|Calm Before the Storm|
|Summary:||Ena, Bruce and Hugh speak on the parapet.|
|Date:||8 September 2012|
|Related Logs:||The March on Stonebridge|
|Parapet, Tordane Tower|
|The circular rooftop is set with crenellations and two guards watch over this area on shifts. Set in the center is the roockery, created with iron and wood, the cage is ventilated and has openings on either side to allow for Raven releases. The view of the town and surrounding area is large, with the breeze rushing in off the waters.|
|September 8, 289|
It is perhaps somewhat strange for the Castellan of the Mire to be seen so far from her station. With the evacuation of Stonebridge imminent, Ena Briarhurst had been sent along with several carriages and wagons to see to the proper escort of those Nayland Ladies — and all their stuff — back to the Mire. She had arrived sometime in the early evening with the caravan, and now spends what little time she is expected to stay in Stonebridge wandering a new Tower. Having spent her entire life in the Mire, she only truly knew the Fortress of the Seven. And like she had the first time she vowed herself to the Nayland household, she started her exploration at it's highest point. Cloaked to guard off any winds that may gust along this high up, she steps out onto the parapet. At her feet, however, is a large-bodied, longhaired tomcat with torchlamp eyes — her constant companion.
The time is coming when there won't be much time for quiet contemplation anymore, but for now, Ser Bruce is able to sneak some occasional moments by himself. Now is one such moment. The Master at Arms mounts the parapet in freshly cleaned clothes, coming from a bath. It's another rare luxury he likely soon won't have much time for. As he ascends the stairs, he spots first the tomcat around the woman's ankles and then the woman herself. He clears his throat. "Hope I'm not interrupting."
Ena Briarhurst turns with that signature, eerie grace to face the owner of those words. Cool, bottleglass-colored eyes sweep over the man, and a slender brow raises with obvious consideration. Then she smiles, bowing her head just a touch. "There is no interruption, ser," the Castellan says, her words precise. "We were just taking in the view. It may be the last time we can see Stonebridge in this state." The tom sweeps to sit down at the woman's feet, his eyes locked on Bruce with a kind of soul-reading intensity. Ena has already turned her attention to look out at the sprawl of Stonebridge, all orange and yellow in the setting sun.
Bruce offers Ena a thin, considerate smile and a nod. When she turns back, he makes a funny face at the cat before walking fully up onto the parapet itself. "Aye. Things look to be getting a tad… complicated, shortly. I suppose this might me one of my last calm vistas like this as well." He stops a few feet away from Ena, a comfortable and polite distance while facing the same direction. Then he turns to her. "Terribly sorry to be rude. Ser Bruce Longbough, the Master at Arms here, at your service." He dips his head politely.
Grumpkin the Cat perks his ears at the face, and he dramatically runs his pink tongue along his chops. Then he shifts a bit to lean his heavy weight into the side of Ena's calf, rubbing his face against her skirts in a kind of possessive fashion. The Castellan turns a bit toward him at his introduction, and she dips in a gentle curtsy that is only borderline formal. "Mistress Ena Briarhurst, Castellan of the Mire." She considers his name for a few moments before she turns her gaze back out at the roll of the township. "My son mentioned your name, Ser Bruce. He came along with the others to help bolster the Stonebridge army."
Bruce smiles more warmly this time at the mention of her son. "Ah, Ser Rawn's mother. Good, tough knight. I saw him take a spear to the shoulder at the Bloody Keep, break it off and pile on the man who gave it to him." There's a chuckle as he reminisces. "You must hard as steel, Mistress Briarhurst, to have birthed a son like that. As for calling us an army, well, perhaps I'm not quite so sanguine. You'll forgive me, but I won't pull punches with a fellow retainer."
Her laughter is somewhat unearthly, but genuine. "Yes, that would be my Rawn. His father would say that scars are what make the man, but how I wish he did not need so many." There is a softness that settles in over her as they speak of her issue, though she does wave her hand dismissively at his compliment. "Thank you, ser, but Rawn is far more like his father, the Seven give him rest." She then allows the turn of conversation with a tilt of her head. "It is the heart of the men that makes the army, Ser Bruce." She regards him fully now. "So, how are the hearts of the men you lead?"
"Strong, Mistress Briarhurst. Strong and true. They know their pike drills well, and almost all of them've used their pike on other men before. And not just slobbering levies - they've used them on screaming Ironmen. The Mire men are even better than the Stonebridge ones, but these lads'll get there in a few years. Few more years of drill and experience and they'll all be equals. But we don't number many. Three hundred fifty at the outside. And the Charltons? Well, they buy whoever is wavering and add them to the host, I suspect." Bruce answers the tall, blonde woman honestly. He has to look up to speak to her, but then again that's something he's not unused to.
Long, graceful fingers twine together as the Castellan looks out over the view below. Her cursed tomcat starts to purr in something that is so rough and deep it threatens to shake the Tower to it's foundation. Each of Ser Bruce's words are earned a nod of understanding, and her smile thins considerably at it's end. "And the Naylands do not have enough coin to buy friends this late in the game," Ena points out with a kind of brutal honesty — but it does appear she is among friends. "Have we heard any news on when the Charltons are determined to knock on our door, ser? I am here to escort the Ladies, including Lady Isolde and her mother, back to the Mire, but how much time do I actually have?"
"Leave first light tomorrow morning, Mistress, and don't come back until we send for you." Bruce's council comes without pause for consideration. He looks back out on the town below, with its cookfires, at the men on duty, the fields beyond Stonebridge and the quick river rushing through the town. "Not enough coin and not enough sense. I speak candidly, as I said. We've squandered any chance for alliances. Now it will be come hard slog."
Hugh stumbles up the stairs and bursts onto the parapet. He sees Bruce right away, but for some reason, misses that he is speaking to the Castellan until after he has already blurted out, "Master Longbough! Here you are. They said you might be here." He is breathing heavily, probably from taking the steps two and three at a time. An assessment of the young man should indicate that he has been practicing. He's sweaty. But there seems to be no emergency.
Grumpkin the Cat is immediately on all four paws, a gutteral threat in the back of his throat. Though, as soon as he reacts, he then settles once more with a flick of his tail. Ena casts a glance toward the squire, looking him over from head to toe with that critical quality of a mother. Then she glances toward Bruce, adding with a bit of a hush, "Tomorrow morning, ser, it is. Hopefully the Ladies will see the merit in the hasty departure." She says nothing more on friends and alliances, as if waiting to see what Hugh has for the Master of Arms.
Bruce does a quick about face as Hugh makes his grand entrance to the parapet. His bushy eyebrows immediately shoot upwards, lips tugging down in a frown. It's a manufactured, forced frown, but it'd be hard for anyone to really tell. He's become an expert at making himself look like more of a martinet over the years. "It's Ser Bruce, squire, not Master. I've earned the title that dubs me a knight and you'll address me as such, or by my full position, Master at Arms. Now." There's a pause for effect. "What is the matter?" For now, he's got to concentrate on Hugh. The squire's training demands it.
Hugh swings around to see the tall woman and the cat. His mouth opens as he recognizes the woman. But Bruce's orders snap him back around. "Sorry, Ser. Master at Arms, I meant. I wanted to let you know that I finished that inventory of the armory and found a couple of things missing, but we have 50 more pikes than we thought." And yes, /15/ year old squires do make mistakes occasionally. They also get stuck with shit jobs like this one. But he does it with enthusiasm in any event.
"Lord Hugh," Ena greets as she is satisfied with the young squire's state, and she offers him one of her sublime smiles that have not lost it's ghostly essence since last he saw her. She does sweep down a bit as Grumpkin continues to fuss about her heels. Though he is well-fed and weighty, she easily gathers him up in her arms, and the feline braces himself against her shoulder. He returns to his purring. She lets the pair speak about the weapon stash as she deposits affection on the damned, immortal cat.
"Missing, eh? Well, Lord Hugh, they'll have to be found then, won't they? How old is that manifest you were using to cross reference, anyways?" Bruce doesn't really let Hugh come up with an answer. He's never really taken to the squiring system, not having been one himself, and tends to treat them like young soldiers instead. Most of the time. Now isn't one of those. "Don't bother with it, Lord Hugh. I'll have a Guardsman check that list, as you've probably made a mistake. Fifty, that's too many to be wrong on. You likely took the wrong manifest." So that's that.
Hugh turns to Ena when Bruce is done berating him and smiles. He gives her a slight bow of respect. He is ever taller, and filling out a little bit, but then he turns back to Bruce and hands him the old manifest. "It's from last year, and I didn't make a mistake. I can count well, Ser. I suggest that someone made a mistake on the old manifest. Or someone traded the two missing swords for 50 pikes." Hugh squares himself away because he knows damn well he counted right. He did it three times.
"And that, Squire Hugh, is why you don't argue with the Master at Arms about arms." Finally, Bruce is cracking a grin. His tone is not really one of beratement; he is more amused than anything else. "Last year was before we went to war. Since then, we've gained levy men, and we've had transfers to and fro. I made a manifest, personally, with Guardsman Weavers and Black, three days ago. Three. But it's good that you've picked up on the changes, on he other hand." He winks at Hugh. "Well done then, Lord Hugh."
Hugh furrows his brow and gives Bruce a puzzled look. He opens his mouth about to protest something, but then decides better and shuts his mouth again. Busy work. Work just to mess with them. He sighs and looks back to the woman. "It is good to see you again, Castellan Briarhurst. Are you taking the woman, then? I think I heard something about that."
Clear, glass-colored eyes watch the interplay between the Master of Arms and the Squire. Her expression is unreadable for much of it, though when Bruce begins to congratulate the Asterholm, she does relax into an easier expression. The question that is posed to her is awarded a simple nod. "There are carriages and wagons all to see to it," she explains as her fingers slide through the tawny fur of the tomcat. "Perhaps if Ser Bruce has nothing for you for the night, you can help with loading the wagons."
"That's a splendid idea, Mistress Briarhurst." Agrees Bruce, nodding at the stairs. "When you're ready, the Ladies will need a great deal of help loading their things. It's of essence that things are done tonight. They must leave by tomorrow morn, and they'll be counting on you, Lord Hugh, to make them ready."
Hugh realizes that Bruce is trying to make a mundane job sound like one of utmost importance. Yes, he is naive, but not /that/ naive. He smiles and gives a shrug, rolling those lanky shoulders, that speaks more of 15 year old than squire. "Of course, Castellan. Ser. Whatever is necessary!"
"Good, Lord Hugh," Ena says with the smallest quirk at the corner of her slender lips. "I'm certain that some of the Ladies may resist being escorted off, but you remind them that you are acting on my orders, and thus the orders of Lord and Lady Nayland." And as she started her career with the Naylands as a maidservant, she obviously knows that some Ladies won't like being bossed around by a mere common woman. She gentle sets down Grumpkin on the parapet itself, though the cat is quick to jump down at her feet once more.
"Aye. Under the authority of Lord Rickart. While we certainly appreciate their morale raising presence, in my mind it might have been best had they left a week ago. It's when I sent my wife and two sons off, down to Raventree, away from all of this. The Mire is a stout fortress as well." Bruce proclaims, nodding in agreement with Ena.
Hugh nods and sighs. The women are always leaving Hugh! "I will do what I need to do. How much room will there be? Will they be taking almost everything with them?" That would suck big time. "And Hoekenn can help maybe? He's very strong." Hugh throws that out there.
"Yes, Lord Hugh. Being of the noble class, you'll be gathering all of the squires and pages up together unless they've been otherwise tasked by their knights. Since I happen to know that Squire Hoekenn is not tasked, he's going to help you. Make sure the job gets done, Lord Hugh, and done well." While Bruce is respectful of the noble's rank, he is still stern and authoritative with the young man.