(514-05-29) To Return a Favor
Summary: Acwel and Heulwen say goodbye, at least for a while.
Date: 29 May 514
Related: Oh, That Market Fair and Battle of Wills
acwel heulwen 

Things are not quite in disarray in the square, but anyone with eyes in their head may note that the number of guards has increased from the usual. The men patrol carefully, but do not seem to be menacing anybody; they are wary and watchful at best. People attempt to go about their business in these the late afternoon hours, bustling from home to market before shopkeeps close up for the day. In the midst of all of this is one Heulwen, most remarkably alone and without her usual companion of some sort be they cousin or a borrowed squire.

The young Dinton is seated on a plain stone bench placed just outside the notable White Abbey. Her elbows are resting on her knees and her face is buried in her hands; locks of her long, unbound auburn waves spill over her shoulders and slip between her fingers. It looks, for all intents and purposes, as if she is merely taking a rest.

Riding alone, it is easy to discern Acwel from somebody who is not here for courtly business by the chainmail he wears and the sword on his side as well as the traveling bag he strapped to the back of his horse. He was not as wounded as the others in the melee but there certainly is a certain guarded element to his posture. The horse trots across the square at an easier pace while the knight takes his time to realize what is going on here.

The Woodford spots the Dinton lady not too long after, and though he might make a less awkward greeting in better circumstances he stops the horse by her and dismounts, the rein still in his hand as he asks, of Wen after a long moment or so of deciding what to say, "Good afternoon, Lady Heulwen."

It is a testament to how lost in her own thoughts she is that Heulwen doesn't notice the faint jingle and clink of a knight in armor, nor the thud as he dismounts so near to her bench. In fact, it isn't until a familiar voice calls her name that she jerks her head up in surprise. "Oh, Sir Acwel!" The exclamation is accompanied by a brief, tense look of embarrassment marked by blotchy red cheeks and visible tear tracks, and she shifts on the bench to turn her head away. Wen runs her fingertips over her cheek to wipe away the mostly-dried tears, and then wipe the corner of one sleeve surreptitiously beneath her nose—just in case.

"Sir Acwel," she repeats in a much calmer tone, turning back to look at him. She offers him a faint smile, although the corners of her mouth wobble and the expression disappears completely. She rises up from the bench and dips into a respectful curtsey while clearing her throat. Her eyes flick over his form from head to toe, taking in his armor. "You are just returning home from the tourney, then? I hope you were successful in your challenges, good sir."

Naturally, anyone's expression when they see a Lady seemingly crying on the benches when she looks up, and one can see the red cheeks and the tear tracks, is to express concern. That is exactly what is written very plainly on Acwel's face — dripped eyebrows, the slight downturn of his lips. Nothing too expressive, but his eyes look keenly to the Dinton girl. He affords her the grace to look away, preoccupying himself for a moment with unsecuring his travel back from the back of his horse and slinging the larger strap around his shoulder.

When he schools his own expression of concern into pleasant neutrality, he smiles back, though briefly. "From Woodford, actually. I came here to see Lord Robert and ask if he has any tasks for me to do— as well as revisit the matter of the tower. I did not catch him before the Melee, such as it is." When she inquires him about the challenges, he nods affirmatively, "I did, fair lady. Unhorsed once in the melee, but I do believe I fared well enough not to shame my family. And I had a healthy amount of wins with the challenges that were issued me, as well. Which reminds me I had another thing to do, but I suppose I should leave it for later." He pauses, then asks, outright, "What happened?"

Ah, the polite dance of the civilized as they skirt the immediate issue and make smalltalk about other matters. Heulwen is given enough of a reprieve that she eventually relaxes, back straightening and chin lifting. "Is there anything I can help you with?" she asks, stepping toward him and looking over the horse to check for another pack that she may be able to carry. Her gaze flicks back to his face, and this time her faint smile stays put. "I am very happy to hear you were successful in the tournament, my lord, and I am sure you have brought great honor your family, indeed." But then—then the question is asked.

The corner of Wen's mouth twitches, and she glances down to her hands and then down the road leading toward the farmer's market. "Ah, yes, you noted the increased guard too, hmm? You're very observant, Sir Acwel. Well, a young knight was m-murdered a little while ago, although if you were to ask his killer I daresay the man would claim it righteous vengeance considering he blathered on about his wife and children or something of the sort, but I really couldn't follow. The poor boy was skewered through the heart right before his wife's very eyes, and the knight Sir—Sir - oh, it was an S-name. Sir…" She stops long enough in her ramble to stomp her foot on the ground in a most petulant moment of pique. "Damn, why can I not recall his name?"

"No need to do so, my Lady. I am carrying all I need at present," Acwel replies in the negative. Whatever it is the Woodford does in Sarum, it is meant to travel light, and thus probably not that big of an issue, truth be told. So perhaps he is not here for long, or if he is, there might be shelter for him at the Castle, where his sister, as it turns out, works. His meets her gaze for just one moment, searching for something there, likely trying to perceive any signs of distress that she is rather carefully concealing before simply nodding, — maybe oddly for her — to himself. "I do not think I was that successful, my lady. Others have managed to down an enemy leader, another fought a long bout with a Sir that was leading one of the major engagements and almost succeeded, were it not for a blow to the shoulder. I only got lucky for being less injured than the rest, but I suppose I should count my blessings. A Saxon axe won't be as kindly as the sword of a countryman, after all."

And yes, the question is asked. The Woodford, unfortunately, is not quite as good with sidestepping matters that are curious to him. He listens to her, his eyebrows lifting up as he looks over to the veritable concentration of knights, "Regardless of his name, it seems like a public enough scene the Earl's justices will get involved, so perhaps the blackguard will get his just desserts in due time." Of course, that concern on his face resurfaces again. A killing? In public? Who would dare?

"Sir Sior," Heulwen replies suddenly, in an oddly choked tone. She is still staring down the road, grateful for the bend and the corner of a low building to hide the true furor from view. "The Earl's men were called. Amalthea sent my brother's squire riding hell-for-leather to fetch the guards and Kamron's things. He returned with all of the above, and my brother is intent on decamping with the Earl's men when they finally decide to head after him." She clear her throat again, perhaps chasing away that choking sensation of tears, and blinks rapidly as she looks back to Acwel. For the barest of glimpses, her expression is a conflicted one filled with anguish. But then just as suddenly, she coughs and the mask goes up.

Now looking calm, and almost bored, Heulwen offers Acwel wry half-smile and gestures vaguely in front of him. "If you are not in any rush, Sir Acwel, I will walk with you until we reach your destination. I would not wish to keep you too long, but surely it will feel less like tarrying if we are on the move. So you are to see the Earl about your tower? Have you secured his promise to help you, or is that your mission now?"

"It would be a pleasure to have you accompany me, Lady Heulwen," Acwel agrees, ready to walk alongside Heulwen, though he offers a hand to help her up, as it were. He is not unchivalrous, though not exactly unfailingly so. "If Sir Kamron is intent on bringing the blackguard to justice, the deed is as good as done, I am certain of that much," he promises, seemingly having a lot of faith in Wen's brother's determination when it comes to getting things done. That barest of glimpses he gets into her gaze draws no reaction from the man, his green eyes alert, but still somewhat kindly. He looks away when the glimpse is past, content to turn and regard parallel streets that might lead them to the same destination, everything to avoid the ruckus now obstructing the fullness of their speed, however casual and easy it may be.

"As for my designs, I have yet to secure his promise, but I believe I can. I am not sure what I can offer, save for ensuring that the tower will always be supplied with sentries I will pay and train for, but it should suffice as a chip."

Heulwen accepts Acwel's hand as she rises, and she offers a squeeze of his fingers before pulling away. She dusts her skirts, a somewhat nervous gesture, and falls into an easy walk at the knight's side. Her gaze is bent upon the path ahead, steadfastly avoiding looking off to the side to see the road down which the man was felled. Instead, she laughs quietly, although the sound is nearly cold and void of true emotion. "My brother will be the company of many men, and while I know his determination will get them there, I have my doubts as to whose blade shall take him. Rather, I think they intend to bring the man to face justice at the Earl's hand instead. Perhaps they will hang him. I heard murmurs of such a thing."

Wen glances to Acwel, studying him intently for as long as she can without making eye contact. "I think very much it should, and I am certain that by demonstrating to the Earl that you intend to work for it and do not expect it handed to you, he will be more than willing to assist. It will be a major accomplishment for the Woodfords, and I pray it turns out a success." She falls silent and worries her lower lip between her teeth for a moment. "If he does not have a quest for you, what will you do instead?"

He stops for a moment when she squeezes his fingers, his gaze drifting to her as he offers a very brief smile, there may be a squeeze back as well, but she pulls away and so he lets his hand drop to his side. The smile fades after a few moments, his expression turned to thoughtfulness, some manner of calculation or another. He does, of course, hear the rustling of her skirts being dusted, but his sight is elsewhere, searching. "Hanging is too light a punishment for murderers. Perhaps they ought to do with him as he did with the man he killed. I would find that far more just," he replies, regarding the rogue Sir Sior's criminal conduct and likely punishment.

Finally, what he searches for, he finds; leading them to a parallel street to the one of the commotion, they might find themselves on the way to the Palace faster, though the narrowing of the street doesn't allow for many travelers. Thankfully, there are rather few; only a peasant here and there, carrying baskets and bags and sacks, likely to either sell their craft or pay their dues to the lord of the land. The clinking and clanking of the chains in Acwel's armor don't seem to bother him; certainly, he is strong enough to carry himself - and Heulwen if necessary - through whatever mass of people they might find when they access the unobstructed side of the lane where the assassination occurred.

Even if he feels her eyes on him, he looks back only momentarily, either not seeking to disrupt her assessment of him or not paying too much mind to it. But her words, yes, he does listen to them. "I believe so as well, my Lady. I would never feel so entitled as to make demands of my liege lord. Should I have to draw this tower to completion out of my own pockets, then this is what must happen, as well. I do not start something I will never finish. But I thank you for your prayers," and in this, he looks to her, even smiles, "just as I will make sure to pray that yours and your brother's endeavors come to fruition." Her latter question, her falling silent and the worrying of her bottom lip draw a curious look for him, but his response is simple, "I do not know. Perhaps I could go on a lone journey throughout Salisbury for a spell and see what good I can do for the people, should he allow me."

"A lone journey?" Heulwen clasps her hands together behind her back, walking sedately and glancing around as they take a side street she has never traveled down. The narrowness combined with passing citizens pushes her closer to Acwel, if only to avoid being tread upon by someone in a hurry. Her sleeve brushes his, and she sidesteps to prevent it happening a second time. "That sounds - well, it sounds lonely, if you want the truth, Sir Acwel. But I suppose since your sister has her work with the Earl and your manor can survive a time without your presence—" here she bobs her head to him in acknowledgment of his good familial management, "then there really isn't anything to stop you from such a journey. It would do the people some good, I think, in the wake of the King's wedding to know that his people are still his primary focus. A Knight tending to the King's flock would be just the right message. You are a clever one."

"Your words struck a chord in me," Acwel admits, glancing sidelong to Heulwen, just as his arm brushes her sleeve, though he feels it not, beneath leather and chain, there is not much tactile sensation allowed. Perhaps the kiss of a sword, or lance, or arrowtip, but not something so soft and delicate as the brush of skin of a beautiful noblewoman. He nods when she sidesteps, allowing the distance between them, stoic for a moment as he makes an admission after her statements, "and perhaps I might see for myself how things are, ground myself more in what is rather than what can or could be. Even though I do make for a competent manager, thank you," he smiles at her for that last compliment regarding his family, "I think isolation from the court, and familiarity, will serve me best for the time being, unless I hear the summons from the Earl himself, in which case I will be the first to arrive, as a Woodford ought."

Heulwen has the good grace to blush at Acwel's admission, and she looks away for a moment as if taken aback by the importance he places on her words. She says as much out loud with, "I did not mean that, Sir Acwel, at least not in the way you have interpreted it, but…" She pauses, casting about for the appropriate words and sending him a look that conveys this struggle. She sighs heavily and reaches up to flick a lock of hair out of her face before running her fingers through her hair in slight frustration. "It is neither wrong nor bad to look toward future possibilities, else we'd never make any sort of progress. The King himself is a man who looks to the future as much as he considers the present, and such it is that his subjects try to fashion themselves in his image, so to speak. Do not feel that isolation will be your solution, for you will be out there among the very people. It is, instead, a chance for personal growth. I think you may just learn something new and surprising about yourself."

When she looks away, he looks ahead, ensuring he leads her through a turn on the narrow street by a soft touch of his fingertips to her shoulder, very brief, to grab her attention and pulled back when he looks towards Sarum Castle in all its glory; the old Roman ramparts, the gates. Their destination, after all. "In what way did you mean it then, Lady Heulwen?" He asks, finally, though what she said after that is also acknowledged, never ignored, and his attention is fully upon her in that moment, his gaze not quite leaving her face, then her eyes as she expresses her frustration, it almost commands intensity. "But you are correct in that it is not wrong, nor bad, to look to future possibilities." When she runs her fingers through her hair, he seems amused, though he shakes his head, "You have a gift for words, my Lady, you ought not feel frustrated on whether they are misunderstood or not; if the message is good, it will remain good despite the twists and turns of one's perceptions to them. But again you are right, it is a chance for personal growth, to become better than I am right now. And maybe honor my family by deed."

As the castle comes into view, Heulwen realizes with a sudden jolt that they are, indeed, on a path with a destination and not merely wandering through Sarum. She blinks rapidly, reorienting herself in the present, and looks back to Acwel as they approach the castle. "You pay me a pretty compliment, Sir Acwel. I feel as though I ramble and blunder and stumble my way into things more often than not, and the result is usally that I say a lot more than I ever intend, and a good deal of it not a gentle as I would wish. It is one of the few lady-like failings that my mother dislikes in me, and I try my hardest in her presence to avoid saying much at all." She laughs at the thought and offers the knight a genuine smile, for the moment so thoroughly distracted from her misery that it is all but forgotten.

"I think anything you do brings your family honor, Sir Acwel, for you follow your heart. Speaking of following hearts, we are here, and I shall not keep you any longer from the Earl." Heulwen stops, despite there being still a bit of a walk heading toward the castle, but it is just as likely she is not willing to quite retrace the entire distance back to her brother. "I wish you good luck with your request, Sir Acwel, and I hope—well, I hope we meet at least one more time before you go on your quest, whichever it may be. God go with you, sir." Did she just straight up avoid answering his question?

"But your rambles and blunders and stumbles only make you more lovely, Lady Heulwen, to someone for whom zeal not to blunder or stumble or ramble was impressed upon them since youth," the Woodford admits, glancing aside for a moment to spot some unfamiliar individual with a Salisbury livery pass them by. He smiles back, though it is brief, and in his eyes there is still a searching, some frustration, then finally nothing particularly expressive with a glance. "My only suggestion is that you apply your words sparingly, like a healer's doses of a balm." He steps closer to her, almost as if intending to do or murmur something, but again he simply smiles and steps back, then replies to the rest of her words, "If the Earl is not being kept any longer by the rest of courtiers pleading for his attention on something or other, my Lady," he notes with some humor, a bright smile to her, "I shall have my squire, who is currently here with my sister, accompany you back to wherever you are staying," he promises. That she never answered her question is not amiss for him, perceptive fellow that he is. But all it draws from him is a courteous gesture, "I should hope we meet again before I depart as well, then, Lady Heulwen. God bless you, now and always. I forgot," He turns, reaching into his bag and producing a neatly folded cloth. Despite the stains on it, like some mud, and sand, it can be quite clearly recognizable as hers, "my sister told me it is polite to return the favor of the Lady who bestowed it upon you. So I thank you, my Lady, and know that I did my best to ensure your vote of confidence and token of esteem upon me was valid." There may be some lingering sadness there, in his eyes, should she look, but it's obfuscated soon enough as he heads into the Castle.

Heulwen smiles briefly, but she blushes at the slight chastisement and drops her gaze down to her hands now neatly pleating a line in her skirt. "Sparingly, indeed, Sir Acwel. You make it sound as if I spew fire. Am I a dragon, do you think?" This she laughs off, however, although the sound is quite strained. Perhaps her nerves have hit their limit. Her lower lip trembles for a moment and she reaches up to scratch her nose in an attempt to hide it. Clearing her throat, Wen looks off toward the castle and the people wandering in and out at a steady pace. "Thank you, that would be very nice, and I am sure it would ease my brother's worry to know I was in safe company at such a time."

With a quiet sigh, she looks back to Acwel and then casts a glance down to his hand to see what he is holding. With a jolt, she recognizes the favor she offered him for the tournament, and for several heartbeats she merely stares at it. "Oh yes, did she? Yes, of course, she sounds quiet wise, m'lord. You have done me a great honor in wearing it, and—should know that my esteem was not misplaced." Slowly Wen reaches up to accept it, fingers pinching the fabric tightly, and then lowers her hand to her side.

"A dragon, my Lady? Pardon me for any offense, but no, you are far too lovely to be a dragon. Your words are not fire, as they do not destroy, but they do mend," comes Acwel's reply to Heulwen's light teasing, light teasing of his own, perhaps, and a compliment, "all things meant to heal hurt or taste bitter, Lady Heulwen." And then he is gone.

The folded favor dangles from Heulwen's fingertips as she lifts her gaze to his, and for perhaps that one breath they are inextricably linked, her features mirroring that same lingering sadness. Her lips part as if to speak, but he turns away and departs before she can even gather up the courage to say something, and instead she is left mouthing an 'I am sorry' to his back before whirling on her heel and rushing quickly back the way they came.

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