(122-04-18) Into the Hive

Motley is not particularly happy to have a barely familiar horse with dead things on it following behind him on a lead. The Beesbury Bastard's horse is even less happy with it. Ser Malcolm is quiet and grim faced on the ride to Honeyholt and very much wanting to get it all over with so he might know his fate.

It's not a bad ride — the Honey Road leads directly to Honeyholt, following the Eastern bank of the river. Nothing complicated about the trip, though it is a longish one for a party who's not racing along.

Camillo just does what he's told. Since the bodies have been loaded, that just means quietly following Ser Malcolm's lead for now.

Hellan is similarly quiet and grim-faced as she rides along behind, though it's easy to guess that she's not particularly thinking of Malcolm's fate. Her jaw is tight, as is her grip on her saddle and reins despite her prior ease on the horse. There's an air of impatience about the noblewoman of the North, which only increases the longer they travel.

Malcolm has never been this way, and mindful of possibly escaped bandits watches for signs of trouble. As they approach Honeyholt he asks, "Have you any instructions, "Lady hellan?"

It's quiet along the road. As the river gets narrower, the woods get thinner and more open. Close to Honeyholt, there's farms again.

It takes a moment for Hellan to reply, drifting out of a daze. "Instructions?" she repeats slowly as if it's a ridiculous word. "For when we arrive? I think you still know how to be polite, only speak when necessary, and not act like a vagrant. At least I hope so, or it's a wasted trip." She shifts her shoulders about, sitting taller. "Tell the truth, but be tactful about it. What the bastard did is insult enough to him."

The keep and its surrounding villages stand ahead, There's perhaps good reason for it's name, most of the little farms have a lot of beehives, and the open woods and hedgerows are filled with flowers.

Malcolm laughs softly as if taking Hellan's comments for humor. "Aye, My Lady. That I will do." He is silent again.

Camillo is of course quite silent, as well.

Hellan eyes the back of Malcolm's head somewhat sharply before the same look turns to the wealth of beehives in passing.

Honeyholt's gates are open, it's black and yellow banners flying.

Malcolm rides up, expression suddenly mild and shoulders relaxed.

Hellan rides up from the rear, moving alongside Malcolm's horse as they prepare to pass through the gates of Honeyholt. Her bearing is regal, prepared.

Malcolm rides forward, looking as if he expects no trouble, though Malcolm being Malcolm, he is likely scoping out defenses and potentials treats.

The party is made welcome. Honeyholt is guarded, though clearly it's a time of peace and nobody's too worried about the visitors, especially considering the noble lady with them, always a bona fide. The load on that one horse does raise a few eyebrows, and it's not long after that they're offered entry into the great hall of Honeyholt, and Lord Alan Beesbury's esteemed presence. The man's a big fellow, in robust early middle age, with warm brown eyes and bristly black whiskers.

This land belongs to House Hightower, and is meant to be reserved for them and their noble guests to hunt at their pleasure.

These woods are open and sunny. Technically it's illegal, but generations of 'escaped' cattle, goats, and swine from the farms to the East have saved their owners the price of fodder and kept the forest clear and pleasant. The stands of chestnut, poplar, oak, and basswood are thin enough that grass grows at their roots, and the groupings of trees are far enough apart that one might ride a horse at a full run without trouble.

There are patches of wildflowers here and there in the grass, as well as dog roses and the occasional fox-grape vine climbing an older tree. A few apple and wild plum trees can be found, and wild strawberries grow along the numerous little brooks.

The rolling countryside is rich with wild creatures. Partridge and wild turkeys, foxes and hares and rabbits, badgers and great tall red deer can all be found. On rare occasions, small herds of aurochs might even wander through. Boar and larger predators are rare, generally keeping to the Western side of the river.

This is a beautiful place for a ride. The abundance of small game makes this excellent country for hawking, and while larger quarry is less frequently seen, the open wood make hunting with bows or by coursing an easy pleasure.

Malcolm rides up, expression suddenly mild and shoulders relaxed.

Hellan rides up from the rear, moving alongside Malcolm's horse as they prepare to pass through the gates of Honeyholt. Her bearing is regal, prepared.

Malcolm rides forward, looking as if he expects no trouble, though Malcolm being Malcolm, he is likely scoping out defenses and potentials treats.

The party is made welcome. Honeyholt is guarded, though clearly it's a time of peace and nobody's too worried about the visitors, especially considering the noble lady with them, always a bona fide. The load on that one horse does raise a few eyebrows, and it's not long after that they're offered entry into the great hall of Honeyholt, and Lord Alan Beesbury's esteemed presence. The man's a big fellow, in robust early middle age, with warm brown eyes and bristly black whiskers.

Camillo rides behind Malcolm, watching to make sure the load doesn't come unbalanced on the horse, since that could cause great unpleasantness.

"Lord Beesbury." Dismounted from her horse, Lady Hellan's calm and strong voice is the first to greet the lord once in the grand hall of Honeyholt, her tone and body language paying him respect, although she's never far from her tall, stiff-shouldered posture. "I hope we find you well." And in good spirits; he looks pleasant enough, but she doesn't trust it. "I am Hellan Stark, and with me is Ser Malcolm Storm, who is sworn to my house. One of Lord Ormund Hightower's men has come as well, on his word. We have come to you in honesty, and honour, I believe. An incident took place on which Ser Malcolm would like to speak."

"Ah!" says Beesbury. He's loud, and cheery. "Come, Lady Hellan! Take bread and salt! And then bread and honey, it's much better! Bread and honey and mead. Have you eaten?!" He looks at the horses, and at his men there eying the corpse so uncomfortably. And then he smiles again to Hellan. "And then you may tell me what gifts you come bearing!"

Malcolm follows two steps behind his Lady, eyes politely on the floor, body language calm and non-threatening, doing his best Stark retainer in public impression. On being introduced, he gives one of his politely graceful bows of respect to Lord Beesbury. He has the patents handy, but not visible in his sleeve.

Camillo dismounts, a bit awkwardly. He's not much of a rider. He moves to take the reins of his horse and Hellan's together, since he doesn't expect to be invited in to dinner.

Hellan nods to be gracious. She is a bit slow to apprach further, not out of any reticence — no such thing marks her — but stiffness of step after riding. Still, her demeanour is unmarred. "Well met, my lord. While I'm certain we could all eat, I'm sorry to report that what we come bearing should perhaps not linger in your hall for too long. It might spoil an appetite." She will, of course, take the bread and salt. And honey.

Lord Alan Beesbury grunts. He gestures, "Leave those horses, and their burden, with my stable-boys and come inside." He gestures, rather expansively, at his hall's doors. They're wide open, to let in the sweet summer air.

Malcolm will partake as well, with thank yous. Bread and salt is rather a relief, though his expression does not show it. He follows t6he Lady's lead in the matter of entering or not.

Camillo seems uncertain about whether he's included in that or not, so he reluctantly speaks up. "I can only bear witness, my lord," he says.

Hellan does consider the offer, rather more gravely than a seemingly benign offer for food and welcome might warrant, her brow lowering and hardening for few seconds. She looks back toward Camillo — no, she's looking at the horses, briefly undecided over leaving their burdens unsupervised. However, she nods to Lord Beesbury. "So we will, then," she agrees.

Beesbury glances at Camillo and says, "I'm sure you can eat, you don't look THAT sick!" He makes his way inside.

Malcolm follows the Lady Hellan, the same two steps behind. Though his face is tilted down submissively, his sharp eyes watch to both sides, in case of trouble, the safety of one of his starks always coming first.

Camillo gives the horses a baleful look, too. He'd probably rather do his duty watching over the animals than eating in front of quality people. But he turns the reins over to another servant.

In the stranger's hive, Hellan is as carefully sharp-eyed as Malcolm behind her, though her natural suspicions are kept behind the close guard of her cool stare. Now would be the time to make pleasant conversation with Lord Beesbury, but the lady of the North is silent.

Shouty Alan Beesbury shouts. A little girl comes running, with bread and a bowl of salt. The man tears a chunk off the loaf, dips it, at eats, then says, "My daughter Miri. She's pretending to be a servant today. But don't kick her!" He laughs. The child, who is probably about seven and wearing a bee-striped black and yellow dress, offers the food around, looking at the floor like a servant perhaps ought, and trying not to smile.

Malcolm takes, dips, eats, giving the young girl one of his most charming smiles with his polite thank yous.

Camillo is also looking at absolutely no one's face when he realizes he's about to take food from a nobleman's daughter as if /she/ were a servant. He does what everyone else does, after everyone else has already eaten.

How terribly… terribly cute. Hellan eyes the bee-striped child and forces a dull smile in her general direction. No kicking. "Thank you," she tells the girl, tears off a piece of bread, dips it, and eats it, following in the steps of Lord Beesbury. She's simply wants to eat so they may get to the matter at hand.

The child giggles at Malcolm, and curtsies, and runs off. Actual servants are arriving with honey, and mead, and more bread, and cheese and cold roast meats. The kid is in a hurry to help. Lord Alan, chewing a bit, gestures to his big table even as it's loaded. "So, my Lady," he says to Hellan, "Be welcome! But I think you came on account of some trouble!"

Malcolm seems to actually be fond of children. Who knew. In any case, he looks to Lady Hellan for permission to tell his tale.

Camillo glances Malcolm's way as well. Camillo is /certainly/ not going to be the one to broach the subject.

Hellan approaches the table, using one of its corners to sturdily lower herself to sit as servants scurry about. "You are generous, Lord Beesbury," she musters. She takes some bread and honey, pride of Beesbury that it is. "Yes…" Her voice dips down, though it couldn't have been said to be light to begin with. "It concerns a camp in the woods between Oldtown and Honeyholt." She looks to Malcolm, her mouth forming a grim line, and nods.

Alan Beesbury grunts his happy grunt again. He starts to slice up some of the meats and plate them, passing them to Hellan to pass to her entourage as she sees fit. "A camp," he says, popping a scrap of roast into his mouth as he works, and chewing. He manages not to make too nasty a display of talking with his mouth full as he continues; the beard helps. "Sounds like fun, not trouble. What's happened?"

Malcolm takes his place and spreads honey on bread as he gathers his thoughts, "As a companion and I were riding in the woods, we came upon a lost and terrified brachet. Fearing that her Master or Mistress might have suffered some accident while hunting, I decided we ought to follow the beast's trail back to where the mishap occurred so we might render assistance. A townswoman who had been gathering herbs followed us there. As we approached the camp, we saw your colours and the circling of crows. Fearing the worst, we went to check, and found a woman, dead several days and stripped, Marks on her body suggested she had been killed by a blade, though the beasts had been at her." His tone stays steady and grave. "Hearing hoofbeats, I ordered we hide, as I could not know if it might be the woman's love returned to find her violated and killed, or the murderer himself. We had no way of knowing yet if she was kin of yours or anything about her, not having had time to search the pavilion, or what exactly had occurred beyond the obvious regarding the woman's fate. My man hid sensibly, but the woman, being none of ours was not so quick." He pauses to munch the honeyed bread, eyes alert to the response of his host.

Camillo looks hard at the floor given Beesbury's cheer. He doesn't avail himself of much to eat.

Hellan carries on partaking of the Beesbury food, her motions turning somewhat wooden as she braces for the spiel Malcolm must go through. She keeps watch on Alan, searching for any change of mood, particularly as Malcolm pauses.

Beesbury doesn't seem to find the story an interference to appetite. He serves himself a bigger chunk of meat, adds mustard, and tucks a big forkful in as he nods to Malcolm.

Malcolm continues sorrowfully, "I fear it was clearly a man with your colours reversed come a riding, and seized the townswoman by the throat to choke her, and while strangling her made clear that he had indeed ill used and killed the first woman and that a similar fate was like to befall this second woman at his hands. I fear I could not in conscience stand idly by and watch such a thing occur, and while the attacker was in half armour and heavily armed, we were in but riding clothes and lightly armed. So I came forth and slew him cleanly with by blade. His body and charger are without now, and we hope to take the woman back for proper burial."

Camillo is absolutely not looking up during this entire story. Nope. He will be full of tales of the fine flooring here, however.

Hellan puts down the bread she had been eating and looks to Malcolm — her chin raised, perhaps in support of him and his story — before simply watching the Beesbury lord. And waiting.

"I saw that charger," says Lord Alan. "What did the lady look like? And the man with my colours, just to be sure?" He keeps eating, and pours mead for all to wash it down.

Malcolm takes a sip of his drink, and continues, "He was large and black bearded. She was bright of hair and pale of complexion. The man had your colours reversed, so I though he might be a Flower of your House. He had a warrior look about him and the equipage of one. The tent was striped yellow and back."

Camillo eats a little to fill the time and so as not to insult a gracious host, but he's cautious about it.

Hellan narrows her regard ever-so-slightly on the large, black-bearded man in front of them now.

Lord Beesbury nods, grunts again. "Sounds like it," he says, irritably. "One of our 'flowers,' yes. Red-headed woman?" His good cheer seems to have gone.

Malcolm nods, "A red headed woman, pale of skin. I knew not the man's name, having never seen him in the Lists and there was not time for the learning of it."

Camillo eats very, very quietly.

Lord Alan nods to Malcolm, "That Fiona," he says, crossly. "Our Kerk Flowers went to the Wall, not to take the black but to adventure, and came back with a wildling slut. I was having none of it, the man wouldn't bloody well marry her or send her away, so I turned him out of my halls."

Malcolm looks at Lord Beesbury, "It seems he found a third way. Will there be trouble between your House and I over this, My Lord? No insult was meant to you in it."

"She was a wildling?" Hellan's voices rises — steady, but boiling under the surface, taking on an accusatory tone, as if it's his fault; as if he should have, could have known. It's not directed at Lord Beesbury; rather, her dark-haired head whips to turn her gaze on Malcolm, and in that moment, she looks near to ripping his head off. The look vanishes, but she sits there looking utterly annoyed by the the whole ordeal.

The more annoyed people become, the more intently Camillo contemplates his food.

Beesbury snorts at Hellan's reaction, but doesn't say anything about it. He stuffs another big bite of meat into his mouth to chew while he watches the Lady and Malcolm.

Malcolm says quietly to Lady Hellan, "We had no way of knowing her station or origin, her being in a state of undress and quite dead when we found her. After, we found some scraps of clothes that might have been hers, but they were so torn that my best guess was she was smallfolk, perhaps a servant. I knew nothing else until this moment, nor have I ever seen a Wildling that I was not running nor attempting to run through with my sword at the time, in defense of My Lord Carolis."

Hellan might as well not hear a thing Malcolm says, for as much as it matters to her. She regards only Alan. "Then we shall part on good terms? I have seen many a wildling in my day; I laud your treatment of Kerk Flowers for his poor choices, my lord. It seems now he is no one's problem, nor is she." Her brows knit; she hesitates, then leans closer to the table. "However… I must ask: did he bring back any news from his travels North?"

Camillo glances at Malcolm as he more or less concludes the explanation. Camillo for his part seems to be concluding his repast.

Lord Beesbury nods. "I won't hold it against you for defending a townswoman from him. He is — was. Kerk was. An impulsive man." He has a deep swallow of mead. "Not much. It was a bit of a time ago he went, and I doubt he hurried back once he'd got past The Neck. He went up to fight wildlings, for the fun of it, not to fight Northern Houses. And he said he'd come home before he could get himself caught up in whatever it is they're in arms about between themselves. I doubt it, myself. I expect he simply turned South because he wanted to keep his wildling swordmaid a while and nobody up there would have it, either, especially with the stories of Black Brothers betraying the watch for Wildlings, pretty red-headed ones or otherwise."

Malcolm bows his head respectfully at Lord Beesbury's graciousness. The political talk being between the great, he keeps his eyes down and his mouth open only for eating. But he's listening, oh is he listening.

Mention of conflict between the Northern houses prompts a small twitch of Hellan's mouth. She nods slowly but attentively to Lord Beesbury, bristling after he brings up the Black Brothers. "They're mostly that, stories," she says in defense of the Night's Watch — and flat-out defensiveness, besides. It's nothing she wants to dwell on, however. She drinks amply of mead, finding it well-earned. She clamps her jaw, enduring the honeyed taste without a grimace. "Thank you, Lord Beesbury."

Camillo stays well out of all this. He's done eating now, so he has a sip of his drink, but he's being careful not to overindulge.

"Stories, yes," says Lord Beesbury. "But he did bring back a wildling girl with him." He swallows more mead, grunts again, and says, "Did you pick up his equipage? I'll take his horses and pavillion, his hawk and dog and the rest, and pay a reward for it. Not what it's worth, of course, but nobody can sell a black-and-yellow striped pavillion, can they!?" He cheers, grinning again.

Malcolm says politely, "You lay an excellent table and we are most thankful for your hospitality and largesse." He too is done eating, having sampled some of everything to show gratefulness. Much like his Lord Carolis, he is not much of a drinker and has the trick of taking small sips while appearing to drink deep…. We can gather and send all but the hound, which I fear has fled. Likely she will find her way home in time. The horse and hawk have been in the good care of our Master of Beasts and will be returned with the rest forthwith."

Even Hellan smiles, albeit slightly, at Lord Beesbury's good cheer, looking to Malcolm. This could have turned out much worse than payment being offered for a slain man's belongings, although she's highly unlikely to let the wildling aspect go for some time. She drinks more of her mead and sets it down, finished and fed, and nods deeply to their host, prepared to take her leave.

"Stay the night if you like," Alan Beesbury invites. "Have a hot bath, and a hunt in my fields, and another meal or two. I'm afraid I'd better see to burying the gift you brought me, but a shout will find somebody to look after you!"

Malcolm bows and waits for the Lady Hellan to decide if they were going to ride away as is his preference or stay and tempt fate.

"We have too many important matters to attend to in town and should ride back," Hellan replies, inadvertently letting Malcolm off the hook. "But your generosity will be remembered."

Camillo bows his head to show thanks, but keeps his mouth shut.

Malcolm bows deep upon leaving and giving no outward sign of his relief, escapes.

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