|More than Apples in the Trees|
|Summary:||Merel comes across Benedict-turned-Nicodemus hanging out in one of the Kingsgrove apple trees where they talk of pasts and family.|
|Related Logs:||Awkward Turtle Soup|
|Lots of apple trees.|
|Wed May 30, 289|
It's not a very impressive time of the year for apple trees. Their blossoms have come and gone, but the fruits aren't much to look at, yet; just little green rounds beginning to bulge out beneath blooms that have withered and dried.
But, more than apples can be found in the trees of Kingsgrove. Nobles, in particular, seem to enjoy inhabiting their branches. And one mostly-unexiled, near noble as well. Nicodemus Groves is stretched out on one of the thicker, heavier branches of an apple tree, half-hidden by leaves, though a dangling foot gives him away. He's reading from a small book, the hanging leg swinging now and again.
Nobles aren't the only ones that can often be found in branches. Merel knows a little something about being found in trees. Having apparently escaped some chore for the moment, the small girl is stalking through the apple orchard rather than nestled in some branches, though that may well be her goal. Her approach is quiet, if not soundless, before she ends up under the tree Nicodemus is reading in this day and squints up at him, wrinkling her nose. Oh, you. Hi.
Nicodemus turns the page before lifting his head and peering down at the girl who peers up at him. He offers her a nod. "Hullo, Merel."
"Hullo Bene-Ser B-Nicodemus," Merel stumbles and then stops, lips turning just slightly downwards in a frown. "You." Hullo you. "M'lord," she adds belatedly and not terribly respectfully, like it's somewhat distasteful. Moving on… "You've come a long way to sit in a tree." Sort of.
"Me," Nicodemabendimus agrees, foot swinging again. "It was worth the trip. These are very special trees, you know."
"Worth the trip for the trees?" Merel looks skeptical, brushing some stray lock of hair behind her ear. "Just look like trees to me." Though saying so might be a weird sort of Groves blasphemy. Or, at least it might out you as 'not from around here'.
"Among other things," Nicodemus allows with a faint smile. He blinks, though for 'just look like trees', eyes going a little wide. "They're the best trees," he informs her. "Superior for climbing, much handsomer than any others and the sweetness of their apples is unparalleled."
"Yeah, those other things seem to working out real well for you." Because Nicodemus is undoubtedly the talk of Kingsgrove right now. "Dunno," Merel considers, placing a palm on the trunk of the tree. "I've seen a lot've trees. Think you're just being sentimental. Except maybe about the apples."
"I fucked up pretty exquisitely," Nicodemus answers with a small shrug. "It will be a while until anybody really considers me family, again." He sniffs. "I've seen a lot of trees, too. It's how I know I'm right."
"Yeah, you did." Sorry, Nico, you aren't getting any sympathy from this corner either. At least you aren't getting family rage and disappointment either, though? "Dunno if I'd be so forgiving either," Merel says with a sternness of expression that suggests she would not be very forgiving at all. This isn't even really her problem and she looks annoyed. "I suppose you've seen more. Maybe."
"You don't strike me as especially forgiving," Nicodemus agrees, glancing back down to the book resting on his lap. "I'm older. I expect I've seen more simply by dint of years and travel. At any rate, these are the best."
"Depends on what someone did." Merel rubs her neck, looking away from Nicodemus and off to the distant horizon somewhere. "Can't imagine running away from my family." She stays looking into the distance before turning hazel eyes back on the lord in the tree. "If you say so."
"Certainly, I didn't run away because I disliked them," Nicodemus agrees with a small nod, "but I did run away. It was cowardly and shameful." He considers before he points out, "Tree's big enough for two."
"Don't think you would've come back, if that were the case," Merel reasons, though the rest of it still seems puzzling. She tilts her head to the side at the invitation, then shrugs and scampers up the tree skillfully enough to perch on a branch nearby. This seems content enough for a moment before she wonders aloud, "Why'd you do it?" Like it's any of her business.
"Well, I left because I believed I had to. For honor and duty. And then, once I was gone, I became so ashamed that I was afraid to come back and face them," Nicodemus answers as Merel climbs up into the tree.
Merel slants a look sideways at Nicodemus at the explanation, but mulls it over for a few moments before speaking again. "Honor and duty sound like terrible reasons to run away," she begins with some disapproval. "But I can understand being ashamed to face family." The last is actually sympathetic, spoken on a sigh.
"Yes, I suppose they are. I had my head on pretty backwards, after the war. A lot of things made sense to me then that didn't really make any sense, later." Nicodemus considers Merel's last comment before he asks, "How is it you came to be Tommas's foundling?"
"You'd mixed up you reasons to stay with reasons to leave." But war is a messy thing and Merel doesn't get abrasive about it, just nodding her head as her gaze slips away, peering past branches and leaves. "He found me alone in the forest. In a tree." She glances briefly over at Nicodemus with a wry smile because of their location. "Didn't know who he was so I shot at him. Only time in my life I've ever been glad to miss." Dropping into a whisper by the end, she pauses and swallows heavily.
"Wasn't as good as this tree, I bet," Nicodemus points out in an attempt to lighten the mood a little. "How long ago was this?"
"Couldn't've been, if these trees at the best," Merel replies. She has to think about the answer to the second a moment. "About four months ago? Little before everyone went to the Isles." Damn Ironborn.
"Oh, I see," Nicodemus muses, scratching thoughtfully at his temple. "He's a fine fellow, is Tommas. Couldn't have nearly shot a better man."
"This place is lucky. Escaping the worst of it all." Merel observes, idly swinging her feet a bit. "He is," she agrees of Tommas wholeheartedly, with a sharp nod and a proud smile.
"Yes, very. Suppose we were strangely fortunate our neighbors had the bigger castle. Seemed to call most of the ironmen's attention away from our own lands," Nicodemus agrees. He reaches up, plucking a leaf and holding his hand out so it can twirl down to the ground.
Merel snorts about castle, but otherwise maintains a serious expression. "Guess no one knew they were missing out on the best trees," she says, watching the leaf twirl and fall.
"Best keep it a secret," Nicodemus tells Merel somberly. "Just in case."
"I wont tell anyone," Merel promises, setting her shoulders and frowning into the distance. "Can't have this place destroyed too."
"No, I shouldn't like that, either," the lord in the tree agrees, "I'm far too fond of it. Still, I don't think it's very likely."
"You don't?" Merel hasn't sounded especially concerned that raiders really are going to suddenly appear, but things were bad and she doesn't know a great deal about the wider-world. "Good."
"No, I don't," Nic assures with a faint smile. "There may be bandits now and again or desperate and hungry men trying to steal some of what we have, but I don't imagine any sort of coordinated attack."
"Bandits." Merel says with some amount of scorn, though her grip on a branch gets a little tighter. "Seen enough of that, too. Should just stay away from here."
"Perhaps they will," Nicodemus agrees gently. "And if not, they'll certainly stay away from Tommas."
Merel grins over at Nicodemus, a bit wickedly it must be said, and nods. "They'll certainly stay away from him, if they've any brains at all."
"If they've any brains at all and they tried to lay a hand on you, they wouldn't after he was through with them," Nicodemus agrees, grinning a little himself.
"Not in their skulls anymore, they wouldn't." Merel tilts her chin up with pride. A vicious sort of pride, but there it is. "Wouldn't do so well for them to hurt him, neither."
"No, I should say not. He killed a boar once, you know. Near-singlehandedly. Then turned the tusks into dagger handles, one each for me and Kitt," Nicodemus says. "I think I've still got mine."
"He did?" Merel sits up a little straighter, apparently not having heard about that incident but impressed by it. "I hope you'd still have yours," she murmurs, a little disapproving of that 'think'. She reaches up, hooking a finger under a cord around her neck and pulling a pendant out of her shirt for him to see. "He made this." The small pendant is of a tree, a very Groves sort of tree, carefully carved and smoothed out.
Nicodemus leans in close, holding his hand out so that the pendant might rest upon it and he can inspect it better. "Well now," he approves softly, "That's very fine. Who thought such big hands could manage to make such a little thing so lovely?"
After a pause for thought, Merel sets the pendant on Nico's hand so that he may see it. She's watching you, though. "He's a surprising sort."
"Yes," Nicodemus agrees. He drops his hand away, letting the little wooden tree fall against Merel's shirt. "With lots of stories about his mother."
Merel picks up the pendant again to look at it once more before letting it fall back against her shirt and stay there. "That's what happens when you're…formidable, I suppose. Stories."
"First stories, then songs and then legends," Nicodemus chuckles. "It's all just a matter of time and distance, really."
"So we should be expecting, uhm," Merel pauses, chewing on a thumbnail as she thinks. "The…Legend of the Ladle to star being sung around sometime?" Check out that alliteration.
"In five years or so I'd wager, depending on how often she swings it," Nic agrees with a quick grin.
"Maybe just send her after any bandits," Merel suggests wryly, making a swinging motion with a free hand.
"If she takes out bandits, they'll be singing of her in two years, so it's a sound plan," Nicodemus laughs.
"Someone'd better get working on that ballad then. You've got two years advance notice." 'Someone' became 'Nicodemus' apparently over the course of those two sentences. It certainly isn't going to be Merel, at any rate. "I suppose someone might be missing me by now," she observes, looking at the ground a moment before beginning a climb downwards.
"Oh, no. Find your minstrel somewhere else. I haven't the voice or the skill for music," Nicodemus defers, holding his hands up to ward off this suggestion. He curls a hand around the branch above him, watching as Merel climbs down. "Afternoon, then," he calls.
"You find one. Isn't that something nobles do?" Merel counters, simultaneously recognizing Nicodemus is a noble and…giving him and order. Uhm. She drops out of the tree with a soft thump and looks back up at its remaining occupant. "Afternoon, Ser You," she farewells with a bob and a wave before heading away and back to whatever chore needs doing.