|A Slow Dance|
|Summary:||Justin and Aeliana meet up again, this time over dinner, where the dance of getting to know each other continues.|
|Roof Terrace, Terrick's Roost|
|This is open to the air except for the rookery at the opposite end of the open walkway. Parapets and crenellations are about.|
|Sep 12, 289|
Mornings and evenings are the best time to come up to the high terrace. The heat of the summer days upon the stones can be opressive, both in glare and in baking temperatures. The rookery is the only shade and it casts little aside from what it provides the ravens which are apt to be very noisy in the morning. Now that the sky is beginning to be painted in the many tapestry hues of the oncoming sunset, the birds rustle about and make only faint noises as they settle in for the night. One might easily enjoy a feast of stars on a clear night up here with a most unimpared view in all directions, lulled by the ever constant sound of the waves below, licking at the tower's base of stone beneath the cliffs upon which it is perched.
Being surrounded thus by the sea on nearly three sides, the air up here is almost constant in movement. Her breath tonight is soft, blowing the heat from the stones with a promise of a cooler evening. Up here a table has been set and a supper laid for one. Two servants tend to it, also setting up thick beeswax candles on heavy iron holders if wanted. Tonight they will be for on the low stone bench to one side of the table is laid a thick, heavy tome with a faded purple ribbon to mark a reader's place.
Justin himself has just come up the stone steps, his spurs to softly chime. He gives polite greeting to the two household staff and goes to pour himself a glass of wine while the last is made ready. Taking it up, Justin walks the few steps over to the wall to look out of the parapet and over the land that spreads away to the south as the shadows grow longer and the sunlight more fiery hued.
It's some time after Justin's settled that footsteps can be heard climbing the stairs; the quiet rustle of skirts that accompany them. A dark head slipping first into view, long inky tresses hang down free and unbound to the middle of her back, accented with thin soft green ribbons. That..as always, match the gown and while the style seems much the same from the one she'd worn previously, instead of being gold this one is green and the accents upon it are gold.
She'd come up for the quiet and the chance to escape, for the view and to collect her thoughts and the sight of someone else already claiming the space, draws both woman and maid, even Septa, up short. "My Lord Terrick," Aeliana murmurs, "Forgive me, I had not realized that anyone was up here. I shall not disturb your meal," offered with an easy smile and a low curtsy; though even as she rises from it, she's turning as if to depart back down the stairs.
Despite it having been laid out for him, Justin has yet to touch his meal. He has remained standing and looking to the east by southeast with his thoughts likely upon Stonebridge while slowly tasting his third glass of wine. A few last gulls wing overhead, finding their places amid the cliffs below for the night. A red fox, it's sultry coat to burn like an ember caught by the sun's lowering gaze as it drifts into the edge of the sea to the west, hops amid the rocks below hoping to find mice in the tufts of grass. Justin's attention has briefly been distracted to watch it until the sounds of others draws his attention to them. He turns where he stands when Aeliana speaks.
"No, you are no interruption, lady Aeliana. I frequently take my supper up here, though I have not as yet touched it. Please come up and enjoy the evening. If you have not yet broken your evening fast, you are welcome to dine." Justin looks his usual except that his antler handled knife is missing from the front of his belt tonight.
Though the main dish is yet covered to keep it warm, it conceals baked fish with lemon pepper and a side of dill cream sauce. Bread, cheese and a bit of fruit complete the table rather than several lavish courses such as one would have a banquet. A fairly simple dinner by noble standards with a flaggon of wine upon the table.
"My lord is too kind," the lady murmurs with a dip of her head; her departure cut short as she offers an easy smile in his direction. "Even if he is correct. In truth, I have only just returned. I rode out today to visit my Uncle in the camp and found that the ride back was not quite enough to clear my mind. I was hoping that one of your views might help," complimented, as she moved to join him there against the parapet.
"I may take you up upon your offer, though as I see a place for only one…I am left to wonder, do you intend to I eat with my fingers or perhaps you intend to feed me with yours, as if I were a pet?" There's a glimmer of amusement in her eyes however, as she looks to him with the question and in the background her ladies move to make themselves comfortable…towards the other end of the terrace; near the rookery to admire the birds.
Justin tastes his Riverlands wine, a rather dry red. Almost certainly a Charlton wine having come down on the monthly Accord shipment. The fish is locally caught and fresh, the rest likely brought or left overs from Terrick cellars perhaps in the case of the cheese. "I hope you did not ride under escorted. The road through our lands is not, alas, a safe one. Bandits of the area have been known to prey upon women of rank, and are deft in the fletching of guards ere a small group might muster a defense nor flee." The Terrick studies her, "That is not to say that they do so freely, for we ride regular patrols and hunt them ruthlessly when they dare show their faces."
There is a lift of his chin to indicate the table, a slight movement of his hand to the one remaining servant, "Bring up a few more chairs and all that is needed that the lady and her handmaidens may enjoy dining." Looking back to Aeliana, Justin smiles a little, "No, I intend that you may have my own seat. I have not much appetite this evening and nothing should go to waste." They are yet on rationed portions, even if those portions need not be tiny. No food hoarding will be tolerated.
"In these times I fear that few roads are. Though with the host moving…in frankness, I do not trust that own men may be enough. Your own will see more bandits, I'm sure. It becomes too easy to forget the rules when houses quarrel and fleeing men may take advantage where they will, thinking and perhaps rightly that it will simply be blamed upon one side or the other. Though I would challenge any man to remove me from Stranger ere I do not want to go, a single well placed arrow will manage a job that a man alone may not." A realist, this woman whose hair dances about on the breeze, the ribbons fluttering with life.
She looks back to him though, instead of upon the distance when he mentions the meal and the girl's lips quirk. "You are not alone in your lacking, my lord, for my mind weighs heavy and my stomach with it. But the ladies I am sure would be most charmed by your kindness and I moreso than they, if you would but share your wine," she smiled, before continuing, in a return to seriousness, "I am to ride for Highfield on the morrow."
Justin finishes off his own glass of wine and steps from the wall to pour a refill, which he offers unto Aeliana herself while they await the house staff to arrive with more glasses, chairs and food. "It is Charlton wine, from Holyholt. Perhaps to your liking and familiarity, lady Aeliana. A fair vintage, for they do not appear to be sending us the lowest of their dregs." Even if Lord Keegan were, the Terricks would be nonetheless grateful for it if only to not go hungry.
"Either horse or rider would be too fine a prize for a bandit to set arrow into, lest he be a fool. Nevermind your horse's temperment as it would be unknown unto them." Now without a glass himself, Justin nonetheless has had three glasses in fairly short order and is more at his ease, tired. He settles himself to lean against the stone of the wall and loosely hook his thumbs into his sword belt as he watches the sun dissapear into the sea, twilight suddenly upon them with no trees to extend it's lingering.
His baritone is kept low in volume though he lifts a dark brow, "Are you to depart from us so soon, lady Aeliana? Did you not say you were intent to abide here a time, while the conflict was in question?" Women do have changeable minds.
"Thank you, my lord," the woman murmurs and her fingers brush lightly against his own when she reaches to claim the glass. A connoisseurs lingering taken over it; inhaling the scent, watching the settle of color with that faint swirl before finally taking a small taste. "My Uncle would not," send them dregs, that is. Though with her tongue content to the taste, she smiles, "Yet if you are a fan of wines, if ere you've the chance you should try the Arbor Gold. No finer a vintage do we produce," nor a more expensive, either. Held only by the nobility that can afford it, it's not sold within taverns and inns. "And do the Charltons win the war, or at the very least, those most beloved return to me then, you shall. For I've brought a bottle to celebrate."
Resting her hip in against the curve of the parapet, Aeliana angles to better face the young Terrick lord. "You are too kind, though I would defend Stranger's temperment. A trained courser is he, for all that his rider is a woman. There is nothing I wouldn't give for him." And there was genuine warmth in her tone, an unquestionable love to be had for the mount that was so often missing in some, when most took the simple act of riding for granted.
Cradling the glass in her hand, Ae frowns a bit to his question. "So I was intent, my lord Terrick and still am. But duty binds us all. My brother has bid me check matters with his Castellan to ensure that things run smoothly in his absence and dutiful that I am, I will ride to check. And just as soon return for I have no desire to leave the welcome of your hearth just yet. Nor so quickly to forget..," her head tipped faintly in his direction, mischief and merriment dancing in her eyes, "That my lord yet owes me a lesson."
The house staff arrive with the additional chairs and food to serve lady Aeliana's retinue, mostly fish, bread, cheese and fruit but as the lady herself might be enticed to a bite, there's also slices of ham should fish not be to her liking. More glasses, a second bottle of wine for the nobility as well as tea is served. Justin quietly thanks them and dismisses them to go and enjoy their own supper for they can serve themselves. He does so, obtaining another glass for himself.
Then a taper he lights. Justin looks to Aeliana before he may lay it to wickes to light the candles and cast illumination upon the dinner, "Ser Kamron was awarded an Arbor wine for his winning of the melee at Seagard, though I know not where it came. It was an excellant vintage, though I confess I'm as much a man for ale, mead or dark beer as I am for wines."
Stepping to the first thick candle, Justin lights it himself and those near to it before he offers the taper to one of Aeliana's handmaidens to light the others nearer to their reach than his own, lest he intrude upon their meal. He remains instead by Aeliana, retaking his former position to lean against the wall. The stars are coming out brilliant against the night sky, the last light of the evening fading fast and little more than a faint blush in the west almost gone. A crescent moon hangs silvery low over the east, rising and waxing. The sea, ever presant, is muted music to the background and easily overlooked once one is used to it, like the beating of one's heart. Justin sips his wine as he listens, then considers, "You will need adequately armed escort, lady Aeliana. More than you have brought. I will send a Terrick patrol with you, Ser Kell can lead it. See you at least to the Highfield road and safely upon it. A raven can be sent to Highfield ere you go to have an escort of your own waiting to take you the rest of the way."
Aeliana watches the Terrick lord, the way he deals with his servants and her own in turn. There's a faint frown too, for the far too bright smile her handmaid offers, the woman clearly ten years his senior, as she takes that taper from him and finishes lighting the candles before she gently blows it out. The woman however croon proper thanks for the fare, complimenting both the offering and the entirely too lovely setting. She might have said romantic too, if Myrth hadn't been giving her a look that kept her quiet.
For her part, Aeliana is content to simply enjoy the darkening view, though the moonlight seems to highlight her pale skin. Not unhealithly so, but without hint of the sun, as befitting a woman of nobility. That too is an indulgence and a privledge, not to be sporting a peasants color as some seem to think is more than fashionable.
Her smile warmed when he joined her anew, a low bow of her head given in his direction, "You are too kind, Lord Terrick and I daresay spoiling my ladies," she teased, before taking a small sip of wine, "Though I would be grateful for whomever you choose to send. I shouldn't want to worry them with a raven, however and my brother's castellan is new and untried." That brought a faint frown. "And with his wife gone…," his wife, she is very clear to say. Not her sister, just his wife.
"I wonder…," she began, looking him over thoughtfully, "Have you seen Highfield yet, my lord?"
It could be said that Justin himself has a peasant's coloring, having taken a great deal of sun in his work outside every day so that his fair skin is well tanned where exposed, his hands a bit over calloused for a fine lord. Nonetheless, he offers the women a polite nod with a hint of a smile. His attention is for what Aeliana says, watching her in the faded light and seeming to enjoy her company as he savours his wine.
"You keep insisting I am too kind. I am whatever I am, lady Aeliana, and having served as page and squire in Riverrun, I would hope they have imparted some manners upon me despite Ser Haffrey Tully's rougish forest ranger's habits. I'm quite certain at my Lady mother's insistance." Justin twists his mouth wryly, "I can name the various cuts of meat and how they should be served just as easily as assist lady with her packing or dress mine own armour. As I have no squire of my own, and have until recently been one myself, I am less accustomed to having servants do for me than some."
Justin studies Aeliana, "I have not, though I have oft riden up into the former Tall Oaks grounds, mostly to the west of the new keep. Are you inviting me along, lady Aeliana?"
It's fitting on a man though, it suits them. Much as his hands tell the story of his worth and more, his life. A knight's hands should whisper the stories of their hardships. Sun to a woman only adds undue wrinkles and age. Terrible double standard, but the world was full of them. "If I insist you are kind, my lord, then you must be, no?" She teased, before giving a gentle laugh as he offers a measure of his history.
"Be careful with that," she warns, playfully wagging a finger in his direction, "For I may decide to test your words and then we'll see how well you pack a dress." But it's followed with her laughter and an easy sip of wine. "Ah yes," comes reply, tongue dabbing excess from the swell of her lip, "I had heard that you had come new to your spurs and yet, on you I think, it seems most natural." A little nod followed it, as if so said it readily helped her decide.
Yet for his question…her smile turned sly, just the faintest little quirking of her lips there on the right side. "That would be most forward of me, my lord. But…if my gracious host were to offer escort, then it would be rude of me to turn you away."
Indeed, such would be less attractive assests upon a woman though some women wear the kiss of the sun and the work of their hands better than others. Indeed, it might be that he thinks of one such for Justin's gaze is unfocused for a few moments. The turn of his mouth is ever so slightly a frown ere Aeliana's words draw him back from his own thoughts of one gone missing.
"I expect you shall test me as you will, nontheless, lady Aeliana." Amusement twists his mouth and gives something to his eyes as he watches her. Justin eases that into a smile, his fourth glass of wine having somehow finished itself. Such puts him more at his ease than anything else except one. "Ser Haffrey was a man who loved to hunt, and especially men. So any whisper of bandits and we were off like hounds upon the chase. While I do not account myself a veteran as yet with a blade, mayhap he was a good teacher in some things." And utterly lacking in others, such as politics and socializing.
Cocking his head slightly, Justin continues in good humor, "I have many duties here, yet .. for the moment, things are mostly quiet as we await news of Stonebridge. Highfield is not far to ride. With the understanding that I may not tarry, and I may need depart abruptly, I should think my brother and my father could spare me a couple of days."
"Do you not test me, Ser Justin?" So rare are the times that she uses his name, that when she does it rolls with a sweet lilt from the tongue; more a gift than anything else. But telling, also. "There are many who would consider this scene…," a sweep of her hand gestures towards the spread, towards the ladies quietly working through their meal with charmed smiles and easy compliments. It could have so easily become a dinner for naught but two, instead. "More than it is." And no doubt there would be servants to gossip as well, the Lord Sheriff dining on the rooftop by candle light, having ordered fare brought for the Charlton lady to join him.
"So we will all have trials," she mused thoughtfully, before settling into quiet, content and more to simply listen. "Perhaps one day we shall across blades and you may show me truly how skilled you are. I have lived an indulgent life, my lord. Such skills are not beyond me." And she found it engaging, a healithy requirement to keep from falling round and soft as many women were want.
"Until then though, I would not be…adverse to your company. Particularly as I do not intend to remain myself, as fun as running my brother's keep may be. I trust that I may make use of your ravens ere I have need, that the castellan may reach me here if there arrises an issue later?"
The law book has yet to be opened, laying where set and clearly forgotten thus far. Justin huffs a breath softly, not quite a laugh, "I don't care much about gossiping, as long as it isn't too excessive." For he would not wish to cause undue damage to another. He shrugs and refills his glass, house hold staff coming up to see if the dishes are wanted to be cleared away as the meal winds towards it's end. Justin still has not eaten though he can as easily take some in his chambers while he reads, after.
"Really?" he asks, amused, "You can use a blade? Though some would say it is uncouth, I would be curious to see how you handle a waster. I am not a man who objected to my half-brother's wife and her vallant contributions in the Greyjoy Rebellion be that her will. I do object to her being called a knight, or taking squires of her own. Nor a woman taking undue risk upon herself if it isn't needful. You however are like to provoke the scenes you infer, seeking to spar with me or taking swimming lessons from a man who is not your close kin, lady Aeliana." Justin playfully chides her with the last, one side of his mouth smiling more than the other. A dimple resides there briefly.
There is a shrug to the last, "As for the disposition of the ravens, you will have to ask that of my father or my brother. While I may get away with the sending of one myself, it is a resource I can not give freely."
Justin tastes his fifth glass of wine before he adds, "It is not far to ride. Bring you back a courier from Highfield and your purpose may be more easily served."
"A woman's art, gossiping, most would say. That while men weild swords we're left to make a blade of the tongue. A well placed word, my lord, may ruin more lives than but a single one touched by a well placed blade; much as it may lift one up when touched upon the right ears," Aeliana mused, a faint quir of humor to her lips. "Such is the art that I would teach you." A little shrug came with it; a single shoulder dropping just enough to make the hemline of her collar dip low against the swell of her breast, not -too- low, but a glimmer all the same.
Yet her grin shows in full, when he speaks of blades. "Perhaps one morning then we might retire to a quiet spot and I will show you. Though…I am inclined to agree with your opinion. Women are not meant be knights. And a true woman would know that a well trained maid is the same as any squire. We fight our own wars, of that there is little doubt but the art is more…refined, I think. Not that there isn't a beauty to your own," she was quick to correct, "But still." It came with a sighing half shrug, a faint frown in consideration for her words and the topic. "Forgive me, I…am an opinionated creature, but there is a time, I think and a place for them to be spoken. A trick to knowing just when and where."
And perhaps not meant to be given to one such as he, but it was offered all the same. "To provoke such scenes, my lord, is not my intention. Though it will be somewhat hard to create them with my entourage, I am not suggesting to engage you on my own. Still, some will suggest…a fondness. Will it displease you?" Inquired, as dishes were cleared and ladies stood ready, with the Septa to remind her of the hour. Ae was distracted with the dimple on his cheek, a brow lofted, waiting for an answer while his mention of the ravens was tucked away.
Very relaxed by the wine on an empty stomack, Justin smiles the more easily, "I have little use for gossip, nor desire to spin it. That is an art I shall leave to you. Those who think politics and gossip are the same are greatly misled, though I will not deny that gossip may color such things." The Terrick Sheriff gives a loose shrug where he leans against the parapet stone, "There are more than a few women vying for my attention, lady Aeliana. No offense unto you, but let them gossip as they will." Goodness knows it was juicy enough that piece that went 'round about him kissing the lady Roslyn in the Tordane tower on the eve of the ladies rescue.
Yes, the wine is potent. Justin closes his eyes briefly, certainly not drunk but lulled. He is quiet a moment ere he finishes his cup and sets it aside. "It is my turn to request your forgiveness. I should retire and leave you and your ladies the terrace for the remainder of the evening. Let me know when you would ride for Highfield and I shall make the arrangements."
"On the contrary, my lord, you have ambition. There will come a day when you have need for gossip," to bend ears and minds, to the truth of a second son, for such in all reality is what his position amounts him to. "And I think…be grateful to have one to weave it to your goals." A little wink was offered then, before the lady finished off the last of her first glass of wine. A method long employed, to sip often, as often as the company does. A forgetful mind will refill again and again, slowing wits while her own remain sharp.
Yet still, he provoked the soft sound of her laughter, her lips flashing a smile of genuine amusement. "Let them vy, my lord Terrick. In time you will see that I do not compete. I simply…am." No arrogance in it, no flash of vanity, a simple fact and plainly stated. Though her head dips a nod in agreement to his words and her smile remains, warm and kind. "I ride at first light in the morning, my lord, and shall meet you in the stables do you care to join me."
Long distance to Justin: Aeliana frowns at that post. I meant to convey that she wouldn't fight for his attention or affection. She'd just be herself and whether he gives it or not, was up to him.
There is a look to what she says, Justin studying her about the use of well applied gossip for an ambitious man. "Perhaps I would." He then concurs, "Very well. You will see that early mornings suit me well." The Terrick smiles at her soft laughter, Justin's aim having been that he wanted to relax and unwind this evening. It isn't his habit to induldge much in drink.
Justin leaves his glass to pick up the law book to drop it off at the reading room on his way to his own chambers. He offers Aeliana a slight bow, "Then I shall bid you a good night, and give you also my thanks for you company this evening."
The young Sheriff gives Aeliana's retinue a nod and then he turns to depart down the long stairs to the levels below.