|Down by the River|
|Summary:||Emmeline witnesses Brace's emotional instability.|
|Date:||October 15, 2016|
|Related:||Local Lap Sitting Customs|
The Honeywine River flows grey and churning under an overcast sky. Drizzle falls, dappling its surface with droplets. The dreariness has driven most people indoors, smallfolk and nobles alike. However, Emmeline has taken the chance to meander alone along the edge of the river. She gazes into the flowing water with a peaceful smile. It won’t take long for the drizzle to soak through her thin cloak, but she enjoys the weather while she can.
So occupied by the water’s mesmerizing flow, Emmeline is but steps away before she notices Brace sitting at the water’s edge. “Oh!” she squeaks, taking half a step back. But recovering from her start, she greets him with a sheepish, sunshine smile. “Good morning.”
Brace had just been thinking about how the small boulder he was seated upon had become rather uncomfortable against his posterior. At the greeting, he looks up from the handful of small stones in his palm and rises to his feet. Heavenly bliss, how much better his bottom feels. "Hullo," he says in greeting. He stares at Emmeline for a few seconds, brow pinching thoughtfully. Then he perks and smiles, "It's you! Barmaid. I, um…I'm sorry for grabbing you."
Though Emmeline’s stance grows a bit meek as Brace rises, towering over her, she stands her ground. The smile, and the added apology that follows, seems to reassure her. Shaking her head, Emmeline offers a bright, reassuring smile. “S’alright. I knew ye meant no harm. And I dinnae mean to leave ye embarrassed. Was alright.” She nods decisively.
Brace shrugs and casually tosses one of his stones into the river with a satisfying plop. "You didn't embarrass me. I did that by myself. Sometimes I just…don't think. You were kind not to make a scene. Anyone else probably would have gotten me tossed out."
Emmeline shakes her head under the hood of her cloak. “No, I- I don’t think so. But you dinnae mean harm. So no harm done. Right?” She drifts to stand a bit closer, eventually crouching on her haunches with her arms folded over her knees. She balances well on the balls of her feet. Perfect balance. “My name’s Emmeline,” she tells him, grinning up at him.
"No harm done," he mumbles noncommittally, silently adding, This time. Another stone is flung out into the river. He runs his hand back through his damp hair, letting out a heavy sigh. "Brace," he says at last, finding his smile at the sight of hers. "I'm Brace."
“S’a good name. Sturdy one. Like you. Was chosen well,” says Emmeline. Picking up a tiny pebble, she tosses it into the shallows with a little ‘plink’. “Have you ever skipped a stone? Across the water?” she asks, peeking up at him with a slight tilt of her head.
"Used to," Brace says with a nod. "I grew up in the Riverlands. When I was a boy I could skip a stone even on a fast moving river. But…I lost the knack." He shrugs. "Guess I'm just out of practice. You?"
“Oh! I can only do it on rivers and ponds! If it moves, just gets swallowed up. Aumph!” Emmeline covers her mouth, as if pretending to eat the pebble in her hand. Giggling, she casts it off into the river. “I’d get swallowed up too, if it was moving too fast. But, you look like you could climb up a waterfall. Have you ever done /that/?”
"Huh? Climb a waterfall?" Brace pinches up his lips. "Hmm…no, I don't think I've tried. I've climbed plenty of trees…steep hills…walls…but no waterfalls. I don't know if anyone could do that."
“I’d bet a copper star that you could. Might not sound like much, but it’s aaall I’ve got. But seems like you did lots of climbing. Why so much? Were you a shepherd? Did your sheep keep getting stuck in trees?” she asks, brows lifted with impish curiosity. Finding a smooth stone under her fingers, she looks down at it, before offering it up. Maybe he’ll try and skip it for her.
Brace shrugs. "Just liked climbing, is all. Came in useful last year. I did some work lumbering trees. I did a lot of climbing for that." He takes the stone, turning it over in his fingers to examine it. Seeming to get the idea, he cocks his arm back, and in a wide arc he snaps forward, flinging the stone toward the water. PLUNK! It vanishes under the flowing surface. He sighs, his face pinching up in frustration. "See? Can't even get one skip now."
“Just out of practice,” reassures Emmeline. “Or maybe the river’s just extra churny and choppy today.” Poised on the balls of her feet, her legs are starting to get stiff. She rises with a wince. But this is no time to stretch properly. Oh.” She looks up at him. “You don’t mind I came and joined you, do you? I weren’t interrupting or…” she trails off.
Brace lobs another stone into the water, shaking his head. "I don't mind," he assures her, glancing down with a You're nice, and…um…nice. Besides, I was just thinking about work. I have to get some. Things are expensive in the city."
Emmeline brightens, pleased to be called nice. But as he mentions work, she sobered. With a slow, solemn nod, she says. “Yes. Work’s important. Hard to find but not impossible.” She tilts her head. “What’re you looking for? What kind of work?”
After flinging his last stone — sending it nearly across the breadth of the Honeywine — Brace returns to his seat upon the uncomfortable boulder. "Anything, really. I've done a lot of things. Lumbering, building, even guarding. Caravans and such. I'm big," he points out, as if it wasn't obvious. "Bandits sometimes get scared off when they see me."
Emmeline grins. Lumbering – he certainly is. Quite big. But at the mention of bandits, her smile slips. She watches him, quiet and solemn. At last, she murmurs, “I think you should be a guard.” She pauses. “I used to work at a tavern where – well… I got pulled into other laps too. And they weren’t good about letting me go. We had a guard there, but he wasn’t so good at his job. He didn’t pay attention so well. But I think you’d be a good guard… for the girls down there. Or- or even at the Quill and Tankard, though we don’t get such trouble up here, I think.”
"I could do that," Brace agrees. "Course if I work at that other tavern…then I wouldn't see you so much." He peeks over at Emmeline, a boyish grin slowly spreading across his face.
A hint of pink warms Emmeline’s cheeks. She brings a hand up to shield her blush. “Oh? S’that how you’re thinking of deciding.” The girl slinks back to try and hide behind him. Should he turn to follow her with her gaze, she just keeps going, hiding. “There’s girls much prettier down near the docks. In other taverns. And they need you to be watchin much more than I would.”
Brace shrugs again, glance toward her, only to find her drifting further out of his sight. "Maybe. But I've met plenty of pretty women. You're nice. Made me feel…welcome." He continues to turn to follow her, perhaps not entirely consciously.
Emmeline pauses. “I’m glad. You /are/ welcome. I think you’re nice too.” Hands clasped behind her back, she rises to balance on the flats of her toes. Leaning forward slightly with a bright little smile, she says, “You let me go. And said sorry. No one ever apologized before. At least, not to me. Not sincere-like.”
Brace's turning forces him to actually shift his position, rotating toward her until she stops. "I'm not always nice," he says, a hint of caution in his tone. "Sometimes I get angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
Emmeline straightens and settles back down on her heels. The caution in his voice catches her attention. She folds her arms across her belly and sways slightly, twisting to the side. “I don’t think I’d make you angry. Would I? I’ll be careful,” she tells him.
Brace forces out a nervous chuckle. "No…you probably wouldn't. Still, when I get angry, bad things happen. People get hurt." He looks down at his large, powerful hands, opening them to gaze at his calloused palms.
Emmeline drops her gaze to his hands. She peeks up at him, hesitating, but then steps closer. She takes one of his hands in both of hers. “S’not good to think too long on the bad things,” she tells him in a soft, gentle tone. “No good in it. Not once you’re trying to do better. Just keep trying. And it’ll be ok.” She smiles up at him, hoping to coax him away from any dark thoughts.
Brace lifts his sapphire gaze to hers. He lets out a soft sigh, nodding. "I'll try. Sometimes the thoughts come on their own. Then I need a distraction to be happy again. Like, good drink and laughter, or…um…other…things."
Emmeline blinks and turns a bit pink as she nods. It shouldn’t surprise her, except that he’s being delicate about it for her sake. She smiles a bit up at him, but releases his hand. “Much better to focus on the good things in life. Easier to focus on something than to /not/ focus on something else. I should try something like that.”
"Aye, that's my philoph-…philo-…so..phy." Brace frowns as he stumbles through the word. Much like the previous evening when he was caught in his bad behavior, he lowers his eyes shamefully. One hand balls into a tight fist, his other coming down to cover it.
Emmeline watches the shame falling over Brace with solemn eyes. “S’a good one,” she says with a decisive nod. With a delicate tug at his sleeve, she says, “And I think you should be a guard. You’d make a good one. No one would dare do something bad if you were watching.”
The big man's fist trembles, despite his attempt to contain it in his other hand. He nods to Emmeline's words, but still remained hunched over, glaring at his hands. "You should go," he says slowly.
Emmeline should go. She realizes it. And yet she tries again, despite the hint of danger. “You should come with me. To the Quill and Tankard. S’not my shift yet. We can sit warm and cozy in front of the fire. Iris can bring us hot cider. Or- or maybe even cocoa. Warm and buttery, rich and sweet. Warms you in and out. Better than getting to spend the whole day safe under the covers while it’s cold and rainy outside.”
Brace's damp hair hangs about his face, hiding the tears forming in and around his eyes. "N-no," he says quietly, his voice trembling. "Please just…just go. I don't want to be around people."
Emmeline had expected some unbidden anger. And yet it’s sadness overwhelming the gentle giant. She bites her lower lip. “I don’t want to leave you all alone. But… wouldn’t do to not listen to your wishes when you were so careful to listen to mine.” She steps back. “When you want, I’ll be at the Quill and Tankard.” She watches him a moment more, flooded with concern, but remembering how he’d let her go, even apologizing, she turns and heads back down the path.
Brace can hear Emmeline go, her feet crunching on the stones of the riverbank. When he finally dares to lift his gaze, eyes reddened with tears, she is nowhere to be seen. Some part of him wished that she had remained, but he also breathes a sigh of relief that she did not witness the worst of his maudlin melancholy. He slides down to the ground, leaning back against the boulder, and lets the sorrow take over and run its course. His shame is his alone to bear.