1866-09-11: The Hayloft
Summary: After a surprisingly unpleasant realization, Lorelei disappears to get her head on straight and get back to her roots.
Date: 9.11.1866
Related: Rumor Has It and Into Pacitta

Cities are worthless.

Certainly in the monetary sense – and, to be sure, many others – that's the opposite of true. Cities are cities because they're the epicenters of trade, commerce, and politics. They're situated in places that are convenient enough for everyone to get to. They draw large crowds. They offer a wider variety of goods and services than provincial towns can given the wide variety and sheer number of people and interests to cater to.

As Lorelei slams into her fourth person just after stepping in her umpteenth puddle of what she hopes is mud (but is confident isn't actually mud), however, she doesn't see all these merits. What she sees is din – loud, busy, claustrophobic din. Well. That's if she's doing much looking at all.

If there's one aspect of city life Lorelei's accustomed herself to since having arrived in the free city of Pacitta for the upcoming tourney, it's that keeping one's head down and just getting where one's going is the surest way to not attract any attention. That's something this archer thrives on; remaining largely anonymous, especially as an actively employed member of one of Lonnaire's more infamous mercenary corps, is her calling card. Besides, she's not the type to fight at the front lines. She prefers covert missions that leave her hiding in trees, aiming her arrows at idiots who never thought to look up.

But then, we're not in Lonnaire anymore, are we?

When that fourth person bumps into her, a rather broad and stocky man with an awful hat and worse breath, it literally hits Lorelei just how displaced she is. Up until now, she'd been looking to avoid coming to grips with that realization. She's not haughty; on the contrary, she prefers her silent humility to any arrogance she's ever encountered. There's much that's due to be processed right now, though, that she's been shoving far and away until it turned into an ugly monster that won't stay silent.

Part of her is hoping that finding somewhere else to be other than that inn she'd originally planned to stay in while in Pacitta will give her some peace to be able to mull everything over. The other part of her knows very well, as she pushes one of her loose sleeves up her arm past her elbow while she turns a corner down a smaller street, that she's not going to come out of any of this happy.

People begin to thin out. There's less noise the farther from the center of the city she gets, and it begins to smell less and less like stagnant water and more and more like concentrated animal dung. If not an improvement, it's certainly more like what she's used to, and that in itself is something of a comfort. She begins to notice that she can finally hear her boots hitting stone again now that she's this far removed from the city center. After all, when one's looking to stow away in the hayloft of a random barn and one's inconveniently situated in a city built on canals, it's going to require a bit of a walk. Not like Lorelei minds. Her solo walks in the woods are distant memories here in the cacophony and overwhelming everything this city provides her.

In all, she's likely been on her pilgrimage for the better part of an hour. She can't walk at full speed when there are people in her way, and she's unfamiliar with the geography here (though getting lost isn't really in her vocabulary). The barn she finds is near the city gates, close to where they'd boarded their horses for the duration of the tourney but far from that inn mid-city. The saddlebag over her shoulder is finally noticed – she'd just taken it and gone, fast – and its weight is beginning to make her shoulder ache. Making a note to go through her effects and remove the unnecessary items before loading her mare up again, she shifts it slightly while keeping it on the same shoulder, her dark eyes moving from foundation to eaves as she sizes up the barn. It's not guarded and there's a side entrance that looks almost too easy to use. It gives her pause, the fine hair on the back of her neck hidden beneath the long, dark braid rising as she shivers. From between the pale, thin line of her pursed lips darts her tongue, insistent upon wetting skin before it returns to her mouth. Alright. She's determined to find somewhere to sleep, and if this is the first of many locations that requires scouting, she'd better get a move on.

She swallows and takes a step forward, then another. It's not far to the side door and, much as she suspected, it's unlocked. Blah. Onyx eyes roll as she half-debates opening it, but before she can come to a conclusion one way or another, she finds her hand's on the latch. Fine, she almost concedes to herself, sniffling once and rubbing her nose with the back of her free hand before she lifts the latch and pulls the door toward her. Easy peasy.

The barn is unremarkable. Sounds of horses breathing, eating, and otherwise making themselves comfortable for the night are really the only background noise for the otherwise serene location that reeks of hay, sweat, and shit. It smells like home. And so, buoyed by this shred of familiarity, the archer takes a few more steps in in search of a ladder. There's got to be one somewhere.

It's almost indecent, sneaking onto someone else's property and freeloading the better part of a month's nights in his hayloft. Definitely not commanding of respect like her position usually does, but then, she's not really advertising who she is. Part and parcel of that animosity thing she's so fond of. A horse to her left snorts and she startles, head snapping to the side to find the source of the noise and bopping her shoulder with her braid in the process. Right. Another few minutes of searching yield that coveted ladder, and, once she's made her way up to the rather snug and seemingly comfortable loft, she heaves a heavy sigh.

Then another.

Really it's about ten minutes before she finally decides it's okay to breathe normally again, her chest rising and falling incrementally as she gets a grip. Her hands run through the loose bits of hair that have fallen free from the untied braid, pushing it up over her head in a futile gesture to busy herself continually as the hair keeps falling loose. It's one of the downsides to freshly washed hair, she laments, clicking her tongue in disapproval and finally threading her fingers together and wrapping her arms around her knees that are, at present, pulled up to her chest.


The word just echoes in her empty consciousness for a while like a shouted word in the wide halls of some great house's manse. If she stops and thinks about it, as she's clearly sort of doing now, it makes sense to her. Nobility has always been and, in her relatively limited scope of the world (Lorelei doesn't even pretend to keep an interest in politics let alone a talent for following them), will always be. How does that happen? They marry other nobles and birth noble babies.

Something about that last part stings her viciously and when she breathes again it's a gasp, a sharp intake of air, like she's forgotten how to breathe. Or, maybe, that this realization and all its implications is really knocking the literal wind out of her sails. She doesn't even go there. That was never anything that ever crossed her mind from the moment this mismatched, ill-timed, horrible idea of a love affair began. Why is she so agreeable? Why did she consent to going to Pacitta, anyway? She's not mad at her best friend, but there's definitely a moment, as she pushes herself back against a rafter on the hay, that she's exasperated with her best friend. She couldn't have known, especially if he didn't. And that she will believe.

Recomposed, she swallows and blinks rapidly. It's just dusty in here. That's why her eyes itch. Really, she should have known. She doesn't know just how old he is, but if he's older than his sister, he's well past what 'good' nobles consider marrying age. It's a shock, then, that he wasn't to begin with. Or so it should be, if she's putting herself in that mindset. The hay pokes and prods her through the canvas of her breeches, reminding her of just where she is now.

Here, in this barn, in the cool night air, alone. No sheets. No pillows. No bed. No company. No nothing.

Well, nothing but hay.

But then, why does it bother her this much? Ah, that's the crux of the issue, isn't it. When she met him, she couldn't care any less for him. He frustrated her. He disrupted her status quo. He presumed to tell her what to do and insisted on following her around until she talked like she didn't want to. And now, not even two full months later, she's freeloading in a foreign barn and pretending it's allergies causing her sniffling.

Sitting for a long while without thinking very much of anything, she calms herself. Not like there was much to soothe, but she's markedly more relaxed when she props the saddle bag against a rafter and pulls some hay to lie flat so it won't poke her overnight. She never makes rash decisions, she realizes, as she's settling in, rolling onto her side and stretching in the dried grass. Never. For no reason. Everything is always calculated. Risks are always weighed.

So, then, what is this?

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