[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Thankfully it seemed no-one was any the wiser of his inexcusable and irrational dislike of the plan. It looked to have been played off as someone trying to protect everyone and keep them safe, perhaps being over cautious but playing to the role of devils advocate at worst and concerned elder at best. Listening to Florence and her son talk and discuss ideas a little more Nicolai remained quiet and was happy to hear the meeting being brought to a close.
The boy seemed determined that this was the time and place for them to make their mark and step out of the shadows. Aside from Nicolai's meek and terrified if just opposition, no-one else seemed to want to say anything. Perhaps they would talk to the young blonde over the next few days and approach him independently. Nicolai, in that moment, hoped someone would tell Augustine it was a foolish and dangerous plan. Perhaps Flora would not want to see her boyfriend hurt or Florence would likewise want to protect her son. But for now, the debate was over. As chairs were pushed back Nicolai released his hold of Florence's hand, off swiftly into the kitchen though not long after his footsteps would be heard heading upstairs.
It was too early to sleep, but he needed some distance from the topic of conversation, as if the room itself was now tainted in some bear-ichor. Not wanting to pout before the others – something even Augustine had found himself chastising the elfin man for in the past – he left to his room and out onto the balcony. The sun had long passed the horizon and now the waters of the sea glistened in the pale light of the moon. It was a calm night, very little wind and few if any waves out on the water. Not for the first time in his life, being in that very spot, he pondered heading out into that vast emptiness, to get away from all the faults and issues he had caused in this land and find somewhere he wasn't known to just lose himself into society. Sometimes, up against what they were to face in the future to come, it became very tempting indeed.
Like the rest, Florence was lost in Nicolai’s fast flying words. Even if they had been in Wistinian she was not confident she would have caught everything he said. But if nothing else she was able to tell he was not taking this well. The woman was not sure whether she should try to comfort him to calm him down or not. On one hand he would probably love the public affection, but on the other he might not appreciate having his insecurity made any more apparent to the group. As she was waffling with what to do here, Töka jumped in and bluntly got him back on track. At least so that they could understand what he was going on about. And that was just as well, because even if Florence had opted to try and help, she would not have known what to say or do. She was still quite new to all this. Still, she squeezed his hand again to show her solidarity and encouragement one more time.
After that, it seemed the man sorted out for the most part. He was able to convey his worries more clearly to the group who did not speak the language of his people. Augustine listened intently. He wanted to know all the possible things that could go wrong and ideas to get around them, that is why they were having this conversation with everyone here, so he tried not to get too huffy when it sounded like this was coming to be more a question of his mother’s skill than anything else. They had eaten more than a few rabbits that proved hitting something small was not the issue. However, the concern was still there. What if something did go wrong? They did not really have an out if they simply surrounded whatever this animal was. [+coral “I think you are right that we need to be cautious. A more intricate plan is not a bad idea, but I want to defer to my mom on this. She has the most experience here.”] He was not trying to wash his hands of this, Augustine just was not sure what the best way to set a trap for something like a bear was. Nicolai mentioned a ravine, but there was not anything like that neighboring Belast, not that they had seen on their short trip.
That brought things back to Florence. She had a few opinions of her own but took a moment to sort through them. [+mediumseagreen “Baiting is generally a good idea, though you have to be careful where you trap an animal. When they feel enclosed, they are more likely to attack than just run away.”] As fearsome as some of these beasts were when they felt outmatched or outnumbered, they often opted to flee. [+mediumseagreen “But, it is hard to make any sort of solid plan along those lines until we know for sure what we are up against. I would not use the same trapping tactics against a bobcat as I would a bear.”] One barely came up to her knee while the other’s paw was probably the size of her head. Though in all honestly the likelihood they were dealing with a bobcat was low. If this thing was going after cattle, there was nearly no way it was something that small or solitary. That was just as well, cats were often harder to spot. [+mediumseagreen “As for using arrows or not, there isn’t much of an alternative unless you want to get up close and personal, and I would not suggest it.”] Even close enough to throw an ax made her nervous, especially with this team not experienced going up against large animals. Nicolai might stand a chance with that polearm, but Florence was not confident how he would fair emotionally if it really was a bear. [+mediumseagreen “Arrows can do the trick, you just have to know what you are doing. Use the right type of arrow, know where to position yourself, and where to aim.”] Headshots were almost always a good way to end things quickly, but there were safer ways to go, bigger debilitating targets to hit. [+mediumseagreen “Nothing moves fast after a shot to the lungs.”] She obviously knew that from personal experience. [+mediumseagreen “Nevertheless, those things can be in addition to efforts to lure it out.”] She never had plans to go anywhere near any sort of den, though she would have been fine tracking it into the woods, even if seemed the others were less than thrilled with that possibility.
It seemed his mother was going for a middle ground of sorts. Somewhat obliging for her who was often stubborn as an ox when it came to doing things her way, but Augustine agreed. He wanted to help people, but he did not want to do it at the expense of their current group. Safety was a main concern. And while they had done well in all their battles so far, it never hurt to be cautious going into something unfamiliar to most of them. [+coral “Alright, so we go to Belast, do what we can to figure out what this is, build a plan tailored to the situation, and execute it.”] That was the broad strokes of it as far as he could see and it gave plenty of opportunity to back out if they did wind up feeling they were in over their heads. [+coral “We will need to talk to the people there, see if anyone has actually laid eyes on this thing. Also, it would be helpful to see if anyone is willing to lend aid. If we do want to trap a bear or whatever in a building, we are going to have to get someone to agree to letting us use their property.”] The blond considered that a fairly high hurdle. Who in their right mind wanted to let some strangers try and trap a bear in their shed? [+coral “I am hoping to leave two days from now. That way we have some time to get Helga set up for our absence and we can be back before the workload picks up anymore.”] There would be time for more discussion as well if any more concerns popped up. With how adamant Nicolai seemed against this, the boy was sure there would be some. If not from the elf himself then from the others who might have been discouraged by his words, but Augustine hoped that most those fears had been laid to bed here.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Whilst Nicolai was not exactly in a clear state of mind to offer sound judgement or clear tactical analysis of 'lets just hit it with an arrow', it did not need anyone of note to realise it was a flawed plan. Nicolai wasn't an amazing general, as he had said multiple times he had only fought a single pitched battle, but he had a good eye for seeing faults and a keen sense of knowing what would or would not work. He had bought his position, but he had learned all he could from more experienced minds and had grown into his role under Germaine.
Having stared down into the table as the others discussed their plan in greater detail, he was quiet for a time, lips moving though no sound came out as his displeasure grew. Were they really playing this off as so simple?
[+royalblue “Vous ne pouvez pas tuer un ours avec des flèches! Ils sont trop gros! Trop volumineux! [size10 1.]”] The words were out before he ever knew he was speaking in Elven. Regressing a little in his mind to a safer space lest some unsavoury memories overcome him a consequence was the sudden shift in his language, though it flowed fluently and beautifully as ever.[+royalblue “Les loups et les lynx roux sont trop rapides. Vous n'êtes pas assez bon pour les frapper. Vous aurez une flèche. Seulement un. Si vous échouez, si vous manquez, ils vous égorgeront. [size10 2.]”] All eyes had turned on him, most with confusion – Flora looked a little perturbed that they may begin speaking in an entirely new language when she was only just beginning to master Wistinian.
[+red “Oi, pointy ears! No-one can understand what the fuck you're saying!”] From such a poetic like language to such harsh words; it was typical of Töka to cut through any sense of civility to get to the point.
Looking over to her, pulled from that moment of peace and solitude, his hand in Florence's had clasped securely to hers but was lessening in its pressure, more grateful to find she squeezed back.
[+royalblue “A bear, a bobcat, a wolf; whatever it is won't be killed by an arrow. It would take a dozen or more arrows to take on a bear by attrition and that's ignoring how fast they can move.”] He had good knowledge of how fast they could charge despite their size.[+royalblue “And wolves, bobcats, anything smaller than a bear – they'll be too fast. You miss, you're dead, and hitting a wolf running directly at you is a lot harder than a full grown man. You don't have a large chest or torso to aim at.”]
[+red “Well Mr Your-Plan-Is-Shit… what do you suppose we do?”] She didn't miss a beat did she? He cast her an annoyed glare before looking over to Augustine.
[+royalblue “You have to trap it. Lure it into a building, a ravine, somewhere you can stop it moving as much. Look what happened at the pass – both times – we were stuck between attackers. What I did to Adrian in Malidek too. Lure it in, don't go hunting it. Because you go into their den, their home, and they already have you beaten.”] It was a bit sickly on the tongue to say that man's name aloud, and he dared not point out the fact that with Nicolai knocked unconscious his small army had quickly dispersed. This was meant to give them a plan, to help them, not to show them that he was quite inept.[+royalblue “Just… don't be overly confident. It's good to have belief but things can change in an instant.”]
[size10 1. You cannot kill a bear with arrows. They are too big, too bulky.
2. Wolves and bobcats are too fast. You are not good enough to hit them. You will have an arrow. Only one. If you fail, if you miss, they will slaughter you.]
Florence was rather content holding her boyfriend’s hand and listening to her son reason out what he thought they should do next. It was a nice moment getting to watch as he tried to come into his own with his somewhat new leadership position, but as he mentioned tracking down whatever was coming in the night to kill off the town’s livestock, she felt Nicolai’s hand tighten on hers and her eyes slid away from the blond before them and to the elf on the edge of panic. When he spoke out against Augustine’s idea, she gently squeezed his hand back, but kept quiet for the time being. Personally, she also thought this was going to be taxing, but that was the point. They had to do something that no one else wanted in order for them to be taking seriously in their claims of wanting better things for the country.
Augustine on the other hand was not exactly happy with Nicolai’s outburst. Sure, he expected to face some level of backlash or counter ideas, but nothing out of the dark-haired man’s mouth seemed constructive. Without recognizing where this change in demeanor was coming from, the green-eyed young man was left to think his mentor was being purposefully contemptuous. Perhaps he was playing the part of an adversary like he had when he provoked Augustine into hitting him to prove he would stand up against him when necessary? He didn’t really think this was the time for that, hence his displeasure, but atop of that there was also doubt. He wondered if there was a chance that his idea was so bad that it did not warrant a true rebuttal. Thankfully Ool put that to bed when he started shutting Nicolai’s argument down. That help Augustine regain his footing to continue as well. [+coral “If they had the means to take care of the problem, they would have done it by now.”] Those animals were their livelihood and it was unlikely they were just being lazy and hoping the problem were dissolve on its own. [+coral “And between all of us, I am confident we will be able to handle whatever this animal is. Besides, we will have a leg up with mom there.”] He turned his gaze slightly to the woman whom he now noticed was sitting unusually close to Nicolai. The boy did his best not to think about that as he directed his next question to her. [+coral “You’ve been hunting since you were a kid. You should be able to track this thing down before it finds us, right?”] Given he knew it had been a long time since she did that seriously, aside from helping to keep them fed on this trip, Augustine wanted to be sure.
So that was how he wanted to go about this, Florence kind of figured. [+mediumseagreen “It depends...”] She was not avoiding the question, per se, but there was a bit of internal debate between how she wanted to answer this. If she said she couldn’t do it, that might be the end of this and Nicolai might be able to calm down some, but in the end, she did not want to outright lie to her son. [+mediumseagreen “It has been starting to rain more, which might make it a little more difficult, especially if it is an animal I am unfamiliar with, but I [i should] be able to find it.”] Doubly so if it really was making as big of a nuisance of itself in Belast as it sounded like.
Augustine smiled to see that things were kind of coming together. [+coral “Excellent. Then between you and Flora, I am hoping we can take it out without having to go anywhere near the thing. Which should also mitigate the chance of anyone being mauled or whatever.”] Slowly he thought he was finding ways to defend against most if not all complaints he had heard so far, but unfortunately that was not the end of it.
Surprisingly it was Marko who spoke up. [+darkblue “So you just want to leave it to those two?”] There was some skepticism in his voice, but it was not meant as a slight to the woman’s abilities. He just didn’t want to be stuck feeling useless.
[+coral “Not entirely, I figure we will split into two groups to cover them just in case the animal doesn’t go down with the first shot or catches wind of us before we can make a move.”] In either of those cases, it was likely it would target whoever grabbed its interest. More bodies would be both intimidating and confusing.
[+mediumseagreen “If that is the plan then you should be shooting as well. The more archers we have the better off we will be.”] Especially if it did turn out to be a bear. Those things did not go down easy and the more arrows they got in it before it approached the better. Not to mention bears in the south were bigger and more aggressive than the ones they had in Astoria. It would be a different beast entirely, though Florence stayed silent on that as not to aggravate Nicolai’s anxiety on the matter any more than it already was.
The suggestion that Augustine take up a bow as well brought a smug smile to Flora’s lips as she silently laughed at him as he begrudgingly agreed to his mother’s request. The pair often went back and forth about whether blades or bows were superior, or just cooler, so she always got a kick out of when he was made to practice. This was clearly no different.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her comments were harmless, Nicolai feeling more comfortable with his partner now they had had time to settle and come to know one another. Plus, he was still somewhat giddy from her confession that morning and so they remained in a quasi-flirting manner for much of that morning’s meal. It was odd in a sweet way that they had passed such a boundary that had become a staple of their relationship to that moment. His feelings had been there so long that it was looking unlikely he would ever see them reciprocated. It was… nice.
The rest of the day was simple and quite run of the mill. Helga had him bang to rights for perhaps slighting her in arriving late to breakfast. He took the brunt of the punishment, chopping wood and stacking it in a pile at the rear entrance, though was thankful when Marko was told to help. He wasn’t a young man anymore. Every now and again he would feel a twinge in his back, or his shoulder would ache. He went on without complaint as it was good for him to keep busy and active. He very well felt that to stop or slow down would see him quickly gain weight. No doubt Florence would not approve of her new partner suddenly growing.
The midday meal was quick and with little talk, everyone wanting to just rest, though for Nicolai he spent the better part of the afternoon wondering what Augustine had in store. After the meal he returned to his seat beside Florence, subtly moving hers a little closer to his and when she re-seated herself, he was able to take her hand under the table and link his fingers to hers. It was a small and hidden, but poignant gesture that perhaps they might now not keep their relationship so secret – even though this happened under the cover of the table. With Augustine now talking, she had little opportunity to tell him to stop, which made it all the more fun for the often-rebuffed elf.
Listening to the boy it was all quite interesting. Yes, they had information of different parts of the country but the north-west was not a place they had spent much time in. It seemed the boy had gotten more information that he had, learning of some issue in Belast. Had Nicolai been told? Had he forgotten? He wasn’t too sure, but thoughts of what could possibly be attacking livestock only left three possible options; bobcats - which often only went for chickens or new born lambs, wolves – which were not native to those lands though not unhead of, and bears – that thought alone had his hand clutching at Florence’s a little more tightly.
[+royalblue “W-what’s to say that these folk can’t deal with the problem themselves? I mean, what can seven strangers do against a bear? Or whatever it is that is killing the livestock.”] His spoke a little quicker than usual as he looked about the table.[+royalblue “I agree, we should do something to get your name out there, but maybe something less taxing. I mean, bears aren’t exactly easy to kill. Or bobcats. Or wolves. Whatever it is. I just don’t want anyone to get, you know, bitten, or mauled, or… or something.”] He licked his lips nervously, hands feeling a little clammy, and was that a migraine coming on?[+royalblue "What about you Ool? You must have something in mind. You've lived here for so long through the troubles. We should listen to you, hear you out on this. You have any other ideas?"] His gaze drifted to the small green man who stared back in his confused if irritated manner he often used when looking at any of them. However he seemed a little more taxed here.
[+sienna "Well, in truth, I don't see a problem with the plan."] His shoulders shrugged with indifference, knowing that if they had to fight some wild beast it was unlikely he would be up front with the fighters. He was a morsel compared to some livestock. He did see the bright eyes of the elf narrow on him a little though.[+sienna "I'm just saying, as far as plans go, its simple. All you murderin' types,"] he did give Töka a special look,[+sienna "shouldn't be a problem. And like the kid says it will give you a means of getting your name out there."] He was truly dismantling any argument Nicolai had against the plan, and saw the ire building in the man.
Nicolai’s reply seemed stilted, Augustine was unsure why. This was not like the situation with Davos where there was a reason for him to put on a show. This simply was and it felt strange to him, but he gave his thanks in response. [+coral “Of course, thank you.”] Alienating was a good word for it, though it might have been a little over the top. Especially since the tone the older man had seemed to change directly after that as he reminded the boy that he had was not alone and could talk with him if he needed to. It did mitigate some of his anxiety on the matter. [+coral “I know, I will keep that in mind, truly.”] He did not plan on doing this all on his own, but he did appreciate the reminder. [+coral “Thank you.”] While a little more solemn, his second thanks had more genuine emotion behind it. Augustine would leave it at that for now though, so Nicolai could move on with his day.
For Florence, Nicolai took entirely too long. She was hungry, but there was also the fact that she wanted to spend a little more time with him before they were sent to their daily toils. The woman had no idea what he was up to in the kitchen that would take him so long, considering her son was in there too it probably had something to do with him, but she paid it little mind and gave him a somewhat expectant look when he joined her at the table and that was before he opened his mouth. That prompted her to roll her eyes at him, though more flippantly than anything else.
[+mediumseagreen “While that is some great tragedy, and rest assured I am judging as a host most fiercely, all will be forgiven if you would just sit down and eat with me.”] Her tone was deadpan, though again her eyes betrayed her humor, that and the fact that Nicolai was already half way through taking his seat to begin with. In the end, she could not help but smile at him as he settled in. It was a warm, welcoming expression, even though they had not been parted for long at all. Her attention lingered on him for a while longer, continuing the small talk before finally going to the food sitting before her.
The morning after that went much as it always did in this place, so it was easy enough for Augustine to let his hands idle away at the work he had been given as he put some real thought in what he wanted to do next. He thought it important to come in to the conversation with some sort of plan on his end, especially after talking with Nicolai. Even if that plan wound up changing a great deal based off what the others thought it was still a good idea. All this thought made him a little quieter than normal but seeing as Marko was the only one around most the time, it was not any real problem. And in this manner the blond boy had a decent idea of what he was to propose after the midday meal, as that was when he let everyone know he wanted to meet.
After what was a quick meal in comparison to their nightly dinner ritual, they all cleared whatever dishes were used and then came back to the table, at least those who would be involved. Helga did not seem to have any interest in these matters and Ool only joined about half the time. This was one of those times, though Cam wandered off after the old woman, probably hoping for some sort of leftovers to munch on.
Once everyone was settled in, the boy began. [+coral “As I am sure you all know, we will need to be headed out again sometimes soon, but this time I hope to do so with more purpose than picking up hearsay and gossip.”] Everyone basically already knew that this would be the topic of discussion, but he thought it best to say it all the same. [+coral “I’ve put some thought into it, and I really think we will have the best chance of gaining a foothold in the Northwest, the town of Belast specifically. When we passed by there on our last trip they were having troubles with something getting hold of their livestock and it sounded like it has been going on for a while.”] Based off what Augustine heard, it was some sort of animal causing trouble in the night, probably a bobcat, or bear, or something of that nature that wandered farther down South from forests of Tyleth than normal. But since it was nocturnal, the locals were having trouble pin pointing it. [+coral “If we can take care of whatever is causing all this commotion, I think it will paint us in a good light and get our names out in that area, which should be a good thing considering the local lord is known for his dislike of Vincent's way of dealing with his province.”] On top of all that, it wouldn't take much in the way of resources and left them with enough time to get back here for harvest. Those were Augustine’s main focuses, and what he put most of his time thinking about, so he was sure there were about a million other things wrong with the proposition, but that is what everyone else at the table was here to help with. [+coral “What does everyone else think?”] It was a wide open question; he wanted opinions and would not turn his nose up at entirely different suggestions either.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat A touch annoyed at the boy the elf did exceptionally well to hide his displeasure and only offer a faint smile and nod his head in respect of Augustines decision. As with his father before him the obedience within Nicolai would see him do as told, and withhold from going against the boys wishes, but as an individual he was free to dislike the choice he had made.[+royalblue “Of course, I only wish to offer you the most options and tools with which to work m’lord.”] Such a… nuanced, response would send them both back to the days when his answers were often given in such a respectful and formal manner. It was not mockery, nor was it an outright lie, but it was perhaps disingenuous considering his closeness to the boy.
At times he wondered if he had stayed with them, if he had gone to Astoria and perhaps seen off Elizabeth and Adrian, where would his relationship with the young blonde have gone? Would it have evolved into a more familial relationship? Would he have become a father-like-figure or perhaps a sibling, an older brother of sorts, someone to ask for advice and who would protect him? Given how quickly his relationship with Florence had progressed the last few months, culminating in that night by his family’s stones, it was interesting to sometimes think what the world may have looked like not just for his blossoming relationship to his mother but to the boy himself.
Still, the boy at that time looked a little forlorn as if the weight of expectation was getting a bit much. Leaving a bowl on the counter he reached a hand up to his shoulder and rest it there.[+royalblue “Remember, you may be the leader now but you aren’t alone. If you need any advice or to talk then I’ll be here to listen.”] It was not an award winning speech but it was one to give the young Prince some hope that this wasn’t too daunting. Difficult decisions were part and parcel of ruling. Fingers crossed he didn’t have many ahead of him and that he made the right ones, lest Nicolai feel any desire to step forward and take control. Time would tell. Sweeping up the second bowl he turned and headed into the dining room. From the look Florence gave him she was trying to decide if he had taunted her son or if he had upset him. Or perhaps she was just annoyed at having to wait for her food. He could read a man with ease but after a lifetime of hiding her true intentions and her real emotions, this emerald eyed woman was years from being understood.
[+royalblue "My lady; a piping hot, fresh, delicious bowl of last nights stew."] He lay it down before her, spoon handle sticking forth from the warmed meal.[+royalblue "Apologies but we were out of pheasant pie or the black truffle pate. Our humblest apologies."] The sarcasm was true but it was only in light jest, sitting down in his usual seat though he liked to note how she had taken the seat closest to him. How... sweet?
Augustine nodded. He had two very good contacts for each of his ideas that would be able to give him a little bit more insight to what those paths would look like. That was nice to think about, even if he still could not quite picture it for himself. It was a bit of a silver lining, which was nice since he was starting to talk himself into insecurity about not having every single step of their plan plotted out right this second. A general direction to explore more thoroughly was good for now, he just need to be sure to ask the right questions when he had them all together later.
Taking the serving ladle from Nicolai as he finished dishing up the two bowls he was holding, the elf was quieter, almost terse, with his words. The blond glanced over at him; his appearance matched his tone. He meant what he was asking. And Augustine would be a liar if he said he was not considering it, especially knowing that it would stay between them. But, even after his thoughtful pause he decided against it. [+coral “No… I don’t think that will be necessary. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I am super irritated about all this, and I hate the idea that someone out there is probably ruining my reputation, but I can’t imagine they are doing it for anything more than a handout.”] Sure it was seedy and inconvenient, but it was not like they had heard these people were doing anything [i that] bad. [+coral “I don’t think that is worth dying over.”] He sighed. Augustine was just going to have to deal with it for the time being. [+coral “… But I will keep that option in mind.”] His voice was lower there, just because he did not think it necessary in this case did not mean the boy would write it off in all instances. He was naïve in a lot of ways, but even he knew that those seated in a position of power had to take care of certain things quickly and quietly. No doubt he would be the same when time came.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It hadn't been particularly kind of Nicolai to hit him so early with the hard questions and grill him when he was barely awake, but as King he would be confronted by issues morning, noon or night. Still, he felt remorseful, until the boy began speaking. It was heartening to hear he had thought over it before. He was being proactive, even if it was all just thoughts that he had not said aloud until now. Nicolai nodded along with his two propositions, each with flaws but each with their positives. Sadly he couldn't see any means of combining the good of both to counter the issues each had, and he continued to quietly ladle more food into more bowls, only looking up when he felt the boy had stopped. He didn't see the sullen expression he took on.[+royalblue “Well, we can all certainly talk about it, I can give you as much information as I can for the former, and Ool can help with the later – he's lived here the last few years, he'll know the people's thoughts better.”] He had not spoken to the goblin much since they had come here. It would be good to get his insight now he knew their real persona's.
He finished with the bowls though by this time Augustine had started speaking again. The tone was more flippant and yet the man detected something a little more hidden beneath the surface. He had been away from the wordplay of nobles for a long time, but he thought he heard something familiar in the exact words he used.[+royalblue “Depends really my Lord...”] He had dropped an octave and was using the spoon to prod at his bowl of food.[+royalblue “Do you want to run them off or do you want them… taken care of for good?”] The ease with which he said this, though a little quieter than before, showed it was not his first time asking such things. Granted it had been some time since he had made such an offer, his father one to want things done and done quietly and if possible he was not to hear of it. After all, he could not be confronted with these things should he never know they had ever happened before.
Looking over to Augustine there was a seriousness to Nicolai's eyes, one that hadn't been there for a very long time. Even in their scuffle where he had antagonised the boy to hit him, his gaze had never looked like this. To the elf, it was as if he had never really left all those years ago. Kings change but the means for keeping them in power, keeping them protected, would go on for generation after generation.[+royalblue “This would stay between us of course, as it did with your father. No sense in worrying your mother or Flora. This is… man's talk, after all.”]
Somewhere along the way Nicolai must have grown more confident. Even a few months ago, Augustine could not picture the elf implying his mother had to make him do anything that involved the two of them spending time with one another. In fact, it was quite the opposite, but somehow this seemed better. Though, the boy was not about to mention that and possibly draw out a potentially very awkward topic any longer. No, there were other horrible things to talk about. While it was true, he had woke a bit more, the blond could not help but wonder why he was being asked all these very serious and very thought consuming questions so early in the morning. Still, he did not think it was being done out of malice or spite, so he tried his best to think on them. This also involved taking a silent moment to really think them over. He did not want to give a halfhearted or overly optimistic answer to what was likely to prove on of their more difficult hurdles for the future. As he sorted through it all, the boy mindlessly passed a bowl Nicolai’s way so that he might be able to dish up while he waited.
[+coral “In an ideal world, mom would have traveled around with my father and people would know her face. All it would take is one word from her saying I was her son to silence the naysayers.”] The beauty of it was that it would have worked regardless of how anyone felt about her. [+coral “I also cannot simply rely on my likeness to my father.”] In fact, it would be better if they could avoid that topic entirely. His mother had done a good job in finding someone whose basic features matched the previous King’s but look too far beyond that and there might be a problem. Not that anything about him blatantly contradicted his supposed lineage, so he was not too worried about it, but it would be best to avoid the topic if at all possible. [+coral “So as far as I can tell that leaves me either garnering support from the nobility who would remember me and confirm my authenticity, people like you and Davos who were in the castle before my father passed, so we can make an official announcement through them.”] They were on a start there, but they would need more than just the two of them if they wanted to gain any traction. Not to mention such a thing would make waves. All subtlety would be out the door at that point. But who knew, there may come a time when they needed that to be the case. [+coral “Or if we cannot do that, then we will need to find a way to get the people to trust us so implicitly that when I do make a claim to be the lost prince, no one will doubt my integrity... However, I cannot imagine garnering such unwavering confidence without some sort of grandiose gesture or act. And I don’t expect anything like that to just fall into our laps.”] The first option was going to be more realistic for them, though actually accomplishing it was another thing entirely. Augustine had an idea of what they had to do, but actually taking steps to work there was harder than he thought it would be. It would be clear he was struggling in that regard. As much as he wanted to look like he knew exactly what he was doing and exude the confidence that he would lead them to it, it was not there at present. [+coral “I need help deciding the next step we take.”] It was not exactly easy to admit, but that was part of why he wanted to meet today.
The mention of the imposters darkened Augustine’s features. That was a sore spot for him, he did not like the idea that other people were galivanting about doing gods knew what with his name. No doubt there was some irreparable damage done to his general reputation and still more for those who had jaded for trusting a boy who made his claim before. He liked to think the fakes would fade away once he had come forth but depending on how ballsy they were they may continue on simply saying that the Augustine getting all this support was a fraud. It would definitely be a way to get more sympathy out of people. Like with the previous topic, that would be something else he asked for guidance on. [+coral “While I do not think the imposters should be our front focus, I would like to see them taken care of swiftly... how bad do you think it would look if we just ran them out of the country?”] That was, of course, a joke, doing something like that would only come back to bite them later, but Augustine really did want them gone as soon as possible.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Although he was called out on his implicating question, Nicolai held up his hands as if to say 'whatever could you mean', chewing on his bread a little more as he listened to the poor boys woes.[+royalblue “Oh heaven forbid the girl you like wants to talk to you. Trust me, as you get older, you'll come to enjoy just talking. Especially when you get as old as me.”] His teasing grin turned to one of quiet remembrance.[+royalblue “You know, your mother made me go for a walk on the beach yesterday; I just about collapsed on the stairs up!”] An exaggeration perhaps but it was meant to ease away from the awkward topic of relationships that most men found difficult with anyone but their partners.
Augustine seemed to perk up a little more, shaking free of some miasma that had settled over his thoughts. As he began speaking again Nicolai stepped over toward the heating stew and took up the ladle to swirl around the food within, agitating it a little.[+royalblue “Oh no, if we miss harvest then prepare to have an enemy far worse than anything Vincent or his cronies can throw at us. Remember that human religious nonsense? Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned? Yeah, along those lines.”] He recalled coming out to help Helga back when her husband and a few farm hands were still with her. Having been late to awaken that morning – though it was no later than he usually slept in his home – she had come to his room and poured a jug of horse urine over his head. Safe to say he was the first up for the rest of that week.
[+royalblue “But regarding setting out again,”] he shifted over, clicking his fingers at the boy to pass him an empty bowl so he could start filling,[+royalblue “we can't just keep wandering around talking to people.”] He knew the boy didn't mean to do so, and perhaps he wasn't implying that, but Nicolai felt this was a good time to progress their thinking.[+royalblue “Apologies little Lord, but if you want to be King before you are my age and I am but dust, then we need to be a little more proactive. Have you given any thought to how you want to announce yourself to the people? Or perhaps how you intend to contradict any descenting voices or those who doubt who you are? We have a number of reports that an 'Augustine' pops up every few months. Any idea how you can prove it?”]
Now that got her laughing. Something about the mental image of Nicolai trying to haul her off was funny. [+mediumseagreen “I will keep that in mind, though I cannot help but be curious to where you think you would take me?”] They were at his house, which might constitute as a lair, now. So, it was weird he would take her away, aside from the fact that everyone else was here. But after all his galivanting around, Florence was sure he knew a place or two where they would never be found. Right now that solitude sounded nice, but she would rather the option to leave if she could. The woman did not want to completely forsake her son if she could help it.
Then it was off, but his playfulness was not left at the door. It seemed the elfin man was too giddy to be contained. He even kept it up in Augustine’s presence. Truly, it was a harmless gesture, just a kiss on the cheek, but Florence still gave him a mildly stern look in return. Not that he had gone too far, but to warn him that he should not test his luck much further than that with the blond around. She worried less about the others, however her son remained a prominent concern for her.
Still, after a quick good morning to Augustine, Florence took Nicolai up on his offer to meet her back at the table when the food was heated. A bit of time apart, albeit brief, would likely do the twitter pated pair some good. Gods knew her heart needed it. That left the men folk alone and it was not long before the older of the two was prodding at the other. It was too earlier for this, but because of that the boy was also less reactive. [+coral “We did, but not in the way you are implying.”] His eyes stayed down at the pot that had a couple of bubbles forming at the sides where the stew was heating the quickest. [+coral “She is an early riser and not one for solitude, so I always get to hear about whatever dream she had the night before first thing in the morning.”] He was pretty much used to it at this point, and he did not mind it, but sometimes Augustine wished she would just sleep, or at the very least let him for a little while longer. This habit of hers was part of the reason he was currently so tired.
It was tempting to offer the question back on formality alone, but Augustine bit his tongue. He did not care to know how the older couple was doing in that regard. That was a form of torture he was sure Nicolai would reserve solely for when he was very irritated with the prince. And even then, he prayed he would just punch him in the gut instead. Thinking about his mom in that light made his skin crawl and he doubted that would ever change, though it was nice to see her happy. Even if she was proving his theory that she preferred to be alone completely and utterly wrong. He almost wanted to congratulate Nicolai on that fact, but he also didn’t want it to go straight to his head, or for him to use that as an excuse to be gross around him. The young man could do without any more of that. So instead he changed the topic.
[+coral “I’d like to meet up later today with the others and figure out where we want to set out to next. Helga could use some help when harvest time comes around, so we should leave soon so that we can be back for that.”] He dreaded all the canning and other types of preserving they were going to have to do on top of actually collecting the fruits of what the old woman had almost magically turned into an impromptu farm after they arrived. Her garden before then was extensive, but it would have been manageable for just her. That was no longer the case, however with all of them eating there was no reason she should have to do it on her own. [+coral “I think that gives us a couple weeks to do something with.”] Augustine did not want to squander their time, not if they could help it.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her inner debate over her desires and wants was not shown in her actions or her words so Nicolai was none the wiser. He was just terribly happy to see her smile, even if she tried to suppress it. The more she smiled, the more she laughed, the greater he felt and more confident he became that he was doing well. He was a habitual self-deprecating man, but with her continuing kind words and input, her kisses, not to mention all the more subtle looks and touches, he was beginning to believe more in himself.
Her straddling of his thigh, hands squeezing a little at the muscles beneath, he bit his lower lip to both focus his mind and save from making some crude remark. He nodded at her decision that it would end there though both seemed to hesitate and linger just that few seconds longer, looking at one another, to make things feel on edge. It was quite funny really and when she eventually moved away and off the bed he smiled to himself and swung his feet out the other side. For, obvious, reasons, he remained sat on the edge of the bed for a minute or two before springing up and stretching out his arms. Joints clicked and popped and he groaned as he felt muscles stretch taut. Every morning was the same. Every morning was longer and more unforgiving.
Up and to his wardrobe he changed into fresh clothes though for Florence's sake he did not discard what he already had on. No sense in flustering the poor woman any further than he already had. Boots tied, belt fixed, he was ready for breakfast and began to leave but was unceremoniously pulled back in. The kiss was unexpected but warmly received, hands kept by his side as she dictated how it went and eventually she pulled away.[+royalblue “Mm, watch out dear. Many more of those and I will forgo this rebellion, throw you on the back of my horse and be off with you.”] It was clearly jesting, but perhaps there wan an inkling of humorous truth dancing in his bright gaze. He opened the door, stepping back to allow her ahead but it also allowed him to swat playfully at her backside as he followed on out.
Downstairs they walked into the kitchen to find Augustine stood near a pot of last nights stew, waiting for it to heat up just enough Nicolai assumed. Smiling politely at the boy the elder man place a hand to his partners side, telling her to go sit and he would bring her a portion once it was ready. A kiss to her cheek – what looked like dismay in her eyes for doing so – and she was guided into the dining room whilst the door swung shut behind. Looking across to the young blonde, Nicolai continued his pliant smile.[+royalblue “Did you and Flora sleep well?”] He teased the boy a little, though he was actually unsure if the young couple were arranging nightly rendezvous' or were still in that phase of a relationship where sharing beds and the like was still a large step to take. He didn't much care, though if he could use it to taunt the boy he would. He sauntered over to the counter, stealing a small roll of bread and tearing off a piece to chew.
Whelp, that limit of what she could get away with did not take long to reach today. Florence should have expected from the atmosphere that her teasing would not be met with anything other than fervor. Still, that was not a bad thing. Like Nicolai theorized she did hold a little bit of tension in her and it was showing. Despite her anxiety and overthinking when it came to that particular subject, it did not always curb her desire. There were a lot of things that she liked and craved more of. Often times when his touch stopped short, she almost wished he might continue. That pent up frustration led to longing looks and thoughts she doubted he even dreamt about, let alone knew were going on. Because that was the thing. That nervousness may not have stopped her urges, but it did stifle her ability to express herself properly on such matters. To be vocal about her wants or needs felt contradictory and liable to frustrate Nicolai who was surely already having a hard-enough time with his side of things. She was causing him enough grief, she did not need to add anymore to it. But it probably did make this moment, where she eagerly kissed him and willingly moved along with his hands, seem the tiniest bit odd.
Fully settled atop of him, the internal questioning began. ‘What if I do not like it? What if he thinks it is his fault? What if I really am too broken for this?’ Thankfully, his lips and hands suited as adequate distraction from her negativity. She would not know until she tried and given it had been well over seven years since her last attempt it was overdue. However, as she was calming back down and melting into him the pounding sounded at the door and nearly scared her out of her wits. A strange mix of relief and disappointment built in her, heavy on the latter, as she glared at the door. Maybe she was more intent on this than she thought, though half of it was the want of answers. Answers to whether this was going to be something she enjoyed or something she would simply need to endure for Nicolai. Florence knew she could do that much but suspected it would be much easier when she actually cared about the man who served as her partner.
Her focus had stayed on the door for a while now and it was not until his little comment that she turned back to him, blinking at the unexpectedly crude implication. His laughter shook her along with him and she bit her tongue in attempt to not join him. A smile sneaked passed her, but she held everything else in tolerably well. [+mediumseagreen “We? I think you might be the only one who qualifies for that, sir.”] Her outrage was nothing more than play as she glanced down with him, but there was little need for it, the woman could feel him pressing against her lower abdomen. It was ever so tempting to give him something to grow that interest, a slow roll of her hips was all it would take she was sure, but she contained herself. Chastity master Helga had already come through and signaled the end of all fun, so if they took too long there were bound to be consequences. It was funny though, Augustine was usually the one who played that part. Florence was infinitely thankful that was not so this time.
Still, after all that thought, the woman did lean forward to give her beau one last kiss before pulling away. She sat up, straddling his leg that had been caught between hers, hands resting gently on his upper thigh. [+mediumseagreen “I doubt Helga will take kindly to any attempt at stalling, so unfortunately that is it for now.”] Even just announcing that as she was, continued to fuel the fire that seemed to be set behind her cheeks. The woman was really hoping that might die down sometime in the near future. It was rather pathetic for a grown woman to flush at every little thing.
With her announcement through, she completely removed herself from him and then begrudgingly pulled herself out of bed. Today was even harder than any of those that came before it. Even as she was getting dressed and ready for the day, her mind was elsewhere. Focusing was not going to be easy today. They had not even made it to the door when she stopped him for one last kiss before headed downstairs, it was a deep, passionate affair. One that proved to be more of a hinderance than a help to overcoming her want to avoid whatever responsibility she would be tasked with today. But in the end she had to take a step back, drawing a deep breath by her standards. [+mediumseagreen "Time to get to work."]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Though her word were sweet and the look in her eyes was one of the love she spoke of, her actions cried out of a woman in frustration. Like him perhaps the long nights curled up next to one another had born scandalous fruit and her leg slipping along his own as the kiss did not break. In fact he deepened it, leaning forward, a little more hungry perhaps than her though in his mind all he could think was that the floodgates had opened. On winning over her love he had broken down that last barrier that often stayed his desires and his hand ran down to her thigh, slipping upwards across her smooth skin as he leaned her toward and atop him, his hand on her cheek keeping their lips from parting.
A hard and heavy thump on the door, slow and repeated thrice, startled him to where their kiss broke off spontaneously.[+darkgoldenrod “Come on you two! Get up!”] The disgruntled voice of their work master shouted out though she did not try to jiggle the door open or pop her head in. She had indeed given up trying to stop the duo from taking the same bed each night, and did not want to walk in on anything that may be going on between them. Even Helga held her limits on privacy though that was about the limit to them.
Nicolai tilted his head aside, so as not to reply directly at Florence,[+royalblue “Yes, yes, we're up!”] He replied and the faint grumbling of the woman could be heard heading off before far off knocking of Ool and Töka's door began. As she had moved away Nicolai looked back to his partner, looking up at her warm face though his own was similarly tinged.[+royalblue “We're up in more ways than one.”] He commented softly, his looking down as if between their pressing bodies and he could not help but burst into laughter as his 'interest' became apparent. For two adults, two parents, to be sneaking about, canoodling like this, was what he felt adolescence would have held for him had his upbringing been different. It only made his little comment all the more funny to him and his laughter took a time to subside, hands having fallen to her waist at some point and holding her atop him.
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