|Errand for an Errant Knight|
|Summary:||Ser Jarod Rivers and squire Caytiv Hill make their way to Stonebridge in search of runaway Jaremy. They encounter Septon Josse, and receive a clue that points them in something resembling the right direction.|
|Related Logs:||May the Warrior Guide Me and subsequent 'Jaremy is gone' logs.|
|Outskirts of Stonebridge|
|The trails are worn and well tended here and the fields on either side are lush and full of wildflowers amidst the lightly scattered trees of the central Cape of Eagles. A few packed dirt trails converge with the main road from outlying hamlets around Stonbridge.|
The ride from the Roost was uneventful, albeit slower than usual as the riders beat the bushes for signs that one Young Lord Jaremy Terrick had passed that way. But as they get closer to the Stonebridge they'll still found no trace of him, apart from those vague rumors back in Terrick's Roost that he was seen riding in this direction. "We should be reaching the stone bridge itself soon," Jarod says as he canters along, astride his sturdy brown courser, Symeon. Pace faster as they get nearer to civilization again, passing by the farmhouses and peasant houses that dot the outskirts. "Perhaps the men manning the crossing'll be able to tell us something.
Josse knows this walk well, having done it countless times. Having put together his lists of what needs to be asked at Stonebridge's apothecaries he set out by himself sometime yesterday, slowed down by frequent stops at the tiny patches of poor homes scattered along the route. The timing of his crossing this particular part of the road put the sound of two horses behind him, the noise making him stop near a tree and look behind him, hood pushed off the top of his head.
"I reckon any an' every about here could have been on an' off a this track," Cayt speaks up from beside Ser Jarod. "We'll have to put better faith in someone having seen of 'im, ay, from here?" He's lost some quantity of the impatient surl that had hounded him the first day of the investigation, at least. "You reckon folk out this way would know, had they seem 'im, ay?" he wonders.
Jarod nods at Caytiv's words. "Better faith than trying to pick up his hoofprints, with all the traffic these roads see. Even with things are strained between Tordane Tower and Four Eagles as they are now, the commonfolk still travel to and from for one reason or another. Matters little to most of them who their lord bows to. I've more faith we'll see someone who's spotted him. Jaremy's face is well-known in these lands." He veers toward the hamlet on the outskirts, motioning for Caytiv to follow. His horse slows as he approaches the peasant enclave, then slows some more when he spots Josse. "Septon?" A hand is raised, to wave to the holy man. "Fancy meeting you in this neck of the woods."
Josse stays rather still until he's certain he can recognize the voices; random travellers don't always bode well for the unarmed alone. "Jarod, Master Hill." He loosens his grip on his satchel strap, turning around to face them. "I was slowed a little ways back. Didn't think I'd see you until you until town center."
"Is it, so?" Cayt wonders at the notion, but doesn't doubt it openly. He follows after Jarod, as bidden, brows lowered 'til he spots Josse, then they rise once more in a light look of greeting, something of kindness and welcome in recognition. "Ay, mate," he greets. "You on your way down t' th' bridge, ay?"
Jarod shrugs a little to Caytiv. "Perhaps less so than in our younger days, I'll admit. My fair lord brother…I think he felt he needed to act the part of the young lord these past years. Still, we grew up in these parts. Stonebridge was like a second home to us, when times were better and my brother thought he'd wed Isolde Tordane. Now Nayland." He snorts. "Times change." Coming to a stop he dismounts, both because they've come upon Josse properly and because the path is more meant for walking and riding this far into the hamlet. "Figured we'd stop on the outskirts. See what we could see. We're in search today." A pause and he adds, "My brother Jaremy…I'll tell you the whole of it later. If you'll keep it to yourself. Suffice it to say, we're down in these parts looking for him. There been any word of…" He pauses, as if trying to find the right word. "…dramatics in town?"
"Aye," Josse tells Caytiv, giving the younger man a slight but warm smile. "A few things to look for." He looks at Jarod, head tilted at the mention of a search…and then a dark brow slowly arches. "Your brother? You mean you don't…?" Eyes flicker between Caytiv and Jarod and he blinks, frowning. "I won't say a word. I've heard nothing in this area as to his passing by, but few people here keep watch after dark so that doesn't say much. I haven't yet been to Stonebridge proper."
Caytiv gives a brisk nod, but then quiets down, letting Jarod take over talking on the matter, not sure what would be said or no out here in the midst of folk. "We're on our way down thither t' hear for ourselves in town if there's been any… what the Ser said." Dramatics. "But we ha'nt got so small's a sniff on 'im, yet, for all our ridin'." He can't help but sound a mite discouraged, but he goes on, "Still, sure Ser Jarod doesn't mind, you're welcome with us. 'Nother set of ears, an' folk like to talk to a bloke in a robe," he points out.
"Folk here might talk to you easier than us," Jarod says, taking his horse's reins. "There a hitching post we can tie these to? Might do to talk to the people out here for a spell before we head into town properly. Can you introduce us to those smallfolk who keep the watch in the evening, Jos?"
Josse still looks rather distracted by the onslaught of news, but he clears his throat. The frown fades, not without effort. "There's a post just right over there," he says, lifting a hand to make a sort curve-to-the-right motion. "Let me think…the one I've always seen keeping the dusk is down on the south end by the fields' edge. If you've got any good bread on you that might endear you. He's always liked it when I've brought him some." He looks at Caytiv and nods slightly. "I'll do what I can…how many days has he been gone?" This last question asked more quietly, almost under his breath.
"Three, now," Cayt spills out the words with a low sort of ruefulness, as if full aware it's a long time to only be looking a half day's travel from the Roost. "We travelled up north of here in hopes we'd see him headed that way, but nay, wasn't a sign on 'im." Ryande is actually dressed, today, and so's Cayt, in his Banefort livery rather than the peasant tunic and rustic riding trousers he normally goes about in. And he's down on the ground in not more than a little, getting Ryande's lead ready for hitching and then waiting by to take Symeon's, as well, when Jarod dismounts.
Jarod is in his standard green tunic and dark trousers, and spurred boots of course, a darker green traveling cloak over his shoulders to keep the rain off. It's been showering off and on since they left the Roost, though thankfully not enough yet to make the roads terribly muddy. The sash at his swordbelt in Terrick colors makes it clear whose House he serves, however. He nods along as Caytiv speaks, leading his horse over to tie him up at the post where Josse indicated. "Get what food you can from your pack, Cayt. I'll do the same, and we'll see what they've to tell us. We'll need to resupply at Crane's Crossing Inn in town tonight, anyhow."
The septon's dark gray robes, of course, bear no symbols of house or name. He doesn't even have on the inherited belt that custom dictates he wear around the sept; out here it's just a simple crystal pendant. Josse listens to Caytiv with a slight nod that clearly doesn't understand quite all of what's going on, but it's perhaps a clergyman's learned patience that keeps him from asking more questions right now. "I am sorry I didn't hear earlier, I would have headed south with far more quickness. It is what it is. Come." He motions for them to follow, once their horses are taken care of. "His name is Nicolai, no surname. He's got two fingers missing but don't let on that you notice or he'll talk about that all night."
Caytiv waits for the lead, but when Jarod goes to hitch the horse himself, he follows along gamely and gets Ryande settled nearby Symeon, then unloads his pack for the salted meat and bread in there, keeping it wrapped in a bit of linen and tucking it beneath an arm while listening to the instructions, glancing to Josse from beside the horse. "Ay, an' we've been at pains t' keep the thing a-quieted, as we might. Not your fault not to have heard of't, ay?"
"My lord father doesn't want word getting out too far, in case the matter can still be settled quiet," Jarod explains to Josse. As much as he seems inclined to explain just now. He takes his pack with him when his horse is settled, and will follow Josse's lead to this Nicolai fellow. He motions for Caytiv to follow. "Two fingers, eh? How'd he…?" Though he stops himself from asking further. "Never mind. We got more pressing business than to hear that story. Though I might like to on the way back."
Josse smiles slightly at Jarod. "He'd never forgive me if I ruined the tale. It's a good one." He starts to head over the rough paths towards the south part of the hamlet, which is not a very far walk. Tall fields are visible out past the small cluster of mud and stone homes. His voice lowers slightly as he tells both men: "When Stonebridge went to the Naylands he was not happy about it. Not at all." His chin lifts towards their garb. "Your colors might help you here."
Caytiv takes the path with the linen-wrapped parcel under one arm, the other thumb hooked at the top of his trousers as he trods along, leaning into the walk with a casual swagger even as his eyes grow focused on some distant thought. He attends the conversation but is taciturn, for all that, when it comes to making a reply.
Jarod tosses his cloak back so his sash is more evident. He'd been trying to keep his family colors from showing since they crossed the border out of Terrick lands, but he displays it with flair now. "Glad there are some in these lands who still remember Four Eagles well. That'll make things easier." His own pace is slow, in step with Caytiv and a little behind Josse, letting the septon lead the way. His boots are well-covered with mud from the dirt street before long. He keeps his own parcel tucked under his arm, eyes idly taking in the somewhat homes of the smallfolk they pass, and offering a polite nod and friendly "Good day" to the people themselves. Their livery, and his sword perhaps in particular as it's not a weapon most smallfolk can afford, draw more than a few stares.
Josse quiets as they keep walking, bidding his own greetings to faces he knows. Which seems to be many of them. He steers Jarod and Caytiv towards a small hut settled between the edge of a long field and the curve of the road headed towards Stonebridge, deep muddles of mud waiting to suck at boots and hems. Settled on a stool outside the front door is an older man in ratted farmer's garb, dirt caked up and down his arms and face. He's busy using a huge knife to carve down a few thick chunks of wood, prying bits apart with loud cracking sounds.
Josse silently nods Jarod towards the seated figure, raising his voice a little to call out first. "Nicolai. Seven's blessings on your evening."
The older man's head raises in no hurry at all, sharp gray eyes looking over the three approaching. His right hand is indeed missing two fingers, but holds that knife with a deft grip that could no doubt hurt somebody. "Brother, aye." His voice is gravelly and deep, his attention turning promptly to Jarod.
The mud Jarod doesn't mind. He's not kept precisely dry in the saddle, with the drizzle that's come and gone all day. "Master Nicolai." He inclines his head respectfully, and extends his right hand, for shaking purposes. "I'm Ser Jarod Rivers. From up Four Eagles way. I come to Stonebridge lands in search of a young knight in the Lord Jerold's service, and kinsman to his lordship besides." His own familiar relationship to the Terricks isn't mentioned, though his sash makes his allegiance plain enough. "He went hunting on his own near three days ago, and has not been seen since. His lordship's getting rather worried, so we've been sent lordling hunting our own selves." He smirks at the half-joke.
Nicolai eyes Jarod's outstretched hand. He puts the knife in his left hand and wipes his palm on his dirty trousers, grasping Jarod's hand to shake it. His grip is rough and feels strange with those missing digits. "Ser Jarod, aye?" The sash is likewise eyed, and his gaze shoots to Josse.
"He can be trusted, Nicolai," Josse's voice comes from off behind Jarod. "No trickery."
Nicolai's face splits into a kind of grin, showing many chipped and crooked teeth. "Ain't much of no good-dressed people come here wantin' to be talkin." He turns his head and spits loudly into the grass. "Knights. Ain't no knights through here." He looks like that might be all to be said, re-seating the knife in his hand and starting to turn away. Then he grunts. "Some git call himself Rivers. He come through. Didn't look like no bastard to me"
Jarod shakes Nicolai's hand firmly before letting him go, crooking a grin at that. "What's a bastard look like?" It's a half-rhetorical question. "And how'd he call himself. He's not bastard-born, but he might've been going by Jaremy Rivers." His manner grows more earnest, despite the attempt at easy humor.
Josse stifles a smile at Jarod's first question. He doesn't say anything for the time being, his hands slid into the depths of his belled sleeves.
"They don't act like dirt's gonna fuckin bite 'em, that's what they looks like." Nicolai barks a gruff laugh. "Bastards with airs, now I woulda seen everything." With a muscled stab he drives the point of the knife into the large log, leaving it standing upright, and he points a dirty finger at Jarod. "Jaremy. Yeah. Them's him. Jaremy Rivers, says he."
Jarod gets a laugh out of that. "That's true enough. At least I hope it is. I've never been much afraid of getting dirt under my baseborn nails, I'd like to think." But when the man recognizes the name 'Jaremy Rivers,' his crooked grin breaks into a proper, triumphant smile. "That's him. That's the one. About my height - just a little smaller - dark eyes, dark hair and a goatee he thinks looks better than it actually does. When'd you see him?"
Nicolai again glances at Josse for some reason before he answers. And whatever look he gets from the septon seems to satisfy him for now. "You, a bastard boy?" He laughs again, coughing wetly at the end. "Made a right fuckin' peacock out of you. When you be ready to be a real baseborn you come out here an' I'll get you to work, aye? Hah." He scratches the side of his leg. "Aye that be the one. Prissy beard and fuck all. Up two day ago, abouts. Came in the dusk. Old Matti's boy said he wanted to work for food. Donno what he woulda done, look like he ain't worked a good day in his life. Knowed he was gone come next day."
"I'm a Rivers like any other, goodman, if a well-kept one," Jarod says with a chuckle. "But I'll keep the offer in mind. Man's got to keep his options open. Never know what Fortune'll do with you." He just chuckles more at Nicolai's description of Jaremy. "Prissy beard. That's him. He'd have been carrying a sword as well, and riding a fine destrier, Rivers-claiming or no." Though he grows more serious as he listens to the account, nodding. "He's all right, then. And trying to earn his way, so that's something. You see which direction he went in? Did he ask after anything, or anyone, while he stopped here?"
"Was a'right two days ago, cain't say since." Nicolai hawks and spits again into the dirt. He jerks a thumb vaguely in the direction of west. "Took the road, boy. Ain't but two ways to go and he were goin that one…how far, shit if anyone here know. He ain't say nothin bout it, didn't ask about nobody. If he was from your neck I'll hope to Seven for him that he weren't fuckin stupid enough to go straight on dressed like he was. Stonebridge ain't no fair tourney grounds these days."
Jarod nods to that, unwrapping his parcel, which contains some bread and dried meat. He offers it to the man, and motions for Caytiv - who's been strong and silent throughout this chat - to do the same. "Much obliged. Share it around as you like." The last comment earns a snort. "World's not a tourney ground, as Jaremy'll learn soon enough. Seven help him."
"Oh, aye…" Nicolai's crooked teeth show again as he's offered the food, accepted readily with his large hands. "Look at this master's table. Keep you good, Ser Jarod the Bastard, and you come dine with us dirt sometime eh?" He dissolves into laughter, which crackles into coughing.
Josse smiles slightly, glancing at Jarod and then back at Nicolai. "Thank you," is all he says to the man, simple but with some private weight to it.
"Aye." Is all Nicolai says in return, now busy unwrapping the spoils. Food trumps company.
Jarod laughs in kind, though he offers the man a respectful inclination of his head in parting. "Glad to see there are still solid men in Stonebridge, whoever's banners fly here now. Seven keep you." And with that he takes his leave, motioning for his squire to follow, so they can reclaim their horses. To Josse he mutters, "Thanks for that. At least we know he's been here."
"At least." Josse turns to walk with the two, navigating the deeper mudtraps like the foot-travel pro that he is. "But why vanish to Stonebridge? I…mm." He cuts himself off, waving a hand. "Perhaps better understood later."
Jarod mounts up again, as does his not-quite-squire. "We're headed into town. We'll get rooms at Crane's Crossing for the night, though I'd like to get out in the streets, the market and especially the riverboat docks, while there's still daylight left. See if anyone's seen him passing. If you're staying we can have a meal and several drinks in the common room tonight. Talk on this particular bit of idiocy my fair lord brother's gone off to."
Josse nods, pulling his heavy hood up as the two prepare to ride. "I'll put out a word with some people. If he's already needing to ask for food at this place then chances are he needed it again in town. I'll meet you two at the inn in the evening. And don't worry, I'll be discreet."
"He might not've needed it so much've been…trying to do good service. As befits an errant knight," Jarod says. "Either way. Thanks. I'll see you later." He's off on that note, riding toward the stone bridge into town proper.