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Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood

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Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.         


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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.


Offline Firesblood

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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.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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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


Offline Firesblood

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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."


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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?


Offline Firesblood

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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."


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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."


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.”           


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."