This post has the following content warnings:
Aug 13, 2020 7:35 PM
Two pacifists in Verity
+ Show First Post
Total: 154
Posts Per Page:
Permalink

" — I mean, it might still be bad on net? I feel like we've established that I'm not very good at figuring out that stuff, but — just having it occur to you makes you so much kinder than most other people? And then to actually follow through, to have enough conviction to actually do that — "

There is so much admiration on Nico's face right now.

Permalink

He catches some of Nico's expression from the corner of his eye. It's -- really nice, actually.

(Nico is complimenting him. How are people supposed to respond to compliments?)

"Thanks. That -- means a lot to me."

Permalink

Permalink

They chat for a little longer, but eventually he can't justify it anymore. He needs to seem responsible, now.

"I really do need to get back at some point." He doesn't want to stop talking to Timon, but this is more important than what he wants. 

Then it occurs to him that he can maybe stretch this a little longer. "...it's a bit of a walk to the castle, though — you could keep me company while I walk, maybe? If you want?"

Permalink

"Oh! Yeah, of course, I'd love to."

Permalink

As they walk through the city, Nico points out some buildings and landmarks. The market square, almost empty at this hour. The tailor his family uses, not that he's been to her store often, his father usually summons her to the castle. The great square, where all the big ceremonies happen, where Erasmos and Adela were presented to the people the day after their wedding. (It's also where any important executions happen, but Nico's trying to keep this conversation pleasant.)

"And over there is Eleanor's apothecary, she's Marlin's niece, helps people who are sick or hurt." A small house is visible behind a white garden wall, surrounded by all kinds of medical plants and herbs. "Marlin used to take me here, sometimes, we'd sit under the big willow tree and I'd practice reading."

The castle's getting pretty close, now.

Permalink

"That sounds really nice." He yawns. "Sorry if I'm not very coherent, I don't normally stay up this late."

Permalink

"Oh! Sorry, I — should let you get back to — to wherever you're staying, then — it's been really nice talking to you, though, I hope we see each other again sometime — "

Permalink

"I'll -- I can walk you the rest of the way, it's not that far -- if you want -- either way I hope so too."

He should probably have figured out where he was staying before coming to the tavern. Then again, if he'd done that, he might not have run into Nico.

Permalink

"It's right over there, I don't really think it makes a difference." Besides, he's trying to look proper, it's probably better not to bring random tavern people to where every castle guard can see. — not that it's like that, but still.

He feels like he needs to say something more, or do something, but he's not sure what more there is to say without repeating himself. "So. Um. Goodbye?"

Permalink

"Goodbye! Have a good night."

He waits until Nico is out of sight, then goes to look for an inn that's still renting rooms at this hour.

Permalink

It takes a little searching, but this one seems open! The innkeeper asks a pretty steep price, at first, but then he sees the shamer necklace and lowers it to something more reasonable.

Permalink

He feels a little bad about accepting the discount, but not bad enough not to accept it; he doesn't know how long his money will last.

Permalink

Over the next few days, Nico steps back into the role of Ebenezer Ravenna’s son. It involves a lot of talking to people with surnames while pretending to be something he’s not, and it involves a lot of tolerating his father, but at least his old swordmaster’s moved far away from Dunark. And so instead of having to deal with her teaching methods he gets to just do drills by himself, hoping with all his heart that he’ll somehow never need to use these skills.

He tries to keep an eye out for Bian, too, to maybe build a relationship like Timon said he should. It’s not easy to get any alone time with the kid, though — he and Adela barely ever leave each other’s sight. Which seems like a pretty reasonable reaction to losing a parent and a husband, respectively, so Nico leaves them alone for the time being. He’ll have time later, when they’re not grieving quite as much.

He considers visiting Marlin, but then dismisses the idea. What would he even say? ‘Sorry I didn’t listen to you, sorry I spent the last two years doing literally nothing of value, sorry this is all an act and I’m still going to mess everything up if any kind of actual power falls on me…’

Permalink

Like everyone in the castle, Drakan notices the change. Notices the way Nicodemus is taking back the power he threw away, the power any sensible person would do anything to win — and Drakan also notices the way he sighs and makes faces whenever no one important is watching, the way he’s clearly hoping they’ll all pat him on his head for this great big sacrifice he’s making.

It was grating when the ungrateful coward was seven, and it’s even more grating now that he knows. If only his mother had been a little more strategic, or his father a little less — but it won’t matter, soon.

His old plan will still work, with a few minor adjustments.

Permalink

Nico catches Erasmos’ old friend Drakan glaring at him a few times, but he doesn’t think much of it — he’s never been very friendly towards Nico, and he’s not exactly the only one doing it.

Permalink

That night, a small contingent of soldiers returns triumphant from the swamps west of Dunark, having successfully subdued some rebellious Gelters. Ebenezer Ravenna orders a celebratory feast. Occasional feasts are an important tool to keep up morale, he explains to Nico, even if the sloppy drunkenness is galling to anyone with a drop of good blood in their veins. He says this last bit with a pointed glare.

The food is, of course, delicious, and servants make sure to keep everyone’s cups full of Magdan wine. Nico sits with his father at the head table, smiling stiffly as the commander relates every blow of every fight, all proud that the “ringleaders” and half their families were all wounded sliced up killed — and the detail and the sheer amount of joyous pride on the commander’s face makes Nico want to stand up and scream, to force them all to take this seriously. But that wouldn’t actually help anyone, what’s done is done, and they’re probably right that after this it’ll be years before someone dares rebel again, and Dunark needs to seem strong, and — so instead, Nico empties his cup in an attempt to quiet the screaming inner voice a little, to help him ignore the commander.

He ends up doing that several times, throughout the evening.

When all the courses have been served and eaten, Nico stumbles and sways getting up from his chair, earning a withering glare from his father. Maybe if he slinks away quietly that’ll be the end of it, it’s not like anyone else in the room is going to notice.

...no, his father meets him in the hallway, grabbing his arm. “What are you doing, stumbling off like that. I’ve told you time and time again how a proper Ravenna must always be fully in control in front of his people. And yet you insist on acting like this.” 

Even with his inhibitions lowered drastically, Nico knows better than to talk back to his father. So he just stands there, trying very hard not to sway, as his father continues. 

“I thought for a moment you’d finally started to see your destiny, to at least try to fill Erasmos’ shoes. But you can’t control yourself for even one evening. I don’t know what the gods were thinking when they took him from me and left you.” He glares at Nico for a few seconds longer, then turns abruptly, stalking back towards his seat. 

 

When Nico gets to his room, there's a bottle of whisky on his table. He takes a few gulps. It’s not like it matters now.

The bottle's contents are a little stronger than whisky, and Nico barely has time to stumble onto his bed before falling into a very deep sleep.

Permalink

It’s time.

He’s known for months that this day was coming, but now that it’s here he’s feeling surprisingly apprehensive. Not about Ebenezer and not about Nicodemus — they’ve both had this coming for decades — but Bian is innocent, and it is unfortunate that the only way to his goal goes through that kid.

 — oh, of course. It's been a while since his last dose.

He takes a swig from his flask of dragon's blood and feels the courage return. It all becomes simple, again. The child, like Nicodemus, is in his way. Soon, neither of them will be. It's so easy he can't help laughing, a little.

Tomorrow he'll have what should've been his.

Permalink

The next morning, a servant walks toward the Ravennas’ living quarters on the third floor. It’s early, but the little lord Bian hasn’t been sleeping well since the lord Erasmos died, and someone needs to keep him entertained so the lady Adela can stay asleep until a slightly more civilized hour. 

As she gets closer, she notices the unusual quiet. Maybe the little lord is still asleep, then, but she’d better continue on to their room and check properly.

She rounds the final corner in the corridor.

And sees the bodies.

She screams.

Permalink

Nico sloooowly becomes half awake. His head hurts like hell. ...there's also a strong metallic smell. That's weird. He should maybe investigate that, but the light’s way too bright even with his eyes closed, and his body feels very heavy, and he was having such nice floaty dreams. So he goes back to sleep, instead.

 

The next time he wakes up, it’s because someone’s screaming. Nico opens his eyes and then immediately regrets it as the light intensifies his headache. Still, he needs to find out what’s going on, if someone needs his help, so he gets up and goes to open the door. On the way, he stumbles over — is that a sword? — but he quickly regains his balance and throws open the door. 

Permalink

What he sees is — 

He takes in the entire scene at once. The door to his father's bedroom, ajar. His father, slumped over his table, covered in the blood from dozens of wounds. And Adela and Bian, lying in the corridor, fewer wounds but bloody all the same, throats messily slit. They've all been wounded sliced up killed — 

who — who could've done something like this — 

He looks up at the servant, wanting to ask, to find out — but her eyes are full of fear and she makes the sign of protection against her chest, backing away while staring horrified at Nico, a small and shaky voice forming the words "please... please don't..."

He doesn't understand, what is she — 

And that's when he notices his hands.

They're covered in blood.

 

There was a sword in his room.

 

He can’t quite remember how last night ended. But he knows he was angry at his father.

 

The castle guards arrive and grab Nico just as he makes the obvious connection.

Permalink

The castle's in disarray as more people wake up. Nobody's quite sure who they should report to, now. Someone suggests that all the staff should gather in the great hall, figure out how best to proceed. 

And so a shocked cook walks down the streets of Dunark, on her way to inform the city guards. Her mind is too busy racing to pay very much attention to anyone else, and she almost walks into a passing stranger. She looks up at him as her mouth forms an automatic "I'm sorry, sir, so sorry - "

She notices his necklace. "Oh, you're a - " She clasps her hands together and looks up at the sky. "Thanks the gods."

Permalink

That's -- no matter why, exactly, this stranger is glad to see him, it can't be good.

"What happened?"

Permalink

"It's — they're all — they're dead, and nobody knows what to do, and — and Abby was the one who found them, and I know how she adored that boy, I really really hope she'll be okay —"

Permalink

"Oh no-- I'm so sorry-- where do I-- can you show me where to go?"

Total: 154
Posts Per Page: