|Summary:||Two former citizens of Stonebridge meet again at Terrick's Roost|
|Town Square, Terrick's Roost|
|The town square of Terrick's Roost was once considered well-kept. The stone streets run right up to the building fronts around the edge and the locals have kept the spaces between free of grass and weeds that might otherwise sprung up between them, although dark streaks of stubborn soot have crawled in between the stones. There are several homes and shops located here which show the scars and cinders of the sacking of the town at Ironborn hands. The ruin of the town's Sept can also be seen from here with its ornate stone front rising above the surrounding structures just down the cobblestone road.|
Autumn has begun to deliver its harvest of coolness after the long, hot summer. The square, as usual, is bustling with people who have come with business of various sorts. Some are here to buy or sell at the market. Others have come to visit the tanner or blacksmith. Travelers are stopping at the inn. Among them, a young man wearing clothes in dark shades rides a dark chocolate mare at a slow pace. The only thing remotely bright about him is his auburn hair, but even that appears quite modest, tied behind his neck with a simple leather thong. He guides his horse with subtle nudges of the reins toward the hitching post outside the inn. While he crosses the square, he watches constantly for any traffic that might require him to slow or stop his horse.
Right among those people, a rickety wagon stops next to one of the shops, a stouty, brown horse blowing it's nostrils in front of it.
Samphire descents from the backside of an old wagon, filled with the memorable scent of fish and an army of empty sacks to indicate the former load. A shaggy bearded man helps the girl to find her way down. The young woman has been on the road for a fair amount of time, apparently, for her attire looks a bit disarranged and the faint stains of mud crawl up the seems of her dress. Her flaxen hair is laying in a braid lazily over her right shoulder. While climbing down, she is seems to be very careful with laying some weight on her right leg, where the glimpse of a bandage is to be seen for the attentive observer.
"Goodman, thank you.", she says, as her soft leathery boots find solid ground again " I wish I could offer more than those few coins…"
"No worries, gal, keep yur copper. You've been a lucky one, yes. Not all of those people on the street are such friendly fellows, yes. But I'm in a hurry, go, find your uncle and be careful, willya?", he says with a friendly voice, which seems to indicate a little question at the end of every sentence. "The Seven are good, yes?", he says, while handing her her leathery bag before he climbs back on the wagon and sets the little horse in a peaceful trot again.
For a few heartbeats, Samphire skims the place. Taking a deep breath her eyes wander busily over shops, surroundings and the people crowding the streets -and a bit surprised they seem to have catched the sight of at least the hint of a familiar face. A bit indecisive, she blinks and knit's her brows, as if she is wondering, where she has seen the young man on the dark mare before.
Nathaniel slows his own horse when the wagon ahead slows and then comes to a stop. Such disruptions are common in the square, and gather little notice. Nathaniel waves to the old fish-monger, who must have returned form a profitable centre to sell some of his catch to the troops at Stonebridge. Then he eyes the girl. Strangers are common here, too, but a stranger with an apparent wound draws a frown of concern to his face. He nudges his horse agina toward the inn, and dismounts quickly before tying the reins on the hitching post. Having settled his horse for now, he starts to stride back toward the girl. "Pardon me, mistress? Are you hurt? Do you need a healer?"
Clinging to her bag, she observes the young man again, before clearing her throat and answering. "I …uh… thanks for your concern, master, but I will pull through, I'm sure. But… may I ask you for the direction to the next inn, where one could find a warm place in exchange of a few coins? ", she asks with her voice a bit husky. After hesitating for a glimpse or two, she adds "You are from Stonebridge." -not as a question, a simple discovery. Shaking the dust of her skirts, Samphire meets his eyes expectantly.
Nathaniel inclines his head to Samphire. "As you wish, mistress, but if you find that you need a healer, I an find one quickly enough. As for an inn, that's easy enough." He nods to thwart his tethered horse. "The Rockcliff is there, but rooms aren't cheap, especially iF you're low on coin." He pauses to study the girl in her warn appearance again, and he nods. "I am from Stonebridge," he confirms. "I'm sorry to say that I don't know you. Still, I don't limit my care to those whom I know, and I'd say that a stranger who comes to our town on the back of a fish-monger's wagon is in need of some care." He steps to her right side, and offers his arm. "Will you trust me to walk you to the inn, at least? There you can rest and have a warm meal."
Suspiciously Samphire raises a brow. Biting her lips, she simply stands where she has been standing, since the old fisherman left. Her grey-green eyes try to follow the rickety wagon a last time, but as it seems it has already disappeared behind the next corner. The moment elongates for a heartbeat, then another one. "You are kind, master and somehow rich of care -a good of which the Roost seems to have gained some wealth. My deepest thanks, you…", she looks at the offered arm, with the hint of a bitter expression around the corners of her mouth, as if she has bitten into a sour grape and doesn't make a move to lay her hand on it " may walk with me to show me the direction, if you like.", she concludes. A bit more mild, she continues: "I guess I must have seen you then, since I just left the town, though I think our paths never crossed long enough to exchange our names. Maybe now is the time to… my name is Samphire Undyl, fellow Stonebridgeman. My mother used to sell her honey and our candles at town, maybe you have seen her…", she says while taking a few careful steps in a randomly chosen direction.
Nathaniel moves to link Samphire's arm into his own if she will allow, and he offers her a gentle, caring look. Then, perhaps surprisingly, he urges, "Whatever harm and shadows have befallen you, or whatever you heard about me in Stonebridge, know that I won't harm you, mistress. That's part of why I'm here. I'm a refugee of a different sort, fleeing from an unwelcome past that others have made for me there."
As the offered arm seems to be more persistant, as Samphire would have expected, she yields. Cautious, without laying any weight to the touch, she links her arm into his. And indeed, she seems to be a bit surprised by the man's words, for her moveable brows knit again as she responds. "It is a curious introduction of yours, talking about my shadows and your own …repute in Stonebridge, before even telling me your own name, master. And whether you won't or will harm anyone is yet another riddle, only time could solve.", she says a bit drily, offering him another expectant look.
"Forgive me," he answers, bowing his head and biting his bottom lip. "I'm Nathaniel, Nathaniel Corbitt. When you said that you knew me from Stonebridge, I expected … well … that you, like many there, already have some idea of me." He blushes deeply and sighs. "Perhaps people have turned their tongues to more profitable gossip." He starts to walk, slowly, watching Samphire's right leg in a sign of concern for her keeping her footing. "It's not far," he urges. "I'll take you to a table, and then I'll leave you if you like."
Samphire walks slowly, spending half of her attention to the ground she is stepping on, trying to put her injured foot only at the even middle of the stones and not laying to much weight on it. Following the concerned eyes of her company, she says "It won't fall off, master, not yet. ", though she leans down to confirm the knot of the bandage at her ankle -a piece of soft fabric, where the first stain of reddish-brown and even a hint of an unlucky yellow seem to hav soaked through. "I will take care of it, as soon as I reach a place, where I can have a quiet look at it." Standing up, she says "Corbitt? I've never heard of you, master Nathaniel." , but from now on, her arm seems to be busy adjusting the ribbon in her hair, fumbling her sleeves or searching for something in her bag instead of returning to his arm again. "But it is a pleasure to meet you. Far away from… the shadows of Stonebridge." The last words she says in an oddly tune, a brittle shell of irony, that might show a core of fragile sincereness underneath.
When Samphire releases his arm and begins to fidget, Nathaniel doesn't object or question her actions. However, he continues to walk close beside her. "I don't expect it to fall off," he explains. "But if it's hurt, I'd like to be ready to catch you before you fall and hurt yourself further, or even embarrass yourself. As for calling me master, that's official enough, I'm hardly deserving. I'm just a courier, not someone skilled in great things like working with cloth, stone iron, or even wood unless you count the odd bit of whittling that I do when I have time." He shrugs. "I'm not that important. I just want to help where I can."
"Well… importance is yet another riddle, time can solve.", Samphire answers. "But I don't know how you got the idea to call me a mistress. I know how to manufactor candles and how to avoid bees getting angry at you, but it is my mother who would earn the title of a 'mistress', if anything. And you are helpful indeed. But let me give you a piece of advice,", she hesitates, as the word 'master' seems to have fled their conversation " Nathaniel. Be careful about offering your help to often. You don't know, what the thank will be…" , she says as they slowly come closer to the inn. " I can only offer you the word itself, I fear. Thanks. -Even if I can assure you, you won't have to catch me, /untill/ it falls off."
"This it is?", she asks, as they stand before the building.
Nathaniel looks at the wooden door and nods. "This is it," he confirms. "It's not the finest inn that I've seen, but it's far cleaner than many. You should be safe enough here, if you choose to stay. If you lack coin, some will offer ways to earn it, but you be careful, too. Some of those ways leave their own mark, and it's more permanent than any burn from a candle's flame." He goes to the door and opens it for Samphire. "I know your advice already," he says, and touches the bridge of his nose. "I'll accept it from you as well. Caution is always a good watchword. It's why I call you Mistress. If it doesn't fit, at least its a kindness. I hope that your leg heals well for you, and that your day brings you safety and peace."
As Nathaniel speeks of a candle's flame, Samphire's expression drops for a glimpse. "Well…", she says a bit weakly, before she finds back to her posture again, Curiously, eyeing the young man's nose. "I see, there is so much care in this young man, it already did make you burst over there.", she says with a smirk. "But no worries, I did bring my purse and it should be sufficient untill the streets to Stonebridge will be save again. I won't work for… I'm waiting for my father.", she adds. "He is a hedgeknight, you might have heard from him. He was around Stonebridge, when… well, if you find him in one of those rare hedges around, tell him I'm alive and healthy enough, would you?" And so she takes the first step into the warm smell of bread and ale. "Maybe we'll meet again, master Nathaniel." she says offering him the kindness of a title again. "Well met." Then, she heads right to the Innkeeper, fast enough to avoid drawing unwanted attention to her. "Goodman, I'm waiting for…", she begins, before her words sink into the constant mutter of the room.