03.14.3014: Declan Returns
Summary: Declan returns via the Arborenin Woods, meeting Firia first, then his angry sister.
Date: 07 December 2013
Related: None
Firia Declan Brienne 

Arborenin Woods
Tall, monstrous trees dominant the forests that take up most of the southern half of the Spine. Their trunks are like the legs of giants, and their dark bark is home to brightly colored moss and the broad steps of mushrooms. Natural light must filter down through broad leaves, casting much of the forest in a cool green glow. The forest floor is covered mostly in soft peat and rotting debris, creating a fertile bed for lush flora, which in turn become the habitats of diverse fauna. Nurse logs, hollowed snags, sink holes, and small forest caves adds layers of detail to the broad stretch of Arborenin Woods. Toward the outer edges of the forest, the giant trees transition to smaller evergreens and firs, transitioning into mountain forests to the west and rocky beaches to the east.

At the base of a three meter cliff side is a small pond surrounded by the high trees so often found in the Arborenin Wood.

March 14, 3014

It is late winter and the forest is budding with new life, even the Hermetic powers that enhanced the senses of Lady Firia Sauveur could feel a tinge of the ancient energy made anew in the air. The smell of damp soil was abundant as the Lady came to stand at the shores of the pond. She gingerly undressed herself, greatly desiring the Wood’s resource of clean water. The synthesized and processed water of the cities lacked the power and life of what she found here.

Firia placed one foot gingerly in, then up to the knee before she is waist deep, hair unbound and trailing like dark fingers across the clear surface. Raking her fingers into the liquid depths, eyes glow a soft white in the dark as she conjures up the bluish, flowing aura that melds in with the stirred waters. Passing an arc, shaping the lit substance between crooked fingers.

Unknown to Firia and only a short distance away, Declan, the Young Lord to the great House of Arboren, came dashing through the forest at a mild jog. He is garbed in his traditional synthe-leather weave armor jerkin and underlying kelvar layers that appear to be nothing more than layered green fabrics. There was a worn bow across his back and sword at his side. He breathes a bit hoarsely as he jogs—-indication that he had been at this pace from quite some time.

As an experienced hunter, he is adept at remaining unseen and unheard, even while traveling as far as he has. His knee-high military boots make contact with the earth, but it is as though they make little to no noise. Despite his apparent agility, Declan is not in peak condition. He has a wide bruise on his forehead and numerous fresh scraps and cuts on his face—-it looks like a medic had little time to run a dermal refuser device over his injuries.

Further behind the Young Lord, a little over half a dozen Arboren rangers, garbed like Declan, march in a lazy and scattered formation. Some have arms in stasis retainer-slings and others have dermal regeneration pads pressed to wounds. They do not move with the same speed of their Young Lord and as they come closer and closer to the City of Arborenin, they grow a bit more lax.

As he nears Firia's location, he slows to a stop then kneels. He takes a breath through his nose and catching an intrusive scent he follows it cautiously and quietly. The scent is pleasing, alluring, and somehow it befuddles his mind that he does not even notice a root that juts from the woodland floor. He trips and suddenly finds himself sliding uncontrollably down a steep slope of earth and stone. It is at the base of this cliff rests the small pond in which Firia is performing some sort of hermetic water dance. Her light and naked skin made her stand out from the browns and greens of their surroundings…and even as Declan was falling, he could not avert his eyes.

With a sharp swear, he splashes into the pond…unable to stop himself from sinking under the weight of his weapons and armor. at the very feet of the naked woman.

It speaks testament to Firia’s self-control that the shock of Declan’s appearance did not spark some sort of backlash. A backlash in which her Awakened powers would incite lakes to rise or waves to crash. Those that know her well understand why it is not in their interest to surprise her.

The water mystically suspended between the lady’s hands rejoins the pond and her aura spikes to a furious clashing of interconnecting streams. Inhaling deeply through her nose, she commands with a flick of the wrist for the pond’s water to carry up the sinking man whose head barely remains above the surface as she clambers out, water running in rivulets down her bare shoulders.

Declan feels the weight of his armor no longer forcing him under…instead he is raising…feeling like this is nothing short of a miracle. The force of the water thrusts him up from its deep and tumbling through the air for half a second—-casting him far enough to smack face-first against the nearby muddy bank only a shortways from Firia.

He lifts his face from the earth and rolls over to behold Firia. At that exact moment, the sunlight streamed through the trees, illuminating the region around the naked woman. The golden brilliance washing out the details of her features as though it were a divine taboo to look at her. Declan gulped audibly at the female while his head spun, trying to make sense of things. He presumed her to be the source of his salvation and something inside him made him speak before thinking, "Y-y-you are the Maiden…"

His eyes go wide with a mix of reverence and fear.

Frozen mid-stride for the bank, her knees bent and shoulders hunched over, Firia transmits without even considering the consequences a message directly into his brain. “Relax.” Then upward, still dripping and bare, she continues towards where her clothes lie. When her clothes are discovered she would stagger upright to dress, trembling from the cold wind on her exposed flesh.

Declan blinks a few times as he regains himself. A tree nearby sways in the wind and blots out the sun briefly, enough time that Declan can clearly see he is not talking to a god but a beautiful woman—-who has no clothes on. He looks over to the cliff from which he had fallen as though expecting his rangers to be looking down…but then he remembered he had been running half a click ahead of them.

Hoping to spare this woman, his rescuer, from any embarrassment, he pushes himself to his feet and hurries over to her, positioning himself between him and the direction his rangers would be coming from. Declan did his best to fix his eyes on her own—-that way she would know that he was not gape at her. He reached out to help her with her clothing, also trying to shield her from the chilly wind. Speaking quickly he says, "I’ve about a dozen men a little ways away…you don't want anyone else to behold you like this I'd assume."

At the base of a three meter cliff side (along which is appears that a boulder….or maybe a person had slipped down), is a small pond surrounded by the high tree of the Arborenin Wood. Declan (who has been gone for three months on an undisclosed assignment with his rangers), garbed in his damaged and dirtied synthe-leather weave armor jerkin and underlying kevlar layers that appear to be nothing more than layered green fabrics. He appears to have a large bruise upon one side of his forehead and somewhat fresh cuts and scraps over his face. He stands upon the shore of this pond next to Firia Sauveur and appears to be helping her slip clothes on over her naked wet frame.

It is at this moment that Lady Sir Brienne Arboren appears along the trail that passes this pond. She beholds Declan (who has been gone for three months on an undisclosed assignment with his rangers), garbed in his damaged and dirtied synthe-leather weave armor jerkin with a large bruise upon one side of his forehead, standing upon the shore of this pond next to Firia Sauveur and appears to be helping her slip clothes on over her naked wet frame.

Uncertain what she is walking into, Brienne was out walking in the forest, spending a little time thinking, when she sees… "Declan? Lady Firia?" Eyes wide, she takes a few steps back. What has been seen cannot be unseen. "You get your hands off her, Declan! Unless you want another brother hating you too!"

At hearing a voice, Firia regains her awareness of what exactly is going on. A man and her, his touch on her bare arm. Her arm. This does not bode for her state of mind and she tears the rest from him to dress herself, swiping at him. "No, I…I…can dress myself!"

Declan jerks suddenly in shock at the first syllable from Brienne's mouth. His body becomes almost paralyzed…his hand flew to the hilt of his sword…his eyes go wild and a for moment he simply shakes where he stands…almost as though he had a seizure of some sort. Slowly, he seems to return to normal and turns to look at his sister, he blinks at her as though not truly registering her face. Then all of a sudden upon the other edge of the pond comes the sound of feet upon leaves and about eight or nine Arboren rangers come trudging through the brush…they all appear to be wounded with bloodied dermal restoration patches pressed to foreheads and rent holes in their leather armor. Some have arms held in stasis slings. Each man bears the same defeated expression.

Brienne watches as Lady Firia comes to her senses, unable to believe she had caught her with her brother's hands on her. Disappointment flashes over her grim features, before she composes them to a stiff neutrality. "So, you were out here trying to hurt another brother? Keanen wasn't enough?" She's cut short by the arrival of the Rangers in varying states of being disassembled. Muttering an epithet, she pulls out a datapad and sends a message, calling for medical assistance. "I don't know what you're up to, either one of you, but help is on the way for the rangers."

"He…I…" Firia composes herself, anger at herself sopping wet, having permitted this at all. Reciting events in her minds eye. Gaze averted during this, unable to look at anyone despite her guilt being mostly self inflicted, by the narrations weight. "I was indulging in the waters when this…your Lord brother fell in and I ran for shore. It was a little…I didn't have my senses about me, my lady." Dressed if soaking wet, she can stand up from her self imposed crouch. "What is going on?"

Declan looks at his sister apparently seems to recognize her. He hurries to her and wraps his arms around her, "Brie!" He exclaims. His hug is not quite right, it is he seems to be favoring a different arm as the other appears more strained. He also seems to avoid pressing the right side of his ribcage to her. When he releases her, he looks at his men and beckons for them to continue on the trail to the city. "I have been away from months, Brie…and as you can see…it was no vacation…" His voice, like his hug, is also a bit off…it seems more hesitant…with a slight quiver to the tone as though the words did not come easy to him. Brie may notice that his right hand is shaking and his squeezes it with his left to stop, "I left the city with fourty good men and women. This is all that remains, it's a long story…and I must speak to mother—-I doubt the Citadel has bothered to inform her."

When Firia speaks, Declan turns his head to her sharply then looks back at Brie, "This lady has not been dishonored by me, Brienne. She saved me from sinking in the waters from the weight of my gear. When I realized she was unclothed, I hurried to assist her. I knew my men would appear soon, so I sought to prevent any embarrassment."

"And it was convenient he would help you dress instead of averting his gaze to allow a Lady her privacy in putting her own clothes on." Looking from Firia to Declan now. "Something I am sure she has been doing for several years now." Brienne is different than usual. The usual warmth in her green eyes is gone and there's an iciness in her tone that was never there before. When Declan hugs her, she briefly and gently hugs him back. He is her brother after all. Any variances in his hugs or favoritisms is unnoticed as they have not been close since she left for the Vale to be a squire. As children, they had been inseparable and now she hardly knows him, though she does love him and is as fiercely protective of him as she is over the other brothers. Her lips compress and her jaw tightens, green eyes flash as she meets his gaze. "You know of appearances. Now if the Rangers, any one of them breathes a word of this, it will destroy Tristan. Or perhaps you didn't know that after all." He was never around. The unspoken accusation is in her eyes. "Fall in!" She tells the soldiers able to walk, and she offers her arm to her brother. "You need medical attention."

"Tristan…" Firia trails off, the atmosphere palpable without her ability to sense the vibrations and remorse in plentiful demand, though hers was more through the inability to react decently to a situation she never wants to be put in. Guardedly, her arms clutched close as if to ward off the momentary contact. "Medical attention….that." Collecting her scattered senses with a sharp jolt and creased frown, the hair is braided again, with it more of her usual self is apparent. "Was it a Hostile ambush?"

Declan looks back at Firia then at Brienne, "Sometimes, sister, the true act of chivalry is one in which we must risk a bit of hardship on our part in order to spare the innocent of harm—-or in this case embarrassment." He looks at the rangers as Brienne shouts a command to them. They briefly look at Declan before shuffling into a single file line and trudging away from the pond.
At the sudden movement from Brie in which she offers him her arm, he utters a small gasp and seizes up again, "N-n-no, Brienne…we were at Encampment Five-Five-A-U two days ago. It was the closest to the battle. They were overworked…but, we did receive some basic treatment." He looked at Firia and pursed his lips, "Actually, Lady…Firia did I hear you called? Actually, we laid the ambush for them…it went without a hitch. But the point we were hitting…we only thought there were scouts, so we hit them…if-if-if.." he shutters as he tries to push the words out, "If…we had gone to one of the encampments, we could have taken reinforcements back…but we didn't. And there was much more than scouts…we lost a lot of good guys out there: Callan, Lefris…Marcion…all dead..and twenty some others…"

"What were you doing in the Arboren woods alone, Lady Firia?" The question just now seems to come to Brienne as she continues to watch her brother who seems in no way able to lead the Rangers yet, as he stammers out the explanation. "Either way, you're going to the infirmary, Declan. You're the heir and you need to be checked out thoroughly." Taking whatever one seems to be his good arm, Brie begins leading him along behind the soldiers.

"It's a…long story, concerning the Sauveur part of my family, Lady Brienne." Firia is distracted by the story Declan has related, more pronounced tremour passing through her body at the unspoken violence behind the deaths, enough to delay her full explanation until they have trooped, knight heir and dripping wet awakened for several minutes. "Mother…used to steal into the woods to rejuvenate herself, she claimed it was cleansing. I follow in her wake." A tinge of reminiscence, lined by pain recent if not raw underlines her voice.

Declan winds his good arm around Brie's and walks along beside her. He looks at her and from behind his disorderly, shoulder-length copper hair, he gives her a sibling's expression, one that tells her thanks without words. Declan glances back to make sure Firia is following then asks her, "Lady Firia? Are you my brother's wife? Or betrothed? I clearly missed something important for Tristan it seems."

"I… understand." Though Brienne doesn't. Not really.. but she tries to. Assisting her brother now, she falls in line behind the troops, hoping the Sauveur was coming along with them. Her expression remains as unreadable as she can possibly make it, and at the question asked of the Lady, Brie says nothing, allowing the Lady herself to respond to it, curious as to the answer herself.

For her part, the Sauveur appears to consider this long and hard, furrowing her brow. "No. I am not his wife." The wife emphasized with colour staining the cheeks stuck with the dampened curls that have not been collected into the hastily made braid. "There is no betrothal." Her tone is heavy as she follows after them at a distance close enough to speak without intrusion.

Declan glances at Firia and seems to understand. He knew the protocols on the behavior expected of the nobility, but he was not going to say anything, after months in the field it felt like deals with the affairs of court and politics were all a part of a another world and another life. &r&t They began to ascend one of the high paths that rose upwards into the tree tops, the wearied rangers and their leader looked on the city and thought the same thing. Declan vocalized it by saying, "Why do I get to be home…the others deserved to come home too…"

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