Relatives and Recovery

Relatives and Recovery
Summary: While Coriaria Westmark recovers in the infirmary of Laketown's temple of the Four, Alyona the Still, and Castor Westmark watch over her. Things become a little tense when Ser Maldred Corellan Westmark arrives with his squire, followed soon by the Shadow Baron himself…
Date: 03/06/1329
Related: None
Castor Coriaria Alyona Maldred Paule 

Temple Infirmary, Temple Chambers, Laketown
A small room with a single bed, two chairs and a window looking outside. A door and two guards of the temple protect against any unlawful entry.
3rd June, 1329

There is a light tap at the door to Coriaria's room in the infirmary. Two of the Chosen stand guard outside (a man and a woman), while other sick or injured people are being treated in other rooms, alcove and beds in the main hall of the healing house.

Castor stands there, looking worried - but clean and a little rested (since Alyona insisted he try and sleep while Cori recovered from the worst of the attack. The young man wears his leather armour still (cleaned), his dirk and now his sword and bow as well.

"Cricket?" he asks softly at the door. "'Tis I. May I come in, Sister?"

She swears under her breath as she fights for control over the unbearable urge to scratch at the welts that cover her body. "No," she reasons aloud, "Scratching will make it worse." But oh, it would feel so nice… for about three seconds, before the awful burning replaced any feelings of relief achieved through agitating the souvenirs left by the toxin. "Mmmf," Cricket grunts, wincing and trying to shift into a more comfortable position — impossible — "When I find them, I'm going to kill them. Slowly. Repeatedly, if possible. Actually, I —" It's then that she realizes her twin is there, and her expression brightens. "Yes! Please, come in. I fear I'm in danger of scaling a wall and escaping out of window." She kicks aside the sheet over her, swearing again as the action causes the fabric to abrade some of the sores. "Tell me you've found someone for me to kill." And she's not really joking.

The door creaks open and in steps her brother, his face as grim as it has ever been. He does not quite meet Cori's eyes - a rare thing for him, since he can usually tell her anything. The door closes quietly behind him and (out of habit) he surveys the room, the window (thankfully guarded outside, and too small for most people to fit through), and then Castor looks back at Cori.

His jaw clenches, but his eyes are full of sorrow.

"I brought you something," he murmurs and reaches for a pouch at his belt. He removes two small containers from it: a tiny leather flask, and a jar with some kind of salve in it. He puts them down on the stand by the bed, but does not take a seat himself. Standing, he inhales deeply through his nose and then blasts the breath out from his lips.

"The salve is for the welts. It will help stop the itching. The flask…" he glances at the door. "The flask is to help… clear the poison out. Mother Superior Tylon says you're going to be fine, but… I haven't found the assassin yet." He frowns deeply. "But I did find something else…" he looks up at Cori, still having trouble looking at her in the eye. "More than one of your garments was laced with the poison, Cricket. It could have been applied in Wolveshire, or in Laketown. I need to know… when your travelling pack was out of your sight, if ever?"

"My traveling pack?" She had let her guard down — and paid for it. "I suppose I wasn't very careful with it. Please don't tell our parents, I didn't think there was any harm in… oh, forget it," Cricket snaps, "I'm sick of having to worry whether someone will jump out of the shadows at me, or whether I can trust a person I've called 'friend' for many years." She looks up at Castor, angry. The fact that he won't meet her gaze only serves to irritate her further. "I've certainly learned my lesson, haven't I?" The words are thick with a weary sort of sarcasm and she nearly crosses her arms over her chest before remembering that this kind of pose would be a bad idea. To distract herself a little, she reaches for the jar and opens it, sniffing the contents before dipping in a finger and cautiously smearing a bit of the salve onto her forearm, glancing at her brother from time to time, not liking what is probably his silent judgment of her. Then she realizes she's being unfair… and sighs. "I don't mean to be cross with you. I'm sorry," the girl apologizes, "I know you and Alyona saved my life yesterday. That's a debt I can't repay… but at the very least I can be more vigilant from now on. You don't deserve to be frightened like that."

"I can't be certain…" Castor murmurs to his sister. He appears to simply take her anger upon him, without denying, deflecting or excusing it. "The poison could have been applied while we were still in Wolveshire. You cannot have brought an entire wardrobe with you - even for a girl." He tries to smile, but it kind of dies on his face. "If you were wearing that chemise in Wolveshire, or on the road here, to Laketown - then the poisoner somehow made it inside the temple and laced your clothes in your room. The window… there was dust on it, but not all of it. A sleeve, or a hand could have touched it. I…"

He sighs.

"I don't know. I'm sorry. I cannot find who did it, and I cannot help but think… maybe this is my fault? Fa — the Baron — left us here because of me didn't he? Because of the way I have been acting around him - especially in Wolveshire, after — " he cuts off the sentence quickly and takes another breath. "If I had… behaved better, we might've gone with them… I'm sure he or Mother would have detected the poison long before the Chosen and I did. I… I'm sorry. You shouldn't blame yourself, Cricket."

"Stop it," Cricket replies, "It isn't your fault. Our parents were unhappy with us both, but that's not why they left us here. Please, sit." She gestures to the edge of the bed, and makes some room so that her brother might join her instead of standing awkwardly off to the side, stewing in guilt and regret. "Ultimately, it's the fault of whoever managed to be smart enough to take advantage of my lapse in oversight. You're right, I didn't pack much. You know I like to travel light. It was only a matter of time before I wore every item I'd brought with me… all five garments. Three chemises, two dresses. Now… let's think, shall we?" The familiar frown appears and she sticks her finger into the salve-pot again, grateful for the cooling effect of the mixture on her welts. "We know the poison required time to dry on my clothes so that I wouldn't notice it. We know the quantity was sufficient to have killed me had you and the Chosen not intervened. I'm willing to guess it required a good soaking beforehand. Where does one go to soak and dry clothing without anyone thinking it amiss?" She moves to rub the salve onto the back of her right hand, which had received some of the worst of the damage. "Moreover: who generally handles clothing?"

Shame and guilt find themselves pushed aside by the development of a slow smile upon Castor's roguish features. He smirks at his sister, shaking his head in admiration. "Cricket, you're amazing. Our parents would be proud…"

He pauses to think a little, and paces back and forth across the room that has been set aside in the infirmary for Cori. Light streams in from a mid-morning sun. It was not long ago that this man - and the Chosen, Alyona - were scouring the Baronet's quarters for signs of an intruder.

"A washer-woman or servant (someone disguised as such) could have taken the clothes without anyone noticing. Men do not wash women's dresses… we do not have the… touch for that, so we must likely be looking for a woman - or a man who could pass as one. She would have had to wear gloves to keep from becoming sick herself, soaked the clothes in a tub tainted with Black Lavender… and then set them out to dry… It would take forever to get the smell out of the gloves…"

He spins on his heels to face his sister.

If this one really did plant the poison here, well the temple is crawling with guards - sorry, Chosen. She may still be here!" The lad is excited, clearly, and he knows he does not have quite the mind for intrigue that his sister does, still… he does love a good hunt, and a hunt for a would-be killer makes for a great hunt.

He looks like he could draw his sword now (since he has all his weapons with him) and stab a shadow, any shadow.

The soft knock on the door is like punctuation. It hits just between sentences as Castor's excitement escalates; the soft creak of the door's hinges is hidden in the flurry of words. A younger Chosen had been set to guard - er, assist - Castor when Alyona the Still had left him that morning to conduct her own investigations, and Coriaria would have found herself accompanied by a pretty red-headed Acolyte upon waking. Luckily, the meek acolyte had found herself a knife instead of a jar of leeches.

This knock heralds neither, nor the Mother Superior. Instead, it is Alyona, as placid as ever. "Oh, it is good to see you awake, Coriaria. How do you feel?"

The Chosen still wears gloves, and bears in one hand a rolled parchment.

"Calm yourself, brother. Please. I did ask you to sit." She can't very well continue her progression of logic if her twin is filled with nervous energy — it's infectious, after all! — and she'd prefer to get through the exercise while she'd distracted enough from the pain and itching to think clearly.

Just then there's another knock, and it's with a grateful smile that Cricket regards Alyona. "Chosen," she greets, dipping her head in a gesture of respect, "I am on the mend, as you see. I have you to thank for that." She doesn't know that the older woman was also affected by the toxin, and as a result the gloved hands are not given a second thought. Her memories of the day before are rather dim. The last thing she can recall with certainty is asking Alyona something about history. After that… nothing. "Castor and I were just beginning a thinking-exercise to see if we could deduce who is behind the poisoning. You're well-trained in observation, Madam — what say you on the matter?" That she addresses Alyona as she would her own mother is a mark of Cricket's gratitude.

"Very well…" Cas replies as he grudgingly takes the seat that was offered to him, but not before he greets Alyona with a light bow. "Chosen, 'tis good to see you again. I brought Cricket some more salve for the welts. Thank you… for all your help."

He glances at his sister fondly.

"Did you find out anything else?" he asks, with his eyes on the parchment in Alyona's hand. He sits forward in his chair, one hand resting on the pommel of his dirk - habit, really - and looking excited, anxious to do something.

If anything, all the thanks seems to make Alyona a little uncomfortable. Quite unlike a feudal knight; many of them would be basking in the favour of the nobles. It is not that her discomfort is obvious, of course. She smiles gently to both of the Westmarks, with genuine pleasure that Coriaria is feeling better. There is only a quick tug at her collar, barely noticible except to those accustomed to finding gambling tells. "Aye, I may have some things of interest to you both, then."

The parchment is unrolled smoothly, held out to whichever sibling is closest. Her hands do not shake the least; it is likely that Cori may never know that the Chosen took a wound as well, at least so long as Alyona does not take off her gloves. "I went through my fieldbooks, and consulted with the Mother Superior. This map shows all places where black lavender is wont to grow naturally, both around Laketown and in a reasonable radius around the route you took to get here, Coriaria. It is not much, but it may trigger thought."

She settles back when the parchment is taken from her, folding her hands at her own sword belt calmly. "I inspected the washrooms closely, but to no avail. The acolytes tell me that no outside washwomen have been brought in this week." She frowns; that, of course, would imply the acolytes themselves as suspects, if Coriaria had used their services at all in her brief visit. "The gardens, too, were free of clues. If someone snuck into your room, they were wise enough to go barefoot, as do our own initiates."

She takes the parchment, making short work of comparing the route her family had taken to the spread over which the offending plant grows. For a moment her lips press together in a stern line and the furrow between her brows deepens. "Black lavender is simpler to find than I'd hoped," Cricket murmurs, scratching absently at her chin before remembering that she must not touch her face lest she risk spreading residue onto it, "But you may be easy, Chosen, about the innocence of your colleagues. I doubt that the plot originated from within these walls. My family spent two days in Wolveshire, and were I a gambling woman," she looks for a moment to Castor, a corner of her mouth pulling up into a knowing grin, "I'd place my bets on the scheme being executed there. I wore the same traveling-clothes on those two days, and kept them on until we got to the Temple. They remain unaffected by any poison." Said clothes are in fact rather filthy, having been discarded for a time in favor of the clean garments that ended up almost killing her. "The unfortunate thing about the entire situation is that Wolveshire is inaccessible to us, by order of our parents. Now… we could always manage to "forget" those orders — " She smiles thinly, having no stomach to disobey the Baron and Baroness, "But… I don't want to worry anyone further. And please…" Here she looks at Alyona, "Coriaria is what strangers call me. I consider you a friend now. I'd prefer if you called me Cricket."

"You cannot leave," Castor says to his sister, although the words are kindly meant. "Not yet, anyway." He turns his head to glance up at Alyona as well, then back to his sister. "You need to heal, and here… you are well guarded. I'm here, after all."

He grins lopsidedly at her, then his gaze returns to Alyona.

"You could not hope for better protection. I fear… were I the assassin, and I wanted a noble-man's daughter slain by Black Lavender - and I knew they were travelling - I would plant the poison in one city, on something not likely to be touched until the next city. By the time the mark was dead, I would be long gone - a kingdom or two away…"

He shakes his head. "Actually, if it were I - I'd find a perch and shoot the bast — " He stops himself before completing the sentence in Alyona's presence. "Forgive me, Chosen. I should be more considerate of my tongue." To Cori he adds, finally: "I think we are here for another few days - at least two. Our parents must know by now… if they are not here, then they must have some faith in our judgement."

He does not add: or they do not care, but the suspicion is there for the perceptive to see, in his eyes - if only for a moment. He wants to believe in them, and he is trying.

Alyona reaches for a pouch on her belt, drawing forth a small book which she consults quickly. "Wolveshire; aye, black lavender should grow there as well. It is a wanderer's nuisance," She explains at Cricket's dismay. "Usually it does no more harm than to annoy uncovered ankles or sicken sheep."

The Chosen's cheeks, though ruddy from the sun, are still fair enough that just a scant breath of a blush can be seen when the Baronet Westmark insists upon her nickname. She bows her head, deeply, and murmurs: "Of course, it is my honour, Cricket." The name tumbles from her tongue like a cat sniffing the air, testing new territory. She almost feels badly for telling Tylon of the young woman's interest in their priests. Almost. It was a funny story.

The old veteran listens carefully as the twins discuss, gradually shifting her weight to lean against the wall. She does not fidget at all, except to softly rub her numbed thumb and first two fingers together. There is something akin to relief, if a very strange sort, in her voice when she speaks. "I thought the same, and I am glad your timeline concurs. I could not make that assumption before you awoke to tell us your clothing habits, however, lest the danger remain." Not that it seems she is wont to relax her guard, regardless. Castor especially would have had a strong clue of the darkness that would fall over any willing to commit violence in her Temple.

To the boy's slip of the tongue, she simply raises her brow, then nods in acceptance of his apology. "Save those thoughts for when you find the villain." She advises, simply. A long breath is drawn as she considers the scenario. "With the Mother Superior's leave, I would go to Wolveshire in your stead." Her lips purse, a miniscule motion. It might be mischief that flickers in her eyes, or simply a repressed idea. "I cannot inform your consciences, of course, but my orders have been to keep you safe, not to keep the door locked."

Cricket doesn't miss her twin's last sentiment, unspoken as it is. She reaches to take one of his gloved hands in hers, giving him a reassuring squeeze despite the fact that this contact is unpleasant for her wounded skin. "Don't ever think that," she says aloud, not stopping to sign or whisper or otherwise be discreet, "Don't ever. I couldn't bear the thought of you believing something so awful. Please." Her desire to protect Castor from any sort of pain or reproach a powerful thing. She tries not to look sad as she turns her gaze to the Chosen who stands so quietly against a wall. "I wouldn't want to part you from your assignment here," the girl replies with a shake of her head, "You are to continue protecting the Mother Superior, yes? Please don't trouble yourself on our behalf. We'll work something out — we always do, Cas and I. If not now, then in good time."

Castor bows his head a bit.

"I'm sorry, Sister." He gives Cricket's hand a squeeze and then rises from his chair to go and look out the window. "That was childish and unfair of me, and I apologise." The young lord gazes out the window of this room in the infirmary of the temple - the room serving (for now) as Cricket's quarters during her convalescence. Sunlight streams inward, warming the man's face and he finally removes his hand from the pommel of his sword - to relax a little.

He turns around, to look across the room - past the chairs near the bed - at Alyona standing at the wall near the door with the two Chosen (a man and a woman) standing guard outside.

"I agree with Cricket," he says to Alyona with a grateful nod. "Your offer is very kind, Chosen. But I fear it is best for us all to remain here for a while." His eyes look to the side and downward at Cricket.

"I won't leave your side, now. Not until you are well. After that…" He takes a breath and slowly releases it. "After that, I think it is time I spoke with our father. There are some things that need to be said."

Only the tiniest hint of a smile twitches at the corner of his lips, when his eyes finally meet Cricket's.

The children's' exchange is observed but not commented upon. Whatever gifts the Chosen has in the realm of philosophy and meditation, she certainly does not feel qualified to comment on family problems. That said, she too seems to relax - ever so slightly - when it appears as if the twins are not about to barrel off towards Wolveshire, bowl of salve and all. "Aye, the Mother Superior and the Temple are my primary concerns-" that was putting it lightly, "But as guests - as friends - and because this incident came to light here - I feel a responsibility towards you as well."

Alyona does not know what tangled web of debt and honor is woven between Tylon and the Westmark family, of course, but she appears to desire to hold true to it, regardless. "If you change your mind, please do let me know. Of course, my discretion is yours, but there are … things I could do to assist, even from Tylon's side."

Maldred was always a solitary creature but then after a trip into the woodlands he re-emerged with a silent partner - his squire Krea of Brivey - the quiet, oddly comely, scarred and utterly lethal non-communicative wall behind him. Somehow that has increased the quiet aura of cold malice around the Dread knight as he was known popularly. Word had passed to him that his cousin was poisoned - since he had recently seen Coriaria or "cricket" as her intimates called her (a fact known by Maldred but never actioned because he had no 'intimates') he wanted to know the particulars of this incident. Perhaps he was anticipating a reaction from her father the Baron Paule over his invitation to help with a certain investigation. In any event - awkward moment when the war hero and his sociopathic squire are stopped at the door by some guards. Maldred could announce himself but merely raises an eyebrow. Then he says, "I want to see my cousin? Can I?" - cold and impersonal as his tone is there is a certain marriage of passion with logic in it. As if it is his right to see her.

Laketown is a small temple, and as such, security can only be so tight. There are, after all, only ten Chosen assigned to the small Laketown Temple. Maldred finds himself relatively unmolested until he reaches the sickroom door. There stands an imposing young man, armoured and armed, assisted by… a comely, curvy red-headed lass in acolyte robes, carrying a knife. Though it is clear who the authority in the situation is, it is the acolyte who pipes up, sounding almost apologetic. "I'm sorry, ser. On orders of the Mother Superior, none are to enter without express permission of the Baron or Baroness of Westmark, or Mother Tylon herself."

And she does genuinely sound sorry, a fact that earns her a sidelong, long-suffering sigh from the bluff Chosen.

"Chosen-Alyona?" Something in the girl's contralto has taken on an edge and despite the great pain it causes her, she pushes herself upright and into position so that her legs dangle over the edge of the bed. "Bring me my boots, Cas," she orders, "I will not be seen in this state." Ugh, everything is so exhausting and difficult! It's like recovering from a prolonged illness, only this time the illness was poison and it most certainly tried to kill her. "Chosen," she calls again to Alyona, "Who is out there? Is it my parents?" If it's the Baron and Baroness, she refuses to let them know the extent of her injuries. They would take it as a sign that she and Castor cannot care for themselves, and she'd rather be dead than put up with that indignity one more time. A gasp escapes her as she reaches for flask on the side-table, remembering that she must drink the contents to help flush the toxins out faster. With ruined fingers, she manages to open it and drinks deeply, finding the taste awful but not caring enough to stop until the flask is empty. "Alyona, if it's my parents, you must stall for time."

Castor is already moving. The youth is thoroughly preoccupied with protecting his sister, thus it only takes the mere sound of voices at the door for him to draw his dirk with one hand, and a little glass vial with his other. "I really do not want to have to stab anyone coming through the door…" he remarks glibly, to Alyona. His stance puts him between Cricket and the door across the room.

He looks sideways, turning his head just enough so he can see Cricket out the corner of his eye. "I don't suppose we could just tell whoever it is… 'The Westmark twins are not here; leave a message at the door and we'll get back to them at a later date? Apologies for the inconvenience, and all that?'" He smirks. Grimly.

What happens is not a pleasant scene since Maldred has a brilliant but sociopathic squire who is seeing her Knight refused entry to see his cousin (who she also admires). She moves towards the obstructers until Maldred gently stops her. "Best you ask 'permission' then Lady Chosen of your betters," he says to the redhead, "I am Sir Maldred Corellan Westmark - I wish to see and speak to my cousin - am I being refused such permission?" His voice is cold and even as always.

The moment someone moves towards the red-haired acolyte, the young male Chosen moves to intervene. Half a foot of steel is exposed from his scabbard by the time Maldred stops his squire. Even after Krea steps back, the bulky young man stands his ground, blocking the doorway and the unarmored white-clad girl. He appears not at all impressed by Maldred's speech, or his apparently unfamiliarity with Temple ways. One does not simply advance upon initiates because you were told no. "Yes, Ser Westmark, you are being refused. Your cousin is under our protection, and requires peace to recover from her injuries. As the acolyte said, only the Mother Superior, or Baron or Baroness Westmark are allowed. If you wish entry, you may go fetch your betters." He speaks slowly, emphasising words to be certain the repeated message is clear.

The moment voices are heard outside, Alyona straightens. Her crossed arms drop to her belt-line, though she is not so quick to pull a weapon. "Aye, lass, I'll see who it—"

The hiss of the guard's sword scraping the scabbard carries easily into the room, and cuts off the veteran Chosen's words as cleanly as the blade would. Her eyes narrow. But otherwise, she is calm as she moves towards the door, with only a flicker of her hand motioning Castor to follow. She pauses, a hand upon the door and another upon her own pommel, as the voices echo through the wood. A flicker of a brow upwards. "Sir Maldred …. Westmark?" The Chosen's nostrils flare, her gaze sharp upon the twins for a sign of recognition.

When it becomes apparent that her parents are not, in fact, standing outside, Cricket stops her frantic search for her boots (by the Four, Castor could have helped with those!) and realizes that they've been in front of her all along. With a grimace and an expression that says volumes about how much the action hurts, she manages to wedge her wounded feet into her shoes and for the first time in two days, heaves herself off the bed to stand and face whoever it may be…

Only to experience her legs giving out from under her after no more than a few seconds. "Agh!" She manages, now in double the pain for having opened up wounds that had begun to heal, "Castor! Who is it?"

Too late does she recognize the name. It's their cousin. Oh, gods. She could have spared herself a lot of agony had she know it was just Maldred. "Yes… he's our cousin," Cricket waves to Alyona, head sinking down in defeat at how she's managed to end up on the floor and in a worse state than before. Her hands reach up to claw herself back onto the bed. Damnable pride. It always gets her into trouble.

Castor doesn't need to be told twice.

At the slightest hint from Alyona, he steps toward the door and immediately looks Maldred and Krea up and down. But when Cricket collapses, the vial and dirk disappear beneath his cloak and he spins to help her up. When his body (and Alyona's) stands between him and the newcomers, he lifts one hand and signs something to Cricket:

Our cousin?? And our parents think I have bad manners…

His arms around Cricket to help her back into bed as much as protect her, his head looks back at the knight and his squire. The look is tight - a warning - but forcibly kept as neutral as he can make it.

"Ser Westmark…" he remarks half in greeting, half in question. He looks between Maldred and Cricket. "Our… cousin. Apparently. You are kind to visit - she is healing - but no one goes near my sister but for the names already given by the Chosen. Protection. I'm sure as an honorable knight, you understand."

When it becomes apparent that her parents are not, in fact, standing outside, Cricket stops her frantic search for her boots (by the Four, Castor could have /helped/ with those!) and realizes that they've been in front of her all along. With a grimace and an expression that says volumes about how much the action hurts, she manages to wedge her wounded feet into her shoes and for the first time in two days, heaves herself off the bed to stand and face whoever it may be…

Only to experience her legs giving out from under her after no more than a few seconds. "Agh!" She manages, now in double the pain for having opened up wounds that had begun to heal, "Castor! Who is it?"

Too late does she recognize the name. It's their cousin. Oh, gods. She could have spared herself a lot of agony had she know it was just Maldred. "Yes… he's our cousin," Cricket waves to Alyona, head sinking down in defeat at how she's managed to end up on the floor and in a worse state than before. Her hands reach up to claw heself back onto the bed. Damnable pride. It always gets her into trouble.

Castor doesn't need to be told twice.

At the slightest hint from Alyona, he steps toward the door and immediately looks Maldred and Krea up and down. But when Cricket collapses, the vial and dirk disappear beneath his cloak and he spins to help her up. When his body (and Alyona's) stands between him and the newcomers, he lifts one hand and signs something to Cricket:

Our cousin?? And our parents think I have bad manners…

His arms around Cricket to help her back into bed as much as protect her, his head looks back at the knight and his squire. The look is tight - a warning - but forcibly kept as neutral as he can make it.

"Ser Westmark…" he remarks half in greeting, half in question. He looks between Maldred and Cricket. "Our… cousin. Apparently. You are kind to visit - she is healing - but no one goes near my sister but for the names already given by the Chosen. Protection. I'm sure as an honorable knight, you understand."

It didn't take long for the message to reach the Baron and Baroness of Westmark at breakfast at the Inn. While Katarina is tending to make sure that they have a full complement of healing herbs and antidotes, Paule made his way to the temple straight-away. The dark browns and reds of the Westmark baron's robe and hood give away who the man beneath it all is, but really, isn't that the point? Trailing next to the Baron is a pair of Bog Hounds, the massive creatures standing near the Baron's hip as they make their way along the temple floor.

Though the anger and worry pull easily at the Baron - no, the father's features, he still manages to be respectful as he seeks out the audience with the Mother Superior and is directed back towards the back of the Temple where the chambers are. Paule moves with purpose in his stride, his boots and robes only making a silent swish as he walks. As he passes into the infirmary, Paule's voice is quiet, but carries that air of command that comes from years of combat. "What in the five hells of Kharnas is going on here?" his voice rings out clearly as he comes towards the private room where his daughter is holed up and quietly takes in the situation. "And why is one of my Knights behaving as if he's a Corsair savage?"

"FATHER!" Castor practically yells in relief - it is rare enough for him to CALL the Shadow Baron by 'father' and rarer still for him to be happy. Castor is indeed pleased - although he doesn't leave the side of his sister who has fallen asleep again, and he doesn't take his hand from his dirk.

He motions with his chin toward Maldred and the squire and says laconically: "Visitors."

Castor spots the hounds and grins. "Cerberus!" he says to one of the dogs - but holds up his hand to keep the animal from coming in.

Maldred stands a step or two back and bows but levels a measured half smile at his uncle - "One of your knights Uncle - but one you had to trade away as I recall…" and there was a history there Maldred had been something of a success and then almost immediately a disappointment to the Baron entering the room. "And we both know something of corsairs - we have killed our share." Maldred is halfway respectful but his 'squire' Krea of Brivey bows alot less regally upon the Baron's entrance and offers no further courtesy - as is her want. Beautiful - cold - scarred - deadly - impertinant. "The chosen were barring me from seeing my cousin uncle," Maldred explains, "And I have recently been in circumstances that might be linked to her… accident."

It is a moment paused in time. A young Chosen is standing stalwart at the door, a mere half-foot of his sword exposed in silent promise towards the Dread Knight and the wild Squire that had moved towards him with unknown intent. The private room's door has just been thrown open, and in close rear-guard stands Alyona the Still - one hand wields her own long-knife, the other moves to usher the innocent, now quite terrified, acolyte behind her. Her eyes narrow in recognition of this Sir Maldred Westmark, a face, voice, and now name being pieced together into cold assessment of he and his squire.

Behind Paule's grand entrance, the rest of the Temple ripples like the wake of a boat. Acolytes gasp and scurry away, voices rise and fall, whilst two more Chosen follow the Shadow Baron, flanking behind the great hounds.

Alyona looks back in only a quick, spare moment, to ensure that Castor has caught and protects his sister. A needless motion, of course. Her lips part to speak a veteran's rough command, but this, too, is needless, and so she falls back into her habit of silence. Instead, she lays a hand on her younger comrade's shoulder, in part approval, in other part to assure him that the innocents were behind guard.

"Did I say anything about your abilities? I said you were behaving as one.." It takes Paule a few moments as he has to place a name with a face. "Maldred. I am perfectly aware of who you are and what you have done in the past, but it is your present behaviours I am addressing." he points out coolly. "You will back away from the acolyte. You and your…" his cold eyes fall on Krea, "…squire.. will stand down. And you will speak respectfully to the Chosen that is doing her duties and apologize to her for your inappropriate behaviours. And then you will have a nice discussion with Baroness Katarina about the proper behaviour and attitudes of a Rhaedan knight, after we have a talk about how a Westmark treats his allies."

Finishing his statement, he turns to Alyona. "I apologize for the actions of my distant relation." Maldred forced an apology from Paule. That is never a good sign. While Goliath remains at the Baron's side, Cerebrus trots slightly to the side and sits obediently to wait for his master's orders. "Castor." he addresses his son. "How is Cricket?" he asks quietly, as he steps back. "We should all step someplace where Maldred can share his information, and we can speak while Coriaria receives further treatment. Would you not all agree?" he asks, though it's not really a question.

"My Lor — Father," the Baron's son says, catching himself on his term of address (more coaching from Cricket there). He stands up fully, putting his dirk away and steps to the side of his sister so the Baron can see her.

"Her color is returning," he says with a downward, fond gaze at her. Then he looks back at the Baron. "The welts will fade - whoever did this poisoned her only her dresses, not her travelling clothes. Probably in Wolveshire. We — " and he glances with profound gratitude at Alyona. " — we managed to save her in time. She tried to stand… that didn't go well, so I put her back in bed. I'm glad you're here." He doesn't look at Maldred, so he may be talking about something else. He is certainly showing his father uncommon respect - for Castor.

Maldred has a wealth of information and protocols to follow having been half admitted to the room - then scolded. But as is his want the very reserved - even cold knight does not take even an inkling of offence at the situation. Krea of Brivey stirs somewhat uncomfortably though. "Indeed my apologies - I had business to conduct - rendered simpler by the presence of my… distant… Uncle here. I am a poor example of my houses standards in courtesy exalted chosen - please do not judge us all by my behaviour." From another man's lips it would sound like sarcasm - but from Maldred's it is almost worse than that. He does not mock anyone. Merely sits atop the essential premise of having better things to do. And he is after all still hunting the murderer of the Taniford Princess. "I await your pleasure Baron uncle…" he says - merely biding the time until Paule indicates what room they are to talk in. Again no sarcasm -merely a barely restrained impatience in Maldred's tone - but anybody who knew him in the war and after knew him as almost insensitive with his pursuit of business.

Paule takes a long look at his daughter, and the barely restrained anger threatens to bubble over. "Those damnable Southerners are infectious boils on the ass of Kharnas." he curses slightly under his breath. "May they all suffer rot of their crotches and birth puss and bile." Yes, the Baron is quite unhappy, though he looks to Alyona. "Or is there any chance that your attempted chaos bringers mistook the Mother Superior for Cricket?" he suggests and looks to Maldred and he blows out a breath.

"Oh do stop acting like a poxy-cheeked strumpet that had his first bringing before he could break his woman's maidenhood. You have information to share, then share it." he comments as he steps back and gestures towards the common area. "There. Not here. Goliath," he says, looking towards his dog and gestures to Coriaria. "Scent." The dog trots over to start sniffing at the Baronet so he can track properly as Paule walks by his son and places a hand on his shoulder.

"She'll be fine." he says reassuringly. Of course, these could have been the same words that a younger Paule could have said to the child Castor when Lilium and Laurel were ill a decade ago. "And I am sure she is proud to have you by her side at this time. Now, come along. We have information to sort through."

Castor looks up at his father — not the noble, the baron, nor even the notorious Shadow Baron — but his father. It is a look he has not given the man since Castor was six. He does not say anything — some words are not for other people to hear — so he simply nods and takes a step to walk after Paule.

Then he pauses to look at Alyona.

His fingers sign something — only for her (and probably Paule as well) to see. They would not know the sign itself, but his expression should give away his meaning: thank you. Then he glances at his own hound and grins roguishly.

"Cerberus! Guard. Keep Cricket company." Ooooh, she'll hate that. And love it. But then, what are brothers for if not that?

It when - and only when - that it is very clear that Paule has the situation under command that either of the Chosen in the doorway stand down. This is not an insult towards the Baron, but simply what is to be expected of Chosen. Given their assignment, judged pure by the Temple, they would have fought to their deaths in that tiny doorway if necessary. Instead, Alyona sheathes her dirk, and her brother follows suit. The violent tension breaks, and they move aside to admit the nobles. Notably, the young man does not leave; in fact, he posts himself back at the doorway.

Once protected by Alyona, the red-haired acolyte rushes to Cricket's side. There, she is useful, with greater skills in healing and bedside manner than effectively wielding the laughably small knife at her belt. The Baronet is quickly pampered - tucked into bed, a wetted cloth brushed across her forehead, pulse counted - all of the things that are needful. When Maldred and Krea enter the room, however, she seems to shrink, fully intent to hide completely behind Castor.

Alyona pauses at the foot of Coriaria's bed. Her fingers brush her pommel as Maldred enters as well, but that is the only sign - at all - that she is riled by his words or manner. The cold peace of Stilltha herself settles upon the Chosen's features, broken only by a soft, almost apologetic smile as she nods to accept Baron Westmark's apology. He knows, of course, that the Chosen would not have hesitated to kill or die to protect his daughter. Any of them, even if outnumbered three to one. "No, Baron, I have seen none of the marks of the enemies of the Temple in this attack. However, black lavender is a common weed, and could easily be used by a … grassroots attempt at injuring us."

Interestingly, when she follows the Baron's gaze aside to his children, an emotion flickers through her eyes. And even more oddly, as Castor speaks with respect towards his father, she nods proudly. There is a tiny smile, even, when she signs to her.

Maldred gives barely a thought to the reaction as he enters Coriaria's room - or as he exits with his squire, "I have some information Uncle - but a recent incident in Wolvshire occurred involving a suicidal older gentleman which I was hoping the chosen might illuminate?" Maldred openly asks Alyona.

"As for the Varghem's and Taniford's - I have their permission to operate freely in their lands. Which I find suspicious - but not condemnatory - to investigate the death of the Taniford princess and the disappearance of ours. Recently Coriaria visited me in Wolvshire - he current condition may be linked to that visit. The list of suspects remains large however." Information indeed. But Maldred knew a few things more - as always he was reluctant to point the finger. "I am anxious to know more about this sect called "the fifth"." Is all he will say - half statement - half question.

Now that he has things back to well.. where they usually are, Paule goes mostly silent as he takes in the information and glances towards Maldred. "Most helpful as always, Sir Maldred." the Baron offers as he turns to walk out of the room, Goliath trotting after him as the two head towards a table in the common area to take a seat and wait for the others, Goliath dropping to his haunches and rests his head on his paws with a slight whimper of worry for the Baronet. This causes Paule to reach down and ruffle the dog's head for a moment. "I know there are rumors of the Taniford Prince actually being in league with Princess Kerilyn, but until we have proof, Westmark is on guard against any form of attack." Including southerners.

Castor is quiet - for a change, one might suppose - and lags behind his father and the knight for only a moment to scratch his fenhound behind the ear and then leave the animal by the door to Cori's room. With a few long strides he takes up a position at his father's side, one hand rubbing his chin - the other resting lazily on the pommel of his sword.

"If there is anything we can do from here, my lord, just ask. I would like to remain at the very least until Cricket is safe."

He says little else for now, and opts to merely glance between the other two men and listen for a while.

The acolyte and Chosen left behind with Coriaria both receive brief words with Chosen Alyona; whispered instructions, perhaps, or simply checking in with her junior comrades. The precise murmured words are lost to the boot-falls and conversation of the nobles. The end result is predictable, of course; Cricket will receive the best care possible, and the armored young Chosen will not budge from his post, come five hells or high water.

The dark Chosen trails behind the men after a moment, speaking only when a topic within her mein is addressed. "The Baron has already been appraised of the suicide in Wolveshire along with the most recent attack upon the Mother Superior." She is not curt, just economical. There really was little reason to shout the word 'Kharnas' at the top of her lungs in the middle of the common room. There were children present, after all.

However, she does draw her brows together incredulously as Maldred admits ignorance of the Fifth. "Have you never listened to your lessons, Ser Maldred?" The tales of Kharnas were told to babes and any who attended their lessons faithfully, and spoken of with superstition in any place where chaos reigned. Her nostrils flare softly, and she murmurs softly. "If you have news of them…"

Maldred addresses Paule first, "Its seems uncle that we may have more problems than first glance unveils. My cousin's plight is very likely the result of some internal indiscretions…" or traitors as Maldred might label them in more impolite company.

As for the Chosen, "You will have to excuse me sister - I am a child of war - and paid little attention to the lessons that many had committed to heart. On my twelfth year of life I killed my first man - not a corsair - but in the same year I repeated the pattern with one. I have known little else other than pratical concerns of war over my life - and peace has not sat well with me. It is an undiscovered realm - would you illuminate it for me?" As diplomatic as possible - but despite his ignorance Maldred is quite well read.

Paule's eyes search the ceiling for a moment, as if looking for something to focus on, and draws in a breath. "Perhaps. Which would be nothing new. However, I will remind you that while you are in the Temple, you are a guest of such and will act with respect and dignity. If I catch sight or am told of your boorish behaviour in the future, do not think I will not speak to my wife's cousin, the King, about reassigning you further out for your own protection or to find you a match that will help quell your temper." he comments quietly. "If you will excuse me, I have some other things to attend to as well. Castor, keep us updated on your sister's condition and watch for yourself as well. Alyona, is there anything else you need from me or my wife?"

Castor offers his father and cousin a polite bow. "If you will excuse me, My Lord - Ser Maldred - I will attend to my sister." He meets his father's eyes for a moment, then turns about with a flourish of his cloak and walks back toward Cori's room, and his fenhound.

"Looks like I'll be keeping you company tonight, old friend," he says to the monstrous dog. "Do you like cards?" Castor smirks.

Patience embodied. As the lead towards the Temple's villains ends so quickly, not even a mote of disappointment flickers through Alyona's green eyes. Instead, she just settles within herself, looping her thumbs behind her plain belt-buckle. That her hands still hurt of the poison meant, at least, that the nerves had not burnt through.

In fact, not even a tiny bit of pleasure passes her face, where others might gloat at seeing a nuisance cut down by his betters. Instead, she simply tilts her head respectfully towards Baron Westmark. "Thank you, Baron. I believe the Mother Superior has all she needs. I will assist young Lord Westmark in his guard over his sister myself, do not worry." She glances after the boy as he leaves, but there is a final bit of business.

"Of course, Sir Maldred, though there is little peace in the story you ask after…" She motions toward the temple proper, intending to escort the Dread Knight there and plant the beginnings of religion.

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