"Did you and Anica ever...?" It was just after dark, and the three paladins had finished their meal and were sitting around a campfire in the hills just north of Aldpond. Werendril's voice was only slightly louder than the wind in the trees overhead.
Tarric shook his head. "It isn't forbidden, obviously, but no... we never have. She and Tavros and I were... too close for that, I guess. I think that's part of why having you at the temple is so weird for me now. The idea of you and Anica..."
On the other side of the campfire, Laina raised her head from the scroll she was reading and said, "What?" She hesitated, then added: "Or is this something where I should just go take a walk for an hour or so?"
Werendril looked at Tarric, who met his eyes and then said: "You might as well know. It's common knowledge at the temple, or it should be by now. I'm sure there will be gossip."
Laina set the scroll aside and leaned forward, looking intrigued, while Tarric looked away and leaned back onto his arms.
Werendril cleared his throat softly. "I am near-brother to a man who calls himself Ruin. He is, among other things, an Emissary for the True King, Mithrandril. A year and a half or so back, he and his companions paid a visit to the Temple of Amun at Caristhium, where we're headed now." He paused, and Tarric picked up the story.
"This is where I come in. I essentially grew up at the temple: apprenticed there, trained there. In that time, I made the two closest friends of my life: Anica and Tavros. Later, a..." Tarric glanced briefly at Werendril and then continued. "...a half-elf named Aesa came to the temple as well, and the three of us sort of adopted her."
"Sort of like you two have done with me," Laina observed.
Tarric glanced at Werendril, who shrugged. "I suppose so," said the true elf. "Occupational hazard."
Tarric turned back to Laina. "Well, Tavros was called to service as one of the Solari, in much the same way that Ruin was called to serve the True King."
Laina frowned slightly. "I'm sorry, but... How can you call him that? Archon Le'Straide was... very firm in calling him a pretender and a rebel. 'A greedy, ungrateful insurrectionist,' I think was the sermon." She glanced at Werendril. "Sorry."
Werendril shrugged. "The king's archons uphold the king's policies," he said.
"...And the actual situation is more complicated than that," Tarric added. "There's history. I've seen the documents: treaties written side by side in human and elvish script, promising the exchange of lands and titles. I know the scholars who validated them. Mithrandril's claim is as valid as any, so if the elves refer to him as the True King, who am I to object?"
Werendril smiled fondly at Tarric, who picked the earlier story back up. "In any case... My friend Tavros and Werendril's friend Ruin both went into the service of their respective kings, and that's where this gets a bit complicated."
Werendril chuckled. "It's not that complicated. In the course of their journeys, Ruin and his companions happened to visit the Temple of Amun. Things happened, and both Anica and Aesa wound up pregnant with Ruin's children"
"Ah," said Laina. "So by 'things' you mean 'fucking'?"
"Yes," answered Werendril. "Fucking happened."
"Thank you," Laina said. "It sounds so much better when you just say it."
Tarric laughed. "Fine. So fucking happened, and then babies happened. Problem is, by the time any of us realized, Ruin was gone and so was Tavros."
There was a momentary pause.
"Dead?" asked Laina.
Tarric nodded. "As best we can tell, they were both sent to another realm." He glanced at Werendril. "Do you remember the name...?"
"Fanaxia," said Werendril. "It had something to do with the dark army and the priests of Vecna. They went to investigate, and they died. And the temple of Amun sent for me, because of something Ruin had said, and that's how Tarric and I met." He took a breath and decided to skip over everything that had happened after that. "So I've been staying at the Temple of Amun, to help Anica and Aesa raise Ruin's children, which is awkward for me because I'm not really their father, and awkward for Tarric because I'm sort of there being part of everybody's lives but not being Tavros." He glanced at Tarric. "Fair?"
Tarric gave an uncomfortable shrug. "It's not just that," he said. "I mean, it kind of is that, but it's not just that. I've seen the way you look at Anica when you think she's not looking. And I've seen the way she looks at you when she thinks you're not looking."
Werendril flushed. Then he said, "You know I look at you too, right?"
"Oh," said Tarric. Then: "How am I supposed to know that if you only look when you think I'm not looking?"
"Dearest Nepthys please," said Laina. "The two of you are just hopeless disasters, aren't you? You want each each other, and it sounds like maybe both of you want this Anica person too. So get back to the temple and do something about it. I swear the two of you would rather burn out a nest of vampires together and probably die than admit you might have feelings for each other."
Tarric drew a deep breath, met Werendril's eyes, and then chuckled. He jerked a hand towards Laina: "Paladin."
"Paladin," echoed Werendril. "Also... wow."
Laina shrugged. "Paladins of Nepthys are not subtle. At least, not if I'm going by the only example I have."