(514-06-22) The Sarum Stratagem
Summary: House Stapleford ends up bound in a roundabout way to a bold new initiative.
Date: 514-06-22
Related: Other Sarum Stratagem logs as they appear.
eirian gaius 

The Night at the Boar's Beard progresses, the musicians and bards getting drunker and drunker until their Bovine Based lyrics are incomprehensible. Around the time they replaced the word Horny with Humping and started to refer to the Cows as simply Gaius, he decided to duck out less he get in trouble for trying to behead an innocent citizen of Salisbury. Gaius pushes out of the press of the bar to the nearby well where he tugs the bucket of water to the top so that he can wash off the dirt and mud that caused more then a few to regard him as a simple peasant. "God help me… I would rather be fighting Saxons…" he mumbles as he checks his ears to make sure he isn't bleeding out of them.

The man turns back to look over at the bar as patrons flow in and out, and catches sight of a trio of women departing. His eyes narrow, remembering the handmaidens who tugged away the noblewoman who had a far to familiar grin and smile.

What a night, that men and women should be so entertained by the horrible performances of bad ale, cheap drink, and stress. Innocence can only restrain sense so long. Eirian has long been absent of the great room, pulled out by Ffionn in a storm of laughing that actually tipped towards helpless coughing in the amusement. Clearly no harm, no foul, but the pair of them set out to find a breath of freshened air and recovered composure. What becomes a conversation with another Sarum resident lasts a reasonably long time, delaying the return somewhat. Such might it be difficult to spot when the girl with white roses in her hair makes her appearance.

Gaius might be well out the door as Eirian slips back in, Ffionn elbowing a rather drunk fellow out of the way. "Move aside!" The Cymric woman snarls a sound that isn't consecrated at all. "Man, you smell like a bloody stable." It isn't Gaius, at least.

Indeed it isn't Gaius as he didn't drink more then a single tankard of ale inside the tavern. Perhaps he feared he would join in on the singing and contribute to his own unknowing mocking. The drunk bristles at the pushy and uppity Ffionn, as he had just enough to drink to get into a fighting mood. "Oht you say to me?" he says in a slur as he leans into the doorway, blocking their return even more. Gaius soon intercedes, "Helfyen! You dog! Going after the young girls. Oh you. Get back in there and drink one for me." he says and slaps a coin into the man's chest before he turns him around with a little twist of his hand and boots him back into the bar. The man is shocked enough he can only manage "My name ain't —" before he is consumed by the celebration and commotion of the bar. The drunk is removed, though the stable smell likely remains. Gaius has spent the better part of the day working along the walls and gates of the city, setting them to repair before the next attack. Mud and sweat are more his attire then Stapleford colors, but the water he recently cleaned with now shows off his black, white and gold. He turns sharply on Ffionn and Eirian. "So Lady of the Woods. Where did you find that troupe that is now blasting from floor to ceiling speaking of my penchant to cavort with lusty bovines?"

The drunk at the door isn't welcome by anyone trying to get in or leave. He presents a barrier, and the pressure at both ends of the Boar's Beard will eventually eject him. Gaius' intervention in this case is a wise thing since no man worthy of his salt — or smoke — is willing to block others from reaching their ale. Surely.

"Hello, Sir Stapleford," dryly comments the hooded girl from behind the shorter Welsh woman; nut brown and dark haired, Ffionn stands out compared to the paler Cymric noblewoman. Through dirt and dust, those familiar features might be standing out. Repairs are apace outside, but the two of them are marginally cleaner after their long delay in the marketplace. Shaking out her loose hair, not commonly bound into waist-length plaits yet, Eirian steps aside to allow others to move in and out. "Cavort? Troupe? You are surely mistaken to believe I had any hand in that task."

"No I imagine not, likely sent off one of your min—.." he starts and eyes the Welsh woman, and has a sense it might not be a good idea to call her minion with her standing right there. "Ahem… helpful… ladies in waiting." He clearly doesn't want to feel what its like to have a fiery welsh girl test if your jaw is glass or not. "But you expect me to believe you had no hand in this? Hrmph…" He is clearly not buying it. There is no possible way these awful singers would be allowed to entertain a bar without some kind of patron of influence! "And regardless of that. I found no Lights to the west when I went out that way, even after the snows had melted and the land became more amenable to my presence…" That time in the woods a few months ago is recalled. At least this time he is not demanding her name, content with Lady of the Woods.

Ffionn arches her eyebrows a little, and then makes a sound akin to disbelief. "I leave you with this one, and will bring you water, Lady." She is pragmatism to the ethereal creature's lack thereof, and pats her almost delicately on the arm. "Should he give you any trouble, raise your voice. Half my kinsmen will be on the doorstep within two shakes of a lamb's tail." Of course, the Welsh have all manner of wretched enchantments at their disposal — as much as they do terrible sheep jokes and phrases.

The question of lights caused the Burcombe girl a moment of pause. She brushes her fingers around the oval of her face, starting at her brow and traipsing down to her pointed chin on a distinct lunar curve. It matches the silver arc on her forehead, that bit of metal suspended from a fine chain. "You are less than pleased by the insufferable tunes of musicians? I cannot imagine why you would be ecstatic to hear them. They are terrible, and did an offense against all our ears. More rarefied ones would be horrified." Laughter rumples through the words, light brushes of sound. "Your presence is well amenable. Come, then, let us find a seat so I need not tarry on the threshold. It is hardly comfortable."

The Stapleford watches as the Welsh woman departs, shaking his head. "You keep rather interesting company, so is she another you found in the cold and shadows of the wood? Though it seems more likely she found you. But now I question what a noble woman of Salisbury was doing in the darkness of the night on the eve of winter…" Despite Ffionn seeming to play the part of defender, Gaius has a thought that Eirian is not as helpless as she might let on. He looks back to the entrance of the tavern where the drunken singing continues, punctuated by hiccups, burps and the occasional belch and vomit. Gaius can only wince. "I remember a day when I was also as bad. Of course I was ten years younger, and those men are likely ten years my senior. I thought with age came wisdom and experience?"

He moves away from the hearth of the tavern as another drunken group departs. He takes a seat at bench from across the tavern, so that if Eirian does wish to scream her companions can easily hear her. "In truth I did not find any Will-O-Wisps… though I caught sight of something far more interesting. A great hound…" he says and produces a slip of papyrus where the sketch and scratching of a drawing has been laid out. A great beast of canine origin, muscled and worn old with scars of battles and hunts. In the corner a small Cross has also been sketch where the Stapleford man has scrawled the motto of his house. "Do any hunters to your manor hunt with such beasts?" He would think not.

"Something to that effect, albeit in far less a lovely state than I found you." Speaking of Ffionn, her handmaiden, the willowy young woman rolls her delicate shoulders. "Her people know a great deal of the old ways, traditions long forgotten by those dwelling in the city. I would not put it past her to have kenning for mending inebriation and dressing deer to life." The light, playful tone rings with an ebullient haze warmed over repeatedly by the intonations of Latin and Cymric together. Her back to the wall, she is in little danger of being knocked about. "Wisdom is a byproduct of experience. Any of an age might hold it, provided they attempt to act and exist in the world. I am not the sort to believe a man sheltered entirely from the world possesses the wisdom of one who spends five or six decades engaged, but then there is something to be said for another kind of knowledge." Heavy conversation for an overstuffed tavern, to be sure.

The sketch will prompt her to lean forward as she considers the image. A canine beast is given a quick once over. "The hounds of Annwn? There are beasts a-plenty known through this region, from Cornwall to the Orkney Isles. It would be difficult to suppose that one of them fits this more than the other. Colour? Quality? Does it evoke fear or bay in the cry of a child?"

You check your faerielore at 15, you rolled 9.

Gaius checked his faerielore of 10, he rolled 12.

Gaius checked his deceitful of 10, he rolled 7.

Gaius clearly shows his limited knowledge of the fae, as the famous hounds of Annwn escaped his mind when he first saw the beast. "Dark fur… black as night. Matted and knotted as if it had recently woken from a slumber. It did not see me, and something called it away." he says as he hands over the sketch so she can examine it better. He seemed to have gotten a long look at the creature, as he detailed the many scars and contours of flesh and muscle. He sniffs slightly looking away, "I had no sense of fear when I saw it." He lies.

"After it had departed I approached the ground it stalked and found the body are a massive stag. Larger then I have ever seen. I had little time to examine the fallen beast though as the hound howled in the distance and was joined by others in its cry. At that point I found it was best to return to civilization." A knight could hardly be faulted for retreating from the presence of a Hound of Shadow. Could he?

You check your Intrigue at 10, you rolled 18.

"The Cu-Sith take many forms. Yours is possible, of course, but they are not the Cwn Annwn." Flashing a faint smile, the young woman settles with admirable poise in her body, taut lines of carriage defined by firm shoulders, straight spine. Her feet press together and sweep beneath the bench, demurely concealed by the long stirring of her midnight cloak. "Knotted fur is not indicative of anything in particular by a species. How you might see the cuts here and here…" She points to the image, drawing her finger along the bottom and the sides. "That would tell me the coat must be short and rather wiry, like a wolfhound's. It is possible you encountered an actual hound rather than a beast of the Otherworld. Particularly given they are given to roam and bitches can be cast out if they whelp too often or by unknown parentage. Much as it is for ladies of households committed to especially pure bloodlines." A social commentary or idle words?

She drapes her fingertips along her knees, leaning forward slightly to measure different features. "Others answered. A bay, yelp, howl, cry? Can you approximate it? I would be willing to hear it."

A suppressed 'hmm' is let out when she comments it is possibly just an ordinary beast, the disappointment in his sounds nearly impossible to hide. How delightful and wonderful it would be if he came upon one of those great hounds of another world. Perhaps he would finally find those answers he seeks. More likely he would only find the questions he doesn't know to ask. He leans back in thought, running a hand over his jawline before sweeping it back through his hair. The possible social commentary or idle words do not slip by unnoticed. If Eirian has bothered she might know of the man's questionable heritage and that some whisper, always behind his back, he likely has some barbarian Saxon or demonic Hunnish blood in him. "Hear it…? You wish me to howl to the moon like the hound I saw?" he seems… skeptical. There is no way he could match the sound, this is likely more mischief from the woman.

Just an ordinary. Or extraordinary if it is real, different from her own kenning. Eirian touches her finger to the corner of the page. "Though not impossible, I merely caution you against assuming the intrusion of the Otherworld when the most simple of explanations applies." Those strange, pale blue eyes of hers drink down the light into themselves. She blots her tongue against her lips and nods, then checks the busy crowd for Ffionn to see whether anything originates from that corner.

"A timbre need not be accurate. The sound of a bay is not the same. An approximation will do." She then straightens up. Whatever he might think, if he tried to look into the Burcombe family's reputation, it would be absolutely unsurprising no doubt to discover what sorts of fell background chase them around.

"I have a feeling the next song I hear will be about Gaius and his love of barking…" He looks at her, trying assess her intention with her suggestion to bark and bay in the manner of the hound he saw. He leans forward and sighs, gathering some breath in the center of his chest as he then leans back and tilts his head upwards to let out a low howl. He cuts it short though, less some passing drunkards join them in some possible impromptu game where the core rules require howling. "Like that." he crosses his arms, hoping the woman has enough to judge the character of the beast. His emerald gaze falls upon the woman to see if she is trying to hold back a laugh or truly trying to examine the howl he just gave.

"That would be untoward. No one wishes to see your name entirely defamed." Entirely. Partially. Fully? The languid tumble of noise around them builds to the conversations and a fresh platter of venison carried out, slabs carved off and chunked up for the willing plates. Coins are exchanged, wenches working to delivering up the orders to the chorus of encouragement. Eirian wants none of the above, and she raises a hand to fend off an inquiry by the barely audible wench approaching with trenchers of bread. The howl apparently was mistaken as a summons of some sort, and the quizzical look on the poor woman's face mirrors the slightly focused, keen sharpness to the Lady of the Woods' own visage.

"Like so. No wavering, not 'AoOoooOoOOOoo' but more like 'Aooooo.' Is that correct?" A pause follows for his reply.

When the serving wench is summoned by his cry Gaius puts a hand to his face as he seems to be doing a wonderful job of soiling his own reputation entirely by himself. "No.. no… nothing for us. Go to the Welsh lot, I am sure they will appreciate it." he says as he rubs his eyes, "You're machinations are diabolical indeed. Does Lucifer whisper to you in your sleep?" he teases Eirian a bit as he suggests she cavorts with the opposite to the White God. "There was a wavering… at least the first howl wavered. The second howl responded with something longer, more solid, more substantial." He looks up into the night sky, "It wasn't night…" he suddenly remembers, as if that is important.

Soiling his reputation is better than soiling his pants. It is known. Gaius might have reason to complain at any rate, his mistreatment entirely the byproduct of the misfortune of knowing her. If it is misfortunate at all. "Lucifer Morningstar whispers nothing to me, though I would contend he has the very worst role in the White God's play. He must be sent to the furthest reaches of existence for his light to shine brightly and send the word of his god there. He is required to be blamed for all ills, a scapegoat if there ever was one. Why then would he seek to speak with one such as I?" Her lips press together, thoughtful expression descending upon the fey heart of her face. A quick recovery as her thoughts gallop away. "I could tell him a great deal, but then we would both be sullied by association. Him for questioning a pagan, I for interrupting such a poor soul as his. It was not night that you encountered these things? Hmm."

Every knight would surely agree that a soiling of one's pants is one of the worst outcomes of any situation. It makes battle very difficult and it makes calling yourself a noble knight even harder. "It is Lucifer's nature to deceive though, if he did whisper to you, you might not even know it. Perhaps I am his avatar and whisper to you now. Deflecting your thoughts and mind away to such delights as great hounds and other worlds." His cross is clasped in hand, and he waits for a heartbeat for it to starting burning and rebuking his presence. Of course that does not happen, as the Fallen One does not sit on a bench conversing with a pagan about Faeries. "Though now I wonder what you would whisper back to such a wretched soul… And no it was not night. Mid morning, the sun was not at the apex of the sky but enough light spilled over the lands to illuminate all."

Soiling pants is a nuisance for squires to deal with. Nearly every knight has his squire, and they can deal with the logistics of getting shit out of linen or wool. Certainly the likes of the Lady of the Wood do nothing of the sort. "Lucifer deceives, but why ever try to deceive one such as I? I have no intimate understanding of his plight. What, would he malign me so I worship the White God and turn from my own faith?" Her head tilts at this notion. "Surely know you our beliefs permit an understanding that the White God exists, though not as the only variation. Some holds all gods are one god, all goddesses one goddess, and both of them part of a singular being greatest in all creation. That is not so far from the stories told in the churches. But nevertheless, how can I be lead away based on an angel of your faith if I never belonged to it? Most curious. Am I immune then?" She touches her fingertips to her brow at the moon, cresting around to the corner of her eye, palm resting upon her chin. "I have no fear, Sir Stapleford, that you seek to misguide me fully from a path. That is a part of learning."

"You just answered your own question. If all beliefs are one in the same, or all beliefs live in some kind of harmony in an image similar to our very own Salisbury, perhaps a creature such as the Fallen One can reach across faith and myth to affect both pagan and Christian alike…" The talk has now shifted to religion, away from the musing of mythical and fantastical beasts. "Furthermore, if an angel revealed itself to you… black or white wings it matters not, would you not have to re-evaluate your faith? In the same manner if one of your old gods pulled himself from the bark of an ancient tree. I imagine I would have to re-evaluate my own spiritual standing. Or at least proclaim it some kind of trick." He assumes a similar posture as Eirian, hand to chin, thinking.

"Perchance it can, though if I pay the fallen one no heed, then the question becomes whether or not that power extends. Faith by rights is a matter of personal conviction. The one I give no voice is powerless against me by my thoughts elsewhere?" Her fingertips twirl around in light circles. The thought tumbles off away from the realm of the fae and back to the realm of angels. "In some beliefs, the fae refused to abide by the rebellious angels or those faithful and such are fallen to the earth in a kind of purgatory. When Judgment comes, so shall they rise and be redeemed their ends. So then whether their wings are made of down or feathers, moss or wind, they are thought to be accounted in the church. Peculiar, is it not? If this were the case, why does my faith not encompass the angels and the demons and devils of your faith as spirits of the Otherworld set to tempt mortals, to aid them, or to be the servants and greater hosts to the gods? It would be a very strange thing indeed to honour one and not the other."

"Faith…" he chews on the word, perhaps feeling his faith challenged by talking with this rather interesting pagan woman. He glances around for a moment, less some drunkard is leaning a bit to closely… or the local bishop just so happens to be passing by and hopes to congregate with the faithful. While the Pope is not on the Isles of Briton… his reach extends far, and the Staplefords seemed to have settled just a bit from the Holy Divine's fingertips so they may manager their own. "I believe Faith is the wrong way to look at it. For if you were to stand up now and spread feathered wings before me, I could no longer consider my belief in Angels as faith. It would be reality… in the same way as if you saw a Wisp of Light or a great hound of the other world. It is no longer faith, it is reality. Is it not? Perhaps that is why people do not venture so far from their homestead, into the wilds and darkness of the weald. They do not want their faith tested."

No doubt she may be an upsetting figure to spar with a bishop or a cardinal who can run circles around her with theology. No doubt they might willing to hang Eirian or let her be torn apart like Hypatia of Alexandria. Mobs are ugly things even in Britannia. Her legs cross at the ankle, and she listens to Gaius with keen interest probably bordering upon the point of sheer discomfort. "There is faith and reality. Things seen being as they are and not your own interpretation. It is easy for me to ascribe great healing powers on a cauldron known to mend even the worst wounds. We may not know why. It could be the use of the cauldron with a powerful herb remedies those ailments. It could be the brewer is a god or the cauldron itself is a gift of the great father of the earth or Bran or the Dagda or Christos. We walk hard paths when we are asked to testify to a truth unfamiliar to us, and again, the mind's nature is ascribing the simplest way of managing the story if at all possible. We cleave to what our personal experience makes possible to understand."

"And what if we have no experience… what if there is no comprehensible explanation and only miracle remains? Lazarus rising from the dead? Jesus be— " he stops short, the man going silent immediately as he broaches onto blasphemy. His toes tease the threshold but he does not cross it. A pagan such as Eirian might be given some leeway, waved off as ignorance or barbarity. But a Knight of a noble Manor? A Knight sword to god, to Jesus, and to St. Michael and his eternal duty? There are different fates that meet those such as Gaius who test their faith. He doesn't finish the previous sentence, but he continues to dance on that threshold. "If only miracles remain. Would you want to know the answer? Would you want your faith tested…?" he asks. If Gaius expresses discomfort at her intense gaze, he does not show it. He is a Christian man who is set to the wilds and the outskirts of civilization more then most of his kind. Any gaze from another human can sometimes be welcome and refreshing, even if it questions and probes.

"Miracle is the touchstone and foundation of your faith. Is that not the premise of faith, to believe? To accept this is possible? Reality is a blurred thing through our lens. Suppose I am no Pict or Saxon, as you can see. I have to assume certain things about them. That they are human and care about the same things as do I," explains the slender creature, all air and darkness in a sparkling shadow. "I did not see Jesus die. I have not witnessed a man brought from total death. You are taught these are things you would believe because they happened and the witnesses are trustworthy. Would I deny it? No. For some this would be heresy of a kind. I think not, but then I am but a silly girl and not a churchman. Nearly a priestess, and faithful to my beliefs, but also flexible enough to believe that your saints are people blessed of faith; that your god is a great power, an aspect of the god himself, and the masculine divinity. Of course." She touches her fingertips to her brow again, an effortless gesture made in the past. "I would. Show me the truth of the world. Am I wrong? Are my gods not gods at all, but heroes? Are there no such things? I could be entirely mislead and would rather the tests of faith to show me the way. If miracles are all there are, to demonstrate to me what truly is, bring them. I will experience them, question myself, and grow."

He goes silent, painfully silent. For a moment he was watching her, drinking in her words, and then he looks forward. He stares at a single cobblestone as he thinks. He doesn't provide his own answer on if he would want his own faith tested. Perhaps he is afraid of the answer, that it will rock the foundation of his already rocky faith. And perhaps that would be the final stone for his family to cast him out, though they have never hinted or threatened to do anything like that. He then… smiles… and laughs. "Tell me… how does such a conversation take such an interesting and winding paths. We start with lusty and golden bovines, fat and desirable for the fields. And end on the very foundations of faith and religion." His laugh dies down to a chuckle and he shakes his head. "Quite an interesting journey we have had this night… Lady of the Woods. Though now that we are in a city, is it Lady of the City? It doesn't have the same ring to it… I must declare."

Foundations are what they are. He is free to explore his. Perhaps the revelation is that his faith is not up to the test will compel action or bring comfort, in a sense. For others, the news would be a terror beyond words and must be avoided.

"Lusty and black bovines. The spotted one for you, the red one for another man." So she pays attention after all. Her hands rotate over the hinge of her knee and lock there, comfortable enough. Laughter is a welcome thing; Eirian's eyes dance in the moment then, giving him the response of equal shared mirth. "Religion, faith and cows all go together. Sacred cows, holy sacrifices, and the delicious wonders of a good roast. See why every town has a remarkably good inn, usually?" Her head inclines slightly to the query. "I am still the Lady of the Wood, even in the city. I would not wish to be the Lady of Sarum. That means our good Earl and his wife, the Countess, are lost."

His chuckles die down into a final more somber expression. He glances to her one more time with a serious air and seems about to say something. That she must never speak of this conversation, or his name and reputation will truly be in tatters, likely the reputation of his family will also be brought low. But he doesn't say anything. Perhaps he trusts her, or does not wish to insult by implying she did not already figure that out.

He chokes out another laugh, "You and your cows…" he says as his lips pull into a smile. "All the Knights of Salisbury are here now to see that Earl Robert and his lovely wife are not and never will be lost to us. Though I wish the bulk of us arrived faster…" More lives would have been spared, perhaps the Saxons never would have attacked if there were more Knights in the city. But at this point it is a historical what-if and it seems he will keep his questions to that of fantasy and religion for the night. "Shall I escort you back to the tavern, or would you wish to give a cry and see how quickly the Welsh try to catch me to batter my head in?"

His chuckles die down into a final more somber expression. He glances to her one more time with a serious air and seems about to say something. That she must never speak of this conversation, or his name and reputation will truly be in tatters, likely the reputation of his family will also be brought low. But he doesn't say anything. Perhaps he trusts her, or does not wish to insult by implying she did not already figure that out.

He chokes out another laugh, "You and your cows…" he says as his lips pull into a smile. "All the Knights of Salisbury are here now to see that Earl Robert and his lovely wife are not and never will be lost to us. Though I wish the bulk of us arrived faster…" More lives would have been spared, perhaps the Saxons never would have attacked if there were more Knights in the city. But at this point it is a historical what-if and it seems he will keep his questions to that of fantasy and religion for the night. "Shall I escort you back to the tavern, or would you wish to give a cry and see how quickly the Welsh try to catch me to batter my head in?"

"I can assure you, the way the girl.. Ffionn was it? The way she guarded you, a word is the only reason she needs. And I am sure her word is the only reason her fellow compatriots need. It is good have to such comrades and friends." More drunks filter out of the tavern setting off to home after a night of cavorting and celebrating another day alive and a siege lifted. He smiles and enjoys the sound of folk making merry and feeling free enough to enjoy themselves, bad singing and all. "Well then my Lady I must set out. I have some duties beyond the wall to tend to in Stapleford tradition. Until next we meet, and please choose a better troupe to test your compositions…" he says. He will not let that conspiracy die down, as he is sure those musicians are in her pocket book.

"I can assure you, the way the girl.. Ffionn was it? The way she guarded you, a word is the only reason she needs. And I am sure her word is the only reason her fellow compatriots need. It is good have to such comrades and friends." More drunks filter out of the tavern setting off to home after a night of cavorting and celebrating another day alive and a siege lifted. He smiles and enjoys the sound of folk making merry and feeling free enough to enjoy themselves, bad singing and all. "Well then my Lady I must set out. I have some duties beyond the wall to tend to in Stapleford tradition. Until next we meet, and please choose a better troupe to test your compositions…" he says. He will not let that conspiracy die down, as he is sure those musicians are in her pocket book.

"Well, next I meet Hadrian at the old Roman meetings I will make sure to tell him their resistance is still as fierce as ever…" the Knight says, playing off his name a bit as he adjusts his surcoat and checks his blade. It is unlikely he is about to march out the gate in no armor and no attendants, but it is clear he is departing soon. He glances at her and chuckles, "I always do have people asking what I mean when I say that. And I always find it interesting to see their reactions." he says as he turns towards the walls of Sarum, motioning past them. "The Saxons came upon the city fast. Many made it to safety in the walls. A few did not. Run down in their fields and homesteads. Their bodies now lay out in the wilderness threatened by carrion eaters and other unsavory lot. Some workers were lamenting to me of this situation and I vowed to assist them. I figure at night most of the beasts of the forest will be asleep, and the beasts of men will be busy preparing for their next attack."

"The wall holds. He cannot complain for the lack of duty about us," says the young woman thoughtfully. She reaches up and pulls her hood down to cover her hair. Attendants for a woman are not required, though rare enough around these parts. Ladies of quality have them, anyways. Not all of them. "Many have perished for Sarum's freedom. Their blood and the tears shed for them are the legacy of this land. It would not be a terrible thing to say that you rebuilt the walls and strengthened the city as you could in the way best suited to your abilities. Take no shame from it, as it will be sung in the ages how the city did not collapse in this year."

Gaius checked his deceitful of 10, he rolled 2.

He finally sees her unhooded, though her face was never truly obscured from him. He raises an eyebrow at her words, "Are you trying to sway me from my quest now my Lady? Saying that having helped rebuild the walls and the gate were enough? I assure you I do not lament any failure to Sarum. I go to retrieve the dead for their souls." That is a lie, at least a partial lie. "I do it for their families. As they should never have to suffer the pain of the unknown and the worry for their loved ones." That is more the truth.

You check your proud at 7, you rolled 6.

No, he's a Stapleford. He goes to eat their souls. Eirian's shoulders tighten slightly and her chin lifts, the black shadow a tidal wave through her cornflower eyes. The irises flicker a darker shade enough. "I should not sway you," she replies slowly, and every word is rounded off with the expertise of a lost designer of Ionic columns, their stately perfection shining in the Mediterranean sun. A long way from the balmy spring evening on the threshold of summer, where the scars of a ravaging still lie in place. "Verily? And what would you do for those dead? Is it but the Christian ones you will bury or aught else?"

They only eat the tasty souls. The other ones, the ones that are gamey and hard to chew and swallow, they rise up to do their bidding. He sees he has struck a cord with her, and he watches her closely seeing that hard iron start to form in her eyes and in her spine. "The Christians shall be buried, if I find them with Cross." he admits, "As for others. Shall I work a ritual? Give proper tribute and offerings to the right old gods?" he glances around and clears his throat. "In the place of their families of course, not out of my own worship."

The young woman shakes her head, jaw tightening a fraction. "It is a mercy to see them buried, and I imagine that you ought to speak with the Earl about that. Some remain in the fields yet but I imagine that most are properly interred. We are not so different in our ways than men given to believe in the white god or the master of Annwn. It has ever been so." She touches her lips. "If this be the way to resolve the matter, then be sure to let His Grace know. You will surely have recompense." Upon that, she abruptly makes a sign of fortune and slips away into the masses unless Gaius aims to halt her.

He hesitates almost letting her slip away but before she can disappear into one of the final crowds of the night heading home from a long day's work he places a hand on her shoulder and pulls her back. "I have upset you…" that much is obvious as the iron in her eyes is such a different look then what he has normally seen, even if he has only two encounters so far with her, one of them being tonight. He did not see that iron those months ago, and certainly with all her joy and laughing tonight there was no sternness to her. "I hope we would not depart on such a note."

Two steps back becomes three, and then she rotates on her heel, pivoting a full half turn to remain on a perpendicular axis to Gaius. "No." Upset is a strange term for one as mercurial as her, when her thoughts go galloping ahead at speed for something harder to clutch hold of. Shadows ghost across their faces, thrown from a hundred directions, and the possibility of reading too deeply into her fey countenance becomes a dangerous possibility. She lowers her head then, pulling her thoughts in. "You are not held to account for the actions of others who throw the world's fate into a thousand directions off center."

Impossible Creatures. That is what some people think of the fey and their realm, and all the beast, legends, and myths that reside. If a creature is impossible to exist, it is equally impossible to understand, though Gaius has some sense of Eirian. "But the world's fate must be corrected… Some would wait for god… or gods. Others, simply don't like waiting. For every person who tugs the fate of the world in one direction. There are possibly dozens more tugging against them." He frowns and glances over his shoulder, "You should smile once more, I believe Ffionn approaches, and if she sees you in such a sour mood…"

Impossible creatures. That is what most people think of young women, the most confounding of their species. A man could be forgiven, in truth, for trying to make heads or tails of a silly thing such as Eirian. "The transformation is something askew. Those who struggle to balance the equilibrium have a great and worthy task ahead of them. Whether you aid them or not is unimportant to me so much as you act or not. And you mean to, as you have said." The thread of Eirian's reply is cast aside, an increasingly difficult gyre perhaps to follow. Her mouth tips upwards in a faint ghost of a smile. "Do you dread me, sir? I doubt that."

"You have yet to give me reason to dread, besides confounding and challenging questions, riddles within riddles, and more knowledge then I have about things I wish I knew. Beyond that… no dread." If Ffionn does approach he pays her no heed now, looking over the mercurial Eirian. "You say it is unimportant to you. But I can see the desire there. You desire the power to order people to not proceed with such endeavors. Maybe not necessarily myself, as I do not proclaim to hold such a place in your mind, but I can see it. You wish for one moment where you can yell for the world to STOP and that it will listen to you."

"Wrong, Sir Stapleford. I have no quarrel with those who retrieve the dead and give the victims of the Saxons a proper burial. Indeed, I break with tradition held in some quarters that providing them with Christian burials would do no harm. Indeed, at the end of the day, all of them are human and deserve to be treated as such instead of useless burdens or left out for the wolves. What manner of man or society treats them so?" Eirian's brows contract towards an ephemeral line over the bridge of her slim nose. She shakes her head slightly. Ffionn is probably out there, or standing behind him with a crock to bonk poor Gaius on the head with. Probably not. "That so many might be interred properly but others not is an offense against the gods, any you care to name. What I wish, sir, is not achievable in this place and time without shaking the pillars of creation. I have not the great treasures of Britannia to make that so, and will not singlehandedly throw down all the court of Carlion to bring the Pendragon out to hear me. No. It is not feasible and we are before our time to see peace."

He chuckles and shakes his head, "I did not speak of my immediate quest… as I doubt there are any who would not say they dead deserve rest." Except perhaps some necromancers who never give rest. He hesitates once more, perhaps waiting for Ffionn to rightly bash him over the skull for troubling and upsetting the Burcombe Lady. "I was speaking of Knights and our penchants for quests. Our need to go off and do something. Honor, glory, wealth… or tradition. Some have more noble aspects then others." Peace. He mouths that word, and that seems to confirm it for him. "You want the power to stop the world." A condemnation of eternal conflict and the impossibility of true peace? "As you do not deny it. All I can say I have seen many fallen pillars before. I imagine some just need a heavier push then others." Does he stir rebellion and radical ideas? Perhaps. His emerald gaze focuses on her, following every movement and tic of her body.

Power to stop the world? If he were to say that aloud in some men's hearing, they might box his ears. Eirian merely laughs. "I already have the power to stop a world same as you do, same as any person around us. We all die. That is the end of the only world we may control in perpetuity. In the reality of the situation, however, Sir Stapleford, I recognize coming out from darkness to speak a specific message will likely fall upon deaf ears. They have no reason to listen to me." She shrugs her shoulders. Her body is relatively still but for the shallow intake of breath that raises her chest and drops it when the oxygen is expended. The formation of words is clear in part from her lips rounding the syllables just so. "Consider what we face now. A period of testing, which speaks to a greater attack forthcoming if any specific weakness be located. I pray you consider how one probes before committing to a full action, for would that not be worthy if you were assessing a rather valuable herd of cattle in a field? You would not try to run them all out without knowing the disposition of the herd, the gates, the fences, and the shepherds. Mark me, as it has been for most of the Pendragon's reign and Uther before him, the Saxons are testing to determine where the greater weaknesses. They do not act lightly in this. Those who think so are sadly naïve and wishful. But the disarray inside the social structure of the community here leaves a very real vulnerability, an exposure that goes beyond a man's house into the greater county. Can you count upon your honoured neighbours appearing if you need their assistance to repel the butchers wielding axes and screaming in languages you little understand? Sussex is a lesson, Sir, one you may mark with bitter blood and suffering. They are not coming to raid. They are not pillaging and returning. They are invading. They invaded when the shadow of the golden eagles withdrew to the mainland and sank back to their Italic eyrie, not to return in your living memory or that of your father. More ships bring them to Britannic shores and piece by piece they devour the territory for their own standards.

"That be what I see. A vision how there may be threats repulsed and organized against, but it takes action deeper than the individual. Oh, individual leadership is essential but a greater arrangement is necessary to confess a better stability upon the people who live in this country endowed by water, earth, and gentle skies." She brushes her shoulders lightly. "You want to fell a pillar, I want to see an enduring legacy that surely aligns somewhat to your high king's goals. Then I challenge you this, Gaius de Stapleford, and that of your kin. Work a miracle in alliance with those about you, reach out your hand, and let us establish a link in what may be a chain to give independence and strength so that your brethren who fall in the field are restored to their house, and your wives, mothers, brothers, sons, and sisters have greater independence to live well and not fear raiders at their door."

Nothing like tossing a random gauntlet out there.

The streets are empty, though the tavern is loud enough to drown out most sound near them. Gaius is silent for the entirety of her speech, of which he is the only audience member. The iron in her eyes and the fire in her words keep his attention. Perhaps the young Burcombe woman shares traits with famous women of the past, enough to stir the hearts of men and empires. Perhaps. For now, at least on this spring warmed street, she has only the attention of one man. A part of him laments for her, as her audience is that of a second cousin to an often misunderstood and maligned household. It is a rather lengthy gauntlet she throws before him, filled with plenty impossibilities and unlikelihood. He opens his hands to her, placing them to his side as if saying 'What can I do?' Little is the true answer, but he was never a man to not try. "I do love challenges." he admits, "And I always wanted to work miracles myself. You have a bright vision. One that I hope to see fulfilled. If I can assist you, know you have a friend, and know that I shall set myself to task to the best of my ability." And likely, completely beyond his ability. And to bring some levity to the situation, "You spoke about cows again…" he remarks.

What can a second cousin of a lamented household do? Indeed, what could a nameless child in a stable do to change the world? A boy of a penniless household with nothing to its name save a connection, tenuous, to Venus? What indeed might someone achieve when crossing hearts and blades with the proper conviction?

One man belongs to a forest. "Speak with Sir Gideon de Stapleford. Consider the quiet ways. Smaller words, for there is doubt he will want to bite the whole idea in so many. And I will return the same loyalty to you as you offer to me." Her hands touch together and sweep back, nails scoring her palm hard enough to bring a faint trace of ruby in the gouge left behind, raw pink on paler white. "So be sworn." A pause follows, and she cradles her wounded hand against her chest lightly. "You are the one after a lusty heifer, nae I. Remember, Gaius. Great men have borne that name before and they shall again upon this island and beyond."

Oh, Gaius Tacitus…

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