The Half Light

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[2.1] - The City


“Tell me why we’re here.”

“No.”

Standing in the shadows outside a rowdy tavern, Aryial tugged at a tall hooded male to follow her.

“If you really want to know then you’ll have to come with me.” She gave him a slightly forceful shove for emphasis, the movement causing his hood to fall off to reveal shoulder-length snowy hair.

Ivan gave her a frosty look, straightening the lapels on his jacket underneath his cloak before following her into the rather renowned alehouse.

It was famous for its water-downed ale and musty atmosphere.

The dimly-lit tavern was more packed than Aryial expected, the reek almost made her decide that she regretted leaving the manor.

A drunken faerie fell over as he sang lewd lyrics to music played by a band in the corner, the noise a notable rival to the chatter and robust laughter of the patrons.

She headed straight towards the bar. Doubting they had any refined drinks like the ambrosia that both she and her companion were used to, she signalled for two tankards of ale.

Ivan followed her, if not begrudgingly, his regal stance attracting a few curious looks from nearby patrons.

“Tell me what we are doing here.” His voice was low. Flat. Annoyed.

Aryial grimaced, sipping a bit of the watered-down ale.

“I think you know…” She was suddenly extremely interested in a bit of chipped wood on her tankard.

Ivan kept looking at her.

She grimaced again, not at all surprised at his flat reaction. Knowing what he was nonverbally asking, she made quick work of the explanation. Though her words and reasoning fumbled as she tried to convince both Ivan and herself that this was just as riveting as what she had expected.

“So I thought since drinking in a pub together was on our list of things to do here from when we were kids, that you would relent and loosen up but of course I had to get you out first so obviously there is no real emergency and I know it’s not exactly how I imagined it but—“ Aryial’s nervous blabbering cut off as a crash sounded from across the room.

­­A brawl had broken out after a tense game of cards.

There were enough curse words to curdle milk as other patrons got involved, though Aryial couldn’t see much once Ivan moved in front of her.

To block her view or to block her from view, she didn’t know.

When Ivan turned around to face her, upper lip curled back in disgust, Aryial decided that she did regret leaving the manor.

No complaints left her lips as Ivan slapped a gold coin on the bar table for the ale, grabbed her wrist and half-dragged her out of the pitiful place.

The light leaking out the windows of the tavern did little to illuminate the dark cobblestone path as Ivan whirled around to face Aryial.

“Why did you want to go to a tavern all of a sudden?” Ivan seemed to be holding his anger on a tight tether.

“I just wanted to spend some time with you,” Aryial mumbled, her own anger rising at his tone. “You seemed stressed earlier so I thought a drink would help.”

“So, you thought you would trick me into coming to a tavern with you?” His disapproval couldn’t have been more clear if he had screamed it into the night sky.

When Aryial gave no reply, Ivan sucked in a small breath of annoyance. “You know that I was busy tonight—“

“You’re always busy!” It came out sharper than Aryial intended. “You’re so stressed all the time, I’m just trying to help!”

Ivan let loose a breath at her outburst, letting his head fall back limply as he stared at the sky.

Aryial looked away too, scuffing her shoes against the cobblestone.

Neither of them uttered a word to each other for a good while.

Eventually, Aryial found Ivan watching her, something akin to guilt within his eyes.

A group of drunken soldiers had just left the tavern, making Ivan’s voice sound quieter as he said, “You haven’t been to a tavern yet?”

Still unwilling to speak, Aryial just gave a curt shake of her head. Ivan gave her a tentative smile.

“You haven’t even tried ale? I thought you would’ve before today,” he let out a low whistle, swivelling to peer around the city streets.

Aryial snorted. “It’s not like you’ve tried it either.”

Ivan wore a real grin this time, offering an arm out to Aryial. “Want to get angel-damningly drunk?”

The bait laid in the air, both an offer and an unspoken apology.

He inclined his head towards another open street. “Well?”

Ivan’s jacket was cold as she took his arm in hers, allowing him to lead her down the street.

The night was almost, if not more beautiful than the day and Aryial felt comfortable beside Ivan despite the darkness closing in as they walked away from the light of the tavern.

In the moonlight, Ivan’s hair seemed to be flushed with a soft glow. She couldn’t help but feel content as they walked, laughing and talking.

“You should have seen the look on his face,” Ivan was trying to get the words out through all the laughter. “He was like, ‘Who is this kid?’”

Aryial let out her own bark of joy, jokingly comparing Ivan’s brothers to a wounded sea-lion.

“It’s okay, at least you’re more good looking than your brothers, even if they’re smarter,” she teased, ducking away as Ivan ruffled her hair. “And that ego too, tsk tsk.”

Ivan narrowed his eyes at her. “You can lie all you like, I won’t listen to a word you say.”

She poked his shoulder, simultaneously marvelling at the soft material of his jacket.

The amount of gold coins that she used on making that silk shirt wouldn’t have even come close to the price of some of Ivan’s clothes.

“You know, a crow only sings so many times before it disappears.”

Ivan looked at Aryial strangely after she spoke. He tried not to smile. “That made no sense whatsoever, Thea.”

“Well, I told you that you weren’t the smartest one.”

“Ouch. Now, that one I got.”

Aryial only shook her head at Ivan’s reply, moving so that she was facing him and still walking backwards, doing a weird skip to keep up with his long strides. “Besides, don’t call me Thea.”

His hands were up in surrender before he stuffed them back into his pockets, something he would usually never do. “Yes, my dear little nightmare. I won’t call you Thea.”

Aryial knew him too well though, giving him a sour look and waiting for the catch.

“Tonight.” He smugly added. “I won’t call you Thea tonight.”

A warm glow that could only come from an abundance of candles washed the street in front of them.

Aryial’s happiness practically shone through her as she realised Ivan had taken her to another tavern. She gave him a look that he simply shrugged off.

This tavern was a lot cleaner and spacious than the one they had started off in.

The throng of people kept the room warm and lively, the candles flickered softly in candelabras above them and barrels of ale were neatly stacked up against one wall.

Tables were spread evenly around the room with the exception of a section in the middle, cleared of all furniture, where some faeries danced merrily to the music.

Ale almost splattered onto Ivan as he brought over two tankards of ale, his eyes flaring with a spark of mischief that she hadn’t seen for weeks.

And for the rest of the night, the two friends got wretchedly, shit-achingly drunk.


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