Fall of the Court

/ By Loxi [+Watch]

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[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The light humour in Nicolai's voice brought soft smiles from the other two teens, each aware of Augustines inability to take light jibes as anything but personal. The old elf nodded back to the building for the boy to go off finding his mother, leaving them a little more time to finish off some last minute checks.

For the time that Augustine was inside Nicolai was able to show Flora and Marko a different way of tying things onto the horse, indicating a way for them to quickly pull at a rope and lose the heavy weight should they need to escape from somewhere. Each seemed interested though perhaps it was just a way for them all to ignore what had happened the night before and focus away from the deceased bodies littered about them. He thought to tell them that carrion and scavengers would deal with the bodies in the coming days, the cadavers taken off to surgeons in the capitals to practice upon and the clothing stolen by needy travellers.

Then again, by the looks of their pale faces and taut lips, neither looked too far from spewing last nights meal onto the ground, so he kept quiet about that. Instead he gave them a generic but confident pat on their shoulders, telling them they did very well and giving them thanks for protecting him.

When Augustine returned, Töka offered him a middle finger as her response. She was aware they were leaving and had packed her belongings away whilst the others took time to wake. She was a very efficient person like that and therefore felt a little perturbed to be ordered about by the young boy to get ready. Nicolai may bend his knee but she did not. She did give it a few seconds however before complying, turning back and strolling over to her horse as Nicolai returned to his. Despite the young two offering him help to get up he knew he had to stretch and use the muscles to ease the tension. Töka was used to it by now – especially his stubbornness – and therefore left him well alone.

Grasping onto the saddle horn he took several deep breaths, holding the last one as he lifted his leg up into the stirrup. Already he felt light headed but he was determined to do this and with a hum that belayed his fatigue, he managed to lift, pull and finagle his leg up and over the other side. Sat into the saddle he regained his composure and took the canteen from his pack that had been returned to the horse by a kind soul. Taking a drink of the water he used some to splash over his face, hand running up and through his hair to brush it back though he also allowed a trickle of the cool liquid to run down his neck and back.[+royalblue “I'm getting too old for this.”] He complained aloud, seeing the other four and their youthful splendour. [i Bloody youth].

He used his heels to turn his horse, looking about for Florence. Augustine had returned without her and he hoped she had not taken his story of capture too much to heart. It was one reason he had kept so quiet about it. It ashamed him not just for how weak and feeble he had felt but that his appearance of an infallible and strong protector was now forever diminished.
  WI_ / 41d 20h 55m 27s
Florence could tell she miss-stepped somewhere along the line, but for the life of her she couldn’t figure out where it was. This was exactly the kind of thing she was terrible at. It was not the first time she had failed to be able to read the situation correctly when it came to Nicolai, nor did she think it would be the last. Though, this time the aftermath seemed heavier than all the rest, like there was more to be lost. She stood in place as he went outside, watching him as he left. She needed a moment to think all this over before she joined the rest of them.

Given the fact that Augustine was not used to going without sleep, he was a little grumpy that morning. He would live, of course, but his question to Nicolai when he emerged had a bit of a bite to it. Luckily, Nicolai’s explanation made sense enough to him and he nodded. Although the bit of mockery at the end earned the man a glare from him that was not completely unlike his mother’s. [+coral “Yeah, yeah. I approve, I approve. Now let’s get out of here.”]

After rounding up all these weapons off of decaying corpses, none of the teens had much of their appetites left. Their first meal of the day would be better served a little later. For now it would be most efficient to just leave. The three of them were ready to do just that; they just needed to get everyone else on board. [+coral “Where’s my mom?”] The question was more rhetorical than anything, as he quickly turned back to the dilapidated building to track down both her and Töka so they could get going.

Inside he found Florence with a solemn look of contemplation. That was… concerning, to say the least. Approaching her slowly, he kept his voice rather quiet when he went to speak to her. [+coral “Mutti? Is everything alright?”] Knowing her, anything could have gotten her here, and it wasn’t likely she’d want to talk about it, but he felt the need to ask all the same.

All too familiar, Augustine’s voice snapped his mother back to the present. She nodded to answer his question, but then followed it up with more detail. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, my love. I am fine. I was just thinking about something.”] This was not anything she wanted to burden her son with. He was already apprehensive enough with the dynamic between her and Nicolai.

Humming a sound of acknowledgment, it was as Augustine thought. His green eyes shifted to the door for just the slightest of moments, but he did nothing more. Those two were going to argue no matter what he had to say; he might as well just let it be. Though, he did hate to see his mother upset, which was clearly the state she was in whether she recognized it or not. [+coral “We are ready to saddle up. I just wanted to let you know.”]

Nodding once more, she thanked him and headed for the door. Not moving from that spot, Augustine shouted over to the final member of their party. She was in an advantageous position, so no doubt she saw the others readying themselves to leave, but he figured he’d might as well give her the message too.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 42d 14h 47m 24s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai shook his head at her remark. It was a kind thing to try and relate but she had missed one valuable point.[+royalblue “It is not the same, because I had my happiness before it was taken away.”] It was obvious what he meant by that but it did not need saying, especially with her own son just outside.

With voices lowered they were not going to be disturbed, Töka out on guard as the young trio would mount up the horses and get everything packed away. And yet despite her stepping into his view, he felt rather lonely in that moment. It was not an unusual feeling more than it was unexpected. Looking on her at that moment in time he felt like he was looking on any other human being. She was doing her best to help but at that time it felt like hollow words, sentimental pauperise to sprinkle about and afterwards clap ones hands and declare [i 'all done'] in a satisfied manner.

[+royalblue “Maybe one day I will agree with you Florence. Perhaps I'll look back on it as a lesson not to put myself in such a situation with another person again.”] The implications for their relationship were quite obvious.[+royalblue “Or perhaps I will learn that I made a mistake, learn to find new friends and more and perhaps learn to forgive myself.”] There was always a little hope left in the man. For now, that hope was her.[+royalblue “Until then we should get going. I don't want to delay the group any longer than I already have.”] Putting on that familiar stoic look, he took a few slow steps forward, his back to her as he paused, took a deep cleansing breath, then stepped out and through the doorway.

Immediately the wind hit his cheeks, a little colder than the day before – or perhaps he perceived it that way. Looking around he saw the bodies of those they had killed the night before. As expected they were clad in cloth and various pieces of leather armour that was cut and spliced into acceptable shapes. They were a range of old and young men, sizes varying also. It was just a grouping of men and their belongings really, and they had dealt a heavy blow considering they received no wounds in return.

[+coral “Tell me again; just [i why] are we collecting their weapons?”] Augustine asked of him not long after he stepped out, whilst tying off a bundle of five or so daggers to the saddle of his own horse.[+coral “They aren't good quality, certainly not to sell. And ours are much better.”] Whilst he questioned Nicolai, he had still done as told and the older man nodded.

[+royalblue “Because we still have over a days travel through the pass and will inevitably come upon other groups like this.”] His hand gestured to the bodies as he wandered over towards his own horse, hiding the discomfort he felt in his calves with each step.[+royalblue “They will see the abundance of poor arms and they will know where we got them from, how we got them, and they will be put off from attacking us through fear of joining the piles.”] He stopped on the opposite side of the boys horse and smiled.[+royalblue “Do my orders meet with Sir's approval?”] He asked questioningly, a mocking grin on his face as he looked at the blonde boy.
  Wi_ / 42d 15h 37m 59s
From what she could tell in the beginning of the story, it had been much as she predicted. Nicolai and Elizabeth had a flame for one another and Natalya was indeed the offspring of the two of them. Sad. A similar tragedy could have befallen her if it were not for Augustine and his adamant distaste for Adrian. Children could be blessings in the strangest of ways, and so now more than ever she empathized with the man before her who had lost his daughter. Though, if she was with her mother as it sounded, perhaps she was safe. If nothing else the Taken took care of their family. Not that she was going to bring up such a thing in the middle of his story.

There was more than just that betrayal, however. The rest of the tale was filled with his incarceration. Gods knew just what all he went through, because surely Florence didn’t want to know. Not that she was not concerned for him and what happened to him, but as he said, some things are not meant to be spoken to other living beings.

When it seemed his story was coming to its end, the woman nodded. It was an indication that she had heard him, even though he was no longer looking at her to see it. There was so much she could say, and so much she probably shouldn’t. Florence had to sort though it to finalize her words. More than anything, she wanted to ask why after all of that, he had chosen to come north and warn them. It might have been as simple as to spite his captors, but either way she was thankful he had done it.

In the end she chose to empathize with him. [+mediumseagreen “That was a great deal to go through, no wonder you have changed so much…”] Though in essence he was not so different, the things that had changed made sense to some degree. [+mediumseagreen “You are handling it all much better than I would.”] She didn’t even want to imagine herself in such a situation. Even after two years she did not think she would be half as straightened out as he was. Somehow he had found the will to go on, she doubted she would have if anything ever happened to Augustine. [+mediumseagreen “I know it is completely different, seeing as I had a choice in what happened to me, but I do vaguely understand what it is like to be right on the cusp of happiness only to have it taken away.”] Years ago now, everything was finally falling into place. They had sorted out many of the most impending issues in Astoria, her brother was about the take the throne, and Florence had plan to retire and get away from it all. Then she met Germaine and he proposed only a few days later. While true that she could have turned him down, it really was not a choice in her mind. She had an opportunity to better the life of her family. Eugene wouldn’t have to work half as hard to rekindle ties with foreign nations with her sitting as Queen of Wistina. And so she agreed, but at the expense of just about everything else she had ever wanted. [+mediumseagreen “It is not a blow that is easy to recover from… You’ve done well to make it as far as you have. And I am glad you have. No matter what you did before, you came out of it and saved me and my family. I do not think you should feel so ashamed.”] At that she took a couple of steps. They brought her in a bit closer to him, but it also put her back into his line of vision. She wanted him to see her as she spoke.

[+mediumseagreen “I really don’t, Nicolai”] Her expression was soft. Not completely unlike when she took to speaking to her son, but there were some differences. It was obvious that this affection was not of a maternal nature.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 42d 17h 29m 8s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Disliking that she pulled away from him, his hand slipping from hers, he watched her curiously as she seemed to debate whether to ask something or not. He had an inkling she would want to discuss what had happened as there had been no knowledge of his illness save for the few doctor visits back in the castle. Yet when she asked him he felt a small pit in his chest build, quite similar to how he felt the sensation of being drained of blood would feel. It was an odd sensation to say the least.

Sighing lightly he was grateful for the light chiding she gave him at the end. There was no appearance to keep up now. The consequences were known, now was the time for the cause.[+royalblue “I suppose you have a right to know. No secrets and all that..”] He sounded downright defeated for a moment, like she were prying this from him. But truth was he just disliked to think let alone speak about it. Taking a deep breath he licked his dry lips, folding his arms over his chest.

[+royalblue “So myself and Elizabeth settled in Harrop. We were there nearly three years, like I told you. Natalya had just had her second birthday and we had received drawings and the like from the other children in the village – they weren't big on literature or writing, but she loved each one.”] A light smile as he recalled just how excited she had been to receive so many small gifts. But Florence did not want to hear about that, it was needless information in the grand scheme of how he got the scars. He savoured the memory a little longer before looking to the ground.

[+royalblue “I was cleaning up a few days later, putting them all into a pile to save for her, but I found a couriers letter addressed to Elizabeth. I didn't think much of it, except it had no address or name, just her initials. Anyway, I gave her the letter and I remember her snatching it from me and rushing to our bedroom like I had done something wrong.”] The look she had given him was that of suspicion as if he had accused her of something or called her by the worst name imaginable. It was hurtful and that is where it had began.

[+royalblue “A few days later I found all the letters, kept under a loose floorboard. Must have been nearly fifty letters there. And.. I asked her about them.”] He said that with confusion, as he had spent so many years wondering why he had confronted her about them. What could have happened had he kept quiet? [+royalblue “She slapped me, hit me, called me every name imaginable but I managed to calm her down, to talk it through a little bit.”]

His throat was feeling very dry now and he shifted from one foot to the other, the unease of recalling that night quite distressing but it had to be said here and now. Once it was done, it was done.[+royalblue “I woke up in the middle of the night and the house was on fire. Elizabeth was gone. I tried to find Natalya but she wasn't in her room. It was just.. smoke, everywhere. And the heat meant I couldn't stay inside any longer. When I went outside, blinded by the smoke, I didn't see the group waiting for me. Needless to say I was knocked down and woke up in captivity.”] His arms tightened around his chest, as if he could just curl in on himself and this would be done with. He did not want to look up at Florence at that time, eyes remaining firmly down or closing over when the memories were vague.[+royalblue “I saw, I heard, and I did things whilst I was their prisoner that I will never tell another living soul. No-one needs to know what happened. But I'll tell you that the scar came from fighting. Sometimes you had to fight another person, sometimes an animal. They kept bringing in bigger and bigger animals. Started off with a pack of dogs, then a wild hog, then a wolf.. then they brought in a bear cub they had caught in a cave.”]

It was evident where he was going with the story but he shook his head lightly.

[+royalblue “Killed six other prisoners before I was thrown in with it. They had injured it a little but this was still a damn bear. It knocked me down so damn easily. We were all so weak, they barely fed us you see. And when I was down, it put its paw to my head. I thought I was about to pop like a melon as it dug in its claws like it was toying with me. But I manager to get my knife from under me, thrust up into its side. It dragged it's paw off as it fell back and I managed to kill it from there. But the pressure on my head and its claws left me.. changed. From all the doctors and healers I've seen, they tell me it's demons or evil thoughts or any number of wild theories. I found means of treating it through trial and error. Only your doctor in Astoria understood the different ways of managing it like I do.”]

Looking up momentarily to Florence he tried to gauge a response from her, but he felt ashamed too much to keep looking, eventually dropping back to the ground, turning his head to the side, hiding the cuts like a child hides a broken pot.
  WI_ / 42d 19h 18m 6s
When he did not so much as wrap his arms around her in return, there was a very strange and very complicated mix of emotions in her. Florence hadn’t thought that there was any way to be relieved and disappointed at the same time, but here she stood eyes still finding anything other than his to look at. Right up until he took her hand. It was then the woman allowed herself to glance back up to him only to find those violet irises gazing back down at her with the thanks he had already spoken.

[+mediumseagreen “It was not that difficult.”] Florence attempted to play it off as if she hadn’t been an overly dramatic bundle of nerves only moments before. She listened as he clarified his thanks was also for the previous night. [+mediumseagreen “As do I, but you are welcome.”] This trip and mission would not bode well if he was constantly injured or unwell, but she also did not particularly want to see him like that.

Taking a step back, the well-postured woman hoped that some distance would help clear her mind, at least a little bit. And it did, but not completely. How irritating. [+mediumseagreen “You know, we might be better able to avoid this sort of thing if I know more about it. Töka had a bit of information, but it was scarce… She did mention those scars, however.”] Nodding her head as if to point to the shaven side of Nicolai’s head, Florence went on. [+mediumseagreen “So how about it, will you tell me what happened there now, or are you still trying to keep up appearance in front of me?”] If she recalled correctly he had sidestepped her question on the subject before, saying that he wanted to look strong in front of the woman he was courting. Given the turn things had taken, she liked to think that they could move passed such a notion.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 42d 21h 6m 9s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai's selfishness and greed to embrace Florence was quite well shattered by the moment the others left and she looked at him. He had, once again, forgotten her plea that he take things slowly with her and to give her the space needed for her to grow into this relationship. He had done rather well for a few days, but seeing the trepidation on her face as she looked him up and down he could see that this was worrying for her.

With her coming close, their chests pressed together as her arms looped around him, he placed his hands on her shoulders rather than enclose about her securely. It was a strange feeling for him too as he guided her up and down his back to the correct mark, staring over her head toward the doorway rather than stare down on her.

Yes it was difficult for her to approach him, to hold him, place herself so close to someone as she did right now. But to Nicolai it was equally terrible to him not to be able to just hold her to him and keep her close. To wake up beside her and not be able to pull her closer or to brush back her hair and wake her in a loving manner was his own difficulty. They had overcome the first hurdle, and the occasional holding of hands was helpful, but it did not make this any less difficult for him. Especially as he had to downplay the belief that she was simply scared of him, or did not want to hold him because of who [i he] was. He had to remind himself that this was not specific to him and he nodded both to himself and her as her hands layered atop one another.

Taking slow and steady breaths she did the right thing by waiting for him to exhale and her hands pulled taut. With a quiet grunt she held him for a few seconds, lifting him up onto the balls of his feet before there were several satisfying clicks and he was released.[+royalblue “Oh.. there we go..”] He muttered as her hands slid off him almost immediately, his own on her shoulders as he brought his gaze down to her. With a gentle smile he used a hand to brush her hair back over her shoulder.

[+royalblue “I know that was not easy for you, thank you love.”] He wanted to recognise her for overcoming that fear of hers and say his thanks out loud so that she knew he was proud of her. Perhaps in time that praise and acknowledgement would help her to beat it back more. He let his hands drop from her than keep her close though he did take one of her free hands, holding her fingers lightly.[+royalblue “That is a thank you not just for now but last night too. I just hope I don't need your help quite so frequently.”] He did not want to build a patient-complex, constantly injuring himself just to gain her attention. Though if it were for anything less serious than his seizure, she would likely tell him to man up and get over it. That made him chuckle.
  WI_ / 42d 23h 29m 54s
Florence took Nicolai’s instructions carefully. He was finally accepting the help that was offered to him and she was not going to mess it all up by not letting him have a say in how he was assisted. Plus, he seemed to be taking things at a reasonable pace, so she had no qualms with it.

Once on his feet, he was basically the same man he’d always been, aside from the comment on her father. But right after that he was definitely himself. He barked at the kids to get moving to do something productive. It may have been due in part to his own embarrassment, but that only fit his personality all the more. Either way, the pair of teens skedaddled, followed shortly by Marko who decided to join them, probably out of boredom. Florence watched them as they went with a smile. The three of them still looked so unsure of themselves, but she was sure they would get the hang of things soon enough. Despite everything, they did well the night before. She made note to tell them that later when she had the chance.

The trio was barely out of sight before Nicolai made his next request. One he felt the need to proceed with a small disclaimer. After hearing it, Florence discovered why. The brunette had a feeling this must have been his true reason for sending the children away. Even with the explanation he gave, the chances of her hugging him with her son standing in the room were slim to none. Closer to none. Even with him out of sight the woman was hesitant. She eyed Nicolai suspiciously before sighing. More at herself than him, she knew she shouldn’t act so juvenile [+mediumseagreen “Yes, I suppose I can do that for you.”] It was not as if this was some enormous burden on her, but here she was still nervous about it. What if he didn’t let go? The fear that she might overreact and make a fool of herself for all to see was hard to get passed. Even if she knew it was an irrational fear, as he had been overtly courteous of her over these last few days, it still lingered at the back of her mind. Florence did not like putting herself in positions like this. She would much rather avoid the whole thing.

Knowing she could not evade this forever, she stepped in closer to Nicolai. Looking him up and down one last time, he was clearly excited. It was sad. Not on his part, but on hers. Once again, she became acutely aware of her inadequacies as a woman. Florence knew how much she was forcing him to hold back and she did feel badly for it; but if the past was anything to go off of, she knew she could not be happy pushing herself solely for the sake of others. For the millionth time in her life she found herself asking why she couldn’t just get over it.

Now avoiding his gaze, she came in the rest of the way. Her arms wrapped around the man loosely as she applied a moderate pressure to his spine with her hand. [+mediumseagreen “Where are you wanting the pressure?”] She needed to know where to apply it in order to pop the right part of his back.

Running her hand either up or down his back according to his direction, Florence stopped where he asked and brought her other hand around on top of the first. Then it was just a matter of watching his breathing, which was not difficult so close, and going for it. With one of the dips of his chest, the bright-eyed woman squeezed herself firmly to his person. This was a lot more pressure than she would generally use to embrace someone, but that was kind of the point.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 43d 30m 47s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai shook his head gently about her admonishment of his kiss. He had not meant it to be seen as him making an advance upon her, or taking this moment of closeness to his advantage. But he said nothing of it, taking her chiding as playful and flexing his hand in hers in return.

Grateful to hear the others were fine, that she was not panicking over what had happened and that Augustine had taken a very deliberate and stern step forward into the gap he had left behind, Nicolai was rather content to lay back against the flooring for a moment and just bask in her warmth, her closeness and her presence. But, as ever, he was needed to be up and about and moving for the day. It had been several years since he could relax whilst still holding a role in society. Save for his time spent tethered to a bed in Astoria, his life was work. He kept telling himself he could rest at the end of this, when Augustine had his throne and Natalya was.. well, hopefully safe, wherever she was.

Hearing her enquire as to if he could move himself, he pondered for only a brief second to deny her and do it himself. But then he nodded his head lightly at her, that action alone making his neck tingle.[+royalblue “I won't turn down your help this time Florence.”] A brief reference to their last journey together as he looked up at her. He was a stubborn man before – he still was – but she was trying for him, holding his hand and showing her care. He would not fall back to old ways at that moment.[+royalblue “We should take it in stages. Help me sit up first.. please.”] Ah, manners. He was learning.

Offering up his other hand to her, he waited for her to swivel around, standing over him as she took both his hands and pulled him up toward her. She was much stronger than he gave her credit for, but then again she had been doing more training and exercise before leaving Astoria so it made sense. Sat upright he took a few breaths to overcome his nerves firing sporadically, but slid one of his feet towards himself, sole flat to the floor.[+royalblue “Okay, step two, time to get up..”] He used his foot to ease him back to the wall behind, back flush to it as he held onto her hands and took several quick breaths before pushing with his feet. With the wall as a support and Florence pulling at his arms, the elf managed to stand up slowly.

[+royalblue “I have a new found respect.. for that old dwarf now..”] He commented as he finally rose to his full height, sockets popping and limbs clicking as he swayed for a moment though he was able to maintain his balance. Hearing that the younger duo across the room had stopped talking, he looked across to see both were now watching him intently but silently.[+royalblue “Hey, no slacking you two.”] He sounded stern, but the faint grin and soft look on his face said otherwise.[+royalblue “I want you to go collect as many of the weapons from the attackers as you can. Bundle them together and put them on the back of the horses – but make sure not to cover them too much.”] He eyed Augustine for a moment though it was more as a silent nod of thanks than anything. If they had a moment together he may say it verbally but for now they did not need to see him suffering or feel pity for him.

He did have to place a hand on Florence's arm though to maintain himself, looking down at her with a wry smile.[+royalblue “This may seem like an odd request, but I need you to hug me.”] He said it quietly enough for only her to hear, and he looked a little embarrassed to be asking, not wanting to put this on her.[+royalblue “My back has seized up and I need you to crack it. The best way I have found is to embrace someone, and have them squeeze tightly. Töka has always flat out refused to help. Apparently to embrace someone is too personal for her.”] He also knew Töka was more likely to do damage than help, but a secret part of him just wanted a hug from the woman he loved. He was a selfish man, she knew this.
  WI_ / 43d 16h 55m 44s
[+mediumseagreen “I figured you would be.”] It was understandable. She was tired, so she could only imagine how much worse off he was. Not to mention how much more difficult it was going to be for him to try and get up and moving for the day. Their positioning here in this old building was good, so if they absolutely had to stay put, they were in an ideal location to do so. But he made no mention of wanting time, which once again she expected. It was a reminder to Florence that she was going to need to keep a close eye on him so that he did not push himself beyond his limits. Gods forbid they repeat the mistakes of the past.

Putting those thoughts into action, she carefully watched his expression for any sign that something might be off. However, when she saw that subtle smile of his, somehow she had a feeling it was going to be okay. With that uplifting thought he reached out to her, a soft gesture as he apologized.

Leaning into his hand, ever so slightly, Florence set out to reassure him. [+mediumseagreen “I have seen worse, you will have to try harder than that to scare me.”] That was, in part, a lie. While true that she had seen worse, he had still worried her beyond measure. This ailment was of a different nature than just about everything she had dealt with in the past, so there was a great deal of mystery and anxiety that came with it, even if she decided to keep it to herself. [+mediumseagreen “And no, that is not a call for you to try. I will not be pleased with you if you do.”]

As she was wrapping up what she had to say, she saw his eyes flicker to the other side of the room. Quickly thereafter he came forward and pressed a kiss to her face. [+mediumseagreen “Even in such a state, you are absolutely incorrigible, aren’t you?”] There was no actual irritation in her tone. In fact one might even say she sounded relieved, because by that point she was quite certain he was going to make a full recovery.

[+mediumseagreen “Everyone is fine. The night was quiet… Augustine took up your watch, so I am a little worried for him, but I think he will be fine.”] Florence had to remind herself that it was not uncommon for her to stay up the full night at that age and be relatively fine. It was difficult to set aside her worry as a mother in times like this.

Bringing attention back full to the man in front of her, she began to pester him a touch. [+mediumseagreen “Are you going to need help getting up, or would you prefer to do so on your own?”] She was sure he was not looking forward to getting on a horse. It was going to be a rough ride on his sore body and it would be another day and a half before they were out of this pass. And that was if they made good time.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 43d 18h 23m 22s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat On the one hand, Nicolai was grateful to have Töka on guard for the morning shift. If it had been anyone else he would have worried they would allow the group to rest in, to relax and sleep on and therefore put them in danger of an early morning attack. On the other hand; Töka always wanted get going early. Hearing her wake everyone before the room was light enough he knew that would be the case that morning yet remained laying on the floor not wishing to move. At least he had a good excuse.

Despite trying to remain motionless, his hand in Florence's moved a little to keep her close and she questioned him like a misbehaving child at his feigned slumber. Her fingers brushing across his forehead were light and he took that as the time to open his eyes, looking up for a few seconds before they focused upon her delicate features.[+royalblue “I am.. tired.”] He confessed with a gravelly voice as his hand remained settled in hers.

His muscles ached terribly from his fitting, his head swirling a little from the impact of the hammer, his chest also tight from the hit he had taken. Stealing a glance by her, though her cascading hair, he eyed Flora and Augustine in light conversation with the latters back to him. It was good to see them talking and that the whole group was not fawning over him with worry.

Violet eyes pulled back to Florence he smiled a little and lifted his free hand to rest on her cheek, a little tremor to his fingers as the brushed across her tanned skin.[+royalblue “I am sorry if I scared you.”] He whispered to her, leaning his head up a touch to press his lips to her other cheek, though he would have preferred her lips.[+royalblue “I hope everyone is okay. Were there any further attacks?”] He wished it had been a mostly quiet night for them all after such a wild start.
  WI_ / 43d 22h 56m 25s
The switch between shifts went smoothly, and the remainder of the night was peaceful. Whether they had scared any potential attackers off with the gory display or just lucked out was yet to be seen, but with dawn approaching it was safe to say they were out of the woods for the first night. Marko, for one was glad for that. He wanted to put this whole embarrassing mess behind them. He’d clammed up and Flora had to save his ass. The young man was not feeling particularly great about it, but the silence he exuded would seem no different to Töka or Augustine who he only saw for the fleeting moment before the blond passed out. Sure, he knew there would be a chance to redeem himself, but for now, Marko was feeling rather low.

That morning, Töka was the one to move first. She was practically bored to tears. This had to be a thousand times worse than sitting by herself. To have someone there, but determined to sit in silence, was damn near unbearable. It was like conversation was just out of reach, though she hadn’t exactly tried to strike up any riveting talks herself. The rough woman was more content to blame it on someone else than think she needed to do any differently. And so, probably a little before she really should have, Töka stood and marched over to the others. She called rudely to them, making it very clear it was time to wake. But as terrible as that was, she did show some mercy by keeping her voice lower around Nicolai. His head was already going to be pounding, she wasn’t out to make that any worse.

At the sudden sound, Florence’s eyes slowly opened. There was no alarm in the voice she heard, so she took her sweet time of rousing. That being said, she became aware of her surroundings and the fact that she was much closer to Nicolai than she remembered starting out. Her head was practically pressed to his shoulder. She was also lying differently, so it was likely her own fault, at least to some extent.

Glancing up, the man's eyes were still closed. The olive skinned woman took that as a sign that he hadn't woken just yet. Perhaps she would be able to get away without him ever knowing that this pseudo-cuddling ever happened. But as she sat up and tried to reclaim her personal space, she found that his hand did not release hers so easily. Blinking down at their intertwined hands, she perked a brow. Like Töka, she kept her voice down. [+mediumseagreen "And how long have you been awake, Nicolai?"] There was a chance she was making assumptions, but getting a better look at him she could tell his breathing was different. At least from the state he was in previously.

Seeing him twitch at being caught, she leaned in a bit. It was just enough so that she could gently brush a few strands of stray hair from his face. [+mediumseagreen "How are you feeling?"] It was a politeness to ask, as she basically knew the answer, but it served a dual purpose. This would also help her learn how respondent he was. Last night there was nothing and it was scary. She wanted to confirm that he was still there.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 44d 23h 3m 42s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Töka knelt beside Nicolai for a long time, just staring down at him, now and again leaning down to press her ear to his chest and listen to the slow but steady beating of his heart. His hands would flex sometimes, legs shiver as if cold, but otherwise it was good news and the man would wake from his deep slumber with perhaps a headache and a look of shame. She knew he would not like that Florence had seen him go through that, but it would be much better than the alternative – that Augustine see him react in such a way. From what Töka had seen the woman was quite understanding, and given her age and how long she had known Nicolai compared to her son she was more capable of taking this information in a less negative light.

Agreeing to bring in the others there was a little discussion between the two familial members over just who would accompany Flora out on guard for the next shift. It would not be pleasant, with the heavy scent of iron in the air and the souls of the dead spiralling about them. Töka understood the boys desire to keep his mother safe though she thought it was a three pronged reason for him stepping forward. He would have time with his young sweetheart, would be able to give his mother more time to rest, but would also allow her to remain at Nicolai’s side.

Töka was not going to object to leaving her to mind over the man, knowing that she had the third watch with Marko and wanting to get some sleep that night. But she did find it a little humorous how bold and forthcoming the boy had been; especially in stating that he was younger and – what was it? – more [i resilient] than his mother. Being a tom-boy she was not one to flush at people bringing up her age but it did make her half smile as she turned away to head to where she had slept before, curling up on her side once she had settled her axe in near to her.

---

Nicolai for his part would sleep on until morning with not much change in his condition. He did not fall back into a new episode but neither did he move all that much. He seemed to just lay there for the entire night, quite still. His hand at first had been quite limp and just sat in her own, but through the night his fingers would curl around her own and hold her hand securely.

Around a half hour or so before Töka and Marko would come to wake the others to get them up and moving, he woke a little suddenly, eyes wide open and his mind firing with the new information. He was inside. He was lying down on his back. His mouth was dry and an almighty headache throbbed at his skull. His body was warm down one side, his left hand particularly hot. Thinking of his body he found everything ached and his limbs were heavy – especially his left arm. It did not take him long to realise he had gone in spasm and he faintly recalled some large metal object striking him several times.

With a little discomfort he shifted his head to the side, eyes coming upon the long chestnut locks of Florence curled up close to him. She must have shifted in her sleep to be closer, her body not pressed to his side but his hand clutched to her stomach securely and her warm shallow breaths brushing over his cheek occasionally. He knew they would have to leave soon, spying Augustine and Flora off on the other side of the room, so they must be in Töka and Marko’s shift. Yet building the will to move away from Florence was nigh on impossible and he would relish whatever time he could have with her like this for as long as he could, even using whatever minimal energy he could build up to shift his upper half that little bit closer to her.
  WI_ / 45d 18h 50m 55s
Florence committed every detail she could to memory. Sure, there wasn’t a whole lot, but she thought this was all vital information, both as a traveling companion and as a partner. She needed to know how to take care of him when it came to things like this. Though, perhaps she was just falling into the same trap as she had before without realizing it; trying to play the role she thought suitable of a woman in a relationship. To be a person who looks after the needs and wants of another. After all, that was all she knew.

Töka’s mention of his use of alcohol to cope evoked memories of the first time he confessed his feelings to her. How he had raided Helga’s cupboards to find the solitary bottle of wine in the house to drown out the pain of rejection. There was also a similar occurrence on the way up to Astoria when his injury’s infection grew worse. Although, that time it was more a case of him drugging himself with water laced with pain medication. Neither were acceptable ways to deal with his discomfort. Florence was just glad they where some way away from any place that would serve alcohol, it would just be a matter of figuring out if either he or Töka had brought any along so that she could keep him away from the bottle. However, on the flip side of that, she would need to offer him some other way to distract himself. Nothing particularly appropriate came to mind for that, but she would continue to think on it.

Soon after that, Nicolai’s seizing slowed. Even the vigilant midnight-haired woman thought it safe to pull back, so she followed suit and removed herself from his person, but Florence did not go far. She took a seat at his side and continued watching his visage. Apparently it would be easier from here on out. [+mediumseagreen “Is there anything else we can do for him?”] Her question was met with a shake of her partially shaved head. Florence hated this feeling of uselessness, but there was nothing to be done about it. She would just have to wait it out like the rest of them.

The paired stayed close to the man a while longer, there was one moment when they thought he might fall into another fit of spasms, but it ended up being a false alarm. All that excitement must have taken it out of Nicolai, because he fell from the catatonic state and into a deep sleep. It was not much longer after that that they agreed it would be fine to call the others back.

When the children arrived, they all wore solemn looks, especially after laying eyes on the still unconscious Nicolai. Florence assured them that it would be fine, though she really was not sure of that herself. Still, her lie was convincing and they began talks of going back to bed.

[+plum “It is time for the second watch, isn’t it?”] Flora seemed a little unsure, but it was not about the timing. She was scheduled to stay up with Nicolai, but he was… indisposed. The girl was nervous to have to keep watch on her own.

Florence nodded. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, it is. I will stay up with you.”] She wanted to keep an eye on the man at her side anyway. This would kill two birds with one stone.

Flora seemed to perk up a bit with that, though Augustine did the opposite. [+coral “That is a bad idea. You are going to make yourself ill.”] She’d already been up for quite some time, that compounded with the battle they had experienced had the boy worried she was going to wake up sick. His mother had been so secretive about her health and he did not want to push their luck.

Shaking her head, the woman tried to refute him. [+mediumseagreen “I let you spend too much time around Gregory. I am fine. I can handle this much. I promise.”]

He was not entirely convinced and it showed on his face despite there being so little light. [+coral “Sure, you may not end up with a fever, but you will be tired tomorrow. If that is the case are you going to be able to take one of the night shifts, or will that burden end up falling on us? We can’t afford to be down two people overnight.”] Augustine made sure to hit hard with the points he had. [+coral “I can do it. I’m young and more resilient than you.”] That bit was said with a matter of fact sort of tone. He was going to bounce back a lot better than she ever would.

Narrowing her eyes at the boy, she stayed quiet. That silence was telling as Augustine motioned for Flora to follow him back over to the place where he and his mother had previously kept look out. Florence wondered where he had gotten so good at arguing. Surely it wasn’t from her.

Everyone found their places; it was time again to try and get whatever precious sleep they could manage. Still, Florence did not move from her beau’s side. Looking down on him, there was barely any light left to see by. Marko had thrown another small log on the fire, but it was slow to catch. It would be a while before it gave any substantial light. That was perfect for returning to slumber, but it didn’t help her with trying to continue to check on Nicolai. Still not ready to leave him, the woman chose to lie there next to him. Her eyes watched for any notion or twitch that he might go into another fit, but nothing came. Thinking it through, she decided to change up her tactic. Florence took up the man’s hand, holding it tightly in her own. This way, even if she fell asleep, his movement would wake her. And she did fall asleep, nearly as quickly as her eyes closed. There she slept hand in hand with the elf though a dreamless night.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 46d 11h 18m 31s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Having braced for a particularly bad episodic spasm, Töka was pleasantly surprised to find this was much easier with the assistance of Florence and she was not being thrown off by the elfin man. The thrashing and spasmodic twitching was wild and erratic when he had these more turbulent fits. Thankfully with his legs firmly held down and his arms pinned down by herself, he was greatly restricted in his movements.

She did not expect for the other woman to speak to her, hoping they could see out this problem with silence. But of course she would be curious about her friend, though perhaps it was in a more than friendly way. She had heard what was said about them being a couple now, though their petty flirting over the last few days was little more than puppy love in her eyes. It was like watching the two children, Augustine and Flora, and it left a bitter taste in her mouth to watch it go on. But that was a personal distaste to see her mentor engaging in such actions. She had only really ever seen him as a warrior so seeing him with Florence was.. new.

Shaking her head she shifted her weight a little to glance back over her shoulder.[+firebrick “Usually the beginning is the worst of it. The thrashing about is about all he will do, but keeping him pinned down will make sure he doesn’t hurt himself anymore.”] Indeed it would not help the situation to have him injuring himself further after the battle, but to Töka she felt that he needed to know someone was there with him to ease out of these moments. It eased her concerns even if it did nothing for him.[+firebrick “He might have small tremors afterwards, his body is gonna ache like hell tomorrow and he will want to drink like a sailor in a brothel.”] As if that was a cue his movements began to slow considerably, his body switching to periods of stillness intertwined with brief and sharp movements and his eyes closing shut. The leg muscles beneath Florence began to relax and though now against he would kick out, it was as weak as someone shooing away a pet.[+firebrick “There.. there it is, he’s coming down now.”] She eased off his upper half, hands on his shoulders finding it quite easy to hold him there.[+firebrick “They don’t last long but they can happen whenever.”] She scooped a hand under the back of his head, turning it slowly to the side.[+firebrick “Whilst he’s a pain in my ass.. it’s not an honourable death to choke on his own tongue.”] Ever the warrior she spoke as if all this was to ensure her friend would not have an undignified death, but in truth she did care about the man. Well, the idiot.
  WI_ / 46d 19h 14m 43s
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