|Promise for a Promise|
|Summary:||Einion and Starling make a… rather long-awaited deal.|
|Date:||3 February 2012|
|Related Logs:||All the Starling/Einion logs, to date.|
|Nayland Campsite - Seagard|
|The Nayland encampment at Seagard.|
|February 3rd, 289 A.L.|
While Einion is still technically on 'medical leave', as it were, the young man is up and around, albeit walking slowly and moving carefully around. Now, he's seated at a pot set over glowing coals, a wooden spoon in hand, stirring the hot water. At his side, there is a cup of tea and a crust of bread, untouched for the moment. Now, and it won't be leaving his sight until his death, his new dirk in a bright brass and wooden scabbard sits at his side, attached by a newly tooled leather belt.
Well, nobody informed Starling of this change in routine, it would seem. The dark-haired girl emerges from the healer's tent within the Nayland area, wide eyes already casting searchingly about the impromptu settlement, quite obviously looking for someone in particular. Idle observation, these past few days, would have seen Starling in the company of some perhaps surprising folks.. most notably tending to the enormous courser belonging to one of the Terrick knights. Unusual, maybe.. but then she, unlike some, hasn't signed her life away to any House in particular, has she?
With her leather longcoat draped over one forearm, not really needed in the warmth of the day, the stablehand sweeps back her ever-tousled locks almost irritably. But more likely than not, it's simply concern. Whatever she's lost, she seems keen to find it again. Ah! Spotting a familiar figure seated by one of the cooking fires, she starts immediately in that direction - or tries to. a few squires cross her path at an inopportune moment, forcing her to pause and stand on tiptoe to keep the tanner - it is him, isn't it? - in her sights. When the way is clear again, she sets off with her usual rangy stride, beating a direct path toward Einion and ignoring the occasional lewd comment or lingering gaze entirely, such is her focus.
People will talk, certainly.. and the word is the stablehand has been tending the horses of more knights before innuendo creeps in. The tanner, however, won't hear of it.. and to him, it only makes sense. Who, other than knights, have horses? Lords, certainly, but they have their own grooms. It's those landless knights that live fight to mouth that need the help. Should any ask, even casually, such talk questioning the mistress Starling gets shut down immediately by the Green Quarter's pike serjeant.. and the lad has earned a modicum of respect. Who else, in recent memory, was gifted something by Lord Rygar Nayland?
No one, that's who…
Einion fishes something out of the pot.. and it's dark, and almost slimy looking.. and holding it by his fingertips (it is hot), he takes a pair of pliers from a spot between his legs, and begins to fashion something from the leather.
Having learned her lesson, Starling takes care to make her presence known as she approaches the seated tanner; her weighty boots clomping across the grass and dirt and her voice coming to address him from a few feet away rather than right behind him. "..you're up." There's perhaps the mildest hint of accusation in the simple greeting. But it's very plainly dismissed as the brunette arrives and steps into Einion's line of sight, a grin revealing a dimple in one cheek. Hugging the fold of the riding coat to herself, Starling hesitates for now, having come to a halt. She's apparently pleased to see him improved but.. now what? Last time she saw him was.. well, not the typical sort of encounter. And she's likely never held a man pinned by his wrists while he writhed and screamed before. Contrary to the whisperings of speculation among the men.
"..how're you feelin'?" is what she settles on, in the end, slowly lowering herself to hunker down by the fire. Her dark eyes fall, briefly, to a contemplation of what Einion's working on.. but she simply doesn't know enough of his trade to hazard a guess. And it's more pleasant, truth be told, to study his features. Now that they're not twisted in agony, anyway.
Einion holds his pliers in one hand, the leather in the other before he turns ever so slowly and carefully around. He's still bandaged, but his wounds are healing. There are pink scars on his neck, his arms.. and his weak leg is stretched out before him. To see her brings a smile to his face before he catches the.. discomfort? Indecision? and it falls a little, though he keeps going, "I've felt better," he begins, and he looks back to his hot boiled leather for a moment before looking back, "..and I've been worse." Much worse. Taking a breath, and thanks to his injury, it's not a deep one, nor will it ever be again, he forges on, just to try to see if he can't even begin to figure out what her look is. "I'm sorry they didn't send me back," it must be it, right? "An'.." his voice lowers, ".. I don't think they will.. not until all this is over, over.."
She didn't know. Never one to conceal her expressions, Starling's eyes widen in abject dismay at the news, a new tension assailing the delicate line of her jaw. It's a long moment before she trusts her voice again, and even then.. it's little above a whisper. Albeit one that grows steadily in ferocity, as the accompanying thoughts begin to sink in. "..they're not.. but.. why? How can they not?" Fighting back a sudden threat of tears, she continues, lowering her gaze from Einion to the fire and muttering viciously under her breath. "You nearly bloody died, Einion!" Yes, she foregoes the title bestowed upon him by trade, unthinking. "..would they have had me let you linger on the brink, in order to release you from service? I couldn't.. I.."
For once, the girl seems at an utter loss as to how to vocalise what she's feeling. Dropping without ceremony onto her backside, she sits in the grass, letting her coat fall into her lap, still with her hands encompassed within the folds of the aged leather. For a time, she simply stares at the pot of heated water, unseeingly. "..they can't make you go." There's a ring of desperate certainty within these words. "I won't let you. You're not ready."
It.. it wasn't it? It wasn't that? Her reaction takes the tanner completely by surprise, and his own expression mirrors her own in the shock. Einion tries to move himself closer to the now stricken horsewoman, and sit on the ground with her, taking the liberty of trying to put his arm around her, just until the shock passes. He couldn't believe it himself, that he wasn't sent home. No.. his lordship expected him to stand, and in that, was given a sidearm. Which, now has increased his standing. A master with permission to wear a dirk? "His lordship gave me a blade, Starling.. I was called out.. and he gifted it to me." He's not entirely certain how much leatherworking he'll be doing after this, but that goes unsaid. "It'd be conceit if I thought they're waiting for me to heal, but.. in the time? They need everyone in the boats.. and I can't not go. Not if his lordship tells me to go." One of the unlucky ones.
Einion doesn't really want to hear her pain; he's realizing more and more that he simply wants to be with her.. even if he can't promise anything but work for the rest of her life. He'd try.. he really would.. he'd try to make it easier for her. "Star.." he sounds almost pleading now, his voice canted low. "You're right, though.. I owe you my life.. and I swear by the Seven that I'll make that up to you in my every waking thought. If it weren't for you.." and he knows it. "I.. even without that.. you're home. You're everything home could be.. and should be."
He had to come here and fight? Fine. She came, too, armed with a bow. He had to lead the levies against the hordes? Alright. She made a deal with a knight to see he was protected. An axe to the chest that nearly robbed him of his life's breath? Okay. She sold her horse to gain him the finest care and held him down while it was administered. But a nobleman gives him a dirk and an order and there's nothing she can do.
Starling almost had her reaction under control. Really, she did. But when the gently placed arm is rested about her shoulders, her resolve crumbles and snatches her hard-won composure right along with it. Turning, the girl presses her face into the hollow of Einion's shoulder, the better to hide the tears that are almost certainly going to end up streaking across her cheeks.. and likely trail clean rivulets through the fine layer of dust settled upon her by her work. Even through the upset, as it takes a strangling hold, Starling's trying to laugh, her voice and words muffled as she buries herself against the tanner's attire. "..tell you where he can shove his fuckin' fancy dagger.." Sagging a little, even now she's thoughtful enough not to actually rest against the man. Not while he's still in such pain. She braces one hand in the dirt instead, the other coming to rub at her nose as she tries, to no avail not to bloody cry.
Eventually, she heaves a ragged breath. But she doesn't raise her head. Just tilts it so she can speak more clearly. "Don't go. Please?!" As if all the pleas in the world will make any difference. "You won't.." She never finishes the sentence. But it hangs in the air all the same. You won't come back, if you go.
Einion has no idea as to the timeline, as such. He knows she came, knows she has a bow, but the deal with the knight? The horse? Einion, actually, had ended up saving the knight after a fashion.. and if there was anything, absolutely anything to be done about a horse, he'd sell all he had back home for her.. and that horse. If he knew, would he think and do anything differently?
He feels her slight weight, and the feel of her beside him is enough to have him lower his head, his face in the top of her hair. He can smell the hay, the horses.. and it's a sweet smell. Very right. The tears, when they come, tear at him.. and it's all he can do not to shed one or three with her. As it is, it breaks his heart, and if there was anything, anything he could do—
The request, then, when it comes? So very, very hard to deny her. How could he? But.. and the confusion lies plainly upon his face. He is a book, open and easy to be read. "If I don't, Starling.. I couldn't ever go home. They'll hunt me down.. could be they'd force my family out.. and we've been there for generations." And he's the last male Wycliffe. "How could I?" But this kind of talk really isn't for the fires. He looks down, presses his lips together tightly, and in taking a deep breath, he begins again, tentatively. "When this is done, Star.. could I have the honour of courting you? For.. well.. but I wouldn't ask you now.. because, well.. there isn't much I could offer you right now." Everything's said on a breath, and in taking another shallow breath, he continues, "'Course, not much I could offer when I'm home, but … " and he shakes his head quickly, "I'll ask his lordship if he'll see fit to send me home, on account of the injury?"
What's done is done.. and she'll never tell him what it's cost her, to come this far. That's not his burden to bear. Not when he has so many already. The work, the family.. this damned war and everyone in it that looks to him for guidance and strength. If things were simpler.. but that's not the way the world works, is it. Sweeping another stray tear from her cheek with a subtle motion of her fingertips, Starling keeps one side of her face pressed lightly to the comfort of the tanner's presence, quieting herself at the sensation of warm breath in her dark hair and settling to simply gazing ahead of herself at nothing in particular. Her fist remains up by her lips, a knuckle pressed to them as her shuddering gradually ebbs to a gentler, intermittent shiver.
The thrum of Einion's voice sounds strange, coming to her through his chest in reverbration and heartbeat. For a while, it seems she's simply lulled by it, rather than heeding the exact words. But when that halting request comes, she blinks, rousing herself in increments. Letting that hand fall away, resting it on a thigh, the girl eventually tilts her features upward in order to meet her companion's gaze; uncaring of the fact her mahogany eyes remain tearshine, or that her lips apparently become a little beestung in the wake of tears. Regarding him sombrely in this proximity, she searches Einion's expression before venturing a reply.
Her gentle voice is rendered a little hoarse, but she doesn't bother to clear it. "..if I say yes, do you promise to come back?" Her understanding of duty is there, albeit grudging. Likely if Rygar Nayland happened by at this instant, she'd take a swing at him and damn the consequences. But for now, this seems a fair deal, to her. Promise for a promise.
Holding her in her tears; it's a moment that he'll not share with a soul. This is his moment, even in her abject sadness, and to be the one who can offer some semblance of comfort? She so tiny in his arms, and he simply wouldn't trade it for the world. Einion breathes her scent deeply.. the scent of horses works with the musky scent of leathers. To see the pain in her eyes, the tears, he reaches up to try to put his finger in the dyke, so to speak, and wipe a drop from the corner of her eye. He searches those eyes, studies every inch of her face, every freckle, every non-imperfection of her face, and he would swear to anything at that moment.
"I swear by the Seven, Star.. and I'll go farther. I will sign my tannery over to you, and when I come home," how's this for trust? "I'll get it back from you. Everything.. inventory, dies, tools.." that are his life. "I'll have someone write my mother to tell her that it's what I want." Einion holds his breath; he's now offered everything he has, everthing that he can ever earn.. and put it squarely into her lap. If only she'd agree.
If anything, even held as she is in the circle of the man's embrace, there's a glimmer of fearful apprehension as he offers her, quite literally, his world. Starling blinks slowly, a tiny sparkle lingering on her dark lashes at one side, before leaning subtly into the gentle brush of that fingertip, studying Einion's features in kind with equal fascination. She's never actually been this.. close to him. And suddenly she's very aware of it. Of her smaller frame pressed lightly to his side, of his masculine scent, of the shadow of stubble that dominates the curve of his jaw, the sweeping curve of his upper lip.. best not to linger on that overmuch. She focuses, with some effort, upon the hues of his eyes, concentrating on hearing his earnest words through the odd rushing in her ears.
"..you don't have to do all that.." she murmurs, in the softest manner of reproval. Unable to help it, she raises her unbraced hand to trace a soothing caress from his temple, along the planes of his cheek. "You don't have to buy me, Einion. If I had to wait barefoot in my shift atop the cliffs.. I'd still say yes. Your word is enough." It goes unspoken, of course, but.. would any mother be pleased at receiving such a letter? She'd likely expect some tavern wench to appear at the doorstep, heavy with child! Not a skinny stablehand clutching a doll of leather and husks.
He'd not expected the embrace to be this.. long. But, Einion just doesn't want to let her go. He's content, holding her in his arm, feeling the warmth of her, the feel of her breathing, her heart beating.. but soon enough, he knows that he'll have to let her go.
If there was any question as to his earnestness and feelings on the matter, he's pretty sure she understands that he's more than sincere in his request. A smile quirks upon his face at her touch, his eyes searching her own, with no thought of what may be happening beyond them. "It would eventually be yours, regardless, Star. Ours." As for his mother? If the doll made of leather and husk was indeed clutched in hand, she'd know immediately who the girl was, regardless of never having met her before, or heard of her even. A mother knows her son, and in that, her son's works. He pauses, the smile growing as the words truly sink in, his eyes brightening; there's no fear, no indecision. She'd said.. "Really?" He exhales, a laugh coming in spite of the world of war around him; she'd said yes, and he's asking if she's sure or is it that he heard correctly? "Star.." He's.. stunned.. and he looks almost ready to burst. He laughs again, and would shout, but he doesn't want to lose that closeness, but.. "You will."
As Einion's laughter dissolves the quiet tension permeating the air around them, the girl can't keep from relenting to a smile. Then a grin, to replace the tears. Sweeping her thumb a last time across his jaw, she draws her hand away, nodding in response and beginning to laugh a little herself, if a little softer than he. "Really." she confirms. He heard right.
Resting her forehead to his for a moment, Starling casts her gaze downward, coy all of a sudden and pressing her lips in a firm line to try and stop grinning like a fool. "Yes, Einion." Is she repeating it for his benefit, or her own, now? Who knows. "..but you'd better come back." Pulling reluctantly away from the man, she seeks his gaze again, still content to leave his arm about her as she sits with him in the grass; a fraction of her usual light humor returning to the depths of her own brown eyes. "..I don't know a damn thing about leatherworkin'." And that's all his family needs. A pair of hands that are worthless for maintaining what little they have in the world. But, for this moment at least, she doesn't care.
The laughter.. it rings in his soul, deep.. and abiding. As if the sound of her breathing, the feel of her heart wasn't enough.. and the touch of her fingers against his face? In a second, in a sound, he's caught, and he has absolutely no reason to fight his way out. He's asked for this, and now in return, he's gotten a breath of happiness. "I swear by the Seven I will. If I have to swim.. if I have to…" and he's at a loss for words, even as he searches for them. He rests his forehead there, and is so very content.. to even steal a kiss would be too much, and he doesn't want the moment broken. Until, of course, it moves to a comfortable, companionable company.. which it does.
Einion keeps his arm there, around the slight form, and as she makes her confession, he chuckles softly. "Y'should, y'know. Horses.. leather. I can teach you, and the first lessons'll be easy. Basic herbs for dyes. You and me out in the northern fields.. getting muddy." It's fun, and he gently teases, "I'll have to hire a maid for you to keep your skirts clean. Or, I'll simply make your leathers for you.. and teach you along the way on those." He's happy, and he's left the boiled leather alone, by now it's cooled, so he'll have to boil it again to regain the suppleness. But no matter. "If I was mean, I'd make you wear your first set, but I won't." It's been a long time since he's been.. this comfortable, just sitting, and just.. being actually happy with the world.