[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat [+firebrick “Like I said, they're idiots. They think they can kill anyone and anything just because they have numbers.”] Töka rolled her eyes, never one to give weaker opponents the time of day for her concerns, as she answered part of Florence's question. Nicolai had dealt with the others and here she felt the need to take lead and explain things further.
[+royalblue “Whilst denigrating them is fine in my books, perhaps you could answer the question and explain how they attack.”] Nicolai did not admonish her words, as to put down an enemy would help them to believe there was no threat. Yet he wanted them to know that whilst it may be easier than fighting trained soldiers, it would not be so simple.
Töka sighed and stood up with annoyance that this needed any further details.[+firebrick “They have numbers, that is how they attack. Usually they'll attack when they have four or five times the advantage as they know they're pathetic and a lot of them will die.”] Again she may be putting down the enemy a bit much but no objection came from Nicolai.[+firebrick “That means with six of us, we're only looking at two, maybe three groups in the pass that could or would take us on.”] She began to toy at her armour a little, making sure straps were secured.[+firebrick “They will try and block our path or hem us in somewhere they can get to us. That or get us at night – I would think that would be the better option for them.”] It would minimise their losses after all.
Nicolai nodded as he watched her.[+royalblue “I know one ruin we can use as a camp for a night. Whilst we are in the pass however no-one will put their weapons away. Swords and bows in hand.”] He looked to Marko for a moment.[+royalblue “And you'll be back to axe – I'd rather you used something you are completely comfortable with.”] Töka looked over then, quite interested in a fellow axe user and Nicolai planned on that connection.[+royalblue “If we get attacked whilst riding, Augustine you come to the front with me, Töka and Marko take the rear, Florence and Flora in the middle with their bows. Otherwise I will be in front, you three in the middle, Florence and Töka at the back as usual.”] They had travelled up this way in that latter order, but to have the archers protected in the middle would give them the ability to fire either direction and help where they could.
[+royalblue “As for the avalanches and landslides.. unfortunately the best advice I can give is that they are preluded by smaller debris. If you see small rocks rolling, or dirt, or anything like that just tell us and get us all moving. It happens more around water, so small streams or creeks that come out of the ground usually mean it's bored holes in the ground beneath meaning its not stable. Aside from that its kind of unpredictable I'm afraid.”] He had not experienced all that many, and the ones he had were often far enough away he was never in danger from it.
Having rather high standards for herself, Florence was not so sure she agreed. Getting sick and forcing them into down time was not exactly her idea of being a productive member of a party. Her bow skills had only come in handy a hand full of times. And while some of them were critical, she still felt she could have done more to move them along. Either way, he distracted from that thought by pulling the conversation back to his intended topic, her appearance. Rolling those emerald green eyes, she gave him a light smack with the back of her hand. [+mediumseagreen “You have a terrible one-track mind.”] But since he was being relatively tame with it, she did not lecture him any further than that. Plus, it seemed to help him get all of this out of his system.
Moving closer to the others, so that Nicolai had his platform to speak to himself, Florence listened to what he had to say. He was opening a free-range discussion to answer questions. As to be expected, Flora was the first to unload a few questions on the man. Though surprisingly enough, it was only a few. It appeared she was content to apply much of what she had learned on the way here to this situation. Perhaps she would keep up with that thought process and Nicolai would have one less thing to worry about. As for the others, Marko kept quiet, content to take things as they came, and Augustine had a few things that he read that he wanted to confirm, but other than that, Flora’s questions covered his concerns. Florence was the only one left and she took her time trying to think if there was anything she absolutely needed to know. She did not think it would be too much different than their trek through Mayfair, just longer and in need of a little more precaution. [+mediumseagreen “What are the most common strategies of attack used by the bandits here?”] If they were as unskilled as they made them out to be they probably just charged in, though perhaps they did lay in waiting to ambush travelers. [+mediumseagreen “And I know this area is prone to landslides. Are there any signs we should be aware of and looking out for?”] It was not a natural disaster she had much experience with, so she would very much like to know if there was a way to predict it. Attacks, she knew they could handle, an avalanche of boulders, not so much. Those were her only questions though.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was interesting that she did not chastise him for mentioning her physique. Whilst he had truly meant it innocently enough, wanting to compliment her for her working out and her improved health, he knew his constant pining for her would make her think he was being quite lustful with her. But she was proud of herself and he liked to see that in her demeanour as it suited her – that and he liked that he was not being hounded.
[+royalblue “You were not useless on the trip up. If you call using a bow like the elves of old or managing to hold our group together despite a particular bastard elf trying to mess it up as don't nothing then I wonder at what you do call useful. And well, whatever it is, it is clearly working. Though don't get me wrong, whilst Wistina Florence had her curving charms, Astoria Florence is just getting more and more beautiful.”] He finished with a soft if shy grin before brushing her arm for her to follow him back to the others. Wandering over he lifted his foot to rest on a rock and leaned down, leaning on his knee as he looked at them.
[+royalblue “Today we move into the pass. Whilst myself and Töka have moved through numerous times, the rest of you haven't and thats a problem. So before we go in, I want to know any questions you have. Any concerns. Any worries. Anything you want an answer to here and now. And yes Flora, ask anything you like.”] He saw the girl nod happily, perhaps a little shy beforehand to speak her mind and have the others dislike her for being so inquisitive. He would not begrudge even the more inane of questions now.[+royalblue “Florence, you too.”] He looked across to the mature woman and then back to the others.[+royalblue “Once you're all happy, Töka will explain the plan for getting through and then we can get going.”]
Admittedly, it was pretty funny to watch Nicolai get strung around by Flora. Much like Augustine she had an affinity for learning, though the subjects she cared about were a little bit different than his. Turned out survival and outdoorsmandhip were in that wheelhouse. Florence watched as she continually pestered the elf. Though, when she could see that he was truly becoming frustrated she would come to his rescue and redirect the girl. That did not so often work when they were trying to get their moments alone together, as the dark eyed young lady happened upon them. Florence practically had flash backs to the time she had been caught with Adrian. So that was less than ideal for her poor nerves. Luckily, that was not a reoccurring problem. Though with the way Nicolai was pushing his luck, she might have to start inviting the girl to sit with them to make sure he behaved.
It was satisfying to see their little ragtag group come together and start to function as a regular party of travelers. And all together they were able to work on more solid strategies for fighting, something they would likely need to do very soon. They were practically at the mouth of the pass. As soon as everyone finished their morning meal it would be time to start in on that leg of the journey. Florence was a mite nervous for it, but between her, Nicolai, and presumably Töka, they should have everything covered. Especially if the bandits here were not particularly fearsome.
Having finished up her food before the others, Florence went to join Nicolai for a bit. Even if the others were still in sight, it would be a moment alone. Believe it or not she did strive to see that they got one or two of those a day. This time he was determine to make her figure the topic at hand. [+mediumseagreen "I do not know what you are talking about, this [i is] the old Florence. This is closer to what I used to look like if you think back to when we first met."] Between living an idle life in Wistina and having her son, that was when things changed. Not that she was doing a whole lot in Astoria either, given her injury, but she liked to blame it on Wistina all the same.
[+mediumseagreen "Personally, I am happy with the change."] She worked hard to get here, so she had better be. [+mediumseagreen "Before, I was rather content just to let things be how they were, but after Julia gave me a rather sever tongue lashing I tried to make more of an effort."] Seeing the look of curiosity at the name, Florence quickly filled him in. [+mediumseagreen "Flora's mother. She is... intense."] That was the word she was choosing to use instead of aggressive. Not that she had much room to talk. [+mediumseagreen "I think she got fed up of me feeling sorry for myself, saw too much of how Augustus was after what happened. But I am grateful to her for it. It took a lot out of me to get back here, but she was right. It was worth it. I do not lose my breath so often as I used to and with that I do not get as sick."] She still needed to be careful not to push herself beyond her limits, but she had definitely expanded upon those boundaries. [+mediumseagreen "I did not want to be useless for this trip like I was for the last one."] Somehow things had gotten rather personal rather fast. Maybe Flora's chattiness had rubbed off on her.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The subtleness of her touches, from taking his hand and squeezing it to walking closer to him as they walked to the stable, were greatly appreciated by the elf. He was simply worried she would begin to get cold feet so to speak, backing off from him and rejecting him. It could still happen and he would do his best to stop it. He meant what he had said seven years ago and on seeing her again he found those feelings were much the same – just from a new perspective.
Seeing Augustine did not want to look up at him made Nicolai smirk, though on looking at Flora he found a very smug look of satisfaction as she stared at him. Lovely, a nosy girl. Thankfully Marko and Töka did not seem to care much and so they managed to get under way without issue for their first true day of travel.
Taking the later with him as a forward scouting option at times, Nicolai would lead on from the front only dropping back when they had lost good vision about themselves such as in a forest or wooded area. Although he was trying to get them in the right mindset for the journey through the pass, he could not deny them time to talk and chat and keep themselves in an upbeat mood with several breaks planned. None of them would be accustomed to riding for days on end like he and Töka were, and for Florence it had been some time. In the breaks they took he would speak to Marko mostly trying to understand just what kind of a person he was. Quiet and stoic was fine, but Nicolai knew outer appearances like that could hide a frailty beneath.
The first night camping outside was more of an affair than he expected, mostly as Flora seemed keen to ask him about everything he did from which trees were best for burning, why they chose a camp site here and not closer to the river nearby, and why he opted to use a bow drill to start a fire rather than the flint and striker she had been given by her mother. It was nice she had questions, but trying to explain every detail was grating after a little while. He couldn't palm her off with answers of [i [+royalblue 'because it is how I do it']] for too long before she would question even that. By the time it came for them to sleep, he was almost happy to take first watch and waved them off with only a brief moment to get close to Florence, wrapping an arm around her waist and kissing her cheek – but of course, they were busted by the snooping Flora and he had to retreat away a touch embarrassed of being caught.
For the next three days, the time it took them to reach the pass, things settled into more of a rhythm. Nicolai or Töka would take up the lead single-handedly now, though sometimes one of the three teens would come with Nicolai so he could speak to them and teach them how to properly scout and discuss their general motives or expected outcomes for this journey. Sure, Flora came to support her boyfriend, but Marko the Mute – as he had nicknamed him in his mind – was a conundrum. This often left Florence with the unenviable task of keeping a close rearguard to them. With her bow she was best keeping closer at the back but he always made sure to keep himself or his tattooed friend close by to her, not wanting anyone to ambush them.
Of an evening, everyone had their roles and were trusted to do so unsupervised, though that had been the argument of the second night between Nicolai and Florence where he had to convince her that they were old enough now to fend for themselves – at least to the extent of running back to camp on seeing any danger. Töka would delight in telling the others some of her times in battle though the only ones outside of Malidek involved minor skirmishes and lop-sided victories. Marko would learn with Nicolai how better to use the polearm he had passed off on him, including how to wield it as a lance of sorts and how to let go so as not to pull him from the saddle. Flora was often set increasingly more difficult archery targets to try for whilst Augustine was quizzed on different battlefield stratagems and even tested against Nicolai to see how far his swordsmanship had come. It was not perhaps good enough for one of his knights, but Nicolai saw some moves that clearly came from Astoria and he made sure to give praise where it was due, although sparingly. No need to make the boy cocky.
Florence did not need a job. She was an adult and as such he knew she would fill her time appropriately, flitting between all of them and being more personal where Nicolai would be more general with his approach. That was not to say he ignored her, far from it he would find excuses to steal her away to hold her hand on a short walk or sit up with her after the others went to sleep and reminisce about times back in Wistina or the like just so that he could sit beside her, shuffling along slowly until their sides pressed to one another. She knew what he was doing and sometimes would push him away or chastise him for being too bold, but it was always met with acknowledgement not annoyance.
Come the fifth morning of this camping experience they were now ready to enter the pass and Nicolai was keen to have them come in so they could discuss how they would traverse through and what dangers lay ahead. Camping a top an outcropping of rock to give them good defence in the night, Nicolai stood on the edge looking out across the plain that lay before the pass itself. With the youthful members eating their breakfasts, he was able to pull Florence away a final time.
[+royalblue “You know there is one thing about this journey I did not expect to notice,”] looking across to her, he looked down her figure and right back up,[+royalblue “you're now using a new notch on that belt.”] Perhaps it was his eyes playing up but she did seem to be in better shape for having this ride, yet he was constantly taking peeks of her so he was just really admitting his perverseness as he grinned.[+royalblue “I don't know whether I'm sad or happy to lose the old Florence or gain the new one.”] He was a touch pensive about heading into the pass, and this was his way of relieving said stress. But then again he did enjoy both the curving Florence and this leaner version, folding his arms over his chest as he turned back to looking out before them with a grin plastered on his face.
He seemed to back off of it a great degree, which Florence glad for. However, he also had no qualms teasing her over it. That kept the mood light, which was preferable, but she still narrowed her eyes at him to save face. Could not have him thinking she enjoyed this. Even if they were already together.
Hearing him out, it made sense why he wanted the things that he did. And they were realistic expectations, so she nodded along. Though the bits about it being scary left her feeling a bit like a child. He was right, there were a lot of things that she did find scary about this, but to hear it said aloud was not something she was used to. Talking about any of this was not what she was used to. Plus, it was not like fear was the only thing that kept her away from relationships. There were other things, but those could be left for another time.
[+mediumseagreen "Alright. That sounds fair to me."] Looking to his waiting hand, she did decide to set hers atop of it. It was a sign of good faith, that she really would do her best. Especially if he had plans to hold off for the more, as he put it, carnal urges.
Comfortable and content to stay like that for the time being, Florence did not think much about the few bites that remained on her plate. They were not entirely appetizing in the first place. When she was sure she had her fill of both the food and holding the violet gazed man's hand, she started up again. [+mediumseagreen "I suppose we should go group up with the others now."] She had seen him pay the stable boy, Florence knew there was little work to be done, especially with there being four of them.
Giving one final squeeze to his hand, the woman stood from her seat. Being closer to the door, she waited for him to come around the table so that they might be able to walk next to one another. She walked just a little bit closer to him than she might have normally. A small sign that she had not thoughtlessly agreed to his terms. It was not until they came to the stables that she defaulted back to a regular distance.
As to be expected the other's were waiting on them. Flora was wearing a very triumphant grin. The kind that shouted I told you so to anyone who caught a glimpse of it. Apparently her son had already vented his frustrations, because he seemed to be less perturbed than he was when he left them. [+mediumseagreen "Is everyone ready?"] A rather useless question, as they were clearly waiting on her and Nicolai. [+mediumseagreen "Then let us be off."] Mounting up, the group started off on what promised to be a longer day than the one before.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat My, did Florence ever have a way with words and seeing her face flush only made him laugh at her embarrassment. For this strong and independent women to be moved by the mere implication of someone wanting her in [i that] manner was amusing. Nicolai found such things simple to talk about with the right person but he had forgotten this was a woman who found hand holding a struggle. He has to be much more tactful and understanding.
Holding up his hand to ease her worrying he smiled as he spoke,[+royalblue "Firstly you are quite adorable when your cheeks flush like that."] It helped to lighten a rather touchy subject, to pardon the pun.[+royalblue "But in all seriousness I'm not expecting anything of a carnal nature to occur. Certainly not whilst we have three children and a grown baby to take care of."] That could only be said with Töka not there and yet he still dropped to almost a whisper.
[+royalblue "What I want to ensure though is that we don't lose what we already have. To not hold hands or share a kiss would only serve to undo what happened last night."] He had thought over this many times before last night and wondered how he could keep a relationship going with someone who did not work well in them.[+royalblue "I understand it's quite foreign to you and perhaps more than a little scary but even just holding my hand will help you overcome that fear. Slowly, but it will. I don't want you to close off to me again now I have broke through that tough outer shell. You're over the worst of it, starting is always the hardest moment."]
Although he could reach her over the small table and perhaps steal a hold of her hand, he instead left his upturned and open on the surface before her.[+royalblue "You promised to try, and I promised I'd be patient. That's our deal. Okay?"]
Florence let out a laugh of her own when he likened her to a teenager. [+mediumseagreen "I did not exactly announce it. That girl has a nose for these sort of things and she hounded me when I was trying to get ready for bed."] She shifted, taking her head from her hand and sitting back straight once more as he jumped seats. [+mediumseagreen "Flora happened to take a good guess, so I told her she was correct. I had no plan to hide this from anyone, so I hope you can forgive me."] She smiled, not really all that sorry about it. And to be honest he did not look too upset about it either. Though his next topic of concern was one she was more nervous about.
[+mediumseagreen "That is a good question..."] Face reddening at what all he was implying with his words, it was hard not to remain cold on the subject, to tell him that it wouldn't be happening so he better get used to the idea of becoming celibate. It was a knee jerk reaction that she had to reign in. Florence knew she could not do that to him. It was not fair. His knowing of her circumstances might make him more patient, but it would not warrant barring him from the complete relationship he clearly longed for. A compromise needed to be reached, so she took a moment to think about it.
Affection in front of Augustine would start problems. At least at first. No doubt he would continue to make a fuss until he got over the idea that his mother had to be solitary for the rest of her life. [+mediumseagreen "Perhaps on days we do not fill up our entire evening with bickering the extra time can go toward getting it out of our systems."] She said our, but she really meant his. Florence did not foresee herself being quite so needy. Though, who knew, maybe she would surprise herself.
Embarrassing as it was to try and map out when they could hold hands and the likes, the other bit had it beat by far. She cleared her throat before continuing. [+mediumseagreen "As for that other thing, I ask for your patience... It is going to take me some time and to be frank these are not exactly ideal circumstances to find privacy."] They were going to be out in the woods with a bunch of teenagers for gods' sake. Neither were exactly things that got her in the mood. [+mediumseagreen "But with that being said, I do not think it will be too difficult to restrain yourself. We are going to spend most our day on horseback. It is not like we are going to be constantly tantalizingly within reach of one another."]
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was perhaps just as terrified as Augustine to hear Florence confirm that they were indeed a couple now. Whilst it was okay for them to know, he was unsure how wise it would be to reveal to her son, his King, that they were interested in one another. But yet when the boy looked over to him he only shrugged his shoulders and looked down into his cup rather than say anything outright. He waited for him to leave, where he looked up to Florence and his lips curved a little.
[+royalblue “Oh, I am sure he took it about as well as was expected.”] He let out a half laugh and shook his head gently.[+royalblue “Seems you may be young girl like Flora, announcing to the world who you are dating.”] He was having a teenage boys reaction to his relationship being made public. Would it make him look less cool or be less fun to be around with the other guys? It made him laugh a little and he swung from his seat to take the vacated one opposite her, hand on the table though he did not try to take hers.
[+royalblue “How do we approach this by the way?”] He gestured to the pair of them.[+royalblue "We agreed to push arguments to the evening, but how do you expect me to restrain myself from holding your.. soft and warm hands.. or from kissing those smooth, peachy cheeks.. or.. well..”] It was implied what he meant toward the end. He was curious as he loved her but as she had pointed out he showed affection through touches and embracing and other small physical gestures. How would they overcome that without upsetting the others, especially her son? There would be no relationship if it threatened the one she had with him.
Florence did not find it too terrible that they had a bit of fun at their friend's expense, especially since Augustine started it. He seemed to be able to dish it out, but not take it. At least concerning her when his friends were around. She doubted that would last after he got used to having them all together all the time. Still, it was interesting to see Nicolai swoop in. A pecking order was being established. Sooner than Florence had expected, but she was not mad about it. It was about what she expected and Flora and Marko would need to learn to take order efficiently. This would help with that.
When the elf turned on her and Augustine though, the woman was ready to bite back. But he surprised her by keeping it light hearted. Admittedly, it did get her to smile. All it took for him to learn his lesson was a budding relationship and the threat that they would have to talk out any qualms at the end of their day. [+mediumseagreen "I am ready yes, but my sleep was only so so. Flora was up at a rediculous hour and she was in a fit about something."] She sighed before turning to her son who was still giving Nicolai a look. [+mediumseagreen "You should really listen to your girlfriend. Unless you have some reason to think she would lie to you."] Flora might have been one to jabber away, but she did not strike Florence as one bent of deceiving others.
It took a moment for the blond to fully process exactly what that meant. And when he did, he was about to have a fit of his own. [+coral "No."] The exclamation was long and drawn out in a groaning sort of way. [+coral "Mutti,"] he looked her in her matching eyes, looking for a sign that she was teasing him. [+coral "You are kidding right? You and Flora are just trying to mess with me because your bored."] The denial did not last long as his mother shook her head at him. [+coral "That's gross!"] Another sound of distress escaped him. [+coral "I don't want to have to watch someone flirt with my mom all day."] Looking quickly over to Nicolai, it made a little more sense why he was putting on a show as he had been. Visibly shuddering, he announced that he was leaving. [+coral "I am going to go help with the horses."] He needed to get out of there.
Watching her son leave, Florence could not help but smile at his antics. He made a beeline for the door without looking back. Once she was certain he was gone and not coming back with more to say, she turned back to Nicolai. Looking up at him with her head resting in her palm, she spoke again. [+mediumseagreen "I'd say he took that relatively well."] She half way expected him to be genuinely angry about it, like he had been with Adrian. The fact that he actually liked Nicolai probably had something to do with that. Either way. That was out of the way now.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai found the boys response to be quite mature. He had thought it through and whilst he understood the elfin man's actions, he knew he would only take them into consideration. It seemed his training back in Astoria had been rather thorough on the logical side. Hopefully his physical training had been just as thorough. It was interesting to see him be so adult and mature about things. And from looking at Florence she seemed to have expected just such a response and reaction. She knew her son much better than he did. Though he perhaps undid any good he had with his words with that final remark which made Nicolai chuckle.
He took the jug of water in the middle of them all and poured himself a cup, listening to Florence retort the boy and put him back in his place. It was good to know he would not have free reign in his endeavours. He was still a young boy and would still need both of their inputs if he was to succeed. He chuckled at how she reprimanded him in a very motherly way. Watching her he felt the dull and constant pain in his head drift away. It was perhaps coincidence with the medicine taking its intended effect, but he liked to think it owed some to the night before.
Augustine seemed upset to be chastised like this with his friend and girlfriend present, who sniggered quietly to themselves until Nicolai caught them and fixed a look on both.[+royalblue “I think it high time you two went and got the horses ready for the day, don't you think?”] Both Marko and Flora looked at him as if he had wounded them and he raised an eyebrow as if their displeasure was unexpected.[+royalblue “I can't boss around my King or his mother, but you two are prime game for some old fashioned discipline.”] He nodded his head back to the door.[+royalblue “Go on, make sure they are saddled, fed and watered. If I find one strap out of place then you'll both have to complete twenty laps of the stables.”] It was a way of getting them on the road but also to instil some regimental order to the group.
Both the dark skinned boy and his fair skinned partner in mockery now looked a little disgruntled to have been picked upon for only quiet laughter of their friends expense. They did not know that Nicolai was being quite lenient given he was a known taskmaster from his days in Wistina. That and the horses would have had all this done for them by the stable boy he paid the day before. But it would do good to light a little fire beneath them. This wasn't a leisurely cruise through the mainland.
Töka grinned as she finished her small meal, looking from the girl to her friend. However a hand came to rest on her shoulder and she looked across to meet the violet gaze of Nicolai.[+royalblue “You are going with them. Six horses, two each.”] The smile dropped immediately and she narrowed her eyes at him.[+royalblue “Treat it as a lesson not to punch me.”] He had gotten his revenge on her as he patter her shoulder and turned back to the table. With a huff she stood up, leaving with stomping footsteps at being treated like one of the children. She would be over it in no time however.
[+royalblue "As for you two,"] he leaned onto the table with both hands looking between Florence and Augustine though starting with the latter,[+royalblue "you will be more respectful of your elders. We are here to help you, and being a cheeky git to your mother might make your friends laugh but is not very befitting of a King now is it?"] It was a light-hearted reprimand of the boy. He rather liked it actually and something told him Augustine knew this was just a show for his mother.[+royalblue "And you,"] he looked at Florence,[+royalblue "well.. I hope you slept well and are ready for the journey today."] He sat back into his seat only to receive a look of wonder from her son as he sipped at his drink of water and shrugged.[+royalblue "What? I know how angry she can get and not to annoy her. I've had to learn my lesson over twenty years, but I learned eventually."]
Much as expected, Nicolai turned up. Though she had not thought he would come in in such a whirlwind manner. There was barely time to mentally ask why when his friend came trouncing in after him. Ah, Florence had nearly forgot about her somehow. Sighing, it was like she had two more teenagers to deal with. That only became more apparent as the young woman came up and hit him. A direct hit. He looked like he was hurting, but Florence was not really feeling a whole lot of pity for him. If Nicolai was running from Töka he must have done something that warranted her chasing him. The rambunctiousness was only encouraged when the boys sort of sniggered at the bellyaching elf.
Augustine only smiled wider at Nicolai’s poor sportsmanship. He wanted to tell him that if he was going to hell he would meet him there, but he held back. It seemed weird to act up in front of his mom, not that he really thought she would do anything about it. He’d seen her get that way with Augustus, so she would be a hypocrite if she did. But it seemed he made the right choice, because right after that the violet eyed man wound down and began to apologize.
Giving a side glance to Florence, Augustine wondered just how much she had to browbeat him into doing this. They must have fought about it when the rest of them went to bed, so in his mind Flora’s accusations had even less ground to stand on. [+coral “I get it.”] He nodded. [+coral “Don’t get me wrong, I want your advice. You know more about Wistina than the rest of us put together, but we can’t just fall straight back into how things used to be.”] If they did he was just going to end up deposed all over again. They had to learn from the past. [+coral “I want to be more hands on than my father. There are going to be times when I question you or challenge your ideas with my own. I don’t want to just leave everything for my men to decide.”] From what Augustine had seen that was where the most damage was done. Both with Germaine and Eugene. They trusted those around them so explicitly that they were not as involved as they should have been. His uncle was not so bad as his father, but he was still guilty of it. But that was not his only detriment. He also spread himself too thin. Augustine wanted to focus more on the important stuff and less the menial tasks. Even if it built a strong report with people. [+coral “But don’t worry, I plan on doing the same with mom. She’s not always right, after all.”] He did not realize the irony in his statement.
Florence was looking forward to this trying to do better business. She was not particularly hopeful his progress in that department would be swift, but at least he was determined to make an effort. Though her mind was pulled from that thought by Augustine’s little tag on at the end. [+mediumseagreen “Oh, are we trying our hand at sassing me now?”] It was not like this was new. [+mediumseagreen “Will I be the first victim of your new bold personality?”] Florence knew for a fact it was not really new. She had overheard him with Marko taking digs at one another before. And it was not as though they were always serious with one another. She was prone to sarcasm after all, so she had little doubt he picked that up from her. [+mediumseagreen “It is an honor… but word to the wise. If I catch getting too brazen you are going to be in a world of trouble. I did not raise you to be disgusting.”] She could handle language and most topics, but she was not about to let him run around being filthy.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Dipping away from Töka, Nicolai crouched down beside the bucket of water. Returning the ladle to the water he scooped it up and ducked his head, pouring it over the back of his head to allow it's cool and refreshing feel wash over him and to soothe the discomfort he felt from throwing up. He repeated the action before dropping the ladle and dipping his hands into the bucket. Running them over the back of his neck and his face he shook his head, an annoyed huff from Töka as she shielded herself from the spray before thumping him in his arm in return.
[+royalblue “Come on. We should go back in and eat. Though,”] he used the fur lining of his jacket to dry his face some and sighed,[+royalblue “maybe I'll eat when we're back on the road.”] He was still not convinced his illness had been the cause of the throwing up. That vegetable pie would be the stuff of nightmares for days to come.
[+firebrick “Fine, but if you even look like you're going to throw up again I'm going to smack you upside your face.”] That was perhaps a threat on level with Florence's from the night before and Nicolai grinned as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her to him in a tight bear hug nodding. She fought and wrestled free and he pushed her away before a swinging fist could connect.
Stumbling away from her he turned and darted around the corner, moving in through the tavern doors and feet skittering to a stop on the freshly mopped floor as he eyed the others already sat with their food. Only a few steps behind the door smacked on its hinges and Töka stormed in, growling as she walked directly up behind Nicolai and punched him with some force into his ribs. He staggered to his side, a hand wrapping around his stomach and clutching his side as she cracked her fingers and moved on to sit down with the others.
It took Nicolai a few moments of leaning against a table, wheezing and eyes closed tight as he fought the urge to once again heave, before he stood back up and moved over to the table dragging a chair with him.[+royalblue “Oh god.. what have I told you.. about gut shots?”] He said to Töka but she only shrugged.
[+firebrick “That you had a friend called Harry who died because of it one time. But man up Nico, I barely touched you.”] She clearly felt she was in the right and rolled her eyes at having to repeat his warning given so many times before. Nicolai glared at her but eventually he matched her action, rolling his eyes as he took several deep breaths and could hear a snigger come from Augustine. Looking up he fixed the boy with a glare but the gentle up curve of his lips belied his annoyance.
[+royalblue “I was coming to speak to you but now I think I should just tell you to go to hell for laughing at me.”] Leaning on the table continued to massage his side as he leaned back into his seat.[+royalblue “Look, about last night, I'm sorry if it came across I was trying to force you to go with what I said about Wistina, or that I wanted you to pick it over your mothers advice.”] A pang of pain running up his side forced him to pause and he shot a dirty look at Töka who had taken a slice of toasted bread off of Marko's plate.[+royalblue “I used to have your fathers ear on anything military, so I got used to my word being the law in that regard. Hard to teach an old dog new tricks and all that but I'll try to do better in future.”] His free hand, having let go of the table for support, brushed up and combed his hair over to one side – much like Töka's – and he let out a deep breath.
Florence would have liked to sleep a little bit longer, but when Flora returned she was just a mite stomp-y. The older woman did not know where she went, or why she returned in such a foul mood, but she was awake now because of it. Rising, she stretched out and began setting herself up for the day ahead. She had not done a lot of unpacking, so it was an easy task. And it would seem that whatever had the young lady in a mood also kept her silent. It was nice, made for a peaceful morning moment. But Florence knew she could not leave it that way, eventually she had to ask. [+mediumseagreen "Is everything all right?"] It was the least she could do since the girl had done the same for her the previous night. Even if it was unnecessary.
Flora shrugged. [+plum "I was excited to hear what you said last night, and I wanted to talk to someone about it, but Augustine and Marko didn't even believe me."] A firm pout set on her features.
This girl had no shame. Though Florence had to hand it to her, she did what she enjoyed and did not let anyone stop her. And it was not like she was hurting anyone. Even if the woman was not thrilled to have her business strung about so flippantly. [+mediumseagreen "You might be Astoria's most determined gossip."] The tone she took was only mildly chiding. She was not this girl's mother, though it might be best that she learned that there was a time and place for things like this. And it just so happen it was not first thing in the morning when the world was barely waking.
That did not sound like a title she really wanted to have attached to her name. [+plum "I didn't mean to be... I was just excited. Don't you get ever get excited about stuff like that and want to talk about it?"] The look on her face said that she didn't, she was just too polite to say it aloud. Flora sighed, her mom was the same way. What was with all these middle-aged woman and not caring about romance? Did it just all die when you got to a certain age? She very much hoped not. [+plum "So you don't want to talk about it at all?"] One final last ditch effort.
Shaking her head lightly, Florence was content without all that. [+mediumseagreen "I just think that it is my own business and that it should stay between me and Nicolai."] Flora didn't know that it was supposed to be a secret or anything, so she felt a little bad blabbing. But it was like the woman read her mind and went on. [+mediumseagreen "You don't have to feel that bad about it. You did not do anything wrong. I am just saying maybe do not run around shouting these sorts of delicate things out to the world."]
That did help her feel better, but Flora still felt a little bit bad about it. She nodded, signalling that she understood, though she wore a contemplative look.
Florence was just glad that she seemed to be processing it at all. Optimally she would learn from this, but there was no saying for sure. They were all in that rebellious age, quite literally. [+mediumseagreen "All right, let's go get the other's up. It is time to start the day."] First stop was the boy's. They weren't too happy about what basically amounted to a second wake up call, but with the authoritative woman urging them to get a move on they did get themselves into gear with minimal groaning. After that, the tall woman went to Nicolai's door. However, when she knocked, there was no reply. She wondered if he was already up and about. It must have been so, as she did not imagine that anything would have happened to him. He would come back when he felt like it, until then she was herding children back to the main dining area to get them a light breakfast before they set out. And if the elf did not crop up soon she would start asking around so she could track him down.
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat In his room, Nicolai let out a deep breath. Marry a Duke eh? Whilst it was perhaps meant as a light jab at his constant showmanship over his title, it was rather surprising to hear it so nonchalantly said from her of all people. But it did make him smile lightly like a youthful child on his first crush. Thankfully Töka had her own room and would not have to put up with him that night. As for the bed, it was serviceable and he crashed down on it after removing his sword. The furry cloak come jacket made an excellent pillow and with little of the worries that would come to plague them in the future he had fallen to sleep.
In the morning he was unaware that everyone bar his tattooed friend had been informed about the talks between himself and Florence. He heard a door clicking outside and in his nervous manner had woken immediately. Stepping outside with his scabbard in his hand he moved down the hallway quietly, picking up faint voices from the kids room. Did Florence authorise them all to sleep together like that? He could not imagine she would approve of her son and his girlfriend being in the same bed, not whilst so young. But it made him chuckle. Good luck to Augustine if he felt ready to deal with women outside of holding hands.
He did not disturb them though, instead moving on out to the drinking floor to observe the clear up. One or two bodies littered the floor, too big and heavy to be dragged out from where they had collapsed. Otherwise the place was simply being put back together with tables been upturned, chairs placed about them and cleaned off as best as possible. He did not stop to sit or to help – no doubt he would just be in the way – as his stomach lurched suddenly. Instead he moved outside all together for the fresh air and wandered across to the well the tavern drew its water from. They had mocked up a pump of sorts, meaning the opening was covered. Saved on anyone dropping something down inside to spoil the water. And it also stopped Nicolai from spewing his guts down it as he doubled over.
[+firebrick “I thought you could handle your drink?”] Töka sat on a bench not far away, cutting slivers of an apple to pop into her mouth as she observed the liquid stew at his feet. Looking across he shook his head gently.
[+royalblue “Just as likely to be the vegetable pie. I doubt anything in that was considered a vegetable. Or at least was no fresher than a month old.”] It was true the pie had been quite awful. Perhaps he should have had the soup like the others. He kicked up some dirt, scooping it over the mess he had made before turning back to the pump and taking up the handle.
[+firebrick “Probably. Still,”] she saw the laboured look on his face as he worked the handle and water spilled out into the bucket beneath,[+firebrick “have you taken your medicine today?”] She raised a brow at him, seeing him crouch low and use the ladle chained to the pump to scoop up some water to his mouth, swill it about before spitting to the ground.
Nicolai would rather not bring on the talk about his physical well being and looked over to her as he wiped off his mouth. But she stared back impassively now, waiting an answer.[+royalblue “No, not yet.”] His throat burned a touch and he took another mouthful of water to swallow and cool himself.
Töka tutted as he cut off another piece of apple though remained seated.[+firebrick “Come on Nico, although I would like nothing more than an additional days pay whilst you lay up in a bed, I first need to get to that pay day. So drink up.”] The morsel was deposited and the apple, half eaten now, was thrown away aside to land with a splat in a pig sty. For a moment it looked like the man would be stubborn and ignore her, but gentle throbbing in his head had grown quickly and he fished to a belt and withdrew a small bottle. It was perhaps two mouthfuls at best of a green liquid, similar to what the doctor had given him in Astoria. Quickly it was drained and the stopped returned to it, placed back in its pocket to be refilled later.[+firebrick “Good boy.”] She nodded.
[+royalblue “You say nothing of this to any of them Töka, thank you.”] It was said like an order and the interesting looking woman, tattoos all the more vivid in the light, looked at him with a frown.
[+firebrick “You haven't told them? And why not?”] She stood now and began to approach.
He turned toward her a little angry, though it was at himself.[+royalblue “Because they don't need a broken man. They need the old Nicolai, the General, the strong fighter. And I can still be him; but they can't know.”] It was a dangerous game he played. In keeping it hidden it was the injured shoulder incident all over again. Should they find out, or should any of the Taken find out, then he would get an earful from Florence and his weakness would be known to his enemies. Florence knew he saw the doctor but he relied on the man to remain true to his word.
[+firebrick “And you think they would dump you the second they found out? Pfft, maybe you should just stay behind then. I'll take whatever your cut was, of course.”] She laughed as she placed one hand on her hip, the other dragging through her long hair.
Nicolai was not wanting this conversation and shook his head.[+royalblue “Just.. keep this quiet, okay? Don't be a little bitch about this.”] He pushed at her shoulder looking down at her – she was about the height of Florence, though perhaps an inch taller.[+royalblue “In return I'll give you another half-bag of coin when we're all done.”] He knew how to speak her language and smiled coyly as she grinned.
[+firebrick “Oh, you know just what I like to hear. Perfect.”] She purred teasingly and flicked off her hair as she thought of her additional wealth. This would be most profitable for her if added bonuses like this began to stack up.
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