A hero in despair

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"I did what now?!" He almost jumped from his chair as he stared right into his eyes, obviously shocked. He couldn't believe it... What did he mean, he invited him to his home? He thought deeply... What exactly happened before he woke up in his home? And then it all came together... The person that approached him right before he fell unconscious was him. "Wait... Back then... That was you?!?!" He grabbed his head with both of his hands, trying to figure out why in the goddess's name he allowed him in. He felt so stupid... "Ugh, I can't believe this... Well still! I only told you where my address is, not to cook me a damn meal! I can take care of myself perfectly fine!"

"Ugh, by Raldrich's crown, you're unbelievable..." He started walking back and forth from the nerves. What was he thinking when he allowed this clueless friar into his room? In fact what was he even expecting by cooking for him? This guy had nerves of steel, that's for sure! He didn't even show any fear at all, despite the fact that Ares was armed and could easily cut his head off...
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Friar Stephan's eyes slowly roamed down then even slower back up Ares' thin body. Muscles he had plenty, but a certain sag of the arms, the slump of the shoulders, and the darkness under his eyes screamed out to the ever so slightly plump friar. "Indeed, you are doing a marvelous job of looking after yourself," Stephan said blandly, but he was wise enough to keep his voice down when he said it.

Raising his voice to a more normal level, Stephan hurried on in hopes that Ares hadn't heard him. "Unbelievable, I know! I can't get tea right, and I only had a mediocre meal to offer you. I should be ashamed of myself." Any other man, it would have sounded like sarcasm, but Stephan looked genuinely disappointed. "Next time, I will have to bring my own ingredients to cook for you. I may not have the right touch with tea, but I am a very good cook! Even my mother says so."

The smile Stephan offered to Ares was bright and guileless, his eyes shining happily. Did he even realize he'd invited himself over to Ares' house again? Hard to say. He turned away and started filling the sink with water and gather up the dirty dishes.
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"..." The shock and surprise visible on Ares's face was getting more visible with each sentence this man was spitting out. What was this self-deprecation? And how did what he just said sound not sarcastic at all? And most importantly... How did he have the guts... No, balls of steel to proclaim that there even would be a next time? Ares's brain was going to fry itself at this rate. This bastard... This oh so naive bastard who practically invited himself over to his house and cooked him a meal without even asking at all... Just who did he think he was?

Ares just gave up. There was no point in even trying to get him out of the house anymore. This naive idiot of a friar would leave only whenever he damn pleased. Ares doubted that even putting a blade on his throat would do the trick. And besides, he would not want to get into more trouble with the captain right now. He sighed and shook his head as he looked downwards. "Unbelievable... Truly unbelievable."

And then he walked towards the sink, grabbing a dishrag to dry up the dishes that he cleaned. That stupid smile of his probably would be burned into his mind forever. How could somebody ever be THIS happy, especially when in his presence? Did he have any clue about anything at all? "Just so you know, I can definitely do this by myself. I'm only allowing you to clean my dishes because you probably wouldn't listen if I told you to get out."
 
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Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Stephan's smile got bigger, if that was possible. "Thank you so much for your help! I made these dishes dirty, so it is only fair that I clean them." He scrubbed vigerously at the dishes, cleaning them rapidly. DIshes were something he was well accustomed to. Being a lowly friar, he got all the low tasks until a new friar came along to take his place. Such was friar life. It wasn't such a bad gig. At least you were pretty much promised to continue upward! Eventually he could be a monk! Maybe even a priest someday.

Although... he had to admit that lately, the idea of being a priest was less and less appealing. He glanced at Ares. Especially if priests were the cause of things like this poor fellow's tormented mind. Speaking of tormented minds... he turned his gaze to the last dish. Should he? Ares would probably slice him. But Ares looked like he wanted to slice him, anyway. Wait, wasn't that an argument to not talk about "it?"

"So," he said cautiously, "I have a question. I was reading in the ancient texts, and I came across something very interesting."
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
He quickly cleaned the dishes and put them back on their original position, inside of a small cupboard. It was strange... Why was this young friar so polite? If Ares was in his position, and someone acted to Ares like how Ares acted to him, he would have probably already broken down in anger and tried to take his head off. But yet... This friar was so patient and gentle. He wouldn't even hurt a fly, probably. Ares did not understand.

"Hmm? The ancient tesks? What about them?" Ares stared at him. There were many ancient texts, so which texts did he talk about? It probably had something to do with the church in some way, but... Ares was not sure. He just had to hear him out, he supposed. The friar did not seem to be particularly evil or anything, though he was definitely annoying.
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Stephan cleared his throat. "Well, the thing is... I happened to be cleaning up some texts, and I happened to find one referring to the knights," he began, each word measured and weighed. He grabbed the dish rag and started wiping down the table, scrubbing it with far more concentration than the mostly clean bit of wood deserved.

He took a deep breath and kept going. "I was reading a little bit about you, though I had not meant to initially. I did not even know your name, but I recognized the insignia. You are truly a knight of well renowned, though clearly life has not treated you well recently." He hurried on, the thought of Ares' sword still very much in the forefront of his mind. "I also read about special knights. Um... I cannot remember the exact number. Maybe seven, I think? Guardians, they were called. Do you know anything about them?"
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"Some texts? Are you talking about the archives? I guess a friar would get tasked to clean those... So? What of it?" The moment he put the dish back in the cupboard after drying it, he turned his menacing gaze to Stephan's eyes. It was frightening... His gaze never faltered, piercing right through the mind, reading every possible move, looking for anything that could possibly be a lie.

But of course, this friar had nothing to lie about. The friar had been honest with him the entire time, and Ares realized that. There really was no need to try and read him. But yet, he still was surprised with what the friar told him. Well, maybe it was not all too surprising. After all the friar had never seen him before. "...Ah, you looked through my files." He sighed and looked down. "Well, whatever. It's not like they're exactly kept secret or anything. Yes, I am Sir Ares Rigel Altair, Elite Knight of the church and "hero of the people". Go ahead. Laugh at what I have become. It's not like you would be any different from any of the other actual priests." His head was still facing downwards, but his gaze did return a little bit towards Stephan. He did not look upset that the friar looked through his files... Instead, he just gave him a sarcastic smirk. "So? What did the files read anyway? I haven't read them in years."

"..." When he mentioned something about seven "guardians", it took a while before it clicked to him what Stephan was talking about. "Oh... You mean the eight chosen heroes? Haven't heard about that story in a long time... I guess it makes sense that they would keep it in the archives. Sure, I can tell you the story." He thought it was fine. The friar did not seem to be in a position where he could do anything, nor did Ares think he would even dare if he could. "But I'm not going to do it here, I'm going to take you somewhere for it. If you don't like that, you're out of luck. Understood?"
 
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Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Stephan fidgetted under the harsh glare, but he had nothing to hide. At least, nothing that he wouldn't share, in time, and he had not lied about anything at all. So he stood and suffered while thinking of every little wrong he'd done as a child up to this moment. Perhaps confessionals should employ this type of glare. It might get better results.

"The texts spoke mostly of your feats of old as well as much of what you went through," he said cautiously. "There are also some records of certain infractions you have done, but they do not speak ill of you. It is little more than a list of what you have done well and what you have done, er, not so well. You have done far more good than you have bad! For the church, for the people, and for the goddess! I am certain she will reward you someday soon." The last sentence was meek and quiet.

He finished scrubbing the table and hung the cloth to dry. "I do not know if I should go..." He looked outside at the sun. "I am supposed to be polishing the banister soon. But..." He glanced back at Ares. Then outside. Then at Ares. He wanted to know so badly! But his duties called to him. Still, he was only a lowly friar who was new to this area. He wasn't even certain he'd be missed. Banisters could be polished anytime, but this was important.

"Okay," he said, turning to Ares. "I'll go with you."
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
Carefully, he listened to what the friar had to say about his files. There was nothing of too much interest from what he heard, however. The information he was talking about pretty much only covered Ares himself, nothing about his situation. He would need to do more digging in order to figure out if there was anything regarding his situation. "I see. That was some useless information... Listen up, if you do not know anything about it, then forget I ever asked. After all, it is none of your business. Is there anything about my current situation in those files? If so, spill everything you know."

When Stephan said he still had to polish the banister, Ares just facepalmed, scowled and shook his head. "God, you're unbelievable... Whatever. Just go polish the banister and then come back. Can't you figure that out yourself?" He sighed. "I'll be waiting. I need some time on my own anyway. You know how to find my home from the church, yeah?"
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
"You don't really seem like the type of person who likes to be kept waiting, and I thought you wanted to go now, so why would I suggest you wait?" Stephan asked nervously, eying the hilt of Ares' sword. "If you really want, I shall go immediately and polish the banisters!" He turned and started to scurry away with much swishing of his brown robes.
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"Ugh, what a fool..." The moment the friar rushed out of his home he facepalmed once again, shaking his head. This friar was so scatterbrained, so disorganized, so... clumsy! He couldn't find out what exactly he was, just... Something among these lines. It was obvious to Ares that he was acting out of fear because of his sword, so he decided to put it in his room for now. If the friar turned out to be a spy after all, he just had to use his fists to protect himself. Of course, he would take his sword with him when they would leave the house to go to where he wanted to go, however.

He prepared some more tea before the friar would return. The friar did not answer him, so doing that over a cup of tea might be a little more... calming.

It was odd... Nobody joined the church on their own volition. At least not anymore. Of course, back when Archbishop Petrus was still the leader of the church, everyone did. But with dear Julius as the Archbishop now, pretty much everyone that joined the church nowadays was forced to. But this friar... He joined of his own will. He wondered why... Did he really not hear anything about the situation of the church right now? Not even a single rumor? That seemed almost impossible, but still, he seemed to be clueless about anything of its current situation...
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Friar Stephan hurried back to the church and arrived rumpled and out of breath but on time! Not that anyone really noticed the part about him being on time. He got a solid scolding for the state of his robes, but once he was settled into his banister polishing duty, everyone seemed to slowly disappear until he was all alone. Perfect! The monks usually frowned on fast cleaning, insisting everything be done slow and thoughtful with chanted prayers and the occasional pause for reflection. With no one around, the happy little friar went at it as fast as he could, mumbling apologies between stuttered prayers. He tried to get every nook and cranny, but for once, speed was important!

Finally, an hour later, he was done! The task was supposed to take him all day - there were a lot of banisters - and now that he was done, no one was around to say he could not leave early for the day. He hurried the cleaning supplies back into place and tiptoed out cautiously. As long as the monks did not catch him, he would be free and clear.

He was putting on his shoes and bent over when he heard voices. He paused guiltily and prepared himself to be herded back to work. The voices stopped just on the other side of the doorway, angled so that neither party could see each other. He could just make out the words. Maybe if he scooted closer... What was he thinking?? His former guardian would be so ashamed of him! Cheeks burning in shame, he turned his attention back to his shoes.

"...Not sure how long we can hold this over Ares."

Ares? He paused and listened. Once voice sounded like the Bishop's, but he did not recognize the other. Why would the bishop be interested in Ares? As Stephan listened, his eyes grew round as saucers. Some suspicions were confirmed, and new ones opened. After a few minutes, the voices moved away, never suspecting that anyone overheard them. Stephan grabbed his cloak and ran out the door as quietly as he could. He had to get back to Ares!
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"...Ugh, he is taking so long! What could be possibly so difficult about cleaning a few banisters?! My tea is gonna get cold!" Ares was starting to shake in anger as it was taking a very long time for the friar to return. What he did not know was that he had to clean up every single banister there was, not just a few. If he had known then he would have understood why it would take so long. In fact he would probably be surprised if he would even return on the same day...
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Friar Stephan almost got lost trying to find his way back, but he finally found Ares' house and burst inside. "I'm back!" he panted breathlessly. "I cleaned as fast as I could and got out before they could give me more work. I have at least the rest of the day!"

Ares' angry expression finally registered with Stephan. He stopped short, paling a little. "I... um..." He looked around. "What did I do?" he asked uncertainly.
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
Frowning and closing his eyes, he continued to wait... and wait... and wait... Until finally, the door opened, and Stephan entered his house once again. Stephan asked him if he had done anything, obviously being worried. Ares sighed in response.

"You certainly took your time... Now the tea I set for us is cold. Just how many banisters did you have to clean?" He got up and grabbed his cold cup of tea, and chugged all of it. "...Bleh, disgusting..." He walked back to the kitchen and prepared some new water. Just how many cups of tea could this man drink in a day...?

"Well, anyway. Sit down." A few moments later, he returned, once again with new cups of warm tea. "You wasted what could have been a perfect cup of tea by taking so long with your cleaning... You better reflect on your actions. Well, no matter... You did not answer my question from before you left. So you're going to answer it now. Once again, if you do not know anything about it, then forget I ever asked. Is there anything about my current situation in those files? Or do you know anything about my situation that is not in those files? Tell me."
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
"Um..." Stephan slunk back like a scolded puppy as Ares fetched more tea. More tea? Well, he supposed he was thirsty, but after running around and working so hard so fast, he would have rather had water or another cold drink. Hot tea was definately not on the list, but he did not want to make Ares any more annoyed at him.

"Sir, you said you were going to take me somewhere to tell me about the guardian... uh... Knight... the special warriors," Stephan stammered weakly. He did not really want to talk to Ares about that thing just yet, but he worried Ares wouldn't stop until he did. He still tried to hold out.
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"The eight chosen heroes." Ares corrected him as he took a sip from his tea. It seemed like Stephan was not exactly in the mood for tea... That's odd. Did Ares do something wrong, he wondered? Wasn't offering someone something to drink a sign of hospitality? Well, not that he's been the friendliest guy to him throughout the time that they've known each other... But still. "The eight heroes can wait. I want to know any information the church is spreading about me as soon as possible."

"..." Ares at him with that same, murdering gaze that he used earlier to scan his mind and thought to figure out if the friar was complotting something. But this time he did it for a different reason. He wanted to know what he was feeling. Of course, from just a mere glance it was obvious that Stephan was terrified of him, and Ares soon realized. "...You're afraid, aren't you? Afraid of me."

To be fair... The fact that Stephan was afraid of him kind of upset him. Yes, he had it coming considering his behaviour towards the friar was not exactly the kindest, but even then... It still hurt. It was a painful reminder to him of his changed character. He was not a character of passion, chivalry and love anymore... But one of fear, hatred and delusions. He did his best not to show it, though.
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Stephan squirmed under Ares' stare and tried to avoid saying anything about the information Ares' wanted. He was pretty certain Ares would lose his top if he knew what Stephan knew. Or thought he knew. He sat staring into the tea and tried to think about how to answer.

"You're afraid, aren't you? Afraid of me?"

Stephan flinched at the accusation. "Afraid?" he chirped, his voice a little too high-pitched. "Of course not! You are... you... me... ah..." He wilted and stared down at his hands now. "I am not allowed to lie," he sighed. "My master would be seriously disappointed in me if I did. Yes, I am afraid of you. Well..." He looked up thoughtfully. "Maybe not you you, to be precise, but I am afraid of how you react and how near your hand stays to your sword. I think you would regret harming me after the fact, but I would still be hurt, and I very much do not like pain."
 

Hylius

Dragons are just bigger swallows.
"..." He continued to observe the frightened man, who tried to deny it at first but then quickly confessed. Though it was mostly the threat of Ares being able to hurt him that scared him, specifically his sword. Ares then sighed, standing up, revealing that his sword was not with him anymore as he had put it back into his room. "Look. The sword is not here. I can't possibly cut you down, even if I really wanted to. And just to be clear, I have no intention to hurt you whatsoever. If you know stuff, so be it. The only reason I would try to attack you is if you were to betray me. Understood?"

"Now sit down and tell me already. Are you going to drink your tea or not, by the way?" Ares went back to his seat and took a sip of his own cup of tea, which still was on temperature this time. He took a little gaze at the family portrait, waiting for Stephan to confess the truth.
 

Treasure

I don't do mornings...
Stephan cautiously sat down, breathing a little easier now. "I apologize for my fear. You are a very intimidating man when you want to be, and I..." He swallowed hard. "I do have some information, and I think you will be very upset with me."

He forced himself to sip the tea for a minute as he gathered his wits. "I have no interest to betray anyone," he said slowly. "Please understand that. My only desire is to serve my goddess and my former bishop. Otherwise... I am new here. I am still trying to understand what is going on around here and why so many people are being so... so mean!" He bit his lip, his eyebrows scrunched. "Sorry." He took another sip and sat up.

"For what was in your records... I think you know everything that is in them already since you lived through it all, and it is very straightforward, but it did also have some indication that your... uh... loyalties have been called into question due certain violent acts. Your unpredictability is starting to hurt your good standing with the church, but... there is a little bit more.
 
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