Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for mature content.
I do not want to be here right now. The thought has been cycling through my head for the last three hours. I have survived countless threats to my life, but I think this will be the one to kill me. The pub is hot and humid with the swell of people trying to push through the door. The stale stench of spilled liquor and unwashed bodies is making my head spin. My growing headache is not helped by the noise of the pub , the roar of voices drown out the poor bard sawing away at his fiddle in the corner. I do not want to be here right now. I’m sure the glower on my face has turned murderous with the last repetition of my silent mantra.
“Could you rearrange your face into something more neutral, if not pleasant? You’re scaring all the ladies away.” The cause of my discomfort joyously shouts over the noise of the crowded pub. He slides into the booth with two more drinks in hand, completely oblivious to the fact that I still haven’t touched my first one. Or my second.
“I don’t want to be here right now, Dominic.” I gruffly repeat my thoughts out loud.
“So you’ve said! About every fifteen minutes since we sat down,” Dominic responds far too chipper for my taste, “Would it kill you to relax and extract the stick from up your ass for one night and have a drink?”
“Yes.” The shortness of my reply procures a loud chuckle and his grin to stretch even further than before, showing his straight teeth and dimples. Several young women at the next table glance our way and start giggling at the sight, “I know this maybe shocking to you, but not all of us enjoy spending time in such… upstanding establishments,” I say, sarcasm dripping from every word.
“Oh, I know. My reasons for being here, beyond you of course, are sitting over there with low necklines. And you can’t find reasons like those in anything but upstanding establishments.” Dominic purrs while sending a wink towards the girls, spawning another storm of giggles, and causing another dull throb to echo through my skull.
“Dom. Please. I. Want. To. Go. Home.” I growl.
“Oh, you are no fun, Bashie-”
“Don’t call me that.” I growl, trying to interrupt him, but he continues like I never said anything.
“-Besides, what’s wrong with a little entertainment? We deserve it! We are graduating tomorrow!”
“Exactly, we are graduating tomorrow. Do you want to feel like death warmed over when you get Paired?” I shoot back
“Oh, I’m prepared to feel like death tomorrow. If I don’t I’ll be disappointed since it would mean that I didn’t have enough fun tonight. Besides, I am here as an enabling force. Neither of us have had any time to let off steam while we’ve been trying to survive our examinations. You need to have a little fun, unwind, let loose, before the pressure causes your handsome little head to explode.”
“I don’t need to let off steam.” I grind out between clenched teeth.
“Says the man whose jaw is clenched so hard it looks like he may shatter his teeth.Tell me does the relaxed version of you always aspire to do an excellent impression of someone who is wound so tight his favorite part is in danger of screwing off?” he asks. “And not the fun type of screwing either.” He adds, winking again at the girls, causing more giggles to erupt from them and another blast of pain radiating through my skull from me.
“If I have a drink will you please stop talking?” Resignation ringing in my voice.
“I’d do anything for you, Bashie. But I have to tell you, if you drink enough you’ll want me to talk even more.” He coos in a faux-affectionate voice as he waggles his eyebrows.
I roll my eyes and kick his shin under the table, relishing in the yelp that it elicits.
Bastard deserves it.
Dominic is right, the Corp Commandment made this graduation process more difficult than the ones my comrades had to go through in previous years. Some of our instructors said it was more dangerous and demanding than they had ever seen. Maybe I do need to let loose.
Quickly, I raise my drink to my lips, before I can change my mind, down half of it and slam it back on the sticky table.
Dominic grins triumphantly, shouts over the din, “It’s about time you miserable, stubborn ass.”
I sigh with faux-defeat and raise my cup. He crashes his cup to mine, and we race to see who can see the bottom first. I lose, and Dominic graciously makes me go get the next round.
When I return, my brother-in-arms keeps talking like I never left, “Oh, what I’d give to have some good company with us right now.”
“Dom,” I start with a warning tone.
Dom sighs dreamily, as if he didn’t hear, “How lovely would it be if we had some of those marvelous witches with us here with us. They’re always up for some mischief. Do you remember that red-haired fire maiden? What was her name again?”
“I believe it was Fiamma.” I grind out, remembering one of the times that I barely survived trying to save Dom’s sorry ass as the aforementioned witch attempted to burn him to cinders.
“Ahh, you’re right it was Fiamma. Do you remember that night we met her? She was so lovely, and had a real spark to her personality, don’t you think?” He continues gaily, purposefully forgetting what that spark nearly did to him.
“From what I remember. You challenged her to a drinking competition, lost, then challenged her to a bout in the ring, and lost again. I was barely able to drag you out before she burnt all your hair off because of your big mouth.”
“Yes, but it was fun. Don’t you think? Though the time it took to regrow my eyebrows was quite embarrassing.”
Despite my foul mood, a chuckle escapes me. “You looked ridiculous, and your ego needed the hit.”
“Yes, but even without eyebrows, I still managed to charm her into my chambers. And let me tell you, her curtains most certainly match the dra-” He retorts, his telltale smirk stretched across his face. I know Dominic is trying to get my mind off of graduating tomorrow, and it’s working. I’m almost thankful.
“You’re a pig, Dominic.” I laugh quickly cutting off his lewd comment, “Is seeing under skirts all you think about?”
“Of course not! I regularly think of seeing under corsets as well! But, just between you and me?”
“Just between you and me.” I agree, chuckling.
“Althea Abano will hold my heart until the day I die.” He says while clutching at his chest like a love-struck fool.
“And just your heart?” I ask skeptically, already knowing his answer.
“Well other things of course, if she’d like to hold them.” He grins and tries to wink at me, but in his highly inebriated state, he just manages a slightly off tempo blink.
I roll my eyes at the self-assured grin he sends my way and I begin to open my mouth to tell him that any woman, including Thea, would be content to crush anything he’d want them to hold with an iron fist.
But I am cut off by the tavern door slamming open on an incredible gust of wind.
Dust tornadoes through the doorway, covering anyone unfortunate enough to be near it in a fine layer of red dirt. The tavern is immediately quiet as all look up to see the cause of the storm enter the tavern. Two women. No, two witches. Both beautiful and fierce. One tall, with tangled, windblown chestnut hair looking as dangerous as an oncoming storm. She seems to float through the air as she passes through the doorway. The other is smaller with her ebony curls neatly braided back from her face. She is more grounded, with an aura of calm that radiates from her. I immediately recognize both of them, and my headache blazes again. The smaller one is the topic of our cut off conversation: Althea Abano. Healer Maiden. Her companion is the Air Maiden, and permanent pain in my ass: Margery Tuuli.