|Enter a Bastard|
|Summary:||A knight fresh from the Twins meets a squire of Stonebridge.|
|Town Square, Stonebridge|
|Cobbled, roughly square, complete with piscine odours.|
|29th July 289|
A lone man is threading an adequate horse, pacing ahead on foot with a surprisingly gentle grasp on its bridle, through the doughty cobbles of the central square of Stonebridge. The complete hauberk on his person marks him as a professional heavy horseman, and the heraldic surcoat cements his claim to knighthood; he must be a knight, though, not long off his road, for a gentleman would have disarmed in a settled place like this to show peaceful intentions - if he'd had time.
The fighter's head is guarded by a mail coif, but no visored helm; and the expression this reveals upon the world, while not exactly warlike, is certainly not a very peaceful one. Malcontent, in a word. Strands of pale hair, muddy anyway, probably muddier now, escape the tight embrace of the steel rings; the pinched, pale eyes look weary and faintly disgusted, and the rodentine nose is unmistakably wrinkled.
"Fish," the knight remarks to the world in general, in a hoarse, but carrying kind of false whisper. "I could find fresher examples in my family than in this so-called market…"
Hugh is doing yet another errand that has taken him into the town square. He has a bundle of some sort of uniform under his arm, and a piece of bread with some of that fish on it that he is stuffing in his face. Why come into the market, if you can't take advantage of its wares? But knights will certainly ctahc Hugh's attention. He turns to watch the man's skill in riding with obvious interest. He stiffens slightly at the man's demeanor and finishes shoving the food in his mouth. After a quick swallow, he takes a step closer. "Hail Ser!"
The greeting is quite as easy to overhear as the knight's earlier and less amiable complaint, and the armed man swivels to meet it quite as if it were an onset of foemen. His surcoat is fully in the squire's view now; twin towers argent, on a field azure, sliced diagonally by a bend sinister gules. To a Riverman and to any versed in heraldry this sight will give mixed signals, revealing the knight as of powerful blood - that of old Walder Frey, the machinating and moneyed Lord of the Crossing - but soiled by the taint of bastardy.
For a moment that is actually soon over, but may seem long, the knight's thin mouth stays hard and dour. Then it curves into a smile with the sudden brightness of a drawn dirk.
"And good even to thee, squire. Who is thy master? Does it please him to maintain thee on the, ah, fruit of the local millponds…?"
Hugh stands and blinks a moment as he sorts all this out. Yes, he knows his heraldry. He is wearing clothing that marks him as a Nayland squire, but he is certainly not kitted out. His modest sword, however, has the crest of Asterholm upon it. "Millpond?" He wipes his mouth. "Ser Frey." Yes, he figured it out. "My Master would be pleased that I manage to get enough to eat, I think." He hesitates as though deciding whether to defend the fish. He'd better get to the point of it, though. "My Master is my cousin, Lord Regent Riordan Nayland." He tucks the bundle under his other arm. "Do you have business with him?"
"Asterholm. The most minor of minor houses," the knight muses, apparently aside to his thoughtful looking destrier, "although, to tell them aright, something reputed for valliancy." Probably this is not exactly intended to be overheard, but then again, probably the speaker doesn't care all that much. Certainly when he looks back from his equine confidant to his newest human acquaintance his smile gleams all the more wolvishly.
"Not so fast, squire. Rivers, not Frey. Forget reversed colours at your peril; we who bear them forget nothing. But it would be more proper for you to identify yourself first to me." The words have a serious weight but there is something playful about their delivery, as about the conclusion that follows them.
"Ser Riordan. A byword indeed for gallantry. But my business lies in my swordbelt, squire. I am a protector upon the road. This sword of the Twins is quite as much bound in service…as yours, of Asterholm."
Hugh winces. Damn he always screws up the heraldry. "I'm Lord Hugh Asterholm," he sputters out. "And yes, my Ser is a good man. Can I assist you with anything, then?" He looks around as though hoping someone else of higher rank would ride by or come up to take this burden from him. But if anything, Hugh is a good host. He repeats, "Can Ihelp you?"
"Courteously said," the bastard knight adjudicates, and it is utterly impossible to imagine either that he is not joking, or that he is not sincere. Maybe he finds courtesy funny in itself.
Now comes his own introduction, delivered with a curt but definite bow and a flourish of his blue gaberdine cloak. "I am Ser Maldred, son of Lord Walder Frey, of the Crossing, and the damosel Myrilla of the Stepstones." He announces his mother quite as resplendently as his sire, but somehow the glint in his glassy eyes indicates what kind of a woman she was, or is, pretty fully.
"As for whether…you can do me service…" He frowns in what looks like concentration, but the answer when it comes still sounds prepared. "Present the Lord Regent AND, should you get the chance, old Lady Tordane, the very deep and respectful salutations of Lady Jaimera Frey, by way of Ser Maldred Rivers. Old Lady Tordane," he adds off-hand, "is a sort of niece of mine, would you believe it. That will have to do for now, Squire Hugh. I have ridden a long space, my mail chafes at my limbs quite as much as it impairs my manners, and I owe my lady aunt much good service yet ere…long. Perhaps we shall meet in more comfortable circumstances. Where can one get a good, strong mead around here?"
Hugh listens to the mans words roll off his tongue and bounce around Hugh's ears. He nods and takes all this in. Sure he's naive, but he's not that naive. He understands well enough. Butthe lad finds himself rather tongue tied. "Over there," he finally stammers. "The Crane has a nice mead and good food. /I/ like it at least. and I will pass along your message, Ser." He hesitates and then finally decides to bow. A little. The man makes him nervous. Clearly.
"My thanks," Ser Maldred offers evenly, his watery gaze following the lad's direction. "The Crane, eh. I'm surprised they haven't renamed it the Crane and Harpy yet, aren't you?" He has apparently consulted the boy's opinion in all earnestness, and his brow is still folded in thought, his mouth still crooked in its quizzical smile, as he swings back up onto his stallion's saddle at last.
"Come, Graymalkin," he coos with more affection and empathy than he offered the squire, "follow your nose to the mead. Thanks for the tip, lad. Obedience and initiative will see you rise far. Perhaps as far even as your masters."
Then he kicks in his spurs with a satisfied grunt and is off at a canter towards the free house.