Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 02:47 AM
Morgana smiled and ducked her head. She rubbed her face with her sleeve again. "Mortoch," she said to Marcello, fondly, as if that should explain everything. She politely and wordlessly rejected the offer of his arm, but followed him into the camp. "You seemed surprised when I said she'd spoken of you," the woman said. "Is she well? Would she not have spoken of you?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 02:56 AM
The tips of Marcello's ears tinged pink. "Ah. I'm not sure. If you say the last time she wrote was before we even left for Oireachteigh, I really don't...I wouldn't have expected it. She's a little hard to..." He shrugged, then shot the woman a smile. "You know. She's your sister. She's--" He sighed. "I think she's-- she was doing better yesterday than the day before, but I don't know how much of that was because she was too exhausted for anything else. She hasn't been sleeping. She's got grey circles under her eyes, and she..." He pressed his lips together. "Sometimes I think she's going to fall over where she stands. But I don't really know how much better she's expected to be. Tristan's-- well, you heard Mortoch. Titania murdered him."
His voice went tight at this. "We've been doing the best we can."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 03:11 AM
"There was a letter waiting from Oireachteigh when I reached Anvil Harbour," Meg said, her grey eyes tilted in kittenish curiosity; it was a roundabout way of answering the question, to her mind. "I didn't know . . . poor Tristan." She cupped a hand around her own lower belly, as if to stifle a pain.
"My sister is definitely our mother's daughter, in many ways. I don't know if you've met my mother." She gave a faint grin, more of a grimace. "Both of them terribly single-minded persons. They forget about other people when they're upset. Nialla also tends to forget about herself along with the rest." She turned to look at Marcello as they walked. She seemed on the verge of adding something, but let it go. "Which is why it surprised me that she mentioned you. She said you reminded her very much of my son."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 03:19 AM
Marcello gave the woman a sidelong look, not wanting to ask the question of whether the letter came before or after his own abduction. "It came as a shock to us all. The last I saw of him in the palace, Auberon promised that Titania would not lay a hand on him. And then...they slit his throat," he said, his own face going grey. "Cut off his ear and threw it at our feet. Froze his dead body in a pond."
He shivered as he said it, then swallowed, as if swallowing would remove the subject from the conversation. "And I have not had the pleasure of meeting her, although Niabheara has told me she's a... formidable woman. Ah." He gave Morgana a curious look, and a dubious expression crossed his face. "She's never mentioned that to me. The bit about your son."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 03:33 AM
Morgana's lively face went very still at the description. It took a while for her to come out of her silence.
"They were very close, more so when they were younger, of course," she said quietly. "Tristan reminded me very much of Brammie at that age--chatty as a jay, ne'er met a stranger. Had to practically tie his hands behind his back to keep him from climbing things. She was much the same when she lived at home. Between the two of them . . . gods, I don't think I slept a night through until Bram was ten and Niabheara was already countess." She smiled faintly at the memory.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 03:41 AM
Marcello gave the woman an appreciative smile. "And I haven't slept a night through since I got here," he replied. "I can only imagine her as a girl; she..."
And then he frowned, as if something had just occurred to him. "She's a lot like the eldest of my sisters. Will of steel, temper changing every moment. I don't even know where she is now," he said thoughtfully, tugging at his ear. "She's close to twenty-one, for all I know, she's married and has three children," he said, looking amused at the prospect.
"So where is this son of yours now?" he asked eagerly. "If he's half as wonderful as I am, I should really enjoy the opportunity to meet him. Not with you, I take it? Not that I would recommend this place for a boy...And Niabheara said you have a baby now? Back to sleepless nights?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 03:51 AM
"Brammie's with his grandmother, on the sea. The only one of the family who took to the sea, and me mother's gloating about it something fierce." She smiled. "Me little one, the daughter, is home with her father. Just turned three winters." And again the woman radiated unconcealed pride. "But she's a turn again from the other two. Easy as can be, only cries when she's hurt, slept dusk to dawn her first day in this world. Her da's greedy for her. I think he near shoved me out the door this time to be with her."
Then she turned quiet again--not exactly sad, but contemplative. "Nialla's changed a great deal since she came to Cnoch-na-Niall." Morgana did not even attempt to disguise her disapproval. "She's lost a lot of that . . . I don't e'en know the word for what she was. We took a little girl who trusted everyone and put her in a place where she couldn't trust anyone. I don't know if she e'er forgave us that."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 04:01 AM
"That sounds like our Hero," Marcello said, smiling slightly. "I left home when she was still a baby; she'd be a little older than Tristan...was, I think. But she was a joy."
He bit his lip, then shook his head. "You did what you could. What would you have done, hidden her from the world? That would have been worse. You gave her a happy childhood, and a good family, and that's more than a lot of people have. She-- she's a good woman, Morgana," he assured her. "It's better her than someone who was raised not to trust anyone; then we'd be looking at the lesser of two evils and not a light in the darkness. She can't trust people, but she believes in them nonetheless. It's a fine line."
He gave Morgana a meaningful look. "That was the one thing I told Niabheara when she said you were coming. Was that I had to thank you for raising her so well."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 04:15 AM
Morgana gave her bright, soft laugh again. "We lived with her for a time at Cnoch-na-Niall. She had a wonderful bard then as well, an old man called Bhaisailli. I'm afraid I was quite evil to him those first years; I feared he might entrench her too much in Court. But he understood it. He doted on her as much as I did. There at the end, when he was dying, before he had to return to the College, I doctored to him. He taught me how to read in exchange." She tucked her hands behind her back. "No one knew just who she was back then. A few of the baronesses sent their second sons up to court her. I intercepted them, convinced them that I was the countess and that she was my daughter, and I ran them ragged ere I let on the truth. It was always fun to see their faces fall when they realised they'd spent days wooing the wrong sister. More so when they had to turn 'round and adapt their seductions to a ten-year-old. The ones that won the most favour were the ones who let her braid their horses' manes."
She smiled fondly at Marcello. "No thanks for me. Anything I gave her, I gave for love, for joy. She is dear to me."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 04:22 AM
Marcello gave a real laugh at the bit about the horses' manes. "As she-- As well she should be," he amended, a touch awkwardly. "I think the bit with the horses might still work with her; the second day I was in her...ah. Care? I found her up to her knees in horse-muck, with one of them eating her hair. In our hypothetical journey abroad to visit my home, I am going to make it a hypothetical point to take her to the friend of mine who raises Arabians. Just to see her face," he said, looking amused. "And then we are eating hypothetical steak and hypothetical onions and drinking hypothetical grappa."
He flashed Morgana a broad grin. "You're hypothetically invited, as soon as we manage to finish whatever the hell it is we're meant to do here."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 04:45 AM
"This will depend on my wayward son hypothetically hieing his hindquarters home again to husband his barony," Morgana replied nicely, while studying the man with a cool and thoughtful look. "I admit, I am not the best person to be telling that you plan to take my sister away. Hypothetical though it may be."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 04:56 AM
Marcello looked abashed for a moment. "I can't very well get her anything like a proper steak here," he pointed out earnestly. "Or proper cheese. Or proper olives. Or proper anything, really, especially the way Cnoch Na Niall's stores were when we left them. And it's too far for me to bring them all back. We'd hypothetically have a hypothetical chaperone, if it hypothetically makes hypothetical things hypothetically better?" he offered timidly.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 05:05 AM
Morgana gave a mischievous cat-like smirk. "My lady sister has twenty winters, sir, and is entirely capable of being her own chaperone. So tell me: are you always so transparent when you're love-bitten?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 05:13 AM
Marcello's ears pinked again, and he pursed his lips to keep from laughing. "Does your entire family like to guilt men into thinking they're behaving like vicious cads when their affections are that transparent?" he retorted, both blushing and grinning furiously.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 01:52 PM
"What? I think it's sweet." At the same time her eyes belied a little sorrow for him.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 03:23 PM
"I mean the scolding-me-for-hypothetically-abducting-to-Italy bit," Marcello explained, before giving the woman a good long frown. "That's what Jamilah said, too. From the looks that tend to accompany it, I can only assume it's some sort of Ladies' Code for entirely hopeless and pathetic."
He observed this in surprisingly good humor, then dipped his head to the woman deferentially. "I'm here to help her," he said earnestly. "That's all."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 04:57 PM
"As am I," Morgana replied smoothly. "You men are entirely too concerned about looking pathetic. Love expects one to grovel a bit." She smiled fondly at him.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 05:13 PM
Marcello smiled back. "Oh, I think you might wait till you know me a bit better before jumping to that conclusion," he warned the woman. "I spend far too much of my time looking pathetic to really worry that much about it. Over a variety of things, and not just love, although love has been the prime example of late."
He tugged at his ear. "I know," he said, nodding to the woman again. "Niabheara and Moira have spoken nothing but the highest praises for you. Your sister loves you. It will be good to have someone here who will care for her properly in all this. I don't know her well enough yet to always know the right thing for her. I've been trying, though," he added earnestly. "But I can hardly be you."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 05:19 PM
A bright red and vaguely Niabheara-shaped blur came shooting across the muddy encampment. "Morgaaaaaa-na!"
It leapt on the smaller woman and spun her half-circle in a violent, enthusiastic hug.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 05:19 PM
And Morgana, with only the briefest warning before impact, caught the girl's full weight with an 'oof!' before laughing aloud and completing the little circle with her hands around Niabheara's waist. "Look at you! You're a mess of filth. When was the last time you washed your hands? Or changed clothes? Don't deny me, I've already gotten the full report and you've not been sleeping or eating since you began this. How d'you expect to take o'er the world if you can't sit still enough to get a single meal in you? Now go comb your hair!"
She ended the speech by setting Niabheara down with a no-nonsense swat on the ass.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 05:21 PM
Niabheara's face burned, but she could not wipe the grin off her face, even as she reached around to rubbed her stinging rear end. "My sister," she said to Marcello, in a tone both pleased and embarrassed.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 05:29 PM
Marcello, too, was so taken with the reunion that he was beaming when Niabheara finally turned to him. "I gathered," he answered, shooting Morgana an amused look. "She narrowly rescued me from a bear attack this morning. So, are you going to listen now?" he asked Niabheara teasingly. "Now that there's one of our numbers who can threaten to spank you?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 05:35 PM
"I outrank her." Niabheara's chin shot up, though her eyes twinkled. "I can have her imprisoned."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 05:35 PM
Morgana's eyes narrowed. "If you have me imprisoned, Miss Wickedness," she growled, "you had best prepare to ne'er let me out."
Then she squealed and squeezed Niabheara again. When this did not slake her exuberance, she let go Niabheara and flung herself briefly and with matching enthusiasm at Marcello.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 05:45 PM
Marcello laughed, loudly, still beaming as he hugged Morgana back and shot an immensely amused, immensely pleased look in Niabheara's direction. "If the Countess treats all her prisoners alike, I can assure you now that imprisonment is really quite pleasant as long as you don't mind a bit of dust on the furniture. Some of my fondest memories are of being imprisoned, thanks to her. Being imprisoned by Titania has nothing on her. I urge you to reconsider."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 05:54 PM
"Well," Niabheara replied, looking meekly at her toes, "I didn't exactly know what I was taking on when I got you." Her face was still red; she was honestly growing concerned with how long exactly Marcello and Morgana had been speaking before they came to this side of the camp.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 06:02 PM
"Oh, so if you had known, you would have relegated me to the cheese room?" Marcello teased. "Or do you mean you would have seen to it my rooms were dusted first?"
When he saw Niabheara's expression, he relented, glancing at Morgana. "Morgana needs to be brought up to date. I think Mortoch covered most of the larger events, but as for the details..." he said, glancing between them. "Especially of the last few days."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 06:42 PM
"Or had the cheeseroom dusted," Niabheara retorted.
Reluctantly she moved nearer to Morgana and spoke for a time, quietly, in Tuathalli. During the whole brief speech her face barely altered, save to blink, and her voice never changed from its low, calm murmur. Occasionally Morgana paused her with a question; she answered tersely, then moved on.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 06:42 PM
At the end some of the pink leached from Morgana's face. She reached out and squeezed Niabheara's hands in her own. "From the time I spent at Anvil Harbour there's been no word of any activity at Cnoch-na-Niall," she replied huskily. "Although it seems it's quite well-known that you're rading for Tristan; that much has gotten out. Silly girl, why haven't you told more people of this? Why raise the banner on your own?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 06:43 PM
"I have," Niabheara insisted, "I've gotten word to as many as I know. It's just that so much has happened so fast . . . "
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 06:55 PM
"She's doing her best," Marcello put in supportively. "We've sent word to Fiona, Moira says we have Beal-Feirste and Anvil Harbour on our side, and perhaps some others. We would have Oireachteigh if it weren't for the sickness. We have the Trul."
He gave Morgana a pained look, stepping closer to Niabheara. "It is a question of whether they arrive in time," he said quietly. "Niabheara called for aid when she could. If Tristan had been returned unharmed, there would have been no need, and Titania would have accused her of being unduly aggressive and a usurper. If there's anyone else we should ask..." he said giving Morgana a meaningful look. "I would not know their names."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 07:01 PM
"Has she spoken to Mother?" Morgana folded her arms sternly over her breasts, already knowing the answer.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 07:01 PM
Niabheara drew apart from the both of them. "Mother and I are not speaking."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 07:01 PM
Morgana stamped her foot and blew a puff of air. "Of course you're not speaking! I'm not-speaking to Mother! It has been the most lively discussion of non-communication I have e'er encountered. You know her; she'd come back. Offer her anything. Tell her you'll pardon her out of exile. Beg. She has Seth on her side now; she only just sent me to speak with him in Ravensdale. He'd be willing to help you, I know he would. Humble yourself a little, you miserable child, or I'll go out and do your pleading for you! I have no shame in it if it saves your rotten little life."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 07:10 PM
Marcello suddenly looked both smug and uncomfortable at the same time. "I told you to contact your mother," he told Niabheara sheepishly, then looked to Morgana. "Would she really be helpful?" he asked. "If she'd help, I'll entreat her. I'm never not-speaking to anyone, and even if I were, I don't know her well enough to not be speaking seeing as I've never met her."
He looked back at Niabheara, reaching out to give her sleeve a little nudge. "It's our lives at stake," he pointed out quietly. "Cnoch Na Niall's future. Surely the alternative is worse than at least speaking to her. I'd speak to my mother again if it were a matter of life and death."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 22 2007, 07:25 PM
Niabheara responded to the nudge with a halfway-nudge of her own. "You weren't the one who sent the Admiral after her," she said. "If Mother doesn't want to be found then she won't be let herself be found."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 22 2007, 07:26 PM
Morgana burst into a peal of winded, frustrated laughter, tapping herself on the chest as she said, "E'en if she doesn't want to be found by you, Miss Foolishness, I can still contact her; I know exactly where she is. By your leave or not I'll speak to her ere this day is out. You do not command me, countess; I changed your damn nappies." Her blue-grey eyes flashed sparks; she wheeled on Marcello. "How long has your poor lot been putting up with this self-pitying nonsense?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 22 2007, 07:31 PM
Again, Marcello looked torn between being immensely pleased and being rather awkwardly uncomfortable. "I wasn't aware it was self-pitying," he answered honestly, because that at least was true. "Niabheara's been doing well on her own, mostly," he assured Morgana earnestly. That was true, too. "She's so far found a way clear through most of her own troubles. But I'm sure," and he gave Niabheara a look, as if daring her to disagree, "that any assistance we can find would be more than welcomed."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 23 2007, 05:46 AM
"That, I don't doubt." Morgana relented somewhat. She came forward and kissed her sister's cheek, first one, then the other. "You've always been one to stand on your own feet," she said. "But you didn't call for me if not to help you. Let me do what you asked of me."
Then she lifted a lock of Niabheara's red hair and sniffed it. "Meantimes, get a bath. You smell like last week's oil of cinnamon. I'll set myself to your perimeters. Dorelai is still your captain?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 05:47 AM
Niabheara flushed again, this time in embarrassment, and put her hair back over her shoulders. "She is. The camp's fair divided between mine and Mortoch's; they torment each other otherwise."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Oct 23 2007, 05:49 AM
"Then I'll go. Marcello, hold her in the river and scrub her if necessary; I'll be along to force-feed you both." On second thought, her eyes crinkled at Marcello. "Strike that--I'll hold her in the river, you do the force-feeding."
She stroked Niabheara's face with the back of her hand, then drew away. "Don't get too comfortable; I'll descend on you like ravens when you least expect me."
With her usual bustling gait, she set off and away.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 05:56 AM
Marcello shot Morgana a hurt look at the suggestion that he may not be capable of holding-down-and-scrubbing the younger sister, but then waved her off. "Happily, as long as you're still going to force feed me!" he called after her, before turning to the younger. "I like her already," he said, a twinkle in his eye. "If it makes you feel any better, I didn't notice the dirt. Then again, I'm probably filthy myself." He rubbed his hands off on his trousers in a show of solidarity. "What's the word this morning?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:14 AM
"She really will force-feed you, you know." Niabheara spoke as if this were one of Morgana's more irritating points. "That's her cure for everything: leek pie with bacon." But she couldn't help smiling. At the memory of leek pie she actually felt a thin thread of hunger.
"You actually just mentioned the latest: you remember Gearoid an Beal-Feirste? Played Artorius in the Imbloc act? Groped me in front of half-a-hundred people?" From her brighter tone this conversation had nothing to do with the man's social habits. "He just send a runner south. He's managing his wee sister's estates while she's still in her minority, and he's pledged himself to us on her behalf. He's going to cut off Lady Oisin before she can reach Leabharcham!" Niabheara grinned. "Of course, I rather suspect his motives--but who cares?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 06:21 AM
"Oh, Merciful God in Heaven," Marcello said, looking like he was going to drool, his eyes wide and hungry. "I want to be force fed anything that involves pie and leeks and bacon. Do you know the last time I had proper English pie-- not that you're English, but I imagine it's closer to the same thing than a pizza."
He swallowed ravenously, then looked very much as if he remembered the man in question. "Oh, yes," he replied in a teasing tone, "the one I was painfully jealous of? Of course I remember him. And he just went up about ten notches in my estimation, suspicious motives or no. That's wonderful," he said, grinning just as broadly. "And what of Titania? Any word? Does the King know his wife's given him up?'
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:30 AM
Niabheara gave Marcello a particularly wry look. "He refers to me as 'sweet-cuds'. He baits hounds for recreation. I personally have seen him paring his toenails at the table. With the same knife he then used to cut his meat." She pulled a face. "On the black side of the ledgers, he's managed both his sister's and his mother's estates, and acted as shire-reeve to Beal-Feirste, and I've ne'er heard any complain about his performance. His dowry's on the right side of the Tir-Nan-Og oatline. And he is good-looking," she added, rather wistfully. Then she shook her head and went back to business.
"We have three spies in the Court. One of them came back with the message about Lady Oisin. From the queen herself, there's been no word; she seems to have sequestered herself somewhere in her own court and no one's seen her since the King departed." Now Niabheara began to pace. "Moira has been dealing with His Majesty. He's been informed about the message by now. She said he had nothing to say to it--which worries me more than if he had. Now I've got to guess what the man's thinking."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 06:42 AM
"He expected it," Marcello answered, very soberly, before almost breaking out into a grin. "Sweet-cuds. The man sounds like a fine alliance if you never have to set foot in the same room as him," he informed her cheerfully. "My parents were always wonderfully in tune when it came to my upbringing as long as it was done by letter. It can work. Although then you wouldn't get to look at him." It was said teasingly, but there was a sour note.
Then he, too, returned to the subject at hand. "Auberon must know his wife. We certainly thought she might respond this way; he must have considered it as well. The question is what else he expects of his wife, or what else he expects of us. He swore Tristan wouldn't be hurt, and yet the child wound up in Titania's hands. I just don't know where her sway ends and begins with him. In the play, he spends all his time making an ass-- well, not of her. He makes an ass of someone else and then makes her sleep with him. Or makes Puck do it, rather. I've been trying to think of what we can get the Puck to make her swoon over this time, at very least to cloud her attention. I would say Mortoch, because the Queen would be chopped meat, but I wouldn't want to foist her upon him. Perhaps that other Trul? Brae'lok? The one who always has such a delightful disposition?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:56 AM
"If you e'er refer to me as 'sweet-cuds' I will beat you with a stick," she warned. "Brae'lok is . . . I don't know, there's been something going on with the priestesses e'er since the Queensman spoke to their chieftainess, and I of course being Tuatha am not allowed to know what it is. Mortoch's here for me; the others are here for land. It would not surprise me if Titania tried to buy them out from under us."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 07:01 AM
"Of course, sweet-cuds," Marcello replied happily. "I wouldn't dream of it."
Then he pursed his lips. "Does Mortoch have any idea, then?" he asked quietly. "I was suspicious of that from the start; I...the Trul make me uncomfortable, to say the least, so I want to be cautious of judging them for the wrong reason, but..." He sighed, aggravated. "There must be one trul who would know and tell you, no?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 07:08 AM
"Any of Clan Deadfall, which is most of the ones who came with us. The ones who joined later are mostly Blackrock, Brae'lok's warriors. They're mercenaries."
Chewing her lip as she turned the matter over, the sweet-cuds comment struck her belatedly; she looked up in fury and slugged him in the upper arm. "Oh, you rat!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 07:14 AM
"So we ask them," Marcello replied. "Unless the mercenaries aren't sharing their plans with Mortoch's people anymo--ooph!"
He had been bracing for a hit, but not a hit quite that hard, and he started laughing uncontrollably at the same time that he took a spill backward, landing smack on his rear. Where he sat, continuing to laugh. "Well, you said he was good-looking," he informed her, rubbing his arm. "I was hoping it might work for me, too."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 07:24 AM
"He's also the biggest clod on four islands--oh get up!" She burst out giggling as she yanked on his arm. Amazing how a hour ago it didn't seem as if anything would remotely feel funny again. She blamed Meg. "I didn't hit you that hard!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 07:28 AM
"You did!" Marcello objected, pulling a face as he, instead of getting up, yanked back on the girl's arm. "I'm in hideous, painful agony!" Still laughing, he attempted to give her a mournful look-- with little success. "You heard your sister! I'm wasting away! I haven't the strength to stand any longer!"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 07:34 AM
"You're in mud and possibly horse-shit!" And naturally, immediately after this statement, his tug pulled her enough forward that she trod on her own hem, stumbled, and ended up hitting her knees beside him. Her eyes widened in indignation. "There? You see? This isn't remotely humorous, you--"
Righteous fury outstripped vocabulary. Niabheara sank on hand up to the wrist in mud, pulled out a sizable glop and rubbed it into his hair.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 07:39 AM
And Marcello beamed back at her, getting up to his own knees to find a proper striking position. "Your sister's going to strip us both and put us in the tub like we're infants, anyhow. We might as well get properly dirty so she's got something to--"
He chortled with glee as the mud dripped down around his ears, sliding both of his fists into the mud. "No, this is humorous," he informed her, and he pressed his hands-full of squishy ammunition to either side of her head. "Terribly humorous."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 02:36 PM
The girl let out a shriek of outrage that might have passed for laughter if her face had not been contorted into a mask of determined rage. With a fast snatch for his collar, she raked up another fistful and jammed it down the front of his shirt, then slapped down hard to be certain it stuck. "We are in the midst of a military strike! Have you no sense of decorum?" The last word dissolved in a stammer of giggling; she fell back, groping behind her for fresh ammunition.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 02:52 PM
Marcello actually squealed like a child when the mud went down his shirt, wiggling to try to get it out while he grabbed another handful of mud, glancing for a moment at Niabheara's dress as if he were trying to decide whether it was at all appropriate for him to retaliate in kind.
"Exactly!" he informed her. "You need to be ready at any moment from an attack from anywhere! This is a drill, Lady!"
And he used his advantageous height to reach over her and drop a clod of mud down her back, grinning wolfishly.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 04:53 PM
"This is villainy! This is . . . this is an attack on the person of Cnoch-na-Niall, you toad! There's a cheeseroom with your name on it, just wait!" She tried to catch his wrist to stay him but her hands were too slick; she ended up squirming from clammy mud squelching down the back of her tunic. "This isn't fair, you're bigger than I am!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 05:00 PM
"What's that I hear?" Marcello retorted cheerfully, putting a hand up to his ear. "Do I hear someone crying foul because she is unwilling to use her small stature to her advantage?"
He happily ran his muddy fingers across his face in horizontal bars from his cheeks, in a mimicry of warpaint, then slapped his hands back down in the mud and reached, palms out, for her waist to stamp her.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 05:13 PM
"I could scale you like squirrel with a tree and you know it!" Niabheara was still trapped in that stage between screaming laughter like a lunatic and shaking with wrath, neither of which was much conductive to fending him off. Wading toward him, her dress split at the waist when her knee came down hard on a fold. She was past caring about the dress, now well past bespattered, but there was grit in her hair, which made her furious. Cackling, she dug up another clot and flung it straight at his rude mouth.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 05:22 PM
"So why don't you try it, squirrel?!"
Marcello didn't seem all that concerned with fending off her attacks, and took the mouthful of mud in terribly good humor for someone who was eating mud. "Blaugh!" he spat, wiping the dirt from his tongue, and unfortunately leaving his teeth rather caked with it in the process, so that his grin was now as filthy as the rest of him, and his eyes shown out, twinkling, from a face otherwise covered in mud.
"Excellent," he informed her, as he re-armed himself. "I don't think there's any horse-shi--oh," he said, eyes widening with delight as he licked his lips. "No, no, there it is, definitely a manure-y flavor. Want to taste?"
He launched his own handful of mud at her face, slipping forward in the same moment so that he barely caught himself before his entire shirtfront was muddied. Most of it was, nonetheless.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 05:33 PM
The throw caught her with her mouth open. She spat the glob--into her hands--and lobbed it back at him, grimacing horribly. "Paugh!" And looked down at herself, in a pose to later be popularised by Lady MacBeth, to find she had not one clean inch left to wipe her tongue and get the taste out of her mouth. "I'll show you a squirrel! I'll chew your nose off!" She bowled herself toward him, jamming her shoulder into his side to throw him back.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 05:43 PM
"Empty threats!" Marcello informed her, grabbing for her shoulder as he rolled to the side, in an attempt to pull her down after him. "I won't believe it till I see it. You say you'll bite someone's nose off, you've actually got to follow through on it, like so."
He lunged for her muddy nose with his equally-muddy mouth.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 05:52 PM
Niabheara faked left, dipped down, removed her nose safely from range and actually did manage to nip his chin before slithering out of reach. The mud made for an advantageous slippery escape. It did not, however, make sitting up any easier. "We're in the middle of camp!" she protested.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 05:58 PM
"Yes, we are," Marcello agreed cheerfully, attempting to crawl after her, which left him on his front in the mud again before he managed to get to his knees and gave up on pursuit. All in all, he still looked very pleased with himself. "Are we being rude? Should we ask the others to join in? They probably wish they were having this much fun right now. Or if you'd rather find some less-public mud, I'm sure there's plenty of that for miles around."
He ran his muddy hands through his muddier hair so that it stood straight up on end.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:16 PM
Niabheara struggled to rake her own much-longer and equally-bedraggled hair out of her face. From a distance, she now looked like a brunette. "I'm going down to the river," she said mournful, slapping her hands to her sides in despair. "Right now I don't know which I fear worse, that Titania will get off her royal arse and strike, or that Meg will come back and find we've spend every heartbeat since she left us rolling in the mud like a pair of piglets." Struggling to her knees, she examined the rend at her waist, which by now gaped like a mouth, and, sighing, used Marcello's shoulder to pull herself to feet.
Glancing down, she finally got a completely view of him and starting sniggering all over again.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 06:24 PM
"What?" Marcello asked innocently, tugging on Niabheara's arm to pull himself up after. "Am I that devastatingly handsome that it sends you into fits? You're quite sublimely muddy yourself"
He stepped around her, smoothing her hair down rather better, although whether it was at all necessary was another question entirely, and winked. "She said you needed a bath. You've gotten one," he pointed out cheerfully. "In mud, perhaps, but it was a good bath. And now there's no way you can excuse yourself from a proper scrubbing, so she'll be nothing but delighted, I assure you."
He offered her a very muddy arm, then turned and looked her over fondly. "You've got some up your nose."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:37 PM
She rubbed her knuckles over her nose. "I've got mud in every orifice," she muttered. "We'll both need purging to get it all out. Oh-ho, no." She backed away from his offered arm, shaking her head. "I can make it the river myself, good neighbour. You'll either have to find yourself another river or wait until I'm finished."
She shot him a bright grin, realisation dawning. "You're jealous!" she cried triumphantly. "Because I said one word about that swinish Gearoid! You are!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 06:46 PM
"I was going to wait," Marcello said, looking a bit hurt that Niabheara would think he intended otherwise. "Unless you want me to dunk you under fully clothed," he teased, flicking at the gaping seam in her dress before offering his arm again.
And then he blinked at her. "Well, it had completely left my mind," he said, looking both amused and curious. "But I thought I said as much, didn't I? I'm horribly jealous. Horribly, painfully, terribly jealous."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 23 2007, 06:55 PM
"Oh, you say lots of things, it's a matter of sorting out which of them you really mean!" She swatted his hand away from her waist and pulled the torn seam back over her hipbone, holding it still.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 23 2007, 07:04 PM
"You're the only one who ever thinks I don't mean anything," Marcello retorted meaningfully, raising both mud-caked eyebrows at the girl.
"Of course I'm jealous of anyone you call good-looking. Especially anyone you call good-looking who's been permitted to grope you in public. And who has a standing guard to pledge to you. I'd like to have a standing guard to pledge to you. I don't think I'd be thrust into a rage, exactly, if he showed up, but I might stick my tongue out when he wasn't looking. Are you jealous of Jamilah?" he asked her.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 05:10 AM
“Nu--ye--oh, that is such an unfair question . . . ” She strained to voice even the potential syllables for a denial, but got no farther than she had before. With a deep sigh of frustration, she gave up the pretence. “Aye. Not so much now. And not quite jealous; more of . . . when two people who are old friends meet you always get this sense of being . . . excluded, a bit. There’s all sorts of things between them that only they know and you don’t. It’s . . . oh, fine. I was jealous. There.”
Growing chill in her heavy, muddy clothes, she gave him a sullen look. “And I didn’t exactly permit him to grope me.”
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 05:25 AM
"I still say you should have let me play your part," Marcello said, biting his lip as he smiled, in an uncharacteristically shy manner, and offered his arm again. "I would have liked to see his face when he tried to get a handful of me. And I know you didn't," he assured her. "But I do envy him for being in the position to be a proper suitor and not...simply an adoring friend. Even if I know you think he's swinish. Not that either of us should be using that word insultingly, looking as we are. I'm taking you to wash," he informed her, quite rapidly. "I'll leave you off at the river and stand a hundred paces back if you so wish."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 06:15 AM
"Am I to weave a kilt out of water-rushes, then, like a nixie?" Her gown was gummy enough as to make walking difficult; the hem slapped against her ankles so that she had to kick it away. She took his arm with one hand and tried to hold her skirts back with the other. "Don't envy him. He is in all ways boorish and o'erbearing and you are most certainly not. He would not be a fitting suitor if he were the last man breathing and the world ending tomorrow."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 06:22 AM
"I like that you say I'm neither boorish nor overbearing after I throw you down in a puddle of mud and then demand you let me escort you. You don't trust me to keep my eyes to myself?" he asked nicely. "If you'd prefer, you can blindfold me the whole while and I can sit on the banks and keep you company," he offered. "Although I'm not certain what either of us are meant to wear back after this," he added, frowning down at himself, his trousers dripping and his boots squelching heavily with every step. I think you'd better weave rush kilts for both of u--that was not an order," he added hastily, eyeing Niabheara to see if she were suffering from any sudden urge to pick up rushes.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 05:28 PM
"You weren't in Cnoch-na-Niall for the blizzards, when we all had to bundle in the great hall," she said loftily. "It involved the whole household piling before the fires in a great heap of furs so that we didn't all freeze--and believe me, having thirty-odd people within eyeshot deters no one. There are circumstances in which modesty makes way for survival." Conversely, however, she made sure to hold the gap between skirt and bodice well closed on the side opposite Marcello. She turned a bit pink beneath her greying muck, but went on casually. "Keeping in good odour with Meg most certainly qualifies as survival. We can wash clothes as well as ourselves. I believe your boots may be doomed, though."
She gave the boots a look from the side of her eye, then raised the glance to his face and began giggling again at his hair. "Or you could try to lick your fur flat."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 05:48 PM
"Now I wish I had been there for the blizzards," Marcello teased gently, giving the girl a rather fond look. "Not so much for the immodesty so much as to see you pink-cheeked and wrapped in furs and getting to bring you mugs of chocolate. Not that I suspect you have much in the way of chocolate here, but I think you'd look very sweet with a little brown mustache," he added, eyes twinkling as he traced one with his finger a few inches from her face. "Mud notwithstanding, of course. We don't get blizzards in England, and we don't even get snow in Italy. It's something I haven't had the pleasure of seeing yet."
He squelched his boots, and then tried without much success to first look at the hair on the top of his head, and then reached out with his tongue, which managed no further than the tip of his nose. Instead he rolled it into an o-shape and sighed, running his free hand up overtop of his head. "I can't reach, you're going to have to lick it clean for m--"
"Oh, here he said," dropping her arm for a moment to unfix the pin that held his button to his jacket, giving her an amused look. "As tempted as I am, I am not looking at your gaping hole. I can't even see it from this side." He held the pin out. "Here, close it up."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 08:05 PM
"Only people who have ne'er been in a blizzard want to see what it's like," she warned. "You don't dare go into it. It's like going blind, you can't see a wall or a stile until it's right upon you. We string lines from the hall to all the outer buildings; otherwise people would be lost. In Dumann, before you arrived, one of the lines collapsed with one of our older stablemen. He froze to death within the very courtyard walls, trying to feel for a doorway in." The girl looked solemn--but it was the same sort of solemnity she once wore when she told him about the distant ancestor who mistook his brother for a deer.
Obediently, she halted long enough to roll both sides of the rip together and twist the pin through to secure them, all the while making an earnest attempt not to laugh at him again, although her shoulders shook silently at the display.
"Does it truly ne'er snow?" She said it in the same amazed, half-doubting tone she might have used had he told her that morning came in Italy without the sun bothering to rise.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 08:26 PM
"I'm sorry," Marcello said, looking perhaps more troubled than Niabheara did at her story. "No, it doesn't, ever. We grow up with romantic notions of this soft, white stuff...England gets it, but it's never very much and it's always grey mush by the next day. They get snow up north in Italy, sometimes, but never down near where my mother lived. We don't get rain like you do, either. Sun all day, and then hard downpours in the late afternoon, and then clear skies again at night, if it rains at all. I'd take you to see, but your sister got very disapproving when I suggested the idea of you coming to visit Italy," he said. "Even when I invited-- What?" he asked plaintively, reaching for her hand to tuck it up under his arm again. "I don't look that awful, do I? Do you want me to start laughing at you? You look like a baleful swamp ghost."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 08:44 PM
"No, you look--" And of course calling attention to it just made her laugh harder; she folded helplessly over his arm, making vague sticky-uppy gestures over her head with her free hand. "I don't mind . . . I don't think we're . . . " Trying to put a damper on the giggle-fit resulted in a very loud, horse-like snort that only set her off harder; by now anyone listening from afar might think she was sobbing. Swallowing back a hoot, she hiccoughed. Twice. Then backed away from him, waving her hand to ward him off. "Don't, don't!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 08:54 PM
"You don't think we're wha--," Marcello demanded, before Niabheara's laughter infected him and his face crumpled up in a look of absolute hilarity. "I am not that fun--" he started, before doubling over himself, reaching for her shoulder to steady himself. "Ny."
Her hiccoughing made him snigger harder, and when she put up her defenses, he gave her a mournful look. "Please?" he asked, lower lip quivering like a child with a skinned knee. "I'll mean it and everything. Else I'm picking you up and dunking you in the river. That's the other cure I know."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 09:07 PM
"No-o-o . . ." She stumbled away, holding her aching stomach, all but begging him. "No ducking. I'll--hic!"
Her eyes went huge. Trapped, she scooped up the front of her skirts and made a run for it, shrieking all the way.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 09:14 PM
Marcello burst into another laughing fit and sprinted after her, arm outstretched to try to catch her. "Oh, no you don't! Come back here this instant, or I'll tell Morgana you knocked me into the mud!"
And then a moment later, "And that's not really an order even though it is most certainly an order but this is not one either only you're not obliged to-- oh, hell, I'll get you for this one way or another!"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 09:19 PM
Niabheara immediately jerked to a halt. Then tried to start again. Then stood in utter frustration, tapping her foot as she waited to be caught. "That is so not fair! Am I supposed to let myself be caught or not?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 09:22 PM
Marcello slowed to a halt in front of her. "I'm sorry!" he exclaimed. "You're supposed to at least give a good show of it," he informed her. "But I can't very well chase after you without demanding you stop, or it sort of ruins the whole effect, and--"
He tilted his head to one side and gave her a plaintive look. "Do you want me to catch you or not?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 09:24 PM
"It doesn't matter, I'm caught," she said, exasperated. "And I'm drying into pottery. You can catch me, just don't--hic!--dunk me."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 09:32 PM
"Well, you wouldn't be drying into pottery if someone could walk and laugh at me at the same time, but apparently that's too difficult a prospect," Marcello teased, and he reached for her wrists, ringing them with his thumbs and index fingers as if they were shackles. "Now you're caught. You don't want me to kiss you, either?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 24 2007, 09:41 PM
She burst out laughing again and tried to work her hands free. "If my filth does not offend you . . . and if you can possibly find a clean spot. Er." She fell still, suddenly shy.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 24 2007, 10:02 PM
Marcello took her wrists and pulled them around him to place her hands on the small of his back, then freed her so he could pull her forward. "I'm as filthy as you are," he reminded her, before giving her long, soft, and rather muddy-flavored kiss, the bits of drying silt flaking off his lips and chin.
He took a breath, then leaned his nose against hers for moment before tilting his head to lick the lip of her nose. "There, now that's clean," he said magnanimously. "I can just keep kissing your nose forever."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 25 2007, 12:02 AM
She wrinkled her nose, but could find nothing to scratch it on, and she was reluctant to disentangle her hands. "We seem to be doing this a lot lately," she said quietly.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 12:09 AM
He kissed her nose again, smiling warmly. "Not yesterday," he informed her. "We didn't do it at all yesterday. Is this a good development, or a bad one, do you-- ah. Answer if you like."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 25 2007, 12:41 AM
She almost started giggling again; the general ridiculousness kept ebbing away only to sweep up again at odd moments. This time it was her nose itching that did it. She let go long enough to scratch, tamped down the giggling, and set her hand to its former place behind his back. "You keep count?" That was a little more intimidating than she expected it to be. "A good one, I think. I mean. I don't--"
And then she quite firmly shut herself up before entering full-scale babbling mode, the first time she had managed to do so in . . . well, ever, all things being honest. Instead she moved nearer, tucked her hand on the back of his neck, and drew his face down to her level.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 12:59 AM
"What?" Marcello asked, as he took the opportunity to kiss her nose again. "I don't so much keep count as miss it when we don't-- fine, I count, but that's only because so far it's been an easy number to keep track of. Yes?" he asked expectantly, smiling a bit crookedly as he twisted a bit at the odd angle he was standing at. "Did you want something?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 25 2007, 01:04 AM
This time she didn't bother to answer directly. Mud notwithstanding, it was a pretty good kiss.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 01:21 AM
Marcello pulled the girl up as her kissed her, to try to even out the difference so he didn't get a crick in his neck.
"That's sev-- eight," he corrected when their lips finally parted. "Or maybe nine? You see?" he asked, lowering her back down to her feet, though he didn't let go of her. "I'm already losing count."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Oct 25 2007, 02:06 AM
"i thought you memorised all this sort of thing." Being picked up and down was still a bit irksome. As soon as he set her down again, she poked him in the chest. "You are too tall," she complained, as she brushed at his cheeks. "And your face is flaking."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Oct 25 2007, 02:22 AM
"You're too short," Marcello teased. "And since we can't cut me off at the ankle, I say we get you some of those nice cork-things for your shoes.
He rubbed at his own cheek with his sleeve before rubbing at hers "So's yours. I think it's darling. Come on," he said. "River-time. I'm not so much afraid of Morgana seeing her sister covered in mud as I am of her seeing me kissing her sister covered in mud," he informed her, kissing her nose again. "And no dunking, I promise. I'm just going to toss you in, wash my hands, and go get you something clean to wear."
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