Title: The Rope To The Ivory Tower 2/2
Day/Theme: December 06 : Of force and friction.
Series: FE10 au
Character/Pairing: Ike/Soren, Tibarn/Reyson, maybe a hint of Janaff/Ulki
Author's Note: consider this a late birthday present for the radish /o/
The prince couldn't concentrate.
He didn't believe in such foolishness of fairytales, such as love at first sight, princes on white horses who rode in and rescued damsels into a life of wedded monotony packaged as bliss.
The hero was expendable, as all stupid, brainless heroes were in their quest for gold, glory and girls.
The prince reminded himself again that the hero's fate only mattered in how it was useful to him.
The hero left from the tower. He preferred to go on foot, for he'd never had good luck with horses. The hero wasn't born with valor, it was something he had earned when his manhood had come early with a splash of his father's blood. He had not set out to be a hero at first, only a mercenary, a swordsman. Everything else had been twists of fate.
The hero walked through the tangles of brambles, through yet another damnable forest for two days until he reached the edge of the kingdom. It was carved out of a rock face, with many caves and crevices making up the dwellings. There was a pair the foot of it, two guards by the look of it. One had aquiline features, and kept quiet, while the other had his long hair pulled into a bun, and was remarkably was chattier, and in fact had spent the entire time relating what appeared to be a dirty joke. The hero didn't exactly get it, and figured it must've been a hawk thing. Both wore the traditional brown tunics, sandals and short pants. Their wings were folded. The hero was never particularly one for stealth.
"Halt, human!" said the chattier one. "This is a no-human zone, can't you read?" He pointed to a poorly drawn sign with humans suck! burned on it.
"I need to see your king," the hero said.
The chatty one narrowed his eyes. "Eh, I guess we have to. Damn that stupid hero clause in our guild's contract. But I'm warning you, I have this awesome set of eyes and if you take a step out of line I will end you with my eye lasers."
"Got it," the hero said.
"He's lying," said the quieter, more intense guard. "His eyes have advanced sight, not lasers."
"Shut up, man!"
"For the last time, that joke stopped being funny five-hundred years ago," the quieter one said.
Both of them surrounded him, and took him by each arm, leading him in the gates.
"Is that really necessary?" The hero asked.
"Totally. Usually we'd poke you with pointy things as we walked you in and call you names, but our pointy things are being sharpened, so consider yourself lucky!"
"So you're not going to call me names?" The hero asked.
"Do you want us to call you names, human? Didn't know you were into that kind of stuff," the chatty guard said.
The hero didn't have long to wonder what he had meant by that, for all too soon they were past the caves and crevices which served as dwellings, and curious and at times belligerent hawks who peeked out of them to come before the throne.
"Hey boss, we got a human here."
A being who was unmistakably the white prince stared down at him, his wings with flecks of black and grey from the flames which had devoured most of his kind. He Sat beside the Hawk King, his, consort and charge. His robes were delicate and white, with gold threads and ivy patterns embroidered in. His hair was gold, unbound, and flowed about him. He sat on a the lap of a robust man who could only be the hawk king. There was a large scar across his face, and he wore a long coat open at the chest, revealing more scars and a rather toned physique which the white prince was admiring.
The hero was reminded of pirates.
The white prince shot him a I hate you even more now that you interrupted me glare. The hawk king seemed a bit more welcoming, if only that he didn't look like he wanted to tear the hero's throat out on sight.
"It's your call, boss. Throw him out, make him an example, whatever," said the chattier one.
"Kill him. That is the rule of our kind," the white prince said.
"I'll admit, I'm not exactly the bookish type, but weren't herons peaceful vegetarians?" The hero said.
"According to the senate, we are murderers who should be burnt until extra crispy. Perhaps it's time to change our ways." The white prince said.
All this time, the wise hawk king had been studying the hero. He stroked his chin in a thoughtful manner.
"Not just yet," the hawk king said. "The least we could do is make him preform some challenges. It's standard hero fair, and we can always kill him after we've had our fun. Er, properly tested him as to the ways of our kind."
"Fine," said the white prince. "You may spend plenty of time testing him, and I will spend plenty of time in my own chambers."
He got up and stormed off towards one of the more decorated caves.
The hawk king sighed. "Can't live with em, can't live without em."
The hero thought the resemblance was uncanny. He had to admit that the prince would be really useful here. In truth, his thoughts had gone quite a bit to the prince. He had saved a lot of royalty, and mostly they tended towards the bosom clasping, crazy, or violent. The prince, on the other hand, was none of the above – or at least not bosom clasping, which to him was the worst offender. The prince had a great sense of tactics and planning, he used big words, and the hero had never seen somebody frown like that before. The hero had never really been one for love at first sight. His sister always sighed and did some bosom clasping – at least until the neighbor boy teased her and she'd beat him with a frying pan. He couldn't see any of the others going on him with his journey. They'd be afraid to dirty their dresses or break a nail. But the prince, he'd help him slay monsters along the way.
"You blanked out for a minute there," the hawk king said. "Yes, he's dazzling, but he's also very taken. If you look at the sun too long, you'll go blind. Touch it, and you'll get burnt, if you catch my drift."
"Uh, I've never looked at the sun, actually. Hurts my eyes. And I was just thinking he reminds me of the person I'm trying to save."
"Oh?" The hawk king asked. "So you've got someone to keep your bed warm too?"
"It's a sleeping roll, it doesn't exactly fit two," the hero said. "Also, he's in a tower and I just met him, which is why I'm here, actually."
"...let me guess, he does the thinking for you?" The hawk king said.
"Maybe he's cursed with the inability to get metaphors," the chatty guard said.
The hero thought about letting the prince do the thinking for him. It was a nice thought, that inexplicably turned to the prince in a frilly apron and nothing but telling him what to do. Forcefully. He frowned. He'd never had that sort of thought before. The reaction was a nice rush, though. Way back when, some of the fellow mercenary men had nudged him with their elbows and asked his favorite of several drunk barmaids, whose main draw was large breasts, not brains. For seventeen years he'd had no reaction of any sort to drunken barmaids or sweet country girls. Apparently he should've been looking for angry and intelligent princes who actually lacked any of the noble traits who so disliked.
He'd never really been one for deep thoughts before he met the prince. And now, his deep, meaningful thoughts involved frilly aprons. Life was like that. The hero accepted it as it was and went on following them as they lead him to a place where the stones circled together to form a Colosseum of sorts.
"Ok, we better get you started on those 'tasks'," the hawk king said with a grin.
"Chug! Chug! Chug!" The chattier guard said.
The hero held himself up, with no support. His legs to the sky, his mouth to the spigot, the amber colored alcohol spilled down, some overflowing to the ground below. Their chants continued, and the hero drank and drank, until he finally wobbled down. He seemed dizzy for a moment, but didn't collapse, or heave. The hawk king clapped him on the shoulder. With most, it would've broken bones, but the hero withstood the show of broness with admirable fortitude.
"Great keg stand! I haven't seen a keg stand that good since I last met with the beast king's nephew," the hawk king said. "He doesn't like me spending time with the beast king's nephew, says we party too wild. Now, how about that beer pong—"
There was the light, yet no less indignant sound of a throat being cleared. They looked up to the gap in the stones which served as an entrance. The white prince was there, with arms were crossed, and he didn't look happy.
"Testing him? This is your way of testing him?"
"Alcohol to dull the pain," the hawk king said. "It'd be cruel to send a man to his death without it."
"I see," the white prince said icily. "At the moment the execution is to be by alcohol poisoning?"
"I was thinking mortal combat, but death by chugging does have its appeals."
The white prince rolled his eyes.
The white prince oversaw the last battle, after the arm wrestling contest, the eating contest, and another drinking contest, 'just to be sure he had enough alcohol.'
It was outside the city that the circle was. Here was where their battles of honors were settled. The white prince was not pleased, his arms crossed, his expression casting a judgement which would've probably been terrifying had he not been thin, fragile, and unable to punch someone without breaking some of his own bones.
"No weapons, no transformations. We'll just use our hands, and as a handicap, I won't use my wings."
"Got it," the hero said.
"Whoever pushes the other out of the ring wins."
"And if he wins, he'll get what he wishes?" The chatty guard prompted.
"Or another round of beers," the hawk king said. "Whichever."
"And if he loses, he'll be skinned alive I'll see to the task personally," the white prince said.
"While I enjoy your bouts of bloodthirst, last time you cut yourself trying to execute a human," the hawk king said.
"I've grown better this time," the prince said archly. "I'm sure I won't slice any of the men this time."
"The men are a hardy lot. I'm more worried about you," he said. "Last time you punched someone, you broke every bone in your hand."
"Just get started already," the white prince snapped.
"I won't be gentle on you, just so you know," the hawk king said.
"I wouldn't want you to," the hero responded.
They struggled. There they were, arms locked as each tried to hold his ground, while simultaneously trying to push the other out of the ring. The hawk king was a formidable opponent. He was exceptionally strong, with sharper senses than a human, and quite a bit of agility for all his bulk. Still, the hero was no slouch either. He was not the strongest of his kind, nor the most clever or agile, but he had a determination to avenge his father and save the prince that could move mountains. He dug his heels in, ignoring the sweat running down his back and only focusing on this combined goal of saving and avenging, until there was nothing, no thoughts but of what would come after. Failure wasn't an option. Who would save the prince if not him? The sudden image of another hero sweeping the prince away, riding off into the sunset had a sudden, sharp burst of something he'd never felt before. Like anger, but darker. He pushed into the hawk king, as if he were the source of this sudden new, unpleasant feeling, and the hawk king gave an inch, then two.
"Hey...take off your shirt," the hawk king said.
"Just do it. I've got a plan."
The hero liked plans. He also realized many new things about himself, like a surprising skill at keg stands and a fondness for frilly aprons when worn by cranky princes. They broke apart for a moment. He pulled off his tunic, and the hawk king shrugged off his coat and left it to the side.
And so they returned to wrestling. Sweaty, half-naked wrestling, with quite a bit of grunting. The white prince watched. His legs were crossed. In the end it was not the hero or the hawk king who folded, but the white prince.
"Enough. He can live," the white prince said. "As for you–" he leveled his gaze at the hawk king. "I believe we have some things to discuss. In my quarters."
"Lift it up," the hawk king said. He raised his fist.
"You want me to punch you?" The hero said, utterly confused by the gesture.
"Let me teach you the ways of our kind, for you are now my bro. Now lightly bump your fist to mine."
The hero did as he was told, and the hawk king grinned and clapped him on the back.
"That's it, that's it! You know, you're all right."
"Thanks, I think," the hero said.
It was the quieter of the two guards who lead him out. He didn't break the silence, and nor did the hero. When the chattier of the guards came, the hero couldn't resist remarking a thing or two on this matter.
"I think I heard him say all of five words."
"He can talk, but usually he's too tired to," the chatty guard said. "He has amazing hearing and in a place like this, he doesn't get much sleep at all."
"So...tired..." the guard said. His eyes were bloodshot.
"Don't earplugs work?" The hero asked.
"Not with our king around, they don't," the chatty guard said with a sly smile. With that, they lead him to a cave where he could rest. For a moment the quiet guard simply stood still, with a blank, unblinking look.
"Oh, he fell asleep with his eyes open again," said the chattier guard. "C'mon man, maybe you can catch a nap in my tent."
The quieter of the two walked on, groggily taking each shaky step along as the chattier guard lead him on.
The cave wasn't much different from any other cave he'd seen. It was dark, dingy, and the beds left something to be desired. The hero got up and looked out to the sky. The view here was glorious, making everything below them turn to patches of green of blue, with only occasional dark figures who looked tiny from up here. He couldn't help but wonder if the prince was looking out on a similar view, or maybe even if he was thinking of him too.
A few hours later, he saw the white prince and the hawk king again. The white prince was smiling for the first time the hero had seen. The hawk king's hair had always been a bit mussed, with a windblown quality to it, but now it stuck out in all directions.
"So, you've won the right to ask for a wish. What is it you need?"
"There's a prince trapped in a tower. We were going to go the whole hair thing, but he said that plan hurt his head and he told me to go here and fight you for the right for a task, and then he could be flown down."
"Oh yeah, you mentioned that. What can I say, after a night with him, I can barely remember my own name. And I know how that is. Princes, huh? One rescue and suddenly they're telling you how to do everything."
"Yeah," the hero said with a smile. "They do that."
"Welll, you won fair and square, so it looks like I'll have no choice but to take this arduous journey with you," the hawk king said.
He nodded towards the white prince. "You should stay here."
The white prince looked indignant. "You always leave me out of your bloody battles."
"No bloody battles this time," the hawk king said. "Just a boring old trip to save a human from a tower. There won't even be any disemboweling."
"Hmm. I suppose I'll wait out this time," the white prince said. "Do come home safe, even if it is a mundane trip." He leaned up and kissed the side of the hawk king's cheek before making his leave, this time without any indignance or fury.
"And make sure to pack lots of wineskins," he said with a wink to the chatty guard.
"Aye, aye, captain boss!" The chatty guard said.
The prince's thoughts had wandered quite a bit in the weeks since the hero's departure. His books hadn't drawn him in as before, and even the walls of the tower felt confining. He spent hours stargazing and looking at the world about him, the world he had spent most of his life shunning. Suddenly, it looked that much more fascinating. He thought about the different libraries he could visit, the ruins he could unearth, the secrets he could discover.
He thought about the hero wrestling mostly naked, and then offering for the prince to wash his back. Though, technically that was a dream that he couldn't be faulted.
It was only when he heard a voice pierce the noises of the forest that his mood lifted.
"So, prince, I'm back," the hero said.
The prince rose up, his hands shaking as the book he was holding up to the light fell to the table. It had been two weeks since then, and he had resigned himself to the fact that the hero had been picked apart by hawks, torn to pieces, all to save him. He would angrily add on that the hero – like all heroes – was actually motivated by self interest, and that saving him was just some tangential quest to a larger quest where he was more a trophy, a needed item than anything the hero truly cared about.
He told himself that he was unaffected, smoothed down his hair and the dust away from his robes and peered out.
"I didn't expect you. Considering how long you took, I figured you had been torn to pieces," the prince said sharply. Despite barely looking up from his books, and staying out of the sun, his cheeks were flushed with sunburn again.
"The hawk king here took a little side trip to the beast kingdom," the hero said.
"I still can't believe he didn't get a hangover after that," said a chatty guard who attended the king.
"Truly, your ability to imbibe alcohol is of heroic proportions," the hawk king said.
"Nice to know you enjoyed your time away," the prince said icily.
"You're right, the resemblance is uncanny," the hawk king said.
"I know, right?" The hero said. "They could be brothers or something."
"So, let's get this started," the hawk king said, cracking his knuckles. He unfurled his wings, and looked about to lift off and up.
"Wait. I have some things to set in order," the prince said.
The prince scurried back, his heart racing, still feeling the effects of the sunburn. He'd have to make an ointment at this rate. He looked back to the place where he had spent most of his years, casting his gaze over books he had never gotten to. His days would be the same, studies and bland food, with occasional cynical soliloquies about the state of the world he had barely even seen.
He could reject them. He could live his entire life here. A solitary scholar. He could put up defenses, leave traps for any other traveler which might come to disturb him.
Or he could leave this cocoon and come out into the sun.
The prince began to gather what little he had. Most of the books had to be left, but he could always return one day and perhaps collect them. Either way, this place was far too enchanted for them to turn to dust, or another to take over the tower in his absence. He wore only the remaining clothes of the sage, and even those had been darned again and again, and showed their wear. He took some of the dried food, and what books were utmost necessary to his craft.
Even as he was finished, his things set upon the table he had studied on, he stared out the interior of the tower, looking to what had been his dwelling place for as long as he could remember.
"Prince?" Asked the hero.
The prince paused at the window and finally came to look down, his unbound hair falling down the stones around him.
"So...you wanna maybe go on an adventure sometime?" the hero said. "We could slay some monsters, see some places. Get revenge, save the world, that kind of thing."
"I'd like that," the prince said. And he knew he meant it.
The hawk king flew up, his powerful wings spreading wide as he came up. The prince took his small bundle and stepped out, allowing himself the undignified matter of being carried down. It felt strange on level ground, he even felt a bit dizzy. He took those first few steps, as awkward as a new fawn, and stumbled against the hero.
"I've got you," the hero said, a low comforting murmur. He stroked the prince's hair in a comforting gesture, and the prince let him. No one had touched him in a gentle manner in years, perhaps ever. Still, he only stayed a moment there, comforted against the chest of the hero, his hero. The distinction had already changed, and he would fight down any bosom clasping damsel who tried to fight him for it.
The prince could be quite ruthless whenever it suited him.
The hawk king grinned, and rose up a slow, throaty cheer. The chattier of the two guards added yay, booze! to the king's hurrah, and the quieter guard said nothing at all.
"Booze?" The prince asked, looking to the hero for an answer.
The hero shrugged. "Everyone needs a hobby."
"Remember, you're always welcome in Phoenicis," the hawk king said. "We'll keep the tap running for you."
"The first part of your quest will be in Daein," the prince said. "There's where your revenge will lead you."
"You save that world," the chattier of the two guards said. "Kill some for me, ok?"
"If by save the world you mean topple several governments, then yes," the prince said. "We will most certainly 'save' the world."
"Two minutes out and he's already plotting to topple governments. Gotta hand it to those princes," the hawk king said.
"Yeah," the hero said with a smile. "They're something else."
He said in it the fondest manner possible.