For once, Florence did not laugh at the man. Normally she might have, as she often got a chuckle out of things he would rather she not, but in this case she did not. She knew what he was feeling: the anxiety of an irrational fear. She glared at the men concealed by fog who were poking fun. They could not see her, so it was useless, but her eyes were hard all the same.
Augustine founds the man’s jumpiness out of character. It was not amazing that this would likely be taken as an excuse to doubt their competences, however after getting a laugh out of them, these folks seemed less wary of the group. So it was not all bad. At least no one was refusing their help. He moved on to asking his questions. The most important being if anyone had seen what did this. To which the answer was a resounding no. Planned watches were unfruitful and just about everyone else in the village was getting to the point that they were too scared to go out at night, especially after a young man went missing a little less than a fortnight ago. Augustine guessed that was what attributed to their willingness to take any help they could get.
Still too early to go out and bother anyone else with questions, that meant it was time to have a look around, though quite frankly Florence was basically already on that. Off her horse as well she was off to actually look at the carcass. The slip board fence was more made to keep cows in than keep anyone out so the woman quickly slipped through the planks without a word. As expected, it was a mess. The cow was practically eviscerated, more of it gone than anticipated. And based off the smear of blood across the grass, something tried to move it. That might have been the gentleman behind her though. [+mediumseagreen “Was it like this when you found it, or were you already in the process of moving it?”] Clearly it could not stay out here in the pasture. That would only attract more problems. Not to mention with it so close to the road people were not going to be happy passing by.
[+indigo “No, we haven’t touched her yet.”] They were discussing what they were going to do if this kept happening every couple of weeks like it had been before the blond kid caught their attention.
Florence nodded and started off in the direction that the cow had be pulled. As the crow flew it led to the forest, which made sense if this thing was managing to hide from these people, but there was a lot of woods in this area so it was hard to narrow down exactly where it would be. This was the best clue she had. Though for right now she was not interested in actually going to the trees. The woman was just following what she thought was the most likely path back to see if she could find anything to hint at what they were dealing with. However, in the dense grass of the pasture there was not a whole lot for her to see. Not wanting to go too far for the time being, she returned with little to add. There was only one tidbit that she threw out rather loudly. [+mediumseagreen “I do not think it is a bear.”]
The lack of explanation to her seemingly random statement garnered the woman a couple of stares, including from her son. [+coral “That’s… helpful?”] Between that outburst and Nicolai’s thing before the blond was beginning to wonder what in the hell was wrong with these two.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Approaching Belast was the last time Nicolai would feel comfortable for a good while, not least until they found out what was attacking the village. Seeing the group of men in a field it was not difficult to think what they had gathered around, yet Augustine seemed intent on getting a closer look. He would do so without the backing of the elfin man. He may have three decades on the boy, but his eyes were still rather sharp. He knew what lay dead in the field and the condition it was in. A chill ran up his spine to see a corpse devastated in such a manner and he turned his horse away to focus elsewhere.
Florence’s advice, to let the boy forge his own path and learn from his choices, was the only reason he did not turn his horse back the way they had come and ride away. Right now, his dreams of the open sea seemed far less ludicrous than ever before. But to Nicolai’s credit, he stayed, albeit with hand firmly at his sword on his hip.
A few of the farm hands and curious villagers glanced to the group now and again but no-one had yet realised whom any of them were. After Augustine, Nicolai was the most changed, and Florence had hardly left the castle from the day she arrived. It was for the best they kept quiet. Should they fail, and may the Gods forbid that one of them die, it would all but end their fight before it began. That was where this all hung now, by several thin strings, none of which could be cut, or the endeavour would collapse. [i [+royalblue 'How uplifting and inspiring'],] he would ponder to himself silently.
As Augustine finished off his opening introductions and negotiations, a long and shrill howl caught the elder man by surprise. His sword soon rasped from its scabbard and he quickly turned his horse about to face the sound. Over a small mound came running a dog; a terrier at that. Yapping madly as it ran over to the group it made a fuss of dancing about the horses and trying its best to look fierce despite its miniscule size. Nicolai flushed terribly as he heard laughter from the fence, several farm hand’s nudging one another as they pointed out the brave and noble swordsman who was ready to do battle with the tiny canine. A few [i 'save us from the foul beast'] and other assorted jokes were thrown out at him for good measure.
Embarrassed quite enough, he replaced his sword and pulled his circular scarf up over his mouth lest he shout some angry obscenity at them to cover his shame. Though she would not admit to it, Töka too had momentarily shared in the humour of the moment as the man trotted his horse a few paces further away.
Aside from a few choice conversations, the trip to the western town held little of interest. Florence did find herself smiling at the small back and forth Nicolai drummed up with her son about them sleeping next to one another. For once the elf got his way out of it, which was fine by her. Though she did have to take extra care not to end up wrapped around him as she usually did in bed. The woman did not have much control over the matter, as it was often times something she did in her sleep, but thankfully it worked out well enough that she did not have to withstand any disapproving looks from her already skeptical son. The whole thing was kind of fun, despite his prickliness, and it truly did help with the weather getting cooler.
It was early when they hit the outskirt of Belast, very early. The morning sun had just barely peaked over the horizon to banish the fog from consuming everything in its path. Thankfully, the ruminant mist was thin, so the well-trodden road was easy enough to follow and visibility was not incredibly hindered. The group could at least see far enough to make out a small gathering in the field just beyond the wooden fence to their right. Voices were hushed as the circle of men looked down on something between them. Normally that was not a good sign, but Augustine grew hopeful that they came into town at just the right time.
Hopping down from his horse, he approached the fence. With a closer vantage the boy was able to see what they were staring at. It was a cow, or most of one. The scene was fairly gruesome. Not letting the gore bother him, Augustine called over to the group not far off. A few harmless questions and one introduction later and a couple of the men had come to meet him at the perimeter. They seemed a little bit hesitant to talk to the strange boy who was asking questions so early in the morning, even after he explained that he and his friends were interested in helping. It became a question of why after that. Knowing he couldn’t just say it was the right thing to do without bringing them under serious mistrust, the blond went another route. One that was still in many ways the truth, but would show that they wanted something out of doing this, which would and make them miles less suspicious. [+coral “We are hoping to get the interest of Lord Lovelace… Since we were able to catch wind that something was going on here, it must be becoming quite the problem and we thought he might entertain the idea of listening to us if we show him our stuff by taking care of it.”] It was something, and loads more believable than ‘oh yeah, I am your true king and I want to help out.’
The couple of men looked over the incoming group. Considering it was half women and children, they did not have a whole lot of faith that these people were going to be much help, but that lack of faith was outweighed by something else. They were starting to get desperate. So, when Augustine asked if they might be able to look around and ask a few questions they agreed.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Thankfully light was fading and his fireplace not yet lit, or she may have seen his cheeks darken when she made mention of what she would have said to her father. At times the woman seemed oblivious to how her words could hold additional power over him, and he was a little grateful that she moved on quickly.
[+royalblue “Worth a try.”] He replied with a boyish smile as he gave a light wave.[+royalblue “Sleep well love.”] He added though he could already hear the fussing of Helga as she chastised the tall brunette for exposing herself to whatever might be ailing Nicolai. In a way it was sweet. She was just looking after them all and wanted them all to be healthy. It was just frustrating that in being caring and kind she was being overly cautious and separating the duo.
For the next few days it was more of the same and she actively sought to keep the elven man away from the others. She learned of Augustine's plans to take them away for a time and so she ensured the bright eyed man was given a few more laborious tasks to ensure the illness was driven out of him and he could leave on a healthy footing. It left the man rather tired and he saw the apologetic look on Florence's face whenever she passed by, though he did not hold any grudge against her. Well, maybe a little.
When the time came for them to pack and leave, and with assurances to Helga that they would not push the ailing elf should he fall back to whatever illness Florence believed him to have, the group was sent off with warnings not to come back injured less she hurt them far worse than any phantom being in Belast. Everyone seemed in fine spirits and the talk for the first day or two was lively – primarily between Flora, Marko and Augustine though they often roped in the others to talk with them. The elder four, though could Töka be considered an elder was a debate, were rather content to just get on with the journey and keep an eye on the land around them. The fiery eyed woman and her one time leader would squabble over how to kill certain predators – from mountain lions in Malidek to jackals in Calista – though how either of them knew about an animal from a land they had not visited was anyone's guess. It kept Nicolai from fretting and Töka from boredom. Ool would do his best not to join in with the younger trio but they often dragged him into the conversations, whilst Florence flitted between all of them at one point or another.
It was rather difficult to find time alone with her but Nicolai did his best to sit with her at dinner and offer small gestures that whilst he may not be as overly loving as in his home, it was not from a lack of wanting. A hand to her arm, offering her water, helping saddle her horse and pack her belongings – subtle but more than usual. With fall slipping away to winter, harvest season almost upon them, the days and nights were colder and he could argue against her son that sleeping back to back with his mother was a means of retaining heat and not becoming ill. He didn't buy it of course, but as his mother seemed happy he didn't want to start any arguments, especially before they got to Belast and learned what they were facing.
The final day of travel was when they began to realise the task that was at hand and it seemed to make for a more serious mood. It wasn't tense, nor did it seem anyone was scared. Nicolai was fearful of course but he just came across as his natural self, quite serious and stern worded, and no-one really questioned him on it. Internally he wanted this over with. He wanted to get the first phase of their rebellion over with. Once they were in the open then things would snowball, and fast, and they could finally put an end to all of this once and for all.
[+mediumseagreen “Well, I told her you were not feeling well and she extrapolated from there.”] It was not like Florence had gone out of her way to make this some highly elaborate fable. She found lies were best believed when you gave fewer details rather than more. [+mediumseagreen “But I will keep that in mind… sulking…”] Probably not the first word she would have gone with to describe what he was doing, but it worked. If this ever came up again, she knew what to do, though she did wonder if it would be as affective as her method.
There last few moments were spent indulging in one another, though perhaps not as thoroughly as they might have wanted before Helga came to make her presence known. Right on cue, it seemed they could not catch a break, but once again, the female half of the equation sort of deserved it. She glared at toward the door heatedly as they stood from their seat. And then strangely enough the topic turned around to her father. She laughed. [+mediumseagreen “At first maybe. Then he would have stepped back when I made it clear you were what I wanted.”] That was the key. Gregory’s main concerns were always that she was happy and comfortable. Well, as much of those things as she could be given her situation in life at the time.
His light probing to see if she might stay was met with the shake of her head. [+mediumseagreen “I am afraid it is too late to avoid that. As you know, I am prone to fevers and this one is no different.”] She gave him a sidelong look, emerald eyes flitting with a teasing light and lips upturned slightly into a smirk. [+mediumseagreen “But, we will have to discuss these ‘cures’ of yours another time, as there is a half feral woman on the other side of that door that I must attend to… I will see you in the morning, my dear.”] Sauntering off toward the door, she stopped as she was closing it to call back in. [+mediumseagreen “Good night, I hope you feel better tomorrow.”] There was genuineness to her words, though she was alluding to things other than his physical health. Helga did not need to know that though.
The elderly woman practically walked her back to her room downstairs. Florence thought it was entirely unnecessary, but given her and Nicolai’s past shenanigans it might have been called for. Plus it was effective in stomping down any of the dark-haired woman’s temptation to try and sneak her way back upstairs, so finally there was a win for Helga in this uphill battle to keep room for god between the unwed couple. A win that would span not just that one night, but also the following to be absolutely certain that the elf did not become a contagion to anyone else. Florence very much regretted her choices after that.
Then came time to leave the manor and set out toward Belast, just as Augustine had planned for. This even included Cam and Ool, who were deemed useful for this trip. A wolf’s nose might come in handy and a medical man just in case things went awry. There were extra stringent plans to make certain that did not happen, but having Ool there would do no harm. And he kinda came with Cam, so that was that.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat As ever Florence was rather sweet and caring in these moments between themselves, showing it more and more of late as her feelings had developed for him. He still hoped it may translate to public affection, so that they might not have to hide their hand holding from the others. They knew of their relationship so it was a little ridiculous to hide it, but Nicolai felt it best to not overly publicise it whilst Augustine was focused on his path ahead. It would only distract the boy if he still felt uncomfortable about their relationship.
Regardless of what he was thinking however the bright eyed woman decided to dampen the mood by telling him she would be gone for the night. A little instinctively his hand left hers to wrap around her figure and embrace her tightly, still looking up at her though with a touch of annoyance across his face.
[+royalblue “Disease? Really?”] Did she have to be so detailed as that? Surely just saying 'he's sick' would suffice.[+royalblue “You know, next time, just tell her I'm sulking okay? She knows I sulk, as does everyone, and it won't deprive me of a night with you.”] Having become accustom to her warmth and adjusting back to sleeping beside someone, any night she spent away was lost to constant rolling around the emptiness left beside him.[+royalblue “But… I suppose… I should be thankful that you stopped her coming in here.”] He brought their bodies flush together, her full figure squeezed as he offered a few consolatory kisses along her neck and up along her jawline, finally reaching her lips where he held her a little longer.
It was a particularly long goodnight kiss, one that just seemed to linger and go on with neither party particularly keen to pull away. But, as ever, someone was eager.
[+darkgoldenrod “Come on you! Get out before you come down with whatever he has!”] The thumps against the door for added emphasis was a nice touch. Though it had broken a rather sweet and tender moment for the pair, the elder man did laugh lightly as he rest his head to the top of her chest, hands holding her curved waist.
[+royalblue “I can't imagine how much worse this would be with your father here. We would have a round the clock guard I think.”] He waited a little longer before pulling back helping to lift her up to her feet though he took her hand to walk with her the short distance through to his room.[+royalblue “You sure you don't want to run the gauntlet? Perhaps contract a little, 'Nicolai-fever' by staying? I hear there's only a few known cures.”] The taunting, flirting, teasing; it would never end. He wanted to show that she was welcome to stay, again only gently pressuring her to perhaps agree and ignore the elder womans threats.
Admittedly, to be told it was situational made sense. It made her feel a little bit silly to have asked. That just meant she would have to make a habit of asking when this sort of thing happened. However, he soon went on to retract the statement in part. Saying that he wanted her there. Though she was sure there was still some truth that his wants would ebb and flow like the water in the distance, at least that gave her a direction to lean toward. Much in the way his lips beckoned to her, calling her close for their soft shared kiss. He pulled away a little too soon for her liking, but he had an important, if amusing, addendum so she let it be. His question made her smile. [+mediumseagreen “It cannot be any heavier than I am now, so yes, I do.”] She made a point to keep up with the lighthearted way of speaking, hoping that it might convey the fact that she did not see him as a burden. [+mediumseagreen “I have done much worse things for those I love. I think I can manage sitting with you so you do not have to feel alone, in fact, I would rather enjoy it.”] Bringing a hand up she used it to push his dark hair back from his face, smiling at him. [+mediumseagreen “But if you are concerned I will be sure to let you know if this burden ever becomes too heavy for me to bear.”] She somehow doubted it would come to that, but even in her banter there was a thread of seriousness. Florence would let him know if she needed a break. It seemed he wanted to keep her from pushing herself too far for his sake, but he should have thought of that before he made her fall in love with him.
With that out of the way, it was ever so tempting to go back to kissing him, but the woman held back with a sigh. [+mediumseagreen "I wish I could stay with you right now, however, my aforementioned plan to keep Helga out of here may have backfired. I am supposed to keep away as to not spread your disease."] She sighed again. It was her own fault for fibbing like that. Florence was getting what she deserved, though it was terrible that Nicolai would have to suffer as well. [+mediumseagreen "No doubt she will burst in here soon enough to tell me I have had plenty of time to say goodnight."] The old woman would not have been wrong in that, but Florence kind of wanted to avoid having her come in and see the elf sat outside. No doubt she would pitch a fit at having a sick person in the cool night air. That or catch on to the lie. Neither was exactly great, so it was probably best the pair said their farewells for the night. However, Florence was loath to do so and opted to procrastinate with obstinate silence.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat For a little time, what she said was useless. That was a mean way of putting it but it was truly just what he expected to hear, what he had said to himself in his mind, so it wasn't helpful. Yet this time, Nicolai decided to not just ignore her words because it wasn't some epiphany of knowledge or wasn't that gem of experience he wanted. And looking on what she had said collectively it was so much better than its sum parts. Rather than picking at her advise he could see how it was overall an insightful piece. Perhaps it was just that he was hearing it from her specifically. Following her declaration of her feelings about him his view of her had changed and he nodded his head gently.
A soft smile fought its way to the surface and his gaze followed his lifted hand as she pressed it against her warm and soft lips. A small but pure gesture that was all the more powerful given it was her doing so. She was not one to offer such things willingly, not unless he teased her mercilessly or had started it. And the accompanying query of what he wanted was especially sweet to his pointed ears as he pulled her tighter to him, his cheek resting to her shoulder.
She was really making a go of showing he meant more to her, wasn't she? Rather than taunt her for showing her concern, something they were both guilty of years before, he looked up at her with a doting gaze.
[+royalblue “I don't think anyone has ever asked me what I wanted, at least in that manner. And I don't care for your apology because it's not needed.”] His hand in hers now pulled her fingers across and whilst looking up at her he pressed a kiss of his own to hers.[+royalblue “I can't say what I want, because I am sure it will change dependant on the situation in the future. Sometimes we all want a little solitude to just sit in and vent at ourselves. Sometimes, we want someone, a specific someone,”] a light pressure to her side as he said that,[+royalblue “to pull us out of our thoughts or to bounce ideas and feelings off of.”] He went quiet for a moment as he just let the idea sit for a few seconds.[+royalblue “I used to like being alone. I found I couldn't hurt people if I was alone. The amount of times I would say something to you or Gregory when I was upset, then immediately regret but feel too proud to apologise? Or that could have been avoided by walking away? Too many to count.”] So many of his early mistakes in her and her families lives could have been wiped away with quick apologies and retractions.
Holding her gaze, her tanned skin rather dark in the pale moon serving to make those bold emerald eyes pop even more, he was unable to suppress the growing smile and soon it had wiped away all his anxiety and nerves.
[+royalblue “I guess I told a lie, because I can say what I want; I don't want to be alone again. I have you now,”] his fingers slipped between hers as he went on,[+royalblue “and I can put my trust in you to help me when I need you – even if I don't know I need it.”] He leaned up slowly, just enough to reach her lips, a slow and soft kiss that lasted several seconds before he pulled away.[+royalblue “Of course, that is if you want to take on such a heavy responsibility. Do you?”] Whilst it had been a rather sweet and tender moment, the underlying Nicolai always shone through in the end. Mischievous, joking, if not a little concerned that he didn't want her to feel consigned to the role if she did not want it. She may love him but love had its boundaries even in the best of relationships.
Florence softly shook her head at his apology. It was unnecessary. Not to say he was not missed, but that he needn’t worry about missing one afternoon of chores. [+mediumseagreen “It is fine, we were able to handle it.”] Her voice was gentle, displaying her concern. [+mediumseagreen “Also, I may have told Helga you were not feeling well so she would leave you alone and you could have some time to yourself... so maybe hold off till tomorrow on your apology to her.”] Then at least it might look like there was some semblance of truth to what she said... but then again there was a chance Nicolai would rather be truthful. If that were the case, she would not stop him.
She wondered if that would be the end of it after he looked away, but given a moment he called her over. Florence was relieved and quickly obliged him by sitting with him, or rather on him. Though she did feel a bit bad knowing she must be heavy. The woman did not verbalize this concern, opting to let him say what came to mind as their hands came softly together.
It was not long before he began to speak, some of his past and some of the present, but all insightful as to what he was currently going through. Though perhaps a little avoidant of what she initially came here for. Still, Florence was glad. Finding the right words to say however, that was rather difficult. So in the meantime she let her thumb run slow, soothing circles over the back of his hand.
[+mediumseagreen “It is all fine and good to care about his wellbeing,”] she spoke quietly, [+mediumseagreen “but there are some things he has to learn on his own. Some boundaries have to be pressed for him to grow.”] They just needed to be there to make sure he was not hurt too badly in the process. Though admittedly that was a very hard thing for her to do as a mother. [+mediumseagreen “He is his own person no matter how much his life and likeness reminds you of yourself or who were once were. It may be hard to keep that in mind, but you have to. Not just for his sake, but also yours. I do not want you running yourself ragged trying to stop him from being like you, especially when you are so bad as you think... Even if you were selfish, you had the capability to change and grow and that is outstanding.”] As someone who was so often stuck in her ways, she admired that aspect of him, and hoped that Augustine might have it as well. [+mediumseagreen “You do not need to be his father to be there to advise him, Nicolai. Give him a gentle nudge in the right direction when you can and he will take the right path just like you did...”] albeit in a different timeframe. Though that was the point. With guidance, their children were meant to surpass them in that way. [+mediumseagreen “He’s always been a good boy, so I am sure that is all he needs.”] That might have been her parental leaning talking there, but she truly did believe her son would come out all right, even if he was a bit of a pain in the ass sometimes.
Bringing their hands up, Florence pressed her lips lightly to the back of Nicolai’s hand. It was a brief kiss before she went on, pulling back a little more to why she came in the first place. [+mediumseagreen “I’m sorry I left you alone with all this... I wanted to be here sooner, but between Flora and Helga I had my plate full.”] Her breath would be warm on his skin. She wondered how long he had been sitting out here. It was chilly, though that was only by Astorian standards. [+mediumseagreen “And I was not quite sure what you wanted...”] That was rather vague, so the dark-haired woman soon went on to elaborate. [+mediumseagreen “So I know for the future, in times like this would you prefer to be alone or would you rather company?”] No matter how many times he said he liked to have her around, she could not shake the feeling that she was creating a stiff or even stifling atmosphere. One that was not always helpful. But her inquisitiveness to what he needed or wanted went beyond just whether or not he wanted her around. [+mediumseagreen “And if you prefer company, what do you want of them? Is it best that they sit with you in quiet solidarity, or do you want someone to vent to and talk with about the matter at hand, or perhaps a simple distraction from what is bothering you?”] Her barrage of questions was likely overwhelming, but it went to show how hard she was trying to understand him. Florence really did want to be a help to the dark-haired man, whether that meant staying away so he could think things out himself or playing the part as a helpful distraction so that he did not have to think about things he could not change. She would do it.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Left to ponder and contemplate life was not something Nicolai had had chance to do these past few weeks and months. It had been too tiring what with juggling his responsibilities to Augustine and Florence and now his workload with Helga, any lengthy deliberation was pushed back time and time again. In a way that was good; a thinking Nicolai was a dangerous man. Not to anyone but himself however. He had the unhealthy habit of hurting himself when left to think, as evidence by the litany of mistakes he had made in his past both recent and further.
The soft creak of the door brought focus back to the present though and he glanced to his side, catching sight of the long haired brunette stood in the doorway. It seemed even she was aware of his ability to self-implode, keeping her distance and simply inquiring if she could do [i anything.] It hurt a little to think she, of all people, was hesitant to help. Was it that bad?
[+royalblue “I'm sorry for leaving final chores to the rest of you, I'll apologise to Helga shortly.”] The elder woman would not understand, nor would she particularly care as what was done was done. And with Florence's lie it would not bathe either of the two in good light for tomorrow. But it would perhaps allay any motherly coddling the woman was apt to show to her adopted children.
Turning back to the ocean he thought of leaving the conversation there, to shut out his partner as he had done many times before, but a combination of 'it will only lead to hardship down the road' and feeling that she was the only one he could talk to, left his hand raising up to beckon her forth. There was only the one chair but being who he was that wasn't a problem. When she was near he took her hand and brought her around, pulling her gently down to sit in his lap and coil his arms around her waist. He was happier in this way, like a child holding their favourite teddy it calmed him greatly. His hand took hers in a lighter hold than had been at the dinner table.
[+royalblue “I've always sat here. From when I was a little boy to a young man. When mother would get angry or father would ignore me, when I lost both of them – always here. I think just looking out to the sea gave me a belief that I wasn't trapped and that if I ever wanted, I could always pack up and just leave all of this behind.”] It was a youthful dream but being back here it was an option that became more alluring by the day. Still, this was not why she was here. She knew he had panicked from the talk of bears and she wanted to help him, yet how does one help someone overcome an attack such as that? Given her past she would know some fears were more difficult to confront than most.
Rather than focus down that path however, classic Nicolai pushing it aside to fester, he felt it was better to deal with why he had opposed Augustine so fervently.[+royalblue “I… I worry. About everyone, but Augustine more so. I'm not his father, I have no intention to be so, yet I find myself wanting to push back on any plan where even just the possibility of him being hurt may happen.”]
It was not outlandish to want to keep someone safe, especially someone who would one day hopefully become his leader, but Nicolai hoped the tone of his voice stressed this went beyond a reasonable degree of care for the boy.
[+royalblue “I'm drawing unhealthy parallels between his upbringing and my own, though really it is just having an absent father. Germaine did his best whilst alive, but passing at such a young age left Augustine with only yourself to teach him, and though I am not a good father myself – I am not claiming to be one – I am trying to be what I didn't have.”] It was all far too self reflective to the bright eyed man who's fingers now toyed with her's in a nervous manner.[+royalblue “Neither of us have had someone there to teach us our limitations, and as boys all we want to do is push our boundaries. I see so much of myself at that age in him and I want to steer him away from it. Because, lets be perfectly honest, until a few months ago at that tavern, my entire life was that of a selfish man doing as he pleased. And Augustine, when he becomes King, needs to be the exact opposite.”]
Was any of this making sense? Had he blathered and dithered and changed direction far too often as he was prone to do? Nicolai was not really in his element here, offering up his thoughts and feelings - even to Florence of all people - was still a nervous affair. He was venting though and he pulled her closer, hand on her side squeezing lightly.
With the way Nicolai bolted off, Florence had full intention to go after him and see how he was fairing. The answer to that was probably pretty obvious, but beyond that she wanted to see if she could help in anyway. Knowing her, and her lack of delicacy with this sort of thing it was unlikely. Still, she wanted to be with him in hopes that her presence could offer some sort of comfort. However, before she could so much as turn in that direction Flora was on her. A number of questions flew at her and the older woman found herself giving an impromptu lesson on hunting big game and predator type targets. Normally she would have tried to keep it short and concise, but Flora was persistent in wanting all the small details. The fiery girl was not generally the greatest fan of hunting; however, it seemed her interests in bows and marksmanship, along with a want to be ready for what lay ahead of them, drove her curiosity and want to learn here. And in the end Florence obliged her. With how the teen liked to talk it was likely she would relay all this to the others with enthusiasm and there might be less of a need for her to repeat herself over and over.
Once satisfied with all she had gleaned from the one-time huntress, Flora was off and back to work. Something Florence would be pulled into as well. There was little time for her to sneak off to try and find her boyfriend, especially after she inevitably had to convince Helga to let him be. The old woman had seen him take off to the second story of the house and was not altogether happy that he was not working. Making the excuse that he was not feeling well, which was not entirely a lie, Florence was able to fend her off for the time being. Though that did mean the grayed old woman was more adamant that the two be separated for the night. Not wanting to spread whatever ailment Nicolai had was a fair motivator for her. That was a battle the green-eyed woman was unable to win, not with their approaching trip to use against her as a reason to remain healthy. It almost made her regret stretching the truth, but not enough to fess up. Her small consolation would be to have a moment to say goodnight.
Stepping into the master bedroom, there was no immediate sign of the elf who resided there. Florence had fully expected to find Nicolai holed up in bed. However, the chill and cold breeze it came in on betrayed his location. The woman headed over to the veranda without a word. Seeing him sat there, staring out to the dark ocean waves, she wondered just how long he had been there and what he was thinking about. But neither of those things were the questions she eventually spoke. [+mediumseagreen “Anything I can do?”] She remained standing at the doorway as she asked out to him on the balcony. He might just as well want to continue his solitude. It was not uncommon for him to do so, at least it had not been in the past. But in many ways things were different now, so she wanted to be sure to right thing for him as he was now.
[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.
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