(121-01-10) The Bastard Lady of Skagos
The Bastard Lady of Skagos
Summary: Redrick is discovered spying upon Maera bathing in a forest pool.
Date: 10/01/121
Related: None

A couple of miles from the city there is a little wood, and at its Northern edge is a soft green meadow. Here a still pool is formed in the river by a big boulder embedded into the bank, a stone perhaps representing the furthest trickling trailing edge of the Uplands. It is worn smooth by the ages and large enough for several to sit, or a few to stretch out and take the sun.

The pool, sheltered from the current by the big stone, is broad and deep enough to make a pleasant swimming hole, and in the summer the water is always comfortably warm. This far upstream from the city, it's clean and quite clear.

It's mid-morning. Not that most could tell by the oppressive Summer heat. Oldtown might as well be Dorne for how hot it is. The woods offer some respite from the heat, but not much. The sunlight still filters through the tree's canopies and makes slogging through the woods unbearable.

All the signs of the pool being occupied are there; a horse tied to a tree nearby, a pile of armor and clothes discarded on the huge rock that forms the pool. There is a gentle splashing sound as Maera flips onto her back and does a lazy backstroke around the placid pool.

Perhaps there is some legend from the First Men of a hunter who wanders into a bathing glade and sees something he is not supposed to see. Something for which he will be turned into an animal and eaten by dogs. If there is such a legend, however, Redrick Flowers has not heard it.

He is silent as he slips stealthily toward the glade, his feet placed with all of the careful precision that hints at a life spent in the woods. In fact, he might likely succeed in spying on the swimming maid were it not for a rock dove hidden near the outcropping he uses for cover. As his hand comes to rest near the poor animal, it starts and flaps away in a mad flutter of wings.

The clatter that the bird makes causes the woman in the water to look in the direction that she hears the sound of fluttering wings come from. She throws herself forward to hide her nakedness in the water, and her arm crosses over her bosom. She glares up at the intruder for several heartbeats before demanding in a crisp commanding voice, "Who are you?!"

"Only a hunter." Redrick's voice is soft in the drowsy sunlight, though it still carries a hint of shame at being caught out in his spying. Some might say that nudity is a great equalizer, but still, there is something in the woman's tone that hints at authority, so the young man steps from behind the rock becoming fully visible. Then, he turns his back so that Maera can escape the water, should she wish it.

"I'm sorry. I did not realize I would find a woman bathing on my hunt," he continues. Now that the immediate alarm is fading, a hint of amusement enters his voice.

Maera takes advantage of the turned back, and scrambles back up onto the rock to put her clothes back on. "So." Water drips from her hair onto the rock and makes a patter like a light rain. The sound of fastenings can be heard as she buttons up a pair of breeches over a white shirt, "You didn't realize it but you decided to try and watch anyways? I ought to beat you senseless."

"Is it strange to you that a man would wish to see a woman swimming naked in a pool?" The Hunter asks the question with apparent sincerity, his head cocking to one side as if listening carefully to the answer. "It was enjoyable for me and not harmful for you."

At the sound of clothing being fastened, he turns, slowly. The corpse of a rabbit dangles from his belt. "My name is Redrick Flowers."

Maera pulls her boots on, and nimbly slips off the rock and onto the forest floor. She takes a step towards Redrick, "It matters not what is enjoyable for you, Redrick Flowers. You had no right to try and spy on me." Her voice has a flat quality to it, as if the whole exchange is actually rather dull. "But, I won't make you eat your own teeth if you promise not to tell anyone else of this place."

Maera’s words make Redrick take long, slow stock of the woman, his eyes running up and down her sturdy, almost masculine frame. He seems to readily reach the conclusion that she can likely follow up on her threats. "Fighting a woman is a losing proposition no matter how it falls out," he says with a crooked grin. He is, however, quick to hold up his hands, his fingers thickly callused from the bow strapped to his back. "I mean no offense. I'm sure I would eat my own teeth."

He pauses then asks, rather bluntly, "Who are you?"

"Today it seems I am Jonquil." Maera fires back as she leans her elbow and side against the big rock. "Waiting for my fool." She squints at Redrick a moment before giving him a wry little smirk and saying in her monotone voice, "You look like a fool, but you are not my fool."

"Perhaps I am Jonquil and you are /my/ fool," Redrick responds with a wry twist of his mouth. "You certainly enjoy a pretty riddle." His eyes lift to the trees that surround the small pool and he asks, "Is this your glade then?" A hand pats at the smooth bark on the tree beside him, and a look of fondness washes over his features, brief as a summer shower.

"I do believe the Hightower’s own this glade. Technically." Maera lets out a little yawn, the heat causing her to be drowsy. It is so hot that her hair has already begun to dry. "But I like to keep a good thing quiet. What would be the fun in having every gaping moron down here?"

"Not when you can have only one," Redrick smirks. "Very well. I will keep your secret, my sisterless Jonquil." And with that concession, the air seems to puff out of him until he resembles nothing so much as a wind-slack sail. "I'm sorry," he confesses. "For spying. And for trying to banter. I'm terrible at it. In truth, I wanted your name only because I know so few people here in Oldtown."

"You are lucky and unlucky that my sisters are not here." Maera's lips twitch upwards briefly, "Unlucky because they are all more comely than I, and lucky because they'd have fed you all of your teeth by now." She stifles another yawn, and his apology solicits an exhale of air that may be like a laugh, "You need not apologize. I knew someone would stumble on the pool sooner or later. I am called Maera." She doesn't give him a title or last name, "Whose natural son are you, Redrick Flowers?"

"My mother was the daughter of a woodcutter. My father…" For a moment, he seems to wrestle with lying, but, in the end, he blows out a long, slow breath. "I have been told my father is the Lord of Horn Hill. He has never denied it." There is a slightly stubborn look on his face as he lifts his gaze to meet Maera's once more. It is the look of bastards everywhere, foolishly determined to be more than the sum of the circumstances of their birth. "I am pleased to meet you, Maera.

"Ah. Tarly." Maera stands up straight, and wanders the several yards over to her horse. Opening up her saddle bags, she retrieves an apple. It is offered to her mount on the flat of her hand. She takes two more apples out of the bag and neatly tosses one to Redrick before taking a bite out of the remaining apple, "They've a Valyrian steel sword, you know. Heartsbane." Her tone is nonchalant. As if she were discussing the weather and not the family with which Redrick can claim lineage from but not actual ties or legitimacy.

"All the smallfolk around Horn Hill know stories of Heartsbane," Redrick says with a rueful laugh. The amusement on his face is followed a moment later by a look of curiosity. "I did not think it was so widely known in Westeros. Are you from The Reach," he asks, eyes narrowing as he searches for familiar features.

"Oh no. The bearers of Valyrian steel, we all know of each other." Maera says rather enigmatically. The woman does not look like she is from the Reach. She could be from anywhere, but her manner of speech suggests the North.

"Oh, we do, do we?" Amusement is back in Redrick's voice, the young man apparently given to humor when other pressures do not exert themselves on his mood. He takes a bit of the apple she has tossed him and chews contentedly, even going so far as to hoist it in the air as a kind of gesture of thanks. "I am going to make up stories in my head about you, Maera-Of-Parts-Unknown. I think perhaps you are a bastard yourself," he muses, settling himself on the grass and laying his bow to one side. "The daughter of lord of the north who now makes her living as a sellsword."

Maera shakes her head softly and lets out an amused sound, "Ah, no. My mother was my father's wife." She has another bite of her apple, and chews slowly before saying, "But this sounds like it could be a fun story. Who is the father of Maera-Of-Parts-Unknown, then?"

"Oh," Redrick muses, tilting his head thoughtfully to one side as he slowly chews his apple. "No doubt some hard Northman. Oh!" He straightens with inspiration. "I think perhaps one of the lords of Skagos. And you grew up riding unicorns and eating human flesh. But Skagos was no places for such a delicate flower. No, She-of-the-more-ferocious-sisters was soft, and so she was cast from that terrible island, leaving her sisters and her unicorn behind."

After he pauses for a moment, he concludes his story with: "On the mainland, everyone else was soft. Not the bastard lady of Skagos, and so her fortunes were reversed. She was celebrated for making men eat their own teeth and quickly turned to making coin with the edge of her blade. But now and then she misses Skagos and she finds the coldest pond she can to plunge into, to feel the cold on her skin, and to keep her heart encased in the ice that has held it since birth."

"It's hard to be the bastard daughter of a Lord of Skagos." Maera says with a slow shake of her head, "Especially considering they don't have lords." She has another big bite of the apple, and chews before saying, "But you were right about the island. But, you picked the one in the wrong direction. My island is west instead of east."

She lets out a sudden short laugh, "And how do you know my heart is encased in ice, Redrick Flowers?"

Redrick take a moment to think, then show that he does have some book learning, but nodding slowly. "Bear Island." He seems unbothered by his lack of knowledge of Skagos, simply content to spin out the fantasy story. Finishing his apple, he tosses the core into the copse of trees, then pushes himself to his feet.

As he slings his bow over his shoulder he says, gently, of her heart, "It is only a hunch. The instinct of a hunter. Was I wrong?"

"And here I was used to my reputation preceding me. Just the other day I had a man telling me about how I was apparently known for cleaving men's chests open in the city, now." Maera finishes off her apple, and tosses it in the direction that Redrick's went. "But alas, Redrick Flowers does not know me. Yes. My home is Bear Island." She smiles, "You were wrong."

The bastard hunter tosses his hands up in the air. "Well. Sometimes you track a wolf only to find a dog," he says with a little laugh. "Forgive me for…" He abruptly breaks off, his face going pale. "I…m'lady Mormont. Forgive me." He dips into a crude but extremely low bow.

"And what, exactly, am I forgiving you for?" Maera still seems amused. "You've already apologized to me for spying. Although I suppose knowing who I am now makes it seem much worse." She climbs back onto the rock, and sits down with her legs hanging off of the edge, "So, you do know me. What have you heard?"

"That you…" For better or for worse, Redrick swallows back his immediate reply, pausing to take several steadying breaths and earning time to collect his thoughts. "That you are a fierce warrior, a match for any man with a blade." He glances over his shoulder, as if suspecting that someone is sneaking up behind him. "I should leave you in peace, lady."

"There is no need to leave me in peace." Maera watches Redrick from atop the rock for a moment or two before asking, "Are you afraid of me, Redrick Flowers? By the Old Gods, who has made you so fearful, boy?" His fear just seems to fuel her amusement. "Come now. You're far too amusing for me to kill."

Redrick flushes furiously at being called 'boy', but with a tensing of his neck controls what might otherwise be an outburst. "My experience has been that when lords and ladies play with smallfolk, it is the smallfolk who are hurt in the end," he says stiffly. Still, whether he likes the moniker or not, there is still too much boy in him for some of his vulnerability not to shine through.

"You are not smallfolk." Maera points out, "You are Lord Tarly's natural son." She gives him a little shrug, "But, your experience is not wrong. The highborn can be cruel." She looks over Redrick quietly, "I'm surprised you are not a Knight. At least you don't have the look of a Knight about you. I thought all Southerners with a bit of breeding were Knights."

"I never had the opportunity," Redrick says with a roll of his shoulders. "And I suppose it is too late now. But I think that it is for the best, m'lady. I prefer the quiet of the woods to the excitement of the tourney grounds. Besides," and let it now be said to Redrick's credit that in the midst of this awkward situation, he attempts (however ill-conceived) a bit of humor, "one does not often see naked ladies at the tourney grounds."

Maera begins combing her hair out with her fingers before she begins to braid it into plaits, "You didn't really see me naked. Well, maybe just my tits, but only for a moment." She doesn't sound particularly bothered by it. "You mentioned being a hunter. I like a good hunt, but no one likes hunting stag. It's all boar, and that's loud." Her nose wrinkles, but her hands do not cease in their braiding until she is finished. She nods to the bow on his back, "Are you any good with it?"

"I am, lady," Redrick answers honestly it would seem, and for a moment, he stands a bit straighter and something of the noble quality of his blood makes itself seen in his bearing. The flash of nobility is quickly gone. "But deer is lord's game. I stalk them, but have only shot at one once. I think I would prefer hunting them to boar. Hunting boar is a test of courage. Hunting deer is a game of skill."

Maera smiles, "Good. You'll come hunt deer with me, then." That said, she hops off of the rock and takes a step towards her horse, and looks back at Redrick, "Deer are your game, Redrick Flowers. You see it as a source of shame, don't you? Use it to your advantage. Plenty of bastard sons have used their father's names to open doors for themselves, too." That said, she unties her horses' reins, "I'll send for you when I go out hunting next."

Redrick quickly drops into the crude bow of his, whatever expression has come to his face is hidden by the action. "Until then, Lady Mormont," he mumbles to the ground. When he rises, his face is serene and uncomplicated. He unstrings the rabbit at his belt and slings it over his shoulder as he stalks deeper into the foods. Wherever the bastard of Horn Hill is going, it is not in the direction of town.

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