded at the correct pronunciation, his new acquaintance turned to answer the question posed of him.

He was eating a bun. Not that Ivanthe had expected anything else; it had been a misdirection rather than genuine curiosity, but it did surprise him when the boy plucked a second one out of his pocket and brandished it.

Ivanthe tilted his head, taken off guard for the second time that night. He stared at the boy for a few moments, thinking wildly for any reason why such an offer would come his way. He’d never had food given freely, not without some request following on its heels; it wasn’t that he doubted the offer’s sincerity, it was simply that he hadn’t known it as something that could happen until it was in front of him.

After several long moments of looking back and forth between the bun and the boy’s face, Ivanthe uneasily reached out and took the offering––deliberately avoiding all skin contact.

“Finnigan,” he said when the name came, eventually cutting back onto “Finn.” The short version sounded less formal, more like the boy who wore it.

With the tension broken for now, Finn smiled cheekily and confessed to several things: walking where unwanted, first and foremost, followed by theft. A mischievous twinkle, and the last of his first bun was devoured to prove a point.

One of the knots in Ivanthe’s stomach loosened, and he looked at the remaining bun in his hands. He looked back at Finn with a small smile of his own, though it was more ghostly and perhaps colder.

“No evidence,” Ivanthe said with a shrug, before shoving the whole raisin bun into his mouth.

He’d known it was stupid the moment he’d had the idea, but sometimes logic had to bow down to the sheer, simple desire to look clever. The raisin bun was easily the size of Ivanthe’s fist, and it took both hands to push the thing behind his teeth––which left him without the room to even chew, let alone talk. So while he stood there trying to look very cleverly casual as he leaned on his bow, his tongue worked frantically to push the bun between his teeth as subtly as he possibly could in the hopes that Finn wouldn’t notice.

Of course, the long, awkward silence that followed was probably a dead giveaway.

Swallowing the bun was a long, difficult and decidedly painful process, but Ivanthe managed it. Eventually. And when he did, he managed to respond to the next question with an elegant, “Uhh…”

There were certainly elements of Finn’s words that were tempting––it was cold, and sleeping in a stable sounded more comfortable than making the trip back to his camp––but there remained the fact that a whole pack of strangers were scattered throughout the tents on the hill, and that was a whole pack of problems he didn’t want to deal with.

But he still didn’t leave, toeing uncertainly at the ground instead. “I’m not sure, though… I guess…” He shook his head. “I, er––I need to be home tomorrow. My, erm, my father will need me. To help him hunt.” He knocked a rock with the tip of his bow. “We’re both hunters, see. He, um, he’s not home a lot of the time––he doesn’t care what I do, usually, but tomorrow he needs me.”

He hugged the boots tighter, lingering for just one more moment before giving in to temptation.

“How big are the stables?”
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Mon Feb 05, 2018 2:24 am

I Won't Tell If You Don't

Image

________________________


He offered an apologetic smile to Ivanthe which soon faded once the boy started tripping over his words again. Yet again he recognized himself in the blue-eyed boy, the way he searched for words and hastily stitched together an unconvincing answer was all too familiar. Finn narrowed his eyes a little but refrained from outright accusing the boy of lying. That something was off however, was becoming increasingly evident and hungry curiosity welled up inside him, but before he could dig deeper the boy inquired after the size of the stables.

Finn started to walk around the wagon and motioned for Ivanthe to follow while he spoke in a low, conspiratorial voice. “There’s a little attic in the stable where they keep the hay. It’ll be warm and you’ll have plenty of room, trust me.” He guessed some of the boy’s other concerns as they slowly moved downhill. “Guards won’t look there. Heck, there’s hardly any guard in Foster’s anywa-”.

When they rounded another empty cart he stopped, showing Ivanthe the palm of his hand, then hastily motioning downward before dropping to a crouch. He turned his head and pressed his index finger to his lips. It wasn’t so much that he was frightened by adults, but he’d started to suspect Ivanthe had obtained those boots through some disreputable means, and if he could help the boy avoid being thrown into a dungeon for half a season…

For a while, there was little to be heard but the sound of the wind and distant animals, but then voices and footsteps sounded. There wasn’t much time. “We gotta run,” he hissed over his shoulder. “You keep the shirt,” he whispered as he snatched the boots from Ivanthe’s hand. Given how the hunter had clutched them Finn was sure the boy wouldn’t like that, but there wasn’t much of a choice. Ivanthe was carrying too much and they needed to be quick and not let the shirt, bow, or boots fall. Any item they left could give their presence away. His eyes locked onto the boy’s blue orbs. “Trust me,” he added with some emphasis, “and keep up.”

He hoped Ivanthe would listen, but if he didn’t that was his own choice. Ivanthe wouldn’t be the only one in trouble if they were spotted, and Finn cared a little more about saving his own skin than that of the youngster.

For a few dreadful trills Finn held up his hand, signalling that he was waiting for the right moment. The next moment he jumped up and hissed a fleeting, “now!” over his shoulder before bolting down the hill. The descent was a little steeper than it looked and the soil uneven. Making matters worse was that they couldn’t afford being too loud as a speck of torchlight was heading in their direction from the camp. Finn didn’t look back to see if Ivanthe managed to keep up, not until he skidded to a halt near the stables, hastily unbarred the lock and slipped past the door into the warmth of the building. As soon as he was inside he’d turn to hold the door slightly ajar, hoping Ivanthe would enter a trill later. It was dark inside the stables. Darker than outside, but warmer and smellier too. Finn could only hope Ivanthe didn’t mind the smell of horses, for the place reeked of it.

Ivanthe was greeted with a wide grin before letting the broad, heavy door fall shut behind them.

“That was close,” Finn would say. “Still got everything?”

If Ivanthe would answer in the affirmative, Finn would tug his sleeve to guide him in the right direction through the darkness and put up a ladder so they could reach the little attic. If Ivanthe had followed up until that point and mustered the courage to climb the rickety ladder in the dark, Finn would fumble to find an oil lamp amid the hay and ignite it, casting grim shadows against the walls. “You can have these back,” he’d say as he would hand the boots over. Only then would the feared question dawn on him. “Are they yours?”
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Ivanthe » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:52 pm

Image“I… guess I could sleep there,” Ivanthe replied, reluctant to admit even wanting help. “As long as no one finds me.” He trusted Finn not to punish or ask questions, but the rest of the Company held no such trust. He’d slept on a haypile before; they were always warm and soft as long as he kept his cloak on.

Still, Ivanthe took one last look at Finn’s tangle to be sure. The blue-gray was less sharp, but it was still one of the strongest feelings. A warm golden string of, er, companionship was joining it, near as he could tell, but there was also a sudden dark blue––suspicion, which Ivanthe knew better than anything. It wasn’t strong, but it was there, and Ivanthe didn’t have the time to poke it; Finn was already leading the way into the camp proper.

Less than a minute into the journey, Finn froze, and Ivanthe froze with him. They both dropped into crouches at the sound of strangers approaching, and Ivanthe’s lungs stopped working.

But Finn, he knew what to do. He made a quick shush gesture, then plucked the boots right out of Ivanthe’s arms. For a wild moment, Ivanthe thought Finn might steal from him, but everything up to that point would have made no sense if he was a thief.

Run, trust, and keep up. Ivanthe didn’t much have a choice if he wanted those boots back. Moments passed one by one, feeding the young hunter’s anxiety it seemed it would pull him apart––and that was the moment Finn uncoiled and hissed ”Now!” A steep slope, jagged earth and the cover of darkness made their sprint a matter of luck and prayer; Ivanthe could hear the tiniest rocks under his feet like thunder, so loud he thought it would take a miracle for no one to hear them. It was both an eternity and no time at all before he reached the dark shape of the stables, just a few moments behind Finn, and tumbled into the building.

The door closed shut behind him, pitch black closing in as Ivanthe gasped for breath. His pounding heart drowned everything, but the smell of the place pressed down like a blanket. Hay. Dust. Horses. Stone. In time he could hear the soft breathing of the animals, the soft whistle of flicking tails and scattered nickers at the unusual commotion.

Ivanthe stood up unsteadily, and Finn handed back the boots. Are they yours?

The hunter clenched up, licking his lips. “Yes,” he said tensely. “They are now.” And in the tone of his voice was the question, Problem? He was smaller, weaker and slower than Finn, but had just enough stubborness to challenge him anyway––he certainly didn’t think Finn would kill him over stolen clothes, and that made all the difference.

If there was no problem, Ivanthe would take a few steps back to squint and look around at the stables, getting the general layout from black-on-black shapes and rustling of horses.

“Thank you,” he said after a moment. “All of this… I’ll pay you back, when I get the chance.” He wasn’t quite sure why Finn had done any of it, but didn’t want to spoil a gift horse by looking in its mouth; he just wanted to sleep, get back to his camp and shoo off concerned adults with his man-sized shirt and boots as soon as possible.

“Are you a stablehand if you feed the horses?” Ivanthe asked after another moment, scratching an ear awkwardly. “I’m, um, not from around here. It’s my first time in Foster’s Landing. Anywhere near Etzos, really.”
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Mon Feb 05, 2018 10:05 pm

I Won't Tell If You Don't

Image

________________________


Finn rubbed his sore legs and took a moment to catch his breath before looking back up to Ivanthe who held on to the boots like his life depended on them. “You mean you stole ‘em,” he corrected, rather matter of factly.

Things were starting to fall into place now. It explained the boy’s sudden and mysterious appearance, although Finn hadn’t seen him take the boots. “Well,” he shrugged, “they’re not mine.” And that seemed to be the end of that.

He could’ve departed at that moment and leave the young hunter to his own devices, yet he stayed, his curiosity swelling. The boots were, he noted, several sizes too large. The most reasonable explanation was that he’d nicked them for money, or perhaps he simply taken them in a hurry and not noticed their size just yet. Finn took a seat on one of the hay bales, put the dimmed lamp between his feet and rested his chin in the cup of his hands. “You could help me with somethink’ actually. Keep your yapper shut about the buns for starters. In fact, don’t even mention me, not to anything or anyone. Got it? Oh, and definitely don’t say I let you in here. Maybe just don’t say anything at all.”

Ivanthe had more questions on his mind and Finn was all too eager to answer, it had been a while since he’d gotten to speak to a peer, let alone one that actually seemed to listen, even if his interest was potentially feigned.

“Really, I wouldn’t worry too much. There’s just no Black Guard here.” He noted a hint of confusion in Ivanthe and remembered the boy was visiting Etzos and Foster’s for the first time. “Those are what keeps the peace in Etzos,” he explained before cracking another smile. Ivanthe could would be able to see the same twinkle in his eyes. “They try, the Black Guard, but I s’pose they’re called black cause they've got their eyes shut. You could snatch their grandmother from under their hairy noses and they wouldn’t notice.” It was clear he spoke from experience. “And if they do nab you, you’ll be out before you know,” he added with a smile.

“Well,” he sighed as he got up again, “I should be off.” He moved back to the ladder and had already descended halfway when poked his head up again. “Don’t cause any trouble eh?” And with that, he slipped out and returned to his bed.

--

He didn’t sleep much, worried that he might fall into a deep dream and fail to wake Ivanthe in time. His thoughts kept returning to the boy as he tried to figure out what the dark-haired child had been doing, sneaking around the encampment. Had he been sneaking at all? It seemed like it and if he had, he wasn’t half bad at it which meant he could make good use of him. There were only two problems. First, he didn’t know if the boy intended to go to Etzos and secondly, he wasn’t sure if he could trust the little one. Then there was the father too…

The same questions kept going ‘round and ‘round in his head six bells later as he paced through the morning cold. Save for a few shy rays on the horizon it was still dark outside. Dark, and not a smidge warmer.

His eyes didn’t immediately find Ivanthe once he’d climbed the ladder onto the attic, the boy rested in some wild tangle of limbs, bits of cloak, and messy pile of hay, his dark hair practically the only indicator that someone was sleeping there at all.

“Morning,” Finn greeted as he dropped a bundle on the boy’s stomach. He took the same seat he’d occupied during the night and started nibbling on his own breakfast while he waited for Ivanthe to wake. His own bundle contained the same as Ivanthe’s: two big slices of bread and a chunk of cheese he’d nicked from the kitchen, an apple, and a waterskin with fresh water from the well. He eyed Ivanthe between bites, trying to assess if he could trust the young huntsman. After a little while he put his half-eaten breakfast aside and gave the lad a hard stare. “Ivan. Dýou think you can you keep a secret?” What was to follow would be a good test of the boy’s character.
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Ivanthe » Tue Feb 06, 2018 11:54 pm

ImageAnyone else might be intimidated by Finn’s curt keep your mouth shut, but all Ivanthe felt was relief. Altruism was strange even from someone near his own age; Ivanthe was poor, and almost-threats were the poor man’s polite handshake. This sort of etiquette, Ivanthe knew well.

So he shrugged. “Never seen any buns in my life. If they don’t want me in their stables they should learn to close the doors tighter.” The poor man’s I’m with you.

With that out of the way, they each knew where the other stood––things had settled clearly in Ivanthe’s cluttered mind, at least for the moment, and that was more than he could say for most people he met.

The following torrent of information was precious, and he kept track of every grain. The Black Guard was the arm of law, at least in Etzos proper, but its strength waned the further away it ranged from the city. Their competence was apparently up for interpretation, so Ivanthe withheld any opinion until he could actually witness the Black Guard for himself––they sounded next to nonexistent in Foster’s Landing, at any rate. Any more questions, Ivanthe held back; he had already asked enough and felt no need to stretch his companion’s goodwill.

The Commander of the Turkey Company apparently had a mustache the likes of which set him above all others. Ivanthe had to bite back a cheeky, How in Idalos did you convince an honorable man to take you as a squire? and nearly broke skin doing it.

There was no more time to ask, anyway. Ivanthe hadn’t expected a great deal of time to start, what with all the skulking around they’d both been doing.

He nodded when Finn stood to leave. “Thank you,” he repeated. “I will repay you.”

The older boy slid down the ladder, leaving Ivanthe with the dusty smell of horses and the building warmth of the hay beneath him. He wrapped his cloak tight and shifted deep into the pile, taking a moment to breathe in the sweet scent of dried grass and safe sanctuary, before drifting quickly into sleep.

–– –– ––


He’d been blissfully dreamless when Finn woke him, and had never before he been so reluctant. The hay was so warm, the whuffing of the animals so soothing, and his body was tingling with the afterglow of a real, decent night’s sleep.

Finn, amazingly, didn’t poke or prod Ivanthe to hurry; he simply sat where he had the night before and watched the younger boy slur out, “Morning… Finn.”

There was a bundle on Ivanthe that hadn’t been there the night before. The hunter opened it curiously, his eyes going wide at the sight of food and water. It was almost too much, he thought, especially after everything else Finn had done for him––but when he looked up, he saw the older boy watching thoughtfully. There was a question turning behind that gaze.

Think you can keep a secret?

Ivanthe tilted his head quizzically as a thousand responses raced through his head. Many of them were snarky. Many of them were cautious. Many of them were defensive.

Most of them were ignored.

“Yes,” he replied flatly, “but I know my word doesn’t weigh much. What do you need?” He could hear a request lingering behind Finn’s question, because why would he say something so cryptic without a follow-up in mind? Granted, it might very well have well been a forlorn hope on Ivanthe’s part; to say he was uncomfortable with so much charity was an understatement, and doing something in return would help put put him back on equal footing.
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I Won't Tell If You Don't

Postby Finnegan O'Connor » Thu Feb 08, 2018 1:53 pm

I Won't Tell If You Don't

Image

________________________


Finn smiled, glad to see the boy agree, albeit with a hint of reluctance. “Where you were yesterday- the camp- we came back from a treasure hunt.” The excitement in his voice wasn’t entirely feigned, but neither was it entirely sincere. The best lies were made out of a half-truths, and Finn had considered what he was about to say very carefully. “We searched for a diamond amid an old, ruined city, just a few trials south from here. There was a chalice that led us there, and there were strange marks and ancient hallways and-” he stopped himself there, on purpose, hoping to have given Ivanthe enough to fuel the boy’s imagination. The test he’d devised was simple. Ivanthe was a thief, he’d confirmed as much by not denying having taken the boots. Whether he was a good thief however, was what Finn wished to know. Mr. Tagley would be happy, he imagined if he could bring another talented youth into the fold, another pair of eyes and ears on the streets, another nimble little thing who could slip in and out of buildings unseen. There’d be a decent wage for the boy too, something the lad could put to good use, Finn imagined. But before he’d take Ivanthe back to Mr. Tagley for employment, he needed to know if Ivanthe wouldn’t run his mouth. He’d certainly find out if the boy did.

“I did as much as any other, but they won’t give me my fair share,” he lied. “I’m too young, too small, didn’t do all the hard work” he rolled his eyes at Ivanthe, “you know how it is.” He straightened himself a little, the food he’d brought entirely forgotten at his side.

“There’s a small tent at the very edge of the camp.” It was his tent of course, but Ivanthe didn’t need to know. “There’s a chest there where the most valuable items are stored. I think… I think I have right to at least a fifth of what’s in there. But,” he lowered his voice now and leaned in conspiratorially, “if I take it, they’ll know. I need someone else to… you know, get me my fair share.”
Finn let a little bout of silence do most of the persuading as his gaze remained firmly trained on Ivanthe, almost uncomfortably so.

“It won’t be hard,” he added. “We have no guards. Five bells before midnight is when we eat. You could slip in and out, like that,” he snapped his fingers. “If you’ll do this for me, you’ll be quite literally repaying me. Sounds fair no? All you have to do is take the chest, it’s not that large, and bring it here. Hide it in the hay. I’ll meet you back here around midnight.”

If Ivanthe agreed up onto that point, Finn would stand up, stuff the remainder of his breakfast in his mouth and turn to leave. “It has to happen tonight though. Tomorrow the camp will be broken up.” That part, at least, wasn’t a lie.
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