03.29.3014: Picking Up The Pieces
Summary: Brienne and Declan have a… talk, it was a talk! (with minimal yelling) beneath the kissing tree until a man and his wolf show up.
Date: 29 March 2013
Related: Sibling Letter Exchange
Declan Brienne Dominic 


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.
Saturday March 29, 3014

Out on patrol, Brienne had just been camping out with the rest. She'd received the message from her brother on her datapad she'd finally learned to use and so she'd sent a brief word back to meet her beneath the kissing tree in the woods outside their home, because she wouldn't be staying long. He'd said they needed to talk and for their House, she would do anything. So it is, she waits, alone, dressed in her tunic, pants and boots, leather armor for ease of travel and she has her sword sheathed at her side. She's leaning up against the famed tree and looking up at it with a half smile.

Declan dashes through the forest, no longer in his casual faux-ranger armor. This time he is in the real thing, a padded synth-leather jerkin with dark green kelvar meshed layers from a thick surcoat beneath the jerkin…the same material is used on his protected trousers—at least above his synthe-leather boots. His cloak is no longer ceremonial but is the worn polyfibral green cloak that defends the rangers from multispectral scanning technology. Its hood is up and covering his face as he leaps over a wide fallen tree, his head swiveling around…seeking a threat…in his hands is a bow with an duranium arrow already notched.
Behind him, a dozen or so rangers of his personal retinue leap over the same tree to fall in behind their Young Lord. They donned the same armor, hoods up, and bows also drawn. Declan slacked his grip on his arrow and returned it to the quiver at his belt. He then pressed a finger to his temple and a light green eyepiece slid out from beneath his hood and snaked its way over his right eye. The Young Lord tapped his temple again and the display blossomed into life offering him short tactical readouts along the peripheral edges; however, it was the magnetic resonance scanner that appeared most prominently in the eyepiece's center. Its displayed various degrees of green highlights when ever he looked at something when possessed a strong magnetic field….typically something man-made.
Declan turned his head to the right and the scanner immediately registered two large magnetic disruptions close to the ground about 12 meters ahead. The Young Lord made a series of hand gestures indicating that there were two unknown readings to his right. Then he indicated one of his lieutenants swing around to outflank whatever it was. The ranger nodded and four of the others went with him. Declan renotched an arrow and led the remaining number of his escort closer and closer….until there was only a few scrubs blocked the target from view.
He looked at his men and they nodded, their own weapon's ready.
He then tugged the clump of green aside and his ranger immediate raised their bows, fully drawn, aiming into the open space. But nothing was there. Suddenly the bushes to the side rustled and his lieutenant appeared with his own weapons ready. Finally someone said, "Where are-oh"
Looking down there were two dead Hostile scouts. One of them seemed to have taken a brutal bludgeoning, while the other had been turned into a pin cushion for Arborenin arrows. Declan tapped his temple twice and the eyepiece slide away, "Alright stand down. Mark this location in your logs. Let the Knight Captain know we have two Hosties for pick up." Several of his retinue nodded and followed him as he walked back into the grove they came out of. "Looks like Brie's patrol passed by here a little while ago." There is suddenly a light prick on the back of his neck and he reaches into his satchel for one of his datapads and reads the note from his sister. "Oh, you gotta be joking…" he says.
"What's wrong, sir?"
"So much for me being proactive…she just sent me a message saying to meet her at the kissing tree."
The rangers all groaned, knowing that they would be running back to the city now. Declan grimaced and gestured to them, "Alright, let's go." There was let complaint after that and the retinue spread out through the forest in a standard traveling formation, darting between the trees here and there for a good hour or so until they passed the Arborenin city's defensive grid. Slowing down, they made their way over to the legendary tree where Declan had his men rest at a nearby stream while he trudged up the rise to the nearby tree, using his bow like a walking stick, copper hair matted to his forehead with sweat as he approached his sister, "I…we…we.." he slowed to catch his breath, "I went looking for you on my own…got close to River Ashinion when I got your message…found two dead scouts out there."

Brienne had been waiting for awhile, apparently, since the group had traveled back from where her patrol had been. When he arrives, out of breath, she looks between him and at the nearby stream, his Rangers. Concern flickers in her eyes, unbidden, but there all the same. "Yeah.." she tells him hesitantly. "You didn't come across any live ones, did you?" Protective instinct kicking in, her eyes roam over him, assuring herself he has no wounds. "I got your letter." The words are spoken only after she has assured herself that he was indeed fine, if tired looking. "What's happened?"

Declan waves a hand dismissively and shakes his head. "Nope, I think your patrol swept that subsector clean." He walks right up to the kissing tree and peer upwards at its many boughs…walking around it so that his distant escort would not even be able to see any of gestures he might make. Finally he spoke up saying, "I love you, sissy. And I'm sorry I hurt you. But there is something…something deep in my gut that is telling me our family is being targetted for something. This fear I had did not trying manifest itself until I spoke to Lyrienne last night. You remember how she broke her vow to me…by sleeping with Cedric and effectively betraying our family by giving birth to a child they conceived from that….coupling." He briefly winces his eyes, the pain of that was in the past yet it till hurt like yesterday's wound…though he continues, "She had told us at the time that it had a been a friend of hers to tell her that I had in fact been…unfaithful to her. Something about how I was sleeping with Rhiannon or something of that sort? A complete falsehood…but Lyri finally told me who it was…and it got me thinking about every misfortune to come over this family since then…and now."

When he walks around the Kissing tree, Brienne follows him back and leans against it when he begins talking. "I just.. I just wish you could be the kind of big brother who would punch anyone who would dare say something bad about his sister instead of instigating further rumors by talking of how wrong I was. Could you not just say, 'Let it go, what's done is done and if any were to try and mar my sisters honor they will answer to you?' Keanen would. Tristan possibly wouldn't because he is too much an introvert and avoids any conflict that doesn't involve Hostiles. He would perhaps be angry but he would not vocally stand up." She drops it then, seeing his expression. He would never be the protective older brother. She'd accept it someday. Finally, she gets the general gist of what he is saying and she straightens, narrowing her eyes. "Who," she demands.

Declan listens to her words and as he does he takes both of her hands in his and sits down with her at the base of the tree, "My sweet and beautiful sister….I love you more than life as I do all our brothers and sister. Though you will always have a special throne in my heart, because you and I were inseperable as kids…we did everything together and I adored you then as I do now." He kisses her forehead and pulls back, "Though you know that I cannot be someone like…Keanen. He acts without thinking quite a bit. I am…the sort of person who acts once he has planned out his next few moves. But!" He declares quickly to prevent her from falling to despair at this information, "But…and only you can know this Sissy…but I am not the sort to be unprotective."
Declan leans forward and whispers, "I am the sort of person that will not punch someone immediately, per say…I am the sort that plans his vengenance to be like a slow acting poison. Step by step…month by month trickles by and any offender will fall lax in their…wariness. By that time, I will have discovered that with they love most…hold it before them…let them grow fond of it and come to need whatever that thing is that they love…and then…poof. I take it away. And when I do, that thing, that has become so essential to their lives…is gone forever and the wound upon them is eternal…" He hisses the world 'eternal' witha spitefulness and venom that Declan has rarely ever used in conversation.
He then restates himself clearly for Brie by saying, "A black eye is nothing…a hurt jaw is repaired in a day, but the wounds I dish out…to the very soul of a person that dares to damage the honor and virtue of my kin…those are only just punishment."
Declan breathes a bit heavily after saying all of this and quickly moves to regain is regal composure. "As for the one that seems to be behind all of this…I know for a fact that it was none other than Janelle Sauveur that sought to terminate the marriage between myself and Lyrienne. I suspect she hoped to humilate our family and Lyrienne for some reason. As I suspect she is doing now…" He lowers his voice, "I believe she is trying to dishonor us, discredit us…and befoul our family's name to the king—-reducing the chances for one of our own to get on the Crown Council and instead have Emund select members from the Houses that she can control more easily. The king only rules because the people believe in his right to rule. But the real elements to governance in Haven are rooted in the vast bureaucracies…which are headed by the Crown Council."

Brie looks surprised when he takes her hands and drags her to the ground with him at the base of the tree, she hurriedly adjusts her sword before looking back at him. "We were kids, Declan. Oblivious to the troubles of our futures, the politics that would tear everyone apart. The bad decisions." His self description of how he deals with things gets a skeptical look. "You believe yourself powerful enough to take away things that someone loves? So, in Canis' circumstances, what would that be? Did you know he claimed to love me? So, you would keep me away from him because he still wants to at least continue a friendship? I hurt him. He was my best friend, I could talk with him about anything and most times I did tell him everything. I miss him and I think he won't even come around me now because not only my actions, but yours when you asked him to leave me alone. What if I don't want to be left alone?" She removes her hands and leans her head back against the tree, looking up. "I've never brought anyone to the Kissing Tree. No one, despite everything. I thought I knew what love was, but I was a fool. Having never felt it before, I jumped in with both feet and my eyes closed. There's so much more to love than heat or fire." She closes her eyes and tears trail down either cheek. "I don't know if what you say of Janelle is true, but that's not my job to know. It's yours. I fight Hostiles, it's all I can do right now."

Brie looks surprised when he takes her hands and drags her to the ground with him at the base of the tree, she hurriedly adjusts her sword before looking back at him. "We were kids, Declan. Oblivious to the troubles of our futures, the politics that would tear everyone apart. The bad decisions." His self description of how he deals with things gets a skeptical look. "You believe yourself powerful enough to take away things that someone loves? So, in Canis' circumstances, what would that be? Did you know he claimed to love me? So, you would keep me away from him because he still wants to at least continue a friendship? I hurt him. He was my best friend, I could talk with him about anything and most times I did tell him everything. I miss him and I think he won't even come around me now because not only my actions, but yours when you asked him to leave me alone. What if I don't want to be left alone?" She removes her hands and leans her head back against the tree, looking up. "I've never brought anyone to the Kissing Tree. No one, despite everything. I thought I knew what love was, but I was a fool. Having never felt it before, I jumped in with both feet and my eyes closed. There's so much more to love than heat or fire." She closes her eyes and tears trail down either cheek. "I don't know if what you say of Janelle is true, but that's not my job to know. It's yours. I fight Hostiles, it's all I can do right now."

Declan frowns at Brie and says, "I never truly intended to deal any harmful blow to Lord Canis. I can appreciate that he fell in love with you. But he did not rob you of your virtue and honor. As I now believe, my opinions having shifted, you nor the men did anything to harm you or dishonor you. It was the media…they framed your struggle to fend off suitors while finding your perfect match as some sort of sordid affair. This is why I feel like Janelle has some hand in directing the flow of these rumors…moving the ones concerning you to prominence and pushing others back." He also looks up at the tree and then at her, "Did any of the men that sought you…did any of them…steal your virtue or honor in some way.For those would me the ones I would exact the brutal vengeance of the Arboren upon."

"Canis would never, ever do anything to harm me or my honor. Not even unintentionally. He has always been perfectly proper. Of course he did kiss me when I was not expecting it, but it was not unwarranted. When he kissed me, it was at the carnival, it was brief and he pulled away to speak with another, so I walked off towards the amusement rides. It was not an intent to harm me." Lifting her hands, Brienne wipes the signs of weakness from her face. "Steal my.. virtue? Declan, are you asking me if I am a virgin? I was until recently, but nothing was stolen. I gave it. I have been with one person and I'm judged so harshly." She exhales, drawing her knees up and resting her arms across her knees. "Everyone sleeps with someone, whether a citizen or in the brothel.. I should have waited and I know it, but the Young Lord…" She lifts her shoulder. "Do you know, I told Canis what happened, what I had done, and he was willing to look over it, to attempt to pretend it never happened. To forgive me."

Declan listens carefully and nods, "I liked Lord Canis and I will recommend to mother that she speak to you about joining with him that he might in turn come to join our own house. As for a kiss, that is nothing to me if you did kiss him. I know the rumors that crop up from it, but I care little about that rubbish." He listens to her speak of virginity and chimes in, "Just because every is fornicating in betrothals or the back seat of a hover-carriage does not mean I will. I am proud that I have retained my honor." He looks at Brie more closely, his eyes betray his brotherly concern, "Canis told me about your coupling, I guess he assumed that it was little news in this day in age." Ge scratches his head and thinking aloud he mentions, "If I did speak ill of you, I believe it would only have been prompted when he made that revelation. It reminded me of how Lyri surrendered her maidenhood to that bastard…and it felt like it happened all over again." He leans against the tree, "I do not blame you. You did not understand the significance. But to a renowned 'former' playboy like Lord Kieran…he never knew of the honor in chastity. And so I blame him for attempting to corrupt my sister just as he was corrupted in turn." As Declan speaks, he breathing becomes heavier and venomous…the gears turning in his head, "And I am your big brother, you wanted me to protect you…so I will make him suffer in time. From that time forth I will have him continue to suffer for the rest of his life…and I will insure he lives a long…long life."

"No, Declan. No. You will not speak to mother about Sir Canis and me. He changed his mind and I agree with him. I see his point. Who would want to be in that position where they had to face everyone married to //me..? We will be friends and that is all and if you ask mother, I'll be angry at you for a very long time." She smiles though, finally. "Please say nothing though." Brienne frowns at the comparison. "It's not like that, Declan. I was not betrothed to anyone. I was free to give myself away… and for another, I am not yours to worry over, so it was not done to you. How you can compare the two, when it was not you I was betraying, but myself, I will never know." There's a sigh. "I didn't know of his reputation, if you recall, up until your disappearance, I was out on patrols like I am now. I was gone for all that time, with no datapad, no news. I don't know reputations." A frown mars her brow. "You will leave Kieryn alone as well. Do you not hear me? LEAVE everyone alone! You promised to in your return letter! Let it all die down and leave it there in the ashes and allow me to pick up the pieces of my own life, of my own reputation, and rebuild it even stronger than before!"

Declan studies his sister and says, "So you want me to be protective, but you do not want me to do anything when a man has…" ,he stammers a bit and is unable to finish the sentence. Instead, he lays his forehead to his sister's temple and says, "I hate him…I hate that Valta boy…I want to crush him…"
Despite the severity of these statements and the passion behind them, passion that Brienne would recognize assuredly, there is a tone of defeat in his voice…indicating that he would not do anything against Kieran…yet the neanderthal part of his brain demanded he bash the offender's head in with a bone. This struggle was evident by the tone in his voice. Finally, after a moment he says, "Fine…but if he tries anything else with you…or Eilara…I will destroy him."
He lifts his head up from Brienne's shoulder and says, "But Canis…don't worry, I was going to ask you first before talking to mother. He is a good friend. And he loves you deeply…he…he kept insisting that the two of you be best friends." Declan heaved a sigh, "I have seen that before…a man says something like that when he is so…lost in his love that he will do anything to remain in the prescence and thoughts of the one he loves—-even if they do not lot return that affection. But, I understand if you wish not to be seen with any other man at this time. It is probably for the best for now…at least while I gather evidence that it is indeed Janelle Sauveur's doing. But…I need you to make a pact with me. That if it is indeed the princess that is for one reason or another acting to harm or discredit our family, then you are I must pledge to oppose her…can you promise me that?"

The border between Arboren and Hollolas isn't one created by a defined line or marker. And sometimes, Dominic likes to get lost in the woods, walking for days before coming to a stop and realizing just where he's found himself. Lost in the woods, so the statement goes, the man has been 'lost in the woods' for some time now, walking along some hidden path that only he sees. Well, the knight-ranger and the large red-furred timber wolf that stalks alongside him. He's walked into Arboren lands, he hasn't yet realized it, or he possibly taking mental notes on how far the land stretches from Beacon.

"Just.. Declan, you have to let me do just what I said. Let everything die down and leave it there and let me pick up the pieces myself. I made the mess, it's not yours. As for Canis.. just leave him alone too, I'm not in love with anyone. I realize that and I've just made a whole big mass of confusion. He's a good friend. Kieran is a friend. Advent.. I swear I met him only a handful of times and I never encouraged him." Brienne doesn't reply immediately to the request for a pact. Confusion settles into her green eyes as she regards him in silence for one beat, then two. Finally, she draws a breath, regret tinging her voice. "I'm not the diplomat in the family. I prefer these woods to anything. Let me run patrols and you run politics. We each have our own battlefields and both are equally deadly." Hearing the sounds of the forest floor being interrupted, she peers around the tree only to see man and wolf. Not immediately familiar with the Hollalas, she scrambles to her feet and steps out. "Good afternoon."

Declan looks at her and scoldingly says, "This is not a matter of diplomacy, Brie. If that bitch is trying to tear this family apart, to remove us from power or whatever else for her own nefarious ends then that involves you just the same as me. You want to protect your family…you gotta recognize that not all our enemies are the Hostiles but al—-", he quickly falls silent and turns his head to look where Brienne turns, hand falling on the hilt of his sword.

The man is hooded, weathed in shadow and walking with the upmost amount of silence. It was not the sound he was trying to mask, it was the sight of him that he allowed to be seen. There was no reasl reason to hide himself, he wasn't hunting. But silence of his steps? That's something far more natural to him. The wolf, even more so. He does not walk, so much as stalk or glide next to the name, born with the skill of walking in the woods. The group of rangers are counted and the positions taken, eyes peering at them through the shade of his hood. The touch of a weapon on Declan's part make him slow, but the wolf knows what the motion of a threat means. The man doesn't move, but the wolf gives a warning growl, teeth bared, fur rising on the back of his neck. Gloves, fingerless ones appear out of his cloak, a hand falling onto the shoulder of the wolf, silencing him. "Jumpy." is the one-word obeservation.

Perhaps it had been the wind Brienne had heard rustling the leaves, but certainly at an opportune time. However, Brie looks away briefly at the outburst from her brother, disappointment most prominent in her eyes. "That's a little extreme, Declan. Maybe you should withhold judgment until proven guilty. I know what the enemy is. I fight it daily. You, though, come out here sometimes pretending to understand my world." She throws her arms out as if to encompass the whole of the forest. "This is where I live, Declan. I wasn't made for the city. It's one misturn after another there for me. I refuse to deal with your subterfuge and accusations until you can prove them. You go on hearsay to what a woman who cheated told you in a clandestine meeting. Stop, just stop. You're jumping at Shadows. What's wrong with Arboren is nothing the six of us can't fix by just doing things right."

After having her say, Brie looks back to the hooded figure, not reaching for her own pommel. "Kindly remove your hand from the hilt, Declan." The words are muttered between clenched teeth. "And get behind me." She moves to casually step in front of him, regarding the wolf and the man in the process. "I'm Lady Sir Brienne Arboren. Welcome to the Arborenin Forest."

Declan turns away from looking through the trees and stares daggers at his sister, she has clearly stabbed him in the back with her remark. He hisses, "This is my home too…never imply I love something like a city more than this…" He jumps a bit when she tells him to remove the hand from his weapon and steps around Brienne..twisting a little further so he slips behind the fabled kissing tree and then suddenly disappearing from sight.

<FS3> Declan rolls Stealth: Good Success.

Dominic watches for a moment between the two, as if evaluating them both. He bows at Brienne when she gives her name. "Sir Dominic Howell." he returns in kind. "of Amran. Now Hollolas." He tilts his head, watching for a moment longer. "Issues?" he asks. "Can leave." the ranger then follows up with. Crimson eyeballs Declan in that particular way that wolves do. He continues to watch the heir move as he leaves. "Thin skin." he mutters. Crimson makes a 'hrmph' sound, shaking his furry head.

Brie doesn't care about the daggers even if she does see them, she's putting herself in between her brother and the wolf that had snarled at him. "The City, being Arborenin City, Declan. Where we live." Where he lives. When he jumps, she doesn't look back. "It is always good to meet another Hollolas. I suppose Ephraim is the one I know best of them." She lifts her shoulders before looking back where Declan used to be. "Looks like that won't be necessary for you to and you're always welcome in these woods." Her brows lift. "Thin skin? Sir, he is my brother and I'd appreciate you not say such things about him."

"Brother?" Dom's voice questions. "Did not say was wrong." he points out lightly. Suddenly bows. "Have more issues than ranger." he gestures at himself. "Family. Honesty. Good evening." Then he himself stalks off in a different direction, the wolf following after him.

A few seconds later and Declan reappears, throwing his cloak off his shoulders, a few meters to to the newcomer's left…apparently have crept somehow away from Brienne and was approaching Dominic (to garrote him maybe?), but at the revelation that he was a Hollolas, the Young Lord deemed him no longer a threat. "We might be in Arborenin's security perimeter, the Hostiles still comb this part of the forest. Got to be careful." With that remark he sheaths his sword and reaches out to shake Dominic's hand. "Lord Declan Arboren. This is my sister, Lady Brienne."

faded the scene there…

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