"Wait wait wait," Nisha interrupted him, putting her hands into the air, as if attempting to physically stop Gangrel in mid-sentence. "Let me make sure I heard you right. You were seven when you became a thief?"
"Well, almost eight," Gangrel replied, shrugging as he enjoyed her flabbergasted expression. "Why are you so surprised?"
"I...I just never suspected that you would ever be so desperate that young."
"I certainly wasn't expecting it either," the trickster added. "But, one day, the Grimleal came to my village and burned it to the ground. As far as I know, I’m the only one still alive."
"Seven..." Nisha repeated, awestruck. Gangrel frowned a little. Was that really so disturbing? Life had been rough, but it was a live-or-die world on the streets of Plegia. The weak didn't survive, and the young learned that quick or joined the weak in an early grave.
"It's your turn," he prompted. The tactician shook herself out of her thoughts and frowned as she tried to come up with something to share.
"Ok...I have an illogical fear of sick people."
"I'm being completely honest," Nisha laughed. "No matter what the sickness is, I always think they're going to die, and it is terrifying. And stressful. After the person gets better, I always spend several days catching up on sleep because I just get absolutely exhausted worrying over them. Your turn."
"Nothing immediately jumps to mind," the redheaded Plegian teased. Nisha climbed off her stool and swatted him on the arm.
"Liar. There's still so much that I don't know. Like how you became king."
Gangrel hesitated, his grin faltering. He wasn't sure if he was willing to share that story quite yet; it was personal. Nisha must have seen the doubt, because she frowned a little, a small dent forming on her brow. How was it that he kept noticing these tiny insignificant details about her? It was incredibly distracting at times.
The dark-eyed woman suddenly glanced away from him, her dark eyes settling on the tiny window. He looked as well and noticed that the sun had set already. The time had felt so short...had he really been here all day? This was beginning to become a habit.
"Not to cut our little interview short," the tactician suddenly interjected, "but do you mind if we go outside for a little bit?"
"But it's cold outside," Gangrel protested. Nisha rolled her eyes.
"I always go outside for a few minutes after sundown. Please?"
"But it's cold outside," the Plegian repeated without any real resistance, and trailed after her as she picked up her cloak, put it on, and left the room. The torchlight was ominous in the halls, but the Mad King liked it: the darkness kept them hidden most of the time, nearly invisible as they walked together. The stairwell, on the other hand, was pitch black. Nisha offered him her hand with a smile and he took it, allowing her to guide him up the winding stone steps.
She lead him onto one of the fort's parapets, only releasing her grip on his hand to stand by one of the walls, looking out into the sky, perching herself on the edge of empty space.
"I love watching how the colors change at dawn and sunset," she told him, her tone wistful. "It's so beautiful, and every landscape has its own way of painting the sky in a breathtaking fashion."
"I prefer sunrises," Gangrel replied, folding his arms against the freezing wind. "Much warmer. And the colors over the Plegian Desert...there's nothing like it. Nothing at all."
"You miss home?"
"Don't you miss yours?"
The trickster knew he had said something wrong because Nisha lowered her head and stared down at the snow-covered ground far below the Fort.
"I don't really have a home," she said, her voice soft enough to vanish into the chilly air. "I feel perfectly at ease wherever the army goes—or equally uneasy; they both amount to the same thing. I don't remember having a home and even though I'm Plegian by birth, Plegia has always just been another country I've gone through. There's just no...connection. The castle of Ylisse is just as much a home to me as this parapet."
Another gust of wind rushed through the silence. Gangrel suppressed a shiver.
"Blast it all, why does it have to be so cold out here?!" he muttered to himself.
"What?" the tactician said, turning around to look at him better.
Nisha's raised eyebrow told him that she didn't believe that for a second. She sighed, her breath turning into a white cloud before it was tugged away by a sharp blast of chilly air.
"This is going to sound incredibly obvious," she said, smiling at little, "but Regna Ferox is really cold in the winter."
"Nice to know you've finally noticed, tactician," the Mad King remarked, a bit dryly. Nisha laughed.
"In Ylisse, they throw big celebrations to forget the cold weather," she informed him. "There's lots of feasting, dancing...they sometimes call winter the most wonderful time of the year. A time to rest from hard farmwork and enjoy the stores of food built up from the harvest."
"Wonderful?" Gangrel scoffed, taking a few steps closer to her—careful to not be so close that he could look over the edge of the wall. "The only wonderful thing about winter in Plegia is the rain. Only time of year decent crop comes in."
"So different..." Nisha murmured. "I suppose if every place were the same, then travelling would be nowhere near as exciting. But somehow, no matter where I am in the winter, I just love to take walks through the snow, or go on sleigh rides through the different winter wonderlands. During the day, when the light shines just right, the icicles look like diamonds, and everything sparkles in such a...pure, transcendent way."
Her voice was sad as she finished it, as if the thought were too beautiful to bear. Gangrel took another step forward, his eyes riveted on the tactician, determined to avoid looking down. Her cloak rippled, her hair swaying in the wind, and he saw her twisting her hands in a stressed manner he recognized. Without really knowing why, he reached out and took her hand in his, gently guiding her away from the edge. Automatically, as if some other force other than their wills were commanding them, Gangrel rested his hand on her waist and Nisha lightly laid her palm on his shoulder.
"You dance?" she inquired. Gangrel smirked wryly.
"Perfectly," he replied.
Nisha smacked him lightly on the side of the head.
"I thought we agreed on complete and total honesty," she reminded him. The trickster shook his head, but corrected himself.
"Not well," he admitted. "What I know was beaten into me by the finest dance masters in Plegia. Perhaps one day I'll show you the scars."
Nisha's brow furrowed for a moment, but the expression vanished as the trickster began to guide her in a simple dance. It was a silent night all around as the pair moved together across the parapet. For a single moment, Gangrel could have sworn that the world fell into place all around them. This was simply right, natural as breathing. But the distance between them bothered him.
As Nisha came back in from a slow twirl, she came closer than she had been throughout the entire night. Before she could correct this, the Mad King replaced the hand holding her waist, his grip tighter than before, holding her nearly against him. Her eyes flickered upward to meet his, her gaze worried. Gangrel did not move his hand, but smiled lightly to reassure her. The concern faded from her face, but she did not look away.
Her eyes were dark as the sky, and the stars shone through the midnight clear. The beauty was stunning, and Gangrel found himself speechless. The world had all but faded from notice, but the Mad King was certain that there was nothing but peace on earth as long as she was there.
"What is that song?" Nisha suddenly asked, and Gangrel realized he'd been humming unconsciously. He cast his mind around, trying to remember what song he hadn't realized had entered their dance.
"It's a winter festival song," he explained. "I don't remember the words, but it's an old legend about three kings from far away lands who came to Plegia. Don't ask me what they were looking for; I don't know."
Nisha laughed quietly, ducking her head. Their bodies were so close, her forehead nearly rested on his chest. Gangrel wanted nothing more than to tighten his embrace, hold her close like there was no tomorrow. But when she pulled away, he did not stop her. He did keep his hand around hers, however; he felt a sudden urge he could not deny.
Nisha looked into his eyes, her gaze wary, uncertain. Gangrel did not release her, but slowly raised her hand and allowed his lips to gently brush against the back of her hand. Only then did he let her slide her fingers from his and fully free herself from his grasp. Nisha turned her back to him, hugging herself against the wind.
"Even...even now?"she asked, her voice trembling ever so slightly. Gangrel did not even flinch as the frigid winter wind struck him.
"Always," he replied. "But I can wait. I'll wait as long as you ask me to."
The tactician stayed facing away from him for what felt like a small eternity. When she finally turned around, her cheeks were pink, whether from cold or embarrassment he couldn't be sure. She looked up at him and smiled a half-smile.
"Your nose is red," she commented. "Cold?"
"Frozen," Gangrel informed her. Nisha laughed and reached out for his hand. As she lead him off the parapet, sudden words entered his mind, the words of the song he'd been humming but a few minutes ago: O star of wonder, star of night, Star of royal beauty bright, Westward leading, still proceeding, Following yonder star.
Nisha is the star, Gangrel thought as she brought him down into the fort. And all I can do is follow her.It sounded almost like captivity or slavery. But at the same time, it didn't feel terrible in the least. The world was being twisted upside down and backwards, and Gangrel simply didn't care. Nisha was here and that was all that mattered.