Visionary Tales

IC => Fantasy => Topic started by: Jabbathejack on May 29, 2019, 03:49:38 AM

Title: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 29, 2019, 03:49:38 AM
Archive - http://archive.visionary-tales.com/return-to-inquisition-m-t21544.html

Staunton led the way up a flight of stone steps and through corridors, all the way showing not even the slightest concern of the vulnerability of showing his back to a stranger. Eventually, he paused outside a door and opened it, again holding it open for her to enter.

Inside, was a study, a fire burning in the hearth, casting a soft glow over the room. Smiling, Staunton gestured for an empty chair, inviting her to sit.

He paused by a decanter and poured two glasses of red wine, one of which he set on a small table beside her chair. Taking the other, he retreated to another chair, set beside a small writing table.

He raised his glass into a toast.
"Your health, Miss Valaria." Smiling thinly, he took a small sip, watching her for a moment before he continued.

"Initially, I was rather annoyed to hear that the young master Dufresne had left his post without orders, yet when he told me about you, I was curious."

"Do you know why he had you brought all the way out there? Away from your family? I wonder, how much do you really know of your mysterious benefactor?"

He paused as the door to his study opened and Malachi entered, standing by the door as he waited to be addressed. Staunton smiled, beckoning him forward.

"Ahh Malachi, my boy."
"My lord, I have news."

Malachi remained the perfect employee in front of Valaria, speaking quietly and professionally, casting his guest with only a quick glance before he spoke.

"Excellent." Staunton's smile widened. "Please, continue."

"The Nyari tribe headed north from here about a month ago. All information suggests that they will be difficult to track." Malachi glanced at Valaria, his expression still cold. "But not impossible."

"Thank you, Malachi." Staunton turned to Valaria. "So, there you have it, my dear. A direction and a time frame, albeit a vague one. That should, at least, provide you with some chance at finding them."

"In return, perhaps you could answer some of my questions? Eat, drink and spend the night here, if you wish. I am sure we could find you more comfortable quarters."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on May 29, 2019, 06:28:14 PM
Valaria spared a cursory look around the study, satisfying herself that they were alone.  Her eyes never seemed to stop moving.  She was looking for clues as to the true nature of the predicament that she found herself in, for weapons she might use to defend herself if it came to it, perhaps even looking for an escape.  However, the young woman was all too aware that she was at the heart of a fortified citadel with no friends to aid her.  She was alone, and even if she were four times better and sneaking about, the odds of success still did not weigh in her favor.  Nothing weighed in her favor right now, and this man knew it well. 

Valaria accepted the seat and the wine hesitantly and found that even though he might have toasted to her health, she could not drink it.  She needed her mind clear for this, and who knew what toxins might have been laced in with the wine, or coated the vessel it was poured into?  Best to be cautious.  After all, what reason did she have to trust him when all she had known at the hands of his agent was betrayal?

She regarded him in silence as he mentioned Dufresne, save for the sound of teeth grinding against teeth when she clenched her jaw.  Solomon had been an agent of his all along, a spy in Ampetrion’s household just lying in wait.  She had played him so easily with her desperate request to be saved.  Solomon had swallowed her lies, but it seemed she had been played in kind from the very beginning.  She had been foolish, and the depth of that foolishness was now on display.  His name clicked inside of her mind.  James Staunton.  Ampetrion had mentioned him in the carriage, how he had been his reasoning to take her from her family.  She also remembered Ampetrion’s comment about what Staunton might do if he knew anything about her.  Too late for that now.

“James Staunton,” she murmured carefully, peering at him across the desk.  “He mentioned you only once by name.”

Valaria paused then, wondering what she could say.  Ampetrion had withheld everything from her because he did not trust her, and apparently rightfully so.  She had gone and gotten herself caught by the very man he had been fearful of in the first place, after he had explicitly told her that she could not leave with such a risk hanging over her head.  Maybe he would guess upon his return at where she had gone, but by then it would be too late.  The damage was done, and she had no hard information to trade for her freedom.  When Staunton realized this, any worth she might have somehow held to him would plummet to nothing. 

The entrance of Malachi saved her from saying anything else for that moment, however, and Valaria focused her quiet ire on him.  She dared not say a word to him, not even to scold or insult him like she wanted.  It was difficult to keep her fiery temper in check, but she managed it just the same with only the tightening of her grip on the wine goblet.  She briefly wondered what he would look like with wine splashed over his pale face but resisted that urge too. 

She was glad for it, for the news of her family cooled all the ire from her in the span of a second, and it was all she could do not to jump to her feet with the information and run with it.  It was a ploy, a carrot, maybe even another trap, and shared openly in front of her.  Without Ampetrion’s influence over the past several months, she might have taken it as a simple gesture of good faith, but she had nothing of worth to give him in exchange, and could not even pretend to.  She could lie, of course, but something about the man made her think that he would know if she did, and that she would not much care for the consequences of playing him falsely.  He was no Solomon Dufresne, to fall for the hook and line cast by a pretty face and sorrowful eyes. 

Valaria’s gaze flickered from Malachi to Staunton and back, then fixed finally on the Lord of the Citadel.  Her lips parted with the faintest quiver, and the exhaled breath that came next was a nervous one, but she spoke honestly.  “I will answer if I am able, but you must know that…I was only in his company for a short time and in that time, he did not see fit to share much with me in the way of his plans or ventures.  He…did not know me well enough to trust me, he said, and I pressed him often.  As to why he took me at all…he did not see fit to inform me of his reasons for that either.” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 30, 2019, 01:24:58 PM
"Ampetrion mentioned me? How delightful." Staunton smiled at the mention of the first name that he barely used, looking almost as if he were talking about a dear friend rather than a bitter enemy.

"What did he tell you about me? I wonder what sort of demon he painted me as."

To his amusement, he saw Malachi blink in surprise as he was instructed to divulge information rather than using it as a bargaining point. Yet, in truth, it was not the information that she could supply that was important, it was mostly that they had managed to assist her leaving Ampetrion's clutches.

"You may know more than you think you do, my dear. It has been many years since I last saw our mutual friend. Please, tell me what you know about him."

"Malachi here is a most resourceful young man, as I'm sure you're aware by now. If anyone can find your family, then I'm sure he can."

Staunton's smile faded a touch.

"But of course, we have to face facts. I'm sure that if Ampetrion took such pains to keep you under his watchful eye, he will not be pleased that you have left him. He will, no doubt, immediately look to your family in order to find you once more. If I can be of any service in that respect, you have only to ask."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on May 30, 2019, 02:35:21 PM
Valaria didn’t return his smile.  She set the untouched goblet of wine on the nearest surface and folded her hands neatly on her lap.  “He said only that James Staunton was one of his oldest nemesis, but did not elaborate beyond a fear of what you would do should you discover his weakness.  It was the last discussion we had, on our way home from some nobleman’s function in Venice, where he has been given sanctuary.  He informed me that my family had gone missing, and listed you as the reason to remain safely with him when I insisted on trying to find them. I, of course, knew better than that.” 

The pointed look Valaria gave him at that moment made it clear that the irony of her circumstances was not lost on her, nor the foolishness. 

“I know that he travels often and has a few unnamed allies, but more enemies.  He cannot leave Italy for fear of their retribution; he sees shadows in the corner of his eye and feels invisible eyes upon his back, but whether they are shadows of his own creation is something I did not have a chance to fully deduce,” she explained.  Valaria paused again and sighed, shaking her head.  She was afraid to share the next part, but she needed to get to her family, and it was perhaps the only real knowledge she had of Ampetrion.  “He called me ‘Grandaughter’.  My parents called him ‘Great Father’, though he fathered neither of them, or their parents before them.  I do not know how we are connected to one another, but…he seems to have lived an unnaturally long time.  He…he has not changed in appearance since I first met him as a small child.  My father told me he is the same as he was when he was but a child.  I do not know how…perhaps devilry is at play.”

The mention of Malachi leading her to her family was unpleasant, but at this point Valaria would take whatever help she could get, and would not complain.  All that mattered was finding her family safe, to be home again, such as it was.  She was aware that Ampetrion could show up at any time and take her back.  She would fight, but her parents had given her up once.  He could convince them to do it again. 

Valaria worried at her bottom lip.  “He would likely try again, yes,” she murmured softly.  She tilted her head slightly, peering at Staunton with faintly narrowed eyes.  “Please forgive me if I offend, but I do not believe for a second that your concern for my well-being is altogether sincere.  May I ask you what you stand to gain through assisting me in such a manner?”           
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 30, 2019, 03:35:18 PM
Staunton's smile disappeared as he listened to Valaria talk. It was true, she did not know much that he did not, but this was the closest that he had been in a long time.

"Am I the oldest nemesis of a man who seems to be ageless?"

He snorted, shaking his head with a bitter smile, well aware that he was frozen in his thirties from the night he had been changed.

He looked across at her, his smile fading. Was she wondering whether the two men who stood in the room with her now carried the same curse as her mysterious relative? How long would they be able to lie to her?

"I confess, I do not know much about devilry, but we are all demons in our own way."

He watched her for a moment, wondering what the secret was that Ampetrion had been so careful to hide from him. What made this young woman so special?

"Of course, I am mostly looking to protect my interests from those who would see us harmed. There is no point in pretending otherwise to you."

Staunton stood up, setting down his wine glass on the table beside Valaria's untouched one.

"If he wanted you by his side, then I take great pleasure in doing my part to ensure that that does not happen again, petty though the sentiment may be. Thank you for talking to me. You are free to go at any time you wish, but if you so wish, I can have guest quarters available for you for as long as you need."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on May 30, 2019, 03:56:24 PM
Valaria frowned at him, her brow furrowing.  They were all demons in their own way…there was something suspicious there, but she realized that she really didn’t want to know.  She had been unwittingly swept up into whatever game that was being played between Staunton and Ampetrion, and she wanted no part in it.  The less she understood or knew about whatever world the men lived in or the unnatural possibilities of said world, the better. 

She glanced at Malachi again as Staunton bade her free to go, then rose slowly to her feet, giving the pale blond man a small curtsy.  “Thank you, my Lord.  I am sorry that I could not be of more help.  I am grateful for your offer of hospitality, but I really must be going.  Time is not on my side in this.”

She paused by Malachi, her lips pressing together in displeasure.  She was still rankled from earlier and well within her rights to be mistrustful of him, but he had proven himself a far better tracker than she was.  Getting to them was all that mattered.  She could easily tolerate the young man if it meant finding them.  “I would gladly accept help tracking them down, if you are still willing to provide it.”  She looked at Staunton once more. “I have no coin to pay, but I would be in your debt for the favor.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 30, 2019, 06:32:27 PM
Staunton bowed low.
"It was a pleasure, my dear."

Favours were powerful things. Far more valuable than coin. Staunton smiled pleasantly as Malachi ushered the young lady out of the office and closed the door behind them.

"Come with me." Malachi murmured softly, leading her down a corridor and down a flight of stairs.

He led her to the citadel's kitchen, devoid of life at this time of night, yet there was still the embers of a fire burning left over from earlier.

"You should eat first." Malachi muttered, not looking at Valaria as he peered into the pantry in search of the customary left overs from dinner.

"I asked someone to bring you some food, but you ended up braining him with the dish, or so I heard."

He returned with a side of boiled ham and some bread, with a little cheese. He found her a plate and set it down on the table, along with a kitchen knife which he slid over towards her. Was she going to try and stab him with it? Malachi honestly could not care less what she did with the knife, sharp though it was.

"Eat. You'll need your strength."

Malachi reached into his coat and pulled out a map of the area and spread it out over the table.

"We're here." He stabbed the map with his finger. "From what I understood, the Nyari were camped here until recently. Reports say they travelled north."

He trailed the route with his finger.

"Yet where they went from this point, I'm not sure. I was planning on heading over there to see for myself. After a month though, there might not be too much information to be found, but one can never tell."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on May 31, 2019, 09:24:34 AM
Valaria followed Malachi without another word, casting a single glance at Staunton over her shoulder just as the door closed behind them.  He was really just going to let her go?  She was truly free?  There was a part of her that had insisted that it was all just a trick, that as soon as they were done speaking he would have her stuffed back into the cell she had inhabited before.

Malachi led her through the silent citadel, down empty halls and empty stairs, into a kitchen as sleepy as everywhere else.  She looked at him when he encouraged her to eat, and Valaria considered refusing, but her stomach twisted within her belly and growled audibly.  It had been a while since she had eaten, and food had been spare on the travel here.  He was right, and she grudgingly admitted it to herself even as he pushed what he had found in the pantry across the table to her.  The knife glinted in his hand and she took it, staring at it for a moment.  They wouldn’t hand a prisoner a knife.  She really was free, wasn’t she?

“Thank you,” she murmured softly, cutting a slice from the ham.  She was wary of eating too much, even as ravenous as she suddenly felt now.  At Malachi’s comment about the guard that had brought her food, she had the grace to look at least a little ashamed for her actions. “You tricked me.  I was afraid.  I thought that I had come all this way to find my family, only to end up a prisoner,” her eyes evened with his. “There are people killing other people right now simply because they do not believe in the same god.  I was given no reason for my imprisonment.  Can you blame me for trying to escape?”

She leaned forward while eating her food slowly, observing the map that Malachi laid out before them.  He pointed out their location and trailed his finger to where her family was last spotted.  Frowning, she tilted her head.  It was a days ride, perhaps even two, just to get to the last place they had been.  Would they be able to pick up a trail?  How far had her family gotten, and were they still safe? 

“There could be markers.  My father leaves markers that only others of my people can identify.  With everything going on, he may have left them behind for other clans to find their way to safety,” she informed him.  She was not positive that her father would have done that in this case, but she hoped. 

After a moment, Valaria realized that Malachi was not eating, and frowned at him.  He had eaten almost nothing since they had met, not even the food he had brought with him, which he had given over to her in exchange for time by her fire.  He had eaten nothing there, nothing on the trip.  You have not had your eye on him the whole time, Valaria thought to herself.  Likely, he has already eaten. 

She pointed out the place on the map he marked.  “That is one of the places we have camped before, come to think of it.  I may know where they will be going next if you are correct in deducing their direction.”  She finished the bread, cheese, and meat without much delay.  Simple fare though it was, Valaria was hard pressed to remember the last time anything had tasted so good.  After rare small game, tart berries, and bitter greens for days, it was difficult not to eat more, but she was full and gorging herself was a terrible idea.   

“Lead on.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 31, 2019, 01:50:39 PM
"If I hadn't tricked you, then you would not have come here. Not willingly."

Malachi replied simply, showing no irritation at what had happened, even when he had mentioned the guard who had been attacked; he was simply stating a fact.

He stood up and folded the map up, sliding it back into his pocket. He paused, frowning as he realised that Valaria would need some supplies for the journey. Heading back into the pantry, Malachi found an empty sack and he returned to the table, putting the rest of the ham and cheese into the sack. He did not give the knife a second glance, leaving it where it lay on the table.

Malachi frowned, fixing Valaria with a steady gaze. How was he going to explain having to hide whenever the sun rose above the horizon?

"You should probably rest now before you travel. It is a long way and you are probably tired. I have an important errand to run on the way, but I can arrange for a horse and a guide for you if you leave in the morning."

***

"This land isn't too different from our own." Celyn frowned, looking over at the forest that surrounded them. "It's warmer here though."

They'd taken their horses off the road once the shadows had begun to lengthen, resting the horses. It had been a long journey, but they were due to reach their destination the next evening.

"Not many wolves around here, so father said."

He looked over at his uncle for confirmation. Celyn was just sixteen, but he could easily be mistaken for a much older man. Tall and broad shouldered, he had a muscular build, without an ounce of fat on him.

Celyn's blond hair was long and unkempt, tied back away from his face in a loose knot. Truly, he looked like a peasant, dressed in simple fabric, faded and stained from many hours spent in the saddle.

"What's she like, uncle? They said she was pretty? But what if she doesn't like me?"

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on May 31, 2019, 02:52:16 PM
Valaria’s frown deepened as she watched him.  “You may be right, of course,” she admitted, surprisingly without reluctance.  “I have a quick temper.  It’s only after the anger has burned away that I am able to look at things more objectively.  It is…something I should work harder on.”

She watched as he went about collecting food in a sack, her brow furrowing.  When she had met him, he had played at being a frightened boy.  He still looked like a youth, but his manner was aged beyond his years.  He had to have grown up very fast, she realized, to be so good at deception at such an age.  His life is none of your business.  Leave him be with the questions.

He suggested she rest, and it was all she could do to bite back the protest.  There was a heavy desperation clawing at her heart, making her feel like every precious second that passed was one second lost in the race to find her family.  She wanted so badly to believe that they were alright, but the world was rarely a kind place and times were more dangerous for them than usual.  She hated it, but she recognized the wisdom in rest.  It would be stupid to refuse sleep, when there was likely to be little enough of it while they were out there. 

Reluctantly, Valaria nodded.  “Very well then,” she sighed softly, standing.  “I would greatly appreciate the horse and the guide, and in the meantime I will rest.  Show me where to rest, and I will see you again when you catch up.”

--

 Oscar glanced at his nephew as he spoke, listening but remaining quiet.  This was Celyn’s first outing, and in Oscar’s opinion it was obvious.  He understood; Cel was excited and nervous.  He was going to meet his future mate for the first time, now that he was a man.  Personally Oscar didn’t much care for the Mutt that had come to them with the offer, but he wasn’t Alpha.  All he could do was his best to prepare the boy. 

“This country is crawling with vampires and wherever vampires are, trouble also waits.  The last pack native to this area left half a century ago.  This place may be similar to home, but it is not home.  Keep your guard up,” Oscar directed. 

They were nearing their destination; the Mutt’s manse was nearing on the horizon.  He couldn’t help the small smile that tugged at his lips at Cel’s question.  More nervous than excited, Oscar thought.

“It does not matter whether the woman likes you, or whether you like her.  We must all do what is expected of us when it comes to matters that affect the pack.  You are doing your duty, and she will do hers,” Oscar replied gruffly.  He nudged the boy with his elbow lightly and flashed him a wink.  “She is a beauty though.  I did not have the chance to meet her when I visited to finalize the betrothal, but I did glimpse her.  I do not believe you will find complaint with her looks.  How she is as a person, though, I suppose we discover that for ourselves when we take her back home with us.”

He fell silent, staring ahead.  He could see people moving around, more than seemed to be normal for an ordinary day, but who knew with Ampetrion?  The Mutt held strange customs, after all. 

“Try not to be nervous, lad.  You are a likeable sort.  You will do well.”     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on May 31, 2019, 04:43:10 PM
Malachi shrugged as he slung the sack of supplies over his shoulder.
"Or you should channel that anger into something useful."

To his surprise, Valaria actually agreed to his suggestion of rest; that would make things a lot simpler in hiding his true nature from her.

"This way." He turned on his heel and led her back up the stairs, heading towards the guest rooms. All of them were empty at the moment, kept ready for use at a moment's notice.

"I trust you will find this room satisfactory."

He opened the door, holding it open for her to enter, but he remained in the corridor.

"I will have a guide saddle a horse for you and meet you here in the morning." He paused for a moment, holding out the bag of supplies that he had filled earlier. "They will be trustworthy, I assure you."

No need for her to use the knife that he saw her swipe from the table earlier. He nodded briefly before turning.

"Good night."

Malachi headed immediately to the guard tower, finding a man that he knew was dependable. Rousing him from his slumber as quietly as he could, Malachi took the man aside and explained what was required.

Immediately afterwards, he headed out to the stables and readied his horse; he needed to move as quickly as he could; he could not afford to waste the darkness.

***

"Vampires?" Celyn frowned, unable to stop himself sniffing at the breeze, but there were no strange smells out there right now. He had never met one, but he had heard many tales of vampires causing trouble with the packs near their home. Usually, however, those tales ended with the demise of the vampire. He might not have met one before, but he knew that they were generally weaker than a werewolf in his prime.

"Of course." Celyn replied immediately; he knew what was expected of him, he had, after all, been preparing for this moment for a long time. It was just something that would go a little more smoothly if they liked each other.

He knew how controversial this decision was, even within their own pack. He would be mating with someone outside of their race, even though she held wolf blood, or so he had been told. He'd overheard the elders discussing it not long ago and he knew that there was a risk that their children might not even be able to transform. He could barely imagine that, to be of wolf blood, but... it sounded to him like being half a wolf. Incomplete.

Of course, it was part of his duty to move beyond things like that. They were doing this because of a pledge between families that had been forged when he was but a pup. If it would make their clan stronger, then he knew it was the right thing.

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 01, 2019, 09:44:32 AM
Valaria said nothing in response at first.  Ampetrion would say much the same thing to her, when she was angry about something.  Often he would send her out to spar with Solomon, but Valaria was beginning to realize that Solomon had really not taught her much.  He had been reluctant to, given her gender, from the very beginning.  That did not matter so much now; soon she would be with her family, and she would fall into the roll among them that she had always been meant to fill.  Learning the ways of the blade would have no place there for her.  She didn’t want to think about Ampetrion finding her again, trying to wrest her back from her family once she found them. 

She bade Malachi a soft ‘goodnight’, and shut herself in the room, exhaling softly.  Alone now, and mostly safe in her mind, the tension melted out of her frame and she finally allowed herself to feel just how exhausted she truly was.  Hard travel, little sleep, and even less food had taken its toll on her, and she fell asleep almost the instant her head hit the pillow.

--

Oscar led them silently ahead, glancing sidelong at Celyn as the gates of the manse loomed before them.  The first thing that greeted them was the sight of a young peasant woman’s head on a pike; human, Oscar could tell, and dead less than a day. 

For a moment, the older wolf paused to regard the head, his dark eyes narrowing.  He recognized her, he thought; the servant girl whom he had seen at Valaria’s side the last time, who had approached Ampetrion very briefly while in Oscar’s company.  The older wolf spared a glance at his nephew and started moving again, past the gates and into the courtyard.  Supplies were being gathered and soldiers were preparing themselves to go on the move, and Oscar liked that not at all.  Something was wrong here.

Before they made it much farther, Oscar spied Ampetrion.  Directing Cel, Oscar led the way to the Mutt, resisting the urge to scowl.  Something about him had bothered Oscar from the beginning, but the Alpha demanded diplomacy, and he had no choice but to do as he was told.

Ampetrion regarded them with some annoyance, then straightened and smoothed his features.  “Apologies, Oscar,” He began, folding his hands at his back.  “I was not expecting you quite yet, else I would have sent someone to meet you.  I fear that…now is not a very good time.”

Oscar’s frown deepened.  “We are here on the agreed upon date to meet the agreed upon terms.  I have a groom, and you will provide the bride, aye?”

Ampetrion grimaced.  “Unfortunately, the bride has gone missing.  I was away on business for a week and when I returned, she was gone with the help of one of my Captains and her maid servant.  I do, however, know exactly where she is going and we are preparing to leave to bring her home directly.”

Oscar growled under his breath.  “Does this happen often, her running away?  I would like to think that if it were, you might have mentioned it before now.  You said nothing about her being troublesome.”

“No,” Ampetrion said through grit teeth.  “This is the first instance of her fleeing, and no doubt in her mind it was for a good purpose, even if it was against my command.  I made the mistake of informing her that her family had gone missing some time before I left.  I mistook her plotting for simple sullenness at my refusal to allow her to go looking for them.  I suspect that is exactly what she is doing right now.”

Oscar looked at Celyn.  Personally he was more than willing to just take the boy home.  Ampetrion was empty handed, no matter the reason for it. 

The Mutt seemed to know Oscar’s line of thinking, and sighed.  “I humbly ask your patience.  I will have her again in less than a week, and our plans can move forward accordingly.  In the meantime, the hospitality of my home is available to you.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 01, 2019, 10:58:39 AM
Roe woke up as the night shift returned to the guard quarters, signalling the change of shift. Heaving a sigh, he climbed out of bed and dressed.

It had been a strange night; he'd been woken by Lord Staunton's aide, Malachi and given orders to escort a young woman on the north road and keep her safe until his arrival. He had been given no further information and he had not asked.

Etienne Roe was one of the older men in Lord Staunton's service, a veteran of many years as a soldier, specialising in reconnaissance.

Buckling on his sword belt, he gave a nod to his comrades and headed out to the guest quarters of the citadel. He paused outside the room, knocking loudly. He hoped that she would be ready, whoever she was.

***

Celyn stared at the woman's head as they passed by. He turned to look at his uncle, almost asking him if such practices were common out here, yet then they had arrived in the courtyard and he ended up holding his tongue. He could ask such questions later on, when they weren't in danger of being overheard.

"It's busy out here." He ended up murmuring softly.

Celyn frowned as the man approached; he presumed that this was Ampetrion, but he did not bother to introduce himself to him. His frown deepened.

"Her family has gone missing? Then of course she has gone. I would do the same in but a heartbeart."

The thought that he might be speaking out of turn did not occur to Celyn even for a moment. Others might well have been bowing and scraping before a lord, but he did not see himself on anything but a par with the man before them.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 01, 2019, 12:00:59 PM
Valaria opened the door promptly, the sack of things that Malachi had provided to her for the trip slung across her shoulder.  She stepped out and closed the door behind her.  She had been awake for nearly two hours and had been ready to go within the first few minutes.  She was anxious to be off, but she waited as patiently as she could for the guide Malachi promised to appear.  In the time she waited, she at least had managed to write a short note to Staunton thanking him for his hospitality; the tutor she studied under at Ampetrion’s Manse would have been proud.  She gave no indication that she had been inconvenienced or irritated by the wait and gave him a small nod of greeting.  “I’m Valaria Nyari,” she said by way of curt introduction, already moving down the corridor and the stairs beyond. 

It seemed she had no plans to waste any time at all. 

--

Ampetrion gave Cel a tight smile as Oscar spoke up.  “Ampetrion, this is Celyn, second son of our Alpha.  Celyn, Ampetrion Nyari,” he made introductions gruffly, realizing that the duty had been neglected by both of them. 

Ampetrion looked away, shouting out an order in an unfamiliar language to the soldiers forming up behind them.  He returned his attention to Celyn and inclined his head.  “I apologize for my rudeness, young Master Celyn.  As you might imagine, I have a great deal on my mind, but it is no excuse for ignoring social protocol.  While I am relieved that you understand the reason for her disobedience, I must emphasize that the whole reason I took her from that place to begin with was because her life was in danger.  Now, she has run full speed right back into enemy territory, risking her own life and everything we have planned for the last dozen years.”

“When the Pack is threatened, it is the wolf’s duty to protect it no matter the cost,” Oscar replied, his voice sharp.  His eyes slid to Celyn. “She may well do better among our people than we could have imagined.  She may not be wolf, but she seems to retain the spirit of one—at least in this instance.”

“All well and good,” Ampetrion sighed, “but if she dies, the point is altogether moot.  Now, I apologize for my shortness, but I must finish preparations so we can begin hunting for her.  You will stay—or go—as you choose to.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 01, 2019, 03:10:20 PM
"Etienne Roe." He gave a nod of approval as he followed her down the corridor; at least he wouldn't have to rouse this one himself.

"You can ride, I presume? I was instructed to have a horse ready for you."

He followed her down the stairs and out to the courtyard, when he took the lead.
"This way. Stables are here."

Entering the stables, Roe motioned towards a horse for his guest. Moving with practiced hands, he had his own horse ready in moments, keeping a watchful eye in case the young woman had any difficulties.

Leading his horse out, he nodded with silent approval as she appeared to have done all right. He mounted and turned his horse's head towards the northern road.

"Let's see how far we can get before young master Malachi catches us up."

***

"If she is in danger, then I believe it would be best if we came as well."

Celyn spoke up without checking with his uncle first, but he was confident that this was the right course of action. He did not trust this Ampetrion, there seemed to be something... off about the way that he smelled. Something rotten perhaps.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 03, 2019, 11:04:16 AM
Valaria assured Roe that she could prepare the horse herself and set about it.  She did not care for horses and they had never cared for her, but the horse she had been given did not seem to mind her so much.  Without event, the young woman finished and situated herself in the saddle, urging the animal alongside Roe’s.  Yes, she thought, lets see how far they could get.

They kept a quick but easy pace; Valaria would have been satisfied to run the whole way there, but she knew better than to suggest as much.  There was no telling how long the horses would need to last before she found her family again.  In a month’s time, they could be weeks apart from one another, and that was if they were able to track them in the right direction the first time.

“Have you been in Staunton’s employ long?” Valaria asked.

--

Oscar made no objection to Cel’s decision.  He was no longer a pup, and it was important that he make decisions such as these. 

Ampetrion seemed to be waiting for Oscar to intervene, and when he didn’t, the Mutt manner became resigned.  “Yes, very well.  We will be leaving shortly.”

With that, Ampetrion left them in favor of dealing with some soldiers who were awaiting orders, though ones that looked to be staying rather than traveling.

Oscar looked at Cel.  “Damn Mutt.  The world would be a better place without trash like him in it.  Are you sure that you want to do this?  The girl is gone.  We have every right to walk away right now.” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 03, 2019, 05:09:33 PM
Roe watched Valaria out of the corner of his eye, gauging how she handled the horse. He had deliberately chosen one who was not too taxing a mount. After a few minutes, he suggested that the increased to a trot, but not too fast too early on.

"I've worked for the Staunton family for nigh on forty years now." Roe smiled. "But it was some years before I first met Mr Staunton."

***

Celyn frowned at his uncle.
"Father told me that we would be envoys of our pack. What we are doing could forge a strong alliance. We should not throw that possibility away so easily."

His frown deepened as he looked back towards Ampetrion and he lowered his voice still further.

"I don't like that man, uncle. He smells... rotten. Do all mutts smell like that?"

Celyn was rather alarmed at the prospect of his betrothed smelling like her relative, but perhaps it was a smell that he would end up getting used to.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 04, 2019, 11:03:23 AM
Oscar shook his head.  “I do not like him either,” he muttered, turning towards Cel and guiding him to follow with a gesture as they moved out of the way of the men moving about the courtyard.  Once they were safely aside and forgotten, Oscar returned his attention to his nephew, raising an eyebrow at his question.  He wanted to laugh, really.  “Yes, all Mutts smell like him.  Terrible, isn’t it?”

The older wolf regarded his nephew seriously for a moment.  “I suppose I had better apologize, Celyn.  You have the right of it; this alliance is important to our pack, and the Alpha would be proud to know you have kept that in mind.  The Alpha’s word is one I will follow to my last breath, but I hate the idea of allying ourselves with an abomination like Ampetrion.  The silver lining, I suppose, is that at least your bride is not like him.”

--

Valaria nodded.  “That is a lot of years to serve, Mr. Roe.  I only had the opportunity to meet Mr. Staunton the once, but he seemed a decent sort of fellow.  How has he been to you?”

It was a normal enough question, but Valaria had a notion that the best gauge of a man’s character was in how he treated those who served him.  She had seen plenty of seemingly kind and honorable men abuse their servants when she dwelled in Venice, and it was usually a good tell as to whether the man was trustworthy, or simply performing a roll.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 06, 2019, 06:09:15 PM
"I guess, for me, the true alliance is between us and my bride, Valaria. Ampetrion need not be a factor."

He shrugged at his uncle as he turned back to his horse.
"We will see what she says when we finally meet."

Taking the reins, Celyn swung back into the saddle and prepared to get back underway.

***

"Aye." Roe nodded. "He's a decent man. Cunning as a fox, for sure. He rewards loyalty and excellence, but he punishes disobedience... but he's always fair in my mind."

Roe glanced at the young woman by his side, cracking a smile.
"But I guess you ain't going to listen to me, are you? I'm paid to say the right thing, eh?"

His grin faded into seriousness.
"I was there when he brought you in, you know? Young Malachi dragging you in, with you screaming every insult under the sun. Imagine my surprise when the very next night he tells me to escort you freely across the country."

Roe fixed Valaria with a shrewd stare.
"What he neglected to tell me was what exactly we would be looking for."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 06, 2019, 06:59:26 PM
Oscar nodded.  “That is a better way to look at it.  Either way, if you say we will go then we will go.  When we find her, we can wash our hands of the Mutt for good.”

Another hour passed before Ampetrion gave the order to ride out, and their journey began anew.

--

Valaria smirked.  “I would not have asked at all if I was not planning to listen to the answer, Mr. Roe.  It has been my experience that the way a man treats those in his employ is a direct reflection of the man himself.  If you say he is fair, then I will trust your word.  After all, he is not hovering over your shoulder making certain that you say nice things about him, and I have never known an employer to pay his men extra to speak highly of him when he is not around.”
 
Her gaze moved to fix on the horizon ahead of them when he spoke of Malachi bringing her in, her smile fading.  “Malachi deceived me.  He found me, told me a tall tale that played on my sympathies, and used it to lure me into a trap.  No one is more surprised than me that Mr. Staunton only wanted a trade of information, or that I am here with you now.”

Valaria glanced at Roe, noting his stare.  “My family.  They fled the area a month ago.  I am trying to get back to them, and Mr. Staunton has supplied the location where they were last seen.” 

She couldn’t help but feel a pang of heartsickness.  She knew that they would have likely taken an easier route and pace out of consideration for the children and the old, but they were still well ahead of her, and a month was more than enough time for them to have gone so deeply to ground that Valaria might never see them again.  She briefly wondered if there was even a point.  She knew that even if she did find them, Ampetrion would only take her away once more.  Her future would never be one of her own making if that happened, he had made that clear.

“Do you have family, Mr. Roe?”     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 11, 2019, 04:33:17 PM
Roe gave her a sidelong glance.
"Not only has he given you information, miss, but he's given you a horse, supplies and a guide to ensure that you get there. Not to mention that his right hand man meets us there to help you look."

He shrugged.
"Perhaps it is to make up for Malachi's deception and a day in the cells. Either way, you must have given him exactly what he needed."

"Malachi is an interesting fellow, indeed. It is common for people to underestimate him because of his youth and stature, but as you have already found out, that would be a grave mistake. I have no idea how old he actually is. When I first met him, I didn't think he'd even be able to swing that blade he carries, but when he does..."

Roe trailed off, chuckling quietly. Of course, that was only half the story; he'd heard the rumours whispered by servants about the two men, neither of them ever seen during daylight hours, yet that was only idle talk...

"Aye. I have a son and a daughter, both of them with children of their own."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 12, 2019, 02:17:56 PM
Valaria considered that in silence.  Roe was right, of course.  Staunton had done far more than he needed to, in providing her with what he had, and suddenly the note she had left thanking him did not seem like quite enough.  He had given her freedom and more information than she had before, and had supplied everything she could have possibly needed in her journey to find her family.   She could not reconcile the man that Ampetrion had depicted with the man she had met.  “Yes, you are right.”

She listened while Roe spoke of Malachi, but offered no words in return.  She wanted to distrust and dislike Malachi, but she was also aware that doing so would likely disrupt things on their journey.  She decided to give him the benefit of the doubt moving forward, if only out of gratitude for his help and respect for his Lord. 

Valeria glanced at Roe as he spoke of his children.  “Do you see them often?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 12, 2019, 03:24:20 PM
"Quite often, aye." Roe smiled, thinking of his family. "They both live in Lourdes, not far from the Citadel."

"When my wife passed, two years come spring, I moved into the barracks in the Citadel. It was easier that way, less time..."

He forced a smile, neatly smoothing over the silence that he had been faced with after his wife's death.

"I see my grandchildren often."

His smile faded as he looked at the young woman.
"I could not imagine being apart from them. I will do what I can to see that you are reunited with your family."

***

When darkness fell, Roe signalled for them to move off the road to have supplies and water the horses. It was a chilly night, so he busied himself with starting a fire, directing Valaria to ready some of their supplies.

"We're not far from where your family was last seen. But it'll be a few hours before Malachi joins us. Best to get some food and rest now, while we can."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on June 12, 2019, 03:49:58 PM
For a moment, Valaria’s eyes filled with tears of gratitude for the man.  He understood what strong familial ties could mean to a person, what a person might do to get back to them when separated.  All she could do was offer a small smile and a nod, keeping herself to herself until she managed to regain her composure. 

As night fell and Roe gave the word to make camp, Valaria slid from the back of the horse, biting the inside of her cheek at the soreness that had taken up residence in her rear and thighs.  That alone spoke of how often she rode.  Another day and she’d likely have saddle sores, but she made no complaint.  A few aches and pains were nothing to endure if it meant finding her family safe and whole. 

Valaria did as Roe requested, delving through their supplies for something that they could eat and rest on once they were finished; all things that could be easily and quickly put away upon Malachi’s arrival.  The waiting made her anxious, but by the same token she was exhausted and grateful for the break.  Her aching haunches were grateful too.  Despite the physical fatigue, however, her mind was as alert as if it were the middle of the day, never pausing in the endless cycle of what-ifs parading in her mind.

“I do not know if I can sleep,” she admitted softly.  “I will watch, though, if you would like to.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on June 12, 2019, 04:12:49 PM
Roe cleared away the remains of their food, wrapping it up and stowing it safely in his pack.

"Don't you worry, miss, I'm used to this sort of life." Roe smiled as he warmed his fingers. "The fire is comfort enough for my old bones."

"You might feel better in the night ahead if you do manage to sleep, but that is of course, up to you."

He fell silent, reaching into his pack for a small piece of wood. Taking his knife, he began to whittle at it, painstakingly crafting what would become a small wooden whistle for his eldest grandchild.

***

Malachi found them easily, some hours later, guiding his horse through the trees to stop by their camp.

Roe, ever vigilant, was already on his feet as he neared. Valaria too, stirred from her light doze as he slid from the saddle.

"Evening, sir." Roe smiled as he stamped at the embers of their fire. "We'll be ready to head off in a minute or so."

Malachi nodded grimly.
"Any signs?"
"Not from here, but we're not far from where they were last seen. There should be something further along."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 17, 2019, 10:59:29 AM
Despite the doubt that Valaria harbored over being able to sleep, as the quiet of the night grew deeper and she stretched out close to the fire, her eyes drifted closed at one point and she slipped into an uneasy rest.  What little rest she managed to gain was infrequent, peppered with moments of starting awake at the pop of the campfire, an owl in the trees above, insects and frogs singing their chorus.  The sound of hooves incoming alerted her in much the same fashion, and as Malachi entered their camp and began dismounting, Valaria got up, wincing at how much worse the pain in her body was after being inert for those hours.  The wince was the only sign of discomfort that she let slip, even as she joined Roe in packing up their camp without delay.  She muttered a hoarse but polite greeting to Malachi, remembering the discussion she had with Roe.  Malachi was here to help, she reminded herself, and she wasn’t going to be a horse’s ass about it.   

She was exhausted, she was in pain, but the knowledge of where her family had gone was near and that motivated her more than anything else ever could.  She didn't know how long it would take them to find the caravans after they figured out the direction they had gone, but something in her gut told her it wouldn’t be long after that.  Her heart ached for home, for her parents and her brothers and their wives, for the passel of nieces and nephews that were steadily growing in number year by year. 

Working together, Roe and Valaria had the camp packed in and the fire put out in less than ten minutes.  Valaria dreaded the climb into the saddle, teeth grinding together as the saddle formed up against all the tender places in her rear and thighs.  Even her lower back screamed in protest, but she did her best to ignore it. 

“How much further, do you think?" she asked, anxiousness coloring her tone despite her efforts to the contrary.  Gods, she hope they found something, that her family's former campsite remained untouched by the weather, or animals, or other people.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 30, 2019, 06:19:45 AM
"Couple of miles to where they were last reported." Roe took the lead, heading out along the path through the woods. "From there, well..."

He shrugged, giving Valaria a grim smile.
"It all depends on what we can find."

Malachi rode beside them, yet he remained silent, his gaze constantly moving on their surroundings. It did not take long for them to cover the last couple of miles, then they emerged into a clearing in the forest.

Despite the delay in their arrival, the signs of a camp were still present. Malachi slid from the saddle, allowing his horse to walk free. In the centre of the clearing, there was the remains of a fire, cooking for a number of people for a few days at least. There was some debris around, but that was only natural for any group of people on the move.

Slowly, Malachi paced the perimeter of the camp. Of course, the tracks were a mishmash, going here and there with animals as well as people. He could tell a general direction, but more specific tracks were impossible to decipher.

"They left in a hurry." Malachi spoke up suddenly, dropping to one knee to retrieve the pieces of a smashed earthenware pot from the undergrowth. The remains of the grain that had been carried within, were still there, strewn on the ground.

"See here? Far too valuable to have left that behind."

There were other things too, a child's toy, crudely sewn from some old clothes and well loved by the look of it, lying half crushed into the mud.

He straightened up, turning his attention to Valaria.
"They headed north from here from what I can see, but where their final destination was, I have no idea. It will be hard to track them, depending on the terrain and how large the road is."

"We have a number of choices. Either they went somewhere well known that they felt was safe, or that they went somewhere completely unknown, to try and avoid the chances at being followed. It depends on who they were running from."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 20, 2019, 03:25:06 PM
When they reached the clearing, Valaria slid from the back of her horse and bent down to pick up one of the discarded toys, her brow furrowing.  The body had been made with sackcloth, and stuffed with lavender blooms and sweet-smelling scraps of corn husk, both of which had lost the scent long ago.  The tiny dress it wore was also made of sackcloth, dyed yellow with tansy.  She remembered her mother making it for one of her little nieces long ago, as she had made many small toys over the years for her growing number of grandchildren.  There, along the edge of the camp, was one of her father's shirts.  Other possessions that had belonged to her family lay discarded around the area, and Valaria knew better than anyone the trouble such a thing implied.  Her family was always careful never to waste, never to leave a thing behind.  Broken pottery was always repaired, clothing no longer fit for wearing cut down and used for blankets or other things.  They had precious little enough already, and seeing so much discarded confirmed before Malachi opened his mouth that they had been in a hurry, that something had gone wrong for them.

Her breath caught in her chest as she straightened, hugging the dolly to her breast.  She almost didn't hear the offered choices; her mind had begun to run hand in hand with worry and terror.  She gave a start and looked at him, her expression that of someone who was lost.  She processed his words with difficulty, moving to where her father's shirt lay in the dirt.  She gathered that into her arms as well.  "I do not believe they would go somewhere known to anyone, but...but they would not have left anything behind if there was any sort of plan in their minds, so...so I cannot say for certain which option is more likely," she said, her voice strained. 

They could still be alive, she told herself.  But despite that, she felt a growing weight in the pit of her stomach that told her otherwise.  Her eyes scanned the abandoned camp for any sign of what or who could have been chasing them, but she could not tell.  There were no arrows left behind, no flags, no discernible sign of who had come for her family.  There was no telling what they might find, however, once they moved on.  "North," she said softly, looking in that direction.  "Can we keep going?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 20, 2019, 04:24:15 PM
Malachi nodded and approached his horse, swinging smoothly into the saddle. The clouds had descended, obscuring the moon and it was not long before a fine rain started, but Malachi gave it no notice as he turned his horse towards the northern road.

He rode in silence as before, scanning the trees around them as before, even though the visability had vastly diminished, it did not seem to effect him in any way.

It was not long before he paused, bringing his horse to a halt in the middle of the road. There were no tracks, but clearly, Malachi had spotted something else of note. Without a word, he turned his horse's head sharply and cantered up the steep slope.

On top of the ridge, the earth was freshly disturbed. Malachi threw himself from the saddle and took the small trowel that he kept hidden within his saddlebags. Moving to the centre of the disturbed earth, he began to dig.

The smell of death was stronger than ever and he knew that he did not have much work to do. Sure enough, there was the pallor of cold, death flesh, hidden in a shallow grave. Grimacing, Malachi straightened up and turned to face Valaria.

"I'm sorry." He shook his head; this was probably one of the few things that he had said to her that was truthful. "We were too late."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 20, 2019, 05:30:20 PM
Valaria remained silent as they rode, that same heaviness in her stomach twisting about until she felt she may be ill.  She almost didn't feel the rain, how it soaked through her dress and froze her to the bone; she only feared that it would wash away what little sign her family had left behind.  Despite the feeling of dread permeating her gut, she tried to hold onto some shred of hope that they had escaped whomever had been chasing them, that they had made it safely away. 

When Malachi stopped, her hands gripped the reins all the more tightly, until the skin stretched over her knuckles had paled to bone white and the combination of leather and her nails dug sharply into the skin of her palms.  She watched as he climbed the hill and dismounted, saw how he studied the turned up ground and bit down on the inside of her cheek.  She slid numbly from the saddle as he knelt and began to dig with a trowel.  Standing just behind him, she watched as he unearthed a hand, the little finger bearing her father's rough-crafted gold ring.  She immediately turned away, her hands rising to cover her face while the grief rose inside of her.  It was all she could do to keep herself from wailing as the full impact of her loss hit her mercilessly. 

Gone.  All gone.  Killed and buried in a shallow grave.  Her father, her mother...her siblings and all of their children...She slowly sank to the ground and hugged her knees to her chest, her shoulders shaking with silent, ragged sobs.  Hatred for Ampetrion burned like a coal in her heart.  He had taken her because it wasn't safe, but he had spared no such thought or consideration for her beloved family.  He could have taken them all to his home, but he had left them behind instead and now she was the only one left.  She had waited too long to come, and while the thought occurred to her that it had likely saved her own life, Valaria would have been happy to be buried with them right then. 

What was left for her now?  Where would she go?  Certainly she would never go back to Ampetrion, not unless it was to drive a blade right through his black heart.  She could see nothing that remained of her family's possessions nor livestock, and if her father's ring were any indication, any wealth her family had had gone to the grave with them.  It took bandits out of suspect; bandits would have taken anything and everything that could be sold or traded, especially gold.   After what seemed like an eternity, Valaria rose back to shaky feet.  All of the color had drained from her face, giving her a sickly cast, and when she spoke her voice was without inflection.  "Thank you for helping me find them.  Give...Give your Master my regards."

She looked back at the disturbed earth where her family rested, but made no move to get back on the horse.  Instead, she moved listlessly towards rocks that had been cast aside during the burial and placed them at the edge of the grave, the beginnings of a stone circle forming. 

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 20, 2019, 05:47:29 PM
Roe followed the others up the slope, sliding out of the saddle as he saw what Malachi had unearthed. He approached Valaria, resting a hand on her shoulder gently, but the old man remained silent; what was there to say that could make anything any better? Nothing.

Malachi was restless, his eyes constantly travelling up to the sky, even though the moon was still obscured by the rain clouds.

"I must leave." The young man muttered grimly. "I have things that I must attend to."

Roe frowned; he was leaving now? Yet he could tell from Malachi's expression that there was some genuine reluctance. Then he realised, it was near dawn.

"Mr Roe." Malachi approached him, dropping his voice to a whisper. "Stay with her."
"Aye, my lord." He nodded as Malachi swung back into the saddle, then a moment later, the young man had disappeared into the trees.

Remaining silent, Roe joined Valaria, following her lead and laying out the rocks. He worked in silence, prepared to step away if she gave the order. Some things needed to be done alone, but sometimes, the option to work side by side of another was appreciated.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 21, 2019, 11:39:38 AM
Valaria looked up when Malachi spoke, noted the reluctance in his voice through the haze currently shrouding her mind.  He didn't seem as though he wanted to go, but he had things he had to attend to.  It seemed strange to her that he should be so busy; did the man ever sleep?  She said nothing, however, pausing in her quest for stones to remove the ring gently from her father's hand and slip it over her own, before gently covering the hand back up again.  The ring was heavy on her finger and far too big, and it spun around several times, attempting to fall off every time she reached out to pick another rock for the circle of stones about her family's grave.  She resolved to find a length of string or cord to wear around her neck.  She didn't hear Malachi's words to Roe; she moved as if in a trance, lining rock after rock and doing her best not to think of all the memories she had of her family, all the memories she would miss out on from that point on without success.  Her hands trembled faintly, and it was difficult to see the world through the blurring moisture in her eyes. 

She was unbothered by Roe's assistance; his help was gratefully received and his kindness was a small seed of hope in an otherwise bleak heart.  He didn't have to help her, didn't have to even linger in the area with her any more than Staunton had had to help her get to her family, yet he did.  Kindness was a hard thing to come by even in the best of times, and it was no more lost on her than Staunton's assistance in the matter of finding her family was.  As the ring reached completion, she stepped back and wrapped her arms around herself tightly, as if afraid that she would simply fall into pieces if she didn't hold herself together.  "Thank you," she whispered to the elder man. 

She stared at the mound in silence, eyes burning and yet somehow dry now.  A part of her had known that this was what she would find, that a happy ending where she found her family alive and well and spent the rest of her days among them had not been in the cards, but experiencing such a disappointment first hand left her feeling lost and incredibly alone.  "I'm very grateful for everything you have done for me, Mr. Roe.  I..."  What was she going to do now?  Perhaps she could return to Lourdes, maybe find work in a tavern somewhere.  That had it's own dangers; likely no one would consider her unless she was willing to work on her back, and the thought of doing so made her skin crawl.  There were not many other options for a woman on her own, but perhaps there was other work available.  Roe had lived in Lourdes for a long time, perhaps he knew?  "I was wondering if you knew whether there was work for someone like me in Lourdes?  I...I have no where else to go." 

Gods she hoped that there were more options for her than 'tavern wench'. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 21, 2019, 01:59:39 PM
Roe smiled sadly, directing Valaria back towards the horses.
"I was going to suggest that you came back to Lourdes with me."
He paused, frowning as he looked back at the grave that they had constructed.

"Although, if you need more time... It won't be a problem."

"I had plans to vist my son and his family, it would be my pleasure if you came as well as my guest. You look as if you could stand a decent home cooked meal and a warm bed."

He sighed, adjusting his horse's girth ready for the journey back.
"Beyond that, if Mr Staunton was invested in you finding your family safely, then maybe he would be able to find a place for you in the Citadel."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 21, 2019, 03:30:31 PM
Valaria looked up at him, surprise widening her features.  She had hoped for information, but the very last thing she had expected was for Roe to offer her a place to sleep while she figured out her next step.  She was but a stranger to him, really, and he was willing to bring her home as a guest.  All at once she had thrown her arms around him like an old friend rather than a new acquaintance, before she even realized that she was doing it.  She pulled away without lingering too long, swiping her sleeve across her eyes.  "If you are sure that I am not intruding, I gladly accept your offer.  Thank you, Mr. Roe."

She considered the grave for a long moment, silence stretching while she decided whether she wanted to stay or leave.  Finally, she turned away and moved towards the horse that Staunton had loaned her, smoothing a hand over the animal's neck.  "No...I would rather go.  Staying will not bring them back, nor will it soothe the ache of their absence.  I can do nothing more for them," she murmured, her voice strained. 

With a last look at the hill and the circle of stones they had made, Valaria hoisted herself back onto her horse and gave Roe a small nod.  Would Staunton hire her?  Certainly with a hold so large, there had to be plenty of serving work that could be done.  More, that would give her the opportunity to pay the Lord back for his generous assistance.  She resolved to meet with him, and speak to him about the possibility.  She found that she would rather start there than a tavern anyhow, though it would remain an option if all else failed.  "If there is anything I may do in return, please do not hesitate to inform me.  I do not wish to be a burden to you, especially when you've been so kind."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 22, 2019, 11:03:18 AM
"Hey." Roe gave an awkward chuckle as the young woman released him from the unexpected embrace. "It will be no trouble, I assure you."

"My son, Alain and his wife, Marie, I'm sure they would love to meet you. They always cook to feed a small army."

He shrugged, hauling himself stiffly into the saddle.
"Don't you worry about me, life is too short to always be concerned about paying someone back."

Checking that Valaria was ready with a quick glance, Roe turned his horse towards the road.

"Young Mr Crane might join us on the way back, or not. I know not what his duties were. One thing for sure, though, we will need to rest before the day is done. Neither of us have had much sleep of late."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 22, 2019, 12:46:19 PM
Valaria wanted to argue, but she didn't.  She resolved to help any way she could in the time she stayed, whether it meant doing the washing or the cooking, or even looking after little ones.  She didn't need to insist that she would do her part, a simple showing of such would suffice when the time came.  "Thank you."

She urged her horse after his, riding back in the direction of the road they had come from.  Her earlier curiosity about Malachi resurfaced with Roe's words, and the thought once more occurred to her that it seemed strange how busy the young man was.  It seemed he was always going somewhere or doing something; did he even have the time to sleep?  Perhaps that was the reason for the shadows beneath his eyes, the pallor of his skin.  She had to agree with Roe; while she wasn't certain she could sleep at the moment, she knew that she was tired down to her bones.  "You are right."

She resisted the urge to look over her shoulder at the retreating hill.  Instead, she shook her head, eyes casting downward to the ground rather than the path ahead.  "We have a long way ahead of us.  Sleep will do us both some good.  Sleep and a hot meal.  I will put something together for us when we stop."

After an extended moment of quiet, Valaria looked at Roe.  "It seems strange that one as young as Malachi has so many duties to attend.  Is this a normal thing, for him to be doing so many things at once?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 24, 2019, 04:28:34 PM
Roe glanced back up the rise to where the grave was and grimaced.
"I'd rather make a decent distance towards home before we decide to rest."

By now, the sun was fully up, sending a warm glow through the trees. Finding the road, Roe turned his horse towards home.

He nodded at the question.
"Sometimes I forget how young Mr Crane really is. He is a very capable man. I understand that Mr Staunton raised him for a good number of years. I think I heard Malachi even call him father, but of course, they speak English together, for the most part."

Roe shrugged, he only knew a smattering of words in that tongue.

"Staunton trusts him above all others. For good reason too. If he asks Malachi to do something, then you can be sure it will be done, or there will be a damn good reason why it could not be done."

He shook his head with a smile.
"As to how he can do it all? He has the energy of youth. Perhaps it will all catch up with him when he gets as old as I?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 12, 2019, 12:02:21 PM
Valaria said nothing, only nodded when Roe expressed his preferences of moving on a bit more before making camp.  She agreed with him; she couldn't bear the thought of sleeping so close to where her family had been killed, buried.  She listened as they rode, forcing her exhaustion to the back of her mind in favor of listening to what Mr. Roe had to say about Malachi and Staunton.  Staunton himself hardly seemed old enough to raise a son Malachi's age, but she supposed that such a thing didn't matter much when it came to taking in orphaned children.  Staunton seemed kind and generous enough in her limited experience with him, so it didn't seem so beyond the pale to her. 

She nodded when Roe mentioned Malachi's capabilities, his loyalty, but some small thought in the back of her mind insisted that there was something...different about Malachi, that somehow the 'energy of youth' as Roe put it wouldn't simply fade away when Malachi attained a greater age.  She didn't know why she thought that, and while she had some suspicions, none of them had a root reason.  Certainly there were oddities, but nothing really so out of the ordinary as to bring those suspicions to the forefront.  Valaria decided to put those thoughts from her mind, as it didn't really affect her. 

"Perhaps," she replied quietly, staring fixedly ahead of them.  The sun was bright, hanging over the horizon like a ripe fruit.  She closed her eyes in favor of feeling the warmth of it on her face, warmth that she was unable to help but think that her family would never feel again.  Once more she felt the grief like a stone in her throat, choking her air off and remaining in place no matter how much she swallowed against it.  It was so hard not think about it, so hard to shove those feelings down until she had a moment to herself when her tears wouldn't trouble anyone else.  She tried and failed, but at least her tears were silent.  She reassured herself that it was alright, she had all the right in the world to grieve her loss, but all the same she couldn't bring herself to look at Roe again until her tears had run their course and she felt like little more than an empty shell.  At that point, all she wanted to do was sleep. 

"Could we stop for now, please?  I...I cannot go any further.  I am sorry," Valaria whispered, no small amount of embarrassment in her tone.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 21, 2019, 11:23:47 AM
"Aye." Roe nodded as he slowed his horse. "Forgive me, I've pushed us both too far."

He gave her a tired smile as he turned his horse off the road to look for a decent camp site.

"Sometimes I forget that not everyone has an arse made of leather like mine."

Around the next corner was a decent clearing, sheltered enough from the road to be out of sight of anyone passing who wasn't specifically looking for them. Sliding out of the saddle, he led his horse over to a tree and tethered it before moving to take Valaria's horse.

He worked automatically, not hampering any of Valaria's attempts to assist, but not expecting her to all the same.

It was mid afternoon, but it was perhaps the best time to rest, especially after so much done during the night before.

The rain had stopped some time ago, fortunately, but the wood around them was still damp.

Roe settled down to make a small fire, his back leaning against a tree. He reached into his pack for the last remains of their supplies.

"We'll be back home by tomorrow. Eat. Rest."

Like before, he did not word it as command, he did not need to. It was clear that they could both use a good night's sleep, but for now, they'd have to settle for a few hours before they reached the Citadel.

***

Roe woke up with a jerk. A blade was at his throat and rough hands had hold of him. Across from the dying fire, two men held Valaria, pinning her down as they tied her with her hands behind her back.

"Please, sir, let her..." The men didn't even let him finish his sentence before he was struck hard with a blow that rocked his head to one side. He could taste the coppery flavour of blood in his mouth. His hands bound, he almost fell flat on his face.

The men spoke a language that Roe could not understand, but their intent was clear as he was dragged to his feet and shoved towards the road, Valaria beside him.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 21, 2019, 11:52:54 AM
Valaria shook her head, disagreeing with Roe's claim that he had pushed them too hard.  "No, Mr. Roe, not at all." 

The young woman assisted with setting up camp, choosing tasks which placed her out from beneath Roe's feet.  She was an old hand at making and breaking camp, taught well to find things that needed to be done rather than standing around uselessly.  Her eyes burned viciously from fatigue and her body ached everywhere from the ride, especially her rear, but she grinned at Roe's comment all the same.  She ate when she was bid to, and when that was done and it came time to rest, she crawled beneath her blanket and was asleep almost instantly. 

In a matter of what seemed only to be seconds of time after closing her eyes, Valaria found herself dragged from her bedroll and unceremoniously rolled onto her belly where they bound her hands tightly behind her back.  She staggered on her feet when they yanked her up and blinked in groggy confusion at the soldiers, who gripped her arms like a vice on either side.  When she asked what was going on, one of them jerked her unpleasantly and told her to shut it.  They spoke in Spanish and none wore any insignia or marks that depicted who they were or who might have sent them, and while Roe didn't seem to be able to understand a word that they were saying, she did.  She cried out in alarm when one of them hit Roe, the sound of the hard impact to his head making her wince.  They did not want them to speak, but Valaria found words rushing past her lips just the same, regardless.

"There is no reason to hurt him!" She spat in their tongue.  "You are making a mistake.  I demand to know why you are taking us prisoner, immediately!"   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 22, 2019, 04:39:13 PM
"You're not in a position to demand anything."

The Spaniard who appeared to be in charge growled irritably and he signalled to his men to herd them onwards still faster. The soldiers ignored their captives' verbal protests, responding with nothing but a sharp blow and a curse that Roe was fortunate not to understand.

They were pushed up a steep hill, difficult to climb with their hands secured so tightly behind their backs. Finally, just by the summit of the hill, nestled in the trees was a run down decrepit farmhouse, the barns looking as if they were almost falling down.

Their horses were led into the barns and they were dragged into the house. Roe found himself wondering what had happened to the family who had lived there. Following closely to that thought was the inevitable question of what would happen to them.

They were taken to a cellar, beneath the floor of the kitchen, locked in what had once been a pantry. The guards make sure to tighten the ropes that held them before leaving, bolting the door behind them and plunging them into darkness.

"Spaniards?" Roe whispered hoarsely; he'd heard talk of some sort of difficulties with Spaniards recently, invading French territory, yet with some sort of vendetta against Staunton, yet as to who or why they did what they did, he had no idea.

Roe struggled with the ropes, yet he could feel them cutting into his wrists.

"I'm sorry." He kept his voice to a whisper, unsure if their captors were listening. "I should have kept watch."

They were not kept waiting for long. The door was thrown open and Valaria was dragged up the stone stairs by the soldiers. Roe called out to them to leave her be, but they ignored him.

***

"Please, sit down."

The figure standing at the window spoke in heavily accented French, his tone as if she actually had a choice. The soldiers tied her firmly to the chair and stepped back against the wall.

He turned to look at her and the light showed him to be a well dressed and well groomed man, in his late forties, with just a dusting of grey in his short black hair and beard. He was clearly a nobleman, from how he stood, how he spoke as well as how he dressed.

"My name is Don Alejandro Luis Alvarez Gonzales."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 22, 2019, 05:17:24 PM
Valaria gave Roe a small nod, eyes scanning their captors.  Upon his apology, she met his eyes and smiled slightly.  "Please Mr. Roe.  This is not your fault, do not even think it."  She abruptly quieted when one of the soldiers smacked her across the back of the head and ordered her silence, wincing.  Her cheeks flushed with anger and it was clear she was on the verge of saying something, but thought better of it until they were left alone. 

"Whatever happens, Mr. Roe, say whatever you must say to free yourself.  Do not worry for me, I am resourceful," she whispered.

---

Valaria was brought to a room, where the man she assumed was in charge stood waiting.  She sat at his word, mouth twisting faintly when the soldiers promptly tied her to the chair.  She thought to say that it was unnecessary, but decided that it was a better choice to keep her mouth shut until she was addressed.  She watched the soldiers take up stance against the wall, then turned her attention to the man in the room.  Her gaze was shrewd when he turned.  He was no one that she recognized, nor did his name ring as familiar to her, but that was not unexpected.  It was the second time in a week that she had been captured, bound to a chair, and faced with some Lord or another, though she highly doubted this man, for all his manners and bearing, would be as magnanimous as Staunton had been with her.  She needed to tread carefully.

After a long moment, she bowed her head briefly but respectfully and replied in Spanish.  "Don Alejandro, I am called Valaria.  I would say that it is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, sir, but I am bound to this chair.  Would you please enlighten me as to why?"

 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 22, 2019, 05:33:20 PM
Don Alejandro's eyes seemed to light up with delight as Valaria addressed him in his own language. Immediately, he switched to join her.

"Ahh, I see that my men had not been lying when they reported that you spoke Spanish. Indeed, you have an excellent grasp of my language."

He ignored her question completely, along with the barb that accompanied it.

"It surprises me that a young woman found out here in the woods could have had such an excellent schooling."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 22, 2019, 06:03:17 PM
Valaria met his eyes unblinkingly at his comment, one eyebrow twitching upward.  "My Grandfather is a noble in Italy, my lord.  He made certain that I was brought up as a woman of good breeding and usefulness to whomever he chooses for my husband.  Language was emphasized," she replied, her voice even but polite.  "As to why I was in the woods, I was captured for ransom by the man brought in with me.  I had little choice in the matter."

She fell silent then, watching him expectantly.  Asking did not seem to make a difference no matter who the question was directed to.  All that was left then was to wait for whatever Don Alejandro chose to disclose, and she still felt as though pushing her luck was not a good idea.  So she sat silently and waited. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 23, 2019, 01:59:23 PM
"Your grandfather?" It was Don Alejandro's turn to raise his eyebrow. "Who is he? He must be worried sick. I can, of course, send word that you are finally safe."

In a different room, there was a muffled cry of pain, but it was clearly Roe's voice. Don Alejandro ignored it, smiling down at Valaria.

"I am glad that we found you when we did, before any serious harm could have come to you."

He approached her, taking slow, measured steps.
"Please forgive the actions of my men, Miss Valaria. We have been hunting a notorious criminal, one who has run from crimes committed in my homeland."

Roe's scream sounded again, yet still Don Alejandro acted as if he could not even hear it.

"We must take certain... precautions. This man that captured you, holding you for ransom. Do you know who he received his orders from?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 23, 2019, 02:22:33 PM
Valaria had no desire to tell him who her grandfather was.  For one, she did not know how many enemies Ampetrion had, but there were enough of them running around to pose a serious threat if she said too much.  She couldn't give him a false name either.  Roe's cry of pain disrupted her thoughts and caused her to flinch, head immediately turning in the direction the sound was coming from.  They were hurting him.  Her brow furrowed, but she tore her attention away from the sound and focused it back on the danger in that room currently making conversation with her.  "He had no intention of harming me.  He was far kinder than the company I keep at home."  She tried to keep her voice even and managed it by the skin of her teeth. 

When Don Alejandro posed the question of who Roe worked for, she shook her head.  "I do not, sir.  He only mentioned a name once, but I did not hear it clearly.  I believe it starts with a 'T', but I could be wrong."

More pain from the other room, and Valaria felt a brief wave of nausea twist at her insides.  She was beginning to feel very afraid of the outcome of this.  She did not know what to expect, and she was not enjoying that feeling.  How was she going to get out of this?  How were they going to get out of this?  "Are you going to hurt me now too, Don Alejandro?"

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 23, 2019, 04:37:31 PM
Don Alejandro's smile did not waver even for an instant as he watched Valaria's reaction to the pain being caused not far away.

"No intention, just as long as the prospect of being paid the ransom remains." Don Alejandro's smile widened. "I wonder how long his kindness would have lasted had the ransom been withheld?"

The Spaniard did not seem to be too perturbed that she could not remember the name of her captor. He shrugged, smiling thinly.

"No matter, I am sure that man will tell us what we need to know, in time."

As if on cue, there was another set of screams from the other room.

"Oh, my dear, no. I'm sure that it won't need to come to that."

Don Alejandro chuckled quietly, shaking his head.

"Now then, you were about to tell me about your grandfather?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 23, 2019, 04:58:13 PM
Valaria winced when Roe loosed another scream, her hands balling into fists below the ropes binding them.  Roe didn't deserve such treatment and she wanted more than anything to say so, but what good would it do?  Don Alejandro would likely torture Roe until he got what he wanted, and making a plea of mercy to him on behalf of Roe's family wasn't likely to sway the man.  He struck her as far too cold for true sentiment.  She looked away when he asked her about her grandfather.

"My grandfather is a monster.  I had only just managed to escape him when the gentleman Roe found me.  I would rather die than be returned," Valaria said, surprised to realize that this was true.  Certainly life under Ampetrion's roof was softer, not to mention safer, and the education was a rare privilege not afforded to many, but Valaria knew she was only a form of currency to be traded in exchange for whatever goals his ends dictated.  He kept her in the dark, ignorant of anything even when it affected her.  Her chin lifted in subtle defiance.  She would not go willingly back to the prison Ampetrion had constructed for her.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 23, 2019, 05:13:00 PM
Don Alejandro raised an eyebrow.
"Who said anything about returning you?"

The Spaniard began to pace slowly in front of her.
"All I seek is information. It might be that your situation is utterly unrelated to my own, or it might be that your kidnapper is linked to the criminals that I am searching for."

"I cannot afford to ignore this."

He paused in his pacing and turned to face her.
"If your grandfather is a monster, then why do you protect him by not even speaking his name?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 23, 2019, 05:34:17 PM
Valaria met his gaze, mouth turning downward in a hard frown.  She wasn't protecting Ampetrion.  She was protecting herself.  Her family had been murdered and buried in a shallow grave on a remote hillside, and she could only assume that such a thing had been done because of Ampetrion, directly or indirectly.  She did not know Don Alejandro, but even as she considered telling him these things, something inside of her warned her not to.  There was no telling what he would do with that information, but the truth of the matter was that he could very well have her killed whether she admitted who her grandfather was or not.  She did not want to, but was there really a choice?  Should she not hope for the best?  She had been honest with Staunton, after all...but he was not Staunton.

"I am not protecting him," she finally said, her reluctance to do so obvious.  "He is hated, and I did not wish to be tainted by his name, but I see that I have little choice in the matter.  His name is Ampetrion Nyari.  He is a Baron within the Italian court." 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 23, 2019, 05:50:01 PM
For the first time in their entire conversation, Don Alejandro seemed taken aback. His surprise at the mention of Ampetrion Nyari slipping through the mask before he could put his well schooled features back under control.

They had happened upon a human relative of Ampetrion Nyari? Don Alejandro could not believe his luck. Slowly, a smile spread across his face.

"I see." He whispered softly. "My dear, I can honestly say that I have no intention of returning you to your grandfather."

He closed the gap between them and leaned down. In a sudden movement, the Spaniard removed a small knife from his doublet and slit the ropes that held her so tightly.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 23, 2019, 05:59:42 PM
Valaria caught the expression on his face before he managed to conceal it again.  He recognized the name.  He knew who Ampetrion was, and just like that Valaria's heartbeat began beating as rapidly as a hummingbird's wings.  She found that she did not trust his smile, and she could not help but to cringe back a touch as he drew the knife and came near.  Her breath caught in her throat and held, even as he sliced through the ropes that held her.  She didn't immediately stand, nor did she take her eyes from him while she rubbed gingerly at her wrists.

So he would not return her, but that left a lot of options open that were just as unpleasant, if not more so.  Her intuition was insisting that she had effectively tightened the rope around her neck in admitting Ampetrion's name. 

"Then what is your intention, my Lord?" She whispered, hating herself for asking.  She didn't want to know, not really.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 23, 2019, 06:32:57 PM
Don Alejandro stepped back slowly, returning his knife to its place, concealed in the folds of his clothing.

It was a very good question, indeed, it was not one that he was able to answer truthfully at this moment. Ampetrion having links in this part of the world had the possibility of changing everything.

"I do not wish to see you harmed."

Don Alejandro was truthful in that sentiment, but he was thinking more of how her presence there would benefit their cause.

"Italy is some way away, Miss Valaria. Did you come all this way, or... perhaps... Ampetrion Nyari is closer than expected?"

He watched her intently, frowning in irritation as the screams of his other captive cut through his thoughts.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 24, 2019, 09:08:02 AM
He could wish her no harm, but living under Ampetrion's roof had taught Valaria that a person could wish another no harm and still order harm be done.  There was little reassurance in his words, but it was good enough for now.  She remained seated, still rubbing at her wrists absently. 

"I do not know where Ampetrion is.  I purposely left while he was away on business--and before you ask where he went, My Lord, I can assure you that he never deigns to tell me anything," she sighed.  The young woman paused then, her hands stilling.  "The truth is that I convinced one of his hired men to spirit me away, but that soured not long after.  He made...certain assumptions and I felt endangered, so I left him somewhere near the border of France.  Not long after, Mr. Roe found me.  As for Ampetrion, Don Alejandro, I do not know where my Grandfather is.  For all I know, he may still be away conducting his business and is still unaware that I have gone."

She flinched again when Roe screamed, eyes squeezing shut tightly.  It was despicable, what people were capable of doing to other people.  All she could think of was Roe and his family, and the small toy he had been carving for one of his grandchildren.  Would he be able to finish it?  To gift it to the babe he was making it for?  It was not right, that he should endure such pain.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 24, 2019, 05:04:03 PM
Don Alejandro was silent for a long time, watching Valaria, weighing her words carefully.

"It seems that you have had a very difficult journey to get here, my lady. And to face so many questions after you have arrived?"

He chuckled, his previous unsettling manner melting away to reveal the perfect charming gentleman.

"Forgive me, my lady. I will let you rest now. We may speak again, once you have had time to recover. I will have food brought to you."

He motioned towards his guards with a flick of his fingers.
"Show her to the upper room." He bowed at Valaria. "I hope it will be of adequate comfort, for the time being. I have business to attend to."

He turned and swept out of the room, leaving Valaria with the two hard faced guards, the same ones who had shown no qualms in striking her on the journey up the steep hill.

***

As darkness fell, Malachi pulled himself out of the burrow that he had dug for himself, underneath a barn. He had taken just enough blood from the farmer and his wife as they slept, ensuring that they would both be surprisingly tired and lethargic during the day. It would not matter much to them; it was a mysterious illness that would disappear after no more than a few days.

Brushing himself off, he went to find his horse, grazing peacefully where he had tethered it, in a secluded area not far away.

Climbing into the saddle, Malachi turned his horse towards the road and began to look for signs of Roe and Valaria. The ground was still soft after the recent rainfall and he found their hoofprints easily, noting where they had left the road and their campsite not far away.

Frowning, Malachi dismounted. In a way, it seemed to be reminiscent of the camp that they had found the night before, hardly the tidy and discreet remains that a man like Roe was in the habit of leaving behind. The sack that had contained their supplies lay on the ground, the crumbs spilling out for the birds to feast on.

Were those other footprints? Large boots in the sodden ash that had been their fire? Yet perhaps more damning was the small object that Malachi found in the grass close by, the small wooden whistle that Roe had been carving. He picked it up and slid it into his pocket.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 24, 2019, 05:21:56 PM
"It has been a whirlwind, my Lord," Valaria agreed.  He ordered her taken to a room where she could rest, and assured her that food would be brought.  Valaria was not fooled; generous as the offer was, she knew that she was still very much a prisoner.  Still, she bowed her head slightly.  "You have my sincerest gratitude for your hospitality, Don Alejandro."

Without a word, she stood and accompanied the guards upstairs to a high room, glancing behind her as they closed her within.  She took stock of her surroundings; a small room with simple furnishings and a window.  She promptly moved to the window and looked out, noting that she was at least three levels up.  There was no escape through it, and she knew the guards had not gone far.  Sighing softly, she curled up on the bed and waited.  She could no longer hear Roe's screams, but that was only of minimal comfort; she may have been removed, but that did not mean that whatever torture he was enduring would stop. 

There was a part of her that wondered if Malachi would come back and find their camp.  Would he track them down, try to help?  Could one man rescue one person in an enemy's heavily guarded fortress, not to mention two?  Would he bother?  For Roe's sake, she sincerely hoped so.  Even if Malachi could only get to Roe, that was enough for her.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 25, 2019, 02:02:37 PM
The further he went, the more of a picture that Malachi was beginning to build of what had happened. Several men, heavy set and strong, from their bootprints, had intercepted Valaria and Roe. They had changed direction abruptly, heading up into the hills together, on foot.

There had been little attempt at disguising their path and Malachi was glad of this; the emphasis seemed to be on speed rather than any form of stealth. They were confident men, sure of themselves and their positions. Soldiers after a recent victory perhaps. Malachi thought of the grave that they had found and he grimaced, some victory.

There was only one point where he was not sure where they had gone; the ground had grown rocky on this section, without the soft mud that had made tracking them so easy. He dismounted, looking this way and that for signs of their path.

He frowned, staring into the undergrowth. Was that something catching the moonlight? He bent down and looked closer, finding a small silver ring. Malachi slid it into his pocket and then returned to his horse, glad of a clear direction.

He could smell the fire from the farmhouse's chimney long before the building came into view. Malachi dismounted at a safe distance and tethered his horse before venturing further.

He watched the house for a long time, noting the path that the guards made as they patrolled. Waiting until one of them neared, out of sight of the other guard, Malachi struck, smothering his cries as he pulled him back into the shadows by the barn.

"You found a man and a woman earlier, where are they?" He spoke quietly into the man's ear, holding him with a vice like grip.

Clearly, the guard did not understand his French, so he repeated it in Spanish.

"The Frenchman was taken for questioning."
"Then you should pray that he still lives." Malachi hissed, tightening his hold.
"He does, I swear it, He's inside."
"Where?"
"Ground floor. Room next to the kitchen."
"And the woman?"
"She wasnt harmed. She's in the attic room. Please, sir, let me go. I can show you, I..."

Malachi silenced him abruptly, snapping his neck. He dragged the man's body to the undergrowth behind the barn and approached the house.

Moving silently, Malachi entered the house using a small side door, finding himself in the kitchen, although what would normally have been a warm and inviting environment was now cold and dead. Malachi paused, hearing the sounds of someone pacing the corridors, yet the moment he heard them disappear, he carried on. Standing outside the door that the guard had mentioned, Malachi could hear the sound of ragged breathing within.

He found Roe stretched out on a table, shackled tightly. He had been beaten badly and was bleeding from a number of small wounds, calculated to cause pain rather than to cause too much damage.

"Etienne." Malachi whispered as he reached up to unlock his shackles. The scout groaned, his eyes fluttering open.

"Mr Crane... I'm sorry, I couldn't stop them. I..."
"Hush." Malachi shook his head, his voice uncharacteristically gentle. "I'll find her. Come now, lets get you out."

Malachi supported Roe, carrying him out of the house, once he was sure that they were not in danger of being seen by any of the surviving guards. He left him in the trees, out of sight, hopefully, with promises of his return.

He had no idea how long he had to work, but it seemed that the easiest way of reaching her without being spotted was to climb. He stopped outside the single attic window and knocked lightly, not wanting to cause any panic by startling her.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 25, 2019, 02:47:11 PM
Valaria spent the greater part of the time pacing.  She tried to sleep, but her mind and her heart were both moving far too quickly for anything remotely close to rest.  She moved from the bed to the door and listened, hearing footsteps down the hall moving towards the door, a constant back-and-forth patrol.  She crossed the room to the window and peered out, feeling cagey at the stillness of the night outside.  She went to the small chair and sat down, folding her hands on her lap.  Her mind threw useless plans of escape to the forefront, none of which did her any good.  She thought that she could perhaps break the window and jump out, but there were two major problems with that; it was too high for her to leap without sustaining injury, and she did not want to leave Roe behind.  She didn't even know if Roe was still alive, but if there was a chance that he was, she didn't want to abandon him to a fate at the hands of the Don. 

A tapping on the window alerted her and she looked up, making out a face hovering in front of the glass.  Valaria frowned and bolted to her feet, crossing the short distance between the chair in the window like a breeze.  Bracing her hands on either side of the window, she realized that it was Malachi, and he had scaled the house to reach the window.  Such a feat would not have been easy even for a skilled climber.  How could he possibly be so skilled at such things at such a young age?  Valaria forced herself to stop thinking about how he had done it.  He was here to help them, and he probably had some sort of rope to aid his climb.  Had he found Roe yet? 

She signaled him to wait a moment, then moved back to the door, listening for the patrol outside.  The steps were growing closer, but soon they would move away again and she would have a better chance of getting away.  She couldn't open the window, but perhaps she could break it.  When the footsteps moved away from the door again, she gathered the blanket from the bed and draped it over her shoulder.  Next she grabbed the chair. 

"Move away," she mouthed, waving Malachi away from the window.  When he had, she covered the window with the blanket to muffle the break, positioned the legs of the chair, and thrust her shoulder against the seat.  She was rewarded with the sound of shattering glass.  Dropping both the blanket and the chair, she scrambled forward and squeezed through the busted panes of glass, hissing softly when the glass sliced through cloth and into her flesh in the process.  She stopped just short of coming completely out, eyes fixed on the ground well below her.  Her breath caught in her throat and she looked to Malachi for guidance on what to do next. "Did you find Mr. Roe?" She asked in a whisper, pulling herself the rest of the way out in case one of the soldiers came through the door.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 25, 2019, 03:10:06 PM
Malachi nodded silently, shifting his body over to the left and dangling by one hand from the eaves of the house as he waited for Valaria to break the window. Despite the precarious nature of his position, he looked as if he could hang there indefinitely.

The window smashing from inside was probably the quietest way of doing it, especially with Valaria covering the glass. If she had not, then he would have probably resorted to breaking the wooden frame that held the glass.

"He's out." Malachi nodded, whispering softly. "We need to move quickly."

Still keeping his grip, he turned his body around, dangling with his back to her.

"Hold on. I'm a good climber."

They did not have time for any discussion on exactly how a young thin man was strong enough to hold both himself and her weight as he climbed.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 25, 2019, 03:28:02 PM
Valaria allowed herself a moment of relief at hearing confirmation that Roe was alright and out safely, but there was little time to spare for anything else.  She was prepared to do anything that Malachi told her to do, but there was a moment of doubt when the words actually came.  Her expression became perplexed and uncertain.  Setting aside that he was holding to the rafters with only the one hand, her added weight would surely send them into a violent drop to the ground below.  "Are you completely mad?" She hissed softly, glancing back through the window.  She could hear the steps lingering outside.  It was insanity, but their time had run out.  Either she did as he told her, or risked remaining captured by the Spanish. 

Punching down the panic trying to overwhelm her, she grit her teeth and climbed onto his back, eyes immediately fluttering shut so that she didn't have to watch the plummet to the ground that was sure to happen next. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on October 25, 2019, 04:09:58 PM
"Yes." Malachi hissed. "Now come on."

Unless she wanted to take her chances inside the house? To his relief, she complied and climbed on his back. His fingers clutching at the wooden walls, Malachi climbed down, moving with apparent ease.

When they reached the ground, he motioned her to follow, remaining silent.

Roe lay where he had been left, looking barely conscious. He stirred as they approached, groaning faintly and Malachi stooped to lift him.

"My horse is this way, but he can't carry three." He nodded towards the barn. "See what you can find?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on October 30, 2019, 11:09:02 AM
Valaria found herself without words, even if she had wanted to speak.  Malachi moved with an inhuman ability on the climb down.  There was no way that a young man of his size should have been able to carry the full weight of another person on a tenuous climb downward from a window on the third floor of the house—without the aid of ropes.  More, he had done it so gracefully; he was both sure-footed and sure-handed, and he may as well have been completely unaware of her presence despite clinging to him, it seemed to her.

There was something else.  In a few ways only, Malachi reminded her of someone.

Ampetrion.

While they lacked much in the way of similarities in personality or physical appearance, Valaria had noted that occasionally Ampetrion would slip.  There had been something unnatural about him too.  They were little things that simply didn’t make sense, that seemed so small yet held enough meaning to be noticed.  Lifting something that should have been too heavy, speed beyond even a fit man should be able to achieve, mysterious work which they refused to speak of and offered only a bare minimum excuse…

It was all secrets, and men like Malachi and Ampetrion were the sort to keep them.  They didn’t like it when you asked questions or tried to puzzle those secrets out, and if you were to discover the answer for yourself, woe often followed.  It was best to just watch and learn and keep quiet about what she saw until he brought it up. 

When they reached the ground Valaria promptly followed Malachi, keeping her mouth and her footsteps as quiet as she could.  Now wasn’t the time for mysteries and suspicion.  There would be plenty of time for that if they were able to make their escape. 

There was a rush of relief when she saw Roe.  She bent to help the older man up, but Malachi was quicker to it.  She dipped her head in a nod when he made the request to check the barn, and skirted low on the edge of the trees to go through the back.  She rose slowly, just enough to get a quick look inside before ducking down again.  She thought she saw someone in the hay near the front, but the stables were full of horses.  She rose to get a longer look, and felt her stomach knot.

Valaria opened the latch to the door and went inside, helpless but to stare at what greeted her.  The stables had been recently mucked out, and there was fresh straw scattered on the hardpack.  Horses shifted in their stalls, hoofs scuffing the dirt.  In the corner, the family who must have lived in the home before the Spaniards came were piled and half-buried in hay.  An ancient old woman, a man and woman of middling years, two older children, and…and tots.  An entire family…They had murdered an entire family, most of them children. 

Valaria couldn’t breathe.  She knew what she needed to do, and she knew that Malachi and Roe were waiting on her, but her feet wouldn’t budge.  She found herself overwhelmed with grief.  They had been cast aside into the barn like rubbish, without even the courtesy of a shallow burial like her family had been given.  So many lives cut short, so many stories ended, and the Spaniards had done it without a second’s hesitation so they could be in relative comfort.  Had they killed her family too?  Surely there couldn’t be that many diabolic men in the area, so it was very possible.  It was evil, all of it, and Valaria felt her heavy sadness gradually melt into rage. 

She could feel her feet again, and darted to grab what she needed to get two more horses ready.  She couldn’t find a way to make them pay if she died here or got recaptured, and it was with a purpose that she did what she had been sent in to do.  The horses were saddled quickly, and she led them both through the door and back towards where Malachi and Roe were waiting.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 03, 2019, 03:52:08 PM
"I told them nothing, my lord, you must know that." Roe sounded almost desperate, holding Malachi's arm for support.

"I know." Malachi replied quietly.
"I'm sorry."
"There's no need."

Valaria returned, leading two horses. Malachi frowned lightly; was that a smell of death coming from the barn? His eyes narrowed, resting on Valaria for a moment before he turned to Roe.

"Can you ride?"
"I think so." Yet there was doubt in Roe's voice. Malachi nodded; it was fine just as long as they got a safe distance away.

He was just about to help Roe into the saddle when he paused, frowning. He turned, drawing his sword.

"Valaria, take Etienne home. Make sure he's safe." Malachi did not turn as he spoke, his voice remaining calm.  "I'll catch you up."

Sure enough, two men had stepped out of the house and were approaching. They froze as they noticed them, but Malachi was already closing the gap between them.

They advanced on him, confident that two men could defeat a single skinny young man with a sword.

Then Malachi launched into action, swinging his blade in a vicious arc. He made short work of the two men, but as their bodies fell to the ground, he could hear the sound of others coming.

Malachi ran, vaulting onto his horse's back and galloping into the night. Instead of turning towards Lourdes, Malachi headed off into the opposite direction, leading his pursuers away.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 08, 2019, 02:37:23 PM
Valaria was about to climb astride one of the horses when Malachi paused in his helping Roe into one of the saddles.  She watched as he drew his sword, then looked over her shoulder to see the soldiers heading there way.  A stab of fear lanced through her heart, and she could only nod at Malachi’s request. 

Roe was in bad shape, and Valaria suspected that riding would prove difficult for him.  Leaving the horse that she had chosen for her own, she rushed quickly to Roe’s side and took over helping him up into the saddle, staggering slightly with his weight.  Once he was situated atop the horse, she cast a final look at Malachi as he met the others in the melee, then climbed up after Roe. 

“Hold to me as tightly as you can, Mr. Roe,” she murmured, and urged the horse into a run.  She kept to the road; it may not have been as safe as staying hidden in the trees, but it was faster and less dangerous than bolting unseen through potential deadfall or hidden holes. 

When they had gone some ways, Valaria eased the pace somewhat for the sake of the horse, fearful of running it to death out of simple panic.  She wasn’t worried that Malachi would not make it; he had proven well enough that he was capable of a great many things that shouldn’t have been possible.  Her task was to get Roe home safe and his wounds seen to, and if she could do nothing else, she could do that at least. 

It was difficult to say how long they rode before Lourdes came into view, the shadowy walls lit vaguely by moonlight and torches that looked more like candles in the distance.  As the gates loomed closer, Valaria let out a sigh of relief.

“Where do you want me to take you, Etienne?”   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 08, 2019, 04:07:53 PM
Through the majority of the journey, Roe was silent, save for a ragged breath each time the horse jostled them. He held onto Valaria as tightly as he could, afraid that he might slip from the saddle at any moment.

"I... I should..." Yet he was shivering too much to finish the sentence.

As they carried on, Roe could no longer hold his head up and he drooped forwards, eventually resting his head on Valaria's shoulder, although at this point, he was barely aware of it.

As they reached Lourdes, he looked up at her voice, blinking tiredly.
"Home." He muttered. "There."

He lifted his hand from her waist and pointed towards the gates of the Citadel.

The guards on the gate recognised him, fortunately, and they scrambled to open the gate.

"Sargeant Roe? Is that you, sir?"

The men hurried forwards, catching Roe before he could slide from the saddle.

"Quick, get him inside."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 08, 2019, 04:23:05 PM
Valaria nodded and urged the horse forward when the gates opened.  The soldiers came forward to help, and she was grateful for it.  No sooner had they pulled him carefully from the saddle than they rushed him inside.  She lagged behind, dismounting and looking after him with no small amount of concern.  The ride had been difficult for him, and she only hoped that he would fare better with the proper care. 

She ran to catch up, though she wasn’t certain if she would be allowed far.  Roe was known to them, and she really was not.  She also expected to be questioned about what happened, though not until Roe was treated.  She remained in the rear of the small group, easily missed in the heat of the moment but there all the same, waiting to offer what help she could.  She couldn’t help but wonder how far behind them Malachi was; there had been no sight of him since they had fled the farm. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 08, 2019, 05:06:32 PM
They carried Roe through the halls to a room not far from the soldiers' barracks. It was a plain room, with a solitary bunk and a table. They laid him down and shouted for assistance. Another man hurried over, shouldering aside one of the soldiers with the confidence of authority, even though there was no insignia stitched to his clothing. A medic.

"Dufresne, get me a pail of water." The man snapped over shoulder, before bending over Roe as he began to check him over. "Clean water."

He peeled back the bloody remnants of Roe's shirt, grimacing at the wounds beneath. He looked up, frowning at Valaria.
"Well? Are you going to tell me what happened?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 09, 2019, 08:52:13 AM
Valaria watched from the rear as they got to work, placing Roe on the table and retrieving the medic.  She recognized Solomon among the guards, but spared him only a glance when he was ordered to retrieve water, sliding a step or two to the side when he rushed past her.  Her fingers tangled in a lock of her hair and twisted nervously, her other arm wrapping around herself while she waited.

When the medic addressed her, her eyes widened.  “He was tortured, but I do not know the extent of what was done to him.  Our camp was ambushed by Spaniards and we were taken prisoner.  Their leader wanted answers about an enemy he is seeking, but he gave no names.  We were kept separate the whole time…all I heard was Etienne’s screams,” she replied, her voice tapering to a whisper towards the end, her expression twisting into a grimace.  “Malachi got us out and we rode here as fast as we could.”

She was aware that it wasn’t much, but there was nothing that she could do about that.  Solomon returned then with a pail of water, setting it within the medic’s reach.  He looked at Valaria, studying her with an expression that suggested he wanted to say something, but he kept his silence.  Instead, he reached and rested a hand on her shoulder to offer comfort.  Valaria slapped his hand sharply from her person without hesitation and glared at him.  Dufresne inched a step away from her, eyes falling to the floor contritely. 

“Will he be alright?” Valaria asked the medic, fixing her attention back on Roe.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 12, 2019, 06:20:37 PM
"Spaniards?" The medic looked up, grimacing for a moment before turning back to continue cleaning Roe's wounds. "Bastards."

The medic looked up as Valaria slapped at Dufresne's hand, his eyes narrowing for an instant.
"Don't just stand there, boy." He spoke as if he were talking to an imbecile. "Fetch the linen."

The medic shook his head, heaving a faint sigh as continued working on his charge.

"If God wills it." He muttered, not lifting his gaze from his work. "Roe's a strong man. You did well to bring him here when you did."

The medic looked up as Malachi entered the room. In the light given off by the flaming torches that lined the walls, it was clear just how grubby his clothing actually was. A smear of dirt ran across his face, dried in place, like he had absent mindedly wiped his face, dragging mud there. Yet clearly, Malachi did not care.

"We were not followed."

He nodded at Valaria, then his gaze slipped to rest on Roe, watching the medic work for a moment. He seemed satisfied, turning back to Valaria.

"Come, we should let him work in peace. Mr Roe is in good hands." He turned towards the door. "Mr Staunton will no doubt want to speak with us."

He directed her through a door and up a narrow stone staircase.
"You probably have questions."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 16, 2019, 06:27:27 PM
Valaria watched Solomon run off to do the medic’s bidding, satisfied that he would be out of her hair.  It had been a painful enough trying to manipulate him into helping her escape Ampetrion’s manse, and traveling with him had only made him that much more unbearable. 

She nodded at the medic’s reassurance that Roe would be alright.  They had made good enough time, and that was something that she was grateful for.  The medic seemed to know his business well, and she backed against the wall to keep herself more fully out of the way while he worked on Roe’s wounds.

Malachi appeared then, looking as though he had tracked through the worst of what the countryside had to offer in an effort to lose their assailants.  It was no small amount of relief she felt when he said that they hadn’t been followed.  “The Medic says that Roe should be alright.  We got here in time,” she murmured softly.  Malachi’s concern for the older gentleman had been genuine to her eyes, and she thought that he would want to know.

Valaria followed Malachi out of the room without protest, wrapping her arms around herself as much for warmth as it was for some small comfort.  Everything that had happened weighed heavily on her, and when Malachi spoke of questions she may have, her arms tightened all the more.  She immediately tried to tamp down the panic that began clawing away in her stomach, but it did not do much good.  She supposed she should have expected it.  She had seen far too much that couldn’t be explained away by some simple excuse. 

“Will knowing the answers to those questions result in my death?  If they will, then no; I have no questions,” she replied carefully, glad that her voice did not waver so much at least.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 17, 2019, 03:37:09 PM
Malachi frowned, coming to a stop in the corridor.
"Perhaps once, it might have done." He shook his head. "Yet Mr Staunton has taken steps already to ensure that you survive this, I cannot see him allowing all of that effort to go to waste simply because you saw something that you were not meant to see."

He shrugged, carrying on walking.
"If it means anything at all, I will act as an advocate for your life."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 18, 2019, 12:01:31 PM
Valaria had not expected Malachi’s reassurances to make her feel better, but she was surprised to discover that they did, even if only a little.  There was a part of her that simply didn’t understand why her life mattered to them at all, why Staunton and Malachi would work to preserve it or assure her that it would remain intact.  She was, however, grateful, and despite the rocky start and mistrust she had felt for Malachi initially, her intuition suggestion that he was trustworthy in this.

“I am very grateful for your efforts,” she murmured finally. “Thank you for not leaving me to their mercy, and for drawing them away despite the danger to your life it could have presented.  I know that you could have easily taken Mr. Roe away from there and left me behind…it would have been easier, and cleaner in the getaway.  I will not forget it.”

As they began to walk again, Valaria debated on what questions to ask.  Certainly she had several, but it always seemed to be that when one had the option to actually ask the questions, all of them seemed to jumble together in a confusion or disappear altogether.  Settling on what she wanted to ask first was another problem altogether.  She finally settled on the simplest one, that would answer many of her questions at once.

“You are…not human, are you?” she asked, her voice pitched to a low whisper.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 22, 2019, 08:35:23 AM
"I'm just acting as ordered, that is all." Malachi dismissed her thanks with a simple shrug.

Yet he knew that even if he hadn't been, he wouldn't have left her there, not with people like that.

He paused, considering her question for a moment before he replied.

"I was once, but not for some years now. "

He paused again, feeling more than a little awkward at speaking about himself like this. He forced himself to continue, knowing that she would not be satisfied with such a simplistic answer.

"I was seventeen when Mr Staunton found me. Now I'm frozen exactly as I was on that night. My heart no longer beats. "
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 22, 2019, 10:18:55 AM
Valaria was silent at the revelation.  What could she say?  That it wasn’t possible?  She had seen things with her own two eyes to the contrary.  She didn’t understand how it was possible or why it was possible, but she felt on the verge of some dark discovery that most humans never even noticed.  Obviously Staunton was like him, by his own admission, but were there others?  Was Ampetrion the same as the two of them?  It was obvious that Malachi was awkward in the admission, but dare she push any further for answers?

Valaria wet her lips, chose her words carefully. “If you are not human any longer and your heart no longer beats…then what are you?  How is…how is such a thing possible?”

The first explanation that occurred to her was that there was some sort of dark magic involved, perhaps the work of demons or some other unnatural evil.  She did not put much stock into what the church of the Christian god preached or taught, but perhaps they knew better what lurked in the world than people like herself did.  Yet, somehow it seemed far too familiar to be beyond belief. 

Ampetrion hadn’t been human either.  He fed on the blood of humans and was older than anyone had a right to be, and traveling during the day had been impossible for him by his own admission, but that had been the extent of the information he had given her.  Well, aside from the fact that there was something in her blood that they shared; something he had told her others of his kind would covet for their own if they ever found out.  Did Malachi and Staunton feed on blood as well?  She had noticed how Malachi disappeared when dawn was close, giving some excuse or another about more work elsewhere; could he have been quarantining himself from the son as Ampetrion used to?

“My Grandfather…you’re the same as him, aren’t you?  Both of you?” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on November 24, 2019, 11:29:50 AM
"I doubt he's your grandfather by blood. Our kind are incapable of fathering children. I don't know exactly how old he is, but it's rumoured to be centuries. With age, generally, comes strength. I'm quite young, really. A touch younger than Etienne, I'd guess."

"As for how, I really don't know. Some call us demons, cursed by God. Some call us gifted. Someone probably has a myth where we first crawled out of a deep fissure of hell."

Malachi smiled bitterly.
"But what I do know is that when I was starving, Mr Staunton took pity on me and he changed me. I would've died had he not. My life is not easy, far from it, but he gave me a chance when no one else would."

He paused outside Staunton's study, knocking lightly before he opened it. Staunton looked up as they entered, his gaze shifting from Malachi to Valaria.

"My dear, I had not expected to see you so soon."
Malachi shook his head grimly.
"We were too late. We found them buried. I suspect the Inquisition was responsible. The Spaniards are closing in. Valaria and my scout, Etienne Roe, were captured by them but fortunately, I was able to break them out."
Staunton frowned. "That is... unfortunate. Are you harmed, my dear?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 24, 2019, 12:05:11 PM
Valaria had always known that Ampetrion was not truly her grandfather, and yet he still claimed himself the patriarch of their clan and her true grandparents had yielded to him, as had her mother and father.  That her grandparents had known him when they were just children, and that their parents and grandparents had known him as well...even now Valaria had trouble trying to make sense of it in her mind.  Centuries old, Malachi had said.  For the first time, she realized that she didn't believe it was just a tall tale.  Malachi spoke of how Staunton had saved him, of how he was only a touch younger than Etienne, himself.  It was so much further beyond the scope of anything she thought she knew. 

They arrived to Staunton's study and Valaria held her breath, trying to quell the nerves that were threatening to seep down into her bones.  He may not have said much, but Valaria was keenly aware that it was still too much just the same.  If their lives were not meant to be kept a secret, no doubt everyone would know what they were and that there were others like him.  She bowed her head slightly to Staunton as they entered, remaining quiet as Malachi answered the implied question.  Her eyes averted and cast downward as Malachi went on to tell Staunton about the Spaniards. 

"No, my Lord.  I was not harmed.  They focused most of their attention on Mr. Roe," she said, her voice barely above a whisper.  She fell silent then.  The plan had been to ask Staunton if she may find a place in his citadel to work while she figured out what she would do next.  She still planned to, but she wasn't sure at what point in the conversation she should bring it up.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 01, 2019, 08:03:43 AM
Staunton nodded, his expression grave.
"It is fortunate that you were not harmed, I have heard some worrying reports of their methods. "

He paused.
"You are welcome to stay here for as long as you wish. We can speak of the future at a later point. For now, rest."

Malachi shifted his weight subtly from one foot to the other; for someone who was ordinarily a confident man, he seemed to be uncharacteristically nervous. When he spoke, it was in his native tongue.

"She knows, father. " He paused, his jaw set as he continued. "Forgive me, there were some things that I was unable to hide. I should have been more careful."

"But it turns out that Ampetrion has already shared with her some things about our kind."

He straightened up to his full height.
"I accept the consequences of my failings and I await your judgement."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 01, 2019, 08:47:41 AM
Valaria did not understand why her life mattered in the grand scheme of things, or why this man who was practically a stranger cared, but she was not in the habit of looking a gifted horse in the mouth.  She had nowhere to go and no one else to turn to, not if she wanted to remain free of Ampetrion.  Stranger, though this man might have been, there was something….somehow more genuine about him than the man who called himself her grandfather.  That did not mean that she did not believe he would harm her if the need occurred to him, but what man wouldn’t?  “You are most kind, my lord.  Thank you for your generosity.”

Her eyes drifted back to the floor then, waiting to be excused from the room rather than taking her leave.  As it happened, Malachi began to speak, though in English rather than French.  She could understand many of the words, but she had not been far into her learning of the language when she fled Ampetrion’s manse.  Understanding was one thing.  Reading and speaking the language was entirely another. 

Valaria sucked in a quiet breath when Malachi outed her knowledge of what they were.  She could not expect anything less; Malachi answered to Staunton, and she was a mundane human who had seen too much.  She looked up when Malachi mentioned Ampetrion’s name, her frown deepening. 

“Only little,” she managed, the sound of her English thick and struggling beneath the weight of her accent.  She pronounced the words slowly, uncertainly, as if she was not entirely sure they were the right words at all, but she did not feel comfortable pretending that she could not understand them, at least somewhat.  It seemed deceptive to her.  “Him…love secret, hate talk.  Him drink blood, say…” she halted in her words, brow furrowing while she tried to think of the right word, but it didn’t occur to her. 

Rather than struggle to find a word in a language she was still trying to learn, she shook her head with some small frustration and returned to French.  “He said that he was old, ancient even, the father of my bloodline.  He said that he took me from my family because of something in my blood that others would desire.  He never elaborated on anything and spoke in riddles and half-truths, but I watched him and I noticed the things that he left unspoken—the same things that I noticed with Malachi.  It isn’t Malachi’s fault.  Please do not punish him.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 01, 2019, 04:21:09 PM
Malachi stared at her in surprise. She understood English? Yet what was more surprising was that she actually stood up for him, even against a man like Staunton. Malachi opened his mouth, about to speak up, afraid that he might appear to be hiding behind Valaria's defence, yet he remained silent as Staunton stood.

"It is true." Staunton paced slowly around his desk. "For a human to learn even some of our secrets, the sentence is usually death for the human and severe punishment for the vampire concerned."

He smiled bitterly, shaking his head.
"But I was never one to follow the rules."

He walked around the desk and approached Valaria, frowning in thought.
"I wonder, what is it about your blood that he was referring to? It is true that we can develop a certain... preference, but I would imagine that what he was referring to was something deeper than that."

His nostrils flared a touch as he inhaled, as if he could smell her blood from where he stood.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 02, 2019, 11:18:22 AM
Valaria felt a brief stab of fear when Staunton mentioned that knowing what they were usually spelled death, but had she not suspected as much?  Had she not been reluctant to confirm her suspicions for that very reason?  Then again, aside from the initial flair of unease, Valaria simply couldn’t find it in herself to feel anything else about it.  Death…part of her still feared it and wasn’t ready for it, but the rest of her…the rest of her couldn’t help but think of her poor family and the family that had been dumped in the barn by the Spaniards, and how some fates were far, far worse than death ever could be.  What did she have left to lose, that her death should make any difference at all?  At least death offered the chance to see her loved ones again. 

She hardly blinked when Staunton mentioned that he had never been one to follow the rules, unwilling to believe just yet that she was in the clear.  At his posed question, however, Valaria looked up, sighed softly. 

“As I said, he enjoyed keeping his secrets and speaking in riddles,” Valaria explained, coiling a lock of her hair around her finger nervously.  “But…when he mentioned it, he said that I carried ‘wild blood’ in my veins, something that he thought had been bred out of the bloodline a long time ago.  He said that there was a possibility that any children I gave birth to could be cursed by it as well, that it could be stronger in their blood than it is in mine.  He said that if I suffered the changes that made him what he was, my blood would become like a siren’s call, and I would be hunted for it to the end of my days.”

Her voice tapered off to a whisper towards the end, just as uncertain of what to make of it as she had been when she first heard.  Her eyes rested on the floor once more, her brow furrowing.  “That’s all that I know about it, my Lord.” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 03, 2019, 02:22:27 PM
Wild blood? Bred out of her bloodline? Staunton frowned; wondering what that actually meant. Now that he stood quite close to her, he could smell her blood through her skin, coursing through her veins. Perhaps she did smell a little different from most humans, yet he could not pinpoint exactly what that difference was.

What was certain was that Ampetrion clearly did not want her to face the change, yet whether his dire warnings were simply to prevent her from asking it from him, or were actually the siren's call to a life of being hunted, he had no idea. He was tempted to risk trying it, simply to spite Ampetrion, but Staunton knew that he would never make such a move, not without her consent at such a monumental change.

After a moment of intensity, Staunton turned abruptly away, retreating back to take his seat behind his desk. His face broke into a smile.

"No matter. Debate on Ampetrion's riddles can wait for another day." He shook his head. "Where are my manners? I would imagine that, above all, you need a good meal and some rest. Especially after everything that you have faced."

He turned to Malachi.
"See to it."

Malachi bowed, opening the door for Valaria.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 06, 2019, 12:07:48 PM
Valaria was unsure of what to expect, or whether to be afraid or calm.  Even trying to summon up the gumption to fear for her life seemed to be too much effort; everything was out of her hands at this moment, and Staunton would do whatever he chose to do regardless.  At this point, if it meant an end to the day, Valaria didn’t much care which way it went. 

But then he left her and went back behind his desk, and Valaria released a slow breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding. 

“I am grateful for your hospitality, my lord,” Valaria murmured, ducking her head briefly.  “I wish to offer my skills in service to you.  I know the basics of handling myself in a melee, and I am fluent and literate in French, Spanish, and Italian with…some little English as well, and I am trained in diplomacy.  I hope that you will consider it.”

At his dismissal, she nodded and followed Malachi out.  All said, she had not expected to walk out of Staunton’s office alive, but Staunton continued to surprise her.  She glanced sidelong at Malachi. “I am sorry for causing you trouble,” she said quietly.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 09, 2019, 12:58:23 PM
"Trouble?" Malachi shook his head. "Believe me, that was not trouble."

"With Staunton, it is always better to tell him the honest truth. Without fail. He is always fair, but he has an uncanny ability to sense when someone is lying."

He glanced at her, considering how she had supported him, even knowing what Staunton was and the danger that she faced. Having an ally was something that he was not used to.

"There was no need to speak up on my behalf. However... that was appreciated."

He turned away, feeling a touch of awkwardness. In an instant, his expression returned to the carefully schooled neutral mask that he usually wore.

"I am sure Mr Staunton will make use of your abilities as you have requested. People as skilled in languages as you are can be hard to find. It might be that which kept you alive with the Spaniards."

"Why else would they slaughter your family without hesitation but keep you alive?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 09, 2019, 04:38:12 PM
Valaria glanced sidelong at him and smiled slightly.  “And you didn’t have to do what you did for me either, yet here we are,” she murmured, staring ahead of them as they walked.  She felt a touch of awkwardness as well, but that was alright. 

She nodded when he mentioned that Staunton may take her up on her offer, eyes drifting down to the floor at the mention of her family.  Suddenly there was a lump in her throat that made it impossible to speak.  Why else indeed?  Her family had been no threat to anyone, yet they had still been murdered in cold blood.  She had suspected that the Spaniards had been to blame, especially after seeing the family who had lived in the farmhouse left to rot in the barn. 

She fought hard to regain control of her emotions, but even after the urge to cry had passed, the anger still lingered as hot and heavy in her heart as ever.  She wanted to kill every last one of them, to watch them suffer long before they died.  She wanted to hang their bodies from the trees in individual, unrecognizable pieces.

“I suppose we will find out when Lord Staunton makes his decision.  When you were tracking Mr. Roe and myself, did you find the ring that I left behind?  My father’s ring?” She asked, her voice barely above a whisper, but still redolent with the anger and powerlessness she felt.       
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 09, 2019, 05:55:00 PM
"I'm sorry." Malachi muttered, feeling even more awkward than before. "That was callous of me."

"Sometimes, I..." He paused, choosing his words carefully. "I feel that I'm forgetting what it was like to be human."

He blinked as she mentioned the ring.
"Forgive me, I almost forgot. " He reached into his pocket and retrieved the ring, along with the whistle that Etienne had been carving. He held them both out.

"I'd imagine Etienne would be wanting this back. Please, return it, in the morning."

Not that it was far away. They were less than two hours from dawn.

He stopped outside the door to her room.
"I'll let you rest." Malachi bowed his head. "Good night."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 10, 2019, 01:07:48 PM
Valaria turned her gaze on Malachi, considering him.  “I imagine that is a common loss among those who must kill in order to survive,” she said, though without the malice one might expect.  She hesitated, then spoke all the more softly, “I know that you did not mean to hurt me.”

When he offered her father’s ring back, she exhaled a soft sigh of relief.  She had been afraid that she lost it for good, that perhaps he had not found it or, if he had found it, had not picked it up.  She accepted it and slid the piece of jewelry back on.  Even on her largest finger the ring spun loosely and threatened to fall off again; a length of cord would have to do for it, she decided.  She pocketed the carving that Etienne had been working on as well, giving Malachi a grateful nod.

“Thank you.  This means more than you know.  I’ll return the carving once Mr. Roe has had the chance to get some sleep,” she assured him.  They paused by a door and Malachi indicated that it was where she would be staying.  The thought of bed—not just a bed roll or a bit of soft ground—nearly brought tears to her eyes again, but she managed to hold them off; she was not usually so emotional, but grief had all but turned her into one large, raw nerve, easily stung at the slightest touch.  “Rest well, Malachi, and thank you again.”

Once he had gone and the door was closed behind her, Valaria fell into the bed within the room and was asleep almost the moment her head hit the pillow.  Her sleep was, thankfully, dreamless, and when she woke it was with a numbness that she found herself grateful for.  The grief was still there, of course, but it did not feel so raw as it had the day before. 

By the position of the sun in the sky, Valaria guessed that it was well past midday, with perhaps only four more hours of light left to the day.  She found a spare pair of trousers and a linen shirt in the wardrobe and changed into them, setting aside the dress she had been wearing for what felt like ages to be washed.  She tucked the wooden bird in her pocket and left the room, making her way back down to where Roe was being taken care off.

Upon her arrival, she sounded her presence with a soft knock and stepped into the room, moving to Mr. Roe’s side.  “How are you feeling?” She asked gently, removing the carving from her pocket and sliding it gingerly into his hand.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 10, 2019, 02:46:42 PM
Etienne was awake when Valaria entered his room. He was lying in bed, propped up with a pillow. His stained and tattered shirt had been removed and his many wounds had been bandaged.

He looked tired, his face seemingly more lined than it had been when they had started their journey. Even so, Etienne still smiled at her.

"Oh, I'm all right." He grinned and a semblance of his former self returned. "It takes more than that to bring me down."

"You?" His smile faded. "I was worried about you for a while."

He looked at the small whistle in his hand and smiled gently.
"Thank you, I was worried I'd lost it. Couldn't be there for my grandson's birthday empty handed."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 28, 2019, 11:39:21 AM
Valaria smiled slightly.  "I'm alright.  They didn't harm me any, surprisingly enough.  I expected them to, but Malachi saved us both before..." She trailed off, biting her bottom lip.  He had suffered plenty, and she found herself feeling a pang of guilt that she had been so lucky.  "I'm glad that you're alright.  I wish I could have done something more to help."

When he commented on the whistle, Valaria's smile widened a little.  "You can thank Malachi for that too.  He found it when he was tracking us, same with my father's ring," she explained.  It seemed so simple a thing, but Valaria was only glad that Etienne would be there for his grandson's birthday, empty handed or not.  Hopefully his family would not discover how close a call it had been for Roe.  She couldn't help but feel responsible; it never would have happened if she hadn't been looking for her own family, but she doubted he blamed her any.  "May I get you anything?  Are you hungry or thirsty?  Are you in much pain?"   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 28, 2019, 12:21:16 PM
"Aye, he's a good lad, is Master Malachi." With an effort, Roe propped himself up a little more upright. "I reckoned we'd both have been finished if not for him."

He waved off her concern with a shake of his head.
"I ain't too badly hurt, miss. Don't be worrying none. Not about me."

He paused, a sly smile tweaking at the corners of his lips.
"Although, now that you mention it, some food might be welcome right now. I think someone down in the kitchens would be able to assist. Talk to young Annalise, she's friendly enough."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on December 30, 2019, 11:24:48 AM
Even if Valaria wanted to argue, she couldn’t.  She would still worry about him, regardless of whether he wanted it or not.  Roe was the kindest soul she had met in this place thus far.  Certainly Staunton had offered up his most gracious hospitalities and assistance, and Malachi had assisted her in tracking her family and saving Roe and herself, but she still could not be sure of their motives.  She was a stranger to Staunton, the last alive in his enemy’s bloodline, and though she told herself repeatedly not to look a gift horse in the mouth, her instincts told her to tread carefully.  It was especially strong when taking into consideration the newest information she had about them.  There was no doubt in her mind that Staunton had chosen to keep her alive for a reason, and it wasn’t because she was particularly gifted, or pretty to look at, or even because he was simply a merciful soul.  As to Malachi, well…he would do as Staunton commanded regardless.  She supposed she had no choice but to wait and see what Staunton would decide to do with her. 

Valaria favored Roe with a small smile and stood, giving his hand another gentle squeeze before relinquishing it.  She fussed with his blanket, helped him settle into the pillow more comfortably, then dug out his pocketknife from his discarded coat and placed it within reach in case he decided to work on the bird a bit more.  “I’ll see if I can find my way there.  I’ll be back in a pinch with something to eat.  Don’t get into any trouble while I’m away,” she teased, with more mirth than she really felt.

She left the room, pausing to ask someone in passing which way the kitchens were.  With directions in mind, she thanked the servant and made her way through the corridors, counting doors and hallways as landmarks on her way.  Sleep had provided some small mercy; the grief for her family had numbed into a surreal void, and even when the images of the shallow grave and shoddy burial flashed within her minds eye, her eyes remained dry and the lump in her throat did not return.  She could not be sure how long such a thing would last, but for the moment she was grateful for it.  It all seemed like a dream, a passing nightmare whose echoes had already begun to fade.  She could almost pretend that it had never happened, make believe that her family was still out there somewhere.  It would do her no good to imagine such things, but for a sore moment she was tempted. 

Valaria got turned around twice, but managed to find the kitchen just the same, poking her head in to get a look.  The interior was busy, the evening meal already in the process of being prepared ahead of the evening—for those that ate food, anyway.  Her own stomach rumbled loudly in response to the smells wafting in the air, and Valaria realized how hungry she was as well. 

After tracking down Annalise as Roe had suggested, Valaria made her way back to where Roe was resting with a tray of food laden with enough food for the both of him.  She settled the tray down on Roe’s lap and sat next to him, pointing out a bowl of broth.  “Annalise says to drink that first before you try eating anything else, just in case your stomach isn’t quite as up for food as you are,” she said, taking some of the bread, cheese and fruit for herself. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on December 31, 2019, 05:31:49 PM
Roe grinned as Valaria returned, setting the tray down for him.
"That smells great."

He followed the orders, taking a sip of the broth and gave a contented sigh.
"Annalise is a damn fine cook."

They ate quietly for a few minutes, Roe making sure that he paced himself until he was sure his stomach was settled enough to keep everything down.

"I can't wait to get up and about. I hate being like this, like a sick old goat."
"You're staying right where you are until the medic says you can go."

A man stood in the doorway for a moment before he entered. If not for his dark brown hair, he was the exact spit of the man who could only be his father.

Roe smiled as he looked up.
"Claude, come in, come in." He gestured to Valaria. "I want you to meet my friend, Valaria. This is my son, Claude."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on January 05, 2020, 11:05:04 AM
Valaria sat watchfully over Roe as he sipped his broth, nodding in satisfaction while she chewed on a small piece of cheese.  Of a younger man, she may have expected a different response; a scoff, a certainty that he would be fine to eat everything laid out before him or some other such stubbornness.  Such had happened before, after all, with one of her elder brothers.   She was glad it wasn’t the case here.  Roe was a good patient, most likely born of experiences in the past. 

When he finished his broth, Valaria nudged a smaller piece of bread towards him, trusting that he would take just as much care with it as had the initial helping of his meal.  For her part she ate very little, despite the gnawing feeling in her belly.  Her appetite was a fleeting thing in the face of memory, and it was difficult not to think of said memories while her friend sat abed in the infirmary.  She uttered no response when Roe complimented to cook, though she did nod slightly in response. 

Valaria smiled slightly when Roe complained, hands folding on her lap.  She opened her mouth to respond when an unfamiliar voice spoke the words for her, though perhaps not the same she would have used.  Her eyes drew to the man in the doorway, one delicately curved eyebrow rising in question. 

She was not left to wonder very long, as Roe introduced the man as his son Claude.  Valaria rose and dipped into a modest curtsy, hands spreading at her sides as if gathering imaginary skirts—she was wearing trousers for the moment, given her tattered rag of a dress was less than fit for wearing and filthy to boot.  Claude was the spitting image of his father, albeit a much younger version of the man currently lying in recovery. 

“It is a pleasure to meet you, Claude,” she murmured.  She had planned to stay with Etienne, keeping watch over him until he was ready to leave or she was called away.  He’d have done the same for her, after all.  Given that his son had arrived, however, she turned her attention back to her friend.  “Shall I leave you two to visit? I can return a bit later.  I do not wish to intrude,” she murmured softly.         
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on January 11, 2020, 12:38:37 PM
"Not at all." Claude smiled, reaching forward to lay a reassuring hand on his father's shoulder. "I can't stay here too long. I'm just glad that you're all right. Both of you."

"Claude here works as the head groom for Mr Staunton."

***

Celyn stared grimly down at the grave before them. So many bodies, of men, women and children, all dumped together, in a hole. He looked back at his uncle, standing with Ampetrion beside the opening of the pit.

"Is she amongst them?" He almost feared the answer to the question. If he had travelled so far to meet his bride to be, only to find that she had been murdered, along with her entire family.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on January 11, 2020, 02:51:24 PM
Valaria nodded and, reassured that she wouldn’t be imposing on the father and son, returned to the chair next to Etienne’s bed and tried to eat a little bit more of what she’d brought to the kitchens.  Their kindness seemed like such a small thing from the outside, but it meant the world to her in the wake of so much awfulness.  She stayed nearby the rest of the day, helping in any way that she could—fully knowing that had their roles been reversed, Etienne would have done the same thing for her. 

How long had it been since she had found herself in such company?

---- 

Ampetrion’s nostrils flared, eyes following the mix of more recent footsteps in the soft earth.  The grave itself was weeks old, the tracks perhaps only a few days. 

Upon finding the mass grave, Oscar noted the elder vampire’s reaction, and it unsettled him.  For one who proclaimed himself the patriarch of his family, Ampetrion had not reacted with the sadness one might expect of a person discovering his entire family in a shallow grave, children and all.  Rather, the vampire had reacted with thinly veiled disgust, as if he couldn’t believe the deceased had been so foolish as to wind up dead. 

Oscar’s eyes slid to his nephew when he posed his question, something which Oscar himself had wondered. 

“No,” Ampetrion said tightly, his features twisting into a scowl.  He knelt by one of the sets of tracks, marking the size and make of the shoe that its maker wore.  He was almost positive that they belonged to her, though there were two other sets around the grave as well that were just as fresh.  She had been there, but she hadn’t been alone.  “She was here.  She knows that her family has perished, though who accompanied her I cannot say.”

He glanced back at the grave, nose wrinkling.  “Fools.  I told them when I came for her that they should leave this place.  What a waste.” 

Oscar’s eyes narrowed at that, only vaguely aware of his nails digging into his palms.  “I suppose that means they deserved it then?”

Ampetrion seemed to realize the err of his comment and straightened with a frown.  “That is not what I mean.  It is sad, of course, that they have been killed and I will discover who is to blame…however I did make it clear—”

“You know, it’s becoming clearer and clearer to me why my nephew’s bride-to-be would risk all, including her life, to get the hell away from you,” Oscar spat.  They had been traveling for weeks, and not a day went by that Oscar didn’t find his hatred for the vampire deepening to levels which he had not realized he was capable of.  Ampetrion was selfish, prideful and arrogant, the very worst kind of person among humans and others alike.  Even now, standing on the edges of what used to be Valaria’s family, all the bloodsucker could summon was contempt for them and irritation that she had managed to elude them still.  Oscar had initially thought that Valaria was just willful and stubborn, as Ampetrion had said, but the longer he was around Ampetrion the more he wished that they had arrived sooner to offer a less dangerous escape than what she had pulled off on her own. 

A muscle in Ampetrion’s jaw twitched and his teeth clenched with a subtle grinding sound in the quiet gloom.   “Valaria is young and brash, and she ran because my hand was not as firm as it should have been.  Make no mistake, she will know the err of her ways once we find her.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on January 11, 2020, 04:19:20 PM
Celyn scowled at Ampetrion's choice of words. He held his tongue, but he knew damn well that he wasn't about to tolerate any such firm hand once they caught up with Valaria.

"Won't be doing nothing unless we can find her."

He looked down at the tracks that surrounded the grave.
"You sure she was here?"

Celyn's gaze followed the tracks as they led up into the trees, passing out beyond his sight. Celyn turned to his uncle, his frown clearing.

"I reckons we'd have a better chance on our own. Do you think? Once we've got a scent, we'd be much faster. We can meet up later on."

But mostly it was because he wanted to be rid of Ampetrion and his ilk as soon as possible
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on January 11, 2020, 04:55:20 PM
Ampetrion scouted the area further, eyes narrowed as he searched for any other sign aside from footprints, but there was nothing.  No scraps of cloth, no wayward hairs, nothing that could indicate with a certainty beyond Ampetrion’s own that she had been there. 

The werewolves began discussing splitting up, and Ampetrion straightened, features hardening.  He did not like the thought of separation any more than he liked having the werewolves there at all, however, there was some small wisdom in their suggestion.  If it meant a break from their wet dog stench, he would be glad of it.  “Fine then, we’ll split up,” he said reluctantly. 

“Where shall we meet after?  There is a town called Lourdes not far from here.  I’ll not venture into it for various reasons, but there should be some place outside its borders where we can regroup,” Ampetrion suggested.  They may end up going there anyway, he realized, for one of his oldest enemies resided there.  If Ampetrion could point a finger at anyone as the murderer of Valaria’s family, it would be James Staunton.

Oscar nodded.  "Right.  We'll meet you near Lourdes then."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on January 17, 2020, 06:34:21 PM
"Lourdes?" Celyn repeated the unfamiliar name. He frowned at Ampetrion's words, wondering just what exactly what it was that was keeping a man like Ampetrion away from the place. That, more than anything, seemed like a valid reason to go there.

He glanced at his uncle, waiting for his approval before he too nodded.
"Do you know who could have done this?" Celyn switched his gaze back to Ampetrion; it looked as if the day walker was holding something back, yet did he not want them to find his clan's killers? Why would he hide?
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on February 15, 2020, 12:57:11 PM
Ampetrion grimaced, not wishing to let them in on his suspicions.  It was true that he hated Staunton as much as Staunton hated him, and given the grave's proximity to Lourdes, Ampetrion wanted to believe in Staunton's guilt.  He found it difficult to believe that his oldest enemy would murder an entire family of innocents simply because they were of Ampetrion's distant human bloodline.  Not impossible, mind, but unlikely just the same. 

"I cannot say for certain," Ampetrion finally said. "I have my suspicions, but there is no proof to back them up and little point in speaking of them.  I have no shortage of enemies and my oldest one resides in Lourdes...but even if he knew their connection to me, in all the years I have known him, never has he committed an act so atrocious.  I would prefer to believe that he has...more honor than this."

Oscar's frown deepened.  "So you suspect him, or no?"

"...No...no, this is not James' style.  If he had committed this act, I would know it by now.  He would have made sure that I knew he was responsible."  Ampetrion said decisively.

Oscar nodded. "Very well.  Celyn, lets be off."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on March 06, 2020, 01:31:43 PM
Lourdes was a fair size city, with ancient buildings and churches that looked like they had stood there for centuries. The two werewolves rode through the city in the early afternoon; Celyn marvelled at the bustling marketplace in the centre of the city. They could hear different languages from all over the world, pilgrim humans, apparently, travelling from all parts to try and get a chance to bathe in the supposed healing waters.

"Uncle, is there any truth to what they say? Does the water here heal?"

He looked around the square, pulling his horse to a halt and dismounting.
"How do we even know where to look? They could hide hundreds of wolves in this city."

***

After a few days, the medic decided that Etienne was well enough to leave his bed. He was still shakey on his feet, but the old man was adamant that he be allowed to walk by himself. A tired smile on his face, he made his way up to Valaria's room and knocked gently.

"Miss Valaria?" He smiled warmly. "I've come to invite you to dinner, as promised."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on March 06, 2020, 01:51:39 PM
Oscar shrugged.  "I don't rightly know.  Plenty of places boast the same thing.  Who can tell if it's real or not?"

He turned and looked in a different direction, nostrils flaring slightly to take in all the different scents around them.  He was feeling much better without the abomination nearby, but he didn't much care for places he had never been before.  The sooner they found the girl, the better.

"We keep our senses extended," Oscar said decisively. "If she's here, we'll catch her scent.  In the mean time, we scout the city, cover as much of it as we can, and see what we can discover.  It's all we can do, really."

--

Valaria started from her doze, setting aside the book she had been reading.  She had spent much of the time she had been there isolated in her room, allowing herself to grieve.  She left to visit Roe often, but she was aware of her tenuous position, in a limbo between being turned out and Staunton deciding he would take her offer of services. 

Rising, she opened the door and grinned at the sight of the older man, hands immediately wrapping gently around one of his.  "I would be honored to accept, Etienne.  It's good to see you up and about."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on March 10, 2020, 08:14:19 AM
At first, the werewolves patrolled the poorer parts of the town. Celyn reasoned that it was the sort of place that he would want to hide in had he been running from people like Ampetrion and his men. The slums were packed with people, crammed into every available space, living practically on top of each other in places, with non of the space that the rich could afford. Leaving the horses tethered, the two split up and just simply walked, keeping their eyes open and their senses alert.

Celyn had never been in a human settlement like this and it showed. Living his entire life with the pack, out in the forest, he had been sheltered from a lot of what was going on around them. The city was like a large jumble of sights, smells and sounds, many of them unpleasant.

By the evening, they had covered a fair chunk of it, but had caught no sign of her. As the sun was beginning to dip beneath the horizon, Celyn met up with his uncle in the central square of the city.

"Nothing." He shook his head. "Just... many people who look like they're starving. Are humans really this bad?"

***

With a grunt, Roe dropped to a knee to embrace the joyful, giggling child who ran to greet them.
"Papa."

"Mattieu, Non!" A woman's voice sounded from the house, but it was clear that nothing would be stopping him from hugging his grandchild. Roe did his best to hide his pain with a smile and he reached into his pocket for the small wooden whistle and he pressed it into Mattieu's hands.

"Sorry its late, little one."

As he straightened up, Mattieu had already run off, the shrill sounds of the whistle playing. Roe turned to Valaria with an impish grin.
"No doubt, my son will be cursing my name before dinner's out. Come inside, food smells like its nearly ready."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 25, 2020, 12:28:30 PM
Oscar turned his gaze away from the small stream of people drifting up the steps of a church to the service within, most in fancy clothing while a larger crowd of the poor begged for alms. 

“Yes,” He replied evenly. “In every place, with every human community.  They are creatures prone to weakness, superstition, and corruption.  Worse, they are blind to it all.  This is part of why we live separate from them.”

They had not had much luck finding the girl, and Oscar was beginning to have his doubts that she had made it to the city at all.  He sighed and looked at his nephew, frowning.

“I don’t think she’s here.  We’ve been all over this city the past several days, and…” Oscar stopped, nostrils flaring as he finally caught the barest whiff of what they were looking for.  Attention sharpened, he turned slowly and tried to pinpoint the direction where it was coming from.  Without a word he began to follow the trail; down the street by a block and then left, where her scent grew stronger. 

Oscar followed it all the way to someone’s home; they had missed seeing her by a scant minute or two.  He could make out several voices coming from within, the sound of a child’s laughter and a high-pitched whistle that made his ears twitch.  Backing away, he gestured to Celyn and crossed back the way they had come, keeping the house within sight.  “She’s in the house.  We’ll wait for her here, see if we can catch her when she leaves.”

-------

For her part, Valaria remained quiet, only speaking when someone addressed her directly.  Overall she preferred to watch the family interact, allowing the wholesome experience to soothe her grieving mind.  There was a light in the home that she had been missing, and she took comfort in the knowledge that for so many, life went on and still remained beautiful, untouched by cruelty or sadness. 

She couldn’t help but smile when Roe interacted with Mattieu, or at the way Roe’s son interacted with his wife, how they were all so happy together.  The whole thing was healing in a way, seeing that hope lived on in others, that goodness existed everywhere.  She was grateful to be apart of it.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 26, 2020, 01:42:17 PM
Celyn nodded silently and found himself some cover to wait by. He was patient, used to the waiting that was such an important part of hunting, having been doing it in both forms from when he could first walk. He inhaled slowly, focusing on the scent that he now knew belonged to his bride to be. He felt nervous, wondering not for the first time if she would like him or not. It wasn't going to be the meeting that he had imagined, but it was something. At least they could make sure that she was safe.

The hours slipped past, but the werewolves waited, making the occasional slow and gentle movement to keep their limbs from seizing up. Eventually, Celyn heard the door open and the sounds of low talking. Two figures stepped out of the house, speaking the unfamiliar language of the area.

One was an older man, walking with a gait that told Celyn that he was in pain, although clearly he took effort to try and hide that from his companion. He was a man who was used to being strong and capable, only recently injured.

Slowly and silently, Celyn left his cover and began to follow them, up the inclide towards the castle that perched on the side of the hill. Celyn grimaced, knowing that the castle meant yet more humans and although he did not expect them to be too much of a difficulty, it would cause more trouble than they wanted.

Celyn turned to catch his uncle's eye and he nodded silently. Then he darted off into the town, running nimbly through the tightly packed houses as he flanked the two figures. Overtaking them, he stepped out into the middle of the street in front, blocking the path.

Finally face to face with his bride to be; at first, Celyn could only stare at her stupidly. She was so beautiful, it almost made his heart skip a beat.

"Valaria." Celyn smiled, eventually finding his tongue as he pushed aside his nerves. "They said you were beautiful, but what they said pales in comparison to the reality."

There was a flicker of steel and the older man drew a knife, growling a warning in his own tongue. Celyn shook his head, chuckling quietly as he held up a hand to placate the man.

"Forgive me, please, I mean you no harm. I've just waited a long time to finally meet you, Valaria. I was hoping it'd be in better circumstances. I'm Celyn."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 26, 2020, 02:28:41 PM
When the time came to depart, Valaria thanked Roe’s family for their invitation and expressed her delight at knowing them and spending time with them, though by then she had become concerned of Roe amid all the excitement.  The evening was growing late and he was not quite recovered, and she could tell that the elder gentleman was sorely needing his rest.  She said nothing as to this, knowing the effort that Roe was putting into seeming fine, but all the same she looped her arm through his once they were outside and on their way back to the castle. 

Upon finding their path by a young man who began speaking to her in English, Valaria stopped abruptly, feeling herself bristle.  Who was he?  How did he know her name?  Why was he complimenting her, acting as though she should know who he was?

Her expression one of confusion, she rested a gentle hand over Roe’s when he drew his blade, stepping just a touch ahead of the older man; Roe was in no condition to fight, and she wouldn’t allow him to be harmed on her account.  “Hold on, Etienne.  Let me.”

Tilting her head when he assured her that he meant no harm, Valaria spoke back in broken, halting English and a wary tone.  “Pardon please.  Small English.  Tell how you know me?”

Oscar materialized from their side, but stayed a few feet back, sensing the tension from the two his nephew had confronted.  He recognized her from when the deal with Ampetrion was struck, but he had not actually met the girl. 

“We do not wish to frighten you or your companion,” he spoke up gently.  Valaria looked at him, her hand squeezing Roe’s hand just a touch. “Your grandfather brokered a marriage arrangement with our leader, for my nephew Celyn,” he gestured at the younger wolf.  “You were already gone by the time we arrived, and we were concerned for your safety.  We’ve come to bring you home with us.”

Valaria bristled at the mention of her grandfather, hand sliding to grip Roe’s knife herself.  “What marriage?  No hearing this before, and I not his for sell.  Will not go back.”

Oscar frowned, some anger weaving its way into his voice when he realized what she was saying.  “You misunderstand.  We won’t take you back to him.  We will return to our home.  Are…are you telling us that he didn’t tell you of the engagement?”

“No,” Valaria said, looking between the two of them.  “Not know.  How you find me? Ampetrion come too?”  She immediately looked around, fearful that her grandfather would was nearby, watching.  “Beg please…no tell him you find.  Please.”           
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 26, 2020, 04:39:05 PM
Celyn stared at her, his smile slowly falling from his face. Even despite the language barrier between them, her meaning was clear; she had no idea who they were or why they were there. She had not been told.

"I'm sorry." He murmured, feeling dumbfounded by the revelation. "I thought you knew."

He shook his head, barely able to understand.
"I've known about this since I was a pup, but you..."

Celyn felt a stab of anger, why had Ampetrion not told her?

The Frenchman had lowered his knife, but was still looking at them warily, understanding nothing that they said. He muttered a few words to Valaria, looking at her questioningly.

"We tracked you over the last few days. Ampetrion is not in the city, but he's nearby."

Celyn glanced up at his uncle, but he was not looking for guidance, not this time.
"Please, translate, uncle. You can speak their language." He turned back to Valaria, his expression grave. "It appears that we were led here under false pretences. That was not my intention."

"We will go." He nodded, a look of determination crossing his face. "We will not seek out Ampetrion. When we reach England, we will send word that our alliance has been dissolved."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 26, 2020, 05:08:35 PM
The expression on Celyn’s face caused a pang in Valaria’s chest.  He had been so happy a moment before, that much she had recognized to be genuine.  She lowered Roe’s knife and watched the two men silently, looking between them.  Oscar’s features were tight and furious, his hands balled into fists at his sides.  When he began translating for Celyn, Valaria returned the knife to Roe and answered his question.  “They say that my grandfather made a deal with them for my hand in marriage, but they were not aware that I had not been told about it.  They do not mean us any harm.”

Worrying her bottom lip briefly, Valaria spoke to Celyn and Oscar, expecting the older to translate back.  “I am sorry.  He told me that he planned to arrange a marriage for me, but he did not tell me that he had already done so.  He never told me anything, really.” 

She glanced over her shoulder; hearing that Ampetrion was nearby put her on edge.  And yet, it seemed as though her grandfather had managed to make himself an enemy rather than a friend.  It was such a strange and random happenstance to her, and yet Celyn had known for years about the betrothal.  Just how long had this been arranged?  Certainly before Ampetrion had taken her from her family.  That only made the disappointed expression on Celyn’s face that much worse.  He had been excited. 

Valaria made a decision.  “I will not hold to an agreement made for my grandfather’s gain, but…perhaps we can speak together about this over a drink?  I would like to know what the alliance was for, and make my own choice in the matter.  I may be open to negotiation, if you are willing to dissolve from him and make agreements with me instead.”

Oscar translated this to Celyn and raised an eyebrow at him, allowing his Nephew to make the choice. 

“I need to see Mr. Roe home first,” Valaria added quietly. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 27, 2020, 05:46:30 PM
Roe watched the two men warily, although he sheathed his knife once Valaria returned it to him. The two men looked like peasants, long haired and wild looking, grubby from long hours spent on the road, but even if he could not understand them, he knew that their manner was hardly peasant like.

When Valaria explained why they were here, he stared at her in surprise. Suggesting that she would marry someone like that? A ragged young man from some English hills?

"There's a place to sit in the citadel."

He jerked his head towards the door. Like hell was he going to leave Valaria in their hands. They might try and take her away against her will. Best have them sit where there was a place to think in some comfort and hospitality... and armed guards if required.

"This way."

Roe led the way up the slope; he was moving a little stiffly by now, his aching limbs desperately wanting to be back in his bunk, but he set his jaw and pushed on.

Despite the hour, there were guards on duty at all times, Staunton's orders. They watched the newcomers warily, but a nod from Roe set them a little more at ease and they stood aside, allowing the two men to enter. The main hall was deserted and Roe took a lamp and set it down on one of the tables.

"I'll find some wine." He spoke softly, laying a gentle hand on Valaria's shoulder to try and reassure her. "I won't be long."

***

Celyn couldn't help but wrinkle his nose the moment that they entered the hall. He gave his uncle a sidelong glance; underneath the smell of humans, there was another, more subtle scent. It was like Ampetrion, but not so... rotten. Even so, it was a strange musty smell that reminded him of ancient death and decay, one that immediately had his hackles rising.

"Who lives here?" He asked quietly, but he had a feeling that he knew the answer. James Staunton. Ampetrion's enemy.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 28, 2020, 11:25:41 AM
Oscar watched Roe when he spoke up.  It was obvious to the elder werewolf that the gentleman did not trust them, but that was an indication of intelligence as far as he was concerned.  They had appeared to the two seemingly at random, two bedraggled strangers with bold claims and a connection to Ampetrion, and one did not have to guess at how Valaria felt when it came to her Grandfather.  The way her eyes shifted, the fear and anger that permeated her scent; it only served as a confirmation to Oscar that Ampetrion was even worse than he had thought. 

Oscar wanted to balk at taking drink inside the citadel.  That castle belonged to Ampetrion’s proclaimed enemy, but given the nature of the man, Oscar rather suspected that this James Staunton fellow may not be all bad.  Roe abided there, but did she as well?  Had the girl deliberately delivered herself onto James Staunton’s doorstep just to spite that blood sucker?  The thought kind of amused him.  Misgivings aside, Oscar kept his peace and voiced no protest over the locale.  He resolved to keep his eyes and ears open, just to be safe. 

Valaria nodded to Roe when he mentioned the wine.  “Thank you, Etienne.”

Once he was gone and Celyn spoke up, Valaria looked at him, then spoke to Oscar.  “James Staunton.  I came looking for my family and was brought here.  He had his own son and Etienne help me find them.”  Her manner saddened slightly as Oscar finished translating for Celyn, and he was reminded of the mass grave they had found, and Ampetrion’s callousness.  Valaria continued. “When I returned, he offered extended hospitality to me.”

“Do you not fear an ulterior motive in his actions, given his contention with Ampetrion?” Oscar asked curiously. 

Valaria shrugged. “I’m not concerned.  He’s been nothing but good to me.  They all have been.  Etienne, Malachi, Lord Staunton himself; he’s earned my respect and my loyalty.  If he has an ulterior motive, I am sure that it doesn’t include harming me.”

Valaria took a seat in one of the chairs.  “Will you please tell me what your deal with Ampetrion was in exchange for our marriage?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 28, 2020, 04:00:13 PM
If Ampetrion had not bothered to tell Valaria about the betrothal, then he might not have told about what they were. Celyn knew they would both have to change their words, talking as if they were simply humans themselves, only talking to humans.

"When I was younger." He frowned briefly, thinking. "It must have been about ten years ago now. Ampetrion visited us."

He remembered that day vividly, because he was one of very few non wolf people to visit their pack.
"He spoke with my father for a long time, then they called me in. They talked about our families becoming stronger together. Our blood getting stronger."

He left it at that, rather than explaining how Ampetrion had claimed their sons would be strong warrior wolves.

"Since then he has visited us a number of times, each time mentioning you. It was arranged that I come when I came of age and a few months ago, letters came from Ampetrion to call us here."

Celyn shrugged, with a sad smile.
"It seems he did not approach this in the same way as my family. Every step of the way, they told me what was going on. I was given the opportunity to stay back home had I fallen for another. If we did not get on, then there would be no shame in us parting ways, although I suspect that it would not have pleased Ampetrion. This lies with him, he should have informed you of the deal, given you a chance to voice your thoughts."

Roe returned from the kitchens, carrying a bottle of wine and some goblets. Nodding at the guests, he set out the goblets and began to pour the wine, passing one each.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on July 30, 2020, 11:57:16 AM
Valaria reflected on that for a moment, frowning.   One of the few things that Ampetrion had told her from the beginning was that there was something in her blood, wild blood he had called it, which would not only make her a target for his enemies, but was considered a valuable and rare commodity.  He had been very clear on that point, had reminded her often whenever she had become rebellious, had used the claim to scare her into compliance with his plans.  He had even mentioned that the blood was weaker in her than others, that she carried it, but did not exhibit the effects of it.  She still didn’t know what it all meant, but she knew that he had taken her from her family under the guise of protection for that reason.  Was that what Celyn meant by making their blood stronger?  Did Celyn have wild blood too?

Valaria sighed softly when Celyn continued, expressing his disappointment with the way Ampetrion had handled all of it, how his own family had approached the deal.  She felt another pang of sadness for the young man; it was such a cruel thing, to be told something all your life, or to expect something for so long, only to discover that the whole thing was entirely one sided. 

“It is not…uncommon for brides to be told they are to be married a short time before the wedding itself, nor is it uncommon for brides to meet their intended on the day of the wedding itself.  I don’t know why he didn’t tell me; he’s obviously had this arranged far longer than I have lived with him.  He took me from my family only a year and some months ago, and I had not seen him since I was a small child before that,” Valaria said quietly, shaking her head.  “I’m very sorry for all of this.  I can’t imagine how frustrating this must be.”

She thanked Roe for the wine and took a small sip. “Will you tell me what you mean by making our blood stronger?  Did he tell you why this was important to him?  Does it have something to do with,” she hesitated, feeling a touch of embarrassment at the thought of sounding foolish, “With wild blood?”     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on July 31, 2020, 01:23:11 PM
Celyn frowned at the question of blood. What did she know?
"Our families." He replied carefully, choosing his words as he thought of the human terms to use. "Would support each other with an alliance."

He shrugged, shaking his head with a small smile, catching his uncle's eye for a brief moment.
"Perhaps some would call us wild, but it is simply that my family does not choose to stay in the confines of a city."

***

It was a peaceful evening; only a couple of days off a full moon. At this time of night, most of the day workers had turned in, with the night shift taking their turn to patrol the citadel. They were used to Staunton by now, as he took his regular walk along the corridors. He was known as a notorious insomniac, explaining away his avoidance of the sun as being easily sunburnt. Questions were asked, yes, yet as he was still paying their wages, not many.

He did not hunt every night, preferring to take a bit here and there, certainly, he did not like to take a life within the walls of the town. With a place like Lourdes, there were many visitors from far off lands, so it wasn't too hard to find a victim. At the very most, a person might wake up the next day feeling a little weaker than normal, but no harm done.

As he approached the main hall, he paused, frowning. It was not often that he heard English being spoken, expect with himself and Malachi, yet as far as he was aware, Malachi was hunting further afield, scouting for their enemies.

"Good evening." Staunted smiled as he entered the hall. "I did not realise that we had guests."

Immediately, he could see the change in how the two men looked at him and he knew that they knew exactly what he was. Yet what were they? He could see from the way they breathed and their skin that they were very much alive, yet they did not smell quite as humans usually did.

Roe stood hurriedly, heading over to the sideboard to fetch a new goblet for him.
"My lord." He poured it and set it out for him.

Staunton smiled his thanks, yet he frowned slightly as he watched the way the man walked, noting that he was still in pain.
"You go on to bed, Etienne."
"As you wish, my lord."

Roe laid a hand gently on Valaria's arm, giving it a light squeeze before he left. She was in safe hands, at least.

Once the Frenchman had left, Staunton turned to their visitors.
"My name is James Staunton."

The younger of the two men stood. He looked to be barely out of boyhood, despite his muscular frame.
"Celyn Blackwood, this is my uncle, Oscar."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 01, 2020, 12:31:06 PM
Valaria’s frown deepened.  After a year around Ampetrion and his secretive ways, she could sometimes get a sense of when something was being kept from her.  Obviously she didn’t know what that something was, but the way Celyn answered, vague and careful, answering without actually answering…she was disappointed.   

Taking another swallow of her wine, the young woman gazed down at the table instead, hand gripping the goblet a little harder than necessary.  “I see.”

Oscar started slightly as she looked at him, her features a touch harder than before.  “How big is your clan?”

Oscar glanced at Celyn, then back at her, his wine untouched so far. “We are not a large clan.  Perhaps 50, give or take?”

“But you must be very skilled in a fight?  Or perhaps you have wealth?  What strength exactly makes you so desirable to Ampetrion?  If I know anything at all about him, it is that he does not make a deal unless in benefits him disproportionately.  So what is so special about a hill clan from England?  What makes them best out of a hundred different houses, families, and clans with more obvious benefits?” she asked.

Oscar remained as still and silent as a stone at these questions; even he didn’t know everything about what the pact with Ampetrion entailed; he was not Alpha, and his brother didn’t share everything with him.  It was clear to him that she wasn’t buying Celyn’s explanation.

Before Oscar could translate her questions to Celyn, or respond with some of his own, a pale, blond man entered the room and greeted them in English.  This one was from their homeland; there were no traces of any other language in his speech.  More, this one was the source of that strange, musty odor that lingered within the castle, different from Ampetrion’s stench, but still similar in a way. 

Valaria rose when Roe did and dipped into an understated curtsey.  “Good evening, my lord.”

She was grateful when Staunton sent Roe to bed to rest; she had been worried about him, but assumed he would fight her on it if she had suggested him going to bed, herself.  He wouldn’t have left her alone to the two strangers, but leaving her in the care of Staunton while in their company was acceptable enough.  She kissed Roe’s cheek as he passed by and murmured a quiet ‘sleep well, my friend’. 

Turning back at the others as introductions were made, Valaria sat back down again, propping her chin on folded hands.  “Celyn and Oscar Blackwood were just about to inform me to the best of their ability of why my grandfather chose their small clan to ally with through betrothal instead of anyone else, my Lord, in full detail, without leaving anything out.”  Her tone was pointed, booking no room for argument.

Oscar grimaced, and translated for Celyn. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 01, 2020, 05:05:31 PM
Celyn frowned; he could not understand a word that his bride to be said, but he could tell she wasn't impressed by what he had been saying. Could they afford to tell her the truth? Who was he trying to fool? She wouldn't even believe it.

His frown deepened as he realised that the owner of the house's smell was getting steadily stronger. Vampire. In his years, he had only met the one so far, Ampetrion, but he had been taught from an early age what they smelled like. He knew that they could be strong; you could never tell just by looking how old a vampire was, and they just got stronger as they got older.

The translation made him groan inwardly, confirming what he already knew to be true.

"What can I say?" He threw aside his frown and smiled. "Our clan is special and, of course, Ampetrion can see that."

He looked up at the vampire, watching him. The man was thin, very thin. Too thin. Celyn shot the vampire a look, wondering just how much he had told Valaria.

"Of course." Staunton replied, his tone tinged with the faintest degree of ice. "How could he not?"

Staunton took a seat beside Valaria, sipping at his goblet of wine. The vampire glanced at Valaria.
"Then it seems, gentlemen, that your business was... misplaced."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 02, 2020, 09:52:59 AM
If anything, Celyn’s response only served to make Valaria bristle further.  How was she supposed to negotiate a new deal when she did not know the terms of the original?  How was she to salvage the mess Ampetrion had made if she hadn’t the tools to clean it up?  How could she be expected to trust him, when he couldn’t be candid with her and held things back as stringently as the very man she had run from in the first place?

She returned Celyn’s smile with one of her own, sharp as glass and cold as ice.  In that moment, it could be believed that Ampetrion’s blood really did flow through her veins.  In an instant it dropped from her face, and she swallowed the rest of the contents of her goblet. 

Oscar wet his lips and looked at Staunton, nodding.  “Aye, it certainly was at that.  I never liked him, personally, but my brother—Celyn’s father—negotiated the deal with him.  It wasn’t until today that we learned how false Ampetrion was.  We’ve known of Celyn and Valaria’s betrothal since Celyn here was a pu—a boy.  Valaria here learned of it today when we found her.  Now, we’re here trying to reconcile something—”

“Which you are failing to do,” Valaria interjected tightly.  “I ran from Ampetrion because his secrets were dangerous, and I knew they involved me and put my family in danger.  As you have learned, he kept me in the dark.  If you believe for even a second that I would willingly hold to a marriage in which the theme will be more secrets and lies, then you are both fools and we are wasting each other’s time.”

Oscar blinked. “You said you wouldn’t hold to a deal struck by Ampetrion.”

“And then I said that if you were willing to drop your alliance with Ampetrion and deal with me instead, that perhaps a new alliance could be arranged.  I am not unwilling to keep the betrothal intact—given that you agree with my terms, but if you insist on dodging my questions, then our negotiation is pointless and its over.”

“And what are your terms?” Oscar snapped back.

Honesty for one.  I want to know what I would be marrying into, and I want to know what your arrangement with Ampetrion was.  Secondly, I’ve already offered my services and loyalty to Lord Staunton, here, and my arrangement with him supersedes any deal that you and I may have.  Any agreement we make will need to include him in it, and have his approval.”

Oscar raised an eyebrow as he finished translating for Celyn.           
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 02, 2020, 10:57:39 AM
The conversation moved far too fast for Celyn to keep up with, always having to wait for a translation, delayed as his uncle retorted, his temper clearly rising. Celyn found it frustrating to say the least. He had not anticipated them having an all out row, especially not inside the stronghold of an English vampire no less.

Finally, the translation came and Celyn found himself unable to keep the cocky smile in place. She was right, after all, she deserved some truth.

"You work for Staunton here?" Celyn looked at Valaria in surprise. "I wonder if you really know what you're dealing with?"

"I assure you." The vampire replied quietly. "She knows."
Staunton smiled coldly, fixing them both with his piercing pale blue eyes.
"I suggest that you do us all the decency of speaking truthfully."

Celyn glanced at his uncle before he spoke, well aware that he was about to break one of their clan's fundamental rules.
"Our family is iaith blaidd. Wolf tongue. Neither human nor wolf."

The vampire simply nodded, looking as if he had expected as much. Celyn turned to Valaria, wondering how she had taken the news.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 02, 2020, 11:53:12 AM
Valaria glanced at Staunton when he answered Celyn, feeling a note of relief that they were finally on the same page about something at least.  Somehow, they knew what he was.  That knowledge, having never met Staunton prior to this moment, told her that they had a stronger sense of the supernatural than she did, and that perhaps they had known what Ampetrion was from the beginning and had dealt with him anyway. 

Iaith blaidd.  Neither human nor wolf.  What exactly did that mean?  They both appeared to be human.  Then again, Staunton, Malachi, and Ampetrion all appeared to be human, but looks were deceiving.  “Wild blood,” she murmured, any previous frustrations disappearing.

Oscar grimaced and nodded, quicker on the translation to Celyn.  “Aye, I suppose.  It’s obviously not what we call it, but what we are is passed on in the blood, and Ampetrion said that you carry it.  Not strong enough to make you more than human, but your children potentially could be if you married and bred into the right bloodlines—ours, for instance.”

“And what would that mean for them?” Valaria asked quietly.

“Well, your children could be like us.  Stronger than human but smarter than wolves, and the ability to communicate with both, better senses and reflexes, the ability to transform physically into the form of a wolf or a blend of both human and wolf depending on the circumstances.”

Valaria was silent, reflecting on that with some difficulty.  It was harder to picture; certainly if one supernatural species existed, then it stood to reason there were others, but this seemed so much more fantastical than vampirism.  Choosing not to follow that train of thought, she instead focused on why these traits, this alliance in particular, would hold so much importance for Ampetrion.  By all accounts he could create his own supernatural force that had just as many strengths, if not the same weaknesses.  She could see why they would be useful to him, but somehow she felt it ran deeper than that. 

Why would this trait in her blood, in their blood, make them a valuable commodity, as Ampetrion put it? 

“Alright, I can see why he would make an alliance with you.  I imagine your strengths and abilities make you formidable for countless reasons and in many instances, but I cannot see Ampetrion making a deal with you based on the most obvious of reasons.  You have met him.  You know what a monster he is.”

Oscar glanced at Celyn.  There was no disputing that.  They had spent more than enough time in Ampetrion’s company in recent weeks to deduce that for themselves.

“In any case,” Valaria continued, “If we can come to a new agreement that benefits both your clan and Lord Staunton, then I’m willing to uphold the original stipulation sealing the agreement with marriage if that is what is decided.  I leave the working of those terms out to you three.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 02, 2020, 01:43:01 PM
"It had crossed my mind that Ampetrion might try and double cross us." The werewolf looked over at Staunton, smiling faintly. "Wouldn't be the first time that our kind has been shafted by a leech."

Staunton chose not to rise to the obvious bait, merely raising an eyebrow, but the comment had been noted. Yet it was Valaria's words that prompted a look of actual surprise on the vampire's face. She had just left her future, her life no less, in his hands to negotiate on her behalf.

"I had hoped that you would continue to work for me, my dear. For a time, at least."

Staunton spoke as if she had been working with him for some time, rather than the reality in that she had only just made the offer. Marriage alliances were common amongst the aristocracy, but to Staunton, the whole situation seemed rather distasteful, seeing a woman as simply a bargaining token or a means of producing offspring rather than an actual person.

"I think you need to be involved with this discussion, Valaria. What they are proposing does concern your future, after all."

"I would not want you to come with us if you are not willing." To his credit, the young wolf seemed to be genuine in his sentiment. "If we leave empty handed, then there is no harm done."

Staunton frowned, considering the matter carefully as he took a sip of his wine.
"I don't think we should be so hasty, my young friend. I would not send you back with nothing. Alliances need not revolve around marriage. There are other methods of building a friendship."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 02, 2020, 02:14:17 PM
Oscar gave Celyn a look when the derogatory term dropped from his Nephew’s lips. “An intelligent Alpha keeps a civil tongue in his head when dealing with potential allies, nephew.  He does not stoop to slurs to get his point across, especially in company that could be insulted by it.”  Oscar looked apologetically at Staunton.  “Please excuse my nephew.  He may be a man, but he still has much to learn yet.” 

The young woman smiled at Staunton’s words; that he would say he hoped to keep her around for a time meant more to her than she expected.  Keeping her involved in the conversation only meant more.  “As you say.”

When Staunton went so far as to suggest that there were other ways to make the alliance that didn’t involve a sacrifice of marriage on her part, Valaria felt surprise, followed quickly by gratitude.  Even before Ampetrion had come for her, it had been assumed that this would be her life.  Whether by her father’s word or Ampetrion’s, she had always been slated to belong to someone else.  It was strange, coming to the realization that—vow to Staunton aside, should he choose to officially take her up on her offer—she was her own person for the first time in her life.  She had still somehow been operating under the assumption that she was not. 

“There are other methods, yes,” Oscar said, leaning forward slightly.  “I think my brother would probably reconsider the marriage if for no other reason tha even indirectly, we would still be entangled with Ampetrion.  If we can make an entirely clean break altogether, that would be better.  So how do we begin to build a friendship?  What can you offer us, and what would you want in return?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 02, 2020, 04:06:03 PM
"Oh, no offense taken." Staunton chuckled quietly, waving aside the young werewolf's slur. He had been called worse before and would be again.

His smiled faded as he focused on the crux of the matter, the idea that had been forming in his mind.
"It is clear to me that Ampetrion has been using you for his own ends. I make my dislike of that man no secret; indeed, he has already named me as his enemy to you."

"Ampetrion has hounded me far and wide. Why else would I be hiding in a castle here? Ampetrion caused me to be driven from England, my children slaughtered so that only one remained."

"All I ask is your assistance." The vampire paused, fixing them with his steely gaze. "I understand it would be breaking apart past alliances, however, it is clear from his actions that Ampetrion cared only for himself. I would be in your debt, with a favour that can be called in at any point, either by yourself or by your descendants. I give you my word and I stand by that."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 03, 2020, 11:05:46 AM
Oscar listened as Staunton spoke, frown deepening when the vampire described how Ampetrion had decimated his family, run him from his home in England.  He knew nothing of vampiric politics or rivalries, but he could understand grief, and even only a couple of months away from his home made him ache for it sorely.  He had not been unfortunate enough to lose the whole of his family, his pack, but he and his mate Elise had tried unsuccessfully for years to have pups.  Elise had quickened a number of times, but had never been able to carry full term.  It was a source of great sadness for them both, but especially for her.  Children in the vampiric sense were…different from the usual definition of the word, but he imagined that they were no less terrible to lose.

And perhaps it was all a ruse, a manipulation on Staunton’s part to garner sympathy and make him more of a viable option than Ampetrion to ally with, but if it was, Oscar sensed that it was a ruse or manipulation woven with truths.  He had no difficulty believing that Ampetrion could do these things to his enemy, that he had done these things. 

Oscar steepled his fingers beneath his chin and glanced sidelong at Celyn, mulling over Staunton’s offer.  “How would you like us to assist you in this regard?  Ampetrion is old, different from the more common vampire—like yourself.  I’ve seen him walk in daylight like its nothing, when other vampires would burn to a crisp in seconds.  I can’t say how he does it, but he does.  If you wish us to kill him, I suppose it could be done, but not without a high sacrifice of some of our best warriors.  Your kind only gets harder to kill the older they get.  If we fail, he would do to us what he has already done to you.  How can we call in a debt if we are all dead?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 03, 2020, 04:31:44 PM
"Ampetrion is a day walker?" Staunton frowned; if it were anyone else speaking, he might have accused them of being either a liar or grossly incompetant.

"If that is true, then that explains a lot." He muttered, talking half to himself, his frown deepening by the second. The older vampire had quite often appeared to be one step ahead of him and this could be why.

Staunton shook his head, as if to clear his mind, breaking into a smile.
"I would not ask you to kill. I will handle that side of things, along with my son. All I'm asking for is information. Surely you must have planned a meeting point with him, ready for when you located your bride to be?"

He glanced at Valaria, smiling before he turned back to the two werewolves.
"Point me in the right direction and I will do the rest. Even if we fail, he will never know of your part in all of this. He will simply assume that you did not find what you were looking for."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 03, 2020, 05:11:12 PM
Valaria started, the revelation that Ampetrion was a daywalker as much news to her as it was to Staunton.  She had never witnessed him leave his manor during the day, preferring to conduct his business under the cover of night.  Then again, the time she had actually spent in Ampetrion’s company had been limited.  It was certainly possible that he could be out in sunlight, but that she had never witnessed it. 

It seemed to make some sense to Staunton as well, no matter how impossible it seemed.  She listened as Staunton elaborated further on what he needed from the werewolves, asked them where they might have met up with Ampetrion after finding her.

Oscar scratched at the back of his neck. “There is an abandoned cabin outside of the city.  He refused to come into Lourdes himself, but he told us to meet him there if we found her here.  Two miles to the southwest on the edge of an old orchard.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 04, 2020, 03:26:03 PM
"Excellent." Staunton smiled, pleased that he was finally getting a chance to strike back at Ampetrion for everything he had put him through.

"Once my son returns, then I will plan my actions." His smile broadened, looking as if they were discussing nothing more important than a picnic in the meadows. "But of course, you don't need to hear about that."

"Thank you for your assistance. You are welcome to stay here if you wish. I can have rooms available for you, before you go on your way. Remember, I will be in your debt."

Should he survive. Yet of course, that wasn't going to be an issue if he didn't. His smile still in place, Staunton stood and extended his hand to each werewolf in turn, sealing their accord.

They did not have long to wait. Staunton had barely summoned one of his servants to show them to the guest rooms when the door was opened and Malachi entered, heading immediately over to his father. The younger vampire glanced at the strangers, frowning.

"My lord." He spoke in French, seeing Valaria there. "Is there a problem?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 05, 2020, 10:47:58 AM
Oscar nodded in satisfaction at Staunton’s claim.  He had his doubts about whether Ampetrion could be killed, but that was not their problem.  Their problem now was returning home, informing the Alpha of what had transpired, and moving on from this whole messy business they had found themselves in.  Alfred wouldn’t be happy, he suspected, but there was little to be done about it. 

Upon the offer of lodging for the night, Oscar allowed himself a small, tight smile.  “You are most gracious to offer us your hospitality, sir, thank you.  However, Celyn and I have a small camp just outside the city, and it will do for us before our departure tomorrow.”  Allies or not, debts owed or not, Oscar didn’t relish spending the night in Staunton’s home, or spending any more time than necessary in his company—though he had not expressed it so blatantly as Celyn, the elder werewolf didn’t care for bloodsuckers either. 

Nudging his nephew, Oscar rose, bowing his head to Staunton respectfully.  He was about to open his mouth to say their goodbyes when another vampire entered the room.  He assumed that this was the son that Staunton had mentioned.  As the younger spoke to his father in French, Oscar decided now was as good a time as any.

“Again, thank you for your hospitality, but we’ve taken enough of your time.  We wish you good fortune in your endeavors.”  He looked at Valaria.  “Miss Valaria, it was a pleasure to meet you.  We wish that it could have been under better circumstances.”

Valaria rose as well, eyes shifting briefly between Staunton and Malachi.  “Shall I see them out, my lord?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 06, 2020, 03:07:12 PM
Malachi blinked in surprise. English speakers? He remained silent, waiting patiently by his father's side as he said his goodbyes, allowing Valaria to escort them out. When the strangers had left the room, Malachi turned to his father.

"Visitors?"
"Werewolves." Staunton smiled at the look of surprise that registered on Malachi's face. "They could prove to be important allies."

"They've brought me some worrying news." Staunton grimaced, fixing his pale blue eyes on Malachi. "Ampetrion is close by. Only a few miles away, even. He knows exactly where we are."

Malachi grimaced, muttering a curse.
"Have you a plan, father?"
Staunton nodded.
"My instinct is to strike out at him immediately, when he's not expecting us, but I cannot allow my anger to drive me to make a mistake, not while we are so weak. Instead, I'd like you to escort Valaria away from here, I would imagine that she would prefer to avoid Ampetrion, especially if he strikes at us."

***

Celyn followed Valaria to the door, smiling, although the expression was tinged with sadness.
"I'm glad to have met you, finally, after so long. I just wish that the circumstances had been better."

"I hope that you will think of me as a friend. If you ever need anything, you have only to ask."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 06, 2020, 03:33:49 PM
Valaria saw the two werewolves out, pausing when Celyn spoke to her.  He still seemed disappointed, and a part of her found it endearing.  His words about being glad to meet her, that he hoped she would think of him as a friend made her smile with real genuine warmth for the first time. 

“You seem like a decent fellow, Celyn,” She replied, pausing so that Oscar could translate for him.  “I wish the circumstances had been different as well.  You will make some woman very happy one day.”

She reached out and offered her hand.  “Perhaps when my English is better, I will write you.  And likewise, if there is anything you need from me, please don’t hesitate to reach out.”

Looking between the two men, she inclined her head slightly.  “I wish you both safe travels and good fortune in the future.”

After having seen the two off, Valaria returned back to where she had left Staunton and Malachi, knocking softly on the outside of the door to announce her arrival.  “They have gone, my Lord.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 06, 2020, 05:42:52 PM
Staunton nodded as Valaria returned.
"Come in."

"We don't have long." He smiled grimly. "Our new friends brought us some worrying news. If he is near, then I will expect him to attack, especially if he suspects that you are here as well."

He paused for a moment, looking as if he were choosing his words before he spoke.
"I would suggest, as a precaution, that you leave now with Malachi. I would imagine that you would not want to be here if he does attack. We will then be able to regroup once we're in a better position."

He looked over at the young woman.
"Does that sound reasonable?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 06, 2020, 06:40:10 PM
Valaria entered when Staunton gave the word.  His tone was enough for her to understand the graveness of the situation.  Ampetrion’s presence nearby was no news to her; she had already been told as much by the two werewolves prior to their meeting in the citadel, and she had overheard as much when they were sat at the table. 

He was correct, in that she wanted to be nowhere near a place where Ampetrion could be squatting, waiting to attack or infiltrate—whatever it was he chose to do, and Valaria had no illusions about him simply giving up the fight.  If she was here, he wouldn’t let it go. 

For this reason, Valaria made no protest when Staunton suggested that Malachi take her elsewhere.  She thought to ask what he would do, if he needed Malachi by his side; Ampetrion was crafty, after all, but she recognized that Staunton had a great deal more experience with his enemy than she did. 

“It sounds reasonable, yes,” she agreed.  She thought to ask about Roe, at the very least if there was time to say goodbye, but she was all too aware of the fact that the poor man had just gone to bed and needed his rest.  She would simply have to speak with him later.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 08, 2020, 09:58:36 AM
Malachi nodded, his expression matching Staunton's.
"We'll meet up later on, father." He turned to Valaria. "Get your things together. I'll get the horses ready."

With a nod towards his father, he turned and headed out to the stables without a backwards glance. He knew that he did not need to tell Valaria to only carry essentials at a vital time like this. Moving quickly, he saddled both his horse and Valaria's, checking everything was correct before he led them out of the stable.

He climbed into the saddle when Valaria came to join him, handing her the reins.
"We have to get going. We have no idea when he might realise his werewolf allies have turned against him."

Putting his heels to his horse's flanks, Malachi turned his head to the road and headed out at a gallop.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 08, 2020, 10:11:54 AM
Valaria wasted no time.  She returned to her room and gathered the spare change of clothing that she had into a bag.  It was all that she had to her name; she had lost what little she had brought with her over the course of the journey to Lourdes.  Even the blade she had carried was gone, taken at the front gates when Malachi first lured her here. 

She didn’t pause to reflect on this.  With the sack stowed over her shoulder, she walked quickly to the stables and met Malachi there, nodding in answer when he spoke to her.  She could find no disagreement.  Shoving the small sack into one of the saddlebags, Valaria climbed astride the horse he had prepared for her and urged the beast on after Malachi. 

She glanced over her shoulder at the receding citadel, her doubts about leaving Staunton to fend for himself against Ampetrion at the forefront of her mind, but neither Staunton nor Malachi seemed to be concerned by it.  She said nothing of her worries, merely followed closely at a gallop as he led the way out of Lourdes and onto the road towards safety.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 09, 2020, 05:54:19 AM
They rode hard, moving off the roads and into the fields and forests. Malachi was hoping that they'd cover a decent amount of distance before he was forced to rest during the day. They mostly rode in silence, travelling too fast to think about conversation, yet he had a number of questions about the werewolves who had visited them earlier.

Slackening their pace a little to rest his horse, Malachi looked over his shoulder to Valaria, making sure she was still close by. Malachi frowned; was that someone behind them? Sure enough, he could see three horsemen behind them, weaving through the trees. Muttering a curse, he spurred his horse on, only to pull him up sharply.

Ahead of them, more riders appeared, spread out over the trail. Soldiers, their steel ready. Malachi heard a snippit of orders barked and he realised with a start that these men were Spaniards. The Inquisition had found them.

Malachi drew his sword, throwing a glance towards Valaria.
"Run. I'll hold them off, like before."

Malachi turned away, not even waiting for a response before he spurred his horse forwards and attacked. He could tell immediately that these were well trained men, hardened veterans. They surrounded him, striking out with vicious jabs. His horse reared up and Malachi cut down at an opponent, aiming for the man's throat just beneath his helmet where the armour was often weak, yet before the blow could land, one of the others had speared his horse through the chest with his lance and the animal fell with a scream of pain.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 11, 2020, 03:05:29 PM
Valaria looked behind her when Malachi’s expression changed, seeing the horsemen running them down.  She recognized the language immediately and felt her fear spike.  Her companion demanded that she run, and after the last time she had found herself in captivity, she couldn’t find it in herself to argue; Malachi was far more capable than she at fending off attack, and having her there to worry about would be one more thing against them.

With a quick nod, Valaria turned her horse away from the men coming at them from ahead and took off into the woods instead.  She heard at least two leave the road as well to follow her, which meant that the rest had stayed behind to take on Malachi.  Her horse could only travel so quickly in the rough, and she was painfully aware of deadfall and hidden holes in the ground that could snap the beasts’ leg; one misplaced step and her run was over. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 11, 2020, 06:13:50 PM
As his horse pitched down beneath him, Malachi was thrown from the saddle. He tucked his head under as he landed, rolling to lessen the impact and was back on his feet, sword in hand. He did not look behind as he faced their enemies, hoping that Valaria had been able to escape.

The riders surrounded him, stabbing down at him from above. Malachi managed to deflect a fair few blows here and there; one of the riders was too careless and Malachi lunged forwards, spearing him in the gap beneath his helm. Yet even as he brought one down, another cut him across the shoulders with a blow that would have killed a human.

It was clear that these men knew what they were up against. They did not just leave it with the crippling blow that would have toppled a human, they hacked again at him, sharp steel cutting through flesh and bone. Still, Malachi fought, snarling in pain whenever they managed to cut him successfully.

A well aimed cut to his left leg brought him to his knees with a cry and they pinned him on the ground before he had a chance to heal the wound. They carried heavy chains, too thick for him to break easily. The leader of the soldiers speared Malachi through his back, through flesh and shattering bone, pinning him until they had his wrists chained behind his back securely.

"Get up." His captor snarled in Spanish, planting a kick to his ribs to emphasise his order. Silently, Malachi staggered to his feet, his spine still not properly set.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 17, 2020, 11:55:39 AM
Valaria pushed her horse hard, hearing her pursuers growing ever closer.  Panic boiled in her chest and made it difficult to breathe, and her vision blurred with tears and made it difficult to see.  She thought she had heard the distant sound of a horse screaming, but she couldn’t trust that it wasn’t her imagination. 

Arrows shot past her to either side, lodging themselves into trees or disappearing ahead of her to land elsewhere.  They were shooting at her.  Valaria altered her course in a turn, trying to throw them off, but an arrow finally found its target, imbedding itself deep into her horse’s flank.  The beast screamed and rose on its hind legs, throwing her off its back.  Valaria landed flat on her back, hard enough to knock the breath from her lungs. 

She was still gasping and struggling for breath when they closed in on her and wrenched her from the ground and onto her feet, swearing at her in Spanish.  When she struggled, the one to her left hit her so hard that it dazed her and made her stumble.  Her cheek immediately began to bruise and swell.

“Keep it up,” he warned. “The Don wants you alive, but he said nothing about you being brought to him whole.”

Valaria spat in his face, earning herself a punch to her stomach that nearly knocked the wind from her again.  While the one held her still, the other bound her at the wrists and ankles.  Once that was finished, they threw her over one of the horses and went back the way they had come. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 17, 2020, 06:27:46 PM
Malachi scowled as the guards returned with Valaria slung over the saddle; his hopes that she had managed to escape dashed. He could smell her blood, but fortunately, not too much of it for her to have been hurt badly.

"Move." A guard jabbed at him with the point of his sword and Malachi stumbled forwards.

They were taken through to the forest, marching steeply up the side of a hill. Malachi found it hard to keep his footing at times in the thick mud, especially with his hands still shackled tightly behind his back. Fortunately, he had managed to heal the majority of the damage to his body on the journey.

They were travelling for around an hour before they reached a large house, a chateau nestled in the woods, with gardens that, at any other time, would seem quite pleasant. They stopped outside and Valaria was taken from the horse. Malachi struggled, but their captors were brutal; their commander barely paused before he brought his lance down, spearing him between his shoulder blades with enough force to bring Malachi to his knees.

***

"Lady Valaria." Don Alejandro emerged from the doorway of the chateau, smiling down at them both. "A pleasure to see you once more."

The Spaniard eyed Malachi, raising his eyebrow as he turned back to the young woman.
"Again, with such... interesting companions."

As before, he spoke as if they were experiencing a chance meeting at a high society function, not as the victims of a capture that he had orchestrated directly.

"See to it." Don Alejandro gave a dismissive flick of his fingers and the guards forced Malachi to his feet and inside the chateau. Three guards remained, one on either side of Valaria and another standing just behind.

"Come in, please." Don Alejandro smiled warmly, gesturing for the door. He might have appeared to be completely at ease, but the guards remained cold and stone faced, poised to react should she be foolish enough to try anything.

He showed her into a small study, pleasantly decorated. Unlike the previous farmhouse, stolen with its inhabitants slaughtered, this chateau seemed to fit with Don Alejandro somehow, even down to the portrait of the rather stern looking man that hung on the wall.

"Please, sit down." This time, he did not have her tied to the chair, yet the guards remained close by. Don Alejandro moved to a glass decanter and poured two glasses of brandy and he held one out to her.

"Your health, my lady."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 09:41:54 AM
Valaria could barely see Malachi being marched along, but she could hear their attacks on his person well enough.  Her cries of protest fell on deaf ears, and only earned her a strike to the back of the head.  The rest of the trip was elusive; Val drifted in and out of consciousness for a time. 

When she came back around fully, they had come to a halt outside of a chateau, and she was presented to someone that she would have preferred never to see again.  Don Alejandro greeted her like an old friend, his comment about her companion making her bristle.  Before she could summon the words which would suggest a compromising position with himself, Malachi was taken away and one of the guards cut the ropes binding her wrists and ankles so that she could walk.  She briefly considered trying to make a run for it, but her head was splitting with pain and she was vastly outnumbered and outmatched.  More, Malachi was still there, and they had obviously had no qualms in damaging him more viciously than they might have an ordinary man.

Reluctantly, Valaria did as she was told and walked, sitting as she was bade to once they reached the study.  Her expression was grim and recalcitrant in the face of his hospitality, and though he held out a glass of brandy for her and toasted her health, she refused to take it.  Instead, she kept her hands folded on her lap. 

“Why have you brought us here?” She demanded, preferring to get straight to the point rather than expending energy on false courtesies. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 10:25:13 AM
Don Alejandro did not seem to be overly perturbed as she refused the drink. He set it back on the side and raised his glass for a sip all the same.

"Information." He replied with a smile as he settled into his own chair. "Just as before."

There was a strong parallel between now and when they had first met, yet if Don Alejandro expected them to hear Malachi's cries, he was mistaken. His smile, however, did not waver in an instant.

"I'm surprised to find you with a man like that." His smile broadened. "Especially after the tale you spun the last time we spoke."

He took another sip of his drink.
"Is there anything that you wish to add, my dear?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 10:49:31 AM
Valaria bristled visibly.  “The company that I keep and my reasons for keeping them are my business, sir, not yours.”

She silenced then, features stony.  A part of her demanded that she change her approach; Valaria had been set on survival go so long, that the instinct to say anything that might prolong that survival needled sharply at her.  That, however, was an instinct that Ampetrion had specifically honed into her.  Loyalty was a finite thing, best kept fluid in the face of opportunity, he had told her more than once. 

But Ampetrion was not the sort of person she wished to emulate, and when one was offered the chance that she had been given to start over, the last thing she wanted to do was fall back on old patterns.  She had offered her loyalty to Staunton, and she was determined to keep her word. 

“No, I have nothing to add,” Valeria said, straightening a little in her chair.  The fact that she couldn’t guess at how things could go from that point terrified her, but she was still satisfied with her choice.  What exactly did she have to lose, anyway?
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 12:03:59 PM
Don Alejandro chuckled almost good naturedly at her sharp tongue.
"As you wish." He took another sip of his drink, savouring the flavour as he watched her. "But of course, I'm sure that you'll elaborate... in due time."

There was a light knock at the door and one of the guards moved to check, opening the door a sliver to see who was there. He turned and nodded at his master.

"Speaking of time." Don Alejandro stood up, his drink in one hand. "Come this way, my dear."

The guards stepped forwards, ready to assist if necessary, their faces stern. Don Alejandro led the way, moving to a room across the corridor.

Malachi was hanging by his wrists, chained to a ring in the ceiling. His head drooped to his chest, unmoving. A torturer stood beside a tray of evil looking knives and other tools, some of which looked to have seen recent use, although there was no sign of any injury on Malachi's body.

Don Alejandro paced around his prisoner, watching, his smile unwavering.
"Have you ever seen a vampire during the day?" He turned to smile at her. "See for yourself. No heart beat, no sign of life. Dead."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 12:17:25 PM
Valaria tilted her chin upward in defiance; she would not be elaborating on anything to him.  She glanced over her shoulder when the guard knocked and opened the door, frown deepening as Don Alejandro gestured for her to follow him.  Eying the guards and recognizing that there was no choice in the matter, Valaria obeyed and stood, turning to follow as she was bade to. 

The scene that greeted her made her breath catch in her chest.  Malachi looked lifeless, and so much younger than he presented when he was conscious.  The tools of torture had all the signs of use, and even though Malachi had already healed from it, she doubted that it had been any less painful.  What it must have taken not to scream out…

Valaria felt her eyes burn; she was no stranger to cruelty, but was a cruelty of a different sort.  Malachi was defenseless now, as vulnerable as a newborn now that the sun was on the rise.  She blinked rapidly for a moment to banish her tears and compose herself.  She could not think of anything to say, so she simply stayed silent, knowing that Don Alejandro would continue with or without a response.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 12:24:35 PM
"That's the thing with vampires. You can do what you want to them and still, five minutes later they look as pristine as on the night they were changed. This one, remains as just a boy, even though he is much older than that."

He smiled, draining his glass and he set it down on the table beside the torturer's tools.

"I will ask you again, my dear." Don Alejandro's smile had faded in an instant, leaving a piercing glare that suggested that he would not hesitate to put her to the question in the same way should he not be satisfied with her answers.

"Do you have anything to add?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 12:37:34 PM
Valaria struggled to swallow against the lump in her throat as Don Alejandro continued, detailing what he found pleasing about the torture of vampires.  His manner remained pleasant until the last, and the young woman resisted the urge to flinch at the force of his glare.

Her terror increased tenfold, and she didn’t trust it to not show through her voice if she spoke.  If she refused to help him, it would be her suffering next, and unlike Malachi, she would not heal from it near-instantaneously.  She had no doubts that Alejandro would use whatever means necessary to break her and get the answers he wanted.  Instead of speaking, Valaria shook her head emphatically as an answer, hands clenching into tight fists at her sides. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 01:15:30 PM
Don Alejandro raised an eyebrow at her silent response, showing a faint degree of surprise at her defiance. In an instant, the expression had changed, now showing a twisted pleasure. Indeed, she had just given him the excuse that he needed.

"As you wish."

"Hold her." He snapped in his native tongue and the guards immediately jumped forwards to take Valaria by the arms, holding her in a vice like grip.

Calmly, he walked over towards the heavy drapes that covered a significant portion of the wall, cutting off all light from the window beyond. He paused beside it, smiling at them warmly, then he pulled back the drape, letting in the bright morning light.

The moment the light touched his skin, Malachi's body burst into flames. His eyes opened wide, but they were unseeing and completely devoid of all reason. He gave a piercing shriek, his body writhing hopelessly within his shackles. The room was filled with the horrible stench of burning flesh. After a few seconds, Don Alejandro let the drapes fall back into place, cutting off the light.

Immediately, Malachi's body was still, the flames dying down. In just a few seconds, he had been reduced to a burnt husk of a figure, barely even recognisable as Malachi. His limbs, still held by the shackles, looked so brittle that they might break if someone even touched them too hard.

"One less vampire." Don Alejandro smiled, then he turned to the guards. "Take her to the cells. She will answer my questions later."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 01:51:35 PM
Valaria flinched when the guards took hold of her, grinding her teeth against the forceful hold in place.  She watched Don Alejandro cross the room to the drapes with increasing dread.  Malachi went up faster than a dry pine fire, and Valaria screamed in horror.  Her arms pulled against the guards, instinct demanding that she act to try and end the stream of sunlight, but they only held her harder.  “No, stop!  Don’t do this!”

The screams dissolved into hysterical sobs as Don Alejandro closed the drapes again, proclaiming Malachi’s life ended.  She couldn’t stop staring at Malachi’s charred body, and between what she was seeing and the lingering stench of burning flesh in the room, her stomach lurched, threatening to be sick.  She had seen more than enough death in the last few weeks, but up to this point she had never actually had to watch anyone die, especially in not so cruel of a manner.

Valaria forced herself to look away, not bothering to fight when the men took her from the room as Don Alejandro commanded. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 02:50:24 PM
Don Alejandro chuckled as she was dragged out of the room, giving the burned body a last look, he took his glass from the table and returned to his study with a satisfied smile.
He paused in the doorway and turned to one of his guards.

"In a few hours, get someone to bring her some food and water."
"I will see to it personally, my lord."
"No." Don Alejandro replied sharply. "Send Paco instead."
"My lord?" The guard stared at him in surprise.

Don Alejandro grinned broadly.
"Do not worry, the boy will be just fine."

Sure enough, it was mid afternoon when Paco, a skinny young stable boy, brought a plate of cold ham and some bread along with a cup of water to Valaria's cell. Balancing the cup in the crook of his arm, he pulled back the bolt and opened the door, peering inside warily.

"Stay back, miss." He frowned as he entered, stooping to set the cup and the plate on the floor. He pushed it towards her, making sure not to approach her. She was, after all, a very important prisoner.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 03:06:39 PM
The young woman eventually quieted, though the image of what had happened seemed burned into her eyes.  Open or closed, it was there, repeating over and over in her head until she felt hollow with it.  She remained silent and crouched in the corner of the cell as far from the door as she could get.

When the door opened she cringed back, but it was only a boy with food.  There were no guards behind him that she could see.  It seemed an odd thing, for Alejandro to send someone like this to deliver food.  He looked as though a strong wind could blow him over, and she was certain if she tried to get past him, he would offer little resistance.  But it could be a trap.  There could be more men waiting outside, and her trying to escape would only give him further excuse to make her suffer.

This could be the only chance that she had, though, and she would rather die fighting, than just allow herself to be killed without a fuss.  She was scared, but no matter how resolved she was about not giving Alejandro an inch, she had never suffered torture before.  Did she have the strength of will to resist no matter what?

When Paco leaned down and pushed the plate towards her, Valaria launched to her feet and charged into him with enough force to at least knock him off balance, then scrambled out the door and bolted down the corridor as fast as she could, firmly in the grip of an adrenaline rush.  She was desperate to get out, to run, to get as far away as possible, out of his reach and to someplace—any place—safe out of the Don’s reach. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 03:57:13 PM
The boy fell back with a surprised yelp. He scrambled to his feet, calling out the alarm, yet this end of the house was quiet. In the distance, there was an answering shout and the sound of running feet as guards grabbed their weapons and scrambled out to find their fleeing captive.

As the first guards ran out of the house, they immediately realised that their horses had been taken and scattered. Hurling curses into the air, the guards spread out, following the mess of hoof tracks in the mud to try and catch her.

From his study inside, Don Alejandro stood at the door, listening to the chaos outside.
"My lord." His lieutenant hurried over. "She has escaped."

Smiling, Don Alejandro turned and headed back inside, settling back into his chair.
"Excellent news."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 04:41:34 PM
Valaria paused her escape long enough to release the horses, hoping to add enough trails to throw her pursuers off of the real one.  She proceeded at a frantic pace until hiding became necessary lest Don Alejandro’s men spot her.  She wiggled down into a tangled mess of deadfall and leaves, ignoring the sensation of crawling things as she dragged piles of leaves over herself.  It was difficult to keep from shaking, and she had to remind herself to breath. 

When the danger of being discovered passed, she was on the move again.  She only hoped that she was running in the right direction to Lourdes; Staunton needed to know what had happened to Malachi, and that Don Alejandro was after him.  She didn’t dare stop or make camp, didn’t dare rest beyond the short spurts when she needed to hide. 

By the time she reached the city, her legs had given out on her half a dozen times, and her hands and knees were bloody from her falls.  The sun had been down for a little over an hour.  She only slowed when she reached Staunton’s citadel, bracing herself against the wall to keep herself steady as she climbed the stairs.  She stopped when she reached the guard near Staunton’s door, still fighting to catch her breath.  “I need to see Lord Staunton.  It’s urgent.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 22, 2020, 06:54:34 PM
"Find her." Don Alejandro smiled coldly at his lieutenant. "But do not capture. I want to know where she runs to, bringing news of what we did to the vampire."
"Yes, my lord." The lieutenant turned and marched out of his master's study, ignoring the general pandemonium of a break out as he singled out his best tracker and set him on the task of finding her tracks. As ordered, they remained well back, ensuring that she did not know she was being followed.

She hurried towards Lourdes, confirming what his master had already half suspected. She wound her way to the walled castle within, the lieutenant watching from behind the corner of a building. He signalled to the tracker and they left the city, ready to pass the information back to Don Alejandro.

***

Staunton frowned as Valaria entered his study. He was about to ask her what she was doing back here so soon, when he realised that he could smell her blood. It was faint, only a slight scrape here and there, but even so, it was enough of an indicator that something was horribly wrong.

"What's happened? Where's Malachi?"

He knew that his son would not have left her, not without a damn good reason. Staunton stood, closing the gap between them. He reached out and took her by the arm, seeing how close to exhaustion she was.

"It's all right." He spoke softly, frowning in concern. "You are safe now."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 22, 2020, 07:37:31 PM
Valaria steadied herself thanks to his hold on her arm, his assurance that she was safe nearly undoing what little composure she was currently clinging to.  It wouldn’t help him to dissolve into hysterics, and despite being quite close to that point, she managed to speak.

“We ran afoul of the Inquisition,” she said, trying to slow her words a bit so that they didn’t come out in such an unintelligible rush. “They were led by a man called Don Alejandro Luis Alvarez Gonzales, the same man who captured Etienne and me before.  But he knew what Malachi was, my Lord, what you are.  He interrogated him until the sun rose, and then when I refused to answer his questions, they put Malachi—” Her voice strangled off mid-sentence, and for a moment Valaria could smell Malachi’s burning flesh again, and struggled to breathe through it.  She swallowed, trying to push past it.  The best she could do was a hoarse whisper.  “They put Malachi in the sun.  They forced me to watch him burn.”

Valaria grimaced, closing her eyes as she looked away.  “I’m fairly certain they allowed me to escape.  It was…it was too easy, after the precautions they took up to that point.  They probably followed me, but I had to warn you, to tell you what happened.  They are looking for you.  It’s not safe here anymore.”     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 23, 2020, 01:11:23 PM
Staunton stared at Valaria, the gravity of her words hitting home like lead weights.
"Malachi..." Yet he trailed off, hit by a wave of bitterness.

He took a moment to compose himself, then his expression hardened. He should have foreseen this happening. He should have been prepared.

"You're right." Staunton turned away abruptly, opening a drawer in his desk and removing a pouch which he slid into his pocket. "You were almost definitely followed."

"We don't have much time." He headed to the door and called one of his guards over. "Have horses saddled immediately."

He paused, turning back to Valaria.
"How far away are they?"

***

Don Alejandro sat at his desk, writing a letter in a neat hand. He wrote in a code, just in case his letter ever got into the wrong hands. He paused, frowning as he thought through the correct symbols to convey the intricacies of the current situation. He had much good news to pass on to his master. He would be pleased.

In the far end of the house, he heard a crack of a whip and a cry following it. Don Alejandro frowned, knowing that the vampire was the only captive that they had currently and he had given strict orders for him not to be touched for the moment. The crack came again and his frown deepened.

Of course, Paco, the stable boy. The others were most likely holding the boy responsible for Valaria's escape. Don Alejandro's expression cleared and he turned back to his letter, finishing off the last few words. He supposed that he could order them to stop, but it was better that he did not; a beating might do the boy a bit of good. Toughen him up.

Don Alejandro signed the letter with his elaborate signature before blotting it carefully. He folded it neatly and took a small stick of red wax, he held it close to his candle and let a few blood red drops fall on the join where he pressed his signet ring and held it, sealing it closed.

Satisfied, he stood and called his aide handing over the letter.
"See that this reaches Rodriguez in Madrid. Immediately."
"Yes, my lord." The aide bowed stiffly and he turned on his heel, hurrying to carry out his master's wishes.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 25, 2020, 08:56:51 AM
Valaria was silent while Staunton absorbed the news about Malachi.  The tone of his voice when he spoke his son’s name was wrenching, and she once again found herself fighting to keep her own emotions in check.  She wanted to say that she was sorry, but before she could the man was moving, his grief contained.

Staunton spoke again, affirming that she had been followed, and Valaria watched him cross to his desk and put something into his pocket.  She was still quiet, standing just out of the way as he headed for the door. 

“A day or so.  I ran half of yesterday and all night, but I had to hide several times when his men got too close.  His chateau is northwest of here,” Valaria answered, wishing that she had more solid information to give him than that. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 25, 2020, 04:44:00 PM
"North west." Staunton repeated the words quietly, almost to himself. He glanced at her, frowning. "You're probably exhausted. After... everything."

Staunton paused for a moment, his features betraying a sliver of the depth of emotion that he felt. He had no doubt, if he left, then the citadel would be unprotected, yet also, he did not have the strength to hold it against an attack with the kind of soldiers that Valaria had described. Not if it was a daylight attack. They would be slaughtered with or without him.

He regained his composure, reaching for the cupboards behind his desk where he took a couple of small pouches containing gold coins. Once more, he pocketed them. He paused, holding the last of the pouches. He offered it to Valaria.
"Take this. I have enough for what I need."

Staunton turned and fixed his pale blue eyes on her directly.
"I will be leaving here soon, although it pains me to say it. I believe that my friends here will be better off without me."

He turned away, still talking as he took a sheathed longsword from the corner of the room and cinched the belt around his waist.

"I release you from any obligations towards me. You will have a horse and some supplies, but after that, you will be free to go where you wish. Although, perhaps there's some directions that you're best avoiding. Once again, I feel it is safer for both of us if you do not know where I am headed."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 25, 2020, 05:47:43 PM

 Valaria stared at the bag of coins he gave her, feeling a creeping sort of desolation take root in her heart.  Slowly, she looked up from the bag and met his eyes as he went on to release her from her obligations.  Fear crept in and took a firm hold of desolation’s hand.   

Where would she go?  Her family was buried in a mass grave some miles from here, Ampetrion was still hunting her, and staying with the impending attack from the Inquisition was something she doubted she would survive through a third time, especially if Staunton was already gone.  She doubted Don Alejandro would appreciate losing his prey thanks to her warning.  More, if she was being harbored by anyone in Lourdes, they would likely suffer too.  Little else could be expected from a man who had an entire family slaughtered just so that he could use their farmhouse.

She thought briefly about trying to catch up to Celyn and Oscar, but she hadn’t the first clue about which direction they had gone, or whether or not they would be meeting back up with Ampetrion. 

“But I…I don’t….” she began, meaning to tell him she had no place else, no one else, but that wasn’t Staunton’s problem.  He had enough on his mind now with the loss of Malachi, his life in upheaval, and the Inquisition breathing down his neck with a sword poised to strike and the people who would be left behind to deal with them in his stead.  She was not his family, nor his friend, nor anything much more than a stranger who had turned up one day and had made herself at home.  She abruptly closed her mouth and nodded.

“Thank you, Lord Staunton.  Good luck.”  It was weak and hardly enough, given all that he had done for her and the help he was still giving her in the face of so trying a situation.  Without another word, she turned and left the study so that he could finish what he needed to, trying to remember how to breathe.  Exhaustion made it all so much harder to bear, but there was no time if she had any chance of escaping too. 

She made to head for the stables, but realized with another pang that Etienne was in just as much danger.  Don Alejandro knew that Roe was Staunton’s man.

Valaria slipped into his room and closed the door behind her once she made certain that Etienne was alone, then crossed the room and took his hand. “The Inquisition is coming.  Malachi is dead and Lord Staunton is running; he is outmatched by Don Alejandro’s men and believes the people may fair better without his presence,” she said quietly, glancing towards the door.  “I’m leaving too, and I want you to come with me.  They will recognize us both if we don’t.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 25, 2020, 06:34:50 PM
"And to you." Staunton spoke softly. He paused, looking almost as if he were about to say something else, but then she was gone. Staunton nodded to himself, then he headed out to the stables.

***

"Hmm? Valaria?" Roe looked up at her with bleary eyes, stifling a yawn. "What do you mean?"

As her words slowly fought through his foggy mind, all traces of sleep fled from his face and he sat up.
"Malachi? Dead?"

With a grunt, Roe pulled back the covers and sat up, reaching for his boots.
"How long do we have?" He laced them up tightly, nodding towards the sword and saddle bags leaning against the wall. "Be a dear and pass me those please?"

"Do you know where we're heading?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 26, 2020, 08:45:50 AM
Valaria grimaced and nodded, unable to make herself speak about it.  It had been hard enough telling Staunton what she had witnessed, and she didn’t think that Roe knew the true nature of the man he served. 

Etienne, it seemed, needed no more urging than that.  The older man was immediately upright and putting his boots on, and Valaria promptly moved to grab the sword and saddle bags he had indicated.  She handed him his sword, but slung the saddlebags over her shoulder instead; he was still recovering from the last round of torture that Don Alejandro had ordered him put through, and she had nothing of her own to carry.  “I was planning to leave as soon as you were ready to go, Etienne.  The Inquisition will arrive in a day, less if they push their horses.”

At the question of where they were going, Valaria shook her head, looking crestfallen.  “I don’t know.  Just…away from the northwest and the south is all that I’ve managed.  I would have gone with Lord Staunton, but he dismissed me from his service, encouraged me to go elsewhere.”  Valaria shifted the saddle bags a little so that they rested more comfortably on her shoulder.  She rubbed at her eyes, which had begun to burn again, though she couldn’t tell if it was from emotion or exhaustion.  “I don’t have a plan, beyond just getting out.  I came straight to you from Lord Staunton’s study.”   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 26, 2020, 06:25:08 PM
"Staunton's travelling alone, you say? That doesn't bode well." Roe pulled on his coat and did the buttons up hurriedly. He took his sword, smiling gratefully at Valaria as he cinched it in place around his waist. Taking his had from the hook on the wall, he jammed it onto his head and led the way out of the room.

"Well, that leaves a few directions as fair game."

He marched down the corridor, hardly acting like a man who had been injured so recently. As they emerged into the courtyard, Staunton was already mounted, making his way out.

Roe, raised his voice, waving as he hurried after him.
"My lord, wait."

Staunton pulled up his horse, turning in the saddle to watch them.
"Mr Roe?" Staunton frowned, trotting back towards them. "I don't have time to spare."
"Won't be long, my lord. It'll take me no time to saddle up, then we can be on our way."

Staunton frowned, watching as Roe headed into the stables. He turned to Valaria.

"I had not thought of Mr Roe." He spoke quietly, out of earshot of the old man. "You have corrected my oversight. Thank you. He deserves better than what I would have left him."

He did not sound defensive at having been caught out, rather, he sounded genuine. The rain had started to fall in a light mist; in only a few minutes, Staunton's hair was flat against his head.

Roe emerged a few minutes later, leading his horse and the other that had been saddled for Valaria. Roe passed over the reins to Valaria and swung lightly into the saddle.

"So, where are you going?"
"It is better that I don't tell you. I hope you understand."

Roe shrugged as he gathered up his reins.
"I understand, but it doesn't matter. We'll find out when we get there."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 27, 2020, 10:07:06 AM
   
Roe’s decisive action soothed some of the panic and chaos in Valaria’s mind, and she found herself that much more grateful to the man who had become her friend.  The way he took the situation in stride was admirable, and while she had been concerned over how well he would fair given that he was still in recovery, Roe moved like he hadn’t suffered anything at all, already working to solve problems that she hadn’t even begun to piece together.  It was comforting, and she was already feeling a bit more optimistic about things. 

The young woman trailed quickly after Roe, down the corridors and out to the courtyard of the castle.  Staunton had begun to ride out, and Valaria hung back as Roe called out for Staunton to wait.  It seemed that the elder gentleman had no plans to let Staunton go on his own, and some of the knots in her stomach started to untangle.  While she knew that Staunton was older than he presented and capable of looking after himself, she had not liked the thought of him traveling alone any more than Etienne seemed to, especially not with the nature of the enemy who dogged him.  What she lacked in assertiveness on the issue, Etienne did not.   

Valaria passed Roe his saddlebags as he went into the stables to ready his horse, then turned her attention to Staunton when he spoke to her.  His words drew a small, sad, yet somehow still reassuring smile to her face.   She understood.  When one was dealing with large upheavals, sometimes the smaller affects of those upheavals went unthought of.  Staunton had just lost his son and was now being forced to leave his home and his people in the face of an enemy he couldn’t fight.  It had not been intentional; Valaria had noted the concern Staunton felt for the people he was leaving behind.  He was a better man than most she had met.  Ampetrion wouldn’t have thought of anything but saving his own skin, and the more people he could throw into the fire to assure it, the better. 

“Of course, my Lord.” she replied, wrapping her arms around herself for some small warmth against the rain.

When Roe returned leading his horse and hers, she gave Staunton a short nod and joined Etienne, accepting the reins and climbing into the saddle.  She didn’t say anything when Roe asked Staunton where they were going, giving the Vampire little choice but to accept that he would have company in his travels.  He declined to answer, but that mattered little; he wasn’t refusing them.  She smiled at Etienne and then returned her attention to Staunton.  “Lead on, my Lord.  We’re with you.” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 28, 2020, 12:54:43 PM
Staunton paused, frowning, but he made no move to stop them from following him.
"We have a long way to go. I'd like to cover as much distance as we can before dawn." He turned his horse's head and headed out of the courtyard at a gallop. Out on the road, he took the northern path.

He rode in silence, riding hard. At times, he led them off the road, heading across pastures and farmland. He hoped that they would manage to shake off any pursuers by taking a roundabout route.

Staunton paused on the crest of a hill, frowning at the others. They had kept up thus far, although he knew that both of them would be feeling the strains of such a journey, especially Valaria.

"You can rest a bit here." He murmured softly. "I need to leave. Its nearly dawn."

He paused, his gaze moving between the two of them.
"Post watches, that way you won't be caught unawares."

Nodding, he turned his horse's head and set off down the slope.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 28, 2020, 01:20:12 PM
It was truly amazing how far fear and determination could carry a person in the absence of basic human necessities.  Valaria knew that she was tired, but she refused to do anything but push through it.  Time was very much of the essence, and she would be damned if she caused their small party to fall behind—or to get left behind because she couldn’t keep up.  She kept herself focused, following the random paths that Staunton led them on, occasionally glancing over her shoulder just to make certain that she could see no one following.

When they came to a stop because of the approaching dawn, Valaria slid from her horse with a wince.  She nodded when Staunton warned them to keep a watch during the day.  “Be safe, my Lord.  We’ll see you after night fall.”

She did her part to take care of their horses, vigilant of their surrounds despite the fact that all that she wanted to do was curl up and sleep for ages.  After digging through the supplies that had been put in her saddle bags, she passed Roe something to eat, eying him with concern.  For all he might not have acted like it, she knew he was still recovering, and it had been a long night.  “How are you holding up?  I’ll take the first watch if you need to sleep.” 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 28, 2020, 04:47:29 PM
Roe untacked his horse, tethering it to a tree with enough room to nibble at the grass beside Valaria's horse. By now, the sun was beginning to show its first glimmer on the horizon, the sky gradually getting lighter. Fortunately, the rain had stopped some hours ago.

He accepted the offered food with a smile, sitting down with his back against a tree.
"I'll be all right. Get some rest, I'll wake you up in a few hours."

Roe waved off her concerns, instead, focusing on cleaning and sharpening his dagger. He paused, his smile broadening and he took the hat from his head and passed it over to her.

"Maybe that'll help blot out the sun a bit."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 28, 2020, 05:16:28 PM
 Valaria tried her best to hide her relief when he told her to get some sleep first, though she certainly didn’t put up the argument she might have any other time.  Instead she nodded and settled herself against a tree.  She forced down the food even though she found that she really wasn’t hungry, and then finally shifted her position into something a bit more comfortable. 

When Roe offered his hat to her, she couldn’t help but grin back and accept it.  “Thank you, Etienne.  It will help a great deal.”  She gently squeezed the hand that had offered the hat and then settled back down, tipping it down over the upper half of her face with a soft sigh.  “I feel blessed to have crossed paths with you, you know, and even though we’re running for our lives, I’m glad that we are at least running together.”

Maybe it was the fear of being caught again, or killed, or being on the run, but Valaria felt that it was important to say. 

Her breathing slowed not long after, and she slept like a rock until it was time for her to wake and take over.         
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 28, 2020, 06:01:44 PM
"Some would call me a curse." Roe grinned. "Back in my youth, maybe."
He shook his head, knowing that those days were long gone.

To his relief, they were left alone to rest. When it was mid afternoon, he gently reached over and woke Valaria.

"Hey." He whispered softly. "Have some food."

He'd unwrapped some of the meagre rations that he had had time to take with them. It wasn't much, but it woud give them a bit of energy for the journey, especially when neither of them knew just how long the journey would be.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 28, 2020, 06:29:53 PM
Valaria came awake with relative quickness considering the deprived state she had been in and sat up, sliding the hat from her head to blink rapidly at the brightness of the afternoon.  She accepted the food with thanks and offered his hat back in return, relieved to find that no trouble had cropped up so far. 

“Did I miss anything interesting?” she asked, a touch bleary-eyed as she scanned their surroundings for anything that might seem out of place.  They were out of the way and away from roads, but that didn’t mean much if recent experience had taught her anything. 

“Your turn, Etienne.  We’ll have a long night ahead of us,” she encouraged. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 29, 2020, 06:08:58 PM
"Interesting?" Roe shrugged. "Saw a few birds earlier, but I wasn't in a position to do any hunting. Next time we stop, remind me to set a trap with some bait. We'll be needing supplies soon."

He took back his hat and set it back on his head, not bothering to adjust the angle.
"No sign of pursuit." He added quietly.

"Valaria, you said Malachi was dead." He shook his head with a grimace. "If it had been anyone else to tell me that, I'm not sure I would have believed it."

He frowned, aware that it would not be easy to talk about, also aware that he'd hardly had time for anything but the basics about what had happened.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 29, 2020, 07:25:10 PM
 Valaria paused in her chewing when Roe spoke of Malachi, then swallowed the mouthful of food with difficulty.  For a moment, the memory flashed like a waking dream in front of her eyes and Malachi’s screams filled her ears, accompanied by the smell of his burning flesh.  Valaria’s face paled slightly she fought the urge to be sick.  She blinked once or twice to clear the image, but the smell seemed to remain as if carried on the wind from someplace else.

“They burned him alive in front of me,” Valaria managed, voice barely above a whisper. “The same man from before, who had you tortured.  Lord Staunton had asked Malachi to take me someplace else, someplace safe.  They captured us on the road, took us to some chateau, and they—” She abruptly silenced when her voice broke, jaw clenching.  “It was…”  There really were no words that she could think of to describe it, and she didn’t want to.  She resorted to shaking her head instead.  “It was…a horrific way to die.  He shouldn’t have died like that.  No one should die like that.”

Blinking back the overwhelming emotion that was struggling to come to the fore, Valaria swiped at it with her sleeve and stared out at the countryside.  “You should rest, Etienne,” she repeated softly.     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 30, 2020, 09:31:44 AM
Roe was stunned into silence; it was a horrible death and awful for one to be made to witness it, especially when he had been trying to get her to safety. His expression grave, Roe reached out and took her by the hand, squeezing it gently.

"All right." He whispered, releasing her hand. He leaned back against the tree and as he pulled his hat down over his eyes, he wondered if it would be even possible for him to be able to sleep at all.

"Wake me when it gets dark."

Yet, in the end, tiredness won, with a fatigue that he had been trying his best to hide over the course of their journey. He was asleep in moments, curled up with his knees to his chest.

At nightfall, Staunton dragged himself out of the narrow crevice that he had crawled into, blocking the entrance with large rocks. His clothes were a little dusty, but it did not matter. Fortunately, his horse was still where he had left it and he climbed back into the saddle and made his way back to find the others.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 30, 2020, 01:20:05 PM
Valaria nodded, watching Roe tip the hat over his face.  It took her some time to compose herself, but she managed it well enough.  She kept low and kept watch for the rest of the day, and when the sun was nearing the horizon, she rose to tend and saddle the horses in preparation.  Once that was done, she took some of the rations from her saddle bags and  gently roused Roe, knowing that he would want to be ready to go when Staunton made his way back to them. 

“It’s almost nightfall.  Lord Staunton should be returning shortly,” she murmured, glancing around them.  “I haven’t seen anyone all day, but I’ll be glad once we start moving.”

Every waking moment had been filled with anxiety, expecting Don Alejandro’s men to appear at any given time, but they hadn’t.  Not yet, anyway, and she sincerely hoped that it stayed that way.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 30, 2020, 02:14:42 PM
Staunton cantered through the trees, reaching the small campsite where he had left the others. He was grim faced, yet calm, despite everything that had happened.
"Are you ready? I'd like to cover as much distance as we can."

To his relief, both of them looked much better, after as decent a sleep as possible given the circumstances. He waited for them to get ready.

"I'd like to head up the hill here, we'd have a decent view of the surrounding land."
"Aye, my lord." Roe was ready and on his feet, climbing into the saddle at a moment's notice.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 30, 2020, 04:00:06 PM
Valaria felt some of the tension in her frame lessen a bit, seeing Staunton well.  They had eaten already and were prepared to leave, simply waiting on the vampire to arrive from wherever he had gone to in order to wait out the daylight hours. 

Valaria murmured a word of agreement when he mentioned that he wanted to get going, crossing to climb atop her horse at the same time as Roe.  She urged her horse on when they set out, heading for the hill that Staunton mentioned he wanted to get to.  She was silent on the way, trying to ignore the uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that had been bothering her since she woke up.  She knew it was the situation they had found themselves in, that that feeling would likely persist until they had managed to find someplace safe. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 30, 2020, 05:38:52 PM
Staunton led the way up the hill, pausing when he reached the summit. He reined in his horse and turned, looking back the way they had come, looking at Lourdes. Yet right now, the horizon looked differently to normal. A strange glow hovered over the town and he realised that the brightest part was over the citadel; it was on fire.

"No." Staunton growled, showing a flash of emotion.

Beside him, Roe tumbled from the saddle, taking a few steps as he stared at the burning town.
"I have to go back." He turned back to his horse, hiding his tears. "My family."

"No." Staunton jumped from the saddle in an instant, catching the old man before he reached his horse. He held him firmly.
"No, you won't be any use to them, not in the time it would take you to return."
"I... I shouldn't have left them."
"Then you would have been in danger. I need you." Staunton realised as he said it that it was the truth. "I need you both."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 30, 2020, 06:21:56 PM
 The sight before them made Valaria feel sick to her stomach.  It looked like Lourdes was on fire, the halo of flame the brightest over the citadel that they had fled the night before.  Don Alejandro had discovered that his prey had fled, and had put his home to the torch.  She wasn’t exactly sure what she had expected his reaction to be, but seeing it…surely he wouldn’t have been able to burn the entire city down?  Staunton’s exclamation only drove it home.

Roe’s movement drew her gaze from the glow, and the faces of his family flashed in her mind, sitting around the dinner table while Roe’s grandson played with the whistle his grandfather had carved for his birthday.  The moment Roe turned towards his horse, Valaria slid from hers.  Staunton was faster, holding the old man back from his plans.  The emotion in her friend’s voice made her heart break. 

Valaria rested a hand against Roe’s back, trying to offer what little comfort she could.  “The fire looks like its centered around the castle.  Your family is in a different part of the city.  They could still be alright, but you are Lord Staunton’s man, and Don Alejandro knows that.  He would never let you reach them.  Please, Etienne.  Stay with us.  If your son has anything at all of you in him, your family will be alright.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 30, 2020, 06:38:07 PM
Staunton held him a while longer, but then the old man seemed to sag and the fight drained out of him.
"I can't go back, can I?"
"No." Staunton whispered, releasing him. "It would not be safe for any of you."

Roe wiped the tears from his eyes and stood, staring at the burning town. They were right; there was nothing that he could do. Silently, he turned away, feeling numb.

***

Pain. Everywhere. It felt as if his entire body was still burning, agonisingly slowly. Still shackled in the same room, he had no idea of the passage of time.

"So, that's what happens when you leave a vampire out in the sun."

The two humans entered the room, pacing slowly around him. Malachi could smell their blood through their skin. He was so hungry, he strained against his shackles, yearning for a taste of their blood. The bastards hovered just beyond his reach. Taunting him.

"He's still alive."
"Yes. Hard to imagine."
"Why do they keep him alive?"
"He's got more information. That's what Don Alejandro was saying. Don't worry, he'll be singing in a few nights without any blood."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 09:50:51 AM
Seeing her friend in so much pain was what finally opened the flood gates.  Tears streamed down Valaria’s face, but she didn’t try to dash them away or hold them back; she hurt for Roe, for Malachi, for Staunton, for Etienne’s family and her family, for everyone still in Lourdes who was suffering at the hands of the Inquisition.  It wasn’t right, and it wasn’t fair, and though Valaria had learned the painful lesson over the last year that life was rarely as it seemed, the last couple of weeks had been filled with bitter reminders of that fact. 

The helplessness in Roe’s voice when he spoke wanted to make her heart break all over again.  Grief was a terrible thing, and all she wanted to do was wrap her arms around him until he felt better, but there was no time for such things at the moment.  They were on the run with little time to spare, and the longer they lingered in this place, the closer Don Alejandro’s men got. 

Roe stood and turned away, and Valaria gave him a brief, tight embrace before withdrawing, uncertain of how a man like Roe dealt with that sort of pain, whether he would wish to be left alone to it, or whether he would seek comfort in his own time.  She told herself that such a question would likely be answered later, with the burning city well behind them and another dawn on the horizon.  It was enough for now, she hoped, to know that he wasn’t alone. 

Wiping her tears on her sleeve, she looked between the two men and cleared her throat softly, taking the reins of her horse.  “We should go.  Every minute we spend here is one less minute we have to get ahead, and not a single one of those minutes will do anything to help the people we left behind.”  Her voice was gentle and emotional, yet still firm.  They had ground to cover and there would be time for grief later.  It was the same sort of mantra she had repeated to herself after finding her family dead; grief later, movement now.  She hated how it was becoming a common fixture in her mind.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 10:34:55 AM
After a few minutes, Roe was able to pull himself back into the saddle to resume their journey, but Staunton kept a wary eye on him. There wasn't much that he could do for the old man, all except make sure that all three of them got to where they were headed safely.

They carried on like this for several nights; the humans resting by day and him leading them on by night. It was probably obvious after a time that they were heading for the coast. Eventually, they reached the north of France, stopping at a small fishing town.

Staunton led the way into an inn on the docks and gave some money to the barkeep, renting a room for the rest of the night and the next day. Taking a couple of mugs of ale, he returned to the others and set them down at the table.

"We'll be able to get passage tomorrow. But for now, you both should rest."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 11:58:02 AM
The next several days seemed to blend one right into the other for Valaria.  Ride, sleep some, watch, try to eat, ride—over and over again until it seemed like a never-ending loop made more strenuous by limited rest.  She watched their surroundings and she watched over Roe; the road and journey were difficult, and between his ongoing recovery and the terrible sadness he had suffered, she worried over him continually.  She tried not to fuss over him, a trait which she had inherited from her mother but which had never climbed to the fore until now.

By the time they reached the town on the coast, Valaria felt ready to simply drop from her horse and sleep wherever she landed.  Her entire body ached from riding, having never ridden more in her life than what she had done since coming to Lourdes.  Her lack of appetite had been a constant since watching Malachi die, which certainly hadn’t helped matters.  When Staunton placed a mug of ale each before her and Etienne, she murmured a quiet ‘thanks’ and drank deeply.  The alcohol warmed her belly almost immediately and it didn’t take long for her head to grow fuzzy between the lack of food in her and her exhaustion; she had never been much of a drinker either, save for the occasional glass of wine when it was offered to her. 

Staunton informed them that they would be moving on the following evening, then commented that they should both rest, and Valaria nodded.  He would have no argument from her on that. 

Someone laughed loudly and Valaria jerked a little, gaze fixing on a few men visiting with one another by the fireplace.  Fire, screaming, the smell of burning flesh— A blessedly-quiet, utterly humorless, not-quite-but-nearly-hysterical laugh bubbled from her before she could choke it off or muffle it.  She covered her mouth and shook her head as sudden rush of tears flooded her eyes, fighting to get herself under control while pushing the nearly finished mug of ale away.  She wasn’t sure how long the memory of what happened to Malachi would assault her; it came out of nowhere, triggered by the smell of smoke, or the sight of flames, or a dozen other small, seemingly unrelated sights, smells, or audible noises.  She was losing it, and she was painfully aware of that.  Hopefully sleep would help. 

“Please excuse me,” she whispered, embarrassed. "Rest is...rest will be good."       
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 02:25:38 PM
Roe murmured his thanks as Staunton brought over the drinks. He sipped at his sparingly; in the light of everything that had happened, it tasted bland. Hardly the same level of enjoyment that he had once had from a decent ale after a long hard journey.

He turned as Valaria jumped, grimacing at the painful emotion that was plain to see. Poor child. At least, with him, there was a chance that his family might be safe, yet for Valaria, there was no such hope.

Roe reached out and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze before releasing.
"Good night." He smiled sadly. "I'll see you tomorrow."

Staunton watched her go, sipping at his ale. Roe waited until his mug was mostly empty, yet at times it seemed as if he was forcing the drink down.

"Good night." Staunton offered a thin smile as the old man stood up.
"Aye." Roe replied quietly, then he headed up to his room.

Staunton hadn't rented a room; it would have been too risky to put his life in the hands of strangers. He could hardly have expected the others to protect him at all hours of the day. He made his way to the shore, pacing out over to the quay. He stood for a moment, staring over at the black water of the channel. Then he dived into the inky water, swimming out and down to the sea floor.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 03:03:38 PM
Valaria made her way to the room that Staunton rented for her and locked the door behind her.  As much as she wanted to fall into bed and sleep for a thousand years, she poured water into the available basin and cleaned herself up the best she could, trying to wash some of the travel from her skin.

The following few hours were spent tossing and turning.  No matter how badly she wanted to sleep or how heavy her eyes were, every little sound had her starting awake and on alert.  Whenever someone walked past her door, she opened her eyes waited until the steps faded again.  Resting on the road had been difficult, but she hadn’t been alone.  Etienne had been just there, keeping out a watch for danger.  Locked room or no, she somehow and rather foolishly felt less safe, and no matter what she did, sleep remained elusive.  At some point she heard Roe’s footsteps in the room next to hers, a repetitive, steady pattern that could be nothing but him pacing the room.  Sleep was proving difficult for him too, it seemed. 

Giving up for now, Valaria got out of bed and left her room, stopping in front of Roe’s door with a soft knock; he might be awake, but she wasn’t just going to waltz in, especially if he was in no mood for company.  When he opened the door and allowed her in, she stepped inside, wrapping her arms around herself tightly.

“Can’t sleep either?” She asked.  “Every little noise…I just can’t seem to relax.”   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 03:25:37 PM
Roe gave a small sad smile as she entered.
"I can't stop thinking about Lourdes." He closed the door behind her and pulled over the chair for her while he sat on the barely used bed.

He rubbed at his face with his hands.
"Sorry, I shouldn't be burdening you with this, after everything." He looked up at her. "All of us have lost at the hands of these bastards."

"If only I was thirty years younger, eh? I'd have taken the fight to them."

He was quiet, knowing deep down that if he had stayed to fight, even in his thirties, he would have been slaughtered.

"Who am I kidding?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 03:54:03 PM
Valaria sat in the chair he brought over for her, rubbing her eyes wearily.  When he expressed what was on his mind and then apologized for it, Valaria shook her head and smiled at him, though it lacked any brightness.  “You don’t need to apologize to me, Etienne.  What good is a friend if she isn’t willing to share the burden when she can?”

Her eyes drifted from his to the floor when he mentioned fighting, knowing in her heart that even if he had been younger and stronger than he was now, the chances of him surviving—of anyone surviving such a thing—would have been slim.  For all his abilities and speed, not even Malachi had been able to escape them once they had it in their heads to capture him, and that was even with his extraordinary gifts.  An ordinary man would not have stood much of a chance.  He seemed to agree with her internal assessment if his added words were any indication.  She did believe, however, that he probably would have taken as many with him into death as he could have.

“I’m sure you would have given it your best, and certainly far better than I could,” she said quietly.  After a moment she shook her head.  “I can’t even fight, at least not well.  I can’t help but feel that if I could, maybe I could have done more before when...” she trailed off, unable to say ‘when we were captured’.  Both times, first with Roe, and then Malachi…she was beginning to feel like an ill-luck charm.  Perhaps that was why she kept expecting the bottom to fall out from beneath them.  “It’s a terrible feeling, being completely useless.  I was learning the sword before I left Italy, but Dufresne couldn’t see me as anything but a girl who had no business with a blade.  It was easy to see that he wasn’t serious about it,” she grimaced.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 04:21:33 PM
Roe paused in thought; a moment later, his frown cleared.
"Since we're both showing no signs of sleep, I think some fresh air is in order. Come on."

He stood and made for the door. As he passed by the foot of the bed, he took his sword belt that was hanging from the corner.

"No offence, but that Dufresne lad didn't know the difference between his arse and his elbow. Who knows what he was teaching you."

He led the way out, moving quietly to avoid waking anyone else. At this time of night, several hours from dawn at least, there was no one else awake. They headed to the beach and Roe handed over his sword.

"Show me."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 04:50:37 PM
 Valaria blinked but rose from the chair without hesitation, happy for any sort of distraction.  He had the right of it; Valaria doubted she’d get any sleep even if she went back and tried.  She noted that he grabbed his sword but said nothing, despite the subtle stir of excitement she felt.  She followed after him down the stairs and through the door, and genuinely laughed at Roe’s comment about Solomon.  She had to agree with that.  Beyond furtive glances and thinly-concealed want, Sol was about as useful as nipples on a breastplate.  It felt good to laugh, in spite of everything.  “Truer words,” she said, shaking her head. 

Once they were standing on the beach, Roe gave her his sword and asked her to show him.  Nervously, Valaria looked down at her feet and arranged them in stance she had been taught, hoping against hope that Sol wasn’t so useless that he couldn’t even teach her how to stand right.  Once her feet were positioned, she shifted the sword and held it at the ready, her expression doubtful.  She was glad that no one else seemed to be awake at this hour. “Is this right?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 04:58:55 PM
"For the most part." Now wasn't the time for fucking the ant, as his own instructor had called it. Why waste time on correcting the minute issues, and only succeed in infuriating the student.

"Now cut." He stepped back, making sure that there was no chance of accidentally hitting him. "Imagine you've got a foe standing right there."

Roe gestured to the stop directly in front of her.
"Use him as a target."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 05:09:37 PM
Valaria nodded, relaxing a touch.  Her brow furrowed when he told her to pretend someone was there, and perhaps it would have been awkward to do at one point for someone with no enemies.  Now, however, Valaria knew exactly who she wanted to imagine was standing there, and took great pleasure at the thought of doing him harm. 

Her expression hardened as she pictured Don Alejandro standing in front of her, with his charming smile—a smile which only deepened when he was party to something cruel—and moved accordingly.  No weak, awkward half-swing, but one that could have gutted a man if there had indeed been a man standing there.  She moved again from another angle, and then a third; the way that she held herself was unsustainable in a fight and she was slow to bring the sword back up; and it was clear that it was heavier than what she was used to, but she tried. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 05:23:02 PM
"All right." Roe nodded with a smile. "Not so bad."

It was not the tentative cut that some young women would have thrown, it was a vicious cut that had the potential to deal some serious damage. He was quite glad that he was not stood in range.

"It's something to work with."

He moved beside her and gestured to her hand.
"You're holding it quite tightly. Try and relax a little more, although I know its difficult when the pressure gets on. When you tense up, you're actually slowing yourself down."

"Try and extend more when you bring the cut down. Don't arc out so much, they'll see it coming a mile off."

As he spoke, he mimed the cutting action, holding his right hand as if he held an imaginary blade to go with the imaginary assailant. For a moment, it seemed like a bit of the old Etienne Roe had begun to surface, a gleam in his eye as he taught.

"It doesn't matter if you're not perfect, not on the first few times. Keep on practising and you'll get better, you mark my words."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 05:36:55 PM
Valaria nodded, feeling some relief at his comments, glad that she wasn’t as hopeless as she had initially feared.  When he moved to stand beside her, she watched closely, loosening her grip on the weapon some that it was still comfortable in her hand, but not so tense.  When he showed her what he was talking about with extending the cut instead of arcing out so much, she gave it a shot, surprised to discover the difference it made. 

“Alright, I see that,” she agreed, and tried again.  She couldn’t help but smile at him when he assured her that it would take practice, that it was alright if it wasn’t perfect.  “Thanks Etienne.” 

Wetting her lips, she focused once more on the area he had pointed out before and tried again.  “Would you be willing to help me practice until I do get better?”  She couldn’t bear the thought of finding herself in another situation where she could do nothing but hope for the best, and there was little doubt in her mind that Roe would be a far better teacher than Sol could have ever hoped to have been.     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on August 31, 2020, 05:44:49 PM
"Well of course I would." Roe looked at her as if she had just said something obvious. "It's what I'm doing now, isn't it?"

"We'll have to find you one of your own, but that won't be hard."

Roe frowned, focusing on the quay behind her.
"Wait. Isn't that...?"

Staunton stood on the jetty, staring out into the sea. As he spoke, the blond haired man dived off into the water, fully clothed. Roe ran over towards the water, stopping as he reached the shallows. Staunton did not surface.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on August 31, 2020, 06:03:23 PM
Valaria grinned at his agreement.  That was something to look forward to, then, she thought to herself.  “Thank you.”

She gave a few more practice cuts, correcting herself when she went too wide on one.  She looked at Roe when he spoke, finding herself immediately on guard at his tone of voice.  Had someone caught up to them?  Her eyes moved past him to what he was looking at, recognizing Staunton standing on the jetty.  When Staunton dove, Roe took off toward the water. 

Valaria ran after him, staring at the water where Staunton disappeared.  When he didn’t come up, her frown deepened.  Did vampires need air to survive, or could they go without?  Why was he diving into the water anyway?  Turning, she eyed the horizon, taking note of the vague traces of lighter blue.  Near dawn.  Was it more unlikely that the sun would reach him underwater than if he were to stay holed up in a room all day?  Perhaps it lessened some of the risks of being in a public place…

She realized then that she quite obviously wasn’t in the same state of concern as Roe.  At most, her expression was one of mild curiosity, but not concern.  What did she say to him?  Certainly he already suspected something was off, given Staunton’s and Malachi’s nocturnal habits, but that was one thing.  Seeing a man dive into the water and not come out again was completely another.  She moved a hand and rested it on his shoulder lest he decide to dive in the water after him, nudging him just enough so that he had to look at her.

“Don’t.  He’ll be back tonight when the sun goes down,” she said softly, her tone grave.     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 03, 2020, 03:56:18 PM
Celyn frowned, sniffing the air as he pulled his horse to a stop. There was no point in stating the obvious, because he knew that his uncle would already have caught such a strong scent by now. Ampetrion. Of course, neither of them were where they said they would be; he wondered what the leech's excuse would be.

He scowled as the vampire stepped into view, not even letting him speak before he started.
"You've got a bloody nerve." He snapped angrily. "I thought it was all in order, but then she didn't even know who I was. Why wouldn't you tell her that?"

***

"Aye. Sorry." Roe shook his head with a grimace. "I mean, I knew there was something... different."

He gave a shakey smile, trying to shake the unsettling feel at seeing his master remain underwater for as long as would kill a normal man.

"How else would a boy Malachi's age be as strong as he was? I guess I just put a blind eye to things like that, because they were good to me. An English boy who speaks French like an old man, educated to the highest level. His father being a man who looks nothing like him. Neither of them being seen in the daylight hours. You can explain that off as a rich man's choice to sleep all day, but the reality is much darker than that."

He turned to Valaria, looking at her seriously.
"But you know the truth? Tell me, why aren't you surprised? What are they?"
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 03, 2020, 04:53:41 PM
The Inquisition was nigh, and Ampetrion’s plans of finding Valaria and handing her off to the werewolves was disrupted.  He had seen hide nor hair of them anyway, which either led him to believe that they were still searching for her, or that they had given up and had chosen to simply leave.  He had waited in the meeting place for a time, but when he noted the soldiers on the move, soldiers bearing a seal that he recognized all too well, lingering any longer became a detriment to his life. 

So be it, he thought with some disgust.  The girl had been a poor example of what remained of his human bloodline, and he could find other wolves from elsewhere.  He would recover. 

He did not expect to come across those same werewolves on the road out, however, and when he broke from cover and onto the road and was faced by them, his features tightened with discomfort and indignation. 

This boy, who was little more than a step up from beast, dared to confront him over his handling of Valaria and her impending nuptials to Celyn.  So they had found her,  but had left her behind? 

Oscar remained silent, allowing Celyn to take the initiative against this particular snake, though he was ready to step in the moment it looked like the lad couldn’t handle himself.

“She knew,” Ampetrion growled softly. “She did not know the particulars of the arrangement or to whom she was to be married, but she knew that she was to be married.  I had planned on telling her about you before your arrival, but she ran away before I was able to.” 

“This has been arranged for years,” Oscar said coldly. “Why wait to tell her at the last minute?”

“Because that is what I chose to do,” Ampetrion said mildly. “You do not have to like it.  Things simply did not play out as I had planned.”

--

Valaria nodded when Roe spoke of all the things that he had noticed that were off about Staunton and Malachi; if one paid attention, these different, suspicious details simply did not add up to anything resembling normalcy, no matter the excuses.  But only if one really paid attention, and it seemed that Roe had been paying his fair share of it over the years.

His question prompted her to look away, expression thoughtful.  Staunton had spared her life after learning the truth, with the excuse that he had never been one to really follow the rules.  She was not bound by those rules, and Roe had already seen enough proof of his suspicions that refusing to answer would be counterintuitive.  Staunton was on the run for his life, and the two of them were running with him.  Roe should know.   

“Vampires.  Ampetrion was one too, and I knew that something was off about him, though I could never put my finger on it and he refused to acknowledge my questions.  I noticed some of the same traits in Malachi, as well, but I wasn’t positive that he was something other than human until the night he rescued us from the farmhouse.  I saw him do things that no human man should ever have been able to do. Later, once you were being seen by the medic, Malachi told me the truth, or rather, confirmed what I suspected, and that Lord Staunton was like him as well.” 

Valaria looked back over the water to where Staunton had disappeared. “I’m still not certain what to think about it, but I’ve come to realize that it doesn’t make much of a difference to me.  Lord Staunton has been good to me too.  Malachi helped me.  Neither of them had any reason to, but they did anyway.”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 04, 2020, 03:35:07 PM
Celyn scowled at Ampetrion's sickening attitude.
"Then we choose to leave. Immediately. My clan will have nothing further to do with you."

"Stand aside." Celyn growled, urging his horse forwards and past the vampire.

Fortunately, the confrontation was mercifully short; if he never saw Ampetrion again, then it would be too soon. The two werewolves galloped along the valley and up into the woods, making their way north towards the coast and a boat to take them back to England and home.

***

"They've always been good to me." Roe nodded grimly. "Firm, but fair."

He shook his head, giving a short bark of bitter laughter.
"I've known far more men to be what I'd call monsters. Murderers, rapists and the like. Yet when I actually find myself around some actual monsters, I end up thinking they're not so bad."

He sheathed his sword and turned, heading back towards the inn.
"Worked out some excess energy. I'm feeling like I might be able to get some sleep finally."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 04, 2020, 03:48:40 PM
“Funny how that works out,” Valaria agreed, turning away from the water.  She nodded to Roe when he headed back for the in, trailing after him.  It had helped, their small lesson, and though Valaria had felt tired before, she thought perhaps, like Roe, she could sleep now.

She wished the older gentleman goodnight and thanked him for the lesson, then closed herself up in her room for the rest of the night and the better part of the day.  She woke up feeling a bit better than before, though her aches from riding persisted, and would likely for a few days or more yet. 

She washed her clothes as best she could and dressed in her spares, then ventured down the stairs to get something to eat, keeping a wary eye out for any dangers.  There was still a few hours to go yet before night and their departure, so she settled for eating a bit more than she had been able to the evening before, waiting for Roe to turn up. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 04, 2020, 04:04:06 PM
Roe was woken by the sun streaming in through the window and he got up and stretched, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. From his window, he could see the sea stretched out to the horizon. It was beautiful and calm; hopefully it would hold until nightfall when they were due to get their passage to England.

Dressing, he headed downstairs, nodding as he saw Valaria. He came to join her, pulling up a chair and wincing as his joints clicked.

"You managed to sleep?"

***

The two werewolves rode through the night and arrived at the small coastal town mid afternoon.
"I can't wait to get back home." Celyn grinned at his uncle; despite the fact that he had not managed to get himself a wife, it had been an interesting adventure.

"How long before the ship leaves?" He paused, glancing at an inn nearby. "We should eat. I'm bloody starving."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 04, 2020, 04:35:09 PM
Valaria smiled when Roe came down, nodding when he sat down.  “More than I’ve had this week,” she replied, sliding some of the light meal she’d ordered his way so that he could have some too.  “You?”

--

“Tonight,” Oscar said.  When Celyn mentioned that he was starving, Oscar grunted in agreement, following his nephew’s gaze to the inn.  Food sounded damned good, and if the boat ride here had been any indication, this would be the last chance he had at keeping a meal down until they arrived in England.  “Lets get something to eat then.”

He handed his horse off to the stablehand nearby and led the way to the inn.  “I’ll get the food and drink, you find a table, aye?” Oscar told Celyn, heading for the innkeeper.  He was ravenous too, and he’d be damned if he boarded that boat sober.  He was still angry about Ampetrion, and he had little doubt that the Alpha would be just as angry to find out what had happened.  At least, Oscar thought, he had good things to report to Celyn’s father as well.  The young wolf had acted every bit the future alpha he would be, and Oscar was proud of him.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 05, 2020, 09:47:36 AM
"A little." Roe replied, his smile fading a touch as thoughts of his home and family clouded his mind. In a second, the expression was gone, replaced with his usual wry smile. "I find I survive on less these days. Bones of steel and hide made of leather."

***

The moment Celyn entered the inn, he was hit by a familiar scent. Frowning, he turned, seeing his would be bride sitting in the corner. Leaving his uncle to sort out the food, Celyn headed over.

"I didn't expect to see you again any time soon."

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 05, 2020, 10:06:33 AM
Valaria’s smile was sad. “Teach me your ways, wise master.  Bones of steel would serve me well, and a hide of leather would be better than my own thin skin.” 

The young woman sighed, looking at the little bit of food she had left.  Her appetite had not returned by much, even with a little more sleep than she had had in the days before, but she had forced herself to eat anyway, aware that she needed to keep up her strength.  She’d be of even less use, if she didn’t. 

A familiar voice—one she hadn’t expected to hear again, at least not for a long time—greeted her ears and she half-turned and looked up.  Celyn.  Valaria’s eyes widened.  It was so strange to see him here, after everything that had happened.  It was almost surreal.

“Celyn, what a pleasant surprise,” Valaria said, rising from her seat.  “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon either.  Sit with us, please,” she offered, gesturing to the empty chairs at the table.  She could see his uncle Oscar speaking to the innkeeper, likely about something to eat.  They both looked well enough, though fresh off a long ride. 

“What brings you to this place?” She asked.  She knew the answer; it was a port town, and they were from England—more than likely they were going to be going back that way, and that’s why they were there, but it seemed more polite to ask rather than assume.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 05, 2020, 10:14:08 AM
"We're going home." Celyn paused, a smile suddenly pulling at his lips. "Unless... you changed your mind?"

He pulled over a spare chair and sat down, nodding at her companion. Alas, he knew the older man did not speak any English and was looking at him warily. Still, he couldn't blame him for being careful.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 05, 2020, 10:24:46 AM
His question surprised her, and even amid all the dreariness of the past week, the running, the fear, all of that, his words got a genuine smile from her.  She had to admit, a part of her was pleased that he might actually hope for that.  It was flattering, and for someone who had lost everything in span of a month and was struggling to see a direction towards her future, it was a nice notion.  Roe seemed a great deal more reserved as he regarded the boy.

“I must admit that the thought is appealing, but that isn’t why we are here,” Valaria admitted in broken English.  She looked at Roe and switched back to French. “He says they are on their way back to England as well.”

Returning her attention back to Celyn, she offered him the pitcher of ale. “Are you leaving tonight, or are you taking another ship out?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 05, 2020, 11:09:35 AM
"Tonight." Celyn nodded, filling a spare mug with the ale. "Thank you."

His smile remained undaunted at her reply; he hadn't expected her to have dropped everything to follow him, even if it was a romantic idea.

"Your health." He nodded at both of them, raising his mug before he drank.

"I can't wait to get back." Celyn smiled, shaking his head. "It's been an interesting trip and all, but we have work to do back home."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 05, 2020, 12:06:37 PM
So they were leaving tonight, Valaria thought.  That meant they would be on the same ship.  She lifted her cup when he toasted her and drank, glancing sidelong at Roe briefly.  “They will be on the same boat,” she said to him, trying to keep him in the loop of the conversation. 

“There is always work to be done,” she commented mildly, looking up when Oscar joined them. 

Oscar was surprised to see them too, and he looked uncertainly at his nephew before taking another vacant chair.  When he spoke, it was in French.  “Miss Valaria,” he greeted.  He looked at Roe. “Mr. Roe, wasn’t it?  What brings you this way?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 06, 2020, 08:50:29 AM
Roe smiled thinly as the other Englishman came to join them. Other than the failed betrothal to Valaria, he had no idea what their motives were and Roe found that his gut was getting a strange vibe from them both. He did not trust either man as far as he could throw them.

"Mr Staunton wanted to go sightseeing." He smiled brightly. "He'll be along soon, no doubt."

He wasn't sure whether they knew what had happened in Lourdes or not, but the less they said to outsiders, the better.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 06, 2020, 12:09:13 PM
Valaria noted the ambiguity of Roe’s words and went with it; it had seemed a smart choice to allow someone with more experience in these things to take the lead, and Etienne had chosen caution.  She smiled at Celyn and Oscar and nodded along with Roe’s words, folding her hands on her lap.

Oscar eyed them both.  Their business was their business, but his instincts told him that they were holding something back.  Were they on the run from something?  No matter.  “No doubt,” Oscar commented. “A nice enough man, he seemed to me.”

“He is.  I apologize if you’ve already said before, but what part of England do you live in?” Valaria asked, falling back into their means of communication from before, allowing Oscar to translate for Celyn. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 06, 2020, 01:45:10 PM
Celyn fought the urge to laugh as the translation came and he threw a look at his uncle. It was a ridiculous notion to think that the old man and Valaria were sightseeing with a vampire.

"Not so far from Oxford."

Celyn wasn't specific about exactly where they lived, but the Wychwood Forest was the ancestral home of their pack.

"It's a couple of day's ride from the coast."

He looked up as the landlord brought over their food, smiling as his stomach rumbled. He nodded his thanks, not being able to convey it in the right language.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 09, 2020, 09:51:27 AM
Valaria nodded at Celyn’s answer.  She didn’t know England at all, so she had no frame of reference of location.  Staunton hadn’t told them where they were going yet, still keeping the information close to the vest while there was still danger.  She hadn’t asked either; she understood why he was reluctant to share. 

“It’s always nice, returning home,” Valaria commented lightly.  The Landlord came and set food in front of the other two, briefly interrupting the conversation.

“Thank you,” Oscar told the landlord as he walked away.  He turned his gaze back to the other two.  “Where are you two off to?  Are you only here in passing, or are you boarding a ship as well?”

“We are going wherever Lord Staunton takes us,” Valaria replied, her tone suggesting that this was all the answer she planned to give. 

Oscar’s eyes switched between her and the older man.  Was Staunton actually here, then?  He glanced out toward the way they had come in; the sun was still up, though not for much longer.  Ah, no wonder Staunton was not in evidence if he was truly here at all.  “You lot are in some trouble, aren’t you?”

Valaria was silent.  Oscar looked at Celyn and raised an eyebrow, translating his own question back to his nephew, then looked back between Roe and Valaria.  “We parted on good terms, we two and your Master.  If we can offer any assistance…”  He let the offer hang there, knowing it was unlikely either of the two would accept—not without Staunton there, if indeed they were on the run with him, rather than away from him. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 09, 2020, 02:52:09 PM
Roe simply shrugged at the suggestion of trouble, taking a sip of his ale; if they hadn't noticed the fires from Lourdes, then he wasn't about to tell them what had happened.

"Thank you both for your generosity." He shoved away his tension with a smile that gave nothing away. "We shall bear that in mind on our travels."

***

The door to the inn opened and a man entered, making his way over to talk to the landlord. He ordered a bowl of stew and a mug of ale to wash it down with then he sat by a table not far away from the small group of travellers. He appeared to be a woodsman, wearing a cloak, although the hood was back from his face. A long bow was slung over his shoulder, along with a quiver of arrows and hanging from his belt as a forester's axe. As he sipped at his ale, he threw the occasional glance towards them.

It could be a simple curiosity towards strangers, especially focusing on the pretty young woman, but given the circumstances, it was more than a little suspicious. Roe glanced at Valaria, the slightest frown twitching at his face. His eyes shifted in the man's direction, but he did not turn his head towards him.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 11, 2020, 01:08:47 PM
 Valaria noted the look that Roe gave her, and glanced subtly in the direction of the man who had just come in.  He was ordinary enough, but being on the run had made her more suspicious of her surroundings than she otherwise might have been.  The fact that he kept looking in their direction—more than what might have been called for from someone merely getting a gauge of his surroundings, made anxiety tighten in her chest.

Oscar’s nostrils flared slightly.  Fear had quite suddenly become a subtle nuance in the young woman’s natural scent.  He caught the way her eyes shifted so carefully, and followed its direction to the forester sat not terribly far away.  The elder werewolf frowned, nudged Celyn gently to get his attention.  Something wasn’t quite right here. 

“Good,” Oscar finally said to Roe, trying not to let on that he knew something was more off than before.  Oscar carefully adjusted the position in which he was sitting, hand resting nearer the handle of his knife—just in case.  That fear-scent hadn’t faded; if anything, it was getting stronger as the minutes ticked by.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 11, 2020, 03:29:55 PM
Celyn was aware in the change of mood even before his uncle nudged him; he was focusing more on the stranger, picking up the smell of horse sweat and grime from a journey, but beneath that he smelled the man's excitement and exhilaration.

Giving them a last look, the stranger drained his ale and set the mug down on the table before he stood up and left, letting the door close behind him.

"I think we should go and see what he's about, don't you think?"

Without waiting for the answer, Celyn stood and headed for the door, leaving the remains of his food behind.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 12, 2020, 08:28:59 AM
Valaria watched the man get up and leave, but felt no better about the situation despite his absence.  She wondered if they should go to their rooms and get their things, perhaps find someplace to wait out of sight for Staunton to rise from the water again.  Roe was being careful to keep details from Celyn and Oscar, and immediately rising and excusing themselves might give too much away. 

But it seemed that Celyn had other ideas anyway, than staying at the table with them.  Valaria’s eyes widened marginally when he got up, suggesting that they should go after him.  The young woman looked at Roe uncertainly, and Oscar noted that her fear-scent only grew stronger.  Roe seemed even more guarded than before, and the hostility that Oscar had sensed in him towards the Forester was still there.  He suspected that Roe, at least, might come along as well at Celyn’s suggestion, but he couldn’t be sure.

The older Werewolf rose from his chair and followed his nephew wordlessly; he didn’t check to see if either of the two were following either, and he quickly caught up to the younger werewolf.   

Valaria looked at Roe, tense.  He was older, wiser, and far more experienced in things like this—she had followed his lead this far, and was satisfied to keep doing so. “Etienne, what do we do?”
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 12, 2020, 09:20:40 AM
Malachi opened his eyes with difficulty; his body still felt as if it was on fire, even though he had lost all track of how long it had been since he'd been burned. Each hour felt like an eternity in the fiery pits of hell.

His captors had moved him, putting him in a small, cramped cell without windows. He was chained to the ceiling by his wrists. His body was so charred that his arms were burnt almost down to the bone itself.

The door to his cell opened and Malachi twitched, flinching away from the sudden influx of light. Three guards stood outside, one held a burning torch. Flames. No.

Malachi writhed, as much as the chains would allow, but there was no escaping the painful light. The other two guards dragged a man into the cell, chaining him opposite. The cell was so cramped, the other prisoner was only a few feet away. Close enough to touch if he wasn't chained. The man seemed to be familiar, as if some part of his broken mind recognised him, but that information was out of reach.

Malachi could smell blood. It was the most beautiful smell ever. Rich, thick, beautiful blood. Coming from the other prisoner. He strained, trying desperately, but the chains held him back, just out of reach.

"Malachi?" The man spoke his name, but Malachi wasn't able to hear him.
"Is that you?" The prisoner stared at him in horror. "You know me? Solomon Dufresne?"

The name meant nothing to him. Just a vague twinge in the back of his mind. Something that, right now, seemed utterly unimportant.

"Blood." Malachi snarled, speaking through a lipless mouth. "I need blood."

There was a crack and Malachi lurched forward with a jerk as the bone in his left wrist snapped, leaving him only inches from the man in front of him. The man screamed, pulling away.

"Give me your blood." He roared, using all the energy that he had left to try and reach him.

***

Without needing a translation, Roe stood, ready to go and track the forester and find out who he was and what he was doing out here. He paused, turning to look at Valaria and he nodded grimly.

"I'm not going to leave you, not with people like that out there."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 12, 2020, 09:45:06 AM
Roe was ready to go with the other two, but Valaria could tell that his only hesitation was because of her.  His words only solidified that assumption.  Despite the deep sense of fear she was feeling, Valaria grabbed one of the cutlery knives that the landlord had provided and slipped it into her sleeve for now; it wouldn’t do much damage at all, but it was better than nothing.

The young woman stood, drawing herself up to the best of her ability and gave Roe a small nod.  “I’m with you.”

She wouldn’t be much help in a fight with only a table knife, but she was damned well ready to try anyway.  If the man needed to be killed, she’d claim his bow and arrows.  She was good with that, at least. 

If the man was part of Don Alejandro’s compliment, would he be here alone, or was he just a scout?     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 12, 2020, 10:35:25 AM
Roe watched her take the knife and at that moment, he knew she had made her decision, even before she spoke the words to confirm it. He nodded and he turned to the door.

The two Englishmen were already out of the door; he had no idea how much training they had had, if any, yet it seemed that they knew a fair bit about tracking, with the younger managing to pick up footprints in the mud. The young man looked back at his uncle for confirmation and he received a nod in return.

Roe let them go ahead, staying back with Valaria. If he saw them take a direction he knew to be wrong, then he would speak out, but for now, it was better to watch and see what he was up against.

They followed the tracks down past the quay, yet then, they turned and headed back up to the woods. Perhaps the forester was simply heading back to work after his meal? Could they be mistaken?

***

Celyn frowned, sniffing the air. He had tried to keep his actions subtle, for the sake of the two humans. He wasn't sure what the French soldier knew, but it was best to assume that he knew nothing at all about who and what they were.

At times, the trail was faint, but always, he could smell the sweat and adrenaline of the man they were following. He was aware he was being followed, perhaps he was trying to lose them? Throwing another look to his uncle, he turned abruptly off the path, moving to intercept whilst his uncle remained following. It was a technique that they had used often whilst hunting.

Ahead, through the trees, he saw the man they had been following and he broke into a run, ready to take him down. Abruptly, Celyn skidded to a halt, his eyes widening as he realised they were not alone. Soldiers emerged from the trees, their swords drawn.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 12, 2020, 11:54:09 AM
Oscar diverted from the same path at Celyn’s look, guessing at what his nephew planned.  It was one of their more common tactics.  With the younger moving off, Oscar gestured at Valaria and Roe to stay with him and kept going on the path they were on, hoping to cut off the man’s escape. 

He kept his footsteps light and quick and hoped that the two behind him would take the hint. 

Up ahead, he spotted the man that they had been after, and then Celyn.  Oscar realized a moment too late that he smelled others close by—and then he saw the soldiers come out of hiding, ambushing the younger werewolf.  Oscar sucked in a silent breath and resisted the urge to growl. 

Without looking, he held up a hand to stop Roe and Valaria, gesturing at them to get back.  Oscar had the element of surprise on the soldiers, but no time.  He didn’t know if Roe was aware of what they were—he strongly doubted it—but the older werewolf realized that he didn’t care.  If he didn’t act quickly, Celyn could be overwhelmed. 

Oscar took a running leap forward, his body twisting and growing in the span of seconds.  Clothing tore to scraps on his skin as he grew two heads taller than he had been, muscle filling out beneath skin that had begun to grow patches of dark brown fur.   To Valaria, who looked on in wide-eyed shock despite knowing what he was, he looked like some sort of twisted amalgamation of a wolf and man, every bit the sort of monster that legends whispered they were.  The sight was indescribable beyond that. 

Oscar attacked the soldiers from behind with a chilling howl, sharp teeth tearing at the flesh of one of the men he had taken by surprise. 

Stirring from her shock and doing her best to swallow down the terror, Valaria brandished her kitchen knife and ran forward to help, managing to get close enough to the back of one of them to stab him through the neck with it.  He dropped, choking violently on his own blood and Valaria paled and took a step back, the realization that she just killed a man seizing her up for a moment.     
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 12, 2020, 12:39:04 PM
There was no time to stop and think, only time to act. As Oscar changed, Celyn was already beginning his, smooth and seamless. He reached the nearest of the soldiers in seconds, his claws slicing deep into the man's throat. The others stared, transfixed, their jaws dropping.

Of course, by changing in front of humans, they had broken a pack rule, but only if they left some alive. Celyn moved onto the next one, snarling with rage. He would make damn sure none of them survived.

***

Roe felt numb with shock at what he had seen. Monsters. Yet there was no time to stop and think. Valaria stabbed a man with her table knife and Roe snapped out of his thoughts. He drew his sword as he ran, hurtling towards the men who were converging on Valaria. He jammed his sword into the gut of one, and turned and headbutted the next viciously before he pulled his sword clear.

Grimacing, he held his sword ready for the next, but the others had scattered, running headlong into the trees. Pale and shaken, Roe turned to Valaria.

"Are you hurt?" He whispered hoarsely. He reached out, almost involuntarily and embraced her, yet he wasn't sure if it was he who was offering comfort to her or requiring it for himself. He gave a ragged breath as he released her.

In the distance, he heard a cry and he knew that one of the monsters had caught a straggler.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 12, 2020, 01:29:52 PM
Valaria started back to herself at the sight of Roe going after the men who were on the verge of attacking her.  She shook herself and cursed her stupidity; there would be time to think about the fact that she had just killed her first man later.  She crouched and pulled her knife out of the dead man’s throat, prepared to wield it against anyone else that tried anything, but what remained of the men between Roe and Oscar were running in fear. 

Oscar disappeared into the trees after them with a snarl, leaving the two humans behind. Valaria stared after him, body wracked with subtle but involuntary trembling as she clutched at her bloodied knife.  Roe’s voice drew her attention, and she immediately embraced him back when he pulled her close, managing to shake her head in a wordless answer to his question.  She clung tightly to him for a moment, taking comfort for a moment before he let go of her. 

She reached a hand up to his face briefly as she inspected his head, concerned that he might have been hurt.  “You?”

Valaria noticed the blood on her hands at that point.  She’d never killed another person before.  She reasoned that it had been necessary; those men had every intention of killing them and hadn’t hesitated to try.  She chided herself.  She had asked Roe to teach her how to fight for a reason.  If she couldn’t handle killing a person who was attacking her or someone she cared about, what was the point?   Slowly, her shaking began to subside.

Valaria turned away, looking at the dead men.  Stepping over one of the bodies, she grabbed the bow and quiver of arrows, then stripped a sword belt from another and put it on.  She picked up the man’s sword and slid it into the scabbard.

At least she wasn’t unarmed now.

--

Oscar killed one man and ran after the next, trusting that Celyn would take care of the ones that he had chased after.  It didn’t take long to overtake the last of the soldiers, and the older werewolf made short work of him. 

He turned and headed in Celyn’s direction just to make sure, following his nose to where his nephew was to offer support if needed.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 12, 2020, 05:06:58 PM
"Someone else's blood." Roe assured her as much as he could, but he hardly felt confident right now.

Now that the monsters had fled, he could scarcely believe what he had just seen, if it weren't for the bodies that lay scattered and the shreds of what remained of Celyn and Oscar's clothing.

The shadows were beginning to lengthen and Roe frowned, looking at Valaria.
"We should get going. I don't want to be anywhere near these bodies when they're found."

***

Celyn bounded after a fleeing soldier, his paws landing hard on the man's shoulders and driving him face first into the ground. He finished him off with a snap of his jaws. Standing, he took a minute to listen and smell the scent on the wind.

Satisfied that he'd taken out the last of them, Celyn turned and made his way back to the humans, shifting his form back as he went. Naked as the day he was born, yet showing no shame at his own nudity, he approached them.

"I'm sorry that you had to see that." He shrugged, wiping the blood off his hands. "But I felt it was necessary."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 13, 2020, 08:03:05 AM
Valaria nodded, surveying the bodies around them when Roe did.  It looked like some curious blend of beast attack, a number of them mauled while the others bore obvious sword wounds.  When Celyn and Oscar had said that they were werewolves, she realized that she hadn’t really believed it.  It had only been a concept, a claim.  Seeing them change right before her eyes had been an experience that she wasn’t sure she had been ready for.

All the same, whether it had been frightening or not, they had helped them.  She murmured an agreement to Roe when he said that they should go.  Staunton would be waking soon, if he wasn’t quite already. 

As Valaria was turning to make her way back, the sound of someone coming towards them through the trees alerted her.  She grabbed the bow and knocked an arrow just to be safe, poised to shoot if it was a straggler, but it was only Celyn.

Celyn, who was naked a baby and absolutely indifferent about it, as though he often went strolling about through strange woods and dead bodies in just such a state.  Valaria’s eyes widened and her face turned a deep shade of red, but she carefully replaced the arrow in her claimed quiver and fitted the bow over her chest, keeping her eyes diverted.  Tonight seemed to be a night of firsts; her first kill, first time seeing a naked man—those didn’t usually go hand in hand, did they?   

“No,” she managed, shaking her head with a glance at Roe. “T-thank you.  They could have killed us if you hadn’t—” Fire, the smell of burning flesh, agonized screams, Valaria swallowed and forced the memory away. “—Or worse.”

Oscar came through the brush next, just as naked as Celyn, and Valaria abruptly turned away, feeling somewhat mortified.  Funny, she thought, that she should be more bothered by that, than seeing them in their other shape.  The older werewolf looked at the bodies and then his nephew, oblivious to the young woman’s discomfort.  “You’ve done well.  They were soldiers of some sort, I’m sure of it.  The last one I killed plead in Spanish, I think.  I don’t speak it, myself.”

Oscar leveled his gaze on the girl, frowning at her back, then looked to Roe.  “Glad you both are alive.  I…ask that you keep what you have seen of us here quiet, Mr. Roe.  Your master is aware of us, of course, but we broke the rules of our pack tonight, changing in front of you.  I apologize for that, but we were left with little choice.”

Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 13, 2020, 09:02:09 AM
"I won't be telling no one, I assure you." Roe grunted at the older... werewolf, if that was what he was. "Not that anyone would believe me if I did."

He seemed tense though, despite his words; if they had broken their rules, then killing them both would remove all trace of evidence. Best to play dumb and save both of their lives.

"Got any spare clothes?" He nodded towards the younger of the two, noting how muscular both them were. "I hate to point it out, but you two sort of stand out."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 13, 2020, 09:19:37 AM
Oscar grimaced at Roe’s question, glancing at Celyn.  “Our things are still in our saddle bags, in the stable at the inn.”

Valaria’s hand rose to cover her eyes, her thumb and index finger pinching the bridge of her nose.  There was no way either of them could walk back into town like this.  “If you give me a description, I can retrieve some of your clothing for you.”

Oscar smiled slightly. “That would be most appreciated, thank you.  We forget how…uncomfortable nudity makes humans.  It’s a strange quirk of yours.”

Valaria’s mouth thinned faintly.  She was still several shades darker in the face than usual.  “I suppose that depends entirely on perspective.”

Oscar actually grinned.  “Aye, I suppose it does.  We should go.  We don’t want to linger around here any longer than necessary.”

The young woman nodded and headed back in the direction of town, taking the path that they had come rather than using the road; it was far more discreet that way, and there was less risk of running into someone traveling on the road.  She stayed close to Roe, even going so far as to slip her arm through his, finding that she needed a little more assurance and comfort than just the earlier hug after everything was done. 

When they reached the edge of town, Oscar gave them a description of their horses and which saddlebags their spare clothing would be located in, staying behind to wait as the two humans headed to the stable. 
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 13, 2020, 03:45:03 PM
Roe squeezed Valaria's arm gently as they made their way back to the small town. It was fully dark when they reached the inn, giving the werewolves a better chance at hiding as they waited for their spare clothes.

"I guess they better have multiple sets lying around, the way they get through them."

He gave a shakey bark of laughter; it was a ridiculous thing to say, especially in this sort of a situation, but Roe felt as if he could either make light of it all or go insane. He felt he had picked the preferable option, all things considered.

"My dear, I confess... this has been a very strange day."

He led the way into the stables, finding the chestnut mare and bay gelding that Oscar had told them about. Hanging up at the back of the stall was their tack, the saddle bags slung over the saddle. Inside, as the werewolves had said, was a fresh shirt and trousers for each.

***

As the sun dipped beneath the horizon, Staunton opened his eyes. He pulled himself out of the underwater cave that he had stashed himself and he swam for the shore. Stepping out onto the beach, he shook himself off like a dog, wringing the water out of his hair.

He made his way back to the inn where his horse was stabled, hoping to find a change of clothes before he met with the others. He paused in the doorway, finding Roe and Valaria.

"Good evening."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 14, 2020, 09:36:38 AM
Valaria smiled at Roe’s words, shaking her head slightly.  “I guess that they would have to.  Though given their level of comfort without clothes, maybe they don’t wear them so much at home?”  She had no idea, of course.  She had no knowledge of their customs or their views—hell, she’d really not even had a notion of what they were, despite them saying as much. 

“It has been a strange day.  I get the feeling it won’t be the last, or the strangest,” Valaria replied gravely, following after Roe once he’d spotted the horses.  She shot the older man a glance, worried; he had been through so much this last week.  Was he going to be alright?  They found the spare sets of clothing for the werewolves, and the young woman tucked them underneath her arm with a soft sigh.

As she was turning to head back out of the stables and to where the werewolves were waiting, Staunton made his appearance.  He had been safe then, hidden.  She hadn’t been certain if the man they had chased and the soldiers who had ambushed them were the only ones, but if they weren’t, wherever Staunton had hidden for the day had apparently been out of reach. 

“Good Evening, my Lord,” Valaria replied, uncertain of how to begin telling him what all had happened; he would need to know, of course.  “It’s been an…exciting afternoon.”

Exciting, said the woman spattered with blood and carrying weapons she’d recovered from dead men, standing next to a man also spattered with blood.  “Celyn and Oscar arrived earlier…as did some of Don Alejandro’s soldiers.  The soldiers are dead now, thanks to their help.  But um…” she paused, looking down at the clothing she was holding. “Their clothing doesn’t change with them, so…”       
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 19, 2020, 10:21:21 AM
"Soldiers?" Staunton frowned, his gaze travelling between Valaria and Roe, his expression only lightening once he was satisfied that neither had been injured.

"I owe them my thanks." He nodded, gesturing to the pile of clothing that was under her arm. "Go on, please, I will catch you up once I've had the chance to change myself."

He went to where his own horse had been stabled, finding the saddle bags slung on the stable door. Inside, he found a fresh set of clothes, yet instead of changing inside the stable, he headed outside, walking into the woods and away from both the inn as well as where he knew the werewolves to be, not wanting to be disturbed as he changed.

When he was ready, wearing a fine black jerkin over a linen shirt with black britches, he headed back. Standing by the stable, he waited for their werewolf friends to emerge, hopefully fully clothed by now.
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on September 21, 2020, 08:28:40 AM
Valaria murmured a quiet sound of acknowledgement at Staunton’s words and left the stable without argument; unexpectedly seeing two naked men had been plenty enough for her for the one night, without adding a third. 

With the clothes tucked close, the young woman backtracked the path that she and Roe had taken when they left the werewolves behind, eyes darting cautiously about her just in case there were any more soldiers or scouts who had chosen to remain in town rather than participate in the ambush. 

She spotted Celyn and Oscar, making a concerted effort to keep her eyes fixed on their faces, and handed them the clothing she had found.  “I hope that these will do.”

Oscar accepted them and divided the pile appropriately. “They will do just fine, thank you.”

Valaria turned away and waited, picking a point on the horizon.  She wondered idly how long they would be sailing; she had only been on a ship once, but it had taken less than a week to reach her destination.  Meanwhile, Oscar quickly dressed, shooting an amused look to Celyn behind the young woman’s back; cagey little thing, full of the propriety that was fraught in human society.  He had the feeling that her eyes would have jumped right out of their sockets had she come home with them as was planned.   
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Jabbathejack on September 23, 2020, 04:54:07 PM
Once they were both dressed, once more in simple and durable peasant clothing, Celyn led the way back through the trees towards the coaching inn and the docks. It was getting closer to the time when their ship was due to leave, along with the tides.

"Hopefully, we'll get no more trouble." He smiled at Valaria, his expression light hearted and confident. He was confident that, even if they were attacked again, they would pose no problem.

He slowed as they reached the inn, recognising Staunton. The vampire's clothing seemed as posh and pristine as ever, showing no sign of a long journey at all. The only surprise was that his hair seemed to be damp and Celyn could smell faint traces of salt water over the scent of a dead man walking.

"I appreciate your assistance." Staunton smiled as he approached. "If there is anything I can do for you or your kin."

The vampire's eyes flipped to rest on Oscar before settling back on Celyn as he continued softly.
"You have only to ask."
Title: Re: Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood
Post by: Firesblood on November 23, 2020, 01:10:34 PM
Valaria waited while they dressed, then walked with them as they headed back into the village proper.  Celyn’s comment did little to really reassure her; she had a feeling that as long as Don Alejandro lived, he would keep coming.  Still, she offered a small smile in return and stayed silent, catching sight of her two traveling companions.  Staunton, for his part, hardly looked like a man on the run. 

She remained silent as he spoke with the two werewolves, drifting closer once more to Roe; his presence was a comfort to her, and she was still worried about how he was handling everything.  So far, Valaria hadn’t really allowed herself to really think about all that had transpired—there would likely be time enough for that later. 

Oscar glanced at Celyn, then returned his gaze to Staunton, reflecting on his offer.  “We will keep that in mind, Lord Staunton.  With all due respect, it’s quite clear that you’ve found yourselves in a spot of trouble…In the spirit of alliance…can we offer you further assistance with anything?”