Val glanced again at the flyer someone had shoved in her hand on her way from the ferry, and sighed. She had seen the posters...seen neighbors who had lived together in seeming harmony watch each other now with suspicious eyes. Increasingly, her walks to the market, her little missions of mercy to bring care packages to the ill and destitute, had been marked by graffiti and vague comments in her hearing about ?creatures?. She was no stranger to isolationist sentiment - D?Angeline?s were known for their smug superiority for good reason. But not like this. Dockside was filled with signs and protesters, and the air prickled with tension. Only once had she dared to intervene (something she had managed not to mention to Rand, as yet) when a group of teenagers had chosen to pelt a halfling child with stones right in front of her. Mustering the tones used by every instructor she had ever had, she managed to save the little one from worse damage, and see them to the care of the orphanage.
Now...now it seemed that something was indeed coming, just as Jewell had feared. The flyer in front of her spoke of ?taking back the city? and ?defending humanity?. The crowds that morning had been near vibrating with suppressed violence, fear and hatred. At the time, she had been too intent on getting back to the house, and getting ready for the Mad Fairy release party, to do more than stuff the paper into her bag, and keep going. In fact, she hadn?t even bothered to look at it until a day or two later - busy writing thank you cards for the many gifts they?d received at the wedding, and packing for their upcoming travels. Which was how she?d found herself sitting at her vanity, staring at the crumpled page, and...thinking.
She was no fighter - even if she had been so inclined, it simply wasn?t acceptable for a D?Angeline lady to wield a blade. But Rand was...and his prowess, and personality, garnered them a certain amount of attention. They were seen publicly with some of the strongest opponents of those protesting - but she knew that she herself was an enigma to many. Perhaps it was time to see just what this ?pro-human? organization was planning - and by luck, there was a ?get-together? planned for this afternoon.
She?d dressed carefully. Dockside, as much as it was home, was also known for having a cutpurse on every corner. Normally, she didn?t concern herself - she rarely went anywhere without Rand, and her weekly baskets had won her protectors throughout the district. But this time, she was on her own, and it would be best if none knew her purpose. A gown of fine grey wool, and over it a cloak of dark green, clasped with a golden dragon. Resting her fingertips against the metal for a long moment, she took a deep breath, prayed he?d understand, and slipped out of the house into the cold winter air.
Hood up, Valentina de Mereliot no? Eglantine al?Tan slipped through the streets, just another shadow among many. Folk were keeping to themselves more, heads down, focusing on getting to their destination as quickly and quietly as possible. She?d had the forethought to bring the sheet with her, and focused her energies on staying warm, and trying to regain the cool, detached demeanor she had lost in her time here. The only niece of the Lady of Maraskillios, her family had ruled Eisandre for centuries - a Servant of Naamah, and, now, the wife of the Lord Dragon himself, Rand Helston al?Tan, a name regarded with awe and respect everywhere, she let all of it echo through her thoughts until her nerves stilled. Spine straight, moss-green eyes cool, her features schooled into a calm mask with, perhaps, a hint of disdain to the corners of her lips - she found the address, and held the flyer out to the large, iron-bedecked brute at the door. Craggy face cracking into a smile, he ushered her in with a vague attempt at gallantry, which she answered with a nod, before pushing her hood back from her face, and selecting a seat near the edge of the room.
The room was filled with all manner of people - commoners more than not, with a handful of better-dressed individuals either in their own pocket, or standing with a young man, fair-haired and charismatic, who seemed to be in charge of the little gathering. Very few were speaking to each other, and no-one broke ranks - save for the occasional look of distrust or sniff of disbelief. It seemed the meeting was about to begin, as the organizer stepped toward the front of the room, bidding everyone to take a seat, and flashing a welcoming smile. He had been well-trained, by someone, his eyes only widening a hair when they landed on Val.
It was a struggle, at times, to continue nodding as the rhetoric flew - as familiar voices filled the air with invective. ?Pointy-eared murderers?, ?Animals?, ?Leeches?, ?Monsters?...Louis stood at the front and riled the group skillfully, and Val could only grit her teeth as he called her friends and companions murderers and baby-eaters - and worse. Thankfully, the speeches were brief, although once Louis finished speaking, the group was more blended, mixing together, united by a common enemy. Rising to her feet, Val settled her hood back into place, hoping for a swift and uneventful exit.
?Pardon me - but you are Valentina al?Tan, yes?? Only slightly surprised, because she had not seen Louis? signal, Val nodded, but left her hood in place. There was no denying it - too many people in Dockside could identify her. ?Allow me to introduce myself - I am Samuel Ellis, at your service. I must say...we were a touch surprised to see you here. Your husband?s associations - congratulations, by the way - are well known. As are yours. Or so we thought.?
?Let us say that in some things, my husband and I do not necessarily see eye to eye. I...tolerate...his associations.? Val tilted her head back just enough to look the man in the eye, allowing herself a sniff of disdain. ?He is my husband, and I cannot do anything in public that might seem...unsupportive. You understand, of course??
Samuel clicked his heels together, and gave a slight bow. He was a touch older, better dressed than the majority of the room, but subtly so. Only a trained eye would catch the quality of the fabric, the neat hand-stitching, the subtle glint of a tie pin. ?Of course. Might I invite you to another gathering? I think you will find more...like-minded individuals, there. People, like yourself, who are not suited for street protests and violence...but who are still concerned about the threat to humanity. Tomorrow afternoon??
A few minutes later, Val emerged into the winter light, armed with an address for a private residence, and vaguely queasy. Pulling her hood forward to shield her face, she started home, eager for a drink, and a hot bath. She had not realized how difficult it would be, to sit and listen to hate and lies and pretend to agree - but if it would help Jewell, if it would help to keep her friends safe...she could endure.