The Temple of Avandra in Kelnewar was really more of a hostel that happened to be run by a cleric of the goddess. Today it happend to be host to an extra priest, which its jovial halfling mistress thought was cause enough for celebration. The fact that it was Vedran's last night on the continent - only for now, he'd assured his cousin - just ensured that the liquor that would be flowing freely that evening was of higher quality than usual. They were expecting a host of friends and acquaintances to descend on the place before long to send the half-elf off in style, but in the calm before the storm, the place seemed particularly peaceful.
Merlyn sauntered in to the room his cousin had claimed, and thrust a drinking horn into his hands. "It doesn't matter which you wear, Ved, you'll look fine. No one is going to be sober long enough to appreciate your efforts. You aren’t going to be sober long enough to appreciate it, either. I promise you, they'll be carrying you unconscious on to that ship tomorrow and you'll be lucky if you make it back with even half your luggage."
Vedran frowned, eying the tunics he'd laid out on his bed, and bit his lip. Finally he sighed, taking a sip from the horn. He coughed and gagged as soon as the liquid hit the back of his throat, and Merlyn laughed. "I know you don't want me to go, Merl," he finally sputtered, sitting down and passing back the vessel, "But I didn't think you'd stoop to trying to kill me."
Merlyn made a face as he took a sip himself. "Going away gift," he gasped after a moment and passed it back "from your little friends in Oreas."
Vedran eyed it dubiously, then shrugged at Merlyn's gestures of encouragement. "The smugglers? How did they know I was leaving?" He took another sip - it wasn't quite as awful when he was expecting it, and he could already feel the warmth of it spreading out from his belly.
"Oh, they didn't, I've just been holding on to this. Special occasion and all." He grimaced through his second sip, then corked the horn and slung it over his shoulder. "I'll save the rest for later - but that stuff doesn’t keep well once it's opened, so we need to drink it all tonight. Better eat well at dinner."
"Wow, you really don't want me to leave do you." He grinned, picking up his blue tunic and smoothing out a few wrinkles before slipping it on over his head.
"It's not that I don't want you to go, Ved." The priest crossed his arms, leaning in the doorframe and looking thoughtful. "I just want to know that you've thought about what you're doing."
"Well.... My father said its time for me to come home, so there's really not that much to think about." He thought he managed to sound fairly blasé, but Merlyn was shaking his head.
"Of course there's something to think about. I really want you to listen to what I'm going to say - you know I'm never going to tell you what to do, or even what I think you should do. That's not what I'm here for. But I can't just let you leave, after five years, without understanding that you always have a choice."
Vedran made a face, but his cousin pressed on. "It's okay if you decide that this is what you want - that you want to go back to Nerath, to Highmark, and work for your father, serve him, do whatever he tells you is best for the family. Frankly, I find Jesseryn a little terrifying. I could never live like that. But he does have vision, and he wants what's best for you, after a fashion. He's worked hard to get the freedom he needs to pursue that vision, and I respect that even if I don't like how he binds others to him.
"But that's still a choice. I know that for all the strings attached, it’s a life that has a lot to offer you - money, power, prestige: those are all things that bring their own kind of liberty. But you can still walk away, and choose a harder life. You'll be poor, and you won't have a name that can open doors for you - but I hope that after five years here you've learned that you don't need that. You're a good person, and you're good with people. You'd get by okay. You have options, and staying in Ahkas is only one of them. Exercising that power to choose, your free will, is that gives your actions, and your life, meaning. That's what the Lady wants for us."
Vedran took a deep breath, thinking of his struggles to figure out who and what he was; who and what he wanted to be. "I understand," he said finally, looking earnestly up at his cousin. "At least, I think I do. And this is still what I want. My father is a good person, and I can still help people if I'm working for him, and have better power and resources to do it."
"Alright." Merlyn smiled. "Then let's go have dinner, and send you off in style."