(1866-08-25) An Unmasking
An Unmaskng
Summary: Alina and Gabe have been talking.
Date: 08.25.1866
Related: None
Alina  Gabriel  

The Heir's Suite

The two-room suite shared by the heir and her husband is large and incredibly neat and orderly. The main room has a desk, well equipped with parchment, many types and colors of inks, and pens; as well as charcoal nibs and other accoutrements for sketching. Several sketches of various clothing designs are scattered over the desk, the one speck of seeming chaos in the otherwise perfectly organized room. Before the shared hearth, a pair of fainting couches and a comfortable chair sit on a thick warm carpet, along with a pair of small side tables of Charwin make, each with locked drawers. A whetstone and oiled cloth rest on the table by the chair.

A suit of lightsilver armor stands on an armor rack on display in the main room, and along the walls several lightsilver weapons hand on ornately carved weapon mounts.

In the private bedding room, a highly polished looking-glass hangs above a vanity between two overlarge armoires, one full of dresses, gowns, and (towards the far back) less showy clothing; the other full of more pragmatic yet still finely made men's clothing. A large canopied bed with thick velvet curtains is the centerpiece of the room, a pair of lightsilver handcannons often hanging from a specially made mount on the side of the bedside table. Wall hangings and trophies commemorating the future Duke's previous tournament wins decorate the walls. A bright copper tub large enough for bathing sits near the hearth (which is the same fireplace, open to both rooms), which during the winter is stoked high during the day to allow heat to soak into the stone walls and floors of the rooms, and to die down overnight.

The view out the window is similar to the Duke and Duchesss master suite one floor above, overlooking the ruins of the previous keep, both reminder and warning at once of what the price of failure may be, and what one may be called to do in the cause of loyalty to the kingdom.

A secret passageway can be found by nimble fingers on one of the gaps in the wall, leading into the bowels of the castle and eventually out by secret ways into the countryside beyond.


It has been three days, now. Three days of being locked within their bedchambers, save a brief sojourn for viewing the tourney. Food has been brought to them, bathwater, anything they were in need of. But the days had been passed with Alina's voice, sometimes firm, sometimes wavering, telling Gabriel of the house, its expectations, its secrets.

The Black Gates. The Syndicate. Assassins. The true purpose of the Wraiths; and the truth of how they are trained. The secret gate in the bowels of Highwater Castle. The death of Arnaud and his family at the hands of his younger sister.

And her own secrets. Her time at court, and the debauchery she participated in then. Her affair with the Prince of Rivana— oh, that one came in stammering and some tears, especially when she admitted the depths of her feelings for him. The deaths that came at her hand, or her orders. The decision to kill her father, and the battle they had… and her loss, almost of her life. Her own descent into madness, madness she saw clearly in herself but could not do anything to stop, not since the pits in the ruins.

And the ruins. She told Gabriel everything, every sound that still tormented her in the night, the way the creature moved, how the walls of the small alcove seemed to close in as she and Tristan hid inside away from it. She shook and cried as she told him, finally, in great detail, of those days and nights.

But never once did she press herself upon him, never did she attempt to sway him with her body or seduction. She simply told him everything, answering his questions with honesty, should he have any. She stopped sometimes, claiming tiredness, and she slept then, curled up in a tight ball on one side of the bed. Food came, but she barely ate. When baths were drawn, she would scrub herself until she was red and scraped and then sleep again.

But she neared the end of what she could recall to tell him, and she wished she hadn't had to do this at all. The closeness that they had felt, the intimacy, she felt she had destroyed with opening up to him entirely.

She is dressed in a simply nightdress, and bare feet. She lies on the bed, just coming to wakefulness after a period of dozing. Why was sharing this so exhausting? She did not wish to continue, but she had to.

Gabriel has had a lot to process over the last few days. A small part of him wanted to ask his father what he had been thinking making him sacrifice so much to be a part of his family. Crime, assassinations, espionage, dark deeds, it all seemed to confirm all of what the l'Corren had assumed about the l'Saigner for years. Still, he listened. Asked his questions. And considered everything. When Alina went to sleep, he rested, though his rest was light, his mind processing what he had heared.

He had not lashed out or made any condemnations. Not yet anyway. For the most part, he would simply frown as more and more would be told about how deceitful and vile this family was. As each new secret came to light, he began to formulate several new lines of thought, but he would consider those later.

He is dressed in a white shirt and brown trousers, nothing fancy. He is also sitting in a chair, his bare feet crossed and kicked up on the bed as he lounges in a chair. He swirls around some wine in a goblet and then stares at Alina as she stirs. "Good Morning, wife. What shall we talk about this morning?" He swallows a large mouthful of te wine.

Alina flinches a bit. The frowns, the obvious displeasure… she had expected it, but she hadn't expected how much it hurt. Perhaps it was better, the way much of her family did things, and not allowed love or tenderness into their relationships. To be colder to him would be easier to accept his displeasure.

She sits up, looking worn. "Have I told you yet about how much coin we have?" she asks tiredly. "We seem to be barely as well-off as the l'Corren… in fact they would be moreso in spades if they did not keep such a large number of troops paid and equipped." She leans back on her hands. "But in truth our coin rivals the l'Fausts," arguably the richest house in the kingdom, "thanks to our… under the table profits. We live as though we have little coin, but should genuine need arise, we could hire every mercenary company in Pacitta, with coin to spare." This is perhaps not as dark a path to tread so soon after awakening.

Gabriel rubs at his eyes, and shakes his head. "We spend that money to defend not just our lands, but all of Couviere from barbarian invasion. I will grant you that this last time did not work out so well for us, but my family has never once complained about the expense." Nor would they. Her comments about the mercenaries do cause him to frown slightly. "And what would you need every mercenary company in Pacitta for? To overthrow the l'Valdans? To defend against a war with Rivana? What would prevent those mercenary companies from holding out from a better offer from the Tracanos?"

"It was an example," Alina replies grumpily. "One send we never have to dip into the treasury thus. And I would not expect them to, no more than we speak of the expense to run as thorough of a spy network as we do." She frowns at him. "Overthrow the l'Valdans? Make sure that is the last time that phrase ever leaves your lips, even in jest. I am trying to help you to understand what we are and what we do… and EVERYTHING we do, right down to damning our own souls, if we have such to be damned, is for them. For the good to the kingdom, and to perpetuate their rule. Should the king ask us all to fall on our swords (and he was not mad at the time), we would do so gladly and without question." Her tone is full of rebuke.

"You may not like what we do. You may no longer be able to tolerate the sight of me. But you will respect the sacrifices we make: reputation, sanity, body, and soul… for this kingdom."

"Helping me understand?" He snorts, shaking his head. "What do you think I am, a simpleton? No, I understand quite well now that I have sat here and listened to everything you have had to say for these last few days." He lifts the goblet of wine and takes a long sip from it before swallowing it down and staring at her. "You think you are alone in sacrificing body, mind and soul for this kingdom?" He asks her, his tone one of incredulity, and then shakes his head and lifts a hand. "No, do not answer that. I am not going to sit here and get into an argument with you. No…" He trails off, glancing away for a few moments. "Well, I have had to face a number of duties in my life, most of them things that I have not particularly enjoyed. What is one more, eh?" And he finishes off his goblet of wine."

Alina's lower lip trembles slightly, and she looks away. "I never said we were alone in it." She says finally. "Just that you…" she fights back more tears. He hates her. Her fears of that came true, and there is nothing she can do about it. "Wine is unwise. It makes the mind slow," she mutters. "We almost never drink it. Or liquors." She doesn't mean to be lecturing him, but she simply has nothing else to say.

"Perhaps." Gabriel says, shrugging. It was the first cup he had this morning and he might consume more later, but he wasn't about to get drunk first thing in the morning. No, it was a bit to bolster himself through more of all of… this. Glancing over at her, he asks, "What more is there to tell, or is it my turn to divulge everything about myself and my house?"

Alina shrugs. "It may be a good change of pace, though it's just you. You do not need to feel the need to share any of your house's secrets. Just your own."

She watches him curiously. "I… admit to wanting to know more about you. There's a dark sadness in you, and I've never pushed to know why."

He takes in a breath and then lets it out slowly, almost like a sigh. "Very well, I shall keep my own family's affairs to my father and brother as… I suppose I should put much of that behind me now." He shrugs, that was about as much that needed to be said about that.

"You say there is a dark sadness in me? Yes, perhaps that is one way to describe it. Another way to describe it might be an acceptance of sort. An acceptance that this is all we have and that most throw what they have away for some needless purpose or because they do something incredibly stupid. I believe that if you are going to sacrifice what you have, you should do it for a purpose. There are things that I am willing to die for. Anyone should be. But there are other things that I look at and just shake my head."

"Take the Church for starters. All of these fine men and women go and serve the church, fight for the church. Die for the church. And for what? A small piece of ground that Couviere has given them? That first siege of Valetta. That changed all of us who walked away from that. Some for the better, most for the worst."

"How did it change you?" Alina asks softly, genuinely curious. She almost reaches out for his hand, but stops herself. "And you'll get no arguments from me over the futility of fighting for the Church. Long have our house and Sanctum been… less than friendly."

"How did it change me?" He snorts. "You might as well how did it not change me. I think my father has seen it, probably my mother too. I went into that siege a squire, young and full of hope and dreams about what it might be to earn glory in combat. How little did I realize that there is very little glory to be had. No, what you hope is that if your brother in arms is going to die, it's a quick thing and not something that lingers because the healers can do nothing to actually stop the death from coming. You hope that this day might be the last because you don't want to eat a handful of beans because that's all that is there to eat. You hope that you don't turn into what other men are turning into. Living off rats and insects because of the hunger." She wanted to talk about her family losing their mind and their soul. Well, here was something for her to consider.

She actually looks sympathetic. She moves over on the bed towards him, close enough that she can brush his hand lightly. "But you survived." She bites her lower lip. "You're a strong man. Stronger than perhaps even you give yourself credit for."

"Strong? Lucky? Both?" Gabriel shrugs. "Perhaps a bit of both. Either way, I survived. A lot of people I respected did not. It was a hell of a thing, especially as a someone who was barely a man at the time. So I did much to try and get past it. I became a little remote. I went and worked on some of my music to get my head around something else. I started sleeping with a few courtesans to pass some time and help forget. Nothing I am entirely proud of there, but yeah, that's about the most people do not know about me."

"You earned your spurs there, though. And surviving is a hell of a thing, when others do not, even if luck had some part to play." She swallows, settling back on the bed, patting beside her to offer him to join her if he wished. "You are a distant man. Or you were, to me, until we had the time to know each other, love each other." She pales a little at that, hoping that perhaps he still does. "Would you be angry if I asked you to play for me again?" She says nothing to the courtesans… to her, that seems like a normal, rational thing to do, at least for a time.

"Earned? Yeah, I suppose that's true enough." He watches her offer, but does not seem to act upon it as of yet. "Yes, I have been distant for some time. Likely I might always seem distant to most who meet me for the first time. There are moments when I try to put on a more public face, especially at tournaments." He smiles faintly. "No one wants to see a somber knight emerge victorious at a tournament, now do they?"

He pauses then and lets some time pass by. "So what do we do now?"

"In a perfect world? We continue just as we were before, just with the knowledge now of the truth of things." Alina sighs softly. "But… but I suspect that isn't possible."

Gabriel nods slowly. "It might be. It might not be. This is a lot for me to process and it will take some time to process that. Either way, I have much to think on, but at the very least I know what my duty is, and I will do my duty."

She is silent for a time. "I love you," she murmurs softly. "I was terrified of these days, at the thought of losing you forever. These last several weeks have given me more happiness than I can describe."

He nods. "I know. My feelings for you have not entirely changed, but there are a number of emotions that are swirling around right now and I am not the best person with such things. It will take me some time to process all of this. I hope you understand."

She nods, chewing on her bottom lip. "I understand. I just hope… when you're done… you still want from me more than just what duty forces you to do."

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