Lars slowed his pace on purpose. Being a spoiled noble kid, he was no stranger to traveling, but when he stepped into the Lowlands he thought, well, this place is neater than he'd expected. Better than anything Ghalarah or Veldarah could be, with those murky waters he'd hated his whole life. Lowlands' waters were clear — almost emerald green, even — and when Lars stepped aside to take a look at his own reflection he saw his hair color disappearing into the lake's surface. He wondered how the water would feel on his skin, finding himself almost reaching down to it before Rhen yelled at him for being a slowpoke. So he continued to walk.
Sometimes, with his affinity for elemental sorcery, Lars could see the movement of the wind. To him, the winds of the Lowlands were gentle yet firm, but more importantly a friendly one. He stealthily listened to their conversation, learning that they have only known purple flowers and green meadows for decades. These winds did not know violence or blood — all they did was pass through windmills after windmills to deliver the smell of fresh grass and the sound of jingling bells from a distance away.
He caught up to the party with little Theodore in hand. Rhen and Te'ijal were chasing each other through the purple flowers while Elini refused to join them, her sparkly chain whip jingling with every step. Dameon himself basked in the warmth of the Lowlands sun, finally being in his element after weeks of getting shriveled up in underground Ghed'ahre. Well, no fun for Lars this time since he gets to watch over Theodore as a punishment for losing a bet. So much for going on a quest to save the world.
Dameon's fingers made a strange movement, which Lars recognized as a sun spell. He was blessing the land with a dome of light. Lars noticed then how the meadows shined even brighter — well, aren't sun priests such show-offs? The wind moved faster through the haystacks and corn stalks, carrying the sweet odor of those purple flowers — what was its name again? Lars saw how Rhen smiled at Dameon as she removed her helmet to enjoy the winds. Her hair fluttered wildly. Lars could never get his finger around its color, but what he knew was that it looked pretty under the sunray Dameon summoned.
Stop, he thought. Aia is beautiful. Not Rhen.
He noticed the glint of Rhen’s battered shield and felt a slight guilt. They fought over who gets to keep the best equipment, as always, and Lars remembered throwing a tantrum when the party decided that Rhen should keep the stupid studded shield. But now he sees that his own oak shield is, well, battered, but still usable compared to Rhen's. Rhen fights on the front line. Lars fights from their rearguard. Obviously there's a difference, but he refused to admit it.
"Peta," Lars called out. Rhen turned her attention away from the meadows, throwing a questioning look laced with a little annoyance at him. "What is it?"
Lars thinks her hostility is pretty cute, to be honest. He would like her to stay that way. "Let's get some new equipment quickly. I don't think you can afford my mother suing you if I get hurt." I can't afford seeing you get hurt.
Rhen spared a brief glance at her own battered armor. "He's got a point. Let's get moving, people!"
Lars examined his reflection in the shop's mirror. His new set of equipment was polished shiny and so was everyone else's. He saw how Rhen was fussing over which new scabbard to buy, muttering that a scabbard is a vital element of being a Sword Singer and whatnot. Tired of shopping, Lars looked over the window at some women weaving baskets with dried grass. Kids were kicking around the dirt and braiding each other's hair with flower vines. Men were racing their horses around the fields.
Their quest were still far from being completed, but Lars already thought of retirement plans. Perhaps here in Brumwich, in a simple wooden cottage with picket fences that would not effectively protect him, or his future cows and sheeps, for that matter. Lars hoped that after they murder Ahriman or whoever that evil sorcerer was there would be no need for heavy fortifications. Perhaps Rhen, too, would also like a mundane life.
He snickered at the word. Mundane . That would be ideal. It does not suit him at all, but at least he could walk on roads littered with purple flowers.
"Peta," Lars called out once again, on their journey back from the Highlands. Rhen turned around, not necessarily agitated or annoyed at him. Her spirits were low upon leaving Clearwater, with the princess announcement pushed onto her and all. He was both happy and terrified at the revelation because — who knows? Maybe Rhen would have him imprisoned once she rules Thais. Whatever . He flicked his fingers near her left ear. Rhen nearly jumped — but she found the meadow's purple flower sitting nicely in the gap of her ear.
"It's called verbena. Some call it vervain," Lars nervously told her. "Dameon taught me its name. That was a little — magic — trick, you see."
Rhen snickered as she touched those verbenas and Lars felt a bit of relief to see some colors return to her cheeks. She asked, "Were you poisoned by the prairie snakes? Why are you acting like this?"
"... No particular reason."
"Well, would you call this a peace offering?"
Lars wanted to say, well, first of all, I'm sorry for being an ass. Second of all, please don't make me a prisoner once you rule Thais. Third of all, I think you look prettiest under the sun and I think it's clear how you and Dameon are in love with each other. Lastly, I know that you will don a bejeweled crown, but I think purple flowers suit you the most .
Lars opened his mouth and closed it again as he swallowed those sentences. He put on his customary repulsive smirk and walked past her.
Not long after, Rhen caught up to him. She was still smiling.
"Thank you, Lars Tenobor. Maybe you're not so bad, after all."