Niko had already been scanning the surroundings, looking for Aerin and Ranulf. He nodded to Derron, spurring his horse off to the right to give the Steward the chance to approach Lord Draupaud alone.
There seemed to be no sign of Aerin or Ranulf in the long grass - perhaps they had gone to paddle in the lake (which would be a rare treat for the cosseted Ranulf.
On a hunch, Niko guided his horse in the direction Lord Draupaud had come from, taking a wide circle around. Given what had happened, and the way that Aerin had come after Lady Draupaud those many months ago, he thought he might have an idea of exactly *why* she was out here.
He saw Lord Draupaud and Derron Thorne begin speaking - but there was still no sign of Ranulf and Aerin.
Niko kept in the direction that he had been heading, hoping to find Aerin and Ranulf along Lord Draupaud's trail- though he wondered why they wouldn't have called out to him if they had been searching for Ranulf's father...
There was still no sign of them, although he noticed that Lord Draupaud had now dismounted and he talking to Derron afoot. The posture of both men suggested that this was not an easy conversation.
Niko hadn't imagined that it would be, but he would give them their privacy, and hopefully find Lord Draupaud's son before they finished. He set himself to the task anew. He knew little about tracking. He left such things to the scouts usually- he was usually stationed with the shock troops. But he did remember a few things. Knowing which way Lord Draupaud had ridden in from, he crossed his path, looking to see if he saw any trampled grass in the meadow other than the path left by their horses. Though the guard didn't mention that they had taken horses, in grass like this, even disturbance from those two should be obvious.
There were the marks of two sets of feet. They seemed to go to the grove where Lord Draupaud and Derron Thorne were talking. But the tracks seemed to stop there.
Niko dismounted, looking forther, to see if he could locate where they might have gone. There was nowhere nearby that they could have disappeared to... He wanted to call out to Aerin, but on the other hand, he didn't want to interrupt the grave conversation that was going on. If he didn't find something soon, he resolved to wait a respectful distance away until Derron and Lord Draupaud were done with their conversation before continuing his search.
[Rejoins with Derron in Unpleasant Investigation Subthread 5 ]