|A Bleating Demand|
|Summary:||Lady Rebecca's handmaiden receives a lesson in learning her place, and Nikolus once again voices his desire for lamb.|
|Gate House, Braeburn House|
|Past thick copses of oak trees, a long tree-lined avenue that ends with a well manicured green lawn, and Braeburn House itself. It is a fortified manor house rather than a tower or a keep, built in stone and wood on four sides, with a moat circling it. What it lacks in martial dominance over the surrounding landscape, it makes up for in aesthetic appeal. The bridge across is is made of old stone in gentle arches, the water greenish beneath them on either side, filled with frogs and tadpoles, and small fish, with white waterlilies in bloom floating as they would. There is just enough space for a single wagon to roll across, or for a pair of riders if they aren't shy about being close. The Gatehouse stands taller than the rest of the Manor, with parapets and arrow slits for archers, and a solid gate closed at night. The interior is solid stone, a shadowy tunnel with murder holes and arrow slits, but no doors. It ends in another gate.|
|February 21st, 290|
Early evening falls over Braeburn House, the sun reddened as it touches the protective walls of the keep. Whoever has been busy over the day seems to slow down, stop for a chatter or a smell of the mild breeze, that still seems to talk about the heat of the day.
With a whickerbasket on her left arm, Samphire walks up from Kingsgrove, chatting with another maid. Something she must have said makes the other girl guffaw just before they wish each other they fare-wells and depart in other directions. In high spirits the handmaiden readjusts her skirts of maroon linnen and a few wisps of her flaxen braid, before she is ready to enter the courtyard again.
Lord Nikolus is arriving from the town, rolled parchment in hand as the other kept a firm grip upon the brass handle of his cane. He depended on it, by appearances. The swaggered walk was quick in pace on his return for the manner house. Behind him or perhaps nearby was Baryl, the sellsword this nobleman befriended some many many moons ago. "You cannot tell me there's no place for one here." The silent knight kept his gaze forward as the Groves' male vented. "For every taste in cunt sold Kingsgrove will benefit. The world will not wait for another war."
Surprised Samphire stops and turns to the men with furrowed brows, as the quite unusual bits of conversation reach her ears. As she catches the sight a certain flicker of interest conquers her gaze. "What happened with your eye?", she asks bluntly. A heartbeat passes before she adds the expected respectful curtsy and a more or less humble "m'lord." - deciding not to comment on any word she might have catched yet.
There was no retort from Baryl, ever quiet as a simple man. Nikolus did not seem to be bothered by this while vocalizing thoughts aloud. He was about to continue his little rant before queried from the help. Bluntly as so asked. Not pausing his walk he simple answers the handmaiden seen around the keep. "Lost it in a wager." One of the many tales he spins about the actual cause. "Never wager when your horse is stolen." He does pause, eventually, pointing the parchment to Samphire, "The meal ready? What has the cook prepared?"
"The guts of a horse thief, well salted." Samphire responds quicksilvery with a phrase, that has already served her well. "Or should the cook have looked out for other things, that are of a nobleman's taste and sold in Kingsgrove?" With a little pause and a respectful distance between her and the men she continues to ask "And what did you wager for? Coins?"
Her quip was rewarded a small smirk from the corner of his mouth. "Lamb." For countless weeks now he has requested lamb and it has yet to be served. Nikolus pauses his walk within conversational range of the house maid, "You are certainly an inquisitive sort. Too inquisitive for a handmaid."
"Lamb it is, then m'lord. I shall report your wishes to a kitchenmaid, if I meet one on my way back to m'lady Rebecca's chambers. And you are quite an observant sort. Too observant for a one-eyed nobleman. M'lord. " She answers with a dry smile and another quick curtsy. "One sees and assumes, the other asks, there is a wide range of people at court. But I am clever enough to take a piece of advice from a noble. Thus I am not going to ask, what happened with that leg of yours."
The four of them stood opposite of each other, Nikolus with Baryl the commoner sellsword and Samphire with another servant of Braeburn House. The Groves nobleman's brows deepened as he stared at the handmaiden. Rebecca's, he should have known even though her presence 'slightly' recalled here and there about the keep. Still even with the promise of his beloved desire for lamb being fulfilled it would not deter the oncoming swing of that rolled parchment for Samphire's cheek. Clearly he disapproved of her humors. "And lippy." Nikolus states. "Then be clever in remembering I am not your maddened lady Rebecca." Baryl raised a brow at the Groves male as the nobleman shook his head. "Fine, do whatever. Just see there's lamb tonight." His stomach growled loudly in anticipation.
The sound of hooves proceded the Ashwood, as the courser made its way across the bridge to the tunnel that lead into the gatehouse, though the presence of bodies up ahead caused its ride to draw up short while the beast snorted impatience. The Lady Aeliana, whose attire was still one of sharp mourning in black, though it fit her figure with a nod towards seduction. It also had the good fortune to compliment the inky black of Stranger's coat, both rider and beast with eyes turned towards the quartet. "Good evening, Lord Nikolus," the woman called, offering a nod of acknowledgement for the servants, but no more.
Making her way over from the Main Building of Braeburn House a kitchen maid comes, carrying another basket the contents of which are covered with a cloth of grey colour. Evayne seems to head directly to the Gate House, her arrival noted by cheering guardsmen expecting their meal and refreshment on this early evening. The young maid hands her basket to the nearest guard, offering a nod and a shy: "Hope it will suffice to make the empty stomachs full, Master." before she is about to turn back towards the Manor, as her grey eyes suddenly glimpse the people already there and the new arrivals on horseback, which do indeed make her pause and move to the side for the riders, approaching the familiar figure of her friend Samphire Undyl. Having noticed the slap Lord Nikolus has given her, she stands upright beside her, offering the Lord a quick curtsey as her alarmed gaze turns to Samfie. "M'lord. Anything amiss here?" The Young Lord's betrothed does receive a notably deeper curtsey and incline of her head, although she does not dare to voice a greeting.
As the parchment hits her, Samphire's firm, small steps come to a sudden stop. She soaks in a heavy breath of air, pressing her lips to a thin line. The cheek, that has made the encounter of the parchment is conquered by a blotchy redness, which slowly wanders over the rest of the handmaiden's face. "As you wish, m'lord.", she presses the words out between her teeth. "Lamb."
A bit trembling and more to herself than to anyone else, she adds "But to call a kinswoman maddened…" Without finishing the sentence she lowers her gaze and bends to another curtsy, as the noblewoman rides in. "M'lady."
Evayne's appearance doesn't get the usual smile. A weak "Evayne, dear." does greet her. "Our noble lord here wishes to have some lamb for dinner tonight.", Samphire says plainly, trying to avoid her friend's eyes.
That's better, he may even be seen smiling now that some odd behavior from a low born was correct. "Yes. Lamb." He repeats as the cook Evayne approached. "Nothing is amiss." As he shakes out the parchment to correct any wrinkles that may have formed. "Find a good one little bird. I'm sure one of the farmers has—" The sound of horses arriving draws his attention over the shoulder and finally shifting his stance by aid of cane. "Lady Aeliana." He greets plainly. "If anything will draw my cousin out from his lordly seclusion I am sure you have the qualities of doing so."
"He frets," Aeliana sighed, smoothing a hand down the curve of the horse's neck with an affectionate touch. She doesn't seem as if the sight of an errant servant bothers her, much less something over which to concern herself and pry into. "As he has often since our return from the Vale. You'll find him soon, I am sure and so found, which him lost again," the Ashwood teases; though a muted and softer version of that smile was accorded the pair of servants. Around her a pair of guards flowed, mindfully guiding their horses towards the stables, after pausing to wait for the woman to dismount before taking her own as well. Her handmaid leading the mare for the Septa that remained. "You're looking well, however," the Lady's attention dipped back to the Groves, her tone complimentative. "Is there anything I should convey to him in the meantime, my Lord?"
Glancing beside her to her friend, Evayne turns her head as she beholds the the redness on Samphire's cheek from the hit, and a short flicker of despair crosses her face. The glow that had surrounded her these past days seems to be gone at once, as Evie's face shows open astonishment at the humiliation - although the cause for it, unknown as it had been to her until now, is openly acknowledged by Samphire's very own words.
Turning to Lord Nikolus then, Evayne's features have assumed a mask of composure, as she is not the cook but merely the assistant to her. And bowing to him again she dares to answer back to him. "M'lord, as late as the hour is, I fear the preparations for tonight's dinner are already well underway. There's some roast pork this evening, and a broth of vegetables and garlic. But if you like I could convey your wishes to the cook for tomorrow, M'lord. A lamb, as you may know needs to be prepared and seasoned properly, or the taste will lack. Which I am sure you wouldn't want to happen."
Returning that smile of Lady Aeliana with a smile and another curtsey, Evayne remains silent then, careful not to disturb the interaction between the two nobles, while certainly overhearing it.
Nikolus exhales a breath, "When does he not?" Since the lord's absence the limping one-eyed cousin had taken to some of the tasks needing attention about the lands and, painfully, listening to the grievances from some of the common folk during his hobbies in the Inn. "As you should see him before I my Lady do relay to my cousin that while I don't have a pair of tits, I'm no less deserving of his attention." Deadpan, he was serious about meeting up with Staford. But the kitchen aid has let him down again. No lamb. At this point he threw up a hand, "How long does it take to cook fucking lamb?" For weeks now he has been denied this unless the farmers had no lamb. Which perhaps had posed a problem. Nikolus pointed his cane at Evayne, "Don't convey, do." Damn this cook. "I don't care if you have to sell your ass to get it, lamb. Fucking lamb. Tomorrow. Understand little bird?"
The handmaiden is certainly struggling for her posture, her small hands around the basket handle turning white under the pressure of her grip. Inclining her head, she speaks "You may apologize me, gentle lord, m'lady, but my duties for my fair and prudent Lady Rebecca wait for me."
As Samphire finally meets the eyes of the kitchenmaid, her mien softens as her words cross the distance between her and the nobleman. A little spark of concern flickers, though, as she looks back into the three healthy eyes of those of gentler birth.
A last curtsy ends their encounter. "Thank you, Evie, dear.", is whispered, before Samphire finally turns around to enter the keep, her white hand slowly wandering up to the burning cheek.
"I shall be sure to let him know, that as while flatter, your tits should be no less desirable than mine and he should attend you, Lord Nikolus," the Ashwood replied, just as plainly as the Lord has spoken and with her Septa wincing. Her attention to be friendly and jovial had stopped, too much effort on an unappreciative crowd. The retreating Samphire earned a low dip of her head in response to that request for forgiveness, before the lady smoothed a hand down the front of her dress and glanced ahead, towards the stables. "If there is nothing else, Lord Nikolus, I've a horse in wait for a thorough brushing."
"Certainly, M'lord." Evayne replies, her gaze dropping to the ground before her. Taking care not to take his remark about 'selling her ass' too seriously. A kitchen maid has to be used to filter some of the things that a noble tells her from the essential information conveyed in the order. "I am sure we can provide lamb for tomorrow evening's meal, M'lord."
Offering a nod towards Samphire, Evie's eyes follow her for a moment as she returns to the keep, pondering to follow her at once but deciding against it. Her gaze turning towards the nobles she stays where she is, smirking a little as she perceives the lady's reply to the Groves lord. But she will wait until they continue on, before she heads back as well.
Nikolus makes a small gesture of his head, approving and noting Samphire's departure. It was a lengthy walk from the town to Braeburn house on an injured leg. A horse was probably wiser but the jaunt was encouraged by the Groves' maester. "A kindness Lady Aeliana." Some annoyance still present on his features even with the long awaited return of Kingsgrove's heir. "Good." Nikolus was content was this, partially after so many nights of disappointment he jerked a motion towards the manor house, motioning for Baryl to follow. He does pause, making sure to relay over the shoulder. "Glad you both returned safely." Proof that he was not all surly and tempermental, Nikolus limps onward. Through the gates while still bouncing thoughts off the silent sellsword. "Find the courier. It's about time we see how we stand with the Mallisters."