The stars were chasing daylight from the evening sky, and the nightcreatures of the Eld were stirring sluggishly to life; the first crickets were softly chirping, serenading the forest into slumber—but a finer music filled the air that night.
Kvothe played, and the others rested yards away. They paid his song little mind, drunk on satisfaction and ale; it was a couple of days after their victory, and the weight of a golden royal in each of their pockets seemed to mollify all prior tensions. And though still weary, Kvothe was not too weary to play.
Nor was Tempi too weary to listen.
The Adem mercenary sat slightly apart from the rest, the fire's light trembling in his pale grey eyes. He stared deliberately ahead, resisting the urge to glance in Kvothe's direction. The color that flushed his stony countenance could not be wholly attributed to the fire.
Kvothe drew sound from his instrument with unrivaled dexterity; coaxing silky-sweet notes from their hiding place, sequestered in the heart of the lute. The forest fell silent in reverence, the crickets holding a collective breath, afraid to sully so sacred a tune.
Tempi stared hard into the fire, struggling to keep his expression impassive.
Kvothe played on, unperturbed, unaware. His song was not happy, or sad, but somewhere betwixt—undulating with tales of joy and sorrow, of love and lust. There was something undeniably erotic about the sound, something provocative—something that permeated the attentive listener and caressed his waiting mind.
Tempi gritted his teeth.
Kvothe played on, humming now under his breath, fingering the strings, strumming with the experience and care of a familiar lover. His humming soon blossomed into quiet song, and Tempi succumbed to temptation, stealing an exasperated glance in the musician's direction.
Kvothe was bent over his lute, cross-legged, lips moving in a gentle murmur. His fingers flowed like water over a riverbed, and Tempi was suddenly sure it was a love song—with the subdued huskiness in his voice and the salacious manner in which he played, the song could hardly be anything else.
With ears accustomed to hushed tones, Tempi had no trouble hearing the words—but his comprehension of Atruan was sub-par at best. He understood the gist, however, and it was indeed about a woman—a lady of unmatched loveliness. The rest was woven together by elaborate metaphors and complexities he could not decipher; but the sound was beautiful and pure, a sound he longed to hear, and a sound he secretly wished he could procure.
Kvothe looked up and met his eyes.
Startled, Tempi gestured Apology and Embarrassment. Although Atruans had no shyness when it came to their songs, furtively watching a musician still made him feel like a voyeur.
Kvothe furrowed his brow. Confusion.
Tempi shook his head once. Kvothe's gestures were crude and juvenile; skilled as he was, he was still a barbarian. His was a low profession. Whorish. Dirty.
Beautiful, he thought, the slightest frown breaching his façade.
"Something wrong?" Kvothe asked.
Tempi shook his head again. "Song is good," he said, starting in Kvothe's direction; the chill of the night cut through is mercenary reds—his expression was shadowed, his back to the fire.
"Tempi…are you all right?"
"Yes." He sat about a yard away, facing him. "But it is late. You have played all day... Are you not tired?"
"I am," Kvothe admitted. "But it's been a long time since I've been able to play—sound carries for miles here, you know?"
Tempi nodded. Understanding.
"Besides," Kvothe continued, "the lute helps me…it's cathartic."
"Means…good for you. Purge emotion. Helps with pain."
Confusion. "Music is healing?"
An uncomfortable silence nestled between them. Tempi fixed his gaze on a patch of earth to Kvothe's side.
Apology, he gestured. "I interrupt…please continue."
Kvothe smiled slightly, and his fingers began the dance anew.
Tempi watched with expertly concealed desire; it was the same song, the love song—and Kvothe's voice was dripping with emotion.
In Haert, it would have been acceptable to respond to such an advance in a sexual manner. Music was a thing between lovers—and Kvothe's intimacy was blatant though unintentional. However, Tempi knew he would not respond well to sudden affections—barbarians were notoriously picky about the sex of their partners. Even in Haert, same-sex intimacy was rare. And with Dedan and the others still half-awake, a romantic advance would be both unwise and untimely.
Still, he could not help but desire; Kvothe's voice was heartbreakingly lovely, and the lute but an extension of his body. His youthful face held summer-leaf eyes and knowledge beyond his years; he was a beautiful thing, really—powerful and dangerous, but beautiful.
Like his music, Tempi realized.
The music was as much a part of him as the hands that evoked it, as much as the Lethani was a part of the Adem. As the notes spilled into the air between them, Tempi's jaw parted slightly, in awe. How could such a filthy thing be so lovely? Or perhaps it was the man, and not the sound, that was lovely; such a man who could craft the brazen art of music into something glorious for all to hear—surely such a man could do anything.
It was at that moment Tempi realized his teaching Kvothe was of the Lethani—others in his town might not see it, but he knew in his heart it was right. Kvothe could learn the Ketan—of this he was absolutely positive. It was not an easy skill, but for one who called lightning from the sky, it was a skill that could be attained.
Kvothe finished far too soon, and Tempi realized he was staring, face flushed, lips parted, arousal coiled tight in his abdomen.
"Good," he said quietly, regaining his composure. "Extraordinary," he said in Ademic, and Kvothe nearly glowed from the praise.
"Thank you, Tempi."
The mercenary nodded and stood, face perfectly deadpan, and headed back towards the fire.
That night he dreamt of Kvothe's music, so enamored he was with the sound; he moaned in the night, quiet as a butterfly's wing, and woke to wash himself in earnest.
"Filthy," he murmured, but did not believe himself in the slightest.
A/N: Please review! : ) If I get enough feedback I might continue (I adore writing Tempi) but this was originally intended to be a oneshot. Let me know what you think! And thank you for reading.