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A Renewal of Trust [Closed - Story - OOC Welcome]

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(( Note: This story is taken directly from a chat log. I have taken the 'artistic liberty' to embellish the scene from Coatleque's perspective. Some dialogue is re-ordered to make more sense (due to lag), but un-modified in content. ))


The Bismark. The most prestigious restaurant in all of Eorzea. Settled on top of a stone spire in the heart of Limsa Lominsa this iconic eatery has attracted some of the most of the continent's well-to-do's from as far as the Shroud. To make reservations here for more than two at a time was no small feat, but Coatleque was quickly learning not to underestimate what Taeros could do.


She was met by his man, Gideon North, just off the Airship. An exchange of quiet pleasantries was followed by him leading her through the upper decks to the reserved table. There he moved silently to the side of the group with barely a notice from the other two.


It was a clear, quiet night. The sounds of gulls screeching from the decks below echoed off the rocky pillars that constituted the city proper. Seated at the table was Jameson Taeros in his usual white suit. To his right, leaning with her back to the railing of the deck was the raven-haired highlander, Brynnalia Callae. Coatleque knew far less about her than she liked, but from the times they had been forced to work together she honestly preferred dealing with her over Taeros.


The two were discussing something as the Sworn approached the table. Brynnalia shrugged at Jameson with a nondescript response. "I'd rather wait until our guest arrives." Both heads proceeded to turn towards her as she did just that. "Ah. And she arrives. As if summoned.", Jameson commented as he rose to greet her with a bow. Brynnalia could only smirk. "As if?", Coatleque began, having overheard his remark. "I believe I was, Master Taeros."


"Semantics.", he quipped with a grin. His hand rose in a single dismissive wave before falling to a gesture at the chair to his left. "Do sit, Lady Crofte. You do look ravishing this eve." Her chosen dress for the evening was of pink and red tones, crafted by Otto Vann as many of her dresses were lately. The color scheme was his trademark, but Jameson had previously expressed more than his typical interest in her the first time she wore it in his presence. "Thank you.", she replied even as her face flushed. She sat as directed and flattened her dress.


Jameson's eyes turned back to his other guest, though only for a moment. "Where as Miss Callae has decided to be... drearily festive.", he said in reference to the long, black dress she wore. Brynnalia only laughed. "Why, aye. I thought I would dress fer the occasion." Coatleque did not take her eyes of Taeros. "I remembered you were quite taken with this dress. I thought I would oblige you this evening.", she said. Her thoughts were already working to keep this night about him. "Miss Callae, however, looks as if she is still in mourning."


Jameson's attention turned back to her with a confident smirk. "That is already one favour granted to me, and the night is young! I wonder if I would be called upon to repay it as the evening wears on." She smiled in return with half-closed eyes. "That would depend on what favours we have to ask of each other tonight." Brynnalia's smirk never left her face as she eyed the Knight's choice of dress. She did not look impressed, but then again, she never did. "Mayhap I am. Mayhap I'd like others to think I am.", she replied, stealing back the slight change of mood.


It worked, however, as the conversation shifted. "I am, however, glad to see that you are not in the gaols. Or buried beneath the dirt for that matter.", Jameson said without a twinge of emotion, his smile still perfectly in place. He shot Brynnalia a short-lived glance. "I doubt Miss Callae mourns anyone, truly." Brynnalia seemed to ignore his comment, standing idly by the table. Coatleque also chose to ignore his jab, for Brynnalia's sake.


"That would make two of us then, Master Taeros.", she continued in reference to herself. "I would assume you have been properly briefed then. I have nothing more to add on those matters." He nodded. "However, dear Natalie's absence... has caused a void for me.", he replied. Brynnalia let her gaze wander now, looking quite bored at this subject. Coatleque could not tell if it was genuine. Seizing the opportunity, she continued. "A void in what, would be the question."


"Natalie and I ... had an understanding.", he began. "A kindred spirit if you will. I will miss her. Her independent spirit, her unrelenting drive." His voice softened slightly, though only someone who truly knew him might detect it. "And a little bird told me that, a bit of a mess has been left behind in her wake." Coatleque sighed wistfully. "Yes, as will I, in mine own way.", she confessed. This was not the time to dwell, however. "She did leave you something behind.", she said conveniently ignoring his second comment.


His attention shifted momentarily. "Oh?", he asked curtly. Brynnalia also raised her brows as the news had caught her attention as well. "Aye, I have been in charge of settling her estate. I suppose that should be the first matter of business, as it should only take a moment.", the Knight continued. Yes - it would be best to take care of her friend first before she was forced to drag this meeting down to its inevitable end.


(To Be Continued...)

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She proceeded to lift her gil purse to her lap and reach a hand inside. From it she withdrew a small and folded piece of parchment. Holding it up to look as official as possible, she scanned down the lines of text. Jameson looked somewhat amused by the whole things. "You were left in charge of her estate. I did not realize how much she did trust you. Despite her angry words." This prompted a glance from her over the top of the parchment for a moment. "Neither did I.", she replied.


Her words were honest in that regard. Despite calling each other friends, Coatleque and Natalie had always acted with some measure of professionalism around each other. That was mostly due to her own mannerisms. Natalie had tried on occasion to loosen her tongue, but those vulgar conversations never seemed to go anywhere. The more Coatleque attempted to discuss serious matters with her, the more she would deflect the topic to more personal matters such as their love lives.


Brynnalia had since taken her own seat at the table across from Jameson to the Sworn's left. She leaned back now, watching curiously. Coatleque returned her attention to the will before her. "To Jameson Taeros I bequeath a set of matching dirks, as well as a case of fine wine from the cellars of our company house." Looking back up to Jameson over the document she added, "She states that these items are all of noteworthy make and bids you do with them as you see fit." After a slight pause she concluded, "At your word I shall have them delivered to your office. Or your personal estate." With that she folded the paper once more and returned it to her purse. She also removed her glasses and hid them away as she would not need them further.


Jameson nodded slowly and only once. His amber gaze turned distant for a moment before he allowed a small curl of the corner of his lips. "Dirks. And wine. Hmph." The Knight merely watched him, gauging his reaction to all of this. The man was a hard read, though. Most likely the best card player in Eorzea. She considered this as Jameson would dwell on his own thoughts for a moment. He leaned back in his chair. It was not long before his smile returned. "Very well then. Have it delivered to the Brass Blades headquarters. My men will take care of it from there." Coatleque nodded once. "As you say then. I shall take care of it the very next sun."


The approach of the butler to the table broke the conversation from there. Brynnalia turned her attention to him with narrowed eyes and an odd curl to her lips. She said nothing, however. Jameson simply nodded in agreement. "You have my thanks, Lady Crofte.", before looking up to the man as he cleared his throat politely. "Ah. My good man, North. Is the dinner ready?" Gideon bowed low in return. "Miss Crofte, Mistress Callae, my lord. The entrées appear to be quite ready for your appraisal." Coatleque smiled at him. It was not the same strained smile of acknowledgement that men like Taeros may give, but one of genuine gratitude. Of all those gathered here, she most likely understood the butler the most. Also, despite all the circumstances surrounding this gathering, Coatleque seemed oddly pleased to be here tonight.


Jameson merely nodded slowly, barely giving the man a passing glance. "Very well. Do proceed.", he commanded with an absent wave of the hand. To that the man quickly began to deftly arrange a series of plates on the table with a large bottle close by. Brynnalia merely watched him with curiosity, her green eyes following his every movement, studying his expression. There was no doubt that she was watching him closely tonight.


The conversation had seemed to lull. Taking charge once more, Coatleque turned back to Jameson with a bright expression. "I do believe you have some good news to share this night, Master Taeros. You certainly have spared no expense.", she said with a slight gesture to the table. Jameson smiled slowly and gave her a nod. "With dear Natalie's passing, I seek to make new friendships. I am left without a lovely Sworn I can trust and call friend." His words may not have been truly endearing, but Coatleque could still feel the warmth rise to her ears. Whatever could be said of Taeros, he certainly knew how to wield flattery. She remained silent and tried to focus on the meal being set before them, rather than where his eyes were wandering.


Gideon completed his setting of the table and stood close by to explain the night's preparations. "I endeavored to make the most of the location, milord, and sample some of the region's specialties." Jameson managed to tear his gaze from her to glance at the man once more with a nod. "I do hope my guests are pleased with your choices." He looked from the man to Brynnalia, and then back to Crofte. Gideon continued, "We have... tarragon-encrusted loin of lamb, with a light dash of basil butter. Fresh from the La Noscean fields, or so I am told. Accompanying, a stewed cassoulet of white parsnip... and, yes..." He reached for the bottle while arranging a series of fluted glasses before them.


Brynnalia pushed herself off from her recline as the dishes and the wine were brought forth. Her smile broadened. Coatleque noticed but still held her tongue. It appeared this woman could also appreciate some of the finer things in life. Or perhaps she was merely playing Taeros for all she could get. Their conversation a few nights prior certainly showed no love for the man on her part, he merely provided her gil at the end of the week. Mister North continued his presentation. "A selection of sweet ciders, milord, augmented with the tartness of La Noscean citrus which were picked directly from the fields one may view from this very balcony, milord. Of course, sir, I was assured by the staff that they still retain the, ah, potency of less subtle spirits." With that he bowed low and courteously to Jameson once more before stepping back and awaiting judgement.


Jameson glanced from his guests to the butler again. He was not hardly paying attention to anything the man said, but the descriptions seemed to have caught his ear. "Excellent.", he replied. Coatleque looked around the table before nodding to herself. "It all sounds wonderful.", she said. Her words were directed at Gideon, though she did not look towards him. Jameson continued, "Let us see if it deserves my guests' approval." Gideon merely inclined his head politely. "If it is sweet and potent, then it got me approval already.", Brynnalia added. "I await the deserved verdict, milord.", Gideon replied. Of the four of them, the butler surely had felt the most tension by now. Coatleque knew the feeling well herself. The deep and held breath as you awaited your Master's judgement after giving your all to the task at hand. She did not envy him, and even felt her own breath being held as she waited for Taeros to continue the service.


Brynnalia continued peering at the man, as a cat watches a mouse creep along the corner of a wall. He merely acknowleded her with a quick "Mistress?", and bowed curteously. Jameson lifted his glass, swirling it before his nose to take in its aroma. "Let us have a taste of this, hm?" Brynnalia smirked at Gideon then eyed her drink instead, taking it up as well. Coatleque waited for the others before also taking up her own glass. Jameson raised his to the two ladies. "To new friendships. And new beginnings.", he began. "And perhaps a renewal of trust. For Ul'dah.", the Sworn added as she raised her glass to his. Brynnalia merely narrowed her eyes as she raised her glass. She added nothing before taking a long sip of the wine. "For Ul'dah.", Jameson agreed as he tipped his glass towards the Knight, then drank. She watched him, he being the host after all, and only raised her glass to her lips after he had begun himself.


There was another pause as the tension grew. Jameson lowered his glass only slightly as he tasted the wine. Both Mister North and Crofte could probably feel their hearts stop in that moment before Jameson nodded to the man in approval. Relief. With that, the dinner could continue. Jameson's attention did not stay on the butler for long, after all, he was merely a servant. Coatleque wished she could give the man the praise he was due, but remembered her sense of propriety and merely set her glass back down. She folded her hands and awaited Taeros to continue.


( To be Continued... )

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With the tension seemingly dissolved for the moment, Coatleque merely sat quietly with as polite a smile she could manage. She watched Taeros carefully for any queues she may jump on. At one time she had told Sergeant Melkire that she found the man fascinating, and tonight was no different. Her mind began to wander. She could only guess at the layers upon layers of intrigue and political games the man had surrounded himself in. While everyone else had been focused on the material, Coatleque was more focused on the man himself. It may have been that little bit of wine in her empty stomach, but it began to feel quite stuffy out on the balcony this evening.


Mister North, himself pleased that the night was able to proceed, folded a cloth over this forearm with satisfaction and took his place behind his Master, awaiting any further whim or direction. He watched the table as well, ready to jump in at a moment's notice. Jameson eventually looked across the table to break the silence. "Miss Callae. Do share with Lady Crofte your good news.", to which Brynnalia returned a wide yet conniving grin. "Oh well, she was there after all. Although a bit dazed, if I be recallin' correctly. Tryin' tae heal Natalie and all. Futile attempt it was." Coatleque narrowed her eyes at the woman in disgust. "Yes... futile.", she stated flatly. Jameson picked up on her queue immediately and interjected. "Let us not dwell on dear Natalie's death, hm Miss Callae? It does spoil one's appetite."


"Aye, I be movin' on.", she replied while mustering her best look of apology. "But ye recall the names that we got? From the mercenaries?" Her question was directed back to the Sworn. "I remember one name. Stormchild.", she replied. Brynnalia's brows slowly narrowed. "Well, that be one I'll be lookin' in tae. Since I knew the woman." As she said this her eyes flicked in Mister North's direction, then back to Jameson before settling back onto Coatleque. "I was more interested in Redgrave." Jameson did not seem to notice her wandering glance. In fact, he seemed to not be paying attention at all as he took up his utensils and began to eat.


"Ah, the one in the letter.", Crofte replied. This caught the attention of both the others suddenly. "A letter?" "A letter? This be news tae me.", they replied almost in unison. Brynnalia arched a brow with a cant of her head. "Was it one of the things retrieved from inside the warehouse?" "Aye. Ser Mcbeef, Nald'thal guide her onward, retrieved a letter and bottle of something from the warehouse.", Crofte replied. "It was addressed to one Sebastian Redgrave, and asked him to meet with someone at an address in the Goblet."


"I see."

"So the mercs not be lyin' tae me then. That was the second name they gave me."

"And who was he to meet?"


She looked over to Brynnalia only momentarily before turning back to their host. His desires took precedence after all. "The letter did not specify who, only where. It was also quite dated, at this time three weeks prior." If he felt anything at this news, it did not show on his face. Jameson merely seemed disappointed as if the discovery was as meaningless as a Lantern article about poverty in Ul'dah. "Mm. Then the meeting likely already occurred. A shame. I would have liked to track this Redgrave down."


To this, Brynnalia continued her own news. "I haven't been able tae locate him in Limsa. A slipper one that. But a wealthy businessman. His wealth has been growin' rapidly of late. Enough to draw some attention from the Maelstorm. It maybe that he could be workin' with or employin' the pirate ye be interested in. Someone must be stuffin' his coffers." Coatleque sat and thought on her words for a moment. She had in the past been to Limsa Lominsa to try and learn all she could about this man Nero. That was back when Roen had first introduced them. Crofte had it in her mind to do her own type of background check for the sake of her friend. She would have been remiss if Roen was walking directly into another trap after just gaining her freedom from the gaols. "I do not know many business men in La Noscea, except... no... no, it could not be him.", she spoke softly, almost to herself.


"Mm? I think any and all businessman of note in Limsa are now of interest. Do you not agree?", Taeros added having heard her clear enough. "Perhaps. Though what little information I have is mere rumor and hearsay.", she objected. The Knight was not one to pass rumors herself, nor to give cause for suspicion of others without the evidence to do so. Jameson, in the mean time, had drained the rest of his glass and gestured, without looking, for a refill to the butler behind him. "The very man we are after does front some legitimate businesses in Limsa Lominsa.", Crofte continued. She had decided to err on the part of safety tonight. Safety for Ul'dah, she told herself. "He has done quite well for himself, or so they say. There are some merchants who even fear him for his... cut-throat practices."


Gideon quietly stepped forward to refill the glass as Jameson continued speaking as if he were half-listening. "Given the growing wealth, the raids on Syndicate ships and the fact that his name is given to us by both the guards and the letter that you found... I do think he may be connected to Lazarov." Coatleque turned to Brynnalia to finish her own thought with a quirked eyebrow. "Or he is Lazarov." The woman arched her own brow once more. "Hmm, entirely possible.", she replied. Her attention was then drawn back to Mister North who had been nearly invisible in his silence till refilling the wine glass. She had nearly forgotten he was even there. This she did not like. The man merely inclined his head deferentially to her as if waiting for command.


"A man I spoke with regarding the matter, one who was raised on the streets of this city, said the name was most likely an alias.", she continued, turning her attention back to their host. "Do you have any description of this man?", Jameson pressed. "He is currently a Flame. I would rather not involve him further tonight." Brynnalia's attention shifted to the conversation once more. "A Flame?" The Sworn regarded her with feigned interest. "Surely you know the benefits of being well connected, Miss Callae?" Jameson simply smiled knowingly and somewhat pleased it would seem. "A Sworn of repute. I would expect no less." Brynnalia only smirked.


"A bit far fer a Flame to be snoopin' in tae Limsan business.", Brynnalia continued as Coatleque finished her first glass and set it down within reach of the table's edge. She turned back to the woman. "You misunderstand me. I asked him for a consultation. He is not 'snooping'.", she clarified. "Does this Flame have a name?", Jameson asked with a suddenly sly tone of voice. The Sworn returned her attention to him with a smile. It was that very tone, that sudden change of interest at key points that she found so interesting. Just as she did, he could feign interest in the entire room yet was still hearing everything around him. Her own voice took on a playful tone. "Now, now, Master Taeros. If he knew I was speaking of him here, he would likely never talk to me again. I would prefer not to have all of my sources go dark, wouldn't you?"


It was not a lie. If Osric knew he was being talked about in the man's she would probably never hear from him again. Their relationship was already stretched thin, and while the Sergeant may have begun to understand Crofte's own methods he was loathe to trust her as much as she would like. Taeros only gave her a thin smile in return. "Mm. As long as you have them, and we continue our... friendship, I will have to accept. But, I am interested in tracking down this Redgrave. Especially if he is Lazarov, himself. Businessmen leave paper trails to follow. Their wealth can be tracked, to a degree. I suspect he will be easier to find than the slippery pirate."


"As am I. Which is why I was moving to have people infiltrate the address in the letter.", Coatleque reassured him a best she could. His thin smile grew at that, and she could see he was genuinely pleased at her notion. "Excellent, Lady Crofte. Excellent. He has already established connections in our own backyard it seems. We need to root those out." For a moment she almost felt proud at his admonishment, though she could not say why. She began to feel more at ease in his presence. It may have been the wine. Or perhaps in some way she wanted him to be more trusting of her. She continued to detail her plans being set in motion. "Indeed. And in the Goblet, I would be easily recognized."


( To be Continued... )

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As the conversation shifted once more and Coatleque began to detail her plans going forward, while also beginning to eat. Brynnalia fell silent and merely listened. She occasionally threw a glance to the butler as if to gauge his attentiveness to the conversation at hand. The man belied no emotion or interest and merely stared politely into the middle of the distance. If he even saw looks he did not acknowledge them. The woman turned her attention back to her fellow Highlander after a few moments when it became clear she was addressing her once more. She curled a sly grin to the Sworn.


"Are you aware of the Rogadyn, Iron Sea?", Crofte asked? Brynnalia thought for a moment with narrowed eyes. "I've heard rumors of him. Something about fighting against... cults. And then the Grindstone." Coatleque nodded in agreement before continuing, "Aye. He and Natalie were apparently close. More than close. He may have a mind for vengeance." "Oh? A brute to sic on the pirate?", she asked. Coatleque shook her head slowly in thought between bites before continuing on. "No, nothing so strong-handed. He and his people may be able to help infiltrate the location we spoke of."


Jameson listened in as he continue to eat, but said nothing. Such talk of criminals and commoners did not seem to draw his attention as acutely. He took another long sip of the fine wine. Brynnalia had only been nursing her own glass. She finished it and motioned for her own refill to which Gideon quietly made his way forward around the table and poured her second glass out the middle neck of the bottle with careful delicacy. Her smile faded away just slightly whenever she watched him, ever so subtly. He then made his way around to attend the other side of the table to tend to Crofte's as well. Lifting the bottle once more he glanced briefly towards the kitchens before returning to his place behind his Master. Coatleque could not help but smile at the man in thanks, hoping that he would notice her appreciation. If anyone would find fault in her etiquette tonight, this would be it. Jameson, however, did not even spare him a look as he continued to enjoy his dinner.


Coalteque's attention was turned back to the plan at hand as she spoke of Iron Sea. "I would not use him for more than that." "Oh. Ye be sendin' him in tae the Goblet then. Does he know he be walkin' possibly in tae a den of thieves?", Brynnalia replied. "He is aware, and also does not care. He does this for Natalie." She paused for a moment. "And for me.", she said with a softer tone of voice. Whatever she was thinking, however, did not last long as she returned to the matter at hand. "But I cannot accompany him. He will need someone more intimately connected to this whole affair."


"A man lookin' fer revenge. He blames the pirate then?", Brynnalia said with a smirk. "He blames himself, Miss Callae.", she said with a shake of her head. "Of course I could not volunteer you for this. T'is not my place. But he will need someone to give direction, to find what needs to be found." The other woman huffed. "Hmph. Well I suppose that be a relief." She shot a look to the nobleman across the table from her. "That article again, seems tae to be pointin' fingers in the wrong direction." His utensils only paused for the slightest moment at the mention of the article before he continued eating. She smirked at the Sworn once more. "I'd be happy tae accompany him. As long as he not be turnin' violent." Coatleque nodded in agreement. Violence was something she had hoped to avoid if at all possible as they proceeded. "Aye, I shall speak with him on that matter. He may have others as well. I assume you could formulate more of a plan as to how many would be needed. I shall, of course, be on hand though not present. Within distance if I need to arrive."


Jameson had slowly drained his drink once more in the meantime, setting the empty fluted glass aside. "Lady Crofte.", he interrupted. She turned back to him immediately. "Yes, Jameson?" In her mind she knew she had just slipped up in using his first name, but her fear ebbed as he did not seem to notice or care tonight. "Dear Natalie, in the time that she was with us, was relentless in her pursuit of this pirate, and all who were associated with him. You know of whom I speak." She could only blink then stare at him. "Of course.", she replied. "What are your thoughts on the matter?"


He spoke of Roen, of course. The real reason Coatleque was even here. Jameson was a citizen, as her Captain had said when she was last debriefed. His interests should not, and could not concern her. This pirate, Lazarov, she could track down and stop without Jameson's direction of course. That was her job after all. For Roen's sake, however, she needed to remain in good standing with the noble. This was what Natalie failed to see in her zealousness. She decided to speak her true feelings on the matter, however. Again she knew she should hold back, but the amber in his eyes began to draw her away. "... I think ... that if the girl had as much sense as I hoped, she would take him and flee back to her homeland. To take her chance at happiness and leave Ul'dah to her own troubles. Perhaps I'll have the chance to tell her one more time."


He only smiled thinly at her, an expression she was beginning to know as disappointment. Her heart fell, oddly enough, but she did not show it. "You know her better than I. And even I know she is set on this... path. One I believe she thinks righteous. I no longer know if she is simply fooled by the pirate's promise of betterment or if she herself truly has become a radical." Crofte stopped eating at this as the care for her friend outweighed her own feelings. "I do not believe she is on any particular path currently. None of this seems to have her hand directly in it. It is unlike her."


Brynnalia spoke up finally. "This be the... Deneith girl ye speak of?" If Jameson was listening he made no motion to her, his gaze was fixed on Coatleque's. She felt uncomfortable. "She has been hiding because of dear Natalie's pursuit. With her passing... and her trust in you, Lady Crofte, I wish her to feel... safe again, returning to Ul'dah. Let her and her pirate become bold. Return to Ul'dah." He ended with another smile to her. The same shite-eating grin that Crofte found typical of Osric, or Natalie, and any others that she knew to be schemers. She narrowed her eyes in thought. "All the better to catch the mouse when they are scurrying about your home in broad daylight.", he continued once more when she took to long to reply. Brynnalia also peered at him in thought.


"She may be stubborn, but she is not stupid.", she said at length. "You don't wish to arrest her, do you Lady Crofte? So make her feel ... safe. She trusts you, still, I gather?", he said slyly. She could hear his attempt to play to her emotions. Always skirting just along the edge of the law. She could indeed lure her to the city if she wanted to. She'd not need to lift a finger beyond that, and his men would take the girl discretely. Her gaze could not leave his eyes for some reason. "... I've done nothing to make her feel otherwise." What was she saying? Could she actually consider doing this man's bidding?


"I suspect her to be partly responsible for a few of my warehouses being ... robbed. And she has done well in hiding.", Jameson continued. His voice seemed to snap her thoughts back to reality. "I wish to pursue the girl no longer. Let the girl return." Crofte blinked at his notion. "You suspect, but have you proof?", she asked. "I do not. But that was not going to stop Natalie."


And there it was. Whatever else she was feeling this night, Jameson's last confession seemed to drain the warmth from the very air around the table. The Sworn looked squarely at him. "I am not Natalie, Master Taeros.", she said flatly. He seemed to ignore her statement and continued, "But now that she is gone... I am no longer expecting such a rigorous hunt. So legitimately, Lady Crofte, I have no legal grounds to pursue the girl. At least until I get more proof. So let her return. It is not yet a false promise that she would not be arrested." The Knight merely looked away in disgust. Despite everything she still had her own duties to perform. This infuriating man was still one of her Grace's subjects, and the law applied to everyone. "If... if I find your proof, I shall let you know. Only then shall I act.", she finally relented.


"I shall expect no less, from you, Ser Crofte.", Jameson replied, his smile returning. Brynnalia said nothing but took up her wine glass again. Jameson's use of Crofte's knightly title was not lost on her. Coatleque seemed to relax at that as well. It seemed he would at least respect her authority in this matter. "Aye, and do not expect a concerted effort on my part. She is no threat to the Sultanate. Not as Lazarov is."


"I do agree with that, Lady Crofte. Lazarov is the threat to Ul'dah. Although Miss Deneith has caused me quite some trouble. Natalie and I had an understanding. That should she arrest the girl, that she be brought to me. I have certain interest in her welfare. Alas, I cannot expect the same favor from you, hm Lady Crofte?" Brynnalia drained her drink, eyeing Jameson over the rim of her glass. Coatleque turned her attention back to him once more. Her frustration had drained away once more as the wine to overpower her senses. "Perhaps if you explained your interest to me, I may be more inclined to care for it." The man merely smirked slowly at her notion. Mister North flicked his gaze towards the kitchen once more.


"I am not here to pursue your personal vendettas, Master Taeros.", Coatleque continued in a plea to press him further. "Now, Lady Crofte, I allow your secrets with your sources. Do grant me mine with this.", he replied as he slid his empty glass away once more indicating his need for yet another refill. And so the game had begun anew. "Of course. I asked for no names. Merely the reason for such an interest.", she pressed once more. "On the contrary. I was the one that provided dear Natalie with the documents to burn to free the girl. It was not my doing that had it fall back into your hands thereby necessitating a trial." At this Crofte traded her fork for her glass and slowly sipped at her wine once more.


Jameson continued, "Miss Deneith and I ... have a sordid history, I think. I am concerned, for her welfare." As he spoke, Gideon dutifully refilled his glass before scanning over the table with a narrowed and appraising eye. Brynnalia slid her glass in is direction as well and he quietly crossed the table to see to her refill. Coatleque continued, "Freeing her was not enough. Her life was seemingly ruined by your documents. Clearing her outright was more freeing to her than you may understand." "They were documents legitimately collected through an investigation, handled by the Flames themselves. I merely got hold of it.", Jameson interjected. The Knight smirked at him with a mocking wave of her hand. "Semantics."


Brynnalia eyed the butler a moment longer as he returned to his position before turning her attention back to the conversation at hand. Her easy smile had faded somewhat, she was not sure she liked the direction of this conversation. "Well, then perhaps consider this a favor that I will ask of you, someday.", Jameson added finally.


( To be Continued... )

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"Favor for a favor..."

"If I am in need of it. Who knows? With enough evidence, if the Brass Blades have the grounds to hold her.", Jameson stated. She knew full well he would.


The phrase was one of a few that Coatleque had been hearing more and more during her career. More often than not, these favors resulted in her giving rather than receiving. This was, however, why she was here tonight after all. She did not need Jameson. His agent, Brynnalia, would merely move on to the next highest bidder for her services. This here was where they would make their back room deals for a trade of power and to see just which of them would cave further. Who would be the loser tonight, she wondered. "Everyone will believe it is I.", she told herself. For a moment she felt at least partly more confident.


Coatleque sat her glass down once more, having drained it again. "Ah yes, have we come to the asking of favors portion of our business?" He gave her a slow, broad smile, almost hungry in his appearance. As a wolf about to steal yet another lamb from the flock. "Indeed." "Has anyone told you how predictable you are, Jameson?", she replied, again using his name. Her head began to swim now as Mister North walked the table once more and refilled all of their glasses before taking his position again with a look towards the kitchens. "I would hope that is part of my charm! And partly a curse. Alas. None seek my company or audience without some favor in mind. Is that not what all good business transactions and even friendships are all about?"


She took up her glass once more, no longer concerned with how many times it had been filled. This was still a dinner service, after all, and she may have been starting to enjoy it. She gazed languidly into the man's eyes once more as before. "Oh, I have tried. I simply can never catch you alone.", she chided playfully. "One could say the same for you, Lady Crofte.", Jameson retorted with another smile "So. Have a favor then?" Right to business as usual, much to her displeasure.


The Knight canted her head with a smile before taking another drink. "Aye, you've no doubt heard of a rather unpleasant event in Pearl lane concerning the Brass Blades and a poor merchant named Bellveil?" Jameson merely hummed as he also took up his glass again. "Mm." She nodded absently in response, her head feeling quite heavy now. "My concern is with the two who took it upon themselves tae step in and rescue him from the Blades brutality." Jameson took his own languid sip before setting the glass back down to the table. His gloved finger traced the neck of the glass. "You mean, they assaulted a Brass Blade. Attacking a law officer."


She tsked at him, becoming openly annoyed at how he always danced around answering the obvious. "Come now, Jameson, nothing happens in Ul'dah without yer notice." He looked back up to her with his typical slow smile. "Perhaps. So. I suspect you know these two... heroes then?", he stated in a mocking tone. She had taken up her glass again in the mean time and had drained it once again. "What I know of them is nae important. What I need is for these ridiculous charges tae be dropped." Brynnalia had since slid the rest of her food way. Leaning back, she took another long sip of her own wine with creased brows. The discussion had seemed to have taken away her appetite.


Jameson regarded the Sworn to his left with the smallest tug of one corner of his lip. Brynnalia slid her gaze to her as well. Coatleque merely blinked a few times. Her sudden change in mannerism had not gone unnoticed by the other two, though she certainly was unawares of the change herself. "You know me by now, Lady Crofte. Favor for favor.", he stated. "An' I expected nae less.", she replied. "Iron Sea refused tae work for me unless I saw tae this little mishap.", she continued as if stressing the importance of this. Jameson remained unmoved however. "I set to free... your friends... from these charges. Let them roam Ul'dah once more. You, make certain Miss Deneith feels safe to return to Ul'dah. And then bring her to me when she is apprehended. With... just charges. Of course. Two offers of freedom in exchange for one. I say that is fair."


Of course the knight was caught now and Jameson knew it. She had nothing else to bargain with, nor did she ever. She was a servant, not a leader, and as such it was her lot to perform rather than propose. She rolled her eyes while Brynnalia twisted her own lips. The woman tipped her glass back once more to find it too quickly emptied. She motioned with annoyance at Gideon.


Coatleque was disgusted beyond belief. Not only at herself, but those she was constantly forced to deal with. Everyone was at each others throats. Favors, feuds, blood for blood. It was so tiring. She finally slumped back in her chair and blurted out "Och, what is it with ye people an yer blood feuds? Can'nae I just sleep wit' ye and get it o'er with?", she declared with a vague hand gesture. It was now clear the wine was much stronger than she had thought. "I need tae think on that." By think, of course, she meant Roen. Could she break her promise and betray her friend so easily? No. She still had her honor intact.


Mister North quickly crossed around the table and poured another refill for Brynnalia with a courteous bow. She held the glass almost to his chest level before turning back to Coatleque in a bit of disbelief. She as not sure whether to be amused or shocked. No... she was amused. Jameson merely raised his brows before that hungry smily of his began to creep back in. "Why Lady Crofte. I had no idea what was on the table to be dealt. I hold you in high esteem." His grin lingered as he addressed the butler. "A good choice, Mister North.", he said without turning. "I aim to please, sir." came the response. Brynnalia eyed the butler then Crofte again. She too was beginning to feel the effects.


Jameson leaned in, his amber gaze intent on new prey. She merely stared at the table in thought, or perhaps she had passed out with her eyes open. In either case she made no sound or movement. "Now Lady Crofte, if I were to close my deals with such offers all the time, I would not be a wealthy man. Perhaps happy man, but not one of wealth. But your offer... I will take into consideration." His smile did not leave his expression as she merely smirked in response. It was clear she could hear him, though she still seemed to be considering things in her mind. "Are you indeed willing to put that forth?"


"Ah din'nae know where th' girl is now anyroad.", she finally said at length. It was partially true. She did not know where Roen was. But she did know how to reach her. "What do you think Miss Callae? I think this be an opportunity too tempting pass up." Brynnalia had been draining half her current glass when she paused, giving Jameson a look. "Are ye askin' me if ye should take her bed? Or if this be a good trade?" She harumphs. "I know the answer to first, Miss Callae. It is the second I want your opinion on.", he retorted. "Since when do ye need my approval on yer affairs?", she snorted. Her evasion at giving an answer was obvious. She gave Crofte a passing look, narrowing her sights at the woman's wine glass as if wondering if it was truly the wine affecting the woman.


Jameson continued as if formulating a new plan out loud. "Mm. Perhaps I will have to find my own means to find Miss Deneith. Should not be too difficult. Very well, then Lady Crofte." He took the bait then. She continued to stare at the table as if not wanting to be here now. Is this truly what she wanted to do? She looked back to him, studying those piercing yellow eyes. He truly did look like a wolf. Her heart skipped once, though not in fear, at the thought. "Hmm? Very what well?", she replied. "Why not cement our new friendship?", he asked. "Cement? Are we tae lay brick an' mortar now?", she retorted, playing up the wine even more.


"A favor. I asked you for one, and you counter offered. I will accept, lest you are having second thoughts. Then my first favor still stands.", he commanded. It was as if he was making yet another business transaction, although his eyes were lit with something else. Brynnalia could no longer keep silent. "Ye sure about this, Crofte? I'd just accept his first offer." She merely blinked, looking to the raven-haired woman as if seeking guidance or approval. The woman only shrugged. "Just turn the girl over, if she is stupid enough to make a mistake to get herself arrested. And if she never gets that stupid, then ye got nothin' to worry about.", she said with a pointed look. Jameson tsked at her. "Now, Miss Callae, that is no way to..."


Coatleque shook her head and slapped a hand on the table rather forcefully. "I am not arresting her." She withdrew her hand and shook it in mild pain then. Brynnalia rolled her eyes. "What is with this girl and everyone losin' their senses? Her brother fought his own allies even. Just make sure she stays out o' trouble and ye are debt free."

"I am nae th' one with a debt tae settle."


Jameson took a long breath in and leaned back in his chair, a patient smile in place. "Favor for a favor. It is your choice, Lady Crofte." "He ain't even romancin' ye, Crofte. This be a business deal. Ye really want that?", Brynnalia called out followed by a frown. She had found her own tongue a bit too lose now as well. Coatleque merely sighed. Yes, this was a business transaction. Her dignity gone to keep her honor intact. Yet it was so much more than that. This was only the start. If Taeros was willing to accept her this close to him now, he would surely do so again. As she knew from her past life, it was only a matter of time now. While the others worked on the material, she would work on the man. Even Natalie herself may have approved. Their methods were different, but they both served the same Sultana.


That is, of course, what she had told herself as she approached the table earlier that night. Her plans had gone ahead swimmingly. Her only question then was how to drop her own senses enough that she could go through with it. But for now, she had sufficiently done so through wine that she should have no trouble carrying out the rest.


"I dae believe a change of scenery is called for.", she said softly. Jameson glanced between the two women, genuinely amused, yet not affected by the wine what so ever. "A change of scenery." He seemed to ponder her response before smiling at her differently than she had ever seen. This time it was more sinister, oily even. Coatleque reached for her glass absently before realizing it was empty again, then shook her head. "Aye, if there was nothn' else tae discuss, Ah believe we're doen here."


"Mister North."


"Do prepare the deluxe suite here in Limsa. And should Lady Crofte decide to grant me this favor, escort her to the finest room."

"Very good, sir. I will have the desserts preserved, and sent to the estate.", he replied with a low bow.

"Make certain that she is provided for with the finest silks. I prefer silk nightgowns. With a slit to the side.", Jameson continued as if placing an order.

"Very good, sir.", he replied once more as he began to clear the table.

Jameson's eyes did not leave Coatleque. She merely sat where she was, unphased by any of this as if she had been through these very same preparations many times before.

"And another bottle of that fine wine. I do have one more business meeting to attend to, Lady Crofte."

"Of course, sir.", Mister North replied as she nodded quietly.

"But I expect to find you where Mister North will place you. In the finest silks."

"As ye wish, Master Taeros.", she replied softly, yet with a hint of feigned anticipation. Brynnalia merely scowled, her disapproval was clear.


"Very well.", Jameson concluded as he stood and crossed to the opposite side of the table. "I shall see you soon. And in much less." He managed to bow to her, ever the gentleman (or so she thought as she also stood to return the bow). She made sure to bow enough for her dress to fall forward slightly, not caring to watch where his gaze may drift. He smiled one last time before turning to leave. Coatleque turned back to Brynnalia with an almost apologetic look. "Miss Callae." The woman merely clucked her tongue.


Gideon returned to the table then and addressed the raven-haired woman even as she casted her disapproving glare to both in turn. "Will miss and mistress be requiring further assitance or service this evening?" "Not I. I guess ye be attendin' to Crofte here to make sure she pays Taeros up." She snorts. "Very good, mistress.", he said with a bow before turning to addres Coatleque directly. "And miss?"


"Master North? Ah believe ah was tae follow ye?", she said as politely as she could manage. "If miss is so inclined, then I will guide." She regarded the man for a moment before sidling up to him and taking his arm. "Mmm.. please do." He made no motion to push her away, but offered a thin smile. "Good evening. I will ensure a portion of the dessert reaches you." Brynnalia only shook her head in disgust once more and looked at the rest of her wine.


The pair slowly made their way out of the Bismark towards the Mizzenmast. She only stumbled a few times in her heels, though it was definitely from the wine rather than a lack of practice. She clung to his arm just the same allowing him to lead her. "I trust miss had an enjoyable evening?", he asked at length. He may not have known it, but she was glad he addressed her. It seemed to break the tension at least. "Most enjoyable, yes. Thank you so much.", she replied. "I am pleased to serve, miss."


Reaching the innkeep she gripped the bannister of the stairs to help steady herself before turning to him once more. "Thank you, Master North, for everything.", she said. She did not know if he could sense the genuine thanks behind her words. It was always difficult when third parties needed to be involved in this type of transaction. But here he was, serving as instructed. "Miss will find the requisite room on the top floor, with burgundy double doors. If miss has any further requirements, please do not hesitate to call upon me. Will that be all?", he said with his typically courteous bow. She offered him another smile. "Dae have a good evening yerself, Master North. Ye deserve tha' much." "...Miss is very kind. I will have something lightly carbonated sent to the room in case of necessity." She nodded, not even sure what that was supposed to mean after all the wine, and staggered once more before heading for the room. He looked faintly weary for a moment. "A pleasant evening, miss, and a restful morning."


( To be Continued... )

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(( Slightly NSFW Conclusion of that night... ))




As at dinner, it was clear that Jameson Taeros spared no expense. The penthouse suite of the Mizzenmast was a sight to behold in and of itself. Coatleque had only seen its rival within the Palace of Ul'dah itself. For a moment she wished she were here on more agreeable terms.


Crossing the suite she made her way to the large bed across from the balcony windows. Four long posts rose to a covered awning with long silk curtains draped on all sides. Two of these were pulled aside already revealing the aforementioned silk garments from only half a bell earlier splayed out on the blankets. She wasted no time in changing, and climbed into the bed to wait. How long had it been since she had last done this? Over two years by now. She began to feel light-headed at the realization of what she was doing before shaking it off and reminding herself this was not forced. She chose to be here this time.


Jameson wasted no time in his arrival either. Whatever business he had planned, he most likely hurried through or put off on her account. Her heart almost leapt again at the thought that he may actually have such desire for her, and she did her best to bury that notion reminding herself that she had job to perform. This was a trade of services, not emotions.


He joined her after a few moments and they conversed in hushed, soft tones. He took his liberties of course, in the way he viewed her, caressed, held her hands. It became harder for her to concentrate. He asked her questions, personal ones, where is her family, what are her desires, loves, and fears. What she was ashamed of. She responded in vague answers, half-truths, or simply shrugged him off where she could. Though he expressed genuine interest, he was also displeased when she tried to evade, reminding her that this was all a part of their bargain. She had no answer to this, her honor compelled her to delve deeper. However she was also practised in this game - turning his questions back in the form of a wanting glance, change of view, or the removal of something... in the way.


Not till he was sufficiently satisfied with her answers did he collect on the remainder of their bargain, and by then she no longer cared. And collect he did. It was no longer business to him, but a show of who was truly in charge, and she was made to feel it. The wine had done its part though, and if her pride was wounded she made no show of it. His hands, rough and calloused, were not what she would expect from a nobleman, and a large but curious scar ran diagonally across his back. These combined with his confessed regret at this deal, only served to fuel her fascination of him.


Later that night she watched him from the bed, both of them silent. She drifted off with him in view, curious as to why he allowed her to stay. There was something more to this man, and she wanted to know what it was. Her last thought, strangely, was one of contentment.




The next morning...

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It was only mid-afternoon and Coatleque found herself once again at the Bismark. No time to even rest back in Ul'dah after her night with Jameson, she was called away once more to Limsa Lominsa by a friend. One who happened to be there the night they assaulted the warehouse. It was mere luck on her part that Captain Oscare Iono, who that night had been discharging pistols at them, had no idea she was part of the group. Earlier in the week she had requested his aid in being admitted back to the site of the explosion. Today he made good on that request.


"Is that what you're goin' with?", he asked as she approached him. Coatleque was not armored, but wore a light outfit of deep read leather and white cloth. A fly-mask turban was pulled over her eyes to conceal most of her face from those who may recognize her at a glance. "Is this a problem?", she asked with some concern. "Naw. I like the shirt though.", he taunted. "At least we look similar enough.", she said with a small sigh of relief.


Fiona Arasgain approached them then with a notepad in hand. The man was a known asset to the Bismark, one of their full-time chefs - and quite good at his job. "Can I help you two with anything?", he asked, his scrutinizing eyes looking over the both of them. Oscare narrowed his eyes. "-- Uh.", he stuttered as he looked to the Sworn. "You want something before we head out?" Placing her hands on her hips she merely shook her head. The did not exactly have time to spare today. "I've... lost my appetite after last night. I would much rather do what needs be done, and be back to Ul'dah." Oscare turned back to Fio. "I'm okay too, cutie."


Fio merely raised a brow then turned to face Oscare with a chuckle. The Miqo'te was certainly presenting female at the moment. "Good to see you not scrubbing decks."

"-- Eh?"

"Nevermind. You were doing plenty of cleaning last time I saw you. And you turned down one of my meals! I was hurt!"

"... Huh?"

"It's me, Fio. I offered you some shepherd's pie and you turned it down.", Fio said as he crossed his arms, still holding the notepad.

"... You -- look... Your chest definitely expanded, that's for sure. I like this new change."

"They're fake. Point is, you hurt my godsdamned feelings!"


The Knight merely blinked. She hadn't expected this delay. "So... I suppose I can wait near the gate then..." Oscare coughed, catching the annoyance in her voice. "Well... uh, let's go Crofte." She smirked. "Oh, no, by all means, this is more important than my investigation." Then an idea struck her. "Of course Master Arasgain is also part of the Maelstrom. Perhaps he would like to accompany us?" Oscare squirmed. "My warrant only allows for two people." Fio wouldn't give him the chance to weasel out of it that easily, however. His eyes shifted back to Coatleque. "Damn right, I would.", he retorted while shoving the notepad into a pocket. "You're going to be followed now that I know something is up."


Coatleque merely looked at the Captain as she waited for him to relent. He sighed. "Okay. Fine. We'll go ahead and she -- he'll follow us." She turned back to Fio at that. "Mm, I am unsure, Master Arasgain. I mean... I may need immunity from the Limsan authorities depending on what we find..." Fio just glared at Coat, still sore from their earlier conversation. "We'll see.", he quipped as he returned to the kitchen to change and make known he would be back later.


"You have a Storm Captain here, so things shouldn't go too awfully awry.", Oscare chimed in. "Aye, two officers and one guest. Do you think I could pass for a private? Better yet, a clerk. Someone to take inventory of the assets lost. Who is the warehouse registered to?" The Captain thought for a moment, rubbing his chin. "A clerk should be fine. You look the merchant type. Also, it's registered to Anselm Mercer." She did some quick adjustment in her head to put together an alibi. "Master Anselm Mercer, got it. Very well, I represent the esteemed Master Mercer. I am there to take stock of inventory to see what he has lost. Should I be questioned, that is." He grunted in approval. "Good enough."


Fio, in the mean time, returned and sighed as he looked to each in turn. He had a greatsword strapped to his back and looked as if he was expecting heavy resistance. "So, are we going to get down to business? Or stand around with our thumbs up our asses? Will I see action tonight?"

"Hopefully not. But prepare for the worst anyway. Monsters and the sort tend to take advantage of flocks of people."

Monsters indeed. "I do not anticipate trouble. But then again, this is not Thanalan. We are going to Moraby Drydocks."

"Sounds like a plan. Let's get to business, then."

"Theives might also try to pillage whatever is left."

Was the Maelstrom truly stretched so thin? "I doubt the Admiral would allow thieves so close to Grand Company property. Especially after a perceived attack."

"If she knows about them, that is."

"It happens more than we're happy to admit. We're good, but we're not perfect."

"Then we had best be going."

"I'll just port us there." The Captain was indeed prepared with a teleportation crystal. At least they could make up time already lost.

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  • 1 month later...


It was in the late afternoon when Coatleque had emerged from the Quicksand with Jameson Taeros. The weather had been rather mild the past week, tonight being no exception as the sun began to touch the skyline in the west. The fresh air was rather welcome after the few heated words that were spoken a few moments ago inside. They paused at the stairs to the plaza.


"Your friend does not like me one bit", Jameson said amusedly.

"She has her own opinions based on the feelings of others."

"Mm. I suspected as much. Where shall we dine? Lady's choice.", he replied with a smile.

"Is it then? Hmm." She looked out over the plaza in thought. "This early in the evening, the airship lounge may be quiet, and close enough to avoid unnecessary travel."

"Ah, we have dined there often. A bit of familiarity."

"For a small table, yes. Unless you are expecting others that I do not know about."


She spoke with a hint of restrained disappointment. For all the times they had met together to discuss business, the two had not once yet had an outing go uninterrupted. The man's hazel eyes twinkled with amusement.


"I expect no one else. It should just be the two of us. A rare thing. I say, let us take advantage."

"Indeed, that will be a first.", she noted with her own amused smile.

"Who knows what may go on?" Jameson smirked. His sly, confident smile returning.

"Mmm, I would rather not think of such things until we are there."

"Shall we?"


Coatleque nodded to him once and paused as if waiting for him to offer his arm. He did not, but still took the lead and she followed just to his side. He continued to speak as they walked towards the lift.


"So, what did Miss Callae say about that.. opera."

"She merely asked if I had attended."



They paused just beyond the Ruby Exchange. His voice took on an inquisitive tone.

"Is that something that you fancy? I thought that the busy life of a Sworn... one would not have time for such leisurely distractions."


Her hands went to her hips as she tsked him openly.

"You never know unless you ask. I am typically in the Palace during the daytime. Even I am not considered active the whole of the day, lest I should drop dead of exhaustion."


His roguish smirk returned as he regarded her posture.

"So had I asked, you would have accepted?"

"Perhaps I would have.", she replied coyly. "Are such things not always a gamble though?" She turned away then as if to feign interest. His reply was only a hum and a nod, though is amused expression lingered upon her.


"I gamble when I know the chance of winning is high. You are still a bit of a gambit, Lady Crofte."

"I could say the same of you."

"Well then. That makes the game all that much more interesting, does it not?"


He continued on past her, not looking back. She took up her place once more and followed to the lift.

"What is it they say in such a situation? No risk, no reward?"



He held the door as she stepped onto the lift. It carried them to the top of the tower in silence.

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Approaching the lounge, Coatleque realized that business was slow as she expected. She had a small twinge of pride at knowing her city so well. Jameson led them to the table near the railing and pulled the first chair for her, gesturing for her to sit.


"Lady first."


She took the offered seat with a quiet "Thank you." and flattened out her dress after crossing her legs. Jameson came around to the other side and motioned to the servant as he took his own chair. The man quickly came over and two drink and plates of their freshest dish of the day were promptly ordered. Coatleque folded her hands in front of her as the servant left.


"You express your worry over how busy mine own schedule is, yet I rarely see you yourself as much.", she began.

"Alas. My days... are rarely unoccupied."

"Mine as well.", she admitted with a slight hum.

"But it is the life I thrive in.", Jameson replied with a nod. "Even the opera, it was for business actually. One must cater to certain families with grand outings in order to gain their favor."

"And here people claim that I work too much myself."

"If you are at all like me, our work is our life, and we are granted brief respite from it with... distractions. Sometimes welcomed, and other times not so."


She found herself nodding along with his words.

"It is... as I was telling Ser Tarry earlier this afternoon. I found myself with free time today and had no idea what I was to do with it. I am somewhat familiar with the busy schedules of nobility, though."

He smiled. "I found myself in the same quandary. I, however, had a dinner date that I had been neglecting."

"Oh? More business? Or was this distraction?"


As if on cue, the server returned with two glasses of dark burgundy wine which were placed before each of them. Coatleque smiled as the glass was set before her. Her eyes began to travel to the server, but with some measured restraint she was able to keep them trained on Jameson. She could not avoid the odd feeling it left her with.


"You, Lady Crofte. Business or distraction... I will leave the which of that up to you."

"Well, that would depend on if a distraction is required."

His eyes met her gaze as his lips slowly curled into a smirk. She met his smirk with a sly smile of her own.

"Is it?"

"I've certainly not had any distractions recently. Have you?"


Jameson took a slow, deep breath and let it out slowly through is nose. He picked up his glass and swirled the wine a bit.

"I usually do not make it a habit to have many distractions."

She tilted her head at this, her interest now piqued. And perhaps a hint of jealousy.

"Many? Are there other distractions beyond myself then?"

He took a languid sip of his wine, seeming to ponder the question himself for a moment.

She took up her own glass now, taking a sip while watching him, waiting for his response.


"It seems you are my singular distraction.", he said at length. It came out oddly however, as if he was not sure if he should be pleased or not with that fact. Coatleque slowly lowered her glass and tried to keep her composure, but she could not help from laughing.


"So the rumors are false then! I had heard it said that Jameson Taeros has many lovers. This was in the Quicksand, mind you."

His own tone lowered as he chuckled at the notion while she took another drink from her glass.

"Lovers? I suppose that depends on the meaning of the word. But I would never put too much weight on anything said in that bar."

She tsked at him.

"But I am not known for mincing my words. So I am the only distraction now? I must say that is rather flattering."

His expression returned to its pleasant and unwavering smile.

"A distraction I welcome and seek out. I daresay, you may be a hazard to my disciplined lifestyle."

"Am I so unruly?", she replied with a coy smirk.


He did not answer her. Not immediately. In fact, it seemed he was purposefully redirecting the conversation away.


"Now... that brings me back to business."

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"So... What is this about Tane?"


Coatleque shifted slightly in her chair. Her expression almost fell to a pout at the change from distraction to business. She caught herself, however, and decided against being overly dramatic in this case. She sighed and thought for a moment before continuing.


"Oh yes, Al... you had asked me to find his murderer before. One of our exchanges of favors, if you recall."

"Aye, Tane was one of my employees."

"Yes, Miss Callae told me. Or rather she gave me enough hints that I could figure that bit out on my own. I placed a bounty on her head in hopes of finding a lead. Someone has finally contacted me in that regards."

"Oh? Do tell.", he said flatly.

"A woman approached me and offered to hand the target over to me. She was not herself interested in the reward."

"Why would she do this?"

"She seemed to think the woman would be safer in my hands than she is now.", Coatleque continued with some hint of amazement. "I was hoping you would tell me if your interest in this was more than simple justice."


Jameson leaned back in his chair with a shrug. This change of conversation had brought her into her inspector's mindset. She watched him with the usual quizzical expression she typically had in his presence. It was only a matter of time now before someone was bound to interrupt them, such was her luck.


"I know nothing about this woman, but she did kill an employee of mine. I want to know why, and Tane... knew certain sensitive things. It is a matter of security that she is caught and questioned."


Coatleque found herself swirling her glass slowly as he spoke, not lifting it from the table.

"What is this woman's predicament? Who is she? Where this is concerned, Lady Crofte, I only need to make show of the fact that one does not kill a man under my employ and simply roam free. I am still not sure why she would be safer in your hands rather than..."


She cut him off with an abrupt sigh.

"No ulterior motives? No hidden agendas? I hope you do trust me enough in this matter."

"Ahhh..." Jameson tapped his gloved fingers on his wine glass in thought.

"I had not put out any particular orders regarding the woman."

She nodded slowly, still watching him.

"Then I shall do what I must to bring her in. In a related matter, do you know the name Anduron?"


Jameson looked up just then as the server had returned carrying two plates of eft steak. One was placed before each of them and after a slight bow the man left them again. Neither of them would say it, but the interruption was quite welcome at this point. Coatleque took up her napkin and unfolded it, placing it across her lap as she uncrossed her legs to assume a more rigid posture.


"I do know the name. A Royalist noble family. Why that name?"



Her fork held in her left hand, she slowly cut a piece of the steak and ate one small bite rather slowly, properly.

"As far as I know, the family is. Now, their eldest son... is a Blade Captain."

"Ah, yes. Captain Anden Anduron."

"Ah. Yes. He. Have you crossed paths with him before?"

"I have never met the man, though his name has crossed my desk. I believe there were three Sworn assigned to his command at one point?"


She phrased the last bit as a question as if to invoke the memories back for Taeros regardless of his attempt to ignore them. His voice had become clipped, short even. A change she had picked up on. It was obvious she might now be privy to things that perhaps he did not know himself.


"Come now, do you still think me so ill-informed? It has been many months since we've met. I am not so... amateur... as I was.", she declared with a slightly prideful grin.


Jameson took on as patient a look as he could muster, exhaling slowly through is nose again as before.

"It is not your lack of information. That affair... it had gone not as I had intended."

With that he took up his glass once more to drink.

"It is past.", she continued with a shrug. "And how would you have intended it?"


Jameson set his glass down again, one gloved finger tapping at the edge of the glass. He thought for a few moments before taking up his utensils. All the while, Coatleque continued to eat slowly, watching him. He was choosing his words carefully. She had come to know this familiar pause in their dialogues. This game of how much she can coax from him while he considered exactly what he could trust her with. He finally broke the silence.


"Some things that happened were... unforeseen."

"Only good things I hope.", she replied in an attempt to lighten the mood.

His gaze was broken now as he attended to his meal. His smile fading.

"Some good. Others not so."

"Mmm, yes. Dealing with me must have been so trying for you. But what are the good things you speak of?"

He glanced back up to her with a smirk.

"The relationships developed with the Sworns, I consider the good things. I got to know Natalie well through all of it. And now here you are."

"I take it someone else was none to pleased though. But yes, here I am. Sitting in the same place where we had our very first conversation."


Jameson set his utensils aside and leaned back, taking up his wine.

"What acquaintances I make should please and displease no one else but me. As long as I do what I do, and well."

"As you say. Though if we are to continue this, I may be more inclined to care about who displeases you."


There was a pause after her last statement. Jameson was clearly dodging the issue, though his voice had returned to its usual pleasant tone. His eyes darted back to the wine in hand as he thought once more. She stopped eating herself and sipped at her own wine, slowly, eyes not leaving his the whole time. It was he who once again broke the silence before it became awkward.


"I speak no ill of those I work with, nor many acquaintances, no matter what my true opinion of them may be. That would not bode well for me in the end. Considering the life I lead, and the job I do. So... Lady Crofte? You ask me for my confidence when you ask such things. Can I trust you?"


"I would agree, if I was only here to do business. But I thought tonight was to be a distraction. Even you should be allowed to speak your mind now and again, to an impartial ear.", she replied with as much understanding in her voice as she could. In a way this was a similarity they shared. Knowing too much for their own good and not able to share such burdens with anyone else.


"I told you once. I keep our... affairs private. I still wonder if you do as well. I know you have told me so, and I would naught ever want to doubt your honor. But I have confessed to you my suspicions."

She smiled slightly with a tilt of her head. A familiar line she had used many times in her career. "I am, if nothing else, honorable."

"I have many enemies. I count you not as one among them. But I do believe you are acquainted... and allied with many. Many whom would like to see my head on a platter."

"They would. I, however, prefer to avoid such bloodshed."


"I confided in Natalie and she took my words to her grave. Should I share this with you, as I did with her...


Would you do the same?"

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Time seemed to slow in that instant and she almost caught herself saying 'yes'. Something stayed her voice, however. Something she perhaps did not want to admit to herself, nor anyone. She did not know how long a pause had passed, or how long she had stared at him with her mouth half open.


Just say it. It is your job. This is why you are here.


Still there were no words. She found her head shaking as she looked away.


What are you doing?! Why are you even here now if not for this?


Her gaze slowly returned to him with an almost saddened look. She took a slow breath, her voice softer than before.

"Not if what you ask will force me to decide between your life and my duty.", she said at length. "If you've a confession that would force me to detain you as a threat to the Sultanate... then no. I do not want to know."


He regarded her for a long moment before nodding slowly.

"Then I know where the line must be drawn."

"And that is one line I shall never cross."

Jameson's smile returned, the same pleasant façade as before.

"Do not fear, my dear. I would not put you in such a position, but in all else, I shall be as truthful as I can. Contrary to what many believe, I prefer to keep things truthful whenever possible. Lies only murk the waters. Make it difficult to navigate."


There was another long pause as they regarded each other. She found herself nodding to his words even as she considered them. "But in all else..." - so he was hiding something. Is that what she had suspected, or was it what she had feared? It was becoming harder to decide what her ultimate purpose for being here was anymore.


In that moment she decided this was for the best. She did not have all of the information. She did not know all of the plans that were set in motion. If he merely confessed everything to her right now it would feel like more of a betrayal than she was prepared for. No. She did not want a confession. She would uncover whatever it was, but she would do it her own way. And if she could avoid hurting him in the process... perhaps even release him from whatever duress he may be under, that would be the true victory. Her thoughts were interrupted though as he continued on.


"So. It is in truth that I seek the one who murdered Tane for the truth. What she knows and why she did it. And for others to see that if one acts against those under my employ, I will take measures to see that the yare caught. All legally of course."

"Of course.", she replied curtly.

"But why do you ask of the Andurons?"


The question seemed to pass without her hearing as she pushed something around her plate with her fork. She seemed lost for another moment, distracted once again by the potential confession she had denied him.


"Oh, yes... Captain Anduron. He is the reason behind the woman's actions, if what I heard is to be believed. He forced himself on her, and Alabrous Tane is the one who delivered her into his hands. She sought revenge."


This news did not seem to phase him as he continued to meet her gaze. He blinked twince.

"Ah. That is... unpleasant."

"Yes. And places me in a rather difficult position."

Jameson took up his glass once more and swirled the contents.

"Even if that is true, and Anduron can be implicated and condemned, the woman still murdered Tane. One wrong does not cancel the other."

"The man, I believe, has anger seeded inside of him. Along with ambition, I cannot say whether he is guilty of this act or not, but he is known for his... aptitude for cruelty. His unforgiving ways keep many unruly Blades in line."


Coatleque finished her own glass then and set it back to the table. Taking the napkin from her lap she dabbed at her mouth before folding it and setting it aside as well. Jameson nodded at her after a moments thought. They both began to speak at once just then.


"Indeed, murder is murder. But, Ser Crofte, do you recall those unforeseen events that I had mentioned earlier?"

"In truth this is a matter for the Blades. What am I to do? I promised the girl would not be harmed, but... aye?"


Their eyes met again for a moment. It seemed as if she was confiding her worry to Jameson, rather uncharacteristic of her. And his expression was almost sympathetic, an odd thing for him as well. She turned her head away in embarrassment and waited for him to continue before looking back.


"If she is handed over to the Blades... I would exercise much caution. Anduron is not known for his kindness. Deneith. She was under his command. She did not do well. And she was not a wanted criminal as this woman is. Who also is now accusing him of crimes as well."


He kept her gaze as his voice was kept even and low.

"I know you think me in charge of much of their affairs, but... this would be a delicate matter for me. Should I step on Anduron's authority... He and I currently have a tenuous relationship."


It was not something she ever thought to hear from Jameson. An admission of fear, no matter how insignificant. For a brief moment he seemed like just another man to her.

"Of course, I can fabricate a false charge to keep her out of their hands, but that will only work for so long. What... what was the unforeseen event then?"

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Jameson leaned back in his chair with his glass in hand once more. His expression had soured slightly

"I meant what I said when I told you I mean to see no harm come to the girl, Deneith. I know she was not treated well under Anduron's command. I was not pleased."

With that he took another quick sip.


"I... I see. And if he is as angry as you have painted him... I doubt he will be very forgiving any time soon."

He leaned forward again, retrieving his utensils and began to eat once more, as if the admission was displeasing to him. She watched his mood change once more.

"I do not think it likely."

"Then a pox on him, I say. He is only one man. A man in command no less, but just one."

"He is of a notable family. To shame him without reason will bring notice of a Royalist family. I would prefer that not to be the case unless there is irrefutable evidence. And this woman seems violent herself. I would tread the waters carefully."


"If you have any idea how I can obtain evidence against him, be sure to let me know. I can only keep this woman from the Blades for so long before a trial is demanded, or the Captain forces me to pass her off to the Blades." She sighed as she pushed her plate towards the outer edge of the table. "Hmm, but here we are discussing work as always. Have we really nothing else to speak of?"


He continued to eat, enjoying a good portion and chasing it with wine once more. He snorted quietly as he set the glass back down.

"Do we? Our work is our life."

"Then we must needs find something else to do on occasion."


His smile returned at this notion as he regarded her from across the table. A blush suddenly washed over her face as she realize what she had just said.

"Well. Perhaps I have just the thing."

"I mean, not that we must do something together of course, I simply meant... oh?"

"If fanciful affair is something that would please you. I hear there is a Ball, next moon. Some Starlight affair in Gridania. Thrown by the priests."

"Is there? I... hadn't heard", she said in an attempt to feign interest.

"I have been asked to attend. A few families attending will need some attention. I would be honored if you would accompany me. I daresay your presence next to me would be quite enchanting."

A smile slowly crept back to her face as well.

"And I gladly accept."


Jameson cocked his head, looking genuinely amused at her willingness.

"Now, do understand... this will be a formal outing. I had not been extending any arm or hand to you in public. I will do so at this Ball. Your friends and allies will likely not be too pleased, if Miss Leanne is any indication."


She cleared her throat softly.

"They will think what they will. Mostly sorrow that they have no one who dresses as sharply."

"And you still accept my invitation?"

"I do. That is, if you would have me on your arm all the same. I am sure your own business contacts may murmur at seeing you with me."

"I look forward to having you on my arm, Lady Crofte. I shall brave the glares and the snide remarks for the honor. As I said, who I consort and find company with should not please nor displease anyone else as long as I do what I do, and well. My employers and those I consider valuable contacts understand this."


They exchanged smiles at this, and he even chuckled at the notion.

"It is settled then."

"I daresay, I cannot wait to see the look on Jenlyn's face!", he said with a laugh.

"Hmm... you might not. I will stay clear though. He knows where my loyalties are."

"He will be most displeased, I am certain."


They sat quietly after this. Coatleque turned her gaze to the view of Thanalan out of the airship dock.

"And what of you then? Have I been sufficient distraction for the day? Or do you require... more?"

He was studying her while she had been looking away. As her attention returned he broke his gaze and finished his wine before setting the glass back down and smiling.


"You have been a delightful distraction indeed, Lady Crofte. Alas my small respite of freedom is coming to an end."

"For the early evening, of course. I was not speaking of right now, however. We both have our business to attend to."

He leaned in towards her, his voice quieting.

"I enjoy these little distractions. I should make an effort to do it more often. Speaking frankly, it is not something I do. At all."

She also leaned towards him, her voice quiet just the same.

"As do I. I shall be... free again tonight, if you desire for me to meet with you. Elsewhere, perhaps?"


His smile curled once more into a type of grin she had only seen once before.

"Perhaps, Lady Crofte. If I can afford another escape, I shall seek you out. As I said, you are my only distraction of late."

She leaned back up straight and turned away, slightly overcome by his admission once more. He waved the server over and placed a small pouch of gil on the table, then rose to leave.


"I look forward to seeing you soon, Lady Crofte."

"As do I, Master Taeros. And if you are busy... have a pleasant evening."

"A pleasure, as always."



Later that evening as she sat in her office attempting to catch up on her now growing pile of papers, a courier arrived with a small and sealed note. Thanking him she opened it and scanned it before quickly tossing it away. Blowing out the lantern she rose and left the office in a hurry, locking the door. It seemed another distraction was required after all.

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  • 4 weeks later...

(( This post contains some suggestive language, but I would not consider it NSFW. ))


Continuing from here


Coatleque sat in her office as was typical of her these days, going over incident reports from the Brass Blades. A new assignment she has been shirking as she preferred being out in the Palace or the training yard. The Captain had insisted, though, with the recent influx of recruits. She could not help but feel he was just pushing off his own work onto her though.


There was a light rap on the door frame as a man quiently entered. She did not hear him approach, so engrossed was she in her work. "And there she is. Resplendent in silver'd mail, as rumor oft said."


She almost started and looked up to see Jameson Taeros standing there. A quick exchange of smiles and she found herself suddenly worried about her appearance as she brushed her bangs out of her eyes only to have it fall forward immediately afterword. "Well, this is a first." She remarked as she felt her cheeks flush to match her hair. "Have you ever seen me in uniform even? I do not reacall..."


He moved quickly around her desk and leaned closer to place a chaste kiss on her cheek, to which she smiled and leaned towards him even. "Oh, I've seen you. You just did not see me."


"Hmm... sneaky." she quipped.

"On occasion." he purred.


Suddenly feeling quite inadequate in her these current surroundings, she gestured to the surrounding walls. "Sorry for the meager accommodations. I'm not quite that important for a full office."


Jameson smirked faintly, remaining close to her. "I have every confidence that you will one day ascend to that imbecile Jenlyn's position. How can you not?"


"Imbecile? Come now. He is my Captain after all. I'll not speak a word against him. I had a wonderful time at your Starlight party, even if it was all business."


Jameson gently tugged at the fingers of his gloves, removing each one in turn with slow, exacting pulls. "I jest, of course. Jenlyns is naught but the most even-tempered, level-headed man on the Hustings." He said as they both shared a smile.


She could not help but laugh at this. "Perhaps to you, but I report directly to him."


Jameson fussed with her tabard seemingly to straighten it. Whether it was truly crooked she could not tell as there were no mirrors available. She only sighed contentedly and looked forward again to the report on her desk. She had been going over the recent events of a firefight in Pearl Lane just before Starlight that had put the entire palace in lockdown at the time.


He murmured so as to avoid being overheard by the guard just around the corner in the hall. "You think little of yourself sometimes." His pale eyes flicked to hers. "And other times too much." He added with a smile. "Do not think I would have stepped into the public light with you had I not every conviction of your potential greatness."


She slowly turned back to face him with her own soft smile. "Potential, Master Taeros? Is that all I have? ..."


He brushed her cheek with his bare hand, growing bolder now that he was sure the guard could not see them. Scandalous to take such liberties while she was on duty! His voice remained low. "I would hope neither of us yet reached our full potential. We both began with so little, but perhaps you know most of that tale." His expression carried an odd look she had rarely seen yet.


Coatleque lowered her own voice now to barely a whisper as she felt herself leaning into his touch. "Perhaps I do, of my own at least. My, but you have grown bold..." her eyes darted to the door as if to be sure nobody could see them now.


"Bold? My carriage driver implied the same thing just three days ago." He turned away idly to glance over the papers on her desk but seemed rather disinterested in them as his hand continued to caress her. She shivered slightly at her own memory of that night. Turning her head away then, she tsked at him. "I hope he is paid well enough not to say so much to others."


"I ensure that those in my employ are motivated most of all by the coin I can afford them. What would he have to gain by breaking silence? Well, most of them. Why just today I learned that Gideon --" he was cut off by a rather scoffing remark.


"What indeed? there are those who would gladly try to ruin me simply for the sake of doing so."

"Because they hate their betters, my dear.", he replied with odd amusement.

She rolled her eyes with her own amused smile.


"The world is filled with lazy, bloated fools who like nothing more than to make excuses for their personal failures, hating those who have risen above them. They hate us most of all. They understand a young lordling, silver spoon affixed to mewling mouth. This is the natural order of things to them." His keen gaze was fixed straight on hers now as she listened.


"Perhaps. At least you are not charged with protecting such fools."

His voice lowered once more with an intensity she did not expect. "They do not understand men like me, or women like you. We who are their betters. Protect, no. To guide. But I would not trade positions with you for all the coin in Ul'dah." He said shaking his head.


Coatleque shifted slightly at his intensity and implication. "Y-yes... of course. But, there is a reason for that is there not?"

"A reason?"

Her eyes remained fixed on his, almost imploringly now. "Aye, a reason we have such station over them. That the Twelve placed us here with such a blessing."


Jameson blinked once, no more, before a placid look drifted across his features. "The Twelve. Of course." He glanced away. "But which one? Surely not all thirteen in concert?" His expression slowly curled to one of amusement once again. "Are we blessed by Rhalgr? That sounds like fun."


"We?" She asked curiously. "Hmm, perhaps Menphina? Though I've never had her favor for long in the past. You certainly do have enough enemies to catch Rhalgr's attention." With that she leaned into him playfully with her shoulder causing him to look down at her once more.


"Did any answer your calls in the carriage? I wondered", he teased.

Her eyes went wide. "Jameson!", she hissed before covering her mouth quickly hoping that nobody heard from out in the hall. He laughed. "See? Clearly that was Rhalgr." All she could do was blink as she considered the ramifications of the god of destruction watching them that night. Her hand slowly lowered. "No... certainly not!"


While Jameson was seemingly unconcerned over any gods' regard for him, Coatleque grabbed one of the folios off her desk to fan herself and regain some of her composure. "Surely there was a reason you came all this way so late? It could not have been just to see me here." She leaned forward and away from him slightly to try and peek out into the hallway. "If the Captain catches you here..."


"I was at the Royal Apothecary, actually. Ambassador Summerford has been mewling again about the cost of various alchemical exports, so I needed to do some fact-checking of my own. I've no other feet this day. Which reminds me, I don't suppose you've seen my valet?"


"Mister North? No, I've not seen him since..." She paused suddenly as she remembered their promise not to bring up the card game they were both tricked into attending. She cleared her throat. "... since your Starlight Party."


Jameson slipped a hand around her back. "Alas, Captain, you know not what you miss." His fingertips traced the spine of her armor, though she could not feel it through the thick scales, his hand's journey was still apparent. She gripped the edge of her desk with one hand. "Ah, a little birdie told me he was seen galavanting at the Mandercrown Manse just last night. Imagine." He continued with a smirk.


Coatleque managed a smile finally, albeit a strained one this time. "Was he? Trading services with Lord Mandercrown perhaps? That servant girl of his could use a break I think."


Jameson pursed his lips. "Yes, I do not quite recall her name, but it appears she suffers the fate of girls much more attractice. To have their lord's hands upon them, I mean. Shrewish thing." His hand continued its journey as she found herself admiring his amber eyes briefly before stealing another glance out the door.


"How ever does she manage? I could not imagine."

"The oafish fool sometimes makes me rue my Monetarist loyalties. He approached me for a joint business venture. I could tell in half a sentence it was doomed." He tsked. "But they affix themselves to their cousins' hips like a suckling pig to teat. I don't imagine it thrills the Mandervilles either. Though..."

"Mmm... hopefully not something involving pant."

Jameson seemed lost in thought for a moment before murmuring. "With that family-- Well put. he claims to have once been a great warrior. I rather doubt it."


"The Lord is quite forward about a great many things when deep in his cups. I was worried to leave your side all night."

Jameson laughed. "Am I his type, you think?" His voice lowered again. "I suppose anything is."

She blinked in slight disbelief before tsking him. "Honestly! You recall his proposition at the ball?"



"I can't say that it did thoroughly blend with every other proposition flung at me wholesale and happenstance that eve. What was it again?"

"Suffice to say I'll na'er let him touch me. Not that you would consider such a trade."

He laughed once more.

Her voice took on a rather worried yet stern tone. "... correct?"


Jameson looked at her with what could have been seen as fondness before reaching his hand up and brushing that lock of hair out of her eyes once more. "Those days are no more for you, Coatleque. Never again. They are all beneath you now."


She relaxed greatly at his words before her own sly grin finaly returned. "Good, because I've no intention of sharing you with another."


His brows both raised at that notion. "I see. Marking our territory are we? I was told at a young age that noblewomen did as their noblemen bid, and that noblemen did whatever they willed. Are you boldly challenging that fine tradition?" he asked her amusedly.


"Far be it from me to deny tradition, though I am not entirely yours yet to do with as you please, am I?" He returned a sly look as he considered his response. She continued to retain a modicum of pride, though just barely. Eventually he simply smiled.


"We shall see indeed where this journey takes us. Our first hurdle was leapt, and finely so. Let us not assume that all will be tolerant of the Monetarist and the Sultansworn. I look forward to see what challenges arise." he replied with some eagerness. Cupping her cheek one more time, she closed her eyes and leaned into his hand before he turned and made for the door.


Her eyes opened and she watched him step away. "Look forward to? Is it wise to invite such challenge openly?"

He murmured back to her. "I have not always made wise decisions. My choice in valet for one. I assumed it was a stellar one, but I have... questions for the man."

Coatleque sighed then before speaking up. "Have you spoken to Miss Callae?"

"I've not, no. Perhaps I will summon her forth. She does not reside with me however. And anyway, I doubt she could answer my most recent question. Surely he can."


He moved to leave once more. Coatleque set her jaw for a moment before standing quickly almost knocking her chair back. "Jameson? I would speak to her first."


He glanced back one last time with a smile just short of predatory. "I assure you, she will not know. This involves a sum of money that has... flown to greener pastures, so to speak. Brynnalia Callae has not been in my larder."


She opened her mouth, then closed it. Then opened it once more. Jameson bowed to her slightly before turning once more and was gone. Coatleque sighed before taking her seat again in thought. She could not let Mister North take the blame for what she had done, but this was not the place for such a confession. Her gaze fell to the corner of her desk where something had appeared that was not there before.


A silvery key which matched a set she had seen him use before. Curiously she stared at it as the weight of his words sunk in before slowly picking it up. Leaning back in her chair she twirled the stem between her fingers, watching the bow spin. After a moment she pushed her thoughts off and pocketed it for safekeeping before attempting to focus on her reports once again.

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Following an extended scene after this...


"What is wrong. Why are you facing away from me when talking?"


Coatleque sat quietly on the bed in the private quarters behind Jameson's office. He had left her, called away on business at this late hour. It was for the best, she knew. The anger she saw in his eyes after her confession was unlike any she had seen in recent memory.


"Are you entirely certain this little... whatever this is of ours... is entirely wise? For either of us?"


"If you disagree, send me away my Lord..."


She swallowed hard and could still feel the sting in her throat. Looking across the room to the mirror with tear blurred vision she could see the growing redness on her neck from his hand.


"You confound me... You are steel-forged one moment, weak-kneed the next. I thought I could trust you..."


Her thoughts were conflicted. Troubled equally by what she had allowed herself to do as by what liberties she had allowed him to take. Her breathing slowed and she whispered to herself. "Not again. This will not happen again." An empty suit of armor stood by the far wall seemingly glaring at her and for a moment she felt as if she was being watched. Accusingly even.


"I want your love. But that is too much. We may have gone too far, Coatleque. We may have been a mistake."


"You have my love, James... else I would not be here ...tell me how I can help you."


Interrupted yet again, as they always were. He did not say it, but he needed her just as much as she wanted to help him. For all of his hatred and anger focused in his grip, he still relented when she did not fight him. She could not leave tonight. Whether through fear or blind infatuation, she curled up on the bed and awaited his return.

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