Friends

~Streamwood Settlement~

Celia comes down the lane, escorted by two of the village lads, who look quite unhappy. Her lilting voice is unmistakeable as she explains, “La, but I’ve told you I’m not free any longer. You are sweet boys, to be sure, but I can’t, and that’s the truth.” They press their suit, but she seems to be holding firm.

Saeryn pushes open the shutters of the window beside her door and sets down a plate of very fresh walnut muffins, the scent curling outwards in whorls of steam.  As she unwraps a cloth from her hand, she looks out of the window with a little smile.

Dalia looks up from her fishing an unreadable expression on her face, but she turns back to fishing casting the line of her fishing pole back into the water again.

Celia lets her companions down as gently as she can, though they don’t seem likely to take no for an answer very easily. “You’ll have to”, she says, giving them a sweet smile. “I’ll be going to the dance with the man who’s couring me, and no mistake. I’ll be taking my reputation, and his, seriously, and that’s a fact.” They grudgingly make their way off, and she moves blithely over toward Saeryn’s window. “Oh, that smells delicious”, she compliments with a bright grin. “it surely does.”

Saeryn, who had caught some of the later part of the conversation, quietly smiles back at Celia. “I do think they turned out rather well, though they’ve yet to be tested.” She glances after the retreating lads. “Is everything well?”

Celia gives a pretty shrug at this. “La, but it will have to be. They’ll get used to the idea…though I declare I never thought to become so serious, frivolous creature that I am.”

Saeryn leans on the window sill beside the cooling muffins, smiling slightly. “Well, I suppose most settle eventually. I wish you all the best.”

Dalia also watches the retreating lads with thoughful maybe wistful expression, a moment before a jerk on her line brings her back to reality. She reels in a bass. Catching sight of Saeryn, she waves.

Celia lets out a small, silvery peal of laughter. “I hope so, to be sure, though I never thought ‘twould be me. I knew who I was and was happy with my place. I never looked for more. La, but I ought to be asking you how you are holding up. I gave the gossips a piece of my mind for both of us, make no mistake…”

Saeryn returns Dalia’s wave and then gives a small, slightly dry laugh. “Oh, I have held up quite well. They’ve refrained from muttering while I’m nearby lately. And that is most kind of you.”

Celia squeezes Saeryn’s hand, her warm liking for the other girl displayed with her usual cheery exuberance. “Why, of course I did. We’re friends, to be sure, or at least I hope we are, and if we can’t stand up for one another, I simply don’t know who would.”

Dalia waving cheerily Celia as well, Dalia drops the fish she had caught in the bucket and heads for her aunt’s house.

Saeryn returns the hand squeeze, though as always she is more demure about it.  She watches Dalia head into the house for a moment and then looks back at Celia. “We are indeed, dear Celia.”

Celia gives Dalia a friendly wave in return as the other girl heads out of sight. “Good day to you”, she calls out.

Nalan strolls down the road at leisurely pace at the same time whistling an upbeat tune.

Saeryn waves at Dalia one last time and then looks around at the sound of whistling. A twitch of a smile appears and she glances at Celia momentarily.

Celia breaks into a pretty smile of her own. She gives Saeryn a conspirational wink. “La, but there’s one I won’t be turning down if he asks me to dance.”

Nalan ceases his whistling as he draws near the two ladies, “Evening to the two of you.”

Saeryn laughs nearly silently at Celia’s comment and then gives a small smile towards Nalan. “And to you. However, the two of you will have to excuse me… I must return to work for the evening.”

Celia tilts her chin up pertly. “‘Tis a good evening, to be sure.” She grins at Saeryn. “Of course, I’d not be so rude as to keep you…”

Nalan nods to Saeryn, “Have a good evening then.”

Saeryn gives a little wave before ducking back into her cottage, the muffins left to cool a while longer.

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Playing with Taggle

~Streamwood Settlement~

Saeryn is just in front of her cottage, playing with Taggle.  The growing kitten is stalking a button on a string, tail twitching ‘stealthily’.

Cantil picks his way out of the trees and into the settlement, glancing up briefly at the towering thunderheads pouring silently in through the mountains. He doesn’t notice Taggle and Saeryn immediately, but he halts short in the middle of a squash patch to watch when he does.

Saeryn continues to lead Taggle on a merry chase after the button, perhaps to drain him of energy before the clouds reach the settlement. With a pounce, Taggle manages to pin down the sting and chews on the button until satisfied it’s dead.  Saeryn smiles and tugs it from between his feet.

Cantil grins, the expression faint but genuine. He discovers a squash beetle crawling up his elbow and removes it delicately with his thumb and forefinger, peering at it with vague interest. He glances from the beetle to the cat speculatively.

Taggle, surprised at the sudden disappearence of his prey, sits up with wide eyes. He catches sight of the button again and crouches, ready to jump on it again. Saeryn looks up as she slowly drags the button along the ground and sees Cantil. She smiles.

Cantil winces abruptly and drops (shakes off) the beetle, blushing to his ears.

Saeryn tips her head, smile growing a bit puzzled. Taggle distracts her by launching his attack, grabbing the button, and attempting to run off with it.

Cantil’s eyes follow Taggle. “He’s gettin’ big,” he ventures after a moment.

Saeryn grins and reaches out to snatch at the string. She misses and Taggle runs towards Cantil with the button, tail straight up and proud. “He is,” Saeryn agrees as she stands to persue him.

Cantil bends to snag the trailing string, sidestepping out of the squash patch. “Hey, you.”

Taggle, reluctant to give up his prize, stops and shoots Cantil a feline glare. After a moment, though, he drops the button and sits, starting to groom as if he really had wanted to stop here anyway.

Cantil sets the button swinging tantalizingly just out of Taggle’s reach.

Saeryn stops to watch a ways off. Taggle attempts to ignore the toy, gazing everywhere else… but his ears flick towards it and his tail twitches eagerly.

Cantil lowers the toy to twitch along through the grass and gently tugs it out of sight behind a rock. He seems to be quite an expert at kitten-taunting.

The kitten cannot resist persuing something that has gone out of sight. Dropping into a crouch, Taggle sneaks towards the rock, whiskers and ears quivering with excitement. As he reaches the rock, he pauses… then creeps a bit farther, until he can peer around to see the toy.

The button twitches out of sight again. Cantil watches with quiet cunning and a stealthy grin and waits for the kitten to go into full charge-mode.

Taggle gives up on stalking the toy.  Tail straight up and legs stiff, he rushes around the rock and pounces!

Cantil swings the button around himself in a gentle airborne arc that nonetheless manages to stay /just/ out of Taggle’s reach.

Saeryn stifles a laugh as the kitten leaps to try and grab the button, abandoning any semblance at dignity and charging around the boy.

Cantil keeps the button swinging, leading Taggle a merry chase for a few revolutions, then tosses the toy smoothly to Saeryn.

Saeryn reaches out and manages to catch the string.  Taggle stops, confused for a moment, then spots his toy. However, it is far enough away now that he stops charging madly and instead saunters towards her.

Cantil giggles under his breath. “Cats,” he remarks. “Gotta pretend everything’s their idea.”

Saeryn smiles as Taggle reaches her. However, he seems to be done with chasing the button, so she scoops him up. Surprisingly, he doesn’t seem to mind. “You seem to know how to keep him interested pretty well. Have you had a cat?”

Cantil shrugs uncomfortably, looking away and scratching his elbow. “We lived right near the butcher,” he says. “In Chesterton. There’s always a tom or six hangin’ around. For scraps.”

Saeryn ahs as she strokes Taggle’s head. “Well, thank you. He’ll be a bit less stir-crazy now, I hope. He doesn’t like the rain… Not that I can think of a cat who did.”

Cantil glances up at the clouds still building. “Me neither,” he says with feeling.

Taggle curls up and goes to sleep in her arms, purring in extreme contentment.

Saeryn looks upwards as well and gives a wry smile, stroking Taggle more gently as he falls asleep. “It’s not my favorite either.”

Cantil watches Taggle for a moment, then shifts and looks away, awkward and uncertain now that the diversion is gone.

Saeryn glances at him and casts about for a new subject for a moment. Finally, she asks, “I didn’t see you for a while. Did you go on a trip?”

Cantil blinks at her. “Oh,” he says, and glances around the settlement, turning red again. “Yeah, I– a few weeks ago.”

Saeryn tips her head slightly. “Did you have a good time?”

Cantil’s face brightens a little and he nods.

Saeryn smiles. “Good.” She glances at the now mostly overhead clouds. “I think it might be best if Taggle and I headed inside…”

Cantil ohs, following her glance. “Yeah, sure.” He takes a few steps backwards and waves.

Saeryn returns the wave. “Good bye, Cantil. Stay dry,” she says as she enters her cottage.

Dark Limestone

~Streamwood Settlement~

Lorcan is seated on the side of one of the bridges, fishing pole in hand. He hums thoughtfully to himself.

Saeryn is walking back from town, quietly murmuring something to herself. If one watched closely, they might see that it is the same thing over and over, as if trying to memorize a list of some sort.

Lorcan draws back his line and casts it out again with a flick of his wrist. He swaps the pole to his left hand and, resting his other elbow on his knee, puts his chin in his hand.

Saeryn’s attention is caught and drawn by the motion of the fishing pole, which she watches with a bit of distraction for a moment. As her gaze falls on the wielder of the line, however, a small smile appears.

Lorcan fixes his gaze on the point where his line meets the water, and exhales slightly, not seeming to notice Saeryn.

Saeryn alters her path to take her closer to the bridge and Lorcan. Once in comfortable hearing distance, she quietly offers a, “Good day to you, Lorcan. Is the fishing going well?”

Lorcan starts slightly and drops his hand, straightening. He turns towards the sound of Saeryn’s voice and a smile splits his face at the sight of her. “Hello Saeryn.” He glances at his pole briefly. “Decently well, I’d say.”

Saeryn’s own smile grows a bit as she sees his. “That’s good to hear. I know that sometimes it can be fairly empty of fish.” She rests one hand on the side of the bridge. “And how are you?”

Lorcan shifts his position a bit so he can look at her more easily. “I’m well,” he says, still with the smile. “Finished the manor job a few days ago.”

Saeryn tips her head, brows raised questioningly. “Oh? Congratulations!”

Lorcan gives a nod. “Thank you. So, as you can see,” he waves a hand at the bridge and the fishing pole in his hand, “I have some time on my hands until something else comes up.”

Saeryn nods as well, and after a moment asks, “Are you still planning on the project you mentioned earlier? The one based on the poem?”

Lorcan nods again affirmatively. “Yes, definitely. Though I think it’ll be more of a personal project – not one for sale. I’m just looking for the right piece of stone to get started.” He draws in his line just slightly.

Saeryn smiles as she nods. “I thought it sounded more like that… What kind of stone are you planning on?”

Lorcan says, “I’m looking for just the right piece of dark limestone.”

Saeryn rests her weight on the bridge side and nods, gazing at him for a moment. “I’m sure it will turn out beautifully.”

Lorcan smiles, the expression almost shy. “I hope so,” he says softly.

Saeryn smiles faintly back at him before looking out at the stream. After a moment, she inquires, “Is Dalia still visiting? I haven’t seen her for a while.”

Lorcan says, “Yes, she’s still here. She -” his smile disappears for a moment. “She’s considering paying a visit to her family in Andale here shortly, however.”

Saeryn sighs softly and nods. “I see… I suppose that she has been here quiet a while…” She glances back at Lorcan, head canted to one side. “Where does she live normally? I just realized that I don’t believe I’ve ever asked…”

Lorcan glances out at his pole and then back to her. “Oh, she’s maid to the Lady Astera. I believe they’ve been staying at the Manor in Chesterton lately, but her family – her parents and siblings – live in Andale. Well, most of them, her father is a traveling musician, so he is often gone.”

Saeryn blinks. “Ah. That would explain why I thought she lived in Andale, I suppose.”

Lorcan nods. “That’s where she’s from, anyways.”

Saeryn nods and glances at the angle of light before straightening with a small sigh. “Hopefully I’ll see her before she leaves, then. I ought to be going for now, though. Good fishing and good day, Lorcan.”

Lorcan says, “I’ll tell her; I’m not sure yet when she’s wanting to leave.” He looks up at her and gives a smile. “Take care, Saeryn.”

Saeryn smiles back at him as she begins to walk towards her cottage. “You as well.”

Blackberry Pie

~Streamwood Settlement~

Saeryn’s lock clicks and the door opens a touch. For a moment, it stays in this position, letting a thin streak of light onto the ground before it. Then it swings open and Saeryn walks out, having nudged it with an elbow. Her hands are full of a fragrant, steaming pie.

Lorcan is lounging outside his cottage, looking quite at his ease. His pipe is in his hand and he puffs away at it slowly, thoughtfully. He looks like he has cleaned up a little more than usual, wearing a change of clothes from his work ones. His hair is loose about his shoulders, swept back out of the way but not tight in its usual knot.

Saeryn uses her foot to swing the door shut behind her. Before looking about at all, she sets the pie down upon a log which seems to be set up for the purpose of cooling fresh pies in cool evening air. After it is stably on, she straightens and looks about the Settlement, unwrapping strips of cloth (protection against heat) from her hands.

Lorcan has been gazing idly across the Settlement and down to the stream, but the sound of Saeryn’s door closing draws his eyes quickly to her cottage. He tips his head slightly, watching her with a small smile as she settles the pie on the log.

Saeryn’s gaze finds Lorcan, and a similar, small smile appears. Setting down the two cloth pieces, she steps away from her cottage and starts making her way towards him, though not without a glance back at her pie to make sure it is safe.

Lorcan tamps down the tobacco in his pipe and tucks it away in a pocket before rising. He walks to meet her, the smile growing. “Good eve, Saeryn,” he greets her warmly, the glow in his gray eyes turning them silver under his dark brows.

Saeryn smiles back, eyes rather bright. “Good eve, Lorcan. How are you faring?”

Lorcan says simply, “Well.” He looks like he means it, for he does look well. The smile turns shy around the edges and he adds, “Even better now.”

Saeryn ducks her head slightly, though her smile grows in its own shy way. “I am glad to hear that,” she replies. Looking back up, she gestures towards her cottage. “Would it be improved any more by a bit of a treat? You might have seen, but I had the chance to make a pie this afternoon… blackberry.”

Lorcan’s eyes light up more, if possible. “I would like that,” he says.

Saeryn’s face lights up and she steps a bit to the side, making his way towards said pie clear. “Then I’m more than happy to share. I’ll get some plates.’

Lorcan simply nods. He steps towards her cottage and the pie.

Saeryn walks that way as well, disappearing momentarily into her cottage when they reach her door. She comes out bearing a couple of wooden plates and forks, as well as a knife to cut the pie. Glancing around at the lack of seating right outside her home, she offers a chagrinned smile. “Perhaps we ought to eat by the fire instead…?”

Lorcan offers a nod and a smile. “That would be fine.” He motions at the ground around the log. “I don’t mind sitting on the ground, either. Whichever you would prefer.”

 Saeryn looks at the ground and then shrugs with a little smile. “Then here will suit perfectly,” she replies and sits, smoothing her skirt before she sets about to cutting the pie.

 Lorcan sits down beside her, criss-crossing his legs slightly and leaning a shoulder back on the log behind them. He keeps quiet, as usual, his eyes following her movements as she slices and dishes the pie.

Saeryn hands him a good-sized slice. As she passes it over, her eyes flick up to meet his, her gaze warm and happy.

Lorcan takes it with a smile. “Thank you,” he says softly, his eyes lighting up at the look in her eyes. He flicks a few strands of dark hair back out of the way over his shoulder and takes a bite.

Saeryn watches for a moment, then seems to realize that she’s doing so and turns her attention to her own slice. She takes a bite as well, closing her eyes momentarily.

Lorcan pauses with the fork in his mouth before he finishes chewing his mouthful and swallows. “Saeryn,” he says after he’s swallowed it, “that is delicious.”

 Saeryn’s face breaks out into a large smile, rather unlike her usual reserved one. “I’m glad you think so… Blackberry pie is my favorite, and I was worried it might not turn out as well as some of my others lately.”

Lorcan chuckles at that, shaking his head slightly as he turns back to his pie. “I think you need have no fear of that.”

Saeryn continues to smile as she looks back down at her plate and takes another bite. “I was wondering… what is your favorite kind?”

Lorcan hesitates briefly as he chews. “I like most pies. But…probably cherry, I would think.”

Saeryn nods slowly, tapping her fork against the edge of her plate. “I haven’t made a cherry since I was at home… But I’ll certainly try.” A smile appears again and she looks at him, the brightness back in her eyes. “I shouldn’t have trouble finding cherries. Or most fruit, I think.”

Lorcan hmms, slicing off another bite with his fork. “There’s a cherry tree in the knot garden outside the tavern, I think.” Then her final comment seems to fully register and a brow raises puzzledly. “Oh?”

Saeryn nods again. “There is that one, but it’s still in bloom… I’m not sure when it’s going to make fruit. But the other day, I had just gotten the ingrediants for a peach pie from the general store. Well, it turns out that peach is Steward Nalan’s favorite type… he liked it enough to grant me permission to take ingrediants from the manor orchard.”

Lorcan dips his chin in a nod. “Oh, I see,” he says with a smile. Then he pauses. “Can he – do that?”

Saeryn is about to take another bite when he asks this. She lowers her fork and blinks. “I… I certainly hope so… Isn’t he at least partly in charge of the manor…?” Her tone is more uncertain now.

Lorcan taps the fork against the plate thoughtfully. He says slowly, “You know, I don’t know exactly. He’s in charge of most of the Lord’s affairs, I think, so I suppose that would fall within his jurisdiction. Just…surprises me, that’s all.” He glances up at her and says more reassuringly when he sees the look on her face, “I don’t see why he couldn’t.”

Saeryn bites her lip and then raises her fork again. “He didn’t seem to hesitate at all… I suppose I’ll find out if he doesn’t.” Her nose wrinkles slightly at that thought. “Though I can’t say I’d prefer to learn that way.”

Lorcan chuckles a little, his eyes lingering on her nose. “I think if he didn’t have the authority to tell you that, he wouldn’t have done so.” A small frown crosses his face. “Or else I’d be very disappointed in him. It’s unprofessional.”

Saeryn smiles a bit at that. “I wouldn’t be very pleased either.” Looking down at her pie again, she stirs the dark filling with her fork before taking another bite. “I’m glad that there are both cherries and blackberries growing off of the manor grounds, though. I don’t know if I’ll ever be very comfortable going there.”

Lorcan shakes his head. “I don’t blame you. It will be nice to have access to the fruits, but,” he shrugs. “Feels like trespassing, somehow. Even on occasion when we’re working there for the Lord. Don’t know what it is exactly.”

 Saeryn nods in agreement. “I wouldn’t have any wish to go there, but the orchards have a few fruits that don’t seem to grow any where else… Perhaps it’s just the size? The manor is certainly the largest building I’ve ever seen, and the grounds as well…”

Lorcan scrapes up a final bite and collects what’s left of the filling on his fork. “Could be,” he says. “Maybe it’s just because of the way things are – we have our homes and they have theirs, and it’s just…separate, I guess. That’s probably what it is – the Manor is the lord and lady’s home, and nobody just goes traipsing through anybody else’s yard or home.”

Saeryn watches him for a moment, perhaps unconsciously. She then nods and finishes her own piece, laying the plate down beside her. “That sounds right… I can’t imagine living in such a place, though.”

 Lorcan gives a quiet scoff, not unkind but one that sounds like agreement. “Nor I.” His gaze wanders to his own cottage, skips to his mother’s and then comes back. “I can’t imagine in living in anything so extravagant. There’s no need really. I’m content with the home I’ve built. Sturdy, simple. All one really needs.”

Saeryn smiles faintly, eyes turning to her cottage momentarily. “Yes, it’s certainly enough. So much space seems like it would feel very empty.”

Lorcan nods. “Yeah. It’s – unnecessary. At least to me.”

Saeryn looks back to him as she nods. “To me as well. To many, I imagine… But I suppose they see a reason for it.”

Lorcan shrugs. He leans forward to reach around her and stack his plate on hers. Settling back, he says, “To each their own, I guess.”

Saeryn shifts slightly to make the reach more convenient, eyes following his movement. As he sits again, she brushes back a couple loose strands of hair and nods agreement.

Lorcan leans an elbow against the log and props his chin in his hand to study her for a moment. He smiles, a soft, secretive sort of smile as she reaches a hand to her hair and then says quietly, “You look well, Saeryn.”

Saeryn tips her head, a smile quirking her mouth at the rather sudden comment. “I have been well,” she agrees simply.

Lorcan gives a half-shrug in response to the smile, as if to say, ‘yeah, I don’t know where that came from either. Ah well…’ Then he chuckles briefly, a smile lingering after the chuckle is gone and says, “I’m glad.”

Saeryn simply smiles for a moment, then looks down at her hands. After a short silences, she asks, “Is your work on the manor coming along well?”

Lorcan nods. “It is. Quite smoothly. I’ve been pleased.”

Saeryn asks, “How much longer do you think it will take?”

Lorcan scratches the back of his neck. “Maybe a week, maybe less. Definitely not more than that, I’d say, since we’re just doing the one side.” 

 Saeryn smiles softly. “Will you be glad to be able to move onto other projects?”

 Lorcan thinks on that. “Yeah, probably. It’s nice to have something consistent to do, but then, I don’t usually have a problem finding work. And – it’s mostly mindless, compared to some of my other projects.”

Saeryn nods. “Some of what I do at the inn is like that. It can be nice, but I enjoy the chance to make something,” she glances at the pie and gives a small smile, “of my own as well.”

Lorcan smiles. “Yes, exactly.” He grins at her a little cheekily. “I told you you were an artist at heart.”

Saeryn blinks, and then gives a little laugh. “I suppose you might be right… though if I am, my art doesn’t last nearly as well as your own.”

Lorcan chuckles. “But it fulfills its purpose and is therefore well spent,” he point out.

 Saeryn inclines her head, smiling. “Then I will have to admit it, I suppose.” With a small sigh, however, her gaze travels up to the darkening sky. “You’ll have to excuse me for the night, though. Thank you for…” Pausing a moment, she considers. “Thank you for a lovely evening.”

Lorcan climbs to his feet and offers her his hand to help her up. He grins. “I should thank you, you provided the pie.”

 Saeryn takes his hand and gets to her feet, though she has to stoop back down to grab the plates and the left-over pie. “Oh, but that was my pleasure. I’m just glad I was able to share it with you.”

Lorcan shakes his head with a smile. “Well, thank you anyways,” he says.

 Saeryn smiles back at him. “You are very welcome. Have a good night, Lorcan.”

Lorcan clasps his hands behind his back. “Good night, Saeryn.”

Rewards of Peach Pie

~Coghill Square~

 

 Saeryn is walking out of General Goods and Exchange, a basket over her arm. Inside, sugar, flour, eggs, and a little bit of butter can be seen, as well as a small bag which may be spices.

 Nalan strolls through the square with a young male servant boy trailing behind him.

 Saeryn begins walking towards the Settlement again, her path bringing her towards the steward. Her eyes flick between the road before her and the contents of her basket, keeping her from noticing Nalan right away. A small, slightly puzzled look creases her forehead.

 Nalan’s servant keeps his head down as he follows behind the Steward. Not looking where he is going, he runs into Saeryn. The servant quickly backs up apologizing profusely. Nalan stops and turns to see what the commotion is.

 Saeryn stumbles as the boy collides with her, and a few of her parcels fall from her basket. Instantly she begins picking them up again, returning the apologies to the servant and checking to make sure the eggs have not broken. Fortunately, it appears they are still whole, though one of the sugar bags managed to spring a hole.

 Nalan quick bends down to help gather the goods, “Please forgive him Saeryn. Did anything get ruined? I’d be happy to replace anything that did.”

 Saeryn blinks in surprise as she notices the steward and attempts a smile, one of reassurance and apology. “Oh, it was mostly my fault, I ought to have been paying attention…” she finds the sugar and lifts it carefully, examining the little pile of spilled crystals with a hint of dismay. However, when she looks up again she is still smiling. “No, the eggs didn’t break and not much sugar escaped. Thank you for the offer, though.”

 Nalan asks, “You planning to bake something?”

 Saeryn nods as she places everything back into her basket and stands up again. “Yes, a pie. Dalia was kind enough to bring me some peaches she found, so I thought I’d make something nice from them.”

 Nalan face lights up, “Mmmm peace pie is my favorite.”

 Saeryn’s smile widens. “It is quite good. Hopefully mine will turn out well…” She glances at the ingredients and then back up at Nalan. “I already made the filling, and I’m fairly quick with the crust. Would you like to have some when it’s ready?”

 Nalan says, “Oh no, I couldn’t ask that of you.”

 Saeryn gives a small shrug and brushes back a lock of hair. “I can’t eat an entire pie before it goes bad on my own, and I enjoy it… of course, I understand if you are busy…”

 Nalan shakes his head, “No, I’m not busy. Tonight is my evening off.”

 Saeryn smiles a small smile. “Well then, if it’s your favorite, it’s my duty to let you have some. It will take a bit to bake, though. Will your boy come as well? There ought to be enough…”

 Nalan turns to the boy, “Well?” he askes. The boy looks at Nalan then at Saeryn the back at Nalan and nods his head in reply.

 Saeryn’s smile grows a bit, as it tends to when she’s dealing with food. “It should be ready in a bit less than an hour. Would you rather come when it’s done, or are you willing to wait a while?

 Nalan says, “Whatever works best for you.”

 Saeryn nods and glances down at her basket, hesitating. “In that case… if you could come to the settlement in an hour or so, the pie will be ready. If that’s convienent, of course.”

 Nalan says with a smile, “An hour it is then.”

 Saeryn returns the smile and then gives a small curtsy as she bids him farewell.

 <1 hour later>

~Settlement~

 Saeryn is by the fire pit, setting down a wonderfully fragrant peach pie.  It still is warm from being cooked, and steam rises from it’s golden-brown surface. Three wooden plates and utensils rest beside it.

 Nalan walks into the settlement with the servent boy following close behind.

 Saeryn glances up just in time to see them and, with an unusual lack of shyness, waves. “Hello, steward Nalan!” She calls when they are a bit closer. “You are just in time.”

 Nalan takes in a deep breath taking in the delious smell, “Smells wonderful!” his servent boy nods in agreement.

 Saeryn smiles, a bit proud. “Thank you, it did turn out rather well.” She takes out a knife and cuts two generous slices to serve to the both of them, taking a slightly smaller one for herself.

 Nalan accepts the slice, taking a large bit out of it, “Mmmm the has to be the best pie I’ve tasted.

 Saeryn’s smile grows a bit wider, clearly pleased. “I do my best… my mother was always good at pies, and I often helped her. It’s a bit of a pity the inn doesn’t have much of a call for pies, though…”

 Nalan says, “They truely are missing something wonderful.”

 Saeryn ducks her head slightly, proud but a bit embarrased by the praise. “Thank you… I imagine you get quite a bit of wonderful food at the manor, though.”

 Nalan shakes his head, “Nothing as wonderful as this.”

 Saeryn brushes back a bit of hair. “You can take it with you, if you wish. I can always make more, and as I said, I can’t eat it all before it goes bad…”

 Nalan says, “I insist on pay for it then.”

 Saeryn looks rather surprised and, after hesitating a moment, replies, “Well… I need ingredients more than I need money… I…” She looks a bit embarrased and then quickly says, “I’ve heard the manor has an orchard, and well… there isn’t one for the rest of Coghill. If I could, perhaps, have a few apples? Or any fruit really, that has a few extra.”

 Nalan nods after having put another bite in his month, “Take all you need.”

 Saeryn’s eyes widen. After a moment, she manages, “Th-Thank you, Steward Nalan! That really is most kind of you.”

 Nalan teases, “Under one condition though. That you give me a pie every once in a while.”

 Saeryn laughs quietly. “Nothing would please me more.”

Nalan smiles, “Good.”

 Saeryn finishes off her piece of pie and glances at the angle of the sun. She stands and curtsies to Nalan. “You’ll have to forgive me, I’m needed at the inn. Enjoy your pie, and thank you again!”

Soup and Spices

Settlement

 

Saeryn is standing near the fire pit, chopping up what looks like onions. Someone close by could see that her eyes are watering, confirming the type of vegetable.

 Dalia makes her way back from the woods a sack in hand, smiling when she sees Saeryn and heading towards her.

 Saeryn straightens and wipes at her eyes with a little piece of cloth. As she breaths clean air, she sees Dalia and waves her free hand. “Hello, Dalia! How are you?”

 Dalia waves back an excited smile on her face and makes her way to the firepit. “Hello Saeryn. I am fine. I had something I wanted to show you.”

 Saeryn lays down her knife and wipes her hand discreetly on her skirt. “Oh? What is it?” Her head is tipped to the side and her eyes curious.

 Dalia sets her pack down on the bench and then opens it to reveal smaller pouches within the distinct flavors and smells mingling as they rise out of the bag.

 Saeryn’s face lights up with surprise and gladness. “Oh! Spices! Did the spice merchant come through?”

 Dalia nods “I saw him and I thought of you so I brought some spices thinking maybe you and I could spend time cooking.”

 Saeryn smiles and gestures at the partially-chopped onions beside her. “I was just making some soup, and pepper will improve it wonderfully. Would you like to join me? I have a lot more that needs to be chopped and whatnot…”

 Dalia nods. “I would love too.”

 Saeryn steps aside to make more room. “I’ll go get another knife… would you rather chop potatoes or carrots?”

 Dalia says, “Carrots is fine, thank you.””

 Saeryn nods and pulls a bunch of carrots from her own satchel, offering Dalia the knife before walking back towards her house to get a second.

 Dalia takes the knife and the bunch of carrots.  She thanks Saeryn and begins to chop the carrots up.

 Saeryn returns after a moment with a smaller, older looking knife and continues to cut the onions. “How has your stay been?” She asks as she works.

 Dalia smiles. “Very pleasant. I enjoy spending time with my family as well as my friends.”

 Saeryn returns the smile, though her eyes are watering again. “I’m glad. It’s certainly been nice to have you here.” She finishes chopping and dumps the onions into a pot before grabbing a potato. Carefully, she begins to peel it before she cuts. However, even when taking care, she works quickly.

 Dalia says, “I was wondering if you wanted any spices, theres  too much for me to use here.”

 Saeryn’s eyes widen slightly. “If that’s okay with you… I can always use them, but you paid, after all…”

 Dalia says, “don’t worry about cost. I brought them to share with you…Aunt gave me some money to please myself.”

 Saeryn smiles again as she cuts the potato into the pot and pick up a second. “Why, thank you!”

 Dalia smiles brightly. It is beginning to become more and more frequent that she has done so instead of small timid smiles.

 Saeryn may have noticed this, as her own grows. And indeed, her smiles also seem more genuine and larger when she is around Dalia. “How are the carrots coming?” She asks as she peels the potato.

 Dalia is finished and shows them to Saeryn, “All done. Into the stew?” she asks.

 Saeryn nods and adds a bit of garlic, some salt, and some pepper after the carrots. “And now we wait a while… You’ll take some home, right? I can’t eat this much and I don’t want it to go to waste…”

 Dalia says, “I’d love too. if you don’t mind.  Perhaps Lorcan will join aunt and I for supper sometime.” She breathes in the aroma of the cooking. “It smells wonderful.”

 Saeryn shakes her head. “Of course not, I’m glad that you’ll enjoy it.” At the mention of Lorcan’s name, a small smile plays over her mouth as she nods. “It does… it’s cooking rather quickly.”

 Saeryn waits until the soup is done and then covers a yawn. “I’m afraid I need to be going… thank you for making soup with me, and for the spices.”

 Dalia looks sleepy herself, “I should be going as well. thank you for the soup and your friendship.”

 Saeryn hugs Dalia and portions out a bit of soup for herself, leaving the majority before waving and departing, with a “Thank /you/, Dalia. For both,” over her shoulder. “Good night!’

Morning Conversation

Settlement

 

Merek strolls out of the nearby woods, a number of logs within his grasp. Moving towards the fire, he places a couple on and sets down the rest and warms his hands by the fire.

 Saeryn pushes open her door and walks out of her cottage, head leaned back slightly to breath in the morning air. A soft but happy smile wreaths her face.

 Merek hears the door open as he sits by the fire. Catching sight of Saeryn, a small smile crosses his face but he continues warming his hands.

 Saeryn lets out a puff of air and looks around the settlement. Taggle, who apparently slipped out of the door behind her, winds around her ankles and mews up at her, making her bend down to pet his head. As she does so, she sees Merek.

 Merek continues rubbing his hands to warm them, absently throwing a few more sticks onto the fire

 Saeryn straightens and walks towards the firepit, kitten following closely afterwards. “Good morn, Merek,” she says with a quiet smile.

 Merek looks up, resting on arm on his knee. “Morning Saeryn! ” he calls out, smiling. “How are you faring?”

 Saeryn’s smile grows for a moment as she responds, “Very well, thank you. And yourself?” As she reaches the fire pit, she sits on a log beside Merek’s.

 Merek stretches, letting out a satisfied groan. “Quite the same! Work has been /very/ busy as of this week… But, things have taken a slow today, finally. How goes the tavern? “

 Saeryn lets Taggle hop into her lap and curl up for petting and a snooze. “Rather busy as well, actually. I’ve had to go early for the past couple days…” she glances at the sky and gives a small shrug, “and likely ought to be going before long today as well. What kind of projects have you been working on?”

 Merek follows her gaze and nods “A number of plates, some pillars and such. Nothing too fancy… ” he drolls

 Saeryn nods and tips her head slightly. “But a good amount none the less, it sounds.”

 Merek nods firmly at this. “Indeed. “he reclines a bit. ” But forgetting the how busy we both are… a moment… I hope that the village gossips haven’t been getting to you? ” he looks to her, a bit concerned

 Saeryn gives a small sigh and strokes Taggle gently. “I haven’t heard them for a while… Though the other girls at the tavern…” she gives a small shrug. “But they haven’t been too bad lately.”

 Merek nods slowly at this. “Well… for that, I am glad.” he sighs. “Have you talked with Lorcan about it?”

 A smile flickers over Saeryn’s mouth as she nods. “Yes, a bit,” she says simply.

 Merek’s brow raises quizzically. “I presume that went well? What did he have to say on the matter?”

 Saeryn again nods. “It went well.  And much the same as you… he hopes it doesn’t come between us, and asked if we could forget all the gossips for a while…” Smiling again, she brushes back stray hair.

 Merek smiles a bit. “I am glad for that. Hopefully the gossip shall pass away as we make no notice of it….”

 You say, “I hope so… I am sorry for how I acted.” She glances down at her cat momentarily. “I just am not used to being spoken about like that…”

 Merek winces at this. “I understand…. and no one /should/ be spoken about like that. Especially you…”

 Saeryn ducks her head with a small shrug. “I imagine most people go through such things in town…”

 Merek grows a bit quiet, looking into the fire. “Indeed…”

 Saeryn also falls quiet, focusing on the kitten in her lap rather than the fire. After a moment, she glances up at the sky and gives a small sigh. “It looks like I ought to be on my way, I’m afraid. It was good to talk with you, Merek.”

 Merek nods to her quickly “Fare well my friend” he returns softly

 Saeryn stands, scooping up Taggle and depositing him onto the log. “And to you, Merek. Have a good day.” She waves with a little smile as she heads off towards the inn.