|Old Man Yells At Cheese|
|Summary:||Another quaint Oldtown custom, this one heralding the coming of autumn.|
It's a nice day for this sort of thing, clear and pleasant, sunny. With the people spread out across the chase picking the small wild apples and such, it does not seem crowded.
Audra's out with her husband, the overprotective fussy little man known for running the Shambles bakery. As she's -very- much pregnant, he does most of the gathering. She carries a basket with fresh bread and small meat pies, selling them for coppers and exchange of goods. It's all the pregnant woman can really muster as she walks slowly along.
Sal is among the smallfolk who have spilled into the open woods and fields, carrying a satchel to cheerfully tuck away her findings of fruit in. She hasn't made a particular name for herself among the smallfolk in Oldtown, except to those who might recognize her from her days of juggling in Oldtown Square several weeks past (now she juggles by the Whimsy, but she wears a mask for that, to keep an air of theatrical mystery, you see) and that one vegetable merchant with whom she has a budding rivalry with. Never mind him. Her venture into the Reach's winter traditions has been an enthusiastic one, for they all have one common goal: food. She's been here the better part of the day, and has kept largely well away from the genteel nobles making it all possible. She has not been alone in her foraging endeavours, however.
A boy runs past the couple from the bakery, precariously close, to Sal from behind. His mouth — and well beyond — is stained with berry juice. He's less than ten and more than six, but his age is otherwise confused by his sweet round face and a stature that may be made up of more than baby fat; either way, he hasn't hit a landmark growth spurt. He has sandy hair, growing shaggy just past his ears, a tanned complexion, blue eyes, and a slightly upturned nose. His clothes are the same shabby peasant piecemeal that make up Sal's, except for his boots, which are made more finely, but for many scuffs from good use. He has a bag too. "There you are!" She wraps an arm about the boy and scruffs the top of his head jovially with her knuckles. "Don't be runnin' off like that when I'm not lookin', hey? Sweet merciful— " She's seen his face. She doesn't know what to do with his face. Using her tenuously white sleeve to clean it would result in having a purple sleeve forever. So she grins from ear to ear. "Oh, well. We'll call it the spirit of the day, eh? Downright fuckin' celebratory."
Another new arrival to Oldtown, no doubt one amongst many each day. Kell's arrival was due to his task of escorting a traveling merchant to his destination. After seeing the older man safely to his delivery, the knight had stabled his horse and on his way to one of the local taverns for drink and information, he heard of the odd event that is a tradition here. The Cheese Rolling festival. Curiosity certainly grabbed this knight's attention, causing him to detour from getting a drink to heading further north to where the event is being held. Seeing the numbers gathered here, both noble and commonborn, Kell can see that it is indeed a rather popular tradition.
Audra lets out a small yelp of surprise as the kid brushes past. Her first reaction is to check her basket to ensure nothing was swiped, followed by her pouches. "Careful, lad," she calls out with a warm smile. The golden haired woman waves to her worried husband to reassure him she's not toppled over.
Deep blood-red silk slithers and gleams across grass grazed short in the wake of one who has come here to sate not hunger but curiosity: Rashiya, the red woman from the Red Temple, the foreign beauty whose songs and speeches about darkness and light and terror and divine love have caused even more of a stir among the people of Oldtown than the manner in which her red gowns cling to the well-proportioned curves of her sleek young body. Which is saying something.
She is quite alone at present, without the Fiery Hands who guard her progresses through the city's narrow streets. As she strolls among gatherers, hawkers, and idlers, her pace slow and rather stately and the lids half-lowered over her dark red eyes, she twirls a five-petaled pale pink dog rose between the long olive-skinned fingers of her right hand. One of the last of the season. Apart from a veritable bouquet of observations it's her only gleaning.
There are rose-hips around, sour but easy to store, and raspberries, beech-nuts and wintergreen. A small gaggle of young girls jump back with yells when their investigation of a thicket scares up a small spotted pig.
Now that Sal is confident that the boy is back at her side, she whips a look over her shoulder in light of hearing Audra. Pleased to see no path of destruction and toppled pregnant women, she gives Audra a jaunty little wave and lopsided grin that doesn't quite pass as an apology, particularly when she pairs it with a one-shouldered shrug and 'what can ya do?' expression. The boy has no apparent thoughts of apology either, mainly because he's moved on to the next thing: pointing at the red woman with curiosity in his young eyes. Sal's gaze follows, showing a similar curiosity, but she manages to be the grown-up in this situation, at least. "All right, all right," she says to the boy, easing his arm definitively down. "I might not know the proper greeting for a red priestess, but that ain't it, is it."
He points at the pig instead.
Audra's cherry red lips part in amused smile. "Terris - Bacon!" She laughs as she points to the little animal anxiously running about. Her husband is too busy glancing curiously at the lovely lady in red until his wife calls to him. "Get the piggy, Esme can butcher it up for us," she repeats with a laugh.
The slight commotion of an over-energetic youth cathces Kell's attention, his gaze shifting over to the young boy as he runs through the maze of people. A look of amusement appears as the knight watches the child before following the gaze to the woman in red, something new to him as well. The gaze does not linger too long though, as the light cries from the foraging girls causes Kell to glance over in that direction when the small pig is discovered.
The half-grown shoat squeals, as pigs do at practically anything, and takes off in what is, to it, a random direction away from the girls, who pursue. They head in the red priestess's direction.
Sal grimaces indecisively as she watches the little pig scurry with the girls in pursuit. "I thought I heard tell've a rumour about sausages on trees." Better than catching a pig. For all the boy's interest in the wild animal, he ducks behind Sal when it gives that shrill squeal. Perhaps not the budding heart of a warrior, this one.
The red woman, on the other hand, knows the proper greeting for rambunctious and slightly sticky young boys: a brilliant red smile, flashed in his direction, and a slight lift of the flower in her hand as an acknowledgment to his — mother? sister? — that she has taken no offense.
Her gaze moves on to the pregnant woman burdened by the basket of pies and pastries, and she has taken another step or two towards Audra when a small squealing bundle of bacon-to-be begins to bear down upon her. Her sleeves swirl as she turns to regard, with elegant unconcern, the impending pig. And then she tucks the green stem of the dog rose into the low-cut bosom of her gown, and stretches down her hand to sketch in the air, within the pig's line of sight, the flower's own five-petaled likeness in vibrant living flame.
Audra's husband isn't the fastest. He sees the piggy and starts to run towards it, carrying his sack of gathering to try to tuck it in. But… is that fire coming off the red woman? He stops in confusion and starts to back away; let other people go for the bacon.
The pig shrieks in alarm at the rose of flame, and zig-zags. Two of the girls also see it, and one of them screams, a real scream of terror, her face blanching.
"Blooooody hell— " Sal utters, staring at the woman and red and her flame. "That won't ever not be bonkers." She glances to her young cohort for confirmation. His much wider eyes confirm his absolute agreement. He's fascinated… and a little scared. Or maybe that's still because of the pig's screaming, even though it seems to pale in comparison to a woman literally creating flames out of nothing, but such is the logic of a child. As the pig zig-zags, she leaps toward its path — more to corral it away from going back to the bushes than to catch it.
"What in the seven hells," the lady baker swears in less than demure fashion. The pig zigs and zags and she points to it. "Piggy piggy, 'ere pig! Terris, nab 'er!" She shouts to the frightened baker and tries to reassure him with a warm smile. "Go for it!"
The pig is squealing, two of the girls have dropped their pursuit to flee back the way they came and away from the Red Priestess. The third jumps on the pig, which slips out of her grasp without missing a stride.
After drawing the line of her flame-flower's stem Rashiya straightens, graceful and unconcerned, her pale skin untouched by the fire which leapt forth so obediently from her fingertip. The first petals are already beginning to fade. In another handful of seconds there'll be nothing left of her whimsical gesture but a whiff of smoke in the autumn air, and a memory of flame.
Sal stands feet apart, poised incase it comes her way about, but mostly, she enthusiastically whoops and cheers on the folks scrambling for the pig. Particularly Terris, stranger that he is. Always root for the underdog.
As she now longer makes a particularly good post to hide behind, the round-faced boy meanders around the chaos, hesitantly, toward the red priestess, hardly blinking blue curious eyes that look slightly too small for his face.
Those who aren't chasing the pig are watching it be chased or moving away from the Priestess, or both.
Audra whoops as the pig runs towards the worried baker and he makes a dive for the little thing. He misses as it squeals loudly and jerks away from him. The pregnant woman pouts, feeling bad for her little man.
The pig continues to dodge. A man tries to block it, but it runs between his legs. He almost keeps his feet, but stumbles as the animal pushes past, and ends up on his arse.
The red woman sees that curious boy creeping nearer even as most of the other common people flee or edge away from her — rather than startle him, she watches him only out of the corner of her eye, affecting only to be interested in the pig's progress away from her, until he's quite near. Then she tilts her head just a fraction and murmurs to him in low, conspiratorial, accented tones: "Perhaps we two are the only ones who don't want a pig, mmm…?"
A donkey cart can be seen in the distance, just diverting from the Honey Road to cross the chase, slowly.
The boy comes to a halt and peers up at the red-clad lady. Despite his boldness in meandering over, one quick move and he'd be as spooked as the little pig — a fact evident in the tense way he holds himself. As wide-eyed as his beady eyes can get, he makes a noise like "mm" as if he's about to agree with her but simply nods really, really fast.
Sal is laughing too heartily at the misfortune befallen the man on his arse to either chase the pig or notice where her young charge has wandered off to. Someone nearby calls attention to the donkey cart and her dark-haired head turns this way and that, missing the cart entirely but noticing the red woman's new friend. She jogs over. "He thinks you're a better trickster than me, yeah?" She jokes by way of explanation, whisking two small, hard apples from her satchel and giving them a quick juggle.
Audra's encouragement makes the baker get back on his feet, dust himself off, and go chasing after that pig. He rushes past the fallen man with his sack at the ready and soon enough… he throws the bag over the pig and jumps atop it - BACON VICTORIOUS!
The pig objects, squealing. Unfortunately for it, it's not good at running with a bag over its head. It just sort of thrashes about.
Rashiya smiles warmly at the boy. "Do you like flowers?" she asks him, to see if she can tempt him into a real answer. "Which do you prefer? Those growing from the earth," she touches the dog rose at her bosom, "or the air?" With a fingertip she describes the shape of a petal, though this time she doesn't leave a trail of flame… Then the woman she noticed in his company before interrupts with her apples, and Rashiya turns interested attention upon her, dark red eyes following first one fruit and then the other. "I see we have both our skills," she allows generously, still smiling. "Ah, look — he's caught it. Well done!" she calls to the victorious baker, laughing, lifting her hands in lazy applause. The sound of her single pair of hands carries quite a distance.
That magic from the red woman captivated Kell, his attention watching as the flame is produced out of thin air. There is also a touch of fear inside him as he watches the unknown occur. Keeping a safe distance away, not exactly eager to approach, especially now, he watches as the small pig is spooked from the fire lady. As the others chase the small swine, the knight doesn't move much from his spot as he is not exactly kitted to go running after an elusive creature. Not having the chance to remove his armor yet, Kell is content in watching the festivities and curiosities that are about.
The donkey cart is a small cart pulled by a very small donkey, led by a boy in the robes of a Novice of the Citadel. There are a few more of them, accompanying the cart, and the old man, Archmaester Luckin, sits at the back of the cart, his legs hanging off and brushing the grass. In front of him on the boards lies The Cheese.
The boy follows the shape of the invisible flower and keeps his gaze up in the air (better there than directly at the lady's bosom, anyway) until his attention is torn to Sal's juggling. It's short-lived: the apples disappear back in the bag. "You're scarin' the locals," she tells the priestess - but it's with a grin, a wink, a slightly not-quite-local accent and none of the terror that took hold of some of the other commoners. She watches the cart approach, spares a smile for the pig-wrestling baker, a suspicious eye for the watching knight, and proceeds to tug the boy a few steps away. It's not to escape Rashiya: rather, it's to kneel in front of him and coach him on the tactics of catching rolling cheese, complete with serious hand gestures as though preparing him for the battlefield. Having never experienced a cheese roll before, it's almost entirely bullshit.
The triumphant baker bags the pig and carries the wriggling thing in his arms, his figure belying a strength that comes from kneading dough and carrying heavy loads of flour. He beams at his wife and is rewarded with a sweet kiss on the cheek. "I guess we'll be forgoing the cheese then, as I have no clue what we can do with Ser Piggy until we get home." The pair chuckle as only married couples can.
"And you," the priestess murmurs to the juggler, in gentle Low Valyrian coloured with a Volantene accent, "are a long way from home, my child." She plucks her dog rose from her gown's low-cut neckline and lifts it, breathing in its summery fragrance as she eavesdrops upon the cheese conference.
Then, smiling behind its petals, she makes a slow approach to the baker and his wife. Slow to give them time to become accustomed to the idea. "The Lord's blessings upon you and your child," she begins, greeting them with a smile. "I believe I saw you earlier selling," she nods to the basket, "bread…?"
The pig continues to squeal and whistle. Children, seeing the cart, start to follow it, shouting, "The cheese! The cheese!" This appears to annoy the donkey, which lays its long ears back.
The baker holds the animal tighter in his grip as he nods. "Yes, milady. Crossed buns, fresh bread rolls, and cheese and beef pies. 'alf copper for the buns and rolls, the pies are a full three pennies," he replies. The golden haired woman rests her hand over the future baby baker and smiles before she pulls back the basket covering so the red woman can smell the delicious scents.
Sal starts to rush toward the cheese cart, but the boy is more wary of the crowd of other children. "Let's go, then! Ya want a big ol' cheese roll, yeah?" Despite his questionably informative pep-talk, he still hangs back. She crouches, smiling, and pokes him in the tummy. "Are ya not hungry anymore after all them berries or did you only get 'em on yer face? Hmm?" "Can ya be quick as a fox? …A pig?" He shakes his head as fast as he can at that. "How about a mouse? Yeah?" The quiet child finally giggles. She grabs his hand and they run off to await the cheese-rolling.
It doesn't look /that/ big, the cheese. Big for a cheese, sure, but it's really only about eighteen inches across and ten thick, wrapped in waxed canvas with what closely resembles the floor of a miniature rope-bridge tied tightly around its edge. There are a number of similarly dressed cheeses, just small hand-sized ones, sitting around it in the cart, like it had puppies. The silver archmaester in all his dignity, seventy-something and wise, carrying his silver rod and wearing his silver ring and wearing the creepy silver mask that goes with his office 'round his neck, his chain of many metals so long it's a loop rather than a collar, is barefoot and trying to catch the seed-heads of the grass in his toes as the cart lumbers along.
Rashiya's hand lowers, toying with the dog rose low down by her side; she leans over to breathe in the warm aromas of fresh bread and pies.
"What a captivating scent," she remarks to Terris; "I can tell that you and your good wife," she inclines her head politely to Audra, "don't stint on quality. But I understand that it is the custom today for food to be given away, and for those who come hungry to leave sated upon the fruits of the land… not to mention," the glimmer of a smile, "the pigs." Suddenly there's a small red leather purse in her other hand, and with her flower caught still between two fingers she is picking through the coins inside it. "What would it cost," she asks the bakers, "to buy what remains in your basket, so that you might give away your wares to the hungry without yourselves suffering a loss?"
The bagged pig continues to complain of its predicament. Pigs are horrible.
The cheese is noted, as well as the mini-cheeses, this Cheese Rolling being the first time that Kell has observed something like this in his life thus far. Watching the children trailing the cart and the cheese is amusing, seeing that the youths will most likely be energetically participating. The knight's attention does shift to the food cart where the baker and his pregnant wife is situated, apparently in the middle of negotiations with the red woman.
"Them wot truly needs, always gets something," Terris replies. The sudden appearance of the pouch has him squeezing the pig a bit more tightly; it just squeals louder. "Someone can't afford, we always trade or let 'em take the two-day olds we can't rightly sell." Audra just smiles with her own very red colored lips and says, "A stag'll take care of the lot. We've got a third little un we need to start saving up for."
Squinting toward the cart, Sal looks marginally more disturbed by the masked archmaester than the red priestess, although even that small amount is dissipated when she realizes he's just an old fellow plucking grass with his toes, and she goes right back to being cheery as can be facing the prospect of cheese.
Young men can be seen parting from their groups to hurry towards Uthor's Hill in response to the children tearing about to announce about the arrival of the cheese. There's a fair amount of going-on at the foot of said hill; people have brought kegs of cider and ale to sell by the mugful off handcarts and goat carts and donkey carts.
The red woman plucks a silver stag from her purse, and offers it on her palm with the dog rose drooping in an elegant curve from her fingers. A distraction which suffices, perhaps, to cover the disappearance of her purse. "Then I know I can trust you," she says simply to Terris, charitable fellow that he is, "not to sell any of your fine pies twice, this afternoon." She holds her smile, bathing them in the goodwill of one whose uncanny powers are surely not limited to the sketching of fire-roses in the air. They wouldn't want her badwill.
Luckin takes off the silver mask and smiles at the child who wanted to see him wear it; he's just a thin old man with a kindly face.
A few of the locals overhearing the affair betwixt the priestess and the bakers frown; they know the pair well enough to see the slightly disturbed look on their faces. They murmur but it's hard to hear over the squealing of the pig. That squealing stops as the baker grabs hold and firmly snaps the creature's neck. Much quieter now. The laughs and shouts of the others continue unabated as the cheese is being prepped. "You're not from 'round these parts, my lady. The lot of Oldtown knows the Shambles gives fair weight of loaf and never shortchanges a patron." He frowns gently.
Audra smiles more diplomatically as she offers the basket to the red woman. "What my sweet husband means is we've got a reputation to protect. Ain't going to get much custom if we short-change our buyers, would we? But if it so troubles you, m'lady - go ahead and pass 'em round yourself."
Looks like Sal will be in the company of young men as she and the boy head to Uthor's Hill. Just as well; she's dressed like them, save for the apron-like skirt of dark blue that looks like little more than the long end of a tunic. She gives the kegs a good eyeing over, but better to save her precious few coins.
Rashiya, still smiling, gives a slight shake of her head. Black silken hair just barely disarranged by the breeze shifts in its flow over her sloping shoulders. "Ah, but as you say — and as I could tell from a single glance into your basket — you have a good reputation among the people of Oldtown," she reminds the bakers, "and I am indeed a stranger. Surely they will accept tokens from your hand more easily than from mine." She tilts her head and shrugs one shoulder. "It matters not who receives the credit, only who receives the bread." Though she says this when everyone's already had ample time to notice her conversation with these two, and the flash of a silver stag.
The donkey cart with cheese and maester plods past. Eager contenders are already climbing the hill, and a couple of women wearing white shifts are setting up twigs and ribbons to mark what they hope will be the course. Well, it is at least a broad swath down the side of the hill where people are not supposed to stand.
Sal is one of those eager contenders making their way to the top. The boy is, perhaps, not so eager, but two is better than one, improving their odds at winning (this was most definitely part of her tactical speech). She gives a couple of jovial words and pats on the back to the other contestants who will soon be her mortal enemies on the cheese field. She really, really wants that cheese.
Kids are running around, sure, but it's mostly big tough blokes who are making their way to the crown of the hill. Others are gathering to watch. The trick is to find the spot where you can see well, but are sure to be out of the way of the cheese and the runners. And then somebody else gets just in front of you… Though by the time that slow donkey cart has got to the top of the hill, most of them will have lost their places to get beer, and joslted their ways to new spots.
When she has finished her business to the bakers and left them offering meat pies and fresh-baked bread to all and sundry, Rashiya strolls nearer to the hill, still twirling her flower, watching and of course being watched.
"All right, all right," shouts Luckin, still on the cart as it begins to ascend the hill, right in the middle of the cleared swath. It's grassy and slick, really. "Ridiculous people," adds the old man, more quietly. He turns where he's sitting to pick up a couple of the cheese puppies. He rolls them off the back of the cart, creating chaos as people jump the ribbons to chase after them. They're not hard to catch, at under two pounds they bounce on tufts of grass and get tipped over, it's just a matter of being there first.
The red priestess seems to be enjoying her day out in the sunshine with the common heathen folk of her new home. She finds a fine vantage point over the course in no time at all (men are such helpful, malleable creatures) and stands there in the bubble of empty space people unconsciously allow her, absent-mindedly sniffing her dog rose and smiling upon the cheese scramble.
Sal — and by her encouragement, the boy — have been primed and ready. Sal is quick, but not as powerful as a sudden stampede of bodies. She spends more effort swerving the boy out of the way than getting close to the little cheeses.
The two small cheese are pounced upon and snapped up. Most of the men who've been loitering near the top make no effort for them, though. Those are kiddie cheeses. They take last-minute fortifying pre-cheese-roll drinks of ale or cider, and hop about to warm up.
This first bout of minor cheese-rolling was a learning experience. Using it, Sal places her hands on the boy's shoulders and instructs him, very carefully, to wait on the sidelines — he does so, trying to weave around folk and duck his way to relative safety not far from the priestess. Worried furrows crop up all along Sal's brow as they're parted, but — several curse words later — she repositions herself at the top of the hill and focuses, stretching her hands behind her head.
As the donkey cart makes its way up, Luckin releases another pair of cheese puppies. The hill gets steeper near the top, and these ones go further, and one even vaults into the air as it rolls over a hummock of grass.
Kell continues to watch on from the side with those who have chosen not to participate, the chasing of the cheese puppies by the less than serious partipants all in good fun is rather entertaining. However, the young knight's attention is partly on those who are getting ready for the rolling of the Cheese at the top of the hill.
It was a litter of seven cheese puppies, unsurprisingly. Luckin gets off the cart to release the last one, bending to push it a bit and set it rolling down the grassy slope.
Sal finds herself squeezed between two much stockier men at the top of the hill. She wriggles ahead, but— "No buttin' ahead!" one of them shouts. She mocks him behind his back and keeps a close eye on the big cheese, never-minding the scrambling for the babies.
Luckin watches the people chase after the small cheeses. Children seem to do well in snatching them up from under the noses of bigger folks, though the sixth cheese gets jumped on by three people at once.
The donkey and the novices arrive at the top of the hill, most of them sighing. Luckin works his way up, using his staff, slow, slow old man. "All right," he calls up to those at the top. "You silly people. Line up, line up."
The novices do their best to get the athletic or overconfident folk to line up straight, some on one side of the donkey cart, some on the other. "You have to give the cheese a head-start," Luckin says, sternly. "So don't start after it 'til I say, or we'll have to drag it all the way back up here. It would never do." Then, looking about, he taps the cheese's wooden wheel-rim with his staff, and says, "Andros?" Evidently that's one of the novices, because one says, "Yes, archmaester," and begins to wrestle the cheese off the cart. Andros is a small boy, and it's a heavy cheese. Luckin moves to help the kid get it to the ground on its edge, and turns it to point down the hill. So to speak. The crowd lined up on either side of the ribbons is laughing, drinking, eating apples.
The elbow-to-elbow men who were squeezing Sal out of place are put in their place by the novices, and she takes up all of the resulting space with her own elbows out of spite.
Luckin straightens up and turns to face the line of contenders. "All right," he says, lifting his arms, and his silver-capped staff. "Wait, wait." He sounds as if he's talking to an over-eager hound. Between, "Wait"s he speaks more quietly to Andros, murmuring, "Push it." Which the boy does. Some fifty pounds of cheese begins to roll down the hill, rapidly accellerating.
The cheese is escaping. It's heavy, it leaves a track in the grass where it passes, crushing the blades down. A handful of old man heartbeats pass before Luckin stops saying, "Wait," and drops his staff to shout, "NOW!"
Sal takes a page from the pig's book and sets off in an immediate zig-zag around the rapidly running - some already scattering — people on the hill. Unlike the pig, she has a destination — one that hopefully won't spell her doom, because as deaths go, maimed while chasing cheese down a hill isn't exactly how she'd prefer to go.
She's pretty sturdy-footed on the downward slope — her balance is good — and that serves her well. Better, if she elbowed a few of those men out of the way, but she remains sporting, save for cursing every time someone gets in front of her. Instead, the limber entertainer manages to stay on her feet despite being jostled and tripped over. As Uthor's Hill gets steeper and her running faster and therefore slipperier, she does what a multitude of people all around her are doing by accident: she falls and rolls. She does it on purpose, tucking in and rolling, every so often acrobatically hopping back up to run a distance and weave around the mass chaos, eyes (and stomach) determinedly locked on the prize, before rolling again. Hill-rolling can get speedy, as both Sal and the cheese know, if cheese could know. She's gaining on it.
The race begins; once again the red woman's skirts slither over the grass, as the cheese's erratic downhill progress makes a nonsense of what she supposed would be tha ideal angle of view. A man who comes often to her nightfires murmurs a greeting and bows to her, and she blesses him in passing with a hand upon his head and a few lyrical words. Another steps so smartly out of her path he jostles a fellow whom it is not wise to jostle, and so behind her shapely back an altercation swiftly erupts. She glides onward. And then, coming upon a tall young man in armour, she lifts her eyebrows at him and gestures with a languid hand to his steel breastplate and mail leggings and inquires: "Is the rolling of the cheese more dangerous even than I was led to believe…?" Her voice is a low, lyrical purr, from somewhere far off.
Elbowing seems to be part of the deal. Or maybe the runners just can't help it. The hill is steep, the cheese is moving at a solid gallop, the grass is a bit slippery, it is not advisable to run. One cheese-seeker slips into another, both go down and start to tumble down Old Uthor's Hill.
Rolling is not an unknown tactic here at all, but an unknown to do on purpose one. Another runner simply trips on nothing in particular, simply the unevenness of the ground, and goes ass over teakettle, twice, before sliding face-down on the grass, groaning. Gaining on the cheese is practically unheard of. People who were viewing from the bottom of the hill start to try to scatter before the oncoming cheese, which has turned a bit as it rolls and is no longer doing anything like a straight run between the ribbons.
This is no knightly tourney but the anticipation builds just the same, Kell himself also slowly being caught up in the atmosphere with the other spectators. When the large, reinforced cheese wheel is released, the knight with no sigil leans forward slightly as if that would provide him a better view, the mad dash of the competitors beginning. When the red woman approaches, Kell did not see her until she was at his side, his gaze shifting from the cheese and pursuit to the question that is directed at him. An amused smirk appears and the young knight shakes his head, "Not that I know of… Priestess?" There were stories of such women when he was young, growing up in Griffon's Roost but he has never met someone like her until now, so her title is a guess he makes. "I just arrived in Oldstown earlier today and after stabling my steed, I was told to head to this place if I didn't want to miss out on the event.
The descent down seems, at once, to pass by in a chaotic blur and to go on forever, particularly when it takes as uneven a path as the cheese. Sal almost has it once, but it bobs into the turn and she meets the grass chin-first. She's undeterred. She practically flies down the hill, sailing into a roll that gets her nearer still to the wayward dairy prize. Some of the folks who fell, tangled, down the hill find themselves unexpectedly closer to the cheese, eliciting more cheers and roars from the spectators. Sal is having none of their chance fortune. She can almost reach it— ! Sprawling out of her roll, she slings an arm out for the cheese, scrappily trying to wrestle it to her life depends on it.
Rashiya lifts her dog rose again and breathes in its fragrance — her eyes hold the young hedge knight's, dark red-brown and fathomless, alive with curiosity. When she lowers the flower her reddened lips have formed a faint, teasing smile. "Yes," she confides, in answer to his guess, and then, "It seems we both have received fortunate advice, today…" She half-turns, shifting into another elegant stance, her gaze once again seeking the cheese. "An Oldtown custom I should have regretted missing — and, after today, it shall not be repeated until the beginning of the next winter… How can one know," she asks him lightly, "where such a faroff day might find one—?"
The cheese has significant velocity now that it's moving at speed. As does the tangle of limbs that was one contender, who has slipped and half-tumbled-half-skidded into the crowd about halfway up the kill, amid laughing and good-humoured cursing and yelps of pain and the smell of beer and torn up grass.
"Let us hope that this coming winter is a short one, if we are to see this type of festivities again." Kell says with a nod of agreement, knowing that no one knows just how long each winter may last, nor the seasons that follow. The young knight's eyes returns to the chase of the cheese, watching as a few manage to trip after their own feet and go tumbling down the hill while others slip and slide after the prize. Amused, Kell is distracted for a moment before glancing back to Rashiya, her question causing him to frown in puzzlement, perhaps not fully understanding her question, "They cannot. Where our paths may lead us, we do not know."
The cheese is a slippery mistress, but so is Sal. She's dogged on that damned cheese. Try as velocity might to keep it from her, she manages to get her hands on the structure … and keeps rolling, at first a horribly awkward tumble that can't feel too great on any of her bones until she curls herself around the cheese and goes bouncing and careening toward the scattered crowd at the bottom of the hill. She's shouting all the while. It's not even a word at this point. Just determined, victorious shouting— or else an alarm against anyone stealing her hard-earned cheese.
Or maybe just a warning to get out of the way of the careening and weighty dairy product, and the two guys who just tripped over each other in attempts to get closer to the cheese. The observers who are not engaged in attempting to get out of somebody or something's way raise up a cheer.
Sal has more or less become one with the cheese. She rolls to a gradual halt, stops her constant yell, and clings to it, slowly staggering up to shout more coherently, "YEAH!" Did she win? She won, right? Is someone still going to try to steal it— ?! She looks wide-eyed every which way and notices there are altogether too many eyes on her. She looks like she might bolt with the cheese any second.
"… The winter will not be short," the red woman states softly, with the air of one who knows for sure. She is gazing after the cheese and the woman in rather mannish garments who has attached herself to it: this time she lifts the flower in her hand to shield her eyes from the glare of the autumn sun. "I hope she has not hurt herself," she murmurs, distracted, taking half a step downhill. "A most determined young woman." Though she herself looks to be the same age as the intrepid cheese-hunter, or younger still.
Nobody tries to take the cheese. The other contenders are mostly not upright, though one goes tearing past, not willing to risk falling by slowing his backward-leaning run. Another, groaning on the turf higher up the slope, bellows for ale to ease the pain.
Kell opens his mouth as if to respond, perhaps even question the red woman about her determined answer but no words come forth. Instead, his lips come together again, perhaps thinking better than to doubt the lady who had shown otherwordly abilities earlier with the conjuration of fire. Instead, the knight can only say, "If not short, hopefully not long either." His gaze is now fixed on the woman who has chosen to cling unto the reinforced cheese wheel, as if holding on for dear life, only to hoist the prize up at the end when the woman and choose stops rolling.
At the top of the hill, Luckin has regained his staff, and he bangs on the donkey cart to get people's attention. The cart starts moving in response, which the old man ignores, letting the novices stop the donkey.
"It must necessarily be one or the other," is Rashiya's opinion, delivered with one last whimsical smile for the hedge knight in his armour, as she glides away down the hill followed by the blood-red ripples of her gown's train. Her object is to find Sal at the foot of it, and offer her aid: she has no designs upon the cheese, any more than upon the pig, but Sal of course does not know that.
Sal is slightly put at ease by a few of the congratulations shouting or groaning up from the contenders slowly crawling up covered in turf — she laughs good-naturedly, half out of adrenaline. Her main concern is finding the boy in the crowd. She looks up at the archmaester, but is already trying to make her way toward the sidelines. She finds herself face-to-face with the red priestess again. "Have you seen— " She leans to look around the woman. "My kid brother— ?"
"You people!" yells Luckin, shaking his stick at them, "Are silly! And the ones of you who are hurt can wait until I get down the hill before I'll bind up your broken ankles. I shan't bother about your senses!" The novices are smiling at this crochety display, though. They put a drag on the donkey-cart and Luckin sits in it again for a slow, zig-zag plod down the hill as the people go back to cheering and drinking and trading beech nuts for apples and similar business. Probably somebody with a fiddle of some sort will start.
"Are you hurt?" the priestess asks simply, her unnatural red eyes looking straight into Sal's to gauge her sincerity. What she reads there is pure concern, the target of which is soon elucidated. She turns also, pointing with her dog rose, which has at last begun to wilt: "I saw him last over there…"
"Am I hurt? Enh," Sal shrugs carelessly, grimacing, "Just where my whole body is." She'll have more bruises than grass stains — green sleeves instead of purple, it turns out — but she seems to do just fine walking. She fared better than some of her loose-ankled competitors and she won the cheese! She can't celebrate any more until she finds the boy. She heads off in the direction the priestess pointed straight away.
The priestess in her trailing red gown follows, musing upon Westerosi customs and how frequently they lead to injury and/or drunkenness. She lets the dog rose fall from her grasp and leaves it behind her, pale pink on the trampled green grass, the last of the summer drooping and dying as autumn begins.