05.28.3014: The Ancient Oak
Summary: During a brief break in the encroaching summer's heat, Andraste and Garus find they have much in common in mind of battle.
Date: Multiple days.
Related: None.
Andraste Garus 

Plains, The Vale
See log.
May 28 3014

Summer has rapidly found its way into the Southern Plains. May has yet to even end, but the heat is overwhelming at midday. Especially for someone in the full armor called for in patrols. For the cavalry, the armor is often more expensive due to the lighter, more flexible materials required. Still, a helmet keeps the wind from blowing through your hair and the full coverage of materials means little circulation. Nothing at all like what one who was nearly born in the saddle would have grown up enjoying.

In a small copse of trees, Andraste rests during a break in patrols. The sun is at its peak and little of consequence has arisen anyway. Her horse is allowed to graze; the dappled mare enjoying a break from bearing rider in a lazy — boring, honestly — sweep. With helmet and weaponry set aside, Andi is leaning up against one of the trees, enjoying the shade and the soft breeze on her cheeks. Her eyes are closed and the air stirs wisps of burnished copper hair that have come loose from ponytail.

Lunch, half-eaten, sits by her legs. For the moment, however, she’s in gentle repose.

The sight of riders on the horizon lends to murmured activity from the others in Andraste's patrol. Riders alone are a telling thing, as few Hostiles have been sighted on horseback throughout the beginning stages of their invasion. When the wind shifts, the blue and gold lion of Leonnida can be seen in clear day, stealing away any other reservations; the Hostiles haven't flown stolen banners yet, either.

The horses approach the Rovehn patrol on the fringes of the Rovehn/Leonnidan border, and pleasantries are exchanged after the head rider clad in the expensive armored shell of stylized claw and lion's head greets the others. Reins are handed off and the Leonnidan patrol begins to mingle with the Rovehn, leaving Garus Leonnida to remove his helm and venture towards the trees.

"The summer heat is always welcome, but the first few days take a toll, don't they?" Garus announces himself as he approaches Andraste, his wrist hanging lifeless from the hilt of his broadsword. "What news of the plains; has all been quiet?"

There’s something to the life of a Citizen raised to the position of Knight. Within that small noble title is something Andraste is proud of. The woman would rare admit what it lends to her life, but it can be seen within her actions… and her knowledge. She’s well-aware of even the vassals to Cindravale, as well as notable members of their families. So when Garus removes his helm and proves who lies behind, the woman is getting to her feet.

There’s a dip of her head in a nod to the man; such as dictated by station. “All has been quiet, Lord Sir. At least here near the borders.” Her armor is immaculate. It’s not fancy or notably expensive, but it shows the obsession of one who tends to it with more care than a squire could ever show. Andraste cares.

“You speak true of summer. I find myself longing for a cold ale or a long swim.”

"A long swim and cold ale would be a sending from the Six." Sizing Andraste up as she stands, Garus turns his expressive, green eyes to hers to read her face. Does she rise out of respect or reverence? The life of a lord is filled with titles that serve their purpose, but a mixed population of people who use them with reservation.

"Lets hope then that this quiet continues and when it doesn't we are the ones to break it, aye?" Garus replies in his standard, wolfish accent. Nodding sharply to her more official posture, he waves his hand in the atypical at ease way, signaling that she can return to her rest. "This is no official visit Sir…" He trails off with lifted brow, his words turning upwards in a questioning tone. "Please, return to your rest, I am just here to share a moment of shade."

It is with a respect, rather than any sense of awe. She is a woman who appreciates what the nobility does to serve their people- especially those who enter into combat and earn the title of Knight. Particularly those that serve rather than simply appear at tournaments in armor meant for show rather than true combat. That the Leonnidan Lord is on patrol is evidence enough to the Rovehn Knight that he takes his title and place seriously.

Andraste’s features bear no sign of scars, but the lines of hardship. Of things seen and survived. Her age is writ in the beginnings of wrinkles; ones that speak of so many things. Of pain. Of suffering. And yet… the ones at the edges of her eyes also speak to laughter. Enough, at least.

“Andraste Mordain,” the woman offers, tilting her head in a slight nod. “And I know you, Lord Sir Garus, though we have not yet had the honor to stand side-by-side.” In battle, one can presume. There is a brief flash of teeth. “You came to have a moment. You only share because we found it first.” It’s a bit of a jest, but she moves back to the tree and settles into her seat once again. A flexible container is lifted towards the man in offering. “It’s not ale, but cold water can be just as good in the heat.”

"Sir Andraste it is, then," Garus steps forward to take the canteen from her fingers. The blue-gold etching over the mailed gauntlets flexes as a ray of sunlight pierces the tree's canopy, catching the intricate designs. "I imagine that two knights can share a tree if they haven't yet shared the field easy enough." He lifts the canteen to his lips, careful to not press his lips to the opening, and pours the cool water down his throat. The rise and fall of his adam's apple makes the long, thin scar on his throat - and obvious knife's edge from long ago - more visible.

With the final swallow, he hands the canteen back to Andraste and unhooks the wide sword at his belt. Gripping it around the scabbard, he turns and drops into place beside her, rummaging in one of the cases on his belt. When his hand comes up, it produces a piece of hard meat that smells of jerky-spices and pepper; a gift in return.

"Perhaps one day, Sir Andraste," Garus continues, honoring her with her hard-earned title. He motions to the plains before them. "We will share the field, and be victorious for it, but I'm in no hurry to see these lands polluted with warfare. Our lands, our advantage, but if we could always choose the bloody battlefield we'd be graced, wouldn't we? It's for these reasons I try to take a moment each day to get a good look at them."

“A fortune I laid claim to one of the larger trees,” Andraste muses, letting the smirk settle into place on her features. It’s a bit too cocky. A bit too overdone. A mask to wear, but one worn with ease. One worn to provide comfort- not just for others, but for the self. Accepting the canteen back, she takes an easy swig before capping it and letting it fall to the boot-mashed grass by her leg. Her own weapons — sword and spear — lie propped against the tree to her left. Within reach, but not burdening her in her repose.

The jerky is taken with a flash of interest in blue eyes and she offers a more genuine, broad smile initially. “Thank you, Lord Sir.”

There is quiet as he speaks and the mask falters for a moment as Andraste looks out over the fields. She draws one armor-clad leg up and props her arm on it, leaning forward. “I think the pollution is already here, m’Lord. We are the filter to cleanse it away so that future generations may know the freedom we knew as children.”

Taking out a piece of the venison jerky for himself, Garus' teeth clamp down on the end and his wrist turns to rip the meat free. As he chews, his eyes remain on the horizon - one part admiration and two parts guard - as the sword is set to lean against the trunk near his armored shoulder. Introducing an interlude of silence, he chews until he eventually swallows.

"The pollution hasn't become so widespread that it is visible everywhere yet, which is good. My eyes do not see the pollution, though my mind, like yours, knows it is there." Garus replies, glancing quietly to the woman at his side as his greaves bend, providing his elbow with a knee to rest upon. "In truth, it's an honor to have been fated the sword and shield of our people. It's an ugly truth, but had I been given the choice to be born in peacetime as a knight or in a time of war, I'd have chosen this life."

The gauntleted hand rises, returning the jerky to his teeth for another rip.

"How long have you been in service, Sir Andraste?" Garus asks, referring to it as service; such a telling word.

The gifted jerky is chewed upon as Andraste listens to the man speak. She listens with the respect offered a fellow Knight- not the blind devotion to a noble. When his words slow and quiet rests, she draws in a long breath. There’s the faint sounds and creaks of her armor adjusting to the deep draw of air in a seated position.

“I admit I’ve never considered what it would have been to be born in a time of peace. I woke up one morning and decided that this is the life I sought. I spoke to the man who would become my Knight. A friend of my father. It was done and I squired.”

Some things are simple. To Andraste, the choice to be a Knight is a simple one. She is. At his question, she looks over to Garus and there is a darkening in her gaze. Of thought. Of memories.

“Eight? Yes. Eight years since I was sworn.”

"Commendable." Garus replies, a simple word for tongue and teeth to manage, but the intent behind the word carries a measure of respect. "The Citizenry have so many paths they may take, and to decide to serve and swear at such an age is for lack of a word commendable. To say you should be proud of your decision would subtract from the importance of the decision, at the least, it should."

Momentarily distracted by the sound of laughter in the distance, Garus turns his eyes towards Andraste, gazing past her to his men tending to their horses. Six of them, one turns to the five and appears to be the butt of some joke. Whatever his reply to the five is, it sends the whole group into laughter that brings a flash of teeth to Garus' lips, admiring the camaraderie.

"I think that I always knew what I wanted in this, despite it being a tradition for my father's sons to earn their spurs." Garus turns his eyes back to the horizon. "I was young, though, just a lad, when I knew I wanted to stand in between the people and their dangers. It's a responsibility that called to me."

“How old do you think I am?” Andraste is grinning as she asks the question, but her eyes are to the men. Those she is on patrol with are still at their rest, or chattering amongst themselves. “I was twenty-three when I earned my spurs. Older than some when they manage as much. My Knight… Well, I oft think my father perhaps was making him wait.”

She finishes the shared jerky, lifting her canteen for another drink to wash it all down. She holds it over to Garus, offering absently: “Family is a strange thing, is it not? When young, they seem to want nothing but the best for you and you for them. When older, you begin to see all the wounds and chinks in the armor that were never there before.”

"Well, you've just given me a frame of reference, but I was about to say you couldn't be just out of your twenties yet, Sir Andraste." Garus laughs after swallowing the last of his jerky. Taking the canteen from her, he tilts it back in a final swig, eyelids fluttering with the release the water brings. Cap screwed back into place, he blindly hands it to her. "Eight years in service, a late, capable start, give or take a few hard years of training since you seem the sort to push yourself hard…I'd place you around thirty years of age."

"Family…" Garus trails off, leaning forward to prop his elbows against his knees. His face merely a profile to her side, he can avoid the telling eye-contact that details his troubles, though in rumor the inner-dealings of House Leonnida are rife with competition that sometimes takes lives. "I've found that when you're a child the ways of the world and the taller, more impressive role-models are just that: impressive. With age, they become mundane, prone to the same cracks and imperfections we see in everyone." He pauses, quirking his brow towards the fields of wheat before them. "Men are just men, women are just women, and knights are just knights. The truly great ones have to prove it by action."

“Thirty-one,” Andraste confirms with a soft laugh. “And in my armor after half a day on horseback. You flatter me, Lord Sir. I will take it as genuine, rather than an attempt to flatter a woman who is keenly aware of the approach of the years.”

She takes the canteen and sets it down again, draping elbow over raised knee once again. She leans in as he speaks, gazing off into the plains with distant, thoughtful eyes. “I have spent many of the past eight years afield. In patrols. In working with other Houses. I have only recently begun to reconnect with my family and it is shocking how different things have become. Perhaps that is why I do not blame the war for who and what I am as many do. I would likely have chosen the same path regardless and they likely would have found themselves on theirs as well. The universe holds a great many evils and it is not just the Hostiles that bring them.”

Pleased with his deductions, Garus smiles into the vague distance, offering it an amused shake of his head. "Yes, take it as genuine, Sir Andraste," Garus manages a throaty laugh. "You're a sworn knight and not some armor-curious girl with stars in her eyes. This tree is excellent shade, but I'm not about to try to flatter it from you. Though if it matters, I don't believe age is keenly aware of your approach. You have nothing to worry in terms of age."

A moment of reflection falls over Garus, his fingertips drumming one after another against the plating that protects his knee. Tongue pressing to the inside of his teeth, he nudges her with his elbow, tapping it gently against her armored side as he points out towards an old, ghostly oak that lords over the others at the tree line.

"I think that tree has been there since I was a lad. If you're looking for something that doesn't change, remember it." Garus' smirk fades, morphing into the hard line of stoicism his family is known for. "Even my brothers and sisters have changed, Sir Andraste, even mine. In this you are not alone. On a long enough timeline, we all ride alone and meet up at the next leg. But that tree?" Garus nods to it. "I believe it will outlast us all."

“Armor-curious girl.” Andraste ends up laughing at that in turn, shaking her head slightly. More hair works loose, caught between the movement and skin still somewhat damp with sweat. The strands cling in loose facsimiles of curls against her neck and cheeks. “Can’t say I’ve ever heard that one before. While some may joke that I wouldn’t know what to do with a gown, I can assure you I do. I simply rare have any need.”

It’s not like Knights often find themselves invited to galas. Especially low-born.

At the nudge, her blue gaze follows the point and she studies the tree in thought. “To be a tree or a mountain,” she muses, lines at the edges of her eyes crinkling somewhat in the thought. “To bear witness to everything. The greatest triumphs and the most humbling of moments. To never, bless the Six, experience the horrors of embarrassment that will haunt every waking moment.”

The last seems to be somewhat of a joke as she casts a glance over towards the Leonnidan men and the one they had been making fun with earlier.

"Oh, believe me, I've received an education in fashion the last five months." Unbuckling his gauntlet, Garus' fingers flex in the hair before him and then thread through his dark, sweat-slicked hair to brush it back. Eyes filling with a form of laughter that matches the roll of his eyes, he shakes his head pitifully. "I know social politics and galas, making your presence known among the nobles, but I had no idea that there were colors in season, popular hem-lines, and stitching styles that were out of favor a year ago." He huffs. "I don't mind being attractive when not in my armor, but there is a skill to be learned, and I'm learning it slowly."

Laughter spent, ending in a deflating sigh like a vacuum-bot shutting off, Garus glances to the knight beside him. Eyes trailing in the direction hers are, the two settle in to watch his men from afar.

"All a good man can hope for is that he leads his men to a survival or death they deem worthy of their memory." Garus' voice trails off. "Some have children on the way, two of them over there to be specific. Their fathers wouldn't miss this war for anything, and it is my duty to honor their decision and make heroes of their fathers should they fall."

Stitching styles?” Andraste looks briefly appalled, lifting a glove-covered hand to scrub roughly at her face. “Maiden’s tits. If I didn’t envy you nobles before, I certainly don’t now. Fuck’s sake, I’d be a right mess at any soiree. The fanciest gatherings I attend are tourneys and I’m a competitor. I’m meant to strut about in my armor between events.”

She shakes her head in the quiet, muttering about fashion and the cost such must be.

When Garus speaks again, she focuses more upon the men in their chatter about the horses. “My brother has a daughter,” she says finally. “His wife was badly injured in battle not long ago… He still gets sent out on assignment and the girl stays with our parents or his wife’s. It’s… she at least has family still, but she’s so young yet. If I had…”

She cuts herself off there, a scowl coming unbidden. The canteen is grabbed and what remains drained away.

The light green, Leonnidan eyes shift from the horsemen to Andraste at Garus' side, watching her drink the life from her canteen until only the last drops remain. When gravely serious, his eyes become piercing things, appearing to see through to the truth and past the many layers people build around them. His lips form into a line and…their talk of fashion has just been murdered; left dead in the cold.

"One of these days I will have a child, maybe more." His voice sounds distant, lost in thought as the first words directed to her turn to utter towards the old oak instead. His armor scrapes over a rock as his knee bends, pressing against his chest as the back-plating chips at the bark behind him. "With luck I will remain healthy through this, to be able to teach them, or have a wife that would take interest in that."

Garus closes his eyes and allows an audible sigh to pass through his teeth; a pressure valve kicked to let some of his own frustration out.

"Is your niece neglected by this, Sir Andraste?" Garus finally asks. "Or do you wish better for her?"

“My niece is neglected only by the lack of her aunt’s presence,” Andraste says and while there is a bitterness in her tone, it is self-directed. A guilt that is still being realized. “I have spent so many days, weeks, months — fuck, years — afield that every opportunity I have to see her, whether in person or photographs… She has grown into someone new and unfamiliar.”

Her hands curl into fists and uncurl, material of armor scraping against itself. A sound so familiar and even soothing to those of their shared lifestyle. “Does she need me? No. All it has done is proven that perhaps… my own lack of a family is for the better.”

Listening in silence, Garus allows Andraste her peace without interruption. While he is no font of wisdom himself, the soldier-to-soldier camaraderie sometimes requires to listen to the woes about the family left behind. While Garus has learned many details of his own soldiers through observation, very many details have been delivered in the same manner in which Andraste has chosen.

Slowly, Garus nods off into the distance, letting her words trail off into the near-silence of singing birds and the warbled grunt of a bullfrog by the creek.

"This is not my place, Sir Andraste, but we can never know how much time we get with the ones we love; my yet-to-exist children, yours, anyone's." He turns his head to look to her, eyes a serene pool of attention directed towards her. "All you can do is make the best of the that time you get, and when you get it, never forget a single detail or make cheap of it. You fight for her, I assume? She's too young to fully understand." Garus pauses. "Someday she will. Keep a journal for her to read when she is older. She will understand your love for her then, and it will matter."

The laughter from Andraste in the wake of Garus’ words is more bitter than humor-filled. It’s a laughter to try to ease the pain. “You have no idea how right you are, m’Lord. We don’t know how much time we get and it can be ripped away…”

The way her hand forms a fist, the way her jaw tightens. Andraste has known loss. So keenly that she feels it still. Her hand moves to a place near her collarbone, as if to grasp at something… and gauntlet scrapes against armor instead. The woman’s chin drops and her eyes close as she exhales in a slow sigh.

“A journal. I don’t even know what I would say. Much of my… thoughts as of late, regarding family, would not paint her father in the best light. Perhaps once I bring him up from the darkness he’s in and help him find the right path again, I will.”

Reaching out with a gauntleted hand, Garus squeezes Andrasta's equally armored shoulder. Using it for balance, he presses up to stand beside her and make quick work of returning his swordbelt to its rightful place around his hips. Tugging at the lashes and engaging the magnetic locks, he leans down for his discarded gauntlet.

"If there is one thing true about this war it is that there will be thousands - if not millions - of stories that will never be told. For better or the worse, sometimes it will be important to detail the scars to better understand the triumph. If you're asking me, which you're most definitely not, I would suggest putting it all down and believing the effort will be a victory." Garus slips the gauntlet back over his forearm; fingers wiggling into the gloves as the shell ratchets back into place. "Your care for your niece is commendable."

Garus smirks to his armor's hard-light screen as he checks its settings for a diagnostic. Commendable. It is a clever call-back to an old word.

"This is why I love tourneys…" Garus comments to the wind, caring not whether she hears or agrees. "Not to show off or be powerful among the citizenry and nobility, but because it brings us knights closer; more tightly knit. The pageantry is our little inside joke, is it not?"

When Garus uses Andraste for support to get upright, he’ll find that she’s a steady force. The woman sits up a bit straighter from her lounging position and she’s silent until he’s fully on his feet. There’s a soft laugh when he returns to that same word. It’s a genuine laugh; one of appreciation. Of understanding.

There’s a grating and creaking of armor as Andraste works herself to her own feet, grabbing at her gear. Emptied canteen is collapsed and tucked away within armor and she returns her sword to its rightful place. though her armor is in good condition and certainly not poor, she looks positively utilitarian next to the Leonnidan Lord.

“Ours, yes,” she says, glancing over towards Garus as she adjusts her sword and settles a gauntleted hand upon the pommel. “Those who know well the trials of battle itself. I personally loathe when I find myself in the lists against a professional tourney knight.”

At the mention of professional tourney knights, Garus' smirk fades into a neutral posture. The last tap-tap-tapping upon his diagnostic window completed and the screen recedes back into the inner forearm of the gauntlet. His head turns, glancing to Andraste's face with a blank expression, continuing the turn to check on his men. "My brother, Young Lord Sir Godric…is a regular, professional tourney knight. It will be an interesting afternoon when we meet in the lists and settle an old competition." Garus nods to her, moving to step past her.

"It was a pleasure, Sir Andraste. Six keep you and yours. If you see me in the field, you can place me at your back or side."

When Garus explains the particular… interests and career of his brother, Andraste blanches slightly. Unknowing of the background details that may be involved, she’s largely concerned that she just implied insult- not just upon his family member, but the heir to the House. The woman leans down and grabs her helmet, busying herself with tugging it into place and getting the seals applied.

It hides her expression.

“I meant no insult to House Leonnida, Lord Sir.”

"You made none, Sir Andraste. I understood your intent." Garus replies sternly, casting a curious brow back to her.

Her voice, through the speaker, is kept measured.

“I can pray to the Six that I meet someone with the future of our people in mind in the field. It is a worthy goal. Consider yourself having found a friend in the lists of Rovehn.”

With a plated fist to his chest in a salute, the metal of his gloved hand taps against the image of the roaring lion on Garus' breastplate. Nodding slowly towards her, Garus' cape turns his back to her, choosing not to say goodbye. He knows she knows, and promises of luck have already been delivered. Without another word to her, Garus tucks his helm under his arm and approaches his men.

"Alright, soldiers, we've miles to go ‘til camp…"

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