(1310-10-06) Homecomings
Summary: After a day's sea voyage, Lady Desarae de Mereliot returns to Castle Chavaise to meet her father, the Marquis de Chavais, and is informed that their problems from Naimah's curse may be far from over.
RL Date: October 11, 2018
Related: Everything here.
nicolas desarae 

Castle Chavaise - Beziers

Surrounded by a second ring of stone wall is the castle at the top of the hill, a pleasant but also impressive building with the banners of House Mereliot flapping lazily in the faint breeze, from spires as well as flagpoles planted upon the towers, overlooking the city of Beziers as well as the river Orb winding its way down towards the Mediterranean Sea and the harbor.

The main keep can be accessed from the courtyard, and it has a great hall, where walls are adorned with tapestries the castle is famous for. An audience chamber, a music room, kitchens and servant's quarters are to be found downstairs. Whereas the upper floor is where the private quarters of the Marquise's family can be found. There is a wing with rooms for guests and other nobility living at the castle. There is also a private library, the door of which is usually locked.

Outside, there is a garden with a small orchard, where apple trees in full bloom are adding a certain charm to the scenery.

Her homecoming is as warm as anyone could ever expect.

The last living child of the late marquise would find the staff of Castle Chavaise lined up in front, to bow or curtsey to her once she has alighted from her carriage at Nicolas' assistance. It is dark by the time her small party arrives to her family's stronghold, stars half-hidden by the presence of overcast clouds. But the torches in the stone building are lit and its chimneys billowing smoke, anything to ward off the encroaching chill. Despite the presence of Autumn, Winter is biting at its seams.

Her trunks delivered to her chambers and her rooms presently being prepared by the in-house staff of maids, Desarae would be informed that her father is in his study.

The room is cavernous, and familiar, its active fireplace burning applewood logs when she is greeted by a valet before breaching her father's inner sanctum. Books, a large desk, the mounted heads of the preys of past hunts, it sports all the usual trappings expected in the space of a highly-ranked lord who uses it for business. Armand Morhban de Mereliot's tall imposing shadow stands by the window, arms folded behind him, fingers linked by the wrists. While dressed down for the evening in a shirt, breeches and boots, his thoughts appear elsewhere, but he is drawn back to the present when his daughter is announced and arrives.

"My darling," he says - he is exhausted, there are circles under his eyes and his shoulders stoop, as if burdened by an invisible weight. "I hope your journey was at the very least a tolerable one. Have you eaten? I can have a late repast prepared." Dark eyes fall on the new face accompanying Desarae and for the first time in several months, that Kusheline sharpness returns in his stare. There's a lidded look and an incline of his head towards Nicolas Guillard.

Unperturbed, the young man garbed in gray steps forward and gives the man a deep bow from the waist in greeting, but the young L'Envers lord says nothing, letting Desarae take up the introductions as proper.

"Papa…" Deserae's curtsey on entering her Armand's study is a perfunctory one, one performed of habit rather than necessity, and swiftly made too so that she can broach the distance between her and her father. "You look tired…" She looks travel-worn and weary herself, but the shadows upon her face come nowhere near to approaching those that mark her father's visage.

She slips easily into his arms, and there's a closeness between them that's born as a result of them both having lost everything but each another. She wraps herself as much in him as the familiarity of the scent that he wears, and remains pressed to his chest for the beat of a heart before peeling herself away.

"This is Brother Nicolas Guillard. Florent has been recalled to the monastery, so he was sent in his stead." Standing beside Armand, it's clear that the pair are father and daughter; her hair as raven dark as his own, and though his own stature and presence is diminished by current travails, she posseses that proud tilt of her jaw and chin for which he'd once been famed.

"We came straight from the port, and I'm sure that Nicolas is as famished as I." She starts to peel the kidskin leather of her gloves from her fingers. "The crossing was a little longer than usual." A pause as she flexes her now freed fingers, and she turns back in Nicolas' direction so that a quick smile might be given his way. "Nicolas is a better sailor than I, but he managed to keep my mind from the swell at its worst." A cut back of her eyes to her father. "It's good to be home again. Did you miss me that much?"

Desarae's approach has Armand's arms opening up, to envelope his last living child and holding her there for a few moments. It is as if whatever breath he was holding slowly drains out of him the longer his daughter lingers against him. His own Cassiline, Guillame, stands on the far side of the room, eyes regarding his comrade-at-arms and giving him a brief nod, which Nicolas returns.

When the lady steps away and makes her introductions, Armand's dark eyes lift to regard her new Cassiline, his expression impassive for a few heartbeats as he watches the exchange between her and the gray-garbed young man.

"Then I'll have Leonard prepare a meal for the both of you, at the Solar," he says, not addressing the remarks about how exhausted he looks. "And while I did miss you, something important surfaced that couldn't wait. I…had to call you back, darling. I hope you understand, once I explain. Please - have a seat."

Once she does, the man doesn't retake the chair behind his desk. He, instead, takes the seat next to her, reaching out to take her hand and rest his other on top of her pale knuckles. His jaw works in an effort to find the words, and opts for the direct approach once she is seated behind him. "Before I begin, I must know…have you experienced anything strange around you as of late?"

Desarae lays her gloves on the arm of the chaise when they sit. The blacks of her wardrobe have been set aside in favour of the gentler colours of a mourning palette, and the folds of her russet travelling skirts settle neatly about her legs as her father claims the slim fingers of her hand.

His intensity prompts a nervousness, or perhaps it simply allows that which is already there to be shown. Days have passed since the arrival of Armand's letter to her hand, and that passage of time has been more than ample to feed the fertile imagination as the one possessed by herself.

"I don't think so, no…" Her eyes flick to Nicolas, and there's the smallest worry of her teeth to her lip. "No." Her words are guarded, and a shake is given her head as she brings her focus back to her father. "Not exactly. At least, nothing that I could say for certain. There have been dreams, though. Dark dreams. Vivid dreams." Her shoulders tighten, and that tenseness collects in the muscles of her arms, her wrists and her fingers, causing them to curl beneath his. Her breath comes quicker. "Of her. The witch." Agitated, her eyes darken as adrenaline at speaking of something so intimate and painful pours itself on her soul. "I don't sleep, Papa, at least not well, but I've been told that its natural after all that has happened, and that it time it will pass."

Nicolas remains quiet through the exchange, though when Desarae's green eyes meet his, there's a subtle nod from him, the slightest quirk of his mouth visible - a small sign of encouragement, before it vanishes again. He remains at his vigil, close to the door and one hand already fishing for the marbles that he keeps in his uniform jacket's pocket. But undoubtedly, not only is he listening, but taking in the details of the room, the glimpses of the grounds outside and where Guillame is situated.

Mention of his daughter's dark dreams has Armand's jaw hardening at the hinges; he was already tense before she arrived, remained so when she did with a new face he doesn't know, and now, mention of these nightmares. He listens to his daughter's remarks about how this is natural, that time will pass and the wounds in her psyche will heal.

His fingers tighten their hold on his daughter's own. His dark eyes drop to meet the vivid emerald stare on Desarae's face.

"I received an anonymous letter," he replies. "From a learned hand. It warns me that the curse is not yet broken."

He lets the words hang in the air, before he continues. "This is why I sent for you, my daughter. If it is true, I couldn't have you away from me and if these dreams continue to persist with such clarity and intensity after so many months have passed, then I can't discount the possibility that it could be. I…" There's a glance at the records and books in the study. "I've been poring through my old journals, written during my days traveling in Bhodistan. I think I might have found a way to remove the curse once and for all. But I need your help. The ritual in my research calls for all the members of the afflicted family to be present for it."

From above her father's head, she'd find her Cassiline frowning slightly at the words, but whatever reaction he may have about the rest of it is carefully hidden by a neutral facade.

"No…" If there had been any colour put into Desarae's cheeks by their bracing sea voyage, it's now lost. Eyes appear more vivid, her hair darker where it frames the pallor of her face. "But papa, it was lifted. I felt the moment when it was broken. I truly did. They must be mistaken. They must…"

Her words tail to nothing, and one hand lifts to her neck as fingers slide beneath the choker she wears about the slenderness of her throat. Though the marks of the curse that had burned brightly there upon the tenderness of that flesh have long since faded, it's as if she feels the heat of the rash again now.

"Who wrote such a letter?" Her question is a whispered thing, and though her eyes glitter with the suspicion of tears, there's a hollowness evident within her, as if she's facing with a sudden realisation that there's an inevitability to her own mortality. Panic will be found in her eyes when they lift from Armand's to meet with Nicolas'. "You'll look after me, won't you Nicolas?" She bestows upon her Cassiline the gift of thwarting the supernatural, either missing or not noting the skeptical cast of his features. "What must we do?" This last to Armand, a tremble to be found in her voice as her hand falls from her throat and back to her lap.

Addressed, Nicolas nods, though his expression remains a serious and inscrutable thing. Those violet L'Envers eyes are filled with questions, but for now he stays them in favor of letting father and daughter keep one another's counsel. For the first time since his arrival at the Marquis' study, his quiet tenor fills the room: "I won't let anything happen to you," he confirms, and with all the confidence and unwavering conviction expected from an experienced member of the Cassiline Order…and more. A young man sired by some of the most famous knights of the realm, his word is his vow.

These words, spoken in front of the young lady's father, earns a more grim-faced expression on his features, but it does not hold any approval. Strange, that. But Armand returns his attention unerringly to his daughter, squeezing her hand again. "I don't know," he says. "It was delivered to me along with the day's correspondences about a week ago. I had the messenger interrogated, but that yielded no fruit." He pauses, and after an exhale, he lets go of her hand, to frame her face between both her own.

"Do you understand why I can't take any chances?" he asks Desarae, his lined face heavy with intent and something else hidden within the depths of his eyes. Fear - of such that a proud man can't admit to, not even to the one dearest to him. "You are all I have left."

With that, he releases her. "I know that you are tired…you can leave all the arrangements to me. We can go over the procedure together, once everything is ready. All of this…it will be over soon, darling. Truly over. I promise." He leans down and presses his mouth against her forehead.

"And you are all that I have, too, Papa." Desarae's voice is much diminished, her face a small and vulnerable thing where cupped within the hands of her father. Tears that had started to gather refuse to fall, a testament to the fact that she's become so very practiced in not allowing them of late. Her chin lifts when Armand releases her. "Nicolas will sleep in my chambers," she informs, a look of gratitude shot his way when he confirms he'll allow no harm to fall on her head. "I doubt I'll sleep, and his repertoire of stories is immense." She pushes to her feet, her fingers distracted as collects her gloves from where she'd deposited them. "Goodnight, Papa." The smile that lands upon her lips is forced; watered down and weak, and she reaches for his hand in a sudden moment of a childish need for reassurance. Her fingers twist in his, the action fleeting as it touches on memories of when she was younger. "Nicolas?" She turns his way, and he'll glimpse the lost and frightened creature that she's so quickly once more become, though attempts are made to conceal it in the brightness of her eyes and the bravado of her carriage.

Nicolas dips those in the room a deep bow, before his hand reaches out to open the door for the lady. The skepticism on his features eases into a gentler mien when he glimpses the lady's face, a subtle shift, that vanishes once he turns to follow her out of the room.

"I'll have Leonard take your meals to your room," Armand says, squeezing Desarae's hand. "Try not to worry too much, darling. It will all be over soon."

As both his daughter and her Cassiline leave the study, he rises from his seat. The sharpness of his dark, Kusheline stare returns, as unforgiving as razors, turning them on Guillame as he stands by the side of his desk.

"Tell me everything you know about Nicolas Guillard."




Their shadows move in tandem through the stone halls of Castle Chavaise, taking the most straightforward avenue towards Desarae's chambers. Nicolas' bootfalls are surprisingly silent; nothing echoes here but the occasional autumnal draft, and the brush of her skirts as the heiress moves from her father's study. These halls are unfamiliar to him, his keen stare sweeping through every nook and cranny, depositing the details into the endless corridors of his memory. If they were staying here until this ritual is complete, he was going to need the knowledge.

His attention falls back on the fey creature he is escorting, and while he doesn't touch her, he does take a step nearer, a protective angle; his body is always between Desarae and any avenues of ingress, tall, athletic frame always the closest to the window and a barricade against moving shadows.

"You're exhausted," he says at last, his voice pitched quietly. "And you need to eat. I know rest and sustenance must be the last things on your mind, but you must try."

The route from Armand's study to Desarae's chambers is one that she navigates with ease, with every twist and turn, each flight of steps, etched indelibly upon the memories of her childhood years at home. "I know I should, but how can I?" Her hand slips into the split seam of her skirts, and she pulls a beautifully folded lavender envelope from the pocket it conceals. "I could take the powders that Aunt Emmanuelle sent me, but with everything that father just said, I'm more determined than ever that I shan't." She slips the envelope back in her skirts. "What if you needed to rouse me. What if something happened?"

They reach the second floor, and the doors to her chamber stand open, a welcoming glow from within telling of lamps that are lit and the warmth of a fire that's well banked for the night. "I meant what I said, Nicolas. I want you to remain in my room with me, not posted outside of my door."

Within the suite of rooms, a number of servants and maids are already busying themselves with laying out the makings of their supper for the evening; the request of the Marquis to provide such having made its way ahead of their arrival.

"You shouldn't," Nicolas agrees, his eyes falling on the delicate envelope in her hand. "It's best that you don't. But I made you a promise, didn't I? Nothing's going to happen to you while I'm here." He catches the tension thrumming through the way she grips the envelope in her hand.

They both enter the room, and within the bevy of maids and servants preparing the lavish suite that has always been Desarae's is a tall figure in crisp, impeccable attire. Leonard, the family's steward, looks up from where he's overseeing the preparations of the meal and the chambers, a smile directed at Desarae's way as she waves the purple envelope in hand before it slips in her skirts, accompanied by her Cassiline.

"My lady." His tone carries the deep-seated affection expected from the longtime servant of her mother's. He affords her a deep bow, while the rest of his staff curtsey. "It's so good to see you. I hope that you are well and that the journey wasn't unduly tiresome."

"Leonard…" Affection shows in Desarae's face for her cousin, a man who's been her family's steward since a time before her mother was elevated to Marquise. Leonard would, of course, have been quite familiar with Nicolas' predecessor in the weeks that she'd spent recuperating at Castle Chavaise, and so she's minded to make introductions. "This is Brother Nicolas Guillard. Florent had to return to the monastery, and so he has been sent in his place. Nicolas, this is my cousin, Lord Leonard Mereliot. He's our Steward here, and if there's anything you want, or anything that you need to know, he'll be the one to ask." Her weariness shows on her face as she starts to shed the accoutrements of their journey. Her gloves to a side table, and her jacket to a maid. "The journey was as to be expected, though I'll never be a sailor. It's good to see you again."

Her possessions are collected up as quickly as she sets them down, her jacket and gloves squirrelled away by one of the maids as wine is poured into glasses from a crystal carafe. How much does Leonard know of the reason for her return? She doesn't enquire, but pushes thoughts that trouble her to one side, in favour of asking instead, "Will you be joining us? I think I'll be awake for hours yet."

Unlike the cold reception Nicolas had received from Armand, Leonard's more affable expression turns towards the newly-acquired Cassiline with a hint of a smile. "Well met, Brother Nicolas," the man says, both exchanging bows with one another. "Thank you for seeing Lady Desarae safely back to us. The Brotherhood has always served our family well for generations, you are most welcome here. As she says, if there's is anything at all that you would need, please ask me."

"I don't require much," Nicolas replies. "Though the lady wishes me to stay with her this evening." His grin, boyish and likely to render his features younger than his twenty-seven years, manifests at the offer. "Food would also be welcome, though not just for myself."

"It's being arranged as we speak." Leonard turns back to Desarae. "And no, not this evening. Your father has tasked me to oversee preparations for the….undertaking for which he has sent you. But I look forward to catching up as soon as that is all finalized." He affords her another bow once the meals are set and her belongings put away. The maid hands Desarae the poured goblet, an inquiring - and appreciative - glance directed to Nicolas following after.

"My lord?" She lifts the carafe.

Nicolas shakes his head. "No libations for me this evening, but thank you all the same, mademoiselle."

It isn't long before the steward and the troop of maids file out of Desarae's chambers, to leave the young woman to dine and rest in peace. They titter quietly as they leave, curious glances directed towards Florent's replacement - and all of which the young man bears in good stride, indicative that curiosity, gossip and pity are rather regular occurrences for him while he wears the uniform. The doors close with a cavernous thud.

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