(121-04-03) Choosing Battles
Choosing Battles
Summary: In which Tameron Sand meets a bull, a weasel, and a pile of rags that can throw a punch.
Date: April 3, 2014
Related: News From Dorne

It's a tavern. Or an inn. Let's say an inn as Ser Tameron Sand has stopped here for the night in his journey to Blackmont Castle and then the seat of the Manwoodys (and, really, who can say that name with a straight face?) Quiet, lean and dusty from the day's travels, the young knight sits at one of the tables, sipping now and again from a cup and watching the going-ons as the night wears on and the bar becomes more boisterous.

Over in the corner — the far one with the view of the whole common room and both doors, as favored by the chronically paranoid — there's a short, slight figure all in dun-colored robes and wrappings — clothing which might have been of some color once, but has been bleached to nothing by sun and wind. Nothing to mark on, unless one counts the scarf draped to provide both head-covering and occlusive veil. Not an unusual look for these parts, but courtesy usually dictates that faces be revealed indoors. In company. Anonymity and disguise can make the already edgy folk edgier. As it seems to have done.

The table and its occupant have attracted, like flies, a couple drunken and overly inquisitive gentlemen. We'll call them Bull and Weasel, for the resemblances are uncanny, and we join the harrassment in progress. "Can't be a kid — wot's a kid business travelin' all alone, like it's done? It's got t'be a man — just a little, tiny man," says Bull, sloshing a mug of ale nearly half the size of the keg it was poured from.

The tiny person's rather exaggerated eyes — bright blue — flick from Bull to Weasel as the latter speaks up. "Nah, ish a gurl," slurs Weasel, words whistling through a number of holes where teeth should be. "Arencha a gurl, sweetie pie? Come, let'sh have a look…" He reaches for the veil.

Tameron's traveling gaze fall onto the table with its pint-sized occupant and its two, larger, unwanted guests. A corner of his mouth lifts into a tiny, satisfied smile as he stands and makes his way over to where Bull and Weasel loom, "A proper, sportin' man would choose an opponent closer to his own size."

"Wot — and that's you?" chortles Bull, clapping a hand the size of a holiday ham on Tam's shoulder — with enough force to buckle a lesser lad's knees. "C'mon, we ain't gonna hurt 'im. Is we, Jak?" That, apparently, is the Weasel's name.

The bright blue eyes dart to Tam, visibly sizing him up. Those eyes don't trust him an iota. They snap back to Jak, the veiled… person… snatching the man's wrist out of the air and neatly curling his fingers up beneath their thumb. It takes surprisingly little pressure in that grip to bring the startled man to his knees, howling. "FUCK! FUCK, th'bitch broke my HAND!"

"That's me," Tam agrees as the hand is slapped down on his shoulder. He might have thought twice, but when the wrapped figure starts snapping bones, it seems the time for contemplation is over. His knee jerks up and into Bull's solar plexus, even as he's grabbing for a chair to slam the object down on the large man's head.

The poor son-of-a-bitch never sees it coming, the knee doubling the big man over and the chair staggering him like he drunk he is. The chair flies to pieces — they don't make them like they used to — and the veiled something-or-other snatches up a chair leg on the fly, tucking it against their forearm as Weasel lurches up, swinging with his good hand. The wild swing is easily ducked and the chair leg/forearm combo smashes into the side of Weasel's jaw. Blood, spittle, and a few teeth spew in an arc. Meanwhile, Bull — rather appropriately — bull-rushes Tam with a roar.

Tam blinks, perhaps having hoped a good bash to the head would be all it took. But then he sidesteps away from from the charging drunk, leaving him to plow into another table or clients or a wall. He doesn't bother with a table leg himself, only sinking into a crouch as he waits for the big man to come back around.

It's almost comedy, how the Bull doesn't even slow down, rammeling past nimble Tam and into a nearby table. The occupants lurch back, plates and cups go flying, at least one leg of the table snaps. Slowly, the big man staggers to his feet and turns, fists curling and uncurling at his sides. He glowers at Tam through a rivulet of blood. Closer at hand, the slender figure in rags and robes slips under Weasel's arm and jabs a savage elbow back into the man's kidneys. From the Bull, there's no wild charge this time — he lumbers toward Tam with deliberation and purple-faced rage, the floorboards shaking beneath his boots.

Tameron draws in a slow breath and tilts his neck from one side to the other, letting it crack. He waits with steely-eyed determination as the Bull lumbers closer, his gaze occasionally darting over to the ragamuffin and the weasel, but that situation seems well in hand.

The Weasel has collapsed into a groaning pile on the floor as Bull swings a haymaker for the side of Tam's head, bellowing. Ragamuffin simply watches the attack with an interested tilt of their head. So much for gratitude.

Tameron can see it come a mile away and he ducks the haymaker, drops to the ground and slams both feet into the other man's kneecap.

Bull goes down to one knee, the good one, with a sharp shout of pain, then lurches to grapple Tam's middle. Weasel thinks for a moment that he might try to get up, but Ragamuffin plants a foot between his shoulderblades and shoves him back down to the floor, barely sparing the man a glance. Eyes are on Tam and the Bull, but there still doesn't seem to be any assistance forthcoming.

As the bull lunges, Tameron kicks again, this time aiming for the nose and mouth. Goodbye tooth or two and pretty schnozz.

As is fairly predictable when a schnozz, pretty or otherwise, meets a high-velocity boot, there's an explosion of blood. Teeth, too, but they're pretty much lost in the spectacle. The Bull's head snaps back and Ragamuffin, with what might be a faint sigh from the slight rise and fall of their shoulders, steps in with a smart application of the aforementioned chair leg to a sweet spot on Bull's skull. TIMBER! Big man fall down with a splendid, crockery-rattling crash.

Oh, now the rag child steps in. Tameron casts the little figure a mildly irritated glance. He had it handled thanks so much, but then he sighs and gets to his feet, dusting off his hands. "You all right?"

The wispy shamble of rags takes their boot from between Weasel's shoulder blades, giving he man a nudge in the ribs. "Take your friend and go," she — unmistakably a she, now, even from that sere whisper — tells him. Perhaps all the more unnerved at the dulcet feminine undertones of his attacker, the Weasel scrambles to lug the Bull away. It's a pathetic effort until a few jeering patrons join in to expedite the process. Bright blue eyes flicker to Tam, carefully assessing him. "Are you?"

"Fine," Tameron replies with a small shrug as he tugs his shirt straight. "So are you horribly disfigured under there, or do you just like to kick up trouble by making yourself a target?"

"People usually leave me alone," states the girl, grabbing her pack from beneath the table. "But I also usually avoid them. Coming in here was a mistake."

"Yup," Tameron agrees with a small nod and no apology in his tone. "You seem quick enough not to make those kind of mistakes by mistake. So what happened?"

The line of a frown etches itself between her brows. "I was hungry," she says, flat and simple. She shoulders her pack and brushes past him, headed for the door.

Tameron watches the figure go, frowning faintly. Then he huffs softly and goes to the bar to order a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese before heading out to follow after the girl.

She's not far off when he steps out into the dark, paused to drink rainwater from a barrel near the stable, hands cupped to her mouth. She turns sharply at the sound of the inn door, then relaxes fractionally at the sight of him, bringing up an arm to wipe her mouth and chin. The scarf that had shrouded her face was, it seems, taken down while she drank — and remains there. One might be mistaken by the dim illumination of the moon and stars, but she doesn't look disfigured. Far from. "What do you want?" she asks, without particular umbrage. Plain and to the point.

Tameron regards her, now he can see more of her, as one might a puzzle rather than a morsel. He takes a step closer and holds out the bread and cheese in silence.

She blinks, looking from the bread and cheese to his face, then back again. One hand twitches at her side. The conflict is plain. Slowly she lifts her eyes to his once more, puzzling back. "What do you want?" she asks, again, though her tone is different this time. It's not suspicious, just… weary. That there's a price is a foregone conclusion.

Tameron offers a small shake of his head. "I remember hunger," is all he says, the bread and cheese still held up and on offer.

Still she hesitates, visibly biting the inside of her cheek — then snatches the food, retreating back a quick step to eat it. She flickers a look at him as she crams a hunk of torn-off bread into her mouth, her expression… apologetic. But only a little. And a moment later those eyes are closed in an expression of pleasure that should really be reserved for better things than brown bread and hard cheese. She chews with her cheeks pooched out and swallows hard, chasing that barely-down mouthful with more.

Tameron's hand falls back to his side, and he watches as the girl gorges herself. He's even kind enough to wait until she slows in her eating (or just finishes off the food) before he points out, "You got anyone waiting for you, wherever you're headed? Or you just on your own, now?"

"I'm not — headed anywhere," says the girl, taking a moment to breathe. Her initial, orgiastic delight over the food somewhat sated, she has indeed slowed down a bit. She might also know, as the habitually hungry do, that if she doesn't pace herself, she'll lose it all back up again. Though she eats slower, she talks with her mouth full. "It's safer to keep moving." She gets down a bite of cheese and pauses. It's as though she knows to say… something… but quite can't recall what. "Thank you," is what she finally decides.

"It's safer to have enough clout that you don't have to keep moving," Tameron replies, leaning up against the wall of the inn. "You know how to fight. That's good."

She shrugs, lowering her lashes to look down at her food again. "Where are you headed?" she reflects back, between bites and swallows.

“Castle Blackmont and then the seat of House Manwoody. And then likely back to Oldtown in the Reach, once the job's done,” Tameron replies. "You're not Dornish. Where are you from?"

The girl snerks and coughs slightly on a mouthful of bread. "Manwoody," she echoes with a flash of perverse mirth. Her eyebrows go up as he mentions the Reach. She chews this over, metaphorically, before getting back to chewing literally. "Near enough," she says, looking down again. "Stormlands. On the Border. Dorne after that. After that… other places."

"Other places," Tameron muses quietly. "Across the sea?" Which is as close as he's willing to get to asking about her past. "Manwoody," he agrees. "I don't know who thought that was a good idea, but I'm sure all the generations after hate him for it."

Other places, indeed. She twitches a shrug, which, along with the lack of eye contact, is almost as good as a nod. The unfortunately named House Manwoody is the topic she sticks to. "He chose poorly," she agrees of the eponymous ancestor.

"Might have been trying to impress the seat of Pinkmaiden," Tameron suggests, blankfaced. He considers his own hands a moment, knuckles red and a little bloodied from having to slam them into a solid wall of drunken meat. "Can you use a blade?"

She snerks again and grins at his deadpan wit, lashes still veiling her downturned gaze. The smile dwindles and an eyebrow lofts at the follow-up, though. "A bit," she replies. Her eyes seek his again, washed silver in the moonlight, like the rest of her. "Do you want someone dead?"

"No," Tameron replies for that question. "Can you ride a horse?"

The girl wrinkles her nose slightly, perplexed at the line of questioning. "I don't fall off."

"How old are you?" Tameron asks next, his gaze moving back over Magden's body as if he might be able to figure out her shape beneath the rags.

She huffs. "How old are you?" Really.

"Old enough," Tameron replies every so helpfully. He scratches his jaw. "We could call you sixteen. Fifteen, maybe. Fifteen might be better."

She takes a breath to laugh, or possibly snap at him, or — she can't decide. She shakes her head. "For what?" she asks.

"For being a squire," Tameron replies.

She yips a laugh — then stops and squints at him. "You're serious." Huh. "Uhm." She draws a hand up close to her chest and points at him, just the twitch of a finger. "Yours?"

"I can't foist you on anyone else," Tameron points out, brows lifting. "You're half-feral and made of rags."

The girl breathes out an indignant laugh, then sort of reflects and wrinkles her nose. "I'm not made of rags," she protests, lamely. The other part might be mostly true.

"Might as well be," Tameron points out with a quick glance over her again. "Anyhow. What do you think? Squire. Want to be one?"

"I…" The syllable draws out long and trails off. She looks entirely baffled. "How are you even a knight?" she wants to know, after all that. "You look like you're fifteen."

"Well, I'm not," Tameron replies with a small sniff, "but I was, once. And, when I was, suppose I was running, too, and I was helped. It's not a kindness I can rightly repay, but I can offer it to someone else."

She chews the inside of her cheek again, as when she was debating taking the food. She looks at him long and hard, likely weighing what he has to offer. Regular meals, for one. A place to sleep. Possibly even a measure of safety. The answer, when it comes, is a little defiant — even in accord. "All right." So there.

Tameron nods. "All right," he agrees right back. "I'm called Ser Tameron Sand. Who're you, then?"

"Magden," she replies, realizing that she still has food in her hands. She forgot the food. She tucks the remainder in her pack, looking slightly guilty. "Just Magden." A beat. "Ser."

"Then you should pick a last name," Tameron says. "Easier. Fewer questions."

Magden frowns. "A noble name?"

"Wouldn't advise it. Nobles pay attention to things like names. But I'm just a Sand. Don't need a noble squire," Tameron points out.

She shrugs. "Quick," she says, then. "Quick is what they called me. Quick will do."

"Magden Quick," Tameron repeats before he gives a small nod. "It'll serve." He glances around. "We're supposed to have a witness, but…" he shrugs. "Kneel, Magden Quick."

Magden narrows her eyes slightly, unshouldering her pack and leaning it against the rainbarrel. When she kneels she's deliberate and watchful, taking one knee and then both. The hands loose at her sides twitch a bit, as though they're itching to hold a weapon.

Perhaps it's handy, then, that Tameron asks, "Do you have a blade? Draw it if you do. Point it downward, tip of the point touching the earth."

She lifts an eyebrow, then smirks and pulls a wicked looking knife out of her boot. She tosses it in the air, end over end, and catches it by the hilt again. Then into the ground, point down, it goes. Her expression seems to indicate it will have to do.

A corner of Tameron's mouth quirks and he draws his own sword, something he neglected to do in the prior fistfight. He remains standing, but mirrors the gesture, setting his blade point down into the earth before Magden's boot knife. "Repeat this oath," Tameron murmurs. "'I, Magden Quick, daughter of the Stormlands, do pledge my blade and my life to the service of Ser Tameron Sand, knight of House Dayne, until such time as he release me, death takes me, or the world does end. Warrior witness my oath upon my honor.'"

Magden Quick looks thoroughly skeptical. And almost like she might ruin the solemn moment by arguing a point or two. But she runs her tongue beneath her lips and sucks her teeth, then says, with very proper ceremony, "I, Magden Quick, daughter of the Stormlands, do pledge my blade and my life to the service of Ser Tameron Sand, knight of House Dayne, until such time as he release me, death takes me, or the world does end. Warrior witness my oath upon my honor." She then breaks character and lifts an eyebrow at him. Good?

Tameron quirks a faint smile and draws in a soft breath to intone his side of the oath. "I, Ser Tameron Sand, sworn knight of House Dayne, do vow to protect and defend you, Magden Quick, as one of my own, against all foes, until you are released from my service, death take me or the world doth end. Warrior witness my oath upon my honor." Which is where the ceremony ought to end, if one is familiar such things. But Tameron returns his sword to his sheath and reaches a hand down. "Give me your dagger."

She looks thoroughly perturbed at this. Really? It's given over with a faint sigh. Give it back or she'll bite your kneecaps off, Tameron Sand.

"The new gods like their words," Tameron says, accepting the dagger, "but the old gods would rather blood." He presses the tip of the blade to his palm and drags a thin, shallow cut that quickly beads up with red. He offers the weapon back with raised brows that suggest Magden should do the same.

This bit, strangely (or not), she looks comfortable enough doing. She closes her hand around the blade without hesitation or qualm, a trickle of scarlet following the knife as she draws it out. The blade is scrupulously wiped on her sleeve before being returned to her boot.

Tameron nods and leans down, offering his bloodied hand so the two wounded palms will clasp as he helps her up. Blood mingled and oath forged.

She grasps his hand and stands, looking at their clasped palms, the blood welling together. Hm. Her consideration lasts only a moment. "That's done, then?"

Tameron nods, dropping her hand and reaching for a cloth to blot his. "It's done," he agrees. "I haven't coin for a second room, but I can bribe them to let you sleep in the stable hayloft easily enough."

Magden huffs a soft, monosyllable of dry laughter. "Save your money," she says. "I meant to sleep there, anyway. No one will even know I was there."

Tameron considers a moment before he nods. "Have to do something about the rags on the morrow. They won't do. Anything you need before I'm to bed?"

"No," she answers, immediately. She steps back, then heads for the stables — and turns midway, walking backward as unerringly as forward. "I could have taken them both, you know."

"Sure," Tameron agrees as he watches Madgen back away, "but then I'd still be lacking a squire." He lifts his wounded hand in a small wave. "G'night, Magden."

Can't really argue with that. Fate is a funny thing. "Good night." She turns back to the stables and slips into the shadows of the eaves.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License