|Summary:||Ilya encounters a Silent Sister. Her fortune is told.|
|Town Square — Stonebridge|
|The surrounding terrain has several small gullies and streams that feed into the waterfront area just adjacent to the town square, the sails of the boats visible over the tops of the buildings. The square is floored in the same heavy stone that the east docks and castle are constructed of while the buildings are a mix of the stone, wood, and mortar. There are quite a few fish vendors with their fragrant catches for sale among groups of tables which tend to be busy most of the time.|
|02 Aug, 288 AL|
As the tournament has wound down and the wedding has come and gone, so has much of the activity that filled Stonebridge. All kinds of folk from the Riverlands have washed in and out like the tide, leaving behind a few shells and a bit of driftwood. One such bit is an easily-overlooked woman, easily blending in with the crowds and unobtrusively going with the flow of the tide. With no real place to go other than where the Stranger takes her, this covered girl has found herself to Stonebridge.
And here she is, sitting crosslegged on a battered woolen blanket outside the Crane's Crossing, a tin cup in her hand, which she rattles occasionally begging for coin. Inside are a few meager hapennies, which is likely not the extent of her begging, but enough to make the cup rattle and draw attention when she sho chooses.
Some drift out of necessity, others out of habit. Still others out of a feeling of the natural order of things. Which one of those the Septa appears to be seem clear enough. Her steps are purposeful, without seeming to have a set course, her eyes wander, without seeming to linger. But not lost, in her demeanour, but settled, as her steps carry her close to the Inn, now devoid of much of the life and noise of only a few days ago. But not all noise, and Ilya's ears catch the sound of the bowl, and her eyes turn to follow. A smile, warm, as she approaches the woman holding the cup in hand, approaching close enough to kneel, to draw out the small purse that holds her modest allowance, and drop a few copper pennies into her cup. Likely most of the coin she has, but the gift seems willingly given. "Thank you, mistress," come the Septa's soft words.
If her mouth were visible, her smile would be seen beaming at Ilya in thanks for her donation. The smile does reach her eyes, though, faintly crinkling at the corners. Shifting to the side on her blanket, careful not to drag it with her, she motions silently to the space beside her. Offering the Septa a moment of rest, or perhaps some quiet company?
"Again, my thanks for your generosity, mistress. The day has been long, and the road longer." Deft hands gather her skirts, years of practice allowing her to move from standing to sitting with complete modesty. Soon she too is settled on the blanket, legs similarly crossed, skirts pooling around her, "I am Ilya, bound to the Sept at Hag's Mire." If it seems odd to her, that the woman hasn't yet offered any words, she seems not to give any indication of it.
Rapt attention focused on Ilya, there are subtle gestures and movements the covered woman's right hand after Ilya gives her name. Monastic sign, no doubt some manner of gestural somatic communication developed by the Sisters to convey important concepts. Not quite language, but more like an alphabet with signs for important words. No doubt, she was committing Ilya's name to memory. Dipping her head in a sort of shy bow, her shoulders hunched together, the Silent Sister lifts her left hand to rest where her mouth would be, eyes fixed on Ilya's face. Clearly, this is her way of returning the introduction; it's clear to anyone what cult the woman follows.
Then, she holds up an index finger, as if to say, wait a moment. She begins digging through a worn leather pouch at her side, and produces two small figurines. Vaguely carved idols, to represent two aspects of the Seven: The Crone, and the Stranger. Placing them down on the blanket, in the space between them, she peers up at Ilya, carefully searching her reaction to this gesture. She then turns to dig in the pouch again, producing seven even-length sticks. Augury sticks. Holding the sticks in her hands, cupped as if she were gathering water to drink, she points the gathered sticks at Ilya and dips her head again, as if to say, would you like me to augur for you. She is offering the blessings of the Crone and the Stranger, together.
No name then, nor will they be. That, a hallmark of the Silent Sisters. Ilya's eyes watch the woman's fingers, unabashedly curious. Though they may both be women given over to the gods, Ilya's way are as far as away as distant from the veiled woman as the the lands across the Narrow Sea are from the Riverlands. And she knows not at the language they use to speak amongst themselves. The dead, after all, keep their secrets, and these women are women of the dead. "I am glad to meet you, Sister." Again, that curiosity, as the figurines are withdrawn, and Ilya does as faith and belief prescribe and she bows, as much as her position can allow, murmuring a soft word of praise and greeting to the two figures. And a smile. A nod, at the sight of the sticks. "Yes, and I thank you." even those of the gods are not above guidance and insight into the god's path.
Seemingly overjoyed at Ilya's acceptance of her gift, her hands fold closed around the sticks, held together by hands not unlike those folded in prayer. Her eyes close, and from the faint moving of the cowl covering her face it's clear that she's offering some prayer to the Seven. And with a quiet exhale she spreads her hands to either side of her, letting the sticks click and clatter to the blanket and the figurines below. The sticks are arranged as they fell, and without disturbing their rest, the Sister cocks and cranes her head, looking at the sticks this way and that.
First, with her left hand, she traces a pattern of the sticks, two of them resting on the Crone figurine. Her right hand gestures something, looking almost as if she were flicking water from her hand. She peers up at the Septa, finding her eyes, and with one hand she gestures with two fingers pointed down, as if legs, and then first with palms together they spread apart vertically, indicating height. Touching the edge of Ilya's pooled robes, she then "serves" the walking figure with a cupped hand. What could all of this mean?
Next, without waiting for Ilya's attempt to parse it all, she hunkers back down and traces the odd shape of the sticks that is made around the Stranger. His space is undisturbed and wide. Glancing up again at Ilya, she taps at her own temple, and, forming a plane of her hands pressed together horizontally, she spreads them apart, indicating something smooth, perhaps. She again taps her temple, then reaches over as if to touch the Septa's forehead… but hovers inches away. She does not breach the holy woman's personal space, likely out of respect.
Ilya, out of reverence for the figures now arrayed on the blanket, as well as for the Sister seated beside her, makes no attempt to speak, but only watches, intent on the augury, on trying to interpret the Sister's foretelling. It may be that magic has long since left the lands, or lost itself in the depths of the far northern reaches, but there is a magic in faith, and the connection of those who call the gods and to whom the gods answer. As for the first, that draws only a confused look. The gestures are seen, but not perfectly understood. But there is indeed little time to parse them, before the sister moves on to the second.
Finally, she offers what she can, of how she interprets the other woman's sign, "In order to learn wisdom, or perhaps, in order to increase in wisdom, I must leave the place I have become accustomed to?" It's true that for all the Septas that stay close to the Sept, as many find places outside of those sacred halls to serve the Seven." Another pause and then…"But there is nothing to fear in the unknown?" of course, the flat plane might mean the stone slab of corpses, but Ilya does try to be a bit more optimistic than that, though, "Or that at the end of the Crone's road, he will be waiting for me?"
Gwynaeth tilts her head to the side, regarding Ilya now out of curiosity. She studies her face for a moment, before, almost hesitantly, shaking her head. Apparently her interpretation was not quite correct. So instead, the Sister takes up both of the figurines, no longer paying any heed to the augur's sticks. She holds both of them up, one in each hand: the Stranger in her left, the sinister hand, and the Crone in her right. She holds both of them before Ilya, as if asking her to choose one.
There's a frown, that creases the space between Ilya's brow. But if that is directed to the Sister, she gives no indication, offering instead, "My apologies, Sister. I have little experience with such things." A thoughtful look, as she considers the two figurines, and then she reaches out, to indicate the Stranger, rather than the Crone. But she doesn't take the figurine unless the Sister openly offers it to her.
Again, there's a curious look from the Silent Sister, as if she was not expecting Ilya's choice. Bringing both figurines to where her mouth would be, it's clear that she kisses both, eyes briefly closing in reverence. Both are returned to their pouch, and the sticks are slowly collected. Again, a curious glance upward at the Septa. The smile, again, reaches her eyes. Clearly, this Sister's a bit on the… odd side. But then again, wouldn't you, if you were married to the Stranger?
Ilya reclaims her hands, settling them back into her lap, as the Sister similarly reclaims her figurines and the sticks that she brought out with them. "I thank you for your augury, Sister, though I apologize that I do not have the right of it." Even she could figure that out, "But I would know the right of it, if you would be willing to tell me." She considers, pausing herself, before she reaches down to indicate the small travel bag she keeps always with her, and opening it, indicates the parchment. "Does the silence of the sisters extend to the word?"
As she's gathering her tools of augury, her eyes drop to the parchment. Shaking her head lightly, as she places the augury sticks away, she produces a time-worn quill. Apparently, the Sister is learned enough to know how to read and write. She indicates the paper with what's left of the feather of the quill, then points back at herself, followed by a tilt of her head.
Ilya nods, looking quite pleased herself. The parchment she offers, before she reaches in once more to retrieve a bottle of ink, unwrapping it carefully from the cloth tied around it to prevent its breaking, both of which she offers to the Sister. And then, much as many seem want to do to her, something the Septa has yet to find anything bit a bit unsettling, she bows, reverently, to the Silent Sister, "The Seven speak to us in many ways, some easy and some difficult. But we do them and ourselves a disservice, if we do not attempt at all times to hear their voices speak to us. And they have spoken through you tonight, Sister. I would hear their words, and yours, if you would be willing to offer them."
Gwynaeth dips her head in a quick bow, and accepts the offerings carefully. She begins scratching out her words, drawn in a calligrapher's style, While not nobility-perfect, her hand is certainly good to transcribe religious texts. It reads: "My name is Gwynaeth. I thank you for this gift. I read your future as being a clear path for the Stranger, bringing the unexpected, bringing death. The Crone, however, will have you fall twice, and from this you will earn Her wisdom. Perhaps the Stranger is tall, and will walk with you on your journey. He will pick you up when you have fallen."
Ilya's expression changes, but not for the worse. Rather, her demeanour grows intent, as if she wished to commit the words written to memory. Much as she would if the words were spoken. The irony of that seems lost on her. "Thank you for the gift of your name, Sister." She does not, however, say the woman's name aloud. As she reads, she answers, "I met the Stranger once…long and long ago. The day I came to the Sept." But perhaps for all who leave go their families and their identities to join the Sept, it is the same. "I lost much…but I have become more now than I might have been, with his aid. I cannot say that I am not afraid to fall, or to die, but…" She spreads her hands, a helpless gesture. When have mortal beings ever been able to escape either?
"Your two falls will not be what you expect them to be," Gwyn writes on the paper, peering up at Ilya, sharing what wisdom she has. "I will not waste this gift," quarters of the page remaining. Placing the cork back in the bottle of ink, she wraps it back up in its protected cloth, and then with both hands delivers it back to the Septa. Rare is it that a Silent Sister is given the blessing of communication with anyone but their own order.
There's a wryness, to the smile that curves Ilya's lips, as she accepts the words, as well as the ink that follows after. "That seems to be the way of it, when the Crone visits me. I thank her for the gift, but it is still a hard burden to bear." And if the Sister allows, the parchment as well, if only so that the Septa can ponder and likely pray on them at a later time, "If you have need, of ink and parchment, what I have I will willingly offer." True, that the Sept trains their orders to live in poverty, but never so stringently as the Silent Sisters. "Is there anything that I can gift to you, Sister, in repayment for your kindness?"
With two fingers, she touches her beggar's tin cup, and then with the other hand, touches the paper - presumably still waiting for the ink to dry before folding it away. And lastly, she lifts her right hand to place above Ilya's breast, without touching her, where her heart would be, and then draws that hand back to cover her own heart. It's odd to see such tenderness coming from one who deals with the dead.
"We are sisters, of a kind, and our duties are not only to the gods, but to each other." Certainly she didn't forget that the Sister begs, at least in part, to collect what she needs, and Ilya's already made an offering, but it seems the Septa's way to try to nurture whomever happens to be around her. As close, perhaps, as she will ever be to the Mother. There's a momentary pause, before she repeats the gesture the Sister offers her, "Your order deserves great praise. Moreso, perhaps, than mine, and I would feel poorly if I did not offer you whatever I could." And then, with that slight humour that often colours Ilya's words, though, likely, the Sister wouldn't know that, "though you likely would not take it."
And at that, she shakes her head, the smile reaching her eyes again. Dutifully and carefully, she folds up the gift of parchment as if it were gold itself, carefully tucking it into one of the many folds of her skirts. Sister Gwynaeth then unfolds her legs underneath her and moves to stand, moving quite gracefully despite sitting on the ground for such a long time. And, taking up her tin cup, she's quick to empty the few coins there into her pouch, and the cup disappears into another skirt pocket. Lifting a hand in farewell, she waits for Ilya to stand before finally folding up her blanket and departing into the night.