A Toast to Sanity

A Toast to Sanity
Summary: While on their journey from Sipdon to Rhaedan, Lord Castor and Princess Niniane (and their entourage) make camp before leaving the river-lands behind. The conversation turns somewhat interesting…
Date: 24/November/2103
Related: A Few
Castor Niniane 

Veiled Heath, Sipdon
As the more forested lands of the northern kingdom descend westwards toward the river-land and the town of Sipdon, the air becomes more humid, the ground greener and the larger woods give way to thick underbrush that clings to the ground like a blanket. The land becomes a contrast between the rich and cultivated farms and vineyards near the river, and the unruly and treacherous fens further from the road. A thin fog hangs about the countryside like a gossamer veil over a woman’s face. The air is rich with the scent of life, the tame and the wild.

The great road that follows the Rothim River, connecting Sipdon with Brivey and Laketown to the east and Rhaedan to the north, twists and turns with the land, slowly travel considerably — as evidenced by the preference of many travellers to journey by river. There are farm houses and other small fishing hamlets here and there, but only near the river. This is the Veiled Heath, and deeper within it becomes the Deep Fens.

24th October, 1329

The night is young but to avoid any hazards of riding the small group of escorts and the northern princess have started to set up camp for the night. While in the north and therefore mostly safe, Niniane's things are trailing behind her to give the smaller group greater speed. The princess herself is dressed more pain clothed then she normally is, riding dress and leather gloves protecting her hands. While visibly nobility, one might not suspect that she is royalty at least.

After being helped down from her horse Niniane can in fact be found brushing down her own beast of burden, not one to pass the job off to the guards, though many have offered.

A shadow moves in the trees — a small copse of river-land evergreens providing natural shelter about the campsite. The shadow pauses, then steps into the campsite — revealing itself to being Lord Castor Westmark. The youth is garbed in his travelling leathers, with no sign of House colours or insignia upon them, his hood up over his face and his hunting bow in his hand. He nods to one of the guards, and then heads for the Princess.

He has a small scrap of parchment in his hand, which he then pockets just as he walks up to the horses. All around, the woods are mostly quiet — but for the sounds of certain birds and insects. Castor pulls back his hood and reaches for the saddlebags lying on the ground next to his horse.

"The woods are clear for now, Your Highness," he murmurs with a smile. "We will be warned if anything… untoward should happen." He eyes her as she brushes down her horse.

"That must drive your father mad," he remarks dryly with a smirk on his face. He indicates what she is doing, with a nod of his head.

"But why, Lord Castor? It was my father who attempted to instil in me what it means to take care of your own." Niniane's words carry in the darkening evening though she keeps her voice low. She doesn't turn around yet, bending over to check the horses' shoes for rocks. Finding none thankfully the blonde straightens and turns around to give Castor a wide grin.

"I am not worried, my Lord; as long as you are checking the wood I do not have a reason to be." Her words come out a touch on the cheeky side while she attempts to sound sincere.

Brushing her hands off on her gown Niniane then moves to stand beside Castor, having already been banned from cooking for the guards and knights, "Would you really have me be so delicate I am afraid of a little dirt?"

As if in agreement with the Princess's words, Orion — Castor's blue-roan Charger — flicks his tail at the young lord, and tosses its head in Niniane's direction. Castor mock-scowls at the stallion.

"Whose side are you on?" he challenges, then he glances sheepishly at Niniane as she stands beside him. "Never, my princess. Never. I suppose I put my foot in it, just now… 'twould not be the first time. Or the last." He flashes a grin at her. "It must go to show how little I know His Majesty — perhaps…" His grin turns sly.

"Perhaps you could tell me about him? We should talk of something — I have wine in here." He pats the saddlebags, and casts a glance over to the centre of the camp, where the evening meal is almost ready.

Niniane's lips turns back up into a smile as she looks to Castor's saddlebag, "Perhaps wine would be a lovely idea." The stallion is given a winks as the woman nods her head, "My father…oh how to start."

A pause follows her words as she clears her throat, "My father in a complex man, I find. But then your own father trained me to look at both sides of the story." Green eyes brighten at the talk of parental figures. "I would say he is harsh in his dealing with his children, but on the other hand he is not severe enough. He is more invested in his subjects then any king ought to be, but it is hard to drag him away from his maps." Blushing a touch, her shoulders shrug, "I must be the worst judge of my father's character though, I was angry at him for years for sending me away to your family then the south, but now as I am older I understand his reasoning behind it. If Jerric falters, Kerilyn was never going to make a good heir, too power hungry."

Listening intently, Castor pulls out a bottle of red wine from the saddlebag and then motions with his chin toward a fallen log near the crackling campfire. The air is thick with the scent of life — insects, nocturnal birds, even frogs — and the mists of the fens hang low to the ground, just visible further away.

The young lord waits for the princess to get comfortable, then he takes two cups and pours the wine. Offering a cup to her, he remarks: "He sounds much like my father — although I am glad he sent you to us. We might never have…" he trails off, leaving the sentence unfinished. The mention of Kerilyn elicits a frown from him. Concern.

"Has there been any word…" he inquires aloud. "From her?" He cannot quite bring himself to say her name, or directly refer to the forbidden lands.

A shake of her head is all Niniane gives for an answer as she settles herself down and accepts the glass from the younger man, "No." The words is said quietly as she doesn't let the wine breathe and just takes a sip to hide her annoyance.

Shaking her head Niniane then smiles to Castor and touches a hand to his shoulder lightly, a light touch that barely causes any weight upon him, "I am sorry; my sister is a sore subject, but I was the one who brought her name up. In truth I do not have a clue what her and that Southern whelp are up to…" Her apologetic smile remains as a blush touches her cheeks.

Turning back to the wine, the princess pushes hair back from her face as she looks into the red liquid then back to Castor, "ah yes a much better subject, I am also glad my father holds yours in such esteem he would send his daughter to him."

The guards complete the initial perimeter patrol of the campsite, and take shifts in either eating the evening meal, or keeping watch. By the time they are done, only half the guards remain visible in the camp — the rest are off silently patrolling the small woodland.

Castor keeps a 'weather-eye' out as he converses quietly with the princess, but upon seeing her face when discussing Kerilyn, he reaches out toward her hand with his own. As she smiles a few moments later, he grins. "I should say something profound, like 'we are ever at His Majesty's service', but — true, though it is — I cannot quite manage it with a straight face!" He pauses. "Do you think he will consent? And at what price? I am prepared to stay in Rhaedan as long as I can."

Smiling Niniane squeezes Castor's hand and chuckles lightly, "I am sure my father understands your sentiments." She bites her lower lip then worrying it between her teeth before finally saying, "My only fear is the rumours of my potential betrothal to that southern prince." She holds Castor's hand tighter at this, unwilling to let it go despite the guards present. She emits a small sigh as she looks over Castor, "I do hope they are just rumours."

His hand holding hers, Castor's lips form a thin line upon hearing of the other betrothal. He frowns. Then he shrugs his shoulders. "Well," he says with a sigh. "If the Guardians are willing, there are ways around such things — and rumours do often prove to be just that. Rumours." He smiles at Niniane fondly, reassuringly. "I am sure the will of the Four will become clear in no time — you can set your mind at rest, my princess. Nothing will happen that is not meant to happen."

The last statement bears the tone of one who is making a personal promise, as opposed to a declaration of faith. Castor raises his cup to his lips, but he does not drink. He sits there, upon the old log, next to Niniane, and stares at an empty space beyond the wine-cup, above the campfire.

A curt nod of her head, "Nothing will happen that is not suppose to happen because…well just because I can always say no." She chuckles, the sound musical against the background of night noises. Noticing Castor's serious demeanour however Niniane shakes her head and reaches up her cup free hand to touch his face lightly, "You worry more than I do my Lord; one of us needs to learn to be light-hearted."

Staring out, following Castor's former line of sight Niniane sets her hand back down on the log beside her and sips at her burgundy wine.

Castor smiles at the girl seated beside him, practically forgetting (or ignoring) the 'proper thing' to say or do entirely — and he lifts a hand to lay it over hers, against his face. He smiles.

A wolf howls.

Castor looks up, then across at Niniane, lowering his hand. He clears his throat, and the moment is past. "I suppose you could say no…" He smirks. "Rebelling against one's father, I admit, does have some appeal for me… But still. I hope it does not come to that."

An owl hoots.

Castor glances across and nods toward… something — nothing? — in the shadows beyond the campfire light. "Nothing to worry about, my princess," he murmurs. Wolves will not come near the fire — besides, there are worse things in the fens, the deep fens, anyway." He smiles — a little more roguishly. "Do you find me… dour-faced? Sombre?" He chuckles. His cheeks colour faintly with embarrassment, as if he had given something away, something usually kept secret.

The night sounds brings the various animals and the princess visibly shutters as Castor touches her hand, "I have no need to worry." It's declares as she breaks her far of gaze to look back to the boy beside her and tilts her head to the side.

Blonde hair falls across her eyes at the movement but she just huffs to blow it out of her face before saying, "I think you hide it well, sometimes you are too happy my Lord." Apple green eyes continue to study his face as hair falls back into place obscuring her view.

Castor blinks at Niniane, his eyebrows raised, and chuckles. Shaking his head a little dubiously, he finally takes a mouthful of wine from his cup and smacks his lips afterward. "And here I thought only Cricket knew that…" his eyes find hers and he looks back at her with fondness.

A guard, dressed in a cloak and hood, returns from a patrol, bringing Cerberus along with him. The immense, shaggy hound practically grins at both Castor and Niniane — and then heads for the food. Castor hardly glances at the boghound.

"Why me?" he asks without warning, after several moments of silence.

Green eyes blink as the princess tilts her head to the other side, "Why you? Do you wish to qualify that question or shall I go upon my first response to its meaning?" She smiles to Castor and shakes her head slightly, finally pushing that pesky hair out from in front of her eyes.

"Why you…We need to ride in the morning Castor. I do not believe there will be enough time for me to answer fully." The corner's of Niniane's lips turn further to the sky as she puts on her own happy face for him, though it seems genuine.

Castor smiles — particularly at the errant strand of hair Niniane keeps batting away. "Perhaps I was just curious," he offers with a motion of his hand. "You have answered my question, however. You can put it out of your mind — but I do like this idea of a morning ride… just the two of us. There are some places in Sipdon that I've not shown to anyone… and some places in the fens. 'Tis not all mud, flies and creeping things. There's beauty in there too, if one knows where to look. I doubt the king would permit a joy ride into the deep fens, no matter how highly he regards my family!"

He takes another mouthful of wine, and nods to a guard who brings over two plates of hot food. "Do you hear much from the South?"

"A question in the form of an answer…" Niniane gives a wry grin and finally triumphs over the hair by tucking it behind her ear, "But I so did want to further explain my answer. How I find you far to interesting for word, how I could not stop trying to think of ways to facilitate a visit while you were south…after my performance for the guards. A performance that was far to easy to slip into." She blushes, cheeks reddening against pale skin highlighted by the fire.

the plate of food is finally looks to as the princess turns away to take a few bites. Swallowing, she winks back over to Castor, "I thankfully have not heard a word for the south, though I worry my sister is treated well or not."

Castor prays.

He barely whispers, but he does not partake of the meal until he is finished talking with Altheara — which only takes a handful of seconds at most. Then he looks toward Niniane and nods slowly. "We'll find a way," he promises her. A smirk brightens his features considerably.

"Your performance won me over," he remarks with a mirthful gleam in his eyes. "Not that you had to. While I was South, I thought of you daily. Especially at night."

A nearby guard coughs.

Castor blushes very boyishly.

"That is — I mean — oh, Bornas' Balls… I meant…" he trails off, and makes a studious effort of drinking the last of his wine down, his cheeks almost as red as the wine itself.

Niniane's eyes travel up to the guard then back to the Lord beside her as she barely contains a laugh, lips tight across her teeth as she holds it back. Shoulder's shake and the princess finally manages to contain herself enough to nod her head, "I see…" Despite finding humour in his words the woman does blush none the less.

Taking another bite of her meal she didn't pray herself, not as pious as the Westmark. Chewing slowly a sly smile creeps up onto her face as she glances sidelong at Castor and says barely above a whisper, "My performance cause you to think of me at night…"

Castor's cheeks turn crimson.

"You're enjoying this, aren't you!" he half-asks, half-hisses under his breath at her — although it is not malicious. Shaking his head, he starts to chuckle. One of the guards opposite the campfire nudges another and indicates the pair of young nobles with a knowing glance.

Castor does not look up at them.

"'Fortune favours the silent,'" the lad murmurs as he fights his embarrassment with laughter. "Someone please put me out of my misery…" But he is not quite so despairing. By the time he has himself under control again — more or less — he turns his downcast head to the side, so he can look at Niniane, and smiles.

"I think of you night and day, my princess," he admits with simplicity and longing in equal measure. "And every space in between."

"Dusk and Dawn my Lord." The Princess breaths out the words so they are barely a whisper as she sighs. Green eyes turning away for a moment as her cheeks colour Niniane smiles though before trying to play it off for the guards, taking a bite of her food.

Chewing slowly she finally sets the plate aside, barely touched by the woman's birdlike appetite.

smiling then Niniane says a touch louder, "And I am having fun, it's been far too long since walls did not surround me. Not that your sister's keep is not pleasant." She actually very un-princess-like nudges Castor with her shoulder and whispers again to not leave his word's unreturned, "I think of you far too often for my own sanity." It's offered with a wink and a serious tone despite the somewhat joking words.

With his smile broadening into an 'ear to ear' grin, Castor raises his wine-cup — pausing so a passing guard can refill it — and he lets out a short laugh. The nudge goes noticed but not returned — she is royalty after all — but he does give her an 'I'll get you back for that' glance.

"I would like to propose…" he begins saying, deliberately emphasising the word 'propose' for the benefit of the guards sitting nearby. "…a toast." He looks directly into Niniane's eyes like a man staring into his first goblet of water after a long trek across a desert.

"To sanity — and its passing, in favour of warmer thoughts."

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