|Frogs and Tales|
|Summary:||Fjall and Isolde meet again after five years. Anneke turns talk to frogs.|
|Related Logs:||A Tale of Glory|
|Outskirts of Stonebridge - Tourney Grounds|
|The roads are worn and well tended here and the fields on either side are lush and filled with wildflowers. The tournament tent is set up just north of the road and a grand pavilion rests to the central right of it, set with the colors of House Tordane. Knight's tents are being set up everywhere there is room and high ground. They dot the countryside and near the Tordane tent there is a cart of water and food, a small general area for the nobles to greet the hosts and partake in food to ease their journies.|
|Fri July 23, 288|
A leather satchel shouldered, strap gripped by his left hand, the scoundrel known as Stragen Stone, Fjall, and a dozen other names strolls amongst the tents and takes in the sights. Streaked with sweat and a touch of grime from the road, as he likely hoofed it here on his own from the nearby Terrick's Roost, the sellsword makes his way over to an old stump, where he drops his pack, unfastens his sword belt, and unceremoniously plops down. His broadsword is produced, and he begins some idle maintenance on it with an oval whetstone, glad to rest his weary feat. His hair and beard a little grayer, his face and hands a bit more scarred, a shade leaner, and a bit dustier than any Terrick noble might remember him, but here he is. The man who brought back the bodies of Lord Geoffrey and Ser Geonis. Mostly forgotten by those who walk past.
Only a small number of sworn are still remain in the service of house Tordane, many have been replaced by sworn of Frey. The shuffle of bodies in the mid-morning has grown, knights tended to by their squires, horses being shoed and groomed, set with all the colors and regalia as their owners. Amongst them are smaller servants, carryng food and water, rushing about as they see to the small details. This tourney, though held and hosted by a small House has grown, Lord Jason Mallister is about and there are whispers and rumors that maybe the King will show. Though those are just rumors.
Sitting side saddle atop the dappled grey gelding, Dem, Lady of Stonebride, Isolde Tordane makes her way through at a slow pace. A Lady of Bracken also astride as the are about to watch the rush, smiling as they speak together. She has grown, taller and more dark of hair than when last they saw and is dressed in her house colors. There is a musical sound as she laughs, leaning over as the ladies stop to speak together.
It's the sound of her laughter that first catches his attention. Glancing over towards the woman, it takes Stragen a moment to recognize her. She has grown, and is no longer the young miss that he remembered from years past. And for those who might be passing, it's quite unnerving to see a common sword such as he, looking like a mix of barbarian Valefolk and Iron Islanders, long unbound hair and a breaded beard, eyeing a noble lady from beneath a scowling brow from across the way, whilst sharpening a broadsword.
One does so notice and it would be the Lady of Bracken that points it out to her. Isolde hmmms and turns her head, a nod of the Bracken's towards him. For a moment her green eyes do not recognize him and then there it is. Her smile returns and then splits her face to show a line of teeth. The Bracken Lady looks confused and furrows her brow, but the Lady of Stonebridge slides off her horse and takes the reins, motioning a sworn over that was attending the ladies to take the horse.
She takes her skirts in hand and makes her way towards him. "Fjall.." She greets warmly as she nears him. "The great giver of Tales…it has been too long?"
From the largest of the red-and-white tents flying the new arms of Oldstones, a dark-haired, green-eyed woman emerges rather abruptly. She takes a quick look around and heads for the nearest person in possession of a weapon. Which happens to be the barbarian fellow being greeted by Lady Isolde. Lucky him. She brushes a lock of hair from her eyes and points to one of the lesser arms beside him. "Goodman, may I borrow one of these?" she asks politely — though she does seem, by the tension of her posture, to be in a bit of a hurry. "I'll bring it right back."
As the lady aproaches, Stragen's scowl softens, but it seems time has not been good to him. The life of a mercenary is a hard one, especially when this time of peace does not often allow for one to do honorable men's work. Placing his sword back in its sheath and placing the weapon beside him as to not alert any sworn or knights nearby, he dips his head and motions to the right with his hand, as if to affect a bow from his seated position. Still irreverent, it seems.
"My lady Tordane. It's been some time, aye," he responds. His voice is still gruff, but now sounding like a man who sustained a throat injury and perhaps never healed fully. Gravely, but not unappealingly so. "If I may be so forward, it seems my lady has grown into quite a beautiful woman. Despite tragedy, you seemed to have survived, and prospered."
Anneke's sudden proposal, however, causes him to start, his hand straying to his weapon in the grass. "Lesser arms?" He repeats, looking at her with a look of confusion. He notes the signet ring, and while he's not quite able to place the family immediately, he does recognize it for what it is: a mark of station. "My lady, this is no mere sword," he begins, patting the sheathed blade. "This is the famed Dornefoe, killer of many Dornes and other loyalists at the Battle of the Trident. It's a magic blade, you see. Quite tempermental. I've a knife I can lend you, if that will suffice?" A twinkle in his eye and an emerging grin, something that Isolde can identify.
Green eyes study him with that remaining smile still curving her lips. At his compliment, she dips her head and says, "You honor me, Fjall. I think perhaps I was given some strength by a tale of glory that was told of my father and brother." The way he shows respect to her draws a soft laugh. "Looking to find some work here? Or are you seeking old memories?" Her gaze is gentle, welcoming even.
The arrival of Anneke catches her gaze and recognition colors her gaze. "Yes, Fjall here has a way with words. If you have the time, he will give you a great story.." SHe confirms but then pauses, placing a finger to her jaw. "You are with the House Valentin of Oldstone…I do not think we were introduced."
Anneke's dark eyebrows draw together as Stragen spins his yawn. "I see," she nods. Then, "Did you know I was born at night?" A beat. "It wasn't last night, however. Regardless, I would not relieve a warrior of a weapon so cherished. A knife will do nicely, provided it's sharp." She looks to Isolde, seeming pleased at the unusual recognition. Clearly, she doesn't recognize the lady in turn, or there'd be a little more obeisance. "Anneke Steward," she tells Isolde, bowing her head. "Castellan of Oldstones. Well met."
From behind his back, no doubt tucked in his belt somewhere behind his jerkin, Stragen produces a sheathed hunting knife. "It is indeed sharp, my lady, so please, watch your fingers. Once blood gets on the blade, I'll have to perform an old Cronnag ritual in order to put the blade back to sleep. You wouldn't want to see that, I'm sure… involves frogs." He offers the blade to her hilt-first, still tucked and tied in its sheath.
He regards Isolde in turn, now shrugging his shoulders. "I'm no bard, my lady. No minstrel. In fact, I met a minstrel just the other night, back in Terrick's Roost… Lady Eyrian Blackmane. Quite an interesting young woman." Now, any noble worth their salt knows there's no noble family named Blackmane.
"Castellon, it is a pleasure. Welcome to Stonebridge, I am Isolde Tordane." She inclines her head graciously before that smile lifts a brow at the story of the blade. Truth? Maybe. The Lady watches his shrug and then shakes her head, "That is no name I know…another tale of yours? Because I do remember how well your last one went.." She shifts on her feet and the Lady Bracken hangs back, watching the hired blade from her saddle.
"So tell me, of this noble Blackmane. From where does she hail?" Queries the Lady in green.
The lady castellan smiles, looking well pleased with the blade she's offered. She does, however, completely disregard his warning about blood on the blade, testing the edge against her thumb. A drop of blood wells, and she gives a satisfied nod. "That will do nicely." She sucks the blood from her thumb — no vampire, she, a simple cleaning of the wound — and assures Stragen, "Don't worry. I'm from Hag's Mire, originally. I'm frightfully good at catching frogs."
Then the Lady of Stonebridge names herself, and then castellan's mouth drops open. She covers it quickly and sinks into a deep curtsy. Not to the ground, as one might before the king, but a little lower than the norm — humbler — for her lack of manners til now. "My lady, please forgive me. Your portraiture does you no justice at all. I'd never have recognized you in a thousand years."
"Oh, I've no idea where she's from," Stragen admits. "I'm just a common sword, my lady. I wouldn't know such things." A pause. "But I do know that she hails from a land where they have magnificent horses, the color of midnight and looking as if they were carved from marble. Magnificent beasts, so awe-inspiring, that four ne'er-do-wells attempted to accost the lady's horse and steal it from her. I did warn them that she was a noble and that her bodyguards would no doubt arrive soon to deal with them." He glances down at his broadsword in the grass. "And they did."
Peering up at the Oldstones woman, he sighs. "Right, then. Time to find some frogs. Big ones, too, with lots of warts. It's the only way." He peers. Hag's Mire, she said. "What exactly is the lady going to do with my knife? I believe I have a right to know. After all, I'll need to know exactly how many frogs to obtain."
The tale that is spun causes her to smile all the more. A gentleness yet to her gaze. "Sounds dreadfully fantastical a story. This bodyguard must be equally impressive and carved of 'stone'." His gaze to the sword hints at something and Isolde bites on it. "Will you share more of this tale at the feast tonight? I would be honored as would my father's memory if you would joim me at my table." She sharpens her gaze to watch him, wondering if he will accept.
"No..no..it is well to be unknown and not by that name. I get to see some of the most unusual things sometimes when I am not." She smiles brilliantly at Anneke and looks to the knife as well. "Frogs, I dare say that Stonebridge has them, but you would have to brave the northern flood fields to find them. You would be eaten alive by the insects there."
The castellan rises, bowing her head to Isolde. "You are as magnanimous and sweet natured as is said of you far and wide, Lady Tordane. Thank you." She glances at Stragen, eyes bright and amused. "Toads have warts. Not frogs," says Anneke-from-the-Mire. And she should know. "If you want a warty frog, that another ritual entirely, I think." She smiles, "We can assess how many frogs we'll need when I'm done. I can't be expected to know the magnitude of my success or failure before hand, I'm afraid. And that will certainly affect how many hapless amphibians we'll need to satisfy your high-maintenance bodkin."
She drops another curtsy to Isolde, "By your leave, my lady." And with that, turns to begin a brisk departure.
Stragen watches the Oldstones castellan retreat, pursing his lips. "Huh. You know, it's rare when that happens," he murmurs to no one in particular. Shaking his head. he glances up at Isolde, smiling. "I'd be honored, my lady. But, I'd suspect, no one would remember a common sword like myself. And I make no claim to any noble blood so, I suspect, my presence might be a distraction. I wouldn't want to take away from the feast. Besides, I'm sure I can find my own fare this eve; you needn't worry about me. Your father's sworn I am no more."
"I look forward to speaking with you again, Castellon. Be well…if you have need, I may have a sworn or two to help you hunt your frogs." She grins a bit more and then her attention drifts back to Fjall. "I am certain you could find it as well.." His acceptance and indirect refusal making her lips press together. "I remember you. You are the man who brought my family back to me and gave me a wonderful tale. Sit at my table with me if you do not feel discomforted by the presence of others. It would lighten my evening.." She dips her head to him, dark hair brushing along her shoulders. "I mean if you have a ritual to perform later for you blade, I would think you to need sustenance before." The Lady Bracken is still quite unsure of things and even goes so far as to turn her mount about and head off a ways to join another group.
Anneke ducks inside the larges of the Oldstones tents, disappearing from view. There is a space of silence, then some rustling and commotion… followed by — is that the squeak of a rodent? It certainly sounds so. A dying queak if ever there was one. There's another brief period of quiet, then the pattern of sound repeats itself. Apparently, the castellan is killing rats. Such an ignominious use for an enchanted blade. Tsk.
"I'm no such person, my lady, forgive me," Stragen offers back to her, his features softening. There's a hint of the man that he was, five years ago, before his harder times began. More youthful, perhaps, and definitely less burdened by middle age. Less scarred, certainly. "The man you refer to, he's long dead. I'm simply an… echo of what you remember. He did great things. I'm just a common brigand and a sell-sword. So, again, you'll have to forgive me, but the lady is too high to be breaking bread with a man such as myself." Such words might precede a hasty exit, but Fjall remains right where he is, seated on the grass, his back against the stump, and his sword beside him. Then, his silver tongue gets the better of him. "Unless," he begins, glancing aside, uncertainty in his face. "Unless the lady requires more lies. More grand tales. If she wishes, I can be the upstanding Master she requires, if even just in name. If she wishes."
An amused turn of her lips heralds Isolde's change of mood. Despite the ending the tourney will bring for her, reuniting with Fjall obviously agrees with her. The Lady even goes so far as to takes a step forward, lowering to her knees to better face him than looking down all the time. Curiousity enters her gaze. "Brigand no…survivor yes and the Lady does so like the golden visions that you spin. I would be grateful for your presence." The squeaks draw a turn of her head and she hmmmms, "Seems your blade is seeing a lot of blood."
But she sighs, seeming to get comfortable. "Where have you been all this time since we last saw each other..some five years ago?"
Stragen inclines his head slightly. "I will not refuse my lady a second time," responding to her insistence that he join her at the feast. Looking off in the direction of the tents and the squeaks, he chuckles lightly. "Indeed. No doubt I will have some manner of lie about magic blades and rats for her when she brings it back to me. No doubt blunting it. Shouldn't she have servants to deal with rats?"
At her last question, Stragen's attention comes back to focus on the woman now beside him on the ground. This illicits a grin, the corners of his mouth quirking in a smirk. The irony is delicious, and the danger should any Tordane lord or ser come walking by would make the scene complete. "I've been doing what any mercenary does. I follow the sound of pennies. That lot the Lady Valda gave me at your father's wake was substantial enough to keep me in comforts for quite a number of months. The work became infrequent and dishonest, which meant I had to sell the pony to stay alive. It was a fine beast, too," he muses, looking distant, as if remembering a lifetime ago.
"My father always took pride in his beasts.." Isolde admits, "He taught me much of what he knows and after this tourney, should you still have need of one, I am sure our stables could afford the loss of one." But that grin makes her laugh a little. "Life time ago or not, I still remember all of it as if it were yesterday." Her grin softens to a smile and the Lady studies the rough face of the mercenary. "What dishonest work have you found? Stay, stay in Stonebridge, there is something that can be done for your lack of work. If not, I could just employ you to weave tales for me." A curl of her lip and she sets her hands to her thighs, sheltered beneath the blanket of her green dress.
"Perhaps another time, I'll tell you of the horrible things I've done," Stragen offers in response. "And hopefully, you will think them a lie, a tale, and not think less of me." At the mention of work, there is a brief expression of carefully controlled surprise, and then panic. "I think my lady can do better to find swords to hire to her banner than myself. I wouldn't want to bring any misfortune to your house by being associated with y… with it." He rests his elbows on his knees, beginning to turn the whetstone over in his hands, and he casts a glance downfield towards where some knights are practicing. He gestures with the stone. "Those are the men appropriate to guard the virtue and honor of a lady such as yourself."
"And who makes it a rule that it is only them? It is the noble's choice who they wish to employ. My father trusted you and you brought him home. You do not give yourself enough credit for what has passed between us. Simple and very little, it still holds great meaning to me." Isolde insists, trying to keep his gaze even if he looks away. "Some of those men.." She looks to the sworn, "Are not trustworthy, take what they want…they are just like anyone else."
The Lady smooths her skirts a bit and then looks back to him. "But, I can see that this does not sit well with you for other reasons than the worry of your character. It is an offer, Fjall, not a request. But know that it is a sincere one."
"I… will consider it as such, my lady. Thank you," he replies, voice turning gruff and strained. It's as if he's forcing himself to accept her kindness. Modesty, or shame, drives his man to accept no help from anyone, and perhaps that is why his life has been dominated by the mercenary's way. "I'll consider it. I will, I promise."
There is a nod of her head to him and Isolde does not press the matter, "For now, be a guest. Enjoy yourself.." The Lady nods her head and motions a servant over. "Bring him anything he wants, food, wine, ale…make sure he has it while he is here." Her gaze turns back to him as she rises, "If you have need of a place to stay, there is a tent for the servants and squires of the knights, please…" Its her way of offering and she hesitates. "It is good to see you again." She lingers a moment longer, "I am sure I will see you later today. The joust shall prove …entertaining." She smiles and nods to him. "Till later." She speaks and then turns, the servant waiting patiently, a young boy as he watches Fjall wide eyed.
Stragen's attention is fully on Isolde until she turns to leave. Then, raising an eyebrow as he looks to the servant, he leans forward on his knees and flashes a grin that would no doubt tunble down a tower. "Do as I say, young Master, or I'll eat your heart," he laughs, reaching over and tousling the boy's hair. "After all, I am of the mountain clans. Quite a savage, you know. Now go, attend to your lady." Smirking triumphantly as the boy no doubt scrambles stunned after Isolde, he settles back down against the stump, watching his former lord's daughter go. Perhaps, nearly as long as she watched him depart, years ago.