Octopath Traveler Fanfiction: Loose Lips in the Tavern - 12. Tale Eleven
Tale Eleven, a Dancer’s Theft and When Men are Alone
“If I never have to trudge through disgusting slop like that again, it’ll be too soon,” Therion complained, trudging in his dirty boots down the cliffside streets of Quarrycrest. He swore he could feel something squirming and squelching between his toes with every step he took. “Think some of that sludge got into my boots…”
“I think some got in my shoes, too,” Primrose agreed, using him as a balance for a moment to remove her shoe. Turning it upside down, some brown muck and a few undiscernible objects poured forth from it.
Primrose sighed heavily. “There better be a place to buy new dancing slippers here.” Straightening up, she batted her eyelashes at her thieving counterpart. “Think you could steal a pair for me?”
Resting his hands behind his head, Therion continued walking ahead of Primrose. “Don’t take jobs unless they pay, Twinkle Toes.”
Pouting and jogging to catch up to the thief, the dancer smirked victoriously as she spoke seductively. “I could pay you another way.”
Pulling up his scarf to hide the blush creeping up on his cheeks, the thief smoothly replied, “Don’t know if you could pay enough for my services.”
“The slight waver in your voice says otherwise,” Primrose strode away, a swagger to her steps and a sway in her hips that she knew the young thief keenly paid attention to. A swish of her brunette hair to mask her eyeing him confirmed her suspicions, causing her to chuckle lightly.
Shaking his head to snap out of the trance, Therion caught up with Primrose, walking next to her to better stay out of view of her hypnotizing hips. Tugging on his scarf again, the thief huffed, ashamed at himself for being defeated so easily in a cunning battle of witty tongues. Their back-and-forth had continued ever since they had met those few fortnights ago. A victor had not been announced yet, neither did they know the signifying moment that would declare the winner. But when it came, their instincts would tell them.
Buildings passed by in a blur as they made their way towards the local tavern, Cyrus and Olberic rushing ahead to procure a drink sooner. The thief had an idea. It was an idea that one had in a moment of brief brilliance, but then almost regretted. After all, flying too close to sun would only burn him. Unable to stop himself, Therion sighed forlornly at the thought.
This caught Primrose’s attention, causing her to raise a questioning brow towards her companion. “Is something the matter?”
Realizing he was caught, Therion slightly jutted to attention. Knowing he couldn’t hide his thoughts from someone so perceptive, he answered her, sighing once more. “Well, if you really want to nab yourself a pair of dancing slippers, I could always teach you how to be a thief.”
Expecting an immediate retort, Therion was surprised to find a flicker of thought in Primrose’s hazel eyes, glinting like ambers. Excitement flitted through them, followed by a sense of pragmatism. Without her words saying anything, Therion understood that she would take him up on his offer. Like growing up with a childhood friend, the thief and dancer had already been able to read the other within seconds of a hint of body language, the subtle shifting of lips, the meaning behind words. They had only known each other for a brief time, and there it was. For once, the thief considered cursing his ability to read people so quickly. Thinking the better of it, he nodded his head towards Quarrycrest’s marketplace. It seemed his companions were smart to go on ahead to the tavern.
Seeing his silent gesture, the dancer grinned mischievously, still swaying her hips in that way only she could. After all, if one had an advantage over another, they would press it. Wouldn’t a thief continue to pressure their dagger into the throat of a victim until they agreed to hand over their hard-earned leaves? Tools of the trade were meant to be used; Primrose had become very good over the years at using the tools available to a dancer like herself. Now it would seem that she would learn how to incorporate the tricks of the thief into her trade. For someone as nimble as her, she believed she would very easily be able to have nimble and sticky fingers like Therion. However, in the master thief’s mind, there was one issue.
Instead of bringing up said problem now, he knew it would be better for Primrose to learn from experience rather than be told what to do. The humorous thought of her impending first lesson brought forth a self-gratifying chortle from Therion. Arriving at the market stands, he knew it was time. So, as he had learned from watching, he would do so again now.
Leaning against one of the few buildings in the area, he examined the stands for a simple target. Eyes wandering for only the briefest of moments, he noticed a man who consistently focused on his costumers, but ignored his wears. An easy target if one knew how to approach him. Signaling towards the peddler, Primrose followed the Therion’s gaze.
Her lips curled, eyes turning predatory as she locked on to her target. Flipping her hair and giving a sound of indignation, she sauntered towards the merchant. If it wasn’t for the distance she created between her and the thief, Primrose would have heard the laughter making its way through Therion’s signature purple scarf.
Approaching the stand, ready to begin the test, Primrose leaned over the man’s wares – some trinkets and baubles – examining his selection, hands behind her back and chest purposely protruding forward. Her revealing top was enough for the man to take notice of her.
“‘Ello, M’lady! What’s a pretty lass such as yourself doin’ perusin’ a poor man’s humble stand?” the merchant greeted, bowing with flourish and speaking with pretty words that Primrose recognized he hardly used – if his pronunciation hinted at anything.
“Oh, I’m just seeing what I can find to help accentuate my neckline, you see,” Primrose replied sweetly, subtly brushing her neck with her fingers to lure the man’s eyes to where she wanted them.
Quite successfully, her seduction worked.
“W-well, M’lady, I would be honored to serve!”
His words came too excitedly; his body and mannerisms indicating he had fallen prey to her whims.
From a distance, Therion shook his head, muttering under his breath with humor, “What a tricky snake. Let’s see what she does now. Oh?”
The thief’s eyes had just returned to the scene, seeing that Primrose had a necklace on now and was twirling gleefully in front of the merchant, putting on a show for him.
“My, this is brilliant, would you not say, sir?” the dancer replied with a fluttering of her eyes.
Clapping his hands happily, he answered excitedly, “‘Tis, M’lady! ‘Tis indeed!”
Ending her show, the practicing thief noticed a pair of matching earrings behind her quarry. Eyes subtly gleaming with a sense of victory, she asked, “But would you happen to have a pair of matching earrings?”
Shooting up at the thought of a bigger sale – and to a beautiful woman nonetheless – the merchant turned around, scrambling with trembling hands to search for the earrings Primrose had noticed in seconds.
“O-of course! Just a moment, M’lady!”
Seeing he would be searching for quite some time, Primrose took this as her chance to stealthily sneak away from the scene. All eyes finally off of her, she quietly tiptoed away from the stand back to Therion, leaving behind a stuttering mess of a merchant.
Taking off her reward and throwing it at Therion, who deftly caught it, she moved closely to him, fingers trailing up his chest as she hummed victoriously. In a singsong voice, she celebrated, “Looks like thievery is much easier than I had thought.”
“Not bad, Twinkle Toes. Not bad,” Therion agreed, tossing the amulet in the air a few times, testing its weight. “Quite a piece you got here.”
“Isn’t it? Should be calling me ‘Tip Toes’ now. So, about my reward…”
Her voice trailed off as her teacher chuckled lowly, noticing something behind her.
“Hold your horses, Twinkle Toes. You didn’t exactly make a clean getaway.”
Primrose took a step back, a sense of unease rising in her chest. “What do you mean?
Pointing towards the stand behind her, the dancer followed the thief’s finger.
At the stand she had just purloined the trinket from was a group of three guards speaking to the merchant who was angerly searching every which way for the dancer-turned-thief. Before he could notice her, Primrose felt someone grip her wrist.
Pulling her into the narrow alleyway, Therion pressed the accused dancer to his chest to hide from the guards and enraged merchant. Not a minute later had they disappeared did the clinking of armor reach the pair’s ears. The guards ran past their hiding spot, not noticing the conspirators hiding away between buildings.
They stayed there for a few moments longer, making sure that the coast was completely clear. It was at this moment that they noticed how close they were to each other. Seen by the wrong people, rumors would fly about between their traveling group of a romantic escapade. Their hearts beat heavily from holding their breath and the near proximity of the other’s body. Flushed faces did not help their cause, but neither noticed as they continued watching the streets. Or that was their excuse. Truthfully, they could not look at the other right now, a small flicker of unfamiliar fear keeping them from doing so. Only when their bodies demanded oxygen did they gasp for air and slowly lean out of their hiding spot.
Seeing that the guards had disappeared, and the merchant with them, they emerged from the shadows. Slowly releasing each other, a small cry of loss at the retreating warmth of another body echoed in the back of their minds. Stubborn as they were, the co-conspirators mentally stifled the cry immediately.
Still willing his eyes away from her, Therion returned to business. “Two of thieving’s biggest rules, almost laws: don’t let the victim see your face, and don’t let them know you took something. You broke both in your first heist.”
Blowing a strand of hair from her face and leaning her weight onto one hip, Primrose sullenly responded, “I was able to steal the necklace.”
“Yes, but the merchant saw you and knew you took it. You would have been caught, could still be caught. Should keep a low profile for a bit.”
Without another word, the thief removed his scarf, wrapping it around Primrose’s neck and head, hiding her profile and revealing top from view.
Startled, the dancer tried to take a step back, but was held in place by Therion. “What are you…?”
“Shut it, trying to hide you from the authorities, obviously.”
The thief’s eyes were glancing every which way, except at Primrose, as he worked. This did not go unnoticed by the dancer.
Satisfied with his work, Therion stepped away from his student, turning towards the market. “That’s enough classwork for the day. Just watch and you’ll see what I mean, okay?”
Words stuck in the dancer’s throat for whatever reason. A witty retort desperately wished to form in her head, but Primrose could only nod.
Receiving a similar confirmation from her teacher, Therion walked easily towards the stands, fingers twitching slightly as he approached a jeweler’s wares. If his wits were about him, the thief would have noticed the small smile of appreciation Primrose wore under his scarf.
Laughter was muffled by a mug almost as quickly as the familiar, raucous noise had started. Everyone else joined in more quietly, reveling in the satisfying thickness of the concoction they were ingesting. While Cyrus and Olberic had saved a portion of their drink, Therion and Alfyn finished theirs off with a sound of satisfaction.
“Ah! What a way to end a busy day!” Alfyn exclaimed.
Chuckling, Therion replied, “A stiff drink is a good reward for a day like today. You seem exceedingly jubilant, Doc.”
The apothecary rubbed the back of his head, a nervous twitch the thief had come to realize. Something exceedingly good had happened to him today.
“Nothin’ really, jus’ a good day. That’s all,” Alfyn replied, still scratching his head.
Chuckling good-naturedly, Cyrus joined in on the conversation. “We would believe you, Alfyn, but you are still playing with the back of your hair.”
“Oh, am I? Didn’t notice.”
Even after pointing out the fact, he still continued rubbing the back of his head.
“At this point, even I have noticed something is off,” Olberic quipped before taking a drink. “But perhaps it is this egg drink that has already gotten the better of me. Only one drink to best me now? How I have fallen.”
“It is advocaat, Sir Olberic. A concoction of eggs, sugar, and whiskey quite frequented by citizens in the Canyonlands.” Taking a sip for himself, the scholar reveled in the taste. “As delicious as it is potent. Combine that with the high altitude and one drink may be all you need to become intoxicated.”
“If that’s the case, everyone in Cobbleston would laugh at me. The great Unbending Blade felled by a single drink. Oh, the mockery!”
Shifting easily into his overdramatization, the warrior fell onto the table head first, earning a round of laughs from his companions.
“We need to get him drunk more often, huh,” Therion pointed out.
“Definitely! Hey, Therion lemme get ya another drink. Least I can do,” Alfyn offered, somehow still scratching his head. At this point it was a surprise he still had any hair left.
Raising his eyebrow suspiciously, the thief probed his companion. “Oh yeah? You’re buying?”
“Okay, can’t say no to that.”
Taking his feet off the table, Therion joined Alfyn as they walked towards the bar, leaving Cyrus and Olberic to their devices. In this case, the scholar would use the opportunity alone with the former Knight of Hornburg to ask him a few questions.
Folding his hands under his chin, Cyrus eyed Olberic like a research subject.; in this case, he may have well been. “Now, Sir Olberic, shall we return to some of those questions.”
Finishing his drink and waving at the thief and apothecary to buy him another one, the warrior turned back to the scholar as he heard his name. Usually able to withstand Cyrus’s scanning eyes, in his tipsy state, Olberic felt just a bit more vulnerable, causing him to simply mumble an “Oh, no.”
“But of course!” Cyrus replied before launching into a tirade of questions that Olberic felt he would never escape from. As the scholar kept pressing him for answers, the warrior felt the grey streaks in his hair increasing in strands.
Meanwhile, Alfyn and Therion watched amusingly from the bar before turning around to leave the interrogation be for the moment. Finally, having stopped his head scratching, Alfyn joined Therion in a second drink, keeping Olberic’s advocaat between them for the time being.
“This oughtta be interesting, eh?” the apothecary spoke up. Receiving only an amused sound of acknowledgement from his counterpart, Alfyn pressed further. “So, how was helpin’ out our resident professor today?”
“Went dungeon diving in sewers, found some bad guy mage, kicked his ass, saved the day. You know how it is,” Therion answered briefly.
“Well, at least it was an evil wizard. Can knock them on their ass without a care,” Alfyn mumbled.
“Hm, saving that kid today with Feather not pane out how you wanted?”
“No, not that, it’s just… The guy was a dirtbag. Usin’ people ’til they can’t be used no more?” Slamming his mug on the bar in a burst of anger earned a small reaction from the thief. “How can someone do that?”
Capitalizing on the silence from Therion, Alfyn downed his drink quickly.
“Proost, then.” Raising his glass, the thief did the same, seeing his skilled words were needed once more. “Keep talking, Doc.”
Taking the thief up on his offer, Alfyn didn’t even question why Therion was caring to hear his words. “Just… the world should be blacker and whiter. We kicked his butt, we should feel like we saved the kid. But it only brings up more questions, like how his bodyguard died for him. Did he want to die for money? Could it have been loyalty that drove him instead? Who’d be loyal to a dirtbag like that? It just… doesn’t make no sense, Therion. No sense at all.”
Listening intently, despite the alcohol in his system, Therion waved the barkeep down, ordering two more drinks, while simultaneously speaking. “It’s the world we live in, Doc. There’s not a right or wrong, only what we think is right and wrong. Our ideals.”
The words brought the apothecary out of his spiraling thoughts, garnering his attention.
The white-haired man continued. “Those stem from our want to survive. We’re all just humans, it’s in our nature. So, remember that. Survival is the name of the game. But just don’t forget to find people who echo your own sentiments. You’re too good for that, Doc.”
Stunned by his words, seconds passed before Alfyn smiled lightly, a feeling of positivity reverberating throughout his body. “Huh, didn’t think you could say something like that.”
“We all surprise everyone sometimes. Plus, I taught Primrose about thieving today, may as well keep teaching.” Therion jumped from his seat, carrying all three drinks in his hands.
Turning to look after the thief, Alfyn questioned, “Wait, what’s that ’bout Primrose?”
Ignoring him, Therion kept walking towards the table, setting the drinks down. Shaking his head, a new smile on his face, the apothecary followed the thief, mumbling to himself, “Still full o’ mysteries, friend. But I’m starting to get a peg on ya.”
Rejoining his friends, the apothecary came at the end of Cyrus’s interrogation to see a near-passed out Olberic covering his ears. Unsurprisingly, the scholar didn’t seem to care about his subject’s lack of attention.
“…and does Hornburg have a more military-complex culture? Did they focus on the arts, or sciences? What were the diets of military men like?”
“Okay, Professor, I think you may have broken our resident knight,” Alfyn interrupted, placing his hand on Cyrus’s shoulder to break him from his constant cycle of unanswered questions.
Noticing Olberic’s condition for the first time that night, he apologized. “Sorry, Sir Olberic. Sometimes I lose myself in my research.”
“I think… I need that drink…” the warrior simply responded, robotically reaching for the advocaat and taking it down with one swift swig. Mug emptied, Olberic threw it on the floor, his head slamming into the table, showing he was completely passed out.
“Huh, musta been a tiring day,” Alfyn stated, returning to his own seat next to the incapacitated man. “Gonna be one hell of a struggle to bring him back to the inn.”
“Yes, well, it would seem I have badgered him too much today,” the scholar concluded. “Ah, I wish his constitution was just a bit higher.”
“You did the same thing in the sewers, you know,” Therion commented.
“True, perhaps it’s just the drinks.”
“Or you asked too many questions.”
“Never! A scholar can never cease learning; just as a thief cannot cease stealing. It is out of the question!”
Therion sighed. “That attitude’s going to get you in trouble someday. Just like that lady said.”
“Odette has said such things,” Cyrus mused, hand to his chin in thought. “Perhaps there is a kernel of truth there.”
“More like a whole corn cob, but I’ll let you think on that,” Therion finished, drinking the last of his egg-based beverage before standing up only so shortly after sitting down. “Come on, let’s go find the girls and get Mountain to his bed.”
“Aw, already? Thought we could chew the fat some more,” Alfyn whined, but acquiesced, following the thief. “Fine, but the Professor has to do most o’ the liftin’.”
“My sentiments exactly. Come on, Teach”
“I shall do my best, but it may take all three of us,” Cyrus admitted, joining the two men in standing next to Olberic.
“Just hafta do our best. I’ll take his back, Cyrus, Therion get his sides.”
“Yeah, yeah. Okay. One… two… three…!”
With great effort, the trio was somehow able to lift the mountainous man to his feet and carry him through the door of the tavern. On their way back to the inn, they received several curious stares and a few laughs in their direction. It was an amusing sight, after all: three men, trying to lift a giant warrior who very well could weigh as much as his carriers when wearing armor – which, that night, he was doing so.
As Therion kicked open the door to the inn, he heard conversation coming from familiar voices. In his drunken haze, the thief realized too late why the voices sounded familiar.
There, in the inn lobby, sat the men’s female companions, sitting next to the fire with drinks in hand. Their attention was now solely on their male counterparts.
“Shit…” Therion mumbled.
The single word was the only sound uttered for a minute longer before Tressa burst into a boisterous laughter, falling out of her seat. The rest of the women joined in, bellowing joyfully at the site of their companions.
Alfyn chuckled uneasily. “Guess we got some explainin’ to do.”
Ah, the blessing of a drink at the end of a long day.
It was the first time these companions would make fools of themselves thanks to the power of alcohol.
Yet not the last, for what were the women of the Octopath Travelers doing whilst our merry band of men drank their daily woes away?
I believe it would be remiss of me to not tell their story, yes?
After all, there were two tales to take place in Quarrycrest at this time, so we must see what happened after both stories ended…