Posted by the_flax
The roomy tavern in Val Royeaux bustled with noise, the wooden floor creaking with the heavy steps of patrons, the clanging of goblets and the drone of incessant conversations. Seated at a table next to a wall, three young men were busy filling their goblets with a thick red wine. One of them, Gervais, raised his cup. He had hawkish features, an angular jaw line and sharp grey eyes. His dark hair, short and neatly trimmed, was accompanied by a thin moustache of the same coloration. Gervais strained his voice to be heard over the ambient din.
“To the soon to be greatest chevalier in all Orlais!”
The man next to him, Yvon, had a bare round face with full reddish cheeks and curly brown hair, his light hazel eyes seemed naïve and yet had a twinkle to them, as if they saw more than other eyes could see. Mimicking Gervais, Yvon raised his cup.
Sitting rigidly face to them, Lothaire could not help but chuckle.
“You’re really making a big fuss out of nothing.”
“Nonsense!” Yvon interjected. “Your joining of the chevaliers is as good as a cause to celebrate as any.”
“Especially these days, with everything so bleak.” Gervais continued.
Lothaire stiffened, and studied his friends’ face which were now sullen.
“Things are going that bad?”
Gervais nodded. “We don’t know how long it will be until we lose our land to pay off the debts. You know I couldn’t join the chevaliers because of that, had to stay with my folks. Well, its gotten worse. Without money we can’t protect our lands and the last payment we sent out was intercepted.” He took his head in both hands, his voice growing desperate. “I don’t know what we can do, I just don’t know…”
Yvon continued after his friend trailed off. “My family is better off, but even they had to sell off some land so I could go to the university in Val Royeaux. They hope I’ll land in some plum assignment in the court after that, but I have my doubts. How is Tourrin faring Lothaire?”
“Tourrin is fine.” Lothaire looked both of them over. “As fine as it can be in these times at least. We sure aren’t having the problems your families are facing. Tell you what, I’ll talk to my father, ask him to lend some money to both of your families.”
Yvon shook his head almost instantly. “We can’t impose on you like that.”
“Yes you can.” Lothaire was equally quick to cut him off. “We took an oath, remember?”
This time it was Gervais who replied, with a laugh. “You don’t mean that stupid thing we swore when we were ten? Come on Lothaire, we won’t hold you to that. We were just boys then, we knew so little about the world.”
“Nevertheless I will uphold that promise. We said we would look after each other like brothers and I intent to uphold that, I still see you as my brothers and I do not think that will ever change.”
Gervais and Yvon smiled fondly, partly in nostalgia of those better days but also in appreciated. They knew Lothaire owed them nothing and yet he had given his help freely. Lothaire soon also smiled.
“I will talk to my father, I will make him understand your need.”
“Thank you.” They both replied in a mute voice as shame marred the joy on their face. They had both been raised to be proud and here they were counting on their friend to save them, nevertheless, there was little they could do but swallow their pride and be thankful. All three of them fell into an uncomfortable silence, which lasted for quite a while before Gervais finally broke it.
“I hope we haven’t ruined your last night here. This was supposed to be a night of celebration for you.”
“Think nothing of it.” Lothaire replied offhandedly.
Yvon looked around, seemingly for something specific. “Tell you what Lothaire.” He said with a great gulp of wine. “Go talk with Anne-Marie over there, I’m sure she’ll be glad to share your bed. I promise you, you’ll have a memorable night with her.”
Lothaire was about to reply something, but as he caught sight of the eagerness of his companions, he paused and shrugged. “You know what? I think I’ll take you up on that.” Rising, he continued. “Thank you for the fine evening.”
Gervais grinned. “No, no. Thank YOU. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything here and pay the tab, you just go and have some fun.”
Lothaire also gave a grinned but his was forced and as he walked away, he immediately realized he would not follow through with their suggestion. He would not bed Anne-Marie, probably paying a small sum to ensure she kept up appearance, all for the benefit of his friends. Worse, he knew that they expected him to act this way, that they had sent him off because they thought they had poured enough of their misery on him. Truth to be told, everyday they were growing more and more apart. All three knew it, but they each kept up a façade, it was much easier this way, it was much easier to pretend nothing had changed. While Lothaire had grown more rigid, more duty bound, Gervais and Yvon had indulged themselves more and more and Lothaire couldn’t find it in him to blame them. They had little to look forward to, he had everything to look forward to. They had to find some way to find at least some measure of happiness; women and wine seemed to kept them afloat, so who was he to judge even if he disapproved of such conduct for himself.
With all his heart Lothaire wished that when he would next meet them, in a few years, things would back to how they were. With all his reason, Lothaire knew that when he would next meet them, in a few years, things would have changed even more.