Before the Fall

Title: Before the Fall
Time Period: January 8, 135 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: An apology is made, and another truce forged between Luna and Beisdean. But Luna's pride can't bend enough for her to face her father and Beisdean is given the task of grocery deliveryman.

The small stable at the inn isn’t home to many residents. Usually only a few kittens separated by many generations from a fluffy grey tabby that once lived inside the main building. Its primary resident now is a spirited gelding that, at this moment, is munching lazily on a ration of oats. Aside from the kittens, there’s one other living body in the shack, a blonde woman who is currently attempting to clean off a dirty carrot with her hand.

After wiping away a majority of the crumbling soil from the root, she holds it up between two pinched fingers by the leaves. “Here horse, good horse, don’t bite…” She’s been warned before. Which is why the carrot is just out of reach from strong white teeth that gnash through empty air as they try to capture the prize.

Inching just a little closer, Luna squeaks and tosses the carrot into the hay. She’s made it a little further on her own this time.

“If you’re trying to make amends with Iago,” a voice suddenly calls from the door, the speaker silhouetted by the white-bright morning sun behind him, “he likes apples quite a lot.”

Of course she’ll recognize the voice before his features become clearer as he moves closer. Beisdean clicks his teeth at the horse, and Iago nickers softly in response before bending to retrieve the carrot fallen in the hay.

The creature’s neck is patted as it munches its carrot, then Beisdean pulls from his pocket a couple of lumps of sugar given to him for Iago by Isibeal. “Come here,” he says to Luna, reaching for her hand. “I don’t have an apple, but this might do.”

The voice causes her to jump backwards against the wall, first thinking it might be the horse. A sharp glare toward the door proves otherwise and she gives the man standing there a twitch of lips that, at first meant to be a smile, turns into a grimace. “I was going to bring them to ma, but I’m not sure if my da’s there so I didn’t want to go in.” Iago was a second choice.

Gingerly at first, Luna reaches for Beisdean’s hand and then grips it tightly as she moves a little closer to the large beast. “Why do they have to be so big?” A lament that she’s made quite a number of times before , just not to him specifically.

Taking the sugar in her free hand, she cups it there and holds it carefully, as if afraid they might fall apart before they reach Iago’s teeth.

He glances at her hand and pulls it back before Iago can get too excited; luckily the gelding is still crunching a mouthful of carrot as it warily looks at Luna. Letting go of the hand she holds, he moves behind her, using both hands to uncurl her fingers.

“If they weren’t this big, we wouldn’t be able to ride them, and they wouldn’t be as useful to us, now would they?” Beisdean says, tone quiet to keep both girl and beast calm.

“You need to keep your hand flat, fingers together, or he will bite you. He doesn’t want to — he wants the sugar, not your skin. Or your fingers. But with that great long face and big teeth, he’s hardly a dainty eater, and you don’t wanna get anything in the way of those chompers, aye?”

Having rearranged her fingers so that her hand is a flat plane, Beisdean slides his hand back to her wrist, holding it steady lest she scream and flail at the last minute. “It’ll tickle a little. It’s just his lips. Don’t scream; it’s not his fault if you’re scared, aye?” He stretches her hand forward to where Iago can reach it this time.

Luna’s breath stops short as her hand is extended for her, the cubes shaking a little in her palm. Closing her eyes, she can feel the gelding’s hot breath against her skin before the velvet soft lips make a popping sound and tickle as she’s been warned. When she opens them again, the sugar is gone and her fear rushes out with the loud sigh she lets off.

“They’d be more approachable if they were kitten sized,” she murmurs, keeping her tone as soft as Beisdean’s. “Much less likely to kill a woman if those great hooves were soft paws.”

As long as the claws that go with paws are sheathed.

Turning her hand over, the blonde reaches out again, this time holding her palm up to the horse intending on petting its nose. “But this part is soft enough, if all of them was like this, I think I might like them a bit more.” Or just be less afraid.

She glances at Beisdean over her shoulder and gives him a sincere smile, one that he hasn’t seen since his return. “Thank you, and I’m sorry.” For what, she doesn’t really feel the need to expand upon. When it comes to Luna Owens, there are always far too many things.

He lets go of her wrist so that she can pet Iago’s nose, watching over her shoulder for any signs of mischief in his gelding, but the creature nickers sweetly enough, tilting his head to snuffle about for any more sugar. Disappointed perhaps to find there is no more, he allows himself to be petted.

“He’d not be very useful to me the size of a kitten,” Beisdean says with a smile. “They aren’t cruel creatures — not by nature. It’s only when we use them for our purposes, tame them for our needs, that they hurt us, and usually not deliberately then either, but out of fear most often. Sometimes out of pride. Never out of spite.”

For a moment it’s as if he hadn’t heard her apology or is choosing to ignore it, or perhaps just brush it off as an apology for being afraid of Iago. Beisdean moves from behind her to lean against the stall, boot kicking at the hay.

“Did she tell you what happened,” is flatly asked, almost not a question, and his eyes study the ground between them.

Her posture relaxes even more when he moves away, relieved. Luna marvels at the softness of the horse’s face and cheeks, exploring it with both hands, even moving a bit closer on her own. Her fingers don’t go near its muzzle again, lack of sugar instills a bit of fear in her yet.

“No,” her response is short, curiosity quelled by this new thing. The horse. Hands run over Iago’s cheeks and then down his neck as Luna takes one step closer still. The smell of the hay and the warmth of the animal envelope her and she loops her arms up, both hands gripping at a bit of mane at the base of the horse’s neck.

The blonde’s eyes close as she presses her cheek up against the soft fur, moving her head slightly in a nuzzle. For a moment, she seems perfectly content and at peace. Then she feels the touch of the horse’s chin on her shoulder and she stiffens again. Just enough to cause a bit of tension between them.

“Is he going to bite me?”

Beisdean watches through sleepily-narrowed eyes, one brow ticking upward at the peaceful scene before him. His head shakes no at her question, but he doesn’t speak for a moment longer.

“He’s a good horse. He’ll only bite you if you grab and hurt him or scare him. He’s able to put up with me, so he’s quite patient, really.” His voice is fond, his gaze on the beast appreciative. “I sometimes think he understands me almost as well as Darklight. I won’t be able to afford another, but even if I could, I doubt I’d find one as fine as Iago.”

The other topic hangs tense in the air — she didn’t address it, but the presence is almost a tangible thing. “I’m sorry for the misunderstanding,” he finally says, aware that he hadn’t tried to quell any of her suspicions.

She draws away from the horse, retreating slowly until her back hits the wall on the far side of the small stable. Safe from teeth. Luna doesn’t look at Beisdean for a small while, her lips opening slightly then closing as she searches for what she really wants to say. Then she simply shrugs. “It’s quite alright,” she finally settles on, “I shouldn’t’ve — it shouldn’t really matter so much to me, aye?”

Her head turns toward him but she avoids eye contact, for most people it would mean she’s embarrassed of her own actions. But it’s Luna. Looking past him to the door, she takes the few steps toward a basket on the floor, filled with vegetables. “D’you think they’d like the carrots I brought? Mariah and I, we chased chickens for’em. I thought I’d try— you know— t’show’em that I can do other things.” It’s not a craft or a trade, really, but it’s a respectable use of her time.

“Never mind, it’s silly, ain’t it? Me beggin’ around here for somethin’ that won’t come.”

He lifts and drops a shoulder in response to whether or not it should matter to him, then watches her as she indicates the basket. “I’m sure they would. Gifts are always welcome, especially when they don’t come with a price.”

That there is a price — Luna’s pride — is deliberately ignored. “I can take them in for you, if you don’t want to,” Beisdean offers, then adds, as if in afterthought, “I’m sure they know you can, Luna. You are capable of anything you want in life… it’s a gift not many have.”

The words are tinged with a little envy, but he smiles, then moves to reach for the basket. He’ll either carry it for her, or bring it inside for her without her company.

“I’ll never be proper,” she argues, eyes to the ground and fingers laced together in front of her. There’s a scuff on the leather of her boot that she frowns at, then twists her foot behind the other to hide it. “I’m infatuated with herbs and drink a little too much to give it all up in favor of the boring life of a Dornie wife or mum.” Not both, for some reason. “I’m not like them that we grew up with. Fergus and Bonnie and all the rest, they’re happy with everything here. I’m not.”

Finally, Luna looks up at Beisdean and shrugs her shoulder. “I ruined myself for doing anything, Baizey. I want too much, everything. I’m like my da’ that way, I think, my ma’ ain’t nothin’ like that. She’s mostly happy. I’m the black spot in her life.” Somehow a basket of carrots is supposed to make up for that.

Lifting the basket, he moves toward the door. “Proper is one thing. Love is another. They’ll love you even despite all that, I’m sure. It may take some time for them to give up on whatever hopes they had for you, but…” he pauses and looks at her through a lock of hair that’s fallen into his eyes.

“If my ma could forgive me for leaving and not coming back before she died, I’m sure they’ll forgive your indulgences and trade.”

Beisdean begins to walk toward the inn proper, one glance over his shoulder to see if she is following.

“Your ma’ ain’t my da’. She was everything bright and sunny in a day, he ain’t that, not by a long shot of a rifle. I’m certain your ma’ was content that you were happy and living the life you should be.” Luna meets his gaze and gives him an encouraging smile, it fades as she follows his eyes toward the main building. There’s a wry twist to her lips before she looks down at the ground again.

She doesn’t follow. Instead, she favors turning around again and chasing a kitten back to the stable where its warm. Lingering there for a few seconds, she closes the door on Iago and the felines, leaving them in the dark.

“I think I’ll be going back to the Dovetail, maybe visit a few folk on the way. I don’t much feel like seeing my ma’ cry or listening to my da’ yell and carry on.” Or even worse, when he says nothing at all and just turns away. “Tell ‘em I’m thinking about them, aye? That I did honest work for the carrots.”

Turning to look back at her, Beisdean dips his head. “I will,” is quietly promised.

His hand shifts on the basket, rearranging his grip for a moment. “If it helps, I doubt my father — whoever he is — would be very proud of me. I’m no fighter nor a merchant nor any sort of useful tradesman, and I’ve done plenty scandalous things in my time.”

His eyes sparkle a little mischievously, though he doesn’t elaborate. “I suppose not knowing him is a blessing of its own, aye? Letting down my mum was shame enough. You have a good day, Luna.”

“You as well Baizey,” is Luna’s muted response. Back against the stable door, she stares down at the scuff on her boot, suddenly no longer ashamed enough to try to hide it. The crunch of his step across the snow and gravel seems louder due to the silence around them. As though the blanket of white over the village muffled everything but the odd shout of a child at play.

“If it makes any difference,” she calls out across the courtyard, “I think my da’ would be prouder of you, no matter what direction your life took. Perhaps my ma’ as well.” The last bit is added on a little quieter, as if the woman didn’t want to let the other parent go. “You’d be a better son now than I’ve been a daughter.”

Her call slows his progress, and Beisdean turns again to regard her with sleepy eyes and a sad half smile. “Maybe, maybe not. No reason to imagine things we can’t prove either way, aye? We are who we are. To thine own self be true, and maybe you will find your own pride, Luna.”

He means a different sort than the kind she shows too often before falling.