|Etiquette and Wagging Tongues|
|Summary:||Katrin and Ilaria are enjoying a pleasant stroll until their less than proper cousin crashes into them- literally. Ilaria learns some very important life lessons.|
|The Stone Bridge|
|An ancient bridge crafted of shaped stone, built in the long lost days of the River Kings. Narrow- only wide enough for a single large wagon at a time- it is of double arched construction, leaving a lane to either side of the river's center for boats and barges to pass beneath. This bridge marks the furthest point upriver which a masted vessel can reach. The best crossing between Seagard and the Twins, the bridge is well worn, with the newest addition being a row of six pikes mounted into the arch of the bridge, each displaying the tarred heads of Ironborn raiders.|
|29 March, 289 A.L.|
Crossing the bridge are two slender figures, one just a few inches taller than the other. Katrin, the smaller but older of the two, has an arm linked through that of Ilaria's and they seem to be speaking, their brown heads bent close together. "So the word from father is that he is eager for you to return home," she says softly, "But I have managed to detain him yet again. Ian is also doing what he can for both of us."
Ilaria glances over her shoulder to squint up at the single guard looming over her shoulder before turning to stare at Katrin wide-eyed. "He did not demand my return at once?" She lets slip a small sigh of disappointment. "Which means he has yet to broker a marriage that suits him. He will make us all spinsters, Kat, but of course /you/ do not mind." Reaching up, she brushes a tendril of hair back from her cheek and tucks it behind her ear while pursing her lips in a small frown. "I think Ian is tired of me being here. He only needs one of us to traipse about after him."
Leaning over the bridge, a woman of average height appears to be dropping something from an ungloved hand into the water below. The sound is deadened by the height of the bridge, until it strikes with a resounding thud upon… something. A loud outcry rings through the air, curses not meant for a Lady's ears. The figure straightens stiffly and abruptly with both gasp and laugh, turning sharply on her heel to flee the shout filled scene. Whatever it was is still clutched in her hands, even as Briallyn almost crashes headlong into Ilaria with the suddenness of her darting turn.
As there is the sudden collision, Katrin immediately tugs Ilaria back, placing herself between the two women in a protective gesture. "You will be more cautious of your steps," she says sternly to the other woman, hazel eyes narrowed with her blooming anger. Looking back toward her sister, her features soften and concern arises. "Are you harmed in any way, sister mine?" she asks worriedly.
Ilaria only has time to gasp before Katrin tugs, causing her to shoulder Briallyn rather roughly. "Oof," she exhales upon impact before teetering backward to lean against her sister. "Oh, my goodness, no, I'm fine, quite alright." The younger girl bats at Katrin before reaching up to rub her diminutive shoulder while squinting at the perpetrator. "You—oh, Lady Briallyn! It is so /unladylike/ to be gallavanting about like a pointer." A single moment's pause follows the rebuke before her tone softens. "Are /you/ injured? Will you be soon?" Turning her gaze toward the far end of the bridge, she scans the horizon as if in search of pursuit.
Ilaria's open kindness stills the tongue before it wags, and Briallyn's mouth closes briefly as her dark green eyes shift away from Katrin. "How would you escape anything if you didn't run from it? Whatever is chasing you isn't likely to slow down just because you did," she's quick to point out, rapidly catching her breath as she straightens. "Anyway, no, I just-" She gives a little shrug of her shoulders, ignoring a few more strands as they escape the combs tucked into her hair to fall into her eyes. "And it was just a rock. I'm sure he won't come all the way up here just to start a fuss. Not with me, anyway." Her brazen words are joined by fingers that frantically smooth her skirts with quick, jerky gestures.
Once certain that Ilaria is safe, Katrin turns to look back to the assailant, her eyes widening slightly upon seeing Briallyn. "Dear cousin, you ought be more careful of your steps," she chides, though her expression has softened out into one of mild concern. "Why were you throwing rocks from the bridge?" she asks.
"If you must escape, then you are doing something wrong," Ilaria continues pressing Briallyn for her behavior, but her tone is mild and a faint smile plays about her lips. She links her arm in Katrin's once more, turning so that they are facing back toward the town square. Their guard, a stoic young man with a scarred face, re-sheathes his sword and casts a faintly annoyed look at the Haigh cousin. "Yes, I am most curious myself," Ilaria follows up Katrin's query and raises her eyebrows inquisitively. "You come up with the most creative excuses, coz."
"Somebody had to save the kingdom from the ironmen," she offers breezily with a fox-like smile, all teeth. "They're all lurking under this bridge, waiting to steal away you lovely, succulent ladies." That smile grows wider, and wider, and those green eyes flick upward to the guard. "I bet he's still down there if you want to go have a look. He had a tongue to make your ears bleed, and we can't have that, can we? Why, these two women might just die and join the Seven if-" Briallyn clears her throat, glancing upward at the sky as her hands fall still by her sides, yet still clutching a river stone. "But, you know. I was here. Waiting. Waiting, and here."
"And you took it upon yourself to save all of our ears?" Katrin queries with a faint smile. "How very kind of you, my dear cousin." She looks towards the town itself, "Why do we not venture back toward the town itself in the hopes of avoiding an angry mob of the foulmouthed heathens?"
Ilaria teeters for a moment, glancing with wide-eyed concern between Katrin and Briallyn. For a moment, her sister's reassurance is not enough, and the young girl falters. She looks then to her guard, nearly insistent. "Ironmen below us?" she exhales in a whisper, cheeks growing pale as blood flees her head. As the guard gives a weary shake of his head, Ilaria's own echoes the movement while her mind rushes to process that it is, yet again, a jest. Hackles lowered, Ilaria rubs at the goosebumps on her arms while glowering - as much as she can, at least - at Briallyn. "/Yes/, let us go back to town," she mutters darkly.
"Well, it isn't your ears I'm worried about," Briallyn assures the two with a crow of a laugh. The look on the guard's face is enough to curb her tongue further, and she allows herself to fall in with her cousins with a poorly concealed, purposefully exaggerated sigh. "Is there something interesting in town? I was there, you know. In town. And I don't recall anything exciting occurring. I don't suppose your guard actually knows how to swing that weapon of his, does he?" Her eyes brighten at the prospect, but she has a care to lower her voice as she speaks, darting a glance in his direction to gauge whether or not he heard her.
Katrin tugs Ilaria closer to her as she begins to drag her sister back toward the town if necessary, her expression grim. As she looks across to Briallyn, there is a faint flicker of amusement before she returns to a more serious and grim expression. "Come, little sister. To protect your most dear virtue from those who would seek to rob it from you."
Briallyn falls into step behind the sisters, folding her arms behind her head in a fashion unusual for her birth. "You're a little thin to make a good shield, Kat. You should work on that. My mother sent me along with some sweets, if you want," she offers, ever so hopefully, and grinning like a fool as she does it. The stroll, however, is uneventful, and the fidgety young woman makes a soft sound under her breath of frustration.
Katrin smoothes a hand down the side of her slender body, then looks over to Briallyn with a chuckle. "You could use my darling sister instead," she suggests. "She is more hearty than I. Unfortunately, I have always been slender in stature, even if I would wish it otherwise."
"Not even the worst of men could steal my virtue. I am as pious as Septa Vivan was," Ilaria replies, giving no hint as to whether her naivety is genuine or otherwise. She glances sideways at Katrin, presses her lips together in a reproachful expression, and follows the girls. "Bri, put your arms down. You are not a goose flapping your wings to fly." And then later, "Bri, stop fidgeting. It makes you look awkward." As the conversation continues, she tries to keep abreast while interjecting with the occasional chide. "Mother says it is because I eat more than you do. She is always telling me to stop eating meat. Perhaps you should partake of the boar more often."
And every time she's chided, and Ilaria turns away to continue the conversation, Briallyn is miming the words beneath her breath, her lips moving in perfect summation of the words. And each time she's chided, she continues the behavior in a manner that draws even more attention to it. Fortunately, they do not pass many people wise enough to stare, but more than a few gazes linger. "Yes, coz. I don't think air counts as food," she says good-naturedly, ribbing the eldest of the trio with a wicked smile aimed at the back of her head.
"I do eat," Katrin grumbles. "As much as is appropriate for a young lady to consume, especially when in the company of others." Of course, her stomach makes a small gurgle. Traitor. "Though a touch of food this evening would a fine addition to this evening, I would think."
"I could stand to eat," Ilaria agrees quickly, skipping a step or two in glee. "Suppose Ian /has/ brought home a boar. I am getting sick of fowl, but he says that all the usual hunters are out to war, so we must eat what the locals find. I would say they are terrible. I'll even take a nice fish tonight. Will you sup with us, Bri? He has not seen you in—I cannot even think of the last time. He will, of course, want to know if any of your brothers are off to the Isles to put down those salted ruffians." Her expression darkens as she scowls quiet mercilessly at the empty air. "With their ridiculous 'Drowned God'. It doesn't even make sense. You cannot drown a god."
"We can't? How do you know, have you tried?" Briallyn inquires, though her expression is somewhat pained. Drawing a quiet breath, she smooths and calms her features back to something more casual. "All of my brothers are off to war," she says more hollowly, rubbing awkwardly at the back of her neck beneath the long locks of dark hair. "Anyway, yes, I suppose I could stand to eat something. In your company, even."
As Katrin continues down the street, she pauses all of a sudden, squinting down the darkened paths off of the bridge with a faint frown. After a moment, she squeezes Ilaria's hand and passes her gently toward Bria. "Go on without me," she murmurs. "I will join you ladies as soon as I am able."
Confused, Ilaria allows herself to be passed, although she only goes so far as standing closer to Bria. She does not reach out to actually touch her cousin - Seven forbid! Her confusion is evident in her face as she watches a distracted Katrin turn to leave. "But… what in the kingdoms- where is she going, coz?" Rising up onto her tiptoes, as if an extra half an inch were to bring her enlightenment, she watches until Katrin rounds a corner and then looks up to see the guard staring at her in an equal amount of confusion. "Are you daft?" Ilaria inquires loudly before pointing down the street, "Go, do your job!" The guard scurries away, leaving the two to themselves. "Ian will be angry with me now."
"I'll flutter my eyelashes or something at him, surely he'll forgive you," the young woman says flippantly, her dark green eyes following the guard's quick movements in pursuit of the dwindling figure of Katrin. A sly smile curls the corners of her mouth upward, transforming her otherwise elegant features into something vulpine. "Say, Ilaria," Briallyn begins all too innocently, voice hushed and spoken softly. "Does Katrin… have someone? Is there a boy she's going off to me? Maybe you shouldn't have sent your guard. He was such a.. gentleman and everything."
Turning back to follow alongside Briallyn, Ilaria's eyes widen and she offers the girl a quick shake of her head. "What? She wouldn't dream of it. Father is looking for her husband. She has just finished mourning her betrothed, you know. She is not so ill-bred as you, Bri." But the mention of the guard gives the girl pause, and she stops to turn slowly toward her cousin. "What do you mean he was a gentleman?"
A flash of anger brightens those eyes, and she peers at Ilaria rather sharply with her lips pursed tightly. "I've never done anything that would allow anyone to question my 'virtue'," Briallyn snaps irritably. "And you insult my mother." She draws a deep breath, cooling her heels even as her lean arms cross beneath her bosom. As soon as her temper cools, a flicker of something transforms her face, wiping away all expression. "You didn't see the way that he was looking at your sister? Well, I suppose I can't blame you. You were both treating him like he wasn't even there. It's no wonder he thinks he got away with looking at her like that."
"No, I pity your mother," Ilaria mumbles, but ultimately she quails beneath Briallyn's hot temper. Instead of waiting, she turns on her heel and begins walking toward town once more calling out over her shoulder, "That is how you treat guards. You are not supposed to—to /make eyes/ and /flirt/ and ask to see their swords!" Her skirts swirl around her ankles violently with the speed of her walk, hands balled into fists at her sides.
It is easy enough for Briallyn to keep up with Ilaria, and though she feels a pang of irritation that shows easily upon her animated face, the young woman says nothing immediately. Ilaria's suggestion about swords brings a light flush to her cheeks, but to cover any embarrassment she might feel about the situation, she quickly shifts the conversation more favorably to her whim. "Was I flirting? Really? Besides, everybody knows boys don't have swords. You know, down there." She leans uncomfortably close to the other youth, glancing about in a most conspiratorial fashion. "It's more like a battering ram."
Ilaria is getting dangerously close to being angry. She lifts her chin indignantly at the questions, but the suggestion of men's /privates/ is enough to stop her in her tracks. She gasps loudly, reaching up to cover her open mouth with her hand and to stare at Bri with eyes the size of saucers. "Ladies do not discuss such things," she hisses, glancing around to be sure nobody is listening. "And I don't even know /what/ they have. I don't… A battering… How would you…" But before she can really call the image to mind, she shakes her head forcefully and changes the subject abruptly. "'Tis a great pity about your brothers, coz. To not even spare a one of them to remain at home? You will find Ian sympathetic, and you may borrow him as your elder brother until they return home."
Ilaria's appearance of being unsettled seems to smooth Briallyn's feathers, and she smiles secretively, knowingly, at the other girl's discomfort. "Ian isn't Gryff," she mutters softly as Ilaria attempts to change the course of the conversation, which Bri is not so easy to let go. "And how do you not? Truly? Oooh, coz, I pity the man who's saddled with you." Her tease isn't entirely gentle, and she glances towards Ilaria with a crooked grin. As she awaits to gauge the young woman's reaction, her dark green eyes wander from Ilaria to scan the surrounding bridge.
"Not everyone can be a Gryff," Ilaria replies, a bit incensed at having her own dear brother knocked down a peg or two. She is silent as she resumes walking, a much more sedate pace this time. Her attention is drifting as Briallyn continues, but not far enough to avoid the hurtful words that follow. Her cheeks flush a deep red of shame, and she turns her head away to hide her mortified expression. "Some maidens are not meant to be mothers," she mumbles; "I am of a mind to become a Septa."
The expression goes entirely unnoticed, not only because Ilaria turns away, but because she simply isn't paying enough mind to the other youth. "That isn't what I meant, Ilaria. I like Ian, he's a good man, I just-" A pause, and she half-bites her tongue. "Every time there's some sort of war, I always end up short a brother." Briallyn almost falters, but she quickly brushes aside the roughness of her voice and blusters on to Ilaria's remark. "Anyway, I don't think you have children every time, or Einian would be buried beneath a mountain of infants," Bri says fondly of another brother.
"That is not at all what the saying means," Ilaria replies calmly, having collected her bearings. By now she has learned not to reach out to touch Briallyn for comfort, but she does offer a briefly sympathetic expression. "'Tis the plight of men to sacrifice their lives for the well-being of all. There is a balance to it, I think. At least…it is my own theory. Women sacrifice to bear children and raise them, and so men give of their own bodies too. There is a reason the Seven recognizes the important roles men and women play in society. And..and.." Pause. "That is lucky for Einian. He hasn't a wife yet?"
There is a derisive little snort and an off-putting sigh that punctuates Ilaria's words regarding the Seven. "You let me know when the Seven inform you of why they do things," she mutters disparagingly beneath her breath, but she keeps a smile on her face, however false. "Not yet, no. Father keeps encouraging him to marry, but he's very evasive. I wish I was Einian, with all of those brilliant excuses to avoid wedding. Not that he doesn't have droves of women who don't desire to." A snicker escapes her.
Ilaria glances sideways to Briallyn out of the corner of her eye, but disregards the question about religion entirely. Perhaps she is learning. "Do you really wish you could be a man instead?" she inquires politely and with genuine interest, raising her eyebrows. "For all that you goad me about marriage, you do not seem any more prepared to be a wife."
A fine dark brow arches at Ilaria's question, and her step falters until she steadies herself. "I don't want to be a man," she is quick to retort. "I am quite pleased with my own skin, and I don't need to be a man to.. I don't know. Do whatever I want to do." The assertion sounds hollow, even to her own ears, but there is truth in her refusal of manhood. "What do you think a wife is, precisely? A prudish prim? I should think a man would want someone who understands him, rather than a woman who is overly concerned about proper etiquette. That's what I think, anyway. My brothers didn't mind me, at all."
"There is a difference between 'minding' and 'appreciating' for a husband," Ilaria replies shortly before pressing her lips together in a thin line. The following minutes are filled with silence on her part, allowing Briallyn to continue the conversation as she will. Instead, she watches people pass by and shifts her weight from one foot to the other. Her right hand reaches up to fiddle with her left sleeve and the book tucked therein.
"I think if my brothers had 'appreciated' me, coz, the entire situation would be different," Briallyn says dryly, struggling not to laugh at the absurdity of such a statement. "Not to mention ruinous for my future. And likely theirs, too." She says, blowing a raspberry towards her cousin as discretely as she can manage. "I would like a husband, I think. Home is lonely, and boring, and everyone interesting is off fighting men I'll never see. If they win, anyway, which they will." As she trots along at Ilaria's side, she kicks a few stones along the bridge to ease her boredom. "I'm sure having a husband would be more interesting. And freeing."