Harken felt himself wake, but kept his eyes closed. He tightened his curl on the rocky roof. The cool material below him signalled the sun had not yet risen, and the dew was still yet to come. Then he heard the faint intake of breath from someone standing behind him. Harken’s eyes snapped open and he leapt to his feet, dropping into a wary crouch as he whirled around to the source.
The memories of the previous night flooded back to him in a sudden realisation as he looked over at the still resting form of Eran on the pile of cloths that served as her bed. Over on one side of it, the place opposite had been offered to Harken, but he hadn’t been able to sleep on the strange feeling nest, instead choosing to sleep on the hard floor close by.
He had taken up residence in one of the rooms of the warehouse abandoned by Elgen. Harken gave a weary look around at the equipment that still lay in there which had previously belonged to the foreman of the building.
A second realisation hit him. Harken rushed out of the room to look up through the skylights at the sun that was high in the air. He bit his lip in annoyance that he had allowed himself to forget something so important as gathering water for the day. Two sets of footsteps approached from the side to draw his attention.
“Really, you should be wearing a different face after our success last night,” he heard Niselt call out from behind him. Harken’s eyes narrowed as he turned to face the man. Niselt and Auron walked side by side. The latter had changed out of his armour and now wore a light jacket with a hood he could pull down to hide his face should he need to. He had also forgone the glasses, displaying his glowing blue eyes amongst his fellows.
“Still not talking to you,” Harken told the fiery haired, young man that was still dressed in his combat outfit, the ragged pieces still providing a mystery of how they were held together. Niselt opened his mouth to say something, however no sooner had the thought crossed his mind, he thought better of it. The Fire Pillar stood back to let Harken address Auron, his arms crossed as he turned away.
“You were worried about the morning mist, weren’t you?” Auron smiled at Harken, whose face darkened slightly as he mentally kicked himself again for forgetting. “Don’t worry, one of the perks of being friends with a Water Pillar, we can draw moisture from the fog, I’ve got you covered. There was a water tank on the roof of the warehouse, so I directed most of it there, you might have to look for where the tap for it is, though.”
“Speaking of, I haven’t really seen too many Water Pillars nowadays,” Niselt frowned, turning to look at Auron with an interested look in his eye. “I’d heard that Hunters were targeting them after the incident that wiped out Buhyat, seemed that they made them a priority.”
“I would have thought that the Hunters would have been more concerned about fire pillars that could destroy their weapons while they were still holding them,” Harken noted, his gaze still fixated on Auron, his comment the only acknowledgement of Niselt’s presence. The Fire Pillar made a small noise and looked at Auron for at least some sympathy, unfortunately there was none to be found.
“Well, fire pillars certainly are a concern, but when there’s a large gathering of water pillars…,” Auron began, but stuttered to a halt as he cast an alarmed look over to Niselt. “Wait, you know about what happened at Buhyat?”
“bits and pieces mostly,” Niselt shrugged. “I mean, it was a pretty big event, I’m sure a lot of people know more than me, but I’ve still heard the basics. Bunch of water pillars get together and cause a tidal wave from the lake to consume the city. Not much else to pay attention to.”
“Well, I suppose that’s the basics of things,” Auron began, a visible look of relief on his face. “I’d have thought that you would be a little more observant of their actions and downfall, though, for someone trying to start his own little resistance group.”
“I don’t know if you noticed, but I’m not really as studious as you,” Niselt commented casually, rolling the third last word around his mouth as if he was playing with it. “I don’t have access to any libraries or anything, so I can’t exactly look anything up, besides, I’m not the leader of this group anyway, so I don’t have to deal with any tactics or anything anyway.”
“I suppose that is something that I will have to talk to Niselt about,” Harken sighed, still directing his attention to Auron. “I never agreed to be a leader, so I wonder how he expects this group to function without one?”
“How old are you, exactly?” Niselt asked Harken as his frustration reached a new height. Harken shrugged at Auron without any sort of response towards the Fire Pillar.
“I think he’s still refusing to talk to you,” Auron pointed out, to which Niselt made a gesture at Harken’s back. He started to walk away, but paused when he noticed Eran exit out of the same door that Harken had.
“You didn’t-,” he began, but a single glare from her caused him to shut his mouth, the provocative tease dying in his throat. Catching a look from Auron, he muttered to himself before storming off to sulk to himself, unable to find anyone that would take his teases.
Harken began to walk away as well. He gave a yawn as he left, the lethargy of oversleeping still having a hold on his energy. As soon as he left, though, Auron turned to Eran with a raised eyebrow. The girl flushed a red at the almost accusing look.
“No, I did not,” she reaffirmed indignantly. She looked up at Auron, the redness still on her cheeks, but a defiance in her expression. “it was nice to be in someone’s company for once, nothing like that happened.”
“I wasn’t judging,” he shrugged, but Eran still squirmed under his scrutinising gaze. “I have no issue with who you pursue.”
“For some reason I don’t believe that completely,” she muttered, turning her eyes down to the ground. “The rest of the fire guys scare me, alright? They’re so full of energy, and it feels like I’m lacking something whenever I’m around them, but Harken, he’s probably the only one of us that displays less emotion than me, and I can relate to that.”
“Even though that may be the case, spending a night in someone’s room isn’t something to be take lightly, and no matter how much time you spent locked up by the Hunters, you should still know that,” Auron told her. “Remember, he’s a guy. Even if you don’t have those inclinations towards him, we’re a dumb species, and he could take it the wrong way.” Eran shrugged and leant against the railing which overlooked the lower area.
It seemed that a few of the fire pillar had remained, setting up their own blankets and belongings on the floor of the warehouse where the boxes had sat previously. They had moved the crates to make way, and the small treasure trove sat in a ring around them.
“I’ll tell him,” Eran sighed, feeling her face redden slightly, if it could have been possible. “it’s not something I can really bring up in a conversation lightly.” Auron shrugged, unable to stop himself from smiling at her sullenness.
“Oftentimes the most important conversations are,” he told her, beginning to walk away. She nodded and walked in the other direction. Passing the corner, she froze as she saw Harken leaning against one of the support columns, facing away from her.
“Did you hear?” she asked, unable to even face him as she felt herself turn an even darker shade of red. By now, she was embarrassed even just by the colour. He nodded and gestured upwards towards the roof.
“I’m heading up to catch the last of the morning breeze, mind joining me?” he asked, not waiting for her answer before heading towards the roof. Jogging to keep up, she maintained an awkward silence as she followed. Climbing the metal stairs that led to the roof, he pushed open the door. Harken was used to the warmth of the desert around them, and basked in the temperature as it swirled around them. Eran didn’t seem to be as acclimated to the heat, and winced from the sudden blast of heat to her face.
Harken raised his arms as he walked out to the centre of the roof. He waited expectantly, as a breeze began to stir. The sensation of the heat suddenly being replaced by a cool wind that played over his skin. Eran’s eyes widened as she felt the chilled humidity flow over her skin. It was an experience that Harken delighted in, one of his favourite rituals of the day.
“I never stopped to think about this when I was running,” she murmured.
“It’s definitely a highlight of my day,” Harken told her, turning to face the girl, his usually sharp gaze softer. “So, what did we need to talk about?” The sudden question startled Eran, and she looked over to see his eyes opened and facing her.
“I enjoy your company,” she said, another blush starting to rise in her cheeks. “I just wanted to make sure that you realise that I didn’t have any other intentions, I just wanted to be with a friend.”
“No other intentions at all?” Harken asked her. Immediately her skin turned a bright red and she opened her mouth to say something, but the words died in her throat. “Don’t worry, I’m just messing with you. I knew that you didn’t want anything from me, I’m of the same inclination.”
“You asshole,” Eran said, her voice exasperated as she shook her head and exhaled sharply. When he had initially spoken Eran had felt a seizing in her chest that now gradually subsided. Eran kept her position against the doorframe, but looked down the stairs. “So what now, then?”
“Honestly, I wasn’t really thinking of what to do next,” Harken shrugged. “I hadn’t really intended on getting into something long term, but it looks like Niselt has something else in mind. I’m wondering if I can just sneak off somewhere and leave the Fire Pillar to their own devices, but at the same time, I’m not so sure that Niselt will let me off that easily.”
“I kind of meant more between us,” Eran said hesitantly, still unwilling to bring up the subject again, but the closure it meant was motive enough.
“Oh, I thought that was settled,” Harken replied nonchalantly. It was clear that it didn’t bother him as much as it did her. “To be honest, I haven’t really had many friends in my lifetime, most people come and go too quickly for me to be able to form a proper relation with them. At the moment, even if I did want a relationship, I don’t think I would be able to. I want us to be friends.” Eran smiled and nodded, walking up to him and hugging the young man.
“Thank you,” Eran smiled. She let go of him awkwardly, still unused to the actions related to being close to someone, and began to head back down to where the others were. On her way, she paused. “I’m not sure I would be able to think of you that way anyway, the age difference is a little creepy.” Harken shrugged.
“Honestly I would have thought of you as a little sister before I could see you as a partner,” he told her. “But most people that live on the streets have a different mindset. I haven’t thought about it too much myself, but there’s a lot less pressure on differences between people, mostly you find someone who you think you can spend time with and then do so, often people out here don’t have enough time to care about anything else with the Hunters in power.”
“Still, kind of creepy,” she told him. “So, are you going to leave?”
“I don’t know,” Harken replied. “I want to, but at the same time, I’m not sure if I can.”
“Fate?” she asked, referring to the force that most of their kind believed in which pulled them towards the destinies which had been laid out for them. Harken just shrugged, his closed manner signalling the end of the conversation.
As Eran left, however, Solus pushed past her in order to make his way to Harken. Like Niselt, he still wore his combat gear, however he also carried his weapon with him as well. In all honesty, it made Harken feel a little nervous. He didn’t trust the man, and it seemed that Solus didn’t trust him either.
Now that they were out of the moment, though, Harken was able to take stock of the man’s armour. While it looked to have similar patterns, and seemed to be made of similar materials, the design of the armour was completely different.
Niselt’s looked to be scrapped together without care, but Solus’ was on par with an actual smith’s work. It was built for actual combat, rather than a ritualistic passage into their groups brethren. The heavy plates seemed to glow underneath form the light of Solus’ runes, and it made it uncomfortable for Harken, who was still wary of the man.
“So you were thinking of leaving,” Solus stated, staring down Harken. The young man looked back up at him blankly, not letting the slight emotion show. He knew that the man had no desire to let his position at the head of the Fire Pillar to be superseded, and that he wanted any ammunition at all that would help him retain that hold over his people
“It was an idea that came to mind,” he replied, his tone pleasant. “Was there any reason that you had a concern over my actions?”
“I think it might be for the best,” Solus told him bluntly. Harken had to give him credit where it was due, the man did not beat around the bush, however whether that was a good quality or not depended on the situation.
“I’m not so sure,” Harken replied, looking back at him. A part of him was truthful, but another felt a little bit of annoyance at the abrasive attitude that the man held towards him. “At the very least, I seem to be finding some people which I enjoy spending my time with, which hasn’t happened very often before.”
“Niselt has been showing signs of wanting to give you the responsibility of leading us, do you really think you have what it takes?” Solus asked. “There will be sacrifices, decisions that will benefit the group that might not sit well with you.”
“Don’t know,” Harken told him shortly. “I might not be as strong as you, or any of the others, but if Niselt sees something in me, maybe there’s a reason for it.” Solus’ eyes narrowed, and Harken felt his muscles tense as the larger man took a step towards him.
“Niselt is still a child,” Solus said coldly, now no longer veiling his displeasure. It seemed that he didn’t appreciate how much sway that Niselt held over the group. “He makes decisions without thinking, that was probably his reasoning for dodging the responsibilities of a high rank Fire Pillar.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be leaving,” Harken told him. If nothing else, it was now spite that drove him. It might have been petty, but it was satisfying to watch the man’s face twist in frustration. “Even if I don’t take leadership, I told you before that I don’t remember being surrounded by so many people that I could call friends, even if it is a trivial number to you. I want to be there for them, so I don’t think I will leave until they do.”
“Just remember that this is not the work of Fate, merely two stubborn children that refuse to see where their places are,” Solus snapped. Harken saw that his words were empty, only a way to vent his frustration. He didn’t retort, satisfied with what he had said.
The violet man began to walk away from the rooftop, the soft breeze no longer having its soothing effect. It seemed that the second man’s presence had caused the atmosphere to stale and become unpleasant.