Private Tales Read between the lines

A private roleplay only for those invited by the first writer

Talus

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"What, the only room I didn't build?" Talus said in jest.

He had done the frame of course, but most of everything else had been put in by the dwarves. He had watched of course, but there was no matching the craftsmanship of his adopted kin. A small smile touched his lips for a brief moment as he stepped forward.

The hot water was still somewhat miraculous to him.

Not heated through magic, but instead vents through the air itself that came close to flowing magma deep beneath the earth. They had a name for it, geo-something, though Talus wasn't sure what it was off the top of his head. "Not so bad though."

The Dreadlord mused, feeling the water.

"I suppose." A small spark of mischief flickered in his eye.
 
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Zana

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The last time Talus had looked at her that way in a bath, the twins had happened. With a blush colouring her cheeks and her toes curling at the memory, she tried to distract herself by grabbing one of the sponges and trying to get the sweat of the day off.

"You know that's not what I meant," Zana loved every corner of the home he was building for them. She was just impatient for it to be done and to not be coughing up dust anymore. "Though, maybe if you finished a room..." her eyebrows rose playfully. It would probably help if she stopped changing her mind in order for him to do that but... She held out the soap.

"Maybe we need to think about Thror's offer," the dwarven king who saw Talus like a son had almost forced the pair of them back home with him, until the babies had arrived anyway. He was not convinced the home would be safe in time either.
 
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Talus

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Talus took the soap. "I'll finish."

He told her confidently.

"I'll just have to focus and redouble my efforts." Maybe use a touch of magic. It wouldn't be too hard after all. He had not really pushed himself since the end of the Revolution, since they had left that life behind.

Perhaps spending a week or two phase-walking through the house and building absolutely everything he could would do good. Flex muscles that had not been flexed in some time. He would just have to make sure Zana was out of the house when he did it.

There was no need to offer any reminders.

A chuckle escaped him as she spoke. "Would you rather have them destroy a city than a house?"

Talus jested with a smirk.
 
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Zana

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Worry darkened her eyes and she glanced down at the mound of her stomach which protruded above the water. Her fingers delicately played over her skin leaving behind beads of water. Zana had faced down monsters, walking weapons who could erase a person from existence with their magic, and armies of the dead. But her fear of childbirth was an entirely natural one every woman experienced no matter her strengths.

"Maybe I can get that dragon to relight the forges again if they did..." though she wasn't sure even that would help. A soft laugh escaped her as she shook her head at the very thought something like that could make up for destroying their home.

"But you're not going to destroy our home are you babies?" she whispered and half smiled when one gave her a kick.

"Have you thought anymore about names?"
 
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Talus

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Talus smiled, though he didn't say what he was thinking. He was almost certain that his children wouldn't particularly care where they grew up, as long as they got to do whatever they pleased.

"No." He admitted. "Unless you'd like them to be called Cedar, Pine, or Anir Wood."

The former Dreadlord smirked. "But I don't think any of those would make very good names."

Somewhere in the Allir Reach a Halfling would feel disturbed by such a statement. Talus had one heard that the small-folk enjoyed their names being those of nature. It allowed them to feel closer to the land, something that he supposed humans had forgotten.

"I should sit and think." Talus said, before Zana could preempt him. "It's just finding the time."

His head shook, a breath filling his lungs.
 
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Zana

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Zana's eyes softened after her bout of laughing as she looked at him - really looked at him. She could see the tiredness at the edges of his eyes giving them a slightly pinched look and the tense way he held his shoulders. The horrors of the war had not left him untouched either, though they both seemed to have come to the silent agreement not to talk of them. Some wounds were too painful to give voice to.

Slowly she pushed herself off where she had been leaning in the large round tub and shifted so that she could sit beside him. Gently she took the soap and sponge and began to rub both in slow, soothing circles over his back. Her lips brushed against the kernel of his ear.

"We have time. Why don't we take a day off this week?" they had both been working incredibly hard. "We could go explore more of our land, take a picnic. I think there's meant to be a small stream that runs through here somewhere. We haven't had a day for just us since..."
 

Talus

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Talus nodded. "That seems like a good idea."

Quick words did not allow Zana to dwell on the moment, didn't allow her to think the thoughts that were likely creeping into her mind.

This place, their home, was no place for that sort of thinking. They had come here to start a new life, to become a family, to enjoy what they had earned by freeing Vel Anir. Tainting all of that with Loss...Talus would not allow it.

Not after all the grieving she had already done.

"We can explore." He told her softly. "See what we haven't seen."

Talus mused. "Maybe there's something to discover, these mountains are pretty old after all."

There must have been something to find.
 
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Zana

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Zana rested her cheek on his shoulder and gave a soft, throaty laugh.

"Like another dragon?" The last time Talus had taken her under any mountains she had ended up facing a creature so old and powerful it had made even the Dreadlord take a second to consider turning around and leaving. Thankfully, the situation hadn't gone as horrifically as the dwarves had suggested it might. Sometimes she shook her head at how reckless she had been, how quickly she would rush into a dangerous situation because of her arrogance. Now?

Her fingers chased a droplet of water down his arm and then, with a gentle squeeze of his arm, she heaved herself out of the tub.

"Let's go at weeks end, I'll have finished the fields by then," or have killed herself trying. Zana wrapped two towels round herself and then used another to pat at her wet hair.
 
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Talus

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Weeks end.

That was enough time to finish what he needed, at least if he pushed himself some. Fingers came up to stroke over his chin. For a brief moment he considered when he would finally be able to grow that beard. The thought was quickly dismissed and he nodded.

"Aye." He agreed.

"End of the week." That was something, wasn't it? The end of the week, a mountain, something of their old life? At least without all the bad stuck behind it. A smile flickered over his lips. "I'll have the railings done by then."

He said with all the confidence in the world.

There was much to do still, but he knew in his heart that it would all be finished. As long as he tried. As long as he did his best.
 
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Zana

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Zana had every confidence in her husband and so said nothing, merely leant down and kissed his cheek before announcing she was heading to bed.

The next few days seemed to go a lot smoother with something to look forward to. Zana almost suspected the twins had sensed the change too, for the magic that showed itself every now and then became less chaotic and more helpful to the tasks that needed doing. Well, aside from turning poor Grey blue for a whole day. She still hadn't worked out what magic that was and the wolf had avoided her since, choosing to stick close to Talus and his housework.

The ex-Dreadlord was finishing the last of the field when she heard the galloping sound of hooves on the dirt track that led down to town. She shielded her eyes against the noon sun and leaned on the scythe to watch as the horse and rider grew closer. No doubt Talus would have seen them approaching before her from his higher vantage point too, but eventually Zana could make out one of the young blacksmiths sons from town and set down the scythe and begun to wipe her hands on her skirts as he pulled the horse in to a stop.

"If you go galloping that horse around like that you're going to break his legs," Zana chided as the horse put its head between its knees and panted. The lad flushed crimson, panting himself, before launching hurriedly on with his message.

"Please Miss, it's me da, he's got to shoe a horse but Miss, he's wild. We wouldn't ask but... but you bein' so good with horses an' all... An' I can't find the vet..."
 
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Talus

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Talus stood high above the ridgeline, watching as the rider came closer and closer to Zana.

His gaze was filled with that soft blue haze. His eyes had shifted, flickering slightly within the depths of the night as he peered through the boys very soul. For a moment the Dreadlord simply lingered, and then suddenly he snapped forward.

In a blink he stepped off the porch, rushing to the edge of the field. He appeared in an instant, standing just above the wheat field where he saw the boy panting.

There was no threat here, he knew that, but he watched over Zana like a hawk.

Even without her magics she was no child of course. They had been trained to fight with or without their talents, but that didn't mean Talus wouldn't worry. A part of him was even more paranoid now, a fact which was obvious to both of them.

He lingered on the edge of the field, just overhearing the boys words.

Slowly he stepped down, moving down towards the pair.
 
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Zana

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Zana put her hand on the horses neck and gently stroked along the sweat-slick dapple coat as she listened with a frown. It was not so much a rule as a choice the pair had unconsciously made to keep their distance from the town. Perhaps it was paranoia or maybe it was just straight thinking. but the truth of the matter was that the more people the Dreadlords involved in their lives, the more people they would paint as targets should the worst happen. However, the times she had been to town more often than not had been to do with her horse, or at least with her horse. Zandor had of course come with her, along with two other horses she had been gifted over the years. Their paddock was enough to make a wild horse green with envy and she had been eyeing up another mare in town with the thought to start breeding her own. Her interest in horses had led of course to conversations with the local vet and also the blacksmith. On the odd occasion she'd helped both with calming the animals.

She had a feeling one of the twins had been the reason she could speak to them so well now.

"What about your brothers? Joel was pretty good with that stallion from what I saw," her gaze flickered to the side where she caught the movement of Talus wandering down the path. The lad shook his head.

"They've gone to the city, Miss. Wit' me maw," the blacksmiths wife was a talented seamstress who sold her wares in the bigger Spine cities. They'd be gone for a few days if the boy spoke true.

"Well.." she glanced properly to Talus now he drew close and the boy offered him a tired smile. "There were things we wanted in town I suppose. Wasn't there, love?" Zana did not particularly enjoy how Talus' protectiveness had grown but she could understand it, respect it even. As such she tended not to push unless the matter was important. In this case, it would be easier to include him rather than insist he stay away.
 
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Talus

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"Suppose there is." Talus said, looking at the lad for a brief moment as he considered. His gaze swept up and down, and then he continued.

"Plus." He mused. "We'll be needing some idle hands soon."

Calling on the dwarves had seemed a bit too much, but using a few of the local lads to cut some wood seemed more than alright. Zana's, thoughts were right, the more folk they involved the worse it might get in the end. Yet handing out a bit of extra coin, employing those who needed it was a worthwile cause.

It wasn't like he and Zana needed the money.

The two of them combined had more wealth than some noble houses. The Dwarves had treated them kindly, and their wedding gifts alone would have paid for a thousand manors in the east.

Spreading that coin could only help their community grow.

Talus gazed at the lad who seemed to stare at him almost hesitantly. "I can saddle the horse."

He said in agreement.
 
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Zana

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Zana's lips twitched in amusement as the boy practically beamed and began to scrabble off his horse insisting he could help. Young Jason had made more than a few excuses to come and visit the pair on their new lands. Whether it was to 'check' on Zana's horses or offer his help doing minor chores, the lad didn't seem to mind being out of the forge though she worried the obsession had begun after the kid had seen their swords and armour. The last thing she wanted was to encourage the boy to go off to war - his mother would never forgive her.

She watched the two scamper off as she held onto the dapple the boy had ridden up and led it to a small bucket of water to drink from. By the time the others had returned with horses the dapple looked ready for another gallop back.

"Slowly," she chided Jason when he hopped back on and she patted at her swollen stomach. "When they're out, then I promise I'll teach you how slow you are," Zandor snorted in approval but stood still and patient as Talus helped her up. Perhaps another week or two and she doubted she'd be able to do this either, and that was certainly something she was not looking forward to giving up.

"Ready?"
she glanced to Talus.
 
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Talus

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"Always." He told her simply, though there was still a weariness to him.

The closer they got to her due date the more watchful he became. It wasn't paranoia so to say, but something close enough to it. He found himself glancing around, and then beginning to walk down the path. Zana pushed on ahead.

"Will have to build a proper path." He mused. "What we have now isn't much more than a goats road."

Talus and Zana had purposefully chosen a plot of land high in the mountains and away from the village, but as their children grew both of them had agreed it would be important for them to be a bit more wordly. Being stuck in a single house, even if it was quite large, wouldn't do.

Not for any child.

Stepping alongside Zana's mount the three of them quickly descended into the village below.
 
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Zana

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The village of Pella's Wish was not a large affair. Most of its citizens lived outside of the town proper amongst the various farms that made up the main trade of the people who dwelled here. It had the benefit of sitting on a well-travelled road through the Spine and thus had a fair-sized inn, a collection of shops, a good healer and of course a blacksmiths that could cater to the wide range of needs travellers tended to have up in these parts. You could still travel through it without blinking. Or at least, that was how it felt to Zana who had grown up within the walls of Vel'Anir and travelled the length of its kingdom, where even the small towns had been properly fortified and patrolled by the Guard.

It felt almost primitive in comparison yet charming for being such.

Jason rushed ahead of them and jumped off his horses back once they reached the smithy. His father was waiting outside with one large, fresh blackeye and was rubbing at an arm that definitely looked dislocated. Zana glanced briefly to Talus then let him help her from Zandors back.

"Thank God yer 'ere woman, I err.. mean Miss," he looked to Talus and wrung his apron. Master Haern had a foul tongue better suited to a sailors yard than a forge but Zana couldn't help but smile how uncomfortable he seemed to make himself whenever he realised he had sworn or been rough tongued around a woman.

"Who's stallion is it anyway?" Zana breezed past to the tethering yard where the stallion stood pawing at the ground.

"Some bloody fuc-- some Lord, Miss, beggin' my pardon Miss," he scratched his head. Haern also couldn't seem to work out if Zana and Talus were nobility themselves. "Off on some fuckin' quest for a Griffin's claw, there's been five of 'em through 'ere already this week. But this horse is something else. Fu-- shitting mental, Miss."
 
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Talus

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Talus walked along in silence, not paying particularly close attention to anyone that approached.

Most of the faces in this place he recognized, and thus in his mind they were not a threat that needed to be taken care of. The sword that he had carried through the rebellion was long gone, tucked away in some heavy chest in their first built closet.

Instead he carried only a small dagger on the small of his back, though that was more than enough. He glanced up as the situation was explained.

"Nobles?" His eyes seemed to narrow ever so slightly, lips thinning. "From where?"

They were far far from Vel Anir, but any mention of those with crowns raised his hackles. He already seemed to tense as the boy answered.

"I-I'm not sure My Lord, somewhere on the southern coast. He spoke of the 'Reach', if that helps 'Ser."[/color]

Talus considered for a moment, glancing at Zana with a weary eye. A shrug rolled over his shoulders, but he seemed no less tense.
 
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Zana

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Zana pretended not to see Talus' look, passing it off as a husband merely being protective of his pregnant wife. She ruffled the younger lads hair and swept past him and the blacksmith over to the stallion. Talus, however, would have seen the sharp look she cut towards him and the way her lips tightened for the barest of seconds. Nobles worried her as much as they unnerved Talus. Neither of them were naive enough to believe that their past would stay forever in the past and Dreadlords, for it would no doubt be them, were cunning in their guises.

"Perhaps one of them will teach you the sword, Jason," her mocking comment earnt a heart roaring laugh from his father who followed on Zana's heels.

"Aye, fuckin' shite-- I mean, a poncy way to fight if they teach him. The boy needs a leasson from a dwarf," being so close to the mountains the dwarves were not an uncommon sight in town and were some of Master Haern's favourite drinking friends. Zana snorted but said nothing as she took in the stallion.

It looked like the type of beast a noble would pick up with no mind of how to handle it. Almost pure white with a flaxen mane and tail and eyes so dark they looked almost black, she was certain there would be songs sung about the horse alone let alone the rider who happened to own him. The beast lowered its head and met her gaze square on as it blew out a snort. The blacksmith put his hands either side of her shoulders and gently moved her out of kicking range.

"I don't know how he rode the thing 'ere, it's fu-flamin' psychotic. Boxed me eye in when I tried to shoe it and I won't tell you the details of where it tried to bite me when I tried to give it a pat," that did make Zana laugh but she didn't take her eyes off the horse.

"Sometimes nobles like to treat their horses badly to make them warriors themselves. They'll train them to bite and kick out at anyone but the rider, but I don't know if this is the case with this horse. It looks unbroken. I bet he had to pay a pretty penny for him too. Maybe it is a scam and his true owner will come back for him soon and claim he ran away. I've heard that gypsy's play that trick often."
 
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Talus

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Talus followed along half listless. He did not fully attend Zana, but lingered within sight of her to ensure that nothing happened. As they neared the horse he pulled off ever so slightly, motioning towards one of the other lads.

"Boy." From his belt he pulled out three silver coins.

With one quick motion he slipped the coin between his fingers, letting the silver sparkle through the sunlight. A smile touched his face, the boys expression seeming to magnify his own by a thousand fold. "I need five hard workers."

He told the lad.

"Willing to cut wood and see to fetching nails." The boy nodded eagerly. "Find me the five I need, loyal lads, and I'll give you twice this and pay them double that."

Another eager nod shook the boys head, so viciously that he almost seemed to knock his own head off. After a moment he turned on his heel and suddenly rushed off into the village, Talus standing and looking up at Zana.
 
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Zana

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Zana's warm smile only grew when Talus looked up at her, having watched the whole interaction.

"He's gonna be a great father," the blacksmith murmured low enough that only Zana could hear and she turned to look up at the hulking man in surprise. He rubbed the back of his neck a little sheepishly and then cleared his throat before she could say anything else and brought her attention back to the horse they had come into town for. "Anyway, I promise the fucker I'd shoe him for their trip up into the snow regions, but..." he gestured at the horse in general and Zana smiled.

Without saying anything more she unbuttoned the coat she had been wearing for the work in the fields; at this time of year it was cold in the mornings when she first started and also by the time she was making her way home. In the forge, however, she was plenty warm enough. She rolled up the sleeves on her dress and then tied her hair out of her face.

"Fetch me some warm water - not too hot, but warm, and some oil," Haern nodded to one of the numerous lads that seemed to fill the place and he scampered off, returning a short while later with everything she needed. In the meantime she had moved a stool over to the horses flank. The beast looked over its shoulder at her, steam rolling from its nostrils and its ears pinned back.

"It's okay," she said soothingly and ran her hands gently over the horses neck and back, feeling for the muscles beneath. The horse made as if to rear though it was stopped by the ties that kept it in place. She motioned for the lad to pass her the sponge and oil and very slowly, delicately, she begun to bathe and massage the stallion's back.

After a tense five minutes, the horse was like a different creature. Its eyes were half closed and its bottom lip trembled with the pleasure as she worked out the knots and talked quietly to him. Haern had cleared over to where Talus stood in order to watch. He shook his head in bewilderment.

"She's like a Wise Woman for animals, I swear."
 
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Talus

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Talus didn't do much else while Zana did her work. Patience had practically been beaten into him from birth. He knew when it was his time to act and when it was his time to move. He simply leaned against the fence, daydreaming or perhaps planning some additional section of the house.

A smile lay on his face as he idly watched the lad he'd paid run from house to house.

He could see the boy excitedly talking about a well paying job, what it would entail. He only watched quietly, never moving. Talus wasn't entirely sure how much time had passed, but the sound of the village were growing louder now.

A market had been opened, people were milling about with their daily business, and it seemed everyone was beginning their tasks properly now.

Talus himself still remained in place, until a voice broke his quiet.

"Whats this then!"​

A voice shouted outward, and almost immediately Talus turned his head. Approaching was a man of fine clothes and stoic expression, a heavy sword on his belt and what appeared to be a crossbow slung across his back.

The former Dreadlord watched the man as he practically stalked through the gate.
 
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Zana was lost in her own world.

For eight months she had carried the twins and for nearly six of them, she had sensed an odd magic inside of her that she had known didn't belong to her. To begin with it had been small things, little developments that were alike her own magic that she put it down to a side effect of pregnancy in general. But as the months had gone on those powers had developed, grown, and at times had overpowered her entirely. In the fight before the revolution she had apparently soul-reaped the twisted creatures who had controlled the dead though she had no recognition of it. There was no rhyme or reason as to when the twins decided to experiment - and she was certain they did it together - but she had learnt it was more likely to happen when she was scared, in danger, or if there was an animal nearby.

She was certain both her children were already animal lovers.

Zana herself had always had a way with horses but it was a gift that had been learnt and developed over the years of working with the cavalry. What the twins helped her do was something different. She could hear the animals and what it was that caused their moods. The stallions pain had screamed at her the minute she had walked in. A twisted back from a saddle too small for its back and fastened on too tightly. Easing his muscles had seemed the smartest place to start and the horses growing sense of calm and lessening of pain was enough to drive her on with her gentle massages. When the noble walked on it was only the horse tensing beneath her that broke her out of her trance.

"Your horse had a bad back," she replied calmly and looked away from him as if dismissing him, continuing with her gentle finger movements. "You need a new saddle."
 
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For a moment it seemed that the noble was about to speak up again, yell even, and then suddenly his expression changed entirely.

"Oh dear Lord!"

The switch in demeanor was almost shocking. Talus himself couldn't help but feel slightly taken aback, blinking as the man practically pranced up towards Zana. There was concern in his eye, real worry as he stepped up besides the former Dreadlord.

He peered at her.

"I had no idea! I must apologize. I've never owned a horse before and I..."

Slowly the noble looked over towards the horse, pity in his eyes.

"I just assumed...well the salesman didn't say much and I was just...Oh dear."

The last few words were said with a choked throat, tears beginning to gather in his eyes. He shook his head. Talus peered over the mans shoulder, a giant question mark sitting on his face as he looked at Zana.

For all his pompous dress, the man seemed utterly genuine in his reaction.
 
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Dreadlords were the perfect weapons but they were also human and each of them had a blind spot no amount of beating would rid them of. For Zana, that was people who showed care towards animals. Perhaps it was because when they were young they had been forced to kill puppies, skin kittens, and put down horses they had known since foals without a second thought that meant anyone who showed genuine care for their animals positioned themselves as the opposite to dreadlords and what Zana considered to be evil. As such, as soon as the noble expressed genuine concern and upset for hurting the animal, she was quick to consider him 'good'. She gave him a bright smile and then shrugged at Talus; people could sometimes not be what they appeared to be.

"It's easily fixed, and you'll find he's a nicer ride," she finally stopped her circular massaging motions and stepped off the step she had been using, rubbing the small of her back. The horse leaned in to nuzzle at her hair. "There's a saddler across the street who can sort you out with something whilst Master Haern here shoes your horse," she patted the horses neck affectionately.
 
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"Yes yes of course, I'll be sure to do that."

The Noble said with a quick thankful bow. There was clearly still a measure of panic to his voice, and he glanced towards his mount with concern. Lips thinned for a brief moment, but Talus decided not to question any of this.

Perhaps he was just paranoid.

Back home the list of 'good' nobles was about as short as the next dagger to hit you in the back. His own first inclination was always to assume they were out to harm, rather than help. "Excuse me."

Talus did break in, though not to admonish the man.

"Where are you all headed? We've heard word there's been more than a few of you." The former Dreadlord asked curiously.

"Ah of course, you must not have heard...don't suppose the news would have come through here. An avalanche unearthed some sort of tomb up in the mountains. They say it's old, very very old. Dwarven perhaps!"

Excitement clung to the man's voice, like a boy retelling a ghost story.
 
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