Long Way Down
Low-sodium dried jerky
When he was 19, Arden received a reconnaissance mission for information mining. Infiltrating the castle was a piece of cake, locating his targets was easier than he expected, and he even got lucky and found a prime spot to eavesdrop from. Everything had been going smoothly up until the point his targets were about to get into the meat of their discussion: that was when the surface he had been laying on crumbled and gave way beneath him.
One second he was waiting cozily in the dusty darkness and the next, he was a tangled heap of confusion and shock on the floor. He remembered only the sound of his wildly beating heart as he stared dumbly at the hole in the ceiling, which he fell from. He had expected guards to rush at him immediately and carry him off for execution, since his suspicious get-up and scattered array of miscellaneous weapons made it clear he wasn’t in the castle for a friendly stroll, but before anything could happen, a high, amused laugh rang out, and a woman approached his supine body. He had immediately sprung up and tried to take out a knife, but the sudden stern look she gave him stopped him in his tracks.
“My, how is this castle so structurally unsound? Look, even your chimney sweeps are having such a hard time with their job.”
And that was how Lillian and Arden met, and how Arden escaped certain death after being caught red-handed while listening in on an confidential meeting.
There had been absolutely no way anyone believed her farce, but Lillian apparently had enough power and authority to crush any objections. The rest of the events are a haze to Arden, since he had been so scared, but he somehow managed to get away scot-free. He didn’t even get a slap on the wrist before being set loose outside the castle.
Arden ran away after that, and he had expected some of Lillian’s people to hunt him down for questioning or extortion, but after a week passed and nothing happened to him, he started to feel guilty. His heavy conscience and sense of duty gnawed at him until he mustered up the courage to find Lillian himself and try to settle his debt.
To his surprise, she had wanted nothing in return for saving his life. He didn’t get the feeling that she saw him as an insignificant flea that she had no time for, but she genuinely didn’t want anything back from him.
It took about five minutes of her watching him squirm uncomfortably, gesture vaguely, and make aborted noises of frustration before she finally clapped him on the shoulder and said she would contact him if she ever needed his help for anything. She hoped that there would not be a time when she needed to call on him, but she made him promise that he would go to her no matter what task she asked of him.
That was about five years ago.
He had never forgotten about her or his promise with her, so when he received a letter from her telling him about something about the end of the world and her needing his help to prevent it, he packed up right away and headed out.
He really has no idea what he’s supposed to do though.
Being lowkey irritated and grumpy 24/7 makes Arden hard to approach, but it’s not as if he wants to be an asshole. He’s just very socially awkward and doesn’t know how to make small talk that doesn’t end up insulting his conversation partner. He always says the first thing he thinks about, and since 98% of the things he thinks about are dry, sardonic quips, he ends up stepping on a lot of tails.
He also doesn’t really apologize, but that’s because he doesn’t know how to do it without sounding sarcastic and insincere. People also tend not to appreciate it when he scoffs under his breath or rolls his eyes at them, which he does all the time. Since he’s realized he usually upsets people whenever he opens his mouth, he doesn’t talk a lot.
Being quiet has its merits though. Arden is able to sneak through places without getting detected, and his hyperawareness of his surroundings makes him a good lookout. If you need help finding and/or filching things, he’s a good guy to go to. If you manage to pin him down, anyway. He’s kind of a flighty bastard. Maybe it would be best to make him feel indebted to you first.