Marshend- After the Struggle: Derron and Mariam
(Continued from Outside the Septa's House: After the Battle)
Derron simply shook his head as the boy rode off. He intended to have some words with the boy, but now was not the time. The prisoners were all being secured, bodies being search, looted being such an ugly term, and the wounded tended to, except for his own arm, which could wait. There was one more important thing he needed to do. When he had let go of Thelbane's leg, Lancer had held on to the arm, but eased the pressure. When Derron finally turned away, Lancer had let go and trotted after him. Derron looked down and saw the faithful dog right beside his left leg, looking up at him. Derron couldn't help but smile. He crouched down and began to scratch Lancer behind his ears.
"Good dog, Lancer! Such a good dog! Yes, you did good." Lancer began licking Derron's face and Derron chuckled. "Thank you, boy! Yes, I'll give you a treat. When Shade's done with the horse, we'll get you a big piece of it." He looked to see if the cat had left the carcass yet. He noticed that Binnder did have a fire going by one of the places the guards were gathered. Oddly, over the years, Lancer had grown to prefer his meat cooked.
In fact Binnder had started worked on butchering the horse - that part at least which Shade appeared uninterested in. The other men were engaged already in clearing up the Septa's meadow and garden, and creating a pit where the bodies could be buried.
"No need to send for the Septon, eh Steward?" one of the Clearwater guards called out. "There's a Septa who can say a few words - isn't that true?"
Derron could not help but smile at Binnder's haste in securing fresh meat. The man knew how to provision himself and his comrades. At the guards' words he shook his head. "Aye, but she's probably a bit busy yet, tending our wounded. But I'll check." Just then he felt a slight sting on his arm. Lancer had reared up on his hind legs and licked at his arm wound. Something about an animal's spit seemed to help wounds clot, that was a fact. And no doubt Lancer was trying to help him. But the rough tongue certainly made his nerves tingle. "Good dog!" he said once more. "I'll go ask the lady to check my arm, if the wounded inside are safe. Heel."
Lancer cocked his head to one side, glanced at Binnder working on the horse, then almost seemed to shrug as he trotted along with Derron towards the cottage door. Derron knocked once and called, "Septa Mariam? If all is in hand there, I, um, have a small cut I'd prefer not infected. And if you desire to say a word over those who have passed, now would be a good time."
Mariam appeared in the doorway - a woman who looked young to Derron Thorne, but not youthful. She also looked rather different from her sister.
"The Septa is with the children," she said slowly, looking around the ravages that had been committed in her garden. She saw the horse and pressed one shaking hand to her mouth, turning pale. It looked as though she might faint.
Derron stepped forward and put a large arm about her shoulders. "Easy, miss. It's quite a sight, I know. But I'm sure you've dealt with worse." He paused, then added, "Besides, we want to keep a brave face for the children, eh?" He led her a few steps, letting her lean on him. He looked about for a fence, a woodpile, something she could sit upon. As they walked, Lancer licked her hand and wagged his tail.
After a few steps she seemed to recover, although, when guided to it, she sat down thankfully on the woodpile.
"You will think me foolish," she said, "or unused to such sights to be so overcome by this. But ... the case is otherwise. I was not always a Septa here in Marshened, you see."
Derron just nodded. "I've seen battlefields with less carnage than this. And as it's upon your doorstep, you've every right to feel a bit out of sorts." Lancer had sat back on his haunches and was looking at the Septa, with his ears up and tongue protuding slightly. Derron indicated the hound with his head and muttered conspiratorially, "Ignore him. He's begging for a treat." He hoped lightening the mood would speed her recovery. "So what brought you here?"
She looked at him for a moment, searchingly, as though trying to discern how far she could trust him.
"I was running away from the Boltons."
Derron's eyebrows shot up. But then he simply nodded. "We've no love for the Boltons. As far as I'm concerned, if there is no legal claim they have on you, and they would surely trumpet it about if there were, they have no need to know where you are." He paused to give her time to decide if she needed to explain her tale to him, but Catriona came up.
She gave them both a nod, then waited a moment until it was an appropriate moment to speak. "Steward Thorne, Keary and I are taking Thelbane off Mariam's land to execute his sentence. As we are within Clearwater confines here, we will abide by your wishes regarding his treatment prior to his death."
She fished into her belt pouch, and handed a small cloth bundle to Mariam. "This belongs to Callon. Please see that it gets returned safely."
The Septa started slightly, but said nothing. Her expression remained concerned as Catriona spoke again.
Derron said, "He took his chances chasing a bounty. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you. So long as you will deal with him quick and clean, go right ahead." He knew he might be exceeding his authority, but since he doubted he would ever see the body, he didn't think this would haunt him too badly.
Catriona nodded. "As you wish, Steward." She then turned and went to rejoin Keary.
Derron turned once more to the Septa and said, "Is there any other question you have for me?"
She tilted her head back and looked at him fully.
"What do you intend here?"
With her protectors, Keary and Catriona, gone, she was a woman alone and unprotected with armed men surrounding her small cottage.
Derron said, "Well, the reason we were sent here was to establish young Ranulf, along with Niko as a tutor, in a place to be raised here. There were....problems back at Clearwater and his father proclaimed the boy would be raised here among some of his holdings. Our Septa might opt to stay with the boy, at least for a time I suppose. So once she is prepared to move on to town, we will be on our way. But your kindness will not be forgotten. I will report to Lord Draupaud personally. All that being said, however, I may be forced to stay here until this issue of the Bloody Mummers is resolved. And before the sun sets tonight, I will give you money to compensate all you've done so far, both in food and generosity."
"The Septa is still grievously ill," Mariam said slowly. "She should not be moved yet ... Are your men trained simply for war and fighting, or do they have more practtcal skills as well? For the Septa - and the boy - might benefit more from the air of the hills rather than the town itself, where mists arise from the marshes and make even the air itself clammy."
Derron mulled it over before replying. "Aye, some of them do, but not all are to stay with the lad. The other important point is it has to be land that belongs to Lord Draupaud." He paused and thought hard. "I'm trying to recall if he gave us a map of his holdings here, and if so, how detailed it is."
"Everything beyond my garden is Clearwater land," said Mariam with a smile, "and I hold this in fief from Lord Draupaud as Septa to Marshend. I was thinking that perhaps my cottage could be extended, if your men were willing to do the work, and you did not think it too humble a dwelling for the young heir. Or you could choose to builder a grander house nearby. The stream could serve us both."
Derron nodded. "Aye, either of those might work. Once we settle all the immediate problems we will discuss it. Maybe even give young Ranulf a say in the matter." He glanced down at his arm. "Um, by any chance have you a few more bandages?"
"Yes, of course," said Mariam, rising to her feet. "let's go inside. That wound needs bathing as well, I reckon."
Derron flashed a crooked smile and said, "Ah, Lancer here licked it a bit. Doesn't that count as bathing?"
"Actually," says Mariam, "it does, to some extent." She gave a little laugh. A dog will keep it's own wounds clean - it may well have helped to do that for you. But still I think a poultice of my devising will be better for you."
Derron grinned to himself, glad to see the Septa laughing. "Aye, it probably will. And Lancer won't get jealous. Will you, boy?" He scratched the hound behind his ears. "Just make sure you add this to our bill before we depart."
Mariam looked a little startled - and then she smiled. "I'll take any payment in work around the house and garden, if you find that acceptable," she said. Then she seemed struck with a sudden thought and looked almost nervously towards her small stable - and then hastily away again.
Derron noticed her glance at the barn as he said, "Once we're sure Thelbane's friends aren't going to bother you, we'll see what we can do. I'm sure some weeding and repair to either structure can be done. And if there's a smith in town, I can use his facilities to craft you some tools or pots." He paused as they started back towards the house. He decided to test his theory. "Perhaps some of your tack needs work. In the barn? I'll check it." He began moving that way, watching for her reaction.
Mariam hesitated, and he saw the alarm in her eyes. Almost timidly, she laid a hand on his sleeve.
"Please ... did Catriona not tell you?"
Derron shook his head and said, "She told me nothing, but I suspect the minstrel is hiding in the barn. I would have words with him." He paused and sized the woman up. He decided to be direct. "Is he in there?"
She spread her hands helplessly.
"Please ... I cannot prevent you. But he acted for the best, as he saw it. And he was useful in defending us all last night."
Derron sighed. "I have no desire to kill him. Though I admit the thought of beating some answers out of him has crossed my mind." He took several strides towards the barn then called out, "Hallo in the barn! Get yourself out here! We need to talk."
There was a second's hesitation, and then a slightly lanky figure emerged cautiously from the barn. It was the musician, and he held no weapon in his hand.
Derron stood there, brow furrowed, arms folded across his chest. He stared at the minstrel, his expression stony. He waited, saying nothing.
The minstrel was similarly silent, watching him uneasily - and casting glances behind him too - it was clear that the guards had spotted their erstwhile companion and were not happy at his unexpected reappearance.
"They held his ... his charge as hostage," Mariam said suddenly. "He could have joined them to kill you. Instead he used it - to rescue h ... him."
Derron's head turned briefly in Mariam's direction. But it quickly turned back to the minstrel. He knew the men from Clearwater would not make a move unless either Derron ordered them to, or the minstrel bolted. It was obvious to anyone he was fuming with anger, but was restraining himself. He finally sighed very loudly through his nose and closed his eyes for a second. He opened them and casually took his hammer from his belt and wordlessly held it in Mariam's direction. She surveyed him for a moment, then took it from him, slightly surprised at its weight. He then strode silently towards the minstrel.
The minstrel flinched, but stood his ground, looking steadily at Derron. And suddenly, Derron was aware of a sudden scream from inside the house.
Derron kept walking despite the scream. It looked for a moment that he might simply walk right into the minstrel, but instead his meaty right fist crashed into the minstrel's jaw and knocked him flat on his ass. Derron stood over him, still obviously angry with the man, but not showing any sign of further violence. He had to take a few moments to control his breathing to a point to where he could speak coherently. He was almost spitting the words through gritted teeth.
"Having been told your circumstances, I could almost forgive your actions. In your place I might have done the same. But once the tables had turned, I would have admitted everything to my hosts and hoped for understanding." He turned and looked back at Mariam and the cottage. "Still, you made a choice. And I can respect it. But even now, after all you've seen and heard, you stayed hidden during this fight. You didn't try to help, neither us nor your ward. Now I've grave doubts about your character, though the...child still seems to admire you." Derron paced a few feet and turned back, then squatted down to where the minstrel was sitting up. His voice now calmer and quiter. "I've half a mind to give you the beating you deserve. But I will give you one more chance." He leaned in and said, "If my sword is returned to me, in good condition, I won't bruise my knuckles on your pretty face."
"It's in the stables," said the minstrel sullenly. "They'd taken my own - I needed a blade with which to fight if I was to rescue the boy. They'd threatened to take his life."
Derron nodded as the obvious point. "Of course they did. Best way to get you to do as they wish. But you know they'd have killed you both once they had no need of you. With us, on the other hand, you'd have had allies. Now, I'm not sure. But for now you need not fear us." He stood and turned to face the men of Clearwater who were all watching with keen interest. Derron cleared his throat and spoke to them.
"Unless this man causes more trouble, he and his charge are not to be interfered with. They can mull their options and decide what they wish to do next." He glanced down at the minstrel again and said in a conversational tone, "The child has asked to come with us to Clearwater. Talk it over. For you to come too, you'll need to earn not just my forgiveness, but all of theirs as well." He turned and headed into the barn to find his sword.
It took a little while to find as it was not on the ground floor of the stables, but up the ladder in the hayloft. There too were the hastily packed backpacks that the Minstrel and his companion were using. A flute was half-sticking out of one.
The sword was laid beside the packs.
Derron slid the sword into the scabbard without checking it. He would do that in better light. He then grabbed both packs, tucking the flute in securelym then climbing back down and rejoining the group outside. He set the packs down by the minstrel who by this time was on his feet.
The minstrel eyed the packs a little uneasily, and then looked at Derron.
"May I take them?" he asked.
Derron shrugged and said with a sly smile, "As long as they're yours. If you're accused of theft on top of everything else, I don't know that I can protect you any longer."
The minstrel flushed, seeming to be about to say something, and then he shrugged and moved away from Derron, seemingly to examine the packs.
He strode back towards Mariam and said, "Now, please, even though the worst of it has stopped, could you please examine my arm?"
"Yes," she said. "Will you come inside? I have water boiling on the hob, and that should be used to clean the wound before I dress and bind it."
Derron moved to open the door for her. "Thank you. And I sincerly hope that was the last of the excitement we cause this day." He turned and said, "Binnder! Keep them in line for me." The old, squat man-at-arms simply waved towards derron, almost a vague, dismissive gesture. Derron smiled and followed Mariam inside.
(Continued in Inside the Septa's House: After the Battle)