Fall of the Court

/ By Loxi [+Watch]

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[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The smile was retained though the mauve eyes softened from their usual steely nature.[+royalblue “Wow. High praise from you indeed.”] Nicolai remarked smartly, though he was jesting her in return. A part of him did believe she was scant in showing her admiration or offering kind words to him, and that part savoured her throwaway comment like a parched man to a drinking well.

Thankfully the greater part of him was more sensible and had learned with age, and many Töka insults, not to prickle at many things. Before this had begun and when Germaine had been alive, such a comment may have ignited a week’s long mood swing coupled with childish behaviour. Luckily he had matured and did not take comments so literally or without a hint of humour. When her devilish gaze ran from their entwined hands back to his own eyes, he could not supress a grin himself.[+royalblue “Oh I learned,“] he let the sentence hang for just a few tantalizing seconds,[+royalblue “very little to be perfectly honest.”] A huff of a laugh came forth as he gently squeezed her fingers.

[+royalblue “Meredith was quite easy to flatter, and she was very susceptible to a little wine so getting her to talk was easy – it was getting her to talk about you or getting her to be quiet that was the issue.”] Oh how he had lost many an evening to her droning on about how her father just positively refused to give in and buy her a seaside manor.[+royalblue “And when I could get her to focus she gave me naught more than the particular ways you like your hair brushed and what dress you prefer given the weather of the day. And I have yet to put either into practice.”] His shoulders rose and fell in quick succession, his exasperation showing only briefly though he still held a playful mood about his elven features.

[+royalblue “Oh, and she told me what you thought of me. She was.. particularly truthful in that regard. To say I was not your favourite person would be an understatement.”] Again his hands flexed softly upon hers, more so to highlight to himself just how far he had come from those early thoughts of him. Save a few comments about him being a [i ‘useful worker’] or a [i ‘competent soldier’] it was not positive – though it was coming from a secondary source, Meredith could have lied.
  WI_ / 25d 6h 34m 9s
Had his hesitation gone on any longer, Florence might have thought she misstepped with her question and offended him again, but he began to react just in time to fight off the birth of those thoughts. Her comment was made in good humor, so she was glad to see he reacted in kind. [+mediumseagreen “A networking man… Smart, I like it.”] A look of amusement colored her features. In the past, it might have been unsettling to know just how resourceful he was in these matters, but hindsight allowed her to know he meant no ill-will. Probably.

[+mediumseagreen “Yes, I remember playing that game.”] Dancing around social expectations in order to draw information on the current state of things outside the bubble that was the castle she lived in. It was a task that became vastly easier once Gregory arrived and set up his own information system with all his schmoozing, however she did still have fun making inconsequential discoveries from time to time. Much like right now, she was having a good time trying to catch Nicolai on his back foot. [+mediumseagreen “So what exactly did you learn about how I think?”] Her eyes flickered to their hands and back up into his magnificent violet gaze as a smirk pulled at her lips. With Augustine determined to be done with them and distracting himself for the moment, perhaps she was a little more bold than usual; the woman did not much mind the elf’s attention. In fact, she quite liked it. [+mediumseagreen “Or does that information require a little more adulation to obtain?”]
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 38d 16h 39m 32s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai couldn’t help but chuckle at the young boys misfortune in being the one now the butt of the joke. They all had their embarrassing stories, but no-one ever liked to have theirs aired so publically. Seeing the young blonde leave, ending the conversation immediately, he let a hand dip to the outstretched head of Cam and ran fingers through her short soft fur between her ears. The beast was timid at best but he truly did understand Florence’s fear of them, even as she reiterated this in his pointed ear.

Sending the animal on her way back to Ool with a flick of his head denoting she would receive no more attention, Nicolai was able to take notice of the woman who still held tightly to his hand as if to let go would bring about the wolf’s return. Turning to face her he looked down into those bright emerald eyes and despite her question he was quite just for a little moment. It was only a few seconds but having almost been taken clean off on the path down he felt it was good to just take times to look upon her sweet features a moment.

To leave her waiting would be to make him look a fool, so he shook his head lightly as a smile grew on his lips.[+royalblue “I do not lurk, but rather I watch and observe from afar and from many eyes.”] Yes, that certainly sounded less weird and creepy.[+royalblue “Being a General I had to be aware of everything. Hard to keep things calm and civil if I don’t know how people are thinking.”] He lifted her hand between them, hidden from the sight of the others should it put her in a little alarm, though he used his free hand to trace delicately over the back of her hand.[+royalblue “You would be amazed how much you can learn from a maid or farm hand with just a little bit of flattery.”]
  WI_ / 39d 6h 32m 40s
At hearing this story of his own clash with some goat in his toddlerhood, Augustine’s attention switched from his mother to his own defense. [+coral “I don’t remember any such thing.”] Which made sense if he was as young as Nicolai claimed he was at the time of the incident. The boy could not help but glance over to this mother who nodded.

[+mediumseagreen “I took you out to go see some of the animals in the fields, but you were intent on having more than a look and tried to coax some of the goats over to the fence. One of the bucks did not much like your trying and charged. He only hit the fence, but it startled you enough to knock you back… you were inconsolable.”] She did not particularly remember Nicolai being around at the time, but it seemed he must have been skulking about on some business or another. Florence was rather curious about that, but she tucked that question away for a little later.

Not unlike his mother Augustine huffed up at the accusation. He was about to go on denying it even though he knew it was a losing battle with two against one, however he heard Marko chuckling and stopped. It was then that his directive changed from defense to damage control. He needed to get out of there before they brought up some other humiliating thing that he had no real chance of refuting. [+coral “Yeah, yeah, I was a big crybaby when I was [I three]. It’s not that funny.”] His embarrassment read clearly on his face as he started pushing his friend off toward the others. [+coral “Now lets go help make sure everything gets packed up properly so we can get a move on.”] Honestly the boy was still tired, but he saw making himself useful as a more noble excuse for exiting the situation than running away and hiding. For the time being he would just be glad it wasn’t Flora who had heard the story. If it were her, he would never hear the end of it.

Florence watched as her son made a swift departure. Perhaps that had not been the most mature way to handle the situation, but it worked, so she was not mad about it. She waited for him to make it some way off before turning her gaze to Nicolai. A tight squeeze of his hand and a short nod conveyed her gratitude for his help. He often came to her rescue in the strangest of ways and it probably would have been more appropriate to thank him properly, but that was all she offered for the time being, other than an explanation. [+mediumseagreen “I do not like them.”] Her eyes flickered suspiciously to Cam who was still lapping up the attention she was being freely offered. [+mediumseagreen “The only thing they are good for is their pelts, but even then they smell so damn bad that they are nearly unusable. That goes double if you are on the hunt. Reeking of wolf only causes decent game to flee… and the stink lingers.”] Add that to all that she had said the day before and Florence thought she made a pretty decent case. It was reasonable to be wary… because she definitely was not scared… of wolves.

With all that out of the way, the woman was ready to move on to some other topic. Thankfully, by some stroke of luck, Ool noticed Cam making a nuisance of herself and called her back over to him. She listened without hesitation, though did give one longing look back to the elf in hopes that he might be inclined to follow her back to her master and pet her some more, but no dice.

Florence noticeably relaxed once the animal was gone. She took this chance to change gears just how she had been hoping to. [+mediumseagreen “So… did you hear the story about the goat down the grapevine, or were you perhaps lurking about in the fields that particular day?”] The emerald-eyed woman knew very well there was likely no interesting story behind it, but she felt the need to give him a bit of a hard time after he did the same to her son, even if it was for her own sake.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 46d 6h 2m 11s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was once like Augustine in that the ends justified the means. Yes they were alive but that did not excuse the fact they had been in such danger to be thankful for having their lives. As an adult, one who had made many bad decisions that just so happened to end in a positive outcome, he was eager for the boy to know and understand that risks had to be moderated. Yet his mother was quick and seized upon both the boys with a loving smile, leaving the elven man to fold his arms across his chest.

Yes, he was a touch jealous of the attention the blonde haired boy received, but he was adult enough to not let this show – at least too much. It was an odd feeling to be jealous of her son for the praise and attention she poured upon him. He understood their respective relationships were at two ends of a scale in scope, background and meaning. But sometimes his inner pettiness bubbled up and he wished she would afford him more of her time. When she turned toward him, offering a gentle ribbing at his expense, he did well to not pout nor turn from her in a petulant way. Instead a small smile broke his lips and he dipped his head to accept the patting.

[+royalblue “Don’t make a habit of petting me, lest it be accompanied by a kiss or two.”] He kept his voice low, now wishing to embarrass Augustine but also as a politeness to her. He knew she did not want to become overly flirtatious in public. It had taken a lot for her to sit with him alone on a bed, any more was pushing it.

Any further playful banter between the two awkward companions was put to one side as she spied the approaching canine and quickly slipped to his side. Nicolai was not the smartest of men, but he could place two and two together and lifted a boot to stall the animal from simply walking around him. The beautiful wolf looked up at him confused but he only shook his head, as if they could share some telepathic bond and converse without words. Thankfully the animal did not push the issue, allowing the elf to lean down and rub at her head before gently guiding her to head away. This allowed mother and child to converse and he took it upon himself to interject as he looked from the frustration of Florence to the doubting Augustine, his hand slipping back to take a hold of the formers hand and hold it softly.

[+royalblue “In fairness of your mother, wolves are not domesticated like a dog.”] This one was well trained, but that was different.[+royalblue “For as much as Cam may seem civil and friendly, she could easily turn in the blink of an eye to a more feral and primal nature, so she is quite wise to be cautious.”] He brushed his thumb over the backs of her fingers as he spoke, done through some innate belief that it would sooth her apprehension for the animal.[+royalblue “Though I do recall a certain blonde haired boy running in wild panic from a goat at one time or another.”] His soft smile grew as he threw the memory back at the boy who had sought to upset his love.[+royalblue “You may have only been three or four but you were bawling for a good hour I believe until your grandfather brought you some warm milk.”] It was unfair to compare a grown woman being fearful of a wolf, to that of a toddler and a goat, but it was said in jest.
  WI_ / 57d 10h 29m 0s
Much like Nicolai, Florence allowed herself to relax to some degree when the trek down the hill was going without problem. However, she just about had a heart attack when she saw the horse slip. Thankfully the ordeal was short lived, but she did not release that new built tension until the boys were all safe at the bottom of canyon.

Sighing with relief, she was reminded of just how much she hated to sit on the sidelines. It was so much worse for her to watch and be unable to do anything than take an active part in the struggle. Her eyes lingered on her son for just a little while longer before she was pulled to her own, less hazardous, task by the sound of Ool’s voice. He was half shouting at the old man who seemed to still be putting up some opposition to leaving. Thankfully, the argument was short-lived. No doubt it was something the two of had already gone around and round about, which was why Jonathan was here at all. Florence made the executive decision then and there to let the goblin handle the old timer while she joined the reminder of her group in getting the ladies set up on the horses, so they could start their way down too.

Nicolai’s comment did not go unnoticed by Augustine, who looked over only to find the man smiling. Thankfully, he did not seem to actually be perturbed by the experience, and so the boy took a lighthearted in retort. [+coral “We’re still alive, aren’t we?”] He flashed the dark-haired man a smile. [+coral “Besides, isn’t it better that we start with something small like this instead of jumping in over our heads with some big grandiose gesture to the people of Wistina?”] He was not looking to fail right out of the gate.

Just as he was finishing up with his comment, the boy heard the others joining them and soon felt a hand on his head. Glancing over he was able to see that his mother had ahold of not only him, but also Marko. This took Marko more by surprise than it did Augustine. Neither of their pony tails would survive the ordeal. [+mediumseagreen “Well done, boys.”] The bulk of her smile was in her eyes, but it was clear she was happy that they had come out of this unscathed. [+mediumseagreen “Continue this way and you might prove yourselves reliable sooner than I though.”] The woman fully expected it to take a year or so before she trusted them to do much of anything on their own, but it was still good to know they were on the right track. Plus, it would not hurt to praise them along the way, so long as it was warranted.

Florence relinquished her hold on her son’s friend first, but she kept her hand on Augustine as she decided whether she wanted to continue forward with her borderline harassment or not. In the end she released him as well and her eyes found Nicolai who was watching the display. [+mediumseagreen “Are you waiting to be praised as well?”] Despite her teasing tone, she did make her way over to him with a gentle smile. [+mediumseagreen “Thank you.”] Florence needed to stretch a little higher to reach his head, but she did it all the same, only a little more softly with the elf. She was not so determined to make a mess of his hair as she had with the others.

A pair of excited dark eyes stayed on the group as praise and pets were handed out. To Cam it looked as though attention was being freely given. And so, the animal did not hesitate to come that way as she made it off the hill. Her tail wagged eagerly behind her as she set her sights on Florence. However, the big brown monstrosity did not escape the woman’s notice. Smile falling, the emerald eyed woman took a strategic step to Nicolai’s side. It put the man between her and the wolf in hopes that he might intercept the creature before it got too near her person. It was likely, as he seemed to have a soft spot for the stupid animal. But of course, things could not remain so simple.

Her thinly veiled disdain prompted comment from Augustine who was genuinely curious, but also kind of wanted a bit of revenge for the juvenile hair tussling he had received. [+coral “Mutti… are you afraid of Cam?”] One of his flaxen brows rose with his question.

Blinking, the woman had not been expecting to be directly confronted. She was not exactly happy about it either. Her brow furrowed, and annoyance stained her features. [+mediumseagreen “What a stupid notion. Just because I do not care for wolves does not mean I am afraid of them.”] Quiet indignation drenched her words, but it was laced with a hint of something else… defensiveness perhaps. [+mediumseagreen “They are useless things and I would rather not have them around me. That is all.”] Her irritated expression let up some as she sighed.

The boy eyed her skeptically, but eventually let it pass. He hadn’t expected her to react so strongly. And with as tired as he still was, he wasn’t exactly looking to fight her on it, so he relented. [+coral “Well alright then, if you say so.”] His disbelief was pretty plain in his voice, but he did drop it.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 77d 11h 30m 40s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat It was good going for a time. Each of the trio adjusted themselves to where they could get a good connection to the cart whilst maintaining mobility enough to step back at a gradual pace. They made excellent progress toward the bottom and the trepidation he had initially felt on walking back here had left Nicolai. Of course that was short lived.

When the cart lurched backwards it was a slow build-up of pressure as gradually the weight was pushing down on them. Finally the lone standing horse was being pulled back by the vehicles weight. Stuck in the middle he had not means of seeing what was going on, only about able to thrust his shoulder up against the wooden support at the back and try to find some foot hold on the gravel like slope. His heels dug in as best he could though it just left markings behind as they were pushed down further inch by inch.

He threw out his hand as they continued to struggle and managed to grasp Augustine by the shoulder, grasping it securely, and for a moment he was ready to pull the boy toward him and down. It would throw him under the wagon with the intent that when the other horse inevitably gave way he would not be taken off the edge with both it and Nicolai. Just as he was beginning to pull the boy toward him the wood of the cart groaned as the other horse re-joined the task and the ropes became taught once more. It was safe to say Nicolai was a touch relieved when he stopped moving backwards and could relax some. The rest of the journey to the bottom was very cautious, at times being told by Duncan to ease off pushing so that the horses could actually lower the cart more as the slope leveled out towards the end.

Once they reached the end Nicolai stepped away, hands to his hips as he moved a few feet off from the others and took a few deep breaths.[+royalblue “Who’s bright idea was it to agree to this again?”] He asked to no-one though he did glance momentarily to Augustine with a raised brow as if this could all be pinned on the boy. After a few seconds he grinned, showing he was jesting and letting out a groan as his aching arms hung limp at his side.

Looking up the path he saw the others coming down, Töka and Flora bringing the others horses with them and he looked for Florence to see whether she approved of what had happened. She could sometimes hold her emotions well, hide them from the world like a professional performer, but often if it involved her son she was easy to read like a book.
  WI_ / 80d 16h 13m 34s
The green-eyed woman watched as the boys got into formation. She was a little irritated that Töka did not step into line, opting to watch as her friend, mentor, whatever relationship they had going on, line up with the teens instead. Florence was more nervous now than ever, though perhaps it was just that she was being pessimistic, given that her son was in a needlessly dangerous situation. Why had she let him go off to negotiate on his own again? Letting out a sigh, she knew very well why she did it, it was necessary to get him the skills he needed, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t regret it just a little bit.

Everyone in place, the tall woman approached Duncan. The horses eyed her suspiciously as she did so, but kept their composure better than the night before now that they were tacked up and in work mode. [+mediumseagreen “Take this slow. If you are not absolutely certain that the horses have that next step, wait until you are.”] She took a stern tone with him. Florence did not know the first thing about this young man, other than he was good to his mother, but that did not say anything about how he acted with others. She just hoped that he would keep that same dedication here in this situation since they were looking to help him and his family.

Duncan nodded to the woman anxiously, he was listening, but he really couldn’t wait for her to leave. He understood why she was being so intense, however he was not used to it. Once she backed off and took a place near the Cliffside, he was able to calm his nerves again. She was watching on her perch, but he pushed her presence out now that there was some distance and called to the others. [+cornflowerblue “I’m going to start them moving,”] He spoke out loud and clearly, not wanting them to be surprised by anything, except perhaps his voice.

The first little bit was relatively easy as they went from flat land to the slope. The cart was not bearing a huge weight, so the horses handled it flawlessly as they remained off the steepness of the trail. This also afforded Augustine some time to get a feel for exactly how much effort he needed to put in. He had hear others talk about doing just this and how you were supposed to just supplement the horses’ strength, or else you would quickly wear out and become useless when you were actually needed. So, as soon as the whole system was on the incline he found a balance with the others. It was a moderate burden that would not over exert him. And if he was fine, the others would probably be too. He just wished they were going a little faster so it would be over with sooner.

The process was smooth until they were about two-thirds the way down the stretch of hill. That was when they hit the inevitable kink. As Duncan moved the horses back another step, one of them hit loose rock with its hoof. The stone shifted and the leg continued down with it, forcing the animal into a venerable kneeling position. All the burden of the cart it had been holding fell to those behind it, but thankfully the other animal held fast. It was not the entire weight coming down on them.

The sudden lurch would tip them off that something was wrong and goad them into action. Augustine cursed under his breath as he pressed his body hard up against the back of the wagon and dug his heels into the ground. Marko did the same with a huff, though he was not straining so much as his friend. He was used to this sort of manual labor, though perhaps not quite to this extent, at least not regularly.

Up front, Duncan immediately moved to the horse’s side. His first priority was to get her back up and bearing the load. He allowed for a short moment’s rest before coaxing her back on all fours. From there, he was able to see that she had scrapped her leg, but it looked superficial. No doubt she would favor the other leg for a while anyway though. Despite their appearances horses were rather sensitive, even to the point of being temperamental. But for now, she got back in line like a trooper so they could continue on to the bottom of the ravine.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 87d 2h 50m 59s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Although there was much to rebut he kept his retort to himself. She was happy with him, the group was – seemingly – happy with him too. If he now turned back to rehash something that did not matter anymore and upset Florence in the process then it would spiral outward outwards and upset the others when they all needed some stability and peace.

So instead he tightened his hold upon her hand, a small gesture that he understood but would not further that topic. In typical Florence fashion however she was quickly over it and teasing him about any future hand holding expectations. With her son ever vigilant and always watching Nicolai understood it would be infrequent, moments like these. Augustine would not approve and likely never would. But there would come a time when he embraced the boy’s mother and he would be confronted by their relationship and that would be the moment where Florence’s resolve to be with the elfin man was truly tested.

Again he stayed silent, drifting just a little closer as she reigned in the obedient hound at her side. She was nervous, as he felt the heat of her skin increase a minute amount. No doubt she didn’t wish to tempt fate and have the Augustine-Nicolai discussion quite so soon, and with a final command he was set loose. Smiling as his fingers slipped from hers he turned toward the trio of youths and raised his fingers his lips, a shrill whistle punctuating the air around them and immediately it ended their talk as they looked at him in an increasingly familiar annoyed manner.

[+royalblue “Yes, yes, doesn’t Augustine look pretty. Well you can save all that fawning for later. Grab your kit, grab your horses, and let’s all get going – I still have yet to decide who is on watch tonight so let’s see who can impress me most, huh?”] After a night where they had all gotten a full sleep, and in beds no less, it was a little warning that got them moving at an acceptable pace. They collected themselves and followed Florence to the designated meeting place where upon they had to wait only a little time before the wagon arrived. With Florence taking the lead, primarily because she was the only one who knew what was going on, things fell into place in good order and as she designated for her group to get into place it was Nicolai who stepped up with Augustine and Marko. Flora knew she would be pushed back regardless though Töka had a wry smile to see the old man trying to flaunt before his woman. She had been trying to work out the emerald eyed woman and what she saw in the pointy eared swordsman, but if this is what got her going then far be it for the red eyed fighter to stop them.

As he stepped into the middle of the young pairing there was a look of scepticism from both. It had been assumed one of them would take the middle at least, Marko most likely, given their youth and greater pool of energy. But the violet eyed man saw their gazes and grinned at the slight of his being.[+royalblue “Look, if I was on the side and this thing gets loose, I’m not going to be able to get down and out of the way fast enough, I’m going off the edge, and I don’t want my obituary to read [i ‘killed by runaway cart’].”] He knew he did not have the spry agility of his youth though he was perhaps selling himself short.[+royalblue “I want a noble death in a big battle or fighting a huge dragon.”] It was humorous at least to him, a childhood dream that had stuck with him from the days when mother read to him before bed. It was typical knight nonsense but every boy dreamed of dragon slaying and being the hero. As yet, Nicolai had not had his hero moment.

Looking beyond the wagon to Florence he caught her gaze and offered a soft smile. It was hard not to on seeing her but he nodded his head for her to give the go ahead. Hopefully Duncan was good at keeping the horses calm or this could quickly get out of hand.
  WI_ / 90d 9h 30m 24s
At the idea that she had wanted their relationship to end was news to her, though she did understand how he could come to believe that. [+mediumseagreen “It was not that I [I wanted] it to end… but that perhaps it [I should] because I was not confident that I could properly support another person…”] Florence knew they had already been over this, so she did not dredge into the details, but she still thought it was an important distinction. Thoughts based from her own self-loathing should not be compared to her hating him or their being together.

Letting that pass, she smiled, letting herself be pulled into that self-proclaimed giddiness. [+mediumseagreen “Well, that is a happy thought. I will be sure to only distract you in times of dire need then.”] She joked, knowing Augustine did not need constant vigil at this point. He did well enough to protect himself against the bandits and such. Later that might change, when they had trained assassins on their tails, but for now a round the clock baby sitter was not necessary, even if Florence would have preferred it.

Squeezing his hand as it stayed with hers, the tall woman looked over to the children who were still off in their own world. [+mediumseagreen “Give them another minute, then you can go and terrorize them.”] And by that what she really meant was stay here just a little bit longer, though it was a terribly strange way to say it. But as much as she wanted to savor this moment, despite all the embarrassment of being outmatched by him, Florence did not let it draw on for too long. When it got to the point that she was afraid her procrastination might be obvious, she turned back toward Nicolai only to hesitate another second or two as she looked up at him. It was tempting to rise up for one final kiss, but she stopped herself and instead chose to squeeze his hand one last time. [+mediumseagreen “Alright, go and get them.”] There was still some time, but she wanted to be at the meeting place before the others. It would give her time to scope it out properly and look for any possible hang-ups that she might have overlooked.

The group got on the move shortly after that, walking their horses out of town and to the cliff that would present itself as their first obstacle of the day. With a closer look, it seemed like edge of the path was relatively stable, there was no outstanding area of concern at the moment. It all came down to the wagon itself now. Florence was hoping that it wasn’t too large or that it would not be over burdened with things. As all this was going through her mind, she heard Flora point out that they were making their way over. Eyes up, the woman saw it was true. The two horses from the night before pulled a large cart, Duncan was up front guiding them and the ladies were settled in the back surrounded by their belongings. Quinn was sat on his grandmother’s lap, but the old man was walking back behind the set up. Even from a distance you could just tell he was grumbling about something to Ool who walked next to him.

When the two groups finally converged, Florence jumped straight to work. [+mediumseagreen “Alright, everybody out.”] She shooed at those who could move themselves, and urged the young man to help his mother. They wanted this thing to be as light as possible for the trip down. [+mediumseagreen “We will put those who need help down on horses and walk them down after the cart is in place.”] That would also be safer in the case they lost control of the wagon. If they lost control they did not want people in it. [+mediumseagreen “You, have you ever backed these animals up before?”] Her attention was at Duncan again who nodded, but admitted it was never anything as intense as this. That was better than nothing, but did not exactly give Florence a boost in confidence. [+mediumseagreen “That is fine, just remember to take it slow, I do not want anyone to get run over.”] That was her main worry at this point, especially those who would be playing the support role on the way down. [+mediumseagreen “Get them in place at the top of the hill and we will have everyone else jump into place as soon as we are ready to begin.”] That was her queue to Augustine, Marko, and hopefully Töka that they needed to get ready too. Coincidentally, that was the part of the equation that worried Florence the most. Normally, they would use a system of ropes to supplement the strength of the horses on the way down, but because there were no stable trees on the edge of the ravine to use as an anchor, that was not an option. That left manpower as their only choice and she just hoped whichever three lined up behind the cart to take on some of the burden were enough to get the job done safely.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 101d 12h 6m 3s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai couldn’t exactly argue to the contrary that he wasn’t a decisive, eccentric, strange and foolish man. He was all that and more but he appreciated that she saw it in a somewhat positive hue. He imagined that was part of the whole relationship, is that whilst he accepted her 'issues', she accepted his. Though he really did not see hers as anything problematic.[+royalblue “I am eccentric, yes, but given how these last few years have gone I'm inclined to be a little more free in my ways.”] He knew she would want to wrap this up soon, both from the fear that Augustine may look over and see them and that she wanted to always be progressing forward – whether it was to a new town or to progress this 'rebellion', she was keen to keep up the momentum. Yet he also understood that this may be the last time they talked this way for a long time. It could be an hour, a week, a couple months, so he wanted to take all the time he could get.

[+royalblue “Only a week or two ago you wanted nothing more than for our relationship to end. To now be here, to kiss you and hold your hand like this, I'm a little giddy.”] He smiled like a child who had just been told that mother came back from the market with bacon. That innocent and pure joy.[+royalblue “I will do my best to limit myself and focus on helping Augustine but my time will always be yours should you need it.”] It was hard trying to play diplomatic in something he wanted to be greedy and petty over. He wanted them to run away, play family together, just be with one another. But her son, his King, came first and foremost and whilst he tried to show his loyalty and focus would be in one place he did not want that to be at the detriment of their relationship.

Balancing a relationship and his servitude to his King was a delicate matter and he stepped to Florence's side as he thought this. One hand left hers though the other held on that little bit more, lifting behind his back a touch, hiding it from view.[+royalblue “Do we let them keep talking or should I become General Nicolai again and order them about? I rather like being able to shout at them from time to time.”] He would not be able to do so for long is two of them became his Lord and Lady and the other no-doubt became a top advisor. He had to take his fun whilst he could.
  WI_ / 101d 13h 53m 16s
Her gaze had been fixed to their hands, so when he pulled them up to his face, her eyes followed. Finally looking at him she nodded, signaling that she understood. [+mediumseagreen “You are a strange one, Nicolai.”] A timid smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. [+mediumseagreen “I have not known a man to admit he finds me intimidating and yet continue to pursue me so doggedly. Nor take such an unconventional approach to handling my… issues.”] Florence didn’t really know what to call it. She wouldn’t go so far to say it was a phobia, but it was an anxiety of sorts. Either way, it did not really matter; he knew what she meant. [+mediumseagreen “But that is not to say strange is bad. I appreciate the effort, even if it is rather eccentric.”] If nothing else it was entertaining when he flustered himself, though she could not say the same when she was the one at a loss for words, which was happening more and more frequently. She was going to need to adapt, but then again that was sort of the point. And it needed to be more than just an act. Florence had learned to play the part of a woman unfazed by men’s advances years and years ago, it was one of many masks she used while playing the socialite game in the castle. In fact, she was quite good at keeping up appearances and getting her way in those situations. Because in that place there were rules she could follow, guidelines as to how one should act and retort to get the desired response. That all went out the window when one was trying to build a more personal and meaningful connections, and that was where she struggled the most. It always had been.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 103d 10h 35m 20s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Ah, he had done it, he had broken that resolve and the cracks were beginning to show in her perfect mask. It may not have been rosy cheeks and a weakening at the knees but there would be time in the future for that. When she looked away his joy only grew along with his smile and he squeezed her hands affectionately, even as she turned down his offer of seeing him more. It had been a wild hope but it was better to offer in a joking manner and have her reject it swiftly like this than to possibly miss out on an opportunity. Whilst she looked away to the others he kept his attention and his violet gaze upon her, nodding in agreement to her olive branch of an offering.

[+royalblue “I will be sure to keep some on hand, because we will find time - somewhere. Augustine and Flora understand I am not here to conquer you and move along.”] It sounded better in his head. Perhaps next time he would not refer to it as ‘conquering her’.[+royalblue “They know I care about you, and that we both want this to have a chance."] He hoped that meant they would be understanding should he tell the young duo to allow them some time to simply sit and be with one another.[+royalblue "And I hope you understand that too my beautiful Florence.”] Lifting her hands he placed a kiss to the backs of her fingers, one to each hand, a token gesture as he did not want to force another kiss too soon.[+royalblue “I talk as if it is all I want, but in reality it is just talk and a good way of breaking down any fears you may have. Make it humorous, less serious.”] To poke fun at such a serious topic was a good way to help them bond that bit more, especially as she flushed at any mention of more than a kiss here and there.[+royalblue “And it helps me to feel more confident around you. You don’t realise how intimidating you can be.”] It was a trait he admired greatly about her and he smiled as their hands fell back down.
  WI_ / 103d 11h 29m 47s
Shaking her head, she could scarcely believe that he looked back on that moment so fondly simply because it was their reunion, though she did not actually believe him to be the masochist she was implying either. Florence simply did not understand this man in front of her at times. Much like now, how he was still so gung-ho to try and rattle her. And what was most unfortunate about that was the fact that it was beginning to work. In the end, it was the wink that did her in. Her face began to warm and the more self-conscious she became, the harder it was to find any openings to prod back at him. [+mediumseagreen “I think I have seen you sufficiently, thank you.”] The woman quickly looked away as she tried to backpedal away from where this conversation was headed. It was only going to end with her a flustered mess in front of everyone, which she wanted to avoid at all cost. Even still, she did not want to fully reject Nicolai. Believe it or not, she was trying to keep her promise to make an effort when it came to their relationship. [+mediumseagreen “However, I would not deny you my time for a drink and some sweets.”] That bit actually sounded quite nice… well, mostly. [+mediumseagreen "It might be good to actually have some time to ourselves."] As she spoke her eyes glanced over to the trio of kids still distracted by their own conversation. When or where that would be possible, she had no idea, but it was a pleasant thought nonetheless.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 103d 12h 9m 1s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai was in a playful mood and it seemed so was Florence, or that was how he interpreted her words that she jabbed back at him with. He had to accept that yet, he had very light eyes and elven features did not lend themselves to a more rough and rugged appearance. To those who preferred a more lithe and slender partner they were ideal in that way. But for Florence it seemed she preferred a man’s man, a big and hulking figure and one with a beard it would seem. That was never going to happen and thankfully it seemed she had come to terms with that.

Smiling as she continued before he could say a world in response he raised an eyebrow to hear her compare herself to a forty year old. Here he was thinking women hated to be reminded of their age. But it was in keeping with Florence to do the opposite of other women, and worked well to her advantage as she had matured very well. It was a little obvious when he looked over her and drank in the voluptuous woman before him. Though she had lost weight in the last seven years she still retained the curves he adored and her bodice and trousers worked well to accentuate them. Perhaps his gaze lingered a little too long as she was talking again and he looked up at her with a blank expression, eyes a little wider than before.

Wait, what did he look back on fondly about? Why was she looking at him? Oh, he had not been listening. Through some very quick backtracking he nodded his head slowly at her before shake it side to side and ending with a nod.[+royalblue “Yeah-no. Maybe..”] He held her hands lightly though enough that she couldn’t push him away for being an idiot.[+royalblue “You mean the slap? Yeah?”] He tried to confirm and decided to just go with that.[+royalblue “Well it was the first time I’d seen you in seven years and I was just delighted, so I like to think of it as the rekindling of an old and wonderful relationship.”] He smiled as if he had managed to manoeuvre out of some made up hole he had dug for himself.

[+royalblue “Who knows, maybe you have awakened a more rough and rugged nature within me. We will have to investigate further, perhaps with a jug of wine and some dessert?”] He had to turn this back on her if he was to not to lose again – she had found ways to finagle her way free of his crudeness in the past and he was overly keen to win just this once.[+royalblue “It would be a good excuse for you to see this more muscular Nicolai, really show you how good I am on the ‘battlefield.’”] The inflection was obvious as he winked teasingly.
  WI_ / 103d 13h 5m 51s
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