It had been a rather quiet yet pleasant evening. While Kohra had been busy at work, Arkadin had tidied up the apartment, set up a new gaming area and had cooked a dinner of veal stew and candy dumplings with lemon sorbet. At 9pm though, there was a knock on the door. An unexpected knock.
Arkadin glanced at Kohra. Kohra glanced back. Neither of them were expecting anyone, were they?
Either way, Kohra got up and opened the door. He was getting his ass kicked in that game they were playing anyway so he could have done with a break. He opened the door to see a handsome, red and gold armoured Rethavok. A Rethavok holding a basket of goodies.
“Hello, Kohra. How are you?” Retvik asked, handing Kohra the basket.
“Uh, what are you doing here?” Kohra stuttered.
“Tenuk did not tell us you had moved into a new home. As per Rethan traditions, we are here to greet you with food and alcohol.” Retvik smiled, then turned down the hallway. “Tenuk, get your lard-shifting butt up here now! Do not be rude to your brother!”
A familiar Vrekan appeared, dragging Tenuk into view.
“He’s just being Tenuk!” Elksia smiled. “Ooh! Nice place.”
Kohra realised he was sort of in the way and maybe he should invite them in, so that’s what he did. “Uh, thank you. Do you all want to come in and we can have some of that alcohol, maybe?”
Retvik nodded. Kohra moved over and led everyone inside, forgetting for a moment that Arkadin was still there, playing games.
He expected a shriek or two. Or for Arkadin to disappear in a puff of smoke before anyone saw him. Kohra didn’t see any of that. Rather scared screams, Kohra heard the chirrups of Elksia and the soft murmurs of Retvik as they embraced an old friend. The Death God wasn’t there. In his place was a happy little Threavok with yellow armour. The old, aching wisps and shadows were gone, replaced by healthy, physical skin. His eyes actually glowed bright, a joy renewed in the Thantophor’s heart.
“I missed you so much little brother!” Elkia whistled and cheeped, hugging Arkay tightly. “You disappear too much! Don’t visit enough! Why, brother? We miss you!”
“You know why!” Arkay was smiling. Elksia let go and let Retvik have a turn hugging his old buddy. There was almost a fatherly touch in the way Retvik held Arkay, and a brief reluctance as he let go.
“Still, we miss you…” Retvik smiled just a little. “What are you doing here, of all places?”
Arkay shrugged, then bounced off to get everyone a glass for their drinks. He was clearly excited because he’d ditched his respect for the laws of physics and was teleporting around, thrilled to simply be around everyone.
“Happy! Yes!” Arkay didn’t let Tenuk finish his sentence. “I am so happy to see you all! I’m not supposed to, but here we are!”
Kohra turned to Tenuk, watching awkwardly as Arkay poured drinks then squeezed onto the sofa between Retvik and Elksia. “What are you doing here anyway?”
“It was Retvik’s idea. He needed to come to the capital to drop something off. Dragged Elksia and I along. I accidentally mentioned that you were… doing a thing. Retvik pushed further… just as he asked about your new room mate, we got a call from Arkadin and he suggested we all come here.”
“It’s a good idea!” Arkay butted in, hugging Tenuk tightly. “I missed you too, Tenuk!”
To his dismay though, Tenuk wriggled out of the hug. “I miss you too, Arkay. Why do you always force yourself to be Arkadin though, when clearly you’re not happy that way? Why do you come and go?”
Immediately, the shadowy tendrils, the tired, dimmed eyes, the scarred skin, it all came rushing back.
“Because to care about you all is to shirk my duties. I have to make sacrifices, between keeping this universe intact and…” Arkadin sighed as Retvik put a calming hand on his shoulder. As he did so, the scars and shadows faded and Arkay returned, but he clearly wasn’t as happy as before.
“Do not fret, my little friend…” Retvik smiled. “We may not understand fully, but we know you have other responsibilities. Still, let us put those aside and enjoy the evening.”
“You’re right!” Arkay beamed, leaping up and grabbing various bowls of party food. “Tonight, we are going to enjoy ourselves, eat and drink merrily and be happy for a change!”
Elksia grabbed Arkay and shook him excitedly. “You said it, little brother! Tonight’s a party night!”