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Rhys and Kalia had spent a few days of rest at the Halfway Tavern and Inn in Landsmeet, if only to rest their horses and themselves. They had attended a celebration at the tavern, met new faces, found old ones, and Kalia had even managed to pull Rhys reluctantly onto the dance floor a few times. Plenty of laughs were likely had at their expense but Rhys found he had somehow enjoyed most of that night.
But with his family house only a days ride from Landsmeet, they packed their things and started out early before the sun had even begun to rise.
As such it was nearly nightfall when they arrived at the Abernathy Household. As it came into view of (everyone but Rhys!) the group, a servant who had been set on watch stood. He had spotted people on the road and put his hand against his face as he shielded his eyes from the setting sun to better view them. Two riders, no more, no less. And that was what he had been expecting. He turned back towards the house and quick as a rabbit took off across the fields to announce the soon-arrival of his master's son.
Rhys, entirely unaware of the messenger some distance away, swayed quietly side to side atop Idora, his mind lost in thought. The distraction clearly showed on his face, his eyes settled on the back of Idora's mane rather than straight forward to their destination, irregardless that he could not see the path in front of them. There was plenty to think about, now that they would be arriving at his family's house soon. The brief moments he had spent with his younger brother in the tavern was in the forefront of his mind, followed by over thinking what his return to the family house would be like.
It was only meant to be a visit, of course, they would spend a week or so here before continueing on with their journey. But Rhys still couldn't resist entertaining the idea of what sort of welcome he'd find there. He had parted ways with all his family in a friendly manner, aside from Merry, of whom was the reason he had parted. Siblings he hadn't seen in years had surely forgotten the few times they had met their older brother since they had been so young, right? It was going to be like getting to know someone all over again.
Sabvir had found herself a nice warm place atop Rhy's left shoulder close to his neck, despite the chill in the air. She basked in the glow of the setting sun and her thick winter fur, plus the warmth she stole from the side of Rhy's neck, all of these made it perfect napping conditions.
In the distance a sprawling estate was visible. It consisted of a main house which, from the hill where it could be seen, appeared to have three courtyards of sorts- two small and one larger, each one making a gap within the building. The largest of them sported at least two or so trees which were currently bare and a dingy grey, aside from the snow that covered their branches. The household was composed of both brick, wood and plaster. It didn't hold the same splendor as noble houses in the area, but it boasted more space and out buildings than any commoners would. It was certainly the house of a merchant.
Tanning quarters were set up far from the house to avoid the smell caring too clearly on the wind, two other smaller quarters were spaced through a field and were outside the protective walls of the main household. From the distance between them and these structures it was hard to tell exactly what they were.
Kalia was no stranger to wealth. Her own family's sprawling estate rivaled that of the Abernathy family's home or maybe even surpassed it. But after long stretches of time spent in the Monastery, or cooped up in tiny church quarters during winter months, any building larger than a well-off tavern seemed palatial.
Kalia eyed this one with appreciation. Even in the dim light, and at this distance, she could tell that Rhys's family was very well off. She had heard him say that he'd come from a merchant family, and it was possible that her mind's eye had envisioned a far smaller homestead. Merchants were not nobles, after all, but the phrase "merchant king" didn't exist for nothing.
At the sudden motion of a servant scurrying back toward the main building, the mare Brielle snapped her head up and scented the air. She had been a little on edge ever since the ambush in the road a sennight ago, but when her rider seemed entirely unconcerned that a stranger had gone pelting off into the gathering dusk, Brielle relaxed.
"We've been spotted, Rhys," the Argent said cheerfully, "Should I expect to see a mob waiting for us at the front step?"
A feint smile crossed Rhys lips as he was pulled from his thoughts by his traveling companion, "Perhaps not a mob, no." He doubted Marcus was at the household and he knew Merry would only appear at the front gates if escorted there by the lobe of his ear firmly in hand by their step-mother. "I've only six siblings, the last I had counted." He turned his head towards Kalia as Idora caused his body to sway with every lazy step she took. The mare would be glad once it was time to rest again. While she did occasional work at the Monastery and was used to being exercised daily, such long travels were not preferred.
"I doubt that my eldest brother, Marcus, is within the household and I'd be shocked if Merry were to join the rest of the family at the front gate." He grinned at the mental image of his brother being toted along like a temperamental child, "Not by his own free will, at least. " His mood seemed to lift. He had decided that even if Merry were acting like a child and hiding away in his private room, the rest of his family would no doubt be happy to see him. Even if his younger siblings may have trouble recalling him. And he had to consider the fact that they might not have trouble at all, either.
Shortly after the messenger had vanished behind the protective stone wall, two small forms appeared from it's mouth. From the distance it was hard to tell the genders of the children but they appeared small enough in stature that they were no older than fourteen at the very most. One of them jumped excitedly in place before racing back indoors and the second of the two took off down the dirt road towards the pair. As the child came closer a soft feminine voice called out, "Rhys! Rhys!" Excitedly several times. Then, once the child was close enough to be seen as clearly as they could in the dimming light, one could tell she somewhat resembled Rhys- at least in the way that she was slender. She had blondish red hair that caught the last of the sunlight like stained glass, it was long and braided into two braids. She wore a rusty red dress with a mint green under dress that had longer sleeves. No coat, obviously too excited to have put one on.
"So only a portion of the mob, then," the Argent chimed. If she sounded more bubbly than usual, it was because she was glad to finally see the end of this particular leg of the journey. Staying in an inn was all well and good if it was the only option available, but Kalia was looking forward to the sort of lodgings a wealthy man like Master Abernathy could provide -- and a little more peace and quiet, too.
No matter how many siblings Rhys had, Kalia was certain that a night or two in that household wasn't going to be anywhere near as noisy as a night at the Halfway Inn.
It wasn't long after she'd spotted the children acting as sentry that the young girl came skipping up, calling for Rhys. Kalia's mare Brielle threw up her head and tensed all over, until she received a few calm words and a pat from her bonded. It wasn't much, but it was enough.
"Ho there, young lady! Might you know where a pair of tired Argents can bed down for the night?" She smiled crookedly, teasing, and would offer a dramatic wink for the child's benefit, just in case. In some cities, Argents were considered tantamount to royalty, and equally as intimidating. The reputation had its uses, but in this situation Kalia deemed it best to put the youngster at ease straight from the start.
When Brielle tossed her head the little girl screeched to a halt, hands against chest, as if she expected the horse to start bucking at any moment. But with the Argent's playful greeting she again broke into a wide smile and darted around Idora's side, "Here! Here!" She jumped up and down beside the mare, "You can stay here! I have a spare bed in my room! Laila has just gotten her own!" During her excited prattling she had sized Rhys by the left sleeve and had continued to jump up and down while holding on. "Whoa now!" Rhys irked as his arm was suddenly jerked down on his left side, nearly being tugged clean off Idora if he hadn't managed to balance himself, "Who is this, then?" He couldn't, for the life of him, possibly know which sibling was tugging on his arm. Sabvir, in all this sudden moving around, did not enjoy it. She chittered madly and skittered across Rhy's shoulders, down his other arm, around his waist and vanished into the leather pouch she called home to hide. Rhys could feel her aggravation immediately but wasn't concerned by it.
He had three sisters and since they had all aged since the last time he had been home their voices had surely changed with that. The little girl laughed, "It's me!" She wasted no time in hiking her dress in a very un-lady like way and climbing atop Idora, who side-stepped only once. She sat behind her brother with her dress scrunched clean up to her thighs nearly, although beneath this she wore hosiery anyway. "Me who!?" Rhys felt like a proper tree he did, being used in the girl's climbing to pull herself up atop the horse.
Finally, hugging her brother from behind, the young girl laughed again but appeared to settle down somewhat, "Purdiea! Don't you recognize my voice, you silly thing? We've missed you brother! Where is your little familiar? Has she been eaten by an owl? How long have you traveled? If we had known you were coming Papa said he'd have made a grand feast for you! Who is this woman? Is she your lady to court? Will you have lots of children like Papa and Mama? So much has changed since you were gone! Vass has a broken arm, he fell from the fruit tree in the courtyard, Oh look, there he is!" She suddenly thrust her arm forward and pointed back towards the homestead.
Rhys had twisted slightly on the saddle so he somewhat faced Purdiea, though all her questions had done was leave him a bit red in the face by the end of it. "I- no" He turned a temporary shade of pink, "This is Kaliatharian Jadrenelan, we are traveling together- that is it." Not that Kalia wasn't attractive, at least, in voice, and pleasant to be around. Rhys vaguely recalled she might have had a lover else ware- and he himself was not actually searching for the 'love of his life'.
At the mouth of the gate a small cluster of people had appeared, most of them waving back towards the three now.
Kalia smiled at the exuberance of the child that'd come out to greet them, Purdiea, as she'd introduced herself. She was all too familiar with the enthusiasm of youth, having several younger siblings herself, and did not appear to be at all discomfited by the display.
"Well met, Purdiea!" she said, in the hopes of distracting the little girl long enough that Rhys could regain his composure. "Your brother is right, I'm Kaliatharian Jadrenelan, and I'm pleased to make your acquaintance. You may call me 'Kalia', if that's easier."
The Jadrenelan family was notorious for its lengthy naming habits. Some names were even longer than Kalia's, and no one in their noble line thought anything of it. It was often difficult for folk outside the family to pronounce or remember those names, though. Kalia had grown used to it early in her childhood, and had elected to be called Kalia from about age eight.
"Come! It looks like we've many more members of your family to meet. Will you introduce me to everyone?" There. That ought to save Rhys the trouble of being forced to try and figure out who was who based on the sound of a voice alone.
Rhys was thankful for the distraction of his younger sister and the suggestion that the girl should introduce everyone to Kalia. He'd have to thank the woman later on, suspecting she had done this to avoid any more guessing games on his part. He found it was a bit of a shame that he couldn't recall his younger sisters voice, but was confident he should recognize others. The problem with children growing up was their voices often changed from higher pitches to more leveled ones.
How old was Vaas now? Rhys frowned softly to himself but before he could ruminate on the age of his youngest brother and the possibility of what his voice would sound like, Purdiea had pipped up again, "Yes! Lets! They would so love to meet another Argent!" Rhys had barely had time to lift Idora's reins before, with both her hands gripping around her brother's waist, Purdiea gave Idora's hide quarter and sift kick, "Hyia!" She shouted.
Idora whinnied as she was spurred, tossing her mane before taking off like a bolt.
"P-U-rr-D-de-diea!" Rhys could have cursed her name right then. Luckily he had tightened his grip on the reins and squeezed as hard as he could with his sore legs when Idora began to whinny, anticipating being bucked off for a second time in as many weeks.
Instead of being bucked off, Idora had taken off at full gallop down the road, Purdiea laughing and whooping excitedly in a very unladylike manor. Obviously the young girl had some ettiqutie to learn- thus far she seemed the total opposite of Rhys.
((OOC: Ugh. The external drive with my post templates on it is acting up right now. I'll get it back later, but for now.. plain post!))
Not to be outdone, Kalia's mount took it upon herself to gallop after Idora, albeit tiredly. But the Argent knew her mare well enough that she was prepared for this; even less intelligent horses hated to be left behind by their herd mates and would often scramble to catch up. It was instinct, Kalia supposed, leftover from the days when the horse herds had to worry about being picked off by wolves if they strayed too far from the main body of the herd.
Now it took no time at all for the two Argents to reach the waiting family at the Abernathy household. Brielle slowed and came to a stop without any prompting from Kalia once she saw the crowd of people gathered out front. "Good girl," Kalia said softly, giving the mare's neck a pat.
"Well, would you look at this reception, Rhys!" she added, with her voice pitched to carry this time. "Why, this must be how the King feels when he visits!" It was all flattery, of course. Kalia herself came from a large family and knew that turn outs like this were just how things had to be done. Better to get all the introductions and greetings over and done with in one, large batch rather than drawing them out by ones and twos as the family drifted in from their afternoon activities. In any case, Kalia hoped to make a good impression on these folk, and to appear as gracious and kind hearted as every Argent in every wonder tale ever written about them.
She smiled sweetly and swung down from the saddle, hiding a wince when her feet hit the ground. Her legs were sore and stiff from weeks of daily riding, and just know her knees were reminding her how long it'd been since they'd done anything other than hug Brielle's wide torso. She curled and flexed her toes inside her boots to bring some life back into her feet and legs before she attempted to walk across to meet the family.
"If I may: my Familiar needs tending. Food, water, and a good rub down before I can permit myself to begin to meet all of your wonderful family," she said, in Rhys's mother's direction. As the Lady of the house, it would be she who saw to her guests' comfort and their needs. "After all, it is she who carried me all this way to meet you. Her needs come before my own. Is there someone who would be willing to show me the way to the stables?" That last, Kalia directed toward the younger children. She thought that they'd already be fidgeting, too excited to stand still and wait for the boring introductions to take place amongst the adults. With an exaggerated look around, she added, "I would hate to become lost on my way there!"
The moment Idora had stopped, Purdiea flung herself from the horse's back and hit the ground with bent knees. Rhys, not so much. He looked frozen in place, the reins gripped tightly in white-knuckled hands. He was not a fan of going fast on horses. There had been far too many knogg'n bumps in his life time to give him the constant fear of low hanging tree branches. He hadn't quite recovered when Kalia mentioned looking at the turn out. Even if he had noticed the wording, he likely would have let it fall to the way side. "Aye!" A strong voice called from the group. An older man had approached Rhys and Idora , smacking a hardened hand that appeared as leathery as the goods he sold onto Rhys' left theigh. The smack made Rhys jump but he turned his attention downwards."Father." "Welcome!" The man, obviously Rhys' father by all appearances and name, inclined his head to Kalia, "It isn't often we see my son Rhys, I feel I have you to thank for his visit! Please, make yourself and your familiar welcomed!"
Caeton Abernathy could have been a mirrior image of Rhys in the face if it weren't for his dark brown eyes that twinkled with amusement at his son's expense. The man was tall and wiry. His skin was overly sunkissed and his dark brown hair streaked with shocks of silver at the temples. He sported a short beared and trimmed mustash, both had turned silver with age. His skin was wrinkled and crinkled at the eyes and nose as if stuck in that constantly amused expression while his clothes were form fitted and tailored to perfection. Worn but sturdy leather boots were caked mid-calf with mud, but aside from this he was clean as a whistle. It was clear that his old age had caused him to thin but the man had once likely been robust and well built. "I have news for you, boy," He tapped the side of his nose after looking up to Rhys. "Now dismount and show your father some attention! I've felt your absences for far too long!" There was little Rhys could do before his father had pratically tugged him from the saddle and pulled him into a lung crushing hug.
As much as they looked alike, their personalities, so far, couldn't have been any further from one another. Where Rhys was quiet and reserved (normally) his father seemed loud and out going. Rhys disliked physical confrontation, but his father had no trouble embracing total strangers.
It was Rhys' step-mother who offered Kalia a calm smile and a gentle nod, "Yes, of course, your familar deserves only the best. You will find our stables to your liking, I hope. While you tend to your companion I will have a room prepared for you." She motioned softly to the side as Kalia turned her attention to the children.
"I will I will!" Purdiea immediately offered up when Kalia asked to be lead to the stables. But she wasn't the only one, two younger children, a boy and a girl, also pipped up excitedly even under the warning look that their mother had shot the three of them. The boy looked about eleven and sported a wrapped arm that was strapped to his chest to restrict the movement- this was obviously the Vass Purdiea had mentioned.
((Aww, another plain post. My external drive is still packed away from the move. lol))
"Excellent," Kalia said, both in response to what Rhys's mother had said, and to the excited volunteers that hoped to help Kalia to the stables. "Purdiea, if you would please take Idora's reins? I'm sure your parents would like a moment to greet your brother properly, and I'm sure Idora is famished." To the other, younger children, Kalia offered Brielle's reins. She kept a steadying hand on her Familiar's side as they headed off, amused at the way the mare seemed to think of the children as 'human foals'.
It didn't take long for them to reach the stables, and thankfully the path there was a straightforward one. Kalia examined the available stalls and made sure that each were thick with straw, had water buckets that were hung on the stall's wall instead of resting on the floor, and saw to it that the mangers were filled with fresh hay. All in all, the dwellings were satisfactory enough, especially considering that the Abernathy family likely didn't house Argent Familiars often.
She spent a while removing each horse's tack, then stowed all their gear safely in one corner of Brielle's stall for safekeeping. "Guard," she said, pointing to the heap. From there, it was a matter of minutes to give each mare a brisk rub-down, pick their hooves clean of mud and debris, and wish them both good night.
Despite the speediness of her work, however, it was still full dark by the time Kalia finished. Someone had come out to light lanterns in the stable while she had been working, and left one sitting near the entrance too. Kalia grabbed up this light source and motioned to the children. "Now, where can a Lady wash up before supper?" she wondered.
Idora didn't seem to care who held her reins, bobbing her head up and down as she huffed and snuffed to catch her breath further from the jont down. She still wasn't accustomed to such quick paces. The mare didn't think she ever would be, either. Luckily Purdiea didn't walk her too quickly and even stroked Idora's snout as she lead her to the stables.
Once in the stables there had been plenty of help. Purdiea had helped brush Idora down and even watched with interest when Kalia picked the hooves of each horse. Vaas, with his broken arm, wasn't much help at all. But he hung around excitedly and cooed towards Idora and Brielle, offering out carrots. Their sister had chosen to hang back and merely watch, scuffing her shoe on the stable floor.
Purdiea hopped backwards from a crate she had been standing on and was the first to speak up, "Mother said she'd have a room prepared for you. She's always insisting cleanliness, I'd bet you two pennies she's had a hot bath drawn up as well!""Purdiea! Ladies do not make bets." Their sister, had finally spoken up, a clear frown on her face at her sister's rough around the edges. Purdiea straightened up and made a mockingly 'proper' expression of being emotionless, "Only ladies who are a bore do not place bets, Marianne."
The youngest crossed her arms and pointedly looked away, none to happy at her sister's teasing yet not rising to the bait of starting an argument on proper etiquette.
Purdiea waved Kalia towards the exit, "Follow me, I know mother's favorite room to put guests. We call it the Lilac Room."
During the time Kalia had tended to the horses, Rhys had been swept away by his parents. His step-mother had gone to see that the Lilac room was prepared for their guest and Rhys' father was more than eager to talk his son's ear off until Rhys managed to suggest he himself aught to get cleaned up and readied for the meal later on.
He spent the rest of his time thanking the angels for the ability to have another hot bath and soak out his muscles. By the time dinner had rolled around he felt almost a new man.
There wasn't much of anything Kalia could think of right now that sounded better than a hot bath. She felt her spirits perking up at the mere thought of it, and as the children led the way, the Argent's feet felt lighter than they had all evening. She had expected a quick wash at a basin, perhaps a change of clothes. Had this been her family, a grand feast would have been arranged, and there wouldn't have been time to linger in a tub full of hot water. She would have been expected to be presentable, cheerful, and awake long past the feasting and into the night.
Rhys's family, it seemed, knew what a hard day's ride would do to a person, and were prepared to let their guests refresh themselves at their leisure. It was a welcome change.
"The lilac room, is it?" Kalia asked as they went. The children seemed to know their way to the main house even without the Argent's lantern. She worried they'd injure themselves on a patch of uneven ground in the darkness. "Is that because there are lilacs in it, or is everything painted that colors?"
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