The reward money for capturing Waylon was more than enough. Ayen had seen the number on the posters, but to actually hold the weight of it in his hands had shattered his reality. Maybe he had lived in a palace once, but he had never held that kind of coin before.
The first of it was used to pay off Keyleth's debt. Ayen went with her to deliver the fee. Earl Tybee had grumbled, but called her debt clear before shooing them from the vineyard and all of its rubble.
The rest was put into a townhouse on the edge of Greeley. It wasn't the nicest part of the district where manors and mansions sat behind tall gates, but for West Catoig it was safe and clean.
Ayen made himself comfortable on the second floor in the master suite and gave the rooms downstairs to Keyleth. He didn't know what to do with them anyway. The young woman seemed bursting with happiness, but the only time Ayen smiled was when the sound of her lyre cast a charm over him. Underneath the enchantment, he still drowned in guilt. Was it worth it?
He asked himself again and again, was it worth it?
Waylon Wood, the Angel, a thief and murderer and assassin was behind bars. Didn't he belong there? Wouldn't his execution save lives? Ayen wasn't sure he could live with any more blood on his hands. Yet, he still wasn't sure that was what bothered him. He felt like he had betrayed a friend.
Ayen had never been a match for Waylon. Ayen had no real training in combat. All of his skill lied in sneaking and hiding, running when under attack. Waylon could have killed him in a dozen different moments and he hadn't. Surely he regretted it now. Surely anything that had been between them was shattered. Perhaps that was what he felt, heartbreak. Had he loved him?
I do hope you'll bring flowers to my grave, Ayen Fenfir.
"Only the prettiest flowers for you, Waylon," Ayen said to himself. His mood was terribly sour.
"Ayen?" Keyleth knocked at the open doorway. Her form blocked the light coming in and he realized he had never opened the curtains.
"Come in," he answered. He didn't look at either of them, but he heard Smudge's feet slapping the stone floor. His feathery head pushed against his calf.
"You haven't eaten anything today." She sounded much different than Ayen was used to. Keyleth was usually chipper and assertive. Today she sounded hesitant. Ayen sighed. He hadn't meant to pull her down into his misery.
"I'll eat soon, I promise. You should go out today. I'm sure you miss your friends."
"I can see them any time. You look like you could use a friend." He felt a hand on his shoulder and he finally turned to face her. Keyleth gave him a hesitant smile. It wasn’t right for her to stay here cooped up so he didn’t have to be alone while he pouted.
"Perhaps we should take a walk," he said.
Keyleth nodded, seeming more genuine in her smile now. "I think that's a great idea."
She ended up forcing an apple into his hands before they went out the door. It was so odd stepping out into Greeley. Everyone, including them, was dressed in the nicest clothes of bright colors and tight fabrics. No one wore rags or loose fitting hand-me-downs. No one begged for food or coin. There was no visible suffering here. Unless you knew where to look.
Ayen saw the sad faces of servants and slaves. Though they dressed them well, they were under fed and the smiles they offered passersby who looked their way never met their eyes. Well kept buildings and towering walls spoke of wealth, but what Ayen saw was misery wrapped in a bow.
He offered his arm to Keyleth as a good gentleman might. They walked past well polished merchants with carts of fresh fruit and colorful fabrics. He watched a woman buy a handkerchief in the colors of orc-ish face paint and he considered how far removed from reality these people were. He was willing to bet not one of them had met an orc before and so would have no idea that cyan, teal, and pink were the colors they stripped their cheeks in. Ayen remembered it as if it were another life. Someone else's life. He remembered the pure blooded elves that wore the colors of the earth and the half bloods who wore brown. He remembered the half-orcs who were considered too unintelligent to care much at all about what they wore. Yet, the half-elves made brown beautiful with braided twine and clay beads. The orcs painted their faces in the paints they made from the plants. He who had been a child who belonged to no one was treated as family by both. He had worn the browns of the half-elves and the paints of the orcs and he’d run barefoot through the fields with their children.
And then he’d killed them all.
Or at least, it was his fault they were all gone.
Just like Waylon.
"Ayen?" Keyleth called to him gently. "You've gone pale."
"I don't feel well," he said. He felt unsteady and sick. Nothing in his mind made sense.
"Let's go see a healer," Keyleth said.
"No, I'm sure I just need rest."
"Well I won't be able to rest, myself, until I know that you're okay. So we're going to see a healer and that's that." She turned her chin up, dismissing any more argument.
Smudge quacked his agreement before headhbutting his heel. Ayen sighed. "Fine, if you'll shut up about it after that."
"Come on, grumpy pants." Keyleth linked their arms together again and led him down the road. It was somehow much easier to breathe away from Greeley which seemed impossible as they reached East Wood and grew closer to the factories on the edge of town.
Keyleth dragged him all the way to Margot's door and knocked rapidly until she answered. She looked annoyed until she saw Keyleth, which Ayen did not have the energy to puzzle out. He pushed past them both and made himself at home on the couch.
"Good to see you, Ayen," Margot said with a roll of her eyes. "What's going on?" She let Keyleth and Smudge in and closed the door.
"Keyleth is just being dramatic. That's all."
The woman huffed. "You're the one pouting and acting faint. I think he has hysteria."
Margot giggled. "Is that so? What seems to be the problem?"
Ayen couldn't be bothered to speak. He flopped himself down sideways and let Keyleth do whatever it was she felt that she needed to.
"He's been like this since we captured that assassin guy,” she divulged.
"Waylon Wood?" Margot's voice pitched up with surprise.
Ayen rolled his eyes. "It's not a big deal."
"Of course it's a big deal, Ayen. Every time you come in here the first words on your lips are ‘Waylon Wood’' or ‘that damned angel’. I'm surprised you actually went through with it."
"Oh, I get it now," Keyleth said. Ayen grabbed a pillow and he covered his face with it. "You two have a history."
"It's nothing like that," he said from beneath the pillow. He stared furiously at the rose and vine pattern of the material.
"If you're that bothered, we could go and break him out," Keyleth suggested.
"That's a terrible idea!" Margot said. "Not only is that illegal, but do you have any idea how many people Wood has murdered? He’s exactly where he should be."
Ayen wished he could agree. That was exactly how he should feel, but instead he just felt bad. An inexplicable bad that he wasn’t sure how best to name or maybe he didn’t want to put a name to it.
Keyleth shrugged. "He can't be that bad if Ayen likes him," she said. Then she whispered, "He's a bit soft, I think."
Ayen sat up and threw the pillow at her. "I am not." He stared at the floor, his lips pressed in a thin line.
"Kinda cute when he pouts," Margot said. Ayen shot her a glare, but she was unshaken. "Why don't I whip something up? You two must be hungry. It's nearly dinner now anyway."
Ayen sat petulant and pouting, curled up with his arms around his legs. Keyleth didn't have her lyre with her, but she picked up a fiddle of Margot's and played a tune while she cooked. Ayen found it deeply irritating how the two of them giggled and bonded while he was busy sulking. He knew he could just go home, but the truth was that he didn't want to be alone.
Smudge ended up in his lap at some point and Ayen didn't push him away. It was comforting to stroke his white and gray feathers. He calmed a bit once Margot brought out the whiskey.
He drank far too much and was left leaning on Keyleth for support when they finally went home. He curled into bed under finer sheets than he had known in many years. Sinking into the mattress, he heard the sound of the alarm bells ringing out across the guard’s towers throughout the city. Cruel hope came to him then, but surely those bells weren't for Waylon. Surely he hadn't escaped.
Ayen Fenfir is no common elf, but that won't stop him from pretending to be one as he tries to hide from his past. Life as a criminal isn't easy, but when Ayen sees the bounty for turning in an assassin, known as 'The Angel', he finds himself caught between romance and a chance to retire from his life of crime. 'Don't try your luck in West Catoig' is what they always say, but Ayen has yet to discover just how unlucky West Catoig is for its more humble citizens.