|A Face To Face Meeting|
|Summary:||Desmond Westerling and Briallyn Haigh find themselves on the same side of the bridge and exchange more than words.|
|The trails are worn and well tended here and the fields on either side are lush and full of wildflowers amidst the lightly scattered trees of the central Cape of Eagles. A few packed dirt trails converge with the main road from outlying hamlets around Stonbridge.|
|7 April, 289 A.L.|
The outskirts are beginning to thrum with the sounds of the night, distant frogs rousing up choruses and crickets joining in. It's approaching dusk, Desmond's particularly favored time of day. He's out and about with Biscuits, who has been renamed, "Hoofy! Slow down!" Seems he recently dismounted the horse, and is now being pulled down one of the paths through the wildflowers by the reins. Reins that have his hand knotted up.
The Lady Briallyn is not supposed to be outside of Stonebridge, and she certainly isn't supposed to be out by herself. Despite a brash temperament, she isn't alone, but rather in the company of a rather bored looking Adelia. The elder woman, several years older than Bri herself, is seated across the trail from her mistress and presently making a poor attempt at weaving together wildflowers into the semblance of a crown.
Briallyn, however, is unusually quiet. The young woman, dressed like a well-bred noblewoman should be, is settled against the trunk of a tree, seated upon a horse blanket with her feet stretched out before her and ankles crossed. Impressively, she's perfectly still, completely consumed by whatever it is she appears to be reading from the aged book in her hands. Her dappled mare, a few yards away, is gnawing heartily at the underbrush. The sound of horse hooves doesn't garnish even a look, but rather an admonishment of Arrow walking about untended.
"Damnit-I-swear-you'll-never-get-those-shoes-if-" Desmond's rant is cut off as he's yanked along and pulled right off his feet. Hoofy happily trots towards Arrow, dragging the squire through the flowers as he curses and kicks. When he finally manages to right himself, he eyes the dappled horse and peers beyond it to spot Briallyn and her handmaiden, much to his surprise. "Lady Briallyn!" he calls, then starts to walk in her direction, only to be held back by Hoofy. Hoofy whinnies, stomps, and the two of them end up twisting in a wide circle as they wrestle with the reins. "P-pardon me a moment!"
Adelia is half to her feet by the time she recognizes Desmond and relaxes, if only minutely. The young Lady Haigh, on the other hand, slams the book shut abruptly. It's a little dark to be reading finely written words, and she doesn't appear to have brought a lit lantern with her. A dark flush floods her cheeks, and her previously peaceful expression is one of turmoil. Her lean frame tenses beneath the constricting layers of silk, but Briallyn pulls herself from the ground gracefully enough. "Ah, Desmond," she mutters softly, trying to, and failing, discretely tuck away the obtrusive book.
Its appearance indicates that, at the very least, it has been much handled. There is nothing of any interest upon its cover. The mare seems unperturbed by Desmond's sudden appearance, nor his mount, and whickers without shifting attention away from the bush she is presently nosing in. It's difficult for Briallyn to remain embarrassed in the face of Desmond being dragged through the brush, however, and the blushing recedes as she stares after him with an arched brow.
Finally pulling himself free of the reins, Desmond rushes up to Briallyn, panting and disheveled. He's already got his own crown of flowers atop his hat, and a smudge of dirt on his cheek. "Well don't look too pleased to see me, I'm no stunning specimen like Garett," he laughs, a bit winded. It may be dark, but Desmond seems to catch a few details on Briallyn, namely the book. "What've you got there then?"
"On the contrary, Desmond, the flowers and dirt are so fetching…" And then, Desmond mentions the book, and Briallyn promptly drops it as if burned. Bending quickly down to scoop it up, she tucks it protectively into her elbow and stares at Desmond imperiously with a light cant of her head to lift her chin. "It's a book, Desmond," the young woman says calmly with as much dignity as she can. "Don't you read books?" Those dark, mossy green eyes peer at Desmond, and her free hand is quickly trying to brush flecks of dirt and grass from her skirts. Adelia, obedient to Briallyn's instruction, remains hovering nearby, but outside of earshot.
Desmond isn't entirely sure if Briallyn is being sarcastic or not. So he just chuckles and shrugs lightly. But his pleasant look quickly fades when his intelligence is prodded at. "Hey now! I know what a book is! Of course I read. Do you forget I'm a nobleman as well? Gods. I'm simply wondering /what/ you're reading…" And he makes a quick grab for the book under her arm, hoping to snatch it before he's whapped with it.
Not in a thousand years would Briallyn Haigh ever expect Desmond to have the bravery to try and take something from her. She knows about the youth from Garett, but that hasn't stopped Desmond from being relatively quiet and distant around the young woman. A shame, since Briallyn normally might have been able to prevent the squire if she had half a mind to. The book is snatched out of the crook of her elbow, and she simply stares at him with flat disbelief. "A-are you mad? Give that back!" There is a desperate, fierce threat lingering in her tone, a promise of much harm to the man if he doesn't obey. As soon as it's out of her grip, Briallyn is immediately reaching for it, face blazing red. She would be grateful for the growing darkness if she isn't already aware of Desmond's night vision.
Desmond either doesn't care about the consequences, or believes he has some sort of power over Briallyn, as evinced by his proud smirk. He dances away from her grip, though her tone does give him a pause. "What's the matter? It can't be all that bad… Hmm, you're blushing. Is this something a noblewoman should not be reading?" He attempts to keep a good distance away while he opens the book.
If one could kill with a look, the withering stare directed at Desmond would reduce him to ash. But, it doesn't, and the young man is too far away from her to immediately snatch the book from him. In the time it takes her to lift the hem of her dress, so that she doesn't trip and fall upon it, and charge him, no doubt Desmond has just enough time to glean the book's general contents. Flipping a few yellowed pages reveals much too much. The trashiest poetry, copied art of extremely suggestive imagery, and no few number of short stories involving the most hopeless, sappy romance imagineable. And that's just a few glimpses of a few pages. The book is not so short as that. But, Desmond will have to deal with the angrily pouncing woman before he can hope to have a closer look.
Desmond is blissfully ignorant, at first, of the charging woman. He's instead focused on the absolutely horrible literature Briallyn is so fond of. And he actually laughs, reciting a few lines gleefully before looking up to find a very pissed off Briallyn charging his way. "Agh!" Somehow, he manages to spring out of the way, and this earns him a bit of confidence. Unwise confidence. "I do love romance! Let me borrow it for a bit?" he cackles, rounding the tree she'd been sitting at. "Adelia, catch!" And the book is hurled in the handmaiden's direction.
"What would you know about romance? You can't even be touched by a girl without blushing!" She cries after him, almost a hiss, as he expertly and easily steps out of her path. Her heels skid in the grass, and she has to pause briefly to gain her bearings. Unlike the squire darting away, Briallyn's vision is considerably more restricted as night begins to fall in earnest. Adelia is beaned upon the head, the poor woman, and she is sent staggering even as she tries to catch the free falling book as it bounces off of her skull.
A flicker of motion draws the temperamental youth's attention, and the young Lady Haigh, thinking to be clever, quickly jogs to the other side of the tree. Presumably, Desmond has stopped running to cower behind the tree in preparation for the pummeling the woman wishes to enact upon him. This is not the case, and the two crash jarringly into one another with full force as Briallyn rounds the tree before realizing the possibility of painful collision.
At the jab at Desmond's failure to even be /grazed/ by the female touch without growing flustered makes him snort. Just before the book whacks poor, poor Adelia in the head. "I'm sorry! Oh, damnit!" Desmond can see everything as if the daylight touches all, but this does not keep him from being distracted, and as he rounds the tree, he has a split second to part his lips in silent alarm before colliding quite bluntly with Briallyn. "UFF!" He falls flat on his back. Or rather, right over a thick root, with a nice fat bleeding lip and a pounding heart. Somewhere, Hoofy whinnies.
"It's no trouble, my L-" The gasp that erupts from Adelia's lips interrupts her as the handmaiden watches the two troublesome youngsters collide. Briallyn is considerably lighter than Desmond, and she bounces off of Desmond quite readily. She goes tumbling, rolling to a stop with an impressively dazed expression blinking glazed green eyes at the spread of tree limbs over head. What the rolling has done to Briallyn is ghastly, leaving grass, flowers, and dirt smudging the beautiful silk of her dress. The combs in her hair have been flung out from the force, and her hair falls into her face readily. The young Lady Haigh sucks in a deep breath, wincing as she draws herself into a sitting position. As her fingers, smudged with dirt, begin to press her layered skirts back down over naked legs, it is around this time that her nose begins to steadily bleed.
Desmond groans as he slowly sits up, rubbing his brow. Then he sees Briallyn. Or rather, Briallyn's legs, all too clearly. Now it's his turn to blush. But he pulls himself upright and hurries over to her, frowning deeply at the mess he's made of the young woman. "I… didn't mean for that to happen!" he stammers, kneeling. "I'm sorry! Oh no, you're bleeding… Ser Garett's going to flay me." Drawing a cloth from the pouch at his belt, he brings it to her. Carefully.
Noblewoman are delicate, fragile, tender. They require care… Don't they? Briallyn's answer to his concern, even with blood dripping from her chin, is to punch him. Her right hook is surprisingly powerful, albeit nothing that would knock him off his feet as she remains in a prone position seated on the ground, but even the way she curls her fingers and angles her knuckles, elbow, and shoulder indicates it isn't a fluke. Snatching the cloth from his hand, the young Lady pulls herself from the ground to her feet, shifting her weight from one foot to the next to balance herself. The cloth is gently pressed beneath her nose before dabbing at her mouth and chin.
"Now, we're even," she says crisply, the free hand that isn't tenderly seeing to her nose is instead brushing debris from her hair. "What did you expect to happen? Did you expect me to weep and beg for it back?" There's a sense of incredulity in her muffled voice, and she peers at him over top the cloth with burning green eyes which slide down his face to his lip. "Are you.. alright?" Briallyn's expression is nigh unreadable, and she maintains the reddening cloth.
Desmond is clocked right in the nose. No, it's not enough to knock him down, but it's certainly enough to make his eyes water up and his lip bleed even more. He's startled all right, stumbling back to… sneeze. "Nngh…" He wipes his nose on his sleeve, not terribly concerned with manners at the moment. "Do I look all right? You just punched me!" Getting to his feet, he dusts his tunic and glares down at her. Only for a moment. He's trying quite hard to remain friendly with Briallyn, and it shows in his very reluctantly outstretched hand. "Let me help you up. Don't be ashamed, we all have our guilty pleasures…"
She does accept the hand, and she certainly doesn't skimp on using his weight to leverage herself comfortably to her feet. "Thank you," Briallyn says, somewhat mollified and completely ignoring his expression. "You had no right to do that, and if you ever decide you dislike me enough to tell someone… That is not a book a lady is supposed to have." Adelia has, by this time, very carefully maneuvered her way over to the pair unobtrusively. In her hands are the twin combs and the book, and she holds the book as if it is toxic.
With a few rapid sweeps of her fingers through her long, dark hair, Briallyn presses the mahogany locks back from her face and secures them in place before accepting the book. "I am not going to tell our gallant knight. Not because I am going to hold it over your head, but because I can handle myself just fine. I don't need him to beat you up for me." This time, her grasp upon the book is that of a vice grip, and the cloth is still firmly secured beneath her nose.
"Yes, I know that a lady is not supposed to enjoy such novels," Desmond mutters, his nose clogged with blood. "But good on you for fighting your own fights. You'd make a pretty good squire were you a man. I'm dreadfully sorry, Adelia. I did not mean to hit you… Are /you/ all right? Where's my horse…" Hoofy is indeed pestering poor Arrow. "Damnit, I came out here to practice and that's what I'm going to do!" he declares, gripping his daggers and stalking in Hoofy's direction.
Adelia says nothing in reply and looks overwhelmed at the unusualness of the situation. She's clearly made uncomfortable by the circumstances, and Briallyn reaches out to gently pat her arm, indicating with a tilt of her head to go back to what she was doing. "Enjoy? I don't.. enjoy.." The woman sounds truly embarrassed, uttering a quiet curse beneath her breath. "I read it for the bloody stories. Where are you bloody going? You owe me an apology," Briallyn counters, trailing after him. She lowers the cloth to inspect it, and the bleeding has ceased. The cloth itself, however, is likely ruined. She isn't following Desmond purely for the sake of extracting an apology, but moreover because she's genuinely interested. That, however, she keeps to herself.
"Stories?" Desmond laughs. Yeah he's still a mess, blood gushing from his nose, over his lip and down his neck. "Apology! Hah! You're kidding, right?" When he peers over his shoulder, he finds, unsettlingly, that she's following him. "…What?" Taking a sack of sand from Hoofy's saddle, he moves to dangle it from a rope on a nearby tree. Finally, he turns to face Briallyn. "I'm sorry. I only wanted to look. There, are you happy?"
"Happy is an exaggeration," Briallyn murmurs, and though she tries not to seem petulant, she cannot help it. Desmond is the only living human that encourages such embarrassment in her. Even beyond the book. "Yes, there are stories." She refuses to look at the ground, to study her toes, in spite of the immense color that floods her face. It isn't the first time Desmond has witnessed her blush, nor is it likely to be the last. "Garett asked me to be nice to you, but you are making it very difficult." The book is squirreled away, likely in one of her hanging sleeves, and Briallyn stares intensely at Desmond. Or she tries to. It's very difficult to pick Desmond out of the darkness, and Briallyn is almost effectively blind at this point.
Desmond studies her for a long, silent moment. Then exhales, realizing her extreme discomfort. "Don't be nice to me because of Garett. If you dislike me, you dislike me. I know I'm not really helping myself here. Listen, I don't care if you enjoy that… literature. Everyone has their own little secrets. I'm sorry. Aah… ah! ACH'CHT!" he sneezes more blood upon his poor tunic. "You're still blushing." He looks around, tilting his hat up. "Oh, it's dark. Well. I'm going to practice a bit. I don't think you'll find it very entertaining."
"I do not dislike you. I dislike that you stare at me with suspicion, as if I have done something. Or that I might do something." Her voice is calm, firm, and though her voice is normally quite appealing with its sultry quality, but its quite ruined by the muffled quality from complications with breathing. "I respect someone who has the courage to continue on the path they've chosen, even if it is difficult for them, even if people doubt them. It's.. admirable." Those last words are particularly quiet, and Briallyn carefully reaches about to find a tree upon which to brace herself comfortably. It takes a moment to find, and she nearly trips over the exposed root of a tree, but she manages it on her own without asking for help. The young Lady Haigh strains to pick out Desmond, and though she can make out the outline of his dashing figure, she can see no more than that. "I would find it much more entertaining if I could see it."
"Suspicion, hm?" Desmond quirks a brow. "I'll work on that, then." When she, lo and behold, compliments him, it takes him a few seconds to realize that it's just that and not a veiled insult. A small smile tugs at his lips. "I suppose Ser Garett has told you. Well… Thank you. I truly do appreciate that. I'm lucky to have found him, I'll say that much. Ah, I've brought a lantern… One moment." With a whistle, Hoofy trots over and he takes the oil lamp from a saddle bag. "I'm surprised Ser Garett hasn't tried to train /you/ yet," he chuckles. "Would you light this, please? It's always a pain to try and light it while looking away.
"I can't tell if you're making fun of me, or if you really thought that I have sight enough to light this." She sounds amused, rather than mocking or offended, and her fingers scrabble to accept the lantern and flint. "I don't think Garett likes the idea of my touching weapons." Her voice warms at the mention of the Knight, but it's subtle. Her fingertips delicately brush over the lantern, and it takes her several minutes to discern how to open it, where the wick is, and precisely how to position the flint to strike an accurate spark to light it. Doing all of that simultaneously proves… difficult. "I don't think he likes the idea of my…" How much is safe to tell the squire? How much does he know?
Briallyn gives a small shrug of her shoulders, striking the flint several times without success before the wick eventually catches. She squints against the sudden intrusion of light, but she has the sense to turn the lantern away from Desmond. "He agreed to teach me if I desire to. I agreed on the condition that he treat me no differently than he does you." She harbors the flame carefully, protecting it from the breeze that streaks through the trees. Securing the glass faceplate, she turns the wick down to limit the light to a soft, pale glow. "It would be nonsensical for me to learn how to use a sword. I am already viewed poorly by my peers. But, a proper knife…"
Desmond steps away, eyes closed. "He's… going to teach you? Really? Huh." Facing the tree, he opens his eyes again, drawing his daggers. They're fine bits of work, with glimmering hilts and smooth metal tapering to exact points. "Viewed poorly," he grins. "Come now, surely not. And if it's a knife you're interested…" He twirls one of his own. "I might be able to help as well. So, Lady Briallyn. Are you to marry him? What has come of that situation?" He lunges forth, piercing the sack a few times with both blades, then switching his stance.
"Tease all you like, but the only weapon a woman is allowed is a bloody needle, and the only target a patch of cloth," Briallyn observes acidly, her dark green eyes trying to pick out the weapons in the darkness. The lantern offers little light, specifically because she chooses to keep the wick burning low. She can make out his form in the darkness much more easily, and that is enough. Is she being.. considerate? "If you are asking whether we have agreed to marry, the answer is yes. The betrothal is not official until his parents, and my own, agree to the arrangement."
Briallyn settles upon the ground, kneeling with her skirts spread modestly, so that she can better watch his movements. "Neither of us is pleased with the situation. I had wished to give him more time. It… was not my intent to force him into anything." The young Lady Haigh sounds frustrated, but her voice is almost gentle in reference to the Knight, fond and even affectionate, rather than her normal saucy snark.
Desmond certainly picks up on this change of tone. Another one-two straight jab, and he taps his daggers against one another, thoughtfully. "I understand that sewing isn't particular fun. I'll bet that is why Ser Garett is fond of you, among other things. And… it really is a shame that you're both being somewhat manipulated. A shame, but not surprising. It'll turn out fine though, I'm sure." He pauses, though he doesn't glance in her direction. "What is it that drew you to him, if I may ask?"
The razor's edge. Briallyn studies Desmond's form thoughtfully, noting the way he stands, the way he holds himself, the way he turns, pivots and thrusts with the weapon. It makes her restless, and she interlocks her fingers in her laps, flexing them to release some of that brimming energy. "What isn't it?" She counters, but Briallyn realizes how unhelpful and cryptic that answer is. If she is to befriend Desmond, which seems the easiest course, honesty has always favored her in that regard. "He is a very intelligent man," she says softly, studying the lantern between her fingertips.
"He is also resilient. Like stone, I suppose. I care for him, deeply. Beyond…" She falters, eyes downcast abruptly as her face heats, and she bites off a curse. "Beyond his bed. He is my friend, and I want to be there for him. I need to be there for him. And.. Surely you do not wish to listen to me moon over him?" The young woman's words are carefully and painfully selected, as though she's holding something back, but says nothing else.
It will be hard to discern in the dark, even with the lantern, but Desmond appears greatly amused at the mention of a bed. "Eh. Well. Moon, no. But I am curious." Then he whirls, landing two diagonal slashes where sand pours onto the grass. His step is light, his landing even lighter. But he falters, and curses. "Like stone. Well, stones /are/ rather fetching." His blades fall to his sides as he straightens out of a stance, gazing at the tree as he speaks to her. "You have more to say," he replies evenly. "Do you love him?"
It's clear from her expression, the widening of her eyes and the way her lips part, that the question catches her off balance. There is immediate conflict, and she wets her lips nervously. "What do you want me to say to that, Desmond?" Briallyn swallows visibly, worrying with her fingers at the gray-blue silk of her skirt. "I've known him a little over a week. I would be mad to say that I love him." And yet, in her voice, a voice as expressive as her eyes, says much about the state of her feelings even without echoing them aloud. And the frustration and confusion is evident, too.
"We are still coming to know eachother, but I… feel as if I've known him forever. Gods, that sounds lame. Like a horse that desperately needs put down." The troubled young woman lifts her hands, gently rubbing at her eyes with a sound of exasperation. "How I feel for him need not be said. I would not burden him with it. He is confused, frustrated, and lost enough with things as they are. He told me he had sworn off women. And now, within a week of coming to know me as best as one can in such a time… This. Marriage?" That laugh sounds suspiciously like it's verging on hysteria. "It's a wonder he hasn't fled. Any sane man would."
"Any sane man," Desmond agrees softly. "But Ser Garett… Well. I'm sure you've figured it out by now. The battlefield haunts him. He stirs at night. Again and again he warns me…" Then Desmond adopts Garett's gruff tone, though his voice is a bit too high for it, "Don't you end up like me, all right Des?" The squire laughs, a hollow sound. "He's quiet about these things, and rightfully so. Men shouldn't talk about them. But you might find the chance, where I couldn't." A soft sound of metal on cloth, and the bag is torn open, straight down the center. "Things will settle," he assures. "I don't blame you for being careful about what you say here. Know that I'm not going to report anything to him."
Briallyn waves a hand in a flippant gesture towards Desmond, though he would catch sight of the amused smile curling the corners of her mouth upward. But, she grows somber more rapidly when Desmond speaks of the Knight's troubles. "I already know such things, but I did not wish to divulge what Ser Garett might have felt was more private. But, I do not wish to gossip about what troubles him. I will do whatever I can to help him, no matter what that might be.
If her stubbornness is any indication of ability or intent, Briallyn sounds like she just might very well pull it off, given enough time and patience. "But, I am not afraid of anything you might tell him. I've nothing to hide from him, and I suppose you by extension, as you are his squire." Her voice sounds suspiciously dry at that, and she shifts to cradle the lantern more carefully as it grows warm. "I merely do not want to utter such words prematurely. It cheapens their meaning, and when I speak them, they shall be first for his ears."
"Very well," Desmond murmurs tonelessly. "I am not trying to gossip. I am concerned. About both of you. And what the Houses intend to do." He sheathes both of his daggers, shrugging. "But that's none of my business, is it. None of it ever is." Might be a bit hard to glean where he's headed with this conversation, but something has derailed him, somewhere. "You've more depth than I had thought. And you're not all about lewd jokes and kicking your poor sister." He smiles faintly, still gazing at the tree. "It's late. I'm not keeping you, am I? Will Ser Garett be looking for you?"
"Cousin," she corrects wryly, the smile shifting to smirk at his mention of her having any sense of depth. "Do not fear. Most of me is nothing more than lewd jokes and mocking inferior beings." Prompted by the suggestion that Garett might be seeking her, Briallyn rises to her feet smoothly, lantern balanced in hand, and stretches comfortably. Back arches, shoulders back, and she looks quite pleased before settling into a naturally perfect posture. "Looking for me? I do not think Garett will be looking for me. Wondering where I am is more likely. He respects my space, perhaps too much. But, I do not wish to leave him alone while he's-" Briallyn falls quiet abruptly, leaving off the rest of her thought. Desmond might correctly guess that the woman doesn't wish to leave Garett alone while he sleeps.
"Cousin, right," Desmond replies sheepishly. "I should know this by now. Well… Keep the lantern. I can find my way home just fine." He settles against the tree, sliding down to sit. "Going to meditate for a while. I welcome the dark. It's not simply the sights, but the sounds as well. Would you listen to that chorus…" He grins, then nods. "Go to him, before he dozes off. Or passes out from wine."
"I do not think he'll pass out. He seems less eager to drown himself in drink." There is nothing judgmental in her voice, but there is an underlying sadness that speaks volumes, and it sounds like an old wound. Much older than her whirlwind week-and-a-half romance with the squire's Knight instructor. Briallyn opens her mouth as if to say something, closes it after a moment of thought. "Thank you, Desmond," she says politely, after a moment of consideration. It's that simple, and she says nothing more before turning away and stepping her way back through the brush towards the path where Arrow and Adelia are located. No small amount of guilt for keeping her handmaiden out so long. Notably, she makes very little noise making her way back to her horse.