(514-06-21) Midnight in the Garden of Ash and Evil
Summary: During the aftermath of the Sarum Siege, joyful reunions are mixed with tragic news.
Date: June 21st, 514
Related: Trouble in Sarum 1, Part 1, Part 2, and Trouble in Sarum 2
braelynn bryn eirian elrick 


While some of the other knights have ridden out to hunt down more Saxons or whatever loot they may have dropped while being routed, Elrick chose the more sensible solution, being someone who has sustained injuries from Saxon spears. After making sure that his horse is stabled and being seen to, he was able to wave down someone who appears to be doing some makeshift aid, more less a quick cleaning of the deep stab to his thigh and the light cut to his shoulder. Water poured to clean out the wound, bandage wrapped around haphazardly, the young woman was off to help others, too many.

Elrick may have caught sight of the of a particular Burcombe lady also doing her best to help, he did not want to interrupt or cause her to lose focus on her tasks. He does leave word with one of the healers to mention to Eirian that she may find a Laverstock Knight resting at one of the inns in Sarum that was saved from the pillaging and burning. Inside, the knight would be resting, having claimed a bench and having pushed it against a wall. Using the wall as a backrest, Elrick is resting his wounded leg on the bench, keeping it raised. His armor has been shed, placed on the ground at his side in a pile of linked chains and padded leathers. Shield lays atop his kit while his sheathed blade sits on the table under his arm, the hilt still wrapped in ribbons though they are stained in blood. Saxon blood.

Fly, fly away home. The nightjars and the jackdaws gather in the woodlands around Sarum while the ravens wheel on the battlefield, taking their reaping of the dead. Ash hangs heavy on the air, the stench of burnt wooden beams assaulting the nose even within the thick-walled buildings clustered around the Earl's castle. Iron-thick smells mingle unpleasantly around the apothecary's herbs, sweat, and fear throughout the walled city where villeins and nobility alike shelter. Cots and lean-tos give some protection from the summer night, for the descent of darkness brings an end to most conflicts except in the most foolhardy of cases.

Somewhere a bird cries, possibly a falcon loosed from its perch. The keening wails of mourners replace the dolorous chanting of the church bells from the spires or the usual burble of the marketplace. With forewarning and being forcibly stowed away behind the walls, Eirian glides through the city like a phantom, the cyhyraeth at the fords. Her sleeves are folded back, skirt hitched in her belt, giving her the practical ability to walk unimpeded. Her heavier cloak and pack carry a host of unusual things; there is no telling if dawn will see her home intact, or if a desperate flight out of the city for Carlion will begin. Blood from her hands is washed away, Bodenham and Idmiston blood, blood of a thousand nameless knights testing her limited ability to physick the ill. Little bars her from the inn, the door constantly swinging to accommodate all the bodies going this way and that. Hood up, the only give away for who she is lies in the woad crawling up her wrists: faded lines from a venture to Carlion after Beltaine, the aftereffect of dyeing a cloak for the Falt bride and groom.

Failed.
You check your awareness at 10, you rolled 17.

Unfortunately for Elrick, he has sense of smell has already adapted to the odor of burnt wood, blood, and other unsavory scents that follows a scene of death and destruction. His body aches and is too weary to complain, looking over to the cup of water that someone had generously poured for him. With the constant opening and closing of the inn's door, with nameless faces walking in and out. Knights, general soldiery, youths, women young and old, they all have passed through the portal to the town proper, and not just this one, countless entrances. Some in search of loved ones gone missing, others to tend assist, to tend, to count. All of that matters not to the Laverstock as he tries to rest, to gain enough strength to do a searching of his own. Waiting for the dull, throbbing pain to fade away.

When Eirian'd hooded figure is the next one to step through the door, Elrick's gaze is not there, instead its focus is on the hilt of his blade, the ribbon. His hand gently runs over the ruined cloth which he had wrapped around his blade as if it would help guide the sharp edged steel. The knight's mind is no doubt not in the present room, and one could guess the thoughts he lingers on.

Failed.
Eirian checked her Awareness of 10, she rolled 15.

For some, the consequence for spending a day in the healing trenches dispatching lives and rescuing souls blots out other, sweeter scents. Suffering has seeped through her veins, the quicksilver smile flattened beneath the grim aspect of the Morrigan descended in the black wing of night. She pushes through the masses, some begging her for news, others throwing blank stares in an attempt to push back on the bitter reality a raid came so far as Sarum, and hours of fighting in the field merely repulsed rather than destroyed the barbaric invaders. High numbers and fair casualties run on the wildfire of gossip, so a silent face and barred mouth in all its arrogant fullness give no relief. Then again, Saint Michael might walk hand in hand with laughing Badb and encounter the same frosty reception.

She glances round the room and, immediately finding nothing in the choked commons to register, starts a laborious dissection of every person assembled before her. The girl raises her hood slightly, brushing the back of her hand over her brow, walking down the edges where wounded souls gather and family units, brotherhoods, whatever confraternity they can find clutch together in a sign of familiarity. Eirian's pale winter gaze moves over the damned in their judgment, the living and mostly living scythed away by the impartial review. This sword, that shield, disregarded. Women, forgotten. She stops once at a merchant and makes an inquiry: the moon on her brow might give him a start, the soft cadence of her voice cutting: "… a rearing horse. Slashed in half, oak?"

Success
You check your awareness at 10, you rolled 7.
Failed.
You check your recognize at 7, you rolled 14.

When his thoughts are slowly drawn back to the present, a much darker reality than the memories he was visiting while gazing at the ribbon, Elrick's head turns and looks over the interior of the inn, mostly at the huddled masses and noting a few new figures have replaced others. One in particular has caught his gaze, though mostly hooded it is hard for him identify who she is, perhaps another nameless young lady looking for her family, a brother, a father. The plant that is wrapped around Eirian's wrist missed in this darkened and gloomy interior. Her soft voice for now is too far way for the Laverstock to hear, his trained ears would easily mark who she is, but she has caught his attention, a certain reminder of who has been on his mind these past few hours.

Eirian rolls 1d20 and gets (14) for a total of: (14)
Failed.
Eirian checked her reckless of 10, she rolled 18.

No other house calls a horse as their own mark. The merchant pauses for a moment and scrunches his hoary brow up, the weariness piled on over the past hours briefly lifted for a sunbeam to filter through the heavy clouds. It has to be enough. He shifts, shoulders no longer slumping, and looks round the inn. Whatever he seeks clearly finds its mark, for he gestures towards the wall and the intervening bodies huddled between render a truth for the girl still searching. Eirian nods and steps aside, pulling from her belt some simple frippery or another. The black-speckled feather dances around in circles between her fingers, twirled by the elongated quill, a charm to toy with the Fates.

Tis no plant on her wrist, but vivid blue dye of a singular shade only one other plant — indigo, from distant India — gets close to approximating. Picts wear it on their skin; she's no child of the cold, clammy Highlands, though every inch as proud. Enough to distinguish her purpose, she veers towards the shield and the discarded armour, shoulders winging backwards in a stiff line.

Success
You check your Lustful at 13, you rolled 3.

When the hooded figure begins to approach, the hand that was resting on the hilt and ribbons stiffens slightly, ready to grab the blade. Not to draw but to secure back around his hip, afraid that duty will be calling him to the field again. But as Eirian draws closer, recognition dawns on Elrick's face like the sun cresting the horizon. A look of relief mixed with happiness surfaces as his chest rises visibly once, then the intake of air exhaled audibly. The stiffness of his legs and throbbing pain is easily forgotten and slowly the knight rises to his feet. Damned if eyes are upon them but he takes a step towards the Burcombe Maiden and reaches out, pulling her in for a tight embrace. "Eirian…" He murmurs, the relief evident in his tone. "You are safe."

The hood defines her identity in obscurity, blocking out her face from any bystander bored enough to report on illicit embraces and shared affections in the aftermath of despair. Every reunion off the battlefield might lead to plowed and sown fields, the natural response of a society forever on the blade-edge of anarchy. When he shifts to stand, Elrick might catch the firming of those full lips into a narrowed line and the approach of the healer, rather than the Winter Queen, urging him back onto the bench. A thousand answers might spring to the fore, complaints or suggestions, but her teeth stopper every one with undue expediency. Only the faint tightening of Eirian's jaw confesses the reality plain enough, and the slim arc of her arms weaves gingerly around the Laverstock's shoulders to pull them into the same dark, certain orbit. There lies a certain astringency around her, but not in the depths of her hood; it's all faint rosewater, her signature carried through a hellish day into a fraught, tense night. One more to account for. He is not a phantasm in her arms, no shade risen to bade her farewell before descending into Annwn to sup at the feet of Rhiannon and Pwyll, or take the hunt in perpetuity. Such certainties take their time to be distinguished, hands gliding between his shoulder blades and kneading almost unconsciously to re-establish the absolute clarity in the world again. Strengths are not parallel but she isn't a milksop maid like so many bloody ginger ladies around town; there lies a small amount of endurance in those long limbs given to supporting him a bit more than he might care or measure satisfactory. "Sit," she murmurs, no more and no less.

As she commands, Elrick heeds the word as his arms begins to slacken, reluctance evident in the slowness of the movement. Taking a step back, he carefully and gingerly sets himself back on the bench, turning again so he can put the raised leg at the wooden platform. "It's… it's not as bad as it looks." The only words he can find himself saying for now, a turmoil of emotions crashing within him. Afraid that she would admonish him for taking such wounds, perhaps even disappointed that he is still not out there sweeping the countryside of the invading Saxons but couped up in this inn, in a dark corner. Idle thoughts that had crept into his mind when he was alone. For now, his tongue is at a loss of words, the knight that is before her is uncertain, not like the Fae King that she had met on Beltaine. The bloody engagements and the aftermath did have an affect on the Laverstock, the dark tendrils seeping into this warrior's soul, taking hold while he was idle.

The commandment is merely a suggestion, the directive laced in expectation of nothing more. Acquiescence is his right. Eirian has a family of knights, the only daughter — or child for that matter — not committed to swinging a sword in the honour of earl, manor, and pagan gods. At least this understanding of bruised wishes and unmet ambitions comes with the territory and mantle of 'Sir.' So she does not question whether he lies or stands, for that matter, nodding as must one. "I am well upon my third or fourth wave of energy, and fear that did I stop too long, I would simply fall asleep upon my feet." A confession lances the issue at the core and takes the blow upon her own feminine frailty, an accepting status that she finds unnatural but, under the circumstances, actually sounds as mild as the fey queen might be. "Let me be of some use to you." Her arms disengage reluctantly and she pulls a skin from her back, and hands it to him. Full of mead, the slim container smells of a languid summer dream and beats no doubt whatever the inn has remaining. "I have water, a few crushed rolls, and other provender as could be taken." Before. It is needless to say before what. "You are safe." A statement will not turn into a question, for all the young woman bowing her head might otherwise be emboldened to try. Chastened by company is no matter for her; it's the private intimacy between them in such confined roles. Catching sight of the favour on his sword, she stills in speech and words. Not movement; her palm briefly presses to the left side of his chest, not to push away, simply to remain.

Brows furrow up slightly as concern appears but he leaves the words unspoken, knowing that she is doing what she feels she must. Knights have their duty to take the fight to the enemy, the expertise of ladies lay elsewhere, their gentler hands suited for the healing of body and soul with a gentle care. When the skin of mead is offered, the Laverstock takes it with appreciation, glad to have at least this luxury after such a brutal day. As for the food offered? There is a nod of his head, "Let us break bread together once you are done with me, My Lady." When Eirian's gaze locks onto the hilt of his blade, his own eyes traces the path of what she is looking at, seeing the ribbons. Words are spoken much softer now, meant for the only two fo them, "I'm sorry for not taking better care, I… I wanted all to see that this knight did not just fight for glory, but also for someone who he cares deeply of." One of his own hands reaches up and presses over hers, the touch linger for a moment as if to reinforce for her and himself that they are indeed here together, that it is no dream.

The mead is more than a few mouthfuls of golden liqueur, distilled sunlight amply thrown with spices and herbs to lend a certain bite. It rolls over the throat and tongue in a gilded wash, cleansing the palate and bitter iron taste of battle. "The meat is somewhat cold, yesterday's roast," Eirian says as she swings her pack down and starts to unbuckle the top. The detritus of his cast off armour, if not already organized, will be dealt with in its own time, moved aside and treated with at least some passing care. She is no squire, and knows not whether he has one, but even the countess probably knows a thing or two about treating it. None of them are so highborn to be at a remove, like the Chinese and Byzantine imperial courts, mean and simple by compare. "Why do you apologize?" Whisper-soft words languish on the air between them when she goes to her knees, pulling out a crumpled cheesecloth wrapped around the buns, the rind and wheel of coarse cheese, and another containing the hunk of roast she probably yanked straight from the pan. The greasy drippings are still there, congealed, but probably enough to arouse a demonic hunger in anyone. They are offered to him, wordless; the understanding is such where the pecking order lies, or simply it is acknowledgment of a wordless sacrifice. "You did your duty and Sarum stands. We all sacrificed today." How deep, she has no idea. Only the faintest of what she witnessed from the walls will fall upon her head sooner or later. The two offered bundles rest in her joined palms. "You came back, Sir Laverstock." All that needs to be said, the only judgment required. Though the very faintest upturn in her mouth tries to ignite something. "Imagine how remarkable the hot waters of a bath will feel after."

Never had he felt like he has tasted something so delicious, feeling the effects of the enchanted liquid revitalizing his body, eyes closing for a moment as if experiencing bliss again. Another hungry gulp is taken but no more after that, knowing he must pace himself, maintain control. When Eirian begins pulling out various foodstuffs, hunger is a sudden fierce reminder that he has not eaten since the clash with the Saxons, "They could be days old, My Lady, and it would still look and taste like a feast laid out on His Majesty's table. You are too kind…" As for her question, there is only a slight shake of his head, as if he can't explain, at least not right now. Accepting the gifts with each hand, he inclines his head and puts the items on the table at his side. As for her last comment, a slight chuckle is heard, brief, but the smile that appears is genuine, "I dare not imagine." That is all he says as he hunger forces him to begin eating, courteous enough to do so in an orderly manner.

The curse of Penelope was waiting for Odysseus to return home, faithfully unpicking by night all she wove by day. Other women throughout the long stretch of history command the battlements and curl up in their beds alone, awaiting faithfully the silent coming of a dawn and welcome rider slipping through the gate. For some the dawn will not bring fair tidings. Others will know much. She will hinge in the middle, fate giving as it takes, for all she twists what she can in her favour. Head still bowed, Eirian rummages about and comes up with a tiny cloth bag. She pulls open the strings, and dashes a few dried leaves onto her palm. These hardly look thrilling or palatable, simply an herb. It will be consumed with a dry mouth crunching through a morsel of a sweet roll torn off. "We quenched the fires best we could here. A repeat, in some ways, of Buckholt," she murmurs softly, her words careful and cautious. "I dare imagine to ride in the dark of knight back to the borders. Wiltshire, or Carlion itself, if we stay under attack. Certes, the Pendragon will respond, but he must know what to respond to. Not easy to say if those holed up inside have no way for word to come out, and those outside can only tell what they see at the walls."

As he continues to feast on the meal that Eirian has brought for him, Elrick's brow raises up when Buckholt is menionted as he himself has just returned from Marlboro, actually riding ahead of the reinforcing column tha was marching south to here, Sarum. "Buckholt?" The name asked in a simple question, "The Saxon advance must have been widespread then, especially for them to dare lay siege here." As for the thought of riding out in the cover of darkness, the Laverstock quickly shakes his head, "Too much risk, My Lady. We've routed them here, the siege is broken. But out there, who knows where they have scattered. I am sure the Earl, or the Lord Marshal will be organizing patrols to ride out tomorrow to begin sweeping the countryside." And he may be amongst the knights that ride if he is able to.

A small fastness, Buckholt, hardly constitutes more than a drop in the landscape of such holdings. "A manor near Du Plain town, close to Broughton lands. I rode out there to lend support when Saxons were sighted." What man, woman or fool takes her of all places out there could be the sardonic response, but her talents clearly lie in something beyond frustrating those who would protect her. Perhaps another matter would apply; the dark-haired girl nonetheless smiles with a faint sadness. "Much loss that day came from the Saxons, though we saved more people than lost. The buildings may be gone, though. The siege is broken now, and I have faith it will remain so. But summer is long and the campaign surely is hard." She brushes her finger along her jawline, and utters a faint sound that isn't quite a sigh. "We do as we must. I lay plans of a night without expectation of morn's good favour, and what does that say of me?"

At the description of the location of the manor, there is a nod of understanding from the knight. As for being told that she was riding out there to lend support, there was no reaction of surprise nor does he question her decision, knowing better to do so, they had touched on this subject before. Another drink of the mead is taken by the Laverstock before he speaks, enjoying the bite that the liquid offers, "Buildings can be rebuilt, not lives, and those that have been saved will be eternally greatful." As to her question, he has no answer to give, at least aloud. "What you need now is rest, and have you eaten?" Despite his hunger, he has not entirely devoured the meal that was provided.

With the mead warming him and the lady his focus now, the dull pain that was throbbing in his leg is but a faded memory. So he was able to slowly shift his position, moving the leg he was resting on the bench under the table, freeing the space at his side, "I will, My Lady, but I will enjoy it more if you also take a share. And sit at my side, please, lest you lose yourself to exhaustion and I will have to carry you back to home." The last bit spoken with a quirk of his lips, most likely spoken in jest but knowing him, he may just do so if he felt like so. As for sharing what is on his mind? The Laverstock is not ready, at least not yet, not wishing to spoil the meal they share, "Perhaps after we have finished our meal, for now, this is more than enough." Knowing that she is safe.

Holding up the bun in her hand, Eirian serenades his query with a visible movement to display her acquisition. "I can brew you white willow bark with hot water. It will let you rest as you wish, and the taste is not so bitter. Past that, what do you desire?" Still on the floor causes her no trouble as she consumes the one piece of the sticky bun, small piece pressed past her lips and chewed thoughtfully.

"The mead and your gentle presence are more than enough, My Lady." Elrick says with an easy smile, content with the meal, the company certainly making it better. As for the question she asks? She knows that it is one he cannot answer, his gaze now directed at the skin of mead, "My desire? Just knowing you are safe here is enough to keep me moving forward. That is all I dare ask." A siege on such a large scale, the Laverstock has seen great loss, not only of knights but also of people, and homes, buildings. A grim reality that the Saxons bring to their doorstep. "Tell me, where will your steps take you next?"

Elrick asks questions for which there are no clear answers, only tortured possibilities. Her brow furrows. Dark lashes slant downwards and she puts the bun in her lap, strumming her hair and unweaving one messy braid put together when she mustered the masses and did what she could to staunch the wounds of others. Her lips press together, then soften. Two failed attempts to speak finally bear their flowering, fruit a bitter crop after too short a warm season. "I have no knowledge where my sister and brothers or cousins are. Somewhere in Sarum, surely, or flushing Saxons from the countryside." Her shoulders tip back under the cloak and she moves on her knees closer to the bench, allowing more people to pile into the inn without interruption. They will heave to the rafters by late eve, too many bodies taking refuge. Enough the girl might want to fly from the parapets and seek her own home, but the siege is hard to conjure, this new and terrifying martial reality upon them. "It seems wiser to stay for the night somewhere snug and warm. Offer aid as I can. We've seen none of the other families who support us, and at least here, I doubt they will accost me much." Her hand lifts slightly and closes into a fist, lowered down. There is no point to antagonize with ideas of what desperate people do to unescorted women. They already likely mutually know.

Just the raising that possibility of Eirian being in that kind of danger almost enrages Elrick, but he is composed enough to keep it at a simmer. "Banish the though, no one will lay a hand upon you. Lest they wish to see it parted from body." Speaking does help him control his temper, as he releases a breath, "We will find a quiet place and you will rest properly, I will be nearby. Those with ill intent will steer clear when they see the blade at my side, fear not." As for her family, that he has no answer and he does not with to give false words of hope, "From what I have seen, the Burcombe Knights are most capable, I am sure many Saxons out there have also come to that realization, one that is quite final. It is best to wait until morn to seek them out." The Laverstock has yet to see any of his family either, but he trusts them and their skill with their blades.

Smoke and ash drift over Sarum from the prolonged siege of the city, dusk bringing with it grief, uneasy rest, and difficult recovery. Any tavern or inn in the city is heaving with refugees, escaped from their manors or trapped within the walls. Wounded knights take up open space where organized tents and lean-tos offer shelter, healers do their work while others wait in worried anticipation. The inn here is slowly brimming to the rafters while bread and meat are distributed where possible, and some just sleep on and under the tables, benches, and floor. Conversations are low and fraught, no one willing to break the anxious silence.
A cloaked woman sits at the feet of a wounded knight on a bench, the repast between them rather humble on any other day but a siege's aftermath. They share bread and cheese, a bundle of cold meat with the man. His shield leans against the wall somewhere, his armour stripped. A pack rests beside her, open, the contents hidden between. Theirs is a quiet conversation even here, tipped by quiet exchanges.

The delicate destruction of the sweet roll, already squashed and quartered, speaks well to the fate of any Saxon found by Robert de Sarum's men. Doubtful the captive man will be cannibalized by a cloaked woman, however strong the resemblance to a dame blanche or dreadful woodland spirit she may appear. "Brigid spare us all that." The intonation carries a sliver of reverence, an utmost refusal to countenance another path. "The healers' camps have no use for such as I, for my gifts lie elsewhere. What peace I delivered upon extinguished lives, I can barely say." Her shoulders tighten back a fraction and she shifts, feet still tucked beneath her, the kneeling position adequate for a long vigil. The slight shake of her head follows, profiled in charcoal strokes under the hood. "Then to the morrow, will you need aught to ride? I have every certainty the stables are well managed. 'Tis something the Lady Amalthea will oversee in strange conditions soon. The Earl appointed her to it, and to think, we sat at this table some days before speaking of her duties."

Exhaustion tints everything about Braelynn's appearance. Red hair is quickly braided to keep it from her eyes, and there is a small burn on the back of her right hand. She is carrying a basket containing bandages and salves, as she makes her way into the tavern in search of food. A piece of unbleached linen has been attached about her waist, in what is seemingly an attempt to save her from the blood of her patients. As she enters the tavern and sees those gathered a sigh escapes, and she shuffles through the crowd uneasily in search of food, or a place to sit at the very least.

The space that Braelynn seeks may be found by where the Laverstock Knight and hooded lady he is speaking with are currently situationed, most of those that are seeking refuge allowing the knight his space. It is done either out of respect for one of the defenders of this city, or just not wishing to be near a man that has taken lives today, the reasons are their own. Weariness is also on Elrick's face, but he has faired better than the ladies who have been looking after the wounded, whether it be applying bandages to their wounds or offering soothing words for those who have lost.

Hearing Eirian's words, Elrick can only shake his head slightly, not in disagreement but to offer his own perspective, "You may be surprised, My Lady, what the healers' camps need, sometimes an extra hand and a calming word can make the greatest of difference." As for what the morning brings for the knight, he can only guess, "I am not sure what will be required of me, it will depend on how this wound on my leg feels. And whether his Grace's need for able knights are great," Which he presumes will be, "I will go where commanded. If not… we shall see." That is when the door to the inn opens, admitting yet another, the Laverstock's attention shifting there to see if it is a familiar face. It isn't, but the way the young woman carries herself, he can tell she has been exhausted by the siege as well.

The sweet roll she sets aside in the cheesecloth and ties a knot around the bundle, leaving at least two portions for a later date. In these fraught circumstances, a little extra food acts as a superior currency to most. Other odds and ends in her pack are resettled as she fusses over the buckle's tongue fitting into the metal rectangle. Eirian's motions hold a certain rote familiarity to them, as surely as a knight begins to swing a sword, strike a parry, and raise his arm in the repetitive practice of the battlefield. The song of steel is no different than deft fingers smudged by honey and the odd crumb, an improvement over blood and sweat washed away in a healer's tent.

"Let me fetch hot water for the willow bark, if you will watch this." A nod to her pack finds the girl slipping up from her kneeling position, knees cracking from the momentary disuse. The night has been long, the day longer. Weariness makes her and the Cholderton lady sisters in spirit if not blood, and the habit of that tired figure struggling through the bowed masses too much to tolerate as she starts that way. A gesture is made by the hooded girl, and she extends her arm to indicate where. "Should you have need, sit that way."

Failed.
Braelynn checked her recognize of 3, she rolled 15.

As Braelynn's eyes sweep the tavern she spies space to be seated, and she does make her way there. Though she does not recognize the knight, she does recognize the woman near him. Her usual shy smile is nowhere to be found today, but she does give the knight a polite nod and then the lady sitting near him as she stands and offers her seat. Braelynn says, "Lady Eirian, thank you" as she sinks into the vacant spot. Her eyes flutter closed for just a moment, and then open as she looks for someone to ask for food. She drops the basket onto the floor next to her leg, and begins massaging her hands, first one and then the other.

"Of course," Comes the answer from Elrick, a dip of his head is included, the duty tasked him rather simple to complete. Hearing the brief exchange between Eirian and Braelynn, the Laverstock also inclines his head respectfully to the young lady. There is no questions her though seeing the makeshift apron and its use, he can surmise that she must have spent countless hours saving lives and easy pains. For that, the knight offers thanks for his brothers and sisters in arms, "Thank you, My Lady, for the invaluable service that you offer us knights. I am sure many lives are indebted to you and your hands." He does catch that she had greeted Eirian by name, just taking a mental note of the two being acquainted.

Hot water shall be the least difficult thing to obtain within an inn on a good day. Today, it takes a while and, when she has it, Eirian returns with a crock of all things containing the precious water. At least the divot for a spout is formed well enough that a man or woman could drink if necessary. Turning carefully to avoid any collisions or tripping over a half-asleep warrior bundled up in a cloak, she moves on pure memory through the common room. At a distance, even recognizing her is no easy task and her dark, deep cowl gives a modicum of privacy did she want it. Not so right now. Returning to the pair, she lowers herself stiffly onto her knees so as not to splash about the hot water. It steams well enough, a sign of action. "Had I my sister's gift for fire, this might be less needful." Back to another of the cloth pouches on her belt, she feels around to her side and pulls one free, then peels off the outer layer to reveal cheesecloth around some powdered contents. The whole of it ends up dumped in the tureen as is. It smells definitively earthy, and the tincture is hardly sweet by any means, probably a tad bitter, as the water tints a shade of pale amber. "Sir Elrick de Laverstock, allow me to introduce you to Lady Braelynn de Cholderton. You may know Sir Loghaire or Sir Arta, and she is their kin. Lady Braelynn, Sir Elrick is kin to Lady Abigail, Lady Aldreda, Sir Arian, Sir Trystan and Sir Lainn if you know them. Lady Josette is also their cousin." She can pull down genealogy without a thought, even in exhaustion.

A brief shake of the head is given as Braelynn says tiredly, "We've had a great many losses today too, both knights and others alike, both in fighting and the fire." She lifts her hand to her mouth to stifle a cough before she leans backwards to rest her head on the wall. "There's bound to be many more illnesses over the next few weeks as the burns fester and inhaled smoke does its damage." The evidence of smoke on her own face outlines her hair line, as though it has been wiped from her face but that is all. As Eirian returns and introduces her to the knight she was speaking to she gives a weak smile, though it is one that comes with practice, and her face quickly returns to the pensive expression it contained when she entered.

"Such is the unfortunate result of war and conflict," The Laverstock says with a slight nod of his head, even if he is young, he can understand the cost of war. Branches of family trees snipped short, too soon in my cases, and now through first hand experience. So many had fallen as the enemy was not some quintain or wooden target used in training, unable to fight back. Seeing Eirian return with the vessel containing the hot water, Elrick remains seated where he is though his gaze is fixed on the Burcombe's progress. As the introductions are completed, the Laverstock Knight bows his head respectfully to the Cholderton, "Honored, My Lady," Words offered with proper courtesy, even if this was as far as a proper court or setting.

"Willow bark to ease any pains or discomfort. Enough here for two, so it ought to be sufficient for you to find rest and Lady Braelynn, if she needs. I apologize for the state of the cup." Or the tureen as it should matter, but at least that provides a sealed origin. Eirian tugs up on the knotted cheesecloth to distribute the brewed contents and mix up the water well, the dilution turning to a deeper shade and earthen scent. "The chirurgeons and healers will be stretched to capacity then. With any luck, merchants can bring extra supplies and the Earl will negotiate better prices so the survivors are not gouged or mistreated," she murmurs under her breath. "Ah, listen to me. I sound as sour as a crabapple before its time." This may well be expected to a young woman dipped in death, though she tips her head back, considering the beams of the ceiling above her in mute silence for a time. "Are you hungry, Lady Braelynn? I have a few buns worth sharing, and they may well even taste sweet still."

Pale green eyes lift up to Eirian at the mention of the warm buns and she nods. "I can't remember the last time I ate. I was looking at records and the next thing I knew they needed healers at the west gate." She looks to the knight, and then to Eirian. "I've never seen such a thing. I" Her voice trails off and she seems to be lost in her mind for a moment before finishing. "I just had no idea. That is all." Her eyes drop back to her lap, and some of the innocence and naivet' that Braelynn had before the attack is gone, perhaps forever.

Glad for anything that would ease the dull pain he feels, Elrick does look appreciative at the herbal tea that Eirian is brewing for them. As for concern about the state of Sarum and its people, he can only offer some reassuring words, "There will be rebuilding and there will be trade, will take time but people will continue to live their lives as we continue to push the Saxons back to where they came from." At the mention of food, the Laverstock looks at the meal he had just enjoyed, still a little bit of cheese and meat left, both laying on cheese clothes, no doubt provided by the Burcombe maiden. He also pushes this towards the healer who's energy is completely spent, "I don't believe anyone expected them to push this deep this quickly. I was with Sir Acwel's expedition to Marlboro, bringing reinforcements." Unfortunately, time was not on their side.

"Were you in the castle, then? The onset was rather sudden, I imagine. We had word from Wilton but, truth told, the alarm was raised for us with the Saxons striking southerly holdings in the last week." A certain cold, hard sentiment lies in the heart of the words offered freely. Unfolding another bundle, Eirian holds another bun out to Braelynn. It might seem a treasure in such strange surroundings. Behind them, more stew is doled out by tired wenches to the hungry and many people simply sleep where they can find the floorspace. It's not so late into the evening to warrant the collapse of energy, but the festivities and the willingness to remain awake die out with a lack of entertainment. Now and then, tears are shed, and then a rejoicing whoop, marking two polarities. The Winter Queen drifts somewhere between, skimming the surface, not allowing too deep a view into her inner self with that mask in place. All the better. Morning will bring a test beyond words; what she cannot know, perhaps she senses in some way. All said and done, though, she blinks back to herself. The diversion will suit when the dusky-haired Burcombe girl turns upon the matter of clean bandages, or at least linen better suited for wounded skin than adorning her hair. "What transpired at Marlboro? I have heard only whispers about the events there."

A pale hand moves to the bun and a small but grateful smile touches Braelynn's lips for just a moment. She nods to Eirian and cradles the bun as though it is a precious commodity. She speaks quietly, "I was in the castle, yes. I was getting better acquainted with my position at court." She looks to the knight and takes a hearty bite of the bun, savoring it slowly as she awaits his reponse.

Any congratulations about being awarded positions in the court may sound hollow, as they pale against their current situation, so the Laverstock speaks of the journey that the knights tasked with the mission had experienced. Perhaps at the next joyous occasion, proper compliments could be offered. "We were sent to Marlboro as emissaries to treat with the Count, to ask him to provide extra armsmen so we would be prepared for the Saxon attack. However, the Count's men were occupied with possible hostilities at his border. To free them of that duty, we were to undertake a task for His Grace."

"I wished to let you and Sir Morwenna know, I think the original suggestions I held for the focus of your quests is correct. There is yet research to be done, though I fear you may need to perform it on the ground." Eirian chances a look up to catch the reflection of Braelynn's changing expression. Whatever she reads there does not entirely cause her concern, merely the faint indentation of a smile reflective upon the weariness that perhaps might be alleviated by a decent meal. "Had something transpired with the Count which required so many men from Salisbury? The threat upon the border, perhaps?" The girl's a diplomat: she needs to understand such matters easily enough.

A women of few words, save when she begins to ramble, Braelynn is content to listen while eating. Though her brow furrows as the realization of something spreads over her face. The bun is lowered into her lap and she waits for a lull in the conversation before she says, "Lady Eirian , have you heard from your family since the attack?" Worry colors her features, and the bun lies in her lap forgotten, her hunger temporarily erased.

Hearing the Burcombe's eagerness for more information about the Marlboro quest, Elrick's lips curl up slightly in amusement as he nods his head, as if he is getting to the reason. However, in that pause, it was Braelynn who interjected with her question, causing the Laverstock to look at the young lady's direction. It was a subject that he and Eirian had touched upon earlier, as neither new of any news of their family members. Not catching the worry in her body language, Elrick lets the Burcombe maiden answer.

Eirian lifts her face from the tea being handed to the Laverstock, the tureen safe enough to touch without being scalded. Her hands wrap around the fat belly, positioned low that Elrick might take the brew without overmuch difficulty. Those surreal eyes of hers, an odd shade of cornflower that tends to give pagans pause, flow over Braelynn's face as though to memorize every feature and her position relative to the stars and every other living soul in their vicinity. Scarcely blinking, she gives a petite shake of her head. "None, though the conditions of extinguishing the fire and mustering merchants and artisans to help gave very little time." A pause follows, then she shakes her head. "It would not surprise me to see my kindred weeks from now, having hunted the Saxons back to their encampment on the Narrow Sea and surveyed every member's preferences for what time they rise to what they eat. But the light about you sweeps a black shadow. Delay will not cause the jackdaw to cease singing. I hold nothing against the messenger, the gods do as they will with us."

A deep shaky breath is exhaled as Braelynn hears the response. She glances at Elrick, and then back to Eirian. She glances around the tavern and places the bun in her basket along with the bandages. Her voice is quiet, soothing almost, as she says to Eirian "Perhaps we should go somewhere less public?" A worried glance to Elrick and a pointed stare that lasts but a moment is given.

Taking the proffered vessel with thanks, Elrick begins to sip at the brew, choosing not to interrupt with any words of his own. When Eirian mentions seeing a dark shadow casting over Braelynn's features, the Laverstock looks again and can see that the young lady does appear a bit distressed. At the concerned request look, realization begins to seep in as he understands the silent plea that is directed at him. "My Lady Eirian, let me grab my kit and allow me to escort you two. I've rested long enough and I am sure there will be others who will be glad for the open space." The liquid that Eirian had brewed for him is not forgotten though, despite the bitterness that is mixed in, he drinks the liquid without pause. With the Burcombe's agreement, Elrick would slowly rise to his feet and grab the sheathed blade that rests on the table. Then his armor and shield, his full kit to be slung over his back.

"Lady Braelynn," says the young woman quietly. Each word holds its curious formality even as she does, reaching up for the first time in the evening to push back the hood which so conceals her identity. "Sir de Laverstock swore to my safety this night in lieu of my brothers, sister or cousins. His family has fought by their side as honourably as yours." The words aren't a reproach so much as recognition from one side of Salisbury to the other of kinships under threat, a shared faith and quiet consolation. "If we go, I follow your lead gladly. Though I release him from his bond that he might rest, I so too would not deny him right to fulfill his duty should he wish." A pause follows as she glances to the bench. "I doubt the space will be here 'ere we return. Give me leave to carry or aid you donning that, at least, and we can be done."

The basket is retrieved as Braelynn moves to stand. She gives Sir Elrick a grateful glance, and says to Eirian, "I am content to do whatever you are most comfortable with, Lady Eirian. If his presence makes you feel safer then I would be grateful for his willingness to join us. With this she begins to move toward the exit of the tavern, glancing over her shoulder to assure she is being followed.

It's not that Bryn is heading into the tavern, she's just happening to be heading past it at the right time. She's looking about as nervous as a whore in church or a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Truly, she's expecting something back to leap from the shadows at her and go BOOOO. At which point she may drop dead in fright.

At the mention of his bond being released, Elrick immediately shakes his head, choosing the option to maintain the duty he had sworn himself to, "Rest can come later, My Lady Eirian, but thank you for your concern." Unless what she just brewed for him will knock him off his feet in a few minutes, the Laverstock Knight has full intentions to accompany the two ladies to a place of their choosing. "If you wish to assist me in the chainmail, it will be much appreciated." He had intended to carry it with him on his back, though it would be a bit more awkward since he did not properly pack armor set. It will take a few moments for him to slip the reinforced chained mail over his head along with the padded leathers, serving as a barrier between metal and man. With Eirian's assistance though, the straps, buckles, and fastenings would have been snuggly tightened. Then the sword belt is wrapped around his waist, with the final piece, the kite shield, slung over his back. Ready to depart, he leads the way for the two ladies, pushing the door open and holding it for them, just as Bryn passing by a few feet away.

With a sideways step she moves to allow the knight to exit ahead of her, and then moving to follow. Her mood is somber, but the day has been so heartbreaking in so many ways that this is one more task she must do before she rests. She reaches up to push a curl that has flopped in her eyes behind one ear, and it is only then that she notices the burn on her own hand rising in angry red blisters. A sigh escapes, and a glance is given to Eirian. The smell of smoke in the street is acrid, and it causes her to cough, her eyes watering as she does.

The familiar hair and face of Eirian is caught out of the corner of Bryn's eyes, and she turns around towards the woman. She waits to make sure that it is indeed who she thinks that it is. Once certain she starts to hurry in the direction of those exiting the tavern, a relieved look provided the group, "Lady Eirian!"

The marks of Eirian's travails over the past day are harder to spot; the blood stiff on her hitched skirts, the dust and soot on her boots, the bruises unseen in immaterial substance of self. Cholderton leads Burcombe, secured by Laverstock; three children of three pagan houses, Cymri as surely as the Newton lady is. She touches the cloak pin at her throat and speaks a word, the sound echoing in a fluid murmur to Braelynn. "Then?" Then a summons wrenches its way through the tide, though not the benediction from a source anticipated. Her gait falters, though not enough to throw her into disarray. Long fingers fall to the side, winter-bright eyes following the natural course that brings Bryn into focus. Recognition flares, sooner or later. "Lady Bryn?" She starts to ask a question, one pinched belatedly. The answer is probably as apparent as the inquiry, why she is here. "May you be kept safely this night of flame and smoke. We seem to be kittens roosted from the loft." It might be an odd image to conjure, but it's the best she has. "Sir Elrick, Lady Braelynn, she is an old friend."

Hearing Eirian's name called out, Elrick's attention shifts to the source of that voice, only to see another wayward lady reuniting with a familiar face, especially one claimed as an old friend by the Burcombe maiden herself. The knight, with his helm tucked under his arm, offers Lady Bryn a respectful bow of his head, courtesy still present despite the current city's somber mood. "Pleased to see another friend of Lady Eirian safe. In times like these, there nothing more soothing to the heart than this." Though the mood still hangs heavy, as the dark news that Braelynn is to deliver has not been done yet.

A polite, but strained smile is directed toward Bryn, with the requisite nod of her head. Even in times such as this Braelynn remembers what is expected of a lady, though her heart is simply not in it. She speaks up in offering to Bryn, "Please, join us. When things are difficult it is often soothing to have our oldest and dearest friends nearby." This is more than an offer really, it's a plea, and that much is obvious.

"Oh…Eirian." Bryn looks at the state that her friend is in, worry evident, but she bites her bottom lip to hold off on anything else she might have said. The two with her friend get a smile, and a curtsey despite the situation. Then she just gives Braelyn a very, very worried about how she phrases things. "I will certainly be more than happy to walk with you to where you are going."

Success
Eirian checked her Proud of 16, she rolled 3.

Smoke still hangs in the air and, given the groans and distant cries, lives too. Eirian's throat works under the layers of cloth and stiff woven linen, the lone betrayal short of her firming jawline. Whatever mask she wore upon descending to greet Elrick is firmly in place, the stark tint of her eyes clear and the line of her mouth neutral in its resolution. Whatever else, the weight of the impending news does not afflict her soprano voice in the least. "You are like the first crocuses after the snow melt," she tells Bryn sotto voce, an encouragement as any. Her arm opens to her side slightly, a mute invitation to pull in. "Lady Braelynn, you must not suffer under your burden. Speak freely and know I hold you in esteem now as I will after." For a moment, the thousand league stare might see all the way to the Pictish fortresses or Lot's Orkney castles, or peer into the fate of the Byzantine emperor. A blink, the moment passes.

Elrick is leaving the decision on their destination, or to remain where they, to the ladies. For now, the knight has lapse into silence, perhaps taking up the mantle of escort in a more formal manner. His gaze does fix on Eirian, clearly noticing the mask she wears on her exterior and his heart goes to her. But this is all done in silence, as social decorum dictates, something he dares not stray from at this very moment. As the Burcombe reiterates her words, one spoken with strength to the others, and perhaps even to herself, his gaze shifts to Braelynn to see if she wishes to alleviate the heavy burden she carries right now.

As Elrick stops in a slightly less populated area of the city Braelynn takes a deep breath and turns to Eirian. Her movements are awkward, and tears are welling in her own eyes. She confesses to Lady Eirian, "One of the Burcombe cousins fell in battle today. I do not know his name, as we've never been introduced, but I've seen him often enough with Sir Caerwyn. The squires brought him to me, but his wounds were too grievous. There's nothing I could do to save him. I'm so very sorry. He fought valiantly to the end, Lady Eirian, if you find any comfort in that."

When Eirian holds her arm out Bryn moves towards her, giving her friend what is meant to be a reassuring hug. But then Braelynn breaks the bad news, and she lets that hug linger. In fact, she braces herself in case Eirian might swoon or something, a horrified look crossing over her face, "Oh my lord." She murmurs, glancing up at her friend, then towards the other two before she targets the knight, "Do ''you'' know who it was?"

Name it what you will, the dusky-haired maiden cursed by the Morrigan's wings stands straight and composed in the soundless buffeting of wings. She listens to Braelynn, and the words reach her, processed at some alacrity given the rapid dilation of her pupils and the wintry complexion losing even its roseate smudges at her cheeks. To her credit, Eirian cuts right down to the core as she ceases to move altogether. "Dark of hair, hazel eyes tending to grey?" A pause lingers, only a moment. "Or green and bearded, still young?"

And into that void, so plummets the final cast in shadow. "Was Sir Caerwyn with him he died?"

With his hand resting on the pommel of the his sheathed blade, when Elrick hears the bad news, his hand tightens around the rounded surface. He can only look back to Eirian with obvious concern, even that he cannot hide, not schooled well enough to do so. When a question is directed at him though, the Laverstock Knight can only shake his head, "Apologies My Lady, I was within the walls with the defending force. I had no sight of the Burcombe Knight that had fallen in battle." Then he looks back to Eirian, dipping his head slightly, "I'm very sorry for the news, Lady Eirian."

A simple answer is given to the first of the questions, though a slight shiver moves through Braelynn as she tries to remember his face as he was in the moments before his death. "There was a touch of grey to his hair, Lady Eirian." She stops for a moment for the news to sink in before she continues, "The battle was fierce. There were so many fallen on both sides. Sir Caerwyn was fighting for his own life." She reaches a hand out to rest on Eirian's arm, "I was with him. He was in no pain at the end."

"But…what did he look like?" Since Eirian seems to want to know what the fallen knight looked like she's going to ask again, this time the person that was there. She doesn't move from her friends side though, her hand lightly rubbing at her friends arm, offering her as much support as she can given the situation. She then pauses, "Where any Newton Knights harmed…?" (Bryn)

Success
Eirian checked her proud of 16, she rolled 13.

Eirian might sway to that breeze, were her spine not momentarily replaced by silver and the slow creep of her height to its fullest stature. Her poise is not quite rigid or tense, that strange counterbalance curving her spine slightly as she presses her palm against her tailbone. If Bryn proves strong enough, she might even sway the young woman; it's hard to be certain. A line forms between her brows, banished away a moment as wheels turn and plots taken shape mark her indelibly. Smoke gone to shreds blots stars in the Maytime sky and the promise of warmth on the morrow might be lost in the cooler night. Summer still has yet to fully sink in. "Maelgwyn." Confirmation lilts from her voice fairly tonelessly, as she shuts her eyes a moment. They reopen a moment later, meeting none. "I thank you for seeing him peacefully to our father's feet." And so might the lines be drawn. She's speaking of her own brother, in that twilit, fey fashion of hers.

Seeing that Braelynn may be having trouble recalling the fallen Burcombe's description, Elrick can understand why but he must be gentle in framing his words, "Lady Bryn, perhaps the Lady Braelynn can tell us if they have prepared his body to be sent home?" This way, if allowed, Eirian would be able to view the body, and accompany the escort home. "She must have seen so many faces of fallen and wounded knights, tending to them. I am sure her mind is a jumble right now." However, the Laverstock falls completely silent when he hears the Burcombe maiden speak the name of her oldest brother. His head dips, chin almost touching the top of his chainmail and dirty Laverstock surcoat. To lose a brother…

A glance is given toward Elrick at his words, "There were others in need of healing. I…" and this is where Braelynn's voice falters, "The fires… I didn't stay with him after he passed on. A pair of Steeple Langford knights fell shortly after and we were needed. We were unable to save the female."

Pale green eyes move toward Bryn as she inquires to the fate of the Newton knights. She gives a brief shake of her head and says, "Not that I'm aware of, but I've heard tale of fighting in other parts of the city simultaneously. I expect it will be a few days before everyone is accounted for and the true number of deaths are known." Worry creases her brow as she thinks of all those she cares about and she lifts two fingers to her lips and kisses them, pressing her fingers to her heart in silent prayer to the gods for their safety.

Bryn's teeth catch on her bottom lip, all the faces of her family flickering through her mind before she just throws her arms around Eirian, regardless of propriety, to give her a hug, "I am so terribly sorry." She whispers to her friend, giving her the fiercest hug her little, scrawny arms back manage.

Eirian nods slowly, though any wagers she hears Braelynn clearly are dubious ones at best. The smooth mask of her face conceals any minor fissures, though the near translucency of her complexion shines ghostly fair in the dimness. Her fingers move to ward off evil mechanically, a dip of her chin at least acknowledging something. Sarum's stone walls might as well not be there for all she continues to stare past them into the abyss of Annwn. Then the balance tips her sideways, pulled into Bryn's hug, though how she returns it is by pure rote. "No Saxons took Sarum. It is something." A gentle pat to the Newton lady's forearm is strange consolation but grief is a many-headed dragon to slay and hers is not the raging, fire-breathing monster or the earth-rattling wyrm. It broods, a seaborne terror come silently to the shore to drown out everything under cover of frozen night. All air and darkness, she gives Elrick a fixated look for several seconds. Not the sort to swoon, it ought to be plain to at least the knight and noblewoman who know her to any degree Eirian simply isn't there, not the way they might recognize, but in some small corner of herself. Probably the sort to go decide to traipse off and climb a tower right this moment or dance on a tor to music no one else can hear. A mouthful of ashes and a deadly light in her shining ideas, the intensity there and purely divorced from the maelstrom.

As more names followed, Elrick recognizes the Steeple Langford name, it was only a month or two ago that they had exchanged blunted blades on friendly terms, in the King's Tourney. Now, to be cut is real, it is no game they play when in battle. A moment of silence offered to the fallen Knights, the Laverstock finally raises his head. "Lady Braelynn, thank you for sharing the news with us. It must have been such a heavy burden for you to carry, especially after an exhausting day where you were saving lives. It is true that the numbers may climb when a true tally is done, but for now, we pray for the best." When Eirian mentions that the Saxons did not take Sarum, Elrick nods his head grimly in agreement, his eyes locked with hers for those moments.

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