|The Self Was Not the Same|
|Summary:||Insomnia strikes again, but Markus manages to talk proper sense back into the Lady Flint.|
|Related Logs:||With New Eyes|
|The Flint Campsite|
|The small war camp set up for the Flint men.|
|Late, late night on January 31st, 289|
"Property was thus appalled,
That the self was not the same;
Single nature's double name
Neither two nor one was called."
- Shakespeare, The Phoenix and the Turtle
It's really the middle of the night, the blackest hour. No one has sent for Cordelya, but after getting a few hours of barely fitful sleep, she gave up at her husband's side. He needed the rest more than she. Silent as a mouse, she slipped off of the bed and around his body, trying not to wake her maid either. She slips into that plain gray skirt the woman gave her and the black bodice, so she'll be dressed for an emergency if she is called upon. In the main, she just wishes to go out and stare at the sky. At least the stars look the same (almost) as they did at home. Nothing else does. So, she slips into the quiet darkness, hollowed expression just exhausted and numb.
There is still a fire burning beyond their pavilion at this hour, and a few armed men milling about having drawn the latest hours as their watch. Not far from the flames stands one figure, familiar amongst many familiar faces to the several months wed Lady Flint. For once Markus is alone, not distracting or being distracted by another of the men sharing words, instead seated on a log and slowly polishing at his sword.
Corrie would garner another round of yelling if anyone saw her sitting next to the sell sword, but she cannot help but look in his direction. She studies him quietly by the fire light, frowning in a bit of concern at his being alone, but it's not her place. Hell, she has no clue where her place is. So, for the moment, she just weaves through the shadows towards a darker area. Somewhere she can see the stars. He may or may not catch her movement in the flickering flames of the fire's light, though.
The Lady of the Camp, such as it was, tracking her way past the pavilion and out into the darkness? Of the things that are like to pass beneath Markus' gaze, that is unlikely to be one of them. His eyes lift and follow her once she's past him, the blade sliding easily home into its scabbard. He sets the cloth on his log as he gets up, buckling the sword back to his belt before he heads off in Cordelya's direction.
Cordelya steps now off the path, into one of the fields nearest the camp, but away from the fires and tents. She's not going too far, ears carefully peeled for any sort of sounds that say she might be needed, but she needs to see stars for a few moments. To remember who she is — or who she was, since she cannot be that person any longer. She doesn't sit down, but she folds her arms across her flat chest, eyes turning upwards, hollowed out face looking towards the moonlight and stars. The pale light slightly softens the horrible angles of a woman who has become all skin and bones over the last few weeks.
"You know," Markus begins, without greeting or preamble, when he is just close enough to be heard without raising his voice, "If all you do is spend each waking hour living for everyone else, you do precious little living for yourself." The sellsword's footsteps halt a few paces behind his Lady, but his philosophical offering is not so still. "And while it might fill the hours, and seem well and good all the while, there will come that moment when you're left alone, and seeing how much you've poured into everyone else, there is not so much left for you."
Those were not the words the Lady Flint wished to hear. Her thin, long arms hug a bit tighter across her slender torso. She's not wearing her hair down and free any more, but it's in a trio of elaborate braids pinned to he back of her head that only a maid's hands could have properly done. It makes her almost look courtly again. SHe exhales quietly into the night, still staring overhead. "I… I am not wished to live… as myself. The woman I am has no place in this society, Ser Ilgrave…"
He does not presume to come any closer to the woman, at least not yet, instead letting the cool evening air breeze through the space betwixt them. "And who is that, exactly?" Markus wonders at her words, his thumbs hooked lazily into his belt. "I'd thought it was the woman I first met when she awoke, disheveled, and insisted on letting her maid sleep while she shared ale and tale with an unfamiliar, and just hired, sword." He lets out a breath, and says, "And then, I thought, maybe it was this… other woman. More of a shell, only reflecting back what other people, or what she thought other people, put at her. Defined more by what others wanted or needed, and how she thought they measured her worth. A good heart, certainly, but I think I preferred the strength of the former, not the meekness of the latter." She can hear the smile in his voice. "Pardon if that is bold, but I think the first woman would not mind so much, and… well, I'd much rather treat with her."
Those words draw a weak, tired chuckle to her lips, though there is a certain wistful ruefulness behind it all. "I liked that woman too, Markus… I've been her all my life… I… thought my husband married me because I was that woman, not just some pretty… bird, decorating arms at court and producing children like they were knitting scarves. But… no…" She confesses, the little death behind her voice not a sweet one, but a pained one. The careful wrapping up and packing way of the parts of herself that she loved dearest. "And it is bold of you. But that woman is the sort, no offense intended, sell swords treat with. Not noble heirs…"
"I won't tell you that you should ignore what it is your Lord Husband tells you… Gods know I've done enough to slander his faith in me, and thought of worse…" Markus ought bite back such words but he doesn't, not now, when he can see clear enough what Cordelya is set herself to do. No, instead, his hand finds her shoulder in the inky darkness, fingers coarse and calloused, though warm and only touching with the faintest of weight. "That woman, the one you've been all your life? She is an asset to a noble lord, if she can find the ways in which to amend who she was with who she is meant to be. It'd be a shame… a fucking shame… for you to go and kill everything that makes you who you are, because he'll be pleased with it for the moment. Because now doesn't last forever, Corrie, and who you are should not be forgotten by who you're trying to be."
How the hell did a sell sword get to be so damned smart? But then, Corrie has thought that multiple times before. The green eyes woman finally turns that jade gaze from the stars, her last bit of home, and to the dark haired man behind her whose rough and calloused hand offers a warm weight to her thin shoulder. She's not crying tonight either, having put away as many of those emotions as possible, but his quiet statement does seem to spark something there. Gives her a touch of hope that, maybe, who she was could be worth while. "…A wild woman from the swamps who talks to the gods and would be as content pulling herbs and thistle from the mud as she would on a courtly throne… was not made for that courtly throne. I… I married too high. He is correct. I was not made for this…" She shakes her head quietly, those elaborate braids slightly bouncing on the back of his neck. "How would she be an asset?" She smirks, skeptical. And then she pauses, something else he said catching her thoughts. Her head tilts. "…Thought of…worse? Worse what?"
"You're asking me how you'll be of value in a courtly setting? Gods, you must be desperate," Markus teases as she turns to look at him over her shoulder, his smile a ghost in the darkness. "So you married too high, and you'd be just as happy squatting around digging for herbs? Good, then you're probably fit to be a shrewd pair of eyes overseeing the family's budget, given how you've not a taste for all the finest things a lordly sum can afford. Nor do you come to him with the same vantage he was born to, and can see his people in another light, understand them in ways his breeding will not allow," the sellsword opines. "I can go on, but I rather think you get the point." Of the rest, the worse? He says nothing.
A low, tired sort of laugh escapes her lips, but at least it's a laugh. A sigh dove tails it and she waves the commentary off, but Corrie hasn't yet pulled away from the touch of his fingertips on her shoulder. "Fine, fine… I suppose there might be some… advantages. Just none that he is seeing right now. And I miss… home… He's not the man I knew when we were children… Everything I try to do here is… disdained. Gods, Markus… I don't know…" Corrie exhales again, tired eyes shutting a few moments. She doesn't really waver under his touch, but it's close. She's tired, body and soul. "…You still didn't answer my question." One of her eyes peeks back open as she says that.
His hand is still warm on her shoulder, more substantial now. "See, that there…" Markus tells her, shaking his head. "Even how you talk has changed, you know? I swear, it's like you spend an extra heartbeat considering every sentence you make, and oftentimes when half is already out your mouth, as if you don't trust yourself to say the right things anymore…" He takes a step closer, his arm settling a bit against her back as the distance diminishes by a small step. "And not seeing it, that's rot on his part, because things were fine between you both before you came running here and he got hurt. You've not been yourself, Corrie, and if I can sense it, sure as hell your own husband can do the same."
Cordelya isn't used to being able to be read that easily. Even her husband can't do that, in truth. Or he doesn't care to. She stares up at Markus as he picks apart her actions as naturally as breathing, a touch more shame and lacking certainty painting her face even more now. He's right, he's absolutely right, and yet it leaves her even less certain of what to do about it. "War is hard on everyone, I do suppose. It changes everyone. Perhaps myself included, Markus. I cannot be that innocent little girl who dreams of horses and the banners. War isn't fucking… valiant sword fights and heroic deeds. It's sitting in a sick tent between two dying men, trying to figure out if you made the wrong move somewhere in cleaning out a wound, or didn't use enough fire milk, and if a man will die because YOU didn't take good enough care of him. Not because of the damned Ironborn or the war they fought."
"You know what I say to that, Corrie? That's all rot. If Aleister dies, it's because Lord-fucking-Volmark was as stubborn as any fucking squid ever thought to be, and wouldn't bloody well go down. Because he kept hacking at your precious patient, and that's that. War is war, and people die," Markus tells her, firm. "And if you manage to step in between a wounded man and the Stranger, or whatever your folk think comes for us at the end, then bloody well good on you. Because you snatched life from the jaws of death. But if he slips away, if your husband slips away, if I slip away… it's because we fucked up in battle, and let a reaver stick us bad. And the more you try to put it all on yourself, the less you're going to be able to succeed, so just don't. You want to change, fine, change. But forget being sorry for yourself, or ruled by fear that you're not up to something, or messed something up. You're better than that, Corrie, even if you can't quite see it just now." His hand slips down off her shoulder and he makes to take a step back. "And I think I've gone and said more than enough."
While he might be pulling away, his words still ring in her ears. She listens to that sentiment, the true, strong logic behind his statements even when one's mind can't really feel it when being clouded by the haunting scents of a sick tent and the feeling of the Stranger in the corner. Mark actually manages to draw a faint smile to Cordelya's lips, once more, one of the few she's given in the last days. "You're right, Markus, and I'm sorry. I… I am not myself. I do not mean to lean upon you, when you are no doubt hurting and tired as well. I am sorry…" She dares reach forward, brushing just a bit of hair from his forehead so she can see his eyes on the moonlight. "…How…how are you feeling? All this time I've spent with them and I've barely been able to check upon you, much less beg you for another story…don't stop speaking. Anders is asleep and rest elludes me once again… I'll just stare back at the stars if you go away."
His jaw sets, and he says, lowly, "You've got nothing to apologize for, Corrie. That's rather the point." Markus' expression softens, just a touch, when she reaches up to brush his hair away, and his hand rises up to capture hers, warning in his eyes. "Corrie…" His grip is strong, but it is applied as gentle as he might. "I'm fine, better than fine. Came through the battle better than a lot of men, and might've won myself a touch of glory besides, not that I'll revel in it. You shouldn't worry so much about me, I'm just a sellsword, and like as not sent on my way once the war is over. Just think about what I said, alright? I meant it." And then he lets her wrist go, fingers trailing before they let go of her and fall limp to his side.
"I worry about everyone, Mark… hired, intelligent swords included." Corrie's small mouth draws into a smirk as she says that, staring back into his dark eyes. She allows her hand to be caught and she doesn't push it, but her fingertips don't pull away either. She just lingers there in the cool evening, hand in his for a few heartbeats before their fingertips both drop. "I will think on it, Mark, though I do not know how much my husband will like it." That draws a deeper smirk. "I don't know if I can live life just being something pretty to look upon. I… I've got to be more than that. We should all want to be the figures in the stories, should be not? Better than quiet courtly life."
Markus waves a hand to indicate the war camp all around them, spread far in every direction. "Like you said, it's not like the stories, Corrie. Your husband wants things from his wife, and he thinks he knows the role she ought to play to get it for him," he tells her. "Understand what he needs, and find ways to fulfill those things while still being yourself? Then you'll be a far sight closer to the Corrie I miss. Can only think that others might want for her company too." That, it seems rings with a note of finality.
The advice is good, even if it brings a sad sort of exhaustion to her features. Corrie shakes her head, "None of it is like the stories. War or marriage." A bittersweet little laugh echoes those words and she then exhales slowly, beginning to step back at that note of finality in his voice. She stares across at him in the moonlight. "I…suppose I should go back in. Perhaps I will be able to sleep this time. Hopefully he is still resting."
"I hope so, my lady. Let him awaken next to his wife, and mayhap he will remember what that blow he took to the head seems to have made him forget," Markus tells her, stepping aside that Cordelya might make her way back towards the camp, and the pavilion where her husband rests.
"I hope so as well." Cordelya admits, if still a touch bitterly. She's ever a woman of deep emotions, even when she tries to hide them all away. The hurts of tonight cut deeper than she'd care to acknowledge. She gives Markus' shoulder one last squeeze in passing before she slips back through the fields and towards the tents. Back to her husband's side, where she belongs, a lot more to think about running through her head. At least they will be slightly more pleasant thoughts keeping her awake.