Thoughts to Chew On
Location: Mid-November 3550; Stormholm Caer, Harkania March
The pair sparred regularly for a few days, Aramil providing constructive input whenever he could. Those few lessons wouldn't be enough, but Ren showed a willingness to learn, and had made some improvements. She had potential, he admitted. On one such occasion, the morning grew long and passed into afternoon before they knew what the time came to. Skipping the midday meal became more noticeable as both of their bellies' complaints became increasingly insistent. All the more due to their exertion.
A stop was called and the practice weapons were put away. Water was quaffed and a quest began for what dregs of lunch could be discovered. Aramil was still new to the Caer, so he followed Ren in the search. Before long, a sparse buffet of various meats, cheeses, and fruit was located in a gathering hall. Few individuals remained at this relatively late hour, mostly kitchen workers.
Aramil was surprised to find a few rare gems among the remnants. Those who the buffet was served to may not have known what they are. He selected two orange fruit with smooth skins, rolling them in his hand to search for blemishes that might spoil the taste. Satisfied, he softly tossed the better one to Renestrae. "Arirac," he named the fruit in it's Heniaith name as it was native to Sidhe lands, though he was sure he butchered the pronunciation. "It is sweet, not completely unlike a large, orange strawberry."
Until her coming to more civilised lands, Renestrae had not encountered such foreign fruit, having been accustomed to mountain berries, of which there was a great variety. Her first instance had been when she had met with Mika in his personal sitting room, learning later that they had been used in the preparation of the juice she had imbibed. It was odd, when she thought about it. Everything she was experiencing was so new. It had not ever occurred to her that, were she to move to unknown lands, she could sing about the experience with foods as much as the land or the people. Indeed, she could, were she so inclined.
“A strawberry?” She echoed, as she shuffled items around on her plate to accommodate any additions, without losing her grip of the fruit.Their labours of the morning had indeed provoked a terrible hunger, and as much as she sought to moderate her plate’s contents, couldn’t help but add more. She imagined a strawberry, recalling that it was not, in fact, a berry made of straw. It was also much larger than what she had found in Haradar, where the berries were often delicious but diminutive. “I see none here,” she added.
He shook his head with a chuckle, "I meant that fruit I tossed to you. It tastes like one. Mostly." His own plate was sparsely filled with carefully selected items, including the other arirac.
He popped a grape into his maw as he drew a glass of juice to accompany his lunch. Then he stepped aside to await Ren to be ready. When she was, he inclined his head to indicate a nearby table.
“Not here,” she interjected, and gently flicked her head in the direction of the door. “Outside.” She did not wait for him; with her own plate and cup, she took measured steps in the indicated direction.
Aramil shrugged, it didn't matter much to him. In fact, the outdoors was more pleasant, as long as the weather held. Today, despite being late in the year, was just such a day. There was an autumn bite to the air, but not so much to be cold, and the sun shone between a few puffy clouds. "As milady prefers," he replied as he followed her out the door.
The Caer was a haven for alcoves or miniature sanctuaries for folk to enjoy a quiet moment, and there was one such seated area nearby. It had an unhampered view of the glorious sky, while sheltering the occupants from the wind with its sturdy walls. Renestrae sat on the bench, setting her food and drink to the side of her, otherwise resting her hands in her lap between bites or sips.
“Moonshadow,” she said thoughtfully, reaching for her cup. “Not a typical Cymry name.” She trained her gaze on him -- thoughtful, measuring, with the natural, stormy-blue intensity that was typical of House Stormdanovich. She did not bother to hide that she knew exactly what she was asking, by her expression. She knew the question a bold one, but the bard had never been anything less than so in her years of life.
Aramil sat upon the bench angled to hers, likewise using the remainder of the surface as a makeshift table. His gaze took in the scenery, appreciating Ren's choice. Upon her question he paused a moment and shrugged, "It is not a well-known house," he began. He knew where she was going; it was not an unusual line of query. He did not hide his heritage, but he did not advertise either. It provoked inquiry, which he never shied from.
"Moonshadow is my mother's house," he explained, "We weren't noble or anything, though we were comfortable enough. My biological father is… was Sidhe. I have never met him. My mother married a Cymry man when I was a child. He served as my father, in his own way." His features hardened as his eyes focused in the distance. He was never close to his step-father.
There was the briefest glimmer of admiration, but it faded, as though Renestrae had anticipated him to reply as directly as she had asked. She recognised in him the potential for a kindred spirit; the way he held a hardened countenance spoke much for what he thought of his step-father. Perhaps she should not have pressed so, in the very short time she had known Aramil, but her fieriness could either break or shatter a friendship.
“I knew not my father, either,” she replied carefully. “He was of ‘Dryad blood.” She did not venture further as to whom it was; comfortable though she was with the Stormdanovich name, she was not entirely ready to speak of it to someone she had only just started to know. Certainly, she knew she had more or less asked as much of him, but he had not declined to share.
He nodded, understanding her hesitation to share openly. Not too long ago he was of the same. He never really hid his Sidhe features, but he had been dodgy when asked about his true parentage. As a young lad, it wasn't "cool" to be sired by a failed adventurer.
"It is too late for me to meet my biological father. He perished during the Nightmare Without End. I honestly do not know much of him, except that he was a Tarai'cane, and that he was likely of the Lervallaine." He fell silent, a thoughtful expression on his face. "I would like to seek out answers, if my responsibilities allowed me to do so."
Renestrae noted to herself to ask Mikhael of the Nightmare Without End. There was much of the history she was rewriting and correcting for herself, much that the Mar’kathi people had omitted from her upbringing, or perhaps themselves were taught wrongly.
“You are not alone in such a search,” she replied, gently laying her hand against his arm. “I thought my father had abandoned my mother, but he had perished in the Battle of D’Hassa before he could return to her. I have come to know of where I might his possessions, and perhaps...answers.” Her shoulders lifted and fell as she sighed. “I was to retrieve them, but...then there was the attack of the festival, so I returned here.”
He twitched ever so slightly at her touch, as it was unexpected, but he did not pull away. He sighed himself and stared a moment into the middle distance. At last, his mood softened and he chuckled briefly, "It seems we are on similar quests. What are the odds, that fate would deal us such similar hands in life, then bring us together these past few days." He turned back to her with an amused smile.
“The first of many,” she added, as she layered meat and cheese atop a slice of hearty bread. “It is by a strange turn of events that I found myself here. I believe that all I meet in my life are of some significance, for better or for worse.” She took a thoughtful bite, and after brushing the crumbs away from the corners of her mouth, went on: “We shall see what you are, mm?”
He looked to her thoughtfully as he rolled a red fruit in his hand. "An interesting perspective. Indeed, most one meets will have even a minor effect on one." He shrugged at last, "But given the sheer number of people one might meet in one's lifetime… it seems unlikely every one will have an effect?" He took a bite and leaned back against the stonework. His words weren't a criticism of her view, more an opening for her to expand on it.
“Consider this,” she said, as she inclined slightly forward, the space about them seeming to take on a closer focus. Waxing rhetoric -- with more sincerity than the latter word implied -- oft came naturally to most bards. “Perhaps it is that you wake up at dawn, with the intent to hunt. While you travel through the woods, you encounter another hunter. You talk idly of the weather and such, not for overly long. You return to your labours, acquire yourself a deer, and return home.” She held up her index finger, warding off any immediate comments. “But. Had you not run into the hunter, had he not told you of a beaver having dammed up a stream, offering a different way to your destination -- had you not done so, you would have run into a rather angry bear, a fellow with an arrow in his rump. You might have died that day, had that hunter not changed the course.” She held up both hands and laughed, adding: “Perhaps not a likely happenstance, but my life seems to be comprised of unlikely events, one strung after the other.”
She continued: “Had you not laughed at me just a few days before, I would likely not have properly met you. Had you not been so amused by my attempts to train, I would not have been training with you now. Perhaps I might have found another trainer, but I found you. And now, here we are, speaking of our fathers like old friends. You’ve left bruises ‘pon me that I shan’t be forgetting, and I will remember them should I ever be toe-to-toe with an enemy. Your technique may save my life in the future where another’s might not have.” She lowered her hands, and rested them in her lap, tilting her head to the side girlishly while throwing him a coy smile. “I believe my point is well-made, no?”
He listened intently to her scenario. Truly, he could not fault the logic therein. At the conclusion, he chuckled and playfully tossed an ort of bread at her. "Ah, but that is more than just a happenstance meeting. What of the beggar what implores for coin? Or the merchant what hocks his wares in the street, or the man what apologises for cutting into your queue? I imagine it would depend on how one defines 'meet'. Whether a conversation must take place, or if just briefly being within the same vicinity."
She caught the bread with a lightness of movement, and deposited it on her plate.
“Perhaps by the beggar waylaying a fellow, said fellow might have avoided being knocked onto his rear by a poorly-driven cart,” she replied with a laugh. “We digress. Odd or no, here we are, and onward we go, toward the day when I best you.” At that, she flashed him a fiendish grin. “We’d have better be done with this meal, so that occurs sooner rather than later.”
He grinned in turn, "Oh, so that I am to accelerate my humiliation? The student is not yet the teacher." He chuckled and eyed his remaining lunch. Truly, she was learning, and in time he didn't doubt she would be a formidable foe.
He popped a final morsel into his maw before cleaning up what limited debris he allowed himself. As if as an aside he added, "If you were keen, I would be happy to have you assist me in my paternal search, and I would be willing to assist you in the same."
How many had helped her on her journey? Hawke inadvertently had lent a fist, but she had met Mikhael as a result. There was her dear friend Brán, whom she connected with in such a way that she could not put into words. Then there were the folk in the Valley of the ‘Wyr, all of whom had brought her closer to her father than she could have hoped. And now? Now was Aramil, whose ultimate role was yet to be seen. Even Laryn, who did not necessarily play a direct role in Renestrae’s search, was a sturdy anchor and kindred spirit.
And the High Lord? A cousin who had welcomed her without hesitation. He offered humour in wisdom in equal measure.
“It would be an honour, Aramil Moonshadow” she said, at last. She reached out to gently clasp her hands about his wrists, allowing her own braced wrists to rest in the curves of his palms. “We shall walk this path together.”