|Summary:||It seems Orlagh has much to learn from Cordelya.|
|Related Logs:||Lucky Penny and various others.|
|Water, fog and giant reptiles.|
|February 12th 289 A.L.|
“Teach not thy lip such scorn, for it was made For kissing, lady, not for such contempt.” – William Shakespeare, Richard III
The initial trip up the river actually hasn't been too bad. A few days sailing on a small boat that has been secured for the inital journey. But that is at an end. These are the badlands. Where the river widens and branches off into nothing but muck and fog. Cordelya took care of transitioning from their rented boat to a smaller, flatter canoe like thing. Bigger than a regular canoe, and a bit more sturdy, it's still harder work and all paddling by the men to get the rest of the way. They are finally settled in and Cordelya looks back to Jamys and Robert with the large, flat paddles, made to both propel and be able to push off of banks if they get beached at all. "As soon as you boys get tired, tell us. It's slow going through the bog, I know, but there's no other way. Just… forward, boys. Into the fog. I'll tell you when to shift." And off they are.
It's uncertain going. Even in the late afternoon, they haven't seen the sun in hours. The fog is all encompassing, making it difficult to tell beyond ten feet in front of their wide, flat boat. The sounds of the swamp are almost overwhelming — bugs, the hiss of some animal, the breaking of a large lizard's tale in the water, a cry of some ancient bird either mating or dying — constant and alien to the world outside. Cordelya settles back, wrapping her cloak a bit tighter around her against the damp, chilly air.
The Lady's young handmaiden has kept pace with an air of duty that almost borders on the obstinate; never complaining, even when her boots are soaked through and muddied, or her cloak trails in the slushy undergrowth. She simply follows after Cordelya like the others, occasionally offering pleasant chatter or enquiry after her mistress' wellbeing. As they draw closer to the murky depths of the swamps, however, her conversation is less frequent, her humor a little strained. Well, it's not the nicest place in the world to be, really. And so many things had to be left on the first boat. Orlagh despairs, quite frankly.
On the other hand.. she's beginning to see there's genuinely no place for fine silks and hairpins out here. Grasping handfuls of her woolen skirts, she steps warily into the new, smaller vessel, accepting an abrupt hand from Jamys as she teeters precariously for a moment, then easing onto a narrow plank bench just behind the Young Lord's bride. "Begging your pardon, m'lady.." she pipes up, summoning some good cheer to her sweet tone and passing Cordelya a wondering smile. "..but.. how is it that you know just where to go? I can barely see my hand before my face." She demonstrates, waving her fingers before her nose and sighing softly.
There is a reason Cordelya has taken the very front of the boat, so she can see where they are pointed and as much as one possibly can in the fog. She leans almost slightly over the edge of the canoe, studying the side of the bogs that she can see before she extends her thin arm and points it in a long, clear direction. "Keep going exactly at this angle, boys… for at least an hour or two. We might have to stop for the night, we shall see how bad the fog is." She commands quietly, but this is clearly where Cordelya feels most at home. She doesn't need to be reminded to be the Lady here, she just IS. It's home. Of course she's comfortable, even as strange as it seems.
Once she's certain they are on the proper angle, Corrie turns herself back to Orlagh. She changed into one of the more plain outfits she had a long time ago, far more practical about what it will be like getting to her birth-home than Orlagh was. She's not really explaining much about it, unless Orlagh asks. She's just letting the maid learn and see for herself. It will probably be a learning experience for both of them. She smiles, sweet and reassuring. "Oh, Orly… you can see your hand. I can see your hand, for the Gods' sake. And this fog isn't even so bad. I can see the shore over there, mostly, and I know if we orient the boat along it for a while, that we're on the right route. Then there is a large, old tree… almost a heart tree but with no face. I know how to turn there. I… I just know. I have made this trip so many times, every year of my life… How does a bird know how to go home? It just… Does."
Smirking a little, Orlagh concedes. Yes, she can see her hand. And she folds it now in her lap, with its partner. "As you say, m'lady. I suppose this is as familiar to you as the courtyard of home is to me." Her blue eyes openly note Cordelya's lack of tension, the subtle nuances in the orders she gives and the new assurance with which she speaks. "If I may, m'lady.. I think this is the first I have ever seen you so at ease. Is this perhaps what has been troubling you? Being departed from your home for so long?" There's no real suggestion of whether she sympathises, but she does seem properly curious, tilting her head a little askance as she awaits her companion's reply.
For her part, the servant has eased somewhat, these past few days, in her strict propriety when it comes to dealing with her Lady. After all.. who's there to see? In what is plainly becoming a habitual manner, she drops a hand to the pouch at her hip, rubbing with a thumb and finger as if to ensure something remains securely fastened inside. She barely seems to notice she's doing it, now. "I confess to being homesick, myself.. but I put it down to being surrounded by snide Southern 'ladies'." Orlagh has the grace to blush immediately, in the wake of her words. But she doesn't take them back.
Cordelya hugs her cloak tightly around her, shifting on the pank of the seat, her legs stretching a bit more in front of her as she tries to get comfortable in the old boat. Her eyes constantly move to the side, watching the distant, foggy banks of what little shore their is, but it's not just that. Occasionally, she looks up — into the trees, the fog, she hears things that aren't totally there. But it's a comfortable scattered looking, not the paranoid insanity of back at camp. No wonder her possible insanity went missed when she was closer to him. The sounds of this place are enough to startle anyone.
"I…I don't think it's just being departed from home. Yes… this place is more familiar, but… It's more. There are herbs… things I can take which make…. make the noises less. Make… the worries calm. The gods will always speak to me, but if I take these things I… I can ignore it easier. I can put the Greensight away for times when I am alone, and it will not bother others. Without the herbs… the sight controls me. I do not control it. So… so we will get those things. A large supply, and seeds to maybe grow them back home. Hopefully that will…. Fix things."
Rather than seeming perturbed, Orlagh only leans in a little closer, the better to hear her mistress' response; hugging her arms about herself and leaning them on her knees to ward the damp chill rising from the sludge and murkwater. Has she known about any of this, before now? Perhaps. But it's never been spoken of so openly and the girl cannot hide the spark of interest that warms her features. "..I do not pretend to know much of these things, m'lady. But .. is it wise to ignore the Gods, when they choose to speak to you?" Shaking aside a wisp of white blonde from her temple - her usually neat braid is running a little awry in the humidity - Orlagh chews gently on her lower lip. "Clearly it troubles you, m'lady. I am sure you know where a balance ought to be found." She nods, affirming this in her own mind. Cordelya knows best. At least.. this time, Cordelya knows best. "What worries you most, though, m'lady? Are these ailments that a ready ear might be able to ease for you?"
Cordelya winces, just a touch, as the woman asks about a ready ear easing things. It's clear with this being the first time Cordelya is openly speaking to her maid about her own issues, that Orlagh doesn't realize how deep or intensely it goes. Corrie breathes out slowly, folding her hands in her lap, trying not to be as white knuckled as she slightly feels. The fog is getting thicker as they go, only five or six feet ahead visible at any time, so their motions are slower now. Lazily, a massive lizard weaves his way through the muck a few feet behind their boat, his body and tail longer than their whole craft. Corrie ignores him, focusing instead of her maid. "I do not think the Gods would want me to listen to them and not my husband… not my life… I think… There is something wrong, sometimes. It is… Overwhelming. And it's not just an ear, Orly. I feel fine. I'm happy. I love my husband… I will be the Lady of House Flint. Hopefully, soon, we will have an heir… I am not worried about anything but NOT being the woman that Anders needs me to be… and he… He not coming home from war. The things every woman worries about."
Well, Cordelya might dismiss a giant reptile easily enough. But Orlagh, noting the creature, abruptly grips tight at the plank serving as her seat and stares, equal parts awed and horrified, as the scaly tail submerges in the opaque water. But her Lady isn't panicking. She's not batting an eyelash. So the girl tries to calm herself, in the hopes that her momentary fright might go unnoticed. From behind her back, Jamys chuckles gruffly, though not unkindly. Orlagh's only young, after all. "I um.." Admittedly, she has lost the thread of the conversation, just for a moment, and she mentally scrambles to regain a hold. ".. forgive me, m'lady. You ought to be enjoying respite, not facing interrogation. I was curious, is all. And I never doubted for a moment that you loved Lord Anders. You've given me no cause to think any such thing."
Fingertips still shaking a little, Orlagh finally reaches into her pouch and fumbles something into her palm, clasping it tight. It seems to strengthen her, somehow.. though those pale blue eyes are still a little wide, and decidedly fixed on Cordelya's elfin features, now. "You've no need to worry about being what he needs, m'lady. You are already what he desires. The rest.. I can help you with. If it please you." Her thumb rubs back and forth across the curving ridge of the disc in her grasp, absently thoughtful. "I promised to pray for them all. Every morn and every nightfall. Though I would whether I'd sworn to or not, of course.." She trails off abruptly as a large dragonfly of some sort darts back and forth before her features for a moment, startling her.
The lizard pays them no mind, even if he could probably easily overturn their boat. They do not have flesh or blood in the water, they are not food right now and he has other prey to stalk. Still, Corrie's muddy green gaze, almost a match of so much foliage all around them, follows Orlagh's briefly panicked look into the waters and then she looks back up and half smiles. "Oh, Orlagh… breathe, it is fine. Those lizards will not eat you unless you are in the water, and we keep them clear of the docks at Graywatch. They… they are a symbol of my house. They are on our crest, if you've ever seen it…Ah, for house Reed, that is. They are strong, but subtle and strange… dwell in the swamps and strike before any of their prey even know they are there." Very much like house Reed in any given war. Still, Corrie reaches out to take one of Orly's hands reassuringly. The one not holding the coin.
"We will pray. And they will return safe, and we will go back to the Finger… it will be safe. And happy. It will all be fine… but… I cannot expect to raise a child with the gods distracting me and screaming in my ears. It just wouldn't be safe. So… we are here now. There are herbs to gather. You can meet my family. And all will be well." Corrie tries desperately to believe this. Maybe that positive thinking is the only thing really keeping her sane at the moment. And then she finally, fully notices what the woman is toying with and she arches a brow…"…That looks like the coin Fen used to flip all the time…"
"What is it?" asks the girl, softly, as if the creature might take offence at her ignorance and turn about to teach her a lesson in snapping jaws. Seeing as her mistress has noted her scare, she may as well learn. Not that anyone will believe her, should she describe it. Doing her best to oblige, she draws and looses a slow, careful breath. "It's enormous." She doesn't draw her hand away, taking some comfort in the squeeze given it by the Lady's graceful fingers and she musters a wan smile. At least she's managed to conquer the fragile stomach that had assailed her at first, travelling on the water. Giant lizards are just another bump in the road.
"They will be fine." she echoes, after Cordelya speaks of their absent kinsmen, with considerable vehemence in her quiet timbre. "And I look forward to meeting your family, m'lady, truly. I hope they wll approve of my accompanying you." Eventually, she follows the glance down to her tightly-closed fist, gradually unfurling her fingers to reveal the coin resting in her damp palm. "..it.. is." No point trying to hide it. Honesty is always the best policy, with Orlagh. "He wanted me to have something of his, lest I forget him, while he is away." In spite of herself, and in spite of the numerous denials she has made in return to the charismatic Master-at-Arms' advances, her lips twitch upward into an almost fond smile.
Cordelya looks back to the thing, smiling almost fondly, even if the thing could eat her whole no doubt, "Some call them gators. Big lizard… what have you. There's lots of names from the Crannogmen, and even more from the children of the forest who used to live here. You don't need a name for what you can see and know will kill you if you are not smart. They're… they're just a part of home." Oh, how easily she speaks about a thing that'd eat them both alive, as if it was a fond pet of her's, not a dangerous predator. But then her eyes look back up to Orlagh and the conversation has moved on.
The news that the thing IS Fenrir's makes Corrie's eyes widen and her smile bloom bright as the sun. She laughs, open and free, and it makes a few birds wings beat hard as they jump out of low hanging trees in startlement. "Oh, Orly! Finally, thank gods. I thought you would make that man's heart beat so hard it would finally stop. Good… Good. I'm glad you are carrying it. And look at that face of yours. You are fond of him, aren't you? Finally… after all these years! Well, good. Bloody good. He's such a good man, Orly, really. One of the best."
Orlagh's lips form and taste the new word silently as the Lady divulges and she nods slowly in agreement with the further speaking. Though, she's never stumbled across anything quite like that back home, the wisdom in the meaning remains sound.
As the birds overhead take flight, though, their surprise is written similarly plainly across the handmaiden's features. Her jaw drops, if only for a moment, as the dawning realisation strikes her. "You know? You knew?? Oh.." Curling her fingers over the coin again, Orlagh leans forward, pressing her knuckles to her brow with a groan. "..it's nothing like that, m'lady, really.." It only takes a short pause for the girl to begin regathering her scattered wits and composure, looking up sheepishly at Cordelya, blue eyes through wayward wisps of blonde hair. "He's the one the other girls made up rhymes about, growing up. I am not foolish enough to go swooning after him. The way he struts about the place, and that grin.." Methinks she doth protest too much. But she stubbornly sticks to it, shaking her head and clearing her throat gently as she straightens, still not pulling her free hand away from Corrie's. "He is a good and loyal man to the Flint household, m'lady. But I have no intent of becoming just another one in a very long line. My reputation, now, is directly bound to your own. And I will not sully it in dalliances with a soldier, I promise."
There is something always odd about Cordelya's eyes, too intelligent, too sharp for her own good. She's got that sort of gaze that looks like it can drink down to one's very soul and often does, especially at times like these. Without Orlagh even really saying anything towards the matter, Corrie is staring at her and picking apart every bit of emotion on her face. Then the Lady just smirks. She smirks wide and amused, but her eyes never leave Orly. "Don't lie to me, dear… I know we have not been together long, but I can see that look in your eyes. I hear that quickness in your breath, like your pulse is a bird in your throat. I see the way you hold his coina nd I know that you long for him far, far beyond friendship. You should know… He cares for you too. More than the other girls. You are the apple of his eye… the… Unattainable goddess in the field. He dreams of you. He asks after you. When he cannot sleep? You are the one he sees in the sky… I've seen it in his eyes, just the way I see it on yours."
Orlagh's features, always an open book, reveal a swift and wide-ranging array of reactions in the blink of an eye as her mistress so easily sees through her. With wide blue eyes, she holds the other womans gaze unwaveringly, seeming almost entranced by those green hues. Enought to prevent any further protests, anyway. "I am sorry, m'lady.." she begins, looking chagrined once she remembers herself well enough to look something other than gobsmacked. "..my thought ought not to wander, when I am serving you. But.. it is as you say." As abruptly as she had frozen, now the girl seems to thaw in the warmth of Cordelya's apparently genuine happiness. She even manages a smile, though tentative at first. "I.. think perhaps I loved him from the moment he threw me in the water trough for punching Lord Anders." No doubt she's heard that little gem before. "But he was always… distracted by prettier things." Curvier hips, fuller breasts, an altogether easier camaraderie with men. Orlagh possesses none of these things. She lives for her duties and all else comes second.
So the assurances from her Lady that he thinks along similar lines? It brings equal hope and wry resignation. "..he does?" She looks down to her closed hand a last time, before dropping the coin back into the pouch on her belt. "It will pass, m'lady. It always does, with him."
Cordelya smirks still, doubt in her tired, but warm green eyes. She shakes her head at the woman's last words, reaching over for a tight and warm squeeze about the girl's hand. "Orlagh. Look at me. I am serious, this is not a passing fancy. He has cared from you before I even wed Anders. Probably for years. War just makes men truly think about the things that matter to them, because they realize that those things might be lost. It is no surprise it is just now he has come around to being honest about things, because of all the girls in all the world, it was YOU he wanted to carry his coin while he went off to possibly die. YOU who he danced with. YOU who he asked after. When his life is so dearly threatened, YOU were the girl on his mind. No other. Take that to your heart and keep it close…" Corrie counsels her tenderly, but the Young Lady's voice is firm and certain in her statement. Orlagh might doubt. Corrie does not.
Usually, when Orlagh Masing blushes, it's a pretty, feminine touch of rosy warmth across her cheekbones. Not so now. Blushing scarlet, she has to force herself to look up again as Cordelya speaks in that very sure-of-herself tone. What exactly is the 'proper' way to respond to such words? Fumbling for the answer, the girl eventually simply murmurs a stammering few words. "..um.. yes, m'lady. As.. as you say." Damnitall. She's supposed to be the calm and resolute eye to the Lady Flint's wild, unpredictable storm! And now she's sitting here being gently rebuked like a child. But.. well, the woman seems confident in what she says. "Thank you, m'lady." she adds, quickly. After all, the affairs of those beneath her don't really have to be any concern of Cordelya's.
But isn't that why the entire House has fallen for her?
Biting thoughtfully at her lower lip, the handmaiden waits for the color to begin fading from her complexion before venturing any further in this discussion. And even then, she seems to intend to conclude it. "..perhaps it is true. It is a pleasant thing to hold onto, regardless, in their absence." Her eyes stray to the unfathomable depths of the water, sloshing gently at the sides of the low boat. "..I may need some herbs myself, m'lady, before he returns." It's a careful jest. But she's settling again, at last, daring a faint smile back at Corrie, sidelong.
The sight of that fierce, hard blush across Orlagh's features cannot help but draw Cordelya's grin a bit wider. It's an oddly nice feeling to throw her ever confident maid off her carefully protected balance. Corrie chuckles just a bit, patting tenderly at Orly's knee and then leaning back to give her maid some time to breathe. With all the distraction of the conversation, it's been hard to notice the fact they are getting deeper in fog, and night is falling. It's an eerie twilight of blue gray around them, and nothing else. Different noises are starting now, as nocturnal animals make their way out, but the canoe keeps slowly moving.
A deep, warm laugh catches at Corrie's voice as the lady mentions the final need of herbs. "Oh, darling… I brew the best moon tea there is. Not for myself, of course… I wish I had a magic mix to ensure I was pregnant. But I can get you all the herbs you would need, Orly, I promise. You can enjoy yourself and no one will ever know." The lady grins wide, teasing and warm, but it's like this conversation makes perfect sense to her. And she clearly DOES care about Orlagh's feelings, and everyone in the house. Very possibly why her eccentricities are forgiven. "And there is no need to thank me… we are all Flints. We all are family. This is what family does, we care for each other."
At first, distracted as she glances about the dusk gathering in around the party in the small boat, Orlagh offers only a soft 'mmm' of apparent agreement. One. Two. Three. Aaaaand, the penny drops. Moon tea? But that's for..
"Oh, no, m'lady! I did not mean… that is I haven't.. we wouldn't.. no!" Well, if Cordelya's enjoying this newfound advantage over her handmaiden, this is just going to be delicious for her. Swiping an errant blonde lock back from her brow hastily, the girl shakes her head vehemently. "I.. I meant to calm my nerves. I'm not even sure I would know.."
Those books are going to come in handy. The pictures, anyway. Orlagh, of course, can't read.
Plenty of rope to hang herself by, now. If that was the first assumption made by her mistress.. might it actually be the right thing? "Do you think.. is that what he will expect, m'lady? When he returns?" The notion has the young womans expressions warring across her face. Scandalised, certainly but.. perhaps just a little curious, too? Maybe she'd finally be able to make sense of those songs the other girls sing, out of earshot of the men.
The twilight is something Cordelya is trying to ignore. The voices get worse in the dark. The paranoia. The last thing Corrie needs is to have an episode here, when she is the only one guiding them and everyone else is feeling the tender nerves of a long trip into unfamiliar territory. So, Corrie keeps herself focused on HAPPIER issues, like the fact her maid has a lot of training she needs to do herself, it seems, and very little time to do it in! Corrie grins wide, tilting her head at the renewed blush, mischief in her eyes.
"Well, Orly, that is fully up to you. Many would do such things, but if you do not wish to, there is no need. I think Fenrir is enough of a gentlemen. He would wait for you. Gods, he better has, or Anders would probably take his manhood himself. Fenrir wouldn't do that to a lady. … Hooowever…" Corrie beings with a breath and a wider smile, "If you would wish to learn other dances with him… ones done behind closed doors, well, there are many books with lovely pictures. Manuals I've managed to find from houses in Dorne and the Free Cities… all sorts of pleasing positions and methods. it is something easily taught, just like dancing to music, or carefully growing a garden."
"I.." Orlagh falters, steadies, and tries again, doggedly. "I am certain he would not demand it of me, m'lady." There's a 'but' in there somewhere, that she hesitates to voice, twining her fingers together carefully and lowering her eyes to observe them. "..but.." There it is. "..if it would please him, then.. then I should like to.. to at least learn how." What a reward, for a returning warrior! You almost have to pity the man, given Orlagh's apparent choice of tutor.
The mention of books, though, has those innocent eyes widening again. Manuals. That thought is almost as formidable to her as the content. "..I can learn, m'lady.." she says, uncertainly. "..though.. I cannot read." Literacy isn't really a requirement of her station, such as it is. Who would have thought you'd have to be educated in order to make a man happy? On the plus side, the girl is so lost in her musings and discussion, she barely seems to realise she's doing a fine job of enertaining and distracting her mistress.
It's getting hard to see Orlagh's face in the darkness, but it's not just the darkness. The fog is thick enough here that it clearly plays between she and her maid, just a few feet down the boat from her. The men seem distant, even a few more feet back. It's like they are hovering through a dream world, and only their voices and the happy conversation distracts them from the fact that this would be enough to chill even the most solid of men, much less swooning, delicate women. Corrie moves a bit closer, trying to keep Orlagh's attention so the fear doesn't settle in. Corrie's been here before, she can handle it.
"Mm… There are manuals, mainly with pictures. Many women in such a… position…do not read either. We shall teach you things, Orlagh, I promise. And then YOU can decide when it is time to use them. But when the time comes, I promise you'll be prepared. Goodness…." Corrie smiles a bit wider, amusement glimmering through her eyes, "I had to teach ANDERS a few things when we wed. He was quite… pleasantly surprised."
Dimly aware that the air is slowly becoming more oppressive, Orlagh wraps herself more snugly in her plain cloak as her Lady shifts nearer. But, for the moment, she doesn't seem to notice anything much amiss. She's just too intrigued by this new side of her mistress. Their voices, close as they are, do seem to be warped a little, even by this thin veil of fog. As if from underwater, or beyond a treeline. But if Cordelya's calm about it then so too shall Orlagh be.
Pictures. Good. That elicits a relieved nod from the girl, though questions are forming by the minute in her mind. "As I understand it, m'lady, Master Fenrir is unlikely to be lacking in uhh.. 'experience'. I am rather more concerned that he would find me disappointing, by comparison to others. So.. I will learn and hope to surprise him, too." She refrains from asking anything further about Anders and his prowess.. or maybe lack thereof. Yes, she and Cordelya have grown closer over the past few days. But not close enough for that conversation. Yet.
One moment, Cordelya is happily chattering away about husbands, sex manuals, moon tea and everything else she could never bring up in court but she's actually a fair expert with. The next, the thin, tall woman has gone deadly quiet. It might be the time that Orlagh realizes how oppressive the fog and the darkness has actually become. Corrie simply isn't with her any more. Eyes turned outwards, staring into the nothingness around them, towards all those strange sounds. Especially as a howl mingles into the evening's song. She's lost all sense of direction. All sense of time. She just nods slowly to nothing on the air, eyes unfocused and lost.
When there's no answer forthcoming from her companion, Orlagh looks up. Then she discreetly follows Cordelya's remote gaze to the nothingness surrounding the boat. There's nothing there. Absolutely, completely noth-.. oh. Well, that's just downright unnerving. Blinking, as if that would clear her vision, the girl swallows hard, willing herself not to give in to a sudden hollow pit of fear in her stomach. She has no idea where they are. None of them do.
A look back over one shoulder toward the oarsmen offers little comfort; she can barely make out their ghostly silhouettes, despite their being near enough for her to reach out and touch. The steady swish of the oarblades through the slimy waters attests to it further. She's not alone. Just, suddenly, rather lost.
There's no point trying to force the Lady from these reveries. And for now, seeing as she's their only hope and navigator, Orlagh leaves her be, watching her dainty features in profile and simply hoping against hope that the noblewoman will come to in time to steer them true.
The boat sails on further, soon enveloped in the embrace of the mists and whatever lurks beyond the otherworldly veil clouding eyes in more ways than one.