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Alexei

Harsh Decisions

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Corvinus sat at the table of a tavern, his men, including Feche herself had little contact with the man since the events of the First Dance. There was a choice to be made, one that was both cruel as it was underhanded, even if that itself had not been realized by the one who commanded it to be so. Corvinus had already made his decision, he would leave, and he would not abandon those who had nothing until the Legion. Many were criminals, who had nowhere but the prisons to return to. There were the few blue bloods that joined, seeking something more than sitting on their lands without achieving great deed or simply those that had lost the taste for being nobles.

He sat at the table, his finger steepled before the hard lines of his handsome face. Black eyes seemed to be staring at nothing and everything. For him, this was an important matter, though many, if not all had opted to go with him, he needed to be sure of the one he chose to act as his second. He would ask her a difficult question, of that he was sure. As much as the Captain-General loved her homeland, his would be the cruel words asking for her to choose between the Legion and her home country.

Sitting before him, untouched was a simple glass of water, now warm. Corvin had never been one for empathy, and this greatly disturbed him that he felt a twinge of guilt over the fact of forcing her to make such a decision. Perhaps it was because he no longer spent his time in solitude, instead he had become a leader of a small, but strong group of soldiers. It was something that he forged with his own hands, and grew with the help of others, he would not easily give it up, even if he must find a more worthy place.

Corvinus pushed the glass aside and signaled to one of his men, many were amidst the process of informing their relatives and loved ones of what was happening, if they had them. Others simply asked for time to gather their thoughts and prepare. Few were already prepared to leave Orisia. Given the nature of the Marshal-General’s existence it was a surprise any wished to continue following him, but he would not be the one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

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Three soldiers stood not far from their superior's table. It was a group of young men, lads that had little to no ties in Orisia and boundless opportunity for glory and adventure in the future, some of the few men that had been amused by the recent events and more than happy that the Legion was leaving-- and thus spent their last night drinking merrily instead of bidding farewell to their families. They were the sort of soldiers that had laughed loudly at the notion when their older comrades had inquired; more like they'd visit the brothels and bid the whores farewell, they'd jested. This move was no loss to them. If anything, mainland Genesaris had more potential.

The group of them were boisterous, the kind of young knights that fueled the fervor in battles to balance out old veterans. Of the three, the mid-sized man in the middle noticed Corvinus's signal, and made one last joke with the other lads before breaking away from them. He was a boyish lad, the short stubble hardly hiding the youthful features. The dark curls that framed them only accentuated the look. There was a certain charm to him though, from the clear blue eyes to that lopsided smile; he was the kind of soldier that fancied himself a ladies' man, and got just enough women to confirm it in his mind. When his superior called, though, he snapped to attention. He was Evan Waters, a young lieutenant, and he had served a few years under Feche. He'd obviously been abused enough to learn a bit of discipline.

He nodded to the older man, his expression inscrutable. The drama at the First Dance had left an impression on all of the soldiers, rumours spreading like wildfire amongst the common folk and Corvin's very Legion barely hours after the dance itself. Some men thought his actions a bit melodramatic or prideful. Some men had split their sides laughing, offering all their riches to have seen the Queen's face. Evan knew better than to reveal which of the two he was. The tavern was loud, dozens of conversations competing to be heard over each other and orders being called out at the bar. A bawdy bar song was struck up on the far side of the room. A few of the singers were quite obviously slurring the lyrics, but no-one cared. Still, the lieutenant listened intently for the Marshal-General's command.

"Marshal-General."

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Black eyes turned to stare at the young lieutenant, who reminded him quite vividly of Deiter, though where the former’s eyes were blue, the latter’s were gray. Ambiguous was the black stare that fixated on lieutenant waters, the Marshal-Generals cold and hard features gave away nothing of his true thoughts, always he would wear this mask, for even feigned calm kept him on track. His actions the night of the dance might have been prideful, for full of it he certainly was, but it did not justify the judgment made and the half-baked accusation thrown against him.

‘Lieutenant Waters, correct?’ He asked, his gaze showing a slight amount of curiosity. In his commander’s presence, even the cocky young lieutenant, full of the vigour and bravery of youth would feel fear and discomfort, as if some preternatural fear had been invoked. ‘What were the reasons you served Feche?’ He asked, though he didn’t seem to be expecting much of answer. ‘Was it her charisma? Was it pride? Was it patriotism for your country?’ These questions were not his original intent for calling the man over, but more of a sudden whim, something his was finding himself more prone to.

For the first time Corvin appeared interested in what made his men tick. ‘It seems to me that many of you are not at all angered by the choice of leaving your homes to stay with the Legion.’ He spoke idly, finding it better to talk in such a way, even if it would make the other uncomfortable. ‘Why?’ Black eyes remained on him, never shift nor blinking. ‘Why do you continue to follow me now?’ He asked, though again he did not seem to expect any form of an answer, only wishing to pass the time until Feche arrived.

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Lieutenant Waters was taken aback by this turn of events, though he tried hard not to show it. He had to blink as he registered his superior's words, however, a lapse into silence rather unusual for the boisterous young man. When the Marshal-General had called him over, he had expected some short command or idle reprimand for his behavior, as he had come to expect from his time under Feche and the man's serious reputation. Corvinus's appearance had done little to assuage that assumption, with the enigma of a man poring darkly over a forgotten glass of water rather than the stout this particular tavern was known for. He had not expected to be questioned personally. With the unexpected saddled with the unsettling aura, Waters found himself feeling uneasy, even suspicious of this interview. Was something to happen to his infamous female leader? Was he himself under scrutiny? Nonetheless, he had to respond before the older man noticed his hesitations.

"Aye, sir." He settled into a habitual stance, arms crossing behind his back as he shifted his feet. His charms faded with this more somber demeanor, his face looking plainer when not teased with a saucy look or the twitch of a forming smile. "I was assigned to Captain-General Feche when I first joined the Free Legion. She is a firm and serious leader, and the loyalty of her men is impressive." What Waters did not add, though it cross his mind, was that he had been unimpressed to have been placed under her, regardless of the rumors that had followed her from the North. Though with time, she had proven herself to be a capable soldier in the yards and a steady leader outside of them, the young man was still among those that felt a woman had better uses for her time than trying to keep up with the men in battle, or that Feche would have at least been more tolerable if she loosened up and perhaps bedded one of her fellow soldiers from time to time. It was hard to voice those opinions in his division, though. His Banner served alongside men who'd once made up The Guard in the North, soldiers who'd seen her win infamy first through guerrilla tactics and then by forming and leading their band. They didn't take kindly to quips about their lady leader.

At the very least, though, Waters did commend her for still taking the time to interact with her soldiers and finding time to [i]personally[/i] bruise quite a few of them in the yards. She had a similar feeling to Corvinus though, the lieutenant realized as he looked at the other man; there was a disconnect between both the commanders and ordinary soldiers. The rest of the world, even. Something innately warned people off and kept them from getting too friendly with either of them. "When I first heard of the Free Legion, you offered to take all men in and offer them equal opportunity as soldiers," he continued more confidently, his expression relaxing a little as he broached a familiar topic. It couldn't be said that the man didn't like talking about himself. "No matter where a man came from, he could rise through the ranks and win honor through his own capability. No favoritism, no politics-- no sleeping with the right woman."

It was a dangerous comment to make, but Waters had a pint for courage and couldn't help but wonder if their infamous leader could be riled to reaction. "No bullshit-- iffin you don't mind me saying." At the root of it, his answer was sincere. Waters was one of those sons with too many brothers to ever really see himself inheriting anything, with a complex born after years of competing with his siblings to try and prove himself better suited to be heir. When he'd realized as a young man that he would never be given glory or honor in the form of a title or lands, he joined the Free Legion and decided to earn his glory proper.

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If the older man noticed his momentary hesitation, his features did little to allude to it. He was quiet, still except for the blinking of his eyes, and the calm steady breaths of his lungs. By all accounts he was indeed an odd man, not partaking in the usual habits of others. It was perhaps developed by experiences outside the understanding of most, but it was never something he held over others. Instead there was a certain sense of pride in oneself, one that was often mocked and misunderstood, as was the case with his riding a horse into the Long Hall, yet perhaps it was the Queen and her dogs that overreacted.

‘Interesting.’ He commented, his tone as distant as his gaze and demeanour. ‘Feche’s ability to lead is one even I admire.’ He said, his gaze shifting to the glass of water, still untouched by him. He found he did not have the stomach to partake in the habits necessary to live, such a eating and drinking, perhaps it was simply just stress he was unable to grasp and figure out. ‘Never underestimate a woman; they are as dangerous as men, if not more so, even a foolish woman.’ His gaze returned to waters, amused as a crow with a shiny coin. ‘Feche is no fool.’

‘The Legion was a goal of mine to create equality. Though many foolish children believe that men and women who fight could never achieve it, what most do not know is that everything is a fight.’ He steepled his fingers before him, leaning just a bit forward, a sign of confidence and conviction. ‘Careful boy, Feche has beat men for far less than words such as that.’ He chided. His tone was calm, almost indifferent but a dull sense of amusement flickered in his eyes.

“I have little desire to contend with…bullshit.’ He said, nodding his head in agreement. ‘I find little stock in words that come before action.’ He waved his hand to the side, as if tossing dashes to the winds. ‘But alas, here I am, contending with it.’ He took in a breath and released it, not in a sigh, but a simple and slow exhale. ‘I believe I have waited long enough. Go fetch our Captain-General, it is time to find how far she wished to follow us.’ Edited by Alexei

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To call Corvin distracted was to disrespect his ability as a soldier and leader-- to foolishly allow one's attentions to stray got a man killed on the field, and one didn't earn the hard-won right to lead by letting his guard down, even when he sat amongst his men and relaxed in the tavern. But Waters could tell that the Marshal-General was not entirely focused on him. There were grander things on the man's mind, much more so than a lowly lieutenant. A dark eyebrow hopped up as he listened, though. The commander was quick to defend Feche and freely sang her praises; why Corvin would waste a moment of his time trying to persuade a lowly soldier was a good question though. Woman or not, Feche was commanded countless banners and many men. She shouldn't require defending.

That comment about women felt too vague to simply be referring to their lady leader either. Curiosity ate away at the lieutenant. He couldn't help wondering if perhaps those rumours about Corvin and the Queen weren't quite so unfounded. There were only a few things that could truly rile a man up, after all, particularly one as cold and even as the Marshal-General. That would certainly explain the First Dance, as well as the Queen's abrupt dismissal.

The sound of chiding was far more familiar and certain. That lopsided smile returned to the lieutenant's features, lighting up the plain face once more. “I hardly need reminding, sir. Feche demands a high standard from her men.” Waters' pride and limbs had stung more than once after a misguided comment. “I shall go fetch her.” And he turned on his heel to do so. He hardly wanted to keep his commanders waiting any longer than necessary.

War was a harsh lifestyle, and she had to earn the respect and reputation herself or lose the loyalty of her men. No exceptions were allowed in battle, no handicaps given even for a woman. Perhaps even less so for women; they would always have more to prove, more training required to outperform their male colleagues in feats of strength and skill, more disdain and blame placed upon them. A life of gore, dirt, and brutally hard work tended to ward off most women where the sexism didn't. Feche had been prepared for superiors to put less trust in her and for her men's respect to be harder to earn though. She'd be all but bred for the role. She owed her life to the ghosts of soldiers past, and they'd raised her nigh from birth in preparation; if anyone would smash the dusty traditions and misconceptions about women soldiers, it would be she.

Like Corvin, her demeanour didn't fall simply because she was amongst friends. Sitting across from Seaia and the incorrigible Jack Briggs, even this rare holiday she'd taken from organizing the Free Legion could hardly soften the soldier in Vel Feche. Resting an arm over the back of her chair did little to relax the discipline in her posture, and-- heaven forbid, they'd even managed to convince her to try the local stout. Nonetheless, she was hardly looked hazed by the drink; that clouded gaze was as deceivingly alert as ever, so she naturally spotted Lieutenant Waters as he crossed the room. Waters without his wingmen usually only occurred should a woman (or two) be hanging off of the lad, and she greatly doubted that he headed her way with the intent of flirting. He'd learned his lesson the first time he'd tried that.

She let her soldier approach without comment however, smiling as her two companions bantered back and forth. Her drink was finished by the time his shadow crossed her table. [COLOR="#008080"][b]“Waters. I trust you've left de Metz and Shaw unsupervised for good reason?”[/b][/color] Her face was as even as ever as she glanced up at the man, even considering her friendly jesting. There was a certain camaraderie shared between the commander and her soldiers, but it never strayed past into too personal territory. There were no favourites in her ranks. Rather, the lieutenant failed to hide his vague surprise at the companions she'd made, particularly their liveliness. Only her squire Deiter had been proof before now that duty didn't run thick in her veins in lieu of blood.

“Yes, Captain-General.” Thankfully, Waters managed to snap himself out of it before Seaia and Jax noticed him looking, and turned back to Feche. “The Marshal-General was hoping you'd join him. He's... enjoying a drink back near the hearth.” With the comment, the lieutenant nodded his head back in Corvin's direction. His gaze flitted over to Feche's companions every so often, landing particularly often on the female sailor. Meanwhile, Feche raised her eyebrows and craned her head to spot Corvin. She hadn't known he was in town, let alone gracing the same tavern she'd happened upon. Her eyes narrowed slightly. There'd been no word nor explanation since the missive this morning from one of the locally stationed captains. Now was her chance to hear exactly [i]why[/i] she'd been advised not to don their heraldry today.

[COLOR="#008080"][b]“Thank you, lieutenant.”[/b][/color] Pushing her chair back, she excused herself politely from the table, unperturbed by the confused looks her companions likely gave her. She only stopped to clap a hand on Waters shoulder, standing at his side to warn him:

[COLOR="#008080"][b]“Seaia is going to the final round of the tourney. I needn't have to warn you of the dangers of disrespecting her, surely.”[/b][/color] As realization set in and the lieutenant's face blanched, Feche set off to join her Marshal-General for a due chat.

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Perhaps it had been the queen, but she no longer occupied his thoughts in a manner of motivation, nor was it Feche, the Captain-General that led the Free Legion as his right hand. The woman who occupied his thoughts and motivated his outrageous actions at the first dance would remain a mystery to Feche and his men, at least for now. When Feche approached he wasted no time in gesturing for her to take a seat. His black eyes did not look at her, and as they were with Lieutenant Waters, his eyes saw past her. He was perhaps, the last man to be deemed a schemer, but it was without doubt that cogs to a plan would begin turning.

Once Feche had taken her seat, he steepled his fingers, his elbows resting against the edge of the table. ‘Choose.’ He said simply, his eyes now focusing sharply on her, the first time since they began working together. ‘Will you stay in Orisia, no longer a part of the legion, and attempt to seek another path here, or will you leave Orisia, and remain with the Legion, following our goals to the mainland?’ It was a simple question; he cared little for small talk, and would not ask her of her business or thoughts of the tournament.

‘I give you this choice, because despite our sacrifices we are left with only two options.’ He paused; making sure her attention was solely focused on his, aside from what her training had ground into her. ‘To disband and no longer act as a military force for Orisia, or to leave this island.’ She could probably guess why, perhaps it had been riding into the Long Hall on a horse, perhaps that was somewhat petty of the so-called great and benevolent Black Queen. Perhaps it had been his small greeting to Rou, though until now he had not known of her plans for her daughter.

Instead of investigations, or even direct questioning he had been judged and sentenced, some crimes having already been paid for, other crimes simply created on the spot and out of convenience. He would not argue them, there was no point if fighting a monarchy where laws were created or destroyed daily to fit their circumstances, and it might have amused him if he were capable of laughing. ‘I am going to the Cold South, I will rule it since their king is now missing.’ He stated, as if there was no question that it would happen, such was the confidence of their Marshal-General.

‘You can decide now, to come with me or to stay. He said, his voice trailing off. ‘Or you can come to me in Shrine City within a year.’ His eyes remained focused, yet there was a curiosity in them as he watched for any reaction that may have been created by this sudden decision. ‘In a years’ time I will have Shrine City, by that time I will also be choosing my Council, I want you on it.’ Control was part of it, the Legion needed a strong presence in the Government, he also needed to make sure he was not a figurehead.

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