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* Plot Information for Nharkava

Rebellion has swept the Territory in the south as Glacia dominates the north. Landen and Blood join forces to spread a message of equality with any method possible while Glacia works to infuse the land with power and the people with their Dark Beliefs. The Rebellion, led by a Council of Eight, is not always in agreement but none can resist the power, and the danger, the movement has generated.
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Author Topic: Matters of Utmost Discretion  (Read 279 times)

Description: tag; Maarika

Offline Finn Hallman

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Matters of Utmost Discretion
« on: Aug 12, 17, 08:47:25 AM »
Finn did not like it in Nharkava. 

For one thing, it was hot. For another, he was too far away from home. It was also hot. Finn was a man who appreciated the serene chill of his native land. He loved the snow, he loved the cold. He loved the quiet that came with both.

But Nharkava wasn't like that. If anything, it was the opposite - and he was utterly and completely bewildered that they shared a border at all. How was it possible to share a border with a Territory that had such a completely different climate? Logic dictated that there would be a more gradual shift - but then logic did not really account for Mother Night and/or the various gods that the Nharkavan landens seemed to put their faith in. He was happy to blame foreign gots for this nightmarish place.  Too much heat, too many people in the cities, too much noise. If it wasn't the people keeping the whole of the Territory at a dull roar, it was the animals.

Those, at least, he could forgive. They were probably just shouting at the humans to shut up - and as a general rule Finn tended to rank animals higher in his esteem than humans with few exceptions.

One of those exceptions was the reason he was here in this thrice-forsaken Territory.

Maarika.

She was also the reason that he was now approaching her office with his hair still damp from his post-training shower. She had sent him a summons and true to his nature he had arrived punctually, but that had meant that he'd hadn't much time to finish thoroughly drying himself after the cold wash. If she took issue with the fact that his hair was wet and his shirt partway unbuttoned to help cool the damp, warm skin of his throat then he would gladly show up to the next summons soaked with sweat and smelling like the God of Ass. He was sure the Nharkavans had one of those - and by the way they glared at any of them when they so much as glanced outside of the palace walls he imagined that the deity probably looked rather of the hated Glacians anyway.

Finn knocked twice on the door and then let himself in. He didn't waste breath on words, just gave a nod of greeting and shut the door behind him. He would need that breath for other matters later. The Lady wasn't the only one who apparently had a few things to discuss in confidence.

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #1 on: Aug 15, 17, 10:11:38 AM »
Finn was one of the few people in the world who could barge in uninvited to whatever room Maarika was in and never suffer the Queen's wrath in response. He was invited in this instance, but that leniency was an indication of how heavily Maarika trusted the warlord. He wasn't one to insert himself into situations or conversations if there wasn't a need for it, and over the years Maarika had learned that if Finn interrupted her it was because he had a reason. He knew her as well as any of the men who'd been bound to her by the Darkness - perhaps better than, in some cases. Theirs was an understated kinship, something based more on appreciation than any mystical tether. He was no less hers than Jonas or Haakon were, though they'd never explicitly talked about it.

She was at the desk in the main study when Finn found her, the chair turned to the side so that she could gaze out of windows that were partly obscured by intricate lattice-work. It still didn't feel like her desk or her study, though she was daily trying to overcome how foreign everything here felt to her. She'd been reading some of the preliminary reports Haakon had prepared about the general state of the economy, but had found it difficult to focus. Thoughts of Magdalena and others like her wouldn't leave the Queen alone, and she'd set aside the report in favor of making some decisions she'd been putting off.

"Finn," she greeted him, without looking at him right away. Her mind was still wrapped around her thoughts for a moment, and when she did turn to regard him it was with a sober, thoughtful mien. "Would you say you're settled?" she asked him. Idly, her eyes moved over his wet hair, his parted shirt. She neither commented on it nor judged him for it. She merely observed him. "I know you're still not happy about being here, but would you say that, as far as the estate is concerned, we're secured?" As secured as they were going to be, anyway. Finn had been handed no small task, after all. The Orissa estate was large and sprawling, and they'd only brought with them part of a Province Court. They were the most loyal and devoted of Maarika's old Province Court, of course, and that was no small blessing. Still, it could not have been an easy thing to basically garrison a strange estate in the middle of what was, for all intents and purposes, hostile territory. Had it been anyone less than Finn at the head of such an endeavor, Maarika would have worried over it much more than she did. She still worried as it was, but she could imagine no one better suited to the task than the warlord before her.

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #2 on: Aug 17, 17, 09:30:09 PM »
The expression he wore was dry, in ways that most people would read as apathetic but Maarika would probably keenly identify as his particular brand of not-quite-humor. Not even really amusement. Irony, perhaps. Dry irony.

They had come here with half a Court to set up again at the Territory level. Upon their arrival they’d absorbed some of the staff and drew upon as many resources as possible, but in most cases they were still operating at what they had when they’d arrived. It felt lower than the bare minimum, and a cause for many sleepless nights for himself - who held the charge of securing the Seat and making sure those within were safe and protected at all times as the least of his responsibilities. Beyond that he also had to look outside the estate itself. It was his job to coordinate the security of the Provinces to keep a unified front. In most cases - this was a defensive front facing toward the borders.. but in this case it was also one looking inward as well. It wasn’t a comfortable position to be in no matter which way he looked at it.

He snorted, then gave a nod.

“As far as the estate is concerned, we are about as secured as we can be - as we are.” There were still far too many vulnerabilities for his complete peace of mind, but that wasn’t going to change no matter how many times he refined and reconfigured the security of the estate itself. There had to be a place where he stopped, though, a spot where he forced himself to be content enough to start focusing further out. His own personal vigilance and that of his men would have to compensate for the rest.

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #3 on: Aug 22, 17, 03:15:58 PM »
Maarika nodded and let her eyes drop to the desk again, as though his simple reply required intense consideration. There was no reflection of even his subtle, dry humor in the Queen before him, further proof that she had sober matters on her mind. Maarika was seldom without a little smile or a smirk during their talks, though more and more of late she seemed to have traded some of that mien for a more stoic demeanor. Perhaps Nharkava was wearing on her. Perhaps it was Magdalena's absence. Finn would not be unaware of the visit Jonothan had paid to the estate, nor the way he'd left it colder in his wake. There were any number of reasons why Maarika might be unhappy, so perhaps it was normal for her to show the weight on her shoulders a little more than she usually did. Still, it might surprise him to learn the true nature of her thoughts when she finally shared them, after that reflective pause. She reached out to him with a psychic thread, Haakon's paranoia about the potential for being spied on via scrying having rubbed off on her a little.

*There is going to come a time when suspected rebels will be brought to us for judgment,* she told him, lifting her eyes to find him once more. *If we're to appear to be Elisif's faithful servants, then we will have to deal with these people harshly. At least, we'll need to appear to. I want to have a plan in place for getting these people out of Nharkava safely and discreetly when those occasions come upon us. Severin and Jonas have connections among the factions of the Underground that extend into Nharkava; use them if you need to. Or don't, if you'd rather not. I don't want to know the specifics.*

Maarika paused, though she didn't seem finished. She seemed to merely have trouble finding the words for whatever she had left to say.

*They need to believe I'm Elisif's,* she said, and though her eyes had wandered in her searching for words, they returned to him now. *Whatever connections you make, whomever you decide to trust in this, they must believe you're doing it against my wishes, Finn.*

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #4 on: Aug 26, 17, 11:10:10 AM »
She reached out to him on a psychic thread to continue their conversation, and Finn wished he could be surprised or even just consider her paranoid. With the level of danger they were dealing with here there really was no way to be too cautious. There were enemies everywhere, and their small group of Tornio transports were stuck in the middle of several opposing sides. Even those they would want to help had cause to plot against them, and they couldn't afford to be even remotely open about the truth of their motives and allegiances. Everything they did needed to appear to be exactly what was expected, or they would become hunted. And they weren't anywhere near able to take a stand on a larger violent scale. Not that that was anywhere he wanted to go - but he would be deluded and remiss not to consider it as a possibility with things as they were.

As she spoke, he crossed to the window and leaned against the frame, peering out at all of the green. Even though it was much cooler inside thanks to several spells in pertinent rooms like the Queen's office, Finn could still see the heat outside. He didn't need it clawing at his skin to know it was out there.

Maarika's words before her pause were not exactly a surprise. He'd given thought to such occasions already. It was an inevitability. The Nharkavans were proud people - he had to respect that. They had as much pride and patriotism as Glacians did, and many did not take kindly as a whole to Glacia moving in and putting themselves in power. The rebels would build up their forces and they had to look like they were squashing them whenever and wherever they could. The appearance of incompetence was not an option. It would mean their death and the loss of any chance they might have had at setting things to right.

It was during her pause that Finn looked over at her again, brows drawn in a frown. He could tell there was more that she needed to add, but he had little clue as to what so he just waited.

When she spoke again, her meaning sunk in even before she confirmed by adding that whatever route he took - it needed to look like he was opposing her. His eyes narrowed. That was a very dangerous game to play. For Maarika, and for himself. For the two people he desperately needed to protect.

*Then the only people who can know that I'm not are you and I, Maarika.*

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #5 on: Aug 28, 17, 12:08:55 PM »
Maarika met Finn's gaze unflinching, and though she said nothing immediately in response to him, the silent pause spoke volumes about her understanding of his concerns and her agreement. After that grave few seconds, she nodded, though she countered his suggestion.

*You and I,* she agreed, *...but also Haakon, Jonas, Anitra, and Severin. Yours is one aspect of this effort; I will need the five of you to pull the whole of it off. As edgy as everyone already is, the last thing I want is one of the Bonded being left out of the loop and getting the wrong idea about what you'll be doing. Every one of you has proven to possess the capacity to be discreet, and to get things done. I would trust any one of you with my life. You know this.*

Indeed, laying her life into their hands was precisely what she was doing. More, she was entrusting Magdalena's life into their hands, which was the greater indicator of her faith in them.

*Haakon seems to think we are at risk of being spied upon by Craft. You should bear that in mind when doing this work. Any conversations you can have by thread rather than voice in regards to this, you should. You should also see Anitra as soon as you can. She's working on innocuous devices that will help protect our minds against unseen intrusion. I have no doubt that Lady Tuomi's presence here is merely a distraction, and that Elisif or her people have agents less visible keeping an eye on the court for her.*

She paused, and eyed Finn with the first twinge of uncertainty in her gaze. 

*Any friendship we can cultivate on Lady Tuomi's part would be helpful as well,* she said, watching him for the reactions he wouldn't voice. *She won't expect it from you, given how... rocky your initial meeting was. I'm not asking you to do anything you'll regret, but it's something worth keeping in mind.*

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #6 on: Sep 03, 17, 07:30:09 PM »
The more people who knew about this planned mask of deception, the more risk was involved. For her, for himself, for the people they cared about. For the people they were backing this ruse to protect. He didn't like it. Yes, each of the men she had named were people that Maarika trusted with her life - was willing to trust with the life of her sister - but that didn't mean that Finn trusted them on the same accord. He cared little for his own life in comparison with Marrika and Lady Magdalena's - but it was not himself he was worried for. Should one of the other men be too free with their words, even to an ally - or jump too soon to suggest that Finn was a "traitor" to defend Maarika...

He knew the ruthlessness of the enemy that had sunk its poison so deep into the roots of his beloved homeland.

For the moment he refrained voicing protest or concern, though his already serious expression became harder, more grave in its set, and his gaze returned to cast out the window. He looked over the green grounds, fought back the longing for cold winds and white shelves of snow. Of ice that was so dangerous, so beautiful. Of the calm quiet.

He gave a small nod at her reminder of their present dangers, though did not give voice to the stab of annoyance that she felt she needed to say it. He admitted himself that their security was nowhere near what he would like it to be, that their enemy was too big, too powerful to truly guard against. They were not on familiar grounds, which in some ways hurt them and in some ways protected -- but in Finn's personal opinion he felt like it was more of a hinderance.

Then he mentioned her.

Finn had never voiced hatred for the Priestess, but his... discomfort would have been obvious to a woman who had spent time within his mind. Finn still didn't know how much she knew about what had caused his mind to break, of his personal woes with the Dark Religion. They'd never spoken of it. She hadn't asked, and he hadn't offered. But she arguably knew him better than any other living person.

That woman was a personification of every tragedy that had ever befallen his family. And she was here to make sure that they cultivated that same bastardized culture here, in Nharkava. Instead of protecting the people, she would have them enslave them.

His voice was cool, and too even when he responded. *I am not even friendly with the people that I like, Lady. I doubt any overtures on my part would come anywhere close to believable. Perhaps you should enlist Severin. He may have better luck.*

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #7 on: Sep 05, 17, 09:45:32 AM »
*I'm not asking you to seduce her,* she countered, at his retort. She joined him at the window, folded her arms and leaned a shoulder against the opposite sill. She watched him while he watched the outside. *It's just something to keep in mind.* She didn't imagine she could have convinced him to try to seduce anyone at all, and certainly not a Priestess of the Dark Religion. But Finn was an attractive man, and if he wound up with the Priestess' attention in spite of his surliness, she wanted him thinking about the potential value in exploiting that interest.

Or maybe she just wanted him to refrain from swearing the woman out, if she made advances. He excelled at keeping his composure, but he was under a tremendous amount of stress at the moment, was far away from the home he loved, and he was, indeed, not even friendly with people he liked.

*Severi Liori will be liaising with this court in the coming months,* she told him. Finn was likely already familiar with the Landen spy who'd been sent to Nharkava by the late Karpella Linna. He wore webs to make him appear as a Nharkavan Landen, and had been living among the Rebellion for the past three years. *He'll want help getting in and out of the estate discreetly to maintain his cover. I want you to help set this up for him. He's Elisif's, and though he's not to be trusted with our true intentions, it's important that he feels like we're on his side.*

It didn't need to be said explicitly, perhaps, but it made Maarika feel better to say it. She trusted Finn implicitly, and did not at all doubt that he'd handle matters perfectly. She was just... nervous. It was an odd feeling for her, and though she did well at keeping it less than obvious, it nonetheless had her a bit more verbose than normal. Still, those were all the updates she had for him, and she moved away from the window to return to the desk, allowing him a moment to respond or object before she released him back to his work.



Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #8 on: Sep 20, 17, 12:33:11 PM »
He knew she didn't mean it flippantly, but it still tightened his jaw. No, she wasn't asking him to seduce her, but she was asking him to encourage a friendliness should it present itself as an opportunity. For him, that was about the same thing as active seduction.

*I'll keep it in mind.* He made no promises to butter up the Priestess, but he wasn't going to put himself in position to potentially sabotage the court, either. He wouldn't alienate her or do anything to give away his true feelings about the Dark Religion - he was far too practiced and not nearly stupid enough for that. But the key to keeping up a ruse was finding a way to play it as naturally as possible. What made his act believable was that he genuinely was an unfriendly stiff, and he was being generous to himself with that.

He gave a subtle nod as she brought up the landen spy, just enough to acknowledge what she was saying so she knew he was listening. Enabling the spy's access to the court would be far easier than the more covert task he'd been charged with, and he'd already been working out just how the man would be able to do so. The landen was good at his job, which made less work for him.

*I'll let you know when everything is in place for him.* He'd prefer to be able to just hand her a report - but that was another one of the downsides of secret missions.

There was a quiet, dull pang in his heart as the echo of his baby brother, chiming in with youthful excitement in his memory.

'Master of the Guard. Man, that's amazing. And for a whole Province. That's not just crop theft. That's crime rings and secret missions!'

'It's really not that exciting. It's mostly paperwork...'

'You're just a grump who doesn't know how to have fun...'


He wasn't sure whether he was thankful or bitter about how clearly he could still hear his laugh.

The breath he took was deeper and more conscious, and he closed his eyes as he pulled himself out of the memory with more struggle than he was ever going to be comfortable admitting. Two minutes, that was how long it took him, as Marrika moved to her desk to sort herself back into her work, to pull himself out and refocus onto what he needed to say.

*There is another matter I need to talk to you about, Maarika. A personal one.*

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #9 on: Sep 20, 17, 05:56:50 PM »
Maarika studied Finn intently while he accepted her tasks, and was - as usual - mildly frustrated by how much she couldn't see. If they'd been Bonded, she have more insight into his state of mind and his mood without having to infringe on him at all. It was easier, in some ways, with her other males because of that very allowance, and the fact that she could tend to them without needing to ask any questions. Would it be easier for Finn, she wondered, if she had that connection to him, and she could just know how best to serve him? Or would he hate having someone to whom he was that exposed? She didn't have to ask him to know what he'd think of the question as things stood now. She couldn't help but think he'd draw more comfort from a Bond than he realized, though.

Alas, there was nothing to be done about the matter. She was blessed to have Finn's support, even without (and in some ways more because of the lack of) the Bond. She quietly thanked the Darkness for his faith in her, and nodded when he assured her he'd let her know.

She returned to her desk, allowing him the freedom to stay or leave as he desired. It didn't bother her in the slightest when he lingered near, though she couldn't recall him having done much of it since they'd come to Orissa. He was too busy here, stretched too thin with too few people he trusted for delegation. That being so, she wasn't entirely surprised when he eventually surfaced from his thoughts to speak again. She turned in her seat to look up at him, present and patient.

"Of course, Finn," she assured him. "What is it?"

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #10 on: Sep 27, 17, 01:59:19 PM »
He was quiet another moment, putting in order just how much he wanted to say. Finn was a private man at best, secretive at worst. There were few who could truly say that they knew him. Maarika was probably one of the select few who came close to being able to say that and mean it. But even what she knew she'd have gathered from her own observations or from that exclusive look she'd had into his mind during his healing. He wasn't really one for chit-chat or heart-to-hearts.

*I want to get my family out of Glacia.* His voice was soft, even, almost bland. Like he was asking for toast for breakfast. There was absolutely no emotion in his voice - but then again, it was all far too busy swirling in his eyes. He kept to a psychic thread - because if Maarika wasn't about to discuss them protecting rebels aloud he also wasn't going to discuss smuggling his parents out of Glacia out loud either. Because of their remote location high in the mountains, they'd been mostly protected from much of the horror and corruption polluting the rest of their Territory, but the Dark Religion's influence was expanding more and more every day. Collars were becoming mandatory in districts all over Glacia - and Finn couldn't protect them from Nharkava.

He also couldn't protect them from Nharkava if an enemy would decide to target them as a way to get to him, and thus get to Maarika. Like what happened with his baby brother.

He couldn't let it happen to them. He couldn't allow it.

Never had Finn ever brought up his family to Maarika before this moment. Now, he would tell her anything she asked if it would help protect them. If it would help get them far enough away to be safe, at least until they would be able to return home without fear. If that was ever to come.

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #11 on: Sep 28, 17, 03:58:25 PM »
Maarika didn't seem to respond, at first. She watched Finn, and when he made his request she sat back a little more fully into her seat, as though relaxing into the weight of his words. She was quiet for a long moment, and he knew her well enough to understand that it was no idle silence. She wasn't playing that game where a woman could drive a man to speak further by just withholding her response. (That game was famously unsuccessful with Finn Hallman, anyway.) She was thinking. Turning over angles and meanings and consequences and possibilities. A Queen didn't make any such decisions without considering the implications for not just herself, but for her court. Her men. Her people. A good Queen didn't, in any case.

But surely he knew what her answer would be, eventually.

*Then we'll get them out.*

The words were just as even, just as un-dramatic as Finn's had been. Just a matter of fact, a course of action that was no more distressing than choosing to have jam over butter on one's toast. She could guess how difficult it was for Finn to ask for such a thing. Not only was he loathe to share things about himself in a personal sense, but he knew as well as anyone what a dangerous thing he was asking. Maarika didn't begrudge him the request, though. She understood, perhaps more than anyone. Even if she hadn't been so sympathetic, Finn had never asked her for anything, really. Nothing like this.

*Do you want them to be brought to Nharkava? Or would you rather have them taken elsewhere?*

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #12 on: Oct 01, 17, 06:31:33 PM »
She was quiet. Thinking. Finn had to respect that even if it made his jaw tight with anxiety. In all the years that Finn had served her he had asked for nothing. Nothing. Not so much as a day off or a light favor. He didn't ask or expect anything from anyone. And Maarika... He was already in her debt, he had no right to ask anything from her - particularly not something like this. Something that was already risky, already dangerous. Already over the line of forbidden.

But someone had already found his family once.

He didn't realize he'd been holding his breath until she spoke and it whispered out of him in an almost-sigh. Relief relaxed his shoulders - which were always tight anyway - and he shifted his weight slightly from foot to foot while glancing toward the window and then back again to watch her steadily.

*Nharkava is better than Glacia, but Nharkava isn't safe either. Little Terrielle,
 if possible. There are all creeds and colors there. They've been taking refugees to the point where it's caused trouble for them in the past year but my sources have certified that they haven't stopped. Dhemlan even.*
The slightest note of desperation was tugging at the tone and cadence of his voice. He grit his teeth, flicking his eyes away as he pulled it back, reining it in. He wasn't sure why he was still trying so hard to be passionless - just by coming to her about it she had to know he was afraid. It was possible she even had the context, that she already knew how the Dark Religion had taken away every other single person he loved. How it had forced him to..

His throat tightened and his jaw ached. There was a dull ringing like a gong in the back of his mind and he forced himself to take a slow breath and look back at her.

*Somewhere safe. Or as safe as is possible.*

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #13 on: Oct 02, 17, 11:01:56 AM »
Dhemlan, even. Somewhere safe.

Maarika rose to her feet and joined Finn at the window once more. She wasn't concerned with the view outside the window this time, though, and made no effort to disguise how focused she was on the Warlord. His anxiety quietly tore at her, made all the more tragic for how rarely he let such things show. She regretted her inability to soothe him as easily as she might soothe one of her bound males, but she was not entirely without recourse. Slowly, so that he'd have the opportunity to move away if he wished, she lifted a hand to stroke his arm in an attempt to comfort him.

More than just the stroke of her hand over his arm, the subtle Craft that always lingered in some manner about her quietly swelled. Comfort and calm radiated from her, and if he didn't fight it he'd find himself drawn towards a less tightly-wound disposition. Maarika's Craft was less about forcing a new emotion on him, and more about reinforcing his confidence in her, and her ability to help him.

*We'll get them out,* she promised him, resolute yet soft. *I need to go to Vaasa to speak with Elisif already; she'll want to know I've seen Jonothan.* And because Maarika didn't actually know from whence Jon had come or where he'd gone after, there was little she felt like she'd be giving away that would harm him. It was worth it for the chance to set eyes on Magdalena herself, anyway. *They are your family. Even in Elisif's eyes, you will have a right to steward them because of your Jewel of rank. We'll bring them back here with us, and then from here you can decide where to send them. It will be a far less  difficult trip for them than trying to have someone smuggle them over the mountains.*

She paused, and an uncharacteristic breath of hesitation flickered through her. Selflessness did not come easily to the Black Widow Queen, even in the case of one she valued as much as Finn. Perhaps especially in regards to him, considering how much she typically leaned on his steadiness.

*Finn, if you need to go with them,* she began to say, but stopped mid-way through. Despite her best intentions, actually giving him permission to abandon her was something she was going to have to work on. She would, though, if that's what he felt he needed. He'd given her years of his life in faithful service already. Something tightened in her chest at the thought of him leaving her court, but she managed to pause in that silence rather than recanting the statement she'd begun. For the moment, at least.

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #14 on: Oct 03, 17, 09:12:53 PM »
It was a conscious decision to allow her hand to reach his arm, and in ways it was a difficult one - though perhaps not difficult in the way one would suppose. Finn kept himself at such a hard and defined distance from other people, and since coming to Nharkava he'd even been separated from his dogs as well, that the gruff Warlord was - in a way - touch starved. He'd already exposed himself so much with this request, this show of weakness, and he was loathe to risk revealing another.

But he let her hand touch his arm, his body tensing then relaxing. It was very subtle, just a slightly shift, but even before the tendril of her Touch wrapped about him he was leaning toward the light touch. Some more tension seeped out of him and he closed his eyes on a quiet breath as he allowed her power to calm him, reinforcing his ever-present faith in her.

A small shiver of relief released from him at the reiteration of her promise - which she may only truly notice because she was touching him. He nodded, then opened his eyes again to look at her.

*Thank you, Lady.* The deference in the title would tell her how much this meant to him. Unless required by situation, Finn had always called her "Maarika" - a habit from his far more common upbringing that he'd never worked to break.

His eyes widened slightly, then sharpened and he was shaking his head before she even had the chance to think of finishing her next statement. *No. My place is beside you. I am your shield. My parents are strong and resourceful. Once someplace safe they are more than capable of protecting themselves.* Besides, though he knew they didn't blame him, neither of his parents had been able to look at him the same way after what happened to Gerrund. He was their eldest and last remaining child, they loved him, and it would hurt them to lose him -- but his constant presence would also be a constant reminder as to why their three other children were dead.

Even without that... Finn had chosen his path. He was Maarika's shield, and her sword when she required it of him. Maybe it was true that in his most selfish desires... Well, those were fantasies, and it was their grave reality that needed all of his attention right now.

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #15 on: Oct 11, 17, 09:50:04 AM »
It was Maarika's turn to be quietly relieved when Finn rejected her offer to allow him to leave her to join his family. That knot in her chest relaxed some, and the release of that tension brought with it a touch of humor. Her smirk was soft and lopsided, and she squeezed his arm gently before letting her hand fall once more to her side.

"Good. Darkness only knows how I was going to make good on that offer anyway," she said, her expression turning a bit sharper, though not without mirth. "You know how much I hate acting selfless. Besides," she said, with a cleansing sigh as she turned back to her desk. "You belong here. This court would absolutely fall apart without you, Finn Hallman." As would I, she thought, but didn't say. Finn was so steadfast in the way he tended to his duties that it wasn't often that Maarika stopped to think about what it would be like if he did actually pick up and leave. For just a few seconds it'd been a possibility, and even that brief dalliance with the idea was enough to bother her.

*I'm going to need to see Elisif within the month,* she said, moving back into the business mien that was likely far more comfortable for both of them, all things considered. *And if you're going with me, then Severin and Haakon will need to stay behind if our efforts are going to take root at all. You can imagine how happy they're going to be about the arrangement, so I'll need you to hire on some extra escorts for the trip. Overdo it, please, so that the only reason they have for fussing about it is that they're over-protective. *

Offline Finn Hallman

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #16 on: Oct 12, 17, 12:41:08 PM »
Finn snorted, his main method of expressing any kind of humor. There may have been the slightest twist at the corner of his mouth in a sort of smirk. Or maybe not.

"Yes, well. I'm not about to leave my work here for someone to fuck up." Still somewhat awkward, it was a fair attempt at reassurance and he gave a shrug as his eyes flicked over her and then out the window. Feelings weren't really his thing - other people having them or himself for that matter. When they came up he usually did a pretty good job at ignoring them or just brushing it off, with varying degrees of success that usually just ended up with him looking like an asshole. He typically did not mind this result.
 
The only show of his relief when she switched them back to the business at hand was that he looked back at her with a nod. *I'll see to it.* He didn't complain that he wasn't sure yet how he was going to be able to wrangle up enough trusted escorts while still leaving a solid base to hold down the fort here. He ask her if she wanted only Glacian or a mix between Glacian and Nharkavan for the entourage. He didn't press for anything else. That wasn't her job or her worry. It was his. He would bring his plan to her after he had it together and if she had any problems with it he would adjust from there.

"Unless there's anything else - I should get back to work." It was an abrupt ending, but Finn was an abrupt man. He pulled away from the window to face her fully, giving her a breath of a moment to decide if she was going to halt his progress. If she didn't, he would turn for the door to leave.

Offline Maarika Sydän-Harmaa

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Re: Matters of Utmost Discretion
« Reply #17 on: Oct 13, 17, 10:12:45 AM »
"That'll be all. Thank you, Finn."

Though she did glance up at him from her work when she thanked him, there was no undue emphasis on the words. No poignant moment of misty-eyed devotion, no pregnant pause wherein he might guess how much he really meant to the Queen and her court. It was simply a thanks. It was more their way than the more visibly emotional options, and it suited her fine.

He turned to leave, but she spoke up again just before he'd cleared the door.

"Oh, I almost forgot," she said, looking up from her work once more. "There's a dog in the stables. When Tove went to the market yesterday, she came back with a stray. Apparently the dog is unwell, and Tove thought some food and rest and a day out of the sun would help it. You know how she gets," she said, with a dismissive sigh. The cook was notorious for two things: being an absolute master at crafting meals, and her soft spot for animals of all sorts.

"I just thought it worth mentioning so that you won't wonder, if you run across it. For the love of Darkness, don't put it out of its misery, Tove will have a conniption. Besides, if she has something to tend to besides me, maybe there's a chance she won't feed me into obesity before she's settled here." She shook her head and seemed to return her attention to her work.

"But that was all." She let him leave this time, never once giving proof of the flicker of amusement that had sprung up within her. There was absolutely no danger of Finn killing a dog unless its life really was already over, but his love of the animals wasn't something that was really acknowledged aloud by anyone smart.