|Of Distance and Dashing|
|Summary:||Benedict joins Sofya for a morning ride.|
|Related Logs:||Rocks and Rudeness|
|Coastline — Terrick's Roost|
|Windswept and gorgeous.|
|Wed May 16, 289|
It's a little after breakfast when Benedict makes his way to the stables in the Rockcliff. He's standing in the stall of a gleaming, all-black courser, save for a single blaze of white across her forehead. The horse is munching a palmful of oats from the hedge-knight's hand and seems, in general, content with life as a whole.
The morning sun already warming the skies over the village, Sofya is ahorse and awake before many of the nobility have even touched their breakfast. The Vance retainers hair is twisted up in a tumbled bun, browns warming with threads of warm amber in the light as she picks through the streets astride her dappled grey and pale mare. The large brown stallion has been ponied just behind, seemingly content to move as bid. Her careful ride slows as she comes to pass the Rockcliff stables, glimpsing the somewhat familiar knight within. "Good morn, Ser Benedict. Seems to be you're lacking a horse," she calls out, a sunny smile already on her lips.
Peering over his shoulder and leaning a little to see who greets him, Ser Benedict smiles. "Good morning, Mistress Dale. And it seems you've an extra one, yet again. If you'll give me a moment to get Lady's tack on, I'd be honored to join you, if you're off to exercise them."
At that Sofya tips her head to side, lightly encouraging as she returns, "Certainly, Ser. Just as long as you don't expect any split-saddle theatrics, I think I tired my Sweetlings out yesterday." It will be simple ponying today. Thank you kindly.
"Oh, really?" Benedict asks, a bit of disappointment audible in his tone. "I admit, I had been hoping to witness your technique." He drapes the pad over Lady's back and then the saddle, fastening it under her body with ease borne of practice. Reins and bit are set on next, and the horse shifts her feet in impatience as it becomes clear they're going out.
Sofya's dapple whinnies softly, swinging her pale face towards Benedict's Lady at her impatience in encouragement. Rides. Come oooon. "I'm afraid so," the Vance retainer admits with a put upon sigh. Leaning back in her saddle, she reaches over to give the brown a gentle pat. Good lad. "It's only fair though, as you've just got the one."
"Well, but really, we've got three all together," Benedict points out as he climbs into the saddle and guides Lady out of the stall and over towards Sofya and her pair of equines. "We could have swapped one back and forth."
"I am afraid, Ser Benedict, that it would be a distinct failure in my duty were I to allow you to handle my Lord's horse," Sofya notes amiably as she dismisses the thought. Clicking her tongue lightly, she gently draws her two carefully into the street to give the knight more room to maneuver. "And I quite like my position."
"Oh? If your lord was so particular about his steed's exercise, I would have expected he'd seen to it himself. I mean, ponied along behind a mare? It's a touch insulting, if one happens to be a young and energetic stallion." Benedict smiles faintly as he guides Lady in beside Sofya's horse so the pair can walk side-by-side.
Sofya laughs softly, alto tones ringing out airily. "Truly? My Lord has other concerns to see to, besides this fine lad had his turn to take the lead yesterday. I have known few males who complain of the sight of a female's hindquarters should they have to follow behind." The same is likely true for those of the equine lean. Side by side, they pick their way through the remainder of the village as they speak and head towards the wild shores of the coast.
"It's the 'look, but don't touch' mentality, mistress," the knight explains somberly. "Even a well-exercised man can only take so much of that." Lady seems used to matching her pace to a second horse, and moves placidly along beside her companion.
The dapple seems content to travel side by side as well, although she picks up her pace a little as they edge towards the outskirts of town. Sofya smiles at that, offering, "That may be the case for a less well mannered man. My lad here is a fine one."
"Have you known him so long, to trust him so completely, mistress?" Benedict asks, his Lady meeting the dapple's pace so they stay head to head.
"I have in fact. We've seen miles of Westeros together, me and this one," Sofya replies brightly, casting a fond look over her shoulder at the stallion. Implicitly including her Lord in that statement for it is his horse.
"How enjoyable," Benedict approves. "And what is it that inspires so much travel in your horse's life?" Or, included in that statement, her lord's.
"At times, yes." The wind kicks in from the water as they red further out, touching Sofya's cheeks with red. "Education officially, although I rather think it's a case of wandering feet on top of that," she muses, lifting a hand from the reigns to sweep a lock of hair from her eyes. "Have you seen much of the land yourself, Ser?"
"Some," Benedict answers. "Much of the Riverlands, a bit of the Vale, and the Stepstones for a long while, as well. Which is not a place I would recommend to a beautiful young woman, I fear."
"I've seen less of the Riverlands in recent years, not exotic enough. I liked that Vale," Sofya admits with a wide, toothy smile. "Harsh but in an impeccable sort of way. The horses hated parts of it." Her brows rise at that last location. "How in the name of the Seven did you end up in the Stepstones, Ser?" A twitch of a cheeky grin tugs at her lips, eyes bright as she looks to him. "And do I have to now fear that you are in fact a pirate only disguised as a knight of the realm?"
"Hedge knights find themselves in the oddest of places, mistress," Benedict says with a laugh. "I sometimes wondered the same, and yet there I was for some six years, living the life of a mercenary. All very daring in the telling of it and considerably more ignoble in the doing. But, I assure you, I'm no pirate. Never did learn my way around a ship."
"They do tend to have the tales that are well worth a pint, if you've the leanings to hear them." By her grin and the approving hint to her voice, Sofya has paid a penny or two in the past to do just that. "No pirate? It's almost a pity, I was imagining you in one of those violent shirts worn across the sea. Pretty sight." Pink maybe. Alas. "Tales do soften such things. How'd you find it, that mercenary life? You made it back alive which seems a credit to your sword from what I have heard of the place."
"Well, I've fought pirates, if that's any consolation, mistress, though one can hardly avoid it on the Stepstones," Benedict says, offering his mare's neck an idle pat. "Killed my share. I found it… well. It is a very different life, and not one I could recommend in good conscience. Certainly, there is coin to be made, if one can manage to stay alive long enough to make it. But such a life takes its toll, and one cannot survive it forever."
A hand is smoothed across the base of Sofya's own man's dappled throat, a click of her tongue and a light nudge of knees leading the horse around a bit of debris in their path before settling at Benedict's side again. The pair she leads are well behaved and unshy about traveling in a cluster. All the while, her attention is on Benedict's words. "Then there, you sound more dashing by the minute, Ser," she teases softly, attempting to lighten the subject tactfully. "If ever you've a thirst and a mind, I'd like to hear more of the reality of it. It is certainly somewhere I will never see. Although, there is nothing we can survive forever."
"Not even the things we think we want," Benedict agrees with a quick smile, "but you needn't buy my drink to hear my tales, Mistress Dale. That would hardly be very dashing. Only say you'll share a drink with me, sometime, and my recollections shall be yours, much as you can stand them."
"Those in particular never last," Sofya notes with laughter in her voice. The Vance retainer tips her face into the wind as it cascades over them, dark wisps of hair dancing over her skin. Dark lashes do little to hide the brightness in her slate blue eyes as she regards him with a teasing twist of her lips. "I have found that it is safer to pay the coin rather than share the drinks of a dashing knight in the past, Ser. I might just reconsider that stance for those recollections of yours, however."
"I hope you will, Mistress Dale," Benedict murmurs, watching her as her dark hair is swept back and the wind snaps at their clothing. "I sincerely hope you will."
The angle of Sofya's smile shifts wider under Benedict's attention; a hint of challenge lingers therein. "So what brings you, and that squire of yours I've yet to meet, back to this part of the Riverlands?" She wonders, urging her mare into a quicker pace along the grass.
"The war did," Benedict answers. "I grew up in the Riverlands, and I couldn't rightly turn my back and leave her to reavers when they stormed her shores. Even a hedge-knight-turned-mercenary has some principles." His own smile becomes a touch wistful. "Now that I'm here again, I find I'm loathe to leave. Besides which, I rather think that squire of mine could do with a few years in better company than that which can be found on the Stepstones."
"Ah," Sofya hums knowledgeably. "Your return was more timely than my own then. She draws all of us back as she needs, I suppose." There is a mild click of her tongue as adds, "And even a man of honor must eat, if that takes turning mercenary then I have little in me to question that and especially not your principles. It is not as if you fled to banditry." There are not principles in acts such as that. "Certainly the company might be more pleasant, less likely to impale him from the sounds of it. The air is sweet here, it engenders a pleasant temperament."
"Depending on his manners," Benedict adds wryly. "Still, he spent much of his formative years rightly viewing most anyone new as a danger. It will take a little time to recondition those habits, and sweeter air would be the start of it."
"Well, seems to me that you'd just need Miss Merel to keep him in check," Sofya teases, recalling the small girl of yesterday. "She seemed quite imperturbable."
"And quite devoted to another knight, alas, so I don't think I could appeal to her reining in my squire, though you're right, she might be a better hand at it than I am." As they move though more open spaces, Benedict again looks over at Sofya. "Should we let this trio have their head? They've been very agreeable about walking along slowly."
"Alas. Seems likely not." Lifting her brows at his question, a wide grin spreads across Sofya's features. "Let's." That is about all the warning the good Ser Benedict gets before she takes off. The ponied mare and stallion shift quickly into a canter and then proceed at a gallop, laughter bubbling up from their rider.
"Ha!" Benedict cries, giving Lady a kick she hardly needs once her companion takes off into a gallop. She's just as keen to keep pace at this speed or, really, to surpass her companion-become-competition.
The sea air is sharp and sweet along the winding path of grasses and heels that coat this end of the Cape. The wind and the speed tugs dark locks of hair freer from Sofya's bun, skirts kicking up as they speed over the earth. She flashes Benedict a grin, tongue caught up between her teeth.
Benedict is mostly watching the path ahead, though he cannot help but glance over at Sofya now and again as she races beside him. He gives Lady another jab with his heel, urging the horse on faster to see if she can't pass the mistress and her ponied pair.
Leaning into her mare, Sofya positions herself to make the most of their speed and minding her pace. The stallion is well trained to this setup, gamely following behind the mares but making no attempt to outpace them. Grinning, she urges her own horse on as Benedict begins to take the lead. The dapple manages honorably, but Lady still slips ahead by nose and neck.
As they begin to approach closer to some jutting stones in the distance, Benedict eases Lady back into a canter, and then into a trot. He grins over at Sofya as she and the dapple slow as well. "I think you would have had me, if you weren't ponying the stallion."
Following Benedict's lead, Sofya slows her pair down gently and pats her dapples neck as she lets out a fond laugh. "I could have passed you on the stallion, but this dear was about at the end of her speeds. You had me in the rights there," she replies cheerfully, grin wide and warm.
"Could you have?" Benedict asks, still grinning. "You'll have to get your lord's permission to ride him so we can find out. I'm always eager for a race, if a worthy competitor can be found."
"Pretty sure." Benedicts mare is given a long, calculating look as Sofya weighs her against Inigo's brown. Her smile lingers on her mouth even as she compares the pair. "She's lovely, but Lord Vance's is a fine thing with a good pace," she says sounding both fond and loyal. Gaze merry, she leans closer to conspiratorially add, "I can ride him, in truth. It is just that yesterday was his turn to lead — and between you and me, it wouldn't do for him to get to used to it." Stubborn beasts. "I would need see about a race though, wouldn't do to wear him down if my Lord needs him."
"And my Lady hasn't got a good pace?" Benedict asks, his tone playfully offended. He leans in, to hear Sofya's murmur, or perhaps simply to lean in closer to her. His smile grows a little for her murmured words. "Ask, then," he replies, softly enough that Sofya will have to stay leaned in to hear him. "Lady's honor has now been challenged. I feel obliged to defend it in honorable combat. Well. Honorable shore racing."
"Well, she must if she is being considered for the challenge," Sofya refutes, mock-suprised that his Lady's honor could be so impugned. Soft words spoken, she leans back and adjusts her seat in the saddle with another light hand against her mare's neck. "I shall, but I do warn you, Ser. My Lord may feel the need to challenge that claim to honor himself, it is his steed after all." The warning comes with an amused smile, although she nudges her horse towards those said sandy shores.
Benedict tuts softly. "Really? But I'd have far less fun. I don't imagine your lord is nearly so lovely to watch when he's flying into the wind."
A click of her tongue meets his tut. "You ought to be watching your path more than me. Also, I don't know that I shouldn't be insulted for my Lord's sake. I am sure he cuts a fine figure to the eye," Sofya teases.
"Not my eye. Or at least, not so fine a figure as you cut, mistress," Benedict says, sketching a small bow. "I do try to watch the path. It's just that it's rather difficult."
"I see. I will attempt to be less distracting next time, Ser," Sofya answers with a graceful dip of her head to his bow. It is, however, paired with a coy smile that says she will do nothing of the sort. At a slower pace now, along the shore, the two continue their morning ride for some time before returning to town come the late morning.