[center “I am going to pull them from their pedestal and I will watch them burn.”]
Wistina, a small but prosperous country located on the southern peninsula of Esteroak. Being one of the few neutrally aligned ports in the area they keep good standing with their neighbors. All in all they seem to be in a golden age. The only real complaints are those of a naïve and frivolous king, but with many well-trusted advisors at his side no one pays him much mind. That is, not until he died. Leaving behind his wife and a young son, there is much debate on what will be done and things are not looking good got the widow and her child.
Basically this will start soon after the death of the king. The advisors who have essentially been running the country feel it is time for them to receive their dues and a child King does not fit into that equation. It will escalate into a murder attempt on what remains of the royal family, but the Queen and Prince will escape with a small party of loyal members of the court and staff. The enraged Queen is now determined to seek revenge and see her son reclaims his birthright.
I am looking to play the Queen character and I am searching for someone to play another member of the party. You pretty much have free reign over what you want your character to be. A knight, a handmaiden, whatever works, but you do need to be willing to play multiple characters as the rest of the crew will be “free to play” NPCs that we can both utilize.
I MIGHT be willing to open this up as a group roleplay if I have people who are interested in doing that instead. I am only hesitant because I’ve yet to be a part of a group RP that hasn’t fallen apart within the first couple rounds of posting.
This will be a literate story; I want several healthy paragraphs per post. An exception being in times of heavy dialog where replies can, and likely will, be much shorter. I may ask for a sample post to see if our styles will work together.
Illustrated pictures only.
18+, as I am trying to steer away from writing with minors. Just a cautionary thing, not necessarily for content.
I love romance and would love a splash of that, but it will not be the main focus here.
Lastly, I am still on the fence about whether I want this to be more of a fantasy-based story. I love magic and high fantasy races, but they are not necessary for this plot. So, I will let you help decide on that. Also, if you have any ideas to add to or alter what I have stated above, please let me know. Very little of this is set in stone and I want it to be interesting for both of us.
Looking at the mess as Nicolai gave a brief explanation of what happened, Florence turned Augustine around. [+mediumseagreen “Gregory, why don’t you and Augustine go and try to fetch that other horse. I doubt it went far without its rider.”] Giving the boy a little push, she urged him towards the dwarf so that they could try and solve their horse shortage in a way that did not require one of them to have to walk the entire way or commandeer a farm horse.
The pair was off by the time the elf continued, giving further detail of what he’d found. Her eyes widened at the name of the organization. The corners of her mouth turned down, as some of this started to fall into place. She took a moment to compose her words before speaking. [+mediumseagreen “Unfortunately, there is not much else that could have been done.”] Emerald gaze falling down to the sorry excuse of a man on the ground, she looked at him with disdain. [+mediumseagreen “He would have needed to die either way, at least he left us with some information.”] From what little they were given, she knew there was no way he would loosen his lips to tell them anything more useful. Even what was confessed was likely done so as a means of intimidation.
Turning, she glanced back at her son and Gregory. They had been able to coax the animal toward them. It did not appear to be one of the castle’s horses, but from the way it moved, it was at least well trained. One less thing to worry about for the time being.
[+mediumseagreen “Yes, we should get moving.”] Florence agreed with him quickly, but by the time she looked over to him, he was already at his steed. He was in a hurry, but she really couldn’t comeplain.
Without the pair of enemies tailing them, there was a good chance they would be able to cover their trail and have a somewhat peaceful escape. That was, if no one stayed back to keep on eye on things. She doubted it, but Florence remained vigilant as they started up their travels for the day.
The farther and farther they got from the castle the more at ease the Queen felt. It was a mixture of hope that they really would be able to escape, and relief that she may never have to see that place again. Though the latter was unlikely, as she was still set on having revenge. Unless she started networking right this minute, she would have to come back. When, she had no clue, but she was certain the time would come eventually.
With time, they came out of the woods to a flat expanse of land. The plains extended for a long way in all directions, though most of it was well-sprouted farmland. This time of year, the farmers were busy trying to keep everything watered before the weather got hotter. Though, here in Wistina it never got too terribly hot in Florence’s opinion.
The group was careful to lead their horses around most of the crop, but with the tight sowing in some areas it was impossible to make it to the other side without some damage. And while they may have had to slow down, this place afforded them the ability to see around them perfectly. If anyone had been following after them, they stopped at the tree line to keep hidden. The group used this to their advantage as well. Nicolai, who was in the lead, occasionally altered their direction. It was smart. The caravan would be easier to track if they stuck to a straight line. In fact she was hesitant to call that tracking at all.
Saddled up with Nicolai again, Meredith’s head was full of wonderings, but the most prominent amongst those was when she would be able to go home. [+violet “Umm…”] She kept her voice at a whisper, not really wanting to be overheard by anyone other than the elf. [+violet “Nicolai, are we going to be able to stop by my family’s estate on the way to the border?”] The girl was not sure she would be able to make it if she was left on her own, and technically it was on the way. Her family home was in the northern region of Wisteria, though still close enough for her to make it home every couple of months to see her mother and father.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The Elf tried to move from the path of the man’s spit, accustomed to how prisoners could take every liberty left to them to denigrate their captor. Unfortunately it hit his cheek and he quickly wiped the phlegm away with a blood stained sleeve, a growl from deep in his chest coming before he stomped down hard at where the arrow was imbedded into his leg. Pressing directly at the arrow the shaft broke off and his foot pressed the remaining wood into the wound.
He knew it would garner no answers and bring nothing fruitful, but to put this man through agony and strife was all he had left and he would ensure his life was torturous before it ended. He still had not decided how best to dispose of the man, perhaps turn him over to Florence to decide or deal with as she wished. A thought did flicker to letting Augustine deal the finishing blow. To kill his attacker would bring a certain conclusion to the proceedings and it would set him up with the knowledge of just how it felt to take a man’s life rather than order others to do it. It would give him understanding and stay his hand in the future should he wish to have someone killed.
But as he debated his choice the man below him cackled and began to speak. His words were cryptic for a moment, though he could guess that the half-Orc who had killed Gerald was this Ulrich. It was a guess for the time being, but if he was right then now they had a name for the group the monster belonged to. [i The Taken?] There was no recollection of the name and Nicolai could only offer a scowl of discontent that he had not been given any information that was useful. His hands clenched at his side at this on-going frustration.
In a flash however and once again whilst Nicolai was lost to his thoughts the man took the opportunity to snatch up a pill from his pouch and bite down on it quicker than the General could drive his boot down hard on the man’s chest to try and force him to cough it up. In moments he was seizing and convulsing and when the man began to bring up spittle and like a rabid dog he frothed at the mouth, there was no means to stop it. Left in defeat yet again he could only watch the figure twitch and jolt about in the throes of death and hope he suffered for each and every second.
When the man fell still the General was left in silence, that was until the other three began walking back, Augustine clutching to his mother’s hand as tightly as she held on to his. Gregory looked at the body then up to Nicolai, a brow raised in curiosity at what had happened.
[+teal “He ingested a poison before I could stop him.”] The words was quiet, his amethyst eyes not looking up from the corpse as he did not wish to see the look of disappointment or displeasure in Florence’s bright emerald gaze. Gerald and Timothy had given him haunting looks as he let them die and no doubt the young boy before him now would look on him to provide answers he did not have. If he was called weak or feeble for acting in such a manner then so be it, he couldn’t be their protector and guardian at all times and Florence knew his resilience and fortitude had it’s limits.
[+teal “He… he mentioned something about The Taken. I-I think that must be who the orc works with… We should pack and get moving.”] Turning away from the trio he said nothing more, shrinking back to return to the horses and grasping his mare by her mane, brushing a calming hand over her back as he eased her distress. The adrenaline had kicked in and she was confused as to what was going on. Whispered soft elven words into her ear he took his time to calm her, leaving the others be for now.
The man lying on the ground was garbed in dark colors; they stood out against the light green of the grass he was lying in. Clothing clinging tight to him in a fashion that helped to dampen noise when he moved, the cut and overall design was reminiscent of what the half orc they encountered earlier had been wearing. The same went for the man on the horse, although each had their own personal touches to them.
Staring up at the elf, there was an angry glint in the man’s eye as he vocalized his pain. Despite his rather loose lips when it came to his shouts of agony, the auburn haired male gave no immediate answer to the elf. Instead, he surged for one final insult, spitting in Nicolai’s face with incredible accuracy. It served no real purpose aside from lifting the would-be kidnappers spirits. He laughed lowly at the blood-laced saliva left a mucus-like trail as it slowly dripped down his lightly tanned face.
As expected there was retaliation from the dark haired elf, but being well trained for just these sorts of situations, the downed man still didn’t offer any information he didn’t feel like sharing. Again more pain was inflicted; it led to laughter, almost as though he’d lost his mind. Then he spoke, but on his own terms, nothing that was meant to be concealed. [+olive “Who sent us? We came of our own accord. That conniving bitch if going to get what’s coming to her, she should have known better than to cross the Taken. Do me a favor and let her know that Ulrich is ever so sorry they did not have longer to chat before you fled.”] With that, his hand darted to the pouch at his side, quick as lightning. From there he flicked a pill into his mouth and bit down. An audible crack came from between his teeth and it was only a matter seconds before was convulsing on the ground, a frothy foam at the corners of his mouth.
Over with Florence, she was still trying to clean the red splatters from her son’s face. They would need to go to the river. She was not going to make him sit with the scent of iron on him for the duration of the ride to come. With Gregory’s aid, she stood. Augustine was still in her arms and she made a direct line toward the river. Looking back to Nicolai, he was busy with the other assailant. He Dwarf kept an eye out as they went. There was no telling if there was anyone else in the woods, but for now they seemed to be fine.
Setting the blond boy next to the water, the emerald-eyed woman wet the hem of her dress to wash his face and anything that would come clean with her efforts. He was still crying, so she did her best to try and calm him, but there were no words that would work perfectly. Her stomach felt heavy inside of her, Florence felt like a failure as a mother. [+mediumseagreen “It is okay, my love. Everything worked out and we are will be leaving soon to leave this all behind us.”] Even though it was not perfect, her cooing did give Augustine something to distract him.
[+coral “Where are we going?”] He barely made the words out choppily, wiping his eyes with his sleeves.
The Astorian woman hesitated. [+mediumseagreen “Someplace safe.”] He would be upset if he knew, and she didn’t want to worsen the situation. She would sit him down to tell him later, but she could see Gregory’s disapproving stare from behind the Prince’s back.
As soon as he calmed to a reasonable level, Florence went to pick the boy up again, but he stopped her. [+coral “I would like to walk, please.”]
She did not argue with him, but the woman did insist on taking his hand as they walked back to the clearing. Nicolai was still next to the other assassin character, though now he was silent on the ground. They had missed something, and she was curious to what it was.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Florence was not the only one to pick on the subtle noise and for a moment he had considered going to investigate. Elves were blessed with above human levels of hearing and sight, but having spent the night on guard and not eaten much, he could feel his body move about sluggishly. When she had ignored the sound he put it down to better judgement not to doubt her and instead he turned back to the stallion wanting to get him ready for the days travel.
Even as he reached the horse he could feel himself wanting to just sit and close his eyes, hands pressing firmly against the beast and grasping at the saddle to hold himself upright. This slowness was made only more evident by his sluggish reaction to the attack, for a moment believing the hoof falls to be from the stallion or mare, skittish at not moving.
Only when he had fully comprehended that this was a new sound and was accompanied by heavy footfall did he turn his gaze back to the pair and find them in motion around the corner. By the time the elf had followed after them, a hand resting on his sword hilt, the bow had been thrown to Florence and an arrow was shot by Gregory. The sound of agony and complaints filled his ears as he turned from the duo, whistling a shrill note to draw the mare towards him and after a moments pause she dutifully trotted toward her usual rider. His vibrant lavender gaze left the animal however as he looked back to find the other attacker setting his horse into a building gallop.
Nicolai attempted to gather just what direction he would be making for so that he could take off in pursuit. His horse was quick and having spent the night resting may have the edge in stamina. Without the added weight of a second person, albeit a small boy, she would also be quicker by a small margin.
And yet it was all over by the time he grasped the reigns and moved himself to throw a leg up and over. In less than a minute the pair of archers had taken their marks and the [i so-called-General] was left in a momentary feeling of uselessness. He had done nothing whatsoever of use. That niggling self-doubt returned.
As Gregory took off after an understandably traumatised woman to fetch the young boy, bows cast aside without further care as the Prince was much more of a priority, Nicolai was left to his own devices. He jogged a few steps to the hut, confirming that Meredith was okay if a little shaken by the events. He grasped her forearms to give a visible inspection of her and though she repeated her good health he had to make sure, quickly looking into the building for any further attack.
There was no further danger to be found yet there was a survivor. Resting on one elbow his hand grasped just above his knee above the embedded arrow. His groans and hisses of distress mingled with curses that his friends would make them pay – perhaps he had not yet seen the rider go down and was trying to mock them in his shock riddled mind, thumping the ground with a closed fist when the pain got too bad.
Gritting his teeth Nicolai stayed his hand from drawing his sword and marched forward. Hearing the approaching heavy boots the man turned to look back and in turn one of the said boots cut hard across his face. An audible crack came with the impact though his jaw remained intact – unfortunately, as he muttered yet more curses. His head snapped back and he fell flat on the ground mumbling as blood dripped from his broken nose.[+teal “Tell me who sent you or I swear onto whatever God you most fear I will ensure you suffer before you die.”] The threat was quiet, spoken with a passion perhaps not seen in some weeks from the Elf, yet it brought no answer and so he moved his boot to near the wound on the man's leg, pressing down sharply and letting the arrowhead within cut at the muscles and fibrous tissue inside, a scream of agony brought from the groggy man who's hands shifted from bloody face to grab at his thigh.[+teal “Tell me!”] Nicolai barked.
As if on cue at the mention of a chase, there was a rustling in the bushes rooted in the direction that Gregory had first appeared from. With everyone still talking, the woman just barely heard it. She wrote it off as nothing more than the sound of the forest and the animals that lived there. After all, she’d been hearing them all night. It wouldn’t be long until she discovered she was wrong to do so.
From another direction, out of the line of sight of the adults, a man garbed in dark colors ran silently toward he younger pair of the bunch. Panicking at the sight of someone running toward them, Meredith completely froze. The girl took a step back, running into the hovel behind them. Her eyes darted to and fro like a rat that’d been backed into a corner. There wasn’t a single thing she could think to do to stop the assailant. Augustine was in much of the same situation. Though his mind wasn’t completely iced over and he tried to scream for help as the threatening figure scooped him up and darted away.
There was muffled shouting, as though it was very far away. In actuality its source was quite close. That made it all the more haunting. Taking a few steps, around the shanty from where the horses were tied, Florence caught sight of the scene at hand. She was not the only one to do so.
Bursting through the foliage came another man, this one on a small but swift appaloosa. Its short red and cream coat flashed by and the sound of its hooves hitting the ground in a three beat rhythm echoed through the clearing. A wiry man sat atop the horse. He met up with the shady figure who had ahold of Augustine.
Gregory was around the bend quickly. Taking the two bows from his back, he tossed the long bow to Florence along with an arrow. At the same speed, he knocked arrow and fire. Determined not to hit the boy, he aimed low.
The metal tip of the projectile dug deep into the man’s calf. This would have been perfect, but moments before the arrow hit, the man tossed Augustine up and to the thin man on the horse. He tripped over himself after that, yelling in pain and pulling at the foreign object in his leg.
Thinking quickly and abandoning the original plan to take up his comrade the horseman picked up speed just as soon as he caught ahold of the prince. There was no point in making this plan a complete failure just because his partner was hit. Luckily enough, the small blond boy didn’t s struggle all that much. Must have been afraid to fall off the horse.
Not expecting Gregory to toss anything her way, Florence fumbled with the bow a moment before finding her form. After years away from the dark wood bow, and archery in general, she felt stiff. The flaxen bowstring was harder to pull back than she remembered. The woman aimed but did not fire; instead she watched the dwarf’s arrow, though it made it to the target a hair too late. Gritting her teeth, a stressed sound escaped her. The longer they waited the harder a target the man on the horse became, especially with her son pulled to his chest.
[+darkmagenta “Florence, what are you doing? Take the shot.”] Gregory urged her on, but still the woman did not move. She just kept her aim trained on the man.
[+mediumseagreen “I can’t. It’s been too long.”] She’d never forgive herself if she hit Augustine as well.
[+darkmagenta “They are too far now, it’s a blurred mess. I can’t distinguish Augustine from the rest.”] Never had he been so upset to be old. Before this point, his developing nearsightedness hadn’t been too much of an inconvenience. So long as he could make out the shape, he could hit it; but this was far too delicate for such broad strokes.
He looked at the woman next to him; she was still hesitating. [+darkmagenta “Loose the fucking arrow!”] The boy was just as liable to die if she did nothing.
Nervousness washed over her in waves. Florence took deep breaths, trying to wait for one of the troughs to make a move. The entire time her sharp eyes stayed trained on the horseman. More than anything, fear that she would miss and hit Augustine riddled her mind. But there was also the risk of hitting nothing at all and allowing him to escape from their sight. Both were terrifying. There had to be a better way to do this, a safer answer. But at the height of her anxiety, Gregory shouted for her to take action. Her fingers released the string and there was no going back.
After a handful of excruciating seconds, the arrow hit. It pierced the back of his neck, driving all the way through and coming some way out the front. He hadn’t expected it, and there wasn’t even time for him to scream before blood bubbled up and out of his mouth. Moments later he fell from the horse, taking Augustine with him.
[+darkmagenta “The same as you ever were.”] Gregory meant his words to be congratulatory.
Looking on in horror, Florence shook her head. [+mediumseagreen “That is not where I was aiming.”] She had been looking to hit him directly in the head, any further down and she probably wouldn’t have missed her son. A tight knot formed in her stomach at the thought. She dropped the bow and took off running in their direction.
The string let out a vibrato twang as the bow hit the ground next to Gregory. He jogged along after the longer legged woman. Normally he’d reprimand her for exerting herself so, but in this moment he let her. This distance likely wouldn’t hurt her. When he joined her and Augustine, Florence was wiping the blood and gore from his face. Fortunately, none of it was his, but he was bawling her in arms. He had been given quite a jolt falling from the tall animal, but that wasn’t why he cried. His pain was not a physical one.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Their back and forth was a touch amusing in the sense it showed that in such dire situations they still held their morale and their resolve to keep going on. If only he could have said the same for himself. Inside he was a bundle of nerves, a man without any idea as to what he was doing. Thankfully he had impeccable control of his outer appearance and he smile warmly at the two as the Queen smacked him as she passed by.
The elf and dwarf watched after her as she returned to the dilapidated hovel that had been their home for the night. Though the two men still did not get on in a grand fashion, each could see no point to upholding their war of words or the need to remain on an even footing with one another. Such petty squabbles and silly games were fine back in the castle when this reality was but a far off nightmare. Now was the time to
It was Nicolai who broke the silence not long after;
[+teal “I am rather delighted to have you back Gregory, even if we never truly got along. It is good to see her in a fine mood. She needs you now more than ever. Augustine too.”] He idled over to the stallion, checking over the straps and saddle to make it precise.
[+darkmagenta “I am sure she has been in very safe hands Nicolai.”] He eyes the darkened sleeve, the undeniable proof of a fight even if he had washed away the blood from his face and hands.[+darkmagenta “Thank you for protecting them.”]
[+teal “The thanks go to Gerald, I just led her to here.”] His head dipped a touch at the mans name, a soft shallow breath to calm his nerves before his hands continued.
[+darkmagenta “I see.”] He picked up on the moment well; he had a knack for reading between the lines.[+darkmagenta “I'm sure he was glad to have you there.”] He added quietly, though it only brought a roll of the shoulders from the Duke.
[+teal “No sense in dwelling on the past Gregory. We should prep more so for you all to travel North.”]
[+darkmagenta “And what will you do once we reach Astoria?”] Rough hands had fallen still at their menial task upon the question.
[+teal “I am not quite sure just yet.”] He spoke softly, betraying the inner fear he had for a few seconds before he turned around, lips taut and eyes looking down on the short man with an innocent fragility.[+teal “I will try my hand at being a brigand for a time I should think. Rouse some rebels and the like. I will try to keep my pillaging to a minimum of course.”] He smiled a touch at the light humour, nodding slowly as the dwarf shared in the sentiment of the moment.[+teal “In truth,”] he brushed his hands up through his charcoal hair and he released a deep huff of air,[+teal “I would like to see Lillian again. Brave the dangers of the Capital and her fathers wrath to see her one last time. But it would likely end in doing her more harm, so perhaps I will keep that as a dream.”] It was a bitter hope.
[+darkmagenta “Lillian eh? What happened to the man who would marry Florence if needed?”] The dwarf chided him with a grin.
[+teal “Could you imagine that? Florence marrying me? It would be like Germaine all over again, just with a slightly more handsome man.”] The joke was not lost on the dwarf and they shared a quiet laugh, not too long before the Queen had returned.
Nicolai had wanted to commend her on getting the horse saddled and ready to leave but the comment would only have flustered her. They all knew what she was about to do but sometimes unspoken truths were best left that way. Instead he offered a short bow from his hip, deigning to give her the respect she deserved. Queen or not she was still his mistress, his guardian, he had pledged his life to her after all. On the topic of the horses he smiled a little ruefully.
[+teal “Well it is rather simple.”] The dwarf turned on him at that, a tad suspicious.[+teal “Yourself and Augustine will remain on the stallion, Meredith and Gregory will take the mare. I will travel alongside.”] He looked back to the shorter man and grinned at the confused expression.[+teal “Come now little man, I couldn't very well make you keep walking after doing so all night. Even you must be tired from the journey.”]
[+darkmagenta “Regardless of my tiredness, we cannot go all the way to Astoria with you on foot. You may be an elf but even you cannot outrun a horse if we are chased.”]
[+teal “True. We can requisition a horse from one of the farms we pass by.”] A simple enough solution.
[+darkmagenta “You think they will just hand it over? I didn't exactly bring enough to buy a horse you know.”] He objected.
[+teal “The Queen, Crown Prince and General of the realm come to your farm and require a horse – do you say no?”] He saw the shorter mans face wrinkle a little and he shrugged.
[+darkmagenta “I guess not..”]
Given the direction she was facing, Florence caught sight of Nicolai before he spoke. But it wasn’t long until he called to them, still in their native tongue. Judging by Gregory’s expression he hadn’t been expecting another voice to chime in. He blinked at the elf before nodding to him. The tall woman just barely caught the dark haired man’s nod. Now she was even more embarrassed at being caught by not one, but two different people. Perhaps she was not nearly as sneaky as she thought. She sighed silently before the violent-eyed man continued, this time laying out a plan of action.
As expected, the dwarf was one thousand percent on board with Nicolai’s idea. [+darkmagenta “Yes, I think that is the best course of action from here.”] If the elf hadn’t suggested it first, Gregory was going to himself. And while he didn’t much care what the other male decided to do once they hit the border, he did hope that it involved leaving the country or lying low. This place was going to be just as dangerous for him now too. Wistina was no place for any of them.
Florence did not care for the direction this discussion took. Not nearly enough revenge for her taste. There was a bitter look on her face, but not much else came from her. She’d spent all night trying to decide what to do about Gregory; she hadn’t sorted out exactly what she wanted to do beyond that. And demanding to stay put until she could put a plan together was not ideal. They needed to move. [+Mediumseagreen “Fine.”]
Looking back to the woman, the stout man looked up at her with a troubled look. [+darkmagenta “Come now, don’t be like that. There is nothing left for you or Augustine here. Astoria will be safe.”] Not to mention she would have her life back after having ten years of it ripped away from her.
Sighing, the woman shook her head slowly. [+Mediumseagreen “This country, left in the hands of those men, will fall to ruin. The people are going to suffer.”]
[+darkmagenta “That is not a battle you are obligated to fight, Florence. You owe this place nothing more than you have already given.”]
[+Mediumseagreen “And Augustine?”] Her eyes narrowed.
[+darkmagenta “Augustine is still young, if given the option he may come to think of Astoria as his home and Astorians as his people. After all, his blood ties him there just as much as it does here. A child should not have to worry over such things.”] It was a great deal more complex than he made it out to be, but Gregory honestly thought that it wasn’t the boy’s responsibility to lay down his life for this country. Prince or not, no child should be forced into that situation. [+darkmagenta “As for when he looks back on this when he is older, I can only pray to the gods that he won’t turn out like anything you.”]
His tone hadn’t been serious but Florence’s jaw dropped. [+Mediumseagreen “How can you be so rude?”] She smacked him in the shoulder, but he just laughed at her. She huffed. [+Mediumseagreen “I am going to wake the others.”] With that she disappeared into the shack.
Inside, Meredith was already awake. Sitting up in the spot she had been laying. Her eyes were droopy. It looked as though she was still trying to fully come to from what must have been a terrible nights sleep. At the sight of Florence, the processed sped up considerably.
[+violet “Morning, ma’am.”] Her hands found her eyes, wiping them of sleep.
[+Mediumseagreen “Morning, Meredith. We will be setting out soon. Please be ready.”]
Next was her son. He must have been awfully tuckered out to have slept through the night. Kneeling down next to him, she petted his head softly and whispering for him to wake. It was a prolonged process, but she did not want to jar him any more than she had to. When he came to he was confused and groggy, but he got up and followed her out to meet up with the others. There was a dull excitement in his eyes when he saw Gregory. One more person he was used to to help keep some semblance of normalcy in his life.
Out with the others once more, the cool morning air was nippy, but not unbearable. Florence left Augustine next to Meredith in front of the fishing hut in order to regroup with the men. They were readying the black mare for riding. She had already done up the stallion in preparation to head back into the fray, so that was taken care of. [+Mediumseagreen “How are we going to handle to horse situation?”] As strong as the animals were, it would simply be too cumbersome to load three of them onto a single horse.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Meredith and Augustine took to his cooking with some gusto. Granted it was highly simplistic, cooked rotisserie-style on a stick he shaved the bark off. It was crisp and cooked through though, that was the best he could do. He tried to offer more up to Florence, taking several small slivers to sate himself alongside a few berries for flavour. She declined him every time he offered her more and instead directed it to Augustine. Whilst he could commend her for her motherly nature he needed her to be well fed to help the boy flee if they were attacked.
It was a fear that stayed with him as the night came upon them swiftly and the twinkling of stars came out above – thankfully no heavy dark clouds to indicate any foul weather. Nicolai knew he was there only source of sturdy protection should they be attacked, but he was not headstrong to think he could take down several attackers with ease. He would do the best he could to allow the others to run and give them as much time as he could. The elf knew he was just a stop measure.
The fire had been reduced to a small flame before he took up his guard, fed by sticks and leaves now and brought into the building to provide heat to them all. The roof had been cleared a little to stop the build up of smoke, and it afforded him a means of looking in on them without leaving his perch.
As he sat up in a high tree, nestled against the trunk with a leg dangling at his side, he kept his gaze moving about them continually. He was critical of any movement whether it was the swaying of a branch or the flutter of a bird. Whilst he was granted some positives for being an elf, such as his impressive night vision and perceptive hearing, being impervious to the night cold was not one of them, nor was being able to sustain himself on little food. But what was his alternative? To sit huddled in the house and steal away more of the food? He was frightened yes, but he was not so self-centred as to think only of himself. Not yet at least.
The night passed along without incident. The only times things became curious were the few times Florence would step out of the building and her form was silhouetted against the flickering flame within. Nicolai would watch her intently, acutely aware of the outline in her figure given the lack of layers she wore, something she rarely did. As before he could understand Germaine's attraction to her.
Her constant excursions made little sense until she moved over to the horses and her head turned this way and that with indecision. He knew that look. She was debating whether to go back. She would not go to the castle, he surmised, but rather traverse the main road in hopes the little dwarf would be found. He would not stop her. Though thankfully, as the sun was beginning to lighten the horizon and her hands were beginning to prep the horse, the little man had come walking out of the tree line as if out on a leisurely stroll.
Chastising himself for having not seen the small dwarf, Nicolai made his way down the tree carefully. Adjusting his sword at his belt, brushing at the dried blood that all but soaked down his left hand side, he made his way across to the duo as they made pleasantries.[+teal “Dich zu sehen ist ein segen.”] His smile was faint, quite strained as he stopped away from them both, nodding to Florence as if he knew of her intent but would continue her lie with the dwarf.[+teal “We will have to get moving soon. We are still too close to the castle.”] It was sound advice but looking to the ground with a furrowed brow, when he looked back up his lilac eyes dart from one to the other.[+teal “I think it best if you both take Augustine and head back to Astoria. I am sure Meredith will be able to return to her family without harm. I can travel with you all until the border.”] He left his own fate after this unanswered for, his plans not particularly prudent to the discussion; this was about getting Florence and Augustine safe and he looked to Gregory for his approval of the plan – the little man was apt to agree if it kept his friend and her son from harm.
When there was no unexplained noise for a very long time, Florence focused on the fire. The sappy strips of wood popped as they burned, sticky pitch only causing the flames to burst up momentarily and dwindle back down. With the wind at her back, she did not have to worry over the smoke it caused. For that she was thankful. But that was not enough to keep her from simmering. In that way, she and the fire were similar. Her ire was not one that would be smothered easily.
With time, Nicolai returned. He was successful in his hunt. No easy feat, as he was without a bow. There was also an assortment of berries to snack on. She took one from the small pile, but left what remained to Augustine and Meredith.
Augustine took his fair share of the berries. Thanking the elf, before sitting between him and his mother. He took his sweet time, popping one berry into his mouth at a time. When he was finished with his little handful, Nicolai had completely plucked the fat bird. He looked on, wondering how the man would choose to prepare the poultry. The blond had been in and out of the kitchen to watch the cooks, but they always used pots and pans to make everything. This was entirely new to him and so his attention stayed on the makeshift chef. It was better than staring out into the darkness. That only reminded him of all the dreary things he’d seen today. Things he had yet to completely process.
Meredith sat on the other side of the fire, watching the others. On the outside, she looked much like Augustine. Like she was still trying to figure out what all had happened. But on the inside she was freaking out. She wanted to go home. Everything she’d come here to work for was essentially demolished. As much as she had enjoyed working in the castle and getting to know the upper gentry to secure connections for her family, there was too much risk now. Sure, if she were to stay and help the Queen and her son return to power there was no doubt in her mind that she would be rewarded. But at what cost? What were the chances any of them were going to survive after this? They did not seem good, not at all.
The food was finished in a timely manner. Taste wise; it left something to be desired. But considering Florence had eaten much, much worse; it wasn’t problem. Not eating a lot probably helped as well. Though she noticed that Nicolai was taking up a similar tactic. [+mediumseagreen “Nicolai, you should to eat more... Out of everyone here, you are going to need the most energy.”] When it came to combat, he was really all they had. And having him weak from malnutrition was not an option in her mind. She didn’t leave a whole lot of room for argument, but she didn’t press the matter either. She wasn’t going to waste her own energy forcing a grown man to eat.
With darkness already upon them, it wasn’t long until she was ready to set Augustine down for bed. He wasn’t generally one to stay up late into the night, not that Florence would have let him if he were. Taking him by the hand, she led the boy back to the hut. She hummed the whole way, hoping that a familiar tune might distract him enough to be able to sleep on the unfamiliar dirt floor. To her credit and luck. It did. The blond child swiftly fell to sleep. Whether or not he would wake in alarm was another thing entirely though.
It took Florence considerably more time to find rest. She woke off and on through the night, still worried about Gregory. More than once, she stepped outside to have a look at the sky. It wasn’t until the moon was low and she knew the sun might be rising soon that she began to consider going back in after him again. Not entirely knowing where Nicolai was hiding out at, she wondered if she would have enough time before he tried to stop her. Leaning back on the termite eaten wood, the woman brought her thumb to her mouth. Biting at her nail, as she was known to do in thought.
After raiding the armory for the items he had stored there, Gregory didn’t have a whole lot of options other than to wait. But as time went on things cleared out and calmed down. The dwarf wasn’t sure if it was because everyone was out in search of what remained of the royal family, or that they had given up. Either way, so long as there wasn’t celebrating he knew Florence and Augustine were still out there and there was hope for them yet.
Some time after not seeing another living soul, the gray haired man set out. Getting out of the castle had been an undertaking and a half, but he managed. If you knew where to look there were a few gaps in the walls that fortified this place. He used them to his advantage and avoided the gates where he would undoubtedly be intercepted and detained, if not murdered where he stood. Then it was some trek to the old abandoned fishing shack Nicolai had mentioned to him. It was the only place he could think to go and it was entirely dependent on the general getting out with the others. If that wasn’t the case there was no telling where the Astorian woman had ran off. They would be separated with little hope of reconnecting.
The darkness was not much a problem for his inhuman eyes, but considering he was getting older, nothing had the clarity that it used to. The man was ready at any time to grab one of the bows on his back, a long and a short, though his preference was to the short, and fire. But the need never came. He walked through the night, trying to keep an ear out to make sure he wasn’t being followed. Nothing stood out against the quiet night backdrop, just the sound of the wind through the leaves and the crunch of the brush beneath his feet.
Eventually, probably an hour or so before the sun would fully rise, when there was just beginning to be a touch of color to the sky, the shanty came into view. Gregory caught view of Florence outside; she was standing near a horse. There was a thoughtful look on her face, as she was about to mount the tall speckled creature. What was that girl up to? He wanted to know, so he asked as he drew near. [+darkmagenta “Was machst Du?”]
Back going ramrod straight, as though she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, the woman stopped and turned around. [+mediumseagreen “Nichts.”] The word was almost reflexive as she recognized the man’s voice even before she saw him. She did not think he would be all too pleased with the actual answer so she avoided it. [+mediumseagreen “Willkommen, Ich bin froh, dass Du lebst.”] The comment was a touch severe, but she truly was glad to see him well.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Florence’s glare of dislike with how he addressed her son brought an odd feeling to Nicolai as it felt different. Outside the castle, where their past ranks and titles now seemed so petty and frivolous, it was more akin to a stranger guarding her child from an angry passer-by. Without the social stigma of ‘Queen’ and ‘General’ they were just people. They were just survivors. And that last word tasted bitter on his tongue.
Leaving them all to their assigned or self-fabricated assignments he left for the stream a minute or two walk away. Having carried his bloody sword from the first fight to now, he could feel the blood caking and leaving his fingers tacky. It needed to be washed. Looking around himself in the growing darkness he felt a little safer knowing his elven eyes were better suited to the darkness than a human. It was not by much, but enough to give him an advantage should anyone attempt to sneak up on him. Nevertheless, the area seemed calm, so he proceeded with crouching down by the running stream and easing the metal weapon into the cold water. Brushing his right hand along the blade his face was taut, lips thin lines as he was allowed time to think.
Brushing away the blood of those he had stolen the lives of did not absolve him of his action. Many thought men like him killed without remorse or that it was natural. But he was a touch more humane in that respect, not prone to reckless murder. He recalls many of the times he has drawn blood having not yet reached the precipice of senseless violence like the half-orc clearly had, where killing was not just natural and expected but a means of earning a living.
In a similar fashion to thinking over the deaths he had caused, he takes this time to mourn Timothy and Gerald. Replaying the boy’s death, when his innocent eyes had looked at him in pleading for his help and how wide they had gone with fear when the blade had swept along his throat. It was painful to relive. And yet even moving on to Gerald, giving his life for the Queen and her son to escape, was tainted with the belief he had left them worse off, left them in the hands of the weaker swordsman of the two. Losing the two in a matter of minutes had meant the shock was easier to numb, to cover over and push aside, but like Augustine, given a moment to think, his hand trembled and his breathing became a touch more shallow in remembrance.
Thankfully a distraction came along, a bush across the water shaking quite violently several times as something moved against it. He didn’t dare take a chance it was someone with a weapon, instead sliding his hand up the sword to the pommel. Grasping it and twisting it drew a small knife free from hiding within the grip itself. Whipping his hand back he threw the knife forward, breaking through the foliage and causing whatever was on the other side to thud to the ground.
Around fifteen minutes after he had left the camp, the General, or Duke, or just plain elf now, returned into the flickering flame of the small fire. The sword had been returned to the scabbard on his waist, cleaned and spotless now. Under one arm he carried several thick branches for the fire they would need, the other hand holding a package which consisted of leaves folded in a particular fashion to carry something within, a trick he had learned as a young boy off his father. At his waist, tied to his belt with the lace of his left boot, hung a large bird, a guinea fowl to be exact, tied off by its feet with his knife in its side. Its feathers were ruffled where it had struggled in the end but it was plump and full chested, about three pounds in all. As he had expected Florence had taken it upon herself to use initiative and start a small fire, building one large enough to warm herself and Meredith beside. He dumped the branches beside the latter woman, taking a seat on the other side and feeding one of the lengths of wood into the fire to build it up slowly lest he smother and kill it.
There was nothing to be said in that moment however so the silence remained. No speech to inflate hope or inspire belief for their future. No touching word for those lost or left behind. As he had proven time and again, he was not cut out for speaking and certainly not with Florence, where every word brought her ire to bear on him. He already had an inkling she was upset; perhaps for him dumping the wood or bringing back the dead bird. He did his best not to let his negativity return once more as it had in the castle but it was difficult.
Instead he brought the bird into his lap, withdrawing the knife to stab the point into the ground beside him and begin stripping away the feathers, ripping them out several at a time. He knew how to hunt, to strip and prepare meat safely for cooking but he was no chef. This meant it would be filling but a little bland and thus why he had collected the leafy parcel; several handfuls of berries that the bird had been feasting upon. Some were sweet like raspberries and honey gold in colour, others more mellow in flavour like a blueberry and a shade of vibrant lime. He placed that before the young maiden in her light clothing as Augustine returned with a handful of sticks and leaves. It was a small amount to add but the man offered him a nod of gratitude, gesturing for the trio to share the fruity morsels between them whilst he finished preparing the guinea fowl, feeding the final handfuls of feathers into the flames.
It would not be enough for four full meals but it would sate the other three well, he would make do with a smaller portion. There was method in feeding them all ahead of himself. It would hopefully tire them, full stomachs often led to a feeling of fatigue and a need for rest. Sleeping beings were much easier to guard, less likely to want to talk and ask him questions he had no answers to. It would allow him to keep an eye out for their shorter accomplice having already identified a tree nearby to use as a perch. Fingers crossed the little man made it, as he needed his superior social skills now more than ever.
Coming up to the hut it was unkempt. But it didn’t feel wholly abandoned, probably because travelers often took up dwelling here, not unlike themselves. It was the perfect place to stay for the night, a reprieve for those who had weeks in the forest with no roof over their heads. This was just the sort of thing she overlooked from her place in the castle, and why she was glad to have others who knew the lay of the land more intimately.
Off the horse in no time flat, Florence brought Augustine down as well. She squeezed him tightly to her chest before setting him flat to his own feet. Nicolai joined them, informing her that this had been a preconceived plan. The olive skinned woman was happy to know Gregory had at least have a chance to make it back to them, but she wasn’t entirely content leaving it to just chance… Her mind didn’t move much further before the general began barking orders at her son. The queen, if she could still be called that at this point, wasn’t exactly happy with his tone, but she also knew it wasn’t the time to coddle him. Augustine needed to get used to the real world and quickly.
Placing her hand gently on his shoulder, she tried to take a less sever tone with the boy. [+mediumseagreen “Do as he says.”] She nudged him and he got moving, eyes on the ground trying to find the materials he’d been asked to gather.
With everyone else in motion, Florence’s first order of business was do a quick once over to the leaning little hovel. The woman wanted to be certain there wasn’t anyone else here. It was a quick walk in and around the building. She made sure to keep her eyes out on the perimeter as well, but did not wander out very far at all. Nicolai could handle that since he was going out anyway. But at the very least, no one was waiting to ambush them in the immediate area. Which was good, seeing as Meredith ran in without a second thought, just trying to find something to do.
Leaving the young woman to whatever it was she was busying herself with, the tall woman returned outside. She joined the little Prince in finding kindling and the likes to start a fire. There was no telling what the elf would bring back to eat, or whether it would require cooking, but it was better to be ready. So, when they had enough to begin she switched tasks to starting the fire. It would also afford them light as the darkness was about to fully set in. Useless eyes were not their friends right now.
There was a fire pit in the building, but with the state of the structure being tilted and decaying the ventilation would be terrible. Not willing to smoke them out of their only shelter for the night, Florence opted to use the designated area outside. This place had enough visitors that one had been dug into the ground. It did not take her long to bring a flame to life. This probably would have been a good lesson for Augustine, but she let him keep mindlessly picking up twigs. The menial task would keep the horror terrors away for now. She was not looking forward to when they laid down to rest and he would have no such chore to keep them at bay.
Nursing the flame until it grew strong enough to sustain itself, Florence sat back, feeding it small sticks as needed. They would need proper firewood to get it any bigger than this, but for now it would suit their needs.
Eventually, when she noticed her efforts had been in vain, and that the older woman was sitting on the floor, Meredith joined her by the fire. Summer almost on them, but the nights were still a little chilly and the cool breeze coming from the ocean to the south didn’t much help that.
Even though Florence was well aware that it would take quite some time to walk to this location from the castle, she still kept a look out for the stubby dwarf. Whenever there was so much as a rustling out at the distance, her eyes went there, hopeful. She wondered if a single night would be enough for him to reach this place. With his cautious nature, she doubted it. He would take no risks, which would in turn slow him down. The woman began plotting. When the others laid down to rest she just might have to slip out to see if she could meet him partway and get him here in time. Somehow she doubted that would be as simple as it sounded, but she thought about it nonetheless.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Eyes darted from the doorway across to Florence, a mortified expression on his face for a flash as she suggested they divert from his plan for her and Augustine’s escape in order to save Gregory. Settled into a more stoic appearance, Nicolai had to bite hard on his tongue from calling her out as a silly woman, risking everything, her life and Augustine’s, in saving a friendly bard. But he didn’t. Rather than chastise her in this crisis he began to ready a route they would take, mentally guiding the horses around to the Northern Gatehouse and attempting to estimate the number of guards who would stand in their path. Thankfully all of his worries were for naught and she came to her senses.
Nicolai let out a short sigh of relief, releasing the reins in his hands a touch though he still held his sword in the other. Perhaps the danger outside the door had given her the realisation that it was too dangerous to remain inside the capital anymore and it was indeed time for them to depart. As expected the horse he had given to her responded to her with ease and no objection, turning towards the partially open stable door. Built like a battering ram, for just such a purpose, he barged through the door and began to work up to a full gallop, hooves clacking against the paved stones. As Nicolai followed her he felt constricted by Meredith’s vice-like grip about his chest, but she was smaller and therefore not restricting his arm to slash down at the mocking half-orc, forcing the man to dance backwards. He did not pursue knowing it would be futile. He simple stood over the bodies of Gerald and Timothy in some triumphant manner.
Like Florence he did not look back, instead keeping his vision moving, looking about them as they rode through to the gatehouse. Perhaps the first man was awe struck by the presence of his Queen and Prince, but the second man eyed the General closely. Between the drawn sword, fresh blood along his sword and along his being and the look of someone keen on killing more. He clicked his tongue at his fellow guard who looked at him concerned by the Queens demand. Nodding to the lever for him to come help raise it; he wasn’t about to die, and she was the Queen after all.
Nicolai followed after Florence as the portcullis rose as he sought to keep pace with her. Rising up from his saddle he struck with his sword on one of the chains that help it up. It was a strong hit and though it dulled the edge of the blade it did shatter a link. Unable to hold the weight by itself the other chain broke and let the metal bars crash to the ground. It would delay any pursuers for a little time at least. Not far from the gate he caught up to the Queen, nodding for her to follow him north a little way until they rode into a copse of trees. It would hide their true route, turning them off west on a lesser used path beside a farm.
For an hour or so they rode on, dropping their pace to a steady trot to keep the horses fresh should they be spotted and chased. Nearing the stream they had set for a meeting place he instructed her to remain seated for a moment whilst he guided his mare around. It was a dilapidated fishermans hut, built back when the stream was a larger river and full of fish. Now that a lot of the flow had been diverted to sate the needs of the farmers, the fish had been less plentiful and the business had died. Satisfied there was no-one waiting inside, having looked in through a portion of collapsed ceiling, and the area had not been inhabited for some time, he nodded for them to dismount, helping Meredith down first before he slipped down. He had no time to help Florence who in typical fashion waited for no-one’s help, climbing off and in the process of helping Augustine down off the tall stallions back.
[+teal “I explained to Gregory a few weeks ago that this would be our meeting place should anything happen, though I expected him to be here in my place. We can stay here until morning but then we will have to move on.”] It would afford the diminutive man time and the others a moment of hope he would make it. Already he could see Meredith was trying to busy herself to focus her mind lest she break down, finding a place inside for Florence and Augustine to sit.[+teal “I will try to find some food. Augustine,”] he called out to grasp the boys attention,[+teal “I need you to forage firewood. Make sure it is dry, just sticks and small branches and a handful of leaves too. Keep to around the house and do not wander off.”] Again he used his more stern voice with the boy, the bloody sword in hand perhaps adding to the daunting appearance of the elf. It was closer to a training lesson now, the humour gone, a cold seriousness remaining.
Going straight to the horse she’d been instructed to, Florence wasted no time in prepping it for departure. It was a bit of a task given how tall the beast was, and the fact that she hadn’t done this in quite some time, but she managed. She gladly accepted Nicolai’s help in mounting the speckled horse. Sure, she could have managed on her own, but it wouldn’t have taken more time than they could spare.
Augustine was next. He was quick to take direction. Grasping so tightly to the saddle that his little knuckles turned white. It took a little longer to coax a physical affirmation from him. Speaking seemed to be beyond him at the moment. He was worried. Even more so now know that there was a chance he might be separated from the general. The man made him feel safe, he would much rather be set up with him than his mother, but he trusted Nicolai if this was how he thought things should be done. Especially if they were to head out immediately and follow his simple directions of not stopping no matter what.
Taken a moment to think over the plan laid out before her, it was solid, but not what she wanted to hear. She had to weight her options. [+mediumseagreen “Gregory… I cannot leave him behind.”] As wise as it would be to flee now before everyone was privy to their location, abandoning the old dwarf was not something she could bring herself to do. [+mediumseagreen “We have to set out towards the north gatehouse. He will be near the armory. We can turn east once we are out… Another horse would be optimum as well.”] Her words flew from her mouth just as quickly as she formulated her plan of action.
It was entirely too much to ask, especially as she heard the clatter of armor against the ground. Somehow Gerald must have fallen. Biting her lip, she looked down to the boy nearly seated in her lap. [+mediumseagreen “There’s no time… We will head west and meet at the stream.”] Her final decision came out begrudgingly. Not towards Nicolai, but those who had conceived this upheaval. The traitorous court who had turned against her and Augustine. That was where her fiery rage was directed, a flame that she was determined to keep lit. She would tend to it until it grew hot enough to melt iron and then she would be back. She would pull them from their deviously won pedestal and watch them burn. The battle may have been lost, but she would have the war.
Hands shaking as she pulled the reigns, the horse responded straightaway. He turned towards the door and she set him into motion. The stallion’s long legs and gait were put to good use just as soon as they burst through the doors. Emerald eyes trailing over to the assassin. He wore a wicked smile as he looked down on Gerald who was soon to be dead on the ground... if he wasn't already. The half orc's purple-gray skin was perfectly dry, as though his short-lived battle against the knight had been little more than a warm up. An intimidating sight to behold.
Florence did not allow her gaze to linger any longer than that. She needed to be vigilant of what was in front of her since the horse was in a full-blown gallop. The scene quickly disappeared behind them, replaced by the ever-changing backdrop of the castle grounds. The distant sky in front of them was darkening as the sun was beginning to set behind them. The deep blue was tinged with lavender, a pretty color not unlike the general’s eyes, but the Queen did not make the connection. She was in no mindset for such fanciful thoughts.
Coming up on the gate, the metal lattice bars were fully closed. Upon first inspection, she saw no one manning the contraption purposed for opening and closing the entryway. But after a moment, a head poked out of the window. The man rushed out and bowed deeply before her. There was concern in his voice as he asked what brought her here.
Not in the mood to explain herself or her actions, Florence’s voice was hard. [+mediumseagreen “Open the gate.”]
Having not expected such a harsh demand to come from her pretty lips, the minor worker was taken aback. Her shouting caused another pair of eyes to look out from the crank house. He was not alone.
[+mediumseagreen “Now!”] Their horse bounced about once again, not at all content to be standing in one place with the tension so high.
[+tomato “Yes, Ma’am!”] He blurted out, before skittering back to begin raising the portcullis with the help of his mate.
Slowly but surely, the gate rose. As it did, she didn’t bother to look back behind them. It would only panic her to see someone following, especially when there was so little she could do about it. Instead she spent her time watching carefully for there to be enough room to pass. Just as soon as she was confident the tall steed would fit, the woman pressed forward. She ducked the remainder of the way and they managed to slip out.
After being stuck in this place for so long, it was strange for Florence to be leaving. Their departure was bittersweet. The experience was liberating, but she was not able to savor it. The sense of freedom was eclipsed by the red-hot wrath that consumed her.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her consent was greatly appreciated and he nodded his thanks to her when she confirmed it through voice, glancing to Gerald to take the lead once more. Given the man was in his armour and a good deal larger and imposing than Nicolai it only made sense to have in front. He offered to take the older man's place lest he be seen as meek and timid, hiding away at the back, but he insisted the elven man take up the back.
Their progress went well. At times Nicolai was forced into nudging Meredith to keep her moving as she continually stopped to look back or hesitated at corners for too long. He eventually placed a soft hand on her shoulder to ease her worries, directing for her to keep looking ahead as he swept his sword out at his side and kept on guard for those behind.
The times they were accosted it all came from the front, as he had predicted they would. Gerald was strong enough to take on a man alone and put him down quickly. But when two or three would charge at them the elf would be forced to move ahead, darting in and out of the fight as he used the Chief Guardsman as a barrier of sorts to allow him his more acrobatic like fighting to flourish. The combination of the two kept their progress steady, the short pauses more distractions than true threats.
Again there was no sense in trying to offer a calming word to the young Prince, or the equally startled Timothy. Like the adults they would have to accept what they had seen and learn to live with it. It was never a cherished moment or memory to call back on fondly, but it would steel his nerves in ways he could not train the boy.
When they entered the stables Nicolai had filed in with the others slowly, his eyes and ears more akin to the sudden change from the light of the day to the darkness within. Yet even his heightened senses did not catch the sound of the half-orc until he had been thrown aside, a small figure snatched up and carried away helplessly. Muttering curses as he stood he moved outside with Gerald, each with a bloody sword drawn and staring at the boy in the man's hands. The least said of Timothy's demise the better, Nicolai swallowing hard as his hand tensed on the swords hilt. As if sensing the moment and fearing the worst, Gerald stepped ahead and pushed the younger man back a step.
There was no telling if the man meant it when he said they would meet later. The enemy was an unknown element and therefore a greater threat. But again he saw the bigger picture in this all. If both of them were injured, even in the defeat of this cretin, they would be hindrances on the others escape. As both of them had sworn, this was all about keeping Augustine and Florence safe. Gritting his teeth the elf turned back once the larger man had taken a strong stance. He nodded his head back to the building for the Meredith, Florence and Augustine to head back in, closing the door over behind him.
[+teal “Your Highness, take the speckled stallion in the corner, he is a timid but a strong beast and can carry you and your son with ease. Meredith, you will join me on the black mare.”] Stepping forward he gathered the necessary reins, saddles and bits for the two horses. He helped with putting the heavy equipment up onto each horse, however he left Florence to strap and fix the pieces in place as he did so with his own. Where he could he would instruct and guide her but she was much more adept with this than most royalty as he had expected. It allowed him to keep his head at a swivel for both entrances to the stables for anyone who may enter, be it half-orc or Gerald too.
With the horses prepared there was no time to waste in checking on his friend. If he lived, he would follow, and if he survived past that they would meet again. For now he turned to the Queen.[+teal “Let me help.”] He commented softly and braced himself against the larger warhorse. Cupping his hand for her foot to brace off she calmly and swiftly threw her leg across and settled herself in on the saddle. Not too long after the boy was lifted up to sit before her, though Nicolai paused momentarily from pulling away.[+teal “You hold onto the saddle horn and do not let go no matter what happens, do I make myself clear?”] His authoritative tone was well read but it took a moment and a firm grasp of the boys arm to draw a nod of understanding from him.
There was little sense in instructing Florence how to guide the horse or ride it. She did not ask any questions of him and concerned herself with settling her son before her. To knock her concentration now would be pointless, he needed her steady mind to get them all out of here.
Returning to his mare he was up in a flash, the act as natural as the swing of his sword. Reaching down he grasped Meredith's arm and instructed her on where to place her foot to climb up onto the horses back. She was clearly startled by the situation and her skin was much paler than he had seen her before. Nevertheless she nodded at his instructions and when guided to she clasped her arms around her torso tightly, resting her cheek to his back to keep as secure as she could to the man.
[+teal “Once we leave, you do not pull back on those reins. Head west from the gatehouse toward the stream and do not slow for anything, even if you lose sight of us. I will make sure no-one follows but I need you your assurance that you will keep going no matter what.”] The horses stomped at the ground, eager and excited for a ride. Despite the additional weight to each back they carried it with ease, trained for such occasions. Without armour it was quite likely the additional body did not register all that much. Regardless, mauve eyes look across to Florence for her affirmation of his plan.
This striking violet eyes were on her, and it looked as though Nicolai was begging to leave this place. That was fine by her; they were already on the way to the door. They didn’t know who they could trust and too large a group would not be able to slip away stealthily. Finally they agreed on something.
[+mediumseagreen “Yes, I believe this is one of those situations that calls for a tactical withdrawal… We are on the way to the stables now; we are going to need horses if we want out escape to be successful.”] News of Paulus was difficult to swallow. She had thought he was one of those who leaned towards their side, but Vincent must have gotten his claws in him somehow. Her mind also went to Gregory, they hadn’t had time to decide on a meeting place, but she knew where he would likely go before leaving the grounds. Perhaps she could use that…
With a wave of her hand, she let Gerald take the lead once more. The armored man looked to his compatriot. [+purple “Nicolai, you take up the rear. I don’t want anyone sneaking up on us.”] Having one of those sleazy traitors get behind them and grab one the Queen or the Prince for leverage was the last thing they needed, right after this whole damned rebellion.
Much like before, their progress was touch and go. Gerald stopped them when he deemed it necessary. His old, but well trained, ears picked up any sounds that might hint at the enemy’s arrival, an especially difficult task with all the discord in the background. Screams of terror and pain echoed after them through the hollow halls. It was haunting.
When the six of them did run into ‘problems’, they were handled swiftly. The knight getting the jump on them and calling for the elf’s aid to combine their efforts. When it came to that, Florence was sure to grab Augustine and pull him into her skirt. He had seen enough to traumatize him already. More would only be overkill, though there was little she could do about the horrifying sounds that would plague his nightmares from this day forward. He was silent through the whole ordeal.
Stepping foot outside of the keep, the stables were in sight. There was a clear shot, but the woman doubted it would stay that way. She prayed that they might be disorganized enough to have overlooked this place. Unfortunately, that level of luck was not on their side.
Coming up to the building, thick dark wood beams stuck out against a pale backdrop. The sound of nervous animals came from inside, the horses must have known something was wrong. They were sensitive animals. Slowly pushing open the thick door, the hinge squealed. There was darkness save for the slants of light that fell through the evenly spaced open windows. Given it was evening, that wasn’t much.
The six of them filed in. But before the door could swing shut behind them, a figure flashed from behind the door. There was a scream, a young voice crying out. And before anyone knew what was happening, the shadow fled. It was a mad dash to back out the door. Everyone was consumed by the same exact thought. However, when they came into the light, the child in hand was not Augustine, but Timothy.
Yet for Florence, there was one more surprise, the man standing with the page in grasp was a familiar sight to her. A certain half orc she had caught glimpse of only a few weeks before. Her jaw clenched, stopping her from saying anything.
Looking down, dark eyes fell onto Timothy’s features, equally dark hair falling in the man’s face. He pushed it back with a free hand and let out a sound of displeasure. [+forestgreen “Tsk,”] The thin boy struggled in his grasp. [+forestgreen “I don’t need this one.”] Without the need to look down or away from the child, his fingers wrapped around a dagger at his waist and he promptly slit the boys throat. Dropping the human boy, he sputtered on the ground. A fountain of red gushing from his throat and mouth. Once again the Queen attempted to turn her son away from the carnage.
[+forestgreen “Hello, Florence, it is a pleasure to finally officially make your acquaintance.”] A grim smile graced his thin lips. [+forestgreen “I have heard so much about you.”]
Quite honestly, the woman had no idea what this lunatic was on about, but before she could speak Gerald jumped in.
[+purple “Your Majesty. He’s trying to distract. You need to flee.”] The elderly gentleman didn’t seem to include himself in his statement. He was already drawing his sword with flames in his eyes. This was the type of injustice he could not stand. [+purple “Nicolai, see them safe from here. I will meet with you later.”]
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