|Bearer of Bad News|
|Summary:||Anais gives Caytiv the news of Elinor's death.|
|Stables and Kennels — Four Eagles Tower|
|The Tower's Main Stables are nestled into the corner of the courtyard near the portcullis to facilitate quick, easy exits when required. The rear of the structure is backed right against the interior wall of the castle with the heavy wooden roofing gently sloped down towards the slate out front, the floor of the stables kept to dirt. Thick wooden beams are plunged into the ground and serve as a base for the walls between each stall. Hay serves as most of the flooring in the area with a large stack of it off to the side. Each stall has a thick layer on the ground to serve as bedding, with most of the space dedicated to horses though a few have pens of dogs and hounds. An enclosed structure at the end serves as dry storage for riding equipment and saddles.|
|January 16, 289|
Anais isn't long with Hardwicke's words, following after her brother in just a moment or two. When she enters the stables, though, whatever smile she wore fades away, features somber. "Cayt?" she calls in quietly, peeking into a stall or two.
Caytiv has moved out past the stables and into the paddock yard, where he's stripped down to just his trousers before a basin of almost fresh-drawn water— well, at least water that hasn't seen too much use. He kneels before it, his shirt flung off to the side as he washes his arms, calling out, "Ay, back here, Annie,"
Anais moves through the stables to the yard, then finds herself a seat on some hay bales just out of splashing range. Fine gown or no, she seems comfortable enough there, hands folded in her lap as she watches him. For a long moment she's silent, worrying at the inside of her cheek as she tries to choose her words. "I'm not sure…how to say this, Cayt," she finally admits. "You heard about Tall Oaks, I'd imagine?"
Caytiv might have played splash with his sister in the halcyon days before the invasion, but here and now he washes with the brevity and severity of a soldier at war, pushing a double handful of water across his face and up over his head before wiping the sooty water away from his eyes and looking to Annie. "Ay, Annie," he tells her, resting his forearms on his knees as he watches her.
Anais nods once, looking away and drawing a deep breath. With that done, she turns back to her brother, meeting his gaze holding it. "I'm sorry, Cayt. Elinor was there. She had hopes of making a match with Lord Sarojyn. Quentyn was supposed to be going to work out the terms. She chose to stay behind with Lord Sarojyn when the Ironborn came, and when the walls were breached, she chose to take her own life."
Caytiv narrows his eyes into the gaze, as though bracing at that first apology— and with good reason, it seems. But even having braced for the worst, his heart forgets how to beat for several dizzying seconds, and his lungs seem clenched in place before he finally seizes a fresh breath of air, holding onto the edges of the washtub and closing his eyes.
Anais pushes off of the hay bale, moving closer to rest her hand over his on the tub. "I'm sorry, Cayt," she says again, softer, as she draws his head to her shoulder, pressing a kiss into his hair. Her tears must already be shed, for she's calm and steady, and heedless of whatever soot and grime remain on her brother.
Caytiv's muscles tense and he may well be about to throw the washbasin and spill its contents over the yard, but he restrains himself with only a shiver running through his shoulders as his sister comes to stand over him, and he lets out the gasped breath along with the first few tears he'd stifled at his reunion with Annie, then several more, besides. He might have gotten tall, and grown some muscles, but he's not too much a man to cry in front of his sister.
Anais wraps both arms around his shoulders, rocking gently back and forth as she strokes a hand through his hair. "It's okay, Cayt," she murmurs, shushing gently. "You're okay." One or two tears trail down her cheeks, though they're more for her brother's pain than the loss of her sister. She's a far cry from the girl who cried in his arms only a few months ago before the execution of Amelia Millen.
"Should ha' been here for ye, Annie," Cayt swallows down more tears, "Shoul' nay ha' been away from ye," he lets out the fear and guilt and anxiety he's been storing up these last weeks, raining tears into the wash-water and curling below his sister's embrace.
"It's not your fault, Cayt," Anais shakes her head, still rocking softly. "You did everything you were supposed to do. And I'd have been even more terrified if you'd been here. At least with you in Stonebridge I could hope the squids hadn't made it that far." She tightens her arms around him sighing softly. "Everyone did what they were supposed to but me, Cayt. I'm the one who shoved my way to the front to be Lady Terrick. But we can't change the past. That's done. All we can do is try to be better in the future."
Caytiv's washwater mingles with the soot on his body to produce a faint grey dye to seep into Annie's clothing, and the lad takes a deep, uneven breath and lets it out in a shuddering cadence. "Ay, Ellie," he whispers to the air, shaking his head.
Luckily, Anais has enough sense to wear dark-colored clothing right now, so any damage should be salvageable. "I know," she sighs at his whisper. "I know. She died brave and proud, though, for what it's worth. Free and unbeaten by the Ironborn." She presses a kiss to his brow, then rests her cheek against his hair. "I'm angry that she didn't try to run. But I can't blame her. I told Jacsen I'd do the same if they took the keep."
Caytiv lifts his eyes to Annie's with a heart-broken look as she lets him in on her plans to thwart the Ironers. "Bless ye, Annie, what you must have been through… what Ellie must have been through t' go to such lengths. Annie, I am here, now, an' shall not leave ye. No Ironer shall touch ye, Annie, no matter if a thousand of them come to the gate— I shall lay them all low before you could ever think of such a dire act."
"Well, it /is/ a last-ditch plan," Anais notes, smile faint as she presses a hand to his cheek. "I'm glad you'll be here, Cayt." She lowers her hand to take his instead, grip firm. "But don't beat yourself up over not being here before, okay? You did what you were supposed to do. Jarod says you fought bravely. And here you are unharmed. You did everything right, Cayt."
"Ay, yet if ye have ye a dagger on hand, ye'd better put it in an Ironer than in yerself, ay," Cayt points out, looking into Annie's eyes. "If ye fear not death at yer own hands, Annie, then fear not death at theirs, but kill th' fackers whilst ye can, an' promise me so, Annie," he all but begs of her. Ser Jarod's report of his bravery in battle only serves to make the lad's brow furrow and his cheeks redden with uncertainty as to the praise.
Anais shakes her head to her brother, settling cross-legged on the ground next to him. "No matter how I fought, Cayt, they wouldn't kill me," she says calmly. "I just…I can't fight well enough that they'd have no choice but to kill me. If they take the castle, they'll take me alive. And you know very well what they'd do with me."
"You would find strength, Annie, under duress. Make them pay in blood for e'ery moment they kept you, so," Cayt whispers, trusting in his sister perhaps more than he rightly should. "E'en wi' na'y a weapon, you may pluck out their eyes wi' yer nails, ay, an' bite from their ears an' noses, do they come close to ye."
"And have the nails removed and my fingers broken for my trouble, and my teeth knocked out." How Anais keeps a calm voice when she considers such things, how she stayed calm with the reavers outside the gates, is a miracle. "No, Cayt. There are things that are worse than death. And I'll run, yes. But if I'm cornered, if I'm caught…" She shakes her head. "I've no desire to find out how Maron Greyjoy thinks I ought to use my tongue." Setting a hand to his shoulder, squeezing gently, she moves to rise. "Best we see to making this place safe then, hmm?" she suggests, smile faint.
A cold gorge rises in Cayt's chest even as his face and ears flush hot with rage. "Ay, Annie," he whispers, "An' fast, lest I regret not goin' on wi' th' army t' give 'em a little back a' the fright they gave t' ye," he mutters.
"Fright indeed," Anais sniffs, chin jerking upwards. "I told you I shot one of them. And then /he/ ran. With Banefort feathers sticking out of his chest." She moves to slip an arm around his waist on her way out, reassuring him as much as anything else. "I gave them plenty."