(514-05-20) Secrets and Invitations
Summary: An attempt to interview shows Claire tipping her hand a bit more than intended.
Date: May 20, 514
Related: None.
claire drustan 


It wasn't very often that Sir Cadoc and his - then - squire, Drustan would return to Sarum. The Knight's primary mission was border patrol and tracking Saxon movements. There was often little to no reason to return, even for the winter months. Cadoc felt there was no reason to risk allowing a band to slip through just to get some time 'back home.' Likely helped that the man had never wed nor seemed inclined to do so. However, the rare times they -were- back in Sarum, the two had taken to a particular tavern on Stapleford lands. Well, Cadoc had. Drustan grew to enjoy it, as well.

So it's of little surprise to residents of the area to see the relatively-recently Knighted man in their midst once again. The grey gelding that he rode in is being tended to in the stables, with gear enough should he be called into duty anytime soon. For now, however, the Falt's time is his own.

The table he's taken up in the small tavern (for a manor has no need of one the side of the Board's Beard) has a decent view of the rest of the place. Someone plays a set of panpipes in the corner, the sound echoing easily throughout the quiet establishment. Like much of Sarum, it is rather serene with the focus on Carlion. Drustan himself is attired as usual; shades of black and grey. Black tunic over black chausses, with a dark grey, padded coat worn over. The coat bears an image of a black raven on the breast. His cloak has been hung upon a peg and the damp around the shoulders is reflected in his hair. It's been raining off and on and he must have been caught in it. Which makes the stew and large tankard of ale being set in front of him (with a promise of bread soon to come out of the oven) all the better.

Eleven years is a long time to be gone. Hell, Drustan probably has not even heard her name in at least that long. Falt is close with Stapleford but not enough to get news about the activities of the central family members. Recognition isn't likely to her face but the eyes are always the giveaway. All the central family members share their mother's eyes. Those deep, almost distracting blue colors. When she enters the tavern on her family lands, there's an immediate deference and greetings. They know the rumors about her and who she is supposed to be to the family. The young knight gives a gracious bow of her head to the commoners and servants there. But as she looks, its clear she isn't here simply for a drink. Or food. It isn't hard to spy Drustan and she moves his direction, the cloak held around her like a black shroud. "Sir Drustan de Falt?" There's juuuust a smidge of a smile there at the corner of her lips. For her family, its usually as close as they get to a smile in public. Rumor is that with family they tend to be able to even laugh. …But those are rumors.

When his name is spoken, Drustan look up; breaking the staring contest he was involved in. With a wall. The man studies the newly arrived Knight for a moment, but no true recognition shows in his eyes. He can identify her family and line, yes… but name? Shifting to his feet, the Falt knight sketches a quick sort of bow. Casual, but still polite as he gestures towards the seat opposite. "You have me," he answers aloud finally. "But I'm afraid I cannot place a name to the face. You are Stapleford, that much is clear." With this, he resettles in his chair and waves over the serving girl so that Claire can place her order.

Claire watches him as he stands and seems to watch his every movement. There's the feeling of being studied. Her eyes don't leave him until the barmaiden arrives. "Bread and soup, please." She says it quietly. A lot of people wouldn't tack on the last word. Maybe some of the Staplefords are more polite to their servants. Drawn back, she looks to Drustan and takes the offered seat. She's dressed well and the bliant suits her. She seems comfortable in it and crosses her legs once down in the chair. "I am, yes. Sir Claire de Stapleford. Recently returned home. I'd heard there was a Falt who had Squired under Sir Cadoc and I wanted to see what we had produced. How did you find your time with him?" She folds her hands, that edge of a smile still sitting there.

"Sir Claire," Drustan offers, repeating the name to commit to memory. "A pleasure to meet you." He regains his seat and picks up his ale. Drinking, as the question is posed. Brows rise by a scant measure and the tankard is set back down before him. "What you had produced?" There's a slight tinge of bemusement, but it doesn't show much beyond his eyes and the shift in tone as he speaks.

Leaning back somewhat in his chair, the Falt spreads hands at first. It's not quite an 'I don't know,' but more, perhaps, a 'What you see is what you get.' Either way, it buys some precious seconds as he debates his answer. "I found it enlightening. We spent most of our time, I'm guessing you're aware, tracking movements of the Saxons. But then, I find an enjoyment in studies of strategy."

"Yes, what we had produced." There's her own returned amusement, despite how understated it is. "You were trained by one of our Knights. I have been told that part of my duties mean looking in on those we have made Knights. To ensure that they are of proper stock and constitution." She eyes him, seemingly impressed, looking over his body. But 'duties' is a fairly specific word. Few Stapleford women have any real duties to the family. Mostly their mother, but only as a mother. The grandmother, though, is one of the whispered Keepers of the Bones. There are Duties there to behold. "I do not believe I will leave here disappointed." She tilts her head a bit and looks back to his eyes. "A worthy expenditure of time. Watching them is watching the safety of our people." She looks up as her bread and soup is delivered. There's a quiet thanks as she immediately tears off a piece of bread. At least she's looking to the bread now and not right at him. "Do you feel that the path the Lord has lain out is the proper one for you? Do you enjoy what you do?" she queries, dipping into the soup and eating the bread.

"I see. So this is akin to checking the herds to see how the yearlings are coming along." If Drustan is offended, the man does not show it. Nor does he wither beneath that gaze; if anything, he seems nigh-content to remain still and allow her the time and opportunity to look. He may very well even be enjoying it, the way the right side of his mouth twitches marginally. The left is less expressive, though the outline of a scar is readily visible in the midst of beard growth. "I would be loathe to disappoint a member of the House that saw to my training."

After another hefty drink from tankard, the Falt knight settles forward in his chair somewhat to begin eating. More questioning, however, comes his way. "That's a rather personal question." Though a thread has pulled across his forehead, Drustan does not seem overly upset. "But I will answer simply and I fear at this time, you need to be satisfied with that." A pause as he soaks some bread in the stew. "Yes, on both accounts"

"Something along those lines. If you're aware of the Stapleford traditions, I am to be the Keeper of my generation." The one to 'advise' the heirs and male leadership. The true ruler of the family and the religious centerpiece. The one who ensures that the Knights are revered and the children are taught to fight from an early age. "As big the boots I am attempting to wear, I thought that starting small would be appropriate. Seeing to the charges we have been given. I'm pleased to see that you're well-attuned to the family and tasks." The woman eats another bite before looking back at him. "Mm. Personal questions are far more interesting than generic. Would you prefer I ask about the weather?" she asks with a touch of amusement to the edge of her features. To anyone else it would probably appear to be a tense conversation. Drustan, knowing how to read a Stapleford, can see the good humor and intent with the words. "I'm glad to hear it, though. How do you see the relationship between Stapleford and Falt? Obviously it is in a healthy place, but I was curious if you had ideas for the future."

The darkly-dressed man himself only shows amusement in subtle ways. Be it through eyes or a slight upward tick of mouth. While Claire explains her place within the hierarchy of the house, Drustan partakes of his meal. When she offers to discuss the weather instead, there's a brief snort from the Knight. A more clear and overt show of amusement, it would seem. "You may ask the personal questions, but I cannot guarantee I will answer. Stapleford or no," hinting at a great respect for the family and its holdings, "We have only just met."

Reaching for his tankard, the Falt's gaze lifts to regard Claire more directly. "Perhaps once we know one another better." A long drink later and he leans back, thumb tapping to the side of the tankard. "I believe that the relationship is healthy enough for what it is at current ime, but I would certainly like to see stronger ties between the two families."

The young Knight keeps eating, but the process is slow and methodical. Its almost like she plans the route her bread will take through the bowl. "Mm. So I may not get answers? I say, this is far more interesting than the weather." She gestures around with the bread, the movement mostly circling back and forth to them. "You must be aware that an unanswered question says more than an answer, yes?" That touch of amusement to her eyes can't be missed, even from anyone else. The smile carefully edges in a little more. For a Stapleford, she's very expressive. His opinion on the relationship has her look thoughtful for a moment, eyeing him with the same expression before looking back to her bread and the bowl. "I'm aware that our two families have a lot in common. Many see the Staplefords as a death cult that tries to trap and convert anyone who comes along. We both know the folly of the belief, but I was curious how you view the pagans?" In a Stapleford tavern, there are people listening. Its no secret many of their servants and commoners are pagan.

"You may call it telling if you wish. But some reasonings I will retain for my own council, until I deem a time worth sharing." Drustan does not appear to be bothered by any supposition that may be placed upon his answers. If anything, it shows a measure of comfort in the self. Confident in his answers, even if they are a declination to expand further. He eats at a measured pace himself, but it seems to draw from a lack of anywhere specific to be. He's taking his time for the sake of enjoying a meal.

"For the most part, I have little opinion one way or the other on pagans." A pause, before he gestures with a spoon. "That isn't to say I do not care. I do, but it is not my place to judge someone for their beliefs. If I take issue with a man or woman, it is for their actions. I do not hold an entire House or religion guilty for the behavior of one member."

A diplomatic way, perhaps, of saying that there are pagans he takes issue with, but they do not color the entire religion for him. As Drustan lets this sink in, the man shifts to slide out of the padded coat. It reveals a dark grey tunic beneath… one that leaves the arms bare. It reveals bandaging upon his right bicep.

The woman seems done with her food and pushes the bowl to the side. She leans forward, resting her chin in the cup of her hand as she watches him. "Interesting. A Knight who does not shy from an attempt to corner. This is a quality to remember." She watches him while the servant takes the bowl and bread, not bringing her anything to drink. Maybe she just never drinks here. Or at this time. The opinion of the pagans has her nod slowly. She regards the guy in silence for a few moments. Her mind is circling around a few ideas but to what end is a more complete mystery. "Do you think of yourself as wise, Sir Drustan? I ask because I have some ideas about you and our families and I want to know how you view yourself with your household." That steady gaze.

Briefly, Drustan's hand rises to scratch at the edge of that bandage. Likely the cause to remove the coat; give it some air. He does chuckle, faintly, at her first observation. "I would hope it isn't a rare quality. A Knight should never turn shy from a challenge." Back to his meal, then. He seems to settle fine beneath the Stapleford's blue gaze. He knows she's watching and rather than sit uncomfortable or stare back… he simply goes about eating.

"Wise?" This, he seems to be taking seriously. Elbows perch upon the table and he starts tearing off bits of bread to eat. "I am on the path to it, perhaps, but I do not think anyone so young as we can declare it of themselves. Wisdom comes with experience and age, as much as any other internal quality." The last few bites of stew are aided on their way to his mouth by the bread. "My view and place in Falt is a complicated one, as you must be aware if you sought me out as you did."

"Its been my experience that a cornered Knight is one that tries to get out. Yet you do not allow for the cornering nor worry about it. I find that a rare quality, yes, even among Knights." Nope, she doesn't look away. While he eats, she looks at the lines of his face and his arms. Her gaze lingers there, looking him over. "I like your answer about being wise, though. Simplicity can be beautiful." She drums finger across the table once. "I actually know very little about you. Care to tell me about yourself? Who you are, maybe what you like?" Yet she says very little about herself.

"Because I am not truly cornered." The answer comes easily; as if he'd just been asked if he'd like more ale. Speaking of, the girl does pass by to refill his tankard. Drustan murmurs his appreciation. "Everyone would fancy themselves wise, I think. Actually acheiving such is much more rare and almost always comes with age and experience."

Slate blue gaze shifts to take in the Stapleford woman again. The Falt is quiet for a time as he considers. When he does break that scrutiny, he focuses on moving all remnants of his meal save the tankard to the edge of the table for retrieval. "Falt has a difficult history of the Heads of House surviving long enough for their heir to reach majority. Currently, my father is serving as regent." If the line of conversation makes the man uncomfortable, he does not show it to any great extent. Perhaps a lowering of brow or tightening in his jaw. "However, as he was a bastard… I am not to follow suit." The trappings and expectations, publicly, of heir… but none of the inheritance. "I support my family, do not think otherwise. But my place in Falt and the world on the whole is not so clear-cut as many."

There's a long pause after this explanation in which Drustan finds himself drinking deep of his ale. "I happen to enjoy hunting and falconry in what spare time I may have." His fingertips curl away from the mug, gesturing vaguely towards Claire. "From time to time, I can enjoy discourse such as this. With the right person, of course. And you, Sir Claire? What do you enjoy?"

Failed.
You check your Flirting at 10, you rolled 18.

Claire continues watching, her eyes moving over him while he speaks. She isn't shy about where her eyes wander, either, but after a some time of this he might get the impression that she isn't really admiring his physique so much as watching the movements, watching for something. Evasiveness on his part? The woman is her own sort of heir to the family and she probably isn't a slouch mentally. "Stapleford has similar issues. Many of our husbands die before seeing their children come of age. Even born. I never really knew my own father. I was barely a year when he was killed." Drustan is probably well aware that her father was poisoned when the prior pendragon was killed - at the same dinner. "No, I wouldn't have concerned myself with you if you cared not for your family. To be perfectly clear, I don't have much taste for those who depart family casually. But then again, I am a Keeper." Leaving her family could only be done by death or marriage - and even the latter would require her duties to tend. But the last does seem to catch her off guard. Why is he asking about her? Is this flirting? She doesn't know. Brows furrow and she looks down. "Myself? Oh, uh, I don't.. know.. I suppose.. I.." She doesn't know what she enjoys? How strange. Maybe she doesn't have time? Given her duty and grandmother, its possible she's never been given the choice or opportunity. "Do you like to see new lands? I think I like seeing new places. Going far afield is how I have spent the lst eleven years and I did not dislike that. Uhm. What do you enjoy hunting?" She's also trying to flirt, her eyes looking to him with a bit of hope added to her smile.

Failed.
Claire checked her Flirting of 3, she rolled 7.

"It is not terribly uncommon in these times, to lose our fathers and brothers." Drustan's voice is low and gentle. A touch of understanding and empathy there, perhaps. Even if he, himself, still has his father. Another sip of ale, eyelids lowering just marginally. "And why have you concerned yourself with me? There is more to this than simply wanting to inspect the 'product'." When she begins to stammer over her reply to his own question, the Falt does summon up a smile. It's a broader one, it'd seem. His attempts at flattery may not have come across as well as he'd hoped, but they did the trick. Barely. "So you enjoy seeing new places. What about cultures? Foods? I have, at times, considered seeking blessing in traveling outside of our realm. Perhaps to the east, where they trade in silks and gems."

Another sip of ale and he's having to set the tankard carefully to await a refill. "Deer, mostly, if I am hunting on my own. My hawk has a taste for rabbit, however." Elbows perched upon table's edge, he laces fingers together; watching the Stapleford woman over them. "Surely travel isn't all that you enjoy. I know you have your duties, but when you are not attending to your Knightly role or attempting to corner the product… What do you do to entertain yourself?"

Success
You check your Flirting at 10, you rolled 8.

"Far too common. It is a sad affair for most, but it provides the honor of a death in combat and struggle." An honor her father was not afforded, which has long been a point of bitterness among them. The term often used for the assassins is 'cowards'. She does seem to believe it, though, and feel the empathy. There's a touch of a sad smile. "We carry on, though, try to bring our families up and hope that God provides an easier path for them." The smile loses some of its sadness. "But I've my reasons for looking in on you. Quite a few actually. But like you, I have some things I won't divulge just yet. A Lady must keep some mysteries to herself - even if I may be a Knight." There's a low smile for him. She's -trying- to flirt but the look could easily be confused for humor. Its hard when the family has such limited social interaction with outsiders. His interest in travel does seem to capture her for a moment, though. Unexpected surprises!

She does seem to understand the interest in hunting, though. "Deer is quite a fine game to take to. My brother quite enjoys it. I admit I enjoy hunting as well but I lack ranged skills to take full advantage of taking beast. I'm better with hunting the two-legged variety." She shrugs it off, the gesture very subtle. There could easily be pride there but she doesn't even seem to consider it. But the way he looks at her… she finds her face warming. Those cheeks take some color to them and she finds herself looking down and away bashfully. "I'm not interesting. I'm so boring. I don't have many hours of the day free for anything I desire to pursue. Though this is something of an exception." She risks a glance back to him and then back down. Damn him! "I spend a lot of time daydreaming. I want to see far away lands. I do not concern myself with the people so much as the sunsets and sunrises in places I've never been. I yearn for mountains with snowy peaks and dense forest. Air that bites the senses. I…" She sighs, suddenly realizing that she's actually -smiling-. Ahem. She looks back to him. "Sorry," she whispers as she tries to put that smile away. "Sometimes I get overly excited by some things."

Failed.
Claire checked her Flirting of 3, she rolled 6.

Critical Fail!
You check your Chaste at 13, you rolled 20.

"I cannot fault you your secrets, Sir Claire." Drustan's tankard may have already been refilled, but the man has not noticed. His attention is rather captured by the woman seated across from him; moreso now that color has found its way to her cheeks. He smiles, then, as he listens. The Stapleford, it would seem, has something of a rapt audience.

"Much of the joy in hunting is the pursuit, rather than the final outcome. I cannot deny the pride in felling a stag, but I find the chase itself is most invigorating." The chair he's in creaks, just slightly, as the man reaches out. Before his fingertips can find a place against Claire's jaw, she's already looking back to him. And apologizing. There's an arch of brow, followed by a chuckle. "No need to apologize. Everyone should have something they can dream of and become excited for. I do hope, for your sake, that you someday find the opportunity to travel to these places."

"Thank you. I'm trying to not lay everything out so easily for all to see." Claire sort of fumbles through things. The woman tries to play off the idea that she isn't a social klutz but there's no real way to hide it. If anything, she looks grateful to him for not wanting to know more. It was clearly easier for her when she was the one asking questions. She is looking back to his eyes though when he touches her face. That unexpected thing. Her skin is very soft and she clearly takes care of herself as best she can. But even so, the touch does seem to surprise her. Its been a long time since a man has touched her without the intent to kill her - or been family. For several long seconds after he speaks, her lips are parted and she seems lost while her own hand lifts to touch his. Its -almost- holding his there. Almost. There's more of that blushing and her eyes downturn again and she tries to find her words. "I, ah.. yes. Going. Want to. The places. I.. You've spun my head round, Sir Drustan," she breathes out with a light, warm laugh. Its a sound not often heard here. When she looks back to him, the girl is smiling more genuinely, almost tilting her lips towards the palm. "Do you always prefer the pursuit to the outcome? I.. Sometimes the outcome can be very rewarding?" she asks, once again trying to hide the hope. She's not very good at being subtle right now. Social interactions, dontchaknow.

"You're not laying it out for everyone to see, no," Drustan doesn't move his hand. Hers, over it, is signal enough. "But you're putting out enough to not hide it altogether. You want someone to learn your secrets." If he intends it to be himself, he gives no voice to such thoughts. When her mouth tilts towards his hand, the Falt cannot help himself; he brushes his thumb, lightly, across the smile that's taken shape there.

"You came to ask questions of me and I've turned it around. I know I should apologize, but I don't think I will this time." Sorry, not sorry. At the last question, his eyes narrow a measure. It's a thoughtful expression and one that brings his focus in ever closer upon the Stapleford. "Not always, no. Sometimes the outcome is a reward for a lengthy, challenging pursuit."

He draws his hand away then, but not too suddenly. Rather, with a rotation of his wrist, Drustan attempts to take Claire's hand into his own. If successful, he'll draw her knuckles towards his lips for a brief, gentle kiss. "I do apologize for being so forward. I couldn't help myself in the moment." And then her hand is released.

Learning her secrets. That gets the girl blushing madly and she even whimpers a little bit. "You're not playing fair, Sir Drustan," she whispers. She /is/ soaking it up, though. The girl has clearly never been tended to like this and she doesn't know how to react. The Staplefords are always so stoic. But he isn't the only one watching her. The teenage barmaiden is doing her best to look like she isn't watching. The smile on her face says that she is. And two commoner girls are watching from the bottom of the window, peeking in with just their eyes and above visible. Claire doesn't have any clue, though. She's too focused on how to try and behave and coming up with a loss. That thumb on her lips has her close her eyes and sigh just a little. There's the barest, /barest/ hint of a pressure like she has to fight to keep from outright kissing his hand. Her can certainly feel the very gentle tremble of her breath, though. Her eyes finally open when he says he won't apologize and she demures a bit. "I like my men to be men. Take what they want. You need no apologies here, Sir." Claire does her best to watch him, though, trying to think of what else she wanted to ask him. But he HAS turned it around. It wasn't supposed to go like this. She's on the verge of something when the hand is pulled away and she almost looks disappointed. When he takes her own hand, though, she stares at it, then him. The kiss? Her lips part and she tries to stammer and ends up just giving a few short breathes and then looking to his eyes. "Forward is good. Very good," she whispers. The hand is left to fall on the table with a thunk. Awkward girl. "Do- do you- like- when? I- would you-" There's another whimpering sound as she tries to make her brain work. "Do you like to eat?" DUMB. "I mean, you, would you like to join me one evening? While I- we eat? Together?"

"I wasn't aware I was supposed to fight fair." While the Falt may avoid such large gatherings as the tournaments, he is not -lacking- in social skills… He merely tends to prefer to have the chance to pick and choose when to use them. When to allow himself to relax, to have fun- rather than feeling as if putting on a performance. The way he watches Claire now is more open, more direct. The color that's spread across her cheeks. The way her eyes move.

When the Knight begins stammering, his smile broadens. Sitting up somewhat straighter, he reaches for her hand upon the table; holding it between both of his. "I do happen to enjoy eating, yes." There's a quiet, amused rumble in his voice. "And I would be glad to join you for dinner. Just tell me when and where."

He wasn't aware. Lovely. Just looking at him while he says that brings up a feeling deep inside she'd tended to put down. He makes her nervous. Inside, there's a little panic because despite it all, Claire feels vulnerable to him and she likes that. It makes her incredibly nervous just to realize all of that, which just makes the whole situation more heart-twisting. And he keeps looking at her like that.. She has to look down again. Her hand seems like a safe bet until he takes it. Claire bites her lower lip. "I don't know. Any eve. I have many things I- I want to ask. But someone has come along and stolen my mind. Very unfortunate." She looks back to him, not realizing her knee is bouncing rapidly. "You do not fear our reputation? Or who I am to my family, Sir Drustan?" The words are very quiet.

"I promise I have not stolen your mind." There is a soft bout of laughter at this and Drustan removes one hand to return fingertips to her cheek. An errant strand of hair is tucked back behind the Stapleford woman's ear. For the callouses upon his hands, they are at least gentle in their movements. "Taken you off your predetermined path, perhaps… But you should know that the best adventures lie in places unmapped and unexplored." Back to her earlier thoughts, on travel. "Any eve, well. I suppose I may have to remain around Stapleford's holdings, just in case it comes up on short notice."

With that final query, Drustan falls quiet. He releases her hand and draws both back to his own person. The padded coat is grabbed and slid on and a number of coin produced to lay on the table. Enough to cover both of their meals and then some. There's no words nor sign of answer through this, but he moves swiftly. Coat on, meal paid… he offers a hand out towards Claire. This time, leaving it up to her whether or not there will be contact.

"I spent too long under the tutelage of a Stapleford Knight. Why fear what I understand? As for who you are-" There's a tilt of his head, studying the woman. "Should I fear you? Because I was going to offer to walk you home."

The touch to her face again. "You have, too," she insists with a whisper. "I was not prepared for it, either. I was simply intending to ask you some questions." The feel of his hand fussing her hair behind her ear makes it harder for her to resist. Its been so long since she's been touched tenderly. "I like unmapped and unexplored. Is that what this is? Are you intending to take me on an adventure?" At least she's starting to be able to speak properly again. His potential for hanging around has her hopeless expression once again brighten. This time she doesn't seem to notice the smile. It stays on her face as he offers his hand to her. Especially with what he intends. Claire takes the hand and rises, seeking to hug the arm just a bit. She isn't in love but she certainly seems to fancy him. "Some would fear me. I have a path to walk without any choice. I suppose that would bring many men to question their actions towards me." She'll let him guide her to the door and towards the manor house.

"And ask questions, you did. I just happened to have a few in return. Perhaps next time you should outline some parameters." Drustan is smiling, himself. It's a bit strained due to that scar on his jaw, but it's a smile nonetheless. However she holds his arm, the Falt adjusts. He sets to walking at an easy pace to lead her out of the tavern and into the main road through the town surrounding the main Stapleford manner.

"An adventure of the mind, perhaps. I'd offer a greater one, perhaps into the Camelot forest where it borders Falt lands, but I would be remiss to take you away from your duties." The man knows he's teasing, too, for the way he looks sidelong to her as they walk. "Do you think men would be more prone to avoiding or pursuing you, based on your duties? A man who seeks a bride only to bring her into his family home has no place in courting a Knight. And we all have our own paths we must walk in regards to our family. Some more important than others. A man who fears you for these things is weak of heart and mind, I do believe."

"But I wasn't done yet," she protests weakly. Damnit. The young woman sighs. A few people who are about the manor village take note that the youngest Stapleford girl is on the arm of a Falt. People will be talking about this for a few weeks at least. "Next time I will do as you ask and make my rules known." Hmph. She looks over and up at him, eyes looking past the scar and mostly at the smile. Claire is still a person under all the mask and knowing she makes him smile brings a little joy to her. Its the feeling of appreciation. The words of adventure have her gaze drift from him and she looks ahead as she listens, falling easily in step with him. "You're a terrible tease, Sir Drustan. You are aware of this, I hope. One day I may call upon you for this adventure when you expect me to be buried underneath my duties to this family." The idea doesn't exactly gall her. Maybe it would be a lot of fun. A couple of Knights on an adventure, going exploring… The rest has her nod slowly. "I know it is so." She lets her body feel the strength of that arm, leaning just a bit to it. "People whisper things about my family. And yours. The names and titles. The fear. I do feel it. It was different when I was away with Squiring and nobody knew of me or the family. Coming back home has been very…" She tenses a bit as she tries to find the right word. "It has been very trying. I thank you for the words, though. You're very kind to think as you do."

"I'm glad you weren't done yet," Drustan offers as a quiet admission. No, the smile hasn't stopped. He is, at the least, enjoying himself. And not even simply at her expense. "If you were, I might be hard-pressed to convince you to spend more time with me." It's not too terrible an ulterior motive, certainly. When called a tease, the man laughs and reaches his free hand across to cover hers upon his arm. "A tease, yes, but terrible? I am not so sure. You do not seem to mind."

When the topic of whispering about their families comes up, the Falt makes a quiet, thoughtful sound. "They fear us because we do not fear death. It's a narrative that crosses religions and people. To overcome and conquer death. We embrace it, Sir Claire. I, ever moreso, since squiring with Sir Cadoc. As for the difficulties of returning home-" He looks over and down to her, taking the woman in. "I understand."

There's a long moment of silence before he deigns to break it once more. "Have you heard of St. Vincent? He was executed, but ravens protected the body from wild animals until his followers could recover it. They say, even now, properly entombed, that flocks of ravens remain even so." There's a bit of a squeeze to her hand, beneath his. "I believe Falt and Stapleford could achieve great things together and I hope to be able to foster a greater alliance between our houses."

"I can be stubborn about being made to stay anywhere and talk. I'm not very good at it. Fighting is easy. I have trouble with people otherwise." Its a small admission but an important one. There's the sense that Claire doesn't share things easily. If she has difficulty with people then its even more likely. "Yes, a terrible tease. I did not mis-speak. You must live with what you are and accept that fact of your existence." Mmhmm. The rest, though, has her fall quiet while she walks. There is a lot going on in her mind, that much is clear. Its just hard for her to organize her thoughts into something she can express verbally. "Death is how we go home. We are returning to our family and history, becoming one with them. Nobody wants to die, to leave their loved ones here, but we will all see them again and have eternity together. I guess I do not understand the others of this world." Its harder to do with an isolated childhood. Relating to others and building those blocks aren't always available to the Stapleton kids. Not many parents want them hanging out with a weirdo death cult. "I like the idea of the ravens protecting him. They are brilliant beasts. …And that's why the ravens. Ah, this makes more sense now." Likely she's referring to the coat of arms for the Falt family. In the end, while she speaks the last, she looks up to him. "I hope to find my home great alliances as well. It is difficult. But I believe in our homes being able to find a lot of common ground. It feels natural." She didn't miss the squeeze of his hand and there's a lean of her breast to his bicep with a little of her smile shining through. "Did you have particular ideas how to do such things, Sir Drustan?"

Success
You check your Chaste at 13, you rolled 12.

"The raven is largely due to Branwen, who lost her husband in battle before their son was born… before the lands were even properly granted. She waits and ensured our liege kept the promise." Branwen, a name that means 'bright raven.' "While others see the raven as an ill omen and something to be feared… To us they are messenger and protector both." His cloak has an old, tarnished clasp in the shape of a raven in flight. Upon the breast of his coat is another. Some Falt wear less imagery, but this man has taken strongly to that raven. "As for my place as a tease, I will accept the fate you have given me, Sir Claire, provided I am allowed to continue in your company."

When she queries whether he has any ideas on how to foster an alliance… it takes Drustan a moment. She's pressing into him in such a way that he can feel the swell and shape of her curves. To an extent. The Falt has to force himself to look elsewhere… such as a few stalls on the far side of the road, though they're now heading out of town itself and onto the climb towards the Stapleford manor proper.

"There are traditional methods. Diplomatic meetings, to ensure both sides feel it is a fair alliance. Offers of protection or trade. And perhaps the most traditional of all- marriage."

Claire listens, keeping her body in that place with him while they walk. The explanation to the raven further brings her some understanding on the family and their history. She's also watching his gaze from the corner of her eye. She knows what she's doing and forcing him to look elsewhere brings the woman a low smile. Mmhmm. "It makes sense as to why you have such an attachment to the raven on your clothing, not just the coat of arms." No comment to being allowed her company. Claire's decision-making process is ongoing. The last remarks to the alliance have her smile in spite of herself. "Marriage is one, yes. But I do hope it can be forged through the others as well. Trade and protection are two major points I've been told to keep an eye for. Gideon and I have spoken quite a bit about such things and what our aims are." She cannot and does not elaborate or give the details. Some things are off limits to those outside the family. "What do you seek from your marriage, Sir Drustan?" Its term as if his wedding were a foregone conclusion - though to whom seems to be the question's underlying value.

Success
You check your Prudent at 16, you rolled 15.

It's true. The Stapleford woman certainly has an effect upon the Falt. Drustan does not pull away, but nor does he try to press an advantage. The weakness comes in that he must remain with gaze largely averted. "A difficult task for you, then. To return after being away so long and thrust into a diplomatic role." There's a light squeeze to her hand on his arm; he's been unable to bring himself to retracting as of yet. She has not fought it and has even seemed quite amenable to the few approaches he's made. There is a desire to see beneath the surface, but the Falt is in no especial rush.

"Well, in regards to Falt… We are the lands that sit just before the Camelot Forest. An unknown frontier, some have called it. As we are young, we are still building up our holdings. It leaves plenty of opportunity, but little for us to offer directly out of the gates." But they are, however, known for holding their own: be it financially or in battle.

The query, regarding his marriage, does bring Drustan some pause. He is not outright refusing to reply, but he certainly takes his time. "Personally, I seek someone who I can respect. Someone whose company I will enjoy in the years to come. I know those like us do not get the luxury of love," though sometimes, luck is kind, "but I would hope that the woman by my side will want to be there. However, personal desires do not always come into it. At the very least," here he does look to her again, slate eyes searching for meaning. "…I pray that I will wed someone to build an alliance between Falt and another Manor, so that I may do something beneficial for my family."

"The Keepers of the Bones have a long history and a lot of responsibility. Diplomacy is a small part. We're supposed to be the religious heart and soul of the family and the ones who are willing to do anything to ensure the health of the family. We do as our men tell us, but our advice is rarely ignored. We are the vipers in some respects." Claire stares straight ahead. It is a LOT for a 21 year old. How young was she when she had that bomb dropped on her? Returning home to see the reality and begin assuming her place can't be easy. "Girls are raised on the idea of love and romance. We're told at a very young age to believe in love. When we get older and reality settles in, our mothers explain how things are, many girls refuse to accept it. We are understood to not have any say in the matter. I'm sure the woman you have beside you will be lucky, though. Your heart is true and you seem to mean well. That is all any of us can ask for." She does find herself looking up at him and it surprises her for a moment. The hand is squeezed and she looks back forward. "I too seek advantage for my family but the reality is that Gideon will choose for me. He has told me that I have earned my opinion and say through Knighthood, but I grant him his rights as a man." She looks at the house as they approach. "Little need be made of an alliance early on. True alliances take many years. By then, fruits can be borne and terms can be re-established."

"I think everyone entertains their ideas of love and romance. As a people, we are drawn to it. Even the church speaks of it, in various contexts. God's love for us. Love for family. Unfortunately, this world is not perfect and we are sinners all. We must balance the teachings with the harsh truths of reality." They grow nearer to the manor, but currently pass through a sort of no man's land. There are no prying eyes of the townspeople, nor those of a household guard. Drustan's steps slow to a stop and he turns, hand releasing Claire's to instead reach for her opposite shoulder. It's a gentle gesture, meant to bring her to face him in turn.

"I will pray that your brother chooses well, Sir Claire. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman who deserves someone at her side to at least bring her happiness, if not more." His hand lifts to the Stapleford woman's chin; fingers curled beneath. "You speak the truth, as well. Perhaps you should visit Falt lands someday soon. Appraise us, to see if we would be to your family's liking. I would be thrilled to help broker the beginnings of an alliance between our families." Then, rather than let go, he's leaning in to place a brief, gentle kiss to her cheek.

"I'll be waiting your invitation to dinner."

"Mmm. Yes, well, it is God's plan for some of us to earn our place in Heaven. Fortunately serving as a Knight and giving our lives for our brothers and sisters is some of the highest honor and love we can give." Claire stares straight ahead with it, trying to think about how it all interplays. But her thoughts keep coming back to this infernal man she's walking with and how damned distracting he is. And then he's turning her. She seems surprised and the lack of hand in her own suddenly leaves her a little cold. Blinking up at him, those blues look at him with the same hopeful expression. She probably intends to look serious and very well-hidden. The problem is that its the opposite. He can easily tell her budding affection for the man. The compliments just make her blush all over again. Her head bows and she laughs gently, tapping her forehead to his chest. "You pay me too many compliments. I'm not so deserving." But her chin lifted, she looks up to him again, her cheeks rosy. "I'd like to come see your lands some day. But you did say you'll be…" Annnd the kiss to her cheek. "..close. by." She's frozen in place, looking at him. It takes her a moment for her brain to restart. A guy just kissed her cheek. That.. that felt nice. The realization setting in has her smile spread all the way across her face. Those eyes seem a little brighter blue, too. "Its been a pleasure, Sir Drustan." That's all she can stammer out, standing there, nearly swaying in the breeze. One good gust and she might float away.

"Or perhaps others have simply not paid you enough, Sir Claire." Drustan cannot help but smile. Hers, it would seem, is infectious. He straightens, but does not remove his hand right away. Rather, his palm smooths over her cheek and jaw, fingertips pressing into her dark hair. "I will be close, so that there is no delay when you deign to invite me to dine with you." It's just a touch of self-deprecation, but delivered in an easy tone. His own features have softened over the course of their walk, becoming more open and expressive. He may have resisted too much an outward showing to how she'd pressed against him, but the woman certainly did have her own effect.

"And such a time as you wish, we could perhaps make a small adventure out of touring the Falt lands." It's a callback to where their conversation began. Drustan twists his fingers lightly in her hair, uncaring if it musses up a hairstyle. It's a gentle twist and a tug before he draws free; fingertips brushing against her neck as he does so. "The pleasure, Sir Claire, is all mine. Be well."

Its really hard to reply. She seems quite taken in the moment. This went very differently than expected. Very. She can hardly believe this guy has been so forward - and that she enjoyed it. This was not something she ever considered. "Thank you, Sir Drustan," she whispers to him, staring while he mentions being close. The feel of that strong hand moving over her head has her eyes close and she thats when she can really feel the attraction. The need. "Yes, an adventure would be nice." She doesn't even really hear herself say it. It falls out. Its the twisting in her hair and the tug, though, that really surprises her. She gasps and feels herself flush, a sudden and intense 'need' overcomes her and those eyes open to look up at him. Drustan knows very well what he just did to her. Pleasure. Yesplz. Those eyes follow him, her lips parted as she breathes hotly for a few moments. "Be well," she squeaks.

And it's there, with a broader smile, that Drustan leaves her. Oh, it's not an abandonment. She's near enough to the doors of the manor. It's a show of restraint, more than anything. A need to extract himself before he does something more. Takes too much liberty. His walk back towards the tavern is one of an easy stride and the lingering of a smile across his features. Drustan may have enjoyed being away from society so much of the past number of years… but he is finding reasons to enjoy being back in Sarum, as well.

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