(1874-11-02) A Stroll in Fiorello
A Stroll in Fiorello
Summary: Ludovic invites Alia along for an amble through Fiorello.
Date: 2018-11-02
Related: None Specifically. Fiorello after the masque generally.
NPCs: None
Players:
Alia  Ludovic  

Fiorello-Town
The Inn, then the town, and back to the Inn.
1874-11-02

TapTap. The sound of someone gently knocking on your inn-room door with the back of their hand. The knocking stops and is replaced by the muffled sounds of Ludovic telling some crass joke in the imperial tongue.

Alia looked up from the book she was reading, rolling the bright silver coin from her fingers and palming it, before she slipped it into a pocket of her riding skirts as she rose from her seat. The curiosity in her expression at the announcement lightened as she heard the joke, and she made her way towards the door, pulling it open, "Dovi. An unexpected surprise. Come in." The room beyond was neat and tidy, with little evidence that anyone was actually using the room, save for the remains of a light meal on the sideboard and a small assortment of travel trunks in a corner. Alia herself was dressed as though she either had been, or intended to do out riding, though given the time of day, that might be an entirely foolhardy venture.

"Unexpected?" Ludovic takes a step into the room and glances about the interior before looking right back at her. "Thought you'd expect me to show up sooner or later." He gives her a quick smile. "Thought I'd invite you to join me for a stroll. It's nice out and Fiorello's got a special charm. I'd not want you to miss out."

"You do have a way of turning up in the most interesting places, but I imagined you would have already been on your way to court." The invitation, that did take her by surprise, but it also came with a smile in its wake, as she stepped back, moving over towards the chair not far from the bed, picking up a light cloak. Enough to cover her shoulders, without providing much warmth or protection from the elements. "Of course. I'd be happy to join you."

Ludovic gives her a warm smile when she talks of that. "I do like to travel don't I?" He gently takes the collar on his elementi Faith and transfers him to his left side before offering his right arm to Alia. "Airships really did change the world. Used to be that it was almost easier to get to Firen than it was Lyionesse. Now though both are just a day or two's travel. Truthfully not sure I like it. Not cos of the flying, although the One knows that aint no fun, but because it takes out the journey."

"Indeed." Ali swung the cloak around her shoulders, pushing it back to let it flow down her back, leaving her arms free, as she moved to join Ludovic, eyes casting down to the Elementi, "I've not had much experience with them." d'Meloni had never been the sort of family that could, really, afford such animals. "They seem to be growing more and more popular lately. What's his name?" A thoughtful sound, as she considered the matter of airships, "I suppose you have to weigh how much you intend to get out of the destination against what you lose in shortening the journey. I find them quite convenient, though expensive."

"This is Faith." Ludovic takes her arm in his once she's close enough and lightly sets his hand on her forearm. Turning his head to give her a quick grin he adds. "He's probably as old as you are." A little cluck of his tongue and the dog abandons its spot by his side to come over and nose at Alia in the way of all canines who want to know why you aren't rubbing their ears yet. "Well that's the thing." He says. "Used to be that a county was a huge place. Took ages to get to the next place over. You'd go to court and really it was something you'd spend a whole year on. Didn't necessarily have to, sure, but the trip was so long there wasn't much point doing it just for a day. Now though? The other side of the worlds only an airship ride away. You think everything's gonna stay the same?"

While Alia might not have been familiar with this particular breed, she had more than enough experience to know how to offer her hand to Faith, the back of it first, below the level of his nose, and then, when he seemed to indicate his acceptance, she offered her fingers to scratched behind his ear, thankfully not having to lean down so far that she tugged her other hand out of Dovi's grasp. "Ah, then he is barely more than a pup. Aren't you, Faith?" Once she'd applied the requisite allotment of head scratches, she lifted her hand, setting it on the one Dovi had placed on her arm, "I never expected it to. Nor should it. But, I can't help but think that's always been the way of the world. Ever changing, and we always lagging behind trying to catch up."

He's a huge animal that's for sure. "Got him when I was basically still a boy." Ludovic explains as he steers the three of them towards the doorway and from there out into the evening air. "So we grew up together. You should have seen him as a pup. He'd these huge feet." He's quiet a moment and then says. "The Al'Mordran are the masters of them. Probably better breeders than even the Imperials." He looks at her. "Well that's where they came from originally. Relic of the old days. I'm honestly not sure the imperials still have any." Again he goes quiet a moment and then he says. "You know. When we were fighting Teleko. The Duke Tarris' elementi was there. He.. I dunno.. but they seem to have something that helps against such creatures. Was like he glowed."

Once they'd escaped the room, the pair of legionaries who were apparently on duty moved to step in with them, but Alia shook her head, waving them off, before she stepped away from her room, one of the guards locking the door behind her. Alia had learned the trick of walking with someone much larger than she was, and she took the walk in her stride, settling herself as they stepped out into the cooler air, though she did not pull the cloak around her. She felt warmer than human to the touch and that was likely the reason why. "As with most males, I suspect, of any breed, on four legs or two." She seemed content to allow Ludovic to direct their walk, listening to his story, "Who was glowing? Duke Tarris or the Elementi?" There was some humour in the question, though it faded as she turned to a more serious topic, "Perhaps that is why many noble families spare no expense in acquiring them."

Ludovic has modulated his own step to take her into account as well, moving at more of an amble than an actual stride. The path he chooses takes them down towards the river and whilst he glances to the legionnaires as they move to join them he himself gives no indication that he objects to their presence.

He gives a deep chuckle at her comment on most males. "My Lady. Are you suggesting that I had huge feet as a boy?"

More sensibly he says "Duke Tarris wasn't there. Just his dog." He says "Nah." at her comment on noble families sparing no expense. "Nobody had ever seen that before. It was a surprise. They are valued because they are expensive, in part, but also because they make the most loyal guardians. Ain't many hounds that live near as long as their owner."

Alia managed a respectable enough pace, so that Ludovic did not have to move too slowly. Despite being waved off, they were, eventually joined by two different guards, likely two who were fresh off of a few hours of sleep. They stayed close enough to be useful, but far enough away to allow Alia and Ludovic some privacy. Not very different from most noble women, in the end, who often spent their lives with minders never far away from them. "You have huge feet now, I can't imagine you with small ones, even when you were young enough to be as tall as I am now." She offered a nod, at his explanation, "Yes, I can see that. I imagine the mystique of their origins also played no small part in that. You have quite a number of them, or so I've heard. Young and grown."

Ludovic stops walking for long enough to peer down at his feet before chuckling and starting to once again amble along the path. "I don't think my feet are huge." He argues with an amused humour behind his complaints. "If anything they are small."

"They were a wedding gift." Ludovic tells Alia. "And something that Imogen claimed before I could get near them at that. I felt obligated to send them back."

Alia's laughter was bright, as she glanced back down, perhaps comparing the size of her feet and her companion's, "Well, it's all about proportions, isn't it? I imagine you filled out a bit between your boyhood and now." The laughter faded, but her expression remained, fairly, light, as she heard the reply, "That's a shame. They would have done well in your household, from what I know of it."

"Wouldn't have been fair to the Duchess" Ludovic says after a moment. "Was a huge gift, something that woulda helped for generations, but i'm sure it was one the duchess regretted. I'm sure she regretted helping me marry her given that I'm sure she arranged the divorce." He sighs. "Divorced. Its shameful really." He looks at Alia. "Wish I could claim it wasn't my fault." He looks up at her and gives her a slightly weak chuckle. "Might have been a stage where I'd trip over my own elbows. Might have."

"I'm afraid I can't speak to whether or not the Duchess regretted the choice, though I would venture to say that she would not offer a gift she was not willing to part with. From what little I know of her, she does not seem that churlish. And perhaps she would have preferred that you had kept them, since it is unlikely that you are the last generation of d'Korbina that will rule in Hellmouth." Alia shook her head, the hand settled on Dovi's arm tightening for a moment, "I have never known a relationship that ended to have been entirely the fault of one party or another. Nor do I think that feeling shame over it will do you any amount of good. The past cannot be changed, no matter how many times we look back at it. All we can do is look ahead."

Ludovic looks down at her. "There's some choices you make that you just have to live with afterwards. That's one of them." He sighs and forces his feet to start moving again. "How do you think the world will change now that far places are close? Reckon its gonna make for some big changes myself. Why have dukes when you can visit twenty places a month?"

"Living with a choice and its aftermath is not the same as flogging yourself for it at every opportunity. We all make choices, good and bad, and we carry on in the world we created by those choices." Alia tilted her head, her expression thoughtful, as she looked out over the city, marking each of the lights that sparkled in the dark streets, "I don't think the world will ever not need dukes. Or Lords, or knights. It isn't enough for the people to have overseers, someone who only pops in now and then to ensure that crops are being brought in, or places are running as they should, or whatever their appointed task is. They need the physical engagement, the connection to place, and kingdom, and culture that the nobility provides. People need to know, not just believe that they matter. Someone who only visits for a day is only present for that day. It would never be enough."

Ludovic gives Alia a warm smile. "Strange words for someone who's given up the world of knights and dukes for one of overseers. Know why you made that choice though. Its hard when what you are, deep down inside, is something that you're hated over. Think its only a matter of time before what we are is accepted though. Altair was the first. I'll be the second. After that. Who knows."

Alia shook her head, Ludovic's smile answered on her own lips, "Not so strange. One does not have to live in a world to understand the values that world turns on. Sometimes, being apart from it gives you a better perspective, because that other world no longer has the same power to affect you or your choices. As well, I think overseers is not the word I would choose for the empire. They have nobility, after their fashion, only their nobles are not made by blood, but by effort. But my power was not the primary reason for my choices, though the freedom the empire allows me is a benefit."

"Don't think that's true." Ludovic says. "The power, nobility, is in families right? So you're a noble just by being born a noble. No difference. You can become a noble here by being noticed for excellence too. Just look at this place." He gestures with his free arm. "D'Armaz wasn't born noble." He gives her a curious look. "So why did you chose them? I mean, I'll agree you did really well by your choice. Hell I've been tempted to change sides a time or three myself."

"Yes, and no. One can earn nobility there and lose it just as easily, but it is not passed down in the family lines as it is here. And while you can become ennobled here, there already exists an established idea that if you are born into a noble family, you are noble, though you have done nothing to merit it. If you had done nothing but live your days in Hellmouth enjoying the pleasures that your family's money provided, you would still be a noble. No one would say to you, 'you have not earned the right to call yourself noble, Ludovic d'Korbina, go and start plowing a field'. Once the D'Armaz family was ennobled through the actions of the ancestor who earned it, everyone who came after received that title with no need to also expend any effort." The final question only earned a light lift of her shoulders, "I needed an army."

"That's not how it sounds like it works to me." Ludovic says. "But I suppose I've not been there myself. You'd probably know better." He looks at her. "You needed an army and you believed what you heard in the senate then? About me being useless."

"I imagine the way the Empire looks when you are within it is vastly different from how it looks when you are looking in from the outside, in a place so different it might as well be a different world." Alia shook her head, "You had nothing to do with my choice, Ludovic, and I have never been privy to the counsels of the Senate. Whatever they do or do not think of you, is nothing to do with me, nor has it ever been. My choices have always been my own."

Ludovic stops and turns to face her. "So why pick a foreign empire instead of your county? Know there was tension between us and the d'meloni before it all happened, tho i'll remind you that was your lord's fault, but surely that wasn't enough."

Alia paused, as Ludovic did, tilting her head to be able to look up at him. "What my father and his father did to tarnish the name of d'Meloni was also nothing to do with me, though I, much like your gisil, had to pay the price for their sins. I left that world when I was barely more than a child to make my own way in the world. As I have done, and continue to do. I do not trade on the name d'Meloni, or assume that I am owed anything in the world save what I earn for myself. I set a goal for myself, and sought for the best situation that would allow me to attain that goal. That choice led me to the Empire."

Ludovic asks. "And that goals what exactly? Retaking your home?"

"Perhaps in time, I will not know that until I can see the condition of the battlefield and weigh the costs of victory. My goal has always been, in the end, to work towards the defeat of the Qatunax. Which is, I believe the goal of your own campaign. We have simply chosen to go about attaining that goal differently. You have the resources to fight the Qatunax on your own terms. I do not. I needed both the resources and the training that the Empire could offer me. And I have given them good service in return. I have earned my place in the Empire, and am not beholden to anyone but myself for my own success or failure."

Ludovic gives a short nod and then offers her his arm again before once again starting up the trail. "The qatunax would be nice." he agrees. "But that's mostly just revenge speaking. I'd rather say my goals the survival of everyone I've taken an oath to protect. Failed a lot of them but sometimes you gotta let the dead go in order to protect the living." He pauses at a spring, releasing her arm and going over to bend over it and take a few sips of the warm water. "Ever noticed how water carries the taste of the rocks and land it comes from?" A change of subject. "Why don't you try some."

"Unlike yourself, Ludovic, I have no one to whom I have given an oath of protection, or at least, I had not until I swore my oath to the Empire. All of those to whom I might have been beholden are dead. All that I can do for them now, is to do whatever I can to ensure that their deaths do not go unremarked and unremembered. The dead cannot gain justice for themselves. Only the living can do that. And I am all that is left." Alia allowed Ludovic to slip free, watching him as he bent by the spring. "Much like people do, no matter how far they roam from where they were born." She moved to join him, though the sip of the water she took was sparing, as if there was some innate danger in it for her.

"Ah." Ludovic exhales. "So that's what you meant the other day. I don't plan to forget the dead Alia. Know I don't always seem all that reverent but that's just cos livings gotta be more important than anything else. Its only through living that their deaths mean anything. And living don't just mean being alive. It means thriving." He smiles a little at her tentative sip. "Afraid your fires might go out?"

"But you have let them go. By your own admission." Alia shook her head, as she returned to her feet, "I was not speaking of you, Ludovic, just now, but myself. I have duties that I am bound to fulfill, by whatever means I deem best for me. And by all accounts, I have thrived where I have been planted, despite the rocky soil and the fierce competition for nutrients." She shook her head then, at the question, "No, not that. Fire is volatile, and water is its natural enemy. It is dangerous for me to be around too much of it, even to consume it, when the power is too close to my skin. I learned that lesson quite early, when I nearly boiled myself like a leg of mutton in a pot on a day I decided to take a bath too soon after I had used my power. I mistakenly thought that the water would leech the heat from me, cool me down, instead, I turned the bath into a cauldron. If my master had not been in the next room, and had not been able to treat my burns, I might well not be here now. So, I tread carefully where water is concerned."

"Yeah. Feel like I'm doing something awful for it. But your right. I'm not fighting for the dead no more." Ludovic tells her. "Was one of the big things Imogen was starting to hate me over. She thought that I should risk everything to save every last peasant and slave lost behind those walls. That I should bend my knee to your prince and give up everything we've worked on just for a chance at that. But I know those people aren't mine no more. I've seen it. They've told me it." He reaches to touch her shoulder. "But that wasn't really what I was trying to say. I was trying to say that you gotta make space to grieve and to live Alia. Trying to live off revenge will just break you. Seen it to many times. Don't want to see it take you too."

He gives her a brief smile at the cauldron comment, even chuckling at the point where she calls it a cauldron. "Maybe I should make a habit of dragging you along to the baths with me then." He leans towards her and murmurs. "I managed to drop a rock the size of my head on my foot. Had no idea where that damn rock came from. Not for months. I was just standing there letting my thoughts drift and then bam."

"Then perhaps you are better off with the divorce than with a wife who cannot make the difficult choices, or understand that idealism is the realm of children and fools." Alia did not seem terribly concerned that her words were harsh, or might have been a criticism of the absent ex-wife. "In your circumstances, sacrificing the living to avenge the dead would be the wrong choice. Your place is with your folk, not breaking yourself against an immovable wall." Alia's expression was a thoughtful one, as she considered Ludovic's words, "Justice is not the same as revenge, Dovi. Perhaps all I want, in the end, is to ensure that no one else had to face the same fate that I have. Viscount Chandus pointed out to me once, that with the loss of d'Meloni and its heir, that I was now a Great Lady of Galenthia. A Great Lady of a dead House. And all the world around me is death and ruin. I have built what life I could out of the remains."

Again, that light laughter, as Ludovic offered to take her along on his adventures, "You ought to be careful. My control is good, but sometimes, not as good as it should be. You might be taking quite a risk." The rock comment brought a smile that was almost impish, "Perhaps that is why your feet are so large."

"I would have recognised you as such." Ludovic tells her simply. "One of the reasons I've clung to Paras is because I've got this deep seated hope that a house that's been there longer than my own can actually, one day, be returned."

The alternate between the serious and the almost playful is something that he seems to honestly relish. She laughs and he does too. "One time I was chasing bandits and half the mountain fell on them. Wow that was lucky I thought. Few days later half the mountain fell on me. I ruined my aunts wine cellar. Tried getting in whilst I was drunk and the arch above the door decided it wasn't an arch no more. Wouldn't have mattered but that damn vault was holding up the entire cellar." He grins and offers her an arm again. "I think i'd look dashing without eyebrows."

"Then you are kinder in your estimation of me than I deserve. As for Paras, there is no way to know what the future holds. What will be will be, sometimes regardless of what we want or strive for. It is madness to think so far ahead, no matter what side of the divide you find yourself on." Alia slipped her arm back into Ludovic's, one hand settling into the crook of his arm, the other resting on his forearm, "It sounds as though we have both had our share of misfortune along the road. And while you might look dashing with no eyebrows, I would prefer you with both your beard and your skin intact. But I am not averse to making the attempt. I cannot only practice on the battlefield."

Ludovic half turns to her. "We are still talking about a hot bath right?"

Alia threw back her head, her laughter merry and bright, "I should hope so. Even I could not warm an ocean. Although, given the winter to come, that might be an attempt with some merit." She glanced away, looking off into the darkness, "Are we close to the ocean now? These are the sorts of things a woman needs to know."

"Well." Ludovic says. "Was kinda worried you were gonna take me at my words and practice removing my eyebrows anytime I saw you." He reaches out, takes her hand and starts walking back down the trail the way they have come. "We're on the parts of the fiore that flow into the four corners region. So the seas still a ways off. Suppose all the branches run through that region in the end but this part in particular becomes that river that runs along the northern edges of the city."

Alia shook her head, her face still painted with her amusement, "Oh, have no fear. I believe your eyebrows are safe. For now. If for no other reason than that people might not take you very seriously if you became known as the Viscount of the Vanishing Eyebrows. One moment they're there, the next, *poof* gone. That sounds like a terrible comedy routine." A nod, as she listened to the description of the landscape, "Then it will be the bath for you."

Ludovic grins at her. "Kinda decadent. Using a sorcerer to heat your bath." He chuckles, squeezes her hand and then goes back to walking arm in arm with her as is actually appropriate. "Appreciate you walking with me Alia. Nice to relax a moment."

"If you can't indulge in a bit of decadence now and then, what is the point of being a Viscount? Without it, it's too much work for too little reward." Alia settled in for the walk back, choosing her steps with care, as the night drew on and fewer lights illuminated the path. "You are welcome, Dovi. Thank you for choosing to invite me. It was kind of you to think of me."

"You don't think never being short on food and having the finest armor and the finest horses is payment enough?" Ludovic asks her. He glances to her and smiles. "Realised I'd not exactly been that kind to you the last day or two. Wasnt in a great place here." he taps the side of his head. "But that's not a good excuse."

"Ah," Alia freed a hand, lifting it to gesture with a finger, as if to say, 'just a minute', "But none of those things are decadent…for a Viscount. Your personal bath sorcerer most certainly would be." There was amusement in her voice, in the slight nudge she offered him, which faded only a little at his words, "You do not need to apologize to me, Dovi. I do not expect people to be kind to me. And you had your own troubles to deal with."

Ludovic laughs. "Some folks would call those things decadent. Tho' I cant exactly /not/ have them either. Hell." He taps his chest. "Even wearing my kote all the time feels a bit daring. Like I should get out an acre of lace and some silk." He gives her a funny look. "What would society be without manners? Know I tend to run roughshod over a lot of the social values but that don't mean I don't see the point."

"Yes, I am sure that they would, but they are simply the trappings of your station. And a reflection of what your station affords you." Alis shook her head, "I did no say you should be without manners. Only that it was not necessary for you to apologize to me. You made your feelings plain. That is your right and more than most would do. If I had to choose between an honest response and a polite one, I would choose honesty." She glanced away from the road and towards Ludovic, "I may appear to be a Lady, but the years I spent at the Academy beat, figuratively speaking, most of the fair and fragile feelings of such ladies out of me. I am not easily hurt or offended."

"The academy isn't exactly a place for forthright honesty." Ludovic points out to Alia. "But I appreciate it." He grins at her. "I'm to damn blunt and honest half the time. Was part of what made me think about the travel stuff actually. My father, he almost never needed to go to court, cos court was just to damn far away. Even Rhone is so far away from home that I almost never went home once I was there. Was like another world. Now though? I'm wondering if I'm gonna have to learn how to survive court. If I'll be called to that place over and over just cos I've no excuse not to make the trip."

Alia shook her head, "In regards to our identities, no, but much else was quite plain. It had to be. But I was thinking more of my time studying as an alchemist. They do not suffer fools gladly there, and my master was one of the harshest. She never spared me her criticism. And I lived under her tutelage longer than I lived in my own House." A moment to pause, before she continued, "Perhaps court is like having a permanent ache in your back or a crick in your neck. You learn to endure it and, if you are lucky, to soldier on as you need to. I think, though, that no matter the technology and the advances made, the wheel of nobility turns slowly."

"It's not that." Ludovic says. "It's." He pauses a moment. "Not suited to my temperament. I'm meant for action and force and getting stuff done. The stuff of courts all complicated games and people trying to manipulate you and reputation and, well." He gives her a sheepish grin. "I end up in a lot of duels. Augustin was the one who had the head for it. Me I was always a knight. Always will be a knight." He nods at her. "Hope you're right. Got enough politics to deal with at home without trying to play the game with the whole kingdom." He gives her a quick grin. "Good thing I've no dreams of promotions huh?"

"Now, take into consideration, that most of my political negotiations have been with tradesman and other guilds, but it seems to me, that politics is simply another battle to be won. And like learning to use a blade, or an axe, or shield, learning how to speak well and make your influence felt is simply another weapon you learn to wield. Your tactics become, rather than knowing when to strike and when to yield, it becomes knowing when to press advantages and when to withdraw. Thankfully, you do have a county to administer and one that requires your constant presence. That seems a good enough excuse not to visit court more often than you need to."

Ludovic just chuckles. "Don't find that works so well, treating it like a battlefield." He looks at her. "Truth is I'm not as vital as most people would think. I mean, I shouldn't stay away for long, but its not like I don't have capable people. Heck, even when I'm in the castle, I've not as much power as you'd think. You know, my mother told the head housekeeper to use tallow candles once. She just wanted them used in the hallways and stuff." He gives her a grin. "Next thing you know one of the chandeliers is dripping tallow fat onto a visiting baron. Mother changed her mind about the beeswax pretty soon after that." He chuckles. "And I learned that you never, ever, upset your housekeepers. Heck. She's probably the most powerful commoner in the county."

Alia looked away, watching a shadowed hand putting out a lantern, before the residents of the shop turned in for the evening, "Being the Lord of a land has never been about being the most powerful person in the land. Everyone who works in a household and in a holding is a master of something. Some of those areas of mastery are more important than others, true, but all of them have their merit. A Lord who does not know how to delegate the tasks necessary to run a holding is a terrible Lord. It is what you represent that is most important to the people of Hellmouth. Not the absolute power that you wield."

Ludovic nods at her. "Yeah. But if you're nothing but a figurehead you're not much use for anything neither. Luckily most of the useless nobles have exceptional stewards."

Alia paused, drawing their ramble to a halt, "Ludovic, I sometimes wonder if you purposefully make an attempt to misunderstand or misinterpret everything that I say to you. At no point in that comment, did I imply that the place of any Lord was to be nothing more than a figurehead."

Ludovic gives her a cheeky grin. "You were trying to make me think on the fact I'm actually not doing a bad job of it. I know."

"No," Alia replied, "What I was attempting to say, is that being the Lord of a place is being the person in whom the people of that place put their trust. The common man or woman does not care if you are the one directing the actions of each and every member of a household, the one making trade agreements, the one leading every battle, or winning every victory. What they care about is seeing in you, the best that they can be. A lord is nothing more or less than the person that the people of a place look to to know what it is to hope for better and to work as one people to make those hopes a reality. And when you take up that mantle, you become a lodestone, a rudder for their hopes their dreams, their aspirations. That is why they will never eliminate dukes, or nobility, and why technology will not replace simple human engagement. Because people need that guidance to make them better than they were and everything they could be."

Ludovic lets his grin settle into something more appropriate. "Those were some real pretty words Alia." He shifts the weight of his warhammer up into the cradle of the arm across from her, so that the hammer end rests against his shoulder. "You know I had nothing in mind when I was talking tonight? But you might have answered it anyway."

Alia flashed a smile, though it was a faint thing, quick and touched with mischief before it faded, as she turned back, tugging lightly at the arm that she still held, to draw Ludovic on with her, "Well, that is why I am a Great Lady, isn't it? The lesser ladies don't use as many fancy words." She gave him a conspiratorial look, "But don't tell any of them that I said that." His question brought a thoughtful sound to her lips, "Well, I didn't, actually. I have never believed that I could gauge your mind. But if it helped you, then you are welcome."

"You'd have to come back to Aequor to claim that title I reckon." Ludovic has a teasing smirk on his lips even as he yields control of their path to the lady. "Tribune." He stops talking for a bit and then asks her. "Did you get all the kaffe and spices you needed?"

"Perhaps one day, in time." Alia was not leading them astray, only continuing back along the path back into the main town, "But not yet. Your Excellency." She was happy to walk in silence, glancing back over at the question, "I did. And I bargained for some good stock of other foodstuffs. So the business of the empire will be soon concluded, as soon as I can arrange for the supplies to be carried back to Candeo. I have been less successful in my personal acquisitions, but I am told that the supplies I need should arrive within the next day or so. Barring unforeseen disruptions in airship service."

"Don't buy to much." Ludovic reminds her. "Didn't give you the permission I did so you could supply the armies. Kaffe's one thing. I ain't stupid enough to think I can stop you filling your saddlebags every time you go over the border. But that border is still closed for a reason. No point trying to make me change my mind neither. I'd need bigger concessions than you can give me."

"I am not attempting to supply an army, Ludovic. But I have six men to support, and myself as well. When I am in the field with them, their provisioning is my responsibility. Same as it is for you, when you take members of your household away from Hellmouth. And since I do not have an unlimited budget, it is cheaper for me to buy provisions and allow them to handle feeding themselves, and sharing meals with them when I can, than to spend money on eating every meal in an inn. And my personal supplies are for my trade." Alia turned the corner of the lane, the center of town coming into view, "I can give you no concessions, nor is it my place to ask you for them."

"Forget you are about the only one that doesn't hear me say something like that and just respond with stuff about how stupid and stubborn i'm being." Ludovic looks almost guilty. "Just. Been feeling like everyone's conveniently forgot about it lately. Needed saying. Just, maybe right now wasn't the right time." A sheepish smile. "So I'll apologise again."

"Why would I? You are the Lord of Hellmouth, it is for you to decide what is and is not right for your county. Whatever side of the debate we might fall on, and I imagine we would mostly likely not agree, in the end, it is your land and your decision. If I expect good faith from you, I must give good faith in return. And so I have tried to do, and in so doing, leave larger discussions of changes in how the Empire and Aequor interact to those who are better suited to it." Alia free a hand, waving away the apology, "Our acquaintance, like many things, is a work in progress, it will have its ups and downs."

"Don't mind people trying to reason with me." Ludovic says. "Long as they understand I'm still gonna make my own decision. Hell I don't even know exactly what I'd need to change the situation there. Know its not one I wanted." He shrugs his shoulders. "But don't see how I've any other path open to me neither. Cept subjugation." He looks at her. "I reckon you might have ideas and I'm happy to hear em. Just, you know." he gives her a quick grin. "Don't be surprised if I get a lil angry." A glance to her. "Don't really think that should be tonight though. Not unless you've plans for us to take drinks up to my rooms."

"My voice has little weight, and I have no power to offer or withdraw anything from that table. I command a keep and oversee my alchemists. I am content with that. Because at the end of the day, just as you will do what you will do, so will the Empire and I have no power to influence them either." Alia settled the hand she had been gesticulating with back on Ludovic's arm, "I am quite content with you as you are. It is too late in the day for anger and arguments. Drinks, however, I think I could manage. But not drunk arguments. Those never end well."

"I know you've no power to negotiate Alia. I'm not offering you that anyway." Ludovic replies. "What I'm saying is that if you think my decision was wrong, what I'm doing is wrong, then I'm willing to sit down and listen to why." He chuckles at the drunk arguments thing. "I always thought drunk arguments were when I shone brightest." he grins at her. "Drink mostly just makes more more.. expressive. I ain't an angry drunk. By which I mean I ain't the sort of man who gets a belly full of liquor and has to break things."

"Perhaps, but as you said, not tonight. We've had such a pleasant evening, I would rather not risk it ending on a bad note." A quick smile, as they'd almost reached the end of the journey back, "Though I will admit, I find the idea of watching you manage the world a bit drunk rather intriguing. It would do you good to allow yourself that chance to be expressive."

"It's hard." Ludovic admits. "Most the time I start to relax and I see the way Imogen would look at me with fear and I just dont feel much like it anymore." He hesitates and adds. "From well before I ever actually did anything to deserve it."

"Dovi, in case you hadn't noticed, I am not Imogen, nor, so far as I know, is she anywhere in the kingdom." Alia looked over, her expression curious, "You said it did not do to live in the last and forget to live in the present. But is that not what you are doing now? Judging by the past rather than looking at every situation through its own merits?"

"I know." Ludovic tells her. "And its not that I think you're her. Just that I never noticed that my behaviour was frightening to people before. Really don't like seeing that look in someones eyes. Specially not someone who should trust me. Besides. I don't think anyone really misses me being so" He fishes for the word. "Loud."

"If you had not noticed such a response of fear before, perhaps that was because there was none, and she simply could not cope with your personality. I've certainly never felt afraid of you, and I have seen you quite angry. You also do not strike me as a man who goes through the world entirely ignorant of how he comes across to the people he encounters. Your own words have borne out that you are, in fact quite well aware of the responses you engender in others." Alia pauses, briefly, as they arrived at the inn door, "Will it be drinks then?"

"I guess your right." Ludovic says. "I mean I always knew I could be kinda overbearing. Just never thought anyone would mistake my being bluster for my being violent. I mean, yeah, I can be too physical but that's just cos I'm a clumsy oaf who doesn't always remember his own strength." He automatically steps over a cat parked just inside the doorway without breaking step. "It was the thing that broke me I think. When she made it clear, in the gardens of Rhone, that I'd bullied her into marriage. I just didn't know how to fix that." he opens the door to his suite and looks to Alia. "Over now, I know. I'll get over it. I'm good at getting over stuff." A flicker of a smile. "Shall we start now?" he moves to the center of the room, throws his arms out and declares "DRINKS!" in the sort of voice suited more to a busy tap room or battlefield than it is to a demure sitting room filled with fresh roses.

"Are you? I've never noticed you to be. Large enough, and yes, occasionally, I suppose you could be seen as overbearing. Hard-headed even, but I don't think the person you're describing is the person I've seen, so I cannot personally vouch for or deny that characterization." Alia was not quite as nimble and sidestepped the cat instead, as they made their way through the inn, the two guards peeling off to settle outside the door. "I do not know much about the situation of your marriage, so perhaps I will reserve judgment on that point until I know more, if I ever do." One they'd stepped inside the room, Alia slipped her arm free, making her way towards the fireplace, kneeling down before the banked flames. The sound of the call for drinks was met with amusement, Alia pantomiming raising her hands to her ears. "I think we shall."

"Come with us." Ludovic says to the guards. "Gonna teach you all some drinking games and if we aren't safe here. Where are we safe? Come. Come." He hustles one of the guards into the room before gesturing at the other one. "Aha. My favorite Knight." This being the sleepy looking horned knight who turned up at a side doorway in response to his volume. "Six Horse Tumble. It starts like this.." And he starts to explain the rules of this drinking game, gesturing as he does so.

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