|Summary:||Anais, Saffron, and Sterling on the road to the Twins|
|The Road to the Twins|
|It's a road. You know, for travel.|
|17 May, 289|
It was early in the morning when the contingent of lords, ladies, and servants gathered in the courtyard of Four Eagles tower to prepare for the trip to the Twins. Not a large group, given how much work there is to be done at the Roost, but it would be foolish to pass up a chance to meet with other houses from deeper into the Riverlands. Other houses who might still have riches or foodstuff they could part with. Now, though, that contingent is well on their way down the road, already finished with a lunch stop, and drawing closer to the Twins…by the hour, at least. Riding songs have been worn out, as have races, and wagers, and most of the group has settled to quieter or conversation. Anais is toward the center of the group, well-warded by guards in the event of bandits, just finishing a discussion with her handmaid, Nina.
Sterling returned to Four Eagles from his latest foray out across the Riverlands just the night before. Throughout the day, he has slouched in the saddle of his graying gelding like a sack of wet grain. A very stable sack of wet grain for all of that. It's not that he's -avoided- Saffron, but he hasn't exactly been moving over directly to speak with her. He does, however, move over toward the wagon carrying all the gear for the joust and the melee, which just happens to be near the center of the group.
After such a lengthy right, the giddy palfrey belonging to Saffron Banefort has tired herself out enough to walk instead of prance alongside the older, shaggier mounts belonging to Punbah and Timmen. Saffron has been enjoying the spirit of the young mare, glad that someone is pleased to be out and free to do as she wishes — within some reason. She has been casting Sterling a suspicious look now and then, but it is Anais who earns her attention next as she spurs the mare up beside the Terrick lady. "You know, Lord Justin has been quite worried about this tournament," she says idly even while she glances over toward the ginger-haired knight.
"Really?" Anais draws her gelding up a little shorter, giving Saffron a chance to pull up alongside her. She flashes a swift smile toward her cousin, following her gaze toward Sterling before she looks back again. "I don't suppose he mentioned why? I thought he was still a squire. Unless he's concerned that we're lacking in impressive knights," she adds, grimacing. "Which is silly. I'm hoping Torsten will show up for the melee and demonstrate exactly how much a 'ser' means."
Sterling shakes his head slightly at Saffron's words, "It's just a tourney." His voice is low, lower than might be suggested by his frame. "Pageantry. Duels. Riding a horse down a straight line at someone else." There's a bit of disdain in his voice, "Smarter to avoid them anyhow." There's a pause, and then he bows his head, "If you'll excuse me sayin', Miladies."
"I would say that he's more concerned that he is just a squire," Saffron says with a slight smirk forming on her lips. "I think he's a touch sullen about that." Then her gaze shifts over toward Sterling at his morose, and she cannot hide the full smirk that touches her lips. "Some would say that, that is because you can't hold a lance straight, Ser Sterling," she says in a mild, airy tone. "I hadn't thought you would make it back for the departure anyway… Lady Banefort keeps you running around, I'm sure most of the Riverlanders bore you."
"Now, Sterling," Anais chides cheerfully, grin bright. "To diminish a tourney on the grounds that it isn't like a real war is to assume that the value of a tourney is in its similarity to a real war. But it isn't. The value of a tournament is in the pageantry and the opportunities it presents in terms of constructing alliances. After all, without a tournament, how often do you see the heads or representatives of so many families in one place?" Casting a sidelong glance toward Saffron, she winks. "Besides, I didn't very much enjoy war, but tournaments are always fun."
Sterling looks over to Saffron, "Tilting isn't for left-handed folk, Lady Saffron." He picks idly at the back of his right hand with his left, looking between the two women for a long moment, "Tournament's definitely a good place to meet people though. Get information." Nodding back over to Saffron, he adds, "Actually, they're pretty interesting. Very talkative." His gray-green eyes show the smirk that his lips don't, and he lets that silence his tongue.
Saffron ruffles up the soft mane of the chestnut mare, who bobs her head happily under the attention. She glances over toward Anais at her words, blossoming with a small smile before she shakes her head a bit. "Sterling is the most talkative knight the Banefort has ever seen." Which is a bit false as Sterling has proven to also be painfully quiet while others talk around him. Saffron does look over toward Sterling with a tilt of her head. "When will you be going next to the Banefort, Ser Sterling? I had thought of sending my sisters something from the tournament."
"Information and hopefully trade," Anais sighs in response to Sterling, her smile fading. "The Groves and the Haighs both have tried to get us to /give them land/ in exchange for supplies. Land. I have no idea what the Terricks have been doing for the last twenty years, but can you imagine anyone trying to trade with the Banefort for /land/?" She seems appalled by the very idea, nose wrinkling.
Sterling shakes his head slightly at Saffron, either at the witticism or in response to her question. He settles that by speaking up, "Probably not for a while, Lady Saffron. Might need the use of Timmen or Punbah after the tourney though." Anais' words, however, cause him to grunt and shift in his saddle, "Long-term land for food? Fuck." He pauses, then adds, "Sorry, Lady Anais." Reaching up to scratch at one cheek, he puts in, "They must think Lord Terrick is stupid. Or just really, really desperate." He frowns a bit, "He isn't, is he?"
"You know the deal, Sterling… you take one of my guards, you take their place," Saffron says at ease, though she has developed other means of avoiding too much attention from Mistress Morla; she has noticed this has been a lot harder lately as the old dragon has been looming constantly around the young Banefort. As the topic veers to the politics around the Roost, Saffron frowns a bit. "Perhaps if they were willing to provide support as long as they used the land, but I agree… long-term land for food?" And she smirks, though she does not add the explicit.
"No, no. I can't say it, but someone should." Anais doesn't seem the least bit bothered by Sterling's choice of language, her words dry. "I can't speak to the stupid part, but I don't think we're quite that desperate. Yet. I've suggested to both of them that we might be willing to lease the proceeds from the land, or even the land itself, for a fixed term. It would be trading the problem for later, of course. But you'd think someone would see opportunity in the holding a stretch of land for ten years. At the end of it, you might find the smallfolk more interested in staying with you than their former lords. But no. Everyone just wants things handed to them for practically nothing." She pauses, then only after a brief span of silence does she address the possibility of desperation. "As it stands, we won't be able to feed everyone before the next harvest. The food just isn't there. But we won't lose a significant portion of the population, either." Her father's daughter, Anais doesn't shy from the truth. Even the ugly ones.
Sterling nods his head at Saffron's words, "I know. But you won't have to send anything to Lady Magnola, she should be there." He listens to Anais' words, nodding his head again, although he snorts softly at the end. "If you can't feed them, you'll lose them, Lady Anais. And it'll get worse if winter comes any time soon." Gloomy Gus, this one. "So you need money to buy food from the Groves or the Naylands. You asked Lord and Lady Banefort for a loan?"
Saffron frowns, though whatever comment she is about to give to Anais is lost for the moment at the notification of her oldest sister being present. She releases a small groan, actually slumping a bit in her saddle. "The Lannisters are coming to the Twins," she mutters in regard of her sister — Magnola Lannister of Lannisport. The Lost Banefort. The Bitch. Not that Saffron would ever speak that particular byname. She glances over to Anais in her own forlorn, the question posed by Sterling obviously piquing her interest.
"Sterling, the last plan proposed for this problem was to sell the ship," Anais answers the knight quietly. "How am I supposed to ask Father for a loan when the Terricks are willing to sell my dowry? Besides, the Banefort was under siege as well. I'm sure they have their own expenses. And the Lannisters will be raising taxes to rebuild the Golden Fleet." There's a brief wrinkle of her nose at the mention of Magnola, a sympathetic look cast toward Saffron. "So…no, I haven't asked them for a loan. Though maybe I can talk to Magnola," she adds with forced cheer.
Sterling drywashes his hands at Saffron's groan, "Don't know about that. Just know your sister is." He nods to Anais as well, "True. Where else are you going to get the money? The Mallisters are rebuilding. The Groves don't like either of the houses. The Naylands like you less. The Haighs want land. So that leaves the Charltons, the Erenfords, or someone further away."
"The Baneforts have not had much luck with creating alliances… between beautiful and frivolous Lady Magnola Lannister and the dead and buried Lord Etin Graves…" Her tone is terribly harsh and unforgiving — something about Sterling always draws out the sharpest edges of her soul it would seem. Maybe its because she can be honest around the common knight. "Perhaps we could ask the Flints," Saffron provides after a moment of steady breathing.
"The Flints would likely be more generous than anyone else," Anais nods to Saffron. "And if Magnola's going to be here…" She draws a deep breath, as if bracing herself. "Gods know, can you imagine anything that would make her feel more important than loaning money to her poor, unfortunate cousin? Who leapt before looking and found herself in deep over her head, wed to a man not nearly so impressive as her own lord husband, and still so very far away from the glory and sophistication of a grand city like Lannisport?" She turns on the puppy eyes, so full of sorrow and adoration. "Her poor cousin who might be forced to give up her /dowry/ else wise? She could teach me /such/ a valuable lesson about how a lady ought to behave."
Sterling shrugs at Saffron, "The Flints don't have much money, but they're better off than the Terricks." He doesn't seem to mind the sharp edges of the red-headed Banefort's tongue, although he does look over to Anais and add in, "But you've got a castle, Lady Anais." And that's what matters to these women, right? At least, the ones who have titles.
Saffron gives a small laugh toward Anais, shaking her head. "You will at least win some of her favor out of the sheer compliments you provide her, cousin." There is a small smile that finds its way genuinely onto her lips as she continues alongside Anais. At Sterling's words, she does nod earnestly. "He is right, Annie… you do have a castle…"
"And a good one, that withstood Maron Greyjoy himself," Anais agrees with a faint smirk. "But that's not really going to sell /Magnola/ on the poor cousin who needs her help and guidance. Outside of bemoaning how a castle means nothing without the means to supply it." She shifts in her saddle, fidgeting with her skirts. "I swear, I think my cheeks are getting sore from smiling at people."
Sterling nods his head sharply at Anais' words, "I just solve that by not smiling." Is he joking? Is he serious? Hard to tell with this one. "That's why I prefer listening to talking." He studies the back of his right hand, then his nails, "It is a solid castle, however. I only saw a couple of ways in or out." Not that he was studying. Really.
The Banefort gives Anais a comforting glance. "You are a strong woman, cousin… I have faith that you will find a way." The pale-eyed woman then glances over toward Sterling with the slightest lift of her coppery brows. "Did you count scaling to the roof, Ser Sterling?" She says dryly.
"There's a sally port. And the reavers tried the walls," Anais admits to Sterling's assessment. "But it held up well against the catapults." At Saffron's words, she reaches over to take the other woman's hand for just a moment, giving it a grateful squeeze. "Thank you," she says quietly. "Have I told you lately how glad I am to have you here?" A glance to Sterling, a wry smile. "Even you, for that matter."
Sterling nods to Saffron, "I did. I'm surprised you noticed." He nods then to Anais, "Sally ports and catapults are good, but one person's more dangerous to walls." He gestures over to Saffron, "And roofs." Ducking his head at Anais' words to Saffron, he blinks once at the words to him, and then adds, "Thank you, Lady Anais. My purpose is to serve." Well, not to serve either of the women present, but…
"I'm always here to surprise you, Ser Sterling," Saffron intones as she continues alongside her cousin. She nods her head a bit with both their words before she glances toward Sterling before back to Anais. "But only if it doesn't interfere with the commands of Lord and Lady Banefort," the redhead gently clarifies. After all, Sterling has made it clear that he is definitely not her knight.
"Mmm. What /did/ they send you all over the Riverlands for, Sterling?" Anais asks with an arch of her brow that she /clearly/ learned from her mother. "Not that it doesn't take a bit of weight off my shoulders to have someone else riding around making nice with everyone within a hundred leagues, but I can't help but wonder what they've sent you to do that they couldn't ask of me."
Sterling shakes his head slightly at Saffron's intonation, then bows his head at the words that follow. Anais' question draws his shoulders up into a shrug, "Same thing I've done in the Westerlands, Lady Anais. Run messages." Which is a grand excuse for getting into towers and keeps and studying them and their inhabitants. Especially when you're a messenger from a powerful house. "You've other duties, Lady Anais."
Saffron looks over toward Sterling at his honest — mostly — assertion of his duties to the Banefort house. She does not comment however, for once, on the purpose and presence of Ser Sterling Sharpe. She instead gives her cousin's hand a gentle squeeze before she spurs her excited palfrey forward a bit, who is happy to prance forward a bit more. "We all have other duties," she says in a soft voice, perhaps mostly to herself.
Anais hums once more, that same, unconvinced sound. "Well. If you see Papa before I do, please let him know that I'm trying to make him proud," she replies quietly. "And I'm going to make this work. I'm not going to give up, and I'm going to make this work."
Sterling nods at Saffron, "Quite." And now a smile does spread across his face, although it doesn't quite reach his eyes, "Plenty of rich Freys at the tourney, Lady Saffron." And then the smile falls away like it was never there, and he looks over to the castle-having Banefort, "Timmen and Punbah run the messages, Lady Anais. But I'll pass that along."