Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Sun Mar 30, 2014 4:05 pm

Spring had come, and with it, sheets of rain as a prelude to the warmth. They jabbed and thrust like cold stingers directed at the will of the wind: sharp, sideways, attacking from the side. The mud sucked at his heels, trying to drag him down into the squelching peat. Myrken Wood had always been a place of mud. Even in the most horrendous summers, when the earth seemed run through with black veins and the soil crumbled at the smallest touch, there were always those rancid patches of wetness ready to stain the tail of his cloak.

He'd worn the White since he was a boy. He'd seen his share of burns and burst boils, had lanced enough of them himself. He'd set bones in twisted legs, put warm hands on a thousand chilled cheeks. Like a gentleman-dancer at a barn ball, he had always counted among his most vital talents the ability to avoid the banners of blood and fluids that accompanied his patients.

But the mud always found his hems, rusting the brightness of the uniform -- Uniform? No, too military, too sterile -- just above his boots.

Always mud. Always in Myrken Wood.

The Broken Dagger was a stifling and stinking place. Men and women there drank to excess, stuffing their gullets full of stringy food thinned and spoiled by the recent famine. Men and women in the tavern were forever less jovial, less thrilled to breathe than he ever imagined. And there, men and women pissed the remainder of their lives off the front porch, breeding the stories that had frightened him to sleep as a boy. Creatures that shuffled and walked without a beating heart. Elves as black as burnt oil. Tall tales with bad endings.

Upstairs in the poorly-lit hall, finding her room was easy enough. The dwarf was a fat bauble sitting in a chair beside her door with heels flat on the floor, prepared to spring. He'd never in his life put eyes upon a dwarf. Upon approach he hailed with an uplifted hand, a bow-legged phantom striding with a gait that hoped it might some day belong to a man.

"Henderson," he said to the stout soldier. "Henderson gave me instructions on where to find this place, the room of one..." Timid hands extracted a sliver of parchment from his trouser-pocket. He unfolded it, squinted at it. "One Lady Egg-ris. Ee-gris? Reading isn't my strong suit. One Lady Egris.

"I'm Jule, one of the attendants at the Rememdium Edificium. May I have a word with her?"
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Thu Apr 03, 2014 11:51 am

The dwarven man sat in a chair outside her door, smoke wafting from the tip of his pipe. It made his features glow, his features set in stone. Shrewd, mistrusting eyes were cast over the boy who approached. Those shoulders stiffened in protective gallantry. The greeting was ignored, but the name stilled him.

Henderson.

"An' what'da ya want with her then, boy?," the words were stone grinding against one another. His people fared from the mountains and the caves within them. They were rumored to have sprung from the rock itself. His voice made that all the more believable.

The man scowled when the door opened behind him and the Lady stood there with a smile. She was clad in her uniform, the leather clinging to her slim frame, though she was more casual. Her gloves had been shucked and sleeves rolled to just below her elbows. Her belt had been abandoned, laying forgotten over the back of a chair. The metal baubles of her station were upon the writing desk. Her sword rested in the corner.

"What is it, Jule? Does Gloria need help?," she questioned, politely, while the dwarf glowered suspiciously all the while. Gently.
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:32 pm

They both wore uniforms.

Uniforms were statements. They displayed as well as crests and shields the call of one's life. Her call danced like a song across the hilt of a sword and like a humming note along the teeth of a jagged pauldron. His was nothing more than the White. It was a long robe that gave him height he did not have. Sometimes people thought he was smart. White was clean, bright, intelligent.

"My pardon," he said to the dwarf with a turn of his head. His nostrils flared against the aroma of the pipe-smoke.

The baubles drew his attention. They gleamed like winking eyes peering at him from around her shoulder. They distracted him with their facets. The little pieces of value were medals, perhaps, speaking of glorious deeds done in distant lands. Or they were rewards bestowed upon her for the grace of those same actions. Worth something. Indicative of station. He dragged his hood off his head. His hair was a tangled mess, dark and slick and tangled like a million spider-legs left hanging out in the new season's mist. He could have been twenty-and-two, maybe twenty-and-three. There were lines on his face. Shadowy patches of hair darkened his cheeks and chin like scattered peppercorn powder.

"Forgive my intrusion," he said, his spine as stiff as his words. "Matters of the girl will need to be discussed, but a private audience would be more sufficient. She mends. We monitor her for her continued health. I venture to say that my concern extends well beyond the trauma of her hand.

"I come to you in no official capacity, Lady. I seek your audience for your charity." His words were stiff as stone, without rubber, exacting. "Might you spare me a few minutes?"

Two extended fingers swiped in front of his face, stirring the cloud of pipesmoke.

"Alone," he added. "Forgiving, of course, that my requests may seem unreasonable."
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Sun Apr 06, 2014 1:27 am

The Lady Kestrel did not appear to be that much older than he was, in truth. It was likely a little jarring, given her station in life and the amount of medals, which may or may not be linked to grand exploits, to her name. The smile she bestowed upon him was both gracious and amused when he dragged his hood down from around his ears in deference to her station.

She reached forward in an attempt to smooth a hand across his crown, to set the bird's nest of tresses down to a manageable level. It was more familiar than she had, perhaps, intended. More reflex than active decision and her cheeks colored briefly in response. It informed much about her easy companionship with men. It made sense, the woman having spent much of her formative time in the company of them, serving as leader, mother, and confidant to them on the weary road. It made her seem, if possible, a little more vulnerable for just a moment.

The dwarf seemed about to protest their solitude, when he was sent a stern look from Egris. He went silent, for the most part, muttering to himself and easing back into his chair for a long wait.

For her part, she beckoned the young man inside and closed the door after them.

She had changed much about the room. She had decorated - there was infinitely more furnishings than before and they did not want for expense. At the same time, it seemed a homey, warm place to spend one's time away from suspicious eyes. This did not appear to be a room of one who just happened to be passing through on her way to more exciting travels, however her insistence to the contrary. The Lady Egris was here to stay.

"I can always spare time for any of those in Myrken who require it. Please, sit," she offered, gesturing to a small, comfortable chaise as she strode to the window to peer outside, across the lawn to the stables. Her hands clasped behind her back as he got himself comfortable before she glanced over her shoulder towards him.

"How may I be of service to you, Jule?"
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Sun Apr 06, 2014 5:32 am

She was young.

No girl, of course. No teenager given a blade and filled with insurmountable prides. That was easy enough to tell by the way she carried herself. She would not have reached out to touch him in that way had she thought this was meant to be something more formal than a friendly audience. His hair was a brittle curtain beneath her hand. His chin lowered in reverence. He donned the White and she wore a sword; their purposes were symbiotic and complementary. A poet might look at it with such balance. He had never liked poetry.

A redness attacked her cheeks. His lip twitched. His eyes, in their glassy hardness, gentled.

"I Imagine you'll not be so propitious," he said, "after you hear my request."

To comfort the dwarf, Jule dragged his robe aside and from a small sheath at his hip -- hands going through the motions with a certain amount of slow, intentional care -- and withdrew a thin, needle-point knife. He placed it upon the floor, glanced at the dwarf, then followed the Lady into her room.

Her surroundings had taken on an air of permanence. He strode into a room that had been lived in, it seemed, for more than a few months. Ledgers and relaxed blades. A well-made bed. Drapes to soften the glare of a morning sun. Though her invitation for him to sit was offered as a courtesy, he took it as a command; he sat, stiff-backed, a young artisan too used to books and silence to know better than to ever refine his social graces. She looked outside and he busied himself with the visibility of her spine. He tilted his head and examined its length through her shirt, trying to measure imperfections, misalignment, or simply an indicator of slant.

"Did the dwarf hang the curtains," he asked. His hands cupped his knees. Jule smiled.

He cleared his throat. It was a foolish question to have asked. So he followed it with:

"You are a dignitary. A politician. A strategist. So you know as well as I that there are always layers. No purpose ever lives alone. The kindest charities are always underlined by ulterior motives. The Rememdium Edificium is no different. With respect, I realize that you turn eyes. Your fresh presence, your men, the clothes you don, they all guarantee your possession of something that is not in abundance here.

"And that kind charity you harbor," he said, "could save many lives here in Myrken Wood, Lady Egris."
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:27 am

As he mentioned his as yet unsaid request, she gave a nod of her head in elegant acceptance and led the way inside. Sharp footfalls sounded on the floor as she crossed the room and left the door ajar. She tried her very best to ignore the awkward urge she had to still straighten the remaining strands of hair.

The glaring dwarf glanced down to the tiny weapon the young man left upon the threshold as the door closed behind them both. Grunting, he collected the thin blade and settled it flat upon his thigh for safekeeping.

Her personality was written in this room, in every single adornment. This was her solace and not a place that many had laid eyes upon. Recently, her people had taken steps to acquire her a home. A place away from the tavern. Something much more permanent. For now, this would suffice.

Her spine was razor straight. Her posture was perfection, but she walked with a very slight limp to her left leg. It showed on the wear on her boots, if he looked closely enough. Likely an old injury. His question about the curtains made her hand leave its place at the small of her back to lift one of the aforementioned cloth curtains to consider it with greater detail. "No. He wanted a darker shade," she deadpanned, before she cast a glance over her shoulder and smiled at him. It lacked its earlier warmth, her mood more thoughtful now.

At least he claimed the largest portion of her attention as she turned to face him. The youth had left her face as thoughts turned to business. "You speak of ulterior motives in the same breath as you ask for coin." And the request for coin held no offense, it seemed. "What had you in mind, then?" Best not to beat around the bush - it would not serve anyone.
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Mon Apr 07, 2014 10:49 am

"Leave it to a dwarf to ask for shade," he said. "Too many mineshafts makes a body forget how human it is to want sunlight."

That was clever; that was very clever, and some of the other attendants might have had a laugh or two. But laughter, for all of its benefits and boons, could not wrap wounds or abate squirting blood.

"The Rememdium Edificium doesn't expect its patients to pay for their necessary care, Lady Egris. But coins no longer flow so easily from coffers or government allowances. I am far from a trustee or a councilor. My hands are better suited for blood than for proposals, and in this, I see the result most grievously. Our linens are threadbare, we rely upon the kindness of local ingenuity for the weaving of new bandages, and those herbs that don't take well to our little plot of soil require importing.

"Since that matter with Governor Burnie's lady, the rumbling rumors of discord past the borders, and the icing of the Pass," he said, "import prices have become too unaffordable. It is a difficult prospect to save lives without the means by which one may do so."

It was a great many words from him. Jule was often a quiet sort. The White demanded it. He ground his palms upon the armrest of the chaise and then looked, as though seeking some filthy intruder, along the edges of his fingernails. Over them. She had the faintest limp. It announced itself not through her leg, but through her hip -- its jut, its faint, compromising slant told by the leather of her belt whose angle was not precisely perpendicular to her seam.

Sometimes Jule saw very small things. His attention lingered too long upon that imperfection.

"I would do my very best to right the limps of the world. But without the monetary support, my fellows and I are only so capable. It is not so easy, Lady Egris, as smoothing unkempt hair."
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Tue Apr 08, 2014 2:25 pm

The cleverness of his comment was never touched upon. A tolerant smile was bestowed upon him before he launched into the true meaning behind this meeting.

She listened politely, her gaze resting upon him as he explained his needs.

"So," she began, in summary, "you need either coin or an alliance with the neighboring towns to get the supplies you have most need of and a facilitator to earn them both. Am I correct?," she asked, arms coming around behind her again, one hand wrapped around the other loose fist. She dutifully ignored his pointed mention of her limp. She had gleaned his meaning, but it did not require a comment. Besides, she did not enjoy having her flaws pointed out quite so obviously.

"That is only half of the deal, young man," she offered, patiently. "If you've come to make a business proposal, you led with what I can do for you. There is another side, is there not? You need a hook for the crafty fish you are aiming to have for dinner." Her voice was low and amused. Very nearly playful. "Tell me - what can the Rememdium do for me?," she asked, quietly.

A hand lifted, waving off any shock he might have for her cold mannerisms. "I, of course, know there are many reasons for being altruistic, but you have proposed this as a tit-for-tat. A one hand washing the other. Charity with ulterior motives. Surely you have not come unarmed with the benefits to myself and my company?"

A glance for the door, however briefly, when there was a scrape of chair against the floor. She relaxed when the sound died down - likely just the dwarf changing position. Possibly listening with ear pressed to door, though that hardly seemed possible for the dignified dwarf.
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:02 pm

"You are correct," he said. "People's lives depend upon the benefits of our medicines and our care. I find my ability to offer such care slowly dwindling."

She was better at this business than he ever would be. Outside the door, a scrape of a wooden leg sang against the floor. He tilted his head, raised an eyebrow, then turned his smile to her. He stood. His white robes dragged tiredly around his feet. With his hands clasped in front of him, he approached her -- and then the window behind her.

"That building," said Jule, tilting his angular chin toward the shadow of the Rememdium in the distance, "is all I've ever known. It is an ulterior motive; it's a fine piece of -- as you say -- altruism, a blinder to citizens as much as a benefit." His forearm rested against the sill. His voice fell into the bassy rumble of a barker's excited chant. A poor imitation. "Come one, come all to the Broken Dagger. Drink and be merry despite the dangers that await you, knowing there's a remedy for any ills that might befall you just across the lawn. Come one, come all to Myrkentown, where those who suffer spreading disease are shipped outside the town walls and sequestered to the Rememdium Edificium."

He tapped a knuckle against the glass.

"The safety promised by good medical aid comforts weary travelers who might otherwise be turned away by the Dagger's penchant for chaos," he said, his tone once again discovering levity. "The Rememdium Edificium is smartly located and impeccably managed. None of that is mere coincidence. I enjoy saving lives, Lady Egris." He cocked his head over his shoulder. "And yet, with diminishing resources, we're forced to apply poisons and placebos to do tasks better suited to more effective, less accessible medicines. It's dishonest and often inhumane. But it's all we have.

"Aid us," the young man reasoned, "and not a single one of your men goes untreated. I personally guarantee them the finest assistance I can offer.

"Some limps, with devotion and attention, can be alleviated."
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Fri Apr 11, 2014 1:47 am

His sudden approach straightened her spine, shifted her stance to one far less friendly. It took a soldier's eye to notice - or perhaps a medical one with an eye for details - but it soon eased to something more friendly. More reflex than anything else.

He looked towards the Rememdium in the distance and she moved in to peer over his shoulder. Her polite stance might have been far closer than he would like. Should he take a single step back, he would find her there. Solid and unyielding despite her stature.

There was amusement in her voice as he remarked on the Rememdium's draw. "Do you think that idle hands only get into mischief if there is someone to dress their wounds?," she questioned. Her cadence was polite, but the mirth was unmistakeable. "Let me tell you from my time among menfolk, that is a wholly false assumption. The Broken Dagger would draw them even if your protection were not present."

He spoke of drawing crowds and she smiled tolerantly. "You mistake my aims. I am a simple traveler to this land. What use do I have for drawing others, when I plan to move on as soon as the thaw is complete?," she questioned, voice lilting into a casual, playful dishonesty that she made clear. Her lips quirked in response.

"You have much to learn about business. Much to learn about coaxing others into what might benefit you both. You will have to move quickly in your new position on the Rememdium board," she mused, before turning and crossing the room to the door.

Her hand wrapped around the knob and turned, waiting for him to take his leave. Apparently their business was henceforth concluded.

"Tell them that I will provide coin, but you will be the mediator as reward for your boldness." Punishment or reward? The gleam in her eyes was not clear.

"Good day, Ser Jule," she bowed with flourish. A man's gesture.
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Rance » Mon Apr 14, 2014 11:41 am

The Broken Dagger would draw them even if your protection were not present.

"Then let us consider our work at the Rememdium beneficiary to their continued good health," he said. "Men and women, travelers, soldiers, citizens all. With your endorsement."

The language of her body told him all that was necessary -- that this brief meeting was quickly nearing its conclusion. She moved toward the door, regal and militant in her every motion. Her shoulders shifted, hips realigned, stance became amicable once more. He drew up the edge of his hem from the floor, then tilted down his head in reverence as he approached the door. As she held it open to him, the smell of the Broken Dagger filtered into her room. The broiled pheasant, the warmed bread, the stale odor of beer as dark as pitch.

"The only business in which I care to excel, Lady Egris, is that which is brought upon stretcher and litter. Anything else you require me capable of, however, I will approach with earnest. If that is how I might repay your charity, then it's the least I can do."

You will have to move quickly in your new position on the Rememdium board.

He stiffened at the door, then turned to squint at the heavy fabric draped from the dowel above the window.

What use do I have for drawing others, when I plan to move on as soon as the thaw is complete?

"The thaw comes quickly, Lady Egris." She bowed. He returned the gesture. "It seems you know this too well. Those are summer curtains."

He did not linger long. He retrieved his thin-point blade from the dwarf, and returned with haste to the infirmary, its smells, its sterile odors.
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Re: Gem in a Falcon's Beak

Postby Kestrel » Mon Apr 14, 2014 1:22 pm

"No," she responded, simply. "The best way to repay my charity is word of mouth. Let it be known who fills your coffers," she requested. She needed all the goodwill she could earn. "And who does not."

She left him at the door with the wary dwarf who deftly handed the boy his weapon, hilt first. He gave a short nod at the boy and then continued his vigilant stare.

The smile she gave Jule, with his eye for detail, was sly.

The Lady Egris reached out to affectionately muss the dwarf's hair. He scowled with good nature and she vanished back into her haven with its summer curtains.
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