[P] Profitless usurer why dost thou use
[P; Salvia]
#1
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Listen to many, speak to few


Arte had heard about what had happened to her sister's caravan and had sought to make some inspections and inquiries of her own. She had been out to explore the herds and sniff around out there once she learned of the suspicions against them. The scents she had found weren't any of the ones that had become familiar from sharing a space of land with them. Granted she didn't know what scents everyone wore when they went out but she didn't think it was anyone that resided in Salsola. Or at least none of the stolen horses had turned up in Salsola. The horses were being led away from the area and they weren't being taken in the direction of Salsola.

While she had been out exploring there was a very faint scent that she had caught. It was an old one but had succeeded to lodge itself in her nostrils and niggled at the back of her mind. She knew it but she was having trouble placing it. It bothered her that she couldn't come up with just why she should know it but it had prompted her to seek out her sister. She didn't have the fountains of concrete information that she would usually present to the Boss but she had enough to make a report.

It was while on her way back into the heart of Salsola that she had finally placed the scent and it sent her running. She didn't bother to stop by the ruins of the castle in order to lose her dress in the guise of Cesario but headed directly for Salvia's own abode. She burst through the door of the home in a way that was completely unlike herself. "It's them! They are back!" The words were gasped out as Arte bent double in a rare display of weakness. She had burnt through her limited reserves in order to make good time in reaching Salvia when the realization had hit her. She knew that scent because her father's body had stank of it.

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#2
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They have ta be coming from somewhere, Stannis was telling her, looking over a crude map of the area. Since recovered from his injury and eager to make use of his talents, the wolfdog's face was constricted in deep thought.

Salvia was watching him work when she supposed she ought to be looking at the work itself. She had missed him more than she would admit, but in truth was more silver had come to his face and his hair since then. Aging was unavoidable – her hair and her face seemed to lighten with each passing season.

Here, her husband indicated an area with one of his fingers, and then several others. Or one of these would be my guess. They'll need somewhere ta hide the horses, and somewhere ta hunt.

The south is abandoned, Salvia commented.

Aye, but if I was hidin' out I'd go where people wouldn't look.

She opened her mouth to say something else when their front door slammed open. Startled, the Boss and Henchman jumped – both bristling, Salvia's claws extending while Stannis snarled with a ferocity often unfound in him – until they recognized the strange figure who had entered.

Salvia flexed her fingers, and hurried towards her sister.

Now? Breathe, she insisted. Fears of being under attack abaited – Artemisia would certainly have called for aid if raiders had been at their keep – but agitation bled through her stance. Come sit down, tell me what you're talking about.


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#3
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Listen to many, speak to few


Arte gulped in a few lungfuls of breath before she was able to right herself once more. She didn't parade the fact that she fatigued easily but it was obvious now. Just a short sprint from the borders to Salvia's home had completely winded her. But then she had gave her all to make the trip as speedy as possible and hadn't held anything back. "I've been out looking, watching, investigating." She said once she had breath enough in her body to speak properly once more. Of course that wouldn't really be news for that was something Arte would do when she knew something was amiss. She would always get to the bottom of the issue and find out just what was going on. So of course it was expected that Arte would be making her own inquiries into what was happening without having to be directed to do so.

"I was out with the herds and sniffing around. There are horses missing but the scents don't come this way. I don't know where they went. I lost them when they hit the river." It was a failing she didn't particularly like to admit but she wasn't about to leave out any details to her report. "There was a scent with the horses but it was so faint I almost missed it." Again there was another display of weakness, something she was showing more and more of with this venture. "I couldn't place it at first but I know what it is now. It is them. The ones that killed Father. They have come back. I'm sure of it." She had no evidence past a faded scent that could be easily missed if it wasn't being looked for.

"I can't prove it yet but I know it is them." She stared directly into Salvia's face, urging her sister to believe her. Arte wasn't prone to making up fanciful stories but she also didn't spout things off when she didn't have a shred of evidence either. The reminder of what had happened to their father had shaken her and not acting as herself. Normally she would have done more research into the subject but this time she had failed to do so in her haste to inform her sister of her discovery. Given what had happened the last time this lot had been around she figured she would be forgiven her impertinence.

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#4
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Sometimes, Salvia thought that there was something wrong with her younger siblings. Ataxia had often been stricken by illness, and Shibboleth had died from it. Artemisia, the largest and presumably most healthy of this lot, had long suffered from too-easy exhaustion and injury. It was an unfortunate fate, Salvia thought, to be imperfect.

She made a small gesture to Stannis, who left his papers and went into the kitchen. While he dug around for a bowl, the Boss sat and listened to Artemisia's almost frantic words. Tracking their enemies was not unheard, especially when she so regularly worked outside of the borders, but it rang of recklessness to Salvia.

Her face, open and curious, changed the moment Artemisia spoke of their father. It turned glacial and stiff. Even her posture adjusted – like she was closing herself off – and her jaw clenched.

Echoes of a dream returned to her, and a strange sensation filled her gut.

It's been years, she muttered, and one of her hands rose to absentmindedly trace the scar on her chest.

Stannis returned and offered a bowl of cold water to Artemisia before settling back to where he had been before.

You think these people are the same? We have so many enemies, Salvia mused, but did not sound perturbed by this. It made sense to her that those envious and too weak to accept their ways would wish to cast them in vile light.


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#5
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Listen to many, speak to few


Arte took the bowl when it was brought to her. "Thank you." Slowly she lapped at the water, drinking it carefully. She studied her sister over the rim of the bowl and couldn't help noting how her entire demeanor had changed at the mention of their father. Arte had used to think that Larkspur's death had never bothered Salvia with how easily her sister had seemed to move past it. Arte had went into mourning and when she came out she had rarely spoken of their father again.

"No. I know. I will prove it to you." Arte worked off of facts, not hunches but this was something she was unable to bring proof for and so made it seem more like an emotional reaction rather than a rational one. "I know what I smelled Salvia. It was the same smell on Father. I know it is." She finished off the bowl of water before she continued, more composed now than when she had first arrived. "Who else would be foolish enough to steal marked horses? They are taking back what had been theirs. They can't be all the same but I know it is them." They had been defeated before and those of their numbers had been killed. Of course they had to flee to regroup and find more.

"Don't you think that if it was someone already in the area that they would have attacked before now? They could have used the confusion of the Red Star as a cover to do damage. Why wait until now when everything has settled?" Or perhaps Arte was giving their enemies too much credit in thinking that they would be smart enough to pick a time that would have been most advantageous. The large woman often forgot that not everyone thought through every possible conclusion in order to pick out the best one.

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#6
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The truth was, Larkspur's death had been the catalyst for every step Salvia had taken since then. She had lost something of irreplaceable worth. Her mother had been broken, her home overturned, and when she could not take control of this as she so desperately hoped to do, Salvia instead seized power in any way she could.

By the time it was thrust upon her, she had been well-prepared for the position. It was what allowed her to succeed, for Salsola to flourish, and for all which had come with it. Her Family endured, her own bloodline lived on, and those she could save – those worthy of saving – were given all the opportunities and discipline needed to ensure this. She had watched her siblings grow up and have children. Her children had produced children.

And sometimes, people came back from the dead.

Her father never would, though. Siv Helsi had sent him and his slave-woman to her warrior's paradise, burnt him the way the wolves of Khalif had wanted to burn him when he was alive. This was how the dead deserved to be sent off. It ensured that they did not rot in an earth which left behind bones...or whatever else, she supposed, might be found.

Salvia did not remember what those men had smelt like. She had been drowning in fresh air, bleeding out from a wound which nearly took her life, her ears full of the fury of a man dying while his son was stolen from his home and his daughter perilously injured.

Even now it woke stale, old memories that darkened her vision.

I think many people are fools, Salvia practically growled. Her husband stiffened at the sound, but did not interrupt. We should not discount all of our options, Artemisia. The Five came from far away – and yes, others have come further, she shook her head a little, frowning. We don't know enough, and that's the problem.


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#7
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Listen to many, speak to few


"But I am not among them." It wasn't a question but a statement. Arte knew her value and worth and wasn't about to undersell herself. She didn't expect Salvia to dispute the fact either. She was no fool and had proved herself on that front time and again. There was no way that Salvia could count her among those that she considered to be fools even if she didn't have proof on hand for the accusation that she had made.

"I am not discounting anything. There is a possibility that another group could be working in tandem but I know what I know what I had smelled." The large woman was willing to make a concession that perhaps there might be more around, perhaps there was even someone else doing the attacking itself, but she knew what she had smelled out among the Bay horses. Perhaps those of Boreas had only come to reclaim their horses and weren't behind the attacks.

"Then we will find more information." Arte spoke in a determined voice. She placed the bowl down so that she could fold her arms across her chest. "We can catch one in the act and question them. If they have come to steal once and got away with it then they are likely to do so again." Or at least Arte was assuming that they would continue to press their luck so long as they were able to. "Just at least keep in mind the possibility of them having come back to finish what they had started. They set out to destroy us and if we aren't vigilant then they might succeed yet." Arte had no idea if that was what they were truly after or not. She had no idea why they had been attacked the first time years ago or what would bring them back to do so again, should it really be them to have returned.

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#8
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Salvia nodded, confirming her sister's words. There was a reason Artemisia succeeded in her rank and Jobs – she was highly intelligent, and scholarly in ways that had her often working with the Lord Commander. Facts and figures were things that the Boss did not always handle until they had already been looked over; she was more interested in solutions than the problems presented, with her subordinates sorting through options and presenting them to her.

Do what you think is best, the Boss suggested. She valued her sister's opinion and believed she would find an answer one way or another.

We've remained on guard since the attack on our people, she looked to Stannis, whose brow had knitted together. He had been wounded in the attack, after all, and resented the idea of enemies assuming they had any power to intimidate Salsolan members. He took the bowl and left the two women to talk, lingering in the kitchen.

Patrols will increase, and we will keep our eyes and ears open. If this is Boreas, they will be looking for coyotes – but they know where we live, and may watch for anyone who leaves our lands. If you find anything more, inform me.


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#9
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Listen to many, speak to few


Artemisia didn't doubt her sister's sincerity when she was told to do what she thought was best. She didn't doubt that her sister had faith in her. After all she had proven herself time and time again. Arte could be trusted to gather the required information and then some. When she would return it would be with a full report detailing exactly what she had spoken of plus whatever extra information that she could dig up. One way or another she was determined to prove that the Boreas wolves had returned to their lands.

"You know that I will." There was to be no doubt about that. "I will show you that the Boreas wolves are stealing the horses. They might not be attacking us but I know they have been out with the horses." That was where she had smelled them, among the Bay herds, though she hadn't picked up the scent near to Salsola so far. "They have at least come back for the horses if nothing else."

Not bothering to wait for a dismissal Arte turned back towards the door. "I will return with proof just as soon as I get it." The promise was made before she opened the door and exited. She didn't know exactly where to find proof but she figured it best to at least head back to where she had found the first signs which had sent her running, for her to look back among the herds to see if anything might have been left behind, anything other than the stale scent that she had stumbled across. Surely there had to have been something else left behind. Or something else to be left behind from whatever future attempts might be made. With that thought in made she made a return towards the borders, though she didn't move with the haste she had shown to reach Salvia.

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#10
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Like the whirlwind entrance she had made, Artemisia was gone. She had never seemed this perturbed to Salvia before, even when her mateship had fallen apart, even when that man who had touched her had dared return...

Do you tink she's right? Stannis asked, returning from the kitchen. He took a seat close to her, looking concerned.

Salvia thought he must have seen her reaction. It had been a long time since she had thought of Boreas. The memories were hazy – much of her time had been spent drugged, recovering from her injury – but those which were not had long been repressed alongside others. She broke things down and put aside those which built bad feelings within her, threatening to destroy the calm which had once again settled into her life.

She did not call it peace. There was never true peace in the world – it was one of conflict, and death, and violence.

Her father's death was the greatest of these losses, and now, with Artemsia's claim, she thought about what the dream-vision of him had said. She thought about all the other times that black language had crossed her lips, and about the cannibal god of the D'Angelo line and his endless hunger.

We'll know soon enough, she muttered, and reached out for her husband's hand. Their fingers laced together, and she was reminded of how perfectly he fit with her.

What should I do? Stannis asked, direct and forward as was his way.

For now, all we can do is wait. Keep thinking, she added, and smiled. How is that wound feeling?

Sore as shoite, he scoffed.

Maybe we should take a break.

Her tone pricked his ears, and his tail gave a singular, hopeful wag.

They left the paperwork behind and retreated to the bedroom, escaping – for a time – the weight of the world outside.


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