Posted by PaleCommander
Unlike much of the group, Simon had little trouble sleeping, and the camp was already bustling with morning activity by the time he woke.
Looking around, the mage saw that Lothaire was engaged in light discussion with Oriane over a frugal breakfast. To nearly any observers, the chevalier seemed somewhat ridiculous with only half his panoply worn, the other half neatly arranged in front of him.
After dressing in his customary traveling outfit, Simon approached the pair.
“Good morning, Lothaire. I trust the two of you slept well, in spite of the unusual arrangements?”
Oriane nodded with a mouthful and Lothaire followed her example, if less decisively.
“And good morning to you Simon,” he said after having swallowed.
Simon gestured at the all-too-familiar suit of armor lying in pieces on the ground. “You’re donning that rather early, but I can’t say I’m surprised, given what’s been going on recently. Shall I help?”
“I would appreciate that.” Lothaire began before Oriane continued.
“I have been trying to help him encase himself in that ungainly suit of metal, but I cannot for the love of the Maker make heads or tails of half of these pieces.” She furrowed her brow in mock consternation and Lothaire smiled warmly. “Well then, I will leave you two to it. I will be with the horses if you need me.” Still smiling, Lothaire watched her leave before facing Simon with a more serious expression.
Simon smiled knowingly as Oriane left. “I have always appreciated her tact. Would that there were more of it to go around.” His expression became more guarded as he moved to help Lothaire on with his armor. “That was quite the figurative leap you took yesterday, though as you said, it is your decision to make. I have been trying to learn more about Naessa, and I would be interested to hear your impression of her.”
Lothaire seemed pensive. “I wondered when you would come to me about that. In all fairness, I should have explained myself to you, but I had no desire to do so in front of the others. I apologize if I appeared dismissive; I owe you better than that. But that does not answer your question, does it?” Lothaire shook his head lightly as if answering to himself. “She reminds me of how I was when I was young, Simon, or at least she reminds of what I liked about myself in those days.”
“I see. As far as I know, she has yet to prove herself a leader. I take it you see potential in her?”
“She will have to lead. Whether she is good at it or not is beside the point, which is that she will need help. I can only imagine having to take care of Tourrin at her age and Tourrin was stable; it practically runs itself.”
“That is rather magnanimous of you.” Simon frowned, then decided that some forthrightness was warranted, as his real questions weren’t getting answered. “As someone who has also seen fit to jump headlong into uncertainty to help a young leader, I think I see your point. I haven’t brought up the future, all this time on the road, because it seemed a bleak line of inquiry, but I put it to you now: do you think it will ever be possible to return to Tourrin? If not, where does this new charge lead you?”
“Tourrin is lost to me.” Lothaire started, his eyes downcast and his tone somber. “Some part of me knew that the moment I ran, there would be no coming back. Even once Gervais is dead, by running I have admitted my guilt to everyone who matters in Orlais. As to where this leads me, I do not know.” Some trace of joy was returning to his voice. “All I know is that it is infinitely better than what I have been doing for the past year. No offense.”
Simon grinned broadly, a wistful look in his eye. “None taken. I’m a little surprised you can remember it at all,” the mage joked. “I’m hardly an expert on elven culture, and I suspect you’re even less familiar with them. How well do you think you’ll fit in? I imagine it will help somewhat that the Keeper of the clan vouches for you, but I can’t imagine you’ve met enough of the Valwe already to know how welcoming they are. We know at least one discouraging example already, I think.”
Lothaire nodded grimly, shooting a glance across camp to Gheris. “I sincerely hope she is a rarity among her people, but Lady Arielle…” He paused as he tasted the words for the first time before continuing with a slight nod. “Lady Arielle knows her people better than either of us. If she accepted my oath then she must think this has a chance of success. I do not expect them to trust me outright. I did not swear any oath to them, and many are sure to doubt me; it will be up to me to prove myself.”
“Well, the lifestyle will surely be different, but I know there is usually some degree of contact with dwarves and humans.” Simon was pensive for a spell, adjusting straps and buckles in silence. “I wonder, once this business with the storm has been resolved, where will we all go? You seem to be spoken for, now.”
“Have you considered where you will go?”
“I think I shall have to see. In the meantime, it sounds like we have a rather… formidable discussion with Grandmother ahead of us, and I think you and Naessa will need someone to weather that storm for you.” Simon stepped back and did a last check on the fully assembled plate armor. Seeing everything in order, he suddenly knelt and doffed his hat. “My lord.” The mage rose, grinning, then turned and left the stunned chevalier to his breakfast.