(514-09-17) A Lack of Imagination
Summary: After discovering a discrepancy in taxes paid the Earl, a group of knights plus one lady set out to uncover the truth.
Date: 17 September 514
Related: None
acwel heulwen elrick ailil 

It is early morning in Sarum, and the castle is already busy with people moving about their business and seeking out the Earl for a word on matters public and private. The hallway that houses the office of the Steward and the Ledgerkeeper, among other officials, serves mostly as a thoroughfare for the residents of the castle. Two of the Earl's knights are stationed outside of the door to the offices, but their presence is a silent one; they allow anyone to enter who has business with the officials.

Inside, the offices are kept neat and tidy. Heulwen is currently bending over her desk and scribbling hastily on a piece of parchment. She pauses long enough to rifle through a stack of papers before beckoning the Steward over to examine a particular record. They converse in quiet tones about what the sheet reveals, leaving Heulwen looking slightly frustrated and uncomfortable.

Ailil checked his compose of 10, he rolled 4.

Even though Elrick is the Knight-Warden of Wilton and not Sarum, he has taken residence in Sarum as a halfway point between his House and where he is in the service of Lord Knight Earc, and they all serve His Grace, Earl Robert. Before leaving to tend to his duties as Knight-Warden, word has reached the Laverstock Knight that the new Ledgerkeeper, a Dinton, was swamped with jobs that are less than preferrable. So as any dutiful knight ought do, he makes his way to where the ledgerkeeper's office to volunteer his services if she needs it.

Acwel is here as a volunteer, likely because he is Heulwen's betrothed, after all, and seeing as he's not half bad with regards to stewardship nor solving problems, it seems like a good idea for him to score some extra points with his beloved very-soon-to-be wife. After a brief exchange with the guards, he steps right in, waiting to be admitted to the Ledgerkeeper's entrance before he does so, offering a respectful nod to the Steward and a silent, but bright smile to his betrothed. He doesn't hide that he's happy to see her, though evidently her expression has him curious.

As for that Broughton knight, he enjoys showing up to be useful rather than gawking at tourney-goers or lounging around Broughton lands. Not much of interest is happening near the endless and myriad Wallops, so lingering about Sarum for hopes of an actual diversion. A good knight of chivalry who personifies its grace because God simply refuses to let him perishor rather, he lends his hand where neededheads towards the office with the amused looks of a few guards. He gives a curt nod of greeting to the various flunkies and functionaries found in any castle, and then slips in to the office after announcing himself with a friendly enough, "Good day."

Heulwen sighs and sets down the paper, still frowning, and looks up when the others enter. Her expression lightens considerably at the appearance of Other People to Help, and she raps her knuckles on the desk once. "Sir Acwel, you are a sight for sore eyes. Good sirs, I do thank you for coming." She gestures vaguely for them to step further into the office and then thrusts forward a sheet of paper for someone to take. For those who can read it, it is a copy of the tax record for a manor by the name of Longhedge; the right column depicts what their contributions should be, and the left a list of what it has been - falling just a bit below their due each season.
"I do ask for your discretion in helping me with this matter. It appears that we have a manor who has been shirking on their taxes, although I'm not entirely sure how that could be," Heulwen continues, although at this point the Steward clears his throat and offers the others a bow to the men. "We have word that Sir Owin, the knight vassal of Longhedge, has recently arrived in Sarum for the summer tourney." Heulwen bobs her head to the Steward and continues with, "Unfortunately, the collector responsible for paying visit to Longhedge is afield tending to his work, so I have been unable to question him about it."

Acwel checked his stewardship of 13, he rolled 2.
Ailil checked his Stewardship of 2, he rolled 8.

If it is a document that is to be read and the contents shared, Elrick would not be the one to volunteer, allowing someone else who is better versed with the written word than he is to accept the parchment. When the new ledgerkeeper informs them of a manor not doing their part in submitting payment of taxes, the Laverstock furrows his brows, no doubt surprised. "Perhaps they are mistaken in how much they are supposed to disburse and have just been submitting the wrong amount when the time comes." Though the Knight-Warden is skeptical of his own words, he would hate to accuse another house of toeing the line of treason.

"Strange," Acwel takes the sheet of paper, though evidently he cannot make heads nor tails of the actual descriptions except by symbols he'd learned by his tutors, he's still capable enough to look at the numbers, and the ledger has his eyebrows furrow while he murmurs, probably doing some mental calculations before he notes, to Heulwen, offering the paper back as he declares, "Whoever is keeping tally of their contributions has let someone else write for them in regards to Longhedge or has been replaced during those audits. It all seems a bit… off."

"Ailil de Broughton, my lady." Introductions are neatly wrapped up in that moment, and puts his fist to his chest, bowing to Heulwen. From there he concludes silence is the wisest approach as the ledgekeeper explains. Except for one point at least he can conclude a fact upon. "Longhedge? That's towards the ford at the River Bourne, is it not?" He at least recognizes that much though he does fall into silence thereafter. The papers which might be offered to review are gobbledy-gook for him, the product of the Continental tourney circuits. A flicker of the pages will be enough to confirm there are potential discrepancies that an actual heir to a house, or a lord of a manor, might take note of. "Would you know how long these issues occurred? The last season or worse?"

Frowning, Heulwen circles around the desk and peers over Acwel's shoulder. She follows his finger as he points out the entries and then blinks rapidly. "I hadn't noticed that," she murmurs, perhaps slightly abashed; Ailil's question takes her back even more, however, and she lifts up a finger. "Sir Ailil, it is lovely to put a name to the face. I had only been concerned with this season's records, but give me a moment."
The Steward, having already anticipated this, pulls out from a stack on a back desk the tax documents of the previous seasons. Heulwen thumbs through them for a moment, extracts a sheaf, and returns to Acwel's side to hold them up together. Her frown deepens and she shakes her head.

"The numbers are the same, but the writing is different. It appears Longhedge has been underpaying for a while, but it doesn't explain the entries on this season's records. The older ones are tidy, but the newer ones not so much. You are right, Sir Acwel, someone has been writing in the Longhedge entries after the fact, and it isn't the tax collector." She glances up to the others. "What do you make of it, sirs? Should we seek out Sir Owin and his steward here, or make the trip to Longhedge to review their records in person? It's a few hours' ride east, as you pointed out, Sir Ailil."

There are no introductions from Elrick since he has met Kamron's sister in the past before, and also knows both knights who are present to assist Heulwen with the investigation. Instead, he focuses on the trouble that the Longhedge may be in, soaking in the details that are being discussed in the Ledgerkeeper's office. "Longhedge, it is to the east, north of my home of Laverstock." Confirming the information that Ailil volunteers on location of the manor that is in doubt. When the lady goes to retrieve even more documents, and makes note that they have been shirking their tax payments for a much longer period of time, there is a shake of head from Elrick, "If the writing is different, then it means that more than one person is involved." This level if intrigue is beyond the Laverstock Knight so he would volunteer less of his thoughts, instead choosing to rely on the others present.

Acwel checked his prudent of 10, he rolled 8.

"Perhaps we should speak to the man ourselves. If he sidesteps the issue, or lies, we should be able to tell, nevertheless. And then he will have to surrender the records by force. While getting to the manor might get us more trustworthy information, I would like to ascertain whether the man would lie about such a thing himself or if he would be cooperative with our efforts." Acwel states after a moment, studying the sheaf Heulwen is holding with some interest, though he offers his arm for Heulwen to take after a moment.

"If the other Sirs disagree, then we shall go to Longhedge at once, lest we catch the man while he is not distracted with the pleasantries of the tournament."

"A short ride if we head directly over the Bourne at the ford, or rely on a ferry. I imagine the water level is low enough we could take the horses swimming through?" Ailil glances over at the knight claiming to be from the area. These are easy claims to make when he rides a bloody devil horse into combat, and that's secretly the offspring of a giant and Loki or some other infernal power. "There may be legitimate reason. I will not discount it being doubtful. However a badly trained squire or even the knight himself trying to finish work of an elderly steward is plausible." He rarely speaks on the battlefield but pushes himself to do so now. Pinching at the bridge of his nose is cause to inhale briefly through his mouth. Acwel's suggestion is good as any; he nods.

Heulwen listens quietly to the input of the others, and nods firmly when they agree - more or less - to approach the man in Sarum. The Steward signals the guards at the door, and one slips away presumably to fetch an additional member of the party. "Then we shall see to it. He frequents the Boar when he's not at the tourney field, or so I have been told. We should start there, at the very least, but we may have to pull him aside from watching the tourney. I would like to avoid creating a spectacle, if it is at all possible." She rolls up the parchment carefully and tucks it into her pouch for safekeeping as evidence to be presented 'just in case.'

By this time, the guard has returned with a fellow tax collector who is introduced to the group as Sir Arwel de Potterne. "Longhedge isn't part of my route, so I am not familiar with the man," he admits to the others after offering a bow with the introductions, "but the Earl would like a tax collector present nevertheless as a representative of the Sheriff." Heulwen smiles pleasant at Arwel and then slips her hand into Acwel's offered arm. "Then we away to the Boar, gentlemen."

The prudent choice offered by Acwel has the Laverstock Knight nodding in agreement, "Those who are innocent of wrongdoing tend not to choose the path where they would impede the process of clearing their names. If Sir Owin indeed has no involvement in this, then we would gain another valuable ally because then that means someone may be stealing from /him/ as well." In Elrick's mind, Owin may have sent payment in full but the coin was intercepted somewhere in the process of payment. Then his attention shifts to Ailil, "It is not a difficult ride east if we stay on the Roman road, may travelers to and from Sarum use that avenue everyday." Finally the Laverstock looks back to Heulwen, "If we present this issue to him directly and he is innocent, then the tourney would be the last of his concerns, My Lady."

The Boar's Beard is a bustling spot, and its walls are full to bursting with patrons taking a break from the tournament to refresh themselves. Knights both victorious and not are nursing tourney injuries and sharing stories over ale and food, and there is a general raucous cry from listeners as people regale each other with tales of bravery on the tourney field. The group will have to make do squeezing in among the other patrons; the Beard has been forced to accompany newcomers with standing room only. "I haven't any idea what the Longhedge colors are, Sirs. Does anybody happen to know?" Heulwen inquires of the knights around her, frowning and rising onto her tiptoes in a futile attempt to see over heads toward the bar.

Ailil checked his Recognize of 6, he rolled 1.
Acwel checked his heraldry of 3, he rolled 6.
Critical Fail!
Heulwen makes a check for Elrick Heraldry at 10, she rolled 2.

"I certainly don't, and I wouldn't be able to find him in this mass of people. They all look the same to me," Acwel murmurs as he leads Heulwen a bit further into the room, to allow her a better view of all who are gathered at the Boar's Beard. He not-so-gently pushes a drunk man aside with his elbow, making room for them. "Do you see anyone you recognize as a Longhedge, Sirs?" He inquires, glancing over to Elrick and Ailil.

Venturing into the Beard is a little like visiting the village square on a larger scale. Every Sarumite eventually ends up here, and most of Salisbury's news takes place here rather than in Robert's court. Renaming it the Earl's Beard would be tacky especially as Arthur is making clean shaven good looks ideal. Ailil actually takes the time to strip off his leather gloves and tuck them in his belt, and adjust the fall of his sword to be somewhat more presentable in company. It wouldn't do to whack someone in the knee with the scabbard, dull and functional as it is. Shoulders and manners are used to excellent avail, however, for opening up space. Nothing like "Pardon me" backed up by a very tall, broad knight to hurry folks along. Almost immediately he starts to push his way through to the first corner, somehow sorting the gold from the dross of so many multicoloured tunics, hair, and dubious hats. "This way." He raises his voice slightly to be heard in the milieu. "I can start in straightaway as you both prefer. The man did poorly on the tilt, but he'll still have much to say about Longhedge, I suspect."

When they enter the busy tavern, Elrick can see a large number of knights with varying colors and sigils, heraldry heaven if one could ever describe one. Heuwlen's question was something that the Laverstock was about to answer until he spots a particular man that is near the bar. "The Longhedge's colors are-" The words are cut off when he recognizes Sir Lucan, "One moment, please." Something compels the Laverstock to break from the group for a moment as he begins to push through the crowd in the direction of the notable knight, "Fucking Paddy…" Is what he mutters under his breath, "I can't believe that pigfucker was right!" When he finally nears the knight, a stupid grin appears on Elrick, "Sir Lucan! It is you! I did not believe my cousin when he told me that other day, but he was right. You're here!"

An inconspicuous fellow was sitting in the standing room only throng, enjoying himself a nice pitcher of whatever shit-for-ale they have on tap for exorbitant prices during the tournament. Maybe he even has the foaming frothy stuff saved for special occasions. To be sure, Lucan is not much to look at; an average face, close cropped hair concealed under a hat, and typical traveler's garb do not an especially memorable visage make. His long mantle pinned up at the side comes with a hood thrown back because a high hood raised to shade one's face isn't conspicuous indoors or anything. (Really, it's the equivalent of wearing sunglasses inside a bar or the Pendragon equivalent thereof.) His hearty companions and he were engaged in a discussion that breaks down faster than a Bodenham-Burcombe betrothal and spreads in a wide wedge of revelers clueing in to the fact the noise stopped, the point of interest staring over the rim of his mug. He hides behind his ale for a moment and deadpans in the world's worst attempt to draw no attention to himself, "I have no idea of what you're talking about. Haven't seen you a night in my life." Which is true. They saw him by day.

Heulwen frowns and presses into Acwel's side - not out of a need to be close to her love, but simply because elbows and knees are everywhere and shoving her to and fro. The diminutive Dinton is eventually able to trail in the wake left for her by the knight, but she stops when Ailil passes them by in a hurry and makes a beeline for the corner table. The knight leaning over his cup of ale is not recognizable to her, nor is the heraldry or the old man beside him, but she offers a faint smile to the Broughton nevertheless. Her mouth opens to call for Sir Elrick, but she watches with some degree of puzzlement as he detaches from the group and heads in a completely different direction. Her mouth falls open even more as he greets some shabbily dressed man as 'Sir Lucan' in the most gushing tones imaginable. Sir Arwel follows behind them, watching the Laverstock knight with some degree of amusement; he even lets out a loud guffaw as he overhears the man greet the famous butler. "You sure he wasn't in his cups before we got here?"

Exchanging looks with Acwel, the girl merely shakes her head before following after Ailil. Obviously the Broughton has taken it upon himself to lead the charge, and so the trio follow up the artistic knight promptly. "Do you know him, then, Sir Ailil?" she inquires, continuously casting hasty glances over her shoulder toward Elrick.

For the sake of decency, Sir Lucan gives Sir Arwel the most flat and unresponsive of looks.

Sir Owin de Longhedge is out of his chainmail, presumably because it is off to the blacksmith for repairs. He is conversing quietly with his steward about matters of estate and occasionally sipping out of his cup of ale. His voice rises in pitch every now and again, and it seems the two are having a minor dispute punctuated by periodic pounding as the knight slams his fist onto the table in accompaniment with his words. Neither of them notices right away the rather large group of newcomers parting the crowd toward their table, although as the others draw close enough to go unnoticed no longer, both men look up with squinty-eyed frowns of suspicion. Not exactly a hero's greeting, this.

Heulwen makes a check for Owin Recognize at 8, she rolled 1.

When Sir Lucan claims that he has no idea what the Laverstock was talking about, Elrick almost looks crestfallen until the words are revisited in his mind, that is true, they did not meet during the night. So the mouth that was agape quickly closes and the younger knight tries to remember his manners, as well as discretion that is being silently asked for by the knight in disguise. There is a nod of understanding as Elrick quickly says, "Of course, I was mistaken, as was my dear cousin. Apologies for the interruption." Not as giddy as Padrig was, the younger Laverstock does turn away and begins to search for his original companions, trying to locate and also make his way towards them through the crowd.

"What is he…" Acwel looks to Heulwen at that, flashing her something of an uneasy smile at the apparent lack of perception of his fellow knight before offering a shrug with the shoulder away from her. He follows after, glancing around suspiciously before murmuring a few words to Heulwen, though the fist being slammed onto the table draws his attention to the aforementioned Sir Owin de Longhedge. Covertly, he bumps his shoulder against his love's, meeting her gaze before it roams back to the man's table. "Him?" He murmurs, and if looks are given his way, he returns them with a neutral expression.

Wearing the Broughton fish on his tunic, Ailil makes no secret of his affiliation. What he does stop to do is pluck that small leather bundle from his belt; it goes nearly everywhere with him like his sword, and marks him among the oddest of creatures. He nudges the pen higher out from a sheaf of paper and carries the lot in one open hand. As they close in upon the unwelcoming knight and steward, his expression broadens while he focuses upon them. "Sir Longhedge, well met. Sir Ailil de Broughton, cousin to Sir Caerdin. I saw you on the lists and hoped I might make your acquaintance," he says. A curt, polite bow handles the matter of introductions in very short terms. He holds up the sheaf. "I am currently chronicling the manors east of the Avon. Their stories, their histories, the achievements of their knights." And this is ultimately true, burnished in the sterling polish of a man who already has five or six enchiridions to his name. "Would Longhedge be a subject you would speak to me about?"

Sir Owin eyes the entire group with a stormy expression, but his attention is drawn back to Ailil as the introductions are made. His first inclination is to tip his head in greeting, but his second is reach up and scratch at his beard thoughtfully. The steward beside him looks pinched and costive with a white-knuckled grip on his mug of ale. His jaw clenches as the Broughton mentions chronicling the estates, and his lips curl back as if to hurl some kind of invective at the knight. Whatever he wants to say, however, is stayed by a mere flick of a hand from Owin; the knight is just self-involved enough to find this a pleasant enough prospect.

Slightly drunk but by no means to the point of being incoherent, Sir Owin slaps the table beside him and gestures for Ailil to take a seat. "Sit, Sir Ailil! I thought I recognized the face; I have seen you out and about with your little notes. I thought you were a secretary." Harsh. "Sit, everyone, and a round of ale for my friends!" The last is lobbed outward volubly to attract the notice of some poor, harried barmaid. A flutter of skirts signals her departure from a nearby table to fetch the drinks.

"Sir Lucan is the King's butler," Heulwen replies to Acwel's question, lifting her eyebrows and gazing at him from beneath her lashes briefly. Her look reads something like 'but surely you already knew that,' but she is too kind to put voice to the thought. Instead, she turns back toward the table and is startled into a wide-eyed expression as the rowdy knight and his less than welcoming steward kick out the bench closest to them in invitation. She slips her hand from Acwel's elbow and seats herself at the table, leaning forward briefly to glance to Ailil before raising up a hand to signal to Elrick their location. "Sir Ailil is quite the chronicler, good sir, but no secretary. He's rather fierce with a lance, too."

Sir Lucan, as it matters, hides in the task of drinking his ale up enough to make the coin worth. "No harm, no foul," he says, but of course all harm, all foul is done because now half the adjacent patrons are trying to determine who is minding the ruined larder in Camelot or the full larder in Cameliard or if the knight has some kind of gambling problem. He pulls his traveler's cloak around him a little more and rises, making a point to stretch his arms. Then he shuffles off the far way around to avoid those troubling knights who blow his cover.

As for Elrick's affiliation, he actually has a Wilton surcoat on when he is performing his duties as Knight-Warden and the Laverstock sigil is sewn into the shouler of his leather jacket, denoting the manor he belongs to. The pounding at the corner table is what helps the Laverstock Knight locate his companions after his gaze is directed in that direction. So now he begins the process of slipping and pushing through the throng of knights, squires, and peasants that are all into their cups and discussing the subject of the week, the Tourney. When he nears, he can hear the little speech that Ailil is giving to the unwelcoming pair seated at the table, so he chooses not to interrupt, allowing the Broughton to try to find a connection with their intended target. When invitation is offered, Elrick is glad that he had delayed his arrival to being just in time to be part of the invitation that was extended by Heulwen's gesturing hand. Since it is only proper with some introductions made, the Laverstock offers his, "I am Sir Elrick de Laverstock, Knight-Warden to Wilton." With the mention of Wilton, perhaps that would be less suspicious as this tax discrepancy is Sarum's juridiction.

Critical Fail!
Heulwen makes a check for Owin's Steward Recognize at 10, she rolled 20.
Heulwen makes a check for Owin's Steward Heraldry at 7, she rolled 3.

Count Ailil as oblivious to the fury, for he has enthusiasm and the vim of doing a great deed behind him. Even if he gets burned for it. "Ah, well, not everyone can stand to inherit the manor. I ensure the history and glory are captured for all time." He grins briefly and then gestures to his acquaintances. "Lady Dinton and Lord Woodford have much experience to keep my tales accurate, and Lord Laverstock is familiar with the western manors." Broughton being in the far eastern end of nowhere except for the Wallops, this is a reasonable statement for why his tagalongs are about. He does sit after every last one of them do, nodding his thanks for the matter. "Very generous, Sir Owin. A favour you must let me return." Then he taps his pen against the table and pulls out the paper to make good on what he's doing. Why, look, it's the finished artistry of Acwel and Heulwen now illustrated around a rather attractive crest and a wonderfully illuminated letter A. Proof the man actually is what he claims to be, sort of.

Looking harassed and disheveled, a barmaid brings a round of ale for everyone, hastily distributing cups willy nilly and spilling a considerably amount in the process. There goes her tip. For his part, Sir Owin seems to be mostly intrigued by whatever it is Ailil is about to do with paper and pen - he even leans forward a bit to try and catch a glimpse of the Broughton's portfolio before he settles back into his seat. He slouches in the manner all knights do when they think they haven't a care in the world, but beside him his steward is red-faced and practically steaming. The man may not have recognized Heulwen outright, but the introductions and the house sigils have informed him well enough of who and what approaches.

"I'm not sure what you want me to say about our manors. Mine boasts the best fishing haul from the Bourne - it's in our crest, you know, the fish - but we farm as well and turn up a lot of stone from the fields we sell to the Earl to use for building. Longhedge is quite profitable, you know." With a cheerful grin he salutes the group with his cup of ale and knocks the rest of it back before slamming it onto the table and laughing. Whatever he might find so damn funny about this whole thing, however, is given no voice. "We're better farmers than jousters, at any rate." Ah, there it is.

Critical Fail!
Ailil checked his Intrigue of 10, he rolled 20.
Elrick checked his awareness of 10, he rolled 8.

There's no response from Acwel to Heulwen's kindly informing of him. Some recognition dawns in his eyes, of course, and the way she looks at him through her lashes just prompts a smirk to bloom across his features, meeting her gaze. "Ah, yes, thank you," he states to the knight who so kindly offers them a seat, as he sits down beside his betrothed. If her statement goes unsaid, he will not react to it. He nods to the servant Sir Longhedge so kindly hassles into getting them their drinks, before he pauses to listen intently to the man. Taciturn, for the time being.

Acwel checked his awareness of 10, he rolled 13.
Heulwen checked her intrigue of 8, she rolled 6.
<OOC> Heulwen says, "My successful intrigue roll will give you this: there was some previously mentioned kerfuffle with the Steward of Longhedge and the *previous* tax collector who was dismissed from his job, although the details are sparse. The current tax collector had to pick up Longhedge on his route, along with a few others, to make up for the office being one man short of the job for a little while."

Heulwen shifts in her seat, clearly not comfortable with the ruse but unwilling to burst the bubble just yet. Instead, she shuffles beneath the table and pulls out the rolled parchment from her pouch and lays it gently on the table beside her drink. She glances once to Acwel, and then to Elrick and Ailil as she picks up her cup of ale and sips delicately. Her attention strays to both the Steward and the knight, the former of whom meets her gaze briefly and then looks away in quite a hurry. "It sounds like you deal in a great number of trades, Sir Owin. Do you really sell your stone to the Earl, then? I had thought his suppliers were in the west, but I am so new to my job still…"

The contrast between how Sir Owin acts and his steward is something that Elrick catches rather easily through his quiet observations. When the barmaid arrives with drinks, a word of appreciative thanks is offered but the pinch on her derrire is mot accompanied with the gratefulness. The knight vassal of Longhedge is no longer the Laverstock's concern, his innocence clear in his mind and his gaze is fully directed towards the Steward. With Sir Owin bragging about the profitability of their house due to the agricultural acumen, Elrick tosses an almost too innocent question to the Steward, "Master Steward, perhaps you can offer more details on the successes of your manor when it comes to this… profitability? I am sure more manors should look toward Sir Owin's direction on how a household is supposed to be properly managed, instead of focusing on just tourney winnings, no?"

Ailil checked his Reckless of 10, he rolled 12.
Ailil checked his prudent of 10, he rolled 13.
Ailil rolls 1d20 and gets (18) for a total of: (18)
Heulwen makes a check for Owin Awareness at 10, she rolled 2.

"No shame to being a supplier of good fish and food. Many a man has to eat before going to battle. We've the fish too. You must do a great deal of trade and be quite favoured for the crops you harvest. Everyone likes the breadbasket." He points to his own tunic in reference, does Ailil. Great, now Longhedge and Broughton are bound by their weirs rather than the weird. Now it would be delightful to sip that ale. It would be exciting to actually talk about things like taxes and sheep and masterful strokes on a tilt field. But there is Sir Lucan, trying to slip out the door, and Ailil finally sees what all the fuss was about. Almost in a moment his brow wrinkles, and the insight dawns. "This might be more profitable for you than you know. Give me a moment to check into something, would you?" He then takes that chance to rise from the table and wade his way through humanity, not about to throw or heave some poor drunk out of his path. He totally does, however, nudge them aside helpfully to clear a path. And that poor man trying to stay low key has not a hope in hell of getting outside before the dark-haired knight descends with a hissed, "Sir! A moment of your time?"

No doubt he's cursing every saint from here to Santiago de Compostela, is the traveler.

"That seems interesting, Sir Owin. After all, Woodford boasts, itself, to have one of the best yields of grain in the entire County. In this manner we have been blessed by the Lord, for our harvests have been proving themselves to be quite fruitful, for ourselves, and for the rest of the realm," Acwel shares with the vassal knight of Longhedge, after that glance back to Heulwen, though he admits, "We are not so diverse as your own lands seem to be. To sell stone to the Earl - that certainly must earn you quite the pretty penny," he smiles at that, "but my lovely betrothed, Lady Heulwen, the Muse of Dinton, is correct — we have always thought the main suppliers of stone to the county were from our neighbors. If not the westerners, then surely Silchester, however animosity we might have with them and vice versa."

"Oh, yes, Sir Elrick is correct. Can you tell us more about the particulars of such profitability, Master Steward? I confess I often find myself quite intrigued with the ledgers of my own manor; though my Lady Mother may keep them for the time being, but I do try to make sure there are no errors in calculation."

Sir Arwel has been lingering inconspicuously on the fringes, having not approached the table along with the group. He is waylaid in his attempts to fetch a second cup of ale as Ailil rushes by to head out the door after Sir Lucan, and with a brief glance between the group and the door, he hurries out after the Broughton in the hopes of dragging him back to the table.

In the meantime, the Steward is practically purple with apoplexy at the direction the conversation has taken, and he threatens to crush his cup altogether in his fists if something isn't done very quickly. When the question is posed to him, he deflates a degree and hisses out something akin to, "Well how the fuck should I know what kind of advice people need to tend to their own manors? Maybe your Mothers should be schooling you instead of me." This is, perhaps, not the tenderest of replies; Sir Owin is beginning to catch wind of a gaffe, and his eyes narrow in suspicion as he glances between the unhelpful steward and the rather nosy guests at his table. The final straw is when the Broughton departs the table in rather a hurry. And to think he even treated them to some of the Boar's finest swill! "I'm starting to think you're a bunch of busybodies looking to make trouble," he accuses quietly, looking once more to his Steward who is swiftly beginning to resemble a swollen toad. "I suggest you take your leave good sirs, before I throw you out." Tough talk coming from a mummified knight who broke his arse in a joust.

Acwel checked his orate of 10, he rolled 6.
Elrick checked his orate of 5, he rolled 2.

"First of all, Master Steward," Acwel states to the man, "I am a vassal knight of the realm. When you speak to me, you shall address me as 'Sir', and you shall act courteously. Otherwise you might find yourself rather short of friends due to your offense." The threat isn't veiled, it's quite there, asperous as sandpaper. But it is Sir Owin that receives the brunt of the Woodford's attention, and he leans forward to speak to the man, "We seek no trouble at all, Sir, nor are we busybodies," he reaches for the mug he hasn't yet touched. "We are trying to make good conversation with you, as we heard you are a knight of unparalleled skill at arms and wits, or so the common folk refer to you as. We are merely seeking to make your acquaintance and learn from a knight who is older than us. On the other hand, I do wonder if your Steward is feeling ill, because he has been a shade of red ever since we joined you. Perhaps," and he smiles, while he pushes the paper on the table forward to the man, lifting an eyebrow curiously, "it's because of this? Please, do take a look." And the stare he gives to the Steward just says: 'don't you dare move.'

Heulwen frowns deeply at Ailil as the Broughton knight is drawn away by fucking Sir Lucan. She runs through a few choice words for the damn butler, but they remain tightly locked away in her head and communicated only through the pursing of her lips. Her attention is drawn back to the table when Sir Owin starts to get a little edgy, but her gaze lands squarely on the Steward is about to self-combust upon the spot. "I think we've touched a nerve, gentlemen," she murmurs, reaching up momentarily to finger the rolled up piece of parchment sitting beside her barely-touched cup. She watches as Acwel takes it away and offers it to Sir Owin, and the Steward's gaze follows it as his expression mutates slowly from unparalleled anger to unparalleled horror. Whoops.

When the Steward finally explodes as questions are directed at him, perhaps a touch too close for discomfort with what he may be involved in, Elrick also tenses but instead of rising immediately to his feet, looking for a fight, he remains seated. Silent for a moment as he works on being calm and collected himself, his gaze directed to Sir Owin first, the knight they have to placate first, "Sir Owin, as Sir Acwel says, we mean no slight to /you/, sir. Please, let us return to the more festive atmosphere of earlier. In fact, let me buy you another mug of ale." But before he does so, he then turns his gaze to the Steward as the Woodford knight presents the damning evidence that the Steward is most intimately knowledgeable of. As that is done, Elrick is ready to rise to his feet again, to block off any escape that the guilty may be considering.

Sir Owin's poor Steward needn't even look at the paper to realize what evidence it has conjured. His hopes of settling away from a life of servitude, perhaps of buying up his own land and starting his own manor - something, anything to get away from the ineptitude of Sir Owin… All of this comes crashing down with a single piece of stupid paper, and it's enough to make him fling his mug onto the ground. The wooden cup clatters to the floor, but thankfully the sound of the tantrum is lost amidst the general din of the busy taverngoers. "It's—it's lies!" he barks toward his vassal knight, but Sir Owin is rather busy unfurling the rolled parchment and scanning the numbers carefully. For his part, the vassal knight's expression darkens, and he can barely hear the placating words being offered to him by Elrick and Acwel as mixed as they are with the pleading babble of the Steward. He holds up a hand to call for silence, however, and slides the paper back across the table toward Heulwen.

"When this happened once before, we were convinced it was the tax collector skimming from my accounts," Sir Owin begins, doing his best to school his temper before he reaches out and snaps his Steward's neck. His own face is beginning to turn red, however, with mingled rage and embarrassment at realizing his most trusted adviser has been of so duplicitous a nature. "What are you proposing that we do about this, sirs? My lady? You obviously aren't here to rave about the success of my house."

Now is about the time that Sir Arwel decides to return to the picture, having tried and ultimately failed in his attempts to politely pry Sir Ailil away from Sir Lucan. Either the two are going to wind up managing some kind of trade affair, or perhaps the latter will leave the former a smear in the road for them to stomp over on their way back to the castle. Either way, the tax collector's duties lie in assisting the group, and so he elbows his way back to the table and takes up station behind Sir Elrick. Armed and armored, it is clear he is meant to be the official enforcement of law in this case, but he leaves the investigatory work up to those seated. "They will both need to be taken to the castle for questioning," he murmurs quietly to the trio seated on the bench opposite Sir Owin and his Steward.

The Broughton will return one way or the other after a few minutes of fruitless conversation with 'Sir Lucan,' but at least the business of attempting to arrange some manner of connection passes well enough. Arwel must be having fits over the introduction arranged for an agrarian manor to a master of larders and purchases. At least he returns without being in negative spirits, which is plenty suitable to discover a wroth pair of knights and far less bonhomie than was there in the first place. He must very well be questioning if he ought to turn around and go back outside rather than be caught in a summer thunderstorm under the Boar's own roof. On the other hand, if someone is planning on bolting out the door through standing room thick crowds, they're going to be doing it through a man with a veneer of inevitability around him and those warm eyes frost over like the second coming of Young Man Winter.

Elrick checked his arbitrary of 16, he rolled 2.

"I would personally— well, Sir Arwel has it best. Thank you, Sir," Acwel glances up to the man and smiles politely, before he looks toward Heulwen, smiles at her, and then takes a deep draught from his mug. So ale doesn't go to waste, that is. "By the way, Master Steward: you may have gotten away with this in the past, but my dear betrothed, the Lady Heulwen, Ledgerkeeper of the realm, has quite the sharp mind. She spotted your deception. You should be so unlucky," he grins at the already reddened, mortified man, before he stands up after offering his hand for Wennie to take, to help her to her feet as well. "Enjoy your stays at the stocks, good man."

When the tax collector returns, without the Broughton Knight, Elrick glances over his shoulders to the man who has announced his intentions on taking both men in. The Laverstock releases a sigh before glancing at his companions, voicing his own opinion on the matter, "Sir Arwel, I understand your decision, though I believe it would be beneficial to both His Grace, Lord Robert, and Sir Owin, his vassal, that a scene is avoided." At least one that could possibly implicate the Longhedge vassal directly in this corruption. "How about a compromise, feel free to drag the Steward away, in chains if you feel the need to, but allow me to escort Sir Owin back myself after he has had a moment to gather himself on this sudden enlightenment of a serpent that was hiding so close to his side." This way, those on the streets may whisper rumors that say Sir Owin was part of the investigation, assisting in rooting out the guilty.

Heulwen quietly takes back the paper and stows it into her pouch, rising up when Acwel offers her his arm. She slips her hand into the crook of his elbow and sidles out from behind the bench, bumping into people as she passes with flurry of "pardon mes" and "oh my apologies". She looks back to the steward who has sunk low in his seat and thumped his head on the table, realizing right now that his life as he knows it is over. Her expression is one of almost pity, but this is turned upon Sir Owen - the poor vassal whose reputation could have easily been ruined by the missteps of his employee. "Aye, Sir Elrick, I think that a fine offer. Deference is owed to an otherwise dutiful family. Would that be acceptable, Sir Arwel?"

Heulwen makes a check for Owin's Steward Reckless at 10, she rolled 19.

Where the matter is resolved, Ailil can breathe easily. Or more easily than before, seeing that no hostilities are about to erupt in a public place packed to the rafters. He ventures further in away from the door, wading towards his seat mates and all that. Or rather the task is ever so important to hold back interested eyes and bodies from intervening while he takes on the business of escort.

The Steward has made a great show of flailing about in misery, rubbing his face and muttering curses before finally throwing himself forward onto the table in a rather pathetic and lamentable display. He lifts his weary head and glances from Arwel to Elrick to Sir Owin, and his body tenses as if perhaps he is about to make a run for it. The knight de Longhedge, however, reaches out to place a hand on the Steward's arm, perhaps having sensed his companion's desire to make a break for it. With a heavy sigh, the Steward rises up and allows Sir Arwel to take him by the arm with a firm, unrelenting grip and push him forward out the door. The crowd parts reluctantly, and while people do begin to turn their heads to watch the display, the lack of proper commotion loses their interest fairly quickly.

Sir Owin rises, too, tossing out a handful of coins onto the table for the drinks. His expression is grim but resigned, and he offers Elrick and Acwel a bow for their courtesy in escorting him in a manner befitting a vassal knight rather than a common criminal. "I thank you for your diligence in seeing to this matter. If he has stolen from the Earl, so too has he stolen from me. I will go with you, and we shall see to it that the situation is rectified. Sirs, my lady." Trying to look as dignified as possible being half-drunk and hastily bandaged, Sir Owin leads the way out the door following in Arwel's wake. This leaves room for the group to follow and return to the castle.

Once back at the castle and safely ensconced in the office, Heulwen throws down the scroll and flops into her chair with a heavy sigh. She gestures for the other knights to have a seat if they so desire while they await the arrival of the Earl's Steward. The young Dinton woman is lost in her own thoughts for the time being, but is startled out of her reverie by the aforementioned man's arrival. He takes one look at Sir Owin and then glances among those gathered before clearing his throat and raising his eyebrows, obviously awaiting explanation. Having done very little to contribute more than being present, Wen waves a hand once more toward Ailil, Acwel, and Elrick, leaving the discourse over their discovery up to the three who worked to uncover the truth. "They have figured it out, Lord Steward."

"Sir Steward," the Knight of Woodford starts after a glance to the others, "We have spotted a discrepancy in the writing on the books, as the person recording the taxes to the realm owed by Longhedge did not appear to have the same numbering as the others. Upon confirmation of said discrepancy by the Lady Ledgerkeeper, we went to the Boar's Beard at her behest to confront Sir Owin, who, as luck would have it, was traveling beside his steward for this tournament." He lets the others continue or chip in, as they wish.

Upon returning to the office of the new Ledgerkeeper, Elrick remains more or less silent as the whole affair no doubt put a damper on the festive mood that those who were enjoying the tourneys had, especially Sir Owin who was in good spirits until this shocking discovery was dropped onto his lap. Choosing to remain standing, the Laverstock's attention is directed to the Earl's Steward when the man arrives, inclining his head in a respectful manner in greeting. With Acwel doing a fine job presenting the evidence and their activities, Elrick is not one to shift the spotlight to him, more than willing to allow the Woodford Knight to continue and finish the tale.

The tale is not Ailil's to tell. Now arranging a meeting with a traveler, he can go all in about that. He does keep his mouth shut throughout Acwel's recounting, hands cuffed behind his back and posture a steel rod. He stays at a distance to allow the others to answer questions how they can.

The Steward listens quietly, leaning against Heulwen's desk and glancing back to her occasionally when details are offered. She merely nods here and there to reaffirm that what Acwel is saying is true, more or less. Standing awkwardly off to the side, Sir Owin is gazing straight ahead of himself as he, too, parses the details uncovered in the investigation. He is more than willing to take his punishment like a man, but is less than willing to be besmirched without at least being present to account for himself should it be necessary. Finding the others to be less than forthcoming about the details, the Steward shifts his stance and looks directly at the Woodford knight and prompts with a gesture for him to continue the tale. "I do not see any mangled bodies, Sir Acwel, so I can assume this confrontation went well. And what did you find, then?"

Clearing his throat since there are no further takes, Acwel continues the retelling just fine, nodding once to the Steward. "After finding ourselves at the table of good Sir Owin, we started a conversation, in which the steward, who already looked disgruntled, became even more so when the topic of finance was broached. It was a curious thing, really, for the vassal knight treated us with adequate courtesy and was willing to tell us of his manor's economic exploits. Still, the conversation was momentarily heated, but once the evidence was provided, which Sir Owin had read, and in a moment of desperation, the steward all but outright admitted to his guilt in the act. He is currently being detained by Sir Arwel. To be absolutely objective: Sir Owin had no fault of his own on the matter, and the steward was skimming funds and set up a scheme to get a previous tax auditor dismissed from his duties for discovering the subterfuge in the ledgers."

Here Elrick is willing to speak up, when it involves Sir Owin and what blame may be laid upon the man who had the ill luck of harboring a snake close to his bosom. "Once the evidence was brought to light and the Steward's hand being implicated, Sir Owin offered us his full cooperation. He assisted in detaining the Steward when the man was considering possibly fleeing, which would have indeed caused an unfortunate scene in a very public venue. Sir Owin also came with us willingly, when Sir Arwel had asked." With Longhedge situated so close to Laverstock, it may just be a gesture from Elrick to offer the lord of a neighboring manor assistance, perhaps to be remembered in the future.

The Steward looks from Acwel to Elrick to Owin and back again, considering all that is laid before him. For his part, the knight of Longhedge bows his head to Elrick in silent gratitude for observing his lack of role in the matters. He turns to the Steward himself and bows a second time. "Lord Steward, if you will permit me to ride out with one of the Earl's men, I would be more than willing to fetch up my personal records. I keep my own ledger, and I think you will see that I thought I had been dispensing with my income as was appropriate. The transactions were handled by my Steward, and he would run through our finances weekly to keep me abreast. Good sirs, I thank you for bringing this to my attention, although I regret that it has come to pass."

With those pretty words, the Steward claps his hands together like a man ready to get down to business, and before he departs with Sir Owin he offers everyone a bow of his own. "The Earl will be grateful to hear that the matter was cleared without any blooshed, and that the reputation of one of his treasured vassals was saved from false accusations of dishonorable conduct. Good day to you sirs, my lady." Efficient as always, the Steward whisks Sir Owin away to tend to further investigation and finalize their accounts of the misdeeds, leaving the others free to go about their business.

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