So this was Evermore - it wasn’t much, was it? He had heard so much about this supposedly wonderful city, and if he had to be honest with himself, it looked just as gloomy as London in winter. As he walked the streets, and despite Spring upon them, the air was filled with a fine drizzle which was still enough to make anyone drenched if they stayed out in it long enough; his hair slowly started to turn into tight ringlets - his gaze remained alert yet taking in everything he could possibly need. For example, possible escape routes if anything ever went wrong with his plans and how the shadows bounced off particular buildings so that he could easily make residence within the darkness to hunt down his prey; at least that part of the city didn’t disappoint, there were endless possibilities to hide out whilst stalking the vulnerable. Florentin hoisted his rucksack back up upon his shoulder, his memory fading back to the map which he had mesmerized whilst traveling to Evermore - as much as he loved technology, he believed, with the mission at hand, it would be easy to tracked; yet, to have access to a phone eventually would be a necessity - who didn’t have a phone in this godforsaken society? He muttered to himself, and made a mental note to get one before making some form of presence known to the people of Evermore.

Eventually, he came to the hotel he would stay at for a few nights whilst he tried to hunt down a place to rent; he had saved enough for a few months rent meaning he could go without work for a while - to get a job was the least of his worries, simply because he had no idea how long he would be in Colorado. “Russo, Florentin” He spoke softly, as if his charisma oozed from him as the receptionist gave him a wide smile before typing his details into the database and asking for payment; which he gave in notes. “I’ll let you know if I need to stay longer” He offered the blonde woman a wink before following the directions she gave him to the room which was available; yet again, he couldn’t be disappointed when he had no expectations of this hotel - especially if it was anything like the city. The room was somewhat outdated, possibly even decorated in the 1980s and left in that way - he didn’t even want to imagine the dust which would be lingering upon the multiple of surfaces. “I should have treated myself” He commented and placed his bags down on the bed, before rummaging for anything alcoholic in the fridge.

With a beer in hand, he unpacked the newspaper which he gathered from the train station and began to read over the mundane happenings. “What a snoozy town” Floren chuckled, licked his fingertips and continued to turn the very fragile paper which he has discovered pasted on the wall of the Dojo- the bold headline standing out to him.

NEW DHAMPIRS WELCOME
Join us at The Dojo at 7pm to meet the Faction
Food and Drink provided

He noted down the address, if Valeria was in the City, she would definitely attend such an event; after all, this was her home was it not? He had gathered that she loved the community that Dhampir’s were so well known to love; a sense of community he had never really experienced; Floren had learnt that a Dhampir was made to protect, yet he was a machine made to torture and kill. He already knew he was going to hate the event, and hate how warming people were to each other, like come on - no one was ever that nice all the time. Floren raised his left wrist and glanced at the time, and hurried to get ready - 7pm was looming, even though he wanted to arrive late to the party. Floren wore something simple, after all, he enjoyed blending in and not being someone they would particularly remember yet he still wanted to make some form of impression that maybe just one would; he needed a way into the Faction, he needed to make at least one friend within the first few days. 

The evening breeze caressed his exposed flesh as he wandered to The Dojo, his hands stuffed within his pockets as he caught a glimpse of a line. “Really?” He quizzed with a quirked brow before he shook his head in disbelief that people were so needing of a community, of a family. Floren joined the line and soon found himself scribbling his name down upon the register before being welcomed with a glass of prosecco. “Cheers” He lifted his glass up in a slight toast before pulling a slight face - why did people assume that others enjoyed such a drink; without anyone noticing, he poured the bubbled liquid into the nearest plant and went to find where they served other beverages.

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What started out as a welcome back party-which Valeria had refused to host now turned into a welcoming party for the newly arrived Dhampirs. When the idea was first introduced by one of the members, almost everyone in the faction jumped at it. It was just what they needed, one had commented while the other thought the prospective to be quite intriguing and a third opined that it would be wonderful way to new the new Dhampirs and bond with them. And they had all collectively turned towards her, almost with puppy eyes and with a small grin Valeria had agreed to have the welcome party in the dojo. Afterall what could go wrong with a harmless party.

It was weeks worth of effort readying the dojo and helping in the decorations while overseeing the catering and music. At first, she had been opposed to the idea of alcohol in the place but finally agreed on serving some light drinks so that the party had no chance of getting wild. Walking around with a clipboard in her hands and a pen tucked behind her ears, she felt more like an event planner than their trainer and though she wasn't positive if she would really have a repeat performance of such a thing in the future, it had been an interesting learning experience for her.

When the day finally arrived, Val found herself running around, Memphis on her heels making sure everything was in order. Thankfully, the other members too had been hard at work and between them, they had completely transformed the dojo. Lights decorated the walls, a stage of sorts taking up space in the center where the band could play their music. Tables aligned the sides, starting to fill up with assortments of food and soft drinks and fresh juices along with light alcoholic beverages were served in another corner. She had never really attended a welcoming party for the Dhampirs and being her usual cautious self, she had appointed guards to keep an eye on the event and others to handle emergency of any sort. Memphis was allowed free reign to roam around the crowd and as Val finally emerged, freshly changed into a glittering dress, she herself was momentarily stunned by the glamour of the place. Picking up a cocktail from one of the servers, she began mingling among the crowd assembled there. Their itinerary wasn't really fixed, but she knew she was expected to give a small welcoming talk once the first dance was over. 

It had genuinely surprised him by how popular this event had become - he expected that only a few people would turn up and out of those people, the majority of them would be Dhampirs already in the faction who just wanted some excuse to have a little bit of a party; an despite the arrogance which radiated from him and the disgust which he had internalised, he was impressed of how much attention to detail went into organising this. Yet, the decor was not what he was interested in, but more so, the very limited line of alcoholic beverages which were being served; it had not surprised him in the slightest that Valeria was going to be stingy on the drinks - from the sounds of it, the girl didn’t truly know how to have fun. Floren knew that he needed alcohol to even survive the evening, and in all honesty, behave in a naturally charming manner to get what he wanted; however, he knew he could not go crazy himself - he was even more unpredictable once he had alcohol within his system and would not bode well to fuck up the mission on the first evening. He could see it now, the look of disgust on Mateo’s face and the consequences of failing would be, after all, the only reason why Mateo even kept him alive was for this very moment.

Even with that in mind, he waved down one of the waitresses and happily accepted the bottle of beer which rested upon her tray. “Please, keep them coming” He winked and wandered around the building, he glanced at the series of different foods which decorated the plates which were scattered artistically upon the tables to the weapons which were locked safely within the glass cabinet. The pads of his fingers drummed against the glass as he considered his own weapon, the sickle and how closely it was related to the scythe - ironic, that the scythe was associated with death and that would eventually be what he would be delivering. Floren heard a cough of disapproval as he noticed he left finger print marks upon the freshly clean glass before he simply raised his glass in a toast; a sarcastic way to apologise for his behaviour. It was then, that a loud male voice echoed around the hall which consequently drowned out the rest of the conversations.

Upon hearing that Valeria Aldridge, Ambassador was about to make a speech, Floren couldn’t resist by make his way closer to the middle of the hall; however, remained within the sea of people as to not stand out. Act interested you fool, He thought to himself as he began to clap his right hand against the bottle as the Ambassador made her way to the stage; he glanced around, slightly baffled at the amount of love she received - she didn’t sound that great from what he knew and especially from what he read. “Isn’t she just beautiful” The young Dhampir girl beside him squealed a little which triggered an internalised groan to rattle within the cage of his ribcage. “Yes. Very” And in that moment, Floren was unsure if he could sound any more uninterested, even if he tried and from the first word that Valeria said - he took a rather large gulp of beer; hoping the waitress from earlier was near to top him up. It was going to be a long evening - he just needed to pay attention just enough to hold some form of conversation with the other Aldridge later.

She had never been this girl, never been in the center of attention of so many people and fighting through her internal insecurities, she let a polite welcoming smile grace her lips. Fake it till you make it had often been her quote and she had worked hard not to let any vulnerability peek through the tough exterior she had build. For the world, she was Valeria Aldridge- the Dhampir ambassador and a leader that people looked upon to and counted on. For herself, she was just a confused girl trying to understand the various intricacies of a working society- the rules, the expectations, the judgements. It was perhaps why she got along so well with the turkish pirate currently residing with her. As Donovan stepped forward to welcome everyone and introduce her, she took a deep breath before holding the mic. Short and simple...that is what she had told herself. Afterall it was a party and not a ted talk.

"I would like to thank everyone for coming to this event. The Dhampirs have always been well renowned in the supernatural community for their ability to not just fight but also exist in a tight-nit community. We are all a part of one big family, no matter or different cultures, languages and heritage. What we share is a common history and a common sense of purpose and understanding of the world. Our strength is not simply in wielding power in the form of weapons, it is also in helping and assisting those who may be powerless to do so. We do not take advantage of vulnerability nor do we look down upon it. It is therefore my sincere appeal that no matter what the circumstance, we all stand united together to make the world a better, safe and happy place for everyone. A very warm welcome once again to our newest Dhampirs. May this event be the start of all the exciting adventures that await you. Cheers!" she raised her glass to toast before grinning at the everyone "Now that the formalities are over. Enjoy!"

Getting down from the podium, she spoke to some people who are gathered there. It was half hour later that she finally found herself alone in one of the corners. Slumping against the wall, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes. Socializing had never come naturally to her, but in the light of recent events, it became even more difficult. Scorpios's recent action and his subsequent banishment had her feeling wrecked and hollow though she tried not to think about it or portray the toll in that taken on her mind. Rules were rules no matter how hard it had been to follow them, but she had to be strict that such events did not take place ever again. She was glad that atleast that the other members would be distracted for the evening. If only she had that luxury.

Floren looked amongst the crowd and noted their rather joyous expressions which found their features the moment the blonde dhampir took to the stage; he had done enough research - spent the majority of his life learning about her to know that this was not her thing, and thus was internally cringing at the thought of speaking to a rather large group of dhampirs. Just that mere thought alone created such joy in Floren’s heart, of course, even if she did make a mistake in her speech, the others in the room would still be supportive and act as if it had never happened, but the embarrassment she would feel; oh he would be set for the week - he would let her revel in that before continuing his mission. However, despite his trail of thought, he also knew that someone like Valeria was a perfectionist and very rarely made such mistakes - she was the pupil who got straight As even if she only studied a few days before the exam; could she be any more infuriating? How the two of them were even related baffled him, even through nature, he didn’t believe they shared any commonalities. He truly did not want to listen, if he had it his way, he would allow the words to go in one ear, and out of the other yet he had to push passed his boredom.

The Dhampir listened to her words, and internalised his groan at her positive view of her faction, of her species; she was adamant that everyone in this room would be there for the other, no matter the circumstance - but that was not what he had heard, far from it. Floren in his delve into the internet heard that only a few weeks ago she banished one of her best dhampirs for killing another; did she take in the reason as to why he did that? No. Clearly she was a hypocrite - instead of helping and working through what he done, she banished him without a second thought; yet, despite that, Floren did appreciate and encourage the brutal decision she had made. Just before the end of the speech, Florentin managed to wave down the waitress from before and replaced his now dry bottle of beer with a fresh one which was cold to the touch - indicating that it had just been taken from the fridge.

Floren remained silent through the cheers, but to show is unwilling support, he raised his bottle to support the speech and chugged down a gulp of the liquid; exhaling pleasurably as he did so. He kept an eye out for Valeria to resurface, yet in the meantime, he was making small talk with some of the newer members as well as making his presence known to the dhampirs which had been part of the faction for a little longer. He found it incredibly easy to make conversation, partly because many of them had already had their fair share of champagne and prosecco; from the corner of his eye, he finally caught her retreat to the back of the room, away from the pressing eye. “If you’ll excuse me” He politely left the conversation with a slight tip of his head. Before he wandered over to Valeria, and knowing she was not one for drinking, he grabbed a cool glass of water.

“You look like you need this” He approached her with a fake, yet very warm smile as he extended his arm out to offer her the water. “I’m sure by now they won’t even notice you’ve slipped out, I would be surprised if they can even see their fingers” He mused, his teeth clenching at the very back as he swallowed back the anger and jealousy which gathered at the back of his throat - she was so close, he could end her now without her being any of the wiser.

Seconds, minutes, an hour? Val didn't know how long she had been hiding away in her own thoughts when the sound of a voice dispelled the uncertainty that had assailed her mind. With a grateful smile, she took the glass from him and took a light sip. She had traveled the world and seen and heard enough to know, no matter how powerful someone was, people couldn't really be trusted and though since coming to Evermore, she had worked on that part of her personality, old habits did take a while to die. Atleast being a Dhampir, she didn't have to worry about the drink being drugged but every encounter with anyone new did make her curious and suspicious.

But the male in front of her didn't seem dangerous and although there was something a tad odd about his actions and words not exactly matching his vibe, she brushed the thought aside. Many people were awkward in social setting and that could just be the case with him rather than some other nefarious reasons. "Thank you for getting me did" Val began titling the glass lightly in his direction "And that is good to know. I like meeting people, but sometimes it gets a bit too much" With a slight embarrassed smile, she studied him "I have never seen you around though. Are you new in Evermore? We have a wonderful community of Dhampirs residing here and one of the best dojos to train. Not that I am biased or anything"

She had encountered many Dhampirs in her time, who due to various circumstance either didn't understand their own self and their powers or just weren't well-equipped to deal with it and with the help of Donovan and Scorpios had started to establish a training program that covered everything from their history to the runes and other cool things they could do. Many members had teased her about it being like a course in a high school but systematic study and research of things was something she wouldn't really ever compromise on. Placing the half empty glass on the counter, she held out her hands for the male to take "You have me at a disadvantage it seems. You know my name but I know nothing of you" Gesturing to the food counter, she grinned "How about we grab something to eat and you can tell me about yourself. In that way I won't be accused of hiding away all night and at the same time, you can keep away the crowds. What do you say? Ready to play the Dhampir protector for a night?" Her voice was light and jovial and friendly- something she only truly had been in Evermore, the city teaching her to open herself up and trust people instead of expecting the worse out of them at the very first meeting. So discarding her usual caution, she decided to take a risk and simply be open and receptive to all the people that approached and spoke to her that night. 

Floren had to fight every single urge which wanted to take over his muscles to take her out now, where she stood; she was so close to him that he could almost taste the scent of her perfume upon the tip of his tongue. In this moment, she looked tired, weary and without a doubt, vulnerable which would have been the best time to kidnap her; she was in one of those humane states which makes them easy targets for predators much like himself, however, even if he did take her this evening - he had nowhere to take her. Floren had yet to set up camp or a secure base to hold someone and besides, where would the fun in that be? He desired chaos, he desired her to walk the streets and be scared - to be scared in her own home; he wanted her to beg him to save her life. Thus, despite the very urge to whack her over the head right this moment, he swallowed back the unwanted bile which teased the back of his throat and saved that urge for another day; there was plenty more to come which would satisfy his needs.

Get a bit too much? He couldn’t help but raise a brow at that statement, she seemed so introverted, why on earth did she agree to take on an ambassador role? Floren dismissed the thought soon as that was the least of the worries - where she was an extrovert or an introvert would not change the outcome of his mission. “I agree, I prefer my own company also - normally with a good book” In the years building up to this very moment, he and Mateo had done their homework and thus, he knew that Valeria also enjoyed books; and he needed to get into things that she enjoyed so that they had things in common. Floren stuffed his hands into his jean pockets as he simply nodded at her question. “I am, in fact I only arrived in the city…” He glanced at his watch “A mere five hours ago, and I saw the advert in the newspaper so thought it is never too early to start making some connections in the community” The last part of her reply regarding how great the dhampir community was sounded extremely scripted and he couldn’t help but wonder if she used that line on everyone.

“Dhampir, protector? Does such a fierce Duchess need such a thing?” He mused with a hint of a smile as he nodded at her suggestion of food whilst he introduced himself to her; he wondered what he thought of him, for example - he knew he was slightly weird and lacked a lot of social skills which were considered the norm and he was sure she saw that also. Floren cleared his throat as the two of them began to walk through the crowds again, his hands clasped around his back. “Florentin Russo, is the name, but please, call me Floren” He commented as they reached the food section; his hand naturally going out to reach for a sausage roll. Floren knew that in these conversations he would need to take note and remember what he tells her - simply so he doesn’t get caught up in a lie, although, without saying his Father's name and where he originally came from, he would be absolutely fine. “I certainly wasn’t brought up in this sort of community, so I find it a little strange, but I guess that is what brought me to this City” Wrong. It was her that brought her here - if anything, he would have normally avoided a place such as this like the plague.

Since coming to Evermore Val had opened up quite a lot and would have normally enjoyed meeting new people and getting to know the members, but with the very evident absence of a certain Italian, she hadn't been able to enjoy it completely. It had been weeks and he had not yet called. Val didn't know what she had expected but this radio silence hadn't really been on her mind. It seemed like he had disappeared off the face of the earth and it caused a strange feeling to settle within her, one that was hard to dismiss.

Knowing Donovan, Nate and the others would worry if they saw her melancholy, she took every effort to shrug it off. It helped that a complete stranger was currently conversing with her and while on a good day, she's have paid close attention to his words, her mind was somewhere else. Plus the scene she had encountered with Cecilia, Mal and Benjamin was also a great cause of worry. If Rogue Valkyrs were about, she would have to fortify the faction and train the members even harder. It didn't help that people had reported of strange acts of anger and violence taking over the city and it created a feeling of unease in her gut. 

She had been half hearing her companion's words though it was when he called her Duchess that her attention snapped towards him completely. Most people, especially those who hadn't been in the city for longer did not know of her title. It was rarely used among her members, most simply calling her by her given name. The fact that he knew of it seemed strange but she brushed it off. "No. It would be foolishness to rely on someone else for protection" she replied honestly "But I never take chances when it comes to food.Can I trust you to protect my desserts if I can called away?" Her eyes shined in amusement, a small teasing smile dancing across her lips. She turned back to pile some pasta on her plate and stilled on hearing his name-

Florentin

It had been years since she had heard that name. Val tried not to dwell too much on her past or family but her twin brother had been a huge part of equation and she had found herself wondering how things might had turned up if he had still been alive. Masking her emotions, she gave him a polite smile. It wasn't as if no one else could be sharing the same name as her brother and she rather not scare her companion away with her reactions.

Val understood how people would find the community strange. She had been there too before and it made her empathise with him "I was rather fond of wandering before I finally settled down here." she confessed "It is a great place to explore. Why don't you swing by the Dojo tomorrow?  We are meeting the new members and starting with the new training session. You can stick around and see if you like it" Knowing how difficult and intimidating it was sometimes to open up to the possibility of change and new experience, she had always been keen on helping others with it. Plus, she almost felt like she owed him for taking her mind off of other things, if only for an hour, but it was certainly a welcome distraction. 

In the brief moment of silence, Floren took the opportunity to analyse her; his eyes narrowed only slightly as he took in her demeanour - she certainly was not how other newspaper articles made her out to be, nor what the internet told him. In fact, she wasn’t even the woman he had watched on stage just mere moments ago - she almost resembled a woman who was broken, a huge chunk of her missing whilst the world rested heavily upon her shoulders. Of course, many people would find that whole revelation sad, and heartbreaking yet Floren took great, silent satisfaction from the fact she was fighting some form of battle within; it could possibly make his mission all the easier, maybe she would even welcome death with open arms. However, if that was the case, he would possibly need to change his methods ever so slightly - he wouldn’t want to kill someone who wanted that. Although, he had long way to go before the end result of this mission - he wanted to toy with her, much like cat would a mouse. Floren internally sighed in frustration, being patient was certainly not one of his virtues.

No. It would be foolishness to rely on someone else for protection. Good, he thought. It would make his life a lot easier as he had no doubt that there were some rather well built dhampirs as well as other species in the city who were loyal to her, and would protect her despite her believing it was foolish. Yet, there was hope that they also respected her when she said she could handle situations alone -; he was a skilled fighter yes, but it was purely because he thought about his moves - he was calculating, rather than someone who went straight in with brute force. Floren allowed a slight curl of his lips as he nodded once. “Luckily for you, I don’t have a sweet tooth, your deserts are safe with me” He commented, making a mental note to stock up with such things; entice her in with chocolates. Floren reached out and grabbed a plate, in which he placed a sandwich, a handful of crisps and some chicken bites on; he also reached for the jug of water to pour them a glass to help them wash the food down. He would hate to admit just how hungry he was; after all, he had only arrived in Evermore hours ago, with no food in his stomach.

Florentin was greatly appreciative that Valeria didn’t ask any further questions regarding his background; he was prepared, he had his story straight, however, he was a firm believer in slowly building such relations. If he moved in too quickly, people would get suspicious of him. He nodded some, with a mouthful of sandwich as the blonde invited him to the Dojo tomorrow; it seemed he had already made somewhat of an impression. “I will see you tomorrow, Valeria” Floren dipped his head, and placed his half-eaten plate upon the table once again. “Enjoy the rest of your evening.” The dhampir excused himself, and headed towards the cloak room where he left his coat; he slipped the fabric over his shoulders as he walked back through the crowds - however, he had one final act he needed to perform before he left. Floren had noted that many were too busy indulging in conversations, dancing, and eating to witness such a basic and almost childish move but he could not resist cutting their fun early.

With an effortless move, he broke the glass which protected the fire alarm lever before swiftly pulling it down; allowing the alarm to ring which soon triggered the sprinklers to release chilled water upon the many Dhampirs in the room. He exhaled in slight amusement before entering the night once more.

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