Penny Pellegrin | Location:
She could see him from her perch, just wandering around below her, all cute and clueless and stuff. She was rarely the one looking down, and this opportunity could not be wasted. “Boyfriend!”
she shouted, hopping up on the bannister. “You’re mine! Think fast.”
She leapt down, aiming to land right on him and be caught like the fair maiden she dreamed of being.
Ashon instinctively stepped out of the way of the falling boulder, except this boulder was rather too Penny-shaped for his liking. With a twist of his heel, he sprung back toward her as he caught her within his arms into a bridal carry. “I see it is raining Pennies.”
He leaned down to peck upon her forehead whilst grinning widely toward her. He looked up to see where she fell from, as he shifted her over his shoulder and climbed up along the wall as he brought the pair of them back upon her balcony. He sat back upon the bannister as he had her seated forward upon him. “Want to dive off again~?“
.“I was trying to crush you,”
she admitted. “A lil’ tree boy beneath the ruthless heel of the Perrench oppressor.”
Penny shrugged. “Gotta make my ancestors proud.”
She twisted free and sat beside him, snuggling into his shoulder and dangling her foot over the edge. She swung it idly back and forth, stretching her toes out a couple of times.
He could only raise an eyebrow at his would-be oppressor, “Perhaps I shall bat away those tyrants with my superior wits and combat ability, then ensure peace by seducing their King, or perhaps a Queen, the ol’ Talit and Arcel treatment.”
He grinned as he snapped toward Penny as he teasingly whispered by her ear, “I would gladly accept a cute merchant girl instead.”“Gods, Carles is cold,”
Penny suddenly offered. It was just on the verge of being legitimately cold - cold enough to make one shrink indoors - and, even here in subtropical Ersand’Enise, a handful of yellowed and browned leaves carpeted the ground of the small green by the merchant girls’ dormitories. “Actually, I was wondering what your plans were for the break. It’s Caldores in a month.”
She twisted and looked up at him questioningly, innocent enough.
He smiled toward her as he thought about the seasons, “After the leaves turn crimson and fall like blood droplets upon the ground…”
He gazed toward Penny with the most stern of expressions, and she shivered. “Macabre, Jammy. Macabre.”
. He broke the seriousness with a big grin, “I hadn’t a clue.”
Though the talk had certainly reminded him of something, as he raised the bushel of strawberries he had with him, plucking one out. “Red is my favourite colour“
, he bit into the sweet flesh of the fruit as he offered out the rest toward Penny for her to bite.
Penny blinked. She plucked a strawberry and ate it, tossing the top down into the green to be food for the animals. “Mine changes every year or two,”
she replied with a shrug. If there was some deeper symbolism, she wasn’t getting it. “I know it’s the milquetoast answer, but I think they all have their merits.”
The berry was good
. It reminded her of the ones in the castle gardens: the only real outdoor space she’d been allowed to spend time in as a child. She made sure not to waste any. It occurred to her that he was dodging the question, so she opted to let it linger. If he addressed it belatedly, then it meant that he was ready to open up. If he didn’t, then she wouldn’t press. She’d been less than open herself, Dami’s truth.
Ashon held out the strawberry as it was left hanging. Penny stuck out her tongue. “I don’t want your goober, Monkey boy,”
she teased. Ashon shrugged. “Overheard Maura talk about the yanii custom of indirect kissing. Apparently all flustered when she shared a picnic with that boy that hangs around her. Sharing the treat that had been bit by another.”
, rolling the berry with his thumb, then flicking it into the air as it caught it between his teeth.
Penny rolled her eyes, but then softened it with a smile. ”So you’re saying you want me to be unsanitary with you.”
She leaned in and bit the strawberry and planted a little kiss on him.
He couldn’t resist grinning at her comment, enjoying the affectionate peck. “It may surprise you, but my company tends not to be wanted for too long,“
the tone soft and playful as his fingers were casually sliding through the strands of her hair as she leaned upon his shoulder, playfully twirling it around his fingertips. “So I tend to float from place to place, where-ever the breeze takes me. On rare occasions, I sometimes may visit my old man on a passing visit when he isn’t busy with his tea leaves in his gilded cage.”That
caused her to shift. “Gilded cage?”
she enquired. “Just… what does he do?”
Very ladylike, she picked a leaf from between her teeth and flicked it into the green-brown abyss below. “Sorry if it’s like… rude to ask, but I’m curious now.”“Huh, never been asked before.”
He scratched upon his cheek before turning to look toward her, examining her curious face. “He is a very well respected member of the community, everyone comes to see him for advice and his blessing. He took me in when I was young off the street. He is what you call a future-teller”
He moved one of his fingers to stroke along the round ridge of Penny’s ear, “So he would do this ceremony where he pretends to look at leaves with his absent eyes which sit in a bowl of water, circling them around with a stick, and people take his ramblings as gospel.”
His finger went into a circling motion against her ear as he acted it out, smirking playfully. “Though, that is not the main reason they keep him around.”“Sooo… A timewalker?”
she prodded. “You have a story to tell, precious one, and I’m going to squeeze you like an orange for it if I have to.”
She smiled sweetly but challengingly, clearly taking an interest. “Shune, we’ve known each other for months. We’ve even swapped strawberry spit. How is it that we haven’t talked about stuff like this?”
She glanced down and then back up. “I mean… I’ll share too if you will. I feel like we should be doing stuff like this.”
He paused as he considered her words, simply listening. He moved to plant a kiss upon the top of her head as he spoke softly toward her. “Is this Penny wanting us to become serious?”
For a moment, an intense anxiety seized Penny. Being ‘serious’ would mean a whole bunch of things: things she wasn’t sure she was ready for. He would learn about her family. They would learn about him. They would… She wanted him. She wanted him for herself but she wasn’t enough. He hadn’t seen her - really
seen her yet. She liked her gloves and her long dresses because they made her a normal shape. It would probably be okay. They would probably be okay, but she was malformed. It… wasn’t beautiful. Would the rest of her be enough? She was three-quarters of an ideal princess of Perrence. What if it wasn’t? What if he acted nice about it but she could see the enthusiasm leave him. She blinked to clear her head. “I suppose it is,”
she admitted, pulse building behind her ears. “Frankly surprised we haven’t already,”
she said with a nervous chuckle.
He moved to the other side of her as he watched her. His eyes examined her intensely, watching how the pupils fluctuated with each passing moment. Ashon moved his hand upon hers, as he took it within his grasp, holding upon it, his fingers stroked upon the back of it. He was silent in contemplation. “Excuse me for a moment, I’ll be back.”
He squeezed upon her hand as he stood up to retreat within her room, moving over to her wash basin.
About to say something, Penny instead fell silent. She hopped off of the balcony and made her way quietly into the room, sitting on the bed and pulling her knee to her chin.
Ashon began to remove his shirt as he exposed that athletic figure of his, as he moved his hands into the water as he began to wash himself. The markings that cover him were being scrubbed and removed, working toward his face as he looked at his reflection. As he looked within the looking glass, he saw the person he presented himself as, the one he portrayed to the world, and even to himself. He took the time and attention as he started to remove his make-up. The eyeliner, the shadow, even the balm that coated his lips. He plays the role of the jester, the one he has perfected to a degree that he even made himself believe he is one. Once he was cleansed, he felt like he was able to bare himself before her, becoming less the Jammy she knew, and more the Ashon that laid underneath. Finished, he turned and dried himself, showing her what he really looked like raw, the masquerade mask slipped off. He approached her, his mannerism less clumsy, though requiring effort to adjust in what could be considered a more civilized manner as he moved to seat himself in front of her upon the bed. “This is me.”
His hand reached for hers to bring it toward him, guiding it toward his chest as he placed it there and allowed her to feel the strong beat of his heart beneath the flesh.
It was clear that she had triggered something within him: something that she would have to respond to, and Penny wasn’t sure that she was ready. She withdrew her hand, eyes anxious, and looked up at him. “Ipte, you’re beautiful,”
she managed to choke out. “In more ways than you know.”
It was true and she felt it, but she was also stalling, deflecting. You do this, Penelope. This is what you want. This is what you’ve always wanted: to be loved, and he is not just some plaything. He’s giving his heart to you.
That brought on a new wave of anxiety. She was shaking, now, imperceptibly unless anyone should look very closely. The source of it was mixed: desire, terror, anxiety, excitement. No single factor won out, but she knew that she would have to bare herself too, metaphorically and physically, for this to work. She nearly pulled upon chemical magics, as she so often did, to steady her. Instead, she reached out with both of her hands. She took her gloves off. Her left was… objectively strange. It was not beautiful, but it was her and she could not hide it forever, so she didn’t. She was not about to make some ceremony of it, to put it in his face, but she let it be there as it was.
Ashon looked toward Penny like he normally did. To be fair, it is not that the girl wasn’t beautiful, he cherished those eyes, that hair, that smile upon her lips. It wouldn’t be a lie that he has acted like a womanizer in the past, his constant joking, flirting and serenading with every pretty girl he came across and that reputation hadn’t gone unnoticed even in the thicket as he had made advances on every girl there, except for Isii who had approached him first. He did this to mask the flaws that resided within his heart, the burdens that he carried around with him. With Penny, he saw something different, in the very first moments she fulfilled a need long hidden inside of him as he held her tightly within his arms. It was a peculiar and alien feeling to him, something that drew him strongly to her. There were things about Penny that the girl most likely didn’t know herself, and he loved those things about her. So when he saw the hand, he brought his own toward it, sliding his fingers against hers then interlocked them the best he could. Penny may be flawed on the outside, but he is flawed on the inside, yet despite this, he believed that she loved him regardless as much as he loved her. He smiled warmly at her comment, he knew that others found him handsome, but what caught him was the latter statement, in more ways than you know
. It was this that caused his heart to skip a beat, the one that caused his own emotions to grow intense. “... and you’re perfect.”
His eyes gazed within hers in an intense and unflinching manner, there is no trace of malice or cruel trickery, it was that scarier and more frightening thing, he genuinely believed what he just said.
There were layers to peel out of for Penny, then. She freed herself of them. She melted into Ashon, in more ways than one.
It was some time later, perhaps in the hours of Eshiran, though Penny thought it should’ve been those of Ipte. She sat in bed, as she was, white sheets pulled up around her and her head sticking out the top of them like some sort of little ghost. Her hair was rumpled and she was smiling. She couldn't stop smiling. “No, it’s not metaphorical, Jammy. I’m actually Rouis’ daughter: a princess.”
She snorted. “Though not much of one. I’m no better than ninth in line for the throne. Anyways, I wanna hear more about your papa who can see the future.”
The temptation was there. It was very easy to find oneself slipping back into those familiar ways and habits. He had already thought of least five, seven, perhaps eleven quips to her confession. All the ways he can deflect and avoid, but he owed it to her, to Penny, to be true to himself, even if it let it slip a little. “One could say my father sees the future, and your father decides the future.”
He grinned toward her as he placed a kiss upon her head, a Perrench Princess, huh?
. He mused privately to himself, perhaps the dream meant more than he thought, “I guess that really does make us Talit and Arcel.”
Ashon reflected that Penny would not be interested in the challenges of a blind man attempting to dress himself in the morning, and thought of a tale. One that is often told to many a person, though it felt different telling Penny. She was different, she was special… he has to place his trust in her. “One day, the elders were deciding on what to do with a boy. Wee high and very mischievous.”
He raised his hand to give an approximate size as he acted out the story with his actions. “His parents were once part of the village and left for Kerremand across the water, however, there was a terrible incident and they both perished. The locals, not wanting to deal with the boy, sent him back to the Hyparian lands, a land where trees grew like mountains and cities built in the sky upon their branches amongst the birds”
It was clear that he had started to relive a more personal experience. “They couldn’t decide where they wanted to place him and no family would take him in voluntarily. Some thought the militia would straighten him out, others discussed sending him to the capital. In the end, they decided to bring him before the local future-teller. They sat the boy before him, and asked him to see what he saw that lay ahead in his path.”
He smiled to himself, grinning, as he turned toward Penny, gazing upon her. “Apparently, he was so shocked by what he saw, he almost passed out. It turned out the boy had a very… destructive future. As you imagine, that caused everyone to grow wild, they even proposed stoning the boy as he would be better off with the gods. It was during this arguing between the elders that the future-teller had another vision, a… bright future, one of hardship but out of that destruction, came promise. Like a sapling sprouting after a forest fire, springing up from the ashes. It was as if he knew at that moment what he must do. He confronted those elders and took the boy as his own, his adopted son. There were protests, but if the boy were to be raised as a keeper, and an attendant, then perhaps destruction would be prevented, or so he said. Reluctantly, they agreed with his decision.”
Penny pulled her knee up to her chest, under the covers. The boy was Ashon, of course. That much she knew. Fated to bring destruction, just like me.
She nodded for him to continue, and so he continued his tale. “You would think the boy would be extremely grateful for this fate, being raised in the household of a pillar in the community”
Penny regarded him with her head tilted. Slowly, she shook it. “Confining,”
she murmured. “Marked out as different.”“My father, one could say, was one of the fortunate ones. Those blessed with the gift of future sight are blinded as soon as they are identified, then brought before the Barons in the Yasoi lands.”
He motioned with hands toward his eyes as if going to skewer them out with his fingers. It was always the eyes
. Conscious, he looked toward Penny’s eyes, as if peering inside of them as they gazed back at his. “Those of a suitable temperament - those who respond well - are given the option of being assigned to a village, far away from the life those who that remain are subjected to. It is an offer that all would agree to: an escape, living a dutiful life in comfort.”
He mused on how to better explain it. “You get to live in a large house, a prime location. You don’t have to toil for food or drink. Your surroundings are tailored to cater for any need or desire. There are those who provide physical comfort and affection under careful conditions as to prevent future children. You just had to remain within those walls and answer the requests of the village where it came to the use of your gift”“A gilded cage,”
Penny whispered, more to herself.
Ashon nodded toward her as if he heard what she said. “When you cannot see the world, thankfully there isn’t much out there to experience, or so they say. What you don’t know, you cannot desire.”
He imagined home as being a bird cage with a sheet draped over the top of it. Some mysterious hand coming along to feed you, change the bedding, tend to you, whilst only hearing the whisperings of the greater world, and… “Only what is seen through the eyes of the person before you. The visions of their future, and of their past”
The parallels were clear, almost as if he were trying intentionally to draw them. Penny shifted where she sat and continued to listen. “I think we all know that to be false.”“A cage can never hold anyone for long, for if there is a will, there is a way. Despite efforts, future-tellers still get born. He once told me of a woman in his youth that he grew quite fond of who used to comfort him, and they grew involved. One day, he learned that she was with child, and soon did others. He never knew what happened to her, only that she was spirited away and not seen again.”
He grinned widely toward Penny for a moment, he has heard the next bit plenty of times before, “This is the part where you suspect, Ashon, is he really your father? but this isn’t some tale, and I am not some secret future-teller love child. This was far before my time, easily a good fifty years most likely, but the old man had always desired and dreamed of a child. So the gods cursed him with me instead.”
He started to reorientate himself to where he was prior to his tangent. “So the boy was unhappy. A life of enjoyment in taking care of an old blind man and confinement. As he grew, he frequently neglected his duties and was truant. He was wild and restless, like the vermin monkeys that plagued the village from time to time.”
He moved his fingers beside his head and upwards as if to mimic a crown.“Despite all this, he never gave up on the boy, and once he grew of an appropriate age, he decided to share the truth with him. He disclosed what he really saw on that day before the elders. The destruction he foresaw was not of the boy's doing, it was the lands of the Yasoi. Dessicated in their form and swept over by a fire which spelled the end to them as we know it. However, after what came and gone, there was a green sprout, the beginnings of a new future for our people.”
He looked upwards toward the ceiling as he examined the patterns laid out within Penny’s dorm room. “Now, you may think the boy is some hero, a saviour to the people, and some high purpose. One to save the yasoi, right the world of its wrongs. It turned out the sprout is a girl, not a boy, and it is them who shall bring renewal.”
He couldn’t resist the dramatic build up, everyone likes a good story about the birth and future of a folk legend, and leaning into it is what he does best. “Truth is, the boy, arguably, could be summarized as simply Ash-on the sprout.”
He grinned widely toward Penny, that bit was his favourite part and loved to hammer it home.
She managed to hold back her groan, if only because, bad pun aside, this was clearly meaningful to him.“Metaphoric, rather than literal. The ash represents nutrients and sustenance which allows the sprout to grow. My calling is to find and support her. As any boy who is both extremely disappointed by the revelation and currently thinking - eww, girls - he left rather promptly from the exchange.”
He recalls the experience quite vividly and there were more than a few more choice words that were said at that time. His future was not to be the retainer of some old man, but that of some woman instead. It wasn’t until later, there was another vision of his future, one that spoke to him far more clearly. “... there was another. What the old man didn’t realize, was that he did not even truly interpret what he saw correctly at that time. The sprout was a metaphor too, for they only have a singular stem. I wasn’t meant to be the retainer of some random woman, but of the goddess Vyshta… the one you call Reshta.”
This was going to lead to the difficult part. He may have altered and obscured some of the facts around the story, but it was leading to where it is thus far, and how it may impact upon their relationship and what it threatened. “From that day, I learnt my true purpose and became inspired, and dedicated myself to being one of Vyshta’s Chosen.”
He moved his arm around Penny as he held her close to him as his fingers caressed her back. He has been speaking a while, whilst she was ever patient with him. He felt himself grow cold and clammy, as he dreaded the words he were to speak. “When I came of age, I volunteered in the militia and became what you call a Dervisher. A most dangerous role used for scouting, ambushing, often working independently. I was trained to hunt and kill, similar to what you may call an assassin, and being naturally gifted and with a love of heights, it was like a calling to me.” That is right, Penny. The one you love has killed people, and that is not even the worst you are going to hear.“So… you’ve killed, then?”
It was as much statement as question. She studied him evenly. She had killed too, to be fair. It was still hard to wrap her around. She’d done it with shocking ease, too: almost cold-blooded, almost sadistic. It had been a matter of survival, but a small part of her had enjoyed it, at least before what she’d done had set in. She couldn’t judge him and she didn’t want to. The words had kind of just… slipped out.
Ashon gave a cold nod at the question. “By necessity, either on the orders of others, exacting justice, or my own survival. These hands have been stained red more times than I wish to remember, and the truth is that I could do it again if it came to be.” As such where harm came to you, Penny.
The thought went unsaid as he placed a kiss upon the top of her head.“There are two major crimes in Yasoi society… well, there are a lot more, but for the purposes of this story, there are two. One, as you know, is being a Future-teller. The other is breaking a vow to the gods.” If only that you knew
. He pulled upon Penny instinctively, holding her against him as if scared she would suddenly move away from him, flee his side. “But staying would only break the true vow that I made, the one to the Goddess Vyshta. So I departed from my home and roamed the lands, drifting between places till eventually moving into the huusoi lands, encountering many yasoi in my path as I spoke of poetry and verse like a wandering bard. Yasoi are not widely received, often viewed as tricksters or thieves at best. It is there I found myself back in my childhood, the boy who ran with monkeys. Jamboi.” Your precious Jammy
. “It was during this time I was called to Ersand’Enise, a place the most talented and gifted from around Sipenta are drawn towards. Where else could the Goddess Vyshta be, than here? I sought to learn more, to find the one I was devoted to.” “Ashon,”
she squeaked. Her heart was pounding. It was sappy, but it was so
romantic. “Oh my Ipte.”
It was her, of course. They were destined to be together. He thought she
was the avatar. Maybe he’d thought Tyrel was at first, but it was her
: Penny Pelletier.
He could see the excitement build up to her, she certainly was a fan of the storytelling. Watching that wonderful smile felt like a knife slide within his chest to what came next. I am a monster. Selfish, stupid. I have fallen in love with you. “I thought this opportunity came to waste. Why would the Goddess choose to live in Huusoi lands, what was I thinking? Perhaps I had simply dreamed wrongly. It was then during our first term I learnt of the trials. The time of year when the best and brightest around Sipenta come to meet in one place. It happened to be that there was a team from Tarlon led by none other than the avatar of the Goddess herself: Vyshta’s Favoured.”
He felt that knife twist in his heart. He could feel his body and spirit dying with each breath and word he spoke. “When we met, Penny. It was when I thought I was going to introduce myself to the one who is destined to be my wife.”
Penny went still for a moment: stalk still, and he could feel her stiffen. Her eyes became cold and she began to pull away. And here you are,
she thought bitterly, bedding me: a wrench in your destiny.
She stopped and waited and cautioned herself not to jump too far with her conclusions.
Ashon moved his hands to his eyes as he brushed away the tears that had formed there. Then, he spoke, the water trickling down his face to soak into the girl's pillows. The worst
was out, the confession about Tyrel. “Then I discovered something that not even I could foresee”
His hand clasped upon Penny’s own, seeming not to even care for the deformity in the slightest. “It was when this huusoi girl jumped within my arms, I felt… something different. It was when I knew where my path truly lay.”
Penny breathed steadily. There it was: the redemption. She allowed him to take her hand, but she did not give it to him. There were pasts other than hers that were confining, difficult.
She wasn’t certain. Nothing was simple. Nothing was easy or straightforward or just…normal
and how she wished it was! Her gaze was solemn. Wordlessly, she twisted away and, still under the covers, scooted to the edge of the bed. In a fluid motion, she rose, covered herself in her bedrobe, and took two hops over to her bedside table.
He watched her, and he knew he’d hurt her. The pain he inflicted upon himself paled in comparison to the pain he felt now. Perhaps he was wrong to trust, and that keeping his secrets would be preferable. There were things he didn’t consider ever confiding in another, yet, here was Penny. This huusoi girl. He recalled the conversation he had with Chad afterwards, he knew what others thought of him and their relationship. The twisted perversions they accused him of. He sat up on the bed as he looked toward her, “My life has always been full of expectations, then I came across the unexpected. For the first time, it felt that I could see, and what I saw was you.”
She bent over and slid the little table’s drawer open. She rifled through it in silence and came up with a half-rolled up piece of parchment. Turning on her heel, she was back on the edge of the bed in two bounds. She unrolled it and tossed it to him. “I received this from Evander,”
she remarked. “He found it inside an idol of Reshta in Thalakos. I’m not sure what it means, but I have my theories and I thought you might know.”
Out of habit, she scooted forward a bit, hugging her knee to her chin and looking up at him not quite
Ashon looked toward her and the parchment, questioning her meaning before he started to read and make sense of it. A number of the names were familiar, but there were also huusoi and siisoi names on the list. The idea that Reshta, and not Vyshta was the original, but he gathered the meaning, especially noticeable was the interchangeable leg. It was when he got to the bottom, he saw the line through the name Tyrel. a mistake?
. The name underneath. He paused a moment as his eyes scanned the document. If this was some sick elaborate joke, it was a good one. However, the worn parchment spoke of its age, or at least poor conditions it had been held in. It took a moment, then he laid back upon the bed, and laughed
. The ridiculous absurdity of the situation was far too much, how would one not laugh? Why yes, I did go to introduce myself to my wife at that moment, it just happened to be you and I never knew
. He couldn’t help but laugh, the sweet sound of laughter, a joyous laugh.
Penny reached up and flicked some hair from her eyes. She couldn’t help but be influenced - couldn’t help but smile some herself. “Gonna let me in on it, Jammy?”
she prodded, scooting a bit closer. “Do you believe I’m a goddess now, and not just metaphorically, or is it ironic laughter?”
He turned toward her, and playfully threw the parchment in her direction, “You were always my Goddess, that was never in question.”
His grin was wide, unable to resist the smirk, and wasn’t quite sure how to respond to her question, mulling it over and perhaps answering it a different way. “Perhaps my story needs a correction”
. He reached out toward Penny, and pulled her upon him, as he continued to gaze within her eyes. “The day I met you, Penny, it was the moment I was destined to meet my wife. Despite, at that moment, being before the girl who is purported to be that person, my heart was not swayed, and it led me to the true Goddess?”
He moved his arms around her waist as he pulled her under the sheets on top of him. “Do you believe in destiny, Penny Pellegrin? Do you believe we were meant to be?”
She didn’t speak. She leaned down to kiss him. Her fingers played across the buttons of her bedgown, and they became connected once again. That was answer enough.