Page 402: Just A Courier
Just A Courier
Summary: Clearly, Petra is a woman of many talents. Some don't require knowing how to read. They do require a little elbow grease.
Date: 27/08/2012
Related Logs: War is Coming: The Ride on Stonebridge
Jac Petra 
Dungeons — Highfield Keep
Access to the dungeons is obtained through the squat little tower that funnels traffic up the keep. Where most of the traffic goes up and along the rampway, a very select few instead go down. A wide winding staircase leads several meters down into the motte. The structure here has been given the most amount of care — all stone walls and ceilings. The space is divided off into several dark cells which are walled in wrought bars. There are always guards assigned to this area, and is occasionally visited by retainers meant to wash down the cells of scent and stains.
27 Aug 289, AL

The days of war are coming, and it seems Highfield will see little peace until those days have come and passed. But…there are still a few bastions of calm in the storm, and such a one can be found in the most unlikely of places. Down in the deel and the dark and the chill of the dungeons. They are still new and well-tended, and bear little of the dirt and reek and smell that might one day fill them. Save, perhaps, for today…for the sharp tang of blood that half smell, half taste that sits in the nose and on the tongue, and the splash of water on stone. The soft sound of boots and the scrape of a scouring broom.

To the sound of boots and broom comes the softest murmur of a singing voice. "We dream of ways to break these iron bars." It comes first from above, creeping down along the stairs. "We dream of black nights without moon or stars." There is a strange hush, perhaps even an eerieness to it, though many dungeons and prison yards have heard it before. It almost appears to be coming from a shadow that falls upon the earth and stone. "We dream of tunnels and of sleeping guards," the shadow sings. "We dream of torches out in the prison yard." And then the shadow melts into the figure of the Songbird Knight. He must be the one on duty at this hour, perhaps a volunteered job as there is little need for watch dogs down here. He is out of his armor and back in his woodsy leathers, though his heavy surcoat hangs off his shoulders. He song turns to a murmuring as his nostrils flare, catching that smell of blood.

Petra's head lifts, at the sound of song and step, the broom in her hands falling still. But once the Songbird's voice is recognized, she returns to her scrubbing. It's not as if she could hide, not down here, and she's easy enough to find. Just look for the occupied(sort of) cell with the water flowing out of it, pushed towards the drains. It's being swiftly done, as if by a cheerful soul, or at least one currently given to enjoy some manual labour.

With caution, the knight approaches the cell containing the blond courier. His boots slide through the bloodied waters, though the lack of light turns those red shades monochrome. Dubious glances are cast about the shadowy, dimly lit length of hallways and empty cages before he leans his weight into the jam of the open door. His dark eyes sweep around the cell before they settle on the woman. "Did you volunteer for this work, Miss Petra?" He asks, hands deep within the pockets of his surcoat.

Petra pauses, stepping closer to the bars to better use the bristles of the brush to direct the water to the drains and away from both knightly feet and the locked chest near the door. She works, as a servant trained in good housekeeping might work, as though she had long practice. And why not? She is a servant, and common enough that she's probably done more than her share of scrubbing in her time. The cell she's working in is empty, though the washing she's doing, the old rushes waiting to be carried upstairs and burned, and the new rushes waiting to be thrown down once the stone is dry show it hasn't been empty long. This is new soil, not old. "It was not a work to be volunteered for."

Jac cannot hide the flash of curiosity at the cell state. Perhaps the Captain is a bit behind, or perhaps his focus has been at the coming war, but a question starts to nag his attention. "It is not courier work," he says in automatic reply to her counter, though it is followed up almost automatically with, "Whose cell was this?" He straightens from his lean, though his hands remain buried in the recesses of his pockets. He steps within it, mindful not to get in her way. While she may be cleaning with a servant's quality, he moves with that of a man who has been told countless times to cease getting in his wife or mother's way.

Petra makes no move to bar the knight from entering the cell, switching places with him to broom the last of the water into the drain, setting the tool aside, to give the stone time to dry. "Then it stands to reason, that like you, I have many aspects. I am not always a courier." With the brooming done, she moves to collect the used rushes, till now pushed to the side, into a large basket, hunkering down to save her back, like as not, "Anyone's and no one's. I put no name on the door."

The Songbird flashes the woman an apologetic smile at her correction, but he refrains from burbbling about with verbal apologies. "And yet even a no one bleeds as red as you and I," Jac comments as he looks down at the smear of red that colors a bit of brick at knee height. He squats down to look at it dead on, and he narrows his eyes at it thoughtfully. He casts a glance to her as she hunkers down to fetch up the rushes, and he walks about in his squat toward her to be a helpful sort — perhaps even an invasive sort, almost threatening to get underfoot. "I hope I stunk up the Nayland dungeons this bad," he grimaces.

"A lesson the one who left this cell learned well today. And it is to be hoped that I will not have to teach them the lesson again." Her eyes track Jac's, catching sight of the smear of blood she missed in her cleaning, and she offers a shrug, light, "It's a cell, not a Sept." With the old rushes down, next comes the sand, which she takes up as she rises to her feet, seeming unperturbed by the knight's proximity. Petra begins to sprinkle down on the stone, tossing it as a planter might toss seeds in a field. "You can do the fresh rushes, if you have a mind. "I imagine, given that it was a Nayland dungeon, that you most likely were as a ray of sunlight in that dank hole."

Her comment causes him to chortle a bit, and he shakes his head. "Yet, I bet you a golden dragon that more prayer happens in these cells than a Sept," he counters as he pokes around beside the courier until she speaks her command to him. He offers her a sudden grin, flashing white teeth between dirty lips. "As you wish, Miss Petra," he says, bowing at the waist despite still being in his squat. He rises, rolling out of his surcoat as he does. He folds it up and places it out of the way just outside the cell before he goes about gathering up the fresh rush. Her words on the Nayland prison earns her a glance as he works, and his broad shoulders shrug. "There was little else for me to be. We were down there for weeks, waiting to hear if our Lord had been beheaded by a harpy's blade. Someone had to be cheerful," he grunts.

Petra's voice is low and warm, as ever, seeming none the worse for wear for the work or the where, "They always pray and sometimes at the end, they beg. But it isn't prayers or pleading I want." She works well with the knight, moving where he isn't, leaving a clear path for him to follow, "Their House deserves extinction for that alone. But they are roaches, and notoriously hard to kill." The cell is small, and finishing the work is a task of only a short while. And the bowl of sand is soon set aside. "I fear I will need sturdier boots, before the end."

It takes the Songbird several trips before the clean, untainted rush is laid across the freshly washed floors. He pats it here and there as if he were making a bed; a dead man's bed, perhaps. Her words are met with various nods and grunts of agreement, though he appears to be thinking before he speaks. He remains squat over the rush, arms folded across his bent knees. "You get them on your soles, Petra, and you may never get them off. I suggest just setting them on fire." He casts her a smaller smile before he begins to stand. "What is it then," he starts to ask as he looks over to the blond, "what is it that you want?"

Soft laughter, completely incongruous with the location, at the knight's comment, "Which? The boots, or the Naylands? If it must be the boots, I can only hope that my feet are not in them when they catch fire. But, in truth? I think I will find my own pyre soon enough." As for what she wants, Petra tilts her head. "I want what my Lord wants. Sometimes it is the truth. Sometimes it is obedience…and sometimes it is retribution. I am only the tool, Captain, not the hand that wields it."

"We will stomp about on them, then set them on fire, then toss the boots into the fire," Jac clarifies with a small smirk. Though it sobers a bit as he crosses his arms at his chest. He leans back into the bars once more, though this time on the inside of that cell. He grunts a bit, though he shakes his head. "That is inadequate," he says in brute honesty. "You are more than a tool, and you want more than what Lord Aleister wants. There is a life in your bones, a life that is yours. So, I ask again… what is it that you want, Petra?"

Petra turns, studying the knight. There's no combativeness in her easy stance, no defensiveness, "I had a life. I was a liar, a whore, a thief, a whisperer and a little bird. And then the Red Tide came to King's Landing and the hosts of the seven kingdoms behind them. And then my old life was done, and my new life I owe to Lord Aleister. Everything that I am and will ever be is his to gift and to take away as it pleases him. I will not begrudge him his tool. I am glad to be so." She indicates the cell with a sweep of her hand, "I do not bring people here for my own pleasure. I bring them here to do my duty to my Lord. I bring them here to give him what he wants. So what do I want? I want to live, Captain. And this is the only way that I can."

"Bullshit," the Knight says without even considering the weight those words might carry. He steps toward her a bit — an almost self-conscious motion that brings him closer to her. He looks down into her eyes if she allows such a steady stare. "Perhaps… perhaps Lord Aleister gave you a new life to have, but it is still yours. I did not know you before those days, perhaps… perhaps I even saw you in those streets as we stormed them, perhaps I could have known you." He shakes his head a bit as he loosens his hand as if to touch her, but it does not reach more than a bare inch before it slips back. His jaw works as it appears the rest of his words have failed him.

Petra does not step back, meeting the knight's hard gaze with her own, needing to lift her chin only the slightest to do it. But her first riposte is not an angry retort, but a humourous one, "I think that if I had known you, Captain" and here she allows all of the inflection possible into the word, "…I would have remembered the day." But the humour quickly fades, "I am my Lord's tool. I cannot be anything else." A slight pause, a moment, "Can't you see that?" And just for a moment, the usually cool expression in her eyes breaks, revealing the horror behind it. How does one live with the knowledge of what they have done, of what they have become. Denial, of course. Denial of everything else.

Jac bears witness to the way her expression changes, the way the horror begins to fill her eyes. He does not flinch away from it; he has seen it before, and even once in his own reflection. As she poses that question, he is met with a surge of action before thought. Hells, action before words. He collapses in toward her with several steady steps, and his large, sword-calloused hands gather up her narrow cheeks as a kiss is pressed onto her lips. Confidence doesn't quite describe the fuel behind it, but there is something incredible steady. There is no doubt that he will be unprepared for whatever retaliation the woman sees fit to bestow upon him.

There's a dogged determination in Petra Bennett, never to back down, never to yield and never to turn away from hard truths. At least so far as her own mental defenses will allow. And at the end, the result is that she does not avoid the knight, who moves surprisingly quickly for being such a large man. Only a few inches of height separate them, but he has nearly sixty pounds on the woman. Still as stone, as his hands find her face, his lips her mouth. And then she's not. Not still and not stone, but answering his hands with her, fingers cupping his face, mouth yielding beneath his.

His fingers slip along the line of her jaw, tracing it back to where her ears meet it. The kiss is not a demanding, smothering sort; it isn't overly fiery. It is a gentle sort, perhaps even a comforting kind. When he leans up away from her, his dark eyes open to gaze down into her softer features. "I see it," he murmurs to her, the whisper not even echoing in this empty place. "I just don't agree." As always. His thumb brushes over the apple of her cheek before he starts to step away, providing a berth of space between them. His hands begin to fall away, giving her the freedom to stay or go.

"You never do. It has always been a part of your charm." Petra does not attempt to hold him, hands falling from his face back to rest at her sides. And if she plans to go, it's not yet, as she seems content to stay where the knight left her, "I wish there was a better answer that I could give you, one that would seem right to your ears." A faint smile, at the touch on her cheek, the slightest tilt of her head into the touch, but her expression is placid again, that carefully practiced neutral. "Some wounds do not heal."

The Songbird casts his gaze away a moment as she offers him some comfort, though it is the hollow kind. He shakes his head a bit before he looks to her once more, those dark eyes a bit more somber in the dim torchlight. "You're right. There is nothing you could say that would sound right." He seems almost uneasy at first as he scrubs a hand back through his hair. "No, some don't," he agrees before he meets that neutral expression. He sways a bit in his stance before he dares to take another step toward her again — he is about as awkward as a squire by now, and he prays she does not notice it. It lasts for only a moment before he squares up his shoulders once more. "I will not pour salt into those wounds, Petra."

Petra is not a woman given to overlooking weaknesses, and the knight's sway is noted, but, mercifully, not commented on. But if her words do not come, her hand does rise, to offer support, perhaps, but it falls short, as she sees the man pull himself together. And when she speaks, it's not relief, but sadness in her voice. A voice that says she knows full well what she's lost, then…and now. "You are not salt, Jac. You are honey, and spring and the warmth of the sun in midsummer."

Her words inspire a sudden laugh, but it is not done cruely nor without a bit of warmth. He looks up to meet her eyes once more, and he takes another step toward her before he brushes the blade of his hand down the length of her face before his palm and fingers fold over her hair gently. Now that he knows she is not about to slap him nor flee, the gesture is a bit more fluid and slow. "I will prove you wrong, Petra," the Songbird promises to her in a soft voice. "I will show you that there is more to this renewed life of yours beyond the will and wants of a Lord." There is a flash of a smile now, perhaps even a touch of knightly ego.

Laughter begets laughter and Petra's answer the knights, though hers is in the turn of her lips and the lightness in her eyes. Her hand rises, touching the back of his, her own, not so calloused as his, but they are no soft Lady's hands. "Perhaps you will, Jac. But that is a rocky road, and war is coming. And we will be cruel, and terrible, you and I." Because that is the way of war, and those who fight it. But it's almost gently said, and with an answering smile. "But we will also be magnificent."

"We will," Jac murmurs in agreement. He dips to press a kiss to her forehead, and he breathes in deeply as if to catch a scent beyond the staleness of the cell. He finally straightens to look down into her eyes once more before he shakes his head a bit. "War may be coming, but it is not here yet. There is still planning to be done, and I imagine that we will both be involved in such." He finally takes a sudden stock of where they are having this conversation, and a bit of amusement laughter rumbles his chest. "I think you have managed to turn me into another visitor for your cell, Miss Petra."

Petra accepts the kiss, offering another brush of her hand on his in answer. Her hand finally settles on his chest, "Planning and preparation. The reavers did not do any of our work for us." The Naylands managed to repel the ironborn, "And we will need every advantage we can manage." A turn of her head, to look around the cell, "Perhaps I have, but I have a feeling and a hope that it will never be your blood I clean from the floor." The hand on your chest pushes, more giving impetus than actually doing anything to move you, "Just for that, you can help me carry my chest out."

"I don't bleed," Jac says in a renewed voice of a joker. He grins almost boyishly as he reaches to take the hand on his chest, fingers curling around it even as he allows her to push him back toward the door. "But, there I go… telling all my secrets. Perhaps you are good at being the Lord's inquisitor." He winks before he steps back in a broad step, even as he holds her hand. He drops a kiss to her hand before he releases it. "As you wish, Miss Petra." And he turns so he can squat down to gather up her chest, lifting from his legs as if he expects it will be heavy.

"Is it all stuffing then, with a music box inside? A walking, talking quintain, dressed up to look like a knight?" Her hand tightens just slightly on his, the kiss bringing a light smile, before she moves to help. Only to have the knight take the load all on his own. And it is heavy. Not filled with stones heavy, but substantial. The tools of her trade no doubt, "My Lord has not seen fit to dismiss me from his service just yet. I must be doing something pleasing." She does offer to share the load, though. "Unless you wish for me to double your wages."

"A very handsome knight," Jac appends to her description. He adjusts the load a bit, giving a slight grunt before he glances down toward the courier with a quirk of a brow. "I will let you help, but you must first promise to join me for dinner." He arches both his brows now, opening his expression with a boyish curiousity. "Thrice. Three dinners." He flexes his shoulders a bit as he holds the weight steadily, though he does not appear to be ready to give up some of its weight until she agrees.

Petra sniffs, as if to say, 'that's what you get' when the man feels the full weight of the chest, "A very egotistical knight." Petra waits, considering the bargain with all the seriousness and weight she usually brings to bear in such cases. "Very well, but you will owe me one more time of aid. Three for three." And she'll take her end, if he relinquishes, "Now stop being difficult. This thing weighs as much as the Good King." And it's a long walk back to her room.

He relinquishes with a kind of content satisfaction. "Three for three," he agrees as he sets down the chest so that they may both carry it more managably. With a smug smile, the knight nods so that they may both carry it onward. If he wasn't already a Songbird, he might be confused for the cat that ate it with that smile. "Lead the way, Miss Petra."

It seems the fulltime courier and parttime inquisitor will all the Captain of the Guard to win this round. Truth be told, there's only so long you can spend in a dank dark cave before you go mad, and even in good company, she's been in the dungeons long enough. Height she uses to her advantage and the carrying goes easily enough, "So long as you promise to keep my secrets." And with that, she starts up the stairs and back towards the keep.

Jac looks up toward her with a serious nod of his head. "I do not tell others' secrets, Petra. They are yours to tell." And he relaxes into an easier smile as if should prying eyes spy the pair coming from the dungeons, there will be no need to whisper.