When he said he wouldn’t leave until she released him, Florence’s lips curled up subtly. It was a very sweet gesture. Especially when she was such a mess. [+mediumseagreen “Then I am afraid, it might be some time before you are granted back your freedom.”] The smile lasted right up until his lips pressed against her skin. She didn’t know whether she had been distracted or just did not see it coming, but it was a surprise. The brief contact left her stuttering. [+mediumseagreen “Oh, well, uh…”] It took a moment for her to gather her thoughts and words, but when she did sort them out, there came with another smile.
[+mediumseagreen “No need for apologies, you are very sweet.”] Her face was bright red as her free hand came up to touch the place he kissed. They color on her cheeks was not just from the act, but also from her floundering. She was a grown woman, one with a child. She should have at least been able to handle this much.
The pair sat there by themselves for a long while, at least before Florence’s stomach started acting up again. Then it was back to fighting off a dry heave as she had already emptied the contents from her tummy. But true to his word, Adrian was there for all of it. If she wasn’t so embarrassed, she might have been happier about that fact, but it was what it was. Her feelings were of their own volition. Try as she might, she did not have much control of them.
Eventually, this being hours into their voyage, the green-eyed woman’s stomach decided it would behave. Or at the very least it had given up on making her ill for the time being. Florence was even brave enough to venture away form the railing to see how her son was doing. Turned out he was fine. The boy had found entertainment in asking crewmen about how things worked on the ship. He made sure to wait until they weren’t busy, so they were happy enough to tell him a thing or two about their job. Florence was just glad that the men were kind enough to spare him a moment in their breaks. She was sure to thank them when Augustine wandered off to find Gregory.
The trip passed in this manner for the woman. There was little reprieve, but by the end of it, she thought it was not too terrible. She would do it all over again if she had to. And she knew at some point she would, but for now she was free of the incessant rolling of the sea. It was back to dry land for her. And not just any land, but her homeland. They were finally in Astoria. Looking on the immediate area she grinned. She was home at last.
Though rather hot in temperature, the island was still green and lush. The color came mainly from grasses and bushes instead of trees. But that was not to say there wasn’t the occasional scattering of trees. There were small woods here and there. But unlike in Wistina, the forests were comprised mainly of broadleaved trees. Conifers were rare in these parts, but the hardwood they did have was perfect for crafting the bows this place was famous for.
Unless one had a very well trained eye, all these details would be difficult to see from within the confines of the town they took port in. What could be seen though, were the rivers. Astoria was webbed with rivers and estuaries that ran the entirety of the isle. In more mountainous areas they formed waterfalls and other features that rivaled the beauty of any man made fountain. Florence could not wait for the others to see it, but for now it was getting dark and they had been offered to come home with Mason to spend the night. It would be a tight fit in his family home, but he was sure his father would like to see Gregory before they headed back to the capital.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her hand was so warm and the moment it lay atop his he felt a queer flutter in his chest. For once he did not blush or show his embarrassment and nerves. He held his own and with a gracious smile he turned his hand to take a hold of hers, her palm to his, his fingers curling around her own. He squeezed gently and looked at her despite her silence as she fought to control her stomach and keep her contents within.
Eugene’s plans to turn the gardens into farmland were a quite noble gesture. To keep people fed over having some pretty fauna and topiary was a very lovely thing and it just implanted the seed of respect he would have for the man if that was a sign of things to come. Of course Florence did not sound best pleased, but surely the man would leave her a little patch to call her own, a little garden to tend and mark herself on the castle. He hoped he had at least; it would be rather sweet.
Admiring her for trying for so long, when it did finally come he kept tight hold of her hand, moving a little closer to offer a little stability as she moved with the ship. His comment about her beauty during her nausea was in jest, but he did not want her thinking he was just saying words or giving her reason to think he was a flatterer and nothing more. When she gave him the excuse to leave and not stand there watching her puke, he shook his head, hair swaying with the light wind.
[+crimson “Florence.. really?”] He asked as if slightly offended she wanted him to go away from her at this moment in time. She gave him a gentle roll of her eyes, accustomed to his very light sarcasm.[+crimson “Okay, perhaps too much. But seriously, I don’t want to go anywhere. Until you let go of my hand, I’m more than delighted to be stood here right beside you.”] He could not really imagine any situation where he would let go, save for falling off the damn ship.
Standing with her for a little time as they watched one another or the waves, his hand secure in hers, he did not want to ruin the moment with needless chatter. Yet looking at her with her rosy cheeks and those large green eyes staring out into the great blue ocean, he couldn’t help but to lean across and kiss her cheek. It was very brief but his heart beat a thousand times faster and his hand felt all the warmer in hers. It was a bold move, very bold, but the desire had been too much to deny.
[+crimson "Sorry.."] He said softly to her though he did not mean it at all. He wasn't sorry, but quite grateful at that moment that Gregory and Augustine could not see, the former Queen and former nomad tucked away behind some crates and barrels on deck.
Hearing footsteps behind her, from the weightiness of them she could tell it was not Augustine, but other than that she was at a loss. That was until she heard Adrian’s voice. She nodded to his question. It did not help her queasiness, but neither would speaking. She was at a loss of how to effectively communicate in this situation. Silence would probably be best, but with what came out of his mouth next there was no way she could not say anything.
[+mediumseagreen “You have very strange taste, Adri-”] Florence’s stomach lurched right then, and she shut her mouth just barely pushing back the urge to vomit. This was not her finest or wisest moment, but it would be strange to leave the man standing there to be playful on his own. It did not feel right. Though that was how it would have to be while she settled back down. In that time she noticed his hand rather closer to hers. She placed hers atop of it. Even if the woman was rendered speechless for a bit, she hoped that this gesture might convey her gratitude in him being there with her.
When she was more confident that she was not going to toss her cookies into the water below, Florence spoke up. [+mediumseagreen “I would like that very much.”] Her voice was quiet, but still seemed to carry on the wind that was whipping about them. [+mediumseagreen “It has probably changed a great-“] she paused a moment to let another wave of nausea pass. [+mediumseagreen “Changed a great deal since I was last there. Though I do hope that they did not let Eugene run amok too much.”] Augustus probably kept him in line, but her brother had a way of finagling his way out of people. [+mediumseagreen “I vaguely recall him saying he wanted to do away with the gardens entirely and make it farmland.”] Sure it was practical, which she was usually a fan of, but Florence had a soft spot for flora.
She tried not to focus too much on his mention of the kitchen and food, but that was what caused her first bout of heaving. It was all around unpleasant, but when it was through, she did feel a little better. At least enough not to be hanging over the railing for a bit. Adrian was still looking at her apologetically, but she waved him off as if to say he needn’t be. [+mediumseagreen “Hopefully, I overcome this after too long, I do not want to be like this for the better part of a day.”] Looking up, the skies still looked calm. She had not had any luck with her stomach, but hopefully the gods would smile on them and the weather would keep for a while longer.
[+mediumseagreen “But if that is not the case, do not feel obligated to stick around. I know this is disgusting…”] There was a complicated mix of emotions with that thought. Florence very much appreciated his presence, but she also did not particularly want to be seen in this condition. He might have been one of the most optimistic men she had ever met, especially considering his compliment he's just given her, but there had to be a limit. And out of all the very sensible reasons he had not to see her in a romantic light, she would hate for this to be what ruined her chances.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Seeing her face flush just so made Adrian smile all the more, especially when she looked at him and she knew he had seen her. It was rather lovely to see her like that. If he had managed to make her chest feel lighter and her mood lift even a minute a mount then he was doing what he intended. He wanted her to know he still held her in such high regard. Despite what had happened in her past, he had not known her then. She was a different woman than back then and indeed throughout her life she would adjust to what was happening about her. Similar to him, he was not the same man as he was in the orphanage or the one from before meeting Lizzie.
Augustine’s response to her had him chuckle again and he nodded, especially as Florence flashed that brilliant smile once more.[+crimson “Yes, enjoy being a child little Augustine. Before you know it you’ll have responsibilities and lament losing out on such freedom as you have now.”] He gave a wink to the young man though he spoke from his own history.
He relented on the point then and made light talk up until the ship was manned by the crew once more and his crimson eyes looked on them as they went about their work. It really was fascinating and he would have liked to just sit and admire their hard working nature when Florence had stood up and made her way to the railing. Augustine had gone to rise but Adrian shook his head and took his water flask from his bag.[+crimson “Let me get this, best you not see her hurl.”] The two of them shared a knowing nod and grin and on slightly unsteady feet he made his way across.
It felt like he was a little drunk except his head was clear and his stomach was fine. For his first time on a ship it was rather okay for him, just a little weird to have his balance thrown off like it was. The weather was nice however, so he offered a small prayer it would continue for the rest of the journey.
Stopping beside Florence he did not go to grab her or to pull her hair away or console her for her nausea. He had been a little grabby today and didn’t want her to offer the back of her hand to his cheek.[+crimson “Hey, you doing alright?”] He inquired thought given the loss of colour from her face he could see it was not entirely fine and he offered up his flask of water.[+crimson “Interesting. Even close to vomiting you have a certain beauty Florence.”] He grinned as he made sure he was upwind of her – just in case of course.
He stayed at her side as she grasped the railing, his hand next to her and offering her any help she needed or to grab his hand if she felt the need arise. After a few minutes of standing in silence, watching the waves below and gulls above, Adrian felt he should keep a conversation going than allow silence to linger.[+crimson “When we reach Astoria, I’m sure you’ll be eager to see the castle again. How about you give me a little tour whilst you reacquaint yourself? Gives me a chance to settle in a tiny bit and you can show me all the best parts of a castle – aside from the kitchens and armoury of course.”] Ever a man who loved his weapons and food, he apologised as the mention of eating seemed to have her turn to the waves for a moment.
Sitting down, she and Adrian were in very close proximity. It was not as though that could be helped, but she took notice of it all the same. His hand on her leg did little more than solidify the lack of personal space. Had they been alone she would have been much less comfortable with it. But with Augustine right there, there was little that could come of this. Sure, it was a very different gesture from his previous pats, but she was probably fixating on it too much. Like she always did with this sort of thing. Looking up at him, his crimson eyes were set on her son. She finally started listening to their conversation.
Florence was surprised at what she heard… and a little embarrassed. Her face felt hot. People seldom praised her protectiveness of her son. It was always that she was too controlling or did not give him the freedom he should have. And she was sure to some extent, those people were right. But this was finally someone who saw it her way.
[+mediumseagreen “I know you want to be treated like your own person, and make your own choices… but what we are dealing with right now is not anything a boy your age should have to worry about. Let yourself be a child a little bit longer, my love.”] She knew a thing or two about trying to be an adult too quickly, and it seemed that Adrian did too. Nothing good came of it.
[+coral “I would just like to have some experience when I need it.”] After the couple of months he had had, it sure seemed like it was something he needed right now and not when he got a little older. Besides, he was certain that was something she would say for the rest of his life. When you are a little older… when you are a little older. He’d be Gregory’s age by the time they went back to Wistina.
Florence smiled. [+mediumseagreen “And you will have it. There is going to be a lot for you to learn in Astoria. I promise.”]
More than anything else he had heard about the place, that excited him. Perhaps being home would let her relax enough for it to be true and for him to have the autonomy he longed for. The blond tried not to get his hopes too high up, but it was a stirring prospect.
The conversation moved on after that. It was lighter, but lingering and continued up to the point that the crew returned. Once they were all in place Mason called for them to shove off. They were finally on what would be the last leg of their trip to Astoria. They would still need to get across the countryside, but Florence worried very little about that. Once they set foot on the island, she would be home and they would be safe.
As she expected, it was not twenty minutes before she began to feel woozy. Her stomach did not agree with the roll of the ship. The woman excused herself to make her way to the railing. She was going to do her damnedest not to be sick, but it was better to be prepared if her iron will was not enough.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Adrian worked quite diligently to get the work over that little bit quicker and it was good, clean, hard work. Whilst he could quite imagine it being quite the monotonous and laborious to do in day in, day out for years if not a lifetime, for this one time novelty he felt good about it. It kept him busy and by proxy his mind. To forget the world and its complexities and the politics of everything about him was bordering beautiful. Whilst Florence and Augustine and Gregory could live in that world he found it rather tricky.
Unbeknownst to him he was similar to Nicolai. A man who was most happy and content just out in the open and able to travel unabated, just free. To be free of burdens and dependency and just working from day to day, no concerns for the future and no concerns that what you say to one person may have an impact down the road. Yet with Adrian, he was willing to involve himself. He was okay with the idea that life was changing – or okay to an extent, the fallout perhaps not there just yet. He was okay to stay with the trio and see what life gave to him in a new country. For the time being at least, he was on the boat, ready to go across.
If life changed too much in a way he could not agree with, perhaps he would change his heading and move accordingly. Time would tell if he was making the correct decision or not as he walked with the others to the back of the ship, to a place to sit and keep to themselves.
[+crimson “Mason,”] the man had been turning away back to his ship but looked back with curiosity,[+crimson “thank you. If you need a hand do not hesitate to call on me. Otherwise I’ll remain over here.”] He thought it best to at least offer his help and the Captain smiled and doffed his head in agreement, leaving the group be.
Turning to Florence he smiled, taking her hand.[+crimson “Here, have a seat.”] He gestured for her to sit with her back to a sturdy wall, helping her to seat herself. He would have done so with Augustine but the boy sat himself down quickly. He had meant to speak with him about what had happened in the pass, to be a new avenue for him to open up and discuss with. Gregory he was so close to and his mother was the subject of choice. But he had kept to himself and let out a small groan as he sat down.
[+darkorange “Are you okay?”] His soft voice was sweet and his concern brought a chuckle from the man.[+crimson “Of course, but thank you.”] He sat opposite his mother, though the space they had to seat themselves was not the largest and his leg brushed against hers.[+crimson “And you? How are you holding up Augustine?”] He was sincere as he looked at the boy.[+darkorange “Well.. excited in a way. I never have been on a boat before. Mother said I was too young.”] He looked up sheepishly in his unique manner but Adrian chuckled and looked to the brunette.[+crimson “Oh hush, that is what mothers do. They protect their little boys all their life. They don’t have thought or concern for anything but their safety.”] He said this whilst looking at her and his hand came to rest on her calf, squeezing the fabric of her pants as if to show he was on her side, though his words did that enough.
The boy nodded slowly in understanding.[+darkorange “I know. I am grateful for it. I just wonder if I am missing out because of it.”] He shrugged nonchalantly but Adrian shook his head quickly.[+crimson “Missing out on what? Breaking an arm from falling out a tree? Or perhaps losing an eye from playing with arrows?”] He laughed though it was a serious thing and he was glad the boy had not had to experience such things.[+crimson “Trust me Augustine. From a man who did not have a mother growing up, a little overprotectiveness is good.. it’s very good.”] He caught the emerald eyes of the woman and his hand remained firmly on her leg as he spoke in a partially solemn voice, grateful in a way to have her close.
Adrian’s hand at her back felt akin to the way she guided Augustine around. And while it surprised her the first time he did it, she quickly came to expect that he would reach out for her while they were in this crowded setting. In this way, it was not entirely unpleasant.
Florence took a back seat while her father hashed it out with the man on the ship. Sometimes his happy disposition and knack for making friends wherever he went could come in handy. But for the time being it left little for her to do, so she corralled Augustine back and let the men do their work. Adrian even offered to help so that they might leave a little sooner. An offer that was gladly accepted.
Fully unloading and contacting whomever it was that Mason needed to contact took the better part of an hour, then he have the crew a bit of free time. In the meanwhile, she and the others were allowed onto the boat. Gregory took up the lead as he chatted with the stand-in captain.
[+brown “So, Gregory, am I going to get a proper introduction?”] As willing as he was to do a favor for his dad’s old friend, he would very much like to know who he was taking across the water.
The short man laughed heartily. [+darkmagenta “Sorry, sorry, I think you already met Adrian over there, he is a new friend. He has been helping us out in our travels. And this is my daughter Florence and grandson Augustine.”] The boy looked up at the comment. That was going to take some getting used to.
Mason’s expression changed in an instant. It did make some sense that that was who Gregory would be journeying with, but for the life of him the young man hadn’t expected it. He turned to Florence. [+brown “Lady Florence! I should have recognized you sooner.”] He bowed in conjunction with his apology.
The woman very much doubted this young man was old enough to recognize her by sight alone, and what’s more she did not want to have these people all on edge in her presence. She shook her head. [+mediumseagreen “That is quite alright.”] She brushed it off, but he still looked more than a little mortified. Quickly, she tried to switch topics. [+mediumseagreen “If you would be so kind, could you point us to someplace we will be out of your way. I do not know the first thing about ships and I do not want to be a hindrance.”] She smiled, but it did not quite reach her eyes.
[+brown “Oh, yes. This way.”] He motioned for them to follow. She didn’t know whether or not the men would try and help out, but she thought it best that she and Augustine sit it out. Though currently, she was praying that she did not get violently ill. That was the last thing she needed.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was good to see Gregory picked up on his dislike of these streets. It was not that he disliked the people, as he had no reason not to right now, but he was worrying that someone would take a curious look from Augustine in the wrong manner and blood would be spilled. Thankfully the dwarf led them for the docks and to search for the ship and Adrian again took his place toward the back of their group.
Again his hand came to rest on Florence's back, at times grasping about her curving hip as he either met the eye of a man who eyed her with different intentions, or he wished to steer her a little clear of a group. He felt overly protective like this at times, squeezing her softly when he saw the commotion ahead, from his superior height seeing several men dolling out a beating to another man on the ground and in equal parts cheered on and jeered by the crowd. Thankfully that part was over and dealt with in quick order and his hand released his sword having grasped it tightly without really noticing.
Out on to the docking platforms he allowed both mother and son some breathing room from his overall presence, feeling a little abashed that he had been so bold as to grab at the woman. It was the first time since they had left the pass and whilst it was for noble reasons it was still rather unwelcome in his mind; again the words of Nicolai played about there and he let out a small sigh as he looked about them.
In the space of a few minutes, moving with the group, they had turned a full 360 and now stared out to sea at an approaching vessel. It was a grand ship – at least to Adrian's untrained eye having not been on a boat himself – but despite the small intricacies and flags and whatnot, he could not discern if it was the boat they required. All seemed to hold their breath until Gregory made the connection and the formalities were over. Augustine looked up to Adrian and Florence with a grin, both delighted he had spotted the ship and that the man was so forthcoming in giving them boarding across to Astoria.
[+crimson “The upside of youth – see everything, hear everything, just about better than us at everything eh?”] He joked with a soft elbow to Florence's arm, a grin on his face as the mood uplifted. Stepping forward to stand beside Gregory as men disembarked and took ropes from the ship to anchor her in place, he held up a hand to the man who had addressed them.[+crimson “Hail young sir!”] A quite formal greeting but he was a stranger to this youthful tanned man. It was best to show respect.
[+indianred “Hello, are you a friend of Gregory's I assume?”] He asked as he looked at the tall pale figure and the impressive sword at his side. The shield on his back denoted he was a swordsman, a fighter, but he looked rather friendly, and with the boy and woman he just assumed they were a family travelling with his fathers friend.
[+crimson “Yes, I am Adrian. I was thinking I might be of some help to you. The quicker we get unloaded, the quicker we can all get under way and indeed be off to Astoria.”] His smile was positively beaming and the man regarded him for a moment longer. Finding no malice or ill will in how he held himself, the Captain Mason grinned and nodded.[+indianred “Of course, never turn down an extra hand – especially a free one.”] And so the tall, ever helpful Adrian, passed his shield aside to Gregory and moved to the end of a lowered walkway, taking a little guidance from a deckhand on where to place the stock of the ship and getting to work.
Taking note that Adrian seemed to be on edge standing here, Gregory didn’t ask him what it was about. Instead he took the hint in his question. [+darkmagenta “We can go together. There will be less of a chance that we will be separated.”] So long as they communicated where they would be it wouldn’t be a problem, but sticking close would avoid it altogether. Gregory had no qualms with it.
Moving in a group would not help them to blend into the world around them by any means, but it seemed to be what the others wanted, so Florence went with it. They followed the oldest of them down and out of the market district. Seeing as this place started small at one time or another, it was not very far from the docks. The walk did not take them long at all, even having to navigate through a crowd of people gathering around some sort of commotion. It sounded like a fight of some sort, but the tall woman thought it better they stayed out of it. Eyes on the path ahead, she pushed Augustine along.
The seaside area held a different atmosphere. The air was filled to the brim with the salty smell of the sea, and it mingled with the scent of its bounty. And while that was not altogether pleasant, it was not insufferable. Moving past many of the vendors, they walked onto the wooden structure that reached out into the water. You could tell that the docks had been recently expanded, as the wood in these extended areas was much fresher than the original construction. The color hadn’t been fully washed away just yet.
Despite all the people a little farther inland, there were not many walking along the creaky harbor. Florence did not blame them; she did not care for the way the platforms moved beneath her feet. It was a grim reminder that she would not be on dry land for much longer. But she, with the others, followed after Gregory who was looking at all the boats that were tied off. They came to the end of the line, but he still did not see the one he was looking for.
[+darkmagenta “Well, he is not docked yet… I say we go find a nice spot on the sand and get comfortable for a bit.”] It was as good a suggestion as any other.
Just as the adults were turning back, Augustine’s eyes were on the horizon. [+coral “Wait!”] He called as he grabbed ahold of the bearded man. [+coral “There is a ship coming in now.”] The child pointed out there the faint outline of a boat could be seen.
[+darkmagenta “Mmm, so there is. Should we wait for it then?”] The older man looked back at the boy who nodded. [+darkmagenta “Alright.”]
Being so far off, it took some time for the vessel to come within a reasonable distance of them. And even longer for it to get close enough for Gregory to make out the finer details. [+darkmagenta “Well, would you look at that. That’s his ship alright.”] He was a little taken aback at the serendipitous-ness of it, but the dwarf was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Once they had made it in to port and successfully tied the ship down, Gregory stepped forward. [+darkmagenta “Hello, is Kai aboard?”]
[+brown “Who want’s to know?”] A young man looked from over the railing and looked the bard up and down. It took a moment, but recognition washed over his features. [+brown “Gregory, is that you?”]
[+darkmagenta “Mason?”] Not quite who he was looking for, but it would work just as well. [+darkmagenta “Is your dad around? I wanted to see if we could get a ride back to the island?”] He waved a hand back to the others.
The well-tanned man shook his head. [+brown “He threw his back out on the last trip. Ma made him stay home.”] His old man was always trying to do too much. Pulling nets at his age was ludicrous, but there was no stopping him on his own boat. But despite it, he smiled. [+brown “We can definitely give you a lift out.”] Mason didn’t want to chance his father’s fury if he found out he left his buddy stranded on the mainland. That and a couple of extra bodies wouldn’t hurt them any. [+brown “Let us finish unloading and then you can come aboard.”]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat As they made their way to a safer place to stand and be out of the way, Adrian would try to guide Florence with a soft hand to her back. Moving her gently from side to side he directed them to a nice cubby hole that kept them free of the crowd but allowed him visual sight of all around. His hand had remained there with her a little longer, at least until they had found Gregory and he came across with some pleasing news, then his hand fell away. He did not want the smaller man to think he was a lecherous being.
[+crimson “Well, hopefully he is here soon. Whilst this place seems just lovely,”] he said this quietly and the sarcasm was quite heavy, but his gentle smile showed his humour,[+crimson “I would feel much safer with you all back in Astoria. Back in a nice big safe area with less people.”] He chuckled to himself at his security assessment, his red eyes looked out on the marketplace and seeing the guards only reminded him if the fear that they would become the next victims of a local attack. It was equal parts worrying and frustrating and he kept a hand close to his sword at all times.
Even as he watched over those about them he could see displeased looked being thrown in their direction. Groups of men were migrating about together and the knives and short swords they carried were obvious to see. Though once or twice a guard would see this too, they did nothing but stand and watch. Perhaps that is what they were paid to do. Or perhaps they just did not care and were fine with turning a blind eye so long as no attacks were made. It was madness to remain stationary until something happened. In his mind they should act beforehand. But he said nothing of course. Again he was too worried about upsetting the others who were rather comfortable.
Looking to the dwarven man he nodded to him.[+crimson “Do you want us to follow you in searching these shops he sells to? Like you say, if he has been gone for a few days then hopefully he is in town already. Perhaps we could go to the dock and look for his ship?”] He would have been okay to continue perusing the market and to fill their time but aside from the uneasy feeling he had being here, he did not have much wealth left and did not wish to go asking for Florence to purchase things either.
It was not an emasculating act, but it was just not right to be spending money for the sake of it. Food and equipment and tools were fine as they would give nourishment or serve a purpose. Spending money simply as you had money to spend was frivolous in his eyes.
Adrian broke off from them, but he was tall enough that you could make out his figure from just about anywhere. Florence did not worry too much about it. Instead she took the chance to walk around with Augustine, who seemed to be having fun just looking at all the different goods that were splayed out on the tables and in the windows of shops. Every once in a while he would ask a question, usually his mother had an answer, but there were a couple of times they had to ask the stall or shop keep. Most of which were very helpful, but the pair did get a couple of mean looks from people in the crowd. Florence did not know what their problem was, but she was sure to take a wide path around them. They did not need any more problems than they already had.
The green-eyed woman was relieved when the warrior returned. There was a little more security with him around. And he had purchased some a tasty looking snack. Both she and her son took small portions to try. The local flavors shined through, very different from anything in Wistina, but not quite like those in Astoria. It might have only bee a piece of roasted meat, but there was much to be gleaned from it.
The blond boy was chewing away on his bite, when Adrian inquired to his excitement. He had never considered the place they were headed home, so that bit was out, but he was very glad at the prospect of a bed to sleep in. Making sure to finish with his mouthful, he nodded. [+coral “Yes, I just hope it is not too different from Wistina.”] Even if it was just a few similarities, he hoped to have something to remind him of his actual home. He did not want to forget that place.
Finding a spot that was still close to the market where they said they would be, the three of them tucked away someplace they would not be directly in the way of all the foot traffic. There they were able to talk some more. Augustine used this time to ask a bit more about his mother’s homeland. He was careful to be specific, so that the woman could not give ridiculously vague answers, at least, not without a great deal of effort. [+coral “What is the castle like, do things work the same way as they did back home?”] His voice was kind of quiet, still a little nervous to speak too loudly about things that would pin him as royalty.
[+mediumseagreen “Well,”] Florence thought for a moment. [+mediumseagreen “The size of the grounds is similar, but the castle itself is larger. And the architecture is different. It is very grand, overly so in fact.”] Just thinking about all the money and time that went into building the place made the woman little irritated. So much room for a single family was entirely too much. She didn’t care how many servants there were to fill it. [+mediumseagreen “But the inside is much humbler. And if things went how I am thinking they must have, the atmosphere will be rather informal.”] Eugene did not care for pomp and circumstance.
Trying to picture the woman in the place she described was difficult. She was always incredibly formal. He did not think she was going to fit in, but Augustine didn’t mention it.
After he asked a few more things, Gregory returned. He had good news. [+darkmagenta “It seems it has been three or four days since Kai has come through. He should be due back anytime. I do not think we will have to wait more than a day. I also found the most common shops he sells to, so we know where to check in in the meantime.”] The old dwarf did not want to miss his friend and spend the next half a week waiting for another chance. He would be checking the port frequently to be sure.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat When they reached Vollenberg he was more on alert for those around them. He was careful to keep to the back of the others and his hand remained close to his sword. He did not like being in these areas. Too many people. Too many possibilities. It was perhaps a good reason toward his nomadic lifestyle choice. Yet for his sceptical eye, the others seemed more at ease in a place such as this. They seemed to have grown weary of the wilderness and the camping outside. It made him smile that such folks could be so accustom to beds and bathing and eating well each night. It would do them all good to reintegrate once they got to Astoria and get back to that lifestyle they knew.
Down in the marketplace things were quite lively and in contrast with the countryside it was so energetic. The smells of the different street food vendors was so stark from aromatic spices, freshly caught fish, salted meats and the general odour of dozens if not hundreds of people and animals mingling. The shouts of different tongues and accents battled over one another to be heard along with the slamming of hammers from the blacksmiths, the chopping of meats and vegetables by the food wholesalers and the braying of horses, cattle, pigs and such. Life was all about them and in such varying ways and yet Adrian was drawn to one corner where a pocket of men in armour with spears in hand stood.
Drifting from Florence and Augustine for but a moment to a nearby meat stall he smiled at the large man with his bloody apron, stood beside a fireplace that had been contained in a metal bowl with a metal trellis atop that allowed for meats to be cooked. Amazing technology to Adrian; simple to the vendor.[+crimson “Hello, sorry but I am new to the town. Can you tell me about the soldiers?”] The man looked up from his selections of cuts and wiped his hands off on his clothing but said nary a word.
Not too clueless as to miss the obvious hint, Adrian nodded with an understanding grin and fishing into his pants pocket he retrieved two silver coins.[+crimson “Some chicken, cooked please.”] Placing it into the man’s large hands he grunted and dropped them into a chest at his feet, moving aside to start cooking the meat in question. Adrian nod behind him to the men again.[+crimson “So.. the soldiers?”] He hoped to instigate the conversation once more and with a huff the man nodded back.
[+indigo “Yeah, town militia. Nothin’ new.”] He scratched at his balding head and coughed.
[+crimson “Well, there were a number of them near the outside of the town when we came in. And it looked like you were stocking up on some wooden logs there too. Possibly for a palisade?”] He had a critical eye but the man just shrugged.
[+indigo “Been havin’ some issue with the locals. Not too fond of us lot.”] A curious way of wording it and Adrian raised a brow for him to continue.[+indigo “Well, you see most people ‘ere in Vollenberg aren’t born and bred ‘ere. Most are traders an’ merchant folk, moved ‘ere not more than the last fifteen, twenty years. Was just a fishing port back then, but since Astoria gone an’ opened up, an’ with this place being the closest to ‘em, then a lot of the trade back an’ forth takes place ‘ere.”]
[+crimson “And why would that antagonise the locals?”]
[+indigo “Well, pushed them out of house an’ home didn’t it? Fishin’ don’t earn much ‘ere after the local Baron decided to put a tariff on all boats comin’ an’ goin’. The merchants and traders can pay it sure, but if you got a little skiff catching enough to feed yer self an’ yer family, with a few left over to trade for what you need, you don’t make any coin to afford to pay the tariff. Then with that the traders bought up the dock space and buildings and houses an’ whatnot. Most of these houses are new.”] He gestured to the buildings around them, and indeed it looked no older than five or ten years for most, younger the further out you got.
[+crimson “And the locals started attacking you for it?”]
[+indigo “Nah, not at first at least. They just moved on most of ‘em. Or got jobs workin’ on the boats an’ for the traders. But some were pissy about it all. Anyways, ‘bout five months back, couple Astorian blokes got into an argument with some local lads. Words evolve, locals draw knives, cut the Astorian guys to shred’s; an’ I mean shreds mate. Limbs ‘acked off, guts hangin’ out, awful stuff. Well that lit the candle didn’t it? King of Astoria demands somethin’ done about it or he yanks the trading elsewhere. So Baron find and hands the lads who done it. A few back and forth kills and someone burns down a house or two and the Baron is buying in soldiers from Astoria to beef up the town whilst the wall is built and to keep that King happy if you ask me. Don’t blame him. The locals are just savages. I heard the other day, one of them a village or two over cut a baby out of his sisters stomach because its dad was not one of ‘em. Bunch of fuckin’ barbarians mate.”] He clicked his tongue, turning back to take the meat from the flames. It had cooked beautifully and the smell was wonderful as he handed it on a skewer of wood to Adrian.
[+crimson “I see.. well, thank you.”] He accepted the food and returned to Florence and Augustine, mulling over the facts as he eyed the guardsmen in the corner. It was another puzzle piece adding to an increasingly confusing game. But he offered them both a nod and a smile and to take from the chicken he had purchased, not wanting to darken their moods with talk of what was going on here.[+crimson “So, Augustine, excited for the boat? Excited to finally get home and be able to sleep in a nice big bed?”] He winked cheekily to the young boy, smiling to his mother as he often did.
As he spoke of making a transition in lifestyle, Florence nodded. [+mediumseagreen "I always found it easier when I could get outside for a while. Being constantly cooped up indoors is nearly unbearable."] In Astoria she had been able to take short trips outside of the castle to make it better, but when it came to Wistina her only saving grave was the gardens. That was in part the reason she put so much time and focus into them.
She was sort of rushed off to bed after that with reminder that she would have to get on a ship. [+mediumseagreen “Oh joy…”] That was all she said about that before turning in for the night… It was a bit disappointing; she had been enjoying their talk. But he was right. Florence needed to get some rest. And so she did, and they started off early the next morning.
Having burst the bubble the night before, Augustine was a little more like himself. At the very least he was speaking with Adrian again, and in more than just whispers, so that was nice. The boy did still avoid direct conversation with his mother, but he was on the up and up.
Getting to the port city of Vollenberg took a few days longer than anticipated. The group took care to avoid most cities and townships, so it resulted in their journey being somewhat meandering. But when they made it to the large town, it was all hustle and bustle. This was a helpful characteristic, as they were able to blend right into the atmosphere without anyone paying them any mind at all.
There was a long list of reasons they chose to come to this place, but more than anything else it was because Gregory had a contact that ran a fishing boat between Astoria and here. It was exactly how he got to the mainland, so he figured it would be just as reliable in getting back off of it. The ride generally only took half a day, but it could be longer depending on the wind and other conditions. Storms liked to brew in the summer, but for the time being the skies were clear. Not that that was much indication of anything. On the water the weather could flip at the drop of a hat.
The other obstacle they were facing is that there was no telling for sure when the fisherman would be in town. Gregory said his friend usually made it across twice a week, but that was not particularly helpful in the moment. So, Florence sent him down to the docks to ask around. If this man was that familiar of a face in these parts, someone was bound to know when he last made port. Until he returned with news she, Augustine, and Adrian decided to mull about the marketplace. It would give them an idea of what was around if they were going to be forced to stay here for any length of time.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Having her smile was all the better for Adrian. To have taken this mistrusting and cold woman when he first met her, and having gotten her to step outside her shell and smile and laugh it was saddening not have that any more. Augustine seemed in a state of gloom and Gregory was straddling the fence like him, so it was not the best avenue to pursue if he wanted to lift them all up. Seeing her smile, her face smile too – not one of her pliant smiles that was merely a movement of her lips – was helpful to him.
Yet he found it was helpful in another manner than before. Before he would be happy at he wanted her attention and her happiness and to feel closer to her. This time, in his heart of hearts, he wanted her to just stray from sad thoughts and to have her back to the woman he knew before the end of the pass. Whether or not he could chase her in a courtly manner, to woo her, to win her heart – though Nicolai seemed to think it was already won – he could not guarantee that right now. Things were tense and strained. It was best he put those thoughts aside. So he did not look on her with eyes of passion and fire and love but concern and friendliness. Until things settled, he did not wish to draw her ire or stoke a dying flame and risk it burning out for good.
Nodding at her comments, happy for her to speak and say more than a sentence or two for the first time in a while, he smiled in return.[+crimson “Oh hush, I'm sure after a little pouting he will be more than happy to throw open his arms and have you return.”] His hand had lifted to brush her arm in his usual fashion, but again the memory of Nicolai saying she did not like such things jolted in his mind. His hand came across and he folded his arms over his chest with a broader smile.
[+crimson “I am positive he will be grateful to have his beautiful sister, his adorable nephew and his affable father back. And if you are right about him, then I need to think what I wish to do. I will likely take stock of the situations and go from there.”] He thought over how his life had gone to that point and he laughed nervously to himself, hand up to the back of his neck to rub lightly at the hackles that rose there.[+crimson “Since I left the orphanage it's been a life of nomad living. Might be a little difficult to accustom myself to a sturdy bed and warm food on the regular.”] He and Lizzie had cooked of course, and they slept in taverns at times, but only once or twice per moon cycle and even then only if they had coin.
Not wanting to broach the topic of Augustine, he just nodded to her as he looked down at her. For once there was no thought to look over his physique in a cheeky manner, or to take her eye and offer a teasing wink. It was much more formal and yet relaxed too. Peculiar to Adrian.[+crimson “Well, you had best be off to bed. A few more days and we have a boat journey to contend with.”] He grinned, thinking over just how peculiar that would be in of itself.
Florence felt terrible that, despite all his trying, Adrian was not standing much of a chance at getting a conversation out of this group. No one was super pissed at him in the same way that they were with her, but the sour mood she had caused seeped into how they acted in general. Especially in the case of Augustine. And considering he was a fourth of their group, that was a considerable effect.
So when he came to talk to her, she hoped that she would be able to alleviate some of the stress that undoubtable came from that. Though the topic he chose brought a bit of a bashful smile to her face. [+mediumseagreen "You are not disturbing anything, Adrian. And I think that is a reasonable question."] Before this point, she had not been sure he wanted to join them that much farther into the journey. The three of them would be safe just as soon as they set foot on the island. And that had been his stated goal: to get them there safely. But her heart fluttered some to think they might see more than a few days more of one another.
[+mediumseagreen "There is no doubt in my mind that my brother will welcome you with open arms. As soon as he hears how you helped us from Gregory, you will scarcely be able to avoid him offering you a job, or a place to stay while you figure out what you want to do."] It would come down to what he wanted. [+mediumseagreen "He is kindly, so if you would like to stay, I hope you will not hesitate to do so."]
Her smile widened a touch. [+mediumseagreen "I am actually more worried whether or not I will be let in than you."] For the most part, her tone was that of humor, but there was a vague thread of seriousness intertwined into her words. She could see the curiosity on Adrian’s face and went on. [+mediumseagreen “My brother was not exactly happy when I accepted my late husband’s proposal. And in the entire decade I have been gone, he has not returned a single on of my letters. I am not even sure if he read any of them. My guess is that he has. I do not think he has the capability of being so cruel as to completely ignore me… but I believe refusing to write back is his way retaliating against my choice.”] It was stupid really. It was already done, protesting would do nothing now.
Pausing a moment, she wondered how much Eugene had changed while she was gone. A lot could happen in ten years. [+mediumseagreen “Even if he is still legitimately mad about it, I doubt he will do more than give me the cold shoulder for a bit. I do not think he will be able to hold out long with me physically present. It is one thing to hold a grudge from a distance, especially one so great, but another entirely to do so when face to face.”] He didn’t have it in him. And, on the off chance he did, there were other places she would be welcome. Florence did not worry about it.
[+mediumseagreen "Anyway."] She had gotten very off topic. [+mediumseagreen "You will most certainly be welcome. I hope you will not worry any more about it."] The color was still lingering in his cheeks as she looked over him again. Being so pale, it was slow to dissipate.
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