One good thing about places like this was the number of beds. No one would be banished to the floor for the night, and Gregory, for one, was glad for that. Sure he was used to sleeping on the ground, but hard wood floors always put a kink in his back. It made little sense, but since there was a bed he was not pressed to worry over it. The old dwarf, along with the rest of the party save one elf, was able to get to sleep with little trouble. Even Augustine who had been full of worries all night slept soundly. A day jam packed with drama and danger could do that to a person, and certainly to a child who was not used to it.
Due to the exceptional placement of the room she was in, it was not the sun that woke Florence the next morning. It was the birds. Ever early to rise, the tweeting sounded just as soon as the excess of songbirds woke, which just so happened to be with the lightening of the sky. But seeing as the woman went to bed early, she didn’t feel too deprived. Certainly she was not at a hundred percent, but she was doing leagues better than the night before. Thankfully her fever had not gotten bad enough to affect her memory and she remembered where she was and why she was there. Though, she was not certain whether or not her temperature was back to the normal, as it was a mite hard to gage relative to oneself.
Still, regardless of her fever’s status, she did not much feel like staying in this room. The tall woman silently left and made her way down the hall, gentle snoring called from behind more than one door. By that alone she could tell which was Gregory’s room, and that elicited a bit of a chuckle out of her. The smile remained on her face until she made it outside.
The bright morning rays were already warming the air, but there was a light breeze would keep it from getting too hot too quickly. On it there was the fading scent of salt. One that permeated the land due to it being surrounded by the ocean on nearly all sides. It was pleasant. And now that she was not trying to sleep the call of the birds, twittering back and forth was nice as well. Florence took a seat on a stool setting on the front porch and allowed herself to take it all. After all, it was an experience she would not be reliving for a long time to come.
The peacefulness persisted right up until Helga walked by and noticed the other woman outside. Her face reflected her displeasure and she made a fast path to Florence. [+goldenrod "What are you doing up?"]
It was a legitimate concern, so Florence pushed the farm woman's accusatory tone to the side. [+mediumseagreen "I am feeling much better and I thought some fresh air would do me some good."]
There was a somewhat disgruntled hum in response, as a small hand came up and tested her temperature. It stayed there for a moment as though she needed time to tell just how warm the olive skinned woman was. Her words did not come until she removed her hand. [+goldenrod "Hmm... that passed quickly."] There was a skeptical look to her. Anything that went that fast was liable to come back if they were not careful. [+goldenrod "I suppose you can be up for now... Let me finish the morning work then I will start up breakfast for you lot."]
[+mediumseagreen "Would you like any help?"] Farm chores might be a bit much, but Florence was certain she could prep for the meal. She was speedily shot down.
[+goldenrod "No, you are going to stay seated. I will not have you exasperating your condition by running amok."] She did not have much else to say, so she trotted off and went to finish her chores. If one of her guests was up, it wouldn't be long till the others followed.
Waiting till the energetic old woman was out of sight, Florence sighed. Doing nothing as an impromptu houseguest was maddening. They had done nothing but burden Helga since they got there. But seeing as she refused help, there was nothing that could be done. At least by Florence. And so, she sat out on the porch for quite some time. Even past when the petite woman finished up and rushed inside to start up a meal. She just wanted to enjoy the breeze for a little longer before headed back in. But after a while her quiet was interrupted. The door squeaked behind her. Turning back she saw Augustine’s head poking out. [+mediumseagreen “Hello.”]
[+coral “Hello.”] He hadn’t been expecting to be caught.
[+mediumseagreen “Is breakfast ready?”] Florence thought Helga might have set the boy with the task of gathering everyone for their meal, but he shook his head.
Not really wanting to admit that he was out in search of her after seeing she was not in her room, Augustine kind of panicked. Instead of giving an actual answer, he stepped back and closed the door. Florence raised a brow at his odd behavior. Apparently he wanted some space. It was more of a question than a discernible fact, but she did not make a move to follow after him just in case.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai nodded along with Augustine's words though he only felt a small weight lift off his chest when the boy said he was forgiven. It was good to know that he had not left the boy in two minds on the matter and to have him know that the old elf could still feel remorse and regret for his part in the aftermath of Germaine's death. The fact the boy seemed somewhat interested in his past was interesting but given this would be their last night he saw no sense in starting now. It would be rather foolish to take up the time the boy needed to be resting with stories of his past.
A half smile turned the corners of his lips as the boy went off on a tangent about the weather of Astoria that his mother had told him and he found it a touch humourous that the youth had caught himself, much as Nicolai had. It was easy to go off talking of something completely unrelated to the matter at hand, but he found it quite sweet at the same time.
Taking the blonde boys assistance to stand was a blessing as he was not truly sure if he would be able to stand otherwise. Perhaps interacting with youthful people like Augustine was beginning to make the elf realise he was not as flexible and sprite as he thought and he was actually getting on in years – even for a pure-blood elf. His knees were stiff, his back sore, his eyes felt heavy and his body sluggish to movement. Perhaps that was why he was so easily taken off guard by the sudden embrace from the youngster.
Not exactly one accustomed to interaction of this kind, the closest he had been to someone since Lillian had been taken out the Castle, he was tentative at first in how to respond. On one hand his sense of formality meant he should keep this short and pull the boy away, as he was King and Nicolai was his General. But in this less than formal setting, with a less than formal moment, his humanity won out and he returned the embrace with a hand to Augustine's back. A hand brushed through his blond hair and he offered a soft smile. He just about caught his words and nodded.[+teal “Thank you for your time Augustine.”]
Led back in to the others after a pause, Nicolai nodded his head to them and was grateful to find the boy lived up to his promise to apologise, doing so rather quickly but sincerely. The dark haired man gave their host a look that she caught and she took his apology with thanks and said nothing more on the issue. He knew she would have liked to go off on how he should respect his host, his elders and the like. But thankfully that speech would wait for another day and she made small talk with Gregory and Augustine to see out the remainder of the meal. Meredith helped the aforementioned dwarf in clearing the table, Nicolai doing his best to help though the strength in his arm was all but gone for the night now and he was not much help. With that done Helga led them off towards their rooms, though the former general waved them off with talk of wanting to stay up just a little longer as he was not yet tired.
It was a lie, perhaps one picked up on by the others, but they seemed to go along with it and shuffled off to their individual rooms to find sleep. It allowed the slender man to remain in the kitchen, sitting at the cleared table by himself as candles waned and the light from outside dimmed to naught much more than the faint glow of the moon. He let out a deep breath as he sat there. This would be the last time with them all and a part of him never wanted the night to end.
Augustine was not entirely sure what to expect from the Elf, but from the corner of his eyes he saw the man kneel down. However, it wasn’t until he called his name that he looked up. There was a softer expression to his lavender gaze. What’s more he offered the child an apology. Something he most definitely was not expecting. Wasn’t he supposed to be in trouble? The boy did not question it. Even if the confusion showed on his face, he kept quiet and allowed Nicolai to continue.
He had thought that this apology would be for more recent events, but the raven-haired man called back to months ago. A time when his father was ailing but alive and things were hectic. He admitted his self-absorbedness and how it crippled him socially, at least toward Augustine and his mother. The boy nodded, thinking of how it would have been nice to have someone to talk to. Well, someone who was actually interested. He was a child, but he could tell when someone was only tolerating him because of his status. Probably because that was how most adults treated him.
Shuffling around, somewhat awkwardly, the blond’s voice was quiet. He was forcing back tears. It had been months, but without a proper emotion outlet it was still incredibly difficult to think and talk about his father. [+coral “It is okay… Out of all of us, you knew him the longest, so it makes sense that it would be hard for you too.”] Augustine was trying to see it though the other man’s eyes, though it was a tad difficult. Even if Nicolai had said that Germaine was like a father to him, it was not the same. He really was Augustine’s father and it was hard to see past that and recognize the grief of others. But despite that, he crafted his words carefully, knowing that he should be compassionate toward others even if he himself was hurting. At least, that was something Gregory had mentioned to him the other night when he said some rather cruel things to his mother. [+coral “Though I do not think you really need it, you have my forgiveness.”]
[+coral “And I do not mind being molded… it is important to learn from the lives of others, but it is difficult when I do not know very much about either you or my mother.”] They were trying to teach him lessons, but he didn’t know why. It would make more sense if he had some context, even just a little. [+coral “The last time I asked her about Astoria she told me it was hot…”] he wore a astounded expression as though he was back in the moment it happened. [+coral “Obviously! It is closer to the equator; of course it is hot.”] He pouted, frustration seeping through the words. The bout of irritation did not last long as he sighed. [+coral “I guess I am getting off topic…”] He was aware of it, but beyond that the boy didn’t know what else to say.
[+coral “… We should probably go back inside. Let me help you back up.”] Augustine had heard the groans and he didn’t imagine it was all too pleasant to be bent over like that after taking an arrow to the shoulder. So he took the man’s good arm and offered a small boost to get him back to his feet. Once he was stood up straight, Augustine suddenly hugged the man.
After avoiding his mother for the past few days he was a tad touch starved, not that the woman was ever particularly touchy-feely, but he was missing contact from another living being. And after this chat he was feeling closer than ever to Nicolai, he was going to miss him. [+coral “Thank you for listening to me.”] He was quiet as a mouse, but even if the man didn’t hear him, he felt like the sentiment was still there.
Once satisfied, he returned the elf’s freedom and took a step back. The boy was still a bit teary eyed, but he hoped in the dim light no one would be able to tell. The pair returned shortly after that, and true to his word Augustine gave his apology to Helga. He also explained that he was painfully full and that he should have used his words to tell her that instead. She took it more graciously than he expected. Not to say he didn’t get an earful from her, but it was not as terrible as he thought it would be. When all was said and done he sat back in his chair and waited for the others to finish eating. By now it was only Nicolai, however there was polite conversation that kept the others at the table. All except for Meredith, who sat in silence as she had been instructed, though now that they had met Helga she did not seem quite so bummed about it.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Despite the darkness outside, the minimal light illuminated the lilac hue of the elven man's eyes and he looked down on the blonde boy with wonderment. Allowing him time to formulate an answer rather than blurt out whatever came to mind he was quiet and did not loom over the boy so as to alter his answer. This was not an attack, it was Nicolai attempting to gather information, to understand what was going on with the young boy. If he had wanted to strike fear into him he could have done so in much more dominating manners.
When his answer came, it was soft and demure in approach. He responded to each of Nicolai's queries one by one and in a rather succinct manner. He did not dance about the questions with ones of his own or skirt about the worries he had. It had perhaps the desired effect to not only disarm the former general, but to have him feeling quite sympathetic to the boy's fears. In truth he had not considered the passing of his father and how he had been pushed to one side, told his father would be okay, only to find the man on his deathbed in the end.
Letting out a soft sigh the man was silent for a time, the boy fidgeting a little and unsure where to place his gaze. It was similar to an interrogation technique. Keep quiet and allow the subject to continue talking and inadvertently give away some crucial detail. And yet, whilst the dark haired man thought this, it made him rather sick with himself. Here he was treating an innocent child as if he were a combatant, an enemy, someone who needed to be eyed with caution.
Slowly his left knee gave way and the tall figure came down to the boys height. Resting his arm on his bent right knee, his face was a touch more illuminated by the candles within and the remorse was quite evident.[+teal “Augustine..”] The words were there but he hesitated, not wanting to impart his own history, his own fears and tribulations onto the boy.[+teal “Augustine, you are right, you should apologise to Helga. That is very responsible of you. But,”] again he hesitated but only for a moment,[+teal “I have to apologise also. To you.”]
Running a hand along his smooth jaw, elves not exactly known for beards or stubble, he released a deep breath though it did send a shiver of pain along his shoulder.[+teal “These last few months have been terrible to be honest, to both of us to an extent. We both went from rather simple, normal lives, just going along day by day and not worrying about anything important. And through your fathers passing, the attacks, the fleeing of the Capital and arriving here, we have shared some truly awful times.”] Those memories flickered before his minds eye as he listed them off.
[+teal “I agreed with your mother about your father. I thought, based on my own experience, that to see your father in any other state than healthy would be damaging to you. I thought you would be pained seeing him so sickly. I thought I was helping to protect you by distracting you and reassuring you he would be okay.”] His gaze was averted, staring to the ground. Now was the turn for the elf to feel uneasy at speaking.
[+teal “I never took the time to just ask you about him. To talk through your worries or answer any questions you had. And to be a friend to both you and your mother during this troubling time. But I became so wrapped up in my own life, what would happen to me, how I would survive without Germaine, that I forgot those closest to him.”] Like his mother he wanted to take the boys shoulder, to fix him with a steady look and continue to speak. But similarly he knew the boundaries that remained. He was not the boys father or kin. He was not even a blood relation or race relation for that matter. He was an acquaintance. What was it Florence had said? A companion?
Instead he remained fixed on the ground, head bobbing a touch as he tried to justify his words to himself before speaking at last.[+teal “Your mother and I.. we tried to mould you based on our pasts. Hers in Astoria, mine in Wistina. We tried to look at what went wrong with ourselves and stop you from experiencing it. And only recently, very recently in my case, did we see what we were doing.”] He groaned a touch as he was rambling, though the discomfort in his shoulder was also still there.[+teal “What I am trying to say, though I am doing so quite poorly; is that I apologise to you. I never thought to ask you how you felt or how you were handling everything and I would be loathe to let you go on any longer without knowing that I am deeply sorry for not just.. being there.”] He swallowed at a lump in his throat, brushing back his hair that had fallen before his face as he looked up to the young boy.
There was little Augustine could do to mentally prepare himself for being berated by the woman, but it seemed that he did not have to when Nicolai intervened. Though the elf did not seem much happier with the situation. He called the boy out and he didn’t see much of a choice but to follow the tall gentleman through the dimly lit house. He led them outside. It was a little cooler there, but not by much.
The only light came from the glass paned window to the side of them. It cast intimidating shadows on Nicolai’s face and intensified the look of displeasure he had to him. Augustine looked away as he listened to the man’s words. He was getting a little too into the part of his father, though quite frankly his real father had never spoken to him this way.
Pursing his lips, the blond tried to gather the proper words. The one time general did not look like he was in the mood for an argument, so he would have to get what he wanted to say out quickly, lest he be cut off for being disrespectful. [+coral “I am not trying to run away. It is the opposite… I gave my word that I would take care of her and Wistina, and if I am to be dragged away from this country at the very least I should try to keep the other half of my promise.”] His little voice was uneven.
[+coral “This is just like the last time, when father was sick. No one would let me near him either… they said he just needed his rest, but then he died. And this time Gregory told me mother would get better, but he is a bad liar. I can tell he was not telling the truth, and if she isn’t going to get better, she is going to get worse. Shouldn’t I be there?”] Florence was not Augustine’s favorite person in the world, but that did not mean he wanted her to die alone.
More to the point he backpedaled some to reflect on his actions. [+coral “I know I should have acted better, especially as a guest in someone else’s home, but-“] He cut himself off. Anything he continued with would only seem like an excuse. He was in a situation he could not win. [+coral “I will apologize.”] But he was not going to like it.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Each mouthful was as delicious as the last and Nicolai could well imagine her sons growing thick and rotund as children eating this heartily. Perhaps when they were all alive it had been smaller portions and this was merely her trying to recapture the past memories of having a full dinner table and ravenous diners to feed. Helga was a motherly woman by nature however so it was just as likely she was content to feed anyone until they were full. It showed as she stopped Augustine, filling his bowl once more.
The boy looked personally slighted, as if she was only doing this to upset him and deny him the ability to see his mother. In a sense he could understand the boys confusion and he could relate to wanting to see his mother – but a part of Nicolai also did not comprehend why he was so eager. At one moment he wanted to be treated more like an adult and had told his mother just as much, shunning her touch when she had sought to console him the night before. Now he had turned back to being the mother boy he'd been most his life. The boy needed to find his balance.
When those familiar emerald eyes looked up to him for assistance, guidance, someone to back his cause for leaving, the elven man shook his head lightly.[+teal “She is right, you are rushing. Finish another bowl and savour it – there won't be food like this all the way along the journey.”] He commented as he torn another loaf apart and dipped it into the succulent gravy and allowed it to soak the juices up.[+teal “Besides which, your mother needs her rest, she is exhausted. She will require nursing and you barging in to wake her will not help at all.”] This brought only a look of betrayal from the young boy as his bowl was refilled.
The meal continued on, wooden spoons clunking against the bowls and cups knocking on the table as they were put down. When Augustine had finished his next bowl and turned it upside down in a childish protest, Nicolai shook his head in disdain whilst finishing a mouthful of food. Helga was rising up to admonish him but pressing his left hand to her shoulder, he pushed her back into her seat, swallowing his food quickly.[+teal “No no, let me have a word with him.”] He grabbed a table cloth to wipe his hands as he pushed his seat back and stood up, clicking his fingers at the young boy and directing him to follow him.
The house would only echo with their voices no matter where they went, and so the dark haired man led his blonde 'son' outside, onto the back porch that looked out over a vegetable garden that was almost ready for harvest. Leading the boy further along the wooden walkway, his head bowed as if a convict being taken for hanging, he pointed out a chair for him to sit in and sighed.[+teal “What is going on here Augustine?”] The tone was calm and soft if a little cold, a touch annoyed to have been pulled from his food.
[+teal “You're back talking to your mother one moment, demanding to be treated like an adult, but then the next you're upturning bowls and behaving more childish than an infant.”] The boy seemed either reluctant to talk or deep in thought, head still down, staring at the ground between his feet.[+teal “Is it Gregory? Has that bloody dwarf been encouraging you to act out and become a nuisance? Because your little thefts from the sweets pantry, your irritation towards learning, your disobedience to both your mother and to me will not work out here.”] He was perhaps being harsh but if the boy wanted to be treated as an equal as someone with his own voice, he would need to become accustomed to those speaking back at him.
[+teal “This is not the castle where you can run and hide. This is not your fathers or your mothers or even your land any more and you cannot act like you are impervious to life because someone will deal with it for you, they will bring you what you want when you want it. You have to earn respect rather than expect it and you won't get that by acting out, understood?”]
When Nicolai stood, she thought that would be the end of it. The woman allowed her eyes to close, but it only lasted a moment as he placed a hand on her. Florence had not been expecting it. She jolted slightly, however beyond that there was not much of a reaction. Listening carefully to his words, she processed them slowly. [+mediumseagreen “You as well, Nicolai.”] A groggy smile on her face as she waved him goodbye. This time her emerald irises stayed trained on him until the door shut in front of his figure. Then she rolled over, making attempt to get comfortable despite being nearly fully dressed. It worked and she was asleep in no time flat.
There was a time when the old woman went to see Florence and Nicolai in the other room. It allowed Gregory the chance to send a few words of assurance Augustine’s way. But the boy was not all too convinced. The bearded man had a sad sort of look in his eye, almost as though he did not believe what he was saying. And so the child was more worried than ever that something was going to happen to his mother. Over the last few days these were common thoughts, but he had expected something more akin to the assassins getting them. And while that was part of what led to this situation, it was still not as he anticipated.
The anxiety had Augustine’s stomach in knots. He did not want to eat, but when the crotchety woman returned she chastised him for it. Not wanting to argue, he picked up his spoon and slowly sipped at the stew. The whole time she was commenting on how thin he was. It wasn’t as though he could help that any. He had eaten plenty back home, probably better than any other child in the southern half of Esteroak. But he continued to stay silent, hoping the woman would pitter out or find fault in someone else and leave him alone.
It was Gregory, once again, that came to rescue the boy. He started up a droll conversation that excluded him. The Dwarven man was good at that sort of thing. Charismatic in a way that meant he could get along with most. And seeing as Nicolai had told them a bit about Helga before coming here, he could use that to tailor their talk. Their conversation was wholesome and lasted well into the time Nicolai returned to the bulk of the group.
[+darkmagenta “Eating is a good sign. If she can eat, she can recover.”] His gruff voice was a little lighter than normal because of the optimism.
Nicolai’s words Helped Augustine as well. More at ease, he ate more readily. Not thinking that the general would lie about something like this, the child was now in a hurry to see his mother himself. He reined it in enough so that he did not entirely wolf his food down. Not wanting to give the elderly hostess any reason to complain, he took a roll to clear the bowl of any excess. It was completely clean. But as he was about to ask to be excused, the woman reached out and refilled the container. Blinking, Augustine took a moment to process what had happened.
[+goldenrod “You won’t be going to bother your mother right after she laid down to rest, you hear? Now eat another helping. You could use some meat on those bones.”]
For whatever reason, this lady was hell bent on being cruel. At least, that was how Augustine saw it. He just wanted his mom, but after looking around and seeing no one willing to stand in his defense, he deflated. Conceding, he went back to the bowl. He finished it again, this time not so quick. But when he was through, he flipped the wooden dish over, a bit of childish obstinance so that she might not try serving him a third time.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat A smile again tugged his lips at her remarks that he could be rather moody at times. He was rather joyous in her presence right then, though perhaps it was due to their shared injuries, her semi-lucid mind from the illness, or the fatigue of the last few days catching up to them that they were more amicable. On the far side, it was them being more free and open and overall better to one another without the weight of their respective titles burdening them. Regardless it was nice to have a pleasant talk with someone who was not afraid to chastise him – albeit in a humourful way.
[+teal “To be called [i 'almost pleasant'] by anyone else might be cause for offence, but I will take it as a great compliment from you.”] He retorted as she continued with her meal though she did feel the need to add that he would perhaps become a good father and husband one day.[i 'If I live so long'] was all he could think though he watched her with a soft smile ever present.
When she had finished he nodded in understanding that she wanted him gone. Not least to inform the others she would be fine, but that she seemed close to slumber already and to fight it any longer would be pointless. He didn't take it as a slight to his company, intelligent enough to know she was coming at this from a practically stance. He quickly moved the stand and bowl off to one side of the room, returning to take her empty food bowl.
His free hand came to rest on her forearm and applying enough pressure to draw her attention a final time.[+teal “Try to relax and get a good sleep Florence, a very long journey ahead of you.”] His voice was quiet so as not to rile her from her near-slumber though his face showed he was deep in thought. With a bow of his head to her he left her be and closed the door shut behind him.
Though it had not been long since they arrived, nor since Nicolai had been designated nurse to Florence, the sun had gone down beyond the hills and candles had been lit to illuminate the home. Their waxy aroma was light in the hallway and as he made his way back to the kitchen and dining area he was overcome with the mouthwatering smells of the stew, more potent than before, mingling with a fermented grape delight and the warm scent of fresh bread. His stomach rumbled as he stepped through the doorway to see them all sat about the large table, more bowls of food than there were people. Catching each individuals eyes as a greeting, he took a seat to the right of Helga who was content to watch the others.
[+teal “Your stew went down a treat, she's resting now, should sleep well in that bed after a few nights on the ground.”] Putting the empty bowl to one side he retrieved a fresh one and Helga, as a gracious host she was, leaned forward to fill it from the large pot she had cooked. His words had brought a wondering look from her but he returned it with one of his own that told her they would talk later. Having gained entrance to her home, she would not eject them outright now, therefore he could trust in her a partial truth of why they were there – at least why they had left the Capital, if not who Augustine really was.
Taking a fresh roll he broke it apart and dipped it into the gravy of his meal, practically salivating as a cup was filled with watered wine and placed near to hand. His violet eyes offered further thanks to Helga whilst his mouth was full, looking across to the others to see if they shared in his ravished appetite.
Nodding, she interjected. [+mediumseagreen “I am aware.”] It was much less now, but at least when they were first feeling each other out, it seemed Nicolai was determined to be confrontational. Florence was not much better, given the stress of the situation, but certainly it he was one to thrive in those moments. [+mediumseagreen “I agree, a spouse that can help better you as a person is optimal.”] The other option being someone who kept quiet and allowed themself to be content with whatever was placed before them, Florence had never been the type. Though, given the nature of her previous marriage, she had to learn to be. Facing off against the king with his flaws was not a tactful move. It was liable to get her killed, even if it was not his doing. And as much as she hated to stand idly by, lying in a grave sounded worse by far.
[+mediumseagreen “Fathers can be a bit much at times... though to be fair he had every reason to believe you were a danger to his daughter.”] There was little she ever wanted to agree with that man with, but when the enemy comes to woo your child a knife to the back doesn’t seem too dramatic. Though she chose to keep that tidbit to herself.
Florence attempted to imagine it, Nicolai with the title of husband. [+mediumseagreen “I cannot fathom that you would be as horrible as you seem to think. I know my own experience with marriage is drastically skewed, but you seem considerate enough. Perhaps a little moody at times, nevertheless under less strenuous circumstances I’d dare say your almost pleasant.”] She paused her eating, not wanting to speak with her mouth full of stew. There was a thoughtful expression on her face. It soon turned soft with the next segment of her musings. [+mediumseagreen “When the day comes, I bet you will rise to the occasion… I was rather certain I would be a terrible mother. Infants terrified me, but everything is different when the child is your own.”] The moment she first held Augustine came to mind. He was perfect. She recalled crying. The memory had her smiling warmly. [+mediumseagreen “I miss those days.”] He was growing much too fast, both physically and mentally. Perhaps he was too bright for his own good.
The woman waited for Nicolai to finish with bandaging her arm before resuming her meal. The tightness of the wrapping was uncomfortable, but she knew she would grow used to it. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you.”] With that, she dedicated her time to finishing off the reasonable portion of food. When the bowl was clean, she was full, and comfortably so at that. Her olive toned hand set the dish lightly back on the table. [+mediumseagreen "You should go and eat. I have kept you long enough."] It would also be a chance for him to relay that she was fine to the others. Augustine's worried expression was still fresh in her mind, and Gregory was the type to get anxious with these things.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai chuckled a touch at her comment regarding seeing her in a flattering light. It was a touch nervous like a boy caught giving the pretty girl a flower. However he recovered and shook his head.[+teal “Oh I have several negatives I can give you too, but everyone can point out their own flaws – that is the easy part. Sometimes we need someone to highlight our positives. It may not benefit me in a material or physical sense but we don't do everything in our lives for reward.”] His tone altered a touch at the end of his sentence as he returned the cloth to the water and cleaned it off some.
He felt his wording could be taken in varying ways and it had come across as a little demure or saddened. It was perhaps a touch true, as she brought up Lillian and the relationship that had not been given time to really become anything more than an attempt to distract her father. Smiling as to dispel any dark thoughts from his mind and to give him the aura of a man who was content with his lot in life, he nodded along to her words.
[+teal “True, it would not have been a deal breaker. Aside from a few kisses more akin to first loves, nothing happened that I would be fearful of her speaking of. Women like to gossip, I am fine with that.”] The cloth was cleaned off in the bowl as she quickly took up her bowl of food. He had not planned to feed her or go beyond helping with the wound, acutely aware of boundaries between them and not wanting to overstep them. Whilst he was beginning to accept he wanted more with her, with her illness and the current situation, 'making a move' was not sensible.
[+teal “Still, not to diminish the girl, it was nice whilst it lasted but I would have preferred a little conflict now and again.”] He let out an airy laugh, chest fluctuating as he took up the bandage and unravelled it some.[+teal “She was a touch too sweet, too innocent. A little too agreeable. I like a challenge and to be challenged, you know? That and the overwhelming thought that any moment her father would find me and stab me in the back didn't help much.”] Leaving her to eat by her own desire he only paused her for as long as it took to wrap the cloth around the flared skin and tied it off after wrapping it around several times.
[+teal "I think it went as far as it would have naturally gone in the end. Can you imagine if it had gone all the way? I would have made such terrible husband material, let alone as a father if that day came."] It felt a little odd to be talking about relationships with Florence and what he did or did not like from a woman. Then again it had been her to bring up the topic, changing from their discussion about her to him and his relationships. It was an abrupt change but he did not mind giving her insight into his life as she had her own. And it made for light conversation as he had tended to her wound and she had begun to eat her meal.
Letting out an airy sort of half laugh, Florence didn’t know he had all these theories about her past, or that they would be so accurate. [+Mediumseagreen “Technically you are not wrong, but I am every so sorry to bore you with my crumbling health.”] There was no attempt made to hide the smile on her face as she chuckled lightly again.
Still hazy, the feverish woman missed the rhetorical nature of Nicolai’s comment. She went on to answer him, oblivious. [+mediumseagreen “I am telling you because you deserve to know what is going on… you are my husband and all. At least for the night.”] The smile faded to a smirk, but it did not last. Her humorous tone evened out only a moment after that. [+mediumseagreen “But also, I do not think you should-“] The rapping came at the door and cut her off.
Helga came and went like a storm. It seemed she had a way of ruffling Nicolai as she did too. Though, it was not always difficult to get a rise out of him. No sooner than the elderly woman was gone, he took back his hand. It surprised Florence, as she entirely forgot he’d placed it there with hers. [+mediumseagreen “I am sure he lived so long because she is this way. She may be loud about it, but Helga is taking very good care of everyone.”]
She flinched part way through giving the compliment. Even with Nicolai’s gentle touch, the cut on her arm was irritated. The gash was not terribly deep, so she thought it would be okay, but apparently the injury had other plans with its throbbing. Luckily, it had not gotten to the point of infection yet.
Watching him as he worked, Florence fixated on his shining violet eyes. They were focused, sharp in a way that her mind currently was not. [+mediumseagreen “Mm, I have not heard any lies, but I do feel as though you are leaving out some crucial details for the sake of keeping me in a flattering light… I do believe much of this is balanced by what is happening right now. Being able to help with defense means very little if I become a burden directly afterword. Had this happened out in the wilderness we would be sitting ducks.”] She sighed, knowing she would need to me careful from here on out. Passing her limit was not pleasant for anyone.
Continuing to watch the man as he worked, she went on. [+mediumseagreen “You are very kind, you know. There is little need or benefit to cheering me up, but you seem determined to try despite it. You have a good nature.”] She was not entirely sure it fit his position as a general, but given he had the skill to back it up he was fine.
Overall he was a good man, strong, passionate, and handsome. It was shocking that he was still unattached, which probably had something to do with why his current plan to pull the wool over Helga's eyes was currently working. [+mediumseagreen “It would seem poor Miss. Lillian missed out on the perfect suitor.] The switching of topics was somewhat abrupt, aloud despite flowing just fine in her thoughts. [+mediumseagreen "A victim of circumstance much like the rest of us. Though, I must say you dodged an arrow with the girl. She was a terrible gossip. She and Meredith were thick as thieves the entirety of her visit. And despite my best efforts I think I heard a few too many details myself...”] Florence reminisced about the couple of weeks she had Lillian as her guest. [+mediumseagreen “But perhaps that would not have been a deal breaker for you.”] Not all men cared at all what their wives prattled on about in their free time. Though, she still did not know just how serious Nicolai had been about that relationship. It was born from the need of information, but with him having the disposition he does, Florence would not be surprised if much of the fling was genuine. She was a rather cute girl, despite her relations. Florence's dislike for Gabriel had not lessened.
It was about that time he finished up with her arm. It was now clean of dried blood, but the line was still a frightful shade of red all on its own. Before he could make a move to do anything else, the woman took up the bowl on the table to the side of the bed. She did not want him getting any ideas. Just because she was a little warmer than usual did not mean she could not feed herself.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai found things became a touch tense when the others had left and the door was closed on the duo. Left stood there like a lemming he was unsure what to do with himself, not wanting to infringe on her space by sitting on the bed. With his legs feeling tense and more akin to heavy weights, he stepped away to take a chair from near the wall, bringing it across as she began speaking and placing it next to the bed.
With a soft sigh he seated himself with a deep groan that was cut off by her confession. It was peculiar to find her opening up like this to him, though their talk the night before had lay some groundwork for the pairing to be more honest and truthful. It was simply interesting that now she felt the need to tell him something so private and personal. When she finished with an admonishment of herself, he looked across to her and as ever, emerald met violet.
[+teal “I suspected you hid things from the world, but I expected more 'I killed someone when I was younger' or 'I am not really a Princess in Astoria.' The fact you have poor health is rather tame dear.”] He stated with feigned boredom, though an upturn of the corners of his lips belied his humour and he shook his head lightly.[+teal “I am however curious why you would tell me know, on the cusp of leaving, when you did not think to do so over the last few days.”] It was not stated as a question or asking for her answer, rather it was rhetorical and the simple musings of his mind.
The somewhat serious look on her face showed an innocence and fragility he had only come to know of since the night before. As if she was opening that outer shell to him to see deeper. Reaching his hand across to hers he slipped his fingers with hers though not entwining them, palms pressed together as he brushed his thumb over her warm and smooth skin.
A tap at the door was all the notice they got before it swung inwards, Helga walking in immediately. Carrying a bowl of steaming stew in one hand whilst balancing a larger bowl of warm water on her arm, the other hand brought over a small folding stand and she set it up with a flick of her wrist, the water bowl placed atop.[+darkgoldenrod “Right, first you're going to clean up that wound, then you're going to make sure she rests – but! - only after she eats.”] Draped over the bowl of water was a damp cloth and she fished a length of the bandage she had used on his shoulder from one of many pockets. Depositing this on the stand also as she moved around Nicolai and set the warm food on the night stand.
[+teal “Do I not get a bowl?”] The elven man inquired of his host as she dashed about, moving back around him and only pausing to look back when he asked, as if she had forgot he was there.[+darkgoldenrod “You can eat later. Your wound isn't bad, the arrow was removed cleanly, so you just need time. She needs feeding now.”] Turning away she went to leave, tutting and muttering under her breath about how skinny the boy was and how she had to ensure he ate enough, decrying just what Nicolai had been doing to see a boy so famished. And with that, the door closed only a minute or two after it had opened.
[+teal “Well, good to know this is all my fault.”] He grumbled after her, his hand slipping for Florence's as he pulled the stand with the water closer to him.[+teal “As you can see, our host is a loving if not eccentric woman. It's a wonder her husband Irving lasted as long as he did.”] He jested with her as he dipped the damp cloth into the water, his left hand moving to push up her sleeve, tucking it in on itself so that it stayed out of the way of her wounded arm.[+teal “Now, what I was going to say before she came in,”] the cloth is removed and rung of it's excess liquid as he eyes the cut and brought forward to begin cleaning it,[+teal “is that you are far and above being useless. Less than a few hours ago you helped defend us all from three attackers and then you saved my life by extracting the arrow and bandaging me. Not to mention running an entire Kingdom on your own and also raising a boy single-handedly through his father passing and his Kingdom turning on him and attempting to kill him.”] Brushing away at the dried blood he cleaned away at the cut with delicacy and tenderness as he spoke.[+teal “Have I lied yet or shall I continue?”] He asked though his attention remained on her arm.
Before she could assure the others that she would be just fine, Helga made herself a part of the situation. She forced Gregory to stand down, which was a feat in and of itself. Though it helped that he did not want to be kicked out of the woman’s home.
Florence was taking more care to focus on what was going on around her now that she had almost fallen over. This meant both spatially and audibly. She soon found Nicolai was getting an earful from the elderly woman. She did feel a touch guilty, but the olive-skinned woman did not dare interrupt.
Without much effort of her own, it was decided she would be put to bed. A task that fell to Nicolai, though she only let him take as much of her weight as he forced her too. Florence was not about to let someone, who she considered to be in worse condition than herself, carry her anywhere. Luckily, their cumbersome trip did not take long. In the room, Helga continued to bark orders. Not wanting to incur the woman’s wrath, she made no move to anything for herself. Even if she felt capable enough to do so.
Her emerald eyes watched the door as the others left, waving subtly to her son. It was a gesture meant to comfort him, she hoped she might have a smile in response, but it did not come. The concern furrowing his brow stayed in place until the door shut and he was out of sight. It was just the two of them now.
Florence was not really sure what to do after that. She probably should have gone straight to sleep, only waking to eat the food that was inevitably coming. It might have saved her from some of the embarrassment she was feeling. But the cloudiness in her head had not fully cleared and she still felt bad that Nicolai was the one who ended up taking the blame for this. It wasn’t as if he could prepare for and prevent something he did not know about.
[+mediuseagreen “Apologies… I did not realize I had gotten this bad.”] Not that that knowledge would have caused her to act any differently in their latest scuffle. Every move each of them made was significant to winning the battle. Missing any of those pieces, things might not have gone so well for them. If this could be called well.
Doubting he would be satisfied with such a simple explanation, she continued on. [+mediumseagreen “I am of poor constitution. Have been since before I came to this country.”] Perhaps it was the fever that helped loosen the tight grip her inhibitions usually had on her, though to some extent it must also have been that she was growing comfortable in the elfin man’s presence. [+mediumseagreen “I do not much care for being doted on, so I made sure this information never went far. Germaine knew, of course, and my physician, but not many beyond that… I suppose I should have said something as soon as we left the castle grounds. But seeing as we were to be parting in only a few days, I kept it to myself.”] She thought it went without saying that Gregory was in the loop as well. [+mediumseagreen “After all these years you’d think I would be used to it, but I really do hate being so useless.”] She shrugged, the look on her face only half serious.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was back in the room not too long, listening to Gregory and Augustine have a quiet conversation about something or other, when Helga had come in to announce that the food was almost ready and they could come through to eat once they had washed their hands in the basin she had filled with water. It was as he recalled, a cleanly woman, a stern woman, but a fair woman too. Hopefully she did not take the Augustine parentage situation too far.
As it seemed to Nicolai, Helga only knew the boy wasn't his. She did not seem to suspect the marriage, perhaps seeing the elf in a brighter light as a man willing to raise another's son. He had been doing that in essence, raising the youthful blonde boy both before and after his fathers passing. Though in truth Gregory had been doing so far more than he, and to a higher degree. It left the elf a touch regretful for ignoring Augustine as he had, having wished he'd helped out more before Germaine's passing. Perhaps that would have made his relationship with both the boy and his mother that much stronger.
Looking across as the woman in question fell back to her seat, he had made it no more than a step before the dwarf was tucked in to her side and pressing his small hand against her forehead. For some reason he felt jealousy at the action, like another man had stepped in on his woman and was pressing his hands against her. His cheeks flushed a touch from embarrassment though he could play it off as the heat of the fire just to him right.
When he stated what both Nicolai and Helga would have suspected given her flustered look and half lidded eyes, it was the small woman who stepped forward first with a tutting noise as she pushed aside the dwarven man's hands, taking a hold of the dark haired woman's cheeks so she could determine for herself.[+darkgoldenrod “My word, this group is just falling to pieces isn't it?”] She commented as she turned her chin to inspect the light bruising on her cheek.
As she continued her inspection she eyed the stain at her sleeve and pulling it up to find her wound she seemed to become rather angry.[+darkgoldenrod “Another wound? And why did you not tell me of this?”] She turned to look back at the elf who held out his left arm to his side.[+teal “This is the first I am seeing of this. She is a proud woman who dislikes telling me anything.”] His argument was valid though the small woman shook her head.
[+darkgoldenrod “A husband and wife who do not talk to one another? I fail to believe that.”] She retorted and clicked her fingers at him. Like a trained hound he stepped over, doing as she ordered as he replied.
[+teal “Yes well not everyone can be like you and Irving, okay? I do the best I can.”] She had him take Florence's right hand side, his good arm wrapping around her waist and grasping her curving hip to keep her secure to him as her right arm was thrown around his neck. If he had not been injured he could have carried her, but this would suffice given Gregory's small stature and Meredith's weaker physique.
[+darkgoldenrod “Regardless, she's getting in a bed now to rest. Now come along.”] It was a little bit of a struggle to follow after the woman, mostly due to the hallways being a touch cramped for them to walk easily side by side. Nicolai managed the task well enough though Florence – in her stubborn manner – was determined to help as best she could. Down a corridor with several doors off it, they came to the third and were waved in by Helga.[+darkgoldenrod “Set her down on the bed, shoes off, I'll be back with water and a cloth for you to clean her wound and some food for her to eat – she'll need the energy to fight this fever.”] She stood with hands on her hips as Nicolai entered followed by the others who stayed by the door.
The room was warmly decorated with autumn pastels, oak furniture and a decently sized bed that looked handmade. It was perhaps as large as a servants room in the castle, big enough to fit two in separate beds and then some. At this size however it was perfect to retain heat without a fire and the window behind one side of the bed would catch the last light of the day, saving the occupants from being blinded by morning sunshine.
The elven man did his best to ease the ailing woman down onto the bed, hand sliding to the small of her back as he sat her down and then up between her shoulder blades as he eased her head back onto the pillow. With her upper half situated he could help to lift her legs up onto the bed and in short order had removed her shoes, placing them beside the bed. As he had been getting her settled, Helga had turned to the trio watching and waved her hands.[+darkgoldenrod “Come on you three, off to the dinner table. Nicolai can tend to her for the time being, you all need to eat, especially the young'un!”] She began to shoo them away, closing the door over behind her.
Even as they reached the living room, Augustine’s hand stayed in hers. His fingers were cool despite having been in her grasp for some time. She let him lead them about the room so that they might sit together. There was a bench close to the fire, he chose this and Florence sat with him without complaint. In the absence of their host and the elf she had taken with her, the room was quiet. Perhaps they all should have pretended to take a vow of silence. The woman chuckled to herself that the thought.
The fire was not blazing, it was more meant for light as they were still in the midst of summer, but Augustine liked the extra bit of warmth. It was a comfort that reminded him of home, even though this place was very different from the castle he was used to living in. The comparison in his mind was not one used to judge, as he found this place very relaxing, but it did make him wonder if he would ever see his childhood home again. And if he did, would it be the same so far in the future?
As he pondered what sort of things his future would hold, the boy wanted to break the silence. To ask what things were like in Astoria and where they would be staying, but he thought it best to keep those questions to himself until they left this place. He did not want to be the one to blow their cover and lose everyone the chance to sleep in a bed. And so the stillness persisted until the sound of Nicolai’s boots gave them reprieve. It was shortly after that, that Augustine took his hand back. It was way too hot in hers.
After sitting down, the world seemed to slow way down for Florence. It was strange since they had been constantly running for these last three days. The sensation was almost as though her head was in a fog. She hoped it would pass, as it made it difficult for her to keep up with the conversation that picked up shortly after the elf returned.
And after that it felt like no time at all before Helga stepped back in as well. From the tone of her voice, she was giving some sort of instruction. The dark haired woman did her best to listen carefully.
[+goldenrod “The food is almost ready, go get those hands washed…”] If there was more to it than that, it was lost on Florence.
Getting the gist of it, her hand went to Augustine’s back to urge him to stand. It took very little effort. Where the effort came in was getting herself off of the bench. She had not realized just how tired she was, though she probably should have. Pushing forward to stand, she made it to her feet only to have her knees wobble beneath her and have to immediately sit back down. The clumsy action brought the eyes in the room to her.
[+mediumseagreen “Sorry,”] her apology was quick, but Gregory was quicker. The man was at her side immediately.
He pressed the un-callused back of his hand to her forehead, an easier reach with her sitting. There was no need to keep it there longer than a second. [+darkmagenta “You are feverish…”] Gregory turned to the others. [+darkmagenta “She’s overworked herself and made herself ill.”] Sadness stained his features. This was exactly what he’d been worried about, but given the fact that she had done nothing that was not completely necessary to survive he could not lecture her about it. Not that she would likely absorb any of it right now.
Augustine was incredibly concerned when his mother sat back down and even more so when the old dwarf announced that she was ailing. He couldn’t in recent memory ever remember her ever being sick before, and now it only called forth thoughts of his father whose illness had spiraled into his death. Gregory caught his looks. The silvery haired man desperately wanted to explain, to comfort the child, but with Helga there he was hard pressed to keep to his part as a man of the cloth. It wouldn’t make much sense for him to drone on about another man’s wife’s past. He may have already gone to far in saying with certainty what was wrong with her.
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