RP:Welcome Home, Kelo!

From HollowWiki

Part of the Rise of Larket Arc

Summary: Kelovath and Josleen move to Larket to day after Hildegarde’s coronation. En route they stop in Xalious for Josleen to pick up her things. After an awkward meetings with her parents, in which Josleen hides the nature of their relationship and lies through her teeth, Kelovath and Josleen finally dream of sharing a home in Larket in peacetime. Their hopes are dashed when they are told to enter the city through the fort, for a mob awaits Kelovath at the main entrance. At the fort, Councilmen Justahl and Isiln debrief Kelovath on the attack which transpired the night before. A minority of the citizens want Kelovath to be investigated and tried, but the Council stands with him. They vow to discover the real perp.

In a Carriage

Originally Josleen wanted to leave right after the coronation ball on a carriage headed straight for Larket. There’s a poetry to leaving the ball immediately, like a hardship-fleeing Cinderella eloping with a prince, that tickles her romantic notions of love and relationships. However, many romantic notions are impractical and fly in the face of sense and logistics. After a night of drinking and celebrating they will want to sleep, eat, and then in a measured and calm way pack their things and go. What more, what driver will take them at the devil’s hour of 3 a.m.? Unless Kelovath plans on renting a carriage and driving himself (Josleen does not know, nor will she argue if he wants to drive the carriage,for some men are simply too manly to let another man change a carriage wheel or chauffeur them around). Still, even if Kelovath prefers to drive his own horse-and-buggy, who leaves cross-country while drunk after a party at 3 a.m.? Cinderella fantasy goes bust. They sleep in until 8, Josleen for her part very drunk, wrapped in each other’s arms and in desperate need of a bath. Wake up, bathe, eat, out by 9. Josleen doesn’t say much during breakfast for her head is pounding, but she’s clearly very happy albeit hungover. The Larketian men who remained (all of them? Some? Just Marcel?) must ride their own horses, and Cobalt. Kelovath’s legs are perhaps still too weak to keep him astride the bouncing mount. In the carriage, Josleen promptly knocks out. Down for the count. She leans against Kelovath’s shoulder, mouth slightly agape and neck bent uncomfortably, snoozing, whether they’re in the carriage’s cabin, or sitting up front at the reins. The carriage rocks and bumps on the steep descent from Frostmaw, and yet Josleen doesn’t wake. Heavy sleeper. Two hours later they hit a paved patch of road before the bard’s traveler’s inn, where she finally stirs awake, “Not for sale,” she murmurs, responding to no one in particular, or perhaps someone in a dream. Slowly blinking she sits up and and massages the crick in her neck. She squints out the window to see where they are then says to Kelovath, “Can we stop in Xalious?”

Thankfully for Kelovath, he didn’t drink. There would be no hangover in the morning for him, so even though he’s normally an early riser, the man stayed in bed until Josleen began to stir. It was a bit boring, lying there in the quiet, simply waiting for time to go by. But, there was plenty to think about. And some exercises he could perform, even with Josleen stretched out over him. His thoughts came first, leg stuff later. Mostly he wondered how long she would sleep. How she could snore so loudly at times, but barely breathe other times. None of this was a new experience for the man, lying in bed with a woman, but this seemed more…Natural. The snoring was cute, not annoying. Any possible drool wouldn’t be thought twice about. And even if her hair was a mess when she awoke, he’d still find her attractive. That was the summary of his thoughts, for the most part. Josleen. Some of Larket, but even those involved her in some way. As for his legs, the man would squeeze his thigh muscle, then release it several times, strengthening it. The woman stirred some, he smiled, and kind yawned loudly. And then they were both up, getting ready for the day. Marcel was the only guardsman, the rest returned to Larket much earlier this morning, checking the decided route on their way for any traps and whatnot. Marcel would ride his own mount with Cobalt close behind. Josleen and Kelovath would ride inside of a carriage with the driver taking up the reigns. Kelovath remained still as Josleen slept, the man this time having his journal in hand, reading over what he’d already written down. Slave life, mostly. Painful memories that reminded him of why he is who he is. Painful, but empowering. Here and there, the paladin would look to Josleen and smile. The war was brutal for the both of them, but even though Hildegarde did get her victory, the paladin felt he’d become the true winner. His head leaned against hers for a moment, then they hit the paved road. She awoke, his head lifted, and he answered her question. “Of course.” There was no questioning what she wanted. He had a good understanding of why she’d want to, since that was home to her. It made sense. It was also a very peaceful place. Worth visiting often. Kelovath, still without his armor, knocked on the panel separating Josleen and himself from the driver of the carriage. The man called out, acknowledging that he heard the noise. “Xalious Village.” Kelo replied. To Josleen now, “How’s your head?” He asked with a grin, shifting his gaze to the woman.

“Better.” She pulls a small canteen of water from her purse and takes a big drink, offers some to Kelovath. “I figured Xalious is only a little out of the way. I’ve been wearing the same clothes over and over through a war. Rags by now. Not fit for Larket.” She smiles at the thought of living in Larket, then it occurs to her that she doesn’t know yet where she will live. “Wouldn’t want your neighbors to think anything strange about me. What are they like?” For all this time Josleen has been assuming he lives in a house or maybe an apartment, a community, with neighbors, like normal civilians.

Kelovath accepted the offer, but took a much smaller drink. The canteen was given back and the man shook his head. “Well, I don’t exactly have neighbors, but I’m sure if I did, they’d think very highly of you.” His smile remained, his arm moving around the woman as he repositioned himself a bit more comfortably. Legs stretched out some. “The people inside the Fort are nice though. Friendly enough. Clean too, which is surprising given that most forts are…You know, disgusting. Probably something to do with how Jacklin lead them before.” He wondered about how Jacklin and Parsithius handled certain situations, but should something come up, he’d need to give it his own touch. New perspective, even. “Though, with me being on the council now, I wonder what else might come along with that…” His thoughts wandered yet again. He’d just been given the position and almost right away, needed to return to Frostmaw and aid in the war. Well, that’s what the council thought. He went to be with Josleen. Priorities.

Josleen’s smile fades as Kelovath reveals he lives in the fort. Of course he does. His role, though on the council, is still in a way military. When the military is called upon, so is he. Although she tries not to, she looks disappointed. When he muses about his new role on the council she rubs his thigh and says, without looking at him, “You’ll do well as a leader, love.” Her gaze stays fixed on his knee, hand still rubbing his sore thigh as she thinks through the living arrangement in Larket. At last she says, her voice soft at first as she looks at him, “I don’t know why I didn’t realize you live in the fort… I’ve lived in Frostmaw’s fort before. And…” She doesn’t finish the sentence. “Don’t you feel there is a lack of privacy? And you can’t really decorate things as you may like, no garden to tend to, difficult to host friends and events… Or host overnight guests…”

Kelovath wasn’t sure how he’d do as a leader and now that they were returning to Larket that would be put to the test. A challenge he looked forward to tackling. Feeling her touch relaxed him, as it normally did, but the new fact that he was getting more and more feeling back in his legs was a good reminder of how nice it is. Feeling someone’s touch. Feeling her touch was even better. “I’m not opposed to living outside the Fort. Most of the council have their own homes. Andurla and her husband had their own little cottage near the forest. Nice place.” He grew distant a bit. Returning to Larket had its pros and cons. Knowing Andurla would not be there was a con. He sighed somewhat, but spoke toward the end of it and shook his head. “I don’t need convincing, Jos. Outside the Fort is preferred. For both of us, I think.” He made a mental note for that to be a priority when returning to Larket. Maybe the inn for the first night or two, until something else could be decided. “Are you nervous about coming to Larket?”

Josleen kisses his cheek impulsively when he agrees to move out of the fort. “Good. The fort is fine for now, I suppose, as we find someplace else.” She grows nervous as she thinks about that arrangement, after the fort in a new apartment or house. Who pays for what? She’s broke. Will he pay for everything? Should he? Are they at the point where that’s alright? Should they even be moving in together yet? She hesitates before answering his question. “...I’m don’t know enough about Larket to know whether or not I should be nervous. Everything is moving so fast.” She glances away for a moment, face gently creased with worry. Glancing back at him now she shakes her head and forces a smile. “I’m over thinking things. I don’t want to be apart from you. I just… The past three wars have happened so quickly, back to back. I had little peace time between the first and second, even less between the second and third, always as a volunteer. So…” She can’t bring herself to say she is broke. Always a volunteer, even for positions as high as the one she just held commanding the medical unit, no pay. She was living with her parents before this war erupted because it was the smartest financial decision. Hopefully he gets it, but if he doesn’t, she won’t clarify. Too much pride for that. “I’m not sure where I was going with that. I need to figure out how to live in peace.”

Xalious Village

Kelovath nodded at the ‘moving so fast’ part. He wasn’t involved in the previous wars, but he knew all too well the toll it took. Not financially, but emotionally. Money has never been a big issue for the paladin. He’d worked for his gold, but when arriving in Larket so many years ago, everything was taken care of. Queen Jacklin saw to that and his position within the small chapel in town was something to help the city and its people. His time away from Hollow, gold wasn’t important. He slept outside, did favors for people, healed those who needed it without request of pay. Things were offered and if needed, he’d accept them. The talk of peace was nice, but he knew how quickly things could change. They were leaving a warzone, headed to a much safer city with less conflict. Peaceful, almost. The fermin attacks were almost completely gone when he left and no word had reached him with any other news. “I think we both need to figure it out. Larket is a good place to learn.” He smiled, thinking about their future together. He couldn’t exactly picture anything specific, but Josleen was enough. Knowing she was there is all he wanted. Sure, his goal of becoming King was also thought about, but his hopes for that would remain in control. “Did you want to stay in Xalious for a night, when we arrive? I wouldn’t mind exploring more of the village with you.” The last time in the village itself was nice. Visiting Josleen’s home, where she was attacked, was less nice.

Josleen feels anxiety coil like a spring inside her chest. She couldn’t bring herself to voice her concerns in specific terms. He either hadn’t guessed them, or had, but similarly couldn’t give them voice. And so her concerns remain unanswered and constrict. She shakes her head at his question. “No… we should go to Larket. If we stayed here, then my parents would think it silly if I stayed at the inn like a tourist, but then staying with them...It’s just…” Long sigh. She waves a hand dismissively at the idea. Everything seems worse than it really is when stressed. And why is she stressed? She should be happy. She’s leaving with Kelovath to be with him in Larket. And yet there are so many unknowns. Through the partition, she gives the driver directions to her house. Lanterns are lit inside. The garden looks recently tended to. It smells like lunch. “My parents are home. Do you want to come in with me, or? I don’t mind either way. I understand if it’s too much.”

Kelovath wouldn’t push the idea any further. He looked outside and saw the house. Instantly, the grown-ass-man became super nervous and completely unsure. Is it too soon? When would another chance be had? Would they like him? Would he like them? Would Josleen disapprove of him, if her parents did? Everything was telling him it was too soon and he should stay in the carriage. “I’ll come in.” He said calmly, hiding his nerves. When the carriage finally stopped, the paladin took a breath, opened the door and stepped out. The door was held open, his hand held out for Josleen to grab onto. “Oh no…” He whispered, eyes meeting with his own hand and seeing the still exposed scars. His nerves showed now, the man obviously displeased with his appearance. Gloves. He needed gloves. Like, now. Not enough time for that. When Josleen found her way out of the carriage, the man kept his hand entangled with hers, trying to hide his hand in the process. It looked awkward, at best. He had so many questions about her parents, but there was no time. They were on their way to the door. He patted at his jerkin a bit, shaking his head during this. He was freaking out. Poor guy.

Josleen’s lips part apprehensively as Kelovath agrees to go inside. Secretly she had hoped he’d wait in the carriage. She holds his scarred hand all the way to the door, and senses his discomfort. “They won’t notice,” she whispers. Despite knowing why he’d like to hide his hand among hers, she releases his, ostensibly to smooth her hair and tidy her face, but in truth she simply doesn’t want her parents to see her holding hands with him. Not yet. She opens the door. It isn’t locked. Xalious isn’t a town where the people lock their doors. “Mom, Father!” she calls. The house looks far different than it did after the attack. Hard, dark wood furniture, floral-painted ceramic knick knacks on shelves, countless books, a soft leather arm chair. The quaint provincial aesthetic of rose-printed carpets and white lace doilies on coffee tables passed down to Josleen, as Kelovath will soon learn (bless his soul). A middle-aged woman, a slightly darker version of Josleen, but with a similar face and demeanor, bustles out of the kitchen and into the living room. ”Jos!” she cries. She hesitates only momentarily when she sees Kelovath, not having expected him, but still darts over to her daughter and embraces her tightly. The women sway from side to side, both short at 5’ 2”. They hug for what feels like a long time. The mother’s face tears up, with happiness, but she doesn’t cry in the same, uncanny way that Josleen does. “Mom, this is Kelovath. Kelovath, my mother.” Josleen’s mother extends a hand to Kelovath and says, “Call me Jessa.” An elf man shuffles down a long hallway to greet them. “Jos!” he calls out, with less energy than Jessa, but the same affection. He too hesitates at the sight of Kelovath, embraces his daughter for a shorter duration of time, then introduces himself to the paladin. No handshake. “I’m Kyl’oriel.” Josleen cuts in quickly before Kelovath can say anything, “This is Kelovath, a friend. I’m heading to Larket and he’s giving him a ride.” Kyl’oriel smiles stiffly, again just like Josleen. There is no mistaking that she got her cheekbones and chin from him. He says, without inflection, “How kind.”

Kelovath felt wary about letting go of Josleen’s hand, but he again wouldn’t question her. He followed her inside, looking around until an unfamiliar voice was heard from somewhere in the house. Josleen’s mother, he guessed, which was correct. The hug did seem long, but the man didn’t mind. Gave him a bit more time to calm his nerves. He smiled brightly and shook the woman’s hand, bowing just a bit. “Pleasure to meet you, Jessa.” The hand is released and his attention shifts to the elven man as he approached. Josleen’s father, which was another obvious guess. Kelovath nodded to the man, but couldn’t speak. Josleen did that for him. Interesting. There was a slight uneasy feeling in his stomach, curious as to why the bard seemed to be hiding him in plain sight. Surely she would explain later, so for now, he went with it and let Jos do the talking.

Jessa’s eyes quickly dart to Kelovath’s scarred hand, she did notice, but she says nothing as her stare flits away as quickly as it landed, like a mosquito. Her smile doesn’t even falter. “I’ve just come to collect my things,” say Josleen. Kyl’oriel asks, “What’s in Larket?” “A gig,” Josleen lies effortlessly, “Remember Hailey?” Jessa eyes some unseen energy between her partner and her daughter. “Hm,” says Kyl’oriel. Jessa cuts in cheerfully, “Oh, Hailey! Of course. Send her my regards.” As Jessa speaks, Kyl’oriel stares at Kelovath. Josleens nods to her mother and excuses herself to pack, says, “Kelo you could come with me, or wait he--” Her father cuts her off, “Speaking of regards, Ezekiel says ‘Hello.’” Josleen nods more tersely, smiles stiffly. Jessa cuts in again, this time a little louder, “Kelovath, if you aren’t in a rush, you and Josleen should stay for lunch. There’s plenty. And pie.” Jessa looks keenly at Kyl’oriel, who, like a puppet commandeered by its true master, grunts. “Mm, yes.”

Kelovath watched the exchange between Josleen and father with little emotion. It was hard to tell if something was off or exactly how things have always been. He’d never experienced this part of life before. Adult interact with your parents. So, he stood there, eyes shifting to each person as they spoke, listening closely to find…He wasn’t sure, really. A clue, maybe? A hesitation in their words. There was nothing. This must be a normal thing. The paladin looked at Kyl’oriel as Jessa spoke, the paladin offering yet another nod, but no words. When it was now his turn to speak, he looked at Josleen briefly, looking for some sign as to how to respond to the offer of lunch. Whether she gave a hint or not, the man would look back to Jessa and give her the same bright smile as before. “Oh. I wish we could, but I’m afraid we are already a bit behind with this small detour. There are a few others that went ahead of us, checking the road.” He looked to Josleen again and gave her a ‘I got this’ kinda look. Back to Jessa, “Miss Josleen was pretty adamant on stopping here first. Something about needing some proper clothing for her gig.” He shrugged a bit, acting oblivious to the whole ‘bard’ thing. “I guess performing requires a certain look? A dress or something?” He understood how the life of a bard worked, but staying on Jos’s side seemed like the right call. Stay with the gig thing. “Maybe next time though?” He asked with a smaller smile, keeping his gaze away from Kyl’oriel.

Josleen leaves for the bedroom once it’s clear Kelovath has the lie under control. As she walks away, she can’t help the small smile, though it comes with some guilt. He may be willing to keep the lie going, but is he hurt that she is hiding the true nature of their relationship? Jessa lifts her hands in playful surrender, “I understand. I just hardly see my daughter these days, what with the war. Did you fight in the war?” She waves a hand for Kelovath to sit on the couch as they wait for Josleen, who, it should be noted, takes a long time. Kyl’oriel also sits, in his armchair and across from Kelovath. The elf says little, but scrutinizes Kelovath unabashedly. Jessa keeps the conversation going with questions like, ‘Are you from Larket?’ and ‘What do you do?’ and so on, creating questions from his answers like a professional hostess. When Josleen finally emerges she has to make two trips to carry a total of four suitcases. The second time she joins the living room, it’s as Kelovath is speaking, and she looks at him in a way that belies her affection for him. Her gaze his soft and smitten. He’s handsome to her. Jessa notices this and knows the truth of their relationship. She says nothing, simply returning her attention to Kelovath and nodding politely. When he finishes, Jessa says, “Fascinating” and ends the conversation there, wordlessly handing the baton to Josleen. They’re uncannily the same person, in many ways. “Ba--” It almost slips, the word ‘babe’. Josleen corrects. “Ba-baking smells great, Mom,” says Josleen in a clunky sentence no one would ever say. “Any chance we can take a piece of pie to go?” Jessa hides a knowing smirk behind her knuckles, clears her throat, then smiles and says, “Of course.” Jessa gives them half the pie in a new pie tin. “Now you’ll have to visit soon to return to tin to me, dear,” she says as she hugs Josleen goodbye, holding on a long time. Jessa also briefly hugs Kelovath, mostly an air-hug. Kyl’oriel hugs Josleen as well, longer this time than last, and partially bows to Kelovath. “Safe travels. Write when you get to Larket, Jos.” As soon as the door closes there is a pause, then Jessa is overheard warning Kyl’oriel, “Don’t start.” Josleen pretends she didn’t hear it as she tries to flag down Marcel to help her with the suitcases.

In a Carriage

Kelovath cleared his throat some when the war is mentioned. He waited until everyone was sitting, before explaining his part in the war. The carnival first, without mentioning any heroic deeds he did. Killing a giant. No biggie. He was there. A battle happened. He helped heal the wounded from that battle. Excluded the part of watching Josleen get way-laid by a large pot and bringing her to safety. He mentioned meeting Hildegarde and having a few conversations with her. The brief mention of the first battle, the carnival, Kelovath said he was a paladin. Followed Arkhen. The most recent fight he was involved in, the cliff, the prisoners, he did not bring up. Jokingly, he did say he met that shaman giant, Eleenin in an unusual circumstance. That was about the first time Josleen came downstairs. He wanted to help her, but knew that’d be rude. So, instead, he promised to tell the story about Eleenin at a later time. Although the paladin isn’t originally from Larket, he did say it was home to him for as long as he can remember. And that he was part of the council there, as of about a month ago or so. Josleen was there again, her second and final trip completed. He spoke more of Larket and how it has grown the last few years. About the wonderful garden that recently opened to the public. Made a suggestion to Jessa that she should visit sometime. Kyl’oriel was given the same offer, but Kelovath kept his attention on Jessa. When Josleen speaks, Kelo looks to her and quickly speaks in agreement. “Oh yes. Your baking does smell wonderful.” He stood when Jessa did, eying Josleen playfully. He went to the door and waited for Josleen, opening the door when she was ready to go. The brief hug was slightly awkward, but he didn’t mind. It was progress, in a way. The bow is returned to her father and they walk out the door. Kelovath grabbed two of the suitcases and made his way to the carriage, Marcel close behind with the other two. The bags were loaded and a thanks was given to Marcel. Not the most exciting work for a guard, but sometimes that’s for the best. Marcel went back to his mount, smiling and nodding to Josleen as he passed by. The carriage door was opened by Kelovath, the man waiting for the bard. He appeared to look a bit worried, maybe stressed, but definitely distant after this strange encounter.

Josleen sits very close to Kelovath in the carriage, one hand on his forearm, the other on his knee. Once it starts moving again she speaks up. “I’m sorry about that, Kelo. I hadn’t decided if I would tell them or not, and then I saw my father’s face when he saw you, and just…” She shakes her head. “Next time. Once we’re settled in Larket.” She pauses then says again, “I’m sorry, babe.” She tries to catch his gaze, read his thoughts.

Kelovath sat quietly as the carriage started up. He heard what Josleen was saying, but shaking the feeling that had seemed to bury itself inside his stomach was difficult. This was all very new to him, so the appropriate response for this situation was unknown. So, instead of saying the wrong thing, he simply nodded, and offered a small, but fast whisper of, “It’s fine. I understand, Jos.” He glances down at her and just barely offers a slight smile. Enough movement to lift the right side of his lips. Not his most convincing moment, but the situation didn’t make sense to him. Nor did he even know how to ask about it. He broke the eye contact first and leaned his head against hers, closing his eyes. “It’s okay.” He whispered, more slowly this time.

Josleen frowns as Kelovath says it’s fine, when it clearly isn’t. He leans his head against her and she turns her lips to kiss his temple several times, to reaffirm her love for him. “I’m not ashamed of you, or us, if that’s what you’re thinking. It’s my father. He’s been angry with me for a while now, because… Gosh, do you want to hear this?” She leans back to read his mind through his eyes again, as if his thoughts flicker like a marquee in his pupils. “It’s… he just has a very specific idea about who I should be with.”

Kelovath started to make sense of all this now that she was explaining it. Her father has high standards. Understandable. It’s Josleen. He could see why. His gaze shifted back to hers when she leaned away. There would be no movie reel within his brown eyes, unfortunately for Jos. The paladin continued to be silent, pondering his thoughts, which was obvious by the two or three strange looks coming over his face. Maybe not strange, but it was clear the man was thinking. Like having Josleen closer would help this process, Kelovath lifted his arm and slid it behind the back of the bard, pulling her into him. “I don’t care what he wants, Jos. I mean, I do, but…You’re what matters. What you think.” Almost a regular habit now, he started to bite at his bottom lip, deciding on his words carefully. “I’m hurt, that you would hide me. Hide us. He might have a specific idea of who deserves you, but…You already seem to think I’m not it…” The words hurt, saying them aloud. But, there was more. “Whether you think that or not, doesn’t really matter. And it’s because whether I’m that perfect idea or not, I’ll still be yours. I just…Don’t want to be hidden, you know?” His eyes glanced down at his hand. Scars. Being hidden away makes sense, but it was time to break away from that.

Josleen shakes her head as it becomes clear he misunderstood her--not that that’s his fault. She was vague. “No, no, no, babe. It’s not that he has high standards. You exceed any reasonable standards any father could have for his daughter, but my father isn’t being reasonable, because...” She hesitates again, looks upward to find the courage to just say it. “I probably should have told you this before, but I didn’t want it to put you off of me. I… I was married. Briefly. My ex is a member of the Mage’s Guild. My father is also a member of the Mage’s Guild and was very, very proud to have my ex as his son-in-law. It’s not just The Guild connection, but my ex is, I suppose you can say a rising star in the Guild. He’s very talented at a specific type of magic called flectomancy. But a terrible husband. Still, it’s the son my father never had. He always wanted me to train in magic, join The Guild, but I didn’t. I chose the path of a bard, like my mother, and this has always disappointed my father, who loves me but…” She shrugs. “These things happen. So,” She rubs at her collarbone nervously. “That marriage was dead long before I asked for a divorce. I held out because my father wanted me to. He was angry when I divorced. He still holds out hope that the ex and I will rekindle. That will never happen. I haven’t spoken to him in well over a year. But my father still meets regularly with the ex.” Kelovath may remember the name Ezekiel, which her father just had to name-drop during their short visit. “I didn’t want to create more tension by introducing you as my boyfriend. Just wanted to get in and out. But we will tell them, baby. I’m not hiding you; I’m avoiding an argument with him.”

Kelovath sat quietly as Josleen told him several new truths about her past. Being married. Then divorced. Her father a high member in the Mage's Guild. Her mother being a bard. Playing dumb about his understanding of a bard's life seemed disrespectful now, but what's done is done. It takes the paladin a minute or two to process all of this information. This was big. Josleen had been married before. It was truly a test of how important something like that is to the paladin. Being a religious person and a strong believer of marriage, it was hard to just dismiss the fact that she has been married, it failed, and now she's divorced. Without his past experience, this could have very well been the end of Joslo. Fortunately, Josleen wasn't the first woman who'd been previously committed to someone in the past and it didn't work out. Strong believer in marriage, but his beliefs on happiness were at the forefront of his mind. "I understand, Jos." He actually did this time. "He's your father. I'd imagine getting into an argument over something like that would be unnecessary. And awkward, with me being there." He had questions about her marriage, but to bring up her failed relationship seemed too much right now. Maybe when they've settled in Larket. Surely there would be plenty of time to dig in to everything that makes Josleen, Josleen. He wanted to learn it all. His free hand lifted and waved through his hair, scratching at the slight scruff on his face. "Thank you for telling me, Jos. It does make more sense now, I think." The paladin really did have a better grasp of the situation between Josleen and her father when it came to who she should be with. But, the reasoning behind that situation being there to begin with seemed strange. Why does her father even care? Was it really that important? Growing up without his parents made this situation a mystery. Surely there was some understanding that he missed out on. His legs stretched out once more, a grunt coming from the man. It was better, the feeling in his legs, but now a continuous pain was there. His body was still healing from the battle, so pain was still better than no feeling. Once stretched out, Kelovath leaned into Josleen a bit and kisses her forehead. His lips linger against her skin and with a smile, he speaks softly. "I love you, Jos."

Josleen looks relieved as Kelovath says he understands. She smooths her hand over the scruff of his face, forehead leaning against him, smiling like a lovesick puppy. "I love you too." Then returning to the subject of her father, and Kelo’s disbelief that her father would argue in front of him, "And you're right that father wouldn't make a loud scene, but he'd ask uncomfortable questions, the room would be even more tense, if you could believe it. He'd do his best to make you feel unwelcome out of some twisted solidarity with his guild mate. It felt as if the entire guild turned on me, save a few, like Kovl.” Kovl’s name makes her frown. She hasn't told Kelovath yet that she has seen Kovl since the argument with him. “I lost the job I had at the local clinic, and a few shop owners, like Finn, refused to serve me for a free few months. It's gotten better since, but it shows you how beneath the shiny veneer of Xalious people can be quite cruel. No one asked me why I divorced. That didn't matter.” Because she was the woman, expected to stay unless he left her, in which case it would likely be get her fault he left anyway. Tiny rural villages aren't known for progressivism on gender. But Josleen doesn't spell this out because she doesn't think as clearly in these terms. She knows this would be different if she were born s a man, but that's as far as her thinking on the subject goes. “My father did ask why I divorced, “permitting”” she air quotes, “a divorce only in the case of abuse. My ex was not abusive, not physically, therefore no other reason is valid in my father's eyes.”

Kelovath knew very little of how the Mage’s Guild worked, but it seemed her father and her ex-husband were in very high standing. A personal decision of Josleen’s shouldn’t have caused such backlash. Not from the guild, the village, and especially not her father. Quietly, he replied, “I think your happiness should have been enough of a reason for a divorce.” It was clear how the paladin thought of all this. Everyone else was in the wrong. Josleen in the right. More than likely, that’s how his perspective would remain, despite the situation. Loving words came to mind and he sought to say them all, but instead, kept quiet. He still wasn’t completely sure how he felt about Josleen’s father. He seemed like a good man. Proud of his accomplishments and simply wanting the best for his daughter. But, ‘the best’ pointed to her ex because of the association with the guild. Kelovath had been a high member of the Healer’s Guild at one point, but never did he encounter this kind of drama. For the best, during that time. There was plenty to go around. “I doubt I’ll ever be enough for your father…” He whispered this, but he said it with a slight smile. Then a shrug. “But that’s fine. I’m not…” He laughed a bit. “I’m with you. Not him.” A slight pause, then his head nuzzles against hers. “I think your mom likes me though.” He laughed again. One out of two parents. Good enough?

“Father will come around. He's stubborn out of habit. You'll win him over.” She nuzzles his cheek to encourage his spirits. It'll be alright. Josleen laughs softly at his comment about her mother. “She probably does. She gets on with everyone. And it helps she never liked Ezekiel much. That's his name.” Josleen speaks the name without passion, affection, or anger. It's a name stripped of the ability to stir any emotion in her, positive or negative. “Besides,” she whispers huskily, tone shifting to a more playful melody. She turns to face him, one leg bent beneath her and arms sliding over his shoulders, wrapping behind his neck. “How could she not. One look at you…” More kissing, caressing. She's been insatiable since it became clear his legs would recover. Having a future to look forward to has made her lust for it and him. And new love demands lots and lots of affection. She tugs at his jerkin, sits on his lap despite the fact the driver sits just on the other side of a thin partition, Marcel just beyond the door. Too public? She doesn't seem to mind.

Kelovath had started to question whether her father would truly come around, but those thoughts were quickly dismissed when she began kissing him. The kisses were returned with eagerness. He was taken by surprise as she climbed on top. He had started to say something when she quieted him down and without a second thought, but with a sly smile, his hands roamed her body. His breathing quickened. The driver didn’t matter. Nor did Marcel. His full attention was on Josleen. Obviously the public nature of this did not bother Kelovath. Or if it did, he sure wasn’t showing it. Maybe less armor was something he could get used to after all.

Just as their passions grew heated, clothes disheveled, Josleen emboldened to do more for him, the carriage stops. A horse can be heard approaching at a gallop. “Ho!” calls the driver. Josleen looks up at Kelovath in a panic. Her gaze asks ‘what’s going on?’ She scrambles to sit beside him. Marcel knocks quickly on the door and turns the knob to open it before he even gets a response. Unless someone stops that door, he’ll be getting an eyeful Josleen thigh, Kelo abs. “Sir Kelovath!” the boy cries out, his voice slightly panicked. The galloping horse comes to an abrupt stop. The rider recognizes Marcel (for he is one of the men that accompanied the Larketian mission to Frostmaw), and barks at the boy, “There’s been a change of plans. I must speak with Councilmen Kelovath.” The Larketian soldier rides right up to the curtained window opposite the door. Josleen quickly adjusts her dress and smooths her hair, cleans up her speared rose lip stain. Kelo has a little of the pink on his lips and she wipes it off quickly with her thumb. Marcel on one side of them, the soldier on the other. The soldier’s gauntleted knuckles rap on the window. “Sir.”

Kelovath found this moment to be exactly what he needed after the long night at the coronation, then the time spent packing the few things they decided to bring along for their trip back to Larket. He would have been more than content to have Josleen right where she was, on his lap, but when she started to pull away, he almost tried to stop her. Thank the gods he didn’t. His eyes widen at Josleen, then without thinking, he grabs at the door handle, keeping it closed right as Marcel attempted to open. Close call. He waited for Josleen to cover herself, smiled a bit when she wiped away the smeared lipstick, and reached for the curtain to pull it aside to reveal the guard and a surprising amount of light. He narrowed his gaze and spoke. “Yes? What is it?” He asked kind of rudely and then realized the tone in his voice. Quickly, he changed it to something more concerned sounding. “Is something wrong?” Better.

Josleen does her best to look natural. It helps she’s an actress. The soldier eyes Josleen as if he suspects something salacious transpired here. The way Kelovath slammed the door when Marcel opened it, and the fact Josleen is in the carriage with him, is enough puzzle pieces for the soldier to put together a racy picture (and gossip for the barracks). He answers Kelovath, “The Council advises you enter through the fort’s carriage entrance. There is a small mob--a gathering-- of citizens at the main Larket entrance. They’re agitated. There was an incident last night and you will be debriefed in the fort.”

Kelovath nodded to the guard as the information was given. "I see." He wanted details, but didn't think this guard would have what he was looking for. A glance was sent toward Josleen, then back to the guard. "Thank you. If there isn't anything else, you can go." Normally, he would have invited the man to join the carriage and Marcel and ride along. Whether he did or not, Kelovath would wait until the man moved away from the carriage before closing the curtain. The door to the carriage opened and Marcel spoke, "What do you think it is, sir?" The paladin shook his head, looking from Marcel to Josleen. "Fermin, maybe?" It was a first thought, although one that didn't quite make sense. Arriving in a different way than normal should have been a big clue that something more personal happened. "Let's keep going." He said to Marcel, but his gaze was on Josleen.

Larket Fort

So long as Marcel and the soldier can see her face, Josleen commands a neutral expression. But once the curtain and door close, and it is just her and Kelovath again, her walls fall. He’s gotten under her skin, into her bones. It’s hard to hide her true feelings and thoughts from him, not without the will to deceive. She has no will to deceive him now. Her hand rubs nervously at her collar. She left Frostmaw looking for peace, with him, in Larket. Had she hoped for too much? She hasn’t had a year’s worth, nay a half-year’s worth, of peace in a long time now. Her gaze meets Kelovath’s. Lips part as if to speak, but she hesitates. Her fingers weave through his. “Maybe the people are so overjoyed at your return they’re prone to riot,” she jokes. Of course that’s not it. What is there to say? At the fort, gates are opened and closed to let just the carriage, Marcel, and Cobalt in. Councilmen Isiln Huldom and Justahl Gibar greet the arriving party at an ornate side entrance made of oak-carved double doors embedded in marble walls. Josleen tries not to look like a tourist as she marvels at the Larketian architecture. Her sightseeing is cut short by the tense hospitality of the councilmen. They bow deeply to both Kelovath and Josleen, but refocus their attention on the former. Neither of them was expecting Kelovath to return with a lady in tow, but it doesn’t matter. Isiln speaks first, “Kelovath, welcome home. Miss.” A nod to Josleen without looking at her. “I heard you were injured during the war. I am glad to see you on your feet and recovering. I’m sure you want to settle in, but there is news and it is urgent. Perhaps the lady could be escorted to a comfortable room?” Isiln looks around for fort staff and finds a maid who nods and disappears to let the fort chamberlain know there is a guest that needs attention. Justahl cuts in, “There is a crowd gathering at the main bridge and at Lucy’s Crossing. The matter is urgent, so if we three could go to the council room now.” An arm extends down a hall, beseeching the men to please get moving now. “The lady will be well tended to. Thank you.”

Kelovath turned his attention to the carriage door as Marcel close it, but his gaze dropped shortly after. He was worried. Too many unknowns. The Fermin have been the only recent problem, so what else could possibly be the alternative? Looking to Josleen, he offers a smile at her joke, but nervously squeezes her hand. Softly, he attempts to calm them both down, “Maybe it’s not as bad as what it seems? Minor problem being…Exaggerated.” The paladin is not in awe at the sights they arrive too. He’d taken this way before, but seeing the pair of councilmen outside and waiting, only brought on more nerves. The carriage door was opened and Kelovath stepped out first. He’d turn, help Josleen down, and then approach the councilmembers with Josleen at his side. The bows are returned and thanks are given for the welcome back. He introduces Josleen to them as ‘Lady Josleen’. The thought of including her new title came to mind, but was unsure of sharing that information so soon after the coronation. Having complete trust within the walls of Larket, the paladin looks to Josleen and smiles. “I’ll find you later on, okay?” Although he smiled, it was obvious he had an unsure feeling about the urgent news. He stepped toward the bard, placed a kiss upon her cheek, and refocused his attention on Isiln. “Let’s go.” He spoke decisively, allowing the pair to lead the way. As they walked, Kelo turned and looked back to Josleen, mouthing the word ‘sorry’ before turning a corner. When they entered the council room, it was empty. The usual chairs scattered about were there, but nobody else. The large doors closed behind them and once they did, Kelovath broke the silence. “What’s going on?”

Josleen nods and smiles as Kelovath excuses himself. Of course she envisioned a different arrival in Larket for them, but this is out of their control. The kiss on her cheek in front of the councilmen surprises her, pleasantly so. “I’ll see you later.” She watches him turn the corner with some pride. He’s a man that matters here. Soon a chamber maid arrives and takes Josleen to a private, cozy, expensively decorated room for important female guests. In the council room, Justahl waits for the men to be seated before explaining the situation. Yesterday evening there was an attack at Lucy’s crossing, a single attacked who looked exactly like Kelovath, golden armor and all. Except the attacker wielded an axe, not a sword like Kelovath typically does. What more, the Council knows Kelovath was in Frostmaw, and Justahl and Isiln both want to reassure him that the council is behind him and suspects this is a set up. But there is more. The Kelovath-apparent, the attacker, also broke into the sick bay and released an infectious disease which spread quickly. Healers managed to quarantine a wing of the fort and they are treating those infected. The disease moves quickly, incomplicated, and clearly engineered by someone with sophistication in disease pathology. The prognostic isn’t good. The 30 infected are expected to die. Word soon got out that “Kelovath” (Isiln uses air quotes here) was behind the carnage, and while many citizens remain confused, but skeptical, some have all the proof they need (Isiln says this with annoyance and judgment against those idiots so easily tricked by this rogue enemy). The guards report about 50 people at the bridge, and another 40 at Lucy’s Crossing who are protesting the council, demanding Kelovath be investigated and stand trial. The Council has no intention to investigate the true Kelovath, they reassure him, but they are looking into the attacker. Because the attack is so personal, they ask if he has any enemies that come to mind.

Kelovath sat down and listened to what had happened. It surprised him greatly. His first thought of another fermin attack was way off. This was worse. 30 soon to be dead. A large group of citizens now occupying the bridge and the crossing. Not a good way to return back to Larket. And if that wasn’t enough, those people seem to believe he was the one responsible. His gaze dropped, the man pondering over his thoughts in silence. It didn’t make sense. What enemies? Nobody from Frostmaw, surely. If anything, most of Hildegarde’s enemies would believe him to be dead. Falling from a cliff, he was lucky to be alive. No other enemies are thought of. Except…Gevurah? No. They didn’t end on the best of terms, but to do something like this? Seems too…Indirect for the drow. “I can’t think of any who would want to attack me. Not like this.” He felt somewhat lost. Wished Josleen was here. He needed to be strong here. Present himself to the people, maybe? “Maybe I should stand trial? Prove my innocence? Obviously, there is no actual evidence linking me to any of this. I was in Frostmaw. The new Queen could confirm that herself.” And he knew she would. If not for him, then maybe for Josleen. He stood from his chair and scratched at his head, now walking (limping) around the room slowly. “Finding the true attacker here is a must though. Good place to start, if nothing else.”

Justahl sighs with relief when Kelovath suggests he should prove his innocence through a trial, as if he had already argued this point behind Kelovath’s back, before the paladin even arrived. “I am glad you see the sense in standing trial, if needed, just to keep everything above board and clean. Of course,” he bows his head respectfully to Isiln, “Our esteemed colleague presents a good argument that we should not jump at the demands of the basest citizens. The Council must be responsive, not jittery. A point well made.” Isiln dips his head in gratitude. Justahl continues, “I agree we’re not yet at the juncture where we should seriously consider a trial. However, I am glad you are willing should it ever come to that.” Isiln agrees with Kelovath’s final point. “I still think this is related to the fermin in some way. The attack began at Lucy’s Crossing. This is not to be overlooked. Why they have singled you out is a mystery, but all the same, we should send a reconnaissance mission into the sewers. Perhaps consider planting a spy there. A fermin sellsword.”

Kelovath shifted his gaze between the two men as they spoke, his head nodding along as they went. Trial was a good idea, but in due time, yes. “My first thought was the fermin, but this is very personal. And rather well executed for them. I don’t think it’d hurt, though, to gather more information. Whether it’s relevant toward what happened yesterday or not, we could still learn something new about them.” He stopped moving now, trying to gather his thoughts as best as he could. Going back to trial thing, “If the groups of people grow on the bridge and at the crossing, then a trial must be considered above all else. We cannot let this grow out of control. When possible, I’d also like to visit those who are sick. My magic will protect me for a time, but it’s important I make an appearance. We must also take care of their families. Whatever they need.” Within reason probably should have been added, but he wasn’t thinking about reason. He was thinking about those in need.

Isiln shakes his head several times at Kelovath’s suggestion that he should visit the sick. “I must advise against that. Normally it is well within your duties as Arkhen’s servant, but the healers and mages say the disease is unnatural, enchanted, powerful, and very dark. The risk is too high. In fact, part of the investigation should include tracing the disease to its origin. Few creatures on this planet could concoct such a brew.” Justahl nods in agreement with his colleague and reiterates. “If the mages crack the disease’s code and we can be sure of your safety, very well, but until then, I agree with Isiln. Besides, what if you are not harmed by it but you carry the disease with you out of the quarantine and infect someone else?” The way he stresses the word ‘someone else’ clearly loops in Josleen, in perhaps a masterfully manipulative move that’s typical of politicians. Isiln adds, “Of course we will provide for the families. What do you suggest is a reasonable care package?”

Kelovath scoffed some at the idea of being unable to visit the sick. He might risk it anyway. Until the way he says ‘someone else’ catches his ear. Jos. Not worth the risk. He’d ask her later. “Care package?” He asked, not liking that idea. But, it made sense. Figuring out what each family would specifically need would take ages and some could be missed. Or given the wrong thing. Again, not worth the risk. He stopped himself from sighing and instead nodded his head a couple of times. “If they are expected to die, then we take care of everything. Funeral, burial, all of it. The families are given food and clean water. Our deepest apologies for allowing something like this to happen.” He paused, figuring out this thoughts. “A tax break as well. They should be able to mourn without thinking of the financial burden.” Was that enough? Too much? It seemed…Fine. Never enough, as far as Kelovath was concerned, but they had to be smart about it. Not over do it.

Isiln and Justahl both nod along with the care package details until Kelovath reaches the tax break. They glance at each other and agree silently that that won’t fly. They’ll fight it later at a council meeting. This is the problem with paladin politicians: all heart, no fiscally responsible planning. But now is not the time to squabble over taxes. (Fun fact: It never is.) Isiln bows his head and says, “We’ll run it by the council for approval.” It’ll be a lot easier to get your way when you’re king, Kelo. Justahl sucks in a breath and hesitates before asking, “Sir, I normally wouldn’t pry, but given these unusual circumstances, I want to leave no stone unturned. Who is the girl? The Lady Josleen, I mean.”

Kelovath knew the look they exchanged, but wouldn’t comment. Time and a place for that. And he’d get his opinion in when it came to it. “She is my…Guest.” Much more than a guest, which was probably obvious by the way he said it, but still. Did they really need to know more? Well, maybe a bit more. “She’s a Thane of Frostmaw. Given this title by Queen Hildegarde. They both will prove to be great allies to Larket in the future.” He smiled at the thought of a peaceful future with Josleen. Looks like that may take longer than expected. “And speaking of Lady Josleen, I should probably make sure she is comfortable. If there is nothing else?” He would wait, just to make sure there truly wasn’t anything else.

Justahl visibly bristles at the initial answer, but calms when Josleen’s title is revealed. A thane seems decent enough. Should any of those pesky reporters from the Larketian Herald come asking about Kelovath and his ‘guest’, he’ll have an answer that should satisfy them for now. He nods as Kelovath seeks to excuse himself. “That will be all for now. We’ll see you at the next council meeting.” Isiln adds with an exasperated sigh, “If nothing else should befall Larket before then.” The men also leave shortly after Kelovath, for they too have things to do. Josleen waits in the guest room reading a book about the history of Larket which she plucked from the bookshelf. She sits on an ornate, expensive day bed near the window. Soft sunlight filters through a gauzey current and highlights the gold in her light brown hair. Aesthetically speaking she is suited to a life of luxury and peace. She looks like she belongs in rooms like these. War is not for her. She even sits more daintily, carries herself with poise when sitting on satin.

Kelovath bows to each of the councilmembers and waits for them to leave. He stands in the council meeting room, enjoying the silence. It was good to be back in Larket, but the future seemed questionable now. He knew he was innocent, but the people needed to see it as well. A maid pulled on the large door to the room and the paladin turned to look at her. “The lady I arrived with…” Before being asked where she was, the maid told him the guest waiting room. Duh. He smiled, nodded to the girl and exited the room. It was strange, walking around the fort without his armor. He felt vulnerable. Didn’t remember feeling this cold before. The knob to the guest room is turned, the door pulled open and Kelovath steps through the doorway. All of this was done quietly, mostly because he was unsure if this was the correct waiting room. There were two others. Luck would have it though, as there was Josleen, sitting peacefully, reading a book. The door was left open, the man wanting to avoid the clicking noise that happened when it closed. A smile was present, although not the most convincing given the news he’d received earlier. His eyes locked onto the woman and he felt his love for her grow. She was beautiful. This was where she belonged. Not a war-camp. Not in a battle. In comfort. Peace. And soon, if he could help it, in his arms. “Babe.” He said softly and decided to finally close the door behind him. Whether his voice or the door scared her or not, he would approach her. “Enjoying the book?”

Josleen looks up when he calls her, not in the least bit scared. She knows his voice intimately now. Slowly he’s becoming a part of her. She sees the love in his eyes and smiles softly, extends a hand to receive him. Come. Sit with me, her body says wordlessly. She can see the worry in his smile. What news could he have heard? “Yes, it’s a good summary of history. I think I should learn a thing or two about Larket if I’m to become a part of it.”

Kelovath does exactly what she wanted and happily sat with her. An arm moved around her, allowing Josleen to lean against him and continue reading, if she wanted. He was perfectly content to sit there with her and enjoy her company. They had been spending so much time together and he just couldn’t get enough. Early love, clearly. He had eyed the book on his way over to her and remembered reading it many years ago. Wondered if they had added Jacklin and Parsithius to it, but wasn’t curious enough to ask. His eyes closed and he leaned his head against hers, taking in her scent with a deep breath. “I think you’ll love it here, Jos.” Small talk, when they both knew there was something else worth talking about. He wasn’t sure how to start it, really. But, he’d try. “So…A guard was killed last night. Another injured. And several people are sick. Infected with…Something. Healers don’t know.” And if you thought that was bad?! “Apparently, there are some citizens that believe I am responsible for all of it. Someone in gold armor was seen and many believe it was not just someone in gold armor, but me specifically.” His eyes stayed closed and overall, his breathing and body stayed calm. “The council believes otherwise. They know I was in Frostmaw. No way could I have done any of that. They believe it was the fermin.” He didn’t believe that, but it was the best option available at this point. His arm began rubbing at the forearm of Josleen softly. “Not how I pictured my first day back…” Disappointed, obviously, but, “At least this is nice.” This, being right now.

Josleen gasps at the news, particularly the parts about an unknown disease and Kelovath being accused of any wrongdoing. “What?” She sets the book down on the couch behind her. “How could anyone think you capable of this? I don’t care what he looked like, you would never! Is that why the guard said those people were gathering at the main entrance to the city?” Her lips purse and in her head she’s already standing before the crowd, arguing on Kelovath’s behalf. She finally relents in her shadow-boxing argument against the faceless mob. Sigh. “I’m sorry, love. Is there anything I can do? Maybe see if I can help with the sick?”

Kelovath opened his eyes as the woman gasped. It was a big deal, everything going on, but there was only so much they could do. “Yes. They are angry. That’s why the council wanted me to take the separate entrance. They are on the bridge and at Lucy’s Crossing. We’ve decided that if the gathered citizens grow in number, then I’ve agreed to be put on trial. There is no evidence linking me to the crime, so a trial will clear my name.” The right leg of the paladin was stretched out some before he continued. “The council doesn’t want to risk spreading the sickness. Even with my magic, they suggested to avoid it. Just…Too many unknowns, I think, about the disease. Other than those who are sick…Well, it doesn’t appear they’ll make it.” His voice grew low at the mention of death. “I want to see them, Jos, but…” A disappointing look, followed by a sigh. “The council has a plan, so we’ll see it through and go from there.” He nodded, confirming the words in his mind. “We may need to stay low for a bit, I think. A day or two. Not having my armor will help with that. Not too many people recognized me on my way to you.” He would have preferred that they did. Would have made him feel more welcomed.

Josleen scoffs at the word ‘trial’. She shakes her head like she won’t allow that to happen, somehow. What little power she has here she will wield to protect him and keep him out of the limelight of that circus. “No,” she says. “No trial.” When he says to leave the healers and council to their plan, she nods. In truth, while Josleen is willing to help, she needs the break. The weariness of war still clings to her bones. She can see the way not being recognized without his iconic armor chafes at his ego. “They must be none too bright, then,” she says as she cups his face towards her to look at her. She kisses him sweetly. “More for me,” she purrs. “Show me your room, love. I have an idea for what we can do in there as we lie low for a couple days.” She winks suggestively. Maybe finishing what was interrupted in the carriage will help take his mind off things.