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Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood

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Offline Firesblood

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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.” 


Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


Offline Firesblood

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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.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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?”     


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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?”


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."