|In Good Company|
|Summary:||Harold surprises his wife with a little tenderness.|
|Babbling Brook, Highfield|
|By a stream, there's fishies and wilderness.|
|Aug 22, 289|
The roan palfrey pranced with impatience; ears resting forward, right rear leg cocked when it wasn't shuffling about. Her rider sat high on the saddle; her dress a grey so dark it was almost black, embroidered about the collar and sleeves in vibrant gold; a string of mistletoe broken about the sleeves by a raven on either side. Vesta'd been left at the tents proper, tending to the light aliments that didn't require the woman's attention while Roddy served as escort while she waited for her husband to join her. Still…clearly in a pleasant mood, which had to be some sort of record for the girl since she'd gotten married. But at least she wasn't complaining.
Her husband was in a rather pleasent mood, too, helped by the fact that he'd had a couple of good mornings in a row, the sort that he could get used. His boys had discovered the change in him, too, in that they failed to be beaten up quite so profoundly by the brutal beast of a teacher. Not that they were ever -without- bruises, but there were less of them. He was riding his tall stallion, Furious, and for once he was out of his armour even if it was just lunchen hours. Instead of all that weight of steel, he wore some nobleman's huntsman's clothes, different from regular huntsman's clothes only for the quality of fabric and the smattering of embroderies and the richness of the earthern coloured dyes. As always he'd his sword at his hip, though.
"My Lady Serica," he called out with a smile as he approached, completely by himself rather than with his usual retinue of squire and page. They'd already gone ahead at breakfast to prepare things, and he'd made perfectly clear that if anything was lacking, he'd be most displeased. The kind of displeased even his arrogant squire would not risk.
"May I?" asked as he nudged his mount closer, up by the side of hers, his hand reaching for hers, and if she offered it, she'd find the nuzzle of his mouth against the palm. The tickle of his beard, a kiss of courtly affection. "It's a little bit of a ride, but I hope you don't mind? No more than twenty minutes. A nice bit of time to talk about our days, so far."
"As my lord pleases," his wife offered; slim fingers tugging against the tips of her glove, clearing it away before she offered him her hand. Fingers fanning out to spread against his cheek with a smile that turned almost…giggle for the tickle of his beard. "Though…I do hope you weren't on the fields as you are. For while I do not mind tending the lesser, I should be sorely disappointed if I am left to tend -you- for bruises where there should be none." Because it was strange to see him without his armor, even that she'd gotten used to and any change..was fast noted. And perhaps there was a hint of concern as well.
As for the ride? "I do not mind at all. Though our niece would be of one to suggest that I should not and further, ought not be in the camps at all. I hope that you do not decide I should be clostered away, which is something I wanted to ask about. After all, there are countless lesser women who ply their crafts the duration of their pregnancies and while I realize that I am not less…I should certainly feel that way if I were forced into idleness when what I do is by far less stressful than any of the hard labor they manage and still birth perfectly healthy children." Blink blink, innocent blink.
"Hrm?" He asked as the smear of heat dissipated from her palm, her hand dropped and their horses seperated. They moved at only a little more than a walk, a comfortable pace that allowed for conversation, while Roddy went ahead to scout their advance, not that anyone actually believed there were like to be bandits or worse this close to the camp. Though the Naylands might not be above raiding, they weren't going to be doing it from this direction without having been seen by the Terricks or the Freys first.
"Oh. Hah. No, I spent the day in my armor. I changed." A bemused glint in his eyes as he said it, though his expression had reverted back to its usual weathered somberness. Besides changing he had also had a quick scrub to get off the stench of oil and leather and old sweat that permenated his armor after years of use, and the dust that billowed in brown mist across the fields as hundreds of feet stomped about.
The Tall Oaks were visible ahead, and it was towards those enormos and ancient trees that the trio were riding towards.
"Hm," said, as he considered what she spoke of regarding her pregnancy. "I.. well. I know little of the mysteries of the Mother, Seri. I suppose as long as you don't overdo it, or show signs of exhaustion or stress.. In other words, pace yourself. Well.. then I can't see why you should have to sit and mope about. It would have driven -me- insane. Though I had wished that once you closed to term, you would return to Kellen, and give birth there. I'd like my firstborn to be born on Hollyholt lands."
"Well you look nice," his wife replied, with a smile that said she meant it and eyes that proved truth in their admiration of him as they swept the length of him. He wasn't *that* terrible to look at, not really. Even with his years, there was a natural sort of charisma about Harold that just seemed to draw the eyes. Particularly when he smiled, or when the light caught his eyes much…as it did just then.
And his wife really did seem to be in a good mood, for all that she kept easy pace at his side while the mare swished her tail and leaned over occasionally to nip against Furious' neck, flirting. Bloody horse would probably be coming in soon. That or she was just being coy. Seri grumped at her either way.
"I promise I won't, Harry," Seri replied, with a laugh for his mention that even he'd be driven inside. "Much as I promise that it will be Kellen, where our child draws first breath. And both those there after." So he could have three. But that was where she drew the line.
Weather worn and old beyond his years, scarred and greying. Though he did have a healthy tone to his skin, and a proud bearing, and a sense of quiet but unyielding strength and solidty. Like a craggy old rock thrust out against the ocean, refusing to be bowed or worn down. He met her appraising look with a shrewdly amused one of his own, the kind that said he knew what she was thinking, and he wasn't quite in agreement, even if he appreciated it.
He couldn't help but notice the way their animals were flirting, which caused him to roll his eyes and give his Furious a little talking to. In response, it threw its head and glared at him to mind his own bloody business. "Fine, fine," he muttered, lifting up his hands in defeat. "It's your heart that'll get broken."
It took a little while before his chuckles quieted down. "Good. Then that's settled."
To fill the silence that followed he'd talk to her about his day, glossing over the parts that involved direct martial pursuits, and focusing instead on the small details. Of finding some levies drunk in a ditch, after someone had sold them some pear brandy, and none of them used to anything harder than ale. Or when a couple of peasent boys has found a badger, and decided to make it a mascot for their troop. As he talked, the landscape changed around them bit by bit, and they took off the main road to follow a little dirt-rut instead, one that led them into the shadows of the enormous wooden giants all around. Until the sound of a trickling river found them, clear and crystalize, a chime of clean promise. It came from a lake above, and right here it formed a fishing culp beneath some great trees, wide and stony, and clear. And you could see the fish schooling in the clean waters. His squire and page were waiting, a pair of fishing rods.. and jars of fresh picked bait. A blanket was spread out beneath the canopy of an old oak, along with a basket of lunch, and a bottle of wine.
"Hearts don't always have to be broken." Though it surprised her somewhat that he'd mention hearts to begin with. Or even think of them. An agreement…well, they hadn't agreed on anything at all, had they? Best not to think about. "Indeed. And now I have you to hide behind the first time someone decides that I needed chided for my actions." Hmph. Which…was what she'd been fishing for in the first place. After all, there wasn't much anyone else could do, not…when she had her husband's blessing.
Though…she learned things in listening, too. Things about him that surprised her with the amount of attention that he payed. The small details both charming and engaging her far more than the broader might have, because it pleased her to know that he actually paid attention. So that he'd even managed…to make her laugh with his anecdotes as the smaller trail forced them closer and on occasion, her knees bumped against his calf; for his wife was riding sidesaddle, as was proper and expected. He'd said it would be a short ride, after all. And in the space that she wasn't listening, she spoke. Of material sent away for, for Kellen, so that she could continue to sew. Or the work that was coming along in the garden where she'd had it set, for his nephews keep.
That they came upon a stream and more…that it'd been made ready and there wasn't one pole but two…forced the woman to draw the roan up short, curious eyes going from the arrangement to the man at her side. Eventually that stunned silence was broken with a somewhat baffled, "Harry?"
"Well, I'll admit I borrowed heavily from Roddy's advice," the knight said as he surveyed the location, which he'd visited with Roddy late last evening before he'd turned in for the night. "Though I will say that I -have- held a fishing rod once or twice in my life." He'd just never really found the appeal of sitting around and waiting for something to bite. Still, she'd early on in their forced relationship mentioned her love of fishing, and if he was meant to be courting her - not tha the had agreed to any such thing - then it seemed the obvious place to begin. With something she enjoyed. So he was off his horse in a smooth motion, handing the reigns of both their mounts to his squire without as much as a glance, then lifted his hands up for Serica to take, as he intended to help her down from her high seat.
"I shouldn't have too much hope for me catching anything at all, but if you do.. then I do rememeber a thing or two about how to prepare them."
"But…you don't like to fish," his wife sounded baffled; her brows furrowed and her expression was one of pleasure…and confusion. "I had expected..," the little woman began, clearly struggling for words as she reached to accept his aid. "Well..I had expected a long winded debate or at the very least to set it as a contention for one of your losses over cyvasse. I didn't think…," that he'd take her out all on his own.
The fact that it had been Roddy to give the advice, only had the woman's gaze attempting to seek out his own there where he was settled; her smile kind and her eyes full of gratitude before they returned to her husband. "I'm…touched, Harold. Truly." So much that when her feet touched upon the ground at length, she rose up on tiptoe to press a kiss to his cheek. "And don't worry, I promise not to laugh should you not catch anything at all."
"Well. A man can open his horizons, can't he? Roddy assures me it's the best spot this close to Highfield, so if I'm going to catch anything, this will have to be the place." He wore a small and crooked smile as he said it, having no issue of making fun of his own lack of fishing skills. It grew a touch as she slid down him from the high perch of her dangerous side saddle. A notoriously impractical thing that made him frown soon after, for thinking just how easily it was for a woman to fall out of them if the horse spooked. Perhaps some proper riding skirts would be safer while she was pregnant.. It wasn't as if she were a maiden, anyway, to need to protect herself against the saddle. He'd propose it before bed, he decided.
"Well. I'll leave it to you to direct us hereon." He made a wave towards the poles and the various fishing equipement. Hooks, and bait, and little bobbing things made from corkwood and painted bright red and white. Why, he couldn't tell. "What are those called, anyway?" He asked idly.
Meanwhile Roddy herded the squire, page and their horses a little bit off and down the stream, where they made their own lunch.
Still within both sight and shouting distance if they were needed, but far away to offer a bit of privacy non the less.
Seri stayed close once she was down; tucked into his shadow and against the width of his chest, her hands resting against that very place. One palm splayed above his heart. "I promise," Seri said, meaning it, "You'll catch something." And how sweet she smiled when she said it, before peering on towards the culp and moving to step away. "Bryon said the corkwood was for telling when you got a bite, if it was a deep pool an you didn't want to let your hook get caught on the bottom. The color so you wouldn't miss it, …I think. Besides," the girl flashed a grin at him back over the curve of her shoulder, "I never said I was any good. I just said that I enjoyed it."
Regardless, she moved to settle on the blanket, getting cozy, slippers discarded first thing, before she reached to draw a pole near and the jar that held the bait with it. No shyness in her at all as a worm was rummaged free and then brutally sent to its death there on the end. "The water's shallow enough here though that, you could probably forgo the cork if you keep your pole held high enough an just pay attention to the feel," explained, before she cast the line out with a little plop.
"Alright," was all he said as she promised him a catch, and didn't even sound too doubtful either. Regardless he followed after his wife. There was just a bit of hesitation as he watched her reveal her graceful feet, before he decided that if he was going to jump in he might as well do it with both feet and all his dedication. So he sank down into the blanket with a heavy grunt as his rump struck firm grunt, then tugged off his soft noble's ridingboots, setting both them and his long socks aside. Because he imagined there might be some splashing in the shallows to get the actual fish in, he rolled up his pants to his knees as well, revealing thick and muscular calves, which were also rather more pale than hers. Harold might drill with a naked torsoe often enough, but he was never without pants.
"Let's see, then," he murmured, picking up a worm and threading it on, not particularly skillfully. It riked falling off, but at last he's not been squeamish about it. Then he made an attempt at a throw.
Seri chuckled, watching him, her attention settled in bulk upon the pole rather than the man. Getting used to the feel of the water tugging against the line and the inherit pressure that came with it, so that she could feel with those little bumps and rhythms changed in the event that a fish should come to nibble. "Careful you don't stick those white toes of yours too near the water, or they'll think them a new little treat to try," she teased, humor in her eyes and laughter in her voice; for all that she moved to wiggle herself right in against his side once he was settled.
Only to daintly clear her throat and, "If you don't make sure to get it on good, you'll have some hungry mouth come along and steal the worm and leave you with nothing," she warned, even as she went to wipe her own dirty little fingers on her dress; only to catch herself at the last minute and wipe them on the blanket instead. Nibble nibble tug, went the fish. Ignore ignore, went his wife. She'd seen how surly he got over missing those first few arrows when they'd played with the bow. She could be patient.
"I'm quite fond of my white toes," Harold told her, wriggling them purposefully to underline the point. He didnt have particularly graceful feet, made for carrying his heavy frame and armor ontop, though he could move quick with them when he chose. Unlike his hands they weren't particularly calloused, because he'd always been able to afford proper footwear, and had rarely any reason to walk around barefoot. Except she'd gotten him to do so twice, now. He snorted, eyes intent on the pole, and the line.
"Hmph," he murmured, noting that there wasn't so much as a stirr on his pole. Hers on the other hand… He started to chortle, a wry and knowing look passed into her direction, then very purposefully shifting to her pole.. and back upa gain. No, he didn't say a word about it, but he knew. Obviously.
"You might as well drag it in if we're to have any fish for lun-" and that cut him off, because suddenly there -was- a nibble on his hook, then a ferocious pull a moment later. "Hah!" He exclaimed. He might not like fishing very much, but he did like succeeding.
Alright, that -did- make her giggle. And it took a few minutes, particularly with the way he wiggled his toes, for her to stop laughing once she'd started. Enough to put a healthy dose of color in her cheeks as she smiled at him and she -was- smiling, wasn't she? Oh yes. "Patience, love," his wife murmured, when he complained about his pole as she did the very best she could to make hers seem as if it were nothing. Which…ended with a good solid jerk to ensure that the hook was set proper once she realized she was caught.
"Fine, fine, but I was trying to be modest about it!" Came the laughing reply, though her face lit up a glow to see the way his own blazed. "And perfect timing too, now you can wade in and collect them both." Beam!
"I suppose you would wrinkle your nose at me if I suggested we call Roddy over to do it for us?" He asked, already building himself back up to his feet before she had to answer that question with a too obvious answer. He pulled in the line while he stepped into the muddy shallows between reeds and cool slippery stones, showing off his balance for the fact he hardly seemed to hesitate or weave for even a moment. Calmly he lifted up the hook, until he had a wildly splashing and flipping little trout on the hook. Slippery as hell, and it took him a few attempts before he had a proper grip around it, and could wrench it off the hook.
A sideways glance cut back over his shoulder, before he with mischief on his lips -threw- the rather tiny fish back at her, likely to land right in her lap. Then he reached for her line, and drew up the rather significantly bigger fish she'd gotten, and repeated the casual act of revenge for her success.
Seri didn't bother to answer his question, because the answer was already tucked inside the question. All she did was grin, a cute little 'I'm so innocent' grin and fluttered her lashes in his direction while she did her very very best not to laugh. Not at the man and certainly, certainly not at the size of his fish. "You know…," she began, prepared to say something easing before the slippery bit of silver was flung in her direction. A thing that made her squeal even as she clamped a hand over her mouth to cut the sound short and seemed to miss the fact that…she'd dropped her pole.
At least he'd already caught the end of her line, so that both fish and pole didn't escape. More prepared for the second that came to flop against her, so that this time, while his bounced over her thigh and onto the blanket, she caught her skirt in time to keep the larger from following the same track. "Catch it, catch it, Catch it!" FLOP! Only the flop came from where his wife had sprung forward to obviously childishly, bodily stop the smaller trout from getting away. Of course it meant she ended up on her stomach; skirt tangled about her knees and a portion of her calves on display as she looked up, hair tousled and grinned at him, broad as any cat. "Caught it!"
"So I see," Ser Harold said once he'd managed to catch his breath and stop laughing for the sight of her flopping around on her belly in a mimic of the way the fish were flipping and flopping and tussling about. He shook his head, bubbles of amusment still popping free at times to form little snorts and chortles beneath his breath. Damn but he couldn't think of anything but that she looked darn adorable when she grinned like that, bright and cheerful like a child, smug like a cat. It reminded him of women he'd loved in his long years as a bachlor, free of the responsibilities of courting ladies of proper blood.
"Should I say well done? Or chide for ruining your pretty dress?" It didn't sound like he much disapproved, though. Besides, he had a great cloak they could wrap around her before they left back to the township. He waded back into the bank, mud rinsing off his feet as they wriggled in the grass by the edge. "Here, let me have them. You can continue to get us some more fish, and I'll focus on gutting and preparing us our lunch."
Only when he neared, did Seri push herself up, when he was close enough to help ensure that neither of the fish were able to wriggle free. "I think, lord husband, that if you chide anyone for ruining my dress, then it ought to be the man who threw the fish at it," she teased, that grinning remaining though this time there was just a hint of pink against her lips where her tongue peeked through.
Though she did work to set it back mostly to rights once she'd sat up properly, even if she did let it pool about her knees so her calves could soak in a bit of the sun. "Tell me though, how a man learns to clean a fish, but not to catch them? Was this another of your duties when you were a squire, perhaps?" The girl asked; wriggling back into position and drawing the line over into her lap so she could put a new worm on the hook.
"Aye, squire duty. I declared myself an anti-fisher at an early age, but even if I prefered to gather drywood rather than hook the slimy beasts of the waterways, it didn't take away my duty to clean the bastards." He snorted as he plucked the smallest one up first. He pulled up the knife at his belt, wielding it with long practiced skill.
It didn't take him long to cut, gut and clean the two fish, neither of which were particularly big even if his was definetly the smaller ones. Combined with the contents of the basket, though, they'd make a decent meal. Though it wouldnt hurt if they'd catch one or two more, either.
He brought out some herbs he'd had Roddy get for him, the kind he remembered from picking on the roadside when a child. All of it stuffed into the now hollow interior of the fish, along with some salt all around, and then he bound it back tight together. Now on sticks, they were set onto the fire to fry and sizzle and turn generally delicious all around.
"I've a gift for you, too, when we return to our chambers for evenign meal, later," he said.
"Anti-fisher, hm?" Seri inquired, a faint tease in the tone as she watched him; her attention split between him and her pole. Watching while he split the fish clean and made them ready. Taking her time about letting the worm dance about in the water when she cast it out. "Seems to be like you picked the short end of the deal," the girl jested, amusement in her eyes before the sudden way the pole dipped forward told her that she'd gotten a bite.
Another firm little jerk to see the hook set proper and the girl set about working it towards the shore, without having to get up and then, tested just how securely the hook and line both where when she angled to lift it free and return her husband's favor, but deposting it promptly into his lap.
"A gift?" Blink blink. "But…this is…I mean, this has been more than gift enough for me." Which is to say, she was surprised that he'd done even that. More just seemed… "You're not going to tell me something horrible right after are you?" Inquired, a squit to her eyes, her tone suspicious.
"Searching for drywood is a pleasent enough business," Ser Harold countered when she said he'd made a unwise decision. "Get time for yourself, peace and quiet, don't have to think much about what you're up to." Which was, frankly, a lot like fishing. Not that he would admit to it. "Less chance of drowning."
The fish whipped in his direction made him send her a distinctly disapproving look. "Hmph." He unhooked the wriggling creature, then shoved his fingers through its gills and went to clean -that- one up, too. "While you're amusing yourself, would you mind pouring me a glass of wine?"
While he was still cleaning out the recently gutted fish, he looked back over his shoulder at her. Watched her expression as she struggled with the idea of another fish. At her sudden descent into paranoia, Harold laughed, loud and rich, and deeply amused. "Hah. If you aren't a suspicious one. No. No horrible revelations. Besides, it's too late, now. All the arrangements are made. You'll just have to swallow down my generosity."
"Searching for drywood," Seri mused, her voice droll, "Sounds an awful lot like fishing." There was a chuckle at the end of it too, her nose wrinkling for the depth of her grin, so that dimples set themselves into the curves of her cheeks. "Of course," soberly added, "Without the drowning. And you're right, I'm in such terrible danger here, why…I could fall right in!"
Except that she was planted firmly on the ground and showed no signs of going any closer. Nor…it seemed, of fishing again, because the girl laid the pole over to the side and tried, she did, to keep her expression somber while he hmphed at her and requested wine. "Of course, my lord," came oh so sweetly murmured as she drew up on her knees and crawled over to the basket. Filling a glass for him and him alone. Crawled back too, to offer settle at his side; waiting until his hands were both clean and empty before offering it out.
And frowning, for the way he laughed at her. "Well! You were being…sweet. Doubly so it seems. Alas, if it is my fate to suffer your generosity without condition then…I suppose I must. There are worse fates, after all." Like pinicking with her husband and finding his company without complaint.
It made her happy. Peaceful even. Content enough to stretch out by his side and make a pillow of his thighs from which she could watch the clouds; which were only clouds and not at all the horrible macrabe things he was looking at in the skys the last time.