Page 512: Fortunate Son
Fortunate Son
Summary: Jac greets Darek on the squire's return to Highfield
Date: 17/12/2012
Related Logs: What Is Dead Can Never Die
Jac Darek 
Stables, Tanglewood Manor
The stables of Highfield Keep, it seems, spare no expense when it comes to the comfort of their horses. Roomy stalls are kept with mangers always full and fresh pails of water at the ready. The wide hallway leaves ample space to lead even the most vast of destriers. At the far end of the building, a tidy tack room is lined with rows of gleaming saddles and bridles. An innocuous door occupies one corner of the chamber, nearly obscured by hanging blankets from above.
17 December, 289

It has been a sleepless night for one Ser Jac Caddock. He had heard that his squire was heading off into the woods on the final confrontation, and therefore had purposefully found reasons to stay up. His father would have done the very same, and so this Caddock is no different. He wears his leathers, puffing on a pipe on a stool in the stall where Darek's old nag is usually housed. He looks tired, staring up at the rafters of the new stables even as a mouse scrambles across the beam.

Darek returns not with one horse, but two. He's already dropped Mott off with his family, and he long ago stripped the Hunter's horse of it's disguise, leaving the roan stallion scarred and bobtailed beneath its saddle. The squire himself has had his wounds bound, and has doffed his armor in place of just his simple leather jacket, displaying bandages about his left shoulder and abdomen beneath. His head is likewise wrapped in linen, hiding much of his magnificent hair, but the young man walks steadily enough, for all that the weight of sleepless nights, adrenaline, pain, and sheer weariness hangs upon him. The broken-down nag of a gelding follows behind the Hunter's stallion, his reins tied to the other horse's saddle. Slumping his way into the stables, he kicks loudly at the nearest empty stall, rattling the door in an attempt to wake up a stableboy to give him a hand with the horses.

"No one is awake, lad," Jac says as he puffs away at his pipe. "I sent them all out to get a good night's rest." The Songbird Knight rises up slowly to his feet, hooking the pipe between his teeth. He steps out of the nag's stable, catching sight of the squire and his pair of horses. The blood bay is given the most of his attention, and the Captain of the Guard cocks his head. "What do we have here then?" He asks curiously as he approaches, only then spying the bandaged wounds. He speaks nothing of them.

Darek blinks at the familiar voice, a sudden panic coming over him as he feels his beltpouch, his pockets, as if he's forgotten something, then the instinct fades, and he bobs his head to his knight, looking back to the big stallion, "The dragon-horse, Ser." There's a wry sort of admission to the statement, given that the horse doesn't look particularly like an otherworldly creature at the moment. "The Hunter's steed. The children are safe, Ser, young Mott's already with his family. The Hunter and the Weeping Woman're dead, and so are their…" he searches for a word tiredly, then settles on, "creatures."

"Doesn't look like much of a dragon-horse to me, young Darek," Jac says with idle amusement before he steps forward, offering to take the nag's reins instead of the blood bay's. "Handsome horse though." He starts to lead the old gelding back toward his stall, leaving Darek to care for the stallion. "And how did you fare?" He asks, though there is an air to the question that suggests he may already know the answer.

Darek shakes his head, "Nope. Not now he doesn't, Ser." The squire waits for his knight to untie the gelding's reins from the stallion's saddle, reaching back to pat at the bay's neck as he waits. Then he looks about, shrugs to himself — which draws out a hiss of pain — then leads the beast into the nearest unclaimed stall. The young man raises his voice as he enters the stall, so that he can answer his knight's question, "Took the Hunter's head, Ser. Gave it to Lord Bolland after, though. Had some help there at the end, but it wasn't like I needed it. Guy was a whole lot scarier when he was mounted and not sayin' much." He reaches up to run his fingers through his hair, finds bandage instead, and grimaces, dropping his hand as he moves to start stripping down the stallion of its saddle and tack, "Thing he was an ironborn, for all the creepy shit he wore."

"It does not mean he was less of a nightmare. Fear does not need to come from the unexplained," Jac says in understanding, though he is quiet for a moment after he has begin to strip the nag of his saddle and reins. He rubs the tired nose of the old boy before he glances toward where the boy is stripping down the blood bay. "He will need a name," Jac suggests. "Every Knight's horse requires a good, solid name."

Darek is too tired to catch the suggestion, wincing as he muscles the saddle up and over the wall of the stall to balance there, "Not like 'Nag,' you mean, Ser?" Blowing out a breath, he leans against that wall for a moment, then pushes himself up again and goes to fetch the currying brushes, "I thought 'Dragon,' Ser. I called him one long enough, might as well take a shot at myself before someone else does."

Jac gently nods in agreement with the Squire's suggestion. "Dragon then… good name. Got to get some fire embossed on the leather of his saddle… maybe even for the bridle." The Songbird continues to brush down the nag even has Darek starts to care for the stallion. "Nag will go to pasture then. Mistress Lotti and I have enough coin saved up, we can get your armor refitted properly. I'll see to the business with Ser Aleister, get you sworn to the Ashwood House."

Darek sets in with the currying brushes, "Fire, yeah. I think he's had enough of scales for a lifetime, Ser." Eventually, even the most weary and adrenaline-aftershocked brain will catch up, and he blinks, "Wait… for serious, Ser? I mean, I've got some coin, I've been doing my best to save up. I could sell Nag for the rest. Maybe." Blinking again, the squire bows his head, "I… thank you, Ser. I'd like tomorrow night for prayer, if you don't mind, Ser." As in, before he's knighted. He's going to do things right, even if there isn't a public sept in Highfield at the moment.

"Mistress Lotti won't see a son of hers put up his own coin," Jac notes, further emphasizing how his own mother views the boy Ser Henric refused to let fall by the wayside. "You'll accept it with good grace, and find a way to make it up to her." The Songbird offers him a quick smile before he nods his head gently. "Very well. Do what is needed. I will let Ser Aleister know and we will see you knighted day after tomorrow. You should let your girl know, certainly she will want to be there."

Darek takes one of the last orders he's likely to take as a squire, bobbing his head — which draws a wince — and then nodding a bit more slowly, "Yesser." His eyes aren't glistening. Really. Promise. The mention of Sela draws a smile to his lips, "Yeah. I just hope I can survive her happiness." He emphasizes the words with a brush of the back of his right hand across his bound stomach, then settles back to brushing out the stallion's coat, "Couple other friends'll want to be there too." He stops brushing the horse a moment, just staring, and murmurs wonderingly, "Shit… who would've thought it."

"Ser Henric did," Jac points out to the Squire as he prepares Nag's feedbag. He puts it over the old boy's nose before he turns toward Darek. "He did most of the work. I just made sure his work was completed." There is a note of humbling as Jac speaks on his father. Now he offers the boy a crooked smile. "You just tell her that you gotta remain chaste until you're knighted… that'll keep her at bay," he jokes, hardly ashamed to talk about Darek's girl these days. He'll be a fellow knight soon enough.

Darek finishes up one side of Dragon's coat, then moves around to the other side, "You both did cursed good, Ser." The joke about his girl causes Darek to jerk his gaze up to his knight, his mouth dropping open, "Uh… I don't think I'll be doin' that. I haven't seen her in like… forever." So, a week and a half or so. He pauses then, goggling, "Unless I'm supposed to."

Jac bursts out with good, honest laughter. He steps up to clap Darek on his shoulder once more, looking nearly eye to eye with the soon-to-be Knight. "No, lad. She'll be waiting to see you, and you should never leave a woman waiting. It isn't Knightly." The old Songbird can't help but grin before he shoves the boy off. "I'll finish with Dragon," he announces. "Go, get some fucking sleep. You're starting to talk like a crazy man."

Darek laughs along with his knight, although there's more than a little relief to the sound, and more than little wince at the clap on his shoulder. Darek half-staggers toward the door of the stall, stripping off the currying brushes and managing not to trip over his sword. "Starting to, Ser?" Still, he nods his head, pauses, and says with a great deal more seriousness, "Thank you, Ser." And then he's weaving away toward the stable door, and out into the keep.