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An Unscheduled Luncheon [Completed]

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Lady Crofte sat once again in the Quicksand as a patron. Her legs were crossed under her dress and her gloved hands folded on the table before her. She simply stared at the table lost in her own thoughts as she repeated the words of her Captain in her head. Thankful she had come out relatively unscathed, she still found herself thrust into the role of inspector and was almost wishing it had been back to guard duty.


It had just reached mid-day. The tavern was still mostly empty, as its typical patrons were still sleeping off the previous day's ale. Uncharacteristically quiet. She planned to enjoy it at least a few moments more before returning to her duties this eve.

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Warren had only intended to stop down on the main level for a moment, hoping to catch a quick bite to eat to try and stave off what remained of his hunger after breakfast. He looked much better than he had when dragging himself in but still appeared to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. It was more apparent with him out of his armor; He wasn't ready to put himself back on duty yet and chose instead to wear the comfortable clothes he felt he could relax in. His posture seemed slumped, however; Weighted with something intangible that led his arms to hang loose and his eyes to seem sullen.


He fell into habits, though, while waiting to get someone's attention behind the bar. Warren scanned the room, the quiet a clue enough that there wouldn't be many patrons but he caught himself tripping over the woman at the table. His goal was dismissed for a time and he crossed, gesturing towards an empty chair across from her and waiting to be invited.


"Lady Crofte," He said politely, ducking his head in a bow. "I almost didn't recognize you."

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Hearing her name suddenly snapped her thoughts back to reality. She looked up at the one who addressed her. "Oh, Ser Castille! My, but I could say the same." She looked the man over before settling her eyes upon his face. "You look troubled. Perhaps you would like to sit a while?"

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Warren studied her as she looked up at him, registering her surprise and suddenly feeling as if he was intruding. He keeps his tone conversational in his reply.


"This? You've seen me out of armor before. It's a bit of a shock on this end, though." He takes the seat and folds his hands in his lap, leaning back and eyeing her carefully. "You look troubled yourself."

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She tilts her head to the right, following the weight of her beret.


"Am I truly an open book? Aye, I have been left to my thoughts after meeting my Captain earlier. He was not gentile, though it was no less than I deserved I suppose. I seem to have come out no worse for wear. I must consider my course carefully going forward. But what of you Ser? I had heard rumor of you departing the city under some angst. I had not seen much of you lately either. Is all well?"

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Warren's expression was painted with clear conflict for a moment. He sighed and looked around at the Quicksand's quiet patrons, the few in attendance focused on their drinks or meals.


"I gotta be honest, it's been- well, it's hard." His eyes cast away from her, leaning forward and folding his hands. His usual demeanor is nowhere to be found. "Something terrible's happened, and I'm pretty sure that Howl's-"


Warren stopped and ran a hand over his face and the top of his head, pressing hard to keep it from shaking. "I think he died."

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"I don't- He was- It's a long story." He closes his hands over his face and takes a staggering breath, his hands closing to fists before falling away to reveal his jaw set almost angrily and his eyes boring a hole through the table. He swallows hard and begins again.


"He was looking after someone impo- He was chasing my ex-fiance. She went to Coerthas to kill herself and he tried to rescue her. They're both gone." His features drop suddenly, his eyes squeezing shut and his mouth momentarily hanging open in a mask of pain. He crashes his fist down to the table and makes a loud bang before his expression changes to one of seething frustration.


"I looked for them. I didn't find anything. He's from the desert, he couldn't have-" His glove noisily strains as he tightens his fist, knuckles going white.

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"He told me on pearl. I could hear the storm. I heard everything." His gaze remains fixed on a position away from them both, though the tension in his hand lessens a small degree when she makes him aware he's doing it.


"I was in Coerthas for a few days, until you recalled me. I was searching. They saw her arrive in Dragonhead and head out, and saw Howl follow her. Neither were dressed for the cold. I didn't find anything out there, just ice." He speaks slowly, as if searching the words as they fall out for something he'd missed.


"Damn near killed my chocobo doing it, too. He's sick, bedded down at a stable there." He looks up for the first time since his tangent, smiling sadly. "Couldn't take him through the Aether, you know? The birds don't like it much."

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She watched him as he relayed what he knew, trying to gain what understanding of the situation she could. "That was what you were doing when I called upon you? Why did you come? I should not have taken you away from your duty like that."


Her head turns away for a brief moment of thought. "I had mentioned my dreams to you that day as well, of how Nymeia placed you in them. I saw you, as I said, embattled with a great beast. Neither you or it prevailed, but whenever you gained the advantage it would only grow larger and try to overtake you once more."


She looks back to the Knight. "You must not give in to despair, Ser Castille. You will find them. And if not, then knowledge of their fate at the least. Until then, do not say they are dead."

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Warren keeps eye contact until she breaks it, willing himself to keep a strong facade.


"When you called, I'd already been looking for two days. I don't mean a few bells, either. Remember the strange meeko who was asking about joining the Sworn? I heard right after leaving you there. I didn't, uh, sleep until today." He looks embarrassed, the words reaching his ears out loud instead of internal and he realizes how dumb that sounds.


"I knew time was of the essence, you know? No time to waste. Couldn't afford the downtime." He shakes his head slowly and sadly. "I don't know what good it did. There's snow falling in Coerthas all the time and Ishgard's too busy to concern themselves with the fate of two adventurers. They've got no stake in this, and Coerthas is too large for me to search everything..." His eyes scroll again, looking for something in the patterns of the table and the walls and floor.


"I'm not giving up, but I'm only kidding myself if I think they survived on their own this long with nothing."

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She studied his voice as he continued and knew what she must do. The question was whether his pride would keep her at length.


"It seems to me that Ul'dah has suffered an influx of Ishgardians as of late. I believe it is time for Coerthas to suffer the reverse. That is, if you would have me."


She smiled slightly and tilted her head.


"If only to keep you sane when the beast returns."

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Warren's brow furrowed and he looked at her questioningly, unsure of what she was saying despite his ears understanding.


"You're offering to help?" His tone is inquisitive and not entirely understanding. "I don't know what we could even do. At this point we're looking for-" His image fractured for the merest of moments. "I don't know if we'd find anything. And there are people I need to inform. There's no next of kin for Howl but he had friends, and I doubt Sei's company has a clue. I owe it to them to report my findings." He lifts his head, his mannerisms turning back towards his guarded tone often heard when he's on duty.

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She looks at him with a stern expression.

"But you have not found anything yet. Do not make your reports until you have something worth reporting. I've learned this lesson just recently. And if I cannot dissuade you, then at least know that you must needs not return to the cold alone."


She squeezes his hand then releases it returns to her previous position.

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Warren looked down at her gesture without a physical reaction to it His eyes watched but were largely vacant.


"You're sure about this...?" His eyes focused again, finding hers with no small degree of incredulity. "They'd never allow you the leave to go jaunting off to a wasteland to look for missing adventurers. Don't go sinking yourself because I've got problems."

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She shook her head.

"Ser Castille, I may be collared, but I am not leashed. If you need aid, I offer it as I am able. You have already done the same for me. 'Tis the least I can do.", she said with a smile.


"For now, though, I must prepare for my rounds tonight. I am to return to my regular duties post-haste. This time together was nice though, we should do it again."


The Knight stood and flattened out her dress, then bowed to him in parting.

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Warren's expression was more dull surprise than anything. He wasn't used to being the one offered assistance, though he supposed she was on to something about him having already aided her. He wasn't one to keep score in regards to that.


"I've got some things to weigh for tonight myself." He stood before her and returned the bow, his hand over his chest feeling strange without the heavy armor plate tapping to his tabard.


"Next time you can lean on me, instead of me falling apart on you from 'hello.' Fair's fair and all." He gave a small smile, his emotions still playing openly across his face but the gratitude shining through. "I'm not usually so fragile, I promise."

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  • 2 weeks later...

[align=center] ** II ** [/align]


Coatleque sat in the bare room on the side of the bed, staring at the floor. It wasn't her room, but one at the Inn in Drybone. She was wearing rather plain clothes today in an attempt to not stand out. Her arrival the previous night had probably already ruined any chance of that though.


This is where she was told to stay. This is where her friends had found her. At least she was still alive. It was that fact which troubled her. Someone needed her alive for a purpose, though she couldn't say what that was.


Her leg started throbbing again and she tried to rub it away. The fracture was healed, but there was still the lingering phantom pains of having known it was broken at all. Perhaps it was better that way, as it distracted her from the itching around her neck. Or perhaps she was still far to used to wearing collars in the first place. In either case she didn't understand why Buttons had kept fiddling with hers as if it was the most uncomfortable thing ever.


She sighed and held her head in her hands. There was nothing she could do but wait now. Jancis had gone out to get some supplies, and the room was paid up for the week now, as well as something extra for having painted over the center divider of the room. What she really needed now was a way to pass the time...

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Jancis wandered around the desert town. Considering this town was the center for the graveyard above, the majority of people outside of the locals were quiet mournful souls and she fit right in with them.


Luckily the tavern was equipped for these kind of travelers and had an assortment of comforting foods available. In particular Jancis has purchased some little white chocolate candies, along with some fruit and sandwiches, though she was unsure if anyone had much of an appetite.


Alveo had given her some extra gil before leaving, his expression more stern than usual, though he mumbled that he would not be far. He had been furious that Jancis got herself involved with desert woes even though she knew he was only doing it out of concern. She had spent all that gil on parchment and writing utensils, making one merchant exceedingly happy she had emptied his stock.


Standing out in the town square Jancis scanned the area. She was making sure to remember every face she had a chance to stare at, which she did without remorse. Every since last night she was critical of everyone, giving the other three men a hard time before finally relenting and allowing them to see Cici. Whomever put the lady knight in this state could not be too far away and any details could be important later.


Plus, this gave Cici a short chance to have a bit of time alone. Pursing her lips together, Jancis didn't let these thoughts get to her too much. She couldn't, now wasn't the time to give in to over thinking.


"Thaliak knows." she said out loud.

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The Aetheryte sitting in the center of camp pulsed nearly imperceptibly as Warren dropped from the stream and remanifested. He looked as if he had been through a war and was far from the image of Free Paladin, his armor cracked and worn through and his hands lazily bandaged. No one would have been unreasonable if they presumed him to be a roving marauder.


Warren took a moment to get his bearings, the lack of sleep and shock of the jaunt having a visible toll. He pulled a small flask from his belt and drank thirstily, shaking out his fingers while small pools formed at his feet, residual ice from his initial destination unable to remain intact under Thanalan's sun.


He wasn't aware of the faces or people around him. They were secondary. He'd been told a location and that was priority for himself, forcing himself not to lumber or stagger as he made his way towards the inn. He was aware his barging in would not be met with civility but he had to be sure, to see with his own eyes. He opened the door while ignoring the protests of the innkeeper, standing in the doorway as his gaze took in the contents of the room.

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Her head turned to regard the sudden commotion at the door, but she did not stand. She saw her friend at the door now and her heart leapt momentarily. She suddenly didn't care who or what was listening.


"You... you came...", was all she could stammer.


She glanced at the innkeeper behind him, still voicing protests and motioned that it was okay to let him pass. Looking back to Warren once more she was suddenly more worried about her own appearance. Pulling her hair back in an quick attempt to straighten it revealed what was now around her neck.


Regarding the man's own appearance she tried to hide her own worry behind a forced smile. "I... trust you are well?". It took all her willpower not to say his name.

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Warren absently gestured gratitude towards the innkeeper, his gaze falling away from the woman on the bed for merest of moments. He remained in the door with his expression hard, his eyes searching and taking in what he could. Whatever was going on inside of his head was kept under lock and key until he tried to return her smile, then his features broke.


Warren quickly wiped his face with his hands, shaking it off and inhaling sharply through his nose. "I'll be fine." The bandaged fingers of his left hand twitched towards the bottles on his belt but he left them alone. "You're..."


His boots sounded heavier than intended in the quiet room as he crossed to her bedside. He took a tentative seat with his back towards her on the edge, head away as he picked at the ends of the bandages.


"I said I would."

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