Shadows danced over the stone walls of Eryximachus’ home as a fire burned low a safe distance away. Eryximachus calmly watched them before being distracted by a cold nose nuzzling in to his collar bone.
“So, when are you going to tell me something about yourself like you promised?”
“I’ve told you plenty. I’m tired Follocha, how about you talk for tonight?”
Fellocha wined out a protest and soon found her mouth covered by Eryximachus’ hand. He snorted in amusement, shushing her. “Fine, fine. I’ll tell you something new. But please shut up.” He removed his hand and Fellocha giggled, “Oh, you even said ‘please’ ”. The Elvin girl soon took to fiddling with Eryximachus’ facial hair, trying to part his goatee. Thankfully, after months of tolerating this sort of touching, the sorcerer was well habituated, no longer being surprised or put on edge by it. He knew her as a harmless and affectionate girl.
A few minutes passed before Eryximachus shifted. “You’re the only one I’ve ever been with.”
Fellocha tilted her head and giggled, “What, but you came from an upcoming family, right? Wouldn’t people be…”
Eryximachus nodded, “Yes, but their motives were obvious. I’m aware of how I am. I am also aware that I am not the most handsome bachelor. So if a woman claimed interest…I knew what they actually cared about. And it wasn’t me. I… I was just so insulted by anyone’s advances… and I typically hate being touched. For most men, the girls were taking all the right steps; it is just that I am unresponsive to flirting.”
“Why are you telling me this of all things?”
Eryximachus shrugged, “It’s been strange for me. I’ve gone my whole life before this just…not feeling much attraction to anyone – men or women. Even if they were beautiful. I could of course acknowledge that they were attractive, but I…I never felt anything. I was able to entirely skip over that part of life.”
Fellocha paused…”So…do you not enjoy…”
Eryximachus shook he head and gave Fellocha a dismissive wave. “I would bark you away from me if I was uncomfortable.” He sighed, scratching his goatee lightly. “I suppose it is just different. Sometimes when I look at you… you act as a reminder for how pleasant this winter has been. I’ll begin to remember all at once your endearing mannerisms, or moments of insight that I respected. I’ll feel nostalgic and warm, even if you’re here… and then I’ll want you.”
Fellocha laughed lightly and smiled, “Of all people…”
Eryximachus tensed for a moment, embarrassed by Fellocha’s laughter, “What?”
Fellocha chuckled, trying to answer. “Please…I’m not laughing at you.” She smiled, “That is one of the sweetest things anyone has ever said to me. And it came from you.” She cleared her throat, continuing, “You always say ‘I know what I’m like’, and yes, you’re stand-offish, but… given the chance to be with a woman, you aren’t even able to be aroused unless you have an emotional connection with them.”
Eryximachus shifted uncomfortably, “I hardly understand how that is significant.”
Fellocha sighed, “It means that you may be rude to people, but you have no desire to take advantage of them.” She softened her voice propping herself up so that she could look the sorcerer in the eye, “Needing intimacy is far from something I would expect from a mean-hearted person.”
The man across from her sighed, looking away. Fellocha continued, “Eryximachus…I just have a lot of trouble understanding how things escalated the way you said they did with your father. With me you’ve been good. Even in the beginning. You were rude and blunt, but you were at least fair. These days, now that you know me, you always go out of your way to explain things in a measured and gentle way, even if I made a mistake.”
Fellocha took note of Eryximachus’ body language. In an effort to bring his attention back, Fellocha slowly twine her fingers into his. “There is good in you…and when it comes out you are this wonderfully contemplative and clam voice…” She paused, gauging if he was listening, “…and I’m sorry that life in Estin put you so on-edge that this side of you couldn’t emerge more often. When you are like this you are one of my favorite people.”
There was a long pause between the two as Eryximachus absorbed what Fellocha had said. Strong feelings were not the easiest thing for the sorcerer to understand or accept immediately, but he did know Fellocha spoke with good-will. Whether or not he needed to be absolved didn’t matter. He was just happy to be the recipient of Fellocha’s kindness.
As the silenced went on Fellocha grew nervous. Eryximachus raised his head, and she watched him, trust pooling into her eyes as he ran his thumb over her brow and kissed her.
“There is good in you…and I – ”
As Anytus went on Eryximachus paused, hearing the rest of his father’s words through what felt like cotton. The sorcerer was suddenly assaulted by memories of that day and worked very quickly to shove it all away. The effort subdued him, and before he knew it he could do nothing but consent to his father. Anything to leave that room as soon as possible.
As he walked away from the temple of Heironeous, Eryximachus made an effort to breathe. It felt strange to hear that phrase again. Never mind coming from Anytus. Once, the idea that someone could see through Eryximachus’ flaws and see him as good was the most lifting and endearing thing…but now, all it did was hurt. All it did was remind the sorcerer that Fellocha was dead.
Unprepared to deal with the grief welling inside of him, Eryximachus did his best to remain busy that day. Relaying information to the others, walking Keld back to the temple to arrange a deal – anything. Even still, his sadness leaked out in angry bursts as he baselessly criticized Anytus’ representative. It was only as Nabal and Ditty began to coral his behavior that Eryximachus had a moment of lucidity long enough to back down.
Eventually, night came and the whole group of adventures took their leave. Lying in bed, left with nothing but his thoughts, Eryximachus tried to think though how he wanted to deal with Anytus and if he was truly willing to play hero. Unfortunately, intrusive memories of Fellocha threatened to dominate the sorcerer’s thoughts. To fall asleep, he was reduced to focused and slow counting.
He just wasn’t ready, and he didn’t need to be. If he just stayed busy, his mind would eventually wander away from her.