AR 1212-12 10 and 11 In Which Yari Lays His Best Plan
They lay together, as close as they could, arms around each other, looking up at the stars. The blankets they had brought with them, after sneaking out of the dance early, were warm enough, but she kept close to him just the same. It was only partly to share body heat.
She didn’t understand why he always wanted to spend his nights with her this way, stargazing; but, she was glad he did want to spend his night with her. It made no sense, what he saw in her, but as the old saying went, ‘Never look a gift horse in the mouth.’ She tried not to question his devotion too much.
“There!” he exclaimed, pointing with his free arm to the first shooting star of the night. “I knew the meteor shower wasn’t over yet!”
She smiled and made a wish. Despite herself, she wished she could understand why Yari had invested so much time in her. Princess Verona was not concerned her boyfriend was courting her because of her political position – indeed, Yari and his family were close enough to nobility as made little difference – but she couldn’t fathom why he loved her. How could a boy as selfless and good as he find a snooty, self-entitled, brat-of-a-girl as her attractive?
Now, she loved him. That much she could understand. She loved him with all of her heart, soul, and mind! She would love him with her body, but that would be unbecoming of a princess. They weren’t even engaged, let alone married. It was best to put such thoughts away… even though the feel of Yari’s form, pressed tightly against hers, filled her consciousness and made her question her resolve to save herself for her soul mate. Maybe he wasn’t her soul mate, but by the Aesir, she loved him!
On the other hand, maybe he was her soul mate. If that was the case, then there wouldn’t be any harm in what she wanted to do. No, she told herself, think of something else.
It was harder than she expected. After an agonizing eternity of struggling with her hormones, Verona finally reached a compromise and rolled onto her elbow to look down at Yari. Yari’s eyes were black again, but at her smile, they focused on her and returned to their normal, beautiful sapphire blue. The boy smiled.
“Hey,” said he.
“Hey,” said she.
Their kiss lasted for another eternity, and when they finally separated, the night sky was once again a busy mess of white streaks, careening madly across the dark dome. Verona bit her lip, trying to exert control over her body, and not rip his clothes off then and there. Yari scrunched his nose – she loved it when he did that; it made him look even cuter than he already did. They both let out great sighs, and managed to relax a bit. She folded herself into his arm and laid her head on his chest.
His heart was beating rapidly, thump-thump, thump-thump. Like a swan on the water, Yari would say: serene on the surface, but underneath, its legs were paddling frantically, chaotically. She could still picture the first time he used that analogy; he had flailed his hands in front of him, closed his eyes tight, and blew air out from his pursed lips to make a rapid flapping noise. The memory made her laugh.
“Yeah?” Yari inquired quietly.
“Nothing,” she whispered. “I was just remembering something funny.”
“Well go on, then! I wanna laugh, too.”
“You seem so relaxed, like you could just fall asleep right now.”
“Mn,” he interrupted. “But, underneath the surface…”
Verona sat up and did the same motion Yari had once done. They both laughed gleefully for several long minutes. At some point, during their merriment, Yari grasped her and rolled on top of her. As they took steadying breaths, the boy smiled down, a certain intent showing in his deep blue eyes. She reminded herself that it was Yari pinning her to the ground, and that she could trust him.
“Hey,” the boy said, grinning.
“Hey, yourself,” she answered, bumping his head with hers. Her words were stern, but she was still smiling. “Get off.”
“I will in a sec’,” came his response. He looked at her lips, bit his own, then looked back to her eyes, the intensity of his gaze increasing. He inhaled sharply and held it.
“You’re a good boyfriend, Yari,” said she in a soft, gentle tone, “but I’m not ready for this.”
He blushed, exhaled, and looked away, sitting up and releasing her as he did. “I know,” he said. “I’m sorry.” The top blanket fell away from him as he moved, and he shivered a bit in the exposed winter air.
“Hey,” Verona insisted, sitting up herself and drawing the under-blanket up around her. She took his face in her hand and gently caressed his cheek. With her other hand, she took Yari’s and placed it on her chest. He could feel her own heart beating just as fast as his. The boy smirked slyly at her, and kissed her once more. All was well with the two amours.
Eventually, they lay back down and continued watching the stars fall. The sight was too breathtaking to facilitate much talking. It seemed as though a full third of the stars in the sky were racing each other from horizon to horizon. Several hours before sunrise, the stars started to slow down, and an itch that had been bugging Verona finally needed scratching.
“What did you and my father talk about at the dance?” she asked.
“Saw that, did you? Guess I shouldn’t be surprised. You’re pretty good at noticing everything at social gatherings.”
“All part of being a future monarch,” smiled the princess.
“Shouldn’t it be ‘monarchess?’ Y’know, ‘cause you’re a girl.”
“No, and you’re changing the subject.”
“I do that when I’m nervous.”
“Yes, I know,” Verona snorted, rolling her eyes.
“Heh, well, he didn’t want anything big. Just the whole, ‘What are your intentions with my daughter?’ thing.”
“Didn’t he do that already?”
“Sure, but… well, we’ve gotten a lot more serious since then. I think he figured I was just a fling back then, but now…”
Her heart stopped. Now, what? Her whole world came crashing to a halt, as she waited for Yari to finish his thought.
“Now,” he finally said, “I mean… like… ah, screw it! Verona, now I love you, like genuinely love you, and I think he picked up on that. Your father’s a very smart man.”
There it was. He had said it, and the terrible liar he was, he certainly meant it. Maybe they had said they loved each other before, maybe he would address her as Love now and then, but neither had ever confessed the kind of love he was now confessing. She had wanted to, but was always too afraid. She had wanted to, but was always too afraid he wouldn’t return her feelings.
She didn’t feel like she was dying, so her heart must have started back up again. That was good. Nevertheless, her breath caught in her throat, and she gasped. Yari’s body, still pressed against her side, went stiff, tense.
“Look, I don’t know if that was the right thing to say,” he said, mouth suddenly very dry, “but it’s the truth. And, I figure it’s pro’lly better to just let you know. If you don’t –”
“Shut up,” interrupted the princess. He did, immediately. “Jarl Hastae, just shut up.”
“I’m sorry,” he whispered.
“Why?” she whispered back. “Why do you love me? I’m nothing but a spoilt brat.”
“That’s not true!” While he continued to whisper, his words contained the emphasis of a full shout. “I’ve known you’re a good person for as long as I’ve known you, Verona. It’s not your fault – or your dad’s fault – that you were a little selfish. We all start out that way; you just got a late start learning better. There’s still time to catch up.”
“A little selfish?” she asked incredulously. “I was a monster, Yari!”
“Stop it,” he said firmly, his tone drastically changed. “No you weren’t. I should know; I’ve seen real monsters.” The boy extracted his arm from her shoulders and sat up. He collected his knees in his arms, and stared at the lights from Melinar, several miles down the slope.
There was a time, not that long ago, that Verona would have had no idea what Yari was on about. His words and meaning would have fallen on deaf, spoilt ears. This was not that time, though, and she knew exactly where her boyfriend’s thoughts were. She sat up herself, and started rubbing his back.
“He’s in a better place, you know,” she said. “He told you so himself.”
Yari sighed and closed his eyes. When he opened them again, tears were falling down his face. He gave Verona a half-smile and said, “I know. I’m not really worried about Wally anymore, but I do miss him.” He wiped the tears from his cheeks, and added, “I’m just saying, Thornbury was a monster; you weren’t anywhere close.”
Verona had no words, and so she kept rubbing his back in silence. A few more streaks of light flew across the sky. Yari took a deep breath, and leaned his head on her shoulder. She rested her own on his.
“So, yeah,” he whispered, “I don’t think I can answer your question. I just do.”
“You asked me why I love you.”
“I don’t know. I just do. You’ve got one of the greatest hearts I’ve ever seen, even if you don’t see it yet in yourself. It’s there, and I love you for it.”
“It’s okay. You don’t have to say it back. Not if you don’t feel the same way. I just wanted you to know how I feel.”
“Didn’t I tell you to shut up?”
“So, charge me with treason,” he countered mischievously.
“Nah, I like kissing you too much. And…”
“And… Yari… Jarl Hastae, I love you, too.” She knew she had loved him for a long time, but as she spoke the words aloud, she realized exactly how much. Her father used to talk about the importance of finding one’s soul mate; at that moment, she was certain Yari was hers.
Almost as though reading her thoughts, Yari said, “I don’t know how I feel about the idea of soul mates – it sounds kinda silly to me – but, if they’re really a thing, I think you might be mine.”
He stood, and as he did, he lifted her to her feet as well. The grass on the hill suddenly moved in an unfelt breeze. Flowers bloomed in a wide circle around them, bringing a sweet fragrance to Verona’s nose that was entirely out of place for the winter. He took both her hands in his, and gazed into her eyes.
“Like I said,” he said, “your father wanted to make sure I would treat you right. Yes, we had that conversation before, but it’s different now.”
The girl had nothing to say. She gripped Yari’s hands back, but otherwise stood still as a startled rabbit. She didn’t know what was going to happen next, but she had a suspicion.
“I wanted to talk to him first. To get his permission,” continued the young cleric boy. “And, he gave it! So, Verona Melinar…” As he trailed off, he let go of her hands and knelt down. Producing a small box from somewhere in his flowery garb, he held it up to her and opened it. Inside was a silvery ring. Fine etches detailed two stylized birds, their wings intertwined as though in a hug. While the light was not such as to allow careful inspection, Verona knew the two birds were meant to be ravens. The expert craftsmanship of the thing was plain to see, even in starlight, and even her old self would have at least been moderately impressed.
“… I may not be a prince, but I am the son of a demigod, and that should be close enough. Will you fulfill my greatest desire, and stand with me for the rest of our lives as my wife?”
It was too much to take in at once. Her father had given his blessing for Yari to ask her for her hand? Yari wanted her hand? So many thoughts streaked through her mind, like the stars in the sky above them, that she became paralyzed. Yari kept her gaze while she processed everything, smiling hopefully.
At last, she opened her mouth to speak, but found it very dry. She closed it again and swallowed several times, trying to work some moisture back to her tongue and throat. Again, she tried to speak, but the words that came out were not her words. It was as though her tongue and mouth had ceded from her brain and were operating independently.
“Yari, the ring!” she gasped. “It’s so beautiful; how did you afford it?”
The boy scrunched up his face in confusion, but went along with her indulgently. “A lot of hard work and saving. I could’ve asked my parents, but I wanted this to come from me, not them.
Will you wear it?”
The civil war inside her body was taking a favorable turn for rational thought. Or, at least as rational as she could be at that moment. She wanted to tell him yes with every fiber of her being – neither side of the conflict disagreed on that – but there were still issues to consider. The irony was that, if Yari hadn’t helped her grow and mature as much as he had that past year, she wouldn’t have thought twice before accepting his proposal.
He stood slowly, and stretched his shoulders up, causing his spine to crack a couple times. Verona winced; it was easy to forget how damaged Yari’s body was, the way he carried on like everything was fine. Well, she supposed, that would be a valuable asset in a husband, once she was queen. Putting on a brave face, and carrying on like you meant it were vital skills for a leader of a country.
Taking the ring out and pocketing the small box, Yari reached for Verona’s left hand. He never dropped eye contact with her, and he never once showed any sign of discomfort. She knew his back was probably complaining loudly, but the boy stood strong before her, and looked down at her lovingly.
He looked down! That was right, he was taller than her now. The princess rarely paid much attention to such things anymore; however, she noticed then, and she was reminded of Yari’s favorite rebuttal when people used to make fun of him for being short: “I just got a late start. There’s still time to catch up!”
Tears came unbidden to her eyes. She loved this boy before her. She loved him with all her heart, mind, and soul. Her soul… yes, there was no doubt about it: Yari was her soul mate!
“Yes. Yes, of course!” she exclaimed, and threw her arms around him. He let her hand go, and wrapped both of his arms around her as well. She whispered into his ear, “But, we can’t announce anything until we’ve spoken with my father. Together.”
The boy breathed deeply of her hair, then lightly kissed her neck, just below her ear. She stifled a moan of pleasure, and nuzzled his cheek with hers.
“Fair enough,” said Yari. “But, that’s still a yes?”
“Yes, you goof! If my father really approves, I will marry you, Jarl Hastae.”
Yari kissed her lips passionately; she returned his passion. “You’ll wear the ring now, though, right? Maybe on your right hand, instead, until we announce ourselves to your father?”
“Alright,” she nodded, “that sounds fine.”
They let go of each other, and he slipped the ring over her right ring-finger. It fit perfectly. As the very last shooting star of the night flashed overhead, Yari and Verona shared one more passionate kiss.