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Return to Inquisition (M) Jabba x Firesblood

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Online Firesblood

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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. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


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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?”


Offline Jabbathejack

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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.


Online Firesblood

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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?”     


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


Online Firesblood

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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. 
« Last Edit: August 01, 2020, 12:33:20 PM by Firesblood »


Offline Jabbathejack

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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."


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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.           


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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.


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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.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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"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."


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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?”


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"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."


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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?”