Return to Clearwater: Aerin
(Split from Return to Clearwater)
Ser Tomas bowed stiffly to Lord Draupaud, sdaid, "Come," to Aerin, and then led the way to their chambers.
Without any preamble he said, "Lord Draupaud will expect me to beat you for pertness. That I will do - but first see if you can ameliorate my displeasure by telling me again what happened."
Aerin gave her father a disbelieving look. "Beat me? Why?" she exclaimed. "I found the lady before anyone else! And it cost me half my fair money to do it too! I found her tracks! I tried to save her when the stranger was charging her and she was running away! No one else was there! I helped the Maester care for her! And I didn't embarrass the Lord either by saying anything about the Lady in front of the others!" Aerin said in stunned protest, looking up at her father indignantly.
Her father seized her shoulders - he suddenly looked alarmed. "And what could you have said about the Lady?"
Aerin's expression grew close. "Nothing. Nothing at all," she said with a neutral expression, looking up at him.
"But with the lady in her condition maybe she just felt the need for fresh air. That must be it, really," she said with all the sincerity she could muster.
"Don't shilly-shally now, Aerin," said her father magisterially. "This is no time for your games. Did you hear the lady say anything at all?"
Aerin wondered at her stroke of luck that her father was more concerned with the Lady than her own possible or supposed wrongs.
"Only that she thought she was pregnant," Aerin answered in a matter of fact voice.
"You know... the Lady was happy to see me there, when I was helping the Maester," she added a little too helpfully.
Ser Tomas frowned. "I daresay. She has always preferred the company of women since ... " He broke off, as though avoiding some unpleasant memory, and looked at his daughter instead.
"As for you ... it may be that our Lord will look with favour upon this sellsword as the rescuer of the Lady. In which case, you should make your peace with him - without loss of time."
Aerin half scowled at that. "You know nothing of him! You don't even know if he's any good at fighting! I took him off a horse with a thrown stick!"
She looked up with a measuring expression. "I think you should train me to be the Lady's guard," she announced. "Especially if Lord Draupaud is likely to hire the sellsword."
Her father glowered at her.
"Over my dead bo ... " he began determinedly. Then he stopped, and a slow smile crossed his face instead.
"Very well," he said. "Very well.
"If you can persuade the sellsword to train you."
Aerin's eyes narrowed. "Not unless you test him and he passes your standards," she announced with conviction.
"And I get a blade," she added, realizing she should have made the first demand before the second. "Otherwise how can I be of use?" she added quickly.
Her father smiled. "You'll use a practice sword until I deem you worthy of a blade," he said. "As for the sellsword's ability ... did you mark the bells in his hair? Do you understand what they signify?"
Aerin shook her head uncertainly. "No... what do they mean?" she asked, trying to hide her disappointment at not getting the sword immediately.
He smiled. "I suggest you ask him. Politely, though. I'll tell you - they are a badge of honour among a far off people. And to wear them so young means he is a not inconsiderable warrior already. You may have unhorsed him once when he was distraced. I doubt if you'd have a second chance."
"Once is all you need," Aerin pointed out sassily, then bit her lip. "But.. it would be a good thing to learn to fight from someone new," she added more diplomatically.
"Quite," said her father. "He went with Derron - I expect they'll have made their way to the forge. You may take the sellsword my compliments and bid him and the Smith dine at the guards table tonight, if they wish, with me."
Aerin nodded formally, turned to attend her father's instructions. Then glanced back. "So no beating?" she asked cautiously.
Her father suddenly smiled.
"After a few days of the sellsword's training, you'll probably beg for that beating instead," he said. "Now ... run along and find him."
Aerin nodded once, an impish smile on her face. Then she darted quickly out of the room and through the keep toward the forge, her step light.
(Continued in Return To Clearwater: Derron and Niko)