Page 197: Firelight Ghosts
Firelight Ghosts
Summary: Starling and Hollister actually find some 'common' ground
Date: 30 January 2012
Related Logs: Siege of Seagard
Hollister Starling 
Seagard - Camp Outskirts
The outskirts of the encampment at Seagard.
January 30th 289 A.L.

Tis a early in the morning, or quite late at night. And for now, many of the pavillions have fallen silent, and the sounds of men sleeping bring a bit of a peace. Silence, with the few whimpers and moans of the wounded breaking the sounds of a camp in slumber-in intervals at least. Some men keep watch, and patrol the camps, though is there really a need to? One could argue with the Ironmen gone there is no need. But of course when men are idle their own doom can come over cards or spilled drink. And with old feuds, perhaps- perhaps a watch just helps.

Outside a small copse of tents, sitting before the fire on an old left stump would be one of the Terrick's own knights. Far and away from the Noble tents and their like. It seems he is keen to keep his own company, while others sleep. Pewter cup clasped in his hands, Hollister's eyes remain on the flames, before whatever he is drinking, slides down in a gulp. A belch and he merely says, 'Fuck the lot of em.." Whoever them be.

Not everyone keeps sensible hours. Though, that depends on your definition of sensible, doesn't it? For Starling, times like these are ideal for work and free movement; unaccosted by drunkards or pseudo-nobles looking for sport where they oughtn't. True to her word - and to the coin in her pocket - the girl returns to the outskirts of the campsite, a vast grey courser in hand. She's not astride the creature. It's not her place to be, after all. But she was bade to tend the animal and it seemed like a calm stretch of legs might be in order. Leading Hollister's mount along calmly, the reins slung loose in an arc from her hand to his bridle, she treads through the long grass, pausing at intervals to let the formidable creature graze and taking advantage of such moments to pat lightly at his neck or toy with his mane. It's all an education, in the end, and the horse seems to be growing more accustomed to having folk near his head. Sometimes they even have food, if he keeps his teeth to himself.

Noting the solitary presence by the campfire, the young woman hesitates initially. But the silhouette in the flickering firelight is vaguely familiar, after a moment's regard. Clucking her tongue softly, tugging at the leather, she urges the mean-spirited horse into motion again, unobtrusively approaching. The size of her equine companion alone will serve to alert the man to their presence.. then she can decide how best to address him, needs be.

The whicker is enough to catch Hollister's attention, for he is not even drunk enough, let alone sleepy enough for his brain to be dulled to not notice that. There's a pause as he turns his head, eyes squinting in the firelight for a moment, before he is slowly pushing himself up. Hands to knees as he groans in the effort, but soon enough, he is standing. The cup pauses before his lips before he is taking a sip, and he moves forward, only a little. "Ah, so you have him." Hollis offers with a broken smirk, before his own gravel pitched chuckle comes out easier there. "I do hope Bastan has not bitten you..His teeth can rend. Which is fine when a man is looking to grab his bridles that isn't my own, or I am riding him."

Hollister is quiet for a moment there, before he is motioning her closer. "I won't bite you, if you're worried." he says after a moment. "I can tell when I look at you, you're frightened. To be a fact you are in the majority of women I look at." the Knight announces, apparently not caring if it is a known statistic. " I imagine you, like they are afraid my blood will get the better of me, and I'll rape you on the spot." a sniff. "Believe it or not, when my cock is hard, I don't seek to impale it in everything feminine." And then he just laughs. Dry. "My apologies for my words. I can't sleep. Starling is it?" And like that the poor girl is known and accepted by the gruff knight.

By way of greeting, the powerful horse flattens back his ears and tosses his head, but the girl promptly seeks to calm him with a soft murmur of comfort and a bare hand laid upon his roman nose. No fear. At least not for animals. With a last huffing snort and a paw at the damp earth with a heavy hoof, the beast quiets. "Ser." She greets the knight, politely, as he approaches. Her voice is even, and not unpleasant in pitch. Perhaps that serves well in her chosen profession - animals appreciate calm. Rubbing at Bastan's forelock, she steps a little around his head, into the scant illumination thrown across by the fire and - incredibly - offers a slight smile. "He tried, when I first took him out, Ser. But I've more practice in dodging than he has in dealing, it seems." As if in resigned agreement, the mount lowers his head to tear up some more mouthfuls of lush grass, leaving her free to converse with Hollister whether she likes it or not.

She's tall, which might have been overlooked at a glance, given her slight frame, and has dark swathes of hair that reach to the middle of her back, in the absence of her usual wide-brimmed hat. But most noticeable, perhaps, is the manner she has of holding herself perfectly still.. and that she keeps her brown eyes steadily upon the gruff Terrick Knight. "I'm not afraid of you in particular, Ser, if it helps any. You seem a nice man.. better than some." The words are accompanied by a brief twist of her lips in remembered displeasure, but she shakes it off quickly enough. "And I believe if you held any.. immoral desires, I'd know it by now." True enough, Starling does seem quite at ease when she's not cornered or harassed. "No need to apologise.. not as if I'm some precious flower of a noblewoman." Her head tilts a little askance as she simply asks, outright, "Why can't you sleep?"

He is a mean and powerful beast with the worst of them, but luckily it seems that the woman as the touch. And it seems the Knight is content, even as he comes over. "His name was bastard once." he says after a moment, his hand briefly coming out as he nears the mount to touch at his mane and then smooth down as he steps away, content to let his horse eat in peace. "My former knight named him that. He was hard to break, but I broke him, and that old bastard didn't want him. So I got him.." a smile there, before he looked back to the woman. And then down to his drink. "You've grown.." he mutters, or he realizes how tall the girl is now, given she's not stooping or hiding herself. And nor does the Knight look up when she speaks. Instead Starling is given a nod and a grunt as means of an immediate answer. "It does help." said finally before he looks up and chuckles. "Well, that is indeed a compliment. I'll be sure to note it somewhere." A half grin but still at least Hollister doesn't edge closer and is content to stand.

"Oh, Aye, I am sure. Still I'd have you not worrying of becoming a spoil of war around me. You have more than enough men, whom I assume here would make you do in a pinch if they couldn't find one of the camp's painted women." A shake of his head. 'Such is the nature of it." A look over "That's why I told you to get a knife. I know my Lord won't tolerate rapers, and I am sure others wouldn't. But when you've spilled blood and your own mind is gone being a woman even on the winning side is right fucked." And with that he drains his glass. "I could pour you a cup if you like? I do have some more..inside." But he's not off in a hurry to get it.

And then there is the question of the hour, yes? Why can't someone sleep, specially in this time, which is usually dead. "Dreams, waking dreams that never go away with age." And he shakes his hand to her. "It all comes together. Battles and all. All of them bleed into one, as if staring at a grotesque tapestry.." And Hollister laughs before he is finally stepping closer to the fire, a hand used to beckon her closer if she likes. "I see them all. The Trident, the Bells…And now all this." A shake of his head and he is back down. apparently forgetting the promise of ale, or wine. Whatever it was he was drinking. "Pray you never see that, and only deal with the wounded, and those that walk." A look back to her and he turns his head "How did you come by being in camp with us, anyway Starling? I find it odd we lucked out to get one as good with horse as you seem to be."

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he treats servants and beasts. Watching Hollister absently stroke at the horse's thick mane - which, incidentally, has been brushed to an impeccable standard - and noting the smile upon his previously surly features, Starling nods her understanding as he speaks, grinning slightly at the mention of the creature's former name. "I have.." She pauses, then corrects herself slowly. "..had.. a horse of my own. Muddy. He could be a bit of a shit, too, to be honest. But I never minded." She doesn't elaborate any further. Why would a knight care, really, about the tales of a common-born stablehand?

"I did get myself a blade, Ser. Nothin' fancy, but serviceable, in a pinch. I.. wanted to thank you, for thinkin' of such a thing. Especially since.. well, you've no need to concern yourself over me at all. Was very generous of you." Alright, so she's a little awkward now. But not the same fight-or-flight sort she was last he saw her. "..I'm sorry, I don't know the 'right' way to put things. So.. just thank you." Tucking an errant wisp of dark hair back behind her ear, the girl likewise largely avoids the large man's gaze now, absently studying the grey horse. "I can look after myself, too." She adds, as further reassurance. Can she? Really? Who knows. She follows unhurriedly after Hollister at the behest of his gesture, not seeming to mind his lapse in recalling the offer of a drink. Maybe she'd only have said no anyway. "Sounds like another man I know.. he fought at those, too." Those big dark eyes dare to trace over the knight's expression again as she eases down to a seat, reins still in hand by only barely, letting Basten graze a few feet away as she props her elbows comfortably on her knees. "Seems to me, sometimes, it's not what happens at the time, but the ghosts of it that weigh more heavily on the mind." Well, that was rather eloquently put, for a stablegirl. How bizarre…

Looking to the smouldering embers and kindling of the fire, she contemplates his question for a time before responding. "I work at the stables in Stonebridge, Ser. Not attached to any House in particular, though. So when some of my friends were called to take up arms.. I thought I'd follow after them. And it's just as well that I did, for sure."

Hollister is silent for a moment. Lost in the dance of the flames, that he doesn't seem to notice that Starling had indeed followed him over. Only when she speaks, and he catches the change in the direction of her voice, does he really look over. There's a pause as his broken grin rides back up and he nods. "Muddy. A fine name." Though given that she emphasized had, he doesn't pursue. He has seen grown men weep for their horses, he can imagine only what it would be like for someone to lose all in a horse. "Well, our beasts would have been kernels of sweetcorn in a pot I imagine." Hollister allows, so as to let that matter end peacefully.

"Good." immediate there before he is looking back. Aye she may be awkward here in this moment, or feel it-but she is luckily dealing with one of the chief officers in awkward court. No worries, and it seems not to trouble the older man at all. "Just putting it as thankful is the best way to do so, my girl." A soft tone of affection, but it doesn't amount to much. "Did you get a whet stone to keep it sharp? If not I am sure I can spare one." added with his own awkward turn to look back to his tent. "And good. Any common man should know how.. specially if he is born with a cunt instead of a cock. The world is hard on women. And fate does enjoy being cruel." A very dark view, but one could easily put it to the time and being plagued with nightmares. However, given Starling's own talking about ghosts the man stills, and stares at her. It is not an unkind thing, though it might feel odd to bare after a moment longer of it.

"Your friend is very wise. I know ghosts of anything do more harm than a fucking corpse will. A ghost lingers in your halls and makes the stones damp. To your mind and heart…" A bit of a pause before he merely laughs again. "Why was your friend if I may ask? I know a lot of us were there those days. But, I wonder if I do know him?"

A shift in his sitting and now he is facing Starling full on, his hand moving down to break off ancient bark from the stump, lest it pokes him in his balls. "You are a good lady to do so. I know many whou wouldn't follow here, or into the bowels of any hell out there.- but Stonebridge you say." and there Hollis brings his hand up to rub at the stubble on his jaw. "If that is the case, I may need to bring my horse to you once and a while when I come through…If anything to spoil the bastard. My hards are nigh as gentle as yours have to be, I am sure."

"I.. never thought to get a whetstone, Ser." admits the young woman, looking, if anything, a little crestfallen in her own lack of experience. "I'm better with a bow than a blade, to be honest. But they're less handy in close quarters, of course. But I'll find one. You've been kind enough to me already." Shifting her weight, Starling settles her booted feet more comfortably, seeming glad of the fire's warmth, despite the weighty drape of her longcoat. "Life certainly can be a bitch." she adds, by way of coarse agreement to his utterance. But she doesn't seem to notice Hollister's stare. Perhaps just as well. She's gazing with a distracted fascination at the flames, herself.

"More acquaintance than friend, really, that one. But Tam Cooper is his name, Ser. A hedge knight, running with the Nayland pikes. Or he was. Took a nasty wound or three in that last scuffle. He's laid up in the healer's tent, for now." Brightening a touch, she looks up and over toward the man seated with her, finding him facing her more squarely. She continues, unperturbed. "It might, strange as it sounds, cheer him some, to have a bit talk with a man like you. Things in common and all that." Starling breaks off as the courser, apparently tiring of grass, butts her shoulder and sets to nibbling at her attire. A hand raises to shoo him gently away, to little avail. But she doesn't seem to care overmuch. She's hardly clad in finery.

"Oh, he's not really a bastard. Pretty sure his father remembers his mother fondly." She's looking up at Baston with a vague smile as she speaks, but there's a telling edge of bitterness, not dissimilar to the one voiced by the knight moments ago, to her tone. "..he's welcome to a stall whenever your travels bring you that way, Ser. Though you yourself will have need of the inn, I'm afraid." She flashes Hollister a daring smirk aside. "..the hayloft's mine."

"I never told you to, and I doubt a stablegirl like yourself would think to have a whetstone." Hollister says with a dismissive wave of his empty cup. "If you have the copper remaining, that should be enough for one. I cannot see a man cheating you of it." If so, the Knight would go and wring their neck. But that is on principle alone. "Aye. A fucking bitch." And then you die, as the story goes. Still the knight remains focused on the girl, and relaxed in her presence. A rarity for anyone to find him, to be sure.

"Tam Cooper," Slane parrots before he is scratching his jaw again. "The name sounds familiar. Aye- it does, but his face I cannot think of." He won't comment on Cooper running with the pikes, as he knows unless a Lord will patron you-you're stuck finding your own work. "I'll have to go and look for him amongst the wounded. If anything, to re start my memory. Too many blows and spirits will dampen it.." A bit of a bite to the words, but they are laughed off. His own inner joke it seems.

As Bastan moves and butts at Starling's shoulder, Hollister comes out of his slouch to cluck his tongue at the horse, as if that will do any good. But, his courser, like his rider is a very stubborn beast. "Quite, I imagine.." is own grin coming back up with a flare of embers from the fire. "And good. I will be sure to do that- And pay well. Speaking of, what do I owe you?" For taking care of the snappy male. As for the daring smirk, and her comments, Starling does get a genuine laugh from the Knight. "That so? I'll have you know, I have spent many a good night in a hayloft. But, never you fear. I won't seek to dislodge you from your bed."

The brunette chuckles as Hollister laughs, then inclines her head slowly in the parody of a grateful bow. "Good of you to say, Ser. It's a damn sight cheaper than a bed that's only half as comfortable, for certain." With her arm slung across her body, she rubs absently at Baston's velvety muzzle for a moment, still watching the knight with a half smile dimpling one cheek. Eventually, she simply shakes her head. "You don't owe me anythin' further, Ser. No arguments, either. We're square." And all is, for a short while at least, well with the world. "If it troubles you too terribly, after you leave this place.. well, then you can buy me an ale when you're next in Stonebridge." The curve across her lips widens to a grin yet again.

But rather than linger in the fleeting, strange companionship, Starling is rising slowly to a stand, sighing as evidently fatigued muscles make their protests achingly apparent. "..and I've kept you too long, I fear. You ought to try again to rest, Ser. Mayhaps one of the healers might have somethin' to aid you in doin' so? Stop -shovin'-, you oaf!" This last is directed to the grey courser. Credit where it's due, he pauses in rubbing his massive head up and down her arm, ears flicking to attention as she scolds him. Looking back down to the seated knight, the girl smiles in subtle apology. "I'll see him settled for the night.. I hope you find peace tonight, Ser.. Gods willing, I hope we all do." And with that, she's stepping over the small log she has been seated upon, seeming quite prepared to depart into the darkness that surrounds. She really is either foolhardy, or just plain unafraid of things that often spook other women of such tender years.

Hollister rises, as is customary to do when your companion does as well. "Aye, I will do that then. I will buy you an ale, and bore you with bawdy songs and words. Maybe I'll tell you a story or something worth more than that." Still he bows his head back to you, his grin, not nearly as broken. And infact it blooms into a rare smile as well. "Consider it a noted event."

And as Bastan nudges, he is chuckling, already turning back for his tent. A gaze given over from his shoulder as he hesitates there. "Of course you will, or I'll have my silvers back." A shake of his head, as his empty hand raises up in a farewell salute. "Goodnight Miss Starling." the old night says before he is dipping inside quickly. No telling of the Gods allow him that bit of rest or not.