|Your Lady is in Another Cave|
|Summary:||After two caves, a pack of bandits, and a few boars, Inigo finally finds Sofya.|
|Related Logs:||Laying Waste to Bandits Ahorse and Laying Waste to Badnits Afoot|
|The Picnic Site — Terrick Lands|
|There are people.|
|April 4, 289 A.L.|
It is not a great distance from the bandit encampment (or hole, as some are calling it), but between regrouping for a bit and seeing to the ladies rescued from the cave, it has taken some time for the party of armed men and damsels no longer in distress to return to the original picnic site and spot where everyone has chosen to regroup after the day's events. As the sun sinks lower towards the horizon, light beginning to take on a golden hue, riders appear, several families already successfully reunited with those gone missing. For others, now they finally see loved ones again, safe at least, if not all are well and unharmed.
Though grateful to see his cousin and cousin-in-law safely rescued from that cave, Inigo still has one person missing to recover, by his count, and he can only hope that she's here…there was little to no talk of maids and servants missing from the cave, just Ladies. Straight-backed in his saddle, he walks his horse through the rally point, using the extra height to get a better look around as he searches.
That gold cast to the sky turns the figures of those populating the site into stark fragments of moving statuary, cut with sharp chiaroscuro edges. They leave long, trailing shadows behind them like the arms of trees that bisect and break as people move to congregate and greet. The day has been a success with few losses and the mood reflects that. Amidst the revelry, Sofya sits perched on the edge of a wagon. She has been in camp long enough that someone has found her a blanket to throw over her state of undress, but bare legs dangle off the edge of the wagon and her skin is still covered in dirt. Her blue eyes stare at the crowds in a sort of blank confusion, watching but not really seeing.
Maybe she sees him coming, maybe she doesn't, but Inigo approaches on horseback at a slow walk (you really can't go any faster with so many people milling around), a dark figure that looks rather unlike his usual self. His face shows signs of tiredness under the day's grime, leathers a little blood-stained from battle. It may not be the most welcoming sight at first glance. "Sofya," he calls her name quietly to not startle as he comes near, coming to a stop and swinging out of the saddle. For a moment or two, he says nothing, then he asks, "Are you alright?"
Those blue eyes swing towards him at that soft intonation of her name, wide and still a bit dazed looking, dark locks plastered to her dirt stained features. It is only a heartbeat before they bright in recognition. "You are the best thing, I have seen all day," Sofya replies softly, shifting to slide off the edge of the cart. That doesn't answer his question, although the dark bruise cross her temple and the calf-like awkwardness of her gestures might be answer enough.
"I would take that as more of a compliment, had this not been of of the worst days," Inigo replies, though the corners of his lips turn up in a tight smile. His eyes say more, deep, brown and glossy, they are full of relief and affection. It is an expression sadly short-lived as those eyes take in bruising and awkwardness. "Maybe you should stay seated," he suggests, moving closer with arms half raised from his side as if he expects her to fall over.
"There aren't three of you? Which is more than I can say of the poor knight I awoke on," Sofya returns, wrinkling her nose in thought as she tries to recall her rather dizzy return to consciousness. Closer now, Inigo can see that blood mingles with that dirt, even as she smiles back at him. His suggestion catches her already half in motion, blanket slipping as she slides off the cart onto knees that aren't quite ready for it and has them give out for her troubles. She catches herself on the edge of the cart just before she manages to send herself towards the ground. "That…would have been the worse idea, yes. My Lord."
"My mother would thank the Gods there aren't three of me," Inigo replies with a slight drawl and then runs a hand trough his messy hair in a fidgety way. He opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again with a huff, looking her up and down. "You look awful," he blurts out, because he's smooth like that. Maybe he makes up for poor choices in words by swiftly catching Sofya before she hits the ground. "I think standing is beyond you for the moment," he murmurs.
"I managed not to throw up on his horse?" That…is really making things sound better Sofya. Other than wholeheartedly failing the ideal of the romantic rescue from bandits at least. She barely has a chance to reflect upon his poor choice in words before the ground folds beneath her and she finds herself caught in strong arms. Leaning her head against Inigo's shoulder, she laughs in quiet shock, "I guess I can't say you never made me swoon, anymore." The blanket slips halfway from her shoulders, baring skin to late evening air with the tremor of gooseflesh. "I agree."
"I am sure he appreciated that," Inigo replies a touch tightly, gritting his teeth. No, that is not making things sound better. "As much as I would like to take credit for this swoon, I suspect is has rather more to do with…what happened." He's still not entirely clear on the details, though 'what happened' encompasses days of fear and starvation as well as her head injury. "And I am not the cause of that." Fucking bandits. Holding her up, he adjusts the blanket back around her as it slips. Who's the one fussing now?
"I would rather attribute it to your dashing rather than…any of it, my Ser," Sofya answers, soft words mumbled against his shoulder. Her voice is too low to be overhead by any of those around them. Curling her hands against his jerkin, she slowly lifts her face a bit to look up at him from under dark lashes. "No, you are not the cause of any of that." Self-consciously, she shifts in his arms and lifts a hand to help tug the blanket back into place. Seeming suddenly small beneath its cover, blue eyes flit over his shoulder to the number of knights around, aware of her near nakedness. "My thanks, my Lord." He has earned his right to fuss this time.
"Alright," Inigo says simply, not interested in arguing the point. "I am very dashing." Sort of. In a slightly-grimly and bloodstained sort of way, but in this they match? When she looks up he looks down at her with dark, solemn eyes. "No," he agrees, though he seems dissatisfied none the less. Not the cause, but unable to more than scrabbled around after bandits for days. And only a day after discussing them at a meeting. He just nods at her thanks. "Has anyone looked at you?" Because you are injured, not because you are nearly naked. "Fed you?"
"Terrifically so," Sofya affirms with a soft, exhausted smile. Her slate grey eyes trace those familiar, grimy features as if they were a fine tapestry in a court. He has never looked better. She blinks, dark lashes fluttering over sallow skin, and gives her head a cautious shake. "No…they were seeing to the ladies first." And likely only became busier with the second influx of ladies. "Ah." No. Not yet. "I had some water?"
Inigo smiles down at her with some effort. Grateful as he is to see her, it is hard to be entirely without tension and concern given the state of things. Still, he is smiling and if it is tight it is genuine enough. He nods at her explanation — of course — looks around and then exhales heavily. "I am going to set you back on the cart," he warns her, like a gentleman, before picking her up and setting her down again. If she's seated, she's less likely to fall. "Then I'm going to get you something to eat."
It has been a long…weekend. Fingers still curled in his clothes, she brushes her thumbs along the edges of the familiar stitches and meets his nod with a docile one of her own. She is no lady. "Okay," Sofya agrees softly, tightening her grip until he has settled her safely back into position. Her feet kick at the air like a girl's, bare and black with dirt and mud, wide eyes watchful. "Make sure you get something for yourself to eat as well," she direct with a frown. He has a bad habit of not eating when he's stressed.
It has. For everyone, just some more than others. Inigo makes sure she's settled and not about to wobble off anywhere before he turns around and steps back to the horse to rustle through the saddlebags. "I have had more access to food than you have," he points out over his shoulder. What he pulls out of his bag is hardly a feast, but it is food, some bread that's fairly fresh, an apple and a little dried meat besides. Perhaps the benefit of being in Stonebridge for a few days is the food supply. So like a puppy bringing home a present, Inigo drops a napkin containing food onto Sofya's lap, then hops up beside her on the cart.
The world is seemingly far more steady from a seated position, Sofya brushes her fingers across one of the hands still settled against her in a brief, affectionate gesture. Then she dips her head in silent thanks, withdrawing her hands completely and folding them in her lap. "Doesn't mean you couldn't stand to eat something," she argues simply, likely more for the sake of habit than intent. It certainly isn't for lack of appetite. She regards the offered food as if it were a feast, hesitating for only a moment to look to him for — something that isn't quite permission and is a little more than thanks, gaze hazy with emotion. Swallowing thickly, she licks her lips and skips the bread and meat to go straight for the apple. Her favorite. The noise she makes as her teeth cut into the juicy fruit is a shade away from being indecent.
The brush of fingers over his hands earns Sofya a soft smile that doesn't quite touch the concern in his eyes before he's turned away to his horse. You are welcome. "I suppose it doesn't," Inigo murmurs, settling beside his retainer on the cart, considerably more casual about food given that he hasn't been starved for days. This does not mean he's oblivious, however, to her condition. "Do not eat too quickly, though I know you might like to," he says knowledgeably, watching her regarding the food with large, dark eyes full of sympathy. He clears his throat when she bites into the apple, glancing around the makeshift camp.
Considering that her first bite of apple is followed by a quick second, that is a needful warning. Forcing herself to chew more slowly, Sofya ducks her head in a short nod and drags her hand over suddenly damp eyes with a sniffle. Right. Slow. “Delicious,” she mumbles. Her caution only lasts so long before she is taking another large bite of the fruit.
A warning that may bear repeating. "Pace yourself or you will make yourself sick," Inigo cautions, this time with more explanation, perhaps attempting to appeal to her practical side. "Oh, hey," he whispers with a furrow of his brows that wrinkle his forehead in concern, the attention big-eyed gaze all on her and her damp eyes. "It is alright. You are safe now."
“Right,” she says, word small and breathy. It’s all the Sofya can do to bob her head in another nod, mouth pinching at the corners as she swallows thickly in an attempt to push down swelling emotion. Her teeth grit, pressing flesh apple to pulp between them. Dark lashes flutter quickly against her cheeks, some liquid leaking out despite her attempts only to be wiped away with the back of her hand. “I know. I just — stupid.” The words come with the bark of a laugh. Stupid to cry now.
A hand presses to her back, large and gentle in its pressure, slowly rubbing the small area between her shoulder blades in a comforting motion. Inigo sits in silence for awhile, not adding to the burden or words. What can really be said? His touch and the way he watches with deep brown eyes speaks enough for a little while: I'm sorry. I know I was awful. I wish it hadn't happened, but it did. "Not so stupid," he assures on a soft breath of whisper.
With a hand so placed he can feel the small tremors that chorus just beneath her skin, causing Sofya to shiver. She sniffles, rubbing the back of her hand across her face, trying to quell the tears. Stupid tears. All the while, the apple remains in her grasp in a child-like gesture that would seem more at home with skinned knees and dirty elbows than for a woman of twenty and one. Wide, watery blues eyes meet his deep, brown eyes after he whispers, lower lip trembling even as she tries to force her mouth into a smile. “It feels stupid.” She is safe now. It is fine. Really.
Feeling those tremors, Inigo's mouth turns down a touch, just at the corners, but he continues to rub her back in a slow, circular motion. There, there. "No one will think less of you for tears falling down your face, not today," he assures, leaning forward slightly before pausing with a sigh. She may not be a Lady, be she's still a woman who's suffered a traumatic experience. "So it is not stupid." He pauses a beat and tries to return the smile. "Really, you are holding up better than some I have seen." He may not actually be referring to any ladies today.
Breathing slowly in an attempt to calm herself, Sofya clutches the blanket tighter around her trembling form. The quick hammering of her heart finally beginning to slow. Calm. “I might think less of myself, it’s just ridiculous,” she manages with a soft huff. Her composure is so rarely rattled. “So long as you don’t think less of me, my Lord. And it would be difficult not to…some of the ladies, well. Resistance was not appreciated.” A fact that her own bruised face attests to.
Inigo is patient while she trembles, while she tries to regain control of herself. He just waits, a quiet and concerned companion, not judging her for an entirely reasonably state of distress, but also not encouraging some kind of breakdown as if it's expected. "You should not think less of yourself for this," he states a bit firmly, an edge of steel under all the sympathy. "I do not." His expression twists in a brief flash of tight anger before soften some again. "Resistance rarely is," he says darkly, then swallows. "At least they…limited themselves to that…" There is a hint of hesitant curiosity in his tone about what happened over the past few days, though he is reluctant to ask outright.
Public breakdowns are both unseemly and ill befitting a retainer of the House of Vance, no matter how distressing the week’s past events have been. Sofya flattens her mouth and attempts to straighten her shoulders, mostly hiding the lingering tremble — at least from sight — as she lifts her chin to meet Inigo’s judgement. It almost undoes her once more, eyes brightening with emotion as she swallows thickly. “I…am glad of it, then.” A slight smile is offered, sober but genuine. “I am especially glad of that, it—” Biting her lower lip, she glances around the area with a low sigh that draws the strength from her small form. Her shoulders drooping as she quietly admits, “That. Is a story I would rather tell in another place, my lord.” Not here. Not just now.
In general, he would agree with that assessment and normally he might be quite cross about it, but today Inigo is willing to let it slide a little under the circumstances. There is no judgement in his eyes for Sofya to meet. Mouth twitches in a careful, uncertain smile as her eyes glisten and threaten more tears. "You do not have to speak of it now," he says, briefly giving her shoulder a squeeze. It's okay. "Not when it is hardly been over. I…imagine it is hard to really believe it is over at all." The way he speaks does not make it sound as though he has to really imagine that.
It is that lack of judgement that nearly breaks Sofya’s barricades, as simple a thing as that is. Her smile twitches brighter as Inigo returns it, wavering only a little as she scrubs her eyes once more. No more tears. “I thought — I thought a lot of things when the sun came up this morning. It is hard to believe, still, that this is how it will end now that it descends. When they dragged us out to the horses, I figured…” Her voice dims to a sullen whisper, silencing thoughts that are too dark to voice. Then she takes another bite of the apple, rather than speak more on it. “How did you find us?”
Inigo clears his throat again, this time as an attempt to move on with her from large eyes, both tear-filled and not, instead of in reaction to a nearly indecent noise. She figured…He grits his jaw briefly, muscles there standing out sharply before calming. For a moment he mulls her words over, frowning slightly in thought. "There was a lot of tension on our side every morning, more and more with each passing day. I believe some had thought it would be such a simple thing to follow the men who had taken all the ladies." He exhales, bowing his head. "Obviously it was not. Trackers in the woods, following trails and looking for clues…that's the short answer." He snorts a laugh. "I helped raid two caves looking for missing women and you were not in either one."
Sofya quietly crunches on the apple, taking small, methodical bites to not rush herself to sickness. She does not interrupt as Inigo speaks, watching his expression for the tensions that his words alone do not hold. Her tongue darts across her lips, cleaning them of any juice before she ventures, “The tensions are our side swelled much the same.” Adversarial and starved women in a cave, that might go without saying. Dark lashes flit in a blink at his short laugh, causing her to tip her head in confusion. “What was in the other cave?” The ladies were only in one. “Trust me, my Lord. I would have rather greeted you in the cave, I am sorry I missed your valorous entrance.”
"I suppose that is how it goes." It probably goes without saying. "You women can be catty at the best of times." Oh so innocent and nonchalant, Inigo reaches over to pluck a bit of dried meat off the napkin and pop it in his mouth to chew on. Hmhm. "Boar," he answers of the other cave. "They were considerably less happy to see us…although they were about as grubby." There's some truth to that, but from the way he looks sideways at Sofya and tries to hide a smile, he's clearly teasing. "Not much was missed. Others entered the cave, I was dealing with the bandits."
“We women?” Sofya drawls, in a question that isn’t really a question so much as a statement of dry amusement. She watches that oh so innocent motion with a menacing crunch of her apple, mouth twitching briefly at the corners for the thankful return to normalcy. “Boar.” Blink. “I would imagine they weren’t terribly happy to see you if you went in waving swords,” she comments wryly, sucking a bit of pulp off the end of her finger. “They were probably in better shape than us.” A short note of laughter bookends her statement. Less bruised at least. “Now that does sound dashing, my Lord.” There is a short pause, then she asks flatly, “Are they dead?” The words are blank, lacking intonation or sentiment.
Inigo doesn't respond to the not-question that is really dry amusement. He's innocent, remember? Also, not scared of the menacing apple crunch, though he does side-eye Sofya again. "Boar," he repeats with a grimace. "Had to leap out of the way to not get trampled, or worse. Not everyone was so lucky, though no one was seriously injured." None of the men doing the searching, at least. "Hard to tell under the fur and dirt." He means the boars, uh, obviously. The shape they were in. Moving on. Shoulders set, he tips his chin up in an effort to look dashing for a moment, before he looks serious again. "Most of them. Lord Justin is trying to track down one who ran. And another was captured and will be taken back to Terrick's Roost." He picks at a little blood spatter on his leathers as he speaks.
Completely. It is a very threatening apple crunch, teeth white and sharp with hunger that is forced to a rhythmic pace. “It would not have done for you to be gored,” Sofya agrees with a wince of her own. His attempts to look dashing pull another slight smile from her, crooked and warm. There’s her dashing Knight. Hello. Polish off the last bite of apple, she gives the blanket around her shoulders a fussy tug to further cover her own blood and dirt covered figure. “Good.” The apple core is set aside. “The others…the ones that took us away from camp. I think they are dead as well. I don’t, I don’t quite know what happened to them but I woke up on Ser Farrell’s horse and covered in blood. So.” It seems like a good guess.
"No, it would not, but I am unharmed." From bandits and boars alike, he's suffered no injuries. Unlike Sofya and many of the others that were kidnapped. The serious expression on Inigo's face grows a little darker as she tugs the blanket around her shoulders to hide her blood and dirt covered figure. "Good," he states firmly with a low growl. "I hope Lord Justin catches the one that ran. I imagine even the one captured will be made an example of." You really can't let that sort of thing go unpunished. Dark eyes flick back to the covering blanket with a particularly grim expression.
“I am glad, my Lord.” A smile twitches briefly on the corners of Sofya’s mouth, softly adding, “You are a much better rescuer than a patient.” The blanket is smoothed self-consciously and lifting her dangling legs, she tucks them under its folds. “They deserve it.” That punishment. “Do…you think they’ll question him first?” She wonders quietly, curling her shoulders in. “I doubt they’ll find them…but, maybe they didn’t have time to sell the horses.” Poor horses.
Muffling a quiet laugh behind his hand, Inigo glances over at his retainer with an arch of a brow. "I am an excellent patient…I do not know what you mean." His lips curve in a mildly mischievous smile that belies his attempts to look wide-eyed and innocent. Oh well. "They do. That and more, but you can only kill a man once," he murmurs, clenching a fist in anger before uncurling his fingers to lay his palm flat on his thigh. "I'm sorry. We did not find any horses that I know of. Riders were sent to look and see if they had been sold, though, I believe."
“Oh?” Her dark brows rise in pointed query, only to lead her to wince slightly when it causes the muscles in her forehead to tinge angrily. Smiling faintly, Sofya lifts a hand and presses it to her temple. “My mistake, I must be the difficult patient then.” Oh, dear. Luckily, she isn’t likely to be off her feet for long. “So I am to understand, however you can kill him slowly,” she opines with a vicious edge to her soft voice. Its heat is mild and biting. “Oh,” is her simple reply to that news, disappointed but not surprised.
"I rather suspect you will be," Inigo says dryly. It is very difficult to get her to relax and not do things, after all. Normally, this is an admirable quality, but with a head-wound after days of no food and poor sleep, it may be cause for concern. "Though I believe even you will have to take it easy the rest of today, at least." Considering that standing is a great difficulty at the moment. A nod, slight and sharp, as he gives the ground a stormy look will have to suffice in reply to killing slowly. Yes. "It is possible will will still find them." Maybe. "I am sorry." Perhaps to her more than most in the cases of horses. "We brought extra mounts for travel in case the horses were not recovered." Poor horses.
Tearing a piece of the bread off, Sofya pops it between her lips and follows it with a bite of jerky, eating the food in a unconscious sort of fashion now that initial sharp edges of hunger have dulled. “I suppose I will,” she agrees on the breath of a sigh. Biting the inside of her cheek, she shrugs her shoulders at his apology, making no attempt to hide the sad look in her eyes. It is not his fault. “Hopefully they did not just eat them as Mistress Dania suggested…” Poor horses. “Are we to return to the Roost then?”
It is not his fault, but that doesn't mean he doesn't sympathize with the loss. Inigo grimaces at the thought of them eating the horses. "Desperate as they must have been, I think they were smart enough to realize the value of the horses sold would be a great deal more than just for food." As loathe as he is to refer to them as smart in any way, they did elude the trackers for a few days. "The Terricks will all be returning to the Roost, likely as soon as they can manage, as will we, yes. It and Stonebridge are nearly the same distance away, so we may as well just return to the Roost."
Sofya loved that horse. The thought of them being eaten isn’t enough to make her grimace, although she does frown fiercely and tear off another piece of bread. “One can only hope, but people who are starving do some spectacularly stupid things, my Lord.” Like kidnap a passel of ladies. That could have gone better for them, in hindsight. She swallows and nods. “That…I am pleased to hear. All I want is to take a bath and putting on my own clothes will be a relief.” She smooths the blanket down her front with a milder angle to her frown. “Is there anything I might change into…to ride back? I can make do with the blanket if need be.” It is hardly decent though.
"I know," Inigo replies softly, dropping his gaze to look down at the ground. "Desperation, fear, revenge…they drive people to do their worst. Try not to think of the worst for her." Even gone, it's better to imagine the horse with another rider than as a meal. "It would be hard to unload so many horses without someone getting wind." You know, again assuming they were sold. "I think that can be arranged," he says with a soft smile, looking over at her again. Baths and her clothes, that is. "I-" He starts and stumbles a bit, less prepared than some others. "I can give you a…shirt? And a cloak?"
While Inigo’s gaze drops to the ground, Sofya’s looks to the sky as she sucks in a slow breath at that thought. She has seen enough dirt to last her for a long time. It is…easier to think of the sweet mare with another rider. “It would, what with Seagard being a trek from here.” Shh. It is best to assume so. “Lovely,” she says breathily, a smile beginning to light her features at the thought. It is rather quickly replaced with an embarrassed flush at Inigo offering his shirt. Uhm. No one really expected them to be so near to naked. “I…would very gladly thank you for the lending of your shirt, my Lord. And clean it most vigorously before returning it.” Pink to the tips of her ears, her words are mumbled as she speaks into the blanket.
Inigo seems at peace with looking at the ground, thoughts more earthbound than heavenly. "Seagard and Stonebridge are keeping watch. If they are to be found, they will be," he says and leaves it at that. There's nothing he can do that hasn't already been done. He smiles warmly in return, amused with the lightening of her features at the thought of bathes and clothes, then rubs at his jaw with a long-fingered hand as she flushes, gaze skittering awkwardly away. "It's nothing," he assures, sliding off the cart again. "Vigorously cleaned," he throws over his shoulder in an attempt to lighten the mood. A few moments later, he is laying a shirt and a cloak on the cart beside her, where he had been sitting.
There’s nothing he can sing that can’t be sung? No. That’s not entirely appropriate to this situation, which leaves Sofya with her flushed features and nose deep in the blanket that has been wrapped around her shoulders. “Vigorously,” she promises with a vigorous nod of her head. She dusts the crumbs from her lap, watching him collect the items. “They will look like new when I am finished with them.” And will likely be darned and restitched so perfectly that they’ll damn well behave like they are near new as well. It is a promise. She brushes his shirt with her fingers, looking over at him from under dark lashes. “I should…go and change then.”
Maybe he can keep her off her feet a little longer by distracting her with sewing tasks. Inigo, meanwhile, is doing his best to hide a terribly amused look for Sofya's pink face and hiding in the blanket. Ducking his head and biting his bottom lip, he is mostly successful. "Ah, yes," he agrees with a quick smile. "If your legs can hold you this time." This time, he holds out a gentlemanly hand for her to take while getting off the cart.
That is a highly manipulative idea that carries a very high likelihood of success; Sofya does tend to get wrapped up in her sewing. He is also lucky. His retainer is so occupied with her pink cheeks and the borrowed clothing that she doesn’t notice his amusement. Picking up the items, she gently folds them over her arm. “I think…I’ll do better this time,” she offers mildly, reaching for that hand.Then she takes the plunge, sliding off the cart to land lightly on her feet and only dipping a little this time. There. Sofya smiles up at up at Inigo in thanks, giving his hand a squeeze. She’ll go change and prepare for their return journey to the Roost.