|Crane's Crossing Corruption|
|Summary:||Hugh finds the new bard in town and plies tawdry tunes and lines to use on the local ladies from Faulon with food and drink—on Lord Riordan's tab, naturally.|
|Crane's Crossing Inn|
|While Crane's Crossing is technically an Inn, it caters to the traveling nobility almost exclusively. The floors around the hearth are finely crafted stonework, as are the slate blocks that the firepit is constructed of. The rest of the floor is done in stained oak that matches the few long tables and the chairs. The rest of the main room is furnished with plush couches and seating to entice visitors to delay their leave. A full service kitchen provides food of all kinds as well as high quality ales and wines. Also available are several women to provide hospitality to the lonely or those in need, the quality of them to be beaten by but a few in the Riverlands. A hallway near the kitchen leads off to the rear of the building and several up-scale rooms.|
|Sun Jul 08, 289|
A fine mid-morning such as this day boasts sees that the common room of the Crane's Crossing is nearly empty of patrons. Most who have stayed the night are well on their way to the next destination, and those who will call upon the Inn's good services have yet to arrive from their day's worth of travel. It's the perfect time to sip a little hair-of-the-dog and rest one's weary eyes. Which is exactly what Faulon is doing, in a corner on the farthest side from the door. His body's turned to face the entrance, but his head lolls back against the wall behind him. He doesn't exactly look like the kind of favored customer for this place, but he did last night. At least, he flashed enough coin and sang enough songs to earn a place in one of the smaller, cheaper rooms. Today, however—today he looks slightly rougher for the wear. His ruby cloak and garish vest are piled atop the seat opposite him, overlaying a bundle of many-stringed and pronged things that look like instruments.
Hugh walks into the Inn a bit furtively at first, as though he is not sure whether he should be there. But then when he doesn't spy anyone who is likely to tell him to go take care of a horse, practice his swordplay or study heraldry, he relaxes and tries to put on what he considers a nonchalant mature look. Surely he looks at least 17, right? In reality, he is such a skinny collection of elbows, and knees, that he looks like what he is. A 15 year old, who has had a head on collision with puberty. He asks for someone at the bar, frowns, and then spies the bard. All the suaveness, if there was any, goes by the way side. Curiosity lights his eyes. "Morning! Are you going to play here tonight?"
Faulon's red-rimmed eyes open a fraction when the young man makes his entrance, but 15-year-old boys are no good cause to fully rouse oneself when one is as rumpled as the bard appears to be. But then, Hugh gives him little choice with that cheery greeting. Faulon lifts his head and lids; that first look he takes of Hugh is a split-second of reproach, but then the singer's scrubbing his hands over his face and a smile works its way up his lips as he sits a little straighter. "Here, there, everywhere, m'boy. I play to live, I live to play." There's a flourish of his hands in the air, a certain playful lilt in his voice, but all under the cloak of noticable fatigue. There's a beer in front of him, though. That ought to help. He takes a sip and studies Hugh from over the rim.
Hugh nods and slips down into a chair across from the man, oblivious it would seem to any desire for privacy this morning. After all, Hugh has been up a long time now. "Stonebridge has been boring! It's good to see a bard here. We used to get more in Hag's Mire." He looks at the beer and considers it. "Are you hungry? I am." He always is. "What is your name? And are these your instruments?" He suddenly realizes that he has to give the man a chance to answer some of the questions and pauses. For a second. Then he quickly adds. "I'm squire Hugh Asterholm." There…now he will give him a chance.
Faulon is as deliberately slow as Hugh is haphazardly fast. He rests his chin in the palm of a propped hand, eyes comically wide while the squire rattles off his questions. When finally given the chance to respond, the bard lets the silence linger a good moment. It will obviously be the last such quiet the man can secure for the short future. "Squire Hugh, now there's a name to strike fear in any man's heart," he smiles good-naturedly, "I've yet to get a feel for Stonebridge, but you seem a man who knows his land. I'll take your word that it lacks a little luster for lusty young fellows such as yourself." His fingers reach over and pluck a tiny lute from out of the bundle, which he then settles on his lap to test the strings and tighten where appropriate. "These are my tools of trade, yes, and I have the honor of being Faulon, mastersinger and reknowned bard. And," he strums a little teasing tune from the instrument, "If you were able to procure a bit of that sliced ham and stewed onions I smell cooking from theh back, I may treat you to a song or two."
You don't have to ask Hugh twice when it comes to the question of food. He looks over his shoulder and waves a serving girl over. He explains to her how he is Lord Riordan's squire and cousin, and surely she can put the order on his tab. She looks him up and down, but by now, she knows he is actually telling the truth about who he is, and she goes off to fetch some food. He grins at Faulon, and his eyes flick to the lute. "I have not been here all that long just a few weeks, really. I was a page up in Hag's Mire. But it is slow here. This is the only inn. Can you believe it?" He shrugs and the girl brings him a beer. "Squire Hugh, more likely Squire Who?! But I did do well in the tournament in Seagard, so maybe I am making a name."
With his face turned down towards his lute and his fingers testing each string, it doesn't seem as if Faulon's paying much attention to Hugh's order. But he is, oh yes: his ear's turned towards the two rather than the tune he's plucking, and his eyes slide a careful, sideways gaze on the pair as they exchange who's who and who's Hugh. There's a slight nod, then, but it seems to be for the lute, which has finally found the sweet spot of a ready song. "Ah yes, the name light's a candle now — you're the squire who won the melee, right? To you, near-Ser Hugh," and Faulon makes it a good excuse to take a long pull of his ale. "The making of a name is quite an important one, we singers would know. It would help," he winks, "To keep a good singer in good graces."
And as Faulon says that, the food arrives. Good fare that Hugh also will dig into. He smiles a little and shrugs, trying to be modest, when really he is thrilled that the bard knows who he is and he doesn't want to be modest. Still… "I was lucky in the melee. The more experienced squires were busy beating the shit out of each others for grudges of some sort." He gets his platter squared away in front of him, and is about to take a bite, but says first, "So when I m a knight I can get you to do a song about me?"
The bard's showing more animation now that Hugh's become a fast friend and fast food has found a place in front of him. Faulon gives the serving girl his best smile and waggled brow, he even murmurs something bold about food tasting better when served by pretty faces. "Never discount luck when it turns in your favor, boy," advises Faulon from around a mouthful of hot ham. "Experience will always fail in the face of a good, strong, lucky streak. And men fear luck more than they do skill," the bard continues, having swallowed quickly, and he smiles, "Skill can be measured and countermeasured, but luck… ah, it's' anyone's guess. Ser Hugh the Lucky," he muses while fingers fiddle with the strings again, "That could be a good one. Rife with potential, and innuendo. Good on the battlefield or the bed." The smile he sports now is beyond mischievious.
Hugh leans back and laughs. "Right now that will work for me, I guess. " Hugh is everyone's friend at the moment, and when it comes to relationships with the girls, he is everyone's student. And he listens and watches avidly as Faulon compliments the girl. That line is filed away for future reference. But back to luck, Hugh grins, "Lucky in bed!" he repeats with a laugh. "Is it lucky if you pay them?"
"Only if you get two for the price of one," Faulon grins around one of those small, bite-size onions swimming in the grease around the ham. "And the bigger the… name," he chuckles, "…the luckier you're bound to be." His ale's getting empty and he casts a forlorn sort of look back to the serving girl, but her back's turned as she sweeps near the entrance. "Now then, Ser Lucky, do the venerable knights and lords of fair Stonebridge complain of boredom as you do?" Whenever he's not eating, he's playing lazy ditties on that lute.
Hugh shakes his head, "Not that I have heard. Ser Riordan is incredibly busy. And Ser Jarod and my Lady Cousin Rowenna seems to keep themselves busy." He looks thoughtful. "It's just me. But I am busy enough with work. It just seems like there aren't really very many visitors through here." His eyes follow the bard's, and he will try to catch her eye. "Want another? I don't support Lord Riordan would mind. I'm sure he would want to support a bard's work here." He hesitates again, "Don't spread it around that I am complaining," he says self consciously. "It's really an honor for me to have been chosen to squire for Ser Riordan. Do you know any bawdy songs? I have heard some good jokes from the guards."
Faulon just nods thoughtfully as all those seemingly trivial details take root in his brain, then scoots his mug to the edge of the table to accept the refill Hugh's going to secure. He gives no outward sign that any particular name is more important than the other, but he does quirk a curious brow when Lord Riordan's supposed support for the arts is mentioned. There's a smile still on his face, though. "Your secret suffering is safe with me, boy. I'll never tell." The bard shifts in his seat, the better to approach his lute more directly, and he shoots Hugh a sly smile from over the strings. "Bawdy songs are my bread and butter. Which would you like to hear? There's 'Throw the Wench Out the Window', that's a good one. Or 'In My Lady's Pocket', which is more lewd than it sounds — trust me." He rattles off a few more, each sounding dirtier than the next.
Hugh snorts and relishes in the bawdy titles as only a 15 year old with hormones surging through very cell of his body could. For that, he tries a little harder and calls out, "Hey, beautiful! Can you get the man another beer?" That was bold, and he gets an impassive look. His ears turn pink, and he shrinks an inch or so, but soon perks up again with another laugh. "Throw the Wench out the Window sounds fun!" The girl meanwhile has refilled the mug. It may well be interesting to see what Riordan will say when he receives the bill. He never said he wasn't a patron of the arts.
"Baby steps, baby steps," Faulon cautions Hugh in a quiet undertone as the serving girl gives the boy a cold shoulder and the bard a warm smile. It probably has something to do with the genteel expression and broken-in charm of the older man's smile. Practice has made perfect. But with a healthy swig of ale to wet his whistle, the bard gives into the song request. "Ah, the poor wench," he intones with mock-severity before the tricky little tune starts. He plays it lightly, not using his full, throaty singing voice. The show lacks for little, though, as his singing is still rich for all it lacks in booming volume. The song is as dirty as a young boy could wish it, telling a ribald tale of a lord with a wench in bed. The lady of the house comes a'calling and, according to the oft-repeated chorus, the lord throws the wench out the window and gives the lady the 'sack' next. It's full of descriptive words that get the attention of yonder serving girl and sends her from the room with a deep, red blush.
Hugh nods at the words of advice, while trying to look like it doesn't matter to him. But the song captures his interest, and he laughs between bites and drinks, though thankfully not to the point that beer shoots out of his nose. It especially tickles him to see the young woman leave the room embarrassed. He leans closer and asks, "I bet you can't sing that one in the halls for the Lords and Ladies very often!"
Faulon finishes with a bit of flair on that last note, then smiles widely at Hugh. "Ah, no, not the halls—but there are dark corners in any keep where dirty songs get their time to shine. You would be surprised, but some of the finest noblemen know the worst of songs," he winks and reaches for the ale again. "Did we scare off our fair maiden? Hopefully she's not run off to tell some old woman there's a bard in here, corrupting the youth." Faulon leans over and gives a quick look the way the girl went, but no one's come back. He gestures for Hugh to lean in, as if about to impart some important secret.
Hugh leans in to listen to Faulon. "I don't think she will tell anyone. I don't think anyone cares pretty much. Ser Jarod and Lady Rowenna have some bold conversations here." He grins. "I don't think Ican be corrupted anyway. I mean, I have to learn about these things, right? It's not like I'm a delicate damsel."
Faulon stifles a chuckle as Hugh makes all kinds of excuses to forgive any alleged insults to the fine establishment in which they sit. Ready to conspire with the lad, the both of them all leaned in and quiet like, the bard shares a bit of his hard-won knowledge. "Don't let the bawdy things teach you everything, boy. They're the songs you sing once you've got the girl… to get the girl first, you've got to have a delicate touch." He nods a head to the door where the girl's emerging now, much more composed than she left, and thankfully alone. "Call her over here — politely, mind — and ask for one last beer. When she brings it back, then think of some bold little comment to make. But when you make it," he drops his tone even lower, "Say it like it's a secret only you and she should share." He leans back, work done. Now it's up to Hugh to put it into play.
Hugh looks conspiratorially at Faulon and smirks. He does realize tha Faulon, the entertainer is getting his on entertainment out of Hugh. Yes, he is naive, but not /that/ naive. Still he is willing to play along, and the words of advice do sound like they just might have a basis in fact. He straightens and looks over at the girl, again trying to catch her eye. He clears his throat, because no way she is going to look at this rate. But at the throat clearing, and she looks up, and she is caught! Hugh wipes the smirk off his face and asks politely for another beer, please. No extra verbage. She sweeps by, grabs the empty and walks away, leaving Hugh a chance to think of a good line.
Faulon tries to pave the way for Hugh by offering the girl another smile; this one's not quite his best, he doesn't intend to steal the boy's thunder, but it couldn't hurt to help out a little anyway. Unfortuantely, the girl doesn't look his way. Spots of color sprout on her cheeks all the same, though. As she heads off for the refill, the bard nods encouragingly in Hugh's direction as he busies himself with finishing the food in front of him. If the squire's still got a spot of luck blessing him, he might just make a girl smile today.
Hugh watches the girl leave and then gives Faulon a worried look. "I don't know what to say!" he whispers as he pushes his plate aside. It onlt took him seconds to inhale his food. "I'm not a poet!" The girls comes back and sets down the beer. As it looks like Hugh will be too late and she is turning away, Hugh forgets about the tone he is supposed to set in his haste to blurt out his message. "Thank you, Miss! You have pretty pink cheeks, like an apple!" And he winces and waits as his comment hangs in the air. Bad choice of comments, perhaps. He's a talker, but a ladies man? Not yet.
Faulon nearly chokes on an onion and has a bit of a job covering it up with a swallow of fresh beer (had Hugh ordered that for himself? The bard's own mug is empty and he's in obviously dire need of a drink, so it's the lone full mug for him. He has the grace to place it closer to Hugh's side of the table once he's done, though). Actual laughter is kept in check, but a fair amount of merriment shines in his brown eyes. "I believe my young friend," he manages to say to the serving girl, "..is borrowing from a song, m'dear: a maiden's blush blossoms in her virtue, the apple from a tree of sweetest truth." Something like that, at least. He even goes so far as to hum a little tune that sounds like it might be familiar, but who knows. He's trying hard to rescue Hugh; perhaps his advice wasn't all for sport.
Hugh doesn't think twice about Faulon drinking the beer. He still had some of his own and pushes it back towards Faulon. Riordan won't mind…surely. Plus, his throat seems to be constricting with embarrassment. Hee looks from Faulon to the girl, who has turned back to listen, and nods in agreement with Faulon, "Yes, what he said. I was!" And at least he doesn't try to sing along. That would have been a disaster.
The girl does eventually smile, first at Faulon, and she dips a curtsy to Hugh, though the smile is more polite to him than natural. "Thank you, My Lord." Then she is quickly on her way.
Hugh nevertheless smiles triumphantly at Faulon. "Thanks!" he says discreetly. "The only thing I could think of but that was pretty rude."
"It could have been much worse," Faulon assures the young man. He's wiping a hand over his face as if mopping an overwet brow. "It never hurts to study and practice a bit. I'm sure you find many opportunities to stare at girls. Try using your brain a bit while you're at it." He's chuckling now, reclaiming the beer and keeping it for his own. "You owe me one," is said with the half-tone of a joke that's almost really not. "Perhaps if you have cause to mention your want of a singer to brighten the halls of Stonebridge, you could drop my name to your generous Lord Riordan?" He hoists the ale at the name, as if in salute, and takes a mighty drink.
Hugh nods in agreement, despite getting the man food and beers. "No worries! I will. And I think she likes me. Did you see?" And in Hugh's mind,all is right with the world. His confidence level goes up. "Tell me, would you ever use this line?" He pauses, "That dress is becoming on you, and if I were on you, i'd be coming too?" No filter. He grins, "I heard one of the fellows at Seagard say he used that, but Ireally think that it would only work with a whore, maybe."
The food and drink was earned with a song; clearly, Faulon believes a little help with the ladies was a different bargain all together. Hugh doesn't need any more encouragement to make the promise of spreading the bard's good name, however. As the boy offers up a line to run by Faulon's approval, the man throws back his head with a hearty laugh. That ale's running its course now, though all it does is make a friendly man even friendlier. "Oh, good gods, boy, that's an awful one. I'm sure the coin in the man's pocket won whatever whore over more than a dreadful come-on," applause break for a well laid pun, "…like that. Whore's need money, not lines, and that's as true as it gets. Don't even bother speaking to those types, just rattle a purse and they'll open right up."
Hugh doesn't pick up on the pun. He grins though at the infectious nature of the laughter. Glad to be able to make the bard laugh. "Well…no worries there. I don't have any money, and there is a really nice lady here, but I don't think Riordan would want me to put that on his tab." He files that line away in the 'don't say this' section of his brain. Then he looks at the windo and from the slant of the light he sees it's time he should get going. "Thanks for your time, Master Bard!" He stands. "I have to go and meet up with a tutor for some lessons."
Faulon's chuckle carries over, "Oh, I haven't had to pay for a bit of fun in quite some time, Hugh. You're not the only one with a touch of luck." The bard doesn't quite let his gaze rove over to the serving girl polishing mugs behind the counter. "And you are too right, I believe your Lord Riordan's generosity would not extend to the dark reaches of a man's appetite. But you run along now," the man's hand, the one not clutching that last mug of ale, flick the boy off. "Don't forget to study!" By study, he must mean watch girls and think of things. Important things. With a final wave of his hand, the bard settles back to doing what he was before Hugh came in: absolutely nothing.