Hello, and welcome to Tavern Nights! I just beat this game and felt unsatisfied with how it ended regarding a certain relationship that I really loved, so this short story is dedicated to expanding upon that relationship. I hope you all enjoy it!


Chapter One

"Drinks all around! It's on me tonight!"

"Do you even have the money to afford that, honey?"

"Shut up, you. What d'you know?"


Laughter that was loud enough to reach the farthest corners of the city filled the tavern on that starry night. People from every reach of the Empire sat at the tables, clinking mugs and sharing stories and basking in the newly found peace. It was the night of the tavern's reopening, and the place had quickly become the hub of Lazulis City once again. Ariela, the woman who owned and ran the tavern, had never experienced such business on any single night, and was smiling from ear to ear. She stood behind the bar, winking and flirting and pouring drinks while men and women continued piling in. It was a night worthy of celebration, after all, she thought to herself. Peace had finally been reached. Ariela even felt a sense of pride—it was her tavern that had harbored the team of mercenaries (now her close friends) that had saved both the Empire and the Gurak continent.

"Ariela, keep 'em comin'!" came a familiar voice.

"You have to be careful, Syrenne!" she laughed.

A young woman suddenly and rather drunkenly climbed onto one of the tables and began waving her mug around.

"It's a night to celebrate, ain't it?" she cried. A roar of agreement rose up from the other customers.

In the young woman's head, however, there was anything but a celebration. There was no happiness, no excitement, no final relief about the fact that the struggles were over. There was only confusion, longing, a sense of deep and raw regret twisting her thoughts into horrible, shadowy beings. She looked at the faces of the men around her, cursed herself, and looked harder. He was not there. She had heard his voice, seen his smiling face, and looked into his eyes only moments ago. And now he was gone. The thing that was morphing her mind, causing the pain and forcing the alcohol down her throat, the thing she wanted most in this world, was not where she had left it. She lifted the mug to her lips and downed the rest of the beer. The numbness was becoming comfortable.

I could've sworn he was there, just now, she thought. And she pointed to the spot where he had been, swayed slightly, squinted. No matter how hard she looked, she couldn't find him. Where could he have gone?

"Right over there," she said. She wagged her finger desperately, and suddenly, the noise became overwhelming, the headache excruciating. Screaming...so much screaming.

"Syrenne—"

"He was right there!"

"Come on, Syrenne, come here."

Suddenly, she was being dragged off the table, away from her lookout spot, the place where she needed to stand and find him. As soon as she felt the soft fingers wrap around her arms, she began flailing as wildly as she could.

"Stop! No, stop, let me go, I gotta find 'im! He was there! Right there!"

She kicked and swung her arms and wondered why her fighting skills, so useful on the battlefield, were suddenly failing her.

"Let go, please!"

And then, after what seemed to have been an eternity of endless noise and an endless headache, the only sound she could hear was her own voice. She cringed at it, and cringed again when her mug collided with the floor. She was screaming, but she could barely understand herself. She was screaming about him, and how he had been "right there" but was suddenly gone. She started looking around anxiously, asking herself why everything was so foggy, why it was so difficult to make out the faces and the voices.

"What...why can't I...what is this...?" she mumbled. The fingers around her arms led her to a chair and then forced her down into it, though she couldn't find much strength to resist it. Then a smooth voice, for some reason clear among the other faded ones, began whispering in her ear.

"Shh, it'll be okay, you're perfectly all right."

For a split second, everything became clear, and she was aware of everyone's eyes on her. And she saw the face of the person who was speaking above her, a sweet pale face with sparkling eyes that were comfortingly familiar and a voice that—for a reason she couldn't pinpoint—calmed her. Then, a name rang out in her head: Mirania.

"Mirania?"

"Yes, Syrenne, it's me."

Everything became foggy again, everything except for that voice and that face.

"Mirania..."

She searched the room again, but each time she thought she saw him, there was a flash and he was gone. And everything was so foggy. When she opened her mouth and tried to speak, she only heard incoherent babble escape her chapped lips. The energy was seeping out of her at a frightening speed, her thoughts were muddled and she was confused with her own emotions. The whole time she felt Mirania over her, trying to soothe her. But nothing could soothe her. Mirania kept repeating a name...her name...

"Syrenne, Syrenne, Syrenne."

"Why does everybody keep sayin' my goddamned name?" she heard herself cry. Everybody was saying it. The walls, the floors, the customers, the shadowy beings that had invaded her mind. They were all saying it.

"Syrenne, Syrenne, Syrenne."

"What? What d'you want?"

"Syrenne, Syrenne, Syrenne."

"I can't...I can't think..."

She closed her eyes as tightly as she could with the hope that all of the voices would disappear, and for a split second, they did. But as soon as she ventured to open her eyes again, they were there again, piercing her mind.

"Syrenne, Syrenne, Syrenne."

"Please, just stop it already..."

Again, in the hope of silence, she closed her eyes. An array of colors flashed behind her eyelids, so horribly disturbing that she opened her eyes almost immediately.

"Mirania!"

She grabbed for that voice, that face, grabbed for anything familiar and anything comforting. Those porcelain fingers wrapped around her own, squeezed, and then the voice came again.

"Yes, Syrenne?"

"I want to take a bath."

"Of course."

Without another word, Mirania helped her stand up and led her through the crowd, through the spilling drinks and the drunkards and the mumbles. Stumbling and stuttering, she made her way up the stairs with Mirania still holding her arm. Slowly, the noise was dying, and her head was clearing. The further up she went, the more comforting the descent of the screaming. The silence was finally coming. Mirania, that beautiful black-haired angel, led her to a door that had been left ajar and took her inside. As soon as the door was closed, all the noise stopped. She took a deep breath, sighed in relief, and felt the tension lift off of her shoulders. Mirania took her into the bathroom, all the while muttering words of gentle comfort, and began to draw the bath. Then she helped her undress, helped her step into the bathtub, and pulled up a stool.

She felt the warmth of the water seep into her skin, let it run over every inch of her, and dunked her head under. She wanted to feel the wetness in her hair. Then, she looked over at Mirania and smiled.

"Syrenne...that's my name, isn't it?"

Mirania smiled back and nodded.

"I'd forgotten for a moment, ya know."

"Did you?"

"Yeah."

They sat in silence for a few more seconds as Syrenne's thoughts cleared; the clearer they became, the more pain she felt.

"Mirania, I ain't really drunk."

"I could tell," she replied.

"How come?"

"You never act that way when you're drunk. You're usually very happy when you're drunk, actually. Similar to me after I eat a large meal...that's how you are when you're drunk. But you're not very happy right now. So I assumed you weren't drunk."

"Oh."

Syrenne drew her knees up to her chest and lay her chin down on them. There was one spot on the wall that she stared at intently in the hopes that maybe all of the pain and the confusion would disappear in the process of concentrating on something so seemingly insignificant. She tried to forget what had made her mind so foggy, what had brought on the headache and the desire to drink and drink and drink. But for some reason, the drinking hadn't worked this time. Her mind had clouded before the alcohol had had a chance to kick in. Tonight was not a night for booze, an idea that was difficult for her to swallow. There had never been a problem that drinking hadn't fixed for her.

"Are you going to tell me what's really wrong, Syrenne?"

"No, I don't think I am."

"Something is bothering you. Something is making you sad and confused. So much so that your thoughts are clouded..." Mirania had a pensive expression on her face, one that made Syrenne want to cry. She was right, after all. And Syrenne hated admitting that other people were right.

"Mirania, I really think I'd like to be alone right now."

"Very well. If you need anything, feel free to call me or Yurick."

"Will do. Thanks."

"And, Syrenne?"

Mirania stopped at the door and turned around with a shimmer in her eyes.

"What?"

"Don't be afraid to let your guard down every once in a while," she said. "You'll find that sometimes it can be rather enlightening."

And with that, she stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind her. She left Syrenne in a state of distress. Letting her guard down was exactly what she always told herself not to do. She had seen so many people fall prey to the emotions that attacked when guards were let down. The most haunting example she could think of was Dagran...

Don't think about him, she told herself quickly, and shoved him from her mind.

Unfortunately, something almost as haunting waited for her in his wake. The thing that was making her shiver, even in the warm bath water, the thing that had made her weak enough to feign drunkenness. Something she had never imagined happening to her was slowly creeping in through the cracks in her walls, which she was sure she had fixed long ago. That thing was worse than anything she could imagine and anything she had experienced in the past. It was deadly and inevitable, no matter how hard she tried to evade it. It continued crawling into her mind, contaminating her soul, and making her quiver. It was the one thing she abhorred most in the world: falling in love.

"Drinks all around! It's on me tonight!"

"Do you even have the money to afford that, honey?"

"Shut up, you. What d'you know?"

That was the last conversation they had had. And then, when she had looked for him, he had disappeared.

"Do you even have the money to afford that, honey?"

Syrenne could recall the exact spot in which he had been standing, the spot she had pointed to in her craze. She remembered the tone of voice, sarcastic and playful. The same tone of voice he always used when he teased her, the tone of voice that made her knees buckle and the color rise to her cheeks. And she had responded in the same way she always did: by insulting him. That was the way it went. He teased, she retorted, and the cycle repeated itself. They were satisfied with it, both of them. At least, they had been...suddenly, things had become different. And change scared Syrenne.

When she finally found the courage to look at her fingers, they were as wrinkled as an old man's. Syrenne stepped out of the bathtub and began dabbing at the water dripping from her skin with the towel. She grabbed her pants, but out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of herself in the full-length mirror on the wall. Throwing her pants back down, she stood in front of the mirror and examined herself. As she scanned her reflection, she tilted her head, changed her position...changed it again.

Am I pale enough?

Am I too pale?

Am I curvy enough?

Am I full enough?

Am I skinny enough?

Mirania was talkin' 'bout how I'd gained a bit of weight recently...

Syrenne ran her fingertips from her toes up to her thighs and asked herself if her skin was smooth enough. But there was no way for her to know. So she huffed and turned away from the mirror. She avoided it as she ran the towel through her fiery hair, and then found herself wondering if the tendrils were shiny enough. She had never wondered before, but at that moment, it was the only thing on her mind.

Am I good enough?

Syrenne decided that she wanted to sleep naked that night. It was hot and she didn't want to bother with putting her clothes back on anyway. As she made the decision, she came to the startling realization that she had never slept naked before. So her idea to do so brought a smile to her face. She went back to the mirror one more time. She didn't know if she should've been admiring or criticizing herself, so she did neither. She simply examined herself. Then she lowered her head and shook it with all of her might, watching the droplets of water fly from her hair onto the walls. She flipped her head back up and felt the sting of her hair on her bare back. Then she grinned at herself, teeth and all, and felt satisfied.

Just as Syrenne was about to open the door to her room and slip into bed, she heard a loud sound. It was the sound of a door being flung open with extreme force, and for a moment, Syrenne felt a rush of fear. But it soon passed. She then heard the sound of a door crashing closed, and in shameless curiosity, pressed her ear against the door. Someone had entered her room with such urgency that it almost worried her. She focused all of her energy on listening to what was happening. As soon as the door crashed, she heard the sound of moaning, and her eyes widened. She listened more closely, and was finally able to discern the situation. There were two people who had entered the room, closely intertwined, and were now going at it in what they thought was privacy.

How gross, she thought to herself. Even as she did so, she continued listening. She heard heavy breathing, sighs of pleasure and the occasional laugh. Then came the name, the subtle exclamation that made Syrenne's hair stand on end.

It was a woman's voice.

"Oh, Lowell!"

Syrenne felt pain as she had never felt before, and jealousy struck her so strongly that she was seeing red. Without another's moment's hesitation, she threw the door open and stepped out into the room, naked.

The silence that followed was the most awkward (and somehow, the most satisfying) she had ever experienced. Lowell jumped up from the bed at the sudden interruption, and as soon as he saw Syrenne standing there with her hand on her bare, cocked hip, his jaw dropped. The woman on the bed gasped and reached for the covers, hoping in vain to cover her own nakedness. Syrenne had discovered them, and blinked away the tears just so that she could ruin it for them as much as she could. Lowell was speechless—his eyes were round, and Syrenne could see that he was struggling not to move them from her face. The woman looked, wide-eyed, from Syrenne to Lowell and back to Syrenne.

"S-Syrenne...?" Lowell finally managed. The pain that Syrenne had been experiencing only moments ago, pain induced by desire and longing, had been replaced by pain induced by jealousy and anger and a sense of absolute betrayal.

"This is my room, ain't it?" She raised her eyebrows and glared first at him, then at the woman. She couldn't help but notice that Lowell had discarded his shirt and was desperately clawing to keep his loosened pants up.

"I..." Lowell was still unable to construct a sentence.

"So? Get out then, the lot o' ya! Is it so wrong for a girl to want some shut eye, for once?" she continued. "Go on! Scram!"

Syrenne thanked God (or whomever it was that she should've been thanking) for the fact that she still had her uncanny ability to mask her emotions. She had always regarded that trait as her biggest asset, and now, it was coming through beautifully. She needed nothing more at this moment than her characteristic sassiness, the feistiness by which people seemed to define her. The ironic thing was that she felt more vulnerable than ever before, and inside her head she was anything but feisty. But in the face of this horrible betrayal, she had no choice, and it was because of that that she was thanking God.

"Hurry up, will ya?!" she screamed again.

In a hurried fit of throwing on clothes and rushing for the door, the two of them avoided Syrenne's glare and made their way out of the room. Just before Lowell disappeared, closing the door behind him, he made eye contact with Syrenne, as she stood as defiant as ever. She tried to look away, but couldn't bring herself to. He stood with a glimmer of utter sadness, loss, and something else that Syrenne couldn't define in his eyes. Then, with what she assumed was one last glance at her pale and bare body, he closed the door and left her alone.

As soon as the door closed, Syrenne crawled under the covers of her bed—thankful that she had stopped whatever was to happen inside of it—and tried to fall asleep. When she finally did, it was a plagued slumber of nightmares and images that Syrenne wanted more than anything to forget.

She saw Lowell's lifeless body after he had saved her life.

I have no reason to go on living...

She saw his face smiling at her.

Can't let any harm come to a beautiful girl like you...

Then she saw him in her bed with that woman.

Do you even have the money to afford that, honey?