(1867-10-06) Something You Can Be Sure Of
Something You Can Be Sure Of
Summary: Esyld visits Vorian as he recovers from his injuries… and Vorian continues in his quest to disarm her.
Date: Octobre 6th, 1867 IA
Related: Questioning Beliefs
Esyld  Vorian  

Barracks, Highwater Castle
In set
Octobre 6th, 1867 IA

Highwater Keep — some time after the battle. Vorian t'Maren is resting in his chambers, or at least avoiding the company of just about everyone. The wake for his men is still upcoming, but now that his surviving soldiers are resting and safe, Vorian has holed himself up. He has a perfect excuse — serious wounds were incurred, after all. And there had been a few thuds from his chamber, as though the young knight had thrown something into the wall.

Outside the chamber, for one reason or another, lurks his loyal Sergeant. Fallon isn't really lurking, to be fair. He's propped up in a chair, leaning back against the wall, a bottle of wine resting on his lap. The grizzled soldier seems to be asleep — but every now and then, his eyes open, shrewdly taking in the hallway and its occupants.

"Is he awake?" There's no preamble, when it comes to Esyld on her own turf. But Vorian's men are well used to it by now, and she doesn't mean to be abrupt. It just happens more often when she's bearing the burdens of stress and grief on her shoulders. Strong as they are, she's still only one woman. Approaching the Sergeant, brisk strides carrying her along the hallway to the echoing sound of booted tread, the raven-maned t'Maren arches a brow to accompany her enquiry-come-greeting. "I still had some healoil left and I thought.."

Drawing to a halt, she gestures at the closed door rather than finish the statement, the other hand resting upon the belt-satchel at her hip. Flicking another glance over Fallom, she offers him the ghost of a wry smile, blue eyes lingering a touch on that bottle. "..though I expect he'd be happier to see a bottle of that…"

"He's awake. But he ain't good company right now." Fallon's response is laconic — he drops his chair down on all four legs, gazing up at Esyld for a few moments. "Might be y'could help him. He gets these spells sometimes, after a battle. Blames himself for everything. And the healoil might be helpful too." Fallon seems to be chewing on something else, however.

"Sir Esyld, I'm gonna say somethin'. And it ain't my business, and I'm oversteppin', but I've known you both for a long time. Seen y'grow up, before y'left." The gruff soldier clears his throat, eyeing Esyld for a long moment. "It's like this. I've never seen Vorian like this. So I'll say what I been thinking." Clearing his throat again, the old sergeant says "You need to think on what Vorian means t'you. 'Cos he knows what you mean t'him. And the only thing he wants is.. t'see you happy. Not even make you happy. So think on that."

Clearing his throat and looking away, the man raises the bottle of wine. "Take this in with you. But Sir Esyld? Are you happy?"

"That's what happens when you have people relying on you to lead them. He's come through it before, he'll do it again." Maybe it's easier for her nowadays, not having to lead cavalry charges. The losses still hurt, of course.. but they're less her responsibility than when she was with the Foxes. Regardless, she sounds unshakably confident in the man's ability to come out the other side. Why wouldn't she? He's just like her.

When Fallon starts pre-empting her response to what's coming by offering apologies, the young woman goes very still, simply watching the older man with a benign expression. When he pauses to clear his throat, though she does interject, albeit softly. "You're always free to speak your mind around me. I'm not some noble that'll have something important lopped off you for insolence. Go on."

And he does. And she, for once, allows her expression to relent from the mask of polite enquiry. Maybe she's getting weary of keeping it in place, given recent events., but she winces fractionally, glancing at the door again. Can he hear them? Does it matter? "I don't need to think about it, Fallon.." she begins, measured and even. "..but I don't need to divulge it, either. Not when it wouldn't change anything." Accepting the offered bottle, the brunette frowns ever so slightly, uncorking it and taking a swig. So ladylike. Wiping off her lips with the back of one hand, she looses a harsher breath through flaring nostrils, returning the full weight of her focus to the grizzled veteran. "Why does everyone keep asking me that..?" she muses aloud, evidently not expecting an answer as she just continues on. "With Corvin in his current state and Vorian hiding away in his chambers and the losses our forces took… no. I am not particularly happy at the moment. But that's not to say I won't be ever again."

"This shit..this shit'll pass soon enough. Ask the deeper question, luv." And Fallon seems to be set to continue when a shout comes from the other side of the door. "S'that Sir Esyld I hear out there, Fallon? Whatever you two are blathering about, cut it."

Fallon looks up at Esyld for a few moments and sighs, then grins. "You better go on in, lass. Thanks for listenin' to an old bastard whine about the young bastards." He pauses for a moment, and his scar-creased face takes on a look of rather better humor. "I'll, er, scoot my chair down the hall a bit. So's I don't eavesdrop on any.. conversation."

There is a rustling noise coming from the inside of the room, followed by another surly shout. "And send in some wine! I'm sick of this lemon-water!"

"There won't be any 'conversation' worth eavesdropping on." replies Esyld, with a sardonic narrowing of her eyes and reproving tilt of her head at the soldier. But the faint hint of a smile has returned, as a result of the belly-aching from beyond that door, and she gentles her tone a little to add, for Fallon's ears alone, "..I will think on it. I'm not a foolish, romantical moron." No, that's not a word. But it gets her point across. And with that, she leaves him to his pretend slumber.

"What am I now, your bloody handmaiden?" is the greeting she offers to Vorian as she opens the heavy door and slips into the room, wine bottle dangling from one hand down by her thigh. She taps it gently, once she's closed the door and leant her shoulders back against it, letting her eyes adjust to the lighting inside and eyeing her apparently very irritable host with an air of calm and quiet about her.

Fallon is smiling as he scoots his chair down the hallway a bit, as good as his word despite the woman's assurances. He settles himself down and begins to whistle, sans his wine-bottle. It's a cheerful sound, as though Esyld's soft words have soothed something in him. Perhaps it's the need to protect his remaining friends that drove him to speak at all.

Inside the room, Vorian is seated at his writing desk. Balls of parchment litter the floor. He turns and looks over at Esyld as she enters, and his lean features lighten at the sight of her. "You want the job?" he retorts. It's obvious what he's been trying to do, and likely obvious why he has been throwing things. These letters are never easy to write.

But the twist causes a grimace of pain to cross his features and he turns his back to her — not in insult, but because it takes time for him to turn the chair around. And he begins to do so, wood grating on wood. The room is as spartan as Esyld's own, Vorian's only luxury being this plain pinewood desk. A military cot is propped against one wall, alongside an armor stand. It's his helmet that has dented the wall, it seems, hurled with considerable strength.

"No, thank you." Pushing up from her lean unhurriedly, Esyld starts across the floor, those eyes taking in the arrayed sheafs of parchment before Vorian. "You couldn't afford me, and I'd only drink all your wine…" She catches that grimace in much the same moment she realises the purpose of the letters. And, when the knight turns his back, she draws close to the back of his chair, rather than clearing the path for him to turn. Stooping, bottle still in hand, sheslips her arms down carefully about his neck and shoulders, offering an awkward embrace that manages to avoid the worst of his injuries; pressing her cheek to his temple.

A long moment passes and the simple gesture of comfort, away from prying eyes, holds steady until or unless he tries to break free of it.

After a while, the young woman murmurs, the same low-throated, soothing cadence she uses when working with the horses in the courtyard. "..I feel as though I should say something witty about 'throwing your helmet around'. But I'm afraid to make you laugh, old glass-bones." With a last squeeze, she begins to straighten, leaning across Vorian's shoulder only briefly to set the wine bottle down pointedly on the desk in front of him. "Regards from Fallon. I'm afraid I only brought healoil. Again."

At that embrace, Vorian's eyes begin to fog. He reaches up with both hands, grabbing at the arms around him as he presses his head back into Esyld. The sheer grief — tamped down as best he can manage until this moment — is palpable in the air. But so is the relief, the comfort that he takes in this embrace. He sniffs hard, not even bothering to be embarrassed at the raw emotion he's letting break through. Not here. Not with this woman.

Her words bring a painful chuckle from the man and he turns his head as she leans over him, pressing his head into her bicep in a final, silent, expression of gratitude. Wiping his eyes, he says "You always bring the best gifts. I bet y'had to steal that off the salty old bastard. Was he botherin' you about something out there?" Apparently, he only heard murmurs. Probably for the best.

Clearing his throat to wipe away a lump, the lean t'Maren says "I know y'said I could smear it on myself, before, but.. I might actually need your help." His expression lightens somewhat as he takes the wine in hand, tugging at the cork.

"Nah.. he offered. He must be sweet on one of us." Esyld, kindly, doesn't make any remark upon the tears. Even the hardest bastard needs the chance to grieve.. and they'll never seek out comfort, of their own accord. She doesn't, anyway. The further questioning on Fallon elicits only a shake of her head as she eases down to perch on the edge of the cot, resting her elbows on her knees. Less distance for the t'Maren to have to turn, this way.

"one, some men will do anything to get a little touch." Esyld's lips twist in a smirk. "Have a drink first.." she adds, apparently approving of the intent but actually reaching out to take the bottle from him, uncorking it herself and handing it back. "..you know, there's being tough and then there's being daft. Do you really want to have those stitches needing redone? Honestly.." Straightening a little, the brunette averts her eyes now, looking down and aside as a hand sets to ferreting about in her belt-satchel.

"He's sweet on you, alright. All he ever does is pester me 'bout you. So does Taggett, for that ma.." Vorian trails off for a moment, then forces his smile back into place. "So did Taggett, I mean. He was always asking me about you, y'know. When y'were coming by, whether I'd.." He trails off again, but this time it's a suggestive silence that hangs in the air, and he begins to laugh. That laughter doesn't last long — it hurts too much, in so many senses.

Raising the wine to his lips, Vorian offers a grateful toast toward Esyld and takes a sip. "Oh. Before your hands get greasy. There's something I need you t'fetch in my chest. Should be right on top, in a box. Grab it for me?" The casual arrogance of the question might be grating to the woman, but in truth, he'd be hard-pressed to bend over to open the thing.

"And.. thank you, Esyld. For coming to see me. I.. you're good company when a man's laid up and useless."

There's a flicker of sympathy in a sidelong glance as Vorian momentarily forgets himself. "I was fond of him, too, Vorian. That scuffle in Bloodfield.. and all the others, of course." Venturing a muted grin, she gently steers her friend toward happier memories than the recent ones. Abandoning her search with an enquiring expression as he asks for her aid in something beyond drinking, Esyld nods obligingly enough. Men are the worst patients. Best not to provoke a tantrum over trying and failing to do something for himself.

Bracing her hands on her knees, the young woman pushes to a stand with enviable ease and crosses to the indicated chest. "..also, I didn't agree to helping you with the oil, yet. Don't count your chickens before they've hatched, m'Lord." This time, the title is a jesting reference to her entrance, rather than baiting or angry. Stooping, she lifts the lid of the trunk, eyes scanning the contents.

"S'alright. I'd nothing better to do, anyway."

There's something in that last statement that Vorian could — should — respond to. He considers for a moment before saying, very gently, "I know that's not true." In the box, resting on top, is a wrapped box — wrapped in plain butcher's paper, of course, with a scrawled 'Draven' atop it. Vorian watches her look down at it, and at the other things in the chest. There's really not much in there. Spare clothing, a rather thin coin-purse, a bundle of wrapped letters.

"You'll help me," he says, suddenly teasing. "Because y'can't bear to watch me try to do it myself. You hate to see a thing poorly done, Esyld." He takes another gulp of wine, sighing as he swallows. That sigh sounds like pure relief. "Remember that time Taggett was humping the girl in that hallway?" He laughs, then grimaces. "Stupid bugger. He was never any good at discretion."

Raising his brows, he says "He always told me the surest way t'a girl's heart was through a gift she didn't need."

"It's not." Esyld admits, in a similarly quiet manner, still looking down at the chest, having lost her purpose for a moment, distracted. But the sight of her own name rouses her, in short order. As do the pointed last few words from the watching Knight. She casts him a sharp look, but settles on 'first things first'.

"I remember. Disembodied arse cheeks pumping away. Not something you see every day." Lifting the wrapped box in one hand, the other gently lowers the lid of the chest, and the woman turns to perch herself down atop, settling the package in her lap. The downward cant of her head leaves her dark hair - freshly washed and silken - draping forward and obscuring her features momentarily, until she tucks the veil between them back behind her ear, stealing another, oddly wary glance at Vorian. "..a gift she don't need? ..what is it, then a recipe book?" Despite the attempt at mirth, the tight curve of her lips is tremulous. Is she nervous? They've just barely returned from the fire and fury and bloodshed of battle, and she's fretting over a box. How typical. Plucking at the plain paper with her fingertips, Esyld takes her time in freeing it, content to speak further as she does. "I hate to see a thing poorly done if I know I can do it better." she sort-of corrects. "Not things I've no capability for myself. That'd be rather arrogant, I think."

Vorian watches the young woman with her package, smiling. There's something softer in his expression as she fiddles with the package, as though he's forgetting for a few moments that he's supposed to be in pain. He takes another sip of his wine. "Not a recipe book," he says. "You'd cut me in half." His brows quirk upward for a moment, in lieu of laughter.

As the paper falls away, Vorian continues speaking. It sounds as though he's rehearsed this. "Among the fancy folks, it's traditional to give gifts when a kid is raised to knighthood. You know. You've prob'ly seen a dozen of the stupid ceremonies. Shield, sword, armor. Spurs." He clears his throat, loosening a hefty plug of phlegm.

Inside the box, which is lined with soft linen, lie a pair of gorgeous golden spurs. The leather straps and buckles are all fully functional, but the spurs themselves — they gleam, as only gold can. "I had those made after we talked last," he says. And now he's nervous, waiting for Esyld's reaction, leaning forward slightly. "I meant t'show you that you're a knight, at least in my eyes. But now.. You're a knight in truth."

"I would. But then I'd also know how to make a hearty stew from your guts." replies Esyld, pleasantly, as she rids the box of the paper. There's a warmer smile in Vorian's direction, before she lowers her gaze properly to the box, opening it and gazing down at the contents as he offers explanation.

A hand strays inside, a fingertip tracing the curve of one of the spurs. "..you shouldn't have, Vorian.." The murmured words aren't displeased, so he can breathe easier in that regard. Indeed, she's looking upon the gift wonderingly, if anything. "..they're beautiful. Thank you. But you shouldn't have. This is far too generous." Swallowing, she raises her cerulean eyes to his dark ones, doing her best to muster a smile and divert attention from a gleam of tearshine at their rims. "..and to think I only brought you oil.."

Vorian rises to his feet with a rocking motion — it's hard, but he manages it with only a small grimace of pain. Setting his bottle of wine aside, he paces the two steps to Esyld and the box, reaching out to brush his hand against her cheek momentarily. "It's nothing like what you deserve," he murmurs softly. "If I could, I'd give you so much more."

He smiles as well, then swallows, clearing his throat. "I'm glad you like them," he ventures. "But they're much less use than healoil. And besides.." He reaches down in an attempt to take one of Esyld's hands, turning it palm-up if she lets him. "You did bring something else."

"I don't remember the last time anyone gave me a present…" The admission is so soft, little more than a whisper and perhaps something she hadn't meant to voice at all. But there it is. Lowering her gaze back to the spurs, Esyld leans fractionally into the caress to her cheek when it comes. And when it's gone, she visibly tries to pull herself together; clearing her throat, straightening her shoulders and loosing a hoarse chuckle. "..maybe Taggett wasn't as daft as he seemed, after all."

When Vorian reaches for her hand, the brunette allows it. Her gaze rises toward him belatedly, though, tinged with confusion as he speaks and turns her palm. "..I did..?" She's too addled to keep up with clever words, at this precise moment. That's not really her thing at the best of times, actually. So she simply stares at the knight, bemused and awaiting his clarification.

"You." Gallantly — as gallantly as the knight can manage — he tries to bow, raising her hand to his lips and pressing a very light kiss against her pulse. "You've no idea, do you, what it meant that you came t'check on me? I'm an easy man to please, Esyld." His dark eyes glitter briefly as he smiles, more than a little nervously.

"Fallon tells me that the only thing which ever held him together through all the wars was his wife. Knowing that even when they fight — all the time, mind — she'd still hold him when he woke up with the nightmares." The nightmares — perhaps both of them have experienced those. "And if no one has been giving you presents, well.. Allow me to make up for that. It makes me happy."

She permits it - mostly because anything else would probably risk Vorian's stitches. Yes. That's why. With high color rising along her cheekbones, though, Esyld gently closes the box again, as if concealing the gift from her sight will somehow bolster her resolve. "They're wonderful. Thank you." Rising to her feet once the Knight has straightened from his pained, careful bend, she gently withdraws her hand from his, the warmth of that chaste kiss still tangible on the vulnerable skin of her wrist.

"You don't have to buy me things. To be honest, I'd prefer you didn't. You probably don't have two coppers to rub together, now. Look after yourself.. and I promise, in return, that I'll still come to see you. How's that." She doesn't try to step by or shoulder past Vorian. As a matter of fact, she seems quite unsure of what to do with herself, now that she's up. Good grief, this is awkward. Belatedly, it seems, concerned that her response might be misconstrued, she adds, more gently, "..I just mean I'd rather you buy bread than pretty trinkets, Vorian. You've no need to buy my affection."

"It's not about buying pretty trinkets to win your affection," Vorian says with a sheepish grin. As close as they are to one another, he does the only thing which seems reasonable, reaching out to rest a hand gingerly on her hip and even shuffles a step closer. Of the pair, it's him who appears less awkward — but he's still painfully nervous, as wary as a teenager. He considers her, the pair of them gazing at one another.

"I want you t'have things to take pleasure in, Esyld. T'know that someone values you so deeply as t'scrape one copper together instead of two, just to see you smile like that." He tips his head to one side, bearded features rather tense as he continues. "We give our lives in duty. S'our sworn task. But there's nothing that says we can't know pleasure. Warmth. There's nothing that says everything in our waking hours has t'be a question."

"Here's something you can be sure of."

Bizarrely, while she seems initially lulled by the words - which seem so heartfelt and genuine, not some rake's ploy - the expression in Esyld's strange eyes changes subtly when that hand comes to rest at her hip. Is it over familiar.. or just unnervingly familiar. He has no way of knowing he's offered the same damn mannerism the absent Wraith always did, to precede a kiss. So it might catch him by surprise that now she pulls away. Not abruptly. Just.. with finality.

Stubbornly adopting an air of casual unconcern, the brunette ducks away from him and strolls toward that busy desk, clearing her throat and offering the papers a passing glance. "There's nothing that says any of those things, you're quite right. But.. perhaps it's best we settle our minds on other things. Like the sort of regimes you might like to put in place for new recruits. We've yet to speak to Lord Gabriel, on that front." Setting down the box atop the cot for the moment, Esyld reaches again to the satchel at her hip, busying herself with keeping her gaze anywhere but toward the t'Maren behind her across the room.

Vorian stands stunned, looking as though someone has slashed open his chest a second time. He doesn't pursue Esyld, merely stands there looking rather blank. And queerly vulnerable. After a moment, he nods his head and clears his throat. It's not meant as an attention-seeking noise, but a genuine attempt to clear some lodging debris out of the way before he speaks.

"I'm quite capable of thinking about two, three, even four things at once," he says. It's not a rebuke, but an attempt at levity. He forces a smile. "I've been thinking about how to train them since we discussed it. Here's what I'd propose. We need two new units — cavalry and infantry. Heavy infantry to grab the enemy by the hip and hold them close.. cavalry to ram a cock up their arse from behind."

He does seem to warm to the subject as he speaks of it, but his eyes never leave Esyld's back, nor her hand in that pouch. "I thought.. each of us could train one force. Even twenty men apiece would make a difference. If we could convince Lord Gabriel to fund it."

Across the way, Esyld raises her head with a soft sigh, deftly clasping shut that little satchel, even as her blue eyes stare, hard and unseeing, at the wall the cot rests against. "..that's not funny, Vorian." Maybe normally the word choice would rouse at least a chuckle from the former mercenary. But it's a vulnerable moment for her, too… and a sore point that he's obliviously poking at.

Finally turning, though still not meeting the man's gaze, she places a half-full vial of oil down on the desk, then braces both hands there, on their knuckles, leaning into the support. A deep, steadying breath and she manages to continue on, blithe and devoid of emotion as she masters herself fully once more. "..there's the Foxes, for Cavalry. Best left to t'Mallen, there's no man better for the job." A beat. "I'd probably be of better use on the ground. Sparring and such. You've more authority, as a noble, to teach them. I'll just be the practice dummy."

Straightening again, the woman at last, perhaps without meaning to, ends up regarding the t'Maren. "..I should go." she offers, after a lengthy pause. "You need your rest and I.. I should probably return to my duties." Whatever those may be.

There is another silence from Vorian, but only for a moment. When he speaks, his voice carries with it an oft-unheard urgency. "You're a knight now. You serve as my partner, or my second, or not at all. I'll accept nothing less. I should be following you."

When she announces that she intends to leave, something slumps in the wounded knight and he clears his throat again. This time, there is a tiredness and a genuine need that shows through when he speaks. "Stay. Please. We won't speak of anything.. Just.. help me with the letters." He nods to the desk. "I'm sorry for what I said, just now. I didn't even think about it. Didn't mean it that way at all. But it was clumsy"

The young knight makes his way over, settling down on the cot with a grimace. "..And I was serious. About needing help with the oil. Please? I won't.." He considers his words carefully for a moment, then sighs, perhaps realizing that he sounds like a pleading teenager. "I would greatly appreciate it if y'stayed," he finally manages, sounding at least a touch more dignified. "I may need help throwing things."

Uncertainty plagues the young woman's features as she eyes the taller knight, watches him move across the chamber to take a seat. Whether for the plea, or just her own peace of mind, though, she relents, glancing back over one shoulder at the scattered papers. "..fine. Look, sitting here probably isn't doing you any good." Taking a half-step, she draws the rickety chair back into place and settles down on it herself. "You stretch out and tell me what you want to say. I'll write it." Pausing, she eyes his earlier handiwork, blowing the excess blotter off the parchment. "..I don't have the finest hand, but it's a damn sight better than yours."

It's a moment further, as she sets herself up with quill and ink, and a fresh sheaf, before she quietly addresses Vorian's apology. "..it's fine." She's nothing if not succinct. Dipping the quill tip, she offers the man a sidelong glance from beneath ebon lashes. "Now come on. Get this done while it's fresh and then you can put it out of your mind and get some rest. Who is the first one going to."

And there, by lamplight and the gleam of a set of golden spurs, the formidable former sellsword settles to one of life's most domesticated tasks, as her weary knight reclines and medicates his pain with good strongwine.

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