|Summary:||Liliana begins to learn to swim. Stragen has the possibly dubious honour of being her teacher.|
|Related Logs:||Not-So-Invited Guests: Potential to result in drowning.|
|To the west of the path leading down, the beach extends below a cliff face and takes a turn inland where the terrain above has collapsed down to be claimed by the pounding waters below. It has formed a small, almost private cove with jagged rocks in the water at the cliffs while the ocean has relaimed most of those from the beach. Due to the elevation of the cliffs, the top of the tower to the north is just barely visible despite the relatively short distance.|
|13 Aug, 288 AL|
Surefooted as a mountain goat, or well, nearly so, so long as she has an arm to hold on to in the trickier places, Liliana is ranging far afield from hall and tower. Which is not terribly unusual. What is unusual, is that she's ranging along the coastline, and not into the wooded areas of the Four Eagles holdings. The tower is some distance away, now, and even the sound of the construction going on at the new docks has faded, leaving the coastlined unmarred, save for these two figures. One, the female, tall and slender, dark of hair, the other, male, taller still, broad-shouldered and flaxen haired. There is a peacefulness to the quiet, only broken by the sound of the surf, or the footsteps of the Lady and her sworn by proxy. "I think I can get it from here."
"Are you certain this is safe for you, my Lady?" Asks her tall sworn-by-proxy. "The rocks, I mean. If you fall and hurt yourself, Lord Jarod will have my head. Definitely, this time!" Stragen guides her down as far as she's willing to go, and releases her arm when she claims she can go further without assistance. Gray eyes scan around him, taking in his surroundings, particularly along the coast.
"What is safe in the world outside of stone walls and towers? I have survived eighteen years of misadventure, Stragen, I am certain I will survive a few more, before you are pledged to fulfill your final duties to me, carrying my body back to the tower. Or wherever I should roam, if you follow me there." A few more careful steps, before Liliana is settled on firmer ground, looking out towards the coast, and the ocean beyond. The waves are not fierce, in the small cove, and there is actual sand, rather than the rocks that cover most of the 'beach' along the Cape of Eagles, "Do you know how to swim, Stragen?"
"If I'm carrying you back as a corpse, then I've failed in my duties," Stragen points out. "And aye, I can swim, some. What Ironborn doesn't know how to brave the water?" He flashes a grin. "Mainly wading in rivers and such to catch fish and the like. Why do you ask?"
"It seems to me, that in recent days, with the coming of the Baneforts, that I have been given over to accompanying Lady Anais more often than not. She has spoken quite a bit about her desire to practice the water ways of her people. But I do not know how to swim, save only to paddle a bit in still water and gentle flowing streams. I have never been in water such as this. But I would be no good to her, or anyone else, if I were to go out with her and something untoward were to happen." Liliana turns back, a hand rising to tuck her hair behind her ears, far enough away from the man who stands head and shoulders above her, that she needn't give herself a crick in the neck, "Will you teach me?"
There's a moment where Stragen's mouth briefly hangs open. That was not something he was expecting to hear. "If my Lady wishes to learn how to swim, I'll bend the Drowned God to my will and make sure you'll have calm sea water to practice in," he offers, puffing his chest slightly. "But, ah, wouldn't it be best if my Lady had a lady instructor? I wouldn't mind teaching someone of the same station as myself, you see, but you're… well…" He smirks a little. "I'm supposed to protect your virtue, and it's not exactly easy to swim in a full gown, soaked, weighing you down."
"I do not want a lady instructor. I want the person to whom I have given over my safety. The one person that I know, by deed and law and his own good word will be my defender and protector. The world is not so safe as it once was, and I find, more to my own sadness, that there are few people that I can trust with myself. With whom I can be myself. Fewer still that I know will do me no harm." It is not an easy world to live in, this world of wheels within wheels. This noble game.
Stragen shrugs a shoulder. "You barely know me, my Lady, not to correct you," he says, beginning to unbelt his sword. He rests it against a rock. "You know that I'm sworn to Lord Jarold and his son Jarod, and if indeed this is a time of trouble, how can you be so sure my word is true? I'm just a common sword. A mercenary. And with a reputation of being a liar, to boot." He folds his arms across his chest. "You'd trust this man to teach you how to swim?"
"I would ask you two questions, then, Stragen, mercenary and sell-sword," is the Lady's answer, as she begins to unfasten the stays of her gown, looking as comfortable here in the wilds as in her own chambers, "First, is your word true when you have given it? And second, having given your word to defend and protect me, would you do me harm if given the opportunity, if you felt it would benefit your position?"
"My word has been true when I've given it, aye," Stragen affirms, his eyes occasionally straying to watch her hands. As difficult as it is for him, he manages to only break her gaze a handful of times. "The second question is more difficult to answer. There would have to be an opportunity so great, as to offer protection from not only the Lords Terrick, but Camden, Valentin, and all of Oldstones and Terrick's Roost as well. And likely the Tordanes, as well, whom were staunch allies of the Terricks until quite recently." He chuckles at the thought of it. "Perhaps someone offered to make me a new face of the Seven? I'd be the Eighth. That's the only thing that would cause me to harm you, I think."
"Then given those answers, Stragen, what cause would I have not to trust you to teach me? Knowing that I would be safe in sharing thought, word and deed with you?" Liliana is not a woman given to frippery or undue finery. Her gowns are made to suit her station, but, in many ways, are plain and serviceable. Easily stepped into, as easily stepped out. The sleeves come off first, everything tucked into the small lee made by some of the jagged rocks closer to the rockface. "Know too, that you are just as safe with me. I will always be truthful with you. I will protect and defend you to the end of my abilities. And will allow no harm to come to you, if I can prevent it."
Stragen laughs heartily at that. "Then what do I have to lose? Aye, just seeing a lady of greater station removed of most of her clothing. Nothing bad will happen, Fjall. Nothing at all." A name he has not yet used in her presence. "So, how precisely are you going to keep your virtue by stripping down in front of a man that's not your husband?"
"I am not intending to throw you to the sand and have my way with you like some rutting mare, Stragen. Nor will you see anymore of me, and indeed, likely far less than Maester Sebastian of my own home, or Maester Constantine of this one have seen. Virtue resides only in very small ways in the flesh. My intentions towards you are virtuous as yours are to me. I have no concern on that account." Liliana pauses, considering, hands on the final fastenings of the skirts of her dress, "if you would prefer not then just say so. I will find someone else, if the idea of it is so disturbing to you."
"Mares don't tend to rut in the sand. Or, at least, I've never seen horses go at it on the beach," Stragen muses, stroking his beard in an attempt to look contemplative. "The concern is not for me, my Lady, but for whomever might chance upon us. Naturally they will think us both lesser. But, if you are not concerned, then I shall not be concerned." And with that, the man begins undoing the buckles to his armor, the new leather jerkin to replace his old, tattered, dusty one.
"I must confess, while I have knowledge of horses, I have never known them so close to the ocean, nor what they would do it they were. Still," Liliana offers, as she begins the slow and tedious process of stepping out of, folding and securing her skirts and the overpieces of her dress, "What noble woman would deign to do such a thing? More likely, they will think me some common strumpet you brought out here to pass your time when you do not have to be seeing to your duties. If we are seen, there is distance enough that we can see the comings and goings and avoid prying eyes. We are here early enough that the cove will not be well-used. And if they will want proof of my honour and virtue, then they may feel free to call the maester and ask for his examination. They will find my maidenhead intact."
Stragen nods quickly, putting his hands out as if to say, 'enough.' "All right, my Lady, you've given this plenty of thought." Shrugging out of his tunics, it becomes quickly clear how much poor medical attention the man has gotten over the years. Old scars, knife wounds and cuts from blades make up the bulk of the lines crossing his chest and arms. They must ache terribly. Loosely folding his removed garb, he begins kicking out of his boots. "You're going to hell for this, Stragen. All seven, all at once," he murmurs to himself, shaking his head.
"I have been told that one of my many virtues is the ability to be pragmatic." With the last of her dress set aside, clad now only in the light linen shift she wears beneath everything, and of course her more intimate undergarments beneath, her hands turn to settling her hair into a tight braid. The easier to manage after it's been wetted down. Catching sight of the man's physical condition, her mouth softens. headstrong and forthright she might be, but the visual evidence of such physical abuse cuts deeply at her, sometimes, overly compassionate heart, "I did not realize you had been so poorly used, Stragen. Will the water help or harm you?" She does not linger long looking over the man, instead beginning to cross the sand towards the waterline, hands keeping her shift from flying too haphazardly.
"Hmm?" Stragen asks, looking down at himself. "Ah, worry not. I only ache when the weather changes. The water won't affect me, worse or better. And this is the life of a sword, my Lady, hired or sworn by blood. War is my meat and bread. Although lately, it's been less war and more brawls." No doubt referring to the night in the inn. Breeches are unbuckled, serving as both a light armor and as the garments that cover his legs, he's down to more or less woolen short pants that end at the knee, that lace up the front. "Right. So the first thing I'm going to teach you is how to hold your breath under water," he declares, and treads over to the rocky shoreline of the cove. He holds a hand out. "Be mindful of your feet. The rocks are sharp."
"It still looks a dreadful sight. Would that I would have spared you the most recent of those, even if you did seem to enjoy yourself at the brawl." Yes, a man did die, but there's no mistaking the sell-sword's reaction to the event. "There is more sand over here," Liliana offers, as she reaches out to take the hand offered her, stepping carefully towards the water. Only then, for that briefest of moments, does she seem the woman of noble breeding she is. A decidedly feminine squeal escapes her lips, at the first touch of the water on her feet, the hand in Stragen's seeming keen to crush his, at least, as much as her strength can, "Cold!" But she's bound and determined. And she takes another step, "I just have to get accustomed to it."
"Aye, you'll get used to it quickly," Stragen advises, moving a head of her to find safe footing down into the cove's waters. "You'll find a good push and pull, here, but the water more or less stays put. That's the nature of coves. And things get trapped in the nook so be mindful where you place your feet. Driftwood and all other sorts of things could be at the bottom."
Liliana will just have to trust to that, as she moves further down along the water, allowing Stragen to lead her. She can't really hide the shivering the water causes, but she is getting more acclimated, slowly but surely. "I will be as careful as I can be, when I cannot really feel my feet." Still, she's game enough to continue, the fabric light enough that, while it clings, does not drag her down overmuch in the movement of the surf. "Or my legs."
Stragen laughs at that. "My Lady, you were the one who wanted to learn to swim. This is part of learning how to swim, to tolerate and function in water that might be colder than we expect," he advises her in a light tone. He takes her other hand in his, until he's at the point where he's waist deep. Higher on her. "Get accustomed to the water. Go down to your shoulders, just relax your knees. I won't have you squealing and giggling at the temperature."
Liliana's hands are holding tight to her sworn, not so crushing as before, but if ever Stragen might have thought himself a potential liferaft, in this moment, he would be one for certain. "Yes, that was very undignified of me, wasn't it?" There's a curl of her lip, an ironic smile, as ironic as the words given between them, in this rather decidedly unladylike scene. But she does as she's bidden, screwing her eyes up tight against the cold, and it's a few minutes before her body finally acclimates to the temperature. "It's not so terrible now."
"Good!" Comes her sworn's resounding encouragement. "Now, when we swim, we want to be unafraid of drowning. So we need to learn how to hold our breath under water. Now watch," he declares, and just lets his legs fold underneath him and kicks him to deeper waters, briefly leaving her immediate vicinity. And he ducks under for a good ten seconds, then comes back up, skin pinkening from the temperature, blonde hair clinging to his face. "We hold our breath, and very slowly exhale through our nose to keep the water out," he declares. "Takes some practice. Want to try it?" He asks, back to her side again, effortlessly paddling over to her.
Liliana, perhaps reassured by the encouragement, and having watched Stragen perform the maneuver without harm to himself, nods. "Breath in through your mouth, out through your nose. The quiet way." Part of her hunter's training, in those times when even the sound of breathing might give you away. But it's a moment, before she steps further away from him, not into the deeper water, but far enough away that she could sit in the bottom as he did. Such is her faith in his word, that she does not ask him for reassurances, as she folds her legs beneath her, dark head descending under the waves of the water. She does not, however, manage the full ten seconds as he did. A few seconds only, before the sting of the salt water, on skin, in her eyes, and the push of the waves unnerves her, and she kicks back up to her feet, head whipping around as she tries to catch sight of him in the last place she remembers him.
"That's fine, you did it!" Stragen laughs, quick to find her arm with his hand - firmly gripped to steady her, but not painfully so, and with only marginal rudeness. He's quick to let her go once she's recovered. "Excellent first try, my Lady. How did it feel?"
Honesty. It's one of Liliana's traits she takes pride in, as her hands come up to try to wipe the water from her eyes, "Terrifying. It felt as if the water was trying to drag me under." Not an uncommon feeling, for someone unused to even the gentlest of tides, "And it stings. The salt." Some people are born to the water like to a fish. This child of tree and grove is not one. But, to her credit, or perhaps, more to the point, to Stragen's, she seems buoyed by the encouragement. "I cam master it. I will do."
"I've been told that's the Drowned God trying to claim your soul," Stragen remarks, regarding the feeling of the tide, as if the water itself would drag one down. "Since half the time I'm an Ironborn raider, half the time I believe in that sort of nonsense. Or, at the very least, I'll tell a stranger that." Beginning to float backwards and away from her, he says, "Now, try it again. Each time you will become less afraid of it. And you will only overcome your uncertainty if I'm not there holding your hand. But don't worry, nothing will happen. I won't let you drown."
"Will you ever tell me, one day, what you really are, Stragen?" But the lady does not try to keep the man close, instead, she simply tries again, putting all of her will and effort into trying not to panic once she's under the water, lasting, this second time, a bit longer than the first. And with less scrambling when she rises. A few seconds to gather herself, before she tries again. The third time more successful than the second.
"Your ears will hurt tomorrow," Stragen comments, containing his smile but chuckling in amusement, watching her repeatedly brave the water. "And, what sort of liar would I be if I told the truth? Maybe if you're lucky, my Lady, you'll hear the unglorious truth to Stragen Stone." Motioning for her to come to him, a mere three yards or so, he says, "You said you could paddle. Let's see it."
"Well, thankfully, the rest of me doesn't feel a thing today." But Liliana does manage some humour, as she comes back up for air, seemingly acclimated enough to the water that she's no longer shivering, "The sort that knows that the truth can sometimes be more effective, if only because it will hurt more. But perhaps one day." A nod, as she sets the conversation aside for now, paddling over towards the man. It's a childish thing, the sort of swimming that isn't swimming so much as breasting and treading water.
"You said you didn't know how to swim," Stragen declares, grin growing from ear to ear as she gets closer. He holds his hands out so that she might take them. "There, rest, good! Now just tread water with me. Move your legs just fast enough to keep you afloat, but don't kick furiously - you'll just tire yourself out." Once she settles into treading water, he asks, "Why is it so important to you, my Lady? To to know my truth. Aren't the lies more fun, more outlandish, more interesting to hear?"
The grip of Liliana's hands on Stragen's is one borne of gratitude, as she manages the distance between him and herself, "I do not, not as I have seen others swim, as you did yourself, before." But she does as she's told, using the man's weight as an anchor, "The can be all of those things, but they are not what is at the heart of a man. And what is in a man's heart, for good or ill, is always of more value."
"The heart of a man," Stragen repeats, brow slightly furrowed. "My Lady, you take me for an intelligent man. I'm just a foul barbarian… don't kick so hard, you'll tire out and get a cramp… who happens to know how to speak well enough when duty requires him to, and act well enough when duty requires him to." He gives Liliana a chance to settle in to treading water before drifting backwards, eventually breaking physical contact and letting her try it on her own. "See? You're swimming. With practice and exercise you can keep this up for quite a while."
"I do not believe that, Stragen. But if you wish me to act as though I will believe it, and not press you for the truth, then I will grant you your illusion." But there's still a smile, on her lips and in her voice, even if she does look a bit askance at being let go of. She's unsure, and her 'gait' falters, but she isn't disappearing beneath the waves either. "Have you been well treated, since you came to Four Eagles?"
Stragen lifts his chin slightly at the topic change, but he gives a nod. "Aye, Ser Jarod was quite kind. I've received no bias or discrimination, my Lady. Not that I would expect such, as I was told from the beginning I was a guest and not a prisoner." He gives a short chuckle. "Funny how the difference from 'prisoner' and 'guest' is the quality of accommodations. I still couldn't leave if I wanted to!"
"This is a House of good heart and noble character, but I will not allow anyone within or without to treat you poorly. Be their bound to the House or a guest. It may be, that you truly serve Ser Jarod, and his House, but so long as you are set to watch over me, to my mind, you are mine. And I protect what is mine." Lilliana, fit and lithely muscled, is still not accustomed to the particular workout of swimming, and that she's faltering is visible. But she soldiers gamely on. She is, if nothing else, a good student. "Funny how the difference between a noble and a commoner is naught save a title and a few gold dragons."
"And breeding. Don't forget breeding," Stragen replies. Floating closer, he offers his hand. "Come, this part of the lesson is done. Time to rest a moment, and I will show you how to turn your paddling into proper swimming." And, if she lets him lead her, he goes back to slightly shallower water where she can touch bottom with her toes and he can relax his legs, folding them underneath him so that he's on even height with her, shoulders-to-shoulders, eyes-to-eyes. "I've nothing against the Camdens, or the Terricks, my Lady, and as long as I'm sworn to protect you and compensated for my efforts, I will. But I belong to no one. In name, and in deed, perhaps. But my will is my own."
"I was bred to forest and glen. The Terrick's were bred to field and stone. And most would say they are of better breeding than I. And yet you do not treat them differently than you treat me." Liliana, grateful for the help, moves with no small amount of relief to the shallower water, taking for herself what time Stragen allows for her to rest, "I have no desire for a lapdog. One who will come to heel, and parrot back to me my own words without opinion or comprehension. I do not believe that it is in me to control someone so. And I have no desire to do so to you. Whatever else your duty might require of you, to me, and with me, you will always be your own man."
It could be the exertion from the swimming, but he briefly regards her with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. "Aye, as you say, my Lady," Stragen states at the end, apparently shelfing both for a later time. "Now. This is what I'm going to teach you to do. It's better than that paddling you do, and is proper swimming." He sinks further into the water, and then pushes off into the deeper cove, demonstrating a breast stroke. He goes out a short distance to let her watch the technique, and then returns, doing the same. Once he returns, he rights himself, and with legs folded underneath, sticks his arms out. "Your virtue will now be in question. I'll hold you up," he declares. "So you don't drown yourself."
Liliana, whether she sees the look he gives her or not, clearly doesn't give any indication of it. Rather, she listens intently to the instruction, and watches, even more closely, if that were possible, the demonstration given. She does remain still, however, swaying only under the natural current of the ocean waves. "I do believe I left my virtue back in the cove. The rest of me trusts I will not be ill used." That said, she moves forward, coming close enough to be taken in hand, as it were, "So how does one do this exactly. I just…lie down as if on my stomach?"
"Aye. I'll support you," Stragen states. "You weigh next to nothing in the water, even with that underdress on. Just do the motion with your arms first. Let your legs go limp." And with that, he sinks down and helps her atop his forearms. Hopefully it's not too awkward.
Sadly, not much of an underdress anymore. Little more than a single-layered linen shift to begin with, the water has made it no more than tissue paper floating around her at some places and at others clinging like a second skin. Perhaps, in some ironic way, that's more a sign of her personal virtue than anything else. That she seems completely unconscious of it. In so many ways still a child, this daughter of Camden. But she comes easily enough, allowing herself to fall forward onto Stragen's forearms, the man's weight allowing her to stop all of her movement. Thanks be to the Old Gods that she actually floats.
"Aye, there you go," Stragen declares as he supports her, his legs working to support himself as his arms and shoulders move to gently support her. And it's clear that even this man's modesty is being challenged, as a few glimpses of the thin cloth clinging revealingly to Liliana's shape is enough to cause him to glance away. "Right. Now. Try to mimic the arm movements I was doing. Make believe you're a frog. Don't kick your legs at all," he instructs.
"Are you a fan of frogs, Stragen? I believe I heard Lord Jaremy say something about you chasing frogs or hunting for them?" The tone of her voice is clear enough. For all Stragen's stories and tales, that seems to Liliana the strangest thing about him. But she doesn't look over, intuiting, rightly perhaps, that looking anywhere but straight ahead might destroy what little balance she's managed to achieve while floating. The arm movements she can do readily enough. And she'd succeed at this as well…if she were actually moving anywhere. Like moving without the proper force behind it, is stalled movement.
"Not so much a fan of frogs, just what happened to be convenient at the time," Stragen responds cryptically. "All right. You've got the arm motions down. Now, kick, slowly, in rhythm with your arms coming apart." And, as she does so, he will gradually drop away with his arms such that, if she's doing it right, she'll start propelling herself along.