(1867-10-04) Well Meaning Advice
Well Meaning Advice
Summary: The t'Maren fire pit's the place to be the morning after the Couvieri forces get wholloped while stomping out Bandits.
Date: 10.4.1867
Related: Death and Destruction
Alexandra  Vorian  

The t'Maren Encampment, Beside the Bandit Forest
Room description

Vorian t'Maren took a hefty blow the previous day — one of many, while holding the center of the line. But he's up and about today; if leaning on a tall stick for support as he moves around. He took an arrow through the leg as well, after all, and though it was minor, it seems to have left him stiff. Still, the bearded knight makes his way over to the t'Maren encampment with a smile on his features. It's just before midday, and it appears that Vorian has just woken up.

He moves over to the central firepit, glancing around for someone he recognizes. Seeing Alexandra, he heads in her general direction. "Sir Alexandra. Well fought, yesterday." He leans against his makeshift crutch, not sitting without permission. "I came to see how the t'Marens fared on this side of the campsite." Though his tone is light, there are lines of grief graven into his face. Alexandra may have heard that he lost two of his men — out of a tiny force of ten, a significant loss.

She hadn't heard specifically, but again, she'd be foolish not to notice he was hit hard in more than just the physical sense. So far this morning Alexandra's played host to all four of the t'Marens present, by name or blood, excluding whatever additional forces that marched under their colors. She looks to be in significantly better shape than her company, but then, the healoil certainly helped. It's easier not to be a bitch when the pain isn't throbbing.

"Sir Vorian, good morni—ernoon?" She catches herself, wondering idly about what time it might be before realizing that…probably didn't really matter. Shaking her head, she offers him the rock she'd been sitting on off and on all morning before turning briefly to add another log to the fire. It sizzles when the fresh wood makes contact. "Same to you, though, between you and me, I don't feel especially well fought." Some confidence there, a frankness given their previous spar a few weeks before. "I made a lot of stupid mistakes." Pause. She reaches for a mug. "But, somehow they didn't kill me. Water?" Holding the metal cup aloft, she indicates it's for him.

"Being honest, I'd prefer wine. But water will do well. If I crawl into a bottle today, I shan't crawl out for a week." He takes the mug before carefully easing himself down onto a seat, grimacing as his torso flexes. He's shirtless, but certainly not in a revealing way — his chest is swathed in poultices and bandages. "I saw a few errors in judgment. The sort of thing a young fighter always does. Too quick to jump, too slow to retreat. We all did it."

The words are surprisingly hoarse — he's trying for gentleness, but he can't quite manage it, not with the chest wound. "The important thing to do," he says, "is to stay alongside your men and obey orders. But this battle was a mess all around," he admits. "Frankly, it couldn't have gone worse short of losing." It's a painful admission for him. "How many men did you and Jonathon lose?"

'Losing' really is a matter of perspective, isn't it. She shakes her head. "I don't know numbers." She didn't bother counting yesterday, and her husband's been gone the better part of the morning on his own, so she hasn't asked. Would she, anyway? She still hasn't asked him about that scar, nor will she anytime soon. But this seems like a really sharp rock and hard place she's caught between.

"I do know we don't have any wine at the moment, or I would have been a better hostess." Which is a thing she hates, too, because it means less time with sharp things and horses and outside. But this sort of hosting isn't that bad, she thinks, offering over the full cup and looking into the fire. It's therapeutic. "And thank you." For the advice, presumably. "I've heard a lot of things already today about how yesterday went." Probably, that's a segue to hearing his opinion.

Taking a long sip from the cup, Vorian considers Alexandra for a few moments. "Well," he says finally, "You're about to get some more advice from an old campaigner." Old — hardly. Still, he seems quite serious. "As soon as we're finished speaking, you go and you find out the name of every man who died under your command yesterday. When Jonathon writes the letters to their families, you help. And you carry those names next to your heart." It's not a reprimand — it's gently given, but the advice is insistent.

"That's the way you become a leader that your men respect." He drinks another mouthful of water, sighing, before he continues. "As for the battle yesterday? Well, I wasn't privy to the plan." Which is as much as admitting that he doesn't approve. The bearded man stares at Alexandra for a moment before continuing. "House l'Saigner built its reputation on the Wraiths," he says. "But House l'Saigner is used to fighting holding actions and guerrilla battles. This was a pitched fight. It might've gone better if we had.. more heavy infantry."

Yes… she had heard more about just how well one particular Wraith was doing earlier that morning, and she presses her lips together into a thin, pale line at the mention of it. "And with Sir Gabriel completely untouched, you would think there would have been a little more of that sort of thing." But then, she's not a tactician, and he could be specially blessed by the One. You never know.
It's somber advice from him and given as a kindness, but even with the gravity of it all she can't help but grin. Maybe it hasn't set in for her yet, or maybe this is how she copes. "You know." Alexandra bites back that smile for a moment. "I was told earlier to ignore all well-meant advice, but I do think 'all' was a bit of hyperbole." She'd do well to consider this, anyway, no? Mulling it over, she plops down beside him on the dirt, legs crossed in front. "In those meetings, the ones I was in, they sounded like they had a much better idea of what was going to happen."

Looking into the fire again, she sighed. Her eyes unfocused again. "Did you sleep?" Beat. "I kept watching Jon decapitate that bandit when I closed my eyes." But come on - she's too old hat at all this for that to be traumatic.

"Gabriel fought alongside me for most of the battle. It was my job to take the blows meant for him." Vorian smiles wryly, gesturing in silence to his chest. It seems he did his job competently. "I slept a little," he says after awhile. "I had a conversation with someone that.. exhausted me." He considers for a moment. "This isn't really well-meaning advice, Alexandra," he says gently. "This is the bare minimum that a leader owes their men. To remember them when they fall, and to care for their family." He closes his eyes for a moment. It's as though, suddenly, he's overcome by grief.

After a few moments, he continues on, his voice choked. "It should never become easy to kill, Alexandra. Nor to see it." He wipes a hand across his face, exhaling raggedly. "I'm sorry. I.." He trails off again, then clears his throat and starts over. "No plan survives first contact with the enemy. But if it were me — and I do not criticize them — I would have held the Wraiths back, then unleashed them on the enemy's flanks and rear."

Alexandra IS taking him seriously. But she laughs at his choice of words when he last speaks, clapping her hand to her forehead and continuing her glazed-over look into the fire. "Flanks and rear." Totally mature. "Really I don't know where I would have put them, but part of me wonders if maybe the full plate was actually a good idea." She'd debated lighter armor, and found herself happy she hadn't made that choice.

With another deep breath in - and she winces there, because healoil isn't totally magical - she looks at the indicated wounds, then up to his face. What to make of him? "I'm sad for you, Vorian." No 'sir,' and that was intentional. Not meant as a slight, and, even though her words might sound haughty, there's no pity in her tone. "I'm not sad for myself yet, but." She trails off. Maybe this is a good step.

"Don't be sad for me, cousin. I'm sad for Taggett's girl. They'd just started discussing a wedding. I'm sad for poor Talbot; he was never the same after the Breach, and he missed his brother, but he loved his friends more than I've ever loved anything." Vorian considers in silence for a few moments, wiping a hand across his face. He breathes out raggedly. "Anyhow. Yes, flanks and rear. Listen — I am a knight who fights afoot. Infantry. And heavy infantry, like we are — like my men are — play one role in a pitched battle. We hold the enemy. We tie them to us."

Vorian grimaces, leans back and straightens himself, trying to take the strain off his stitches by shifting position. "My job — our job — is to either hold or break the enemy line. And then cavalry — or men like Wraiths — comes right up behind them and fucks them in the ass. Excusing the language." Mature, is it? He can win at this game. But he says it without any smile or blush. "My men and I did our job. We held and died. I just worry that the Wraiths did a job they aren't designed for."

His apology for the language makes it clear he actually has no idea who he's talking to. There isn't even an eye batted when the words come out; instead, Alex regards him almost like he's trying to teach her how to get up onto a horse. Clearly he thinks there are things to be learned here, else he wouldn't share them. They are sort a family reunion, in a way, such experiences. And like hell would she do him the disrespect of telling him to stuff it. So she doesn't. She isn't right all the time, anyway. He may actually tell her something she doesn't anticipate, or can't write off. So she listens and nods, tugging at the leather cord at the tip of her thick braid.

"Certainly that wasn't the only infantry Couviere could supply." Right? It wasn't cut and dry, but there must be something else there. Fingers claw at her braid, then, pulling out its knots and yanking when locks don't untangle. Here and there there's a hard, dry patch that's darker red than the rest. She didn't know his men, not really. It's a tragedy all the same.

Vorian doesn't answer immediately. He gazes at Alexandra for a long few moments of silence before speaking, and even then, he doesn't speak to the point. "I'll be proposing to the Duke that I raise, and train, a unit of elite heavy infantry. I am t'Maren, after all — we're the best instructors of soldiers in the world." He is saying, essentially, that he and his small tail of men truly are the best heavy infantry the l'Saigners have to offer. His smile is a touch wry.

"Esyld and I talked about this last night." The smile turns painful, briefly, as though at some memory. He continues. "We both agree on this much. It requires a change in tactics. The Wraiths paid too dearly for this victory." And those words gall him — it's evident, though he tries to hide it. After all, he is proposing that his men pay more in lives and effort, in the future. He sighs, absently closing his eyes for a moment. "Some of them may still die." And there's no regret in his tone at the idea; more a measure of resignation.

Her resignation matches his. What's there to change? "They may." Back to raking through hair, though, and looking at the fire to avoid any more existential thought. She's not…there's too much. She won't shut down, but right now, Alexandra - like she suspects much of the rest of the camp is, too - is in survival mode. And discussing tactics is all well and good and a nice distraction, but there's little she can even do to really, truly think about it now. She wonders where Jon ran off to, finishing with the bulk of her hair before separating it again into three portions and beginning to braid it back again.

"I doubt you'd be doing that alone," she offers finally, muffled, though, with the leather cord in her teeth. "I'm confident he'll at least want to help you."

"Certainly," he says after a few beats. "Sure. He'll help — but he'd best be served by giving me the coin to do what I need to do." Vorian finishes his water, then gazes at the woman across from him. His eyes are bloodshot, weary. "Water," he offers. "Water will help for that. It softens the blood." He, too, has had to wash blood off himself in the past twenty-four hours.

He seems on the verge of saying something else, and apparently it's an awkward subject for him. The bearded knight doesn't speak, in the end. Instead he turns his gaze back into the fire. And when he speaks, it's in a somewhat false tone of voice. "So how do you find Esyld, now that she's knighted?" A brief grin. "It won't gentle her, of course. But I cannot wait to hear what everyone says at home."

Coin? Sure. That seems easy to her, and like it would take little to mention to Jon before he meets with Vorian to discuss it in earnest. The rag she'd used for the healoil before makes another appearance, scrubbing out a few of the tougher spots as Vorian mentions water. She nods, grinning. One day soon she'll wash her hair again, but it isn't like she's living a terrible life as it is. She can afford a little while with blood in her hair.

How, though? Hm. She sighs, then purses her lips, then looks up and directly at her cousin. "Sit around this fire and she'll come find you." Shrug, like it's nothing. She rises to collect the cup and offer him another drink if he'll have it, but she's pretty done sitting in the dirt, for now. "From what I hear it was a long time coming. But, truly, I still don't know her terribly well."

Vorian actually flushes a bit at something Alexandra says, gazing into the fire for a long moment before his composure returns. "The Duke'll fund it, I hope," he says, returning his thoughts to the possibility of an infantry force. "And maybe I can even convince Jonathon to come help me train them." He sighs, wiping a hand across his face and glancing up.

"She's a fantastic fighter, Esyld. And a good woman to have at your back in a bar brawl, too." His voice has a wistfulness that he can't quite conceal; he tilts his head up to stare at the sky. "I should go and check on my men," he says, a bit too hastily. "Fallon'll have them prepared to move, but the expect to see me." Rising to his feet, he says "Thank you for the water. I hope to see you and Jonathan both."

The flush could be the fire, or anything else given what they'd experienced the day before. She notices but says nothing; her mother would be proud. "He can likely be convinced to invest, I should think, given the outcome." She offers him her hand to help him up if he needs before setting down the cup.

"I did see her yesterday. On par with her brother at least." It's meant as a compliment, but there's some self-depreciation in there too. For now. "And speaking of, I'm confident your hope will be fulfilled." She paused to nod at him. "Take care of yourself, cousin." Because what brings people closer than war? Titles are too stiff, now.

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