Patrimony [Viverescribere & Nemopedia]

Nemopedia

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HAAKON FREDERIC NISSEN
Embarrassment, or something else? Haakon couldn’t tell with the way the stowaway fidgeted and moved away from him, her voice rambling again in that nervous tick she had carried when she had been freshly discovered. Haakon wasn’t sure how to take it, much less did he think well of it, the anger flashing in his eyes hotly before he abruptly dropped any concern he carried and got up. A damp towel dropped into her lap as he did so. It was his own and not the cleanest, but it was cool and it was what Haakon kept around to keep himself cool on the ship.

“Fine,” he bristled curtly at her, looking down l at the brunette he had found familiar one moment before reminding himself that this lady would never think of him as an equal, even if he had once been a prince. It had been silly to carry such a childish hope.

When Leah returned with the ginger Haakon had the idea of hurling it into Elly’s lap, his temper burning from inside out before he composed himself and motioned for the maid to take over.

“The princess here wishes not to be sullied,” he had exclaimed instead, earning a look from Leah who stared at Elswyth and then back at the other before mentally concluding that no secret was out yet but that something had tipped the mood judging by the ice that proverbially formed itself around Haakon.

“Some shade will do her good, and some sun for you,” Leah announced, quick to pull Elswyth up using her own weight as a support while she pushed Haakon with her other arm, nudging him to step out of the shades he loved so much.

“Good job spurning him,” Leah mumbled underneath her breath to the princess when she got closer, eyes fixated on the young lost prince and his sullen looks before nudging at Haakon with her feet, a playful kick to his shins.

“Me-thinks it is time for a female doc, not?” she grimaces at Haakon, who only turns his eyes at the suggestion before stalking off into the direction of his room, a memory brooding up again. Turning back to Elly again Leah actually looked impressed, her eyes wide and lips pursed before sitting the lady down in a shade next to the tub they tried to fill for the laundry.

“Whatever you did, he is sulking now and unlikely to get near for another while,” was the only comfort she could offer before pushing the unsorted laundry into Elswyth’s direction, a triumphant smile on Leah’s face. “Doesn’t exempt you from work, however,” was the non-apology that followed.

’Green and brown,’ his thoughts chanted as Haakon made his way down to his room, his legs carrying him faster before pulling out a box out of a hidden cabinet underneath his bed, revealing the few artefacts from a previous life that he couldn’t quite recall, but knew to be of importance.

Pulling out a weathered leather journal Haakon started to flip through the memories he had noted down since that fateful day.

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Viverescribere

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Elswyth Mary D'Ambrisio


Him calling her princess made her stomach drop once more and the nausea rose threateningly again. However, when no such vengeance was rained down upon her, Elswyth deduced that he was simply mocking her. She was supposed to be only a Lady after all.

Her fingers closed slowly around the damp rag that he had left on her lap, appreciation nestling itself deep in her chest at the coolness that greeted her. She noted the faint dirt marks on the piece of material, a few soft wooden splinters and rope fibres that had clearly been wiped from his hands or neck, the occasional stained patch either from dirt or perhaps sweat. However, she couldn't find herself able to care or be disgusted. It represented him. The new Haakon.

Although it didn't stop her from remembering a time in which he had given her a handkerchief when they were children, one that he had most likely taken from an adult, although he had denied it vehemently. She could recall, with nostalgic fondness, him boasting that he was grown now and had one of his own. After a while of arguing, Elswyth had left them matter alone, but she had spotted the initials embroidered in in the corner and they certainly weren't the prince's.

Elswyth's eyes remained on the rag in her hands as she was pulled up by Leah, fingers still tangling themselves within it as she left Leah to do the talking; fearing that if she attempted to say much else, she would either give herself away or continue to ramble which would only give cause to the hot anger in his eyes to flare up again.

Sitting down slowly, she glanced up at Leah with her own eyes wide, fingers tightening around the cloth provided by Haakon.

"I didn't mean to..." She trailed off, uncertain as to if there was much point in protesting her innocence, "...He had just caught me off guard. I-- remembered things. I got worried." She had lowered her voice by this point, not wishing to be overheard. She leaned back as the laundry was shoved into her hands and her eyes drifted to the tub - was she to fold or wash? "I thought you said I had best... befriend him again? I cannot spurn him and try to win his favour."
 

Nemopedia

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“I also told you to stay out of his way,” Leah sniped back with a snap, quick to crouch down next to Elswyth again with a glare in her eyes before heaving a sigh, one that sounded exhausted beyond measure as Leah shut her eyes for a moment, her neck rolling out the painful muscles in her shoulders.

“Look,” she started after a moment, making sure Haakon was out of sight before she dared to continue, “Haakon isn’t the same boy anymore, you aren’t the same girl either,” the lady explained, her hands going into the pile of laundry to examine the tossed items on any holes that needed patches before tossing them in the tub of water, “I don’t actually think you can befriend him anymore, even if –and that is a big IF– he remembers you fondly,” Leah explained, her hands dropping into her lap desolately before she continued her inspection, pushing away the thought.

“But maybe I’m wrong, I don’t know. It just wouldn’t be what I’d do,” she finalised with a shrug, “Besides, you are a proper lady now, it is unbecoming if you tried,” was the last hammer Leah hoped to nail onto the coffin, as she tossed a pair of pants into Elswyth’s direction, pointing at the hole near its seams and at an embroidery box next to the tub.

Somewhere on the faded pages of the early days a young Haakon had printed the crests of all the noble families and their roles. The D’Ambrisio clearest of all, with the ferocious strokes he had used to copy their crest and the angry letters of ‘traitor’ next to it. The house of Louet was more faded, given only a corner on the page as Haakon had to squint to make out the scribblings of his own immature handwriting, trying to make out what it said as he bowed over the journal.

’Decimated xxxx-year. he deciphered, frowning as he wondered how they had still survived if that were to be true, his memory digging and digging for buried information as he bowed deeper over his book, before tugging at another corner of his book that was silk instead of paper in which an embroidered square of a napkin was revealed, somewhere carefully embroidered was the crest of another great family; the Katz, who had a son Haakon frequently fought with, for one reason or another.

It disturbed Haakon how little he seemed to be still familiar with these family crests and their histories. A signature of how far he had drifted from his princely duties, as his shelves were stocked with apothecary, medicine and astronomy instead of governance, history and law. A bothersome realisation as Haakon pulled the napkin out, frowning as he rubbed over the embroidery before a plan started to brew again.

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Viverescribere

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Elswyth Mary D'Ambrisio


There was a spike of irritation that was beginning to form in Elswyth's chest at the woman's continuous bipolar behaviour with her. She believed she was doing something correctly one moment only to be snapped at for doing it incorrectly the next. This was a dangerous game she was playing and she knew she couldn't afford to put a foot wrong. However, Leah was making if very difficult to figure out what was wrong and what was right.

"Fine, then I shall stay out of his way." She sniffed, snatching at the trousers and moving to sit on the floor besides the laundry tub, pulling the embroidery box close to her so she could fetch a needle and thread. "If you had simply said to do so in the first place, then I would have done. It's all very confusing, you know." She couldn't care if she sounded petulant to the other woman; so confused and lost for what to do, Elswyth (deep down) felt on the verge of tears. The anxiety of protecting her own neck, the unexpected shock of Haakon being alive, the fear of being a noble woman on a ship full of those that - undoubtedly - hated the nobility... it was more than what she had had to deal with in her five and twenty years of life.

With a furrowed brow, Elswyth bowed over the hole in the trouser leg with a needle prepared and ready to make short work of closing up the gap. It was nothing of what she was used to, having created images from her embroidery previously, but she supposed that at least she had the skills to make herself useful. Otherwise she imagined she would have been over the side of the ship sooner rather than later.

She remained with Leah for that time, taking the pieces of clothing that had holes and fixing them before they were handed back to Leah for washing. Once all the clothes were mended, she helped with the last of the washing. By the end of it, her fingers were red raw and her back ached from being bent over for so long. She had pricked herself too, on more than one occasion, with the needle in her haste to hurry the job up. Strands of hair had fallen from the updo that Leah had put her hair up into; damp with sweat and soapy tub water, while parts of the borrowed dress were equally as damp from the washing.

After the last shirt had been washed and laid out to dry, Elswyth sat back onto the bench near the washing tub. Her eyes closed and she arched her back in an attempt to stretch it out, wincing as she did so. However, just as she had done during the chore, she bit back any verbal complaints. There was no desire to irk Leah further, or give any overhearing men any other reason to sneer or snort at her.

Elswyth wiped her brow with the back of her arm on the sleeve, taking in a deep breath and then noticing how dry her tongue and mouth felt. She looked to Leah, tucking some hair behind her ear before asking: "Any chance of some water before the next task? I'm parched as anything."
 

Nemopedia

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Elswyth wasn’t the only one losing patience, though Leah had been holding herself up valiantly until she decided not to when she roughly dropped the laundry back into the basket, a huff escaping the female as the water sloshed over the brim, drenching the shoes of both ladies.

“Do I need to tell you everything? Do this, do that? Breath only when spoken to?”

The disdain in Leah’s voice was hard to hide at that moment when the woman finally let her temper get to her, another deep breath following as she calmed herself down.

“You grew up within the court and its petty disputes. Make use of it,” was the last sneer Leah was willing to give before she roughly pushed her hands back into the water, scrubbing the laundry with such vigour that left no breath for talk and a lot of water flying around. By the end of the wash Leah’s temper hadn’t subsided at all, being of the type to hold everything in as she pushed her hands onto her hips, a little turn towards the lady as she cocked her head.

“You get what you take, there are no maids with cans to run after you,” she snipped, though Leah turned around all the same, leading Elswyth down the ship towards the shades of the kitchens where the water barrels were stored.

The very barrels where Haakon just happened to replenish his own water skin, noticing the storm set on Leah’s face and in her gait. “Why the mood?” he questions, a ghost of a smile escaping him before it faded away at the sight of Elly, to which his eyes cooled as his lips set into a line. “Ah,” the sound followed him, looking down at the drenched clothes and the sun outside, as if everything was at once explained.

“Catch,” Haakon tells Elly a moment later, throwing over the water skin he had been filling earlier, the water sloshing within the cool pouch at the promise of refreshment, “water is sparse here, but don’t feel like you need to hold back. I rather not have you collapse,” he tells the female cooly, eyes gliding over her facial features, comparing them with whatever was left in memory about the appearances of the Louet, remembering vaguely what Elly had looked like that had not been a Louet.

It didn’t add up, nothing in his memory added up with what he had been presented with so far. Haakon, however, couldn’t determine whether this was caused by his own memories fading, or if this Elly was lying to him. A suspicion he had been carrying for a while, yet felt reluctant to accept.

“Here.” Speaking up again Haakon offered the Katz embroidered napkin he had found between his journals, his fingers rubbing over the signature of that loathsome family whose son he fought on a weekly basis before presenting it to the lady. A test, or reminder? Haakon wasn’t even sure what his own intent was there as he held the fabric out.

“To wipe your face,” he clarified, eyes trained on every minute expression of her face.

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Viverescribere

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Elswyth Mary D'Ambrisio


The tiredness from her lack of sleep and the aches from a day of labour she wasn't used to was beginning to catch up on Elswyth. Leah's unkind words and then Kun's cold looks were chipping away at the armour Elswyth wore over her own emotions. Attending court was a lot less worse than dealing with the two in front of her, together or separately. At least court was only for a few hours. What she was enduring had been for a lot longer, and there was still the rest of the day to go.

She struggled inwardly to keep her frustrations and upset at bay, swallowing thickly to push down the lump that was forming in her throat. She had fumbled to catch the water skin Kun had tossed her way, but once she did, she clasped it to her chest. Yet, at his words (and Leah's earlier snide comments), she hesitated in doing anything with it.

Elswyth resented how much they were judging her and sneering at her; their sarcastic and contemptuous comments were all because of who she was and the life she had lived. She knew they wouldn't be acting the same way if she had been a scullery or kitchen maid who had sneaked away for a little while.

As she stood there, clinging to the water skin as if it were her lifeline, the young woman could feel her body begin to tremble. Either out of the coolness that the kitchen brought and the dampness of her dress against her skin, or because of the bubbling anger and the tears she was fighting to keep controlled. It was something her body had done since she was young; shivering with any overwhelming emotion.

Then, he offered her a handkerchief. Not just any handkerchief. But the same one he had stolen all those years ago.

It was a more grey than white by now, the clean colour having withered away over the years. However the embroidery was still there, right in the corner, as it had been the first day he had handed it to her.

Elswyth turned the material around in her hand as the other continue to hold the water skin and moved the handkerchief until the emblem rested in the palm of her hand. Her thumb brushed over the thread, brow furrowing as she was faced with another set of unwanted emotion. However, rather than say anything, the princess slowly closed her fingers to form a fist, the material becoming caught up within; only a peek of the edges sticking out. A harsh breath pushed out from between her lips and she slowly set the handkerchief and the water skin down on a nearby chest.

"I think I will return to your quarters." Elswyth informed him, the fear of being caught and the meekness from earlier drowning in the sea of what she was feeling now. "Clearly I am of no use and I am not wanted. I am just antagonising and I wouldn't wish to inflict any further irritation." Her eyes moved to Leah, lingering there for a moment before returning to Kun. She knew she shouldn't enrage Leah, given the woman knowing about her secret. However, there was only so much she could take. Besides, it was Leah that told her to make use of her experiences in court.

When things grew to be too much, she removed herself from the situation.

"But let me remind you both: I did not ask to be here. I did not ask for you to steal from the palace, nor did I ask for you to pick the wagon I was hidden on. I did not ask for you to keep me. In fact, I think it's very clear I would rather be returned home. It is you that is keeping me here and it is you that is causing this headache for yourselves." She had taken a step forward by this point, although she was aware that she was unlikely to look as authoritative and intimidating as she desired with her body still continuing to shiver with her pent up anger and frustrations and upset. "So please, stop taking it out on me. I am trying my best, even if that isn't good enough for you."
 
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Nemopedia

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His gesture had been one well-meaning, or so Haakon had thought. An act of kindness perhaps not, but well-intended and not hostile. The hostility that Haakon was met with instead, accompanied with the downcast look in the eyes of Leah was unexpected, yet explanatory as Leah avoided his eyes when he pleaded for a silent explanation. It was like a fog clearing up, a mist that was downcasted in his own mind that suddenly broke allowing for fresh air and sun to enter, and for Haakon to think with clarity.

“Very well,” Haakon answered, his tone unchanged, but his hand dropped to the side, hiding the defeat he felt within before tightening into a fist again before the former prince filled a can for himself.

He knew that the treatment had been unfair. He knew that, perhaps he felt even a little guilty, but apologising was not in Haakon’s nature whose royal pride had always remained, if not grown even larger over the years.

“She should get her own room,” Leah tries, eyes flitting over both and knowing that Haakon had been cooped up within his room, but the flick of Haakon’s wrist tells the other not to worry, that it was no use arguing about it.

“She isn’t a guest,” the male reminds, as a way of hammering in that Elly was perhaps as unwelcome as she felt herself to be. “It’s fine, bring extra pillows and blankets when you can.” Cutting off any protests Haakon turns back, returning to his room once more with the can of water he brought before realising that the trails of his own investigation are still all over his room, sprawled across the floor and onto his bed.

He would have to clean that up before she arrived.

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Viverescribere

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Elswyth Mary D'Ambrisio


Her body continued to tremble long after her words had grown cold on her lips and the tremor remained after Haakon had left. The frustration and upset hadn't diminished, but it was slightly diluted now by the confusion at his lack of smart retort. Except for him reminding her that she wasn't a guest (she already knew she was a nuisance), there was nothing else said regarding her.

Watching his retreating back, Elswyth took a few stiff steps to replace him in front of the barrels of water. A tankard was collected from the side and filled, only for the princess to knock it back with feverish gulps. A few droplets escaped from the corners of her mouth in her haste to quench her thirst, running down over her jawline and then down the side of her throat. She didn't finish until she was done with the whole tankard, breathing deeply with a rapidly rising and falling chest to accompany her quick breaths. She kept her body turned side on to Leah, eyes on the wooden wall of the ship bowels as she allowed her mind to race.

"Do not lecture me this time, or snap at me and tell me that was the wrong thing to do. Your bipolar suggestions on how to handle the situation have exhausted me and I have tired of you both sneering at me." Her words were quieter this time, firm but with an element of desperation to just be left alone.

Because that was all she had wanted since leaving the castle. To have a moment of peace, to mull over her thoughts and compartmentalise them before shoving them away for ever so she could perform her duties as expected.

Her eyes closed as she lowered the now empty tankard back onto the table she swiped it from, releasing a long breath as she forced the recounted image of Haakon's bewildered expression from her mind. She would refuse to feel sympathy for him given how he had treated her thus far.

Soon enough, though, Elswyth turned her head to look to the maiden, fingers from one hand pressing into the table to ground herself, "You needn't worry yourself about escorting me to his room. As you said, you needn't tell me everything and I get what I take. So I will do as I must too. I'm sure I will be able to find my way there eventually." She mused coolly, tapping the surface of the table once before pulling herself away from it.

Collecting the handkerchief that had been left behind, the princess scrunched it up in her hand and squeezed it tightly, only to then offer Leah a tight smile and begin heading in the same direction that Kun took in the hopes of finding his room.
 
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Nemopedia

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Leah had always been known as rough around the edges, worsened since the day Haakon’s parents fell and the care for the young prince rested upon her once young shoulders alone. A tinge of bitterness was thus a natural thing by which Haakon had come to recognise her for. The reaction of the stowaway, however, surprised him, the thought crossing his mind whether the lady had grown especially harsh, or if the accumulation of everything had been too much to bear for the person alone on this ship.

“Here!” the male had called for the lady, his eyes roaming over the floor where he started to pick up the trail of his readings and research. The various sheets of papers with the insignia of the families and the family trees as he had known it, or as they were known to the public, accompanied with notes all sprawled across in an illegible handwriting and a single letter, written in their native language, that was still a work in progress;

Lord Berne,

As always I appreciate your efforts in providing us with the insight of the tidings of the court, most dangerous as your role is, I value you as an old friend of my late father and as an ally in the cause to return the throne to its rightful ruler. It has been over a decade since I last saw my birthplace and to know that the place and the castle has changed beyond recognition and witness as much pains me as much as it inspires.

I’m not writing for frivolities, much as I wish to be able to be a friend to you as my father was before me, I do not have that luxury…


The letter was hastily folded as Haakon turned around towards the entering figure of Elly, his expression calm as ever before he slipped the paper into his pocket and gestured to the bunker bed in the wall.

“I have emptied the bed, you should rest,” he told the female, marching back to the heavy wooden table at the other side where he smoothed the hidden letter out, hiding the contents from his capture. “If you feel sick again the chamberpot is underneath the bunker at the left,” was the last thing Haakon told the female before he turned back to his letter, pen dipping into the ink as he continued to write in a neat script.

I expect to come by your summer abode during the solstice. If my captive speaks the truth Louet’s allegiance will be in our hands. If not the robbed groom shall be ours to command.

Signing off the letter Haakon once more folded the paper in his own distinct manner, rolling it up tight before he slid it into the container. It wasn’t now, but it would be soon that a whole string of plans could set itself in motion.


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Viverescribere

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Elswyth Mary D'Ambrisio



Hazel eyes darted to the bed in question, roaming over it for a moment to note that it was tidier than it had been when she originally left the room with him that morning. The mention of the chamber pot had her nose briefly wrinkling before she schooled her expression back into one of dull neutrality - one that she had perfected during her time at court. However, instead of taking the bunk as he had offered, Elswyth moved to the book shelves as he settled at his desk to continue scribbling.

The captive princess had meant it when she said she didn't want to get in their way and so that meant leaving the bed unattended. She wasn't about to give him any more reason to ridicule or taunt or scoff at her, so taking his bed was out of the question.

Instead she took in the titles of the books on his shelves, taking a moment to learn the differences between the Kun she once knew and the Kun that she now shared a room with. Gone where the books about history and Latin and languages. In their place, books about pharmacy and astrology and Geography.

She reached out to pull out a book about pharmacy - the most basic of books, clearly one he had gotten for when he was first learning since she have much knowledge of the subject. Elswyth then moved to the armchair that faced towards Kun, but rather than settling into it, the young woman heaved and pushed the chair so it faced the opposite wall. Allowing her to see both Kun and the door to his cabin out of the corners of her eye. She could trust no one, and would leave her back vulnerable to nothing.

Plus, it would also give her great pleasure if the noise created irritated her captor somewhat. Which then reminded her of a time when she went out of her way to infuriate him on purpose in their younger days:

"I'm not doing anything, Kun. Stop whining already." Elswyth huffed, smothering the smirk that threatened to give her away. A feather was tucked up one of the long sleeves of her dress, hidden from view after she had tickled his ear with it for the fourth time that afternoon. "Really, I think you're just imagining things. Just go back to your book and stop disturbing me."

It was so odd to be, from nowhere, reminded of so many childhood memories that her mind had clearly stored and locked away from her.

However, she rapidly cast that thought aside and settled into the armchair she had just moved. Instead of sitting properly, as she considered there was no use for that anymore, she sat as she would if in private and enjoying her own time. Elswyth tucked both feet up underneath herself, knees bent and nestled back into the armchair. From there, she began to read, resting into the left side of the armchair for support as the book laid in her lap.
 

Nemopedia

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A pause in the scratching of the feather, replaced by the sound of a chair scraping over the wood of the floor, loud, annoying and insistent. Most of all, too close to him for comfort, his shoulders freezing, his hand moving over the letter, covering the words and the name and the emblem as he threw the hostage a pensive look, eyes heavy and weary before settling into a frown and deeming that she wasn’t trying to read the content of his correspondence.

The book Elly held in hands was a weathered book, with a soft leather binding of lesser quality and donkey eared pages and notes piling out. A book that had been with Haakon for years with notes like: ’should help the flatulent Irene.’ or ’perfect for Klaus.’ Childish remarks, littered with genuine concern as he maintained the sparse memories he retained from his time as a prince. None that he hoped this Elly would be able to decipher as notes on friends and maids.

A memory stirred him the next moment, when Haakon finished the letter and folded it in half, melting the wax as to seal his words;

”Father says that one day I can have my own monogram,” a young Haakon explains as he rolls around the variety of seals in his hands, the cubes of coloured waxes each touched upon in wonder, but deftly avoiding one particular colour. “When I’m all grown up, of course and can write my own letters. Maybe I will write one to you!”

The monogram that was promised never happened. At least, not within the court. Instead he had his father’s monogram in a simplified manner, the proud ‘P’ pressed into black wax, the wax of mourning, for Haakon was still lamenting his loss.

”Of course your letters will be sealed with green wax,” the prince had followed hastily to Elswyth, a blush dusting his cheeks while his fingers still avoided reaching out for the blue wax. “Maybe occasionally even pink! Whenever someone decides to marry you,” he concluded, even if he hadn’t meant it so derisively, or hoped for at all. Elswyth was his good friend, after all, and one he didn’t want to share any time soon.

“Louet,” Haakon suddenly broke the silence, the name of that noble house ringing through the room, “which one of the old men is your father?” Haakon questioned, pulling out another sheet of paper as he smoothed it out with a fist before resting the tip of his feather on top of it, anticipating whatever answer came from the female.

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His desire to protect the words he was writing didn't go unnoticed by Elswyth and, while it did briefly put her on edge, she forced herself to ignore the rising feeling of panic and paranoia. There was no knowing what the words spelled out on his piece of paper. It could be plans for the crew, it could be a letter to those he was going to supply goods to or it could be a request for knowledge or an order for her eventual death.

Obviously, the idea of the last two were utterly terrifying, but Elswyth knew she couldn't allow that fear to show in any kind of way. She had to keep her cover for as long as possible, even if she had no idea what she was going to do when it came to an eventual escape pan. She would be a fool to believe that Kun wouldn't find out who she really was and she doubted it would be a joyous reunion if the truth came out.

So to remain calm was the plan for now, until they reached land again... and then another would have to be devised.

His voice cut through her thoughts in a manner so piercing that it made her jump. The book slamming shut as her shoulders raised up and forward in her unexpected fright. Her brow furrowed as she looked up at him, fingers clutching the book so tight that her knuckles showed white.

The question caused her frown to deepen and she slowly sat up properly, having sank back into the chair with the depths of her thoughts and concerns. She settled the book in her lap and leaned forward, her heart beginning to pick up in pace as her eyes landed on the picture.

"May I ask why the sudden interest in my father?" Elswyth asked, both curious to know but also to delay her answer. Not that she didn't know, but she hadn't seen the Louet patriarch in a long time and wanted to make sure she was right. "Do you want to ensure that one of your crew puts the letter of ransom in the correct hand?"
 
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The question was met with sarcasm, the question not outrageous, though defensive. In one way meant to prevent divulging any information, in another hand it could be a delaying tactic. Haakon had met them all, the feather left to rest again as he folded he reached for his own personal notebook. “You may not,” he answered, not feeling like engaging in yet another discussion as he flipped through the pages of entries he had made, notes of study and of travels and of people met before he picked up his feather once more, scratching in a new entry that read; ‘Elly II’

“What’s Hauviel like?” he diverted to a new question instead, the feather pausing when he asked after the city in which his father once held the royal throne, the place of his birth, and the place where everything had ended just as easily.

A genuine question, as the male travelled back in his own memory, remembering the cooks in the kitchen and the people in the streets from the time he had snuck out. Somehow, somewhere, the people of Hauviel looked perhaps better than they had done in his memories. Better, yet in the same miserable state. Better fed, but still weary to the bone.

”One slice of bread?” the prince had questioned, the confusion obvious as he looked down at the farmers at the side breaking their fast during a tour.

“Harvests have been bad and the price of grain has risen. To have more than a slice a day is a luxury,” the Coin master had explained, patiently explaining how taxes worked as they travelled through the golden landscape that scattered around Hauviel.

“Then sow more to compensate,” was the simplistic solution of the prince.

To sow more.
The simplistic and naive solution had Haakon wince now, though he didn’t show any of that outwardly as he rose his eyes up towards the Louet, his breath calm while he waited for his answer, waiting for the ways Hauviel had changed since his father was gone.

Perhaps, somewhere, he wanted to hear as well how Elly, or princess Elswyth as she should be called now, was doing. Was she married yet? Has she changed?

Somewhere Haakon hoped to hear a negative on everything, no matter how unlikely.

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His change of question made her pause, the young woman not expecting him to concede so easily given how he had been so far in their short reunion (not that he was aware of such a reunion). Her curiosity had been piqued, wondering if Kun was only interested in the state of Hauviel because he wanted to know if it was doing better under her family's reign or not. Of course, given what she had been told and what she had learned, she would always be biased.

But how could she hold the contempt for laziness and lack of care that she had for his father against him? Kun had been only a young boy, as she had only been a young girl. She could hardly hate him for something that his father had done.

Yet she lived in fear that he would hold over her what her father did.

"...What do you wish to know? I would have thought a pirate such as yourself would have been to Hauviel before to steal and raid." Elswyth soon responded after realising she had drifted off into her own thoughts for a second longer than she should have. She rested back into her chair, hands coming together on top of the book.

Eventually she sighed, turning her head to look off to the side as she considered his question, knowing she had to be careful with how much she revealed. There would be some things that she wouldn't be aware of as a simply lady-in-waiting.

"...There's been another bad harvest. The banks of the Epsoll river overflowed and ruined some of the wheat fields. That then also impacted farmers who grew the tomatoes, potatoes and corn." Elswyth closed her eyes as her head rested back, mind now racing with the problems she had been taken from. She wanted so desperately to help and make suggestions, but there was only so much her father would tolerate.

Shaking her head at the thought, she opened her eyes to focus on him. Mainly out of curiosity to see if he would react to her next piece of news, "Because of that... the King has betrothed the Princess to a kingdom with accessible and affluent ports. To create a partnership that would allow the King to feed his people."

She paused there, realising a sadness had entered her voice without her consent as she reflected on her own fate. Elswyth soon leaned forward, motioning for the photo again, "Let me see again, I will point him out to you."
 

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A pause, and then an accusation, made Haakon’s eyes flinch, just a mere flicker that went by unnoticed overall as he was once more reminded of how he had fallen. From a proud prince to that of a beggar criminal. More stark of an opposite did not exist.

He took in the bad harvest, his eyes momentarily fluttering shut as he remembered himself going down the fields, the way they looked from the small window in the carriage, the harsh quality of life that made the people working the lands rough and sturdy compared to his once delicate features. Unconsciously his thumb went over his hands, feeling the callouses that had formed there that he wouldn’t have as a prince, remembering every blister and the scars he had since his days as a royal ended and he was pronounced dead to the world.

“Essentially sold,” Haakon spoke up, a disdain in his voice for the practice. If it had been him it would have never happened, for he was a son, but Elly suffered different troubles, problems he had seen across the land, “exchanged like some piece of property in the name of good.” The criticism was harsh, but hypocritical, Haakon knew. His queen-mother had been in a similar situation herself, back when Hauviel was strong and powerful and could afford to make such demands. She wasn’t even his father’s first wife, nor his only mistress, but she was the only one who had managed to give birth to a son, and the one who was crowned by his father’s side as queen when his rule fell.

It was a discomforting thought, to know that his own father was no better as a man and as a ruler than the current man, but that was the strange dynamic that was humanity, Haakon realised. For he knew that, as he ruled this ship, he had been both kind and cruel, and in his youth it was more often angry than understanding.

“Would you take her place?” Haakon diverted the question, an idea popping up, “you both have similar enough names.” It was an idea he had proposed impulsively, the thought of Elly, his Elly marrying an old turd like his king-father had been only to appease a hungry country not sitting well with him.

“I can bring you to the country and marry you off to the foreign king as the princess.”

Haakon wasn’t sure yet how he was going to do that, but he felt confident that he could do it, with the help of the lords that still served him in Hauviel and some strings.

"You would be queen, even if your husband is still an old man." Haakon continued, though he realised the hypocrisy in the offer he was making. After all, wasn't he asking for her to sacrifice herself instead of the princess? It was an offer he felt more comfortable with, however.

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"Apparently that is all we women are good for, no? Like brood mares being sold at auction to the highest bidder in order to create the best lineage." Her hand had fallen back into her lap and her gaze fell with it, yet Elswyth remained leaning forward until she realised the unnecessary proximity and rested back again. "Except at least brood mares get some freedom." A soft sound of amusement escaped her, akin to a snort. "They can at least roam in their paddocks or go for a ride. While we are locked away at home, unable to truly invest in anything we may genuinely find interesting."

Her mind was cast back to all the times in which she was escorted away from any activities that were deemed inappropriate. Including fencing, in which she had watched the same man - then a boy - in front of her learn how to fence and demanded she was taught too. The fencing instructor hadn't been so amused, yelling for her nanny to fetch her. Elswyth was dragged away, heels dug into the floor out of stubbornness.

Her gaze rose back to his at his next question. His silly and impulsive question. The sadness and frustration that had pooled in her gaze soon dried up. She cleared her throat, as if that would clear any emotion that had been gathering, and raised a hand to gently rub across the top of her chest - a habit born from learning to self-soothe.

"You think he would take me in place of a princess just because we have the same name? Do you not think he would have received a painting - a portrait of some kind? Royal, noble men are just as vain as they are fickle. If they can afford to be fussy, then they shall. I remember the princess sitting for a portrait to send to this prince. No. It wouldn't work." Her heart raced at the prospect of still ending up where she least wanted to be, even in a situation that she had once thought she would be killed in (not that she didn't think that still wasn't a possibility).

Elswyth eventually cast her gaze away, hand stilling on her chest as she looked to the window of his cabin. Another small, sorrowful smile crept on her lips at his comment regarding being queen, as if the title alone could tempt her. It amused her as she ought to be queen in her own right, but because of who she was, she would never truly be in charge. Perhaps to someone else, like a Baron's daughter or a Lord's daughter (like she was supposed to be), it would be the ultimate achievement. However, she knew the truth and was proven right by her arranged marriage.

"What good is it being queen if you have no power?" She murmured, keeping her eyes on the window, "Being queen is no better than being an ornament. Just made to sit or stand and look pretty. To be silent and keep opinions to yourself. To have no real say - not even over how your own children would be raised. To have no opportunity to truly make a difference?" Elswyth paused and a cold shiver ran over her as she realised just how open and honest she was being with him. Quickly, her mouth shut and her gaze was torn from the window to the book in her lap, which both hands now clutched.

"Forgive me. I did not mean to speak out of turn." Elswyth's apology was automatic and she hated it, the words used more often as she got older.
 

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It was like shooting a hole in a filled barrel, or a tear in a filled net of fish, a constant stream that flowed and flowed until all was depleted, or at least enough so that the level lowered below the bar, in this case energy. An anger and bitterness that spilled out in an outrageous manner for anyone of nobility, making Haakon wonder twice once more if she had been anyone from court, or from the palace. The Louet weren’t known to be forgiving in their traditions, experts in law, but with an old-fashioned view, and the old man had scolded Haakon plenty of times for his demeanour. No, Elly here was nothing, and had presented herself so far as nothing, but a common woman in the way she spoke and expressed herself to him, a stranger.

“I asked,” Haakon responds eventually when she apologises again, a deep inhale following, as if he had been the one speaking for long turns instead, “you were eager to go back, but I suppose you aren’t truly,” he continued, remembering her earlier and constant demands. She wanted to go back, she had to go back, she needed to go back, statements that by now would make his eyes roll at how little she seemed to understand of her own situation.

But Haakon cared little for what Elly wanted, or rather what she demanded for as if it was part of her right. It wasn’t what his crew needed, or he.

“With that determined.” Pushing himself up from his spot, Haakon picked up the sealed letter from earlier, “we prepare for tomorrow.” And without any clarification Haakon eyed for Elly to follow him, leading her right back onto deck before turning into the back where the looted treasures lay.

“They already moved the fresh produce to the kitchen, that spoils too soon, but try to compile packages containing at least: fabrics, a pot of dry produce and a pot of preserved,” Haakon instructed, showing Elly what he meant as he picked out the pots and wrapped them in a roll of fabric. “If you find anything else amongst the loot you may include it in the package as well, but make sure it isn’t too recognizable. We don’t want to get them in trouble by helping.”

Setting the package he had compiled aside, Haakon pointed at a table in the corner, on which a notebook with writing utensils were left, “whatever is left we log down,” were the last words to his instructions before Haakon repeated the process.

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Her gaze flickered across the work he was instructing her to do, eyeing up the jars and pots and swathes of fabric critically. She wondered, for a moment, how long these sort of items could be made to last when it came to the people he now associated himself with. In the palace, she doubted it would last for two weeks.

Elswyth then looked up at him, hands clasped together and tucked behind her back. "And what will you do with these little packages that you are making? You say give it to them. Who is 'them'? Your crew? The less fortunate at the next port?" She inquired. Her words could have suggested an element of mocking, but her tone was far from such a thing. Instead she was curious about what his plans were. Not that she wasn't inwardly furious at the stealing, but she was interested in seeing what sort of new man Kun had become.

She hoped it would give her an insight as to how much he had changed... and therefore what he would do with her should he ever learn the truth of who she really was.

Nevertheless, she reached out to begin her assigned task. However, she began in another way, organising the items into piles first rather than beginning to package them all up based on what she could see. She wanted them in three separate piles, with a fourth for any additional items he hadn't accounted for. Then she would begin to create the packages he requested.

"Do you always give back to the poor after these raids of yours?" She questioned as she shifted the small pots into the middle and placed the fabric to her left. This was done with the intent to go from left to right once her piles had been created. "Or does it depend on the amount you have successfully gained?"
 

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The poor. The way she separated them from herself and the rest, made Haakon grimace inwardly, biting down his temper as he continued to sort and pack, packing up what there was, though not much. “Do you always turn your nose and judge?” The male eventually shot back, annoyed at the words she used, the way she so loftily and easily spoke as if it wasn’t part of her troubles, or her problems, as if she was better than those on the ship. The ones who once had a comfortable home.

“The Epsoll river flooded, in the east Strill is at war with Yll, and up north the constant forest fires have the refugees come in heaps. People are displaced, with no hearth or bed to return to,” the male gave the rundown to the lady, a sigh escaping him as he steadily continued to sort. “It isn’t much, but it will give them hope.” And even without hope, it was the entry of help, even if they hadn’t come from the same kingdom, even if they had come from much further outside of Hauviel.

Another heave escaped Haakon, remembering the earlier spat with Leah, the vile accusation of their prejudice against her, brimmed with Elly’s own prejudice against him and the crew, mixed with vile accusations that weren’t pronounced but so clearly set in her eyes.

“You’d do well remembering that the people on this ship once had a home as well,” Haakon shared, getting up from his spot as he started to dig in the corners of the treasures, pulling out more roughspun fabrics that could be used when cut and divided. “Judge however you want, I don’t expect your understanding, nor should you expect mine for your situation,” were his last words.

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Elswyth sharply looked up at his snappy response, eyes widening but brow furrowing at his tone and words. She had merely been asking, wishing to learn more about the man that he had become but also about what actually happened with the goods that had been stolen. When she had overheard news about raids given to her father in the past, she had always thought that they had been taken and greedily hoarded away. It was an insight to hear that they were divided and handed out as they were in this case, at least with Kun's group of people.

"I am not judging. Must you always assume that I am? I am simply trying to understand, if you will let me." The noble finally responded, once she had composed herself from her shock at his biting retort.

Considering she only knew about the Epsoll river, Elswyth was uncomfortable to hear about the war and the forest fires. Even though she was princess, she wasn't regarded as necessary for meetings. Her brother was next in line to inherit the throne and she, despite her desires to learn more about matters of state, was always barred from the rooms. The last she had heard about Strill and Yll was that there were high tensions and the threat of war was hanging heavily over both kingdoms. And she had known nothing about the forest fires.

She realised she had paused when her arm began to ache, the jar in her hand being the cause as she had just held it mid-air as she thought. She slowly lowered it, resting it on the cart with her fingertips pressed into the cork. How quickly, in a matter of a day, she had been made to see how inadequate she was. She desired to be Queen in her own right and run her own kingdom. But knew nothing. Did nothing.

Clearing her throat hurriedly as a lump had formed there, Elswyth turned her head away to wipe at the eye furthest from him. "Do not mistake the tear as being the result of your harsh words." She mumbled hastily, eyes back on the stolen stock in front of her as she continued her task. Those words the last from her lips for the rest of the time she spent on the job she had been given to do.