Inside The Septa's House After The Battle
(Continued from Battle at the Septa's House)
Aerin watched the drama unfold with the wolf woman and the sellsword.
And they were afraid of Shade? she thought to herself?
After a moment, and after making sure Shade was more interested in the horse than anything else she went back into the house to assist with the poisoned wound.
Mariam smiled at her. "How are things outside? Is it safe to open the shutters now?"
Aerin peered out of the door, looked at Catriona's blade at Thelbane's throat.
"I think we need to keep the shutters closed a little while longer," Aerin answered, closing the door. No sense in the Septas having to hear Thelbane be killed. Or Ranulf.
"There may still be some of the Mummers around," she told Mariam. "I'll stay with you until they say it's all right."
"How is she?" she asked, coming over to sit down next to her Septa. "Do you need anything?"
"She's resting now," said Mariam quietly. "I gave her something to help her sleep, so that the pain and the fever don't tire her out. Perhaps you could fetch Ranulf, if you think he'll be quiet."
Aerin had no way of knowing if Ranulf would be quiet or not.
But it probably didn't matter.
She went into the kitchen where she'd heard Ranulf last. "Ranulf?" she called out into the room. "It's over. You can come and see the Septa now," she announced to the empty room.
And the room was silent ...
Then a small head peeped around the pantry door and Ranulf blinked at her.
"The fighting woman said to stay here," he announced. But he came out, nevertheless.
"How is the Septa?"
"Asleep. Mariam gave her something to ease her pain. She's done cleaning the wound. You can go in now," Aerin said neutrally.
Aerin went over to the back door to make sure it was closed and latched.
It was actually open ... Ranulf watched her worriedly.
As she tried to close it, she felt a steady pressure from the other side - and then a warning growl.
Aerin had to suppress her initial instinct to strike with her sword.
"Ranulf! Other room. Now!" she whispered tensely.
She didn't open the door, but held it at its position. Then she maneuvered so she could carefully look around the door jam. To see what was actually pushing back.
Shade looked up at her balefully, and then butted the door again.
Aerin gave her companion an annoyed look, not letting the door open further.
"You... have caused trouble," she said sternly to the Shadowcat.
"You killed that horse and now they have to clean it up. You frightened the Septas trying to get out of the house. And Derron is saying you're untrained and a problem," she scolded her Shadowcat through the door, her foot bracing it from his efforts to come in.
"How do I know you'll behave?" she asked her cat coolly.
Shade looked up at her, hurt. The tuft of horse hair dropped from his mouth, as though he wished to make it clear that he preferred a bowl of cream by the kitchen fire to such crude snacks as he had enjoyed outside here.
Aerin was unmoved. Mostly. The door didn't open further.
"You didn't have to kill that horse," she told Shade, her expression firm. "You know the rules. No killing anything smaller than a rabbit unless we're hunting. Or we're in danger."
She gave Shade disapproving look through the opening in the door. "I don't think either of use were threatened by the horse," she told her companion frankly. "And now they're wondering if they have to do something about you. Whether or not you're a danger. So... how do we prove to them you're not a danger?" she asked him, as if she expected the Shadowcat to give her an answer somehow.
Shade shot her a disdainful look and extended a paw to watch, stretching out a wicked array of claws so he could lick between them.
Ranulf giggled. "Isn't that what he's meant to be, Aerin? After all, he only attacked our enemies. Imagine if he'd gone after one of the guards - then he'd be dangerous!"
Aerin sighed. "The horse was off limits. You know that," she answered her shadowcat firmly.
As if Shade cared Aerin thought ruefully.
A low moan came from the front room.
"That's Septa!" said Ranulf, and bolted through.
Aerin gave Shade a 'you'd better behave' look, then left the door open and followed Ranulf to see what was happening with the Septa.
They found the Septa awake. She had half pulled herself up on her good arm to look at them both anxiously. Although she seemed to week to speak, she managed a smile when she saw them.
Aerin let Ranulf take the place at the Septa's side, feeling like she still needed to stay at guard.
"We're safe," she told the Septa. "We're in Marshend. At their Septa's house. She treated you," Aerin added.
The Septa noodded slowly - then reached out her good hand to take Aerin's.
"And ... the bandits?" she whispered.
Aerin frowned as she gently squeezed the Septa's frail hand in her own good one.
"I don't know. I think... there's more than one group looking for a woman and a wolf."
Aerin grinned slightly then. "But she's here. The wolf woman. I saw her. She whistled to her wolf and he fought where she told him to and she could shoot a bow and everything."
Then Aerin grimaced. "Shade just killed a horse. It was a mess. I should help them clean it up," she said regretfully.
But even as she spoke, there were a flurry of steps on the stairs.
A dark haired boy came tumbling down and into the main room.
"He's going to the barn!" he half-shouted. "We have to stop him!"
Aerin startled as this stranger barreled into the room.
She looked behind her to see if Shade was with them.
"No... Shade is here I think. I think he's had his fill of horses for the day," she said, resignation warring with disapproval in her voice.
Callon blanched at the sight of the sahdowcat, elegantly cleaning his paws, but he rushed on regardless. "Not him - that man outside! He ordered them to kill the others ... he mustn't kill Minstrel!"
He was rushing towards the door.
Aerin stepped between the boy and the door, her sword still in her hand. She faced the panicked Callon.
"The Minstrel who helped the bandits attack us?" she growled, sounding strangely like Shade for once.
"He was protecting me!" shouted Callon. "They'd got me!"
He rushed at Aerin, trying to get past her, and his voice rose to a scream.
Aerin stepped out of the boy's way. And stuck her leg out to trip him.
And then planted her foot on his back when he was laying face down on the ground.
"Derron doesn't kill for sport, boy," she said coldly. "But he will kill if there is a danger. So we'll stay here until Derron gets this all sorted out."
"I'll kill you!" said the boy angrily. "How dare you do this to me!"
He sounded like Ranulf when his dignity was outraged.
Aerin wasn't rattled by the young boy's anger.
"You might be dead if I let you run out of here yelling like you were," she said coolly. "And that does no one any good." She pressed firmly with her foot on the boy's back, and then planted the sword she was holding point first in the floor in front of the boy's face.
"There are armed men out there who've just been in a fight. Yelling, and them finding out your friend helped bandits ambush us could get you sliced up right quick. Understand?" she asked with a tone she remembered Niko using on her once when she was stubbornly trying to use a maneuver that wasn't the right one in the situation.
"Now the only reason you're not out there now is because the Septa claimed you as house guest. So... here you stay until I say so."
The boy regarded the blade for a moment and his eyes crossed slightly as he did so, so close was it to his face. Then he seemed to go limp under her foot.
"Steward Thorne's gone into the stable!" reported Ranulf, who had stationed himself by the window.
There was a pause, and then Ranulf said, "He's come out again. He's carrying two packs. One's the minstrel's - I can see his flute!"
All at once Aerin found she had a foot on something that wriggled like an agitated eel.
(Merge from Marshend - After the Struggle: Derron and Mariam )
Mariam walked through the front door... and stopped dead. Ranulf was watching through the window - but Aerrin appeared to be standing on top of Callon and holding a sword pointed at his face, while the boy was trying to wriggle free.
Derron could easily see over Mariam's head and he sighed aloud. "Aerin," he said in a normal tone, but obviously doing his best not to sound angry, "it's over. No one's dead. Put the blade up and step away." He paused then added, "Please." He suddenly realized his hammer was still in Mariam's hands.
Aerin stayed where she was for a moment, scowling down at Callon, and then looking up to scowl at Derron Thorne for good measure. Then, with a sigh, she put up her sword and stepped off Callon, who scrambled quickly to his feet.
"Did you kill him?" the boy demanded truculently, his glare at Derron only marginally more belligerent than Aerin's.
Derron's temper was finally at a point where it began to show. For him to show any impatience was rare, so Aerin knew he must be getting annoyed. Through slightly gritted teeth he replied, "I just said no one is dead. So no, I did not kill him. Now if you can't play nice together, stay away from one another." He paused then added, "And I mean the both of you. Let the rest of us have some time to gather our senses again. Please." The last word was said with as much sincerity as he could muster. Which was not much.
"Go and find him outside, Callon," said Mariam hastily. And to Aerin she added, "Perhaps your cat might like some water from the trough?"
Aerin glanced over at Shade as Callon left the room. Then looked up at Derron. "Was it the Minstrel who helped the bandits?" she asked him.
Derron looked at her for a moment then said, "Apparently they were holding Callon to make him do their bidding. I've reached an understanding with him for now."
Aerin scowled, obviously not happy about the revelation. But she nodded in understanding.
"Shade and I will be outside, keeping watch," she announced to Derron and Mariam. Then she exited, going through the kitchen to the back door Shade had invited himself in.
(Aerin's thread continues in Aerin Outside)
Then Mariam looked at Derron. "Let me see how your Septa fares. Then I think we should speak."
Derron, trying to calm himself, sighed loudly and said, "Very well." He sat on a chair and waited quietly.
He was in a good position here to observe the deft, effective care that Mariam was giving to the Septa. Before long, she was finished to her satisfaction and came over to Derron.
"Would you like something to drink?" she asked. "I have my own ale, and cordials. But ... I need to know what you intend to do now."
Derron looked at her with frank appraisal. He took a few moments, then sighed. "A mug of ale would be most welcome, thank you. I follow the same course I mentioned before. Once we're satisfied these sellswords are no longer a threat to you, we'll clear some of the land beyond your garden. Just as you requested. And if you are still willing, I would like to leave my charges in your care. The boy, Ranulf, and Niko is to be his protector and tutor. And of course your patient, as I believe she may choose to also stay with Ranulf." He leaned back and stretched his uninjured arm. "Then once everything is settled, and the issue of funds is also seen to, I should be taking the men and Aerin back to Clearwater. We may need to visit town first, though. Does all of that meet with your approval?"
Mariam nodded slowly. "But I have a request to make to you - one that I know you will not like. But it is important ... when you travel back to Clearwater, will you allow Callon and the Minstrel to travel with you, under your protection?"
Derron looked up from the mug of ale the woman had given him looking somewhat skeptical. He thought then shrugged. "I already told Callon sh...he may come with us if he so desires. The Minstrel? Well, I would hope he provides a great deal of entertainment if he wishes to travel with us and not feel threatened by the men he betrayed." He sighed then said formally, "If he wishes to travel with us I will see he comes to no more harm than any others."
"Thank you," said Mariam. She smiled at him warmly - when her face was eased of strain, she was an attractive woman. "I ask not for myself, but for Callon. He's attached to the man, who has protected him throughout a long and difficult journey as best he could.
"And I suspect that rogue also has songs and stories enough to put your guards in good hunour well before you reach Clearwater again!"
Derron returned the smile reflexively, which increased the depth of the creases in his craggy face. He chuckled and said, "He may be the finest minstrel south of the wall, but after his actions, even assuming he charms the men, they'll good-naturedly harass him for some time to come." He leaned back and stretched his shoulders. The ardenaline from the confrontations was wearing off and he was beginning to feel the bruises and knots he had incurred. "I must say you've been quite kind to put up with this invasion of armed men, large cats and suspicious characters."
She smiled again. "Perhaps my life has not been so ... unadventurous," she said. "Indeed I ... "
She broke off as the door opened, and Aerin walked in, Shade at her side, and followed by Merivel and Davin.
(Continued in Marshend - After the Struggle: Derron, Mariam, and Visitors)