AR 1211-12-27 Rissa and Sardi Become Friends
Rissa entered the chapel. Late afternoon sun flooded through the high windows to bathe the room in radiance. It was one of the few rooms in the school that had exterior windows, and Rissa found the natural light to be a welcome relief. Sardi sat cross-legged on the floor near the altar. A canvas sheet lay on the floor in front of him, on which rested several candlesticks that Sardi was in the process of polishing.
“Hi Sardi,” Rissa said, “I was expecting to find my brother here. Don’t the two of you usually share the temple chores?”
Sardi looked up from his labors, “Hey, Rissa. Yari left early today to meet up with Verona. Something about what dress to wear for the dance, I think.”
“Well that sucks, him leaving you to do all the work,” Rissa said.
Sardi shrugged, “I don’t mind. He was going to stay but I told him to go ahead. He’s got somewhere better to be and I don’t, so I might as well be here.”
“Mind if I join you?” Rissa asked.
“That’s cool,” Sardi replied.
Rissa moved into a beam of window light and plopped herself on the floor. The warm rays felt good. “I notice since Verona has come into the picture that you and Yari haven’t been together every waking hour, like usual. How’re you taking it?”
“Fine,” Sardi said scrubbing hard at a dirty spot in the candlestick. “I’m happy for Yari. He found a girl he likes, they should spend time together.”
Rissa corrected him, “You mean he found two girls he likes—maybe more.”
“Yeah,” Sardi nodded, “the guy is popular with the ladies.”
In a playfully inquisitive tone Rissa asked, “Are you jealous he is?”
Sardi knew exactly where Rissa was taking this and replied melodramatically, “Yes, Rissa, terribly jealous! Oh, I am so distraught! The love of my life has forsaken me for some cheap, sleazy girl. How can I go on with this broken heart of mine?” He buried his face in his hands and began mock sobbing.
Rissa gave him an equally sarcastic, slow-clapping applause. “Very funny. I deserve that. You know, teasing you is not nearly as much fun as teasing Yari.”
“Yari does take it a little too seriously,” Sardi replied. “But I’m not gonna let you or anyone else get to me. So, is that why you’re here, to tease me?”
“Not really—okay maybe a little,” Rissa admitted. “But I think it’s so cool that you have a sense of humor about it. It was a lot of fun when we were both teasing Yari the other day. Before that I just saw you as some dude my brother had an unusual obsession over. Then suddenly I realized you were a witty, charming guy who’s fun to hang out with. I see why Yari likes you, and I’d like to be friends with you too, if that’s okay. Besides, I could use an ally in the ‘Pick on Yari’ game.”
Sardi laughed. “That was fun. Yes, I’d like for us to be friends, too.”
They each smiled at one another. Sardi went back to polishing the candlestick in front of him and Rissa leaned back on her arms, basking in the warm sunlight. They remained in silence for a few moments before Rissa banished the quiet away with her voice. “Seriously, all joking aside, I’m a little worried about you. That’s really why I’m here.”
Sardi raised an eyebrow, “worried? How so?”
Rissa continued, “You seem like a great guy, Sardi, and I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“Hurt?” Sardi scoffed. “By all the gossip, you mean? You’ve seen it; I don’t let that bother me.”
“No, I mean hurt by my brother,” Rissa said tenderly. “You guys are so close and, well, Yari’s kinda turning into a playboy. I’m afraid he_ is_ going to shove you aside for some—how’d you say it—‘cheap, sleazy girl’? And if he does, well, that’s bound to hurt a little. So I want you to know, if Yari’s girl-chasing ever has you feeling alone and you want a friend to talk to, I’m here for you.”
“Wow, Rissa, that’s very compassionate of you.” Sardi seemed genuinely surprised—and touched—by her concern over his emotional wellbeing.
“I know, weird of me, huh?” Rissa said and scrunched up her nose.
Sardi laughed, “You look just like Yari when you do that.”
Rissa looked at him intently. There was something about the way he said that…. “You really do love him, don’t you?”
“Yes,” he said humbly.
“Ha! I knew it!” Rissa rejoiced at her discovery. But her self-congratulation was short lived.
Sardi grinned. “Gotcha!”
“Oh you…dammit! You’re good,” Rissa said admiring his trickery.
Switching back to a serious tone, Sardi continued. “It’s true, though. I do love Yari. But we’re not ‘in love’. Yari is like a brother to me. Better than that, really. I have more in common with Yari than I’ve ever had with my own brothers, or ever will have. Sure, I love my brothers, but with Yari…” Sardi searched for the right words, “well, there’s a bond there that’s hard to explain any other way than love. That’s it. Sorry to burst your bubble, Rissa, but we’re not boning each other in the ass or whatever it is you’re imagining.”
For once Rissa wasn’t sure how to respond. Everything Sardi said made perfect sense, and she was impressed by his eloquence… up until that final line. Rissa felt bad that her insinuations were the reason for Sardi spoiling an otherwise moving speech with a graphic, adolescent image. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what she was doing by bringing it up all the time. Maybe she was taking a special, beautiful friendship and tarnishing it like the unpolished candlestick Sardi was holding.
But on the other hand…Rissa just couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a hint of regret in Sardi’s last sentence. If that were true, if Sardi wanted a romantic relationship that Yari didn’t, then he really was bound to get hurt. Rissa didn’t need to make the situation worse with her accusations.
A cloud moved in front of the sun, dispelling the brightness and warmth from where Rissa sat, turning the room back into an expanse of cold gray stone that dominated the Golden Eagle Academy. “I’m sorry,” Rissa said after a long pause. “I’ll try not to talk about you and Yari that way anymore.”
“We still get to make fun of Yari, though, right?” Sardi said with a jovial tone that let Rissa know there was no need to be all gloomy.
“Of course!” Rissa said, “It’s what we do.”
With no more shaft of sunlight in which to sit, Rissa decided it looked awkward being halfway across the room from Sardi. So she got up and moved next to him, sitting back down cross-legged like he was. Rissa picked up the last of the unpolished candlesticks and a spare polishing cloth that was supposed to be her brother’s. As she started to polish Rissa said, “You know you could just get someone to cast a Prestidigitation spell to clean these in a fraction of the time.”
“Being a cleric isn’t about taking the easy route,” Sardi said with a sense of pride. “Performing menial tasks keeps us humble.”
“In that case, my brother needs to be here more than you do.”
Sardi laughed. “Don’t use up all the good lines when he’s not around to hear them!”
A thought entered Rissa’s head and the voice of her conscience told her it was best not to say it out loud. But since when did she listen to that voice? She would say it anyway, but tried to speak in a tone that was non-judgmental, merely curious, “Sardi, if you’re not in love with Yari, why don’t you have a girlfriend? I mean, you’re a handsome guy.”
“And you’re a pretty girl. Why don’t you have a boyfriend?” he countered.
“Touché,” Rissa nodded. “I guess neither one of us has found our special someone yet. And after this week, I don’t think I’m in a hurry to find a boyfriend.”
“It’s a small school, not a lot of choices,” Sardi said. “The way I see it, I was lucky to find my best friend here. Finding him and my soul mate in the same place at the same time might just be too much to ask.”
Unless Yari_ is_ your soul mate, Rissa thought. Fortunately she kept that comment to herself. “I’m shocked my brother hasn’t set you up with someone. He’s friendly with all the girls, you think he could take a moment out of flirting with them to help his best friend get a date. But no, he’s too busy getting busy…and getting his back lacerated in the process.”
“Um, yeah, I found out those scratches on Yari’s back came from the ravens in the rookery. Not the risqué story we thought,” Sardi shrugged.
“Seriously?” Rissa said with disappointment. “Why didn’t he just say that?”
Sardi explained, “He’s a private guy, in case you haven’t noticed. I know he’s Mr. Social, but that’s just a mask. Sometimes, for him, it’s better to bear the brunt of other’s scorn than to give up a special thing, risking it being ruined if others don’t understand like he does.”
Rissa shook her head, perplexed. “I could understand him wanting to keep it private if he was fooling around on his girlfriend, but why the cover up for a bird? Cleaning shit out of birdcages is not what I’d call a ‘special thing’. I don’t get it.”
“Well, that’s one way you’re different than your twin, then,” Sardi said. “I’ve found with Yari there’re some things that most people consider completely ordinary that he finds deeply, spiritually, meaningful. Those ravens are very special to him.”
“Uh-huh,” Rissa said, obviously still not grasping the significance. “I think he just secretly enjoys the bad-boy reputation, y’know, like Beckum does. I think it’s a real good thing you’re different than your little brother.”
Sardi rolled his eyes. “Yeah, I keep telling Beckum he better be careful or he’s gonna knock up a girl. But on the bright side at least we’d have someone to carry on the family name. ’Cause I worry sometimes my fate is to be a lifelong bachelor.”
Rissa giggled slightly. Sardi was sounding like she once did lamenting about becoming an old spinster. “So dramatic, are you sure you’re not a bard? You will find your love someday. And who says your first sweetheart is going to be your soul mate? Maybe you find someone to have a little fun with now and find your true love later on down the road. Look at Professor Ulfred and Mr. Redfist. They didn’t meet until middle age.” Rissa suddenly realized that she was talking to Sardi and the first example couple that popped into her head was two men. She hoped Sardi wouldn’t take offense at that.
The boy didn’t seem fazed. “One of them is a dwarf and the other is immortal, they say. They’ve got loads of time. Not like our teenage peers with zero patience. Everyone seems to be scrambling to find a date before the dance next week,” Sardi said indignantly.
“Oh, yeah, I’m sick of hearing about the damn dance!” Rissa agreed. “Am I the only one that thinks it’s silly that they even have a dance in a school where there are twice as many boys as girls? That means half the boys are going to end up standing around being wallflowers and branded losers.” And at least one girl, she thought to herself.
“Actually, I’m told many of the dwarven dances don’t require a partner,” Sardi informed her. “And the ones that do, they tend to share partners rather than going as an exclusive couple. I guess they don’t see the gender imbalance as an issue like we do. Our human classmates on the other hand…yeah, I’ll get branded a loser for sure.”
“Oh, I didn’t mean to imply you were a loser,” Rissa said, embarrassed at her misstep.
“It’s okay,” Sardi remarked. “Remember, I don’t care what other people say about me.”
“Well, I’m one to talk,” Rissa said. “I’ll be right there with you in Loserville, pal.”
Sardi leaned over and bumped shoulders with her as a sign of solidarity.
“Hey, here’s a thought,” Rissa said turning to face Sardi. “Why don’t we go to the dance together?”
“You mean you and me, as a couple?” Sardi inquired with reservation.
Rissa clarified, “Yeah, but not like a boyfriend-girlfriend couple, just as friends, y’know? Is that crazy?”
Sardi thought about it for a brief moment. “I’ve heard crazier ideas. Yeah, that might be fun. We could consider it a ‘non-losers’ pact.”
“There’s just one problem,” Sardi said with a hint of a smirk. “Aren’t the boys supposed to ask the girls to the dance?”
Rissa smiled and leaned toward the older boy seductively. In a sultry voice she whispered, “then ask.”
Sardi stood up and stiffened as if at military attention. He then bowed deeply and extended his hand toward her. “Lady Arissa, would you do me the high honor of attending the school ball with me?”
Rissa took his hand and rose to her feet as well. “Yes, I would love to.” They stood there for a moment staring into each other’s eyes like young lovers, each trying to keep a straight face until they both burst into giggles.
“Do you even know how to dance?” Rissa asked.
“Then c’mon, show me what you got,” she challenged.
Sardi raised an eyebrow, “Now? We don’t have any music.”
“Oh please, I’m a bard, we always have music!” Rissa gestured in the air like an orchestra conductor and the sound of a flute playing a waltz filled the room. She stood with arms outstretched in dancing formation, waiting. Sardi took her hand in his, put the other on her waist and began to lead her in a circuit around the chapel floor.
“Okay, you’ve got the bare basics down,” Rissa said as the music stopped. “But we need a lot of practice over the next week if we are going to have a shot at winning the dance competition.”
“You’re serious?” he asked.
“Of course, hasn’t my brother told you how competitive I am? Meet me first thing after breakfast tomorrow in the theatre. We don’t have classes this week because of the holiday, so expect to work on our dance moves All—Day—Long!” She poked him in the chest to emphasize each of those words.
“Um, is it too late to un-ask you to the dance?”
“Yes,” she said sternly. Then with a smile she added, “Trust me, this will be fun!”