The Thinning Veil
Location: Stormholm Caer, Harkania March, Cymeria
Timeline: Late October 3550
It had but been a few days since Renestrae’s return to Stormholm Caer. While she was regaining some semblance of stability, there was still something terribly missing. Beyond her father’s possessions, and the other half of the song, her cittern remained in a poor state. Her fingers had itched to draw along the strings, but the act of plucking them only resulted in a sad, broken sound. She was sat on the bed in her quarters, cradling it in her lap as though it were a child, her fingers following the lines of the cracks and breaks that had stolen the song from her instrument. She exhaled shudderingly, and drew it to her chest, holding it closely as though the act of doing so would return it to newness. She did not want to replace it, but it would also take much coin and an extremely skillful master to restore it. There was a superstition that a broken instrument lost its soul, a thought she felt was silly. One did not discard a human that was broken.
She thought, perhaps, Oksana might know of a good master who would possess the skill she required. While peppery, the woman was also kindly and maternal. She would offer Renestrae a straightforward answer, as her brother would. The bard pushed herself away from the bed so that her feet reconnected with the floor, and with cittern in-hand, she marched herself briskly from her room and down the hall. She had opted to dress in shades of blue and grey that day, with touches of delicate silvery thread.
Oksana in turn directed her to Taliesin Beirdd. Renestrae recalled the handsome bard from the Gathering, where they had briefly played together. It hadn’t occurred to her that she would cross ways with him again, but then, she had not envisioned her return to Stormholm, either.
Nor had she envisioned encountering Ryndar Hawke once more.
Theirs had not been the best of encounters, nor introductions. She knew that he had acted in what he thought was his Lord’s best interests, but there were far more polite ways to conduct an arrest. Even the act of the arrest itself had not been prudent, or so she felt.
Hawke’s words trailed off as the door to the shop opened. He glanced at the newcomer out of habit then his head snapped back around as the person’s identity registered. Hawke exhaled and he looked back to Taliesin who looked between the two and then his eyebrow went up quizzically. Hawke gave a single half nod to confirm for the bard what he suspected after seeing the reactions of both people in his shop.
“Syr Tal -- Ryndar Hawke,” she greeted them, her gaze settling more warmly on Taliesin than it had the Ryndar. She accompanied her words with a performer’s curtsey, stretching out an elegant leg with the other bent behind her.
Hawke turned to face Renestrae and tried to smile around his awkwardness. “Renestrae...it is good to see you looking so well.”
Was it meant in jest? No, the man seemed abashed, more than anything. She smiled tightly at him. She was spared immediately responding by Taliesin.
“Why, Colli Renestrae-- Ren,” Taliesin said, executing a bow of his own in response. “An unexpected delight to see you again. I trust she still sings the songs without words?”
“She does,” she laughed. “It is my hope that we may play again together soon, now that I am remaining here.” She allowed the silent reasons to stretch between them. If he knew, then she did not need to say them; if he did not, then was perhaps not privy to them. She looked to Hawke again. “Thank you,” she answered simply. To both, she added: “I will not keep you from your duties long, and am loathe to interrupt, but the Lady Oksana informs me that you know of someone who could repair my cittern?” She brought it forward so that it could properly be seen.
Did the Ryndar know that it was by his actions that it had come to be broken?
“I certainly do, but my, my -- what happened?” Taliesin’s brow furrowed. His expression was one of shock. For a musician, it was as much the same as being physically injured, especially to an instrument of some years. He glanced at Hawke; they had just been discussing the purchase of a similar instrument.
“An-- an accident, whereupon I stumbled into it,” Renestrae murmured, not meeting the Ryndar’s gaze. “ ‘Tis a unique piece, you see. Bowl-backed, unlike most citterns. They are not usually made so.”
Hawke watched Taliesin look over the cittern with his expert eye. Hawke found himself edging a bit away from Ren as she stood at the counter watching the older bard look over the instrument. Hawke felt his face flushing with regret over what had happened. He did not feel shame for what happened because he believed at the moment he acted correctly, but he appreciated that she had not deserved his blow or the accidental destruction of the item she cared for so much. Hawke cleared his throat nervously. “Was it...old? Did it belong to someone before you?”
“It has always been mine, for as long as I have played,” she replied, matter-of-factly, “but my mother had it crafted for me. So, it was a gift, for my hands.” It was not said in a fashion so as to be hurtful, but simply to say what was.”
“It looks to have broken cleanly here, but it is splintered along here, and here,” Taliesin said distantly, as he rotated it by its neck, the other hand cradling the instrument’s bowl. His line of sight followed one of the deeper cracks. “Happily, I know of a skilled artisan who could mend this, and do so with care.”
Hawke watched and listened, then stepped back closer. “Do you think seriously that this can be repaired by this person you know?”
“I would not entrust such a precious thing to him if I did not think so,” Taliesin affirmed, gingerly setting the cittern down.
“If you trust him, then...I must do so,” Renestrae said slowly, with the barest of trembles in her voice. For her, she might as well have entrusted her horse to a healer she did not know. She would not know if they did not try, but she did not know how she would come by the coin. Perhaps she could work away the debt...
The Ryndar looked between the two bards, then nodded and reached to his belt and pulled out a coin purse. He dropped it on the counter and gestured with a finger. “Use whatever is necessary to repair her instrument, whatever is needed to make it exactly as the day she received it and whatever else she may wish to have done to it…” Hawke then glanced over to Renestrae. “Then give her whatever is left…” Hawke could feel Taliesin’s gaze lift up to stare at him as he nodded. “You heard me, and I trust you to carry out my wishes.”
“No,” Renestrae said immediately. “No. I cannot. I cannot accept this.” Her eyes had rounded, and she had taken a sharp step closer, her gaze flitting from one to the other. She had been given altogether too much, there at the Keep; she could not possibly accept further charity, even if she felt Hawke was at fault.
“ ‘Tis foolish to quarrel with the Ryndar once he has made his decision, Colli,” Taliesin warned her, with a twinkle in his dark eyes.
“Whether he is the Ryndar matters not,” she insisted fiercely. “It is for me to earn!”
Hawke turned to face the female bard squarely. “This is not yours to earn. I owe you a debt for what happened when you arrived here…” Hawke glanced at Taliesin. “Was I not here asking you about constructing a new cittern, and did I not describe the events regarding a young female bard?”
The other man nodded. “Aye...he did and I saw his reaction when you entered my workshop. The Ryndar seldom looks abashed over his actions and I have never seen him give anyone charity...so do not mistake his action here.”
Hawke nodded. “I am not giving you anything, Lady Renestrae...I am repairing something of yours that I broke. If you truly wish to feel that you earned something around here...make yourself someone I feel as worth protecting as I do the High Lord. That is not charity...it is your right.”
She dropped her gaze, as though gathering her thoughts to her. He was not all that she thought, then. In his place, would she not have done the same? It was his way of seeking amends. It was foolish to spit in the face of a gift-giver if they approached with an open heart. With a sigh, she lifted her chin and addressed the Ryndar.
“I...understand that you sought to protect your Lord in the only way that you felt was fit. He is a man worthy of such loyalty, and I cannot fault you for that.” She inclined her head in a subtle nod. “Whatever has transpired, I am content to let it remain in the past, and seek ties anew. I judged you harshly, Ryndar Windwalker.”
Hawke nodded and his mouth curled into a rueful smile. “Well...I admit I haven’t acted that rashly in a long time...and please, everyone who lives here calls me Hawke. I hope not to be called Ryndar Windwalker until I am old and gray…”
She smiled with amusement at him, canting her head slightly to one side, bird-like.
“Do all here discard their titles so? The nobility appears to be...so very different than what I have been led to believe. All matters aside, ‘tis no matter. Bruises heal, ties mend.”
“If it is the sort of nobility who wear lofty airs and altogether too much silk, then you have sought the wrong Keep,” laughed Taliesin. He dipped his head at Hawke. “Friend, shall I escort the Lady here so that we may see her instrument mended? We may conclude our business later. The fellow’s shop keeps short hours, so that he is left alone to work.”
Hawke nodded to Taliesin. “True, there is no need for us to delay his work day with idle chatter…” Hawke turned to Renestrae. “...I am happy I was able to do this for you. If you need anything else done about your instrument please let me know.”
“I will,” she said, dipping her head. She fell in step just behind Taliesin, and pausing, looked over her shoulder. “Thank you. Have you need of a friend to call upon, you have but to send for me.” With that, both bards left the room.