Actions

Work Header

They Will Tear Your City Down

Chapter Text

Rosé knows an easy mark when she sees one. 

They’re bellied up to the bar of the Moon Hoot Tavern, and if Rosé believed in a god, she’d be sending up some serious gratitude right now. Instead, she watches her mark from a corner table, waiting for her opportunity. 

They are a dwarf, definitely not rare around these parts, but in many other ways they’re quite different from the ones Rosé has seen around. A large straw hat perches unsteadily on their head, wildflowers stuck haphazardly into the hat band, and they’re dressed in loose, flowing clothing. A satchel rests by their feet next to a walking stick perched against the side of the bar.

A strange one, for sure, but that’s not what makes them an easy target. It’s their expression that Rosé caught sight of, happily chatting with the bartender. It’s open, innocent and trusting. Not to mention, they’re halfway through their second ale and already flushing. Rosé imagines that if another dwarf were here they would be shaking their head in disappointment. 

She waits a few minutes, taking small sips of her own drink while the dwarf finishes their second ale. As they happily clink it down on the bar, she gets up, leaving her own drink practically full on the table. 

Rosé raises a hand in greeting at the pretty bartender, then pulls up a seat next to the dwarf, deliberately on the side where the satchel is resting. 

The bartender slides another drink to the dwarf, nodding politely at Rosé. “Another drink?” she asks. Rosé avoids her eyes, even as her heart skips a beat, and tries to stay focused on her objective. 

“Yes please!” she says with a wide grin, playing it up. She’s not drunk, barely buzzed actually, but she wants to dwarf to let their guard down. The bartender nods and hands her another ale, then turns her back to them to serve the few other customers. 

Very aware of the satchel at her feet, Rosé makes eye contact with the dwarf, feigning a small smile. She needs to distract them for just a moment. 

“So what’s your story? You don’t look like you’re from around here.” Despite her forced cheeriness, this makes the dwarf’s expression fall a little. 

“Oh, uh… it’s not much of a story…” Yikes. Good going Rosé, had to find the most sensitive topic right off the bat. But maybe she can salvage it. She puts on her best pitying expression, which isn’t hard, this dwarf has surprisingly effective puppy-dog eyes. 

She leans in, propping her chin on her palm. If it allows her to see the dwarf’s bag more clearly, that’s her business. She widens her eyes just a little, feigning interest. “Oh c’mon,” she pries, “someone as well dressed as you has to have a story to tell.” 

The dwarf reaches up and adjusts their hat self consciously. A petal falls to the floor. “Thank you… um…” They look up at her.

“Rosé,” she answers, “and you sir—or miss?” Rosé finds it hard to tell with dwarves, considering they all have beards. The dwarf shrugs. 

“Either’s good. My name’s Grendan.” Rosé nods, taking a sip of her ale. She slips her foot around the strap of the satchel, slowly bringing it closer to her chair. 

“What brings you to the Moon Hoot, Grendan?” Grendan takes another long gulp of their ale in turn. For such an obvious lightweight, they’re not hesitant at all when it comes to drinking. 

“Just traveling, headed for the Eastern Wilds eventually.” Rosé gives the person sitting next to her a scrutinizing look. She’s heard just enough about the East to know to avoid it, a seemingly endless land of forests and swamps, where its said monsters and wild beasts rule. They look back at her, probably sensing her disbelief. “Don’t give me that look! I’m a druid, I can handle it!” Another petal falls from their hat. 

“A druid huh?” It would certainly explain the strange outfit, though the defensive way they said that makes Rosé doubt the statement’s validity. The dwarf nods insistently, a smile on their face. Rosé shrugs. It’s none of her business really. The bar falls silent for a moment as they both take another drink. Grendan’s eyelids are beginning to droop, and Rosé knows her chance is coming soon. For some reason, she feels disappointed. 

When she’d first seen Grendan across the tavern, they’d seemed like any other mark. Foolishly leaving their bag at their feet instead of in their room, getting drunk in some middle of nowhere mountain town, hell, they weren’t even dressed properly for the weather. Rosé doesn’t necessarily believe in survival of the fittest, but Grendan was practically asking to be robbed. 

But there’s something about the dwarf that tugs at her heartstrings. They’re kind, almost constantly smiling, despite the fact that, from what Rosé can tell, they’re all alone. And maybe, Rosé thinks, that’s why she’s hesitating. 

Grendan reminds her of herself, when she was younger. Optimistic, and sure that, despite the hardships, everything would turn out alright. Rosé had learned the faults in her thinking the hard way. She’d learned that, where there was kindness, someone would always be there to exploit it. And isn’t that what she’s doing right now? Is the life she’s living now any better than the one she’d run away from?

Rosé unhooks her foot from the strap of Grendan’s bag and finishes her sip. Grendan’s looking at her again, and she meets their eyes. 

“Can I ask where you’re going?” they ask. Rosé blinks. She doesn’t really have a good answer for that question. Before she can stop herself, she answers honestly. 

“Just wandering really. Picking up odd jobs.” She wonders if perhaps the ale is stronger than she thought. Grendan nods, slumping slightly onto the bar. They don’t look sad, just very, very drunk. 

“I bet you see a lot of cool stuff…” they mumble. Again Rosé is caught off guard. She really never thought about it in that way. She’s about to try and put together some sort of answer when she looks down at Grendan again. 

They’re asleep, head pillowed in their arms, hat dangerously close to completely falling off their head. Rosé makes a decision. She places the hat on the bar and stands up, waving at the bartender. 

She comes over, and Rosé asks, “Can you make sure they get to their room safely?” pointing at the sleeping dwarf. The bartender nods, and Rosé gives her a smile. She heads up to her own room, leaving Grendan’s bag untouched. 

Rosé wakes up to the sun rising, and an aching regret sitting in the center of her chest. She tries vainly to drive it away as she gets dressed, but it grows heavier at the light weight of her coin purse. She really doesn’t want to spend the night on the streets again. A harsher part of her brain tells her she should have stolen the bag. Rosé smothers it. 

She heads downstairs with her coat on her back and her pack on her shoulders. Surprisingly, she spots a familiar hatted head at the bar, munching on a large plate of eggs and bacon. Rosé’s stomach growls. 

They look up when Rosé sits next to them. “Oh, uh, Rosé! Good morning!” Rosé stretches, slightly put off by the dwarf’s cheeriness this early in the morning. 

“Mornin’,” Rosé yawns. Seeing the dwarf seems so have acquired a coat of their own, she asks, “Headed out today?” Grendan nods. 

“Yep,” they pause for a second, thinking, “I think the next town east of here is… Crescent Hill?” Rosé shrugs.

“I’ve never been there,” she comments idly, then orders her breakfast. This town, though it has a very nice tavern, and a very cute barkeep, doesn’t present many opportunities for earning money, legal or illegal. Rosé supposes it’s probably about time she moves on as well. 

“Don’t the Justice family live in Crescent Hill?” the bartender asks. Grendan nods. Rosé raises an eyebrow. 

“The Justice family?” She doesn’t know that name. 

Between another bite of eggs, Grendan explains, “Very rich family. The dad is some sort of paladin or something.” The very thought seems to bore Grendan, but it sparks many an idea for Rosé. She buries her own enthusiasm in her own breakfast. It’s a few more minutes of eating before Grendan asks a question of their own. “Where are you going Rosé?” 

Rosé can hardly keep a grin from breaking out on her face. “Crescent Hill I suppose. Wanna travel together?” 

The warm smile she gets from Grendan is enough to make her regrets disappear, if for just a moment.

Chapter Text

They head out of town after sunrise, taking a small, but well traveled road through the craggy, mountainous landscape. They couldn’t find any transportation heading East, since it seemed most people head west towards the larger cities, like Fancy Town. Rosé uses a bit of what’s left of her meager money to buy enough rations to stuff her pockets, and hopes its enough to last the trip. Grendan doesn’t seem worried at least, though Rosé had no way of telling if their confidence is the result of experience or ignorance. 

It’s cold outside, clouds turning the the already slightly barren landscape a dreary grey. The sound of their boots and Grendan’s staff on gravel is the only sound for a few minutes, Grendan consulting their map, and Rosé keeping a look out for any dangers on the road ahead. There isn’t much foliage in which potential threats could hide, but that also means there’s nowhere for them to hide if something were to approach them. 

It’s unsettling for Rosé, who’s used to the cramped and crowded streets of the city, where she could always find a place to hide, or at least have a wall at her back. It takes a significant amount of willpower to not constantly look behind them, assuring herself that the echoes of their own footsteps are not the approach of some invisible foe. 

She casts another glance at Grendan. The map is almost as tall as they are, drawn from the depths of dwarf’s seemingly bottomless bag. They make small hmm-ing sounds occasionally, but Rosé can’t decipher their meaning. Eventually, after about the tenth ‘hmmm’, she breaks. 

“What does the map say?” she asks, moving to look over Grendan’s shoulder. They hold it out for her to see, explaining as they point to an area on the right side. 

“After Crescent Hill it gets really vague, doesn’t even show any roads.” Rosé looks herself. In an almost blank area of the map, there are only trees and a very strange, unskilled drawing. 

“Is that supposed to be a monster of some sort?” The drawing is large and broad, with several horns on what looked like… it’s head? Grendan shrugs. 

“Looks like a rhinoceros to me.”

Rosé blinks. “What the hell is a rhinoceros?” 

Grendan stumbles, “I, uh, read about it in a book. I think I sketched it, gimme a second.” Then they’re back to digging in that bag of theirs. Rosé spares another glance around at their environment, but it doesn’t seem like they have any reason to be moving quickly. 

Grendan finally fishes a leather bound journal out of their bag and starts flipping through the pages. Rosé’s eyes don’t get a chance to linger on any one page, but the journal seems to be teeming with drawings. Really good ones too. Rosé can pick out several dogs and other animals, really detailed plants, and some people. Finally, Grendan finds a certain page an hands the journal to Rosé.

The creature depicted on the journal page bears a passing resemblance to the one scrawled on the map, that’s for sure. Though, even to Rosé’s untrained eye, she can tell Grendan’s drawing is far superior. The beast looks far more formidable on the journal page, almost seeming to have weight. There are notes in Common written in the margins, giving the animal’s name and some bare-bones details about it. 

“Huh,” Rosé says, not really knowing what else to say. Somehow, Grendan has surprised her once again. “You draw a lot?” 

She can see Grendan’s cheeks flush pink. “Oh, uh, you know. It helps to be prepared. If I’m going into  the wilderness, it’s better to know what kinds of things are out there.” That doesn’t explain the dogs, but Rosé decides to leave it for a bit. They’ve got almost a week to reach Crescent Hill after all. 

“Makes sense.” They lapse into quiet for a little bit after that. Occasionally, Grendan will point out a bit of flora or fauna, spouting off some random facts about it. Rosé is beginning to believe them about being a druid, even if she’s pretty sure druids do magic, and she hasn’t seen Grendan’s staff be put to use as anything other than a walking stick. 

Eventually, the sun does set behind the clouds, and they have to make camp. They move a little off the road and Grendan begins gathering foliage for a fire. Rosé does a preliminary check around the camp, her hand resting on her belt where her knives sit, but nothing appears amiss. It seems like nothing will disturb their sleep, but Rosé knows better than to trust her assumptions. 

“I’ll take first watch,” she says as she steps back into camp, “you can go ahead and head to sleep.” Grendan nods, finishing making the fire and beginning to roll out their bedroll. 

Rosé finds a rock to sit on and begins sharpening her knives, one by one, with a whetstone from her pockets. Grendan’s eyes get big when they look over at her, and Rosé suddenly realizes they probably haven’t seen her knives yet. To be fair, they’re quite small, and she hides them under her jacket most of the time. Rosé tries her best to give Grendan a reassuring smile, but she thinks it may have come out more like a grimace. “Gotta stay safe right?” 

Grendan just nods, stiffly arranging their bedding. Before they’ve even laid down, Rosé has finished sharpening one knife and palms it, discreetly sliding it into her holster. Always good to stay practiced. She thinks she sees Grendan pause a moment, but she doesn’t look up. 

The rest of the night passes without incident, with only Rosé waking Grendan up to take the second shift of watch. Thanks to all the walking, Rosé sleeps deeply and dreamlessly, waking up to the smell of something cooking. 

Rolling over in her bedroll, she can see the sun is just barely cresting the horizon, and Grendan is tending to something over the fire. Something in a pot?

The dwarf’s eyes land on her. “Good morning Rosé! I made some stew.” Rosé blinks, then sits up, rubbing her eyes. She eventually wanders over to the fire, rubbing her hands together to warm them up. Grendan gives her a smile, completely devoid of the hesitation they had last night. Maybe not being murdered in their sleep improved their opinion of Rosé? She can’t tell, she’s just hungry. 

Wordlessly, Grendan hands her a bowl of stew. It smells so good that Rosé ignores how the dwarf seems to have infinite room in their bag for all these cooking implements plus the usual rations. “What’s in this?” she asks as she takes a sip.

Grendan happily lists off the variety of local plants and roots they put into the stew, and Rosé just nods as she eats. Whatever’s in it, the stew is fantastic, and Rosé is looking forward to waking up to hot food in the mornings. 

Eventually, it comes time to break camp, and they head off down the road again. If things stay as they are, Rosé thinks, then this trip will be a pleasant one. 

Of course, it's just as she thinks that, that far down the the road, there’s a scream.

Chapter Text

So far, Grendan’s enjoyed traveling with Rosé. She’s not much of talker, at least less of one than they are, but she seems nice. So yeah, they may not even know much about her, but she seems trustworthy. She hasn’t stolen from them at least, and Grendan suspects she definitely has a story to tell.

They would love to hear that story, but one thing Grendan has noticed about Rosé since they left the Moon Hoot is that she can be cagey. Somehow, she always seems to keep the conversation on Grendan, which they can’t help but fall for. It’s not their fault plants are so interesting to talk about!

It’s when they set out that second morning of their acquaintance that Grendan plans to finally ask Rosé where she comes from. Because Grendan is pretty sure they’ve never seen someone dressed like her in the mountains.

The ground is beginning to slope slightly downwards when the two of them hear a scream. It’s loud, a shriek of terror echoing up the trail from ahead of them.

Grendan looks at Rosé. Rosé looks back at them, her eyes wide. There is an unspoken question in the air. Something is ahead of them, past the turn in the trail, and someone is in trouble. But do they run towards it? Or do they turn tail and hide?

Rosé seems to have been frozen in place by the scream, her face pale. Grendan knows they’ll have to make the decision themselves. They just hope Rosé will follow.

Grendan runs to follow the scream.

They think they hear a “Wait a minute!” from behind them, but they don’t turn around. Their boots scramble for purchase on the shifting gravel, and their legs are too short to move that quickly, but luckily, it seems the source of the scream is closer than it first seemed. They skid into the turn in the trail, using their staff to keep balance, and just a few feet in front of them is a wagon.

It’s a basic wagon, drawn by two horses, and with a back overflowing with crates and bags. Two people seem to be near it, one on top of the wagon, and one having jumped off onto the ground as Grendan turned the corner.
Of course, the most obvious thing about the situation is that the cart is surrounded by wolves.

The second most obvious is that the person on the ground is most definitely an orc. They’re facing off with the biggest of the wolves, staring it down. Just as Grendan makes this observation, they hear footsteps behind them, and the person, a human it looks like, on the top of the wagon spots them.

“You two! Please help!” By the sound of the voice, this is the person who had been screaming. They appear to just be a normal human, and with no weapons to boot. Then again, neither does the orc.

The wolves are now slowly beginning close in on the wagon, their teeth bared. Grendan knows they have to do something, and quickly. For a group of animals to be attacking in the middle of the day, they must be very desperate. They can practically see their ribs. Anything that moves is likely to be seen as food.

A wolf finally lunges, snapping at the man on top of the cart, and after that, it becomes a frenzy.

Grendan runs forward with their staff out, very aware of the ground around them, the plants, and the life forms upon it. They focus in on something deep within the ground and, with a sweeping arc of their staff, pull it up.

Roots push themselves up from the dirt, entangling the feet of the lunging wolf, just as it is inches from the throat of the man. He stumbles back, falling with a crash into his supplies, but at least the wolf is off him for now.

Grendan can already feel themself tiring, but keeps hold on the roots entangling the wolf, looking around to see what’s going on around them. They’re closer to the cart now, but a figure wearing black quickly dashes past them.

Rosé takes aim, and a knife is quickly buried in the flank of the wolf threatening the horses. It backs off a little with a yelp, and Grendan cringes slightly. However, there’s no time to debate morals, as another wolf focuses in on them.

Grendan is too busy focused on holding the other wolf with their magic to dodge fully, and they get a nasty bite on their arm as reward. They manage to knock the wolf off with their staff, but they get the feeling this situation is becoming untenable. There are just too many wolves, and too few people.

It’s just as that thought passes their mind that Grendan hears another yelp. The orc! Turning to look, they can see that the orc that was standing off with the largest wolf has now put the beast in a headlock.

This, as strange a sight as it is, gives Grendan an idea. As another wolf closes in on Rosé, they shout towards the orc, hoping against hope that he will hear.

“You’ve got to defeat the leader! If it runs away, the rest will follow!”

It’s barely perceptible, but Grendan thinks they see the orc nod. And then the he does something completely unbelievable.

The orc hefts the gigantic wolf over his head with a grunt and… throws it.

The wolf lands with a thump on its side, drawing the attention of all the others for just a moment. It begins to struggle to its feet, but the orc yells at it in an accent Grendan’s never heard before.

“Get outta here! Go on, git!” His voice is booming, echoing all around. The largest wolf cringes back for just a second, but stays still for just long enough to make Grendan hold their breath. Then, slowly, it begins to back away.

Looking around, Grendan can see the other wolves begin to follow suit. They let go of the roots holding the last one, and it rushes after its pack as they all back off into the rocky landscape. The air is silent for a moment as they all catch their breath. The human man peeks over the side of the wagon with his mouth agape.

The sun is quickly setting, so there’s little time to make introductions as they all try to make a defensible camp. The wolves may have ran away for now, but there’s nothing stopping them from coming back when they all fall asleep.

Rosé sets off to do a perimeter check of the camp as usual, and the human man gathers firewood in lieu of Grendan, who feels bad, but also knows they’ll be slowed down by the bite on their arm.

However, as they’re patching up their wound with supplies from their own bag, they see the orc is also still in camp, placing stones in a circle for the fire. Grendan gives him a look-over. He hasn’t spoken since he scared off the wolves, and there’s very few traces of emotion in his face.

He’s tall, with large, beefy arms and spiky blond hair tied back behind his head in a ponytail. He doesn’t seem at all bothered by the cold, which is good, since his coat has no sleeves. Grendan feels slightly intimidated, but then, they see a tear and dark splotch on the side of the jacket.

“You’re bleeding!” The words come out of their mouth before they even notice. The orc looks up, a slightly befuddled look on his face.

“Huh?” Grendan swallows. They’ve already said it, they can’t take it back now.

“I, uh, said that your bleeding. On your side.” The orc looks down at his side, but his expression hardly changes.

He lets out another, “Huh,” and then, “didn’t notice.” How does someone not notice when they’re bleeding? Grendan resists the urge to pinch the top of their nose in exasperation.

Finally, they say, “Just c’mere, I’ve got bandages.” The orc hesitates just a second, then abandons his task to walk over to Grendan. He’s much bigger up close, about the height of two Grendans stacked on top of each other. Grendan hands him the bandages they’d been using on their own wound, and watches as he takes off his coat and shirt, then expertly patches himself up.

Judging from the scars, this was hardly the orc’s first fight. Despite them, however, he still looks quite young. Grendan wonders how old he is, then realizes that the lifespans of dwarves and orcs are very different, and he wouldn’t be able to decipher much from years alone.

Quicker than they thought, the orc finishes bandaging himself and hands the roll back to Grendan. Before he can turn back to his task, Grendan quickly asks, “What’s your name?”

Without looking over his shoulder, the orc grunts, “I’m York,” there’s a slight pause, and then, “you?”

They can’t help but smile.

“I’m Grendan!”

Chapter Text

On patrol, Rosé takes a longer, more circuitous route, conscious of every sound going on around her. The wolves seemed to have moved out of the area for now at least, but she hadn’t seen them last night either, so it doesn’t hurt to be cautious.

When she reaches camp once again, she’s met with a warm fire and an awkward silence. She clears her throat, and everybody except the orc flinches. “Clear for now. I’d keep the fire burning though.”

The human man nods, sighing, “I can’t believe this happened. I’ve traveled this route several times, and it’s always been safe.”

Rosé props her hand on her knee and tries to sound casual. “Where are you two from anyway?” she asks, mostly curious about the orc. She’s never seen an orc in person before. Luckily, he answers first.

“Northern Tribes. Headed for, what was the place again?” He looks over at the human, who finishes for him.

“Crescent Hill. I’m going to sell my wares—” he gestures at the orc.

“And I’m going to visit my mom,” he says simply, “I’m York by the way.” Rosé nods.

“Nice to meet you! We’re also heading to Crescent Hill, right Grendan?” Grendan looks up from sketching in their journal and nods. Rosé can see the beginnings of a wolf forming on the page.

“Yep! You guys mind if we ride with you?” The man nods enthusiastically.

“Of course! It’s the least I can do, with the help you gave us.” At that, Rosé smiles wryly, remembering something she had wanted to ask Grendan and sensing an opportunity.

“All I really did was lose a knife, Grendan did the whole thing with the plants and had the idea to scare off the leader,” Grendan is already blushing, hiding their face in the journal, “speaking of, what exactly was that with the plants?” Rosé gives them her best puppy eyes, and knows that York and the man are looking at them too.

“Oh-um, y’know,” they stumble, “it’s just nature magic. I’m a druid after all.” They adjust their hat self-consciously. York tilts his head.

“What’s a druid? I’ve never heard of one of those before.” Rosé has to physically stop herself from snorting. Grendan could practically be a tomato at this point. York, on the other hand, just seems genuinely curious.

“Uh…” Grendan has to take a second to think about the question, but eventually says, “druids are just, like, people with a special connection to nature. That’s why I could control those roots.” It seems to Rosé as if Grendan has never had to explain this before, which is something she adds to the mental list of strange things about the dwarf.

York’s stoic expression does not change. Rosé is beginning to think his face might just be like that. “I don’t get it.”

The way he says it is so frank that Rosé can’t help herself this time. She laughs, clutching her belly. At first, Grendan seems confused, but eventually they start to giggle too.

“What’s so funny?” York asks, and that just causes Rosé to laugh harder. The man is looking at them like they might be insane, but Rosé can’t help herself.

After her and Grendan calm down, Grendan spends the rest of the time before they go to sleep ineffectually trying to teach York what a druid is.

Eventually, though, it comes time to turn in. Rosé takes first watch, so she sees everyone else go to sleep.

Grendan tucks away their journal and takes off their hat before climbing into their bedroll. Once they’re fully covered, Rosé can only see the very top of their head. In stark contrast, York spreads out his bedroll only to lay on top of it, seemingly impervious to the cold. Well, he did mention growing up in the north.

As she goes through her watch, she sharpens her knives. As of right now, she has fourteen out of her usual fifteen. The ones on her belt only make up ten of those, the rest hidden on various spots on her body. Old habit, just in case she got caught on a job.

Of course, Rosé had never gotten caught. But it never hurt to be prepared. She’ll just have to replace her lost knife when they got to Crescent Hill, which, with the addition of the cart, would be faster than she anticipated. She hesitates to even think it, but things seem to be looking up.

Rosé knows better than to get comfortable though. As soon as she got to Crescent Hill, her relationship with these people would be practically over. Grendan would continue into the East, York would go see his mom, and she’d… well she’d probably be on the run for the burglary of the Justice family.

Things would go back to normal. And Rosé would be alone again.

The next morning, it begins to rain. The merchant covers his wares with a large canvas, but there’s not enough room under there for anything else, so Grendan, Rosé, and York sit on the back end of the cart, freezing cold and sopping wet.

Rosé pulls her hood over her head to save her hair, but its a lost cause since the wind blows rain into her face anyway. Grendan almost loses their hat twice before Rosé simply pulls it off their head and stuffs it under the tarp. The look she gets is half grateful and half betrayed. Her only response is, “Would you rather have lost it?” And Grendan doesn’t have an answer for that.

Eventually, after the cart’s left back wheel gets stuck in the mud a few times, the merchant implores that York sits in the middle of the trio sitting on the back. This splits up Rosé and Grendan, but she quickly learns the advantage of the situation. York, huge and unmoving, makes a fantastic wind barrier. Grendan also seems to realize this, and soon they’re both sandwiched as close to the orc as possible.

As the day passes, with the slow rocking of the cart, Rosé begins to get sleepy. She’s still not used to long trips and sleeping outside, it seems, and as much as she tries to keep her eyes open, she eventually feels herself lulled to sleep.

When Rosé wakes, she feels relaxed. She’s leaning against something large and warm, and as she slowly opens her eyes, she can see that the rain is beginning to stop, sunlight shining through the clouds.

Abruptly, she realizes she’s been sleeping leaning against York, but when she looks up, he doesn’t seem angry. His eyes are actually closed as well. With a slight turn, Rosé can also see that Grendan is in the same position on York’s other side, also asleep.

She could sit up and pretend this situation never happened, maybe tease Grendan about it later, but she finds she doesn’t really want to. She’s still soaked to the bone, and York is still really warm.

It can’t hurt to wait just a little longer, could it?

Chapter Text

A lot of things are new to York. Traveling towards Crescent Hill, he’d learned about things like taverns, money, and all sorts of people he’d never seen before. He’d heard about humans and orcs before, of course, but apparently there were many other types of people who were nothing like York at all.

Take the person apparently sleeping on his left side, Grendan. They are apparently both a dwarf and something called a druid, which was very confusing for York.

However, they are nice, so he supposes its fine that they fell asleep on him.

That’s another thing York’s never encountered before. People outside of the tribes and the merchants who trade with them tend to avoid York, or at least be on guard when around him. He thinks they may be jealous, after all, they’ve probably never met someone as big and strong as York. He tries not to judge.

The human, Rosé, is also different from other humans he’s met so far. From what he saw when the wolves attacked, she can definitely handle herself in a fight, but she doesn’t advertise that on the outside. Nor does she look as protective as she acted last night while setting up camp.

Because of this, York thinks its probably okay that she sleeps next to him. She kept an eye out for them last night, its only fair that he do the same.

It’s as the sun is setting that York finally catches sight of Crescent Hill in the distance. The merchant directs his gaze past the front of the wagon, and down the sloping road is the city, clustered around the base of (unsurprisingly) a hill. At the top of that hill, a large building sits.

He nudges the other two, still leaning against him. Grendan sits up with a yawn and a sleepy, “Wassup?” Rosé slowly sits up as well.

York points at the town on the horizon. “We’re almost there.” It may be York’s imagination, but Rosé’s shoulders seem to slump a little. Grendan reaches under the tarp and puts their hat back on.

“So that’s the Justice family’s place?” Rosé asks, pointing at the the large building on top of the hill. Grendan looks over York at her.

“Yeah, that’s what the map says. You thinking you might be able to find some work there?” There’s something in Grendan’s voice that makes the question sound like something more. He senses he doesn’t know all the context for the conversation.

Rosé flashes the dwarf a sharp smile. “Sure, let’s call it that.” York is very confused. There’s obviously something here he’s not getting, but Grendan doesn’t question Rosé any further after that, so York begins to think ahead about what he’s going to do in town.

His hand brushes the letter in his coat pocket. He’d had to have the merchant read it to him initially, but he’d made to sure to memorize every word. According to the letter sent by his mother, people in Crescent Hill knew her, so all he would have to do is ask around in order to find her house. Still, he’s a little apprehensive. He wonders if the people of Crescent Hill will be as intimidated by him as the others he’s run into on his journey.

It’s a little late to think about now though, since the cart is already clattering into town. The merchant stops at the nearby stables to tie the horses and looks back the his passengers.

“Last stop! Thanks for the help folks!” They all sense the dismissal for what it is and hop off the end of the cart. Grendan looks up at the darkening sky, then down the street. York can sense he’s drawing stares.

They turn towards Rosé. “We should probably find the tavern, its getting dark.” Rosé, however, seems to be looking elsewhere. She waves a hand at Grendan.

“I’ve got some shopping I want to do. I’ll see you over there though.” She quickly strides off into the street, turning a corner and vanishing from view. Grendan seems to visibly deflate. They look up at York hopelessly.
“I suppose you’re headed for your mother’s place, right?” York feels something ache in his chest. It is not a comfortable sensation.

“I can go to the tavern. I need to ask where it is anyway.” Grendan perks up and gives York a smile. York feels the edges of his mouth raise up, just slightly. Grendan points down the main street, and York follows them from behind.

They walk for a little bit, drawing stares, until Grendan points out a sign York can’t read. “Here we are!” York nods, following them through the doors.

The inside is larger than the other taverns than York has stayed in so far, though that makes sense. Crescent Hill is much larger than any other town he has been in. A fire roars in a hearth, and the tables are filled with people drinking and eating, mostly humans and… humans with horns? That’s new.

The two of them approach the bar, which is staffed by another one of those horned humans. His eyes widen slightly when they look up at York, and it takes a couple of seconds for him to notice Grendan clearing their throat below them. He blinks, and York doesn’t say anything, so he finally looks down at Grendan.

“What, uh, what can I do for you?”

Grendan places a few coins on the counter and smiles up at the bartender. “One room please! And my friend needs directions.” They gesture at York. The bartender takes the money slowly and hands a key to Grendan, occasionally glancing up at York.

Grendan waves at York as they head up the stairs near the bar. “I’ll see your around! Don’t be a stranger!” York nods silently. The bartender is looking at him with what York knows from experience must be awe. There’s a moment of silence.

“You need, um… directions, right?” York nods.

Just like she said, mentioning his mom’s name brings recognition to the bartender’s eyes. York is swiftly given directions to his mother’s place, which is closer to the center of town than the tavern.

York immediately heads that way, ignoring the gazes that follow him as he leaves the tavern. It’s dark outside by now, but the bartender’s directions were good enough that he can distinguish the building from its sign. He can’t read the writing, but there is a symbol carved into the wood he can decipher. A button and thread.

The windows are dark, but York goes up and knocks on the door anyway. He’s not sure what to expect when the door opens, he hasn’t seen his mom in years after all, but she can’t have changed that much, could she?

The door opens with a crack and a tired, “Who is it?”emerges from the other side. York recognizes the voice.

“Mom?”

Suddenly, the door is flung open and York’s arms are full of human woman. He recognizes his mother’s face as she grins up at him, and he smiles back. She’s smaller than he remembered, and her face is more wrinkled, but there’s no doubt in his mind.

York hugs his mother tighter and she laughs, eyes wet.

“It’s good to see you, York.”

“Good to see you, Mom.”

Chapter Text

It’s finally dark enough outside by now that Rosé feels assured she can walk the streets of Crescent Hill without being recognized. She had wanted to go to the tavern with Grendan, really, but she needed to pick up some extra supplies first.

She draws up her hood with a smirk as she begins to head towards the mansion. It feels all to natural to fall back into old habits, especially when she doesn’t feel sorry for her future victims in the slightest. If the Justice family can afford as opulent of a mansion such as this one, then parting with a few pieces of jewelry, or perhaps an expensive vase, wouldn’t hurt them in the slightest.

There is a straight road leading up the hill towards the iron gates of the mansion, however, Rosé also noticed that the sides of the hill were covered in trees. A perfect way to disguise her approach. She surreptitiously moves off the road and into the tree line, ignoring the brush scratching at her exposed skin.

From there, it’s a straight shot to the side of the mansion. It would have been hard to navigate, but, Rosé notices with a chuckle, the windows of the gigantic building were lit up like a bonfire. It makes a perfect beacon to light her way through the dark woods. As the ground begins to slope upwards, Rosé keeps an eye out for anyone along the road who might spot her, but it seems completely empty. The only people she can see appear to be the guards manning the front gate. She doesn’t have to make much effort to avoid them, however. She isn’t going for the front.

Eventually, Rosé passes the front gate and comes to the side of the glittering mansion, still fenced off, but unguarded. It’s almost too easy.

Rosé knows, however, that it is actually better to look a gift horse in the mouth, or more fitting for this situation, look a seemingly abandoned mansion in the windows. She’s not sure if that metaphor completely adds up, but she crouches low to the ground anyway and peers through the bars of the fence into the ground level windows.

The glare coming from them makes the figures hard to distinguish except for dark shapes moving back and forth, but Rosé can count at least two in one window, and three in the next. This doesn’t bode well. A party of some sort?

Before giving up entirely, however, Rosé takes a few steps back into the woods to try and get a glimpse into the second floor windows. They’re a bit harder to see, with all the trees blocking her view, but she waits for a solid five minutes. No movement. If she’s able to get up there before the party or whatever ends, she’s pretty sure she’ll have free reign.

Plus, the second floor is more likely to have more valuable items, since its where the family actually sleeps, and not just where they receive guests. Rosé takes a deep breath in.

Alright, it’s time to do this.

 

Rosé takes her new acquisition off the loop of her belt. A rope. She quickly ties the end in a loop and, making sure she’s out of sight of the windows, approaches the fence.

It takes a few attempts, but she eventually manages to toss the loop over one of the fence poles. Now, all she has to do is climb. Bracing her feet against the bars, she scrambles up and over the fence, landing on the grass on the other side.

She briefly considers taking the rope down, but decides against it. If she’s chased, it will do her good to have an escape route.

Now that’s she’s on the other side of the fence, Rosé can see that the wall separating the windows is highly decorated, and teeming with creeping vines. Its almost child’s play to reach a second floor balcony.

She cautiously steps out onto the balcony, assuring herself that nobody is upstairs right now. The glass on the balcony doors is frosted, but from the warm glow coming from inside, she’ll bet there’s a fire in there. Likely a master bedroom then.

She tries the handle. It turns slightly but then sticks in place. Locked then. That shouldn’t be a problem. Rosé grabs her lock picking kit from a pocket.

It takes a few, agonizingly long minutes to unlock the doors. Rosé’s never been fantastic at picking locks. It takes too much patience, too much trial and error. Her speciality has always been moving quietly and taking out threats in as inobvious a way as possible.

But now, Rosé knows she’s all on her own, and she can’t afford to leave anything up to chance. So she takes her time, as much as it irritates her.

Finally, the lock clicks, and Rosé lets out a sigh of relief. The hard part is over. She opens the balcony doors.

And is met with the stench of blood.

Down, at her feet, a pool of red extends towards Rosé. Unconsciously, she covers her mouth. But her eyes still follow it. There’s something, no, someone in the middle of that pool of blood. Rosé can’t look at it for longer than a second without wanting to throw up. What the hell.

This wasn’t supposed to happen.

It’s as she’s thinking that that another door on the other side of the room opens. Unconsciously, Rosé looks up, and is pinned into place by the horrified gaze of a tiefling woman wearing an expressive dress.

Rosé turns to run just as the woman screams. She doesn’t know what’s going on here, but a man is dead and someone just saw her face. She knows it isn’t good.

She tries her best to climb down as fast as possible, but as her feet hit ground she hears footsteps approaching from the front of the house. The guards.

Rosé makes a break for the rope at the fence, her last hope. She can feel her heart beating in her chest, and it feels even louder than the commotion now coming from within the mansion. Her hand finds the rope.

And then she’s tackled to the ground.

Rosé thrashes against her assailant, but she can’t get enough leverage to stand up. She continues to fight anyway, trying to get a hand to her belt, until she find her arms have been yanked behind her, and bound in cold metal.

The cold shocks her enough for her brain to finally catch up with her body, and she can hear the guard on her back yelling at her to stop struggling. Rosé does, eventually, letting the two guards drag her off, handcuffed, to who-knows-where.

Looking down at the grass, Rosé realizes that she’s made a very, very bad miscalculation.

Chapter Text

Grendan is awoken by an knocking on their room’s door. Untangling themselves from their bedsheets, they call out groggily, “Who is it?”

The voice that answers is stoic and gruff. “The town guard. We need to speak to you.” Now Grendan’s awake. They quickly scramble out of bed, then realize they’re in their undergarments.

“Just one minute!” They call out, quickly pulling their outfit together. They don’t know why the town guard wants to see them, but they have some suspicions. Rosé had not come to the inn as far as they know. Just in case they have to make a break for it, Grendan throws their bag over a shoulder.

Grendan opens the door while adjusting their hat to see an armored human figure in the doorway. “You are… Grendan, correct?” Grendan nods. “A prisoner in the town jail has asked to see you. On the behalf of the Justice family, I have been ordered to escort you.” Grendan’s heart sinks.

“A prisoner?” The guard narrows his eyes at them.

“One Rosé. No last name given.” Grendan wants to swear. Instead he just swallows and nods. The guard gestures for them to follow as he walks down the inn’s stairs. As they struggle to keep up on shorter legs, Grendan speaks up.

“If—if I may ask, why is Rosé in the jail?” Grendan knows Rosé may be a act suspicious, so perhaps pickpocketing? Some light robbery? Surely she wouldn’t do anything like—

The guard’s face turns stony. “She is suspected of the murder of Sorin Justice, a highly respected town official.” Grendan stops in their tracks, reeling.

Rosé? Murder? The woman who’d helped protect Grendan, who’d traveled with them and helped random strangers on the way? That Rosé? It’s inconceivable. Grendan sets their jaw. They refuse to believe it. This must be some sort of misunderstanding, or an accident, or… something!

The guard has walked quite a distance across the tavern by now, so Grendan has to run to catch up. They’re going to get to the bottom of this, no matter what.

The town jail isn’t far away, just a short walk from the tavern. Makes sense, Grendan thinks, since most of the crime this town probably has to deal with is drunken rowdiness.

The next thing they notice is the loud arguing coming from inside. The guard doesn’t seem phased at all, so Grendan assumes this has been going on for a while. As the guard opens the door Grendan recognizes one of the voices as Rosé’s.

“And I’m saying I didn’t do it!”

An even louder voice answers, “Well, there’s no one else here with a knife! You had to have done it!”

Grendan walks in just as Rosé grips the bars of her cell in frustration. “We’re. Not. Even. At. The. Crime. Scene.” A large human man in facing the cell answers her.

“Crime scene? How would you know a crime was committed if you didn’t do it?”

Rosé leans back and lets out a loud groan of frustration. “You are the worst—“

The guard standing next to Grendan clears his throat. Both Rosé and the large man turn to face them. Grendan can’t help but notice that Rosé looks slightly surprised to see them. The guard speaks.

“Captain Steel. I’ve brought the criminal’s companion.” The man blinks.

“Oh. Uh… Good. Keep an eye on them, I’ve got uh… paperwork.” Captain Steel quickly exits through another door. The guard takes up post at the entrance and gestures at Grendan.

“You heard him.” Grendan nods slowly. The town guard seem… off, but they don’t have time to question that right now. They turn towards Rosé. She gestures them to move closer to the bars and crouches down to talk to them.

“What’s going on Rosé? I heard something about a murder?” Grendan is really trying to stay composed, but their voice comes out a hoarse whisper. Rosé’s mouth has turned from her usual smirk to a frown.

“Look, I understand if you don’t want to be involved, but I promise I didn’t do it. Kill the guy that is. I may or may not have broken into his house but—“

Grendan cuts her off, placing his hand the one of hers that is still gripping the cell bars. “Rosé. Take it from the beginning. I want to help get you out of this.” They look into Rosé’s eyes, trying to convey just how serious they are. “I don’t think you could do something like this.”

Rosé’s eyes get wide. Her mouth opens and closes for a second, like she’s searching for the right words. Grendan waits. She looks down at him.

“Are you sure?”

Grendan nods. Rosé close her eyes and nods. She takes Grendan’s hand in her own.

“Alright. I’ll start from the beginning.”

“So you didn’t see who actually did it?” Rosé shakes her head.

“I was looking in the window for a few minutes before and didn’t see any movement. It must have happened before then.” Grendan nods.

“And they suspect you because you were standing over the body when someone came in.”

She sighs. “Yep. That and well, the knives. I lost one you know, while we were fighting the wolves. Just my luck.”

Grendan fiddles with their hat brim. “Hmm… So how are they saying you got rid of the weapon?”

Rosé scowls. “I doubt they’ve even thought that far. That Steel guy seems a bit… dense.” Grendan thinks back to the man he assumed was captain of the guard.

“So there’s no counting on them finding the truth themselves.” Rosé shakes her head.

“Apparently not.”

Grendan closes their eyes, trying to think. If they can’t depend on the town guard to find the truth, there’s only one other option.

“Guess its up to us then. You think I can convince them to let me in to the mansion?” Rosé’s head snaps up.

“You really think we can solve this by ourselves?” Grendan shrugs.

“You didn’t do it right? Then its worth a try.”

Rosé rubs her eyes with the back of her hand, looking away from them. Was she…?

“Yeah,” she says, “I guess so.”

Chapter Text

York’s mom invites him inside her shop, which just happens to double as her house. She lights a few candles so he can see and gestures around.

“What do you think of the shop?” York looks around. He doesn’t recognize most of the equipment, but he can place the fabrics lining the shelves, as well as the clothing hanging from racks and generally strewn about. “It’s a bit of a mess,” his mom admits, “I didn’t really know when the letter would reach you, let alone when you’d get here.”

York nods. “It’s… good.” He really doesn’t know if that’s true. His memories of his mother’s trade are fuzzy at best, the most vivid being of her yelling at him for using a bolt of fabric as a cape and dragging it through the mud. But she smiles, and York knows that, since she’s his mother, the shop has to be good. In fact, its probably the best tailor shop in all the world.

While he was ruminating, his mother had started tugging at the sides of his coat. She frowns as she examines its many ripped areas, and looks at his arms, noticing the lack of sleeves.

She speaks in a slightly scolding tone. “Your coat is a mess, York.” She holds out a hand. “Give it to me, I’ll fix it.” York hesitates.

“I don’t like sleeves,” he clarifies. He’d have just ripped them off anyway, but he’d feel bad about doing that to his mom’s hard work. Instead of protesting, she just nods sagely.

“Of course. No sleeves then, I’ll just patch up the holes.” Finding the compromise agreeable, York shrugs off his coat. His mother lays it out on a table, then turns to him.

“Oh right! Have you had dinner yet?”

York shakes his head. His mother ushers him upstairs.

The upstairs of the shop turns out be his mom’s living area. It’s just as covered with cloth and sewing supplies as the downstairs, but it has amenities like a kitchen and bedrooms. His mother serves York and herself a hefty serving of dinner, and York nods his approval as she begins talking about her business, the town, and the things York has missed since she moved away.

“Those Justice’s are always holding some sort of gathering up there in that mansion of theirs, I wonder what they get up to?”

“There used to be this amazing restaurant, but the head chef moved away really suddenly.”

“And he comes to me, asking me to mend his cloak! For free! Isn’t that ridiculous!”

York nods. He doesn’t understand half of what his mother is saying, but it’s nice to just listen to her talk. It’s a stark contrast to his father, who’s a man of few words. Maybe that’s why his mother doesn’t mind his own relative silence, continuing to carry the conversation mostly on her own.

He finds himself grateful she doesn’t ask about the Northern Tribes. He doesn’t know how he’d tell her about his brother.

Eventually though, dinner is long finished, and his mom yawns. She glances out the window. “So dark out already?” She turns back to York. “Suppose it’s about time we get to bed, I’ll show you your room.”

“My room?” York asks. His mother stands up, stretching.

“Of course! You think I’d buy a shop with only one bedroom? Where would you stay?” York doesn’t know how to answer that. He has a bedroll with him. He assumed he’d just sleep on that.

He doesn’t voice that thought however, and simply follows his mother as she enters a door off the kitchen area.

He stays in the doorway as she fluffs out the sheets on the bed and make sure everything is in order. Once she seems satisfied, she turns and walks back towards York.

“There you go. Don’t hesitate to wake me of you need something.”

“Okay,” York agrees, but he knows he won’t. He aware of how hard she works, and she needs her sleep. His mother gives him in a quick hug, then moves past, heading for her own room.

“Goodnight York!”

“Night.”

The next day, York wakes up early enough to help his mother open up the shop. It’s particularly hard work, but he’s happy to help out where he can. His mom sets him about carrying boxes and organizing the racks of clothing while she begins to set up her own workspace.

The sun is beginning to seep in through the windows when everything is finally in its place. His mother takes out a pad of paper and flips through it.

“I’ve only got a few orders in right now. If I finish by this afternoon, I’ll show you around town.”

York looks at the paper, but can’t understand anything that’s written on it. It doesn’t even have pictures. Still, he offers, “Can I help?”

His mother shakes her head. “Oh I’ll be fine. You just rest up. You’ve had a long journey after all.” York knows she’s implying he go back upstairs, but he’d rather stick around.

She doesn’t seem to object when he posts up against a wall and watches her work. He doesn’t really understand what she’s doing, the movements of her sewing are so small and intricate that he doesn’t think he could even come close, but he’s fine with that.

It’s as she’s mending his own coat that there comes a knock at the shop door. Her head perks up. “Oh, someone’s here. One moment York.” She gets up and opens the door.

York can’t see who she’s talking to from the back of the shop, she’s blocking the view through the door. She seems to speak to whoever the person is for a moment, but then turns back and calls to York.

“York! Someone named Grendan wants to talk to you!”

(Somewhere in Fancy Town)

A woman sits at her desk, leaning over piles upon piles of paperwork. On top of that paperwork, though, sits an opened letter. The woman stares at it for a moment longer, as if willing it to divulge its secrets to her. It does not.

The woman stand up and exits her office, flipping the sign on the door to ‘closed’. A carriage passes by on the busy street, and she waves at the driver. They pull to a stop on the curb.

“Where you headed?”

The woman climbs into the back of the carriage as she speaks. “The city gates please.”

And with a crack of the reigns, they’re off. The driver turns back towards the woman as the horses trot along, making small talk.

“City gates? Where are you leaving for, if you don’t mind me asking?”

The woman pauses for a moment, then answers.

“East. I’m going to Crescent Hill.”

Chapter Text

Just as Rosé expected, the slammer sucks. The floor is cold stone, they took her knives (well, the ones they could find) and the captain of the guard is probably the most dense person she’s ever met. And she’s met a lot of dense people. But unlike your regular idiot, he never gets close enough to the bars for Rosé to pickpocket the keys off him, and, unluckily for her, she’d also had her lockpicks taken away!

 

Rosé leans back against the stone wall of her cell and sighs. Grendan had promised to find a way to clear her name, but how could they? She doubts the town guard would even let them into the mansion to investigate.

Murder. Rosé can’t get what she’d seen in that mansion out of her mind. It still her feel sick. She’s done some bad things in the past, sure. Hurt some people, seen her fair share of cuts and bruises. But Rosé couldn’t kill someone.

Though at one point, she thinks she might have been able to be persuaded to.

Rosé shakes her head. It’s not good to ruminate. It takes her attention off the present, and presently, she needs to keep her eyes peeled for any opening she can find, no matter how small. She may not be the most fantastic thief, apparently, but Rosé knows how to run.

There are voices outside the entrance to the town jail. Rosé stands, getting as close as her cell will allow. Another argument, it sounds like, but this one doesn’t feature the explosively loud voice of the captain of the guard.

Rosé recognizes one of the guard’s voices, but not the softer one speaking to it. Soon after she stands, the door opens and a woman walks in, followed closely by a town guard.

“Perhaps it isn’t the best time for you to speak with him Ma’am—“ the woman doesn’t even turn to look back at him. The first thing Rosé clocks about the woman are her expensive looking clothes. The second thing is that— oh shit that’s the lady she saw in the room with the dead body.

She must make some sort of sound, because the woman glances her direction. And then stares. Rosé stares back, dumbstruck. This situation feels all too familiar.

The woman looks largely the same, if you ignore the red-rimmed eyes, likely from crying. She’s still wearing the same dress from last night, but her shoulders are slightly hunched, as if they’re carrying a weight that wasn’t there before.

For that moment, all Rosé can do is stare.

And then everything gets much worse.

The light from the still open door is cut off by a large figure walking into the jail like he belongs there. And a smaller one, following at his hip. The town guard who was following the tiefling woman turns around and somehow deflates even further.

Not seeming to have the read the room at all, York looks down at him. “We…” he looks down to Grendan, who nods up at him encouragingly, “we want to speak to the captain guard!”

Grendan speaks up. “He means the captain of the guard!” The single town guard looks like he’s about have an aneurysm. Rosé leans her forehead against the bars. Oh boy.

As the guard stands dumbfounded, the tiefling’s eyes flick to York and Grendan. “Are you,” her voice is quiet, Rosé has to strain to hear her, “acquainted with the criminal?”

Grendan puffs up a little at that. “Rosé didn’t kill anybody! And we’re gonna prove it! Right York?" York blinks.

“Yeah.”

The woman looks between Rosé and the other two, and for a second, Rosé thinks she sees something behind the mask of grief. But in a flash, it’s gone, and the woman turns back to the poor town guard.

“May I see the captain now?” He nods slowly.

“Alright Ma’am.” He looks back at Grendan and York. “You two can wait out here. And no funny businesses. There’s still a guard outside.” With that, they both enter the door on the other side of the cell block.

Rosé looks at York and Grendan. They look back. The silence stretches for a few seconds.

“I’m going to assume that wasn’t your plan.” For the sake of her sanity, she hopes it wasn’t. Luckily, Grendan nods.

“Yeah, uh, we just wanted to look at the crime scene ourselves. To find the real killer!” Rosé glances at York, who gives her a small nod. As usual, his face doesn’t give anything away. She doesn’t know why he does anything, let alone why he’d want to help her.

He looks towards the closed office door. “Who was that anyway?” Rosé shrugs.

“She’s the one who saw me next the body. She seems pretty important, by the way the guards acted.” Grendan places a hand on their chin

“Could she be part of the Justice family?” Rosé thinks it over. She certainly seemed rich. And she must have been close to Sorin, if she was grieving so heavily.

Just as Rosé is preparing to respond to Grendan, the office door opens. It’s the woman. Following her is Steel. He surveys the room with a scowl, his eyes landing on Grendan and York.

“Alright, what do you two want?” His voice is gruff and dismissive.

“They wouldn’t let us into the mansion to investigate,” Grendan says, “they said to get your permission.” Steel looked down at them.

“Investigate? What are you, a detective?” Grendan audibly swallows.

“N-no… but Rosé is innocent! And we can prove it.” Steel looks about ready to kick Grendan out here and now, but a quiet voice interrupts him.

The woman looks to Grendan and York. “How?” Grendan blinks.

“What?”

She speaks again, slowly. “How could you prove that your… friend is not the killer?” For a second, Grendan seems stumped. But then, Rosé catches a gleam in his eye. He pulls out his journal.

“The guards have not found the weapon, correct?” The woman nods. Grendan turns the journal around, showing an illustrated recreation of one of Rosé’s daggers. “All of Rosé’s knives look like this. If we’re able to find the murder weapon, we can definitively prove it wasn’t her. Especially if it’s in a place she couldn’t have gone before the guards got her.”

Rosé blinks. That is… really clever. Surprising even herself, she feels a warm spark of pride.

It seems Steel and the woman agree. Steel stutters for a moment. “Well, even if that is true, we can’t just let anyone wander around the crime—“ The woman cuts him off.

“Pierce, it’s fine. Let’s see if they can prove their point.” Rosé gapes. Grendan gives her a subtle thumbs up, the subtle point being voided by York very obviously doing the same thing. Still, she gives the two a small smile.

As the group leaves the jail, the last thing Rosé hears is Grendan talking.

“So, uh, who are you?”

“I am Lotta Justice, Sorin’s wife.”

Oh.

Rosé realizes she’d just gotten very, very lucky.