NOTES: Well that's it! I enjoyed writing this, it was a little outside the norm for me which made for a fun challenge. Hope you guys liked it - please review and let me know whether I crossed too many lines or if I got it juuust right! :D
Chapter Ten - Green-Eyed Devils
It would be a long time before I left Devi's room and began searching out my fortune in the world. There were still many things I meant to take care of, but starting a new family with her... it healed a lot of the hurt I felt over having lost mine to begin with.
I told her very little of my quest to seek out and bring an end to the seven dark ones led by Haliax. The less she knew, the safer. I consented to give her the barest details so she would not think me running off to do silly stupid things; now that we ourselves were family, she should fully appreciate that I must avenge my - our - mother. She did protest, of course, implored me to forget such things and remain with her in tranquility and love. But I could not. Not yet, at any rate. In the end, she understood more than anyone else who I'd ever told.
After lingering by her side as long as my restless nature would permit, I left Imre. Discussions of what I endured on the road will come once I have exhausted the topic of Devi, so for now let us focus on that. Occasionally, I made time to return to her for brief reunions, which became farther between the more time went on. Such is the way of this world.
Not once did I ever forget her. Never for more than an hour. My sense of duty was not so strong as that.
There came the day when I made my way down that alley, up the stairs behind the butcher's shop... and she was gone. Her room had been let to another, some man who had no idea who or what a Devi was and chased me off his doorstep. Where could she have vanished to? In her defense, I had been gone for quite some time since my last visit. I searched high and low in Imre and never found her there, so again I left, after telling a few key residents (such as Deoch and Count Threpe) that I had tried to find her and still wanted to. Then I resumed my travels.
Twice more I returned to Imre, searched, inquired. Those who knew Devi had heard vague hints of her leaving town and nothing more, and the number of people who knew Devi and were willing to discuss her was quite a low one. I remained unsatisfied, but moved on with my life.
Finally, once my heroics were at an end and I had solidified my status as a legend, I found my way back to Imre and inquired one last time. That's when I heard tell that there was a Devi who owned an inn near the University - the Horse and Four. Once upon a time in the hazy hallways of memory, it had been the grandest inn that side of the Omethi. How on earth could it be her?
Still I went. All the way as I walked, I said to myself that it wasn't her. I said there was another Devi, I said I had misheard the name and it was Davia or Denni or Eva, something along those lines.
Then I barged in and found her seated at the bar with a fork raised halfway to her mouth. There was a tiny rivulet of grease making its way down her chin. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen.
"Kvothe?" she asked quietly from across the room. Then she was running, wiping her mouth as she went and sailing into my arms.
"It's been a long time," I whispered into her hair.
"Too long." She drew back and kicked me in the shin, and I grunted even while I smiled. "I was right when I labeled you a vagrant! Where did you go traipsing off to?"
"Here and there," I said blithely. "Keeping busy."
A wry smile pulled at her lips. The years had been kind to her; just a few new wrinkles near the corner of her eyes. Laughter lines. "So I hear, Kvothe Kingkiller. Not that I believe a word of it."
"What about you? The Horse and Four? You own this?"
"I'm selling it," she amended sourly. "Don't misunderstand, I love running an inn, but this close to the University... it starches my bloomers to serve all those pompous lords and dandies that were afforded more opportunities than myself. Perhaps I'll settle in Tarbean, or further away to Anilin..."
"Come with me, then."
Devi grinned a tired grin, smoothing out her apron. She now dressed much more the part of an innkeeper: modest, plain clothing, functional shoes, a kerchief covering the top of her strawberry-blond hair. "No thank you. I'll not be needing any adventures with all manner of beast and fae."
"You misunderstand my intent. I'm through with all that, as well. I've had enough of it for six lifetimes." A cheery grin sprang to my face. "It's as if you read my mind: innkeeping."
"Really?" She looked me up and down, eyes narrowing. "You? PAH! Never in a moonage could you settle to polishing bottles and scrubbing counters, not when there are Amyr to chase down!"
"Then allow me to prove you wrong." I hefted my purse and shook it next to her ear, not loudly enough for any other customers to hear but so that I knew she could tell the exact weight of coin. "Hear that?"
"Kvothe, how in hell did you?" she gasped, eyes wide; it proved her copper-hawk days had not faded from memory entirely. "Did you take up with highwaymen? With that much silver, we... we could nearly buy TWO inns!"
"Let's settle for the one," I laughed. "But far away. Far, far away from here... we'll wander until we find a small location in a pointless town. Off the beaten path, out from under the harsh scrutiny of cities and soldiers. Doesn't that sound perfect?"
Still smiling, Devi cast her eyes away. "So you're not unawares, I... I took a husband."
What does one say to that? "Oh."
"He's gone," she followed up quickly, swallowing, still staring down at her shoes as if waiting for me to chastise her. "You needn't worry about seeing him ever again, to be frank; he was an idiot. Just thought you ought to know that I didn't wait for you. Part of me did, which is why my marriage didn't work out... but not all."
"A few women have graced my bed, as well," I admitted. It's likely I wouldn't have if she hadn't been first to speak up. "When I couldn't find you in Imre, eventually..."
I embraced her again, gently, as if she might break. As if we might break if I let myself act with haste. "None compared with my sister," I whispered as quietly as I could into her ear. "They didn't even amount to pale shadows."
Her hands went to my biceps and pushed me back. "This isn't going to be like slipping into an old shoe. You realize that, don't you? We are both of us different than when we last crossed paths. I'm another woman altogether, and you... you are a bonafide mythical figure!"
"Which is precisely what I'm weary of; it's not really what I wanted in the first place. There were just things that needed doing, and being a hero was the easiest way to go about them. But now that I'm finished with it... I am FINISHED with it."
"So the plan is to find some backward valley town, build an inn and settle? For Kvothe the Arcane?"
"And how will you break the news to your swooning followers?"
I grinned. "Why should I? I plan to take a new name... maybe Kote, or Kilvin. Go into hiding."
"For how long?" Now her voice was resigned, as if she'd done all the pointless busywork and arrived at the true crux of her argument. "You make so much noise of leaving your heroics behind to take up with me anew. When will you lapse? When will you return to being the Kingkiller and leave your poor sister in the lurch?"
"Never." At her exasperated sigh, I frowned and cupped her face. "This isn't a flight of fancy, a qualm because I've become disillusioned within the past few minutes. I'm through. It's been a slow decision building for months upon months. Now I should dearly like to begin the life I've ached for since my parents were murdered; one of relative peace. With the one I love."
Devi gaped at me for a long moment, then smiled a wry smile. "There's that charm of yours seeping in. I wondered if you'd just keep lamenting your stupid trials or if we might see some of it yet."
"Come away with me, my green-eyed Devil," I joked, and she laughed. "It's a venture I plan to start with or without you, but... it shall be all the more lonely if I'm to do it without the fairest maiden within the four corners of civilization at my side."
"Maiden!" she cried, laughing yet harder. "Who are YOU looking at? I'm an old, worn-out hag!"
My voice full of mock reproach, I drew myself up to my full height and said, "Still your tongue! Those are dueling words! Speak not of my beloved in this fashion or we must cross swords!"
"You couldn't best me in your wildest fever dreams," she chuckled. "But... if you're serious, stay with me for a span here at the Horse and Four. If you haven't fled in that time, half-cocked and ranting about demons, I'll CONSIDER selling this place and following you wherever you go."
"Ah." I shifted uncomfortably. "About that... I absolutely must skip down to Tarbean and see to-"
"Oh, I knew it!"
"Sorry!" I laughed. "Small jest; I've nothing to see to. Don't lose your kerchief over it, eh?"
Lips pursing, she pinched me hard - somewhere I shan't mention - and smiled a tight-lipped smile. "You're lucky I'm in a forgiving mood, you cur."
"Not for the mood... but I am lucky." And up the stairs to her room we went.
Flying in the face of her predictions, stay I did. She was surprised when I brought along another guest, but she sighed and said that he was welcome so long as he didn't cause any trouble. When her probationary period was up, she expressed vastly more surprise when our guest was determined to tag along with us on our journey, but I assured her he would not interfere between us nor be a nuisance; he was my assistant, not some stray mongrel. Thus, the three of us - myself, Devi, and Bastas the Fae - made our blundering pilgrimage toward the insignificant hamlet of Newarre, where the Waystone Inn was born.
None of the villagers knew anything of our past; merely that we were a couple who had run an inn "someplace away yonder" and had decided to open a smaller one in a smaller town, tiring of the city life. It was a plausible backstory they could respect. I was not a bloodless force of nature, Devi was not an ex-gaelet related to me through a common mother, Bast was not Son of Remmen and over a hundred years old despite looking nearer twenty. We were three innkeepers and no more.
There we lived, happily cleaning and wiling away afternoons together. For a time. There would arise rare occasion for me to take up a sword again, but by and large we were content. I and my sister, and our friend the Fae.
And a bit later, little Gavina. We made sure a 'V' made its way into her name, as you might expect; we had to carry on the tradition.
Every evening without fail, Devi and I would finish sweeping up and turn off the porch lights, lock the front door, and make our way upstairs. Bast would bid us goodnight after all three of us had checked in on Gavina (following her birth, of course). Then we would go to sleep in a canopy bed exactly like the one we had shared in her first place of business. And every evening, kissing each other, we would speak the same words, always with laughter dancing in our identical sets of eyes.
"Goodnight, Big Sister."
"Goodnight, Little Brother."
And the world was naught but Kvothe and Devi.