AR 1212-01-07 Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut...
“You went to see her, didn’t you?”
Well, damn. Yari had been trying to read another tome of ancient mythology to unwind before bed, but it was now immediately clear that was not going to happen. He closed the book on the chapter of an elven goddess named Juno, and glanced at Verona. Her face was cross, and she held her hands at her hips.
Blinking to refocus his eyes, Yari sighed and rubbed his brow. “Sorry, what now?” he asked without looking up.
Verona boldly moved forward, pushing chairs out of her way, and loomed at Yari’s side. “You went to see that tavern wench of yours,” she stated hotly. The boy could feel the intensity radiating off of her, pressing against his psyche, vying for dominance over him.
A spoilt princess, he reminded himself. She didn’t know better. No one had ever denied her what she wanted for long. Maybe it was his tired state of mind; maybe it was her brazen disregard for the sovereignty of his cave’s library; maybe it was because of stars, and moons, and an infinite amount of variables his mortal mind could never hope to comprehend – whatever the reason, Yari sneered at Verona.
To say that the girl took his expression badly would be akin to comparing Yggdrasil with a tiny sapling. Verona knocked the book he had been reading from the table in one violent arch of her hand, and she used her other arm to gesticulate angrily at him. The hapless tome clattered to the floor and landed partially open, creasing some of the pages.
“I knew it!” she shrieked. “I knew you would go running to her the first chance you got! You’re just like all the rest of your kind, Jarl Hastae!”
It was an unfortunate side effect of being a cleric that sometimes a congregation could get uncontrollably unruly. Yari knew that, in a few years, his studies and practice would allow him to directly hold people still with magic in such desperate situations; he also knew that it was a good thing he couldn’t do so just yet. Verona’s casual disrespect for the ancient book and his personal space had him seething, and being as young as he was, he would likely have abused such power.
Memories of his father came into his thoughts, then. Sven had taught his son from an early age how to keep anger at bay. Yari didn’t remember any specific lectures, but in the way Sven consistently lived his life, the boy had observed sufficient examples to get the point. Violence was often a call for attention, not a direct attack. The best course of action was likely to meet violence with compassion.
Well, unless you were Yari’s uncle, Jarl, apparently. Or, an ominous shadow in the distance, commanding worgs. Or, a worshipper of Lolth. Okay, there were a lot of situations when Sven flexed his once-divine muscles in violence; but, the point was that this was not a situation that called for it! Yari needed to calm down.
He pushed away from the table and stood. Reaching for Verona’s hands, and taking them in his, he kissed them gently. Sighing, Yari gave a look that held her in place. Maybe he couldn’t hold people still magically, and maybe that was a good thing, but Sven had also taught his son the power of nonverbal communication. A look, a touch, a breath: All could stop a raging army in the right context, in the right combination. Verona stood motionless while Yari released her and collected the tome she had knocked aside, to respectfully place it on the table.
“Yes,” he finally said, squaring himself before her, taking her hands again. “I went to see Elsie. And, don’t call her a ‘wench.’” Verona jerked as though to interject, but Yari’s voice was quicker. “No, I’m serious,” he said gently, firmly. “Elsie is a friend of mine – a dear friend – and I don’t want you insulting her. You don’t insult Sardi like that!”
“You haven’t slept with Sardi,” the princess countered impetuously.
“That you know of,” Yari responded. He immediately regretted his words. The former cat may have been alright with the jokes implying their romantic involvement; but, Yari had been trying to stop them. It must be the stars, he told himself, making him act the way he was.
Or, rather the lack of stars. The winter horizon of Hidden Valley had been covered in thick, grey clouds since he had returned from his trip to visit Elsie. Most his peers hadn’t noticed, but Yari spent a good portion of his free time in the rookery, open to the sky, and he had been missing the twinkling lights from his nightly routine. It was beginning to eat at him.
Verona scowled. “Have you?” she demanded.
He knew better, but Yari was feeling defiant. “So what if I have?” he asked. “Does it matter?”
“Of course it matters!” she insisted.
“Why? I mean it: why?”
“Well,” Verona trailed off. She couldn’t find a good answer quickly enough, so she finished with, “It just does!”
Yari brought her hands to his lips again and kissed them. “It doesn’t,” said he, a point finally starting to form in his thoughts. It was ill-formed, but Yari figured he could work it out as he went along.
“Le’ me tell you a story,” the boy said, smiling softly. “It’s the story of a nut.
“I mean that! There once was a nut – maybe an acorn, or something – that was picked up by a bird. An eagle!”
“I love eagles!” breathed Verona, already getting into Yari’s parable.
“I know. But, eagles aren’t interested in nuts – they like meat – so it dropped the acorn in a field. Right in the middle of a beautiful field of grass!”
“Were there rabbits and squirrels? Every good field needs cute woodland critters!”
“I agree. Of course there were rabbits and squirrels! And, one of the squirrels found the nut and took it back to its nest.”
“Is this squirrel Ratatoskr?” Verona asked, suddenly suspicious. “I know you like all that religious stuff, but I told you it isn’t for me.”
“No, this isn’t Ratatoskr,” answered Yari, kissing her hands again. “Though I have to say the fact that you drew that connection is kinda cool.”
They smiled at each other. Yari really wanted to kiss her properly and be done with it, but there was a lesson to impart, and as a cleric-in-training, he had to impart it. The fact that his on-the-spot parable actually was inspired by the squirrel who ran up and down Yggdrasil, delivering messages, fueled his desire to impart that lesson – if only to convince Verona he hadn’t just lied.
“Anyway,” he continued, “The squirrel took the acorn back to its nest. But, it found it couldn’t eat the acorn, so it tossed it out.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she complained. “Squirrels love acorns! Why would it toss one out?”
“In this story, this particular squirrel didn’t want this particular nut, okay? Just go with it!”
“So, anyway, the acorn sat in the field, at the base of the tree, until a rabbit came by.”
“Rabbits don’t eat nuts, Yari.”
“Sometimes they do, though!”
“How would you know?”
“I’ve been studying this kind of thing!”
“Look, we’re getting off track here,” said the boy, scrunching up his nose in consternation. He kissed her hands again and grinned. The act finally got a smile out Verona. “Sometimes, rabbits eat nut. Sometimes, that’s okay.”
“If you say so,” she allowed.
“I do. It depends on the type of nut, obviously, and the rabbit; but, sometimes it’s okay. So, in this story I’m telling, a rabbit finds the acorn, and eats it, and it’s okay. It doesn’t matter that at least two other animals thought about eating it previously, or whether or not rabbits can actually digest acorns; the rabbit is the one who eats the nut!”
“So, in this story, I’m the rabbit?”
“Do you want to be?”
Yari kissed Verona’s hands one last time, then leaned in to kiss her lips. She kissed him back, and they stood together for a long while, locked in the other’s embrace. Eventually, Yari’s feet grew tired, and he pulled away to sit down on the table, next to the book that had started this entire discourse.
“Elsie’s my friend,” he said flatly. “You don’t need to be jealous of her any more than you need to be jealous of… well, okay, you don’t like the Sardi example. Fine. You don’t need to be jealous of Elsie any more than you need to be jealous of Wolf.”
“Wolf’s a dwarf,” scoffed Verona.
“Exactly!” Yari beamed jubilantly. “Exactly that, right there! That complete disregard for even the consideration of… whatever! That’s what you should feel about all my friends.”
The princess picked up Yari’s hands this time, and held them while she thought. With a squeeze, she said, “I can trust that you and Sardi are just friends. It’s hard, given what I see, but I’m willing to believe you.”
“But, it’s different with Elsie. I know that you and her… well…”
Shoot! Rissa had probably been talking. Fine, whatever; that was a topic for later consideration. Right now, there was this other thing:
“… okay, look:” Yari interrupted, “So what?”
“So what? It shouldn’t matter, one way or the other. That’s what I was trying to get at with my acorn story. Who cares where the nut was; it only matters where the nut ends up!”
“You really are a nut, Jarl Hastae,” Verona said, screwing up her nose in an apparent imitation of him.
“I am, but right now, I’m your nut. And, I kind of like that.”
“Okay,” said she.
“Okay,” said he.