[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat A chuckle came from the elf on seeing how Augustine reacted to Flora’s delight on hearing he had called her cute. Perhaps he was stretching the truth to tease him, but the girl was quite adorable. It did not help him with trying not to think of his own daughter and how she was one of the most beautiful beings in the world. But he was rather good at hiding that emotion for when he was alone. It was best to distract himself from such things and Marko provided that. His grin was infectious when he nodded that he was indeed an axman. That was about all he got out of the boy however, save the fact that axes were his forte from working in a lumber yard.
Eyeing him in silence for a few seconds, his fork holding the remainder of a sausage aloft, Nicolai was motionless as if he was contemplating whether Marko’s skill was good or bad. Now the sausage was used to point and he nodded.[+royalblue “I like this kid. He’s good in my books. Doesn’t waffle, says only what he needs to, built like a brick shithouse and prefers a good solid weapon as opposed to a flimsy bow.”] He glanced to Flora before she could make any argument against his point about bows and shook his head.[+royalblue “No personal offence meant to you Flora, I just don’t like bows.”] His right hand went to his shoulder, where that arrow had punctured him years before.
He popped the remainder of the sausage into his mouth before grabbing the remaining bread, placing an egg and sliver of bacon between two pieces, and pressed them together whilst standing.[+royalblue “Come on kids, let’s go get mother and then we can head off.”] He found it ironic that they were like an odd makeshift family now, but he would be much more polite and speak in a sweeter tone when Florence was here. His cheek still felt sore this long after being hit.
He replaced his sword into the scabbard at his side and reaching over took up the polearm. Offering it off to Marko he nodded.[+royalblue “You can carry that. See what you think, maybe we can make you a pseudo pikeman come axman with a little training.”] He just wanted someone to carry his things at first, but it did make sense to give him additional training. All of them would be taught more on swords, Augustine included, as he wanted to know should they be forced to grab whatever was at hand they would be able to fight. For now, his egg and bacon sandwich was at hand and he made his way for the door so that they could head off to get Florence. He had no bag with him, just yet, but he knew where it was.
Nicolai's teasing worked like a charm and Augustine's face soon lit up a bright shade of red that almost matched the scarf at his neck. It stood out magnificently on his light skin and only worsened as Flora practically span in her chair to bring her attention to him. [+plum "Ooooh, really? I would love to hear more, Augustine."] She leaned in toward him. [+plum "You are never that nice. I can hardly believe it."] That was not actually true, but he did tend to keep sweet words and acts to a minimum when they were not on their own. She doubted this was a sign that he was breaking of that, but she would have loved it if it were.
Marko shook his head at the pairs antics. This was pretty classic Flora, so he was used to it and it did not really bother him. But he did think they could tone it down just a touch. And as much as he didn't care for talking to strangers, he was almost glad to have Nicolai call out to him. It would give him an excuse to ignore the other two and not get pulled into their nonsense.
Listening as the man listed off possible weapons, he grinned as he came to the third and final option. [+darkblue "That's the one."] He had a not so modestly sized battle ax. It was still small enough to wield single handed, but he still thought it fit into the category of 'big fucking ax.' Besides that he had a couple of throwing axes and had taken to using a shield, as per Florence's request. When she found out Augustine had a friend that wanted to come along, she forced her son to bring him to the castle so she could get an analysis of his skill level. It was just about the scariest day of Marko's life, given that was his first time in the palace and meeting the rather critical woman, but she gave some solid advice that would ready him to fight in an actual battle as opposed to hitting straw targets.
[+darkblue "Worked in a lumber yard."] Short and sweet as was the usual for him.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai nodded and went back to eating the moment he heard she was fine. Whilst he may think he had lightened his approach to his mother, he was simply taking it slower and was relieved to know she was okay. Thankfully he was allowed to leave, having been fully ready to wolf down a few more mouthfuls and forced to leave to keep up with them. Eyeing his food more than he did the trio of youth he tore off some of his bread to dip into the grease and fat on his plate as he was introduced to those around him.
He found Marko an interesting character given his rather simple nod of greeting. But Flora, well she was the opposite of her father. Hearing that Augustine had talked about him a lot over the years made him feel a little odd. It was peculiar that he would be discussed given how they had parted and how angry he had been when he had met him in the dungeon. But it was a little kind as he was thought about some. If only his mother was like him in talking of him. Oh well.
[+royalblue “I hope it was all good information he gave you, good and honest too. Augustine has a habit of making people sound better than they are, especially me.”] He looked across to the emerald-eyed boy and grinned at him a little as he took a bite of his juicy bread. It was delicious as expected and he took a breath in through his nose as he eyed Marko with curiosity.
Swallowing, and with cutlery still in hand, he pointed the knife at the boy with the ebony skin.[+royalblue “Now, I know who Flora is, and quite a lot about her in fact, as Augustine is always gushing about how cute she is – and she is adorable in that regard.”] That part was just to embarrass the boy as it would amuse Nicolai to let him squirm some.[+royalblue “But you.. you are a dark enigma, excuse the pun. He has not told me anything about you, but you look the part. All I am wondering is; what are you? Archer? Swordsman? Big fucking axe?”] He had become a little crass in his years away from the formal world in Wistina. Out here with the people, he was more prone to cussing.
While the food did look very enticing, Augustine was still full from their breakfast on the ship. [+coral "We will have a seat, if you do not mind. But we just ate a bit ago."] Traveling on an overly full stomach was not advisable.
He, Marko, and Flora took up the three remaining seats at the table and Nicolai inquired as to where his mom was. Honestly, he had expected that to be the man's first question, but it turned out he still left room for niceties. [+coral "Back at the docks. The crew are keeping an eye on her as they unload... She doesn't do so well on ships, so she wanted some time to sit before getting along."] He had almost forgotten that Nicolai never got to see her in all her seasick glory. Augustine got the feeling he would have reveled in it a little too much. [+coral "Go ahead and take your time to finish, and then we can regroup with her."]
With that out of the way it was time to move on to getting everyone acquainted. [+coral "So, introductions."] His green eyes went between the other three and then stopped on Nicolai. [+coral "As you might have guessed, this is Flora."] He motioned a hand to the bright haired young woman on his right. [+coral "And this is Marko."] The boy's hand followed through over to his other friend who did little more than nod to the gentleman who was finishing up his meal.
Flora was not nearly so reserved. [+plum "Nice to finally meet you."] Dark eyes ran over the elf and she smiled widely. [+plum "I've heard a lot about you over the years.] Augustine talked about him almost everytime Wistina came up. But recently he came up more frequently. Mainly because of everything that happened. She had heard the lot of what her boyfriend knew, and the occasional detail that came from her father as he complained. It was a very complicated matter, but if Augustine and Lady Florence trusted this guy, so would she. [+plum "It is good to know we are gonna have a little more experience between us."] She had a lighthearted tone, but this was something she was actually very glad for. The better a chance they had at making it to the end of this alive, the happier she would be.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was sitting at a table in the village inn, tucking into a large breakfast. It was the full works; succulent sausages, bacon cooked just crispy enough, eggs fried and their yokes a golden sunny yellow, with plump tomatoes on the side and several slices of thick buttered bread. It was a feast for him and he was already half way through it when Augustine and his friends walked in on him.
Dressed in the attire he had been captured in, though cleaned of blood now, he looked like most of the other villagers. The woollen hood was warm and soft after a way, and sat atop his shining silver chain armour. It was of dwarvish design to be both light but strong, leaving him to have the flexibility he needed whilst giving him his protection. On his leather belt sat several pouches and bags, though his weapons were sat on table beside his meal. His sword, the same that Florence had looked on and admired in the infirmary, was the same one he had taken with him from Wistina with the same crest in the hilt. The long pole arm he had fought Adrian with, left behind however by the Astorians, had been taken up by his own men and returned to him and was propped against the wall behind him.
He had informed them, the rebels he led, that he would be departing, instructing them to speak with the new representative of Astoria and from there to facilitate the end of the rebellion. They had gotten what they wanted; both sides had. Astoria would not be losing any more soldiers, would have a reduced presence in Vollenberg, and yet would continue to reap the benefits of trade. Meanwhile the Malidek peoples would have their homes back, and would be given help in reintegrating into the one small fishing village, to begin new and prosperous lives. It was only regretful that they had shed so much blood in the meanwhile.
Looking up from his meal as three shadows fell over him, Nicolai eyed the two that flanked Augustine with derision. Children? They had sent two children to assist on their journey? Oh what joy, this would make things that much easier no doubt. Especially as the one to the right, the girl, had the eyes of Augustus. She must be Flora.[+royalblue “Hello Augustine and friends. Care to join me?”] He said with a smile as he stabbed his fork into a sausage that oozed with succulent juices.[+royalblue “Where is your mother?”] He asked with a little worry in his voice, pausing from continuing his meal until he was sure of what was going on.
Augustus was not a fan of being talked down to as if he was not aware of the tendencies of man and their affinity for war. He had played his own part in that, in what was debatably the worst kind: civil. All the casualties were losses no matter whose side took them. But now was not the time to tell horror stories about that. He let Nicolai say his piece and then leave. Whether or not he would get what he wanted out of the kitchen staff was another matter entirely. Gregory may have been able to finagle whatever he liked out of Samantha and her crew, but he seriously doubted the elf would have such an easy time of it. Especially if she recognized him as the man who had been wandering about the castle all that time ago.
It was a matter of days before Nicolai was gone from the castle, and shortly after that the country. Word still buzzed, hearsay of what people thought had happened. These whispers were little more than shadows of what had really come to pass. It was still up in the air whether or not the official story would be released to those outside of the immediate family of the victims. Eugene said something about asking how those involved wanted the situation handled as the memory of their loved ones could be tarnished. He would base his actions around that, though Florence got the feeling he would likely come to light with the situation. That was just how he was.
Augustine had a renewed flame in him to get out of Astoria and finally start on his journey. It did not help that he knew Nicolai was waiting for them. Florence constantly reminded him that if the past general had waited this long, he could wait another week or two. She was really just holding out for Eugene's return before they left. At the very least she wanted a proper goodbye with her brother. There was no telling if she would ever be back. If everything went perfectly, yes, but she did not dare to even dream that would happen.
The time passed quickly for the woman. Knowing that her time here was running short did not help with that either. She spent less and less time helping out, partially because she did not want to start tasks and leave them unfinished, and more time in the company of family and friends. Most of this was dedicated to Gregory. Out of everyone, it would be strangest to part with him. Regardless Eugene returned and she gave them three days before they were to leave. It came and went in a blur.
Standing at the gate, Florence was dressed for travel. She traded in her dress for a pair of pants. It was a little strange, but she would get used to it soon. But she was not the only one set to go. Marko met them there and the three of them fully prepared for the trip ahead. All that was left was goodbyes, and there were plenty of them to be had. Many people were gathered round for the occasion and there were very few dry eyes among them. A lot of embraces were forced on Florence, but she took it in stride. She managed to keep a stiff upper lip right until it got around to her father's turn. He had her tearing up by the end of his spiel, which was likely one final and intentional jab at her.
As the crowd started to clear and there were fewer and fewer people about, Florence noticed two missing faces. Abigail was not among them. Then, as if that thought summoned her, she came rushing from inside. Behind her trailed a red tail. It was not until she drew closer that they would be able to see that it was a scarf. Running up to Augustine, she reached up and wrapped the knitted garment around his neck with a tearful smile. Understanding the sentiment even without words, the boy smiled back and thanked her. And with her parting gift, the trio was off.
There had been no plans to stop until they made it to the southern port, but they were barely a mile out of town when there was a surprise. It was the other missing face from their farewell party: Flora. And given she was fully decked out to travel, this was not for a private goodbye. [+mediumseagreen "Come now, Flora. You know we cannot take you with us. What would your parents think if I just stole you away like that?"]
That seemed to be what the young lady expected to hear, she pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket as she spoke. [+plum "I already talked to my mom about it. She is okay with me coming. I've got a letter from her, if you don't believe me."]
Florence took the letter and it truly was from Julia. The gist of it was that she wanted Flora to be able to make her own choices, though it was written out to be a little more berating toward her child than that. Half of it was complaining that she would need to find a new apprentice, but Florence expected nothing less of Julia. [+mediumseagreen "And your father?"] Her green eyes came off the parchment to look back at the girl.
[+plum "He didn't say no..."] The tone and look on her face led Florence to believe that was code for 'he had no idea this is happening.' [+plum "Mom is going to handle him."]
Shaking her head at the pair, Florence wondered how many years it was going to take for Augustus to get over this. No doubt this would be the reason he sent his first letter to her, and it would not be a kind one. But for now, she would not feel too terrible about it. [+mediumseagreen "Alright, but let us hurry before Augustus catches on and we all have to hear his lecture."]
It was a full days journey down to the port town. They spent the night there and then spent the next day on a boat, much to Florence's chagrin. Her seasickness was still very much a problem. When they finally made it to the tiny village, the one that Nicolai had been brought to, she was the first one off ship. And oh boy, did she look worse for wear.
After thanking the captain and crew, Augustine regrouped with his mother. She waved him and the others on, telling them to leave her be and track down Nicolai. That would afford her some time to get her feet back under her. Standing on solid, non rocking, ground was already doing her wonders. She hoped to be recovered by the time they returned.
Agreeing to that, the blond took off in search of their last party member. It was a small town, so he did not think it would take long. And he was right. One mention of an elf and he was pointed in the right direction. He found the violet-eyed man set up at the village's only inn.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was taken back to his room still in his shackles and he could understand the animosity given to him by those he passed. Adrian’s treachery was not yet, or probably never would be, known by those around him. All those eyes that looked on him saw a barbaric monster or a mercenary who delighted in killing people. And in that way it stung him much worse than if they simply disliked his personality like Florence. He could understand that. Yet to hate him because they assumed he was a man of bloodlust and death? It rather hurt.
As he had said to Eugene, he was not working with the rebellion out of a desire to kill Astorians. If he wanted that he could have killed many, many more. Instead he had focused the violence and the attacks, had made it less terroristic and more of a battle between two opposing forces. He had subdued the pyromaniacs and the anarchists in the rebellion and had made things better for everyone involved by doing so. But no, he was to be remembered in these lands as a cruel and evil person. And by the looks of the servants and guards and general dignitaries he passed he was like some kind of boogie man, evil personified.
Led back to his room he was unshackled and pushed within, though a few minutes later the doors were opened and he was informed by Augustine that he could leave the room, that Augustus had released him as his charge and his responsibility. He fought to supress a roll of his eyes. He disliked being indebted to people, not least Augustine or his mother. Yet now he owed them his life – such a debt was not easily repaid. Thanking the younger man however he asked if there was a small garden he might sit in. Having been in a room of stone and wood for weeks, he wanted to feel the wind and outdoors again. He even invited the guard who had held his key and been stationed outside his door if he wished to follow – perhaps he would be able to help should someone in the castle see him loose and attack him in panic that he had escaped. The man seemed more content that he would know where Nicolai was and not roaming free.
And that is where Augustus found him. Sat outside near the harvest fields, leaning against the inner wall of the castle as his fingers grasped handfuls of dirt and let it sift through slowly, staring off into the distance of Astoria’s landscape about them. The guard, not far away and still with his head at a swivel, reported that he had been sat here for nearly an hour now ‘playing with the dirt’, but otherwise had done nothing else.
[+darkslateblue “Is this what you did in Malidek to pass the time? Play in the dirt like swine and children?”] Perhaps not the best to compare pigs to kids but oh well.
Nicolai took his time turning his head away from the scenery to look at Augustus and smiled. It was a soft smile, quite gentle too.[+royalblue “Let us just say it is because I’m elven. We’re earthen creatures.”] It was not true, or rather was an old stereotype of the race, but he let his hand release a final handful before brushing them together.
Augustus took a seat on a nearby upturned bucket and shook his head.[+darkslateblue “Well, earthen creature, I am here to tell you that we will arrange for you to be returned to Malidek as soon as possible. Not to Vollenberg – for obvious reasons. You’ll be dropped off on the coastline.”] To put him in the middle of the storm would be silly.
[+royalblue “Shame. I could get used to this.”] He said gesturing to the fields of crops and the beautiful sights about him. But it was tongue in cheek and he saw Augustus shake his head lightly.
[+darkslateblue “I doubt even the God’s could convince Eugene to let you stay; and I agree with him. Especially given we still have to deal with the rebels and their demands.”] He let out a deep breath and leaned forward on his seat.
[+royalblue “What is there to deal with? Move your men to the port district, let them protect the ships and docks and leave the rest of Vollenberg alone and you will have peace.”] Nicolai spoke so nonchalantly about it that Augustus looked at him with derision and scepticism. Seeing the look he was getting the elfin man chuckled.[+royalblue “Oh come now Augustus, you know negotiations are like that.”]
[+darkslateblue “You demanded homes, jobs, the wall gone as well as the soldiers.”]
[+royalblue “Yes; start big to get what you really want. If I had simply asked for the soldiers to be returned to the port district you would fight against me on even that. The key to negotiations is to start with grounds to concede. I would have fought tooth and nail for it all, but in the end I would settle for what I want, what the rebellion wants, or rather what I convinced them they wanted.”] Leaning back on the wall behind him he had chills up his spine, a subconscious memory to being back in the dungeon.
[+darkslateblue “So.. the whole time this could have been settled by just moving the soldiers to the port? All those soldiers died.. all those families are grieving now, and all you wanted was them to move back?”] He was not happy about that at all and represented the anger no doubt Eugene would.
Nicolai looked unfazed by it all.[+royalblue “Yes. Your soldiers died needlessly because you were misled by a traitorous mad man in Adrian. I did my best to limit losses. But I suppose one is too many these days.”] If he had known, he would have offered to go with Eugene to visit those families, let them shout at him, the children beat at him in anger and widows slap him repeatedly in grief. But that was an unspoken thought.
Augustus for his part was silent for a long time, contemplating just what had happened these last seven years since Adrian turned up. And Nicolai noticed his aggrieved look.
[+royalblue “Do not take it personal Augustus. This is life. This is war. Just as sure as summer gives way to winter, there will always be war, where men die and families grieve and those left will lament why we keep doing it, why we let the cycle repeat and will swear it will not happen again.”] He ran his hands up through his hair and sighed deeply before pushing up onto his feet.[+royalblue “Come James, let us go to the kitchens and see if I can get something sweet for a change.”] He spoke to the guard not far away from them but paused as he passed by Augustus. Looking down on him his violet eyes softened a touch.[+royalblue “Tell Eugene I am sorry for all this. If I had remained firm seven years ago, none of this would have happened. Things would be different. But then again, perhaps the same in some ways.”] His footsteps quietened as he left the man be and set off in search of something to eat, his guard close behind.
Soon it was just the two of them and Augustine looked to his namesake. It was apparent that he was taking the full weight of what Eugene had said when he left the room. He was in some trouble, but that was not entirely uncommon. At least, it hadn't been when he was in his youth, so he would get over that. It was his friends disappointment that really stung. His eyes came over to meet the boy's; he wanted to blame it on him. Had Augustine not interfered none of this would have come out of the woodwork, however, he knew better. After they were sure of what happened and matters were settled with Adrian, he should have told Eugene what was going on. That was his mistake.
Locked in that thought, he barely caught what Augustine said to him. [+coral "So... does this mean that Nicolai is to be set loose?"] Obviously he knew that he was to be released; he was asking for for the time in between now and their departure.
Augustus' voice came out worn. [+darkslateblue "If we are to treat him as your subject, then yes."] He would essentially be an ambassador of Wistina. [+darkslateblue "But if he makes any trouble, he will be restrained again and it is coming back on you."] The man did not really believe that Nicolai would do anything at this point, he just wanted the blond boy to be aware of the burden he had taken on.
With that Augustine gave the man his thanks and ran off to pass the message along. There was a chance that Nicolai would want to be left to his own means for a while, but he wanted to give him the chance to do so out of that room. He could only imagine how tired of the same decor he was and how he longed for a breath of fresh air.
Contrary to how things usually went, all mouths that were present at the meeting stayed closed. Not a single rumor or whisper about what had transpired echoed through the halls. Florence found it odd, but she did not have to worry about it for long, because Eugene came to her himself. He vented his frustrations at her. She was surprised that Augustus would let everything slip, then it turned out it was not him at all. Her son had been tracking things from behind the scenes and injected himself into the situation. But that interference saved Nicolai's life, so she could not be too mad at him. And looking at her brother, she knew deep down he was grateful too.
Having given himself time to step back and look at all the facts, now that he had them, Eugene was still feeling hurt at the betrayal from his sister and friend. But he was glad things had deescalated to some extent. Given more details, he did not think Nicolai should die over this. Truth be told, he thought there was seldom reason to take a man's life. But he knew his opinion was not universal and his stance on such things had been wrong in the past. The most prominent time being in the case of dealing with the late King Gresham. So in trying to take a more critical eyes he ended up losing himself and for that he felt terrible. Though that did not completely dissipate his hard feelings toward the elf. Indeed, Florence was also irritated when she heard about what happened with the children in Malidek. Nicolai had been asked so many times to give them all the details. Everything that pertained to what was going on and he left something as important as that out. That or he thought they already knew. A thought that confused her greatly, as she was not sure how he could be so mistaken about her character to think she would sweep such a thing under the rug or treat it as nothing. Had they known that had occurred, things would have been different from the start. But now was not the time to dwell on it.
The siblings talked over it for a long time before Florence asked that all important question. [+mediumseagreen "So what are you going to do?"]
The man let out a long sigh. [+seagreen "Tell the truth."]
She flinched, that did not sound like the best of ideas to her. But given how terribly things had gone by listening to her and Augustus' advice up till now, it was time for him to have his chance to do things his way.
[+seagreen "I am going to go to the families of the deceased individually, explain what has happened and apologize."] It was his oversight that resulted in this mess, so he would take responsibility and see that the families knew what had happened and why. Then judging based on what he saw there he would either finalize his decision to leave Malidek or try to make repairs.
[+mediumseagreen "Eugene... If you are going to do that then I should come with you. I was the one who brought Adrian here in the first place. I was the one who was deceived of his character."] That one misjudgment had caused so much pain and suffering. She deserved the discomfort of having to confront it head on, but her brother shook his head at her.
[+seagreen "No, at the end of the day this falls back on me as a leader. I should have looked further into it, so I will handle the repercussions... You need to prepare to start your journey back to the south."] Truth be told he wanted Nicolai out of Astoria as soon as possible. He hated to part from his sister and nephew, but to have that man staying in the castle would test even the faith of his people. [+seagreen "Just come back to us as soon as you can, Florence."] He smiled at her, though it was not a fully happy gesture, and she returned the expression. Things were in the process of change again.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat With Captain Liam brought and plopped down in a seat not far from him Nicolai was finally allowed to lift his head, though he kept low so that his hands could reach and massage at his forehead. He had had a terrible time of headaches the last two weeks and here they were aggravating that by slamming his head on the table. Just break a finger next time. It would be much easier to deal with that discomfort than the throbbing of his mind.
Once he had focussed, he was only hearing Eugene, having missed what was going on. Whatever had been discussed between them all had flown over his head but apparently he was to be let go and he looked at Eugene with narrowed eyes and thin lips. He was not pleased about being saved by Augustine. Yes, he was an egotistical idiot who was very particular about not having said ego challenged. And here he was forced to sit there and be thankful that he had been saved.
Florence would not let this down, she would pounce on it at every moment that he stepped out of line or challenged her; 'my son saved your life'. Oh he could hear that aggravating woman's voice now. And yet on thinking of her, the headache subsided. On seeing that delightful smile, that strong and powerful emerald gaze, hearing her sing-song voice. Now was not the time to swoon however and he was not given too much time to deliberate what he was thinking before he was being dragged out of the room by the guard that had not brought Liam, pushed ahead of him. He had been denied one last word to Eugene but likely it was for the best.
They had Liam sat down before he came out of his confused stupor. Augustus was the one to take the lead. [+darkslateblue "Before the incident at the mill, Nicolai claims that there was some foul play on our part and that the death of two Malidek boys was the true reason for what happened. Is this true?"]
Much like he had been during the first interrogation with the captain he became antsy. His gaze went from person to person in the room, but his mouth stayed shut.
[+darkslateblue "Liam! I suggest you speak and you tell the truth. There is no one for you to be covering for anymore."] surely news of Adrian's death had made it to his ear. It was bound to be buzzing about amongst the guards.
After another pause, he nodded. [+cadetblue "It is true. Adrian wanted a reason to push forward so he acted on his own and gave them reason."]
A fire lit behind the man's eyes. [+darkslateblue "And you saw no reason to report this?"] the man looked away, meaning he was already under Adrian's command that long ago. It was disgusting. Augustus wanted to send him away, but there was no telling if they would need anything else confirmed, so he said nothing letting the man sink farther into his chair.
As horrifying as that was to hear, that the provocation had started on their end, it did not fully extinguish Eugene's anger toward the elf. All this meant was that all those people died because someone Nicolai knew full well to be crooked did a crooked thing. He spoke of wanting talks but knowing Adrian to be no good, then why had he not overstepped him? There was nothing to stop him from coming straight here and telling him or Florence. Was this all some game to him? A play war so I can feel the thrill of being a general again? To Eugene he looked a man who did not care if he could stop the senseless death, so long as he got the glory in the end.
Augustine caught the look in his uncle's eyes. He was not happy, not in the least. This was, of course, not happy news, but his expression was something different. There was a specific kind of hurt and he was afraid of where it might lead. [+coral "Onkel... I know this may not be the right time, but given this new information I think it only right that Nicolai have his freedom. If not for his own sake, but mine. He is going to be a crucial piece for when we return to Wistina. Our chances of success will be much greater if he is at our side..."] It was a shameless request, though he did actually believe that Nicolai should not die for this.
Eugene shook his head, though that was not his answer. It was more to clear his mind. [+seagreen "Augustine... Fine. I sincerely hope that he is able to help you in your endeavor. But once he leaves, he is never to return. I do not want him to ever step foot on Astorian soil again."] Pushing off against the table, the King went to stand again. He was going to have a lot to do in the weeks to come. [+seagreen "Augustus."] The name came out harsh. [+seagreen "We are going to have words about you keeping things from me."] The man almost more upset about that than everything else. He trusted Augustus to tell him what he needed to know to make the right choices, and he had failed him.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat So the boy had brass, eh? A few days ago he was timid, repentant for what he had done, wanting to know if that ill feeling would disappear. Now he was here telling Nicolai to shut up and stop talking and the elf had no reply both witty or crude. He was quite impressed to be perfectly truthful. Still, with his head pinned to the table and hands shackled he could not exactly look to disobey the boy. For once Nicolai complied, saying nothing as he closed his eyes to fight the discomfort of his current predicament.
Hearing the guard was dismissed to bring in a Captain Liam made Nicolai partly curious. If this was the man he had been told about by Daniels, then this would be Adrian's lackey. And without the main man alive, he would have to do as their best hope of confirming his account of what had happened. It was partly funny however. It seemed they knew very little and yet he was guilty in absentia of this information. Eugene knew very little of what was going on and seemed only to want Nicolai's life based solely on the fact he had killed his soldiers. It was almost tyrannical to kill opposition based on such flimsy evidence; something Vincent would be more than happy to do.
Not long after a confused Liam was pushed into the room, equally shackled like Nicolai and looking about himself wondering why he had been summoned before all those gathered - especially the King.
[+coral "Like hell it isn't!"] Augustine could not believe he was being stubborn now of all times. Practically one foot in the grave and he wanted to pull some stupid macho act. [+coral "Last I checked you still consider yourself a citizen of Wistina and that makes me your King. So shut your mouth and let me do my job."] There was little room for argument with the tone he was taking. Not to mention he did not leave anyone else time to speak before he went on, now directing his words back at his uncle. [+coral "I am not just making this up to try and save him, it is the truth. Adrian was a member of the taken. He tried to attack mom and I retaliated. That is what killed him, not his confrontation with Nicolai."]
Once again, Eugene glanced over to Augustus whose silence spoke volumes. At least that part was likely to be true, and with how Nicolai had reacted to the information, that was a double confirmation. He nodded so that the boy might continue if he had anything else to say.
[+coral "By bringing this information forward who knows what sort of catastrophy we managed to avoid. Killing him after saving our hides would be shameful."] His green eyes were filled with determination as he stared down his uncle just across the room.
Bringing a hand up to rub at his temple, Eugene let out a long breath. If this was as true as he thought it was, they would owe the elf to some extent. He just was not sure how much of his folly it overwrote. The man decided to dig a little deeper into things. [+seagreen "Augustus. What of this business with the children before the mill?"] It was not something he had ever heard of and he was choosing to think it nothing more than a desperate man's lie. But if Nicolai's word had been reliable up to this point, and with things as severe as a traitor among them, he would do well to look into it.
[+darkslateblue "It was never in any report that made it to me."] That did not necessarily mean it did not happen though. Something of that nature would explain the sudden change in level and direction of violence. It would also place a larger share of the blame onto their shoulders. [+darkslateblue "But I can confirm by a second source."] Directly after that Augustus barked at one of the guards to bring Captain Liam up from the dungeon. They would have his word on the matter since he had been at Adrian's side for the entirety of this ordeal.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai shook his head at a lot of what Eugene was saying. It was the talk of someone who felt all superior and lauded it over those below. Nothing he did was wrong, nothing he said was a lie, everything he did was holy. He could see so much of Florence in her and now he understood it was just a familial trait.[+royalblue “A fortnight before the mill you had two young boys killed on the suspicion that they were with the rebellion. No older than ten – dead. Don't think this was unprovoked and stop acting like you are clean in any of this! You began it, I am ending it!”] The guard had stepped forward to push him back into his seat though now he pushed a little against the man's hand and in a moment his head was slammed forward onto the table, rebounding a little before being pinned in place.
It was here, with Nicolai's argument and Eugene's decree he would be put to death that Augustine came in. What he said was what everyone in the room bar his Uncle knew. But the moment he began to say it there was a look of trepidation on Nicolai's face. This was perhaps what both he and Augustus had been hoping to shield the boy from.[+royalblue “Ignore him, he is being emotional given our past. He is trying to take the blame so that you don't kill me but I won't let him.”] He struggled under the hand on his head but he couldn't move from it as he looked over to the young boy and gritted his teeth.[+royalblue “This is not your fight Augustine..”] He tried to catch the youthful boys eye, trying to convey his desire for him not to do this. Even now he was quite prideful and did not want others to defend him. Even now, after seven years, it made him feel weak.[+royalblue “It is okay.”]
[+seagreen "I think it is more than you do not understand Astorian's than I misunderstand soldiers. That may be what it is like in the south, but things are different here."] It would have done the man well to actually know a thing or two about the country before he came and started making these sort of broad comments. [+seagreen "And the last time I checked, victors do not need to meet the demands of those they had beaten."] If anything, if they had truly won, they should have been able to simply state what it is that they wanted and Nicolai's band of merry men should back down. But seeing as that was no the case this was a long shot from victory.
[+seagreen "Reasonable? Treating us as a middle man for what should be your talks with the Baron, is reasonable?"] That was a touch incredulous. [+seagreen "You want houses, and yet I have no authority to build them. You want the wall to be torn down, but I was not the one to build it. You want jobs, but eighty percent of what we are doing is ferrying goods from port to port on boats."] Unless they wanted to join Astorian trade ships and leave the town they called home there was not a lot to be done for them. [+seagreen "And you want our men out of that city, well join the long list of us that have been waiting for that to become a possibility."]
[+seagreen "You may attack my character all you like, but that is not going to help you."] He could understand that Nicolai was upset. He clearly cared deeply for this cause, which was something Eugene could relate to, but he was trying his damnedest not to let those sympathies blind him.
Shaking his head, Eugene was regretting the choice to let Augustus have his way with this more and more. [+seagreen "Was the incident at the mill not unprovoked?"] As he recalled they were called to help some of the locals who were trying to expand and they were all brutally murdered. [+seagreen "That was what brought us off of the defensive."] Before that point, the guard was there simply to keep their people safe from the attacks that preceeded it. [+seagreen "I can not speak for everything that happened there, as I was not as involved as I should have been."] He shot a sidelong glance over at his dark eyed friend that denoted his displeasure. Even now he knew there were things he and Florence were withholding from him. [+seagreen "That was my fault."] He was not afraid to admit that. Like any person, he had plenty of shortcomings. [+seagreen "But I am here now and I have to admit we made mistakes. Mistakes I will pay for with the backlash of bringing my people home from Malidek. You also need to see your mistakes, and recognize that you are going to have to pay for them with your life."] It seemed as though Nicolai did not want to chance he was giving him at putting his life in the hands of others, so he was going to make the choice here and now.
With the finality of that, Eugene began to rise from his chair. He was barely to his feet when Augustine came bursting through the door in a huff. There was little time to ask what in the world was wrong, let alone tell him to get out before he was jabbering away.
[+coral "Onkel Eugene, don't do this!"] The blond was ruffled, his uncle wondered just how long he had been listening in. [+coral "He does not deserve to die over this, not after he helped us."] The boy spoke quickly, trying to get everything he needed to say out. [+coral "Nicolai had good reason to distrust Adrian, he knew he was deceiving us about his character. It is not unreasonable that he would not reach out because of that. Think back to when you spoke with my mom. She said that she trusted Nicolai and that she had doubts about Adrian. Think about that and what it means. And- and- and- he didn't kill Adrian, I did."] His hands were balled tightly at his sides. It was difficult to admit that, but he just did not think it fair that Nicolai did all this to help them and then they just let him die, even with all the stuff with Vollenberg.
Eugene was shocked into silence. His nephew was turning out to be quite the little eavesdropper. When he was more clear about it, his eyes went to Augustus who looked away. So what Augustine had said had to be true to at least some extent. [+seagreen "What is going on?"] Gaze hard on his friend now, he expected answers and fast.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai listened in a polite manner, letting Eugene respond to his points one after the other before he would speak himself. A time may come for him to interject and argue back but for now each party was being very civil and he preferred it this way. Yet everything the man said was an utter lie and he bit on his tongue to save barking back at him.
Looking to Augustus at the end, as if to gauge the mans reaction to this news that he would live or die by the choice of emotional families, he found the man was quite blank. Clearly everything Nicolai had done with regards to Adrian meant nothing and he would not look to that dark eyed fool for help. He would save himself.
[+royalblue “I will respond to all your egregious points in order to keep things simple and ordered.”] Without order this would descend into a shouting match that ended with him being dragged out by the guards.[+royalblue “Firstly; you don't understand soldiers if you think they will be satisfied with a feel-good-thought like that.[i 'Died protecting their comrades.'] Soldiers fight for one another yes, but there has to be a reason. The reason was to defend Astorian trade. To pull out would be to admit defeat and they will not forgive you for tarnishing the memories of those lost men, they will resent you, for pushing them into a frivolous war to begin with but also for a very pyrrhic victory.”] That led onto his next point and he lifted his hands, the metal clinking together as he did.
[+royalblue “You may not like to admit it but this is your victory. Having me means leverage to get the peace you desire. Yes, it will come at a cost, but no it will not result in a cycle of unrest. Not if most of my demands are met – and they are reasonable.”] He was unsure if Florence had passed along said demands when he made them in the dungeon, though he could reiterate them if needed.
Moving to the final point he kept his shackled hands in view. It was a good visual reminder he felt.[+royalblue “As for throwing my fate to the will of emotionally hurt and fragile families, that is two fold a bad idea. Firstly it shows you to be a weak King. You are were you are because you fought for the title, and now, when it comes to dealing with you enemies, you pass the judgement to your citizens? Rather than dirty your hand by making the decision you know they will make you instead wipe them clean and can reason with yourself that,[i 'it was not I who chose death, it was them'.] If you want to be a strong leader that garners the respect of those below them, then you make the difficult decisions and take that responsibility. You would not save face, you would lose authority. They become their own leaders, dispensing their own justice. Anarchy surely follows.”] He had basically called the King a coward. Now would be the time to put forward his defence, or at least some of it.
[+royalblue “It is also a bad idea as I am sure we can all agree, their decision would be to have me killed. And why? They are hurt. They lost loved ones. But they forget their loved ones were not bakers, or tanners, or farmers. They were soldiers. And soldiers die in war. They accept the risk and in turn their families must also accept the same risk, that taking up arms and fighting for your Kingdom or your family or for a cause you truly believe in,”] the last one applied most to him with regards to Augustine,[+royalblue “can and often does have the heaviest price to pay.”] His hands dropped back down though he leaned forward in his seat. He heard the shift of a guard and it made him half smile at how edgy they were.
[+royalblue “Now. I have a point to make to you and your lackey here. You may look to him for confirmation.”] His head nodded to Augustus though he remained focused on the emerald eyed man.[+royalblue “I took control of those rebels starting with the attack on the mill. Since that time, have any citizens, both Malidek and Astoria alike, reported being attacked?”] A shake of the head from Augustus, messy hair swaying. He did make note that sometimes civilians reported theft but never did they come to harm.[+royalblue “Has Vollenberg been burned, attacked or damaged in anyway?”] Another shake of his head, confirmation that the town was not touched.[+royalblue “Have Astorian soldiers only died when they left the confines of their walls and sallied out to attack me, to kill me and my people?”] No response from him that time as he narrowed his eyes, picked up on from the corner of Nicolai's eye.[+royalblue “He might not confirm or deny it, but the truth of the matter is that I played purely defensive. I killed your men when you came to attack me. I did not harm civilians, only took food and provisions to survive. I left Vollenberg very much alone. I even made several trips to within sight of the walls, letting myself be seen. And why? I waited for you to send a messenger, an envoy, someone to negotiate or discuss the faults like we do now. Did you? No. Adrian decided to brute force this and try to wipe us out, to kill us rather than talk to us. Your sister told me that negotiations are two sided, that we did not try to open channels to talk to you. But considering how aggressive you were, and how focused on our destruction you became, we did not trust you – or rather, Adrian – not to kill me first. Thus why I dealt with that problem and allowed myself to be brought here to Astoria. So we could talk.”]
Lifting his hands as he leaned forward against the table, they barely grasped the edge as he narrowed his eyes on Eugene.[+royalblue “Understand this, both of you. My daughter will know her father was a good man, fighting for those who could not defend themselves against an enemy who only sought their death, and always seeking peace.”] Nicolai was confident in his words. He had always fought with the knowledge that should his daughter try to learn about him she would see he was a good man. He wanted her to be proud of him.
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