(1310-08-08) Deadly Promises to Keep
Summary: Now safely back in Terre D'Ange, Matthieu de Rocaille wastes no time addressing several wrongs.
RL Date: 08/08/1310
Related: Resurrection and the Light
matthieu 

August 8, 1310 — Rocaille Townhouse


It took an hour or two before the screaming began. In the darkness of the room in which he was kept, he strained against his bonds, wondering whether they were finally killing her.

Kept in the smuggler's hole of the Black Swan, he gnashed his teeth together, nerves chafed raw by fury and frustration. Around him, wood creaked along with the buoyant sway of the vessel's belly against cold, dark waters, feeling his stomach lurch along with every swell. It was difficult to discern whether the rough journey was making him nauseous, or the knowledge - of knowing what the brigands were doing to her at this very moment. With little light, and in such a small space, he could barely remember the time, or the day. It must have been weeks, months, since he had sworn to himself that he would see her dead, his determination bitter and fiery; he vowed that in the precise second he reclaimed his freedom, whenever that would be, he would wring answers out of her before putting her to the sword.

But it would have been swift. It would have been nothing like this. At every sound she made in the distance, torn out of her by every fresh indignity, his teeth ground harder within his mouth, tasting the coppery tang of his own blood.

He didn't know how long it took, but it felt like an eternity.

Light spilled from the panel above his head when they finally returned her to their shared cell, her ravaged body tumbling in the dark and stopping by his knees. He didn't look at her, not yet, silently and internally girding himself before he did. But until then, his silver-chased blue eyes promised both ice and hellfire on the figure silhouetted by the lamplight cast on the upper deck, his lips split in a rictus grin. The pirate thumbed his nose, leaving the marque of an intricate blue star visible on his wrist. It had been his idea in the first place.

He burned his image in his mind.

The panel slammed shut, drowning the two of them in darkness once more. He took a breath and looked down at the woman sprawled near him. Even in the shadows, even after everything, her eyes were open and clear, brimming with heat and rage as she stared up at him, body slick with blood, sweat and violence. She was beautiful even in her ruin, after they have done their best to break her, but that wasn't unexpected because above all, it was her spirit that made her dangerous. Chains clanked behind him as he attempted to reach her, to at least cover her up and render her modest again, setting aside his gnawing hatred of her in favor of the humanity his trials have tried to take from him. But the shackles bit his wrists, preventing him from doing so and leaving them bleeding again.

Bruised lips parted, her whisper a sibilant hiss filling the space between them.

"They are all dead men."

His eyes met hers from where he was anchored.

"They are," he agreed.

~*~

"Matt."

Pulled from his reverie by the voice of Gabriel de Montreve, Matthieu de Rocaille lifted his head to fix his eyes on his boyhood companion and Cassiline protector, and found concern in his dark, incisive stare.

"I'm fine," he replied immediately, answering the silent question as he shifted on his seat. It was as comfortable as the servants could make it, but he had letters to write and he wouldn't be able to do that well in a recline. A bandaged hand lifted, pushing through his platinum-blond hair, before reaching for his stylus once more.

"You could be missing an arm and a leg," Gabriel retorted dryly. "And a few essential organs on top of it, and your answer would be the same. I don't know how to tell you this, Matt, but the years have led me to believe hearing that from you is immediately suspicious." With the grace of a large, deadly cat, his tall form leaned against the wall by his desk, crossing his arms across his chest. The light caught the vambraces on his arms.

Not even a day returned and he looked fit to fight again. Matthieu couldn't help but envy it. The fingers on his broken arm twitched.

He turned back to the letter he was in the midst of writing, the tip of his stylus scratching over the parchment in his bold, sweeping scrawl. He could feel his friend's stare bore against the side of his face.

"I know you're angry," the Cassiline remarked, finally. "I am, too, but pirates? They're like hydra, Matt. Sink one ship and two…" He gestured with a hand. "Will spring in its place. It's a wasted effort, if you think to rid the world of them from the confines of your chair."

"It has to be done," Matthieu replied, resolutely, without looking up. "Besides, I'm not looking to rid the world of pirates. I'm looking to rid the world of those specific pirates. That, at least, is manageable."

"I believe you. But can't you at least tell me why?"

His stylus stopped moving. The ducal heir looked up to fix his friend with an inscrutable stare that belied the conflict within. There had been a time back when they were younger when he could tell Gabriel almost anything, but experience and necessity stamped the urge. Still, he didn't relish the sensation, feeling daggers of guilt carve up his belly. If he couldn't trust Gabriel, who could he trust? They had known one another all their lives, lived, played, studied and battled together. Suffered together. While he had been dragged kicking and screaming across three countries, Gabriel was in hot pursuit, utterly relentless in his drive to rescue him in the event that he needed the assistance to do so. He couldn't ask for a better protector, companion and friend.

But he knew him, could taste the man's own guilt from across the room and it was because of that familiarity that he could anticipate what would happen if he did explain; his own self-castigation, however hard he tried to hide it, would only intensify, and in Matthieu's opinion, the Cassiline didn't need any more of it. He suffered the Vicomtesse de Seyches' displeasure the evening before when she demanded why he was still alive when Matthieu had been taken hostage and left to fend for himself, and while he conducted himself with his easy and occasionally impertinent manner, he knew the words cut deeply and he was still staunching the wound. Lucienne didn't tell him anything that Gabriel didn't already know, himself. And as emphatic as he was when he had told him there was nothing to forgive, in a quiet conversation during their journey home, it was as if Gabriel didn't hear it.

He understood that, however. Guilt was a human trait, but it often made others irrational. He knew that well.

"I can't," he said at last, returning to his letter. "You've protected me for years, Gabe. Let me do my part and do the same, if only against your own conscience."

The Cassiline sighed, but didn't press it, lapsing into silence. It lasted long, each second ticking away and puncuated by the sound of the clock mounted against the far wall. Gabriel broke it in the end, however, his eyes directed on the ceiling, a commiserating smile on his features.

"It's good to be home," he remarked, putting to words thoughts that Matthieu was incapable of voicing, as he had always done since they were children.

"It is."

"Do you remember the night before I was shipped off to the Brotherhood?" Gabriel grinned in remembrance. "We were twelve, and you somehow pulled strings to take us to Elua, where we ran into the triplets. I was wondering what you intended to do with Camille, odd numbers and all, but then you just pushed me in the room with all of them and closed the door!"

"What are you suggesting, that it was some sort of calculated send off?" Matthieu wondered, in his typical deadpan. Eyes lifted from his page, mouth slanted in a smirk. "Besides, I was hoping that after attempting to please three girls at once while trying to remember which one was who would assist in swearing off debauchery forever."

The Cassiline returned the look with one of his own. "Your foresight is ridiculous."

"Not if it doesn't work." After a pause, the Rocaille flashed him a curious look. "Did it?"

Gabriel snorted a laugh. "Nope!" he said, expression radiating good humor. "I feel the urge, sometimes. I miss it." His smile turned into an easy, languid thing. "But we're friends for a reason. We're different as night and day, but we agree on what matters. I'm like you when it comes to my own promises, Matt. I keep them, no matter how difficult." His expression twisted after that, comically resigned. "And believe me, being celibate is very, very, very difficult. I think part of me actually died a little when Livvy showed up with the Vicomtesse. All the blood just rushing to my— "

"Lucienne should have skewered you a little higher," Matthieu observed dryly, and while he didn't laugh, the beginnings of a smile was on his mouth; a hard won victory, of a kind, as far as his friend was concerned.

It was enough to put some much needed relief on the Cassiline's features, convinced as he was that his friend's toils had completely destroyed his ability to laugh. He pushed himself away from the wall, clapping a hand on his shoulder. "You've got a formidable ally with the old bat looking out for you," he said, before pausing. "You think that's one of the reasons your father chose her to foster you?"

"I have no doubt," the blond man replied, his words immediate. "Father's house is a mess, but his foresight is formidable. I've long suspected he prefers it that way to keep himself sharp, since most provincial lords tend to be deceptively indolent. It's definitely something he would do, he was never the sort to sit easy on his chair, so to speak."

"Just like you." Gabriel shot him a look.

Matthieu exhaled, and when he did smile, this time, it was faint, but at the very least it touched his eyes.

"Let's hope."

As Gabriel continued on his way to fetch himself a small drink, he turned back to his letter, scribbling the last few lines:

…sink it after, and leave it in the depths. You know what I require for proof. There is also a man among them with a blue star marque on his wrist. Him, I want alive. Once you have captured him, send me word through the usual channels and I will make arrangements.

The agent carrying this letter is also carrying your usual fee, but if you have any other needs, dispatch it to him. He is instructed to burn this letter after you have read it.

Dripping wax at the bottom of the page, he pressed his signet upon it, leaving it with his mark, before calling for a servant to summon his personal courier.

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