“Wait-- did you not get the wine?”
The words ring out across the field, and Sean’s wary question has his three compatriots drawing to a slow halt. Charles and Scott exchange glances, while Alex shrugs his cloak from his shoulders. As they pause, the only sound it the distant suggestion of the fire that’s consumed the Saxon’s camp, some two miles east.
“That honey wine?” Charles asks, amusement in his voice, even if his expression is perhaps overly serious.
“Yes, it was going to be a present--”
“Come on, Sean, you think a bit of wine is going to distract the likes of Moira from the fact that you haven't got a pulse?” Scott scoffs, smirking, before joining Alex in peeling off a few layers. Their dark clothing is made darker still by splashes of blood that gleam nearly black in the near-blue light of the moon and stars.
Scott frowns is the slash across his tunic; he tends to complain spectacularly about mending clothes, especially his own-- it’s the primary topic of conversation as they take to shucking off the worst-worn of their garments, picking through their packs and trading borrowed tunics and belts. Their camp, tucked away properly in the woods, is too far for the moment; in another couple of hours they’ll need to circle back to the Saxon camp to put any remaining out their misery. A couple hours of absence allows any survivors the chance to escape.
Charles doesn’t mind survivors. Without survivors, there are no stories, and without stories, legends take much longer to grow. And the more people who abandon a fight out of fear, the fewer will have to die for it to end. The four of them have grown rather good at waging these particular kinds of wars, but Charles has yet to warm to the business of them.
No one thinks much of it, or comments at all, when he slips off for a walk. It helps him clear his head, and he’s never gone for long. There’s little for them to fear in this part of the world-- the far greater risk is the mischief the three of them make for themselves. His feet take a wandering path beyond the treeline, still close enough to hear when Alex starts a fire out of what seems to be sheer boredom, and plenty close to hear when Sean discovers that Scott has a skin of that honey wine tucked under his cloak.
Charles smiles to himself. In all the world - or, in all that Charles has seen of the world - the Britons’ was his favourite. He’d live here, if he could, if a home wouldn’t simply be one more thing to defend, to try and fail to keep for himself. Roaming, he thinks, suits them far better. By the time he makes his way back to middle of the field, the squabbling has died down to something rather amicable.
“Jewelry-- women like jewelry,” Alex insists, finally having unwound himself a bit.
“He only learned that after figuring out they hate poetry,” Scott offers, his sidelong comment to Sean not disguised in the slightest.
Charles laughs, and catches the skin Scott tosses his way. He’s only just lifted the mouth to his lips when Alex’s head jerks towards the far side of the field. Alex stands, as if dragged up by his chin, and he inelegantly drags in a deep breath through his nose. The rest are quick to their feet, eyes scanning the trees, searching for movement. There’s too much blood in the air-- none of them can scent anything properly, and they all know it. They’re not alone, and apart from the thrumming heartbeat they can all hear, there’s something more. Something far more familiar and something terribly out of place.
“Marko’s?” Alex asks, the question directed towards Charles, though none of them break glance from the treeline.
“None of Marko’s get travel this far north,” comes Scott scoffing dismissal. He can hear Sean gearing up to offer the obligatory correction, and cuts him off with a roll of his eyes and a quick, “Other than us.”
“Charles?” Alex presses.
“Not Kurt’s,” Charles agrees, consideration leaving his eyes, replaced by something sharper. “Cain’s.”
The quiet of the night is ruffled by the hiss of four blades slipping free of their scabbards.
“Slave hunt?” Alex guesses, sounding as though he doubts it himself. He doesn’t bother trying to catch a scent on the air again. “They’d have to fucking stupid to let one slip this far.”
“So, definitely a slave hunt, then,” Scott mutters, and the line of Alex’s mouth quirks into a smirk.
“Or a runaway,” Charles says, calmly enough.
A new degree of tension runs through Alex’s posture; Scott and Sean are always a little too eager for a brawl. And Charles-- Charles has always been a little too idealistic about lycan slaves for Alex’s tastes. Sure, it would be nice if lycans could just be casually liberated, but when they hunt, they’re indiscriminate. Brutal and reckless. There’s no time, however, for Alex to make that particular argument, because a figure all but explodes from the treeline.
He’s ragged, and collared, but looks nothing like the terrified, fleeing slaves Charles has seen before. Few enough run of their own volition; most are forced, for the sake of sport, to be hunted like game by vampire nobility. Charles can’t even tell if he sees them, or if perhaps he thinks them human-- the smoke in the air has to be clouding his senses, as well, and it’s not as though the four of them aren’t covered in perfectly human blood. Either way, he pays them no mind as he barrels between Alex and Sean.
For their parts, only Sean spares the lycan a glance.
“How many?” Scott asks, his voice gleaning that edge it takes before a bloodbath, and everyone's focus hones back to forest.
For a moment, Charles is silent. His eyes slip shut and he takes a deep breath. The Saxon’s burning camp, he ignores. The lycan, he ignores. The human blood that still stains their clothes and their skin, he resolutely pushes to the side. The woods before them hum with his bloodline. Eldest of the lot of them, Charles’s senses are the most keen to it. “Seven,” he says, in the same instant that his eyes open.
“Oh,” Scott supplies, sounding bolstered as he gives his shoulders a loosening shake. “We’ve handled seven before.”
Alex is the only one who doesn’t huff out a chuckle-- but after movement breaks into the field - nothing more than barbed shadow cutting trails through the night - and the night’s air rings with the sharp clash of metal and the lurching grunts of a proper fight, Alex and Scott are the ones who are laughing as they go.