(1874-11-21) A Close Shave
A Close Shave
Summary: Ludovic looses a part of himself
Date: 12/12/2018
Related: The morning after Sleep Walking
NPCs: None
Ludovic  Ivo  Alia  

Somewhere on the trail
A campsite

After staying quiet and fairly stationary wrapped in his cloak by the fire for the remainder of the night Ludovic was one of the first to awake, if not the actual first. He gets up from the piled garments, rubbing at his arms, and pulls his cote on over his shirt and pants. He tosses a few new logs onto the fire, shoves a pot of water close enough to heat and then heads on over to start tending to the tethered horses. A few strokes of brush later and he starts muttering to his chestnut. "I was the rude one? How’s that even work?" The horse doesn't give him any answer beyond swivelling an ear in his direction.

Ivo didn't sleep much. There's just something about being told that vampires, and maybe other monsters, will single you out if encountered that is inconducive to rest. He's weary as he pushes himself to his feet, pouring a mug of cold water over his head to wake himself up a bit before wiping his face and huddling in his cloak awhile. Staring at the flames for a few minutes it eventually dawns on him that he has travelling companions, and seeing Myrana still dead to the world he looks around for Ludovic. Seeing him over by the horses he stands once more and heads over, he has his own beast to mind after all.

Ludovic moves across to check Myrana's mount at about the same time as Ivo comes across. He stops grumbling for a moment to look at the other man. "So, what was so urgent last night that you felt the need to waste powder?"

"She was heading for the horses," Ivo replies tiredly, lifting one hand to massage the bridge of his nose again, "it's best to try and coax her back to bed as I said, but sometimes that doesn't work." Starting to attend to his horse he tries to get his brain in gear enough to tell him if that's enough information to keep Ludovic happy, or if he's going to need to say more. "I wouldn't call it a waste though, it achieved its aim."

"If your aim was telling everyone within five miles where we were, sure." Ludovic sounds surly but it isn't exactly directed anywhere in particular. "You think she woulda worked out how to untie them?" A grunt. "You've known her to do that before?"

"Me personally?" Ivo replies, frowning a little at Ludovic's tone, "no, but people in that state can do just about anything they can when they're awake." He does a quick look round to make sure there's no one else present then says quietly but firmly, "anything. Open doors, cook food, have conversations… the list goes on." Glancing to Myrana he continues, "I don't know how far she would go if I tried to stop her without waking her, so I woke her. And I'd do it again if I had to. There are certain.. things.. you don't risk." Turning back to his horse his hopes that’s struck the right balance between not actually saying anything, but implying it enough, he's really not awake enough for this right now.

Ludovic sighs and for a minute or two just focuses on the horse. He was never going to be quiet long. "Suppose she's not exactly a safe one to startle." is conceded. "For treading on me; do you think I go with blackmail or just" He gives Ivo a sideways glance. "sit on her?"

"No," Ivo agrees with relief, "she's not." Resting his head against the horse's neck he follows Ludovic's lead and works to prepare the animal for the day ahead, but he stops still at the mention of sitting on Myrana. Turning slowly to face the viscount he can't quite hide the faint hints of amusement on his features. "She's heir to my house, and less than a hundred foot away. Do you really expect me to answer that out loud? She might be asleep, but she'll know…"

"Sitting on her it is." Ludovic gives Ivo a flash of a smile as he reaches up to give the horse a poll rub. "Wasn't asleep you know." He purposefully doesn't look back to Ivo. "Was trying to be. But I wasn’t."

Ivo stops still a moment as that last comment registers. Squaring his shoulders a fraction he then resumes brushing the horse and tries to work out just how much was overheard. "You'll know then," he says as he focuses on the horse, "that she asked me not to let you sit on her. Abd as I already mentioned, she's heir to my house, so I'm bond by loyalty to her father to try and stop you should you attempt it." Because that's the most important thing she asked last night. That right there. Nothing else.

And just like that Ludovic gives up on being surly in favour of a low chuckle. "Would you shoot me if I tried?" His question has an undertone of amusement rather than challenge. "Cos I'm not sure there’s any other way to stop me." He goes back to saddling the horse, murmuring a few words under his breath to the animal as he does so.

"I'd try and avoid hitting anything vital," Ivo replies with a deadpan innocence, "maybe just a leg, or an arm…" He seems relieved at Ludovic's reply though, and a certain amount of tension eases from him. Perhaps they got away with it after all? "Mind you, I'm sure she'd have a good go at making it difficult for you even without my help, I might just get to enjoy watching."

"She would." Ludovic agrees with another chuckle. "Likely I'd end up with a pair of black eyes to go with my tortured face. So. Since there'll be no sitting. I'll need something else. How’s about a stuff a bramble under this here saddle blanket?" He flips the corner of the blanket up and then drops it, giving the horses hindquarters a rub. "No couldn't do that to you. Gotta be something equal to waking a man up out of a good dream by standing on his beard." He stops, looking like he might drop it for a bit and then says. "Could give her my eye. That might be amusing for a few minutes."

Ivo gives a disapproving look when Ludovic suggests revenge that would affect the horse too, but just shakes his head once that option is removed from consideration. "I don't know," he teases gently, "I mean, you are making this all out to be my cousin's fault, but you must shoulder some of the blame yourself. Had you not grown a beard this would not have been an issue after all?"

Ludovic gives Ivo a surprised look. "It’s my fault she stood on me now? How’s that even work." he lifts a hand to brush at his beard. "This some kind of cunning ploy to make me cut it?"

"I'm just saying," replies Ivo innocently, "that if you didn't have a beard, she wouldn't have trodden on it, and you wouldn't have woken up. It's simple really." He manages to keep a straight face, somehow, but does have to turn to the horse for a few moments once he's finished speaking to hide the amusement on his features. "People are always so quick to blame others, without stopping to think what they could do to prevent such incidents."

"Ahuh." Ludovic says "All my fault." Again a long pause followed by a falsely surly. "So if I set yours on fire will it be my fault or yours?"

Ivo smirks a little and turns back to Ludovic, using one hand to gesture to his own beard. "Mine, as you'll observe, is neatly trimmed, so as to not get in the way of others as they go about their honest, every day, business. I am a conscientious beard wearer, and take time to ensure my facial hair is both presentable, and practical, so as not to cause hazard to those around me." He then uses the same hand to gesture vaguely at Ludovic, "you…"

Ludovic asks a rather flat. "You're saying I need to see a barber?" He turns on Ivo and folds his arms as if genuinely offended. "To my face?"

"I'm saying," Ivo replies with an amused grin, "that I'd rather tell you that, to your face, then help you plot revenge against her. You, you'll just kill me. Drop some rocks from a height, or use that weapon of yours. Her? She'll make it last, she'll be inventive"

"Oh great." Ludovic tries to suppress his own grin. "First you insult my beard and then you tell me a tiny little woman with white hair is scarier than me." If he only knew how true that is. "I'm not sure my ego can take much more of this."
He goes back to his war trained courser and starts saddling him up now that he's finished with Myrana's palfrey. "I've a question." he adds. His glance serious. "The stuff you both said. Are those something I'm supposed to pretend I never heard?"

Ivo is, by now, mostly finished with his own horse as he replies simply, "Yes. Well, a tiny little woman with white hair, and her father, but mostly the tiny little woman with white hair." Straightening the saddle blanket he moves to pick up the saddle itself, but pauses with it under his arm as Ludovic turns the tone serious again. He considers his reply in silence for a moment or two, then says quietly, "it depends. How much did you hear?"

"Didn’t hear anything you said before you came back to the fire." Ludovic says softly. "But after that, yeah, everything." he gives Ivo a long serious look. "You're both air?"

Ivo does not look overly happy at the answer he's given, nor the follow-on question. He doesn't answer for a while, instead turning to put the saddle on his horse and secures it in silence. Once that's done though he does turn back to Ludovic, he even walks the few paces between them so his voice doesn't have to carry. "You said," he replies seriously, but not accusatory, "that anyone who'd kept themselves hidden this long should continue to do so, so what does it matter who is or isn't what?"

Ludovic looks across at Ivo. "Don’t remember saying that." he tells him. "But it’s alright. We don't have to talk about it." He lifts his saddle bags onto the back of his horse and then reaches inside to remove a few things. "Gonna put some Kaffe in the pot. Can't promise it will be any good." He gives Ivo a quick grin. "Been told it’s not supposed to be like syrup." And with that word he moves back to the campfire and starts pouring some of the now-hot water off for the kaffe. Faith comes over to him briefly, gets an ear-rub and then trots off to examine the interesting smells off in the distance.

Alia never went anywhere without an entourage. That was simply the way things were. And so, any chance of sneaking up on Ludovic, with or without a party was really not anything that was going to be remotely possible. Still, there was something impish in Alia's expression, as she and her guard came up through some cover and to a place where they could see the small party still encamped in the morning. Alia slipped down from her horse, handing off the reins as she stepped through the trees. A sharp whistle broke the air, the sort one would use to call an animal perhaps. A dog or an Elementi. Whether Faith would sense her proximity or not, and would then come to greet her, well, she didn't know, but she made the attempt.

And that is exactly where Faith was going. Apparently, he considers Alia a friend.

Finished with his own horse Ivo moves to double check Myrana's. It's not that he doubts Ludovic's work, but it gives him a bit of time on his own to get his head together. He's just finishing up as that whistle breaks the quiet and sets the adrenalin pumping. Cursing himself for having been careless enough to leave his pistols where he slept he instinctively drops down to get a view under his own horse, drawing his main gauche. Spotting faith heading in the direction of the noise he switches to a crouch, then moves along the treeline a short way, attempting to work out if he's better off making a break for his other weapons, or keeping hidden.

Ludovic stands and turns in the direction of the visitors, a hand lifting to shade his eyes. It doesn't take him long to realise its imperials and that odds are Alia's along with them. "Don't have enough Kaffe for all of you." He calls out in the language of Aequor. "But you're all welcome to come share our fire."

Clearly, whatever danger might or might not be in the offing, Faith did not feel it. Instead, he cast a glance towards Ludovic, as if the elementi were trying to convey something to his master, before he took off towards the trees, bounding strides taking him towards Alia in record time, as she slipped out from beneath the cover. He at least had manners enough not to bowl her over, but she got a good head bump for her troubles, as he came upon her and she kneeled to offer her own greeting by way of ear scratches. "Yes, I missed you too."
The rest of the party, Alia's usual half dozen guards came out after, one of them leading her horse, another an animal loaded down with provisions. They all made their way on towards where Ludovic and Ivo's party was situated. "The fire would be welcome. We have our own provisions we can offer." That, spoken by the lead rider, who's Common was good, though, as with most imperials, heavily accented.

With Ludovic greeting the new arrivals, Ivo sheaths his blade and ducks out from the tress once more. Useful timing all things told. Who know Imperials could be such a handy distraction? Making his way back to the fire he glances briefly to his cousin's sleeping form, but decides it's best to let her rest, given the antics of the night. Moving closer to the d'Korbina so there's room for the soldiers at the fire he flicks the other man a brief look, then turns back to Alia, tilting his head in polite greeting. "Lady d'Meloni, the morning finds you well I trust?"

With typical irreverence Ludovic greets the group by pushing a cup of kaffe into the hands of Alia and her commander and going right into talking. "Ivo says I need to trim my beard to prevent any more unfortunate accidents. I'm truly horrified by this. So I’m relying on you to tell him what a fool he's being."

The soldiers, now dismounting, move to rummage in their packs and offer what breakfast provisions they have, including a refill of kaffe, carefully wrapped and offered over in the way of a housewarming gift. Alia, looking away from Faith, skims, for the moment, Ludovic as Ivo steps into the clearing, "I am well enough. But I am only Alia here. Or Tribune, though we are hardly in such circumstances as you would need to use that title." She turned briefly, dismissing the men to take their break by the fire, before she looked back to Ludovic, "I think I might rather like you with a bit of a shorter beard. I admit…it is not the same as your eyebrows, but if you'd like, I can see what I can do about…trimming it for you."

"He left it lying around in the floor," Ivo explains to Alia, "and is now acting all surprised that things happened to it." He's less easy at being outnumbered by the Imperials, but he is at least making an effort to be hospitable and polite. Flipping one side of his blue cloak over his shoulder so he has a free arm to take a mug of kaffe he watches the troops a moment, until he's satisfied that breakfast is indeed what’s on their mind, then ignores them in favour of the conversation. "See," he says to Ludovic, looking vindicated and gesturing to his own chin once more, "neatly trimmed is the way forwards. You really should try it. You'll get far fewer birds nesting in there too."

For a moment there Ludovic actually looks as if he's been knocked off balance by Alia's offer but Ludovic being Ludovic he brushes it aside within moments and is already asking. "Are you saying my eyebrows need trimming too?" He grumbles under his breath and then sits down. "Fine. Fine. Ivo. Give her some scissors."

Alia made a face, looking, momentarily, put out, as Ludovic called for scissors. "That is so very common. Scissors. I could do it in a snap otherwise." Indeed, she snapped her fingers, a spark of flame flashing there for a moment, flickering out as she turned to find a space to sit on, setting herself facing Ludovic, as she reached into the bag she always wore at her side to retrieve a handkerchief. "But I suppose your traveling companions would complain about the smell." She did flash a smile, "No, your eyebrows are fine. I just recall once discussing with you the shock value of having disappearing eyebrows."

Ivo doesn't have any scissors on him but it doesn't take him long to rustle some up from the saddlebags and present them to the tribune. He's even back in time to see the trick with the fiery fingers, which results in a raised eyebrow that he can't quite contain. Passing the scissors over he takes a seat as well, cupping the kaffe mug in his hand and looking to Ludovic. "I suspect there's less chance of having your eyebrows stood on," he offers helpfully, "but I'm sure between us we could sort something if you're worried."

Ludovic smirks at Ivo's eyebrow comment before giving Alia a sideways look. "Aint no way to burn my face off that leaves me with a trimmed beard Alia. But,.. if it don’t need doing.." He moves as if he's going to take back the offer. "Not like I've ever had any complaints before. Not really."

"Oh, it wouldn't do to burn your face off, Dovi. It is quite a fine face." Alia reached out, tucking the handkerchief in close to Ludovic's neck, to save his skin from ending up covered in itchy trimmed hair. The scissors she accepted with a smile, and a 'thank you," before she turned to study the Viscount seated across from her. "I think I have an idea for what I might like. Trust me, Dovi?" Faith, seeing Alia with, well, they were scissors, but still a pointy thing near Ludovic, and also being a curious sort, came over to sit nearly in the space between them. Alia, glancing over at the elementi offered, "Don't worry, Faith, you're not next." And then to Ivo, "Nor you. Sit if you like, I shouldn't be long."

Ivo stokes his own, neatly trimmed bread, and offers Alia a quick smile, "it's fine. Those of us from downriver are actually taught how to tend to such things ourselves." It's a dig aimed entirely at Ludovic rather than the Imperials, "it's just these wild, mountain people who lack the understanding of the trappings of polite society." As she sets to work he glances up for a moment, half expecting to see rocks falling towards him, but when the sky seems clear he asks, "so, what brings you to our little camp? There's no trouble about I hope?"

"Uh." Ludovic is studying Alia's face now. "Think it’s a bit late to worry about trust now. Besides. I can't take it back now without looking the coward, can I? Just remember that if you force me to shave I'm going to hassle you until it grows back." He glances to Ivo. "Should I be running?" He gives a low chuckle. "My beards perfectly clean and polite thank you." He tries to sink down in his seat enough for Alia to easily reach "Told you that gunshot would draw attention."

"Well, perhaps there are, Lord D'Armaz, but there is also something to be said for rugged and windblown. And no, there's no trouble. I was on my way to make a delivery to a customer in Hellmouth." Alia, flashing a smile as Ludovic scrunched himself down to be closer to her level, began to work. Quickly, neatly, shaping, rather than cutting. Only a small trim, it was true. "It isn't cowardly not to trust a woman with scissors." Her laughter was a bright thing, before she got back to work, "A gunshot? I have to say I had not heard such a thing. Not while I was traveling, at least."

"I wouldn't if I were you," Ivo replies light heartedly to Ludovic, "I mean, she's got both the fire trick and the scissors now. You're too late, you'll just have to live with the consequences of your actions." He rolls his eyes a little as the shot is mentioned, then turns to Alia to explain. "I fired one of my pistols last night," all true so far, "just a spot of target practice," significantly less true, "but now he's sure I've attracted the attention of anyone and everyone in a hundred-mile radius," true but with added exaggeration. "If you didn't hear it though then I suspect we'll be fine." Ludovic gets a quick 'see, told you' look and then he's back to drinking his kaffe again.

Ludovic half closes his eyes as Alia works thus conveniently missing the look Ivo tosses at him. "You make me sound like some kind of wild d'Roux instead of from a civilised cosmopolitan house that just happens to have its main Keep in a mountain." He starts to sigh deeply but realises about half way through that that much movement is probably a bad idea and stops it. "I'm afraid." he claims. "What if I end up with one of those silly little chin tufts."

"Well, to be fair, I was born in about as rugged," some people would call it backwater, "A part of Hellmouth as you could ask for. So perhaps my childhood there in the wilds has coloured my opinion of what is and isn't attractive." Alia, true to her work, did not take long, and had soon set down the scissors, and was going about what little needed to be done to divest Ludovic of his now orphaned beard hairs, "I would never leave you looking like a…" Alia shook her head, probably thinking better of what she might have been about to say. "I certainly did not get a report of gunshots at Candeo. But that is far from here, and it is easy to mistake a distant gunshot from a snap of branch or something else."

"You mean you're not?" Ivo replies with amusement, "well, they say you learn something new every day." Taking a moment to survey Alia's work he offers helpfully to Ludovic, "well, I guess you'd have to have it cope with it manfully, or shave it off completely and cope with having a cold chin for a while." Alia herself gets a nod though, "good. I did not think it'd cause issue, it was a single shot after all. A prolonged exchange of fire, now that would have been another matter." Then, back to Ludovic, "there now, that’s much better. No more dragging it through your soup, nor leaving it carelessly lying around on the floor. I'm sure you feel better already."

Ludovic lifts a hand to check his beard hasn’t vanished. "Course I didn't really mean anyone had noticed the shot. I mean. If we'd have got bad company from it we'd be dead by now." He tosses Ivo a grin and strokes his new beard again. "Still don’t see how it’s my fault if a beard attached to my face gets stepped on." Moving to shift topics a bit he looks to Alia "Did you work out how to make your sword flame yet? I bet Ivo here would be as interested to see it as I am."

Alia brushed away the last of the hairs, her hands surprisingly gentle, before she pulled off the handkerchief and, after shaking it out, refolded it and tucked it back into her bag. "I have. It has taken me quite a long while. Darius had me begin with a coin. I had to master that first, before I could work on anything larger." She reached into a pocket sewn into her riding skirts, pulling out a coin, turning it so it lay in the palm of her hand. It shone bright, and visually, at least, appeared to be made of lightsilver. She manipulated the coin onto the back of her hand, walking it along her knuckles. On the second pass, the coin ignited into flame, the fire wrapped around the coin like a halo, seeming not to bother Alia's skin at all.

Finishing his kaffe Ivo shakes his head gently at Ludovic, "like I said, you carelessly left it lying around on the ground. What did you expect to happen?" Pushing himself to his feet again he looks to be about to walk off, but stays as the coin is brought out, watching the magic that's done with quite intent an interest. "Very impressive," he says quietly, eyes intent on the coin before he pulls them away and glances towards Myrana. "I should go check on my cousin though, see if she's awake and wanting breakfast. I'll let her know we have company though, if she is." And with that he sets the now empty mug down, and heads back towards the bundle that's wrapped up in Myrana's cloak.

Ludovic holds his hand out for the coin, his interest in the item throwing common sense out the window. "Can I?" He flicks his gaze back up to Alia's face, still looking as if he's trying to work something out and then pushes up to his feet. He nods to Ivo "I for one am eager to get back. I've been dreaming of a hot bath for a couple of days now." He looks to Alia. "I've got something planned for the next month or so that is likely to put slaves on your doorstep. Well.. Paras' doorstep. Can’t imagine any will find their way to Candeo. Still. You might want to let your Princeps know he wants to get in some extra supplies." A beat and he says "Might be persuaded to let you come along. If you can convince me you can keep up."

"It was good to see you again, Lord D'Armaz." Alia did not stop Ivo from wandering back toward the camp, her hand stopping the coin walking, the flame winking out as she palmed it, before she offered it to Ludovic." There was something deferential in how she handled it, as though she did not like to not have it on her person. It was, by its weight, actually lightsilver, and not simply coated. "It was a gift, like my gladius." She still wore the lightsilver and rose gold weapon Darius had given her the night the Qatunax were expelled from Candeo. "I will let the him know and see how he wishes to have the stewards manage the supplies. As for coming along. I will have to see if I can be released from my duties first and foremost."

"Ah. Well you probably wouldn’t want to anyway." Ludovic admits as he tests the weight and feel of the coin and finding nothing useful hands it back. "It won’t be pleasant. Lots of riding, cold nights and unhappy memories." He pauses for a long moment and then says "Thanks for the beard trim Alia. You handle the fire? Looks like we're ready to be off."

Alia accepted the coin, tucking it back into her pocket, "If you say so, Ludovic." She clearly did not seem inclined to get into a discussion about it, as the small party seemed on their way to departing. "Yes, we will handle things here. Safe journeys. And you are welcome." Alia rose from where she had been sitting, moving to return to her men, who were resting idle. She did pause, though, before she left to bid Faith his own farewell. "Take care of him, Faith."

Shortly After

Ludovic follows Ivo to the horses, tosses his heavy fur cloak over the saddle and puts his axe in the saddle holster besides the one that holds his musket before mounting with the ease of long familiarity. There’s a thoughtful look on his face that only drops when Ivo's also mounted and they have walked far enough away that the fire isn’t really visible. "You know." he pretty much murmurs. "For a moment there I could have sworn she was flirting with me."

Once he'd left the conversation between Ludovic and Alia, Ivo had pretty much kept himself to himself, bar checking on Myrana. With his gear either on his person or stowed he mounts up too, expression inscrutable as they start to move. He's looking ahead at the path they're to take, but it wouldn't take much to notice that his attention is elsewhere, and it's not until Ludovic speaks to him that he actually seems to snap his focus back onto the here and now. "Hmm," he replies, turning to the viscount, "sorry, what did you say?"

Ludovic turns his head to look at Ivo, trying to decide if there’s need to talk about something far more serious than the subject he raised. "I said that I thought the Lady Tribune there was flirting with me."

Ivo looks confused for just a moment, then turns to look over his shoulder in the direction of the Imperials. "What? Because she said there was something about a rugged look then offered to burn your face off?" Turning back he shakes his head a little, "that thing with the coin, that might be an attempt to get you to go across, but I wouldn't call it flirting in the way you mean. Although," he drops quiet again for a moment as he considers, "it is a frightful coincidence that they just happened upon our camp like that."

"Not that part but" Ludovic seems almost relieved. "that’s good. Wasn't sure." He lets the silence fall and then looks back at Ivo when he spoke again. "Not really. This here’s going to end up the trade road between Steven's pass and Candeo. Gonna be good for d'Bartone if it takes off. That’s for sure."
He pauses and then says "I've been invited to defect you know. Offered to be adopted into one of the richest houses even."

"If you give up the claim to Candeo presumably," Ivo replies, "or does d'Bartone get lucky either way?" He doesn't really know much about them as a house, so it's polite interest more than any deep thirst for knowledge. At the talk of defection he nods once, "you said. I can see why they would make it enticing. The land they'd get, your talents.. they'd be fools not to at least put feelers out and see if you could be tempted. Is lady d'Meloni upset you turned them down?"

"The northern parts of the county, including Steven's pass, all belong to d'Bartone." Ludovic tells Ivo. "He's my vassal. The only one that survived. We had such rights over four houses before this happened. Including Alia's d'Meloni. So, we both gain if the pass starts seeing imperial trade again, but its d'bartone's pockets who'd see most of the tolls."
He nods at the point of what they'd get. "To be honest I think they expect me to kneel and give them everything with absolutely no right to have any of it back. At one point there were noises about me becoming the governor of Hellsmouth province but they also made it real clear that I’d have no real rights to keep it, or be given it, or anything. Was a big mistake. I mean. I could have dealt with the idea of losing the rest of Hellsmouth in order to make things better for the people - but I am not going to be the d'Korbina who gives up Mount Hades." Mount Hades is the mountain that the castle, Daemon's Hall, is built inside. "If they'd just promised me that. I don't know that I’d have said no."
Ludovic adds. "And the thing about being adopted into another house? Why would I think that was a good thing? I care about d'Korbina. Not me."

"Which house held Candeo?" Ivo asks, "d'Meloni?" It would make a weird sort of sense, but he's not sure the world works quiet so neatly, "or d'Bartone?" As he waits for an answer he turns in his saddle slightly to access one of the saddlebags, withdrawing from it one of his wineskins and taking a moderate swig. "So your price would be keeping your claim to your house and lands," he says thoughtfully, looking back to Ludovic with a slight tilt to his head. "It's probably a good thing I'm not one of the Queen's knights anymore, or I might have to report that." He shrugs it off though, turning back to the road ahead, "do you think they'll wait the winter out before making their next move?"

"d'Mallori." Ludovic answers easily enough. "A barony that included both Paras and Candeo. Not that it was Candeo then. d'Meloni held the pass at the far east beyond which was imperial territory. The other House we held, d'Korbina that is. That line faded away during the 30 year war and we'd not found a family worthy of holding the title yet. For the best I suppose." He looks to Ivo. "Part of my price would be the guarantee that my family, who were originally imperial, would be guaranteed to keep the lands that they were once guaranteed by the imperials, yes. We've held that mountain for a hundred years. There’s no scenario where I give it up. None. That assumes I took the whole county with me. If it was just me? Well. All I am is a fighting man. I'm not worth that much without my family and lands behind me." He looks at Ivo when he talks about having to report it and shrugs at him. "You're free to tell them. This happened months ago and yet, I'm still here. Besides, I'm planning to ask the King to either release me from my oaths or guarantee protection from the inquisition - so they'll know about it sooner or later. It’s only the oath of fealty that has held me. The moment they stop providing me with enough that I can't claim I’ve been abandoned. That’s the day I'm free to do what’s best for my people." As for the last question he simply asks "The Qatunax or the Imperials?"

"d'Mallori," Ivo repeats, it's a name he's heard before on this trip, and should probably have remembered. Taking another swig of his wine he listens while still watching ahead. "If I had a serious concern that you would make such a move, then I would" he states simply, "were I, or others, unable to persuade you otherwise. Not, that I know if my voice would carry any weight there anymore, but it'd be my duty to the oath I once swore." You can force a man out of the Cavaliers, but you can't force the Cavalier out of a man it seems. There's a frown at the talk of speaking to the king though, and he draws his horse to a stop to look at Ludovic closely. "You found your fifth option then? To out yourself to the King and hope he takes your side against the Church." He can't quite seem to process it as a concept for a moment, and the concern on his features grows. "If you planned to live the rest of your time in Lyionesse then perhaps there might be something to it, but how do you expect him to keep them from you all the way out here? They might not be able to publicly burn you, but they'll still come. Or are you actually trying cut yourself off, so you can claim abandonment?" He's wary again now, unsure of all the implications of what's just been said, but not really likely most of them. As such the final question comes as something of a relief and he shrugs, "I meant the Imperials, you said the Qatunax were fighting amongst themselves, but either really."

"yeah. You said to find another option." Ludovic tells Ivo. "And that’s the one I found. Worst case scenario the king hands me over to the inquisition. That’s the only one I'm really worried about. I know too much to be left to the torture. We all know that much as I’d try, everyone talks." He looks back at Ivo. "I don't really expect him to be able to stop them from arresting me. Maybe not even stop them from executing me. What I do expect him to be able to do is interfere in a purge." He shakes his head. "If he won’t give me some sort of document to wave at the inquisition demanding his involvement in any trial, or he won’t give me some sort of protection, then all I want is to be released from my oaths to him. My cousin will take over d'Korbina and they'll still be safe. I’m not so important to the efforts here that the defensive lines I’ve put into place will collapse just because my cousin is in charge instead of me." He shakes his head at the Imperial question. "I don’t think the Imperials will actually attack what’s left of Hellsmouth. I know they would win if they did, they have more than three times the men I do, but it would cost them too much for too little gain. As for a winter campaign. I think they have supply problems. So I don’t think they can."

"It's.." Ivo starts, still clearly trying to get his head round what he's just heard, "it's a bold option, I'll give you that. And it's not as if one to four were particularly enticing." He falls silent again, thinking, then glances over to his cousin. "Have you told her yet?" he asks, "I'm sure she'll have her own opinions on it," options he'd like to discuss with her, but he respects Ludovic enough to let him broach the idea first. For a relaxing jaunt to the hills this trip has added an awful lot of weight to his shoulders, and it's starting to show as he takes another mouthful of wine. "I wish I could give you insight into the Royal Household's private opinions on your talents, rather than merely that which they show outwardly, and to the Church, but it's been too long, it was all too new and unknown back then." Nudging his horse back into motion he nods to the remark about the Imperial's supply issues, "there is that at least then. Spring will bring what it will, but let us hope for a rest, at least for a little while."

"I'll try and tell him in private." Ludovic adds. "Know better than to just blurt it out in the middle of court. I mean I know that it could help me to bring it up for everyone but I think I’m much more likely to get an agreement if all that it involves is a promise to act if it’s necessary rather than some public announcement that they will protect a sorcerer." He gives Ivo a wry look. "Yeah. I know that it’s a pretty awful option. I'm aware Ivo. I'm aware it’s a big gamble. I'm just hoping they respect me enough to offer something that might not even cost them anything. If they won’t do that then, well, I shouldn't be following them anyway should I? Heck they might even appreciate the option to get rid of me before the magic viscount gets out into the public and it all becomes a big huge political thing. Least this way it can be dealt with under the table. And, if I die, least it will only be me that does. Just, you know, someone needs to kill me before I talk and that’s what I'm struggling to work out." He looks at Ivo. "So yeah I guess we should tell Myrana. I know she's got friends who are into weird stuff." He sighs. "In any case it’s better than all the other options. This feeling that I might bring a purge into Hellsmouth if I keep living: The silence is worse than anything they could actually do to me."
He falls quiet, the fact that he's actually starting to feel a bit desperate about the whole inquisition thing painted all over his body language for a few moments until he pulls everything back together under the safety of the imperial question. "I really don’t think the Imperials are a threat to us right now." he admits. "Although they might interfere in my taking and holding territory from the qatunax, they won’t move on Aeqour as she stands right now I don’t think. The problem is that we all know that once the qatunax are gone we'll immediately have to sort out the issue of Paras. That’s when they will be a problem. And that’s why I can't work with them anymore. They will just use every opportunity to strengthen their position against that day if I do."

"And here was me thinking you were intending to just blurt it out in court" Ivo retorts sarcastically, giving Ludovic a look that just says 'really? You felt the need to clarify that?' "It's a stupid idea," he says bluntly, "very little stays private in the palace, even when it's spoken quietly. Someone is always listening." He shakes his head in exasperation, then lifts a hand to squeeze the bridge of his nose for a moment. "Perhaps give it a while, see if there's an option six?" Not that he's sounding hopeful about that mind, not in the slightest, but he can't think of a better argument right now, not with his head already all over the place given their earlier conversation. Gesturing back to his cousin he says, "you can tell her. You might want to tell her you heard us last night too, it'll likely come better from you, less like you're trying to hide it." He'd offer to be there as well, but it's not as if he'll be far away given their travelling arrangements. "Just,.. just break it to her gently, that’s all I advise." He does frown at the comment about why he should or shouldn't follow the crown, but keeps his thoughts on that to himself, preferring instead to tackle to question of outside threats. "SO we're safe until we defeat the Qatunax. Great. I don't suppose there's an easy way to funnel them at each other instead? Let them do all the hard work then just tidy up afterwards?" It's wishful thinking and he knows it, indicating as such by draining the last of the wineskin once he's said it.

"I wasn’t gonna do it tomorrow." Ludovic admits. "But Ivo. This has been hanging over my head since June and it wasn't exactly not an issue before then neither. Do you really think I should just keep putting it off and off until they show up at my gates? Everyone just keeps telling me to wait and wait and wait and it's just getting more and more of a problem. I know I can't just run away. Can't just die. So I just want a way to keep doing what I need to do that won’t kill everything and everyone that I’m actually fighting for in the first place. I'm at the end of my rope Ivo. I've been there for months Ivo and it's pulling me down."
He shakes his head when he's asked if he wants to keep him hearing a secret. "Figured that if she wanted to discuss it, she would've. Figured there was a reason. But I'll tell her if you want."
"I'm not the sort of man capable of making that sort of thing happen." Ludovic admits. " And the Imperials are far superior to me in politicing and the like. My honour does me no favours in dealing with them. That was kinda my hope though - that the qatunax and imperials would grind each other apart until only fragments remain. Now though, I dunno. I'm starting to wonder if I did wrong by cancelling our agreement to work together after Candeo. Starting to wonder if it was my pride that made me angry instead of being right."
He sighs and then says "When we get home my plan is to take men and take them east. We'll be fast and light, avoid the warriors where we can, and burn the villages. It's the sort of fighting I'm best at and I think it’s the best way I can help those who are still slaves - even if it’s going to hurt my heart to burn Hellsmouth like that."

"I think she'd rather hear it now then find out later," Ivo states seriously, "she might not at the time mind, but in the long run. There's bits I'd have to tell her anyway, so best she gets it all in one go, then is left in uncertainty about it." He looks away again, angry at himself for not having been more careful with the conversation the night before, and distracting himself by stowing the wineskin again. "Beyond that?" he shrugs, "I'm not going to tell you what you should or shouldn't do. It's your decision, your call, just.. just.. Oh fuck it, I don't know. I don't know about the King, and I don't know about the Imperials either. Another reason to talk to my cousin perhaps, she is much better with these sorts of things." His frustration is growing, and it's not helped by his tiredness, but he seems to sense the danger and reels it in with a few calming breaths. "I'm sorry, but I just don't know what to advise."

"Yeah." Ludovic says softly. "It’s a damn shitty place to end up in." He goes quiet and then gives Ivo a smile that suggests he's trying to break the mood. "But you gotta remember. I don’t think there’s any prison that can actually hold a stone sorcerer who doesn't feel like staying put."

"How about a ship," Ivo says bluntly, "given what you've said in the past it'd be my first pick. Surround you with wood and water. They can be resupplied by boats easily enough so as not to touch land for years." He's still looking at the road, not really wanting to think on how easy that riddle was to solve. "Besides, I'm fairly sure they've had people thinking about that sort of thing for the best part of a decade. They'll have solutions, and I bet they've got lore books on it too."

"Ivo." Ludovic says "I don't know what sort you are. But would you honestly consider being deprived from your element, for years, to be any kind of solution?" He gives Ivo a serious look that turns gentler. "And what would even be the point? Hiding in some corner somewhere and cutting myself off from the world - I'd be even more useless than if I'd died. Heck I wouldn't even make a good sailor."

Ivo looks across to Ludovic in silence for a moment, then realises that something has been missed in translation and explains. "No, as a prison for a stone sorcerer, that's what I'd do. It's not what I'd do if I was you, it's what I'd do if I was them and needed to keep you contained." He sighs, then looks away again, ashamed at having gone through the thought process, even once, of how to do that to someone. "If I can come up with that on the spot, do you really think they haven't managed something with eight years to think about it? Not that I think they would keep you that long mind, just long enough to get a stake set up and a good fire going," he shudders slightly, "but then, I can't say I'm acquainted with their inner workings either, so who knows?"

Ludovic sighs. "Alright. I admit I never actually thought escape was much of an option." he gives Ivo a weak smile. "But I thought it might be enough to jump subjects. I can see it’s making you uncomfortable." He looks across at Ivo. "They will want to be absolutely sure because of my title and they will want to know everything I know. They won’t kill me until they have those things."

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