Page 168: Building Armies and Finding Ironborn
Building Armies and Finding Ironborn
Summary: Hardwicke, Anais, Kell, Belle, and Muirenn discuss smallfolk training and absent guards.
Date: January 1, 2011
Related Logs: You know. The whole Ironborn invasion thing.
Hardwicke Anais Kell Belle Muirenn 
Courtyard — Four Eagles Tower
The Courtyard of Four Eagles Tower is floored with a fine grey stone that match the color and tone of the interior structure of the castle's yard. Plants have been potted and placed around the entrances to add some color, the greenery accompanied by several trellises of flowers that climb the support columns. The most prominent structure in the area is the set of large slab steps that lead up to the great oak doors of the Great Hall. Several hallways and accesses lead off into different sections of Four Eagles which makes this the hub of noble activity when court is not being held.
January 1, 289

There is a clash of new-sounded activity in the courtyard this morning as Hardwicke begins the process of instructing those smallfolk able in the basics of weaponry. His injured arm is in a sling to best keep it immobile as it heals, a fact he looks very disgruntled about, but he refuses to keep it from adjusting the grip or angle of a spear or the position of a shield. He steps back from one such adjustment, watching the group go through their instructed paces with a grim expression.

Anais spent most of the last two days seeing to logistics and supplies, taking headcounts of those sheltering at the Roost, and taking stock of what's already been put by. Now, though, with things starting to settle down - or as much as they can in a siege situation - she's sought some refuge outside, away from the crush of women and children who don't know what's happening in their homes. There's a guard - one of the ones from the Banefort - close by her, armed and armored, and carrying a bow as well as his usual gear. When she catches sight of the training, she starts toward Hardwicke and the group, summoning up a brave smile. "Ser Hardwicke," she greets. "It's good to see you here."

Hardwicke glances over at her, and if there might have previously been some wariness, given the usual manner of their relationship, there is now a sort of grim acceptance of their common lot. "My lady," he says, stiff and gruff.

Anais draws closer to the knight, watching the smallfolk at their training. When no one is looking, she catches her lower lip between her teeth, a glimmer of concern in her features. "I told Jarod we should have started training them like they've been doing in Stonebridge," she says quietly. "Do you think they can pick it up quickly?"

Hardwicke doesn't answer for a long moment. His expression is carefully neutral as he watches one of his men drill the group of smallfolk. "They will perform to the greatest of their ability," he finally answers.

"I'm sure they will," Anais agrees, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. "I only hope it's enough." She and Hardwicke are standing in the courtyard, watching as the smallfolk are drilled with weapons, learning at least the basics of it. A Banefort guard is close by her side as well. "When was the last time the Roost stood against an attack, Ser Hardwicke?"

Kell was apparently on break or taking a rest from working with the small folk so he was in the Entrance Hall, taking some quiet time to himself. Some who would pass nearby him may find him with a troubled expression on his face as he had a letter out in hand. Now he appears from the entrance of the Hall, full maile on again as the Hedge Knight looks prepared to either work with the small folk or more, eyes taking a look around to see the activities in the area.

Hardwicke hesitates even longer before answering this. He even glances over at Kell as he moves outside, noting the knight, before he replies to Anais: "Never, my lady."

"Never?" Anais' cheeks pale somewhat, though she restricts herself to a simple nod. "Well. I suppose there's a first time for everything, isn't there?" Quiet, she draws a deep breath, squaring her shoulders. "I started the rationing calculations based on a two-month timetable," she informs the captain. "It's somewhere to start for now, until we have a better idea of what's going on."

Seeing the Captain of the Guard and Lady Anais, Kell's first destination is them, perhaps to give the two the appropriate greetings as ignoring them, especially after being seen, would be improper. The Hedge Knight's boots takes him towards the pair and when he nears, he bows his head to Anais, and then to Hardwicke, "Lady Terrick, Ser-Captain."

"The keep is too well-fortified to invite attack," Hardwicke says, providing some small encouragement of the situation. He nods at her other words, then turns his head to glance at Kell. "Ser."

"That's reassuring," Anais smiles faintly to Hardwicke's explanation. "Has someone inspected the portcullis? In case there was any less obvious damage than the spikes?" She fidgets slightly, though manages to hide most of her hands in her skirts, and summons up a small smile for Kell's arrival. "Ser," she greets with a polite nod.

The Lady's question is what Kell answers first, since it was one of the tasks he looked into with a couple of smallfolk, "M'Lady, the portcullis looks to be undamaged, the sabouteurs only prevented it from closing instead of breaking it outright. But I can inspect it again if you wish?" There is a pause before the Hedge Knight turns his attention to the Captain, "Ser, is there any other tasks that needs immediate attention at the time?"

Hardwicke opens his mouth to answer, but closes it and tips his chin down when Kell gets in first. "If you find yourself unoccupied, you can help in the training of the smallfolk," he says. "That is quickly becoming our primary military focus."

"Thank you." Anais' smile for Kell is braver than the look in her eyes, despite the fact that she's standing straight, shoulders square. "What are you planning to train them in?" she asks Kell and Hardwicke alike, looking between the pair.

Kell nods his head to Hardwicke, showing that he understands the orders and then to Anais's question before speaking though he does glance to the Captain to see if his thoughts on training would be acceptable. "Most likely spears or the bow, depending on who has experience with either weapons." Swords are generally not availed to small folk but this is desperate times. "If it hasn't already been done so, I may see if any of the smallfolk had fought in the war, and separate them from those who have no experience or training."

Hardwicke nods agreement to Kell's answer. "They are the easiest to learn. Swords require a greater expertise." He frowns slightly. "Better to mix them. Allow those with more experience help to train those without. Lessen our load."

"Archers for the walls, spears for the ground?" Anais pauses, catching her lower lip between her teeth as her cheeks flush slightly. "I'm sorry, sers. I'm not questioning you. I just…It makes me feel better to know what's going on, and how we're going to react to things. Otherwise I get the ideas all spun up in my mind and things start to look much worse than they actually are."

"Understood, Captain. I'm only an average marksman so perhaps if there is someone with more expertise with the bow wishes to train the smallfolk, I can focus on teaching them to spear?" Kell says in question to Hardwicke, in case the Captain has someone else in mind to assist, if not, the Hedge Knight can manage. He usually could ht the broadside of the barn, even if the barn is moving. He then turns back to Anais and dips his head, "Your concerns are more than understandable, M'Lady. But do not worry, no Ironborn will make it over the wall, alive." Whether it is false bravado or actual confidence, Kell seems rather sure of his words. In fact, there seems to be a steely gaze in his eyes as if he is itching to ride out to meet the enemy.

"Like I said, my lady. There is reason Four Eagles has not seen an attack before," Hardwicke says, not without a certain quiet gentleness in the face of her nerves. He nods at Kell. "I have guards more adept with the bow that will handle the training."

"I'll need to find something to occupy the women and children," Anais muses, hakf to herself. "Is there a space in the courtyard here that's relatively secure? I think everyone would feel better if the children at least could go outside and run off some of their energy. The women can help prepare for injuries and take care of food."

Kell seems somewhat relieved that another will be in charge of marksmanship training and the Hedge Knight remains silent to the Lady's question as well. He seems to have his own question but is hesitant to ask, since it could bring out an answer that would cause further worry to Anais.

Hardwicke hesitates over this request, considering. "I don't want children underfoot of the men, particularly in their training," he finally says. "But if they're kept close to the castle…"

"Perhaps the lichyard?" Anais asks, lips twisting slightly at the suggestion. "A bit grim, but it's outside, and would be out of the way of training. I thought about the roof terrace, but I think it's best they not see what's going on below."

For now, Kell remains silent as the discussion of a play area is going on, his eyes looking over to the training small folk before back to the Lady and the Captain.

"Fine, my lady," Hardwicke assents, glancing back over at the training to take stock of its progress.

"It may help, Ser Hardwicke," Anais says softly. "For the men to see what they're fighting for." She looks to Kell then, a small smile touching her features. "I'm sorry, Ser, but I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Anais." In case that wasn't obvious.

As that discussion comes to an end, Kell inclines his head respectfully to Anais as he introduces himself, the niceties forgotten by the knight due to their current situation. "Honored to make your acquaintance, M'Lady. I am Kell Drakmoor, Hedge Knight."

"Ser Drakmoor made sure I dragged myself all the way inside the Keep before the portcullis fell," Hardwicke says, quiet and subdued in his recommendation of the man. Glancing at Kell, he tips his chin and says, "I've not forgotten."

"Then I'm glad you found your way to the Roost, Ser Drakmoor," Anais smiles quickly at Hardwicke's words. "We would be in a bad place without the captain of our guard." She looks to Hardwicke's bandages then, brows furrowing slightly. "How are you feeling, by the way?"

Kell does recall the hectic battle that morning when the Reavers first struck, "I am sure another would have done the same, Ser, if he was in my position. I just happened to be closest." It seems like this particular knight is a bit more humble, though he does nod his head slightly in appreciation of Hardwicke's words before nodding to Anais as well, "By chance, M'Lady, that I was here the morning they attacked. I am glad to be able to help in the defense of the Roost and the people here." Kell does grow quiet and turns his attention back to Hardwicke, also curious as to the man's condition, the cut to the arm was rather deep.

"I am fine, my lady," Hardwicke says, only a hint of grouch to the words. "I can assure you I am being forcibly tended to make sure I heal properly."

Anais' lips quirk at Hardwicke's explanation, not quite able to hide her amusement. "I heard you had a friend who was…concerned for your well-being," she replies as neutrally as she can. "It's good to know you're being well tended to."

Kell can only guess at who the friend was but he has a pretty good idea since there was a very concerned young lady who ran up to Hardwicke as the Hedge Knight was helping the Captain towards the Hall. His own expression does soften slightly though inevitably, his own thoughts moves to someone else as he turns his gaze towards the gate, an look of worry now appearing, mirroring the knight's thoughts.

Hardwicke scowls just a touch, so sensitive to the barest hint of amusement. "Mistress Beckett," he mumbles, his gaze stubbornly set on the training.

"A brave woman," Anais says of the lady in question. "I believe she was instrumental in getting the gate closed. If you see her before I do, ser, please let her know I'm grateful for her assistance in the matter."

Kell was on the other side of the gate when he arrived and focused on the fight that he didn't know it was Belle who was the deciding factor that removed the obstruction that was keeping the portcullis closed. He turns his attention back to the Lady and Captain now, looking a little surprised at the news.

"Aye, my lady," Hardwicke agrees in a quieter voice. "That she is. I — will tell her next I see her."

Anais watches Hardwicke for a moment, lips twitching as she tries to resist the urge for humor…and fails. "Also that she's pretty. You should absolutely tell her she's pretty." She grins then, taking a step back. "I should let you get back to work, though."

Even Kell is unable to hold his tongue this time, chiming in as well, "The Lady is right, Ser, they like being told that they are pretty." There is a pause before the knight quickly adds, "Or so I have been told." By who though, he doesn't say, merely enjoying this brief, light-hearted moment, probably too few these days.

Hardwicke scowls more distinctly. "She knows very well that she's pretty," he says with mild grouch. "I don't need to encourage her."

"There's a difference between knowing and being told, though," Anais points out with one of the first smiles since the invasion that doesn't look as though it's been worn of necessity. "Sometimes a woman likes to hear it. But I'm sure you're well capable of handling that sort of thing, Ser Hardwicke."

No further advice or verbal assistance is offered by Kell, perhaps showing the extend of his ability to sweet talk the ladies or just not wishing to poke further at Hardwicke's obvious grouchy nature.

"Aye, well. She's marrying me anyways." Thus: Hardwicke does not have to be adept at compliments.

Anais arches a brow at that, surprised. "Marrying you?" she echoes, then grins once more. "Excellent. We'll have to keep that in mind. If this presses on for more than a month or so, then a wedding will be the perfect thing to life everyone's spirits."

Kell's brows rise up in surprise at Hardwicke's first before he inclines his head to the Captain, instead of clasping the man's shoulder since he doesn't know the other man very well just yet, being an outsider Hedge Knight and all. "Congratulations Ser, that is most excellent news indeed."

Turning a frown on Anais, he says, "There certainly won't be any weddings here while we're under siege." He jerks an awkward acknowledgment of Kell's congratulations with his chin.

Turning a frown on Anais, HARDWICKE says, "There certainly won't be any weddings here while we're under siege." He jerks an awkward acknowledgment of Kell's congratulations with his chin.

The arch of Anais' brow is less surprised and more doubtful at Hardwicke's response, but she doesn't argue. "We'll see," she replies simply, smile flashing once more. "Hopefully it will be a moot point, won't it? We managed to get word to my father, who can send word to the fleet at Lannisport, and suddenly they'll be falling all over themselves to get away from here." Or so she hopes.

Kell remains silent as Hardwicke voices his objections to having a wedding during a siege, which is rather reasonable in the Hedge Knight's opinion but decides to hold onto his tongue and not add his own input. He does nod at Anais's words of the fleet coming to rid them of the Ironborn menace. "We can hope, M'Lady, I am sure there will a strong response by the King."

"Even a strong response will take time," Hardwicke says, focusing on the subject of military response rather than when his own wedding may or may not be.

"And a decision on where to aim the weapons," Anais agrees, grimacing faintly. "I'm sure Seagard will rank higher in priority than Terrick's Roost. Once they hold Seagard again, then they can control the rivers, and work back inland, trapping the reavers."

As Seagard is mentioned, Kell frowns before he finally asks, "So has there been word on where else the Reavers have hit?" There is a pause before a quieter questioned is asked after the first, "Is the Tall Oaks also under attack?"

"We've only received word from Seagard," Hardwicke replies, looking to Kell with a slight, considering narrowing of his gaze at the knight's particular inquiry.

"I received a letter from my sister at Tall Oaks," Anais adds, lips twisting in a faint grimace. "It was all very ordinary, but I think it would have left before they could have reached there." She draws a deep breath, looking toward the sea. "I can't imagine there's much of anyone left on the isles themselves, given how many forces they have here and what they must have used to reach Seagard."

Kell knows who Anais's sister is and nods at her answer along with Hardwickes, at least there is no bad news coming out of the Tall Oaks, so perhaps the Reavers have not attacked there since it is in the trees. But the Hedge Knight still doesn't seem settled or relieved at the lack of answer, as there is still unvoiced concern with the knight.

At the moment, Kell, Hardwicke, and Anais are all in the courtyard not too far from a group of smallfolk that are having their basic martial training overseed. While the smallfolk are being busy, the other three seem to be in conversation for the time being.

"Likely enough," Hardwicke murmurs in agreement. He lifts a hand to scratch at his slinged arm, then thinks better of it.

Entering the courtyard from one of the servant's passageways, Belle Beckett takes a moment to breathe deeply, enjoying the open air — such as it is, under siege. She's a little dusty — just a few spots missed form a much dustier not-long-ago: a smudge on her nose, a bit of cobweb on her bodice. She brushes off her skirts vigorously, then proceeds out into the day. Hardwicke's tall form, of course, catches her eye, and she moves in that direction — only to be momentarily distracted by the smallfolk militia-in-the-making. She watches them briefly, steps forward to correct the way one young man is holding a knife, then continues on. Once close enough to the small group, she drops into a low curtsy and bows her head to Anais. "My Lady Terrick." And to the others, "Ser Kell. Captain."

"Miss Beckett," Anais greets the other woman with a small smile. "It's good to see you here." If she notes the correction on the knife, she doesn't say anything about it, though there's a slight, curious arch of her brow. "I hear that congratulations are in order, and I know that thanks are. Your aid in closing the gates is well-appreciated, I assure you."

As the new arrival joins them, Kell inclines his head respectfully to Belle "Miss." He notes her appearance but doesn't seem to mind it as there has been too much to do in the keep and without, for both men and women. "Congratulations to you, Miss." He adds as Anais speaks, shooting a brief glance at Hardwicke.

Hardwicke sighs a bit as he watches Belle correct the man's grip. He is not shy in addressing the matter, either, saying, "Try to let my men do their jobs," once she's approached. The words are perhaps softened, though, by the reach of his hand to rub a thumb at that smudge on her nose.

Belle snorts at Hardwicke's correction and replies sweetly, "That one will have all his fingers, now, to do his job another day." A beat. "You're welcome." She blinks at the lady's thanks, blushing slightly. "I did very little, my lady, truly. As I told the young lord Mallister, who did the lion's share, it was much like a child opening a jar, when strong men been trying before. It was, after a fashion, already loose." She blushes rather deeply for the congratulations from both fronts, glancing at Hardwicke with a smile that is quite helplessly besotted. Despite itself. "Thank you both. That's very kind."

"That may be true, Miss, but if it wasn't for your added strength at the end, the fight may have been bloodier." Kell says as he was one of the knights at the front and the Reavers were definitely surging forward, overrunning the defenses. Whether or not they could've held another moment, the situation was pretty bleak, especially with the Captain of the Guard taking a serious wound.

The faintest hint of a smirk crosses Hardwicke's mouth when Belle colors so deeply. He picks carefully at the cobweb on her bodice next, peeling it off between his fingers. "Where in the world have you been sneaking around?" he rumbles in semi-rhetorical commentary of her state.

"I was just in the right place at the right time, Ser," Belle demurs. "Anyone could have done what I did, and someone surely would have, had I not. But thank you."

And more blushing, this time with dimples and a wry roll of her eyes, as Hardwicke helps with her grooming. "Oh, gods, you should have seen me before I dusted off — an imperfect effort, obviously." She combs her fingers through her hair, double — probably triple — checking it. "Places no one's been in a long time." Her eyes lift to meet Hardwicke's and she shakes her head. "No luck, so far."

Familiar words, Kell can only grin and nod in understanding though the Captain's question is one the knight was curiously wondering, seeing Belle in such a state. When she says no luck, the Hedge Knight finally realizes that she was actually searching for the one who has went into hiding, nodding slightly, "Seems like you have put quite the effort into searching for the man, Miss. Hopefully he is safe and found some place quiet to recover."

Hardwicke's lips thin with something of disappointment, but he nods his understanding to his words. He brushes one last fussy time before dropping his hand away from her. "It's possible we won't find him until he wants to be found."

"I'm not half done yet," Belle assures both men. "It's only impossible to find him if we stop looking, and I'm far from that." Unable to help herself, possibly just for an excuse to touch him, she reaches up to smooth the whiskers of Hardwicke's beard and brush back a lock of his hair.

Right now, Kell, Hardwicke, Anais, and Bell are all in the courtyard while nearby there are a small group of men, smallfolk, drilling with weapons as a makeshift militia is being formed and trained. Belle seems to have crawled out of some dusty place as she had a smudge on her face and some cobwebs on her clothing. "Just be careful, Miss… there might be spiders or rats down there." Perhaps that warning will dissuade the girl from venturing too far into the unknown.

"Aye, well." Hardwicke's habitual scowl is smoothed a bit by the touch of her fingers. He snorts lightly at Kell's warning. "I have a feeling she's not particularly scared of them. I suppose I could warn her about the giant, man-eating rats, but I don't know that she'd believe me," he deadpans.

"Rats of unusual size?" Belle arches a skeptical eyebrow. "I don't think they exist. If they did, however," she nods sagely and says with an entirely straight face, "Good eating."

Kell at first arches a brow at Hardwicke's words, apparently not fully understanding. The his gaze looks over to Belle as she speaks and his mouth opens for a moment though he is quick enough to close it again instead of letting his jaw drop to the floor. For now, the Hedge Knight is speechless though in his head, he is asking Hardwicke, 'You are marrying /her/?'

"I see you haven't been down into the cellars yet," Hardwicke rumbles solemnly. Kell's stifled reaction gets an arched, slightly challenging brow. Care to comment?

Belle flashes Kell an impish smirk and winks. It could be a disclaimer — jesting! Never ate a rat! Or it could just be a contrary bit of gloating: I'm Here, I'm Weird, Get Used To It. The interpretation is entirely up for grabs, but… it seems good-natured enough? "I am not frightened of rats," she tells Hardwicke. "Of any size." So there.

"Finding whom?" Anais asks when she turns back from a brief discussion with one of the servants. "Also, the cellars are relatively clear of rats," she sighs. "Believe me, I think I've spent three-quarters of my time since the wedding there, trying to catalogue all of our supplies. For which I am currently grateful, at least."

Catching the Captain's look, Kell is certainly not saying anything about Belle or Hardwicke's relationship with her. He does look back to Belle as she shows her fearless nature, only nodding at how brave the Miss is.

Wandering out of the castle for another breath of air, Muirenn moves down the steps. Out into the courtyard she wanders. The lack of sleep and stress is telling to those who are perceptive, but the maiden has a smile for all and a friendly word. Every so often her gaze strays towards the gates and she blinks back her tears.

"Guardsman Howell," Hardwicke answers Anais with a twisting frown. "He's been missing since he was attacked. Probably holed up somewhere in the keep."

"He was, it seems, rather savagely beaten, my lady," reports Belle, softly. "A scapegoat, due to his heritage, and he has since disappeared. We're all quite worried for him." She takes a breath. "Our… best and only theory, really, is that he must know some corner of the keep to hide, for he suffered such beatings as a child, as well, and has had a lifetime to find some safe, forgotten nook."

Anais grimaces at the explanation, looking around the courtyard as though he's going to present himself now that she's taken the time to think about his absence. "That…is troublesome," she muses, chewing on her lower lip. "Though if he's found a secure place to hide, I do wish he'd point it out to the rest of us, in case of dire emergency. I'll set a watch on the food stores. Which I should probably do anyhow. He'll have to come out to eat at some point."

Moving through the streams of knights and soldiers going about their duties, Muirenn makes her way towards Anais and the others. "Good day my Lady, Ser, Mistress.." she smiles politely and then turns to Anais, "Do you have any thing else that you wish me to assist with my Lady Anais or to continue as I have with the wounded?"

"A good idea even if we didn't have a missing man," Hardwicke agrees with a rumbling sigh. He reaches to scrub a hand against his scalp. Looking to Muirenn's approach, he dips his chin. "My Lady."

Belle drops a curtsy to Muirenn, bowing her head. "Lady Mallister." She glances at Hardwicke, clearly troubled. "Are you certain? If he's traumatized enough, a grown man, to go and hide like a child… I would rather have him eating than frightened off by guards."

"I don't disagree," Anais shakes her head to Belle. "I'd rather he eat as well. But if he'd come in where we could watch him, then he'd eat /regularly/. What else were you planning on doing when you found him?" she asks, arching a brow curiously. At Muirenn's question, she looks to the other woman, taking in her current state. "Rest, perhaps?" she suggests with a small smile. "It looks as though we're going to have some time to work things out, I'm afraid."

"A rest…" Muirenn smiles faintly, "I have taken a bit of one." She glances over the wall and says quietly, "I was afraid that this would not be over soon." She glances around and asks, "Has there been any word from home? From Seagard?"

"And I'd rather have him found," Hardwicke says, quite firm on this point. "He's not a child, he's a guardsman of the Roost, and he has a duty to attend to. I will not coddle him with food to sneak from our larders until he decides he's had his time." He looks to Muirenn with a bit of a reluctant frown. "Seagard is under assault, my lady. Your lord cousin has called the banners."

Nodding, Muirenn regards Hardwicke "Yes, I had heard…I just had hoped…" Forcing a smile she says, "It is to be no surprise I am sure that there is no other word of what happens there."

"A duty," Belle's expression goes stormy, though her voice remains even and measured. "A duty to people who hate him and beat him, and have done all his life? Who at best suspect him, despite all his years of service?" She folds her arms. "You ask much for a crust of bread and a bunk in the barracks, Captain."

"He'll find few banners to be raised here, though, I'm afraid." Anais grimaces, looking to the walls. "It was a well-planned attack. Seagard pinned from the sea and its defenders pinned from the land. It will have taken most of the fighting power of the Iron Isles, I suspect. And they're not terribly attached to those rocks in the sea, either, so there's little to be gained from attacking there." She sighs softly, looking back to Belle and Hardwicke. "Mistress Beckett, it's impractical for him to spend what could be a long siege trying to hide, and it will only fuel the anger of the people who attacked him in the first place so that when he /does/ come out, it will be worse. Better that we bring him out quickly."

"Yes, I ask him to do his duty when Four Eagles is under siege," Hardwicke says with a hint more heat as he replies to Belle. "The longer he's missing, the more suspicion I have to field about whether he's in the castle at all and not returned to his brethren. I can't control the smallfolk."

Looking around, Muirenn says quietly "My Lady, if you can spare me…I will look for this poor soul of whom you speak. I am not associated with any of the ill memories he might have and you can trust that I and the Septa will treat him gently if found."

"Someone, somewhere, failed that boy, that his only choice is who to be killed by — the Ironborn or your smallfolk," Belle returns, glaring up at Hardwicke. But she reins herself in, especially since she's discourteously ignoring a lady in order to continue her argument. She immediately turns to Anais, dropping another low curtsy. "Forgive me, my lady. We all want him found, there's that much. I shall return to looking."

Anais reaches a hand to her brow, rubbing quietly for a moment. "If you'll permit, Ser Hardwicke, I'd be willing to take the man into my own service when he's found," she sighs. "My men are used to controlling themselves around the Ironborn, so at least he'll be in less danger than he would otherwise. I presume he's at least competent at his work?"

Hardwicke bristles just a touch at Anais's words. "He's not been put in any danger in the midst of my men," he says. "The smallfolk will do what they will no matter whose service he is in."

Belle visibly bites her tongue, sucking on her teeth a moment. Breathe in. Breathe out. She bows her head with another quickly bobbed curtsy. "By you leave, ladies." And she turns to go.

Her quiet voice lost in the noise of the courtyard, Muirenn moves to Belle and says "I will join you if you do not mind Mistress." Smiling she looks around and over at Anais, "I will put my rest off awhile longer my Lady"

"I'd rather hope the smallfolk wouldn't just do as they will," Anais replies wearily to Hardwicke. "Seeing as how they're alive now because they're inside our walls. But if he were assigned to a particular person here, then he would be less likely to be caught alone by those who would wish him harm. Do let him know the offer exists if you find him, ladies," she smiles faintly to Belle and Muirenn, nodding a willing dismissal to both.

Hardwicke exhales a slow, controlled breath as Belle turns to leave, frustration clear in his expression. "My lady," he says in farewell to Muirenn, not offering words to Belle where she offers none to him. Looking back to Anais, he says, "He was not caught alone, my lady. He was not without one of my men assigned to him from the time I could give the order after the attack, and Ser Drakmoor was there, besides." Lips twisting, he says, "I fear he'd need a whole contingent."

"I'm afraid you might have difficulty following some of the places I mean to go, Lady Muirenn," says Belle, not unkindly. "Besides, we will cover more ground if we are not both searching the same places — and thus, I pray, find him more quickly."

With a nod, Muirenn says quietly "I will give you one of my maids to assist you. Septa Waldsteinia will assist me." Turning, she gives a curtsey to Anais and says softly "My lady.." She looks over her shoulder to one of her maids and says, "Accompany the Mistress in her search and lend her whatever aid you may." She herself, followed by the Septa walks to the house.

Belle takes a breath to protest the kindness, but the lady is already departing. She glances at the Mallister lady's maid, then says resignedly, "Come along then. I do hope you're not afraid of rats." She leads the poor, harrowed-looking girl off, continuing, "Or heights. Or small spaces. Or spiders! Stranger bless, you should have seen the size of this spider…"

"Then what are you proposing, Ser Hardwicke?" Anais asks the captain, brows furrowing with some confusion. "I agree, we should find the man. But if you're convinced that nothing can be done to help him or protect him, then what is the purpose?"

"All I mean is that my men are not the source of his danger," Hardwicke says, trying to collect his patience, "and he'd already had men to assist when he was set upon. I don't think /nothing/ can be done to protect him, and I have every intention of addressing it once we find him. I just don't think your men would make such a difference than mine."

"Perhaps not," Anais allows with a soft sigh. "Though perhaps people might look at him less closely among other, less familiar faces. I simply meant to offer another option." She takes a step back, smile weary. "But you've work to see to, and so have I. Good luck, Ser Hardwicke."

"Of course, my lady," Hardwicke says, meeting weariness with weariness in the tip of his head. Then he looks back to the training of the militia.