Page 596: By the Roadside
By the Roadside
Summary: On his return from Kingsgrove, Nathaniel meets with one of the Terrick patrols on the road.
Date: 11/Mar/2013
Related Logs: References to Kingsgrove Minstrel Competition
Nathaniel Mortimer 
Northern Orchard Road, Terrick's Roost
The road heads inland away from the coast, flat grasses and craggy rocks softening into lowland hills and stout trees, the woods for which the lands of House Groves are best known. Branches fan over the road like a cathedral ceiling, leaves breaking the light like glass in the summer and casting the southwestern road to Kingsrove in dappled sunshine. Bunches of wildflowers grow in bright patches along the flattened path. As the road nears Kingsgrove itself, the thick forest begins to give way to nature as crafted by man: orchards planted in delicate, methodical lines that seem to go on forever. In the spring, they sweeten the air with perfumed blossoms and hang low with fruit in the later seasons.
Mon Mar 11, 290

Most people from the Roost have returned to their own homes after the recent celebration. Although Nathaniel had arrived at the Terrick's keep in the morning, he soon needed to return to Kingsgrove on a small but important errand. Now, The late afternoon sun is creeping slowly toward the horizon, causing the trees to cast long shadows across the road, and he is riding back toward home at a leisurely pace. While his right hand clutches the reins, he holds an apple in his left, and occasionally raises it to take a bite.

With the main road to Kingsgrove being via the Roost, it's fair to say that there has been an increase in both frequency and visibility of patrols over the past few days. Nothing quite like a bandit attack on a noble party heading to or from a wedding to dampen the mood, and reputations. Thankfully, there hasn't been a peep heard from the ne're-do-wells and all seems to have gone to plan, but that doesn't mean it's time to stop just yet, as evidenced by the small group of Terrick liveried men who are pausing to rest their horses just inside the border. Small being three in this case, 2 men of the garrison and Mortimer. The younger two seem happy enough taking their leisure for a brief time, leaving the Deputy Sheriff to keep an eye on the comings and goings. Not that there are many mind. Still, it means that Nathaniel is spotted not long after he comes into view, but even before he's properly recognised he's clocked as not behaving suspiciously. Once he is recognised though a wave is given in greeting.

Equally aware of the possibility of highwaymen even on this short stretch of road, Nathaniel is not entirely at ease. When he comes to the top of a small hill and spots three men under a tree near the road, he trains his eyes on them for a moment. They, too, are behaving in a way that allays his suspicions, and so he continues along the road until one of them lifts a hand to wave. He takes the final bite from the apple and gives it an overhand toss so that it will land far from the road. Then he answers with a wave. He continues to eye the trio until he can discern their identity. "Master Trevelyan!" he calls from some distance. "Good day to you!" Then glancing behind him, he he adds, "The road is clear between here and the town." He reaches forward to untie a small sack on his saddle-horn. He hefts it aloft and adds, "Something for you and your men, if you like." By now, he is in range to toss the sack, which contains three apples, toward the deputy.

"Master Corbitt," Mortimer calls back, a faint smile spreading across his features, "I'd had word you'd already returned yet here you are. Tell me, are my sources wrong or is this another attempt to destroy an old man's brain?" Catching the sack easily enough he glances inside before taking one of the apples and tossing the sack onto the other two so they can take their share. "Thanks, although they're not mine as 't'were," the men that is. Getting business out of the way first he offers, "we had no trouble on the way here, and that was not long since." That done it's onto more casual topics, "Mistress Valen not with you? I think I'd forgotten what you look like on your own."

Nathaniel laughs and brings Molly to a stop. "It's no attempt to befuddle our deputy," he assures. "I came back to fetch some some needlework that Lady Nedra's handmaiden left by accident. She was working on a project, a wedding present of her lady, and couldn't bear the thought of restarting it when she was already more than halfway finished." AFter explaining that, however. he frowns briefly. "Mistress Valen had business in Heronhurst and couldn't come to the celebrations," he adds. "I'm sure that she'll be busy for a while with work from Lady Aemy."

Mortimer makes an over exaggerated show of thinking that one over for a couple of moments then just shakes his head. "I'll believe you this time Master Corbitt, but just beware that I'm keeping my eye on you, this is twice now. That I've noticed." Figuring that while they're stopped is as good a time to eat his apple as any he takes a bite and munches briefly before nodding to the explanation as to Kalira's whereabouts, "I take it that's the same Lady Aemy as is marrying into Highfield. I must admit I don't know her new betrothed, but I'll wager he'll cause us less grief than her first."

Nathaniel nods. "I know that Lord Robben recited some verse at the minstrel's show last night, but I arrived too late to judge its worth," he answers. "I've met the lady herself. If half of what I heard about the … incident is true, she deserves a good match, for all that it matters." While he speaks, he swings down from the mare's back, and steps close enough to speak so that only Mortimer can hear. "Do you remember Mistress Taken?" He queries. "She brought a great fuss to the event with song of her own. If she decides to repeat such performances at the Roost, you might be delivering her to the dungeon for a visit."

"I might have seen her in passing while she was at the Roost, but I can't say we've spoken," Mortimer replies, in regard to Lady Aemy. "Thankfully I was out searching when said incident occurred, but I've heard from Lord ozric about it." He shakes his head there, not the finest example of noble behaviour all told but thankfully he didn't have to deal with it. As Nathaniel dismounts he takes a step closer as well, reading the other man's intent and then listens carefully before thinking it over. "Name 's familiar, can't say I've seen her in a while though." His brow then creases a little into a frown, "why? What occurred?"

Nathaniel shakes his head. "As I say, she sang a song. The gist was to scoff at nobles, their alliances, and their motives. It was a … bawdy piece, which didn't surprise me at all, but Lord Stafford was sufficiently annoyed to consign her to the dungeon for the night." He lifts a finger as if to mark some contrast, and he adds, "However, enough of the common folk approved to suit her. So I'd wager that she'll repeat something like it elsewhere."

Mortimer winces, visibly, then reaches up to rub the back of his next with his free hand. "Just what we don't need right now. Was Lord Ozric there to hear it or will I need to explain it to him 'ere it becomes an issue for us?" He'd been having a reasonable day up to now. "I take a current description from you as well, if I may, let the barmen at the Rockcliff know what to watch for, just in case." He's basically forgotten the apple for now and that hand hands loosely by his side while the other reaches up again, although this time to pat Nathaniel on the shoulder briefly. "It's good to see you again though, I was only a day or so away from sending a search party, ‘specially when Mistress Dorsey came through and reckoned you were here before her."

"Most people at the Rockcliffe know her, fortunately," Nathaniel assures. He holds up his hand a few inches at eye level, and details, "About this height, thin enough that a sapling might look stout next to her. She has pale blond hair, almost white for its color, and bright blue eyes." He pauses for a moment to reflect. She wears clothes that give a good show, and a small metal bracelet on one wrist. She speaks with the tongue of Essos, too. Once you've heard her, you'll not mistake her."

"Oh yes," Mortimer replies as the realisation hits him, "I remember her now. Thank you for the warning, I shall keep an eye open, and an ear, but hopefully Lord Grove's response will make her think twice." He tries to sound as if he means it, he really does, but he has the sneaking suspicion that it means she might think twice before trying it in his lands but probably not others. To move on from those lovely thoughts he asks, "How were the rest of the festivities? Fitting I take it?"

Nathaniel nods. "The joust was quite a show," he sums. "She was there, too. Lord Ozric and Lady Nedra were at both events, so I'm sure that he knows. He might even bring it to your attention. In that case, you can assure him that you are well aware, and thus ease his mind. I think that in truth, she's harmless enough. She's like a mummer, earning her way by traveling and keeping things lively. As far as I know, at least, she does no real harm like a thief or other villainy. She's just … someone to watch. But when that sort crosses a lord or his lady, then comes the trouble."

Mortimer nods as he listens, "Aye, possibly a quiet word before anything occurs might work. Lord Ozric is very, protective, of Lady Nedra at the moment, given some of the responses to their banns. I'd rather stave off any potential trouble than clean up afterwards." Now would not be a good time for someone else to mouth off about Nedra, that's for certain, and he doesn't want to have to deal with that, nor the irate Young Lord that would result. "Still, at least the roads are quiet," he then offers on a brighter note, "and I’ve heard nothing more from Stonebridge or the Tully forced supposedly marching there."

Nathaniel sighs. "That fear kept me so longer than Mistress Dorsey imagined," he admits. "I wasn't afraid, but others were wary of my passing, just as they've grown wary of any strangers." He looks to Molly when the horse nudges his shoulder impatiently, and then returns his attention to Mortimer. "To prove that I was no spy on urgent business for the Tully, I tarried a few days at Stonebridge, in plain sight and with people there who are of good repute, so that no one could question my business."

Mortimer looks faintly surprised that Nathaniel isn't already a well enough known face in Stonebridge, but then concludes that they possibly only see him passing through and thus might not know his loyalties and such. Dropping his hand down to his belt where the small Terrick sash rest to proclaim his service he offers, "I can likely get hold of another of these if you want. Not so big as to draw attention, but there is anyone decides to look." Easy enough to take off as well should the need arise. "I'll be glad when it's all settled," he remarks, "I'm not as young as I used to be and drilling just gets worse the older you get."

Nathaniel glances down at the sash, but he smiles and declines, "They wondered /because/ I serve the Terricks. They feared that Lord Tully was shifting his favors." He sighs again, and nods when the deputy expresses his hopes for a quieter future. "What I know of Lord Tully and his favors wouldn't fill a grain of sand. If they're looking for spies, they'd do better to look at their neighbor's windows at night. As any courier will tell, the only time when we know what lies under the seal is when we've scribed it, or when someone chooses to tell us." He glances at the setting sun, and guesses, "It's probably best to head back toward town before all four of us are out here in the dark."

Mortimer it takes a second or so, but then the true meaning of Nathaniel's words gets through Mortimer's skull and realisation dawns. "I reckon you are after my brain," he replies, grinning once again, "that or you're just showing off your edumacation." He knows diddly squat about the worth of Lord Tully's favours and so leaves that comment lie as he follows the glance to the horizon. "Aye, you're likely right," he replies with a nod, walking a few paces to where his borrowed mount is happily grazing and then leading it back to Nathaniel and Molly. With the soldiers making similar preparations he turns back for a final quiet word with the courier, "you mind keeping your ears open in town for me? It might be nothing more than spill over from other things but there's a hint of something in the air back home and no one's talking to me." He shrugs slightly, "as I say, might be nothing, but if you do hear anything, would you let me know?"

Nathaniel frowns and looks to Mortimer. "What things in particular, master?" he wonders. "People know that I travel and so fail to hear the latest gossip. Those same people usually are willing to spill such tales if they have a good ear to bend." He tugs at his own ear while he says this. "If there's a dangerous beast in the forest, I should know its sound to be alert to it. It's the same with gossip."

Mortimer looks faintly vexed as he ponders just how to reply to Nathaniel. "I'll be honest with you, I don't know. It might be nothing, it might just be other things, but there's been a couple times now where I reckon a conversation has stopped when I've arrived. Mostly up at the Tower mind, but as I say, no one is talking to me so I don't know if it's all just in me head." The apple, having been forgotten during the conversation is now claimed by the horse who munches away at it happily enough, freeing up the hand not holding the reins to rub absently at his forehead a minute.

"So this might be something either about you, or something that others wouldn't want you to know," Nathaniel concludes. "That narrows it a bit. Apart from something /about/ you, it would need to be about what you do, keeping the people safe." He nods. "That's enough for a start. I've been scarce enough. People might figure that I haven't heard the latest tale, and some might be eager to tell it." He steps back beside Molly, and then he suggests, "I'll ride ahead, and stay distant from you even in town. People might talk to me about whatever this is if they don't think that I'd run to you with it." He lifts his left foot into the stirrup, and grasps the saddle, ready to mount. "I'll spend more time at the inn, and see what the wags have to say."

"Or," Mortimer replies, tapping the side of his head gently as he does so, "it could all be up here and I'm just reading too much into something." He's not discarding the option, by any means, but nor is he convinced by it either. "Ride safe," he adds before glancing back to the other two who seem about ready to go, "we'll head as far as the border and then turn back, it'll give you a bit of a head start at least. Thank you though, even if it does just turn out to be humouring me."

Nathaniel bounces twice on the foot that is still on the ground, and then lights into the saddle. Looking back to Mortimer, he shrugs. "If it's in your head, then my checking will tell that, too. But if people fall silent when you come around, you might be onto something. Either they don't want you to know, or don't want you to ask /them/ about it." he lifts the reins, but pauses, looking thoughtful. "I don't know, and correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there some … tangle between you and Lord Keenan Terrick?" Either Nathaniel has not heard the latest about the disgraced Terrick, or Nathaniel is using the title for some other reason. "If people are behind him, that might be it." Then he reiterates, "I'll see what turnips I can dig from this ground."

"I wouldn't say tangle no," Mortimer replies, "but that is a long story and as such one for another time I think." The horizon is given another glance before he too his mounting his borrowed horse, "I'll catch up with you later, that or I suppose I could just let the lad know you're back and wait at home for him to drag you back to show you his kite again." Turning to head in the direction of the close-by border he reiterates his earlier, "ride safely," although this time he also adds, "if ought does happen though, we'll not be far behind you, so make back for us if the way ahead looks unsure."

Nathaniel dips his head in a bow, and smiles. "It's a good plan," he agrees. He, too, looks toward the sunset. "I'll be there in time for the last of dinner and the first of the drinking," he guesses. "If I've learned anything, it's how to nurse a cup, with a helpful barmaid as accomplice, so that I keep my wits and hear." Then he nods. "If I have any news, I'll arrive before first light to take the lad for fishing."