The ship that was bound for Sandur would leave soon, after they had their evening meal. Zack wanted to make sure everything was secure.
He needed the exercise, so decided to walk, bolting the door of his home firmly. Zack could feel the tension around town, as if most of them knew that trouble would come to their doorsteps soon. He didn't blame them. With the leaving of the students of the sealing school went the peace and security of the town's financial resources.
And he wondered how long regarding the security of the town's peace.
Not long, he felt, as he walked towards the direction of the docks, nearing Kierlan's home.
Worrying will do nothing but taint the hope of tomorrow. With that thought in mind, Ariadne determinedly turned away from the view of the sad atmosphere at Sollus Docks. "I'm taking a walk, grandfather! I won't be long!" She called out.
With that, she practically flew down the stairs and threw open the door to Kierlan's house.
I need to breathe.
"You noticed it, didn't you?" Zack's quiet voice came to her from behind.
"What in fate's name~" Ariadne yelped, turning to see Zack's calm and handsome face.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly, although the serious expression did not leave his face. "I was going to the docks, and passing by when I saw you come out."
There was a faint blush in her smooth cheeks as she smiled. "I'm sorry. I've just been so skittish nowadays." She looked down at the ground, uncertain of what to say. What was that he said to her again? It took her a moment to gather her thoughts. She always seemed to be scatterbrained every time the man's around, she thought annoyed at herself.
Zack looked at her for a moment, the sun's rays bringing out the color of his eyes, making it appear like gold. "The tense atmosphere of the town. You noticed it."
Since when had the man become this perceptive when it came to her thoughts? Was she that obvious? At that thought, Ariadne sighed, and began to absent-mindedly brush some imaginary dust off the sleeve of her day dress. "Yes, I noticed it. Then I realized that worrying will do me no good."
He nodded as he adjusted the weapon hanging from his belt. "Which is why I'm going to the docks to make sure they leave safely, and hopefully run into Kierlan and Celestyn."
Ariadne nodded. "I see." She murmured. How could she tell him that she would like to walk with him without sounding so desparate? "Um...So I guess, I will see you around then." Fates. Now she sounded so dismissive. She felt the urge to stamp her foot.
"Well, if you were going out anyway, why not join me for a while? It might help clear whatever is in your mind or anything," he responded, extending a hand towards her and smiling a bit. "I would be honored to escort a lovely lady to where she might wish to go."
Her heart fluttered. "I would love that. Thank you." She was careful not to look straight into his eyes as she walked beside him, because he might see all her love for him there in her eyes.
Zack began walking again, quietly observing every movement in the town, tense as if waiting to pounce. Somehow he had the feeling that he should be careful about this departure of the ship. Did the magic the flowed in his veins also granted him the enhanced senses of an animal, including the sense of observation and danger?
He didn't know, but he would just see.
Ariadne had then noticed that her companion had grown unusually quiet.
"Zack?" When he didn't answer her, she followed his gaze and saw that it was directed at the ships getting ready to leave. "Is something amiss?" Her amethyst eyes clouded with worry.
He turned to her, blinking. "Just feel like something's not right..." he murmured, being honest with her. "I could be wrong, but I think the magic I have has heightened my senses somewhat. It's like I can sense danger."
"It's new, your magic. I do not sense any danger. At least, not at this moment. But soon. You can let your mind rest for tonight." She told him quietly.
At that, his shoulders relaxed, and his grip on his sword loosened. He smiled at her again, "All right, I trust your judgement, and visions."
Ariadne nearly sighed with relief when his worry lessened. "Good." She looked around uneasily, uncomfortable at the tensed and sad atmosphere she had left home to avoid. "So um...since you are patrolling, I would like to take a walk through town for a while." Her dimples flashed as she smiled. "I think it is about time that I see the Artists' Lounge I've been hearing so much about. Um...I'll see you around." And before she could fall all over herself in front of him, she started to turn away.
He was not so willing to let her go alone. "I'll have to pass by there anyway, so please let me go along."
Her brow furrowed. "Are you certain?" Her eyes were unsure as they looked into his. "I could go alone, Zack. You might be needed here..." Fates, she wanted his company.
"As certain as the coyote that attacked me," Zack grinned. "I need some refreshment as well anyway, so this is a good time."
Ariadne tried not to sound too happy as she replied: "That is good then."
He grinned at her again, letting his hand fall from his weapon. The doors of the lounge appeared as they continued to walk, talking in low voices. He wasn't used to a quiet Sollus, and told her so.
Ariadne looked at him with wide, curious eyes. "Truly? What was it like before?"
Zack's voice grew wistful. "Master Poutrusseau used to have a stall right here, and it boasted of the freshest seafood in all of Sollus. I used to eat here with my father every chance we get. It was chaotic! The noise could reach the other end of Sollus and you'd think that it was coming from there. Then he moved away because his son became one of the chief cooks in the courts of the mayor of Chraine."
The moment he finished speaking, he was surprised to see a cardboard plate with steaming fried fish in front of his very eyes. "Like this?" Ariadne said with a sly grin.
"How did you-" Zack couldn't continue as the smell wafted over him, bringing back all those memories from long ago.
In response, Ariadne winked at him conspirationally. "Go ahead, take it. I did not poison it or anything."
"Ariadne, you know you weren't supposed to," he tried to chide her, but took it in his hands anyway.
Ariadne rolled her eyes. "Don't be such a spoilsport! Rules! It would be such a bore if they would always be followed!" She laughed. Excitedly, she watched, pleased at the unconcealed joy in his eyes. How easy it was to make him happy. If only it could be just as easy to make him love her. She thought wistfully.
He laughed along with her and took a bite of the fish. "I don't know how you did it, but this is exactly the same as the one prepared before!" Zack finished it quickly. "Thank you."
Her smile widened. "It was the least I could do." ...to make you smile. Ariadne thought.
Another smile, and his hand reached out to brush a lock of hair back from her face. "Maybe I should tell you more of my memories next time."
Ariadne froze and a soft, shaky smile illuminated her face. "My magic might not be enough to bring back all of them." She joked.
"That's too bad," Zack said, nearing the entrance of the lounge. "We might need more of these type of memories when the real danger comes."
Zack was barely finished speaking when the door was thrown open and they saw a tall, lean man leaving the establishment with long, determined strides.
Ariadne's eyes widened with recognition. Unable to help herself, she ran forward and nearly threw herself in his path. "Lord Ivarus!" She called out and yelped when she tripped and ended up sprawled in front of him.
Zack winced at the sound of her body hitting the ground and helped her up. "Are you all right?"
Ariadne felt like kicking herself as she beheld the impassive Ivarus standing in front of them. She could not tell what the man was thinking. How could she, with those veiled eyes? She didn't know if he was annoyed with her or amused. "I'm sorry. I did not know what came over me. I just recognized you and I r-realized that...well...You saved my life before and I~" She wrung her hands, unsure of what to say next.
He merely looked at her with that hooded gaze of his. "Yes?"
"Um...I would just like to say thank you for saving my life before. I am sorry it took me so long to do so." Ariadne mumbled, willing herself to look at Ivarus.
Zack watched with quiet wariness, seeing that he was more tense than usual. "What brings you here to the Artists' Lounge, Ivarus?"
Ivarus met Zack's wary gaze with one of his own. "The atmosphere suits my mood." He answered curtly. He found himself glancing at the petite redhead beside Farnham and was vaguely amused to see her blushing. Despite her embarrassment, he found himself impressed that she was holding her own quite well.
Sensing his gaze, Ariadne shifted uncomfortably. He must think I'm a clumsy twit. She thought miserably. This was so mortifying.
"You are welcome."
Her gaze snapped to his, startled. "Pardon me?" She asked blankly.
His lips nearly curved into an amused grin. "...for saving your life?"
"Oh...that." Ariadne smiled sheepishly.
"I'd have to thank you myself," Zack said grudgingly, watching him even more now that Ariadne was flushed. "Now if you will excuse us."
Ivarus nodded at Zack in reply.
Ariadne curtsied to him and started to leave with Zack when she felt Ivarus lightly took hold of her arm.
She turned and looked at him questioningly.
"Ariadne?" Zack asked as he felt her stop, turning to see Ivarus' hand on her arm. "What the hell are you doing?"
Ivarus' dark blue eyes held a glint of amusement as he looked at Zack. "Calm yourself, Farnham. I merely want to ask Lady Xantherion where I can find Lady Celestyn Hearthwell." At that, he turned expectantly to Ariadne.
She bit her lip, uncertain of what to say. She could sense goodness in the man...along with a great deal of pain. "You could find her at the~"
"How did you know of Ariadne's surname?" Zack interrupted coldly. "And why would you want to know of Celestyn's whereabouts?"
"Zack..." Ariadne said quietly, feeling Zack's muscles go rigid beneath her hand.
"Perhaps I make it a point to remember the name of the woman I once met...under unusual circumstances." Ivarus replied calmly. "Now, may I ask where I could find Lady Hearthwell, Lady Xantherion?"
"Why do you want to know?" Zack asked again, more firmly this time.
Not knowing she was doing so, Ariadne looked at Ivarus with pleading eyes. She felt she had to tell him where Celestyn was. But how could she, with Zack glaring at him so furiously?
Ivarus saw the pleading in her eyes and almost immediately, his gaze softened. "I am afraid that the matter I wish to discuss with her is none of your concern, Lieutenant Farnham."
"Anything that regards my cousin is my concern, Ivarus," Zack said, calmly this time in response to the touch of Ariadne's hand.
"And I am her~" Ivarus suddenly stiffened. What had he been about to say? What was he to Celestyn Hearthwell? Damn it...He nearly had the answer in his grasp. "I have to go." And with that, he turned and left.
"She's at the docks!" Ariadne could not resist calling after him. So much pain...He had endured so much pain...
"Ariadne?" Zack asked as Ivarus walked away, acknowledging her call with a nod. "Why did you tell him?"
Her eyes were sad as they looked into his. "I feel he needs to know." She whispered.
Zack looked at her for a long moment, then sighed. "All right, I trust you with that, Ariadne. I'm sorry, but Kierlan asked me to keep an eye on Ivarus."
Ariadne just nodded, but her sad gaze remained on the parting Ivarus. I hope the pain in your heart will ease soon...