Page 045: Crab Apples
Crab Apples
Summary: When Liliana and Stragen happen upon each other in the gardens, it's not just the fruit that's sour.
Date: 27/08/11
Related Logs: Why Lili's in the garden: The Courier. Why Lili's in the doghouse with her sworn: Tadpole. Ser Jerold's reaction: On Jerold's Watch. Stragen's Mood begins: Fitting.
Liliana Stragen 
Gardens — Four Eagles Tower
Mostly fruits and herbs over here.
27 Aug, 288 AL

Cool, in the wake of the courier's arrival, the hoofbeats of the herald of King Robert seeming to have brought another of those breezy summer afternoons that have been so few and far between these last months. Or perhaps, it is only a matter of coincidence. Most likely the latter. But it is a coincidence that Liliana has seen well fit to make use of. Indeed the Lady of Camden and Terrick has had aught more than a few hours of peace, since the arrival of the man wearing the crest of the King. Rather than sit in on the reading of the message he brought from the Landing, and the meeting of family that followed after, Liliana has instead been given over, at the word of Lord Ser Jerold, to the task of playing hostess to Master Garret Longshank and making certain that all of the hospitality of Four Eagles Tower be extended to him. From the greeting of the man as he departed the throne room, to the seeing of the breaking of his fast, to his escort to the guest chambers appointed to him.

Now the day is drawing on, and with the herald likely taking his ease somewhere within the castle, Liliana has escaped down into the gardens, moving easily through the rows and planters of herbs and other succulents, a small basket in hand as she picks this or that to be added to the evening meal.

Almost comicaly if that were not his goal, a certain large mercenary sword of the house is currently moving along the taller rows of berry bushes, crouched like a brigand. It's quite clear that he's attempting to sneak up on Liliana, or at the very least, observe her first without being in her immediate presence.

Liliana is certainly dressed as well as she might, as close to the 'nines' as she's ever willing to venture, while still keeping true to her own whims of fashion. Well, in soft silks and satins, done in the rich gold of Terrick, but still with few of the jewels or embellishments that seem the fashion. A light smile curls her lips, though she gives no indication of having seen the man attempting to sneak up on her, instead reaching out to pluck a leaf of mint, crushing it lightly between her fingers to test the scent of the herb.

And observe he does, not getting much closer than the next row over. He remains low, apparently quite comfortable in his highwayman role, old scars and joints no doubt protesting loudly by being in this crouched position. Very carefully he brushes aside branches and leaves so that he might get a decent view of her and her environs.

Finally, he breaks the silence. "Please tell me the King's men are not here," comes the whisper, his characteristic rumble in his throat giving Liliana full knowledge of who stalks her - if she didn't already know.

Liliana's hands busy herself in plucking a collection of the leaves of mint, likely either to be added to cool drinks for the dinner breaking of bread, or to be added to some refreshing dessert or perhaps even to accent one of the lambs recently slaughtered. Perhaps Cook, the imposing (in girth), but gentle (in demeanour) head of the Terrick's kitchens has not seen fit to tell the young woman, as she plucks not only decorative ones, but ones that seem best for adding to sup. "Just the one King's man, by the leave of His Grace. And he is taking his ease in the east retiring room, in so far as I am aware of his current location." Which would mean, of course, that she knows precisely where he is. And no, there's no surprise in her voice at hearing Stragen's so close to her.

"Aye, well, that's good," Stragen says, raising his voice somewhat. He parts the bushes, perhaps a bit roughly for Liliana's tastes. But he's not damaging to the plants. "The sooner the King's retinue leaves, I'll be better at ease," he explains. Liliana can get a full look at Stragen now, dressed in his new jerkin, of course, but properly cleaned and polished; his garb, in general, is a step up from his usual mercenary's fare, made of fine cottons usually reserved for the 'serving best' that are worn by house servants. Still muted browns and grays, of course, but the Terrick colors are worn proudly by a belted tabard. He almost looks respectable.

Also, the man looks recently groomed, apparently taking to some of the advice given by some of the Terrick family manservants. Hair and beard both look washed, brushed free of snarls, and properly bound by leather bracer (in the case of his hair) and, if Liliana's heraldry is good, proper Northman braids in his beard.

Finishing with the last of the mint leaves, the time taken to fold then carefully into a damp square of cheesecloth, the air around her now lightly fragranced with the scent of the plant, Liliana's attention finally turns to take in the man's appearance, more than a bit of humour in her eyes as she looks him over, making her way towards the very same bushes he's just stepped out of. Huckleberries, and well ripe, given their dark blueish purple hue, and she begins to collect those as well. "You have certainly made an effort to make yourself presentable. It would be such a shame not to allow yourself to be seen and appreciated. Perhaps it might look to the good of Terrick, for it to be seen that such a wildman of the north has been so well placed in our court." A dip of her head, as she works, the berries going into another cheesecloth, "But if you would rather not, then you need only wait until tomorrow evening, when he will most likely have departed for the return journey to the Landing."

"West, east, and north," Stragen reminds her. "I've multiple fathers, you see, and they all had their way with my mother, and out I came," he says, brows raised, peering up at Liliana as she goes about her harvesting. "My heritage is not why I hide myself, my lady. It's because of my mixed and often sordid past. Not that I expect the King's men to recognize me without hesitation, but there is a chance they might, and that's not a dishonor I wish to visit upon House Terrick. Or, House Camden." He offers a crooked smile. "Besides, Ser Jarod's manservant insisted, that if the King's eyes are to be about, that all servants of the house look their very best. And it's practice for the wedding, and any other courtly nonsense that's likely to occur between now and, well, whenever." It's clear the man places little value on the court, which is ironic considering his recent attempts to keep Liliana on the straight and narrow.

"You had one father, of the blood, as we all did, Stragen. Whether or not you choose to accept that, and own it or instead, encourage this view of yourself as a man who could be from anywhere, and anyone, as best pleases the person looking upon you, is your own affair. I have long since given up hope that you will deal with me honestly in that regard. Though," she continues, filling the cheesecloth with an ample supply of berries, "That to court that seeing you would bring dishonour to this House is to question the judgment of Ser Jarod in his decision to employ you. But perhaps that is your intention." Much of Liliana's humour seems to have drained out of her, but her demeanour remains calm and at ease, "I am quite certain you will need the practice, as the time approaches for the wedding."

Rubbing his knees in discomfort, the man chooses to rise rather than continue torturing his joints. Creak, crunch, pop, as he reaches his full height. "Ugh," he mutters, shaking out each leg in turn. "Much harder when you can't kneel in the dirt." Regarding Liliana again, he quirks a brow in amusement. He'll have humor for the both of them. "Or, maybe I like Jarod, and I don't want dishonor on his house, which is precisely why I'm dodging the herald's retinue. Or, like any of my yarns, like my heritage, maybe this is just all just in my head, spoken aloud for your amusement." He tilts his head slightly. "Or, not your amusement. But whatever my lady desires, I am here to serve."

Liliana's look in Stragen's direction is pointed, "One can always kneel, when the occasion calls for it. A lesson you taught me wonderfully well." She moves from one bush to the next, taking care not to bruise the fruit overmuch, "There is no retinue, unless Master Longshank's horse can be counted among them. It was just him, arriving last evening. But if you wish to serve, you are more than welcome to pick up that basket there. Cook wants some good supply of crab apples. She is currently lamenting the state of her jelly stores." Like as not, a house retainer could do this sort of work quite well, but in the same way that some women practice at dancing, or needlework or the beauty of song, this is Liliana's favourite form of relaxation, taking time away to walk and work in the gardens.

Stragen frowns, grunts lightly and snatches up the basket as if she said something irritating to him. "You really resent the fact that I'm trying to do my job, don't you?" He asks plainly. He peers into the basket, giving it a small shake as if to free some of its contents so that he can figure out what she's picked so far. Likely not good for the fruit, but then again, he's not an idiot. He's precisely as uncouth as he needs to be in order to serve whatever role he's serving. "Perhaps Ser Jarod was wrong. Maybe I am the wrong match for you," he says, sniffing.

Thankfully, the crab apples are small and hard, as they should be, and suffer little damage from being rattled about in their basket. "I do not resent you at all, Stragen. I believed, when you were given to me to serve as my sworn, that there could be something more between us than lady and retainer. I thought perhaps that we could be friends. But you have seen fit to well disabuse me of that notion, and so, I give you what it is that you wanted." She's nearly finished with the picking of the berries, kneeling down a bit to get some from the bottom of the bush. "If you believe so, then you would be better served to be speaking to him about that. I do not have the authority to release you from my service."

"It doesn't work that way, Liliana, and you know it," Stragen snarls under his breath, as to not alert anyone else who might be nearby and overhear a mere commoner talking back to a noble. "I'm your bodyguard. I'm paid to protect your life and your virtue. Things can't be the way you want, because the Lord of this tower said so! We took a chance, and you got in trouble for it. I was wrong for letting you compromise yourself." It all goes back to the swimming lesson. Looking at the basket again, he gives it another rattle, and then with no gentleness sets it down on the ground, practically tossing it at her feet. "If you will excuse me, I've Ser Jarod to find."

"It can work like that. Even if we cannot do such things as swim together, we could still speak to each other as friends. As I do with Elise, or Vena. They too are my retainers, my handmaidens and they comport themselves so. But we still find time to speak of the things that interest us, and share companionship. But you refuse me even that. So do not take it out on me when I give you precisely what you wanted." Liliana rises, just in time to avoid the spray of the small crab apple berries that fly up from the basket as it's tossed down. "You are excused, Stragen."

"Women are allowed to talk," says the would-be Norther, Vale barbarian, and/or Ironblood, as he heads down the row of bushes, meaning to head towards the tower proper. Just when he's about a dozen paces away or so, he pauses to turn and utter his 'final word' on the subject: "When men and women talk, heirs are made, nations are forged, and wars destroy. Thank you, my lady." And then he again turns to go.