Darvinin sat at a wooden table near the small stage in the common room of the Lonely Ogre, watching Shanna as she removed her cittern from its case and adjusted the tuning. Sam sat at his right, Leander the Elf at his left, and the grey elf Evrimon sat across from him, between Sam and Leander. Both Evrimon and Leander had turned their seats out from the small round table in order to face the stage.
"Dark ale, amber wine, silver lightning, and... soft cider." Their server, a common elf barely out of adolescence, eyed Darvinin dubiously as she deposited the last mug in front of him. "Are you sure that's all you want?"
Darvinin nodded. "For the moment. Ask me again in two weeks."
They handed over their coins, and the server disappeared into the gathering crowd.
Sam took a long drink from her dark ale, then set it back on the table with a clunk. "Ahh, good." She turned to look at Darvinin. "You're serious about this?"
He sipped his cider and nodded. "At least long enough for my liver to heal," he said.
"Good." She turned her eyes back to the stage, where Shanna was trying a couple of experimental chords. "Shanna was glad to see you again. Relieved. She was really worried about you."
"Hells." Darvinin shook his head and took another sip of his cider. "I'd have been worried about me, if I'd had any sense." He had a vague sense of just how close he'd come to some sort of irrevocable disaster, and it scared him.
"Were you two ever...?" Sam trailed off, and Darvinin smothered a smile. Sam was surprisingly good company: coarse and direct and profane, but caring and protective and gentle as well. Seeing her hesitate was... unexpected.
"No," said Darvinin. He stopped, looking at up at the stage as Shanna looked down at Sam and smiled. "There were four of us: myself and Ruin, and Shanna, and Werendril. Different families, but we all grew up together. And yeah, I think all of us had a crush on Shanna at one point or another, but she never seemed all that interested."
"Maybe she didn't want to choose one of you over the others," suggested Leander, who of course was listening in.
Darvinin shrugged. "Or maybe she just wasn't that interested in men, or maybe it was just that we all grew up together and it was hard to think of each other as something beside near-siblings. It doesn't matter; Sam just wants to know if she should be jealous of me, and the answer is that she shouldn't."
Sam threw her head back and laughed, then took another long pull of ale. "Well said, spellblade." She pushed her chair back and stood, leaving her mug on the table as she moved to the side of the stage and mounted the steps. Her flute occupied a small pouch on her belt, and she pulled it out as she mounted the steps.
Smiling, the two elves turned to face the crowd, and Shanna's fingertips coaxed a shimmering series of chords from the cittern. Sam accompanied her effortlessly with a little trill of the flute, and the room quieted in anticipation of their performance.