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Old 10-30-2015, 05:54 PM   #198
Firefoot
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Firefoot has been trapped in the Barrow!
Léof had spent most of the morning inside the Hall cleaning leather, as planned, and had just a few things to take back to the stables before Eodwine held court. He stowed them in the tack room, but as he was coming out he noticed a strange lad standing in the aisle, facing Æthel’s stall.

“Can I help you?” he asked, frowning and walking toward him.

The stranger turned toward him and laughed, a shockingly feminine sound. “It seems that Æthel has recognized me quicker than you have,” she said.

For a moment, Léof did not understand. Then: “Cerwyn? What are you doing here?” But he did not wait for an answer before sweeping her up in a hug. For a moment, Cerwyn felt years younger, remembering a time when her older brother’s hug had reassured that somehow everything would turn out alright.

“You’re soaking wet!” Léof laughed, stepping back and taking another look at her. “Are you wearing my clothes?”

“Yes,” she admitted.

Léof laughed again. He could still hardly believe she was here. “But what are you doing here?” he repeated. “And how?”

“I came to find you, of course,” she said. “You said you’d come back for me. I was tired of waiting.”

Léof flushed. “I never forgot about you.”

“So when were you planning to do something about it?” It came out more angrily than Cerwyn had meant, but in that moment she felt justified.

“I didn’t know how!” said Léof. “And I still don’t know what you think I can do.”

“Come home,” she said.

“You know I can’t do that,” he said.

“Maybe you can! Father is changing, I think. He’s going to remarry.”

“What! To whom?” If anything could startle Léof more than Cerwyn’s mere presence here, it was this piece of news: that his drunkard father could find someone to marry him.

“Everild – her husband died, a few years back,” she said. Léof recalled her – she had been kind to them, after their mother died.

“So he managed to put aside his drink long enough to go courting, did he?” asked Léof bitterly.

“At least a bit,” said Cerwyn. “She’s good for him, I think. He let me go to Edoras with her and her daughter and son-in-law, for tools and goods we could not buy nearby, which is more freedom than I’ve had in years.”

“And then you ran off from Edoras?” asked Léof incredulously. “He’ll never let you out of sight again.”

“It would be worth it, if you would just come home with me.”

“No.” Léof did not hesitate. “This is my home now.”

“But…” It had not occurred to her that Léof would not want to return with her. What about your family, she wanted to say. What about me?

“Father made it quite clear I was no longer welcome in his household. If he wants me back, he can come and tell me himself. Maybe then I would come to the wedding – but I would not stay. I belong here.”

“You’d rather play stableboy for some lord than be with your own family?” said Cerwyn, hurt creeping into her voice.

“Is that what you think I’m doing? Look around, Cerwyn! I run these stables, and I’m good at it! I don’t want to farm. I don’t want to work for Father. At least here I give my loyalty and service freely to a man who is worthy of it.”

“You’d send me back alone?”

“If Father’s changed so much, I don’t see why that would be such a problem.”

“Don’t you see? Now that he’s taking a wife, he won’t need me to keep house. He’ll marry me off, and he’s estranged so many of the men nearby with his tempers. He’s had a few men come by – possible suitors, I think. And they are all so old, or poor, wanting me only for my dowry and my housekeeping skills.”

“And what do you think I could do for you, by coming back?” asked Léof. “Just because Father might let me come home does not mean he would suddenly listen to me.” He held up a hand to cut off her angry retort. “Let me think, alright? Come on, you should change into some dry clothes. You can use my room for now.”

He led her to his small room in the stables. She went inside and closed the door behind her, looking around curiously. It was a simple, functional space, without much to decorate or personalize it. It did not look like the sort of home that her brother would claim to be so attached to. She would have to think of another way to convince him to come home.

She quickly stripped off her wet clothes and hung them to dry. There was a small towel beside a wash basin that she helped herself to, drying herself and rubbing away the worst of the mud and grime. Then she dug into her pack for a dress, relatively clean and dry.

Outside the room in the aisle of the stables, Léof paced anxiously. He was thrilled to see Cerwyn, of course; he and his sister had always been close. Nevertheless, her appearance complicated his life rather thoroughly. He would not leave Scarburg, but his sister could not be sent to make the journey home alone. She would have many people worried and angry with her; it would be best to at least send word quickly, if the roads were at all passable. Of course, he did not wish to force her to leave, if she would rather stay with him, but then they would have to speak with Eodwine…

Suddenly he remembered the court, which he was almost certainly now late to. Which it now seemed he had business to bring to. He nearly called in to Cerwyn to hurry, when the door opened and she came out, looking much more like herself in her own clothing – but also much more like a woman than the girl he remembered. She’s changed, he realized, and in more ways than one. He would never had dreamed she would have run off like she did; once, she had been the obedient one of the pair.

“We need to get inside,” he said. “Lord Eodwine – the Eorl – is holding court.”

Cerwyn didn’t fully understand what this meant, but she hurried to keep pace beside her brother.

“Look,” Léof said, thinking aloud. “I won’t move back home, but maybe you might come here. If it’s marriage father wants for you, there are many promising young men here of good standing.”

“I do not need you to marry me off, either,” said Cerwyn sullenly.

Léof smiled at her. “Sister, I do not care if you choose to stay unwed until you die, if that pleases you. You still need a good reason for Father to let you stay here, though, and I’m afraid you made it all the harder by running off from Edoras.”

Cerwyn nodded slowly. Yes, Father might see the sense in this plan, if she had not over-estimated his willingness to reconcile with Léof. But did she want to live here? She’d known one home all her life, and she did not know if she wished to leave it. “I will consider it.”

“Well, then,” said Léof. “I guess you ought to meet the rest of the Hall.” And they slipped quietly inside, not wishing to interrupt if court had already begun.

Last edited by Firefoot; 10-30-2015 at 09:42 PM.
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