|Summary:||A memory from Saffron's past.|
|Date:||06 June 2012|
|May 1, 285 — Saffron's 16th Name Day|
Father and daughter left at dawn, leaving the slender and beautiful Alyss Banefort on the stone steps of the great Banefort keep. She was surrounded by two strawberry-haired girls who should have been twins had their births not been ten months separated; Grenna clutched to her mother's skirts, looking sullen that the pair was leaving her behind, but Claira stood on her tiptoes and waved with such enthusiasm, Saffron was sure her hand would fall off. Terras should have also been there to see them off, but her older sister had been in bed for weeks with a lung cold. Had this not been her name day, had this not been a tradition between her and her Lord father as long as her memory allowed, she would have invited them all along. But, this morning didn't belong to them.
It did not take them long to scale down the stony foundation that safeguarded the keep and onto the rocky beach. As tradition demanded, once Saffron's old grey palfrey got her bearings, she was spurred into a canter and then a run, taunting her father's horse to race. They kicked up coarse sand and surf as they left the Banefort behind, not stopping until the sand softened and a bit of scrub-brush invaded the beach. As always, Bernard let his daughter win. It always did her heart good to be able to whoop and laugh as he dramatically trailed in behind her, and it always made him smile.
"Alright, girl," he said to her as he dismounted from his black courser, the warhorse an equine mirror to her father's dark features and steady frame. He pulled a long parcel from his saddle, it wrapped in sturdy cloth. "Two hours, and then we head back. Your mother has demanded I not keep you out all morn and into the afternoon, and I could never —"
"'Deny your mother,'" Saffron finished on his behalf as she swung out of her own saddle. She smiled to him, her face alight with dimples and bright eyes. It was impossible for Bernand not to meet her smile with his own. As she began to unload her palfrey, taking her own wrapped parcel from the saddle, Bernard took stock of his daughter. Despite her sixteenth name day, Saffron was still too tall and scrawny to be much of a woman. She towered over her sisters, though she got that trait from her mother who was also like a willow. What worried him was that she still was lacking in what prospective suitors would desire in a wife; she was meager in hips and breast, and she still moved with a kind of gawkish quality often found in young men instead of young women. According to Septa Ara, it was not unheard of for some ladies to come into their own later than others. He hoped the sister was right.
"Now, tell me the rules," Bernard said as he pulled out a sword blank from the cloth, weighing it in his hands. His daughter had unwrapped its partner, though the Master of Arms had ensured it was a short sword blank instead of the full sword he wielded. After training up knights and soldiers alike, he knew to start them off with the proper weapon. The fact that they had switched to steel was something he never shared with his Lady wife, as she still assumed they were down the coast, waving wooden blades around like pageboys. He had, in all earnest, kept them on wooden blades as long as he could, but the faux weapon had become too light for her to bear properly. Behind Alyss's back, he had a blank fashioned. Should she find out, Seven save him, he would claim that at least it wasn't sharp.
"A lady never attacks first," Saffron said as she began to list the rules her father had laid down, striding out into their makeshift practice circle of well-placed stones. "A lady never kills, only debilitate. A lady will always yield if she becomes outnumbered or the opponent too skilled."
"And a lady never oversteps those sworn to protect her," Bernard added in a mild tone. That was one she never, ever learned. He joined her in the circle, and with a wave of his own hand, his daughter took up a trained defensive stance. He critiqued her stance with well-trained eyes, but then nodded in satisfaction with her form. Damned the Septa who tried to teach her more than a waltz-step, but she could at least perform sword form properly. He took up his own stance, a middling between defensive and aggressive.
He lunged forward at her, his blank swiping strong and direct for her collar. She dropped her stance low, sweeping one leg out to steady while the other knee bent. His sword swished over her head with a curt whisper, and he maneuvered quickly out of the predicted slash for his knees. They danced together then, swords ringing out against each other in the solitude of the morning. He had trained her to be fast, dodgy, and able to predict an attacker's aggression; she knew to parry, to dodge, and to strike in places that would slow or stop further assaults. Sometimes though, as he opened himself up to more fatal attacks, he would see the flash of confidence in her eyes as she sprung to take that advantage. He would chide her for it, firmly explaining that a lady does not mean to kill. She would become a touch despondent, but always agreeable. If she argued, he would deny her lessons — and they were rare enough that she would not dare allow him. It was a dangerous balance that Lord Bernard played with.
To his word, they did not allow the sun to get too high in the sky before he called their morning lesson done. Both were sweaty and a bit stung in places where the blanks had gotten through their defenses. To his delight, his daughter beamed like the sun despite the aches and pains. It was in these moments he wished the Maesters had been right, and that she had been born a son. It would have made the coming years far easier on his heart.
With the rest of her name day traditions still looming, he spurred her into tidying up their practice site and packing back up the horses. At first he did not notice her reluctance, the slow ways in which she moved about their mounts, but soon it became hard to ignore.
"You move like the Crone, Saffron. What is it?" He asked as he slide the wrapped blank back beneath the saddle, glancing over to his solemn daughter as she looks out across the sea.
"You'll be sending me away soon, won't you?" She tilted her chin to look at him with those pale blue eyes. The sheer weight of the question caught him off-guard; Saffron was never one to face the future with such graveness. Terras, her older sister, was far better at that.
Bernard delayed his reply by tightening up the saddle latches beneath the courser's belly, stroking the old gelding's dark coat. When he finally met those beseeching eyes, he breathed out a sigh. "Perhaps in a year or two, my dear. We are still negotiating with Lord Graves for your sister's hand." He looked away then, fiddling with the horse's bridle. "We have time."
"A year or two isn't much of it," she said reproachfully as she tucked away her own practice blank. There was a heavy pause as she brushed her hand across the mare's neck. "Where will you send me?" She asks, almost in a whisper. It was a question that he could easily shrug at.
"There is no answer to that I can give," he said in a soft voice that rivaled his harder edges. "You will just have to put trust in your mother and me. You can do that, can't you, Little Red?"
"Yes," she said quietly before she swung back up into her saddle. It was in that moment, he saw the true age of his daughter. So worried that she would be sent somewhere unkind, somewhere that they would cage her up. No longer did she live in the moment. His Lady wife said she had a wild heart — and, though Alyss would never admit it, he saw the same heart in his own wife's chest. It was what made loving her so easy once they were wed and their first daughter was on the way. It was also why it was so easy for Alyss and Saffron to disagree. Their fights were the most explosive he had witnessed, but it resulted in more time he could spend with his daughter while she avoided her mother.
As they began the ride back to the Banefort, there were no races across the beach nor much conversation. He swore that next year he would get her a proper weapon, perhaps he'd go as far as King's Landing to have it crafted. He would instruct one of her guards to always carry it for her, so should she need it, it was close by. Master Punbah would be ideal for that task. Yes, he thought, that would do nicely.
Little did they know that, within a year, the death of Terras Banefort would not only rob Lord Bernard's family of a good, tender-hearted daughter, but it would quiet that wild heart whose beat fueled Saffron's spirit. All that would remain was obligation and grief, and she would never ride out with her father again on the bright morning of her name day.