05.04.3014: She Never Sleeps
Summary: The wee hours find Ines awake and on the beach, as does Sir Orren Tylos
Related: None
Ines Orren 

Honor's Keep
4 May, 3014

The one thing about being on an island is that it’s never truly /dark/. The wide expanse of ocean reflects the light of moon and stars, constantly shimmering without casting light. Against this constantly waving sheen, shadows are more starkly outlined. Sharp lines delineate the chairs next to the furled umbrellas, the leaves of the overhanging palms, and, further down, closer to the water, the woman who’s corkscrew curls float freely in the ever-present breeze.

It’s long past midnight, but it’s still an hour or so before the sun will start gilding the horizon with its first rays. A time when all the island is asleep, except for this one woman, her arms folded around herself for comfort as her long skirt alternately floats and clings around her legs. The sea flirts with her feet and ankles, sometimes caressing them, sometimes creeping up just short, but always retreating after; leaving her in her loneliness as she gazes to a horizon that holds someone she cannot see.

At first, the figure is a pinprick of darkness over the white sand beach, solitary and growing larger with every passing lick of the waves at his feet. As the tide rolls, the details become more clear: His black skin tugs against a thin, cream colored tunic designed for the beach weather, and the linen drawstring pants are a pristine white that offsets the darkness of the legs they encase. Tall, muscular, and…older than many of the swordsmen that come to train on these grounds, his jawline is foreign to Ines' people…and it becomes clear that the man approaching is Orren Tylos.

With a comforted look on his face, turned to the side to watch the waves and the sea in the distance, he utters not a word as he enters earshot of Lady Ines.

The sound of the waves, as low a murmur as it may be, masks any sound of the approaching man. Her eyes falling closed, Lady Ines is unaware that anyone else is wakeful this night, or walking the sands. Her hand reaches up to tuck a curl behind her ear, and in the movement she reveals her cheek to Sir Orren. The silver of the moon follows a track down the dusky skin, glistening as would never be seen under the light of the sun.

"My lady," Orren's voice is low, bearing a harsh nobility to the accent that speaks of years of hard labor refined thereafter by his years of service. The words are gently delivered, unintrusive as he comes close enough to see the tracks of her tears. "Mind a bit of company or shall I pass by?" He continues, his hands clasping behind his back. His golden-brown eyes turn away from her cheeks to the moist, grayed sand at her feet as he steps into her view.

The only betrayal that she’s startled is the way her stillness becomes more alert. She doesn’t shift or raise a hand to erase the evidence on her cheeks. It’s been seen and she doesn’t try to hide from it. “Are you assuming that I am alone, Sir Orren?” she asks quietly, her voice steeped in bitterness. She opens her eyes to the far, flat line of where the shimmer meets darkness, but doesn’t turn her gaze to the man who has interloped on her solitude.

Orren leans to the side, looking down to Ines below from a different angle as his weight centers onto one leg. The wind catches his shirt, blowing it back in the direction of the island as he turns to stand alongside her, gazing off into the distance. His elbows, stooped behind his back like a pair of bending wings, he shakes his head, a silent reply that she cannot see.

"No…" Orren's voice trails off towards the sea. "…but the offer of company, alone or not, still stands."

“I have more company that I could wish for, waiting for my eyes to close. They enter uninvited.” Her voice is heavy, the pause prolonged. “The citizens and children, shopkeepers, their normal lives rudely interrupted… and ended.” There’s another pause, and an almost whisper. “My husband.” She lets the waves wash sand over her feet, and pull it back from underneath her, settling her deeper. “Don’t believe a word that monster says. They’re not human. Human’s don’t slaughter unarmed people and children.”

A long, quiet moment passes between Orren and Ines, accompanied by the rolling crash and hiss of the waves that rush up the beach to lap at their bare feet. Orren has heard the stories, the tragedies, that have occurred to her house and husband, and until now have been filed away as a topic to leave untouched. But now…

"I do not believe them, my Lady, never a moment." Orren shakes his head from side to side. "I've seen the barbarism from the field with my eyes. They go too far, too far to be forgiven nor forgotten."

There’s a barely perceptible slide sideways of her eyes to assess the man. “Two islands have fallen. Two island have been abandoned to the Hostiles. Two islands for them to assemble and organize.” Her jaw clenches. “Two islands, with a purpose was to provide beauty and entertainment… now places of terror and horror. They will be remembered as sites of massacres rather than places where people fell in love and celebrated life.” She shifts her balance, pulling her feet from the watery trap.

“All the years fighting with Amran over tourism rights. And now, not another tourist will set foot on Cape Amran. Not for many years, at least.”

“I know your men are capable, and your people are strong, My Lady, but your words make me wish to ask if I could be allowed to stay a little longer than expected, to be an extra set of eyes or hands needed for as long as could be made possible.” Orren replies, lowering to a crouch to dig his hands through the wet sand, disturbing the surface so that water pools inside on the next wave. The outline of his fingertips made in the sand soften as a pool of water is left behind. On the next wave, he lets the water wash his hand clean. “This place is beautiful, a treasure, and I wouldn’t feel right not being here if the Hostile tried such a thing here.” He looks over to her, eyes sharpening. “This place should not be another on that list of islands.”

“Wish to ask?” Ines’s dark gaze is suddenly upon the man, even with the drying tears and without bright light, their unfathomable depths still command attention. “I need a man that /knows/, not wishes.” After a long breath, she releases him from her study. “It is not my house you are sworn to, Sir Orren. Nor even my paramount. If you were to make up your mind, it is not to me you must apply.”

“Not of your house or your paramount, I am your guest. I know what I wish. It’s still proper that I ask.” Orren laughs softly, speaking the raw truth of it with a shake of his head. “I’ve already submitted the request to stay a bit longer than expected, it’s my right to do so and I’ve done.” Orren pauses, turning his head to watch her from his perch, his brows lowering perceptively as he makes his point clear. “You’ve children and business of your own, My Lady. Overextended guests are a distraction, something that occupies time your children will want. Rule one to not being a burden…is not being a burden.” He nods his head. Point made. “So I ask.”

“Might I remind you, Sir Orren, that you are less a guest and more a student,” the woman calmly counters, not turning this time. “However long you choose to purchase lessons is not of any consequence to my business, and therefore not a burden. No matter how slow you may be to learn.” As the water draws back further, gathering momentum, she takes two steps backwards.

“If, however, you have made the request of your liege in view of being assistance to our military, that is a different matter entirely.” Despite her change in location, the water still reaches her, but only her ankles. She would have been drenched to her knees if she had remained where she was. “/That/ does require consideration, and training with our troops to learn their maneuvers. It also requires becoming more accustomed to our climate and terrain. And so I ask how you intend to avoid being a burden in such a situation?”

“Questions, questions,” Orren replies, rising to his full height to turn away from the sea at large and step over to Ines. His hands curl and bend once more, planting his palms to the center of his back to press and knead out the sore muscles for a day of training. “I think I’m building a rather large docket of questions that I’ve yet to answer for you, haven’t I? There’s the first, the prior, this new one…I really should get better about quick replies.”

When he comes to a stop before her, his arms unfurl from his back to fold across his chest, leaning slightly to one side to affix his eyes down to her smaller frame. His brows lower, tongue cresting over his teeth as he lets the pause take its place, rather than to stall. He’s a man who looks to know what he wishes to say.

“Whether you’re a good man or not, a knight that does their duty or gives for the finery, it all matters for shit if you don’t do the right thing when the time comes, which isn’t something that can be learned. It’s not a skill. It’s not a trait. It’s nothing worth being proud over, because no one gets to pick the here and now.” Orren begins, nodding gently with his words, his muscular chest rising and falling as he pauses for a quiet sigh. “We’re all just people in the end, titles or not, and you’re right, I’ve spent too much time trying to make the right call then the call that I want to make.”

Her face is impassive as she stares over the ocean, listening to the man. “And what is the call you want to make, Sir Orren?” Ines prods, actually encouraging the man to continue this time.

“When my father taught me about service, about being a good man and the things he felt were right in the world, I think somewhere along the lines I forgot myself. Service is good, bold, but no one’s going to care that I sacrificed love, life, myself as a person for so many years.” Orren replies, folding his arms across his chest and pausing for a deep breath. “The call I’m going to make is to myself. I shouldn’t be faceless to everyone, as everyone needs a home and I haven’t had one since that mine shaft collapsed.”

There’s a long silence from the woman standing next to him. Her eyes reflect brightly in the moonlight, the darkness obscured by a sheen of silver before she takes a deep breath. Then one side of her mouth twists. “Better late than never,” Ines says quietly. One hand drifts up to tug at a lock of hair that sticks to her cheek and tuck it behind her ear.

“Back when it seemed there would be time to decide; to give it a few more weeks and put it off, it made more sense but now…” Orren trails off, his lip curling into a sneer towards the water as he shakes his head at the waves. His muscular forearms coil against each other as his shoulders come up in a shrug. “…it was foolish and wasteful. When you’re raised without any existing roots, though, it gets easier to not want them.” His voice crawls to a stop, fingertips tapping against his elbow in thought.

“When you come out here, what are you doing?” Orren asks, turning his head to watch her. “Are you seeing? Listening?”

The dusky face half turns towards Orren, and she raises an eyebrow. “Both.” There’s a sideways slide of her lower jaw, although her lips stay pressed together. A deep breath in her nose is slowly released the same way. “Time isn’t healing all wounds fast enough at the moment.” She looks out over the ocean again. “During the day I have my children, I teach, and my time and mind are filled. At night… the children sleep, but all is not quiet.”

“It never goes away, really.” Orren returns, brushing his hands over his chest before he slips them into the back pockets of his pants. His elbows resume their chickenwing-like angle behind his shoulders as he bites down on his lip and gives Ines a vacant, apologetic shake of his head. “When my folks went I don’t think I slept for a month, maybe two. The only thing that got me to sleep was working in the yard when I was training up for local guard. I’m sure alcohol would have helped but…that’s not really my way. No peace in drowning, just exhaustion.”

Ines shakes her head. “No. Maybe some spiced wine, but no drinking is necessary. I have no right to teach if my head is muddled with intoxication.” She watches the waves as they start to retreat back down the beach. “The tide is going out.” Her toes have been dry for the past few minutes, and she wiggles them in the sand. “Sun Salutations will be starting in a few hours in the lagoon.”

Turning to face the lagoon, Orren doesn’t announce, he simply does. His bare feet press into the soft sand as he moves to cross behind Ines’ back slow enough for her to get the hint and, if so inclined, to follow. “I’ve seen too many drunks in the public guard, too many guards and miners drinking their problems away. I’ve arrested plenty of drunks that I’d rather a drink be something simple for enjoyment, not something to use as a tool. Strong body, strong mind, that sort of thing…”

With a sigh, Orren lowers his arms to his side and checks to see if she’s following. “I never stopped to watch the sun rise, you know.”

For a moment, it seems as if she won’t follow. But finally, when he mentions not having watched a sunrise, she turns, her feet at first grinding down further in the wet sand, but then she steps out of the hole to place one foot, then the other in a linear pattern parallel to the waves. “You should. It can change your entire view of the world.” She keeps her arms crossed in front of her, her pace relaxing into something that resembles a saunter. “People sometimes think that the sun paints with the same colors on the eastern horizon as the western,” she shakes her head. “Not true at all.”

“Where I’m from, My Lady, there is no sunrise.” Orren replies, slowing just enough so that she can catch up to his side. “Only mountain above and the light comes from other sources. It’s not a part of who we are to look up and out like that. It makes people dream differently.” His golden-brown eyes turn towards her, watching the profile of her face while he talks. His expression is passive, though his words are drenched with sentiment. “No stars there. Instead people dream about what they’ll find digging, or what the next tunnel holds.”

Looking up to the stars, Ines shakes her head. “I can’t even begin to imagine such an existence,” she replies quietly. “Even as a squire I was surrounded by the stars.” One corner of her lips curls upward and she looks to the dark knight. “What do you find in the stars?”

As if queued, Orren turns his eyes skyward. Trapped by the endless span of sky above, his eyes widen and his tongue, presses to his teeth. What does he see? As if challenged by the question, he offers the stars above a short sigh.

“I don’t know, m’lady,” His accent rolls at the final syllable. “Sometimes I think maybe there’s a place that doesn’t have to fight these bloody wars. Sometimes I wonder if it’s any different and we need to make what we’ve got down here count. I do know that when I look up I just see possibilities. It helps me think.”

“It’s a start,” Ines murmurs, maybe to herself, maybe to the man, maybe to the stars. She gives a nod of her head to the man, her hands falling to her side as she steps away from him. “Good night, Sir Orren. I should return to my children, make sure they are still sleeping, and no one is having nightmares.” Her feet turn up the beach to the loose, dry, sand, her feet showing darker against the lighter sand.

"Good night to you, my lady." Orren replies, taking a step back to give her the extra room to leave. His eyes shift in the direction of the lagoon, watching the swaying trees in the nighttime air. "I may just catch this sunrise." He looks back to her; the beginnings of watching her leave. "Peace for you and yours."

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