Magic practice had left Xavier feeling rather tired today. They were making progress on undoing the damage that the Courdonians had done to his innate abilities, but it was nearly as exhausting as the original conditioning had been - though it was far less painful, and Leif at least did not push him past what he could handle. Despite this, when Xavier got word that Ambrose wanted to speak with him, he didn't hesitate to head over to Stallion Manor. He wasn't too tired to help a friend - though the message had not said what Ambrose wanted.
He let the servants at Marson Manor know where he was going in case anyone wanted to find him, and then set out for Stallion Manor. Ambrose was waiting for him when he arrived. Xavier smiled warmly when he saw him. "Ambrose, it's good to see you," he said. "You wanted to talk to me about something?"
"Xavier, hello. It's good to see you too," Ambrose smiled back at the young man when he opened the door for him, however he could not hide the slight fear in his eyes. "I did want to talk to you. Rather, I need your help with something. I don't know if Elin has mentioned this to you but there's been talk at the Keep about a new piece of legislation concerning..."
He sighed. While waiting, he had been wondering how exactly to explain to Xavier and, more important, ask him the question that he needed answered. In the end, Ambrose had concluded there was no good way to say it. However he phrased it, he would still be prying into something that he was sure Xavier wanted to leave far behind. It was for the best, he knew that in doing so both of them would be helping many people, now and in the future. But even to Ambrose, the thought of all those hypothetical people's happiness did not mean as much as the sadness of his friend right in front of him.
Nevertheless, he had already asked Xavier to come all this way. Might as well reveal to him why he had.
"We've been thinking about how to provide extra help for slaves escaping from Courdon into Kyth, and cover any legal issues which have not been covered by the treaty we already have in place," Ambrose finally said, trying to sound as neutral and calm as he could. Like adoption into a noble house, he thought to himself, but he did not want to bog Xavier down with the details, or put him on the spot. "Of course, none of us have the...experience with it. We don't really know exactly what is necessary to be covered. The only person, that I know of at least, who does is you. So I wanted to ask you about...about your experiences."
He lowered his eyes, remorse crossing his face. "I am sorry I did not mention this in the message, I wanted to ask you something this sensitive in person. But if you don't want to talk about it, I more than understand. I am not going to force you to recall something you probably don't even want to think about."
Ambrose reveals to Xavier why he asked him round: to ask him about his experiences as an escaped slave for some legislation they're writing up at the Keep. But he gives Xavier a chance to turn him down, since dredging up painful memories is not something Ambrose wants to do.
Last Edit: Sept 26, 2014 7:03:21 GMT -5 by Celestial
As Ambrose explained why he had wanted to see Xavier, the young man's eyes widened slightly and his smile faded. "I see," he said softly, his voice flat and neutral. Of course Ambrose knew about his background, but they had never discussed Xavier's past in any great detail; it was not a topic that Xavier liked to bring up, and Ambrose had never pressed the matter. But when Ambrose finished his explanation, dropping his gaze, there was only one potential answer in his mind.
"No, I'm... I'm glad you asked me," he said. "If I can help in any way on something like this... I-I'll do what I can. Though I'm not sure how much help I'll be..." He tried to smile, self-conscious. "I don't really have any experience running a kingdom, after all."
His eyes softened. "I've often wished there was more I could do with my position in House Jade," he added quietly. "We're... we're doing a lot of good for Kyth... but with Courdon... I understand why Lord Everett can't do more than he is already. Just turning a blind eye to escaped slaves, is... well, more than I expected. And that alone makes the Courdonians angry enough. So of course anything else... b-but it doesn't stop me wishing we could try."
Xavier stopped himself, shaking his head. "Sorry. What I mean to say is... yes, of course I'll help." He gave Ambrose a small smile, trying to meet his eyes. "I... don't mind answering your questions. I trust you, Ambrose."
Post by Celestial on Sept 28, 2014 11:34:25 GMT -5
A weight lifted off his shoulders when Xavier agreed to help and even seemed willing to help. Of course, this should have been no surprise to Ambrose. Xavier was very kind and selfless, to a flaw really, he would want to help other people like him.
Ambrose returned his smile. "I Thank you. I appreciate it, and I promise not to push too much. If there's something you don't want to say or don't want to remember, you don't have to talk about it. But you'll be a lot of help. Even knowing what one person went through will let us figure out what is necessary to address and what extra measures could be taken. Hopefully, it will help," he stepped aside, allowing Xavier to come into the Manor, and closed the door behind him when the young man had entered. "Follow me. If you're going to be here for a while, we probably should go somewhere where you can at least sit down."
He started upstairs and down one of the corridors to a room that Ambrose had asked the servants to prepare in advance. While his cabinet would have been good, it was too formal for his liking. He did not want Xavier to feel like he was being interrogated, far from it.
As they walked, Ambrose turned to Xavier, thinking about what the latter had said about House Jade and how they dealt with the situation. "Maybe this will give some power to Lord Everett to do more, if he will take it. To be honest, this whole law will probably make the Courdonians quite angry," he sighed, "But after what they tried to do, they have no right to complain and no right to force us to do otherwise. Everyone thought we might as well take advantage of it, though we have to be careful not to push it too far. But that's our problem, not yours."
He opened the door on a small, cosy sitting room with a fire burning in the grate. It was furnished with two soft sofas and a small table already set up with paper and a pen. Ambrose sat down beside the writing implements and waited for Xavier to take a seat before he picked up the pen, preparing to take notes. While he was confident he could remember what Xavier had said, notes would make it easier for the council to discuss later, and let him organise his thought process before he presented them with any ideas.
"There's no rush and as I said, don't talk about anything you don't want to remember. I'll try not to ask you anything particularly painful," Ambrose's pen hovered over the paper. "Just...tell me in general terms what happened when you escaped. Especially after you crossed over the border into Kyth."
Ambrose is grateful to Xavier for agreeing to do this and takes him somewhere where they can sit and talk, discussing the political implications of the proposed law in brief on the way. He then asks Xavier to recount what happened to him in general.
And how would you rate your running away experience? Is there something we can improve?
Xavier was silent for a moment, staring pensively down at the floor and remembering. Even after making it out of Duval's manor, he'd been full of such terror in the months before his arrival in Medieville, fully convinced that he'd be caught, that the slave-hunters were hot on his trail, that no one he met even in Kyth could be trusted. It was hard to put all that to words - how exhausting it had been, living in that state of sustained fear for so long.
"I don't think I realized right away when I crossed the border," he began slowly. "If there were patrols there, I avoided them just like I avoided the ones in Courdon. I didn't really figure it out until I started hearing people speaking Kythian. Even then, I didn't dare speak to anyone." He looked up at Ambrose. "You have to understand, in Courdon, even the lowest commoners... they'd be too scared to help a runaway. Or they'd be eager for a reward. And... it'd be obvious to anyone looking at me th-that my master was very powerful." He found that he was unconsciously clutching his right shoulder, over the brand hidden by his clothes. Duval's influence extended beyond the borders of Talvace; anyone would have recognized the mark.
"...I guess I didn't expect things to be much different in Kyth. We didn't know much about what Kyth was like, back in Talvace, except that we could be free there." He gave a small, sad smile. It was Muriel who'd told him about Kyth, that there was a land to the north where there weren't any slaves. Long before they'd ever conceived of escaping there. "I think some people in Corvus try to help, but I didn't know that. So I stole food... stole Kythian clothes so it wouldn't be so obvious where I'd come from. I was so... so scared of getting caught." His voice shook slightly, and he looked away.
"And I didn't really have any idea where I was going. If I hadn't found work in Medieville..." Xavier shrugged. "I don't know if I ever would've stopped running. Where didn't matter, as long as I got away." The relief, the terror, the hunger and exhaustion, and the grief and horror of Muriel's death always lingering in the back of his mind... it was all too easy to remember even now. Even in Kyth, Ilsa's inn had been the first safe place he'd had in his life, even if it took him a while to trust it.
He took notes as he listened to Xavier talk but Ambrose could not help looking up at Xavier occassionally. It was easy to see that remembering all this was painful for him and at points Ambrose even wondered if he should stop prying so deeply into Xavier's past. He knew that it would have been awful, escaping from Talvace, but he realised he had no idea how bad it would have been. The closest he had ever gotten to that sort of state, whether luckily or unluckily, had been seeing other people fleeing from...well, many things. But Ambrose himself was a noble and even a mad noble had no reason to ever be as afraid as an escaped slave.
He forced himself to focus, to save all the comfort and sympathy he wanted to give Xavier for after the young man had stopped talking and continued writing, scribbling down a few ideas that had presented themselves to him while he listened. Then, when that was finally done, Ambrose lifted up his pen from the paper and turned to his friend.
"But you got away. You're safe now. There is no way are you going back," Ambrose put his hand on the young man's shoulder. After the confrontation with Duval before and at the coronation, Xavier would know that, but he still felt like he should say it. A small smile appeared on his face. "You are very brave for running away like you did, Xavier. I hope you realise that."
He glanced back to his notes, reading over what he had written. Ambrose had to admit, he had hoped to learn more, but trying to get it out of Xavier, especially given how horrible the experience had to be for him, would have been cruel. Alain would not have hestiated, of course. Ambrose, on the other hand, could never bring himself to do that, not to anyone. Especially not somebody he cared about as much as Xavier. Nevertheless, he had asked Xavier out here for a reason. While Ambrose did not want to dig further, he still valued any opinion he could get.
"There is nothing we can do about Courdon, unfortunately, even if we could. But we are going to try doing something about the Kythian side of it," he moved his pen down to several sentances he had underlined. "I had a few thoughts listening to you about that. Firstly, we could try offering compensation to any people who get stolen from by desperate slaves. I imagine it might make people more eager to help. And secondly, if we made it harder for slave hunters to move about on Kythian lands, would that help?" he lowered his eyes as they darkened. "It would anger them for certain but...they take Kythian people too, even though that's illegal. We need to respond to that too."
At the feeling of Ambrose's hand on his shoulder, Xavier lifted his head and managed a weak smile at his friend. When Ambrose told him that he was brave for running away, though, the smile vanished, and Xavier's gaze dropped again.
"I'm not," he muttered. "Really, I'm not."
He was free now, but there'd been a price for that freedom, and he couldn't have made it alone--
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, Xavier turned his attention to Ambrose and the task at hand. That was something that he in no way wanted to relive just now, particularly considering that it would be of no help to Ambrose and the Council. When he looked back at Ambrose, meeting his eyes as he spoke, any signs of distress on the young man's face had been smoothed away - though perhaps he looked a little too calm.
In any case, it was a good distraction - thinking about what to do for others in the future, how to use his experiences to make it easier on those who came after him. He nodded slowly, considering what Ambrose had said. "Compensation would help," he said. "If people were willing to give supplies to runaways... though many escaped slaves would not trust anything offered directly. But - I remember once..." His eyes went distant as he remembered. "There was a bowl of food and some clean clothes left outside of a farmhouse. I thought I was just lucky. But that must have been close to the border... they must have known what they were doing." He smiled slightly. "You don't think there's any such thing as kindness at first. It's all just luck. But if more people did things like that..."
He found himself nodding emphatically at the suggestion that slavers could be limited in Kyth. "They move too freely as it is. We aren't-- slaves aren't the only ones they're a danger to." At the very least, from what Sieg Braham had told him, the knights of Nid'aigle would probably appreciate having that additional official authority behind them. Whether or not the Council could actually do something to reduce the raids, it would be worth trying.
Xavier sighed, his thoughts drifting. "It's... hard, though. I wish there were more direct things we could do... like safehouses, or escape routes. But they don't know much about Kyth, up in Courdon. They wouldn't know where to go, they wouldn't trust us, and a lot of them only speak Courdonian anyway..."
Xavier's a little uncomfortable at being called brave, but puts it out of his mind to help Ambrose brainstorm ways to help the escaped slaves. He thinks it's a good idea to encourage Kythian commoners to help, and to limit the movements of the slavers. He also wishes that there was more they could do, but isn't sure how to help the runaways when they're unlikely to trust anyone.
Watching the young man, Ambrose got the feeling that something was off. While he did not manage to catch a glimpse of Xavier's eyes before, the way he shook his head and the resulting blankness when he looked up were telling. Ambrose knew those motions. It was the expression of somebody who was trying to forget something very painful. However, it took him a moment before he silently chided himself. Of course Xavier would be trying to forget his experiences running away. Who would want to remember the details of something like that? Certainly not Ambrose, he understood wanting to forget things such as those very well. Deciding to let it go, he returned the smile, though his was a little broader and a lot more genuine.
"I still think you are. But that is merely my opinion," Ambrose shook his head and removed his hand from Xavier's shoulder and turned back to his notes. He listened to Xavier's experiences, nodding occassionally to show he was paying attention even if he was not looking in his direction. More scribbly notes appeared under his pen while other things got crossed out or rewritten. The compensation and the limitation of slave hunters in Kyth both recieved ticks as well as the latter acquiring a small comment about seeing what they could do with the Nid'aigle knights, whether they required or could provide help. Ambrose did not know much about them so the question would have to be posed to somebody who did.
Everything would have to be organised later before he presented this to Aldrich and the Council but that was a problem for another time. Right now it was important to get this down.
Ambrose stopped writing as Xavier's words drifted away and he sighed deeply. "I know. All the measures in the world are useless if people aren't aware about them. It's even more difficult if they speak Courdonian, not Kythian. There's also the problem of the rulers of Courdon itself, if we get too blatant about helping out escaped slaves, who knows what they will do? Even with King Rafe on the throne, who knows what he can do...or who will come after him?" he shuddered, remembering the vision of the younger and the older, wolfish men with King Rafe. He turned back to his paper, trying to put it out of his mind.
"We can only do things for the slaves already in Kyth, I'm afraid, and we cannot do much. It takes a very extrordinary person to be able to help everyone or change something so major. But the least we can do is help with small things. It's not a lot, I know, but it's one less worry for them," a little smile appeared on Ambrose's face. "Woo knows, to one person, it's the small kindnesses that matter the most. Or any kindness, especially if they haven't known any before."
He pondered the details of what Xavier told him some more. "I do wonder if there are places on the border which are more favourable for escape. Perhaps if people there knew more about the slaves, they might take more initiative to help on their own?" Ambrose suggested. "I doubt they would do much out of the goodness of their hearts, the people there would be struggling to look after themselves already, but if there is some compensation, perhaps they will."
Ambrose notices Xavier being uncomfortable but decides it is just a sign of him having to remember the escape in general. He continues writing down ideas before saying that they can't really do much, just small things. He then asks Xavier if there are places where more escaped slaves go to to cross the border and whether they can get the people there to help.
Xavier leaned forward, resting his chin on his hands. “There are places that are less likely to be guarded on the Courdonian side of the border,” he said. “Any slave would want to avoid the patrols, though I’m not sure I know enough about Courdonian troop movements to tell you where that would be. I guess his Majesty’s knights would know about that better than I would. But - well - even Kythian knights would scare them, but if aid came from the peasants themselves rather than anyone official…” He smiled ruefully. “That’s one of the problems, isn’t it? Anyone obviously working for the King - slaves wouldn’t trust them, even if they were trying to help.”
He narrowed his eyes, looking distant. “There’s the terrain, too. South of Kyth can be dangerous for people who don’t know their way. Wild animals, the swamps… I’ve heard terrible stories. I think the slaveowners encourage those kinds of stories, too, when they spread in Courdon. Of course the roads are safer, but I never dared use them, it was too risky.”
Xavier’s eyes squeezed shut. “I don’t know, Ambrose. I was so afraid… of everything, everyone. Even if we were able to offer more help in Kyth, I don’t know how much good could be done when they wouldn’t trust it.”
He’d come to trust Ilsa, though. It had taken him some time, but time and again the people of Kyth had shown their kindness toward him, and eventually he’d been able to accept it. “I… suppose… we’d just have to keep trying.” Xavier looked up with a small smile. “Like you did for me, until I finally believed that a lord of Kyth could genuinely be so kind.”
Xavier has some more ideas, though he feels overwhelmed when thinking of how untrusting the escaped slaves would be and how unwilling they'd be to accept any help. But he remembers how he himself slowly came to believe that people could help him, and figures all they can do is keep working at it. Just like a certain Stallion once did with him.
Ambrose stopping writing and placed a hand on Xavier's shoulder, trying to give him some measure of comfort in the face of the memories that were no doubt being dug up. However, before he could say anything, Xavier smiled at him. Ambrose's eyes acquired a look off surprise at his words could not help but smile back. He had known that their friendship meant a lot to Xavier, it was a mutual feeling after all, but he never thought that he had affected Xavier's views on the nobility with it too. Though of course, in hindsight, that was obvious. Courdon had a rigid class structure and it's nobles, especially Xavier's former master, were unsavoury to say the least. But, Ambrose thought, that surprise derived more from his own perception; the older man never saw himself as much of a Lord of Kyth.
"Well, I'm glad I did. Nobles are people too, we laugh and cry and despair and feel joy like everyone else. But that's irrelevant," Ambrose shook his head. "As much as I wish it sometimes, I can't help everyone and I know that far too well. we have to find other methods," he sighed, looking back at the paper with his writings, "I know this is a difficult task. Laws fail in their intent but giving up and doing nothing because of the possibility ofit not working is not any way forward either. You are right though, the least we can do is try. Because who knows, we might be able to help sombody. Even if it's just one person, that's not nothing."
He wrote a note to himself to consult the knights later about the troop movements of Courdonians, to see if there are potential points of entry for slaves on the border and where they are. A thought occured to him and he also made a small scribble about seeing what could be done by the knights to reduce the raids, such as tightening guard on the border, though this was irrelevant to the conversation at hand. Ambrose looked down sadly at his paper, absently hovering the pen's tip over where he had just stopped writing.
"The knights could be tasked to keep an eye out for any slaves they find, even if their help would not be trusted. Oh, if only there was some way we could let any escapees know that official help means them well but...that's impossible by the sounds of it. I don't blame them for being afraid, from what you tell me, an escape is a harrowing experience. But it sounds like to me that all we can really do is encourage unofficial help from the local peasantry while deterring Courdonian interference," he pinched the bridge of his nose, "It makes sense to stay offthe roads but there is nothing that can be done about the environment, I'm afraid. There are, or there will be anyway, methods for draining swamps, but that's out of the scope of this law, even if they existed and Lord Jade would allow it."
It would certainly be an interesting technical challenge, draining a swamp. If it did not exist already, he would have to rack his brain later for any methods he could think of or his visions had provided him, though it was unlikely he could come up with an invention on his own, let alone build it. For now, Ambrose needed to stay on task.
"Even if we implement all these things and they work, I doubt we'll see any effect on any escapees for a while, especially if what we do make more subtle changes. But," he turned to Xavier, "Rumours might eventually spread and rumours are powerful things. You must have found out about Kyth somehow, even in Talvace."
Ambrose is surprised to affected Xavier's view on nobility, which he really shouldn't be, and agrees that they should at least keep tyring. He considers more ideas while working out what they should do. No draining swamps, alas, at least, not yet but he considers looking into the problem. Then talks about ruours and indirectly asks Xavier how he heard about Kyth.
Xavier sighed. "Yes... there's no easy way to convince them we're trying to help. Only a fraction of escaped slaves would speak Kythian anyway, and it'd take time for them to believe that armored, armed people could be on their side. Sometimes I wonder if I'd even trusted Ilsa, if I'd met her sooner... I had already been in Kyth for several months by the time I got to Medieville, and I knew there was enough distance between me and the border by that point that she was unlikely to turn me in. She didn't even realize where I was from, not for a long time."
Ambrose mentioned rumors, and the memory sprang to mind unbidden of the stories Xavier and the other slaves had told each other of Kyth, back in Talvace. He smiled in spite of himself. "There are rumors, yes," he said. "I don't know if word of escaped slaves often gets back to the ones they left behind... I wouldn't know, anyway, none of Duval's slaves escaped and managed to evade capture in my memory." Though he had seen what had happened to those who were recaptured, not that it had been all that common - Xavier's smile faltered, and he swallowed hard, hurrying on to get that thought out of his mind. "But we did know about Kyth. I... heard of it even as a child. There was another slave..." He spoke slowly, choosing his words carefully, but also allowing himself to dwell on the memory. His memories of Muriel were bittersweet now, but they were all he had of her, and she'd been one of the only good things in his life in Talvace. "She'd tell me stories, secretly, when Duval and the overseers weren't around to hear. I've no doubt that she made most of them up, but they gave us hope."
He glanced at Ambrose, giving him a sad smile. "We weren't thinking of escaping back then, you realize. I don't think either of us were really thinking of Kyth as a real place back then. But even imagining that there was someplace out there without slavery, where Duval and others like him had no power... it kept us going."
There was a wistful tone to Xavier's voice as he remembered those nights, secretive conversations under cover of darkness. The way the two of them had giggled nervously together over the stories when they were small, too young to understand the danger, when keeping secrets from their master was just a game. He closed his eyes, shaking his head. "...I'm sorry, this probably isn't helpful. Aside from the fact that there's no slavery, there isn't much truth to the version of Kyth we told stories about. And I knew that... when I actually came here, I didn't expect the kind of paradise we'd invented back then. We could pretend, but I don't think any of us really knew how to comprehend a place that wasn't like Courdon."
Xavier slips into reminiscing about Muriel, though he doesn't mention her by name, and the stories they told about an idealized version of Kyth as a way to cope with slavery. Then he backpedals, apologizing, because slave stories of Kyth are so far removed from reality that they don't do much to actually prepare escapees for what they'll encounter.
"I see. That just makes things so much more difficult," Ambrose sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "We just keep coming back to the problem of trust. Especially if there's a language barrier, I don't see how it could be done, not without force. Which would actually make things worse. Most people aren't interested in turning in Courdonian slaves but of course, there's no way to explain to the slaves themselves. In my opinion, the most we can do is behind the scenes, since there's nothing to do be done for the escapees themselves, not without miraculously gaining their trust. And that could not happen."
He interrupted his train of thought and listened to Xavier, watching the young man carefully as he did so. The changes of his emotions registered in Ambrose's mind but what caught him off-balance was when Xavier began talking about the other slave. He had never mentioned anybody else...and from the way he seemed to be picking his words, it must have been a painful memory. Something Ambrose dared not imagine, nor was it is his place to. If Xavier did not want to speak about it, it was not his place to be prying. He should only ask as much as he needed.
"It's alright, Xavier, you tell me whatever you want. Who knows, it could be useful? And if not, well, it's nice to know what rumours there are floating around about Kyth in Courdon. That's what prompt people to run away, isn't it? The hope that the land up north will be better?" Ambrose gave him a little smile but then lowered his eyes. "It's not a paradise, far from it, and even up here there are people like Duval and the others. They are everywhere. But there's good people here too, as I'm sure you've found out. The reality in Kyth can never match stories, but I'm sure it's still better than what there is down in Courdon."
Ambrose looked over Xavier again. There was so much more he was not telling him, he could feel it. He didn't need to know that for his job, as far as he was concerned, Xavier had told him more than enough. But that did not mean that he still did not worry about the young man. Oh yes, Xavier was doing so much better, but the pain was still there, it was obvious on his face and body language. But even though he wanted to understand his friend's pain, Ambrose did not feel comfortable asking unless Xavier told him first. However, he knew it would take some time.
"It is better," Xavier said, and his smile as he looked up at Ambrose was genuine. "And I want more slaves from Courdon to be able to find that out." Inwardly, he shook himself; the circumstances of his escape still haunted him, but there were pieces of that experience that could be useful for others in his situation. There was no good reason to keep quiet about it. He took a deep breath, meeting Ambrose's eyes. "What else would be helpful for you to know?"
Their conversation continued late into the evening. It was not an easy topic, but Xavier always found Ambrose easy to talk to, and the Stallion never pushed for more than Xavier was willing to share. At times Xavier lapsed into silence, his eyes distant, but he nearly always managed to shake himself out of it after a couple of minutes. He didn’t want to let himself linger on topics that weren’t important to the matter at hand.
It was growing late, though, and Xavier was getting tired. The fact that the furniture at Stallion Manor was very comfortable didn't help matters. Xavier managed to keep his eyes open, but when Ambrose got up to speak with a couple of the servants, Xavier was unable to fight it off any longer, and drifted off to sleep.
Ambrose didn't wake him, but covered him with a blanket and let him be. Xavier slept peacefully at first, completely quiet and still, but after a while he began twitching in his sleep, making small noises. He did not often dream of Talvace these days, but his conversation with Ambrose had stirred up memories he hadn’t thought about in a very long time. As he slept, he was back in Courdon, and everything he pushed out of his mind during the day caught up with him.
At first he only whimpered faintly, curling up under the blanket Ambrose had left for him, but soon he was shaking, and there were words in his whimpers of fear. “No, no, no… please... enki--” Xavier’s entire body shuddered and he lapsed into Low Courdonian, gasping out a few broken, indistinct phrases, and the word enki that he kept repeating, his distress rising considerably when he did.
He clawed at the blanket, tangling himself in it as he tossed and turned. Trapped in the throes of his nightmare, Xavier did not wake. He choked back a sob in his sleep, his jaw clenched, and clutched at the blanket with shaking hands. “...Muriel…”
Eventually Xavier drifts off to sleep, and all the painful memories brought up by his talk with Ambrose wind up triggering a nightmare. He's in visible distress as he relives some horrible experiences in his sleep.
The corridor outside the room where Xavier had fallen asleep was empty. Most of the servants had gone to bed, with a few night owls staying up to get on with tasks they had either neglected during the day or needed to have done by the morning. Ambrose had left Xavier to sleep and had retired to the privacy of his workshop. It was along this empty corridor that Nutmeg, the stray dog that the Stallions had taken in, paced, searching for a comfortable place to sleep that night. Perhaps she could go to Kirin's room, if he was even in his room. Or Ambrose's. His room was warm and he was always nice to her, petting her and scratching her behind the ear as she fell asleep.
Her ears pricked up as she heard the whimpering and unfamiliar words coming from one of the rooms. Nutmeg immediately stopped and ran up to the door from which the sounds were emenating. She knew that voice! Xavier, Ambrose's friend, who he had been talking to the whole day. She liked him, he was nice, though always a little sad. But he was Ambrose's friend and he sounded distressed...
She barked and scratched at the door, trying to push it open to see if it would open but the door was firmly closed. Nutmeg grew more frantic as the sounds did not decrease, far from it. But she could not help him, not on her own, not with this accursed door in the way!
Ambrose could, however. If Xavier was his friend, he would want to know about him being scared and possibly in pain. She had to go get Ambrose! Nutmeg ran down the hallway, sniffing until she had picked up the scent of the older Stallion. The door was slightly ajar and faint candlelight spilled from the crack out into the corridor. Nutmeg pushed it open, slinking in once the door was wide enough for her, and barked loudly.
Ambrose looked up at the sound and smiled when he saw the dog. "Hello, Nutmeg," he reached out a hand to her. She enjoyed the stroking for a moment before she grabbed his sleeve in her jaws and tugged. Ambrose frowned. "Is something the matter?"
The dog kept tugging, pulling him towards the door. Ambrose looked down at her in confusion. Nutmeg had never done that before, and even though she was a stray dog, she was intelligent enough to know better. Something was definitely wrong.
He stood up and Nutmeg seemed to calm down a little, though she did not completely let go of him in case he decided that what she was doing was not urgent. Ambrose picked up the candlestick he had to light the way, which she seemed to allow him to do. Together, the two walked down the corridor, though Nutmeg at times seemed to be dragging Ambrose along. He was nowhere near as quick as her and almost tripped over himself catching up.
Soon, however, as she steered him towards a certain door, Ambrose heard faint sounds which he pinned down immediately as Xavier's voice. But Xavier was supposed to be sleeping. As he listened closer, however, he realised he did not recognise the words that were coming out. Courdonian? But why would Xavier have lapsed into Courdonian. His heart began hammering. If this was what Nutmeg wanted to warn him about...Ambrose opened the door and stepped inside, holding the candlestick up to illuminate the room.
Xavier was indeed still asleep but there was a sheen on his forehead and the distressed tone in his voice was all the more apparent. He must have been having a nightmare and the Courdonian...a chill went up Ambrose's spine. A nightmare about his life in Courdon, no doubt. He should not have bothered Xavier with all those questions, it was wrong of him to keep prying and bringing all those nasty memories to light.
Ambrose placed the candlestick down on a table beside where Xavier lay and kneeled down, his heart clenching at the sight of his friend's distress. He placed a hand on Xavier's shoulder and shook him gently but that had no effect. Nutmeg too, was whimpering and shoving her wet nose into the palm of Xavier's hand, prodding him to try to get him to wake up, just as she would have done for Ambrose and his visions.
"Xavier?" Ambrose raised his voice a little and gave him another shake, this time with both his hands. "Wake up! It's just a nightmare. Please, wake up!"
Xavier didn't wake immediately. For a moment, confusingly, he was caught between dream and reality; he didn't recognize who was shaking him and curled into a ball, crying out a plaintive, broken phrase in Courdonian. But more of reality began to sink into his terrified mind, both Ambrose's voice and the sound of an animal nearby - a dog? That didn't fit with the memory of Talvace, and the voice was speaking Kythian...
Slowly Xavier uncurled enough to show his face, looking up at Ambrose with his green eyes wide and terrified and, initially, uncomprehending. Fortunately the lack of recognition in his expression only lasted a few seconds, and as realization dawned he lifted his head a little more. "A... Ambrose...?"
Ambrose. Stallion Manor. And the dog, the Stallions' dog, Nutmeg... she was nosing him, making the worried sounds he'd heard.
Xavier's body had become rigid, and it was almost painful as he started relaxing again, little by little as a sense of safety returned to him. He found he couldn't bear Ambrose's worried gaze and looked at Nutmeg instead, reaching out a shaky hand to touch her head. She was reassuringly warm and solid and soft, helping further to dispel the notion that this wasn't real. He was in Kyth, he was safe.
Her image blurred and shifted as tears started filling Xavier's eyes. He squeezed his eyes shut and turned away, little tremors shaking his body. He wanted to look up and apologize to Ambrose for disturbing him, but he didn't have the strength just yet, and all Xavier could do was cry in mingled relief and anguish, silent sobs shaking his shoulders. He knew where he was, knew he was miles and years removed from the events of his dreams, but suddenly the memory of Muriel was as vivid as if she'd died yesterday. He could hardly bear it.