(514-08-01) Unsafe Roads, Part 1
Summary: Knights Claire and Drustan are sent to investigate rumors of travelers on the roads near Dorset being hassled.
Date: August 1st, 514
Related: Other Dorset Logs
claire drustan 

Note: This log is a lead-up. No combat. There is flirting and talk of future things between two courting.

The Earl Robert had made a personal request (perhaps borne of Drustan's contributions in the Marlboro mission) that Sir Drustan de Falt and Sir Claire de Stapleford investigate rumors of Dorset knights harassing travelers and merchants at the border to Ebble. There is the likelihood, too, that the two knights are being put to the test. It is known they are courting and that their families are near striking a contract for banns. With the lady fo the pair being a Knight herself, it is a good sort of test.

So word was sent to Stapleford after Drustan received the orders. That they would patrol the Ebble border and report back with any findings, with a request that the Stapleford Knight meet him at Falt (the closer of the two manors to Ebble) the following day, that they might begin their assigned duties. He can be found outside of the stables, his young squire — Cai — by his shoulder as he goes over the spare rouncy that will carry their belongings.

"You want to tie it down like so-" And the man adjusts the lines carefully. "This way, you can access the bag even while on horseback. You don't want to have to dismount and re-tie everything just because we needed some jerky."

Claire was as surprised as anyone to get such a call from the Earl. Most of her duties had been patrolling closer to the city and occasionally north. Heading south is new. Riding in more suitable wear, riding pants and a long white tunic with bodice, she seems more comfortable. After all, who wants to ride such a long distance in a bliant? The Knight looks comfortable as she comes up the road, her squire in tow behind and to the right with plenty of gear packed to the third horse in trail behind the squire. Riding up, she comes to a stop but does not dismount. Her eyes trail over what they are doing. There's a hint of a smile on her face as she watches, which speaks volumes about the rather reserved woman. "Sir Drustan. I admit I was not expecting such a call via messenger. However did you manage to have us drawn into such a venture?"

"I cannot say for certain," Drustan replies, not yet turning away from his task. He has the squire re-tying just for the sake of rememberance. Rote sucks when you're just starting out, but there always comes that day when you're half-asleep or feel half-dead and the muscle memory does all the work for you. Unfortunately for Cai there (a young, distant cousin of Lake), it'll be a few years yet before he sees the fruition of his labors. The Falt Knight turns, once satisfied, looking to the Stapleford knight and her squire. There is a brightening of oft-dour features.

"A missive was sent and what had I to do but answer? If you two-" a nod to Claire's squire, giving the girl at least a measure of acknowledgement. "Are ready, we can get to the road?"

Claire likely had words for her Squire while they rode. The girl, barely 15, seems to have eyes for Drustan's. She tries to hide it but it isn't hard to catch her watching out of the corner of her eyes. It is probably a good thing Claire can't s- "Ellie, are you watching for threats?" "Yes, Sir Claire." "Good." She slowwwwly turrets her head to look at the girl, then her smile returns and draws back towards Drustan. "We should speak on complications later, Sir Drustan." She flicks her eyes towards her Squire - which the girl doesn't see. "We are ready, though." Her horse takes a few steps forward and stops. "The messenger spoke of a test. That since we have likely banns it was of the Earl to see us tested. Would I be bold to suggest that I may not be able to fight with you because of your cunning eyes? Such a distraction…" Still, that hint of a smile.

Like many lads his age, Cai is utterly oblivious. He's too busy double- and triple-checking everything at the moment. He is, at least, blessed to not be overly bumbling in his growing frame. There's a very distant hint of similarities in his eyes to Drustan's own slate blues. Distant cousin, indeed. Mother's side, likely, considering who Drustan's father is. The man begins to turn for his horse, but pauses with a hand upon the saddle. There's a tightening of his jaw, but the evidence is in his eyes; he's trying not to smile. "It may be prudent to inform me of any weaknesses I might watch out for. After all, if we are to be wed, we will have to support one another." Here, then, he swings astride and takes both sword and shield from his squire in preparation for the ride, to have them on hand. His helm is already lightly tied to the saddle. The charger is brought around and towards Claire's; mane to tail, so that he might face the Stapleford. "In that case, I may find myself distracted by your grace."

Luckily for Claire's squire (and unluckily for Claire), it looks like Cai is taking mental notes. Which means he's at least past the 'girls are gross' stage. It causes the lad to briefly fumble getting astride his rouncy. Cheeks burning, the squire grabs the lead for their spare horse.

Satisfied, Drustan returns shifted gaze to Claire. "Shall we? It shouldn't be too distant a ride to the border. We can stop for a meal once we've reached it."

Claire checked her Flirting of 3, she rolled 16.

"Support one another? Such dreams of fanciful ventures! As if I would take the hand of such a man." Claire tries to but cute and playful. It ends up coming out a little too gushy and she ends up turning red in the cheeks, looking to her horse. "I feel sometimes it would better if I were to not leave bed some days," she sighs in embarrassment. A gloved hand rubs her face before she can bring herself to look back at him. "But yes, I shall inform of all known weaknesses as they arise." Her sword rests on her left hip, her own shield held in place up front. Claire looks ready to physically ride into battle even if she feels like an idiot for the moment. But there is a glance to the boy as he stumbles to mount the horse, her eyes flicking to Ellee as she giggles. "Tch. A Knight does not laugh at the misfortunes of others. For that you will oil my saddle as well as your own before dawn tomorrow." The girl looks like she wants to balk but has probably learned that's not a good idea with the Stapleford. Looking back to Drustan, she winks. Abusing the Help builds character in them. "Let us ride. If you wish, we could put Ellee in the rear and your Squire up front." So they can speak privately, yes.

When Claire does look back to Drustan? He's practically grinning. That was adorable. The man doesn't say anything about it, no. He's polite enough not to call further attention to one's personal embarrassments. "Could be worse," he muses a touch more loudly in the wake of the punishment issued out. "Ever tried stitching repairs in a saddle by moonlight?" It's likely even he hasn't. Few but a craftsman would even try such work. But the young squires need not know this. Even Cai looks a bit taken back.

Drawing his horse about so as to face on the road that will take them to a safe point to cross the Avon, he does look sidelong to Claire. "Good practice, that. We can switch them after the meal." There are, afterall, different methods to being point or tail in a traveling party. "Cai? I take it you heard Sir Claire. You'll be leading us towards Ebble. We may have to head further down river than normal. There's been heavier rains, so some of the crossings might not be as safe. Once we get near, start watching for one you think is appropriate."

And with a final, direct flash of smile to Claire, Drustan gets them heading off.

She mouthes a simple 'thank you' to him for not making that embarrassment worse than it was. After all, they are Knights but they are also to be man and wife. There are subtleties to what a persona can get away with. "It can always be worse." The young woman turns her gaze from Drustans as he turns, looking back to her Squire. It is not severe, but she motions for Ellee to take up the trail position. Mutual support is good. Her gaze then goes to Cai to watch him move and take the lead. Her gloved hands take a moment to adjust herself as she stands tall in the saddle and shifts the sword sash to get comfortable for the ride. Settling in, she returns the smile from Drustan and rides casually, but keeping as close as she can to the man. There's an undeniable attraction there and as they ride she finds herself very much enjoying this opportunity.

There are clouds in the distance, moving in from the west. As they begin their ride along the Avon, it brings a welcome relief from the summer's heat. The storm front is coming in off the ocean (which one can reach provided they follow the Avon long enough) and thus brings cooler air in its head winds. It does, indeed, seem like it will take some time to find a good crossing point. The first few are such that the laden rouncies would have difficulty crossing. After their second potential, Drustan decides the next should suit, but it is a bit out of the way. A popular crossing in all seasons, it should be fine yet.

As they continue down the road, he lets Cai get a bit on further ahead. There isn't a glance spared back for Ellee- that'd be too obvious. Drustan does draw his charger in closer towards Claire's, trusting the horses to handle the close proximity. "I see this mission as a good sign. It speaks to the likelihood that the Earl is considering signing off on our banns. It may be partially my fault, for the delay, as I was so recently fully released back to Falt." Stapleford squireships being oft long as they are and his own taking him so far afield.

Claire seems to weather the heat alright. It is clear she's a bit warm in the long sleeves, but women are not to show their arms. Definitely not be touched anywhere but on the hand - and those are gloved out of necessity. But the idea of riding through water seems to make her quite happy. A chance to cool off? That would be sublime. But when Drustan moves closer it does not escape her notice.

Before replying she takes a moment to gauge by sound where Ellee might be. Not too close it would seem, but she still keeps her voice a bit hushed. She doesn't keep from looking over at him with a smile, though. "It is a test we shall pass with ease. I do not fault the Earl for wanting to be secure with knowledge that two of his knights will not elope during a battle." She lets her eyes wander away, feigning disinterest. "I could not imagine what he might mean." But the Stapleford woman allows herself a bigger, more wistful smile as she looks back. It's rare to see such glowing expressions from her. "Hush, Sir Drustan. You owe yourself no such faults. Patient waiting for what we desire is a skill to be honed. I would like us to be wed by now, but if wishes we butterflies."

You check your Flirting at 10, you rolled 3.

It's so rare he has time to see her. Their manors too far distant from one another to make as many excuses as he'd like. There have been many a day of training spent concocting reasons to go to the opposite side of Sarum proper, to wander up the Wylye River to visit Stapleford lands. Certainly he has more excuse than some, but not enough. Not with the responsibility of a squire of his own. One of those gloved hands is reached for with a slight lean from his saddle. The female squire behind may see it, but he does nothing more untoward than take Claire's hand lightly in his own (glove upon glove) to offer a gentle squeeze.

"I fear there are times my patience grows thin, but my confidence and dedication is renewed with each time I am able to pay witness to your presence once again." Drustan releases her hand and pulls ahead a bit, separating them for the moment. The reason becomes quickly clear. Cai has found the low point in the river and is already dismounted and preparing the rouncies for the crossing.

Claire checked her Flirting of 3, she rolled 14.
Claire checked her Lustful of 7, she rolled 4.

The Stapleford Knight keeps her eyes on him with that hand on her thigh while she rides. When he reaches to take it, it falls to hang between them and she looks into his eyes with desire. Those words definitely had the desired impact. "Each time I think about your arrivals, I pray it may be the last.." Annnd she once again realizes how badly that came out and her cheeks redden again, free hand once again covering her face. "I must cease speaking," she squeaks. But the hand falls away from her face and she does give him that longing look. It tells him that she really does not want to wait any longer than she needs to. When he pulls ahead, she watches him and her hand goes to rest over her heart. There's a glance behind her to Ellee and the Squire has a swooning smile on her face. Claire glowers but there's no effect since she cannot even rightly hold it with her own smile. So she gestures for Ellee to move forward to help Cai while her horse comes to a stop by the ford.

"Soon." It's the last thing the Falt knight offers before he pulls on ahead. He at least gathered the gist of what's been said.

Thankfully, the storm seems like it may be passing south of their current position. It's far enough out that such could certainly change, but for now they just get that same steady breeze. The only downside is it may leave them chilled after the crossing. Dismounting at the water's edge, Drustan watches Claire's approach and begins to offer a hand… before restraining himself with a cut of eyes towards their squires. No need to set a precedent of helping a fellow knight dismount. Rather, there's a glance to the Stapleford and a brief, sudden smile for her. One tha bares teeth, just a bit. There's an arch of brows before he's double-checking his own charger before heading towards the waters. The man pauses a few strides behind the squires and their horses.

"I'm going to ask due to the import of what we're doing, but I think you both know what I expect the answer to be. Do you feel confident leading two horses across, one laden with all the things we require when we make camp?"

Cai takes a moment before giving a sudden, quick nod in the affirmative. His expression speaks of uncertainty, but his overall demeanor speaks of a dedication to prove himself. If not for his Knight, than for the two women who act as observer.

Eyeing the clouds a bit, Claire seems to enjoy the breeze sweeping the muggy heat of the day away. It blows at her hair and she seems thankful for that, at a minimum. It can be such a pain on hot days. Hard to complain in the winter, though. She gives a glance to the hand that almost helps and she gives him a sly smile before hopping down from her steed. Taking the reins in one hand, her eyes flick between the two Squires. Cai's answer has her look over the boy carefully and then her eyes go directly to Ellee.

Claire's squire is a bit on the small side still. She swallows as she meets Claire's eyes but the Knight says nothing or gives no inclination to what is expected. But in the end she shakes her head slowly. "I do not. I do not fear water, but I yet have the experience to lead two horses at once." Claire? Well there's a bit of pride on her face. "That was a good answer, Ellee." She then looks to Drustan, "I will lead my own and our pack horse across. She will lead her own."

"Honesty is just as important as ability. Better to admit to it than put an entire party at risk." Drustan adds, nodding to both of the women. Cai is growing into himself handily, which is why the Falt expected him to lead the two. He's not going to be tall, but it helps in that he doesn't have those over-big feet to contend with that tall lads at his age do. It makes him a bit more surefooted… and might have something to do with Dru's selection. "Cai, go ahead and lead." He brings his charger up closer, leaning in to note quietly to the boy, lest the lad think it a disservice to be put in the lead so. "Always have those leading two go first, so that anyone behind can watch for problems." It means he'll wave Claire and Ellee past as well, opting to take the tail end.

The waters are, thankfully, low enough here. There are a few points where a rushed horse or a misplaced boot might slip on the slick rocks beneath the waters. Provided they all take their time, however, they'll make it to the opposite side without trouble. Cai makes it a slow crossing due to his own uncertainty, but it works out for the best. It means when his rouncy's hoof slides, the horse is able to compensate and soon the two are at the other bank.

The squire even reaches out to take the reins to Claire's packhorse to help her the final few steps. That? That's Drustan's proud moment of the day for the boy.

Claire looks at Ellee while Drustan comments to her about honesty. The Stapleford Knight has a dispassionate look on her face by this point and when he finishes, she speaks to him while still looking at the girl who is at the center of attention of two Knights- and not enjoying it. "Ellee and I have spent many nights conversing about those qualities that make a Knight more trustworthy to his or her liege. One of our first lessons was about the ability to speak plainly and truthfully. We've also discussed how glory plays its role upon our hearts." Claire rests a gloved hand on the girl's shoulder. "We may make a Knight of you yet, Ellee." There's a hint of a smile before she turns to take the reins on the horses.

Claire shivers as the cold water spills into her riding boots and crosses above her hips. Chilly. Soooo nicely chilly. But Claire takes her sweet time, testing each footfall before putting weight on it. The horses are not rushed along, either. There is no emergency and she puts no urgency to it. When she arrives at the other side, she steps up to the bank and stops when the Squire offers to take the reins. Her eyes look over him before she tilts her head in appreciation. They are handed over as she hauls her feet up and leads her own horse up onto the other side. Her boots are emptied while she watches the others. Especially Cai helping Ellee. Oh yes she is watching.

"It is a good first lesson," Drustan agrees, glancing towards Cai. "The right words are more important than one knows. Especially when serving as a representative." Another reason for his selection may very well be the fealty that Falt pays to Ebble Keep, one of Robert's bannermen. Just small workings behind the scenes to bolster those alliances.

It's a minor blessing for Drustan that Cai has actually kept his chattering to a minimum. Likely the two had a Talk long before the Stapleford contingent was due to arrive. Mind, he's instead coming across as a touch distant. More prone to grunts and nods than words. Maybe the lad knows himself well enough to be aware that once he begins, he may not stop. He does end up smiling, uncertainly, at Ellee when offering her a hand on that last step to the bank. Drustan had followed enough of a distance behind that should anything have come free from a horse, he'd have a good chance of retrieving it before it got too far along the river. His trou cling tightly to his legs once he's at the opposite side and his mount is trusted to stay put as he removes his boots one at a time; shoulder to shoulder with the charger.

There's a glance to the south and that storm. "Shouldn't be too much longer to the border now. We'll find a place to stop for the evening and decide what to patrol on the morrow." A glance, briefly, to Claire and a brow arches. "Unless you want to begin patrolling this evening? We would potentially have an hour or two before dark."

Claire finishes getting water out of uncomfortable places and moves to put her boots back on. Sure, it's now a little chilly but she doesn't seem to mind. Cold is better on a day like this than it is for sweltering. Swinging back up onto her horse, she once more gets her sword settled properly on her hip and checks the bags. But the comments have her look to Drustan, then to the south. "Let us patrol and observe this eve. If we encounter trouble, we shall face it and then have the night to rest. Unless you prefer to go looking for trouble in the morn." Her brow quirks, but there's that little smile again.

"And here I was going to say perusing maps would give your squire plenty of time to oil leathers before she has only firelight." There may be more to it then that, for all that it takes Drustan a few beats longer than usual to come up with the reply. If there's any disappointment to beginning their patrol this evening, he hides it under the lighthearted words and returning astride on his horse. His things are checked upon and shield placed back to where it will be readily on hand should they find themselves in battle.

There's an appropriate amount of time given for both Cai and Ellee to get rouncies back to sorts and be astride themselves. "I think perhaps Ellee could take point the rest of the way? I'll let you know once we should start looking for a place to make camp." This added as an afterthought, lest the girl think it'll be on her shoulders. He's the more familiar with the area of the four, afterall.

And once they are back on the road, those clouds do thicken and a light, pattering rain begins to fall. No signs of a true storm yet, but it will certainly lead to a potential chill as the sun is blocked out.

"Ellee has lessons to learn. Making them difficult ensures they will no be forgotten so easily. I find doubt that she will laugh at the misfortune of others in coming weeks or months. I'll not have such hubris in a Knight I train. She will be a Lady and a Knight if she succeeds." Claire seems quite intent on it, looking at Ellee as she checks the horses, even if she's speaking to Drustan. When everyone is all packed up, she nods in agreement to the Falt's suggestion. "Ellee, you heard Sir Drustan. You will lead us to the border and beyond in search of our trouble." Undoubtedly the girl is now terrified. But dutifully, she moves ahead. When the rain starts to fall, Claire reaches for the leather cloak from her bag, draping it around her shoulders and calling for the Squire to do much the same with her own. The rain is cold but the Stapleford Knight moves along without complaint. After all, Drustan said he would be the one to find the camp area. She won't say a word.

As he's pulling out his own cloak, glancing behind to ensure Cai does the same, Drustan tilts his head to listen to Claire's words. There's a tilt of his head in a nod. "I wish you luck. I have no advice that I can offer, save that using their enthusiasm to our advantage may do wonders." It has with his own, at least. The Falt draws his charger to ride alongside Claire once again. There's a glance to her hand, but he restrains himself this time.

The trees around them become more dense as they delve into the Camelot Forest itself, but along the required side of the Avon. It does help a measure with keeping the rain off of them, but not the chill. There is a point, after he studies a landmark that they pass, that Dorian speaks up: "Ellee, you should see a smaller river that branches off the Avon soon. We'll be following it towards Chalke." And thus to Ebble proper.

Claire rides with the words on her mind. Minutes later, she seems to have drawn a branched train of thought when she speaks up. The words are quiet and to be kept between them, though. "I spoke of complications." She glances over, then back ahead, the drops of rain occasionally running down her face. "Ellee fancies your Squire. She has asked about when we would be in your company again - with knowledge Cai would be in trail. I have seen the way she looks at him. It is the same way I have looked upon you these past months." She demures his eyes towards him with a very low smile. "It will prove interesting after we are wed. I almost feel a mother too soon with questions about how we may handle such a thing. But I know nothing of Cai." This time, though, she reaches out to take his hand and grasps it gently to hold between them.

The call forward to Ellee has her glance back, huddled under her cloak, and then forward. "I will watch for it, Sir Drustan! I see trees ahead that look to be upon a small bank."

You check your Chaste at 13, you rolled 3.

There's a long look to those raindrops that trace their way down Claire's features and Drustan has to blink a few times to clear his vision so that he can listen to what's being said. He's at least able to do so quick enough to be on top of things. There's a period of silence at the reveal and he busies himself with setting the pace of his horse so that he can hold the woman's hand in turn. The initial uncertainty of it quickly fades. Most between their manors are aware of the contracts being drawn up and their squires most certainly. Hand holding, with gloves, is perhaps the least scandalous that two courting knights can be. There's a light squeeze to said hand before he does speak.

"Cai is of Lake, my mother's home. He means well and he is dedicated. The biggest problem he has is honestly his enthusiasm-" There's a pause as Ellee calls back and he nods, though she has turned forward again. His answer call is pitched carefully to carry: "That would be it. We'll follow it for about an hour before we seek a place to make camp." As they'll not want to bring the pack horses on patrol. His attention returns to Claire again, with a brief smile that could be apologetic.

"As I was saying. He's enthusiastic. And it gets away from him at times. However, I think his desire to show off for you and Ellee may help him temper it over the coming days."

Claire's own look is on his face while he looks to her. She knows he is getting a bit lost with her and it makes her smile all the more inside. Each time she see's him, she feels better about this choice. At first it was more technical and needed to be supported by reasons. She had them. But now? Claire can't help falling for him. Not when he looks at her like that. Her eyes draw down and away, going back to watching the edges of the road and the fields. There's silence from her while Drustan calls forward. That free hand adjusts the cloak to better cover her legs and saddle before she replies. "Young men do enjoy showing off for us. There is a certain charm to it, but as we get older it becomes less charming. Sadly I believe Ellee adores such behavior, which is normal for her age." She stops, though, and slides a look back to him. "I do not hear you protesting their possible interests. Shall we trust Cai to behave? Ellee is rather pretty and will only become more-so."

Indeed, the bend ahead is the much smaller Ebble river branching off the Avon. It's barely more than a stream at points and if it weren't for the rain, it'd likely be quite pleasant to ride along the path. Instead, the trees drip upon them and every so often, a leaf upends its contents. It'll make for a miserable evening unless they select their campsite just-so. Dorian watches ahead, perhaps gauging distances. There's a squeeze to Claire's hand: he's listening.

Satisfied with his initial estimate, the Falt looks over to the woman riding next to him. "To be honest? I am not certain. I would hate to restrict any interest they may have without true reason. They are both of noble birth and it's likely if we deny them before they're even fully aware if it's an actual interest or the mere fact that they are boy and girl… we might have them begin sneaking about on us. And that could lead to other poor behavior that could affect their training."

A glance over his shoulder and Drustan shrugs, finally. "We can use it as additional means to educate. Proper behavior around the other gender and how to compose one's self. As for Cai behaving… I believe he fears I may still decide to send him home." Here, Drustan cannot help but flash a grin at Claire. A hint into how he's tempered some of his squire's more rough edges.

Claire's ride is relaxed, keeping her watch while Drustan looks more closely for a suitable campsite. Hunting may be in her family's blood, but that experience was withheld from her in large part so she could become what is so important to her family. Keepers forgo much to be what they are - matriarchs. The squeeze is returned and she gives no outward reaction to the suggestion, preferring to hear it in whole before giving her own thoughts. When she does, its with a soft, wry sound of a laugh. "Yes, this is what it is like to be a mother, I am to assume."

Her gaze comes back to him a moment, then beyond him to watch the fields and trees. "Ellee's family is from very far north. Near two weeks ride. She is the only child of the Head of House. Her mother is unable to bear more children. She is entrusted to me in many ways and we hold their home in our hands. As one." Those blues glance to their clasped hands, then back up. "I think the idea wise of using it as a means to educate. Though I must voice my concerns as I have and I trust I need not explain why."

You check your Flirting at 10, you rolled 15.
Critical Success!
You check your Chaste at 13, you rolled 13.

There is, when Claire finishes both her explanation and voice to her concerns, a squeeze to her hand. It's an indication of understanding and the man seems about to say something. About to… and his mouth shuts firmly with a click of teeth. Instead, he clears his throat and his cheeks burn by a measure. There's still enough daylight beneath the full summer canopy of the forest that the blush is visible up close. He does not release Claire's hand, no, but the Falt does sit up a measure straighter in the saddle to look off and away over the narrow river they ride alongside.

It takes some time before he feels confident to speak again. "I will speak with Cai, do not fear. He is nobleborn, so he knows well enough already. Though what I know of him, I believe he would be too nervous of making a mistake to actually try anything." There is a look, finally, back to the Stapleford woman. It's almost apologetic, the cant of his steel blue eyes. "Much as I was the first time you stood near enough to touch."

Claire can sense that he was about to say something and she tilts her head away as she turns her head to him, looking across her cheek at him with a little smile. "Oh, such colors, Sir Drustan. Once we are wed you must stop keeping such things within, lest I grow too curious and use my wiles to get your words from you." She squeezes his hand twice in reply, still looking very entertained.

But the change of topic has her consider it and take a long breath. "Despite your words to distract me, I have an idea: Speak with Cai. I shall speak further with Ellee. We elect to tell them that we will not seek to part them. However if we /believe/ they may have shared a bed or it distracts them from duty, both will be sent home. I believe I can put the fear of Our Lord into Ellee about it. I keep her concerned about being returned home, but there is little force behind it. She knows I have given my word to do my best. But I will shame her and her family and send her home for such mistakes." Her eyes once more rest on Drustan. "What are your thoughts, my betrothed?"

You check your Awareness at 10, you rolled 6.
Claire checked her Awareness of 12, she rolled 9.

There is a vaguely (though not seriously) annoyed grunt from Drustan in answer. He's not quite ready to speak yet, apparently. It takes another moment of rain, silence, and Claire adjusting the topic back on track before the man returns to himself properly. Some of his own youthful flings might laugh to see how this one Stapleford woman renders him such time and again. He gives a slow nod, but there's initially a sheepish sort of smile and he finds himself leaning to the side as he draws Claire's hand up. It may be gloved and damp, but he places a kiss to her knuckles nonetheless. "I am quite fond of that word. Betrothed. I approve of your useage." He straightens, squeezing her hand. There's a quiet laugh and he spares a look over his shoulder to find Cai has retrieved a piece of the jerky mentioned before the ride even began. The lad goes wide-eyed at being caught, but Drustan just raises a brow.

When the Knight turns back forward, adjusting the angle of his charger with his free hand, he just chuckles faintly. "I am fairly certain Cai wouldn't have the slightest idea what to do were a girl even willing to allow him to kiss her. But I will have a talk with him." Another squeeze of the hand he holds and he's looking up, raising his voice so that the squires can hear. "We're not far. Start looking for a good place to stop to make camp." Likely the younger ones are hungry, too. Cai clearly is and Dru feels the call of hunger himself.

It is the Knights, with the experience and training they hold who see it. Off to their right, within the trees, a natural overhang on a jutting hillside. A rocky outcropping that does not quite qualify as cave. It's deep enough that it should be dry beneath and high enough that a fire can be had.

Claire knows what she's doing. She doesn't need to flirt. But this is still new for her. The little playful side that her grandmother had always tried to tamp out of her and it's just now finally getting to show itself. Not everything must be so serious, right? Besides, out here, nobody else can see. It is only fair that she should be able to smile at her future husband. So when he kisses her hand there's no surprise that she does have to suppress a girlish giggle. Smitten, that is the word. "If I get more such devotions from you, I shall use it more." Mmhm.

"Trust me, girls know. They might be just as awkward as boys, but we speak to each other more. Topics are less forbidden behind closed doors. Ellee has not lived in isolation from friends and family. So I shall speak with her. We shall see what they do." There's a pause. "If she ends up with child, I place blame upon you." She's kidding, right? Probably. Sure. Hopefully. But with the cave appearing to them both about the same time, Claire slows her ride and the hand in Drustan's falls away. "Ellee." The girl looks back and Claire aims a gloved hand to slice towards the overhand. "Lead us over there." Doing as she is told, Claire dismounts and stretches a little before walking her horse through the trees.

You make a check for Cai DEX at 11, you rolled 15.

"There are many years yet for devotions," Drustan points out, blithely. "But I will keep that in mind." He listens to this glimpse into the world of women, tilting his head. There is a slight chuckle. "Such is how it goes, I find. If there is no child, the woman is to blame if she is found. If there is a child, the man is to blame. Curious how that works, mm? And as poor Cai's keeper-" Drustan issues a long-suffering sigh in gest, but nods as Claire points out the overhang he'd spotted at about the same moment. "We're right around the border. This will be a good place for us."

The overhang is largely hidden well into the trees and it takes that good eye from the road, of someone looking for it. A casual traveler or someone in a hurry? Could miss it entirely. The trees well up, the hillside creeps upward in grass and moss. But the leading edge of the rock can be seen from an angle and coming around, the full of the natural shelter can be seen.

A blessing in the rain. Which has not taken on the status of a storm as of yet, thankfully, but the rain does not seem to be ending quite yet.

Saddle creaking, Drustan dismounts smoothly. "We will have a meal and get situated. I'll check the map and we'll figure out the best patrol to strike up for tonight and tomorrow. Sound good?" There's a glance to Cai, as if checking how the lad is holding up. For the moment, the squire seems to be distracted watching Ellee lead the way. Which… turns to embarrassment for the boy as he stumbles over a root and nearly faceplants. Instead, there's a mild ruckus of horses pulled awry and the crunching of leaves and twigs underfoot to indicate his misstep. The Falt lets out a sigh in place of a laugh, casting Claire a look should she glance his way.

Claire looks at Drustan. Its a Look. The sort of Look a wife gives to a husband when he best not go trippin down the path he set his foot on. "Sir Drustan, should you wish to discuss the unbalanced nature of the social standings of men and women, I would advise a more careful approach. This is not a discussion you would enjoy." Nuh uh. She holds his gaze a moment longer but there's no ill will held. Claire knows better. Even if some things are spoken in jest, sometimes they are not understood that way.

As Claire ties up her horse, she begins to unpack the items she would rather keep from the rain. They're moved over towards the dry area and settled down as Drustan forwards the plan. "I am not in opposition. I could use some food as well. Last I ate was some meat for breakfast." She is just returning to her horse when she glances to Cai, then to Ellee walking away, and then back to him as he stumbles and faceplants. The sigh earns a glance from Claire and it is hard to contain her entertainment. "Twas your idea to use the teaching moment. He's your Squire…"

"Well, if you would prefer to shoulder more of the blame, you are welcome to it." Drustan flashes a brief smirk. It's a hint of the man who could be a sort of bane in those rare winters he was able to return to Sarum. A bane to fathers, mostly. It's as if he likes playing upon the knife's edge. His own horse is tied up and his helm and shield removed initially to be placed out of the rain. There's a glance towards Cai and a roll of his shoulders.

Stepping by and past Claire might be the longer path, but it allows him to lean in and press a quick kiss to her cheek. "I am beginning to think you are putting me through my paces before you bear us children, Claire." The words are spoken quietly, amusement in his mien. The Knight does make his way towards his squire, under the pretense of helping the lad with unloading the required things from their packhorse. "…to get them out of the rain quicker." It's the initial excuse, but soon the two are speaking quietly as they work.

Claire gives him a different sort of look. More like 'Oh my GOD you are such a brat!' and she takes off a glove and smacks him lightly on the arm with it. "I'll train you yet, SquireHusband." She tosses the gloves into her saddlebag and hefts it off the horse, shouldering it. The woman turns just in time to be faced with a kiss to her cheek and its hard to ignore her smile up at him. "You are on to my plan. I must alter it to be less obvious." A quick wink darts across her face. "We must toughen you up for many daughters for you to raise." An open palm gently pats his chest before he moves off. She also grabs her shield and helm and starts towards the dry area, giving Dru and Cai a little room. "Ellee, I require words with you." Words that while they speak make Ellee's face turn red, then drain of color. There's a lot of nodding. Some glances to Cai. Some to Dru. Mostly she stares up at Claire in abject fear. …before Claire hugs her and swats her rear to get her moving on the gear.

The glove to arm earns a laugh that sobers down to an amused, fond smile with the hand to her chest. "I am a man surrounded by sisters, Claire. I do believe I can handle myself."

Drustan's chat with Cai is more candid. There's no drawing things out, no sisterhood-style bonding. It seems, from facial expressions, to be a mixture of boyish japery and more serious overtures. A balance of 'I get you, but I can end you.' In the end, save for the Falt retrieving a carefully packed away bag, the squire is left to tend to getting things unloaded. Before delving into the contents of the map bag, Drustan spends a moment at the edge of the overhang, at that line of wet and dry. He tugs off his gloves, tucking them into is belt, staring into the darkening forest. They may lose out on time to patrol if the clouds don't move on.

It also means Claire cannot easily see the broad grin he wears when Cai finishes unloading everything and approaches the Stapleford. "Sir Claire?" Oh, he's trying so hard to be polite. "Would it… be alright if Ellee were to join me to locate firewood?"

No, Drustan did not just stifle a laugh. That's all in the imagination.

"Sisters are different. Sisters just torture you. Daughters make it their sole purpose to cause your heart to ache. To turn to irrational thoughts. Beware the fury." Claire waggles a finger at him before she has to talk to Ellee. For the most part, as they finish, Ellee seems to have ceased looking like a kitten staring up at a giant blade over her head. There's a more composed look to Ellee as she walks away and cuts a glance and smile to Cai as she goes to unpack her horse. Claire, meanwhile, is unrolling her bed when Cai approaches. Down on one knee, she stares at him while he asks. There's a lean to the side as if to search out Drustan, then she looks back at that squire. "Do not let Sir Drustan exploit you for his own entertainment, Cai." She just stares at him a moment. "You're good to ask permission. You will want to get used to that of me when it comes to her. There should be no misunderstandings, no?"

Meanwhile Ellee stares at them, standing beside D. "Sir Drustan, I want to be a Knight like Sir Claire. Like my Father. I know Cai does too." Those are quiet words. No real question to be asked, just something that sounds like an admission she needs to get off her chest.

Oh, Drustan overhears that. The man looks over his shoulder, having schooled his expression. He shrugs, spreading hands; one holding the map bag. "He inquired as to who would collect firewood. I reminded him that it was the duty of squires. And that he should speak with you before making assumptions beyond his role as my squire." See, in spite of the humor he got of it, the Falt man knew what he was doing. There's an ease to him as he watches the two. He almost doesn't notice Ellee is there beside him.

"Yessir. No misunderstandings. I just… I think… Uhm. It'd be quicker and we'd eat sooner if two of us gathered firewood, right?" Cai's trying not to 'over talk,' but he seems to be the sort to have three different ways to say one thing and sometimes all three come out. At least he's not mumbling. He may stumble over the words and sound uncertain of himself, but there's no need to ask him to repeat himself.

When Ellee does speak, Drustan looks over to her. There's a sort of lopsided smile that finds its way to his features. It's got that sort of 'dashing' smirk to it, but there's something else there. Something even the man is likely unaware of. "I know. You both have plenty to learn and years ahead of you to learn it. There's no need to rush. Not in the path to Knighthood nor life. I know you've heard it before. Parents love to say it. But this isn't dessert or an outing to the market. When I say time, as a squire… Just as you weren't ready to cross that river? The more you train, the more you dedicate yourself, the better equipped you'll be the day you face the unknown. Sir Claire will do her best, but no one can train you for every possible outcome."

Claire ignores Drustan for now. She needs to. She just stares right back at Cai. The classic Stapleford Death Cult Stare. Of Death Cult. Grr. "While you may be correct, you need not make excuses. If you wish to spend time with my Squire, you need only ask. First you ask Sir Drustan, then myself. If she has completed her days work then I will consider it." She nods towards the trees, then looks back to him. "You will stay within eyesight and both will walk with your blades. Go." She watches him go before lidding her eyes at Dru. She'll get him back for that.

Ellee doesn't look at Drustan so much as watch Claire speak at Cai. She is listening, though. "I believe I want to say that I wish to get to know your Squire, Sir Drustan. But I wish more to be a Knight. I-" She chews on it a moment. "Maybe working hard at one will make me better at the other? You two fancy each other and I've heard tales of your bravery." Not really a completed thought, but it does have some insight. At least she isn't some boy-crazy teenage squire.

And in turn, Drustan largely watches Claire and Cai. It makes for an interesting tableau, really. One Knight and squire further in the makeshift camp, while the other two stand with backs to the rain that is finally beginning to taper off. That will make the search for firewood easier, at least. There's a sort of lopsided smirk at Claire when she looks his way, but it only lasts a second before Drustan's features smooth.

"Ellee… I think rather than compare the two in this moment, you should compare the two over time. You barely know Cai. You may find you cannot stand his presence. Being a Knight, however, is clearly a goal you have had for some time and it means something very important for you." As Cai approaches, trying to stand straighter, the Falt makes to move aside. "You can consider both at once, but consider the whole of it, not just a single moment." This last piece of advice imparted upon Ellee, Drustan takes a step aside.

Cai, in turn, scuffs a foot slightly and starts to look to his feet… before forcing himself to look at the other squire. "Sir Claire… has said we should remain within eyesight and wear our swords," he already has his at his hip, "but that… we may collect firewood for the camp." It's a small blessing that he manages to get it out, even if haltingly. Dru, for his part, is smiling a measure as he ventures further in, towards Claire.

Ellee watches Cai approach for her and she looks up to Dru before he gets too close. "Yes, Sir Drustan. You are right. Maybe how I feel will not last. But right now…" Young crushes. Sigh. They never last anyway. She looks back to Cai as he gets close and the girl smiles up at him and his nervous self. She looks like she wants to bubble and melt at watching this kid stumble over himself. When he's done she takes one step forward and nods. "Then we shall gather wood together. I will get my blade. Our Knights are to be married…" The thought is sort of random and she tilts at the hips, smiling up at him. "That means we're stuck together. Would you mind terribly if I asked you many questions while we gather wood?" Uh huh. For all his awkwardness, Ellee seems to take up some slack as she gets her sword.

Meanwhile Claire looks up to Drustan on the approach, finishing getting her bed unrolled. "You're terrible. I hope that you are aware of this." She tosses a pinecone at his boot. "They won't both be able to sleep in the stables once you move to Stapleford, Drus," she says quietly, moving to stretch out her legs on the bedding and lay back.

Some of the things Ellee says clearly go over Cai's head. At least she explains herself. He gives a quick nod, waiting while she collects her sword. "Ask away! I can tell you all about Marlboro, if you'd like." Which mostly just means a regaling of the things Drustan did. Hey, it's good for a squire to be in awe of his knight, right?

Watching them go, Drustan only looks down to Claire when she lobs the pinecone at him. The man grins, broadly, lowering himself to sit next to her. "I do what I have to do to get time with you." And to punctuate the point, he casts one final, sidelong glance to ensure the squires are busy with collecting firewood when they remember to stop chatting long enough to do so. Satisfied, the Knight leans down, a hand by Claire's shoulder to balance himself as he takes the liberty of a brief, but firm kiss. "No, they won't. I'm sure you have sisters she could sleep with or male cousins he could sleep with. Or perhaps he'll blunder so greatly, she won't stand the sight of him."

Claire only lifts her head enough to make sure they are walking away before looking up with a smile. Laying down was not just for comfort. Yes, she's glad he understands these signals. "I am not hateful of bold moves to gain time alone." She sighs happily into the kiss, returning it before letting him go reluctantly. "I have an older sister she can stay with, I suppose. So many male cousins for him. Or you could billet him with our Commoners. They are all Pagans and exceedingly lovely people." She stretches her arms over her head and makes small sounds with the stretch. "I have changed my mind about patrolling tonight. I desire food, drink, and the good company of my betrothed. …And the two Squires if I must tolerate them."

Though the Stapleford has taken to a full recline, there is still an edge of readiness to Drustan. The angle he's chosen allows him to keep an eye on the squires, in turn. He does cast glances that way often enough, but largely Claire is the center of his attention. "We will figure it out, Claire. Promise. How to handle our squires and their follies of youth is rather low on the list of priorities." He sets down the map case between them, freeing a hand to reach out and separate a lock of her damp hair. He lets it flow between finger and thumb slowly.

"I was hoping you might say that. The rain took a fair bit of our daylight from us and I think it would be prudent to study the maps I got to decide the best path for our patrols."

It takes the squires time to locate enough wood for a proper cook fire, which gives Claire and Drustan their time alone. Or mostly alone. Even squires can read some signals. The evening is spent enjoying a meal, some wine, and Drustan quelling yet another retelling of his ride to rescue the almost-hanged man in Marlboro. And as night falls entirely, Drustan goes over the maps with Claire while the squires get the horses brushed down and settled in.

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