|The Natural Bond of Sisters|
|Summary:||Cordelya and Jael fight miserably, and make up just as heartfully, as natural sisters might do.|
|The Flint Campsite|
|A large cabin-style tent stands in the center of the small area granted, the light and dark device declaring it to be House Flint of Flint's Finger hangs just outside on a make-shift armour stand. Dotted around the main camp are smaller tents for the cavalry (who have to share tents), and for the foot soldier (they are stuffed into tents like sardines). There is a small but adequate holding area for their horses with a tent for the tack. In the center of their small area is a cooking fire, with appropriate cooking supplies.|
|Sunday, February 5th, 289|
She's back at the pond. Of course she's back at the pond. It's the one place near this Godsforsaken that doesn't smell of fire and steel and filth. No, Jael prefers the smells of water. Mud. Natural things. And so the evening has found the small woman back at the pond's little shore, seated on a small bit of try ground. She looks smaller for the way she's drawn her knees toward her chest, and a careful eyes might note that her boots have been discarded in favor of digging her feet into the mud below. Her elbows are propped atop bent knees, with hands busied stripping a bit of reed down to its soft core. Silent, and alone.
This time, Cordelya isn't walking to the pond in that dreaming, distant step. No, having spied the small figure from a decent ways off, Cordelya's got a determined tread to her walk and a worried look on her focused jade eyes. She's in another elegant dress, this one a deep gray like storm clouds with white lace to soften the colour. Her hair is in a half dozen little braids woven together. She looks very much the lady, not much of the girl Jael once knew, but then her expression is still Corrie. And she's worried. "…Jael…?" She calls out gently.
Whereas Corrie looks very much the Lady, Jael looks very much the Crannog. She wears the beaten leather familiar of the swamp dwellers, from the breeches to the vest, and even the way her toes dig into the mud speaks of something foreign. Strange, as Markus might put it. At least there are no frogs tonight? Fortunate, perhaps, for judging by the number of stripped reeds that's beginning to pile up beside her, her mood is more destructive than fond. Her own hair has been released from its longer braid, laying across her back in the chopped layers and scattering of tiny plaits — still damp from a recent washing. But even that mane can't hide the slight tension that stirs in her shoulders at the sound of another's approach, even when a familiar voice calls her name. "You don't need to say it, m'Lady," she's murmuring, low voice barely audible. "I'll leave in the morning."
Corrie frowns a bit more, not coming into the mud, terrified to actually ruin another dress. She steps as close as she can get, though, hovering just a few feet away with the stance and need in her body to reach out to Jael when she cannot. "…Jael, come here, please. Sit with me and… leave those things. I do not wish you to leave but…" She exhales a quiet, low sigh, "We do need to talk. Most dearly. Please, sit?" Cordelya gently sinks herself down onto an old tree stump, taking just the edge of it, so there is plenty of room for Jael to sit right next to her.
"I'm fine here, Corrie." The words aren't harsh, but they are firm. Jael has never been one for emotion, and judging by the slight roughness of her voice, there's more betrayed in her expression that she'd care to share. And so her back remains turned to the Lady, as disrespectful as it may be. "I'm listening."
That snapping tone draws Corrie's back a bit straighter, and there is a certain clear, stubborn strength to her voice that wasn't there before. It's a stubbornness she's had since she was a child and very much a part of her personality. "I do, Jael. He is my husband. I WISH to be his. I love the man, even if he has no love for me in return. He does care for me, at least. I am going to bear him children and make his family strong. I'm not damned… I'm blessed, Jael… this is the most life I've seen… Ever. The world. Wars, and stories… Heroics, and yes, pain also… but the life he has given me, I…" Corrie shakes her head slowly, "I would never trade it for being back in Graywatch, unmarried and my own woman, never in a million years."
"Then I'm glad for you," is Jael's clipped response, and for once, she's not yielding to her friend. There's no calm echoing back of Corrie's statements, or careful avoidance of things that may tip the other over some invisible ledge. After all, it's been how long since she arrived, and she's only seen the 'old' Corrie once? Perhaps she's not needed after all. "I won't ruin it for you."
For just a flickering second, Corrie's jade eyes flicker to the side, into the shadows. Studying what might be there. But then she's turning away and focused upon Jael, especially at the woman's cold words in turn. "…If you are glad for me, truly glad for me, then you would not fight this. If you wish to remain near me, and help… and be around for all the future, then you are more than welcome. I would love to have you here. You know me like none other. But… in order to do that, you must obey my husband as well. Not my father. We are not in Graywatch any more…" She murmurs insistantly.
"Do you want me here?" The words are snapped, a bit too sharply, before she's drawing a quick breath inward and looking back to the pond. The reed she'd been pulling at is dropped, and her hands are raised to press her palms to her eyes. "I'm sorry." The words are tight, uneasy. "I came here for you, Corrie. Not to play to his whims."
That question draws another tired, quiet breath from Corrie. She drags one hand across her face before murmuring, "Of course I'd want you here. I do miss home, and I miss you… I'd love to have someone near whom I could trust with the children… to teach them things that isn't about the court, but about nature, and to keep alive the old stories. But I am at his whims. I am his wife. If you wish to follow -my- wishes? You must follow his. That is my wish… if you cannot do that…" She shakes her head slowly, "I…. I cannot ask you to stay."'
Silence. It's thick, the sort that's almost choking, and it lasts long enough that one might wonder if she plans to break it at all. In the end it's the sound of another reed being broken off that jars them from stillness, and the subtler sound of its harder shell being peeled back. "If I stay, it is because I love you. Not because I follow his wishes. Or yours. /I/ belong to no one."
Jael is letting her chin sink forward as Corrie's words carry, and it's likely a good thing that the other cannot see her face, for the tears that streak past her guard are something she'd have no one see. Her fingers do pause in her stripping of the reed — betraying some change, perhaps — and they tremble just slightly when the rough motion resumes. "And if I were to play this little game?" She finally offers, her own voice barely audible. "If I were to bow and pretend to care what his pretentious little ass wants? Then would I be worthy of you?"'
A slightly colder look crosses Corrie's eyes, "Do not speak of my husband like that, Jael. I mean it. He is a good man. One of the best. You cannot pretend to bow and care. YOu must care. I care, Jael… does that not matter to you? And he cares about me. He is trying to protect me, you realize that? The world out of Graywatch is far, far different than our little home. The courts would tear he and I apart if they had seen me as a youth… if I would… lose myself again…" There is an odd and immediate fear in her voice as she says that. "We must be proper. This is life now. You must wish to be a part of this, to follow his words… and then you can stay."
"I am not proper, Corrie," she reminds. "Even if I were to stay, to swear fealty or care or… whatever it is you want of me, I'll never be one of your ladies in waiting. You thought I was part of the swamps." What had been almost endearing before has become a barb for Jael. "Would it help or hurt you, to have me here?"
"I… I don't know, Jael…" Corrie was getting ready to leave, but now she lingers, some hope that she might be able to salvage this friendship lingering, especially in the fear of all that has happened as of late. "…I… I thought maybe I was better… Maybe I didn't need… Help." Corrie murmurs raggedly. "But… things have started… I…I'm not…" She frowns, almost scared to admit it aloud. "I don't know, in truth. Of course I want you hear. I miss you. You are… one of my only friends."
"You left." It's a harsh reminder, but she manages to keep the tone from her edge. It simply is. "You left, and I stayed. I should never have come here." Another harsh truth, and one that has taken the life of many reeds tonight. "I care about you. I always have, and I always will." It sounds almost like goodbye. And perhaps it would be, if it weren't for the quiet question, "Would he have me be one of your ladies? Or take me as I am?" Leather, weapons, and all things unladylike.
The last comment makes a slightly deeper frown in her lips, body straightening a bit. "I…I do not know, Jael. You would have to ask him about it. Speak to him. Tell him you are willing to follow his word. He is not an unreasonable man. If you would put yourself at his service just… try and…. well, try and work with him? Say that you wish to remain as you are. A hired sword, of sorts. I do not know if he will… go for it, but you could try? The biggest offense that he took was at your saying you would not listen to his word. That he cannot abide."
"It was a fucking trick question," she snaps again, though it's clear her frustration isn't at Corrie. "If I were seeking a guard for you, for someone I /loved/, I would want someone who would stand by you no matter what." Regardless of what some foreign Lord commanded. "Asking me if I would leave you at his whim was not fair."'
A slight wince crosses Corrie's features, the stress just growing and growing. This is no argument she wished to have, especially now, when she can feel her own mind slipping through her fingertips. She swallows back tightly, treading another pace closer. "I… I don't know what you want, Jael, what you wish me to say. Would you like me to lie? To tell you to sneak around my husband's back, even if it would make me miserable and him livid? I do not wish to lie to him or to you. And I would tell you to work out your differences but, truly, if you try to negotiate with him and be stubborn he will just be more angry. Gods, I don't know what to do, or say!"
It's not fair, and Jael knows it. She may not /like/ it, but she knows it. "Neither do I, Corrie," she admits, and it's weariness that colors her words now. "I didn't know it'd be like this, when I agreed to come. I didn't imagine… any of this." She's lifting one hand away from the reed to gesture around the camp. "I'm sorry I've put you in this situation." She sounds genuine, at least. "It… I never meant to."
Another shaken hand rubs across Corrie's face. "I am sorry… I am. But this is life now. This is -my- life." Cordelya demands quietly, trying so desperately to keep it together when all threatens to fall apart. She breathes out calmingly. "…If you wish to try… to help here… you must make amends with my husband. If… if things in my mind do not clear soon, I will have to go back home. I must gather other herbs that do not grow anywhere but our swamps. I do not know how much longer I can hold this together. You should take the time I am gone to prove to Anders that you will be of use… that you can be loyal to him, as my liege and my lord, not just me…"
Stay here while Cordelya travels home? It's an almost laughable request, but strangely, Jael isn't laughing. Jael isn't even responding for a time, her jaw set against something unsaid. There's a soft crack as she breaks her current reed down the middle, and then the slight splash as she tosses it into the pond near her feet. "I'll try."
It's amusing, almost, if it weren't so frightening. Cordelya's mind held up through the worst of stresses and arguments there. She didn't see other things, go into another place. She kept focused on Jael and the things she needed to say. But when the hardest part passes, and Jael says she'll try, that's when the shadows near and the trees speak stronger to Corrie than they did before. Her head jerks to the side, eyes widening as she begins to back away from something unseen. "I… I am going home, I promise… going to the Godswood… I'll pray, I promise…" She mutters to the shadows.
There's a curse under her breath as Jael hears the murmurs begin, and a hand is raised to rub roughly at the tears that still stain her cheeks. She's on her feet then, ignoring the boots she's discarded to pad closer to Cordelya. "Corrie." Her voice is firm, and the hand that's extended in an effort to catch Cordelya's own is very real. "Corrie, look at me."
Well, Jael's command does get Cordelya's eyes for a heartbeat or two, but the focus doesn't stay. Corrie shakes her head slowly, backing up another few feet, a slight tremble along her form. "…Jael… it's getting worse… I can't… " And she's still staring into the shadows, staring at nothing, but there is a clear focus of her eyes. She sees something.
The hand that hasn't already captured Corrie's is going to grip the other, holding both now. "Corrie, it's all right. It's not real. Look at me." It's a pattern she's gone through many times, when the things in the swamps weren't friendly. When something started to alarm the odd waif of a noble, and it was better to draw her back to reality than let her live out her dream. "You're well now, and you'll get your herbs. It's not real."
Those small hands of Corrie's just slightly tremble, pulse galloping now as she flickers her pale jade eyes too fast between the shadow across Jael's shoulder and Jael herself. "How do you know, Jael? I have always had the green sight, always… and my siblings were just -jealous- to call me mad. But… Anders… he would not understand. I cannot quiet the gods… they are screaming so loud now. And even the children mourn the forest. All of them are in such pain… I think it was the loss of the Godswood in Tall Oaks… mass slaughter… so many dead. Everyone mourns… They want to be heard and no one else listens!"
"/Corrie/." Hard now, as her hands tighten around Cordelya's own. "I know because I do. Do you remember how things used to be? When things would start to happen, when the Gods would talk, you could always ask me if it were true. It's not true, pet. You need your herbs, and then it will quiet again."
There is now a hot, hard temper in Corrie's eyes as she stares sharply back at Jael, not really angered with the woman, but a bit hurt and more than a bit stubborn. "How? How do you know that, Jael? You do not know that. They may be true. The gods need someone to listen, and the children… they are all alone in these southern lands…"
"I /do/ know, Corrie. You have to trust me." A pause, and then a quieter, "And even if it were true, pet, you can't talk of these things here. These people don't believe in the Old Gods, and they won't understand you." Jael's features remain just as stubborn, regardless of the shadow of tears that remain.
A deep, slow breath in and out, Cordelya trying to focus on her old friend and not the strange nature of the whole situation. She shakes her head slowly, some of that tension beginning to ease away. "Sorry…I'm sorry, Jael…I am so sorry…" She whispers faintly, the fear melting into her voice, lined with exhaustion and uncertainty. "If…if this doesn't stop, I do have to go…"
"Do you want me to come with you?" It's a quiet question, and there's almost as much uncertainty in the little Crannog's voice as the Young Lady's. "Or stay here with your husband?"
Corrie seems to have come back to herself, mostly, the voices a bit easier to ignore. She studies Jael's features quietly, brushing the pad of her thumb up and down the side of Jael's hand as she drags in a slow and calming breath. "…If you wish to try and stay with us, you need to make amends with my husband. Staying back and putting yourself at his whims… while I go… would do much to prove to him you are willing to be a part of -his- retinue, not mine or my father's."
There's a hard swallow as she watches the older woman, and it's visible to anyone who knows the youth how much she chafes at the request. But she's drawing a steadying breath as hazel eyes search Cordelya's features, and in the end she is offering a slow nod. "I will try." An echo of her previous statement, which was likely lost to the voices in the trees.
A slow nod comes from Corrie, a motion of reassuring approval. That will help more than anything, relaxing and reassuring. "Good… good. I think that is for the best. Perhaps this will pass and I will not have to go at all, but if I do… that will be the best." She leans over and presses a tender kiss to Jael's forehead.
Jael lets her chin tip forward just a bit, leaning into the brief contact of Corrie's lips, and then there's a bracing breath drawn inward. She squeezes lightly at the hands that are still within her own, and then she's moving to take a step back — looking as if she'll return to the pond's edge.
Slowly, Cordelya pulls back. Under her own control, knowing she will be missed at camp far sooner than later. She cannot linger. She gives one last squeeze to Jael's hands and then lets go. "I care about you, Jael, just like a sister. You should know this… I hope you do. I will return to you. And to him. We… will figure this out." She whispers softly and then turns upon the ball of her foot, moving for the path back to camp.
Just like a sister. Those words earn the faintest of smiles from Jael, just it's not until Cordelya has already turned away, and it's not the sort of smile she'd share, regardless. Sad, and ironic, and weary. Yes, just like a sister.