|The Obituaries Column|
|Summary:||A conversation on death on the road between Kingsgrove and The Roost|
|Related Logs:||None specifically|
|Northern Orchard Road, Terrick's Roost|
|The road heads inland away from the coast, flat grasses and craggy rocks softening into lowland hills and stout trees, the woods for which the lands of House Groves are best known. Branches fan over the road like a cathedral ceiling, leaves breaking the light like glass in the summer and casting the southwestern road to Kingsrove in dappled sunshine. Bunches of wildflowers grow in bright patches along the flattened path. As the road nears Kingsgrove itself, the thick forest begins to give way to nature as crafted by man: orchards planted in delicate, methodical lines that seem to go on forever. In the spring, they sweeten the air with perfumed blossoms and hang low with fruit in the later seasons.|
|Wed Mar 20, 290|
It's mid-morning and bar a sudden coastal storm, promising to be an absolute scorcher. Not the best conditions to be out and about, working hard, but sometimes you just don't get the choice. With tensions still high over the goings on at Stonebridge, the recent bandit attack on one of the Groves and the missing healer, today is definitely one of those days. Of all the varied jobs out there being done, it seems Mortimer has pulled the dullest, patrol the road and as such he's currently sat on the back of one of the keep's horses taking a drink from a water skin and surveying the land near the Terrick/Groves border before it's time to once more turn the beast around and make sure nothing untoward is happening closer to the Roost.
Riders on the road, hooves pelting at a rate to make the weariest sentry jerk back to attention…but the first glance may disappoint any alert hands that have sprung to seize up bows or spears. In the lead is no bandit, but a tired looking boy in his early teenage years, with a bitter, thinly pursed mouth, a thin face, eyes full of irony. The rodentine expression, quite as much as the functional trappings and the heraldic jerkin, mark him as a squire of the blood of House Frey.
Unsurprisingly, the lad is not alone in these parts, perched between rival Mallister fiefs; his knight trots behind, seeming to take pleasure in a relatively loitering pace even while he barks at the child to go ahead faster. This maturer product of the Crossing looks seasoned - perhaps too seasoned; sweat plasters his lank, pale hair to his thin, pale face, and there is spoor in the air of strong, vinous liquid as his white destrier nears.
The squire appears first to spot the Terrick man, slowing in hesitation, his scowl deepening, but something in the knight's insolent smile as they draw level at last intimates he might not have been quite so heedless after all. It is he who makes the greeting, of a sort, in a more ingratiating tone, if not much less harsh, than the one he used for berating the boy -
"Fair morn, good man. Ser Maldred of the Crossing am I, bound on the road for Stonebridge. Is there any news of import from your feathery masters…?"
Mortimer uses the time between the first indication of company and Maldred's greeting to assess the situation and those approaching. It rapidly becomes obvious that they're not bandits, nor do they looke to be actively agressive so he does not go reaching for his sword, choosing instead to simply wait for their approach.
"Ser," he greets with a polite nod, eyes flashing briefly to the squire as well, but seening nothing out of the ordinary he then turns back to Maldred himself. "Road's quiet so far as the Roost at least," he offers with a glance in that direction, "but if I migh take a moment of your time Ser there's a lass missing somewhere between there and Kingsgrove so we're asking those that pass if they've seen anyone matching her description." The borrowed horse seems momentarilly unsettled by something, probably an insect or such and he pauses long enough to get it calmed again before continuing. "She'd be a little taller than myself, long brown hair and blue eyes."
"A long lass, then," Ser Maldred observes, his cold stare drab and unamused by his own throwaway observation, incongruously combining with his metallic laugh. "I'm riding in search of a damsel myself - a relative of sorts - till lately resident at Stonebridge, but my errand is a step ahead of yours, sirrah - for I hear my quarry is already dead. Perhaps you are acquainted with the keepers of your country's lichyards? They must be growing fat and cheerful, in these days…"
The knight of Frey looks askance now over into the bright noontide sun. "Clement weather for such misadventure. The sunlight will soon complete the work of rotting your lass and my dame, the both - as it rotted Ser Marvish, your Lord Jacsen, and the upjumped master of Highfield and his maiden coz. Light does not uncover secrets, nowadays. It obscures them." The squire looks ever more sullen and unimpressed by his knight's little homily, and is eyeing a nearby apple-tree speculatively. It's bare of fruit, of course, but would make a good spot for a climb, were he off duty…
If Mortimer notices the contemptuous form of address he is disciplined enough to ignore it, choosing instead to mull over the knight's words and nod slowly before replying, "Aye, I had heard rumours from the travelling merchants of such. Comisserations on your loss Ser." It's very much a formal statement though, as he knows neither Maldred nor the deceased. Still, protocal says do it so it's done. He glances up i the general direction of the sun as well than adds with a faint hint of resignation, "Aye, Ser, likely as not. The more time passes the less likely she's simply stopped off somewhere unexpected." Of course there's also the matter of the recovered horse and the blood found upon it, but there's no need to share all the gory details with everyone who simply happens to pass by.
"Somewhere unexpected? That must be what the septons call the hells these days," Maldred quips back with offhand callousness. "And I thank you for your kind and respectful words, soldier, about the late, lamented ambassador. I cannot say the matter surprises me much, coming as it does amid news House Tully has usurped the old Tordane fief. Who'd have thought in the end the House of the Trout would cause us so much more annoyance than your lieges of Seagard ever did!"
The knight is far from fully armoured - much of his gear being dismantled and stuffed in his own and his squire's saddlebags - but it's fairly clear from his temper and bearing that he is ready for, even relishes, a good, cleansing war. He reclaims the wandering attention of the boy with him by a gauntleted rap to the flank of the squire's palfrey that makes it whicker and moan.
Mortimer has been doing his best to keep his mind on the search for Dania, rather than get stuck in the consequences of Firth's death not being accidental. Unlike Maldred he has no desire for war, although he doesn't go so far as bothering to correct the seeming assumption that he's of the Roost's garrison. The complaint of the squire's horse gets another quick look, although it's more an instinctive reaction than a concern that it might be being started by something else that might require attention. While technically he should be turning and heading back Roostwards about now he decides, on the basis of the conversation so far, that he'll let Maldred and the lad have a reasonable head start before he does so and thus makes no moveof his own as he replies, "I think there are a lot waiting to see what Lord Tully has planned Ser." It's a none-answer and he knows it, but he dislikes politics in the best of situations and this could hardly be described as one of those. "I beleive your passage through should be clear though. As I say, this section of roadis quiet, and I've heard of no trouble beyond these past days."
"If there's trouble, I shall surely find it," sneers the Frey-sworn knight, kicking his own big grey steed into motion again. Or start it, certain of his detractors might correct that boast. "If there be none, though, I'll curse you and your friends for spoiling a fine afternoon's sport." That's declared cheerfully, with no real animosity for all the scathing calibre of the words. "Good luck with finding your lass and digging her grave. You seem a diligent enough servant to your lords. If we meet again in peace, I'll be glad, if in war, I'll not mourn. Farewell."
And the ill-matched riders set off back towards the marshier, gloomier east, land of trout and weasels and confusion.