MUsings

An Unexpected Encounter
IC Date: 28th of Maigdhal, 997 NE.
RL Date: August 22, 1998.
Participants: Diar Moderal and Maeve Sherazad.
Locations: Common Room: Silver Star Inn, Cairhien.

Summary: A pair of old acquaintances run into each other unexpectedly.

Seated alone at a small table by one of the windows is a familiar figure, a few stray locks of red hair as always falling into tilted eyes and softening angular features; features which a closer look would reveal as a little more accentuated as usual. Her slender fingers are wrapped about a long-stemmed glass filled with a rich, red liquid, and if anything her expression is thoughtful, almost troubled, with her lips set in a tight little line, not quite but nearly a frown. She seems to pay little attention to the other patrons, refraining from looking up when the door opens to let someone in.

The low rumble of distant thunder barely registers in the tavern, filled with typical business at this hour—the revelers do not leave until some hours after. Through the doorway, where a glass lantern’s light show that rain still falls but lightly here, a dark figure enters, hooded in sable. Tall and slender, his face is obscured, and through the cloak can be seen the outline of a scabbarded sword, with perhaps a smaller at his opposite side. A moment’s glance, and without removing his cloak or lowering his hood, the figure ghosts towards the bar, ignoring stares and curiosity from the all-too-curious Cairhienin; some nod their heads knowingly, expecting some rather tall lord of the nation shall be making deals darker than his garb.

Sipping some wine from the glass in her hands, occasionally glancing out through the window next to her table, Maeve still ignores the comings and goings in the room, apparently keeping to herself for a reason which even interferes with her usual curiosity. One might wonder what her reason for even being here is, her mood does not seem to be suited to an evening spent in the common room of any inn. Only when a patron recently arrived from upstairs (surely not for the first time this evening, if is unsteady walk is any sort of hint) steers towards where she is seated and obviously means to join her, does she look up to rather curtly dismiss the man.

After a brief discussion with the keeper, and what seems a rather liberal exchange of coins, the cloaked and hooded man turns to look about the room, to choose some place to seat himself—only to find a very familiar image. A long pause before this is fully absorbed, perhaps, and then an obvious hesitation as the hood begins to turn away—but at last he moves forward. Several patrons are very obviously watching carefully.

“It’s a surprise to see you here,” says the figure as he begins to lower his hood, “since I had thought that you had had enough of Cairhien last time?” The red-haired, too-beautifully faced man is himself surely familiar, little changed since last time.

That voice. There’s no need for Maeve to look up to know who it belongs to, of course not, and at first she doesn’t, obviously hesitant. But she can hardly avoid it forever, though takes her time for sure to set the half-emptied glass down, adjusting its position upon the table even. “I had. A family matter, my brother…” She shrugs, ending the sentence just as she starts to turn her head, or rather just tilt it enough to one side to look up at you. “Nothing of importance, but he has little experience of Cairhien himself.” She does not seem to be in a mood to volunteer much information this evening, nor does bother with any sort of greeting, no more than you did.

“May I?” Diar says after a moment—and indeed little has changed, for he sits in any case without waiting for the response. The motion already begun and finished, his cloak is moved somewhat to free his sword’s long, black-wrapped hilt. Another glance, his form of sitting, suggests that he’s even more careful of his surroundings than usual. “Your brother is here? How pleasant… I assume that means you have been—back home? Saldaea?”

Israfel pushes through the door, exiting the stableyard.

Seated at the window table in the rather well-patroned inn, a red-haired man in unrelieved black sits with a similarly red-haired woman in gray. Beginning in conversation, as they speak a server makes her way from behind the kitchens to deliver a play to the table: a half-full bottle of red wine, bread, butter, some roasted meat, and the like.

Israfel walks calmly into the room, noting the two people acknowledges them with a “Gooday sir, and Milady.” He then takes a seat at the bar where he orders a head-sized mug of ale.

Maeve’s expression darkens for a moment, with Diar seated across from her there’s little she can do to avoid looking at him, but with just a hint of a frown lingering she resigns herself to the reality of the situation. “Yes. My brother thought it was a good idea, and I suppose that so did I. To some extent.” She cuts off a little sharply there, almost hurriedly picking the glass up once more, now to drain it of the last drop of liquid. “I didn’t quite realize how much I’d missed it, until I was back there.” A little more softly said, and grey eyes brush over Diar, perhaps just a hint of curiosity in that gaze, and anyone else in the room she barely spares the briefest of glances.

Diar’s glance to the man entering the room is almost perfunctionary, yet much is measured in that practiced gaze. The nod, however, is perfunctionary, for he already goes back into his speech with the woman. “Indeed so? I am glad you have found a place then. So, this is ... a business matter, your being here? I suppose—yes, I suppose I’m here for the same reason. Business, of sorts.” His voice is touched with sardonic humor, his expression a grim setting of lips.

Maeve’s grey eyes narrow faintly, obviously noticing those… signals, no matter how subtle. She remains silent for a moment, studying the man across from her while trying not to be too blatant about it. “Yes, I suppose that is all. Business, some contacts my brother wished to renew, now that he is handling the affairs of our family. Some distant cousin or such.” She shrugs, though otherwise her mannerisms betraying anything but a nonchalant mood, and as she tilts her head slightly and light from some candles illuminate her face more clearly, her expression is revealed is clearly troubled by something. “And you?”

Israfel sighs deeply finishing his ale. His thick gray brow furrowed in thought. He drops a handful of gold for the bartender whose eyes nearly fall out of his head. He rises and heads for the door in a customary glide-like walk.

Israfel walks through the oak door, exiting the inn.

Diar holds his tongue for a little time, glancing again about the room, noting who moves and who doesn’t. As the old man passes nearby to leave the room, Diar waits thoughtfully—and clearly does not like having his back to the door, but then there is little choice, unless he was to sit next to you. But then the man is gone, and he can speak. “I’ve been ... sailing. Pirating, really. The Savior ...” He pauses, glancing at you, seeming uncertain. And then he shrugs, and forces a tight smile. “I’ve been involved in the fight against him. Never thought I would help a single Tairen, and now I’m helping most of the High Lords and quite a lot of lesser nobles… That’s why I’m here. The issue of this ... this Savior, whoever the pretentious fellow is.”

With you being who you are, Maeve was prepared for most everything, but not this. At least not if the rather startled widening of her eyes hints at anything. “Pirating?” she repeats, as if she didn’t quite trust her hearing for a moment there. “Light, Diar…” Abruptly she falls silent for a moment, realizing she’s just used your name for the first time in a… good while, and with a flash of anger over her own slip showing in her eyes she goes on. “That is even more stupid than I would have expected. The rumours of what has happened in Tear reach even Saldaea quickly these days, and already several months ago the court in Maradon could sometimes talk of little else.”

“What? I’ve tried highwaymanship, the piracy of the road,” Diar says, almost defensively as he picks at his food, “and I thought adding piracy on the high seas could be interesting. No, in all honesty, the truth is—” He stops abruptly, and scans the room once more, before leaning forward to speak quietly. “The truth is we’ve no other way to fight him. Trying to strangle trade into and out of Tear is the best that can be managed. Too many Light-blinded fools flock to him, and Illian is still trying to repair the damage of the war… Would you rather I was a battle leader, in the midst of it? Not a bad place to be—perhaps .. the future, who knows.” Another shrug, now quite careless. “Not that I care for the future. Today is quite enough for me.” He begins eating again, sipping at his wine at times.

“Interesting?” Its not really a question, even if there’s a hint of it in the tone of her voice, perhaps unintentionally. The explanation that follows seems to pass her by, at least to begin with, for if anything her eyes narrow even further and now she makes no apparent attempt to try and avoid looking at you. On the contrary. “Well, there’s some new gossip for the court back in Maradon. Few, if any, had any sort of real information about what was going on down south. And no one seemed overly eager to find out more. Except those who found trade or other businesses interrupted.” She pauses again, another of those little malplaced shrugs. “Then again, even fewer news tend to find their way back home, and that’s where I have been of late.” It does rather seem as if she’s trying to distract herself, with all this talking about very little.

Diar considers that and nods his head, seeming to ignore the signs of your displeasure. “Just as well. Saldaea—brigands, I imagine, have been a problem. Perhaps when your brother returns to Saldaea, he might suggest to all those he knows who have trade interests there that ... ending relations, for now, would be wise. To save them money—not that we fund those brigands. Too dangerous and difficult, for one. And we do not want to risk displeasing the strong northern nations. Arad Doman, Tarabon, Altara, and so on.. are something altogether different, however. Rich in trade, poor in martial strength or very distant, they are not so large a concern if their merchants are too stupid to turn back when we warn them.”

“This is not quite what I would have expected from you,” Maeve replies after a lengthy, thoughtful pause, her words almost a little carefully spoken. Obviously something has taken the edge of her anger, though just what isn’t clear. “I mean, causes like these… they never seemed to interest you. So,” again she falls silent for a little, tilting her head as she regards you in a different way from earlier during your conversation, “I suppose this means that this is not some trivial little matter. Of course, the rumours have been making this… this Savior into a lot of things, but if any of these were true, wouldn’t we have seen more actions taken against him?”

Shrugging, it is plain that though Diar seems to have taken up a ‘cause,’ he has not much considered the politics of it all. “Ask a Cairhienin, my dear. I’d say that, primarily, it is that many of these nations are either too distant, too ready to profit from trade with this new ruler (for he seems eager to be sure that his followers see his benefice by rather conspicuous consumption), or they are too weak. Except Andor ... there, I know, the Queen has the Guard moving nearer the south border. In case.” Diar resumes his meal then, watching you as he can.

Frowning, Maeve looks away for a moment, pretending to gaze out through the window with feigned interest in this rainy Cairhienin night. “Judging from my last visit to Cairhien, I wasn’t expecting much more from them. Too busy playing their own game. But,” she turns back, lacing slender fingers together as she places her hands upon the table and returns her silver-tinted eyes to you, “If even half the rumours are true, a man like him ought to long ago have attracted the attention of the Tower.” A hint of resentment in her voice, but the meaning is clear anyhow.

“Yes, well,” Diar begins to reply, rolling the stem of his glass of wine between his fingers, “I am not surprised. The Tower ... plays its own games. Though spies who have managed to live long enough to return reports suggest that the Tower has shown a little interest… though I wouldn’t wonder if they are simply negotiating with this Savior, and tying him to them, to get at the contents of the Stone whenever it falls some years from now…” A longer pause, another look around, and then he adds, “The Tower is where a much-reduced delegation will go, after Cairhien and Caemlyn—that is why I am here, now. Testing the waters, before our ‘official’ entrance.”

“The Stone. You really think he will take the Stone?” Maeve shakes her head at first, stray locks of auburn hair slipping from their loose bindings and into her eyes again and she does not even raise a hand to brush them aside, just tosses her head lightly and then gives up on it. “I suppose he will, if given time enough. But I can’t imagine he will be, or?” Clearly inquisitive now, if in a serious manner. “Then again, if you’re here in an official errand… I didn’t think I’d see that happen either.” With the conversation centered around such minor matters as the Savior and his conquest she appears much more at ease than to begin with. Serious, yes, but no longer so nervously hesitant.

Diar grins briefly, though only briefly as he looks around once more. “Well, things change. I will admit that my own personal wealth has increased ... somewhat, from my career path. A privateer, with luck on his side, can become a very rich man, very quickly.” A sip of wine, a further look to see who watches among the many faces in the inn, and he says more quietly, “And of course, I have my kin to think of. I have always liked Mayene. A second home, if there is any place in this world that I can name such.”

“Fortunate then that so many differing interests could be satisfied through one and the same course of action.” Displeasure again, no doubt about it, with her tone grown so curt all of a sudden. She might understand some of your motives, but that grin of yours… “I will mention this, well… some of it, to my brother, of course. He has little influence himself, but my sister has the Queen’s ear. At times anyhow.” If anything these past months have changed how she speaks of her family, before she hardy did and now they seem… important. But that is not all that is changed; sitting just across from her you can, in the right light, hardly miss that she is indeed a little thinner, a little paler. Not quite her usually so healthy self.

A frown now crosses Diar’s face, noticing more than one change—but he is quick to adapt to change, and unfortunately some changes do not register so strongly with him as they should. “The last I recall, you and your siblings were not on the very best of terms—that’s good. And your ... ‘father?’ He still carries on under the illusion that he has some say in your life?” His meal finished, he pours the last of his wine bottle into his glass, sipping at it again, keeping his eyes upon the patrons for now.

If Maeve is surprised that you pick this up she hides it well, for though her expression does change (but not into anything easily read) it is at least not in that manner. “They are both older by quite some years, we just never had much in common.” An unspoken ‘before’ finishes her sentence, and for a moment there’s just a hint of a smile on her face—or perhaps rather a touch of relief. “My… Tharald and I still agree about very few matters, but with Thiery having claimed his inheritance there is little he can do.” Just a touch of discomfort again, but what else was to be expected.

Diar nods his head, smiling slightly. “Then you must be happy in Saldaea. Horses, dreadful cold, and an impotent father. All that a good Saldaean woman could wish for.” The words—slightly hollow, though he does not seem to notice as he drinks his glass dry. “You raise horses there? Or deal in trade, as your brother seems to be doing? Far from concerns of the Savior, life should be little changed in the Borderlands, I suppose.”

“It’s not too bad.” Maeve takes her time before answering, and manages a rather convincing shrug this time, even if her tone of voice doesn’t quite match it. “It takes some getting used to, staying put. The occasional bit of restlessness…” A faint smile as she pauses once again. “At least Saldaea isn’t all that small, and with my mother’s estate in the southern parts, my sister’s closer to Maradon and then Maradon itself…. Enough variation, most of the time.” Slender fingers find the empty glass, wrapping about it in an absentminded way as she seems to consider her next words. “The trading, that’s Tharald’s side of the family. Well, to some extent my mother’s too, but it always mostly horses for them. Not furs, ice-peppers, timber or whatever else one can come up with to export, and Light knows what to import.” Again she’s talking just a little too much.

Inclining his head Diar says, “Well, well. That you’re well off ... quite glad you managed quite well after leaving me. Life seems to be blessed by the Creator.” No smile, a touch of seriousness made too firm, and then another look about, and then one outside to rain and night. “You are staying here? I will only be about for a few hours tomorrow, before I slip out to join the delegation. Then two days more, I suppose, before those most noble lords and ladies get themselves, their pack horses, their servants, their carriages, their wagons, and so on to Cairhien. There’ll be a run on bedding places, I daresay.”

Her fingers tighten their grip about the glass, though save for a similar tension around her mouth there’s nothing in her expression that betrays her reaction to your words. Of course, the silence that follows is rather telling in itself. “Well off, yes… I suppose that’s accurate enough.” Another pause, countless of these this evening, before Maeve manages to go on, sounding mostly untroubled. “And yes, we’re staying here for the time being. We arrived just the other day in fact, and have yet to meet up with cousin whatever-his-name-is, to discuss whatever it was. I somehow have a feeling that my brother had other reasons for bringing me than my ‘excellent’ knowledge of Cairhien.” Her voice trails off, and she seems to lose herself in some thought or other for just a moment, but even though mostly convincing there is something not quite right about the way she lets anything concerning you mostly slip past unnoticed now.

“Does he? Not trying to marry you off as Tharald tried, I hope—why in the world anyone would think you’d be interested in men who are of a height with you ... that is beyond me,” Diar says with a smile, a laugh in his voice. “Your tastes run a little higher than that. You should suggest Altara, perhaps, if that is what you are doing.” He sobers though, looking around again.

Brushing aside the first statement of yours for now, and the question buried within it, Maeve eyes you just a little sharply, slender brows arching markedly for the first time during your conversation. “They do?” ‘They’ most likely referring to her tastes, which you just claimed to know, without hesitation. “If that was the case, I think I would have grown tired of Saldaea already. Altara…” She snorts, sounding and looking a little more like herself, having obviously heard a thing or two about Altaran men. “Anyhow, my brother knows better than to try what Tharald did. But the Great Game suits him poorly, and charming our host as well.” A smile of sorts, though one that still betrays a measure of defensiveness.

Diar nods thoughtfully, smiling easily yet. “There are some tall men in Saldaea, if I recall. But as you say ...” A brief shrug, and then Diar fetches into a pouch to bring out a few coins, setting them on the table. “No doubt you’ll charm this host out of his stockings before he knows of it. You will be about, I imagine, for the next days? You can meet ... well. That, my dear, I will keep for a surprise.” Rising up, giving another cautious glance about, Diar settles his cloak properly around himself, reaching back to lift his hood up once more.

Biting back a reply that surely would have been much too sharp, no matter what you always do manage to get to her in the end, Maeve settles for a curt not in your general direction to begin with, not speaking until she’s sure that her voice well remain passably smooth. “I never did care much for surprises, but if you insist…” She almost, but not quite, manages a nonchalant shrug meant to suggest that she in fact doesn’t care at all about it, one way or another. “I will be about, for a while more.” Nothing more after that, just her eyeing you with an expression of only mild interest upon her face as she waits for you to leave.

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