The early morning light held a bite to it that necessitates the light veil that Elanna Baratheon wears as she sits sidesaddle atop her great beast of a horse, a black monster commonly known, and appropriately named, as Nightmare. The grooms avoid his teeth and hooves, either could lend an unwanted injury.
But to the Baratheon maid, he is known to be beloved, so oft has she defended his nature. She leans forward now, and rests her cheek against his neck as they ride slowly along the Rosby Road, leaning down as far as she can to pat his flank.
“This is much better than all that noise, eh, boy?” she receives naught but a head toss in reply.
As might be expected, the leather-clad Stark lady is rather less concerned about propriety. Her own mount is a fairly substantial gelding, who would probably seem moderately lively alongside most horses - if not Nightmare.
Cantering towards the older woman, she makes sure to rein in to a walk well short of Nightmare to reduce the risk of him taking offence at her arrival. For her own part, she flashes a broad grin at Elanna, lifting a hand in greeting. “Good morning, milady. I hope the new day finds you well?”
Elanna rises up from her position to seek for the source of the voice. She smiles and waves her hand in reply.
“Marian,” she reins in Nightmare, who whickers and eyes the other horse uneasily, stamping his feet.
“Oh, stop being rude!” Elanna slaps the gelding on the neck and sure enough, he stills.
“How are you, dear?” she asks and holds out her hand for the other girl to take, lifting her veil away from her pale features.
Marian nudges her own horse close enough to accept the offered hand, smiling quite warmly. “Wondering quite how hot and humid it can become, this far South. I am half-tempted to enshroud myself in some mobile tent for the shade….” She grins, dropping her gaze to Elanna’s mount. “So this is the fearsome Nightmare, mmmm?”
Elanna tilts a faint smile, running a hand to smooth the dark green silk of her dress where it falls to conceal much of the right flanks of her mount.
“Yes, this is he. Would you care to meet him properly? He will forever…umm…tolerate you afterwards?” a little laugh is given to the latter, “I fear Sarmion broke him in, he has little tolerance for strangers, much like his teacher.” Her eyes twinkle a little at that.
Marian joins in the laughter, eyeing Nightmare for a few moments more before looking up and meeting Elanna’s gaze. “What would introduction to this infamous monster involve? Nightmare, that is, rather than your brother”, she enquires with a distinctly teasing tone in her voice and amusement in her eyes.
“Oh, meeting Sarmion is -far- more imposing,” the mischievous twinkle in the Baratheon’s eyes is unrelenting. She dismounts easily enough…considering the binding skirts, and moves to take the harnass at Nightmare’s cheek.
“Can you put your horse over there somewhere? Just briefly? He wont pay attention to you, if you have your horse with you,” Nightmare eyes Marian with interest…one might wonder if he considers leather pants edible.
Marian cracks another grin, nodding to Elanna even as she deftly guides her mount away from Nightmare. Stopping by a bush, she swings down and drapes her reins over a branch, murmuring in her horse’s ear and stroking his mane before turning to stride back over towards Elanna and her pet monster.
“So… what now?”, she asks with a smile. “I am afraid that I have no apples or other treats with me.”
“I am always prepared,” Elanna reaches into a pouch that was hooked onto a leather belt that bound her skirts at her hip. She withraws a section of carrot and holds it forth to Marian.
Nightmare begins salivating and whickers again, nudging against Elanna, nearly shoving her over.
“Nightmare…” she speaks placidly, “This is Marian. Marian, this is one of my dearest friends, Nightmare.” She rubs the horse on the forehead, “Run your hands down his flanks, moving toward his head. Hold your hand out flat, very flat. No sudden movements with your fingers. Let him sniff you and the carrot…” Her voice remains very smooth and calm as she holds the head of the animal.
Marian chuckles faintly, accepting the carrot from Elanna with extravagant courtesy, before proceeding to follow her instructions on how to make friends with Nightmare. She seems to be pretty much free of fear, quite confident in her ability to cope with even such a notorious horse as this one.
“Hello, there, Nightmare”, she murmurs. “It is an honour to meet you…”
“Shhh shhh,” Elanna whispers as Nightmare shifts to the unfamiliar voice. The beast stills, though he swivels his gaze to see Marian. He tosses his head.
Elanna smiles, “Ahh, he likes your smell. He knows you like horses. That’s good…”
Marian smiles, though she keeps her mouth closed as she does so. “Mmmm. On the whole, I find those with four legs rather than two to be pleasant company. You’re not going to disappoint me, are you, Nightmare?”
Nightmare’s feet dance a little and he tosses his head again, whickering.
“Now show him the carrot and let him sniff it. He is settled, remember, no finger waving,” Elanna’s voice is still soft, her fingers light on the bridle nosepiece.
Marian does as she’s told, still smiling. She’s quite practiced in the art of feeding horses without losing fingers, offering the hunk of carrot so that it is easily taken without risk to her hand - unless, of course, Nightmare is feeling malicious today.
Malicious? Not her baby!
Nightmare lowers his cavernous nostrils to her palm and snuffles, swiping snot across Marian’s fingertips. He seems to be testing her as he rolls the carrot on her palm momentarily with his big teeth, dripping drool everywhere.
“That’s a good boy,” Elanna smiles and lays her head against his muscular neck.
Marian isn’t yet convinced about the goodness of Nightmare, but she continues to hold the titbit of food there for him. “C’mon, boy. We both know you want it”, she murmurs to him.
When she doesn’t jerk away, Nightmare seems to look faintly disappointed and stops slopping drool over her palm and daintly takes the carrot, munching it with quite the mischievous look in his eye, but with no more shifting of feet. Indeed he lowers his nose again to check for another treat.
“No, you barrel guts,” Elanna protests, “No more.”
“You can pat him now,” The Baratheon smiles at Marian.
Marian chuckles, doing so. “Is this how all of your brother’s horses turn out?”, she asks across him with a grin. “Or is it merely a quirk of this one’s particularly unique nature?”
“My brother likes his horses to be fierce, but obey their master unquestioningly,” Elanna smiles fondly, looking up at the tall Stark girl, “Our stables are not for the faint hearted, and he gave Nightmare to me before he went away.” Elanna’s eyes fade into a kind of sadness, distant. Nightmare seems to sense his mistresses change in demeanour and nudges her with his muzzle.
“I know, boy, you miss him too,” Elanna pats Nightmare again.
“More than one of the reports I have seen of the fighting in Dorne mention the name Stormbreaker”, replies Marian, while continuing to acquaint herself with Nightmare. “He seems to be spreading his reputation quite successfully.”
“He has served his King very well, and bravely thus,” Elanna smiles as she replies, but the sadness is still there, “I very much look for his return. My husband died, but then, so many others lost their husbands, brothers, and sons that it feels wrong of me to complain. She rests her head against the shallowly moving flanks of her horse. A sigh takes her.
Marian winces slightly, and nods. “I will not feel certain that my own betrothed has come through the war in safety until he is here in King’s Landing with me”, she says softly. “Every battle and siege that was reported had me wondering….” She, too, sighs and shakes her head. Then she chuckles and consciously brightens her mood. “Now, if we are to dwell on such things, we should probably move to somewhere more private and suitable for solemn contemplation. Or… perhaps a ride to blow the cobwebs from our thoughts might be a good idea?”
“Then…I shall not dwell, and indeed we shall ride!” Elanna declares, kicking back her skirts in a most unladylike fashion to mount. She slides up easily enough, thunks into the saddle and shifts her leg around the pommel.
“Let solemn contemplation of troubles be the business of later..for now, let us enjoy the sunshine, for soon ‘Winter is Coming’. Let ‘Ours be the Fury’ that outrides it.” Once more the indominatable blue eyes spark, and she kicks Nightmare off in a charge across the smooth countryside.
Marian jog-trots back over to her own horse, reclaiming his reins from the bush before swinging easily and smoothly up into the saddle. Unladylike it may be, but it’s certainly a lot more practical than wearing full skirts to ride…. “As you say, milady”, she replies with a broad grin, touching her heels to her horse’s flanks.
And as the sun rises higher as morning grows old, the figures, Stark and Baratheon rode headlong to chase away whatever cobwebs must dust the mind.