T R A N S I T
Written on November 11, 2020 (♏)
Author's Notes: Vaguely paired to Constellation.
The thing that Olan liked least about Delita was that he never asked him to tell his fortune.
It was not that he had an eye to do so, of course. Those first few long summer months in Zeltennia, the two men had little occasion to speak. The world was changing with unprecedented rapidity. Given the upheaval at Gulofavia, it was a wonder they even became acquainted. Nevertheless, Olan took note when a man doing so many bold and dangerous things never thought to ask about their course. He took note too that Delita seemed unwilling to let others speculate about him.
If Delita had been a man with the easy self-confidence not to care about fate, that would have been one thing. However, for a youth who had made his introduction to the eastern lords by impaling a man for their entertainment, Delita seemed apprehensive. Olan remembered often their first meeting—both of them in sables as some priest or another led the orisons over poor Baron Grimm's ashes. Olan had thought it strange that the sole survivor of the Ebon Eye should flinch to see his liege lord's kinsman. He had thought it strange he should mouth the prayers for the dead without giving them voice. When the two of them clasped hands for the first time, Delita fell into a silent smile upon hearing Olan's profession.
As a man forever nagged after omens and compatibilities, the reticence of this stranger intrigued him. He didn't pry as to Delita's birth or circumstances—at least not at first—but the two of them spent the dark winter months of that year caught in one another's orbits. It seemed that some happenstance was forever throwing the two of them together in ways that neither man favored. Count Orlandu had a knack for sending his son to speak to the queen just as Delita himself was attending her. Delita had a knack for finding petty reasons to drag Olan into conversations just as he was undertaking matters of intelligence. They perpetually stumbled into one another just when they were in the midst of something, and they perpetually had to find means to bring these entanglements to an amicable close. Were an uneducated observer to chart their interactions, they might come to the drastically mistaken conclusion that the two were friends.
It was at the opening of the new year that things took an intriguing turn. Zeltennians took pride in celebrating the winter; it had long been a point of showmanship to let troops funneling in from the western duchies see how well the province’s men embraced the cold. Olan had enjoyed the season's pageantry as a boy, but once he was of age to join other youths in whipping themselves with hazel wands and throwing themselves into Lake Germinas, he decided he had more of a mind for the food than in proving his masculine vigor.
This year, Olan found himself blessedly recruited to the side of the new seneschal. Gelwan's bookkeeping was something of a cipher, and as the man could no longer explain himself, there was call for somebody with a good head for numbers. Olan was on hand. The reckoning of stars was not really so different from the reckoning of wine casks. He therefore escaped the lake, forewent the minstrels and mummers, and was able to proceed with the new year from a desk with a mess of vellum and a constantly replenished tray of saffron buns.
It was still tedious work, even if he was far removed from the tedium of so many drunk bishops and barons. He was plagued too by the wearying realization of how much was being spent to keep them all merry within castle walls during a famine year. By the time he wandered toward the fete, he was far from merry himself.
He did not join the throng. He watched the celebrants instead from an overlooking courtyard wall, growing distracted to the point that he felt quite unmoored at the sound of quick approaching footsteps. When he turned to see Delita Hyral, walking briskly and with obvious intent, he felt the occasion out of joint with everything that had previously thrown them together.
He felt, for once, that their meeting was truly coincidental.
Hyral only registered a moment's surprise when he saw him: a slight intake of breath before he redirected his course. He seemed, for that moment, very desperate.
"Have you no appetite for the feast, Ser Durai?" he said, drawing close such that Olan was very aware how little space was between their bodies, "or were you looking for me?"
His voice was warm; his demeanor anticipatory. Olan said nothing, his objections caught on the tip of his tongue as he backed against the marble column separating them from the revelry below. When Delita reached out to touch his face, Olan did not flinch.
"We wander into one another too frequently for fate to have no hand in it, don't you think?"
Olan thought of all the drinks he had foregone as a hand circled round his back. His breath barely stirred the air around it. By the time it was a matter of lips pressed against his, Olan hadn't mind to him push him away. However much or however little he wished for Delita's advances, he knew that they were being made to an end. It was to his own ends then that he fervently kissed him back, allowing Delita to think him thoroughly distracted by the attempted seduction.
He did not know how the youth had sounded out his proclivities. He did not know to what end he was moving. Looking into the distance, however, he knew that something was in motion already. As Olan tangled his fingers in Delita's hair, holding fast lest the man should turn from him, he saw the shape of a young woman fast departing, her hair swinging freely in a high ponytail as it shone like a comet in the torchlight.