|Meeting On The Road|
|Summary:||Septa Day and Nicodemus Groves encounter one another, before they realize they belong to the same household.|
|Road to Kingsgrove|
It's been some years since Nicodemus Groves has properly seen Kingsgrove, but not so long he can't remember the way. He's whistling softly, a simple marching tune, as he rides. He's a sword on his back, light leather armor and a cloak on his body and a fine, black horse with a white blaze and feet trotting beneath him. The sun is high, the air is fresh and it's a fine morning to be going home.
It's been a long night for Day. There'd been a breech birth to tend in town, and the young septa's just spent a string of endless hours trying to coax the child into a better position to be born. For a time, it had looked like she'd have to cut the mother to save the babe — but in the end and despite some troublesome bleeding, both lived. She's wrapped in a cloak of bright, sky blue, covering her blood-stained vestments, and carries a straight, stout walking stick just a few inches taller than she. The only thing in the world she wants at the moment is a bath and her bed. So it's not entirely surprising she's less than aware of her surroundings.
They have some experience moving quietly anyhow, so with her thoughts so distracted, it's little wonder Day doesn't notice the trio of men until they're on the road with her. One in front, blocking her path, one stepping up behind blocking her escape and one circling around the side. "Nice day for a walk," Opines the man before her, broad and ruddy with thinning hair and a few fewer teeth than he ought.
Day stops short, turning her head just slightly to view the other two men before addressing the first. "It's a beautiful morning," she agrees pleasantly, smiling without teeth, curling both hands around her walking stick. "How may I assist you goodmen?"
"You might assist up by turning over whatever's in your pockets," the man in front, the leader, requests with a toothy(less) grin. The other two snicker for that.
Drawing herself up to her full, elegant height, Day shrugs the cloak back off her shoulders, revealing her bloodied vestments and hourglass pendant. She turns out her pockets — which are quite empty. "I'm afraid the Crone's work pays little. Might I offer you a blessing for the road?"
There is a pause and a bit of uncertainty that flickers across the men's face as they see both blood and vestements adorning the woman before them. It's the man to the side, stocky, hairy and with a pig nose that says, "She's covered in blood. She killed a septa and put on 'er clothes!"
Day looks expressionlessly at Pig Nose for a long beat. "Really?" She glances around. "Let's turn this into a learning opportunity. Who else can come up with a reason I might be dressed as a septa and have blood on my clothes?"
But the three seem less keen on learning than on finding an excuse to continue what they were about. "Check her clothes for knife marks," the leader snaps. The man behind Day steps coming, moving to grab her up and haul her off the road and towards a cluster of trees alongside it.
Day whips around and cracks her stout walking stick — which she's now holding considerably more like a battle stave — across the grabby fellow's knuckles. "I advise against that," she says. "Strongly."
The man, tall and pox-marked, jerks back with a yelp. "Ain't no septa," he growls, "ain't no kind of behavior for a woman of the faith." There's the soft sound of small blades behind drawn, and the three close in, the tall one reaching for her staff.
Despite her rising panic, this assertion truly affronts her. "And precisely how is any woman supposed to react to three would-be robbers attempting to inspect her clothing by hand?" She yanks her staff back and jabs it at Tall, turning in an attempt to keep the circling vultures in sight. "Oh, Sweet Wisdom," she whispers in prayer. "Forgive me that I am ever a fool…"
There's an 'oof' as Tall gets a stick in the gut, but his hands wrap around it and he yanks back, trying to pull it away from Day. The other two close in, pig-face reaching to grab her again and the leader moving to land a slap across her face. None of them seem to notice the faint sound of horse hooves that's now gradually coming closer.
It all goes beautifully — for the brigands, that is. Tall wrests the septa's staff away and Pig Nose has her arms in the same moment. She slap from Two Teeth is resounding, flinging her head to the side. Day goes very, very still, save for the quick rise and fall of her chest. "What is it you want?" she asks, all the quips and pride gone from her now. She manages to keep her voice from trembling and to stave off tears. For the moment. These are her monumental accomplishments. "I have nothing."
"Oh you have something," the leader assures Day with an unpleasant smile. "All girls do." "Wussat?" asks the tall one, easing back upright from the way he was standing bent. "What d'you mean wussat?" the leader snaps. "Y'idiot, you want me to write it out for you?" "Can't read anyway," Pig Face snickers. "Shut it, you!" Tall says, "I mean I hear something." And indeed he can. The sound of horse hooves is louder now, and over the hill comes a young man on his horse. He's moving at a calm, traveling pace, until he notes and understands what's happening ahead of him. And then the horse gallops and the man reached behind him to draw his sword.
Day cracks open one bright blue eye as her assailants bicker, perhaps hoping she might use their distraction to — something. But then there's a young man and his bright blade bearing down on them, and — both eyes open, now — all Day can do is stare. And gape.
There's a shout of surprise and the three scatter, none willing to try their daggers against a man with a sword on horseback. The lad thunders past, pursuing the one who was holding Day, first until, with a shriek, the pig-faced man runs off the road and goes stumbling through the grassy fields. He trots the horse in a circle, making sure all three are continuing their departure, before he sheaths his sword and dismounts, making his way over to Day. "Are you hurt miss-…" his gaze darts over the vestments, "..Septa?"
It takes her a moment to gather her wits. She continues starting stupidly at her savior, then snaps back to herself with a start. She takes a quick, wild look around ensure the men have fled, then nods. "Y-yes," she says, looking down at herself in consternation as she begins shaking. "Yes. I'm — I'm — Goddess! What if you hadn't come?" Sheet white is she. Perhaps in a bit of shock. Then, looking at her empty hands, "Those pigfuckers took my staff!"
"Septa, are you bleeding?" the young man asks, looking over her bloody clothes. "Where are you injured?" For her curse, he smiles faintly and then he laughs. "You'll get another staff," he says, "Or…" squinting at the quickly vanishing dots he asks, "would you have me run them down for you?"
"No, no — Seven, no," says the septa, shaking her head. "Sentimental value, but — the gifter would hardly approve of murder being done to retrieve it." She sighs for that. "I think I might need to — " sit. Which she does, abruptly, her legs deciding they've had about enough of this tomfoolery. "The blood isn't mine," she hastens to assure her rescuer.
"Then perhaps sitting on my horse would be better? I was on the way to Kingsgrove, myself, but I'd be pleased to take you wherever you were headed." The course nickers and tugs lightly on the reins. The lad releases then so the horse can drift to the side of the road and munch on the tall grass. He crouches down, offering Day a skin from his belt. "It's only water, but it might help."
She takes the water with a grateful murmur — slow, small sips. She nurses it until her pulse and breathing even, and the tingles of panic fade. "That was harrowing," she murmurs. Then, looking at the young knight properly, she says, "Thank you. There… really doesn't seem any way to properly thank you, but… thank you." She hands back she water skin. "I was going to the Braeburn House," she says, then laughing weakly, "Goddess, all I want is a bath."
"No thanks needed," the young knight says, tough he cants his head a little for 'Braeburn House'. "Do you serve there, Septa? What strange fortune, if we're headed to the same place."
The septa gazes on him a long moment, then smiles. "Strange fortune, indeed. I do. Serve there. I'm the Lady Rosanna's governess." Then, explaining, "I was called out to one of the farmsteads in the night — there was trouble with a birth. I'm not… normally out wandering the roads." She blushes slightly.
"Covered in blood," the knight adds with a small laugh. "That's comforting news. Rosanna finds enough mischief without such assistance. I am her brother, Ser Nicodemus Groves. A pleasure to meet you, Septa, though I'm sorry for the circumstance."
She blushes a shade deeper, delicate pink on skin like milk. "It was a mess, but — the mother lives and bore a healthy son." The septa blinks as the young man introduces himself, then beams. "Oh, my stars, of course you are!" she exclaims, delighted. "I knew you two were coming home any day — the house is abuzz — but of course the when of such things — " she stops. Blinks again. "Where's your brother?" she asks, craning her head as though expecting to see the Kit hiding behind the horse.
Nicodemus laughs again, peering over his shoulder as if it might well be, before he looks back at the Septa. "He's a squire yet, still needs to polish up a skill or two." His lips quirk playfully, "For all we are the same age, we are not alike in all ways. But he will be knighted and join us soon enough, I am sure."
"Of course he will! He's wise to do it in his own time." She climbs to her feet, looking fairly recovered, dusting off her certainly ruined robes. "I feel as though I should hug you to welcome you home, but — " she looks down at herself, wrinkling her nose. "Welcome home, all the same!"
"Thank you, Septa. I look forward to seeing my home and family very much. And perhaps you might offer me your own welcome once there's no birthing blood to worry over." He stands before leaning down to offer Day a hand up. A whistle has the horse grudgingly lifting his head and moving towards his knight.
She takes the proffered hand and stands. "My name's Day," she says, reaching up automatically to stroke the horse's neck as it comes near.
"Day?" Nicodemus repeats, brows lifting a little. "That's unique. May I help you up, Septa?" He offers his hand for her to step on to make her way up into the stirrup.
"It's mine," the septa says of her name, whatever its qualities may be. She hesitates a moment, as though unaccustomed to such delicate chivalries, and then places her foot carefully in his hands, stepping quickly so as not to burden him with her (slight) weight for longer than necessary.
He climbs up after, the motion easy and fluid. One he's done time and time before. With a click of his teeth and a twitch of the reins, the horse sets off in an easy trot. "You know, I think my sister must have written of you," he muses, "Now that she writes, she is very keen on sending Kit and I letters. Though she only ever called you 'my septa' and for some reason, I did not imagine you so young." His lips curl upwards. "How pleasant to be wrong."
She glances back at him without moving her head — which really results in more of a sidelong glance that is both unseen and unseeing. "I'm sure I'd be equally pleasing, were I older," she says. Then, "Lady Rosanna has lovely penmanship, for her age. Though she's not terribly interested in applying herself to its further improvement. I can't blame her, though. Rote is a staggeringly boring way to learn anything."
"Teach her curses," Nicodemus suggests, "and she'll learn how to write them as lovely as you like. Little Roz is a very keen study when it comes to trouble." He chuckles softly. "I expect she takes after Kit and me in that way."
Day laughs, shaking her head a little. "It sounds as though things should be very lively, with you and your brother home." She looks back over her shoulder at him. "Perhaps you'd like to help me with lessons? I like to take things out of the classroom. Military history, I find, is particularly dull for girls. I thought we might take toy soldiers and ships out to the pond and recreate the Battle of Long Lake tomorrow."
"Well, I'm no sea captain, septa, but I think I can manage to steer a few toy boats about the lake, or sink them as they're fired upon," Nicodemus muses with a soft laugh. "I think I'd enjoy helping you with history, thank you."
"Thank you, my lord. I would very much enjoy the help — and so will your sister, I'm sure." Day falls silent after that, oddly tongue-tied, and combs the horse's mane through with her long, slender fingers.
They ride in pleasant silence for a time, Nicodemus watching the roads with a bit more attention, now that he's come across bandits once today. He hums, faintly, under his breath before asking, "Is it forward to ask how it is you found your calling in the sept?"
"Forward? I don't think so," says Day, again glancing back at him not-quite-successfully. It seems to have a proper conversation, riding thus, she'd had to settle back into his arms… and that's really… no. "It found me, more or less. On the doorstep of the Motherhouse in Old Town, when I was probably about a day old."
"You're a foundling?" Nicodemus asks, tilting a little to try and get a better look at Day as she speaks. "I guess that explains the name, a little. I hear the women of the motherhouses have a fondness for symbolic names."
"Quite," says the septa, smiling. "One of the sisters found me at dawn, and Dawn was the favorite, but Mother Most Devout frowns on things that induce vanity, and dawn is a showy hour. So… Day."
"Dawn is a showy hour," the young knight repeats with a small chuckle. "And the gods forbid an infant left on a doorstep have anything to be proud about. Well. I think Day is lovely, too and diminishes you not the slightest."
Day blushes — and though he likely can't see her cheeks, it's quite visible in her ears. "Is that something they teach you before you're knighted, with the lance and the blade and all? How to flatter women?"
"No, a squire must pursue extracurricular studies for that," Nicodemus replies, perfectly straight-faced. "But, I am a very dedicated student."
The septa swallows a positively girlish giggle. "Mmrph," she replies, wrestling a smile. "You are truly an exceptional young man. What other extracurriculars did you pursue?"
She won't be able to see it, but Nicodemus smiles quite widely for that giggle. "Let me see, there's swimming. And the noble art of imbibing drink. Kit plays a fine lute and dances."
"I've no idea how to dance," admits the septa. "Your lady sister has a dance master especially for that. But swimming — though I'm not very good at it, I do adore it." She sighs happily and wistfully. "The weightlessness of water… it seems like what it would be to fly.
"Having never flown, I cannot say. I think a duck would be the best one to question about it," Nicodemus muses with another playful smile, "but there is something peaceful about swimming. Floating on your back and simply staring upwards."
"That is my favorite part," Day says in a rush of warmth. "Especially at night, when there are stars."
"Yes," Nicodemus agrees with a laugh, "and you can't tell whether you're in the sky looking down or in the water looking up. It's all stars, everywhere."
"What a perfect way to put it — that's just how it is!" exclaims the septa, beaming and craning around. She turns properly forward in the next instant, ears pink again. "You're very good with words."
He's there, smiling, when she twists around, biting on his bottom lip as she moves away again. "I… thank you, Septa. I can see why my sister's so fond of you."
"She's most fond of you, as well. And proud," says Day. She's silent a moment, then says, "I thought, since she was so young when you and Kit left, that — I had feared she might be disappointed by the reality."
"No, I think we're nearly as splendid as she supposes," Nicodemus teases somberly, save for the smile she cannot see. "Or, at least, I'm coming home on a new horse, so whatever I'm lacking, I'll be forgiven."
"At least," agrees Day, mirthfully. She glances back at him, briefly, then once more turns quickly away. "I think you'll do, my lord," she opines, folding her hands on the pommel. "I do believe you'll do."
"Well, then, Septa Day," Nicodemus murmurs, "I thank you for your blessing." And on they ride.