[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Immediately he fell on the defensive that she was waiting for him to do something.[+teal “I wanted to be respectful like I said I would be at the farm. I did not want to ask a question and have you close up to me again.”] Her comment on Adrian being a way to keep her calm, reminding her of her home, being something he clearly wasn't. That was the part that had really stung and it did leave him a touch breathless.
[+teal “I see, and I don't offer you anything? I don't offer you protection or offer you my unequivocal support in everything? You are the whole reason I am here Florence for gods sake..”] She was trying to say that she received the interest she wanted from another source and rather than open up to him and be honest that he was shutting her down, she had drifted further to the other man. When she made him out to be some lecherous individual who wanted nothing but to touch her, he took a visible step back as he shook his head.
[+teal “Don't you dare try to turn this out like I am some.. some pervert.. some malevolent man out for nothing but sex. Don't you fucking [i dare] do it Florence, just to make yourself feel better in this because I am not the bad guy here.”] He licked his lips, turning away from her then and taking several deep breaths to calm himself. Yet his violet gaze whipped back on her quickly.[+teal “I put my life on the line for you, for Augustine too. I got you out of the castle, to the farm, to here and now I just save your life again from Gerald and the orc and you have the audacity to claim I do it because I just want you to fuck me? Do you really think that little of me? That-that-that I am some sexual predator out for his next conquest?”]
Gregory had stepped forward then, wanting to stop this argument now, feeling it was running it's course and not wanting to see the man this way. Whilst he admired Adrian, perhaps the dwarf did feel some semblance of loyalty to the man who had helped them. Yet his approach was ignored.[+teal “No Gregory, don't, she needs to hear all this because otherwise she will go through life continuing this way. Saying one thing but meaning another. Lying when it suits her needs. Deceiving those she can stand to gain from.”] All of it was just a means to try and hurt her as much as she had with her accusation but his heart was not behind the words and they were rather lifeless barbs she may see through.[+teal “I put my heart and everything on the line to continue this journey with you Florence. I gave it everything I had.”] He thrust his finger at the ground to add to his points but after a brief pause his body relaxed.[+teal “How about we turn the games on you, huh? Why did you never ask about me? Why did you never ask questions Florence? Since the farm, you never showed an interest in me of my past, but I did not mind – those questions would come in time I thought. You would ask of my past when you were ready I told myself. Why is this all on me to do everything to show you how I felt and yet he asks you once question and you are smitten?”]
His hand came up and brushed through his hair, the man to their left, the obstacle in Nicolai's mind, had tensed himself in fear he would dash forward to attack her or to unleash his fury on himself. Instead, he took a few deep breaths and bit at his bottom lip.
[+teal “I felt a better man those first few days outside the farm, just the five of us, just moving along and being a better group for it. I forgave Meredith for what she did, for how she betrayed us, and I gave her refuge in Underhill because I thought it would please you to know that she was not killed, that the girl would be okay. But you never asked me once about her since then. You only wanted to talk with Adrian.. you only wanted him.. you only wanted his attention..”]
Holding up his hand up toward her, palm up, thankfully not the bloody one, he held it steady before her. There was silence for a little time and he nodded.[+teal “Now is time then. Now is time for you to make your decision. Now because I cannot fathom a better time to make this choice than when you are speaking from your heart; draw your finger along my palm and you release me from my oath of loyalty to you.”] It was true that this was often how these less than formal arrangements were ended. A warriors code of sorts, the open palm signifying the contract, the line like a dagger cutting through it.[+teal “Or take my hand and show me that those sentiments back at the farm were true.”] The option was hers.
The guilt that had been lurking in her for the past several days was dragged out for everyone to see. Her face turning red as Nicolai spoke of her feeling as they concerned Adrian. [+mediumseagreen "I asked you to take it slow, not for things to be nonexistent. I was waiting for you, but you didn't come."] Her eyes glanced over to the red-eyed man. It was incredibly unfortunate that he had been dragged into all this nonsense. She really should have stuck to her guns and made sure their groups did not join for this journey. [+mediumseagreen "Instead it was Adrian. He acted in the way I had expected of you. Perhaps not in personality, but in interest. And... and he reminds me of home."] Her words were quiet but there, and face as warm as ever. [+mediumseagreen "Like had I known him, it helped keep me... calm."] He would touch her, but it was never in a way that felt threatening.
[+mediumseagreen "I would have thought that even if you refrained from touching me, you would have still liked to get to know me. To ask questions and get answers. I was fully prepared to give them."] And this without the deceptions and airs of mockery. [+mediumseagreen "But apparently that was not the case... it would seem if you cannot touch me as you please then you would rather have nothing to do with me."] She was making leaps in judgement here, though they weren't entirely unfounded from her point of view. [+mediumseagreen "Is that all you saw me as? All you wanted from me?"] She was beginning to think it was so. Nicolai was not different than most the other men she had met. It was a disappointing blow, as she thought he might stand out. But what could she expect from a man who claimed to love her at first sight.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her arguments for hiding this truth from him, from Gregory and her own husband were – unfortunately – sound and justified in Nicolai's mind. She had given Germaine someone to dote on and his happiness was never so great as the day Augustine had been born. Even if it was a sham, even if it was a dirty trick on the poor man, his friend had known happiness and in his last breath had seen the boy he had come to call his own.
She was right to say that Germaine was his father and he his son. Because to take away the complexities of the situation, that is how they saw one another and so that is how it was. And so that argument was dropped. It was up to Augustine now to see what was truth and who he wished to see as his father. Nicolai had done all he could there.
It seemed now however that the conversation had shifted to the pairing. It was a great release of pent up frustrations and aggravation that had began on finding Adrian loitering about their group outside Underhill. She made the case for her sentiments and her feelings to be true and yet he shook his head.[+teal “I see truth in your eyes but.. I just can't believe the words I hear.”] It was as if his eyes and ears took in the information differently.[+teal “Because if your sentiments were true, then how does he fit into this?”] His hand waved across to Adrian who perked up from his tree but remained at distance.
She allowed her gaze to follow his hand to his identified culprit.[+teal “You told me to give you your space, that you disliked intimacy and being touched or held suddenly, and you asked for me to be patient and careful because you said you did not know much of romances.”] Her word were used almost verbatim, said back to her as she had spoken them their last morning on the farm.[+teal “You told me you wanted to try.. that as I was someone you felt close to, it would be easier..”] Saying the words back were like tiny pricks to his chest and yet a spark of fire lit as he his hand clenched and pointed to the crimson eyed man.
[+teal “And here he waltzes in, a stranger and a nobody to you. Yet soon, his hands are on you, touching you and he is in your heart in a matter of days. So how am I not to think I am being made a fool of? I did what you requested of me and yet here I stand a bloody idiot!”] His tone had grown somewhat harder, but he did not raise his voice – there would be no sense in shouting at her and he would look like an incoherent simpleton if he had.[+teal “I gave you space Florence. I held back on my advances and progressed slowly as you asked me to. Things were so well up until Underhill, until he arrived. So tell me how this changed things. Because the looks I see you give him.. the looks we all see,”] he gestured to Gregory and Elizabeth who had stood near one another to their right, Adrian the left,[+teal “I never had much of a chance did I?”] And again his voice had calmed as his hands fell back to his side. It was as if he were speaking with Elizabeth or Helga once more, offering up his heart and his feelings and yet his logic and his intuition was making excellent point after excellent point.
[+mediumseagreen "It was not slight against you that I kept quiet, Nicolai. I did not know there was anyone out there who knew what really happened. I had planned to take this to my grave."] Her voice was calm, probably more steady that it should have been, but this was something she decided even before her son was born. And even with the appearance of the Taken she thought that they were just out for vengeance. An eye for an eye, but it seemed Logan hadn't kept him mouth shut like she'd asked.
[+mediumseagreen "It was not for not. Augustine should be king. Germaine raised and instilled his love of Wistina in him, not to mention gave his blessing for it to be so. Even if he did not sire him, Augustine is Germaine's son!"] To say any different would be to say that Gregory was not her father and she would not stand for that. [+mediumseagreen "What I did was deplorable, and I will be the first to admit that, but think back to how happy he was. More than anything in the world Germaine wanted a family. I gave him that when it should not have been possible."] It was a justification she had clung to for years. All those times she looked at her boy and saw a dead man, she told herself it was for the best. That it made more people happy than it hurt. That she did the right thing.
Perhaps she had been able to keep her cool through this because each accusation was something she had years worth of time to think about. It must have been the case, because when Nicolai came at her with that final accusation, a deep pain in him, her eyes widened. She was shocked. [+mediumseagreen "No, of course not!"]
Florence was not so desperate for protection that she would stoop to that level. She and Gregory could have handled it. Sure, she would have strategized differently, but they could have done it. [+mediumseagreen "I did not want you to run off to your death for lack of other options! You might have been just about impossible for as long as I'd known you, but you were growing on me. Our talks revealed you were a better man than I once thought. Someone I could trust and see as a friend. And when you came forward with your confession, I had thought if you put in the effort you claimed you would that that fondness might grow."] But he hadn't he drifted away from her again, becoming cruel and argumentative. [+mediumseagreen "My sentiments back at the farm were true."] She had not intended to use his feelings as a means to manipulate him. Florence had thought about it, but she did not.
His head hummed with the gravity of what she was saying and how things began to fall into place, her story perhaps a fable but even Nicolai knew of some parts. The executed man for one. He had noted the executor leaving the stand used for just such occasions and on questioning Gerald had been informed there was an incident involving Florence and an attacker. It was left at that and nothing more but he could not have imagined then that the deceased was really Augustine's father.
The talk of her heritage was negliable, his mind having seen a point that was not made and questioned everything offered to him. And the fact Gregory was her adoptive father was partially expected as she had never truly discussed her father and the small man always acted as if she were his kin.
Nicolai could not keep his anger in though it did transition toward resentment than anything else.[+teal "Why did you not tell me? You did not even tell Gregory. I can understand trying to shield your son but us? I almost died trying to keep you both alive because I believed he was the King but he's just a bastard child born of circumstance."] He had not meant to be cruel to the boy but emotions often got the better of conversations.
Looking into her eyes he saw she had told the truth but despite knowing the facts now he was rather wounded.[+teal "Did you keep quiet simply so I would help you? Is that why? You know I would do anything for you. You know how I feel and what I think of.. you.."] A stark and more horrifying thought came to mind.
His eyes softened then and his brow furrowed. He was not a man for tears, and his eyes did not hint at such, but the look was like one who had been told some very bad news.[+teal "Did you.. did you do the same back at the farm to get me to follow you through the pass?"] The malice in his voice was entirely missing now. Now it was just confusion and mingled with it was fear that she would say yes. That he had indeed been played the fool for her own devices.
Her heart lifted some when Adrian stepped up, but she nodded along with Nicolai, despite not agreeing with everything he said. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, we need to talk, I will be fine.”] She was a touch less sure about that last part. The elf had still come to her aid, but she could not be sure if that was because he thought that Gerald and Ulrich were lying or not… and they weren’t.
Nicolai’s violet eyes came down hard on her. He was asking a lot and it was difficult not to just look away and let him disconnect from him. But he was owed answers. She promised, it was just hard to say thing she had worked over eight long years to conceal.
[+mediumseagreen “It is true… Germaine is not Augustine’s father by any blood ties.”] The words left a sour taste in her mouth. She would remain obstinate that he was indeed the boy’s father through other means though. [+mediumseagreen “But I will not have you believe that it is so out of some silly fit of passion, Nicolai. You know me too well to think that was the case.”] Well, after these last few days, maybe he would not believe it. But that was that and this with Adrian was another thing entirely. [+mediumseagreen “I did it to protect myself, so that I might not die like my predecessors…”] She thought back to the women who held the title of Queen of Wistina before her, bitterly. [+mediumseagreen “They each died in strange, mysterious circumstances. And while I do not think that Germaine had a hand in this, I do think his court did. They believed those women to be barren and a Queen who cannot produce an heir is useless to them. So they got rid of them… But they were not the problem. Tell me, what do you think the chances are of a man marrying two women unable to carry children in a row? It must be astronomically low… And what of the third, who only had one child for the entire length of their ten-year union? I would call that impossible, even before I entered the equation. And I was not about to die because he was impotent.”]
Even though she felt that should be enough to sate his curiosity, there was more to the story. And Nicolai said he wanted to know everything. [+mediumseagreen “I looked for a man who had similar features to Germaine, blond hair, blue eyes, strong build and at length I found the perfect candidate to test my theory. He was skulking around the edge of the grounds one day, it was too good to be true.”] Finding someone that had no strong connection to the crown with being unable to leave the castle grounds was a daunting task. [+mediumseagreen “He was receptive to my advances. A little too much so… eventually he came to tell me he was an assassin by trade, a member of an organization called the Taken. But by that time it was too late to cut him off and find someone else, I was already pregnant. And when he found out he was adamant that I should come to be with him. He was even so bold as to come to my chambers, but that was his downfall. It was there that he was found and labeled as an intruder. His execution was kept quiet. Germaine did not want to alarm the castle by telling them his finally pregnant bride was almost murdered in her sleep. It stayed between me, him, the guard who happened upon the scene, and the captain of the guard Gerald. Had anyone smarter, or less trusting, been thrown in the mix I am sure I would have been discovered that night…”]
That was a faithful narrative of her dealings, but she thought for a moment if there was anything else. [+mediumseagreen "There is not much else I can say that I have lied about. Nothing of consequence... though you seemed particularly interested in my heritage."] He had mentioned it in the pass, so she might as well tell that bit as well. [+mediumseagreen "No, I was never Queen or a princess in Astoria. My brother is King, but he was not born into that position. I did serve as his regent for a couple of years. I told you that much before. He took the throne at sixteen.] This was not her fault, she had never claimed to be a princess. Everyone just assumed since Eugene held the crown. [mesdiumseagreen "Gregory can attest to that, he was there."] That reminded her of one last big thing. [+mediumseagreen "And I suppose with that, you should know Gregory really is my father. Adopted of course, but all the same."] She was fairly sure those were all the bold faced lies. There were things beyond that she withheld, but they were not pertinent. Florence thought she should be able to keep some level of privacy in her life. Not to mention she was tired of talking.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Grateful to see everyone was working together, or at least doing so for the time being as it distracted them from what had happened, Nicolai followed Adrian's directions until they came onto the lake. It was not the greatest shelter, but he was right when he said it was like a maze and they would be able to rest in relative safety. And so they began to set up camp and their supplies were unloaded.
Pointing out for where to put their sleeping equipment, he moved to Augustine. Usually he would kneel or go down to his height, but coupling his waning energy with wanting him to feel that he was not a minor part of their group, he remained standing and addressed him in a more formal manner.[+teal “Your job is starting the fire. You know what sticks and kindling is needed, and Elizabeth will help by giving you her flint and steel. But make sure to build up some rocks around it to keep it covered.”]
He did not want them to be seen should their pursuers have been exceptionally good at tracking and to give them their due they were quite adept. Hopefully the slew of animals left in their wake by Florence's archery did not help them or were eaten by predators in the woods.
Each time he looked to the woman he felt disappointment, a heavy weight on his heart and a lump in his throat. In equal parts he wanted answers but he wanted to be kind about it and allow her to speak. His feelings toward her were quite conflicted at that stage but he knew it would not suffice to leave this conversation to fester, not in his current mood.
Nicolai needed answers and he waited a few seconds until her eyes fell on him, those large emerald eyes that often left him speechless and his heart aflutter, now leaving him with dread at what she may have done.[+teal “I just had to attack a lifelong friend because of something you have been keeping hidden from me for god knows how long Florence. Gerald was dead to me, I grieved for him, and now he comes back to tell me I cannot trust you?”] His voice had began low and in a disbelieving tone, but as he spoke it was clear his anger was growing.
Approaching forward he saw Adrian moving in to try and push himself into place, a hand coming that was quickly batter aside by the elf.[+teal “Don't you dare try and get involved in this. I'll have words for you later, but right now this is about our group so you sit your fucking arse down right over there and you shut your mouth! This is not the time for you to be trying to show off in front of her and you are not going to stop this from happening. So sit down Adrian.”] The blood was beginning to pump again, the body was working itself up and his eyes showed as much dislike of Adrian as they had of Ulrich.
Still, the tall man remained in place and shook his head.[+crimson “No, it isn't safe for me to move.”] He was convinced that he would strike her as he had previously, the bruise on her cheek almost gone but its memory was there. Nicolai shook his head back at him, hands moving to his waist as he fumbled at his belt. In a moment his fingers worked the buckle and removed the entire thing, the sword in it's scabbard pushed into the mans chest.[+teal “There, feel safe now? Because you can do as I say and sit your arse down. If I was going to harm her, I would have left you all to Gerald and his associates.”] He made a good point, and looking to Florence for a moment to see she was okay, he moved a little bit away to lean against a nearby tree.
With that man's need to swing his dick dealt with and his bravado sated for now, Nicolai looked back at the woman who had cause all this to occur. All his pain and suffering and anger could be pointed back at her and he needed answers right that instant.[+teal “I swear you, Augustine, Gregory, even your shitty little boyfriend, will not be harmed – but you have a lot of explaining to do. You are going to tell me what is going on, you are going to explain what he meant by Augustine not being Germaines, and you will tell me every lie, no matter how minute, you have told me over these years. And you will look me in the eye as you say every single word because I need to see the truth in them for myself this time.”] His voice was particularly soft, like they were back at the fire all those weeks before as he told her how Augustine was growing up so well. The anger and hurt was there, but only visible in his gaze should she be strong enough to do as he asked and look at him.
He was only a foot or so before her, his hands hanging at his sides and that familiar need to embrace her or to hold her and to try and protect her or show he cared so damn much was constantly there.
In his own truth, he wanted to ignore the stories. He wanted so desperately to tell her that he was here for her no matter what and that his promise, his oath of loyalty, was still as solid as ever. He wanted to brush her cheek and have her seen that he was here as more than her friend and show her he cared for her more than that like she had challenged him to do at the farm. Be the man she needed in her moment of need.
But his trust in her was hanging by a threat. He needed answers from her, ones that would give him an insight into what she did and why she had done it because even after what he had heard from Ulrich and Gerald – there was a feeling that he could still yet forgive her.
Staring off at the sky, Florence was still trying to process everything. In the meanwhile, Nicolai was in the background barking orders. It seemed he had finally found his voice again, not to mention his confidence to lead. She was just surprised that he was still around. Over these last few days she had been so certain that his feelings for her, and therefore his loyalty to her, had faded. She was so sure when Gerald called for his aid, a long time friend on behalf of a long passed friend, he would take a stand against her. Especially with such a secret aired. The woman had thought she was the only one that knew, that she would take this to her grave, but that was not the case. And now everyone knew, even Augustine who was the absolutely last person she ever wanted to find out.
All these thoughts were flying by in her head, the scene playing over and over when Nicolai grabbed her. It scared her, but she did not have the energy, nor the strength, to push away. Her eyes sort of glazed over as she accepted it.
[+teal “Look at me.”] She did as she was told.
[+teal “Don’t freak out on me now.”] It was much too late for that. She was freaking out. She knew the Taken wanted her dead, but she had thought it was for something else. Their grudge certainly ran much deeper than she initially thought.
Expecting other demands, calls for answers and the like, what Nicolai asked of her was very easy. She nodded, features sort of clearing as she became more receptive to what was happening after fully absorbing his intentions. [+mediumseagreen “Okay.”]
Not waiting much longer, they mounted their horses again and were off. Each of them kept strictly to the position they had been assigned. Florence was no different. She was out back with the dark haired elf, her bow all but drawn in her hands. They heard few sounds the whole way, and even fewer that could be interpreted as dangerous. But there were a few. The woman didn’t hesitate a second to fire. Usually nothing came of it, but a couple of times she heard the cry of an animal. Some poor creature caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Unfortunately their carcass wouldn’t even be valued as a meal. Their deaths would be in vain.
It was another hour riding in the dark before they came to a body of water. Even in the dark it was a pretty sort of place. And right next to it, there was a collection of rocks and boulders. They were settled and looked as though they had not moved in a hundred years. Adrian was already tying his horse off behind the edge of the formation. [+crimson “It is like a maze in here, but it will afford us some shelter for the night. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else around here. Not that would help us.”] The kindly man seemed regretful, but after the zigzagging path they had taken here, there was little chance they would be found, especially in the dark of night.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai had followed out after Adrian who left only once Florence was clear. Holding his crimson coated sword up in defence, he had almost beckoned an attack from the two who had followed them down from the pass. Thankfully Gregory had stopped to assist him, and once the first man had gone down to the arrow, the second swiftly peeled away for fear of injury himself.
The elf beckoned the dwarf on, urging him to keep ahead of him as he held his sword down and low, his shoulder burning and crying out for relief but the adrenaline in his system was fighting such a desire. Even as they rode another hour at almost a gallop, he held tight to his sword and shouted for them to keep going whenever one would flag or look to stop. Only when the sun had fully settled, leaving them only with the light of the moon and the stars above on a thankfully clear night, did he permit them to pull off from the pathway.
Watching back the way they had come as they all dismounted to regain themselves and their composure, Nicolai allowed his own blood pressure to ease, listening out for the sound of pursuit. Elizabeth moved up to his right hand side, placing a hand to his arm that was streaked in blood. Nodding for him to come down, she let her hand slip down to the sword to take it from him.[+royalblue “I'll clean it off and listen out, you get down before you fall off.”] Her careful instruction, in Astorian for once, were met with a nod and compliance as his hand eased open to let her take the weapon. It was an odd feeling to have the request made, as if someone else was taking charge.
Yet despite this, the moment his feet touched the floor, he marched across to the others. His body would not go on much longer without the added hormones running through him. He had to keep himself focused and in a state of movement.[+teal “Adrian, you know this place more than anyone, think of somewhere we can camp tonight. It's mountainous terrain, perhaps another cave or a thick forest.”] The man seemed in two minds to take the order or to try and comfort Florence. But at this time, not wishing to be the instigator of further talks that may upset her, he would say nothing more and just nod.
Looking to Gregory and Augustine, he nodded to the old man.[+teal “Thank you, but I need to you to be ready. I want you in the middle with Elizabeth. You will protect him at all costs, thats all you have to do – don't worry about using the bow, just hold onto him and ride him out of here if needs be. Okay?”] It was saddening to see the boy leave his mothers side, confused and worried as he was. But feelings had to wait for now. Nicolai seemed to be in his element now, or shaken from his fortnight daze and stupor, and wanted to keep the activeness going.
Turning on the woman of the hour, the one all were having questions of and wanting answers from, he walked up and took a hold of her arm. It was not a strong grip, more one to focus her eyes on him at that moment. Unfortunately, it was the bloody hand, and thus did stain her clothing a little.[+teal “Hey, Florence, look at me.”] He moved his head down, drawing her from looking over at Augustine or Adrian or whatever had her attention. Once he gained those emerald eyes he nodded, speaking in a slow and careful manner.[+teal “Don't freak out on me here, we are still not safe. You're going to ride in the back with me. Get your bow ready and an arrow notched. You are going to shoot anything that moves behind us. Do you understand me?”] Being this close to her, as he had wanted for so long now, there was an urge to take her hand in his or to embrace her quickly. But the sentimental value would be nil and he did not want her hand to be slick with horse blood.
[+teal “Just focus on that for now. Focus on the bow and me. That is all you have to do now.”] He wanted her to be free of any other concerns, such as her son, needing her to be with him to defend from the rear as Adrian would lead them to some relative safety in the dark. His sword was brought back when he returned to his horse, putting it into his scabbard and thanking Elizabeth quickly. She had wanted to offer more salve but he had corralled everyone to continue and gotten them in line with a simple plan. Once they were safe, once they had some kind of safety and solitude, then he would talk to her.
[+purple “I had nothing to do with that operation, they were working under their own violation. And the boy would not die, he go with-“] Nicolai was already slashing at their horses. [+purple “Ahhh!”] Seeing as Gerald was in full armor, it would be taking him a few minutes to pick himself off the ground.
Florence did not hesitate a second. As soon as Elizabeth was off, she was too. She could hear shouting behind them, but she did not take the time to look back. Gregory on the other hand did, and he did so with his bow. Squinting, he discerned which of the figures was Nicolai, colors really helped in this case, as everyone else was garbed in black. And when any of those shadowy shapes came into range, he shot. One of the arrows hit and he saw the rider go down, though he doubted it would be fatal. It was a warning that even if they gave chase, they could not come too close. It was in that limbo distance that they were able to pull away.
Riding long and hard, even after they could not see the enemy any longer, they were all hesitant to stop. But when it seemed the horses were exhausted they had to give them a break, albeit short. For once, Adrian was at a loss for words. This was a lot. When Florence said things could get precarious, this was most certainly not what he was expecting to any capacity. What’s more was that the woman stayed silent. It looked as though she was not going to speak unless someone brought it up. He was not going to be the one to do that. No way, no how.
Just as soon as Augustine was no longer stuck on the horse with his mother, he stomped over to Gregory. He was stuck in a state of disorientation. What did he believe? He was not even sure he wanted to hear what the woman had to say. He wasn’t sure he could believe it. As awful and scary as he had found her, he had never thought her capable of this.
The boy tugged on the old dwarf’s sleeve, not in a state of mind to remember how that got him in trouble the last time. [+coral “Can I ride with you from here on out?”] His voice was quiet.
Gregory nodded in response. He was as taken aback as the others. The man knew just about everything there was to know about Florence, but somehow she had been able to keep this secret all this time. Not that it would have been any better had she admitted it before now. And it was not like he was incredibly mad about it, just surprised. This was not the sort of thing she did, he wondered if there really was a reason for it like she said, or if that was a lie to save her skin.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The fact Nicolai had called on Gerald to speak was because he did not trust the half-orc. This is a figure who had attacked them, and only because Gerald now lived was he allowed to speak to Nicolai. Whilst the elven gentleman had wanted to believe him, and brought his horse around to stand before Gerald, he could not find truth in his words. He had wanted to at least confirm she was royalty, of Astoria if nothing else, but they had misinterpreted him as questioning if her marriage to Germaine was legal. Or perhaps Nicolai was misreading the conversation, his mind was quite racked with questions.
The constant looks to Ulrich for guidance, to direct him what to do and say and if he was permitted to talk. It was not Gerald, or at least the one he had known. Whilst his accusations had brought up questions, ones that needed answers from the woman directly, it did not amount to a murder charge in his mind. If the boy was not Germaine's then spread that news and let Astoria live with the shame that they had cheated another Kingdom. It would not be forgotten. But the boy did not deserve death.
[+teal “So you would allow me to die just because I got in your way Gerald? You would permit me to fall as just some casualty because you want some kind of revenge? Against a boy?”] He heard the approaching horsemen and like a string breaking in him he shook his head lightly.[+teal “You can't do this..”] He mumbled his words and lofted his sword, swinging in a wide arc at the pair. It was not meant for the duo, to cut at them or get an attack in at them – he could not think to attack his long time friend, even if he had joined with this horrible half-orc.
No, instead he had slashed at their horses, dragging the long blade across Gerald's steed before leaving a long gash along the neck of Ulrich's. Each beast backed away quickly, thrashing about as blood poured forth. Kicking in his heels he drove his horse forward in a short bursting charge, the chest of his mare thumping hard into the third man's side. Having not been expecting the attack, let alone the use of his horse as a battering ram, the man had not gripped his reins tightly enough and toppled back as his charge reared wildly.
[+teal “Go!”] He shouted back, Elizabeth taking the lead to sally forth her horse and gallop forward as the first two men jumped free of their dying rides. Nicolai rode forward a few feet to block them from trying to run before them, turning his horse this way and that as he waited for the last one to make it free and turn in hopes of following. He had chosen his side in this battle at least, though it would be undecided in the long run.
Ulrich was not exactly happy to be pushed into silence, but he wanted this to go smoothly, and the easiest way to have that was to have Nicolai join their side. So he looked over to Gerald with dark eyes, urging him to answer.
[+purple “No one is saying she isn’t Queen, Nicolai.”] The elf seemed to be so caught up on that when it was not even a question. He motioned to the orc on the horse. [+purple “I believe Ulrich was using the term…”] Gerald danced around the word that was used. [+purple “He was using it as a means to declare her infidelity to our friend… The fact is she has committed adultery and against the King of Wistina no less. She should not be allowed to run back home with her tail between her legs.”]
There were a lot of questions coming his way and lots of them were not things that he could answer. They should have been directed to Ulrich, as they pertained to his guild, but he tried his best. [+purple “I cannot agree with everything these people do.”] In fact, even now Gerald hated to align himself with them, but it was for the honor of one of his closest friends. [+purple “But it seems, they are also determined to see that she sees justice. You just happened to be in the way of that.”] Ulrich nodded behind him.
[+forestgreen “I could offer more details, if I might have the honor of speaking.”] There were hints of mockery that came through curled lips.
By this time, the couple of riders behind them were closing in. They would be thoroughly trapped soon.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai had wanted it from Gerald's mouth, to hear the man he trusted say it would mean a thousand times more than from the half-orc assassin. His sword remained at his side as the talk behind him went on, his hand tightening about the weapon as Ulrich goaded him and knew where to strike the man. The elf wasn't to understand right then that Gerald had told Ulrich how to get Nicolai on their side.
But he was saying all the right words and working at his loyalty to Germaine and his pride that he had been protecting his friends son, the rightful heir, the prince. If he wasn't, if Augustine wasn't Germaine's son then it was all for nothing. He had been protecting just a child and his mother. Whether the doubt showed on his face, eyes blinking a little faster, lips pulled taut, his furrowed brow letting up a little more, Gerald had seen fit to add in.
And then Florence spoke. The way she worded it was like that of a person cornered.[i Save me and we can discuss this later]. It was just like the castle, when he had first taken her and the boy out with Meredith, but this point did not connect in his mind yet. He was trying to process all the voices, all the thoughts.[+teal “Shut up, all of you! No one talk..”] His eyes shut as the familiar migraine of the last few weeks returned. The medicine had been in need of renewing and Elizabeth could sense he was losing the calming side affects of her remedy.
Eventually they reopened and he looked direct at Gerald.[+teal “Forget the boy, forget all that nonsense, I want two answers from you and you alone Gerald – no-one else speaks!”] He did not trust himself to look back at the woman in question. He could not imagine what he would say or do to see the look on her face.[+teal “You are saying she isn't even a Queen, just some woman. What does that mean? She is royalty of Astoria.. isn't she?”]
His voice had calmed down considerably now, using his left hand to guide his horse forward a few steps though the sword shook minutely in his right, the weight getting to him.[+teal “Why do you even want them? If she is just some whore, and he is just a boy, then why do you want them? [i Huh?] Why did you and your friends shoot me with an arrow, hunt me down like a dog, try to kill me.. if they aren't even important?”] He held his composure but it was breaking, fast.
The orc spoke directly to Nicolai on Gerald's behalf. [+forestgreen “He is alive because I knew he would listen to reason, and that you might as well if it came from the mouth of a friend.”]
Ulrich shook his head. [+forestgreen “You seem to have the wrong idea, general. That is not the issue here. Her union and vows to King Germaine were legitimate. It was just that she broke those vows and passed her bastard son off as the rightful heir to the throne.”]
Florence felt eyes on her, both from Gregory and Augustine. She couldn’t bear to look at either of them. [+darkmagenta. “Florence, you didn’t…”] The dwarf’s voice called from behind her, astonished.
[+mediumseagreen “Germaine is his father.”]
There was not a single thing in her tone that would lead him to believe she was lying, but Gregory knew Florence. He knew how well she could lie when she needed to. [+darkmagenta “Is that because he raised him, or because he actually sired him?”] There was an important distinction.
That left the woman silent.
Voice shaking, the blond boy seated in front of her could barely process what was being said. [+coral “Mother?”] He wanted her to refute it again, to say that his father really was his father, but it did not come again.
[+forestgreen “See, she won’t even properly deny it.”] Ulrich chuckled. [+forestgreen “Doesn’t that make your blood boil, Nicolai? That she used you, expecting you to remain faithful to your dear friend’s son, all the while there was no connection there to begin with.”]
Gerald seemed to shift about on his horse. He was not used to this sort of thing in the least. The guard had always been pretty straight laced, but he was still nodding along to what the deplorable man in the middle said. [+purple “I’ve heard what he had to say, and it all makes sense looking back. He is telling the truth.”]
[+mediumseagreen “We need to get out of here. Once we are safe I can explain everything.”] Her eyes went to Nicolai.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The continual treatments were helping the elf the recover, but it was not a lot of progress by the time they came to near the end of the pass. Elizabeth had been more than patient with him and during their moments where he would sit with her, he would be a polite and pleasant man. He did not snap at her or ignore her when she would test the strength of his arm and ask him to move the shoulder so that she could test the muscles with the tips of her fingers against his skin.
Whilst he was able to hold the sword, it was purely as a show and he could not move it with any power or speed. Still, she had stopped him from weakening further or succumbing to his illness entirely, and to have hit a plateau after so long declining that was all she had hoped.
When they came upon the end of the pass, and having kept to the back of the group to shield them from their pursuers, Nicolai had found Elizabeth strayed back to keep a pace with him. As Adrian took a slight lead, though stayed near to Florence, it had been almost a disaster when they came to a halt and the two elven riders were forced to pull hard on their reigns. Horses letting out a loud whinny it took a moment for him to control the beast, having her move back and forth in an uneasy manner.
Looking to see why they had stopped he eyed someone he couldn't quite believe or understand to be looking at. The old palace guard sat on his horse as if nothing was amiss and as if things were no different. And beside that bastard of an orc! In an instant his sword was old, held with the blade down his leg as he did not have the strength to hold it aloft.
Listening to their words, for they spoke before anyone else could, his mouth opened a touch in his confusion, brow furrowed deeply as he turned his horse back, head turning to keep them in sight. Trotting his beast around the front of the others he eyed the orc and his friend, so many conflicting thoughts and emotions in his head to think straight or offer a cohesive answer. And so it seemed Adrian took this as a time to speak up.[+crimson “Augustine isn't who's? What do you mean, who is a Queen?”] Fiery violet eyes turned on him and the sword rose, point directed at him as he confronted him with anger and venom in his voice.
[+teal “For [i fuck sake Adrian], shut up for once! This clearly does not concern you so keep quiet and keep out of this you manipulative twat!”] Oh that felt good to say to the brunette giant and it brought a chuckle from the half-orc. The sound brought the elf's attention back and he turned his horse to direct the blade at the three before him.[+teal “You have many questions to answer Gerald. How are you alive? Why are you with him? What the [i fuck] is going on?”] There were so many things to ask and to demand from what they were saying. His eyes strayed between the two men as his horse stopped before Florence and Augustine's horse, acting as a barrier – for now. It allowed him to focus a little on what had been said.[+teal “What do you mean she isn't a Queen? She married Germaine, I was at their wedding, I was there when she first arrived, I was there for it all! She married him for Astoria. She married him for diplomacy between the nations. You and I were there Gerald, tell him… [i tell him!]”] His voice was approaching becoming hoarse already from having been used so little and now so much. The question was to Ulrich, but his eyes pleaded with Gerald, with this ghost before him, to implore him to answer and share some light on this at least.
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