Let's Strike a Deal
Silas sighed heavily as he looked up at the tavern sign, hanging drearily above the tavern's front door. He shook his head and took a deep breath, then grabbed the handle of the front door, pulling it open and entering the quiet tavern. Two middle-aged, drunk men sat to the right at the bar, being served by a tired, but humored bartender, as the two men laughed to each other loudly. An older couple sat at a table to the left, accompanied by the rest of the empty bar. No one took note of Silas's entry as they continued to chat and drink loudly, so he pulled his cap down and quickly made his way to the back of the bar, where he saw a pair of scuffed up boots sticking out the side of a chair, and slumped shoulders resting on the table in front of them. Silas approached quickly, resting his hand on the bulking shoulders as he passed by, before taking a seat opposite of the now stirring figure.
"Ah, who's bothering me?" The drunk voice moaned, rocking slightly back and forth as they lifted themself off the table.
"An old friend." Silas said with a weak smile. The figure's head rose, flashing a quick grin before returning to their bemoaned cries.
"I need another drink!" The voice called, flimsily raising their arm to the bartender, but Silas shook his head and pulled their arm down.
"He's had enough." Silas looked up as he responded to the sole bartender, whose attention they had gotten, "We'd like to close the tab instead." Silas then turned his eyes back to the slumped, drunk figure, whose head fell back to the table with a thump. Silas sighed and stood up, walking over to the bar and quickly paying the bill with some of the coins in his pocket, before he returned to the table and stood next to the unconscious figure. The drunk had not moved an inch. Silas smiled grimly, then grabbed them by their arm, pulling them out of their seat with a heavy tug.
"What are you doing?!" The drunk man cried, weakly trying to shake off Silas's grip, but Silas held steady.
"I've already paid your bill, so hush your mouth and come along." Silas shot sternly, pulling the stumbling man towards the front door. The bartender watched them closely as they quickly made their way to the entrance, and as the bartender began opening his mouth, the drunk man threw his free arm over Silas's shoulder, laughing drunkenly and pulling Silas towards him, all while breaking Silas's grip on his other wrist.
"Alright, my ol' pal, calm down, calm down!" The drunk man said with a laugh, leaning on Silas, "Slow your walk, or I'll puke!" The drunk man laughed heartily, and, seeing as the men looked familiar with each other, the bartender relaxed, returning to wiping down a mug he had started cleaning.
With a grunt of annoyance, Silas adjusted the heavy man on his shoulder and opened the front door. And, with some struggle, Silas managed to get both of them walking down the street in a mostly straight line, though there were some dramatic dips to left and right as the drunk man moved and wiggled in Silas's loosened grip. Annoyed, Silas sighed aloud in irritation and spoke up to the drunk figure with a frown on his face.
"I know you're not actually drunk, so do you mind behaving a little bit?" Silas whispered, his voice heated in annoyance.
"What? Is that how you treat a drunk, old friend?" The drunk man asked with a loud, mocking laugh. Silas glared at the drunk man, who began to sing and laugh in response.
Oh gee, what do I see? An annoooying man, in front of me!
"Alright, if that's how you want to be." Silas said, his voice seething with annoyance and anger. He flicked the man's arm off his shoulder with a ferocious velocity that made the drunk man stumble. The drunk man, not anticipating this, tripped backwards and fell hard on the cobblestone road on his behind, screaming out a loud yelp. Silas looked over his shoulder, down at the sprawled out figure and laughed for the first time since their encounter began, "Too bad. Maybe if you weren't so drunk, you wouldn't have fallen."
"What a way to treat a drunk person." The man said coherently, sitting up and dusting himself off before he stood up completely, his back tall and straight. He rubbed his head over, making sure he had no bumps or cuts, then pouted indignantly, "I'm going to tell Eva what you did to me."
"She may be your boss, but she's not my mother, Holland." Silas said with a sly smile, before he thought and asked, "'An old friend.' Whose idea was that?"
"It's an old phrase that we've used forever, so don't get any thoughts." A very sober, but still slightly stumbling Holland said, releaning on Silas's shoulder, to Silas's immense irritation, "Come along, Eva's not far. And she's a very impatient woman."
"You can say that again." Silas said with a sigh as the two of them continued forward.
The crowd roared and applauded, rising from their seats with renewed vigor as Eva gently bowed to the crowd. She smiled brilliantly as waved one last time before she made her way off the stage, disappearing to the side of the stage as she moved the large stage curtain aside. Even after the curtain readjusted to her pushing it aside, cheers and applause still shook the large room.
"Quite the audience tonight." One of the stagehands said offhandedly, whistling as he pulled the curtain to the side an inch to look at the lively crowd.
"They do seem more lively than usual. Maybe because it will be my last performance here for a while." Eva replied with a smile, which caused the stagehand to jump in surprise and drop the curtain, finally realizing Eva was beside him.
"I-I think it's because of your amazing performance, Lady Ivana!" The stagehand said, stumbling over his words as he looked down in embarrassment, trying to hide his reddening face.
"You are too kind." Eva said, continuing to smile, while laughing lightly, "Without the help of everyone backstage, my performance would have been rather bland." The stage hands bowed with a blushing face, looking beyond embarrassed as they tried to hide their excitement, feeling as if they had met the king of the kingdom.
"Lady Ivana!" A voice called out, catching Eva's attention as she turned towards the voice. Quickly walking up to her was an anxious Neema.
"Thank you for all your hard work tonight." Eva said, turning her head back to the embarrassed stagehand before she turned her focus on Neema. Eva walked up to her, meeting her halfway, and the two quickly left the backstage, heading to her dressing room. They remained quiet the entire walk back, and only spoke once they entered the dressing room and closed the door firmly behind them. Inside, leaning nervously on the vanity table was Saoirse, who rose when Eva and Neema entered.
"Lady Eva." Saoirse said with a slight bow, which Eva immediately flicked her wrist dismissively at, motioning for her to speak.
"There's no need for that now that we're alone." Eva dropped the heavy shawl that sat on her shoulders on a nearby chair, then moved behind the silk folding partition in the corner. Neema shot a nervous look over to Saoirse, who nodded, then Neema joined Saoirse's side. As Eva changed her clothes, the sisters whispered to each other.
"She's in a surprisingly good mood." Saoirse whispered, leaning towards her sister, so Eva would not hear.
"I know. I just don't know why. She's been so angry every time we even bring him up, and now they're going to meet again, you would think she would be breathing fire." Neema whispered back as the two of them glanced over at Eva's shadowed figure.
"Maybe something good happened?" Saoirse speculated.
"Something so good that it made Lady Eva happy about meeting that elf?" Neema shot back, her voice still low.
"Well, how would you explain her good mood then?" Saoirse whispered back, frowning.
Neema looked at her sister, then sighed and looked away, "I don't know. There's no real explanation for it, I guess." They then looked at each other with wide eyes when they heard happy humming from behind the partition.
"This can't be Lady Eva. There's no way. Was the real Lady Eva kidnapped?" Saoirse wondered as the two sisters looked at each other.
"No, my darlings." Eva said with a brilliant smile on her face as she stepped out from behind the partition, her long, red evening dress now replaced with a pair of fitted trousers and a loose blouse, and her strappy heels replaced with comfortable long boots. As she stepped out from behind the partition, Eva adjusted her short, riding gloves on her hands, "I have not been kidnapped. Instead, I have been given an invaluable gift." Eva moved close to them, walking up to the vanity mirror to fix her slightly faded makeup. The two girls looked at each other again, unable to hide their confusion and surprise.
"Lady Eva," Saoirse began, stepping towards Eva, "We are just concerned, because you seem," Saoirse stopped speaking, trying to think of the right words to say. After a moment, Neema stepped in,
"You seem very happy, even though you are going to meet that elf that you hate." Neema said, shooting a glance over at Saoirse. Slowly, Eva put down the lipstick she had just been using to recolor her lips and turned towards the girls, chuckling.
"Would you two relax? I've never seen you both so nervous!" Eva said, continuing to chuckle as she returned to fixing her makeup, "And besides, I don't hate that elf, I merely think he's incompetent. But, even I have a use for incompetence every once in a while." Eva quickly adjusted the rest of her makeup, then looked over herself quickly before she nodded her head in approval, "Are you both ready? We don't want to keep them waiting."
"Yes, Lady Eva!" Neema and Saoirse proclaimed at the same time.
"Good, then let's go." Eva said, standing straight and walking towards the door, only stopping to grab a dark brown cloak that rested nearby. As she threw it around her shoulders, Neema opened the front door, and out the three women went.
There was an odd moment of silence in Clarence's bedroom, leaving only the sound of the grandfather clock to click aloud. The two pairs of eyes met with a stagnant iciness, both having thoughts lingering in their minds of the other, but neither expressing a single word. Clarence languidly turned his head to the figure standing behind him, who looked consumed by the shadows in the room.
"How did you know I was there?" The shadow asked.
"Just a guess." Clarence said with a smile, "And now that we're alone, we can talk." Clarence gestured with his hand to a seat in the corner, "Please, take a seat."
"I'll stand, thank you." The voice immediately replied coolly.
"At least step forward then. I hate feeling like I am talking to myself." Clarence said, eyeing the figure with a smile. The shadow hesitated for a moment, clenching his hands at his side, before he stepped forward. The first thing that came into the light was his short, jet black hair, then his dark brown eyes, followed by his thin, grimacing lips. Shrouded completely in black garb, Theo stepped out of the shadows to the light.
"So, how long have you been spying on me?" Clarence asked, returning his gaze to the window.
"I am simply protecting Alywin." Theo replied shortly, "Where he goes, I follow."
"Valiant." Clarence replied sarcastically. Silence filled the room as the two men said nothing to each other. Finally, breaking the silence, Theo said,
"You seem unperturbed." Clarence laughed dryly at his remark, looking much unlike himself.
"I am going to be king. I have to get used to everyone watching my every step." Clarence said, keeping his gaze to the people running around outside, "It's a king's duty to be able to guide his people, and of course some people won't like it, but then they are dealt with accordingly."
"Is that what you plan to do with Malcolm?" Theo asked, crossing his arms over his chest.
"So you're the one that got Alywin talking about my cousin?" Clarence asked back, ignoring Theo's question. Theo sighed in irritation before he nodded slightly.
"I told Alywin about Malcolm returning to the kingdom, yes. It's because I am concerned for his safety. Malcolm is much more dangerous than any of you know. And he wants you to underestimate him," Theo said, stepping towards Clarence, "Because you are all so blind, Alywin's life is at risk. If I could get Alywin out of the castle, and even out of this country, I would do it immediately. Even if it meant I had to tie him up and gag him." Theo took another step forward, his eyes never leaving Clarence's cold figure, "But I know Alywin would never forgive me if I did that, because there's one thing that's holding him here." Theo took another step forward, getting ever closer to Clarence, who finally turned to look at Theo. Clarence, to Theo's mild surprise, was completely unaffected by Theo closing in on him, "And that thing is you, Prince Clarence. I warned Alywin not to get too attached to you, I told him it would only cause him trouble in the end, but I now see how much my warnings were heeded."
"So what are you going to do now? Kill me?" Clarence asked with a sharp laugh.
"No, that would be pointless. Alywin would know immediately that it was me who did it. And that would be an unforgivable crime to him." Theo responded immediately, shaking his head lightly, "No, the only way Alywin would ever leave this country is if you forced him to go. So, I've come to ask you to abandon Alywin. Completely destroy any connection the two of you have."
"That is quite the demand. Though it may not seem like it, Alywin is a valuable asset to me." Clarence said, turning his head to the side, "So what are you offering me in return?"
Theo looked down at the smirking prince, as if watching a cat who was playing with its food, "If you completely relinquish your hold on Alywin, I will offer you my services."
Clarence's icy gaze snapped to meet Theo's warm, brown eyes, whose intensity made Clarence's immovable eyes twinkle lightly. Clarence stood up quickly and closed the distance between the two of them. Theo glared quizzically down at Clarence as Clarence stared back at him. Though Theo was a few inches taller than Clarence, as the two stood and stared at each other, it felt as if their heights had swapped, and Theo was now looking up at Clarence.
"Okay, we have a deal." Clarence said, excitement dripping all over his tone, "I will let Alywin go, and you will help me."
"Then I expect Alywin to leave the kingdom by the end of the week." Theo said, beginning to step away from Clarence.
"No, no." Clarence immediately replied, "Alywin's not leaving yet. I still need him for a few things."
Theo immediately became incensed as he retorted, "That's not what we agreed on."
"No," Clarence responded, rolling his eyes as a smile grew on his lips, "But if Alywin leaves, then I have no way to ensure you actually will stay and help me. For all I know, as soon as Alywin is gone, you'll take off too." Theo attempted to refute the accusation, but Clarence continued, "No, Alywin will stay, and so will you. Don't worry, Alywin will be gone before Malcolm returns to the kingdom. We have a few weeks before his return, so do what I need you to do, and you both can leave."
Theo glared angrily at Clarence, but Clarence stepped away and waved his hand dismissively at him, "Either accept this deal, and take a chance on me letting Alywin go, or don't accept and know for sure Alywin will be in imminent danger. It's your choice." Clarence passed by Theo and sat on the foot of his bed, "All this discussion has made me tired. Don't make your decision now, come and tell me once you've thought it over." Clarence finished as he laid down and closed his eyes. For a long moment, there was an eerie silence in the room, but when Clarence heard a small thud and a rustle from the ceiling, he could not control the wide smile that was growing on his lips.
Finally to the part we've been anxiously awaiting~ Muffin is approaching dangerous territory, and Theo is throwing himself in front of his baby to protect him ;; Clarence will only get worse from here. His character development is only beginning~ huhuhu~ More to come from Clare's part, as is Malcolm when he arrives. I'm perched, just waiting for all the goods to come...
Speaking of, please see the fancy new Translation Policy (under auxiliary volume) if you are interested in translating YMtK! That being said, YMtK has a high reading level (not saying this to pat myself/Hunny on the back. It's a hard translation, as I've tried! No thanks), so I will say it's not an easy translation. I am here to help, though, at least for specific translation things in Japanese and Spanish. So if you guys have any questions, please reach out!
Thanks much all for reading. Hunny and I are no longer locked out of our house! Just... tired. Wishing you all well, and thanks so much to Hunny for completing this chapter. More editing to be done later ♥