Page 334: A Bitter Drink
A Bitter Drink
Summary: After realizing that he can not deal with Valda sober, Riordan decides they might as well get drunk together.
Date: 19/06/2012
Related Logs: All the stuff!
Riordan Valda 
Valda's Chamber
A modest room but with a double bed that is crown in an oval headboard of maple, giving the room it's lighter look. A cream rectangular rug is angled in the center of the room. A chest for storing the visitor's goods is at the foot of the bed and a rich burgundy and cream cover settles over the bed. A hearth to the right of the windows which rests between it and the bed is done over with a iron screen meant to be removed when in use. A pair of chairs rest near the window and about a small circular table set with a candle. On the same wall as the door rests a low chest of drawers, a basin for water and a few wooden mugs rest there for use.
Tue Jun 19, 289

Late evening has fallen over Stonebridge, bringing with it a bustle in the town's tavern as the nightlife begins. A maid is leaving Valda's room, carrying the former Castellan's supper, while the Dowager herself stands by the window. Deep orange and red hues cast over the woman as the fiery sun begins the last leg of its descent. Leaning on her hands on the sill, Valda looks over her town with stormy grey eyes; troubled eyes.

A knock sounds on the door. It seems that Ser Riordan is once more returned from behind the closed doors of his room. Though he does not look ill, he moves a rather stiffly and gingerly, as if dealing with pain and/or soreness. "Lady Valda," he greets, when they finally come face to face. Behind him, Valda will notice Stanley, Riordan's faithful and quiet manservant. In the servant's hands are a bottle, and two glasses. "We must talk," the Regent says, quietly, intensely.

Valda turns at the sound of the knock, offering a calm, "Enter." Upon identifying her visitor, the eyes clear and her face smoothes. That sharp gaze takes in the less-than-peak physical state of the man, but she says naught about it. In fact, she curtsies -just- enough to be proper. Motioning toward one of the two chairs opposite one another across her small table, she graciously offers, "Please, have a seat, Lord Regent. Are you feeling better? I have heard word you fell ill."

Without a gesture from Riordan, Stanley moves into the room, places the glasses on the table, and the bottle as well. Then, he moves back by the door for now. He's quite good at becoming a piece of furniture, is Stanley. Riordan, meanwhile, gives Valda a bow of his head, then moves over to the table with a word. He pours the golden brown liquid into the two glasses, a rather healthy amount into each. Even from a bit away, the potent smell of strong spirits can be smelled. This is not just casual drink. "Drink with me," Riordan says, taking a seat carefully, utterly ignoring Valda's courtesies in favor of picking up a drink himself, and taking a long sip. "We've tried getting past this sober, so now it's time for a new approach." He looks over at the Lady Dowager, raising an eyebrow. "I assume you want free of this room, yes?"

Valda's nostrils flare at the sent and her nose wrinkles slightly. "Drink from the Summer Isles, ser? I have seen what this does. What, precisely, do you intend to accomplish?" Still, she takes a seat, crosses her legs, and rearranges the skirts of her dress. She does not yet touch the glass before her.

"I intend, my lady, for us to get thoroughly drunk," Riordan tells Valda, simply, as he pushes the other glass over to her. He takes another sip himself, but his eyes remain on her, waiting, watching. "This," he tells her, nodding to the bottle, "Seems about the only way that we're going to get past this. It's been known to bridge similiar gaps as ours. I figure it's worth a shot." He shrugs his shoulder, adding, "Or you can just stew in here a bit longer, if you'd prefer."

The way Valda's cheek twitches, it seems she may be literally biting her tongue to prevent herself from sharing a few choice words with the arrogant Regent. At length, she lifts the glass and takes a delicate sip. Her lips press together thinly as she swallows — she does not enjoy the taste, but she does not appear to be a stranger to it, either. "What did you wish to discuss, ser? I already agreed to tell you all I know as it comes to me."

"Just drink. Talk comes later," Riordan says, quietly. For whatever reason, the Regent seems a bit tired tonight, weary, or otherwise lacking a bit more in the patience department. But for all that, he keeps his tone as polite as possible. Even while ordering a noble woman who might one day be his goodmother to get drunk with him. And, only once Valda starts to drink more, does he begin to do so once more.

Valda gives the boy a withering look, then sips again. Once she notices he is only drinking as much as she is, the Dowager pinches her nose and slams back the rest of her glass in a few large gulps. Then she waits and watches to see if he will, truly, do as she does.

Despite everything, Riordan's brow comes up a bit when Valda does that. And, again despite everything, he seems impressed. Saluting her silently with his glass, he moves to copy her. Silently, taking up the bottle, he pours more of the potent liquid into the glass. This time, he fills them up about half of what he did previously. "One question per drink. You ask, you drink. I ask, I drink."

Valda waits patiently for Riordan to copy her. Upon hearing the terms, she gives a single nod. "Why did you capture more of the Charlton contingent than simply the armed men?" Sip. Her gaze stays firmly upon the Nayland's face.

"I didn't," Riordan answers, once Valda has drained her drink. As ever, there is no guile with him. He answers her question staightly, honestly, holding her gaze evenly. "Ser Rygar saw fit to detain all connected with House Charlton. I supported him." he pauses, before adding, "As for Lady Alys… she was already here, and I thought keeping her here might buy more time." He lifts his glass, shifting his eyes to briefly consider it, before glancing back to Valda. "Why did you decide to marry Isolde to my house?" he asks, before he brings the glass to his lips, and drinks.

The answer is accepted with a small nod. His return question causes no hesitation. "The Terricks are mostly fools, run by emotion over sense and poor managers of funds. House Nayland, however, is known and has proven to contain shrewd business-minded men. There was really no question as to which was the better option, once the possibility entered my mind. My daughter and grandchildren would have a more successful Stonebridge, and for longer, than if I let Isolde marry Jaremy. Of course, that was before this Pretender nonsense, but I would not change the decision to ally with your House were it to do it all again."

Valda holds her glass still as she considers the counter-query. "What was received in return for delivering some of the Charlton host to Lord Keegan?" Although neither Rygar, nor Rutger, have visited her since before she and Riordan last spoke, the Dowager is apparently getting information from somewhere. She sips.

The Regent nods his head in silent acceptance of her answer. He considers it for a moment, rolling it over in his mind. As to the answer, that comes rather easily. "I don't know. That was Rutger's doing. As far as I can tell, nothing," Riordan says, moving to refill the glasses. He grunts to himself as he does so, apparently not satisfied with the answer he gives. "But a deal is a deal. If I find out, I'll let you know." True to his words some days back, he tends to honor the spirit of an agreement, over the strict letter." He waits for Valda to drink, then will ask his next question. "What did you think of my late brother Ryker, Seven keep him?"

"Fair enough," Valda notes to the comment about getting back to her with more information. The loaded question has her lips pursing as she searches for a diplomatic response. "I think you two were very much alike, ser." Oh, right, no ambiguity. "He was idealistic, particularly for a Nayland, and also thought he could control matters." Including her. "His lack of taking my advice to heart ended in his being poisoned — of that much, I am certain, although it vexes me that I was unable to discover precisely how or who the culprit was. For all his failings, there was far more stability while my lady daughter was wed, particularly once she was found to be with child. Still, he was not the most capable ruler of Lord Rickart's sons."

Fixing Riordan with a piercing gaze, she asks, "What benefit has there been to Stonebridge since my confinement? I know what has gone awry, small and large, so I shall not ask that part." Sip.

Riordan drank, after asking the question, though his cup stills a bit when she touches on Ryker's poisoning. But only for a moment. Lowering the glass, he nods slowly, before saying, "Aside from me not having to worry where your next betrayel is coming from? Not much." He says it without heat or accusation. It's simply the true answer to her question. Before he asks his, however, he turns to Stanley, saying, "The other bottle." Then, when the manservant has left the room, he takes his turn. "When we spoke some time ago, in Rygar's recovery room, you told me that you had… handled the matter." She knows which one. "Were you telling me the truth? Are you certain?" This question is spoken deceptively quiet. Despite the warmth of the liquor starting to take hold of both of them, it holds its own particular brand of intensity.

Valda seems satisfied with that answer, as though it proves the point she was attempting to make. When the other matter is brought up, her free hand spreads to the side. "How can anyone be certain, ser? I set the task to a loyal servant, who had success with one of the harlot's servants. If that girl did her job, the matter is most certainly handled. Of course, as your cousin has said, a child will be produced and she will claim it came from her own belly. Hence my insistence that the root of the problem, she herself, be eliminated." After a pause, she adds, "If you are asking whether or not she is carrying your babe, the answer is I strongly believe not, but it is possible the girl's task was discovered before she could implement her plan for her lady."

Her own words remain quiet all the while. "If you wish us to be blunt in our speech, your man's presence will be a hindrance. I realize, of course, the need for a chaperone for propriety's sake, but I felt you should be informed of the restriction he places.

Riordan does not clarify his question, but simply listens to the answers provided. He finishes sipping as payment for the question, placing the cup back down and refilling their glasses. "He's away for a moment, at least," Riordan says, indicating the empty spot left by Stanley, who is still out in search of more booze. "If you've a blunt question to ask, now would be the time."

Taking him up on the offer, Valda asks, "If you had the opportunity to kill Danae, and it would end this mess without causing war, would you do it?" In deference to the gravity of the question, she takes a longer sip this time. Yet she barely blinks, fixating upon the young man. Almost too much, the way one does when inebriation begins to take hold.

Either Riordan has been expecting such a question, or the alcohol is starting to effect him more and more. Or perhaps both. Whatever the cause, the Regent barely blinks as the question is asked. He holds Valda's gaze, and gives the lady a minute nod. "Yes," he says, simply, and truthfully. "I love Danae, Lady Valda. But I am my father's son. It is as simple as that." Rather then asking a question of his own, however, he turns his gaze to his glass, staring at the amber liquid thoughtfully, lapsing into silence.

"I wonder, ser," Valda muses quietly. "Whether you ever knew the real Danae at all. Based on her actions since — marrying another man the night after bedding you, calling you a liar and making you out to seem mentally unstable, and overall treating you like something she scraped off her shoe — it seems you loved someone who was not real. You loved what she showed you initially, before seeing her true colors. Her main concern is herself, for she disgraces her own brother and family name without thought."

The Dowager clucks her tongue, then asks, "Have you more questions?"

Riordan's only real response to Valda's musing is to grunt, his eyes remaining on the spirits in his glass, his mind residing on the spirits of the past. At her question, however, he looks up, and simply shakes his head. "Mayhaps in a bit," he says, quietly. "For now… let's just drink." And, again, he'll drink as she does, and refill the glasses. It seems he's still too sober for the direction this conversation is going. And so is she, darnit!

Valda sniffs, but again pinches her nose to down the remainder of her half-filled glass. An expectant look is sent toward Riordan. "It seems we race to see whether you will remain conscious long enough to ask your questions of me, ser."

"I'm a veteran of the tourney circuit, my lady," Riordan protests quietly, a wry little smirk finding purchase on his lips. "Even if I'm somewhat out of practice, I think I can keep up." And, suiting word with action, he downs the remaining liquid. And, if there's a slight grimace at the aftertaste, he manages to mute it, even as he pours some more for them both. "Though I wonder if I should be surprised that you seem no stranger to such." There's almost a hint of a question in those words.

"You may be such a veteran, but I am not, ser. I am a lady." The large amount of rum Valda has ingested seems to suddenly hit her like a warhammer. Her pupils dilate and she leans back in her chair, unable to keep her ramrod straight posture. "You may wonder as you wish. There is no mystery, ser. I loathed Lord Tordane touching me. Not at first, despite the immense age difference, but after he brought his bastard into our home. So, after he had his way, when I was unable to dissuade him, I enjoyed a bit of this very drink to ease myself to sleep." Looking at the liquid as she moves the cup this way and that, Valda grumbles sadly, "I was faithful to that wretch through all my good years and now I am old."

"I think I see why you want this ended as vehemently as you do," Riordan says, quietly, after a moment. He doesn't offer meaningly apologies, but he does truly seem to understand - as much as a man can, anyhow. "That bastard," he then says, with a surprising vehemence all his own. At first it might be difficult to understand who he is talking about. Lord Tordane? Except… "The thought of him touching her, with her, in her…" He cuts himself off, and takes a rather long and stiff gulp.

"Indeed. How -dare- he marry her first. He should have taken after you by fucking her and leaving," Valda drawls dryly. Inhibitions on verbiage clearly reduced dramatically, the Dowager sniffs. "As much as I hated the bastard, he treated her far more honorably than you did, child."

Riordan glares at the Dowager in response to her words, though in truth it holds little force. So, instead, he simply picks up his glass, and takes another long draught. After a moment, he says, quietly, "There's no excuse for how I treated her. But that doesn't mean I can't hate the Bastard for using her like he did. He knew the chances of survival. He knew what he was asking her to do if he lost. Maybe that is more honorable then what I did to her, but if that's the case, fuck honor. He ensured she'd have a short, miserable life if he lost. He couldn't wait a day. No, he had to take her, use her, for… what? To fuel some lifelong he had against you? Or Isolde?" It's clear his own restraint is slipping as well, for how he rambles. But, still more or less matching Valda drink for drink, he pours some more of the amber liquid, and the proceeds to direct his limp glare at it.

"Use her? Was she a simpleton who had no idea of the ramifications, of the possibilities? Or was she ambitious and saw this as her only chance to be more than a minor lady of a poor, minor House that many seem to have forgotten?" Valda shakes her head. "She made a bold gamble. While she chose poorly, at least she tried." Under her breath, she mutters, "Dumb bitch," just before drinking more of the harsh beverage. Resting her head on the back of her chair, she closes her eyes as though asleep. Yet her tone indicates she is as awake as ever.

"It is not only you, ser. My daughter did the same nonsense when she discovered she would not be permitted to wed the one she wanted. And Lady Briallyn… well, at least it is ending well for her. What is wrong with you children? Are your loins more important than logic and your Houses' reputations?"

Riordan doesn't answer Valda's query, nor does he respond to the comments regarding Danae. He merely contents himself to drink, and glare at said drink, at least for a long moment. Finally, peering over the glass towards the lady, he asks, "You want to know the best joke of all? It was Isolde that introduced us. Danae and I." He laughs, and though it has a bitter ring, and a drunken tilt as well, he does actually seem to find humor in it. "Not just introduced us… she played matchmaker. She wanted to see us married. Probably would have worked, too. If Ryker…" He grunts, and looks likes he his about to chuck the glass across the room. But, perhaps seeing the sense in drinking the liquid first, he does that instead, and mumbles into the cup, "Fucking Ryker."

"Yes, how inconsiderate of your brother to die. I am so terribly sorry he left you his wife and child; too bad she isn't beautiful and sweet." As the sarcasm drips all the thicker when speaking of the naive, but lovely and kind Isolde, Valda's expression sours. She sips, rather than gulps, now. "We all desire something we cannot have. We either concoct a way to obtain it properly or we leave it be and move on." those light eyes have turned stormy again, gazing into her cup. If this were not Valda, one might say her frown was more sad than disapproving.

"I'm not an idiot, Lady Valda," Riordan says, giving her a roll of his eyes. And he has the sense of self-deprication to add, "All proof to the contrary aside." He manages a bitter smile, shrugging his shoulders. "Any man would be lucky to marry Isolde, and I know it. I'd probably feel less sorry for myself if her hand did not come attached to this town." He shakes his head, perhaps trying to clear it. "I am trying to focus on my duty, you know. It doesn't make it any easier to learn the politics of my new position when I have to worry about my allies as much, if not more, as my enemies." Hence this whole meeting of the minds in the first place.

"Stop acting like a lovesick child and listening to idealistic young ones who know even less than you. Then you need not worry about any of it." Valda sniffs pointedly, still staring at her rum… and occasionally drinking it. Slowly, but surely, the glass is emptying once again. "Some prices are not worth paying," she muses quietly, more to herself than him. The gaze is focused internally. At length, she angles her face away from the Regent. "I have already said I would tell you all, ser. Truly, I know not what more you wish of me. I've naught else to give. I've… naught much at all."

"I want you to treat me as your Sevens-damned son," Riordan says, frustration clear in his voice, the drink making him raise it a bit more then he intends as he slams the glass down, sloshing some of the spirits onto the table. "I know you'd prefer Rutger. I'd prefer you had Rutger. But unless and until my father changes his mind, we're stuck together. I want you to trust me so that I can trust you. And I want you to stop thinking that every time I listen to someone else's advice over yours it's a personal slight against you." His voice lowers, though the frustration doesn't leave it. "You have that much to offer, at least, if you just try."

"My son is dead, ser," Valda notes harshly, those eyes lifting as her head turns to glare at him. "If you wish to be treated as a goodson, act like one. Talk to me of how much you admire your future wife, rather than sulking over a woman who pulled the wool over your eyes. Speak of your goals for the betterment of Stonebridge, of House Nayland, even of House Tordane, small as it is now. Earn respect, do not simply expect it. People can fear you without respecting you and that is a dangerous combination." The Dowager finishes her drink, then sets down the cup harder than intended; it makes a loud thud on the wooden table.

"I hardly know the woman, and I am not about to do you the discourtesy of lying to you about such matters, about family," Riordan says, quietly, the frustration still holding steady in his voice. Despite it, he takes up the bottle, and moves to refill both their glasses. This time, though, he has to do it slowly, and carefully. They've both gone through quite a bit, by now. "Where's Stanley?" he murmurs to himself, eyeing the slowly emptying bottle. Putting it back on the table, he looks back to Valda, and sighs. "Right now, my goal is to hold Stonebridge. You and Rygar have done a good job guiding it's progress economically and otherwise. I would prefer not to interfere until I have a better understanding of everything."

"The guard probably heard all the noise and thinks we're fucking, so he's not letting Stanley in." Valda barks a harsh laugh without a hint of mirth. Pursing her lips, she gently rotates her glass with her right hand, staring at the droplets playing upon the item. "If we have done so well, why do you not listen to us at all times? The Sherriff and I make an excellent team." In her inebriation, she says too much. Yet even now, her tone is guarded when she speaks of Rygar.

The notion of them fucking draws a sharp laugh from the Regent, but it doesnt seem to really distract from the conversation. "Because if my father wanted Stonebridge run by one of you, he would make it so," Riordan says, quite simply. "I'm not a puppet, Lady Valda. And the more someone attempts to make me one, the more I'll cut at the hand that tries to fit me with strings." He shakes his head. "I told you when I first came here my intentions. I will listen to advice, and give my advisors much leeway. As I have until now. But in the end, the responsability has been given to me. We're not going to always agree. But neither have I refused you at every turn. So you can either accept the water I share with you, or you can die of thirst trying to get more from a rock."

"Stop listening to the advice of your baby sister, if you hold the words of Ser Rygar, Ser Rutger, or myself in any esteem. She had no place at that meeting and you have been spending quite a lot of time listening to a girl who knows little and less about running a keep. And your Lord Father would never give control of such lucrative lands to any but his own son. Since the elder is in line for the Mire, of course he chose you for Stonebridge. But you have much yet to learn. You are a babe in the woods, yet insist you are as capable as an adolescent. It is not so, not yet." Valda sighs heavily, also eyeing the bottle with some longing. "We will run out of drink soon, ser," she notes casually. "And I do not recall whose turn it is to ask a question."

"He could have chosen Rutger, as he did Ryker when Ryker was heir to the whole damn mess. Rutger could have fought for it, rather then contenting himself with the Mire. He could have accepted my offer. None of these things came to pass." Riordan shakes his head with a sniff, somewhat reminiscent of Rygar's. It must have something to do with the Nayland nose. "I have insisted no such thing, Lady Valda. Quite the opposite, from the very beginning. But I also know that I'm not going to learn by letting others make decisions for me. You learned to run Stonebridge by running it, or so I am told. Was I wrong?" He lets the question hang, then shakes his head. "I'll yell for him… in a moment," he says, after eyeing the door. And just how far away it is. "We stopped that game. Until we get drunk." Cause they are not there yet. Apparently.

"I had over fifteen years of experience as the wife to the Lord of Stonebridge. I learned quickly where his errors were and how to fix them. He rarely listened to me, but whatever I was allowed to control flourished," Valda explains. "You, on the other hand, are already working with the two best people possible for this position. Learn from watching us and listening to us, not overriding us. Not in this time of war — the stakes are too high."

The former Castellan pushes herself up, taking a moment to steady herself as she stands. She takes only small steps to keep her balance, slowly making her way to the door. Eventually, she reaches it and pulls it open. "The Lord Regent wants that serving man of his to get back in here with the requested bottle. Immediately." She does not even bother actually looking at the guard as she orders him before closing the door.

"I don't have that luxury, precisely because of this war, as you call it. I need to learn hard and fast, and this is the way to do it. So either help me, the way I ask you to, or not at all. But don't pretend. Make your decision and mean it. You'll not find me willing to grant you a third chance." Despite Riordan's words, there is very little force in them, as he watches Valda make her way to the door. He looks tired just watching her. "Jarod and Rowenna think I need a whore. Or a whole string of them. To get Danae out of my system. I think it would be better if I could just… start courting Isolde." The forwardness or impropriety of some of those statements does not seem to register right now, or the fact that they pretty much came out of left field. "Father gave me permission to court her, when it's appropriate. Did I tell you that?" He can't recall. "Though once it's time, he'll probably push for the betrothal rather quickly. I wish there was more time. She deserves to be courted properly. I know her and Ryker were rushed together rather quickly." Like everything he has said thus far, he truly means it. Despite whatever awkwardness will likely exist between him and Valda's daughter, he still wants to do right by her.

"Of course I know. I'm the one who approached your Lord Father with the idea months ago," Valda says with exasperation. "Were she not with child, you two would have already been wed." Slowly making her way back to the chair that seems so very far away, the slender widow continues. "I have no issue with you beginning to court her, if not quite so officially. You could begin to speak with her, to aid her as she may allow in this time. Speak of her fondly, if not with overmuch affection for propriety's sake. It is not a lie — you know her well enough to know her good qualities. As for the relationship between the two of you, the best you can do is simply be there for her. Reassure her that you will treat the babe as your own, that you will show her the same warmth you would if… if… things were different." Even she begins to lose her eloquence as the alcohol affects her brain. "You can -choose- to love her, to focus on the aspects of her which please you most. Then it will be true."

"I've already been doing that, as much as I can, with her being shut in. As much as I could appropriately do. I've been writing her letters since I came back from the Isles. I figured… I could help keep her… connected. I can't imagine it is anything but boring to be shut up in her room for so long, with noone but her maids for company." Eloquence? Riordan's basically doesn't exist by this point. But at least his words remain understable thus far. "And I mean… he finally gave official permission. Kind of. He hadn't done that… before." He blinks hazily at Valda, then reaches over for his glass, taking a drink. "I suppose it could be worse. She could have been saddled with Rafferdy. At least I have… sleeves." It sounded funnier in his brain.

"You have no idea, ser," Valda says acidly in response to his description of confinement. "Worse than the boredom is the feeling of irrelevance. That your presence is simply unnecessary, since all continues without you." Of course, in her case, that's not quite true, as evidenced by the small things falling by the wayside and some visitors still seeking her advice.

"But for her, the worst of it must be the fear. She has never been with child before. It is terrible enough to go through this without her husband, but without her own mother?" Those grey eyes moisten with sorrow that quickly turns to anger. Slamming her hand on the table as she reaches it, her voice grows louder. "That is undefinably cruel to her. What in the seven hells is wrong with you, to deny her that one comfort!"

"Cruel. Cruel like trying to turn family against one another for your benefit? Cruel like seeking to throw aside someone who looked for you for guidance and instead was treated as a tool, to be cast aside?" Riordan asks, her own anger causing his voice to match hers. "You think, woman, that your attachments are the only one that matters? By all accounts I am doing your daughter a favor. You are a bitter, dried up old woman who never knew much of real power, and is seeking to grasp what little remains to her, regardless of the effects it has for your own daughter. Don't pretend to me that you care what she feels, or you would have let her marry Jaremy Terrick, and would have found a way to hold Stonebridge together regardless of his or his families inadequacies." He slams his glass down on the table again, this time spilling quite a lot of the liquid. "It's a bit too late for you to go crying over her feelings. If anything, I'm the last person in this whole damned Tower who actually gives a damn about her. You wonder why I mourn the fact we are to wed? DID IT NEVER OCCUR TO YOU THAT IT IS BECAUSE I KNOW SHE DESERVES BETTER!?!"

Nevermind the last part. Riordan's accusations that Valda does not care for her daughter, combined with the liquor, send her over the edge. She pulls back and swings her hand to slap him as hard as she can with one hand, then the other. Whether or not she connects, the woman rages. "How -dare- you say I do not care for Isolde. Everything I have done, everything I do, EVERYTHING is for her benefit. She may not appreciate it yet, while she is young, but one day she will understand I have always done what is -best- for her. Not what she wants, but -what is best-. -That- is what a parent does. I am not her friend, I am her mother. There is no one in this tower, not even the maesters, who know about childbirth half so well as I and fewer who know about herbs — what is safe for her time, how much, and what is not. I'll not put her life in their hands alone. This is WRONG and CRUEL and UNNECESSARY!"

Oh, she connects. Riordan is taken by surprise by the first slap, and is still recovering from it when the second one comes. He blinks at her, dazed. But not dazed enough to lose his anger. "And what makes you the expert!?! Can you see the future now, Lady Dowager? How do you know that she would have been better off with a live husband that she loved then a dead one she didn't? And now she's supposed to marry his younger brother, who her mother doesn't even respect enough to confer with when approached in anger by some piddling westerman lordling!?! A mother who would see all her work undone because she can't admit when she's fucked up? Go on, slap me some more, Lady. Maybe that will make things right. Maybe that will help us work together better, SINCE NOTHING ELSE HAS." Riordan practically spits by the other, and settles for picking up his glass, and draining what little remains in it. Which is why, when Stanley at last appears, hesitantly opening the door… the glass goes flying through the air, colliding into the wall. Thankfully, Riordan's aim is terrible, and the glass breaks several feet from the poor man's head. "WHERE IN THE SEVEN HELLS HAVE YOU BEEN? No, stop talking. You talk too much. Bring me the damned bottle, man." Poor, silent Stanley just nods. He actually seems little surprised by his lord's anger, and doesn't seem to take any offense at abuse, instead just moving to do as instructed.

"Yes, she would be better off a widow than married to Jaremy! Love is not something that just -happens-, Riordan. Even if one feels for another, it does not mean feelings cannot grow for the one who is better for the person and House." Valda glares mightily at Stanley as he enters, apparently in agreement with the sentiment of the thrown glass, if not the action itself.

"Besides, that puppy love is temporary. When one is young, they often think it will last all their years, but it dwindles quicker than one might believe. A marriage should be based on what is -best-, on common goals and ground, on working together toward a specific future. In that, love with grow. If not, it cannot flourish or, at best, will appear and fade, leaving behind only resentment. Work with a woman if you wish to love her truly and permanently."

To herself, she murmurs, "And be careful what you wish for."

"THEN LET ME DO THAT!!!" Riordan roars, utterly ignoring Stanley in favor of shouting at Valda some more. "I may not know your daughter well, but I can't imagine she'd respect a prospective husband who simply bowed to her mother's every demand and whim like a whipped puppy! If I'm to be her Lord Husband, then Seven take me, but that's what I'll be. I'll not be some little boy cowering behind your skirts, damn it woman! So you can either accept that, or not. But either way, that is what will happen. The only choice you have is whether you'll work with me, or try and go against me and spend the rest of your days in a motherhouse! If the Septas would even take you!!!" He glowers at her, even as he rips the glass that Stanley pours for him, and drains it dry in a single gulp. He points at Valda, which likely looks weird while he now holds an empty glass in his hand. "And Seven help you if you go against me too far, Valda. I will bring this whole thrice-damned Tower down around your ears, and see all that you hold dear turned to ash in your hands. I am enough Nayland for that, at least."

"THEN BE THAT FOR HER AND STOP MOANING ABOUT YOUR ONE-NIGHT FUCK WITH A WESTERLING WHORE!" Valda's lack of inhibitions — or close to it — allow her to let loose without concern. She even holds her glass out to Stanley, while still looking at Riordan, for a refill. It is half-emptied in a few gulps, ending in a scrunching of her face. Too much, too quickly, apparently. She plops into her chair and narrows her eyes. "Say what you will of me, but do not -ever- threaten my daughter again. There are even Naylands who would not save you from my wrath in that case."

"Oh, relax, I've no intention of hurting Isolde," Riordan says, his shouting apparently spent for now. He plops himself in his chair around the same time Valda does. He motions for Stanley to pour them each another drink, and then shoos the man out of the room. Propriety be damned for now. "But I will make you pay, and dearly, if you ever cross me again." The threat lacks the fire of the previous one, however, and he settles down to sip from his drink, and blink owlishly. "I… was it my turn to ask the questions?" he murmurs questioningly.

Valda leans back, closes her eyes, and pinches the bridge of her nose with her free hand. "If you wish, ser," she says tiredly, swirling the spirits around in her cup. "Although I know not what more there is to ask of me."

Riordan considers for a moment… or possibly just gets lost in thoughts as the alcohol floats through his body, warming him up and adding to the weight of his eyelids. Blinking once more, he finally asks, "Were you always like… this? Or did being Lady Tordane make you so?"

"Always like what, ser?" Valda still sounds tired. Not at all sleepy, just drained. "I am not being coy; I simply do not know what aspect of me you are inquiring about."

"Bitter, paranoid, vicious, uncaring… And don't go on and on about your daughter. I get it. You're her mother. I mean…" Riordan trails off, gesturing vaguely. "Everything else." He pauses, shaking his head, trying to clear it. "I know you must take joy in… something besides your job, your daughter. I just can't for the life of me figure out what it is."

"Bitter? On the contrary, I am grateful for what I have and only wish to obtain more to be of greater use. You say paranoia, I say caution. It has saved my life more than once, ser." Valda sips from her cup, eyes still closed. "You say vicious, I say protective. You say uncaring…" Her lips quirk up in a small smirk, devoid of joy. "And there you are simply wrong."

The Dowager takes a deep breath. "Take joy in something other than a task well accomplished? A plan brought to fruition? My little girl's smile?" That is the first, and probably last, time anyone has heard her refer to Isolde so. The way her words begin to slur just a touch at the ends shows her verbal filter is absolutely gone. "I enjoy… hawking. And I have skill with a lap harp, although I do not particularl enjoy or dislike playing. And, of course, I enjoy Rygar." Matter of fact, as though discussing nothing of consequence.

Riordan listens to Valda in silence for a long moment. Silence, and sipping slowly from his glass. And if there's a small smile when she mentions Rygar's name, he doesn't seem to linger on the thought. Finally, he murmurs, "If we try this again Valda, I mean it. It's all or nothing. I want this to work. You protect me, and I'll protect you. And we'll both protect Isolde, and Stonebridge. It's the only way for it to work." He eyes her over the glass, before adding in a very quiet tone, "But no more power plays. You are my Castellan, and I'm the Regent. Those are the roles. If you respect them, I swear I will listen to your advice. I can't promise to always heed it, but I will listen, and I will compromise, as I can. Let that be enough, and let us make this work."

"Sounds lovely," Valda agrees without missing a beat. She finishes off her glass again and the Seven only know how much she will remember come morning. But, for now, she is pliable enough to agree without reservation.

Riordan snorts at Valda's comment, first just to scoff, but soon enough it leads to actual laughter. The whole damn thing apparently seems quite amusing to the Nayland regent. "I… think I'm going to go find my room and pass out now," Riordan mumbles, grinning from ear to ear, even as he pauses to try and finish what remains in his glass. He blinks, then, as he stares at the one empty bottle, and the one that they've already made considerable headway on. "Yes, definately time for that." He moves to stand… and nearly falls to the floor, apparently having forgotten how sore he is. "Stranger's cock," he curses, holding himself up by the back of his chair alone. "And as my advisor, the next time I get it into my head to run off and play Mystery Knight in an effort to try and wrap my head around a problem… tell me not to," he tells Valda. "BALLS."

"Have Stanley and the man at the door help you, ser," Valda suggests as soon as Riordan announces his intention to leave. Upon seeing what little success he is having, she opens her mouth. Yet words of playing Mystery Knight reach her ears, causing her brow to lift. "Is that what you were up to? How exactly was it supposed to aid you? More importantly, did it work?"

The light gaze slides over to her bed. "If you do not wish to be seen in such a state, you may stay here. I can find lodging elsewhere for the night." The smirk reappears, but it has actual mirth and mischief within it this time. "Of course, it would -look- terrible. Two bottles brought in to us, only partially supervised, much shouting and noise, and finally you leaving in the morning, clearly having slept in the previous eve's attire?" Her tongue clucks, but it quickly gives way to laughter. "Oh, the rumormongers would be thrilled for such a juicy tidbit."

"You know, I didn't think there was anything that might potentially make me and Isolde's relationship any more awkward… but I think you may have found it," Riordan says, blinking at Valda, and looking like he isn't sure if he should laugh or cry right now. He settles for swearing as he straightens a bit more, trying to steady himself before he lets go of the chair. "And… yes. Maybe. I don't know. Not in the way I thought it would," he tells Valda, in answer to her question. "I used to be alot more certain when I was just another tourney knight. I thought…" he trails off, shaking his head with a rueful grin. "I don't know what I thought. I didn't expect… Unhorsed in the first pass both times. That hasn't happened to me in…" He shakes his head, trailing off again. "I don't know what I expected. Some magical realization maybe? All I realized is… I'm not that boy anymore." He smiles, a bit humorlessly, and lets go of the chair, slowly, stiffly, carefully making his way to the door. There are a few times when he probably seems like he's going to fall down, but somehow, he makes it to the door, where he leans for a moment, looking back to the Lady. "Maybe that's what I needed to figure out. Or maybe I just needed to feel what it was like to get my ass handed to me. Or… maybe none of it means a Seven's-damned thing, and it's all a fucking joke." He shakes his head, moving to open the door, gesturing for Stanley to help him. "Good night, Lady Valda." He doesn't use any title, yet. So whether this newfound truce will last to the morning… likely remains to be seen.

"None of this matters, except to us. So we make the most of it and put rules on ourselves, lest we become no better than animals." Valda does not attempt to rise for a curtsey in her current state. However, before the man gets too far out, she suddenly has a lucid moment. "I followed your every order this eve, including drinking a most unladylike beverage with results I shall likely regret in the morning light. I answer every single one of your questions fully. May I move about freely, ser? More to the point, may I see her?" She apparently feels the identity of the one referred to as "her" is obvious.

"I'll let you know in the morning, Valda," Riordan tells her, glancing back. "For now, let's both get some sleep, and see how much we remember in the morning. Mayhaps my cheeks will be less sore by then, if not my ego." He grins, a bit of his old, boyish self put into the tired smile he gives the Lady Dowager. And then, he motions for Stanley to help him to his room.
You give Valda a cookie.

"Of course, Lord Regent," Valda replies, disappointment showing. With great care, she rises and makes her way to the bed. It takes some doing to undress, even though she simply throws her clothing in a heap on the floor. As she settles in beneath her sheets, the rum makes her mind swim and adds to the raw emotion brought out by the evening's conversation. As thoughts rush in unbidden in response to her subconscious beginning to take over, the widow cries herself to sleep.