(1867-09-10) Right Handed
Right Handed
Summary: Two t'Marens run into each other after the meeting at Highwater Castle. What follows is conversation of one sort or another.
Date: 9.10.1867
Related: Lonnaire Plans
Alexandra  Vorian  

Courtyard outside Highwater Castle, Lonnaire, Couviere
Highwater Castle sits overlooking Lonnaire City from the northeast. A few ballista and cannon are all the large weaponry that the castle boasts upon the tops of its walls. However, it does have quite a few arrow slits that face in all directions. The towers, one at each corner and a large tower in the central keep that over-looks the entire area all with the same large amount of arrow slits. Those that manage to breach the gates, would have to then face the archers and hand cannoners that dwell within in large numbers.
Like the walls, the stone is grey at the bottom and lightens until white at the top. Long tendrils of ivy crawl up these walls, adding an almost seaweed lazily drifting in the ocean look to the castle itself. Flags of l'Saigner are draped on every corner, their purple and black fabric fluttering in the breeze off the ocean.
The courtyard is small, but no less lovely for its size. Trailing vines of roses and jasmine climb the walls, and when in bloom fill the small space with their beautiful scent. A pair of stone benches flank on either side of the courtyard, the far end with stairs leading directly up into the keep proper, the opening into the courtyard just large enough for a coach, but capable of being barred with heavy wooden doors. To the observant, the courtyard can easily go from being a lovely place of respite to a killing ground, as many arrow-loops and gaps in the barbacan above provide easy shots down into the courtyard.

She isn't annoyed, per se, but Alexandra t'Maren also isn't the picture of sunshine and rainbows as she exits Highwater Castle with a huff and a heavy step.

Initially she'd been with the heir to Bloodfield, her somewhat-new husband, a fact that already put her on edge in Lonnaire. It wasn't Ostvor. It wasn't what she was used to. But then, Ostvor wasn't what she was used to anymore, either; Natural disasters certainly do a great job of that. Apart from the entire business of bandits raiding the countryside on utterly strange pretenses, what shocked her most about the meeting was how many other opinions she had to listen to apart from her own. Some things would take some real adjustment.

Embarrassed and frustrated both to be in this position, she excused herself from Jonathan's company and told him to walk on ahead. She was going to take the long way, she hadn't seen the castle much, etc etc. Alex could tell he didn't quite buy it, but he was wise enough to respect her wishes. Alone, there was significantly more space to blow off the steam that had accumulated within her like an overfull kettle in the hour before.

Rounding the corner, the redhead slung the long braid she'd been playing with back over her shoulder with an audible huff, melting into the busy crowd on the outside of the castle.

And it is crowded. Just returned from Ostvor, servants are still moving about, settling everyone in. And there is a cluster of men-at-arms over by a tree in the courtyard, all of them wearing heavy maile and holding large, teardrop-shaped shields. This is unusual in Highwater Castle, a place more accustomed to Wraiths and their ilk.

Vorian t'Maren is standing beside the group, leaning on his own shield. It's a heavy, battered thing, unmarked in any way. And it looks as though, sometime soon, it shall need to be replaced. He's wearing half-plate and looking grumpy, the aftereffects of Gate sickness. "Right. You lads know the drill. Tree-fucking. Hump it into the ground." Apparently, he means 'drill' literally. With a minimal of complaint, the ten men form into two orderly ranks, shields linked. The first rank begins to grind those shields against the tree. The second rank? They begin to grind against the first. Feet gouge into the dirt, men scrabble for position and, of course, the tree remains unmoved.

Vorian watches for a few moments, grinning nastily, but the sight of Alexandra demands his attention and he steps away from the men-at-arms. "Cousin," he greets, raising a hand. Well, cousin-by-marriage, anyhow. "I didn't know that you were here until an hour ago, or Id've met you and Jon."

Oh. The sight of movement in her periphery catches her attention, and Alex's head snaps to the side when she sees the hand. Vorian is quickly seen and, given what the remainder of his company is doing, quickly looked past - but just for a moment. When her head comes fully upright from looking beyond him again, green eyes wide and curious, the newest t'Maren apologizes. "Forgive me, cousin." Because it was an ambiguous enough for to be used anywhere where she grew up, and he was at least blood related to her husband. "The shields caught my attention." And it was clearly a chore not to keep staring, apparently, because her posture changed from active to more attentive and she clasped her hands in front of her to refocus before extending one in greeting.

Quite a difference an hour makes, she muses. "I certainly don't begrudge you your other responsibilities, even if you'd known. I didn't know much was going on until Jon said we'd been summoned to the castle post haste." There was more she wanted to say but, given that they really had only met, in earnest, a handful of times at most before, and given their location, she kept it in. Hm.

Hand withdrawn, she reached up to tuck some hair away behind her ear. "I am glad to see you've made it back fromt he tourney in one piece, though. Quite an end to it." Alexandra is never short on opinions.

"I was a bit surprised myself," Vorian says. He turns to nod toward his men, noting her curiousity. "It's a basic drill, but we do it daily. Hone the basics, Sir Jessin always taught me. They're the things that keep you alive." And these men look as though they've barely survived dozens of battles, the collection of scars quite startling. Vorian runs a hand through his beard and smiles. "It's to keep the shield-wall solid when the enemy charges."

It's likely that Vorian is teaching Alexandra to suck eggs, as the saying goes, but he explains anyway. And he keeps a shrewd eye on his men. Suddenly, his voice raises and what vestiges of gentility vanish for a few moments. "Taggett! Y'lower your bloody shield one more time, and I'll be on y'like a bull on a cow, y'hear me? Shields up."

He looks apologetically at Alexandra. "It's exhausting work," he explains more quietly, "Trying to uproot a tree." A brief pause and he gestures for the woman to follow him as he steps toward a relatively isolated spot. "Ostvor was chaotic," he agrees quietly, "But you're here for another reason. Are you free to tell me what was decided in the meeting?"

That's reasonable, and so says Alexandra's nod and glance she allows herself past his shoulders again as one of the grunts just past him is loud enough to be heard maybe even inside the Keep. If his outburst shocks her at all, she doesn't show it. What sort of a knight does he assume she is? She tends to have people err on the side of delicacy, though, even when she's armed; shorter than most of the other knights and long hair doesn't lend itself to the fierce sort of image she had hoped to cast as a child. Instead, she stifles a snort, hand clapping up over her nose as the embarrassment continues.

"Don't feel badly," she offers in reply to his look, shrugging her shoulders in self-depreciation. She can imagine how frustrating the tree work must be, and how much it serves as a rather startlingly accurate illustration of her relationship with her mother, in particular. Hm.

When Vorian steps off, she follows. Quiet might be better, indeed. "It isn't so much if I'm free," she adds, looking off to the side and stepping beside a tree so as not to be seen from the road, just in case. "so much as you really didn't miss much. No grand plans were decided." And no one really listened to me, but that goes unsaid. "Right now all we know is that the bandits that are currently raiding are doing so, we think, only to survive. They're stealing food and other provisions, not jewelry and beautiful women. Apparently there's one centralized leading band that we're looking to figure out, but the best way to do this, or so they agree," she adds, stabbing the air in front of the castle with a thumb over her shoulder, "is to bait them out of hiding."

Vorian smiles briefly. "See, I said that. Glad they're listening." He turns to look at his men, then back to Alexandra. "There's more you need to know, if that's all they told you. These men nearly held out against us, when we killed the last band we found." His brief smile rekindles, this time into a full grin. "Nearly."

One of the men in the pack of ten has taken charge, encouraging the others to "Press, press, you ugly bastards," and more in that line. "How do they intend to bait them?" He looks back to Alexandra and, this time, he seems to put the variety of distractions out of his mind. Vorian has the ability, it seems, to devote his whole attention to a person. His eyes flicker up and down the woman, not lasciviously, but with genuine scrutiny. He takes in her body language, considering what she actually said, and smiles again. "And why do you disagree?"

Her eyes flash for a moment at the 'listening' comment, but she manages to keep the audible sigh mostly in check. Anyway. "Nearly," she parrots, thinking she might get more of the story there before the shouting picks up again. Ahh, knight life.

Alexandra is no stranger to being thus regarded, but when he asks her opinion her shoulders perk up a bit and a brow quirks suspiciously. Why would he care? "It isn't necessarily that I disagree, just that there might be angles they aren't considering." Easy now. Inhaling deeply through her nose, she continues. "It feels like they were duty-bound to have all the leadership of Lonnaire present, and that's why we were there." More I than we, but that was semantics at this point. "What aren't they telling me?" Beat. "Us?" That'll take some getting used to.

And for some reason, Vorian begins to laugh. It isn't mocking laughter, but genuine mirth, the knight's eyes sparkling as he regards Alexandra. Eventually, it dies away and he wipes a hand down his face. "Ah, cousin. I can see that you've never been to war." He smiles, absently laying a hand on the hilt of his sword as he continues. "Duke James is a leader. He raised his daughter to be a leader. Gabriel l'Corren was raised by the best wartime commander I've ever served with, save the King himself."

He looks at her for a moment, then gestures to his men. "I'm responsible for their lives. My decisions shape which of those men will die. And I love them. All of them." Looking back to Alexandra, he says "I don't ask their advice before I act. That's not their responsibility. It's mine. I make the decisions, and I live with them." His smile turns rather wan as he glances up at Highwater Castle. "If they're not telling you everything, Lady Alexandra, it is because they have come to a decision." A brief pause. "And now it is our task to make it a reality."

He may not have meant it in derision, but he'd be foolish not to see it's had that sort of effect on her. She bristles visibly when he begins to laugh but keeps her mouth shut, looking past him to the group pushing as hard as it could in futility against that tree. His moment of glee has given her a moment to be angry about it, and angry she is, but it could also be the warmth of the tunic in the heat of the midday sun that's made her flush a little. Reasons to defend herself surface like apples in a barrel of water, popping up faster than she can think to pitch them but ultimately, she decides better of it and keeps her mouth shut.

Her tongue wets her lips before she ultimately replies. "Perhaps I've given you the wrong impression." Beat. Gears turn. Nope, everything else she could say would be batted back to her like a mouse with a cat. "I don't envy you your experience, cousin." There we go. "Nor do I envy my husband his." She thinks of that massive scar of his for a moment, eyes unfocusing before she blinks and pinches the bridge of her nose. "Growing pains, when you leave one duchy and move to a new one, are to be expected." And clearly, the l'Saigner do things differently than the t'Artans. "That last bit, I think, is easy to universally understand."

Vorian watches the anger, and the moments of decision, with interest. He doesn't seem bothered — if anything, he seems more deeply amused, as he watches the various moments flit across the woman's features. When he smiles again, teeth flashing in his dark features, it's still perfectly friendly. "My point was simply this, Lady. I'm used to being kept in the dark. Clearly, you're not. You're an important person, Cousin, and you're used to being considered. But those others? They're the finest at what they do, each of them. It was a compliment that you were in the room at all. I wasn't."

And he says that without any rancor, glancing up at the castle again. "Listen. There's things you can influence and things you can't. Let it ride. If you can." He sighs, absently rubbing a hand down his face. "And yes, of course, things are.. different here. Even from home. They think differently." A slow shrug. "But these are the minds that brought down the greatest traitor Couviere has ever known, that turned Lonnaire into Rivana's graveyard. I'd rather not ever make the decisions they make."

What else was there to do? "You're right, cousin." It isn't said especially grudgingly, so at least her tone is doing what she wants it to do. He does have a point. In her earlier years, she always told herself it didn't matter what decisions she'd have to make. She knew there would be hard ones. She'd watched her mother endure the many decisions that were made about Alexandra's own childhood that took a great deal of pride-swallowing. Maybe she was more like her mother than she cared to admit, here behind a tree with a distant relation debating the finer points of leadership.

It wasn't much of a debate, in truth, and she would be wise not to make it one. "They probably just couldn't find you," she offers a bit feebly, frowning and combing her figners up through her hair.

A loose shrug of the lean man's shoulders, the maile rattling. "I accept it. Fact is, it's a bit of a relief." He seems to approve of the way Alexandra masters her frustration, nodding his head. "All I have to do, for now, is train my men, drink, smile at beautiful women, and wait. They'll send us out soon enough. I find that things get bad very, very, quickly, Lady Alexandra. Enjoy these moments."

Clearing his throat, he says "Do you still train regularly?" A gesture toward a rack of blunt swords. He raises an eyebrow. "It isn't as good as being an important person, sparring, but it does take the sting away. And now he's joking, and inviting her to share in the jest. "Or do you have to leave already?"

He may accept it, but she won't. She won't waste his time in telling him so, but it's a complaint filed away for later, when she's alone and there's something heavy nearby that she can flail at things. Or — maybe that later is happening right now.

Blinking, she follows the gesture to the sparring swords and her demeanor changes visibly. "Do they smile back?" she asks, her own way of participating in the joke. Her own face remained rather serious as she focused on the swords, unbuckling the belt keeping her woolen tunic held together over the rest of her clothes. "Are you lefthanded, or right?" No, she doesn't have to leave, and the t'Maren tunic is slung over her arm, then, to allow better ease of movement. She does have the manners to wait on him before heading over to grab a sword for herself.

"Right-handed. They say that left-handed swordsmen have got the advantage, it's true.." He glances over to where his men are resting and raises his voice. "Fallon! Come and help me out of this breastplate." The grizzled man who had taken charge in his absense comes over, grinning to Alexandra. "Some knight he is, eh, Lady? Fallon, help. Fallon, help! Day in, day out." Vorian throws a glare over his shoulder as the tough old man continues.

"See, I keep tellin' ya, Sir, this is why y'need a bloody squire. Y'think I'm goin' to be around forever, but there'll come a day when I'm off gettin' drunk, and who'll help ya into your armor then, eh?" The old man's griping has a familiar, even friendly edge to it. And soon enough, Vorian has evened the playing field, stripping out of most of his armor and leaving only the leather jerkin he wore beneath his plate.

"When I'm lucky," he says when Fallon has returned to the men, "They do smile back." A lazy smile, as if at some memory. "Sometimes it's even the one I want." He ambles over, lifting a blunted sword from the rack.

For the first time since she'd left the castle, Alexandra has to stifle a smile. She looks to her boots and scuffs some dirt after tossing the tunic over rock. She doesn't wait for Fallon to finish his little tirade before she's grabbing her own wooden weapon, gripping it in her right hand before tossing it to her left. Seems standard enough to what she's used to, anyway, and she settles with it in her right hand when the breastplate has finally been removed. No advantage there for her, it would seem, though she appreciates symmetry and nods when he answers her.

"Could get two birds with one stone," she offers, looking around her for visible obstacles before settling into a relaxed stance, though the sword is upright in her hand. "Could get one of those smiley girls to squire for you." And by the look on her face, she's pretty serious. "It isn't all that hard, anyway." That is something the young Knight has experience with.

Vorian grins to himself as he sees that faint inclination to smile, the corners of his eyes crinkling briefly. His men have stopped pretending that they aren't watching the pair, perhaps because Fallon's made some joke that has several of them snickering. The young knight glances over at them, then returns his attention to Alexandra. "We're going to have an audience," he informs her.

Setting himself across from the woman, he says, "You're fair talented, as I recall. Let's give them a real show, eh?" His grin is bright, cheerful. "All that shit I told you earlier? That's there for you to remember now. Get angry. Let it all out." Perhaps he's trying to encourage her to blow off steam — or perhaps this is a tactic. If she truly does get angry, will he have the advantage? Hard to say. He begins to circle.

"If there's one thing I am used to, it's an audience." The fiery-haired eldest daughter of the leige with a sword in her hand at age six? That got a lot of people looking, and talking too. It might actually be less distracting to Alexandra to have the men do something other than fight against that stupid tree.

He circles and now it's her turn to laugh. "Cousin, all that shit only made it worse. I've been angry since I left that meeting." She's confident he knew that and is just going through his spiel, but if she doesn't take some of the pressure off, it'll come out as erratic energy and lack of judgment when it counts. Her palms were a little sweaty, but that didn't seem to bother her. She let him circle once, standing still, listening to where he was until he was nearly the full course around her when she turned. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Her chest heaves with that preparatory breath and, with a rather dramatic stomp, she begins to move too.

Once he sees that the woman is prepared, Vorian doesn't waste time. Nor does he perform any tomfoolery or shouting. The man's movements lack real flair, apart from one thing — he is fast as a whip. Unfortunately for him, he's facing a skilled opponent. The pair come together in a blur of blows. Vorian takes a strike to the chest, but it seems he's planned this — even as the blow lands, his own sword slashes in against Alexandra's neck. And a moment later, he's ducking away from a blow to the head.

It throws him off his rhythm, and he's unable to follow through effectively from that powerful shot to the neck. Instead, he barely manages a touch to Alexandra's chest, just enough to keep her at bay. And he misses his next strike entirely, devoting most of his attention to avoiding the woman's blow in kind, ducking beneath a slashing blade.

She's pretty proud of herself to have focused enough to slug him on the chest with her first swing. Too proud, maybe, because Alexandra's recoiling from the next blow with a loud "DAMN" in no time. With her left hand up at her smarting neck, she wonders a moment why he didn't kick more ass in the tourney. Huffing, she takes the sword in both hands again.

It's less that she's impressed when she whacks him upside the head and more relieved. Adrenaline is rushing but her neck still really stings, and she knows it's just the beginning. With his loss of balance comes her own misjudgment, and the two of them miss, both, on the last swing. She exhales forcefully, watching him like a hawk.

<COMBAT> Vorian attacks Alexandra with Longsword - Light wound to Abdomen.
<COMBAT> Alexandra attacks Vorian with Longsword but Vorian DODGES!
<COMBAT> Vorian has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.
<COMBAT> Alexandra has been KO'd!
<COMBAT> Alexandra spends a luck point to keep fighting!

Vorian smiles again, but it seems more a reflex than a genuine feeling. And he steps in toward Alexandra. He's no faster than before, but something has changed — he's taken the woman's measure now. As Alexandra cuts toward him, Vorian sidesteps and spins — it's entirely unlike his earlier workmanlike style. His own blade comes toward her stomach, and his foot slips behind hers so that — though the blow itself is light — he sends her to the dirt with a simple trip at the ankle. And his sword comes down toward her throat, stopping an inch from it.

Meanwhile, Alexandra's reflex is a rather more sour expression. When he begins that spinny fancy footwork it gives her pause - she hadn't anticipated he'd be whipping that sort of thing out after being so utilitarian before - and that second of doubt is enough for him to get in and trip her. A word more sour than her face escapes under her breath as she hits the dirt with a thud, his sword right there. She swallows.

It's not more than another second, though, looking back up at him that she rolls out to the side and pushes up, sword at the ready, and panting hard. All comments about dancing are filed away at a later date, though the thought of it softens her features a bit to more match that smile of his.

<COMBAT> Vorian attacks Alexandra with Longsword - Serious wound to Chest.
<COMBAT> Alexandra attacks Vorian with Longsword - Moderate wound to Chest.
<COMBAT> Vorian has started a new turn. Pose and choose your action.
<COMBAT> Alexandra has been KO'd!

She's on her feet, and Vorian raises his sword in a sketched salute. Typically, he doesn't go in for that sort of thing — he prefers winning to gallantry. And really, the salute is the perfect position for his next attack. Stepping in, Vorian lunges with his blunted weapon, moving into full extension. It's textbook, and it leaves him totally exposed to a riposte.

But it works. With his full weight behind it, the tip of his longsword strikes Alexandra in the solar plexus. He grunts with the effort of keeping his arm at full extension, but there's satisfaction in the noise. Meanwhile, his men-at-arms are thumping their feet in approbation of the two duelists. Someone shouts, "Put it to'r, sir!"

Deaf to the shouts from the crowd and totally unwilling to pass up the opportunity to poke at him with his arms up, she does. She manages to clip him, too, again in the chest, before she stumbles backwards gasping and coughing. Oops.

She's not quite doubled over, but Alexandra is clearly beaten. To prove it, she tosses her own sword to the ground at his feet - all the better to brace herself against her knees, though, as she takes in as much air as she can. "Not terribly angry anymore," she offers, at first, between breaths.

"It always takes the anger out of me, too." Vorian lowers his sword, watching the woman, then reaches down and scoops her sword out of the dirt. As if he doesn't trust that this surrender is real. But then, he's spent his life fighting barbarians. Twisting, he tosses the blade toward his men. Fallon, the grizzled old fellow who looks as though someone played tic-tac-toe on his cheek, catches the weapon and goes to set it in a rack.

Vorian seems to be slightly out-of-breath, and he rubs at his chest absently, but he's evidently in far better shape than Alexandra. It was the way he was willing to trade blow-for-blow that made the difference, in the end. His confidence that he could outlast her. "You're fast," he offers. "Do you practice the forms every day?"

"Admittedly," she begins, pushing up off her knees and brushing her hands together to clear off the dust that had turned rather gross mixed with the sweat there, "Not as frequently since late June." It's not meant indecently at all. In fact, Alexandra looks at Vorian with a bit of her own appraisal, clearly debating whether she should be going there in present company. "Too many 'lady' functions. It's like people would rather see me in a dress." Brushing the dust of her leggings, now, it's clear she doesn't prefer that. "You're faster," she adds, suddenly remembering how much her neck hurts before reaching up to rub it again. "Is this purple yet?"

"Well. Blue. And a bit black. Some purple in there too." Vorian assesses that bruise with a squint. He considers her with a flick of his eyes, nodding slightly. "You'll be sore tomorrow, but nothing serious. Maybe a bruised rib." He touches the side of his own neck. "Here — even if you can't hit hard — there's something here that stuns a person. Anyone. That's what slowed you down."

"As for practice — get up earlier." The words are ruthlessly pragmatic. He squints at her for a few moments. "Someone once told me'it's better to be a poor swordsman than no swordsman at all.' I disagree. Graveyards are full of poor swordsmen."

Alexandra scoffs. "You're looking to make me angry again, I think," she offers again, the last sort of olive branch into her personality before she straightens up and rolls her shoulders back with a wince. Again, replies to his recommendations, point by point, crop up in her head and again she stays silent. This time she shakes her head, though. "I do like blue very much, though. So, that's a comfort." She hisses as she turns her head the wrong way.

Taking in another breath, she turns and takes the few steps that stand between her and the tunic in the colors of their shared house. Halfway back up from bending to get it, she turns on him, looking sly. "Are you saying I can't hit hard?" There's that grin again.

"Have you met Sir Jessin? I squired under him. Bloody hated him sometimes. You say squiring ain't hard — it was for me." Vorian rubs at his temple, considering for a moment. "I was serious. About getting up earlier. I apologize if it came out condescending, but that's one thing Jessin succeeded in beating into me. Never neglect the basics. It's the basics that'll kill you or keep you alive." He's reiterating something he'd said earlier. "I practice every day. Every day. Even when I don't spar, I practice the forms."

Her grin, though, is answered in kind. "You hit hard enough. But that trick, the neck, it's a good one to know. I dropped a Tirian berserker once by hitting him there with a big stick. No, really. Just a stick. Doesn't kill, but done right, it can disable." He winks. "And once they're down, you just make certain they don't get up again."

"I don't seek an argument, but I will say that if you think I'm the pampered sort that lounges abed until her maid comes to bring her morning tea, you've got me all wrong." She isn't stupid. She can see he's attempting, at the very least, to be helpful. People don't pay attention to other people they don't give a damn about. But then Alexandra wouldn't be herself if she just took it lying down, too.

Looking, then, like she was tempted to ask him something, the redhead bit her lip and shrugged. "I hope this boosts the morale of your boys," she finally offers, looking back over at the group behind Vorian

"I didn't mean to say that at all. I know plenty of knights who slack. Men, as often as women. Or more often." Vorian seems genuinely apologetic for a moment — he spreads his hands. "My cousin Jon is a slave to duty, but I wager he doesn't train as often as he ought, either. Spending too much time being what he has to be. But if a person forgets that they're a fighter, that person ends up being rolled into a ditch."

It does seem to imply that he cares, doesn't it? Vorian watches the woman, watches her bite her lip and shrug, then glance to his men. "It will. Even though half were betting on you. But what were you gonna ask?"

Maybe she's gone too far. Holding up a hand, Alex expresses her gratitude wordlessly with a nod. "You're alright. I'm used to being thought of as such, if that wasn't readily apparent." Brushing her nose with the back of her hand, she sniffs, looks back at the men, and grins. "On me? Well, that's enough to give me some trust in judgment when choosing your group." Even if it was just that they were betting against him instead of on her.

Bah, she doesn't really want to say. "Nothing, really," she begins, but her mother's voice comes out there and the bitter taste of resentment and disappointment floods her. No, passive aggressive isn't her style. "Well." Beat. She shifts her weight from one side to the other. "Wondering if that neck move is what kept Jon alive, is all." He's not really open to talking about it, and she's not trying to circumvent him here, of course. Can't always stop the gears from turning.


The word is flat, and for a moment, it does seem as though she's gone too far. Vorian studies Alexandra for a moment, then turns away and looks at his men. "Don't you fuckin' oafs have anything to do? Get gone. Go get drunk. Taggett, if you're bedding housemaids, make certain nobody sees you. Git. You're all dismissed." He waits until they filter off — general good-natured ribbing being focused on the unfortunate Taggett — before he looks back to the redhead.

"Jon and I only served together in one battle. And even then.. not really. You see, I'd already been in the North when the Tirians invaded. I retreated with the remnants of our northern force into Valetta." And was stuck there for six months, he doesn't say. Stuck and starving. But the look on his face conveys a bitter memory, or more than one.

He clears his throat. "Jon was with the relief force that broke us out at the battle of Three Crowns. But I didn't see him until afterward, when he came to visit me in the hospital tent."

She's pink in the face again, looking at the dirt after that perfunctory word cut off any momentum she might have had. Yes, boys, please go. Leave. Bed all the housemaids if it meant you aren't here, looking at the girl with the cheeks to match her hair and no idea about anything.

Embarrassment wasn't her keenest feature, and so when Alexandra looked up again it took her a moment to meet Vorian's eye, and only another before her hand was flat against her forehead. "I've spoken out of turn. Please, forgive me." And her reply was just as flat as his, the stiffness of her there a physical manifestation of the wall she wished she could put up now. She doesn't leave - if he wants (or needs) to finish, she's still there. But she says nothing else, breaking eye contact then to look back at the dirt and take another breath to steady herself.

For a moment, Vorian looks baffled. Then his gaze goes a bit vacant — it's obvious he's replaying what he just said, in his head, hearing how it must've sounded. "You weren't out of line at all," he says, summoning up a smile that seems, if one didn't know better, perfectly genuine. It's easy to see why some girls smile back at the man, but it's also apparent that he's not trying to flirt.

"I sent them away," he says quietly, "Because Valetta's touchy with all of us. All eleven of us. We used to be one hundred." He rolls his head from side to side, absently cracking his neck. "The truth is, Jon changed too. I don't know why. Or when it happened. I was too.. busy." And there's guilt in the word. "And I don't know where he took the wound. We haven't spoken about it."

The words are more friendly now, reaching out — though it's almost certainly too late to repair the damage. "I can say this, though, for a certainty. Whatever happened, it's something he wants to leave behind. There's what you do at war, who you become.. and then there's who you want to be, when the blood isn't running. They're almost never the same."

Even if he were, Alexandra's too walled-off at this point to accept such an overture. She's pleased for the advent of the clarification, and it lifts her gaze from the dirt once more, but that's as far as she goes.

Subdued, she takes another breath in before reply, because he was kind and she should repay the courtesy. "I know, and I'm sorry. I know it isn't to be taken lightly, and if I did tread there, you have my apologies." Her shoulder sank a little. "I haven't asked him about that scar. I figure he'll tell me when he's ready to, so that's not what this was, either." Her hand moves, signaling between the pair of them to indicate the conversation. "I'm eager for this bandit business to end at that. I wasn't in the war, but I did see what it did to those who came back." She can agree it ain't pretty.

"Whatever's going on with these bandits," Vorian says after a moment's consideration, "I don't think it'll end quickly. But don't fret over-much.. You see, I said men mostly try to change after the war. But some of us find that.." He studies Alexandra carefully before continuing, "..That we're useless at anything else. I could be a knight-instructor at Bloodfield right now. Fallon and the others could be training t'Maren men-at-arms. But we all chose to return to the life."

A loose gesture around the courtyard. "You're trained as a warrior. Jon's trained as a warrior. And — don't take this the wrong way — neither of you are professionals in that trade. You're needed for other matters. Keeping peace. Making treaties. Feeding people. Those are the things you do. The important things."

He grins that slow, friendly grin again. "But for bandits and the like? You have the ones like me. We feel better when we have an enemy."

The rush of blood to her head in the moments before had only accentuated the bruises from their sparring match in her consciousness. She grimaces and looks down, eager to sit but unsure if she'd get back up again if she did. "For the moment, Vorian, you've convinced me the status quo isn't all that bad." Ugh, that throb. "You're sharp, though, to already know that's something I don't much care for." For another brief moment she made eye contact. It was a respectful gesture she sought to put forward. "And I think I'd be dull if I insisted you stayed to chew the fat when there's, what, pretty girls who need smiling at?" She managed a small smile of her own, proof it wouldn't be terrible if they parted on terms as amiable as these.

"I wish that's where I was going, Lady Alexandra. But I don't think this particular girl'll be available to me for smiling at." His grin is crooked, even a bit self-deprecating. He sketches a brief bow in the woman's direction. "But I enjoyed speaking with you. And fighting with you. We'll do it again the next time I'm home." Vorian runs a hand through his hair and turns to walk away. He pauses, just for a moment, before he departs. "Be careful, with whatever role you're to play. Keep your wits about you. I've a feeling things will get interesting soon enough." He lifts his hand and walks off, heading into the castle.

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