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Aug 13, 2020 8:48 PM
Two pacifists in Verity

Supposedly, taverns are a good place to go when you're new to an area.

Sitting in the tavern now, he's starting to doubt this advice. It's certainly not the sort of advice he'd come up with, though admittedly most advice isn't. But he's already here, and he's already paid for the drink that's sitting untouched on the table, and it isn't like he has any better ideas for where to go.

The room is packed, which means he needs to be very careful. The scarf he normally keeps tied around his face is sitting next to his cup -- you can't pretend to be drinking very well with a scarf around your face -- but his gaze is fixed intensely on the table, tracing out a narrow crack running along the center. Periodically he picks up his mug, looks into it, and sets it down again.

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A small group of people are sitting at the corner table, talking and laughing, the topic drifting from a hypothetical froghopping competition to everyone's opinions on the new barman.

"I'm just saying I could totally take him in a fight," says a redhaired woman. Most of the table laughs in response, but one man at the table looks exasperatedly at her. "Carm, can we talk about something else, you sound like —" Sadness flashes across his face, and he finishes lamely, "like someone I don't want to listen to."

"As you wish, my lord." She draws out the title in a singsong tone, then grins at the others and adds, "I totally could, though."

"You could not," one of the others responds, and the discussion starts back up. The man makes a show of leaving the table to plop down at the neighbouring one, which conveniently has an empty chair. He grins at his new tablemate. "Hi, stranger! Bet you're a better conversation partner than my friends."


He smiles but doesn't look up. "Hi! I might be, it probably depends on what you want to talk about." Hopefully you don't want someone who can look in your eyes, he doesn't add, his fingers instinctively reaching for his necklace.


The hand movement draws Nico's attention, and he notices the necklace, the circular pendant with a smaller, darker circle inside. 

"...oh." You don't see those everyday, end yet everyone knows they mean. Nico's voice is quieter and more serious as he continues, careful not to look at the man's eyes. "Someone get murdered, or...?" That's usually the reason shamers visit Dunark, after all. That or someone with a surname got burgled, but he would've heard about that.


"No. It's -- no." 

It's probably a bad idea to tell a stranger the full story.

"Nothing like that. Don't -- don't worry."

He's already failing at having a conversation, isn't he.


"...good." A friendly smile returns to his face. "Guess you're just visiting, then? Not sure there's much to see here."

Nico has no idea where this is going, but he's the one who started this conversation, it's sort of on him to keep it flowing. Plus, this guy must get plenty of awkward silences already, shamers tend to weird people out. He'll try not to add to the total.

"I'm Nico, by the way."

...should he maybe not be avoiding his eyes this much, having everyone look away as soon as they notice probably gets tiring too.

It's supposed to be pretty painful, though. 

Other parts of the face are probably safe. He looks at the man's forehead.


"Something like that, yeah."

It is almost certainly still a bad idea to tell a stranger the full story, even if the stranger is friendly and willing to keep talking with him despite the necklace.

"I'm Timon. It's a weird name, I know, but so were my parents -- I mean, they were weird. They weren't weird names, seeing as how names aren't people."

...It's starting to feel even less like he's succeeding at his part of having a conversation. Oops. Maybe he can change the subject.

"Do you live around here, then?"


Nico can so sympathize with having a weird name. At least his can be shortened to something normal, so he can get through a conversation without people getting all weird and deferential and scared, even, some of them.

But he can't mention that without having to explain why the Ravenna heir is sitting in a random tavern, and that's not a very flattering story, having to explain just how useless he is. Better just be Nico no-last-name, for now.

"Yeah, lived in Dunark my whole life." No need to specify where in the city. "What about you, I guess you must travel a lot, with the..." He gestures at the necklace.


He can see the gesture even while looking down.

"I used to." Maybe he won't ask for an explanation. "I'm originally from a pretty small town, though. Nothing particularly notable about it."


That's a strange enough answer that Nico doesn't notice the other man's discomfort over his own confusion.

"Used to?"


"I, uh, I." He bites his lip. "I, uh, wasn't very good at my job."

Nico isn't going to want to talk to him anymore, is he, not after he hears the explanation. 


"I thought you just look at people and that gets you all the information you need?"


"That's generally how it works, yeah -- occasionally there are edge cases with how the magic chooses what to show you but those're really rare." Maybe Nico won't ask the obvious follow-up question.


He notices the discomfort, this time. 

"— we don't have to talk about if you don't want to, I was just confused about how you can really be bad at that..." His voice peters out as he realizes that whatever this is about, that's probably a supremely unhelpful thing to say. It's not like he doesn't know how it feels to have people marvel at your incompetence.


"It's -- it's not -- you can ask about it if you want, it's just--" I don't want you to think less of me "--it's, uh," it's probably better if he finds out now"maybe we should talk about something else."

...He is definitely not succeeding at having a conversation. In fact, he's pretty sure he's doing the opposite of that.


"Oookay..." Thinking of a different conversation topic is hard, though.

His hands fidget as he racks his brain. Favourite... food? No, that's what little kids ask each other about when they awkwardly practice having real conversations... Travel stories? No, normal people don't just pop off to the Magdan Coast...



The silence is broken by the redheaded woman at Nico's usual table, who half-shouts to be heard. "Hey! Ravenna! My beer's broken!" She grins widely as she holds up an empty glass.

Nico turns around in his chair to roll his eyes exaggeratedly. "And what do you want me to do about that, after you banished me from the table?" 

"Hey, not my fault you're so damn sensitive. And anyway, we're just playing dice now, you can come back and join us." She wiggles the glass, smirking. "After you've fixed this."

Nico sighs, finds a coin in his pocket, and holds it out. "I'm not picking it up for you, Carm." 

She gets up, snatches the coin, and walks toward the bar.


...she just called him by his last name, didn't she.


He blinks.

"Ravenna?" he says softly. "I'm so sorry, I didn't realize--"


"There isn't anything to realize, there's a — a reason I just go by Nico, most of the time, people get weird, and —" and it's not like I've earned any of it, if I'd had to try I never could've, I'm not good at any of it — but Erasmos is dead and I'll have to do it anyway and I'll mess it up and the whole city will fall into chaos and 

The thought pattern is worn deep into his brain. Tends to continue like that for a while.

He needs something to do, something to distract, so he grabs his beer and empties the glass. 


Even without looking at him properly, it's not hard to tell that Nico's upset.

"I'm -- I'm sorry, I didn't mean to get weird--" 

He pauses and takes a deep breath.

"I can -- I can try not to treat you any differently, Nico? If that's what you want? --I'm getting weird, aren't I, I'm sorry."



Deep breath. Deeeep breath. 

He just made this a lot weirder than it was already, didn't he. He's so useless, can't do anything right, and Erasmos is dead and Dunark'll get invaded and — Shut up, thoughts. Back to this disaster of a conversation.

"No, it's — it's fine, I'm sorry. I just — I'm not any good at my job either."

He fidgets with the glass for a bit, before he remembers an earlier part of the conversation.

"But yeah. Nicodemus Ravenna." Small smile. "That's way weirder than yours."


He giggles (is he being rude, giggling when a Ravenna talks about -- he said he wouldn't treat him differently).

"Do you want to talk about it? --It's okay if you don't." What is he doing, Nico clearly doesn't want to talk about it.


"...I don't know if there's much to say, just, if my father dies in the next decade and a half, I get Dunark? And I'll probably mess up and get us invaded, or it'll descend into anarchy?"

Dunark needs a strong ruler, his father had always said, looking proudly at Erasmos.


"Do you think you'd be an unusually bad ruler or something?"

Wait, that probably sounded insulting, didn't it. Great job, Timon.


"Well, to quote my father..." Nico's voice goes flat. "We are beset on all sides by enemies. If you won't even keep the Gelters in check, if you are not willing to defend every square foot of farmland with your life, then the moment I die you will lose it all. Solark will hear about your weakness, and they'll take our city, our castle, our legacy. And they'll slaughter every single soul who's brave enough to resist, same way they did in Eidin."

He's gotten these lectures a million times, he knows the phrasings his father uses. And they only got burned deeper into his brain when he found out Marlin agreed.

"And, well, I'm. Pretty useless with a sword."

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