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Thread: [M] The Knife That Cuts the Deepest [BurningKirby & Ashen]

  1. #41
    The Ashen One
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    Ophelia's voice, soft as ever, startled Anne. She nearly dropped the bowl herself as she jumped. When she realized it was just Ophelia, she sighed in relief. Just being in this house put her on edge. She smiled and bowed her head in greeting, then turned her attention back to the child. "He was hungry," she explained. "I hope you don't mind that I gave him his breakfast. I didn't want to disturb you, and it didn't look like he was willing to wait." She looked at Milo, carefree, poking at a mostly-solid piece of fruit in his hand. As Ophelia came over, Anne stepped away, letting the mother care for her child in a way Anne never could.

    She stood there, awkward. She had finished the letter, the letter Ophelia couldn't read. Was now a good time? As good as any, she thought to herself. "Oh, Ophelia," she started, moving to the table and picking up the parchment. "A man came by today to deliver this. Do forgive me for reading it without you, but it had the king's signature, and I feared something might have been wrong with your husband..." She motioned the letter towards her but, seeing her hands full with Milo, she awkwardly moved it back to the table. "Right," she murmured. "Well... Ophelia, your husband has gone missing."

    Anne waited for the reaction. For the pause, the panic, whatever Ophelia would give her to work with. Then, she continued. "He hadn't returned to camp, and according to this, they suspect he's lost in the mountains somewhere. I'm unsure if you've ever been to those mountains, the ones up north, but I've heard people talk. There are ferocious animals out there, godless creatures, they'll attack anything that comes near them. Ophelia--you don't think?"

    And just like that, the seed of doubt was planted. If Anne could convince Ophelia that Rolf was out there, defenseless, then maybe it would just be a little bit more to convince her to leave this place. Anne set the letter down and looked into Ophelia's eyes. She wore a look of concern, one she wore too often. "I don't think they have intentions of sending a search party," she said quietly. "But your husband, he is a strong man, isn't he? He's got to be out here. Perhaps... Perhaps we could rescue him, if no one else will." She looked to her bag, to the sword now partially pouring out of it. Sure Ophelia wasn't great with a sword, but Anne just needed her to believe she could defend herself, at least. She turned back to Ophelia. "Forgive me. This is your husband. You know him better than anyone. I just... I cannot stand to sit here idly if there's a chance he may die in our inaction."
    Last edited by Ashen; 06-30-2020 at 03:22 AM.

  2. #42
    Member BurningKirby's Avatar
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    "M-missing?" The word dropped hollow from her lips as a stone down a bottomless well, listener silent, waiting, expecting at minimum an impact of some sort-- a promise forged in blood by the laws of physics themselves left unfulfilled. As realization of the letter's meaning spread its shadow over Ophelia, her head felt empty, as though she too were waiting for the stone's echo, some punchline to the cruel joke Anne had just laid before her.

    Ophelia's vacant thousand-yard stare pierced Anne's gaze as the woman looked back at her, unflinching. Anne then continued. That's when she knew. This was no joke. As Anne finished and turned her gaze back from the letter to Ophelia again, the housewife made not a move. The plan--no, concept--for rescuing her husband laid before her, she couldn't begin to grasp how there could be any hope to succeed in saving someone with so much more experience and strength than she.

    "How did he...? How could they not send a search party? That makes no sense." Ophelia's brow twisted and furrowed as her face grew hot. Watery beads began to collect in her lashes until at last they could no longer bear the weight of her fear and capsized, sending burning streams plunging down her cheeks and off her quivering chin into Milo's small tuft of hair. Feeling this, the child lightly startled, shooting a brief oblivious glance up towards the source of the distraction, then returned to chasing his fruit around the dish before him. "How would we even be able to help him?" Her voice left her as she trailed off and she paused briefly to reclaim it. "I have barely any experience beyond the walls of Onryx and you-- I mean no offense, but Rolf is a seasoned veteran. Neither of us stand to outdo him, so how could we save him?"

    The impossibility of the information thrust before her minutes ago swirled about her as she began to panic, looking hard into Anne's eyes for any microcosm of reassurance.

  3. #43
    The Ashen One
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    That look broke her. Anne knew without a doubt that Ophelia trusted her on this, trusted her to interpret the letter bearing the worst news she could imagine. This should have been a victory, a step closer to securing the poor man's head and living another month. Then why did the assassin feel so empty? She turned away from Ophelia, knowing she had to do something but being consumed by her own feelings. This was no time for a conscience. She couldn't forget why she was here. Ophelia was a defenseless woman, a wife and mother who did not deserve to lose the one who meant the most to her. But Anne couldn't lose her own life, and she believed her family could not lose her, either.

    She brought her gaze back to the broken woman. Anne walked over to her and tried to place a comforting hand on Ophelia's shoulder, though she doubted it did any good. Her words piqued Anne's curiosity. True, Rolf was a veteran, a warrior--but was Anne so inexperienced in comparison? They were both tasked to kill, they were just on opposite sides of the law. In hand-to-hand combat, would Anne be as outmatched as Ophelia thought? If everything went well in her plan, no one would ever get the chance to know.

    "He is one soldier," Anne explained. "Perhaps the king felt it wasn't worth risking the lives of other men to save just one. I imagine in a few days, they will send a funeral party." She kept her voice soft, knowing her words would further wound the grieving woman. But this would be used to her advantage. Anne needed to keep going. She had Ophelia now, willing to save her husband--didn't she?

    Anne walked to her bag and drew her sword. "We do not need to outdo him," she went on. She trailed her fingers along the blade, watching Ophelia from the corner of her eye. "You don't just want to sit here, do you? I mean, you're new with this, I know, but I know my way around this weapon, and I'm not bad with a bow, either. I'm sure the two of us could survive out there if we work together. Believe me when I say I have lived through worse conditions, Ophelia." She lowered her gaze to her sword. "When I was barely a woman, my parents separated. They expected us to take sides, but in doing so, I would betray my mother, or my father, and my sisters. I went my own way, cutting myself from them and living on my own. For years I did not have a home to call my own, yet I stand before you today. I had no more experience then than you do now, but you have worlds more than I did. You have a guide." She looked back to Ophelia, a light, sympathetic smile on her lips. "And even if we fail, at least you will know you did not stand idly while others gave up on your husband. I think the least we can do is try."

    Anne silently cursed herself. Just how much of her life was she going to tell Ophelia? They were all details she'd conveniently left out of all interactions with people since leaving home, details that might make it just a bit easier to find Anne once this all blew over. But Anne didn't regret telling Ophelia, as much as she wanted to. Maybe they were more alike than either of them thought. And out there, with the comforts of nobility stripped away, Ophelia would have​ to trust her only guide. At least, that was the hope.

  4. #44
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    "The King?!" Ophelia barely managed to avoid letting herself fly into frenzy as the potential source of her turmoil was presented before her. "That...bastard," she choked out through gritted teeth. She knew all too well Anne had merely been suggesting a possibility, but this was no time for rational thought. Any voice of reason that could have consoled her in that moment smoldered away as flames burst up, overtaking her confusion with white hot anger. "Rolf gave him everything." Her eyes darted about the room, ghosts of lonely nights dancing in and out of her tear-blurred vision. "He traded his life away for us. And this is how it's treated?"

    As Anne drew her sword from its sheathe, Ophelia's gaze locked onto its glinting blade, entirely ignorant of Anne's eyes studying her closely. "You're probably right. We should at least give it a shot." It seemed impossible. Rolf was meant to protect her, not the other way around.

    Protect...Ah! Milo. Breaking her stare, she glanced down at the boy who this entire time had continued to pick at the massacred fruit laying before him. Anne seemed to follow her train of thought, but she spoke her mind anyway. "I couldn't bring him with us. It would be too dangerous. If something were to happen to us out there-" Her voice caught. "I can ask Rose to take care of him for a while. She'll want to know why, but she won't leave a child like him uncared-for. I'll take him over to her next door a bit before we set out." Ophelia paused and looked back up to Anne. "I um, do hope you have some sort of plan?"

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