Snippet: Beginning

Another snippet about Ariel and Pasha. Pasha’s POV. Not really the beginning of the story, but the beginning of their relationship. Again a mention of Ariel’s sister being a tit because she is.

Nobody from Winterdome ever left because nowhere else would provide such challenge for the natives and nobody ever wanted to go to Winterdome because that was a stupid idea.

Which was why Pasha was more than shocked to find the man in front of him asking if he knew the way.

Winterdome was north of calm, happiness, misery, and even wretchedness. It was just short of complete affliction. Everything wanted to kill everybody. The trees were deadly, the rabbits were rabid, and the weathers greatest goal was to create an apocalyptic calamity upon the town. The people were giants. In the making of them the gods had spilled too much beef and stubbornness to make room for anything like common sense or kindness. Surrounding Winterdome was a thick dead forest full of monsters that were delighted to find little soft morsels instead of the Winterdome natives.

Nobody from Winterdome ever left because nowhere else would provide such challenge for the natives and nobody ever wanted to go to Winterdome because that was a stupid idea.

Which was why Pasha was more than shocked to find the man in front of him asking if he knew the way. He was a tall man, lithe for his height. Blonde hair smooth, had under his arm. He had sharp sophisticated features. His clothes, while warm, were tailored and expensive. The rich dye and choice of cloth made it obvious. He was a wealthy gentleman that wanted to go to Winterdome.

Pasha was instantly alert, every warning bell going off in his head. Though he kept his face neutral, taking a deep breath and leaning back in his chair. “I know the way,” he said at length.

The man smiled. “Good. I am willing to pay what is needed, Sir Pavel.”

Pasha dragged his thumb over one of the scratches in the table, wary. Apparently he took too long in choosing his words.

“I understand it is a difficult trip- it is why I need a guide obviously- but like I said. I can pay whatever the cost.”

Pasha let his eyes swivel up to stare at him again. “Name?”

He smiled again. “Ariel. Ariel Kiss.” He didn’t offer a hand to shake.

Pasha finished his drink before pushing off and standing. He was just a bit shorter than this Ariel. He searched his eyes, the green bright and an almost whimsical shade. Ariel waited, impatient and frowning again. “You will give my three hundred. A hundred now to pay for expenses and equipment. Two when we reach Winterdome.”

Ariel interrupted him. Pasha personally hated it when people interrupted him- why could nobody listen?- but had become used to over the years of interact with the ‘civilized people’ of towns and cities. “You will have it. When do we leave?”

“We don’t unless you can also tell me what you are and what you plan in Winterdome.”

“Pardon?”

“You’re not human,” Pasha said, mostly taking a gamble. He’d been around the Others before. He could hear it, the soft magic, an almost nonexistent sound of magic and danger. Something Pasha had become accustomed to listening to since he tended to dwell in the dark corners and slums when he was in a city.

Ariel seemed to be struggling with anger and being impressed. “I have no answers here,” he said, almost cryptically. Which was wonderful because all Pasha wanted was to travel through the Bent Forest with some with a certain flair for dramatics. “Not in a place with so many ears.”

“Fine. Give me the coins and I’ll prepare. Meet me in two days at the North Gate and you’ll tell me there or we don’t go.”

Ariel glowered, looking down at him best he could. Pasha wasn’t that much shorter. “And why must you know what I’m doing in Winterdome?”

Pasha took the coins, dropping a few on the table for his drinks before putting them close to his chest, somewhere safe. He kept himself from rolling his eyes. Did this man know nothing of Winterdome? “Because I am taking you. And thus, if you get into trouble they can hang me as well.” They stared a moment, Ariel glaring while Pasha simply tried to see what he was missing. But neither achieved anything they wanted and so Pasha turned and left. He had things to do and people to see. A horrid trip to plan.

In two days he had bought a few protection charms because he didn’t actually trust Ariel, or anything in the Bent Forest, and any sort of supplies. He was dressed in thick leather and furs, sitting on the fence as he waited for the gentleman to show up. Pasha almost hoped the monster had fled after he had admitted to knowing he was something else. It would have made things easier. He could go back to the pub to drink and whore.

“Sir Pavel,” he heard and Pasha let out a quiet sigh before sliding down off the fence. “You are prompt,” he said.

Small talk. Pasha hummed and pulled the collar of his jacket up right against the wind that had picked up. Ariel just continued talking. “I suppose you’ll want your answers now.”

Pasha nodded.

“Very well. My sister has stashed some of her treasury in Winterdome, as the rumors go, and some of the more interesting ones say that what she stole from me is there. I aim to retrieve it.” He pulled at his sleeves disdainfully. “As for what I am-” he glanced around a moment, “I am an incubus.”

Pasha glanced down before shrugging his bag onto his shoulders. “Thank you. The rules of this trek are simple. You listen to me. And, as a warning, you are unlikely to reach Winterdome if you eat me. At least in one piece and healthy.”

Ariel didn’t, or couldn’t, hide his surprise. At either the rules or that Pasha didn’t much care what he was, Pasha didn’t know. Pasha didn’t bring it up, though, and instead turned and motioned for the guards at the top to open the gate. Best to get going before the sun got even higher.

H