Alanna's goblet had barely left her lips before she thrust it out in the direction of the wine pitcher.
"Lass, maybe-" George's concern was cut off abruptly by Alanna's cold, blank voice.
"I said another, please."
Jon and Gary exchanged troubled looks. They had never seen Alanna sound so remote, and they had certainly never seen her drink quite like this. Her intent was obvious. It wasn't to socialize, and it wasn't even to get drunk. She was clearly seeking oblivion, and she was seeking it as fast as possible.
Jon was closest to the pitcher, and so with a sigh he poured her a glassful.
"We brought you cherry tarts, your favorite. Why don't you have one?" Jon's voice sounded strangely pleading to his ears, as though he were begging a small child to eat her vegetables. If we could just get her to eat one it'll at least soak up a little of the alcohol, he thought. As it was, he suspected that she was going to be vomiting soon.
Alanna shook her head, then began to steadily gulp down her wine. After a moment she came up for air, gasping like a drowning victim, before she tipped the glass back to chug the dregs.
"You haven't opened any of your presents yet. You know mine's a good one because Cythera picked it out." Gary grinned feebly at her. This was a silly thing to say, for although Cythera had great taste in gifts it wasn't like Gary had ever had problems finding thoughtful things for his friends. It didn't matter, he had hoped that the tempting chance to mock him might distract Alanna from her intense focus on imbibing. He would have said anything to make Alanna smile, or roll her eyes, or do anything at all besides drink and stare at the ground. He wished Cythera was here, but she had traveled home to Elden to share the news of her pregnancy with her family. Thayet should have been here as well, she also knew what to do in situations like these, but the exhaustion that came with her own new pregnancy made staying awake past early evening nearly impossible. Life had changed so much, for all of them, that Gary could hardly believe only a year had passed since Jon's coronation.
Alanna never bothered to respond to Gary's bait. Instead she tipped her head back languidly, the drink making her movements unsteady.
George crossed his arms over his chest and said in a sharp tone, "If it's going to be like this we might as well go into the city, get you some real liquor." Until this point George had remained unusually quiet throughout this "celebration". Gary had the feeling that George had already said his piece to Alanna before they had arrived, and that it had not gone over well.
"You said I could decide how to spend today; this is how I want to spend it. Actually, I wanted to do this alone, but you wouldn't let me. So here we are. Another, please." The flat nothingness of Alanna's voice was terrifying. Her face held no emotion, just blankness. They had seen Alanna cry, they had seen her rage, and they had certainly seen her whack at something until both the tears and the anger poured out of her. They had never seen her rendered so numb by grief that she lost the ability to react. It wasn't right, it felt as though someone had come by and scooped all of the Alanna out of her body, leaving them with a miserable empty shell in her place.
"Alanna, let us take you somewhere nice to eat. There's no reason tonight needs to be like this. Come on, what do you you usually do to celebrate?" Buri's matter of fact nature made her bedside manner brusque, yet efficient. Despite everything, Raoul couldn't help but smile over the rim of his own tankard at her reasonableness.
"I've never celebrated a birthday on my own before, I've no idea how it 'usually' goes." Alanna's voice was truly venomous, and it would have been frightening if they weren't all relieved that she still had some feeling left in her. She leaned back heavily in her chair, eyes slightly closed, but the tense way she held her jaw indicated she wasn't even close to unconsciousness.
She held her glass into the air. "Another."
No one interjected to point out that she wasn't alone, rather she was currently surrounded by friends. They knew who she meant.
With another heavy sigh, Jon reached for the pitcher yet again.