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A Clash at Clearwater

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"You will tell Derron Thorne," said Ser Tomas Prinksett in a voice that allowed no argument, "that you are most grateful for his kind offer but that you must refuse, for it is not seemly for a young lady to have a sword made for her."

He frowned. "No, Aerin. This weapons training has gone far enough. I shall speak to Septa Aloise about some more appropriate lessons for a young lady.

"Now - I have to go the training yard."

A last fulminating look at his daughter, and then Ser Tomas left the hall in search of his students, leaving his daughter alone and with an unwelcome task - telling Derron Thorne, the steward-smith, that she would not be able to have the sword he had offered to make for her.

Aerin Prinksett glared at her father's back as he left the hall, her fists clenched at her sides.

Tomlin got a blade before he left for Barrowtown...

Then slowly unclenched her fists. Turned and stomped toward the other end of the hall toward the smithy.

This wasn't the end of it. He'd said before she couldn't train. He'd said before she couldn't shoot. He'd said before she'd have to stop being a student and be a daughter.

This was no different. Really. It wasn't.

And she'd talk to Aloise, too. The Septa would help her. She always had before.

Aerin moved through the keep to the smith's. Paused at the archway. Then carefully peered in to see what Derron was doing. Aerin knew not to distract him if he was in the middle of something.

Derron was not actually at his forge. The younger apprentices were warming the forge, and the older one was checking the supplies. Derron was coming down the stairs from his rooms, muttering to himself as he looked over some pieces of parchment. "Bloody steward. Not feeling well so he makes me take some of his duties. 'This land is too cold for me.' Bloody hell." He looked up and saw the apprentices looking at him and snapped, more gruffly than usual, "Yes? Not enough for you lads to do this morning?" They immediately became focused on their tasks.

Derron reached the workbench and put the parchment down. He almost prayed that a stray spark would ignite them, but decided that to actively hope for it would be wrong. He had some work to do. He reached for his gloves.

Aerin shuffled into the smithy, looking both embaressed and worried. "Derron?" she asked. "Could... I have a word with you?" she asked the young smith. She glanced at the apprentices, obviously wishing they weren't here.

Derron's moodlightened a touch. He was fond of Ser Tomas' daughter, and she never spoke down to him, as most of the southerners did. Then again, she was less than half his age, so it could simply be respect for her elders. Regardless, anything to distract him from the accounts thet steward had given him.

"Of course, Miss Aerin*," he replied. "Let's sit in my corner by the stairs." He led her away from where the apprentices could hear. "Your father is not with you. Does this mean he refused your request?"

Aerin nodded glumly. "He says it's time for me to stop training and go to the Septa now," she said, her eyes downcast. "So I'm to have no blade. I'm sorry."

Derron smiled down at her and said, "No apology necessary, Milady. I've plenty to keep me busy." He paused, seeing her attitude. "But I hope that despite your training with the Septa, I'll see you in the training yard on occasion. Your father might not admit it, but having you along as he trains men gives him an extra set of eyes." He thought a moment, then decided to risk the wrath of the Captain of the Guard. "You could even tell him I think having you around as a distraction for the men will help them learn to focus during battle." Ser Tomas might not want his daughter to learn anymore fighting, but the girl was quick to observe, and could certainly learn by watching. And for the young men, having the lass around would in fact distract them. It would give Ser Tomas a legitimate reason to cuff them about and encourage them to focus.

In the meantime, the Maester in training from the South, Merivel, came into the forge. After a few inquiries among the apprentices about the whereabouts of Derron, he wandered in the direction of his corner by the stairs. In the dark haired young man's hand was a moderately sized ornate box that anyone who had sought Merivel's healing skills would recognize.

Merivel turned around the corner at the end of Derron's last words, and stopped.

"My apologies, Master Derron." he said, as he saw that the lady Aerin was with him. "Your apprentices didn't tell me that you were occupied." He turned and gave a short bow to the lady. "Lady Aerin." he said, with a nod and a smile.

Derron's head turned at the voice, but he seemed to relax when he saw Merivel. "No worries, good sir. The good lady and myself were discussing arms training. What can I do for you this morn?"

"Nothing so interestingly martial." Merivel replied. "A simple matter of the hinges of my box here needing some work, that's all. Nothing so interesting as forging a sword." He then looked sympathetically to Aerin "Or not, alas, alack, as the case might be."

Aerin tried to not scowl at the Maester. Even though he interrupted her conversation with Derron.

"The needs fits the user," she said mildly, looking away with an awkward movement.

Derron's shoulders slumped, and exhaled. His thick fingers were not as nimble as most, and his work on small items did not measure up to his own standards. He held his hand out to take the box. "Well, let me see what needs be done. It might be worth while to take it to a jewel smith, rather than my clumsy paws."

Aelin's eyes moved over to the box in the smith's hands, curious as to what the Maester might keep in such a container.

"Surely so." Merivel seemed ready to bolt at Aerin's prickly response to his arrival, but, instead, he opened the book, squeakily and the hinge moved with obvious reluctance to Merivel's efforts. "See?" Merivel said. "It's not rust, either, I think the hinge itself is a bit bent. It shouldn't have to be forced."

Inside the box were tiny wooden shelves built up from the bottom. The sheer variety of powders, tiny bottles of oils, and dried herbs on these shelves inside had to be overwhelming to those who had never looked inside of Merivel's box before.

Derron's brow wrinkled as he examined the box. He then said, "Empty it, please, milord." As Merivel began to do so, Derron thought out loud. "The hinge itself appears fine. I'm thinking maybe the pin is bent. Making a new one should be simple enough. If that's the case, my senior apprentice should be able to have it repaired before supper."

"Are those your healing powders?" Aerin asked Merivel, sounding almost unwilling to speak as her eyes focused on the containers in the box.

"Powders, ointments, ungents, salves, herbs, tinctures and other preparations." Merivel said, with obvious pride in his voice. "A few tricks, too"

He reached for a small vial of a bluish powder and opened it, taking a few grains into his hand. He tossed it at the nearest forge, and smiled as the red-yellow flames briefly turned a bright blue before returning to its natural color.

Aerin started violently as the flamed turned color, half ducking behind the smith in mild panic.

Derron hefted the box and brought it close to his eyes. He moved the lid open and closed, then nodded. "Aye, it's the hinge pin." He turned and barked to his elder apprentice, "Griss, get over here." The lad put down the supplies he was checking against inventory and rushed over. Derron held out the box. "One of the hinge pins on Maester Merivel's box needs to be replaced. While you're about it, check the other. If it looks worn, replace it as well. He shall have it back before supper. Understood?"

The lad, almost as taciturn as Derron nodded and replied, "Understood, sir." The youth was only half-a-head shorter than Derron, but nowhere near as broad. Derron figured the lad would put meat on his frame as he worked more with the hammer. He had been with him only two years so far, and probably gained two stone in weight. He then turned back to Aerin and Merivel.

"Is there anything else, milady or milord?"

"," Aerin said quietly, her eyes huge from seeing the flames turn color. "Thank you for your offer," she half whispered to the smith. She gave Merivel a look half of wonder and half of fear as she started to move toward the smithy door.

"Milady." Merivel said, clearly surprised by Aerin's reaction to his display, but trying to smile and appear non threatening in response. He gave Aerin a nod of the head and then looked to Derron.

"Nothing to worry, Maester," Aerin murmured somewhat uncertainly. She nodded to the Smith as she turned to leave.

"I do appreciate the service." Merivel said. "How is Fauster's shoulder, by the way?" he asked, referring to the treatnent of a recent injury to one of the other apprentices.

"Coming along nicely, thank you good sir. Feel free to examine him, if you like." He then stood to his full height and began pulling on work gloves. "Now if you'll excuse me, cook wants a new deep skillet. Many smiths forge them, but I prefer to cast them. And pouring liquid metal is dangerous work. My apprentices will watch this time, then do it with some supervision next."

Before Merivel could respond - indeed, before Aerin had actually left the room, the door opened and the tall, austere figure of Lord Draupaud entered. He ignored the girl child, but strode across to where Derron and Merivel stood in conversation. He wasted no time on preliminaries, his clear voice echpoing around the forge.

"Have you seen my wife?"

"No, Milord." Merivel replied with a bow of the head to the Lord of the Castle. "At least, not today." he amended. He then looked to Derron for his reaction and answer.

Aerin paused inside the door frame, having stepped to one side to get out of Lord Draupaud's way when he came in to the Smithy.

She stepped a little back, into the shadows, and watched as the Lord made his announcement. Then watched the others to see what they would do. Or say.

And wondered if the Lord had tried to find the Septa.

Derron, interrupted once more as he was pulling on his heavy leather work gloves shook his head. "No, Milord, I have not." Without waiting for instruction or reply, he spoke loudly to his apprentices. "Hoy! Any of you lads seen Her Ladyship this morning?"

The boys all shook their heads, their eyes wide with wonder. It was not so surprising, perhaps - Lady Clementa rarely ventured into any place so uncouth as the forge. But that the Lady should be missing - that was stranger.

Lord Draupaud gave a little shake to his head and then said, "No matter. No matter. Come with me to the solar, Maester, Steward. We need to talk."

Merivel followed quietly, in the wake of the Lord and Derron.

Aerin waited until the three men filed from the room, standing stock still until they were out of sight and hearing. Then she followed them into the keep proper. Not to the Solar, but to the Septa's rooms to see if Aloise was there with her ladyship.

The Septa seemed in a state bordering on hysterics as she berated a pair of hapless maids. "Only a moment! No longer than a moment was she left alone! Then pray, how did my Lady slip out of the room, down the steps and out of the castle without anyone seeing her if you left her alone for 'only a moment'?"

Hearing a sound, she whirled, her manner defensive, but she relaxed a little when she saw Aerin.

"Oh, it's you, child. Have you seen Lady Draupaud?"

"No," Aerin said, slipping into the room.

"But I did see the caravan coming up to the keep this morning from your window," she continued, trying to help. "Maybe the lady saw it too and went to see what they have?"

The Septa nodded slowly. "It's possible. Run you down, child, and see what you can find out."

Aerin nodded once, the turned and bolted from the room.

Through the keep with light feet, to the main gates.

She didn't think the guards would keep her in. Rather they would more than likely would be in the middle of being dressed down for somehow letting the Lady of Clearwater through without proper watch. Or that somehow the Lady got by them, which was worse.

As she approached the gates she slowed down to a fast walk and casually walked out, intending to head toward the grounds where a caravan would set up.

There were stalls arranged around in a small square in the centre of Clearwater town - displaying merchant goods from as far away as Dorne, as well as local fruits, vegetables and other produce from the local farmers taking advantage of the caravan to have a small impromptu market. There were plenty of smallfolk goodwives bustling about to buy things, and a few staff that Aerin recognised from the castle kitchens.

Recognising Aerin as one who might have some coins in her purse, several of the stallholders called out to her alluringly, and a little boy ran and turned three neat somersaults in front of her before giving a gap-toothed smile and stretching out a hopeful hand.

"You find the Lady with long gold hair and take me to her and I'll give you something," Aerin told the urchin even as she scanned the crowd, looking for her ladyship. "I'm supposed to give her a message from our Lord and I've lost track of her," told him.

She held up a coin, bronze, enough to buy a meat pocket. "Yours if you find her for me," she said, almost daring him.

The boy eyed the coin in Aerin's hand with wide eyes. He seemed to be wrestling between cupidity and veracity. Eventually he gave a sigh - veracity had won.

"I see's a lady like that," he said. "Long gold hair - all floaty. She went that way, earlier."

He pointed to a narrow alley that led, Aerin knew, to a gate in the city wall - a gate which, in these peaceful times - was unguarded, giving access onto the meadows - and the lake beyond.

She pulled a half coin out and tossed it at the boy. "Only half, since you haven't taken me to her." Then started down toward the alley and toward the gate at a quick trot.

She saw no-one in the alley - and the gate at the end was latched but unlocked, and certainly unguarded.

Outise, there was an area of trampled grass at the edge of the meadow nearest the gate, and then after that she could see a single line of footsteps, creating a darker trail through the dewy grass.

Aerin lightly followed the path, thinking to herself if the lad was lying she go back and take it out of him personally. She jogged next to the tracks, trying not to disturb them since she knew her father would be along shortly if they didn't find the lady quickly themselves.

The trail lead acros the meadow - at first straight and then twisting in circles, combined with little straight lines. It bewildered Aerin - and it reminded her of something. And then she realised; the patterns were similar to those she remembered from Winter long ago when she was very small, and she saw the patterns the ice dancers made on the lake with their sharp wooden skates.

The Lady, it seemed, was dancing.

Which only confirmed to Aerin the fact the Lady was a strange creature indeed.

And then she saw the second set of tracks. Heavier and more distinct, and moving in a straight like - towards the Lady.

And then there was a straight line of the Lady's tracks, the footsteps widely placed, as though she had turned and run.

Aerin started to run full speed now after the tracks. And wished her father had agreed she could have a blade.

She soon found herself in a small wood. The ground was harder here, not reflecting the light footsteps of the lady. But there were a set of very recent hoofmarks - the Lady was being hunted by a mounted man.

And then, ahead, she saw them. The flash of the lady's white dress as she fled in terror and, close behind, a strangely dressed mounted man pursuing her. He seemed to be driving her towards the lake.

Aerin continued her chase, wishing indeed for a bow, or a horn she could use to call for help with. By now they were too far from help to be heard.

No, she would have to deal with this herself.

She slowed for a moment, looking for a fist sized rock or a large stick she could use as a weapon. The man was on a horse. It should be easy to spook it for a moment and get it to bolt. Enough time for her to get the Lady into the woods.

There were no rocks around. But there were plenty of large sticks that could be hurled like spears ...

Out of the corner of his eye, Nikko became aware of someone else in the woods ...

Niko knew he had a choice. Let the lady go over the precipice. Or leave himself unguarded against whomever was approaching. And he only had a split second to decide. Between himself, and someone he didn't know.

~How do I get myself into these situations,~ he thought to himself. His decision made, his last thought as he prepared to launch himself from the horse was, ~At least things can not get any worse.~

OOC: Niko is staying his course, and jumping as soon as is feasible.

Aerin grabbed a stick as she moved toward the lady and her pursuer.

[Mel? Can Aerin see the precipice from where she is?]

[OOC - yes, but from her perspective as she runs between the trees, it looks as though the strange horseman is riding her down in a bid to drive her off the promontory/]

Then several things happened at once.

A hound at the edge of the wood gave a great belling cry.

Aerin, startled, let fly with the stick.

The stick flew forward and, with great accuracy, struck the flank of the horse.

Startled, the horse leapt forward, sending Nikko, already unbalanced and ready to leap, flying from his saddle towards the lady.

A man less skilled with horses might just have fallen. He might even had crashed into the lady with sufficient force to hurt her badly.

Nikko caught and held her like a soft-skinned fruit fallen into his hands ...

But that was not enough to prevent her cry and her wild leap forwards - over the edge of the promontory.

As he fell, Nikko realised that distance was deceptive - they were less high than had appeared from the wood. But still it was a drop of some fifteen feet, and sent them plummeting, with the lady wrapped in his arms, into the icy waters of the lake.

The solar was a room for the Lord and his family - more private than most of the castle. And so it proved on this occasion, although one person was already there - Clearwater's Captain of the Guard, Ser Tomas Prinksett. On seeing his Lord and the other two men, he gave a nod and a curt bow.

"The position is this," said Lord Draupaud. "My Lady appears to have left the castle. I have reason to believe ... there is reason to believe she might wish to do away with herself."

His voice was harsh as he spoke, and he looked at none of the other men.

Derron stood silent. He had not dared to correct Lord Draupaud back at the smithy. He was not Steward, though the man seemed to be grooming him for the job. But that was of little importance now. He was not a hunter or tracker, but he knew the surrounding countryside fairly well. "If it will help, Milord, I will join the search party."

Lord Draupaud turned to him with evident relief. "Thank you. Of all of us here, you know the ways best. I was hoping you might be able to organise search parts ... perhaps to look for someone else ... And then, if they find the Lady ... "

He shook his head. "We must hope they are in time."

Not wishing to antagonize Ser Tomas, which he might have done by suggesting his daughter still attend arms practice, Derron said, "I am sure Ser Tomas would be better at organizing the search party, Milord. The men are used to following his orders. I'll begin by checking with the grooms to see if Her Ladyship took a horse, and checking if any of the servants saw her leave. Then I'll go out with the party and hopefully have a direction or idea of one. Maybe I'll even know a short-cut."

"Thank you," said Lord Draupaud.

Ser Tomas spoke up from by the fire. "I'll organise the search parties, my Lord. But if you could take charge, Thorne ... for you know the lie of the land better than any of us ... "

Merivel nodded at all this.

"I do not know the north well, milords." Merivel confessed. "Anything, however, that I might do, I am at command."

Derron replied, "Ride with the main party. If we find Her Ladyship in any distress, having you there might save her life." He then turned to Ser Tomas. "Have those that can ride follow the main road to towards town. They can ask any they meet if they have seen her. Those who will search cross-country on foot can meet me at the gate. I'll ask the grooms and a few others for any thoughts of where she might go. Milord, if you could query the Septa, and the Lady's maids, that would be a help."

Merivel nodded at this allocation. "Yes, I will leave to prepare for riding. It is fortunate." Merivel smiled. "that I am not unfamiliar with horses. I will not be he who slows the search thereby."

"Very well," said Lord Draupaud, and waved a hand in dismissal, so all three men could be about their duties, while he turned and made his way towards his lady's quarters.

"I'll gather as many guards as I can," said Tomas Prinksett, and he headed off quickly, leadving the Maester and the Smith alone together.

"Oh, and Milord, just in case, ask the maids for the most recent thing she wore that has yet to be laundered." He thought about old Lancer, probably curled up as usual in his basket beneath the stairs back at the smithy, keeping his old bones warm, even during nice weather.

"Then that is what I will do first, ere departing." Merivel said. "Inquire, prepare, and then ride."

"May we find her and soon." Merivel added, almost as a prayer.

"Indeed," Derron replied. He then headed for where the outdoor servants tended to gather to gossip. If any of them had seen her, they would have been reluctant to stop her.

As Derron headed toward where the outdoor-leaning servants congregated, Merivel headed indoors, to find any knot of in-castle Servants to begin inquiries of his own.

The result of the investigation was that one of the stableboys had seen someone who he thought was Lady Draupaud walking rapidly in the direction of the small market.

There was no sign of her there, but the market allowed access to any of three streets and two alleys that led to the town walls. It was possible she had quietly walked down one of these and ventured into the open country beyond.

By the time all this was reported back, Ser Tomas had assembled a search party of reliable men, some six in number, with eight horses, including the sturdy cob that was Derron's own mount, and a fine bay gelding for the Maester.

Then a boy who had been sent to scout around the walls came panting back.

"Ser! Ser! I found these ... on the grass outside the Deeping Gate, just at the edge of the meadow!"

It was a pair of shoes, unquestionably belonging to a lady.

Derron nodded to himself and said, "Outside the gate? I'll fetch Lancer." He trotted back to the smithy. Once inside, he called out, "Lancer! Here boy!" When no dog appeared he shook his head and walked around behind the stairs. Lancer was indeed in his basket with his blanket beneath him. But his head and ears were up. Derron muttered, "Silly dog." His voice rose to the point where he sounded as if he were snapping at an apprentice. "Come on, Lancer. Time to hunt." This got the dog to his feet, albeit slowly. He followed Derron out to the courtyard where the group was looking anxious. One of the maids had provided a shawl the lady had worn. Derron held it for Lancer to sniff, then he had one of the shoes brought forward. Lancer, a large black dog with a fair amount of grey around his muzzle, growled lowly. Derron said, "Aye, they're hers. Let's mount up. Lancer, find her. Go!" Lancer took off at a steady trot. Ser Tomas, already in his saddle, looked skeptically at Derron. Derron said, "He only sprints when he needs to now. But he'll keep going until he finds her." With that he nudged his cob into a trot to follow the dog towards the Deeping Gate.

Ser Tomas followed, his face grim. The rest of the search party stayed back for the Maester to proceed them.

Merivel took the third spot quietly, soon becoming used to his mount, spurring him on to keep up with Tomas and Derron. He focused on what lay ahead, giving no regard to the rest of the party trailing him in turn.

Soon they came to the edge of the meadow outside the Deeping Gate. Here they could see the distuirbance in the grass where the Lady had presumably removed her shoes. But going forward were not one set of tracks but two, the one slightly smaller than the other, and running parallel to it.

"I am no tracker." Merivel said. "But it is clear that there is more than one person here. Perhaps the Lady met someone. Do we have aught to do but to follow them?" he asked his companions.

"We go on," said Ser Tomas grimly.

And so they did, led by Lancer.

The trail lead acros the meadow - at first straight and then the larger ones twisting in circles, combined with little straight lines. The patterns were similar to those the Northerners knew from Winter long ago, the patterns the ice dancers made on the lake with their sharp wooden skates.

The Lady, it seemed, was dancing - preseumably watched by the second, smaller person.

And then they saw the third set of tracks. Heavier and more distinct, and moving in a straight like - towards the Lady.

And then there was a straight line of the Lady's tracks, the footsteps widely placed, as though she had turned and run.

Lancer lifted his head and howled.

Derron grimaced. Lancer only howled when deeply disturbed. As a pup, he had been much more excitable. But these days it took a lot to get him to stir from the warmth of the smithy, even during warmer months. If Lancer was howling it could only mean one of a very few things. The most hopeful was they were close to the quarry. But it might also mean he had scented something he knew to be dangerous, such as a wolf. Regardless, they had been tasked to find the Lady before she came to harm.

He barked to Lancer, "Go on! Find her! Hah!" Lancer finally took off at a more respectable pace for a hunting hound, though Derron could still tell he was older than he used to be. He turned just long enough to say, "We're close to something. Either the Lady, or trouble. Maybe both." He wheeled and spurred his horse to a gallop, continuing to encourage his friend. "That's it, boy! Keep on it! Good dog!"

Merviel didn't hesitate, as soon as Derron spurred his horse, Merivel urged his gelding to pursue him and his dog closely. He leaned forward in the saddle, as if urging his mount to ever greater speed, an anxious look on his face.

As they galloped forwards, they saw a small figure ahead, running through the woods, towards the promontory that jutted out over the lake. It was Tomas Prinksett who - understandably - recognised his daughter first.


Then they saw a large stallion, its tack unfamiliar both in style and livery, moving uneasily where the woods thinned at the very edge of the promontory.

As they close, they see that the horse is obviously a trained warhorse- though light. Too light for a fully armoured man. The most obvious things they see are a spear strapped to it- not quite as long as a Dornish spear, but definitely not the type a levy would carry, with it's ebony shaft- and an oval shield, white and black, diagonally split, but with no heraldry. The horse moves if they approach it- not shying away, but a more deliberate movement.

Derron rode towards the edge. Simple logic to him. They are looking for a woman, and whomever was riding the horse, since the small tracks were Aerin's. The tracks made towards the edge, and the horse was obviously well-trained. If the rider had double-backed into the wodds, it would be near the woods edge. Therefore, most likely people had fallen in. The good news was Derron knew this place. For generations, boys would dare one another to jump from this edge into the water. He had first done it himself at age 10 or so. He pulled up about 10 yards from the edge, looking at the tracks for any final signs before he stepped to the edge and scanned the water below.

There were only the tracks of the horse and the one person of foot, running. Lancer had already padded over to the edge and was peering down and - slowly, his great tail started to sway to and fro.

But there were two people in the water - one, a stranger - and in his arms could be seen the pale and apparently lifeless form of the Lady of Clearwater.

"Helloooo up there!" he yelled. "Could I trouble you for some help? The lady is in a bad way, and I could use some assistance getting her to safety!"

Derron turned and spoke. "They're in the water, Ser. We'll need a long rope to bring them in and to ths shore down yonder," he said as he gestured to where the shore sloped down enough to the water for easy access. He also tried to gauge the distance back to the town. They could either ride back directly, or build a fire here to warm the swimmers. He decided that the Maester would probably know better.

"We need to warm them immediately. The ride back to Castle or town could undo their lives." Merivel said loudly without hesitation. "I will build a fire and have it ready by the time you get them out." he said, stopping his horse and dismounting. Reaching into his saddlebags for flint and tinder, he then scanned the area quickly for dry, fallen wood with which to do so.

Derron practically barked at the Maester, "Have the soldiers find some deadfall. And have a few strip their coats to use as blankets."

Aerin was at the edge when the others rode up, looking down in dismay. At the sound of her father's voice calling her name her head snapped around, then she ran to her father's horse.

And as the others began their rescue she pulled the bow and quiver off her father's saddle, pulled the quiver over her shoulder and marched back to the edge. Drew an arrow and notched it. And aimed at the pair in the water, not shooting, but obviously prepared to.

"He ran her off the edge!" Aerin announced loudly as she covered the barbarian. "I saw it!"

Ser Tomas nodded. "Don't fire by mistake, Aerin," he instructed. "And only when you are sure you will not harm Lady Draupaud."

Then he continued in his task of organising the guard to pull the pair in the Lake ashore.

Some of the guards supplied rope - a noose was made at the end of a long rope and thrown into the water for Niko to grab and either secure around the lady, or to haul them both ashore.

Slowly, they were brought to land, and guards were waiting.

Derron helped pull the pair ashore. Ser Tomas told the two men he replaced to remove their coats and to help find wood for a fire. As the man and, presumably, Lady Draupaud reached a point where their feet touched bottom, Derron said, "You may be helping, lad, but until we're sure, I recommend you do as you're told. If you have any weapons, tell us where they are, and let me take them. Understood?"

Niko looked up at the older man, his grey eyes stone cold at his words.

"This is the way it is, then," he said, forgetting in his anger the ways of speech he had labored so hard to remaster. "My captain said this would be. No pay for a deed done. That was the way of trouble." He shook his head, the bells tinkling loudly as he did.

"Is that what we have, then?" he asked, nodding towards the girl with the bow. "Very little value you place on her life, not to even give a thanks?"

Derron's face betrayed little emotion as he said, "From what evidence we've seen, you could have run her off the cliff, falling yourself as well. I give you my word that you will be dried off, warmed, and given a fair hearing. If you deserve a reward, you'll get it and more. How does that sound?"

"A reward isn't what this one seeks," Niko answered. "For you to be treating me with more respect, that is what I *require.*" He gestured towards the archer again. "Not to be threatening my life, nor questioning my intent."

"Even had I fallen, if I were trying to hurt the lady, this one could have let her drown. No? But be whatever may, the strength of arms you have against me." He shrugged. "So," he said, "it matters little how that sounds, but more how this looks." The shrug again. "And to this one, exhausted and wet as he is, it looks as if he has no choice."

Derron shrugged. "I admire your pragmatism. Come forward." He took a step into the chilly water and held out his arms. "Let me help you with your burden, please."

Niko hesitated for a moment, remembering the girl with the bow. But, shrugging he realized that she was the least of his worries, and passed her to the older man. Walking to the shore, he sat down heavily, surveying the area.

"Is she your kin, then?" he asked, watching as the man took care of the still unknown lady.

Derron lifted the woman from the water and walked her to where the others were preparing a fire. "She is Her Ladyship Draupaud. I work for His Lordship." He took another step then added, "And you're welcome to dry yourself at the fire. I'm sure Ser Tomas will wish to hear you version of events."

Niko sat for a while longer in silence after the man left, gathering his strength. Once he felt rested enough to move, he made his way to the fire, observing those already there as he did.

Aerin slowly circled around the edge toward the fire once the stranger and the Lady had been pulled from the water. She lowered her aim, arrow still notched, as she moved closer to the Lady.

Because she was fairly sure what would happen when the Lady woke up surrounded by and being tended to by menfolk.

"Maester," she said softly when she was close enough to him that the others might not hear. "You should send for the Septa. The Lady will be ... easier to manage with her here," she told him in an undertone even as she kept her eyes on the stranger.

Merivel had quietly built the fire with the aid of the guards while the events at the lake's edge had taken place. He in fact had not said a word to anyone, looking at concern at his new patient. It took a moment for Merivel to look up at the sound of Aerin's voice.

"You are right." Merivel said quietly, nodding and rising. He walked over to the nearest guard and quietly instructed him to return to Clearwater to fetch the Septa here as quickly as possible.

Derron handed Lady Draupaud off to one of the guards stepped back. His work was done for the moment, but he had one important task left. He walked up the hill to where his horse was calming chewing some grass. He reached into his saddle bag and pulled out a small piece of dried meat. He then turned and whistled sharply. "Lancer! Come here, lad!" The hound, which had stayed near Aerin, for he knew her from her many visits to the smithy, turned and raced up the hill. When he got to Derron, Derron held up one hand, and Lancer dropped into a sitting position. Derron held out the piece of meat and said, "Good dog. Well done, Lancer. Good dog." As the dog chewed onctentedly on the treat, Derron petted the faithful hound, then said, "Come boy." He then led the horse and dog back to where the others were gathered.

As Derron returned, Niko's eyes widened. Then he looked at the girl with her bow, and stood in alarm. "My horse. You didn't..." He started back up the hill, towards the promontory, intent upon something- one could assume his horse.

Derron shrugged, "It's still there. Someone will collect it and bring it back to the stables." He assumed one of Ser Tomas' men would search any bags first though.

If Niko heard, he gave no indication, as he continued towards the top of the promontory.

Derron motioned one of the soldiers to follow the stranger. He kept an eye on the man as he walked up the hill, in case he tried anything.

But it appeared that Niko indeed seemed to be only after his horse, for once he reached the top of the hill, he visibly relaxed, and walked over to the beast. Running his hand down the horse's mane, he reached into his saddlebag and retrieved a carrot, feeding it to the animal as he talked soothingly to it.

He then looking up, and seeing the soldiers, held up his hands to show that there was nothing there, and walked over to them. It seemed that if he planned to stay in the area, he would have to go along with this mummer's farce, so led the animal as he remanded himself back into their custody.

Derron stood back from the crowds. No doubt the Maester would tell them when to get moving. For now he stood ready for any trouble.

The guards, knowing the humour of Draupaud's lady, stood back at a watchful distance, close to the stranger. Ser Tomas Prinksett moved forward to speak to Derron.

"I'll send a couple of men back for a litter. I don't think we should wait till she can walk or ride."

Derron shrugged a bit and replied, "I can hack down a couple of saplings, and with a blanket we can improvise a litter if you, and the Maester, think it a good idea."

"I do." Merivel said from his position at the fire, and the lady. "The soon we get her back to Clearwater, the better it will go for her."

Categories: WinterChillsGameLogs, Clearwater

Page last modified on February 15, 2006, at 12:09 AM