Cold fish

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Warnings/notes: Thero/Ylinestra, drabble-ish shortie, ooc.

Disclaimer: The wonderful world of the Nightrunner-trilogy was created by Lynn Flewelling.

written at 4th january 2005, by Misura

This was intended as a bit of a missing scene, kind of taking place during the second book. I probably got some details wrong though, so ... sorry if it doesn't quite fit in with Seregil's party at Sakor's Day.

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"A cold fish for a cold fish."

(Seregil, upon catching a fish as an otter and dropping it at Thero's feet)

x

"What," Thero demanded, poking with his fork at what looked like an orange piece of ... something that he assumed to be edible only because it was lying on his plate, "is -this-?"

"It's fish," Ylinestra replied, in a tone that implied he was an idiot for needing to be informed of that fact. "A kind of tarbot, I believe, from somewhere down south."

Thero managed to shut his mouth before he could ask why he was eating salted fishes while every man or woman with a bit of money could buy them fresh in the harbor every morning. Bracing himself, he quickly lifted his fork to his mouth, deciding that he might as well get it over with.

Like he'd expected, the taste was about as enjoyable as Seregil in a good mood. Thero closed his eyes, hoping that Ylinestra would interpret it as a sign that he was savoring his meal, rather than that he was wishing that he'd never agreed to come here in the first place.

It had seemed like a great idea, when she'd proposed it to him. Just the two of them, going out for dinner in some nice inn that she knew to serve the most delicious food in all the city. He hadn't had the illusion that they'd have any kind of privacy, of course, but then again, there had been something rather alluring about the prospect of walking in with Ylinestra on his arm.

Nysander, no doubt, would have been able to tell him what a fool he'd been to believe that.

True, Ylinestra had turned many heads when they'd strolled in. And, as he could have known, Ylinestra had spared every man that looked her way a glance as well, and sometimes a little more than that.

He had no idea why he'd ever imagined that it would be different, that he'd -enjoy- having half the room wishing they were in his shoes and sitting opposite Ylinestra. At this moment, he still had no idea why the men's obvious interest bothered him so much more than Ylinestra's response to them.

It might be, he supposed, that most of the men had company already; they'd come here with either their wives or their lovers -and in some cases, Thero noted, with both. Which meant, really, that they had no business at all throwing suggestive looks in the direction of someone who was obviously taken already, if only because it was so dreadfully impolite to their companions. Especially when the person whom the object of their desire accompanied was a wizard of the Oreska.

"These are treated with special herbs, that come from even further away than the fish," Ylinestra remarked, pointing at the remaining orange things on the dish that was standing on the table in between them. "The secret to which herbs those are, and how much of each should be used is passed on from generation to generation."

"Oh?" Thero replied, frantically trying to think of a more enthusiastic phrase. "How fascinating."

Ylinestra threw him a look that said he hadn't been very convincing. "You truly should get some hobbies aside from your study, Thero. I don't think you'd make a very good cook," she giggled lightly, and continued before he could decide if he should be insulted, "but surely you can see that there's more to life than books and magic?"

Thero considered telling her that he had little fondness of books per se; it was more their contents, the knowledge he could glean from them that he appreciated. Then she smiled at him, really, completely and solely at him, and for a moment, even magic seemed something rather insignificant.

"Like ... food?" he tried. "Smoked tarbot? Herbs?"

Ylinestra sighed. "You have so little imagination, Thero. Come on, finish up your dinner, so that we can go to that party. Maybe -there- I'll find someone I can talk to."

Thero obeyed, feeling he had little choice in the matter -he could have left his plate half-full, he reflected later, but at the moment, that possibility didn't occur to him. The fish tasted even worse when he was in a bad mood.

"It's not smoked, by the way," Ylinestra remarked casually. "That's why it's such a delicacy; it's raw fish, so in theory it shouldn't have kept for the three weeks that it takes to prepare and transport them to here, only thanks to the herbs, it stays fresh."

Thero managed not to choke. He even succeeded in swallowing what was in his mouth. At taking another bite of a food that had obviously gone bad though, he drew the line.

"I think ... I'm full," Thero stated, with as much dignity as he could muster. Ylinestra seemed slightly amused, which he guessed was better than having her annoyed or impatient with him.

"Oh but it'd be a shame to have these thrown out with the garbage, don't you agree?" Ylinestra treated him to another smile. Thero hoped the fluttery feeling in his stomach didn't mean he was going to get sick later on.

A fortunate side-effect of her smile was that his tongue seemed to have frozen in his mouth, thus preventing him from using it to flap out that, in his opinion, the garbage-pile was an excellent place for the so-called delicacy on his plate.

Ylinestra bend forwards, and reached out to pick up the pieces of fish he had left. Thero had to admit he didn't have the faintest idea why she appeared to enjoy their taste so much, though the expression on her face was more than worth the exorbitant amount of money he'd had to pay for their dinner.

Thero found himself almost smiling as Ylinestra allowed him to take her hand on their way out.

Let Seregil call him a cold fish, if he wanted, mocking him for the mere reason of a single spell not affecting him in any way (and who was -Seregil-, to look down upon anyone for that, while he himself was practically immune to all magic?) and let Nysander fuss about morals and ethics, while breaking one of the most widely accepted codes of conduct for wizards.

Thero knew that, with Ylinestra by his side, he would one day show them all what he was really made of.

x- the end -x

A/N: Yes, I do believe Seregil's right when he calls Thero 'that poor idiot'.