|Dusk and Daisies|
|Summary:||Blaire explains her plan to Bastien.|
|Related Logs:||The Hunter TP|
|Cobbled Road — Terrick's Roost|
|The cobblestone road has been worn down by many, many years of weathering and the sheer number of foot traffic it has seen in that time. It weaves down a short ways from the square passing an herbalist shop and ending at the ornate doorways to the town's Sept. Several houses line the road to that point, including the residence of the Septa.|
|December 4th, 289 A.L.|
With the coming of dusk, the sky has cast itself in the warm tones of red and orange. A comfortable air has set itself upon the cobblestone road, the warmth of summer embracing those who would make this their path on their journey. Amongst those few seen souls, Bastien can be seen. The large man rests atop his destrier, flanked by two knights and an entourage of servants and men at arms. The group is small, and if not for their colors, would likely not even stand out. Still, even this close to Highfield, its not hard to tell the Ashwood family crest from that of the Terricks.
"Bastien!" Well, without further ado or trace of hesitation then.. Stepping out of a quaint little shop, into the warm air and gathering dusk, the dark-haired form of Blaire (or 'that girl what showed up at the Keep that time', as some of the party may know her) promptly recognises their ringleader. Strange, considering she usually barely notices a horse til it's about to trample her underfoot. With a pretty basket slung in the crook of one arm, the petite little creature beams in greeting toward the knight, quite unperturbed by the onlookers and not even thinking to more formally word her hello. She's carrying a plethora of wildflowers, in varying hue but, for once, seems to have a more purposeful air about her. Is this what she's like when not out wandering the wilderness?
Venturing a step closer across the cobbles, quite prepared to intercept the destrier, she extends a hand politely in greeting toward the animal's muzzle. "Hello. How are you?" Whether she's speaking to man or beast now isn't entirely clear..
The trained animal comes to a stop and lets out a disgruntled whinny. From the look in its eyes, the beast seems less worried about the presence of the woman and more surprised by another living being in its path. It's training was done well, it seems, as the beast's stop is immediate enough to allow Blaire to go untrampled, without sending the relaxed rider sprawling.
Bastien's lacidasical gaze is drawn back into the world at the sound of that familiar voice and the stopping of his horse. Looking down at Blaire, the large man leans forward and gives her a once over. "Blaire." The word is said with a certain affection that seems bereft of any of the man's other actions, and as his entourage come to a stop, he swings his leg over and dismounts from the animal. Looking back to them, he nods towards the village. "This is as good a place to rest as any. I'll be taking my time." With that, the majority of the servants disperse to restock on supplies and try to grab a bite to eat.
Destriers are really not for petting, but the girl takes advantage of the animal's surprise and strokes his velvety nose a few times, not seeming to pay much mind to the gathering filtering by her. In the end, she raises doe-dark eyes to the knight, squinting a little against the sky beyond his silhouette. The mannerism wrinkles her nose, but she still summons a grin for him. "What're you doing here?" It's not an accusation - she's genuinely curious. Bastien, on her home turf! What a turnaround.
Taking a discreet side-step out of his mount's path, readjusting the lie of her basket, Blaire then folds her arms about her little waist in an expectant manner. Comically matronly, in fact, given the source. "Are you investigating the missing children, too? Have some vanished from Highfield?"
One wayward servant moves in to take the large animal by its reigns and guide it away, leaving Bastien and Blaire alone in the road. His eyes are distracted as the youth guides the horse away, and once he's sure the animal has been secured, the entirety of his attention returns to Blaire. "I'm on my way home from Kingsgrove. The affections of a sister can cause one to linger." Her words about missing children draw a confused look across the man's face as he tilts his head. "I'd heard of no such thing on the roads. Is this recent?"
If Blaire has any knowledge of the man's sister, or indeed what that has to do with Kingsgrove, there's no trace of realisation in her features. Those big brown eyes remain calmly upon his stoic expression, diverted only by a few slow blinks as the conversation strolls onward. The matter of local gossip, though, she seems to have a better grasp on than nobles and their politics. Nodding earnestly in the face of his apparent confusion, she half-pivots on a booted heel, making her way unhurriedly along the street a short ways, toward a shady bench.
"Oh, yes. Several of them, now, have gone missing. A little boy from Highfield - I thought you'd know of that one, at least - an eight year old girl from here.. scullery maid, so I'm told.. and even one from Kingsgrove.. honestly Bastien, what have you been upto that you haven't heard? Everyone's up in arms about it! Especially now that a noble child has gone missing, too." That's a rare flicker of disquiet upon Blaire's usually unflappable facade. Lowering her voice as they pass by a hurrying family, likely bound for a dinner table, she continues, "..folks are avoiding the woods. They've seen odd things and.. well, bodies have been found.."
Walking quietly beside the petite woman, Bastien lifts a hand to bite at the tip of his riding glove's finger. He repeats this with each finger, tugging slightly, before pulling off the glove and moving to the next one as they start to near the bench. "We've been taking our time on the road, and there's little way of learning of such news." His shoulders roll with a shrug as he clasps the gloves between his hands and behind his back. "Besides, I tend to avoid the rumor mills. You can hardly believe everything that you hear, these days. One of our Squires swears he's seen the Hunter himself, though the lad's likely just letting his imagination get the better of him."
Blaire's lips twist a little in disapproval and she shakes her head, turning to look up and aside to her companion following his words. "Whether you believe in the 'stories' or not is one thing, of course. But children, Bastien. The boy at Kingsgrove was little more than a babe. Can you imagine?" Reaching the carved stone seat, she turns in a swift whirl of woolen skirts to drop down onto it, setting her basket in her lap and, quite honestly, pouting a bit as she considers. "I'm sorry. It's so nice to see you and here I am, depressing you with horrible tales. The Roost's not your concern. And besides, I've a theory that might help tonight. So!" Her smile returning, the girl regards the tall knight with genuine warmth and attention. "..how are things with you? You mentioned your sister."
The sight of the young woman as anything other than a careless butterfly doesn't seem to simply pass over the man as she talks about children and the missing boy from Kingsgrove. Bastien does not site immediately, instead looking down at her for moment. After that brief pause, he lowers his voice. "I did not mean to make it seem that I do not believe you, nor did I mean to dismiss your worry. Most recently people thought Highfield was haunted, and it turned out a young girl who'd broken up with her lover was simply crying on the rooftops. After that, I've tried to take things with a grain of salt." Lowering himself down to sit beside her, he tucks his riding gloves into his belt and gives her a look that edges on concern. "The Roost might not be my concern, but you are amongst a rare few whom I care to worry about, Blaire." Her questions about his sister are waved away, "Things are as they always are, boring and filled with far more sweating knights than I care to know. You have a theory?"
"Really?" The brunette tilts her head, momentarily teasing. "..how many sweaty knights do you care to know?" Now that he's seated, she dares to nudge him gently in the ribs with her elbow, allowing her tension of a moment ago to dissipate. "Don't worry, Bastien.. more than anything, I'm used to people finding my ways a bit queer. And you're right. It might be something easily explained. But the fact remains, people are being hurt. Killed. This is no teenage angst rubbish on a rooftop." No doubt she's had at least some experience of that. She does like rooftops, after all.
Sighing softly when he refuses to be swayed from the topic he's probably going to like the least, Blaire looks to the flowers in her basket. There's acorns and berries in the bottom, too. But it's a daisy she reaches for and raises, eyeing it before herself with a thoughtful pause. "Well.. let's assume, just for a moment.. that is is witchcraft. Or, at the very least, someone who believes themselves capable of it, who's doing these awful things." Turning her gaze toward the man beside her again, she indicates the little white-petalled blossom. "..I've been reading up on it. And apparently, daisies are often used in these.. these.. 'spells'. Ones involving innocence, or children. So.. I thought.." Trailing off - she really doesn't want to explain fully, does she? - she nods toward the treetops that are visible above the roofs opposite. "..they grow everywhere. Maybe I should look for a spot where there's none. And!"
Taking up a little pouch to show him, she warms to the subject, perhaps inevitably. Ugh, it reeks. "Brimstone. You use that to ward off evil."
"If it were up to me, I'd be the only sweaty knight I knew." The words draw an all too rare chuckle out of the man's throat as she nudges him with her elbow. Sitting next to her as he is, he turns slightly to face her as she starts picking through her basket and explaining the parts of her plan that she's prepared to reveal. "I would ask you if it isn't a dangerous idea to venture into places that are potentially occupied by witches and sorcerers, but for some reason I feel that you wouldn't care if it was dangerous."
The small pouch that is lifted draws a curious eye, and the man's face scrunches ever so slightly as the smell of the brimstone hits his nostrils. "Bloody hell. You could use that to ward off just about anything."
A soft giggle is roused from Blaire at his expression, and she dangles the pouch closer to him by its string. "Essence of sweaty knight." Dropping it back into the basket after a moment, she smiles and pushes her glossy hair back behind her ears. "You do worry an awful lot. How can you dismiss the idea of phantoms and myths in one breath, then concern yourself over them in the next?" Eyeing Bastien sidelong, she softens a little. "..I'm not going looking for a fight, I promise. Why would I? I'm just trying to put some minds at rest. The sooner people believe they can fight this thing, the easier it'll be to stop any more babies being killed." Hesitating briefly, then simply making her mind up, she rests her hand lightly upon the knight's far larger, calloused one and squeezes gently. "No. I don't care if it's dangerous. I just want to help."
"Worrying has kept my family alive. I like to think that I worry so other's do not have to." Her words draw a contemplative look across the man's face as he lowers his voice. "There's a difference between speculating that something might exist, and putting oneself in the possible way of harm, I think." For whatever the reason, he seems hesitant to come out and say that he'd be worried if something would happen to her, but as she places her hand upon his own, he turns his over and slips his fingers between her own. The squeeze is mirrored gently in kind, and her words draw a slow nod from the Knight. The large man says nothing for a short while, before finally nodding his head. "Then I will stay here and help you." Making eye contact, he purses his lips ever so slightly before giving her a small smile.
Well, that draws a look of surprise from the girl, though not an unpleasant one judging by the smile she offers in return. "Really? That's.." At a loss for a good word, she pauses, then simply says, "..thank you." Blaire holds his gaze for a long moment, wondering something that she doesn't voice, then glances skyward. "I as going to wait until after nightfall to head out. No real reason, it just seemed fitting. Have you eaten, though?" What an odd thing to worry about, when there's such a lack of consideration for her own wellbeing. Looking back to Bastien, she arches her brows enquiringly. "They serve decent food at the inn.. unless you've room at the Tower or.." Trailing off again, she presses her lips in a thin line, pondering. He surely has plans, after all. No need to press him into keeping her company any longer than he'd like.
"Nightfall?" His words aren't judgemental of her dicision, simply mirroring her own as he does the work in his head, sizing up the pros and cons of moving under the cloak of night. Her sudden concern for his stomach draws the corner of the man's mouth upwards and he shakes his head. "We've plenty of dried meats to keep us full on the road, and one of our squire's was a hunter's son. The boy worked miracles with his boy and brought plenty of food to our fires on the roadside." As he speaks, his thumb idly caresses her own. The man has never really been good at being physically affectionate, usually shying from such things, but something about Blaire's demeanor calms the man.
"I've never been much good at cooking." Such an odd mixture of upbringing, of course. Commoner in a noble house. Head stuck in a book when her higher-blooded 'siblings' attended lessons in such things. "Or embroidery." The sour expression to go with that admission plainly implies that she considers that one an utter waste of time. "If you're sure they won't miss you, back home.." Looking down, the girl half-smiles as she briefly watches the little waltz taking place on the ink-stained skin of her thumb, then looks up to Bastien again, shyly. "Most everyone left to go to that wedding at Heronhurst, this past week. I thought you might have been bound there, since the little girl disappeared, but seeing as you didn't know.." A light shrug. "A noble child will have half the Riverlands out looking for her. Not so for those who went first. It was too late for all of them." She really does have a tender heart, behind all that whimsy, doesn't she?
"Leave embroidery to tailors and those with far too much time on their hands." A playful huff is given in support of her dislike, and her question of the effects of his absence does not go ignored. "Truth be told, I've a close friend in Heronhurst who I wish to visit soon. If they've had a child gone missing, she'll likely do well with somebody to shoot ideas off of who won't drape their replies in unecessary mystery." Still, despite his words he gives her hand a squeeze. "But still, I doubt that my being there will make much of a difference. On top of it all, the less I have to attend after marriage banquets, the better. I find no comfort inside a room filled with people who smile to your face and speak ill behind your back."
A sudden, weighty sigh is unleashed from the fey creature seated beside the formidable knight. "How am I ever going to find an excuse to make you dance, Bastien..?" Though it begins as a jest, Blaire's expression gradually sobers as she studies him, her lower lip captured for a fleeting second between her teeth. "..we're never going to be in the same place at the same time, are we. Well, except traipsing through the woods under cover of darkness, of course." Mustering a winsome smile, she deliberately squares her shoulders and casts her dark eyes away from him. "..next time you're forced to attend a banquet, I'm going to ensure I find work for the evening as a serving wench. That's likely as close as we'll come." Chuckling gently, she shakes her head and begins to shift, preparing to rise. "Well. You might not be hungry, but I'm famished. And you know what they say about a witch-hunt on an empty stomach." A beat passes. "Err.. don't.. do that?"
"It will likely involve enchantment and quite a bit of cutlery. Dancing is far too…exposing." Her next few sentences draw a contemplative and almost sad look across the knight's stoic features. "If you attend any banquet in which I am a guest, as a servant, I will verily hit you about the ears and head. I'm a Noble and a Knight, the Ashwood Master at Arms, and I may bring whoever I please as my guest to any sort of formal gathering. Let them try to stop me." As she moves to rise, he finally relinquishes her hand and moves to do the same. Her words draw his eyebrow skyward, and her own answer causes another of those chuckles to rise in his throat.