|The Song from the Stepstones|
|Summary:||A stranger in Stonebridge sees a wench, and hears a song, that sets him thinking. Otherwise the meeting is unpromising…|
|The Common House, Stonebridge|
|More common than knights are used to, even bastard ones|
|30th July, 289|
The cat was entertaining, a lithe creature who was settled atop the edge of a table, with a tankard of ale balanced on the curve of a slender thigh, her feet propped on the bench beneath her. A far from cry from the opposite end of the room that catered to those of more worth, as she was near the hearth. She was also singing, gods help them, to the laughter of her company, "Oh I once had a bonny lass, who had such a shapely ass. But when I tupped between her thighs, I found out she'd told me lies. Promised cherries, offered tarts, so I split her cheeks apart!"
You'd find the newcomer not far off from the singer, wrapped in the uniform of the stranger in town, a thick, warm, none too clean gaberdine cloak of dark grey. He has nothing but contempt for the indecisive fools who try and pull rank in such company by loitering away in corners nearer the bar; they were colder, the commons disliked them more, and they would miss several syllables of song. Maldred Rivers is a driven man, but that never stops him appreciating a song - at least for its lyrical qualities. His hood is only about half up, but what's revealed of his vigilant features is attentive - while not in the least touched yet by amusement. Sure, he lets out a sardonic ghost of a grin at the last line, but that's perhaps a matter of showing he's up to speed, rather than actually being tickled.
His hands are in his lap, toying with the leathern strap on a satchel of sorts.
There was an accent on the little blond that didn't entirely bespeak a Riverland breed, just a bit dirty that, a bit…foreign, reminscent of Essos if one deals often with traders and traveling men. 'Hey Kitty!' The bloke near the hearth called, one deeper in his cups than she, 'Do tha one about Pyke.' To which she laughed and shook that heavy mass of blond. "Naw, Ricken, I aint quite drunk's all tha yet. Less'n ye'd like t'buy me next round," she cajoiled, teasing before she stood and slinked down from her perch with an eye towards the bar, 'Buy it yourself ya bloody minx!' Came the reply, and Catyrn? All she did was grin true to her namesakes an start weavin' her way through the tables.
A girl with yellow hair and few scruples, either possessed of, or pretending to have, a hint of the east…it's no wonder that 'Myrilla of Lys''s son's look is becoming incrementally more focussed and curious, if not much more carefree. He hardly remembers the days when his slatternly dam was even moderately attractive, but he can well imagine she would have looked…along these lines. That thought cuts both ways, and this kitten too may go to pot after she litters. The quiet onlooker's fingers fiddle further with his leather case, hands eventually infiltrating within, cupped, to clasp at some generous curve…
"I'll buy for you," he says now, his voice quiet and quietening both, "if you have anything of the Stepstones to trill for me."
Tight leathers and a man's oversized shirt, belted to emphasize her small waist, Catyrn doesn't have a look that could pass her off for any lady, though she bares a tan that marks her as one who's spent a goodly portion out beneath the sun. Her teeth when she smiles are surprisingly clean and straight, and there's a sense of alertness to her eyes as they bounce across the crowd. But keen ears catch that first phrase, so that she stops where she stands and spins about on the ball of her foot, walking back and canting her head to the side as she leans down to peer at his face. "An what d'ye keen o'tha Stepstones an Tyrosh?" The small voice inquires, far more brazen that it would be under normal circumstances, because he's hidden away any mark t'nobility beneath his cloak.
"Of Tyrosh? Nothing." The stranger may have got himself garbed in his most invisibly simple gear, but his voice is still castle-reared right enough, if perhaps at the rougher, harsher end of such a rearing. As if this slip of a…maid? - ha - has challenged him, the man, fully shown young but not very young as his hood falls back, takes to his feet, and stares the songstress down.
In that motion the leather covering has fallen away. There's a lute in his hands, and not a shabby one.
"Golden hair's uncommon in my family," he elaborates quite bluntly. "My mother bore this from Lys. By way of the Stepstones."
Whether by 'this' he means his strawy pale hair or his fine lute is, probably deliberately, opaque.
He's tall right enough, but there's only five inches between them, three and a half, if one counts the added height from her boots and the minx doesn't back down at all, though her grin turns crooked and her eyes dance with delight. "It looks Lys crafted, aye," she agrees, with a merchants eye, or perhaps a thiefs, depending on ones prospective, for gauging things, "Seen a creature play one once, a right beauty too, voice like an angel. Worked in a pleasure house." Not his mother, obviously, "Ye play it, an I'll sing fer ye. True as ye please, they've a song for the Stones in Tyroshi."
Ser Maldred Rivers flatters himself he can just about understand the way in which he's being sized up, and raps back a fast and sharp reply. "Aye, I'll play for you, and I'll listen to you, and I'll buy for you. But take a coin unasked, girl, and you'll never sing again." That simple warning issued, he returns calmly to his seat, lute in lap, and waits for the first note of her song to guide his way.
Cat's grin came easy, a crooked slant as she came to perch herself on a chair near the position. He'd play an he'd buy and that sounded….blink. Dangerously like a threat. "Ye call me a thief, my friend, an ye'll be playin' wit yeself, fer I'll utter nary a word witout an apology. Implications like tha's dangerous things, an I earn a fair trade an a fair liven. One a loose tongue," pointed look, "can easily tarnish."
"Playing with myself, eh," the relatively noble-reared lutenist hits back, his cold voice according oddly with its earthy content. "I would hate to dim my eyesight for my bowshot's sake, so I entreat your pardon. Think not that I called you thief," he adds, drier in timbre, "merely that I advised you, friendlywise, not to embark upon that risky career. Now, mistress, I say twice, and will not say again: I would hear you trill."
"There's somethin' t'tha way ye bark orders, darlin', tha's almost, /almost/ appealin'," the minx teased with a grin offerin' a wink in his direction before she gave a man's half bow, an perched atop the table at his side; the a hint of calf and thigh flashing into view. And then, drawing breath…the girl pitched her voice to note, that the lutenist might find his key and sang an old Tyrosh ballad, the foreign tongue just as natural on her own as if she were a native. A song of salt and sea and shattering. Of heartbreak and love and tragedy.
That chilly, spiky grimace of a smile has not budged from the stranger's pinched face, but the songstress's flirtation, by the same token, teases it out no further; he does, though, return her ironical, bobbing mockery of a bow smartly enough. Catryn's pitch is soon joined by the uneven twangs of the instrument tightening its melody, as arrows might come closer and closer to their target. By the time the girl is in free flow, so is the man. It is fortunate that he bears so fine a lute, as only this stops his performance from being utterly embarrassing, especially juxtaposed with the girl's…professionalism. Many knights know the motions of strumming idle fingers through a mandolin with all the address of a besieger wresting about a mangonel, in the brief interludes when their swords are sheathed - and this man is such a one. His technique lacks style or subtlety, but its vigour and volume is, at least, not ill-fitting to the Common House. He adds no savour of imagination or invention, dourly adjusting himself and following the lead of the singer's variations - and that, too, in this time and place, will pass.
Often has Hoekenn made his way into this place lately, perhaps it's the fun things that has happened when he has come here. Or he's just looking for someone, just as he had during the night. Though a different person now. Again failing to find the one he searches for. Though it might not have been fully wasted. Clinging to a wall as he moves along it he spots Catryn. Guessing that she might be able to help him. Though for now he will not approach her. She seems to be in the middle of something. Doing as he usually does and moves to try and find a table, though his eyes seems to be on the two creating music. He has seen the man, but can't put a finger on where or who it is. He'll give it a moment.
There was a glance towards her accompaniment then, the loft of a slender brow in question and the hint of a grin on her lips for so fine a lute and so…questionable a player. Yet the melody drew itself out slow, so that it was easy to keep up with and her voice was pitched to carry the mournful tune. Weaving it slow, so that even those who were drinking in relvery paused to listen, even if they couldn't understand the words. After all, Tyroshi wasn't a common tongue, there in the Riverlands.
"Twas er a love that time did know,
from Drone, to Essos, the First Men did go.
T'march says they, from day to night;
cross an Arm not yet broken, these men lookin' for a fight.
An tis here now the story may break,
for men speak as men and corrections women make.
Twas not for pillage to cross the sea,
but for love of a woman, known in minds eye went he.
Her eyes like sapphires, hair like spun gold,
twas the jewel of Lys, that many did know;
And promised to another, her love refused to show.
Yet men think as men, and in violence sought to woo;
so marching, onward marching, their numbers through and through.
To a land full of deserts and seas full of sand,
crushed magic with numbers and loves cruel demand.
In sadness she spurned him, in anger they fought,
and the children of the forest shook their heads for the damage that was wrought.
In conflict and anger, in rage and in tears;
all in the name of fools love, good men died on spears.
Clashing always clashing, till the sands became red
and the fields of goldspun honey turned crimson.
Till one but had the wisdom, to try and close the door,
the Arm no longer solid, but broken forever more.
Tis how we got the islands, the Stepstones of the sea,
the once whole road now broken - a path of misery."
The song is certainly effecting, capable of stirring melancholy and nostalgia, but in terms of more rational understanding, it sounds to Maldred, as surely to practically every other patron present, more like a map than a love song; for only place names are, even mildly, recognisable. Understanding, then, the gist this far - that he is accompanying a gloomy song about a sea voyage that goes back and forth and ends up on the Stepstones - this unlikely musician enfuses a vaguely nautical, shanty-like touch to his tune, including a catch he remembers from the celebrating mariners after Seagard was relieved, and another stray motif he recalls from the distant camp of the Ironborn, earlier in that war at Alderbrook, mournful and…salty. Neither idea is *appropriate*, exactly, but they give the song a strange tinge, more martial than emotional, that might find some favour among the more warlike or grizzled of the listening drinkers.
Hoekenn doesn't really understand was was sung, but it sounded nice. And his feet kept making him walk. This until he crashes into someone. Excusing himself and moving on, though it seems the man keeps an eye on the squire. For now Hoekenn doesn't pay much attention to that, continuing to listen to the music, even if he does not understand it. The man still not recognized. Though Hoekenn does find himself sitting down not too far from where the two musicians are.
So he earned a bit look for his twang to what was meant to be soft. It's core was in the conflict, but…so too were most of those in the room askin to it. She trailed off on the last note, letting it linger. And with that, she seems to return to herself, with a lazy stretch for her efforts and a bow to her spine that made the Mryish beads on her wrists sing softly, before her grin turned cocky and her companion was awarded the full measure of it. "An now, ah believe ye owe me a drink."
Maldred rises back up as he replaces lute within leather, lean shoulders arching in a shrug under that murky cloak, as if to imply a quiet, even slightly contemptuous 'but of course'. Swift steps and hard looks carve his way directly through to the bar at the big common chamber's further end; he does not glance back even to check if the girl follows, before calling out for "A pair of ales," in an amusingly…sober…voice. But when he swivels round after that his smile is not devoid of potential wickedness as his look turns smartly back on Catryn.
Then…someone beyond her catches its attention, and now Maldred is definitely tickled into comedy, perhaps fully for the first time this evening. "Do you know the squire yonder, mistress? I'd have him join us, I think."
As the music stops he keeps his eyes on the two for a moment before falling into his own thoughts. Lost for a moment, forgetting what he was here to do. The thought of who the man was had to wait for a moment as well, not knowing the plans Maldred seemed to have.
Catryn hadn't followed, instead she kept her perch atop the table, stretched long and lithe as her namesake, with a smile that was cheshire all the same. Broken only by the dart of a pink tongue across her lips as she considered that smile and more, its owner. But in the end, she too turns to see just what's more interesting than she is, where the loft of a brow implies the question before she looks back to tonights patron. "Stenhammer's boy," she supplies, reaching up to sink long fingers into that wild mane of blond-white. "An it's Cat. No Mistress, no Miss. Juss Cat."
"I did not ask your name, Cat," the cloaked man replies evenly as he passes her beverage to her, "and now I've heard it, it would seem I didn't need to. I might've guessed. You can call me Rivers this evening, I think." Unless the half wit over there has a better memory than Maldred is expecting. For now the Frey bastard turns his head back towards the bar, "…good man - another ale for 'Stenhammar's Boy' on me, if you would. Lad!" he cries, suddenly stressing and shouting as if to a deafling, "come over here. I've entertainment for you."
"Call ye a dick, fer all that yer attitude is more sour than it needs t'be." Particularly for someone who just admitted to being a bastard. "No need ta order another, just give tha boy mine," she called, slipping free from the table and once more up to her feet. This time it was the door to which she angled herself, passing Hoekenn on her way. "Mind yerself with that one. Spoiled on arrogance, he is."
It isn't until the voice shouts that he snaps out of his thoughts and blinks. Moving towards the man and as he comes closer he does recognize him. He can't remember the man's name though. Not having fully listened when it was given to him. Though the clothes he had worn he does remember. But before he reaches the man he hear Catryn's words. Stopping and remembering why he came here. "Uhm… miss? Have you seen Gerry?" Apparantly that was his reason for coming. Stopping in his steps. Glancing to the man, letting him now he had some quick business with the young woman first. Though if she keeps walking he won't stop her.
Catryn pauses with the boy's question, he at least easing the wrinkles of her mood. Though her head cants to the side, with a faint slightly puzzled frown. "Whutcho need with Gerry for?" She asks, apparently not willing to give up the information without an explination.
Hoekenn chuckles, noticing that he has to explain a bit. "Sorry. I was helping Gerry try and find people to sell to." Not sure how much he should explain to her. Studying her a bit and smiling sweetly. Eyes going to the man again. "Didn't think you and your pop liked nobles." Remembering things wrong it seems. He then smiles to Catryn again. "I'm Ken." Not sure if he had given her his name.
Catryn and Hoekenn are standing near the door, though the former for once, looks like a girl today. They appear to be conversing, while Maldred is in a cloak, standing near the bar.
"Oh." She blinked at the explination, "Right. Well, he'd some business t'handle first half o'tha day. Oughta be 'round this evenin'. An that bastard aint no noble." What noble gave Rivers for a name? "'m Cat. Ger's cat." Should there be any confusion.
Hoekenn nods, "Okay, no rush." He replies and glances to Maldred again. "He was wearing Frey clothes when I met him." He offers, not remembering too much about it all. Then he grins and looks back to Cat. "I know. Well… Not your name, the other part. Your father sort of threatened to cut of my balls." He tells her. Though not going more into exactly what was said other than that.
And another man with Frey colors walks in, and this one looks kinda lost, as if it is perhaps…the first time he sets foot in the Common House. Wayland Frey is not that hard to notice, he's a tall man and that kinda stands out…for better or worse. He stops by the main door for a moment and slowly looks around the place before stepping further, apparently going towards the bar. He moves slowly and avoids bumping into anybody at this time.
"Ah. Well, that'd be him then," she agreed and her grin had bloomed in full. "Still though, he aint 'round at the moment. Business." As if that explained it all. Though, near the door as they were and with the attention the girl gave her enviroment, it was impossible to miss the man that walked in. Cat's smile bloomed in full then and the girl's hand shot up to wave, the bracelet on her wrist easily catching the light. "Wayland!" Came exploring past her lips before she pinked, cleared her throat and followed it up with somewhat more formal, "Ser Frey." Because nobody'd heard that other little squeak, right? Good.
Hoekenn nods to her words, "No worries. Tell him to see me at the tower at some point." He says, and then it seems Wayland caught the attention of the girl. Hoekenn not being as fast to notice the easy noticed man, though her shout makes it hard to not look towards him. A small bow is offered to Wayland, if he looks his way. Grinning wide at Cat's correction of her words.
The Frey Knight turns his head when his name is called and he catches sight of Cat, a smile is offered to her and he turns, changing course to where she is. A quick inspection of her current wardrobe brings a more notorious smile to his lips and he finally nods his head "Cat." and just like her, he corrects himself "My Lady." and then adds "You look, well, absolutely breathtaking". His attention moves to Hoekenn and he returns the offered nod "I apologize, my name is Wayland Frey. I don't believe we have met, my friend" Or did they? He looks back at Cat and smiles "You are always a most welcome sight, my lady" See? All proper and stuff.
The girl's tongue peeked between her lips when Wayland smiled and her own smile grew then by leaps and bounds at least…until she almost winced when he called her 'my lady' and looked around to see if anyone else had heard. But whatever chiding she might have given him for it, died when he complimented her. At that she laughed with a grin and looked like she might have offered him a hug for his kindness too, until she thought better of it. "I'm glad ye approve, milord, though," and here a pout came, "I'm not allowed to keep the bracelets, nor the belt. They were just a couple o'tha new pieces of merchandise that Pa got in. I'll have t'give them up when someone wants t'buy them. Can't afford t'keep 'em on me own."
During this interlude Maldred - abandoned by songbird and half-wit alike - has put his two spare drinks to better use, and been mingling with some of the burly crowd who appreciated his impromptu military anthem, with good, cold, Greyjoy Rebellion memories to share. Eliding the fact of his own non-participation in the campaign's closing tableau, the invasion of the Isles, the Frey bastard, whose hilts small and great are discernible twinkling at his waist and his shoulder, cuts an acceptably bellicose figure, and combined with his largesse this goes down pretty well.
Until, distracted by the bustle at the door, Maldred happens to glance - yet another coincidence too far - yet another Frey! He rises, only a little groggily, back on his legs, and lopes towards the knot of the folk who thought better of his company.
"Wayland," he remarks boldly. "We long missed you at the Twins. I'd tell you the news…but you, on the other hand, didn't miss much. Did you know your sister Firth is riding about the hillside like some cateran wildling? I found her at large and alone, only yesterday…"
Hoekenn does hear the way Cat is addressed and a brow is lift. He doesn't ask about it right now though. A bow is offered to Wayland. "M'lord. Hoekenn Stenhammar." He introduces himself. But then he goes silent. Letting the other converse. Soon joined by the other Frey. Still keeping silent to act as he should as a proper squire. Though eyes looking around a lot.
Wayland tilts his head when Cat mentions that she is not allowed to keep those items. Her expression gets a lightly amused smile from him and then he says "That so?" a nod of his head is offered and then the man adds "Well, that just can't be, I don't believe there's another girl that could do better justice to those bracelets, or belt" He takes a deep breath and then looks at Hoekenn, offering a nod to the young man "Well met, my friend. I believe you are a Squire, is this correct? Who is your Knight?"
And there's his brother. Wayland turns when his name is called and he nods to the other man "Maldred" is offered with a calm tone of voice. "Yes, indeed…it's been a while since I last visited the Twins. I meant to go with Lady Valda but, I was not able to." When he mentions Firth, he presses his lips together and exhales as if slightly disturbed by the notion "I've heard, yes…I shall have words with my sister when I see her again. I do believe she is at the Roost now." Finally, he offers his brother a faint smile and then he looks around "I see you are enjoying what Stonebridge has to offer?" and a nod after that.
He looks back at Cat now and "I am yet to visit your father's store, I am sure there are a lot of, interesting items that I would like to acquire"
Catryn danced closer, shoting an arch look in Maldred's direction, before she gave a preening little twirl and grinned like a Cheshire. At that of course, she did hug him. But it was quick, a little squeeze and then she'd settled into a distance that was acceptable and proper.
"I'm sorry." She could have been apologizing because she hugged him. Or…it could have been that apparently the bastard was his brother. That was probably it. If the look in her eyes was any indication. Though with mention of her father, the girl rocked back on her heels and grinned. "Oh we don't have a 'store'. Juss set up a lil table there in tha square fer folks t'come too. But we've a lot o'friends." Not in the Riverlands, not people they'd know. "So we git decent deals on trade's brought over from Essos. The beads are Myrish. I'd like ye t'meet 'im though. Fore he starts accusin' me o'havin ye just be someone I made up in me head."
"M'lady objects to my base birth," Ser Maldred observes teasingly of Cat, with a surprisingly cheerful element interposing in his previously dour voice. It must be something to do with his half-brother's sudden apparition, but it looks more like caustic humour than fraternal bliss. "As for Master Stenhammar here, brother, you'll find few squires like him." His look is for a moment uncomplicatedly warm. "Looks after his weapons, sober, skilful, and totally loyal. He spends too much time trying to remember his master's name to betray him for any other…"
Hoekenn doesn't fully follow as he had gotten lost in himself. Though he does follow along with some of it. Answeing Wayland with a nod. "I never seem to be able to remember his name. A Nayland" Is his answer. The man would probably whoop Hoekenn's ass if he knew this. Though the squire ignores that for now. Though the info given from Maldred makes him smile a bit. "Thanks." Is offered. Rest is silence from him.
Wayland listens to Cat's words and nods when she mentions the fact that there's no actual store "You mean your father and me? Certainly…" now, he does show a smile of amusement and he adds "Tho I have to wonder, what sort of things have you been saying about myself" He smiles at her afterwards and then lightly licks his lips. As for that first 'I'm sorry', he just lightly shakes his head, which he hopes will be enough for her. His attention drifts to his brother now and he looks form him to Cat and back at him. "Oh?" but he does leave it at that. Then, when Maldred talks about Hoekenn, Wayland looks at the young boy and nods his head "A good squire always takes good care of his Knight, and if the Squire is lucky, he would be blessed with a /good/ knight…" A faint smile is offered and a nod right after that. "A Nayland then?" asks Wayland, but since the boy doesn't really remember the name, he just leaves it alone. Now, he looks back at his brother "What brings you to Stonebridge, brother?"
Soon Wayland has the bastard's attention again, and Maldred considers his answer, yawning a little and spreading his limbs. "You have a sister, Wayland, another sister, Jaimera by name. You'd be forgiven for having forgotten about her, perhaps. One of the eldest, the second Lady Frey's get. There's no one our lord father trusts more closely with quill and ink. You may have noticed, dear brother, that things have got a bit complicated here. Does father send an army? No. He dispatches his best lawyer. And I am here to ensure she carries through her case without…trouble…"
"Oh now he smiles," Cat complained, "it aint ye bein' born on tha wrong side o'tha sheets I object t'either. Was ye orderin' me about like a barmaid an talkin' t'me like I's," A commoner? Pfft. "Less than a person." She stuck her tongue out at him then, offered a wink to poor Ken, who seemed to be struggling with the pace of things and tipped her head back up to look at Wayland. "Nothing terrible," she teases, answering his question with a grin. "I promise. Tell ya all about it too, tomorra if ya like. Over breakfast, an then ye can meet 'im." She smiles, shifting her weight from one foot to the other, "I gotta run though, fer now. You'll bring Stupid, won't you? We'll…," make a day of it. But she doesn't finish. Just leaves it hanging there implied and never said, before she looks to the rest, "G'day t'yuns," an off she scampers.
The inquisitive, scientific scrutiny Maldred casts after the flitting Cat fully bears out her accusations, as he points out, simply, "Oh, I never stop smiling." With his teeth, not his irises!