Part of the Through A Glass, Darkly Arc
Summary: A witch is attacked in broad daylight by Cramer's men in the Cenril marketplace. Talyara and Hudson witness the attack but the Cenril guards are quick to stop the violence from spreading. Hudson rushes a very shaken Talyara back to the Landon Estate, where she recounts the horrors of previous run ins with the witch hunters. Krice, sensing something is wrong and rushing to Talyara's aid, kills 4 of Cramer's men in the marketplace before retrieving her from the Landon's. Alvina made tea.
The Cenril market is abuzz more than usual. Though far from an official holiday, the festival of Lammas is celebrated by many in Cenril to mark the August harvest. Witches have rented stalls to sell charms, holiday treats, and bless token loaves of bread brought by local farmers. It's not done with too much fanfare, and yet it presents as a pleasant surprise in revelry for Hudson, who'd come to pick up lunch on his work day. Though he has no concept of the wiccan calendar, he is vaguely familiar with the holiday on account of growing up in the diverse city and knowing a few witches. He mills about near the food displays, investigating the fragrant aromas of seasoned meats and vegetables on the grill. Holiday food is always the best food, even if it's not your holiday. He stands on a fast moving but long line to buy fried dough filled with spiced potatoes and onions, and eats it on the street out of the greasy napkin they served it to him. Afterwards he buys a crepe filled with hazelnut spread and cream and stands in a crowd watching a young lad juggle flaming bowling pins.
Talyara moves along the Cenril market, her emerald eyes wide with excitement at the Lammas festival taking place. For so long, she had lived her witchy life as a solitary practitioner after her home was destroyed. When Lanara came back into her life, they often practiced and celebrated the Wheel of the Year together; however, having lost her to madness, Taly was once more following a solitary path. It wasn't something she particularly enjoyed--growing up in Kelvar where she was surrounded by covenmates, it was hard to do it alone now. She had heard whispers of the festival and knew she had to come spectate. She dresses for the occasion, wearing a flowy dress with splatters of reds and oranges and yellows, and a pair of soft, worn boots on her feet. Most notably, this is the first time she has gone out in public without her arm wrapped up. Here, during the celebration of her people, Talyara opts to wear the W I T C H scar on her forearm proudly. She makes a point to stop at every stall, trying to buy a little bit from everyone. The witch probably could have sold her tinctures and salves here as well as the crystal jewelry she wraps, but that didn't sit well with her moral compass. Still, she admires (and supports) the hustle. Talyara joins the crowd milling around a young boy who expertly juggles flaming bowling pins, near where Hudson stands, and she is momentarily brought back to a time when she was just a girl and Lana had tried to juggle with fireballs and set their treehouse ablaze. "Flower crown for the lady?" a young man inquires of Taly, bowing dramatically as he brandishes a wooden dowel rod with several pairs of crowns to choose from. With a laugh she grabs her skirts and curtsies in response. "Oh why thank you. I think I'll choose...that one!" She points to one at the end made with orange roses and wheat stalks, reaching into her pocket and handing over the appropriate coin and placing the crown atop her curly head.
Hudson's attention pivots away from the juggling to catch the flower crown transaction taking place nearby, and in so doing he recognizes Talyara. He steps away from the crowd watching the juggling and waits for Talyara's purchase to conclude before greeting her: "Talyara? Hey there. Don't mind if I copy you." He gives her an easy grin and gestures at the flower crown vendor. "I'll take one with lilies please," he says, nodding when the young man plucks one loose and cups it in his hands for Hudson's approval. "For you, sir? Will go very well with your polo," the lad jokes, and he and Hudson both laugh because that is certainly not the case. Still chuckling, Hudson asks the lad for two more crowns, one in pink roses, the other in blue. As the crowns are being packaged 'to go,' Hudson turns to grin at Talyara. "Now I gotta find my son something or I'll be in the dog house, pun intended," he tells her, reaching into his coinpurse to count out the money he owes the vendor. "How you been? Things good?" he asks conversationally. Hudson is more than happy to chat up Talyara, though in truth he has always been closer with Lanara, not for any particular reason, Lanara is simply the sister he'd met first. All that he really knows of Talyara is that she is Lanara's sister and that she at some point, perhaps still, was linked to Krice. At this time, Hudson is unaware that Lanara had fallen into madness but he did know of her canceled wedding, so he also adds, neutrally, "How's your sister?"
Talyara looks up when she hears her name and smiles when the speaker makes his way towards her. "Hudson! Hey!" She knows he's always been closer to Lanara, but they've attended the same events and parties over the years so he's recognizable. She takes a step back to allow the vendor to move his dowel more freely for Hudson's perusal, chuckling when the young man compliments the lily crown as matching his polo. "Oh I agree, the lilies will look quite lovely on you," she adds with a chuckle. Hudson mentions needing to get a gift for his son and Taly laughs. "That's probably a smart idea. How are Alvina and the kids?" The last time she had seen the bard things had seemed...chaotic so she hopes things have settled down for their sake. When the conversation turns to her and her well being she lifts her shoulder in a half hearted shrug. "Oh you know. All things considered, I'm doing alright." The witch was sure he didn't want to hear about the night terrors and anxiety that plagued her since she had been kidnapped and tortured by the witch hunters. She was able to occasionally smile and laugh again, and mean it, so that was something. Speaking of smiles, hers immediately vanishes when Hudson inquires about her sister. It's like falling from high up and landing so hard and the breath is knocked out of you. He didn't know. And why would he, it's not like she had gone around announcing to everyone that her sister lost her mind. "Erm," she hesitates, looking around at the ever growing crowd. "Maybe somewhere a little more private?" she suggests, weaving her way through the people and towards an unoccupied stall. Assuming Hudson obliges and follows, she looks up at him apologetically because Lanara is his friend and maybe she should have said something sooner. "Lana is...not well," Talyara informs him with a frown. "After our kidnapping she just kind of...snapped. She did a lot of horrific stuff." Like slaughtered children at the orphanage, killed countless others in Scandal's employ, and burned down the barn at the animal sanctuary to just name a few. "She had to be put away," she confesses in a whisper.
"Everyone is doing great," Hudson informs Talyara as he pays and picks up the wrapped crowns. "Apparently we're having another kid." He grins over the self-deprecating jab and nods as the witch reports she's doing alright. He'd likewise tempered his response: no need to mention that guards had come to the house and silvered him to arrest Alvina, basically in front of the children. Or that the baby growing inside Alvina, unlike its siblings, supposedly has a high chance of being born with 'werewolf features,' such as a tail, and that it stresses them to know that their child might be identifiable as a lycan and more easily subject to racism. It's too complicated to get into, although no doubt Talyara, a witch, would be a sympathetic audience. This is just how acquaintances communicate, by saying things are alright even when they somewhat aren't. Hudson fully expects things to likewise be alright with Lanara, and stops in his tracks when Talyara hesitates, implying things are instead to the contrary. He follows her, his easy demeanor having diminished to a more serious one by the time they relocate to discuss more privately. Not well? He likewise frowns, his brows furrow together. "Like how 'not well?'" he asks, only to have her reveal that Lanara was put away. No details. No doubt intentionally omitted. He knows better than to pry with a grieving sister. It must have been very bad for Lanara to have been institutionalized. "I'm really sorry to hear that, Talyara," he says. "If there's anything me and Alvina can do, please let us know. Lanara has always been a good friend to our family and we'd be happy to help her." There is chanting in the far end of the market, attracting some attention, but he can't make out the words. He ignores it for the time being and stays the course in focusing on Talyara. "Same goes for you. Seriously, if you ever need anything, let us know."
Talyara's emerald eyes widen in surprise when Hudson casually mentions that him and Alvina are expecting another child and she beam up at him. "That's so exciting! Congratulations!" she gushes as women are wont to do. Four young children, bless them. When the pair step away from the crowd and the conversation takes a somber turn, the witch folds her arms across her body, a protective stance when plagued with anxiety. The offer of helping her mentally unstable sister is met with a sad smile. She wished there was something he or Alvina would be able to do, hell if there was anything -anyone- could do she'd jump at the chance. She is further touched by the offer extending to her as well. "Thank you Hudson, truly. It means...more than you can possibly know." Taly absentmindedly scratches at the scar on her forearm before exhaling a deep sigh. She likewise hears the chants in the background but she's not entirely focused on what they are saying, and she assumes it's just a chant meant to draw power in celebration of Lammas. "Lana is in a wonderful facility," she assures him. "She has the best doctors and caregivers and they are very communicative with me about her treatments. If I can be completely honest, they aren't hopeful for a complete recovery; however, I refuse to give up hope."
Hudson nods gravely in response to Talyara's explanation of Lanara's treatment plan and the notion of optimism even in the face of bad news. "She's lucky to have you as her sister," he says, though he hesitates there. The chanting is getting louder, and in response to it there's a murmur in the crowd. Hudson's attention is pulled away to the market place, now being invaded by people wearing wearing tunics bearing the insignia of a silver war hammer on them. Some of them wear masks or hoods but others go bare-faced, their expressions cruel. Many hold torches, which they brandish menacingly in front of them to clear their advance. It's only now that Hudson and Talyara would be able to make out what is being chanted by the men wearing the silver hammer emblazoned tunics: "Done! With! Witches! Burn! The! Bitches!" Some of the festival attendees are fleeing, but others are gathering among themselves, under the theory that there's safety in numbers. Certain of the witches in the stalls are shouting, their words incomprehensible and drowned out by the chanting. Some of them reach for their wands. At first, all Hudson can do is stare, dumbfounded by the scene unfolding, as if perhaps waiting a second longer would reveal some benign explanation for this, but then a mother rushes by them, tugging a small child by the hand, presumably the two en route to safety. "Hey, get, get, uh," Hudson doesn't complete the thought but he makes a sweeping gesture with his arm to mean that Talyara should get behind him. There's no time for them to contemplate taking a stand, because suddenly there are shrieks, and more people rushing past them, without regard for whether they nearly knock anyone over in the process. Guards are charging in. The hammer wearing men are dispersing, dropping torches in their wake. There's the smell of smoke on the dry, summer wind and an immolating figure, flailing into concession stands, scattering any whom she approaches and setting ablaze anything she touches. Chaos has erupted.
Talyara's lips curve into a sad sort of smile when Hudson expresses that Lanara is lucky to have a sister like her. She appreciates the compliment but there is a ton of guilt surrounding her relationship with Lana at this point. Talyara is plagued by what-if's, wondering if she could have done more to prevent her sister's psychosis. However, Taly doesn't have time to dwell in this guilt for long because her attention is likewise diverted to the commotion in the market place. She turns to face the source of the chanting and the whispers that are filtering through the festival goers. But those robes with that familiar insignia stop the witch in her tracks. Her face visibly pales and her emerald eyes widen in fear. Instinctively, she pulls her scarred arm against her chest, hiding the red letters spelling out W I T C H from those who chant for her demise. In that moment she is no longer at a Lammas celebration in Cenril, she is back at her cottage in Frostmaw, rushing out to the door to go help the sick children at the orphanage. She is closing the door only to be ambushed by a group of witch hunters, who are binding her magic, and trying to hit her over the head with a club. She is dodging out of the way but to no avail, being pummeled and beaten to unconsciousness before she's stolen away. She's at the compound, locked in a cage, being tortured for information. Taly's heart thuds so loudly in her chest that it echoes in her ears, her breathing becomes ragged, and her body begins to tremble. But somewhere, in her conscious mind, she hears Hudson's stutters and slowly comes back to the present, the chaotic scene rushing at her so suddenly, it's dizzying. The witch shakes her head and tries to make some sense of the deteriorating festival before them. She doesn't initially take Hudson's advice to stand behind him, but the stampede of people rushing their way has her doing it anyway, the petite witch not wishing to be trampled. "We can't let them get away with this!" she says through clenched teeth, her anxiety ebbing away to anger. Still, she clutches her arm to her chest. Galath, Taly's main torturer, is dead, but there were several in the group that had abducted her. What if one of them was there and recognized her? Even without her scar, Taly looked very much the part of witch with her attire and pentacle jewelry.
Hudson is still watching the scene, the human side of him trying to make sense of it, the wolf side feeling a magnetic pull toward it. Things are happening so quickly. The guards are forming a perimeter, some of them arresting the men in robes who failed to escape. They'd vanished into the city like cockroaches into a wall, Hudson will later reflect. The woman who had been set on fire has crumpled to the earth, the fire doused by spell. She is alive and being surrounded, creams and oils applied by strangers who kneel at her feet. The air smells of fire but the torches are being put out. Talyara's futile plea calls Hudson's attention away, back to her. She looks white as a sheet and is shaking. "Talyara, the guards are here," he says to her, repeating himself in case she's not heard him on account of PTSD, "The guards are here."
Indeed, a guard has climbed on a crate and lifted an amplifier to his mouth: "Please do not panic, the festival has been secured. I repeat, the festival has been secured. If a healer could please approach, that would be appreciated."
Hudson feels a muted sense of awareness, a whiplash from things degenerating into disorder only to be contained, efficiently and effectively. A guard approaches them. "Are you all right, ma'am?" he asks Talyara, and Hudson immediately answers for her, "She's fine," in a tone of a man who doesn't want personal involvement with law enforcement. (It's not really a great idea, when you're the mob.) The guard eyes them warily but takes the hint. There are plenty of others who might need help anyway. Hudson pulls a crate over to Talyara so she can sit down. "Are you going to be OK? Can I get you something?" he asks her, frowning. What had transpired had been disturbing, but she looks very shaken up. Something about the way she clutched her arm. Hudson glances around them, reporting to her, "The danger's gone, those awful people - they've been run off. OK?"
Talyara is still straddling the line of present and past, the witch aware she is in Cenril at a Lammas celebration which had been interrupted by witch hunters. But her mind is still rolling through the memories of her abduction and torture by these same men. Her emerald eyes train on the woman who had been set ablaze and a fresh shiver shakes her entire body. When the guard approaches, Taly cowers, shifting closer to Hudson instinctively because she's unsure of who she can trust here aside from the werewolf. He quickly sends the guard away though and is kindly dragging a crate over so the witch can sit. She does this before her shaking legs have a chance to give out on her. Still, she clutches her arm to her chest as she hears Hudson talking to her, but she doesn't comprehend the words he speaks. "What?" she asks him, eyes still wide with fear. Assuming he repeats his inquiry she shakes her head slowly. "The danger's never gone," she mumbles in a voice barely above a whisper. The witch, realizing she probably sounds completely melodramatic, casts a cursory glance around them to ensure that everyone's attentions are diverted elsewhere. Only then does she lower her forearm, revealing to Hudson her branding. "The witch hunters ambushed me outside of my cottage in Frostmaw a couple of months ago," she tells him in a hushed voice. "They beat me into unconsciousness and took me to their compound. When I woke up I was locked in a cage and they tortured me for information." This is all spoken very quickly as Taly's gaze darts around suspiciously to ensure no robed men suddenly jump out and grab her. The guard on the crate using an amplifier is calling for healers again and Talyara forces herself to a stand, gesturing towards the guard. "I-I should probably see if they need help..."
Talyara is behaving like a caged creature. It's concerning. Hudson leans close to catch the story she whispers, exclaiming a, "What?!" because its content is extremely disturbing and seems like something that should never happen in Cenril. He wants to ask questions, but Talyara is restless - and she probably shouldn't be, given how she's still alarmingly pale and shaky on her feet like a new foal. Good intentions but bad idea. She should really lie down. "Talyara, no no no," he cautions her, out of reflex glancing around for his bodyguard, who prior to all the trouble had been keeping a polite distance to let Hudson catch up with Talyara. Even though the chaos had been short lived, Hudson is belatedly a little mildly annoyed that the guy didn't immediately appear to do his literal job. "Boss," he appears now, and Hudson responds to him with a pointed, "Hey, where've you been? Please help her so she doesn't fall," directing the man toward Talyara. The bodyguard immediately takes a position at Talyara's other side, taking by the arm and supporting her weight. "My bodyguard," explains Hudson, for Talyara's sake, though that is likely apparent. "Look, my carriage is parked nearby," he jerks his head for the bodyguard to begin following him and guiding her in that direction. It really is just one small street over. Hudson has decided that the right thing to do is what he would want done for Alvina. (It isn't entirely selfless. However disturbing what had happened was, he also, however, doesn't want to be questioned by law enforcement for all the obvious reasons.) "We are going to give you a lift back to the house and send for Krice to pick you up, OK?" He opens the door for his man to help Talyara inside, and then climbs in after her, sitting opposite her. "I'll get a message to Krice," says the bodyguard, before shutting the door after them. It's a short ride, and they are on their way.
Talyara feels like she's being tugged in two opposite directions. The part of her that is consciously in the present, feels the need to go help those who have been injured, mainly the woman who was burned. However, the part of her mind that is still healing from her abduction and torture no longer sees the burned woman but rather her sister, lying in a pool of her own blood after the witch hunter slashed her achilles tendon. Once more she finds herself blinking rapidly, giving her head a firm shake to try and disperse that image of Lana. "What?" she asks again, Hudson's voice drawing her focus once more. Taly, her adrenaline and anxiety still high, nearly jumps when Hudson's bodyguard materializes near them. But the werewolf obviously knows who he is so she doesn't panic when he approaches and takes her arm to help keep her stable. Hudson is offering a ride in his carriage back to his house, and, despite the fact that her steps follow him to a nearby street, she hears herself say, "I don't want want to trouble you or impose your family." Ever the sweetheart even in the face of her own struggles. With the bodyguard's assistance she slides into the carriage, instinctively clutching her arm to her chest once more. When Hudson joins her and promises to send word to Krice to come and get her, she gives a slow nod. "He's waiting just outside of Cenril," she says to the bodyguard when he offers to be the one to get a message to the warrior. When they begin moving, away from the market, away from the chaos, away from the witch hunters, Taly presses her trembling hands against her pale face and takes a few measured breaths to focus her state of mind. After a minute she chances a look at Hudson through her fingers, and offers him a quiet apology. The near constant nightmares that plagued her at night were bad enough but to completely lose her cool, to be so easily transported back to that place, made her feel weak. "Thank you for helping me," she adds.
The Landon Estate
When Hudson's carriage arrives in the drive, Alvina is the first to rush out to greet him. “Hey, did you get a chance to get the -” Her chattering stops the instant the door opens. Talyara’s face appears, pale as a ghost, while the body guards help the startled witch. Alvina, tongue tied and panicking, is searching for Hudson when he rounds the other side. “Oh my gods, what happened?” The question’s directed at no one. She's quick to try and pull Talyara in to a mother's hug before gesturing pointedly for the bodyguards to help the witch inside. Milo, Alvina’s personal guardian and a highly trusted individual in Hudson's association, greets them at the door. The guards hurry, as fast as Talyara is able, to rest her on the couch in the Landon living room. Harper and Luna are indulging their individual interests on the patio, divided from the room by a thick sheet of glass and oblivious to the commotion. “Milo, get her a blanket.” Alvina buzzes into the kitchen to pour iced tea, flicking the dimmer on the lights in the living room so they're less harsh. It takes the bard an instant to reappear, setting the tea on the table in a flowery glass and gingerly wrapping Talyara in an oversized fuzzy blanket. It's so warm, it must have been out in the sun. The guards who brought the her inside clear the living room, leaving only Alvina and Talyara together. Milo lingered in the hall, no doubt waiting for Hudson to surface while affording the women privacy. “Taly…” Alvina whispers sweetly, trying to tuck a wild hair behind the witch’s ear, “It's okay.” The bard promises without really knowing but this house was the safest place in the world.
After tending to important and unfortunately time-consuming tasks, Krice returned to the Cenril Western border upon the back of his wyvern, Gylworliath. Dressed in his usual garb with a katana strapped to his back, the warrior waited silently for Talyara to enjoy her time at the Lammas festival and make her way back to him. Whilst Gylworliath wandered into the nearby forest to shove her snout down the small burrows of a variety of animals, curious as she was, the warrior's sensitive perception tracked sounds of an attack of some sort at that very same festival. His head whipped around to peer through the archway into the city. The guards on the wall turned inward to glimpse the commotion deeper within the limits, nonfussed by Krice's entry into the city, katana drawn. He moved swiftly and unhindered, compelled by his foremost desire to see Talyara safe. As he sprinted through the streets, he encountered the occasional robed man looking entirely out of place and too guilty to be suffered to live. Four Witch Hunters total crossed his path, and each one was dispatched with a slice of steel to the throat. A flick of his blade got rid of excess blood. Unwittingly sprinting away from Hudson's messenger guard, Krice left his quarry bleeding in the streets and arrived at the festival to see it secured, a woman badly injured--although his chest tightened with fleeting anxiety over her identity, he knew her to be a stranger, not the woman he rushed in to protect. Various scents filled the air and he focused his attention on one in particular, soon identifying other familiar, less desirable scents surrounding it. The perceptive warrior turned to follow his nose, sprinting away from the contained chaos of the festival to pursue the smells taken away by Hudson's carriage.
Hudson and Talyara arrive at the house and cause a small commotion, in particular alarming Alvina. "Some sort of anti-witch terrorism in the market," he tells his wife, when she asks what happened. Their security staff, Milo et al., help Talyara inside and to lie down. As Alvina works to make Talyara comfortable inside, Hudson holds court with another of his men outside on the pool deck, just to confirm that no immediate follow up save summoning Krice is needed. He describes the robes worn by the men who had interrupted the festival. "Henry Cramer's people," confirms his man. "They're getting bold."
"I thought we made those whackadoodles knock it off after the Gala," Hudson frowns.
"Not at all," says his intelligence man.
"You could have said they were still around destabilizing the city." Hudson looks annoyed. His skin feels hot. They'd missed this.
"In your security briefings, boss, they've been mentioned."
"I can double check, but yes, my understanding is they are." His guy sounds apologetic, but that's only because he has to give his boss bad news.
"Well, them being in the briefings isn't enough, someone has to also TELL me, in case I don't READ the briefings, they're long," snaps Hudson, releasing a long sigh.
"We'll be sure to tell you going forward."
Hudson's face is a mask of stone and he glances out toward the road, where presumably Krice is approaching. "Thanks," mutters Hudson, glancing once more toward his guy. "Sorry," he says gruffly, catching his temper and realizing his own managerial oversight. "Obviously I should read security briefings. But also I need to be told in person of major threats."
Hudson doesn't respond to this. He lets himself out of the pool deck and begins to traverse up the lawn toward the front door and assuming Krice is within shouting distance, he lifts a hand in a wave. "She's inside, she's fine, just shaken up!" he calls out.
Talyara falls silent for the remainder of the short ride to the Landon estate, the witch keeping her face covered as she wills herself to keep her breathing even, to ease the aggressive beating of her heart. When they pull up to the home Taly straightens, and shakily opens the door to climb out much to the surprise of Alvina who was obviously just expecting her husband. She wants to apologize for intruding; however, the bard is gathering her up in a hug and words fall the witch who didn't realize how much she needed that affection. Despite the anxiety attack that is still brewing inside, she gives Alvina the smallest of smiles before she's ushered into the house and sat upon the couch. As Alvina bustles about, calling for a blanket and moving around in the kitchen, Taly knots her fingers together in her lap, her green eyes flittering across the room where she perches. Her observing doesn't last long because she's being wrapped up in a warm, cozy blanket by Alvina and she's tucking a rogue curl behind Taly's tapered ear. She realizes she's lost her flower crown at some point during the commotion. Things are still chaotic in Talyara's mind, fear still grips at her heart tightly and there is a lump in her throat that makes it hard to swallow, but at least she's back in the present. She knows she is in Hudson and Alvina's home and not locked in some cage at the witch hunters' encampment. The corner of her mouth quirks into the smallest of smiles at the bard's gentleness and kindness. She wants to say she's sorry for disturbing them, for intruding on their home, to explain about what happened at the festival and why it affected her so negatively. But all she can hear herself say in a quiet voice is, "congratulations on the new baby."
Alvina's concerned expression softens with a touch of sadness. “Taly…” The bard's smile is thin, her worry stronger than ever. Hudson's explanation was brief but enough for Alvina to know the foundation of the sweet witch's panic. She takes Talyara's hand in her own, gently. “Thank you.” She starts, rubbing the pad of her thumb along the top of her hand. “Do you want to talk about it? You don't have to, it's okay. We can just sit here if you like.” She gives Taly time to answer her, still building a bridge of idle conversation to reassure and distract her. “Didn't we talk about you visiting soon a while back? Did I ever tell you about my cat?” Aforementioned cat is curled up in the far corner on a cat tree with the appearance of a bookcase. Aria opens her eyes, as if aware she's being talked about. Alvina gestures in her direction and the black cat stretches dramatically for her audience. “Aria, come meet Talyara. Her hands are soft!” The cat hops down and trots over suspiciously to sniff their feet. “She's really sweet.” Especially when the kids are elsewhere.
Krice had history with 'The Landons', a little less pleasant than he cared to remember. In spite of that history, he was still at least a modicum of respectful as he slowed from his run to step into Hudson's home, smelling of his usual natural snow and pine, and witch hunter blood (some of which had splattered onto his sleeve as he killed one of the fleeing extremists) - and to discerning noses, a trace of lavender, as a result of spending copious amounts of time with the Witch. A variety of different smells assaulted his olfactory, not the least of which was 'wolf'--another fine memory of times past--but he zeroed in on only one: Talyara. Following his nose, and other senses that attuned to the witch's life signs, Krice found her in (the living room or a bedroom? Alvina and Huds have conflicting posts, I think?) and paused briefly at the threshold upon spotting a flash of red. It had been a long, long time. If he felt any awkwardness, it was easily dismissed in favour of seeing to Talyara. The warrior stepped forward quietly as Aria approached the Witch for affection, ultimately crouching in front of his companion - with the cat between, unless she moved - to offer her support and reassurance. He reached out to hold her left thigh gently, just on the outside and a little higher than her knee, giving a tender squeeze. As Talyara recounted the trauma that led to her panic at the Lammas Festival, Krice offered her warmth in a lingering stare, though his overall expression was guarded to the emotions conjured anew by the very crisp memory of her suffering at the hands of those Hunters.
Hudson watches Krice race by him, and doesn't blame the guy. He'd feel equally disinclined to hang and chat were the shoe on the other foot. Hudson wastes little time in heading inside himself. He doesn't immediately join everyone else in the living room (corrected for posterity), giving Krice a second with Talyara to get up to speed before the dynamic gets more complicated by having the two men in the same room as each other. Hudson takes a small detour and jogs back over to the girls in the patio. Harper appears to be organizing her baseball card collection binder for the thousandth time, and Luna is painting in watercolors. He palms the latter's head while hovering over her artwork. "Where's your brother?" he asks.
"He's taking a nap inside. Please don't wake him, he's been so annoying today." Luna sighs, pausing over her painting, which he recognizes as a crude landscape of their home. A favorite subject. "Dad, you're making a shadow, I can't see anything."
"Sorry, I'll stop making a shadow." He steps back. "That looks nice, bear."
Hudson smirks. He likes how Luna just accepts praise very matter-of-fact, as if she expected it. "We have some friends over for a second. Can you guys stay out here for a little bit more? Remember, no going in the pool without an adult, OK?" he tells her.
"We know, you tell us a million times," that's Harper. "Besides, the water's cold." Perish the thought of going in 'cold' water. Hudson bends down by the lip of the pool and dips his hand inside. The floating thermometer is at the other end, but if he were to guess, he'd put the water at seventy-five. Cold indeed.
"Knock on the glass if you need us," says Hudson, and when his daughters don't respond, he lets himself in through the sliding glass door to join the party of adults, coming in toward the end of Talyara's recounting of the very quick sequence of events. He touches Alvina on the back in a wordless greeting and stands next to her, clearing his throat. "Sorry, I didn't realize you were nearby," that's for Krice's benefit, "she looked like she might faint and I was a little worried about her being on her own like that. Thanks for picking her up."
Talyara's eyes pull closed as Alvina's thumb brushes along the top of her hand in a comforting gesture. When the bard offers to allow Taly to talk she takes a deep, steadying breath. They should know not only the lengths that the witch hunters are going to, but also why she reacted the way she did. Being perceived as weak and incapable was not something that sat well with the witch. She swallows thickly before opening her eyes once more, training her gaze on Alvina's face. "They found me up in Frostmaw, the witch hunters," she says in a quiet voice, as if speaking them too loudly would conjure her assailants right to the Landons' living room. "A few months ago. I was leaving my cottage when they ambushed me. There was a whole group of them." Taly has to take a moment to compose herself as her bottom lip quivers, her mind threatening to hurtle her back into the dark time and place. Aria is called over and the witch reaches down to off her hand, gently running her fingers through her soft fur. Aria reminds her of her own familiar, Taylor. It is at this time another person enters the room and Talyara is momentarily surprised to see Krice crossing to where she sits. How had he managed to get here so quickly? She offers the warrior a small smile, gently placing her left hand atop his own when he touches her leg, a small squeeze given to silently convey that, all things considered, she was alright. Turning her attention back to Alvina, Talyara offers the rest of her tale. "Some of the men worked spells to bind my magic so I couldn't fight back. Another, the ring leader, knocked me unconscious and they took me away to their compound." A slow, deep breath is taken before she continues, and another scratch offered to Aria. "When I woke up I was locked inside a cage and shackled. The man demanded I provide information about the witches, who was leading us, who we all were, when we were meeting next. When I refused he..." Talyara trembles once more, obviously too upset to utter the words 'tortured me'. Instead, she releases Krice's hand in favor of turning her arm over, revealing the red-scarred letters that had been carved into the soft flesh of her forearm spelling out W I T C H. "When that didn't get me talk," she eventually continues. "They snatched Lanara. We were trying to escape ourselves when they caught us in the process. Someone went to attack me but Lana jumped in the way and her leg was cut badly. I launched myself at the guy and there was...a lot of yelling and even more blood." Taly shudders and the memory of her sister laying in a pool of blood. "Krice found us soon after, and a witch hunter who, apparently took a liking to Lana, helped us escape." The witch's gaze flicks up to Hudson who rejoins them in the living room and suddenly she feels like a spotlight is upon her and she draws in, feeling self conscious. "I'm sorry I freaked out like that. Just seeing them again...I didn't think that would happen here in Cenril," she confesses with a frown.
Alvina thought Aria might help Talyara relax a bit. Pets, especially cats, had a soothing air about them if they were friendly and wanted to interact. Alvina, meanwhile, settings her gentle gaze back on Talyara as she starts to explain. When the witch’s lip trembles, Alvina offers a reassuring squeeze to her hand, reminding her that she’s safe here on the couch, wrapped in this blanket, and protected by so many people. Krice enters not long after, Alvina offering him a glance before turning back to the woman at her side. She releases Taly’s hand delicately, as if it were made of glass that might break if not handled with extreme care. None of these scents stick out in particular to the bard. Her lupine senses weren’t active (or at lease overly aware) in her humanoid form, maybe it’s different for other strains of the virus. Aria continues to duck and weave been the warrior and the witch as Talyara continues her horrific story. Each gruesome detail makes Alvina’s face sink deeper into despair and disgust with the witch hunters. “No…” she whispers, distraught at the scarred skin she reveals. How could these people do this to –anyone-? Why Hudson hadn’t ripped them out like weeds often baffled her. She knew it was complicated, that he couldn’t control things in Frostmaw, but in their own backyard? In Cenril? How could Talyara be subjected to such a sight? And the poor woman who was attacked! Alvina locks eyes with the witch and offers a sincere and loving apology. “I am…so so sorry you and Lana had to endure all those acts of violence and hatred. Taly, I truly am.” Then she stands to allow the warrior and witch more space, to be closer to one another. She moves a few paces away, planting herself closer to the door. Crossing her arms across her chest, firmly above her visibly pregnant stomach, Alvina’s attention returns to the story Talyara weaves for them. Hudson appears a beat later, looking towards him once to confirm he was the one touching her back. Talyara echoes the bard’s thoughts aloud. It should never have happened in Cenril. Not with Uma in charge. Not with Hudson’s men out there. “Thank goodness Krice and the witch hunter found you.” Alvina didn’t want to think of the alternative. Talyara turns her apology to Hudson and Alvina remains quiet, letting him fill in the silence with reassurances and understanding. No one could blame her for reacting that way. Not after the horrors she’d witnessed, endured, and heard about. Witches and Lycan’s were dismissed as sub humans. Valrae’s execution in Larket fanned the flames for the witches but Alvina had no doubt Lycan’s weren’t far behind.
Cool air marked the absence of Talyara's hand hand against the back of his own, and his eyes were unfortunately drawn to the scars consequently visible on her raised forearm; carved in the letters WITCH - like a branding of shame. He hated the Hunters for their cruelty against the gentle witch and suffered a moment where words faded from his hearing and introversion was the only refuge he had from his murderous thoughts - counter-intuitive as that might seem. A moment to himself was a moment utilised for self-control. He returned to awareness when Talyara apologised for her reaction to the festival attack. He shook his head, murmuring a gentle, " Don't apologise." She did nothing wrong. Her upset was expected, understandable. Alvina said his name from the doorway and he glanced toward her, his focus brief. At some point during his silence, he had curled his forearm around Talyara's thigh in a pseudo-hug, and had dropped his other hand between them to the neck of the kitty there, scratching idly at her fur. Animals could be comforting. Hudson thanked Krice for coming to get Talyara and he found it odd; he'd blow through mountains and drain seas to get to her. There was an explanation in the lycan's words as well, however, and Krice looked up at the expectant couple to reply to the decidedly slimmer one, " Thank you for helping her." His voice was quiet and measured, though not weak - his gratitude was given in earnest. Lifting his other hand from Aria to gently hold Talyara's elbow, the silver-haired enigma locked his gaze to hers, crimson soft with reassurance and steadiness where she herself lacked it. In that glance without a word spoken, he communicated that they would leave only when she was ready.
Not that Hudson had been dwelling on how this situation might be awkward, but if someone had asked him going into it what he'd think it would be like, he would have said awkward. And perhaps there had been some initial awkwardness. But it's surprisingly fine, or it feels fine now, standing beside Alvina watching Krice with Talyara. It's not that Hudson suddenly wants to play pickup basketball with Krice and have them over for holiday dinners, but he is capable of pressing mute on their shared history for a minute. Crises have a way of shunting the old drama to the side. It helps that it's Talyara who had needed help. She is well liked by both sides, and apparently summons up in the men a graciousness that had previously Not Exactly been present. "Of course, happy to help," says Hudson to Krice when the other man thanks him for helping the witch. Only time will tell if the ceasefire will last beyond this moment, but at least for now Hudson means what he says too. "I'm just glad that she's OK. I don't know what's going on in Cenril, but I don't like it."
As if to underscore this statement, and perhaps provide comedic relief to close out this moment, the young lad Bryce (who is four-ish in human years, aging swiftly to maturity due to lycanthropy) stampedes into the room, releasing an impressive burp as he skids to a halt. The sort of full throated burp that one practices and perfects if one is a young lad with nothing better to do than be disgusting and embarrassing to your parents. Hudson doesn't even need to see his son to confirm that he is the perpetrator, and he doesn't even turn around. He without looking addresses him, using brusque Dad Voice, "Bryce, that's rude, go to your room please." By the sound of it, this is a common event in their household. Bryce simply pivots and skips away, leaving Hudson to exchange a side-eye with Alvina. "Allegedly children are a gift," he comments dryly. "Please excuse him," he says to Talyara and Krice. "You're welcome to borrow my carriage if you need."
Talyara looks towards Alvina when she offers her sincerest apologies after her horrific tale of abduction and torture and she attempts to give the bard a small smile. "Thank you. Of course, you didn't do anything -wrong-, but I appreciate the sentiment. Truly, I do." As difficult as a story it was to recount, something about sharing it was cathartic, as if it was a poison that needed to be leeched from her body. Still, she couldn't bring herself to share with Alvina the rest of it; how after they were saved, Eli abandoned Lanara at the altar and the combination of the two events fractured her mind and sent her into a permanent psychotic state. In truth, this situation was more difficult than when Lana died, there was some closure with that at least. This broken mind left Taly with hope that the doctors warned her against, it was almost cruel to tease her with the possibility that she could get her sister back. She cautiously watches the exchange between Krice and Hudson, aware of the previous tensions between all parties involved and thankful, and even touched, that those dramas have seem to have been pushed aside in favor of dealing with this latest witch hunter issue. Further heavy conversation is put on hold with the arrival of Bryce and his less than dapper belch. While not polite, it succeeds in drawing a more genuine smile out of the witch, it's a nice tension breaker at least. "So I've heard," she says in response to Hudson's comment about children being a gift. Emerald eyes shift back to Krice still crouched before her and Taly reaches down to give Aria a few scratches under her chin before tentatively standing. Unwrapping herself from the cozy blanket she begins to fold it up, the slight shakiness in her hands making it a little lopsided. "That's very generous, thank you. Do you, um, have a sink I can use to freshen up for a moment?" After breaking out in a cold sweat in her panic and becoming clammy some cool water splashed on her face and neck would be welcome. "Then I promise I won't impose on your further."
Alvina gives Talyara a soft smile, turning her attention to Krice while the two men speak. It was awkward, sure, but there are more pressing matters and old things weren’t high on the priority list. Alvina knew from Khitti that Lanara had lost her mind. She knew from Lanara about Eli. They’d be set to start dance lessons and Lana attempted to go through the first lesson anyway while trying to hold a smile. Eli’d payed the people off to say the venue was ruined. The bard wished she could say or do something to lessen Talyara’s grief. She’s wondering about finding another blanket when Bryce rolls in. “Bryce Landon.” She hisses under Hudson’s firm direction. Their son takes the hint and exits, leaving Alvina to massage her temple in pure motherly joy. She looks back to find the chestnut haired witch smiling though, so that’s something. Aria, not used to so much attention, stays curled up between Krice and Taly until she stands. Talyara’s scratches are appropriately received and appreciated with a thunderous purr applause before the black cat stretches lazily and trots off to see what the kitchen holds for her. When the witch stands, Alvina takes a few steps forward, offering to take the blanket from her. “Here, dear.” She moves to the side of the couch, to keep from crowding Krice at Talyara’s legs. There she takes the lopsided blanket with a gentle smile and hugs it against her body. “Of course, I’ll take you to the guest bathroom.” Milo appears at the other end of the hallway, casting a curious gaze in their direction. Alvina waves to him, letting him know all is well, and leads Talyara to the spare room just down the hall. The room is modest and neat with it’s own. The bard opens the door, leading to the bathroom and gestures Talyara inside. Giving the woman privacy, Alvina moves back into the room at large and wrestles with a closet, stuffing the folded blanket inside atop other such fluffy blankets. She clearly has an affinity for them. Alvina allows herself a seat on the mattress, letting her study the little details of the room she barely saw often. It kicks up old memories of their former house guest, who they thought died, but hadn’t. The vanishings had been nightmarish. The witch hunters were another, more violent nightmare. She waits a good while for Taly’s reappearance and offers her an affectionate smile and a long embrace. “I know it’s not my fault, but I’m sorry all the same. I’m sorry these people exist in the world. I know you’re in good hands -” Krice “- but if you ever need anything, don’t hesitate to come here. We’ll do whatever we can for you.” Her kindness was a modicum of selfishness. She’d loved Lanara like a sister but hadn’t gotten to know Talyara as well. So she wanted to protect what Lanara loved most - her sister and family - as a way to honor her memory. Alvina breaks the hug, laughing nervously. They’d both discussed physical affirmation of feelings so hopefully the witch isn’t too uncomfortable with the attention. “Let’s get you safely home.”
Krice observed Talyara's behaviour closely, attuned to the language of her body, the unspoken desires of her mind. When she inched forward in readiness to stand, he leaned back and rose to his feet with her, lowering his hands from her arms and waiting for her next course of action. Aria was left to her own devices, to wander uninhibited elsewhere in the house. Bryce's appearance drew Krice's eye but little else, Hudson's chastisement fading to the back of his awareness as he studied Talyara's movements; she was understandably still shaken, but there was an odd juxtaposition he sensed in her need for comfort, and her need to stand under her own power. He did not reach for her again, instead watching as Alvina lead her away to wash up in the guest room. Krice showed a natural lack of interest in their family unit. Children had never been something he needed. Once upon a time, he might have been willing to accept a couple of particular offspring into his life, but that was so harshly nipped in the bud that he easily realized how mistaken he had been to even consider it. A house full of children was... chaotic, and this was one such house. Turning to Hudson in the absence of the women, Krice offered a pensive, " The barrier isn't as strong as it used to be. It felt unstable when I came through the gate. Perhaps the Hunters noticed." He shook his head, standing casually just outside Hudson's reach as he waited for his emerald-eyed beauty. " Might wanna pass that onto the witches." He looked down the hall, or what he could see of it, including Alvina in that statement by doing so. " Maybe they can reinforce it." Crimson eyes shifting back to the other male's, the warrior added a civil, " My wyvern's outside the gate. We'll be fine to walk there." Hudson's offer of the carriage was thoughtful, understandably for Talyara's sake, but not needed. As soon as the chestnut-haired woman returned, he'd reach out to offer his left hand if she wished for contact, thereafter nodding his thanks to the fertile couple before moving to exit the home.
Hudson extends his arm to indicate that Talyara is welcome to the use of the nearest restroom. Alvina takes over, perhaps because she's afraid that he would lead her to the 'wrong' bathroom. (Wrong is subjective. There is a hall bathroom that their children frequently use that is less nice because children use it, but it is also closer. Obviously Alvina would have taken Talyara to a guest room, which would have a much nicer bathroom. But been five precious seconds further away.) Hudson is left to stand alone with Krice awkwardly while the women go wash up. Hudson is about to make a comment about the weather, but Krice comes through with an even more topical remark, and Hudson is grateful for it, because the weather would have been really lame considering. "Oh yeah?" wonders Hudson aloud about the barrier weakening, his brow furrowing. "I guess I wouldn't have known, so thanks. I can let uh..." he scratches his cheek, "I can pass it on." Perhaps best to leave it at that and not openly discuss how he dictates what the mayor of Cenril does. "Almost getting used to peace time," he jokes to Krice, being genial enough except the words ring hollow in his own ears. It feels like he and Alvina haven't gotten to enjoy peace time like everyone else, because some mystery assailant has been targeting them. Them and witches, apparently. When the women return from their journey to the nicer guest bedroom, Hudson lifts his hand in a wave, taking his place beside Alvina as Krice reaches for Talyara's hand to lead her home. Now that goodbyes are being said, the time has come for the couples to debrief with one another.
Talyara hands over the poorly folded blanket to Alvina, an apologetic smile given as if to say 'I promise I am normally capable of folding like an adult' (except those fitted sheets meant to go around the mattress, those the witch just rolled in a ball and threw in the chest at the foot of her bed). She then follows the bard down the hall into the guest room with its very own bathroom. She is impressed with the amenities of the Landon home and could only imagine how hospitable they would be to a guest staying over. While her small cottage up in Frostmaw had gotten slightly bigger thanks to the refurbishing Krice had done, it was still modest with only four rooms total, just a small hallway connecting them all. The witch steps into the bathroom and closes the door, leaving it open about an inch incase Alvina wanted to continue a conversation. Taly turns on the tap and traps cool water into her cupped hands before splashing it onto her face. She rewets her hands and presses her damp fingers against the back of her neck. She repeats this process a few times while inhaling and exhaling rhythmically before taking a towel and blotting her face dry. Folding the material a bit more neatly than the blanket, Talyara emerges from the bathroom and hitches her thumb over her shoulder. "I left the towel I used on the counter. I hope that's alright." When the bard stands and embraces the witch with not only a kind smile but an embrace, she doesn't hesitate to return it. She appreciates everything Hudson and Alvina have done for her today--she knows they were Lanara's "people". They've operated in the same circles and have known each other, been friendly, but she wasn't as close to them as her sister was. But she hoped that that was something that could be changed. Before the hug breaks, Talyara gives Alvina an extra squeeze, a silent thank you for allowing her to be broken without judgement. Once the pair move back into the living room, Taly slips her hand into Krice's when it's offered, only pausing to give Hudson a quick, one armed hug with the appendage that isn't latched onto Krice. Knowing Alvina is an affection person, Talyara hopes he's okay with the gesture. "Thank you again. For..." The witch pauses. "Everything." She would offer any other pleasantries punctuated by a final wave over her shoulder before they disappear from view, heading out of Cenril and to a waiting Gylworliath.