It was like she was not allowed to have a single moment of happiness or triumph without someone raining on her parade. This time it was Nicolai… again... He had a terrible habit of this. And while he had a valid point, as per usual, this time she had the feeling he was just being bitter. His flame had left and he was determined to take it out on everyone else. Lillian was a gossip, very little of their encounters was left to the imagination. And while that hadn’t been her cup of tea, Meredith lived for it, so she encouraged the details. The general was quite the charmer when he wanted to be.
Back to the matter at hand, the woman’s smile dissipated. She really did just want to be able to enjoy their victory for a little while, so she turned to give the elf some grief. [+mediumseagreen “If Gabriel truly was their only source of reason, then this moment would have come eventually regardless. Likely within the same timeframe, as all his compatriots would have overridden his opinion once made frantic. It is the same result but we have been spared three weeks.”] Florence poked holes in his argument, not that it mattered. What was done was done.
[+mediumseagreen “I would say we do know what it means. It means they will come for us more desperately. This next three weeks we will have to be even more on guard than we have been.”] There was a good chance they would strike at her in order to get to the Prince more easily. The green-eyed woman wasn’t much bothered by it, not so long as it pulled their attention off Augustine for even a moment. [+mediumseagreen “They might even go so far as to continue after the coronation.”] She worried about that the most. [+mediumseagreen “If they do, I will send Augustine abroad to study, most likely in Astoria.”] For once, she regretted not teaching the boy her native language. [+mediumseagreen “Gregory, you would also need to go. He needs a translator.”] It was more definitive than she was letting on. Germaine had also spent a few years in foreign territory as a boy, so it was not something that could be easily contested if she pushed for it.
Silent in her oral planning, Gregory was not thrilled with the idea of going back to Astoria. It defeated the purpose of him being here, but that was a private conversation they would need to have between the two of them. He was just glad that there was some good news trickling in now, even if it was tinged with dread. Despite that, the dwarf was confident they would make it through. They’d managed before and they would do it again.
Florence could tell by the thoughtful look in the bard’s eyes that he was not entirely on board. However, she did not dwell on it. The woman was confident she could get him to do as she asked. She already had a compromise in mind.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat For a few more days the Viscount's daughter and her Duke continued their little playful affair, eating together when she was not called to Florence's side and chatting away until candles were brought out and inevitably she was whisked away to the Queen's side. The longer days and warmer weather was a wonderful time for a relationship it blossom. Yet it seemed winters cold fingers came too quickly for them.
Gabriel had appeared suddenly and in a moment Lillian was gone from the castle, sent away by the Queen with her use all but gone. When the Duke had gone to meet with her in their usual spot he was only met by the lady-in-waiting Meredith, informed that she had been taken back to her fathers home and a very short letter than thanked him for his company and wished him well. That had been that, immediately after he was instructed as the meeting place that the Queen had in mind.
When Florence had convened for Gregory and Nicolai to attend to her so that she could say her news, Augustine passed along to Gerald with heavy warning to keep eyes upon him, Nicolai had been in two minds. Indeed when the little man stepped through a side entrance to a room off the main corridor, a means of giving them some secrecy to their meeting and not letting the gossips talk once more, he was greeted by a delighted Florence and less than joyous elf.
Now, it was not in his posture or the small smile that toyed on his lips that he could see the negative mood. To look at the pairing before him at a glance was to see at his lips – but it was deep within those violet eyes that he saw the displeasure. He stewed on asking about this glum look, instead beaming a smile to his friend and sitting down with a chuckle.
[+darkmagenta “Well things are certainly looking rosy for our merry trio. Now with Gabriel out of the picture and off licking his wounds, things are looking decidedly better!”] The two opposite nodded their agreements to his assertion.
[+teal “Yes, it is one fickle and troublesome hound who has been neutered, though the focus must shift across to his equally disruptive ally.”] His voice is light and airy, masking his inner mood in an upbeat tone.
[+darkmagenta “Surely we have some time to enjoy the moment and simply bask in a triumph. We deserve it given all that has happened of late, don't you agree?”] He was chiding the young man, looking to the Queen for her to join him in his joke.
[+teal “I agree that we should enjoy the moment, but not for too long. Other acts have transpired that necessitate we remain focused.”] It was a little foreshadowing but he turned his magenta gaze to the woman at his side, nodding to offer her the baton to speak – it was her news and the dwarf looked at her curiously.
[+mediumseagreen “Yes, having consulted with Father Cornello, he has [i spoken with the Gods] and they have given their blessing for the coronation to come forward – by three weeks no less.”] The implication that such a religious moment had come about by female encouragement was obvious and Nicolai nodded upon his second hearing.
[+darkmagenta “That is fantastic news! It gives them even less time to try anything and makes Augustine that much closer to becoming King. Truly wonderful news!”] He clapped his hands and kicked his feet, a man who was overjoyed and delighted. It was left to Nicolai to raise a hand and draw his attention. Of course the elf had to spoil his fun and drag him back down to reality with a heavy thud. He all but snarled to see the Duke was objecting to his moment of joy.
[+teal “That is the problem. Less time will make them more reckless and they will be more desperate. Gabriel is gone. Their only source of sensibility taken away. Now they are more dangerous than ever. We do not know what this could mean for Her Majesty and His Highness.”] Nicolai did not like being the realist in that moment. He would have been happy to leave them all to enjoy themselves and be delighted with their back-to-back triumphs. Perhaps his mood had been soured enough by Lillian's absence that he had a clearer mind to show them the greater plight at hand. Regardless of what it was, he was curious to their reactions, their responses; how would they now cope with a threat more akin to a trapped animal than a cunning predator they had been dealing with?
Florence gave a bit a grace period before sending Lillian back home. A few days to make sure everything checked out with all the documentation she had received. Gregory helped a great deal with backing particulars up off the castle grounds. All the details fell into place just as they were on paper. It was invigorating. Even before it was absolutely and irrevocably confirmed, she had the Dwarf inform Nicolai of the development, even though a much more formal announcement was soon to come.
It was the day the young woman left that the Queen sent out notice that the Viscount had been removed from the council. She gave reason to everything. Including that he had volunteered the information himself out of guilt of his transgressions. This was to be the seemingly redeemable moment that stopped her from demoting him any further. Overall the note was concise. Florence even went as far as naming her new councilman in the last line. Her mind was made up; she made it clear there would be no meeting over the affair.
Despite this victory, there was still much to be done. And without knowing how much time they had to do anything before the enemy made a move, the dark haired woman was eager to keep the momentum. Which wasn’t incredibly difficult. Now that Gabriel was out, she had a new directive. This one involved visiting the castle chapel so that she could have a chat of her own with the priest.
The royal chapel was its own separate building apart from the main of the castle. Nestled between the gardens and the outer wall, it rested on a pretty plot of land that was done up to accent the beauty and extravagance of the construction. Florence’s walk there was pleasant. The weather was heating up as the seasons transitioned to summer. New warm weather flowers were beginning to bloom now that the spring bunch was fading. She thought it a refreshing change of pace.
The woman was going to take it upon herself to share the news of Gabriel’s ejection from the council with the priest. From what she had heard, the Viscount had made it very clear that he was the one who colluded with the holy man to set the coronation date so far into the distant future. It was still some six weeks now. Appealing to the direct source was the easiest way she could think to rectify that.
[+mediumseagreen “Father Cornello, how pleasant it is to see you today.”] At least it would be once she got her way.
[+brown “Your Majesty, to you as well. To what do I owe this visit?”] The woman seldom visited the chapel unless she had to, so the man knew she must have come with some sort of motive.
She smiled at the man, playing her role as an amicable guest. [+mediumseagreen “I was hoping to speak to you about the coronation.”]
The corners of the portly man’s mouth pulled down. It was a seemingly genuine look of remorse. His hands clasped in front of him as he shifted on his feet. [+brown “What about it, ma’am?”] He knew very well what she wanted to say, but he had his own reasons for avoidance.
[+mediumseagreen “As you know, as everyone knows, a week ago someone sneaked into the castle at night. The assailant was ever so close to having his royal highness’ head…”] Telling the tale in a somewhat dramatic fashion, she needed to lean in with this. [+mediumseagreen “I fear for my son’s life. With the coronation still so far away, there is no doubt in my mind that the situation will only grow worse. I just will not be able to rest until he has the blessing of the gods bestowed upon him and his rule. Surely that will keep him safe… Would it be impudent of me to ask that you convene with gods once more? After all, the situation has changed now. I am sure the merciful beings above have seen our desperation and will reconsider.”]
Discomfort displayed further in his features and in his stance. He would not look at her, a tell tale sign that while he felt regretful, but would not give in. [+brown “I d-“]
Florence quickly cut him off. [+mediumseagreen “I know this is a tall order, that coming back to ask the gods to reconsider is an act of insolence, and that making the request it myself is an unfair pressure. It is a lot for you to take in, I apologize for that… I would have sent Gabriel, as I know the two of you get along, but now that he is off the council it just wouldn’t be right.”] She sighed as though it was some great loss to have the man out of her hair.
Cornello’s posture tensed further. His knuckles grew white where he was holding his hands together. [+brown “What happened?”] Surprise in his voice.
[+mediumseagreen “It turns out he was dealing some shady business outside of the castle. He confessed, but was removed from his position here. I may need to look into it further to makes sure he was not making any other strange dealings…”]
That caught the priest’s attention. [+brown “If he was came forth to confess of his own accord, I doubt he must have had anything else that needs to be brought to light.”] He was covering his own ass.
[+mediumseagreen “That would make sense, wouldn’t it, father?”] She nodded, but looked at him knowingly. [+mediumseagreen “Now, about that convergence?”]
[+brown “I will try, ma’am.”] The man must have understood that he had lost whatever connection and benefit he had gained from Gabriel. Florence found him much more agreeable now that he was trying to forge new allegiances.
[+mediumseagreen “Wonderful! Do not let me keep you. I am off to the garden, please send someone for me when you have our answer.”] Smiling her political smile, she gave one more farewell before leaving the supposedly sacred ground.
It took longer to hear back than the Queen had anticipated. Perhaps the man was doing his job properly this time? Either way, it was the next day when she heard back from him. Three weeks, the time had been cut in twain. Florence was in a fantastic mood, especially when she passed the information along to the others. Things were finally starting to go right.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The training with young Augustine was therapeutic as he had envisioned. The boy was given a chance to swing with strength rather than accuracy, focusing on building the muscles in his arms than the one in his mind. Sometimes brute force was better than tactics. Each swing came with a shout, starting off weak and timid until Nicolai had instructed him in how to clear his mind of clutter and just think purely on how he had to attack, attack, attack.
With a roar of released frustration and pent up anger, unleashing an almost primal nature of fighting that only truly came out when in a life and death situation, the young boy had swung with his wooden sword two handed – and consequently broken Nicolai's little finger when he had missed the mans sword and instead struck the elf's hand with a rough block of wood. Safe to say the obscenities that had come from his lips when he threw aside his own weapon were not something the youth should have heard. They had built up to a frenzy and with his often calm demeanour cast off he was swearing like a sailor.
The boy spent the next few sessions continually enquiring as to how his hand was, was he okay, did it hurt, what does that [i 'c-word'] mean? In truth Nicolai had forgiven the boy immediately. He laughed off the boys concerns and was only grateful he had been fighting with his right rather than his left hand – at least this way should he be called to Augustine's defence in a real situation he could fight all the same.
A benefit that came from it was the constant pampering he received from Lillian when Florence would leave her in his company, trading her for Augustine who would be whisked off with her or given to Gregory to care for. The last few days the duty of guarding the Royal Family came back to Gerald. There was a need for Nicolai to remain somewhat separated from the others, so that when the coronation came they would settle back into the normality of things. That and he was far too busy with entertaining Lillian in their time together.
[+teal “Honestly it is quite fine-”] He tried to interject but she shushed him and took the vase from him with a light push at his uninjured hand.
[+cornflowerblue “Nonsense. You are hurt. You are meant to rest.”] She poured the water slowly into his goblet as he shook his head lightly.
[+teal “I hurt one hand. I am still able to pour a drink!”] Again he protested, again she brushed off his complaint.
[+cornflowerblue “It is done Nicolai, no more whining.”] She smiled at him teasingly as she sat back beside him on the bench that overlooked the land toward the sea. It was a calm day, sunny and yet cool ocean winds kept things pleasant.
From her words he could tell she had been talking with Florence. Women were notorious for discussing men though it was curious to him that they had talked of him. He was not exactly in the Queen's good books. He just wasn't in her bad ones either. Perhaps this was her way of ignoring their awkward talk on marriage, how he had offered but not offered himself as a candidate. Her way of pushing off the bad words they had said to one another and attempting to turn over new leaves. She had seemed more agreeable since Gabriel's daughter had arrived.
[+cornflowerblue “What on earth are you staring at?”] Her voice broke through to his thoughts and he blinked several times to see her brushing a hand over her cheek, her hair, across her lips and a rosy tint came to her lips. He must have been staring in silence.
[+teal “As ever I am just captivated by your beauty. An old man told me when I was very young, that sometimes you have to sit and simply enjoy beauty wherever you find it. Forget the world, forget life itself and just live in that wonderful moment.”] It was perhaps a bit heavy of a guise for his true reason for staring, that his mind had been on the Queen, but it was sweet and truthful all the same. Her cheeks darkened all the same and she looked down to her lap with wide eyes.
[+cornflowerblue “I-I see.. w-well thank you, Nicolai..”] Such a shy woman at times, she was not coy when telling him he had been her first true suitor. It seemed her father had been keeping her under lock and key for some time now.
[+teal “You are so delightful when flummoxed.”] He placed his right hand atop hers on her lap, splintered and bandaged finger to one side. Leaning across he stole away some of her lipstick, his left hand coming up to cup her cheek gently, stroking her smooth skin with his thumb as he pulled away, violet eyes flickering over her sweet and innocent face.
She took the hand from her face and held it in her own tightly, squeezing it as she could not do so with the other. They remained smiling at one another as couples were oft to do, gazing into one another's eyes and stealing kisses where they could be pinched. For a while there were no words and they ate and drank in the peace and comfort of the others company. Nicolai was the one to suggest to walk before she would have to leave his company – too long and Florence was apt to become disgruntled at him for stealing her 'guest' away. It was a ruse of course. No doubt she was happy to be left alone and yet keep young Lillian close to her.
They wandered through the gardens, her hands linked through his left arm, holding his hand and leaning against him at times. It was beautiful to see all the flowers and trees in bloom. Come autumn it had it's own charm and yet in winter it was cold, grey and dark. Not much could be done about that.
They had reached the main pathway when Gabriel passed before them, too far away to call out to but close enough to recognise and see the frustration and defeat on his face. Thankfully he had not looked to his side to see another crushing defeat of his daughter on the arm of his rival.
[+cornflowerblue “I wish I could have spoken with him.”] Her soft voice carried her sadness.
[+teal “And tell him how you are constantly flirting and kissing the Duke?”] He joked with her and she slapped his hand in hers playfully, drawing a smile back to her face. She was not difficult to bring back to happiness.[+teal “Or perhaps he would like to know how his daughter is rather smitten with her man?”]
[+cornflowerblue “Oh so now you are my man Duke Nicolai?”] She asked with a raised brow.
[+teal “Unless you are entertaining other gentlemen, I am not in the company of other women, so I would say yes; at this moment I would be your man.”] His hand grasped hers, fingers interlinking.
[+cornflowerblue “Well for the matter I am not 'entertaining other gentlemen' as you put it, so I guess that does make you my man.”] She blushed at saying it aloud herself but he only took her behind the final tree in the garden, hands to her slender waist as he gave her a goodbye kiss.
It was not proper to walk around holding hands within the castle itself so they had grown accustomed to this parting moment. She did take a second or two to brush the colour from his lips this time, grinning as her thumb cleared away the evidence. The two parted ways there. Nicolai stood watching her leave, his mind wondering at why Gabriel had been in the castle and why he had not been informed. Likely it had something to do with Florence.
Florence skipped breakfast that morning. She was determined to get a start on things. Passing her letter on to a currier, the woman let the young man know that she would send a party to escort the lady back here this afternoon. The message was filled with everything else that Lillian would need to know, though the duration of her stay was up in the air. That was a mystery that even the Queen didn’t know the answer to. If things went her way, it could be as little as a few days, if not perhaps much longer. It all depended on Gabriel and his obstinance.
By early afternoon, the girl had arrived. The Queen met her just as soon as she knew they were on the grounds. She was unusually informal with the young woman, who looked a touch scared to be there. Not in the way that she thought her life was in danger, more that she was intimidated. Her father may have been a councilman, but Florence doubted the daughter of a Viscount had been here more than a handful of times. Even fewer of those being in the presence of the royal family. Her anxiety was reasonable.
Waving the servants to take Lillian’s things to the room that had already been prepared for her, Florence led her about. A bit of tour coming up so that she would be able to get around if for some reason she found herself without an attendant. An unlikely event, but not an impossible one.
Walking through the different halls and galleries, every room had a different feel. But there still seemed to be an overarching theme to everything. Florence didn’t know the first thing about interior designs, but it was pleasant all the same. Perhaps it was the recurrence of the dark maroon that brought it all together in a strange but cohesive way. She didn’t bother on dwelling on it.
The older woman let there be quiet between them, but never let the silence become awkward. Filling in where appropriate with conversation, she made herself out to be interested in Lillian. It wasn’t entirely fabricated, she was curious what was going on outside of these walls and what the up and coming gentry thought about it. Somewhere along the line, Meredith joined them. A nice addition, as the girls were closer in age. They could babble on about whatever similarities there were between them so that Florence might have a break.
Florence allowed a few days to pass in this manner. In that time Lillian grew more comfortable in her presence. They chatted about many things. One of such things being the girl’s infatuation with Duke Nicolai, a sign that he had done his job properly. Though she could not fault the young lady for her attachment. He was a high-ranking official with both charm and looks on his side, and while he could be disagreeable at times, Florence found that to be the case with most men with titles. All and all, he would be a catch for some poor girl. Although, she very much doubted it would be this one, seeing who her father was. And so, to keep her happy the Queen often left her in the man’s company when she was needed elsewhere. The poor thing wasn’t here to be tormented, just a pawn to be used as a little leverage, so letting her enjoy her stay at the castle was important.
On one such occasion, she fancied herself ready to have a conversation with Gabriel. She had let him simmer on the gravity of the situation for some days now, so it was time. Florence called him to her home as well. The pair found a private room to convene, although not as private as she would have liked. Now that there had been a tangible assassination attempt she was never let alone. However, she did reach a compromise as she had the guards wait outside.
[+mediumseagreen “So, do you know why I am speaking with you here today?”] The woman wore a coy smile, she had asked the gentleman to take a seat, but remained standing herself. This way she was able to look down at him as she went.
The man nodded. Though, she doubted he really did. [+firebrick “I had nothing to do with the incident…”] He didn’t let on much more than that.
She believed his words. There was no doubt in her mind that he had been fighting the attempt to eliminate the prince. If he hadn’t been, it would have come much sooner after she slighted Vincent. [+mediumseagreen “Interesting that you would bring that up, as it isn’t what I brought you here for today.”] Raising a brow at the Viscount, she went on. [+mediumseagreen “No, I wanted to talk about something else. One of your… side businesses.”]
He was silent.
[+mediumseagreen “I will cut to the chase. We know about your link to the drug den on the outer East side of the city. It is only a matter of time until I have irrefutable proof of your connection. So, I thought I would give you an out. Save me some time and bring the evidence yourself and I allow you to keep your title as Viscount. You will of course be ejected from the council, forsaking the weight of your opinion in this country, but you will keep the quality of life you currently have.”] Much of this was a bluff, as they were no closer to having any proof now than they had been when they first came across the connection, but her hard expression did not display even the slightest hint of her lie. [+mediumseagreen “I suggest you do as I say, for the sake of your daughter. She doesn’t seem like she would adjust well to life as a pauper… And I would just hate to see that happen, both the Duke and I have grown quite fond of her.”] With that final twist of the knife, she went quiet, watching his every move.
Still he was silent.
Not wanting to waste her time, she decided to give one final ultimatum. [+mediumseagreen “Very well. You have until this time tomorrow to give me your answer, sooner would be ideal. But you should know, this will be the extent of my generosity.”] Turning, her dress flowed with her graceful step. She was just about to open the door when he stopped her.
[+firebrick “Wait… I will send it… You will have the documentation before the end of the evening.”] He looked absolutely pathetic, like dog that came crawling back to his master after making a mess.
With a nod of the head she acknowledged him. [+mediumseagreen “I am excited to hear that. You have made the right choice… And Gabriel, from now on I plan to have eyes on you to make sure you behave.”] Another threat, but this one to warn him that she expected him to stop conspiring with the Marquis.
With those final words out, Florence exited the room, a smile on her face. One that would only grow when the received the anticipated documentation a few hours later.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The moment the heavy doors had began to move, Nicolai was stood up and waiting. He had taken the dwarf's glare for an hour or so and the desire to have him taken away by the number of guards nearby was growing swiftly. Regardless of the little bard's desire to infuriate him however he wore a soft smile as his mauve eyes drifted from her usual beauty to the young boy at her side. Those guards that were around moved to the end of the corridor to afford the trio of adults some privacy.
Nodding his head to her he held out a hand to take the boy at his side, placing it on his shoulder as a means of outwardly showing just how he would remain close to the boy that morning at least. Her comment on his attire was perhaps warranted, but she would have likely struck him if he had left to change. There would be no winning and instead he took it as a humorous perspective.
The words she shared with the dwarf confused him. Just what had the little man done that deserved any recognition? As far as Nicolai could see and knew, the man was as useless as himself, too far away to enact themselves on the situation. Curious.
His derisory euphemism was taken as a compliment by the tall elf. He had done his duty and no-one was to disturb the boy in his slumber or the Queen in her reflection. To let in one was to allow others to demand entry for other plausible reasons. As far as the Duke could see things he had done his task well and he would not be turned from thinking so. He gave Florence a bow of his head in understanding about Augustine's arrangements should he have to depart. He would have liked a little time to see to Lillian but it would have to wait for later.
[+teal “I believe you have it all covered Your Highness. I will have Augustine fed before and after his training. I advise against visitors though do not hesitate to come speak to me if needed of course. Or better yet, send the little courier dog instead.”] His light hearted barb came with a playful wink to Gregory, a bow to Florence before he ushered the boy to follow him, leading him away and back toward his bedroom. The guards at the corridor waited to protect the Queen as ever, two detaching to follow Nicolai.
[+teal “I trust you slept well Your Majesty?”] He asked of the young boy to break their silence and ease their tension. A soft nod was all he received in turn and he could feel the tension in his shoulder. A good thorough workout would do him good. A chance to exercise his fears, get out his anger and emotions and unleash pent up worries. It was a rather cathartic experience and one of several means Nicolai had available to him when he was in one of his moments.
Changed quickly into some of his poorer clothes – there was no sense in him fighting in regal clothing or anything that could tear or stain – the two went down to the training area, a servant stopped along the way to fetch the boy's breakfast. Fruit and porridge would not be particularly appetising, but it would fill his stomach whilst Nicolai spoke to him.
[+teal “I know last night was not ideal. Your father hated the midnight rushes too. But important people require protecting and sometimes that is what must happen.”] He reached across the table, placing a hand to the boys forearm.[+teal “You are a brave young man Augustine. I know many a boy who would have broke into tears and sobbing. But you were strong. You held your courage and impeccably so. And for good reason too; your mother will need you to remain strong for her no matter what.”]
The last part had the boys head lifting a little in confusion. Releasing his arm to bring back to his side, Nicolai took a moment to run a hand through his hair, nodding to the food for the Prince to continue eating.
[+teal “Your mother is an impressive woman. She had withstood so much in her life and undoubtedly she has gone through more trials before she came here. But she has her limits, her weaknesses, her faults. It is up to others to protect those points that she cannot herself. It is up to myself, to Gregory, to you especially, to keep her safe as she does us. You understand?”] The indecision of before remained, but his furrowed brow had relaxed and he nodded a touch.
[+coral “I do Nicolai. I just.. things are scary lately. You are here more often, my mother is constantly around, Gregory is like a second mother – feeding me so many pastries and playing his songs.”] Typical dwarf, spoiling the child. He would have to work the boy a little more today to burn off that added sugary weight.
[+teal “Sounds good to me. A doting mother, sweet treats – and am I that bad?”] He smiled.
[+coral “You know I don't mean it that way!”] He protested and the elf held up his hands in defeat.[+coral “I mean, I know something is up. Before my father died, I didn't see mother much. She was taking care of him. And Gregory was often busy talking with her. And you were never here.”] The boy sure knew how to guilt a man.[+coral “And now, everyone is here and so often and whilst I am happy to have everyone here, I know it's because of me, because of the coronation.”] His face turned to his bowl of porridge and he pushed it around with his spoon slowly. A soft sigh left Nicolai's lips and he nodded.
[+teal “You are not wrong, it is a scary time. But that is why we are all here. The three of us are here to help you, protect you, shield you from any dangers or worries so that you can be allowed to focus on your studies and becoming the new King. There is not long left and you have come so far. Stay the course, keep your chin up and your mind focused. I need you to work with me as much as anything else; if you stop, there is nothing any of us can do. I know it is not ideal, but in hindsight you will look back and see this as a challenge you overcame.”]
Not too long after things got moving around the castle that morning, Gregory came back to try to see Florence and Augustine. He was disappointed when Nicolai was still there. The older man was hoping the general would leave to indulge in his morning routine, so that he might be able to sneak in. Since that was not the case, he ended up sitting across the hall, waiting.
Being as short as he was, he wasn’t able to get a good look at the royals last night as they retreated to the Queen’s quarters. He was beside himself with worry. He needed to see that the two of them were okay. Not just that, he had to hear it from her. Until then he would not be able to rest easy.
In order to fill the time, he made a point of glaring at the elf. Sure, he had settled his general contempt for the man, opting to admit he seemed to be a pretty all right guy. Gregory was just miffed that he wouldn’t let him pass the previous night. It wouldn’t have done any harm and he liked to think that the general knew he could be trusted. Perhaps not…
Inside, Florence was early to rise. As expected she hadn’t been able to sleep well, but when she looked over to the peaceful face of the boy next to her, she didn’t mind. As long as he felt safe enough to sleep she would let him. Once again carefully maneuvering her way out of the soft bed, she began to get ready for her day. Picking out one of her simple outfits, she knew it was one she would be able to put on herself. Honestly, she preferred it that way. Too much cloth and bulk was a hassle, but regardless of her personal thoughts on the fashion of the court, it was her life.
Once dressed, she set out to write the invitation meant for Miss. Lillian. Her wordage was formal but convivial. Florence didn’t know much about the girl, but she was sure she would have a chance to get to know her over the next several days under the guise of needing a friend. In all of her ten years here in Wistina, this was her first time extending such an offer. The note did not take long, so the rest of her time went to plotting out exactly how she wanted these next few days to go. It was not until the Prince woke of his own accord that she pressed to actually start her day.
The woman let her son become more coherent before she attempted to coax him from the bed. He didn’t say much; her guess was that was likely still processing the happenings of the night before. When he seemed ready to face the world, she exited with him in tow.
Outside, she found an elf and a dwarf. Nicolai was the first she acknowledged. She looked him up and down, noticing that he hadn’t properly dressed yet. [+mediumseagreen “Well, seeing as you are both in need of dressing, I will let you take Augustine for his morning routine.”] Seeing as that is what they had been planning since the night before, she thought the general would have no qualms with it. Hand on the blond boy’s back, she scooted him towards the man with little resistance on his part.
Next was Gregory. She took one look at him and knew what he was thinking. Smiling, she thanked him. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you for last night. I made it just in time.”] It might have seemed cryptic to the other others, but the bard nodded.
[+darkmagenta “Good, let me know a little sooner next time though. Your guard dog wouldn’t let me in.”] The jab was accompanied by a wave of his hand toward Nicolai. And while he was still bitter about it, he decided he would let it drop now that he knew everything was okay. Well, as okay as they could be in such a time. Standing up to his staggering height of four and a half feet, he excused himself.
Turning back to the other two, Florence decided it was time to get the ball rolling. [+mediumseagreen “If something comes up today and you need to separate from Augustine, please find Gregory, Gerald, or myself. Meredith would be appropriate for passing him along, but I do not trust her with him for a prolonged time.”] It wasn’t that the Queen thought the girl was suspicious, just that she had little to no means to protect the child.
She pondered for a moment if that was all she needed to say. Knowing herself to forget things when her mind was too focused on the course ahead. [+mediumseagreen “Is there anything I am forgetting?”] Florence was more musing to herself than anything, but she was open to the man’s reminders if he had any.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai remained in place to receive the boys determined response, set a task and assured he would complete it. Yet in seconds of laying his head on the pillow he was gone to slumber, body falling limp as his dreams overcame him. He could only hope the boy was not thrown by nightmares or fear, though his doting mother at his side would see him to sleep with ease.
When she approached he stepped aside with her as not to wake the young boy once more. He nodded appreciatively of her offer of somewhere to sleep. It was a kind gesture of her though it meant he would have a cold night out in the hallway to look forward to. Perhaps it was lucky he had drank his elixir before coming here to help him sleep that way. On her decision to bring Lillian to the castle he was a touch apprehensive.
To one side of the argument, it was good to have the girl here as a pawn to use in their struggle. It would make Gabriel think twice about striking out at either Florence or Augustine. However he was conscious that it perhaps was not of Gabriel's doing. Whilst he was the brains behind his and Vincent's plot, this smacked of a desperate and wild attempt. And to punish Lillian for her fathers supposed transgression was not sitting well with Nicolai. It did not show in his face, only bowing his head to her order as affirmation, but he had grown somewhat fond of the young woman and disliked seeing her used as a pawn.
When she returned from having the chair removed for his leisure, he bowed deeply and big her happy dreams before leaving. Snapping his fingers he ordered the guard and patrols through the castle to be stepped up, making sure it was doubled on the Queen's chambers even as he sat down on the chaise longue. Gregory had been a bother at first. Wanting to storm in and speak to the Florence it had taken a stern look and additional threat from Nicolai that anyone who opened that door would lose their hand before he was subdued.
Satisfied all was as secure as he could make it, the Elf had a cover brought for him and he lay down in his makeshift bed for the night. It was rather easy to sleep once his eyes closed over, the chair off to one side of the hall to where he was out of the way but close enough to act. The cold winds that swept through at times bringing him to shivers, but he managed to sleep more or less. It was dreamless sleep, an ingredient in the drink from the cleric meant he awoke hours later as if he had only just lay his head down. Groggy and dishevelled, he sent one of the multiple guardsmen nearby off to grab a servant and have them all brought something to eat and drink.
The small cuts of meat and bread were well received, Nicolai given a small bowl of warm porridge to help him as he sat cross legged on the chair and container of water with a cloth was brought so that he might wash a little – it would not bode well if he left to wash and Florence came looking for him. With the sun on the horizon, the guard were stood down, returned to normal detail to last until the changing over in an hour or two. They would be tired for a day or so until their new sleeping routines became stabilised but the increase in patrols would hopefully serve as a deterrent of future attacks.
As warned, no-one dared step into the Queen's chambers and Nicolai was left waiting now, resting his head against the wall, giving any servant or visitor the same look of disinterest at what they wanted. He waved them off though if they persisted a guard using his spear as a means to push them away often drove home the notion no-one was getting by.
Augustine was very much put at ease to know that the general would stay nearby. He was groggy so he hadn’t really thought of the logistics, but this seemed to be the best option. He nodded in agreement, a little late. [+coral “I will try.”] Though the boy made it sound as though it would be an undertaking to find sleep again, he was out not long after his head came in contact with the fluffy down pillow.
Taking a little more care in standing this time, Florence came a few steps closer to Nicolai before she chose to speak. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you, he will feel more at ease this way… You can take one of the chaises from the solar if you would like.”] Her head nodded over toward the attached room that acted as a ladies’ chamber, meant for greeting and entertaining her personal guests. It had remained unused for most of her time here. [+mediumseagreen “You might actually get some sleep that way.”] The lounge design would afford him a little more comfort, though it might look a little humorous. She didn’t think he would mind that, as he looked just about as tired as she felt.
[+mediumseagreen “You may need to call someone in to help carry it out though. Most of my furniture is heavy.”] The pieces were all a part of a matching set. Thick dark wood framing, with intricate designs carved in, they really were not made to be frequently moved. Not that that was generally a problem for her.
Glancing back to her bed, it looked as though Augustine had passed out for real this time. Nothing about his posture made it seem as though he was faking in order to listen in on the adult’s conversation. Still, she kept her voice low. [+mediumseagreen “Tomorrow I am going to call Lillian to the castle. Gabriel did not receive my message quite clear enough, it seems.”] For the time being, she wouldn’t do anything to the girl, but she would be in arms reach if she needed to. And as she was about to start laying more pressure on the Viscount that might very well come to be. Either way, that solar would finally be getting some use.
[+mediumseagreen “I will send someone else to fetch her, you should focus on Augustine’s training.”] There might come a time soon that he would need it, but she very much doubt there was much he could do with his stature even if he learned more advanced techniques from the elf.
They weren’t quite half way to the Prince’s coronation date; it was still too much time. To put up an ironclad defense, or cut down the time were their only two options. Florence was hoping for that later and she had a plan. It would take a few days, but with the castle on high alert after this failed attack, she was confident she would have the time she needed. Unless they were foolish enough to strike twice in a row, which she wouldn’t put passed the desperate bastards. But for the time being, it was time to get some rest.
In the end, the dark haired woman decided he would have her lounge chair whether he wanted it or not. Going to the door, there was still a bit of a crowd loitering. She called in a few of the bulkier guards and had the men move her chaises to the hall. They didn’t ask any questions even though it was an odd request. When it was all said and done, she thanked them and shooed them off. The three of them were alone once again. [+mediumseagreen “Goodnight, Nicolai, I will see you in the morning.”] She planned to hand Augustine off to the general first thing tomorrow.
With everyone gone from her room, Florence was able to retire back to her bed. It was strange having to worry about another body, but she was sure to move as gently as possible so she did not wake her son. He needed all the rest he could get. For herself, even though she was exhausted, it took a while to fall asleep. There was a lot on her mind.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was a little longer before she replied, letting Nicolai locate a sufficiently large enough covering that could wrap around the woman for the transfer across to her room. The desire to leave them to it, to go back to his bed and sleep, was rather great at that moment and he had to truly fight not to give in. His sense of responsibility won out in the end and he remained.
She was a tough woman, though he already knew this. Brushing off all offers of help, including Nicolai's, she was able to carry the boy through the keep back to her bed chambers. Nicolai directed a number of soldiers to forming a protective shield around her and he took the lead as Gregory stayed at her side. Anyone ahead of them was pushed aside if they were not quick enough to move from his path, sword back in hand as his bare feet pad against the cold stone.
Despite the mumbles and hushed words from those curious as to what was going on, indeed one of the servant girls was near to hysteria and being calmed by another servant, the Elven man had them to her room without a stop. Opening the door in the two men he had sent to search shook their head at him; no further sign of disturbance in the room, the glass paned windows checked over and secure as ever. A flick of his head and they left immediately whilst Augustine was carried to her bed, the doors pulled closed behind them.
It was perhaps not his place to stay, likely the dwarf outside would be fuming that he had been denied entry, but Nicolai was through with playing as the obedient and timid general who had to fill his time with dull administrative tasks. This was his world, his niche and passion. It would never leave his lips but it was exciting and the adrenaline of it all was all that kept him awake. Especially when her singing began. So loving and sweet it was a side of her he did not often see. She cooed her son to partial slumber, a song the Duke did not know but it was beautiful nevertheless. The sword in his hand only felt heavier and his hand loose on the handle, half turned away and head dipping a touch.
[+coral “Nicolai, are you going to stay here?”] The gentle but concerned voice broke him from his near slumber and he looked across. There was not exactly a way he could deny the boy in his time of need – though not least because he could be ordered to stay by his mother if she dictated it so. He stepped a little closer to the two, eyes flickering between them and a soft smile on his lips.
[+teal “If it helps you sleep then I will stay, perhaps not in this room with your mother and yourself – this bed does not look big enough for three.”] The light joke was meant to lift the boys spirits.[+teal “I will have a chair brought and I will sleep outside that very door. No-one will come or go without dealing with me.”] He gestured the very doors with his free hand, though lifted his sword to rest the blade on his shoulder and emphasise his point. It seemed to give the boy some resolve but he was as deceptively hard to read as his mother.
[+teal “Now, you should sleep my young King. I need you to be fit, ready and alert for our practice tomorrow and I was once told by a very wise woman that a lack of sleep will make you useless. We can't have that now can we?”] He offered the boy another warmer smile, winking playfully to him from half closed eyes. It had been a few days since they had last trained, Nicolai too busy in his meetings and the boy under the protective shielding of the dwarf who dared not let him do anything outside of his studies aside from eating sweets. Regardless, violet eyes stray from the boy to his mother, to see if she approved of what he had said or if he had done something wrong – he was forever doing the latter these days.
While things continued to move around them, Florence sat still. With her son pulled tight to her, she could feel his little heart quickened. Whether he fully understood the gravity of the situation, she did not know, but it was clear he knew things were not right. Guards coming and going in his room drove that fact home. Nicolai was one of them, barking orders at his men. Finally he had a chance to act as a proper leader, a rarity in such a peaceful land. It allowed the Queen the luxury of time. Time she spent with Augustine and she was grateful for that. She would have to thank him properly later.
When all the necessary steps seemed to have been taken, the elf called to her. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, that would be for the best.”] This room was compromised and her own chambers would set them away from the scene so that they might feel more comfortable.
Before she could stand, she felt something being draped over her. Looking up from Augustine’s sandy blond hair, she saw Nicolai setting one of the light warm weather blankets over her shoulders. The patchwork quilt was folded in a way so that it lay like a shawl, covering her better than the thin white chemise she wore. Nodding, she looked up to him in thanks, and then stood taking the prince with her.
Augustine was getting a bit old to be carried around, but he was still light enough that she could manage. Despite this, she had several offers from those around her to take him. [+mediumseagreen “I can do it…”] Florence held on to him all the tighter, as though she was afraid someone would try and take him from her. [+mediumseagreen “I can do it.”] The words were a repeated whisper.
On the trip back to her room they passed a number of bustling people. Everyone was in a stir and trying to figure out what was going on, but no one stopped them. The walk was uneventful even though they were being engulfed in chaos. There was no silence until they made it to her chambers. Once there, she bee lined for the bed and took a seat. It was probably time to sit down and talk to the general, but first she wanted her son to be asleep. There was no reason for him to overhear any of the inner workings.
On the edge of the bed, she rocked him slowly. The woman began to sing softly, an old Astorian folk song. It wasn’t particularly meant to be a lullaby but it was one of the calming tunes she knew by memory. Her voice was low, alto, but melodic all the same. It took a bit, but the boy’s breathing slowed and she pulled back her blanket to tuck him in. When he was in place, she patted his head lightly before shifting to stand. The motion alone must have woken him, as he partially sat up and looked about the room.
When his green eyes fell on the Duke, Augustine spoke. [+coral “Nicolai, are you going to stay here?”] His voice tinged with concern that the man would leave and things would no longer be secure.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was satisfied with the outcome of their embrace. She was suitable disturbed and disgruntled by it. As expected she had refused to share in an entirely platonic moment. When she had stepped away he had let her without qualm and without holding on – only a smug smile left that he had perhaps bested her intentionally for once. It had been good to vent to her about his worries and know that he wasn’t alone, but if she felt she could call him pitiful or the like, he would toy with her.
She was gone very quickly, perhaps unsettled enough by his physical closeness to her that she had been left a little dazed. It was not a wonder then why Germaine had had such difficulty with her over the years. A woman who detested anyone touching them could not make for a very loving or sweet wife. It was a pity. He had hoped the rumours were untrue and that he would have received a partial reciprocation of his affection. The hope he may sway her toward him and closer to his aforementioned notion, that she marry for love, was not improved by their moment together. Perhaps another time.
He had spent the time waiting to be given the parcel in getting himself ready. Once more he donned an exquisite tunic, well-polished boots and sword. His hair is slicked back and immaculate and a splash of incense that gave the hint of freshly sawn wood. He had heard it was an appetising smell to human women. Truth be told, he found it laughable, but if it would thrill Lillian then he was willing to try it. It indeed worked, to his confusion.
Having carried the rather large gift basket to her father’s home the Elf had toyed with stating it came from him and not Florence. It would win him extra fervour with the woman, but draw on the Queen’s wrath, and that was not worth the slight upturn. Once inside the outer courtyard, her servant sent off with the basket of goods, they had been given some privacy for a short amount of time, enough for his hands to grace her hair and curl at her figure before the heavy boot of her father echoed down the inner hall and they had been forced to separate lest she be scorned by her own father. Nicolai stepped away from her, standing straight backed by the doorway.
When Gabriel turned into the area the duo inhabited it was as if he saw a rat; perhaps he was right. In some way or other the Elven man was a rat to the Viscount’s side. But the older man was not to know what he and his daughter had begun several days prior, instead he looked at the man with subdued mistrust.
[+maroon “Duke Nicolai,”] good, he had learnt to use his title correctly, [+maroon “I was not expecting you. May I inquire as to your visit?”] He tried to sound curious though really he was questioning just what this devious man could be up to, moving across to his daughter.
[+teal “Hello Viscount it is good to see you. I am here to deliver a package from the Queen for your beautiful daughter Lillian.”] He smiled to the young woman and her cheeks flushed momentarily before her gaze falls to the floor.[+teal “Seems the Queen is eager to ensure all the noble women of this realm are well catered to. If you ask me it must be a womanly thing, the basket was most fragrant and aromatic.”] There is a look of doubt across the jowls of the rotund man before him.
[+maroon “I see. Well thank you for delivering it. I would not want to waste any more of your valuable time.”] He was keen for the Elf to be gone, but instead he comes forward and to the side, taking up Lillian’s hand in his and smiling as his fingers curl around her palm.
[+teal “It was an honour and a privilege to see you Lillian.”] Leaning down he kisses the back of her fingers lightly but slowly enough to disgruntle her father.[+teal “I hope we can meet again sometime.”] With a playful wink he then takes his leave, satisfied he has again jabbed the other man and placed a thorn deep in his side.
The rest of the week was a rather dull affair. Some meetings on the quality of iron being produced for military use in arrowheads and armour was the highlight of it for him, though he did rather like the statistics and practical showcases. Perhaps he was truly losing his mind these past few months.
Regardless, he had just drifted into an elixir induced slumber when he was roused by a soldier. Informed of the attempt on the Royal Family he was not shy of leaving swiftly, pants pulled on but feet left bare and his sword drawn from its scabbard and carried in hand. Along the way he gathered several additional soldiers, calling for the castle to be put in alert and the reserve called out. When he reached Augustine’s room he was relieved to find both he and his mother okay, sitting by a soft candle light, holding to one another.
Given a brief update from Gregory he quickly threw out several orders; two men were tasked with returning to the Queen’s room to ensure no-one hid there, three more to trace the rope outside and search for any clues as to the assailant, and two sent to bring the man who had grabbed onto Florence down to the cells of the barracks – unless she advised him otherwise then it would become a rather bloody affair in getting information out of that being. With no further threat he had placed his sword onto a dressed nearby, leaning against it as he rubbed at his eyes. A sleeping medication was not meant to be used just before strenuous acts like this.
Moving across to the bed he brushed his dishevelled hair back into a more controlled state and awaited some order or another from the Queen. When she seemed to have been lost to her soft cooing of her son, he cleared his throat quietly.
[+teal “Your Majesty, perhaps it would be best if we take Augustine and return to your chambers.”] She had not dressed in her desperation to reach her son, left in just her nightgown. He looked about for some kind of covering, a shawl or something to cover her over.[+teal “I have called out the reserve and sent out patrols to try and find the individual, but for your safety I would advise we move back to your chambers; it is easier to protect you both there.”]
Happy to see an actual change, Florence smirked. [+mediumseagreen “Good, there is nothing more pitiful than those who remain complacent to their own demise.”] She was about to lay on a bit of sarcasm to continue to lighten things back up, but he had ahold of her before she could. The woman froze, arms up awkwardly away from him. This was completely and utterly unexpected. Not knowing what to do, she just stood there.
Nicolai soon explained himself, and while it made sense, the Queen could not pull herself back from her discomfiture. As horrible as she was with connecting with others, her ineptitude hit its peak with physical intimacy. Instead of returning the gesture, she brought her hand up to pat his shoulder blade in a there-there type of way. Like that she waited for him to be finished, but it did not come. Not in the timeframe she had been expecting. So, when the woman could not take it any more she attempted to take a step back and found that he did not hinder her. She didn’t look at him.
[+mediumseagreen “I do not plan to have you executed for something so stupid…”] Now or in the future, but that wasn’t to say she was completely okay with what had just occurred. [+mediumseagreen “But, let us not do that again, at least not without some sort of warning.”] If he couldn’t thrive without material affection, then she wasn’t going to hinder him, though she did wish he would find someone else to fulfill his need.
[+mediumseagreen “Anyway, I will call on you when I have things prepared for you to see Lillian.”] She looked back up to him, nodded her farewell, and then took her leave. It was a few hours later, but she did get a rather large wicker basket filled with things she thought the young daughter of a Viscount might enjoy. Most of the items had no significance, but there were a few things in there that she was rather famous for liking. Blueberry scones being one of them. But none of that really mattered, as long as Gabriel saw it and knew that it was from them, all would be well.
And that must have been the case, because the next time she saw the old crotchety man, he seemed to avoid her gaze. Usually never one to back down, she was certain her point came across fairly clear. You do anything to my child and I know where to find yours. Now she just had to wait and see if he thought she was bluffing. Another week passed and she concluded he was not willing to risk it. She wondered how long it would last. Inevitably someone on their side would push him to action, despite her threat.
And it did come. In the middle of the night, Florence was woke from the dead of sleep. A horrific and dissonant cord played in the distance as the opening to a song she knew all too well. Shooting up in her bed, her green eyes scanned the room. There was nothing, or rather no one. Her mind went to Augustine and she instantly out of bed. Not bothering to change or throw anything over her nightgown she ran down the halls. In the distance she could hear the song fading. Gregory was on the move as well.
There were very few people up and about at this hour, but she did manage to quite literally run into someone as she rounded a corner. The man was tall and bulky and caught her as they came together.
[+goldenrod “You majesty?”] His voice did not seem all that surprised at her being there and he held on to her. [+goldenrod “Whatever is the matter?]
Pushing back, she did not feel the need to answer, but he kept her in place. [+mediumseagreen “Release me, now.”] Her words were coated in a thick layer of venom. When he did not comply, she struggled harder, going so far as to knee him in he groin. Now that had the desired effect. He stepped back, doubling over in pain and Florence continued on her way, more hurried than ever.
Making it to Augustine’s room, there was a guard beside the door. Confused by her presence and her appearance he greeted her but then looked away. [+mediumslateblue “Ma’am, what is wrong?”] She did not respond, just went straight for the door. Flinging it open, in the darkness stood a figure. The outline cut out against the faint light filtering in the window from the moon. The silhouette paused but a moment, before backing to the window. She couldn’t quite make out his minute features, but she could tell the man was part orc.
[+mediumseagreen “Don’t just fucking stand there, grab him!”] The soldier at the door, taken aback at her language, followed in after her and slit off to try and capture the assassin. Unfortunately, his hesitation was enough for the attacker to escape back out the window. He left behind the rope that was tied off to a sturdy piece of furniture. Someone from the inside had clearly set that up.
Florence was at the bedside as fast as she could manage. She struggled to light the candle on the nightstand; beside her she could feel the Prince shifting under his comforter. [+coral “Mother?”] His voice was groggy and befuddled.
Finally, the flame burst to life and she was able to see. She pulled back the cover, inspecting him to make sure nothing had happened. It seemed as though she made it just in time. Heart pounding a million miles an hour; she took a deep breath, steading herself.
[+coral “What is going on?”]
The woman grappled with the answer. [+mediumseagreen “There was an intruder…”] She felt the truth was needed at this point.
Fear flashed on Augustine’s features. He’d known something was off, but this was a lot to process.
His expression broke her heart. She wanted him to be comfortable in his own home. Grabbing up the boy, she pulled him close then brushed his bangs to the side to place a kiss on his forehead. [+mediumseagreen “It is going to be alright, my love. I am going to make sure you are safe.”]
Honestly, he didn’t know what his mother could do to protect him. Sure, she was scary, but he doubted that was enough.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat She was attempting some form of rallying cry and whilst it was admirable he was not entirely sure it was warranted. At least right now. Her kind words and confession that he was not the only one in fear, though likely she was more in control than himself, resonated deeply with him and he nodded in agreement. His calm but subtly dour look lifted a touch, edges of his mouth turned upward.
[+teal “I never said anything about giving up Your Majesty.”] Nicolai commented as he stood up and brushed down his clothing to keep his hands from constant niggling at one another. Her barb about being a man had her desired effect, the man placing a hand to his swords pommel and puffing his chest like an animal attempting bravado.[+teal “I did not retain my generalship by running from a fight; but sometimes a tactical withdrawal can do wonders for seeing the scope of a battle.”] It was military drivel but it made him feel like he was stronger.
Her comment about him needing to get sleep was taken with a soft nod of his head. He knew very well what a lack of sleep could do to a person and how it indeed left them as weak and feeble as a sleeping being. No doubt even Gabriel could overpower him if he was sufficiently fatigued – though he would take the bastard down with him at the very least, that he was sure of.
Stepping toward her, only a few feet between them at first but now stood before her, he hesitates only a moment before caution is cast aside. His arms slide around her sides, pulling her close to him in a tight embrace he finds her much taller than he expected and a damn sight more petite than her often bulky and frilly clothing made her appear. He did leave her ample space to push him back and break free of course – he wasn't attempting to ensnare her. Instead, if she allowed him and for however long she did, he just wished to hold her small figure to him.
[+teal “You can have me hung, drawn and quartered for this once everything is over, but I am an Elf and I cannot express my immense gratitude to you in any other way.”]
So here was the root of the problem. Unfortunately it was not something she could fix, but it was something she could relate to. Florence heard out his lifeless words. It was like he had given up and resigned to his death. Pitiful, as they had only just begun to fight.
[+mediumseagreen “You are not the only one who is afraid.”] No matter how long a person had spent tussling in a world of regals and snakes, it didn’t stop it from being terrifying. Every time could be the time you slip and get bit. [+mediumseagreen “Every person involved is risking their life. And though I may be surrounded by those who would lay down their lives for me, I take no pleasure in that. When someone dies for you, or your cause, they stay with you. Not always in face or by name, but the weight is there all the same… We are all afraid.”] She had no intention of downplaying his fear, only to let him know he was not alone.
He seemed to think she was perfectly used to everything she did. And there was some truth to it, but not all. However, she could not blame him for not knowing since she seldom shared any of that with anyone. [+mediumseagreen “I am unaccustomed to fighting on this side of the conflict. From my perspective this is a losing battle. So, like you, this is new to me. But we will both have to learn, lest we lose everything.”] An unfortunate fact of life, why did the stakes have to be so high?
There was a fire in her words, the type that stoked men to action in dire straights. [+mediumseagreen “Now stop backing down, be a man and fight for your right to the life you want. No one else is going to do it for you.”] She had no idea where he thought she would throw him once her use for him was up, but she felt her speech entailed that as well. If for some reason she pushed him to the side, and therefore away from what he wanted, there was no reason to take that lying down. Once again he should fight to be back in that place, wherever it was: general, advisor, councilman.
Somewhat needlessly worked up, her heart was pounding and a light tremor was running through her. Florence shook her head to try and be rid of it, to return to her composure. It only took a moment to bottle the passion back up. [+mediumseagreen “Oh, and some advice that was shared with me in my youth: do make sure to get some sleep. Deprivation will make you useless. If they do come for you, it will be no different than had they done it in your sleep.”]
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