(121-08-10) The Queen of Skagos
The Queen of Skagos
Summary: Maera and Kellan have themselves a hunt.
Date: 10 August 2014
Related: The Second Son, Only Refusal

The River Road follows the Honeywine North, exiting Oldtown through the Honey Gates. Eventually it passes through Honeyholt and continues, to terminate at Brightwater Keep. It's not as wide and well travelled as the Roseroad, and often goods and travelers choose that longer, but smoother, route.

Farms and vineyards dot the countryside on either side of the river, interspersed between meadows and lightly wooded areas. Nearer the farm-villages one is liable to encounter herders tending goats, sheep, cattle, swine or geese, but enough of the land is untenanted that one might hunt (if one has the Hightowers' permission or is willing to go without), ride, or swim, or otherwise enjoy the countryside in relative privacy.

It's early evening, but the sun still rides the sky, the summer heat relenting enough to allow for the occasional breeze. It's been a successful day afield, and slung across the saddle of their horses, tethered at a distance, are the spoils of their hunt. Kellan is knelt at a snare laid earlier, at the start of their pleasure jaunt, freeing a fat, meaty hare from the trap. "Another here," he declares for Maera's benefit, making quick work of its liberation.

"Well done." Maera says as Kellan announces the discovery of another hare. She moves down towards a small creek, and squats to wash stag blood from the knife at her side, and from her hands. "It'll make a fine supper for tonight while we wait for the venison to drain."

"What say we make ourselves a fire and eat it under the open sky?" Kellan asks, his voice booming across the distance between them, carrying effortlessly. He rises from bended knee, hare in hand, dangling from its ears. He looks left, then right, in search of the next trap; he's cleared most all of them by now, but one or two may be left. There it is. He moves to it, sounding content when he says, "Another. That was the last laid, by my count."

Maera doesn't respond with verbal agreement. Instead, she stands up straight, and begins collecting dried sticks for a fire. A few thin green branches are cut from a young tree to serve as a spit, and she assembles the sticks and small logs into a pyramid shape before taking her flint and steel from a pocket at her side, and using some dried leaves to start a fire. She waits until the leaves stuffed in-between the logs are caught before sitting down cross-legged, and peeling the bark off of the green sticks. "Saw some thyme growing near the stream."

Kellan drops the pair of hares off at the fire, then wanders down stream for the thyme, returning in short order with a few sprigs. "Good eye," he gruffs at Maera as he lowers himself to sit by her side, pulling a knife from his belt and setting about preparing the first of the hares for the fire. Chop chop chop. He makes a purposeful incision down its length, eyeing Maera sidelong. "You missed some." What? Blood. He reaches for to swipe a splatter from her cheek, but only makes it worse; his own knuckle is wet from the hare.

Maera licks her fingertips, and makes her own attempt at wiping away the fresh stain. She only manages to smear it further. She shrugs lightly, licks the hare blood from her fingertips, and continues to peel that green stick. "I'm trying to figure out what I ought to do with Ulyka." She doesn't say this out loud as she moves from peeling the bark to sharpening the end of the stick into a point to skewer the rabbit on. "She thinks she wants to be some Southern lady, but she continues to expect the privileges of being a Mormont woman. She cannot have both."

Once he's cut the hare end to end, Kellan sets about ridding it of its skin, the incisions clean enough to salvage the fur for another purpose; Northmen do not let such things go to waste. He passes the first off to Maera, that she might skewer it on that finely pointed stick, and then he begins again with the second hare. He listens, being good at that sort of thing, and then eventually comments. "She's got a hard head. So did you, when you were a girl." Pause. "Still do. No mistaking her as a Mormont." His skinning knife works all the while, and he operates it deftly.

"This is different." Maera says as she pushes the stick through the hare. "I didn't gleefully disobey father, and decide I was allowed to do as I please. I am not just her sister. I am her liege lord. She owes me her obedience, and she's no longer a little girl." She moves to her knees to position the rabbit over the skewer. "Should I start beating her? I don't know what to do."

"Give them time, and those southern ladies are like to do your work for you. She'll never be one of them, because she isn't one of them." Kellan halts, gesturing at himself with his skinning knife. "The stares I get, you'd think they'd lain eyes on a giant." And then he quiets, watching appreciatively as the Lady Mormont spears the hare without so much as batting her eye. "The Others take these southern ladies. I'd give all the sheep at Karhold to watch one of them put their hands on a fresh kill." As he says it, he goes back to his task, and once the hare's been skinned he cuts down the middle to spill its guts in the dirt.

"It's that big mop of a beard. They don't think you're a Northman at all." Maera teases. "They think you're some cannibal from Skagos. Likely afraid that you've a taste for man-flesh." She rocks back from her knees to her bottom to continue sharpening the other stick. "I can't give her time because if I give her anymore time I am going to strangle her. She's already raised a fist to me. I about had to beat her bloody for it."

Kellan snorts, offering over the hare once the stick has been thoroughly pointed at the tip. "Just wait til I've a string of Glover ears and thumbs 'round my neck. Then they'll know I've a taste for it." It's only the slightest bit a return of the tease; there's a hard edge to his words that render them a declaration of another sort. And if Maera should happen to catch his eye in the midst of his avowal, she'll find in it, however briefly, a predatory intensity. With the heel of his boot, Kellan works loose some earth and kicks it over the entrails from the hare, burying them from view. He whistles lowly to hear tell of fists raised, but has no ready advice.

The next stick is unceremoniously shoved through the rabbit, and that carcass is laid out over the open fire. That done, she regards Kellan with an unreadable expression before declaring, "I bet you I get more." Her lips quirk upwards at the challenge, and it's matched with a little sparkle in her eye. Still, there is an ironess to her tone. She may be jesting now, but she won't be later.

"Not a bone in me doubts it," is Kellan's reply, spoken as he notches the blade in the dirt, hilt up, rather than return it to his belt bloodied. There's no irony in it, either, only the due deference of respect she commands. He eyes Maera now, giving another go at wiping the blood from her cheek. This time he wets his thumb with his tongue before making the effort. "And you'll wear every last treasonous digit like a princess does jewels and gems."

The hare's blood flakes off her cheek and lightly smears over Maera's scar. "It was Tanda and Ulyka we always made wreaths for. Pretty things to put in their hair. Perhaps I will weave my gruesome souvenirs into a wreath, and wear it like a crown?" She puts her hand on his shoulder as he cleans her face.

"Folk'll be staring at you, then, not me. Queen of Skagos, they'll take you for, with your trophies on your brow." The idea amuses him, clearly, and prompts his first smile since the Glovers' name was invoked at all. Thumb lingering on her cheek, simply because she allows it, Kellan suddenly cups her face in his rough, calloused palm, pulling her to him, meeting her halfway. But it's to her ear that his lips go, and against it he says, "For love of your brothers, you'll have your crown."

Maera's murky blue-green eyes turn to meet his after he whispers into her ear. "Good." Is all she says. Her gaze lingers for several heartbeats before she pulls away from him.

Once she's pulled back from him, Kellan turns his attention on the fire, adjusting the hares over the licking flames, turning them on the spit. "Almost," he says, before settling back into his seat at Maera's side. "Happy with your stag, then? Even the game is well fed in the south." Even though it's a good thing, he makes it sound like a bit of a bad thing.

"Almost?" Maera's brow quirks upwards questioningly. She doesn't answer the question regarding if the stag is enough until a moment later. "I am content with it. It will be enough for several meals for the house."

"Aye, almost," Kellan confirms, glancing back to the hares; they sizzle over the flame, the smell of them enough to set stomachs to growling. Turning his gaze to the sky, he says, "Ought make you a fine stole, too. Not that you've want of one now, under this sun." When finally his eye wanders back to Maera, he asks, "Did you pick through the chest my father sent? Say you'll keep the cloak, at least. I tracked that white hart a fortnight, from Karhold to Last Hearth. Shame to put its pelt to waste."

"I didn't." Maera admits with a faint shrug of her shoulders. "I cannot keep any of it. It would be dishonorable." She lifts her waterskin, and squeezes some into her mouth before passing it over, "I'm sad to see it go then, but surely it will be saved for whatever bride is found for your brother."

Kellan takes the skin, and tosses back his head as he drinks from it. "You're who I chased it for," he admits, once he's satisfied his thirst. And then, "What, no wine?" as if that's what he'd been expecting.

"You ought not have chased so hard. You knew I'd say no." Maera unfastens her cloak, and lies back on it with her arms under her head. "Nah. I don't like it during a hunt. Gives me too much of a fog." She says, without looking at Kellen, "Why did you chase so hard for it?"

Kellan leans toward the spit, turning the hares one at a time, examining them each, deeming them not quite yet ready. "End of a hunt's the best time for wine," he rumbles, while he finishes fussing with their catch. Turning back to Maera, studying her as she sprawls beneath the sky, he shrugs in answer to her question. "I thought you'd wear it well, bride or no." Back to the fire. "I reckon they're good and ready, if you are."

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