I am forever writing overly long and carefully crafted stories full of theories, themes, and angst. This time, I decided to just let Bast have some fun and more or less let the language worry about itself. I hope it worked!

Bast cocked his head to one side, furrowed his brow, and asked himself again how he felt about the fountain in the center of the cobblestone courtyard at the heart of Imre. It was very flattering, of course. Felurian herself could not have inspired a more flagrant or public memorial to the sexual prowess of the Twilight Court. But that didn't mean Bast liked the thing. If he were being perfectly honest, which he rarely was, he might admit that he just didn't think the wild-eyed satyr chasing the nymphs around the bronze pool looked very much like him. Bast was far taller, for one thing. And his legs hinged twice, not just once, which he firmly believed was the only sensible way for legs to be hinged. But what really galled him - what really rubbed him the wrong way, as it were - was the satyr's fur. It was shaggy and coarse, nothing like the black suede coat that ran all the way from Bast's hips to the top of his delicate cloven hooves.

For all of that, it was still his statue, and so he was rather fond of it anyway. He couldn't really blame Althea for getting the details wrong. They had only had that one night together, and that was decades ago. Besides, most of her attention had been focused north of his knees.

Eventually Bast grew bored of the statue and turned his attention to the bright-eyed, red-cheeked crowd gathering under the snow-capped street lamps in front of the Eolian. They were all young and lively and beautiful. The men carried canes and wore fine wool coats with buttons of silver and brass. The women wore high-collared silk bodices, velvet skirts and thick fur muffs. One by one, they tossed jots to the handsome blonde doorman and disappeared behind the wide double doors. Bast waited until the last of them had shuffled past before strolling up to Deoch himself, hands in his pockets.

The doorman glanced up and smiled. It was a fond, familiar smile, the sort shared by old friends and lovers.

"Bast! How's the road to Tinue?"

"Better for the company," Bast said, and smiled the sort of smile that only lovers share. Deoch suddenly looked a bit flustered, and he waved Bast through without asking for a fee.

Once inside, Bast paused in the doorway and glanced about, his expression sweet and sharp. He had been here twice before, and it was his newest favorite place. Few other places in the mortal realm had seen so many stories and songs and secret trysts over the centuries, so many deals brokered and broken. Fewer still stood at a crossroads near flowing water, on foundations as ancient as Belen. Bast knew without being told that this was a place of great power. For all of that, the room was sturdy and warm, brimming over with soft light and softer music and the gentle susurrus of men and women laughing, drinking, stealing kisses, and playing cards. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back, basking in the heady scents of leather and wood, polish and spice.

Someone giggled nearby, and he cracked his eyes open to see a pretty girl hovering just out of reach, laughing behind a gloved hand as she watched him sniff the air. He just winked at her and smiled more widely. He had a smile like a will-o-wisp at the heart of a wild forest, wicked and beautiful, and he knew it. The girl blushed furiously, choking on her laughter as his midnight blue eyes met hers. She froze in place for a moment, then whirled away, her yellow chiffon skirts flashing in and out of sight as she darted through the crowd. Bast's heart beat faster as he imagined making chase, capturing her around the waist, pulling her into a dark corner and ...

No, that would not do. That wasn't the game. Not tonight, anyway. Glamour aside, he would never pass as mortal for more than an hour if he acted blindly on every turning of his desire. Men were maddeningly cautious about such things.

Besides, the girl in the yellow dress was only the fifth prettiest girl that Bast had seen in the queue that evening. He sighed in mild regret, then stepped towards the curved mahogany bar, his sharp eyes darting back and forth as he read the labels on the bottles stacked in tidy rows along the far wall. Whiskey, gin ... ah. Raspberry wine.

The bar was only fifty yards away. Maybe less. And Bast almost made there, truly he did. But then ... His eye caught on something delightful. A small upper balcony, rich in shadows and secrets. A gloved hand resting on a carved wooden railing. The flash of cream petticoats under a blue silk gown.

He stopped walking, slowly turned.

The woman caught his gaze and smiled. She leaned over the railing, and light caught the corners of her cheekbones and brow. Strands of dark hair cascaded over her shoulders and across her breasts. Her dark eyes glinted gaily, hinting at trouble in the making.

Bast took a step towards her, then another, his silly little manling game forgotten. How to proceed? Half-measures would not do. Not with this woman. She was far prettier than the prettiest woman he had seen in the queue earlier. In fact, she was easily the most beautiful woman he had seen in a month. Maybe even two. She was -

"She's here with someone else."

Bast started, then shot an annoyed glance at the young man who had spoken. He had red hair and serious eyes. He was seated at the bar, the long fingers of one hand cradling a glass of scutten. He looked Bast up and down, just once, his expression perfectly bland, and something in that single indifferent glance set off every territorial instinct that Bast had.

He turned to face the man, unconsciously shifting his weight to test the traction of his hooves on the polished wood floor. "Who said I was interested?" he asked, too mildly.

The fellow's eyes narrowed the tiniest fraction. Then he snorted softly, his lips twisting up at one corner. It was an ugly expression, too cynical for someone so young. "Everyone's interested," he said finally. His eyes flicked towards the woman, and Bast followed his gaze. He expected to see amusement in her expression as their eyes met, or maybe disgust. Instead, she stiffened. A bewildering blend of emotions flashed across her features: fury, confusion ... and desire.

Bast's eyebrows rose. He glanced from the man to the woman, then back again. Then he took a half-step back and gave the other man a long, measured look.

He couldn't see it at first. The man's clothes were only of middling quality, and were so fastidiously attended that Bast was certain they were the best he owned. He was even younger than the woman on the balcony, hardly old enough to be called a man at all. Pretty, if a bit sharp around the edges, but not beautiful. Not half so beautiful as she. True, his voice was unusually pleasant, resonant and refined. And true, there was something different about that voice, something subtle and unrealized that Bast couldn't quite put a finger on. A touch of the Fae, perhaps? Bast's eyes fell on the fine leather lute case resting against the bar by the man's knee and he nodded to himself. A musician, then. That explained the touch of craft in his voice. But it didn't explain why the woman was so keen. Patrons couldn't throw a penny in this place without hitting a penniless musicians or three, and Bast knew exactly which of the two kinds of men that frequented establishments like this would most interest a women like that. No, at first glance, Bast wasn't certain what a woman like her might see in a man like him.

Then he looked again. This time, he noticed three things.

The most obvious of the three was the other man's hair. It was not simply red. It was true-red, flame-red, demon-red. It was a wild halo that caught fire as it caught the light, a rare and beautiful combination of color and texture that gave Bast the curiously strong desire to touch.

The least obvious of the three was the other man's hands. They were strong and clever and dangerous hands, perfect for the making and unmaking of beautiful and terrible things. A shudder ran through Bast when he looked at those hands, and the shudder held both a promise and a warning.

The last of the three things Bast noticed might not have been subtle at all but for the dim light of the single vast room. The young man's eyes were the deep green of towering pines and broken bottle glass. They were wanton and wild, knowing and naive, hurt and haunted and hungry. Something about those eyes frightened and excited Bast. Something about them reached right inside of him and pulled.

Bast forgot all about the woman on the balcony. He plopped onto a stool and stuck out his hand. "I'm called Bast," he said.

The other man's grip was heavily calloused, surprisingly strong. "I am Kvothe," he replied. And Bast began to laugh.

Life is hard. So is writing. Comments make me happy.