Return to Clearwater: Derron And Niko
(Split from Return to Clearwater)
Derron nodded and gestured for Niko to follow him. Once they were out in the corridor, he said, "Your horse is being tended to in the stable. The steward, well, I guess I'm doing a fair amount of his work, so I'll see what rooms are available for you. It may not be large, but it will have a roof, and probably be near the kitchen. Speaking of which, let's venture to the kitchen for some lunch."
Niko nodded at his words, taking the time now to look around as Derron took him around. "Please pardon me if my speech is at times stilted or not understandable," he said, still speaking slowly. "Valyrian is a quite different language, and I am finding problems readjusting."
"We never greeted formally before. I am Nikomedes Sakellaris, formerly of the Third Legion of Bronze, of Braavos. My name is long, so I am referred to as Niko. How are you named?"
They entered the kitchen. News of the group's return had meant hungry soldiers, so the cooks were finishing preparing the afternoon meal. Derron did not usually eat with others, preferring his rooms, the kitchen or the smithy itself. He spoke as they entered. "I am Derron Thorne. I work as the smith here, but as this is my hometown, I help out in a variety of ways. It is a story as long as your name, no doubt." He gestured to a small table on one corner and sat in one of the chairs. The cooks didn't even bat eyelashes, merely began produciong two plates of food. "So, you must have many intersting tales from your journeys. But I am curious as to why you've come here." He took a long drink from the mug of ale set before him.
"My original intentions when I set off across the sea was to find the family I left- to help them if possible. War is a cruel mistress, and though my grandfather had been a warrior at one point, now he would have been an old man." He paused for a moment. "But now he is a dead man, as is my family. Valar morghulis."
"But I live, and to live I must serve. Lord Draupaud had been hard, but fair. I heard that the new Lord Draupaud was in need of hands, and my hopes are that this Lord Draupaud keeps those qualities."
Derron's eyebrows went up. "Hard but fair? Aye, that's about right. And with your actions today, I would be willing to wager that either His Lordship will offer you a position, or have you executed." He gave a slight wink as he took another small sip.
"In the lands across the sea, we do not joke about Death," Niko replied. "She is to constant a companion to jest with in such a manner." His expression gave no hint as to whether he was serious or not- though delivered mildly it would be hard to take such words as anything but solemn.
"And yourself. How did you come to find yourself here under Lord Draupaud?"
Derron shrugged. "I worked for the original family, and when the new Lord was appointed, he gave us all the chance to stay or go. Most left." He sat back a bit, looking off into the distance. "I still don't know if it was the smart choice. But at the time, I had nowhere else to go."
"Most?" Niko asked. "Who else remains?"
Derron grinned ruefully. "Well, plenty remain in the town. But I'm the only one here that stayed. Most of the others came from the south, with the new family, or from other parts of the north." He paused, then said, "It's me and Lancer, I guess."
"Forgive me if I offend, but you don't seem the part of a steward," Niko said. "Just my impression, though I suppose it was wrong."
Derron smiled. "Aye, and I prefer not to be steward. But the current steward continually complains of illness, or too much work, and as someone who konws the local folk and ways, I get dragooned into assisting. I'd rather be at my forge, or even working with the soldiers, but more and more I find myself doing the man's work. I have asked His Lordship to find a new steward, but I think he is enjoying getting more work out of me for my pay."
"Ah," Niko responded, nodding. "A smith." He smiled at last. "That, I can picture. This one... Do you have a ... specialty?"
Derron said, "Not really. I enjoy making weapons, and even armor. But sometimes I get plenty of satisfaction casting skillets and pots for the cooks. After all, I eat the fruits of their labors."
Niko nodded, deciding at that moment that he liked the older man. "This one would like to see your forge someday."
Derron said, "If you end up working for the house, you'll see it, I am sure." Derron smiled as food was set in front of them. "Enjoy. The food is fairly simple, but plentiful hereabouts. And good game for almost every supper."
And truly it was. They ate in silence, enjoying the fresh food as Niko thought over the days events. Finally he looked up at Derron. "Is there something amiss with Lady Draupaud?" He asked the question in low tones, examining Derron's reaction.
Derron's eyes narrowed. "I wouldn't know. Running off alone will certainly raise eyebrows, but as for her reasons, I am not privy to them." He continued to eat.
Niko did not reply, but continued to eat. Silence ruled the rest of the meal, as Niko took the opportunity to watch the otehrs, merely observing what life was like under Lord Draupaud.
As they finished, a young boy entered, dressed in the leather apron of the forge. He seemed worried - and then relieved as he spotted Derron.
"Can you come back to the forge, Smith? We have a problem."
Derron muttered aloud, "It nevers ends." He crammed a last large bite into his mouth and stood up. Then he managed to speak around the food without displaying too much of it. "What's the problem, lad?" he asked as he walked.
Niko stayed quiet, but as he didn't know anyone else, figured it was probably best to stay by Derron for now. And so he did, following closely behind as they walked towards the forge, the bells tinkling in his hair the only sign of his passage. He kept one ear on the conversation between Derron and the boy, but looked around with great interest, still assessing the people and building as they went.
"It's the Steward," said the boy - he was clearly distressed. "He's drunk - and he's grabbed a sword and is threatening to cut in two anyone who does not do as he wishes. And he won't let anyone come near the forge and all the new horseshoes willbe ruined!"
It was this last that seemed to upset the apprentice smith the most.
Derron's frown deepened into a grimace. "Right. I'll sort him out." Derron was not armed, but his favorite hammer was on a hook in the smithy, and he had cracked a few skulls with it before. He strode even more purposefully. He had had enough of this man, and it was time to demonstrate to the others he had to go. Then maybe a new steward would be hired.
Niko raised one eyebrow at this- the problem, as well as the solution. Perhaps today would grow even more interesting, he thought as he followed, even more interested than before.
When they entered the forge, they found the Steward, red-faced and shouting, standing directly in fromt of the forge. He was holding a red hot pair of pincers in fromt of him, with a reach of some foour feet, which he swung threateningly at anyone in the hovering semi-circle of apprentices who dared break ranks to approach him. He was clearly bull-roaringly drunk.
Derron stifled the desire to simply yell at the man. But the man was so drunk it would have done no good in any case. He stood still a moment, sizing up the situation. His hammer was in a place where the man would probably swing the pincers at him if he tried to get them. Lancer was around the corner, in his basket, but Derron could see him poking his nose around, obviously wondering what the commotion was. Berating the apprentices for letting things reach the stage would also be a mistake. But part of him was annoyed. Being a smith meant getting burned on occasion. He had yet to actually pay attention to what the drunken steward was yelling. He didn't care.
"Taking a man's livelihood," the steward was fuming "Nothing but a jumped-up peasant who belongs in the forge - and that's where his so-called Master should be roasting in the fires of the forge ... burning ... burning ... Damn you all!"
The last was a great roar, followed by a lunge at the nearest apprentice.
Derron finally decided his course of action. Cooling down the poker would make things much more manageable. He picked up a and dunked it into one of the cooling barrels and dashed the water at the poker. When the drunken fool tried to avoid the water, he would leave himself wide open, and Derron planned to step in and lay the bucket upside the head of the man, swinging it by its rope handle.
The Steward roared and rocked back on his feet and the pincers sizzled and steamed and the douche of water caught him too ... But his moment of disorientation was brief and he lunged forward, swinging the pincers 'round, even as Derron swung the bucket ...
Niko stood back, watching to see how Derron defused the situation. As he grabbed the bucket, the sellsword reached behind his back, stepping to the side. He still waited, but there was a tenseness about him.
It seemed as though the heavy (and still heated) pincers would connect with Derron even as the bucket connected with the Steward's head - but suddenly he screamed and dropped the heavy pincer - a momentary scream, changing to a grunt as the bucket connected. And then the steward collapsed to his knees, and swayed there for a moment, rocking back and forth before crashing forward, face down to the floor.
But not before Derron - and his apprentices - saw the knife firmly lodged in the fleshy part of the steward's arm - the knife that had made him drop the pincers.
Derron muttered, "You gave up the job by not doing it, fool." He then kicked the tongs away and turned to Niko. "I thank you for your timely intervention. It would have been a close thing. I'll no doubt suffer more burns at my forge, but hopefully only the accidental ones." He stuck out his hand to shake Niko's.
Niko took the proffered hand, impressed by the smith's quick grasp of the situation, and his reaction to it. "I was glad to do it," he replied, nodding. "What will happen to that one?"
Derron shrugged. "Up to His Lordship. I hope he dismisses the incompetent boob. Then he may hire a proper steward, one who understands the local customs, and doesn't fret so much about the cold." He looked at his apprentices, who were gawking. "All right you lot, get back to work. You, youngest one, I can never remember your name. Fetch a rag to bind the idiot's wound. The Maester is busy tending to Her Ladyship." Derron then stepped over the prone form and gripped the man's collar and belt. With a casual heave, he lifted the body up and slung it over his shoulder. "I'll leave him outside for the time being."
The sodden body of the soon-to-be-ex-Steward was soon dumped outside the castle. Inside, Niko had an opportunity to explore the forge, as the apprentices slowly returned to work with the journeymasters, all seemingly disturbed by what had happened.
For the most part, the forge seemed a standard Castle forge, working on horseshoes, simple armour and weapons, and the hundred and one pieces (such as kitchen equipment) that a castle sould require. But here and there was something different ...
Back in the area that was considered Derron's personal work area, there were some pieces that were obviously incomplete. However it was also obvious he was taking his time and using great care in crafting the pieces. There was one shield that had a large boss on it that tapered to a wicked point, and was a bit longer than most shield spikes. The shield was also a bit smaller than most. Derron had crafted it thus so the weight of the long spike would be balanced by the smaller body. It weighed about the same as many larger shields. And on its inner surface, the shield not only had straps so it could be strapped onto an arm, but a handle so it could be held by hand and punched outward.
There was a short sword that had a wide blade base for stability and heft, and a gradual tapering until just six inches shy of the tip, when it narrowed sharply. The blade would be excellent for hacking, but stil be able to deliver a good thrust at close range. Right now it had no grips. Finally there was a long traditional blade with an intricate design along the blade. Upon close examination, it was a grape vine, of the type used in most of the Draupaud vineyards. But the blade was not simply decorative. It would be quite functional.
Niko looked at the pieces with an appreciative eye, noting the creativity present in many of the pieces- creativity that is usually scorned by smiths. "Very nice," he complimented him, before the blade. "How did you maintain the blade's integrity?"
Derron shrugged. "I could say it's a trade secret, but it isn't. First, the etching is not very deep, so it doesn't have much effect on it. Second, the metal is folded over and beaten back into shape several times, so it is actually layers of metal. It takes a long time to craft such a blade, and most don't care to wait that long. But the layers give it the flexibility and strength of a standard forged blade." He hefted the blade, looked along it then added, "I may finish it if I ever get the time."
About this time Aerin appeared at the doorway to the forge. She was still dressed in the clothes she'd worn when encountering, her dark hair continuing to escape its long think dark braid.
She was looking to the side of the doorway, obviously at the Steward Derron had moved outside.
"Derron?" she finally asked, calling to the Smith. "He's... bleeding. Should I bandage him?" she asked with large, dark eyes as she looked to the smith for an answer, not immediately acknowledging Niko.
Niko raised one eyebrow at the interruption, but took no noticeable umbrage to it.
Derron sighed. "Yes, you'd best see to it. We put a simple bandage on it, but we're not trained." He looked out at the steward then added, "And then make sure your father knows where he is, please."
Aerin disappeared out of sight through the door to where the smith had dropped the Steward. Apparently to treat the man's wounds.
After Derron was done, Niko turned his attention back to the smith. "One once told me, 'As your weapon is your life, more important than it is the maker. It is not the large greater things a smith does, but the lesser that sets him apart." I believe I mangled that, but I meant it as a compliment- not many would see the use of putting time into such pieces. But I do."
Derron grinned. "Thank you. If ever I have enough time, and you have the coin for the commission, I would be willing to make you a blade."
While Niko spoke to Derron, Aerin outside the forge put a proper pressure dressing on it, as the Septa had taught her.
She debated finding a guard to pass word to her father, then decided her father would rather she didn't stir up the entire castle. Again. In the same day.
So she raced up to their chambers to let him know what she'd seen and done at the forge.
"That man!" said Ser Tomas testily when she told him. "He's a danger to the Lord and his family - and to the wel-being of us all. If Derron Thorne has taken strong action against him, we can only be thankful. Very well, Aerin. Tell Derron Thorne I shall deal with it, and will speak to Lord Draupaud."
Aerin nodded at her father's instructions and returned with all haste to the forge. There she waited at the doorway, breathing a little heavy for Derron's attention.
Derron turned to the girl and said, "Yes, Milady?"
Aerin took a deep breath. "Ser Tomas says he understands and the steward will be dealt with. He will personally speak to Lord Draupaud about the matter."
"Also.. he sends his compliments to your guest and invites you both to sit with him at the guards table tonight for dinner." Her dark eyes glanced over at Niko, wariness mixed with curiosity.
Derron cocked his eyebrows at the invitation. He turned to Niko and said, "Not an invitation to refuse, is my advice. He wishes to speak with us. So, dinner it will be. Milady, please tell your father we will be there. I'll even polish my boots." He nowed his head to Aerin, the once more said, "Now, if you will all allow me, I have apprentices to mind, and a skillet to cast."
Niko returned Aerin's look, with a touch of something resembling humor- either to set her at ease, or laughing at some internal jest- it was hard to determine which. He nodded his head once, slightly at Derron's suggestion. "This one finds himself with no other pressing invitations," he said, bowing slightly to her, "and appreciates the invitation." For all of his seeming mirth, he had once again lapsed into the hodge podge mixture of language forms as he struggled with the language. He looked once again to Derron. "Thank you for your time- this one regrets that he took you away from your work. If he could trouble you once again, for someone to perhaps show me to the room you provided for me, I would appreciate it."
Aerin nodded once at the acknowledgment, not exactly sure herself how she should respond.
Derron laughed aloud. "My apologies. That was my responsibility, rather than the laggard outside. Very well, let us go forth." he led the way, hoping to find a set of rooms for Niko that were unoccupied. He stopped to ask one of the cooks, since they generally knew everything about what was oging on in the manor. Hopefully they knew what rooms were unused.
Aerin followed behind quietly, as if she was supposed to be there with them. Her hands were behind her back as she followed them at several paces back as they wandered into the kitchen area.
And, indeed, Bestina the undercook knew of a room that the sellsword could have to himself - tucked away above the old stable behind the guard tower. Her nose wrinkling a little, she admitted that she didn't know quite what state it might be in for no-one had used it for quite some time ... but ... it was certainly unoccupied.
Derron nodded and thanked Bestina. He then looked for some of the servants, any who would be familiar with bedclothes and sweeping up. His plan was to turn Niko over to one, with instructions for giving the man what was needed for him to move into the room.
This was easily done, for there were plenty of giggling maids around, who were casting sidelong glances at the young sellsword and whispering behind their hands.
Niko was well pleased with the surroundings- after years aborad, it felt good to be home. He wondered at Aerin's presence, since it seemed she just followed- he would have thought her on her way back to her father. But he was soon distracted by the young maids- they were more likely of a more attainable sort.
Derron said, "I leave you in their hands, Niko. And I will see you at evening meal. Now, my forge awaits." He paused, then added ruefully, "I hope." He then headed back to his forge.
Niko nodded to the smith. "Thank you for all of your help."