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 Secrets of the Sea II, Esmund and Sophia
Sophia Graeme
 Posted: Mar 29 2015, 02:38 PM
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Who would have thought that what started as a promise whispered during the intimacy of the night would lead them here? Something strange, something new, something magnificent. These words repeated themselves in dreams and daily thoughts, providing a lifeline to hold on to during the torturous interactions within the castle.

It was only a fortnight ago that the halls were filled with visiting nobles, one not nearly as full of himself as the next. It had been an array of haughty roosters with their obedient hens, and those that were single shamelessly showed tail feathers to impress young Lady Lancel. The whole event sickened Sophia. A party thrown in celebration for a girl's nameday was not supposed to revolve around courtship, and yet that was the topic of conversation all evening. What was worse yet was that each time Sophia made an attempt to rescue the poor lass, the same attention was focused on her - apparently 'marriage' meant less in that circle than they claimed. Needless to say, she was very glad to retire early and spend the rest of the evening with her lover...

After nearly two months of imprisonment and living under a false name and lineage, she welcomed the sea air and the strong winds that swept up Duskendale's coast. It was early in the morning when they left, the sun barely rising in the horizon. It was a good day, warm and cloudless - quiet. Yet even at this hour, the city was buzzing with life - ships docking and getting ready to set sail, merchants preparing for long market hours and orphan boys plotting to sneak their way into the bakery for a warm bun. Sophia followed Esmund closely as he led the way, steering her horse in the same path as they headed to what seemed to be the harbour. They rode slowly, both still consumed by fatigue, but Sophia was surprisingly alert. Only last night, Esmund had told her that she needed to pack - although he failed to mention what for. He'd refused to tell her and would not budge, regardless of her efforts. And if there was anything that the young healer had a burning hatred for, it was a surprise.

She was itching to pull up in front of his mount and demand that he must tell her where they were going. Part of her hoped that they would leave the Crownlands and not come back at all. And so she had packed the necessary things: comfortable clothes, a warm cloak, sturdy boots, a blade and enough healing supplies raided from the Maester's cabinet to make it through a nasty situation and see her through the pregnancy - no powders, no jewellery, no dresses except for one. Shockingly, it seemed like she had packed even less than Esmund. She had left Sophia Manderly at the castle gates.

As they neared the harbour and he told her to dismount, her impatience grew. "Will you truly not tell me?" She asked, gently pulling on the reins to stop beside him. Curiosity sparked in her eyes, bright and awake, like that of a child. With a little help, she managed to slide off the horse, her growing belly making it more and more difficult. At five months, she could no longer hide the bump: her small physique made it stand out even more. Yet despite the fact she should be in obvious discomfort, there was a certain glow about her - a radiant happiness that was hard to pinpoint - and a smile that tugged at her lips whenever their child dared kick. With a defiant hand on her hip, she glanced at Esmund - her friend, her lover, the father of her child. "You know I'm not one for surprises..."


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Esmund Crowe
 Posted: Apr 19 2015, 02:32 PM
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They had left Dun Fort as soon as the sun peeked out from the ocean. They readied their horses and their luggage. Esmund kept his stance calm, he wanted this to be a nice surprise for Sophia but he couldn’t help the grin on his face. Usually chirpy as he greeted the towns people going about their daily lives.

He grabbed the reins of her horse, urging the other rider to follow him as he led the way through the streets. An ever careful eye on the pregnant woman, sadly his excitement was dampened by the worry that the baby would be harmed from the horse ride or if Sophia fell off her horse, it’s enough to turn a man’s stomach. They kept their pace slow, and with each movement of the hooves Esmund could feel Sophia’s impatience growing, it practically made him shiver.

He had urged her to pack a little more clothes, but not in too much detail so he doesn’t give away the game. He himself packed just enough to see the sea journey to Essos through. He had never been to Esoss before so it’ll be wonderfully breathtaking to see it, to record, write and draw about it.

The corner of his mouth lifted when he saw the harbour in view, his uncle’s ship getting ready and the men scurrying along. He had his reservations about Sophia being surrounded by men for a couple of months but his uncle reassured him that it will be fine. His attention was caught when Sophia’s horse stopped besides him. “No, you’ll see.” Answered the wayfarer. He frowned in concern then the other slide off the horse, Esmund got off his horse as well just so he can help the woman back onto her horse if need be. “But this is a good surprise!” countered Esmund, how can she hate surprises? This is amazing! “I promise you will love it, so please get back onto the h- actually I would prefer if you just walk down to the harbour.” Said Esmund as he gently took the reins of Sophia’s horse and coupled it with his own reins before he started to walk down to the harbour. Sophia will have to try harder than that to get him to spill.


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Sophia Graeme
 Posted: May 9 2015, 01:22 PM
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The pair rode quietly through the busy streets of Duskendale. Although they barely spoke, they glanced at each other every so often when the other was not looking - Sophia to see if she could catch any hints about their destination, and Esmund with the protectiveness of an expecting father. She could feel his eyes starting to burn a hole in her dress, watching her every move and ready to catch her should anything happen. It was surprising how quickly he was starting to adjust to the prospect of having a child - even if he did not notice it himself. She felt it in his touch, saw it in his posture and actions: offering help, being stricter in demanding that she rode carefully and by his side. And as irksome as it was, Sophia could not blame him.

However, this particular morning - this surprise - made things a little worse. Sophia hated not knowing, not being prepared and being thrown off guard by what was to come. Up until now, surprises had never worked in her favour. When she was fourteen, one surprise had left her with one of the ugliest dresses in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. Another once left her stranded by the river without any clothes at all, cold and without means of returning to the city with dignity in-tact. After various encounters involving 'surprises', Sophia was a bit sceptical. But no matter how hard she tried to get something out of her friend, Esmund would not give away a single thing. So with the unpredictable moods of a woman with child, Sophia came to accept that she would have to let him enjoy this one.

As she slid off her horse, Esmund followed, quickly trying to convince her that what awaited them was as magnificent as he had promised her that night. She looked at her lover with a raised brow, but could not help the smile that slowly crept on her face. His excitement was contagious. She was about to climb back onto her mount when Esmund stopped her. "I'm fi-" Sophia began to protest, but quickly swallowed her words. She did not want to start an argument now, and even if she did not want to admit it, riding was starting to become quite uncomfortable. With a soft sigh, she fell in beside him as he led the horses. "If you could feel how hard she kicks, you would worry less." Stated Sophia, teasingly bumping against his arm and offering a reassuring smile. "She has your strength." No harm would come to the baby. They would have to think of a name soon...

Silence followed as they made their way down to the harbour, and once again curiosity spiked. She recognised the distinct figures of Haytham's crew in the distance: Haytham had described them so colourfully, one could name them in an instant. "For how long will we be gone?" Sophia questioned as her eyes traced the high masts of The Harlot. Another piece of the puzzle clicked into place; were they leaving by ship? Suddenly Sophia stopped, lightly pulling on her friend's sleeve. "Esmund." Her mind jumped to conclusions, and she gave voice to a hope she had since they first came to Duskendale. "Are we going home? Back to our country?" As she stared at him with her bright, blue eyes, her pale and freckled face and flaming red hair - every bit the Northern woman she was - it was clear that she did not belong. But if they were not going home - then where?

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Esmund Crowe
 Posted: Jun 1 2015, 08:42 AM
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Esmund stroked the neck of his horse, providing soothing words to the creature. Horses do not fare well in crowded conditions and sudden large expected noises, he knew he should've acquired a military horse to borrow instead. But those were not bred to handle luggage, just to cope with the chaos of battle.

He could not help the smile that formed on his lips when the mother of his child reluctantly did as he asked for once. "Strength or not, riding endangers her and I would rather walk the rest of the way than risk her health." answered Esmund, he knew he was right, and he knew Sophia knew it as well. It is beginning to dawn on him that he is growing attached to the life growing in her belly, he caught himself wondering what she - or he - would like. While it did make him smile at the wonderment, the prospect of becoming a father still frightens, what is even more worrying to him is that the babe isn't even born yet and already Esmund is changing.

The sight of his uncle's ship came into view, it feels like a age since he last saw it. Even though it has only been five years. "About a month or so." answered Esmund, old Gods be willing or else Sophia will end up squeezing out the babe on the ship. The wayfarer flashed a teasing smile at her, but it faltered when she asked if they were returning home, the hope in her eyes stabbed him in the gut. "No." responded the male, he exhaled a sigh. "I had hoped to keep it secret for a little longer but..." he rubbed the back of his head, brushing fingers through the curls of his hair "If you're going to make calf eyes at me throughout the trip then..." he paused for a moment before shifting his glance away, the corner of his mouth lifted into a smile. "We're off to Essos." and then he paused and waited for her reaction.

--

A pair of dark eyes like Esmund's, except there was no warmth in them, only a air of broodiness around him as he contemplated on his captain's latest decision.

"I would've thought we would have more urgent matters to attend to then..." the captain's first mate watched the approaching figures, young Esmund and his heavily pregnant wife. "To take on a pregnant woman and a untested man to Essos. A journey that will likely take more than a month." it was clear that the dark skinned warrior was not entirely keen about the notion. And truthfully, the Captain could not blame him. The sea mistress is not known for showing mercy. But Haytham merely lit up his pipe, leaning against the woodwork of the ship as he followed Nicoll's gaze. "It just came up in conversation and Essos is our next destination anyway. So this is just my way of giving the newly weds cause to celebrate their marriage." the dark skinned warrior sighed and folded his arms. Black markings on his cheeks, his dark brunette hair kept out of his face by the dark cloth he wore around his head. "Dorne is wonderful at this time of year." he was met with a friendly pat and the annoying mischievous smile of Haytham's face "Where's the fun in that? Now stop being so sullen Nicoll." the Bravossi man shook his head, glaring a hole into the retreating back of Haytham as he embarked to greet their guests.

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Sophia Graeme
 Posted: Jun 14 2015, 02:11 PM
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Hearing Esmund voice his concern for their child was endearing. It was not only weeks ago that they had a terrible argument, clouded with tears and screams, about the lack of... care he showed at the time. Little did Sophia know that he only did not dare show the feelings he had, and she had resented him for it that night. A small smile formed with the curve of her lips. As she looked up at her friend, her eyes held a look of gratitude and admiration, along with a warmth that could not yet be explained. Feeling her cheeks brighten with a blush, Sophia quickly looked away to regain a neutral expression, while the smile lingered. Secretly, she realised then, there were no gifts, no flowers nor luxuries that could touch her heart so, as these little moments could.

"'Tis odd, isn't it?" Sophia uttered quietly after a time, gazing ahead at how the rising sun began to grace the market in an orange hue. "In a few months time..." The young woman did not bother to finish her sentence, and instead sighed softly. There was no need to tell her friend of her thoughts on a morning as lovely as this one, not when they were about to set out on a journey unknown. While Esmund adjusted slowly to the idea of becoming a father - or so Sophia observed - she felt little feet kick every day. She felt the disguised little trembles of hiccups and still fell sick on certain early mornings. Motherhood was no longer something that would come in a few months time; it was here, now. And it was as beautiful as it was frightening. Sophia looked up at her friend and spoke her next words with care, not wanting to scare or startle him. "Perhaps someday soon... we should take the time to think of a name...?"

The pair continued to make their way down to the harbour. Ships came into view, although Sophia recognised none of them. But if they would be gone for a month, and they were headed here, that could only mean that they were sailing. And with a few bats of her long lashes, sweet smiles and prodding questions, the secret was finally revealed. Sophia stopped dead in her tracks, staring at Esmund as if he just told her that dragons still roamed the earth. Her eyes narrowed and her lips parted as she took in his words. "You cannot possibly...!" She began to protest. "B-but..." For a moment, it almost seemed as if she would turn down in the idea, until she moved closer. Her arms wrapped around Esmund's neck in a soft embrace. She nuzzled her face in the soft fabric of his tunic as intense emotion overtook her. An enormous relief, wonderment and weariness overwhelmed the expecting mother. When she finally lifted her head, she rested her forehead against his' and uttered a quiet. "Why?"

Sophia searched her lover's eyes for an answer. Had he known how much leaving Duskendale would mean to her? Did he not think her dreams of discovering new lands were silly or even childish? A million thoughts raced to her mind, but were interrupted by the sound of approaching footsteps. Breaking away from Esmund, Sophia peered around to see Haytham - clad as a captain should - moving towards them. Immediately, Sophia went to meet him and caught the elder man in a tight embrace. All ladylike manners were left in the castle, and she did not care if she should curtsey and offer her hand for a kiss, or if any crewmember that was watching could see the sweet kiss she planted on Haytham's cheek. Breaking away, she looked at both men, clearly fed up about being kept in the dark but too taken by surprise to care. "Why did you two not tell me?"

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Esmund Crowe
 Posted: Jun 15 2015, 02:16 PM
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Sophia has had many months to know this by now; that Esmund is not as honest with his emotions as he ought to be. Most of all with her. His gaze settled on the small frame of the woman, emphasised even more by the presence in her womb. She did not need to finish her sentence, he knew. He saw it every day, and it does not matter how much he tells himself that he still has time. With each day those grains become less, and she will be here before he knows it.

Silently his hand reached out to squeeze hers in quiet acknowledgement before he retreated his touch shortly after. "A name?" he repeated, a little flicker of panic occured in his eyes. "I would like that." answered Esmund. "Perhaps we'll sit down one afternoon and ponder on it...together?"

A smile spread across the traveler's lips as Sophia paused immediately, overcome by the sudden revelation that it's not just a sailing trip they are going on. But a trip to Essos of all things. Her reaction was adorable, and his chuckles were cut short by having the air in his lungs halted by her embracing arms around his neck. He laughed softly, half in amusement and just because he was happy that he brought a smile to her lips. His hands found the small of her back. She lifted her head to look him in the eye to ask why, and Esmund paused then. He could tell her why, that he wanted to get her away from this place of sorrows and to drop the facade he devised. He wanted the woman he met on the table of a farm back. To share an adventure with someone he cherishes. Instead he didn't, only a short laugh and two words. "Why not?"

Approaching footsteps caught his attention momentarily as his uncle came into view. He smiled when Sophia also gave him a tight embrace, even more when the crew whistled in jest only to be silenced Nicoll's sharp shushing. A man of Lhazareen background if he remembers right, although hails himself from Braavos.

"Well..." Haytham's eyes lit with amusement "Esmund insisted. Now come along the both of you. I'll introduce you to the crew - or as many as I can - and your room."


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Sophia Graeme
 Posted: Jun 23 2015, 08:22 AM
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It was clear that a gap still remained between the pair, even while they had worked hard to close it. It had been difficult to make things work, but somehow they were managing, getting closer and more involved. It was a wonderment how the frightening reality of parenthood had also given them reason to bond together. Feeling the gentle squeeze he gave her hand, Sophia entwined their fingers and briefly caressed the back of Esmund’s hand before releasing it. A short, intimate touch. "As would I..." She answered, offering a genuine yet shy smile which grew wider as she laughed. "Just mind to avoid the mood you were in when you named your horse Starseeker!"

When Sophia questioned the reason behind this unexpected surprise, she did not quite get the answer she was looking for. Nonetheless, the smile on her friend’s face brought a glimmer to her almost teary eyes. She gave another little laugh. "There's plenty of reasons not to..." The young woman muttered, stepping away slowly. Her hand lingered on his forearm. A journey to Essos was a dangerous one, they both knew it. If the heat and change in climate weren’t enough, then poisonous insects, odd food and the new language would make things difficult. Not to mention the babe... "And I didn't even pack the proper clothes, and I've none of the right oils, only half the herbs..." Sophia sighed softly, rambling on. "Any chance you've got a spare shirt...?"

Haytham’s presence broke their contact as Sophia hurried to embrace the merchant. A whistle echoed over the harbour, the crew no doubt amused at the sight of their captain receiving a kiss from a lady. Sophia laughed softly, her cheeks flushing a subtle shade of rose as she released the man. That was another matter – the men. If they would be heading to Essos, they would be on a ship with dozens of men for several weeks. Sophia could very well imagine what that would be like, especially since she did not bring dresses, thinking she would only be travelling with Esmund. But with nearly six years of experience with men-folk, a sharp tongue and enough pride to stand as their equal, they ought to survive.

“I would be delighted.” Sophia answered, and followed the two men to board the ship. Her blue eyes trailed along the bow, travelled up to the sails and to the sailors working on deck. A dark-haired man clad entirely in black and a young boy with pale blonde locks briefly caught her attention. Most men looked either curious, very displeased or showed some other emotion she’d rather not acknowledge. Keeping her posture straight and walking in a manner that hinted at the strength she had in her, she turned her attention to Haytham. "Tell me, Haytham, what is she exactly?” She asked, referring to the ship. “I've not seen a three-master with double decks graced with such a ram and twenty-or-so canons before. She is rather well-armed for a merchant ship..."

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Haytham Crowe
 Posted: Aug 12 2015, 03:21 PM
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Esmund only smirked and lightly nudged against Sophia’s arm “Cheeky.” He muttered, he happens to think Starseeker is a brilliant name for a horse. And the horse can’t talk so she can’t complain. “Have no fear, I’ll give our children sensible names.” Names mattered, it can have lifelong consequences on the child. No one is going to take a child named Bonny seriously.

He didn’t press Sophia for more information, although her response did struck him as strange. What reasons could there possibly be to not take her? “It’s fine, we don’t have to worry about that now.” Answered Esmund. He didn’t want to pointlessly fret before a trip, he’s sure his uncle must have a few spare clothes here and there. “Although, if you must there are a couple of shops that are lined up in the front of harbour. We don’t set off for another two hours so there’s time.”

Haytham made for the stairs, paying minimal attention to the crew compare to his nephew and Sophia. To be fair, he knew Niccol would alert him if anything looked dodgy or awry. “Ah the Harlot? Why dear, she is more of a jack-of-all trades ship. After I first arrived in White Harbor, the lass was fallin’ apart. Marooned on an island and left to rot away, I paid good gold for her even though she was practically useless. But I saw a bigger vision, after a year of fixing her up and obtaining materials for her restoration, I eventually got her into the water. And years down the line she became the fine specimen she is today.” He spoke of his ship with such fondness “With these very hands she conquered the waves and prove all the nay-sayers wrong.”

Haytham approached Nicoll and flashed him a smile. Only to retrieve a don’t-you-dare look in return. “This is - come on man introduce yourself.” Said Haytham, encouraging Nicoll to speak much to his dark friend’s irritation. Nicoll didn’t muscle except to sigh. “Greetings, I am first lieutenant Nicoll.” And then he said no more, he have no interest in initiating a conversation at the present time considering his captain is supposed to be carrying on the tour. Esmund smiled and shook his head, leaning in enough to whisper in Sophia’s ear “Take no notice of him, he’s been a grumpy old git ever since I was a boy.” And when he leaned back, he almost paled at the glare Nicoll delivered at him. More than a decade later and the man still frightens him.

The captain spotted the Ironborn Jarret standing on the main deck, inspecting the knots to make sure they were tight and precise. “Jarret!” shouted the captain as he made his way back down.

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