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Angelcynn: The Myrcian Conflict - Act 5

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"Of course he did. Do you think me naive?" This was a bit shocking. Did Claire think Cass was coming into this blind? "'The cost is proportional to what you hope to gain. Selfish desire require selfless sacrifice. It's not about the cost itself. It's about what you're willing to part with. Nothing more, nothing less.' That's what he told me. And if you have reason to believe otherwise, please, tell me. As it stands, I don't mind a helping hand with what I want to be. I've tried, and failed, to get there myself, and putting the load on any of you is simply more selfish. Getting an... Outside source, for any of this, is much better." Hopefully Claire would understand. This wasn't done on a whim and a prayer.

"If you don't want to help me, I can try to figure it out myself. Would take much longer if I did... And it doesn't mean you have to join me. I can't pretend to believe why people worship Engel, but I'm not about to tell them to stop. Nor am I going to tell someone who wants neither to start. I just..." Cass sighed. "Wanted more of an excuse to spend time with you, I suppose. Yes, it's serious, but I'll take what I can get. Sorry. I'll... Figure it out on my own."

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Freya frowned as the discussion continued to unfold. All of it seemed completely ridiculous to her, but it seemed as though the Prince stepped in to negotiate well enough. "Hmm..." She shook her head, stepping aside from the Justice Friends, heading towards a few of the houses. These people need help still, regardless of whatever all this talk is about.

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  • Departure of Justice

    Oshea scrambled towards the Justice Friends, clinging onto Jonathan's boot fearfully. There was an expression of relief across his face, although Jonathan didn't appear as pleased as the defeated captain. "You still have much to answer for in your treatment of this village. You have been saved from torture by dark forces, not from justice." Jonathan warned, shaking Oshea from his boot. He stared at Owen firmly, clenching his fist passionately. "Prince Owen, I will fulfil my promises and I hope you shall honour your own. If I find that you have been dishonest or conspiring against continental peace, my justice shall rain down upon you.

    He nodded back to his colleagues, all of them saluting in unison. "Justice Friends depart! We are needed elsewhere, our work here is complete!" he barked, a large cloud of smoke erupting from the middle of the group. Their exit has been as unsubtle as their arrival, the Justice Friends were gone for the time being. Decima seemed puzzled by it all, torn about what to think of these so called heroes of justice. The rest of Owen's group was starting to gather, ready to report back.
     

    Gifts not from Friends

    "Food shouldn't be a problem... but thank you for the money, miss." the girl replied, finally stepping out from behind the tree. She was rather thin, wearing a tattered tunic. She shuffled forwards, accepting the goods from Sidney. "Thank you very much, miss... I wish I could say thank you better. You can have this though."

    She rolled up her sleeve, removing a tangle of strings from her wrist. "I made it myself, I want you to have it." she added, offering it again to Sidney.
     

    Search for Life

    Now the Justice Friends had departed, the village had become rather quiet. There were definitely people alive, but most of the survivors had hidden themselves away in their homes. Angus and Esclabor were near the burned house, but neither of them appeared to have much luck with their search. The foul stench of roasted flesh had been carried over by the wind towards Freya.

    "This is awful, oh god... f-..." Steve stammered, looking around the dead soldiers on the ground. He looked to be in a real state, the young man not adjusted to the level of death around him. "There's got to be some people, there's got to be some people... sh-..." 

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A Time to Catch Up (Owen's chamber, Raewald Castle, April 27th, 812)

Spoiler

Cass' lessons had been progressing far better than Claire had actually expected. It was only the second day of them, but she seemed to grasp the fundamentals fairly well, which was a huge relief to Claire - she had absolutely no idea how to teach going into it. For now, she'd left Cass to keep progressing through the Fire tome at her own pace, instead setting out for her brother's room.

She'd promised him a report several days earlier, and she had plenty of findings to share with him now. It wasn't unlikely that he'd want to hear about how his sister was holding up, as well. As soon as she reached the door, she knocked firmly. "Prince Owen? It's Claire. Do you have time now?" 

---

Another person had come to visit the prince. "Claire?" This time, the familiar voice took his attention quickly, the prince walked to the door at a quicker pace than usual, opening it with little pause. "Of course. Please, come in." He invited her, the room past him very well-kept and fit for royalty. No doubt cleaned by the maids recently. "I'm sure there's been a lot in your mind since that day... I trust things with my sister haven't gone terribly?"

---

Claire nodded as she entered, seating herself in the corner. "Cass is about as well as we could hope for, I think." She hesitated for a second. "When she's awake, everything is fine, but I can hear her crying in her sleep. I don't really know what to do though..." Would waking her up from the nightmare help at all? "She's actually quite good at magic, though. It's making my job a lot easier."

---

Of course, before the indication that things could have gone well started to settle, Claire mentioned about Cassandra's nightmare, which staggered Owen with concern. "Nightmare... crying?" His concern rose through the roof in a matter of seconds. "I... I see." The topic shift was sudden, he honestly didn't know what else to say in response. Should he confront Cass.

"She's had a hard time since the church, it's clear it weighs down on her. Why not... maybe, maybe I should ask her about this, it could be more delicate than we're thinking." He concluded, his shoulders slumping. Owen couldn't help but focus on such depressing news. "It's... good that she's doing well with you, when all is said and done. I can't imagine it'd be any better for her alone. A-Anyways," It was awkward, but maybe not the worst idea to derail from that line of thinking. "We've lost the vial for a while now, huh? Do you... know what is going on with Lady Emily?" 

---

Owen didn't seem to be taking the news too well, judging by his reaction. Claire frowned to herself, wondering if mentioning this to him had just been a mistake to begin with. "It's only been a few days. I could just be overthinking all of this, unless it keeps up..." She was glad to see the subject shift, even if she didn't have particularly good news to share on it.

"I don't really know. Aside from the lapses in her memory, I don't think she's too different - or at least nothing I've heard from the people who know her better says otherwise. I visited the College's local branch, and they seemed interested in examining her. They might have better luck than us with it, and one of Serge's mercenaries seemed to have been working with them this whole time." It was puzzling, really. Why had Morganna been in Wyke to begin with? Had they caught wind of Malaphar's plot early, before Morganna had lost her nerve? She supposed that it made sense, but she couldn't help but wonder if there was more to it. 

Sighing, she continued. "Malaphar has been known to the College for over a century, supposedly. I'm not sure why, but... it looks like he goes back a long way. Whatever he's been planning seems to have taken him an awfully long time." Constance's recollection of their meeting was the earliest thing Claire knew of his actions. What, exactly, he'd gained from Belial was anyone's guess, but the wizard had to have been old enough to be her grandfather, even back then. It was frustrating that they knew so little of him.

---

"Still... just be there for Cass, you never know how bad it's eating at her." Was the one thing Owen could add, still erring on the side of concern despite the few days that passed. Maybe I ought to talk to Cass later, indeed. ...But that would have to be enough of that for now.

"So she's had lapses in memory, but continues to be the same person, overall..." How curious, it was almost as if she hadn't taken the vial at all. Was there something they were missing? "Well, unless she may feel strongly about it, it might be wis to have the college look after her. Hmm..." A prospect indeed, perhaps Owen should have a talk with the College's branch himself. "If they are also wary of Malaphar, perhaps they could prove worthy allies."

Of course, the news about Malaphar were just as intriguing, though not surprising, for reasons Owen had withheld until now. "Malaphar living over a century... that is not unexpected. I'd wager that it's not that he has prepared for an awfully long time, but rather his plans were already stopped once." He turned to Claire with a stern look, his recollection of Magon vivid in mind. "... it's something my father had not parted the details with me, but I found out on my own. Malaphar has tried to drag Angelcynn to chaos once, taking advantage of the tensions between Deira and Raewald. My father met him. Though I do not know the full extent of his efforts, I know that Malaphar was an obstacle in my father's quest to preserve the peace, one he overcame." It was such an important piece... he wondered how it was kept secret for so long.

---

"I will." The mage nodded, satisfied that she seemed to have eased Owen's worries at - at least somewhat. "I don't think we should bring Emily along when we have to face Deira, either way. It'd be better for her to rest, especially when we don't really understand the state she's in." That did, of course, mean leaving her behind. But it was for the greater good; surely Serge would understand. I hope so, anyway... Claire shook the idea out of her head, it shouldn't be an issue.

Besides, she had to make room for new information: the fact that this apparently wasn't Malaphar's first attempt at instigating continent-wide warfare. "How did you find out about this...? Well, either way, are we playing into his hands?" Doing what Malaphar wanted hardly seemed advisable, and yet... "We can't exactly leave the war alone though." Claire sighed, resting her head in her palm.

"That's not all Malaphar has been working on, though. Um..." Claire sat up straight as she watched Owen, not quite sure how he would take this. "Emmet is alive again, apparently. Likely because of Malaphar's vial; they seem to be on the same side now. I don't think he's a major threat, but we obviously can't trust him." Perhaps that went without saying considering Emmet's actions prior to his death, but Owen had given him a way out before. She couldn't let him get tricked.

---

"The war must be a means to an end." Owen nodded back, "I'm almost certain... he must gain something from it going on. Maybe he'll show up when the kingdoms are at their weakest and demand his place as divine emperor? Maybe convince the weakened masses with his daunting power? Or perhaps his magic requires war and death of people in some way?" There were many possibilities, but most meant his profit came from war raging on for long. At least that is what Prince Owen speculated. "I think, perhaps if we end the conflict too fast, strike the heart and make the rest of Deira surrender, we might topple his plan." It made some sense, didn't it?

But the next question struck an odd nerve. "Emmet is alive...?" Owen grit his teeth, shaking his head. "Hardy fool, feared death so much he forfeit his soul to Malaphar." Owen shouldn't have left him to the crows, after all. "If I were to see him again, I'd scowl at him for cheating death, and do it as many times as needed. One day he'll stop growing heads." Owen diggressed with a violent shake, a deep breath calming him. "Thank you for the information, Claire. Last days have been... stressful, but I still have much to do."

---

"Well, the chaos would benefit him, wouldn't it?" Claire spoke slowly, puzzling everything together as she went along. "He has very few followers, and it favours some of his magic too. I found out something about his World magic - it stems from illusion spells. I think that it stands to reason that he could use that to influence battles, especially if they go on for a long time..." She paused, then sighed, shaking her head slowly. "I still don't have a clue what he's after, though." They were still in the dark, as far as that went. They could hardly predict where the wizard would strike next.

"It's... possible, that that would work?" Claire didn't sound so sure. "We can't be too hasty, though, or else we'll put ourselves in danger. Still, quick and decisive... We should try and deal with Emmet in the same way. I can't imagine that he and Malaphar wouldn't have any tricks up their sleeves." She was surprised to see Owen shaking with anger, but perhaps he felt just as betrayed as Claire did about this whole ordeal. Still, she put on a small smile, despite the circumstances.

"It's not all bad news, I hope... Now that we know more about Malaphar's spells, I'm going to try and replicate them. It's uh, slow going, though." she added hastily, not wanting to oversell herself too highly. "I have to try and learn all of the illusion material from the ground up, and even that's trickier than normal magic. But still, it might reveal some kind of weakness to that World of his, in case we have to deal with it again." Hopefully that would brighten Owen's spirits, at least somewhat. It had been a rough few days for all of them, she was coming to realise that dropping all of this on him likely wasn't making him feel any better. 

---

"His power stems from... illusion? Would his world be a make-believe, then? An illusion that invades the mind?" It was a bizarre notion, but Owen tried his best to wrap his head around it. "In that case, chaos might benefit in many ways... I can see that." The confusion and fear instilled in people. Paranoia. Inability to tell right from wrong. In such an event, Malaphar would be quickly able to replace the truth with his own as the world turned to a more tangible source of hope and power... deceitful as he was. "That's confusing... if such a thing was an illusion, how did our bodies not remain with the group while we dealt with his world? Hmm..." Perhaps it was just the tip of the iceberg, in that regard.

"Emmet has given up his humanity for selfish gain. There's no need to deal with him any other way than a foe to put down. Hopefully we can revert the effects of the vial." It was really something where their research stalled, huh? He had no idea how much progress Claire had made in that regard.

The good news were... a bit more imposing than Owen expected. Replicating Malaphar's spells, in some way, sounded both ambitious and dangerous. He feared that couldn't lead Claire down a similar path. Perhaps not, considering the woman's demeanor. Owen certainly needed to place trust on her. "May we find a weakness, indeed. I don't know what Malaphar is planning next... but I wouldn't want him showing up again, before we have something more concrete." It'd certainly be a disaster.

---

"I don't think that's quite it." Claire shook her head. "How do I put this? Um... Alright. So magic, at it's core, relies on energy from an outside source as fuel. Tomes help us to control and cast them more easily, but aren't strictly necessary. When it comes to illusions specifically, it's about using that energy to create something visible, but it doesn't necessarily conform to natural expectations. In terms of appearance and how they fit into the world around them." She cast her mind back towards her first visit to the Mage's guild, trying to remember Tartus' words. 

"A scholar told me that it was theoretically possible though, to grant them physical form. Another book I read on the subject implied the same, describing something that sounded far too similar to Malaphar's world to be a coincidence. Does that all make sense?" She certainly hoped so. This whole teaching thing was already difficult enough with Cass.

Either way, they seemed to be on the same page with regards to Emmet. "I don't really know what can done about the vial. I think we have to leave things in the hands of the college." They had the time and resources to figure this out, while they didn't have the luxury of time to spend waiting on Emily. "I hope that this all works out too. I hope we have enough time to prepare before setting out again..." There was a war to fight, but the last thing they wanted was to play right into Malaphar's hands. Their last encounter had mostly come down to luck, and Claire didn't think they'd be that fortunate again.

---

"So it is real, in a sense." Owen could understand the gist of it, the manner that Claire explained to him fairly straightforward. If magic was able to do such feats, he wondered how it wasn't a more known prospect, but then again the girl probably glossed over the intricacies for his sake. There was also the mention of a book, claiming a thing similar to Malaphar's world could be done? "With regards to that book, was an author credited? A lead, perhaps?" It would be a big step if they could rely on that.

It was a bit of a concern to let the vial be examined by so many people, but they were strapped for time with Wyke's situation. "I... I suppose it's our best option to rely on their knowledge. I don't know much about the college, but I will trust your judgement, Claire. It did leave a curious notion, however... "Claire, if you manage something alike Malaphar's world, what will you do with it? You do realize how much... influence you can gain with that. Perhaps dreams you never thought possible before." He stared at the mage, wondering her response. Owen trusted Claire, but he needed to know what she thought, personally. Maybe Claire didn't even trust herself.

---

"Oh." Claire blinked, then brought a hand to her face. How could she have forgotten? "That's right. The previous owner of the book is another of Malaphar's victims. His time in that World seemed to drive him to the brink of insanity, though. It was difficult to get anything intelligable out of him, but he sounded like he'd been in there for a long time. I think that Malaphar was trying to get some information out of him, maybe to do with his World magic." It seemed like the most reasonable conclusion for the mage to arrive at, at least.

Possibly less reasonable was the amount of time she took to respond to Owen. She opened her mouth, then pursed her lips, caught completely off-guard by the question. "What would I do? Erm... Honestly, I haven't really considered it. With how long Malaphar took to pick it up properly, I don't know if I'll even ever get close." That was just an explanation, though. Not an answer to the prince's question. 

"I don't plan on trying to do well, whatever Malaphar's doing, if you're worried about that." Claire shifted slightly in her seat. She really hoped that he wasn't thinking along those lines. "I don't care about power like he does. I just want things to go back to..." She bit her lip. She was going to say 'normal', but far too many things had happened recently, normality like they'd known it before seemed too far away to be realistic. And it wasn't like Claire was especially happy prior to the campaign, either, which added to her hesitation.

"I want to have a solution." she decided, still speaking fairly slowly. "To have an answer to everything that's going on, and not be constantly stuck scrambling to deal with whatever the world throws at us next. Maybe that's just wishful thinking though. I don't even know what that kind of World is capable of, to start with. Never mind how exactly I'd use it..." 

---

So the author was a man that had gone insane... unfortunate, but surely not a coincidence. Definitely not, with the way that Malaphar worked. Perhaps he just meant to make the man insane and dropped the author on his world without a way out, or perhaps Malaphar had plans which were adamantly refused, and the author was cast away with his life intact but not his mind. Useless in the eyes of the demi-god.

More importantly, Owen remained silent and observing of Claire as she started explaining herself about the World and her intentions. Perhaps that had been too forward of him, but he needed to know how Claire truly reacted under pressure.

"A solution... perhaps you mean power to change fate. To stop Malaphar for the sake of everything you know will be worse off were he to succeed?" Owen rebutted, nodding along with her explanation. Somehow it was expected of Claire, reassuring, but it was never a simple trick to handle powers of that magnitude. "It might be our best bet, but that level of power distorts reality and destiny. Were you to succeed, you'd have power to take Wyke for yourself. Perhaps even all Angelcynn, Claire." He explained, his voice stern, but quickly a soft smile showed in his face as a manner of comfort. "I believe your wish is a selfless one, Claire. But that kind of power does not come without distorting reality. People will fear you, and Wyke if you decided to remain as Bennet. Men do not usually have power to change much on their own, so do make sure you understand your gravity. Even past the point Malaphar is no longer an obstacle, you'll have to work your life to make things normal."

Perhaps that was a bit much... "If you do, you'll still have my support. As a friend."

---

Owen had brought up an idea that Claire hadn't considered, but she wasn't feeling too concerned about that. "I think we'll all be struggling to find normality, by the end of this." She smiled slightly after her small attempt at humour, but a more serious expression took its place. "I'll keep it in mind, but I think that it's hard to say how things will turn out. I don't think Malaphar's magic is as almighty as he would like it to be, and it would take a long time for me to overtake him, I think." In the context of the current conversation, it was slightly reassuring, but they needed power all the same.

"We'll make it somehow..." she said, getting to her feet. "Thank you though, Owen. It's nice to know that you'll still be on my side." If they could make it past the problems they had to deal with in the present, anything past that seemed easy in comparison.

---

Claire's attempt at humor was not lost on the prince, worth a chuckle that softened his otherwise judging expression. "I suppose you have a point, we do not know how impervious his magic truly is, and knowing its weakness is a step towards making it less intimidating." It was far too early to make those assumptions, a point Claire had cleared rather well for the prince. Nodding in agreement, the prince got up from his seat, offering a more welcoming smile to the mage.

"Of course, Claire. You've done a lot to help me and my sister despite how rough times have become. I couldn't do less." He walked over to the mage, resting a gentle hand on her shoulder. For a moment, it seemed like Owen had reminded of something, and hesitated for a fraction of a second. What Cass said... how, how do I do this? "My sister... no, I appreciate your company as well, Claire." That was... certainly not a subject the prince was used to, but he had promised Cassandra he would try. "Most of the time I see you busy researching or buried behind your books and robes, but I... think you're a wonderful woman, Claire." It was almost paining to spit the words out, goodness, that was not Owen's forte... surely things were unbearably awkward for the mage as well. "S-so, um..." He'd caught himself without words, at last. Perhaps it'd be best to just act... and so he did.

Bracing himself, the prince held his head high, on level with Claire's, giving her a soft, sudden kiss, a little brief, but not too brief. "Ah..." He shifted back, embarrassment peaked. "F-forgive me... I know, I know it isn't too wise, but... I had to try it, at least once." Engel above... was he really meant to take Cass' suggestion this seriously? His heartbeat felt as cold as a chilly winter... "I... I'm not too sure of my feelings... no, I shouldn't sound this pathetic." He shook his head fiercely. "It is like I said, I appreciate you, Claire, but I'll understand if you find this too much." Maybe Owen shouldn't have taken Cass literally... it was a bit late now.

---

Claire returned Owen's smile at first, although her brow gradually furrowed in confusion as he continued to speak. "That's..." Claire started, uncertain of how to respond. I... guess it's not that different from what I was saying a few days ago? It was a nice, genuine compliment, she thought, at least until Owen leaned in close and stunned her with a kiss.

That wasn't how she expected her first kiss to go. It wasn't like it was bad, but it was a very short affair and came as a total shock. It was somehow much lighter than she'd imagined it would ever be. Her only point of comparison had been that strange dream though, but it probably wasn't a very good one, and while Claire knew that she was wide awake now the whole scene still felt more than a little bit surreal.

The strangeness of the whole thing was probably the only thing stopping her from freaking out, and as Owen pulled away a fresh wave of nerves washed over her, telling the mage that she'd be much better off anywhere than here. In spite of her now red face, she tried to push them away and speak. "Y-you, uhhhhhh, wha? This, I, erm..." It was a garbled mess. She held back a groan. Just talk to him. Gosh... Claire took a breath, before speaking again.  "You... had to try it...? What's that... O-oh. Oh my gosh." A memory came back to her from a few days earlier.

"Did... Cass put you up to this?" She'd mentioned it while they'd been dress shopping, that Owen liked her, but she'd never imagined that he would just kiss her out of the blue. It didn't seem like Owen to have an impulsive streak like this, even if he did like her, especially when she'd heard his relationship with Charlotte hadn't been-oh. That just complicated things further. Seeking some stability of any sort, Claire sank back into her chair. Part of her wanted to come up with an excuse to flee the scene immediately, but at least now she didn't have to think about what her legs were doing and could try and figure everything else out.

---

There, he had done it. His adrenaline over such a bold choice spiked high, but Owen's blood ran cold as Claire was perceptively quick to figure out what was going on. Her realization brought his own, and his mind finally came back down to the earth. Oh, Lord Engel, what did I just-- He looked down to the ground, heart heavy. "N, No-- ...yes." He couldn't lie, not to Claire. It certainly would've made him feel worse.

I should've talked to... No, there was so many ways he could have done this better, there was seldom an excuse. He could barely bear to look at Claire now. "I'm sorry, that was... too abrupt. I heard from Cassandra that you might have had feelings, but that doesn't excuse..." Engel above, it only sounded worse and worse. Why? Why did he think it was a good idea? Damn it. Of course, I haven't even talked to Charlo-- He turned his head in instinct, looking away from Claire. That was...

That was just a poor decision, was it not?

"...I shouldn't have done it. I'm sorry. P-please, pretend that never happened." No, that didn't sound right at all either. "I mean, it's not that I find you unpleasant --on the contrary! But that... I shouldn't have." Why was this so hard? Damn it all, what was it that made all that so complicated to him?

---

After Owen's reluctantly confessed Cass' involvement, Claire couldn't help but cringe slightly. Engel Cass, why did you have to... ughhhhhh... This manifested verbally as a quiet groan, as the prince continued to talk himself into a hole. She was at a loss as to what to say, so she let the prince finish, along with a few more seconds for good measure, before responding.

"Well that's... kind of true, but you should uh, probably ask... first, but, well," The mage reddened slightly. "What am I even saying...? Um, alright, Cass said that... you kind of liked me too, but this is uh... what. Not what I expected at all." She laughed nervously, sitting up, but at the same time she wishing that she could just sink even deeper into the seat. 

"Do you um..." Claire ran a hand through her hair, coaxing out the words. "Do you want, to talk. About it." That was much harder than it should have been. To say Owen's composure had slipped would be an understatement, and while Claire would have been 'happy' enough to take that as her chance to escape the conversation, it was probably for the best that they resolved... whatever this was now, even if she didn't like it.

---

That quiet groan did not bode well, Owen not even daring to look back at Claire, wincing as he'd felt the guilt hit him harder. Great, now what will she think? He didn't dare guess, but it wasn't long that Claire found the courage to speak again, speak first.

"... You re right, this is usually a thing you ask." It was easy to forget, there weren't these tells when Owen first kissed Sidney way back, but they were more aware of their attraction than... whatever this tried to be. "Talk about it? ...About what? Wasn't that simply a deplorable act?" Owen sighed, his tone not nearly as melodramatic as his words deserved.

"...Forgive me, I am certainly not good at these things. If it hadn't been painfully clear." That kind of evasiveness was getting nowhere, once again. Making his decisions blindly wasn't making him any better at decisiveness. The prince took a long sigh, finding a seat for himself. He'd need it. "It... is best that we talk, this is a predicament too messy." He agreed, clasping his hands. "But now... what is done, is done."

---

You... aren't making this easy, Owen. Claire made a sound which vaguely resembled an awkward laugh, before her face curled into a grimace. She was going to have to be the one asking questions here, based on Owen's reaction. Oh boy. She'd really hoped that he would start talking, but he wasn't giving the mage much to work with.

"Right... So erm, how did we get to this?" Well, he tried to kiss you out of the blue, idiot. The question had sounded much clearer in her head. Claire sighed before continuing. "What I'm trying to say is, um, Charlotte." She watched Owen carefully as she continued - That probably wasn't a name he wanted to hear right now. "She was always really... into you. You don't feel the same, right?" Claire wasn't quite sure where she was going with this, but decided it was probably better than watching Owen flail.

---

Of course it'd get to that. Avoiding the matter wouldn't help things, would it? Owen really wish it did. "...She still is, I'm sure of it." After a long pause, Owen replied. "I don't know if it is because of the way she expresses it, or if somewhere along the way, I let other worries cloud my judgement, but at times it can be very awkward." He lowered his head. I probably do stress too much about it, huh? "I don't want to disappoint, but at the same time, I'm worried I lost the fire... at the start, I know I enjoyed being by her side." That was really not helping his case, the more he spoke up. When did Owen's judgement become so cloudy?

"...Ever since I had told her we shouldn't move our relationship so fast." He raised his head again, still not facing Claire, but staring to the side, a wall was a decent distraction for now. "I feel like that is when I've had a disconnect. It's not for her lack of trying... I suppose I started doubting my feelings since then." He cringed, that wasn't very comfortable to admit.

---

Claire nodded slowly, but a lot of what Owen said didn't help very much. He liked her and then didn't because... there wasn't much of a reason there to begin with. Did he just fall out of love? Perhaps he was never in love in the first place. It was difficult to tell, especially from Claire's limited perspective.

"Owen," She frowned slightly, trying to get her head around things. "What made you like her in the first place? Surely you must remember." Had the spark disappeared, or had Owen simply lost sight of it? Perhaps figuring that part out was the best way to move forwards.

---

What made him like her in the first place? "I was glad that she had interest in me, that I made a difference in her life of crime as well. I felt like... my trust had done good." As Owen looked back at the beginning of their relationship, he realized perhaps how immature his outlook was. "I reciprocated and expected things to go slow... when she didn't, I took a step back, promising things would work if we moved at a slower pace... that was my mistake, I just drifted away, thinking on past passions as Adele's marriage neared." Another spot of pitch black ink in the prince's paper. He forced a deadpan smile, if only to cope with himself, as he took a seat. It at least seemed that retelling the story had beaten down some of the beast that kept him avoidant. He sat down, able to face Claire head on again.

"I do still find her striking, and we have interests in common, but her strong-willed nature and the truth of her background made me shy away. Perhaps because I never saw myself as strong-willed the same way. A poor match of a man." All unspoken words came out, in truth, the fact they stirred without much acknowledgement before was on the prince. Owen couldn't help but realize his self-perception was his own undoing, again. "I shouldn't have even thought of dragging you into this. I've not been honest with Cass,and I wouldn't be honest with you if I dragged you into this." He sighed, "Forget... forget I've done it, I'm sorry." He was going to make a worse mistake, huh? Owen closed his eyes.

---

Claire bit her lip. This really difficult. “It sounds like,” Claire found herself pausing almost immediately. Picking the right words was tricky, and her hesitance was evident in her voice. “Maybe you just got swept up in the mood.” She looked away uncomfortably afterwards, but it kind of made sense. “And then when it didn’t work for you, you took a step back and it didn’t seem the same. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve got it wrong.” They probably weren’t words that Owen wanted to hear, considering he could barely seem to face himself based on the look on his face.

Claire could relate all too well to Owen’s feelings of inadequacy, and the notion that you’d failed. That made watching his reaction all the more painful. How could I forget something like this? Of course she couldn’t. Instead, moved to his side, seating herself on the bed next to him and took his hand in hers. It was a little awkward, after his decision earlier, but Claire could handle it.

“Owen, look at me. Please.” She gave his hand what she hoped was a comforting squeeze. “I need to know that you’re listening, alright?” Claire had... something to say taking shape in her mind, but she needed Owen’s attention.

---

"..." Claire was right in that Owen didn't want to hear it, holding back a grimace as he held his head low. "It's hard to admit something like that, you know? That I just got swept up." But she had a point, playing this avoidance game was doing no better, Owen was figuring that much. "I guess I shouldn't have taken that step back... I shouldn't give up yet--"

It took a moment to register Claire was now sitting on the bed by his side, even holding his hand. That wasn't encouraging him to look back at her with the subject matter they were discussing. Owen forced himself to, holding back a grimace. "...I'm listening."

---

So her assumption had been right on the money... Still, with the face Owen was making now it was hardly worth celebrating. "I know that you wish you were more strongwilled, but I think that would erase your best quality. You've always been, how do I say this...?" Claire took a few moments to consider it. "Careful with your judgements? Urk..." That probably wasn't the best way to say it.

"Right, when we first met Charlotte and she was essentially wandering around with bandits, you weren't quick to judge her. That was what she liked about you, wasn't it? Even if the current situation frustrates her... it never would have happened in the first place if you'd just made a snap judgement. In the beach landing, as well, we could all tell there was something sickening about Malaphar. If you'd been hastier in trying to get rid of him, or turned him down, who knows what would have happened." Likely nothing good, considering how lucky they'd been in his World.

"I won't tell you what to do about Charlotte because, honestly, I have no idea." Claire sighed "I don't think you're as much of a mess as you seem to think, and this all seems fixable to me. You just wish that you were something you're not."

---

Owen looked clearly surprised by Claire's words of encouragement, eyebrows raised in shock. "I think that is the first time somebody spun this as a quality." It was blunt, but true. He always concerned himself with being a prudent ruler, so he understood where Claire was coming from, but when the world again and again showed him that his hesitance had just as many consequences... but Claire did provide good examples where his patience was an asset, which was surprisingly comforting.

"I see." So that was what Claire thought, in the end. "When you say fixable, in what way do you mean that?" Was he better off just forgetting about correcting himself? That wouldn't help him with the fact he was being so wishy washy with Sidney, but then again Claire did say she had no idea about that.

---

"Huh..." Claire frowned. It was a little odd to hear Owen say that from her perspective. "Really? I always saw it as the thing that made you approachable." Owen did always seem to be busy, even if with his princely position in mind.

"As for Charlotte, I think it just comes down to whether you find another reason to like her or not." Claire shrugged, suddenly realising that she still had Owen's hand in hers. "Oh, sorry. Erm," She let him go, slightly embarrassed that it had slipped her mind like that. "But really, if you spend more time with her just... as friends, shouldn't you find out if she's suitable?" she proposed, not entirely sure herself. It wasn't like she had a lot of experience to work off of. 

"If nothing happens, maybe it's just not right for you." Which didn't seem to be what Owen wanted to hear, but could very well be the truth of the matter. "I don't know." 

---

"Approachable... I guess." He'd never think of himself as approachable or unapproachable, but he was a prince. To many, he was likely the most unapproachable man in Wyke, yet Owen was concerned about his vassal's opinions almost as if they were superior to him. In a sense, that's also why my presence is so poor. I don't have a presence, but at least I know what my vassals truly think. "I guess it's a balance, it's nice to be approachable, but I need to hold my ground as well, or more cases like Dettard will happen." Not all people had respect to you if you did nice things to them, unfortunately. It was much easier to rule with an iron fist than a caring hand.

"Well, I proposed similar to that to Charlotte." Owen confessed, "To take things slow and give it time... but I suppose I have been doing nothing to help with that arrangement." They were more distant since, and Owen hadn't been looking for an answer to that. "But... I'll try. Thank you Claire." The prince retrieved his hand, idly running a finger over its back. "Despite all these issues I've just thrown at your door... I was expecting you'd just barge out the door. You're a valuable friend as well."

---

“Hmm...” Claire looked towards the window, thinking back. “I don’t think you were really at fault there though. It was a unique situation. I think that Dettard’s reaction would have been the same regardless of your attitude.” Something like that was unlikely to happen again, unless Oswald had another child that he hadn’t told Owen about.

Regardless, the prince seemed to have made his decision, although his thanks made her shift slightly where she sat. “To tell you the truth, I was considering it...” She laughed weakly, but it didn’t last very long, with the reality of the situation. “I’m glad that I could help in the end though. Er...” 

The friend comment somehow felt a little odd, after what had happened. I suppose that it’s true, but... They had said - both of them - that they liked each other, hadn’t they? She didn’t know what to make of it. If Claire had reacted differently, what would have happened? “Well...” she muttered at nothing, getting to her feet as she felt her face slowly redden. Why did I have to think about that...? Claire was very aware that she should probably have said something else, but she couldn’t really think of anything, resulting in her pretty much standing there awkwardly.

---

"I would love it that Dettard were the only one crazy enough to attempt to usurp, but in the back of my mind I grow some concerns that other nobles might find me unfit." It wasn't just because of his case in particular... though he couldn't agree more than he wished it was unique to Dettard. He didn't need more lookalikes fighting to ruin his reputation, at any rate.

Claire seemed in good moods now, enough to bounce jokes about how she was thinking of running away --or was that not a joke? "Well, I'd feel awkward if you just up and left me, so I'm grateful you didn't." The prince chuckled back, shaking his head. It was nice to know he hadn't messed up that bad.

However, things became complicated (as par for the course) as Claire found herself lost for words on his compliment. Perhaps now was a bad time, but he couldn't help himself. "Is there something bothering you as well, Claire?"

---

"It's er..." Claire wanted to shrug Owen's comment off, but she was left feeling a little conflicted. How much of Owen's actions had been due to Cass' interference? ...And what about mine? The pink-haired princess was a real troublemaker, sometimes. Or maybe they all are... Claire thought, shooting a worried look back at Owen. "It's nothing." she mumbled, starting to think that now would be a good time to leave.

She still had one thing to get off her chest, though. "Just, let me know how things go." Claire suddenly found something very interesting to examine out of the window. If only she was a good actor. She wasn't even sure if Owen knew what she'd meant. "Well, with you and Charlotte, you know?" She had a sudden thought afterwards that it would've been better if she hadn't clarified. If things went well with the prince's relationship, that was that, wasn't it? And if not, well... Engel help her. She had no idea.

---

A part of Owen doubted greatly in Claire's honesty as she muttered her 'nothing', especially with her face, denouncing an internal stress that the delicate mage didn't wish to expose. "Claire, I'd rather you tell me what you truly think, not as a prince, but as a man." Words escaped Owen's mouth without him thinking, looking at the woman with a friend's concern. "But I understand I've wasted much of your time already, we have a lot on our minds as it is. It can't be right to add this to your concerns." Saying that, Owen rose from the edge of the bed he sat on, lightly patting the bed sheet straight.

Claire's request was a bit confounding, her interest in his relationship with Sidney sounded a bit out of left field, however, just as the prince worried himself with what wasn't coming out of the mage's mouth, she must have had similar worries about him. A friend's concer. "I'll keep you informed of my situation, with Sidney, then." Owen placed a hand over his chest, a gesture signaling his promise. "Perhaps... no, it's best that I reflect over this and speak with Sidney. Other options are beside the point." With short steps the prince led himself just in front of his chamber's doors, opening them for Claire. " ...I only ask you to forget about this, at least for now."

Foolish him, the older brother. One that should be far more understanding of these things, seeking advice from his sister. I should be the one guiding her.

---

What I think? While Owen would have liked Claire to tell him what she was feeling, the mage wasn't even quite sure herself. Evidently she hadn't done a good job at masking her worry, but she did relax a little bit after Owen eased off. He didn't pry further, and he even agreed to her request, which left Claire... somewhere. 

Well, for now she was leaving. She still found the notion of simply 'forgetting' this conversation to be a little absurd, but she didn't voice her concerns. "Alright." Her nod was slight and uncertain, but she would try, at the least. "Good luck, Owen." Claire gave him a weak smile before exiting the room, dropping it as soon as she rounded the corner. This is such a mess... she sighed, feeling even more confused than when she'd walked in.

---

It seemed Alain had a word of warning to give Owen, as soon as the enemy commander was released, Owen heeded his words, a blink of the eyes as he tried gauge the diplomat's concerns. "Sir Alain," Owen started, "The reason I doubt what they're saying is true comes from what I know of my father's health. There is hardly a chance he would also be conspiring with Raewald with the rest he needs to fight his illness. He would barely leave his chambers." The prince knew there was something suspicious about that letter, but he just sorely lacked the information to discern who forged it, only to guess. King Olaf? Malaphar? Or perhaps Mr. E and some Wykian nobles had more sinister ambitions after all. "My plan is not to stick an arm to be chopped, you can be sure of that. I will prioritize my safety, in case they devise a trap."

There was something that got Cass and Constance arguing, apparently his name had been involved, Owen had been too absorbed in his talk with Alain to tell, but he hoped it wouldn't develop poorly. It didn't, or at least not much worse than Cass just getting some distance for herself and Claire. Owen could only offer Constance a hand on her shoulder, "Don't worry about Cassandra. She has always been opinionated, but in the end, she listens to me." He had always been soft towards her, but Cassandra understood how important her brother's role was, for her own benefit. At least, that's how Owen saw it.

With Oshea by the Justice Loudmouths' side, negotiations were over, and Johnathan gave the prince a farewell before the group vanished in a smoke... or something to that effect. "Thank you, I will count on those promises, and do my part." What a puzzling group, for Deiran enemies. It seemed their army truly thought their cause was righteous, but that was natural. No king would tell his soldiers to fight an unjust cause, but it didn't stop their blind righteousness from earning some sort of pity from the prince. If it is our divine right to rule, we certainly spit on Engel's face...

Edited by Xinnidy

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"And you still wanted to do it...?" Claire didn't get it. Had Alain not given her the whole story, or...? "I don't understand." She shook her head. "I really don't. An outside source to relieve you? That's why you want it?" She couldn't wrap her head around it. What was it that Cass was after from Belial? 

"You don't need to do this if you just want to spend more time with me, you know..." Claire sighed. "Please, though. I can't... I don't know why you wouldn't be able to get that from something else." Her mouth was left slighty agape, a reasonable indicator of just how lost she was feeling in this conversation.

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How... Disappointing. "It's fine, Claire. You don't have to get it. Sorry, for bringing it up." Cass folded the sheet back into her pouch, a somber smile sitting on her face. She'd expected Claire to get it, but... Maybe this was too scary for her. She did know more about magic than Cass. Still, she trusted Alain, and he wouldn't have come to her with this if he didn't have at least some level of good intentions. "If I don't need an excuse, then I suppose I'll bother you later, and you can see my progress with regular magic. Perhaps I can get a fireball to work properly, instead of just light a candle, hmm? Wouldn't that be exciting." This feels rather empty... Ugh, I just need to shake this off. I'll figure out the magic on me own, it can't be that hard to get working once I know how this fire spell works.

"Sorry for bothering you, Claire. Talk to you this evening, then." Cass curtsied, and rushed away towards... Well, no one, really. She just didn't want to stick around with that sinking feeling in her stomach. How can you not get it? Haven't you seen what nonsense I've gone through? I can't hoist my problems onto anyone else here, and trying to get what I need by myself resulted in... The shiver of remembering Adele stopped Cass on the spot, calmly trying to sit down next to a tree on the battlefield. This isn't wrong. And I'll show her.

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Sidney smiled sweetly, patting the younger girl's head and kneeling down to be closer to her height and accepting the string bracelet, then reaching into her pouch. This is... ah, it's only a thing... I've got plenty of bawdy jewelry. She withdrew a gold bracelet, putting it on the girl's wrist. "Now we've traded... it's for you! You've been through plenty of trouble, you deserve it. It's nice of you to share with me- now what's your name so I can remember it when I see your gift? I'm Sidney."

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Her Name

"Sally, miss. My name's Sally." she replied, her eyes widening as she accepted Sidney's bracelet. She was awestruck by the act of generosity, looking up at the thief. "I'm glad there are some good grown ups helping us too, none of the soldiers were very nice to us. When everything is better, will you come back and visit? I want you to see my village when it's nice, it used to be a lot better."

Sidney received Sally's Bracelet

-

Morning of 14th May 812 - Village of Clapcot, Myrcia

The battle with against Oshea's men had resulted in severe damage to the village, but there was little time to linger. The march towards Deira needed to continue, and the village of Clapcot was very much on the way. The Myrcian countryside contrasted the harsh battle they'd experienced, it was as if the fields and plains were oblivious to the continental conflict. Tarasque hadn't said much about the battle against Deiran troops, but from how few men had returned injured, it appeared to have gone well. The village of Clapcot came into view over a verge, somewhat larger than their previous stop. The village hall was visible in the centre of it with neat rows of houses forming a square around it. However, the illusion of size may have been a result of the vast number of tents surrounding it. Thankfully, they all showed Raewaldean colours. General Tarasque and Nelon walked alongside Owen, ensuring he was up to date with the situation.

"Part of our force managed to take the village back from Deira." Tarasque smirked, confident in her strides. "It wasn't easy, but it should give us a decent base of operations. We can liberate the north and keep pushing east. The villagers probably won't appreciate the crowd, but we wouldn't be there if we were not needed. The campaign shouldn't be longer than a month or two, we can leave after that."

Nelon was somewhat less bold, perhaps even uneasy about the talks of occupying the village. "Prince Owen, these are where there were reports of yourself being sighted. It may be that Dettard is somewhere within this village." he added sheepishly, trying to avoid direct eye contact with Tarasque. Not that the General seemed to mind, she even seemed to enjoy her air of authority over him. She stopped as they approached the village's edge, turning to Owen.

"I've got matters to attend to with the soldiers, Prince Owen." she said firmly, Raewaldean troops already starting to gather around her. "We can meet this evening to discuss further plans. I shall be in the commander's tent if you need me. The village is currently occupied, the villagers won't be happy but if they knew how bad it'd be under Deira... they'd be more grateful."

The soldiers around her formed a wall of bodies between her and Owen, the general starting to look through the paperwork she'd been given. It was hard to make out what she was saying over the chatter, but the expression on her face was smugly satisfied.

All players are free to post and explore Clapcot!

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Constance had never left Raewald before. Her first exporsure to life beyond her borders was...less than pleasent. But now that things had settled down, she was eager to see what state the country was really in.

Constances makes her way to the Herbalist

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Another quaint little village in a foreign land, Cass was almost feeling homesick. As much as she'd lived in the castle, it was familiar to her, and comfortable for it... Not as much now, knowing what she did about Wyke's nobility, but a known bed would be better than sheets and grass, at this point. The tents were alright, but... "I'm not here for reminiscing, I'm here for searching. Let's see if I can't find Gewaint before Owen does. It would probably do to speak with him a bit beforehand." That way she could clear up anything between the brothers before they spoke again.

The best place to look for information was likely the tavern, so that's where she went! What an odd name... Not that Wyke's is any more impressive.

Cass heads to The Wrong Trousers for Dettardly information

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Eric quietly trudged into the village, the whole Justice Friends ordeal still fresh on his mind. He hadn't spoken a word during any of it...should I have? I mean, things came to a peaceful resolution without me...Well, one thing was for certain; he wished a certain somebody hadn't.

To his knowledge, he had the freedom to do whatever he saw fit. Which...left Eric at a loss for what to do. After taking a minute to deliberate, he decided on...more walking. Kicking his coattail back as usual, he meandered about the village, resolving to stop at whatever managed to catch his eye first. And the first thing to catch his eye...were vegetables.

Eric wanders over to the chapel

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Well, I can't imagine there's a lot here... It was only a small village after all, and Claire couldn't imagine they'd find anything useful there. She made her way towards the square anyway, hoping to at least find a place to sit down and read, if nothing else.

Claire rhymes with square???

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Suleiman was overjoyed to be back at the homeland, except he didn't really know anyone in the village, or so he assumed. At the very least, it was good to know that the village was seemingly unaffected by the war.  The group didn't have much to do for a while, so he thought of grabbing a couple of drinks. Perhaps he could learn something new about the Deiran forces...and maybe forget his frustration over Owen letting go of Oshea so easily.

Suleiman heads over to The Wrong Trousers.

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Even Steven

The earthy smell of spice surrounded the herbalist's shack, the building barely the size of a single room. An old woman, although unlikely old compared to Constance, sat at the back behind a counter, hawkishly watching the entire store. The shelves had vials and oddly coloured bottles scattered across them. Business appeared to be rather poor, there was only one other person in the store, an anxious young man who was fretting about a purchase.

"Maybe I should buy this one... no, that one... but what if I..." he muttered, his hand twitching as it moved between bottles on the shelf. "What if it doesn't work, maybe I should... why... oh God..."

Herbalist Shack revealed!
 

Leg Day

The Wrong Trousers gave off a far more homely vibe than the Dank Codger or the Cursing Horseman, and Raewaldean soldiers were nowhere to be seen within it. Many of its patrons were middle aged men, spread out in small groups around small circular tables. The wooden decor was relatively simple, there was no pretence of class or sophistication. The bartender was quite the monster of a man, a hulking brute in the same league as the Raewaldean guard Thwomp. Bald with a bushy black beard, he was rather imposing. The idle chatter of the townfolk wasn't particularly interesting, but there were a few relevant snippits.

"I swear by the seams of my trousers! I did see 'im!" a small spectacled man claimed, spilling some of his flagon as he waved it in front of him. "Pink hair and golden stockings, it was definitely that Prince Owen! Ain't no doubt about it, he came into town a week ago!"

One of his companions knocked him on the head, shaking his head in response. "Your noggin's probably full of ale, Trevor. Royalty ain't gonna visit a place like this. Whether it be Deira or Raewald, we'll be swallowed up and fleeced for all we're worth. They're already livin' in half our houses. Only reason they ain't in here is because Papa Frank scares them all away."
 

Crazy Squares

Soldiers and villagers were both present in the centre of the village, distinct pockets of Raewaldean men with an unseen barrier around them. The market stalls were rather unimpressive, selling silly little trinkets and dried fruit. One store owner appeared to be having trouble with a customer though, a familiar and unpleasant one at that. The messy brown hair, the eyepatch across his face, Feran appeared to be walking freely in the village - wearing Raewaldean colours no less. A few other rowdy looking soldiers were watching in amusement, and several villagers were nervously keeping an eye on things.

"Tell me, old man. If I were to... disassemble your little stall, how many of your children would go hungry?" he threatened, leaning himself on the wooden table. The stall owner looked horrified, stepping back as he pleaded with the man. "If you'd been polite enough to serve, you would be avoiding this situation entirely. This war doesn't really interest me, I'm just glad to have a change in scenery.

The man had gone pale, cowering down on his knees. "Please, it's all I have! If the prices are any lower I won't be able to keep going... have some-..." he blubbered, being halted by a sharp pound of the table from Feran.

"I didn't ask for your life story." Feran replied darkly, sweeping the stacks of fruit from the table and knocking them across the cobblestone floor. He looked at the mess he'd created, giving a smirk of satisfaction. "Tough luck, Deira probably would have done the same."
 

Peculiar Potatoes

The chapel was in a sorry state, windows were broken and stonework was chipped. There were sections that had been patched up recently, but they were scattered about the structure - most likely quick fixes to prevent the building from falling apart. The neat lines of vegetables, potato plants if Eric cared at all, were in much better condition, the soil moist and the leaves glistening with water. A man wearing robes was crouched in the corner of the make-shift garden, holding a watering can and gentle showering one of his plants. It took him several seconds to notice Eric, or perhaps he just chose to take his time. He looked up at Eric, his face probably placing him in his forties, but still giving off a whimsical youthful vibe.

"Are you perhaps a curious cucumber?" he asked softly, still partly focused on his watering. "Whether it be the ways of Engel or the tales of turnips, I can do my best to help you understand. Although sometimes, I wonder if I understand it myself."

Edited by Shin

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Cass was a bit shocked by the feel of the place, it was a lot more comforting than any other bar she'd been to, and that helped her relax, but only for a moment. A small group of men were talking about exactly what she needed to hear. Trying to calm herself so that she didn't storm herself over to their table, Cass walked over, albeit, a bit hurriedly. "Excuse me. Do any of you know where, exactly, that supposedly pink haired man might've went? I need to see him, it's very important." Cass could only hope that the people were as comfortable as the bar felt. At least, maybe the barman would know, if none of them did.

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There wasn't a lot of selection in the Herbalist, yet someone was still having trouble figuring out what they wanted. "Excuse me," Constance said. "Would you like some help? I'm rather knowledgeble in thie field."

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How quaint... This village was certainly calmer than the outright warzone they had been in previously, but the amount of encamped soldiers was still somewhat unnerving to Sidney. Yet another reminder of how the war could completely changed the lives of innocents, and the General's words weren't all that reassuring to her. She walked quietly through the village square, mostly minding her own thoughts until she saw a particularly nasty Raewalden occupant causing a scene. Her expression went from impassive to scowling at the sight, her hand moving towards her dagger before she halted herself. Well, that's probably too hasty... But who does this guy think he is? Even if it wasn't time to be so drastic as to draw a weapon, staying silent wasn't an option at all. "The same as people from Deira would've done? Well well, then you're really not setting the bar high for yourself by comparing your actions to them, are you now?"

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"Nay, Father, he is but a traitorous tomato," Alain replied, clasping his tome shut and stretching himself out across the shade of his tree. Clapcot had proven itself to be a bit of a let down in terms of activity. Though, he wasn't even sure why he had been expecting anything in the first place. He had to remind himself he hadn't come to Myrcia as a diplomat on a sight-seeing tour. He was a soldier now, for what it was worth--though that still didn't help alleviate the boredom. He sighed, looking past Eric. "Though it appears a tomato has been plucked from its vine. Your knight friend seems to be missing in action. He had some choice words for me last we met, but it appears as though he cares less about me than I thought," Alain mused, prodding at Eric for some kind of reaction. 

Nani? Alain was already at the Chapel this whole time? B-bakana! 

Edited by Vestige

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From one village to another- but at least this one was under friendly command. The last battle had been taxing on Freya, what with the civilians at risk, but here was a spot to pause from the relentless marching and battle. Still, even though it was a time to rest, she wanted to check the armory at least once- and it was best to do it early so it wasn't in the back of her mind. There might be something useful there to turn the tides of battles...

And I think I need a helmet.

Freya visits the Blacksmith

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Think Pink

The three men looked over at Cass, rather confused by her request. "Pink 'air? You mean like yours?" he asked, taking another swig from his drink. He looked at the other two, the one who had been shot down earlier, Trevor, seemed particularly smug. He gave a crooked grin at his comrades, nudging the man to his side. "Was I right or was I right?" he boasted, the other groaning at his friend.

Trevor leaned forwards, beckoning Cass to lean closer. "An' here I was hoping that I was getting lucky with a pretty little lady. Don't mind us, we're just a bunch of old men havin' a couple of drinks. This pink haired fellow, I swear for the life of me he's that Prince Owen. He's been helpin' out the villages that Deira keep attackin'. Real stand up fella, all the stories I 'eard about him must be true. Can even shoot green fireballs by swingin' his trousers over 'is 'ead. He's not real flashy though, but I bet my two socks that 'e arrived 'ere last night. Might be stayin' in one of the 'ouses. Otherwise we'd have seen him more."
 

Chill Out

Steve turned, nearly jumping at the sight of Constance. "Oh geez, oh god... it's the old lady..." he stammered, staggering back against one of the shelves. His eyes darted around the room looking for a possible escape. His resemblance to Serge was somewhat uncanny, although the fear in his general demeanour perhaps set him apart from the mercenary. "You're not here to steal my soul are you? Damn... why me..."
 

Low Standards

Sidney's interjection drew attention from the crowd, everyone pausing as she challenged Feran on his behaviour. Feran turned slowly, smirking as he listened to Sidney's critique. There was no sense of remorse or even concern on his face. Murder was written all over him. He stepped towards Sidney, the villagers moving out of his way. "That's an amusing perspective... Lady Montana. Perhaps you'd like to continue lecturing me, maybe we should share your stories too." he sneered. "I don't care if you think I'm scum, I'm free and that's all that matters to me. However, you look like someone who has an image to protect, don't you?"
 

Fancy Suit

The blacksmith was little more than a glorified shed, run by an almost stereotypical muscular man. The wares were rather limited, the weaponry was rather basic at best. The owner watched as Freya walked in, more interested in her armour than her as a person. "A nice piece of kit, probably Wykian... right?" he chuckled, his eyes still scanning up and down Freya. "Looks like it's had some work done on it, can't quite tell where though. Not everyday you see such an interestin' piece of kit, what can I sort yer for?"

Blacksmith Revealed!

Edited by Shin

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The bar wasn't far from the entrance to the village, so Suleiman didn't take too long. Knowing that the town was under occupation by Raewaldian forces, Suleiman left his equipment with the convoy, wanting to pass off as a fellow Myrcian in the village. The last thing he wanted was people being reserved around him. He needed some time to relax and learn more about the place.

The Wrong Trousers felt like home to him. There wasn't any kind of sophistication, be it the attire of the folks coming to the place, or its interior design. It didn't seem like anything would catch his attention, but something did. He heard a conversation about a pink-haired man...the sight of Prince Owen. This wouldn't have surprised Suleiman, had he not heard the fact that they had seen him over a week ago.

Prince Owen, in this village, a week ago? But we were fighting Deirans back in Raewald! Could this be a Deiran ploy? I need to learn more about this...

To his shock, someone had interjected a question into their conversation, and it was none other than Princess Cassandra.

Why is the princess here, alone? And why is she asking these men about someone looking like the Prince? The whole thing seems fishy...but she shouldn't be seeing me here. I guess she won't recognize me, I'm a nameless soldier after all.

He decided to walk over to the men talking about the mysterious pink-haired man, avoiding eye contact with the princess all the while. Maybe he could get something out of these men, there wasn't much he could do in the village anyway.

"The bartender is a funny man, isn't he? Probably trying to sell stories to get more customers." he said in a low tone as to not get overheard,butting into their conversation.

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Satanic Squashes

The priest was somewhat puzzled by Alain, not quite being able to piece together the dynamics between Eric and Alain. Despite his confusion, there was still a tranquil air about him and he could at least appreciate the talk of vegetables. "There aren't many tomatoes in my garden any longer. In recent times they have been taken from their stems and new ones have not grown. Perhaps it is not the season for them to grow?" he pondered, not speaking directly to anyone in particular. He perked up at the mention of a knight, standing up and looking at Alain directly. "There is one visitor in the chapel. Perhaps he is the one you speak of? Engel loves all of his children, even the ones who do not want to speak to him. Regardless of your choices, I pray that you are content with the path you walk."

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In some house? No, that wouldn't do, they had to know more! "Please, if any of you--" She'd been interrupted by some... Soldier? He seemed familiar... Whatever. He seemed like he was up for idle chatter, but she wasn't, looking helplessly to the drinking men once again. "Please, if you know anything more... I'm his sister, and I'm trying to find him." The truth, mostly. Half sister would've been all of it, but that was unnecessary details. "I haven't seen him for quite some time, and... And hearing that he was here, I... I don't want to miss him before he moves on. If none of you know, then anyone who does, please. Point me at them."

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"Don't worry, your soul is fine. Belial only takes willing souls," Though he does tend to take lives unwillingly when they're offered up as sacrafice Constance added in her head. "You, you're that mercenary who was at the church during that fool wedding, right? I was hoping I'd see you again. You did a good job. At least one life was saved due to your actions."

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Sibling Somewhere

"'is sister? No wonder yer in such a hurry to find 'im! That must make you that there Princess Cassandra. See, I'm not wrong boys, there really is royalty 'ere!" Trevor replied, rather excited at the prospect of meeting two royals. His friends shook their heads, looking at Cass sceptically. "Boys, boys, it makes sense. Prince Owen must be here to save us, must have travelled all the way to stop Deira and Raewald. Definitely a hero like his dad!"

One of the other mean gave Trevor a gentle knock on the head. "And he'd come here all by himself? Don't be daft, she's pulling yer leg. See, this why yer wife left you." he chuckled, watching as Trevor tried to protest otherwise.

"No, I'm serious! Miss, you'd be better talking to Papa Frank, the bar's owner. If anybody knows, it'd be him!" Trevor added, his friends getting up to leave their talkative friend. Trevor took a few moments to realise he was being ditched, but he made a mad scramble after them.
 

Swearing Souls

Steve began to calm down, perhaps realising that he wasn't imminently going to spend an eternity being tortured. He stopped, his shoulders relaxing slowly. He looked rather puzzled, not quite recalling the wedding event. "Oh? The wedding? I guess I helped a little, thanks... but it was so long ago, I'm surprised that you remembered." he replied, wiping the sweat from his brow. "About the herbs, I was lookin' for something to help out Baron Esclabor, I wouldn't want him to go down in the middle of battle."

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