Though not altogether far from the sea, the Lord Avatar's manor was not exactly sitting on a port either. Every day, servants and their masters would walk down a road called the Mariner's Walk, that connected to a strong river sourced in the maintains and thus to the sea. The rushing waters could be heard, on a good day, in the gardens of the manor, carried on the winds that blew from the wide blue expanse itself. The road was moderately scenic. It was not a marched out little trail like that which wound its way through the meadows to the East, but was a well maintained commercial highway through dense woodland. The pallets and caravans that passed through carved out a smooth, flat dirt track which, when the sun was bright overhead, made for an idyllic summer stroll.
Lute, Harp and Bell had been given a simple enough instruction. Bring themselves and their musical instruments down to the little dock and make sure that, despite the bright sun beaming down its heat upon them, they were not allowed to sweat. Sincerity had been very clear that the smell of sweat was not something that she had any urge to have lingering around her.
It was oddly comfortable a walk. The wagons that carried the necessary foods and supplies had all gone on already, so there was nothing and nobody that they were likely to encounter other than each other. Lute, instrument in hand, was playing his notes in a completely relaxed manner, while his two closest friends constantly attempted to ruin it for him. Bell especially seemed determined to ask enough questions to sink his high spirits, but that was proving exceedingly difficult. This was aided by the fact that, due to the heat of the day, she was intentionally wearing very loose and thin clothing. Not for the first time, Lute was forced to wonder why he hadn't slept with her yet.
"I don't think you realise how much danger you've put yourself in here," Bell was saying, positioned to Lute's left and continuing with the same complaints that she had been making all day. "Pretty much anything you do for Sincerity is another nail in the coffin for our relationship with Truth. I know what you're like, and you can't let the same things happen that you always let happen. You're putting us in danger as well here, or didn't you think about that?"
A lot of accusations had been made in the trip from their shared room to here, and Lute expected many more to follow, but that didn't mean that he was going to just keep his mouth shut and take it. "I think you're being a little overdramatic," he told her, smiling the smile of complete and total confidence. "I've met Truth; we talked for a bit. He's not exactly pitted against his sister like you seem to think. I mean sure, he's not exactly a safe person to cross even if you've been a long time friend of the family, but he's not the sort of person to just take somebody out of the equation like that. I think he was just bluffing a bit to put you on edge and make you keep an eye on me."
"Which, by the way, I'll be doing," Bell declared.
Before Lute could offer up any kind of reply, and many ideas were forming in his head, Harp joined the conversation. "I'll be doin' the same, Lute," he announced with a nod and a smile.
The two of them seemed to be in concert against him, and, considering that the main topic of conversation was the usual one of Lute's lifestyle, this was nothing new for them. "I'll be honest here," Lute began, "I'm feeling a bit worried here. I mean come on, you guys sure as hell don't have to watch me all the time. What do you think I'm going to do? Besides, it'll feel weird enough pissing off the side of the boat without having the two of you standing next to me and giving me tips."
"They 'ave privies, you know," Harp responded after a moment, while Bell simply looked disgusted with him. "Why'd you want to piss over the side?"
"You're joking, right? I'm on a boat; I'm not going to miss that opportunity," Lute replied with a laugh. "I'm sure nothing will make you feel more like a man than just straight away pissing off the side of a boat."
"You're horrible," Bell told them both, while Harp laughed to himself, "and you're missing the point. I'm trying to make you realise just how stupid you're being in getting close to Sincerity and doing whatever she tells you. She isn't in charge here; Truth is. I'd feel a lot safer if we were in his camp right now rather than hers."
"Seriously? You're a woman saying that we should follow a male-dominated hierarchy? A weird world we live in, right?"
Unsure of how to react to that, Bell simply left it at that. So, with little other conversation topics, the three of them walked in silence for a while. During this, Bell scrambled to find a new way to say the same things that she had been saying all along. The importance of the matter seemed to have been entirely missed by Lute, who was reckless at the best of times, but Sincerity seemed to be a brand new low for him. It could have been as Lute said, and his options under Sincerity's scrutiny were severely limited, but Bell had real trouble believing that. There was a reason for everything, and, usually, it was Lute.
"What are we doing on this trip, anyway?" she asked as a way of getting around to the subject that she actually wanted to discuss.
"We're musical," answered Lute, a wide smile explaining his lack of explanation as the usual childhood impulse.
"No," Bell said slowly, "I mean what are we going to do? We have a long time ahead of us, and not much stuff to fill it with. We can't spend all day, every day sitting in a little cabin practicing our music unless Sincerity needs us at her beck and call."
"No cabin," added Harp. "We got three bunks in the 'old. 'Ammocks by the sound of it. Been a while since I've slept in one 'a them. Reckon it's so Lute can't get busy with anyone on this trip."
Lute let out a sarcastic laugh before he continued. "We both know that's not going to stop me. I'll do what and who I want, and you knew that already anyway.
"Do you really have to talk about this while I'm here?" Bell asked them both angrily.
She wasn't happy with the response that Lute gave her. "Well, we could tailor it to you, but that would take long talks on birds and bees, a couple of diagrams and more flashing than I'm honestly comfortable with."
"Liar," added Harp, for which he was rewarded with laughter.
In the distance ahead, the trees began to thin, and the sounds of the tempestuous waves crashing against the port embankments there became louder. Their little vessel came into view shortly afterwards, as did several of the people standing on the bank surveying it. The dock was long, and designed to hold many ships. This was useful considering the amount that were there, all more sickeningly grandiose that the last. They recognised their own very quickly. As with all ships for as needed servants, it was the smallest.
As they reached their destination, it became obvious that one of the figures was Sincerity. She was dressed in riding gear. A headscarf kept loose strands from her face, her corseted blouse was tied tightly, holding her posture upright, and her skirts were tied and knotted so that much of her thighs were bared. This was mostly for the ease of riding, but it was a little unorthodox to see so much bared flesh on a woman so high in the nobility. One thing that Lute noted quickly was the riding crop still in her hand. That would undoubtedly raise questions if not for the riding gear.
"You guys go on ahead," Lute said to his companions, not removing his eyes from the lady in front of him. "I'll catch up after I've asked Sincerity what we're supposed to do while we're here."
"That's not why I asked the question," stated Bell, angry with herself for even giving him the opening now.
"But you asked it anyway. Don't worry; I'll be good."