|Walking In The Rain|
|Summary:||Anais runs into Stragen in the village, and convinces him to walk back to Four Eagles in the rain. Stragen and the Banefort men are rescued by the arrival of Liliana.|
|Town Square — Terrick's Roost|
|The town square of Terrick's Roost could be considered well-kept by the standards of the surrounding area. The stone streets run right up to the building fronts around the edge and the locals have kept the spaces between free of grass and weeds that might otherwise upstart between them. There are several homes and nicer shops located here which incline their business or residents towards those not of the peasantry. The Sept of the town can also be seen from here with its ornate stone front rising above the surrounding structures just down the cobblestone road.|
|August 3, 288|
A sunny morning has faded into a cloudy afternoon, with the threat of rain coming off the sea. Dark clouds skid across the sky, and the wind kicks through the trees and tugs at shop signs. Anais is just stepping out of the Rockcliff, a trio of men in the Banefort colors following behind her. "Perhaps we ought to stay and wait it out, my lady," one suggests.
"We've time to make it back and more," Anais disagrees, looking up to the sky. "Aye, and you'd say the same if it were two minutes away," snorts the guard, earning a wry smile for the comment. "Be that as it may," the young woman shrugs, simply stepping over the threshold to walk outside.
Coming from across the square is the large blonde barbarian fellow that's been seen in and around the tournament grounds. Now that things have gotten back to normal, Stragen has found his way back to Terrick's Roost, where he was last seen in any length of time around the age of the Battle of the Trident. Then, he was a sworn (and paid) sword of the Tordanes. Now, he's barely scraping together enough coins to eat.
"It's not that bad," he comments to a passer-by, who seems less interested in talking to him and more interested in hurrying on. "I'm sure there'll be someone wanting to kill someone else. That's how these things go. Wars make for the best times, you know." "Yes, of course, m'lord," the disinterested commoner says. Using the small Banefort contingent as a pick, the commoner bows obediently to Anais and then ducks around, heading the opposite way they came. Scratching his head, Stragen says, "Hmm, must've been something I said."
Anais half-pauses as the pair splits around her group, turning to look after the fleeing commoner with a faint, amused smile. "Apparently," she agrees with Stragen. "I'll hope it wasn't anything /too/ terrible, lest I be accused of guilt by association." Apparently inclined to linger outside, the young lady's steps slow, to the unsurprised dismay of her guards. "The real question is, what it accident, or on purpose?" she asks, smile quirking.
"Always on purpose. Unless it's not," Stragen states, no longer scratching his head and now stroking his beard. "And don't worry, m'lady. Just say that you were accosted by Stragen Stone, and all blame on yourself will be instantly eliminated. I've a foul reputation, you see. Several." Giving an exaggerated smile and a slight puff of his chest, he then follows up with a bow at the waist and an inclination of his head to appease her sworn. "And who might you be, m'lady?"
There's wariness from the men at Anais' side, a professional sort of readiness, but they do seem accustomed to their ward's whims. And already resigned to getting rained on, even if it hasn't started yet. "Anais Banefort," the young woman introduces herself with an easy smile, dipping her chin in return. "Of the Banefort. Creative folk, aren't we?" she laughs easily. "Though my father says it's suitably imposing either way, so no sense in trying to come up with something better for the place or the name. Is Terrick's Roost your home, then, that you've acquired such a reputation?"
"My lady, I'm known far and wide throughout the Riverlands. Thief, liar, tale-teller and defender of men's honor, ladies' virtue, and ne'er-do-wells' silver," Stragen explains, giving Anais a well-rehearsed oration. "Banefort, hmm? Sounds downright malevolent if you ask me… and I mean that nicely, gentlemen. No dishonor meant against my lady." He eyes the men in turn - if not for his nonsensical demeanor they might just miss him giving them the "warrior's eye" judging their combat readiness. "Terrick's Roost was once a place I called home, but only because of whom I was sworn to at the time. But that was a long time ago." Some of the joviality drains from his voice.
"Malevolent indeed," Anais agrees with a sober nod. "Bringing dread to the hearts of Ironmen everywhere." Her gaze sharpens just a little at the man's last words, some of her own smile fading. "Things are changing, it seems," she agrees quietly. "And it's always hard to tell at the first if it's for better. Were you a soldier, then?" she asks, looking the man over as well.
Stragen folds his arms across his chest, turning slightly so that his left leg is slightly forward, displaying the barbarian's broadsword strapped to his side. "I'd like to think I still am, although I do admit, time and scars have caught up with me. I'm sure it'd take all three of your men just to make it a fair fight," he brags, again eyeing the men, this time with a playful smirk. "But, my lady, I will be whatever you require me to be, at this very moment. Speak and it shall happen. Or, at the very least, I'll find someone to blame when I fall on my face and run for the hills."
"Ah, well. That would be unfortunate," Anais sighs in regard to a fair fight with her men. "I rather like these ones, and it's hard to replace them when I have to send all the way back to the Banefort. She arches a brow at the offer of being anything, a faint smile tugging at one corner of her lips. "I think instead of asking you to be a mermaid, I'll ask you to walk with me," she invites, laughing. "It's probably best for both of us that way. And my men would appreciate it. It is probably going to rain within the next half an hour or so," she adds cheerfully.
"Aye. I left my fins on the Isles; I'd hate to have to swim all the way there to fetch them." Smiling pleasantly, Stragen gives another bow to Anais and falls in step with her, keeping his hands far away from his sword hilt as possible. Anais might note that he has another sword-shaped object, wrapped and bound and affixed securely to the shoulder pack he has slung over his shoulder. "Where does my lady wish to go?" He asks. "Don't worry about the crowds; people get out of my way, and by extension, yours."
Anais laughs, grin flashing to dimples. "I hadn't thought to be worried about it until you pointed it out. Perhaps I /should/ find someone properly imposing to clear the way when I walk. I'm on my way back to the tower, actually," she admits, nodding toward Four Eagles. "The Terricks have been kind enough to offer my sisters and I a place to stay for a spell after the tournament." She looks over then, arching a brow curiously. "And you? Unsettled by the changes in fealty, or simply looking for a fresh start?"
Stragen grunts in displeasure. "Trying to find any start, that does not re-open old wounds," he states vaguely. "There's not much killing to be had between the houses right now. Sooner or later, though, someone will want someone else dead, and that'll start the cascade. And then, it's pay day!"
"Sooner rather than later, I fear," Anais admits, wrinkling her nose briefly before casting a sidelong glance toward the man. "What /do/ sellswords do between wars?" she asks as she walks, bold as brass. "I never thought to ask."
"Scrape by, tell stories of the better days, annoy certain Septas and get them to take pity on you and feed you," Stragen explains, as if this were a common course of action for him. "And not necessarily in that order. Oh, and on occasion, start tall tales about noble families that don't exist, and maim Ironfolk thugs when they try to steal from the King's commoners." Hmm, what could he be referring to? Perhaps the tall tale of Lady Blackmane, but what do Ironfolk have to do with anything?
"Oh, you too?" Anais looks over with a wry smile. "That's funny. I just hired a Knight for that." The first drops of rain start to sprinkle, almost more a mist than a true rain, though she hardly seems to take notice of them. "I do think it says something for Terrick's Roost that I keep finding those sorts of men here."
Stragen glances at Anais, a look of calculation crossing his features. A barbarian he might look, but he's certainly shrewd. "I'm going to guess you're referring to maiming Ironfolk," he ventures. "Are they giving my lady and her House some difficulty?"
"Always," Anais shrugs one shoulder, matter-of-fact. "I'm reasonably certain that the Seven placed them here for precisely that reason. I am told that the trials we go through are meant to strengthen us. In which case, the Ironfolk are a great service to the Banefort." A faint smile touches one corner of her lips as she shakes her head. "No, I was referring to Ser Kevan, who had the duel with the Pyke at the tournament. It seemed an unfairness to me, to see him without a position for doing what needed to be done."
Stragen chuckles lightly at the mention of Kevan. "Ah, yes. Lady Blackmane's champion. I wish I could've been there to watch the Greyjoy turn inside out when his bodyguard was skewered. The Seven had other plans for me that day, I'm afraid." A pause. "So what of this Ser Kevan? I don't think I knew his name before a week ago."
Anais tips her head to one side, considering. "Nor I," she admits, holding out one hand, palm up, as a few more raindrops start to fall. "But apparently he served the Terricks well enough until the duel. And we've certainly got nothing against killing Ironborn," she adds with a glance to her men. "And I found myself in need of someone a little more familiar with the area. So I offered him a position."
Stragen shrugs lightly, continuing to walk alongside the lady, unmindful of the beginning rain. "Then my lady is both kind and wise to employ him. Terrick's loss is Banefort's gain." A chuckle. "I even like just saying it. Banefort. Bane-fort. The name suggests a castle full of angry knights ready to beat enemies over the head with steel."
"Doesn't it?" Anais grins, holding back a laugh. "And then there's the badge, of course," she nods toward her men. A cloaked man, surrounded in flame. "Can't you just see him sitting in the center of it all, in a great hall with a pit of flame all around the perimeter? And when you look at the castle from outside, every window glows balefully, and lightning cracks above!"
"I couldn't have said it any better myself, my lady. Are you sure you're not a yarn-spinner, too?" Stragen asks, chuckling at the imagery. The rain is falling with enough frequency now to become a nuisance. Stragen slows. "Perhaps my lady would wish to find cover? I wouldn't want such fine strapping lads to get their bonnets wet." Meaning, of course, her sworn, which receive a smirk. It's a wonder this man is still alive.
"Ah, there was a time when I wished I could be," Anais admits. "During the Rebellion, from just before until after it ended, there was a singer who'd been in King's Landing who took refuge at the Banefort. I think I wicked that poor man dry of all of his songs, his tales, and every dance he knew before he moved along." At the mention of the rain, she merely looks up, unbothered by the drops. "I don't mind it," she says lightly, though the statement earns heavy sighs from at least two of the men. "My lady's never minded it," one informs Stragen woefully.
Anais and Stragen are walking along the path toward the towers, along with three Banefort men. The men don't seem thrilled with the fact that it's starting to rain, though Anais looks happy enough.
"Your loss. Heh, the Bonnets of Banefort," declares Stragen, stroking his beard. "You know, I think I might feel a sonnet coming on. And I'm a terrible singer. I'll make sure to write it in your honor, my lady, but honorable mention will go to your dutiful sworn."
Women…in the rain…it's unseemly. At least in such places as these, where decorum and deportment are paramount. As are the worries of the House hosting the sisters of Banefort. It simply wouldn't do to lose a guest to flash flood or lightning strike. How the servants would gossip. And so there's nothing for it. A small hunting party, as it were, making their way down from the Roost, one woman and a gaggle of men like geese, save with more clanking of metal and less squawking of beaks. Thankfully, there's still enough light for them to see, and to search.
"That's terrible," Anais laughs to Stragen, shaking her head. "You can't put /bonnets/ with /Banefort/. Unless it's a comedy, I suppose. Though you'd best be careful," she wags a finger in jest. "My father has absolutely no sense of humor. I had to carefully cultivate mine from scratch. There was no inheriting one." As the sounds of arms reach the guards, they almost perk up a bit. Could it be? A rescue party for them?
At the introduction of an unknown, that being the clank of men in armor and with weapons, Stragen briefly becomes tense. With the three men behind him, and more arriving from another vector, his hands do come to rest on his sword belt. "So many folk out in the rain," he observes, quickly taking in the scene.
It doesn't take so terribly long, for the party to make up the distance, the men used to the long march, the woman seeming nimble enough on her feet, and unmindful of the rain, save for the hand that occasionally rises to whisk droplets away from her eyes. "My Lady Banefort, your pardon, but we've been sent to collect you." She might as well put that out there right now. The man, tall and unknown gets a look, not of fear but of appraisal. But she knows better than to blurt out a question at a time like this.
Anais' smile at Liliana's words is rueful, that of a game-player caught in checkmate. "I should have known someone would," she replies, a glimmer of amusement in the words as she turns to Stragen. "Master Stragen, wasn't it? Thank you for walking with me. I quite enjoyed the conversation, and I do hope I'll see you some other time in town. Perhaps you'll have finished your dreadful sonnet by then," she adds, dropping polite words as if she was in a warm and sunny solar, rather than a rainy, muddy road.
With an exaggerated flourish (a bad one, at that) Stragen bows to Anais. "My pleasure, my lady. Hmm. I'll need to learn how to read before I can write, I think. But, baby steps." He turns to Liliana, giving her a bow as well, before striding off towards someplace covered.
Again, that patience, as Anais speaks, and receives a slight curtsey from the darker haired woman, "It is a difficult thing, to escape the eyes of the lady of the House." However, Liliana seeming content to wait for the visiting noble to say her farewells, before she indicates for Anais and her guards to join the group, reaching over, as she does so, to retrieve an oil skin to hold over their heads, "If you require." The courtesy of the stranger is returned with a curtsey for him, even as he moves to step away, "Gods help us if lightning strikes, my Lady. Think of the scorch marks."
Anais laughs at Stragen's parting words, a surprised sound that distracts her as Liliana brings in the rain-stopper. "Oh. Well, I suppose you're right," she allows with a small smile, squeezing in under the skin. "If lightning strikes us, Liliana, then I am very sorry for dragging you out in the rain. Otherwise, it's good for you," she declares cheerfully, turning toward the castle without actually putting up a fight.
"The woods are good for me, the open air and fair fields. Two years I have been at the Roost and I still cannot become accustomed to the feeling of stone beneath my feet rather than the good earth." Still, she doesn't stray from the path, traveling back by the quickest way towards the castle. "I fear neither rain nor cold, but I do fear the Mistress of the Robes when she catches sight of you. Perhaps we shall smuggle you in through the rear stairs."
"That is a fair concern," Anais allows with a laugh that sounds suspiciously like a giggle. "We shall have to see just how circumspect we can be on our way back in." This is an old game for her guards, apparently, who roll their eyes now and then, but seem mostly relieved for the faster pace.