Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:51 am

Over the months, a happy pattern had established itself: once the chores were done, she would ride into town for anything that might be lacking in the den—today it was honey and sausages—and go to the one baker she trusted for little cream cakes or almond biscuits, which she would try not to squash on the ride back. Then rub down Tintreach and turn her loose to crop by the lake. Check to see if the raven had brought her a reply or if she needed to finish one of her own. Then perhaps a quick wash since by then the late morning had turned sticky. A northern lass, she appreciated the Myrken sun even as it peeled scales off her shoulders and nose.

Then she plopped down on a sun-dappled knoll by the lake’s edge, bag of biscuits at her side. Before bottom smacked the ground, the dirty blue-and-grey tunic and riding breeches bloomed into billowing skirts, silks overlapping in layers like a wind-tousled poppy. She smoothed them into a pillow across her lap, then reached both hands to the back of her head. Her tight braid unraveled into a frizzy red-gold mane that somehow immediately got caught in the corners of her mouth, resulting in several disgusted heartbeats spent spitting it out.

From a tiny reed flask, she tipped a dollop of scented oil on her thumb and rubbed it along the teeth of a carved comb, then began to work through the knots, using a technique of some long standing: pinning individual coils between her fingers to keep from yanking, starting at the tips and working slowly toward the scalp to avoid breaking off the brittle ends. As she combed, she sang, bright and cheerful and a little self-consciously silly:

Pity the fate of a fair young maiden
Wand’ring meadow and wood in fear
Useless of her to expend all her efforts
Or to flee when a shepherd draws near

Late at night as she turns to go home
He who has watched her will then appear
She must succumb to my magical pow’rs!

She cannot hope to keep her flowers
Safe, no matter how hard she try
I’m a great wizard, a wizard am I
I’m a great wizard, a wizard am I


Sometimes it worked. Sometimes she ended up eating all the biscuits herself.
Anything can be magic if you're gullible enough.
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:21 am

It did not work often in Spring. He could not Sing in Spring. Truly, he was not to Sing at any time - he had promised - but he knew that he musn't in Spring. The who, as well, was important. But this was a familiar voice. Familiar, beloved. He could trust it. So that was three things - it was not Spring, and it was Trusted, and the Third Thing was biscuits. It was not long at all before he was there. He, who could move silently, is not-so-silent for her. He is purposeful in his noise, a shy rattling of flowered bushes, he himself shedding blossoms from his hair and shoulders as he pushes his way through to her clearing. There is no way to hide his excitement, no way to hide the high, pink flush on his cheeks that shows how he ran to get here. His mismatch eyes roam for the treats he knows must be here, ruined mind struggling to form words.

"Wh-what d-d-d-does that song mean?" he asks, finally finding something to say. He creeps carefully forward, half-certain she might still send him away.
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Thu Jun 13, 2019 5:56 am

On the contrary. From the first rattle of the branches, her ears flicked eagerly toward the approaching sound, her wine-colored lips split into a radiant, irrepressible grin, and her breath caught, as it always did, as if she still did not quite believe it could be true. "There you are. Where have you been a-roving this morning?"

She quickly set aside the comb and snatched up the sack of biscuits. Scooping aside her skirts, she patted the grass beside her hip, her shining black eyes never leaving his flushed face.

"Oh...I don't know. I heard some fellow with a harp sing it in the City. It reminded me of my grandfather--lingering at the edge of the woods until dusk, watching some pretty maiden until she was alone so that he could woo her away and make love to her." She sighed richly, then smiled again. "Come on, come near. I have news to tell you. They didn't have the jammy biscuits today so I got the almond ones."
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:09 am

"Almonds are j-j-just g-g-grand," he says, stumbling over the lisping reply. He wastes no time with her invitation. He is already almost there, and he sits as neat as any Lady, legs tucked primly around imaginary skirts, torso held straight with no corset to force it. His hands twitch in his lap, eager for the biscuits, but very conscious of being Polite.

Fionnuala was a creature very much worthy of such Politeness.

"I was in the Woods." He cannot be much more specific than that. He is aware that this is an inadequate answer to her question, and his shoulder lifts almost human-like, dropping again to it's normal, rounded sag. There was the Woods. He could, if pressed, pinpoint certain parts of it. He certainly seems very distracted, and the prospect of biscuits do not entirely seem to be the cause.

"What sort of, of news?"
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:58 am

He was so sweet and self-conscious when he was trying to be proper that it was hard not to chuckle, but of course laughing would only make him more self-conscious and possibly drive him away. Still she could not refrain from smiling. “Be at ease, Grand Catch. I missed you, is all. I wonder when I haven’t see you. You forget I know how long a day can be.”

Unable to resist, she leaned forward to flick a stray petal from his temple, then plucked tenderly at the small silvery curls, drawing one to full length and letting it spring back. “Your wool is getting long again, shaggy sheep,” she whispered, teasing, before her hand drew back to her lap.

She slouched forward comfortably, elbows on her knees, chin resting on her knuckles, dearly wishing she had held off on the news part. It seemed a shame to spoil the little time she might be able to keep him. To stave it off, she doled out the golden oval biscuits, six and six, and snapped the final one in half. It seemed a woefully small heap compared to the size of him, but she held them out in her cupped hand, a tiny sweet offering to ameliorate the coming bitterness. “I’ve had a letter from Glenn Burnie, mo leannan. He is coming back to Myrken soon.”
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Thu Jun 13, 2019 12:46 pm

He does not move a muscle, nor flinch - why would he need to flinch? - her fingers unmolested as she touched his hair. He only smiles, at ease, certain that he was without knowing that he wasn't. There was simply too much around him. Her song in his head, the birds in the air, the multitude of smells, and faint, nagging memories, tugging on the fabric edges of his mind. His world is entirely full of distractions.

Distractions such as these. "Sh-sheep should be sh-sh-sheared wh-when it's warmed." Catch hardly notices his hair half the time, save when Cherny decides it needs to be cut. Fionn may decide, too, and this is tentative permission. The addled man carefully takes the treats, small and precious things dwarfed by earth-stained hands, and he beams as he promptly begins to nibble on one.

Only to stop, fair soon.

"... is he."

All distraction seems to have vanished. The crumbs in his beard only highlight the tightening of his lips.
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Thu Jun 13, 2019 1:40 pm

“I could trim it, an you like,” she offered quietly. The hollow behind her breastbone where the Horn had been no longer writhed in his presence, but she felt her own voice resonate in the emptiness. It was only sorrow, she knew, for disappointing him, but it felt as real as it had been before. “Seems a shame, though. No one back home has such hair as yours, like thistledown. They’re either bright like me or dark as a crow’s wing.”

Her head bowed forward in apology, the curls sliding over her shoulders to shadow her cheeks. Unable to meet his eyes, she lowered her own and played at picking the split almond off the top of a biscuit. “He is. It’s part my fault, mo leannan. Before, when I was in the city..." She peeked up at him hopefully, pleading for him to understand. But the oil-drop eyes were only bottomless, glassy, unreadable. “I might have done something a wee bit bad to him. Well. I think it mostly good, but also a little bad, because he hasn’t much say in it. I shall have to meet him to see if it can be fixed, or at least make it a little easier for him to bear.”

Her long fingers crept toward him, reaching for his hand—anything to distract him from that tight-lipped intensity. “But Catch, I think he would come anyway. I think there might not be anywhere else for him, really. I think…it’s his time.”

Her shoulders rose and fell in a deep sigh of resignation, her own lips rolling together as her violet tongue slipped out to moisten them. “I wanted you to know he would be about and that I would be seeing him, so that you needn’t be surprised or suspicious about it.”
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Thu Jun 13, 2019 4:28 pm

There is a muddied confusion when it comes to Glenn Burnie. Catch understands, less than anyone, what happened that Summer of Red and Gold. Unlike the babes and children of the time, there is no story that could be concocted, no tale simplified enough, because that was not a story of heroes or villains. It was only a nightmare, familiar faces painted into porcelain smiles, forever cracked. But Glenn Burnie cracked far before them. He put poison in the Chocolate. He wrapped Kacela in Silver.

He had asked catch to Fix Rhaena beyond repair.

The first time Glenn had come back, Catch hadn't known what to do. He needed to see him. By necessity, it had been short for both of them.

Now -

He does not resist her, if she wishes to touch his hand. His own fingers would curl into it, as gentle as always.

"Ser Eater gives my hair to the crows," he says, his voice low. "The crows and the rats. For their little ones. I'm n-n-not sure I agree. It ch-ch-changes th-them. Have you seen th-them?"

"What are you g-going to do when he's here?"
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Thu Jun 13, 2019 11:38 pm

She gave the welcoming hand a gentle squeeze, rubbing her thumb over his grubby, scraped knuckles. "Poor pretty hands," she murmured, with the same mixture of exasperation and amusement and hopeless fondness she usually reserved for him--wishing things were otherwise, knowing they never would be, and loving him no less for it. A moment's quiet contentment before she answered him.

"I am going to do the same as I ever do. I am going to look after Tintreach, and Benedict, and my folk in town. I am going to uncask that big mess of beer and see if it all turned to mush this time. I am going to start getting ready for Midsummer, and mayhap see if someone might come running with me some warm evening."

Her thumb pressed the back of his hand and she smiled at him briefly, then fixed her empty eyes back at the lake glittering like so much broken glass beneath a relentlessly blue sky. Even the frogs had left off singing and buried themselves to the eyes in cool mud, and the bearded reeds could not be bothered to stir in the heat. "And if Glenn Burnie is not too much a stubborn arse to be helped, I will help him. After that, we'll see."

She shifted onto a hip, feet tucked to the side, and slipped her hand from his so that she could rest her weight on her palm. "I have not seen the crows. Benedict says they're an odd lot." She tipped her head toward him, innocent and curious. "If you don't agree with it, why don't you ask him to stop? It's your hair."

It was tempting to scoot a bit closer, to rest her head on his shoulder and forget the matter at hand, but she found she needed to look at him to go on speaking at all rather than slip off into a lazy dream. "Mostly I wanted to ask what you will do while he is here. Do you want to see him again? You needn't, if you don't want do. But...it might be helpful to me if you did. He's a bit altered. Betimes you see what I cannot."
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:22 am

He frowns. "Because it's Eater."

And he does not know, he does not realize, that he has answered so very many questions with only that one answer. Why allow anything? Because it was Eater who asked; it was Rhaena, Glenn Burnie. Because it was Gloria who asked.

Fionnuala asked, too.

"Glenn Burnie is my f-f-f-friend." But Catch didn't sound too certain of that. He resumed nibbling on a biscuit, brows furrowed. That, itself, was an answer - of sorts.
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Fri Jun 14, 2019 3:31 am

Because it's Eater. Because Glenn is His friend. Because you're you, little queen, He'd let you take His hand even if you were going to drive a knife through His palm. It's how He is. They keep a King as a kitchen scullion, and you're bribing Him with biscuits. You're kinder but you're no better, really.

Sorrow surged up, coupled with rage--not toward him, never at him--like a circling hawk scrying the landscape to swoop down upon whoever had done this, whatever had made him like this. Scoop them up and get her talons into them. It wouldn't help him but it might make her feel better.

She cracked a biscuit in two and stuffed half of it in her mouth to sweetened the bitter, roving thoughts.

"I'm not even sure Glenn is Glenn's friend. If I've learned anything, it's that he causes himself as much trouble as anyone else could." Casually she ran her hand down her knee to rub away the crumbs, all the while watching him from the corner of her eye. "Catch," she said quietly, simply for the sake of saying it. "Mo leannan. There was something else I meant to ask. I've been thinking of it for a long while."
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Fri Jun 14, 2019 2:10 pm

"I know, I know," and now there is a bit of irritation in his voice, sprayed with a bit of crumbs. "It was the maggot-holes. He says he had to change when he went down them."

There is something else, though, that she means to ask. And she is Fionn, but he cannot help it, and he cannot hide the wary look he gives her, suddenly more meek as he nibbles at another cookie.

"Wh-what is it?"
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Sat Jun 15, 2019 12:56 am

At his clear irritation, her cheeks went a tiny bit darker, and she dipped her head with an apologetic smile and an oops, how clumsy bob of the shoulders. “Aye, well. Changing seems to be part of the trouble now, too, only it might have gone a bit too far in the other direction.”

It was his wariness that stayed her tongue, as she looked back with helpless embarrassment: that she could be so crass as to ask, come begging him just as everyone else must’ve done. That he would be familiar enough with asking to be wary of it. That it wasn’t even asking if she knew he’d do it anyway, will-he or never-so, and what did that make her?

Too much time corresponding with Glenn Burnie left one nervous of one’s own best intentions. Before she came Here, she never would have questioned them. One more black mark against this place.

In the end, it was she who looked away, drawing her knee to her chin and smoothing the gauzy gown down over it. “Catch,” she said, in quite a different tone—a bright, airy, storytime tone, the beginning of something, “did I ever tell you I had a baby once?”
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby catch » Sat Jun 15, 2019 9:20 am

Catch hides his irritation and guilt behind his cookie, and neither very well.

A moment later, he does the same to hide his panic and fear.

"N-n-no," he stammers, doing his best to mimic her light and airy tone as something vital in his brains cracks and screams. "No, I d-d-don't think you have."
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Re: Tapestry: A Bower Scene

Postby Niabh » Sat Jun 15, 2019 11:49 am

To see his face freeze in panic nearly broke her; she almost dropped it right there, no longer worth it, let it go.

It was a matter of pure resolve that she could look at him and keep her own face perfectly bland and pleasant, pretending she saw nothing, pretending this was all perfectly ordinary. Show him there was nothing to fear.

How do you speak of your own dead child as if it's all perfectly ordinary? How do you pretend it's all a game?

This was not about her lost child, though. Not really. It was about the one still alive.

"They were going to take her away from me once she was born, so I had to run away. But I was very ill, and she died." The corners of her tiny smile trembled under the strain. "Well. Better to say she never got to live. I never got a chance to see her, or hold her, or give her a name. And then I had to leave her behind, all alone. That was a long time ago, though." A long time, a nice long safe time to put all the sorrow in the past and make it seem unimportant. Nothing to worry about now. No reason to feel sad anymore. "I miss her, though. I've always wanted a little girl to look after. To play with and dress up, and teach things. To make up for the one I didn't get to keep."

Her fingers dug into the grass, plucked up a yellow-rooted strand to wind around the tip of her finger like a ring until the skin bulged blue. "I have never asked you for a thing, Grand Catch. Which of course means I'm about to, and I beg your pardon for it."

The blade of grass sprang free. She glanced back up at him, took a deep breath, and came out with it. "I want to be little Soodsy's godmother. Will you let me?"
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