Blood of Dragons

The 'A Song of Ice and Fire' MUSH


Lady of the Flies
IC Date: Day 16 of Month 11, 158 AC.
RL Date: August 12, 2007.
Participants: Carmella Dondarrion, Elyn Ryswell, Giles Herston, Kellyn Lannister, Liane Uller, Marian Stark, Reyna Saltcliffe, and Rosalind Hill.
Locations: Blackwater Bay: Village.

Summary: Tempers begin to rise as the ladies try to decide what to do next and the ramblings of an old crone in the village do little to assure the ladies of their safety.

Having apparently given up on her attempts to offer medical treatment in recompense for hospitality, Marian rejoins the other women, expression morose and gait somewhat ginger. “As a child”, she grumbles, setting her satchel on her lap as she lowers herself onto the rough lump set outside one shack to serve as a wood-cutting block, “I used to love running around in mud. Now that it is compulsory, I find that the charm is somewhat lessened.”

Rosalind sits in a little area which she’s set up near Kellyn. The girl’s features are flushed with a slight fever, though her leg dressing is newly changed and she sips a cup of willowbark tea. She looks over as the northwoman enters, “I preferred my books,” she murmurs. “But one can learn from any experience.”

Reyna is huddled, feet drawn up under her tattered muslin skirts, on a wide stump outside their shack, staring at the mud as if it’s like to rise up and suck her in. “Learn -what-?” she asks, her voice at once peevish and appalled. “The benefits of stone paving over mud? I’ve learnt to stay on dry land. I’ll never sail again.” And she is rocking back and forth slightly, about to shut down.

Marian musters a low chuckle. “Oh, if one wishes to learn how to heal, it is always good to observe an actual patient every now and then”, she says to Rosalind, though Reyna receives a lingering and worried look. “Certainly, my own skills have improved appreciably since I established the hospice. Though Elyn remains rather more accomplished in the practical side of things.”

Kellyn laughs at Marian’s comment, a wry and warm sound. “True - adventure is a great deal more fun when someone brings hot tea and a good meal to you in the middle of it, and makes certain you are quite alright.” Rosalind gets a tender smile. “You’ll be back to your books soon. And you, Reyna, will be away from all the mud. It will not last overlong.”

Liane sits quietly, one scraped knee beneath near-shredded silks drawn up to her chest, a bruised arm crossed over it. She, for one, looks almost pleased with the situation. Which is likely why she isn’t speaking at the moment.

When morning came it seemed as if Carmella was no better, babbling on about things that seemed to make no sense and asking questions she’s asked time and time again. But as the day progressed she seems to have grown more lucid and the questions have almost stopped. She and Sariah return to the small shack, the maid letting her mistress lean on her a little as they walk. It is also possible that the maid is holding to the Dondarrion to keep her from wandering off. Carmella eventually does slip free of Sariah as the other women come into view and she moves to sink down alongside Liane.

Rosalind looks over to Reyna, “Oh, I was thinking more on the lines of learning about oneself. It takes a crisis to really get the full measure.” To Marian, “Ironically enough, lady, I’d heard of your hospice from your lady in waiting, Ryssa Waters. I’d wanted to come speak to you and offer my services.” A chuckle. “Seems it took a shipwreck to make it possible.” And to Kellyn, Rosa gives a smile and a sidelong look, “Yes, this is very much like one of your pretend adventures when we were children, but we could always leave the forest stronghold for lunch and then continue.” Another chuckle.

Reyna keeps up her rocking, arms wrapped tightly around her legs. “It’s horrid. We don’t even know where we are—this village doesn’t even have a name!” She looks around her as if suppressing the urge to vomit. “I didn’t even know people could live like this…”

Liane looks carefully over to Carmella, a bemused smile tugging at one corner of her lips as she tries to gauge the other woman’s lucidity. “Good evening,” she murmurs, shifting to face Carmella a bit more, though she looks up at Reyna’s words.

Marian offers the warmest smile she can manage to Rosalind - before pausing and giving Reyna a distinctly worried look. “People survive Beyond the Wall and in the heart of deserts. Here, at least there is food and firewood”, she points out, though she’s clearly floundering in her efforts to be reassuring.

Looking back to Rosalind, she offers another weak attempt at a smile. “We shall have to see what we can do to give you a chance to practice your skills. It does, sadly, seem that we can no longer hope to be out of work in the near future.”

Kellyn leans forward a bit to look at Carmella. “Carmella, dear - tell me about Jonn?” Yes, time to see how the young lady’s mind is working. If she starts saying nice things - they’ll know they’re in trouble. A nod to Rosa as she brings up those adventures. “Would that I could arrange that as easily now without putting these people out of what little they have. And Reyna - roses grow from soil and mud. It strengthens and nourishes them. Try to be strong.”

“They grow in shit, too, but I don’t recommend it,” Reyna says back to Kellyn, clearly in ill humor. “I want to go home. I want my linen sheets and clean clothes and a meal that wasn’t leaping around in the shrubbery this morning and I want Dagur.”

Carmella offers Liane a friendly smile in return but blinks a couple of times before she looks over at Kellyn. There’s confusion in her eyes and her brows furrow as she tries to respond. Then there’s a spark in them and she looks to Liane instead. “He told me I should be sent to Sunspear.” She beams for only a moment or two before her smile becomes a puzzled frown. “Likely to see me dead, if anything. Only Jonn Lannister would want to sent a woman into a war.”

“I can be reached at the Lannister manse, Lady Marian. Once we’re home and my leg heals, I’d be delighted to work with you. Tis good to meet other women interested in the healing arts. We few must stay together.” Rosalind glances at Reyna, “We will be home again, have no fear. All will be well. And next time, we will not founder and need to swim.”

“Well, he’s welcome to send me to Sunspear,” Liane says cheerfully, flashing a swift grin in the direction of the gold cloaks to reassure them that she’s not going anywhere at the moment. “Though preferably alive and in one piece,” she edits herself.

“I… will never… set foot… on a ship… again,” Reyna replies to Rosalind through clenched teeth, and very vehemently. “Ever. And I swear, if one of you septas spews any more treacle about being how ducky we all are, I will scream. I will scream so loudly they will -hear- me in Sunspear!”

“I’ll give you my dress and you can be me,” Carmella says in jest to Liane. “But this is Jonn we are talking about, I am certain his intention was less than kindly,” she mentions as her smile slips at the sound of Reyna’s outburst. Her lips tighten and she looks to the dirt she’s sitting in. Her gown is long past salvageable and she’s long past caring what she looks like. “Soon we’ll look like them,” she mutters glumly as she makes a vague gesture towards a couple of the women that live in this hovel.

“It’s my fault,” she says, lifting her head and looking towards Reyna. “My idea, my fault. I’m sorry, to all of you.”

Liane arches a brow slightly at Reyna. “Will you really, Lady Reyna?” she asks quietly. “I think you’ll find you can handle much more than you think you can when you’re put to it. And that’s no treacle. It’s sense and experience.” She takes a deep breath as she looks away, letting it out slowly. “Not that this is all a lark, but really, at least there aren’t stone walls all around.”

Rosalind listens to Reyna’s outburst, declining to address it for now. Instead she speaks to Carmella, “Lady, this is not your fault. You did not cause that to happen and it is nonsense to say because it was your idea, it was your fault. Tis possible there was something unsound with the ship or the crew. Tis also possible that whatever we hit and sundered the ship was completely unavoidable and the greatest ship and crew in Westeros would have sunk as well. Or, more likely, of all the ships that sail from all the ports, some small number of those go down. And ours came up. Regardless, things happen. And we’ll get through it.” She looks over at Liane, giving the Dornishwoman a little smile.

“I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective.” Elyn chimes in for the first time, glancing at Liane with a crooked smile, then shifting pale eyes to Reyna. “I’m sure by next week, this will just be a memory, a story we’ll repeat to impress other ladies with our fortitude. We just need to hang in there. And that we’re doing. After all, we could be with the captain.” Nodding to Rosalind, Elyn returns to picking mud out of Lann’s coat while the marten squirms in her lap.

“Oh, Carmella, if I hadn’t agreed and encouraged you, we wouldn’t be here. If there must be blame, deal me my fair share…” But the prattling goes on, and she looks from Liane to Rosalind to Elyn, very near tears or worse. And a moment later, she does just what she threatened to do: she screams. And seems unable to stop.

But Carmella does not look so sure and when Reyna screams she cowers back and leans against Liane. The scream was unexpected even if Reyna had made the threats. Where Reyna had looked at Carmella warily last night, now Carmella does the same towards the Saltcliffe woman. “The Seven protect us,” she murmurs under her breath.

Rosalind just lets the Tyrell woman scream, patiently waiting for her throat to get tired.

Liane helpfully reaches over to absently try to cover Carmella’s ears for a second when the scream comes, though she, too, just watches for a moment. “It’s quite helpful, really,” she murmurs to Carmella. “So long as she doesn’t keep going, that is. There’s a fine line between easing tension and coming unhinged.”

The mostly-naked Stark seems to be feeling rather less inclined towards sympathy. She cocks her head, purses her lips, and studies the screaming woman for a moment or two - then begins delving urgently in her satchel of medicines. Coming up with a little pot, she rises, slings her bag over her shoulder, and advances on Reyna, lifting the seal and dipping one finger into the contents as she closes, expression distinctly purposeful….

Like the other Northwoman, Elyn seems less inclined to bear the screaming. Lips pursing, she leans forward, as if she might say or do, well, /something/. But she catches the approach of Marian out of the corner of her eye and leans back again, holding the marten tightly in her grip.

Who can remain hysterical in face of such perfect composure? Slowly Reyna’s screams subside into wild sobs, and she buries her face in her arms.

Kellyn has had rather enough, it seems, as she gets to her feet and moves over to Reyna. Is that a look of disappointment when Reyna stops screaming right before Kel can reach back and give her a traditional slap across the cheek? Perhaps. But she does. “Enough of all these recriminations and blame. It has happened. Let the wives of the captain and the dead crewmen sob. We are not weak, helpless, simpering creatures! We are not marooned on an island with no food, no fresh water. It is unpleasant, it is unfortunate, but we have options when we are more recovered. But this self centered woe is me grief is so much prattle!” The speech gets interrupted by a brief coughing fit. “NOW! What are we going to do when the injuries are in better shape? Perhaps those who are less injured should begin walking and see if we can have word sent to our homes.” The whole rant and rave would sound more effective if her voice didn’t still sound in places like ground glass and salt hacked rawness had settled in. And if she didn’t sit down in a flumph of tattered skirts and a harumph.

“Shut UP, Septa Kellyn! Gods, do you ever stop being supercilious?” Reyna looks up, glassy eyed. “No wonder Jonn strayed. You must have driven him insane with that sort of sniffy attitude. We -are- helpless! There are bandits in these woods!”

Reyna seems fully in control of herself as she continues, in a voice colder and harder than adamant. “The Starveling is out there, and he would love nothing more than to get his hands on a few noblewomen. Go on, Septa. Walk on out there! When he’s shared you with all his men, we’ll try to put what’s left back together, providing he doesn’t follow your trail back and treat us all to the same. Seven hells, most of us don’t even have -shoes-.”

Marian crouches in front of Reyna, trying to put her gaze on the same level as the older woman’s. One finger, the end glistening with a somewhat greyish herbal mess, is held up. “This should help to protect your condition”, she says low-voiced but firmly. “I really think you should take it.”

Carmella goes pale at Reyna’s first words but at the same time they help her find her backbone. “No!” She gets to her feet and scampers around Liane. “No Reyna, you go too far! You promised, we all promised that we wouldn’t talk of such things on this trip and as we are not yet home that promise should still hold!” Her hands quiver at her sides, betraying her nervousness.

Liane /almost/ perks up at the mention of bandits. Until it’s made clear that they aren’t Dornish bandits, at which she looks largely…nonplussed. “Well, I would suggest that we send one of the gold cloaks,” she begins, “But I imagine that would look a bit suspect, wouldn’t it? Besides, aren’t woods like this rather large and trackless?” she asks, looking to the others. “In the desert, you could wander right past someone and not know it.”

“Shoes are overrated, if you ask me.” Elyn chimes in again, likely unwelcome. Her contralto is quiet and her tone a sort of dry mirth. His fur clean, Lann scurries out of her lap and curls himself around her shoulders as Elyn looks from woman to woman.

Lips curl into something like a smile. Kellyn’s head turns and she glances over her shoulder towards Reyna. “There is a great deal I will not say to the first part of your rant, as most of it involves hurling rude words at you. I’ll leave the ugliness of the truths and words to ring in my ears and not inflict them on our friends. Suffice it to say these two things. Thank goodness there is a Lady in this circle who tries to behave well. And the other? If you want people to stop throwing the scandal of it all in your face, stop reminding them of it.”

Her head turns back to the room as a whole. “Now the second part has merit. If that is the case - then what shall we do instead? Something could be fashioned, or some way of sending word. I do not like to think of sending our guards alone - if goodness forbid these bandits you speak of heard word of our presence here, the people of the village might suffer for it. You sound as though you know the area well enough - what is on the other side of the river from here? And do we know if any of the villagers travel outside of the area where they might have a route they know well, or have communication with relatives past the woods?”

“Shut up, Kellyn. Just shut up. You do not know anything more or less than the rest of us do. All we -can- do is wait for our own men to find -us-.” Reyna claps her hands to her head, weeping again. “We’ve no weapons, no coin. No ravens. No magical happy villagers who aren’t more like to be in league with the bandits than sympathetic to us. As for what is beyond the river… there is the Blackwater Bay. And beyond that, King’s Landing. There is a game trail to the cliffs we just left, and another that wanders off into the forest. You can see that as easily as any one of us.”

Shaking with distress, Reyna finally reaches out to Marian, taking the medicine from the Stark’s finger onto her own. She murmurs a thanks meekly enough and pops it onto her tongue. Then she wraps her arms around her legs again, and resumes rocking.

“Oh, by the Gods,” Elyn says in disgust. “Whinging certainly isn’t helping - and thank you /so/ much for pointing out all of our misfortune in so demoralizing a fashion.” The Ryswell spits at Reyna. “Personally, I’d rather go off and see about finding some help, or at least speaking to the villagers, rather than staying here and listening to this. I doubt you’ll miss another healer, at any rate.” Cradling her marten to her shoulder, Elyn gets to her feet stiffly, wincing all the while, and stalks off towards another of the huts.

Carmella continues to shake a little as the two women have it out, though she’s trying her hardest to keep calm. It’s a losing battle and when Reyna finally takes the medicine from Marian Carmella lets out a visible sigh. She shakes her head and turns in a circle as if unsure where to go. “A mistake, mistake,” she mutters, as if slipping back into an addled state.

Marian slowly lets out the breath she had been holding, rather intently watching Reyna for a few moments before turning her head and blinking up at Kellyn - before rather rapidly looking round and staring at Elyn. Mumbling something incoherent, she pushes upright and scampers after her friend.

Liane sighs, rolling her eyes slightly as she pushes up to stand and pace. She turns to look at Elyn when she stands, then to Carmella, then to the gold cloaks. “I’d come with you,” she finally sighs to Elyn, “But it seems the walls aren’t all really gone.”

Reyna just creeps docilely off her stump, feels her way along the mud walls of the inadequate shack grudgingly offered to the ladies, and disappears into the darkness inside, whence she does not emerge.

Kellyn gestures after the women who have left and then turns towards Rosalind. “I hate to ask this of you, but I can not spend another moment here. Can you look after Carmella and her?” And with that, she heads over to the hut as well. On the way, she looks about to see who might be stirring through the hovel.

Carmella takes a step back and looks at Kellyn as if she’d been slapped. “I’m fine,” she says with a touch of girlish stubbornness coming to surface. Her dark eyes flick over towards the Lannister bastard in turn but says nothing to Rosalind.

A voice rises from within the windowless hovel, whence rises a thin stream of smoke. “Trip-trap, trip-trap, the beauties comes knockin’. ‘oo bothers ol’ Granny from ‘er gruel, eh?” And the ill-hung door opens a crack to reveal a rheumy eye.

Elyn’s knuckles, with which she’d rapped insistently, fall back to her side, surreptitiously rubbing against material that’s no cleaner than her skin. “‘Cuse me…didn’t mean to intrude.” She says quietly, clearing her voice to raise its volume above an embarrassed mumble. “I wanted to ask…do you…or someone else in the village…have a way of getting supplies? A trail, or a way of sending messages? Perhaps to family and friends? We…we really need to let our families know we’re…alive.” Elyn trails off, swallowing nervously, though she’s not quite sure why.

Marian positions herself behind Elyn, glancing over the shorter girl’s shoulder from time to time, though for the moment she’s busying herself with her satchel and its contents once more, abruptly seeming rather more aware of her decidedly unconventional attire.

“Gived you a shack, we did,” the woman wheezes, edging out the door to reveal a wizened old woman. Her skin is brown and wrinkled as old leather. One eye is glazed over with the white of a well-progressed cataract; the other is red and yellow and weeping. The teeth in the hag’s mouth are either black or missing, and she displays them prominently as she pokes a gnarled finger at each lady in turn.

“Gived you a shack, gived you gruel. Now you wants word sent?” The hacking wheeze she produces might be a laugh; whatever it is is, it is malodorous.

“Yes, we would.” Elyn says, her quiet tone polite, but insistent. “I know it seems a trouble, but trust me, the sooner we send word, the sooner we’ll be able to leave, and let you return to your…peaceful lives.” Elyn reasons with only a brief hesitation, summoning a persuasive smile. She pauses a moment and then continues. “We would be happy to help however we can in the meantime. If someone needs medical care, perhaps? Or some stitching done? Perhaps a bit of entertainment for the evening? Some of us sing quite well and know a variety of songs…” She offers in barter.

A guilty look back towards Carmella and Kellyn stops, returning for a moment to her side. “You are doing much better - much, much better than earlier. When we first came ashore, though, and when we came up the cliffs - it is concern for a friend I worry about.” She straightens then, looking around again. “Have you seen any youngsters, or someone in their early teens - out tending to food gathering or the like?” Yes, she got distracted from joining in on talking to the old lady by guilt.

“Oh, word’s out, word’s out, don’ you worry yer pretty head,” cackles Granny. She moves among the ladies. “‘eard your names, and sent ‘em on. Lannister an’ Tyrell, aye, Dondarrion an’ Ryswell an’ Stark. Noble names, eh, noble an’ sendin’ ‘em names on is worth gold, aye, lotsa gold.”

She may be old, but her ears are sharp. “Tell ‘at Black ‘eart’s wifey all the lads is wif the flower. Aye, they come and go, ‘em lads, bring Granny ‘er gruel.”

Carmella doesn’t back down immediately, but she does let out a breath she was holding. Holding Kellyn’s gaze for a moment she listens silently and finally she gives the slightest of nods. “Naked children,” she says, turning her head towards the rest of this ramshackle excuse of a village. “They were running around earlier, chasing a poor excuse for a chicken.”

Elyn steps back as the old woman exits her hovel, either to graciously make space - or because she just doesn’t want to get too close…or smell too much. She’s been struggling to understand the woman’s speech this whole time, though, and after the list of their names, she loses the trail completely. Glancing behind her, she gives Marian an imploring look, brows arched, as if to say, ‘What in the hell did she just say?’

Marian matches and returns Elyn’s confused look with one of her own. “Who… errr, where is the flower?”, she ventures as a question, in hope of figuring out more from the response.

Kellyn looks up at Carmella and quirks a smile. “Now you see, any other time you said that I might have worried it was the head injury,” she says, hoping to win a smile. She hmmms thoughtfully. “I suppose it’s too much to hope for a youngster with dreams of being a squire or the like.” There is a slight shudder at the sound of those names spoken at a short distance. “I wonder who those names were sent on to.”

“Th’ flower, he’s out there somewheres,” Granny replies, waving her hand toward the forest vaguely. “‘e’s vicious cruel to them as crosses ‘im, but ‘e’s good to old Granny. ‘e’ll be right pleased to find so many lovelies in ‘is forest, ‘e will. Loves roses an’ lions an’ such, ‘e does.”

Carmella gives Kellyn a brief smile in return but that last little more than a could of seconds. The old woman’s ramblings begin to make sense. “Oh sweet Seven,” she breathes and looks over towards the crone. “No no no no,” she tells the woman, shaken again.

Trying her best to follow the old woman’s words, Elyn narrows pale eyes, listening closely. She casts a glance towards the forest, then glances back at the crone. “Does he now.” Elyn says quietly. “And this would be the one who was given our names?”

Rosalind has kept her silence during the fighting between Reyna and Kellyn, paling a little beneath her freckles when Reyna decided to “go there”. She remains where she is, finishing off her willowbark tea.

Marian nods slowly, resting one hand lightly on Elyn’s back as if seeking or offering reassurance. “And when do you think the, ahhh, flower might get here, Granny?”, she asks cautiously.

“Oh, aye, the lads’ll take ‘im word. Might be it’ll take a sennight, mebbe two or three.” Granny cackles some more, hobbling pungently through the ladies and admiring each one in turn. When she reaches Kellyn, she pats the woman’s belly, and clucks her tongue. “Black man’s son, eh? Little black lion. Poor thingie, poor thingie. Don’ you worry, pretties. The flower’ll come and take care o’ ye. Soon or late, ‘e’ll come.”

Lured by the pungent scents emanating from the old woman’s hovel, Lann slips from Elyn’s shoulders to the ground unnoticed and slinks in the door left ajar.

Her attention intent on the old woman, Elyn remains where she is, but her gaze follows her progress. Her words, however, seem to have frozen in her throat, and she’s ever paler than usual.

Liane is oddly unbothered by this latest development, her pacing seeming more for her own peace of mind and something to do than an indication of uncertainty.

Rosalind listens intently as well, leonine eyes narrowing slightly at the rather ambiguous words. “Oh bloody hells,” she murmurs to herself, sounding more irritated than afraid, though the color has not returned to her cheeks.

Marian half-moves to intercept Lann, acting automatically - before catching herself and taking firmer hold of Elyn with the hand on the Ryswell’s back. “Care to take a walk with me to admire the view out to sea?”, she quietly asks her friend. “It’s good to know that word’s been got out, isn’t it?”

“We should have your Ser Giles and the Goldcloaks brought back apace,” Kellyn says softly to Carmella as she purses her lips. When the old woman reaches the hut that Kellyn remained at with Carmella, she looks coldly at the approaching hand. “What’s done is done, but your logic in this escapes me.”

Attempting a mute nod, Elyn allows Marian to propel her forward, but seems unable to say or do more.

Carmella stares at Marian as if the woman as lost her wits. Her jaw drops open slightly and her eyes widen. “Don’t you understand? It’s the Starveling, a bastard outlaw, a Flowers,” she explains in a chilled voice. “Ser Almer has made attempts to bring him down but they say he still roams the Kingswood,” Carmella tells Marian. “This is not the notice we want.” Her dark eyes flick to Kellyn briefly and she nods, but doesn’t yet move.

Marian darts a sharp glance back towards Carmella, but perseveres with guiding Elyn through the tangle of huts towards the crest of the rise and the view towards Blackwater Bay, still intent on getting enough distance between her and the hamlet to be able to talk privately.

“Oh, aye, a smart pretty, very smart!” crows the crone, reaching up to pat Carmella’s cheek with her odorous hand. “Don’ you ladies worry none, no no no. The flower, ‘e’s a good boy. The lad’s'll come an’ keep an eye on ye in the morning, they will. Don’ want no ‘arm comin’ to the flower’s pretties, no no no.” She smiles grossly at Kellyn, and pats her belly again. “A black lion, little black lion. Don’ talk so ‘igh with Granny, she don’ un’erstand ye.”

“You mean we’ll be your guests?” Liane isn’t quite able to keep the dryness from her voice, nor the faint touch of almost hysterical amusement from her smile. “Well, in that case,” she concludes flippantly.

Elyn continues with Marian just beyond the village’s edge, out of earshot, although ‘tis clear the two maids are discussing something in stiff ways.

Marian turns to face Elyn once satisfied as to the distance, taking her friend’s hands in her own while talking with quiet urgency….

Carmella stares down at the crone and draws back from her touch to her cheek. “Foolish,” she says to the old woman, caring little for the lady’s age at the moment. “If your precious Starveling gets his hands on any of us you’ll find yourself in the Seven Hells before you get your hands on any coin in gratitude. Everyone here will likely suffer for what you’ve done.”

Elyn casts an uneasy glance back at the ladies and the crone, but then turns back to Marian, voices still pitched too low to carry.

Lann, meanwhile, escapes from the old lady’s hovel, dragging a dried piece of fish behind him, and makes off into the bushes with it.

“Oh, ‘e’ll share, Granny’s flower,” the old woman cackles, seizing Carmella’s hand and pumping it vigorously. “Now, where’s the rosie an’ her little blacksnake? Little black lion, little black snake. ‘oo’d ever think of ‘em as friends? But they will, you mark ol’ Granny. They will.” She pokes a bent finger at Liane then. “Oh, ‘igh and mighty this one. Won’ be so ‘igh when yer madder ‘n ol’ Granny, eh? When ‘at black griff locks you up, eh? Heh heh heh, won’ be no guest then, eh?”

Liane twists a faint smile at the old woman. “Maybe I’m already mad,” she suggests, eyes going just a little wild. “You know what they say about Ullers. Mad or worse. Mother lost one husband to pirates and another to bandits. She’ll be all right if I don’t make it back.”

Maybe it’s the face of crazy that helps Carmella back to her senses, or perhaps fear of injury to her friends, it is hard to tell. But the Dondarrion stubbornness has appeared once again in Carmella’s features. “You leave her alone,” she says, not naming any one in particular. “You’ve done enough damage already, haven’t you? Go back to your ...” Carmella waves her hand towards the shack, unable to find a would suitable to describe the building.

Beyond the farthest hovel, Elyn’s voices raises momentarily as she gestures at the village with one hand, but with a nervous glance, her tones fall again into obscurity.

Marian runs a hand over her eyes, head lowering.

“Oh, tell ol’ granny what to do, eh? Mind yer manners, lovelies,” Granny chides, patting Liane’s cheek a bit roughly. “Yellow eye won’ like you peckin’ ‘im,” she goes on, shaking a finger at Carmella before moving past her. She mutters to herself as she hobbles doggedly toward Marian and Elyn, leaning on a stick and hacking occasionally.

Looking suitably stuffed, Lann reemerges from the brush and takes a look at the gathered women…then disappears into the old woman’s hut again.

“Well, do you think that would dissuade them from-” Elyn says, a hint too loudly, before noticing the approaching crone, and falling silent again. She gives the old woman a mute glare, her skin pale beneath the sunburn.

Carmella stiffens even further at the old woman’s words. A push to her shoulder is likely to knock her down. She stares after the old woman for a few moments before she turns sharply on her heel and goes to search for Ser Giles. Sariah slips out of the shadows of one of the hovels and follows after Carmella.

Marian looks disconsolate, awkwardly shrugging bare shoulders.

Marian whispers to Elyn, “... ... ... ... ... ...”

Liane continues to watch the old woman, vaguely amused. Maybe she /has/ gone a little bit mad from her confinement in the Red Keep. It would certainly explain her equilibrium about this whole ‘adventure.’

A few more moments pass by, and Lann slips again out of the cottage, this time with his tan bib covered in the remains of the old woman’s gruel. Still licking his muzzle, he slinks towards the knot of ladies, and sets to cleaning himself up after cleaning up the crone’s bowl for her. Such a generous hovel guest.

Prodding Elyn’s foot with her stick, the old woman wheezes and smiles. “Blue man comin’, blue man comin’,” she says, pointing toward the cliffs. “An’ you…” she looks Marian over from head to toe. “Look up in the tower fer yer man. ‘igh up there, ‘e is. An’ put yer bubbies away, girl.” She makes a sound of disapproval and prods Marian in the arm with a hoary fingernail. Then she turns the fingernail on Elyn. “‘e’s stolen enough from Granny, yer rat. Call ‘im or Granny’ll eat ‘im.” And she turns to start hobbling back to her hut.

Rosalind listens carefully to all that the woman said, watching her with her green eyes. She remains quiet.

Somehow, Elyn looks even paler as the old woman turns away, looking first towards the cliff and then back to Marian, reaching out to grasp her wrist tightly.

“Bastard girl, bastard girl. You should stay wif ol’ Granny, -you- should,” Granny blathers next, stopping by Rosalind. “Take the boar or be a whore, heh heh. Granny don’ care. Or stay ‘ere and be ‘appy. Yer choice. Ha!”

Marian cringed away from contact, but seemed quite dazed by the old woman’s pronouncement about the tower. Even the disdainful response to her ad hoc attire appears to go largely unnoticed. Then she jerks her head back to Elyn, and musters a distinctly lopsided smile.

His ministrations complete, Lann slips away into the dirty hovel where Reyna rests before the crone can come any closer.

Kellyn watches the old lady hobbling and then, again with the exasperation in her voice, pokes her head into the hut to hiss at Reyna, “Will you snap out of it already? Have you heard what the old biddy is saying? We’ve got to figure a way out of this, or our children will keep dragging us together until the end of time! And before that, we’ll have to deal with the bloody Starveling in the mean time!”

Something Marian says must have struck Elyn as funny, for she suddenly begins to laugh - in a rather hysterical fashion. Sinking to bare, skinned knees, Elyn wraps her arms around herself and shakes with an edgy mirth.

Marian kneels down next to Elyn, enfolding the smaller woman in a hug, leaning into her salt-stained hair.

Rosalind looks at the old woman, “What boar?” she asks mildly. “You’re selling these women to an outlaw and you wish me to stay with you?” Her tone is soft, possibly gentle. “We will not be struck dumb with fear by your words and accept a black fate without a murmur of protest.”

“A stupid bastard girl, pity pity,” Granny cackles, squeezing Rosalind’s upper arm in her clawed hands and laughing wheezily as she hobbles away.

As the old woman disappears into her hovel, Reyna’s voice, hoarse and weary, sounds. “What in seven hells are you talking about, Kellyn?” And the woman reappears, rubbing red eyes and peering blearily around as if she’s been sleeping like the dead.

Collapsing against her friend’s larger frame for a few moments, Elyn’s mirth slowly turns to tears, tracks of moisture that glitter when she finally pulls back. Once the crone has returned to her hut, the Ryswell forces herself up again and begins limping back to the others, looking back at Marian briefly.

“Marian and I have been talking. We can’t just sit here and wait for these men to come for us - or let Ser Giles and the others fight against a foe that likely outnumbers them. Perhaps someone ought to go for help.” She says in a hushed rush.

Rosalind inhales slowly, lets out a long breath. “So.” she says. “That’s that. Well, if your enemy knows where you are, tis best not to be there.”

Marian follows along behind Elyn, apparently doing her best not to follow her friend into tears. She remains silent for the moment, though she stands close enough to clearly associate herself with the Ryswell’s words.

A puff of air blows hair away from Kellyn’s face. “Come outside and we’ll tell you,” she tells Reyna. “Apparently the villagers are the Flower’s men, and they think it profits them more to tell him of our whereabouts than to send word to King’s Landing.”

“Well, he’s likely to gather a larger ransom than they could get in reward money,” Liane notes pragmatically, though she seems to be looking around idly, rather than moving forward at the moment.

“The Flower’s men?” Reyna echoes stupidly, rubbing her cheeks vigorously, then staring in horror. “STARION Flowers? Gods, I -told- you the Starveling was about. Fuck.” She sits back down on her abandoned stump, still rubbing her cheeks.

Finally, other words register on her consciousness. “Where do you all propose we go? Back over the cliffs? He’ll find us there, and just be annoyed for having to fetch us back up again. Or crashing like aurochses through the Kingswood? We’re better off waiting and bartering than wandering aimlessly.”

“Then /you/ may wait and barter as best you can while you’re being raped and ransomed. I prefer to take my chances with my sense of direction and the forest.” Elyn returns coldly, pale eyes glittering like Northern snowbanks.

Marian speaks up. “We know which direction we came, and we can see which direction the river flows. We’re less than a day’s slow sail out of King’s Landing… and there are farms and villages before the walls. If we’re going to get raped and sold anyway, I’d rather at least _try_ to avoid it and see if word can be got out.”

“I do not suggest that any of this is a good situation for us, from the beginning. But it serves us a good deal better to use our wits and minds and try to protect ourselves!” Kellyn looks thoughtful for a moment. “If these are his men, even poor as this village is, do you think they might have a store of weapons secreted about somewhere? Though admittedly it would have been wise not to leave them here. If only everything useful smelled like food - the marten would find it straight off!”

The marten in question, his stomach full, lies contented and unconcerned in the shack’s open entrance, snoozing in the sunlight.

“I would imagine they have bows, at least, for hunting,” Liane suggests when she hears Kellyn’s question. “Small ones, maybe. But enough to do something. Still, I doubt they’d tell us about them.”

Rosalind falls silent, listening.

“They might,” Reyna replies to Kellyn, made far more patient by her own outburst so that she is able to cope with Elyn’s fit of temper with equanimity. “Even if we could find arrows, something to secret in our skirts. We wouldn’t need skill.” She toys with the snake and rose pendent she’s drawn from her bodice, then wraps her hand about it. “And we’ve nothing better to do but look.”

“What good do weapons do if we’ve no idea how to use them?” Elyn grouses, crossing bruised arms before her in a sullen manner.

Rosalind glances at Marian, “Lady, what else have you in your bag?” she asks. “It may be that there is more than one way to fight, should it come to it.”

Marian raises a hand to take hold of Elyn’s shoulder. “I do not have enough here to make a whole group of bandits ill or fall asleep”, she says regretfully. “Given the number of our own men we have here, even unarmed and sea-tossed, I doubt that they will be turning up as a mere handful.”

“And it’s a poor village, but perhaps there are some extra pairs of pants or such about. Goodness knows we’re all disheveled,” Kellyn says in a very low voice. “There are baths enough to clean up in later if we do manage to find some flea ridden pants and the like to put on to make our way from here. Maybe something to start a fire with. And some weapons are easy. Point the sharp end at the man about to try and tear your clothing off and jab him with it. Take the heavy stick and hit him on the head as hard as you can.” A turn of the head and she nods sharply towards Rosalind. “It can serve as well to seem the docile pets, ai. Depending on what happens, every bit might count. The more resources we have the better.”

“I know how to use a bow,” Liane offers, though she glances to the guardsmen. “Well,” she adds. “And I’m half decent with a crossbow, and understand the basics of using a spear. If we can get a few /staves/ at least, it would be something. And we seem to have enough trees here for it.”

Reyna looks at the salt-rose pendant and seems to come to some decision. “Poison,” she says, the word hoarse. She clears her throat and says it again. “Poison. We use poison.”

Rosalind opens her mouth to say something in response to Marian, perhaps to question her further, then looks over at Reyna.

Reyna’s proposal elicits a surprised blink of Elyn’s eyes. “And where do you propose we get this poison?”

Carmella eventually returns with Ser Giles, apparently the other guards remain at their post, keeping an eye out. The knight’s got an ill look about him, suggesting that Carmella has already explained to him what the old crone has told them. Carmella looks a bit ill herself, but more of the ‘I’m about the throw up’ variety.

Kellyn gets a sort of frozen look for a moment and then mutters, “Oh for grief’s sake ...” And hurries a short distance away as a fit of nausea takes her. She returns and finds one of the remaining pieces of dried fruit that’s managed to stay away from Lann to sweeten her mouth a bit. Some people won’t wait to be ill apparently.

“From the serpent’s tooth,” Reyna says reluctantly, holding up the pendant. “Dagur gave it to me as a wedding gift. There’s a little dart inside that can be ejected into… a person. But the poison on the dart is, he said, exceedingly potent. So if we ejected the dart into a tree, and touched each of our weapons to it…”

Rosalind quirks a brow. “Your husband gave you a poisoned necklace for a wedding present?” She shakes her head, then. “Is there enough for that? Or would it be wiser to save it for something like a common food pot?”

“He gave it to me to protect me,” Reyna says, suddenly defensive in face of Rosalind’s remark. “He had reason at the time to believe that I might be in some danger as his wife. At any rate, he wouldn’t even touch the dart with his bare hands when he showed it to me. And he burned the glove when he was done. He said it was so potent it mustn’t touch the skin. It’s better than nothing, wouldn’t you think?”

Marian blinks a few times. “I think”, she ventures softly, “that chancing our luck in the forest might be less risky than relying upon poisoning a notorious bandit’s entire company, or taking them on in a contest of arms… But yes, it’s certainly a lot better than nothing.”

Shock had registered on Elyn’s face as the Ryswell maid drops winter-pallid eyes to Reyna’s necklace. Her fingers rise to brush the sharp points of her own, weirwood-leaf pendant before dropping again to her side. Swallowing hard, she offers in a voice that bears only a slight quiver, “I would think a food pot might be a little bit more dangerous, in case they insisted we taste it. And it may be selfish, but I would rather by marten not get poisoned.” Because the chances he’ll get into any food are quite high, apparently. “I agree with Marian in this case, but if we split up or not…at least it’s some measure of protection.”

Kellyn looks briefly at Reyna and then holds up her hands. “We are taking stock of our resources. So - we should try and see what they might have here before the men return, especially anything that the Goldcloaks can use as weapons. New clothing to change into. Things we can carry easily.” She turns to look at Giles. “You’ve had people at the outskirts of the area - perhaps you can advise if there is anywhere to scout from for their return, a good place for possible ambush, any information that might be useful?”

Ser Giles talks to a couple of the gold cloaks that have been lingering around Liane and suddenly the man bursts into laughter. Full, belly-hugging, drop to the ground laughter. Wiping an imaginary tear from his eye he turns the women with a cold mirth and shakes his head. “Fools to go into the Kingswood. Don’t know how many the Starveling’s got in there but I’d bet each of you a shiny gold dragon that man’s got more armed men than you’ve got. Woods ain’t the place to be swinging swords either, not enough room in the dense areas. I can promise you that those men know the Kingswood better than anyone one here. Outlaws don’t fight like real men, they’ll hide in the treetops and be on us before we can draw knives. You really want to walk into the lion’s den?”

Kellyn pauses to consider the words spoken, not taking any of it as insult. Her head tilts to the side, though, and she looks towards the men. “Well - have any of you looked to the treetops to see if any of those sorts might be up there right now and watching us as we speak of all this?”

Marian draws herself up to her full height and looks Ser Giles in the face. “So far as we know, they’re not expected back before tomorrow morn. That gives us time to make a good many miles. And if they’re coming here, it’ll be with full knowledge of how many men _are_ here, with the expectation of overpowering you if you fight. Your presence here is doubtless stopping them showing up in threes and fours… but they’re not planning on coming in small numbers. We don’t know _this_ forest, but myself and Elyn have years of experience riding in the Wolfswood. We’re no hunters - or warriors. But I’m still inclined to think we stand more chance if we’re _not_ here when the bandit army turns up.”

The man’s reproval cows Elyn but for a moment, and she most definitely takes it as insult. “Oh, because sitting here and waiting like good morsels is so much a better alternative.” She spits back, hands fisting at her side. “But I suppose it’s what a good lady does, wait to play hostess to the men who are coming to visit, take advantage and sell them off.” There’s more than a little bit of fear quivering in her voice.

Reyna’s mouth is open when Giles laughs and speaks, and she waits him out. “What if…” she hazards. “I don’t think any of us doubt for a moment that our men will be coming for us. If we can wait until we hear they’ve engaged with the Starveling’s men, we can take those who hold us in the village…”

She pauses and stares soundlessly at Kellyn. Then, slowly, her brown eyes rise to the treetops.

Ser Giles nods gruffly at Reyna. “She’s got the right of it. Each one of you left someone who knows exactly when we were supposed to return. You really imagine they’re sitting in some pub thinking that perhaps we’ve made a few days of it instead of the trip that was promised? If that shore had offered more than it did I would have been content to wait there for a ship to come looking for us. Wasn’t possible. But all of you ain’t my concern, save one. You want to go and get yerselves killed, rather than wait in a place that ain’t all that bad, go ahead, be my guest. Maybe we’ll even send someone to find your corpses.”

Liane watches the arguing, then crosses her arms loosely over her chest, arching a brow to the gold cloaks. Whatever she might think she’d prefer to do, she knows too well exactly how much choice she has in the matter.

Marian blinks, then responds to Ser Giles’s scorn with a lip-curling sneer. “I think that you are quite safe, Ser, from some of what concerns us. I doubt that the talk we heard earlier of the Flower’s love of “sharing” with his men and friends will be of over-much direct concern to you…”

Rosalind has listened to everyone speak in turn, intently. She abruptly looks at the Dornishwoman, “Lady, what say you?” she asks.

The Dondarrion guard turns towards Kellyn. “I’m not talking about the edges of the forest, my lady. Ain’t so foolish to hang around where they’d be spotted. I’m talking about deep into the forest. Get in there about eight or nine hours, no place to turn to run? That’s where they’ll get you, on their land.” He shakes his head and looks towards Marian. Her curled lip almost makes him laugh. “I’ll fight in the open where I can swing a sword. Flowers wants you, then make him come to us, where *we’re* ready to defend ourselves. Find whatever you can that’s useful. This village ain’t worth a puddle of piss, they’ll likely run and hide if steel is drawn.”

“Unless the villagers stand with them,” Liane drawls in reply to Ser Giles. “Nasty thing about native populations with a fondness for rebels and outlaws. They tend to offer sanctuary and support. Especially when all there is to fight is one knight, two guardsmen, and a bunch of women.”

Kellyn leans over to speak in a whisper to Marian. “Now now - they do not seem to have much in the way of female company out here. I would not be so sure of our guards’ safety here.” - Definitely - a whisper for that comment. Wouldn’t want the men to hear that part. Her voice rises then after she nods to the Dondarrion guard. “Well - we should take stock of what we can muster here, then. And we should consider what diplomatic offers we can make to try and end this before any trouble can begin.”

About to voice an opinion similar to Kellyn’s, Elyn is however beaten by the Lannister lady, and she merely smirks instead, casting a glance at Marian. Crossing her arms, she regards the rest of them stubbornly. “Still don’t think staying here is any kind of a good idea.” She grumbles loudly.

“That may be true,” Rosalind says, with a nod to Elyn, “I cannot walk so well, let alone run. Should we try to escape, I’d slow you down.” A pause, while she regards Ser Giles, “What do you see here, with regards to defensibility, Ser?”

“If we stay together,” Reyna says, her voice imploring, “there can be no insinuation of rape later when we’re safe. No one could doubt that the ones who ran into the forest might have been… you have no idea what it is to be thought ruined. It would be much worse for a maiden than a widow.” No appeal for sympathy, this, but for the other women to understand.

Marian is startled into a brief snicker, shooting a sidelong glance at Kellyn. “Ser Giles - what makes you so certain that the Starveling will turn up here - when he knows precisely where and how many of us there are - without sufficient numbers to overwhelm the few men we have? If he has sufficient numbers to cover all routes away from here, then he assuredly has enough to swamp us here. And if we were going to be found swiftly, I think that it would have happened by now. That no one found the wreck, spotted the correct beach, and followed our unsubtle trail here suggests to me that they’re having to search - and search a large area.”

Reyna’s words may make sense, but the tension of the entire situation leaves Elyn anything but settled. Instead, the Ryswell maid turns to pacing a tight oval behind Marian, arms curved around her stomach.

Liane sighs, looking toward the sky. “So we should all be certain we were all raped, rather than uncertain that we might or might not be?” she asks of Reyna. “Is there a reason, by the way, that we all expect to be raped?” she asks curiously. “Not that it matters, really, but just…out of curiosity.”

Ser Giles looks at Marian. “You certain about that, are you? You have some raven tucked away that we don’t know about to send messages back and forth to know that no one knows where we are? That shore ain’t a good place to land, but we left enough of a mess for them that might be searching for us and know we were there. Journey up and down the bay takes time, my lady. Like as not they’ve found it and are just returning to King’s Landing to tell the tale. Need another day or so for your men to reach here and like as not they’ll come through the woods. They know about the Starveling and will be prepared. more prepared than any of us.” He frowns and looks in the direction of the woods. “Can’t promise that he won’t swarm us here, but I’m certain he’ll find us if we enter his woods, I can tell you that.”

Reyna clears her throat, then looks up. “Neither Kellyn nor I can afford to risk running about the forest,” she says in clear reluctance, laying a hand pointedly on her belly. “I, at least, am resolved to stay here and take my chances. I don’t know that they will rape us, Liane, but I know they will want to. They’re men.”

“Perhaps we ought to find the best defensible position then,” Elyn says, pausing to glance at Ser Giles and echo an earlier comment. “I know not much of war and defense, but it still seems there must be someone less open than here.”

Elyn adds in a spiteful aside, unable to contain her nervousness, “You forget, Lady Reyna. The men in Dorne prefer livestock. This revelation is probably a new one for the lady.”

“Oh, really now,” Liane says, exasperated. “Just because they’re men, we’re so terribly beautiful that it won’t occur to them to restrain themselves? We’re absolutely certain they’ll need to? The men of /Dorne/,” she adds dryly in response to Elyn, “Are not quite so brainless that they can only use the head between their legs.”

“Ah, but finding that defensible position would mean entering the forest”, points out Marian bitterly to her friend, before shooting a startled look at Elyn in response to her snide comment. “Myself, I still struggle to see why we should guarantee being found by the Starveling precisely where and when he expects to find us, rather than at least make an attempt to win free. Not all of us either want to or are able to attempt to walk to open country. But if someone _can_ run into a search party, or wave a boat in to shore…”

“Oh yes, because the men of Dorne are such great thinkers that they are winning the war and not on the run.” Elyn spits back.

Rosalind clears her throat softly, “Ladies, may I suggest that we leave the war to the men, for the time being? What the men of Dorne do, or do not, in relation to the men of Westeros is neither here nor there.” Rosalind’s tone is mild enough, her expression weary

Reyna stares at the ladies as they must have earlier stared at her. “It doesn’t matter if they rape you or not. If you spend any time alone with them, it will be assumed by all and sundry. Use your heads.”

So far Carmella hasn’t said much. She has no say in this matter, it seems, given that Ser Giles has taken command of where she may or may not go. But she does keep an eye and ear to the conversation. Elyn’s comments draw a glare from the Dondarrion girl, but she bites back any comments.

Ser Giles looks towards Rosalind and there’s something akin to gratitude in his cold eyes. It’s a brief expression, easy to miss. “You ladies argue all you want and if some of you want to do running into the woods we ain’t gonna stop you.” He gives Carmella and then Liane pointed looks, as they are the exception to that. “We’ve got work to do and standing around trying to explain this ain’t getting things done faster.” He’s said all he means to say and turns to head back towards the other men with them to plot a strategy.

“So if they’re going to assume you were raped, you might as well not fight it when it happens?” Liane eyes Reyna more suspiciously than she did when the other woman was screaming. “Well, I suppose that’s one way of doing it. And /my/ only option, at least,” she concludes dryly as she looks to the men.

Marian blinks at Reyna. “We are _about_ to spend time alone with them, by the current plan. Lots of them. In a place with friendly villagers glad to see them happy and already enthusing about “sharing”. That’s unless one knight and some ship-wrecked, disarmed sailors and guardsmen really can hold off bandits fighting on their home ground with full knowledge of how many they will be facing. I don’t see how us getting to watch each others’ fates will make it that much easier to pretend at court that it never happened. Not unless the bandits murder every other survivor to ensure they don’t talk about what took place.”

“I will kill the man who tries to rape me. The first one anyway.” Reyna closes her fingers around the salt-rose pendant again, and blinks back tears that seem to have nothing to do with the matter at hand. “Do as you all will. I will stay here.”

Carmella watches Ser Giles leave and she lets out a heavy sigh. “Me too,” she says, speaking up after Reyna. “I’ll dig my fingers into a man’s eyes if he tries to take what isn’t his.” Bold words now, but who knows what would happen should the worst come. “And I’m staying as well,” she adds, like she has any choice.

“I may have little in the way of weapons or skills, but I damned well intend to fight, if we aren’t going for help.” Elyn pronounces, and reaches into her bag to pull out the small knife she keeps for healing purposes. Moving forward, she places it on the stump near Reyna and gestures. “I’d like to have some poison on that, if I could. In the meantime, I guess I’ll see if I can’t find something else to serve as a weapon.” With that, the Ryswell maid stalks off behind the nearest hovel.

Reyna looks down at the little blade, then shakes her head. “How do I know it will remain effective that long?” she asks. “I can only give you all poison after the dart has been thrown, and we can’t afford to waste it on a tree. When it is needful.”

Marian dithers, expression mixing exasperation with panic, then hurries off after Elyn.

Liane reclaims her seat on the ground, sitting cross-legged and idly trying to line up the tears in the layers of silk that swath her form.

Elyn tosses back over her shoulder to Reyna, “Then hold onto it for now, and return it to me when you’re ready.”

The bastard girl falls silent again, listening. She does this fairly often, it would seem. At length, she speaks, “I cannot run. Though I do see the wisdom in going for help,” a nod to the Stark lady. “I do not know these woods and there is also wisdom in what Ser Giles says, if we do not know these woods we would be as like to fall victim there.” She rakes her fingers through her hair. “I do not know what to do. There is no clear and logical answer… too many unknowns. Is there any possibility that us taking hostages here would hold off the bandits?”

Oblivious to the furor around him, a sated Lann slumbers on in the shade.

“You can be sure there will be far more of them than of us, Rosalind,” Reyna says, rubbing her head as if it aches, then sneezing violently. “Taking hostages would be suicidal.”

Rosalind clarifies, “I mean among the villagers here, before the bandits arrive. If they have kin here. Ser Giles said they should flee at the drawing of steel.” The girl shrugs. “Tis an idea. If we hold their kin, mayhap they will not attack.”

Carmella sinks slowly to the ground, uncertain how much longer her legs could hold her. She looks exhausted and a little pale, though considering their situation, that’s not all that surprising. “We don’t know for certain if these people are their kin. It could be that they’re just hoping to keep the Starveling away from them if they offer up some pretty girls.” She gives a helpless shrug. “It is just as likely that taking hostages will do no good at all and leave us burdened with extra people to look after.”

Marian tracks down Elyn behind her chosen hut, grabs her friend, and proceeds to cry with quiet urgency into her already-messy hair.

Rosalind nods to what Carmella says, closing her eyes for a moment. She also looks exhausted, fear gnawing at the edges of her logic, and slightly feverish from her injury.

Tentatively, Reyna creeps from her stump to Carmella’s side on the ground. She coughs once, twice, a third time as she holds her hand out to the younger woman. “Somehow, it will work out,” she says uncertainly. “Dagur will come. I know he will come.”

Carmella doesn’t look at Reyna as the woman comes to sit beside her. “At least there’s someone coming for you,” she says dully as she drags her fingers through the dirt.

“He would if he could,” Reyna says, slipping her arm around Carmella’s shoulders. And she looks fairly sure that no one would mistake her for speaking of the Blackbolt.

Rosalind keeps quiet for now, thoughtful.

Carmella turns her head and looks at Reyna for a moment, but her eyes betray nothing. “I think I need to go lie down for a while,” she says, getting back to her feet with every intention of heading back towards their little shack.

Reyna nods glumly, watching Carmella rise. “Sleep well, dearest,” she murmurs. “The blankets are there. Inside.” She looks round then at the ruins of their little company and sighs before rising and following the Dondarrion inside.