Augustus was not a fan of being talked down to as if he was not aware of the tendencies of man and their affinity for war. He had played his own part in that, in what was debatably the worst kind: civil. All the casualties were losses no matter whose side took them. But now was not the time to tell horror stories about that. He let Nicolai say his piece and then leave. Whether or not he would get what he wanted out of the kitchen staff was another matter entirely. Gregory may have been able to finagle whatever he liked out of Samantha and her crew, but he seriously doubted the elf would have such an easy time of it. Especially if she recognized him as the man who had been wandering about the castle all that time ago.
It was a matter of days before Nicolai was gone from the castle, and shortly after that the country. Word still buzzed, hearsay of what people thought had happened. These whispers were little more than shadows of what had really come to pass. It was still up in the air whether or not the official story would be released to those outside of the immediate family of the victims. Eugene said something about asking how those involved wanted the situation handled as the memory of their loved ones could be tarnished. He would base his actions around that, though Florence got the feeling he would likely come to light with the situation. That was just how he was.
Augustine had a renewed flame in him to get out of Astoria and finally start on his journey. It did not help that he knew Nicolai was waiting for them. Florence constantly reminded him that if the past general had waited this long, he could wait another week or two. She was really just holding out for Eugene's return before they left. At the very least she wanted a proper goodbye with her brother. There was no telling if she would ever be back. If everything went perfectly, yes, but she did not dare to even dream that would happen.
The time passed quickly for the woman. Knowing that her time here was running short did not help with that either. She spent less and less time helping out, partially because she did not want to start tasks and leave them unfinished, and more time in the company of family and friends. Most of this was dedicated to Gregory. Out of everyone, it would be strangest to part with him. Regardless Eugene returned and she gave them three days before they were to leave. It came and went in a blur.
Standing at the gate, Florence was dressed for travel. She traded in her dress for a pair of pants. It was a little strange, but she would get used to it soon. But she was not the only one set to go. Marko met them there and the three of them fully prepared for the trip ahead. All that was left was goodbyes, and there were plenty of them to be had. Many people were gathered round for the occasion and there were very few dry eyes among them. A lot of embraces were forced on Florence, but she took it in stride. She managed to keep a stiff upper lip right until it got around to her father's turn. He had her tearing up by the end of his spiel, which was likely one final and intentional jab at her.
As the crowd started to clear and there were fewer and fewer people about, Florence noticed two missing faces. Abigail was not among them. Then, as if that thought summoned her, she came rushing from inside. Behind her trailed a red tail. It was not until she drew closer that they would be able to see that it was a scarf. Running up to Augustine, she reached up and wrapped the knitted garment around his neck with a tearful smile. Understanding the sentiment even without words, the boy smiled back and thanked her. And with her parting gift, the trio was off.
There had been no plans to stop until they made it to the southern port, but they were barely a mile out of town when there was a surprise. It was the other missing face from their farewell party: Flora. And given she was fully decked out to travel, this was not for a private goodbye. [+mediumseagreen "Come now, Flora. You know we cannot take you with us. What would your parents think if I just stole you away like that?"]
That seemed to be what the young lady expected to hear, she pulled a folded piece of paper from her pocket as she spoke. [+plum "I already talked to my mom about it. She is okay with me coming. I've got a letter from her, if you don't believe me."]
Florence took the letter and it truly was from Julia. The gist of it was that she wanted Flora to be able to make her own choices, though it was written out to be a little more berating toward her child than that. Half of it was complaining that she would need to find a new apprentice, but Florence expected nothing less of Julia. [+mediumseagreen "And your father?"] Her green eyes came off the parchment to look back at the girl.
[+plum "He didn't say no..."] The tone and look on her face led Florence to believe that was code for 'he had no idea this is happening.' [+plum "Mom is going to handle him."]
Shaking her head at the pair, Florence wondered how many years it was going to take for Augustus to get over this. No doubt this would be the reason he sent his first letter to her, and it would not be a kind one. But for now, she would not feel too terrible about it. [+mediumseagreen "Alright, but let us hurry before Augustus catches on and we all have to hear his lecture."]
It was a full days journey down to the port town. They spent the night there and then spent the next day on a boat, much to Florence's chagrin. Her seasickness was still very much a problem. When they finally made it to the tiny village, the one that Nicolai had been brought to, she was the first one off ship. And oh boy, did she look worse for wear.
After thanking the captain and crew, Augustine regrouped with his mother. She waved him and the others on, telling them to leave her be and track down Nicolai. That would afford her some time to get her feet back under her. Standing on solid, non rocking, ground was already doing her wonders. She hoped to be recovered by the time they returned.
Agreeing to that, the blond took off in search of their last party member. It was a small town, so he did not think it would take long. And he was right. One mention of an elf and he was pointed in the right direction. He found the violet-eyed man set up at the village's only inn.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was taken back to his room still in his shackles and he could understand the animosity given to him by those he passed. Adrian’s treachery was not yet, or probably never would be, known by those around him. All those eyes that looked on him saw a barbaric monster or a mercenary who delighted in killing people. And in that way it stung him much worse than if they simply disliked his personality like Florence. He could understand that. Yet to hate him because they assumed he was a man of bloodlust and death? It rather hurt.
As he had said to Eugene, he was not working with the rebellion out of a desire to kill Astorians. If he wanted that he could have killed many, many more. Instead he had focused the violence and the attacks, had made it less terroristic and more of a battle between two opposing forces. He had subdued the pyromaniacs and the anarchists in the rebellion and had made things better for everyone involved by doing so. But no, he was to be remembered in these lands as a cruel and evil person. And by the looks of the servants and guards and general dignitaries he passed he was like some kind of boogie man, evil personified.
Led back to his room he was unshackled and pushed within, though a few minutes later the doors were opened and he was informed by Augustine that he could leave the room, that Augustus had released him as his charge and his responsibility. He fought to supress a roll of his eyes. He disliked being indebted to people, not least Augustine or his mother. Yet now he owed them his life – such a debt was not easily repaid. Thanking the younger man however he asked if there was a small garden he might sit in. Having been in a room of stone and wood for weeks, he wanted to feel the wind and outdoors again. He even invited the guard who had held his key and been stationed outside his door if he wished to follow – perhaps he would be able to help should someone in the castle see him loose and attack him in panic that he had escaped. The man seemed more content that he would know where Nicolai was and not roaming free.
And that is where Augustus found him. Sat outside near the harvest fields, leaning against the inner wall of the castle as his fingers grasped handfuls of dirt and let it sift through slowly, staring off into the distance of Astoria’s landscape about them. The guard, not far away and still with his head at a swivel, reported that he had been sat here for nearly an hour now ‘playing with the dirt’, but otherwise had done nothing else.
[+darkslateblue “Is this what you did in Malidek to pass the time? Play in the dirt like swine and children?”] Perhaps not the best to compare pigs to kids but oh well.
Nicolai took his time turning his head away from the scenery to look at Augustus and smiled. It was a soft smile, quite gentle too.[+royalblue “Let us just say it is because I’m elven. We’re earthen creatures.”] It was not true, or rather was an old stereotype of the race, but he let his hand release a final handful before brushing them together.
Augustus took a seat on a nearby upturned bucket and shook his head.[+darkslateblue “Well, earthen creature, I am here to tell you that we will arrange for you to be returned to Malidek as soon as possible. Not to Vollenberg – for obvious reasons. You’ll be dropped off on the coastline.”] To put him in the middle of the storm would be silly.
[+royalblue “Shame. I could get used to this.”] He said gesturing to the fields of crops and the beautiful sights about him. But it was tongue in cheek and he saw Augustus shake his head lightly.
[+darkslateblue “I doubt even the God’s could convince Eugene to let you stay; and I agree with him. Especially given we still have to deal with the rebels and their demands.”] He let out a deep breath and leaned forward on his seat.
[+royalblue “What is there to deal with? Move your men to the port district, let them protect the ships and docks and leave the rest of Vollenberg alone and you will have peace.”] Nicolai spoke so nonchalantly about it that Augustus looked at him with derision and scepticism. Seeing the look he was getting the elfin man chuckled.[+royalblue “Oh come now Augustus, you know negotiations are like that.”]
[+darkslateblue “You demanded homes, jobs, the wall gone as well as the soldiers.”]
[+royalblue “Yes; start big to get what you really want. If I had simply asked for the soldiers to be returned to the port district you would fight against me on even that. The key to negotiations is to start with grounds to concede. I would have fought tooth and nail for it all, but in the end I would settle for what I want, what the rebellion wants, or rather what I convinced them they wanted.”] Leaning back on the wall behind him he had chills up his spine, a subconscious memory to being back in the dungeon.
[+darkslateblue “So.. the whole time this could have been settled by just moving the soldiers to the port? All those soldiers died.. all those families are grieving now, and all you wanted was them to move back?”] He was not happy about that at all and represented the anger no doubt Eugene would.
Nicolai looked unfazed by it all.[+royalblue “Yes. Your soldiers died needlessly because you were misled by a traitorous mad man in Adrian. I did my best to limit losses. But I suppose one is too many these days.”] If he had known, he would have offered to go with Eugene to visit those families, let them shout at him, the children beat at him in anger and widows slap him repeatedly in grief. But that was an unspoken thought.
Augustus for his part was silent for a long time, contemplating just what had happened these last seven years since Adrian turned up. And Nicolai noticed his aggrieved look.
[+royalblue “Do not take it personal Augustus. This is life. This is war. Just as sure as summer gives way to winter, there will always be war, where men die and families grieve and those left will lament why we keep doing it, why we let the cycle repeat and will swear it will not happen again.”] He ran his hands up through his hair and sighed deeply before pushing up onto his feet.[+royalblue “Come James, let us go to the kitchens and see if I can get something sweet for a change.”] He spoke to the guard not far away from them but paused as he passed by Augustus. Looking down on him his violet eyes softened a touch.[+royalblue “Tell Eugene I am sorry for all this. If I had remained firm seven years ago, none of this would have happened. Things would be different. But then again, perhaps the same in some ways.”] His footsteps quietened as he left the man be and set off in search of something to eat, his guard close behind.
Soon it was just the two of them and Augustine looked to his namesake. It was apparent that he was taking the full weight of what Eugene had said when he left the room. He was in some trouble, but that was not entirely uncommon. At least, it hadn't been when he was in his youth, so he would get over that. It was his friends disappointment that really stung. His eyes came over to meet the boy's; he wanted to blame it on him. Had Augustine not interfered none of this would have come out of the woodwork, however, he knew better. After they were sure of what happened and matters were settled with Adrian, he should have told Eugene what was going on. That was his mistake.
Locked in that thought, he barely caught what Augustine said to him. [+coral "So... does this mean that Nicolai is to be set loose?"] Obviously he knew that he was to be released; he was asking for for the time in between now and their departure.
Augustus' voice came out worn. [+darkslateblue "If we are to treat him as your subject, then yes."] He would essentially be an ambassador of Wistina. [+darkslateblue "But if he makes any trouble, he will be restrained again and it is coming back on you."] The man did not really believe that Nicolai would do anything at this point, he just wanted the blond boy to be aware of the burden he had taken on.
With that Augustine gave the man his thanks and ran off to pass the message along. There was a chance that Nicolai would want to be left to his own means for a while, but he wanted to give him the chance to do so out of that room. He could only imagine how tired of the same decor he was and how he longed for a breath of fresh air.
Contrary to how things usually went, all mouths that were present at the meeting stayed closed. Not a single rumor or whisper about what had transpired echoed through the halls. Florence found it odd, but she did not have to worry about it for long, because Eugene came to her himself. He vented his frustrations at her. She was surprised that Augustus would let everything slip, then it turned out it was not him at all. Her son had been tracking things from behind the scenes and injected himself into the situation. But that interference saved Nicolai's life, so she could not be too mad at him. And looking at her brother, she knew deep down he was grateful too.
Having given himself time to step back and look at all the facts, now that he had them, Eugene was still feeling hurt at the betrayal from his sister and friend. But he was glad things had deescalated to some extent. Given more details, he did not think Nicolai should die over this. Truth be told, he thought there was seldom reason to take a man's life. But he knew his opinion was not universal and his stance on such things had been wrong in the past. The most prominent time being in the case of dealing with the late King Gresham. So in trying to take a more critical eyes he ended up losing himself and for that he felt terrible. Though that did not completely dissipate his hard feelings toward the elf. Indeed, Florence was also irritated when she heard about what happened with the children in Malidek. Nicolai had been asked so many times to give them all the details. Everything that pertained to what was going on and he left something as important as that out. That or he thought they already knew. A thought that confused her greatly, as she was not sure how he could be so mistaken about her character to think she would sweep such a thing under the rug or treat it as nothing. Had they known that had occurred, things would have been different from the start. But now was not the time to dwell on it.
The siblings talked over it for a long time before Florence asked that all important question. [+mediumseagreen "So what are you going to do?"]
The man let out a long sigh. [+seagreen "Tell the truth."]
She flinched, that did not sound like the best of ideas to her. But given how terribly things had gone by listening to her and Augustus' advice up till now, it was time for him to have his chance to do things his way.
[+seagreen "I am going to go to the families of the deceased individually, explain what has happened and apologize."] It was his oversight that resulted in this mess, so he would take responsibility and see that the families knew what had happened and why. Then judging based on what he saw there he would either finalize his decision to leave Malidek or try to make repairs.
[+mediumseagreen "Eugene... If you are going to do that then I should come with you. I was the one who brought Adrian here in the first place. I was the one who was deceived of his character."] That one misjudgment had caused so much pain and suffering. She deserved the discomfort of having to confront it head on, but her brother shook his head at her.
[+seagreen "No, at the end of the day this falls back on me as a leader. I should have looked further into it, so I will handle the repercussions... You need to prepare to start your journey back to the south."] Truth be told he wanted Nicolai out of Astoria as soon as possible. He hated to part from his sister and nephew, but to have that man staying in the castle would test even the faith of his people. [+seagreen "Just come back to us as soon as you can, Florence."] He smiled at her, though it was not a fully happy gesture, and she returned the expression. Things were in the process of change again.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat With Captain Liam brought and plopped down in a seat not far from him Nicolai was finally allowed to lift his head, though he kept low so that his hands could reach and massage at his forehead. He had had a terrible time of headaches the last two weeks and here they were aggravating that by slamming his head on the table. Just break a finger next time. It would be much easier to deal with that discomfort than the throbbing of his mind.
Once he had focussed, he was only hearing Eugene, having missed what was going on. Whatever had been discussed between them all had flown over his head but apparently he was to be let go and he looked at Eugene with narrowed eyes and thin lips. He was not pleased about being saved by Augustine. Yes, he was an egotistical idiot who was very particular about not having said ego challenged. And here he was forced to sit there and be thankful that he had been saved.
Florence would not let this down, she would pounce on it at every moment that he stepped out of line or challenged her; 'my son saved your life'. Oh he could hear that aggravating woman's voice now. And yet on thinking of her, the headache subsided. On seeing that delightful smile, that strong and powerful emerald gaze, hearing her sing-song voice. Now was not the time to swoon however and he was not given too much time to deliberate what he was thinking before he was being dragged out of the room by the guard that had not brought Liam, pushed ahead of him. He had been denied one last word to Eugene but likely it was for the best.
They had Liam sat down before he came out of his confused stupor. Augustus was the one to take the lead. [+darkslateblue "Before the incident at the mill, Nicolai claims that there was some foul play on our part and that the death of two Malidek boys was the true reason for what happened. Is this true?"]
Much like he had been during the first interrogation with the captain he became antsy. His gaze went from person to person in the room, but his mouth stayed shut.
[+darkslateblue "Liam! I suggest you speak and you tell the truth. There is no one for you to be covering for anymore."] surely news of Adrian's death had made it to his ear. It was bound to be buzzing about amongst the guards.
After another pause, he nodded. [+cadetblue "It is true. Adrian wanted a reason to push forward so he acted on his own and gave them reason."]
A fire lit behind the man's eyes. [+darkslateblue "And you saw no reason to report this?"] the man looked away, meaning he was already under Adrian's command that long ago. It was disgusting. Augustus wanted to send him away, but there was no telling if they would need anything else confirmed, so he said nothing letting the man sink farther into his chair.
As horrifying as that was to hear, that the provocation had started on their end, it did not fully extinguish Eugene's anger toward the elf. All this meant was that all those people died because someone Nicolai knew full well to be crooked did a crooked thing. He spoke of wanting talks but knowing Adrian to be no good, then why had he not overstepped him? There was nothing to stop him from coming straight here and telling him or Florence. Was this all some game to him? A play war so I can feel the thrill of being a general again? To Eugene he looked a man who did not care if he could stop the senseless death, so long as he got the glory in the end.
Augustine caught the look in his uncle's eyes. He was not happy, not in the least. This was, of course, not happy news, but his expression was something different. There was a specific kind of hurt and he was afraid of where it might lead. [+coral "Onkel... I know this may not be the right time, but given this new information I think it only right that Nicolai have his freedom. If not for his own sake, but mine. He is going to be a crucial piece for when we return to Wistina. Our chances of success will be much greater if he is at our side..."] It was a shameless request, though he did actually believe that Nicolai should not die for this.
Eugene shook his head, though that was not his answer. It was more to clear his mind. [+seagreen "Augustine... Fine. I sincerely hope that he is able to help you in your endeavor. But once he leaves, he is never to return. I do not want him to ever step foot on Astorian soil again."] Pushing off against the table, the King went to stand again. He was going to have a lot to do in the weeks to come. [+seagreen "Augustus."] The name came out harsh. [+seagreen "We are going to have words about you keeping things from me."] The man almost more upset about that than everything else. He trusted Augustus to tell him what he needed to know to make the right choices, and he had failed him.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat So the boy had brass, eh? A few days ago he was timid, repentant for what he had done, wanting to know if that ill feeling would disappear. Now he was here telling Nicolai to shut up and stop talking and the elf had no reply both witty or crude. He was quite impressed to be perfectly truthful. Still, with his head pinned to the table and hands shackled he could not exactly look to disobey the boy. For once Nicolai complied, saying nothing as he closed his eyes to fight the discomfort of his current predicament.
Hearing the guard was dismissed to bring in a Captain Liam made Nicolai partly curious. If this was the man he had been told about by Daniels, then this would be Adrian's lackey. And without the main man alive, he would have to do as their best hope of confirming his account of what had happened. It was partly funny however. It seemed they knew very little and yet he was guilty in absentia of this information. Eugene knew very little of what was going on and seemed only to want Nicolai's life based solely on the fact he had killed his soldiers. It was almost tyrannical to kill opposition based on such flimsy evidence; something Vincent would be more than happy to do.
Not long after a confused Liam was pushed into the room, equally shackled like Nicolai and looking about himself wondering why he had been summoned before all those gathered - especially the King.
[+coral "Like hell it isn't!"] Augustine could not believe he was being stubborn now of all times. Practically one foot in the grave and he wanted to pull some stupid macho act. [+coral "Last I checked you still consider yourself a citizen of Wistina and that makes me your King. So shut your mouth and let me do my job."] There was little room for argument with the tone he was taking. Not to mention he did not leave anyone else time to speak before he went on, now directing his words back at his uncle. [+coral "I am not just making this up to try and save him, it is the truth. Adrian was a member of the taken. He tried to attack mom and I retaliated. That is what killed him, not his confrontation with Nicolai."]
Once again, Eugene glanced over to Augustus whose silence spoke volumes. At least that part was likely to be true, and with how Nicolai had reacted to the information, that was a double confirmation. He nodded so that the boy might continue if he had anything else to say.
[+coral "By bringing this information forward who knows what sort of catastrophy we managed to avoid. Killing him after saving our hides would be shameful."] His green eyes were filled with determination as he stared down his uncle just across the room.
Bringing a hand up to rub at his temple, Eugene let out a long breath. If this was as true as he thought it was, they would owe the elf to some extent. He just was not sure how much of his folly it overwrote. The man decided to dig a little deeper into things. [+seagreen "Augustus. What of this business with the children before the mill?"] It was not something he had ever heard of and he was choosing to think it nothing more than a desperate man's lie. But if Nicolai's word had been reliable up to this point, and with things as severe as a traitor among them, he would do well to look into it.
[+darkslateblue "It was never in any report that made it to me."] That did not necessarily mean it did not happen though. Something of that nature would explain the sudden change in level and direction of violence. It would also place a larger share of the blame onto their shoulders. [+darkslateblue "But I can confirm by a second source."] Directly after that Augustus barked at one of the guards to bring Captain Liam up from the dungeon. They would have his word on the matter since he had been at Adrian's side for the entirety of this ordeal.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai shook his head at a lot of what Eugene was saying. It was the talk of someone who felt all superior and lauded it over those below. Nothing he did was wrong, nothing he said was a lie, everything he did was holy. He could see so much of Florence in her and now he understood it was just a familial trait.[+royalblue “A fortnight before the mill you had two young boys killed on the suspicion that they were with the rebellion. No older than ten – dead. Don't think this was unprovoked and stop acting like you are clean in any of this! You began it, I am ending it!”] The guard had stepped forward to push him back into his seat though now he pushed a little against the man's hand and in a moment his head was slammed forward onto the table, rebounding a little before being pinned in place.
It was here, with Nicolai's argument and Eugene's decree he would be put to death that Augustine came in. What he said was what everyone in the room bar his Uncle knew. But the moment he began to say it there was a look of trepidation on Nicolai's face. This was perhaps what both he and Augustus had been hoping to shield the boy from.[+royalblue “Ignore him, he is being emotional given our past. He is trying to take the blame so that you don't kill me but I won't let him.”] He struggled under the hand on his head but he couldn't move from it as he looked over to the young boy and gritted his teeth.[+royalblue “This is not your fight Augustine..”] He tried to catch the youthful boys eye, trying to convey his desire for him not to do this. Even now he was quite prideful and did not want others to defend him. Even now, after seven years, it made him feel weak.[+royalblue “It is okay.”]
[+seagreen "I think it is more than you do not understand Astorian's than I misunderstand soldiers. That may be what it is like in the south, but things are different here."] It would have done the man well to actually know a thing or two about the country before he came and started making these sort of broad comments. [+seagreen "And the last time I checked, victors do not need to meet the demands of those they had beaten."] If anything, if they had truly won, they should have been able to simply state what it is that they wanted and Nicolai's band of merry men should back down. But seeing as that was no the case this was a long shot from victory.
[+seagreen "Reasonable? Treating us as a middle man for what should be your talks with the Baron, is reasonable?"] That was a touch incredulous. [+seagreen "You want houses, and yet I have no authority to build them. You want the wall to be torn down, but I was not the one to build it. You want jobs, but eighty percent of what we are doing is ferrying goods from port to port on boats."] Unless they wanted to join Astorian trade ships and leave the town they called home there was not a lot to be done for them. [+seagreen "And you want our men out of that city, well join the long list of us that have been waiting for that to become a possibility."]
[+seagreen "You may attack my character all you like, but that is not going to help you."] He could understand that Nicolai was upset. He clearly cared deeply for this cause, which was something Eugene could relate to, but he was trying his damnedest not to let those sympathies blind him.
Shaking his head, Eugene was regretting the choice to let Augustus have his way with this more and more. [+seagreen "Was the incident at the mill not unprovoked?"] As he recalled they were called to help some of the locals who were trying to expand and they were all brutally murdered. [+seagreen "That was what brought us off of the defensive."] Before that point, the guard was there simply to keep their people safe from the attacks that preceeded it. [+seagreen "I can not speak for everything that happened there, as I was not as involved as I should have been."] He shot a sidelong glance over at his dark eyed friend that denoted his displeasure. Even now he knew there were things he and Florence were withholding from him. [+seagreen "That was my fault."] He was not afraid to admit that. Like any person, he had plenty of shortcomings. [+seagreen "But I am here now and I have to admit we made mistakes. Mistakes I will pay for with the backlash of bringing my people home from Malidek. You also need to see your mistakes, and recognize that you are going to have to pay for them with your life."] It seemed as though Nicolai did not want to chance he was giving him at putting his life in the hands of others, so he was going to make the choice here and now.
With the finality of that, Eugene began to rise from his chair. He was barely to his feet when Augustine came bursting through the door in a huff. There was little time to ask what in the world was wrong, let alone tell him to get out before he was jabbering away.
[+coral "Onkel Eugene, don't do this!"] The blond was ruffled, his uncle wondered just how long he had been listening in. [+coral "He does not deserve to die over this, not after he helped us."] The boy spoke quickly, trying to get everything he needed to say out. [+coral "Nicolai had good reason to distrust Adrian, he knew he was deceiving us about his character. It is not unreasonable that he would not reach out because of that. Think back to when you spoke with my mom. She said that she trusted Nicolai and that she had doubts about Adrian. Think about that and what it means. And- and- and- he didn't kill Adrian, I did."] His hands were balled tightly at his sides. It was difficult to admit that, but he just did not think it fair that Nicolai did all this to help them and then they just let him die, even with all the stuff with Vollenberg.
Eugene was shocked into silence. His nephew was turning out to be quite the little eavesdropper. When he was more clear about it, his eyes went to Augustus who looked away. So what Augustine had said had to be true to at least some extent. [+seagreen "What is going on?"] Gaze hard on his friend now, he expected answers and fast.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai listened in a polite manner, letting Eugene respond to his points one after the other before he would speak himself. A time may come for him to interject and argue back but for now each party was being very civil and he preferred it this way. Yet everything the man said was an utter lie and he bit on his tongue to save barking back at him.
Looking to Augustus at the end, as if to gauge the mans reaction to this news that he would live or die by the choice of emotional families, he found the man was quite blank. Clearly everything Nicolai had done with regards to Adrian meant nothing and he would not look to that dark eyed fool for help. He would save himself.
[+royalblue “I will respond to all your egregious points in order to keep things simple and ordered.”] Without order this would descend into a shouting match that ended with him being dragged out by the guards.[+royalblue “Firstly; you don't understand soldiers if you think they will be satisfied with a feel-good-thought like that.[i 'Died protecting their comrades.'] Soldiers fight for one another yes, but there has to be a reason. The reason was to defend Astorian trade. To pull out would be to admit defeat and they will not forgive you for tarnishing the memories of those lost men, they will resent you, for pushing them into a frivolous war to begin with but also for a very pyrrhic victory.”] That led onto his next point and he lifted his hands, the metal clinking together as he did.
[+royalblue “You may not like to admit it but this is your victory. Having me means leverage to get the peace you desire. Yes, it will come at a cost, but no it will not result in a cycle of unrest. Not if most of my demands are met – and they are reasonable.”] He was unsure if Florence had passed along said demands when he made them in the dungeon, though he could reiterate them if needed.
Moving to the final point he kept his shackled hands in view. It was a good visual reminder he felt.[+royalblue “As for throwing my fate to the will of emotionally hurt and fragile families, that is two fold a bad idea. Firstly it shows you to be a weak King. You are were you are because you fought for the title, and now, when it comes to dealing with you enemies, you pass the judgement to your citizens? Rather than dirty your hand by making the decision you know they will make you instead wipe them clean and can reason with yourself that,[i 'it was not I who chose death, it was them'.] If you want to be a strong leader that garners the respect of those below them, then you make the difficult decisions and take that responsibility. You would not save face, you would lose authority. They become their own leaders, dispensing their own justice. Anarchy surely follows.”] He had basically called the King a coward. Now would be the time to put forward his defence, or at least some of it.
[+royalblue “It is also a bad idea as I am sure we can all agree, their decision would be to have me killed. And why? They are hurt. They lost loved ones. But they forget their loved ones were not bakers, or tanners, or farmers. They were soldiers. And soldiers die in war. They accept the risk and in turn their families must also accept the same risk, that taking up arms and fighting for your Kingdom or your family or for a cause you truly believe in,”] the last one applied most to him with regards to Augustine,[+royalblue “can and often does have the heaviest price to pay.”] His hands dropped back down though he leaned forward in his seat. He heard the shift of a guard and it made him half smile at how edgy they were.
[+royalblue “Now. I have a point to make to you and your lackey here. You may look to him for confirmation.”] His head nodded to Augustus though he remained focused on the emerald eyed man.[+royalblue “I took control of those rebels starting with the attack on the mill. Since that time, have any citizens, both Malidek and Astoria alike, reported being attacked?”] A shake of the head from Augustus, messy hair swaying. He did make note that sometimes civilians reported theft but never did they come to harm.[+royalblue “Has Vollenberg been burned, attacked or damaged in anyway?”] Another shake of his head, confirmation that the town was not touched.[+royalblue “Have Astorian soldiers only died when they left the confines of their walls and sallied out to attack me, to kill me and my people?”] No response from him that time as he narrowed his eyes, picked up on from the corner of Nicolai's eye.[+royalblue “He might not confirm or deny it, but the truth of the matter is that I played purely defensive. I killed your men when you came to attack me. I did not harm civilians, only took food and provisions to survive. I left Vollenberg very much alone. I even made several trips to within sight of the walls, letting myself be seen. And why? I waited for you to send a messenger, an envoy, someone to negotiate or discuss the faults like we do now. Did you? No. Adrian decided to brute force this and try to wipe us out, to kill us rather than talk to us. Your sister told me that negotiations are two sided, that we did not try to open channels to talk to you. But considering how aggressive you were, and how focused on our destruction you became, we did not trust you – or rather, Adrian – not to kill me first. Thus why I dealt with that problem and allowed myself to be brought here to Astoria. So we could talk.”]
Lifting his hands as he leaned forward against the table, they barely grasped the edge as he narrowed his eyes on Eugene.[+royalblue “Understand this, both of you. My daughter will know her father was a good man, fighting for those who could not defend themselves against an enemy who only sought their death, and always seeking peace.”] Nicolai was confident in his words. He had always fought with the knowledge that should his daughter try to learn about him she would see he was a good man. He wanted her to be proud of him.
[+seagreen “You are right about some of that, but not all. They did not die for nothing. Each and every one of those men died protecting their comrades and civilians in a foreign land.”] Once the boarders of their little island opened, the people were filled with curiosity of new places. They knew that there were dangers in treading on foreign soil and so they would also know that there was a price to be shielded from that. That would not make the pain of the loss any less, but he hoped they would see that that nothing was done in vain.
The man shook his head. [+seagreen “You are mistaken. This is no victory. We have you but that does little but enter us into negotiations, which will result in a compromise. And seldom is anyone satisfied with a compromise. Eventually your side will find unrest again and the cycle will start anew because there is that idea that perfection is right on the horizon. And because acting out and using violence worked the first time, they will be all the more likely the return to it.”] Things would get harder and harder for off shore Astorians. To leave now was the best way to avoid that. And he knew he could weather the anger of the few in order to benefit the rest.
[+seagreen “But you are right, I would like to keep face with the families who have lost loved ones.”] He shifted a little uncomfortably with what he was about to say. [+seagreen “That is why I thought it only right to let them decide your fate.”] It basically boiled down to a death sentence. He very much doubted that the wives and children of the fallen would want anything less than to see the one responsible hanged.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai found it, cute? Perhaps not cute, but rather sweet that Eugene tried to speak in such menacing words.[i The man with the blood on his sword.] It had such a ring to it, no doubt it would have been met with murmured agreement and nods of indignation of a watching crowd but before two militaristic men like himself and Augustus it was all pomp and no substance.
His next comment however brought a raised brow of interest from Nicolai and he was surprised to find Augustus arguing against it. Allowing the couples bickering to settle, with Eugene trying to come across as authoritative and commanding but looking quite petty, he shook his head lightly and saw both men look at his wondering why he did so.[+royalblue “I apologise but, and this is coming from a General who once commanded over a thousand men,”] it was nice to remind people he used to have some authority and power in military matters,[+royalblue “but if you leave Vollenberg then you will have quite the furious soldiers and kingdom on your hands here in Astoria.”]
Perhaps they were silent a moment due to not asking for his opinion, or they just particularly hated listening to him, but Nicolai took it as a sign to continue.[+royalblue “You pull out now, in the swift manner you speak of, then every man who has died over there died for nothing. His friends and fellow soldiers will despise you for that. Their families with loathe you. You won't have to worry about Malidek you'll have to worry about Astoria much more.”] Feeling on a roll with his point he licked his dry lips before again moving on.
[+royalblue “You have me now and as I told Florence, who was once a very good friend of mine too might I add, you have won. Why turn such a victory into defeat by leaving?”] Nicolai still kept reserved on reasons for why he would be let go from this trial and be allowed to leave as once he made his case, that would lead toward the end of this conversation. Perhaps it was cocky for him to think his freedom was guaranteed, but if he was judging this King right, he could all but confirm he would be released. For right now, he was interested by the green-eyed man's response to his questions.
Eugene had not expected him to deny it, per se, more like explain his actions. The last thing he thought he would be hearing, however, was this man nitpick and pick apart everything he said. That alone gave him a little more idea of what they were dealing with her. Taking in a deep breath, he reflected back the level tone that Nicolai had kept with him.
He saw little need to go back and forth over frivolities. They both knew what he had meant the first time, rewording it in a more flowery manner was not going to get him out of this. Though he did see truth in the last statement. [+seagreen "While it is true that some of the blame does fall to us, it does not acquit you of any and all of it. A great deal of guilt will always go to the man with the blood on his sword."] That went both ways as he knew his soldiers would have killed men on the other side as well. [+seagreen "But you do not have to worry about that any more. After this I am going to do what I should have done a long time ago. We are pulling out of Malidek."]
Augustus' expression turned to one of shock. They had not discussed this. [+darkslateblue "That will decimate the local economy, we cannot do something so rash so suddenly."]
[+seagreen "You think I do not know that, Augustus?"] His voice stayed calm, though his question had an authoritative tone. [+seagreen "But no amount of money is worth the lives of our people. We have not had this many troubles anywhere else."] Initially, it had been the same trouble everywhere, but other countries were more open to negotiating terms for their people. The baron of Malidek did not seem to care. He would fold every chance he had just to keep the coin flowing through what used to be a small and unprosperous village. In the end it hurt both sides. Eugene should have done something sooner, but here they were. [+seagreen "Vollenberg may have been convenient due to its close proximity, but we can and will work without it and it without us."]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was grateful to be given his summons – or rather told he was being summoned – to a tribunal that would decide his fate. After several days of nothing more than light exercising, slumber and eating, he was growing restless and agitated. Florence and Augustine had not visited again though he guessed they had been told to stay away because of the impending trial. It meant that when they came for him he was rather open to going with the guardsmen who brought thick iron shackles for him.
He had kept the padding from the old ones to stop them scraping on his skin, though these were more restrictive and kept his hands tightly bound together whilst a chain about his waist kept them from leaving his body. He was not trusted it seemed, but given Augustus knew he had escaped his room, the dark eyed man would not take the elf lightly. Nicolai could not blame them, not with the King in his presence.
As he was led in he thought to offer a greetings to his fellow investigator, give him a full and hearty smile or even a wave. Yet from his facial appearance – as well as that of the King to his side – they were not here to play. Speaking of the King, Eugene was much as he expected; a masculine representation of Florence. His shining emerald eyes and dark auburn hair were matched to his stoic face. Led to his seat and forcibly made to sit – though he had intended to – he stared quite impassively down the table to the two men. Eugene had a great orators voice, loud and clear and it would have woken the dead had they been in the room. His words were thought out, meaningful yet concise and to the point. The note about Adrian was interesting, but Nicolai waited for the man to finish.
When he did, there was a look pause and with a jingle the shackles rose a little from resting on his lap.[+royalblue “I am guilty as charged.”] There was no anger or challenge in his tone to the other mans accusations. And whilst Eugene looked on him with a hint of suspicion in his gaze, Augustus looked bewildered by the elfin males approach. Smiling at the confused duo Nicolai let his hands drop and shrugged.[+royalblue “From your looks, you expected me to deny what I have done?”] He pursed his lips and shook his head dismissively.[+royalblue “I don't. I did what you accuse me of, and will not argue for evidence to be presented – no doubt of which you have much.”] They would have tallies and reports and charts and testimonies galore. He could not hope to defeat that argument.
[+royalblue “However,”] thankfully he did have some form of defence,[+royalblue “my only qualm is the terminology you use. If I may?”] He looked at Eugene for a moment as if for permission to continue, though he did regardless.[+royalblue “At my pinnacle I had fifty to fifty-five bodies under my command; not even enough to form one legions let alone several. I did not incite violence, more.. I cajoled and directed the anger that was already there. And whilst myself and my soldiers killed many Astorian's I would say the responsibility lies with yourselves and your Commander – the recently deceased friend of your sister.”] He kept a level and light tone, listing off on his fingers each counterpoint he made to what they said. He had made some interesting suggestions, it would be up to them to push back against or question his reasons and motives. If that was not forthcoming, he would give it to them, but that may turn into quite the rant.
If all they could do for him was keep him alive, then Florence was willing to strive for that. Besides, Nicolai was already so bitter about life. This would just give him one more chance to do his favorite thing: victimize himself. And it was not like she could think of any miraculous reason's that he should go free either. Not unless he tried to lump himself together with the rest of his crew in Malidek when he asked for immunity along with the other demands. If he made it that far... They may just go straight to trial with him and deny any such chance to speak on matters of that port town. Much of it was going to depend on Eugene. Now that this action had come to its peak, he would have the final say in what Astoria was to do.
The longer things went without Florence or Augustus saying anything, the more nervous Eugene felt about the whole thing. He had managed a few words out of his sister when he done some inquiry for his nephew, but beyond that, there was nothing. Well, there was one thing. Adrian's death. Their silence persisted even after that and he was confused at how neither of them was outraged by this. Neither of the pair was calling for th elf's head. Florence had mentioned that the situation was complicated, but without details he was left to think it very simple. They needed to put a stop to all of this.
That being said it was only a matter of days before it was him and Augustus standing in a sequestered room off near the entrance to the lower level where Nicolai had previously been held. The green-eyed man was solemn. No words were spoken between him and his long time friend. They stood in silence until the prisoner was brought in by two guards, his hands reshackled for the trip. They would remain that way for the entirely of his time in the King's presence.
With that, all necessary body's were present and they all took a seat at one end of the long table that served as the centerpiece of the room. Looking across the wide wood surface, Eugene looked Nicolai up and down. This was his first time seeing the man. He could not help but think he looked sheisty. Taking in a deep breath, he started this ordeal off with an already tired voice. Needless to say, these type of things were not his favorite to deal with. [+seagreen "You have banded foreign legions against us, incited violence on the mainland, and are responsible for the death's of many Astorian's, the most recent being a personal friend of my sister... What do you have to say for yourself?"] He planned to give him his time to speak; he thought it only right, but Eugene was not so sure he would be able to sway his stance.
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