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DRAGONMOUNT

A WHEEL OF TIME COMMUNITY
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The Bard Babe

A Mark of Memory

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Arkin briefly considered just leaving Arinth a message and heading straight to the tavern, but friendly courtesy prevailed, so he let himself into Arinth's tent instead. He wasn't there-maybe on the training grounds or doing whatever it was that Infants did with their spare time. Arkin himself had just got off duty training some newer Scouts. They were all a bit rubbish when they started off. He'd spent the last two hours lying in a tree and singing, yelling out the names of prospective Scouts as they attempted to sneak up on him. A few had managed to disguise their identities well enough that he just had to point at them, and call out, "Ooh, very good. Behind the beech tree."

 

The two hours before that, he had been sitting in a different tree wearing his reversed coat and his bandana, occasionally crawling over to another tree or ghosting behind the Scouts who were looking for him. Only one of them had found him. He had high hopes for that kid. Arkin understood that he was very good at vanishing-he was almost a graduation challenge; Scouts were allowed out on real patrols once they had found Arkin really attempting to hide from them-but he had been hoping for a higher success rate.They weren't completely new and he'd been training them. They knew exactly what to look for to find him. But they'd get there. Maybe tomorrow.

 

He really hoped he hadn't been that rubbish when he started. He remembered doing a similar exercise. He'd started ghosting the other scouts-in-training and picking their pockets instead of whatever the actual task had been. They hadn't appreciated it at the time, but his trainer had thought it was brilliant and moved him up to the next training bracket. Master Gabbon would have smacked him for ignoring orders and disarming his allies. But the Scout trainer had loved it.

 

And now Arkin was helping to teach. When had that happened? When had any of this happened? Who had thought it was a good idea to put him in a position of responsibility? Well, whatever they'd been thinking, it had to have been worse for them to have Arinth a Sergeant. Arkin grinned to himself and had a drink from one of his flasks. That was yet another reason it was perfectly ok for him to be here rather than skipping the tent and heading to the tavern-he had plenty of drinks right here. And he was really keen for company more than he was for drinks right now. He'd prefer them both at the same time, but he could settle for one or the other for a while.

 

From the trunk in his customary spot in Arinth's tent, Arkin could see the reports scattering Arinth's desk. Grinning to himself again, he took a longer swallow and swapped hands, getting to his feet and walking over to the desk. He picked up a paper and  squinted at it for a moment. Miri and Arinth had done their best to help him learn his letters, and had succeeded, to a large extent, but Arkin was still fairly slow to read. He was working on it. After a bit of brain power, he registered that the report had something to do with infantry numbers in the third company and put it back down, the aim more to read the letters than get any information from them. Finally, there was the sound of footsteps outside. Arkin waited a moment for Arinth to actually near the tent-sometimes having scout ears was more annoying than it was useful.

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Arinth trudged slowly back to his tent. Each step was a struggle. His superior had happily informed him that a new pile of papers would be waiting for him. He wasn't sure why he had ever agreed to the promotion to Sergeant. He didn't mind fighting and drinking but he had never been gifted at strategy and paper work and being a leader. The infantry had taken loses in Tanchico though. If he hadn't taken the promotion it would have been some young kid still wet behind the ear. Chances are an inexperienced soldier like that would end up getting Arinth killed. Arinth wasn't ready to get killed just yet.

 

One thing Arinth had decided since his promotion was that he had no intention of moving up any higher in the ranks. The last thing he wanted was more paper work and more decisions and more men's lives in his hands. He would do his job the best he could and he would train the men and he would drown out his haunting memories with as much drink as it took. 

 

He rolled his shoulders as he got close to his tent. His muscles were tight from the morning workout. The new recruits had thought themselves to be fit and ready. They had needed an example of just how wrong they were. Arinth wasn't fast but he was strong and he had endurance. After twenty minutes half the class had quit. After thirty minutes the three toughest were still struggling to keep up. Before the first hour was over they had given up. Arinth continued on for a second hour to show how discipline and training transformed a soldier's body. The recruits had begun to understand.

 

His eyes adjusted as he entered his tent. He was not surprised to find Arkin there. The scout came often to visit and was one of the few men Arinth tolerated entering his tent unannounced. "It is good to see you Arkin. Please tell me you have a valid excuse for me to leave this tent and ignore that mountain of paperwork."

Edited by Arinth

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Arinth looked as though he'd been having a great time up until he saw his tent. There was a decent sized pile of paperwork there to be upset about. And he did rather look as though he had been training, based on the amount of sweat pouring off him. He liked training. But that would make him hate the paperwork even more. Arkin opted for safety by throwing him a flask as he entered the tent.

 

"I can certainly make up an excuse, though its validity may be questionable," he shot over, walking back over to sit on the floor and lean on Arinth's trunk. "But considering you're the highest authority in the room right now..." He shrugged and grinned at Arinth. "Your very best scout emissary is over to liaise with an infantry sergeant on practical matters of great importance to the Band." Arkin didn't mention that those practical matters were quite possibly going to be the quality of brew in different establishments. Arinth caught the flask and trudged further into the tent.

 

Arkin gesticulated with his flask. "How about we're trading techniques for teaching new recruits to increase the speed and efficiency of the training period?" Exactly which latrine duties they ought to give the poor souls who traipsed in through the woods with an escort of armed scouts. "Or perhaps reflecting on the Band's performance in previous campaigns so as to form a more coherent strategy for future inter-regimental cooperation?" Arkin took a quick swallow and grimaced a little as it went down. This really was the strong stuff. It suited his mood for the moment. "This is ingenious-you should be getting this down," he told Arinth.

 

He gave Arinth another once over as he came to a stop in the tent. "What have you been up to? Beating up the new recruits?"

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"Your very best scout emissary is over to liaise with an infantry sergeant on practical matters of great importance to the Band."

 

Arinth nodded as he listened to Arkin. The scout had a way with words. That sounded just like something a Sergeant would really say. It was vague yet suggested vital importance. He liked it. He should take notes. He might find a way to make it sound like he was doing more while actually doing less.

 

"Or perhaps reflecting on the Band's performance in previous campaigns so as to form a more coherent strategy for future inter-regimental cooperation?"

 

Arinth snorted at the suggestion, not because it wasn't good but because all he really remembered in those moments was blood and death. The dying faces of friends and strangers and the smell that overwhelmed everything. The fog that shrouded his mind in those moments. Don't think he would tell himself over and over again as he brought his sword down on one face after another.

 

"What have you been up to? Beating up the new recruits?"

 

Arkin's voice brought Arinth back to the present. It took his thoughts a moment to claw back to the surface and remember where he was. Had he been beating up new recruits? Yes, he remembered now.

 

"Well someone has to. They are as soft as mud after the rain. Its up to us to prepare them so they don't get slaughtered in places like Tanchico. Lets get moving though. We can talk while we walk. The air in this tent is stifling. I need to clear my head."

Edited by Arinth

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Arkin saw Arinth’s face twist. One of those days, then. Arkin could see his mind slipping back into some dark places. All of them slipped up and let themselves remember sometimes. Arkin and Arinth generally tended to drown those slip ups in alcohol. Arkin suspected tonight was going to taste a little like that.

 

He got to his feet, his back tingling as Arinth mentioned Tanchico. It did that every time someone brought it up. That had been the most severe wound he’d taken in Tanchico, amongst the various gashes and a broken arm during the tail end of the escape where he’d slipped in blood and had his arm smashed by some Seanchan’s shield. Arinth had pounded their head to the cobblestones before Arkin had enough time to even finish his roared curse.

 

His back was completely healed by now, the scar stretching from his shoulder to his hip, so he could sometimes see it when he was doing some twisting and contorting. It still twinged with remembered pain when he let his thoughts stray too close to battle. It was a stark reminder of Tanchico, of blood, and screams, and bone-deep exhaustion.  His mind slipped up for just a moment, and he saw again that perfect view of blood and guts streaming down the streets, cobbles stained red, and the harsh glint of the sun on steel.

 

This time, there were more flashes. The metallic stench of death and blood that didn’t leave his nostrils for days, the dried crustiness of that same blood on his clothes on the march out of the city, his shirt stained and scratching his chest, of his lungs burning, his arms burning, of sweat running into cuts and dribbling down to his hands in streams of red, sticky on his palms. Of so much noise he could barely sort through it all in time to stay alive. Of running over the rooftops, his back stinging and bleeding, of pure adrenaline keeping his standing as the relative quiet of the rooves pounded his ears. Of trying so hard not to look down at the corpses they were leaving behind.

 

Shaking his head, Arkin banished the images before he made to the tent flap where Arinth waited. Fresh air did sound like a good idea. And Arinth had a good point. It was easy to forget in times of peace that they were actually training soldiers. That all these fresh faced new recruits who couldn’t see Arkin just sitting in a tree, would one day be called upon to face all that death and blood. They’d one day find their own memories, their own scars, their own demons and places they slipped back to when they forgot not to let themselves remember. Training them to survive that hell and how to deal with it when they found out hell followed you off the battlefield. “I’ll certainly drink to that,” Arkin shot back to Arinth, setting off through camp at a leisurely pace. “Here’s hoping they never have to see anything quite like that. Light, I wish I’d never flaming seen it.”

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Arinth signaled for two mugs as he pulled out his chair at their regular table. The air and the walk to the tavern had done some good. He had cooled off and more importantly gotten a chance to clear his head. It wasn’t always that way. Sometimes it felt like he lost whole days when those dark memories pulled him under.

 

He looked in Arkin’s eyes too see how his friend was doing. He’d seen the look pass through his friends eyes earlier at the mention of Tanchico and the slight twist of his back as he remembered the vicious wound he’d taken.

 

“You know for a long time when I woke up in a cold sweat to the flashbacks of battle I’d be angry at myself. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs. I wanted to rip my tent apart. I was so angry at the friends they’d taken from me. I was so angry at what they had reduced me to. To comfort myself I say that they were having nightmares of me. That whole divisions of men that had survived would wake up terrified that I had come back for them.”

 

One of the serving girls set their drinks down and Arinth nodded his thanks to her. He took his mug and took a drink. They sat in silence a moment. Arkin waited, knowing that Arinth had more to say.

 

“But I was wrong. It doesn’t go like that does it? I mean, the only men I dream about are the ones I’ve killed. Nameless men. They didn’t look so different from my friends. Their blood was just as red.”

 

Arinth took another drink.  

 

“The bloody Seanchan sounded like idiots when they talked but some cavalry do too.” He looked down at his hands and shook his head. “I am sorry. I am rambling when I should be drinking.”

He downed the rest of his ale and called for another one.   

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Arkin didn’t want to remember. But it was almost a pact between them. If ine of them was slipping back, the other went with them. It was the kind of trauma that could only be shared. Just like on the battlefield, knowing wherever they turned, the other would have their back, trusting them without words to know that they would be there to catch every blow they couldn't turn away. That trust didn’t end with the battle. They still shared that. In many ways, the battle wasn’t over yet. It had just changed venues. Now it was inside their heads, nightmares that came no matter the time of day, and still, without thought, they were in it together. It was a soldier's trust. Sometimes it was shared in silence, in grim faces and swallowed words, eyes dull with remembered pain, haunted by dark memories. And sometimes, it was shared with words. Sometimes thise memories wouldn’t stay inside. They couldn’t be pushed down with ale and the knowledge that someone else knew what you'd been through. Sometimes the horrors needed to be voiced.

 

Tonight was one of those nights.

 

Trust didn’t come easily to Arkin. Being able to rely on someone was an entirely foreign experience to him. He'd been close to people before, but the bonds of trust forged in fire were inevitable, unknown. They were unique. Arkin had never been able to predict that, and he was loathe to lose it.

So despite hating taking the darkness inside and examining it like this, he plunged in next to Arinth as they had every time. Without question, without thought for consequences. They both needed this.

 

Downing his drink in one-grim times were no reason to fall behind-Arkin sipped some of the stronger stuff in his flask to steel his nerves, offering some to Arinth.

"I wake up afraid. I hate that feeling. I wake up back on those rooves, with every face I killed spilling blood into those streets. I had the perfect view from up there." He laughed darkly. "At the time it was perfect. All I could think of was the efficiency of it, of how many people I could get with one shot, of keeping them away from you guys. Now all I can see are their mothers. In my dreams I'm stuck on that roof, and it's their mothers down there, and it's you in the gutters and I can't do anything about either." He took a long drink. "Who says we can’t drink and ramble at the same time? I happen to be an expert in both."

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Arkin’s words hit something deep inside Arinth and shook him. Mothers. He honestly didn’t know if the Seanchan even had mothers. They might be raised by ravens for all he knew. They certainly were strange enough. But, if they did have mothers than they probably grieved as all mothers did. Arinth took another drink. He just hoped they didn’t start visiting his nightmares now that the idea had been planted in his head.

 

Arinth looked around the room. The younger, untested soldiers all seemed light hearted, laughing and arguing, dicing and singing. The older veterans though, they sat in smaller groups or often alone. They sat quietly, each in the middle of their own struggle.

 

Then, unexpectedly Arinth saw something funny. A cavalry soldier was sauntering through the room, the way they always did, when he tripped over his own feet and fell face first into a table.

 

Arinth, caught by surprise, laughed. The only problem with that was that he had been in the middle of taking another drink of his ale and so the laugh sent the drink spewing out of his mouth. He kept laughing. One of the cavalry man’s friends tried to help him up only to lose his balance and have them both fall back to the ground. Arinth laughed even harder.

 

Arinth realized how good it felt to laugh. He couldn’t remember the last time he actually had. A flood of thoughts and realizations washed over him. He realized he had made it out of Tanchico but he had been living like a dead man ever since. It was a startling realization.

 

Eyes wide, he grabbed Arkin’s shirt. “We are alive! We are still alive!” And with that he jumped from his chair and ran out into the growing darkness.

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It was always a shock when a big man grabbed you by the front of your shirt. Arkin and Arinth weren't exactly strangers to physical contact, but right now, in this context? Arkin hadn't been expecting it. It was a rare thing to catch him by surprise. 

He'd been too busy grinning at Arinth's spewing of alcohol over the table, laughter and foam bubbling from his lips. Where had this come from? 

Arkin could have turned around and found out what was so funny, but he realised that he didn't really care. The most amazing thing happening in the room right now was Arinth, laughing. The darkness they'd trudged into was pierced with bright rays of laughter. It wasn't something that could banish those thoughts or memories. It wasn't something that was going to stop the nightmares. But right now? It was there, and it was wonderful. 

Arinth's eyes were wild, his face close, and Arkin couldn't stop smiling. He was right. He was absolutely right. Arkin lived by that every day. He could have died in Tanchico, but he was still here. So was Arinth. Both of them were still here, and they only had each other to thank for that. Each other and absolute blind luck. Arkin had never been one to let a second go by without filling it, but he understood this. These memories stole moments. They made new ones, ones that weren't so fun. Living in fear of those moments was no way to live. He doubted he was ever going to be able to get past it, not really, but he didn't have to wait for those moments. He could make his own moments. He could wrest them from the teeth and talons of the Seanchan and the streets and the darkness. 

Arinth leapt to his feet, sprinting out of the tavern. 

A few of the other inhabitants looked around at the noise and the abrupt exit. A few baleful glances from veterans at the bar, wide eyes from the newer recruits who recognised them from training. 

Arkin grinned, finishing both of their drinks one after the other before vaulting over the table and sprinting after Arinth. 

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Darkness spun around him. Arinth stopped running and struggled to return his heavy breathing to normal. He leaned forward and rested his hands on his knees. He closed his eyes and the world spun faster around him. He realized that he was drunker that he had thought, or meant to be. He heard footsteps and opened his eyes.


Arkin had followed him out of the tavern. His friend was looking at him curiously. Arinth grinned at him. He couldn't explain it, but he felt good. He felt like he could jump off the roof. He felt like he could stand on his head. He felt like he could write a song and sing about everything that had happened. He snorted at his own thought. He was starting to get himself mixed up with Arkin. He was one the one that could sing. The only time Arinth should sing was to torture an enemy into talking.

 

He stood, still breathing heavily. "Arkin. I've been in the darkness so long I didn't even recognize it any more. I embraced it. I thought I had to, to honor them. But its not that way, is it? There are other ways to remember them. They wouldn't have wanted it to be like this."


His mind raced. How could he honor them? He looked up at Arkin and grinned. He had the answer that he needed. "A tattoo Arkin. We are going to get tattoos!"

Edited by Arinth

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It was dark out, and after the brightness of the tavern, Arkin's eyes were as useless as a harp in an officer's tent. He didn't let that stop him. He could follow Arinth's blundering blindfolded, and the dim light from the tents and the rest of the Citadel was more than enough for Arkin's deft footwork. He tripped over a small stack of something, but righted himself quickly. He burped a little and took off after Arinth again. 

The big man wasn't made for running. He was leaning over his knees, panting, and swaying just a little. Unable and unwilling to stop a laugh from escaping, Arkin bumped into him. He'd been intending to help him upright, but he ended up hanging on to Arinth's arm and laughing like a lunatic. 

What was going on with Arinth? He was a fun enough fellow to be around, Arkin knew, but rarely had he seen him in such good form. Especially not since their return from Tanchico, and the mountains of paperwork Arinth's promotion had led to. But here he was, grinning at Arkin like a fool. 

Arkin let him talk. Embraced the darkness. It was true. Those memories, those nightmares. They came, whether Arkin wanted them or not, and he wasn't sure he didn't deserve that torment. He'd survived. He knew Arinth felt the same. Arkin was struck by his words. Honouring them? Was that why it had felt so hard to escape hose dark moods? That guilt and the fear. Honouring the dead? Wishing he'd done more, knowing he could have done more. Jehryn flashed across his vision, a dark shape lying cold, bandages lying on the floor of an alley, empty buckets and screaming Seanchan. Arkin swallowed, hard. Jehryn. But, Arinth was right. Jehryn wouldn't have wanted this. None of them would have. 

Arkin smiled back at Arinth, clasping his hand as the man stood, straight backed. "We didn't survive that hellhole just to lose ourselves to this." A touch of freedom rippled through Arkin's chest, a loosening of something he hadn't even known he was holding tight. 

Wait. Tattoos? Arkin laughed. "Like the Sea Folk have?" He didn't even bother thinking about the idea. Of course they would get tattoos. But the more he let the thought linger, the more he enjoyed it. That battle had left scars, ones you could see, and ones you couldn't. Why not make a mark of their own? They were taking back their memories. "Where are we going to get them this time of night?" 

 

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Arinth laughed at his friend's question. He straightened up and tried to take a step. He found it more difficult than he had imagined. He was tilting to the side despite his best efforts to correct himself. He found that he was leaning against Arkin and relaxed. Arkin would help. It was already too late when Arinth realized the error of his judgement. The ground rushed up to greet him and he met it with a painful thud.

 

He sat up. "I know a man. I don't know how he does it but a few of the men have mentioned him." Arinth said. It wasn't necessarily common for the soldiers to have tattoos but there were a few. Arkin offered a hand and Arinth made it back to his feet on the third attempt. He slapped Arkin's back with a laugh.

 

"And this time of night is the best time to find him. Its when he does the majority of his business. Drink and tattoos seem to go together."

 

The two began walking. Arinth took the lead because he was suppose to know where they were going. Even if he had been sober he wouldn't have been completely positive where it was. Luck was on his side though and they found the man they were looking for. He was a grizzled veteran that had a hard look to him. The room was surprisingly well lit. It looked like a system of candles and mirrors but Arinth wasn't positive.

 

"What do you want?" The man asked.

 

"A tattoo." Arinth answered.

 

"You are drunk." The man observed with a frown.

 

"A little. But he isn't." Arinth said turning to Arkin. "That much." He added with a laugh after looking at Arkin.

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Arkin was not prepared for the sudden shift of Arinth's weight. Arkin knew how to handle a bigger man in a fight, but in an unexpected lean, he was worse than useless, and they both went towards the ground. Arkin managed to twist himself back to upright after a few undignified stumbling steps, but Arinth didn't quite make it. He sat up fast enough though, and Arkin quieted his cackles to listen to his answer. 

It was an operation to get Arinth back onto his feet, but they managed it, and Arkin tried to focus on what he was saying. He knew a guy. Alright. Sounded fair. Arkin let loose another laugh at the idea that he was gonna let some guy Arinth knew draw on his skin. He spread his hands in a 'you know best' gesture and bowed a little shakily for Arinth to lead the way. 

Arkin was sure he hadn't met this man before, though he certainly recognised the look of a fighter when he saw one. Then again, it was hardly risky to assume anyone in the Citadel could fight if they had to. Arkin glanced around the arrangement in the tent curiously as Arinth spoke, digging a flask out of his coat. He sipped as he squinted at a back corner of the room, trying to discern whether the light there was from a candle or some other candle it had stolen it from. 

He glanced back when he felt the two men look at him. He grinned, vanishing his flask as quick as a gleeman. "Just a little something to take the edge off," he winked. 

The man scowled at them for a moment longer before he rolled his eyes and jerked his head, inviting them deeper into the tent. "Well it's your own flaming fault if you wake up in the morning with a dragon fang on your arse then," he said. He turned, arms crossed over his chest. "What'll you be getting then?" 

Edited by The Bard Babe

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Arinth couldn't help but giggle when he saw Arkin tuck his flask back into a hidden pocket. The words still echoed in his head of how he had just said that Arkin wasn't drunk. Somehow the contradiction just got funnier and funnier and he laughed and laughed, barely able to breath.

 

The man frowned at them. He was used to drunk soldiers coming to him of course, but that didn't mean he had to like him. "If you are wasting my time get out now. If you are serious, tell me what you want and we can get down to business."

 

Arinth swallowed back a final giggle and tried to look at the man seriously. He found it to be a difficult task as the man seemed to swim back and forth across his vision. "Um, can you do a sword and shield? A fist? A, um wolf, or bull?" Arinth had never really thought about what he would get. It was suppose to mean something right? It was suppose to honor those he had lost? It also had to be awesome though right? He couldn't have like a prancing pony after all.

 

"I can do any of those if that is what you want." The man answered. "You'll have to decide on which one though.

 

Arinth scratched his beard and looked over at his friend. Arkin looked back him but otherwise no help. Why don't you start with the dragon fang on his arse and come back to me?" Arinth suggested. The man did not look amused. "Alright, alright." Arinth held up his hands. "What about a fierce bear rearing up? That would be pretty impressive and fierce right?" The Bears had been one of the nicknames assigned to his unit at some point in the past and he had also connected it to the infantry. Arinth grinned. He was going to get a tattoo.

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Arkin smiled at the suggestion. A fierce bear, hmm? Well it was certainly accurate. He'd know Arinth would pick something that suited him properly if given a moment. He laughed, clapping Arinth on the shoulder. "I suppose that makes me a fox then." 

But Arkin couldn't help thinking...he didn't need another piece of himself on his skin. 

Maybe he did. Just something to remind himself during those little times he forgot. Arkin collected memories, in the silk wrapped around his wrist, the bells in his hair, the cords around his neck. But he had never gone this far before. There was something different about this time. He had mostly been going along with this because Arinth had suggested it, but now, he found himself wanting more and more to have a permanent reminder of what had happened to them, what they had survived, not alone, but together. He would never forget it anyway. Tanchico would be a part of him forever. But, he thought as he glanced over at Arinth. Not all of it had been bad. 

He clapped Arinth on the shoulder again. "The golden tree is the symbol of Tarabon, right? Let's get a tree then, maybe a burning tree, and over that, a bear, and a fox." 

He squeezed Arinth's shoulder as well as he could when the man was a foot taller and built of muscle, nodding to him. 

He looked over at the soldier waiting to draw on them. "You think you can do that?"

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"The golden tree is the symbol of Tarabon, right? Let's get a tree then, maybe a burning tree, and over that, a bear, and a fox."   

Arinth laughed out loud in pleased triumph at his friend’s genius. It was the perfect suggestion. He nodded happily. “Yes, a turning tree with a bear and a fox. Exactly that.” He meant to say more but his thoughts trailed off in a thick haze.

 

The artist did not reply and Arinth was oblivious to his irritation. When he asked who would be first, Arkin quietly nodded his head towards Arinth.  Arinth was surprised then when the man went to work after briefly cleaning his arm. The pain brought him around sharply. He stopped himself from punching the man but just barely. Nobody had ever mentioned the pain. It wasn’t unbearable but it was surprising. Arkin watched him curiously. Arinth offered him a toothy smile. If nobody had told Arinth he surely wasn’t about to break the tradition in telling Arkin. He swallowed his grin and tried to keep from both grimacing and giggling.

 

He closed his eyes. Time drifted. Arkin spoke as he watched the artist work, but the words did not register with Arinth. He was suddenly tired. It had been an emotional night. Normally he did his best to keep his emotions tucked away. The work took some time. The man was committed to his craft and put as much detail into the piece as he could.

 

Arinth glanced over at Arkin. “I hope the long wait isn’t giving you second thoughts. Your turn will come soon enough. We are brothers already, but this will tie us closer.” He looked up and met Arkin’s gaze.  

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Arkin grinned at Arinth's response. He'd thought he'd like it. He only hoped they both still liked it tomorrow. A laugh bubbled out at that thought, though it quickly turned into a belch, which made him laugh again. There was a tingling warmth suffusing him now, one he wasn't sure was from the alcohol. 

Glancing over at Arinth, he didn't think he was the only one, although he did think that the alcohol was probably helping Arinth along. Grinning, he leaned back in the chair the artist had provided. The artist hadn't seemed overly amused by them, but once they had a confirmed design, he had focused up, bringing out his tools and prepping Arinth with a professional ease. That was at least encouraging if he was going to draw on them with stabby somethings. 

It was quiet, out here. They could hear the distant sound of cheers and laughter from the tavern, and the ever-present faint whiff and clank of patrolling guards. And in here, just the familiar sound of Arinth's breathing and the sharp smell of whatever the artist was using. 

He spoke to Arinth, nonsense things about the evening, awful bar stories he could barely remember, making conversation with the artist, all something of an effort to keep awake in the warmth of the tent. And then, when it became obvious that Arinth was in no position to respond, Arkin just watched. 

He watched Arinth's eyes droop, utterly relaxed despite the company, trusting Arkin as they always did. 

He watched the image slowly build up on Arinth's arm, their bond, their brotherhood, made real. 

He smiled at Arinth as he mentioned the long wait. "I am, for once, perfectly happy to wait." And he was. His limbs were pleasantly aching from the day's activities and their mad dash across the Citadel. His mind was soft around the edges, and quiet, and the memories of Tanchico were muted and dull. They were shared. They were being exorcised as they were drawn onto their skin. 

Something in him ached when Arinth named them brothers though. It was true. Of course it was. But it had been a very long time since Arkin had had anyone close to calling family. There was a cold part of him that the absence of his sister had long left there, and nothing and no-one could ever warm that. But he had been a child still when he lost her, and as a man, he had never had anything close to it. Brothers in arms, he had had, yes. But Arinth was right. This was more than brothers in arms, now, with their blood spilt for each other and their memories and nightmares made flesh and guarded by the other. 

Arkin smiled as Arinth glanced up at him, and slightly wobbly, leaned forward to rest his forehead against the infant's. He lightly rapped his fist against his own chest, then against Arinth's. Pushing off the larger man, he half-fell back into his seat, right in time to see the artist pulling back, cleaning off his tools. 

The artist nodded. "He's done. You're up." 

Arkin slid wrist wraps and bracelets off, offering up bare skin to the artist. A reminder of his brother on the opposite arm to that of his sister. He yelped at the sharp pain as the artist began, shooting Arinth a quick scowl, but he took a sip from his flask with his free hand, and the pain faded away into the buzz. 

 

 

 

 

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