Page 191: Tending the Fire
Tending the Fire
Summary: Starling finally finds Einion again, in Seagard
Date: 24th January 2012
Related Logs: The Battle of Seagard
Einion Starling 
Seagard - Waterfront
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.
January 24th 289 A.L.

It's been a couple of days since the beginnings of the occupation, and the foot soldiers are at the waterfront to hold it. Now, as those minorly injured begin the short process of healing, there is more the difficulty of morale— and not in the desire to fight, but the actions of some on the 'line' the other day. One pikeman, a tanner turned serjeant, takes a moment of peace, a cup of warm liquid in hand. He has a cloak around his shoulders, and sits by the fire, staring into the flames. It's hypnotizing, certainly, and he probably doesn't even realize that he drinks the tea as he watches the flames dance.

Everyone is so busy, hustling here and there, preparing supplies - what scant amount are here - readying armor, tending weapons, seeing to weary mounts. The latter is certainly true of Starling. Having quietly smuggled her own sturdy little horse away somewhere after seeing he had a new shoe hammered on (she ended up walking a large portion of the way here, in kindness to the animal) the young woman is now out and about in the streets of the low district, calmly ignoring the drunken revelries some lesser knights partake of from the brothels and inns lining the waterfront. To be honest, she keeps rather wisely away from the lantern-light cast from the doorways of such places. Maybe she's already had some trouble? With a wide-brimmed hat pulled low over her eyes and a dusty riding coat donned that flows to mid-calf, hands shoved deep in the pockets, it's really only that recognisable mane of dark curls that betrays the stablehand as female at all, at a glance. A little safety might have been provided in her help, freely offered to those with exhausted coursers in need of a knowledgeable hand. But she keeps moving. An occasional glance about herself might imply she's searching for someone in particular, though Seven knows who, in this rabble. Spying the inviting warmth of a fire, though, she starts in that direction, weighty boots announcing her approach.

There's a dividing line, really, between those a-horse and the footmen. The armour gets less and less solid, and as the water is approached, there is little more than leather, and should one be lucky, a headcap.. of leather. Einion can hear footsteps, the passage of people around and behind him, but it sinks in as background noise. It's a raised voice that garners the tanner's attention, truth be told, and with a hand that wraps around his chest, he calls out, "Just keep your own counsel, you bastard." He's.. angry. Morose.. and not quite the man he is 'back home', surrounded by his hides and dyes. As his attention now moves outward, he catches other movements, and in heartbeats, makes the decision if it warrants anything more than a single glance. Most, no, but the one he watches.. not quite recognizing her. Not yet, at least.

The uncharacteristically unpleasant tone voiced by the hideworker doesn't give Starling any pause. Why would it, given her surroundings? It's all background noise to her, too. Then again, she hasn't identified Einion as the source yet, either. It's either good or ill fortune, depending on one's perspective, that the girl should choose to tilt her jaw upward a little, revealing her features to the dancing firelight in nothing more than that single, subtle cant. The generous mouth, big brown eyes.. she's easy enough to recognise. Especially with that startled-doe expression when she finds a similarly familiar face turned in her direction.

Offering a slow, tentative smile, a faint upward quirk at the corners of her lips, Starling draws closer to the fire. "..well, well. Fancy seein' you here." It's obviously a jest. Judging by her apparent intent to stop, he's precisely the one she has been seeking in this miserable place. Question is, what on earth is -she- doing here? Sweeping the tails of her aged leather coat out behind her, the brunette eases down to a companionable seat atop an upturned pail, resting her elbows on her knees and letting her hands dangle idle between; an unthinkingly masculine posture. And then she just waits, still watching Einion with that little half-smile.

It takes a long moment for recognition to set in; no doubt due to the circumstances in which Einion finds himself. He's no knight, no swordsman, and he doesn't live for battle. It's brutish, messy, and there are plenty that he knows that simply won't be returning home. Fact of war. He begins to rise without thinking before settling down again as Starling does, his expression a shadow. "What are you doing here?" It's not 'hi, how are you?'.. but a true question. He looks around for the warm water for tea, but doesn't find it immediately; probably needed for the makeshift chiurgeon tent for the commoners. "I'd offer tea.."

A palm rises in a gesture of staying placation, silently begging the injured crafter not to rise and undo any good work managed by the healers reserved for those of.. well, less entitled birth. "Working. Same as you." Starling's reply is simple, amiable even, in the face of that gruff greeting and she doesn't seem perturbed in the slightest. "..well, maybe not -quite- like you.." Dark eyes flit pointedly over Einion's form in the firelight, though there's little to see. "Tam tells me you took an axe to the gut.." The girl's tone softens, just a touch. But she doesn't actually admit to having been concerned, perhaps leaving her presence alone as evidence of that.

Einion shakes his head, hand wrapped about his chest again. "Was a mace to the chest. I think it cracked a couple of ribs," he smiles gamely. "But I got the Islander who did it." He'll spare the gorey details, even though he can see it in the dark, in his dreams. His pike right through the man's throat.. a critical hit. "How is Ser Tam? I'd heard he'd gone down?" Or perhaps he'd heard wrongly? "Don't see much of him." A word of regret, undoubtedly, before he looks up again at his 'guest'. "Working, hmm? Them knights treating you well for taking care of their horses then?"

"He's a drunken pig. So I suppose that means he's well enough." With a soft, derisive sniff, Starling shifts her gaze toward the fire, stooping to pick up a nearby stick and prod at those already smouldering, letting them fall into place before tossing it atop them and watching the crackle of sparks. Tapping her temple with one fingertip, she adds, "..nasty bruise. Other than that, he looked fine. Better than some I've seen." If such things haunt the stablehand, they don't play too worryingly across her expression. Indeed, that smile returns as she looks back toward Einion. "Haven't had much trouble from the men.. a few rowdy squires, but they're easily enough ducked with a gutful of wine. What about you, though? Who's looking after -you-?"

The description elicits a chuckle from the tanner. "I s'pose when you've gotten to where he's got, you're allowed?" Knights, even common ones, are a few rungs on the ladder higher than pikemen. Not that it really bothers him; it is what it is, and it's life. "S'good that he's okay. His Lordship needs the swords." Einion looks at his tea cup, and without much thought in it, offers it over. "Some? All I have, but I think when they bring the water back?" He can make more. He doesn't want to comment about what she may have seen, though he has to ask, "In the healer's tent?" It must be what she means. "You keep those squires filled with wine, then. Or—" Or what? What could he do? Pulling his cloak onto an arm that it'd dropped off of, he shrugs ever so slightly, a wan smile playing. "Who's looking after me? I hope the Smith and the Warrior." Besides that? "His Lordship took injury, but looked in on us. So has Ser Longbough."

Starling hesitates, seeming about to decline the offer of tea. But it's all he has and.. well. Somehow it'd be unseemly to ignore it. Extending a hand, she accepts the simple cup, for now merely holding it cradled between both palms, more for the comfort of warmth. "Thanks. And yes, in the tents. I don't linger longer than I have to, though. I'd just get in the way." The young woman smiles a little wider as that unvoiced threat of Einion's trails off, but she doesn't poke fun at him for it. The problem of amorous young lordlings and their henchmen is one shared by any females in such a place; testament of -that- carries occasionally on the salty breeze in the form of a distant wail or the cacophony of entitled laughter. But Starling herself has always seemed quite capable of remaining out of the path of such things. "I will." is all she offers, in the end, with quiet self-assurance.

Eyeing the tanner contemplatively for a moment, she takes a tiny sip of tea, before offering it back toward him. "..are they expecting you to march again soon? -You-, I mean. Not the army. I don't much like that idea, not that you'll listen."

There's a lot to be said about the warmth of a cup of tea. Einion smiles, a touch lopsidedly, when she takes it, and nods his approval there. "Tents are no place to be either. If I didn't have cause to be there, I wouldn't." It's a confession of sorts. "I can hunt any animal, take it down and do what needs to be done, but if I see men lying there like that?" An odd statement for a man in the military, but.. he's a conscriptee, given rank because he'd been through the mills five years ago. Ergo, one of the experienced ones. He stops short, however, of saying that it isn't a place for her, because if he was wounded like some of them? He nods again, a single, definitive gesture. "Good.. you probably have a better eye on that than some.." as evidenced, yes, by the sounds that go on around the quaiside.
In a way, Einion knows exactly what it is that she'd asked, and deliberately sidestepped, even if he answered honestly. There's no one but the Seven looking after him, and the occasional scowl, nod and barked orders from his superiors. "Me march soon? Aye." There something of a slump in posture, a chuff of breath at the ache of his ribs. "There's fighting to be done soon," and he looks into the fire, "and it's going to be bad." The tanner's gaze shifts back to Starling, the lopsided smile fading. "They need all the men here to clear the houses. So, that's what we'll do, soon enough, so the word is." A brief shake of his head is given in an attempt to dispell any thoughts that he is happy in the idea. "I don't do it, miss, and there's hell to pay. It's war, and I'll be hanged if they're feeling good, and not sent back to my ma's farm for a decent burial. That, and there's the men under me," who'd broke and ran, leaving him alone to face the Ironborn.. something that he's had yelling matches with others about, and has gotten some serious dressing down from his superiors about. "I don't much like the idea neither, but they still took me with a bad leg," and marched double time to get to Seagard, "… and they'll take me with me not being able to draw proper breath. They don't care much, and maybe rightly so, or maybe not. Only the Warrior knows."

For her part, the young stablehand moves her dark eyes from Einion as he speaks, settling instead on sharing his distracted study of the little fire before them and listening in silence. Not for Starling, those girlish outbursts of protest or other upset. Stoic calm is better, she's found, in the face of almost all adversity. But still.. she concedes to wrapping her arms about herself more tightly, as if chilled either by the stirring of breeze or notion. "'ll be fine." Is she talking to him, or trying to reassure herself of this rather offhand idea? With a bad leg, cracked ribs and men who won't bloody stand their ground, does he really have any chance at all?

Drawing a deep breath, then halting the motion as if guilty about being able to do so, the girl flicks her attention back toward the weary soldier of misfortune. "Who am I going to go to with my broken bridles and stirrup-leathers, otherwise?" A fleeting pause. "..I'm a good shot with a bow, Einion." You need someone at your back is what she doesn't say out loud.

The hand that had offered back his tea moves unhurriedly now to a light settle on his arm, likely one of the only places to offer a gesture of comfort that won't just hurt him -more-. "I'll be stayin' here til the fighting's done, anyway. If you need anything.." This time, it's her turn to trail off, leaving the words simply hanging in the air between them and regarding his solemn features with a mustered half-smile she won't let slip.

Einion nods, his gaze moving back to the fire as hers does, the flames offering warmth. "Aye.. I'll be fine." It's not meant to be convincing; like everything else, it simply is a statement of being. He knows his chances. "And when this is done, first thing I'll do when I get home is find me an apprentice." Life goes on? "And then I'll have an answer for you on the bridles and stirrup leathers." He gives her something of a smart-aleked smile, though he knows exactly what it is she means. He shakes his head, "Don't draw your bow, Miss Starling.. they'll hurt you worse if they think you could hurt them. Better off to run. You don't owe Seagard anything to stand your ground for her." And that's his take. If he could, he'd up and leave too. But so not in the cards.
At the touch of her hand, Einion shifts his gaze down to his arm, not wanting it to be moved too quickly. "If I have anything that needs doing, I'll ask." He chuffs a small breath of air again, a half smile touching his face. "All the extra horses'll be taken up, from the men falling. Could use another goat for the cart." He chuckles then, seeking to lighten the mood. In the distance, on her way back, one of the mistresses has a pot of water to be heated over the fire. Looks like another cup of tea may be in store, which can easily keep him, and her, if neither are called away, seated in the warmth of the flames and conversation for a little while longer at least.