In collaberation with @Suicharte
Lor began to descend below the sight of countless sails, the auburn sky played across the sea as the cool winds finally gave reprieve from the immense heat felt during the days of work within the forge. Lepdes was the last day the forge ran at full steam, and with the encroaching night, payment for a week's work was given. All that was left in Belleville’s Blackfield Arsenal was Tommy trying to make some extra money to cover his debts during the auction and subsequent spending habits, and Desmond doing end-of-week bookkeeping.
A sigh left Desmond’s mouth as he closed his work for the night, he turned his head towards Tommy who was doing the last bit of work on the wall of wooden boxes. Tommy had his fingers wrapped in slightly reddened bandages, as another dull thud was heard, a yelp, then a slight slam. Metal within began to clatter together for a moment as Tommy began to check the lid of the case, as he let the guns within be left in view. Desmond sighed at the countless boxes, countless hours of work, and countless more orders.
Desmond had made his way into the back office, using a little bit of magic to open a drawer, where he set his record books away. Desmond took a moment, lingering within his office for a moment before he nodded to himself as he began to open another drawer. He reached in and pulled out a bottle of clear caramel-colored liquid, as he walked out, and saw Tommy just finished closing up the last box. Desmond let out a whistle and said while holding up the bottle and lightly shaking it, ”Ayo, Tommy. Good work today”
Something had changed within the young lad at the trials. He had come to this school as a true hedonist, living only by his pleasure and displeasure, and now, after the long ordeal of the trials, he had emerged a different man. The Soiree only exacerbated this. Even if he was in debt, he’d have never grafted like this to get out of it. He’d have stolen some merchant's horse or shanked someone in a back alley to resolve the debt. But here he was, working himself to the bone for a person he’d only recently considered a good friend.
He turned to Desmond, the man he’d battled alongside for several grueling rounds of temporally anchored combat and forced a grin, but the natural smile of the lad wasn’t there. The wheels in his brain hadn’t been greased since the party, forced to a stop by an emotion he hadn’t registered or felt in his eighteen years of living. Where he’d normally have jumped for a good bottle of booze, he sauntered towards the lad and gave him a crisp handshake, ignoring the sharp pain of the splinters and bandages. “Cheers, lad. Surprised you keep that at ya work, but I guess ya need it on days like this.”
he spoke, pulling away from the handshake and looking at his own palms. Rough as they were, he’d never noticed the deep imperfections more deeply than now. He shook his head and dragged a couple of the empty crates with a touch of kinetic magic, slouching on one while leaving one near Desmond if he fancied a crude, makeshift seat.
Desmond began to take a seat as he opened the bottle, the deep cut of the distilled spirit filled the air and cleared away the smell of dirt, sawdust, and oil. Desmond took the first drink and slightly winced, ”Shit”
. Desmond took a second and he looked at the bottle as he passed it over to Tommy to take a drink.
While passing the bottle over, Desmond commented, ”It’s the first batch made from a new distillery opening up in Harrowend”
Tommy clasped the bottle and immediately took a big swig. Normally it’d have stung. Normally, he’d have said ‘Damn, that’s some hard shit!’ or another witty one-liner. But he didn't. He swallowed, flinched a little as the burn went down his mouth and handed it back with nary a thought in his head. ”It’s not bad. I’d bust ya balls usually for havin’ somethin’ from the capital, but honestly, it’s good hooch.
he spoke, stifling a yawn as he wiped a stray droplet that slid down the side of his mouth. He passed the bottle back, on the verge of saying something, but he knew that both of them weren’t trashed enough to get there yet.
Desmond chuckled as he took the bottle back and said, ”Good to hear, I’ll tell them that”
. Desmond took another swing, the burning sensation left him quiet for a moment as he began to pass the bottle over to Tommy. Finally whipping the slight spit away from his mouth Desmond said, ”You did pretty good today. If you keep up the work like this you might be able to touch one of the machines when your fingers are sideways”
. Desmond laughed as he looked out at the empty shop, the quietness that they found themselves in was peaceful, yet deafening.”Bet some girls’d like that.
he spoke plainly, chuckling a little to himself, and then cringing internally. He took another swig to hide it, and the burn didn’t hit as bad. Again, he passed it back and looked at Desmond with a curiosity he’d had since meeting the guy.. ”Y’know, I think we grew up similar. Ow’d you end up so smart? Knowin’ how all this shite works?”
he paused, biting a hangnail off and spitting it to the side. ”Even the school doesn’t teach shit like this… you think some are just born smarter? Honestly, I don’t think I coulda managed to set this up with all the teachin’ in the world.”
he smiled and laughed at his own comment, but it was painful to do so. When had he let himself grow so small, to compare himself to another? Why would he diminish his friend's accomplishments by saying that they were maybe a product of birth? As if his hard work wasn’t his own? Yet, he couldn’t take his own words back.
Desmond chuckled to himself, listening to Tommy as he took a long chug for a moment before breathing out a large sigh, the burning hit hard enough to take the breath from Desmond for a moment. After a burp, Desmond passed the bottle back before saying, ”I don’t think we grew up as much alike. I wouldn’t hope to have anyone to grow up quite like I did”
. Desmond seemed to look off for a moment, quiet for just that moment as he thought about what to say. ”To not bum you out too much, I was more like a child soldier, without all the glamor. I needed to learn to be smart, I was taught by already-graduated mages, yeah, but…I was taught the basics of most things, but my work came first, I was taught to fight and kill, and then came the whims of my teachers. My learning might have been because I was born smart, maybe, but it was always in the pursuit of bettering my craft, either for killing, or being a mercenary”
Desmond takes a moment then shrugs as he turns to Tommy, ”Besides, there are things you’ve done I couldn’t even see myself doing. It’s how life works, we’re set down our paths and we make it our own. You’ve done plenty yourself, just in different ways. Sure for smarts, I got you beat all day-”
. Desmond laughs and snickers as he continues, ”-but I couldn’t think of anyone coming close to you in physical strength alone. And fighting? I’ve spent my entire life fighting men larger and bigger than me, nastier and stronger than me, willing to kill me for whatever reason, and all I could do is answer in kind”
Desmond laughed as he began to look off again, ”But you? You’re over there taking on monsters of even bigger proportions with nothing but what the gods gave you. Never leaving your hometown, being the biggest fish in the pond”
. Desmond then lightly slaps Tommy on the arm, ”Most probably betted on someone like that losing every single time”
, Desmond then gave out one last chuckle and a head shake, ”But not you. Ain’t nothing I could have ever done if I was saddled being put into your shoes. And even when I had a solo match, we had to team up just to pull out a win”
Desmond smirked a little as he then looked back to Tommy, ”So smile a little more, and keep your head a little higher. The Gods know who you are, and the world has witnessed you”
. Desmond then let out a silent sigh, he knew there was more, yet neither of them were even close to the end of the drinks.
Tommy sat and listened to him talk. The praise of others at the trials had ran hollow - half-hearted praise towards an underdog that never could have made it. But hearing it from this man, who’d come so far on his own feet, who’d suffered, genuinely did help. He clasped Desmond’s arm with his own, a firm pat this time. ”Sorry, bud. I shouldn’t have compared us.
he spoke, shuffling and stretching, taking the bottle once more with a deep swig. ”We’re both fuckin’ brilliant, and we both won this whole thing. Against a buncha noble brats who’d turn their nose up at our craft.
he giggled to himself, pacing around the room. ”Mighta been the first time someone told me to smile more. People usually complain about the shit eatin’ grin.
as he finally bared it, a true smile for the first time in the night. He needed this pick me up, this drink, this chat. Times like this would ground a person, but they brought him back to where needed to be, the unshakable version of himself that he’d lost recently. He greedily swigged again before the bottle found itself in Desmond’s hands once more, as he clapped his face and shook his greasy, sweat-ridden hair.”Truth be told brother, I’ve been feelin’ something I didn’t know existed. That girl at the party…Edyta… she’s still on my mind.”
he spoke longingly, remembering the pale skin, the freckles, the hair, the dancing. Features that would have normally not been of note, but they were still as clear in his head as the time he was there. ”I thought love was some made-up shit that these rich kids wrote in their books. Like chivalry and all that garbage. But, I think it’s real. From one meetin’ at a party. Am I fuckin’ stupid? You ever felt like this?”
he asked, shaking his head as he tried to comprehend it. Was it love? Obsession? And why was he pawning it off on his buddy like this. Loudmouthed and uncouth as he was, he’d have never shared a thought like this prior, even boozed up as he was.
Desmond listened quietly, thoughts were running in Desmond’s eyes as the moment Tommy finished his question, Desmond took a long chug, greedily taking down the spirit before hit tipped it back forward and breathed out a heavy heave of air. Desmond gave himself but a moment before he answered the question, ”Yeah, I’ve felt it”
. Desmond looked to the bottle for a moment before passing it back. He was quiet and seemed almost lost for a moment.
Desmond then began to look up towards Tommy, wearing his smile again, ”So, what’s stopping you?”
Tommy sighed. ”I don’t know, to be honest mate. I’ve always lived in the comfort of my vices. This body o’ mine didn’t come free. My brain’s like a livewire, and I always sought comfort in pleasure. Gamblin, drinks, girls. But this shit’s different. And I don’t even know where - or who - she is.”
He paused, twiddling his thumbs before meeting Desmond’s gaze once more, and the look he had upon his face was one he’d seen many times in his hometown. Sometimes in grieving mothers, oftentimes in gang brawls gone too far. ”You said you felt it. What was her name, Des?”
he asked solemnly, taking another swig as he patted him on the arm. He knew this story didn’t have a happy ending, but that was why he wanted to hear it. He wanted to understand the risk to this feeling, and what it could cost him. He didn’t want to go in blind, as he had hundreds of times before to risk it all for a meager reward.
Desmond’s face changed, his smile began to fade as he took hold of the bottle for a moment and began to take a long gulp from it and passed it to Tommy, ”Yeah, I’ve felt love before”
. Desmond nodded his head as he began to look down for a moment, a big sigh came from his mouth as he said, ”Her name was…Suki-”
. Desmond let the moment rest as he looked to Tommy and saw it in his eyes, the look of wanting more.
Desmond then made a gesture for the bottle again, as once it was in his hand he took another drink, a long one before he handed it back, “I…I met her back when I was in my earlier years, around the time of the Hullendam-Kerremand war, I wasn’t the only kid picked up by my Mercenary Company. There were maybe about 10 of us, all misfit kids, orphaned, forgotten, abused, and used, from different lands but that did nothing to stop us. We were all…close, but there were 3 of us who were inseparable. Myself, a young kid named Louis, and…Suki. Suki, she…she was taken by pirates, sold off into slavery and then was rescued by my mercenary company, just like I was”
Desmond wavered a moment, thinking what else to say, sitting there, in an empty forge with nothing but a bottle of whisky and a man he calls…friend, ”She…she, taught me things. I learned some of her native language, learned how to make instruments out of leaves and tree branches, and learned how to trust people…I…I…I-uhm-I learned a lot. Just…things happened, and I…I lost her”
A little water came into Desmond’s eyes as he lightly wiped it away before he said, ”So yeah, uhm, it’s…hard, sometimes, those pains, just kinda come and…I guess if you’re looking for something from this…I guess, it’s something powerful, it can heal but it can also crush”
. Desmond cleared his throat, something was forming from the emotions that was dredged up when he saw the emotions on Tommy,.”If anything…”
, Desmond begins to swallow the saliva filling his mouth, the dryness seemed to almost reach his throat as he seemed to become lightly raspy, ”I guess…just-”
, Desmond seemed to be nearly choking on his own words, ”-Just…don’t leave anything unsaid. Don’t leave things to what-ifs”
Tommy stood up abruptly from the crate, and pulled Desmond to his feet, giving him a firm hug and a pat on the back once he was finished spilling his heart out. They’d shared a lot here, quite frankly more than they’d shared with anyone in a long time, but wasn’t that the essence of friendship? ”You got it. That’s a creed I’ve always followed, thank ya for remindin’ me.”
he said, pulling away and taking the whiskey from his friend and pouring a little on the ground.”For her, n’ the others we’ve lost along the way.”
he spoke respectfully, bowing his head before taking his own swig. He set the bottle on Desmond’s crate, and sat back down on his own.
Desmond took the abrupt hug and kept the little composure he had left. Taking hold of the bottle again, Desmond stops for a moment before he pours a bit more out and continues, ”And to those who we will find further along”
. Desmond then takes a swig of the spirit and beaches before beginning to laugh.
How many years has it been since he had a heart-to-heart with someone like this? With a bottle of strong alcohol, in some dusty room, and about girls. What a strange life