|A Flock of Westerlings|
|Summary:||The Westerlings meet to discuss Danae's actions and Roric's advice to the Lord of the Crag.|
|Related Logs:||The Stonebridge inheritance logs.|
|Guest Room — Crane's Crossing Inn|
|May 6, 289 A.L.|
The midday meal had came and went. Lady Cherise had acquired one of the rooms, temporarily referred to as the Charlton 'wing' during Lord Keegan's visit, for the purpose of hosting a Westerling family meeting over the latest events to strike the fate of Stonebridge. Within the chamber the wood polished table, large enough to seat six, was set in the middle of the room. No food, no pewter dishes adorned the surface because in truth the effort may go in waste. Perhaps she was the first to arrive as she saw to the arrangements. Within only two of Cherise's handmaidens were presence, her guardsmen stood in the hall, ready to invite the expected company inside.
It is the first time the widow Tordane has set foot in Stonebridge since her husband's death, perhaps another day she might have walked proudly through the streets with her head held high, but not this one. Danae arrives without fanfare. A veil covers her hair and her sworn flank her side. Unremarkable in her mourning blacks. Her smile is wan as she enters the room, "Hello, dear one."
Roric's guardsman takes his position among the others outside the hall as he finally steps into the room, carrying his usual polite expression as he nods his head to the two women present. "Cousins," he greets simply, walking to take his place at the table without many more words.
Desmond looks rather wearied as he forces a smile at the guard that waves him in. No training armor on him tonight; he's dressed like a noble ought to be. Or Westerling noble anyhow. Finding a seat across Cherise, he peers at Danae briefly before dipping his head at Roric. "M'Lord."
At the moment of Danae's entry the Lady Charlton offered a small smile. "Lady Tordane." A teasing reminder though just by looks alone her jest was certainly not necessary. In one hand a goblet of wine was lazily carried while an arm was crossed against her abdomen, her belly a touch less swollen from the weeks past. Here she was casual, among family where certain levels of propriety have been bound and gagged. "Darra, see that my cousin has something to drink hmm?" She tells the brown haired maiden, at least she thinks she is, who without haste moves to do so. A few heartbeats later Roric has arrived and the same smile is afforded to him as well, "Roric," her large blue eyes following his course to the table while she remained standing and off to the side of the brick mantle. "And for Roric as well." Darra is also ordered, drinks for the two will be coming shortly.
Cherise had nearly opened her mouth to say something before the last and expected member of this meeting had shown himself in. The lady's smile fades a touch once surveying her twin's expression. "Well… we are all here." She tells the group, pressing her form off the brick mantle and rounding the arrangement of chairs to stand, for now across from Desmond, whom her gaze lingers upon before changing their interest to Roric. "Would you care to begin?"
Lifting hand, Danae gently removes the dressing from her head and returns Desmond's gaze with a bland expression. The bruise on her cheek has well begun to fade from vivid purples into greens. When Darra brings her a drink, she merely dips her head in a slip nod of thanks and accepts it, moving to her seat. "Cousins," she murmurs in place of a true greeting for the men.
"I suppose everyone's here who will bother to come," Roric replies to Cherise, nodding to her. "My thanks for the arrangements," he starts to Cherise, before looking over to those gathered. "Well, this situation has likely spiralled even greater than what it was a week ago. I'm to make a recommendation to my brother, but if my brother's word has really any say in the matter I doubt I'm the only one. How highly he will value my opinion on the matter over the others is certainly up for debate," Roric admits, leaning back in his chair as he nods to Danae.
"As the mastermind of the entire thing, Danae, I suppose it would be best if you laid out the entire situation."
Desmond eyes Danae's bruise for a long moment before exchanging a look with Cherise. If there's any mood that anyone can discern from him, it's simply fatigue. But he tries to remain bright, looking back up to Roric, then expectantly to Danae, wordless.
Cherise returns a simple nod to Roric, acknowledgement that's all, before lowering herself into the wooden chair with pillowed seating. As he began, she had caught Desmond's glance to Danae, following his eyes and remaining in silence over that particular detail. At least for now. The wine in hand feeds her silence.
"Indeed, dear one. All our thanks," Danae says in a voice that is just above a whisper, lashes dipping low against her cheeks. Lifting her chin slightly, she meets Roric's look and casts her own gaze about the room, taking a sip of her own wine. "I have written the Lord as well, Roric…although you are correct that the situation has changed since I did so," she offers quietly, normally vibrant voice with little inflection.
Danae continues in much the same manner, "On the night before the duel, I was wed to Gedeon Tordane in a lawful, private ceremony that was preformed by an ordained Septon with witnesses. The next day, Ser Tordane…died in the duel." Her voice breaks a little on that word and she pauses to take a draught of her wine. "In the following days, rumors were levelled at me indicating that I am both a slattern and I was visited by the Lord Regent and urged to anull my marriage. I was visited by Lord Ser Keegan Chalton. And then just this last night, I was questioned by the Lord Blackwood and made to strip before a pair of Septas so that they might examine me against the Lord Regent's claims of my body," she finishes, quiet voice steely as she lifts her gaze from the cup in her grasp to meet the eyes of her cousins. "I believe that is situation as it stands." She takes another drink of her wine.
"That would have happened either way Danae, my brother would have ordered the same thing. You don't attempt this kind of thing, at an /extremely/ personal involvement of yourself, and expect them to remain unquestioned," Roric explains, his manner remaining businesslike and calm as he looks back toward Danae. "I'm going to say this plainly: I don't believe in holding anything back from family. I don't believe in keeping my allies in the dark, and if it is practical to do so then I'd rather not be involved in that situation at all."
Roric leans forward, folding his hands and resting them on the table as he looks between everyone gathered. "I'm not going to weep for you, Danae. I'm not going to consider you the vulnerable, grieving widow that you might see necessary to present yourself as. I believe you know exactly what you are doing, and have known exactly what you were doing since the day this all began," Roric explains bluntly, his serious expression remaining as he looks between everyone once more. "Let us treat eachother as allies, then, or at least see if we can become them. Let us assume that I think your plans have any chances at all of succeeding. I am not an unreasonable fellow. You may have spit on our house and never even bothered to attempt to trust us when you did this all completely behind every single one of our backs, but I know an opportunity when I see it. How likely do you think this is? Why? And what does this Charlton have to do with it?"
Desmond manages to get a maid's attention long enough to request… water. When the glass is set before him, all he does is stare into it, quietly listening to Danae's recounting. He parts his lips briefly, then thinks better of it and remains silent, eyes still lowered on the still water.
Then Roric lays down the /law/. Desmond is surprised to say the least. He stares up at his cousin, not rightly sure whether to be amused, impressed or vaguely fearful. But he can certainly appreciate the bluntless. Still, no comment from him.
While Danae shared Cherise listened, avidly over the summarized details from days passed. Occasionally she'll drink from her goblet, enduring her own thoughts in quiet. Darra, her handmaiden, remains ever attentive to all the Westerling's cups should they ever need a refresher. However as Roric says his piece the Lady Charlton's brows perk after setting down her cup onto the table. "I believe we can all agree her actions were a bit unconventional but here they are none the less." She glances to Danae briefly, a touch of sympathy in her blue eyes. "My Gooduncle, Lord Keegan has offered sworn to protect Danae during this transition, she is family after all."
Danae sets her wine on the table, briefly waving Darra away with a disinterested hand when she comes to refill it. "It is no matter what you think of me, cousin. I do not ask for your regard nor your pity. You are correct, you are not an unreasonable man when there is something to be gained." Her gaze flits towards Cherise as she speaks, lips pursing at her cousin's words. "The Lord Ser is very kind," she murmurs softly. "If I am with child…likely. As the Lord Blackwell came to officiate Stonebridge unto my Husband."
"I sincerely apologize if you think it's my meaning to insult. I'm tired of being kept in the dark, and I'm tired of not being able to trust my own family. I am tired of the pretenses and the lies. It's not my wish to be cold to any of you," explains Roric with a sigh, his expression remaining calm. "If you truely believe you can gain something for this family, then I will support you completely. Even though I do not enjoy getting between the Terricks and the Naylands, the prospects here are great. I only worry of a bungle that could result in this house finally being put out of its pathetic misery."
"I'd like to be convinced, Danae. I'd like to believe in you like Cherise does. Your brother certainly does not agree, but these sort of dealings are not his."
Desmond finally adopts an expression that doesn't look tired. He is skeptical, and for a moment, meets Cherise's eyes with a very slight head shake. "I'm inclined to trust my sister. But as Lord Roric illustrated, there are far too many lies flying about. So I wouldn't mind being convinced as well. In other words, Lady Danae, you'll have to put forth more than that."
Cherise's attention alternates between the small group with no mind given to her handmaidens. "There is much to be gained for House Westerling although many do not seem to realize that and are too focused on personal feelings." The lady shifts to lean against the back of her chair, an arm resting upon the table as her fingertip traced her cup's outer rim. "Stonebridge is, if not the, best advantage for trade by vessel. That and it no longer becomes a point of tension between the Nayland's and the Terricks. It remains with the Tordane's blood, just with your cousin overseeing to the management of it. That is all." She does raise her gaze across the table, eying her brother and offering him a sweetened smile. "As it looks, I am afraid, our Danae had wed too hastily, suspicion is bound to be floating about though we all know that Danae is too soft hearted for malice. If the Bastard wished for her hand he had fallen into admiring her wisdom and tempered judgement, in turn offered his trust." Not something the Westerlings are known to have, at least with their lord. "In order for Danae's claim to succeed she will the support of her kin against poison of lies seeking to undo her."
"I don't know what lies you seem to believe float, cousin…but you have heard none from my own lips," Danae demurs softly, sadly shaking her head. When Cherise speaks, she is given the slight Lady Tordane's attention and regard, something actually akin to fondness gracing her features. "Thank you dear one, you restate the situation beautifully. While I did wed too hastily…I did wed my husband and laid with no other man, no matter what those lies say." Her pale eyes flits from Roric to Desmond and then back again. "If Westerling house supports me, as well as my claim, Stonebridge could open up avenues we never dreamed of claiming in the Riverlands. The most the house may lose from this is that they look too fond of a daughter who took steps astray, married too impetuously for love before a duel. Our name would be no more ill spoken than it is presently, our resources no less, there is much more to gain than to lose from a pragmatic stance."
"And what is to really gain for any of this, for our house?" asks Roric, looking between Cherise and Danae with a pointed look. "She married into the Tordanes. How does House Westerling benefit in the slightest? You married, without our permission, assuming this fellow's claim is legitimate into another house. There was no dowry paid - and a dowry is really all we can ask, and we have been denied it. What do the /WESTERLINGS/ achieve by supporting you, Danae?" Roric asks, eyes narrowing somewhat as he leans back. "We will have no stake in this place. You, Danae, certainly gain much from the ordeal. This will not become a hold of the Westerlings. What can actually be offerred? Your good graces?"
Roric leans forward again, hands on the flat of the table as he focuses on Danae. "And any of what will be gained relies /heavily/ on the legitimacy of this child. The rumors are certainly rumors, but with everything you've done already being done in the dark, and too quickly at that, this…retaltion to the Regent threatens the entirety of the outcome. There is a history of your dealings with him - this rumor is not entirely without precedent."
Desmond doesn't know what to make of Cherise's smile. It's hard to avoid reflecting it, but things are pretty grim at the moment. All he can think to do is just take a sip of his water and look away from a very unhappy-looking Roric.
Cherise rolls her eyes heavily, even adding the dramatic sigh before addressing Roric. "Do you honestly believe our Danae that inept? To sleep with a man, one that is not her future husband, days before her wedding when there is a possibility that her husband may not survive the duel?" The lady's chin dips, her head tilts as if expecting some change in his features. "The Westerlings gain preferential favor, a direct link to one of the Riverland's greatest trade hubs. One that can be denied to others or significantly increased taxes, or perhaps a percentege returned to the Westerling coffers, have you thought of that at all?" Her face answers for him, displaying a no.
Cherise reaches for her cup again, this time raising it just over the shoulder for Darra to refill. "The Westerlings support Danae, Danae would pay a percentage of the revenues made back to House Westerling as an apology of sorts. Quite more favorable than giving the Tordane's estate funds the Westerlings do not have." As her drink is poured she looks to her brother before eying Danae, "Unless you have something else in mind Danae because on faith alone you will not have our family's support. It is a bit too late for that."
"That would be a stupid woman indeed. I may be impetuous, but I am hardly so stupid as that." A slight shake of Danae's hand accompanies her words, expression calm to Roric's intensity. "This is one of the few trade avenues available to the Riverlands beyond Seagard. It is a bustling hub of one of the few avenues our house has to persue, without the surfeit of a dowry for my hand, in these trying times," Danae adds to Cherise's words, folding her hands over one another on the table. She arches her brows mildly at Cherise's suggestions, content to sit back and consider them for a moment with a purse of her mouth. "I certainly believe such things would be neotiable, because I do love my maiden house and this would be a coup for us, but you know that, Roric. A slip of coffers in faith, reduced trade levys…" There are a number of options therein. She watches her cousin with sharp eyes. "Which do you think we are most in need of?"
"My child is no bastard." That said. "The Regent was kind to me during my initial stay at the Tordane Tower, the truth of it is we were introduced by the Lady Isolde who knew our family through the Late Geoffrey Tordane. However…his moods grew blacker and he grew more obsessive, these recent slanders do little speak otherwise of him. Or do you think I struck myself for the pleasure of it?"
"Unfortunately, circumstances lead me to believe that she may indeed be that inept. It is not a strange thing for any of us. And because of your actions Danae, and your inability to trust us, there's little to reassure any of it. The entire reason this isn't done is to prevent exactly this situation," Roric explains, face set in a permenant, slight frown as he nods to Cherise. "I would like something with more assurance than an off-hand promise of your favor, Danae. I learned long ago, as you should have, that you do not make deals on promises and whims," Roric recalls.
"Darra, can you please get me some wine?" Desmond has more or less checked out. When he procures his drink, he knocks it back and leans heavily in his chair, rubbing his face. "I hope we manage to resolve /some/thing tonight." These politics certainly aren't his forte, so he's little more than a witness for now.
With her cup lifted, Cherise says over the rim, "Such as… her blood? Her first born?" The Charlton woman prods in jest, obviously. "That is why these are called negotiations Roric, terms are agreed upon before hand lays to ink."
"And I would like more assurance to our houses' backing than you can put to complimentary words in your letter alone, Cousin. We may put together a writ when such things may come to fruition," Danae offers gently, leaning forward slightly in her seat. Cherise's heated jest and Desmond's reluctant show of inclinations causes a slight twitch of a smile to come to her lips. "I am afraid my first born is spoken for." The lady Tordane slides a hand over her stomach protectively.
"You were wed barely a couple weeks ago, Danae. How are you to know your first born even exists?" counters Roric, shaking his head in response. "All I hear are talks of easy trade and good relations. If assurances and platitudes kept the walls of the Crag from crumbling, none of us would be here. If we're discussing terms, then I would like them to be solid and gauranteed. Things which exactly exist, as my position does."
Roric settles his hands in his lap, leaning back in his chair as his expression remains indifferent. "There are three things our house could do. We can either support you in your scheme, do nothing despite your flaunting, or we can contest the legitimacy of the marriage with the church. We could wash our hands completely of this situation and resolve it entirely. That doesn't look entirely unattractive, but I'm certain my brother has heard all the arguments."
A few sips are drawn from her cup, a flavorful vintage courtesy of House Charlton. It feels her with a touch of pride seeing her brother take to the drink. However the speed in which the wine was consumed had given her some moments of concern. Another time, "No there are two things our house may do. Support or not. Sitting idle will further cement the ideals of House Westerling's cowardice." Cherise pauses, "None of us are certain Roric, we'd all be fools to believe that. Even your position." The Lady runs a fingertip over the lining of her eyebrow as if smoothing the hairs into shape. "Gawen will agree to what the family feels is best. You, know as well as all of us, how such piss poor decisions he has made when left to rely on his own mind. But as you ask for something more solid or more guaranteed, what do you propose should be offered? What is currently on the table is far more than generous."
"That, cousin, was a joke." That couldn't have been any drier if it has been crafted out of the sand from the beaches that make up coastline itself. "You certainly could contest the legitimacy of my marriage… it was avowed by an ordaned Septon and witnessed by a number of the nobility," Danae notes softly. "Cherise is correct, in this, that there is no certainty. The fact of the matter is that Westerling stands to gain more by its support than it does by its indifference." She pauses, inclining her head to the side watching him with clear eyes. "Consider what the house would wish to gain in return for that support and perhaps we can come to an undestanding."
"A septon not held in very high esteem by his peers, a marriage performed without the consent of your family, in haste with no betrothal, a pregnancy that is far from certain and now even rumored illegitimate. Gawen certainly has the standing to protest - that possibility is very, very real," Roric assures, shrugging his shoulders and rising from his chair, "What I ask for, Danae, are assets. Assets and a permanent stake in Stonebridge for House Westerling."
The corner of Cherise's mouth curls with amusement. "Is this a marriage proposal Roric?" She's teetering on the edges of laughter.
"I'm glad you find this funny, sister!" Desmond's apathetic expression turns to one of annoyance. "Recall your own scandals, if you will. I suppose you wouldn't care too much now, would you, Lady Charlton? This is no longer your house, right? Your loyalty is very unclear at the moment, Cherise. It's hard to tell if you're on all 'sides', the winning side, or none but your own."
"Are we speaking of scandals now, Desmond?" Danae inquires, rising her brows pointedly as she regards the squire-to-be-a-knight with a hard, warning look. She knows several which could be spoken of in this room. "And Cherise is ever wanting to be on the winning side, that goes without doubt," she adds wryly, gaze flitting towards her favored lady cousin. "Cousin, my family may disgrace me and I do not deny that I wish the support, it would be a boon in what I might claim…but I will not listen to you continue to say my legal marriage is not true. You may come to me later, having assembled a list of assets that you believe might be a fair trade for that support, on paper if you so wish. For now, I am tired of being accused by my family while speaking nothing but the truth," Danae utters, gently sliding back her seat from the table. She nods at her collected family, smiling briefly at Cherise. "Now if you'll excuse me, I will take my leave for the night."
Roric merely shrugs his shoulders at Cherise's giggling, Desmond's outburst and Danae's response. "Then the business here is concluded. Thank you all for your time," Roric concludes, nodding his head to all involved and making his way to head outside as well.
A nod of parting is given to both Danae and Roric's departure, seeming that an agreement or leeway was not to be made this evening. Baby steps. Cherise allowed her eyes to linger upon the doorway for a few moments longer, waiting for it to close before that blue gaze snapped to her brother's face. "You look like Desmond and yet I hear Garett speak." She reaches for her cup, "I am surprised you actually place faith in such filth. I married into a great house, a wealthy house that keeps funneling Westerling's coffers so they may afford the dirt on the Crag's cracked and broken walls. I will not apologize for supporting my husband above House Westerling as that is what I am expected to do but unlike the lot of you, I still have faith in our House's future." Her cup is raised, paused before taking a sip. "You should not throw stones dear brother, not when a certain maidenhood may be questioned."
Desmond watches Roric and Danae depart, left in the room with his sister. Her snapping gaze gives him a bit of a start. There's no denying that bit of gratification when Cherise likens him to Garett, but he doesn't smile. "Watch your /tongue/, sister." He stands. "That sort of talk is what drove us here into this damn situation. Faith!" He nearly laughs. "What faith?" He nears her, cloak settling around his shoulders when he stops abruptly. Cherise speaking of a 'certain maiden' seems to make him bristle. "You want to talk about maidenhood? You want to talk of loyalty? Tell me, Cherise, how much of that money from that wealthy house of yours is being spent on your husband's darling Ceinlys?"
"I will do no such thing." She returns, following Desmond's approach with a suspicious eye. "Why should that matter? She is no one's darling Desmond, least of all Aleister's." Though her eyes roll and she drinks form her cup the Lady Charlton returns her attention toward that empty seat that once held her brother within it. "Had you ever bothered to ask or inquire you would know that rumors of my marriage were false. Fabricated by a dark tongue."
Desmond stares at Cherise as he starts to pace, then looks away, shaking his head, fingers clenched. "I do not like Ser Aleister, Cherise. How can you speak of filth and then love something far worse? I hate how he has treated you. Dark tongue… Tch. I'm inquiring now. What shall you tell me, that everything is fine? That Ser Aleister isn't using you? That his entire house isn't?"
"Many do not…" She tells him over her raised cup, pausing for a few sips. "Not every marriage is plowed with flowers and perfect skies Desmond but what we have is close enough. Enough so that I am satisfied, is that not important?" Cherise asks him, her brows raised at the inquiry.
"He is a touch different, I will admit that. Since the battle at Seagard he has become … something else but still his love is there. House Charlton is held in the highest regard for their coffers, not their ability to make you feel good about yourself." She tells him.
Desmond exhales, the fire that had been roiling in his chest now gone. "I realize it is not all sunshine and rainbows, sister. And I might have clouded sight, but I'm seeing something far beyond that." A sad look befalls him. "If that is what makes you happy. If you are satisfied. Good evening, Lady Cherise." With a nod, he turns and heads into the halls.