RP:Good Guys Talking
Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc
Part of the Something Blue Arc
Summary: Josleen returns from her trip to Frostmaw having secured a temporary alliance with Frostmaw in the fight against Kahran, quarreled with Lionel and Hildegarde, and run into *gasp!* Kelovath. Macon and Josleen reflect on how they are some of the few sane, good, honest people left on a planet full of hypocrites.
(RP from Feb, uploaded way late cause whoops.)
King and Queen's Chambers, Fort Freedom, Larket
Josleen || Fed up, exhausted, and longing for home, the Queen of Larket returned to her family ahead of schedule. Awful things said by Lionel, Kelovath, and Hildegarde echo in her mind as she descends the mountain on which the frozen city is perched. Her mind obsesses in particular with the things said by Hildegarde, though Kelovath’s sudden appearance and his casual ease within Frostmaw Fort has left her unmoored. Her thoughts slosh this way and that at the whims of her emotions which blow sad and vengeful in equal parts. She arrives in Larket around 3am, 12 hours earlier than planned. Surprised staff welcome their Queen with smiles that Josleen takes for granted are genuine, and which nourish her after her frigid visit in Frostmaw where few regarded her as worthy of their warmth. They take her coat. They make her comfortable. Here comes Gigi, who having recognized the squeak of the Royal Carriage wheels came bounding through the wide marble halls to greet his mistress with sloppy kisses (which she avoids) and a full body wiggle of joy! Such a different reception in Larket! Wasting no time, she climbs the steps two at a time and steals into Guillem’s room. The Prince does not stir from his deep slumber as his mother snuggles him with just the right touch that soothes but does not wake, a nuanced touch that only a doting parent could get away with. She smells his perfect hair, listens to his gentle breathing. How could anyone think he is an abomination? Think him so unnatural his very existence offends? Having had her fill of her perfect boy, she goes to her bedroom, entering on the balls of her feet. She peels out of her dress, lightly soiled from the road, and in her slip slides under the sheets behind Macon. Gently, she wraps her arms around him and buries her face between his shoulders, taking comfort in a man she trusts completely, who understands her. Her body is tense, despite the luxuries in which she nests. No downy pillow or silken sheet can undo the drama of the past few days.
Macon has not made a public appearance since the execution of The Red Witch. Instead, The Furious King has been ruling in the shadows over a Larket divided, yet unified in its hatred. The witches that remained in The Hard City prior to Valrae’s death were immediately divided into two groups after it; those that saw the writing on the wall and finally fled the kingdom, spurred on by the appeal of Hildegarde The Silver, and those foolhardy and stubborn enough to stay. ‘Justice’ kept rolling right along following the execution, though the few witches that remained and were brought in by the Larket Guard did not have their sentences carried out in such a public and flamboyant manner as the terrorist Valrae’s was. With actual witches all but cleared out, false accusations of witchcraft have seen a rise in popularity and are taken extremely seriously by The Fort. Even just wearing red has become something of a dangerous fashion faux pas within The Hard City. While The Rage Knight oversaw this and the thus far fruitless investigation into a cure for the curse on the children of Larket, Josleen was sent to Frostmaw with a diplomatic agenda. After all this was the overt intention of the Josleen part of the Frostmaw-Larket Peace Treaty, for the new Queen of Larket to act as a bridge between Macon’s kingdom and The City of War. Going himself would have been useless as the voices in Frostmaw that matter have decided more than a year ago that he is their enemy. He is confident that Josleen is acting as Queen of Larket before she is as Thane of Frostmaw, as this is how Hildegarde and most others see her as well. It is a slight wonder to Macon that the dragon queen hasn’t stripped her of the title of Thane already. Perhaps it hasn’t even crossed her mind as a possibility. When Josleen arrives and slips into bed behind him, he stirs at her embrace. Groggy and still half-asleep, he doesn’t question her early return and just enjoys it for a moment. He nearly drifts back to sleep before slate eyes blink open again and he turns slowly and gingerly to face her, his calloused hand drifting up her side and to her cheek as he looks at her. “You’re back early,” he says questioningly, even The Rage Knight unable to break the genetically ingrained habit of whispering while in bed, despite, as a king, having no need to worry about waking anyone.
Josleen scoots closer to Macon when he turns to face her and nestles her head against the crook of his arm. “Mmm, I missed you and Guillem,” she whispers. She kisses him hello (close-lipped, no love conquers morning breath completely). They’ve been married for just over a year, and physically together only a couple months longer than that. In that short time, they’ve had a child (though born too soon). Any couple in their position would still be honeymooning, but their love is intensified by a surge of common enemies, among them that which has cursed their son and the City’s innocent children. Throughout their first year of marriage they disagreed rarely, and (second*) most often about one enemy in particular: Hildegarde. Josleen saw her as a dear friend. Macon never quite learned to trust her. Was he right to be suspicious? Will Hildegarde become a common enemy too? “It didn’t go too well. Well…” she reconsiders her words before he replies. “Queen Hildegarde has accepted the troops, but says the alliance applies only to the war against Kahran, nothing more. I told her your decision on the Eyrie outpost, and she didn’t bat an eyes. Still… things went south, with Lionel, with Hildegarde, and....” She eyes him sidelong, wary, unsure if she should be dropping the Kelo-bomb at 3am. “There’s a lot, but I don’t know if you’d rather wait until morning to discuss this.” || *(Augusta.)
Macon adopts a small smile when Josleen says she missed her family. He doesn’t say that he ‘missed her too’ because Rage Knight, but he did. Watching Guillem and the rest of Larket’s youth being robbed of their childhoods is difficult enough. Doing it alone is nearly unbearable. Percival and The Academy of Magic have all but thrown up their hands in defeat and Muzo is a longshot while he is on the run (fast slither). Her abridged briefing on her meetings with Lionel and Hildegarde doesn’t reveal anything unexpected or urgent. He expected the military aid to be accepted and for there to be little fight over the Eyrie Outpost, though he’d like losing a base of operations inside the territory of what one considers an enemy to have appeared to sting a bit more. He also expected for things to go sour, given the fury Josleen left The Hard City with. So he decides, “It can wait till mornin’,” while wrapping both his arms around his wife and pulling her in tight and close. His head is above hers and his eyes are wide open while he remembers aloud, “Our son is writin’ a letter t’the Titan of Winter…” Of course this isn’t news that Guillem is obsessed with Shishi, Vampire Dad, but it is that he can now write (or do something resembling writing).
Josleen is happy to put off ruining this moment by mentioning Kelovath. She sighs contently as Macon embrace her tightly, but her contentment is cut short as yet another developmental milestone is adorably reached. “What?” She cranes her head back to blink up at Macon. “He’s writing?” Her 6 month old son is writing. Her stomach flips. When will he start doing math, training with the soldiers, giving girls cooties, then later secret kisses behind adult’s backs? How soon before he can ride horses without sitting in Daddy’s lap? How soon before Mommy’s insistence he wear his crown to the Spring Fling embarasses him? Her heart breaks, and the fractures extend to her face for Macon to see plainly. But she tries not to dwell on it, to obsess through obsession warp each of Guillem’s achievements into a tenebrous bell tolling for his early death. “What’s he writing?” her voice wavers. She knows: you’re my hero, one day I want to be the Titan of Winter like you, my Daddy can’t be a Titan of Winter because he is a King (why Guillem feels the need to make excuses for Macon on this point baffles the family), can I meet your pet mammoth? “When he sends it, you’ll have to reply to him as that vampire, you know…” She grins sadly at the thought. Could Macon even get in the mindset of that idiot Titan? Hah! The thought of Macon composing a letter as Shishi for Guillem provides a little, much-needed levity. It’s brief. Her frown returns. Her thoughts drift to how soon before he has acne, how soon before his voice grows deep, his limbs long, his back strong.
Macon smooths his wife’s back when the sting of missing another milestone hits her so visibly. He cringes at the thought of having to reply as Shishi as if the vampire were some sort of Santa-esqe entity. The King of Larket answers the letters of the common folk through some low ranking fort staffer, shouldn’t The Titan of Winter be able to do something similar? Macon will allow some time to pass before he ghost writes a response for the assassin to his son, in hopes that an actual reply comes first. ‘What’s he writing?’ She asks and he answers with something she is perhaps not expecting, “He’s writin’ ‘jokes’.” The last word is growled out so that Josleen can recognize that these are the same ‘jokes’ that her son had begun to tell verbally before she left for Frostmaw. Nearly half of them have the exact same punchline; ‘Poop Butt’. The Rage Knight thinks that if this fan letter actually does ever reach The Titan, that it will be right in his wheelhouse of ‘intelligent entertainment’. In his mind, Macon is already drafting the response though. ‘These jokes are great. I have to go now and punch a hobbit in the face.’
Josleen || “Jokes,” she repeats, smiling weakly. “I hope the Titan knows what a poop butt is. Do vampires even, you know, do that…?” She means poop, obviously, but is a lady. “I read in the column of The Larketian Herald last year that the butts of vampires do not regenerate. Isn’t that curious? I wonder what Guillem will make of that. Maybe rewrite all his jokes… He’s so thoughtful...” Her lips twitch in and out of a frown. This is all happening too quickly. Her conversation with Hildegarde flashes at the front of her mind. Macon said they can discuss everything in the morning, but her intense feelings on this one particular fight--and more specifically what was said about Guillem--cannot wait. “I got into a fight with Hildegarde… She, uh… She said some nasty things about Guillem…” Her voices lowers and she stares at Macon’s chest and she plays with the hair there. “She called him unnatural, said he shouldn’t be because of me, because of my lineage. Said that maybe the curse is a consequence of whatever deal we struck to get him, a punishment from the Gods or something like that… She asked if I sold my soul for this… can you believe it?”
Macon is aware that The Herald prints a lot of nonsense. This ‘Vampire Butts Don’t Regenerate’ story must be yet another example of that (Uyeer are Space Crabs though). He shakes his head and shrugs, not knowing whether or not vampires poop. (Spoilers: They do.) Hildegarde thinks his son is unnatural. He grits his teeth and a pulse of angry aura flows outward from him through the fort. The curse is the doing of the witches that have been trying to dismantle Larket for over a year now. “So she thinks the witches are sen’ by the Gods then?” He asks the question with venom dripping from every word, not towards Josleen, but towards the dragon queen and Frostmaw as a whole. “She doesn’ know wha you wen-...” He cuts himself off as another wave of fury washes over him and is visible on his features again, “She doesn’ know anythin’.” He doesn’t believe for a second that this is the true reason Hildegarde thinks Guillem is an abomination. It is him, The Rage Knight himself and the dragon’s hatred of him that is at the root of this, he -knows- it, and it hurts him that Josleen was subjected to hearing this from her ‘friend’ because of him. Schezerade has fallen to Kahran and 'The Wizard King' is a pressing threat to all of Lithrydel, but Macon is glad that the agreement between Frostmaw and Larket will last only as long as that threat exists, because he wants to see the kingdom on the mountain burn now more than ever.
Josleen‘s sadness is shaped into anger by Macon’s rage. Where she was sad that her closest friend could think such horrible things about her son, not she is only angry at Hildegarde for thinking this way. When the rage aura passes, there may be room for sadness again, but for now, she shares in her husband’s fury. “No, she doesn’t. I didn’t argue with her on that point. I told her,” she reenacts the moment, though with fewer tears and more spine, “ ‘I forget sometimes that you’re not human.’ And I left immediately. Rejected their false hospitality. How dare they!” She clenches her teeth in a manner similar to Macon, a habit she’s picked up from him. “She doesn’t need to know what we went through to accept Guillem. He is here, he is a child, he is innocent, and yet she--and so many others, like Lionel, too--choose to protect his attackers over him? And consider themselves good? Not only good, but better than us! Do you know how many times I heard from those hypocrites that I’ve changed, fallen, am--well, they beat around the bush but the sum of their critique is they think me cruel and wicked now. And for what? For loving my son, and the children of Larket, and the city, and you?” The rage aura sweeping from this room in waves threatens to wake the Prince and the entire fort staff and guards. Though Josleen is aware of this, she’s too whipped up to stop it. “They say Valrae’s death was long and inhumane. And Guillem’s, if we can’t--,” Hitting too close to the root of her grief, the tears spring up alongside her rage. “Won’t his be longer? More unjust? More undeserved?” The tears spill as she imagines his death and she buries her weeping in Macon’s chest. “Gods, Macon, I can’t bear it. And they want him to die...”
Macon nods when Josleen reenacts the ending of her discussion with Hildegarde. He has always seen the dragon as his wife now does, as a beast masquerading as a hero of the realm. She holds a grudge against him based on the lies* of the Golden Paladin and Josleen herself. This clouds her (and others’) judgement enough to take the side of criminals and killers so as to avoid standing beside The King of Larket. Yet they are allowed to claim moral superiority and scorn Macon and his family? Again, he knows this is all because of him. He is against the witches plaguing his city, so Hildegarde is with them despite the fact that they aided Kahran’s attack on Larket. Is The Hard City the only place in Lithrydel where sense still exists? The -heroes- have allied themselves with the allies (witches) of the guy (Kahran) globally accepted as the most evil? How can this be? “They don’ care about The Red Witch or our son. They only wan’t’see me suffer and fall. Their ‘atred matters more t’them than Larket’s children.” Beneath the fort and its dungeons, a fermin, affected by the permeating Rage Aura, bites the tail of his best friend, who he secretly suspects is trying to steal his weird elf girlfriend. This conversation, like most others between Guy’s parents nowadays leads back to the curse robbing him of his youth and eventually his life. Macon is visibly exhausted by this and makes no attempt to hide his frustration and anguish over it now, having nothing of note to say about it because there is still seemingly nothing that can be done… (*Truths)
Josleen cries herself to sleep in Macon’s arms as she has done countless times before now. Their grief bears down on both of them so heavily that it forces them to hunch inward and towards each other, pressed closer by their common pain, adhered by sticky tears, mostly hers but sometimes his, when he thinks she isn’t awake, but she is. She knows he’s shed a few. She pretends not to see them because she also knows that being strong for her sake is one of the few victories he has left. Abandoned by allies over nothing, rejected by the political realm, forced to watch his son unwittingly careen towards death, what victories can Macon claim right now? Even Kelovath eluded him in the end, in a way. Yes, Macon ultimately won that battle. Does he not sit on the throne? But Kelovath is still a free man, as Josleen knows. That final thought blooms as she succumbs to sleep, and stays with her through fitful dreams that lurch from nightmare to nightmare: Guillem’s curse, Hildegarde’s betrayal, Kelovath’s return. In the morning, she wakes with the latter on her mind. After breakfast, after Guillem is taken away by the governess to practice arithmetic (already? How can it be), after Gigi has stolen sausages, and the staff have cleared most of the table, Josleen keeps Macon in his seat by saying, “Something else happened in Frostmaw…” She dismisses all servants that linger then tells Macon of Kelovath. He was at the fort, roaming free with his squire. They exchanged words. He said much the same as everyone else, that she and Macon are wicked. Nothing new. He denied the accusations against him. He was not on the run.
Macon tenses at the table following breakfast when Josleen says that she has more news from her trip to Frostmaw. ‘Kelovath’ is in Frostmaw. The king’s fists clench and his knuckles turn white as he takes it in. Given The City of War’s eagerness to void their treaty, it doesn’t come as much of a shock that The Golden Paladin is being harbored on the mountaintop, if he was anywhere it was likely that he was there, really. But it is just the mention of his name, perhaps now more than ever, that sets The Rage Knight off. It is the same old story. He hates the witches that have cursed his son and all of Larket, and wishes them all the same fate as Valrae, but his loathing of Kelovath is different and brings into play everything that Macon sees wrong in the world outside of Larket. The people here have turned on the paladin, as they should against the man that brought plagues and death to their homes, but beyond Larket’s borders he is idealized and propped up for reasons the king cannot understand. He -knows- that if his name were Kelovath and not Macon Jauzon that the culprits behind the earthquake and the curse could be dealt with in the same way, but without the public outcry from across Lithrydel. Macon is not allowed to rule as any other leader would for no reason other than he is not Kelovath. As expected when mentioning that name, his fury spikes and has tangible effects around the fort. “Maths is stupid,” Guillem says, somewhere in the castle. “Of course he was,” Macon finally responds. “You weren’t surprised either? Tha’s where he -would- be found.” He shakes his head. If it hadn’t already been tossed on the pyre, this was grounds to break the treaty on it’s own. He asks this through gritted teeth, still getting over the anger that speaking about this man brings upon him. The gears are working behind the scenes, and Josleen can maybe tell, trying to figure out the best way to send a team to apprehend the paladin from Frostmaw, despite that probably not being the best political move right now after Hildegarde forced the Larketian militia on the fight against Kahran.
Josleen, after hearing a cook in the kitchen whap a spatula on a prep table and shout ‘I’ll break this dish over your head!’, places a hand on Macon’s arm to placate him. “It’s infuriating, but I will say he seems a bit pathetic now, aimless. I derived some pleasure from that.” This is a lie for Macon’s benefit. Kelovath seemed as he always has, though perhaps a bit more motivated now than before. “I thought about it some on the trip back, and I believe that burning the treaty at the execution was pretextual. Perhaps Hildegarde was not moved so much by the Red Witch’s death, but actually wanted to end the agreement so she wouldn’t be bound to give up Kelovath. Perhaps he arrived before the execution, and everything since then has been posturing by Hildegarde to keep him there. Of course I’m furious. She accepted you as Larket’s rightful King, and now this?” Her own rage spikes a little, undermining her efforts to soothe the king. (Elsewhere in the castle, “3 plus 4 equals farts!!!!”) “But what will you do?” She has a good guess, but Macon doesn’t respond well to being told what to do--even worse when being told *not* to do something; better to coax him.
Macon thought about this possibility almost immediately when Josleen gave him this news. That Frostmaw had already broken the treaty by harboring Kelovath before the execution of The Red Witch seems only natural to him. He nods and places his opposite hand over hers on his shoulder, each of them futilely trying to calm the other’s fury. He kind of doubts that Kelovath would admit anything that would make him seem aimless even if he was, but lets this possible white lie go. If anything Macon’s assumption is that the paladin is trying to get in on the fight against Kahran so that he could steal some glory. Typical. Even though he would love to, needs to try and capture Kelovath, he knows it is the wrong play in this moment, so he will compromise, for now. “We are sendin’ men there t’aid agains’ Kahran. Among them we can send someone t’monitor the paladin for now… So we do not lose ‘im again.”
Josleen, satisfied with this answer, nods. “I believe that’s wise, darling. And perhaps during the war there will be opportunities to showcase his true, evil nature.” Showcase/frame, tomato/tomahto. “He has nothing,” she says again. “We have everything. The gods favor us, and not him. So much for being a holy man, hm? That says it all.”