|Father of Mine|
|Summary:||Jac gets news about his father, gets a new squire, and talks with the little bird.|
|Related Logs:||Carry On My Wayward Son|
|The expanse of landscape here was (and in parts still is) breathtakingly beautiful. Lush grass fed by the nearby waters of the rivers and smaller streams, while further to the west, the meadows fade into the shade of dense forest. It has been disrupted, though, by the construction begun some months ago that continues still, turning a pastoral landscape into a budding noble seat. Irrigation ditches are complete, a lumber mill buzzes with activity, and a new fence encloses housing and the beginnings of a village. Most prominent is a motte and bailey, still somewhat rough, but apparently functional.|
|18 July, 289|
Over the course of a single night, a rainstorm swept in over Highfield, flooded the meadows and forests in torrents, and then swept out again by morning. In its aftermath, the ground is left saturated and muddied and random droplets fall from the overhead sprawl of leaves. The singing pigpen known as Jac Caddock is wading through ankle-high mud that attempts to suction off his boots with each step. Behind him trudges the dirty old rounsey with his white-freckled nostrils flaring with irritated grunts. The knight is attempting to make the short journey from the temporary sleeping bunks to the nearest inn and tavern to fetch himself a touch of late breakfast.
Darek must have slept on the road or alongside it, because the young man is at least as dirty and muddy as his knight-to-be. His glorious whorls and waves of hair have tightened up into near ringlets with the damp, crowding around his features. His cloak, however, does not enfold his shoulders, instead wrapped about a more-or-less baby-sized bundle in his arms. The squire plods along through the mud, guiding a rather ratty-looking rounsey about three steps from a bowl of brown with a lead cludged in one hand. The horse has a few bundles and pouches hanging from it, making about as much of a weight as the young man himself might. Spotting the other man out in the late morning, Darek heads in that direction, having to give the lead a hard tug to turn his horse's head. Approaching, he raises up a high, clear voice, "What ho there? Good morning, good morning," a scan of the other man adds a, "Good Master."
Just as Darek begins his approach and calls out his welcome, Jac loses his boot to the mud with a loud sqeelch. "Oh Hells!" Caddock snarls as he tries to keep his foot hovering above the wet muck while also simultaneously finding his balance on his still-adhered boot-encased foot. This promptly halts his progression toward the sweet smells of breakfast, and his horse does little to help as he halts just behind the knight and releases a huff of breath. "Good morning," he finally grunts toward Darek, not really giving the boy more than a nugget of attention as he remains cemented. "Be a useful sort and help an old man out of the mud, boy."
Darek looks down at the bootless foot, chuckling softly, "Looks like the mud's a s hungry as I am." He shakes out his hair, or at least tries to, given its wet curls, looking down warily from the bundle in his arms to the balancing man, then nods, "Gimme a tick." He drags his nag closer, then reaches up to duck the cloak-wrapped bundle in tight between two other bundles where it won't fall out, and steps carefully over to the other man, high-stepping a bit to try not to lose his own boots. "Right." The squire's attention is down at the mud and the boot it's claimed, "Hand on my shoulder, I think, I tug the boot out, you pull it on, and you give me a hand finding someone. If you're from around here, Good Master."
Jac grunts, though he does give the boy the time he requires before he ends up at the Songbird's side. He is already slapping his hand on his shoulder even as the squire suggests such a movement. "Have at it, then," he says in regards to the suggested process of getting him fully shoed. Dark eyes glance toward the young man, and there is a vauge sense of recognition — a ghosted memory, a vague idea that he has seen this boy somewhere before, or perhaps in a dream. "Not from here, but here I where I am, young son." It almost sounds like a lyrical quote. "Who are you looking for?"
Darek pulls the boot loose with a loud SQUELCH, shaking it about a moment to loosen the biggest clumps of mud, then handing it over, "I'm from down Stone Hedge way. Looking for…" And then he finally looks at the other man's face, and squelches back a step, "Fuck a duck! You're Ser Jac Caddock, aren'tcha? That's who I'm looking for. Your Mum sent me. Sent me up to give you a hand." And he gives a broad flourish of his hands, with boot if it hasn't been taken back, and without if he's already been relieved of it, "And there I've done it. I'm Darek Boldt." It really is a winning smile, or at least it's meant to be. There's even a hint of a dimple at the right corner of his lips.
A green cloaked lady astride on a slender red mare rides up the road behind Ser Jac. Her cowl is drawn over her fiery riotous curls. The storm left her with little else to do besides ride her horse where ever she chose to go. A sunny yellow silk gown with bright red mistletoe at it's hems peeks out from behind the cloak with every step of the horse. She lifts her head as she approaches and subsequently a brow as she watches the scene below her. "Ser Jac, is everything alright?" She wears a look of amusement on her milky white features.
Jac snatches the boot from the boy, his mood rapidly deflating as he shoves his foot into the freed footwear. He manages to get both his feet free now, stepping back from the boy as he begins to explain exactly why he has come to this half-built offshoot of the Hollyholt. The moment 'Stone Hedge' passes the boy's lips, Jac freezes dead in his tracks. It is as if all the wet of his mouth abruptly dries up, leaving his throat parched. He clears his throat, squinting at the boy a bit. "My Mum?" He inquires even as the more musical and familiar voice of young Alys comes to his ears. It gives him a moment to quietly regard the boy even as he turns his head toward the young Charlton. "I'm alright, little bird," he says, distracted enough to forget the girl's honorific in front of this half-stranger named Darek Boldt.
Darek nods quickly in response to Jac's query, checking his hand for mud and then pushing it back through his tangle of curls and waves, "Sorry, Mistress Charlett, Ser." He blinks, then his eyes widen, "Oh shit… you haven't heard." Honest to goodness sorrow and pain flash across the youth's features, and then he looks up to the noblewoman, opening his mouth and flushing bright, "Oh shit. I shouldn't have said…" and then he's stuck, and just bows quickly, "Milady. Sorry." And then he looks over to Jac, his face knotting up in grief and apology, "I'm sorry, Ser. Your Da, Ser Henrik, he died in his sleep."
And then there's a 'plop' from behind the squire, as his carefully-wrapped bundle falls from its place on his nag's bag, right into the mud, "Fuck-beans!" And then he blushes again, bowing once more, "Sorry Milady!" And then he ducks his head, turns back, and snatches the bundle up, quickly getting to work cleaning the mud off.
Alys eyes the stranger a bit before lighting a smile at Jac's nickname for her. "Very good, Ser Jac. Why did you not take a horse?" Alys raises a brow playfully at her protector, "Unless you find wading through the mud a joyous sport, ser." she chuckles lightly at her jest. Arching her brow higher clear blue eyes bounce their gaze between Jac and the stranger. She puts a hand over her mouth at the news the stranger brings. "Oh dear." Sorrow fills the delicate features of the Charlton lady, "My apologies, Ser Jac." Alys all but ignores Darek's apologies as she carefully studies Jac's demeanor.
Beneath the grit and grime oft collected by his skin, Jac Caddock pales. With Lady Alys's horse so near, he is able to press his hand to the steed's neck to steady himself. It is as if the ground as dropped out from beneath him, and his stomach falls to his knees. He breathes through his nose, looking up toward Alys at her apology. "The horse doesn't like the mud either, Lady Alys," Jac states dumbfoundedly. It takes him a few minutes to recover, his thoughts still spinning about in his head. Darek is given a idle look as he scrambles about after the fallen parcel. "I haven't seen my father in…" He looks at a loss. "When was King Robert's Rebellion, little bird?"
Shane puts her nose to Jac's shoulder and snorts, likely looking for an apple or some equally delicious fruit that he might proffer when he touches her. The sadness creeps to her eyes as he retorts about the horse, "Of course, Ser Jac, luckily Shane enjoys the fresh air more than she dislikes the mud." Alys answers quietly. She looks over to Darek who is gathering his items then back to Jac as he speaks once more. "Six years, Ser Jac." Alys pats the mane of her horse as the red mare nudges Jac with her soft nose.
Darek gets his bundle stored again, lashing it down on the horse's back this time, and turns back to the noblewoman and knight, taking in the man's distress and strinking in on himself a bit, "Look, Ser Jac… I'm sorry. I didn't mean to just out and out say it like that. I was just surprised to find like there, like… bam… the first person I see in Highfield, and I didn't even recognize you at first." He's babbling a little, glancing up to the lady now and then. "Your father, he… he was good to me, Ser. Took me in, trained me. Trying to make something of me. Your Mum… she said I should come squire for you now. Since she hadn't heard that you'd gotten a squire."
The nudging and nosing from the Lady's horse seems to nudge something that had been waiting patiently at the edges of his thoughts to the forefront. Jac stiffens a bit as he looks toward Darek who is still scrambling to tidy up his fallen parcels. He is staring at him, almost sizing him up with those earthy brown eyes. "Six years… I haven't seen him in six years… and my mother sends me…" Then that thought coalesces, and he stares blankly at the curly-haired youth as he starts to babble. It is only after the boy says it does the knight releases a grunt. "My mother has sent me a goddamn squire," he states bluntly. He glances over toward Alys, his nostrils flaring a bit. "Lady Alys Charlton… meet my squire… Darek Boldt." Never has a knight sounded so unexcited to take on a squire…
Alys watches the two men speak a blank expression sits on her face at what transpires. "I uhh, err, pleasure to meet you Darek…." she trails off in almost a question. She keeps her mouth shut for a moment to let them speak, or let Jac be angry and watch the squire squirm and fumble for his words.
Darek starts to pat his shirt, as if looking for something in an inside pocket, but the introduction has him blinking, bowing quickly and formally, and then frowning in thought, "Milady Alys Charlton…" There's a moment as he frantically thinks over the Charlton family tree he last saw at Stone Hedge, "Only daughter of Lord Ser Keegan Charlton. Um… I'm honored, Milady." He blinks another moment, and then he smiles a little hopefully at his new knight, digging out a folded piece of parchment from his belt-pouch, "Mistress Charlott sent a letter too, Ser. Sorry, I should have started with that, I think." There's a moment where he tries to resist, and then he gives in, adding, "And for the record, Ser, I don't think the gods do damn me. They've been pretty kind to me, in the form of your parents, Ser."
The Songbird appears to be the epicenter of discomfort, allowing it to flood out from him in a great wave. He rubs a hand across his face, trying to focus his own thoughts. What is he thinking, what is he trying to say? He glances over toward Darek as the boy offers out the parchment. That discomfort turns to regression; Jac does not seem to want to take it, as if the boy is offering him a plague-infested fruit. When he does take it, he has to pause half-way through the reach to tighten his hand into a fist to stop the brief tremor. "You did not expect to be the messenger," Jac reasons. Slowly the parchment is unfolded, the dark-eyed man staring down into the graceful, simple flourish of his mother's handwriting. His jaw tightens a moment, nostrils flaring again. Whether in purposeful torment or honest grief, he lets the boy stand there as he digests everything. "How old are you, boy?"
Darek shifts a bit in the mud as he stands there, as if he might respond to the knight's first statement, but he subsides, letting it pass entirely. Once the letter has been taken, he shakes back his hair and scrubs it out of his face again. Once more, he's left shifting and squishing in the mud while the knight reads. At the question, he offers up his smile once again, although it's not exactly the broad thing that transforms his face, "Seventeen, Ser. I've been three years a squire and three more a page. Near enough, anyhow." Closing in on the lower end of knighting age, then, with actually pretty close to the same amount of time as page and squire as some noble boys.
Alys doesn't know what to do in this manly situation, a relationship between a squire and a knight is not something she ever had the chance to grasp. "I.." Alys says before she stops and reconsiders her words. "Pardons for my intrusion, I only need a moment of your time, Ser Jac and then I will be making way back towards Highfield. It would seem you are not the only one that had the luck to meet your knight on the rode." She smiles lightly to the newly appointed squire.
"Seventeen," Jac repeats. He inhales through his nose again, releasing it out in a sigh. "I didn't look that young at seventeen." Whatever other thoughts he has on such a old man statement is lost for a moment even as he turns his head toward Lady Alys. He offers her a thin smile, trying to seem as in the moment as he can even while his thoughts are all over the place. "Please, Lady… speak your mind. I am at your service." He glances toward Darek, holding his hand as if to tell him not to move a muscle.
Darek bobs his head at Alys' words to him, "Both lucky, Milady." What an agreeable sort. Or maybe he's just trying not to get in trouble with both people around him. "No Ser. At my age, you were a swordsman already," that smile that's threatening to break out crumbles a bit, and he notes, "according to Ser Henric." And then he's told to talk to the hand, in exactly so many words, and he quiets down, tucking his thumbs behind that outrageously badly-made belt-buckle of his.
Alys smiles at Jac, "I know you are, ser." she spares a glance to the squire from her perch ahorse. "I wanted to tell you that we are to ride to the Roost. I should think we will leave on the morrow. That should give you enough time to settle your new squire in, no? If not, I can allow you all the time you need." Alys gives Jac a thoughtful look, "If you wish to go home to mourn your father's passing, Ser Jac, you are free to do that as well. You must needs only ask." She casts another glance to the squire and his awful belt, still Alys smiles and looks back to Jac for a reply.
At first, Jac seems quite agreeable. "Certainly, Lady Alys… we can be ready to ride in the morning if that is what you wish." He hesitates a moment before he cautiously adds. "Let us not take too many men to invade their inn, Milady. I would prefer not to be kept in another dungeon for an extended period of time." He tries his best at a smile, though it is obviously strained. Then, with a slight twitch to his lips, he shakes his head a bit. "No, Milady. I will not need to return to Stone Hedge." He casts a glance toward Darek a moment before he bows to the mounted Charlton. "May the remainder of your day be bright, little bird."
Darek looks over to Jac at Alys' question of him, and then blinks at the knight's mention of dungeons, "They threw a knight in a dungeon? The Naylands?" Apparently he's heard the broadest of rumors and news from the area, but only that, given the shock and near-horror in his tone. "Well…" He makes a rude, forked-finger gesture and a raspberry, "to them." And then there's that reminder that there's a lady present, and he blushes a bit again, "Sorry Milady." The squire lowers his head then, even as he peeks up past his brows to study her reaction to his jovially-insulting crudity.
"It is what I wish, I think it is high time I get my arse out and about, no?" A twinkle comes to Alys' icy-blue eyes, then a small giggle comes past her lips. "No, I should think not, you, your squire, and four Charlton men-at-arms should be about right. No worries on imprisonment I should think, -I- would be sure to speak with the Lord of the roost, or respectfully someone who has his ear to make it know we are not there to overrun the place." She calms her giggle and rests her lips to a bright smile. She does not press the issue of his father, Seven knows that she is not too happy with hers at the moment. "Very well, Ser Jac, we should be on our way at daybreak."
Alys sniggers at the squire. "Even though I find your way, slightly, amusing. Others would mistake your humor for impertinence, Darek. Also, you should do your best listen to your knight, or he will give you a clout on the ear." She smiles and nods to Jac, "You as well, my valiant Song Bird Knight. Please do not let your song dwindle for long, we have a bit of a ride ahead of us and I would be most sad if you do not sing, at least a little." She smiles and dips slightly in the saddle before turning back round on her part sand steed mare.
"We will work on that, Milady," Jac says drily in response to Darek's behavior. He casts the young squire a narrow-eyed look. "First and foremost." Then he looks back toward the young Charlton, and he bows his head once more. "I will do what I can to renew my song, Milady. It also brings me some sense of comfort." He then looks after the departing Charlton before he turns back toward Darek. He flares his nostrils a bit as he considers the young squire. "Your hair is too long," announces the pot to the kettle.
Darek laughs a bit at the lady's bad language, and her sniggering at his own hilarity draws a dimpling smile onto his lips — only to be wiped away by the words that follow — and completely obliterated by Jac's squinty-eyed look at him. Knuckling his forehead and bobbing a bow, he quickly states, "Of course, Milady. Only humor intended." Jac's mention of song brightens him agan, "I can help with that, Ser." He gestures back to his half-muddy bundle, "I'm a fiddler. A good one, too." And then Jac has the nerve to threaten his hair. Reaching up to bury his fingers into his hairline, dragging his locks from his face, the young man takes half a squelching step back, "No Ser, it's not. I promise, it doesn't get in the way. Ser Henric made me cut it, and didn't like the results. He said I should keep it long, Ser."
The Songbird places his hands on his hips, looking after the Charlton girl as if to ensure that she is safe as far as his vision allows. At the mention of the fiddle, he arches a brow and glances over toward the young squire. "A humble one as well," the knight points out with a slightly wry smile which is accented with a sudden snort. "My father would have never agreed to keeping a squire's hair long… but it appears as if that perhaps he has gone soft wtih age." He squints at the boy's hair before he breathes out a small exhale, reaching up to rub at the back of his head. "So be it then," he says in regards to nothing in particular. "Let us get some breakfast, boy. You can tell me about your fiddle."
Darek looks a little sidelong at his new knight, then assays a grin, "Everyone tells me I'm good with it. Why shouldn't I tell them the same thing, Ser?" The grin fades a bit, going a little sad as he gathers up the lead of his worn-down horse, "That's just what Ser Henric said, Ser. But I couldn't do anything with my hair cut short. Tripped over my own two feet, dropped my sword, fell off my horse. Everything." He brightens at the opening to talk about his fiddle, "Belonged to Maxmillon the Minstrel, Ser. He gave it to me himself when he heard me play it." The man isn't 'father,' 'da' or anything like that, despite being the man who sired the squire.