A master thief has many hidden talents and this one was no exception. No one had ever seen The Jay in person and lived to speak of them again. Or so they all said despite it being rather untrue. In a land torn apart by greedy kingdoms demanding more and more of their people and their fellow rulers, it is no wonder that some royalties are long lost along the way. It is said that The Jay is a member of a fallen kingdom. That upon the destruction of their home, they retaliated by becoming a master thief of the riches of all the kingdoms. Some say The Jay is just a terrible vagrant who should be captured and put to death as soon as possible.
Despite what people may believe of the motives behind the Jay’s actions, one thing is certain. You know when the Jay visits for they leave their mark, a blue feather, in the place of what they have stolen or at every successful escape made. But what if the Jay steals something already stolen? What is the value of a life vs treasures immense? While usually thieves would steal gold, jewels, and precious heirlooms, this thief stumbles upon something more important. It would mark the first time that The Jay has stolen a human being from their kidnappers. But after you steal someone from someone else, what do you do with the person? Especially if they happen to be far from home and bear a royal crest.
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Just as she had thought. Alabaster couldn’t help wanting to smile to herself at least a little as the thought that she had a mutual enemy of Brenineidre in The Jay meant she would probably not have to do this alone. Though she wasn’t sure, with him being as he is, if that was fully a good thing. The Jay still seemed quite like the arrogant type to her, and she wasn’t sure how well he could act.
[b “We have something in common, The Jay and I, then. Brennineidre has taken to less than reparable methods…what with the church burnings and such….they say that King Nadine is in league with a demon or the devil himself. I say…let me meet him and see if he bleeds.”]
Alabaster took a bit more pleasure than needing in slicing into the meat before her on her plate as she spoke. It was clear the kingdom had a sore place in her being, though she would not say what straight out. It was clear there was something though. She had almost forgotten her attempt not to seem too important.
At the elaboration on how the plan could be made to work, Alabaster tilted her head in consideration. She was also eating still, and when she looked down at her plate again all of her manners suddenly went straight to her head.
[b “Ah…I did not thank you for the meal…I appreciate your hospitality. The bath…the dressings…the food. And your help. Are you sure I can’t repay you somehow? Marvay will be in your debt…”]
She paused to watch him a moment before nodding slowly.
[b “Itcliff is pretty secluded from the other kingdoms. We should do it…I think you’re right and the orders to lay low would help in giving us a headstart. I hope your orders are pretty convincing. One wrong detail and they will have both our heads…after we take some of theirs of course. I don’t see The Jay being the kind to keel over and die so easily.”]
At the question of her nobility role, Alabaster nearly choked. The Jay would have the role best suited for herself while she had the role of a Noble…better suited for Aesop than she, really. That did not mean she didn’t know a thing or two. She had dined with nobles, at the right hand of the Prince, as far back as when he took her from death to serve him. If nothing else, Dominique had tried to teach her some Noble mannerisms even behind his father’s back. Still, she waited to speak until he had finished his explanation.
[b “Though I admit, I am at home more in a suite of armor…situations have called upon me to seem more of the lady-ship in the past. Not quite to the point of casual wear dresses, but I can play the part if needed, I’m sure…though I welcome pointers as I am rusty and you are correct…we only get one shot at doing this the easy way.”]
The truth was, she had been kept so far from the nobility that observing and Dom’s secret lessons were her only learning method. She dared not say this though, for some reason. At the very least, she could carry herself as a Guard Captain of the Royal Command. Though it would do little good if she were to play the bossy noble woman. Still ….she just needed to latch to one of the women from the court…just choose one to mimic…it couldn’t be that hard, surely.
[b “Tell me, lord Aesop…you say you have taught The Jay and you say he can play his part….so assuredly that it makes one wonder…what kind of man does it take to tame The Jay? Surely, there must be some power in you, for certain.”]
She was quickly finishing the food on her plate, guessing that being hungry had helped with that, for sure. [b “And I still insist that when this is over, I must come back and present you with honors. We pull this off and Marvay will owe a good portion of the peace with Lloyd to you and the Jay.”]
She kept an eye on him, though grinned a little at the thought of her brother coming all the way to Itcliff to bestow such honors…how different things would have been if they had met before she looked worse for wear…alas, it couldn’t be helped.
Aldis should have known she wouldn't want to work with The Jay. He had been sure to be sarcastic and a bit arrogant in order to distance himself from The Jay. It would not do to have her catching on to who he was just yet. He couldn't really blame her, but it was a necessary thing to keep her in the dark that the two men were one in the same.
He plated the food and sat down, pondering what she had said. He realized that she was waiting for him to take the first bite, obviously being a bit cautious about eating food prepared by a stranger. He took his first bite to give the sign that the food wasn't going to hurt her, and that it was okay for her to start eating. As they ate, he decided to address what she had mentioned.
[b "The Jay would be rather intrigued to hear about this little scheme. Stealing away the bride of the prince of Brenineidre would be something I can assure you that he would be completely on board with. He has a bit of a thing against Brenineidre, something that I'm sure you've noticed. Any opportunity he gets to cause them trouble, he takes. This will be something he will find quite amusing. Don't worry, I will personally make sure he behaves."]
He had decided it would not hurt to give her the information about The Jay's vendetta against Brenineidre, as she would not yet be able to figure out why. She had likely worked out that information on her own, anyway. For some reason, he felt like the secret wasn't going to be going anywhere. After all, who would believe her if she told them she met The Jay and lived, and that she had been taken care of by his friend.
[b "The number of people shouldn't be too closely scrutinized. As Itcliff is neutral territory, you and The Jay could play off that you do not want to cause close scrutiny by the town guards, therefore kept the number to a minimum. You will be meeting with more outside of town. They will likely believe the story. I will include in the orders that they are to lay low for a few more days, allowing you to make a getaway without them following and growing suspicious when they don't see more soldiers."]
Another problem was presented by what she said. If those men were to travel with them, he would have to accurately impersonate one of the royal guards for the duration of the trip. On top of that, Ruby would have to maintain her disguise as a noble woman, something that he wasn't sure she had experience with. He knew there was more to her than she was letting on, but he wasn't sure what quite yet. No, they would have to prevent the soldiers from traveling with them through cleverly worded orders. It was safer.
He himself had once been a royal guard before the king was overthrown, so he had the correct armor and attitude for the job. He had dealt with mostly close protection of the royals and other nobles, which meant he never took on the rough attitude of most soldiers, and was able to maintain his well-spoken manner. Despite this, he still had the attitude befitting of a royal guard. The Jay could theoretically have been taught some manners by Aesop, and that was the story he'd have to go with.
[b "I have a set of royal Brenineidre armor that The Jay can certainly fit in. He will be able to wear that. I assure you that he has been taught manners. It was something I worked very hard at, but it was necessary. He will be able to sell himself as a royal guard with no problems. Now the question is, do you have any experience behaving as a noble woman?"]
Aldis held up his hand to ensure she wouldn't interrupt him while he continued.
[b "I do not ask to pry. It is a relevant question. I know there's stuff you probably want to keep private, just as there's stuff I don't exactly want you to know about me at this point in time. But if we're going to work together, along with The Jay, some stuff will have to come out. I don't need details, I just need to know if you can do this or if we need to go over some things. We will have one chance at this, and only one chance. If we blow it, there won't be another."]
He took a few seconds to eat while he awaited her response before addressing another of her concerns.
[b "Should we do all of this correctly, there will be no need for violence. A peaceful solution is going to be much better for all involved. The Jay, despite his attitude, does not like getting into fights if he can avoid it. He will not give you away."]
Alabaster blinked several times at the idea of him not joining the two others…Three would make for a more believable group traveling on orders than two would, it made little sense to her, but then she realized what she would be asking him to give up…remembered that he was only doing The Jay a favor by tending to her in the first place.
[b “You’re going to leave me to work with that…arrogant, snide remarking, carefree….”]
She stopped herself suddenly, realizing she was about to rather rude, but given her past interactions with the man, who could blame her? He did seem rather aloof and childish even for a thief. The thought of trying to work with someone who wouldn’t even show his face on a rouse like the one planning in her head would be difficult in all ways.
[b “I…understand why…It makes sense that you will need to keep up the image. But it will make the story a little less believable with just the two of us. I mean, we could change the orders to have them accompany us to Lloyd, but it would be very risky and someone finding out the plan would always be at the forefront of our minds. That’s if The Jay would assist in making it there in the first place. I doubt a thief would have any reason to assist in official Court business, even if it IS stealing a bride away from prince Corone.”]
After seeing the way The Jay seemed to like taking things from Brenineidre, Alabaster decided that maybe sharing a bit more about the mission she was trying to undertake would possibly help her case in some regard. As she spoke, she watched Aesop cook.
[b “Lloyd only has one Princess…and no male heirs. Winning the loyalty of Lloyd has been a matter of the heart for the past two years. The high prince of Marvay, Prince Domonic…and the Scumbag prince of Brenineidre, Corone, have been in a battle of romance and woo-ing for the heart of Princess Valine. Recently, Prince Dominic has been selected as the better suitor. I was under orders to deliver the gifts of the Prince, retrieve the Princess and her party members and escort them back to Marvay for a royal courtship and wedding. I guess the bastard Corone disliked losing the matters of the heart and went back to his sleazy way. Due to the importance of this union, I have to get to Lloyd. And steal Princess Valine away from that tyrant Corone forever.”]
When he mentioned that he could possibly fake a seal that would aide them in their plot, Alabaster tilted her head a little, a smirk rising to her lips as she considered the man that had healed, and cleaned, and would even soon feed her. She was taking a lot from him, that was or sure. It was odd, in that moment, thinking he had a rather handsome face, for a Noble-Commoner. Shaking her head a bit, she stared at the table, her mind turning back to work.
[b “If we can make it believable, we may could pull this off….I just hope we can do this in time to keep everything peaceful and to the plan.”]
She watched him set the table, raising an eyebrow a couple times, but not remarking on the way he set out the food. It was very much what you would see in the higher-levels of the banquet halls of the castle. She had attended these meals, yes, and knew how to carry herself, but usually as a right hand and protector of the Prince and not for actually eating. She waited or him to sit, for him to take the first bite, before she began eating herself. Now sharing a meal at the table of a man she hardly knew. Ho odd, this had all unfolded.
Aldis knew he had to come up with an excuse immediately for why Aesop would not be joining Ruby and himself on the mission. That excuse certainly couldn't reveal that Aesop and The Jay were one in the same. That would ruin his whole persona that he had so painstakingly crafted. Aesop, the proper noble turned commoner. That was not something he could let go of easily, because it allowed him to be who he was before in a way. While The sarcasm of The Jay was also part of his own personality, he was still a noble at heart.
[b "I do hate to disappoint you, but I unfortunately will not be able to join yourself and The Jay while you embark on this task. If I were to be involved, the ramifications of being caught would skyrocket substantially. I would lose all standing within the community and be unable to assist The Jay in the way I do right now. It would also bring scrutiny upon my past, something I'd rather not have brought up if it can be avoided. No, you and The Jay will have to do this alone."]
He walked over to the door, beckoning for Ruby to follow him as he headed towards the table. Thankfully, he had the rabbit already mostly prepared. It just had to be cooked. There was more than enough for both of them. He made sure to walk slowly so she could keep up and pulled a chair out for her upon their arrival at the table.
[b "Rabbit is one of my favorite things. I will admit to having taken a liking to it in my past life, and habits are hard to break. I can afford it, so I continue to indulge. And if I cannot afford it, there are some things that being friends with a thief comes in handy for. The Jay is an excellent hunter, as well."]
He began moving around the room to retrieve the needed utensils and the food that would be cooked. Thankfully, he had made sure to take some of the nicer cooking utensils from the castle when he had fled. He therefore had an actual pan, while most commoners could only afford pots. As such, he didn't have to rely on stew and could actually properly cook his meat instead of sticking everything in a pot and boiling it.
As a noble, he had also taken quite a liking to having spiced food. It was a luxury commoners couldn't afford, but he was again spoiled and therefore always kept spices around the house to use on his meat. Being a thief had wonderful perks, as all of these spices were free, stolen from shipments meant for the houses of Lords and Ladies.
Setting about cooking the meet, he brought the conversation back to their previous topic, namely that of the plan she had begun to form.
[b "Your plan is a solid one, though again, you and The Jay will have to do so without my direct assistance. I can provide some help in the background, however. I believe I can assist you with forging a royal seal on that fake letter. I am also quite handy with a pen, given my past. I can forge you a very well-written and believable letter containing new orders for the soldiers. They will not question it, as even in the unlikely event that they can read, the handwriting and wording would be able to stand up to scrutiny. I know for a fact The Jay has armor that he can spare for this. The armor is that of what a high ranking guard would wear in Brenineidre."]
What he did not say was that the armor had actually belonged to himself before he left the kingdom. The new king had not changed the armor of the guards, that much he knew. The royal seal had also remained the same, therefore his ring that had that very same seal would still work, given that he was provided the ring specifically for sealing important letters and documents back when he was still part of the upper echelons of society.
The dishes were laid on the table. He poured a glass of wine for each of them, once again a finery that he still enjoyed. A loaf of bread was placed in the center of the table along with a half wheel of cheese. Fruit was placed on each plate before he took the rabbit that was cooking and put it on their plates. It looked like the meal of a noble. Hopefully she did not question it too much.
Alabaster was happy he explained his laugh, making sure it wasn’t at her, in her weird clothing. She rolled her eyes as he said it would make for an excellent joke on the soldiers and then grinned softly.
[b “It could come in handy in getting the loot. Perhaps we can play a couple tricks of our own. Do you think The Jay nicked any armor in his theft of clothes? Perhaps an envoy from Brenineidre would make for the perfect hand-over. We would just need to forge a Seal on parchment for orders of the exchange, be mad that a promised piece is missing, and they might just hand over the whole shipment to the envoy and her guards. Maybe if the three of us work together…”]
She was plotting, yet her stomach growled a second time and it was almost annoying in the way she felt interrupted. She still refused to mention it at all, Not wanting to intrude, but being without food for nearly two days was taking it’s toll. Perhaps the soldiers had planned to just starve her to death on their way home.
The offer of food, though, was not one Alabaster felt the need to decline, instead turning to face him and giving a nervous glance downward. She would owe him a lot after this, and even more if they pulled off getting the gold back on track to Lloyd. The selections he offered though, made her brow quirk. It was uncommon indeed.
[b “You have Rabbit? ….rare indeed in a commoner’s house. Even for a Noble who lives like one. I would ask further questions of you, but I assume that would lead you to ask more of me, thus we are at a standoff with the current level of distrust between us. I would love pretty much anything food-wise. I am not picky.”]
She wasn’t about to go into detail, having lived some missions on live insects and stale bread before. Pretty much the consumer of anything, one could not afford to be picky when raised as she was. Or when in a profession such as soldier.
[b “I guess I will follow you to the table, since I am not so sure of my footing not to fall over on the way there. That and I am not sure where it is. Which only makes it harder, walking-wise.”]
She paused beside the door, leaning on the doorframe while trying not to look like she was doing it to stay standing. She had to get over this or she would be no use to either of them at all.
Aldis did not complain while the two of them tried to figure the dress out. He knew that she wasn't fond of it, either, but it was really all he had that would likely fit her. And while he did catch her brief look of disgust when she heard where it had been bound, she seemed to think better of declining. He understood her hatred of the new regime that ran the kingdom. The king was a tyrant. His men were savages. He hated what had become of his own kingdom. Unfortunately, there was nothing he could do about it except for working behind the scenes to make life very inconvenient for the usurper.
[b "I will also say that not having a corset is a good thing. This thing already seems at least a little uncomfortable. I really don't understand it. I think we got it right though. At least it looks right."]
He thought it looked right, anyway. He wasn't certain how exactly how it was supposed to work, but she had been the one directing him on how things were supposed to go on. If it was wrong, it was on both of them, not just him.
He allowed her to walk slowly back and forth, catching her stomach growling as she did so. It had to be getting close for time for breakfast. Well, he would see to that momentarily, though he doubted she would ask. As expected, she did not. Instead, she began plotting using the clothing in their favor. It was a brilliant plan, though he was curious if this could also be used to somehow retrieve the goods. Well, that could be worked out later.
He began laughing as he thought about the soldiers reactions. He decided to voice what was causing him to laugh when she looked at him questioningly.
[b "That is brilliant. I can imagine the look on their faces if you were to open the door when they come knocking. They would not know how to react. This could be an excellent joke if nothing else."]
He was still chuckling as he again heard her stomach growl. It was definitely time to make the offer of food, as he himself was beginning to get quite hungry. While most people did not eat breakfast, this would be a day that it would be done. Well, the good news was that he happened to know how to cook.
[b "I know you're hungry. I can hear your stomach. I will prepare a meal for us. I am getting hungry, myself. Do you have any preference to certain kinds of meat? I have salmon, chicken, or rabbit. I realize these are foods that are favored by nobles. Some habits are hard to break, even after living among the commoners. I also have a variety of fruits, breads and cheeses if you'd prefer something simple."]
Aldis knew she would probably be surprised at his offer. It would do well for her to be fed and rested though, as they really would have to think about how to get the goods from the soldiers. Her having an empty stomach would not help matters.
He would not be a bit surprised if they delayed their departure while they searched for Ruby. They would not want to leave without what was obviously their most valuable cargo. She had been captured for a reason, and he doubted their king would be understanding if they arrived without her. That gave them a little time to prepare before they departed. That would work in their favor.
Alabaster’s eyes widened just slightly as he explained where the clothing had come from. These were Brenineidre garments? She had half a mind to refuse and go naked. Those evil bastards had been at war with Marvay for many years now. They gave no warning before attacking villages and burning churches…To have to wear their clothing was almost an insult.
The joke pulled her back from her silent reverie, blinking at him a moment..The Jay…in a dress….it just about got her to smile, though small and fleeting.
[b “No, something tells me The Jay, unless a very good actor, is definitely male, though I don’t try to question the personal hobbies of others.”]
she returned the joke, before wincing as he started to help her with the wounds.
It did sting quite a bit, but not to the point of being terribly unbearable. She found she could move a bit more than before, minus the pain in her ribs that occasionally made breathing quite difficult.
[b “After having had to amputate limbs in the past, I agree with your assessment. I would rather not have to go through such a thing if possible. Your help is much appreciated as I seem to have been in need of it many, many times.”]
The mutual understanding that the gowns were rather useless contraptions had a way of building a common sentiment between them. She could only guess what some parts of the dress were for and if something didn’t look right, changed it again. His patience was astounding with her and the bodice was the most difficult, having her upright and putting just slight pressure to the bruises of her ribs as she made sure the ties were not ungodly tight.
[b “I will just count myself lucky there is no corset in this stack. I think I’d have thrown it out the window. It’s hard enough to breathe as it is, much less something so tight.”]
When she had finished with his help, Alabaster tried to stand, shakily, though not as impossible as the soreness in her leg muscles had given way to the hot water. It was then that her stomach growled fiercely and loudly, though she tried to ignore it. She’d already intruded too much as it were. Taking a few steps, the gown following, she had to agree with him that the soldiers would probably not recognize her. She made it to the doorway and turned to walk back, pacing herself.
[b “I won’t be doing any real running and jumping yet, but I can at least walk for the most part….The clothes will do nicely, for their part…though it would look strange to see a fine lady of Brenineidre walking the streets like a commoner. Perhaps this could work in our favor somehow…with a little work to the hair and all. The soldiers wouldn’t dare question a noble of their city in fear of losing their heads.”]
She turned to give him a mischievous smile. Looking quite different from the ragged mess The Jay had dragged into the place via a sack. Perhaps her noble blood had a place in her form after all, though she would deny it to the very end. She was no princess, blood or not.
Aldis kept his back turned as Ruby got out of the tub. He knew that she would likely end up examining the clothing after she exited the tub. He caught the sigh as she looked upon the dress. He did not take offense to it, as he suspected dresses were not something a soldier would commonly wear. Even though that probably wasn't her entire story, he still had no doubt that she rarely wore them, if ever.
[b "The Jay did indeed steal these. They were bound for the royal court of Brenineidre. He decided they did not deserve such fineries. I don't think he'll miss the dress. Something tells me that he isn't the type that would wear one."]
He retrieved the bandages from the stool when she asked for help. It would certainly be difficult for her to do that on her own. He proceeded to help her with the bandages, making sure to be gently when doing so. He did not want to agitate her injuries, which he knew would be stinging after being washed. He decided to keep the conversation going.
[b "I hope the warm water at least soothed your muscles a bit, but I imagine the cuts burn a bit. I'll make sure there are fresh bandages ready to go for when these are soiled, but we need to make sure to keep those clean. Infection would not be pleasant, as I'm quite sure you don't want anything amputated."]
He finished helping her with the bandages, then realized that she would also need help with the dress. She was quite right when she had been questioning the contraption, as he himself had done so on many occasions when he had seen the women he had grown up around. How they managed to force themselves to wear those things, he never had figured out. It seemed a rather unnecessary situation to put themselves in.
[b "No, I understand the questioning of this. I never quite understood it, myself. I grew up a noble, but never did figure out why women forced themselves to wear such things. Nor was I ever able to figure out how they did it in the first place. This does seem more complicated than absolutely necessary, though I suppose each part of it has a purpose."]
He knew what each part was supposed to do, yes, but that did not help with how exactly they were supposed to go on. Well, she would have to guide him through this. He would help where necessary. He could tell she hated having to be helped with such a task, but there really was no other way to go about it. Her injuries needed time to heal, and her range of motion would be quite limited while they did.
He did exactly as she told him to help her get dressed. He knew she would probably feel a bit better once she was dressed. She'd at least feel a bit more comfortable, if one could feel comfortable in such a contraption. She certainly looked entirely different when she was cleaned up, and not in a bad way. He also knew that if the soldiers came knocking, they would not recognize her except for maybe the split lip, and he doubted that would stand out at all. It could easily be explained away by some sort of household accident and nobody would question it at all.
Alabaster peeked over the side as Aesop left. Her fingers searching a variety of containers by the tubside, opening and giving them a sniff. Each seemed to contain a typical bathing scent..Lemon and rose, while the last was a soap. Using a bit of the provided elements, she managed to wash the blood and dirt from her hair and then from her body, careful of her own wounds for fear that it would sting more than it already did. She had to sit up to do her legs, almost giving up on her feet entirely as the position hurt so badly.
She thought over his words….There was no way to reach her people…and no way to complete this task even with the Jay’s help. Not unless he knew of a way to get the treasure to Lloyd without traveling the main roads. Then again, he was a thief, so it was possible.
Upon Aesop’s return, she tilted her head a bit, curious as to what he had brought, though saw him turn his back again. The water she was in had started to turn a sickly color and as such, Alabaster decided it was time to get out.
[b “I’ll be exiting the bath now…”]
She gave him a warning, before struggling her way up onto the side of the large basin, and moved her legs to outside of it. Taking the sheet of fabric from the side of the tub, she started to dry herself off, managing it in a slow and tedious way that annoyed herself. Finally, she looked into the garments he placed on the stool. Her heart sunk a little as the fabric unfolded into a long gown, complete with frock and bodice. It was a Royal’s traveling gown, that much she knew.
Alabaster sighed softly, not wanting to come across as ungrateful. She had never worn anything this fancy in all her life, and hadn’t put on a dress in many years, as a Captain needed to be ready at all times to act on her king’s behalf. Still, as she looked through the pile, she managed the undergarments of the lower half, slowly, then the frock. Though she paused there and breathed a bit.
[b “The Jay stole these? I bet the Nobles he took them from were none too happy about losing them….Sir Aesop…I must ask for your help..yet again. I do not think I could do the bandaging on my own…especially the ribs…and the dress itself, to be honest…”] She had unfolded the gown, a forest green, frilled with lace and low-collared. The bodice with it would be the hardest to fasten, and she noted was very much in keeping with the noble’s styles.
[b “Good god, what a contraption. I don’t see how women of the court manage these things…N..not that I am not thankful for such a gown. It’s beautiful, for certain…I am just…not accustomed to such fineries.”]
She felt her face warm just slightly. A blush? Strange, for one such as she. Her hair was loose and wet down her back, curls starting a natural formation in the now rather red strands. She looked very different, save for the damage. Busted lip and all, making it hard to disguise she had been in some kind of fight.
Shoes would be another matter they would attend to later…for now, she just wanted to be dressed. Hating having to rely on another to help her with such small tasks.
Aldis helped her undress to the point that she was able to get the rest of it on her own. He decided to speak while he turned his back to her. He would have to get her fresh bandages, as well as clothes. He would do that in a moment.
[b "You are correct in assuming that the soldiers won't stop coming after you. Should the goods disappear from under their noses, chances are they will begin looking along the road leading to Lloyd. In your condition, I doubt you'd last long against them. There were five of them, from what The Jay told me. Even if he were to assist you, they would outmatch you. Charging straight in without planning would be foolish. The goods need to be removed from their possession, then a plan formed to get them where they need to go. I will arrange for you to speak to The Jay. He can help with the planning."]
Aldis had noticed the amount of scars on her before he had turned away. That lent credence to her story of being a soldier. He had not doubted that part of her story, but knew there was more to it than that. There just had to be. They would not steal some random palace guard. He let it go again, deciding to focus on the current situation.
[b "Luck is a fickle thing. The Jay can certainly attest to that. I shall retrieve some fresh bandages for you, though the clothes might be a tricky thing. I do not believe there is much down in the basement as far as women's clothing. I will see what I can find, however. There is certainly no need to worry about repaying me. The Jay makes sure I'm paid well enough in return for the services I provide him. I shall return shortly."]
He headed out of the room at that point, trusting that she wouldn't run off. She was correct in that she was in no shape to do so. She would not get far, regardless. The soldiers were bound to be looking for her soon, and running into the street would draw unwanted attention.
A quick trip to the basement had him loaded down with new bandages. He also had managed to find clothing in a shipment that he had stolen a while back. The problem was, he could almost guarantee that she was not going to like it. Well, it was better than wearing ripped and bloodied clothing. He would have to see if her clothes could be salvaged, but he highly doubted it. This would just have to do for now.
Aldis returned to the bathroom, making sure to knock before he entered. He placed the bandages on the stool along with the clothing he had found for her. He was rather curious to see her reaction when she saw the dress sitting out for her. While she wouldn't like it, he knew it would likely be interesting. He decided to speak to let her know that he had brought the requested items.
[b "I have brought fresh bandages for you. I was only able to find one article of women's clothing, unfortunately. The Jay looted a shipment of clothing a few days prior, you see. This is all that was in it. I do think it would work as a rather good disguise though. They're looking for a soldier, not somebody in, well, this."]
Alabaster thought of the replies she got from him as she felt his fingers work to help in removing her clothes. It was a level of humiliation she was not exactly accustomed to. Other soldiers of her command were one thing, getting the help of a complete stranger…that was something completely different.
[b “A Misunderstanding is an understatement….Damn, Itcliff is indeed quite far from Marvay. Lloyd itself would be a closer trek. Though I do not think I could finish my task alone even if I were fully healed. Those soldiers aren’t going to stop coming after their spoils…No matter what.”]
She tried not to pay too much attention to him as each layer came off, uncovering the plain clothes beneath. A simple shirt and trousers. Though she was fairly certain she could get the lower portion by herself, the shirt was another matter, not protesting to him helping with it in any way. The layer revealed more than just bare skin. Giant purple and green hued bruises, some in distinct forms of boots, splayed on her midriff. Her chest had been wrapped tightly for protection under the layers she had worn, thus not exposing more than her middle. In addition to the many fresh bruises, there were old ones at her sides and a few scars that ran along her skin in various directions.
Such marks would be deemed unfit for any Lady of the Court. If there was any thought to her lie of being a soldier, the marks would prove otherwise. Old wounds would never be found on the fair skin of a Noble Woman. Actively avoiding his gaze, Alabaster wrapped one arm over her middle, hiding the ugliest of the damage from view.
[b “I guess luck would have changed her mind when it comes to me, for him to be able to take me out of there unnoticed. Luck has been a bit of right bitch as of late. …I think I can manage the lower half…and the wrapping. I ….er…..Thank you, Sir Aesop.”]
It came out awkwardly, and she waited a moment for him to let her be again, making sure he had his back turned as she struggled to remove the rest of her clothing. Her back would be no better than the front. Bruises and old scars littering the skin. She was a story in all her own right.
It was a bit, as she removed the bandages that had been wrapped around her wounds as the last pieces and seethed horribly as she slid herself into the water. It was warm and welcoming, but the cuts stung from the feeling. For a moment, she just laid there, propped on the tub wall, as submerged as she could manage.
[b “It would do well to put new bandaging on…perhaps some clothes too, though I hate that I must intrude on your kindness. I will find a way to repay you, I swear it. …And don’t worry about me running off. At this rate I think I’d fall over and stay there if I tried to run for it.”]
She sighed the words before inching her way down further into the water, letting it overtake her completely and drown out sound and pain and sight…if only a moment she could pretend she hadn’t even left the palace yet…before coming back up for breath.
Aldis noticed that she seemed shocked by his revelation that The Jay would ask for help at all. While it was true he was a fantastic thief, moving massive crates alone with hostile soldiers nearby would be difficult for him to accomplish alone. He typically had longer to stake out a target when he was moving on something this large.
[b "The Jay does have difficulty trusting people, that much is true. He trusts me because I keep him fed and provide him with a place to lay low. However, something like this, he will have no choice. Normally he has longer to stake out larger targets. In this case, he has but a day to get this done. That is not a very long time."]
He thought for a second about her request to get in contact with her kingdom. He supposed it made sense, but was at a loss when it came to how to go about it. That would be difficult to accomplish. He decided to voice that to her.
[b "Alas, I am at a loss for how you could contact your kingdom. I understand the necessity, as there could be a major misunderstanding if you didn't. But I am not sure how to get a message there in a timely manner. You are a long way from home."]
After catching her, Aldis guided her to the restroom, choosing to stay quiet while they walked. He knew this was probably uncomfortable for her. Her muscles would likely be very sore and tense, and adding that on top of her injuries meant that this wouldn't be an easy walk at all. She wouldn't be saying much for the time being. As he helped her to the stool, she again tried to insist that she could handle herself.
He turned away to try to preserve her modesty. Again, he may have been a thief, but there were boundaries that he wouldn't cross without permission. He did answer her when she spoke, however.
[b "I am indeed a friend of his. He trusts me because he knows he could not function without me. That trust is born from necessity. As to the rumors about his mystical powers, they are indeed exaggerated. While he is a fantastic thief and has cleared out many treasure houses, those jobs often take him days or weeks of planning. Just going in with no planning and getting something out is not an easy thing to do. He lucked out on the circumstances when it came to getting you out of there unnoticed."]
He kept facing the other way until she spoke up again. This time, however, surprised him. She had asked for help. When he heard that, he turned to face her, finding her looking down at her feet. He did not laugh, but went over to assist her in undressing. He knew what she was probably feeling. Laughing wouldn't make things better for her.
Alabaster was shocked to hear that The Jay would trust anyone to help him at all. He was always described as some kind of miracle Thief that just took whatever he had his sights on, no matter how hidden or how protected or the size…rumors had it entire treasure-troves would go missing overnight. Could it really be that he was working with a partner this whole time?
[b “Strange…he didn’t seem like the kind of person who would trust anyone to help him do anything at all…at least, from what the rumors would have you believe.”]
Muttering the last bit under her breath, she noted his slight bit of history with a bit more curiosity built. A Noble? Turned Commoner….it was not unheard of, really, in the days of kingdoms being overtaken and consumed by other nations, assimilation made the losers either exiled or dead. The strong ones anyway. He seemed not to want to say more on the matter though and she wasn’t about to pry lest he pry as well.
The thought that The Jay wouldn’t just be stealing the loot for himself, but offering to HELP her not only steal it back but then free her to return home…it was almost too good to be true and nothing was ever that simple in this world. Help him though? How would it help him?
[b “I am going to guess that there is a price he is willing to work for? If not part of the gold and gems then perhaps I could get him to trust me enough to be paid double what it’s worth…I doubt I can complete my mission alone, as easily as it was supplanted by a random group of vagabond so-called ‘soldiers’….I was on my way, with the treasures in that store house, to make a delivery to Lloyd. I’m going to need to get word to Marvay…if nothing else to get help to return to the original course.”]
She decided it couldn’t hurt to explain what she was going to have to try to succeed with even after getting the loot. At least maybe this Aesop might have some kind of idea as to how she could get in contact with her own kingdom. She, if nothing else, had to inform them she wasn’t dead as it would look like she killed her own men, took the gold and ran off.
Alabaster watched him walk out of the room, her eyes following him and wondering if she could make it. Her mind raced for just a moment and when she sat with her legs touching the floor again, it was made clear that she wouldn’t have made it even a few steps before he got back. She was right as he returned.
At the idea of hot water and a bath, she started to get to her feet, her hand stable on the table by the bed that still held the water she hadn’t drank from.
[b “I’m unsure…though I suspect you are right in saying they are probably bruised…they are not broken, I know that much. Broken ribs feel different and I’ve had my fair share. Surely you are correct and the hot water will…”]
Her words stopped as she had started to try walking. She made it with a hand on the wall, and then had to cross to the door, not making it very far before losing her balance and nearly falling face-first to the floor. Closing her eyes to brace for this, it was surprising not to find herself hitting the floor, opening her eyes to catch his blue gaze, realizing he’d caught her. For a mere split second’s breath her cheeks darkened just the slightest…embarrasement of course.
Tempted as it were for her to shake him off, she allowed him to guide her into the bathroom, finding her way onto a stool beside the tub before shaking her head slowly.
[b “Thank you…Sir Aesop. I think I can handle myself from here.”]
It was probably a lie, but she was trying to believe it, motioning him to turn around. Her hair was grimy, caked with dirt and blood as she started to loose it from it’s braid and let it free fall, sticky as it were, down her back. It took a lot of effort to do it herself, pain was abundant in every single movement of her arms up past her shoulders. She started to remove the padded top, growing more frustrated as it was hard to undo the laces that ran up the sides.
[b “So, you’re a friend of the Jay? To the point where he will ask for your help even? …The rumors about his mystical powers are not true, are they?”]
She had paused her attempt as one of the strings had tied itself into a knot. After a few frustrated tugs, she sighed and glared at the floor. At this rate the water would be cold by the time she got in.
[b "S…Sir Aesop, I…I must intrude on your kindness again. To my…frustration. I cannot seem to properly undress myself…”]
She expected him to laugh, glaring at her bare feet and the ankles wrapped there. A perfect picture of a woman truly feeling defeated.
Aldis stood up from his chair, stretching his muscles a bit as he did so. Sitting for so long had a way of making one's ass sore. He would play nice with his captive, as there was an opportunity here that he could use. If he played his cards right, he might be able to get her to help him clean the place out from those soldiers. While he doubted he would get much if any loot of his own out of it, it was a damn good way to get back at the usurper. He had been waiting for this opportunity for quite some time now.
[b "I can tell you that The Jay has not, as you put it, 'cleaned them out.' I would have known if he did. He would need help. Even a thief of his caliber could not pull something like that off alone. There's too much to take for one person. He will be along shortly and would likely be willing to discuss the matter."]
He decided to feed a little bit of truth into his story involving his name. It would not hurt anything, and may make her believe his story a little more.
[b "My family was well educated. We were not exactly commoners, but not quite royalty. I ended up living among commoners, yes, but that is a story for another time. I imagine it is nearly as fascinating as yours, since I get the feeling you are not telling me the entire truth. That's to be expected, however, as I at least have a name to call you by now."]
He knew she was lying through her teeth, but couldn't really blame her. After all, he would be a hypocrite if he were to say much more on that matter. He himself was not being entirely honest, but that was for very good reason. He could only imagine the reason for her not being entirely honest. She had said she was a palace guard. That much he believed. However, there was something more that she wasn't saying.
Well, thankfully he enjoyed mysteries. They intrigued him, and he had no doubt that this woman's story had to be an interesting one. Perhaps he would eventually learn the truth. The truth often had a funny way of making itself known, even if people didn't necessarily want it to. And if he was going to help her, there was all the more chance it would rear its head.
He thought a moment after she requested a change of clothes and a bath. He was pretty sure he had clothes that would work for her. He may even have a padded gambeson in one of the crates downstairs in case she changed her mind and wanted at least some form of armor. She was right, the men would likely be looking for their lost cargo, something he had not anticipated. It was best to let her get cleaned up. It might help disguise her a bit better if they came knocking, though in that scenario it was more likely that they'd meet his sword. He caught the almost timid look in her eyes for a brief second before she concealed it, but it was certainly there.
[b "It is no intrusion at all. As I said, we do not intend to harm you nor do we want to make your stay, albeit not of your own free will, uncomfortable. I realize this isn't a situation that you wanted to find yourself in, but once The Jay speaks to you again, I have the feeling you'll reach an agreement. You have the ability to help him with something he wants, of that I'm certain. In turn, he would gladly grant your freedom and aid you in your reclaiming of what is yours."]
Aldis was not lying in that case. He was more than willing to let this soldier free if she would help him out. He knew they could benefit each other. Getting back at the usurper was more than worth any possible lost loot.
Aldis walked out of the room momentarily. He lit the fire, where he already happened to have water ready to go to fill the bath. He always kept water ready just in case. It was far easier than having to carry it to the fire right before a bath every time. A quick walk to the bathroom had him barring those windows, as well, though he was now less concerned about her running than a visit from the soldiers. He then returned to the room to see that Ruby was still seated.
[b "I have water heating now. You appear to be struggling to walk, so I will help you, if you allow me. The windows in the bathroom are barred as well, though that's more for safety at this point. I suspect you're right about the soldiers going around knocking. They will be looking for you. If you're ready, we can head towards the bath. Slowly, so as not to injure yourself further. A warm bath should help soothe sore muscles, but your ribs, I suspect, are bruised. Would I be correct about that?"]
Of course, she would have to be stubborn and try to do it on her own. She stood and tried walking again, but nearly fell, at which point he caught her.
[b "Stop being stubborn. This will be much easier if I help you."]
He then proceeded to help her to the bathroom, which he was certain annoyed her.
It was strange to hear someone speak so candidly of The Jay. It was like this man almost equaled himself to being a friend in some terms, to the Thief that had been the cause of many a crown jewel’s departure over the years. Always a blue feather left behind.
A small smirk took to her lips as she heard him try to reassure her of the fact that she was in no danger here save but from herself. Safe, but still captive, it seemed or he wouldn’t have felt the need to threaten her with his knife skills.
[b “Something in mind, you say? …Then I am no less a prisoner here than I was with those Brenineidre Dogs….though more comfortable, I have a duty to see to and I can’t…”]
She paused as he cut her off, pointing out that he knew she had orders, knew she must be a soldier of some form…and the obvious facts that even if she managed to get out of this house, there was little she could do from there…save die or become captured again. A sharp pain rushed through her body to confirm his words despite her irritation at them.
[b “He may know where the hideout is, but I highly doubt that The Jay, of all people, would be willing to listen to reason when it comes to the duties of a Palace Guard. I would be surprised if he hasn’t already taken the loot right from under the noses of those pigs. The man managed to walk right in and take their prisoner, I have no doubt he’s already cleaned them out. They won’t take kindly to that.”]
She didn’t try to stand again, though stayed seated, assessing her own situation. Her under-armor garments were torn and bloodied, still damp in the thicker places. She was sure she looked the part of a ruffian more than a soldier, though her demeanor would say otherwise. Her attention returned to him as he introduced himself. At last a form of decency, though as he mentioned knowing she was important, she became slightly nervous looking and stone faced as her mind raced. What to even say? To be valuable would not work in her favor however, he had a point…
[b “Aesop…A noble name for a commoner, rich in history, and learnedness…you must have come from a very learned home. My name is Ruby, Ruby Kerrington. I am a captain of the Guard for the kingdom of Marvay. I would imagine that those less than hospitable characters were after whatever knowledge I may have on our king and kingdom…which is very little and would have not pleased them. What else they thought they could get from me though, I am not sure.”]
She decided not to give her first name, or that of the royal house. Instead giving her middle name and the last name of her mother. Her mother, being a Lady of the Night, was of little importance, and that’s the impression she wanted to give. With a small sigh, seeing as she would not be able to get out of this, she lifted a grimy hand to run through her hair.
[b “Sir Aesop, I know you feel the need to watch me in case I try to run off, I have no shame when it comes to such things, but if I could intrude on your kindness, I would not refuse the ability to bathe and possibly further intrude for a change of clothing. Something more common looking would be beneficial as those men will be after every house in town in pursuit. Mostly because of what would happen if I managed to get word back to Marvay of what has occurred.”]
She was sheepish in asking, and an almost timid look came to her eyes before becoming strong and cold again. It was no time to be shy in requesting such help, despite pride having to be swallowed.
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