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Co-written with @Edgy Erwyn, @Luftwaffles, @Mardox, @BlondyMcHuggles and @PrinceOfHeaven

Let's Hit the Road!

"Hey, elf, what are you reading?" Ceara smiled crookedly, switching her tone to a snobbish slur. "That better be a classic Aesernian piece. Anything else is simply drivel, I say. The common mob is so fickle, chasing trends rather than proper literature! You and I, we understand."

Sorano slowly looked over with perhaps the driest and most bored expression a mortal being could muster. Besides the Order wagon, the ginger devil was riding along on her mare, staring over his shoulder and at the pages of his book. "Do you even read, vulture?" he asked, contempt oozing from his lips as he spoke. "You think I don't know the sound of insincerity?"

The thief rolled her eyes, turning her attention towards the armoured figure that rode at the head of their mismatched procession. “Oh, grand old master Lucy, good ser!” She clutched her hands to her chest, sobbing dramatically. “My honour as a fair maiden has been questioned! Won’t you raise a noble hand to strike the perpetrator down?”

Lucian remained silent, listening to the steady rhythm of hooves on snow, twigs, and dead leaves. Sorano replied with a wry chuckle. "Were 'honour,' 'fair,' and 'maiden' apt descriptors for you I'm certain the man would not hesitate. It appears I'm in luck, for it's just you.

"Come now, Sorano, have a bit more respect. She doesn't look ugly at all," said Kinara. She tried to maintain a smile, but occasionally stole a fearful glance at Nima, clearly uncomfortable with the easterner's presence. Still, she tried to keep her attention on the thief.

Ceara nodded to the Samothauress, bobbing her head with gratitude. “Thank you! I'm glad to see your order has some true knights in it.” She cocked her head, shifting in the saddle as she addressed Kinara. “Everyone I meet seems to call me a whore. It pains me. Relatable?”

Sorano's eyes narrowed, and his lips curled into a startlingly menacing frown as Kinara tilted her head quizzically and smiled innocently, unknowingly. "What do you mean by that?" she inquired. Lucian's head slightly rotated towards Ceara, subtly enough to not be noticed, but now his attention was honed in on what she said next.

The redheaded thief raised her eyebrows. “Has anyone ever called you a harlot? I think men tend to say it to me because they’re threatened by my sharp wit and high functioning intelligence.”

Kinara's smile was nigh-instantly replaced with a shocked, deeply insulted look. She wasn't sure how to reply to the thief, stumbling over her words. Well, not until just now, she thought. She didn't think of herself as a harlot, anyway...

Sensing the Samothauress's discomfort, Erika intervened. "It was a joke, Kinara. When Ceara and I met, she saved me the trouble of calling her a floozy by being kind enough to do it herself." She said cheerfully. "I'm sure she didn't mean any real offence."

Kinara nodded uncomfortably, looking away from Ceara and the others, staring down at her hooves. "...I'm not a whore," she murmured weakly.

Lucian looked fully over his shoulder, first at Ceara, then Erika, then to Kinara. She wasn't normally like this, and it was becoming troubling. No doubt old wounds had been pried open by the slave-soldier's presence. As much as he sympathized, he knew she was going to have to adapt eventually or she would be a liability, as Herbert complained. "Ceara, lay off," he demanded, turning back to the thief. To Erika he nodded and said, "I understand, but you must know that there are matters that Apostle Kinara is deeply uncomfortable discussing in such company." He punctuated his reply by jabbing his shoulder in Nima's direction, gesturing to him for Erika.

Erika gave a polite nod towards Lucian, but her smile seemed somewhat strained now. Meanwhile, Herbert made a faint "Hmmpf" sound that was likely drowned out by the horses' hooves long before reaching the Grandmaster. His expression as he looked Lucian in the eye, however, seemed to convey quite well that he was unimpressed by the explanation.

Nima looked on as the rest of the party quieted. His expression was hidden underneath the curtain of mail that fell over his face, but his gaze seemed to be directed towards Ceara, who appeared uncomfortable at the reaction to her joke.

Sorano leaned forwards, taking Kinara's hands into his own as he looked upon her empathetically. More impressively, he didn't blurt out a better explanation on her and Lucian's behalf. Instead he calmly and politely asked her, "Are you comfortable explaining to them what happened those years ago?"

The Samothauress considered silently before calmly shaking her head. "Perhaps at a later time. I'm sorry, I'd just like some time to adjust to all of this. Gather my thoughts."

"That's quite alright. Shall we discuss lighter, lovelier things?" Lucian suggested, turning his eyes back towards the road. "I suspect we'll be a while before arrival in Viarosa, I suppose we might as well get to know each other better. Things we may like to do, songs we might love to sing?"

The bard Mostafa almost instinctively clutched his lute, ready to go on cue. Sorano chuckled and suggested, "I once played this game with some Bryonic fellows while investigating this old stone calendar circle in the north of the Isles. They had a penchant for asking each other strange, personal, but charming questions as a sort of game to pass the time. Now while I would say we don't start deliberately poking at old wounds, it should be captivating enough."

"Was it Firinne?" asked Mostafa.

"I don't rightly remember trying to figure out truth from lie, but we could play that."

“Mostafa had it right, it’s called Fírinne.” Ceara replied, sounding distinctly subdued. “It’s from Cairnleath, though. I suppose it's fallen south, but I didn't expect you all... Well, that matters not. Does everyone know how to play?”

"To an extent," Sorano replied. "You tell a truth or a deception to someone, and they must work out whether what you told them was factual or fabricated. If in groups, whomever is not sharing will vote their piece on the status of the speaker's fact. Am I correct?"

“What?” Ceara furrowed her brow, trying to understand the scholarly language. “Uh, sure.” Nima spoke up, his rasping tone joining the air for the first time. “He knows how to play.” Ceara nodded, smiling unsurely. “Right. Who will go first, then?”

Athaliah looked around at the people in the group, waiting for just one to volunteer. When nobody did, she let out a sigh. “I guess it’s me, then.” She paused for a few seconds to think of something to say. “Uh… I’m really good at ballroom dancing.”

Herbert stroked his chin before answering. "I'm going to guess that that's a lie." Ballroom dancing didn't seem like it would be a big thing in a small town like Hoffen and Athaliah hadn't even owned a dress before the Feast. It just didn't make sense for her to be skilled at ballroom dancing.

Erika on the other hand spoke a different answer. "I think it's the truth." She said. "Can't really say for certain though since the Feast didn't have any dancing." Unlike Herbert, she hadn't known that Athaliah's dress for the Feast was brand-new.

Ceara tapped her thigh. “I’m with Herbie. Lie. I’ve never seen any ballrooms in Hoffen.”

"I'm fairly certain there aren't any," began Erwyn, cocking his head towards Athaliah. "But you're not from Hoffen originally, are you? 'Athaliah Priscou' is hardly an Asmeiner name, after all - Foverósi, perhaps? I'm inclined to believe you could've learned before you moved. Truth."

"Lie. You wouldn't have had the time to master ballroom dancing. And if you're Foverosi as your surname implies, the Foverosi do not dance in the style associated with the Narbosi or Aquilanians," Sorano replied. "

"Ah, it could be true!" Lucian said with a hearty chuckle, "Everyone has hobbies of some sort. Perhaps she and a friend practiced the art from time to time in the local tavern." He turned to look over his shoulder at the Samothauress behind him. "What of you, Kina? Your thoughts on the matter?"

Kinara looked up and smiled faintly, "I think she's telling the truth. She has the grace for it, anyway. Even if she's lying, I'm certain you or Sorano could teach her and she'd learn swiftly."

Sorano snickered, rolling his eyes with what appeared to be an actual smile. "Perhaps," said Lucian, "Though it depends on whether she is being honest about her talent."

"You are, I trust, aware," Erwyn interjected, shooting a disparaging glance at the insufferably arrogant elf, "that 'ballroom dancing' is a rather broad category, encompassing far more than just the Narbosi and Aquilanian styles? And that thus your logic is incredibly flawed?"

"Please, everything about Asmeinland from its culture to its government is just Oslandics attempting to emulate the Southern Kingdoms. Then they wonder why the Oslandics despise them for claiming to have a superior, better refined way of life," Sorano retorted. "The Narbosi and Aquilanian styles of ballroom dancing were among the first to popularize the dance. Tarraconian, Gelidian, Asmeinlandic, Bryonic, all the rest of them, they all sprang from those two. I'm saying that the Illyricans and the Foverosi are more foreign to the Narbosi tradition than are the Asmeinlanders and Aesernians, as historical precedence indicates, and thus their forms of dance differ from ours."

With the long-winded tirade over, Lucian raised a hand to silence Sorano, giving him a cautious glance. "I think perhaps it is best that Lady Priscou clarify for us if she was lying or speaking truthfully, lest this devolve into petty argumentation."

"...that and I would very much like to go next if it is all the same to you folks."

Athaliah glanced at each person in the group who answered. “I was lying,” she replied with a little smile. “I mean, I did a bit of it as a child before my family left Foverós, but I’m not very good at it.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“Oh well.” Rhiara said, breaking her long silence. “You’re good at other kinds of dancing.”
“I guess so. So it’s Lucian’s turn now?”

Sorano gave a vindicated smirk towards Erwyn as Lucian mulled over his options. "Aye, it is," he mumbled, scratching his stubbly chin. "I'm fully literate and fluent in Common, Narbosi, and High Aesernian, and I record my travels in narrative journals, much like our good fellow Bjorn has done."

"Cela ne devrait pas être difficile à vérifier," replied Erwyn in perfectly accented Narbosi. "Praeter diarium, utique," he continued, now switching to the High Aesernian tongue that Lucian had also claimed knowledge of. The vampire watched the holy knight carefully, looking for the trace of confusion on his face that would signal a lie.

Erika gave the holy man a brief look and spoke. "I believe it." Meanwhile, Herbert studied the Grandmaster for a short while longer before speaking. "I think it's true." It seemed in character for the man, so why not?

"Ton Narbosien, estais fals. Ou, au leau, cels est solement del reiuns su. La langue propre de clergié et nobilite, cels est del reiuns et citez nort," Lucian replied to Erwyn, speaking quickly, fluently, and matter-of-factly in a thick yet proper Capital Narbosi accent. Then it became a perfect Aesernian accent as he continued. "Scio. Linguae Narbonis et Aesernae studēbam. Ita vero! Veritas dīxī." He chuckled and waved his hand dismissively, "The journals are off limits however. Firstly, they are private, secondly, they are unfinished, and I would rather complete them before publishing. If I decide to publish that is. So whose turn is it?"

Erwyn smiled. "Tu as raison, j'ai étudié en Asselineau, et en Mesny pour un peu. But anyway, I suppose I shall go next." He paused, deep in thought for a moment. "Hmmm... I was the Sheikh of Ciprius for about a week."

Nima’s mail shifted as his head turned towards the Asmeinlander Count. “True.” Ceara glanced backwards at her armoured friend, raising an eyebrow. “I thought you hated this game? Ah, whatever. Its obviously a lie, nobody can just become the Sheikh of Ciprius.”

Herbert snorted. "Yes, and I was the Emperor of Aesernia for a day. I highly doubt you were Sheikh of Ciprius." Erika nodded in agreement. "While it sounds a bit like something that might have happened due to you specifying how long, I'm going to have to say false."

Sorano chuckled and shook his head, "The marvelous bastard's immortal, and with all of the other titles you have acquired and with how spastic feudal borders happen to be, I'm going to say true. As for holding it for a week, whomever you usurped the Sheikhdom from likely returned in force to take it back."

"You're right, it's true," replied the vampire. "I may have... dumped the old Sheikh in the desert for a while, and used a little bit of magic to take his place. It was fun while it lasted, but by the time he found his way back I was getting rather tired of the incessant bloody sun anyway, so I was all too glad to head back home." Suddenly, the gut-wrenching sounds of a desperate scream in the distance shot through the moonlit forest, muffled by the dense mass of pines and concealed by the brisk winter wind until it finally petered out, unheard but for its origin. Almost. A mile away, seated on his black destrier as it slowly walked through the trees, one person was listening, his ears pricking up at the distant sound, ignoring the progress of the game he and his companions had been playing. Erwyn Kásimir Hendryk Szilveszter, Graaf van Amstetten-Szatmár-Bereg, glanced around at his party. They showed no sign of having heard it - of course they hadn't; their senses were merely human, for the most part, and certainly none came close to those of an elder vampire. The Count sighed, and deftly dismounted, handing the reins of his horse to the closest of his soldiers. "Please do excuse me," he began, "but I must take a short walk."

Ceara rolled her eyes, cupping her hands and shouting after him. “Try not to become the King of Illyrica while you're out!"

Stalking off into the trees, Erwyn responded merely with a dismissive grunt and an impolite gesture; he no longer had time for petty banter. After a few steps, he faded into the inky darkness, a brief gust of air rustling the nearby leaves as he suddenly flitted away with the blinding speed only a vampire could attain.

Sprinting frantically through the trees of the forest, a young girl hopelessly tried to escape her fate. An assistant to her village’s only healer, she had come out into the forest in order to gather herbs and other supplies sorely needed to help treat a particularly nasty outbreak of disease amongst the villagers. She knew it was a mistake to come out here at such an hour. Now, with adrenaline coursing through her veins, the only thing on her mind was to run from the monster that was hunting her. She knew it was a vampire, and deep down she knew that she didn’t stand a chance against such a creature, but she was not willing to give up and surrender her life so easily. Unfortunately for her, however, it did not take long for the unholy creature of the night to catch up to her and tackle her to the ground. Time seemed to slow for the girl as she realised that this was the end for her. With the vampire now pinning her to the ground, she could see its face clearly for the first time. It was a woman, with ghostly blue eyes that were seemingly filled only with a predatory hunger and not a shred of humanity. Hidden beneath the veil of the vampire’s savagery, the woman actually appeared to be quite beautiful. But alas, all the girl could do now was plead for her life, to which the vampire quickly responded was a terrifying hiss. The pleas were ignored, and she tore into the unfortunate girl’s neck with her fangs, beginning to feed and eliciting another sickening, albeit short-lived, scream from her victim.

Nestled between the thick branches of a nearby conifer, Erwyn watched silently as the young vampire drank her fill, blood splattering over her face and clothes, and forming a growing scarlet pool on the forest floor, all accompanied by the sickening squelch of tearing flesh. He shook his head. Messy, he thought. This one has a lot to learn.

The girl had long since passed away as the vampire finished her meal. With her bloodlust finally sated, the vampire began to calm and regain her composure. Upon seeing what she had done, her mind immediately began to flashback to the Massacre of Asselineau Castle in which her own mother met the same fate at the hands of her daughter, an act that she has never forgiven herself for. Tears began to well up in her eyes, before she flashed back into reality and broke down. As she wept, her tears flooded down her pale cheeks as she closed the still wide eyes of the young woman she had just murdered, cursing herself all the while. She struggled to control her predatory instincts, and this girl was now just another name on the list of many innocent people she had unwillingly murdered in order to sustain herself, and this pained her greatly. The vampire then fell onto her back and stared up into the night sky, her lips still covered with the blood of her victim, where she simply lay still in contemplation and depression, unable to stem the flow of tears as they trickled onto the forest floor.

A twig snapped loudly under the sole of Erwyn's boot as he emerged from his hiding place, the sound made quite deliberately to announce his presence. Immediately, the young vampire shot up from the ground and drew her sword on Erwyn, her hand visibly shaking as she cleared the tears from her eyes so that she could see her new visitor clearly. “Who are you?” she asked, her voice shaky and nervous. “Has someone finally come to kill me?”

"My name is Erwyn," the Count began, taking a small step forward. "And you have nothing to fear from me; I would not so readily kill my own kind." He placed a pale hand on the end of her sword, gently pushing the icy blade away from him. "But if you cannot control your thirst, sooner or later someone will come for you; perhaps a man, perhaps an army, perhaps even a god. I would rather see you avoid such an end - it is not befitting one such as you or I."

The undead woman was not so quick to trust this mysterious Erwyn. “I already know people are coming for me. Do you know how many people I have killed? How could I not be hunted like the monster that I am with the trail of corpses that I leave behind?” The woman paused as she fought back her tears yet again, before raising her sword once more between the two. “We might share the gift of the Dark Lady, but how do I know that I can trust you? How do I know that they didn’t send a vampire to kill a vampire?”

"And what motive could I have? What could the nefarious 'they' have offered me in return for my services? Money? Power? Knowledge?" He shook his head. "All three I have accumulated in abundance in my eight centuries on this rock, and all three I could acquire in far greater quantities without the need to whore myself out as a murderer and a traitor." The Count pushed the sword aside once more. "I wish only to help you; you have my word."

The pair remained in complete silence, staring at one another whilst the young vampire processed the Count’s words, and decided whether or not she could trust him. “I do not know what you could have been offered; all I know is that there are a lot of people out there who want me dead, and most of which don’t even know my name. To them, I’m not a person. I’m nothing more than a monster that needs to put down, and maybe they are right…” The silence resumed for a moment, until it was broken when the woman lowered her guard and returned her sword to its sheath on her belt. “I need help. I will be honest and say that I still do not trust you, but I would be stupid to turn down such an offer given my present state, especially if you are as old as you say you are.” She let out a reluctant sigh as she continued to speak. “It has been far too long since I have said this to anyone, but my name is Élise d’Astier, and it is a pleasure to meet you, Erwyn. I just hope that my name does not sound familiar to you.”

Erwyn thought for a moment, trying to recall the name. "Perhaps it does," he began, slowly, "then again, perhaps it does not. Regardless, I do not think you are a monster, whatever deeds are in your past. It is likewise a pleasure to meet you, Élise."

“You may come to reconsider that stance, in time, but I suppose only one question remains,” Élise responded, “how are you going to help me? I cannot imagine that to be a simple task.”

"That will require no small amount of thought on my part," the Count replied. "But I am confident that there will be a way - multiple ways in all likelihood, be they through arcane or mundane means. Or, if certain other matters go to plan, I may just be able to call in a favour from our mutual friend."

“That wasn’t the most reassuring answer, but thank you. Thank you so much for giving me a chance!” The woman almost managed a smile, until she remembered the grisly scene behind her and her expression sunk. “So then, Erywn, what happens now? Where do we go from here?”

Erwyn smiled. "Back to my travelling companions. They're an odd bunch, but I'll make sure they don't give you any trouble." He gestured for the young vampire to follow, beginning to stroll back through the forest, before stopping abruptly. "Ah, one more thing, for the sake of giving fair warning. The 'certain other matters' I mentioned... well, to cut a long story short, I'm on a quest from Lilith to kill an elder dragon that wants to destroy the world. And has already murdered a dark god. Trivial business, really, just thought you ought to know. Anyway, shall we go?"

Élise quickly wiped both the blood and tears from her face and clothes to the best of her ability using a handkerchief from her pocket, before returning the smile. “I doubt being covered in blood would make the best first impression amongst your friends, but yes, let us go. This suicide mission of yours sounds like the perfect way for me to redeem myself in the eyes of the world.” She then caught up to the older vampire as he resumed his course. “You did mention the Dark Lady however… did she give you the Blood Kiss like she did with me? And what’s this about a god being murdered already?!”

"The Blood Kiss? Nothing quite so romantic, I'm afraid. Unless that's just an especially poetic name for some cunt jumping out at you and sinking their teeth into your throat." He chuckled. "Perhaps she hadn't quite perfected the technique back then." The Count's expression grew serious. "But yes, the dragon in question somehow slew Hargash not long ago, and according to Lilith he will not stop there. Even she will die if the beast is not brought down."

“What?!” Élise’s sudden outburst caught Erwyn off guard, her voice conveying a feeling of desperation. “We cannot let this happen!” Realising she had raised her voice, she calmed down and apologised. “I’m sorry, it’s just that… Lilith is very important to me, as you can probably tell. She gave me my gifts and the Blood Kiss, and I almost feel sorry for you for not getting to experience that yourself. But regardless, if Lilith were to die, I do not know what would happen to me… Nothing good, that is certain.”

The older vampire nodded slowly. "Glad you're in agreement."

The pair walked on for another few minutes, brushing aside the emerald pines that littered their path. Emerging into a clearing where Erwyn found that his party had made camp during his absence, the two vampires silently sidled over to the flickering campfire. "I'm back," the Count said, his voice cutting suddenly through the quiet conversations between the other adventurers. "And I brought a friend."

Sorano, ever the vigilant, turned first to find the bloodstained woman at Erwyn's side. Suspecting her to be a recently fed Vampire, he rose immediately and drew his knightly sword. His hand was stayed by the hand of his master, who gripped the elf's wrist and pulled it down. "Sheathe thy blade, lest you provoke an untimely battle," said Lucian. The Apostle hesitantly lowered his weapon and nodded to Lucian, putting the blade away.

To Erwyn and his new companion, Lucian turned with his hand on the hilt of his own weapon, not yet ready to draw, but prepared should either start a fight themselves. "Forgive my errant Apostle, Ser Erwyn. Though upon first glance, your blood-coated friend does not implicate a particularly positive impression. Nor does her abject lack of lifeforce. A vampire for long, or is she recent?"

Sensing the hostility towards her and not trusting the many new faces nestled around the camp, Élise retreated behind Erwyn, keeping her hand on the hilt of her sword just in case anyone were to try anything. Thoughts of turning around and running danced through her mind, but she needed Erwyn’s help and this was the only way she was going to get it.

The Count glanced back at Élise, before his gaze returned to Lucian and his hand moved to reach inside his coat where his daggers were sheathed. "Fairly recent, I would say." His hand edged closer to the daggers, and the slightest trace of red began to creep into his eyes. "I get the distinct impression you believe that to be a problem. Please, do tell me I'm wrong."

Herbert - who had remained quiet at the newcomer's arrival and had stayed seated at the fire - chose this moment to finally look at the Count and his new friend. Noting Erwyn's attempt at intimidation, he spoke up. "Being a vampire is entirely acceptable, so long as one with such a conditions behaves him or herself. If they stop behaving, they have to be dealt with. Vampirism is like one of the lovers' plagues. You probably didn't mean to catch it, but now that you have it, the responsible thing to do is to avoid hurting others with it." The monster hunter idly began fidgeting with a golden medallion. Meanwhile, Erika, upon seeing the medallion, began to stir and eyed the pair of vampires intently.

Ceara burst into laughter at the comparison of the two diseases, stifling it quickly as several of the other more serious members of the group glanced in her direction. Nima stood up, gripping the hilt of his sword with an armoured hand while he waited for someone to make a move.

"The monster hunter and I agree whole-heartedly. And you musn't embarrass yourself with attempts at intimidation, 'Count.' Your friend will abide by the same stipulations you yourself are held to and there will be no problem. And her being recent is absolutely an issue. I take it she has not learned how to properly control her sanguine thirst? If this is the case and my concerns are not unfounded, you will teach her to keep herself under civil control. If you can do that, I will have no problems whatsoever with your new friend." He accentuated this statement with a polite bow in Élise's direction.

Athaliah was more casual about her stance; she had her hand on the pommel of her sword – ready to grab the hilt if she needed to, but she tried not to be threatening about it. Meanwhile, Rhiara had taken several paces away from the group, not wanting to be involved in whatever was about to happen.
“I wouldn’t threaten people when you’re at a disadvantage, Count.” Athaliah said, taking a step closer to the vampires. “Besides, we’re not in your lands; you have no power here. Now, surely you can talk like a reasonable person for once; what’ve you brought that girl here for?”

Erwyn chuckled and moved his hands back down to his side, empty. "A little naive to assume one's power simply ends at the boundaries of one's territory, and a little hypocritical to whinge about threats while you all clutch at your weapons. Regardless, I shall indulge your question." He looked back at Élise. "I want to help her. Help her to control her nature, and help her avoid the end that so many of our kind have met. A satisfactory answer, or are the hands on your swords now a permanent fixture?"

Ceara stepped forward, extending her hand towards the younger vampire. “Ceara Eachaidh, property enthusiast.” She cocked her head, examining Élise with a small smile. “You don’t look much like a bloodsucker, besides that stain there, but I guess that's part of the point. The way I see it, there's a lot more of us than you, so you’re probably going to get murdered if you try to kill anyone." She grinned. "So let's just save the hostility. What's your name?"

The woman in question still did not trust all of these new faces and looked to Erwyn as if asking for help, but he seemed to be too busy trying to be antagonising. If these people were always so aggressive towards one another, did she really want to be here? Would she even be safe here? “Élise.” She finally answered as she stepped towards Ceara, although she refused to extend her hand in return. “Élise Marianne Lucie d'Astier. As Erwyn has already said, I am here because he has offered to help me. In return, I will of course help you in your quest to slay the dragon that threatens us all.” As she spoke, her thick Narbosi accent was readily apparent to those around her. “That is, if you will have me. I trust that my presence will not make you too uncomfortable?”

Ceara's hand dropped to her side, but she didn't look disappointed that the newcomer hadn't returned her gesture. "Ah, it doesn't make me too queasy. I've known some pretty weird humans that drink blood, and as long as you stay the fuck away from mine, we'll be the best of friends."

“Fine,” Athaliah replied, taking her hand off the pommel of her sword. She walked over to Erwyn and patted him on the shoulder, quite hard. “She’s your responsibility.”
Rhiara did think about giving the girl a chance, but she felt intimidated by someone who literally had blood all over them. She figured she’d introduce herself and get to know her properly tomorrow, when everyone else would have hopefully calmed down – and when the vampire was no longer bloody.

Herbert pocketed the medallion and shifted his attention from Erwyn to the young vampiress. "I did not know that there were any d'Astiers left. I'm happy to learn that someone survived." He stated with an unreadable expression before giving a small, quick bow of the head. "Herbert T. Leintke, monster hunter. Your presence does not cause me any discomfort." His gaze seemed to linger slightly on the bloodstain, but there didn't seem to be any hostility in it.

Once Herbert had introduced himself, Erika smiled warmly at Élise, gave a slightly larger bow and spoke. "Erika Nilsson, healer and occasional assistant monster hunter. Nice to meet you." The half-manticore had relaxed and was now sipping at a mug of something.

The second Herbert alluded to the Massacre of Asselineau Castle, Élise knew she should not have given her real name. She wanted to be honest to show that she genuinely meant no harm and to make a good first impression, but she had not expected someone this far away from her homeland to know of the massacre. If they were to deduce that she was the one who murdered all of those people, she could be in serious danger. “It is a pleasure to meet you all of you, too,” Élise finally responded. Her voice was nervous and shaky, and she struggled to maintain eye contact with Herbert. “I just hope that your monster hunting does not include vampires.”

"It does, at times." Admitted Herbert. "But only when said vampires make monsters of themselves. I am of the belief that beings capable of thought should be judged by their actions rather than their race. As you mean to help us in our quest, I'm sure that we'll get along just fine. While I may not be a vampire myself, I do enjoy a good bit of research, so if I find anything information that might help you with self-control, I'll let you know." Herbert hadn't expected Élise to be so frightened. In his experience, her kind tended to think themselves nigh-invulnerable and usually scoffed at meeting him.

Lucian let his hands fall to his sides, but continued to eye the woman suspiciously. "Very well. Welcome to our warband then, madame," he said with a respectful bow. "Everyone, we'll be moving in the morning and it would be ideal that we all get some much needed rest. We should let our new companion acclimate, rather than crowd her and cast judgements."

As everybody made their way to where they all slept, Athaliah gestured for Herbert and Rhiara to talk to her. She had her arms crossed against her chest and looked uneasy for the first time in a while. “Guys? I’m not sure about that new vampire we’ve got with us now. Or the other one for that matter.” She looked at Herbert. “Herbert, is it fine if I stay up all night and make sure they don’t try anything? That means I’ll have to get some sleep in the wagon once we’re moving, though.”
Rhiara nodded slowly, and she looked at the ground. “I’d prefer that you were in the tent with me, but I understand.”

"I've got a better idea." Replied Herbert as he looked in the direction of the vampires. "How about the four of us take different watches, just in case? If our dear friends the bloodsuckers do try anything, you won't be as much help if you're exhausted and sleep-deprived."

Athaliah gave out a small “hmm” in agreement. “Okay, you guys go and get some rest, I’ll wake you in a few hours?” she lightly tapped Herbert on his back. “Thanks for listening, by the way.”

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