1866-05-20: Plucking a Cardinal
Plucking a Cardinal
Summary: Corvin Fremont and Talia t'Corbeau track down the Edge's most notorious traitor. It doesn't end well for him.
Date: Mai 20, 1866
Related: None
Corvin  Lucien  Talia  

1866, Late Mai. Deep in the Blackfens.

"How," Keven, a senior Wraith, grouses under his breath to his three companions as they slog through the only recently warmed, dank swamps that make up the darkest part of the Blackfens, "did that old traitor make it through this without gettin' et, I'd like to know?"

Malachi snorts quietly. "Iffn a waterdragon et him," he grumbles in the patois marking him as a swamprat, "How we know, anyhow?"

Blackfens, a notorious swamp overseen by house t'Cauthone, though they would be the first to admit even they do not know all the swamp's twists and turns. In the days of the 30 Years War, many Rivanans died in these bogs, dragged down by waterdragons and poisoned and wrapped and eaten by watersnakes. The Wraiths knew the swamps well enough to survive them when needed, but none, even the few that were born in the area, like Keven and Malachi both were, ever enjoyed a trip to the 'fens.

"Eh," Keven mutters back. "Like to give even a 'dragon a hurtin' belly."

The sun overhead was beginning to set, though that sight was barred to the group by the thick tangle of limbs, leaves, and vines overhead. Their poleboat had to be abandoned about a half-mile back when the waters rose too high for it, leaving the Commander of the Wraiths, the Viscountess, and two Blackfens-born swamprat Wraiths to continue their hunt for the traitorous Cardinal on foot.

The waters were mid shin deep, and more muck than water.

"Keep'n yer feet up," Keven notes helpfully, moving through the bog with exaggerated slowness, but in doing so making a minimum of ripples on the scummy water's surface. "Fen'll et yer boots otherhow, an' only swamprats go barefeet."

Malachi flashes a rude gesture at Keven in Wraith hand-sign, lifting his own bare feet with the same slowness as they pass, keen eyes keeping up with the trail markings, idley pointing them out to the Commander. His boots are tied together with a thong and slung over his back. "Sure 'nuff came dis way."

Corvin Fremont is…unusually focused this day. His japes and often-jocular manner have been more than a bit subdued. Not that they've been completely abolished, as there have been a few notes of humor with the Wraiths accompanying them or the recollection of old "inside jokes" with Talia when appropriate, but otherwise he's been far more silent than usual, watching the trails as intently as their guides. Talia, at least, would know it's simply the manner Corvin assumes when the mission is of particular import. Indeed, it's far more the "real" Corvin than the sardonic ne'er-do-well he often projects.

The Commander of the Wraiths has been in the Fens before, both during his training and during his work. He isn't entirely as sure-footed as the natives, but he does a more than passable job of imitating them. He'd have liked to have had a larger force…but a host of people sloshing through the swamps would no doubt give away their approach long before they came upon their quarry. As the Wraiths banter, he makes a simple gesture, palm downward, as though patting the empty air. Not a call for complete silence…just to keep their voices low. Though thankfully there's enough sound of birds, insects, trickling water and other things that means voices are often swallowed by the sounds of the swamp before they go too far, anyway.

One of the first lessons Talia, and the t'Corbeau is that you can never choose where your target may lead you. And learn to adapt. It does not mean she enjoys the festering bog, or the dangers that lay within. But neither does she allow that discomfort to show. Instead, she looks back to the wraiths. "Remember that our pray is no better off in this bog than we are," she says, her voice hushed and quiet.

She, too, is focused. This, afterall, is the man who'd plotted and planned and made her life miserable for several months, if not longer now. And she was more than pleased to take the honors of severing the snake's head from it's body. She slogs through the bog with the rest of the small group. Corvin, who knows her best, would be able to see Talia's anticipation of the kill within her eyes as she is already going over various ways that this might come about, planning and plotting for as many contingencies as she can.

"Aaah boss," Keven would seem to be ignoring the handsign save for the fact that he's pointing at rippling water none too far distant.

Malachi curses under his breath in a mixture of common and a couple barbarian tongues, blended together well enough none of the mother languages would claim it. "Watersnake or real swamprat, boss," he says, drawing a dagger and crouching some to get a better angle on the ripples heading towards the group.

"Bess' not be a 'dragon," Keven says dryly. "Drag yeh under in this muck and et yeh."

"Fuggin' 'byss." Malachi snorts, spitting into the water. "Too shallow. We'd see spines—" and as the ripples closes, three sets of sharp, leather and bone spines emerge from the murky water. "Fugg me."

"Byss take 'em," his swampborn companion agrees in the same vaguely amused and cynical tone. Both Fen natives have steel drawn now.

"Dance with the demons, eh?" one mutters to the other. They both grimly nod.

Corvin draws the short blade at his waist, and a dagger besides. There are…other weapons he's carrying…but those are not for mere beasts, however formidable. There's no sign of complaint nor anticipation from the Commander. Just the resignation of an obstacle to be overcome. "Two of them, four of us. Try to keep each between at least two of us and strike when you have an opening." He beckons towards Malachi, indicating that the swamprat will be his "flanking partner" for this affair. Talia may have more practice at it, but best to try to make for an equivalent distribution of skill.

Talia's sidhe-steel blade is drawn, slowly and she moves towards Keven's side, advising, "Do not hurry the attack. Let them come to you." This, too, part of the training. A forced attack, a rushed attack will fail most of the time. She is ready, poised, but unafraid. Afterall, these creatures have nothing on the thing she faced in the tower. These? These she knows she can kill.

"Dun let 'em get aholdayah." Keven's advice is all he manages before the terrors of the 'Fens are upon them, as he slashes down with his short sword, the blade biting into the thick hide, though not enough to do more than drive the beast aside for a moment before it lunges in again, jaws snapping towards a leg with the intent to drag its hopefully next meal under and drown them. He moves to flank Talia and assist her: she has the sharper blade and is far more likely to score a killing blow.

Malachi nods at the Commander and slogs backwards a step, prepared to lunge and strike fast when needed. As the beast lunges towards the Commander's leg, he slams his blade forward and scores a slice across the top of the beast's head.

Pretty impossible to "stealthily" fight a beast such as this, so Corvin sloshes through the water as he narrowly sidesteps away from the snapping jaws, and seeks to try to drive the point of his short sword into the side of the beast, hoping to catch a chink between the hardened scales, or perhaps the "seam" of where the softer underbelly meets the harder dorsal scales. He had asked if there was any sort of alchemy that might keep the beasts at bay before he left Lonnaire (though he knew it was very much unlikely), but while he did manage to come away with several vials of a very effective insect repellent that he's shared among their little band of killers, there was nothing that could be done for serpents and waterdragons.

"I'm rather fond of this armor," is Talia's answer towards Keven. She does not plan to let them get ahold of her, at all. Nor Keven, Malachi, or Corvin for that matter. As gracefully as one can move in a bog, with muck beneath feet and deep enough water for the dragons to hide in, Talia sloshes to one side, lunging forward to slice into the back of the beast, her eyes focused, and all banter out of her now.

Keven slides forward with his blade down, edging the creature towards the countess with the Sidhe Steel. "Strike fast, m'lady—err, excellentness."

Malichi slides to the side trying to pinion the beast between him and Corvin, slashing down and scoring a pair of hits along its back but neither fatal.

Nicking and scratching these things into submission is going to be a thorough waste of valuable time and even more valuable energy. Corvin, mindful of the beast's tail and snapping jaws, moves closer, reversing the grip on his short sword, and when he spots an opening where its' attention seems turned away from him, he lunges to try to drive it down and through the waterdragon's back with both the force of the strike and the weight of his body, trying to aim for the juncture of skull and spine.

Talia's mood seems to coincide with Corvin's. Kill the things quickly, and catch back up on the trail before it gets cold. She tries to move around to the side of the quickly moving beast, and attempts to shove the sidhe-steel through the side of it's head, aiming specifically towards the creatures eyes.

The Sidhe Steel slides through the head of the one, and between Corvin and Malichi, they manage to dispatch the other.

Corvin sheathes his blades after cleaning them as best he can in the circumstances. He glances towards the slain beasts and smirks a bit, "Well, if the swamp hasn't consumed them by the time we're on our way back, you two fellows may have some good hides to take home." He notes to Kevan and Malachi, "But now, we need to pick up that trail." Thankfully, while Corvin and Talia might not be as comfy as a native in the Fens, he imagines their quarry is considerably less-so. He glances towards Talia, giving her a once over to confirm she's uninjured, and then looks back in the direction they were originally headed.

Flicking her blade several times to clean it the best she can, Talia sheathes the Viper's Fang, then nods. "We've wasted enough time. Let's pick up the trail, and make up the time we've lost," she encourages the two. Briefly, the woman flashes a quick smile to Corvin before inclining her head to the Wraiths for a job well done.

The swamps continue, for another hour or so, the fens getting deeper, darker, and boggier. Eventually the bogs rise and something approaching solid ground appears from the mud and water. In the distance, light.

Keven scowls as they approach a distant cabin in the swamps. Lamps are lit inside, as the windows glow behind curtains and glass. The four hide behind trees and observe the cabin from a short distance.

The area feels wrong, uncomfortable.

No words now. Corvin frowns as he studies the cabin, eyes trying to pick out any details that seem out of place. After several moments of study, he gestures, pointing to his eyes, and then making a circular motion with a finger pointed upwards, indicating for the group to split into pairs and stalk around the edge of this dry land, so they can get a look at it from all angles. If all goes well, they should meet on the opposite side from where they are now. As before he indicates for Malachi to follow him, and gives Talia one brief, serious glance before they move. About as close to a "be careful" as they ever get.

And then, they're trying to make their way around the perimeter, keeping their eyes on both sides just in case they're already inside a sentry line, and of course striving to move as quietly as possible. Speed is NOT of the essence for the moment. There's little indication anyone who's here is going anywhere soon.

Besides, there's always the chance that their quarry passed right on by and continued on, but that seems…unlikely to Corvin's instincts.

Talia says nothing about the vibe they are getting from the cabin. She's gotten similar vibes before. And few of them were pleasent. She recognizies the hesitation and the bravery as well for them pushing forwards past the mood set upon them for whatever unpleasent reason. She moves as quietly as a mouse and leading Keven makes her way around the opposite side of the cabin, taking note of the perimeter and making certain there are no traps, no eyes on them and that such is secure before daring to breach the building itself.

The vibe doesn't change, and the walkaround gives no further information other than the general layout of the cabin. The main room has lamps alight. The occasional movement of shadow indicates someone within.

WIth apparently nothing to see on the outside, Corvin gives the signal to move in quietly, gesturing for Talia and Kevan to move towards the door, while he leads Malachi towards one of the windows. The plan thus communicated, Corvin leads the way, careful to try to stay out of the line of sight of the windows, and mindful of the ground before him, to try to assure he's not stepping on any bear traps or stake-pits or the like (or any dry twigs or other items that might make undue noise). If he can reach the side of the cabin (seemingly) undetected, then he will move along it at a crouch, drawing nearer the window, but not yet daring to peek in. Not until Talia and Kevan are in position to potentially ambush anyone that might come rushing out.

Going through doors has not proven, of late, one of Talia's more favored ways of attacking. Still, this time she's four skilled bladesmen with her, and there are multiple ways to bring the attack unlike those recent encounters. She moves to one side of the door so that when it swings out, she will be able to lunge in without interference. She gives the signal once she and Keven are both secured, watching Corvin closely so as to read him and what he sees.

Corvin takes his brief glance through the window, careful not to expose himself for longer than a couple of seconds. He leans back and ever-so-quietly whispers to Malachi what he saw within…and then communicates the same with a series of a series of hand signals to Talia and Kevan: Three armed men, Two apparent civilians…and their target.

Another brief gesture indicates that if the civilians get in the way, they are expendable. Just so everyone's clear. And with that, he looks towards Talia and taps the pouch on his belt that she'd know he keeps at least one flash-vial carefully packed, and points to the window, then gives two quick "fives" with his hand…ten seconds before he has Malachi break it and Corvin tosses the flash-vial through. Time he spends carefully -un- packing it while Malachi positions himself. And precisely when that ten seconds, passes…the battle, such as it is, commences.

Once the flash-vial has been tossed in, and the count has passed, Talia is the first through the door, kicking it in and her Viper's Fang brandished in her hand, but she's ducking low just in case anyone might be feeling the need to launch a few random arrows or bolts about, while she looks for her first target. The armed guards in her mind need to go down first. But much like Corvin, she'll not mind slicing through the civilians to get to her target.

The flash vials disorient the guards, but only temporarily. The two girls scream in terror, glazed eyes wide with the sudden noise and light.

The resting guard is the one that is the most able to defend himself— his closed eyes having protected him from the blast of light, but the noise having awoken him abruptly.

The guards all draw steel, the two half-naked girls being drawn to Lucien by him, the smell of opium clear in the room (though not current; dimply used recently).

And with the distraction deployed, Corvin moves swiftly to the door to follow Kevan and Talia in, moving towards one of the distracted guards, and swatting aside his blindly-failing strike with his short sword while launching a swift knuckle-punch to the man's throat while it's exposed, attempting to collapse his trachea. No snappy patter, no bantering for the moment. The ill feel of this place and the mission at hand have dampened his humor and left him inclined to strike against the guardsmen swiftly and lethally.

Talia isn't playing around anymore than Corvin is. As one of the guards draws steel, Talia smoothly sidesteps and parries his blow, utilizing his momentum against him to deflect the blade down and while sliding her own blade down against his, and then sharply up to skewer his heart in a clean, efficient killing blow. As quickly as it sunk in, the Viper's Fang is pulled out, and Talia focuses on her next target who might still be standing.

Keven and Malichi both move in to assist, Keven putting his blade through the side of the reeling guard as Malichi stabs his dagger into the same man's chest.

Three guards down, and Lucien draws the two girls to him more, backing up and landing on the rustic bed in the main room. The two girls keep shrieking and wailing as the guards are cut down, ineffectively trying to cover themselves as blood splatters and they are drawn into human shield positions in front of the excommunicated Cardinal.

"Really, Lucien?" Corvin wipes the blood off his blade and sheathes it, gesturing for the others to do the same, "You're an intelligent man. Collect your thoughts for a moment…and your clothes…and consider who we are." He gestures to the girls, "Your life may well depend on your next few actions, Your Former Grace. I'd rather prefer you release the girls." Of course, for a clever listener, Corvin's words might imply that there is, in fact, a way Lucien can survive this meeting….

Talia's eyes look towards Corvin, then looks back to Lucien, commenting, "The chase is over. It was a fine one, while it lasted. But, it is over," she confirms, before sheathing her own weapon. Her eyes remain alert. Ready. So far, that inexplicable feeling has not gone away, nor revealed itself. And she's still on edge, waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop.

Lucien smiles winningly at Corvin and Talia. He caught that there was a way he could possibly escape this alive. "How did you… ah, but it is you, dear boy. How could you have… not found me?" He clucks his tongue, shaking his head as if he is still in control of the situation. "Girls, please, pull on your… shifts. Master Fremont has a tendency to distraction when such… assets are on display, mm?"

He nods to Talia. "And Your Excellency, Viscountess. So lethal and lovely. I'm sure we all can come to some sort of… arrangement, mmm?"

The ill-aspect to the cabin seems to pulse a bit. The two Wraiths look nauseated, though they watch the Cardinal warily. "Was always more of a fan of Darkness an' Silence than the One, anyway," Keven mutters to the younger Wraith, a shiver going down his spine.

Corvin's eyes tighten around the edges a bit at that…pulse. What the hell IS that? Probably not the time for questions.

"As I said, you're an intelligent man, Lucien, and while you may not hold the privilege of high office any longer, there is still a great deal that you know. Undoubtedly connections you still possess that could be useful to those that traffic in knowledge and influence, hmm?"

He gestures to the pair of wraiths, "See the ladies out. This conversation is just between the three of us." He gives the two men a glance that should indicate that they should watch their charges closely. Just in case.

"Anything is possible," Talia agrees to Lucien, inclining her head as if, certainly, they'd been sent here to bargain and barter for a surrender, rather than eliminate. As if, perhaps, there were questions yet to be answered, or items needed that only Lucien could offer and he still had some leverage yet to use. Yet, she waits without further words offered, until the two wraiths have left, and keep guard over the girls.

Her hand lightly falls to rest on the handle of her sword, not so much to threaten. But, to indicate to Corvin that Talia expects some form of treachery - or, something else to happen. She is ready to move.

Lucien's eyes light up at the mention of information and influence. "Yes, yes," he says agreeably. "I see now." The air in the room seems thicker, almost constricting as he speaks, as if tugging both to agree with him. "I see. You'd make a fine duke, Corvin Fremont. Or should I say, Corvin l'Sagnier? I am not without influence and power, even in this state. I can help you convince your father to have you legitimized… what with your sister's recent and untimely death. A shame, that." His eyes glitter. "She was beautiful, wasn't she? A pity. You must believe I never dreamed harm would befall her, Corvin." His tone, as if they are old friends. "I know all the secrets, of course. Confessions I took… such a plethora of information you could use in your rise—"

This…is starting to sound like a really good idea. Corvin can totally see it. With his father convinced and Alina dea- Wait, Alina's not dead. In point of fact, it's the mention of his sister that staves off Lucien's last attempt to escape the checkmate. The remembrance of what she's endured, however indirectly, because of this fellow. So Corvin speaks up, cutting off the Cardinal's words with a bright smile, "My sister made her choices, Your Grace." Corvin steps forward, smiling companionably and reaching to put a hand on Lucien's shoulder, adding, "Which reminds me…She sends her regards."

And that's when the first black dagger is withdrawn from behind Corvin's back and driven right into Lucien's gut. "That's Vengeance, incidentally." Corvin notes, shoving Lucien back and withdrawing the second blade from behind his back, holding it out towards Talia, "This is Justice, in the name of of King Jean-Paul l'Valdan. Your Excellency…if you'll do the honors?"

Talia takes the second blade. She's never held another Sidhe-Steel weapon, and she takes a moment to relish the make of the twin of the dagger in Corvin's hand. "Vengeance," she breathes, quietly. Reverently. "Justice." Talia moves to press the dagger against Luicen's throat. "Death shall take you to both of them." It is an offering, this death. And cleanly, effortlessly, she slits the man's throat.

Lucien Ramius, former Cardinal of the One Faith, lets out a squeal as the first blade bit deeply into his stomach. The rancid smell suddenly filling the room indicates quite well that Corvin's first strike was fatal, if not a swift death to come.

Talia's strike should have killed him instantly, though somehow it does not, somehow…

His voice still works.

"This…" Lucien's corpse wheezes with his final breath, "is but a beginning."

And then bathed in his own blood and shit, Lucien died.

"Hm. I'd say that rates rather highly on the list of ghastly things I've seen." Corvin's not exactly disturbed, nor intrigued, but definitely seems to note that something about that really was just…not right. There is actually a moment of hesitation before he moves forward and plucks the Cardinal's ring off his finger…because of course he still wore it, at least beyond closed doors. Thankfully it comes off easily enough and Lucien is indeed as dead as they get. Once Corvin is sure of this…and both Justice and Vengeance have been cleaned and retrieved, he looks to Talia, "Shall we feed him to the swamp or leave him here to rot?" He looks about, "Or we could burn the place, but that seems too good for him."

The strange feeling still sits, in unsettled manner in Talia's mind, and her memories take her back to the only surefire way to destroy something unnatural. She hands the dagger back to Corvin, first. Then, she extracts her own blade, and without hesitation or remorse, severs the Cardinal's head from his body. Explanation is not given to Corvin, only, "Burn it all. Once there is nothing but ashes, we'll feed his corpse to the swamp. What is left of it." She adds, wryly, "Besides. We could use the rest. And something to warm our bones by before moving back. And we can find out exactly what those girls know. And if we need to kill them or not." She means if they're more dangerous than what they seem. It's unlikely Lucien would've dragged along mere flesh-toys while trying to escape through a bog, afterall.

The building burns, and Lucien is ashes. The other Wraiths agree with Talia's assessment when the two come out to tell them, and Malichi admits to have already been fashioning torches and gathering tinder to do so.

"Only way to make sure sommat's dead, eh?" he notes with cynical cheerfulness.

Keven mutters to Talia, "I ain't much for sweet talk," he jerks his thumb towards the girls, "but thems ladies. An' they gon have the hazeshakes in a bit."

After having tossed a couple torches into the cabin, and watching it burn, Corvin nods towards Kevan and Malachi, noting with something far more approaching his usual cheerful sarcasm, "Oh how wonderful. It's going to be an absolute joy to cart these two back out through the swamp. Here I was hoping we'd find another barge out here. Can't imagine the late Cardinal just walked all the way out here." But whether they find one or not, it's certain to be a long trip back to civilization.

"What is more curious to me is why he brought them along in the first place," Talia states to Corvin. "Pawns, perhaps. Leverage? I'm uncertain. I doubt we shall ever have all the answers. But for now? This is enough. Death is satisfied. As is Vengenance. And Justice." She does not just mean for Corvin. Or the Royal Family. She's speaking for the Syndicate, herself, and her family as well. She looks at the three, "And we did well. Our target was eliminated. And, we all return home." She is pleased enough with that.


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