Page 532: A Gruesome Revelation
A Gruesome Revelation
Summary: A small gathering of nobles on the Town Square of Highfield witnesses the arrival of Highfield Guards, bringing news and 'a new lead' in the case of Aleister's and Miranda's disappearance.
Date: 06/01/2013
Related Logs: Anything related to this case, Discussing a Disappearance
Bastien Daryl Robben Lyanna Tiaryn Katrin Kaelea 
Town Square, Highfield
The expanse of landscape here was (and in parts still is) breathtakingly beautiful. Lush grass fed by the nearby waters of the rivers and smaller streams, while further to the west, the meadows fade into the shade of dense forest. It has been disrupted, though, by the construction begun some months ago that continues still, turning a pastoral landscape into a budding noble seat. Irrigation ditches are complete, a lumber mill buzzes with activity, and a new fence encloses housing and a village that is now well underway. Most prominent is a motte and bailey, which is newly finished and protected by a moat and a drawbridge that is lowered from a small gatehouse. The square itself is overlooked already by a few small establishments; most notably the Ash and Oak Inn, while an assortment of stalls and vendors occupies a smaller square set apart, keeping the worst of trader's activity away from the general traffic.
January 6th, 290

Daryl nods his agreement with Bastien, and then looks between the two of them as he addresses Robben. The group is near the entrance of the Ash and Oak, off to the side so they're not in the way of the traffic coming through. The skies are an overhanging collaboration of grey, thick clouds, blocking out the direct sunlight but still remaining bright from its reflection. A somewhat stready breeze kicks by every so often, tussling loose clothing or untied hair.

"She brews well, I've tried some of her ales. She always seems to be keeping herself busy with something at the inn." Daryl adds.

Robben nods as he hears Bastien's words. "Forester?" he supplies after a few moments. "And yes, she's good both at brewing and making wine. You have tasted some of that yourself, haven't you?" he offers to his brother. "Seems like she's lived in inns for most of her life or something?"

"That's the one. It seems like it was forever ago." Lifting and lowering his shoulders with a shrug, the large Ashwood Lord nods to Robben's words. "I've installed her as the new innkeeper. At least, temporarily. We'll see if her upbringing stands for anything."

"Kind young woman," Daryl notes…Yet typically, he wouldn't give two shits about a commoner, "Her father is in the Flint camp right now. She seems to keep to her duties and maintain a level head throughout it." The fact he's speaking of her admirably at all may suggest he's been spending too much time amongst the small folk. The Deputy leaves it at that though, raising a brow as a particularly strong gust of wind whips by some debris and leaves. A look back towards Robben then, brow raising just a touch.

Belatedly, he adds to Bastien, "…The wedding went well enough. I had words with Lord Brennart and made a formal apology."

Robben nods a little as he hears what's being said now. "Lately, a few weeks ago seems like it was forever ago," he offers quietly. Not saying much more at the moment, though.

Having arrived by midday after a long and hard ride from Heronhurst Lyanna has used whatever little time she had to change into a dress more appropriate to her station as the one she wore during the ride. While her maid is busy preparing her chamber at Tanglewood Manor, the Frey lady has decided to go for a little walk to Highfield's Town Square - perhaps to check on new rumors and the like. She is of course accompanied by her septa and her two guards.

Spotting a group of familiar faces nearby, Lyanna approaches and greets the noblemen with a pleasant smile, starting with the preliminary Head of House Ashwood with a polite curtsey and a respectful incline of the head. "Lord Bastien." Her demeanour brightens as she turns to the other two. "Lord Robben, I am so glad to see you again. Lord Daryl. You have returned as well already? And I thought I was the first of the wedding guests to depart from Heronhurst." And looking from one to the other she quickly adds: "I hope I do not intrude on some private conversation? Pray tell me, if I do." Her deep blue eyes gleam curiously, as she looks at Robben, awaiting a reply of some sort, followed by a glance to Bastien. She of all would not be accused of ignoring him.

Daryl dips his head in a formal bow towards the Frey woman, offering a warm smile towards her. "M'lady…I left quite early, yes…But will be returning there tomorrow, so…I have a lot of travelling ahead of me." He clears his throat, recalling the wedding reception. "…It is my Lady Aemy's namesday tomorrow, and I can't miss it." There's a studying look at her reaction…Had she seen the events that progressed between him and the Erenfords last night?.."Did you enjoy yourself?…You dance like a goddess I'm surprised you were stuck to the chair as long as you were." A chuckle and wink, and he moves to stand in the way, acting as a windbreaker for her as another gust blows by. A nod of agreement to Robben, "Indeed."

Robben offers a bit of a smile as he sees the Frey lady. "Lady Lyanna, it's good to see you again. I hope you had a nice trip," he offers after a few moments of pause now. "And there's no private conversation happening here at the moment, I believe," he offers.

"You should be at her side then tomorrow, Lord Daryl." Lyanna replies to the Ashwood with a slightly thoughtful expression on her face. "However little you might be welcome to the rest of her family at the moment. But… do not let that keep you from visiting her. Sometimes it may take a bit of bravery to regain respect from people." So, yes she has noticed. But then her face is lit with a smile and a chuckle at Daryl's compliment. "A goddess. I was indeed favoured by the Seven, yesterday. My best performance so far. Usually I am quite a dreadful dancer and avoid dancing as far as possible."

Looking perhaps slightly disappointed at Robben's answer, Lyanna shrugs and says with a smile: "I will join you then for a bit, Lord Robben. Has anything occurred during my absence? Any news on Lord Aleister? Or from the Flint Encampment?"

"I'll do all I can to still see her," Daryl speaks quite seriously towards Lyanna, clearing his throat a touch and looking away as she mentions bravery, "Ah, you uh…Saw that, huh?" A light scratch of the back of his neck and he looks between the two of them, shaking his head, "I haven't heard anything new about Lord Aleister or my sister…And the Flint camp? Well. There was an attempted escaped that was handled successfully without incident." The group is standing near the Ash and Oak, it's the early afternoon, and the skies are filled with puffy grey clouds, blocking all direct sunlight but still reflecting enough to make it quite bright out, a steady wind gusting by here and there.

"In your absence, my lady? Your Lady Niece arrived here yesterday, but aside from that, not much," Robben offers to Lyanna, before hehe goes quiet again as he listens to the others now. Expression a bit absent for the moment, it would seem.

Movement stirs from the doorway of the Ash and Oak Inn as Katrin Haigh emerges under the care of her Septa and a Haigh guard. As she steps out into the fresh air, the girl takes in a deep breath, eyes closing for a brief moment. "Do you think the package arrived yet?" she asks of her Septa in a quiet voice. She sounds anxious. "Do you think she'll like it? It was a silly idea, wasn't it?" Slender fingers pluck at the folds of her gown in a nervous fashion. "Perhaps I can recall the messenger before it is too late?" Septa Mira does not speak a word, just regards her charge with an affectionate amusement. They all step further out, and the Haigh blinks in surprise at a growing crowd.

Tia has apparently been out gathering herbs, to judge by the baskets she and her maid are carrying. Her guard's hands are free, in case he is needed to actually defend her. Tia's pace is moderate, the scents of the herbs redolent in the air. "And look," she says to Adara, "We are back before the rain, should it decide after all to strike. And we have victoriously defeated that lavender patch." There's a light humour to her voice, despite all the issues and troubles that are going on.

Lyanna lowers her gaze slightly with a little smile at Daryl's surprise. If she were insensitive to the things happening around her she would be a poor ambassador indeed. Nodding to whatever little news is offered by Daryl, she turns her attention to Robben then, her hand moving to cover her mouth to hide - a surprised smile perhaps? "Aralima is here? In Highfield?" Her deep blue eyes showing the delight quite openly at this particular piece of news.

Katrin's arrival is noted, the lady as of yet unknown to Lyanna, so she stays where she is. Whereas Tiaryn is greeted with a warm smile. "Lady Tiaryn! I am surprised to see you're here already? And I thought I was swift in my return."

Bastien has gone silent with the conversations that have started around him. Simply crossing his arms, the man listens and ocassionally grunts approval/disapproval. It seems he's got other things on his mind.

Daryl looks up with a small frown, noting the worsening weather and idly states, "…Looks like rain." Looks like him and Tiaryn are on the same page, but who knows if the skies will open up or not. "And that Haigh woman i've seen about…Lady Laryssa?" Speaking of Haighs, there's another. Daryl lifts a bit of a smile as he sees the familiar face and looks to Katrin. "M'lady Haigh!" He greets, simply hosting a bit of a smirky smile her way should she heed his call. "You missed a good wedding." When Lyanna points out Tiaryn, there's a look and smile her way too. "Guess everyone's back then."

Given the bustle and chatter ongoing in the square of Highfield this afternoon, it's perhaps not surprising that a trio of riders, approaching the township at an all-out gallop, might at first go unnoticed. Besides, it could just be a few young guards having a bit of sport, or husbands returning late from the festivities of Heronhurst and fearful of chastising words from their beloveds. Regardless, there's no undue reason to note the party, save their speed.

Robben nods a bit as he hears Lyanna's question. "Unless she's left since last night, Lady Lyanna." A brief pause before he looks over to Bastien again for a few moments, but doesn't say anything now. As he hears Daryl greet Katrin, he looks over in the direction of the Haigh as well, offering her a polite nod. "My lady," he offers in greeting, before he looks to Daryl again as well. "I haven't heard anything about Lady Laryssa having left either."

"Good afternoon," Katrin greets of those assembled. Daryl is given a smile. "Lor-" She cuts off and contemplates. What exactly does one call someone stripped of title? "Ashwood," she finally says with a friendly look. "I am sure it was a glorious celebration, however I found myself completely swamped and unable to attend. I do regret it, however."

With the weather looking a little worse than usual, Kaelea has come out into the square to watch and see if there was going to be a lightning show put on by nature. With a temperament as volatile as storm, she finds a certain affinity. She's no fool though, the Flint retainer knew to stay out of them given the choice. Watching them build was the majesty of it. Instead of looking up, she finds herself noticing the assembled familiar faces, walking near, intending to pass she offers a quick curtsy, "Lords, Ladies, Deputy."

Tia smiles at Lyanna, offering a polite curtsey. "Lady Lyanna," she says easily enough. "You must have come back quickly, to be here already. We stopped not too far off to collect some herbs, as you might see. I've not actually been back to the keep yet." Her Ashwood relatives get a warm smile and a nod. Then Kaelea gets a quick glance and a dip of Tia's head in acknowledgement.

"My niece stays at the Ash an Oak, I suppose?" Lyanna inquires, in Robben's direction. "I will surely pay her a visit, although a little later perhaps." Having noticed Bastien's pensive state, the Frey Ambassador has preferred not to address the man apart from that short greeting when she arrived. But when the group of riders arrives she casts an enquiring glance in Bastien's direction, frowning slightly.

"A good afternoon to you as well." Lyanna returns Katrin's greeting with a light curtsey. "I do not believe we have met. I'm Lyanna Frey." The Commoner woman is noticed, but rather ignored at the moment - save for the smallest hint of a nod, acknowledging the woman's presence.

A clatter of hooves rings upon the better-tended cobbles of the town proper, as the three riders arrive within the vicinity of the square. Their mounts are breathing hard, flanks hollowing and filling with massive lungfuls, nostrils flared, eyes wild. They've been pushed at a hard pace, that much is clear to even the least educated of eyes. Whirling and snorting as their riders wheel them in small circles, their gait slowed and halted abruptly, the animals fidget uneasily. The men atop, attired in the colors of House Ashwood, are plainly looking for someone in particular; scanning the crowd. It doesn't take long - Bastien does rather tower over most people.

"M'lord! Ser!" Having finally found the figure he seeks, the foremost rider urges his sweated horse a little closer, before dismounting and tossing the reins to one of his companions. Up close, all three look spooked.. and one lingers back a little, with a 'trunk' of pliant leather strapped across his steed's rear-end. The speaker approaches, offering respectful nods to those gathered and deserving but with his eyes returning always to the temporary head of the ruling house. Coming to a standstill, he bows his head with proper dignity, and awaits acknowledgement.

Daryl gives Katrin a smile, shrugging dismissively at her mention of not being able to attend. He doesn't seem to be bothered by his title being seperate, singled out or slipped. "You were sorely missed, I think." Then the Deputy notes Kaelea's approach, and his lips form a smile oncemore, reaching his eyes. "Mistress Steele. Coming from the river?" A small chuckle is given, before he see's the trio riding in and he mutters, "No matter how many times you ask them to ride slow…" As he see's them more clearly, he moves to offer a few hushed words to Bastien, before stepping at his side, one hand idly resting on the hilt of his sword before falling as he looks towards them.

Bastien's gaze is drawn by the sound of the riders, and placing a hand idly on the pommel of his sword, the large man turns towards the rider that addresses him. "Catch your breath." Taking a few steps to close the distance between himself and the man, Bastien tilts his head slightly. "What has you in such a hurry?"

Robben nods a little as he hears Lyanna's words. "I believe she is, yes," he replies, looking about to say something more before he hears the riders. Looking from them to Bastien, and then back again, he watches rather carefully for the moment.

"Oh, Lady Tiaryn," Katrin beams happily. "I don't think I've seen you in half of forever, my Lady. How is your Lord husband?" She glances aside to Lyanna, her smile just as friendly. "Good day, Lady Lyanna," she greets warmly. "Katrin Haigh." She even dips down into a small curtsey. Must be that whole liege House thing for such special treatment. All of her gossip and catch up is put on hold as the horses come up on them and she involuntarily takes a small step back. "Oh my…" she murmurs. Her bright eyes are attentive.

"My Lord Saethwyr is well," Tia says. "Taking care of the horses, if I don't miss my guess." She smiles as she passes her basket over to the maid to keep watch over for the moment, and moves over closer to Lyanna and Katrin. "It's good to see you both. The wedding was quite nice, I admit, though it did seem to miss some friends." The riders coming up are noticed eventually, mostly due to the menfolk glancing all that way.

Formulating an answer to nettle the deputy in question it is never voiced as the riders approach. When it's apparent they are wearing the colors of the House Ashwood, she assumes a polite expression and casually steps to the side. Noble business, commoners didn't really get involved in that so much. As much as she pretends not to be, Kaelea is listening, observing. Life and times of the Ashwood Nobles. Enquiring minds wanna know.

Straightening, the messenger offers a grateful nod and does as he is bid, gulping a few welcome and much-needed breaths before attempting to speak again. A cursory glance takes in the other family members nearby, as well as the assortment of other lords and ladies. Quite an audience. But it's not his place to suggest somewhere less public.

"Ser Bastien. We return from our ceaseless search for your Lord brother with news, Ser. Malk!" This last barked syllable is apparently a summons for one of his younger comrades, both of whom have already dismounted. Matching nods of understanding, and the pair move to unstrap the package that has been ferried here in such haste. "Well, with something, that is. We were instructed to bring it directly here, to you, Ser." The ringleader can't seem to entirely conceal his pride.. or curiosity. They've got a lead, at last!

Moving closer, Bastien's eyebrow raises at the sign of the package. "Well then, out with it." His normally stoic demeanor is having a hard time disguising his eagerness and worry about learning new information about his missing sibling and cousin. Daryl whispers something to the man, and he replies with a shake of his head. "I recognize these men, they are safe."

Daryl eyes the riders somemore, stepping between them and the women about…And Robben almost protectively, but moreso cautiously. The Deputy glances back for a short moment, making note of everyone's position, from Robben all the way down to the redhead commoner, whom he offers a reassuring nod. As his green eyes settle on the riders bringing the package to bear. He takes a couple steps forward, but is still behind Bastien, glancing at his cousin before he asks to them, "…Where did you find this?"

Robben takes a few steps forward as well as he hears what the men said. Looking to the package and the men rather curiously as well. Then to Bastien and Daryl, and back to the men.

"I'm a bit surprised, there were others leaving this quickly - but given the huge numbers of Mallisters present, it does seem understandable…" Lyanna offers in Tia's direction with a light smirk. "Lady Katrin, I am so pleased to make your acquaintance." the Frey continues, turning to the Haigh with a pleasant smile. That smile however vanishes quickly, as she watches the men in Ashwood livery approach, her posture tensioning as she listens to the messenger's words. Her gaze wandering to that mysterious package, Lyanna holds her breath for a moment, speculating on what might be inside of it. True to her role as an observer, she stays silent for now and leaves the talking to the Ashwood men. Although every word and every gesture is closely watched.

Katrin can't help but inch her way forward to try and get a better look at the package. The girl is easily curious about the contents of the package, and catching any and all words that pass between the Ashwoods and the guards. "What do you suppose it is?" she murmurs quietly to the other women present. She's not so bold as to try and converse directly with the men.

As the other two men heft forward the plain trunk, their elder clears his throat and replies as best he is able, glancing momentarily to the deputy who addresses him. "Near our border. Not that far from where the Erenford scouts discovered the.." Remembering the presence of ladies, the messenger hesitates a fraction of a second, choosing his terms with care. "..the loose horses. But it was direct in the path of our route." His attention returns to Bastien, perhaps a little uncomfortable in trying to properly address the 'non noble'. "It was definitely intended to be found, Ser."

His companions arrive at the man's heel, setting down the package and nodding respectfully to the Ashwoods looking on before stepping back. "Shall I..?" The leader gestures to the trunk, by way of offer to open it and reveal the contents. Optimistic, perhaps. But he did find it, after all.

Tia smiles at Lyanna, but doesn't comment on any reason for leaving early. She simply keeps her thoughts to herself, turning to watch and find out exactly what might be found. Unconsciously, she wraps her arms around herself, blue eyes showing worry, matching her body language.

Kaelea remains back, wanting nothing at all to do with trouble unless it involved something to do with the Lord and Lady missing, she would remain uninvolved, more than likely. When the question by the pretty noble they call Lady Katrin, she doesn't answer.. not to be rude, she just doesn't imagine such a lady is talking to her. The reassuring nod from the deputy is greeting with a quirk of her lips in a half smile. As the box is delivered and there is the presumption of it being opened, Kaelea is just like the rest, curious as to the contents, she peers at it as best she can from her vantage point.

Daryl looks a bit uneasy at the package before it is opened, his jaw tensing as he's unsure what it will produce, but if it's truly a lead, then its better than having no word at all about their missing kin. Another half step forward in anticipating as he feels his heartrate begin to elevate and his palms just get a little sheen of sweat to them, quickly wiped off on his hardened leather armor. A quick look towards all the Ashwoods, Tiaryn included, and then the trunk, the eagerness in his eyes to see what it is apparent.

The large Lord removes his hand from the pommel of his sword and crosses his arms. "Go ahead, then." He's in no rush to be near the unknown thing, though his neck does crane as he stares at this mysterious package brought before him.

Robben's eyes narrow slightly as he hears the words about where the package was found, nodding a little as he listens as well. Taking another step forward as his attention is on the thing now.

"I have absolutely no idea…" Lyanna replies in a hushed voice to Katrin, looking slightly pale. "A lead, but where will it lead us? To despair? To hope?" She looks from Katrin to Robben, to Daryl, and finally to Bastien, her gaze flickering lightly as he orders the package to be opened.

Katrin's hands clasp together tightly, until the skin begins to show white. "Perhaps to both," she replies quietly to Lyanna, shaking her head. Her eyes flick over to Daryl and then Bastien, lower lip caught between her teeth. All she can do is try and inch a little bit closer to get a better angle of view.

The messenger doesn't need telling twice! Dropping to a knee to the back of the trunk, he reaches over to unfasten the three buckles that hold the lid securely closed, dextrous fingers making swift work of the task. With a vague smile lingering on his lips, the man is plainly pleased at bringing something to hopefully ease the worries of his newly-appointed Lord.

And then it's done. Raising the top of the trunk, the guard does at least force his gaze upward to read Bastien's response, before he takes his own opportunity to look upon the contents.

As it turns out, he'll likely regret that very thing for a long time to come. Resting within the trunk, upon a bed of rushes that have soaked up the congealed blood and other matter long enough for discovery and travel, are two decapitated heads, rolling slightly in the base of the package. The first, dark hair matted with crimson and flesh, is swiftly identified for any who encountered those features in life. Though now they rest slack in eternal despair and anguish. Aleister Ashwood.

The other is even less fair to look upon. With her formerly delicate and almost painfully beautiful features battered and bruised, one eye socket caved in completely and the mess of a dark iris crushed and ruined upon a pallid cheek, Miranda Ashwood; the former Lord's eighteen year old cousin who had set out from Highfield with him. A gruesome discovery indeed, and now opened in the town square, with the stench of death and rot permeating the air all too quickly.

Tia might not yet see but she can smell, and her eyes close immediately the stench makes its way out to where she is. She opens them though, moving forward to look - needing to see. There's a grim determination about her, and once she does, a single gasp emits from her. She drops to her knees, her hands covering her eyes, and says not a word, just remains totally, completely silent.

Daryl takes a sharp inhale of breath as the package is opened, and he just stands there, eyes set at the contents, teeth clenched to the point his prominent jawline is elevated on his clean shaven face, from ear to ear. He's stunned. The Deputy takes a few steps forward, his bottom lip quivering just a touch, and then his whole chin. His feet trudge slowly, one step at a time, boots sinking into the dirt some with each stride. His little sister and heart and soul, so gruesomely displayed before him. The smell doesn't faze him, in fact, nothing really does. "No…" His voice comes out a shaky whisper, his eyes watering, coming dangerously close to the lids of his eyes. "No…" He repeats quietly, forgetting to breathe. Forgetting everything. "No-no-no…Oh no…No…" He starts to mutter hysterically, falling to his knees before the trunk and his eyes never leave his sister's decapitated head. "Miranda…" He utters, tears beginning to drip from his eyes without restraint, though he is not weeping uncontrollably, his face too numb and emotionless. Just steady, unwiped tears. "Aleister…No…" His whole body shakes as his jaw clenches again, pulsing, grinding teeth.

The moment the smell inside the box is let out with its unclasping, Bastien knows what he's about to see. The man tenses visibly, a sinking feeling in his stomach taking grasp of his soul as the one thing he's dreaded all along is forced into the light. Stepping forward, he pushes the rider's hand aside and immediately shuts the trunk. Bastien is visibly shaken, and its all he can do not to vomit on the spot. He has seen plenty of men and women killed, some by his own hand, but Aleister wasn't simply a man to Bastien. He was a god, a friend, a sibling, and everything inbetween.

Taking a deep breath to try and compose himself, the man draws in the stench of those two heads and nearly chokes before turning towards those gathered and shaking his head. "Away, all of you. To your homes and living places.." Looking back to that trunk, the large man falls to one knee and places his fingers upon its exterior.

Immediately Kaelea knows something is wrong, something bad. The reaction from the man that opened the trunk was bad enough. Like any terrible thing the basic human need to see overcomes her and she takes a single step forward, looking towards the crate. The site that greets her, the stench has her stilling a gag reflex almost stronger than she can stand. Slapping a hand over her mouth almost desperately, the condition of the heads forever etched in her memory as she stumbles a few steps back wishing she could unsee what she just saw… The utter grief so apparent in the men, the pain.. it's something she will never forget. It takes a moment for the words of the ruling noble to register, but when they do, she hurriedly curtsies even as her steps are retreating backwards towards the inn.

The poor messenger. Is he going to be shot? Oh gods, the smell. Pressing a hand over his mouth and nose, the man gags visibly, pushing unsteadily to his feet and staggering back a step as Bastien lays claim to the trunk.. and its grisly contents. Raising his eyes to the young Ashwood knight, he tries and fails to stammer an apology. All he can do is shake his head, looking utterly lost and woefully bereft. Now what? They've been getting by, holding out for the return of their formidable Lord. Now what??

To get a better view of the trunk's contents Lyanna has taken a step forward, while the men where fumbling at the lock to open it. The gruesome view hits her like a hammer - as does the stench. Averting her eyes from a brutal death's display as swiftly as she can manage, the Frey stumbles backwards, falling to her knees, unable to shake off that horrible picture that has burned itself into her memory. Her body tenses and cramps, and she leans forward as her last little meal forces its way up her throat, to be retched onto the cobble stones of the market square before her - staining them and her dress as well. Her septa has jumped to her lady's side, assisting her to keep the damage to attire and hair as little as possible. When Lyanna looks up again, her face is all wet with tears. "Such a nice… person." she sobs. "She was such a nice person."

Hope of finding the missing Ashwoods is dashed upon the opening of the trunk. Katrin's face is pale and queasy on seeing such a gruesome sight before her. She takes a step back under the guidance of her Septa, legs trembling. It's not as though either were particularly close to her, but the sight of death is a startling thing. Her eyes close and her entire face averts from the sight. Instead, the Haigh draws her guard close, whispering into his ear an urgent message. He gives a nod, though seems reluctant to depart from his charge. But after more whispering, he departs for the stables and a few moments later, returns with his horse which he mounts and takes off, heading south. Katrin, however, straightens her back and steps forward. "My lords," she says softly. "It would benefit your town greatly to…" To what, not be upset over the loss of family? "To hold strong for them."

The stench is what hits Robben first, and he starts forward a bit, seeing the contents of the box. Sinking to his knees, it looks like he's about to vomit or something like that. Looking first to Bastien, he nods a bit numbly at his older brother's words to the people gathered, before he looks back to the now-closed trunk, one hand going to his eyes now. "No…" The word is said quietly. "It can't be…" Even though he knows that it is true. The fingers of the other hand clenching together, he lets the tears fall now, not caring about who that might see them for the moment.

After a few moments, a long quiet moment, Tia gets to her feet. There are tears streaming down her face, but she ignores them. Instead she moves to Bastien, Robben and Daryl. "I'm so sorry," she says, softly. "I wish - " She stops there, but only so she can hold her hands out to them. "I - don't have the words," she manages after a moment. But there's pain in her own eyes. Aleister was a good friend to her, almost as much as Anders and Einar. And poor Miranda - Tia was certain she'd become a very close friend. And now - all gone. All.

Something glimmers on the large Ashwood Knight's cheeks as he stares at that box, trying so desperately to will this moment away and wake himself from whatever nightmare he has wandered unknowingly into. No words of protest leave his lips, no attempts are made to hide himself. There are only two things in the man's mind at the moment. Himself, and the contents of the box. Every muscle is tense, every bit of his being seems stricken by the horror that he cannot deny. So many days spent making sure this place would be fit for the return of his older sibling, anybody close to the man knew he expected nothing short of a return from the late Lord Knight, his only truly loved cousin in tow, likely complaining about the brambles and underbrush they had to sneak through to make their escape. Not like this, no not like this.

For a long time, Bastien does not move from that spot beside the crate. His limbs feel as if they're made of jelly, and his stomach seems weighed down by a heavy stone. His fingers spread out, as his palm lays flat against the side of the trunk. No more orders are given, no thoughts to the consequences. The man is simply caught, stuck in his despair as the truth washes over him.

Daryl closes his eyes for a brief amount of time, fighting the urge to puke, muscles tense and tears still dripping from shut lids. His lips still move, ushering words heard only between himself and the Seven…Maybe. If they were even watching over this tragedy. A shaky breath is taken, and another, as he tries to fill air into his lungs, to steel himself. "Miranda…" His whisper may be heard. "I'm…I'm so sorry.." Finally, he finds his breath, his shoulders rising and falling with each wind, his features still shaking a touch as he lowers his head. He had failed her. The both of them. Its overbearing, and soon the Deputy tilts his head to the side and spews out a small amount of vomit, but not much comes up. He wipes at his mouth, and soon with each breath that goes through clenched teeth, Daryl Ashwood slowly raises his head to see if he can find Bastien's gaze. Should he look, it would be upon a countenance so angry, so filled with hate and malice, not at his kin…No. But at whoever has caused such a pain to himself and his family. Keeping that gaze on Bastien, the Deputy rises to his feet slowly, taking a few steps toward the new Lord Ashwood, shakily reaching a hand out to clutch the man's shoulder firmly. That look in his eyes…Murderous, malicious, yet the rest of his features blank with shock. That is all he can offer at the moment. A shoulder clasp.

Daryl turns and starts stepping away, forcing each muscle to move him forwards, and stares straight ahead of him. No responses are given, no condolences greeted. He doesn't even wipe his tear stained face as he walks through the group, stepping away slowly. Where? No idea. Anywhere but here.

Tears still running down his face, Robben takes a few deep breaths now, as he looks around rather carefully. There's a brief nod in the direction of the men that brought the thing over, before he looks to Daryl as he sees the man head off. Opening his mouth to say something to his cousin, no words come out. Tiaryn gets a bit of a nod, before he turns to look at Bastien again, wordlessly moving to place his arms around the older brother. Not saying anything, or doing anything more than that simple gesture for now.

Katrin's gaze flicks to Tiaryn and then to the surrounding Ashwoods. So many to try and comfort and just not enough hands. But one takes the forefront as she moves steadily toward Bastien, sliding down to her knees before him. "My Lord Ashwood," she says gently, but with no mistaking the strength behind each word. "Please, let us away from the center of town. Neither would wish to see all that has been accomplished in the name of House Ashwood to break down in a moment of grief. Gather with your family and loved ones. Lean on their strength as you come to accept this new mantle." Her voice raises in volume slightly. "And once you have grieved their loss, avenge it to let none know that they could strike at your House and win."

A moment, as Tia watches the men go wherever it is they go. A breath. A heartbeat of utter loneliness and grief. She simply reaches for her skirts all of a sudden, in a way that has her guard looking sharply at her, and then she takes off running towards the keep and the stables. Wherever she can find Saethwyr.

Kaelea is unable to look away from the scene before her, drawn in despite herself. Just at the door of the Inn, she remains standing there, the storm forgotten in the grief so visible by the group. As a commoner herself, she does not see weakness in those gathered, sharing their grief so publicly.. she sees a strength in family, a unity that even death cannot tear apart. Clenching her jaw, she crosses her arms over herself and just watches, completely unable to tear herself away.

Lyanna's septa helps her slowly to her feet, muttering something into her ear, but the Frey shakes her head with a surprising determination. "No. I'll stay right here for a moment, thank you!" With a sigh, Mariah gestures for one of the Frey guards and points to the inn. "Get some water. Quick!" Standing, a bit shaking from the shock, Lyanna straightens, wiping mouth and the lower part of her face slowly with her handkerchief. Her cheeks wet with tears, her eyes red yet with a stubborn flicker of anger the Frey Ambassador turns to Bastien, her voice shaky as she addresses him. "My lord. Words can not express my grief. You have my condolence." Little as that might help. Lyanna does not expect an answer. "I am sure you will do all in your power, to find out who has committed this… atrocity. My Lord of Highfield."

Bastien doesnt move, nor does he respond to the hands placed upon him. Something inside the man has died this day, and after a moment the Lady Katrin's words finally seep their way past his sorrow and into his ears. Placing a hand upon Robben's, the large man shudders before rising up to his feet. Leaning down, he lifts the trunk and without a word starts to walk towards the Keep.

Daryl doesn't make it far, eventually bracing himself along the side of the inn with one arm, his face buried in one forearm as he calms the quaking fury within him. Tames it. Wields it. As he pushes back off the Ash and Oak, turning towards the group oncemore, perhaps hearing Katrin's words, but who knows if he's hearing anything right now in the raw tragedy of the moment. Silently, he sees Bastien rise, and he pushes off that inn, moving to follow with slow, purposeful strides. His countenance is at peace now, no anger, no sadness, only shown through his emerald eyes. The windows to a soul twisted in pain and torture. They look towards Robben, and there's a beckoning motion of his hand, for him to follow. To be with their now slightly smaller family. He keeps completely silent as he finds his stride to match Bastien's, to the right of him and just a touch behind. He moves for the keep with his eyes set straight forward.

Grim satisfaction flashes in Katrin's eyes on seeing Bastien finally start to move. She rises back to her feet, brushing her skirts off as if nothing had happened, or she hadn't just witnessed a horrifying sight before her. "You are not alone, my Lord," she offers after the retreating Ashwood assertively. She stands in the streets, waiting and silent.

Nodding a little bit as his brother rises, Robben lets him go for a few moments now. Looking over at the ladies present for the moment, he nods very slowly at Lyanna's words. "We will find them…" he says, very quietly. Looking around, his gaze stops on Kaelea for a few moments, but he doesn't say anything else, before he moves to follow his family back inside the keep now.

No, she really didn't expect a reply of the new Head of House. Alas, some acknowledgement of her presence, at least. A slight nod even. Calling back the guard who has almost reached the inn's door, Lyanna turns to Katrin. "I'll give them a few moments, and then I'll return to my chamber at the keep." she explains, wiping her tears with an unstained corner of her handkerchief. "They need to be among family now. Lady Katrin, I wish our first meeting had taken place under more pleasant circumstances. As I will have to leave you now as well. A letter needs to be written." Blinking away a few last tears, Lyanna stands there for a short moment, biting her lower lip as she contemplates the implications of Lord Aleister's death. "Lord Walder needs to be informed of this." A last curtsey to Katrin, and then she follows the Ashwoods to Tanglewood Manor, in an appropriate distance.