This one was simple. Fast forward a month. Put Arkenheart and Theronidas in the same room. See what happens. That is literally the entire extent of planning that went into this. I like this one quite a bit. It was fun.
There came a knock at the door.
Theronidas frowned. He hadn’t been expecting anyone. A hundred possibilities ran through his mind in an instant. Assassins? His father? A clever noble come to enlist his aid for their cause? Perhaps it was Arkenheart, maybe a friend or fellow student seeking extra curricular sparring hours.
He briefly considered ignoring the knock. He was busy, after all, constructing a perfect miniature replica of a zeppelin. More than a model, he was trying to replicate literally everything a real zeppelin could do, only on a magnificently small scale. It was proving difficult to get the tiny robot goblins to function properly. The zeppelin itself worked just fine, but there was no challenge in that. Constructing the tiny robots and creating subroutines they could follow consistently was significantly harder.
He sighed. The knock had broken his meditation, he had already forgotten the specific subroutine he was working on. Captain Rudimentary Intelligence, maybe, but it would take minutes at least to remember where he was.
Might as well see to his visitor then.
Moving his goggles to rest comfortably on his forehead, he moved to the door.
“Yes?” he called through the reinforced wooden door.
“Captain Pantaloons representing the Pants Brigade! Open this door immediately and surrender thy pants or we shall take them from you by force!” responded Arkenheart.
Shaking his head, he opened the door. “At least you didn’t pretend to be my father this time. Your impressions are atrocious.”
“Are not!” Arkenheart laughed. “I got him down perfectly! ‘Good job son guy with that thing you did.’ See? Perfect likeness!”
“Fine. Funny, but inaccurate.” Smirking at her, he added, “He said ‘Great job son guy.’ Get it right!”
“I’ll remember that for next time.” Moving past him, Arkenheart made a beeline for his zeppelin model. “How’s the gobbo blimp coming along?”
“Okay, first, it’s goblin, not gobbo. That’s racist. Second, it’s a zeppelin. Not a blimp.”
“No! Not same diff! Zeppelin’s are artful, graceful machines, a perfect marriage of engineering and aeronautics. Blimps are… just… really big balloons.”
“Right. Same diff.” She poked the fuselage of the zeppelin. One of the robot goblins fired its jetpack, flying off the model towards her. A second later, it exploded in a brief puff of flames. “Still having problems with the intelligence routines, yeah?”
Theronidas nodded. “I can’t stop them from committing suicide. They’re supposed to react to threats logically, but every time they identify a threat they just throw themselves off and destruct their fuel reserves.”
“Odd. You didn’t add the sapper routine, yeah?”
“Please, give me some credit.”
“Have you tried nullifying the preservation backlog, then restarting it via flight analogues?”
“Yes, though that made it even worse. They just exploded without even taking off after that.”
Picking up one of the robot goblins, Arkenheart stared at it thoughtfully. The little robot waved it’s arms frantically about, making barely audible clicking noises. Removing the jetpack from the robot, she opened the tiny jetpack’s fuel supply. Sprinkling the fuel on her fingers, she smelled the mixture, then placed some on her tongue.
Smiling, she said, “There’s your problem! Your mixture’s all off. Your kinetic variance is far too high for the yield you want. The little guys aren’t self destructing intentionally, their fuel cells are just reacting too strongly. Then KABLOOEY!”
“Oh.” Theronidas flushed. Something as simple as the quality of fuel had kept him stumped for almost a week.
“How’d you even miss that? Pretty sure an inanimate rock could’ve picked that one up.”
“I… was just thinking too hard about it. Missed the obvious.”
Arkenheart waved her finger at him. “Rule one of engineering. When something explodes…”
“… Check the thing that explodes.” Theronidas finished with a sigh. “Well, hopefully that’ll get me back on track. Though that does mean the flight analogue is fubar’d… Speaking of tracks, you should really stop coming here this often.”
“Oh but why!” She pouted. “It’s so much fun correcting you on simple things even a child wouldn’t miss! Ooh! Did you know that four is ONE MORE than THREE?!”
“Right, okay, yes, that never leaves this apartment. It was just a one time mistake.”
“Says the guy who baked salt cookies.”
“It was unlabeled! It was next to the tea!”
“You couldn’t have, oh I dunno, just quickly tasted it?”
“Pah! Unlike you I don’t partake of random sugary things every chance I get.”
“You calling me fat?!”
“Maybe I am! So fat you can barely fit into your slacks! They’re bursting at the seams!”
“Ha! You wish I’d burst out of my clothes! I’ll have you know I’m just snug in all the right places.”
“Snug? From a certain point of view perhaps. Me? Maybe just a bit too… tight.”
“Mmm, getting a bit big for your britches, are we?”
“Hard to say. Though they are a bit stiff these days.”
“What, the launderers giving you the shaft again? I thought you’d’ve headed them off by now.”
“I’ll admit they aren’t as on the ball as I would like.”
They kissed fiercely.
A little robot goblin ruined the moment as it leaped off the model zeppelin and exploded.
Theronidas looked at the wreckage of the poor little machine, then grinned widely at Arkenheart. “Right, enough dicking around. Race you to the bedroom?”
“Not much of a contest there, Ronnie. You always come first.”
“Gruuuh.” moaned Arkenheart into Theronidas’ shoulder.
“You insulted my honor as a man, good woman! My vengeance is complete.” Theronidas chuckled.
“Hyuh, yeah, that was some vengeance alright. Pretty sure I can’t move now.”
“Your own fault! My manhood does not take insult lightly.”
“Or anything, if the past hour was any indication. I’m sorry I insulted your stamina. Sad face.”
“Damn straight. Some of us actually get something out of blood knight training.”
“Heh.” Arkenheart tried to sit up. Giving up halfway through the motion, she collapsed on the bed. “Yeah, that isn’t happening. Spending the night here.”
“Arkie… that’s really not such a great idea.”
Theronidas shook his head. “Stay if you wish. I certainly don’t mind the company. Everyone else will, though. An adept spending the night with a Knight? Scandalous!”
“Meh, fuck everyone else. Also that joke was terrible.”
“Look… seriously, I know you don’t much care for politics or any of those social things, but try to picture what you’re doing here. I am, after all, the son of the second most powerful political figure in our entire society. You’re a blood knight in training. People are going to get the wrong idea.”
“So I’m damaging your social status, is that it?”
“Wh… no! That isn’t it at all. My social status is practically immune to question. It’s yours that concerns me.”
Arkenheart rolled her eyes. “Oh, here we go. I am not having the ‘are you a noble?’ talk again.”
“No, see, that’s part of it! Other people are going to start asking questions, start wondering what makes you so special as to attract my attentions. It’s suspicious. You don’t help matters any by keeping the Dawnseeker name.”
“That name doesn’t mean anything.”
“It does! It’s a noble name, well known, damn near legendary due to what your father did. But there’s no evidence anymore. None! No records at all.”
“Yeah, I know. I, uh, got rid of it.”
“I figured that much out for myself. Magisters don’t just ‘irretrievably misplace’ files that can literally be summoned from anywhere in existence. My question is why? Why go through all that trouble of erasing what you are if you’re just going to keep using the name?”
Arkenheart rolled over, facing her back to Theronidas. “I am not talking about this.”
“Please, Arkie. Tell me, at least. We’ve known each other since you were eight.”
Arkenheart released a long, drawn out sigh. “Fine. It’s simple. I keep the name to fuck with people.”
“Really. That’s the only reason.”
“Well, yeah, no, that didn’t sound quite right. Alright, it’s like… exactly what you said. Dawnseeker is WHAT I am. This whole damn society is concerned with WHAT people are. Are they nobles? Commoners? What clothes do they wear? What hairstyle do they have? But none of that is WHO I am.”
Arkenheart paused briefly, gathering her thoughts. “I tell people my name is Dawnseeker, and they expect a noble. But I don’t act noble, I mean, obviously. But there’s also no record of me anywhere, which is hilariously impossible. So nobody knows what to make of me. Nobody knows whether to treat me as nobility or pond scum.” She shrugged. “And I like it that way. They have to deal with me, with who I am. They don’t get to just treat me according to a set of rules and traditions they made up.”
Theronidas hugged her. “Fucking poetry, that. But you can’t just ignore politics. It won’t ignore you.”
Rolling back over, she returned the hug. “I don’t give a shit what people think of me. So someone doesn’t like me, or glares at me in a hallway somewhere, or calls me names. So what. That doesn’t do shit to me.”
“And when someone decides to ‘put you in your place’ and beat the crap out of you?” Theronidas murmured.
She smiled, faintly. “I can take care of myself. I’ll beat them first.”
She fell asleep soon after, gently snoring.
Theronidas did not. He lay there awake, her body entwined in his, and thought.
He disliked politics as much as she. He hated it, hated how political concerns had invaded near every facet of elven culture. Like her, he knew how politics worked. Unlike her, he did not ignore such knowledge.
Theronidas was cunning. He had to be. A thousand thousand nobles, politicians and businessmen would use him in a heartbeat if they could. Being the son of Lor’themar had its perks, yes, but the downside was that you became a target to nearly everyone. He’d had no choice but to become exceedingly skilled at political manipulation.
He worked hard to keep himself aloof. He obscured, obfuscated, stealthing himself from the social radar. He had rendered himself as ruthlessly frustrating and incomprehensibly annoying to many noble houses. He was all but invisible in the world of politics.
Which served him just fine. He was happiest alone, tinkering with his little engineering projects. Little problems like why tiny robot goblins exploded, that’s what he liked more than anything.
Arkenheart groaned and shifted in her sleep.
Closing his eyes, he smiled. Check that. Tinkering by himself was the second happiest thing in his life.
Fine. So she ignores the world of politics. He would do everything he could to make sure politics ignored her.