“Out of the way, you fucking urchins!” a man shouts from the seat of a laden wagon he drives, as a troop of dirty children—near a dozen, like as not from Flea Bottom if their unkempt appearances and their filthy language is any sign—tussle with one another in a ragged mob. Most of the merchants setting up their stalls pay the children little mind, used to such distractions. Indeed, they all keep well away from the struggle. The wagonmaster, however, after waiting impatiently as the children manifestly ignore him during their fighting, doesn’t. “Hal, get one of the logs and lay into them!” he shouts angrily at his partner, a strapping young man. He seems reluctant, but some curses and a boot to his backside speed him on to do as he’s told. The children pay no attention as he clambers down from the wagon.
And in this tableaux, there are others making their way along the road. Among them is a Dornish knight, clad in robes, and behind him rides a single man of the City Watch. There’s just enough space for them to get around the wagon on their horses. The gold cloak seems little inclined to interfere in the troubles, even when Aidan stops after a moment and looks at the man questioningly. His response is to lean over, spit in the ground, and look stonily back at the knight of Starfall.
A sable and gold retinue is further coloured by deep green and a curious hue of blue that is changeable in the sunshine. Swords, spears and horses hooves are all weapons sheathed but sharp and readily bared at the merest sign of danger. They come up upon the halted retinue of gold cloaks and Dornish hostage in due course, and one of the Baratheon clad number breaks formation and shifts forth.
Elanna Baratheon, atop the edgy mount, Nightmare, and her good aunt Janyse Penrose, clad in the sapphirine blue, mounted nearby crane head and neck to espy the cause of their halt.
“What transpires, Lake?” Elanna asks of the guardsman who shifts forth to take the position of the recently departed storm rider.
“Some urchins milling about a wagon, lady,” Lake replies dryly.
“Little buggers,” Janyse utters sharply, “So many more of them with this nasty war business. There always is.” A shake of the silvered head.
“They are hungry,” Elanna utters, with pity in her voice.
“Such is their lot, good daughter,” comes the dry reply, “No loaf of bread will make much improvement.”
When Hal gets down and starts to wade in, threatening with his makeshift club but without the cruelty to actually make use of it on the urchins ... things happen rapidly. As if with a single mind, the fighting stops and instead the children swarm the man, grabbing at his legs and arms and threatening to bowl him over. He shouts with alarm—and then with real pain, as the gleam of a rusty steel knife can for a moment be seen held by one of the older boys before he drives it into Hal’s calf. The young man falls, howling, and the children tear at his clothing and at his hands like so many vultures upon carrion. A few cheap brass rings are tugged off his hands as he curls up, shouting, “Da! Da!” His purse is cut from his belt, his shoes are taken…
... and in all the time it takes for the wagonmaster to get over his shock and get off his wagon to come to the youth’s assistance, the urchins are already scattering to the four winds with their ill-gotten gains.
“By the gods!” Aidan says, disgusted with the scene. “Not even in the shadow city…” He looks back to the watchman, outraged at his passivity, but the man’s dark eyes only gleam with a certain spiteful amusement before he spits again, ignoring the furiously panicked shouts of the wagonmaster as he tries to get the young man up. “Only idiots mess with the urchins, _ser_,” the watchman tells the knight with a cold smile on his lips, “These country folk don’t know better, but I do. You let them be, they don’t get their courage up to try you—not with knives, in any case. Best keep an eye on your purse, though; many a cutpurse hereabouts, sneaking out from Flea Bottom.” The Dornish knight absorbs this with increasing anger, but says nothing, instead looking to Elanna and her retinue, wondering what they make of it. After a pause, with a small motion he sets his steed moving nearer.
“Lady Elanna” he says by way of greeting, his Dornish drawl somewhat clipped by his disgust at the scene. “Are you for the Red Keep? If I may, I think it wisest if I join you the rest of the way, if so.”
“By the gods…” Elanna’s breath hisses out as she witnesses the rapid scene, and she glances around at her retinue.
“Send for a maester,” she demands of one of the guardsmen.
“My lady…” Lake begins, “He is but a merchant boy.” His salt and pepper beard is stroked by a gauntleted hand, his eyes all but disappearing in the wrinkles about his eyes with worry.
“He is but a boy, Lake,” the Baratheon born snaps in reply. Janyse just watches her good niece thoughtfully. The flashing eyes dart upward to regard the Dornishman who greets them. It is with some visible effort that she forces the temper to sheath itself, and replies to the Knight of the Twilight politely.
“Good day, Ser Aidan,” her gaze flickers to his companions, her voice coolly distant, “I see you are treated to yet another splendid example of our fine city.”
“Elanna…” Janyse warns softly, her expression stern. Elanna closes her eyes briefly and sighs.
“Yes, Ser Aidan, that would be welcome,” her jawline was rigid, and she turns a heated gaze upon the guardsman who was looking betwixt her and Lake.
“What are you waiting for, you fool. Get that boy some assistance. Imagine he was your own lying there, bleeding in the dirt,” her voice was whiplike in its insistence.
The young man sobs aloud as his father, the wagonmaster, helps him up onto his feet with an arm draped over his shoulder. The man’s face is red, and his rough voice is softened as much as he can manage to try and ease the lad. Once the urchins seem well and gone, a woman selling lace from her shop—with two burly men guarding it—takes pity on them and sends a girl with a rag and a bowl of steaming hot water. Whatever she says isn’t clear as the wagon driver half-carries his limping son to the wagon’s side, where he helps him to sit, but the man takes a knife from his belt to cut at his son’s trousers and expose the wound. The girl begins to dab at it with the water-dampened cloth. Her presence, notably, has gotten the youth to stop his howling, though he sniffles quite a lot as he tries to keep the sobs in.
Most everyone else on the street goes about their business, ignoring the scene even still.
Dayne looks silently between Elanna and the various others—including a pause to offer a polite bow from the saddle to the older woman who accompanies her—and waits for her man to do as she commands. “I do not think a maester will be so ready to see to his injuries, such as they are,” Ser Aidan finally offers, violet eyes glancing in the direction of the youth. “Mayhaps a barber would be easier found?”
Elanna turns back to Aidan, “A…barber…” She pauses. And finally nods.
“Yes, perhaps that is best,” she nods at her guardsman, “Find a barber for the boy.”
Janyse, for her part, eyes the young Dornishman.
“And who are you, young lad?” she eyes the hostage, “You have the look of the south…not to mention the pretty cloaks of those who guard your apparent imminent escape.” The crepe like skin about her eyes wrinkles ‘neath the filmy veil she wears.
The guardsman? With a request he can more easily follow, he does the bidding of the Baratheon widow, perhaps somewhat relieved he need not fetch the grumpy Maester Collyn of Baratheon.
“I beg your pardon, my lady,” Ser Aidan says, expression grave as he offers a deeper bow—skillfully executed—from horseback. “I am Ser Aidan Dayne of Starfall. It is a pleasure making your acquaintance, even here.” As he straightens, he glances back to his guard, the now-sullen gold cloak who must now look like he’s taking his duty seriously now that people who actually matter are about him. Having his horse sidle nearer to the two ladies, yet at a respectful distance, he continues, “I was returning from the morning service at the sept on the hill, and thought to come this way for a change. Only to see ... this.” He can’t quite keep the disgust out of his voice, though he makes the effort to try and keep the words bland as he looks back to the wagon, where the wagonmaster seems to have been informed that the great lady has had one of her men find someone to help tend to his bruised and bloody son. He knuckles his forehead and cries his thanks.”
“Pleasure remains to be seen, young man,” Janyse replies thoughtfully, her lips pursing, her tone lacking any warmth.
Elanna flickers a glance upon Janyse and clears her throat.
“Oh, do not give me that, young woman,” Janyse flicks her fingers airily, “I have seen more than a few young whippersnappers come up through the ranks. Less of his ilk…” she eyes the Dornishman, “Most of them aren’t given such a charming escort. Few enough of them are worthy of their rank. Are you worthy, young man?” she asks of Aidan.
Elanna, for her part nods solemnly at the wagoneer, distracted from her good aunt’s scandalous request, “I hope he recovers well enough,” she utters softly to the man, even as her guardsman returns with a white faced fellow following him, clutching a bag in white-knuckled fingers.
With surprising grace given the blunt questions, Aidan offers a reserved smile as he remarks, “I hope I shall prove to be worthy, my lady, but it is for others, men and gods alike, to judge.” He does let his eyes slant towards Elanna with a sort of question, but he does not vocalize it. Instead he goes on to say, nodding his head towards the wagon, “No doubt the boy will be fine, once he’s tended to thanks to your kindness, my ladies. For all the blood, it was but a single stab, and nowhere vital I expect. I have had worse.”
“Gods alone more like, young Aidan,” Janyse replies with an unladylike snort, “You can’t be trusting men as far as you can bloody well throw them. They say one charming thing to your face, but think something else entirely. So let the gods alone be responsible for judging you…and the one you will call a wife, I suppose. For you will have to prove yourself to her at some point if you hope to get her into bed at some point.”
Elanna’s horrified gaze encompasses her rather matter-of-fact aunt. Her mouth opens, but Janyse continues before Elanna can get a word in edgewise.
“And it were nothing to do with me. My good niece has a heart too soft for this place at times. The boy would have been just fine and well she knows it,” the cool eyes turn upon the Baratheon born.
“There are enough people to walk past and do nothing,” Elanna replies defiantly, a touch of colour tinting her pale cheek, a glance upon Aidan as she speaks.
The lady’s manner of speaking ...
Aidan pauses, momentarily lost as to how to respond to the older lady, before at last he offers a brief, “I shall remember what you say, my lady.” His horse snorts just then, tossing its mane out of unhappiness over standing about so long. He settles it down with confident hands and a muttered reproach, sitting straight and tall in the saddle with a born horseman’s ease. “The gods look well on charity,” he offers, perhaps as a means to bridge the apparent divide between Elanna and her aunt. “Shall we continue on to the Red Keep, now that it seems well in hand?” And indeed, the barber—having taken over from the girl—seems competent enough to have finished cleaning the wound and getting it bandaged in clean linen. The man’s now standing over the lad with his father, discussing potions that might ease his pain or speed up the healing ... and dancing around the price for the treatment, such as it was.
Elanna jerks her head at the guardsman, her expression brooking no protest, and she turns upon her aunt.
“My good aunt, you are such a liar,” Elanna’s voice was vaguely amused, “You know damned well what you do at home in Penrose. So no making yet another knight think you are such a sour old bat.”
Janyse’s eyes twinkle as she regards the younger woman, “And this is why this sour old bat likes you, dear girl.” The aging eyes turn upon Aidan.
“Now, young man, lead forth. My eyes are not what they used to be,” she gestures onward, and eyes the gold cloaks with some displeasure, “I suppose there is no hope that these gentlemen would ride behind. I find their clothing an eyesore.”
The guardsman, under orders, tosses a small leathern pouch at the barber, “Be on, butcher,” he utters sharply to the fellow, “And see the boy gets what he needs.”
“I fear my guards take their charge quit seriously, however, and do not let me stray very far. Perhaps if I am only a little ahead? It makes conversing easier, and they may well deign to ride out of your sight.” With that, his horse saunters a little forward—any conversation will necessitate his looking over his shoulder a little bit—and his guards, as he guesses, end up somewhat more than a horse length behind the group of nobility with the rest of the guards arrayed about the women. So the small company begins to make its way up Pigrun Alley, even as the driver sets his son upon the wagon’s seat, crying his thanks all the while for the lady’s generosity—promising prayers on her behalf—and prepares to drive the wagon on out of this quarrelsome, filthy city.
“They must be very afraid you will do something terribly naughty,” Janyse drawls. Elanna just utters a soft sound and nudges Nightmare into motion, a final glance backward at the wagoneer and son.
“What? And leave the charm of all this?” Elanna adds, with her own faintly bemused tone.