[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Adrian nodded at her request that he go get some sleep. He would have liked to stay up, just on the off chance that Lizzie changed her mind or perhaps she could convince Nicolai to return and to show he meant his words. But Florence was right, they needed to rest. He would take watch the next night. He also didn't wish to argue against her. Looking at her he could see she was in some shock at losing a friend and having her son ignore her. He did not want to pile atop that.
The few days it took for them to reach Malidek, following Adrians guidance given his knowledge of the lands, it was rather tame and quiet between them all. Augustine was silent to all but Gregory and even their new ally was much more tame than usual. For several days he had cast constant glances behind them as if to see golden-hair rising above behind him. He was still processing living a life without her, quite accustom to her being there.
Even Florence seemed to carry the pain a little longer too. He could see her despair that first morning when she had woken him. At times, when not wondering how Lizzie was fairing, he would think over his characterisation of Nicolai. Perhaps he had been harsh in his assumptions. Perhaps before all this had happened, and they had left Wistina for whatever reason, he had been a more noble and honourable man. Perhaps the stress had gotten to him and he had just wilted under the task at hand. He would lament over his role in the man leaving, forcing Florence to decide between them. If he had just had the resolve to step forward and state he would leave first, Lizzie would still be here and perhaps Florence would feel less guilty.
He missed her smile and her laughter, and that of Augustine and Gregory. But his few times of trying to start conversation had died not long after. He had resolved to simply be pleasant, keep an open mind to them all and interact with whomever wished it from him. When they had stopped the final night, or rather the first night in Malidek, Adrian had been quick to start them a fire. He had overheard Augustine talking to his mother – he said something he couldn't hear, but it was wonderful he spoke at all.
When Florence had finished speaking with Gregory, the tall pale man approached her.[+crimson “Sorry to disturb you Florence.”] He commented, hoping he had not intruded.[+crimson “I just wondered if we could discuss what we are doing next. I understand that plan is still to get you to Astoria but.. I'm at a loss for what I am doing next if you know what I mean. Your brother will welcome you all happily, but.. and please forgive my self-centredness here.. what about me?”] His cheeks had flushed to be so blunt with her, but he wanted to see if there was a role or a task for him. He could plea his case to her brother and offer his knowledge and skills for whatever role he had, but it was not his place to assume he would be taken in like that.
Florence nodded, [+mediumseagreen "Thank you."] She could tell he was not exactly excited to be doing this. That or the loss of his friend was completely overriding everything else. Adrian was not difficult to read, but the situation was so full of intricacies that there was no telling for sure where his feeling were stemming from. If it was one place, another, or all of the above. The woman decided it was probably best not to analyze him too critically at the moment. [+mediumseagreen "You should go ahead and get some rest tonight with the others."] Her hand came up to motion him to leave slow sweeping motions.
Once he left, she took a seat in an advantageous position. A place where she see in most direction, but was still afforded some cover. There was comfort in the solitude. Florence was finally free from all the prying eyes. She could think back on what had happen and properly process it all at last. This reignited all the rage, fear, and sadness inside of her that came along with the memories. It was a potent combination that was almost too much to deal with all at once. But somehow she managed to not completely break down in the chilly night air.
As planned, Florence woke the others early. They needed to get moving. The farther from the pass they were the better. Augustine still was not talking to her, but Gregory assured her that he would come around. And while she knew he was right, that didn’t make it any less painful. But in the end she respected his space. She would let him come to her when he wanted to talk to her about what he had learned, or about anything really.
Headed north things warmed up quickly. Though they made sure not to just head straight that way. Knowing they might stand a chance at hiding by taking the long away around, they chose to go through Malidek. It also had the advantage of being home to the closest port to Astoria on the mainland. That would shorten their sea voyage, which sounded like a miraculous plan to Florence. She was not the biggest fan of boats and recalled being sick for nearly half the journey down to Wistina.
After a few days, they reached the boarder. Gregory was beaming. [+darkmagenta “See, I told you that Malidek was not so far out of the way.”]
Florence recalled shooting down his idea of visiting this place and sighed. [+mediumseagreen “Well, things did not go so smoothly as I planned… we still do not have time to see sights, but I suppose you will see enough of the countryside to set you up for life.”]
[+darkmagenta “Ah, I suppose you are right.”] Sure, there were things he wanted to see, but now was not the time. They had to get Florence and Augustine to safety before he even thought about making a pilgrimage back here.
Making it to the final country they would need to cross before entering Astoria was not the only milestone that night brought. It was also the first time Augustine said even a word to his mother. It was not a lot, but she was glad to know he did not have the intention of avoiding her forever. She was relieved beyond words, but did not push her luck by trying to apologize or pull him into any more sentimental conversations.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Adrian was in a stupor really as the sound of Lizzie waned until there was silence. He was baffled at what was going on and his mind raced to find some fathomable reason to it all. Though Florence was apologising, and he did hear her, he still face away from her. How could Lizzie, someone he had known two years and shared almost every waking moment with, suddenly leave to follow such a deranged and broken man?
So what if he had died? Would that not have saved the world from another cruel soul? Regardless of what he knew of the man, or what had been said of him, what he had physically seen was someone prone to angry outbursts. A man who was so deeply flawed and a mess he could not imagine he had ever been a friend to a King or a man of any repute.
He remained facing away even when she inquired about his plans. What was he going to do? He had not thought of changing from their original plan. Yes it had been fun with Florence, but in his mind he had always seen it as a fleeting and harmless amount of flirting. They were due to part with the group only the next day, leaving them on a path north as they turned east. And now he stood there, without Lizzie, and without a plan, unsure what he would do next as he surely couldn't go on with his travels alone.
[+crimson “I guess..”] His voice was soft and he had wanted to tell her he had no choice but accept her offer. Yet even the gentle and kind soul, he actually thought of his words first. He was not like Nicolai, who spoke from his heart.[+crimson “I will join you, take you to Astoria.”] Even he did not sound convinced by his words as his hands rose up, interlinking and placed atop his crown.[+crimson “I can't just let you all go north alone. Not with those people from earlier out there. I'll get you there.. safely.”] With or without Lizzie, his morals still held true and he could not abandon such a group to the world alone. He had to help them.
[+royalblue “It’s for the best… you have Florence now.”] And what a shitty consolation that was. The woman’s stomach twisted in place. What were the chances that Adrian would choose to stay here when his friend had decided to leave? She was going after what was probably, in his eyes, one of the most insufferable men he had ever met. So there was a bit of hope, especially given all his protests against her leaving, but Florence was still baffled when he did not go after her. Though maybe they were thinking the same of her as she stood still watching the woods where Nicolai had made his exit.
The elfin woman on the horse passed by her and Florence’s voice came out, somewhat quiet. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you, Elizabeth…”] She knew that Lizzie was not doing it for her, but she felt the need to say something all the same. Despite it all, she still did not want Nicolai to die over this. And without some form of help, that would be the assured outcome.
Lizzie disappeared into the blackness as well. They had lost two people, but they were not the two she expected to part with after getting through the pass. And now it was just she and Adrian standing about. Their little group was split evenly three ways for the time being. [+mediumseagreen "I... I am sorry. This probably was not what you were expecting when you offered to travel with us..."] Once she had that apology out, she finally took her vibrant emerald eyes from the darkness. Instead they came to the pale gentleman she was speaking with.
Her words came out tired as she formed them. [+mediumseagreen "So I know what to expect, what are you going to do from this point on? Will you continue like you had planned before all this mess, or would you like to join us in Astoria?"] Florence knew what she wanted him to do, but after Nicolai, she did not want to feel like she was manipulating anyone into doing anything.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat When Gregory had moved off to get Augustine and to bed down for the night, there was a second set of footprints in the crunch of the leaves. Elizabeth moved forward and she too moved to her horse. Unravelling the reins from the branch she had tied them to, she directed her beast forward thought it huffed as if it had been getting settled for the night and wanted rest.
Adrian look across to her, confused as she brought the animal away from the others.[+crimson “Lizzie? What are you doing..”] The night had become one long confusing mess. Between the small skirmish, this telling of the past, the way Nicolai had left, it was all too much to take it. And looking at his golden haired friend his brow furrowed deeply.[+royalblue “I'm going with him Adrian.”] She said in her soft melodic voice as she paused to look at him. His confusion was evident as he stepped over to her.
[+crimson “Lizzie, I don't think it's worth trying. He didn't look like he was going to come back.”] Her auburn eyes looked to the ground. The man never was that good at placing two and two together, but it was a fault that had become a point of fondness for her and she shook her head.[+royalblue “I'm not going to bring him back. I'm going with him. I know he would not come back with me. I know there is only one person who could convince him otherwise,”] her gaze lifted and looked across to the centrepiece of that evenings drama and tension but did not say the other woman's name outright,[+royalblue “but it would seem things are as they are and will not change now.”]
Adrian continued to shake his head.[+crimson “But Lizzie.. Lizzie you can't be serious? Why would you go after him?”]
[+royalblue “Because Adrian, he's in pain. I don't mean mental or emotional, though they are likely there, but his physical wound is still healing and he does not know these lands like I do. If I don't go now he will surely die out there.”] She was ever the sensible mind it seemed.
[+crimson “So?”] It came across as rather callous and cold but he flushed in embarrassment at being so blunt.[+crimson “He was offered the chance to stay, you heard Florence say so, and yet he chose to leave. Don't go after him.”]
[+royalblue “Adrian.. that's not who we are. These last two years we've done nothing but help people who needed it; and Nicolai needs it more than anyone ever has. Someone has to help him. And you all cannot do that for him, so I must.”]
[+crimson “But Lizzie.. it's been me and you. We've been a team all this time. You can't go.”] He could not fathom her being gone like that, in an instant.
[+royalblue “It's for the best Adrian. Besides, you don't need me any more. It's like Nicolai said; you won her heart, you have Florence now.”] She gave him a rueful smile, not as emotionally hardened as the elven man and shaking her head a little at how she let her feelings almost overcome her.[+royalblue “She chose you Adrian. And now you can begin a new chapter to your life. Me? I don't want to impede on that.”] She looked to the ground now, not wanting to look at the man.
[+crimson “Then.. then I'll go too, and we'll bring him back. We'll make him come back.”] It was humorous how he would say anything at times just to try and please another person and she let out a huff of a laugh.
[+royalblue “As you just said, he isn't coming back for me. And certainly not for you. We won't change his mind, only.. well.”] Again she did not mention Florence. Instead, she looked up a touch to the man but only enough to take his hand in hers. His were so large compared to hers but she squeezed his as hard as he could, so that he would feel it some.[+royalblue “Take care Adrian. It has been a pleasure and an honour to travel with you.”] She finally did look up and across to the woman in the magenta clothing.[+royalblue “I'll pray for you. I'll pray for you all. Do take good care of him Florence.”]
Adrian did not fight to keep her hand, that was not the kind of man he was, and so as her slight fingers lifted from his and she turned her horse down to the lake to follow Nicolai, he stood and watched her pick up a little pace to catch the other man. He watched until she was enveloped by the darkness and the horse and her movements muffled to nothing but silence.
And then there was four.
Watching Nicolai closely, probably closer than she ever had before, Florence thought she could see the exact moment that he broke. It heart wrenching, almost to the point of a physical aching inside of her. He didn’t speak, so how could she fight him on it, or even try to make things better? She couldn't, and so the quiet bore on. The only things that existed in that soundlessness were his footsteps on the damp ground and the weather calling. It seemed even the mare he led would keep her silence. Her emerald eyes stayed on him the whole time.
There was some worry when he stopped in front of Adrian. That even now he might feel inclined to do something rash and lash out at the other man, but her concern was for not. Instead Nicolai congratulated him, as though he had won. At that point she could not do it anymore, her eyes dropped to the ground. They stayed trained there until she could not hear his footsteps any more, perhaps a little longer. Florence did not want to look at anyone right now. This whole evening, the hurricane of chaos that it was, had brought nothing but confusion, pain, and shame. She did not know if she could bear it. After everything he’d seen and heard, she wasn’t even sure if Adrian would be interested in her anymore. The Astorian woman had been outed as a liar, and one that wasn’t even sure what she wanted.
The only one she could be certain wouldn’t abandon her was Gregory. Even her own son hated her now. He would probably leave just as soon as he had the chance. Everything was ruined and it was all her fault.
Eventually Gregory approached and placed a hand on her shoulder. [+darkmagenta “We should probably get some rest. It is going to be an early start tomorrow.”]
Florence shook her head, finally looking up from the ground. Her eyes went to the direction that Nicolai gone; there was darkness. [+mediumseagreen “I will stay up to keep watch… I don’t think I will be able to sleep tonight.”] In part, she was still hoping that he would come back... but it was senseless hope. What was done was done.
He opened his mouth to argue with her, to tell her she needed to sleep, but nothing came out. She had been through enough today; he didn’t need to start any more arguments. He would let her have her way and if she continued her stubbornness the next night, then he would put his foot down. [+darkmagenta “Alright, Florence, but if you change you mind. Please wake me. I do not mind.”]
She nodded in response, but did not say any more. This was going to be a long night, and she doubted it would be any better than the day she had had.
Gregory headed back to the covering of the rocks and trees. He found Augustine; the old man asked if there was anything he wanted to talk about. The child declined his proposition. Much like his mother, he was closing off to process things. Again the dwarf extended his offer, saying that when Augustine was ready, he would be ready to listen. At some point mother and son would need to sit down and have a talk too, but that was probably a long way off. [+darkmagenta “It is off to bed then. Let us make our beds near the fire you started.”] He motioned to the small flickering flame that had barely gotten off the ground before the child had come to listen to the commotion.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Whilst her point was somewhat valid about him not wishing to talk about his injury, it had been for her betterment. He did not want her to worry excessively or feel that she had rushed him out of the farm. He wanted to be strong for her and he could not do that if he was complaining about the wound. Yet obviously that tactic had now backfired and he conceded such to her.
With his hand out to her he had watched her stare at him with indecision. It was perhaps a little unfair to place this choice on her right now. She was aft to be in deep worry over her son and how he was digesting the new knowledge his father was an assassin and dead before he was born. To have this elf demand she pick between him and her new flourishing relationship with Adrian was not easy on her.
But when her hand had lifted up, and she had placed it atop his palm, he had thought his offer was right. He had been right to force her to choose, to make her confront herself and her heart and decide what was best. Yet as his fingers had gone to close around her hand it slipped away from his gloved palm and fell back to her front. Was there really anything else to say after such an action had been done? She whittled on about how she still hoped he would try and that she wanted him to be here because he wanted to be there.
But the options were quite clear in the end, there would be no having both options or this whole charade would only go on longer; if she cross his palm she would have Adrian. If she had taken his hand, she would have reaffirmed her commitment to him. She had chosen the former, and that was that.
His hand remained outstretched, fingers closed about an imaginary opposite, his head dropping so that his chin nearly rested upon his chest. The adrenaline of the fight, the pumping heart from the race away, the nerves and excitement of hiding – it had gone now. He was very tired and he looked every bit the defeated man he was on the inside now. Perhaps then it was fitting that deep rumbles of thunder sounded above them. Rain would come, though when and how hard it was uncertain. The tree's would given them plenty of cover though, the foliage thick and dense to hold back the rain.
No-one dared to speak then. It was like a curse had been placed upon them all and the first to utter a word would draw terrible consequences. Yet of course that was only really how Nicolai thought. Because all of this was how Nicolai saw things. In silly little patterns, flat and dull and lifeless. She had indeed given him his chance to shine, to win her over, and she had shown he had done nothing - thus how could she choose any other way?
His hand dropped slowly to his side and he with leaden feet he walked across the others, past Florence's shoulder toward his horse. Running a hand up the side of her neck he patted the horse lightly, before taking a hold of the reins beside her head, easier to guide her forward and across to Adrian. Reaching out he was offered the sword in it's scabbard along with the belt and tucked it under his left arm as he offered his right hand. Unsure really what to do the man hesitantly held out his own right hand and it was gently taken by the elf.
[+teal “Congratulations.. you did in one week, what I have wanted to do for ten years. You won her heart.”] A muted but confused thanks in return from Adrian he looked over to Florence, unsure really what he was to do at that moment in time. It was terribly confusing to him.
Having said what he needed to say, Nicolai once more took a hold of his horse's reins, and slowly the pair made their way along the shore of the lake, slipping away.
It was hard to stand back and take the berating he was giving. Truly, it was unfair of her to make such accusations, especially when he had never done more than embrace her. But that was how her mind worked. Unfortunately it was how she saw the world and a majority of the men in it. However, talking directly about it made her infinitely uncomfortable. She shrunk back at how freely he said it all.
It was not until he turned on Gregory who was about to come to her aid, that she sort of snapped back to it. Her eyes were hard. She could not fathom how he thought he was qualified to try and teach her such a lesson. The woman was angry, and even more so when he had the gull to accuse her of showing no interest.
[+mediumseagreen "Because you are perusing me! You should be the one to open the dialog!"] But that was not the only thing. [+mediumseagreen "And how in the hell am I supposed to ask you anything. You shut me out when I so much as asked how your arm was feeling. You expect me to believe delving into personal history would have gone better? I think not."] And that was even before Adrian and Elizabeth showed up. He had no excuse there.
Then it came. An ultimatum. He really was looking to clear his hands of them. He wanted to be through with her. It hurt. Florence didn't think it should, but nothing her heart had been feeling these past few days had been logical. She did not want to part with him, not knowing she wouldn't ever see him again. But at the same time, she did not think she could give him what he wanted. An absolute confirmation that she would try. Adrian's deep red gaze did not make it any easier. The woman hesitated.
It was true, that for the moment she liked him. She liked him very much, but she was also worried. He was so much like her brother in countenance. There was a chance that that would make things strange, awkward in a way she would not be able to get over if things progressed further. And beyond even that, there was the fact that even with the mercenary's constant attention. There were still times when her eyes strayed to the elf. Florence wasn't sure if it had to do with her worrying after his wellbeing, or if there was something more there, but she found her eyes wandering nonetheless.
All the while her brain was running, the woman stared at his offered hand. She needed to make a choice, and one came to mind, but she was not sure he would like it. Lifting her thin hand, she brought it up and ran it across his palm. Florence was quick to clarify herself. [+mediumseagreen "I do not want to hold you here out of obligation, oath or not. If you want to stay, do so by your own violation. My feelings are the same as on that day at the farm... It is terribly confusing."] She was terrible confused by it all at least. [+mediumseagreen "I still very much want to see you try, because I know for certain I have yet to see you at your best."] It probably did not count as a real answer. But after everything that had happened, her emotions were frayed and Florence had no idea what she wanted. She was in no state to be making life altering decisions.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Immediately he fell on the defensive that she was waiting for him to do something.[+teal “I wanted to be respectful like I said I would be at the farm. I did not want to ask a question and have you close up to me again.”] Her comment on Adrian being a way to keep her calm, reminding her of her home, being something he clearly wasn't. That was the part that had really stung and it did leave him a touch breathless.
[+teal “I see, and I don't offer you anything? I don't offer you protection or offer you my unequivocal support in everything? You are the whole reason I am here Florence for gods sake..”] She was trying to say that she received the interest she wanted from another source and rather than open up to him and be honest that he was shutting her down, she had drifted further to the other man. When she made him out to be some lecherous individual who wanted nothing but to touch her, he took a visible step back as he shook his head.
[+teal “Don't you dare try to turn this out like I am some.. some pervert.. some malevolent man out for nothing but sex. Don't you fucking [i dare] do it Florence, just to make yourself feel better in this because I am not the bad guy here.”] He licked his lips, turning away from her then and taking several deep breaths to calm himself. Yet his violet gaze whipped back on her quickly.[+teal “I put my life on the line for you, for Augustine too. I got you out of the castle, to the farm, to here and now I just save your life again from Gerald and the orc and you have the audacity to claim I do it because I just want you to fuck me? Do you really think that little of me? That-that-that I am some sexual predator out for his next conquest?”]
Gregory had stepped forward then, wanting to stop this argument now, feeling it was running it's course and not wanting to see the man this way. Whilst he admired Adrian, perhaps the dwarf did feel some semblance of loyalty to the man who had helped them. Yet his approach was ignored.[+teal “No Gregory, don't, she needs to hear all this because otherwise she will go through life continuing this way. Saying one thing but meaning another. Lying when it suits her needs. Deceiving those she can stand to gain from.”] All of it was just a means to try and hurt her as much as she had with her accusation but his heart was not behind the words and they were rather lifeless barbs she may see through.[+teal “I put my heart and everything on the line to continue this journey with you Florence. I gave it everything I had.”] He thrust his finger at the ground to add to his points but after a brief pause his body relaxed.[+teal “How about we turn the games on you, huh? Why did you never ask about me? Why did you never ask questions Florence? Since the farm, you never showed an interest in me of my past, but I did not mind – those questions would come in time I thought. You would ask of my past when you were ready I told myself. Why is this all on me to do everything to show you how I felt and yet he asks you once question and you are smitten?”]
His hand came up and brushed through his hair, the man to their left, the obstacle in Nicolai's mind, had tensed himself in fear he would dash forward to attack her or to unleash his fury on himself. Instead, he took a few deep breaths and bit at his bottom lip.
[+teal “I felt a better man those first few days outside the farm, just the five of us, just moving along and being a better group for it. I forgave Meredith for what she did, for how she betrayed us, and I gave her refuge in Underhill because I thought it would please you to know that she was not killed, that the girl would be okay. But you never asked me once about her since then. You only wanted to talk with Adrian.. you only wanted him.. you only wanted his attention..”]
Holding up his hand up toward her, palm up, thankfully not the bloody one, he held it steady before her. There was silence for a little time and he nodded.[+teal “Now is time then. Now is time for you to make your decision. Now because I cannot fathom a better time to make this choice than when you are speaking from your heart; draw your finger along my palm and you release me from my oath of loyalty to you.”] It was true that this was often how these less than formal arrangements were ended. A warriors code of sorts, the open palm signifying the contract, the line like a dagger cutting through it.[+teal “Or take my hand and show me that those sentiments back at the farm were true.”] The option was hers.
The guilt that had been lurking in her for the past several days was dragged out for everyone to see. Her face turning red as Nicolai spoke of her feeling as they concerned Adrian. [+mediumseagreen "I asked you to take it slow, not for things to be nonexistent. I was waiting for you, but you didn't come."] Her eyes glanced over to the red-eyed man. It was incredibly unfortunate that he had been dragged into all this nonsense. She really should have stuck to her guns and made sure their groups did not join for this journey. [+mediumseagreen "Instead it was Adrian. He acted in the way I had expected of you. Perhaps not in personality, but in interest. And... and he reminds me of home."] Her words were quiet but there, and face as warm as ever. [+mediumseagreen "Like had I known him, it helped keep me... calm."] He would touch her, but it was never in a way that felt threatening.
[+mediumseagreen "I would have thought that even if you refrained from touching me, you would have still liked to get to know me. To ask questions and get answers. I was fully prepared to give them."] And this without the deceptions and airs of mockery. [+mediumseagreen "But apparently that was not the case... it would seem if you cannot touch me as you please then you would rather have nothing to do with me."] She was making leaps in judgement here, though they weren't entirely unfounded from her point of view. [+mediumseagreen "Is that all you saw me as? All you wanted from me?"] She was beginning to think it was so. Nicolai was not different than most the other men she had met. It was a disappointing blow, as she thought he might stand out. But what could she expect from a man who claimed to love her at first sight.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Her arguments for hiding this truth from him, from Gregory and her own husband were – unfortunately – sound and justified in Nicolai's mind. She had given Germaine someone to dote on and his happiness was never so great as the day Augustine had been born. Even if it was a sham, even if it was a dirty trick on the poor man, his friend had known happiness and in his last breath had seen the boy he had come to call his own.
She was right to say that Germaine was his father and he his son. Because to take away the complexities of the situation, that is how they saw one another and so that is how it was. And so that argument was dropped. It was up to Augustine now to see what was truth and who he wished to see as his father. Nicolai had done all he could there.
It seemed now however that the conversation had shifted to the pairing. It was a great release of pent up frustrations and aggravation that had began on finding Adrian loitering about their group outside Underhill. She made the case for her sentiments and her feelings to be true and yet he shook his head.[+teal “I see truth in your eyes but.. I just can't believe the words I hear.”] It was as if his eyes and ears took in the information differently.[+teal “Because if your sentiments were true, then how does he fit into this?”] His hand waved across to Adrian who perked up from his tree but remained at distance.
She allowed her gaze to follow his hand to his identified culprit.[+teal “You told me to give you your space, that you disliked intimacy and being touched or held suddenly, and you asked for me to be patient and careful because you said you did not know much of romances.”] Her word were used almost verbatim, said back to her as she had spoken them their last morning on the farm.[+teal “You told me you wanted to try.. that as I was someone you felt close to, it would be easier..”] Saying the words back were like tiny pricks to his chest and yet a spark of fire lit as he his hand clenched and pointed to the crimson eyed man.
[+teal “And here he waltzes in, a stranger and a nobody to you. Yet soon, his hands are on you, touching you and he is in your heart in a matter of days. So how am I not to think I am being made a fool of? I did what you requested of me and yet here I stand a bloody idiot!”] His tone had grown somewhat harder, but he did not raise his voice – there would be no sense in shouting at her and he would look like an incoherent simpleton if he had.[+teal “I gave you space Florence. I held back on my advances and progressed slowly as you asked me to. Things were so well up until Underhill, until he arrived. So tell me how this changed things. Because the looks I see you give him.. the looks we all see,”] he gestured to Gregory and Elizabeth who had stood near one another to their right, Adrian the left,[+teal “I never had much of a chance did I?”] And again his voice had calmed as his hands fell back to his side. It was as if he were speaking with Elizabeth or Helga once more, offering up his heart and his feelings and yet his logic and his intuition was making excellent point after excellent point.
[+mediumseagreen "It was not slight against you that I kept quiet, Nicolai. I did not know there was anyone out there who knew what really happened. I had planned to take this to my grave."] Her voice was calm, probably more steady that it should have been, but this was something she decided even before her son was born. And even with the appearance of the Taken she thought that they were just out for vengeance. An eye for an eye, but it seemed Logan hadn't kept him mouth shut like she'd asked.
[+mediumseagreen "It was not for not. Augustine should be king. Germaine raised and instilled his love of Wistina in him, not to mention gave his blessing for it to be so. Even if he did not sire him, Augustine is Germaine's son!"] To say any different would be to say that Gregory was not her father and she would not stand for that. [+mediumseagreen "What I did was deplorable, and I will be the first to admit that, but think back to how happy he was. More than anything in the world Germaine wanted a family. I gave him that when it should not have been possible."] It was a justification she had clung to for years. All those times she looked at her boy and saw a dead man, she told herself it was for the best. That it made more people happy than it hurt. That she did the right thing.
Perhaps she had been able to keep her cool through this because each accusation was something she had years worth of time to think about. It must have been the case, because when Nicolai came at her with that final accusation, a deep pain in him, her eyes widened. She was shocked. [+mediumseagreen "No, of course not!"]
Florence was not so desperate for protection that she would stoop to that level. She and Gregory could have handled it. Sure, she would have strategized differently, but they could have done it. [+mediumseagreen "I did not want you to run off to your death for lack of other options! You might have been just about impossible for as long as I'd known you, but you were growing on me. Our talks revealed you were a better man than I once thought. Someone I could trust and see as a friend. And when you came forward with your confession, I had thought if you put in the effort you claimed you would that that fondness might grow."] But he hadn't he drifted away from her again, becoming cruel and argumentative. [+mediumseagreen "My sentiments back at the farm were true."] She had not intended to use his feelings as a means to manipulate him. Florence had thought about it, but she did not.
His head hummed with the gravity of what she was saying and how things began to fall into place, her story perhaps a fable but even Nicolai knew of some parts. The executed man for one. He had noted the executor leaving the stand used for just such occasions and on questioning Gerald had been informed there was an incident involving Florence and an attacker. It was left at that and nothing more but he could not have imagined then that the deceased was really Augustine's father.
The talk of her heritage was negliable, his mind having seen a point that was not made and questioned everything offered to him. And the fact Gregory was her adoptive father was partially expected as she had never truly discussed her father and the small man always acted as if she were his kin.
Nicolai could not keep his anger in though it did transition toward resentment than anything else.[+teal "Why did you not tell me? You did not even tell Gregory. I can understand trying to shield your son but us? I almost died trying to keep you both alive because I believed he was the King but he's just a bastard child born of circumstance."] He had not meant to be cruel to the boy but emotions often got the better of conversations.
Looking into her eyes he saw she had told the truth but despite knowing the facts now he was rather wounded.[+teal "Did you keep quiet simply so I would help you? Is that why? You know I would do anything for you. You know how I feel and what I think of.. you.."] A stark and more horrifying thought came to mind.
His eyes softened then and his brow furrowed. He was not a man for tears, and his eyes did not hint at such, but the look was like one who had been told some very bad news.[+teal "Did you.. did you do the same back at the farm to get me to follow you through the pass?"] The malice in his voice was entirely missing now. Now it was just confusion and mingled with it was fear that she would say yes. That he had indeed been played the fool for her own devices.
Her heart lifted some when Adrian stepped up, but she nodded along with Nicolai, despite not agreeing with everything he said. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, we need to talk, I will be fine.”] She was a touch less sure about that last part. The elf had still come to her aid, but she could not be sure if that was because he thought that Gerald and Ulrich were lying or not… and they weren’t.
Nicolai’s violet eyes came down hard on her. He was asking a lot and it was difficult not to just look away and let him disconnect from him. But he was owed answers. She promised, it was just hard to say thing she had worked over eight long years to conceal.
[+mediumseagreen “It is true… Germaine is not Augustine’s father by any blood ties.”] The words left a sour taste in her mouth. She would remain obstinate that he was indeed the boy’s father through other means though. [+mediumseagreen “But I will not have you believe that it is so out of some silly fit of passion, Nicolai. You know me too well to think that was the case.”] Well, after these last few days, maybe he would not believe it. But that was that and this with Adrian was another thing entirely. [+mediumseagreen “I did it to protect myself, so that I might not die like my predecessors…”] She thought back to the women who held the title of Queen of Wistina before her, bitterly. [+mediumseagreen “They each died in strange, mysterious circumstances. And while I do not think that Germaine had a hand in this, I do think his court did. They believed those women to be barren and a Queen who cannot produce an heir is useless to them. So they got rid of them… But they were not the problem. Tell me, what do you think the chances are of a man marrying two women unable to carry children in a row? It must be astronomically low… And what of the third, who only had one child for the entire length of their ten-year union? I would call that impossible, even before I entered the equation. And I was not about to die because he was impotent.”]
Even though she felt that should be enough to sate his curiosity, there was more to the story. And Nicolai said he wanted to know everything. [+mediumseagreen “I looked for a man who had similar features to Germaine, blond hair, blue eyes, strong build and at length I found the perfect candidate to test my theory. He was skulking around the edge of the grounds one day, it was too good to be true.”] Finding someone that had no strong connection to the crown with being unable to leave the castle grounds was a daunting task. [+mediumseagreen “He was receptive to my advances. A little too much so… eventually he came to tell me he was an assassin by trade, a member of an organization called the Taken. But by that time it was too late to cut him off and find someone else, I was already pregnant. And when he found out he was adamant that I should come to be with him. He was even so bold as to come to my chambers, but that was his downfall. It was there that he was found and labeled as an intruder. His execution was kept quiet. Germaine did not want to alarm the castle by telling them his finally pregnant bride was almost murdered in her sleep. It stayed between me, him, the guard who happened upon the scene, and the captain of the guard Gerald. Had anyone smarter, or less trusting, been thrown in the mix I am sure I would have been discovered that night…”]
That was a faithful narrative of her dealings, but she thought for a moment if there was anything else. [+mediumseagreen "There is not much else I can say that I have lied about. Nothing of consequence... though you seemed particularly interested in my heritage."] He had mentioned it in the pass, so she might as well tell that bit as well. [+mediumseagreen "No, I was never Queen or a princess in Astoria. My brother is King, but he was not born into that position. I did serve as his regent for a couple of years. I told you that much before. He took the throne at sixteen.] This was not her fault, she had never claimed to be a princess. Everyone just assumed since Eugene held the crown. [mesdiumseagreen "Gregory can attest to that, he was there."] That reminded her of one last big thing. [+mediumseagreen "And I suppose with that, you should know Gregory really is my father. Adopted of course, but all the same."] She was fairly sure those were all the bold faced lies. There were things beyond that she withheld, but they were not pertinent. Florence thought she should be able to keep some level of privacy in her life. Not to mention she was tired of talking.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Grateful to see everyone was working together, or at least doing so for the time being as it distracted them from what had happened, Nicolai followed Adrian's directions until they came onto the lake. It was not the greatest shelter, but he was right when he said it was like a maze and they would be able to rest in relative safety. And so they began to set up camp and their supplies were unloaded.
Pointing out for where to put their sleeping equipment, he moved to Augustine. Usually he would kneel or go down to his height, but coupling his waning energy with wanting him to feel that he was not a minor part of their group, he remained standing and addressed him in a more formal manner.[+teal “Your job is starting the fire. You know what sticks and kindling is needed, and Elizabeth will help by giving you her flint and steel. But make sure to build up some rocks around it to keep it covered.”]
He did not want them to be seen should their pursuers have been exceptionally good at tracking and to give them their due they were quite adept. Hopefully the slew of animals left in their wake by Florence's archery did not help them or were eaten by predators in the woods.
Each time he looked to the woman he felt disappointment, a heavy weight on his heart and a lump in his throat. In equal parts he wanted answers but he wanted to be kind about it and allow her to speak. His feelings toward her were quite conflicted at that stage but he knew it would not suffice to leave this conversation to fester, not in his current mood.
Nicolai needed answers and he waited a few seconds until her eyes fell on him, those large emerald eyes that often left him speechless and his heart aflutter, now leaving him with dread at what she may have done.[+teal “I just had to attack a lifelong friend because of something you have been keeping hidden from me for god knows how long Florence. Gerald was dead to me, I grieved for him, and now he comes back to tell me I cannot trust you?”] His voice had began low and in a disbelieving tone, but as he spoke it was clear his anger was growing.
Approaching forward he saw Adrian moving in to try and push himself into place, a hand coming that was quickly batter aside by the elf.[+teal “Don't you dare try and get involved in this. I'll have words for you later, but right now this is about our group so you sit your fucking arse down right over there and you shut your mouth! This is not the time for you to be trying to show off in front of her and you are not going to stop this from happening. So sit down Adrian.”] The blood was beginning to pump again, the body was working itself up and his eyes showed as much dislike of Adrian as they had of Ulrich.
Still, the tall man remained in place and shook his head.[+crimson “No, it isn't safe for me to move.”] He was convinced that he would strike her as he had previously, the bruise on her cheek almost gone but its memory was there. Nicolai shook his head back at him, hands moving to his waist as he fumbled at his belt. In a moment his fingers worked the buckle and removed the entire thing, the sword in it's scabbard pushed into the mans chest.[+teal “There, feel safe now? Because you can do as I say and sit your arse down. If I was going to harm her, I would have left you all to Gerald and his associates.”] He made a good point, and looking to Florence for a moment to see she was okay, he moved a little bit away to lean against a nearby tree.
With that man's need to swing his dick dealt with and his bravado sated for now, Nicolai looked back at the woman who had cause all this to occur. All his pain and suffering and anger could be pointed back at her and he needed answers right that instant.[+teal “I swear you, Augustine, Gregory, even your shitty little boyfriend, will not be harmed – but you have a lot of explaining to do. You are going to tell me what is going on, you are going to explain what he meant by Augustine not being Germaines, and you will tell me every lie, no matter how minute, you have told me over these years. And you will look me in the eye as you say every single word because I need to see the truth in them for myself this time.”] His voice was particularly soft, like they were back at the fire all those weeks before as he told her how Augustine was growing up so well. The anger and hurt was there, but only visible in his gaze should she be strong enough to do as he asked and look at him.
He was only a foot or so before her, his hands hanging at his sides and that familiar need to embrace her or to hold her and to try and protect her or show he cared so damn much was constantly there.
In his own truth, he wanted to ignore the stories. He wanted so desperately to tell her that he was here for her no matter what and that his promise, his oath of loyalty, was still as solid as ever. He wanted to brush her cheek and have her seen that he was here as more than her friend and show her he cared for her more than that like she had challenged him to do at the farm. Be the man she needed in her moment of need.
But his trust in her was hanging by a threat. He needed answers from her, ones that would give him an insight into what she did and why she had done it because even after what he had heard from Ulrich and Gerald – there was a feeling that he could still yet forgive her.
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