They shared a shorter kiss before Farin left. That much was inevitable.
The God had pulled him into a hug, rubbing his cheek against the human's and then giving him a lick with a low purr. He had been close enough to Farin's mouth when he did that, so the carrier just tilted his head a bit to the side. The children sat, not too far away, tiredly dozing away.
Farin watched them sway unsteadily and then turned to knock his forehead against Alvarr's.
"I'll try to come by tomorrow, but I'm not sure if I can", he muttered, just looking at those beautiful, unblinking golden eyes. He mutely wondered whether the other loved the sight of his own, blue eyes just as much.
"I will wait", said Alvarr, ending the hug and giving Farin a tiny push. The human's reluctance to leave was obvious, but even the God understood that he couldn't stay as he pleased.
Farin waved, his face drawn into an unhappy smile, before he hurried into the path. The longer he hesitated, the less would he want to go. It wouldn't be as bad if he didn't have to wonder when he could see the God again. The uncertainty was hard to endure.
His steps echoed quietly in the dark path. He lifted his hand to clutch the area over his chest.
Cyrille appeared deep in thought since their talk and, at the same time, terribly distracted and stressed.
Ives left him to his own devices anyway, watching like a hawk from a safe distance, but overlooking everything.
The temple master had seemed cooperative before he left and would soon return.
His friends and family were safe and sound, he himself was healthy.
So why did he have such a weird feeling? What was it that grated at his thoughts, bugging him? It was fine whenever he was with Alvarr - too busy with the bubbly happiness - but the nagging feeling returned the moment he was right in his mind again.
"Nothing I can do about it until it actually happens", he whispered to himself as he dragged at the heavy door. "I can't always prepare for everything."
Even though he would have preferred it that way. The unknown has always been humanity's greatest fear. Even more so if he was happy and content, he feared to fall even deeper.
The temple master was greeted so lovingly, it was hard to overlook his reappearance. The children ran out to greet him and even the adults stopped their work to bow to him as he passed by them with his relaxed gait. The old man stroked his beard, nodding in response to the numerous greetings. His entourage of guards observed the workers with wary gazes, their every step making small sounds of metallic parts clanking against each other, their spears knocking against the ground in rhythmic thumps.
"Master, welcome back." Ives bowed deeply towards the temple master, waiting in the entrance to the main building. Contrary to his usual self, the heir greeting his master was like a puppy, excited and wishing for praise.
The temple master's eyes warmed at the sight. He didn't have children on his own, so his heir was precious to him. It didn't matter that the other was an adult, he simply reached out to pat his head twice before pulling it back. The wrinkles on his skin betrayed his old age, no matter how young his mind was.
"I'm back. Have there been any troubles in my absence?"
The temple master asked the question in passing, stepping into the building with his hands folded behind his back, looking around like he was observing everything and searching for hints of something being off.
Ives followed behind him, looking more awake than he had ever before. "None, Master."
"Could you complete the daily tasks I've given over to you?" "Yes." "Have you taught the children well?" "I have taught them as you ordered me."
"Well done", the old master said, nodding appreciatively. He had expected as much from his heir. His usual tasks should not be a problem for the youth. "And... has someone entered the storage without permission?"
Ives tilted his head at the inquisitive gaze of the master. Most guards around the storage had been ordered to go into hiding, leaving the storage room as if unguarded while in truth, it wasn't. The southerner had not asked why such an order had been made.
"No, Master. The storage is as before."
"I see. That is good. Well, tell me about what happened while I wasn't here. Did the sacrifice go as usual? How is Farin?"
His heir answered faithfully, not hiding anything. His loyalty lay, most of all, with the temple master. If his words would implicate Farin in some way he wasn't aware of, then it couldn't be helped.
He quickly summarized how the two weeks went by before giving his personal opinion.
"I did not see him often as he was doing the tasks you gave him. He appeared to be thinking a lot whenever I saw him, and, at some times, he looked genuinely troubled. Not as much since a while ago, though. Farin was in an exceptionally good mood these past days."
"Has he asked you for any favors?"
"Only if I could lend him some books that he would be allowed to have access to. Other than that, he only asked his mother to visit him once and exchanged letters with his friends over Lori."
"An exceptionally good mood, you say... He will probably come to see me soon if the reason is as I think."
The youth looked at his master in great interest. "Master, did you test Farin with the storage? I don't see him as someone who would steal or sneak into places he isn't allowed to." "I don't judge him that way, either, but it was important to see what he would do. After all, that boy is just like-"
The master didn't finish his sentence and quietly shook his head. Although his forehead was creased, his face didn't look troubled. He actually looked rather amused. "Ives, a few words of advice to you. History always repeats itself, so learn from the past to know what you should expect from the future."
The youth took the words to heart, although they piqued his curiosity. As of now, he did not know the full history of the temple yet. He was quite sure he only knew the 'official' story, but in the previous two years, his master had hinted often enough that the official and true story weren't necessarily one and the same.
"Anyway, it is a relief to hear that things went well. When you're in my position, you will realize that even leaving for a short time will make you rather nervous." The old master let himself sink unceremoniously into his armchair. Ives hurried to bring him a cup of water, attentively standing in front of him and listening, while ready to bring anything the master needed to him.
He would only take over the position with the death of his master, but he would soon learn everything he needed. For the worst case, there was a diary he had been informed about that summarized everything he'd need to know.
"Master, may I be around while you talk with Farin?", he carefully asked, aware that he might be overstepping his bounds but unwilling to let the chance go.
The old master raised his eyebrow at the youth, who slowly hid his head between his shoulders like a scolded child. After a few seconds of a rather uncomfortable atmosphere, the tension loosened abruptly with the nod of the old master. "Might as well. I'm getting too old and you are old enough, I don't wish for you to only read our history. I'd prefer teaching you." "Thank you very much, Master."
Ives was pleased, straightening again. His goofy smile returned and he settled at his master's side as the old man drunk his water.
As he had predicted, it didn't take longer than half an hour for Farin to arrive. The guards let him enter, then closed the door. Farin glanced back with the same skeptical gaze he always had whenever the guards closed the doors. Only when he turned to Ives and the master did his face lighten up.
"Welcome back", Farin greeted him and bowed shortly. The master pointed at another armchair next to him and waved at Ives, who fetched another cup of water for the carrier. Awkward at being served by someone older than him, Farin gave a crooked smile and sat down, his hands folded neatly in his lap, his back straight. The scene reminded him of a little boy ready to hear a sermon from his father: The younger one tense and proper, the older one relaxed in his chair with a scrutinizing gaze.
"Ives told me there were no problems with the sacrifice?" "None, Master." "Could you manage Cyrille?" "...Yes." "You've been well?" "Yes."
He clapped his hands, nodding to himself. "Good. Then let us stop the pleasantries. Ives, come and sit down as well. I believe what Farin has to say now will be of interest for you, too."
The carrier's eyes widened at the sudden change of plan. He had thought the old master would waste away time, asking about the days where he was gone and maybe even avoiding hearing about what Farin had to say. Instead, he straightforwardly prompted Farin to start his story.
The carrier took a moment to gather his thoughts, thoughtfully placing his hand at his mouth and leaning back in the chair. Ives walked over while he was thinking and sat down in the third, free chair. The small table in the midst of the circle held their cups.
The old master was the most relaxed of them all, eyes half closed and getting ready to listen to the youth's story.
Farin debated where to start, then decided it would be best to tell the whole story so that he had a base for asking his own questions. That way, there would be no place for misunderstandings. He took a deep breath, exhaled it slowly and pulled his hair over his shoulder.
"A few weeks ago, a demon beast attacked me inside the cave", he started to explain. "I survived only because a nearby God intervened and killed it, but in the process of me stumbling away, my blindfold fell."
He paused, gauging the reactions of the two people before him. Ives had lifted his eyebrows ever so slightly, listening with great interest, and the old master was still sitting motionlessly in his chair, eyelashes hiding his eyes.
Farin continued in a soft voice. "The God didn't seem troubled by the fact that I saw him and it seemed like he tried to communicate with me, which didn't work as our languages are different."
He had a feeling the master knew about that, but he added the fact for Ives to know.
"I left quite soon, but needed to return the next day for the second sacrifice. I-"
Hesitation. His eyebrows creased as he wondered whether he should add his own feelings on this point. Most of his actions were illogical and risky, so it would probably better to include his reasons. "...I don't know why, but seeing the God made me feel like I was on drugs. Intoxicated. I desperately wanted to try talking to him again, so that's what I did."
Another pause to watch the others. Ives looked confused, not sure what to make of his words, but the old master's reaction was more important. Did he expect this? Was Farin's behavior normal in his opinion?
The temple master had opened his eyes. "Intoxicated? And you are sure you did not eat anything you shouldn't have? Or breathed in smoke?"
Farin shook his head. He was happy with that reaction, his tone pleased. "No, this feeling stayed over days, and it still returns. It shouldn't have anything to do with foreign substances." The temple master rubbed his eyes and didn't respond. The carrier continued.
"Master should have sensed that I met a God, since you gave me permission to enter the mountain cave freely. You gave me the key to enter the door." More information for Ives. The heir tilted his head at his master, who nodded mutely.
"That is correct. I allowed you to explore on your own devices, to see what you would find out. So, let's hear it from you, Farin... What is it that you have seen inside that mountain?"
The temple master sat up straight, his eyes fixing Farin's gaze. The carrier smiled.
He took a sip from his cup to wet his throat, then began to retell the happenings of the days where the temple had been without its master.