(1310-10-28) Into The Fire
Summary: Isabelle de Valais decides to concoct her own ruse in ensuring the pirates' cooperation, with Alcibiades Rousse assisting her to make it look more convincing. Adom Rashida, the former captain of The Ariadne, provides them with startling revelations that stand a real risk of changing the landscape of what they are dealing with entirely. Rolls, code and information handled and provided by the lovely Eisheth.
RL Date: October 31, 2018
Related: Everything in this page.
isabelle alcibiades 

Aboard The Myrmidon, formerly The Ariadne, formerly the Etoille du Soir, sailing on open waters

Nothing but miles and miles and miles of water.

After a quick cosmetic job that disguises the ship's very distinct figurehead and characteristics, and a particularly hasty, but thorough recruitment job in Kriti, The Myrmidon has set sail on its maiden voyage back to Marsilikos, its sails replaced by clean canvas and capturing cold, autumnal winds. The day spent finding open water has been blessedly quiet, though at this point, the prisoners still held in its belowdecks have been stewing for forty-eight hours without any word as to their fate. Had it been another ship, they would have been hung immediately - but hours pass without word from the crew that has taken over their vessel, and certainly, some of them are wondering, by now, what is causing the delay in their executions.

It is late at night when Isabelle de Valais finally descends into the brig; with The Dancer left behind to finish its extensive repairs, she has managed to convince those who intend to return with them to Marsilikos to vacate her things and place them in the cabin that she shares with Alcibiades Rousse, spending a good hour or so preparing for what is to follow. She has pored through the former captain's logs, the ship's books, but they hold very little by way of useful information. It delivers no small measure of frustration, and should he look into her during these hours, her lover would sense it - not because she is unhappy with their expedition, but because there is simply no way she can verify the information they could acquire from their prisoners until they manage to reach shore…and that will take a few days yet.

But beggars can't be choosers.

When it's finally time, she dresses and makes herself up carefully before she treats with them.

She brings every gleaming shard of her d'Angeline beauty and royal Aragonian exoticism to bear when she begins her interrogation at last, hair swept up and dressed in a gown of her own design - a backless affair dyed a crimson so rich that it cuts through the darkness of the brig like a single slash of blood, with a high collar and bares her shoulders, fitted on the bodice in such a way that it emphasizes the narrowness of her waist and the flare of her hips, the skirt pooling like liquid to the floor. Jewelry, too, her lobes dripping with one crystal each, and a matching necklace threaded over the high collar of her dress. Her left arm holds an armlet of a coiling dragon made out of gold, with dark garnets for eyes. A fur-trimmed black cloak is swathed over her shoulders.

Dark eyes with their gold flecks find the captain of the once-Ariadne and she doesn't even flinch when she steps towards the cells, to meet the pirate's eyes directly.

"Captain Adom Rashida, I presume?" she murmurs. Her Aragonian accent is thick and pronounced, laced with the natural huskiness of her contralto. "I am Dona Catalina of Aragonia. I have come to bargain."

Alcibiades Rousse isn't quite sure of the role he is to play, but if Isabelle is dressed as a Dona, she is probably in need of a thug. And after all, this man has seen him in battle — he has seen the fearsome aspect that Alcibiades can present to the world. And so Alcibiades plays to that persona.

He comes in behind Isabelle, wordless and grim. His hair hangs loose around his face, features turned down into a scowl. A club hangs at his belt, alongside his cutlass. He speaks in a low voice, ignoring the Captain, addressing Isabelle directly.

"Dona Catalina, with respect, I still believe this to be a waste of our time." He glances at the pirate for the first time. "You ought to just let my men and I have him. He'll tell you anything you want to know after an hour with Jaime."

Looking at Adom Rashida full in the face, Alcibiades smiles. Slow, predatory. "You remember Jaime, don't you, Captain?"

Isabelle spends 1 luck points on Subterfuge to convince pirates she will let them go if they cooperate.

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Isabelle=Subterfuge+20 Vs Captain=7
< Isabelle: Amazing Success (8 1 6 6 3 3 8 2 8 4 8 1 7 4 2 7 1 4 4 7) Captain: Good Success (1 2 3 7 4 8 1 6 1)
< Net Result: Isabelle wins - Crushing Victory

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Composure: Success. (3 4 5 5 7)

Adom Rashida looks worse for wear, tucked at the very back of his cell, but like every pirate worth his salt, he manages to look indolent. He manages, still, to look like the king of his domain, in a lazy drape against the wall, one leg pulled up by the knee and a forearm braced upon it. There's an openly lascivious look when he regards Isabelle - and just as Alcibiades ignores him, he, too, ignores the upstart who had threatened him with an army of bloodthirsty Dancers unless he surrendered. Jaime, however, gets a sideglance and an undoubtedly wary eye.

"Come to bargain, neh?" he murmurs, turning his head sideways to spit at the floor. "And what would you offer me, then, Dona? I don't know what it is you want, but bargain entails that I get something out of it. Would that be you?" His grin splits his lips. "If I get to bury my cock between your legs, I want my replacement to watch." Dark eyes slide to Alcibiades at that. "I'll even do you the favor of not tearing your lovely dress."

That seems to be a sore point, as with any d'Angeline, but even moreso for Isabelle especially, who remembers the formative incident that fueled her determination to climb Mont Nuit in the year of her sixteenth natality. A tic manifests at where the hinge of her jaw meets her neck - but there's an imperious cant of her head, lashes lowering. She doesn't even look at Alcibiades when he addresses her directly, a hand lifting, palm out, towards him as he speaks. The gesture is clear. Silence.

"I'll decide, captain," the ducal agent says, returning her attention to Adom. "And you won't get far from this cell if you insist on offending me. I understand that it is a uniquely piratical proclivity, but do lock it up. It is wasted on me." She leans forward, her voice growing soft, fingers curling into the bars of the cell. "And you will need to, Captain Rashida, for one word from me and you and your surviving crew can be released in the next port, free and your lives and limbs intact, however long that lasts in the seas."

Amusement fades from Adom's expression. His face grows stony, searching the woman's features. "And why should I believe you, Dona?"

"Because it has been two days and you and your men have remained untouched despite every single person aboard this vessel clamoring for your corpse," she continues. "I say that it is illustrative of the power you hold in circumventing your ultimate fate…but only if you are willing to cooperate."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Composure: Success. (6 5 8 6 3 5)

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Unarmed: Good Success. (8 2 1 2 7 5 5)

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Unarmed+3: Good Success. (7 5 7 5 4 3 6 4 6 4)

Would that be you?

Alcibiades moves like a striking viper before Isabelle can even signal him to silence. The captain is chained up and, perhaps normally, the Rousse would not strike him. But this is no performance. Perhaps it is a memory of his own formative moment, those years ago in the alley. Perhaps it is a darker memory, seeing Isabelle carried aboard his ship seven years ago. Whatever spurs him, he strikes at Adom with a boot, genuinely intending to crush the man's testicles beneath it.

Fortunately for Captain Adom Rashida, Jaime Daur was ready for this. Strong arms wrap around Alcibiades' waist and pick him up, swinging him free of the pirate captain. Jaime sets Alcibiades down with surprising gentleness, but he places a pair of huge hands on his captain's shoulders. "Nah," the former Marine says softly. "Not yet, Cap'n."

He turns to Rashida. All of this has taken a moment, a single flash. When he speaks, his gravelly voice is harsher than usual. "Cap'n Rousse is a kindly man. I don't want him thinking back on this an' feeling poorly about himself, savvy?"

He rolls his thick shoulders, cracks his neck side-to-side. It is evident, without Jaime saying a word, that he is not going to feel bad about whatever he does next. But he restrains himself, keeping a wary eye on Alcibiades, and defers to Isabelle with a bow of his head.

Alcibiades takes a few deep breaths, glaring between Jaime and Rashida. It is the perfect illustration of the control Isabelle claims to have over her crew, however, that he grits his teeth and takes a further step back.

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Composure: Success. (5 1 8 3 4)

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Persuasion: Success. (5 5 8 4 6 3 1)

Alcibiades moves so quickly, for a moment, it is as if he is stormy wind personified; Isabelle's eyes widen at the suddenness of it when his bigger body launches forward, boot finding home, her heartbeat racheting upwards at being so close to sudden and savage violence. There's a sudden, wheezing shout from Adom Rashida, who had been attempting to get up on his feet to meet the displaced Rousse lord in a grapple, only for the chains to get in the way. He collapses on his knees, clutching his nethers, choking back the rest of his pitiful sounds.

Thankfully, whatever beating he could have endured is cut off by Jaime, but even that might not be a guarantee. Pain-filled eyes fix on both men, the woman momentarily forgotten, but Adom shakes his head, lifting one hand in surrender.

"Alright! Alright!" A baleful look is shot at Isabelle from where he lies. "What the bloody hell do you want?!"

By the time the captain of The Myrmidon is secured by his mentor, and Jaime Daur's deferential dip towards her, Isabelle has schooled her features back to that cool, imperious neutrality.

"I wish to ask you a few questions," she begins, stepping sideways and moving a stool in the middle of the cell. She sits down upon it, arranging her skirts just so - and just barely out of reach of the man and his chains. "The first is how you managed to claim The Ariadne. My sources tell me that it was once a d'Angeline vessel under a different name. I would like to know how you took it."

Adom spits again, though he keeps a wary eye on Alcibiades, now, hate burning within his irises. "We waited for her to anchor," he replies. "In the bay of El Salloum, we heard that she was going to be there. We made landfall at night, out to the west, did it on foot. The Kraken, my old ship, moved to corner her, cut her off open water before anyone was the wiser. Then, me and my crew took the skiffs and swam the rest of the way to climb her up quiet-like. We took the gunnery crew first." And there is satisfaction there, still watching Alcibiades and Jaime as his cruel smile cuts through his face. "Slit their throats while they slept. Alarms went up, but it was too late. We caught them groggy and asleep, and unable to fight as they would."

Isabelle pauses at that, before turning her inquiring eyes towards Alcibiades. He, naturally, would know whether the tactics described were actually possible. Without anything in the log books to confirm this, she silently defers to his expertise.

Alcibiades' chest rises and falls as he takes in slow, deep, breaths. His features are still flushed, hair falling across his face. He brushes it back as he listens, slowly gaining control of his emotions. It doesn't seem easy for him. But the captain's narrative draws him out of himself, finally, and he regains an element of professionalism.

Meeting Isabelle's gaze, he gives her a grave nod. "We call them cutting-out expeditions," he says quietly. "If they took her unawares, they could have control of the ship in minutes." Stepping forward, Alcibiades gazes down at Rashida. He speaks in that same level, quiet, voice. "I want you to know, Captain, that when this is finished I shall hunt down The Kraken and I shall take her. I swear it."

It is obvious that there is a horror in Alcibiades of what was done, the brutal slaughter of those men and women in the dead of night. It could have happened to him, to his men. Except, of course, Alcibiades Rousse and his men keep a strict night watch — for exactly this eventuality. He glances at Jaime, sea-blue eyes burning like nebulae in the dark confines of the brig, and steps back into the shadows.

Adom lifts his hateful eyes up to the burning blues of Alcibiades' own, his dagger-slash of a smile remaining. "What a coincidence, captain," he spits, his stare gravitating to the woman sitting behind him on the chair, clad in her crimson gown. "I was just thinking that once this is finished, and I'm free, I'll be doing the same bloody thing."

Isabelle watches the interaction between the two men in silence, though at her lover's confirmation, she nods in acknowledgment, something flickering through her gold-shot eyes when she sees a glimpse of the horror in his expression. But she steels herself, squares her shoulders. Her stare grows colder as she focuses on the pirate on the floor.

"Were there any survivors?" she asks, as if detached from the more violent aspects of these proceedings. "Did you take any prisoners?

That draws a flicker of something else other than hate in Adom's face. He lowers his eyes to the floor and for a moment, just a moment, he almost looks regretful. "None," he mutters, his expression shadowed. "We killed them all."

<FS3> Eisheth rolls 7: Success. (8 4 4 1 6 2 6)
<FS3> Isabelle rolls Perception: Failure. (4 2 1 4 3 2 2 5)
<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Perception: Success. (1 7 6 5 3 1 4)
OOC: Isabelle fails her Perception against the captain's subterfuge, Alcibiades manages a draw —> Reroll in a Opposed Roll

<FS3> Opposed Roll — Alcibiades=Perception Vs Captain=4+3
< Alcibiades: Good Success (1 1 4 1 7 8 7) Captain: Good Success (4 7 4 1 7 5 5)
< Net Result: Alcibiades wins - Marginal Victory

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Intimidation: Failure. (6 2 1 6)


Alcibiades glances aside at Jaime as if for confirmation. The former marine nods agreement. "Now, if I had to make a supposition, Captain, I might wonder whether a man as canny as you would kill the passengers." He crouches down, gazing at Rashida with a strange little smile on his face. The horror of what this man has done is replaced by a feline satisfaction. His smile is feral.

"If you don't start telling the truth, Adom, I am going to tie a line around your ankles and a line around your wrists and I am going to toss you overboard and I am going to drag you along the keel of my new vessel, stem to stern." It is a brutal punishment, another ancient custom of the sea, and a terrible way to die. A worse way to live — many times, it takes more than one passage before a man succumbs to the barnacles and the salt water.

He glances over at Isabelle, then back to Rashida. "She won't save you unless you're honest."

<FS3> Isabelle rolls Persuasion: Good Success. (5 3 2 1 6 7 7)

Adom meets Alcibiades' eyes coolly from where he lies, though the other sailor's shadow dwarfs his own. "Like hell you will," he murmurs as the two men stare down their noses at one another. His more serious expression fades away, returning to the vindictive bravado he has managed to hold onto despite his punishments, exacted or promised. Leaning forward, his fetid breath finding the Rousse captain's face, he speaks softly, deliberately, tauntingly: "She's got you by the balls, mate."

"He's not incorrect," Isabelle interjects. "The longer this goes on, I'm becoming less and less inclined to set you free, Captain Rashida. If you think yourself entertaining with the way you insist on goading the man who has bested you in spite of your own cunning, I can assure you that you are far from it. You will not find any satisfaction with Captain Rousse today, sir." Her voice lowers, turns almost gentle. "But you will with me."

The pirate captain turns his attention back to Isabelle and after a moment: "Two," he says at last.

The ducal agent's half-gilded stare sharpens. "Who?"

"Richard de Morhban, and someone else. A noble retainer in his company, a man named Gustave Maignard."

Her heart drops like a stone to her stomach, fire and lightning coruscating through her every nerve. They had thought him dead, but the news that the true sovereign ducal heir to Kusheth may very well be alive changes almost everything. To her credit, there is no further outward reaction by the slow breath she takes to keep herself calm and level, but she is thrumming with nervous energy, doing her best not to rise from the stool and shake more answers out of him.

"What happened to them?" She cannot keep the demand from her voice. "The prisoners."

Adom laughs harshly. "We were to kill them," he says, rolling back to a seated position despite Alcibiades' dominant shadow. "In accordance with Monsieur Tavernier's orders. But thanks to certain complications, I elected to hand him a finger and signet instead, and told him that we sank his ship, left wreckage scattered on the coast in El Salloum's bay. Never heard from Tavernier again after that, I suppose he considered the matter settled."

"Is Monsieur Tavernier's given name Jean-Louis?" Isabelle presses.

Looking somewhat surprised by the query, Adom smirks and nods. He leans back against the wall, calculation glittering in his eyes. "You are…" he begins. "…very well informed, Dona Catalina."

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Composure: Good Success. (8 7 5 1 3 8)

<FS3> Alcibiades rolls Unarmed: Good Success. (8 2 2 4 3 8 6)

Alcibiades turns away to hide the expressions that cross his face — surprise first, followed by a dark sullen anger. Complications, the man says. Rousse, well-versed in the world of sea-piracy, can guess. "He sold them to someone else," the sea captain murmurs softly to Isabelle. Pacing back and forth like a prowling cat, he turns and looks at Rashida. His features are composed once more.

"You would do well, Captain, to focus on her questions."

And suddenly, it seems that Alcibiades has had enough. He steps forward and lays his boot on Adom's inner thigh. There is a nerve cluster there, though all he knows is how much this hurts — and he drives his heel down, pressing deep into the pirate captain's leg, grinding his heel back and forth.

"Tell us the rest," he says softly. Jaime steps forward to grab him, but Alcibiades raises a hand, stopping the Marine with a single gesture.

"Tell her," he murmurs. He's perfectly in control of himself. He knows exactly how much pain he's imparting.

Tell her.

The boot crushes into that cluster of nerve endings on his inner thigh, and Adom cries out, struggling against his chains but is unable, in the end, to reach the Rousse captain. He holds on, girds himself, but every grinding motion of the heel against his leg sends him gasping. "Alright! Alright!" he cries, trying to scramble away from Alcibiades as dark eyes brimming with pain find Isabelle once more.

"You were right. There was someone else. A man…never saw his face, he was hooded and cloaked. He paid double what Tavernier was giving us, to deliver Morhban to him alive." The words come out as a rush, if not just to prevent Alcibiades from breaking his leg. "We took him and Maignard to the coast of El Salloum Bay. He was escorted….ten…yes. I think ten. Ten riders. He paid us, took the prisoners and left. Then we sailed off to Syracuse to hand over proof of death to Tavernier."

"How did Tavernier get in contact with you?" Isabelle asks, the questions falling out of her in a rush. "When the exchange took place, which way did they go? Did you notice anything distinctive about the man who retrieved Lord Richard? An accent, jewelry…anything? What about the riders? Did Lord Richard recognize who bought him?"

Adom seems resistant again, but another application of grinding pressure from Alcibiades' boot has him screaming: "A mutual friend!" he cries. "We made contact in Syracuse, where we were told to report in after the deed was done. The man who took Morhban was…he was d'Angeline! Yes, I'm sure of it. His Caerdicci was good, but I'm certain he was d'Angeline and Morhban didn't seem to recognize him. They took Lord Richard from the bay and headed east….I don't know what happened to him after that, I swear it!"

Isabelle rises from her seat at that, taking a few steps forward. She reaches out to close her fingers over Alcibiades' shoulder, squeezing once.

"Ease up, Captain," she says softly, eyes falling on Adom as he writhes, a garden serpent pinned by her lover's furious predations. "I think we are finished here."

With that, she turns, skirts sweeping over the floor as she vacates the cell.

Alcibiades steps off Adom's thigh and looks down at him for a long moment. He reaches down, grabbing the man by his hair and twisting. "Make your peace with your god," he says softly, once he's certain the other man is looking up at him.

Releasing the pirate, Alcibiades sweeps out of the cell after Isabelle. Jaime follows. As the pair go, Alcibiades says — not caring now if anyone hears — "We'll haul our wind here. Have the lads boom out the yard-arm." The implications are obvious as he slams the brig's door.

Outside the cell, Alcibiades wipes a hand across his forehead. "The puzzle is beginning to look somewhat different now that we have a few pieces of the corners."

The implications are clear. Instead of a roar of rage, however, there is a laugh - sick, vile, unrepentant…and resigned. The rasping sound of it follows Alcibiades through the door as he stalks back up abovedecks, following Isabelle's red-clad silhouette as she moves to head for the cabin, where a door could be closed. There isn't much privacy in a ship, she is too experienced of a traveler to expect it, but she tries.

Her hand reaches for him, gentle fingers finding his forehead. "You did well," she tells him quietly - the half-performance they executed together in the bowels of his new ship had been deliberately devised. "I know that interrogations are hardly part and parcel of your life, but thank you for assisting me how you could."

His remark about the pieces has her lowering her hand, moving away from him so she could unlace her cloak from her shoulders, hanging it up in a hook. "We'll need to verify his information before we can even act on any of it, we need to return to Marsilikos at once." Her hand rests on the desk, rolling her thumb gently on the whorls imprinted on wood.

"Oh, Elua, Cib," she whispers. "What is happening? I had expected that either House Shahrizai or Quintien de Morhban would be behind all of this, but not only is the man alive, someone else wanted him." Dark eyes look up to meet his own across the way. "One of our own, and willing to pay at that. Perhaps it's too early to conclude it for certain, but the puzzle doesn't just look different…it somehow feels bigger now. Bigger than Kusheth. Bigger than Eisande."

Alcibiades stares at Isabelle, then wraps his arm loosely around the woman's shoulder, walking up behind her and pressing against her back. "You look fantastic in that dress," he observes mildly. As she grows more concerned, he seems to grow calmer. Their seesawing emotions are more marked than ever when he kisses her temple lightly.

"As soon as these bastards are dead, we'll make all sail for port. There's a fair trade wind blowing after that squall. We'll make excellent time." He seems utterly unconcerned, but she may notice that he's not addressing the much larger issue now presented to the two of them.

"We'll plot a course through this."

His comment about the dress makes itself known, somehow, and despite herself, Isabelle smiles faintly, eyes closing at the warmth of his mouth pressing against his temple, the certainty and solidity of the arm bracketing around her shoulders. Slowly, she turns so she could face him, her head tilting back to look him in the eyes. And while he is the very picture of calm, his eyes burn like distant galaxies, still.

"Now we know who Jean-Louis is," she tells him. "I'll make inquiries, once we reach Marsilikos. And I'll ask for an audience with Her Grace immediately." Her hands come up, to wrap loosely around his middle, her expression soft but serious…and determined. Watching his face, her smile returns. "We've found the Etoille du Soir, thanks to you," she tells him. "Technically your current contract with me is over. I suspect, however, that you'll see this through, no matter what I say."

After a pause, she turns her face, lips pressing lightly on the corner of his mouth.

"If you intend to help me, I suppose I better put you in a position so you can."

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