(122-12-01) Walk of Shame
Walk of Shame
Summary: The unnamed woman waking up doesn't actually make anything less complicated for Desmond.
Date: 01/12/2015
Related: Mare

Second Floor - Tooth and Nail Oldtown

This single room's low ceiling is bare-beamed, and the walls are unplastered. The space is not entirely windowless — some dim light is admitted through a hole where a window once was, now covered with a piece of raw goathide, oiled translucent.
The floor is strewn with straw and there are a few old blankets lying about. The blankets, the straw and the room itself all stink of unwashed bodies, but it's drier than it is downstairs, and one can gather enough of the debris about to make an almost comfortable bed for oneself, if you don't mind the fleas and lice.

The woman whose name is Mare according to Desmond Snow looks dead to the world. Even her breathing is shallow, hidden easily under her layers. Her blackout sleep — if it can be called sleep — is a heavy, consuming weight. Some faces look peaceful when they're numb to everything, but she appears pained, not numb. Hours into hours into hours with nothing but a few muffled groans until, somewhere in the midst of her unplanned stay, she awakes into an unknown time in an unknown place. Just like that, her eyes of ice snap open, fighting to focus, and she pushes against the blanketed floor, tangling with straw.

Seated next to where the woman has slept, Desmond Snow stirs. His heavy dark blade rests across his lap, and it is evident that he has been sitting watch. It is also evident that he has failed in his task - his head lolls forward and he lets out a loud snore. He grunts, shifting awkwardly, in that strange state between sleep and wakefulness. His armor is stacked nearby, and he wears wool and leather.

Her eyes find him quick, but a haze chokes true focus. It is as though she's looking at him through layers and layers of warped glass. "Who'n the bloody hells are you," Hellan accuses, a rich slur in her deep voice. Whatever she sees of the man is enough to propel her to turn her shoulder away from him, clawing along the floor. It seems a vast struggle. She reaches for where her dagger would've been in her cloak.

Desmond wakes quickly, and seems to be one of those fortunate few who comes fully awake in an instant. He takes in the situation, gazing at Hellan for a moment. "I'm Desmond Snow," he answers mildly, unafraid. After all, the woman's dagger rests in his belt. He reaches over to grab at the woman's wrist. "Easy, Mare. You fell. I didn't know where to take you."

"Get your hands off me," Hellan demands with all the spirit of someone in charge and none of the power; not here, not now. Her words falter by the end, and her head falls back where it once lay. The dark-haired woman of the North can barely keep her eyes open; her hand shakes. "Who are…" She struggles once more as if to rise; there's fight in her still. "Did you take my dagger? Give it— back."

"Easy now, lovely. Easy. You're shaking." Desmond keeps the grip on Hellan's arm, firm but not painful. "I am Desmond Snow, a man of the north. Bastard-born to Lord Uryk Umber. And you are safe in my care." He speaks with utter sincerity. "Lie back. Do you need water?" He ignores the woman's demand for her dagger.

Unfortunately for Desmond Snow, man of the north, bastard-born to Lord Uryk Umber, sincerity is like dragon's fire to Hellan. With a hateful expression, she writhes in his grip, and though she's weakened, it's clear that she's capable of feats of strength — or perhaps was, once. Now, the effort leaves her wastes, and she relaxes despite herself. Her teeth bare like an animal's in anger at her carer until her eyelids grow heavy and consciousness seems to start to slip from her grasp yet again.

"Stay awake, damnit." Desmond's anger flares as he fights to restrain the woman, doing his best not to hurt her. "Writhe and fight all you like, but stay -awake-. I've already spent one fucking night beside you and had none of the pleasures for it." He reaches out with his other hand and, lightly, slaps at her cheek. "Who are you?"

She's hot to the touch. She groans irritably at the slap; her eyes flutter shut, but at least she stays awake. Her eyelids show such signs of exhaustion that they appear bruised with the colour of violets. "…keep your … noise down… hear you all the way in the godswood," she complains half-coherently. A violet shiver runs through her and she says, mumbling, "…milk of the poppy."

"No. I've got none, and I'm not willing to leave you here to fetch it. You're going to suffer, I'm afraid, poppet." Desmond squints down at the woman. "You're feverish. I don't believe that's from the milk. What's wrong with you? What's your name?" He gazes down at the woman, clearly struggling between irritation and concern. "Tell me, or I swear, I'll thump you properly across the arse until you do." The threat is bizarrely-delivered, almost questingly, as though he's curious to watch her reaction.

Hellan's eyes snap open with immediate threat in them, glowering beneath dark brows. "I'll gut you," she growls with confidence contrary to everything about her current position. It's a constant fight to keep her eyes open, let alone focusing on the general area of Desmond, but now she makes an attempt, watching as carefully as she can. "A drink, first," she orders with a small — small — hint of plaintiveness.

"Water," replies Desmond. He seems pleased with the woman's response, smiling thinly. There's a jug nearby, and he pours a small amount into a mug. "Here." The massive man leans forward to hold the mug to Hellan's lips. "Gut me," he says musingly as he moves. "No. I think not. Women've tried before."

"Those women were not from where I'm from," Hellan all but snarls, shoving her face in the wrong direction when the mug is brought to her lips. She turns her head away from it most unhelpfully, convinced that she's going to sit up and snatch the drink from Desmond's hand, but pushing upward sends a coursing tension through the her body. Pain flashes across her bold features, overcome by anger. She drinks down some of the liquid, but coughs a good deal like it's all going to spill back upon Desmond. "You will get me a drink." She knows he knows what she means by drink. "Or you will learn— " she coughs. "nothing."

Sighing, Desmond tips the rest of the water over onto Hellan's head, and rises. "Oh, aye, I'll get you your drink, you hellcat. I swear, you've no more grace than I, and perhaps less." He grumbles all the way down the stairs, but returns carrying a pitcher of sour-smelling wine. "Here." Grabbing the now-empty water cup, he pours in a splash. "Now, lovely, give me your lips." Ignoring the fact that she really MIGHT try to gut him this time.

Even in her bleary-eyed state, Hellan can see that the splash of wine is less than she wants, and her features pinch to judge Desmond harshly. She manages to stay frustratingly still, sweat beading on her forehead, clenching her jaw until the very last second until she allows the wine. Sour as it is, it'll go down easier than water. Whilst Desmond is near, she cannot seem to help herself: she reaches for the dagger, her dagger, in his belt.

Desmond is preoccupied, gently brushing Hellan's hair out of the way to let her drink. He doesn't notice the hand going for his belt, doesn't notice the grab, until it's too late. But he reacts well enough - the big sellsword recoils once the dagger is off his belt, eyeing Hellan coolly. "You intending to gut me for true, lovely?"

Amidst all her struggle, a flicker of a sardonic smile turns the corners of Hellan's lips before it transforms into the effort of attempting, again, to sit up. Or to get leverage for stabbing, say. She doesn't get far, but draws her legs up. "Thinking about it. You make— a terrible server." The dagger is certainly not a prop to her, given the firm, instantly familiar way she holds it and points it roundabout Desmond's gut, but the weapon poses a debatable threat in her current state. "How long have I been in this room?"

"A night," replies Desmond equably. He doesn't seem terribly concerned at the prospect of being knifed. The huge man looks as though he has been sliced all about with a dull razor. "You were drinking downstairs. You passed out. I carried you here." He gestures to the cloak that Hellan has been lying on. "I gave you my cloak," he says. And then he smiles, looking from the dagger's point to Hellan's face. "I like a woman with ice in her veins. I'm not used to serving. Next time, I shall do better."

Hellan sighs at length, clearly terribly inconvenienced. "Desmond, was it, son of what's his name Umber?" She squints coolly. She holds tighter to the dagger, keeping it even through her shivers. "I'll pay you instead of gut you, if you don't argue."

"I've not argued yet," says Desmond, not entirely truthfully. He allows his gaze to rove, over-bold, along the woman's lines, then looks to her face. "What is it you'd have me do, then, lovely?" He gestures loosely to his unsheathed sword. "I could kill. But you said last night that you don't need anyone dead. Changed your mind come daylight?"

Hellan's gaze goes distant, but this time it's not the clouds of uncoming unconsciousness, inebriation, or anything else. An idea forms in that addled head. She presses her hand, that which doesn't steady the dagger, against the middle of her forehead as if willing her mind to get to work. Her will is stronger than her body. She waves at the pitcher, also trying to will Desmond to get more wine. "Are you still loyal to the North? To the Starks?" The question has a faint tone of threat behind it, but more importantly, "You're a sellsword; you want work?"

Desmond fetches the wine, but his expression is guarded now. The conversation has taken a dangerous turn. He pours, then offers the goblet to Hellan. "I'm loyal to whoever pays me, poppet. The Starks never did anything for me when I was a boy. Why should they?" There is a strange bitterness in his voice, but he shrugs it away. "I've never heard ill of them, though." He watches the woman as he hedges his way through her questions. "I've some small work already. A dragon a lesson, to teach the Maiden's Knight. What would /you/ have of me, who won't even give me your name?"

"This is why I hate bastards; no sense of loyalty," Hellan mumbles. It doesn't quite ring true to her own thoughts, more insult than insight. Cup in hand, she drinks heavily, all the way to the bottom. It seems to fuel her into sitting upright, the hood of her cloak that had nestled about her hair now falling about her shoulders. She squares her poise, straight as an iron bolt, and stares Desmond down intensely. "My name is Hellan Stark, and I would have you never speak of this again."

Desmond stares at the woman, his features suddenly flat and unreadable. He considers her up and down, this time less lascivious and more businesslike. After a moment, he murmurs a series of oaths, still stony-faced. And then he smiles. "I've spent the night abed with Hellan Stark, and she warns me not to speak of it," he says, speaking almost to himself. "She must surely think me a fool. Her husband's family would have my head." He absently reaches out, grasping the hilt of his heavy sword and lifting it. "I'm loyal enough, Lady Stark, for this… I'll not speak of this. And I'll aid you in whatever I may. For a price."

Hellan gives a faint huff that might be dimissive laughter, if it made it that far. "Do not make me regret my generosity." What generosity? She nods once, affirmative, careless. What is it for House Stark to throw around some coin. Her voice lowers, and so does the dagger, at least slightly. "I am not… well," she admits. "I did not mean to be away so long. I would rather not concern anyone at the Weirwood Manse," says goes on, looking at the goatskin over the window, wondering at the time. The light that filters through is vague at best. "I will say … " she trails off, thinking. Theoretically.

"Not well," Desmond replies with a slight smile. "Yes. I don't suppose you are, what with the shakes." His voice is mild, if a bit heavy in irony. "You'll write my father for me, Hellan." He speaks boldly, pressing his luck. "You'll tell him I live, and that I honor him. That's my price. You'll reconcile us." He considers, then half-raises a hand toward Hellan, and lets it fall. "For now, that's all I want from you. But I suggest you tell those at the Manse that you went riding, and were caught out at night."

"And where, in this scenario, is my horse?" Hellan bites back. She does not, however, outright dismiss the general idea — nor anything else Desmond has said. "You will get me past the city gates, and back in. They will have the gates watched for me, if they've noticed me missing at all. Escorting Lord Stark's aunt home, honourably, is not nothing, and the Starks will see it as such and give you gratitude. If your father is loyal, so will he. Look at that." She flashes white teeth at the sellsword, a smile that holds more ice than warmth. "I won't even have to write a lie."

"I'd like to smear that smile across your face," mutters Desmond - just loudly enough to be heard. His hand twitches again, but he nods in agreement to the woman's words. "Your horse was lamed. I'll find a way to get you out - you'll leave wearing my cloak. None will look for the Stark woman to be dressed so plainly. And then you change, into your finer one and we return." Desmond considers Hellan thoughtfully. He seems about to say something else, but changes his mind.

Desmond is better at keeping his mouth shut, then. "My horse is in the — are you dense," Hellan says, acidic, but flippant, not particularly caring about the detail. Likewise, she looks down at her garb, the plain worn-out cloak she'd layered overtop and asks rhetorically, "Do you call this fine?" It's an impossible task, quelling her irritability at the current time; she lifts the cup to drink the last drops of the wine, and that will have to do. She puts it down. It falls over. "Take my arm," she says, bitter that she needs help. "If you touch more than my arm, I will gut you straight through to the front of your spine. You've seen me weak, but you know my blade is sharp."

"Woman, if I wanted, I'd have you, dagger or no." Desmond smiles widely as he offers his hand to the noblewoman, amused at his position of power in this meeting. "I won't call it fine, no. I said finer." He murmurs softly, to himself, "And she calls me dense." Again, he speaks just loudly enough to be heard. "I'd never call you weak, though, Hellan." That has the ring of truth. As does, "Shrewish, maybe."

"Go screw yourself, Snow," says the lady succinctly. "After you've done your job." Forever bold words, for someone who could hypothetically be turned upon at any second. Hellan uses Desmond's arm like a piece of furniture, relying heavily upon it stand up, not looking at him as she does so. The colour drains further out of her face, leaving her looking more gaunt and queasy. But she holds.

"I may, and probably shall. But I'll serve you until it's done. Believe it or not, woman, I rather like you." Desmond grins, sheathing his sword with his free hand. He does keep a wary eye on the woman, prepared to grab her if she falls. "Now, let's be off. Can you walk, or shall I carry you again?" He grins wickedly down at the woman, and again his gaze seems to linger a touch over-long. He doesn't even bother to hide it.

"I can walk," Hellan says. Her hold of his arm leads to accidentally elbowing him in the side. "Get your cloak."

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