(1874-08-14) A Matter of Respect
A Matter of Respect
Summary: On the way to Four Corners, Alia calls at Hellmouth to pay her respects to Ludovic.
Date: 2018-08-14
Related: None specifically, references all of the Imperials, Paras, as the taking of Keep Candeo generally.
NPCs: None of note.
Alia  Ludovic  

Daemon's Hall
The yard, then a sitting room.

With the supply lines cut and the incoming necessities much reduced in Paras and the surrounding areas now under the control of the Vir Sidus, the quartermasters attached to the Legion had been working doubletime, in an attempt to get the Legion and the city they had been rebuilding fully supplied. Every advantage the could muster they were bringing to bear. To that end, in the hope that she might be able to use her connections in Four Corners to both make new trade agreements and to, with any luck, lower the costs of the increased outgoings, Ali had been dispatched from Candeo, a contingent of soldiers with her, the Imperials moving swiftly to cover the ground between their own, now, lands, and the lands still held by d'Korbina. Rather than traveling directly towards the city proper and the transport airship that would carry them where they needed to go, Alia had directed them to head for the Viscount's own hall. None of the soldiers had their weapons in hand, and Alia rode ahead, drawing them on towards the gate and the guardsmen waiting there.

The guards on the door share the sort of looks that suggest they don't quite know how to respond to a bunch of imperials showing up on the doorstep. They talk amongst themselves for a few moments and then one of them ducks away. He returns a few moments with a knight. The knight seems a little bemused as well but he at least has the manners to treat Alia with the etiquette she'd expect for her noble blood. "Come on into the yard." He gestures for them to follow him into the first yard where there is space enough to tether a few horses. It's not really a yard in the traditional sense, to be fair, being roofed in by both the uppermost defenses and the yawning mouth of the cavern above even that, but it does serve the same function. As you walk through the arched passageway to get inside he asks. "Are you here as an interrogator?"

Though she was not dressed in full noblewoman garb, Alia had at least exchanged her usual pants for a riding dress. A dark shade of grey, so dark it was very nearly black. It bore the marks of a demure embroidered pattern, something floral with adornments of green foliage. She did wear armor over it, however, though that leather lorrica she wore had been properly fitted to her and was in a a dark black that nearly matched the skirts. She waited with endless patience, showing no untoward response to the guards nor to the time thy were required to wait before the small company was led inside. When the knight approached, Alia dipped her head, the closest she could get to bow or curtsy while still ahorse. "Thank you for allowing us entry." She lifted a hand, the imperials following her to the yard, keeping in close, though, it seemed more out of a desire to protect her than to defend their own persons against attack, "I am here as a diplomat of sorts, to request a parlay with the Viscount d'Korbina. The Princeps will be sending another along, I believe, to answer the letter from His Excellency." Alia's accent, in common was something with Aequorian roots and Four Corners branches. A woman who had clearly spent time in each place, long enough for her to pick up their inflections "I am the Lady Alia d'Meloni."

The knight looks as if he wants to respond directly to that last part but then one of the grooms moves into the nearby space and his thoughts are instead replaced by a guilty smile. "Erwin" he says instead. "Would you take Lady d'Meloni to meet with the viscount." He looks to Alia and adds. "We'll see your men are tended to." And just like that she's handed over to a tall, lean young man with a hawk-like nose who intones "Please follow me."

Deeper into the keep built in the grotto until you reach a small sitting room with a window that faces out over the landscape and all the typical furnishings you'd expect of such a chamber. Erwin asks if Alia would like refreshments and then bows before vanishing to supply beverage and snack. He returns before Ludovic turns up, placing out what Alia requested along with a pitcher of still warm bulls blood and a plate heaped with sweetmeats and bread. It's whilst he's still serving things that Ludovic arrives. If she's observant enough its easy to see that Ludovic has both been engaged in hard exercise very recently and that he's taken the time to wash face and hands before coming into the room. He's also wary. "Lady Alia." He says by way of greeting, barely pausing long enough to be polite before making a beeline for the food. "I hope you are comfortable."

Alia walked quickly, having to take two steps for every one of the knight's, her height being much reduced in comparison, and yet she gave no sign that she had been tired by the effort. Like as not, she had grown accustomed to having to manage in a world of, to her perspective, near giants. The smile she returned, before she addressed the imperial soldiers in their own tongue, "We have been allowed respite here. Wait for me and rest as you can. With luck, I will return to you soon." Returning to Common, she continued, "My men would be glad for the respite. And I thank you for the hospitality." That done, she offered a nod to Erwin, and made to follow him through the hall, taking none of her guard with her.

She moved in silence, as they made their way through the hall, curious eyes taking in the place as they walked, her comment an idle one, "The hall has not much changed, since I was here last." And then, she's delivered to the sitting room, hands smoothing her skirts as she stepped inside, "Thank you, whatever you might have would be lovely." She stood in silence, having turned to look out through the window, only returning her attention to the room once she heard Erwin return. Again, that word of thanks, but as she sees Ludovic arrive, she does gather up her skirts, offering him a curtsy, effortlessly polite, "Your Excellency. Thank you, I am." Seeing Ludovic heading for the food, she seems content to wait until he'd taken what he wanted for himself. "Thank you for granting me some time out of your day."

Ludovic gives a genuine smile at the curtsey. There is no condescension behind it, its an open and honest response to her politeness. "I was told you were here to parlay." he waves at the remaining food on the serving plate as if to say help yourself and starts pouring out a couple of cups of bulls blood. "But we don't have to get straight to that." He sits himself down, shifts position in response to what is surely a sore patch of muscle and then settles. "The Imperials seem to be treating you well."

"I have, but there is time enough for that. Neither a meal nor a merry meeting should ever be rushed." Alia returned the smile, as she rose back to standing, hands smoothing her skirts back into order, before she approached the table where the food had been set out. In the time that she took to cross from the window to the table, she took advantage of the man's distraction to study him, her words companionable when she spoke next, "You were barely more than a boy, when I saw you last, Your Excellency. Before you left for Rhone." Alia had had few occasions to make the journey from d'Meloni and then from Four Corners to Hellmouth, and he had been long away. With Ludovic seated, they were finally of a height and she no longer needed to tilt her head back to look up at him. Settled as he was, he might have occasion to see the travel evidence of the bruises and burns on her arms, but she seemed not to notice them at all, as she served herself, accepting the cup poured for her with a soft word of thanks, "I have been well received, yes. I have skills which are an asset to them, and I have been given good work."

Ludovic has never been shy but it probably says something that he chose to sit with his blind side facing the wall. He guzzles down most of his tankard, sighs with evident relief and then starts making up a ludovic-appropriate sandwich. "You remember that?" He asks as he stops working on his meal for long enough to glance across at her curiously. "You can't have been more than six. I mean." he grins in a way that suggests he's being playful. "I was the most dashing twelve year old that ever was. So now I think on it. Of course you do." If he does notice the marks then he apparantly takes them to be signs of combat or training and thus nothing worth noting.

Alia's laughter was a merry thing, as she settled into a seat across from him, moving it over so that he would not have to twist uncomfortably to see her, "It was the first time that my mother allowed me to leave our holding. I remember every moment from that day. I remember thinking how grand the city seemed, compared to our simple lands. And the knights in their fine armor, the lords and ladies in their best dress." The laughter faded, as she began to take her own meal, hands tearing the bread into small pieces to be eaten with the sweetmeats, though the amusement remained. "And I do remember a certain youngest Viscount's son. I also remember tripping and falling into a puddle of mud and embarrassing my mother terribly. But that is its own tale."

Ludovic grins at the laughter. "Don't remember a little girl in a puddle neither but then I expect I was about as overwhelmed by everything going on as you were." He gives her a slightly uneven smile. "I remember the baroness d'Mollari making a fuss and being awfully excited that I was finally going to get to be a knight." He lets the smile turn into a chortle. "Squiring came as a nasty shock, i'll tell you, even though i'd been a page. Get the feeling that the common folk think we spend our childhoods in luxurious outfits playing in the dirt whilst our nannies chase after us forlornly trying to protect our silk underthings from grass stains." He shakes his head. "Or at least thats what Darius seems to think of me."

"I do believe my mother rushed me off to our rooms so quickly, my feet never touched the ground. I barely made it back in time to see the small amusements at the end of the tournament." Though, in truth, she had been so young, she would probably have been kept back from seeing the more violent sports. "I have always thought that those who are not knights seem to have an idea of what it is that does not match the reality. That route was never mine, so I know that I, for one, have only the smallest inkling of what it must have been like for you." She shook her head, as she rose, to pick up the pitcher of bull's blood and, carrying it over to him, poured a refill into his cup, "Having lived among the common folk for most of my life, I believe that they, like many of the imperials, have only stories to tell them of what life is like for us here." Alia lowers the pitcher, some of the amusement fading, her expression softening with sympathy, "I know that it is very late in coming, Your Excellency, but I am sorry for the loss of your father and brothers."

"Don't know that i'd call the people in four corners 'common folk'" Ludovic says. "In my experience they've about as much in common with the peasants as the peasants have with a knight." He gives a little shrug. "But then maybe its not so much about Four Corners and just the difference between the town folks, the folks of trade, and the folks who actually work with their hands. Got a lot of respect for that you know?" He gives her a soft thanks as she refills his cup with the warm drink. "Working with your hands." Her sympathy and words make for a brief, awkward, silence before he says. "Thank you Alia. I wish I could have done something for yours too."

"Not all of them, no, but there are the very rich, the very poor and every manner in between there, and many more varieties than I knew in our own holding. But Four Corners is…there is a hope there, and a promise, that one can become greater than the station to which they were born, if they work hard enough." Alia stepped back, returning the pitcher to the table, before she reclaimed her seat. "I do know. My own life there was much work and little pleasure. But learning was its own reward, and I say that with truthful honesty and not as a platitude." Alia dipped her head, as he returned the sympathy, "No one could have known what treachery the Qatunax were capable of. I still have hope that not all of our folk were lost, though," she paused, considering, "I do not hold out much hope that my family survived."

"You can do that here." Ludovic points out. "A farmer can become a soldier who becomes a knight who even then, potentially, becomes a Lord. You can even buy your way into having a noble bloodline if you are rich and canny enough. I don't honestly see what four corners offers thats different. Except that it rewards treachery and low morals where our system rewards the opposite." He lets a wry little smile curve his mouth again. "Sounds a lot like the imperium actually now i think about it. How are you managing? Do you regret your decision to toss in your lot with them yet?" The return to her speaking of hope makes him look a little conflicted before he nods and offers his own. "I hope that they are thriving as well."

"I think that the difference is in the number of paths that are available to you. Not only as a soldier, a knight, a noble, but as a merchant, a tradesman. A member of one of the many guilds, as I am. I will never not be a noble woman, but studying there, at the College of Alchemy allowed me to become more than I think I might have been had I never left d'Meloni. And my membership in the guild offers me a certain amount of cache when I an negotiating for contracts for my work. As for treachery and low morals, I do not believe that such things are scourges which exist only in Four Corners. There are people of ill intent in all of the kingdoms." Alia, seeming to have taken her fill, set aside her plate, retrieving her cup, hands wrapping around it, seeming to take some small comfort in the warmth between her palms, "In truth? I do not, Your Excellency. I have had good work for my skills as an alchemist, and they have afforded me training in my other gifts which I would not otherwise have been able to find. Her lips twist, something rueful in her expression, "Oh, I do not hope so, for, knowing what I do of the Qatunax, I do not think they would allow any of us to thrive under their control. But if any of them yet live? There is hope in that, and in the possibility that they may one day soon, be freed from bondage."

"They are converting people you know?" Ludovic tells her. "Sure to start with it was horrendous. They staked out anyone they had no use for and left them to die. But now? We see more and more of them who would have called themselves Aequorian before the Qatunax but now they are zealous enough about the Qatunax culture and faith that they'd spit out their own tongue to spite us. Been seeing hints of this more and more over the months but these prisoners confirmed it without a doubt. So Alia, hate to do this, but if any of them still live, then they are Qatunax now."

"I had heard whispers, and I can see the logic in it, even past the cruelty. They are foreign to us, and these lands, its languages and people are foreign to them. I can understand the practicality in using what resources you can to level the field of battle, even if it is humans that you are tying to the yoke and not cattle. From everything that I know of them, they are savage, but not stupid. They would not have been able to claim so much of the Empire if they were, nor to have made such inroads into Aeqour and Galenthia. If they were savages, that might be easier to accept, but they have some guiding force behind them that is sharp and cunning." Alia dips her head, at Ludovic's words, her expression hardening as she hears him speak, "If they are indeed converted, and they are beyond redemption, then they are the enemy. And if it should come to that, and the duty falls to me, I will deliver the blow myself."

"I think they are." Ludovic says regretfully. "I think that this year was the last opportunity there was to reclaim our lost people before they are as lost to us as if they died." He wraps his own hands around his own tankard and focuses his remaining eye on her. "So why don't you tell me what it is the imperials demand now?"

"Two years is a very long time to have lived under such a people as the Qarunax. What might have begun as a desperate desire to avoid the sword most likely became a desire to become that thing which holds power over you. It is not, sadly, an unheard of shift in attitude. A desire to survive warps itself into a desire to thrive at any cost, even of morals and judgment. Especially if you have lost, as I have no doubt, any of those who would have been a point around which you could rally. And even if they seemed fair, when we found them, I do not know that we could trust them not to be agents waiting only for the right time to strike us from within." Alia sipped her drink, setting the cup back on her knee. "The Imperials do not demand anything, Your Excellency. I have come to offer you my respect, as I am traveling through your lands, and to ask that I be allowed to do so, as I make my way between the Imperial Lands and Four Corners. There is business there for me, and trade I wish to negotiate for. And one who is closer to me than my own family, whom I wish to see."

"Never said nothing about the folks making that choice." Ludovic says. "Pointed out to my wife that if they were serving a rebelling aequorian lord nobody would think it was wrong. Think the people, they've got impossible choices. I'd rather die than convert, sure, but most men aren't as strong as I am." He moves to his feet and walks to the window. "You can't blame a person for being weak. It would be like blaming a horse for being badly bred."

He turns to look back at her. "I appreciate you actually asking me. Doubt any of the other imperials would have. You've my permission to move yourself and, i suppose, a reasonable guard. I'll make sure you have a letter guaranteeing as much. Don't abuse it. I've given the imperials to much good faith already."

"Wouldn't they, Your Excellency? Perhaps if that rebelling lord won the day, they might have been treated fairly. But if they rose up against the rightful rulers of that land and were defeated? I do not know that they would then be treated with kindness and forgiven all of their sins. And yes, the choice is impossible, and I do not blame them, but it is also a choice that, unlike many bad choices that we sometimes make, cannot be so easily turned aside from. If that were so, you would, perhaps, not still be considering that prisoner I have heard of, a prisoner. Yes, it was a terrible choice, but it is still one which we will have to pass judgment on when the time comes." Alia rose, as Ludovic did, though she made no move to approach him, once she had set down her cup. "I bring no force with me, Your Excellency, only such men as have been appointed to me to see to my protection, as ones such as myself are not welcome in the West and I cannot afford to be carried off by the Inquisition." She once again dipped into a curtsy, "It is not my intention to abuse your kindness, but only to be able to fulfill such duties as have been appointed to me."

Ludovic gives her a serious look. "I'm not sure I follow about the prisoner. You think he should be released?"

"Not at all, Your Excellency. But if the train of thought that someone who serves an enemy or becomes one themselves because they have been placed under duress should not be blamed for their actions…then it follows that they should then be…rehabilitated not punished. But that is not the case here, nor should it be. Some choices, as I said, cannot be taken back, regardless of what the circumstances might have been when the choice was made." Alia's voice never changed, still polite, still calm. Clearly, she saw this as a discussion and not an argument.

Ludovic studies her for a bit. He inhales and lets it out in a long exhale and then he says. "Yeah. In this case its got almost nothing to do with the guy being punished and almost everything to do with everyone else. The people, they needed to punish someone and, well, they need to see that its a horrible choice thats gonna ruin em either way. Only way you can make a weak man turn away from the easy way out is to make sure he sees it aint easy." He grimaces "Something thats gonna weigh down my soul, but hopefully the reason it was done is enough to make it a good deed rather than an evil one." He looks thoughtful for a bit before he adds. "I'm not stupid enough to think the other one isnt gonna be tortured neither. Wish i could do away with that too but truth is.. I gotta know."

Alia stepped forward then, moving close enough that she too, could look out of the window, as if doing that might allow her to see something of what Ludovic did when he did, though there was really no hope of that. She did remain far enough away that she could look up at him without needing to put a crick in her neck, "I believe that terrible deeds always weight heavily on the shoulders of good men. And there is no more difficult choice, I think, than having to sacrifice one man for the good of all. Especially when you can only hope, but not know, that the sacrifice will have been worth it in the end."

"I dont really know." Ludovic says quietly. The window shows a view down the slopes of mount hadres. On a nice warm, clear, day like today its possible to believe you can make out the silvery glint of the river several miles away. "Isn't sacrificing one in the cause of the many also the first step on the road to being cold and evil? How many men has Darius sacrificed to get where he is? How many have I already. It's got to stop Alia." He looks at her again. "The one thing I know, right now, is that I can't keep up the assault for the potential gain of a few acres of land. Especially when we both know that the first thing that will happen after the qatunax are gone is that the imperials will turn on me."

Though she had glanced out of the window, when Ludovic posed his question to her, she did not look away from him, "So it is said. But there are few roads which, if one step onto them, they cannot them step aside. With enough will, faith, and strength of character, a man can choose to be evil or to be good. But yes, I agree it has to stop, but how that might be done, with the Qatunax at our doors, I do not know." To the question of the Imperials, she offers a shake of her head, "I am not privy to know what the Princeps plans and does not. But a smart man does not bend his efforts to a hopeless cause. And if he judges that Aequor is has such strength that he could not overcome it, given the state that the Empire is in at present, he may well decide against such an assault, as you seem to be considering the battle for the lands beyond the Pass."

"What are you going to do when they attack aequor?" Ludovic asks her seriously. "You must have thought about this before making your oaths." He puts his shoulder against the wall and folds his arms across his chest. "What battle is this i'm planning?"

"I hope that it will not come to that, Your Excellency. But as you said, I made my oaths to the Empire and it may well come to pass that that is not a choice that I could turn away from either, and I have no doubt that should judgment fall on me, that I will most likely find myself kneeling before the executioner's sword or hanging from a gallows. And the people of Aequor will see that as justice." Alia tilted her head, considering the man now leaning against the wall, her eyes skimming his face, seeing his injury but not lingering on it, "Perhaps battle is not the right word, but the taking of the lands beyond the pass remains a point of contention between Aequor and the Empire, does it not? Or did you mean the reclaiming of the lands still occupied by the Qatunax?"

Ludovic just says "I promised not to contest the issue of Paras until after the qatunax situation is resolved. It's always been a decision for the King. Not me. As for the lands beyond Paras, those still owned by the Qatunax. Why should I spend my men taking land the Imperials will promptly annex?"

Alia fell silent, giving the question honest consideration, seeming to have no obvious reaction to the fact that it was her own homeland that they were discussing, "You shouldn't. Not only would it place you at the vanguard of the forces allied against the Qatunax with no sure hope of success, but it also then places you between another potentially hostile power and your on lands. If it were a choice placed on me, I would, for the moment, set aside though of any of the lands beyond the pass, from the newly reclaimed keep to the lands which were once d'Meloni and focus on mounting a defense of Hellmouth and the lands you still hold under your command. d'Korbina cannot afford to lose you as they did Lord Augustin."

Ludovic has a moment of brief surprise followed by a quick smile. "My wife told me it was wrong to abandon the people still in qatunax hands. A year ago I would have agreed. But like I said. They are already gone." he lifts his tankard and drinks the rest of his fermented milk stuff before putting it aside and looking back at her. The folded arms replaced with a measure of relaxation. "So you see." he adds. "I am not planning to attack anyone. The Imperials taking Candeo basically destroyed the last hopes of the attack being worth it. I really was planning to work with Darius. I'm sorry he couldn't bring himself to do the same."

Alia returned the smile, though there was more understanding in it than humour. These were, indeed, hard choices they were discussing, "A year ago you, most likely, did not know what you do now, I imagine. And while I can understand the idealism inherent in such a belief, that no man should be left behind, to beat yourself against what might be an impossible wall, and lose everything else you seek to protect in the attempt? War does not reward idealism. As for the Princeps…" She shook her head then, "Perhaps it is not given to you to bring him around to being an ally, as you hoped he would be. Perhaps he, like Paras, is out of your hands. He is certainly out of mine. I know that I, for a certainty, have no pull with him."

"Maybe. Maybe not." Ludovic says. "Got a feeling you can turn anyone to your side if you put your heart into it." He gives a little shrug. Then he asks. "What do you know of the mountain folks that are supposed to be coming?"

Alia's humour returned then, and she dipped her head, "Suddenly I see that charming boy of twelve looking back at me. You flatter me, Your Excellency." She straightened, as the question was put to her, "They are not Qatunax, though they may well be allied with them. They move easily through the mountains, even into such regions as the Qatunax will not go. Beyond that?" She shook her head.

Ludovic gives a what can you do shrug. "Compliments where they are due. You're the first Imperial i've spoken to in a long time that didnt make me have to bite down on my gifts so hard I have to spend an hour just trying to calm down." He lets the shrug turn into a bit of a grin. "I do prefer Ludovic you know?"

And then a smile, as she glanced, momentarily back at the view through the window, before her eyes returned to Ludovic, "Perhaps that is because I was not always an Imperial. It is easier, I think, when you have lived in more than one world to see and understand the views and opinions of those other worlds." Something in his words caused her to furrow her brows, "Your gifts?" Again, that tip of her head at his grin, "I knew your name, not that you preferred it. As well, you had not given me leave to use it."

"That was me giving you permission." Ludovic chuckles lightly. "And making a request. Suppose I should really have been using titles too but i've never been a huge fan of em. The only title thats truly worth something is Sir. That one you gotta earn you see. The others? Well. I'm a viscount because my father died. There really isnt any great challenge in that." He shrugs. "I'd like to think I deserve it now but its only been.. 9 months i suppose." A slightly guilty flash of a smile. "I admit I spent a month or so hiding out at the battle of Mathis just to put it off. Course.. that wasn't.." he goes quiet for a moment but then shrugs it off. "Wasnt the smartest choice I ever made but hey when was putting something off ever smart?" A long pause during which he contemplates her. "Was Darius himself who outed me as a sorcerer, not that i've been making a big fuss of it. Assumed you all knew."

"Then I thank you for that, Ludovic. You, of course, may call me Alia. The Empire, of course, does not have titles as we do here, so I do not often use Lady for myself, unless I am in places like this, where I follow the customs as are used here. Even in Four Corners, I spent most of my time simply being Alia d'Meloni." She shook her head at his words, "Viscount is only a title. Being the thing is an entirely different thing. And you have acquitted yourself well, from what I have seen and heard of you." At the revelation, Alia simply nodded, "As am I. My element is fire, as his is. It is why the guard have been appointed to me. And no, he did not mention it, at least not in my hearing."

Ludovic gives her a wry smile at the compliment but makes no actual comment. "Stone. Its pretty useless honestly."

That did bring a furrow to Alia's brow, as she considered, "I do not believe the same. The ability to move and shift the very ground beneath you? To pull down a building, or collapse a tunnel? If such things could be mastered, it would be an imminently valuable weapon on the battlefield."

"Its stone Alia." Ludovic tells her gently. "Not soil. Stone. And natural stone at that."

Alia tilts her head, studying him, "And if you dig down deep enough beneath the soil, is there not stone beneath? Are the mountains not made of them? The Qatunax made devastating use of molten stone when they caused the volcano to erupt. I do not know the level of your gift, but I know that with my own training with the sorcerers who are attached to the Legion, my own skill is growing. One day I will be able to manipulate fire much more ably than I do now."

"Yeah." Ludovic says. "But if its too deep I cant really touch it. Pretty sure your gifts the same from what i've heard. I mean you benefit from having fire close by too but unlike you I cant create my element when it doesn't exist. So yeah if I was stood on shallow soil I could rip a trench through it, maybe, depending on how the soil fell. And yeah I can pull up a load of rocks from under the soil but unless they are like all in a line or something thats not really gonna do anything. I can throw rocks around, pretty big rocks honestly, but since I have to stand still to do it and since I need the rocks to be right there.. its generally more effective to just use a lance. Oh and I can make stupid little stone cats. I'm trying to make myself a warhammer, but its only going so-so. Wish I could somehow infuse my weapon with my element but thats stupid too - it aint like I can give my axe an aura of rock or anything. I'd love to say I could do stuff with metal but I just can't."

Alia seemed undissuaded by Ludovic's explanation of his gifts, her expression thoughtful, as she considered. "You are still new to your gift, as all who awakened those handful of years ago are. The idea of stone intrigues me. Its possibilities. But yes, it is easier for me to manipulate fire if there is already some present. I can create it from nothing, but only a small amount and only for a small time, before it exhausts me." She offered a shake of her head, "Being able to speak so openly with another sorcerer is still new to me. I am used to needing to wear a mask, and I am still considering all of the possibilities. My master at the College of Alchemy once said I could out imagine most of the people she knew, even if my imagination was not always particularly useful. But I would need to see more of what you can do." She paused…offering him an apologetic smile, "And now I have made you seem like some new formula I am researching at my table. My apologies, Ludovic."

Ludovic just chuckles at the apology. "Telling my knights that I was a sorcerer is probably the best thing I've done in the last few years. I just wish there was something more useful i could do with it than hurl rocks around. If I was a natural at that I would have trained with cannon."

"I do not know how often we will see each other again after today, Ludovic, but perhaps we can study together and each improve our own skills, on those occasions when I am in Hellmouth, or at least in the same place that you are. See what new uses for this 'gift' if you could call it so, we can discover. And you might discover some use of a gift that is more than crafting stone cats, though that actually sounds rather lovely."

"Lovely sure." Ludovic says "But not really worth being burnt at the stake for, is it?"

"No, perhaps not. But I do not believe that the Church and the Inquisition care about whether or not a person's magic is useful. They only care that they are terrified of it and they will do everything that they can to extinguish it. In my experience, people very rarely attempt to confront the things that they fear. To acknowledge that fear and learn from it." Alia stepped toward the window, looking out at the landscape, "My own sorcery…I often wonder if it is not too dangerous to use. It was useful in the battle for Candeo, but I could have easily set our own troops alight. One I have released it…it has a mind of its own. And it does not know friend from foe."

"Thats because once you let it go its just doing what it would do without you." Ludovic tells her easily. "Just like if I throw a rock its likely to bounce." He moves to pat her on the shoulder. "Hey. At least if you get really upset you'll just set a building on fire. Me I make the earth shake and knock buildings and my mothers favorite ornaments over. Maybe cause an avalanche or two" He gives her a slightly sheepish smile. "Never said I couldnt do useful things. Just that I have to be in the right place whilst people like you dont. If you're having trouble controlling it though maybe the trick is to focus on something hard to do until you exhaust yourself and cant really muster anymore? I tend to pour it into the walls. Its hard for me to work cut stone so usually its fine."

Alia looked away from the landscape, as Ludovic moved to stand beside her, her hand reaching up in response to the touch on her shoulder to settle her own hand, for a moment, on the back of his before she settled it back at her side, her expression one of gratitude for his understanding, "A building and everyone in it. You, at least, could move your mother's ornaments away from the edge of a shelf." Her smile flashed, quick and impish, "Well, at least the ones that you didn't think were dreadfully ugly and could do with a good breaking." When the smile faded, there was something serious in her expression, "This power inside of me terrifies me, sometimes, Ludovic. Sometimes, I think I can feel it, some relentless hunger desperate to get out."

"Cant really claim i understand that." Ludovic says "Mostly I feel like, well, like everything is pressing to get in, not out."

"I can understand that, for you call stone, that is something that carries weight. It would make sense that you would feel that weight on you, even when you were not actively using it." Alia paused, giving the idea a moment of consideration, "Perhaps all of the other elements feel similar things, only the feelings relate to their specific element."

Ludovic considers that before shaking his head. "No its not a feeling of weight or pressure. It's.. uh.. noise. Its like if I let it all sink in i'll lose me and just be part of everything else."

Alia turned to face Ludovic then, her expression still thoughtful, but there was genuine curiosity there now, "I am assuming that you don't mean physical noise, but something more like…things being too close? The way you might feel if you were pressed around by too many people in too small of a room? Do you feel it more here? In this building, well, any build, or places where there is more stone or is it anywhere?"

"Everywhere." Ludovic says. "But its quieter when i'm underground in the dark. As for the rest, well.. you'll forgive me if I don't give away to many of my weaknesses." He pats her shoulder again and then moves away. "Its just a matter of time till we end up on opposite sides of a border afterall. But. I've been spending time everyday practicing bigger things ever since I told my knights what I was. So you're welcome to come by and watch I guess. I mean its not like I can keep it a secret really."

"Perhaps the weight of the world weighs on you." Alia did not seem in the least offended, as Ludovic decided against telling her more about the particular feeling his sorcery invoked in him. Even with honesty between them, it was still a very personal thing, "Opposite sides, but perhaps, when that day comes, we will not be enemies. And I would welcome a chance to visit if you would have me. Candeo is not closed to you, but I think, perhaps it will take time, before you are comfortable in being there." Alia stepped away from the window as Ludovic moved away, "I should see to my men, and prepare for the journey to Four Corners." She paused for a beat, "May I ask for an escort back down to the yard?"

Ludovic looks at her when she requests the escort but then nods and offers his arm. "I'll walk you down."

Alia accepted the arm, allowing Ludovic to lead her out of the hall and down back towards the men she still had waiting for her, "If I can manage it, I will see if I can make my way back through Hellmouth on the way back from Four Corners." And from the yard, Alia bade the Viscount farewell, she and her men proceeding on towards the landing which was still in service for the ship which would take them on to their next destination.

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