He should have known trouble was brewing. It had started years ago. Vaarsuvius had been very young, just beginning to outgrow childhood. Her parents, Aula and Tiberius, were… inattentive, and had failed to notice that their daughter was growing out of her clothing, that the robe she currently wore clung to her slender body, advertising the beginnings of breasts. He’d swallowed hard, and told himself that the emotion rising in his chest was simple indignation at her parent’s failure to notice that Vaarsuvius was growing up.
The next hint of trouble came years later. Perhaps still slightly disturbed by her growing adulthood, he had been pushing his apprentice into a relationship with his nephew, Inkyrius. But when he’d returned from an errand to find the two at opposite ends of the couch, blushing furiously and straightening mussed hair and clothing, instinct had taken over.
He’d dragged his nephew out of the tower, and lectured Vaarsuvius about choices and waiting to make them until adulthood, then sent her home. He’d told himself that it was parental instinct. No father wanted any reminders that his daughter would someday stop being his little girl, and he saw Suvie as his daughter, that was all. It was after the two teenagers had left that he’d realized that Vaarsuvius hadn’t quite managed to get her bra on, and had left it in his living room. He’d never got around to returning it.
A little while after that incident, Aarindarius had attended a party hosted by Aula, in honor of Tiberius’ birthday. He’d gotten drunk, and while he couldn’t remember the exact words, he told a friend about how beautiful Vaarsuvius was, and how much he loved her. At any rate, Vaarsuvius had arrived a few minutes late for lessons the next day, a slightly perturbed look on her face.
“Suvie, what’s wrong? Are you feeling well?”
The young elf started. “It’s nothing. My parents gave me “The Talk” this morning.”
“Oh.” Aarindarius felt a flush clawing its way onto his face. “I thought you knew that already.”
Vaarsuvius sighed. “It was the ‘Your Right To Say No’ talk. For whatever reason, they felt it necessary to remind me that the act of sex should be consensual, and that I have the right to reject unwanted advances, no matter who they come from.” She rolled her eyes to emphasize the idiocy of her parents.
“Oh. That talk.” He struggled for a few moments, and unable to think of a response, and unable to think of a suitable one, quickly changed the subject. Tiberius arrived slightly before the set end time of the lessons to walk her home. It was something he hadn’t done since his daughter was a very small child, but the glare he shot at Aarindarius made his reasons for escorting her very clear.
And Aula was no better. Every time he walked past their house on his way into town, she was sitting on the front porch, humming and polishing her bow.
For a while, those constant reminders worked. He knew that Suvie was off limits, and whatever feelings and thoughts he had about her would have to remain just that; feelings and thoughts. He was entitled to them, so long as he didn’t act on them in any way.
And for a long time, he was able to keep his thoughts to himself. He made a point of attending events that Suvie and Kyrie were attending as a couple, to remind himself of how young and in love they were. And of course, knowing that Suvie’s parents wouldn’t think twice about hurting him in terrible, confusing ways if he were to make so much as one lewd comment to their daughter was also an effective deterrent.
One rainy afternoon, he sat alone in the tower, lost in research. He had dozed off when a knock on the door forced him into response. It was, of course, Vaarsuvius. “I apologize for my lateness, Master. My mother insisted that you would not be expecting me because of the rain, and when I was finally permitted to leave, I was greatly delayed by the rain.”
“Suvie, where is your common sense? You’re soaked to the bone! You should not have walked all this way in the rain.”
“I am sorry, Master.”
Aarindarius sighed. “I did not mean to be overly harsh. Instead of continuing to drip water on my carpet, go into the spare bedroom and dry off. I believe I have a spare set of robes.” She nodded, and left.
Sighing, Aarindarius cleared the table of his work materials, and pulled a few books down from the shelf, not really bothering to check the spines. He sat down and waited for Vaarsuvius, who took a few more minutes to emerge from the spare room, tugging at the collar of the robe, which was far too big, and slipping down.
The lesson began, and the sun set behind the rain clouds. Vaarsuvius’ hair had and had fallen in front of her face. The rain showed no signs of stopping, and Aarindarius could not, in good conscience, force his apprentice to walk home again in the rain. V had settled on the couch with a few of the books they had been studying, and Aarindarius had been distracting himself by making coffee, which unfortunately, is really not that lengthy of a process.
Ten minutes later, he was back in the living room, trying not to stare at the younger elf’s exposed skin. The silence was increasingly awkward for Aarindarius. He said the first thing that came to mind. “Do your parents know where you are?”
“What? O-Of course.”
“Suvie. You’re lying,” he said quietly.
“No I’m not! They know exactly where I am!”
“Look me directly in the eyes and tell me the truth.”
“My parents know where I am.”
“No. You’re not looking directly at me Suvie. Get your hair our of your eyes.”a In any other species, the act of a teacher tucking a student’s unkempt hair behind their ears would have been an innocent, if slightly condescending gesture. But elves being elves, it had a slightly different effect.
He’d meant it innocently, he really had. But when Vaarsuvius’ breath caught ever so slightly at his touch, he couldn’t resist pulling his apprentice a little closer so he had freer access to her ears. Before the thinking part of his mind had time to respond, he was stroking Vaarsuvius’ ears, an act considered so intimate, mentioning it in public was viewed as a violation of the privacy of every couple within earshot.
With a thud, the thinking part of his mind kicked into full gear. “Oh Gods!” He pushed Vaarsuvius away, noting the look of mixed fear, shock, and pleasure on her face. She wonderingly touched her ears, as if checking to ensure they were still attached to her body.
“Get out!” Vaarsuvius made no sign of having heard him, and sat, stunned. “GO! NOW!” She jumped, and fled, hands still over her ears. Aarindarius slammed the door behind her, still panicking. He had officially lost control of himself, and was going to be run out of town sometime within the next few hours. Distractedly, he packed a suitcase, and went to wait for the enraged parents on his porch. While he waited, he lit a pipe, and tried to make sense of his infatuation with his best friend’s daughter.
He sat for hours, watching the rain thin and the stars appear, one by one. He must have fallen asleep, because suddenly, it was day. He realized he was both still alive and within county limits. He regarded this as a minor triumph, but he was confused. Was there a possibility Suvie hadn’t told her parents?
This both delighted and repulsed him. He’d known that Suvie and her parents weren’t very close, but to not tell them about being assaulted? The prospect was equally horrifying and relieving.
Monday came too quickly. Aarindarius hadn’t heard from Suvie or her parents all weekend. He nervously set up for a lesson, and waited. It wouldn’t surprise him if she didn’t show. Quite frankly, if she did show up, he would be stunned.
He had given up and packed away his books when there was a knock at the door. It wasn’t the gentle, polite, knock of his apprentice. It was the impatient, demanding knock of his friend. Filled with trepidation, he opened the door.
Tiberius didn’t seem to notice his hand shaking on the doorframe. “Darius, I’m sorry.”
“W-What?” Whatever he’d been expected, this wasn’t it.
“For the accident. As is Vaarsuvius. Right, Suvie?” He gave his daughter a stern look, and she nodded mutely.
“Oh. Well, it wasn’t that important, and I-“
“Don’t make excuses for her, Darius. If she broke a window, she needs to replace it. I hope the storm didn’t cause too much damage.”
Aarindarius let out a slow breath. “It’s alright. I managed to get everything dried out.”
“That’s good.” He counted out a few coins. “This should be enough to pay for a replacement window, but please tell me if it’s not enough. Suvie, apologize.”
She mouthed her apologies, and her father nodded, said he’d be there to pick her up at the usual time, then set off. Vaarsuvius walked in and sat down at the oak kitchen table, never looking up from her feet.
Aarindarius really wasn’t sure how to start the conversation. He knew that the conversation needed to occur, and that putting it off would make things even more awkward and frightening for both of them.
Steeling himself, he sat across the table from his apprentice. “Vaarsuvius, why did you lie to your parents?” No response.
“I understand if you want to terminate your apprenticeship.” No response.
He took a deep breath and tried again. “You have every right to hate me.”
“But I don’t!” She seemed surprised at her own outburst. “I mean… I should. I know I should. It’s just that… It was… exciting. It felt nice.”
“Suvie, that doesn’t make the fact I groped you acceptable.”
“But… I don’t mind. I really don’t.”
Aarindarius put his head in his hands. Somehow, this was worse than being beaten to within an inch of his life by irate parents. He needed a drink.
“Suvie…” He had no clue how to continue that sentence. What he wanted to say was, “I love you, and I want you in the worst possible way, but that does not change the fact I am your teacher, your father’s best friend, and nearly thee times older than you, but I will wait for you if you will have me.” Somehow, that didn’t seem like the appropriate thing to say in the situation. What he wound up saying was, “I think you and Kyrie should get married.”
“I think you and Kyrie should get married.” He’d said it, and there was no taking it back.
“Why not? He loves you.” What followed was one of the most awkward silences he’d ever been a part of.
After a long time, Vaarsuvius said, “Does he really?” in a very small voice.
“Yes, of course.” It was the first time he’d ever felt good about lying to his apprentice.
Vaarsuvius said a very dirty word that roughly translated from High Elven as “Forced Anal-Penetration.” As foreign as the word sounded coming from her, Aarindarius did not comment on it, instead choosing to offer comfort by reaching across the table and patting her on the hand. Instead of shying away from his touch, Vaarsuvius took his hand, and met his eyes for the first time that day.
The gesture seemed to surprise both of them. Another silence followed, this one awkward for different reasons than the first silence had been.
“…Darius?” Said Vaarsuvius timidly.
“Will you kiss me?”
He should have refused, should have reminded her that they were still a teacher and student, no matter what either of them wanted. But, of course, he didn’t. He silenced the thinking part of his brain, and obliged her.
They spent the rest of the day talking and kissing. Neither of them could quite believe that this was really happening. For Darius, it was the fulfillment of several long-standing fantasies, and for Vaarsuvius, it was just plain surreal.
The summer passed in a flurry of stolen kisses and lazy days with noting to do but make love. There was no denying that the newfound sexuality had changed both of them. Aarindarius relaxed, and began lapsing into the mischievous, rakish, sex-crazed teenager he’d been nearly two centuries ago.
The changes in Vaarsuvius were subtler, more complex, and far more dangerous. She had never been an extroverted person, but she was withdrawing even further, bewildering her family and friends, and especially Kyrie.
The changes were hardest on Kyrie. Vaarsuvius was a different elf. Gone was the attentive, affectionate if restrained girlfriend. In her place was a surly, distant person who couldn’t stand being touched. Kyrie was befuddled by these changes, and believed it was something he’d done, and responded by clinging.
Her parents weren’t stupid. They saw she was pushing Kyrie away, but their questions were met with slammed doors, melodramatic sighs, and outright hostility. Hoping it was just a phase; they decided to give her space.
This was the last thing she needed. More than anything, Vaarsuvius wanted to be able to collapse in her parents’ arms, sobbing, and have them stroke her hair and promise everything would be alright, like they did when she was little. She had no clue how to ask for this, and her mood soured further.
The only person she let through her cloud of isolation was Aarindarius, who didn’t seem to be aware of the changes in his apprentice. He didn’t hear her cry alone in her room after they made love. He didn’t see the desperation in her eyes while she sat sullenly through family meals, starving for normal, loving, platonic contact with an adult.
She was dimly aware that she had a made a mistake in having a relationship with her teacher, but she didn’t know how to end it. Everything was awkward and frightening, and too much to deal with alone. She couldn’t tell her parents, they wouldn’t understand. Kyrie wouldn’t know any better than she did, and you couldn’t exactly ask your significant other for romantic advice for your affair with a teacher. And asking Aarindarius himself was simply out of the question.
She was alone.
Completely and utterly alone.
People just aren’t equipped to make good choices when they’re that overwhelmed and strung-out.
It was her mother who found her, slumped in her desk chair, covered in blood. Most people would have taken a moment to scream, faint, or run for help. There are certain times when panicking is a viable option. This was not one of them.
What was a good option was calling for her husband, and carrying their daughter through town to the local cleric’s, ignoring the neighbors who were justifiably curious about why a respectable couple was carrying their unconscious child down the street in broad daylight.
Gossip travels fast in a small town, and Ivyleaf was no exception. Within minutes, Aarindarius was running full-tilt from his tower. All he’d heard was that Vaarsuvius had been killed. While he was usually not one to pay much attention to rumors, the nature of this one meant he was willing to take a chance at looking like an idiot.
By the time he got there, a crowd had gathered around the cleric’s. His heart sank farther and farther as he forced his way through the mass of people. There were many, many more people than he had originally thought, all talking and whispering. The word “suicide” was mentioned far too many times for his taste, but it only renewed his drive to figure out what was happening.
The epicenter of the crowd was a very pale Vaarsuvius, her stony-faced parents speaking quietly to the cleric, while the cleric’s apprentice tried ineffectually to disperse the crowd.
“No, really, people. Leave them be, it’s time to head home-“ They stopped when they saw Aarindarius. “Oh. It’s you. You’re one of the people I’m not supposed-“
“No one really knows. They just found her, unconscious in her room. She slit her wrists, but when she passed out, she fell on herself in a way that helped cut off the blood flow, so she didn’t die. We’ve healed her up, but we’re not waking her up just yet.” This was not enough information, but it was everything the apprentice seemed to know. The master cleric was seemed to know more, but refused to share any details. Vaarsuvius’ parents were too shaken to talk. Inkyrius had already left. He’d said he couldn’t stand just sitting around, needed to get fresh air, needed to think.
Eventually, with some help from the master cleric and a rather large dog, the apprentice managed to shoo away the crowd. Watching three people sit ashen-faced around what looked like a corpse was not very interesting. If they wanted to do that, there were several reputable funeral parlors within a few hours’ walk.
For a while, everything was quiet. It was, after all, a vigil at the bedside of a family member in a coma. Panicky silence was too be expected.
What wasn’t expected, though, was for a clearly enraged teenaged elf to burst in, tackle his uncle, and attempt to beat him up.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” shouted Aula as she pulled the young elf off his uncle. The cleric pulled Aarindarius to his feet, a healing spell at the ready. Darius brushed the cleric off.
Kyrie lunged again, but Aula didn’t loose her grip. “LET! GO! OF! ME!”
“Inkyrius, what is going on?” Aarindarius wiped his mouth off on his sleeve. He had a split lip, and, judging by the sensitivity in his eye, a good-sized bruise.
“HE HURT HER!”
“What? Calm down and explain exactly what’s happening.” Tiberius said soothingly. Of the three adults, he was the most levelheaded. Kyrie didn’t respond, didn’t take his eyes off of Aarindarius, but handed Aula a slip of paper that had been clenched in his fist.
As she read it, her expression changed to pure fury. She probably would have beaten Aarindarius to a bloody pulp, if not for the intervention of the deceptively strong cleric. By a now, a crowd was forming again, while the apprentice futilely cleared their throat and insisted that there was nothing to see.
Tiberius picked up the slip of paper, and read it. Unfortunately for Aarindarius, there was no one left to hold him back, but fortunately for him, he really wasn’t the sort to physically beat up an old friend. Instead, his face lost all emotion. Mechanically, he handed the piece of paper to Aarindarius.
It was a suicide note.
It said that he was the reason she was killing herself.
At that moment, the cleric’s grip on Aula weakened. It was decided it was probably safer for all involved to not pull her off of Aarindarius.
Some years later, Vaarsuvius and Aarindarius’ ill-fated love affair was all but forgotten. The former had been off adventuring for a few years. The latter hadn’t been seen in the town of Ivyleaf for years. No one talked about it any more.
Vaarsuvius and Inkyrius had decided that a relationship that could weather something like that could endure anything. They wouldn’t prove themselves wrong for some time yet, so for a while, all was well.
None of the members of the Order Of The Stick knew much about the mage to begin with, and what little they did know was fairly basic. Married, two children, second most likely to snap and kill everyone in the party.
But those where the things they did know. There were a great many things they half-knew, and speculated at length about, including gender, the questions related to questioning someone’s gender, and the source of the scars criss-crossing their wrists. After a long time, they decided there were just some things they didn’t need to know.
Sometimes, it’s better to leave the past forgotten.