Characters: Micah, Aio, Sinclair, Betta
Location: Gyten Valley - Hasp - Arden
Location: The Manse - Gyten Valley - Hasp - Arden
--[ Gyten Valley(#7692RJ0) ]---------------------------[ The Hasp, Arden ]----
A long, narrow, winding valley marks the place where one mountain
range abuts the next. The entrance to the valley is guarded by two
giant boulders surrounded by a stand of majestic pine trees. Deposited
by an ice flow or the caprice of a giant long ago, the boulders
settled each on their side of the entrance, then shifted toward each
other. Over time, trunks of trees grew around them, locking them in
place. Now, they lean their heads together to plot the doom of
interlopers or revel in the cold embrace of stone lovers. A breeze
that perpetually blows through the opening this makes, passes beneath
them and carries the scent of pine and aspens out of the valley. Once
through and into the valley proper, the path winds along the narrow
floor as the walls rise gradually from gentle hills to sheer cliffs
many times the height of a man. Aspen, pine and oak stands soften the
rough edges of the hills and look down on travelers from above. The
twists and turns make it impossible to see what is ahead and the
passage is narrow enough that only two horses and one ore laden cart
can travel abreast. At the end of the twisting way, lies the entrance
to the Hasp.
A sturdy, iron gate has been set to bar the way to any but those of
House Karm, Arden's Rangers or their guests. When presented with carts
going in or out, the entire gate swings open to allow passage. A
smaller gate, set near the guard post, can be opened to allow people
to enter or leave. The post is continually manned and no one other
than Karm personnel and Rangers are allowed in unescorted.
Past the gate, the lands that make up the Hasp open somewhat. Lying
against the knees of two great mountain ranges, the valley spreads
ahead and to the west, opening wider as the mountains angle north and
south. The valley descends gently in rolling slopes and terraces to a
crystalline, wandering stream that waters the grasses and trees along
its bank. Flowers speckle the grassy hillocks in the spring and
summer, lending gem-toned spots of brilliance to the lush green. The
Manse can be glimpsed to the north, the spires and conical towers
glittering in the sun. The entrance to the Vr'Ralia mines themselves
are to the south, an arch of carefully fashioned and fitted stone
framing a dark hollow cut into the mountain side. Ahead and to the
west lies Westhould, the lands that support both.
Southwest, before the gate, winds the trail towards Westgate and the
There's no word of the Captain of the Grey Unit at the Manse, she hasn't been seen since she left for Amber the day before. There are troops moving around now, patrolling in a way that speak of some organisation. The troops near the Manse certainly haven't seen her about either. If she's out there she's on her own.
Micah is comfortable on a horse, it would seem, for that's how he arrives. After having gone looking every other place he can think of, this is the last place he could think of to look for his teacher. He rides a cute little bay mare, the thing obviously not made for speed, she looks at least half draft. But she's a kind eye, so that's all that counts. And she's game to be ridden all over through forests and into Gyten Valleys. Micah had asked for word at the gates into the Valley first. Then on up at the Manse. Then the troops near the Manse itself. Now, the pair of them are in the valley. They stand out clearly against the snow. The bay mare's coat chocolate, Micah's as flame. Fluffy snowflakes fall lightly from the cloud covered sky.
Cold. The one thing Aio really doesn't like and yet, if everything is to be believed? She's somewhere out here. Her horse is back at the Manse, which rules out the fact that she's sheltering with the creature somewhere. But there are hills around the fields, slopes above them. The place is bigger than any might at first realise when they come through that small gate. But there are also tracks, leading up one side of the valley. Someone in decent boots, moving singly.
With the snow, the tracks are at least easy to see when Micah comes across them. This is a really good thing. Other than basic skills in the forest, like starting a fire to keep warm and such, he doesn't know much out here. But even a babe can see the tracks are boot shaped and follow them, clear as they are. Micah turns the mare's head to following the single set of tracks through the snow.
Aio may just be walking, for the tracks go on and on. Over the lower terrain, up the side of a hill up unto the point where the tree line comes in. Beyond it, where it's difficult for a horse to go as the ground gets rockier, the trees and bushes thicker.
Micah keeps the mare on the tracks for as long as he can, and beyond and up into the rockier stuff and the trees until he can't anymore. When the underbrush gets too thick for the mare to fit, Micah dismounts and ties the beast. He pats her fuzzy neck, and removes a small pack from the back of the saddle. Not saddlebags, so much, as there's a strap for carrying over shoulders with it. He shrugs into it and then sets off following the tracks again. Here, his frequent running on the beach pays him well. He makes better time than he had been on the mare.
The tracks bend and twist, someone having taken a circuitous route that speaks more of aimless wandering than marching somewhere with a purpose. Occasionally there are rocks and the footfalls vanish as the snow has been cleared from them, only to be searched out again a little while later. But more or less they always head up, into the peaks.
It's a good thing the snow is falling only lightly at present, or Micah would have probably lost the tracks already. He looks up at the sky and then back to the tracks. Every time he hits a rocky expanse, he goes the same direction the tracks themselves had taken on the off chance she who he's tracking hasn't diverged much. He looks up into the peaks, and keeps going. He moves up into a jog where he can, but otherwise maintains a swift walk.
The ground becomes more scree, then steeper until it's all expanses of rocks and a climb rather than a walk. But there, sat on an out cropping of rock a good way above him is a woman, her legs dangling over the edge. The position is somewhat sheltered by out croppings to the side, meaning she's not overly visible to most people and is sheltered from the freezing winds. Her cloak is white too, a furred thing to protect Aio against the cold.
Micah follows and follows, and.. probably wouldn't have found her at all if he hadn't been following her tracks. He looks up and around him often, and on one such glance about, he spots her sitting up there. He keeps walking, moving ever upward, ever closer to her. "You are a hard woman to track down," he finally says as he gets withing some form of conversational distance. The clouds overhead keeps pitting out fat fluffy white flakes, but the rate of fall is still slow.
Aio's swords lie across her lap, her hands resting on them to make sure they don't go anywhere. She frowns and looks down as her silent reverie is broken. She's not happy to see him, even her eye say that. And they're masked as always when she's out in the cold, all but her eyes covered. "What are you doing here?" is the only greeting she gives.
Micah hadn't expected a warm reception at all. Thus, the lack of one isn't surprising. Micah smiles, eyes sparkling with that usual humor, tempered a little by worry. "I did say I was coming after you," he points out. He finishes the climb, breathing only a little harder than normal from it. "Are you well?"
"And if I had gone into shadow to wage war? What would you have done then?" Aio asks pointedly. He was lucky she didn't is what her tone says. "Well? I am alive. That is about as well as it gets." She angles her gaze back out over the lands she's paid to protect.
"Then I wouldn't have been able to find you," says Micah. "And your tracks wouldn't have been down below, leading up here." It's logical, raelly. He doesn't seem to mind the tone. He steps up onto the outcropping, and around her, to sit down and dangle his feet over the edge as well. He glances over at her and nods. "Alive is good. And considerably better than I feared." He looks out over the lands too. "It's quite beautiful here, isn't it?"
Aio frowns and shakes her head. "It is defensible. I am bringing in some scouts who will ride these peaks.." She pauses and stops herself, perhaps mentally correcting what she was going to say. "Cold is what it is. Beyond that it matters little. Peaceful, perhaps. A good place to think when not disturbed by annoying Mandrakes."
Micah nods. "It does seem to be, doesn't it? Hard to get armies in any quantity over these mountains." Even an idiot could have seen or guessed at that. He doesn't ask her to continue what she was saying about the peaks. And his eyes remain out over the valley. "Indeed. But then, cold isn't all bad. The snow is beautiful. The trees." He turns his head sideways. "Huh." He nods slowly, as though to himself, thoughts lost to whatever had just occured to him. Or inspired, perhaps. Annoying Mandrakes? What? Micah's mind comes back to here and now and he looks over at Aio and grins. Reaches out a hand, fingers curled fist-like to bump her shoulder. "If I wasn't annoying you, you'd miss me." He winks at her.
"What?" Aio prompts, though she never takes her eyes off scanning the lands and valley below the pair. Ever vigilant. It's not even as if she appears to be looking for anything in particular. She is simply guarding. "What were you thinking? As for missing you? I barely have time to think, let alone fill my head with such fripperies."
"Huh?" The 'what?' is met with a seriously confused look from Micah. He looks back out over the valley far below. And then she expands on the what. "Oh. Look there," he says, pointing off toward the Manse. "That's the hilt, with that house the pommel cap. And that cross section there, looks a little like a half cross-guard." His finger traces that area out, a place where the trees are further back than those around. Then he sweeps his finger down the valley to a place below them and off toward the west. "And that is a the blade, the tip over there," he says, finger stopping on a point in the distant Westhould.
Aio just gives a slow shake of her head to what he's describing, it becoming shortly obvious that she sees things purely in terms of defense. The places where to set traps are laid out with a gesture of her hand. Where she would place her troops. Ambushes. That's all that Aio sees. "That is all that matters to me. "
Micah tilts his head toward her, and shakes his head. "You're an artist. Look with your artists eyes and you'll see it," he says. He looks back to the valley, a slow smile curving up his lips at the stark, dormant beauty of it all. Even with the slowly falling snow. "There's more to life than anger and duty," he says, tone so soft it's nigh on inaudible.
Aio nods. "I draw people for need. I note their details, their aspect the way I do this landscape. What is important. Which bit matters. What it is that makes them what they are." There's a shrug of her shoulders, she makes no apology for it. "You say that, but I am yet to see it."
"People and landscapes isn't the only thing you draw." Micah's tone is still soft, but louder than it had been before. "If you had paper right now, and no need to draw any specific thing, what would you draw?" He doesn't seem to have any desire for an apology. Nor any need for one. He doesn't look over at her, keeping his eyes on the view instead. "You've already seen it."
Aio shrugs at that, the admission an easy one. "I would draw the Pattern, if my mind did not guide my hand. As would a good few of my cousins. Some it takes less hold of, but I am entrenched in it's magics." Speaking of which. "Shortly I need to go into shadow, find an army for my cousin."
Micah nods. "The Pattern is a thing of beauty as well." Well. Some of it is. Given that he draws it on a fairly regular basis himself, he probably understands at least something of that. He glances over to her and nods. Then back out the valley. His thoughts wandering again. After several moments of silence on his part, he speaks again. "You should start by apologizing."
"The Pattern is a thing of mischief." Aio corrects him almost absently as she casts her gaze back out over the valley. Small figruesd can be seen walking in a patrol up it's length now. There's a long pause of confusion from Aio. "I should apologise for what?"
"Yes it is," agrees Micah. "But it's also beautiful." Of that he has no doubts at all. His eyes follow the small figures down below. He doesn't seem to mind the pause. Likely doesn't even realize she has no context for his comment. "To the one you love for pushing him away."
Aio flinches as he says that word and shakes her head. Not denial, but something else. Her eyes continue to track the figures working their way through the falling snow. "I cannot. He is gone. Not at the manse, not out here." She shrugs at that. A simple acceptance of the fact that she drove him away.
The flinch is enough to draw Micah's eyes away from the view and over to Aio. "You can. When he comes back." Micah seems to have no doubts at all that the man in question will come back. He looks back to the view again.
High in the mountains over the valley there are a pair of figures. Aio and Micah are sat on an out cropping, legs dangling over the valley below. They're shaded from the worst of the wind by a cliff that sits to one side and Aio has her blades across her lap.
Aio shakes her head to the other man. "That would assume that he would come back and he has no reason to do so." There's the tang of blood about the woman too, as if she had a relatively fresh injury to her.
Micah also has a pack across his back. Smallish. He's sitting next to Aio, maybe a foot, foot and a half of distance between them. He's looking out over the view right now. He shakes his head to what she's said. "He's going to come back. For one thing, he's your student. For another thing, I imagine he loves you too."
Aio shakes her head. "I have dismissed him before, he knows what it means." It sounds like their entire relationship has been one long battle of some sort from the way she phrases it. She ignores the words Micah uses quite deliberately. Denial, she's almost as good at that one as Duty.
"Mmmhmmm. And he came back then, didn't he?" Micah's tone is soft, but the words are amused. Obviously, if she dismissed him before, he must have come back. He leans back a little bit, resting his elbows on the rock behind him and looks up at the sky, smiling as the snow comes to rest on his skin. "How's the arm?" He looks sidelong at her, at the blades on her lap and then up to her face.
"You do realise that we are sat on a cliff, that I am quite capable of either stabbing you or pushing you off?" Aio says. Because yes, sometimes attack IS the best form of defense. "You were lucky I did not stab you earlier. I considered it deeply." She shrugs. "The arm is as it should be. Healing."
Down below in the woods, there is a bear nosing around. Following tracks perhaps. It might somewhat alarm the poor horse.
Aio comes to a rather sudden stop as she spots the bear.
Micah lifts his shoulder. "Yes I do. But I don't think you will. You didn't last night and I gave you plenty of reason to. Instead, you turned your blade on yourself." Micah nods about the arm. "Good." Down below, the horse does indeed not like it. But she's a placid thing, looking at least half draft horse. She jerks at the reins tying her to a tree, nostrils flaring, ears flicking about and eyes rolling at the scent of bear.
The bear's attention turns to the horse, and then away from the horse, staying at least some distance from the silly creature. It's a big blonde bear, really. Stands out a touch in the woods, though not so much with the winter snow. And it angles towards the tracks that lead up the rocks.
"Except for the part where I tried to knock you out with the hilt." Aio replies, her gaze fixedly tracking that bear in the snow. There's a frown as she sees the direction it chooses. "Believe me at this rate I am giving it serious thought. If you are indeed Corwin's son you will simply break a few bones." Well that's one way of testing!
The horse calms once the bear skirts around it and leaves it along. Micah's eyes fall on the bear too. He nods absently to Aio's words. "If you'd really been trying, you'd have actually knocked me out." He doesn't seem to be worrying too much about the bear. He's got an Aio to protect him, and she's on the end that's easier to get at. He nods to her words. "It would, actually. "I've fallen from cliffs before."
The bear examines the rocks, and then blurs shape to become a man. Sin continues forward, though he does stop as he gets within speaking range. Not close enough for an easy attack. "Commander. Lord Mandrake."
"Clumsy as well? That does not bode well in a smith." Aio points out lightly. That bear is taking most of her attention, whether she realises it or not. Her mood is growing pensive, not unhappy but there's an edge to her now as there was last night when she tried to knock him out and leave. Finally there's a nod towards the man and she addresses him. "Sinclair."
Micah follows the bear with his eyes, and offers a nod when the bear becomes a man. Let's face it. Micah lives with dragons. This isn't the strangest thing he's ever seen. He glances to Aio and shakes his head. "Clumsy? No. The cliff collapsed under me." He shrugs. He studies her for a moment. "Remember the apology part," he says softly. Then he turns his attention to the bear-become man. His eyes pick out the detail of a familiar blade, but then settle on the man's face. "Master Sinclair. It's good to see you again."
"Just Sinclair," Sin says easily. He is wearing a certain sword, indeed. "And a pleasure to run into you again as well. You're both looking well." His attention is honestly mostly on Aio, but he is keeping a polite track of both Aio and Micah.
"I would take more care of what cliffs you stand on then." Aio replies to Micah and then actually spares the man a black look. He really is treading on thin ice just now. "Have the two of you met properly?" is asked as she does anything but apologise and wash her laundry in front of the Mandrake some more. "Micah de Mandrake, Sinclair. Both of you wish to be my student though in different things." Business. She can cope with that.
Aio is carrying her arm a little off, no doubt where the scent of blood came from.
Micah nods to the man. "Just Micah," he returns. "How've you been? You're looking well as well." Though his eyes are on the other man, his attention is more on Aio and what the woman might do than it is on Sinclair. Her words about cliffs bring a smile to Micah's face. He shrugs. "Perhaps." Pause. "If you apologize, you'll feel better for it." He does nod. "We have, yes. Was that.. Surya's? No... Meadhall maybe? No, not there either. I don't quite remember where. The food was good, though." He nods about the student thing. It's true.
"Crown and Rose," Sin says with a nod to Micah. "But it was not a real formal thing." His gaze goes to Aio, brow raising.
Aio so very badly wants to shive Micah off the cliff. It shows in her eyes. Just a quick push and it would all be over. So easy. Her arm might hurt, but it does that anyway. Her blades are set patiently to one side and she rises, moving back from the cliff. Just. One. Push. Instead she turns to Sinclair. "I am sorry." There. She said it. Not what for, but it's said.
"Ah yes, right. The Crown and Rose does have good food.." Micah smiles. He looks up to Aio, then, watching her. Appraising what she might do. He sits there, perfectly calm and relaxed, leaning back on his elbows and waiting for that decision. When she apologizes to Sinclair, Micah nods to her but doesn't say anything.
Sin frowns a bit, watching Aio. A brief pause to smile and nod to Micah, and then he looks over to Aio. "I do not wish to test your patience, but I am unclear what you are apologizing for. I cannot think what you owe me an apology for?"
Aio might well just push them both off the cliff. If would make her life so much easier to be rid. There's a long pause as she considers Sinclair's words, probably killed Micah a thousand times in her minds eye and then finally she responds. "Listening to the advice of a Mandrake." Because yes, she really is sorry for that part.
Micah seems to have an understanding what the apology was for. Not that he's going to utter a peep right now. He remains half laying, half sitting upon the rock of the cliff-side. Silent. He returns the nod to Sinclair, his eyes moving immediately back to Aio. He shakes his head as his eyes remain on Aio. "Tell him the rest," he says softly. "He deserves to know." Meddling Mandrakes anyway.
Sin looks over to Micah and then over to Aio. "There's more?" he asks. "I would like to know, for if I am accepting your apology, I would like to know what it is I am accepting." His words are gentle.
If looks could kill, Micah would be a small Mandrake pancake at the bottom of a cliff right now. Aio is riled and it shows. "I kissed him." She clearly means Micah. There's not exactly anyone else she can mean given the circumstances. And now she really does brace for what the bear may do.
What is it with this Mandrake and the apparent calm and relaxed demeanor? And the fact that he really /is/ calm and relaxed probably doesn't hep things. Micah's eyes shift to Sin again, and he nods, briefly, then looks back to Aio. "Mm. And it was a very lovely kiss, too. Keep going, Aio. Tell him all of it." The looks that could kill? Yeah, compleeeeetly ignored. There's amused patience in his expression.
"Is that what you are sorry for?" Sin asks, a little bemusedly. He does stiffen a bit, his gaze going to the oh so relaxed Micah, and then back to Aio. There is actually a fairly solid calmness about him as well right now.
Aio is definitely sorry for that right now, given she would happily kill the person involved at just this moment in time. "I am very sorry for that, yes. I should have strangled him instead." She still might. "But I needed to know if it was you I wanted to kiss."
"I'm not sorry for the kiss. It was a /goooooood/ kiss. There was only one problem with that kiss," admits Micah, looking to Sinclair now. He glances back to Aio and smiles, lifts a shoulder. Still perfectly calm and relaxed. He nods to what she says, too. The apology, the wish to have killed him, and then the last bit.
Sin blinks and he laughs a bit, unable to avoid it. "You - " Pause. Blink. "You kissed poor Micah here in order to figure out if you wanted to kiss just anyone or if you wanted to kiss me?" he asks, working through all the words said. "And the decision ended up?"
Aio pauses and then just looks from Sinclair to Micah. "Excuse me a moment, I am just going to throw him off a cliff." It's a distraction. It's a good distraction. She might just mean it too as she advances on Micah!
"Hey now. I'm not poor Micah. It was a /really good/ kiss. Full of fire and passion." Micah half lids his eyes and licks his lips, thinking back on that kiss. His eyes open again and look up to Aio. He ignores her advance and looks back to Sinclair. "Oh, the kiss was great, but it wasn't my lips she wanted." Said lips twitch up with amusement. He looks back to Aio and doesn't move. "Go on, Aio. Tell him the rest." He's not at all worried! He probably should be. Oh well. What are a few broken bones? He'll survive. Probably.
Sin rumbles, but it's a masculine laugh of all things. "I am certain it was a good kiss. With Aio, how could it be anything but?" Yup, he does understand the look on Micah's face, for sure. But he's not sure he wants to worry about pushing Micah over a cliff. Far too much wasted energy. His gaze returns very thoughtfully to Aio.
Sadly for everyone involved Aio is serious. There is a brief kick in order to try and launch poor Micah over the cliff. She doesn't even watch to see if she succeeded either. So much for THAT Mandrake. "If you could both stop talking about me if I wasn't here." Because otehrwise she might not choose to be here any more either.
Micah isn't moved by the kick, nope. He's leaned back, half laying there. She's going to have to try harder than that to kick him over the cliff. He's going to have a bruise, probably... He continues to watch her for a moment, and then nods. "Tell him, Aio. He deserves to know the truth." If his voice is a touch strained? Don't worry. He might just have a broken rib. Or maybe just bruised. "All of the truth." There's something to Micah's tone. If she doesn't tell him, Micah just might.
Sin rolls his eyes, watching Aio still. He hears Micah, to judge by the change in stance, and then he looks over to Aio. He holds a hand out, palm up, inviting her to come back from the cliff edge over to where he is standing.
"Remember how I didn't stab you before? I wish I had." Aio remarks to Micah whilst watching Sinclair. She looks at that open palm and then just heaves a slow sigh, walking towards him and extending her own hand to meet his. "I am sorry for the Mandrake, truly." She means that. Each and every word of it. "I am sorry for kissing him. A thousand times sorry. I am sorry I left last night."
Micah sits up now, and smiles that sparkling smile of his at Aio. "Better to stab me than to stab yourself," he points out casually. He remains where he is, for the moment, and simply watches. He smiles at the sorry for himself, he's not sorry about that at all, nope. And about the kissing. "It was a good kiss," he protests. He falls quiet again as she actually finally gets to the real apology. He nods again.
"You needed to leave," Sin says after a moment. He's ignoring Micah now (sorry!) as he looks over to watch Aio. "And if it helped you, then it was worth it." His fingers twine with hers, as he holds her hand, and listens. "I will accept that apology, Aio."
Aio is also ignoring Micah which might well save the man in question's life. Her arm is injured, up close to Sinclair there's no doubt of that. A long cut along the back of her forearm that looks to have been done by her own hand. She merely nods, unable to add words to those that have already been spoken beyond a quiet. "Thank you."
Micah doesn't mind being ignored. Aio's worth being ignored over, dang it! He watches silently now. Waiting. Progress is being made. There's no real need for prompting. Not at present, at least. Micah waits, still and silent. Watching. There seems to be something of at least a little bit of relief in his eyes. Some of the worry that was there has eased off too.
There is a flash of mischief in his eyes, a glance over to Micah, and then Sin says, "I don't think we really need an audience. Apologies, m'Lord Mandrake, but I believe I am going to kidnap Aio away from you for a bit." He moves, muscles rippling, to see if he can catch Aio up in his arms. Hey, it's warm there. And she's injured. And it's not like he's not strong enough.
Hey wait! Aio's eyes say. And her blades are over there! Her precious babies will get cold in the snow! Then again there's a Sinclair. Talk about conflicted. She lets herself be scooped up but there is a low and malcontent grumble at him. "Just what do you think you are doing, Sinclair?"
Micah shakes his head to Sinclair. "No, nothing to apologize for." He doesn't make any move to leave his present location. Maybe he really does have a broken rib? Would explain why he's not moving. He glances to the blades in question, laying next to him on the ledge, and then back to the pair. "I'd say he's going to take you somewhere to show you how he feels," he comments to Aio, tone matching the mischief of Sinclair.
"What Lord Mandrake said," Sin says, and then he says, "If you let me, I can collect your blades and bring them with us?" Which means Aio has to not struggle, right?
"I hate you both." Aio comments in a low tone that speaks more of petulant child than capable fighter who could dispatch them both on a whim. Because right now that whim is telling her to do just that. Still, she doesn't fight Sinclair but nor does she give him permission.
Micah rolls to reach for the blades. He winces and hesitates for half a second. Then reaches for the blades anyway. Gathered in his hands, Micah rolls back and then gets to his feet. One arm cradles his right side where she'd kicked him. Evil woman. He steps closer to the pair and offers the blades to Sinclair. Who needs permission when there's a helpful helper around! "Aio," he says. "Don't forget to tell him the rest."
Sin has a good hold of Aio, careful to not drop her at all. With Micah helping, he takes the blades in his off hand, so they are below Aio, and gives Micah a long look. "Are you going to be okay to make it back to civilization or should we give you a hand?" That despite the petulant Aio in his arms. Because, he'd rather the man who is so helpful not end up dead.
Even if he does kiss his woman? Aio just growls at Micah in warning not to go there. She's not comfortable with it. As much as she probably needs to do what he says. Baby steps. "I am capable of walking, Sinclair. I cut my arm, nothing more. At the time it was better than stabbing the smith."
"I should be okay, yeah. Think it's just bruised." Is he lying? Micah could well be lying, to judge by the way he's holding his side. He looks to Aio and snorts softly. "You didn't cut yourself to keep from stabbing me." Not that that's likely to stop her now, he knows. Oh how he knows.
"Of course you are capable," Sin says. "But I want to be this close to you." His words are soft so perhaps Micah won't hear them. He does pause, his emotions warring with his common sense. He hugs Aio tight for a moment, and then he lets her down. "Come on then, Micah de'Mandrake, let's get you back to the Manse, shall we?"
Aio hugs Sinclair but briefly as she's put down, then steps away from him in order to collect her swords. All the better to make sure her Precious are looked after. She sheathes them and then looks to help the menfolk down. Without a push.
With his self appointed duty to deliver Aio's blades into Sinclair's care, Micah turns and starts down the mountain. He only gets a few steps when Sinclair speaks. He glances back, having missed the hug completely! "Uh.. Okay. I'm okay, I think. Just sore." He glances over to Aio and smiles to her, nodding minutely. He turns to start down the mountainside again.
Micah might be okay, just sore, but Sin will make sure he gets back to somewhere reasonable before he kidnaps Aio again. Ahem. "Yes, of course you are,' He says, with a bit of a laugh. "You sound as hard headed as I know I usually do, Micah. But let's get you at least somewhere warm, before we push you off on your own." He doesn't need help, not being injured and all, nor does he move to help Micah exactly. It's more he just follows along with Micah, making sure that the other fellow gets there safely.
With all the patience of a bear chasing honey.
Aio lags behind the pair, moving slowly as she paces her way down off the mountainside. She's not in any hurry. And she manages not to give any of them a helping hand with gravity, as tempting as it might be.
"I'm very stubborn," he agrees with Sinclair. "Don't think I'll argue to the somewhere warm part." Micah makes it down to the bay mare without incident or need of any help. He has to stretch up to untie the horse's reins, something that's obviously uncomfortable. And it doesn't help that the horse had pulled on the reins and tightened them about the tree! He finally gets her loose though, and moves to get up. He's about halfway when there's a gasp as something moves how it shouldn't. He manages to get on the horse, but he's pale and sweating when he gets there, leaned forward over the front of the saddle and cradling his ribs.
"Now look, you broke him," Sin says, shaking his head. He does not go near the horse, but he does look at Aio. "Could you maybe lead the horse? It'll like you a lot better than me."
Aio frowns as Micah pales and shakes her head. "They don't make Mandrake like they used to. And here was me thinking you were Corwin's son." Wuss. Loud and clear. She moves to catch the reins of the horse and gently lulls it. She has decent horse experience.
Micah slowly straightens up in the saddle after that momentary cringe. His color comes back slowly, but it does come back. He waves off both of them and forces a smile at Aio as she goes for his reins, but again waves her off. Then he gathers his own reins. "I'm fine," he grits. As he straightens, the color washes away again, and he continues cradling his right side where she'd kicked him. But he voices no complaint. "Just a bruise, "I'm sure." Suuuure it was. He breathes shallow as he urges the mare back the way they'd come. The mare keeps a wary eye on Sinclair.
Sin shakes his head, but he keeps a good distance from the horse, letting Micah lead the way back to the Manse. He knows better than to panic the silly thing.
Aio falls in beside Sinclair, also keeping a close eye on Micah. Her arms is simply held lightly against her body as she walks. "I will no doubt get a bill from that particular House. It's not as if I'm in favour with them anyway. Celeste will accuse me of picking on them." Which is true, but still!
Micah rides with a really straight back. Yeah. Bruised. Suuuuuure. He reins the mare in to glance back to them and shakes his head. "No, you won't get a bill," he says. He starts the mare forward again and shakes his head. This time he lets the mare keep walking as he looks back. He uncradles his right side long enough to point at Aio. "Celeste has no problem with you."
Sin looks to Micah, watching carefully, and then to Aio. "I'm not even sure I've met them," he says, wryly. "But I've not been looking to meet a lot of folks. More spending my time here." As they get near to the Manse, he increases his stride a bit. "I'm going to see if I can find someone to give Micah a hand. I'll be right back."
Aio merely regards Micah. "I will if I keep damaging her smith." She nods towards Sinclair as he talks of getting help. "Thank you." She looks back to Micah and offers him her good hand to get down from the horse. "Am I going to have to explain an invalid to Betta?"
Micah watches Sinclair for a moment, and nods. He straightens and turns forward again. He reins the mare in as they reach the Manse, and watches Sinclair move off. He glances to Aio and shrugs. "She doesn't know you've ever injured me." He accepts the good hand offered and turns in the saddle, lifting his right leg over the front of the horse. He slides down that way, grunting softly when he lands but showing no other sign of the pain. Long as he doesn't move too much, he seems to be fine. "Um. Maybe? Who's Betta?"
--[ The Manse ]---------------------------------------
Nestled up against the mountain's shoulder lies the local Manse of
House Karm. Large enough to house the administrator, staff and
workers, it is an imposing yet starkly beautiful building. Designed to
take advantage of naturally occurring building materials, and sculpted
to fit with the local landscape, it rises several stories from floor
to roof. Towers and spires rise farther, mimicing the silhoutte of the
pines that grow up around it. The roof of the main building and each
of the towers is peaked to let winter snow and year-round rains slide
off easily. Many windows with flowering window boxes lend charm and
grace to the dark stone building and the wooden doors gleam with
polish. The stone, while dark, is infused with mica and quartz
crystals so it glitters softly in the sunlight.
To the south lies the way to the Greensward of Gyten Valley and
through there to the other Karm holdings. The wide double doors to the
Manse are to the north.
Sin vanishes into the house and a few moments later a couple servants come out to help.
"Lady Betta is the Karm who is responsible for this holding. She's Duke Gilgamesh's sister." Aio explains, even as she watches Sinclair vanish into the house. Only then does she let out a deep, slow breath and relax. She escaped without saying it!
Micah seems to be okay with the walking. He cradles his side, of course, but shows no signs of discomfort just yet. He nods to the explanation. "Does that make her a Duchess?" Well, she's a Duke's sister! He glances over at Aio and huffs a soft chuckle, only to wince slightly and immediately regret the chuckle. Oh well. "I like him," he comments lightly. Him? He doesn't seem to be referring to the Duke, to judge by the nod toward the vanished Sinclair.
Aio shakes her head. "Betta? No. She's Gil's half sister, non-royal side." The actual, honest to gods Karm side! "I'm not sure she even knows where she falls in the scheme of things for the most part." She watches him as he walks, frowning. "I didn't kick you that hard." And her eyes narrow at mention of Sinclair. "Please don't tell him." The request is a quiet one.
"Karm side, then?" That stands to reason, if it's not royal side. Micah nods to the bit about not knowing where one falls. "I know that feeling," he murmurs. "So her proper title would be Lady Karm, then, yes?" Flubbing such things with nobles is never a good thing. He raises a brow at her. "You /did/ kick me that hard, actually. I just ignored it. I was fine until I started moving." Now? Now it hurts. At least he's fine if he doesn't twist around like he'd had to when mounting the horse. He pauses and turns to face her. He shakes his head. "I won't tell him," he says. "I promised you I wouldn't." His tone is just as quite as hers. "You did good, though. It's a start. How do you feel?"
Aio nods to that. "I call her Lady, yes. It keeps things simple as far as these things go." She frowns and shakes her head. "Then I am sorry, though the temptation to shove you both off the side of the mountain was fairly high. You know I don't do well when backed into a mental corner." Her arm is testament to that. "How do I feel? Horrible."
Micah nods. "Lady it is, then." Well. Eventually. If/when he meets the woman. He nods to her apology. "Accepted," he says immediately. Then shrugs a bit. "It's okay. I'd rather you take it out on me than on yourself." That's the Mandrake side. He might be a smith, but he has the empathy that the healers do. He nods to her words about mental corners. And again when she says she feels horrible. "Do you feel any better than you did last night?"
Aio frowns and shakes her head. "Not really, no. Because I know if I were in that situation again I would still not be able to say what I wished to. I just cannot do it." She shrugs, not expecting him to understand in the slightest. "Go and rest. The cook makes excellent hot chocolate here. So I'm told." For she is a coffee girl.
Micah tilts his head to her. "You seem a good bit more relaxed now than you were last night. As for the rest? That part will take time, Aio," he says, tone gentle. "And that man? He already knows it. And I think he returns it." He shrugs about the resting. "I'll be fine. I wouldn't mind something to drink, though." Maybe a snack of some sort. Food good.
Aio shrugs her shoulders. "He is still here." Which is enough to keep her more relaxed for now. She beckons for him to follow, leading him through to the kitchen where there's a couple of chairs in a nook with it's own little fireplace for quiet chats. "I'll let cook know you are hungry." And cook likes men with abs. Sinclair is a favourite.
Micah glances over to her and nods. "That's reason enough to be more relaxed. You realize, don't you, that that means you do feel better, even if it's a minute amount you don't really notice." He follows her into the kitchen and sits gingerly on one of the chairs. "When you come back, can you send someone for something to wrap my ribs?" He's already starting to peel clothing off. A dark blue coat, first, then he starts unbuttoning the shirt.
"Cook! My friend here could do with copious amounts of your attention." Aio comments to the lady in question. Micah is going to be well tended to. She looks to the Mandrake and puts the matter of Sinclair to bed. Oh how she wishes. "I will have one of the maids come and see to you." If they can get past cook.
Micah huffs one of those laughs, only to wince immediately and regret the laugh. "Dang it, Aio, stop making me laugh," he says. "Attention won't go amiss, though." He finishes unbuttoning his shirt, and peels out of it. And the lighter shirt beneath. Oh the abs. He has quite lovely abs, too. He's very well muscled from a combination of running, working out, and wielding a blacksmith's hammer. There's a bruise already starting to color on his right side.
For some reason cook suddenly decides that all the scullery maids need to be somewhere else. Right around now. They are summarily banished with tasks. Made up or real. And cook herself fetches and carries, waiting on the poor blacksmith. Woe is he.
Aio watches all of this with wry amusement. "I should leave you to the tender ministrations here."
Micah glances over to Aio and offers her a nod. "See? There's amusement there," he accuses with an impish grin and smile. He leans back in the chair and allows himself to be fussed over. He thanks the cook for everything she fetches and carries for him. He's very polite.
Stepping into the room as the scullery maids disperse, Betta might go unnoticed. She spends a minute or two watching Cook fuss over the stranger before turning toward the hearth.
Cook takes extra care of the buff... er... bruised... fellow, her touch gentle, if lingering.
Micah has warm hazel eyes and red hair several shades lighter than the maybe unnoticed woman. Micah though? He's observant. He sees the entrance of the tiny redhead. He looks past the cook and offers the woman a nod. "Hello." Those warm hazel eyes hold a curiousity to them. He looks back to the cook and offers her a smile. "I'm okay, really," he tells her. "Can you send someone to get bandages so I can wrap my ribs. Or.. you can wrap them if you like." The bruise is vaguely foot shaped.
Nodding to Micah, Betta continues toward the hearth, "Hello." She pauses and turns to face him, hands clasped in front of her, "Welcome to the Hasp, sir. I trust that your journey was..." And there is the bruise, big as yo uplease, "Well. Clearly it was eventful. Um..." Turning to the cook, she lifts a brow, "Please send for bandages, Elsa. And ask the chirurgeon to stop in."
Elsa frowns briefly on hearing Micah address someone. She turns quickly, ready to send the scullery maid off again when she sees it is Betta. She curtsies, "Oh, good day, Lady." Listening, she nods, looks regretfully at Micah's buff chest, then to his face. She winks, though Betta can't see it, then hurries off to do the Lady's bidding.
Betta approaches, "That looks painful. Would you like some tea to help sooth it?" She nods to Elsa, but does not stop her. Instead, she seems perfectly willing to serve her guest herself.
Micah turns his eyes from Elsa to Betta, and watches as she approaches. "Thank you," he says. "I came to check up on Dame Aio. The journey was well enough. The ending..." He smiles at her. His eyes sparkle with good humor. He looks to Elsa and puts two and two together. "Left a little to be desired, but the outcome was favorable, none the less, my Lady," he says. "I'm Micah de Mandrake." He offers his hand to her. "Some tea would be wonderful, thank you."
Betta steps forward, her hands unclasping as she moves. His hand is accepted, the squeeze she offers brief, "It is good to meet you, Lord de'Mandrake. I am Elizabetta Karm, caretaker of this place. Welcome." She pauses for a moment, then adds, "It is a little unusual to have visitors here. Did Lady Aio bring you in?" Turning from him, she moves to the hearth to begin preparing the requested tea.
Micah sits up as he closes his fingers around hers. There's a touch of a grimace at the movement but nothing he can't ignore. He pulls her hand toward him as he leans forward and brushes his lips across her knuckles in a gentlemanly way. After that single brush, he sits back and opens his fingers so she can take her hand back if she should so choose. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Lady Karm," he says. "Thank you for the welcome." He watches as she moves off, but shakes his head to her question. "Not as such, no. I had a rather.. unusual encounter with Dame Aio yesterday eve and was worried about her, so I came looking for her."
Betta's smile is polite at the gallant gesture, but her eyes are unmoved. Maybe it was the wince but she does bussle off to find that tea with fair alacrity. "You are welcome, Lord Mandrake." Returning with the tea, she nods at it a little apologetically, "This is a local pain remedy. Nothing as effective as your family's methods, but I hope that it will help. Though I fear that it is not pleasent to drink." By the smell, it has ginger, capcasin and maybe turmeric or willow bark. She sets the mug down nearby. Then, beside that, she sets a mug of something more palitable. "I suppose the guards at the gate brought you to the house?" She claims a chair nearby.
That's the thing with Micah. He doesn't seem to expect any sort of reaction or other from the gesture. It was don out of politeness' sake. He looks curious at her local pain remedy, and shakes his head. "My family's methods aren't my favorites. It is my own fault I'm injured. Someone else shouldn't have to suffer for them." He smiles to her and lifts a shoulder. "I'm sure I've drank worse," he admits. He accepts the cup and smells of it. It doesn't smell bad, precisely. He sips it cautiously, tasting for heat and flavor. He grimaces and then starts drinking it. It's better than nothing, despite the taste. For the moment, he ignores the something more palatable, contenting himself with the less tastey but more pain free givey first. He nods. "Yes. I spoke with the Captain of the Grey Unit here and he sent me off with one of his in search of Dame Aio."
Betta nods as the Captain is mentioned. She relaxes a little when the rest is heard through.
Elsa returns about then with more salve for spreading all over the poor man's chest, bandages to wrap around him and a determined look. It almost seems as though she will insist bodily that she be the one to do it, if necessary. Yup.
Looking up, Betta takes in Elsa's expression, then turns back to Micah, "Apparently Elsa has taken on the role of medic today." She lifts a hand, gestures toward Micah and leans back to watch the show.
Elsa flashes Betta a smile, then looks back to Micah as she swoops in to start working. Once more her touch is carressingly gentle and if her fingertips stroke longer than is really necessary, she certainly does not mind. And she rather hopes that he does not mind either.
Betta finally moves to claim a mug of tea, though not Micah's 'chaser'. Leaning back in the chair, she ponders, then, "How is it that Lady Aio planted a foot into your chest?"
Micah turns his eyes to the fire as he drinks more of the tea. He grimaces again, and then drinks down the rest of it. Ugh. "You weren't kidding about the taste of this stuff. Oh well. I think it's already working." Or it could just be that Micah's sitting still, maybe. Micah turns his eyes to the returning Elsa, and he notes the expression. He chuckles softly, and winces again. Ouch. He sits up straighter, and takes a deep breath, hopefully to pop anything out of place into place. He doesn't object to Elsa being the medic. He lives in a family of healers. He simply sits there and takes the abuse. Er... care. "Thank you, Elsa," he says to her. While he doesn't seem to mind the longer than necessary caresses and touches, neither does he seem to crave them. It simply... is. He looks over to Betta again. "What makes you think it was Lady Aio?"
Elsa smiles at him, then actually focuses on doing a good job getting him bandaged. She is not a Mandrake, but has practical experience, patience and kindly hands. Once the salve has been applied she turns to the bandages, wrapping him with care. When she finishes, she rests a hand on his bare shoulder and her smile is warm, "Call me if you need anything." The implication is 'any time, any where' but she does not say so. Turning a glance to Betta, she sighs a little and fades into the background to prepare for cooking teh next meal.
Betta watches the proceedings with a dispassionate air. Once Elsa leaves to take care of her duties, Betta nudges over the less noxious tea and shrugs, "Lady Aio has a habit of asking people to spar. She is an excellent warrior and is likely to win in any competition. That she is also competative? Just makes it more likely to be her. Then again, I suppose that it could have been Sinclair. Were you sparing?"
Despite the gentleness, there's nothing gentle about having you ribs tightly wrapped. He gasps several times throughout the process, skin paling once just a touch. Ouchie. Once it's over, he reaches up a hand to pat Elsa's hand on his shoulder. "Thank you, dear Elsa," he says. "I will." He grins as the woman moves off, and then looks back to Betta. He nods to her comments, and takes up the more tasty of the tea varietals, and sips at it for a few moments. "Yes, she does. No, I wasn't sparring with anybody." Pause. "Not physically."
Betta says, "Ah. So it was Aio?" She does not sound upset or even borderline. Rather, she sounds curious and sort of dispassionate. Leaning back in her chair, she toys with her mug, though her gaze flases to Elsa's blush at the 'dear' addendum. Her gaze returns to him and she half smiles, "If you and she choose to meet, please try not to upset her rougine overly much. Elsa's, I mean. I do not think much could upset Aio's routine." With the possible exception of Sinclair. She keeps that to herself. "Will you be staying, Lord de Mandrake? I will ask that a room be made up for you, if you do."
Micah lifts a brow. "I didn't say that." His lips twitch though. "But yes, it was. She tried to kick me over a cliff. Only, I was ready for it, and half laying there, not sitting, so she didn't have much luck. Kick landed solidly, though." One might wonder why he wasn't wearing armor?! He follows her gaze to Elsa and then turns it back to Betta. He shakes her head. "I won't disrupt her routine if we do meet." But the way he says that, the chances of them meeting save for her are fairly slim. He raises his brow at Betta. "You'd be surprised," he comments lightly. He considers that, and then nods. "I think it would be best, if you don't mind having me, Lady Karm." He pauses for a moment. "It's okay for you to call me Micah, if you'd like."
Betta says, "You did not have to." Is that good? Is it bad? It just is. Hearing the details, she nods, "And... Why did she wish to kick you over a cliff?" Glancing from Micah to Elsa and back, she nods. Maybe she recognizes the tone in his voice. Then she shrugs, "I do not know, Lord de Mandrake. Lady Aio is dedicated to one thing as far as I can tell. Things that get in the way of that are seen as tiresome, annoying, or maddening. Or incomprehensible." Finally, she allows a faint smile though it fades slightly. Nodding, she moves to rise, "Excuse me a moment? I will let people know that you will need a room." Turning, she lifts her voice, "Elsa? Lord de'Mandrake will be staying the night. Please see it a room and add him to the meal roster."
Elsa looks over and curtsies, "Yes, Lady." Looking a hopeful smile toward Micah as Betta turns back, she darts off to see to it.
Returning to her seat, she looks at Micah for a moment, then nods as one hand seeks her mug, "As you wish, Micah. In that case, you may call me Betta or Elizabetta. Or Bunty, I suppose, though no one uses that anymore.""
Micah nods to her. "I know. I'd hate to pass out and fall off my horse halfway between here and the city, though." So.. yep. It just is. He considers her question for a moment, then lifts a shoulder. "Might have had something to do with Sinclair and I ganging up on her a little bit. I was the closer, and easier, target for her frustration." He ignores the glance to Elsa for the moment, what happens will happen, or not, as the Fates might decide. He nods about Aio. "Yes. She is much that way," he agrees. "And things that get in the way she tends to deal with in a fairly... direct approach." The way he says that is neither bad nor good. It simply is part of who Aio is and he knows it. He nods to her. "Thank you," he says. He looks to Elsa and returns her smile. He looks back to Betta as she sits down again, and he nods to her. "Which do you prefer? The name you prefer shall bet he name I use." There's nothing of guile there. He seems to truly wish to know her preference in the matter.
Betta nods, "It is part of what I love about her." Aio? Apparently. "There are times when I wish she had been born my sister." Ah. That sort of love. "I do not wish to see her hurt. Though I would not presume to try and shelter her." After considering that for a moment she adds, "Besides, she needs to open up and live some." Leaning back a bit, she toys with the mug as she considers his question. Finally she shrugs, "I do not care what name you use, Micah. There was a time when I did, but it is over. Choose what you wish." Lifting the mug, she watches him for a moment, then sets the mug down, "Will you excuse me, please? I have some things to take care of."
That gets a nod, agreeing. "Me too. She tries to act like it isn't true, but she cares about people." Micah considers that and then nods. "She would make an excellent sister." He nods again, and his thoughts turn inward, his expression sad for a moment. "No. I wouldn't see her hurt either," he says, tone very soft. He shakes his head and brings his thoughts back to the present. He nods and a faint smile appears. "I agree. On both counts." He considers the woman for a moment, expression thoughtful. He nods. "Alright, Betta," he says. It's what Aio had used, so it'll work. He studies her but doesn't comment further. He nods. "Thank you for the hospitality."
Betta nods, "She would." Make a good sister. Her smile is quiet, soft, though she does not linger long. The study is noted, though she does not offer any answer to any question asked or hidden. She twitches a slight smile as he chooses and inclines her head, "Supper will be served in about an hour in the dining room. Your room will be on the second landing. One of the guards will show you where. I am sorry for abandoning you like this, Micah. I will see you at supper, then after in the library if you wish. I tend to take coffee there before bed. Excuse me." Turning, she passes Elsa once more as she heads out the door.
Micah doesn't ask any questions, vocally or silently, open or hidden. Just the silent study. He doesn't know her at all. Hard to tell what might be normal for a person you don't know. "Thank you, Betta." He shakes his head to her apology. "There's nothing to be sorry for. See you at supper. And perhaps at coffee." Plus, there's always Elsa to keep him company. He watches her leave and then smiles to Elsa before sipping at his tea. He might even lean back and doze off in the chair a bit.