The Best Presents Come in Pairs

The Best Presents Come in Pairs
Summary: A call to present some troops is answered by the Westmarks, though the appearance of them seems to throw Prince Tomas off, specifically Lady Coriaria's. And it seems the Westmark Heir has decided her faithful protector is in need of a gift.
Date: 15/June/2013
Related: None
Alek Coriaria Katarina Morganna Paule Tomas 

Entrance Hall - Brivey Keep
Tightly-fitted stonework walls arch upward into the wide open rafters of the entry hall of Brivey Keep. Colorful banners proclaiming this the territory of House Rhaedan dangle from the rafters and rustle quietly when hit by a draft. An extensive red carpet runner extends from the entryway and all the way up the hewn-stone stairs to the second floor. Iron sconces set into the walls are fitted with tallow candles kept constantly lit, and beneath them low wooden benches provide seating for waiting visitors.

The entryway widens as it nears the staircase, and an archway on the left leads down into the dungeons while the right leads toward the guest wing. Just to the right of the stairs, a tall set of oak doors leads into the Lord's Hall. The double-door entrance into the keep itself is flanked by two menacing, gold-plated suits of armor inlaid with glittering gems.

Sat Jun 15, 1329

She's filthy… and she smells of one too many run-ins with the business end of an overflowing mug of booze.

It's a good thing her parents aren't about. She'd catch a comment or two but good.

"AUGH," Cricket howls as her foot makes unwelcome contact with someone's heel, "Kharnas seize you!" Irrepressably foulmouthed after only a week on the road with her twin, free from any oversight or reproach, it seems her more slovenly habits have taken their hold over the young Westmark. No doubt poor Alek will wince and wonder what new tortures he may be in for once his unruly charge makes her presence known here in the Keep, her too-large shirt billowing over the tattered pants she sports with the same ferocity as the surly scowl now contorting her features. "Blind oaf! Watch where you're going!" Curse the lot of them, these Brivey folk! Noses up in the air and too good to look at the ground they're treading upon — or the toes of one traveler.

Oh, but look who's heel she trampled into, none other than Alek himself, who was just standing there and by the grace of the Guardian's themselves does not wince, or even wrinkle his nose at the sight and smell of his ever unruly and reblious charge when he turns to see who the foul mouthed creature is. "I thought it was the cast off leftovers form last weeks lunch finally being taken out, but I see I am wrong." the Knight's eyes just taking in Coriaria before a faint shake of his head,"By the grace of Stilltha, could you have not stopped to take a bath at some point?"

An entourage of nobles and advisors make their way into the entrance hall. Tomas is at the center of the group, speaking with authority as the others listen intently to his instructions, "Have Sir Elron take a group of the Westmark scouts out to…" Tomas' voice trails off as his gaze falls upon the ragtag group of travelers that have arrived at the Keep. He looks them over for a moment, both brows raised in surprise. At that moment, his eyes fall upon Coriaria Westmark. He stops dead in his tracks, a look of shock, perhaps grief, riding his expression. He says nothing, merely standing there looking at the young Lady of Westmark intently. The entourage stops with the Prince, looking at Coriaria a moment, then to Tomas, a look of confusion on their faces.

Not a ward of anybody nor a noble the Madam of the Verouis Pleasure house lately of the Summer Citadel enters the entrance hall to Brivey keep taking a moment to orient herself. She has with her two of her employees - young courtesans of the upmarket kind. Pretty girls one blonde the other brunette dressed half conservatively in expensive clothing that seems to raise their allure. Neither holds a candle to the mistress herself though - even under the shawl she modestly wears many of the male eyes are turned in her direction. A generic curtsey is levelled at the aristocracy by the woman who is all poise - but then she returns to merely looking around for someone in authority to speak to.

Tomas isn't the only one to look confused. When the accoster of her toes speaks up, it takes a few moments for the voice to register with Cricket's brain. Quicker than a spring thaw, the anger melts from her features and she gives a little jump before throwing her arms around her truest friend. "Alek!" she hollers, proving a tenacious barnacle as she clings to the knight in her stinky fashion, "Sorry! Cas and I ran into trouble. Not that we were /looking/ for any, I /swear/." Of course, given the heiress' penchant for scrapes and what-fors, one never knows whether to take her words at face value or not. If she's offending anyone with her display of unguarded emotion, she certainly doesn't seem to be terribly concerned. "It's good to see you, at any rate."

There is very few people that wear dark leather robes everywhere. As if that wasn't enough to give away that the Baron Paule has arrived at the top of the stairs, the red hood and cloak that mark him as the leader of the Knights of Westmark does. His arms fold over his chest. "If you ran into trouble, I would expect more blood on your outfit and a proper disposal of bodies with the markings for your kills." the Baron says calmly, as he starts down the stairs. "And still had time to wash in a spring and put on a proper dress. Regardless, it is good to see you, Cricket." the Baron offers as he steps onto the landing, his footfalls quiet as he approaches the others.

There is just a slight sigh from Alek as he gets 'slimed' by the filthy and foul smelling Coriaria, the ever patient Knight gives something akin to a hug, though he only leaves one arm about the young Westmark as she clings to him. "I know, trouble just has a way of finding you two. Perhaps you might consider some company next time, to help out when trouble comes?" One of his ever charming, and pretty, smiles comes,"It is good to see you as well." Though now he needs a bath too! The voice of the Baron does draw his attention, turning enough to give a bow of his head to the Baron, Cricket getting the comfort of his Knightly arm for as long as she wishes, though there is perhaps a slight press to draw her attention to the nearby Prince and his entourage just moments prior to the Knight offering a slight bow to the Royal. And oh…hey…shiny…pretty almost un-conservatively dressed women, Alek blinks a moment before his attention is given back over to his barnacle of a charge.

Tomas's knees begin to buckle as a member of his entourage move to steady him. The Prince leans on the help for a moment, before turning away from the crowd that has gathered in the hall. He ignores the fact that he received no greetings, or simply doesn't care. He murmers something to those near him, something about 'Vivian.' Tomas then turns his gaze back to Coriaria, his eyes beginning to well as he looks her over. He then turns away completely, whispering something to his advisors. At this moment, he notices Paule, looking up toward the stairs where the Baron makes his entrance. He gives a slight nod of his head in respect, before turning his attention once more toward Coriaria. His behavior might be considered suspicious.

Morganna bows as Baron Westmark enters - a generic greeting mirrored by her two beautiful charges. Despite her poise the well dressed young woman remains quiet merely waiting to either be approached or glean some inkling of who is who here. Large ocean hued eyes scan the crowd - rest on Coriaria for a second longer than anyone else (her being the outlier in the group at present - a dirty noble. And Morganna not for the moment being aware of the irony of this thought being entertained by a clean whore). Then she moves on eyeballing the nervous Tomas bowing again in case it was missed - and levelling a slight polite smile at him and all assembled.

She does have the decency to blanch a little at her father's arrival, though her recovery is swift and she releases Alek from her grimy embrace, making obeisance to the Baron and then noticing the Prince as well. "Forty-five fighting men as ordered," Cricket pipes up, choosing to ignore Paule's commentary on her appearance for the time being, "All present and accounted for." Her earlier surliness has disappeared. Nothing like the prospect of some parental disapproval to snap her back into reality! She chances a smile at her father before adding, "The journey was slightly more eventful than anticipated, my lord. I did manage to make it with my limbs still attached, as you see." That counts for something, right? Wait, are those… hookers? Something mischievous enters her eyes and she glances to Alek.

"Excellent, Cricket." Paule knows when his daughter has done a good job, and there is a subtle smile of approval before he turns to Tomas. "Your Highness, that represents twenty percent of my fighting force. However, that twenty percent is worth two whole divisions of regular men at arms with their training and expertise. And believe me, if there is any ill motions from the Tanifords, there will be nothing that will keep my men and I from crawling up the Taniford asshole and disembowling them from within." he says as he notices Morganna and gives a nod of his head back as he looks to Alek. "With Lady Coriaria's return, and Lady Prada still absent, I return you to your duties as the protector of the Westmark heir."

When Coriaria releases him, Alek's arm falls to his side like it was always there, the Knight stepping more to his usual position at the young Westmark's side as if the embrace never happened. Really. Lightly murmuring to Coriaria,"Your Lord Father is so eloquent as always." Noting the glance from Cricket, the look, inwardly does Alek sigh, smoething is not going to go well for him. This is certain. Giving a bow of his head to Paule,"As you wish, my Lord, as it does seem the heir is already plotting at what I will be doing for her."

Tomas forcefully tears his attention away from Coriaria as Baron Westmark speaks to him. He takes in the Baron's words, before looking yet once again toward the Lady Westmark. Tomas hesitates for a moment, before looking back to Paule. He inclines his head toward the head of the Westmark family in gratitude, "The crown thanks you for your service and contribution. I am sure your men will be able to defend the keep, there is no doubt." He offers a quick smile of gratitude before having his attention pulled once more toward the Lady Westmark, his eyes narrowing as he takes her in, watching her closely.

Morganna remains in place quietly until the nobles settle their business content to be ignored or approached with her two retainers remaining in place immediately behind her marking Morganna as the 'boss' amongst the whores. The alluring woman had to leave her paltry retinue of private security outside. Setting aside her shawl Morganna reveals lustrous red hair and alabaster features - a kind of beauty that is painful to look upon. That is unless you are awash with lady aristocrats like at the present. Then you have a choice of eye candy.

"Aye, Highness," Coriaria adds with not a little enthusiasm, turning to Tomas and looking for all the world like she's fixing to get up to mischief, "Should the Tanifords prove more obstinate than usual? Well. My lord father, the men, /and/ I will /all/ be more than happy to make them wish they had never dropped out of their mother's snatches!" Perhaps it's rather more salty than is becoming for a girl of her station, but Cricket loves nothing more than planning a good fight — or how to cheat at said fight — and all this talk of disembowling has her quite animated. "And Alek here will help too! Won't you, Alek?" The Knight is spared a hearty clap on the back before his charge places her hands on her hips and looks at her host with perfect equanimity. "We are all at your service, each in our particular way." Mmm. Speaking of service. That red-headed whore sure looks nice enough… best inquire what her going rate is, at the appropriate time. After all, Alek should be allowed a nice prostitute every so often, by way of payment for putting up with Cricket's antics.

Paule nods again, his daughter given a smile. She is the fruit of his loins after all. "With your arrival, that means I can return to Katarina in Westmark." he says as he considers Morganna and the girls, and then, casually, to Coriaria, he remarks. "If you are purchasing your man entertainment, make sure they have the proper tax documents and current records all to date from the Healer's Guild and Merchant's Guild. You would not want your man to catch crotch rot or pubic crawlers, after all." he says casually as he bows his head. "By your leave." he offers, but is already starting to head back up the stairs unless stopped.

Tomas turns his head toward Paule once more, offering an incline of his head as the Baron takes his leave. He makes no move to stop the older gentleman, instead looking once more toward Coriaria. Both brows are raised in response to her words, but he says nothing. He remains planted in place where he stood when he noticed the Lady. Finally, his attention turns toward the whores and the redheaded vixen. He purses his lips in contemplation, before turning to whisper something to one of his advisors, who also turns his attention toward Morganna.

Alek grins at Coriaria's enthusiasm and extra saltyness,"Yes, my Lady, I'll be right along there with you to help teach them just why it was such a poor idea to be born." The Knight at least seeming to have some manners in lacking the colorful turn of words that both his Baron and Baronnet seem to prefer. His icy blue gaze shift to the Baron at those words about records, documents, giving a bow of his head to the Baron as he takes his leave. And then Alek is just giving Coriara a look before suggesting,"It seems that business is wrapping up, you may wish to consider that bath now. "

Morganna remains enchantingly aloof and ostensibly unaware of the attention directed her way (though she is used to it). She turns and murmurs quietly to her two retainers. Morganna despite wandering into an unfamiliar situation remains confident. Which either is a reflection of reality or a very good bluff to anyone who bothers examining her that closely.

As it seems Tomas is the silent type and apparently not in any mood for jocularity, the girl shrugs, doffing her cloak and draping it over her left arm. Her father's warning about checking the whores' paperwork is met with a broad smile. "Indeed, my lord! I would not dream of throwing any women of poor quality at such a loyal servant of Westmark." Her gaze grows appraising as it moves over the trio of prostitutes, her sharp senses alert to any signs of infirmity or disease. They /look/ healthy enough — but she'll check their documents nonetheless before handing over any coin. Then, to the Prince, "As it seems my current appearance is offensive to more than just my friend, I ask your leave to go and make myself less…" she trails off, considering, "… conspicuous." Yes, that seems about the right word. She does motion to get Morganna's attention though, snapping her fingers twice and gesturing with her chin for the hooker to meet her outside.

Tomas moves toward Coriaria finally, his gaze sweeping across her face. He crosses his arms behind his back as he nears, before taking a step to the side and walking around her as he studies her features. When he returns to her line of vision, his face is pale, his eyes moist. "What is your name, my lady?" The Prince asks, his words precise, a testament to his education.

The Westmark Knight is fully prepared to depart as Cricket seeks her leave from the Prince as well, but there is a long look from Alek at the finger snapping, a look to Morganna and her companions. Giving a slight apprasial fo them before his gaze returns to his charge, surely she can't be serious? But it does seem the Prince is not quite ready to give Coriaria her leave, and….he is checking her out like a slab of beef at market, Alek in turn watches Tomas like a bog croc waiting for the illegal pocher to be tossed into the waterline of the bog.

As Paule steps away and back up the stairs to find Katarina, but is keeping his ear out to listen for his daughter's response. At the bottom of the stairs, Coriaria is dirty but has brought troops. Alek is back with her, and down on the ground, Morganna has a trio of 'girls of the evening' to visit any nobles that wish to partake of the delights they have to offer.

Morganna is not one to dismiss the commands of aristocracy even if it is slightly dirty aristocracy. She bows at Coriaria's request and departs the room. Any business that she had to transact with whoever was in charge at the moment in Brivey could wait. The musk of her classy perfume slowly fading as she retreats. Of course many of the male eyes that are not otherwise occupied tend to follow her. She redons her shawl.

"Coriaria, though I rarely go by that name." Perhaps Tomas is ill — he certainly looks under the weather — and doesn't need to be further accosted with ribald chit-chat. The thought makes her tamp down her natural inclinations toward salacious ripostes and casual banter. She can appreciate people of few words, no matter how counter to her own sanguine temperament such behavior runs. "I am Cricket to my friends and prefer to be called such, though your Highness should of course use whichever name he finds most appropriate. There /are/ those call me…" But no… no jokes, Cricket… he doesn't like your jokes! "… oh, no matter." Excellent, Morganna has taken the hint and gone outside. "As you see, I'm currently not fit to be in such gracious company."

The calm sound of steady footfalls is the first hint to Paule that he is not alone in the stairs and, soon enough, Katarina meets him along the stairs with a small smile of amusement playing along her lips. She reaches out one hand and lightly brushes that errant curl of dark hair that insists on falling against his forehead as she comes to a stop beside him, one step up so that they are quite nearly at eye level. Her eyes, and attention, sweeping past the remaining stairs to the little tableau below - mild curiosity resting upon the Madam that is departing the room - before taking closer note of her daughter and those others who are gathered. "Have I arrived in time to make the pleasantries to new arrivals?" is wondered in a quiet voice to Paule, "And did our child fall down, roll in the dirt, pick herself back up by the scruff of her neck and toss herself in a dust bin and emerge with her new sense of fashion, classy grubby I'd imagine is the technical term, before she arrived?"

"No, according to her, she ran into trouble on the road, and had to deal with it herself. Much like her mother." Paule says casually as he turns and presents his arm to the Baroness. "If I may escort you, we can certainetly greet our child and her sworn protector."

The Prince raises a brow at the Lady Westmarks words, nodding occasionally in agreement. He then introduces himself, "I am Prince Tomas Rhaedan, the Kings Steward and voice." He offers a bow at his waist, as if he were bowing to an equal. He glances now toward Alek and his expression, a brow shooting upward in his direction, before he looks back across to Coriaria. The color has returned to his cheeks and his eyes have dried naturally. The Prince allows his gaze to fall upon Lady Westmark's attire, a smirk tugging at his lips, though he fights it. Finally, he speaks, "Perhaps none of us are fit to be in your company, Lady Westmark." His words are genuine, his tone is sincere.

Morganna disappears outside as she is bidden with her entourage.

There are a few places upon Coriaria that aren't as dirty as the others, namely those that were used in 'sliming' Alek as it were, for there is a Cori-like print of grim on the otherwise well groomed (and pretty) Knight. The Knight Protector is keeping that watchful eye upon the Prince, who at least does not seem to reek of booze today. Though Coriaria's stench could always be masking that. Hard to tell really, Alek's simply gotten used to it by now…especialyl since some of it got transfered to him in that 'slimming'. When Tomas moves to that more respectful distance and is not circling his charge, Alek does relax a fraction. Marginally. It is at least a distraction to what 'gifts' Cricket seems to want to buy.

That sincerity isn't lost on her — Cricket is very perceptive, after all — and a corner of her mouth pulls up into a smile. "A great honor," she replies with an elegant, respectful bow of her own, her gaze dropping as he introduces himself. Remembering all of those little rules of courtesy is rather trying, but remember them she must, lest her parents give her hide a sound thrashing for embarrassing them any further! "Though I would wish that you not inconvenience yourself any further by standing near me. If my friend here—" she gestures to Alek, "Is to be believed, I've carried in a most… unique stench. What was it he said? Food refuse of some kind, I believe. Alas, the filth of the road is rather tenacious and has no care for the dictums of polite society." Oh, she can sound educated too, for she /is/. It's simply that she prefers to speak plainly. Then, to Alek again, "I believe I have an errand for you. Involving… coin. Perhaps a good deal of it." Poor Alek, he'll never see this one coming. Or maybe he already has? Either way! He /has/ to put up with her, right? "I do hope you're not prudish."

Tomas crosses his arms behind his back once more, shifting his weight slightly as he looks between the two. He doesn't comment on the stench, instead he pretends that he doesn't smell it. As the two converse, he says nothing. Finally, when he has a chance, he inclines his head, "Then, if you will excuse me, I won't bother you any further." He offers a smile, then a nod toward Alek, who he pats on the shoulder, "Good luck." He then turns on his heel and heads toward his entourage of advisors once more. He leans down, whispering to one of the men, who turns his attention quickly toward Coriaria. The advisor squints toward the Lady Westmark, before both brows shoot into the air, eyes widening a bit. The advisor nods to the Prince, giving him a quick response.

Leading his wife down to their oldest and her protector, Paule offers a brief smile. "Yes, and it seems she took your lesson of washing off well - though it seems she has chosen to do so in someone's pig sty." he says with an amused smile pulling at the corner of his mouth before he leans in to kiss his wife on the cheek. "You look as stunning as the day I met you."

Ever so dutifully does Alek offer up what had been spoken earily,"It was the cast off leftovers from last weeks lunch finally being carted out, my Lady. " Alek offering a hint of one of his ever charming smiles whne he says it even. Otherwise, Alek does keep from intruding into their conversation, simply standing by and keeping that watchful eye upon the potential viper attack. His eyes turn to Cricket at the mention of an errand, he did put up with her, whether he had to or not might be up for debate. "What is it you want me to do?" Managing a bow of his head to the departing Prince,"Thank you, Your Higness, I do need all I can get." And he does with having to look after Cricket!

Upper Bailey - Brivey Keep
Were it not for the walls and the towering keep one would think they have stepped into a garden. Here paths of cut stone wind their way through well-tended flower plots and trimmed topiaries. Short hedges line the walkways leading up to the keep's entrance, and lanterns hang from posts set at even intervals to light the way.

The main, wide path leads from the lower bailey to the keep's entrance hall, while two other smaller paths split off in opposite directions to head to the guest wing and the temple.

Sat Jun 15, 1329

"You'll see…" Cricket replies to Alek, half dragging the Knight behind her as they step outside again, "Oh! There she is. Hard to miss, isn't she?" A sweeping gesture indicates the lovely red-headed Madam herself. With her characteristic fearlessness, the Westmark heiress strides right up to the prostitute. "Thank you for waiting, Mistress….? I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name. It was rather crowded in the Hall, no?"

Alek sighs with a shake of his head at the reply he gets from Coriaria and is half dragged after her. Ice blue eyes looking to the madam in question,"True, I think it's the hair. If a solider had hair like that, especially a scout, they'd surely have to dye it to no become an easy target." Such a tactical consideration. the Knight does however fall silent as the madam and her companions are neared.

Morganna with her usual regal poise turns and bows, "Not at all my Lady - I and my girls are flattered to have attracted your attention. I had come merely to seek permission to set up shop in Brivey. I am Morganna Verious proprieter of the Veroius Pleasure house in the Summer Citadel. Seeking to expand my horizons," she speaks with as much class as she dresses, "And this is Lily," she says gesturing to the blonde who nods and smiles, "And Sally," indicating the brunette. "I have more girls that I have brought with me who are not here of course."

"Hmmm." There's that appraising glance again. "I see, Mistress Verious. And… I presume your girls are all healthy and… well-trained in acting different roles, yes?" Coriaria, it appears, lacks no frankness where talk of sex is concerned, even if she /does/ lack the actual experience to back up her coarse language and the bravado she affects. "Not to presume, but are you yourself available as well, or are you strictly the manager of the business?"

As Coriaria strikes up the conversation with Morganna, Alek simply remains silent after giving a polite and respectful incline of his head to each of the women. The occasional glance towards Coriara as she does go down the particular line of questioning.

"My girls are amongst the most highly trained courtesans in Eikeren my Lady. They have certificates from the Healers guild and are legal by the tax authorities. The standards I maintain at home are eclipsed by none. I am hoping to retain those standards here. They are more than satisfactory in performing their duties." At the mention of perhaps herself being for hire Morganna merely raises an eyebrow, "I can hardly ask my girls to perform tasks that I am not willing to undertake myself. I Have my regulars. But I am hired rarely. And I am expensive." She might have added 'quality always is' but she did not want to seem too proud.

"Ah, so," Cricket says lightly, arching an eyebrow at the stunning redhead, "I expected as much. The expense is not a problem — I will compensate you more than fairly for your time. What say you to spending an evening with the King's steward, Mistress Verious? You would be required to keep this transaction of ours in the strictest confidence, and if asked, merely say that the… donor… is a patriot who wishes to remain anonymous." She looks to the brunette, who really does have incredibly beautiful eyes, along with what appears to be a rather fine bosom. "And Sally here… I'd like to retain her services for my friend Alek."

Alek was fine and good with the progress of the conversation, even if wondering how the Flowering Vines might take having competition, up until his name is actually mentioned and he is shooting Cricket a look before giving Sally a more apprasiing look before noting,"I could use some company this evening, if you are really going to be so kind, my Lady?" An unreadable glance sent to Coriaria, which if she is intent upon this path and the transaction made, Alek will offer his arm to the fine brunette.

Morganna places a hand on her own magnificent bosom when Coriaria makes her request, "The King's steward? Truly? It would be an honor my Lady," A few fine cracks appear in her magnificently constructed persona with a splash of color entering those white cheeks. "If I might make a suggestion," Morganna says slyly, "Lily and Sally are quite comfortable at servicing clients together. As a gesture of goodwill I am willing and I am sure they are willing to charge you no more than one of them would cost."

The businesswoman in Cricket springs to life. "Splendid!" she claps, "Aye, a fine suggestion, Mistress Verious. Lily and Sally it is then." A broad, charming grin is flashed Alek's way. "You see, my friend? I am forever at your service! Now escort these beauties to someplace more private, hey? I will arrange all the particulars with the lady here and you only need enjoy yourself at my expense." Oh, he's going to kill her. Repeatedly. But there's more afoot here than simply trying to make Alek uncomfortable or upset. Cricket never acts without good cause. "Tell me, Mistress Verious, are you at all an educated woman?"

A bow of Alek's head is simply given to Coriaria,"It would be my pleasure, my Lady, your gift is most generous." Just giving her another unreadable look before Alek turns to Lily and Sally, offering each one of his charming smiles and an arm,"Shall we, my dears? I know of this lovely little place for us to enjoy. They have the most delictable of wines, and since it sounds like you are quite new here, perhaps I can offer a few additional suggestions that might interest you." Leading the pair of beauties off as Alek takes to charmingly chatting them up and certainly seeing to following Coriaria's orders for the dinner bill that she'll be getting later, the fine food and wine the trio will be enjoying as part of their evening!

Morganna cants her head curiously at Coriaria's question but smiles at their acceptance of her suggestion. "I suppose educated enough my lady - I can read and play the lute and knit - But I did not grow up in a brothel but as an urchin so my early years were wasted in terms of education. Why do you ask?" She stands perfectly like some form of statue. "In pleasure books of course I am more than well versed - as one would expect."

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