(121-03-07) A Kind Soul
A Kind Soul
Summary: Ser Osric queries into the life of a smallfolk girl looking for good work.
Date: 05/03/2014
Related: None

Oldtown Square

This is a small cobblestone market square, packed with people from all walks of life in Oldtown. Food vendors offer sizzling, toothsome-smelling dishes, and peddlers offering every sort of thing one can possibly buy with coin line the cobbled walkways, with carpets, weapons, wines, scrolls, armor, cloth, tools, cookware, and myriads of cheap trinkets sure to please.

There is a general babble of voices and chatter as the city folk try to negotiate with the sharp street vendors of Oldtown, and the occasional scuffle as the City Watch snatch up pickpockets and cutpurses from the crowd.

There are some worn stone benches here and there, and grassy swards for the smallfolk to gather upon. In the center of the square stand a set of four heavy wooden pillories, where wrongdoers are frequently held fast for public punishment.

A number of the vendors have begun to close for the night to go home to their families, but the square nevertheless has a distinctive city air, still busy in its own right, still full of life. One particular vendor who is, in fact, on his way home, pushes a rickety, crooked wooden cart of unsold vegetables over the cobblestones, hemming and hawing every time the wheels catch, or when he's interrupted by any of the ecclectic groups of people who happen to loiter in front of him. The greying, surly fellow is being tailed, and every roadblock is an opportunity for his tail — a local girl — to ask him more questions he must wave off with a annoyance edged with a hint of reluctance.

"My boys're old enough now to help out at the stand, I don't need another pair of feet tripping me up all day, girl," he grouches at one such stop, only to be met with the pleading eyes of Embry, who clutches the dull, blue skirt of her her ill-fitted dress and scurries to his side determinedly. She's a little thing; her childlike face confuses her age. She could be four and ten at a glance, a few off from twenty at another.

"Just for a day or two, until I get back on my feet," she ventures, both cautious and painfully optimistic.

"Hadn't your father said you was lookin' for work with some rich lord or lady? Shouldn't you be off knockin' on bigger doors?"

"He's not my father," Embry says in quiet defense, first of all, looking down at the ground; the vendor seizes the girl's moment of nervous silence and waves his arm dismissively before grunting into a push of his cart, leaving her behind, sad-eyed as a lost puppy. "You were a blessin' when I needed your help, but I don't need your help no more, Embry, get on your way and out've mine."

Ser Osric Dayne sits tall in the saddle, his steed a grey palfrey wearing a purple caparison that bears the arms of his house. One eyebrow arches as he spies the exchange between the girl and the vegetablemonger, and there is a clear sympathy in his violet eyes. He seems to wrestle with himself for a moment, to those with an eye for such things. But in the end he calls out to Embry, raising a hand to get her attention. "Here, Girl." He speaks in a rich tenor, soft, but it is a voice that clearly expects attention. "What was that about?"

Embry looks up — way up — at the man on his steed, but at first it's only for a moment; the lowborn girl doesn't seem to comprehend that it's her he's speaking to in that voice, double-taking a split-second later when she realizes his gesture. Her thin, precise lips part and close in a silent stutter, her sights getting caught on the display of his house arms. Her gown, that pieced-together garment trying very hard to look like a fashionable noble lady's, rustles around her feet as she shuffles in place, staring at Osric and quite clearly trying to determine his standing and what her etiquette ought to be. Her eyes are a quiet, subdued blue, transparent windows into a kind soul. She affects a sort of uncertain curtsey. "S-Ser," she says when the stutter comes to life in her voice, which is gentle and full of natural little crackles, "It's nothing," she doesn't want to make a fuss, "I wanted to work at his vegetable stand for a few coins, but he hadn't got room for me. That's his right!"

Osric nods slowly at the stuttered 'Ser,' an encouraging gesture. The subtle grin that plays at his lips is warm, rather than mocking. "It is his right," he allows as his smile fades, and though it's true, there's a hint of sadness — or perhaps sympathy — in his tone. Suddenly conscious of the difference in their height, and the discomfort it causes the young woman, he dismounts. It's a fluid motion; he is obviously an experienced rider. Then he's left looking down on her from the ground, a much less intimidating arrangement. Or so he hopes. "Ser Osric Dayne," he says by way of introduction, with a fractional nod of his head. "You've worked for him before, Miss…" He trails off until it's a question, inviting her name.

His approach startles her and she steps back on instinct, but it's just that, a start; there's no fear in her little scurry, just an ingrained sense of giving those of a higher standing than her their distance. "Embry," she fills in. She has a quaint, friendly smile budding, even though it's unsure of itself, unrelated to the small flash of slightly gapped teeth. "Pleased to meet you, Ser Osric." Her head bows, though she can't seem to restrain her eyes from looking up before the little gesture is over, curious about this man and his horse's purple caparison. "And oh sure I did, here and there, but I was a child then," she shakes her head, "That was before I had a proper job. A proper scrubber and kitchenmaid. I'm a servant, Ser, except I've got no one to serve."

"A pleasure," Osric agrees. The foreign knight begins a slow walk, leading his horse with one hand, a nod of his head inviting Embry to join him. "A kitchenmaid, you say?" If it's an odd conversation for a knight and a nobleman to have with someone so smallborn, it certainly doesn't show on his face. His eyes are intent on her, and there's a depth of empathy there that is rare to see in someone of his station. "And you used to hawk his wares? When you were a child." He can't quite mask a note of indulgence in his voice, there. Clearly he thinks she might be on the edge of childhood, yet.

Embry walks right along on cue, even though it is with a rapid blink of her eyes and opening and closing of her mouth, aware herself that it's a bit odd — this foreign knight having a conversation with her. Maybe it's because he's foreign. Still, her nerves are uncomplicated: no fear, no suspicion, just good old-fashioned self-consciousness. "I'd mostly tidy up an' run errands for him. He's my neighbour, I would've done the same for anyone even if they hadn't anyfin' to spare and still would've done except I need the work." She smiles up, and the empathy in Osric's eyes brightens the expression, her cheeks brimming rosily right up to her freckles. "I'm grown now Ser, I've worked for nobles." As if one thing is magically related to the other.

Osric nods in mute apology, though the girl was graceful enough not to take offence. "A kind soul," he says with a hint of what might even be admiration in his tone. "Many wouldn't, you know." His eyes widen slightly when she mentions that she's worked for nobles in the past, and to his credit there's no hint of skepticism in his voice when he asks, "Nobles of the Reach? Here in Oldtown, was it?" His steps are slow, and his eyes are on the girl alone, never wandering save to occasionally make sure their path is clear. If he has a destination in mind, he's in no hurry to get there.

Osric's attention and kind words — on her kind soul — keep Embry at ease, in odd combination with the faintly starry-eyed way she occasionally, in fleeting moments, looks at him. It's more akin to the way a young child reacts to royalty — or, say, dragons — than the way a woman reacts to a handsome knight. "Yes, Ser Osric, any'd who have me," she confirms with a dip of her head that seems almost humbled by her own answer. She almost starts to talk again, to clarify, but seems to think better, pressing her thin lips together until they start to purse. With a tiny furrowing of her brow, she queries, curious, looking back to his steed since it most boldly displays his house, "Is that— is it Dornish? House …"

"It is," Osric answers softly, as if to say that she'd caught him. Clearly he expects that now she'll be less friendly, less open, and he can't keep it out of his expression. Still, he soldiers on, answering her question with "House Dayne, of Starfall." Then counters with a gentle one of his own. "You were about to say something, Embry. Speak your mind. You've no need to fear me," he claims, as if the thought were laughable — though the clothes, the blade, even his body and mannerisms name him a capable warrior.

The girl takes in Osric's expression and hers freezes up until she's heard his words through. "Oh— " tumbles out in a rush, "Oh, it— " she tries to calm enough to be, at least, understandable, "it weren't about you, or about the Dornish," she reassures him hurriedly. How odd, a smallfolk girl trying to reassure a knight. Of Dorne! "Dorne sounds beautiful, from all the stories I've heard!" No matter what else was in those stories, she's sincere: "And you seem real nice, Ser Osric."

Osric's violet eyes seem to focus on a point somewhere past the girl as he considers a response. "Dorne is beautiful," he finally allows. "Perhaps even as beautiful as the Reach, in its way. But it's a different sort of beauty." He frowns a moment in thought, and the expression doesn't suit him. "If the Reach is a beautiful young maid, then Dorne is a well made sword. It's a harsher beauty, to be sure." He nods, satisfied with the description, but looking to her for approval. "Nice?" He meets the compliment with a friendly chuckle. "I'll wager that's not said between a Dornishman and a lady of the Reach often enough, hm?" He strolls along in silence a moment, then brightens, as if an idea had occured to him just now. "I've brought my family to Oldtown, you know. Just recently. Our household is still in transition, I'm afraid. But we have need of skilled hands, Embry, if you've the patience to work for a Dornishman."

Embry soaks up the description of Dorne just like the exotic and awe-inspiring little story it is to her — so of course it gets a rapid nod, nod, nod. Approval, an understanding that she's followed the metaphor … or thinks she has, at the very least. The "lady of the reach" (eyes wide to even be called such) nearly collides with an invisible wall upon Osric's offer, or so it would seem, given the way her head bobs back and her slow steps, having kept apace with the Dornishman, suddenly stop. "Really?" Her whole face lights up, her immediate gratefulness abundant— and then restrained, trying to keep it from overflowing. She straightens her shoulders on purpose — as if her fumble didn't happen — and strolls with more poise. Like a lady. "My brother says I have the patience of a septon, though I say how would 'e know?" Delicate eyebrows raise high as she finds herself in danger of rambling unecessarily to Ser Osric of House Dayne, instead. "I mean— of course, I'd be honoured to help your household any way I can, Ser Osric. Whatever you would have me do, I'm good at followin' orders!"

"You'd have to speak to my steward on that count," Osric allows, grinning, once he's given her a moment to settle the idea in her mind. "Gareth has a talent for seeing the talents of others, I think. He's a clever man," he says, and it seems as if he's speaking of a friend, rather than a servant. "And kind," he adds. "He'll find a use for you. A kitchenmaid, most likely. Or… Perhaps you could serve my goodsister, the Princess Mariya?" He muses as he walks, clearly interested in her opinion on the matter. It's not just idle talk — he has a gravity to him, he doesn't seem the sort to engage in smalltalk very often.

Smiling agreeably — but modestly — as she listens, Embry's eyes move fast over Osric as though each detail he speaks is being committed to a mental check-list — most likely the case. And then he says—

"Princess," she repeats quite by accident, the the word holding astonishment, curiosity, and amazement all at once. To her Reachlander's ears and daydreamer's ideals, it's an unusual, out-of-reach title, full of majesty and magic. Realizing herself, she attempts to add something appropriate, but adds the obvious instead: "I've never served a princess."

Osric shrugs, as if that were no matter at all. "It's a Dornish title, to my understanding. There aren't quite so many princesses in the Reach." As if that explained entirely why Embry had never served one. "Though there are three, in fact, in my household. My own wife, the lady Ellia, was born a Martell princess herself." He watches Embry for a long moment as they walk, seeming to consider the young woman. Never leering — in fact, never looking at her in any way that seems to even border on the inappropriate. Taking stock of her, rather. "Do you know Oldtown well? I live in a White Stone Manse, near the Starry Sept. It's owned by the Princess Ashara Martell," he cautions her, "Though they'll know your name when you arrive. When can you start?" He's content to let her make that decision, though he's quick to add, "And do you have immediate needs?" The question seems to embarrass him a bit, but it needs asking. She was insistent about work, it could be that she's in dire need of the coin.

Embry keeps nodding along — first to the explanation of all the princesses, then, after the pause during which she mostly looks at the ground with a thousand thoughts racing through her head — then to her knowledge of Oldtown. But when Osric asks her the last question, the girl looks at him like nobody's ever asked if she needed anything a day in her life. It's a vulnerable sort of confusion, which she half swallows down in order to answer. "No — no, but thank you for your kindness. When you've already been so kind! I can start right away!" She reconsiders, fading a little to have to say so, " — no— I meant tomorrow, or any time you want me to come, Ser Osric."

"Not before you're ready," Osric says, his tone gentle though he's firm on the subject. "If you have aught you need to see to first, I understand it, and I'm as good as my word, Embry. There will be a place for you, when you're ready." He gives another nod, meant to be encouraging, as he continues to walk slowly toward nowhere in particular. "You'll need to tell your brother, I'm sure? Perhaps make arrangements with whomever has been employing you?" The last is asked after as the polite thing — she doesn't seem to have been working, after all. "And if there is something you need, you'll come to me." That last isn't a question. There's an almost paternal note in his voice, as if it's simply expected of her, now that she's a part of his household.

"I only need tonight to get ready, so's I can tell my brother and make sure my sisters'll be cared for," Embry answers, immediately conscious of potentially sharing too much and pressing her mouth tight in favour of another eager, understanding nod. A gleeful smile is trying its damnedest to break straight through, curling the tiny corners of her lips. Her steps slow— she's barely been paying attention to where they've been headed (it's a good thing Osric is so kind and upstanding) and needs to go home with this news, after all, though she just hovers, waiting to be dismissed. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me," Osric says with a shake of his head, "Because it's not a gift. It's important to me, for a number of reasons, to surround my family with people of character. You strike me as such a person," he says, levelling his violet eyes on her for a moment as he stops in his tracks. "If you are, then I'll thank you, Embry." His suddenly stern visage cracks into a grin again, and he tilts his head slightly to tell her, "You should be off, I'm sure. You'll be safe getting home? If you need," he finally adds, after a moment's thought, "I'm sure there's room for your sisters. They're young? There are several children in the household, my own included. They're looked after by a Septa and some of the staff."

It's all Embry can do to keep her gaze remotely steady, standing stunned with an uneven, genuine smile on her face. It's a lot for the girl to take in all at once — there's a rush of excitement, then it seems to choke. She fidgets, briefly, with the sleeve of her gown. "The youngest is six," she says, a bit distant compared to her prior answers, smile faltering a touch, something worrying at her brow. It vanishes, for the most part. "Oh, I'll be safe." She speaks up to say thank you again but, remembering, is pleased to say, "Goodnight then Ser Osric?" with a curtsey.

"Of an age with my oldest," Osric says, pleased to have found something in common with Embry. He stops when she curtseys, and returns it with a nod of his head. "Good night to you, Embry. I'll likely see you tomorrow then." As he turns away he adds, over his shoulder, "The Seven watch over you, 'til then." And then he's on his way again, mounting the horse, taking his bearings, and turning it back the way the pair came. So he was simply wandering, after all.

Once his back is turned and he's well enough away, Embry jumps once up and down like the young girl she looks to be and, spilling over with excitement to spread the good news, takes off running in another direction entirely, weaving through the streets like an alleycat.

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