Drop The Bass [closed]

((OOC: 6 Firstfall, 35 Dragon, with ))

It was good to be back in the forests, they were peaceful this time of year. With the snow coming soon, so few people were on the road and so Esper went about his business in the serene tranquility left behind. The delivery went well, and he’d have a full purse once he returned to Gwaren, perhaps enough to purchase a new tent and bedroll that could keep the worst of the cold out. Western Hills wasn’t that far behind him, only having just broken through the tree line and into the heavily wooded area east of the Arling. He retrieved his bow and arrows that were safely tucked away in a hollowed out log and strung them over his back. Unruly hair was tugged back and out of his face as he let out a sharp two note whistle, calling his Falcon to him.

A minute passed, then two. He called again and waited.

Still nothing.

Esper was getting worried. Usually she would swoop in, squawk up a storm and give him a little nip as punishment for leaving her alone so long. But she was nowhere to be seen. Fear gripped him, mind running through the worst possible scenarios. Maybe she’d become prey to the animals in the area, or shot down by a hunter on a late trip before the snow came. He started moving, feet taking him closer to the main road and with every hurried footfall he whistled again, louder and more frantic than the last.

She couldn’t be hurt. She probably just got stuck somewhere, shoving her beak where it doesn’t belong. It wouldn’t be the first time, but the fear that this was different still sent cold tendrils to squeeze at his chest. His bare feet met beaten path as he broke through the tree line and onto the main road. Green eyes flew around him, looking for any sort of hunters tracks or signs of disturbance. A loud, halted squawking peirced the air above him, sounding distinctly like Revas' mocking laughter. Esper's eyes shot up, catching a glimpse of the familiar black-blue and white feathered falcon soaring through the air. Something dropped from her talons, plummeting through the air and landing with a wet slap right on top of a stranger on the road. 

Esper's eyes widened, a hand shooting to his mouth. A fish! She had dropped a blasted fish on a stranger in the middle of the road. He clenched his teeth, cursing under his breath and scowled at the bird circling above, her cackling cries echoing above him.

"Revas!"
The gradual advance of winter across the arling was beginning to reveal itself.  The trees stood tall, some with bare branches while others held fast to their stout needles, but the earth between them was devoid of the wild flowers and grass which had carpeted the forest during the summer.  In its place, the hardy heather hunkered down against the hint of chill in the air, bracing itself for the cold dark months ahead.

It was the kind of day which reinvigorated old bones.  Less of the 'old', Wulff thought to himself with a wry smile.  Surrounded by the forest of his arling, with his fine bow strapped to his back and his only present concern being what prey might be available to hunt, he could convince himself that he was barely a day over twenty-five.

Yet before he could become too immersed in foolish notions of born-again youth, there was the sound of a sharp whistle from over to the east of the road cutting through the trees.  Again and again, it sounded; a little more shriller with each breath.  However, just as there was the sudden emergence of a red-headed fellow from the thickets ahead of Wulff, there came a squawking shriek from high above him.  Too curious for his own good, Wulff raised his face to the sky, only to have a heavy blow levelled against him.  A heavy fishy blow.

Stunned, Wulff stared down at the spot where a large bass lay upon the road, its unseeing beady eye issuing a silent rebuke for being taken so unawares.

"Revas!"

Wulff dragged his eyes upwards at sound of the stranger's voice.  He studied the young man, an elf with a shock of red hair and a bow on his back, with a hint of gruff amusement.  "Your bird has a sense of humour," he remarked drily.  His eyes flicked upwards once more, hoping to catch a glimpse of the creature while she circled around, making merriment on the wind.  "But I do think that I might claim her catch."  He hefty a bushy brow towards the young man.  "I do not suppose a wild thing can be held accountable for poaching, can it?"  While there were such laws in place on the local lakes, from what Wulff knew of hunting birds, it was near impossible to issue so specific instructions as to be used for poaching from lakes.  He was merely curious how the young man might react; how better to assess character than testing a man's honesty?
Revas continued circling around above him and Esper wondered if birds could victory dance, because it sure looked that way. With the cheeky brat dipping and weaving through the air and her cries being carried by the wind, she seemed awful proud of herself.

"Your bird has a sense of humour,"

Esper’s eyes strayed from her companion and snapped to the speaker. An older human man with graying hair and fine leathers. Armed and well off, perhaps a noble, but with a searching look around him, it didn’t seem the human had an escort. Didn’t mean there weren’t more of them nearby, though. Esper’s muscles clenched, ready to make a run for it if need be.

“Much to my chagrin.” He replied carefully, keeping his eyes locked on the strangers shoulders. If he was to make a move, the tensing of his shoulder’s would be the first sign of action. He didn’t seem upset over Revas’ little prank though, perhaps a little off put. But overall the man seemed rather amused by her antics.

"But I do think that I might claim her catch. I do not suppose a wild thing can be held accountable for poaching, can it?"

Poaching? Esper was unsure of any poaching laws in the area. He’d only arrived in Ferelden in late Solace and never thought it prudent to ask around about their laws. He figured as long as he didn’t shoot anyone, he’d be fine. Apparently that wasn’t the case. Surely Revas couldn’t be tried by their laws though? She was a bird. But then again, with the way these Ferelden’s treated their hounds, perhaps that wouldn’t be so out of the ordinary.

Esper was tempted to call down Revas, if only because running his hand over her feathers had the ability to calm his nerves. But if this man or any possible allies were to become hostile, Revas would be safer as a moving target in the air, than a stationary one perched on his shoulder. Unfortunately, it seemed she had other ideas. She swooped down to land cleanly on the ground before the stranger and hopped over to pick at the fish laying pitifully in the middle of the road, effectively erasing any option for the man to ‘claim her catch’. Esper bit the inside of his cheek, tamping down the urge to sigh in aggravation. Bratty bird.

Green eyes moved back up to the man and Esper offered a shallow bow. “I wouldn’t know, Sir. She does as she likes, and I doubt she could be caught should she be put to trial. She’s one of the fastest I’ve trained, though that comes at the cost of a… difficult personality.” His eyes flicked to the reddening patch of skin on his face- likely what the fish had used to cushion it’s fall- and suppressed an amused smile.

“Please accept my apologies for her actions, though. She’s young, and there are still things we’re working on.” He cast an exacerbated glance to said Falcon, but it was tinged with a fair deal of affection as well. “Flying fish being the least of them.”
His light jesting failed to find its mark.  From behind his carefully maintained gruff demeanour, Wulff watched the evident consternation of the young man with surprise, wondering if there was no such thing as good humour from wherever the elven man hailed.  His clipped manner of speaking revealed he was not Fereldan, as far as the elves within the Alienages regarded themselves, and he did not have the confrontational surety which had coloured Wulff's experience of the free-roaming Dalish.

However, that little puzzle was to be set aside for the moment, as the falcon descended in one elegant swoop, alighting on the ground and stalking across to the fish.  The bird seized upon it with one foot and used its sharp beak to begin tearing into the meat, seeming to eye Wullf with an outright defiance which he would not have tolerated in any two-legged creature.  There was something admirable about such self-assuredness.

The stranger offered a bow in recompense for his bird's belligerence.  "I wouldn’t know, Sir," he found his voice and finally answered the remark Wullf had made over poaching.  "She does as she likes, and I doubt she could be caught should she be put to trial. She’s one of the fastest I’ve trained, though that comes at the cost of a… difficult personality."  A hint of a smile flickered across his face but was swiftly subdued.

Wulff grunted, eyeing the bird anew.  "So I see."

"Please accept my apologies for her actions, though. She’s young, and there are still things we’re working on."  A frustrated glance emphasised the meaning of his words, though it was clear that the falcon was dear to him.  "Flying fish being the least of them."

A rumbling chuckle reverberated from Wulff despite his best efforts to suppress it.  "Look me dead in the eye and tell me you had anticipated this very scenario, and I will gift you a bag of coin as heavy as she."  He shook his head and rubbed the back of his hand against the tender spot on his face, wondering if he might have an oddly positioned bruise to explain away in a few hours.  The truth of it was not something which he intended to readily share.

He shook his head.  "In the interests of peace, I will overlook her crime since what you say makes it clear that it would be foolhardy to pursue the punishment."  He lifted a bushy brow, regarding the man with a close scrutiny.  "Your name?  There are few archers within whom I am not acquainted in this arling.  You are passing through, I presume?"  It was unusual to meet an elf who roamed by themselves through the remote areas of the country.
The strangers laugh jolted Esper and his eyes snapped back to his shoulders. The sound was unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. "Look me dead in the eye and tell me you had anticipated this very scenario, and I will gift you a bag of coin as heavy as she."

The human reached up to run his hand over the reddening mark on his face and Esper cringed a little. He may have little love for humans- or people in general- but that didn’t mean he was heartless enough not to feel remorseful for harming someone. Even indirectly. Revas’ actions reflected back on him, as well.

"In the interests of peace, I will overlook her crime since what you say makes it clear that it would be foolhardy to pursue the punishment." Esper with held a small breath of relief at his words. The man quirked an eyebrow, eyes becoming a little more intense that what Esper was comfortable with. "Your name? There are few archers within whom I am not acquainted in this arling. You are passing through, I presume?"

He raised a hand to rub at the burn scars along his jaw, feeling the warped skin and scattered bumps and grooves marring his face. A nervous tick that he admitted he’d never put much time into training out of himself. “Esper, of clan Ghilain, Sir.” He replied, eyes flicking back down to watch as Revas tore at the carcass of the sad little fish. “I came to Western Hill’s on a job for the Teyrna of Gwaren. Supply delivery,” he shrugged. “My job is done, and so I’m moving on.”

He glanced back up to the man curiously, “I assume you’re not passing through as I am, if you’re acquainted with many people here. Could I ask your name, as well?”
Seemingly somewhat uneasy with so direct an address, the elven stranger brushed his fingertips over the melted skin of his jaw.  It appeared to be an oft-repeated movement which was borne of habit than conscious thought.  However, from what experience Wulff had gained over the years, he had yet to encounter anything in nature which would leave so particular an area of destruction.  Were he a betting man, he would have wagered that the burns were from magic.  Though whether the man's own or someone else's, it was impossible to say.

"Esper, of clan Ghilain, Sir," he offered his answer, his gaze falling to watch the falcon while she tore into her stolen bounty.  "I came to Western Hill’s on a job for the Teyrna of Gwaren. Supply delivery," he heaved his shoulders upwards in casual dismissal.  "My job is done, and so I’m moving on."

Wulff issued a short grunt.  The Teyrna's eye was turned upon Western Hills most often of late.  While he welcomed the renewed interest in the distant arling, more so than anyone who had claimed the title in recent years could boast, he was aware that it was, in part, due to the recent arrival of a man who had once called this area home.  Wulff was yet to decide how he felt about that.  Perhaps, in this case, the end was sufficient to tolerate the means.

The stranger grew courageous enough to raise his eyes, curiosity uppermost.  "I assume you’re not passing through as I am, if you’re acquainted with many people here. Could I ask your name, as well?"

"You may, though I do not often have to introduce myself when travelling through my own arling." Wulff snorted, crossing his arms across his chest.  "I am Arl Gallagher Wulff of Western Hills."  He nodded his head towards the man in peaceable recognition.  "Well-met, Esper of clan Ghilain.  Your clan is a notable one."  History had always been an interest of his.

He jerked his head in the direction of the Kocari which lay some distance beyond their current location.  "I suggest you do not venture beyond the arling boundaries.  While, alas, I cannot promise that you will be treated with the civility any law-abiding man should be while on my lands, I can assure you that far greater wounds than injured pride await in the Wilds.  Wherever you tread, do not allow your feet to take you there."
The mans grunt made Esper’s eyebrow raise. Was he not happy that the Teyrna had her eyes on Western Hills? From his short acquaintance with her, she didn’t seem the type to have nefarious thoughts. Well, about another’s domain, at least. Peafowl were another story.

"You may, though I do not often have to introduce myself when travelling through my own arling." The stranger spoke, slight amusement coloring his voice. A second passed as the information was processed by a stunned mind. Oh. Oh no. "I am Arl Gallagher Wulff of Western Hills."

Of course. Of course the blasted man was a noble. An Arl! And Esper had called him sir! Fenedhis lasa. Esper tipped his head back, pinching the bridge of his nose, “Ma ghilana mir din'an.”

"Well-met, Esper of clan Ghilain. Your clan is a notable one." Esper’s self reprimand cut off and his eyes snapped to the Arl, green eyes meeting clear blue for the first time since they stumbled across one another. Ghilain. This man had heard of his clan. Did he know where they were? Had they passed through Ferelden? It seems unlikely… They would have left the Dales for the Arlathan Forest a few years after he disappeared to attend the Arlathvhen. And he doubted they would have traveled so far South after that… But it wasn’t impossible.

“My apologies for not recognizing you sooner, My Lord.” He said quickly, effectively cutting off the end of the mans unheard sentence and offering him a heart-hearted bow. “My clan. Ghilain,” his voice was quick and thick with hope. “You’ve heard of them. Have they passed through Ferelden? Do you know where they were headed?”
His warning went unheeded.  Just the mere acknowledgement of the man's clan and his demeanour changed at once.  His eyes raised sharply to meet Wulff's, surprise warring with confusion in his gaze.  Ignoring the rest of Wulff's words entirely, the man hastily summoned his own voice.

"My apologies for not recognizing you sooner, My Lord."  He offered unsought-for appeasement for the lack of deference amidst a short bow.  Given that it was an honest mistake, and one made by someone who did not reside in the arling, Wulff saw little reason why he should insist upon any further apology.  There had been some amongst the nobility, now rightfully removed, who had forgotten that status was not gained through snobbery, but earned through the act of astute governance.

However, these was no need to articulate any of that as the stranger pressed on.  "My clan. Ghilain."  His voice wavered with the force of emotion behind his words.  "You’ve heard of them. Have they passed through Ferelden? Do you know where they were headed?"

"Yes, I met a small number about two, two and a half, years ago."  Wulff folded his arms over his broad chest, indicating with a nod of his head towards the south-east of the arling, though Esper would not know how he saw the lay of the land in his mind's eye.  "King Alistair granted land to the Dalish after the defeat of the Archdemon.  It lies to the east of here, near the ancient ruin of Ostagar."  He raised and lowered his shoulders.  "They were guarded though they did answer some of my questions on Inquisitor Ameridan."  Mostly by offering 'yes' or 'no' answers but once Wulff had realised that, he had framed his questions deliberately.

He eyed the young man with renewed interest.  "Were you separated from your clan by some involuntary means?
"Yes, I met a small number about two, two and a half, years ago. King Alistair granted land to the Dalish after the defeat of the Archdemon. It lies to the east of here, near the ancient ruin of Ostagar." Esper’s face lit up at the words, wide green eyes shining with excitement. They came through here! A long time ago, yes, but they must have told someone where they were going afterwards. He could follow the trail, find the clan in the East and find out where his family was. He felt elated at the news. Vague as it was, it was still the first lead he’d been given since he began his search. His family. He was one step closer to finding his family again.

In his excitement, his hands raised to tug at his hair, face pointed to the sky with teeth bared in a large grin. “Vir sumeil, Revas! Vir sumeil!” He exclaimed, excitement painting his voice as he looked back to Revas, seemingly disturbed by his loud voice. She ruffled her feathers and launched herself at Esper’s now outstretched arm, talons digging into the soft leather of his gloves.

"They were guarded though they did answer some of my questions on Inquisitor Ameridan." Esper’s eyes strayed back to Arl, grin still in place and good mood seemingly un-killable. “Inquisitor Ameridan was a great man. It is not uncommon for my family to boast our clan’s lineage.” He said proudly. A hand raised to scratch at Revas’ chest and she preened, eyes lidded and leaning into his touch.

The Arl’s eyes sparked with curiosity a moment before he spoke up again. "Were you separated from your clan by some involuntary means?" 

Ah. Esper’s mood dampened a little bit, his grin turning into something more akin to a grimace. “’Involuntary means.’” He repeated the words to himself in an almost sardonic fashion. “You could say that, My Lord. My separation from my people was not a path I chose, in any sense.” He tamped down the flare of anger that rose at the memory of his abduction. Now was not the time to let his temper run wild. He had a lead, this was happy news and it would serve no one if he took his anger out on the man who offered it up.

“Thank you, you don’t know how much this news gladdens me to hear, my Lord. My family mean the world to me, and the chance to see them again is…” He shook his head, strands of hair falling in front of his eyes as he tried to articulate his gratitude to this man. It seemed he was thanking shemlen rather often, of late. His eyes flicked to Revas, perched on his arm and back to the Arl, an idea sparking. “Would you…uhm.” He motioned his head to his Falcon, “would you like to… pet her?” He asked, a little awkwardly. The Arl seemed interested in her, and Esper didn’t really have the words to explain how thankful he was, so a… gesture might do. Maybe. Creators this all sounded better as a half formed idea in his mind than it did said aloud or thought through.
Wulff's question prompted a marked downturn in the mood of the young man.  "’Involuntary means'," he echoed, somewhat wryly.  "You could say that, My Lord. My separation from my people was not a path I chose, in any sense."  Whatever else he might have wished to say, Esper kept it to himself.

Instead, he returned to the matter of the few Dalish who had passed by this way.  "Thank you, you don’t know how much this news gladdens me to hear, my Lord. My family mean the world to me, and the chance to see them again is…"  With a shake of his head, the wild red curls fell in front of his face, unable to find the words to articulate the entirety of his thoughts. 

His eyes slid to the side and regarded the falcon, face brightening with an idea.  "Would you…uhm."  He nodded towards the bird.  "Would you like to… pet her?

Wulff eyed the feathered thief, a low chuckle rumbling from his chest.  "And risk a finger going the same way as the fish?  No, though I thank you for the offer."  He may not be an expert in birds of prey but it was clear that this bird was one which held much promise.  He flicked his eyes skyward, noting how the wintry daylight was already beginning to wane.  "I must be continuing on at any rate.  You would do well to do the same, Esper of clan Ghilain."  He nodded to the man then acknowledged the falcon with a hint of a smile beneath his bushy beard.  "No more of my fish, Lady Revas.  Leave some for the rest of us."

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