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Seas Of Erin > Tir-Nan-Og > What dark time is coming
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:18 PM
The first roll of thunder raked the purple sky as Morgana, looking grim, stepped out of the countess's pavilion. She carried a wooden trencher in her hand, its contents carefully wrapped in sections of broad-leafed grass. The rising wind brushed loose fringes of her braid across her eyes, but she did not dare touch her face yet. Instead she tipped her face toward the gale and tossed her chin to knock the unruly strands clear.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 09:24 PM
The still-muddied Marcello was now running toward Niabheara's tent, wary of the sky, and kept looking up as he ran, head down against the wind.
"Morgana!?" he called as he came near, waving at her with his hands-- the only clean thing about him. "I need clothes! For Niabheara! She went to bathe, and--" he looked up at the sky. "Clean clothes!"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:26 PM
Morgana looked up sharply at Marcello. "She's with you? Do you know if--what in the world?" She very nearly dropped the trencher. "Did you fall off the weir?!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 09:30 PM
"We had a mud-fight," Marcello answered, in one of those nonchalant tones that one uses when one wants something preposterous to come off sounding as if it were completely normal. "She's at the river, and--" He waved up at the sky. "I just want to get her something that isn't muddy and full of holes before it starts to-- especially since I don't think she'll fancy staying in the-- Oh. Sorry," he moved past the woman, into the tent, and flukng open Niabheara's trunk, reaching haphazardly for anything that looked suitable.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:35 PM
Morgana followed him back inside, her face going grave as she watched him rummage through her sister's press-box. "Stay a moment, this is serious," she said quietly. "She's been with you this whole while? She's not set foot back in this tent since I left you?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 09:39 PM
Marcello stopped and looked up, frowning at Morgana as he pulled out one of Niabheara's plain shifts, wrapping the bundle up in it to keep the clothes from getting soaked through or muddied.
He shook his head as he got to his feet. "I've been with her every minute until I left her at the river to get her things," he answered. "And I ran most of the way back; I don't think she could have left and beaten me here. Why?" he asked warily. "Has someone been inside? Or is someone impersonating her again?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:40 PM
Morgana held out the trencher slightly, her hand shaking. "This is laced with kinesbane."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 09:42 PM
"Laced with..." Marcello frowned, his forehead creasing as the revelation hit. "Is that a drug or a poison?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:46 PM
"Poison." She reached into her roomy skirt pocket and produced another leaf-wrapped bundle, this one less-appetising: a dead rat, yellow teeth bared in a grimace, toes hooked into tiny fists, so twisted in its spasms that its spine formed a U-shape. "I found it," she explained, voice shaking, "and I couldn't figure out what might have happened to it. So I checked the food. The plate was still warm when I picked it up. So the question is, who left it?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 09:50 PM
"Is it native to the area?" Marcello asked. He looked toward the tent flap. "Morgana, if there's someone trying to kill her, I can't leave her alone and unguarded. We'll figure out who it is, for now...don't bring any attention to the fact that you know. We need to get Moira or Mortoch or both of them; they're the only ones here I trust, and get Niabheara, and then you and I are doing her cooking. Only we don't tell anyone we're doing her cooking."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 25 2007, 09:56 PM
Morgana nodded once, her jaw set, her bright eyes riveted with absolute pitiless clarity on Marcello. She dumped rat atop plate, marched to raise the hood of the tent's brazier, and dropped the whole mess atop the glowing coals, setting off a rush of orange sparks and the immediate foul scent of burning hair. Throughout the entire operation she never took her eyes off him. "I'm going with you," she said, in a tone that defied contradiction.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 10:02 PM
Marcello nodded, bundling up the clothes under one arm. "I'm running," he told her. "I'm sorry to be impatient, but we already lost Tristan." He described the spot in the river where he'd left her off. "We'll wait for you there."
And he pulled back the tent flap and was off like a shot.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 05:49 AM
When Marcello got within sight of the river, he was running more from inertia than any ability to power himself, and he stumbled as he slowed, tripping over clumps of grass and his own feet, his bundle of clothing held tight in his arms, his face, red, his breath panting, and his eyes wide and frantic with worry.
"Niabheara?!" he shouted as he neared. "Niabheara, where are you?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 28 2007, 05:54 AM
"I'm over here!" snapped a highly articulate clump of young birches. "Freezing!"
With the hastily washed remains of her dress wrapped under her arms like a toga, Niabheara peeked out from between the narrow trunks, making sure Marcello had come alone before she crept around the edges.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 05:59 AM
Marcello jogged over to her and held the clothes out to her with the air of a peace offering. "I ran as fast as I could," he told her apologetically. "The thunder didn't start till I was nearly back."
He shot her a hesitant smile, which sent cracks through the hardened dirt still caked on his face. "I suppose I don't need to tell you to hurry?" he asked, shivering a bit himself as he looked up at the clouds.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 28 2007, 06:07 AM
"And you still need to clean up!" she wailed. She made a snatch for the bundle and ducked quickly back behind the screen of trees. "This came up from nowhere! It's as if it--wait, is this the damask? This is a court dress! It's . . . oh, ne'er mind it now." The wet, still grimy dress flew out one side, and a short time later Niabheara emerged from the other side in a rather slithery gold satin figured with pale knotwork. She flipped her hair out of her face and grabbed for his hand. "Come, let's be out of this."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 06:11 AM
"I grabbed the first thing I could find!" Marcello answered in defense, giving her hand a squeeze. "I didn't want you to freeze to death. And it's no trouble, the rain's going to wash me off!"
He started off, try to stay close to the direction they'd come so that they wouldn't lose Morgana. "I'd carry you on my shoulders, but I wouldn't want to ruin your court dress with my mud," he apologized. "Morgana's on her way, too. I told her we'd wait, but in this--" he said-- "We can try to catch her. I--"
He paused, looking back at Niabheara. "You need to know this before we get back to camp. Someone left you supper. Poisoned supper."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 28 2007, 06:19 AM
Niabheara jerked to a halt, stunned. Thunder came from behind them and she nodded once, wordlessly, and started off with him again. "They don't know who did it yet, then, do they?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 06:23 AM
Marcello shook his head. "She'd only just found it when I got to your tent. I...I insisted on getting you before we did anything else; I was too frightened of what could happen if-- you were alone, and there's someone within the perimeter who..."
He bit his lip. "We need to talk to Moira and Mortoch. I-- I think Morgana and I should do the cooking. For the group of us, you and anyone close to you. And one of us needs to stay with you. We can take turns, I just--" He shot her a worried look. "Nothing can happen to you."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 28 2007, 06:30 AM
"I know this!" she shot back. "Fine, fine, anything, anything you all agree upon, just--there's only so many people it could have been. If it was one of my guard, fine, we can find that out with little effort. Has the Puck been seen to? Is it still locked up?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 06:33 AM
"Niabheara, I don't know," Marcello answered quietly. "I told you, I came straight after you. But poison hardly sounds like the Puck. The Puck would lace your food with some kind of flower-nectar that would make you think you were a lowly peasant girl and fall desperately in love with a pig-boy and never be heard from again, not poison you."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 28 2007, 06:40 AM
Niabheara's face reddened. "Aye, I know that," she said more quietly, and squeeze Marcello's hand again. "It's just that whene'er I feel worried about something I cheer myself with the idea that the Puck is still in irons. The bitch has someone in my camp. We will ferret them out."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 28 2007, 06:47 AM
"My first thought," Marcello answered, as he worked his fingers through Niabheara's, "was that it must have to do with whatever that Queensman said to the Trul priestess. Puck wouldn't care about being found out. Poison doesn't seem like something the Trul would do, but they're smart enough to try a means that isn't their own to deflect suspicion. Mortoch would know better, though. I...Morgana said it was kinesbane? Do you know what that is? Where it's from? We might be able to narrow down who would have access?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 04:53 AM
"Kinesbane is a little flat furry-leaf plant, like a nettle but low to the ground," Niabheara responded immediately. "This is the time of year the herders go to dig it up if they find a patch. It kills sheep if they eat it. It grows around the edge of water; I saw one down by the river. It's everywhere." By now she was answering the questions out of obligation; from the darkening look on her face she knew exactly what the implications were. Lightning scored the sky.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:07 AM
Marcello tensed at the lightning, glanced up at the sky with the sort of expression one reserves for worst enemies, and nodded once, then pressed a kiss to her temple, which was far easier for him to reach without significant maneuvering. "So it could be anyone here," he said quietly. "We'll find out who it is. Don't worry. They won't get that close again. I-- I don't know why any one of these people would favor Titania over you, let alone..."
He didn't finish his sentence.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 05:19 AM
Niabheara shrugged, as if this were all in a day's work. "I have my spies in her courts; I do not doubt she's managed to wriggle one of her own into our camp. It's a sloppy bit of work, if it was caught out so quickly. It might have been a warning, except that who takes such a risk for a warning?"
The lightning set her teeth on edge as she waited for the thunder.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:27 AM
"There was a dead rat," Marcello said. He squeezed Niabheara's hand when she stiffened, stumbling a bit as he hurried back toward the tent. "I think you're right; I don't think anyone would do that unless they wanted you dead-- or at least wouldn't mind if you died. But it is sloppy, and--"
He frowned. "No one normally leaves your supper for you, do they? You've been going to the mess or eating when one of us brings you food. And we-- Moira and I-- we wouldn't leave it if we didn't find you. When I saw Morgana with the plate, I assumed she'd brought us supper and couldn't find us."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 05:36 AM
"Moira's been feeding me. She insists I'm not eating enough." Niabheara made a small face. "But it's not as if she cooks especially for me or anyone save for perhaps herself; she only keeps slipping me oatcakes."
The girl beat both him and the rain to the tent. She held open the door and frantically waved him in before the downpour.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:45 AM
Marcello ducked inside a few moments after the first few heavy droplets pelted him on the head and shoulders. "And here I was, just about to get clean,"he said, shooting Niabheara a crooked smile. He started to reach for her waist, but then recalled that he was still covered in caked dirt and she was wearing a Court Dress, as she had reminded him, and dropped his arm. "Moira's right. You're not eating enough. But Moira wouldn't have left food for you. I can't think any of us would have thought a left-plate wasn't suspicious if we'd seen it. If it were from one of us, there at least would have been a chastising note."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 05:54 AM
"I'll order you a bath." She swatted his hand aside in a distracted way. This dress had not been made for active sprints across rough terrain; she smoothed it across her stomach as she fell immediately back into plotting. "The first person to speak to would be Moira, followed by Captain Dorelei and Mortoch." With a roll of her eyes, she fell into her curved chair, looking at the trestle as if it contained a complete fatal feast. "Meg is simply going to take this as an excuse to cook for everyone."
Too anxious to sit still long, she hoisted herself up almost immediately, opened the brazier lid, and waved a hand over it. A cosy low flame flared up from the coals. "Come you. Between you running around in the rain and me splashing around in the river and the both of us playing in the muck, we're going to leak from the nose come morning."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:00 AM
Marcello grinned. "You'll leak from the nose. I'll use it as an excuse to sit at your bedside looking terribly worried and feed you soup."
Nonetheless, he followed her over obediently, holding his hands out over the fire. "There," he said, as he turned them over. "Pleased now? And Meg doesn't cook for everyone. I already told her we're taking turns. She'll try to argue it, and I might let her do most of the cooking, but I get to show off at least once."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:06 AM
"Pleased enough. I shall be more pleased once someone explains why everyone is obsessed o'er who gets to feed me?" Niabheara cried with some alarm. "I can understand Meg, but the rest of you? Are you fattening me up for slaughter? Besides--" She joined him near the brazier. "--if people keep trying to poison me, I shall ne'er eat again. I'll dig grubs out of rotten logs, like a goblin."
She tried to look serious about the threat, but one glance up at him threw her off again. She only just stifled a giggle. "I shouldn't have started with the mud. Your poor hair! It's gone all spiky."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:14 AM
Marcello smiled back, and ran a hand over his head to feel it, his eyes twinkling. "It was worth it for the fun," he assured her. "And I lived off nuts the whole time I was in Titania's dungeon; grubs would properly be a step up from that. And I'm not trying to feed you oatcakes," he pointed out. "Since I'm not allowed to take you to Italy, the least I can do is make you one proper meal so you can see what the best food in the world tastes like. You haven't got everything I'd need, but you've got enough to make do. And I'm an excellent cook. And I've never poisoned a soul, deliberately or no."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:29 AM
Niabheara feigned insult. "Tuatha food is the best in the world," she said haughtily. "Wait until we've a good turn of year under us and you'll see. What do you cook?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:38 AM
"Everything," Marcello answered, giving Niabheara an amused look. "I used to have to cook for myself and my mother, and then later for my sisters. Tuatha food may be the best in this world, but Italian food is the best in my world. Have you ever had a double-thick veal chop pounded thin and covered in sliced pr-- ham and breaded and fried over fresh vegetables?" His eyes actually went a bit dreamy as he described the food, as if it were a far-off fantasy. "Or potato dumplings covered in olive oil with melted cheese and bacon and ra-sliced cabbage and fried sage leaves?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:49 AM
"No," she said, "but I've had gilded lamb with mint, and cherry-and-cheese pudding--which I would eat e'en if I knew it was full of poison and die with a smile on my face--and salmon stuffed with chestnuts and onions, and roasted kid, and heron, and fried apples-and-onions . . . "
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:58 AM
"Fried apples-and-onions I could make you any day," Marcello told her, moving closer to the fire as he watched her expression intently. "If there are any cherries to be had, I'll make you cherry-and-cheese pudding. With cocoa-and-cinnamon-powdered crust and clotted cream, and mascarpone, even though you don't know what that is, and I doubt I can get anything like it here, but I'll take the clots off the top of the cream myself and make it if I have to. And cherries soaked in wine,"he added, one corner of his mouth curving up.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 07:10 AM
"I can't e'en pronounce it," she complained. "I don't know what cocoa is, either. Don't e'en talk to me of cherries; we haven't had any from the orchard since . . . years. We've been getting them pickled in honey from Oireachteigh. No cherry wine, no cherry tart, no pork roast with cherry sauce, no cherries with cheese . . . " She covered her stomach and groaned in despair. "And no fair making me hungry when people are trying to murder me with food. You're a monster."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 07:13 AM
"You don't need to pronounce it," Marcello said nicely. "You just need to taste it." He grinned. "I may be a monster, but you are going to let me cook for you now, aren't you?" he asked eagerly.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 07:18 AM
"You are fattening me for g-me." She gave him a suspicious look. "I suppose I am. But you have to let Meg cook for you." Again, she realised that with Meg, 'letting' was scarcely the right word for it, as it implied that she would not cook if permission was withheld. A small grin crept over her own features. "And you will wash your hands first. Shall I call for the bath? Am I allowed to be alone?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 07:26 AM
"I'm fattening so your dresses fit you again," Marcello retorted, giving the girl a long look. "A bath would be excellent," he agreed, looking down at himself. "And some clean clothes. Do you-- ah." He cut himself off before he asked a question. "I would strongly prefer it if you do not leave my company," he told her. The look on his face-- under the dirt-- was one of tremendous care, as if he were looking at something so precious he did not know just what to do with it in his possession. "At least until we know how much we must fear for your safety. But if you have a need to be alone, it's not my place to command you, lady."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 04:34 PM
Niabheara, in an unaccustomed turn toward self-consciousness, looked shocked by the idea that she had lost that much weight. "My clothes fit perfectly well!" The damask in particular was snug enough that, between damp skin and being in a dreadful hurry, she hadn't been sure she could still wriggle into it. She crossed her arms around her waist to conceal the slight but significant bulge of her ribcage above her stomach. His tender expression brought a second, entirely different flush of reserve to her face. "I don't mind it," she said more quietly. "You are much better company than my usual guard."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 04:49 PM
"Well, then, you just look gaunt." Marcello mimicked her motion, wrapping his own arms around his ribcage as he stepped nearer the brazier, as if he were cold, and gave her a slight, appreciative smile. "Only till we have a clearer picture," he promised her softly. "I may not be able to protect you from a full-on attack, but I hope I can do something in the face of trickery."
He looked down at himself. "I would be better company if I were clean, though."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 04:57 PM
Her jaw fell open; she gave him another quick, playful swat with the back of her hand. "I am not gaunt! I am at least kind enough not to say that the mud is much improvement, as it distorts your features enough that no one can guess at all your other afflictions."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:07 PM
"I should cry foul for you attacking me when I can't fight back for fear of spoiling your dress!" Marcello scolded, tipping his head into her slap, as opposed to away from it. "Unless you want me to dirty your damask." He reached out with both hands, grasping at her sleeves. "You are gaunt! You've got dark circles from not-sleeping, and you're pale. I didn't say it makes you less lovely! What afflictions have I got?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 05:14 PM
"So much for what I said of you being better company than my guard. They don't dare make such personal remarks." But she was laughing. She danced out of range. "You're too big! You're all furry like an animal!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:22 PM
"FURRY?!" Marcello demanded, laughing loudly at the suggestion. "Just because I've got a proper beard?" He rubbed at his scrubby chin, rounding the brazier to reach for her arm again. "And I'm not too big! And you appreciate the personal remarks, because I'm the only person who'd be honest. Which is sad, really, when you consider for how long I've been a professional liar."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 05:37 PM
This time she allowed herself to be caught, with only a nominal nod to twisting for escape. "You are flaking all o'er me! And if you recall I have by now seen much more of you than your beard! All of you tallfolk have fur everywhere!" She blushed furiously but plunged ahead with a wicked little gleam in her eye. "I am a woman; I only appreciate the truth when it's flattering!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 05:55 PM
"You're not that kind of woman!" Marcello objected, snickering at her as he tugged her closer. "And you are the most beautiful, most lovely, most incorrigible woman I have ever known. It's not fur! It's nothing like fur! It's hair! Are you saying your lot haven't got hair anywhere but on their heads?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:10 PM
This time the effort to free herself was a fraction more sincere. "I said nothing like that," she replied, which was perfectly true.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:14 PM
Marcello, realizing that he had made Niabheara answer the question, let go of her-- but only to keel over with uncontrollable laughter. "I'M SORRY!" he exclaimed loudly. "And now I'm terribly tempted to ask you if you have only got hair on your--"
The end of his statement was cut off by a hearty guffaw.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:22 PM
"Don't you dare!" she snapped back, fists at her sides, grinning and bright-red both at once. "That is none of your concern! I'm calling for your bath; the mud in your ears has clearly dirtied your mind . . . "
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:27 PM
"MY MIND?!" Marcello demanded, looking offended, which didn't work out so well when he was still laughing so hard. "I was talking about your feet," he insisted. "And arms, and all kinds of completely innocent--" He dissolved into sniggers once more. "What were you thinking about?" He grinned evilly at her for a moment before adding. "If you like to tell me."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:42 PM
The girl stamped her foot and made for the front of the pavilion. "One thing I will tell you," she said with a haughty pause and a significant glance downward, "is that I shall be delighted to spread to every female in my acquaintance that at least one of the rumours regarding tallfolk men is not true."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:45 PM
Marcello choked, then burst out laughing again as he marched after the girl in an attempt to catch her around the waist, his face flamingly red. "IT WAS COLD!"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 06:54 PM
She snickered and turned back toward the door just as he caught her waist. "It wasn't that cold," she retorted. "Let go! Do you want a bath or should I shove you out into the rain and tie the door shut?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 06:57 PM
"I want a bath!" he assured her, giving her a squeeze before he dropped his arm. "And it was that cold for someone from Ita--What were you doing looking, anyway?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 07:03 PM
"Identification purposes only, I assure you," she said coolly. "I wanted to make sure you were soothly yourself and not some other poor wastrel waylaid by the Puck. And now I should like to find Meg ere she accosts everyone in camp when she can't find me; my sister in blind panic is a fearsome experience."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 07:10 PM
"That suggests you would have recognized me," Marcello added, a bit sullenly, and then nodded to her. "We should," he agreed, reaching for the door, and giving the sounds of pelting rain outside a wary look. "She should have been back with us by now, I think. And we need someone to watch you while I have my bath, since you sound too suitably unimpressed enough to even consider keeping me company."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 29 2007, 07:21 PM
The blush that had nearly died away in the past few minutes re-erupted to full colour. She smirked up at him. "Stop it! It's a matter of privacy in close quarters; I ne'er said a thing about being unimpressed." The smirk faded, and she added more quietly, "Play is play, but I have things to which I must attend now. I'll be safe enough."
She laid a quick, soft hand on his arm before taking up a cloak and pulling the pointed hood up to her brow.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 29 2007, 07:58 PM
And Marcello ducked his head to find his way beneath the hood, drawing her chin up with his fingers to kiss her cheek. "Please be," he said softly. "I'll wash and be waiting. We're going to have to discuss things with the others tonight."
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