|The Ginger Shadow|
|Summary:||Jacsen finally speaks with Sterling, the man who's been following him around all tourney long.|
|Date:||25 June 2012|
|Flags and stuff?|
|Mon 25 Jun 289|
It is midday, and there's quite a bit of hustle and bustle going on around the tourney grounds as all the major events have wrapped up leaving just the dance remaining to finish off the festivities. Jacsen usually tries to steer clear of the thick crowds, since they only serve to slow him down even further as he limps through them on his cane, but today he's moving through the thickest parts of the crowd he can find. Though he never turns to face the man directly, he's aware of a certain ginger shadow who's been following him around for several days now, and he wants to be hard to quickly spot when he gives the man the slip.
Sterling has been single-minded throughout the tournament. That isn't to say that he's been ever-present — at least not that the Young Lord Terrick would know. It helps to have a guardsman to watch over the Terrick when he's with his lady wife, so Sterling can get some sleep. The Banefort knight has done away with his Banefort badge, looking just another hedge knight looking to make it big — except he hasn't participated in a single event except the wild Jacsen chase. Now, as he sees the Young Lord heading for a thick crowd, Sterling actually moves out of the thickest of the crowds to make his own steps easier to choose, allowing him to focus more attention on the Young Lord and less on making his own way. This puts him up against the tents on one side of the pathway, and makes him a bit more visible, but apparently he's willing to risk that.
<FS3> Opposed Roll — Jacsen=Stealth Vs Sterling=Alertness
< Jacsen: Success Sterling: Good Success
< Net Result: Sterling wins - Solid Victory
Noting his shadow silhouetted against the tents, Jacsen figures it's time to make his attempt. He weaves through the crowd, suddenly picking up a burst of speed - but that has the downside of making him limp more visibly, which he hopes the busy traffic will help to conceal. He moves around the far side of the tents, hoping to come up behind the man should he stay in the same location looking for him.
Sterling just watches for the disturbance caused by a cane-using man. Sure there are a couple of them after the various melees, but there aren't enough to make it easy to hide. He cuts across the flow of foot-traffic to the proper side of the path, re-acquires his target, and then steps quickly to catch up to Young Lord as he turns the corner. The lanky knight stops as he reaches the first corner, stopping to glance not-so-idly around the corner. He's not going rushing around any corners, even if he's trailing a crippled man. Not spotting his target, he turns the corner, moving quickly up to the next corner and repeating the procedure, a 'casual' check around the corner, and then moving on. His eyes go down to his feet now and then as well, looking for the tell-tale tracks of cane and limp. Out of the main thoroughfare, they actually last long enough to be spotted now and then.
Jacsen comes out from between the tents and… nope. He's not there anymore. Pausing only long enough to tsk and shake his head, he switches track to a backup plan - he dives back into the crowds but stays at the edge of them, covered but easy enough to spot, and makes his way upstream through the river of people. Ever looking ahead. And as he reaches a section where the density thins out noticeably, he veers off and heads out toward a less secluded area, looking back both ways behind his shoulder - but not for Sterling - and presses on. Bringing him out to a flat clearing on the edge of the tournament grounds, far enough that there are few stragglers, if any.
Sterling follows the tracks back to the flood, his eyes seeking out the disturbances that are involved from people sweeping around slower folks with canes. It makes it even easier when they're going upstream. Shrugging slightly to himself, he stays to his side of the stream, mirroring Jacsen's actions from across the pathway. He shakes his head as he spots the open area, and someone watching his face — closely — might notice the faintest hint of amusement pass over it. As the Young Lord breaks out into the flat clearing, Sterling speeds up his own steps, actually moving directly to meet the man. As he approaches, the rawboned man bows his head, speaking up in a voice a little too deep for his rangy frame, "Young Lord Terrick. It's an honor. I'd been hoping to meet you at the tournament." Well, he's bold as brass, this one.
Jacsen stops short when Sterling calls out to him, slowly turning to face the man. "Good day…" he says, looking over the man properly for the first time. He doesn't look a knight, not even a common one, but that's never a certain guarantee. "I don't believe we've been properly introduced before, though you appear to know who I am," he says smoothly. "I apologize if I've been difficult to meet. Have you some message or business, ser?"
Sterling's features remain in a polite, neutral look as he glances down at the nails of his left hand, picking at some imaginary piece of dirt there before he looks up again, "I've noticed you don't have guards, Lord. Thought maybe you could do with one." No, they certainly haven't been introduced, and the Banefort man aappears quite comfortable with that fact. "Hopes of Th' Roost are on your shoulders, Milord. What'd happen if someone decided to put a dagger in your back?" His hands are carefully away from his weapons as he speaks, rubbing at his right palm with his left thumb, so as to not present it as a threat.
This is a dangerous game they play, and there's no small amount of tension between them - especially since Sterling doesn't introduce himself despite the obvious couched request. "I've guards when I feel the need for them; none when not," he answers evenly. And they both know that he hasn't had guards trailing him all week - except Anais' when they're together. "Is this an audition, then?" he asks, tilting his head curiously.
The Young Lord may be tense, but Sterling just stands there, a slight slouch to his stance, and he curls up his right hand to study the nails there as well. "Seen at least six times you could've been killed and disposed of." His eyelids slip half-closed, the man looking almost lazy as he gestures out toward the empty field, "Half a hundred paces that way would've made seven." A smile forces its way onto the broad, common features, "If I were trying." And then the expression falls away again as if it had never been there. "You don't think the Freys'd stoop that low? Or the Naylands? The Charltons? If they thought you'd support the other over Stonebridge. You could use a good sword."
"And do you suppose a good sword would stop those who would deign to murder me?" Jacsen asks, raising a brow at the man. "There are graver perils in this world unseen would kill just as quickly - or should they wish it, far more slowly, by simply waiting to starve me out, and the Roost with me." He watches the man with interest. "And what would you have done, I wonder, had such a danger confronted me some half a hundred paces from here."
Sterling shakes his head slightly, "A sword ain't what saves you, Milord. It's eyes. And ears. A sword don't help if the guy's already got a knife to your ribs, and all the power in the world don't help if you don't know what's goin' on." His eyes are flat at the question that comes at him, however, and he states, "Depends on the danger. If it was a dagger, I'd've taken him back to your wife for a reward. If it was a sword, I might've gotten there quick enough to stop him and get a reward from you. A bow, and there ain't much purpose in doing more than shouting."
"A practical man," Jacsen notes dryly, measuring Sterling's words at face-value. "And what makes you think that my wife would offer you a reward should you bring such a man to her?" he asks, curiosity keeping him questioning this stranger instead of simply walking away - for now. "Or have you been shadowing her when you've not been following me?"
Sterling shakes his head slightly, "She's your wife, Milord. Wives mourn husbands, and the more fiery ones reward vengeance." He blinks flatly, studying the lamed lord from under those droopy eyelids, "And 'cause she'd want to know who had you killed, Milord. Only way to know that's to get the man." As to the statement of his practicality, well of course he's a practical man. He's alive, isn't he?
"Wives should mourn husbands, at least publicly," Jacsen corrects. "And the more fiery ones may be more inventive in creating a death for them. But the practical man knows this also, and knows or knows of my wife enough to judge that she should reward such gestures." He frowns for a moment and begins walking back toward the direction of the encampments, back to the crowded roadways he came from. "Of course, a practical man also does not trust the words of a stranger who has been shadowing him for some days now, watching him from the darkness."
Sterling shakes his head slightly at the mention of wives creating deaths, "I've served in the Westerlands, Milord. Lady Banefort's daughter wouldn't have you killed. Might make you wish she had, is you pissed her off enough." He turns to walk back alongside the Terrick. A good retainer would stay a step back, but an unknown man a step back might be a threat. "And from the light, Milord." No, he's not exactly ashamed of his actions. "Might've been your lucky day though. Days. Best not trust that manservant you've got, Milord. Saw him gettin' money from someone who didn't want to show no colors."
"In the Westerlands? You've come far for such a task," Jacsen comments lightly, a hint of humor in his voice. "A long way to go to wait for the possibility of a potential payoff. Things must be dire indeed." The comment about his manservant gets a stern purse of his lips. "And I'm to trust such a report from a man who doesn't wish to show his colors, had he any, nor speak a name to be known?" he asks reproachfully, raising a brow at Sterling. Then they're to the crowds again, and Jacsen gives the man a curt nod. "I suppose I shall see you a few more times ere I depart Seagard."
Sterling gestures around himself, "It's the big damn tournament, Milord. You're just lucky I picked you, I guess. Thank the Seven and all that." He shrugs a little helplessly, "Have him watched. Sure someone as smart's you'll find what you're looking for, Milord." The nod and the statement that follows draws a shrug, "Suppose you might, Milord. Be a shame if that wife of yours had no one to reward if someone tried to have you killed." That's his story, and he's sticking to it.
"Hm." Jacsen doesn't seem to buy that story, but he doesn't look completely disbelieving of it either. More than anything, he's distrustful of the stranger. "Then I wish you the best of luck." That's all the farewell that an unnamed shadow warrants, it seems, because that's all Sterling's given before the Young Lord pushes back into the crowds.
Sterling bows his head just a bit, "And my thanks for it, Milord." He waits a bit, as if giving the Young Lord a head start, and then he's tailing him again. Damnedably annoying, that.