04.07.3014: After the Rain
Summary: Orren watches Ines with her family, and has a conversation that leads to more questions.
Related: None
Ines Orren 

House of the Albatross
The Lagoon in front of the main building and later in the building itself
7 April, 3014

The hour after the daily rain and before dinner being served is a 'free' hour. Time for the visitors and students and alike to indulge in whatever suits their fancy. The beach surf is always high after the rain, and some of the younger daredevils are plying the waves, while some of the older, more quiet types sit at tables under the trees playing chess or cards.

In the courtyard space in front if the dining hall two boys and a girl are sparring off with wooden swords against a tall, slender woman who spends most of her time almost at a squat to parry and strike at the smaller 'foes'. Bearing a practice sword in each hand she seems to dance, rather than fight with the children, until one abandons sword and slips under her guard to wrap his arms around her.
Then the clacks of wood turn to laughter and giggles, and Ines is born to the ground in a tangle of childish glee.

Having changed into fresh linens from a day of training, sweating, and working his body into better shape, Orren passes by in time to see the children playing with Ines and smiles quietly. Turning, he slips his hands into his pockets and walks across the plankworks that cover the sand until he comes to a stop beside a wide, tall palm tree. Quieting, he settles in comfortably, watching the family spend time together.

Ines sits up, and one of the two boys stands behind her, his hands resting on her shoulders as they talk. The other boy sprawls out more informally, leaning back on his hands, his head tilted to the side as he looks over In rest, it is more apparent that boys are almost exactly similar. The girl, who seems to be the youngest, climbs into her mother’s lap, still clutching the wooden sword which she taps on the ground. As they talk, they are joined by an older girl who walks over carrying a toddler. As soon as they see the family, she sets him down so he can ‘run’ over to the sprawling son. The lounging brother sits up cross legged so he can catch the littlest and stand him up in his lap. While the toddler is playing with his brother’s cheeks, pushing and pulling at them, the eldest sits down next to her mother, engaging in the conversation. From the smiles on their faces, and the occasional laughter, the discussion is of a humorous nature. Somewhere during the time they sit, the two girls play a clapping game, doubling over when one of them makes a mistake.

Thus the hour passes in what appears to be ritual family time until the bell rings for dinner, and the children jump up with glee. The four older ones run inside after a shooing motion from Ines. The toddler is left with her, and she pulls the child into her lap with a smile, kissing the top of his head. As he plays with the button on her blouse, she rests her chin on his head, watching where the four others just ran off, wistful longing entering her gaze during the unguarded moment.

“You have a beautiful family.” Orren announces himself as he ends his lean against the palm tree. Having long since crossed his arms, they unfurl from in front of his chest as his shoes step out onto the sand, forming a trail of cratered footsteps as he strolls towards her. He looks away from Ines, eyes flitting out to the to the sea and the swaying palm trees as he walks, taking in the sights and sounds of her homeland once more. When he looks back, there’s a remained strength, but no overabundance of self-worth. He’s not granting her and audience. He is a guest, still. “Is that the all of them, My Lady? The four?”

Realizing that she has an audience, Ines stands, shifting the toddler against her shoulder. Her expression settles once more, the smooth, unreadable countenance slipping into place before she turns to speak. “The four and this one. They are all I have of Nigel, now. This is little Nigel,” she states, her words brusque as she curls the toes of her bare feet in the sand, then unflexes them and stands firmly. One of her floating corkscrew curls attracts the little guy’s attention, and his pudgy hands reach out, trying to trap it. She turns her head slightly, letting him get his hands into the cloud that floats at the nape of her neck, having so much hair that he can play without tugging hard enough to hurt. “And you, Sir Orren? Do you have family, children?”

The question brings a strange, hesitant look to the corners of Orren’s eyes, which is masked partially by the way he shakes his head. “No, no family of my own and I was orphaned when I was young, so no family to spend time with.” He replies, not frowning, not scowling, just letting the truth lie as it may. His eyes shift from hers to the child’s fingers getting tangled in her hair, which brings a quiet laugh from the man. “No, it’s just me and my work, really, has been for quite some time, to be fair.”

The dark eyes watch his reactions. The same, deep gaze that studied him across the training room floor assesses him once more. She is silent for some time, one hand reaching up to untangle one of Nigel’s hands, though she does not completely cease his playing. “That would explain much, then, Sir Orren,” Ines finally says, her inflection giving little away. “Have you ever given any thought to anything other than being a wall?” The black pools are relentless in their steady calm and unreadable depths, reflecting only himself back to him.

Orren's eyes watch hers, the smile fading from his face as Nigel continues to paw at her long, curled hair. He reaches to the white linen over his chest and scratches softly, nodding slowly in answer to her question. "Aye, My Lady," He replies, letting some of the wall-like facade soften, letting some personality through. "My father had a big family, his father before him had one too. It was always expected that at this point my brothers and I would have big families of our own, but fate didn't want that." His hands come to clasp behind his back, quietly resting there. "I never did marry. It seemed a noble sacrifice back then."

The breeze pulls at her curls, her eyes steady on the man as she listens. Nigel's left hand goes from her curls to her cheek, patting and then tryin to take hold, so she turns and slides a finger under the hand for him to grasp. The tiny dark eyes, so similar to her own in shape and seriousness look at the finger which he draws towards his face. Letting go of her hair, he now occupies himself pulling apart her fingers and studying her hand. Ines's attention is now free to return to Orren. "You honor your family's memory and tradition of having large families by having none of your own?" She inquires, her tone holding no sarcasm. Instead, it probes for an answer, and perhaps not just one for herself, but also for the person she asks.

“That tradition died in one afternoon when I was a child.” Orren replies, a lowering of his head to watch her through the black frame of his brow-line. “One poorly placed brace in a shaft, hours of smoke and dust inhalation, that left me off to an orphanage to fend for myself and others, which I did. There was a family tradition that didn’t die that day, which was that my father took family and our friends important. He was a strong man, served and cared for others. I took that going forward, but the rest never fell into place.”

“Never fell into place?” Ines questions, raising an eyebrow. She nods once, looking to Nigel again. “I have heard of the mine collapse of 2093. Usually, when there is such a loss of life, people seem to be in a fever to replace that life.” Something flickers deep underneath the calm of her eyes. “It is interesting that you have chosen to do the opposite. Especially interesting as you come from a large family.”

“I suppose it is. It’s not a place I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself about.” Orren replies as he steps closer. Crouching down, he reaches for some of the sand and pools it into his hand. He pries his dark, brown eyes away from hers to watch as the sand sifts down between his fingertips, a makeshift hourglass. “I’m not a thoughtless person, nor am I a single minded man, My Lady, I haven’t placed blinders over myself, but there was an intense focus to pay mind to what I was doing, why I was rewarded as a citizen with knighthood. My family would have been proud.” He looks up to her. “My father would have told me I just did what all men should.”

“And /why/ were you rewarded with knighthood, Sir Orren?” Leola asks, her gaze sharpening as she levels the gaze downwards to where he tries to escape her eyes. “People often put themselves in prisons of their own making, without realizing it. Perhaps your knighthood itself is your set of blinders.” Black eyebrows raise raise into defined peaks as she muses the idea, looking out over the lagoon once more. “We will miss dinner if we continue to stand here talking.” There is a whisper under her feet of tiny grains that were worn down from the peak that anchors the island a millennia ago, to be deposited here to support her weight as she turns. Lowering her head, she kisses the top of Nigel’s head as she goes, her face hovering near the black fuzz the covers his scalp as she just breathes the essence of her son.

Taking it as the invitation that it seems to be, Orren rises as well, dusting the fine grains of white sand off of his palms and taking the first dig of a step away from the ocean. On a beach, everything is a series of stairs, the miniscule difference in having to ply the sand under foot rather than the planked walkways that line the area.

"I was a man at arms," Orren begins, slowing so that she and Nigel can match his pace. "I'd helped keep safe the orphan lads before I was offered the opportunity to take up spear, and that eventually led to caravan guarding. By a Waygate, near Khar-Mordune, we were ambushed and a girl was taken from a merchant; his daughter." His dark eyes turn to watch the mother and her child as he walks, his face forming a shadow of the memory as it replays in his mind. "I took to chase alone, found them at a hideout. I kicked the door in and fought them to a man and brought her and the man responsible for life's justice before they could be foul with her."

His eyes shift back forward to the road ahead. "When I was asked why I did it, I told them I just did what any good man should. As a knight now, I haven't changed that ethic. Good men should wear the armor and be a beacon of trust, the place people run to when they are in danger."

The tiring Nigel, who has now let go of Ines’s hand to snuggle, is cuddled against her shoulder, one little arm flopping down her side as they walk. The sand soon gives way to the planks that will soon lead up the stairs and into the shade of the dining area. “A beacon is a light, allowed to shine for all to see, Sir Orren.” The toddler turns his head so his cheek rests on his mother’s shoulder and he looks at the man that walks next to them. After a moment, his little hand reaches out to try and catch on the linen of the knight’s sleeve. “Your light seems to be hidden under the mantle of what a good man is and does.”

Orren looks down to the child, and as Nigel reaches for his arm, he moves his arm closer so that the child can grab. He gives the little boy a friendly smile as he walks carefully so that his sleeve won't be torn from his grip. "I think the day that I earned my knighthood that light shone, and it comes out from time to time, but in truth people truly only know the armor, the banner, I've made very little attempt to make sure that people know my name, M'Lady, but the light shines still. It's just been hooded behind a lantern, I suppose. I'm not much on flash. You'd not see me at tourney. I don't do this for glory."

“A tourney is not belittling of a Knight’s purpose, Sir Orren,” Ines says lightly. Noting the toddler’s preoccupation, and indecipherable spark ignites in her eyes for a moment, and her face becomes even more devoid of expression as she reaches up to nudge her finger into his grasp again, letting go of Orren’s sleeve. “It can also give knights a chance to learn something new by watching how others fight, encourage them to improve their own skills by wishing to learn to do something they saw happen on the field. It can also inspire their citizens, for the citizens to see how skilled are the people that stand between them and the Hostiles, and thus rest easier at night having seen how capable their protectors are.”

She swallows, and her complexion seems to turn slightly gray, so she walks in silence until they reach the doorway of the dining room. Her visage softens slightly when she sees her children sitting at the benches with some of the other children, reaching across to each other’s plates and laughing with each other. Her color returns to normal with a deep, settling breath.

“You seem to be working very hard to convince someone that you are a good and honorable man, above the petty things that others strive for, such as glory. Perhaps you seek to raise my estimation of you to equal the seemingly high estimation you have of yourself. In doing so, you cast aspersions on your fellow knights, passing judgement on them as people more involved in themselves than the people they serve.” She pauses, freezing as a thought occurs to her, swinging dark eyes in his direction. “Or is it just noble knights that you see in this light?”

"You, My Lady, are free to think of me whatever you would like, I just present myself and speak my mind. Not all knights are misguided, in fact the most of them are good, hard working men and women, but some of them have lost sight of their original purpose." Orren replies as he moves to lean against the doorframe, his arms crossed as he lets her pass and lead him to wherever she intends for them to sit. "Which, in my estimation is just to be there, to do the work, and the less we are needed the more time we have to train until we are. The less we interfere the more time these children and their families have together. If someone truly wants to train and take up the sword, better a place like this than at a tourney, and best when one of us falls it isn't the loss of a hero. I wouldn't want my death to strike fear into anyone."

Pressing off of the door, he turns behind her shoulder to follow her along the tables, his hands slipping into his pockets once more. He smiles quietly at the children as they pass. "At the end of the day I just work. My work is being a guard to whatever my lords wish of me." His chin tilts up, his words taking a soft, questioning tone. "At the end of the day, the glory of the house pales in comparison to the fact that people feel safe within, right?"

“At the end of the day, does it matter where and how a knight finds their courage to face the horrors that now threaten? Whether it be for glory or for the people at home, or both, as long as they take the field against the Hostiles, does it matter?” Her tone mirrors his as she speaks, her eyes on her children. A grim smile lends the faintest curve to the corners of her mouth. “After all, part of fighting is knowing that we can get up from a fall and carry on.” Her eyes narrow slightly, giving him her full attention once more, a touch of ire at his classifications once more. “What is a place like this? What are you thinking to learn here? When will you step down from your judgment seat and permit yourself to be taught?”

The dark pools deepen and glimmer at him. “Think long on your answers, and give them to me in the morning. Right now, I had best rescue Medor before he goads Marie into challenging him again.” Turning, with Nigel’s sleepy arm flopping over her shoulder once more, she pads quietly to the table, where it can be seen that one of the twins has succeeded in irritating the almost teen girl into standing. The appearance of their mother causes them to settle somewhat, the other children at the table also subsiding to mind their Ps and Qs as Marie sits back down.

Orren slows to a stop, his muscular arms folding over his chest as she continues to question him, forcing him to fight against the need to be reactionary and actually consider his place in the world. His features are plain, far from offended, as the thousand-yard stare of introspection settles in. His gaze sweeps the children before falling to her in the form of a slow nod of his head.

"It seems you've given me much to think about, My Lady. Things I don't always have the mind to consider, and for that, I thank you." He smiles quietly and rises from his lowered brow of respect. The first steps are taken backwards toward the door. "Please, enjoy your meal with your family and I hope to see you again tomorrow for more lessons."

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