|A Viper For An Adder|
|Summary:||Bastien sends for Lyanna to inquire about her opinion on his betrothal plans regarding Ceinlys.|
|Related Logs:||Logs regarding the betrothal between Bastien and Ceinlys and the aftermath of Aleister's death.|
|Bastien's Chambers, Tanglewood Manor|
|If not for their size and location, the simple living quarters of Ser Bastien might be mistaken for something meant to house servants or soldiers. A weapon rack carries a fine assortment of swords, axes, and spears, and beside it stands a manequinn garbed in the Lord's battle armor. The large bed at the far end of the room looks sleeped in, and none too new, though the sheets are fairly clean. Tidy, and taken care of, the militant discipline of Knighthood shows itself in the organization of both the furniture and personal possessions of the owner of this room. An oaken desk is pushed into place against the far right wall, covered in maps and tomes on strategies of war and violence. Against the left wall lies a windowed door, leading to a balcony upon which a comfortable looking chair rests.|
|Sun Feb 24, 290|
At mid-day a young Squire approaches Lyanna with a message. The Young Lord, Bastien Ashwood, wishes for her presence in his personal quarters. If she answers it, she'll find the room open and guarded. Two men-at-arms stand idly at the front door, and the room inside is open for the world to see. It seems the Lord is learning about keeping up appearance and proper etiquette when it comes to the honor and reputation of women coming to his rooms. A good thing too, with the way things have been around the Riverlands of late.
Inside, Bastien is sitting in a chair at his table and nursing a goblet of wine as he looks over the maps that are set before him. A sealed letter at the end of the table seems out of place, but is ignored for the most part as the man reaches over and moves a marker from one parcel of land to another.
Upon receiving the message the Frey Ambassador had left her own chambers only a few moments later in company of one of her guards. Seeing the door open and the room already well guarded, she gestures for her own guard to stay outside before she moves towards the doorstep, pausing there for a short moment to let her gaze wander over the room - remembering all too well the circumstances when she had paid this room a visit, shortly after the Ashwood deaths had been revealed. But then Lyanna already approaches the table behind which the Young Lord Ashwood is seated with swift and determined steps. "Lord Bastien." she greets, not caring about formalities. "You wished to speak with me?" Her gaze drops, lingering on the sealed letter for a second before she raises it again to meet that of The Ashwood heir. There is curiosity in these deep blue eyes as well as a slight tension.
Looking away from the map when he hears footsteps enter into the room, Bastien's brown eyes lay upon Lyanna with that cool gaze that he always seemed to carry back when Aleister was in charge. The man has settled through his mourning it seems, and while his neutrality has always been slightly off putting, the way he speaks might seem welcoming enough. "Yes. I hoped to pick at your mind about some things which have been on my table as of late." Rising out of his chair, the large man turns around and rests against the desk before gesturing towards the pitcher of wine in the corner. "Feel free to drink, if you wish."
There is a moment of pause as the Ashwood Heir simply watches Lyanna, those impassionate eyes staring almost through her before he finally breaks his silence to speak, "It has come to my attention that some under my roof are…unimpressed with the decisions I have made of late in those political matters which might effect them."
Lyanna nods to his first remark, the hint of a smile playing around the corners of her mouth. "I am happy that you feel inclined to speak with me, my lord." A circumstance that has rarely enough occured in the past - and this goes for both the former Lord of Highfield and the Young Lord Ashwood. The offered wine is respectfully declined though. "Indeed I am not in need of refreshment at the moment, thank you."
Returning his impassionate gaze, the Frey lady endures the silence and the staring with unmoving patience, until the following remark has her raise a brow. "Some?" she inquires. "Political decisions? Pray be a bit more specific, Lord Bastien."
"The only political move I've actually made, Lady Lyanna. The attempt of acquiring Lady Ceinlys as our Steward and my potential wife." Taking a sip from his goblet, he sets it down upon the table and pushes it away, his gaze never leaving the ambassador's face. "The anger over the price set by the Haighs was understood and shared with myself. They gained everything in the deal, essentially. Yet.." His brow furrows slightly as he runs his fingers through his hair. "People seem set against Lady Ceinlys herself." He watches for her own reaction, pondering whether she might be for those who support or oppose the previous Steward of Highfield.
Preferring to remain standing, Lyanna shifts her weight from one leg to the other, folding her arms before her as she listens to Bastien's reply. Biting her lip thoughtfully as it begins to dawn upon her what this conversation will be about, she waits until he has finished before she gives her answer. "I am neither familiar with any details of your negotiations regarding your betrothal to Lady Ceinlys, nor what price the Haighs may have set for agreeing to it. But aware of the plan I am of course, as it seemed obvious at the wedding feast at Broadmoor." She pauses, folding her hands now before her. "So… you mean to ask me about my opinion in this matter…? To inquire if I am among those opposed to this union?" Another pause follows, before she acknowledges with a sigh: "Indeed I am."
Bastien slowly nods in reply to Lyanna's words, his arms crossing across his stomach as he hears her reply. Holding his elbows in his hands, the large man tilts his head slightly as she lets out that sigh. "I can only ask why you are so opposed to the union. Of course there are political aims, I doubt you would be happy with my marriage being to anyone other than a Frey. Still, is there anything more to it? Why is Ceinlys so opposed?"
"I will tell you, of course." Lyanna replies. "But do not be mistaken. It is not that I want you under all circumstances to marry one of my House - in the end it is my Lord Grandfather's decision, and when I last spoke to him, there were no urgent plans of betrothals, I assure you." Taking a few steps over to the table with the wine now, she pours herself a cup now despite her earlier decline and takes a sip. "I will ask you about that prize of the Haighs, after I have explained my feelings and thoughts on the matter. I know Lady Ceinlys has her merits… She has served House Ashwood as Steward, and she did well, obviously. It is her reputation, that might seem doubtful, certain rumors, that speak of her involvement in her husband's death, among other things. Her character - I might not know her as well as you do, obviously. But with the keen eye of a woman that is unimpressed by another woman's charms and tricks, I only can say she appears to me ambitious and cunning. More concerned about her own goals than those of any other. Which brings me to her motives… and the prize. Pray tell me what it is before I continue."
"The prize the Haigh's have set their eyes upon consists of a quarter of our lands. As you might expect, I denied that request and offered them sometihng far more reasonable." There is a pause from the large man before he adds, "That price was set by Lord Leslyn Haigh. Lady Ceinlys was left out of the dealing between her father and I." Reaching over to take his own goblet in hand, the large man lifts it to his lips and does something strange. The corner of his mouth curls upward into what looks to be something /almost/ resembling a smile. "I have known Lady Ceinlys for a long enough time. I have seen her at her most vulnerable, and know the woman well enough to milk her venom without recieving her bite."
Pushing himself away from the table, Bastien slowly crosses the room to the door and pulls it shut. His men do not respond, allowing the two their privacy as Bastien turns towards Lyanna. "Her reputation is simply that, a reputation. A weapon to be wielded, to intimidate and grant her power over those who would acquiesce to their fear. To fear her based upon her reputation is to fear me based upon my sword. If we are opposed, your fear is well founded, but otherwise it is a pointless thing to harbor."
Another pause is taken as the large man's small half-smile turns into a smirk. "Ceinlys wants one thing. She wants Highfield to be her home, and she wants to make this place into something powerful. Her ambition is great, and her cunning is awe-inspiring, but I would lie to you if I told you that I feared her turning it upon us."
Putting her cup down onto the table, Lyanna listens intently to Bastien's reply regarding the prize, her doubts showing perhaps in her eyes as he speaks of his invulnerability to her venom. Her gaze follows him as he walks over to the door and closes it, looking alarmed for a short moment, but then relaxing her posture as soon as he turns to face her again. "Her reputation - a weapon?" the Frey lady chuckles dryly. "It is no sword, but one that hangs above your head, my Lord."
Lyanna pauses once again to take a sip from the cup. "Lord Bastien, I do not mean any disrespect. You are not the ambitious type like your late brother. You have repeatedly said that you are not used to the responsibility that comes with your current position. With a strong character like that of Lady Ceinlys by your side, you'll enjoy her support and guidance. But there's the danger of your becoming the puppet and her pulling the strings. And if her loyalty should stay with her family, you would not only be her puppet but a puppet of the Haighs."
That neutral tone hardens as Bastien responds to Lyanna, his eyes narrowing slightly as something completely unknown rises out of the man. "Do you not think I have turned over the possibility in my head a hundred times, Lady Lyanna? The Haigh's want nothing more than to drain us dry and cast us aside. I may lack political ambition, but that does not mean I lack political knowledge. Before I was an Ashwood, I was a Charlton. Do not forget that." Taking a few steps towards the ambassador, Bastien's voice lowers slightly. "Tell me, Lyanna.." Her monicker is dropped, "Have you ever known someone? I mean, truly known someone. I am not speaking of love or romance or some other foolish ideal which people like to blind themselves with to pass the time. I mean an actual personal and intimate knowledge of the character of another human being."
The large Lord's arms uncross from across his chest as he leans in close to speak to her, "I know Ceinlys. Good and bad, I know her. Even if she is poisonous, I would not trade a viper who I am familiar with for an adder that I barely know." A slight pause as his eyes lock onto her own. "I do not love her. I am affectionate towards her, yes, but that is an act of friendship between two individuals who have shared and helped one another through pains when they had nobody else to turn to."
"I am glad to hear that." Lyanna replies as Bastien speaks about his political knowledge, taking the cup again from the table to take another sip. Her deep blue eyes are on him as he approaches her, showing a hint of tension perhaps, as he speaks to her not as an ambassador but as a human being. Her gaze drops as she has no reply for him - but that fact perhaps being reply enough. Looking up to him as he leans in to her, she replies with a surprising firmness to her voice: "So you choose a familiar threat over… a perhaps delightful union with a pleasant person? It sounds… tragic. Yet, I must admit, I understand your way of thinking, now that you've been so kind as to explain it to me."
Turning away from him the Frey lady says: "It doesn't help me however to change my assessment of Lady Ceinlys. I fear, it won't change until a number of unsolved mysteries and coincidences are explained. Which make her one of the few that profit from Lord Aleister's death."
"I would not choose a familiar threat, no. I would choose a friend over a gamble." Moving away from Lyanna, Bastien fills his goblet and lifts the red liquid through the air and towards his mouth. "I don't think you truly understand my way of thinking, Lady Lyanna." That monicker is back, "I called Lady Ceinlys here. I offered her the position as steward. I went over her head to speak to her father of the proposal. As much as you might damn her because of your speculations, I would see her redeemed through the acts that I have witnessed first hand. She had the chance to move in and try to manipulate me during a time in which I was at my most vulnerable. She could have placed any suggestion into my ear, and in that state, I likely would have accepted whatever proposal she had placed at my feet. Instead, she made no suggestions. She offered no source of relief. She did not seduce me into her bed, and she did not try to steal my heart and mind away. Instead, she simply gave me a word of confidence, helped put our affairs into order, and left." Taking a rather long sip from the wine, he turns back towards her and repeats, "She left, when she could have stayed and whispered any bloody thing she wished through our halls. She showed a respect which I have been hard pressed to find in any other noble here. If there is any other person to have mourned the death of my brother as I did, it would be her." The goblet is lowered back onto the table and he simply stares at the ambassador.
Lyanna turns as Bastien accuses her of not understanding his way of thinking despite her own words assuring him of this just a few moments before. Looking a bit surprised, but letting him finish with his speech she gives her reply: "It's true, these arguments deny her to be the cunning and manipulative kind I assume her to be. My lord." Pouring herself another cup, Lyanna continues, her eyes locking on his to observe his reaction. "But… what about you, Lord Bastien? Are you willing to become more than you've been before? Act with the responsibility your position demands? Make decisions, have own opinions that might differ from those of your future wife, and act according to your own convictions? Grow perhaps to become a worthy Lord of Highfield? Lady Ceinlys has a strong personality that needs a strong counterpart. If you would appear weak, it will not be of benefit to Highfield, rather its downfall."
Running his finger along the rim of his cup, Bastien's head tilts to the side as he remains quiet through the woman's words. Those brown eyes remain locked onto her, never once leaving her as she speaks. "Aleister never would have called me to Highfield without a standing heir if he thought I would be unable to rule this place in his absence. The man was meticulous, and if you want somebody who's reputation truly was well earned, you need look no farther than my brother. He trusted me well enough to know I would never threaten or aspire to depose him. Had he thought me incapable to rule, or ever viewed Robben as a better heir, he likely would have simply had me killed or sent away." A brutally honest truth to put forward. "I do not say this because I don't have the confidence to make my own claim to a strong will, but I believe you knew Aleister better than you knew me. You knew the way he was, after his accident." The Young Lord is wordless as he moves across the room towards the door, taking the knob in hand and starting to pull it open. "If I thought myself unable to withstand the woman's will, I would have simply chosen to persue Lady Anais or a weak willed but highborn dove."
Lyanna has listened attentively to the Young Lord as he speaks of his late brother. The remark about him having Bastien killed if he'd have proven to be too weak, makes her gasp in shock, her gaze darting to him with an incredulous stare. "Let us hope then, that he was right." she remarks, pausing then for a moment to rearrange her thoughts, listening in silence to his assessment of his own strength of will. When he has finished, the Frey lady answers: "I thank you for speaking so candidly, Lord Bastien. Likewise I hope you forgive me for voicing my own opinion this openly. Yet let me ask you one other thing: What exactly makes you want to discuss these matters with me on this very day, long after your own decision has been made, and the betrothal negotiations almost settled…?" Leaning against the table the Frey holds the cup of wine with both her hands, one of her fingers tapping against it in a strange rhythm, her gaze again on the Ashwood heir, as she awaits his reply.
"You needn't act shocked. I loved him with all of my heart and would have died for him had he asked it or needed it of me. Yet, he was changed after the accident. The lives of others lost their precious quality and became more appealing for use as tools. I can only cherish the known truth that it was not his natural disposition." The brutally neutral tone has taken its place once more in the man's throat as he listens to the rest of her words and simply shrugs his shoulders when she asks him that question. "I wanted an opinion from the outside. You are close to the family, but you are a Frey and not an Ashwood." Pulling the door open, the large man says nothing to the guards outside who glance inward briefly. "I pray we have both learned something from this conversation."
"I am sure we have." Lyanna says, putting the cup down onto the table. It is not empty, but that doesn't seem to bother her much. "I am sure you will tell me, if there are any new developments regarding the investigations of the deaths?" A pause. "You were of course aware, that your brother intended to work out an betrothal contract between Lady Miranda and one of my many relatives? That was the reason for her accompanying him there. As my Lord Grandfather informed me." She moves forward, nodding with a reassurring smile to the slightly worried looking Frey guard waiting outside for her, before she turns to face Bastien once again. "These deaths need to be avenged. And you have my support in this at least. As for that other thing… I will not interfere… But if things should develop as I have laid out to you… I wouldn't count on my Grandfather to help you out." Biting her lip she curtseys, if only a hint, and heads out, her gaze lowered.
"I have set my hounds to work. The first chance I have to rip the throats out of those who stole him from me, you will know it." That impassioned stare follows her as she walks from the room, and after a moment the large man follows to the doorway. "I ask that you simply trust me to make my own decisions. I am no fool, nor am I a romantic. I am simply doing what I view is best for the future of my house." A bow of his head is given before the large man turns away from the door and moves to take his seat and settle back into the activity he was previously occupied with.