Like everything else, this was all news to Florence. One of the most surprising bits to her was that Nicolai’s father had been the one to gain the title of Duke and not Nicolai himself. For some reason she had always thought it was given to him by Germaine for being a help to him, for being a friend. He did love doing that sort of thing. Still, she listed to the story as quietly as all the rest and took in all the details her hazy brain could muster. Between this and what she had heard of his mother, the woman was able to see where certain parts of the elf’s character came from. Either because they were inherited, or as a result of the differing types of abuse, these parts of his past shaped him, for better or worse. To have it all laid out before her helped her understand; at least she thought it did. Whether or not she would be able to navigate all this when she was more sober and use it to treat and understand him better was another story altogether.
Bringing their connected hands up, she placed a couple of kisses to his knuckles. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you for telling me all this. I know it was not easy…”] Even if this last one had seemed to be a little better for him than the two that came before. Either way, Florence knew it was time to give him a break and perhaps turn the conversation back to herself. After he set the drink back down, she took it and took a small drink herself. It was probably an understatement to say she did not need any more, but she certainly was not thinking that clearly. The bottle was on its way back between them when she started. [+mediumseagreen “Illness got my mother as well… something was going around that year and she managed to catch it. We were kept from her so that it might not spread to me or Eugene, but it wound up killing her. There wasn’t really a chance for a goodbye because of it, I wouldn’t have known what to say or do anyway. Too young to really understand until it happened she wasn’t around anymore...”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Before she could fully ensnare him, he pulled away long enough to throw the wine bottle after the last two in a quickly building trend. He had been aiming for the far-left stone but perhaps thankfully – now they weren’t showered in shards of glass – it sailed harmlessly over and toward the rocks below.
It was sweet of her to offer some words, even if not very much. Nicolai understood discussing one’s family was not exactly a group endeavour unless the others were part of said family. Here he was talking of losing his sweet brother, his adulterous mother, and he would have to discuss his father too, but he found solace in her touch and how she leaned against him more. Thankfully this was not as emotionally traumatic as the others, but she did well to move them on quickly and to point out the damage to the headstone. He let out a softer sigh as he followed her gaze, pausing from answering as he tried to defuse himself from the pain of his brother and anger at his mother.
Turning his head he kissed her crown, not wanting to disturb her just for a moment of self-indulgence. His hand squeezed hers a touch, the other free one reached toward the bottle she had brought across, popping off the stopper and taking a small swig. He replaced it between them and brushed back his hair.[+royalblue “Oh father. I sometimes think if we had never left Wistina to begin with I would have turned out like him.”] It was in part a compliment but his tone did not have that loving hint like most times when he spoke with Florence.[+royalblue “This one isn’t as sad as the others.”] A nice prefix before he began.[+royalblue “He was a money man. He loved facts and figures and making money and all that. If he could make five copper profit on selling pig shit he’d do it. Not himself though, he’d work in the cost of paying someone to do it and so on. He just seemed to love seeing his money get bigger, and he was thrifty with it too. He hated to spend any of it. Like a dragon I think he would have loved to just sleep in a bed of his own gold and jewels and such..”] It was good to have someone in a family who wanted to gain wealth and improve their holdings; however his father was very much the former than the latter.
[+royalblue “He was gone a lot of the time, visiting merchants or making deals. He didn’t really trust anyone to do it his way; or the correct way as he always called it, so he wasn’t here much. Maybe mother got lonely because of it, maybe that’s why she went looking for attention elsewhere.”] He was trying to defend her in a way, but it didn’t last long before he moved on.[+royalblue “He did alright for himself really. After mother passed he started taking me with him to meet people – mainly because I spoke other languages and it was useful to have me there because he learned people paid more if it was a family business as opposed to just him. Made him more trustworthy or some other bullshit. I was just a prop, a means of making more money, but it was nice, I guess. He taught me how to balance the books, how to make money from next to nothing, he was most excited when he showed me the different land deeds he had bought over the years and we now becoming worth something because the population was growing.”] He was rambling again. Like Vataly and mother he could have gone on for hours about the intricacies of his fathers business and so forth. But he wanted her to remain awake and not bore her. And he had yet to explain the stone.
[+royalblue “Anyway, once mother didn’t come home, we started going to the Capital more to do business. That’s where he bought his title; Duke of County Hoxonsea. It was complete lies, made up just to make him a Duke, make him feel more important, and he got to collect a little of the tax money from Hox. For a few years we were fine, life just went on, nothing really happened. I learned more and more, he made more and more money, and then he went north to Tyleth. He wanted to make a deal for iron or something, I don’t remember. But he got ill. There’s nothing really special to it. He just got ill and died in the night a week later. And like that, I was by myself. I remember being in the Capital, I was working with Gerald, bartering with some western trader for steel for new armour Germaine wanted. I didn’t so much as bat an eye when I was told. I just nodded and went on.”] That is what he meant when he said he would have turned out like his father. He was not affected by his parents deaths and only became more cold and heartless with time.[+royalblue “On that day, I was given his title as Duke and all the wealth he had horded away. And it was a lot of money.”] He was not exaggerating that his father was penny pinching and yet an astute businessman. That was why he was so surprised when he was younger and had been bought the toy for Vataly. A silver here or there for his son was the limit of his charitable causes. And it was charity, his son was a tax relief rather than his own flesh and blood.
[+royalblue “I spent a big chunk of it. Built the stables, had the cobble path put in, the house was expanded and so on, primarily so I could use this place a means of hosting other people. I was the more social of me and him, so I would use white lies and sweet words to sway people rather than just buy them off. Gerald became a frequent visitor and he helped me gain some really good contracts. I bought property in the capital because of him, and used it to get closer to Germaine. He had been helpful since father passed, but I made myself utterly.. utterly..”] Ah, the alcohol. He had been on such a good run with words too, and now one escaped him. He paused but she would feel his hand squeeze hers momentarily as it came to him,[+royalblue “indispensable.”] He sounded delighted just at that word.[+royalblue “I did that for me to him.”] And all his hard work for that word had failed immediately.[+royalblue “I became his armourer for his soldiers and would join Gerald in some of the drills. He let me lead some of them and Germaine got the idea that I was part of his army. From there I went up and up and up and boom.. General Nicolai.”] He sounded a little despondent, realising he had mistakenly been given his role in the army as if for the first time, though truly it was all planned and he was just too drunk to realise he had done it all on purpose.
Losing himself for a moment his eyes couldn’t focus on one thing for too long, running up his own legs and to the woman at his side, down her curving figure and along the grass to the back wall, along the wall and then to the stones before him and finally onto the visible crack along his fathers grave.[+royalblue “A-ha! The stone. I did that.”] Yes, he had mentioned that before had he not? [+royalblue “After one night of heavy drinking and.. other things..”] best not to mention those other things with her being at his side,[+royalblue “I had a breakdown. Not proud to admit it, but I did. I shouted at him for not protecting me and Vataly. I complained that he loved his money more than his own sons, even when we were desperate and needed him most. I swore so much I lost my voice the next day and at some point I had began stamping at the stone. I kept kicking and kicking until it fell over and it broke in half. One of the servants must have put it back up at some point. I haven’t been out here, to this part of the gardens since that night I don’t think.”] There was no reason for him to return to a place that held so many painful memories, each stone reminding him of his failures and his mistakes and how he doubted himself. As he had stated from the beginning, it was not an emotional affair with his father, much the same as it had been when he was alive. He did not sound upset and nor did this bring him any closer to anger or tears or the like. He was saddened that this was his upbringing; a violent and adulterous mother, a unloving and distant father, but that was life. Florence had her struggles, his were just more personal.
There was a lot to process here. She wondered if Nicolai had any pleasant memories from his childhood. Certainly, neither of the ones he had told her. There must have been something in there, but that was not what she was currently asking about, nor was she going to. The idea that he might confirm such a notion was much too sad for her. So, the woman instead listened to what he chose to say instead of letting her mind decide what was true that he had not.
It seemed just about no one in this family received a proper funeral; though so far half of those who had died deserved it that way. That was perhaps a touch cruel, but no one was around to patrol her thoughts, and Florence herself was fine with it. The world did not need people like that. [+mediumseagreen “It is okay not to miss terrible people.”] This served as a reminder to herself and perhaps she should not have said it aloud, but it came out all the same.
His hand was still tight on hers, so she squeezed back with equal pressure, or what felt like it at the time. The woman did not want to linger here; she wanted to press forward. So, leaning over to press against him with her head rested a bit on his shoulder, her other arm came to wrap around his. It was not so dissimilar to how she woke up the other morning holding him. Like then, this was not some perfectly planning thing. She simply ended up here with little to no thought. It was comfortable, and she wanted to be near him. But as she moved in closer, her eyes stayed stared over to the final headstone. [+mediumseagreen “Alright.”] There was an odd sense of finality to that word. [+mediumseagreen “What about the last one... Your father, what happened to him and why is his burial marker in such a state?”] Florence did not need to be very loud with this closer proximity.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai had imagined she would go for the distressing part of his stories first, wanting to get the woman out of the way. He understood how he painted the woman out to be and it wasn't with a heavy heart either.[+royalblue “Mother was all about public image. If it made her look better or improved her position in the world – she'd do it. Not only was she shrewd and devious; she was controlling and demanding.”] It was a wonderful start and he eyed the offered whiskey with desire for a few seconds. To drink himself to sleep would be quite nice about now but alternatively he didn't want to leave her out here on her own, or worse yet force her to try and drag his sorry arse back inside. So instead he just pulled her hand to him and squeezed it lightly.
[+royalblue “Everything had to be perfect. How we dressed, how we behaved, how we presented ourselves. As for us kids, she would make sure we were used just right to give her the most benefits. You know, I was only taught elven and Astorian so that I could be thrown before her friends and made to perform. They would clap and she would think she was a good mother. The bigger or more powerful a person was compared to her, the more she wanted them to like her.”] It was therefore quite obvious where he got his incessant need to be liked and adored from. It wasn't out of wanting good in the world or to do good deeds, but for his own vanity and his own personal satisfaction. For now he sounded quite calm, rather kept together, as if he had already mourned for her and this was not an emotional endeavour, unlike his sibling.[+royalblue “If we messed us, if we did it wrong, that's when the punishments would come, and it was for any reason. Like bowing, that was a big thing for her, always claimed it was an elven thing – I'll tell you it isn't but the fuck did some uppity human know? You could bow too much, bow too little, bow to the wrong person, bow at the wrong time, bow for too long or any other number of reasons and you would know immediately. She would come close. She'd hold you and hug you and smile and everything looked like just a loving and caring mother with their child. Only she could make being too 'motherly' a bad thing..”] It was odd to say his mother was too caring or too coddling. But sometimes coddling could be a very bad thing, especially from such a psychotic woman. By now his free hand had come up to sit on her arm and trace slow fingers along her soft skin in an effort to distract him.
[+royalblue “At first it was a smack on the arse, maybe she'd get one of the servants to bring a switch from one of the trees and she's whip at the backs of our legs or have us hold out our hands for her to smack. If you cried? Smacked. If you complained? Even more. No-one would help because it was always in private, she never hit us where someone might see her and her perfect image would be ruined. Once Vataly passed away she only had me, so that is when she became more.. creative. The finger bending, the hours spent stood in the rain, being forced to sleep inside the oven or other creative things.”] He could rant on for too long but he was beginning to flag having had so many ups and downs this night and he wanted to make sure he didn't leave her wanting. If it didn't come out now, it might never come out.[+royalblue “You get the idea.”] He had to finish this somehow, even though the end of her life was the most tumultuous.
[+royalblue “As I said earlier; she was a whore. Not just for attention, but an actual whore. Father never said much about it but she would often spend nights over at noblemen's homes or make visits to the towns and whatever. Of course, surprise surprise, when she came home she would have new jewellery or a new dress or she and father had been invited to a grand dinner or ball or gala and all that shit. Remember Vataly's funeral? Well no sooner were his ashes being put in his urn than she was laughing it up with Germaine, cooing over him, fawning for his and the then Queen's attention. When I was about eight or nine, my father got invited to a state dinner at the capital. They both went, with bags upon bags of clothing for her but only one for him. I was left behind. Apparently I'd just be in the way she said.”] His face hardened a little then, thinking on that memory of her climbing up into the carriage.[+royalblue “I never saw her again, only he came back.”] The last thing he remembered her saying was something about practising with his sword – she had some friends who also had sons around his age; they could fight together. It was perhaps fitting she hadn't come back then, as who knew how such 'fighting' would go down.
[+royalblue “He fed me some bullshit about how some nobleman's wife had invited her to stay a week. It was a different person every week, and it went on for months. Then the Queen herself apparently loved her company and she was there for even longer. Yet even when the Queen passed away she stayed at the Capital, and I just stopped hearing from her, hearing about her, as if she just stopped existing. I didn't dare mention her, just on the chance that someday she came home and though I was being nosy or rude or something. And so we just went along with this, until the day after my tenth birthday; when the stone suddenly just turned up. No funeral. No prior planning. Just.. there.”] He looked across to the stone and now the desire to drink was very strong. He could have finished all that whiskey if he had so chosen, going silent for a little time with thoughts and memories and feelings swirling about in wild alarm in his mind. He was more than grateful for her hand, holding it a little tighter but not painfully so. He just wanted her to know he was still there and soon returned back to the present moment.[+royalblue “I've never found out what happened to her. I once found a paper in the records room of the Capital that said she had been invited to a dinner with the King and some other smaller noblemen and women. But after that, nothing ever came up again. I wish I had asked Germaine or Father about her.. but I think secretly.. I was just glad she was gone..”] Even to him, the man who had suffered so much because of her, it felt unusually harsh to say that about her. She was still a person was she not? She was still the woman who had given birth to him, no? It was so complicated on how he should feel that he just looked down to the tanned womans arm in his lap and he pressed his palm to it in an appreciative manner, signalling he had finished with a small sigh.
Florence watched the elf for any sign of dishonesty here. She could easily imagine him pressing himself too far for her, but it seemed he really did want to get this done and over with. Nodding, her braid bounced at her shoulder as she brought her hands back only to enthusiastically take his hand. A childish smile curling on her lips, there was no question she was happy about it.
His drinking gave her a moment to think on the choice she was given. It should not have been hard, seeing as she would have both stories if she kept her patience. But still, she thought on it for a couple of moments. [+mediumseagreen “… Your mother.”] That was her conclusion. Florence wanted to be done speaking of that woman as soon as possible. He had already mentioned that whatever happened, her body was not found. That was mysterious on its own, but she wanted to know the rest of what happened.
Seeing him finish the wine, the Astorian grabbed the bottle of whisky at her side and placed it between them. Nicolai probably did not need it, but it felt strange to horde the last of the liquor to herself, especially if she would probably be in a world of hurt if she tried to finish off the last of it on her own.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The kiss rounded off a rather peaceful and endearing moment. If he remembered parts of this night, that would be one of the bigger ones. It would show him that not only was she there for him in his low moment, but she showed understanding. As she slipped back a little and enquired as to whether he wanted to go on, he let out a deep sigh, his hands coming down to his lap and he shrugged lightly.[+royalblue “I suppose I should finish, get this all out the way in one go..”] He could tell this was a thing for her, she wanted all the details and backstories on the table so that she could decide just what kind of man he was. Perhaps his recanting of Vataly’s life or the harm he had at his parents’ hands would show he was resilient and hardy, how he could handle tough and persistent problems and come out the end of them intact. Or perhaps she would see him as too broken, too much of a mess and not worth the time to stick around and mend him with her presence and time. Only sober Florence would know that for sure. For now, he took up his bottle of wine, offering his other hand to her if she wished to take it.[+royalblue “Which one; mother or father?”] He asked as he tilted back his head and drank back the remainder of the bottle. It wouldn’t be as emotional as his brother but he still needed a lot of drunk courage to get out what he had to say.
Being close to Nicolai like this actually helped to calm her as well. Florence was still rather worked up from his story. No matter how she tried to spin it, his mother was a terrible person. He had basically said that much himself, but it really sunk in having heard the tale of Vataly. When she could feel her heart finding rest, she opened her eyes to look at the elf, the remnants of a smile from his funny new nickname still on her face. It was fitting.
Leaning forward just the tiniest bit, she pressed soft lips to his. It was a slow and meaningful kiss, even if it was not extraordinarily hot or passionate. She pulled back after that, letting her hands fall to his shoulders. This kept her close, but put an end to the silent moment between them… for now. Florence was ready to move on, it was only a matter of whether or not he was. [+mediumseagreen “Would you like to stop at that, or are you okay to tell the rest of their stories?”] She asked out of respect for him and his boundaries. While the drunken woman did want to know, and it would be difficult to leave it at that, she was also okay if that was where he needed to stop for now. Surely there would be other nights like this where they could talk… though maybe not as soon as she would like. It could be hard to get time alone when they were traveling with this group.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her words did help though his eyes closed over slowly as she spoke, letting her soothing tone help him more to calm down. He hoped he could just blame all of this emotional outpouring on the alcohol, to lock all this off as drunk Nicolai and still hold her respect and admiration as sober Nicolai. The last thing he needed was for all this to end with her deciding he was too emotional for her. As her thumbs brushed over his cheeks he opened his eyes again, looking on her picturesque face illuminated by the lantern. Before tonight he would most certainly have taken exception to being told he was ‘enough’, but right there with her it felt like the biggest compliment he had received in a long time. A soft smile tugged his lips as she pressed their foreheads together, his hands leaving from her arms but not for long as he copied her action and cupped her cheeks softly.[+royalblue “Thank you Florence. Danke, mein kriegerkönigin.”] He told her quietly and closed his eyes again, just wanting to enjoy those gentle and oddly romantic moment with her. Not everything had to be words or actions. Like back in the bed the other morning just having her with him helped.
[+mediumseagreen “It is not a competition. Comparing like that only makes it worse.”] She knew that for sure too. [+mediumseagreen “And I am not feeling pity for you, I am feeling angry. That is not fair.”] The world seldom was, but right now she was rather drunk and did not feel like going into that. Right now she wanted exactly two things, to be happy, which was the alcohol, and to know about Nicolai, which was more general. However, these two things almost seemed to conflict because the two of them had rather… troubled pasts. [+mediumseagreen “Personally I prefer this,”] she looked him up and down for emphasis, [+mediumseagreen “to bottling it up and leaving because it became too much..."] Her voice quieted down eve more. [+mediumseagreen “I don’t want you to leave again.”] Liking the way he stroke her arms subtly with his thumbs, she mimicked the motion on his face.
Sure, she did not want a man who was constantly falling to tears and whatnot, but in quiet times like this, Florence thought it was better that Nicolai show his emotions. [+mediumseagreen “You are fine. I don’t expect you to always be a rock for us. It is not fair to put all that pressure on you. You do enough, you are enough.”] Perhaps it was sappy to say, but she was being pulled into a sappy sort of mood. Pulling him in, she pressed her forehead to his. It was almost like a variant of what she did with Augustine. How she would kiss him there, but it was different, not meant to be something shared between parent and child, just a moment of quiet closeness.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was doing much better than he had earlier when talking about himself. In a way this was just letting someone else know about someone he cared about. Whilst it was sad and tragic in its own right, because it wasn’t him he was able to put some emotional separation between him and the subject. Her hands didn’t help much with trying to regain his composure as she took a hold of his cheek and turned him to her. He didn’t want to see her upset or troubled by his life – that was not the point of all thus. Yet when her other hand came up and squished his cheeks a little, he nodded gently to her words. This wasn’t his accepting no responsibility, for he had had this same conversation with himself many times before, but he was willing to not focus on his role in what happened to his brother. It was better to speak of him, to let someone other than himself know about the young boy, though he was glad to have her staring directly at him.[+royalblue “I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. Given how your life started, I don’t want you thinking this is me trying to say I had it worse. I didn’t. I just..”] He took a deep breath and his hands came up to rest on each of her forearms. Though they weighed a little heavily on her, he wasn’t trying to pull her hands away, his thumbs beginning to brush across her skin.[+royalblue “Men aren’t meant to be this way, you know? We’re meant to be the strong ones, the stoic ones, the ones who help others when they feel down. And just when you and Augustine need me most are the times where I crumble and run away or.. well, this.”] He knew he wasn’t exactly the epitome of masculinity, especially at this fragile moment, and it perhaps hurt him more to be showing this weakness in front of her. This was not becoming of a bachelor before the woman of his greatest desires and respect.
At first her heart was being pulled to sorrow for the man at her side. He looked miserable even before he began to speak. Florence held his hand tightly, trying to comfort him. But then, he actually got into the story and her sadness was replaced with something else: rage. As a person, she found the actions of Mrs. Anna Windsor deplorable, but as a mother, the green-eyed woman was filled with an indignation that manifested as she squeezed his hand. She knew what it was like to go without food, how terrible it felt, but to purposefully subjugate your child to that was unfathomable. For Florence there was no line of thought that would ever come to that conclusion. The woman was shaking, but glancing over to the elf at her side it faded immediately. This was not about how she felt. [+mediumseagreen “Nicolai…”] His name was soft on her tongue as she called for his attention. Despite this his eyes stayed down. Brow furrowing, she decided to be a little more forceful about this. Setting the bottle of whisky to the side so that her other hand was free, Florence brought it up to the raven-haired man’s chin and turned his face to her. There she wiped at the watery trails on his cheeks. [+mediumseagreen “As far as I can tell, you were the only one who [i was] there for him.”] Releasing her grip on his hand, she brought that one to his face as well, sandwiching his cheeks between her palms perhaps a little too tightly in her drunken condition. [+mediumseagreen “What happened is [i not] your fault. If I’ve learned nothing else, I know you cannot blame yourself for when others around you make terrible decisions, even when they effect you, and especially when you were a child.”] After all, what could a child have done to stop someone that much bigger and stronger than them?
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai let out a deep breath at her choice, chest puffing out as he tried to give himself a little clarity and align his thoughts. It was clearly distressing just to come to talk about that worn stone and the name assigned to it. When her hand had sought his it was tightly wrapped about the wine bottle, though her touch found purchase and soon pried his fingers from the cold glass and into her own. It was warm and comforting and he felt his confidence was being placed in her hands, not that of the strong liquor.
Regardless what she had tried however he could not shake the look of displeasure on his face, eyes having sunken a touch.[+royalblue “Vataly..”] It was a deathly whisper, as if the name itself had some magical capabilities from simply being spoken aloud. It had been a while since he’d said it openly and his eyes looked across to that particular stone. Swallowing the lump in his throat he was close to abandoning her hand to take back the bottle but he refrained, for now.[+royalblue “I was six when he died. He was three.”] That a lot showed it had been near four entire decades since his passing and yet it held such a hold over him he was still so affected.[+royalblue “He wasn’t like the other children.. he was.. special.”] His pauses came as he was unsure of how to word this, wanting to give his sibling the respect he felt he deserved.[+royalblue “When he was brought home he looked fine.. he had pale blue eyes like father.. he had mothers dirty blonde hair.. he was a normal baby. He was loud, sure, but all babies are. And he would cry for all hours of the night, but Natalya would do that too.”] He licked his lips, biting gently on his tongue, not wanting to go on but he felt the need to. It was a weight that had been on his shoulders for a long time, thirty plus years all told.
[+royalblue “When he was a little older, maybe one at most, it showed more. He didn’t smile or want to play like mother wanted. She couldn’t show him off to her friends like a prized horse, make him do tricks or say words on command. He was very specific about what foods he would eat and mother would get angry at him for not eating what she gave him and put him in his crib.. and he’d just cry for hours.. hungry. Starving. But you see, I knew he would eat mushy and mashed food. Something about the texture, I think. Like cooked carrots, or some boiled potato or peas! He loved peas..”] A melancholic smile tugged at his lips though his eyes were shimmering once more and a slight warble threatened at the edge of his voice.[+royalblue “And I would put some in my pocket or a napkin and I would sneak to his room at night to feed him and.. he would be quiet.. it was as close to happy as I’d ever see him.. and he would go to sleep.. but mother found me one night. She thought I was disrespecting her by feeding him behind her back, ignoring her or something.”] He took a very deep breath, holding it before slowly letting it out through is nose, steeling himself.[+royalblue “She’d regularly smack us both. With him, it was on his arm, the backs of his legs, his face, his head.. but whenever she smacked his hand he would only cry more.. he didn’t like his hands being touched. I would try to stop her at first. I would distract her or something, so she would focus onto me, but she was hurting me too much and I just stopped.”] His cheeks puffed out as he drew in and let out another deep breath. He knew he had failed his brother there and that was what affected him most. That sense of defeat and failure didn’t wash away easily.
Yet a spark of a memory flashed before him and it just came out without him thinking on whether he should say it or not.[+royalblue “I always remember how he waved. Not with a strong wrist, side to side like most people. He would just kind of.. flop his hand at you.. like back and forth, you know, like when you eat something too hot..”] A laugh came out, short and cut off immediately, the jolt of such an emotional outburst jostled a tear free and again a track mark ran down his cheek reflected in the pale moons glow. Again he licked his lips, as if his tongue were unsure where to be or what to do with itself, no words forthcoming as his hand tightened on hers just a little.[+royalblue “I found some letters in the study after father passed. He’d written to a lot of religious healers asking for salves and balms and the like to fix him, like he needed fixing.”] He clearly and emphatically disagreed with that notion.[+royalblue “Most replies seemed to point at either demonic and evil means, or that he only had half a soul, or some other shit that made no fucking sense with ways to fix him like cutting off his big toe or feeding him only ashes for a week. It was all the usual crap you get from those bastards trying to trick you out of more and more coin.”] He was afraid of diverting on a tangent and didn’t want to escape too far from his remembrance of his brother, so he took a shallow breath and nodded.
[+royalblue “Father took me to Hox one day, it’s a small fishing village south of here. He had to speak with a merchant there about something, and he brought me. Something about learning from him. I remember following him and seeing this hollow wooden ball. It was a set of five of them, all painted green. I must have been staring at them too much because he actually bought them for me. I guess whatever business he had had went really well. Father never bought me toys. But I didn’t want them, I wanted them for Vataly, because they just looked so much like peas.”] Again another short and choked off laugh, biting down on his lower lip as he momentarily felt that same moment of elation as he had on that same day.[+royalblue “We got home late that night and by that time he was gone..”] It had been just that sudden in reality. One morning he had a brother and by evening he no longer did.[+royalblue “Mother said that he had began screaming and shouting for no reason. She was trying to ignore him as usual. And then the crying just.. stopped.”] That final word brought another glittering track down his other cheek.[+royalblue “I didn’t believe her but the servants wouldn’t tell me anything and Father just didn’t seem to care. They didn’t let me see him, they said it wasn’t right for me to do so, but they made this big parade of his death.”] It still infuriated him that they would try and turn his brothers passing into some spectacle.[+royalblue “I wanted.. no, I remember, I demanded a cairn for him, I said it had to be done, it just had to!”] It was an elven thing, the dead buried in large mounds of earth, the entrance sealed with stones brought by those who attended to show their remembrance of the person who had passed.[+royalblue “They didn’t care. It was their day, not his. I remember Germaine came to the service as did Gerald and a lot of the other bigger nobles. Not one of them one knew who they were there for though, it was just a social gathering to them, a means of talking with one another. No-one cared about Vataly.. no-one but me.. and I wasn't there for him.”]
Feeling acutely aware that he had been talking for a few minutes now he stopped and let his chin drop to his chest softly. He hated that he was confronting himself with these long-repressed memories. It was for this reason he had ignored them, pushed them down, sealed them off and done well to scare off anyone who tried to get closer to learning about him or given them false ideas and cryptic answers. Similar to how he felt he had failed Augustine and Florence in the capital, this was also his failure. Despite his age and despite his lack of means to do anything, it didn’t diminish his belief that if he had done more, perhaps stayed home or took more beatings, perhaps his brother would be with them.
As Florence expected, this was not an easy topic of conversation for the man. He had wanted to be alone in this place for a reason. She was just rude enough to interrupt, and that was before all the alcohol, so it only made sense that despite knowing better, she asked the question anyway. Nicolai came out and told her he did not know where to begin. That meant that it was likely a long story, but because he seemed to separate the three of them, it meant it was not a single moment of tragedy that took his family from him.
The Astorian woman had a choice to make. Her gaze lingered on each of the markers for a couple of seconds before moving to the next in a cycle. Which one would be hardest for him to tell? There was no way for her to know, and even if she did Florence doubted that would help her with the choice. Still, eventually she came to a decision. [+mediumseagreen “Your brother. What happened to him?”] She believed that was the far right stone. The one that was most worn. It led her to think that he had been passed the longest; this would place them closer to the beginning to all this sorrow. Personally, had she have lost her younger brother, she did not think she would be fit to talk about it, no matter how long ago it was. That was just the relationship the two of them had. She could not help but wonder if it was similar for Nicolai. Her hand searched for his beside her, so that she might be able to hold him just that little bit. It was a small gesture, but hopefully a helpful one.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was hard to argue her points even if she did concede that perhaps it wasn’t a truly righteous act they were doing. She was right that Wistina could withstand change for longer than Astoria, and that it would take drastic actions or several generations to reach the state she described for her home. But like she said, this was all for Augustine. This was about getting his throne back and she was there as his support, as his mother no less.
Her talk of family did hit home with him and like her he looked away to stare at the ground between his boots. It was rather difficult not to think back to both his families and draw similarities to what she was saying. He too never thought he would have a child, nor a wife, and before that fateful night he was surprisingly happy and content with how things were going. There were parts he had not yet explained fully to Florence about the days leading to his enslaving, but what she perhaps did not know is that he enjoyed his life with Natalya and Elizabeth.
His other family, the ones before them and where his eyes now turned, was another issue entirely. The pastel eyed man should have expected further dissection of his family. Still, he did not like this, and visibly he would lean against her more for a moment.[+royalblue “I don’t know where to begin.. which one do you want to learn about first?”] His gaze travelled between each stone but with each he remained just as dour as the next. Each of their stories would not be pleasant to tell and much like his breakthrough earlier in telling her his regrets, it would be the first time he spoke of this to someone. She wanted his honesty, she would get it.
Florence leaned into the kiss, not paying any mind to the strong alcohol on both of their breaths. It was short, but she was happy with it. She was getting more and more used to these little moments, more comfortable being so close with Nicolai. It was nice, though she still blushed when he complimented her with that handsome smile on his face. Her emerald eyes flittered down, glancing up at him intermittently as if to test if she was done being embarrassed or not. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, of course…”] That reaction was almost humorous, considering how much of a brick wall she normally was when it came to talking about herself and whatnot.
Jumping to another question that was similar in strain, the woman did not need long to think about her answer. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, I have. It was something I considered before ever leaving Astoria.”] While she did not have the current feedback after seeing Preth and Creswell, it was still something she knew was likely to be the case. [+mediumseagreen “Wistina is wealthy, it takes a lot more for poor rule to inflict the same sorts of suffering we were seeing in Astoria. At the end of the day, most people don’t really care who is towering over them so long as they can go on with their lives… so yes. This might not actually be good for this country, even if Vincent is an absolute snake.”] There were those who felt the man’s change of focus for the country was leaving them behind, and there was some discontent there, but for the most part, he was actually keeping the country running. [+mediumseagreen “However, regardless of whether or not it is a good idea, my son is determined to do this. And I cannot let him do it alone.”] It was very similar to how she had felt all those years ago when Eugene spoke of making a change in the world, though this held a more personal retribution for the two of them. [+mediumseagreen “I know that is probably not easy for you, seeing as this is your home, but so long as this is what Augustine is hell bent on doing, I will continue on with him.”]
There was a bit of silence, then she piped up again. [+mediumseagreen “You know, it is so strange... I never wanted children. I mean I did when I was very young, when I still thought I would grow up in a regular fashion, but after what happened to me I decided I did not want all that. I was fine with the family I already had. But then, as always, life took an unexpected turn, I was down here in Wistina and soon enough I had Augustine… and he was the most perfect thing I have ever seen. I did not know I could love something as much as I loved him the moment I laid eyes on him.”] That was of course a biased opinion; most parents felt that way about their newborns. But for her it was a revelation that partially changed how she viewed herself as well. [+mediumseagreen “My family has always been the most important thing to me.”] Her view of family included more than just her blood ties, people like Gregory and Augustus, they were there too. She was stringent with who she let herself care about to that degree. Perhaps that was another reason she was so hesitant to let Nicolai in closer than he had to be. With that thought, she noticed she was rambling about herself again. It was time to put an end to that. [+mediumseagreen “… what happened to your family?”] It was a difficult question, one that drew her eyes to the stones nearby, but Florence hoped he might tell her so she could understand a little bit better.
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