Knight Brave and True


"Looks as if you've been busy, hero," says Emet-Selch, derisively.

Pfeil hears him through a thick fog and peers at him with eyes that drift and will themselves shut. Emet-Selch is standing before him at the table in his Crystarium room — Pfeil does not remember when he appeared — and he is lazily swirling a half-empty bottle of liquor in his hand with an expression of distaste. Gingerly, he lifts it to his nose and gives it a quick inspection.

"You really drink this swill?" Emet-Selch's nose wrinkles as he speaks.

Pfeil groans and pulls himself into something resembling a sitting position, the flesh of his cheek sliding jerkily against the smooth lacquered wood of the table's surface. Discarded bottles brush past his arms, topple, clatter, roll to the floor, break. There is certainly a red mark on his face, and perhaps drool. Emet-Selch sways back and forth along with the rest of the room, and Pfeil watches him for a moment before realizing he has been spoken to and needs to respond. "Yeah," he says, lips heavy, and he does not care that it is not clever.

All that constitutes Emet-Selch's reply is a shrug. He raises the bottle to his lips; Pfeil lurches forward and grabs his arm, feeling the room whirl around him, and wrestles the neck of the bottle toward his own mouth.

"'S mine," Pfeil slurs.

"I would venture to suggest you've had enough," says Emet-Selch, and, face contorted into an infuriatingly self-assured smirk, he plucks the bottle away with his free hand.

"Haven't," says Pfeil. He swallows thickly; it is hard to remember how to use his tongue. "Still feel bad."

Emet-Selch looks to be suppressing laughter. "Perhaps it is because you are drunk," his rejoinder goes, and Pfeil cannot figure out what's so godsdamned funny.

He paws limply for the bottle again, and Emet-Selch stretches his arm tauntingly, like he is withholding a toy from a misbehaved child. Pfeil is not one to be deterred; he extends his own arm as far as it will go and presses his drunken weight into Emet-Selch's side, hoping to topple him entirely. The exercise proves to be one in futility — Pfeil cannot keep his balance and tumbles to the floor in a confused heap, and Emet-Selch tuts pityingly as he falls.

"Fucker," Pfeil mutters. He attempts to get up, but his efforts amount to little more than sliding about on the floor; his limbs have become heavy and stupid with drink, and they refuse to listen.

"You'd best stop while you're ahead," says Emet-Selch, "although that would be generous phrasing indeed for this sorry state." He takes a sip of Pfeil's liquor and barks a noise of naked disgust. "Do you scour your dirty windows with this as well as your palate?"

Pfeil cannot figure out how to do much more than groan. He manages to bring his knees underneath his body and push his face away from the floor, and he feels some semblance of pride, although it is a paltry sort of victory. Emet-Selch's eyes on him are palpable.

The Ascian crouches beside him, still towering compared to Pfeil. "I can hardly imagine this is your idea of fun," he needles. "What is it you're running from?"

"Shut up." Pfeil shuts his eyes and puts his hands over his ears. As long as he does this, he thinks, everything will go away, not least of all Emet-Selch.

Despite his provisions against hearing anything at all, Pfeil hears Emet-Selch sigh, and then without warning his hands are underneath Pfeil's arms. He tries to wrest himself from Emet-Selch's grip, but his resistance is sloppy and uncoordinated; he is easily dragged across the room and thrown haphazardly into the bed, body soft and useless like dirty laundry.

There is something in Pfeil's brainstem which turns on to let him know he needs out of this situation now. He tries to struggle into a sitting position, or at least orient himself correctly, so that he might take hold of the hunting knife he hides between the mattress and the bedframe, but he is too clumsy, too dizzy, too godsdamned drunk to function. Emet-Selch stands over him and wears a disapproving expression. He realizes his heartbeat, at least, is not slowed by the alcohol; the organ threatens to flutter out of his ribcage. His stomach feels full of cherry pits.

Emet-Selch kneels and works at removing Pfeil's greaves. Pfeil kicks at him with what little strength and intent he can muster, and Emet-Selch grumbles beneath his breath. "Hold still," he hisses.

"No," says Pfeil. "Stop it." He kicks again, and he does not know or care what direction his legs are going. "Leave me alone." His eyes fix on the window; he thinks of the windchime in his childhood bedroom, glittering silvery and dreamlike, and kicks a little harder, terror building in his chest and the burning nerves between his shoulderblades.

"You'll never get these boots off by yourself," Emet-Selch gripes.

"Leave me alone," Pfeil repeats, as if it is going to save him, "leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone —"

"Be quiet," Emet-Selch insists. Having finished with Pfeil's greaves and boots, he lifts Pfeil’s legs underneath the knees and swings them into the bed.

Pfeil is oriented correctly now, and his hand begins searching haphazardly for the hunting knife. It is hard to feel or understand what he is doing. Emet-Selch has not noticed the motion and begins removing the pauldron on Pfeil's right arm, then the rerebrace, couter, vambrace; the brassy armor clanks to the floor as Emet-Selch rids himself of it carelessly. Pfeil feels sick because he cannot find the knife.

Something strange happens. Emet-Selch does not continue removing clothing from Pfeil's body; instead, he pulls the covers over him and tucks them around him securely. He lifts Pfeil's head and slides the pillow underneath. The terror is replaced with confusion, and the adrenaline in his body has nowhere to go.

"Was that really so hard?" Emet-Selch chastises. He hardly seems to notice Pfeil was even frightened, let alone that he was frightened of Emet-Selch's intentions. "Surely you do not wish to sleep in your armor — even for a knight brave and true, the idea is rather ridiculous, is it not?"

"I thought —" Pfeil does not know how to say what he thought, and he is not allowed to talk about it anyway, and the room is still spinning a little, lightly, the bed drifting gently as though suspended in water. "I don't like the windchime," he finishes.

Emet-Selch looks over his shoulder at the window; there is, rather predictably, no windchime there. "You have had entirely too much to drink, hero."

Pfeil is inclined to agree.

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