A Falcon's Tale
A Falcon's Tale
How May I Serve You, MíLady?
Perrin Hawtrey quickly made her way back to her assigned quarters at Castle Baaldorf, muttering to herself. Justin Greystone was going to prove a problem, she could tell already. Lovely. She was beginning to wonder if sheíd live through two weeks in the castle. Or, rather, if any of the usual residents would. She opened the doors to the chamber.
A dark haired girl, obviously daydreaming, was on the window seat enjoying the breeze and sunshine that was entering the window. She looked up and quickly stood, bowing to Perrin.
"My lady," she stuttered. "Iím Florie." She twisted her white apron in her hands and peered up at Perrin. "I'm to show you about the grounds and the castle. I hope itís all right that I waited in your chambers for you? The guards brought your things." She motioned to the corner of the room where Aquiloís saddlebags rested.
"My thanks, Florie. And certainly, I donít mind that you waited here for me. I was feeling better and took a quick look around the castle myself. A bit of exploring, you might say." Perrin smiled warmly at the girl while sizing her up. The young woman appeared harmless enough. Then again, so did she.
"Oh. I wondered where you might have gone, my lady. I noticed your hawk. Heís been waiting for you on the chair. I didnít touch him, of course." Florie looked at Perrin shyly. "Heís very pretty."
Perrin smiled and nodded, looking at Malin. The hawk blinked and called once. Good. The girl hadnít been poking her nose where it wasnít wanted then. She smiled again and put her hand on Florieís shoulder. "A wise idea. Malin isnít always very friendly, Iím afraid. And heís a she, Florie. If youíll be with me for awhile perhaps sheíll become used to you."
"Oh, thatíd be nice. I think Iím to be with you for your stay here, my lady." Florie looked at her with a timid smile. She continued to wind her hands in her apron.
"You may address me as Perrin, Florie. Iím certainly not used to having anyone to wait on me and I donít much care for titles. If you must, call me Lady Perrin when weíre with others." The disguised warrior smoothed her hair back and the maidís eyes went to her forehead. "And please, stop twisting your apron. Thereís nothing to be nervous about."
"Ooh, thatís a nasty bruise! You should Ďave Lily look at that. She knows all about healing and things." Florie looked knowingly at her new lady. "Sheíd fix you right up, míladyÖ um, Perrin."
"Really? I know a bit about those things as well, but itís hardly worth a trip to Lily, Iím sure." Perrin moved away from the girl and began to rummage through the saddlebags on the floor. The guards had obviously gone through them, but the few things sheíd packed were there. She brought out a carefully wrapped hip belt and sheath, girded it on with practiced hands, drew up the right side of her divided skirt and unbuckled her leg sheath. Florieís eyes went wide again.
"Please, Florie. I always carry my motherís dagger. Prince Greystone suggested I wear it openly, so that is what I plan to do. Iíve been running from Prince Blackpool so long that itís more habit than anything." Perrin put the leg sheath in the saddlebag, slid the dagger into its sheath at her side and looked at the girl. "Does it frighten you?" She gathered up her black leather gauntlets from the small side table where sheíd left them earlier, tucked the right one into the front of the belt, then pulled on the left.
"No," Florie retorted slowly. "Umm, a little. Only the men of the castle and soldiers wear weapons."
"Well, when you grow up in the wilds of Aperans, you learn to carry one as well, Florie. You donít live long if you donít."
Florieís eyes went even wider. "Ooh, really? The wilds of Aperans? You been there?" She settled back onto the window seat to await a story.
"Far too many times, Florie. Believe me, itís not that exciting. Itís cold, dirty and tiring. Iím sure the castle here is much nicer." Perrin sighed and moved toward the chair where Malin perched. She wasnít about to tell Florie anything more. She held out her left wrist to the hawk and the bird stepped onto the gauntlet carefully, fanning her wings.
The girl started. "Oh, 'tis." She moved off the seat again sheepishly. "And Iím to show it to you. I forgot. Iím sorry."
"Not to worry, Florie." Perrin settled the hawk up on her left shoulder. Florie gaped.
"What with her talons, m'lady?"
Perrin smiled. "All my clothing is padded on the shoulders so Malin can come with me easily. It gets tiring holding her on my wrist. Though it does muss my clothes a bit." She drew off her left gauntlet and tucked it into the belt with the other.
"Oh," nodded Florie. She looked up at her lady again and smiled shyly. "Are you ready then? I can show you the gardens and the grounds first if youíd like. The folk of the castle are getting ready for the harvest festival. Itís very exciting. You ever been to the festival?"
"That would be fine, Florie. And, no, this will be my first." Perrin smiled warmly at the girl. Her final appearance at it would be remembered by all that attended, she thought to herself. At least before they stopped breathing.
She followed the cheerful lady-in-waiting into the castle halls, listening to her chatter of who did what at the castle and who stayed where. The girl would be a good source of information, she noted. Enough of a gossip to have to be wary of what she told her, but also enough to be able to find out what may be needful to know. She nodded appropriately and carefully plied the girl with questions as they made their way out to the courtyard. They exited the gates and moved out into the warmth of the afternoon. They made their way over to the site where the festival would be held, mingling with the crowd of workers who were erecting colorful tents and staging areas for the upcoming celebration.
Up on one of the castle towers, Prince Justin Greystone sat with a bottle of wine and watched both young women move through the crowd. Heíd run into King Edwin not long after heíd run into Lady Hawtrey. The King had specifically asked if heíd keep an eye on Perrin and Malin while they were in the castle. Not a bad assignment, he thought. Better than trying to route Blackpoolís men from Casserne Pass, which was where his brother was off to. He crossed his arms and leaned over the crenellations, narrowing his eyes. The King had confided that he and the wizard Traquil thought the girl was a magic user and possible enemy. She didnít look too dangerous to him. Well, not that way anyway. He smirked and took a swallow of wine. He was looking forward to escorting her to dinner.
Down below, Malin twisted her head back and forth, then called once. She lifted smoothly off Perrinís shoulder and flew upward.
"Oh, no!" Florie blurted and looked at her lady with horror, suddenly realizing that Malin did not wear jesses like the hunting hawks of the castle. "Sheíll be lost!"
"Sheíll not be lost, Florie. Malin always returns to me." Perrin smiled as she watched the hawk make her way up to the tower. She caught a movement from the corner of her eye and relaxed. She stared forward blankly for a moment and saw what Malin was seeing. Justin Greystone. Interesting. She re-focused her eyes and smiled. Well, Malin probably had a little gift for the spying prince.
Justin watched as Perrinís hawk made its way into the sky. Mustíve seen prey of some type, he thought. He relaxed back on the tower as the bird flew overhead. A few seconds later he was sputtering and wiping white droppings from his hair, tunic and cloak. He yelped, then glared up at the hawk. It cried sharply and wheeled back over the grounds, dropped out of the air and grabbed a small rodent in its talons. Justin muttered a few choice words and made his way down the tower stairs to clean himself up and get a change of clothes from his quarters.
Perrin smirked slightly and made her way over to her hawk. Malin was contentedly ripping off hunks of her meal and eating it with relish. "Well done, my feathered one," she whispered in a low voice.
Florie giggled softly, "Did you see?"
"Oh, yes, I saw. And heard." Perrin smiled genuinely. "Whoever was in the tower will be needing a bath, Iíll warrant."
Florie giggled again and nodded. She and Perrin waited for the hawk to finish her meal. The sounds of building punctuated the afternoon as the fresh, crisp scent of the coming fall moved on the breeze. When Malin was finished, Perrin drew on her gauntlet and settled the hawk on her left, raised wrist. She and Florie continued on their way, exploring the avenues of tents, and once again disappeared into the busy maze of workers.
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