|Whores for Breakfast|
|Summary:||Stragen comforts Liliana as only he can.|
|Related Logs:||None Posted Yet.|
|Roof Terrace — Four Eagles Tower|
|This is open to the air except for the rookery at the opposite end of the open walkway. Parapets and crenelations are about.|
|17 Aug, 288 AL|
Early, early in the morning at the Roost. So early in fact, that the dawn has not even kissed the edge of the horizon. But the roof terrace is not entirely empty. Two figures seem to have found a perch there. One, a retainer, a handmaiden, given her attire, alternately awake and dozing, eyes watching the Lady she's been roused from sleep to follow. The other, the Lady of Camden herself…or the younger at least, standing at the edge of the terrace, looking, not out at the darkness of the sea, but at the darkness of the forests to the north and east of the tower, far and away in the direction of her home. No sound does she make, no shaking of her shoulders, but even the waning moonlight is enough to illuminate the silent tears slipping down her cheeks.
Dressed in a loose tunic over his breeches and boots, Stragen barely looks groomed enough to be walking through the halls of Four Eagles. His hair is loosely bound, and he yawns widely and stretches as he reaches the balcony. His sheathed sword and swordbelt is in his off hand - he hasn't even strapped it on yet. "My lady, I was told you needed…" Yawn. "…tending to. Servant roused me. 'severything all right?" He asks, coming to a halt halfway from the steps to where Liliana stands. He scratches at his stomach through his tunic, still waking up.
"They should not have woken you," comes the soft, wavering answer. It's an odd thing, perhaps, to see a woman, or anyone crying without a sound, as if she weren't even aware she were doing it. Not one for wailing and gnashing her teeth, is Liliana, but it's perhaps worse for the lack of it, "I have Elise. I am well enough." A hand rises, wiping at the wetness on her face, eyes turned to take in the sight of her sworn, "Nothing can harm me here."
"Oh." Stragen is slow on the uptake, it seems, before dawn. But he manages something upon recognizing how distraught she is. "Perhaps I should have said I was out for my usual pre-dawn walk and I came to the balcony to watch the sun rise. And maybe afterwards I would sprout wings and fly around the tower for a while." He dares to approach her, closing the distance by half again. "What's happened? Why are you crying, my lady?"
There is little enough room for Liliana to move, if she were intent on evading the man, but she clearly is not, though she does turn back to look out across the distance, "I thought that I had become accustomed to being here. To knowing my family was home, safe, even if I could not see them. Not speak to them." And then they arrived at the Roost, "Then are leaving. Today. And I will have no one, again."
Ah. Family issues. Stragen shifts, looking slightly uncomfortable. "Aye, well, there's always letters, my lady," he offers in compromise. "Clearly they have important work for you to do here, right? It's not so terrible, the Roost." He grows quiet, for once not quite finding the words.
"It is not so terrible, no," Liliana offers, hand wiping away the last of the moisture, though her eyes still sparkle, "But I am alone here. I am a ward, but I am not family. It is not the same. And I have upset Lord Ser Jerold and caused him to question my good service to his House." At least that's how Liliana is interpreting it.
If Liliana had not mentioned the part about Jerold, Stragen would have continued to attribute this to loneliness and female emotion. But now, he's curious. "What did the Lord Ser have to say, then? If you don't mind me asking so, my lady." Stragen closes the distance fully to her, standing beside her. He gives an annoyed glance towards one of the handmaidens, who apparently have been utterly useless in consoling her.
"The eyes of the Roost are everywhere. He brought me to remind me that I have been bringing my good name into danger of being sullied by escaping my handmaidens and going about in the company of men unaccompanied." Which, in truth, means pretty much Stragen, as Liliana spends little time in less than social situations with any other male member of the household. "You are safe from more swimming lessons."
Saying 'I told you so' is probably the worst thing to say right now, so Stragen mentally files that one far, far back into his mind. "Ah, yes, well, perhaps the swimming lessons weren't such a good idea." He did effectively see her through her underdress, soaked through from swimming in the cove. He did warn her. "If you like, my lady, in future outings we can include your servants so that you are properly chaperoned." He snorts a chuckle. "Maybe if Lord Jerold is so damned worried about the character of his wards, maybe he should clean up his own damned town."
"I wish Wren were here, or Father. I just…." Liliana glances briefly back, before she looks away, eyes trailing over what she can see of the courtyard just below, "I do not think they were a bad idea. It's is so hard Stragen. I am a Lady, I know I cannot escape that. But I am so tired." That final comment receives an answer, "So he should clear the town of all men who look as though they might be Ironborn?"
Stragen chuckles again at that. "Aye, they're untrustworthy buggers, all of them," he states, quite aware that he can look like an islander raider rather easily. "To be perfectly frank, my lady, you're safe with me. I'd never do anything to harm you, and I'd never let your virtue be challenged. If he's so worried about your honor, then maybe he has little regard for my skill." A beat. "Maybe Ser Jarod was just plain wrong and you deserve someone who will keep you high up on the pedestal that would be proper." From the tone of his voice, though, he's not serious about putting her on a pedestal; more likely than not, it's his disdain towards nobles and their coddling of their womenfolk. "Aye, in some men's minds, you're an object, my lady, and not a person. A thing, bargained for power. This is a fact of the world we live in."
"I know that, Stragen. I know that you would never see me come to harm, nor allow me to be disgraced. Ser Jarod chose you for me, and his judge of men and character is not often wrong. You…I could not do without you. You treat me like…a person. A woman with thoughts and feelings and opinions. Not some extension of a Lord's power. Please don't misunderstand me. I am and will be what I was born to be…but every now and then…I am just so tired." But his offer does at least bring a smile, soft, sad, to her lips, "You would not dare to do such a thing." And more softly, "At least you have a choice, when you choose to whom you will sell yourself. I will never have such a choice. I am a mare to be sent to breeding, nothing more."
"To them, I'm just a tool," Stragen explains. "A means to an end. The moment I'm no longer convenient, they'll dismiss me. Or they'll set me up and get me disgraced and probably killed. Well, no, I take that back… the Terricks wouldn't. Nor would the Tordanes. And I don't know much about your family. But your average noble? Freys, Naylands?" He drags his thumb across his throat. "Not very comforting, I know. I apologize."
Liliana does turn then, a flash of anger replacing the sadness of a moment before. Perhaps they are well matched indeed, the Noble woman and her sworn. "You are not simply a tool. And I will not allow you to be dismissed or disgraced. You will find Camden a sanctuary, if ever it comes to that, and every archer prepared to defend you." The mere thought of the man coming to harm has her livid. "You are not expendable."
"Begging your pardon, my lady," Stragen offers, as no doubt her handmaidens are quietly gasping at her outburst. "But I'm just smallfolk. Smallfolk that knows how to use a blade and knows how to fight men more heavily armed and armored than him. Smallfolk that knows how to kill other men, lie to other men, and cheat men out of their hard-earned coin. No matter my skills, I'm just smallfolk." His voice drops in volume and his tone is not as boisterous and clear.
It is not as though her handmaidens, dear as they are, have ever had cause not to be shocked at her behaviour, so Liliana pays their reactions little mind, "Perhaps that is the way you are accustomed to in other lands and in the service of other Houses, Stragen, but that is not the way of my House. We care deeply for our smallfolk. As deeply as we care for each other. We could never have survived as long as we have, by not knowing that it would take every man woman and child to protect and defend us. And every person who serves the land deserves the same respect."
Stragen nods slightly. "Aye, my lady, that is very much so. In some lands. I doubt the Tordanes and the Terricks would treat their smallfolk badly. But, I am no lord's Smallfolk. I'm a sword for hire. I'm my own man. In some cases, I'm worse than Smallfolk, as I heed no lord's words unless there's the jingle of coppers to follow his syllables. That makes me especially dangerous… and especially disaposable." Offering her a smile now, he tries a different tactic. "Perhaps, some time in the future, you could take me to your homeland. I'd enjoy seeing it, I think. Imagine: a land full of archers and hunters."
"There are some who say that the only man you can trust is the man who answers to the coin. Only that man will honest in his dealings with you." Liliana pauses, considering, "Would you leave me, then, if Ser Jarod no longer wished to pay you for your service?" There's an honesty in her voice. She really does want to know the truth of it, "Our lands are not so far from here. A Day's ride from the Tower to our Keep. But, if ever I should have the chance to go home again, I hope that you will have the chance to come with me."
"If Ser Jarod no longer wished to pay me," Stragen repeats, mulling the words over. "I'd have to find gainful employment elsewhere, I suppose," he admits. "I've no real attachment to these lands." And that, folks, is a big fat lie.
There's a sadness, in Liliana's eyes, at the man's admission, but her words are steady, "Thank you for being honest with me, Stragen. It is good to know where we stand." Not friends, or even the beginnings of friends, but 'employer' by proxy, and employee. A nod as she steps back, putting some small distance between herself and the man, "I am sorry to have asked you to do so many things you were unwilling to do."
"If I were unwilling to do them, my lady, I would never have done them. Instead, if I felt that you were acting too rashly, I would have reported my findings to Ser Jarod." Stragen crosses his arms across his chest, peering out towards the horizon. The sun is near rising. "I've not yet seen that behavior, nor do I expect to." Whether or not that's an indication that he expects her to be a lady at all times, or if he's being supportive of her character.
"And so I have another set of eyes watching all of my comings and goings." Not that she really could have expected any different. But Liliana occupies herself with settling against the edge of the terrace, hands flat on the still cool stone, "Do you have friends, Stragen, somewhere in the world? People who would care for you regardless of what you did or where you went?"
Stragen shakes his head. "No, my lady, I do not," he says simply. Not coldly, mind you - just a statement of fact. "I've no family, no loved ones. All I have is my work as a sword." A pause. "If I may, why do you ask?"
"It must be a hard life. Never to have anyone you can call your own, even in the gentle ways of friendship. To know neither comfort nor respite from pain. To view every other person in the world either as the one who bears the purse or the one from whom the purse must be taken." Soft and quiet, her words, but adamant. "It is not a gentle life."
"Aye, it's not. But every so often I have enough coin to rub together for a whore and and ale, and usually stories in the inns are free. Except when they're not," the large man says, rubbing the side of his head where he was struck by crockery. "I get my fill of folk through my work, and when I don't want to be bothered I simply sever my ties and move on. Unfettered. Usually poor, but unfettered." A pause. "Maybe I should join the Sept. I hear they need swords on occasion, and since I'm already poor, I'd fit right in!"
"I have never been able to understand how a man can find a whore appealing. But I suppose in their own way, they are no different than I, or you. They sell themselves to make their way, as you do, as I will have to." Although, to be fair, it will be her family that sells her, but eh. "Perhaps you should. You would always have gainful employ and a warm meal."
Stragen shrugs lightly. "Not your place to understand, really, and I'd no doubt be scolded or get you another scolding if I explained to you the finer intricacies of whoring," he offers with a slight smirk. The sun is fully rising now, casting gold, yellow, and amber across the countryside. He eyes one of the handmaidens dubiously. "Let's put it this way, my lady: when you are not interested in the emotional burden of courting and marrying a woman, often beneath my station in my case - " Tough to be beneath 'Smallfolk', so he's just being self-deprecating, or he's referring to the nobility. "You pay for precisely what you need from her, at that moment." And there, he's explained it, without the gory details.
Dear Elise has fallen back to sleep, snoring lightly, but the child can hardly be blamed. Vena is more alert, but she's seated a fair distance from the pair, and out of earshot, busying herself with twisting and braiding spun thread into intricate designs seemingly only visible to herself. "But it's used. By you and by every other man who had enough coin to spend on her. Does that not bother you?" With the sun now rising, Liliana turns, half turned to Stragen, as she sets the sun at her back, the brightness of those first rays of light, filtering through her hair turning the soft strands golden, "Not just used…but used."
"Men don't tend to be thinking about that particular fact when… ah. Propriety." Stragen stops short of continued explanation. "Just because someone stuck their thumb in a pie doesn't make it any less of a pie. It's somewhat less desirable, due to the thumb, and you don't know where that thumb's been, but… pie." He raises both eyebrows and glances at her with a growing smirk. "Makes sense, right?"
The explanation, given the slightly green expression on her face, does not seem to bring the woman any comfort, even if it is enlightening. "I suppose, no, not makes sense. You don't know where that 'pie's' been. You could be taking your slice, and end up with a complaint only a maester could heal. Or a prayer to the gods." Liliana lifts a hand, clearly put off by the very thought. "Come, we should likely head back before the sun rises too high and the heat melts us to the stonework."
"Agreed. Plus, we can have whores for breakfast." A beat. Stragen chuckles. "Pie, I mean. I'm sure we can find some non-used pie for breakfast. My lady." And he bows slightly, motioning for her to enter first.