Page 180: Childhood Innocence
Childhood Innocence
Summary: Having been banished back to Stonebridge, Cordelya escapes to the rose gardens to ease her troubled mind. There she finds a ghost of her youth, very much alive.
Date: 14/1/289
Related Logs: None
Cordelya Jael 
Gardens — Tordane Tower
The rose garden of House Tordane is about three hundred square feet and hemmed in by walls about eye level to keep out the attention of wildlife. Bees hum about the area and around the stone archway which has seen the flowers grow up over and nearly encase in solid vine. The scent is sweet, mixing with the air coming off the water to produce an atmosphere some might find extremely calming. Stone benches have been chiseled out and placed along the path for visitors to relax on.
Saturday, January 14th, 289

"Is all the counsel that we two have shared, / The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent, / When we have chid the hasty-footed time / For parting us,—O, is it all forgot? / All school-days' friendship, childhood innocence?" -A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III Scene II

Cordelya may get a lecture again for sneaking out while her maid sleeps, but she cannot sleep and the maid does. And the weather is so perfect. AND the rose garden calls! So, Corrie's tip toed down the quiet hallways of Stonebridge and outside into the darkness, a small, slightly hooded lantern in her fingertips. She opens it up a touch more as she goes out to the dew-dropped roses, heading to the back patch on which she was working before they road for the war camp. She's in her long blue cloak, her messy spills of brown hair tangling just a touch in the wind. She doesn't much care. She takes in a deep breath of the scents around her, relaxing already for jsut being out in the damp, earthy air.

It's hard to say how long Jael has been in the city, and harder yet to guess how long she has been watching Cordelya's patterns. Whatever the case, she knows where to find the older woman. Or, as the case may be, where to be when she decides Cordelya should find /her/. That turns out to be tonight, for the stray noble is not alone in the garden.

Jael has perched herself on one of the stone benches, sitting cross-legged under the fall of her own fur-lined cloak. Dark hair has been more-or-less tamed into a braid, though shorter strands fall ever-stubbornly to frame her features. Features which, while matured, are nonetheless recognizable.

A few plucked roses rest in her lap, a variety of colors, and she's begun to pile petals atop one of her knees as each flower is slowly stripped. Something to do, all right? "You always were bad at staying where you were told." Said with a quirked smile, and a sideways tip of her chin.

The voice. Corrie, having been sneaking off to her preferred patch, is now stopped dead in her tracks. She'd remember that voice anywhere, low but still somewhat feminine, mischevious and intelligent. A friend out of her mind for so many years, or so she thought. But now that voice is here. The lady stiffens, just a touch, hugging her cloak closer to her thin frame as she looks from roses to the tomboyish figure on the bench. Definitely there, or so she seems. Corrie even lofts the latern in her hands to cast some light on Jael's features before she pulls it away and shakes her head. She tries to step past, moving faster than is polite. If she ignores the seeming figmant of her imagination, perhaps Jael will go away. "…not… possible…" Corrie mutters beneath her breath.

If Jael's a figment, she's an awfully convincing one. Then again, Corrie's had quite the time to practice, hasn't she? A black 'brow is arching upward as the young noble's words are overheard, and the expression that was wry is growing wary. "Corrie?" The youth is unfolding herself from that bench, but makes no move to approach the other. Not yet, anyway.

Cordelya is walking a bit faster now. She's not exactly at a run, but she's trying to go past Jael and escape the other, younger girl before she fully acknowledges that she might be there. No. This -cannot- be true. Her elfin features are now pinched with worry and an odd bit of fear as she quick steps across the grass. "No. Go away. I… I can't see you any more. You aren't real." Cordelya demands firmly, her voice slightly trembling now as she tries to turn around a corner of the rose bushes. Maybe if she turns then the apparation will disappear.

The light plays off Jael's features as solidly as it does the bits of metal and stone that pepper the garden. There's nothing unreal about the way she moves, or even the faint smell of leather of the girl's clothing. And as fast as Cordelya walks, as many times as she turns, Jael's not disappearing. She trails a few steps after Cordelya, but it's the approach one might use with a frightened animal. "I /am/ real, pet. I've always been real." Her voice is quiet, as unthreatening as the way she moves. "You know me."

It's not full on panic from Corrie yet, but it's close. She thought she'd escaped all those things when she left the swamps. When she found the herbs that quieted all the voices. And yet here another stands, someone from that strangest time of her life, and it just doesn't seem possible that Jael was ever real. Her eyes glimmer with fear and denial, but she cannot keep looking away from the girl. The vision just keeps following her. "No… no… you were.. a part of the swamps… I left you there with the forest's children and bones of the Mermen… No… this… you are not possible…" Corrie's voice cracks out quietly.

Jael can't quite smother her grin, wry as it is, as Cordelya describes her as 'part of the swamps'. It's not the first time she's been accused of such, though in the past it usually involved dragging a bit too much mud into the house. That grin fades away as Corrie continues to speak, the younger woman working to piece together bits of the puzzle that the noble has become. "You left them in the swamps?" A quiet question, more rhetorical than anything. "The things only you saw." Speaking to herself now, just as softly. Then, after a moment of watching the slight woman, she offers more firmly, "Other people see me too, Cordelya. I'm not like the mermen and children."

Pale jade eyes look Jael over deeply now, concerned and confused, but the woman's words are beginning to quietly break through Corrie's sometimes fragile mental space. The Lady Flint draws in a slow, deeper breath, trying to calm that quick trip of her heart as she straightens just a touch more. "…Other people see you. You… are certain. Wouldn't any vision say that? And yes… I… I am a Young Lady now. My husband will inherit a house. I… I cannot be talking to the trees and playing in the mud. I cannot… give my mind to the Gods as I once did."

"I am certain," Jael promises, her voice firm now. Then, with a taste of familiar humor, "Sometimes people wish they didn't. But they can." There's a quirked smile as Corrie introduces herself, and Jael is going so far as to dip forward in a half-bow. "My Lady, then. You'll have to forgive my familiarity." Hazel eyes glint slightly, and her head tilts sidelong once more. A pause, and then a dry, "I'm still Jael."

"I…I'm still Corrie." The far taller, reed-thin woman admits. "Just… Corrie Flint now." And a Lady. She takes in another deep, steadying breath, trying not to let her head swim with the panic of this all. It is very possible Jael is real. "…You… You must give me something, Jael. A scrap of leather, if you have it. Herbs you have picked… just some small token. Something I will see in the morning and -know- you are true. I am sorry… I… I do not mean to be rude or distant. This is all just… it is a shock." Corrie's light voice admits faintly, tumbling nervously across soprano words.

Still Corrie. There's a flickered smile at that, and Jael lifts a 'brow at the older woman's request. There's a moment of silence, watching the other, and then she's lowering herself to a crouch. The blade she withdraws from her boot is a small thing, more for skinning than killing, that half-disappears into her hand as she lifts it to catch at one of the small braids that pepper the chaos of her hair. The plait — no thicker than her small finger — is caught a few inches above the leather tie that keeps it in place, and the little blade is used to shear it off. She makes a visible show of sheathing the knife once more, and then stands slowly to take a step closer to Corrie, extending a hand with the small braid and tie resting in her palm. "Here."

The tall girl doesn't jump as she sees the knife. Apparently, Corrie still trusts Jael, she just doesn't really trust her mind that Jael is real. She watches the whole process with slightly wider eyes. "Oh, luv… you don't need…" But then the plait is sheared off and it is too late. It's not like one might notice in that wild mess of hair anyway, right? But what if she wanted to dress for court some day? Corrie frowns in a bit of worry, but she steps forward to take the hair, looking it over quietly and playing it between weirdly long, thin fingertips. "…Thank you. I… I shall keep it. I… do think you are real. But I must -know-. You… you must understand."

No, one is unlikely to notice the lost braid. And Gods help whoever decided to try and prepare Jael for court. "That way you know where it came from," she offers, explaining her choice in 'tokens'. "A bit of leather could come from anywhere." She tips her chin toward the hair between Corrie's fingers. "That's a bit of /me/." The Lady Flint's last words earn another smile from the girl, the expression lacking it's usual wryness. Just a quiet smile, and a subtle nod. "I understand." She wasn't so naive to think Corrie's mermen and Children of the Forest exactly… normal, even as a child. "You're married, then?" A quirked 'brow.

That emotion does not go unnoticed, and it earns another quirked smile from the younger woman. She watches as Corrie sinks to the ground, and after a few moments for the other to settle herself, she's daring a few steps forward. Her boots are silent on the stone path below, and the leather of her breeches creaks only slightly as she lowers herself into a crouch a few feet away. Not sitting yet, but putting herself more at Corrie's level. "You seem well." A pause, head cocked. "Your family worries about you… that you are safe. Happy."

Even as Jael nears, Corrie does not shy away. After all, as youths, they were once quite close. Her friend in trees and the mud. It's like coming to a little bit of home, in truth. A small smile creeps it's way across Corrie's thin mouth, looking across to the now crouching Jael, studying the tom boy's features even closer. Searching for all hints of emotion and truth there. "…I… worry for my family… they have no Maester, so few men…I know they well hide, but I do worry. And… I am safe. Quite safe. Anders would never let anything happen to me. I… am happy. I think. It is all very… Strange." She breathes out softly.

The youth's features are as frank as they've ever been — at least with Corrie. The Young Lady isn't the only one coming back to a bit of her childhood, and old habits emerge easily enough. Jael has always had a way with creatures, and the odd little Noble she found in the swamps wasn't so different at the time. She learned her ways; tones to soothe, expressions to ease worry. They return now, and when Corrie shows no sign of startling, Jael allows herself to settle cross-legged on the path beside her friend's patch of ground. "I remember you talking about him, though I never imagined you'd /marry/ him…" A slight smirk at that, though there's nothing unkind about it. "But I don't think I ever imagined marrying at all. I suppose it's only right, being a Lady and all." Teasing, that.

Cordelya shows no signs of startling at all. There are no looks over her shoulders, staring into the trees as if the wind gave her words. No touching of the ground or random animals as if they were her dearest of friends. Other than sitting on the ground, she seems very much the normal, calm and quiet lady that any noble woman should be. It is very much -not- like Corrie, at least not the Corrie of half a decade ago. She gives a faintly warmer smile at the words, a little laugh in her throat. "…I did not either, in truth. I am… not what most would consider a good marriage prospect. But I suppose he kept a fondness for me from his youth and I was the first Lady he found acceptable that his family offered. And so… it… Happened. It was all very… quite fast." She then looks up to Jael's eyes, as some heart sick worries invade her features that she is trying to push away. "And you? How are you?"

"What most consider a good marriage prospect is quite boring, if you ask me," is Jael's firm assertion, and she snorts softly at the thought. "I think you're a fine choice." In an odd mimicry of of the spindly fingers that toy with the shorn braid she gave away, Jael's own fingers go to pluck at some of the hair that's draped across one of her own shoulders, twirling a bit of black around one of her fingers. "I'm good. Not married." There's a wink at that, and then another flickered smirk. "Two months, mm? Best hurry, pet… they'll be wanting a baby from you soon." A soft snort at that, and a deliberate glance toward that tiny waist of Cordelya's.

"Not married. I… might have guessed that. I did not know if you would ever wish to marry. But then, I did not know that about myself either." Cordelya admits with a little wrinkle of her small, pert nose. "…BUt… why are you so far from Graywatch? So far from the swamps? Your home too… if you have no husband here? Are you ill? Is something wrong at home?" Gods know Corrie would not have traveled near this far if a marriage dictated by her father had not sent her away. There is a clear touch of homesickness to her pale face, even if she looks happy otherwise. The comment about a baby draws an odd look to her face. Both frowning and hopeful. She releases one hand from the braid, dragging it across her flat stomach. "…Aye… oh, do believe me, we are trying… I so wish I had one already. An heir for him… a little one. But… I do not think I do. I… I feel like I would know it. Feel it… if I did." She then grins. "But we are trying."

There's a bark of laughter from the dark-haired woman as the line of conversation earns that grin from Cordelya, and a glint to hazel eyes as she allows herself to study the other's features a bit more closely. Recognizing the young woman she once knew, but also seeing hints of the Young Lady she's become. "You'll know," she agrees. "Though I'm sure you could borrow one of my mother's, in the meantime. She's on her… eighth now? Boys." The last word is said with a bit of familiar disgust, though most seems in jest. Most. It's only then that she seems to consider Cordelya's first question, and her response isn't immediate. When it does come, her tone seems a bit /too/ casual, "Your father wanted someone to come and check on you, to see that you were being treated right." A one-shouldered shrug, causing her hair to glint a bit in the garden's light. "I volunteered. I've missed you."

"You think I will know? Truly? Lady Cherise said she did not know for two months… I do not understand how one cannot give attentions to one's body and to the blessing of the Gods as such. I keep hoping perhaps I am and I do not know, but…" Corrie shakes her head. For all her deep, deep hope, she is most certain she is not. But then, it has only been two months since her wedding night. She takes a breath, moving on in covnersation and setting herself a bit more upright as she tries to shake off the previous topic. It is nothing she can fret over right now. The too casual tone of Jael's receives a slight narrowing of her eyes. She was always very empathetic. She could smell a lie a mile beyond. "….I… appreciate that. And my father worries too much. But… surely there is more than that?"

There's another one-shouldered shrug from the youth, and the quirked grin is as dismissive as the gesture. Attempting, just as Corrie shook off the previous topic, to keep the conversation from drawing too close to herself. It's always safer to be an observer, to make commentary, than be the topic of conversation itself. "There is always more," she admits. "But that's not important right now. It's been so long!" She's finally reaching a hand forward, attempting to curl her fingers around Cordelya's own. It's quite the contrast, Jael's hand small and dark, and her half-sister's pale and long. "Tell me more of Anders. Andy? And what is this they write of you running off? Surely he doesn't approve."

Corrie allows her small hand to be taken, coming off of her tiny stomach, as her other hand is still clutching tight to Jael's hair. She gives a quiet shake of her head in Jael's direction, brows furrowing in curiosity at the unspoken reasons she KNOWS are there, and yet she hasn't the heart to press Jael on them yet. Poor Anders would faint if he saw his often spit fire of a wife turned into a pussy cat in the face of an uncertain old friend. She squeezes Jael's hand instead, but is smiling as her husband's name is brought forward again. "Oh, Jael… he is just… He is the world. Handsome, strong… so noble. Every story of every book I ever told you, he is that man. He rides as a knight, he's fought in wars, he keeps horses, he's sailed the ocean… I think he is all Histories come to life in what the first son of every house should be! And we will write Histories ourselves, together. He will be in the books to come, I tell you." And then she flushes a bit more…"And he is as exciting behind private doors as he is before them!" The lady does not admit to running off or ducking her guard and maid, though clearly she does it. If she didn't, she wouldn't be here now!

Corrie's description of Anders has Jael grinning all over again, and the mention of private doors earns another bark of laughter from the younger woman. It's hard to say how much of 'private doors' Jael knows — or what happens behind them — but considering the lack of blushing or giggling, it's more than most unmarried 'Ladies' her age. Then again, the girl has spent most of her life housed with growing boys… and then Gods know how long with common soldiers. Whether she's been behind any private doors of her own, she's far from naive. "Just like the stories," she echoes, squeezing Corrie's hand in turn. "I'm glad they came true for you, Lady Corrie." Another teasing tip of her chin. Then, proving harder to distract than she'd have others believe, "You need someone to watch you. To be with you." A tip of her chin around the gardens. "When you decide to go wandering."

The last comment brings another furrow to Corrie's brow. She shakes her head lightly, "No, no… I… I am more than fine. If I need company, I do have my sworn… or… I will have a sworn again, though Anders dismissed the last just two days ago." She frowns a bit deeper, fingertips knotting at the hair in her hand. "I suspect he will hire a rather more… attentive one, this time. And besides, I have never done anything dangerous. Not these days." She sombers a bit as she looks straight into Jael's eyes, her expression serious and, for these few moments, very much all grown up. "…I'm better now, Jael. I… I take herbs. I've found a mix that works. The Gods don't talk to me as they did…. or the Children. I… I can be a lady. Be the wife Anders -needs- me to be. While sometimes I escape to a rose garden or two… I am not the wildling I once was."

Jael is nodding slowly as Corrie speaks, studying the older woman with an interest that suggests she may actually believe some of what's being said, before she nods slowly. "Even a Young Lady, as you are now, should have someone with her. It's not safe in these times." Talk of battle has made it all the way to the swamps, it seems. "I'd offer to be your Guard, but it seems you're trying to be normal now." That's said with a quirked grin, and while the words are a bit self-deprecating, there's no offense in them. Simple truth.

Normal. The word makes Cordelya frown, a genuine sadness painting her pale face. It's so… Boring. The death of creativity, death of dreams. Normal. She sighs out lowly, eyes dropping from Jael to study that lock of hair in her hands. "…I don't… want to be normal. Not entirely. I… I want to be -me-, Jael… Gods. I do not know. Maybe I should not have left." She bites at her lower lip, fretting a touch more now. "Anders said he wished to marry me… but… if I would act as the woman with whom he grew up, we would be mocked out of court. I do not know what he wants of me… " She frowns a bit more, probably not having spoken these words to anyone. "If…" Her gaze returns to Jael, "If you wish… you should speak with him. Meet him. Perhaps he would take you on. I do not understand him. I cannot say how he would react."

"You'll always be you," she assures, squeezing lightly at the other's hand. She shakes her head as Corrie speaks of regrets — potential regrets? — and offers a quiet, "You're better now. It's good." Her tone is reassuring, in a way that's likely reserved for Corrie alone. Many things seem reserved for Corrie alone, for there's little about the woman — for the girl she once was is nearly grown now — that seems soft anymore. If there ever was. "I'd like to meet him, but not for that. Not unless you wanted it." It's not quite a question, but it's not far from it, either.

"…I am… not certain what I want. I know having another from home would… be a relief. I would trust you as a guard more than some hired sword, this is very true. Whether my husband would abide, though, I cannot tell." Corrie squeezes Jael's hand once more, smiling a bit wider, "But… you shall meet him. After this war is over. Hopefully in a few days, when they have driven the Ironborn back to their cold seas. I…" Her expression falters just a touch again. "I… I was in the camp with him. They sent all us ladies away. I suppose the fighting will be… bad, or so they think."

"War isn't a place for proper ladies," Jael agrees, her tone laced with wry humor. Considering the youth's own attire — and the fact that she seems peppered with weapons — it's just the place for her. Then, trailing back to the previous topic, "I learned how to track you long ago." It was a game of sorts, back in the swamps; a messy carnation of 'hide and seek'. "But I don't know how he'd feel about a woman guard. I hear they're not common here." That's said with more than a bit of irony.

The last comment is given a slow shake of her head. "No… I have never known a woman to carry a knife or a sword in these lands. It is not considered proper. I do not think they'd let you stand in open court. But… for traveling, for day to day… " There is a hint of hope in Corrie's voice, and yet it's feeble. She knows the likeliness of Anders' agreeing to a female sworn is small. "Still. Meet him. Discuss with him. Sometimes my husband still manages to surprise me. He… he is not entirely the boy I once knew… we are still… still learning much of each other."

It's that hint of hope from Corrie, more than anything, that allows a glimmer of the same to flicker across Jael's features. A subtle thing — hard to catch, really — that's gone as quickly as it came. After all, what difference should such a thing make to Jael? Surely she'd rather return to Graywatch. Home. "I'm not one to stay where I'm not wanted, m'Lady." Drawling the title now, however good-naturedly. "But if you want it, see how he responds. I'll be in the city for at least a week, and I can visit if you'd like."

Those words seem a good affirmation that there is some time. Corrie then looks up, noticing the change in the moon. It is lowering again. She will be missed sooner rather than later. Bonelessly, she pushes herself up off the ground and stands. "Aye, speak with him when there is a chance. We… we shall figure things out. I should attend back, though, Jael. I will soon be missed." She grips that braid all the tighter. She exists. She IS real. Though only the morning will truly tell. "It… it was good to see you." She leans over for a brief, awkward embrace, then steals back away into the night.