Who: Marcus and Alessandra (NPC werewolf)
When: February 21st, 872
Where: Forest, Eastern Duchy
The smells coming out of camp were potent and intoxicating - and a little much for the werewolf lieutenant, whose monstrous half thrived when the moon was up, blood was pumping, and inhibitions were down. Ale, stolen from a nearby Manor, and… deer, if she had to guess from the smell, hunted from the forest. Although the Marauders had a rough time of it in a hundred ways, tonight was a celebration - at the least, an acknowledgement that their hard work could cut through the epic bad luck that restricted them from normalcy.
Alessandra, though, already appreciated the normalcy the Marauders afforded her. So although she spent an hour chatting, dancing, cheering, the lieutenant knew she couldn't quite immerse in all the festivities, and that was okay with her. She left the chanting, frolicking crowd to excuse herself - wandering all the way down to the river, where she dropped to a knee and scooped hefty palmfuls of water up into her hair and down her face. Drawing in a breath as water dripped off her face, she cocked her head to the side and cast her eyes toward the too-quiet figure in the shadows with her.
"Are you not hungry?" Alessandra asked, with a hint of a laugh in her voice. "There's a feast on, if you missed it."
Tonight had been the culmination of weeks of planning, reconnaissance, and skillful raiding on the part of many men and women who had grown to rely on one another like few other armies could claim. They were elite. They were fierce. And they would take what rightfully belonged to them from a kingdom that saw them as little more than fodder.
So, yes, a celebration was due after such hard work. Not only had they come home with enough food and supplies to last several long weeks, but they hadn't suffered a single death in the process. So, Marcus would let his Marauders have their evening of revelry. They had earned it.
Marcus the Vile did not join the celebration, though. He sat separate from his crew, drinking from a personal wine skin and idly sharpening a dagger with his thoughts on a world that was a lifetime away.
When Alessandra approached, he glanced up long enough to acknowledge her and shrug, his hands back on the blade in his hands. “Celebration is for those who fear death,” he retorted, his voice low. “They celebrate because they have survived another fight. Their struggles haven't been in vain. They feel vindicated for the night, and they know there's no guarantee they'll be able to say the same next time.”
He looked up at the distant party, eyes cold. “I'll celebrate when the Duke’s heart tastes my steel.”
Alessandra breathed out a laugh that bordered on derisive. But she took a breath, sipped water from her cupped hands. "A wise man once told me…" Actually, it had been a TED Talk she'd listened to on the subway on a Wednesday morning. But it had rung true - more and moreso after she'd become a Creature. "You'll never find happiness on the other side of a goal."
She stood up and strolled over. "So - you kill the duke. Then what? You kill the duke who replaces him? Or, you kill the king?" Her shrug was pronounced, dismissive. "When you're king, you'll hate these or those uprisers… You'll always find a reason not to celebrate, if you let yourself." Setting her ass on a log an arm's length away, Alessandra shrugged, and her final statement escaped in a whisper of authenticity she couldn't help. "You have fewer years than you think."
There was a small part of Marcus that wanted to tell the werewolf everything about his plans. How taking over didn’t mean a damn thing to him. He wanted to watch the world burn and the cost was negligible. As far as Marcus was concerned, his life ended the moment he’d walked through the damned portal. This was all just extra credit. But...it wasn’t worth the risk of losing his lieutenant, so he shrugged and put on a wry grin. “It wouldn’t be any fun if I went and told you all my tricks up front, would it?” he asked. “I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise for you and the crew.”
Eyes on a pair who’d taken it upon themselves to start wrestling - which would undoubtedly turn into a brawl soon,
“What about you?” he spun the question back on his lieutenant - an old investigative move he’d learned too many years back. A lifetime ago. “You and your husband content to follow me for the rest of your years? Or are you just waiting for me to reach the top before you kick my ass and take my spot?”
Alessandra's eyes bypassed amusement, cut through it all and met Marcus's with cool reality instead. Something in her gaze suggested she was fifty years older than him, even though that was far from the truth. "You gave us years." No one took creatures lightly - Alessandra was keenly aware that she was a plague on mankind, and she would find mercy nowhere else.
"After the Night of the Wolves, no one would tolerate a werewolf army. We'd be wiped out before we began." The Marauders struggled, but not nearly as much as they would have if they were wolves. Her eyes darkened a bit because it was not as though she didn't have ambition: there was wolf in her that hated following anyone she could best in a physical battle. Struggling, those eyes honed in on the same altercation that drew her commander's in camp.
But as she glanced back at Marcus, that impulse dissipated. Marcus might have been human, but he was a leader. He knew not just how to run operations, but also how to inspire people. How to give life meaning to people who otherwise would have been hopeless. "I'll follow you to the bitter, fucking end, Marcus. I might have promised it a hundred times, but I will again, if you need me to."
Marcus didn’t look at Alessandra for a long moment as she pledged her loyalty to him, again. Not in front of the Marauders like she had when he first took her and her husband in. Or when he’d brought her up as a lieutenant and brought on others of her kind. This was a private moment. One between warriors. One of trust. They both knew full well that, if she wanted to, there was little stopping Alessandra from ending it all for Marcus. And maybe he’d even thank her for that, when the time came. But that wasn’t going to happen tonight. Tonight, she was thankful. Thankful for the life he’d given her back when those bastards had taken it away.
“Someday,” Marcus said, eyes finally moving to meet his lieutenant’s, “I’ll hold you up to that. But not tonight. And not tomorrow, if I can help it.” Clinking his tin mug against hers, Marcus finished off his drink and stood. “Now go drink, make merry with your mate, and celebrate. Tomorrow, we work on toppling the king and taking over the world!”
Alessandra laughed in return and acquiesced with a Marauder's salute, right fist tapped three times against her heart. "If that's an order…"
She fully intended to turn it back on him with one final invitation to join them. However, that brawl inevitably did break out, and as lieutenant, it was part of her job to manage the men, and she jumped to it with what was almost a literal bark: "Break it up...!"