(1310-08-12) Band of Brothers
Summary: After word has reached him about his miraculous return from the dead, Augustin de Trevalion reunites with old friends, Matthieu de Rocaille and Gabriel de Montreve, both of whom served with him at the Skaldi border. With the Vicomte de Rouen given a detailed landscape about the future duke's suspicions, he pledges his support.
RL Date: August 12, 2018
Related: Resurrection and the Light
matthieu augustin 

Rocaille Townhouse

Lavish and refined in its design this townhouse seems to spare no expense while still maintaining a cozy atmosphere. The floors are polished ebony marble, gleaming under the light of many high windows and wrought iron candle filled fixtures. The walls are painted a deep forest green and adorned with various works of art depicting the companion Shemhazai and the lands of Siovale. The main rooms of the townhouse are for entertaining guests, the sitting room and dinning room respectively. Other rooms branch off these and a staircase and well lit hallway leads upwards and deeper into the house where the private rooms are. The building seems to have been constructed around a large garden in which various herbs and flowers are planted. The garden also boasts a small well kept pond with exotic fish at its center. Both the dinning room and the sitting room have large windows and doors that look out onto this garden.

When looking out of the windows, you see: It is a summer night. The weather is warm and fair.

The only visitors the Rocaille household has seen of late are members of House Albert - understandable, considering Matthieu de Rocaille had been fostered by the formidable Vicomtesse de Seyches for most of his childhood. Given the visits by Lucienne and Olivia, none of the servants were truly expecting anyone other than them and the healers dispatched by the Temple of Eisheth to occupy the halls of the mansion for the first few days of the ducal heir's return, considering his general reluctance to admit visitors while he is in the state he is in.

To the valet's surprise, instead of a familiar face, he finds Augustin de Trevalion at the door.

He is led, eventually, to the cavernous study where a familiar shock of platinum-blond hair is bent over another piece of correspondence, situated on a chair that is as comfortable as the servants can make it. While most of his trousers cover the injury on his leg, it's clear that it is damaged, propped up as it is on an ottoman and forcing the man to sit at an angle. Ice blue eyes with their argent filaments are narrowed in quiet intensity; the expression is familiar one, as Matthieu tends to wear the same face whenever he is conducting some piece of serious business. But the stylus in his hand is paused, composing the rest of the letter in his mind before he continues.

Word has it that he was grievously injured - three years of captivity, it is miraculous that he even managed to get back home alive and in the state he is in, but for the time being, save for the condition of his right leg, the signs are not visible. He wears a loose shirt - a far cry from his usually impeccably tailored clothing - in a concentrated effort not to aggravate the bandages that wrap around most of his torso, back and stomach. His left arm has a visible brace, that sleeved rolled up at the elbow to keep it from hampering the bind.

It is Gabriel de Montreve, Matthieu's childhood friend and Cassiline protector, that acknowledges Augustin first. As if he has eyes at the back of his head, that dark stare is already fixed on the knight when he is let in by the servant, though he doesn't move from his position by the window. Recognition eases his inquiring expression.

"Well, I'll be damned," he says, moving to offer his hand in a comradely clasp to the other man as he approaches, vambrace gleaming on his uplifted forearm. "Matt, look who it is."

"I'm looking," the Rocaille says, easing his leg off the ottoman and rising slowly, though he is careful to keep his weight off it, extending his own hand once the Cassiline is finished greeting the visiting Trevalion. "Augustin."


Augustin is used to being a surprise on social visits, it seems, because he doesn't react negatively at the surprise. He carries a bag with him, a leather satchel slung around his shoulder, that clanks gently against his dark blue coat as he is shown in. And he is shown in, in part because he is also used to being allowed to go where he wants to go rather than being told he can't. It's a useful life skill!

"Thank you," he murmurs to the valet; he has always been polite to servants - polite to most people, unless they're not returning the same to him. He folows them up to the room, and takes in both Matthieu and Gabriel quickly. Unlike most d'Angelines he doesn't seem bothered by the scars at all, probably because he has more than a few of his own— as both of them well know. He reaches out to take the hand offered by Gabriel, but goes one step further— pulling the man in to an embrace for a second before he turns and offers the same to Matthieu— albeit trying to avoid large patches of painful skin when he does so with the future Duc. "With any luck the damnation is over, although from what I see Kushiel Himself couldn't have done a more vicious job of it. Welcome back to the land of the living— it's damned good to have you back." He says seriously. He puts the satchel down, and it clanks. "I brought the only real medicine you need for getting better, truly industrial quantities of wine."


Gabriel is a Cassiline; even with half his innards cut from his body, he'd be able to fight with the prowess and speed of ten men, so when Augustin pulls him in for that hearty hug, there's no visible sign of pain. There is an open laugh, instead, and his hand slaps his back twice. "It's damned good to see you!" he says. "Still alive then, eh? Just like us. At this point, they ought to be giving us medals for managing to hit our thirties in stupidly dangerous livelihoods."

Matthieu's turn; he does the same, though even if the knight were less careful, he would probably carry the pain with all of the hard, unblinking stoicism that he has managed to develop in the last three years - the only way, in the end, to keep his pride and fury intact at the whims of his captors. He claps his uninjured hand on the blademaster's back and turns his eyes to the satchel. "Ever the wine connoisseur," the ducal heir observes, pushing out a chair for Augustin before retaking his own.

"And a thousand times better than the swill they gave us to keep us warm in the border," Gabriel says with a smirk, reaching out for one of the bottles and hunting for glasses and a corkscrew. A Cassiline is always on duty, but he keeps his own amount light; certainly nothing the man can't handle with his eyes closed. Cups are poured before he joins the rest of his comrades around the desk.

The Rocaille takes his wine, sitting once Augustin has, with Gabriel joining by hooking a leg on the edge of his desk and perching on it.

"It's not over until I peel back the curtain and discover the truth behind all of it," he tells the knight, lifting his cup in a silent toast. "Word has it it wasn't long ago that you returned yourself, however. Where did the Crown send you this time on the last voyage?"


"Oh it's all good wine," Augustin points out to Matthieu once he is done man-hugging each of them. "And I have gotten medals for staying alive in to my thirties; I expect they will be showering some on you for doing your Yeshua act." He moves over to sit down on the chair, his sword clattering slightly as he crosses his legs. "We may need to up it from a thousand times because of that, but we're on the right neighborhood." He takes the cup of wine, and holds it up in salute. He doesn't fail to notice Matthieu's words, but he focues on the second part first.

"Caerdicci Unitas, specifically La Serenissima. Protecting the Ambassador in what turned out to be the worst summer of my life, even though it doesn't seem to even be competitive in this company," Augustin explains. "The cap on a long span where I went to foreign lands and they tried to kill me for it. What truth are you searching for?" He asks, switching tracks.


As the gathered lords nurse the wine in their cups, Matthieu's pale stare regards the seated knight across him once he's propped his leg back up on the ottoman and sinks into the cushions. His letter set aside for now, most of the tension has left him, pushing him into the state he has languished in since he arrived. Weary, exhausted, it is only expert Eisandine healing that allows him to roll his aching body out of bed every morning to maintain a sturdy front and to conduct as much business as he can with letters. In the company of trusted comrades, however - blood brothers in a way that most warriors consider themselves after fighting a campaign together - he allows himself to at the very least succumb to his toils a little. Every single person inside the room understands what it is like to be hobbled this way.

He takes a sip from his cup. "All accounts point to the fact that the City of Canals is a dangerous place to have an assignment protecting someone," he muses, leaning back, eyes lidding in a calculating fashion as callused fingertips drum absently on the wooden surface of his desk. "It's teeming with assassins, politics there is practically the Consiglio Maggiore's favorite bloodsport."

"Beautiful and dangerous?" Gabriel smirks from over his cup. "Sign me up."

"You protect people for a living, Gabe," Matthieu points out exasperatedly. "I thought the credo was 'boring is always best'?" There's a glance at Augustin, looking for confirmation, given his similar situation just a year ago.

"Look, I've made vows to basically remain sexually frustrated for the rest of my life. If I led a too boring life on top of it, I might have to push us both out of a tower."

Augustin's query cuts the two men's usual exchange short. After a dark-eyed look from the Cassiline, the future duke turns his attention to the cup of wine in his hands, his own as hard as glass. "How much have you heard?" he asks, regarding his friend as he takes another gulp of the poured vintage.


"Well, hopefully the fact that I ended up killing a cousin of the Doge whose family is on the Consiglio Maggiore will keep them satisfied with their sporting for a while," Augustin offers with a shake of his head. "If I never see another canal it will be too soon. Give me Aragonia, or even Tiberium— there at least you can just be sneered at by families that were ancient when Elua was born and if they want to kill you they'll do it to your face." He snorts. "Oh there's plenty of things to keep you from worrying too much about your little swordsman in the Serene Republic, Gabriel. You could come back quite sated," he offers with a shake of his head. "But I'll admit I tend not to take my guards with me when I'm doing stupid things like that; mine just tend to get in the way."

He meets Matthieu's gaze evenly. "Rumors, whispers. You were betrayed," he states simply.


Mine just tend to get in the way.

"That's precisely why I want to go there, eventually," Gabriel says with a laugh, forever the easygoing trickster in a sea of serious faces. An odd way, in the end, for a Cassiline Brother to develop. They tend to be cool and focused, silent shadows of their charges. For reasons of his own, he insists on defying the set conventions constantly, not that it hasn't played to his advantage in the times when his skills with a blade were actually needed.

All deception, in the end. For all of his words, he is easily the most devout out of the three of them.

In the end, it isn't wholly unexpected to learn that Matthieu de Rocaille and Augustin de Trevalion have struck an easy friendship; they are nearly the same age, and hold many of the same views. They both took their duties seriously and their lives have been marked indelibly by external pressures rooted from family ambitions. So when the Knight of the White Swan tells him, straightforwardly (also something they share), that he has been paying attention as his predicament unfolds, there's nary a sign of surprise on the future duke of Siovale's features.

Gabriel glances at Matthieu over his shoulder at that.

"Since the matter is a serious one, I can't be heard to hold that opinion in public without proof," Matthieu replies, setting his cup down and linking his fingers against the flat of his stomach. "While I was captive, I gave the Skaldi a false name, I didn't want them to know I was the heir of a D'angeline duc. They would not only raise the price of my ransom, but they would likely ask for more than what my father would be willing to give, not to mention keep me under tighter guard. But I needed to ensure that they saw some value in me enough that they would ransom me in the first place, so I passed myself off as a minor lord of House Albert. Gabe's familiar with the name I used, I was hoping once the word was out, he would be able to track me through it." His expression grows increasingly unreadable as he recounts this part of the story to Augustin, gradually turning into a hard mask. "I thought it had been Gabe at last when they told me that someone was willing to pay my ransom, but when they took me to the rendezvous point, I found a Vrailian woman and her entourage waiting for me instead. That's when I realized something was wrong."


Augustin leans back in his chair and sips at his cup of wine while he listens to the story that Matthieu tells. "Trust me when I say that I of all people understand why you can't just make public accusations. I'm the one who deals with what comes next, far too often," he offers wryly, before he nods. "A wise strategy. I would not want to be known as a Marquis' son, let alone a Duc's, among captors," he agrees. The reveal of who it is causes him to blink slightly. "I had heard you hadn't come from Skaldia directly, but…Vralia?" He asks, confused. "Did she know that you were a Ducal heir, is that why she purchased you?"


"I guess that could be just a tick irritating," Gabriel drawls in response to Augustin's words. "Having to hear your ward flap his lips and say anything he wants because you're protecting him, bringing trouble into his house and then thrusting you into the ring to fight his battles for him." Draining his cup, he has reached his limit for the evening, setting it aside and locking his fingers casually behind his head. He adopts a slight lean against the desk. "Matt will at least watch my back, and he's a far cry from politically careless."

Augustin's confusion, and surprise, has Matthieu turning his blue-silver eyes towards the balcony, where the drapes are shifting against the summer breeze. It allows him a moment's reprieve. Recounting even this much tends to make him absent, far from whole in other ways, though his body is clearly, gradually on the mend. But it doesn't last, his attention returning to the master swordsman. "There was, perhaps, a slim hope that she was simply a wealthy foreigner who was curious, but I'm not that naive. She knew. And she knew that I knew that she knew."

He recalls the expression on her face. The memory of her alone causes the casually intertwined fingers on his stomach to tighten, short-clipped nails digging into his skin.

"It was the way she looked at me."

Cold fury and black hatred fill his veins in a rush, white noise cottoning the inside of his skull. It wars with other images, including the instance in which he realized that they would have to band together once the pirates came into the picture, her ravaged body dropped next to his in the darkness of their shared cell…

"The question, in the end, was how she knew. I've never seen her before. I would remember." Matthieu has never forgotten a face in his life.


Augustin chuckles a little bit. "Most of the Ambassadors that I knew were decent enough, but a couple of them were all too happy to have a famous swordsman backing up their words. We had words afterwards, and now I've said 'words' too many times and it isn't sounding right in my own ear," he says with a shake of his head as he reaches to refill his cup. He listens to the narrative as he does, and then nods. He notices the look on Matthieu's face and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "Breathe, Matthieu. It will pass," he says softly, calmly.

"So someone told her, and she decided to take advantage of the fact. So the question becomes who knew, and when did they know, and why did they not alert any of us," Augustin reasons.


The quip about words has Gabriel canting his head towards Augustin's direction, and then squints at the bottle they're imbibing together. "….how strong is this wine, Guste? Did you lose most of your tolerance after we got off the Camlach swill?" he jests.

But when the other man's focus turns back to Matthieu, the Cassiline's attention falls back on his best friend and charge, and at seeing the expression on the other man's face, he falls silent, his earlier lighthearted look growing more serious.

Breathe, the Knight of the White Swan says. The ducal heir lifts his eyes to regard the slightly older man from the other side of his desk, before he leans forward, scrubbing his face with one hand. Fingers rake through the longer strands of silver-blond hanging in an artful mess over his forehead, teeth gritting from behind his lips. He can almost taste it, still. The metallic tang of his own blood.

With the conversation turning to the particulars, he releases a long, drawn out exhale, reaching out to take a few more gulps of his wine - just a taste, enough to wet the inside of his mouth. But he pushes it away immediately, too self aware as to how easy it is to go down the rabbit hole presented before him in his state. The aim is to get better, after all, and not worse.

"Everyone knew where I was headed," Matthieu replies to Augustin, his baritone low and rough. "It wasn't a secret in Siovale that I was heading for the border to help with the skirmishes there for a year. Though if you ask me, most likely I'll have to look into my own house first."


Augustin nods. "I remember it not being terribly popular in some circles, a ducal heir going to the Skaldi border to serve with the Allies," he allows, nodding. He looks very serious at that response. "It wouldn't be the first time in history someone tried to cause something to happen to an heir, in the hope that they will move up because of it. It's a logical place to look." Augustin doesn't look happy by the prospect, but he can't deny it either. "Do you have any prime suspects?"


"My father said the same thing, but I needed the experience," Matthieu tells Augustin, meeting his eyes and smiling thinly. "And he knew it also, which is why he allowed me despite the risks, with the condition that it would only be for a year. I may not hold the lion's share of my father's affection, but I was determined to at the very least be worthy of his title." He leans forward on his desk, that sharp, focused intensity returning to his eyes, his fingers linking together. The signet of House Rocaille glints from the fourth digit of his dominant hand.

"If tensions with Skaldia and Vralia boil over in the next two decades or so and Terre D'Ange goes to war, D'angeline ducs and duchesses will inevitably be part of war councils to determine supply lines, the dissemination of resources, the contributions of each province, troop movements and recruitment. How it affects people's morale - in the lines and out of it," he continues. "And I can't consider myself educated in such matters by simply reading the published material, or speaking to the generals and admirals. War is a fluid beast, it changes depending on the variables presented at the time. I needed to know what it was like in order to be truly prepared for it. I think you would know that well, Augustin."

Once more, his expression becomes difficult to comprehend - a neutral facade that betrays nothing. He continues after a few heartbeats. "As for suspects…"

"The current duchesse of Siovale is as good place to look as any," Gabriel remarks, voicing what Matthieu is hesitant to say. "Don't know if you heard about all of that, Guste. Word has it you've been in and out of Terre D'Ange for a while even before we went missing."


Augustin chuckles. "I remember your father saying as such. And note that I said that it was unpopular in some circles, not that I disagreed. I wish more members of parliament and their heirs had experienced conflict firsthand. It would be a balm to some of the idiocy they can think their way into, if they had experience outside of the marble halls and perfumed salons." He says this unappologetically, meeting Matthieu's look. He leans back and thinks about that, and shakes his head. "I don't know much about the internal machinations of Siovale at this time— I have my hands full keeping a handle on Eisandine and Azzallese politics."


"To make a long story short, that conniving witch's been targeting Lord Fernand's other children ever since he had to put a ring on her finger in accordance with the ridiculous agreement House Rocaille made with House Toluard when Matt's grandfather was still on the chair," Gabriel remarks bluntly, making an emphatically disgruntled face. "He married Matt's lady mother first, but she died giving birth, so she was next in line to be duchesse. But you know how sneaky the old man is, Guste. I think he saw it coming a mile away, so he had Matt hidden away to be fostered by House Albert and let her sit pretty for while, thinking her firstborn was going to inherit."

"Father delayed that marriage for a few years to ensure that she didn't find out about me," Matthieu supplies quietly, his expression stony - an unyielding facade, in the end, to hide his discomfiture in discussing family matters outside of his inner circle. War, however, makes brothers out of the most unlikely, and he suspects that there is a reason why Augustin is straightforwardly making his inquiries - he just has not stated his reasons yet.

"But then he met Elliot's mother, who he genuinely loved, and she gave birth a few months before the duchesse gave Father another son," the ducal heir continues. "By all rights, if I didn't exist, he would have been the heir, instead of Ava's own son. Except, unlike my case, because she wasn't aware of my existence, she was able to force Elliot out of the line of succession. Nobody knows how, and I was unable to verify the method despite a few discreet inquiries I made before I went missing."

"Little E's mother died suspiciously on top of it," Gabriel adds, his face darkening further. "During her second pregnancy."

Both Siovalese men fall silent at that, letting the words hang in the air.


Augustin listens quietly to the political machinations within the Duchy of Siovale, and shakes his head at the intricacies of it. "I'll give my father this, for all his political machinations he kept it relatively simple." The words could be a little bit light, but the tone isn't; he can read the room and isn't trying for levity. He raises an eyebrow. "A Duc's heir should be a fairly public thing, how is it a secret why someone was removed from the line of succession?" He then sighs at the revelation that the woman died during the second pregnancy. "Which would be suspicious no matter what, even without the other evidence. So what are your next steps?"


"Well, it's Siovale, Guste," Gabriel remarks with a wry laugh. "What did you think was going to happen when you cluster hyperintelligent people with varying degrees of ambition together in one plot of land?"

"Not even Elliot was informed as to why he was removed," Matthieu replies, easing back so he could lean against his seat. "Just that he was. I heard rumors that his life was threatened and that my father had to do so for his safety. I don't know if you noticed, but Elliot was always his favorite." There isn't even a hint of resentment in the man's voice when he acknowledges it outright to his friend. "Anyway, the point is the fact that there have been plenty of whispers regarding the duchesse for years since she took my mother's place at my father's side. There are rumors. People suspect. I'm certain my father knows more than he claims, except he chooses not to do anything directly. In the end, that is the most important concern, because there is nothing more dangerous than someone who can act so brazenly and yet not get punished for it, or maintain the air of plausible deniability."

His eyes close briefly. "Her power seems to have made her worse," he continues. "I managed to speak with my brother the other day. He confessed that the reason why he was staying in Eisande is because he no longer felt safe in Siovale, and he has been reluctant to make strides here because it might draw her attention back his way. Elliot's not…" He stops, and then relents: "He's always been a gentle soul, and he's afraid. He may not be anything like me, but his instincts are good. His caution has kept him safe."

The next steps, Augustin asks. Matthieu turns his eyes towards the balcony thoughtfully.

"She'll know relatively quickly that I've returned," he begins. "If she really was responsible, I'm certain she would act in some way. Once the word reaches my father, I'm certain she is going to insist to have an agent travel to Marsilikos to verify my identity. I already anticipated that, and had the Vicomtesse de Seyches write to my father. She came to see me hours after I arrived, and as the woman who fostered me, she would know me even if I had been torn to pieces and scattered to the winds." He angles a look towards the famous chevalier's way, smirking faintly. "So at the moment, it's her move."

Finally reclaiming his cup of wine, he ventures: "I don't think you're simply asking out of curiosity, however. Were you going to toss your sword in the ring?"


Augustin snorts. "See, Azzalle does it much better. You get a bunch of prideful assholes and then give them one plot of land. Uncle Louis is lucky that the rest of us actually turned out pretty normal, for Trevalions." He nods to Matthieu. "Well, he has to know why he did it, presumably; unless you're also saying magic is involved." He shrugs. "Which I guess would be plausible as well, Companions know the Kingdom has seen that before."

He nods at the next step. "An agent which would most likely be someone she is in control of to claim that you are not you. So you need witnesses attesting to the fact that you are you; and when the agent interviews you, you need third parties present to make sure nothing goes wrong." He gives a little bit of a wolfish grin at Matthieu's question. "Well see, they made me a knight and swear these oaths about upholding justice and defending the oppressed. So yes, I'm putting my sword in the ring; and if we can prove she did it I'll be with it all the way."


The wolfish grin from the Swan Knight earns him a smirk from Matthieu in turn. "That's always the rub, isn't it? Concrete evidence."

There is a knock on the door, a valet in Rocaille livery stepping through the door and giving a deep bow from the waist towards those present. The ducal heir sighs, and turns back to Augustin. "I thought so, if that's the aim, I'm glad to have you. However, it looks like dinner has been prepared. You should join us."

With that, the broad-shouldered man rises, his hand closing over his crutches, and with that, the three men exit the study to move down the stairs.

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