(118-03-13) The Thief's Knight
The Thief's Knight
Summary: Three years ago in Dorne, Osric meets a boy who will become his squire, a man, and his friend.
Date: 03/13/2014
Related: None

Three years ago, in Sunspear…

Even on the best of days, Sunspear is hot. And on the worst of days, it's so hot that even those who have spent the whole of their lives in the city feel the press of the sun on their back and throats. Today is such a miserable day, and the marketplace, full of hawkers, merchants and shoppers, even still, has an edge of crankiness and irritation to it greater than the usual.

Amid the bustle, there's a reed of a boy moving slowly and doing his best not to get jostled. He's filthy, his feet are bare, his trousers shabby, dirty and torn. He has a stiff, dusty cloth of some kind draped over his head and shoulders despite the heat. Or, perhaps, because of it. He keeps his gaze down on the ground, though it darts upwards now and again. Furtive. Seeking.

In the bustle is one Ser Osric Dayne, a veteran knight, but of no great renown. The knight stands slightly separated from a small knot of gossiping ladies, though it's clear he is with them.. He wears an expensive set of sandsilk robes, white, but accented with House Dayne's purple. There's a longsword belted at his hip, carried like it is a part of him. His horse is nearby, its reins held by a page in Martell colors — it appears that whatever he's doing wasn't on his schedule for the day. Nevertheless, his expression is neutral. He sweats in the hot sun, but bears it stoically, eyes scanning the crowded market as he guards his charges.

The boy's dark green and glassy gaze takes in first the huddle of chattering women, then the knight watching them, and then the knight's horse, slightly apart and being looked after by a page. He moves carefully through the crowd so that he's on the side of the horse opposite the knight and then begins to move carefully but circuitously closer. His attention jumps from the knight, to the page to the women to the horse, but mostly it rests on the horse's saddlebags and the promise of something of value therein.

And then something interesting happens. There's a small scuffle nearby, two men arguing loudly within a few paces of the knot of ladies. Ser Osric's steps are quick as he crosses toward them, assessing the situation as he draws near so that once he's within an arm's reach he's already reaching out for one of them. He speaks in a clear, commanding voice, demanding that the men be still. It's soon enough that he has one in hand, and the other warded off with a warning gesture. Their discussion continues, but it's in a lower tone now, until eventually the Dayne knight releases his hold and warns the man to be on his way. His discussion with the other man continues for some time, however.

The ladies turn to watch as soon as the commotion starts, giggling as the knight grapples briefly with one of the men, then chattering amongst themselves even as Ser Osric continues to speak with the two men in hushed tones.

The page is only a boy, perhaps seven years old, or a tall six. And boys being boys, the excitement draws his attention. He doesn't let go the horse, but he does step to the limit of the lead's reach and crane to see the action.

It is an opportunity, and one the dirty street urchin doesn't ignore. He darts up to the horse as quietly as he can, his arm shoving into the saddle bag in an attempt to grab something, anything, and run with it. The horse, suddenly aware of a smell of a stranger and the tug of his saddle, grunts and shifts his weight, ears flattening and head lifting.

"No!" It's the page. "Ser Osric! Guards!" This last has a shrill note of panic, the way that only the voices of children can. He jumps up and down once, twice, then seems to think better of it and puts the body of the horse between himself and the rough-looking urchin. Bent down to see the lad's legs beneath the horse, he's still pointing as a pair of watchmen approach from behind the would-be-thief.

Ser Osric approaches from the other side, the bulk of the horse between them. He comes at a jog, but he had to disengage himself from the affronted vendor and cover more ground than the watchmen, so they have the Northern lad cornered by the time he arrives.

"Here now, what's this," one guard asks, his grin showing a mean-streak as obvious as his chipped tooth.

"Thieving, boy?" His comrade asks as he draws nearer, brows furrowed. "That'll see you to the dungeons."

"Might be I'd rather watch him wiggle on the end of my spear," Chipped Tooth says with a smirk, striking the ground with the butt of his weapon.

The boy freezes as the page shouts, his arm still in the saddle bag as the horse's shifting and jostling makes him unable to pull loose. He tenses as the guards appear and gives his arm a tug. It's pulled free, but empty, the theft quite an utter failure. Jaw set, the boy turns to face the trio of soldiers. He settles into a bent-knee stance, arms loose and at his sides, as if he means to fight all three of them. Unarmed. The cloth, no longer held closed by the boy's fist, opens and flops to the ground. He's more than thin, he's emaciated, bruises both purple and yellow here and there along his ribs. That's the front of him. His back is obscured by the horse.

Osric comes 'round the front of the horse, patting the page on the shoulder as he passes. "Run along, Cas," he says softly, and the boy leads the courser toward the knot of staring ladies. Osric closes to within a few steps of the half-starved lad quickly, facing the guards though for a moment he has eyes only for the young man. "Mother's Grace, Boy," he says softly, almost to himself. "You're half starved, aren't you?" He wears a frown as his violet eyes turn toward the two watchmen, and it deepens as he sees Chipped Tooth's grin. "I am Ser Osric Dayne," he says simply, by way of introduction. "That was my horse, and the boy who called out to you is in my service."

The starved lad's expression only firms as the horse's owner appears. There is a small flinch as he gives his name and station. Not only was he thieving, he was apparently thieving from a knight. Still, the lad doesn't move from where he stands, ready to clash fists with the two guards, except to turn, just a little, so he's somewhat facing Ser Osric as well. Feral as a half-starved hound, it seems, and just as ready to bite. The boy's back, it can now be seen by those behind him, is striped in red lashes, several having split the skin open. They are red and swollen, and one is weeping a fluid that looks more like pus than blood.

The two soldiers only laugh as the boy doesn't run but faces them. "Looks like he'd rather wiggle on your spear too, eh?" the friend asks chipped-tooth with a grin.

Chip-tooth nodnods as Ser Osric introduces himself, likely expecting the man to want to charge the boy with something or simply run him through himself. The nodding stops, however, at that last. "He what, Ser?"

"Ser," the comrade adds, "anyone can see he en't in anyone's service. He's nothin' but the thievin' grime of the streets!"

"The page," Osric says patiently. "The boy who called out for the guards. He was in my service." He turns a critical eye on the urchin, stepping back so that he can face the guards while he does so. It's then that he notices the welts, the blood and leaking pus. "This one I don't know," he admits with a slight shake of his head, though that too is said so softly that it's more of a thought spoken aloud than a piece of conversation. He straightens himself, his appraisal finished, and turns to face the guards. "But if he's a thief, he's a poor one. He has nothing of mine," and with a hint of a wry grin he adds, "He has nothing at all, save for his infection. Is he guilty of any crime, in your estimation?"

The guards both look rather relieved when Osric clarifies his statement and they understand the scrawny lad has no tie to him. "He's an attempted thief, ser," the chipped-tooth one says, "saw him up tot he elbow in your saddlebag. That's enough for the dungeon."

The other guard inches closer to the boy, angling his spear in the lad's direction. "Doesn't have to be a good thief to still be a thief."

"What's the penalty?" Osric's question comes immediately on the heels of the guards' answer, and he edges toward the boy. Protectively, it seems, which seems an odd reaction to have. His left hand hangs loose on the hilt of the sword at his left hip, a casual enough stance, as he looks from guard to guard. "Who assesses it? I would pay the boy's fine and see him released into my custody." He begins shakily, but gains confidence as he speaks. "I serve House Martell," he adds, which seems to his mind to prove his reliability as a custodian for the boy. Nearby, the gaggle of maids continue to whisper amongst themselves and stare.

The boy, however, edges away from both the encroaching guard and Ser Osric, protective or no. He's still taut and waiting. Biding his time and looking for a chance to flee or fight.

"Loss of his right hand and two months in the dungeons," chipped-tooth's friend says rather eagerly. One can only guess how well one would fare in a dungeon with such a wound, even if they weren't starved and infected. Chipped-tooth frowns, looking from the boy to Ser Osric. "He ain't worth your bother, ser. He sure ain't worth the interest of the Martells. Let us deal with him. He won't make no more trouble, I promise ye."

"Steady, Lad," Osric says without turning to look at the boy. "He won't survive the dungeons, even without the loss of his hand. The boy's infected already," he tells the men in no uncertain terms. "I alone will be the judge of what is or is not worth 'my bother,' and I'll not see a starved boy pay for thieving with his life." His easy expression hardens as he adds, "Though I agree there's no reason to trouble the Martells with it. I can see to it that he's no more trouble for me, or for the watch. To whom should I take my concern?"

"Well, and so it goes, sometimes," the comrade guard replies with a small shrug for the idea of the boy dying in a cell. "It's happened before, it'll happen again. The breed like rats and they dies like rats, ser. Tis just their way."

The boy trembles as he stands, a corner of his mouth curling up into a small sneer for such an opinion.

"If you mean to handle it yourself, ser, it'd be the magistrate you need to see," chipped-tooth says, though his tone suggests this is a very ill-advised plan. "Be quickest and easiest you just left him to us, though, ser."

"Easy isn't the same thing as right," Osric says, his voice heavy with disapproval, "You'd do well to remember that." He turns, back to the guards, stepping aside so that he's between them and the young boy for the moment. "You understand your role in this, Lad," he asks too softly for the guards to hear. "I'm willing to take it on faith that you're a good man, driven to thieving by circumstance. You'll prove me right." His head dips so that he can look the half-starved boy in the eyes as he says again, with emphasis, "Even if it wasn't true until this very moment, Lad, it is from this moment forward." Arms folded across his chest now, he eyes the whipped urchin as he waits for a response.

The guards are quiet, not yet convinced they should go away, as Ser Osric addresses the boy. The lad himself straightens carefully, lifting a gaze full of challenge, exhaustion and fever, to meet Osric's regard. "That's a lot you're willing to take on faith," he says with a voice gone hoarse from lack of use and lack of water. He tries to wet his lips with a dry tongue as the shivers grip him harder. Slowly, hesitantly, his head dips down and up again in a nod of agreement for that strange and generous offer. And then he pitches forward, his eyes roll back, and he collapses into Ser Osric.

Startled, Osric catches the boy in arms made strong by years of holding a sword. "Help me get him onto the horse," he tells the guards, the expectation of obedience clear in his voice. He's light enough, but an unconscious man is an awkward burden. There's a short flurry of orders that follows, once the boy is settled. "Take us to the magistrate, and be quick about it," to Chip-tooth. "Fetch Maester Ollen," to the page, "He's to meet us at the magistrate. Tell him the lad's infected and feverish." And to Chip-tooth's slightly more level-headed (seeming) friend, "See these ladies safely home, if you would be so kind. Leave your name with one of my men, I'll see you properly thanked for your service." Taking the horse's lead himself, he sets off toward the magistrate, pushing the pace as quickly as he can.

Cut to a room in the Tower of the Sun

Sunlight streams in through the open windows of a well-appointed room. A room with a view of a bustling city, though it's quiet enough at this height in the tower. White curtains billow in the wind, doing nothing to shade room's several windows. A snippet of conversation flits in from the balcony, the first voice unfamiliar, the second perhaps less so.

"…Stable, now. He should live, Ser, though these things are never certain."

"I'm confident that he has received the best care available, Maester. Thank you. You are a good man, and capable."

A brief pause, uncomfortable.

"If that is all, Ser, I'll take my leave?"

"With my thanks, Maester."

A man in his middle years, hale and healthy, strides through the room and out its single door, purpose in his stride. The second man, Ser Osric Dayne, takes a moment longer to wander in from the balcony. In sandsilk robes, but of a different shade, he wears a concerned expression as he comes to stand next to the bed. His baldric and sword rest on a desk in the room's corner, so that his hands can settle unimpeded on his hips.

The magistrate is a dull affair, though the fellow does seem shocked a put out that he's to have a filthy boy treated in his chambers. Still, the Maester arrives with his medicines and poultices, and he clucks unhappily of the state of the boy's back as he cleans it and slathers it with a foul-smelling ointment. The lad remains limp as agreements are made and papers are signed. He's limp as he's led back to Ser Osric's home, and it's only an hour after he's tucked into a bed, on his stomach, that the boy groans softly and his eyes slowly open.

"You're awake," Osric observes, surprised. "Be still, Lad." He steps away from the bed to a nearby table to fill a small wooden cup with lemon water, then returns to offer it to the boy. "Here. Drink slowly. Maester Ollen says you'll need the water, but if you drink it quickly you'll see it again all too soon," he says, his lips curling into a half-hearted grin.

"Not dead?" the boy queries, still looking a little bleary and dazed. He lifts his head and then pushes himself up onto his elbows with a wince, as water is offered. One hand more snatches than accepts the mug, and he tries his best to drink it slowly, but it's still gone in a few moment. "More," he requests, holding the empty glass out. "…please."

"Slowly," the knight insists, his own movements emphasizing the suggestion as he takes the cup to refill it, but with no urgency. "Do you know where you are," he asks as he works. "Do you remember meeting me?" He looks over his shoulder to see what reaction that brings to the youth's face, then back to the cup as the water level reaches the top. "Are you hungry?" Full of questions, it seems.

The boy's eyes are mostly on that cup of water as it fills so slowly. "Sunspear," he answers for his location, and "yes," for recollecting meeting this man who saved his life, and then, almost reluctantly, "Yes," again for being hungry.

"The Tower of the Sun," Osric says, nodding as the boy identifies the city. His voice is soft, and there's a definite tone of concern as he passes the cup back to his charge. "Carefully. I'll see to some food, then." Once the cup is handed off, the knight takes a brief leave, stepping into the hall. There's a conversation out there, though distance and echoes make it difficult to make out, and then the sound of boots on the stone floor as Osric returns. "I am Ser Osric Dayne," he says as he comes into view, in case his introduction were missed in the excitement, "And for the time being, you are in my care. Or more precisely, Maester Ollen's care, under my orders," he allows, something that just might be embarrassment shading his features.

The boy accepts the water, able to control himself a little better and sip rather than gulp. He eases up onto his knees so he can turn around and sit on the bed, rather than prop himself up on his elbows. "Ser," he offers quietly as the man introduces himself. He looks from Osric to the Maester, regarding him blandly as if he's yet to make his mind up about the fellow. "Thank you," he offers down to the cup in his hands, "for doing all this, Ser. I only need a meal and a little more rest, and then I can go. I don't mean to cause bother."

"You're no bother," Osric says firmly, with a single half-shake of his head. Further away, near the door, the maester makes a clucking sound with his tongue that prompts Osric to look hs way. "Thank you, Maester," he says, forcing a smile. "Don't let us keep you. I'll send someone if you're needed."

With a murmured farewell, Ollen takes his leave, not bothering to address his patient.

"You'll stay until you're well," the knight insists once the door swings closed. "Perhaps longer, if it suits you," he allows with a shrug of his shoulders. "If you'll forgive my saying so, it seems you have few good prospects outside these walls," he says, stepping toward a window. And worth noting is that the man seems earnest, genuinely concerned that he might offend the convalescing boy. "And there's always work for an able-bodied man."

It's news he's aware of, but not news he especially likes to hear, those dismal prospects, and he frowns before taking another swallow of water. "And what kind of work is it you think me suited for, ser?" he queries, lifting his gaze from the bed to the knight.

There's a good humor in Osric's laugh as he settles into a chair at the bedside. Not at all mocking, it's a laughter than invites company. "I'd hoped you might know," he says, leaning forward so that his elbows rest on his knees. "Not thieving," he adds with a lift of his brows that softens the words. "You're a poor hand at that. Honest work for you, I think."

The lad's nose wrinkles in glum agreement that he's not much for theft. "Honest work," he repeats, the mug turning slowly as his fingers nudge it around and around. "Suppose it's worth an attempt."

"Not what you're used to?" Osric doesn't seem surprised or perturbed by the idea. "I took you for a sailor, perhaps. I was wrong?" That doesn't surprise him either, apparently. "What are you good for, then?"

"I've sailed," is all the boy says, as far as being a sailor. For the question, he frowns in consideration at his lack of skills. Or perhaps at the first skills that come to mind. And length he offers, "I can fight, ser."

"That has its uses," Osric allows, looking the boy over. He frowns skeptically at what he sees, but in the end he nods. "Rest and," he pauses at a knock on the door, and bids the servant to enter. It's a young girl with a tray of bread, cheese and fruit, which she lays on the bed before the non-sailor at Osric's instruction, then withdraws to the sound of his thanks. "I'm sorry," the knight says then, of the interruption. "Rest and food will put some weight back onto your frame, and then we'll see, hm?"

"Well, if you find a use for it, I'll put myself to it," the boy allows. He finishes the last of the water and sets it aside as the food arrives. His stomach grumbles audibly to see it, and several pieces are in his mouth even befroe he realizes he's reached for them. After chewing and swallowing, he asks, "Sorry for what, ser?"

"Hm?" For a moment, Osric seems to forget that he has apologized for something. "Oh, for the interruption." He relaxes into the chair, a well made thing of dark wood with thick cushions, giving the boy a long moment to eat. His violet eyes turn toward the window; he's content to sit in silence until the young ne'er-do-well has eaten his fill and finds it in himself to speak again.

It's a quiet five minutes as the food is devoured at a breakneck speed, because once he begins, there's just no controlling it. Finally, though, the last of the crumbs have been gathered and there is only a plate left. The boy licks his lips before he says, "You've never a cause to apologize to me, ser. I'm not… anything."

Osric's head swivels back to take the boy in, his eyes narrowing. There's another quiet moment of appraisal before he says, soft and serious, "You're wrong about that." He straightens himself to lean back in the chair now, and he nods at the empty plate. "More?" But that's only a passing interest - the boy has landed on a topic for serious conversation. "All men deserve to be treated with dignity. And while I'm responsible for you, that's how you will be treated. If you find it is ever otherwise, I'll hear of it. You understand?"

'More?' gets a small, curt nods, and the rest of Ser Osric's words get a look that is heavily skeptical. "Aye, ser," the boy murmurs blandly, "As you say."

Osric stands again, nodding. Long strides carry him into the hall, and there's a moment as he searches out a servant and makes his wishes known. The boy has a moment alone before Osric reappears, apparently satisfied. "It should only be a moment," says as he crosses back to the chair, settling in. "Where were we?"

"I don't know," the boy replies, straightfaced. "I think you were saying nonsense and I was politely agreeing, ser."

"It could be," Osric says lightly, even laughing a bit at himself. "The Seven know I'm prone to it, as does my wife." The smile seems almost conspiratorial, so inclusive is it. "Dignity," he says again, lifting his chin as he remembers. "That's no nonsense, Lad. I meant every word of it."

A corner of the boy's mouth can't help but lift at the way the knight includes him in his own smile. "You're married," he repeats, his voice sobering. "Have you sons or daughters?"

"A son," Osric says, his smile at once both proud and uncomfortable. "Just old enough to be a nuisance." That's said fondly enough, though. He's clearly a man who cares for his family. "And you?" The boy is young, but it's not impossible. "Is there a young woman?"

The lad barks out a short, surprised laugh at the very idea. Still smirking, he shakes his head. "No, ser. No woman. No family. Just me."

"Well, you're welcome here," Osric says, hands slapping his knees as he rises. "You should rest, hm? I've taken up enough of your time. More food will be along shortly, and I'll leave someone outside the door. If you need anything, ask." He looks down on his charge, his expression open and easy. "Maester Ollen will check on you from time to time, and I'll be by as my duties allow."

"I…" the boy hesitates, but then he only gives a small nod. "Thank you, ser. For everything."

"Don't thank me," Osric warns gently. "It's not a favor. You'll repay me. You made me an oath, remember, Lad?" One corner of his mouth edges upward into a grin, but it's said very seriously.

"T…" the boy presses his lips together a moment, "Tameron. I'm called Tameron Sand, ser." Or, at least, he will be.

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