|The Ladies Camden|
|Summary:||Alyse and Liliana finally have a chance to begin the process of catching up.|
|Related Logs:||Lili is chastised: On Jerold's Watch, Alyse arrives at the Roost: Makings of a Camden Court. Immediately precedes: Camden's Departure From the Roost.|
|Coastline — Terrick's Roost|
|The Cape of Eagles looms out over Ironman's Bay, a vast, blue ocean inlet, that spreads its watery depths out beyond the horizon. The path that leads down to this coast winds down behind the towers for several hundred meters before arriving at the rocky water's edge. Rather than sand, the coast is covered with innumerable smooth and rounded stones about palm-sized. They stretch up and down the coast in all directions with the battered remnants of driftwood scattered about. Above the beach, one every mile or two, are towers with a large bell and mallet atop them which are to be beaten to warn of an incoming invasion.|
|17 Aug, 288 AL|
The rocks may not seem to be a dressing room, but quite obviously, they are. Way down the coastline, a young Lady in an undertunic of exceptionally fine linen is surrounded by a carefully folded silk dress (complete with slippers), a leather-capped falcon tied to a rock-filled boot with a heavy stick poking out of it for roosting, and a brace of conies in various states of butcherdom.
Alyse has taken a moment's refuge to sit on the rocky coast with her bird and skin their hunt. She is alone, and she sings to herself as she works.. a simple ditty of the forest folk.
Rude, it might be, to venture into a woman's dressing room, but in such times and such places as these, it might be forgiven. A small group makes their way down along towards the coastline. Two sworn swords bearing the Terrick colours, and two women. One in the simple dress of a handmaiden, the other in richer fare, hair flying free in the light wind that comes off of the sea. That they aren't alone, as the small group comes up over the rise, comes as a bit of a surprise to Liliana, eyes narrowing as she attempts to pick out the identity of the woman working like some fishmonger's daughter by the sea, for all that it seems those are not actually fish, "Wait here, and turn your back to guard the way back," Liliana instructs the sworn, more, likely, out of a desire to protect the woman's modesty, "Elise, come with me, if you please." And with that, Liliana begins to make her way along the rocks that lie on the shore in lieu of sand.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a man steps from behind one of the signal towers, arrow on the string. He chirrups softly, a sound like a forest bird, and the lady's head shoots upwards. It would seem that she was convinced of her solitude, for a moment of modest panic enters her eyes and she drops the brace in favour of snatching her dress to herself.
"Oh. Beggin' yer pardon, Lady Liliana." The archer recognizes the lady at last and lowers his bow in favour of doffing his head in respect. With that, he turns and dips back behind tower to resume his duties.
"Lili?" comes Alyse's voice, relief filling the tone. Down goes the dress, to be refolded and set back aside. "I'm glad it's you. I was afraid it was one of the Terrick ladies, or worse, spies of Uncle Dafydd."
"There is no need to beg my pardon, Hywel. It is good to see you watching over Lady Alyse as you always have. It gladdens me to know that she remains under your watchful eye." Liliana continues in Alyse's direction, Elise managing not to look too terribly scandalized. It must come of going on regular outings with the younger of the Camden ladies, "Why are you here without a handmaiden to attend you, Alyse? I have already had occasion to be reminded of the impropriety of being alone with a man, however noble of character and virtuous he might be, and I would not wish for you to have to endure the same lecture." And while she does notice what the older woman is doing, she doesn't comment on it, for good or ill.
"Impropriety. How I loathe that word. It seems I can do nothing but it is thought improper. If I wear trousers, it is improper. If I muddy my dress, it is improper. If I am with my sworn, it is improper. I abhor this word and find it a distasteful invention of scandalized hens and their frightened roosters."
Her calm-voiced tirade over, Alyse shrugs faintly and moves on. "I have no maid to chaperone me," she says softly. "Not here at any case. I brought only Hywel with me." She pauses as she picks back up the rabbit she is currently skinning. "Do you think that one of your compatriots would be willing to attend me in the fields?" This is addressed to the handmaiden aside Liliana. "Hefin needs his exercise." She picks up a liver from one of the carved up rodents and takes off the falcon's cap. "Hefin," she says softly. The falcon eyes the liver, and then snags it when Alyse tosses it.
"Unfortunately, as much or you or I might dislike the word, and the restrictions that have been placed upon us, unless you have a desire to leave our House and find your way as a common woman, there is nothing that either of us can do to change out fate. I have done my fair share to bring shame to your father and to the Lord Terrick who has taken me into his care these last two years. I do not wish the same for you. You are the daughter of the Lord of Tall Oaks, and now, more than any time before, his good name and reputation may well dictate how well and how safely he travels outside of our lands. You do not have the safety of our forests to protect you and hide you from the prying eyes of the other houses. He leaves soon for the Mire. He cannot afford the embarrassment of a daughter who will not do as she has been raised to do." That is said as calmly and as gently as Liliana can manage, for this sister of her childhood, "I am certain we could find a handmaiden to accompany you, and if your father has not yet engaged one to travel with you, I will send one with you on your way." A glance back to Elise, "Elise, will you go and ask one of the sworn to bring Vena to us? She would be glad to attend my Lady Cousin."
Alyse's eyes snap towards Liliana, and her eyebrow arches just so in a perfect allusion to her father's expressions. "You speak boldly, Cos," she says in a quiet voice. After a moment, however, Alyse moves on. "But you are here now, my propriety is in good hands, and Hefin has his meal. All is well." She tosses another liver to the falcon, who focuses on tearing it into edible shreds.
"It is my curse, you know," she muses. "To be impatient with restrictions. Only Papa and Damara seem to make them bearable at times." She sighs, her butchering done, and she rises to go and wash her hands in the ocean.
Liliana accepts the look from her Cousin with her usual calm good grace, "It is not speaking boldly to speak the truth. You are the daughter of the Lord of Tall Oaks. You do not have any more freedom to do as you please without heed for your own reputation as well as our House's than I or any of our family does. Being nobly born allows us many privileges that the smallfolk will never have. But it also comes with many burdens and restrictions. Some are more bearable than others. Elise, following Liliana's instructions, goes to speak quietly to one of the sworn, staying always within view of the two Camden women, "Believe me when I tell you that it is not my intention to chastise you, Cousin. I love you as I love my own sister, more perhaps, as you and I are more alike than she and I will ever be. But the world is changing, and danger is all around us. We both have our curses. And there are ways to be yourself, and also to make certain that you do as you are required to do." Liliana steps away from where she's been standing, moving to hitch up her skirts and begin to gather driftwood, "Are you bringing back the game, or will you be roasting it now and making a meal of it?"
"And to speak boldly is not always a bad thing, Lili," comes Alyse's voice. When finally she returns, she shimmies back into her dress. Hywel, with his eyes constantly scanning the area, pays as much attention to Alyse's state of dress as he might pay attention to one of the rocks on the shore. Good man that he is.
"I suppose it would do well to roast one or two of them now," the elder Camden says with a considering stare. "Though I had originally intended to make jerky of them for the ride to Hag's Mire, I am now informed that we shall be returning home first until the Raven has returned with word of the Lord Rickart's acknowledgement." She shrugs. "Perhaps the rest could be gifted to the kitchens here."
"Sometimes, but not always." Liliana leaves the girl to see to her redressing, though Elise moves to assist, if Alyse requires it, "How long would it take for us to talk the meat and dry it enough to be good for the journey back?" With arms full of driftwood, she heads back towards where her cousin is standing, "The rocks are hot here, we could find a few large enough for sun drying." the hitching up of her skirts has not saved Liliana's dress completely, but more damage has been done by the sand that still clings to the smooth pieces of driftwood she carries back.
Alyse can't help but grin. "Well, I'd planned to smoke it," she says with a laugh. "Only to realize that there aren't any hollow trees around here. So we can sun dry it for now. Hywel should have the salt." She motions for Elise to run and fetch it. Her eyes twinkle a little. "Thanyel says that I mustn't run around in trousers here because people will think us savages. I wonder what they will think of us if they saw us making jerky like kitchen wenches. Never minding our fancy silks."
"Not so close to the shore, no. But we can do what we can here, and bring it back when we are ready to return." Liliana sets aside the driftwood she's collected, brushing off her hands and dress as much as she can, before she too goes to wash her hands in the briny sea. That done, a hand reaches into her skirts to retrieve the knife she carries at all times on her person. It's more slender, perhaps, than the sort usually carried by common and noble alike, but it is still simply a knife. Hunkering down, she begins to butcher the meat for jerky, paying no mind to the blood and mess of it. Elise, good girl that she is, runs off towards where she last saw the ranger waiting by his tower. "They would likely spread rumours, but they know well our skills, and our weird ways are better received here, than they would be in other Houses."
That brings a laugh from the elder Camden. "We are not weird, darling Cos," she says quietly as she gathers up the organ bits and splits them between a wooden bowl and the falcon. "Hywel has promised to make white pudding with the tasty bits," she says with a grin. "And no one makes white pudding like Hywel." Alyse speaks of her sworn as one might a trusted and beloved older brother. He is, after all, ten years her senior. "Remember when he first was sworn to me and he stayed with us overnight in the Cover, after we split off from the Hunt?" She laughs. "Uncle Dafydd was so -cross- when we came back. But Hywel was with us, and he found peppers and herbs and cooked us up that glorious pudding of his when we woke in the morning?"
"Uncle Dafydd is always cross. I have never met a more contrary man. He is not terribly pleased that Stragen has been set as my sworn. I do not think he likes the look of him. I am certain he has already mentioned it to your Father." But as always, there is that tone of obvious love, as Liliana speaks of her youngest Uncle, "Hywel is as close to a saint as I think the world will ever see. And his cooking skills far outstrip both of ours." It would be difficult to say which of the two Camden women is the worst cook, "But it was worth the tongue lashing, if only to enjoy the morning meal and the adventure of the night before."
Alyse chuckles as she sets some of the meat out, and when Elise returns with the salt, she begins to rub the stuff into the meat. "Well, I, for one, blame his hair," she rejoinders. "I do love him, but I shall ever struggle with the desire to turn him over my knee. At least as long as he persists in treating me as a helpless girl-child." Her eyes twinkle. "I dare say, though, that the sentiment is mutual."
"He has never had the pleasure of having a Lady-wife to manage him. I am quite certain he believes that every woman is weak and a shackle on his ankle dragging him down. I have heard tell, that he will not even go to the same bed, more than a time or two, lest the woman begin to set her eyes on him." Yes, their Uncle's enjoyment of whores is not a secret between the cousins. Liliana rises, to gather some water, bringing it back to wash the stones closest to where Alyse is working, cleaning it so that it can be used as a platform. "I thought he would explode, when he saw you and Hywel riding into the courtyard."
Alyse's face sobers. "Father says we are not to speak of such things," she says quietly, her cheeks reddening. "Though I do not understand why. I suppose that if he wishes a woman beside him as he slumbers, that is his prerogative." That Alyse is painfully ignorant of the truth of a man and woman sharing a bed is also no secret between the cousins. Neither is it unknown that Alyse has not the slightest interest in anything beyond her naive notion that 'sleeping together' is a literal phrase.
She shrugs. "I always think Uncle Dafydd is going to explode. He turns red in the face most every time he sets his eyes on me."
Liliana has the good grace to drop her eyes, focusing on her work, before she leaves the stones, washed clean, but lightly coated with the salt from the water, for Alyse to make use of for her jerky, "I do apologize, Alyse. I did not mean to embarrass you. It seems I have developed my own unladylike ways, far and away from what I learned at home." Liliana seems content to bring the conversation back to more stable ground, as she returns to finish dressing the rest of the meat, "That is because you and he have absolutely nothing in common." Putting it mildly.
The older Camden smiles, her eyes twinkling. "Not entirely true," she says slowly. "We both love Tall Oaks and both are fiercely devoted to our family." The meat now salted, she lays each piece out on the stones to let it dry and wither in the fierce sun.
Liliana makes small work of cleaning up the remains of the game Alyse brought back, though she leaves the bones for her hawk, if he has a mind for them. More water, to wash the rocks clean, so as to keep the flies away, before she begins to dig in her pockets, searching for some filmy piece of silk or cloth to cover the meat to protect it as well. "Yes, that you are, and perhaps that will eventually be the bridge that bridges the divide between you both."
"Well, perhaps. The problem is that he is quite hawkish about how to protect the family," Alyse muses. "I shall admit that his.. martial mentality does unsettle me. It makes me wonder what will happen when he reaches a breaking point." The woman stretches a little. "We're leaving soon," she says at length. "Will you be accompanying us? Or remaining here?"
"Would you expect anything less of the Captain of the Guard? It is not an easy thing, in a House such as ours, to be the one who must always turn his mind to war and conflict. He must be hard, so that the rest of us may be soft. He must be cruel, so that we can be gentle. It is not an easy thing, to have to be everything that we try very hard not to be." Clearly, Liliana has more than her share of sympathy for Dafydd's duties, "He will never break. He is a Camden. We do not break. We bend in the wind." Liliana rises again, her skirts still hitched up, to wander down towards the edge of the surf, wiggling her feet into the small bit of sand there, the waves splashing over feet and ankles, but remaining close enough to continue the conversation, "I will not be going with you. My duty is to House Terrick, until such time as my Lord release me."
Alyse's head bows slightly in an acquiescing nod. "Indeed," she says softly. "Though I do wonder. He will end up causing himself great harm if he does not learn to breathe instead of splutter." She speaks as a medical authority here. "His heart shall burst in his chest one of these days, and it is that which frightens me. For his behalf." She shakes her head. "I can fix a great many things of a man's physick, but I cannot mend a heart. I'm convinced he does not drink the teas I prepare for him."
"Have you ever asked him?" Liliana looks back towards her cousin, sitting not so far from her, "You two have been at each other's throats for so long, for so many years, have you ever considered wiping clean the board, and saying, 'let us begin again'. There is so much of both of you that has changed, more than the things that have stayed the same. His health concerns me greatly. He has no one close to care for him. No wife, no constant companion. Perhaps you could do what you can to care for him. The world is changing, Alyse, woods, stone and water. Summer is long upon us, but it will not last, and I fear for what will come to our family."
"Liliana, do you not think I have encouraged him to back down that we might not be so much at odds? on the promise even that I shall be less stiffnecked?" Alyse sighs. "His response is to confirm in his mind that I buck against him out of mere spite."
Lifting her messy braid, she pulls it forward for examination. By this point in time, Vena has arrived and makes her courtesies to the two ladies. "I shall try again. I always shall. I try to convince him that I am not out to shame the family nor am I an ill-bred, ill-mannered whelp, but I do think something about me just sets him on edge. I have not learned, perhaps, to govern my whims as well as you have, dear Cousin. Perhaps that is it."
"I have never thought that you do things to aggravate him just out of spite. And I do think that you do try your hardest to still the waters between you. I do believe, however, that he thinks you act out out of rebelliousness. Your travel to the Roost, for example, without leave or word to anyone. Your escape today, without the proper chaperone. Though I do not judge you for that. I have been called to task for that myself." She shifts her attention to the young girl who comes to meet them. Fourteen, perhaps fifteen, dark of hair and light of eyes, like many of the Roost. But she has a bright sunny face and quick smile. "Thank you for coming, Vena. If you would not mind, I would like to have you attend my cousin," here she indicates Alyse, "Lady Alyse Camden. She has no handmaiden to help and accompany her, and I would be grateful if you would care for her as she has need." Vena dips a polite curtsey to Alyse, the sparkle of mischief in her eyes marking her a kindred spirit to the Camden cousins. "I would be honoured to be your companion, Lady Alyse. If you will have me." Liliana waits, for the introduction to be offered and accepted before she will continue her train of thought.
"I do not -rebel-," Alyse protests. "I chafe, perhaps, but not rebel." She grumps a little. "Is it rebellion to refuse to allow him to scold me in public as if I was the scullery maid? No. I tell him to find me once he is calmed. My father himself sees no problem in this."
Vena's arrival is a welcome one, and Alyse jumps upon the distraction. "Well!" she says with a bright laugh. "Aren't you thoroughly the charming creature! I cannot say that I will be here very long, but you are welcome while I -am- at Terrick's Roost."
"You brought no handmaiden with you today. Is that not rebelling against the way you know we should conduct ourselves? I would have called it so when I did it. I knew I did wrong, but did it regardless." Still, Liliana's tone is mild, as Vena moves to settle close to Alyse, after another curtsey, peeking curiously at the hawk still settled quietly on his perch. "I have had to learn the lessons of court, since coming here. Lord Ser Jerold is a hard man, stern, but he is also kind and forgiving. he expects me to become the best noblewoman that I can be. But he is not so strict that he forbids me to do those things I enjoy. But out of respect for him, I have learned ways to do what I enjoy, without bringing him to aggravation over my unladylike ways."
That brings about a shake of the girl's head. "I very often do not have a handmaiden with me, Liliana," Alyse answers. "I do not need a servant when I am hunting in Tall Oaks. I have Hywel and the other rangers." She pats Vena's hand. "Don't touch Hefin, dear," she instructs aside. "He's liable to nip at your hand unless I put his cap on." Which she reaches over to do. "Could you fix my hair please?" she asks.
Alyse finally sighs. "I understand your words, Cos, and I accept them in the spirit they are given. But mind that I am, in fact, quite ignorant of the ways of other houses. And what I am discovering is shameful here…" She trails off. "I am more determined now to remain in Tall Oaks at my father's side than ever before," she says at length. "These lands are strange and frightening; the people are peculiar and stare. I find myself growing dizzy with the sky spreading above me and so very often I feel that if I do not sit with something tall that I shall slip off the earth itself and tumble feet over head into the open sky."
Which is by way of explanation, it would seem.
"You must always have a female companion with you, Alyse. Perhaps, if your Father allows it within Tall Oaks, for you to go without, then that is his decision. But when you venture outside of our lands, it is considered to be a mark of low character for a noblewoman not to have a handmaiden with her to protect her virtue in the company of men. Not to have one will cause for you to become the stuff of gossip, and it can be vicious. It can be damaging not only to your reputation, but to our House. A point which Lord Ser Terrick impressed on me just last night."
Vena tucks her hands away, swift and slightly frightened. She doesn't wish to be pecked by anything. But the request to see to Alyse's hair seems to cheer her, and she reaches into one of her pockets, prepared as only a handmaiden can be, pulling out a comb and settling in behind Alyse, her hands skilled and gentle as she begins to free the lady's hair from its braid. "Of course, my Lady. I know a braid that will look very fetching in your hair."
"I felt much as you do now, Alyse…when first I came. But as much as my heart aches for you to be able to do as you wish and remain home, in our own keep, you are Lord Sarojyn's daughter. The time may well come when you will have to travel to another House, to a Lord husband and a new life. I will help you as much as I can. As will my mother, and Great-Aunts Serena and Ailya. They all came from outside Houses to our House and ours ways must have been just as strange to them as thes ways are strange to you. You will not always be afraid to live under the open sky, dear Cousin, I promise you."
Poor Vena has to deal with a very firm shake of her charge's head. "Why cannot a man come to me?" Alyse says firmly. "I do not wish to leave Tall Oaks, and if I must frighten off every suitor in order to accomplish it, then I shall do my best. Papa has promised me that we need not speak of this now, and that he will be careful to keep me close." She is pale-cheeked, this hazel-eyed Camden. Frightened, it would appear.
"It is not usually the way, that the man comes to the woman. But perhaps it might be arranged. Still, such an eventuality must be prepared for." But the look on Alyse's face doesn't go unnoticed, and Liliana moves back away from the surf, to make her way over to her cousin, dropping onto the stones beside her, offering her hands, "You would shame your Father by trying to dissuade suitors. You must be on your best behavior, and trust that as he has given your word, that he would not send you away unless it was something you both had agreed to. It is not his way to force any of us to do what we do not wish to do."
Alyse clings to Liliana's hands and nods slightly (again to Vena's ever patient dismay). "You are right, Cos," she whispers faintly. "Papa wouldn't do anything that would bring me harm." She sighs and then closes her eyes, letting Vena's skilled fingers soothe her frazzled nerves.
"He loves you too dearly. But you love him too…and that means doing your very best to be who he needs you to—" Liliana does not get far, as there's a disturbance with the guards Liliana brought with her. A young page, bearing Camden colours riding heels to leather to where they guards are waiting. "Lady Liliana…she's wanted, Lady Alyse….Lord Camden…at the courtyard." he's panting, breathless, but Liliana rises, attempting to pull Alyse as gently to her feet as she can, "Come, we are wanted." There's a decided undercurrent of fear, looking between the page and the older Camden woman. Is something wrong? She doesn't know. Elise and vena, sensing their Ladies' agitation, move to gather everything up, allowing the two women to make their way back towards the Tower. "Come, we can take the horses." One of the guards will have to go on foot.
Hywel appears at his Lady's side, reaching a hand down to help her up. But Alyse is already on her feet, agitated already as it is. She motions for one of the guards to gather up the jerky, even as she slaps on her leather glove and takes the falcon onto her arm. "Shh, Hefin," she says quietly. And with that, she leaps onto one of the horses and waits only long enough for Liliana to mount before she rides, Hywel right behind them.