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As [Derron] drew closer, he heard voices from within the guardroom - Ser Tomas and his daughter.

"See it as mercy of a kind, Aerin. He could have had her executed ... for the false confession, if not for the murder."

"No, I won't see it as a kindness!" Aerin half cried. She pushed herself up to her feet, glaring at her father. "He KNEW! He KNEW Ranulf had done it!!!" she half yelled. "And he only cares what others will think! Not what the gods will!"

Derron knocked on the door, then called, "Ser Tomas? May I come in?"

Aerin stormed into her small room off the main room of their apartment, not answering Derron.

Ser Tomas watched her go, with Shade at her heels, his tail bolt upright in seeming support, and shook his head.

"Yes!" he called to Derron. "Come in."

Derron entered in time to see Aerin leave through another door. He had been about to say something to her, but decided it could wait. "Ser Tomas? Lord Draupaud has tasked me with seeing Niko and Ranulf safely to Marsh End, and set up in quarters. I will be travelling with them, and carrying the funds. How many men should I take with me? And will you allow me to take that number?" he finished with a small grin.

"Indeed," said Ser Tomas. "I'll pick a half dozen men for the escort myself. Discreet men too." He hesitated, and then added a little diffidently, "and I might have one more for you, too."

Derron looked puzzled, then shifted his eyes towards where Aerin had gone. "Not?....So, now I am baby-sitting as well as a steward. Two children should be twice as much chore as one."

"Hardly a child," said Tomas, "even if she still sometimes behaves as one. She must be much of an age with young Niko. Well, perhaps a year younger. A journey beyond Clearwater might be good experience for her - before she has to settle down and prepare for marriage."

Aerin had climbed out on the tree outside her window, with every intention of sliding down and slipping off to see the Septa.

"... prepare for marriage..." Those words wafting from her father's window caused her to freeze in mid motion. And then to quietly slip closer along the tree branch to hear what was being said.

Derron sighed and said, "My apologies, Ser Tomas. I've had a trying day. Do you think she will be ready for the excursion tomorrow morning?"

"If she decides to go, she will be," said Ser Tomas. "I won't force her. But the Septa has stood in place of a mother to her. I'm a blunt man, Steward. Not used to girls. I love my child ... but I hardly know what to do for her. Perhaps ... perhaps this journey will help us both."

Derron's eyebrows went up and he asked with hopeful tones, "So, might you also accompany us?" He did have a playful grin on his face.

Ser Tomas shook his head, smiling in his turn. "I must stay here." The smile faded. "Lord Draupaud will need me. This will not be an easy time for him."

Derron shook his head and tsked. "Ah well. Linnel is extremely reliable. He already has the funeral plans in hand, and will help go through the no-doubt numerous offers of new brides for His Lordship. You can trust him. I must go tell cook she needs to arrange food for nine people for a few days."

Tomas nodded in acknowledgement, and Derron was free to depart and make his arrangements.

Derron made what he hoped would be his last trip to the kitchen for that day. He briefly told Cook what he expected in the way of rations. "Half a dozen of Ser Tomas' men will need rations for a week or so. Niko, myself, Ranulf and Aerin, too. Oh, and some food for Lancer. An old joint or two with some meat for him, if you've any about. He still enjoys chewing the bones."

Aerin sat in the tree for a long time after the conversation. Thinking.

If she stayed, then her father would most likely arrange a marriage for her. Soon.

If she went... Black thoughts crossed her mind about Ranulf. It was because of him all this was happening. And he even got to take the Septa with him! It wasn't fair!

She sat in the tree, trying to figure out what to do.

Her eyes strayed across Shade's form, where he lounged on a branch nearby. And suddenly came to a realization.

No husband her father would find for her would let her keep Shade.

She fingers reached out to the ginger fur, stroking it gently as he lay perched there.

Well, that rather settled things. She was going to go to Marshend with the others. And somehow she wasn't coming back. At least for a while.

"Let's go pack," she whispered to Shade. "We've a long trip ahead."

Page last modified on October 05, 2006, at 10:41 PM