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Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood

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Offline Firesblood

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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.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


Offline Firesblood

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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.” 


Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


Offline Firesblood

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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.   


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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?"


Offline Firesblood

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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.       


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Offline Firesblood

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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?"   


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


Offline Firesblood

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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.