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An unexplored appreciation

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Drugs. That’s what Tristan needed right now. Drugs. Alcohol. Sex. Maybe not in that order.

He had escaped his father’s study at last, grateful that the Autumn King hadn’t been there to order him to follow through on this plan. There would’ve been no getting around a direct request from the King. Tristan knew he was on borrowed time.

He shouldered his way past the villa guards, shoved his hands in his pockets and tried not to let the Earth rumble beneath his feet as he walked his frustration and unhappiness off in the direction of his home near the Old Square.

Burning Solas. He was used to his father’s stupid schemes, which mostly circled the drain a few times before disappearing like another bottle of wine. Involving the Autumn King was another matter. This was his life. His friends. His fucking heart.

Tristan didn’t want to go home. He wanted to disappear. He didn’t want Ruhn to see what the Autumn King and Lord Hawthorne had been plotting etched across his face. He ducked into Sibylline, an upscale wine bar, known for its soft lighting and hushed conversations. It was a date spot -- and Tristan didn’t date -- so it was also the last place anyone would recognize the Aux’s best sharpshooter, legendary partier, and future Lord Hawthorne.

He knew it was the training drilled into him that had him sliding into a seat at the end of the bar, back to the wall, eyes scanning the rest of the room for any threat before he would allow himself to relax. But, relaxing wouldn’t be enough tonight, he needed the intoxicating emptiness of oblivion.

“What can I get you,” asked a pretty daemonaki with a curling pixie cut twining around her horns. Well, here’s one route to oblivion, thought Tristan.

“Something strong,” he ground out.

“Not the usual request we get around here,” she responded as she gave him a once-over. “I wouldn’t be a good bartender if I didn’t ask -- do you want to talk about it?”

“Hel no.” 

She blinked and turned away, returning moments later with a green shot on a cocktail napkin that also had two pills on it. 

“One to make you forget,” whispered the daemonaki leaning in close. “One to make you feel.”

“Which is which?”

“Where would the fun be in that?”

He nodded at her and scooped the pills into one hand the shot into the other. Fuck it. He downed them all together and leaned against the wall behind him, waiting for them to do their work.

Tristan had spent the last seven decades avoiding getting caught up in one of his father’s messy plans. He wasn’t hypocritical enough to deny that being the future Lord Hawthorne held certain perks, but he was also smart enough to realize that inheriting wealth and power meant nothing without a solid foundation behind it. Tristan had long ago come to the realization that the only thing to be found in his father’s foundation was probably a wine cellar.

So, he threw himself into his work with the Aux, never missing a training session. He visited the Fae Archives to understand more about his Earth magic, which hadn’t been seen in generations, and he practiced his magic so that he could wield his gifts with expert deadliness. All done under the guise of leading a life of utter dissolution and irresponsibility -- which if he was honest, wasn’t a terrible burden. Drifting through his days with Ruhn and Declan Emmet, had yet to get boring after all these decades. If his life seemed aimless to an outsider, it was by design, because he was motivated by a singular aim -- avoiding his family responsibilities.

Tristan stared at the twinkling Fae lights above the bar and felt the drugs begin to take hold of his mind. Thank fucking Urd. He relaxed for the first time in hours and let himself be carried along on wherever this high would take him. Perhaps, he thought languidly, into the arms of the pretty daemonaki bartender. 

He barely registered the sound of the door to Sibylline opening, bells merrily tinkling. But, panic cut through the burgeoning haze of the drugs and gripped his heart as someone with a familiar sheet of red hair and an unforgettable figure walked in with the Queen of the Valbaran Witches. He couldn’t tell if the drugs were making him hallucinate the person that had been on his mind all evening. But, then why would Hypaxia be in his hallucination? Tristan melted into the wall and wished for Ruhn’s shadows to hide him further.

His mind racing, he focused on the twinkling Fae lights, pulled along by the effective drugs into the current of a memory he thought he had pushed down deep inside him. A memory he hadn’t dared examine closely. Or soberly. A memory from years earlier … when he had run into Danika Fendyr and Bryce Quinlan at the White Raven … and he’d almost ruined everything.