Corthos and Merry Prelude
Corthos sat in the hallway, his body still, his mind racing. He had been to the Crooked Lion before, yes, but tonight was the first time that he planned to pay for more than drinks. He could hear the words from Rexus in his mind still, the urging for him to leave the room. ’You’ve been writing for a month straight. You’ve burned through a dozen inkpots, and Gods know how many bridges. You’ve called every Delronge nobility some manner of profanity. And, help us all, you threatened to duel two of them so far. Please….for tonight, go. Get some relaxation. Rest. Go to the Lion….the girls will make you forget. Let them make you forget. For your own sake, Corthos…’ He had pushed a bag of coin into Corthos’ hand, practically shoving him out the door. He had taken a wandering route, pausing and making sure nobody was watching, getting to the Lion in stealth only to see that he was far from the only noble. He had flagged down Madame Charmaine and spoken to her at length, trying to figure out the standard practice. Only after he had mentioned that he needed someone to get his mind off of a Diva had she allowed the most coy of smiles, leading him back through a red silk curtain and peppering him with questions, assuring him of her discretion. He had avoided most of them, only mentioning a failed relationship with a diva without a name. Her coy smile had never left.
She had taken his coin, a solid five gold, her eyes glancing him over. After assuring that he was clean and unlikely to be violent, she took his sword from him and led him by the hand up the stairs, stopping in front of an oak doorway. She knocked twice, speaking in Elven before bowing to him. “Merrigold will make you forget, Lordship. You will have no other concerns.” She had stepped away lightly, her footfalls nearly silent. And now, he sat there. The doors opened slowly, and he stood, feeling his breath catch. In front of him was a pale skinned half-elf, her auburn hair pulled back in braids, a smile across her face but not showing in her eyes. She curtsied deeply, showing some of her cleavage hidden inside the sheer silk of her dress. “Come in, m’Lord.” As he stepped through the door that she shut behind him, he spoke with some nervousness. “Please. Um. I don’t normally get addressed as such. It, uh. I’m…..please. Just Corthos.” The half-elf, nodded, lightly tracing her hand over his chest as she removed his jacket, setting it on the table next to the bed as she spoke. “Well, Corthos….if you’re here, I take it that you need some care? Something I can provide for you?” She leaned against the bedframe, the smile still showing on her face but a distance in her eyes.
“Actually, yes. I paid for six hours….and you have something I can use for six hours.” She raised an eyebrow at him, and he pulled out a chair from the small desk in the room. He sat down, running a hand through his hair. “And that something is….freedom.” He laughed. “For six hours. I don’t….I mean, you’re lovely. But I’m not here for that. I….” He shook his head. “I need this time. I need to not have the world on my shoulders. And that’s all I need.” Merrigold sat on the edge of the bed, a look of confusion crossing her face. “You paid for six hours?” She mentally did the math, laughing. “And you don’t even want to make use of me?” Corthos looked up, grinning. “It’s not that I don’t find you to beautiful. It’s…it’s that I refuse to force anything. I want to be free from the expectations that the world has for me. Do you know what it’s like to have an oracle tell you that you are destined for greatness? And then to get removed from the Academy, to fall on your face over and over…..it becomes crushing. But Cayden teaches that freedom is the greatest gift, so that’s why I’m here. I was told to go and relax. Instead, I give you the same gift that you give me by not knowing me….freedom. With no expectations, we are both free, at least for now.” Merrigold sat there for a long time, waiting for anything normal to occur as Corthos buried his head in his hands. After several minutes, she knelt in front of him, putting her hand on his leg. “Corthos?”
He glanced up, his eyes suddenly showing his exhaustion and weariness. “Yes?” Merrigold hugged him lightly. “You can call me Merry. Do you want to talk for a bit?” He nodded. “I’d like that, Merry.”
Several hours passed, Corthos entertaining Merry with tales and stories of the nobility. He re-enacted arguments, drew sketches, and recanted every myth and fable he could recall. He found himself begging to be taught some Elven, and even though she turned and obscured every question about what had brought her, she answered him as honestly as she could. In exchange, he told her of his sister’s tragic death, his distaste for his family, and of his other sister’s marriage. By the time the sun came up and Lady Charmaine knocked the warning, the pair were almost hoarse from laughter and conversation. As they stood, Merry had thrown her arms around him in an embrace, and Corthos stood still – almost terrified as she spoke.
“Corthos…..thank you. I needed a friend.” Merry stood on her toes, kissing him softly on the cheek. Corthos managed a faint smile before replying. “I’ll be back. But I have a request….” She cocked her head to the side, her smile finally visible in her eyes, replacing a look of weariness and sorrow. “An inkpot and paper kept in your room. Sometimes I feel a need to write. And Merry….thank you. You weren’t the only one.” He gathered his coat, walking past the always watchful eyes of Lady Charmaine, who stood impassively at the end of the hall. They exchanged bows as he left. Charmaine crossed to the doors, shutting them as she spoke. “Get some rest, Merrigold. I would expect you to be exhausted after six hours of dealing with a noble’s whims.”