|Simple and Simplicity|
|Summary:||Lark and Veris go for a stroll by the water.|
|Date:||23 June 2012|
|Related Logs:||The Battleplan|
|Waterfront - Seagard|
|Seagard's waterfront was once the gateway to a bustling port, both for the Mallister naval fleet and merchant ships that docked here from all corners of the River coast, West, and even lands farther south. The Ironborn's initial attack on the city laid it low, however, and the wreckage of that initial assault still litters the sea. The Mallister fleet was demolished in that first wave, and the blackened remains of its once-proud war galleys float off the docks.|
|The merchant stalls, customs stations and seedy dockside taverns that once thrived here are largely burnt as well, the Ironborn having looted and gutted them before they were driven from this part of the city. The dock - one of Seagard's three major ones - is still intact, however, and there's enough raw space in the stone buildings that couldn't be burned to house supplies.|
|Sat Jun 23, 289|
A wretched little bird hopped into Veris' tent early this morning. Very early. SO early, in fact, that now they've reached the Seagard waterfront… it's still morning. A cool breeze blows in off the cape and sunlight dazzles off the water. The merchants and shops are already doing brisk business, and the re-opened port is crowded with tall-masted ships, cargo hustled up and down the gangways. Lark seems wretchedly cheerful for such an hour — not a bit hung over. Damn her.
Oh, Gods. So early. Not that Veris is any particular stranger to early mornings under Ser Hardwicke's employ, but he was hoping to get some measure of good sleep considering he finished the bulk of his work the day before. Why work hard if you don't get to reap the rewards? But he promised, so he dragged his tired and hung-over ass out of his cot to shuffle his feet down to the docks with Lark. He's still looking bleary-eyed and half-dead by the time they get there.
So! Here they are! The docks. Annnnd there's Veris. Looking miserable. Lark glances at him, sighs, and takes his hand. "Come on. Let's sit down until you're feeling less…" Less something. Or more something else. There's a bench facing the water, in the shadow of and awning and out of the blinding sun. She steers them that way.
"I'm good, I'm good," Veris assures, but he follows Lark over to the bench nonetheless, led by the hand. Sitting down in the shade helps, the vengeful no longer stabbing into his skull through his eyes. "Water looks nice," he comments staring out blankly to the sea. "Smells terrible, though."
"It smells like fish and brine," Lark says with a soft smirk. "What's it supposed to smell like?" She climbs up to perch on the back of the bench, just behind him, a leg on either side. "Tell me something," she requests, fingertips tracing his eyebrows to his temples, gentle but firm, smoothing over the places that ache and pound.
"Yeah, and the water and the…" Veris' words are lost to a quiet groan as he leans back when she starts massaging his temples. It hurts and it feels so good at the same time. Mostly the latter. "Mmmwhat?" he asks, cracking one eye to tilt his head back and look up at her.
"Where were you born?" she asks, for lack of anything more specific. Let's begin at the beginning. She combs her fingers back through his hair, massaging with her nails, before returning to his temples, eyebrows, and forehead.
Veris relishes in the head-massage for a silent moment before he answers. "Um, at the Roost," he says, closing his eyes again. "In the outlands, anyway. My folks were just, y'know, folks." Not a family of means, by any definition. "There was an ol' knight out there called Ser Kirin. I squired to him awhile. A good while." A helpless sort of snort accompanies a tiny shrug. "I think he just wanted me around to do stuff for him 'till he died."
Lark continues smoothing her fingertips over all the painful places, like someone well familiar with killer headaches, in fact. "Isn't that what being a squire is, though? At least, to start. You have to prove you're dedicated enough to do the shit work before they show you the good stuff."
As Lark continues probing into his brain with both her fingers and her words, Veris goes back and forth between stiffening up like a threatened porcupine and sinking into a relaxed stupor. "Well… I mean, I guess," he says slowly. "I don't think he had any thought to showin' me the good stuff, though. 'Cept how to fight, there was that."
She combs her fingers through his hair again, sliding her thumbs down the nape of his neck and smoothing away the tension from the base of his skull. "That sounds like part of the good stuff," she agrees softly.
Oh, now that's nice. Veris' loosely-hanging head is putty in her hands, completely malleable to her touch. "That's what I like. I like the fightin'," he says. "Like when the Ironborn came. Or even lookin' for the ladies that time. That's real work."
"It's good work," Lark agrees, massaging behind his ears and at the hinge of his jaw before returning to the nape of his neck. "Protecting the small and the weak. It's a thing to be proud of."
"Oh. Yeah, that too," Veris says after a slight pause - mostly 'cause she's massaging at his jaw and he doesn't want her to stop. Ever. "I mean, yeah, of course I'll protect the small an' weak. Like you, li'l birdie, if you ever got in trouble, I'd come save you. But I just like fightin'. Even just tourney fightin'."
Lark grins. She shrugs. And, obligingly, doesn't stop. "Boys do like their games rough and tumble," she muses. "The gods made us that way, I suppose. I've enjoyed watching the tourney so — I can only imagine how exciting it must be to be in the thick of it."
"It makes you feel alive," Veris tries to explain, hooking his arms around her legs and resting his hands on her shoes. "More alive than anythin' else. Even fucking. It's just you, and you're there, and - and you fight. And you don't know what your enemies'll do, how they'll - react, an' if you do the wrong thing at the wrong time…"
"The stakes couldn't be higher, every moment, every second," Lark murmurs, reversing the path of her fingers — back up into his hair, to his temples and forehead and jaw. "That sounds… terrifying. But amazing. It must be so… clear."
"It's clear, but it's hazy," Veris says. His words are definitely transitioning from hazy to clear themselves - it's hard to tell he was ever disgruntled and disheveled as he was just before they sat down. "When it's happening, there's no time to think. Training takes over. Drills an' sparrin' an' all of that. And then afterwards it's clear. Like you move too fast for it to catch in your brain."
"So… you shed everything… clumsy and complicated," Lark posits, smiling softly as her fingers soothe him. "And just become… purpose. And action."
Veris hrmms about that. "I guess that's… yeah," he says. "I guess I don't even have time to think about it once it starts. It's just - there. And you're there with it." He doesn't seem too satisfied with that answer, but it's about as close as he can put it.
She kisses the top of his head, smoothing his hair. "There's something to be said for simplicity."
Veris peers up at her, tapping twice on her shoe with his finger. "Are you callin' me simple?"
Lark smiles down at him, upside down, almost nose to nose. "If I am," she replies, mirthfully, "then there must be something to be said for you."
Veris tries to work that. Simplicity… simple… something to be said… aw, fuck it. He shakes his head slightly, looking up into those big green eyes of hers. "I don't get you, little birdie," he admits with a chuckle. And pushes himself up a bit to give her a kiss in return, though it only reaches to the tip of her nose.
She giggles for the nose kiss, shaking her head. "What don't you get?" she asks, amused and truly curious. "I'm a simple girl."
"I thought I was the simple one," Veris says with that big dopey grin. Then tries to explain. "I don't get what you… want. I mean, you bring me paint and cookies an' you massage my head all good again, but I ain't really much good for nothin' to you." He shrugs, still smiling.
Lark swings a leg over and sits down beside him, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around her shins. "You're escorting me," she reminds him, just so he doesn't think himself completely useless. Then, smiling and shrugging, she adds, "You're interesting."
And look how good of an escort he's been so far! Uselessly hung over until she gave him a nice long head-massage to wake him up some. Veris snorts and shakes his head. "What 'bout you, little birdie? Where were you born? You ask me all sorts of questions but I guess I never asked 'em back at you."
"Stonebridge," Lark replies, lightly. She reaches up to fix a few cowlicks of his hair she left mussed. "My family's been in Stonebridge forever, served the Tordanes as long as there've been Tordanes." She smiles sadly. "It's a shame, what's happened — thought I guess the Naylands aren't so bad."
"Is that the whole thing I heard 'bout the bastard, and then he was the heir, except he got killed, but then he had a secret baby?" Veris asks about 'what's happened'. He's none too clear on the details, apparently. "I heard it's in kind of a shitstorm right now, what with the Lord Regent arrestin' all those men. I don't know. It seemed nice enough when I was there, but… there's only so nice a place can seem when you're tracking for bandits nonstop."
"It is a nice place," Lark agrees, a bit wistfully. "Wasn't much bothered by the Ironborn, thank Seven. But…" She nods, wrinkling her nose. "The bastard who was the heir who got killed and there might be a baby. That. It's awfully complicated, but — it doesn't set right with a lot of us, Naylands running things. Not that they're bad, it's just… Stonebrige should be Tordane." She pauses. "The lady I was speaking with the other day, before the melee. That's her. Lady Tordane. His widow."
"Oh!" Veris says, something having clicked with Lark's last words. "I knew I recognized the colors on that knight, but I couldn't place her. House Tordane. Got it." He stretches his arms out across the length of the back of the bench, letting his head roll back. "Naylands running things don't sit right with most but the Naylands, I reckon," he chuckles. "I know the Terricks ain't happy about it, like. I guess we'll see how it all plays out."
"I don't guess you ever get up to Stonebridge, when you've got a day of liberty?" Lark wonders, glancing at him but mostly looking out over the water.
"I haven't been a lot," Veris admits, glancing over to her when she's looking out on the water and resting his head back again when she's glancing at him. "Spend any free time I get at the Roost, really. Plenty of drink and dice and women to be had there, I guess. Plus…" He clears his throat. "Horses don't like me much, so."
"I know," says Lark, smiling softly. She lowers her lashes, pausing again — shyly. "I could help you with that? Maybe?"
"You - wha?" Veris asks, frowning her way. "How would you even know that?" Her expression dissolves his frown and makes him smile despite himself. "People've tried, believe me."
"I'm very good with animals," she shrugs. "Papa was Master of Horse, Hawk, and Hound until he died. I used to follow him around, and he said I had a knack. Runs in the family — not for everyone. I got lucky."
"Do you work with animals?" Very pulls in his arms and leans forward, giving his back a good roll to stretch out. "I figured you were, like, a baker or something." He eyes her out of the corner of his eye, realizing he really knows nothing much about this strange girl who just showed up at his tent one day. "You bake good cookies, give good massages, and you're good with animals."
She laughs, blushing a little and shrugging again. "I'm a scullery maid. That's like — the assistant of the assistant kitchen maid. So I go what I'm told. Scrub pots and floors, scale fish and pluck birds, gather up eggs 'cause all the other girls are afraid of the chickens." She smirks. "But ever since I was a tiny thing, I've watched and learned from the cook. And because Mum works, too, I got a lot of practice trying to keep my brothers fed. Sometimes, Mum gets stricken with a headache that's so bad it'll last days, so — that's how I learned to help an aching head."
Veris looks impressed with that, no matter how she tries to downplay being a scullery maid. "Sounds like you do a lot, then," he says, nodding. "An' like you should be getting a promotion, at that." He flashes a shy sort of grin at her before looking down at his hands again. "What would you wanna be, if you could be anything?"
Larks beams and blushes, lashes lowering again. She's pleased, it seems, that he approves. "Oh… probably something boring. Master of Horse, Hawk, and Hound like my Papa. Maybe. Or… have a shoppe with big, beautiful kitchens in the back and stone and brick ovens, so I could bake cookies and bread and cakes and pies." She sighs happily, gazing out over the water as she dreams. "And I'd want some land. A place where I could take in animals that people didn't want or treated unkindly."
Veris grins again - his face must hurt from grinning so much, since it appears to be his reaction to everything. "That's three things," he chuckles. "Cheater." He steals a moment to study her when she looks out over the water again. "Well, I know if you had a store like that with all sorts of baked goods laid out, I know I'd come by more'n once a day. You'd probably hafta kick me out, really."
She laughs again. Yes, there's a whole lot of grinning going on, today. She's probably got a good cheek ache going, too. "No, it's not… it's all one thing with three parts. I would just be very busy." She glances at him, smiling bright. "You'd be a tournament knight, of course. Travel all around and win untold riches, have all kind of beautiful women."
"Whaaaaaat. You couldn't do all of those things yourself. Pick one - which one'd it be?" Veris looks over at her, interested to see which one she picks. As for her assessment of him, it sends him into a thoughtful mood. "Riches wouldn't do me too much good," he says with a laugh, fingers raking back through his hair. "I'd drink what of it I could and probably throw the rest to dice. And women, well." He can't argue too much on that point. "Just a knight. I guess that was the plan, to become a knight."
"Just a knight," says Lark, shaking her head, a mirthful smile lingering on her lips. "There's no such thing, you know. Knights are amazing people. They protect smallfolk like me and mine, and see that justice is done when there are reavers and thieves about. They take vows before the gods and ride in wars and risk their lives — all for others. I think being a knight is the best thing you could possibly want to be." She's all earnest. Means every word.
"Well, when you put it like that…" Veris says with a chuckle, half-embarrassed. "People can do that and not be knights, though," he points out. "My brother Kile wasn't a knight, but he went off and fought in the war. Everyone always thought he'd become a knight someday, maybe. Died in the war, though. So." He shrugs. No knighthood for Kile. "Me, I was supposed to become a ravens-keeper. Maybe even a Maester." That thought brings out a snort-laugh. "No, really. I was, uh, smart when I was little. Good with my letters, learned 'em right quick. Even started learnin' some cipher, too."
Lark breathes in, her expression tender and full of sympathy. "I'm so sorry about your brother," she says, reaching over to place her hand on his. "You must miss him still." Her hand is near his, and she carefully extends just her pinky, hooking it over his little finger. "Is that why you didn't become a Maester? To… do what Kile couldn't?"
Veris looks down at their hands, his pinky twitching as hers wraps around it. "No, it's - okay," he says, frowning. "Been a long time." He shrugs and starts moving his pinky around to fidget with hers. "No, well, not - not exactly, I mean, there was… stuff. With people." There's reluctance there to go into any real detail, that much is easily apparent. "Besides, could you imagine me, a Maester?" He fakes a laugh. "Gods, the only thing funnier'd be me as a Septon."
"I think you've very clever," says Lark, softly. "And I think you could be anything you want to be." Her lips twitch. "Except maybe a Septon."
"We can't be, though, can we," Very says with a shrug. "Anything we want to be, I mean. Wantin' don't make us Lords or Ladies - and thank the Gods for that, 'cause they seem all the unhappier for it." He'll stick to being dirty, unimportant smallfolk, thank you very much. "An' I thought I was simple, when'd I become clever?" he asks, laughter dancing in his eyes as he glances over at her.
There's a flash of cheeky dimples. "I didn't say you were simple," she argues, all sensible. "I said if you were simple, there might be something to be said for you."
"Well if I was simple," Very corrects himself, still all grins and curiosity, "then what might be said for me, little birdie?"
Laughing, Larks shakes her head. "I have no idea," she admits, cheeks pink. "But you're not. Simple. Not simple at all." She gazes at him, studying his face.
That makes Veris burst out into full-on laughter. He was totally expecting her to have something in answer! "Well," he says, still chuckling, "I think that makes you an' my mother alone in all the world agreed on that opinion." The chuckles fade, leaving that goofy lopsided grin behind, which also slowly fades. Leaving him just looking into those big eyes of hers for a beat. Two beats. Three beats. "Well come on," he says, standing up and beckoning to her. "Did we come here to sit on a bench all day? Gotta see the sights, right?" Like it wasn't his fault they were sitting there in the first place!
It's possible, on beat three, that Larks lashes lower — just a fraction. A little. The beginning of… something. Then she's smiling and standing, smoothing her dress. "Of course. Things to see, people to do!" She pauses. "Actually, reverse that." She takes his hand, grinning. She might have made that funny on purpose.
Was there something there, or did he just imagine it? The thought occupies Very just long enough that he almost misses Lark's words, which make him double-take back to her with a half-smirk and a raised brow. "Nah, you had it right the first time," he says with a laugh, taking her hand and leading her down along the water. Even though he has no idea where he's headed. They'll figure it out as they go.