(1310-10-08) Survivors
Summary: Nicolas reunites with his ward, and the effects of the drug still in Desarae's system lead them both to the infirmary where they find the lone survivor in the deadly bloodbath that occurred in the marquise's study.
RL Date: November 1, 2018
Related: Everything in this page.
nicolas desarae leonard_npc 

Castle Chavaise

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.

The assassin is dead, and alarms are still ringing all over Castle Chavaise.

The distant ring of steel clashing against steel echoes in the confines of his skull as Nicolas Guillard scrambles up the winding steps leading through the fortress' eastern wing, barely glancing at where he is going. He remembers everything about the layout of the grounds, and he knows that this is the swiftest way back up the parapet where his ward was waiting. Shouts, orders, they echo through stone and wood, but his violet eyes are focused forward, his sword still in his grip, out of readiness and caution both.

The doors burst open and he finds his path up to the walkway, tension stringing across the breadth of his shoulders and makes the hidden veins of his forearms stand out. They're not out of danger yet, he can still hear the fighting, but he can take stock of that situation later - his priority, at the moment, is to retrieve his ward and as his mind flashes back to how she had been moving, sluggish and bereft of her usual grace, worry only spurs him forward even faster.

The howling autumnal wind from this height tears at his hair when he finally makes it, sweeping his gaze over the shadows quickly, but he doesn't so much as pause.

"Desarae," he breathes; the side of his neck is throbbing, crimson spilling from the high collar of the uniform that he had borrowed from one of the guards stationed at the prisoner's tower where he had broken out. But he doesn't seem to care as he extends a hand out - he doesn't even seem to be aware of the fact that he is addressing her so informally. "Are you alright? Are you ill? You were…how you were moving…"

Desarae's slumped on the walkway, half-in and half-out of the shadow that's cast by the edifice when Nicolas makes his back to where she is. Her face is drained of whatever colour the moonlight hasn't already stolen, and like a wounded animal, she remains where she is and waits for him to come to her.

"Nicolas…" His name is sob that catches in her throat.

"I thought I was going to die." Her words are heavy and thick on her tongue, as if she's forgotten the proper way in which to form them, and when she lifts her arm to take his hand with hers, it's a dead weight in his. "I think… I think I've been drugged." Tears, fresh and bright, spill from her eyes, and they seem to be the one thing about her that's unaffected by whatever it was that's been slipped her.

"Nicolas…" She squeezes her eyes closed as images from the hallway beyond her father's study come flooding back as negatives that are burned on the back of her retinas, and her lashes dark and spiked where the tears start to flow down her cheeks. "My father. Leonard…" She pulls herself back to the present, and her eyes open to focus on her Cassiline. Her breaths are a leaden weight in her chest as she notices — perhaps for the first time — that he's wounded. Another sob. "Don't die on me Nicolas."

Her hand feels cold, and Nicolas closes his fingers around her own gently, but firmly. He reacts the way any decent, feeling human being would at the sight of those large, emerald eyes filled with tears, her pale face and numb exterior punching holes in him that are more severe than what the assassin had tried to do in the gardens below. Crouching where she is slumped, one knee pressing hard against stone, he sets his sword down, but only momentarily, so he can inspect her eyes at the mention that she was drugged - that would explain a few things.

His expression tightens when whatever he sees in her eyes corroborates her suspicions. He draws her into the solid wall of his chest as she starts to sob in earnest, cheek leaning into his hair and his narrow-eyed stare boring into the walkway's crenellations. "Shhh," he murmurs, in his attempts to soothe, fingers tangling into her hair and holding her there. The warm weight of her, breathing, alive, loosens some of the bands of iron tension coiled around the rapidly beating engine of him. "It's alright now, it's just a flesh wound. What's important is that you're…"

Alive, he means to say, but his memory - boon and curse in equal measure - will not allow him to forget how close it had been. Teeth grit from behind closed lips, arms winding about her tighter. He says nothing else for a long moment, barbs of self-castigation, tipped with worry and fear, wondering what the hell was happening to the rest of the castle. But the silence is a deliberate one; even now, he can't be concerned about anything else but the safety of his charge.

"We need to get you to a chirurgeon," he tells her quietly. "But we'll wait, for just a little while longer. I can hear them fighting, still."

Desarae allows herself the respite of being drawn into Nicolas' chest and simply held. The shouts and sounds of the guards fighting deeper in the castle fall like physical blows upon her shoulders, and he'll feel each flex and flinch she makes in response. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything. For this. For me." Words, confused and jumbled, tumble from her mouth as her cheek presses to his borrowed uniform, the heavy fabric already soaked by the free-flow of blood from his wound.

She keens and rocks into him, her hair a silken web that tangles in his fingers where he cradles her from the violence. "I fled. I ran. I ran and left them. Papa. I'm sorry Papa…"

She's small against him; her body balled into a nothingness that's wrapped in the purple softness of her robe, and her feet as naked and as pale as a child's that's been pulled from it's bed. Her hand is still fisted about the carving which he'd given her, and she tucks that hand beneath her chin, fitting it into the hollow of her throat. The press of her knuckles dampen her words to a whisper. "I knew that you'd find me. You promised."

She is a woman grown but there are aspects of her that can't help but remind him as to how young she is, still. Almost too young, too sheltered, to withstand the amount of bloodshed she has had to endure in this last year alone. And yet, she manages to bear it with grace while leaving this part of her in the shadows - crystal on the verge of cracking. Nicolas shakes his head at every apology that leaves her, tightening his hold. He shifts, until his back finds cold stone behind him, cradling her while tilting his head back to stare at the stars, and offer a silent prayer to the deities that call them their home.

"No, Desarae. None of this is your fault, and I'll have words with anyone who says otherwise."

A savage curse, to those who had done this - to whoever sent the letter, to whoever let the darkness in, to the fears that drove Armand Morhban de Mereliot to bring Desarae here. Gratitude, so overwhelming that it takes his breath away, that he hadn't been too late.

Emotion and affection well up from within the quiet cisterns of him when he feels her clutch the carving he had made, then given to her on a whim - of the mystical bird that offers its feathers as blessings. "I did promise," he replies, his eyes upon the silver-blue sphere of the harvest moon above them. "I swore." And to a boy sired by knights, his word is everything.

He says nothing for a long while, letting her keen, and bury the sounds of her regret and grief against his borrowed jacket. He keeps stroking her hair, up until the sounds of fighting ceases, and the Marquisate's guards can be heard rallying. That is when he moves, reaching down so he could pick up his ward easily. "Hold onto me," he murmurs, arm underneath her knees and the other cradling her shoulders, sword sheathed at his side, he starts moving inside the castle in seach for the family chirurgeon.

Thankfully, no one tries to stop him, but the uniform might very well be a good camouflage for the fact that he isn't supposed to be there. His tall, confident shadow strides through the halls until he finds the woman's office, the well-sized office that opens up into a small infirmary of sorts with various beds. The Chavaise chirurgeon is already moving towards them.

"What happened?!" she demands. "My lady?!" She reaches for her face to inspect her eyes.

"She's been drugged," the Cassiline replies.

"Take her to one of the beds," the chirurgeon says. "I'll be with her a moment."

Stepping into that room, it is surprisingly, and distressingly empty - it is telling, that there are no wounded, save one. In the furthest bed, brought there by the guards who found him, is none other than the pale, ashen face of Leonard de Mereliot, chest rising and falling in shallow breaths. His clothes have been stripped, bandages criss-crossing over his chest and spots of scarlet blossoming from underneath like roses on snow. He is grievously injured…but alive.

Desarae folds herself into Nicolas frame when he lifts her, her trust and faith in him absolute. She's not quite a dead weight for him with her arm anchored about his shoulder, and her body fights hard against the effects of the drug that crawls its way through blood and muscles and makes every moment of consciousness a hard fought for thing. Blood stains her fingers where she avoids the wound and curls digits into the padded shoulder of his tunic, and though hampered as he is, both by the injury and the weight of her in his arms, the journey to the infirmary is mercifully quick. Her paleness is accented by the darkness of her robe, and makes a fragile-looking creature of darkness and light of her as Nicolas lays her in the bed to where the chirurgeon directs them. It's with a sudden, sharp cry, that she notices Leonard where he lies.

Amongst all others, and standing only slightly below her father and Nicolas in her regard, Leonard is the one person in whom Desarae's trust and faith is unshakeable, and she struggles against the heaviness of her limbs and the crushing weight of the drug as an attempt is made to haul herself from the bed. "Leonard! Where is Papa?" She reaches for Nicolas' hand, fingers curling about his, and despite everything there's a hope to be found threading itself through the gaps of her words.

"Desarae, you shouldn't— " But she's already moving, and there's nothing for it but for Nicolas to support her heavy body as the drug continues to ravage her system. With the chirurgeon still looking for her implements, she leaves the three of them alone in the room. His fingers tighten its grasp over hers when he feels her clutch it.

Leonard doesn't seem to hear her, until she calls out for her father. Dark eyes crack open slowly, chapped and bloodless lips parting as he regards his cousin's hazy face before him. The stare he levies upon her is pain-filled.

"Des…arae…" he whispers. "I..'m sorry…I tried to prevent him from…you were in danger…" He grits his teeth, pain shooting up his body at every breath. And while he is in too much pain to tell her what she needs to know, his expression is eloquent enough about what had happened to her father.

"I'm sorry…I'm…so sorry…cousin…"

"No…" The word is a ghost on Desarae's lips, and her robe pools about her as she crumples within it and sinks to a kneel on the floor. "Not my father too…" Her hands brace on the edge of the bed, and her fingers ruck the sheet where they dig into the mattress. Haunted and desperate, her eyes lock on Leonard's, the brilliance of her's flaring as sheer dint of will she fights against the sonambulance that threatens her still. "You're mistaken. He's alive. He has to be. He has to be…" But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride, and Desarae has no power over life and death, and even as she's speaking she's aware of the futility of her demands. It's confirmed by the pain that she sees in Leonard's face, and in the look that she catches that's passed between him and Nicolas where he stands behind her. It's a look that speaks a thousand words.

As Desarae crumples onto her knees, clutching into the bedside of her beloved cousin, Nicolas goes down on one knee near her, his arm moving to wrap around her shoulders, and his other hand reaching for hers. He says nothing - what could he say? There is nothing in this world that would make her feel better, no choice but to ride the tide of seemingly insurmountable grief. He shutters his violet eyes and lowers his head, his prayer a silent offerance to the soul of the man who wronged him, but did his best to protect his daughter. He tightens his grip on his ward as grief forces her head to bow.

And for a while, there is nothing but silence. Hours later, mourning bells will ring, and bodies will be accounted for, but for now, the survivors remain in the castle's infirmary, futiley seeking succor for wounds that will never fully heal.

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