Lena and Gwen Scene
“Owowowowow….” A sharp hiss emitted as Lena took air in between her gritted teeth. It was Isabelle who had suggested that Lena get a good look at the house if she was going to be Corthos’ messenger, AND it was Isabelle who swore up and down that climbing over the southern hedges would be the easiest way, especially after nightfall. Lena made a mental note to not listen to Isabelle again any time soon as she steadied herself, one hand wrapped around a branch tightly for balance while the other moved a large bramble that had wrapped itself around her thigh. Cursing under her breath in two different languages, she steadied herself and jumped over the hedge. Her small frame landed on the other side rather clumsily, and she lost her balance for a moment before standing slowly. So, this was a Thrune noble’s house. What in the nine hells was Corthos doing with the Thrune? She sighed. It was that same curiosity that had made her want to find out who, exactly, Guinevere Thrune was. “Curiosity killed the kitty-cat, Lena…” She mocked herself, mentally hearing it in Isabelle’s voice.
Why was she here? Because she wanted to figure out more about Corthos. And he had a letter addressed to a Thrune, to be sent if he died. And he had planned a duel, so….yeah, he might die. So that made this all make sense, right? She shook her head as she started to move forward, glancing back for just a moment to make sure she could still get over the hedge if she needed to. As her neck turned, she heard the crunch of boots on gravel, not far from her. She held very still, trying not to move as her eyes spotted two Thrune guards walking her direction – both carrying large truncheons and ugly scowls. She took shallow breaths, cursing herself again. For once, she wished Isabelle was there – even though it would have become a riot, at least the girl knew how to defend herself. Lena had been in one ‘fight’, and it had been little more than a few slaps.
She turned, starting to slink her way back towards her exit. Halfway there, the boots burst into a run after her, and she made a leap for the hedge. However, she was tackled out of the air, her body slamming into the gravel of the walking track at the base of the hedges. A yelp of pain escaped her lips as she was roughly pulled to her feet, then punched hard in the stomach. She doubled over, her vision swimming as one of the guards backhanded her roughly. She closed her eyes, trying to be as brave as Isabelle, trying not to react, trying her best to do her movement proud and not be weak. They lifted her bodily, carrying her towards the gate. She could hear talking on one side, her other ear ringing dully. Soon, she found herself seated in a small room, a guard on either side of her, the meager belongings that she had brought spread out on a table. It was nothing of great interest – a handful of coins, some rations, some water, a small lantern and rope, and Aldo’s last writing. She knew better than to keep any intel on her. A large man strode into the room, the guards both snapping to attention.
He smiled thinly, looking rather irritated. He glared at the guards as he spoke. “How was someone allowed in my land like this? Don’t you get paid to make sure that this doesn’t happen?” He shook his head and pulled a chair in front of her, glaring at Lena. “A thief, I’ll bet. Is that what this is? Trying to steal what I’ve worked for? Aldo Mondragon rants and raves and suddenly the common beggar thinks that they deserve what our families have done so much to earn.” Behind him, the door opened and closed quietly as a black-haired woman entered the room, carrying herself with a subtle grace. The rough-looking man in front of Lena hardly glanced up as he continued. “It’s disgusting. You should know how to work for your wages. You’ve earned some coin, why can’t you just earn the rest honestly?” He raised his arm as he spoke, and the woman placed her hand gently on it. He finally glanced up. “Guinevere, go lie down. It’s just some street urchin. I can handle it.” The woman smiled warmly as she spoke. “I know you can, Alasdair. I would never think you couldn’t. But perhaps I can talk sense into her, woman to woman? You know how stubborn we can be.”
The man grinned slightly. “Be careful. She doesn’t have any weapons. The boys got her pretty good, she put up a fight when they tried to catch her. Threw rocks and scrapped. They had to protect themselves. I won’t press charges this time, but it can’t keep happening.” The guards nodded quickly, knowing that their lies would not be questioned. Lena stayed solemn and quiet. Guinevere spoke again. “Leave the guards right outside. I’ll talk sense into her, love. You can deal with real intruders. This is beneath you.” The man grinned again, nodding. “Boys, flank the door.” He glared back at Lena, then looked over her belongings. He grabbed the Mondragon pamphlet and tore it apart, throwing the pieces to the floor. “Utter rubbish.” He stepped out of the room, leaving only Gwen and Lena. Guinevere knelt beside Lena to untie her hands, and Lena studied her. The dark hair, the angles of her face, the ghost of a smile that seemed to always be there…it all seemed strangely familiar.
“I’m sorry miss, I didn’t mean to cause trouble.” Lena spoke slowly, her jaw feeling stiff and sore. “I just had never seen one of the noble houses, and I wanted to see it. I hadn’t planned on coming any further than the wall.” Gwen looked at her quizzically. “Must we all play pretend? I’m not mad at you coming on to our property, though I am interested in why. But, more importantly…” She gathered the scraps of Aldo’s paper off the floor, setting them back on the table. “This one isn’t recopied. It’s in original ink, not some alchemists concoction. You can see where it bleeds through.” She sat down. “So let’s make a deal. I’ll tell Alasdair that you were begging for food and coin, and that I gave you some and sent you away because I am a kind and stupid woman. But we need to talk.” Lena raised her eyes to meet Guinevere’s, hesitant and scared. How could she have been so dumb to make such a simple mistake…she had never bothered to replace the one he had given her.
Guinevere continued. “Tell me, how is Aldo? He’s made quite a name for himself. He’s the talk of certain social circles, and it seems a good majority of the nobles have some form of a strong opinion on him. And that’s not factoring his apparent support for vigilante activity…that’s quite a dangerous man to associate with, miss..” Guinevere raised an eyebrow. Lena’s words came out timid, her voice quiet. “Lena. My name is Lena.” Guinevere smiled again, resting her hand on Lena’s shoulder. “I am Guinevere. Or Gwen. I’m not going to hurt you, child. Please, just talk to me.” She looked back at the papers, an odd feeling crossing her mind that she had seen it before somewhere – the looping letters, the slant of the words….but she couldn’t place it.
Lena’s mind was racing, trying to piece things together in a hurry. For a moment, her eyes focused in on Guinevere, and suddenly it became a much more intense gaze. She could see it now….the way that they both spoke, the small mannerism, the look in their eyes…and it all made sense. The letter to GT hadn’t ever been meant for a Thrune at all, no matter what her name was now. For a moment, it occurred to her just how dangerous of a game Corthos was playing – and then Gwen spoke again. “I have my suspicions on Lord Mondragon. My own ideas. Just tell me….is he a good man?” Lena looked at her, confused. Was it a trap? She paused for several moments before speaking. “I….yes. I think he is. He’s helped people. I know he causes trouble, and I shouldn’t be involved, but he’s trying to help so many of us that have nothing.” Gwen nodded, staring off into the distance. She wasn’t certain, not yet, but her mother had always said to trust her intuition. In her heart of hearts, she felt confident. She asked another question. “Why are you associating with him? You’re a young girl. You have so many more things to do, don’t get yourself tangled into this unpleasantness. Go out, live, go see the world. You seem clever, use that cleverness. Don’t…..just don’t settle. Some people in life are meant for great things, Lena. And when someone is meant for great things, you can’t just have them settle. No matter what the cost is.”
Lena nodded, feeling the distinct feeling that she was in two conversations at once. “Maybe it isn’t settling to pick a fight that one cares deeply about. Aldo….he wants things to be different. So he at least takes a stand to try.” Gwen smiled with an odd sorrow behind it. “Things in Kintargo are already different.” A hand knocked at the door, and she turned to shush them. “Everything is fine.” Lena winced as she sat up, her head aching. Gwen began to pack her items back into the satchel she had brought. “One more thing….does Lord Mondragon ever speak of his family?” Lena watched her closely as Gwen set the bag down at her feet. “He does, sometimes. He rarely mentions names. He’s a private person.” She stood, somewhat, her hand grabbing her bag. “But in passing, he’s mentioned a sister that he holds very dear. I think she’s still back home, but he said he writes her sometimes. That she means the world to him.” They both locked eyes for a long moment before Gwen spoke in a whisper. “Alasdair won’t know what I know. But some people are destined to be greater, to be more than what was expected. And sometimes that doesn’t happen the way you think or hope for it to.” Gwen glanced down, then stepped to Lena and embraced her firmly.
“Be careful, Lena. Do not come here again. My husband….I can convince him that you were poor and hungry and possibly with child, and he will wave it off as me being soft-hearted. But it cannot happen again. Be careful of the company you keep, Lena. But….if you truly believe in someone….” Guinevere smiled faintly. “…don’t give up on them, even when you don’t know why they do what they do.” She opened the door, leaving Lena stunned and silent in the room. Her voice took on a snipping tone as she addressed the guards. “Give the girl food, water, and coin for a night. Escort her off the property – no damages to her. Guinevere Thrune will not be seen as uncivilized.” The guards pushed into the door, grabbing Lena and escorting her away silently.