Fall of the Court

/ By Loxi [+Watch]

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About to yell at him some more for being the most contradictory person she had ever met, Nicolai backed down before she had the chance. She watched as he turned himself back up to a sitting position. He did so fluidly and without complaint so she figured he had not gotten too belligerent the night before. At least not enough for it to linger or make him ill today, but what did she know? Florence had little idea of how he held his liquor. They had never had occasion to drink together.

He admitted that he was of the mind to try and change hers, but pointed out her behavior from the night before. Her face darkened again. [+mediumseagreen “I am not accustomed to men professing their ardent adoration for me. It is embarrassing. That was where my discomfort stemmed from. It would have been so no matter who said those things.”] Even if the situation had been different and he hadn’t been making a confession, to be held in such high regards by someone who you had given little to no reason to do so was awkward.

Nicolai also called in to question her motives. [+mediumseagreen “Are you sure you are in a position to be picky about my motivations?] She looked at him questioningly, but it looked as though he still wanted an answer.

[+mediumseagreen “To put it plainly I do not know a thing about romances. In my youth I was much too busy to be worrying about anything so trivial. And when I got older I was married to a man who cared for me, but was very obviously still caught up on his first wife.”] From the outside it might not have seemed so, as Germaine was ever the doting husband and father, but Florence knew it was the case. Not to mention that he was over twice her age when they wed, but that was another matter entirely. [+mediumseagreen “I have no viable experience to relate this to. So no, I do not know if I think this is right... But I cannot very well go through life basking in my own ignorance. Unless I try, I am never going to know. And seeing as you are already someone I consider close, it may just be a little easier for me…”] Her words soften at the end, and she looked away. Her face was still warm but she did not know just how apparent it was visually.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 15d 3h 29m 0s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai had finished off the remainder of the bottle in the hopes he could at least sleep happily and in a merry fashion, but it was most certainly watered down by Helga as he felt no expectant buzz. Worse yet, when he had attempted to come back inside he was thrust back by the smaller woman, told that he would sleep outside that night if wanted to be an animal. It was a touch harsh as he was only drinking to try and ease himself from a rather awkward argument. But knowing how fierce the woman could be if ignored – hand flexing from the memory of her striking him quite hard over the back of his head last time he was here – he relented and shuffled back to the bench.

Sleep came and went. For the few hours he managed there were no dreams, no nightmares, it was like closing one's eyes and opening them to find night had been replaced by day. Laying out on the bench had been rather tough on his shoulder and he felt the tightness even before he felt a cold morning breeze wash over him. Content to wait out a little in the light of the sun and just wake gradually over time, he heard the door swing open and footfall approaching him. Likely Helga was here to enquire how his head felt, which it was fine, or to tell him to wash up for breakfast.

Instead he felt a foot press to his stomach and he was almost levered off his bed and onto the ground. As he felt he neared the edge his violet eyes opened wide and he saw the familiar shoe of a certain Queen, following the leg up to see her looming over him with intense eyes as ever. Even despite their quarrelling and the fact she had almost pushed him off the bench, seeing her there was still a sight to behold and he watched her as she pushed him back onto the bench once more. Laying back he used one hand to place the bottle to the floor, the other raising up over his eyes as he awaited her newly found anger. He had expected her presence so that she could give him the talking to he had denied her the night before. She had slept on it and therefore her creative mind would have construed many ways to slight him and admonish him.

Instead he was given an all toward different conversation. The look of confusion was evident on his face as his hand lifted up and became a pillow to his head. The silence between them was quite long though perhaps it only felt that way to Nicolai who was trying to comprehend just why she was talking like this. Yet it did come to a point.[+teal “Did Gregory put you up to this?”] His accusation was rather typical of the elf and recalled times where the dwarf and he had butted heads repeatedly in the castle. In a way it was like taking them back a month, to when things seemed all the more rosy and sweet.

He raised his now free right hand, stopping her from giving him a particularly sharp retort and swinging his feet from the bench to sit upright.[+teal “Sorry, that doesn't matter.”] He looked up at her but quickly decided to stand, taking a step to her side so that they were not atop one another but facing her directly.[+teal “I am more than willing to try, just..”] Of course there was an additional to his sentence. Nothing was ever simple, but he did pull back hard on being too argumentative.[+teal “Last night you made it seem like my confession made you quite uncomfortable. I want to be sure you are saying this because [i you] think it is right. Not just for my or anyone else's sake.”] It was not too much to ask that this was her choice and something she wanted. Where would be the point of this if she was not truly open to him trying to court her? He wanted to be sure he stood a chance and she would not immediately rebuff all his attempts.
  WI_ / 15d 4h 23m 41s
Gregory would have never expected to be standing there trying to sooth Nicolai after the swift strike of rejection, but here he was with a perfect stranger trying to push the elf to muster up the courage to at least not drink himself into an absolute stupor. It was not really working, but it was still surprising nonetheless.

He sighed. [+darkmagenta “I will talk to her in the morning. I would rather like to hear her side of this mess.”] Crossing his arms, the dwarf was already sorting out exactly what he would say. Until then he needed to rest as well. But on the way out he stopped, only partially turning back to the raven-haired man.

[+darkmagenta “And some friendly advice for you Nicolai. Do not expect anything to happen quickly with that girl. You may have suffered watching her put up a false front of love and contentment, but you have to remember she spent all that time living it. She’s undoubtedly been making a conscious effort to block out this sort of affection for years. It is going to take more than a few I love you’s to get through to her… Oh, and if I catch you letting those hands wander anyplace she does not want them, I will beat you within an inch of your life.”] He spoke with a smile, but he was quite serious about the threat. With that, he returned to the house. It had been a long day.

The morning came too soon for Florence. She slept so poorly that she might as well have not slept at all. However, she was determined to be out of this place. Sitting here any longer only vexed her all the more. But as she put on her shoes and made sure she was ready for the day’s travels, there was a trio of knocks at the door. They came in strange succession and she knew it was Gregory. She called out for him to enter, though her voice was off from just waking up.

Looking to the short man as he entered, he wore a serious expression. It was uncommon for him. [+darkmagenta “We need to talk.”] But not as uncommon as the wholly solemn tone he took. It felt like she was going to be in trouble.

Taking a seat back on the bed, Gregory did the same, a few feet from her. [+darkmagenta “I have already heard from Nicolai about last night. Now I would very much like to hear from you.”] He left it at that for the moment. Not wanting to sway her words by mentioning what exactly Nicolai had said.

Slowly inhaling, Florence filled her lungs only to let it out in a slow groan that was not quite so long as it should have been. [+mediumseagreen “I tried to convince him to come along with us, and he said he would not because he is too in love with me to stand it knowing I will not have him… I then told him he was stupid to think that dying was the better option than being lovesick. And then he was done with me and we parted ways.”]

It was not exactly what he had heard from the man himself, but Gregory was sure the truth lie somewhere in the middle of the two accounts. [+mediumseagreen “And you do not think that you might have been a bit too harsh with him?”]

Completely stuttering, Florence took a bit go get coherent word out of her mouth. [+mediumseagreen “You are taking his side?!”] Gregory didn’t even care for Nicolai. Where in the hell was this coming from?

[+darkmagenta “No, I just happen to know how you are. I cannot imagine you used any sort of tact with this.”]

[+mediumseagreen “Excuse me? I did too.”] He looked at her expectantly. [+mediumseagreen “Well… right up until the point that he starting going on and on about me.”] Her face heated up just thinking about it. [+mediumseagreen “It was frightfully embarrassing. I do not believe anyone could keep their composure when faced with that.”]

Raising a brow at her, Gregory was not having her excuses. [+darkmagenta “You have traveled across the continent, lifted a country out of desolation, and stood against armies, and this is where you draw the line? A man with honest to goodness feelings for you, who wants to see you happy.”] When he put it like that it did seem rather dramatic of her.

[+mediumseagreen “What would you have me do? He is determined to be done with me.”] She crossed her arms in a huff.

[+darkmagenta “I think you should give him a chance. As much as I hate to admit it, Nicolai is a good man. You should consider him for the future and tell him that you are going to do so. Let him see that you are open to him trying to win your affection if he is willing to try.”] He brought a hand up to her shoulder, placing it gently there. [+darkmagenta “Besides, if it is bothering you as much as it looks like it is, I think there is some hope for him.”]

She narrowed her eyes at him. [+mediumseagreen “What are you trying to say now?”]

[+darkmagenta “You look like hell, Florence.”] He grinned and quickly jumped up from the bed before she could hit him. [+darkmagenta “Da ist meine Mausbär.”] His Astorian sounded through laughter.

[+mediumseagreen “Oh, shut up.”] She was not particularly in the mood for childhood pet names at the moment, but she did sit still then he came in close once again. This time just to place a kiss on her forehead. Though she did roll her eyes at the gesture.

[+darkmagenta “Alright, now, go and put an end to this stupid thing. I do not want to hear anymore whining from him.”] Offering her a hand, he helped Florence to her feet. [+darkmagenta “I have the feeling he is still out back. I don’t think Helga let him back in after the fit he threw.”]

While the final comment was useful in helping her find Nicolai, it did little for her wanting to see him. But she pressed on, making her way back to the porch. Indeed she did find the elf there, curled up on the bench with a bottle still in hand. Gods, it was a display. Florence debated whether or not she really wanted him to come to Astoria. It was still a yes, but he was on thin ice at this point.

Placing a foot firmly on his stomach, she slowly applied just enough pressure to roll him over and off of the bench. At the final tipping point, right before he would fall, she saw his eyes shoot open. [+mediumseagreen “You are making a mighty pitiful spectacle of yourself for someone who is looking to court a woman who used to be Queen.”] As unkind as she was being, she did at least make sure that she pushed him so that he would not fall on his injured shoulder.

When it looked as though he was at least coherent enough to understand her, she continued. [+mediumseagreen “From what I hear, I did not make myself clear last night. I said I had never thought about you as a potential suitor for myself… but that does not mean I cannot be persuaded to do so. If you are willing to man up and show me just how you will make me happy, then maybe, just maybe, things might change. Are you willing to do that?”] In the morning light, her eyes were as bright as ever, even looking down on the man. But they were also filled with expectation, the expectation that Nicolai would answer her and she would see exactly what he was made of.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 15d 6h 39m 41s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The sound of her words and of her leaving were dulled to him as if he was submerged under water. It sure felt like it, his enter chest feeling heavy and aching as he heard the door close over behind her. His body sagged at that, hands sliding from his pockets to rest on his hips as if inspecting the darkness before him. It had been a long time since he had felt like this. It was a feeling a being broken, injured without the wounds – or at least not where he was physically injured. It brought back the memory of the last time, when his parents had passed away. It was a dark period of his life he did not want to revisit again. He needed wine.

Turning to march back inside he immediately saw Gregory in the flickering glow of the fireplace. Pausing in his step as both men looked at one another there was nothing said for a long time. Nicolai was almost happy to see the man however and at the same time wanted the man to just disappear, the constant thorn in his side there last few years.[+teal “Come to admonish me for upsetting your friend little man?”] He regretted the barb as it left his tongue but like most things that night, once they were said they could not be taken back.[+teal “Trust me when I say you cannot hurt me any more than I have myself tonight.”] He walked on into the kitchen, finding a small woman of grey hair just inside the doorway. Clearly Helga had been watching too, seeing Florence enter and hearing her words. It only served to rile Nicolai up that bit more.[+teal “Any other wise words to impart Helga?”] He did not stop this time but continued into the dimly lit kitchen.

Searching through several cupboards the soft footfall of the tentative dwarf in the quiet house seemed to echo loudly to the elf. Thankfully he found a bottle of red wine, covered in a layer of dust and tucked away with some cutlery. There was no request if he could take it, though Helga would have given it if he had asked. Instead he grasped the cork stopper and removed it with a satisfying squeak. Regardless of the taste or age of the drink, he lifted it to his lips and took several healthy gulps of the fermented grape beverage before letting it slip from his lips.

[+darkgoldenrod “You take that damn bottle and you get outside if you want to drink! I will not have a drunkard in this home, not after Irving passed and especially not with a child in this house! I will not have you waking that poor boy!”] Her voice was hushed but stern and despite the darkness of the room the intensity of her stare overcame any resistance to remain inside. Nicolai stalked outside with a nod, heading through the kitchen to take a seat where he had with Florence earlier in the day. Turning from the closing door to Gregory, Helga looked at him as if to suggest he go speak to the man.
[+darkmagenta “Oh no, I may be a priest but this is not my-”]
[+darkgoldenrod “Hush with that priestly nonsense. You are not fooling anyone.”] Helga waved off his protest quickly.[+darkgoldenrod “I knew the moment I lay eyes on you that you weren't no priest. He isn't the best of liars and neither are you. Now come on.”] She proceeded to find a candle and place it on a metallic stand, lighting it from an already lit one and turning to head outside. With little else to use as argument against following, Gregory puffed out his cheeks and followed.

Outside Nicolai was sat in the glow of the candle that was placed onto an empty seat, providing them enough light to see one another. Helga had taken up a place opposite the elven man whilst a seat beside her, with the candle between them, had been left for the dwarf. Watching the younger man swig intermittently from the bottle as if he were sipping on water, the host of the group shook her head.[+darkgoldenrod “So, you told her how you felt huh? And I'm guessing from this sad display she didn't immediately jump into your arms with joy?”] Her dry humour brought a small smile to the bard's face but no reaction from her subject at hand.
[+darkmagenta “Ah, so that is what tonight was about. I thought he was trying to convince her to stay behind with him.”] Finally clued in on the topic he seated himself and let out a deep breath.[+darkmagenta “Care to tell us what was said? Perhaps a succinct version, if you don't mind.”] He did not want a play by play retelling of every single thing said. The cliff notes version would serve just as well. For a moment however, the elven male looked keen to remain tight lipped and silent. But given the two elder figures would not relent – or at least Helga would not – he stared down at the bottle in hand and sighed.
[+teal “I told her I loved her. I said I had loved her since I first met her. And.. she told me she could not understand why I loved her given I didn't know her, and that I should stay here with Helga because I was a lost cause who needed looking after.”] He had picked at sore points to her argument, misconstrued her words entirely and taken them from their overall context. But never say wiser minds are not privy to such acts, and the two counsellors looked at one another in agreement that he was not giving the utmost truth.
[+darkgoldenrod “Okay, so she did not understand why you loved her. Given you were silent as a church mouse for ten years can you blame her? Did you show her you loved her?”]
[+darkmagenta “Did you fight for her to understand you?”] Gregory interjected quickly.[+darkmagenta “You know she is a stubborn woman – did you argue back against her?”] He meant this in a constructive way, not to argue for the sake of arguing. Nicolai shook his head, hair waving a touch.[+darkmagenta “Why not?”]
[+teal “I'm tired of arguing with her. I spent so long fighting her so that she did not find out how I felt. I fought her on such stupid and pointless matters. I just don't want to argue with her any more.”] He spoke quietly again, timid and embarrassed perhaps.
[+darkmagenta “Then what did you expect from her?”]
[+darkgoldenrod “You want her to see you as a potential partner and yet here you sit like a sorry little child, drinking wine and moping about. Why should she think you are good enough for her when you back down at the first hurdle?”] They hit back at him, quite hard, but justly so.
[+teal “She shouldn't. I'm not good enough for her.”]
[+darkmagenta “Oh cut the horse crap Nicolai.”] Despite knowing he was not a priest, Helga was not particularly happy with the language, but she kept it to herself.[+darkmagenta “You want to be this caring man who saves her and Augustine but then be seen as humble and agreeable and yet you act as a walkover. You don't even have to know Florence whatsoever to know that shy and timid men are not what she wants!”] He was quite animated now, perhaps allowing his own frustrations at this whole débâcle with the Capital and seeing his friend to safety to spill over into anger at the elf.
[+teal “And what do you suggest Gregory?!”] He snapped back, sitting up from his seat and a glint of the anger both of them wanted to see was in his eye.[+teal “I told her how I felt, I opened myself up to her and I showed her why I had been the man I was for all these years. She isn't going to just turn over and fall in love with me in an instant because of that.”] His voice rose during this but a raised hand from Helga for them both to keep their voices down had effect.
[+darkmagenta “You could have married her to stop Gabriel and Vincent! You could have done so and over time won her over! You love her, why didn't you do that?”]
[+teal “Because I am not Germaine; I will not force her to marry me out of circumstance only to find she despises me and must live out even more of her life in a loveless and cold marriage.”] Saying that aloud seeing to break something within Nicolai, or rather it brought a realisation to the forefront that he had known for some time but never admitted out loud.[+teal “I had to watch her.. had to watch as she sat next to that imbecile, that cretin.. and see her force smiles and laughter and feign happiness to be there at his side.. I had to just watch her accept her lot in life, to be a woman who is traded as a commodity, to be married to whomever made the best offer. She wasn't married for love or happiness Gregory, and she did not choose him.. I would not force her to do the same with me.”] His breath fell away as he finished his sentence and his violet eyes, having looking on Gregory with a fire and passion they had each wanted to see, now turned to the bottle in his hands.[+teal “Call me weak, call me pathetic, say I lack a backbone and won't fight for her. These are all just words and I will take them from you both with no ill will. But her? I just want her happy. I want her safe. I want her to lead a life that she chooses and to know and feel love. Real love. She has to want to me to fight for her and to show her I am worthy of her love. But she does not want that.”]
[+darkgoldenrod “She said this? She told you she does not want that?”]
[+teal “Not everything had to be said in such blunt terms Helga. She cares about me, but only so much as to see me stay alive. You two can argue with her about this or say to her whatever you wish. I have argued with her for far too long.”] The bottle rose up once more, several long but slow draws on the opening allowing the intoxicating liquid to flow swiftly. It was not a particularly potent blend – likely watered down by Helga. But it would help to ease any of his pain.
  WI_ / 15d 16h 36m 12s
She had thought with his newfound courage he might rise to challenge her. To step up like he had done before to tell her how she was wrong or selfish or something. Anything that would trigger a dialog, but instead he rolled over. As though he was content with her berating him. For someone who thought he was in love with her, Nicolai did not care to fight to for it. She groaned at the cowardice. Perhaps she was being too hard on him, but Florence had high expectations for the man.

It got so bad that he would not even look at her. He just stared off into the darkness and it made it difficult to want to try any more. So she didn’t. Florence let out a long sigh. [+mediumseagreen “Very well. I am glad you could be satisfied with this in the end…”] because she sure wasn’t. But there wasn’t much else she could think to do. Sometimes it was best to walk away. [+mediumseagreen “I plan to leave early tomorrow since we will not have any reason to linger.”] It might have been different if he chose to join them; unlike her he actually needed the recovery time. [+mediumseagreen “Just in case I do not see you come morning. Goodbye. I hope that you do well for yourself, Nicolai… I really do.”] She bowed her head in a way that was more customary of Astoria than Wistina. It worked both as a greeting and parting.

Turning back, a look of regret stained her features. He was an adult who could make his own choices and it was not as though she did not understand why he wanted things the way he did. It was more that Florence was not satisfied with how it came to pass. It felt like there was more to be said. The words just were not coming and she feared making things worse after he was so clearly done. But regardless of her feelings, it was through. She would say nothing more on the matter.

Gregory was in the hall when she came inside. He stared at her as though to ask how it went.

[+mediumseagreen “That was a nightmare… I am going to bed.”] She walked past him and did not leave any room for more inquiry. As not to run into anyone else, she rushed back to the room.

The dwarf did not move to follow after Florence, but he watched her go. When she was out of sight, he looked back to the door. He wondered whether Nicolai had finally done it. Try as he might, the elf couldn’t deceive Gregory’s old gray eyes. He'd seen the way he looked at Florence. That pining was the reason he never really cared for the man. He never felt like he could trust the general around her because of it. Longing like that, especially when prolonged in such a way, could turn dangerous. But recently that had begun to change. After starting their allegiance, the squat gentleman had formed a better opinion of the elf. It was a shame they would be parting... though without hearing the conversation between the other two adults there was no telling whether or not his hunch at what had happened was correct.


Florence was quick to get into bed, but sleep did not come easy. She woke frequently, tossing and turning. It was irritating. This should not have been bothering her so much. Hopefully with time and distance things would improve, but for now she would have to deal with it.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 15d 18h 17m 50s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat From how her face flushed, the soft change in colour of her cheeks, Nicolai was rather.. down heartened? There right word did not come to mind as he saw shock in her look at him and what he had to say. He felt a lump rise in his throat and the lack of fear that he had now dissipated very swiftly and his once pride strong heart sank faster than a rock in a pond. His stomach turned over and tied into knots and he very quickly turned his head down to the ground, hung a little in defeat. Her words confirmed that what he thought he saw in the look on her face was indeed how she was thinking and he let out a soft sigh. Once more Nicolai was interpreting things in his own defective imagination rather than seeing them for what they were.

He almost interrupted her whilst she spoke and he shook his head repeatedly, not wanting to hear her say it.[+teal “No, no,”] he lifted his head from his hand,[+teal “you can find love wherever you wish Florence. I hope you do..”] He stood up then, quite abruptly. Standing still for a moment he paced forward a few steps to the edge of the decking and considered the possibility of just continuing forward and on into the darkness. It was so attractive to allow the darkness to swallow him. Perhaps it would be the only way to ease the displeasing feeling in his chest?

[+teal “Well.. thank you.. thank you for talking with me. I am glad we could get this chance to discuss this. I’m.. happy that we talked this out and can leave things quite amicably.”] He bit hard at the inside of his cheek, a nervous laugh escaping as he took a deep breath in through his nose. It was a slow and controlling breath as he slipped his hands into his pants pockets. With his back to her it was next to impossible to read his face that was devoid of the light from the house. He was a simple dark silhouette against the night sky.

[+teal “It is getting rather late. I would perhaps turn in for the night. You do have a long journey ahead.”] It was evident from that what Nicolai’s choice had become now. Their talk had gone quite horribly in the end. Where he saw love and devotion, she saw obsession, insanity, an illness that needed tending to by Helga – and worse yet he was beginning to agree with her. He had let his want of her become too much and his idolisation of her was rather creepy, disgusting and unpalatable. It was no longer a romantic gesture or a moment for a man to tell a woman he had known so long that she was perfect to him. Now it was just wrong. And with fresh eyes on the experience, with her take on his life this last decade, he felt wrong. He said nothing more. Nicolai had nothing else to say to emerald eyed woman.
  WI_ / 15d 19h 39m 26s
Her face went beet-red as she listened to him attempt to explain his feelings and how they did not come from a place of logic. They simply were, and it did not seem there was much he could do about it. If there were, Florence was sure he would have done it by now.

After going so far to call himself a fool because of these emotions, he recanted their fireside talk. His words there meant a lot to her, but it seemed the moment itself what stuck with him. The heat she felt on her face persisted. This was so entirely different for her. Plenty of men had come forward to her to profess her beauty, but none like this. He was so fixated on each detail. She didn’t remember what she was wearing when she first came to Wistina, but he did. This had gone passed being a crush; it was a full-blown obsession. A fact that probably should have scared her, or at least put the woman more on guard, but the soft way he spoke left her at ease. Well, aside from being horrifically embarrassed by it all.

[+mediumseagreen “No, no, you really do not need to go on.”] Her eyes fell to the floor. Without much light other than what was cast from the window, they were darker than normal, their green more akin to deep and tumultuous waters than anything mined from the earth. [+mediumseagreen “I am quite alright.”]

She continued to listen to him, glad that he moved on. The woman was not sure how much more of that she was going to be able to take. [+teal “…What do you think?”] That was an excellent question.

Glancing up, she saw his vibrant violet eyes on her and an expression she nearly did not recognize. Nicolai really was not holding back anymore. And as much as she wanted to look back to the ground, she kept her eyes up. If she couldn’t even do this much how could she expect to travel with him in a cordial fashion? A fire ignited inside of her again as she remembered her goal in being here.

She couldn’t imagine his situation in its entirety, but the woman could try to sympathize. [+mediumseagreen “Yes, I do believe I understand your obstinate refusal now…”] Her words were spoken with a determination that had not been smothered just yet. [+mediumseagreen “I think you are about to make a very stupid and very permanent choice. Only an absolute fool thinks that being lovesick is worse than being dead. What kind of ludicrous logic is that?”] She was gaining some traction back. He had thrown her for a loop, but Florence was not about to let it stay that way. [+mediumseagreen “And what does it matter that I have a child? Should I be condemned to never find love solely because I am a mother? If you believe that, sir, then you are most definitely a lost cause. I would suggest you stay here with Helga, as she might be willing to look after you despite it.”]
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 15d 21h 43m 39s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat When she had stood he had expected her to leave. If she had nothing to say then why willingly allow herself to remain in such a complex and awkward moment? Her pacing did not ease his worry not did she draw his violet eyes to her. He remained staring out into the darkness knowing what he had said could not be misconstrued or misinterpreted – especially by one so intelligent as her. Neither could it be rescinded or passed off as his odd and black humour. He had told her he loved her and that was that.

As he had expected she was very careful with her words. They were gentle, soft, used in a calming tone and above all else; apologetic. She seemed sorry for having brought this upon herself, for letting him think and feel what he did. His head shook slowly as she finished and even questioned how he could love her.[+teal “Because I am a simple fool I suppose.”] His voice was weak and crackled and he coughed to try and harden his tone, licking dry lips.[+teal “I can’t claim to know why I love you Florence. Sometimes I ask myself that same question – just how, why do I love this woman who argues with me on everything and knows just how to get me to do as she says even if I think otherwise. On the surface it seems so silly to see someone like that and love them so unconditionally. But I just know I do.”] His hands had clasped together and he found they were quite clammy now, though he felt confident in saying all this aloud. It was quite unburdening to say so and he felt the floodgates had opened on so much pent up thoughts.

[+teal “Florence, two nights ago at the fire, when you were worried Augustine was pulling away from you after he talked back, when I sat with you and talked with you – that was absolutely the best moment of my life since childhood. I got to be open and honest with you and show I was there for you and it was like ten years of being quiet, of being a good friend to Germaine, respecting of your union together, those ten years just rolled away and I was talking with that same woman I met that first day. That beautiful woman with the vivid emerald eyes, the flawless and demure smile, the bright blue dress and singsong voice.”] He let out a soft half-laugh at his words and nodded.[+teal “I could talk about how amazing you are for the rest of the night if you need the ego-boost.”] Delicate fingers rose up and brush across his face as he pushed himself to the edge of the bench. He didn’t stand up, not wanting to leave but also not to remain still as he felt some nerves return.

[+teal “Can you see now why I was so sceptical to go with you? Not exactly an easy thing to travel alongside the woman you’ve pined for, especially given she has her son in tow from a previous marriage. What do you think?”] Only now did he look across to her, resting his head on his hand, a soft smile on his lips as he looked on her. Without the fear of her finding out his infatuation with her now, he was more open and free to look at her with the same emotion and feeling he spoke of.
  WI_ / 15d 22h 57m 46s
Nicolai was almost tentative in his words. Like he was holding back, at least at first. He still managed to tell her that she was at fault, at least to some degree, for his misgivings. It was as she thought before. However now, she was certain that it was not that he was misunderstanding her feelings. But as he went on, she discovered she had completely misunderstood his. Quite frankly she was flabbergasted. Florence was not usually so dense to sit oblivious to a man's affection for over a decade, but men who were interested in her also didn't usually avoid her so fastidiously. So here she was, very caught off guard.

[+mediumseagreen "... That does complicate things..."] She was stating the obvious in attempt to gain time. The woman was at a loss for meaningful words and it showed. She shifted her weight on the bench, which eventually led to her standing. But she did not move to leave, well not more than a few steps. Her pacing was a futile attempt to clear her mind so that she could try and think this through rationally.

If he hadn't looked so damn serious, she might have thought this was a joke. A poor one, but a joke nonetheless. He'd even turned down what was almost a direct offer of marriage from her not that long ago. So that did not make any sense to her either.

Had she been any more of a manipulative bitch than she already was, this might have been the perfect opportunity to guarantee that Nicolai joined them. It would be easy to take advantage of his feelings and probably the simplest way to get what she wanted... If this had come out a few months prior she probably would have, but now, after all they had been through together she could not do that to him. Though, a few months ago she also would not have cared whether he continued on with them or not. It was sort of a catch-22.

Looking back to Nicolai intermittently, she knew she would eventually have to say something. She might as well get it out of the way. [+mediumseagreen "You were frank with me, so I will do the same."] With that she stopped her strutting and turned to face the gentleman. [+mediumseagreen “This…”] Using her hand, she gestured between the two of them. [+mediumseagreen “Has never crossed my mind before. Aside from that one time in the castle to spite Vincent, but even then that was meant to be a plot of convenience and nothing more…] He really hadn’t sounded as though he was looking for a response to his affections, but that was where she began. [+mediumseagreen “And I do not mean that as a slight, or that I do not see you as a man or some such nonsense like that. Because I do, and you are a damn fine one at that. I just quite literally have never thought this was a possibility. You said it yourself, you’ve been distant and abrasive over the years. Maybe given time with this knowledge my outlook could change, but as for the present I cannot say I reciprocate… but I think you already knew that.”] Even with this out in the open, she still wanted him to come with them. But that was not something Florence could bring herself to say. Not only was it insensitive, it would show a great deal of incompetence on her part. He was hurting and she couldn’t ask him to endure it in hopes that one of them would change the way that they feel.

There was a long moment of quiet. Florence was still contemplating it all. Most if not all aspects of this baffled her, but one thing stood out more than the others. [+mediumseagreen “I just cannot see how you could love someone you know so little about?”] It was not just their pasts; there was also the matter of personality. It had been a few months now and she still did not feel like she knew the ‘real’ Nicolai. For gods sake she hadn’t even realized he’d been pining after her this whole time. And that is kind of a big one. For him every word they’d shared might have had a completely different meaning.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 16d 2h 8m 1s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat The meal was a rather nice experience where for once they all seemed to be getting along. Gregory took center stage as ever and save the one or two times where Augustine would seek Nicolai's attention, the chatting amongst the adults was quite constant. Meredith was silent as ever though she offered a small smile now and again to show she was listening, even if she was perhaps in two minds given her own future.

Nicolai had not thought to consider the girl since the ambush. He had struck her off as a lost cause and a woman not worth thinking of because she had tried to give their lives in return for her families. And now, she had no family, no role beside Florence, about to be abandoned in a foreign land and left to her own devices. He thought to speak to her about it but what could he really say to her? The rage of her betrayal was still fresh, his wound particularly painful after his work that day, and yet looking on her at times whilst the others were talking animatedly with one another he saw some likeness of himself there. She was scared, alone, wondering what was next.

When the meal finished and everyone went about their own activities once things were cleaned up, it left Nicolai to ponder over his conversation with Florence. Granted it was not a long time to think it over and again he came to the conclusion he should just go with the conversation as it progressed, but seeing her smiling with Gregory and talking animatedly with Helga, he was rather stuck to one path to take. He remained mulling over this until she stood and left the room, following after her quickly and asking her if they could now talk. Perhaps she had been keen to avoid the talk like he was but she relented and followed him.

Opening the door for her he nodded over to some seats on the porch. The air was still warm from the day and it meant a pleasant setting for them to sit and talk. He did not try to keep distance between them, sitting beside her on the bench, though not atop one another – depending on how the conversation went she may have wanted a quick escape and he would not keep her here.

Thankful for her starting, as he had no opening line, he nodded at her remarks whilst looking out into the darkness of the fields.[+teal “I know Florence. At first I tried to kid myself otherwise and make this all your fault, like you were pushing me away. But accepting the truth.. I know you are not the problem here.. at least not directly.”] It forced a small chuckle from him, given she was the issue at hand but not in a negative way – she was simply the subject of his insecurity. Taking a deep and calming breath he felt relaxed, his body light and thoughts empty save one.

[+teal “I will be brutally blunt here Florence; the reason I don't want to go north with you is because of my feelings toward you.”] It was a bold and strong start and to stop her from interrupting the momentum he had – or halting him from finally getting this out – he quickly continued.[+teal “When I first saw you I was captivated and devastated in equal measure. You were and still are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I felt like I wanted to know you and be with you from that very first second. And yet.. you were marrying my friend.”] He shook his head a little, not wanting to get back into that conversation again like he had with Helga. His gaze remained forward, not wanting to turn and look and see how she reacted.

[+teal “I love you Florence. Ever since I have known you I have. And that is why I avoided you, stayed away from you, fought and argued with you all these years. Trying not to let it be seen how much I do care for you. How I wanted nothing more than to be the one to make you laugh or smile or feel wanted and needed. And those feelings, despite being suppressed for so many years, are now coming back and I don't know how I would handle travelling with you and your family whilst feeling that way.”] Whilst it was liberating to finally be honest and say what he thought, he still had a heavy heart and the nerves were quite frayed.
  WI_ / 16d 8h 10m 32s
Considering that she had caught Nicolai in the midst of washing up, naked as a blue jay out in the yard save one bolt of cloth and the tilted brickwork of the well, Florence didn’t dare go any farther than the door. Any closer and she feared she’d see something that would only make things more awkward between them. Shouting across to the well would do her just fine. He acknowledged her with a nod and she returned to the house. Nicolai was the last of the party to hear the news, so she went straight to the dining area ready to wait.

As soon as they were all at the table, food was dished out and they ate heartily. Those whose appetites had previously waned were back in full swing. The others had been put to work for a good portion of the day and were uncommonly hungry. Helga was pleased by the sight and made it a point to say so. However, other than that there was little conversation. The focus stayed fast to the food in front of them until everyone was full. No one wanting to move immediately, that was the time for conversation to blossom. The adults chatted for some time, waiting for their stomachs to settle.

When comfort returned to them, they all did their part in cleaning up. It was done quickly and they were able to retire to the living area in no time. There, Gregory made himself useful by sparking the fire. The coals from the previous night still sat in the basin and gave him a base to work with in igniting the boards Nicolai had brought in. They were fully blazing by the time color started staining the sky. As the night crept on, the group became more and more dependent on the light of the flames. When it was wholly dark, Florence sent Augustine off to bed with a kiss. He fought it saying that he was not tired and that he wanted to stay up longer. She knew it was because he thought this would be his last night with Nicolai. The boy had been paying particular attention to him all night. Still, she shut down his pleas with a wave of her hand and shooed him off to bed. There would be time in the morning.

It was not long after that that Florence was just about ready for bed. She stood to dismiss herself and then exited the room. Nicolai followed her out. Honestly, when he said he would speak with her before they went to sleep, she had not expected him to cut it this close. But it was what it was. She let him take the lead and found that they had returned to the porch. It was private, but afforded them some light from the inside.

There was silence for a moment. Almost as though neither of them knew what to say. In hopes that it would not consume them, she opened up to speak first. [+mediumseagreen “Nicolai, you know that I want you to come with us, don’t you?”] The other woman’s words stuck fast to her, goading her to give one last attempt before she heard what he had to say. Though by now he was surely set with his decision, whatever that may be. [+mediumseagreen “I would not waste so much effort if that were not the case…”] It was not a lot, but it cleared up exactly what Helga thought to be the problem. Even if Florence was not confident that the old woman was right, it was still her attempt at a last ditch effort.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 16d 18h 5m 45s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai returned to the barn and for a little time he did continue to work. It was much lighter work, tidying up and clearing away clutter or broken pieces of wood that could be used in the fire that night. After an hour or so he was rather content with his work and was feeling quite tired and burned out, covered in a fine film of sweat and muck from the work. It felt good to be useful and he could only imagine the torture Florence faced with being told to do nothing but sleep and rest – though that sounded quite lovely at that moment.

Heading up to the house he was shooed away by Helga before he could even step inside, her face quite livid at finding he had been working though she could not exactly berate him now that he was done for the day. She was more upset that he had tried to enter the house whilst so filthy and sent him off to the well out front with a large length of cloth to wash up for dinner – it came with a warning that he would be heavily smacked across the backside if he dragged any in with him. The threat had its intended effect and so that is what he was forced to do whilst the others prepared to eat or sat and relaxed inside the cool room.

It was not as good as a heated bath of water like back in the Capital but nevertheless the ability to wash and clean up after several days travel was a blessing. He felt quite rejuvenated after the fact, boots and pants soaked for a little while leaving him stood out front with just the cloth wrapped about him for any kind of modesty, though the bricked wall of the well helped some and helped to hide his modesty when Florence came out to call him for dinner. Nodding over he waited for her to return inside and quickly began to dress.

This time spent washing up was also given over to contemplating Florence’s words but Helga’s too. He had an inkling of what he wanted to say but the ever awkward man was struggling in his approach to actually saying it. Whenever he found a good approach, his negativity cropped up to decry why it was a bad choice. By the time he had dressed once more he was resolved to just say it as it came to him. That way he could not veto himself.

Walking into the house via the kitchen entrance he was once more cut off by Helga who gave him a visual inspection, pulling his head down to her height and turning it this way and that.[+darkgoldenrod “It will have to do I suppose. You boys never know how to wash yourselves properly.”] He smiled softly at her caring nature though as he went to move away she smacked his chest with a wooden spoon and used it to point to a fresh tunic left nearby.[+darkgoldenrod “Give me that,”] she snatched his blue number from his hand quickly,[+darkgoldenrod “and put that on – and don’t get it dirty neither. I may be grateful for your help – even if I told you not to work – but I won’t have a guest running around looking like a vagabond.”]

As ever Nicolai Windsor, once General of Wistina and only answering to the King himself, did as he was ordered. The sharp smack with the spoon had been like a whip, such power behind it. The new tunic was a little tighter than his own but the material was quite soft and less worn. It didn’t chafe against his bandage which would help tremendously as it was starting to ache more than he could help. He only hoped he had cleaned it out well enough and not allowed it to become infected. Aside of being buried under the apple tree by Helga, dying because he could not tend to his wounds properly was not exactly a noble ending.

Walking into the dining room he made a general greeting to the others as he moved to take his seat of the last two meals.[+teal “Apologies for delaying your meal, I was told in no uncertain terms that I looked like a homeless wanderer.”] The awkwardness of that morning’s announcement was a distant memory and he was just happy to have a seat and a meal shortly. With his appetite back following a straining day, his mind could switch off from that nights conversation and he could relax.
  WI_ / 16d 19h 10m 6s
While the green gazed woman was not necessarily anticipating a positive answer from Nicolai, his initial reaction was beyond her. He was still making little sense. He went as far as to say he was speaking another language, which honestly, Florence would not disagree. He was a stuttering mess who could not complete a thought. It was frustrating, but he looked more distressed than her by far. Really all she was able to glean from his display was that it was her fault he did not want to go. And frankly that was a hell of a blow. She had thought they were getting along, that he wanted be friends. With this she felt that it had all been some strange fever dream.

Staying quiet while he stood and walked away, she had thought they would be done there. And in that time Florence found herself wondering how she could be so terrible at communicating with this man. It seemed like she could never say the right thing. At least not when it mattered. But he caught her by surprise when he turned to her, calling her name gently. It did not seem the correct tone for the situation, not until he promised to think about her proposal. That gave her a glimmer of hope, one she was not expecting to receive after their confrontation earlier that morning.

He left on a lighter tenor, but she found it particularly funny that he mentioned Helga. Mainly because she had been tempted to call on the matronly woman in her fury to side with her. She supposed now that he had said something about it; Florence could not use that as a plan to fall back on.

Watching as Nicolai went back off to where he came. She was even more tired than she was before. That conversation was draining, though she was glad it happened. Somehow it was more productive than the first, even though neither of them seemed to completely understand what the other was saying. But now that she was not half as mad as she had been before, Florence thought she might be able to lie down. Gregory could say what he wanted and she just might not bite his head off about it.

She miraculously managed not to pass anyone on the way back to her room, though she didn’t know if that was a good or a bad thing. Gods knew what the bunch of them was up to. But she did not waste any effort thinking about it any longer than that. Instead she went straight to bed. The nap was a few hour affair. More than one person checked in on her in the meanwhile, but she woke in her own time feeling well rested.

After that, her time was dedicated to nothing. It was terribly boring, but whenever she tried to help with anything someone was telling her to sit back down. Even Augustine corralled her back to a chair when she tried to offer him a hand with watering Helga’s personal herb garden. It was just shy of humiliating. She was not an invalid.

Her saving grace came later in the day when Helga called on her to help prepare dinner. Florence was not sure if that would permanently lift her ban from being useful, but she very much hoped so. She did not want this behavior to leak into their travels after they left. If that happened, there was a good chance she would go mad. But for the time being, she had never been so happy to cut vegetables while someone else bustled around a kitchen.

[+goldenrod “You know, sometimes things are a great deal simpler than we make them out to be.”]

Blinking, Florence looked over to the woman who was stirring the pot in more way than one. Could no one speak plainly today? Why did everything have to be a goddamn riddle? [+mediumseagreen “What do you mean?”] She didn’t even want to begin to guess what the gray-haired lady was getting at.

Shaking off her spoon, Helga set it to the side. [+goldenrod “If you want Nicolai to come with you on this journey, you should just say so.”]

[+mediumseagreen “I’ve given him a whole list of reasons why he should continue with us, but it seems none of them were to his liking.”]

[+goldenrod “But you never said directly why you were doing that, did you?”] The petite woman was starting to piece it all together.

Florence shook her head. [+mediumseagreen “Shouldn’t that be obvious? I would not stress myself so much to change his mind if I did not want him along.”]

[+goldenrod “It would seem the boy’s a bit dense. He has to hear things directly or he will misconstrue it.”] Helga had gone into full meddling mode. [+goldenrod “It seems he has the notion that you cannot stand him.”] It might have been a bit of an overstatement, but at it got the point across.

Florence groaned. Why were men such sniveling little monstrosities? It was as though they couldn’t go ten feet without some sort of validation or vindication… Well, that was her initial thought, but she knew it wasn’t just that. She knew how she came across to people; that her words seemed to lack whatever it was that stopped people from thinking you were mad at them all the time. Intimidating was a word she remembered being used to describe it. Those who knew her well eventually learned how to interpret her vaguely distant personality, that or they simply learned to see passed it. But it would seem, if what Helga said was accurate, that Nicolai was not at that point.

Caught up in her thoughts, she never really responded to what the elderly woman told her. She just passed off the last of the chopped ingredients so that they could be added to the simmering concoction over the fire.

[+goldenrod “Alright, this just needs to cook a short while longer then it will be time to eat. Go and let the others know and I will finish up myself.”]

Nodding, Florence set out to spread the news.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 16d 20h 44m 7s
[google-font http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=Montserrat][Montserrat Nicolai shook his head as she spoke, hands still covering his face as she spoke. Her words were meant to be soft and gentle and to show her concern even if her words were lacking of emotion. But in truth he did not expect her to be clutching at his hand and begging him to join her. In his fictional world that is what he wished. But this was a woman who was respectful of him as an adult to make his own decision once he knew her opinion. If he had chosen at that moment to declare he was staying he had little to no doubt she would accept it and that would be that.

In a way he wanted her to probe further. To demand he speak plainly and be honest. To pry the answers from him and force him to say the true reason he was so nervous and worried about travelling on with the group. Thankfully she hadn’t or he may have caved and done so.

[+teal “No, no, no.”] He groaned and brought his hands away, pushing them along the side of his head.[+teal “You aren’t understanding me because I’m speaking in a language no-one else understand. It’s all about..”] He caught himself as the right words did not immediately spring to mind but tried to continue.[+teal “My worry stems from..”] Again he bit his tongue and physically grimaced from his ineptitude.[+teal “Travelling with you would..”] At this point he gave up with a disapproving shake of his head and stood up taking a few quick paces away to the edge of the decking before the steps down.

With his back to her he stood staring out into the vegetable gardens and the rows of fresh produce almost ripe for picking. He was clearly torn between speaking further with her or storming away in his usual manner. But looking out across the carefully tended beds and the individually pruned plants within, he could hear the echo of Helga’s plea that he keep things with Florence amicable. He could almost feel her gaze on him, tutting at his actions and his inability to say to the caring and beautiful woman behind him, exactly what he had said to the surrogate mother that morning.

[+teal “Florence,”] he turned as he said her name and looked on her with gentle eyes like those when he had talked with her at the fire nights before,[+teal “I will think over what you’ve said and I will try to give you a definitive answer before you turn in for the night. So, please, eat and rest as much as you can – and don’t tell Helga what I am doing, or I may be buried under the apple tree before morning.”] The light comical relief was for his own benefit and with a bow of his head he set off back toward the barn to think over what she had said and perhaps find an answer to the question – because right now he did not have one.
  WI_ / 17d 1h 21m 54s
He had an awful lot to say, and a lot of it seemed more anecdotal than anything else. But Florence listened. She had things to say, but she let him finish his piece. Perhaps it was his elfin heritage that made him more attune to nature and the beauties of it, but as a child she hated the sky. Especially at night, it was an inescapable reminder of terrible things. Now she didn’t feel the same way. She saw the prettiness in it, but by the looks of it not in the same way Nicolai did. There was this expression on his face like it was the most wonderful thing in the world. It was an attractive passion, one that gave her a glimpse into the world as he saw it. She’d always loved moments like that, but now wasn’t a time to dawdle in fancies. That must have gotten through to him, as the he hurried from there on.

Despite pressing forward, he still said something that she didn’t see the point of. More musing about the sky and its changing, but this time it seemed to be more directly connected with her. It was cryptic, so she had little idea of what he was going on about, but it still filled her with a sense of self-consciousness. It felt as though she was being held in a reverence that she was not accustomed to, which was strange. She had been a Queen for more than ten years; She was important. But this was different than that. Florence shifted in her seat, a dusting of color to her cheeks that would not last.

Nicolai stopped again, admitting he was not making much sense. She nodded, agreeing with him. Then, at last, the point came. He was worried about the future and the uncertainties it held. Now that was something she could understand.

Her brow furrowed. [+mediumseagreen “You should not cling to certainty just because you fear not knowing what is to come.”] That was harder said than done, as was true of most decent advice. [+mediumseagreen “Especially when that certainty is death. And while it is true that there are many things that we cannot change in this world, I have found there are many that we can.”] If it was a big thing it might take a lot of blood, sweat, and tears, but it could be done.

[+mediumseagreen “If for some reason, the thing you fear changes, or it does not change, or whatever you are worried about… I am still very uncertain of what it is that you want, Nicolai.”] The last bit was spoken in a fairly exasperated, almost exhausted, manner. Florence was not even sure he knew what he wanted, but that was beside the point. [+mediumseagreen “But whatever it is, if it comes to pass or not, there may be more options than just sitting idly back and letting it be. You can make an effort to shape the future into what you want it to be. And if it turns out to be one of those things you cannot, that it is impossible, you can leave. Turn around, come straight back to Wistina, or Calista, or wherever you like.”] Basically she was saying he should give it a chance before deciding a suicide mission was the brightest option for him.

Somewhere along the way Florence had started to lean into what she was saying. She did not notice until she had finished with her spiel. Fixing her posture, she watched him with intense eyes. Only a few months ago, the woman have never guessed she would be trying this hard to keep Nicolai's company, but here she was. He was right to think life could be unpredictable.
  Florence Melbourne / Loxi / 17d 2h 15m 45s

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