Outside the Septa's: Derron and Davin
(Continued from Marshend - After the Struggle: Derron, Mariam, and Visitors)
Through the half open door, Derron could see his men were engaged in burying the dead, while a dwarf was sitting on the wagon that had brought Merivel, watching them thoughtfully.
Derron stepped outside and closed the door behind him. As he moved towards the wagon he looked the dwarf over. The man was wearing colorful garb, similar to what Merivel was clad in, though different shades. Derron then noticed that Lancer was nosing around the wagon, no doubt looking for food, or attention.
"Greetings," he said to the dwarf. "Are you responsible for bringing Maester Merivel back to us?"
The dwarf rose to his feet and gave a little bow.
"I am indeed," he said. "And you would be the Steward of Clearwater?"
Derron nodded and sighed. "Aye, I am. Call me Derron Thorne." He could not decide whether to say he was cursed or blessed to have the position, so he said neither. "Thank you for helping the Maester. A bright lad, but sometimes a bit caught up in his learning. I am not authorized to give a reward, but I can assure you that you and yours will be welcome at Clearwater. And if there is assistance you require, I will do what I can." He paused then said ruefully, "I am a better smith than steward, trust me."
"A smith?" the dwarf looked slightly surprised, and then smiled. "Well, a Smith can always be of use to the travelling folk.
"Tell me, did you see a woman here? Tall and young, a huntress?"
Derron nodded and said, "You mean Catriona. Aye, she and Keary headed into the fens on some business. I expect they'll be back before too long." He paused, unsure if he should ask the next question, but then decided that Davin probably would understand the spirit of it and not take offense. "Um, not to be rude, but could you use a hand down?"
Davin looked at him, then grinned and gave a little bow.
"I, my good Steward, am a Giant of Pentos!"
He made a little skipping motion that unexpectedly propelled him high into the air, where he turned two neat somersaults before landing next to Derron. He grinned.
"So, you met Keary too? And yet they left? I'll confess to being a little surprised ... "
Derron shrugged. "A fellow they had a disagreement with came along. He'd been tracking Catriona, and had caused others a lot of harm. Catriona and Keary took him into the fens to deal with him." He waited for Davin's reaction to the grim news.
"Hmmm," said Davin. "Do you think they intend to return?"
Derron said, "I do. But I can't say when. So, will you wait with us, or return to Marshend?"
"I'll have to be getting back to Marshend eventually," said Davin. "My troupe is camped up there - and they'll wonder what happened to me. But I'd prefer not to travel the roads alone."
His expression was calmly meditative. "Strange people on the roads, you know."
Derron nodded and said, "Indeed I do. If you wish an escort, I can have one of the men go with you, to pick up some supplies."
Davin gave a little bow. "Thank you. I appreciate that."
He glanced around at the garden, now returning to some semblance of normality now that the graves had been completed (and the horse dragged away to be fiully butchered - after all, Shade did need to eat).
"Do you have any notion why Marshend is suddenly so ... popular?"
Derron sighed. "I'm afraid I do not. Most likely it has to do with a large bounty on the so-called wolf-woman." He paused then grinned. "Of course, perhaps the folk have heard the Giants of Pentos are in town."
Davin laughed. "Our fame is great indeed," he said, "and it's true that we have had to leave more than one town before now only slightly ahead of a vengeful populace. Well, more usually just a few individuals, rather than an entire populace. Only generally their enthusiasm for our blood wears off after a few leagues.
"This seems ... more persistent, don't you think?"
"Having just arrived, I am not sure I can judge fairly. But with so many sellswords about, there is indeed trouble afoot. I believe Miss Catriona is planning on departing the area soon." Derron waved Binnder over. As the portly armsman lumbered in their direction, Derron added, "Unless you have something very precious to all these people, I would think you are safe." As Binnder came up, Derron said, "Set the watch, then send one man with the wagon driver into town for any supplies we need. I'll break out the funds, and I will ask Mariam if she needs anything. This fellow will probably also drive his wagon that way. Safety in numbers, after all." Binnder simply nodded and headed towards the cluster of men. Derron once more turned to Davin and said, "If you'll excuse me, I should see if our hostess needs anything."
"Certainly," said Davin, with another flourishing bow. Then he strode away back to his wagon.
Derron headed back to Mariam's door and knocked. "Septa Mariam? I am sending men to town for supplies. What can we get for you?"
The Septa came to the door. "Milk," she said. "And meat - but you'd be best off hunting for that. A sack or two of flour so that I can bake bread. And a few barrels of ale too, for your men will soon drink me dry."
She smiled suddenly. "The mill will supply the flour and Bloggart's farm will give you the milk - and a good cheese as well." Then her face grew grave once more. "But the ale ... you'll need to go to Nettles now that Gabriel's inn has burned down. And you'll need to watch him carefully to make sure that he doesn't cheat you."
Derron pursed his lips as he tried to remember all the instructions. He thought about going himself, but could not bring himself to leave Ranulf and the Septa. Even with more men here, they were still his primary responsibility. He beckoned Binnder over. Binnder, who had been 'supervising' the hitching of the horses to the wagon tromped over. Derron said, "Two sacks of flour from the mill, milk from Bloggart's farm, I'm sure the townfolk can direct you, and two barrels of ale. Keep an eye on this character Nettles, for the good Septa here doesn't trust him." He glanced at Mariam to make sure he had gotten the instructions correct, then he gave Binnder some coins from his pouch and said, "I trust you can bargain well. This should about cover it. Oh, and have one of the archers not on watch go out hunting for meat. No poaching the local farm animals." Binnder nodded, but was his usual laconic self.
Mariam smiled at him gratefully.
"If you have your men dig a firepit, I can roast what they bring home. My own spit won't feed all of us. But I'll make some bread now, as soon as I'm satisfied the Septa will sleep."
She looked at him a little curiously, as though wondering what he planned to do.
Derron sighed as Binnder headed for the wagon and his jaunt into town. Derron looked at Mariam and said, "Well, I guess I'll be out here if anyone needs me. If either of the children get under foot, toss them out. The men have done enough work for now I'll dig the firepit. Any place you prefer it to be?"
She moved out of the house, every movement neat, decided and even graceful.
"I usually set the pits over there," she said, pointing. "The smoke rarely blows in the firection of the house, and the ground is looser too."
She leaned down to pat Lancer. "Has he had any of the horsemeat?" she asked. "Brave old boy - I have a tonic that might make his bones ache less."
Derron retrieved a small spade from a pile of gear and started to dig, then he said, "I don't think so. He certainly wouldn't have approached while Shade was busy with it. And once he saw the men carving, he might have decided to wait for it to be cooked. He's developed a preference for cooked meat over raw. At best he's had a mouthful. And if you think your tonic would help, I bet he would appreciate it." He paused in his labors. "I might have need of it myself." He continued to dig, watched by Mariam and Lancer.
Rather than watching, Mariam was involved in labour of her own, bringing logs and dried grass to be layered in the firepit once in was dug. She worked competently and without complaint, a woman who was used to doing such things for herself, it seemed. But then, there was no sign of a man about the cottage.
Derron silently admired the woman's work ethic. She was obviously very independent, but not overly aggressive in demeanour, as some in her position were. But then suddenly something struck him. He said, in a very conversational tone, "You live far enough from town that it's a wonder you don't have more trouble with bandits. I would almost suspect that as you refuse to turn away anyone wounded that it's known hereabouts you're someone who can be relied on. Have you had any troubles before today?"
Mariam smiled. "Very little, Steward. I am known as a cunning one - and some suspect I could use my cunning against those who trouble me. Besides ... I have a variety of friends among the local people." She broke off, frowning. "But now ... with more strangers about - and dangerous ones at that ... "
She seemed to be about to say something more when there was an interruption.
The door of the cottage was flung open and Ranulf burst out, white-faced and shouting.
"Come quickly! The Maester's hurt!"
Derron looked at Mariam and simply said, "Go ahead. I'll stay here, out of the way. When I finish the pit I'll come see how he fares."
Mariam nodded hastly, wiped her hands on her apron and hurried into the house. Lancer raised his head and seemed to look at his master questioningly, as though seeking his opinion.
Derron looked back at his faithful hound and shrugged. "He appeared none the worse for wear to me. But if you go, maybe you can use that look on Mariam and she'll give you a treat." At that last word, Lancer's ears perked up. The dog lumbered to his feet and he trotted after Mariam. Derron grinned and shook his head, then resumed digging a pit for the fire. As he was finishing, the hunter returned.
"Steward, as we have most of the horse, and Binnder said not to be gone long, I didn't track any large game. But I found some rabbits for a stew." Indeed the man had three large hares hanging from his belt. Derron nodded in approval.
"The Septa is busy tending to the wounded. Go ahead and clean them. The entrails can be set aside for Lancer or Shade, whichever shows interest." Derron got out of the pit and began laying a fire with tinder, kindling and a few smaller logs. "I'm sure we can borrow a pot from her though."
Ranulf had stayed outside the house, looking at Derron a little uncertainly. He looked as though he would like to say something, but was not entirely sure ...
Derron straightened up and stretched, then looked around. His eyes settled on Ranulf and he said, "Come on, lad. Help me prepare the fire. It's a good skill to know." He hoped that it might ease tensions between him and the boy.
Ranulf might still have been awkward around the Steward who had played an important role in his discovery and - as Ranulf saw it - his punishment. But he responded to helping with the fire - albeit slowly at first. The work relaxed him, however, and perhaps Derron had never seen him so boyish as this, or seen such an open grin as he hauled a sizeable branch of the pit and assured Derron that it wasn't green - no, really.
Derron showed that you create a pile of tinder to one side, then a small mound of kindling with an opening to shove the burning tinder in, and maybe have some logs stacked above the kindling. "Then when everything catches, it climbs up and burns. Let's hold that big one off until we get it burning well, then add it. So, do you want to use the flint to make the sparks?" Derron planned on keeping a close watch on the boy to make sure he did not hurt himself.
Derron squatted down and held the flint and his small knife from his belt. He turned the knife so the sharp edge was away from the flint, then proceeded to strike it against the flint, making a few sparks jump.
"Now, strike towards the tinder a few times. Once you see some of the sparks burning the tinder, blow gently but firmly on it. Keep blowing until you get some flame." He handed both to the boy. "Give it a try."
Ranulf took the implements gingerly, and then started to strike a light himself. It took a little while before he had the kbnack of it, but once he did, he proved to have a quick eye for where best to set the sparks to make the pit flare up.
Derron nodded his approval as the boy made sparks. Once the tinder began to flame, he used the knife to push the pile of tinder into the kindling. From there the fire began to grow properly.
"There we are. Now all we need is the meat and some sticks on which to roast it. Well done."
Ranulf nodded gravely, and then looked up, giving a little start.
"Look! There's the Septa and Master Merivel! Do you think my Septa is all right?"
Derron glanced over at the pair coming from the house. 'You can go ask them if you like," he told the boy. "I'll tend the fire."
(Continued in Outside the Septa's: Derron and Merivel)