Location: The Bishop Estate, The Baron’s Office
There are alway the stubborn hopes that people cling to, despite being constantly let down or disappointed. That yonder-star wish that never gets fulfilled. Ever since Roland started his tenure as the Vanguard drill master, that wish - that hope - was that they would mature into a proper unit of soldiers. A proper, well-oiled machine.
Once again, Roland was disappointed in spades.
Perhaps not entirely, though. They proved capable of a multi-pronged attack against a single target position. It just so happened that said target was Isolde and himself, particularly their interlocked fingers. Every single barb and jab eroded the smile that Roland had walked in wearing. The summer-cerulean of his eyes returning to their usual stormy-sea hue beneath that familiar, sullen brow. Isolde’s answer to the Scot’s jibe was not lost on him, but at that point Roland had already started to withdraw within himself. Still, there was something real in how she squeezed his hand, and he returned the gesture. Roland couldn’t blame her, he supposed. She had more at risk and more to lose if things went a particular way. Her manner of thinking had merit. Still, the steel and resolve she’d shown in private withered before her peers.
“Perish the thought that someone might actually enjoy my company,” Roland said in an ironclad deadpan, casting a sidelong leer at the gaggle of the other Vanguard. In truth, should he have expected anything less? With Valentin making a spectacle on the floor, Roland thought that, yes, perhaps he should. Roland’s lip curled ever so faintly. The muddy Mississippi was less of a mess than that French waif.
“Don’t y’all worry. I’ve taken note of conduct and taken your words under advisement.” Roland said with one of his there-and-gone smiles that promised every little jeer would have someone raked across the coals. The Baron and the Witchfinder-General had made a mistake. One of Roland’s sisters would have been a better hand with this merry band of petulant children.
As if on queue, that was when the Baron Bishop made his entrance. Isolde released Roland’s hand, which was perhaps for the best, as the soldier snapped to attention out of habit. The Baron, insofar as Roland knew, held no military rank, but he was the head of this… project. It wasn’t until the Baron’s dismissal of her and his wholesale greeting of the rest of the room that Roland went at ease, hands moving to rest on the laddered back of the chair. It was common fare to let the man in charge run his mouth as much as he liked, especially when man was paying for room, board, meals, and supplies that were so luxurious.
Mention of rushed deployment creased Roland’s brow. He understood the fluid nature of the front, in that it was either stalemate or a constantly swerving, sinuous line. When the Baron addressed Roland directly, he couldn’t particularly lie. A salve for one's own pride didn’t matter if they were thrown into the meat-grinder before they were ready,
“Rome wasn’t built in a day, sir. They’re not ready for real action, by my count. A few more weeks might change by tune, but-” Roland was interrupted by the Baron’s insistence to ask rhetorical questions. Why waste everyone’s time in the asking, then? So, Roland listened, furrowed brow quirking at the ritual. Blood-bonding based of old Celtic practices… Roland couldn’t imagine that the Witchfinder-General, with his puritanical orthodox beliefs, could be all too thrilled
Further explanation carved dark lines into Roland’s visage in a mercurial cascade. Surprise, confusion, consternation, rage. Roland’s hands grasped at the back of the chair with an audible chorus of knuckles popping under pressure.
Big press; a public spectacle for a pagan wedding ritual under the moonlit sky, within a chapel. Matches made at the Baron’s behest.
Something ice-cold built up in Roland’s gut, coursing into his veins as he forced his breathing to remain steady. Too steady, to the point of laborious. Had he been played for a fool? Some bit of sport or practice for the blushing bride-to-be? Cold rage and burning embarrassment - shame, even - built up a sort of vitriolic steam inside of the soldier to the point where he felt he might explode.
Instead, something just in him just broke. Something intangible, hardly seen by the eye. A shrug of the shoulders, and Roland felt… not a thing. Receding fully into himself, struck in the jugular when he let his guard down, just once. It would surely have been simpler if the landmine had taken Roland’s leg, and spared him the Witchfinder-General’s consideration.
“It seems,” Roland said vacantly, peering into some middle space miles away, “that the Vanguard have much to consider. I’ll leave y’all to it. Congratulations on this auspicious day.” Roland forced his hands open with a creak of strained joints. He didn’t offer a bow or a salute. There was simply a low, “Miss Bishop,” from behind the chair, and Roland made his leave.
He needed to get out of that room before he shot someone. Roland eased the door open to slip into the hall, fighting every urge to slam it shut. He wasn’t going to give any of them the fucking satisfaction, and he couldn’t care less about how any of them felt about their match. Why give more than you receive, after all? It was a Vanguard matter, after all, and the line had been drawn just as to what that meant.
The door closed with a click, and he was gone.