Part 6 - And Here Begins a Lifetime of Pranks
(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)
A strange sound close by Cyneric's head woke him the next morning. Opening his eyes, he saw that he was practically nose-to-nose with a small brown mouse that was sitting on his chest and chittering. He blinked at it in surprise a few times; he was more startled that an animal had already located him than at finding one there, however. "Good morning, little guy. How'd you get up here?" he asked it through a yawn.
As he sat up and moved the mouse into his hand, it chattering away in its rodent language all the while, he noticed there were a few bugs on the blanket, as well. That's rather odd, he thought to himself, but shrugged. A mouse showing up to have a morning conversation wasn't particularly strange, but bugs were new. Transferring the mouse onto his shoulder, he scooped the stray bugs into his hands and got out of bed, asking them in a soft voice how they ended up in here. He didn't expect an answer, but it had become instinct to talk to small critters, even the crawly ones.
It wasn't until Cyneric had walked over to the window to set the insects free that he noticed three of the other kids standing in the room, eying him in what looked like confusion mixed with amusement. One was a blond boy who had probably been the youngest acolyte until yesterday, another was a slightly older dark haired girl, and the third was the half-elf Cyneric had noticed the day before. He looked to be about fourteen, but with elves and half-elves, who can tell? With all those eyes on him, especially the uncannily bright green ones belonging to the elf, Cyneric became embarrassed, assuming that they had heard him speaking to the bugs; he didn't have a good track record for people reacting well to that kind of thing. He felt himself blush even more when they failed to say anything. I hate being the center of attention, so why are they here? They had to see how uncomfortable he was as he looked from the mouse to the floor, not daring to make eye contact.
Finally the younger boy broke the awkward silence and said simply, "Well, that backfired."
That got Cyneric to finally look at them from behind a curtain of black hair. "What?" That didn't even make any sense. He wondered if he should doubt the other boy's sanity, but realized he probably had no room to talk judging from the mouse perched on his shoulder like a parrot.
The older boy- the half-elf... what was his name? Something with an 'R', right?- looked sheepish. "We thought ye'd be afraid of them." He had an odd accent and spoke with something of a brogue, and, while understandable, still didn't make any sense.
Perplexed, Cyneric asked, "Come again?"
The girl ever-so-helpfully commented without elaboration, "The bugs and rat."
At the same time Cyneric and the half-elf corrected her by chiming in "It's a field mouse". They looked at each other in surprise but the human could tell that the other's was cheerful astonishment by the fact that he was trying to hide a grin behind his hand. Without thinking, Cyneric had defaulted to what his brother referred to as "annoyingly know-it-all", so he was glad to see that grin since it meant they likely weren't going to take offense.
Still not understanding, the newest acolyte asked, "Why should a mouse and an assortment of insects frighten me?"
"We heard you were … um..." the girl fumbled for a word to use here.
"Rich," the younger boy immediately supplied.
"Lyle!" That was obviously not the word she'd been looking for. Or possibly it was the word she had been diplomatically trying to avoid.
The boy shrugged. "What? Elli is and she's afraid of 'em."
She rolled her eyes in an exasperated manner. "Still, that's not polite, you know."
The half-elf meanwhile looked at the other two in amusement and explained further, "We thought it'd be a good prank t'hit ye with."
The girl shrugged. "Not the best try, I'll admit, but Lyle thought it would work."
"Hey, it should have!"
The half-elf and girl were both now rolling their eyes, but didn't actually seem upset at him. Cyneric began to get the feeling that those two didn't often go along with Lyle's ideas, but liked to humor him. Needless to say, he wasn't feeling so shy or embarrassed anymore, thinking the three were more comedy act than threat, even to someone so introverted. "You mean you thought I'd be afraid of a little mouse and some insects because I'm from an aristocratic family?"
"Possibly?" Now it was the girl's turn to look sheepish.
Cyneric pretended to eye the mouse suspiciously and said to it, "Are you in on this, too? You're not actually a rat in disguise, are you?" He was rewarded with more chittering as a reply, not that he knew if it was agreeing or not, but it was well-placed chittering at least.
He gave a small smile, trying to be friendly but being rather at a loss as to how to go about doing so; this was the most social interaction he'd had in... well, ever. "I guess next time you know not to get me this way." An idea occurred to him and he added, "If animals and such work on this Elli, perhaps I can help you catch them in the future? I'd imagine toads would function well."
The trio gave almost identical roguish grins and Cyneric couldn't help breaking into laughter. Maybe it won't be so hard to fit in here? As if echoing his thoughts, the older boy told him, "I think ye'll fit in jus' fine. Anyone who starts off wanting t'prank Elli is welcome in my book."
Cyneric grinned and handed him the mouse. "Would I be correct in assuming this is yours?" The animal acted more like a pet than something wild and he knew it was unlikely that field mice would be living in a city church. He supposed it was rather species-ist to assume an odd pet belonged to an elf, but sure enough, as soon as the mouse was in his hand, it scampered up his arm and onto his shoulder, where it promptly began to chew on one of his long braids.
The boy chuckled and asked "Are ye sure you're not pulling our legs and are actually a really young ranger?"
The baffled look the young human gave him caused him to laugh and he added, "'Tis strange, is all." Noticing Cyneric's returning embarrassment, he thankfully changed the subject. "Ye've probably forgotten all our names- I know I couldn't keep track when I got here. I'm Raff." Ah, so it is an 'R' name! Cyneric thought. Raff gestured towards the door, through which the other boy had already wandered off through during the mouse exchange, "That numskull was Lyle."
Here the girl added her introduction, "And I'm Liz. Pay no mind to Lyle- he doesn't mean to be rude but... the boy has no attention span."
Cyneric shrugged. "Not a problem. Okay, Raff, Lyle, Liz. Well, that's a start and hopefully I will remember what name goes with who."
Liz grinned back. "As long as you don't think either of us are Lyle, you'll be fine."
Cyneric smiled, mirroring their impish grins without realizing. "Ah, so you don't want to be mistaken for him. I see." Being who he was, though, he couldn't help asking about the mouse. "Now, does the mouse have a name, or is that going to make this name thing even more confusing?"
"Of course she has a name," Raff answered as he stroked the mouse gently between the ears, "It's Tyu." Well, that answered the last part of my question, too, Cyneric thought.
Echoing that inner comment, Liz piped up, "Which falls under 'more confusing'."
Raff laughed. "Nah, it's easy. And ye can call her 'Cheese' if ye want- that's what it's short for."
Realization dawned on Cyneric. "Oh! That's Elvish; I should have caught that." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he realized how conceited that made him sound- again- and he started to apologize.
The half-elf looked rather shocked, but waved his hand to dismiss the apology. "You can speak Elvish?" he asked in said language. Cyneric thought that it sounded more like his reaction was over the fact that he knew the language, not over that specific comment, thankfully.
"Yes." Feeling that he should be truthful, he added, "However, it is the only other language I have learned. Is that odd that I speak it?"
"You know, I think I caught all of three words in there," Liz said in what appeared to be mock indignation before Raff could answer the question.
Apparently ignoring the girl, he nodded and answered, "Yes, it is sort of odd. I think you are the only other acolyte who came in knowing Elvish and you are excessively human."
"Thank you, I think?" How could one be excessively human, anyway? I guess from a half-elf's point of view, that statement works, Cyneric reasoned.
Raff shook his head, his braids whipping back and forth. "I just meant that it is surprising. There is more to you than you think, Cyneric."
That bewildered him; how was knowing a language or being good with animals surprising? It's not as though those were rare abilities, and neither had ever been particularly useful. Cyneric felt himself blush and switched back to Common so as to not leave Liz out of the conversation- and so that he could change the subject. "If you say so. But please just call me Cyn."
Liz jumped on that; Cyneric was beginning to notice that she'd take any opportunity to play a game of wits. "I take it not like moderate evil?"
Cyneric snickered, catching the pun. "Definitely not. Slightly, perhaps, but never moderately."
"Sure ye are," Raff grinned, then asked, "But why not 'Eric'? That would avoid those kind of comments."
"Gods, no. Definitely never 'Eric'." Noticing that the half-elf was taken aback by his empathetic reply, he tried to explain in a calmer voice, "That's a family name ending and I'd rather not be associated with them."
"Don't get along with them, I take it?" Liz asked.
"That would very much be an understatement." Cyneric shrugged, brushing this off and changing the subject again. I'm not very good at this, am I? "If you don't mind me saying, 'Raff' seems a strange name for someone who looks like an elf."
Raff tucked his brown hair behind an ear, as if that comment had drawn attention and reminded him that they were pointed. "Ye shorten your name t'avoid your family. Mine's short because my family made it too long- try getting stuck with a name like Rafion Goldenstrings."
Okay, maybe I have no room to complain about my name; at least it's normal. "Ouch. But that doesn't sound elven either." He quickly caught himself, not knowing what the half-elf's opinion was about his heritage, and added, "I am sorry! I mean, if you don't mind me saying so."
Raff smiled, apparently not offended. "'Tis fine. Blame my da- he decided his surname was too hard for audiences t'remember, and switched t'something easier. Unfortunately 'easier' also meant 'absolutely silly'."
Not knowing anything about that kind of subject, Cyneric asked about the part of the sentence that had caught his attention. "Audiences?"
"He's a musician."
Here Liz threw in another of her sarcastic retorts, "That certainly explains your flair for the dramatic; it must be hereditary."
Raff winked at her and said dramatically, "Alas! Ye have discovered something I keep secret. Here I was thinking I'd tricked everyone inta thinking I was bland and morose."
Liz broke into a fit of snickering and was finally able to quip back, "Right, keep telling yourself that, elf-boy. And Cyn here really is an ancient ranger."
Cyneric was really starting to enjoy the company of these two, out of his element though he was, and tried his own silly comment in defense, "Perhaps I am just cleverly disguised as a bewildered young priest-in-training. You never know." As if on cue, the mouse started chittering again and he added, pretending to understand it, "See? They don't believe us, Tyu."
As Liz started snickering again, Raff grinned at him and said "Ye'll fit in great here. That mouse's a good judge of people."
Said to almost anyone else, their reaction probably would have been laughter at that statement, but Cyneric just grinned back. "I hope so."
((And back to Cyn for a bit! I realized I'd almost finished this months ago but have been so distracted by writing Meren's story that I never posted it. I did change narrative styles, though; now that Cyn's backstory is crossing over with Raff's, it makes more sense to tell it in 3rd person since in the future I'll be switching back and forth between them for stories.))