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Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood

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Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


Offline Firesblood

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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'. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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."


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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?"


Offline Jabbathejack

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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?"


Offline Firesblood

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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.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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.


Offline Firesblood

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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!"   


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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?"

 


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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?"