|One Small Favor|
|Summary:||Avinashi seeks out Rowan to see if the young squire can help her with a little problem.|
|Stables and Kennels — Four Eagles Tower|
|The Tower's Main Stables are nestled into the corner of the courtyard near the portcullis to facilitate quick, easy exits when required. The rear of the structure is backed right against the interior wall of the castle with the heavy wooden roofing gently sloped down towards the slate out front, the floor of the stables kept to dirt. Thick wooden beams are plunged into the ground and serve as a base for the walls between each stall. Hay serves as most of the flooring in the area with a large stack of it off to the side. Each stall has a thick layer on the ground to serve as bedding, with most of the space dedicated to horses though a few have pens of dogs and hounds. An enclosed structure at the end serves as dry storage for riding equipment and saddles.|
|11 October 288|
It is the time of day when the sun is highest and most heavy labor has paused for a few hours. Those men who train in the morning have now set themselves to other tasks (or to eating or washing), and for those who have duties that would permit them shade or rest indoors, such are the best hours to do them. Even the dogs, perhaps, are dozing.
The woman, Avinashi, has been directed to the stables from her queries as to where the young Lord Rowan Nayland may best be found. She's dressed not quite as brightly as usual, the cloth of her wrapped gown simpler and sturdier and, from the way the hem is heavy with dust and grass stains, she has been afield. A basket on her arm further attests the fact, as do the various stalks of leaves and flowers poking out of it.
The dogs are indeed dozing, sprawled with their bellies on the comparatively cooler stone; the horses are heavy-lidded in the heat, shifting lethargically, uttering only the faintest whickers and snorts at the exotic stranger in their midst. It's enough, though, to stir yet another torpent form — that of the sought-after squire, taking his afternoon nap in the open hayloft above. He rolls from his back to his belly, peering over the edge at Lord Jacsen's food taster, blinking a few times at her outline against the bright spill of light from outside.
"Miss — " it's a rasp; he was well and truly asleep, it seems. The slender boy clears his throat, sitting up and pulling bits of straw from his dark curls. "Miss Avinashi…" He drops down from above, landing lightly in a crouch before her, a few feet away, brushing his clothing off as he stands. "Greetings, miss. May I assist you?"
"Oh," Avinashi murmurs, blinking in slight surprise as a drowsy Rowan descends from on high, complete with straw wells. "Forgive me, I have disrupted you," she begins, "but yes, I do think you may be the one to ask for this particular assistance. You are the one who cares for the hounds, here? I have heard your attentions to the dogs have seen them thriving. It is a task you enjoy?"
The boy inclines his head, shaking it slightly. "You are no disruption, Miss, never fear." A slender shoulder lifts in a shrug. "I assist the Master of Hounds and the Master of Horses — to greater or lesser extent, depending." He smiles faintly. "I enjoy it very much. I will deeply regret leaving my charges, when I leave for Oldstones."
Avinashi offers a small nod of her own. "Then perhaps you will not mind the task I put to you, as it was presented to me most unexpectedly and I am not one set to take on such. Come, look here, my lord." She shifts the basket on her arm, reaching with her free hand to push some of the pulled herbs off to the side. Curled beneath, and now blinking hazy blue-grey eyes at the sudden intrusion of light and interruption of warmth, is a very young and somewhat undersized fox kit.
The squire gasps and laughs in surprise at the adorable ball of fur hidden among the herbs. He reaches in to lift it up carefully, inspecting its health with gentle thoroughness. "Look at you," he breathes to the little foxkin as he feels its belly, checks its teeth and ears. "My goodness! How did lovely Miss Avinashi come upon you, hm?"
The kit makes a plaintive little sound at being so lifted and handled, but its efforts at squirming aren't really up to snuff, and the whole endeavor is given up after a few wriggly moments. It's belly is thin and it ribs and backbone are too easy to feel under its fur. Its teeth simply aren't there yet, save for a few hard bumps along pink gums that promise to break through it the coming days. Ears are clean, though there are a few little scratches on the backs of them as well as across its belly and inspection of the region beneath reveals the kit to be a male.
Avinashi watches the inspection quietly, but when the kit fails to offer any answers to Rowan's questions, she allows, "There was a warren near where I found these," she gestures to the basket. "Or, more correctly, there was the remains of one. And that little creature making pitiable noises from within."
"Poor, sweet thing," murmurs Rowan, running a fingertip up the kit's snout and behind its ears. "Not even weaned yet…" He looks to Avi, nodding. "I've cared for pups before whose mother died — I think I know how to help him. Thank you for bringing him to me." He reaches out to collar a page who's dashing by. "Oi! Sid! Run to the kitchens and bring us a bowl of milk, sugar, and barley. Do it quick and don't spill, there's three copper in it for you." The boy dashes off again, eagerly, and Rowan gently presses the gums of the kit, watching them pinken again when the pressure's relieved. "Other than being half-starved, I'm inclined to believe he's in reasonably good shape."
"He had enough spirit to make noise, that always seems a good sign in young things," Avinashi agrees with a faint smile. "Thank you for seeing to him. What may I offer you in turn?"
Rowan snorts faintly, one corner of his mouth dimpling with mirth. "I've always felt the ability to argue and complain was an overall positive sign, myself," he agrees. "Alas, so few agree with me." He pulls up a stool and brushes it off, offering the Dornishwoman a place to sit. "Please, be at ease, Miss. You've done more than enough bringing this sweet boy to me. I appreciate it deeply."
Said Dornish woman accepts the seat, setting her basket down beside her. "You are a young man of very passionate opinions, it does seem," she agrees, her faint smile lingering. "And they seem to draw out equal passion in others. Well, some others, at the very least."
The lad leans back against a post close by, cradling the tiny fox kit in one arm. "Passion. Yes," he murmurs, sighing wistfully. "I am a fan. Perhaps an addict. I'm not certain." He shakes his head a little. "But it doesn't last." He looks to Avi for confirmation. "Does it? That flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long."
That small smile grows a little bit. "You are a young man," Avinashi points out, "certainly you are an addict, as all young men will be. But such flames, as you say, can quickly burn or just as quickly snuff out. Why, is the mystery, I daresay, or there should not be so many songs and poems and stories devoted to the question."
Rowan sighs, looking down at the kit once more. "I had a lover that was — for reasons I can't even explain — spellbinding. Breathtaking. We were ravenous for one another, never sated, always yearning. It was as though we were in the grips of something — far more powerful than just us two. A wildfire, a maelstrom… a tidal wave." He absently fingers a thong of leather about his neck, whatever hangs from it invisible beneath his shirt. "And now I have a lover who I adored and idolized since I was a child. Someone… good. Just… good… and exceedingly comely and lacking in no respect whatever. It's… why am I not content?" He asks, unhappily. "Why does… some deep, deep part of me long to be at sea?"
"Because no man feels more alive than when he stands in death's shadow," Avinashi supposes as her head cants a little to the side. "We are simple creatures and selfish, and we quickly take things for granted. And sometimes, it is only the threat of loss or of danger or of… hunger, that we become aware of all that we already have. Safety, peace, prosperity, they seems to simply make us wish for something else or something more."
"I — " begins Rowan, softly — but just then Sid comes trotting back, bearing a large bowl of milk. "Oi, Sid. There's a good lad. That was quick." The squire gently hands the juvenile fox back to Ashi for the moment, paying his errand boy the promised sum upon receipt of two small bags, as well — likely the sugar and barley. Sending the boy on his way, Rowan sets the deliveries on a nearby work table, a place that appears to be more for the preparation of poultices and unguents than repairing gear. The sugar, barley, and milk are combined, then set over the low flame of a small brazier. "It's not mother's milk," he says. "But he should hopefully take a little."
The golden-eyed woman accepts the little fox, settling it on her lap where, for lack of anything better to do, it curls up and blinks out at the world. The scent of warming milk and barley has his head lifting and his nose twitching at the waft aroma. "I daresay he shall, my lord," Avinashi agrees. "Anything is mother's milk to an empty belly."
Rowan smiles, taking the portion of warmed and infused milk off the heat and soaking a clean rag in it. He brings it to the kit, kneeling down before Avinashi to offer a milk-heavy corner to the little vulpine lips. "There you are, little one… suckle on that a bit." He keeps his hand cupped carefully beneath, so as not to drip on Avi's clothing.
There's a bit more sniffing and then what mostly sounds like a squeak before the kit latching on and begins working on draining the little rag dry of liquid. Avinashi chuckles, holding the furry thing steady. "There, you see? That is very well done."
With a delighted laugh, Rowan watches the hungry kit eat, then smiles up at Avi. "Very well done, indeed," he agrees. "Thanks to you, Miss. Sly and I are both grateful."
"Oh, well then," Avinashi chuckles, touching the kit lightly on the head. "You have a name. You are destined for great things, now."
"Such a clever and original name, too," Rowan notes, smirking. "But those are not my strong suits. I named Jarod's cat Ser Batholomew, after all." He glances at the lengthening shadows, "Speaking of which — I should go make sure Ser Mew is fed, as well. May I leave Sly to your care a short while longer?"
"Oh, well," Avinashi frowns faintly, glancing at her basket of herbs, a few of which have begun to wilt a little. "Yes. I can do so, if you might find me in the sept to reclaim him. "I must hang those so they will dry rather than rot."
"Ah, no, no," Rowan says, shaking his head. "I didn't realize — please, go see to your work. There's always a page around somewhere I can send to look after Ser Mew." He gently relieves the Dornishwoman of her furry burden. "Thank you once again. I'll keep you updated on how he's doing."
"Thank you, I should like that," Avinashi says, standing and dusting her hand across her lap before gathering up her basket. "I hope, too, you find what you seek with those candles of yours, however they may so burn."
Rowan settles down to sit, soaking the rag again so Sly can eat until his little stomach is nice and round. "Thank you, Miss," says the squire. "So do I."
"It was all my own pleasure, please be assured. A good afternoon, my lord. And to you, good mister Sly." Avinashi smiles again as she heads out the stable door.