(1866-07-16) Speaking as Equals
Speaking as Equals
Summary: Corvin successfully thwarts a temper of epic proportions… and he and Esyld finally find some tentative common ground.
Date: July 16th
Related: None
Corvin  Esyld  

Wraith Tower, Highwater Castle
In scene
Juillet 16th, 1866

From their reputation, one might imagine that the headquarters of the Wraiths would be some forbidding keep or tower teetering on the edge of some forlorn cliff, shrouded in shadow, illuminated only by the flash of lightning from the perpetual thunderstorm that hovers over it while bats and/or ravens flit about. But no, in truth it's a rather ordinary looking tower on the north side of the Highwater Castle complex. Part of their outer walls, as it were. There's often a moderate bit of activity as Wraiths come and go, but the guards posted outside the ground-level entrance are not Wraiths, but simply Castle Guardsmen, who often look bored in the way only guardsmen can manage, even if they occasionally exchange pleasantries with those coming and going.

It's no different this evening, with the guards occasionally bantering back and forth with each other, and gabbing to a few of the Wraiths as they come and go (those they know to be the more sociable types). And if one happens to be looking for Master Corvin Fremont, most in the castle know that if in residence, he's usually in the Wraith Tower until he retires to his quarters in the main keep in the late evenings (and sometimes not even then, if work demands otherwise).

It's early evening, dusk drawing in, by the time a visitor arrives at the north tower.. and she's almost certainly expected, if not necessarily welcome. With the trailing lengths of her dark hair still a little damp and tousled, the travel-dirt now entirely gone from her features and a fresh set of clothing in place of her dusty leathers, Esyld is at least somewhat more presentable than she had been upon her initial return to the castle. Still far from pristine but much improved. A thigh-length overshirt of robust black fabric is left loose and graceless about her form, sleeves shoved up to the elbow as is her unthinking habit, and leggings of dark, pliant leather are worn beneath her usual laced boots. The latter audibly announce her ascent to the uppermost chamber, as if the Commander weren't already likely well aware of it - one can surely expect the walls to have eyes, in this place - with a weary, stamping gait carrying her up along the stairway. Oh, still tetchy then?

The guards at the main door must have let her through. She's a familiar enough face, after all. And she knows full well where to find Corvin, if he's here, so she doesn't bother to stop and ask anyone. No, she just bad-temperedly heads for the office, slowing her pace only a fraction after the climb and regarding the doorway. Far from trepidation, her blue eyes instead simply flick over it in momentary assessment, the gradually dimming light casting odd reflections across their surface.

Some guards are likely going to lose their jobs tonight, sadly. People aren't supposed to enter the Wraith tower unchallenged, no matter how familiar they may be. She receives plenty of looks from various Wraiths as she climbs the stairs, though none stop her, perhaps assuming that the guards allowed her in for a specific purpose. Or assuming those up top can handle her. The door is mostly-closed, just a sliver of light escaping along its' edge. It's clear from the positioning that the "office" is pretty much "the top floor." So…a large office. Though in truth more than simply an office. More like a "war room" for the Wraiths as a whole, with a desk tucked into one corner, and some comfortable furniture arrayed about, and a large table with a map of Couviere and Pacitta (and northern Rivana) arrayed upon it with a few markers placed here and there.

Not that she sees this right yet, but she's been here at least once before, if not frequently.

Well, why wouldn't anyone assume that a mere mercenary would be easily handled? Surely she hardly passes for a threat within these walls. Well, unless one is easily shaken by foul temper, and that's decidedly unlikely. Esyld probably even admits that to herself, albeit grudgingly. But it's all about appearance, sometimes. Which is perhaps why she foregoes knocking, and simply pushes the door open abruptly with one hand after that fractional slowing; striding the first few paces into the chamber and allowing her presence alone to do the announcing. By the grace of sheer common sense, she doesn't close it behind herself either. That nigh perpetual glower remains about her features, even as she's swiftly taking in the surroundings. Is he here? Or has she once again wasted her time? God knows, she's not in the mood for that, today. It's also not in her nature, despite the mildly dramatic entrance, to call out prematurely. Not when she can rely on sight to ascertain whether her host is present.

Oh, he's here. As are two other Wraiths. A grizzled, tall and broad older fellow with rough-hewn features, and a lean, bald-headed fellow with a cold, assessing gaze that turns towards Esyld as the door opens. All three are seated around that table with the map, looking like they were in some degree of conversation when Esyld interrupts. In point of fact, the two Wraiths that are not Corvin rise to their feet, smooth but unhurried, and also with hands moving towards the weapons at their waist, and there's absolutely nothing that speaks of them bluffing or joking. In fact the bald one has a long dagger nearly halfway from its' scabbard when Corvin makes a brief, sharp gesture with one hand that seems to relax them…mostly. They still watch intently.

"Something I can help you with, Captain?" Corvin replies, not sardonically, but still somewhat nonchalantly. He rises now, wearing a loose-fitting creme-colored undershirt and black breeches and boots for the moment. He studies Esyld about as intently as the other two Wraiths, though he's not wearing any visible weapons for the moment.

Does she give a damn that she's interrupting? Given the nature of her arrival, it would be safe, even sensible, to assume.. emphatically not. Ignoring the other two entirely for the moment, blades or not, Esyld fixes her glare upon Corvin, solely. She even brazenly dares another step forward, though her hands hang pointedly idle by her sides, likewise without any visible weapon. "I believe you and I have unfinished business, Master Fremont." Her elocution is not the smooth, pretty tenor of a courtier, which rather fits her overall demeanour; her voice is low in timbre for a woman, and remains laced with the trace of an accent.. moreso when she's angry. Still, it's kept at a quiet enough cadence, given that others are present. "And no.." she continues, stalling any protest that might be forthcoming from he or his companions. "..I'm afraid it won't keep until tomorrow."

Facing facts, this is clearly not about to be an assassination attempt.. or if it is, it's already a woefully poorly executed one. Rude, perhaps. Dangerous? ..probably not.

Corvin tilts his head curiously, "We do?" He shrugs a moment, then gestures to the other two Wraiths. "Go ahead and go, we'll finish in the morning. Clearly the Captain thinks it's important if she's willing to risk her life over it." He shrugs, the other two Wraiths nodding silently and moving to exit, walking with the gait of well-seasoned killers, and paying as little heed to Esyld as she to them. It's not intentionally dismissive, but if she's not going to acknowledge them, why should they bother?

"So…what is it I can help you with, Captain Draven?" He gestures towards a nearby side table, "Wine? It might still be a bit chilled."

Momentarily eyeing the pair as they take their leave, the dark-haired Captain ventures further into the room, instinct perhaps the reasoning as she circles and puts the large table between she and Corvin. Once they are left alone, she leans forward a touch, splaying her hands on its surface and regarding him haughtily. "No." The curt rebuttal is offered in response to the offer of wine. For all she knows, it might be laced with some poison that the Commander has developed an immunity to. Better to assume the worst, given the circumstances.

Getting straight to the point, as is typical of her manner, she addresses him with that same, coldly annoyed tone as before. "I want to know why my men and I were sent gallavanting off in entirely the wrong place. And don't bother feigning ignorance, for I am quite certain you had a hand in it." The ghost of a smirk tugs tautly at one corner of her lips as she says this, but is gone again in an instant. "You expect me to believe it coincidence that your Wraiths just happen upon my so-called quarry in another province entirely?"

Corvin frowns a touch, "You were sent because it caused the bandits that had been operating in Redwater to go to ground at their camp in the Blackfens, as we rather expected they would. Once you channeled them right to us, they were rather easily disposed of." Corvin shakes his head slightly, "The bandits were dealt with, and you accomplished your mission with no casualties. I would hope you would be more pleased with this notion." Corving shrugs, then frowns deeper still at the next bit, his tone growing a bit testy.

"I expect you and your Black Foxes to do what you are ordered to do in service to House l'Saigner. If you find your duties so utterly distasteful, I can put in a word with my father and make certain Lord t'Mallen accepts your resignation."

"I do as I am ordered, and without hesitation. Do not think to imply anything otherwise against me, Corvin." If his tone is subtly tense, Esyld's own words are practically snarled, on this matter, the formalities lapsing in the face of her temper. "What I find distasteful is doing so blindly! Have I not earned the right to know the true intents behind such things?" She straightens from her slight stoop over the table, folding her arms across her midsection and keeping her eerie gaze resolutely upon his own. "You think I don't know that some tasks are simply better suited to your sort? But we are good at what we do, too. What harm, pray tell, would there have been in simply telling me that you wanted the quarry flushed out for you?" That's.. about as close to a grudging acceptance of fact that she's willing to offer, right now. And if his further words were intended to provoke, they do so quite admirably. It warrants a counter. "Don't threaten me with running to your father with accusations against my loyalties. It doesn't become a man with your supposed standing." The snarling may have quieted, but her teeth are briefly bared, gritted against speaking further. Spoiled little bastard.

"The less who know a secret, the less likely that secret becomes known to those that is is meant to be kept from. Secrets and information are commodities more precious than any coin to my father's house, and we are tight-fisted with them. I am as trusted as any in my father's eyes, and even I do not know all that he or our house does. At times he even deploys Wraiths without my knowledge. It is simply our way." Corvin shrugs, "Your Commander was aware of what was occurring and approved the course of action that I suggested, as did my father. If you were left uninformed, then I suggest you speak with Lord t'Mallen on the matter." Corvin moves over and pours himself a cup of the wine, sipping from it a moment and sighing, though he doesn't quite eyeroll.

"Spare me the dramatics, Captain. If we didn't trust you to do your job you wouldn't have been given the job to do. If we didn't think well of your capability, you would not hold command. We knew that your reputation would likely send the bandits to ground, and we knew that if they DID choose to face you, you would acquit yourself admirably. No more, and no less."

There's.. really nothing she can argue with, in that. Which infuriates her, as much as it consoles. "So much trouble to go to, for mere bandits." she observes, still holding firm to the last dregs of her ire. "And I shall be speaking with him. For anyone to imagine I do not understand the great importance of subtlety and secrets is.. frankly an insult, given my service." Esyld pauses, watching Corvin sipping at his wine. And something seems to occur to her for the first time. Lowering her arms, with a heavy sigh that speaks of far greater weariness than could have been brought on by this exchange alone, she begins to wander the perimeter of the table, lowering her gaze with sudden musing to the map laid there. "..doesn't it bother you? Being kept in the dark, after proving yourself, as I assume you must have done, to warrant your coveted title?"

She flicks a glance upward again, still frowning but seeming vaguely curious, all the same. "You're the fucking favourite, when all's said and done. How can it be that even you aren't privy to matters concerning the protection of the House?" The fingertips of one hand trail the edges of the map as she strolls, unhurriedly. "..or is that simply a pretty lie intended to quiet me down." If so… it seems to have worked. She's at least somewhat pacified. For now. It rarely lasts.

Corvin still frowns, over the rim of the wineglass, "Favorite? That would be Alina, as it should be." Corvin shakes his head, "If I am favored, it is in the manner of a favored weapon one carries to battle, but even then no single weapon is ideally suited for all eventualities." Corvin shrugs, "I am a bastard. My father has deigned to give me a position of import and respect in his house. It is not my place to question unless I see fault in those designs he does share with me, and even then it is only in the effort to improve them rather than negate them. It is my place to garner results, and so long as I do so, I retain my position. Should I begin failing to do so, I will lose it, likely easier than I gained it, and if I am fortunate I will still be allowed to serve in some capacity. Or if my failure is too great, I'll likely simply disappear. I may share my father's blood, but make no mistake, I am still a tool. A weapon. Perhaps one he would less like to part with than others, but still ultimately expendable if needed." He smirks, "Why do you think virtually none outside our House and its' vassals know that I command the Wraiths? It's not simply to protect me…it's so that should I NOT be commander of the Wraiths, or should I fall, those beyond our borders will not know that the Wraiths are in the midst of change and perhaps vulnerable for it."

"But none of that matters, really. I am privileged. I know this well. I have had opportunities that many bastards do not, and I am grateful for it, though it may not always seem so outside these walls." He really does seem…different here. Somber. Serious. There's something in his manner that speaks far more of his father than how he normally carries himself. Or maybe it's just a trick of how the shadows are being cast upon his face in the evening's fading light, slowly being supplanted by the lanterns placed about the room.

The mention of Alina rouses a flicker of uncharacteristic warmth from the raven-haired young woman. "Well, the Lady is no mere courtier herself, as I have witnessed. But yes, to use your own analogy.. you are, to the best of my knowledge, the favoured weapon." Whether she thinks that fair or not is left unsaid. "I know what it is to be a bastard, Master Fremont. To be compared against those who will always, always be placed above you and to strive all the harder in the face of it." That's a nice notion. Deigning to admit some common ground with a man whose head she would gleefully smash against a wall, given reason and opportunity. Of course, she doesn't know the half of it, really.

Apparently deciding to relent to mere smouldering irritation - her usual stance - Esyld departs from the table with a sigh, approaching that wine, or what's left of it. "May I?" She doesn't exactly wait for an answer, entirely.. the pitcher's already in hand when she casts him a glance, arching one brow. If she's actually going to engage in 'conversation' with the Commander, it might go more smoothly with the edge taken off. "And yes.. you are privileged, much as you try to deprecate, at times. It's maddening." Has she noticed the change in his carriage and demeanour? Probably. Not much gets past her. And it's a contrast enough to give her pause. Smirking, sardonic and baiting she is well used to handling. But a pensive Corvin is a strange thing, to her. "How much of it is an act." That level question implies that the Captain is not entirely convinced by this.. unexpected insight. It's too easy. And anytime anything comes easy with this one, she suspects a trap.

"Help yourself." Corvin replies, then chuckles, shaking his head, "I don't strive harder because Alina stands higher than I do. I strive harder because that is what is expected of me." He shrugs, "Half of it. All of it. None of it. Precisely as much or as little needs be." He glances briefly to Esyld, "So you wanted trust? There you have it. I'm only half the ass I spend most of my time pretending to be. I am privileged because I met the challenges my father placed before me. If I had not, I'd likely not have survived to become part of his household." He moves and settles onto a nearby couch. "We have some similarities, it's true. But differences as well. Not entirely your fault…the t'Maren are unique among the vassal houses of Lonnaire. You seek glory in battle. We needed at least one house like that…but me?" He gestures, "The rest of us? It wouldn't matter if we killed a hundred…or a thousand. In many cases, neither would be so valuable as killing simply one…the right one. More than half of what we do, none will ever know we were involved. We do not take pride in bodies piled high, or in enemies routed. Our names will not grace monuments and the only ones who will raise a toast to our memories are those that remembered us personally." He smiles, not even bitterly, at that, "But when we do our work well…on our good days…we play a small part that helps change the world. For the good of Lonnaire, and through it for the good of Couviere."

"I don't believe you are so skilled in the dramatic arts as to summon that persona from thin air." remarks the Captain, in a painstakingly airy tone, as she pours herself a drink. "I think you would have the trademark qualities of an ass, regardless of whether it suited you to be considered as such." By Esyld's standards, this is a considerably gentler jab than she might usually take. And, with it made and the Commander settling himself comfortably, she herself paces unhurriedly back toward that vast table, resting her hips lightly back against it's edge. Swirling her wine in its cup, she regards Corvin through those vivid eyes that give so little away, save those bouts of ferocious temper. "For honor, not glory." She quietly corrects him, with the motto of her father's house. "Though.. I am a Black Fox. Not a t'Maren." There's almost a half-smile. "My own methods are, I suppose, a mixture of honor and requirement. So long as the job gets done to their benefit, most eyes are willing to look the other way, no?"

She takes a tentative sip of her wine. Is she deciding on her fondness of the taste, or whether the taste suggests poison? Difficult to say. "We are not the same. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But I am not so arrogant to think that I could do what you do. Only that, when it comes to what I do.. I am better. And it would not suit me, evidently, to live my life in shadows. When my work is done well, everyone knows it. Down to the last bawdy tavern dweller, in the final slophouse on the border. Sometimes that's as much needed as a careful hand - somebody to recognise with ease. Because if they're going to come after anyone.. I'd rather it were me, than our lords." Esyld pauses once more, before adding, "I imagine you think me too prideful, in the face of all this stubborn humility you show me. I shan't ask forgiveness for it. But.. well, I suppose I appreciate the sentiment of your.. 'trust'." She balances her cup, within the clasp of one hand, atop the fingertips of the other, studying the man in silence, thereafter, from her precarious perch.

"Our lords and ladies will ever be the prime targets, all we can do is step between. And when we are fortunate see the strike coming so far in advance that the threat is ended before it ever comes to fruition. Honor?" Corvin chuckles, "Someone once told me that there is often debate among philosophers as to whether one who sacrifices honor for service is dishonorable, or most honorable of all?" He shrugs, "I would imagine the former, at least in the eyes of the world. But ultimately I judged the question of little consequence. I am who and what I am, and I do what I am bidden by my Lord and Father, and that is enough." The wine is quite good. Perhaps not top-shelf, but better than you'll find in most taverns or inns. He smirks, "True, it didn't come from nowhere, but in its' own way was still manufactured." That seems to be all that he's willing to offer on that score, though, "There is one thing that has always had me curious, though…"

He leans forward in his seat, studying Esyld intently, "I've watched you. You have pride a-plenty, but normally not so much that it clouds your vision or tosses you into rage. I've seen and heard of you working without the slightest bit of difficulty with Wraiths and with the troops of other vassals, regardless of who had the more glorious duty to perform." He cants his head slightly, "But not with me. Never with me, in point of fact. Is it purely because of what similarities we share? Or something else?"

Seeming to consider the wine palatable enough, Esyld takes another slow sip, those blue eyes narrowing in consideration of the hypothetical for a long moment. "I would offer a third choice, to those given.." she replies, at length. "That one willing to sacrifice honor they have earned, in favor of service.. might be considered the most loyal. Honor, much like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. But what consequence comes of the opinions of outsiders, when you trust in your own heart?" Despite her own careful persona, the Captain is no mindless mercenary. And such things have, apparently, plagued her thoughts often enough to warrant their careful dissection.. and justification, perhaps.

She quirks a brow, when Corvin admits to a curiosity; maybe vaguely surprised but content to hear him out, in a rare moment of quiet calm. The calm after the storm. Not even she can be enraged all the time. It's exhausting, if occasionally useful. "No.." she begins, somewhat guardedly. "..never with you." The pause that follows could either be her swiftly constructing a falsehood, or merely weighing her words carefully before they are given. "You.. bother me. All the similarities we share are the wrong ones, I suppose… or they are unbalanced. You cast me into fury. Not your.. position, or your fortune. You. I've never given much thought as to why. It might also be our differences, on the face of it. The ones demanded of us by our differing ideals and methods.. or.. the unabashed ease with which you accept your fate. You make no sense to me, and I don't trust what I don't understand." Another sip of wine apparently concludes the musing, though she watches him closely over the rim of her cup, gauging his reaction.

"Ah." Corvin replies, looking thoughtful, possibly a touch skeptical, and maybe a bit of…something else difficult to discern before he notes with the faintest glimmer of a smirk, "It's probably because I'm an ass."

She won't allow herself to outright grin. But there's a soft snort of amusement from with her cup before it's lowered. Conceding the point with a gentle inclination of her head and perhaps the hint of a smirk in kind, Esyld replies otherwise straight-faced and wry. "..quite so. I applaud your sudden turn for self-awareness, if by my blunt guidance." Pushing smoothly back to a full stand from her lean, the Captain moves across the floor in order to place her cup back down where it was found. She drank only a little, despite having a definite constitution for more, and the vessel is now empty and discarded.

Hesitating - which is quite unlike her, beyond these walls - she glances back in Corvin's direction. "I came for an explanation, and I am.. well, not exactly satisfied. But I shall leave less bitter about it. You probably consider that a victory." Raking back her dark tresses with the fingertips of one hand, she reaffirms her usual, oddly graceful natural posture. Not so strict as a soldier, not so dainty as a noblewoman. Something rangy and confident in between. "I shall likely still despise you in the morning, Master Fremont. But, for the moment.. perhaps we have a better understanding of one another. I somehow doubt it will last."

"Victory is sometimes irrelevant so long as the desired result is attained, but this candor wasn't intended as any particular sort of manipulation if that's what you're concerned over." Corvin notes, finishing off his own winecup, rising to his feet and moving over to set his cup beside Esyld's on the side table, which does bring him within arm's reach. "You'll have to forgive me, Captain, I fear I haven't got the time or energy to spare for despising you, and beyond that, I've often had something of a weakness for beautiful women that know how to handle a blade, so doing so would run contrary to my nature as it stands."

"Speaking as equals is all well and good. But I think we both know that that simply doesn't happen, outside this room. And that's also as it should be." That roughly translates as: when you go back to being an ass, I'll go back to wanting to dislocate your jaw. "I never imagined you would trouble yourself enough to give me any thought, Master Fremont, let alone enough to warrant hatred. You have so many grander schemes to be thinking of, after all. I, however, am merely a mercenary." Esyld's expression remains largely neutral, aside from a momentary gleam of what might be amusement in those unsettling eyes of hers.

Hmm. Arguably one of the most dangerous men in Couviere within arm's reach. Regardless of the Commander's apparently genial mood, that still seems like a foolish idea, doesn't it? Taking a slow, deliberately calm step backward - even if she does tilt her jaw downward a fraction in order to grace Corvin with a strangely knowing and simultaneously chastising look through dark lashes - Esyld creates a subtle distance. "The Wraith Commander admitting weakness. I suppose you'll have to kill me now, lest word get out." Clearly, she's not truly concerned about any such thing, seeing as she begins to turn toward the door.

"I may have spared a thought or two from time-to-time, but I don't recall them being particularly hateful." Corvin notes nonchalantly, then chuckles, smirking once more, "I'd say of the secrets I keep, that certainly ranks among the more well-known." It's hardly a secret that he has in the past spent much time in the company of the Viscountess Talia t'Corbeau, though the Viscountess is now newly wed. "Besides, it'd be too much trouble to have to explain it all to Lord Lewis and Sir Alliser over so small a thing." He nods, "Good evening Captain. Until later."

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