|The Young Giraffe at the Hearth|
|Summary:||Ser Maldred and Hugh Asterholm gossip about the morning's fiasco. Some world-weary advice is imparted.|
|Related Logs:||Enter a Bastard 'Foraging'|
|Warm & cosy|
|1st August, 289|
Ser Maldred Rivers slouches back in a weightily carved chair with oaken boughs for arms, only a pace or so from the hearty warmth of the Inn's fire. Having spent so much of yesterday evening in the saddle, it would seem the bastard knight from the Twins is determined to pass this night in more comprehensive comfort. The tankard of mead clutched in one firm hand is frothing and healing even to behold. But for all this luxurious recuperation, the knight still looks drawn and tetchy, as if this day has had quite as many trials as its predecessor.
Hugh trips into the Inn, looking over his shoulder as though he is trying to get away from someone or something. The boy looks around and grins, showing a wide toothy smile, as he meets the eyes of a professional woman in her early thirties. He lifts a hand and then turns to survey the rest of the room. He cannot help but to see Maldred there. He stands still for a moment to allow the wheels in his head to turn and consider the ramifications both of greeting and of not greeting the man. He is holding a couple of scrolls unders his arm, and he might be deciding to take a chair a bit farther from the man, except he knocks into a chair with a loud scrape.
And that jarring noise makes Rivers wince, but, surprisingly, he does not snap at the boy's clumsiness, rather, he takes a resigned slug at the tankard and eases himself further back in his seat; so perhaps the bastard's inertia, rather than his mellowness of temper serves the Asterholm boy well at that moment.
"Do make yourself comfortable, squire," he suggests at last, darkly but calmly, "when you've quite finished rearranging the furniture…"
Hugh nods politely to Maldred. Or he means it politely. Most of the things that Hugh does are completed with the grace of a baby giraffe. He is strong, but lanky and still growing faster than he can keep up. "I didn't want to bother you." He takes a seat near by, setting the scrolls carefully on the table and flagging down a serving girl from whom he orders some ale and a meat pie…or two if they are small today. He puts it on Riordan's tab, and teh girl nods, seemingly used to that. Hugh turns to Maldred again. "I…I…" he stammers a little, "I am sorry that I didn't get you the rabbit. Have you had a nice meal?"
Stretching in his bounteous seat, the bastard yawns, his eyes rueful and a bit rheumy, before he quite replies. "When you ride on errands such as mine, squire, every meal seems like roast boar at the table of Robert bloody Baratheon. But you need not weep for the coney, save on your own account. I brought down a rather fine hind not long afterwards. Perhaps I oughtn't to tell that to the Lord Regent's squire," he jokes, "as I assuredly poached it from his fief, but then, after all, both he and the Charlton who seeks to usurp him are my lord father's vassals, so I am not unduly worried. That little songstrel creature was in a queer mood, as ever. I would have replaced the meat she sacrificed to spite us and herself, but she…lacked enthusiasm."
Hugh makes a face, choosing to not comment on a poached deer, but instead to comment on the girl. "It was stupid spiteful thing to do." The meat pie comes, and Hugh looks over to Maldred questioning. "Would you like something? I can pay." And of course by 'I' he means 'Riordan.' He shrugs, "Have you met the girl's father? He makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I don't trust him."
Rivers swills the mead in his mouth as he considers, before replying in a glum but reasonable tone. "By her lights, evidently, we were tyrannical noblemen with money in plenty, not soldiers tired by long riding and longer watching." He seems, perhaps out of polite generosity, more probably out of submerged sarcasm, to have assumed Hugh's recent duties have been quite as heavy-going as his own. "She got revenge upon us for having much and daring to ask for more, by putting us at a disadvantage; these wood-wose folk can find game where and whenever they seek it, after all; her loss was of time, not of meat."
Maldred draws - that the only word for it - his bitter smile fully. "In any case, she deserved her trouble, for making so merry on a war's eve. No, lad, I'm properly fed myself, at last, and only require watering."
He raises his tankard in a mordant and wordless toast, before adding, "I know nothing of that wild thing's sire, and I don't suppose at this rate I ever will. I visited the Common House to hear the music that passed there, but I have no great desire to go again. And who knows how many of these smallfolk may fall, in any case, if real fighting starts? It's rash to mingle overmuch."
Hugh shrugs again that teenaged shrug that can be so annoying. "I don't have any money. Not extra anyway. And she was stupid," he repeats. As for his workload, he doesn't notice any sarcasm there. The squires work hard, and Hugh works hard among them, though Maldred would not necessarily know Hugh's reputation. The work is hard and sometimes long, but surely not quite so urgent and important as that of a Knight.
"I don't want to mingle, but I treat people, even small folk with respect enough. It's not too much to demand some back, don't you think?"
"Oh, that depends," the knight answers the squire, perhaps surprisingly. Maybe it's the fire, the comfort, the mead, or the fact that Hugh recommended this Inn to begin with, but he seems to have taken to the boy enough to dispense advice. "Never issue a demand or threat when you don't know exactly what you mean by it, and how you'll back it up, lad. That girl this morning knew you weren't going to hit her or have her hanged. Sweet speech would have served our breakfast better, in that instance. You must never let the lowborn laugh at your claim to power over them…"
Hugh looks puzzled, "But I thought I was saying nice things!" He has a lot to learn, apparently. He bites his lip, "Should I have threatened her?" He shakes his head, "Girls are hard to figure out. Just ask anyone."
"Truth be told, boy, you fell into a common trap," Maldred explains, after another refreshing swig, "and a fatal one, with smallfolk and wenches alike - you were indecisive. You spoke her courteous, but stood upon your dignity. She asked for a price, and you kept yourself vague. It was the not the time to boast yourself a little lord - in fact, few times are." Perhaps the bastard would say this, but he does seem serious, and well-intentioned, enough. "A lord without a lord's power is wise to be a quiet lord, else he irks small and great alike. I suspect you could have won her over, with what you perchance see as weakness. Blushed. Attempted to jest with her. Flattered her mean little brand of pride. But it's no matter."
His drink taken, the stranger knight gets reluctantly to his feet. "My aunt will be wanting my presence. I've enjoyed our talk and your company, boy, and I hope I get to meet your man Ser Riordan ere the Charltons drive him off. Tell him I've been muttering you wisdom, and I'll tell him he has an expert forager for a squire."
Maldred's smile goes crooked, and he himself is off upstairs to his aunt, and his bed.
Hugh sighs and leans back in his chair, drinking his ale. "Aye, Ser. Go well. If she thinks me weak and just a boy, maybe I will play on that and shove a frog down her dress next I see her." He makes a face. "Sleep well."