[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Florence made a good point about this Elizabeth woman. She was more hassle than she would be useful. He couldn't keep both men locked up for months until they found her. If they found her ever.[+darkslateblue “He could have been an unfortunate victim of whatever they were doing here. Discovered that the Taken were here and lost his child as a consequence.”] It was a half theory he didn't much want to expand upon. It did not sit well in his chest to talk about a young child like a commodity.
He laughed a little however when she returned his stare as the tension of this situation lifted a little. He nodded, each of them understanding his look and her answer all without a word spoken. It was not his place to ask, but Nicolai was his prisoner so he would like to know if they held anything more than a passing friendship with one another.[+darkslateblue “I won't ask what you talked about; what happens in a bed chambers stays in a bed chambers and all that nonsense.”] He teased her a little hoping to draw a smile from her as he leaned his head back and stretched his feet out.
Still smiling some he brought his hand onto the desk, toying with it idly.[+darkslateblue “In a way, I respect this elf for his sheer stubbornness. I feel if I were in his position, I too wouldn't want to speak such personal truths. But it doesn't half make all this frustratingly difficult.”] He had thought to go down to the kitchen, find something to eat and drink, but he was stopped by a knock at the door.[+darkslateblue “Come in!”] He had to shout; thick door.
It opened in and a little sheepishly, Captain Liam half stepped in.[+cadetblue “Ah, apologies for the interruption Sir, ma'am,”] he nodded to both and Augustus waved his hand for him to hurry up,[+cadetblue “Adrian has woken up. The doctor thought it best you come quickly, he's unsure how long he will remain awake.”]
When it came to Elizabeth, things were still a mystery. [+mediumseagreen “He would not speak of her. It sounds like she may have been in cahoots with whatever the plot against him was, thiugh I still do not quite understand why they would target him.”] If they were with the Taken, it might have to do with the death of their comrades. Nicolai had taken a part in that, but it also could have been as simple as his association with Florence . Lords below, she hoped that was not the case. She did not want the death, or worse, of that child on hear hands. A selfish thought, but true nonetheless.
[+mediumseagreen “Either way, finding her would be difficult and more time consuming than it is worth at this moment.”] If the situation was not so pressing perhaps they could send a party out to search for her... though that would be a burocratic nightmare in and of itself. They would need permissions unless it was a small squad disguised as travelers.
His final question was another one that she could not fully answer. She was getting tired of these. [+mediumseagreen “How I know is because he appeared before me. In fact, he nearly scared me senseless waking me in the middle of the night... I know he must have had help, but I do not know who should be so bold.”] He was giving her a look, the exact one she wanted to avoid. They both knew it was not for [i that], but it was more about the principle. He was going to fall out of his chair when she got around to telling him about what she had done in Wistina. Ultimately, she knew he would not see her any differently, but she still felt a great deal of shame surrounding it. But for her that was nothing new.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Augustus found her remarks on Nicolai being brought to tears over the drawing to be most insightful. His interaction, and the reports he received from Florence, were of a very hardened and stoic man. A general and leader who was perhaps a little emotional when it came to anger, yet seemed to hold onto his sadness very well. In many ways the elf was like him. Nothing brought him to tears apart from Flora many times when she had been young.
This meant he understood Florence's response about killing him should this all be some awful ruse.[+darkslateblue “If it comes to that, just make sure to leave me some too.”] Being a father, and a father of a daughter, he disliked this talk of fake parenting.[+darkslateblue “But, for now, you trust him to be true so I will believe that the picture is his daughter. I'm guessing you got nothing about the woman, Elizabeth?”] The question was asked in hope and he got his answer quickly from Florence, leaving him to lean back in his seat and sigh.
[+darkslateblue “If we had her we could verify everything. She knew Adrian before this, she was with Nicolai up until some point. For all we know she is the mother of the girl. But, we have more information now. We have a possible motive for why Nicolai came back here, why he attacked us in Vollenberg – or rather attacked Adrian.”] Mulling over this he was still quite unsure how to go forward. Adrian wasn't very well likely to come out with a confession if he was with the Taken.[+darkslateblue “You said you knew Nicolai had left his room last night; how? I trust you did not release him, so who did?”]
[+mediumseagreen "I have; I thought about it the whole way over. And I know there is no way to know anything for sure... but I do not think he is lying. I-"] She paused, looking down at the picture and the smiling face on it. [+mediumseagreen "I have never seen him cry like that. Not when Germaine died, not when he got hit with that arrow, and not when we split ways..."] She had seen him in the throws of most grief, rage, and heartbreak, but there was nothing like that. But none of those compared to the pain of thinking you were going to lose a child. A sentiment that terrorized her for months after her husbands death and there were times it almost became a reality.
Looking up, her eyes were hard as the emeralds they shared a shade with. [+mediumseagreen "But if it does turn out that I have been deceived... I swear to you, I will kill him myself."] More than just that, she would make him regret ever stepping foot in Astoria if she found out this was nothing but a ploy. There were certain things that you just don't lie about, and for her, this was one of them.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Augustus was quite bewildered to see Florence entering with a helmet, Nicolai's helmet. He was unsure just what could warrant fetching it, but said nothing as she shut the door and approached the table. Perhaps from his solemn look he gave her his answer with regards to Adrian as she did not bother to ask. Which was good, as he did not fancy having to admit defeat verbally.
Eyeing the mask which she held so close to her in a protective manner, he did wonder if there was something he was missing. He knew a little of their past history but the whole incident at the pass was rather put to one side and left in mystery. Even Gregory refused to discuss it saying it was best left be. When she presented her news and offered the drawing, he carefully took it to inspect. The girl had elven ears, a chubby face typical of children and with a smile that seemed to light up the entire face. It was a lovely drawing but if a dagger could be faked, so could a drawing. It could be anyone's daughter he was passing off.
But Augustus didnt want to go down the devil's advocate route. Instead he looked up at Florence, nodding his thanks before handing back the paper.[+darkslateblue "You've probably already guessed my argument. Just tell me; do you believe he is without a doubt telling the truth when he says he has a daughter?"] If he was going to second guess her each step of the way then there was no need for her to be here. She knew the man for ten years. Even fleeting meetings would give her an understanding of his character. He just hoped this new Nicolai was not so different. Likewise he didn't want to question someone about being a parent, especially to a girl like himself. If this was true then his heart would truly go out to the man.
Coming back to the place they had agreed upon, Augustus beat her there. That was to be expected, as she had fully anticipated her task to take much longer, but here she was. By his face alone she could tell his search was not fruitful.
Closing the door behind her, she clutched the mask close to her body. It was almost as though she feared someone might try to take it from her. [+mediumseagreen “I do not have every detail, but I managed to get him to tell me his motivation...”]
The woman went quiet for a moment. She wondered whether or not he would believe it or think he was playing to one of her weaknesses. It would not have been a bad strategy, but she really did not think he was lying about this. It made sense with the other things he said, it fit the Taken's MO to a certain extent, and he seemed to be genuine. Not to mention this was not the type of lie she would forgive him for and if he wanted any chance with her, as he said he did, Nicolai would know better.
[+mediumseagreen "Apparently, in all those escapades of his, Nicolai had a child. A daughter... she was taken from him. That is why he is so determined."] The look in her eyes would communicate her belief, but to give it the same weight, she removed the picture one more time and placed it on the table between them.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat For a brief moment Nicolai saw the picture, from his angle it was not easy to. It brought back the memories, even the ones he had thought locked away forever. He had not looked at that drawing since placing it there over two years ago. Hearing someone say her name, a woman's voice and out loud, he looked up to Florence quickly. For some strange reason he felt she understood why he had reacted as he had earlier, that her motherly instincts and natural leaning toward children that most adults had, meant she could visualize what he could not say.
With the drawing replaced into the helmet, Nicolai felt better. It was safe and now Florence had something else to bring to Augustus. Her comment brought a lump to his throat but he remained silent as she left with the helmet in hand, the guards ushered back in through the doorway.[+royalblue “A good father knows where his daughter is..”] He said to himself, body slipping down the bed and closing his eyes as the throbbing in the side of his head began anew.
Augustus was in his office awaiting the return of Florence. It was only a few minutes for each of them to do their tasks, though his had been very quick. And it was not good news. With no branding anywhere on his body, Adrian was clear of that incriminating evidence. He sat wondering if she would get anything from Nicolai but he was not all that hopeful of it. He was not hopeful of much at the moment. The only good news is that neither man was going to be going anywhere in this land without his knowledge and a sizable guard contingent with them.
If Adrian was proven to be a member of the Taken, he would take some solace knowing he had been stopped before anything could happen, and it would work to Nicolai's favour. But if he wasn't, then he would still have to expel the man from the realm. He could not have someone who had been accused of that, living amongst those he cared so much about. He understood that people held grievances and with his position, his power, he would be able to cause quite a lot of harm.
Listening carefully to his instruction, she gently pulled at the lining and revealed something most unexpected. It was the likeness of a child done up on a faded piece of paper. She did not have to ask, Nicolai went ahead and explained who she was. Florence’s heart dropped like a stone through still water. The sketch, while beautifully done, was just that: a sketch. It made it difficult to determine whether their bond as father and daughter was of blood or more along the lines of what she and Gregory had. Either way, it did not matter, that was his little girl.
[+mediumseagreen “Natalya…”] Repeating the name she did her best to commit it to memory. She could not be sure this would be enough for Augustus, though he might relate having a daughter of his own. But for her, it was. The flame of anger that was already lit in her grew just that much more. She did not even need to know exactly what happened, it was enough that in some form or another they had taken this little girl from her father.
Standing, she folded the paper back up and returned it to the place she had found it. Perhaps it might have been better to hand it over to Nicolai, but she was rather distracted. Her eyes were down as she continued to mull things over. At the very least, this was the motivation they needed to hear. And she thought it was a damn good one, but she was the type to put her child above anything and everything else. Turned out, the violent-eyed man just might be the same. [+mediumseagreen "See, I told you you would make a good father."] It was a comment from a very long time ago, one that he had not agreed with her on, but after seeing this she was reminded of it all over again. But that comment was the last thing she said before leaving the room. It was time to return to Augustus and the whole way there she found herself praying that he found what they were looking for.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Though he had been quite vague with his request or why he wanted it brought, it seemed Florence was desperate for any information whatsoever as she obliged him and quickly left the room. The guards who came in stared at the restrained elf with confusion why she had come in and within ten minutes been sent rushing back out again.
Whilst she was gone he was left to ponder if this was the right thing to do. It was a rather important decision to tell her about this but he had to give her something. If she left this room with only his word, with no new information, she would be hard pressed to see this in his favour. And for Nicolai, he had to beat Adrian. He had hoped that the knife being found would validate him and they would accept him as being a little trustworthy. The elf still believed his word meant something, but the partial rejection of it chagrined him deeply and he had to concede to give more.
It felt only seconds that she had been gone but she marched back in and threw out the guards again. They duly obliged after only a brief hesitation. If they left of their own accord that was one thing, but ordered by Florence, they had their excuse if Augustus wished to complain. Either way the door was closed and she approached the bed again with helmet in hand. Offering it to him he lifted his hands to indicate the restraints and why he would not take it from her.[+royalblue “Inside the helmet, the felt lining, tear it back but be careful.”] He instructed her, nodding that it was the right thing to do.
When she did, it looked like nothing was there save a lighter, thinner more chalk-coloured lining within it. On touching it she would find it crinkled and had the consistency of a tough paper like that used for wrapping meat in the market. It was not secured to the helmet and pulling it free she would have a book sized page folded in half. The helmet was put down on the bed as she looked at the paper and then to Nicolai.[+royalblue “I did not want anyone to find out. Ever. Not like this certainly. But I hope it shows you have my trust and my honesty.”] Turning over and opening the paper showed a charcoal drawing made on the paper. It was detailed, quite skillful if a little rough and unrefined, depicting a child no more than two years of age with shoulder length hair, large and lively eyes, and a wide joyful smile.[+royalblue “Her name is Natalya, she's my daughter, and the reason I came here.”]
He really seemed to be thinking about this. What Florence had thought but a simple question took close to an eternity to answer. Or maybe that was just how it felt with her desperation seeping into everything. When he finally spoke, the concrete answer she had been expecting came out more like sand. He was not sure either, just that he knew why Adrian [I might] have thought that. She practically groaned. It was not as though she was expecting much, but this was so little to work with. It did not help to fill any holes. The situation was beginning to look more and more dismal. When they got to the end of this, was there going to be a right answer?
Her eyes closed, and she tried to think of what else she could ask. Nicolai told her she could ask about anything that did not surround the incident surrounding Elizabeth. However, it was difficult to come up with anything else while this was still fresh and very much at the forefront of her mind. Then she felt him twitch. Green eyes coming back to the world, she looked at him and he seemed to be hesitating again. Was there more?
There was, though it came in the form of an odd request. [+mediumseagreen “Alright, I do not know what that has to do with anything, but I trust you will show me… I will be back.”] The mask was not being kept here. It had been confiscated, but she knew where they the guards kept that sort of thing.
It was a short trip down to the barracks, one that passed speedily, as she walked with haste. The woman had to ask around to find where it was being kept, but for what seemed like the first time that day she was given a straight answer. Taking the intricate contraption, she rushed back and shooed the soldiers from Nicolai’s room once more. They eyed her with suspicious as she had the wolf helmet in hand, but she was not verbally questioned.
Coming directly back up to the elf, she offered the lightweight headpiece. [+mediumseagreen “Here it is.”] Minor pausing between words to take in air betrayed the rush had had been. Florence just hoped whatever he was getting at would be worth the trouble of coming and going.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat When she squeezed his leg she drew him out of his panic again, like he was adrift in rough seas and she was that lone rock giving him something to grasp to. It was the best he could describe it to himself. Remembering that time was difficult for him, though what he hadn't tried to shut out was only glimpses and flashes of moments. Like a puzzle but someone had taken all but a handful of pieces. It was part of why he had not spoken of it to her the night before, and in part why he did not want to talk to her about it now.
Listening to her he said nothing, did not move or even look up at her. When it looked like he would not confirm or deny her question, his head nodded very gently.[+royalblue “I had no idea he thought I was dead.. but if he did think I was, I know why he could have thought so..”] It was not much to give her but what else did he have but his word? And even that was being doubted. If he had any more physical evidence he would have given it to her. Anything at all that would give her something to believe him and trust he was telling the truth.
And then it clicked. He did have something. Looking up at her he bit his lower lip as he contemplated for but a moment whether to tell her, mouth opening but no words coming out. Seeing her look at him, and feeling her hand even just gently pressing on him, he decided it best to tell her. Of anyone he knew in the world, she might understand.[+royalblue “My helmet.. bring me my helmet..”] He was very softly spoken and she would see it was a difficult thing for him to tell her about.
Ah yes, the return of the man who thought she was uncapable of feeling or understanding the feelings of other. No doubt this conversation was about to become much more taxing on her than she anticipated. After that he flat out refused to speak about it. Obviously, that was going to leave a glaring gap in his story, one that she could only make broad assumptions about. And then there was this mysterious business dealing with his memory. His words surrounding that made things less and less clear just who he was referring too. Was it Elizabeth, or was there someone else?
Hand still on his leg, she squeezed lightly. [+mediumseagreen “Nicolai… now might be the only time we have.”] It was not a happy thought, for more than one reason. He just might end up dying with all these secrets if he continued to be stubborn. [+mediumseagreen “Fine, do not tell me the particulars, but there is one thing I do need an answer to… Does all this mess pertain to why Adrian seems to be absolutely certain that you are dead?”] It could be answered with a simple yes or no. Florence wanted more than that, but she was not hopeful that he would oblige her. Hell she might not even get that with how things were going.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Certain memories flashed about his mind in quick succession and he remained quite still and in a word of his own. When her hand had touched his leg his head lifted up, eyes looking at her, for a moment confused by what was going on, why she was touching him, why she was so close to him like this. Although it had only been a few seconds, a dozen at most, he had gone into a world of his own.[+royalblue “I'm sorry Florence but you don't know what being upset is.”] He spoke quietly though he kept his eyes on her a sparkling track running down one cheek as he halted fighting the shackles.
His body lost a lot of the tensity it had, something she would feel in his leg, but on mentioning of Elizabeth his lips became taut and he shook his head.[+royalblue “I don't want to talk about Beth, what she did, what they both did..”] His voice had begun to rise but he quickly stopped and settled his voice once more to a neutral tone.[+royalblue “Talk won't bring her back. I don't know where she is. I don't know if she's even alive, and with each episodic illness I'm losing my memory of her, what she looks like.”] It was uncertain who he was talking about as he met Florence's gaze again.
Whilst she was trying to be supportive and show that he had someone at least partially in his corner, he was struggling to match that to what she was asking. What if he gave her what she wanted? If he told her everything, she may still come to the conclusion that he was wrong, Adrian was right, and his shame would be known. With them watching one another he sighed very heavily.[+royalblue “Ask me anything you like, but I don't want to talk about her and what she did, not right now..”]
Killing the messenger was exactly what she was trying to avoid with this. [+mediumseagreen "I do not really think that, but I have no doubt that will be what Adrian says [i when] he wakes up."] It was the one man's words against another, it sounded as though he understood that in the beginning, but maybe not. Or perhaps he just had not expected her to be the one to show up and question further. Thinking to offer to send Augustus in, she stopped knowing she could not leave him with both halves of the work.
At first she thought all she was going to get was a round about tale of the same things Augustus had already heard, but that eventually stopped. And it turned into something much more emotional than she was expecting. As much as she hated to play the pronoun game, he had already made it known that this was not about her, so there was only one other person Florence could think of. It also, at least in her mind, confirmed that idea so long ago that they were involved. How could he be so mad about everything if he had her all along? In that moment she remembered just how selfish men were.
Taking a step forward, she placed a gentle hand on his lower leg. [+mediumseagreen "Nicolai, calm down."] Her voice remained serious, but not critical. She was making an attempt to sooth him. It was small, but this was all she could manage for the time being. [+mediumseagreen "I know this is upsetting, but I am trying to help you. The more information you can give me, the fewer holes there will be in your story to exploit."] At the end of this, when they had both stories in full, somebody's was not going to completely add up. That person would be their liar. At least, that is how she pictured it would work.
[+mediumseagreen "Now..."] After what she had just heard, it was not easy to ask this. [+mediumseagreen "What happened to Elizabeth?"]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat She was right about Nicolai, he did not trust her when she came waltzing in, dismissing the guards and standing at the foot of his bed staring at him in a very determined manner. Still shackled, as he had been since his accomplice did so that morning, he was sat up in the bed and staring at her questioningly. When she made mention of Augustus, he clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth with annoyance. He had thought the man would tell her, but he did not see why she was now stood here dictating that he give her more information.
She listed off everything he had told Augustus and ended with an accusation that he had placed the knife in Adrians room and was lying.[+royalblue “I gave you the knife, that should be evidence enough.”] His voice was quiet, rather cold and critical of Florence.[+royalblue “If you think I put it there, that all this is just my master work, that I lied to you; then I don't particularly have anything else to say.”] It was a usual feature of his to go quiet when confronted like this. He did not care if people did not believe him, or called him out as a liar. People made their own decisions and she was no different. If she did not believe him then what possible chance did he have to convince her? That was what he thought.
But he would not stay silent right now, not least because she was glaring at him now with those large green eyes of hers.[+royalblue “Look, I would be annoyed to be duped like this Florence, to have someone like that right under my nose and not know it, but don't kill the messenger.”] He sat back against the back board of the bed, eyes narrowing a little as he watched her with a slight scowl.[+royalblue “Do you think I put the dagger there? Do you think I am framing him or is that what he said when he was awake? His [i interesting things to say].”] He shook his head slowly and yet kept his focus on her.[+royalblue “But I know you won't leave without a satisfying answer. You want this all to be happy and wholesome and have a happy ending. What do you want me to say? I know what I have seen and heard and I know what I know; and what I know is that he is one of those Taken.”]
Again she was silent, staring at him with no emotion or give away of what she was thinking. She wanted more, so Nicolai leaned forward, the chains scraping against the wooden back board as he pulled against them.[+royalblue “That [i scum] has been with them from the very beginning, playing the long con, playing us all for fools. It was not good enough that he got rid of me, that he turned the group against me with a few tall tales.”] He was unraveling a little now, the calm posture and demeanour slipping as some raw feelings and sentiments slipped loose.[+royalblue “No. Nobody here knows what he is capable of because everyone fell for the fake shell he wears. No-one else realised what he was capable of. Let me spell it out clearly, because that bastard had a hand in stealing what was [i mine]. He saw what I had, saw I had a chance at happiness, and he ripped her away from me when he had no right. He took the one person I had in this world. She was all I had. When I had already lost my home, my brothers in arms, my self respect and dignity and everything else I ever had. And did he care? Did he stop there? [i No Florence he didn't!] He decided to go one step further and help steal her away from me just so I couldn't have her, just to spite me, just to complete my suffering, and for that I want him d-”] He bit his tongue, quite literally, to stop himself from finishing the sentiment, though the pure anger and hatred was there, eyes shimmering as he stared at her. He felt the discomfort coming from a mile away and closed his eyes to try and calm himself, feeling a trickle of water run down his cheek as he took deep and slow breaths.
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