|Beet Soup and Rising Stars|
|Summary:||Stafford shares an overdue discussion with his parents regarding his recent failed betrothal, madness, and the future of House Groves.|
|Braeburn Manor - Dining Room|
|A cozy country estate dining room with fully set table and warm candle glow.|
|October 26, 289|
Early evening settles upon the orchards of Kingsgrove as several of the staff members bustle about the dining hall in preparation for the evening meal. Arriving a bit early as always, usually to nitpick over some manner of preparation of another, Ada's lips purse tightly, "I thought we were having pheasant with figs this evening. Who changed the menu, hmm? You -know- I am to be consulted on these things." She seethes slightly shooting one of the poor servants a chilling glare, "It was -her- again, was it not?" Heaving a belabored sigh, she moves to take her own seat to the right of the head of the table, before looking back to the servant, "For her insolence, she can take her evening meal in her private chambers. I may have to share a roof with that loony bird, but I shall -not- share a table."
The poor servant nods obediently, not even bothering to question the mistress as Ada smooths her skirts and begins to fiddle with her necklace before trying to once more present the serene mask in place while awaiting the arrival of her husband and son.
Just as Ada is preparing to claim her seat at the table, Campbell makes his appearance from one of the side doors, dressed almost entirely in the soft purples and hued green's that make up the crest of their House. There's a touch of a frown upon his lips, as if he had been listening for a moment before entering and as he begins to make his way towards the seat at the head of the table, he's shifting his attention to that of his wife, "You should not treat her soon, Ada." His seat is reached easily enough and when his hands unclasp to pull it out, he's lowering himself down into it, "I'm sure that she was only trying to help."
"Trying to help?" Ada scoffs with clear dismissal of the notion, "Nonsense. She changed the menu to beet soup and trout with lemon sauce, knowing full well my constitution is too delicate for beets. It was deliberate, Campbell, and it is not the first time. We have been kind and generous. We have done our duty to the Seven and given her a roof for her and that bastard child no thanks to the Naylands, and what has she ever given you in return, hmm?" The Lady of Kingsgrove waves off a servant as the poor attendant tries to place the napkin upon her lap, letting her attentions bore back onto her husband, "Even the dowry paid for Kitt's bride is not a fitting enough compensation. We will never find suitable brides for our sons at this rate. Our poor darling Stafford and that wicked bitch of a Terrick…"
Stafford had, as was his habit, been out riding and inspecting the lands. When he entered the hall, his hair was still wet from the quick washing over he'd given himself to keep the stench of horseflesh from infesting the dinner table. Though he held somewhat back here at home, his clothes still showed the signs of the fine cultured Reach fashion that he had picked up while squiring there. A bit more embroderies than were technically necessary. A bit finer cut of fabric. It wasn't enough to just ride like a knight, or fight like a knight, if you also didn't look fine like a knight.
His strides carried him to his Mother first, to offer a kiss to her cheek and a bow, before he nodded to his father. "Mother. Father. Just the three of us today?" He'd heard the end bit about his betrothal, and so his smile was thinner than it could have been.
As Ada continues on, Campbell is giving a slight shake of his head and it's followed by, "She is my sister, Ada. We can not very well throw her out to the wolves, as it were." But, he doesn't offer much more in the way of arguement in that regard, though the mention of the failed betrothal draws a slight grimace and another shake of his head, "A poor decision on the part of Kitt for arranging such a thing." But, he's saved anything further by the arrival of Stafford and when his eyes shift to that of his son, he's offering a slight nod and a quick, "Stafford," before following it with, "A quiet evening is in order, it would seem."
The arrival of her son does manage to lighten Ada's mood slightly, her cheek turned towards his kiss as she smiles warmly, "Ah, my darling Stafford, do sit. Your father and I were just speaking of you. Do forgive the menu but it would appear Sylvainne desired beets and trout." Even as she manages to speak such in a civil tone, her nose twitches with visible disdain at the thought. Campbell's words regarding his sister are met with a faint roll of her eyes before her son commands her full attention once again, "Surely we have not grown so old that we have become unfit company for you my darling? Besides, perhaps without Kitt present you might actually get a word in over the course of the meal. Your brother does so love to hear himself talk. It really is amazing and a wonder where he gets such a thing from. Surely not from your father and I."
Even as the words are out of her mouth, one of the servants starts to laugh… or perhaps it is more of a cough, yes a definite cough followed by a quick fleeing from the room.
Stafford didn't point out that he rather enjoyed trout, infact a far more than he did phaseant. Say not wisdom only came to old people. "Entirely forgiven," he said instead, with a casual wave of his hand to dismiss it out of the way. He sank down into his usual seat once it was appropriate, straight back and gracefully mannered.
"He does, and what kind of brother would I be if I stole away from him his one true pleasure in life?" Stafford asked drolly. "Though speaking of Kitt, calling it a 'poor decision' is being mild, Father. Both matches, honestly. You'd think the Naylands would have been willing to offer *more* rather than less, for us to take a genuine spinster off their hands." He frowned, then shook his head. "I hope she provides him with happiness in equal value to the gold slipped by."
There's a moment in which Campbell's attention shifts between Ada and Stafford, though when the latter comes to settle into his seat, there's another nod before he looks to his wife. That frown still rests upon his lips and when he looks back to Stafford, it's to offer, "Let us not forget that Kittridge swelled our coffers with the excess grain that we had in our stores." A hand lifts after the statement, though, to give an idle wave, "But what is done, is done. The decisions are made and they can not be changed at this point." Now, he regards his son a little more firmly, "We can only look to what the future has to hold."
"No one is disputing Kitt's mastery of the lands, Campbell dear. But he has no head for women in the slightest," Ada reaches for her goblet as one of the servants fills it with wine, "And what sort of future might that be, hmm? We have need of grandchildren, Campbell, and we certainly cannot rely upon Kitt and his spinster bride to do the deed proper." Her brown eyes turn to her son, "My poor darling boy, this whole betrothal… why it.., it is enough to make me ill," she reaches up to fan herself with her hand, taking her napkin to dab a bit at the corner of her mouth before lifting her goblet to take a healthy drink.
"You're right, Father, he negotiate that well," Stafford admitted grudgingly, and since he was going to be singing Kitt's praises he migth as well do it all at once and get it out of the way: "And the match with Lucienne would have a good one, if she hadn't been a Gods be damned harlot. It certainly put a new light to why she was so eager to see me take her to her bed before the marriage. So much for being bespotted by my charm." The last came out in a dry note of sardonic humor.
The humor was traded for seriousness, however, when he said: "Not Kitt's fault then. My brother negotiates well when he *wants* to." Which made it clear enough he thought Kitt had underbid to get Roslyn. "But the Terricks still haven't offered a single word in contrition or apology. They sent me a bride in ill faith. I wanted that land, father. I *want* that land." The last came out closer to a growl, the whole man gone tense with the delivery. Then he breathed out again. "And now Jacsen dead, Jerold stepped aside, and confusion abounds. Something is fishy in the Roost. I intend to find out what."
A grimace took his features at the mention of a lack of grandchildren. "I already agreed it was time for me to get a bride when Lucienne was mentioned, Mother. It still is. But this time I intend to take a more active role." Once being burned was enough.
Campbell first turns his attention towards his wife, to listen to her and then to Stafford, a slight nod coming as his son speaks and it's only when he's finished that the Lord of Kingsgrove shifts a touch in his seat, "The loss of that land was a hard thing for us to bare. We will have to work to see it returned to us, for it would do well to help with our harvests and livestock. We can ill-afford to have anymore land stripped from our House." There's a faint scrunching of his nose and then a quick shake of his head, "The Terrick's have been in a decline for the better part of a year. This should have been an opportunity for us to flourish .. but with each passing moment, we seem to earn the ire of House Mallister more and more." His eyes flit to that of Ada, regarding her a moment before he's looking back towards Stafford, "We will find you a bride, my son, and then you will seek to elevate us in the eyes of our leige. Perhaps, in time, we still stand as their favored and see our land returned to us."
Ada gasps at her son's words, "Stafford!" she admonishes with another wave of her hand over her face, clearly close to popping a blood vessel or two, "You did -not- take that… that… harlot to bed. She is not saying so, is she?" Her hand fumbles a bit very much in need of of her wine as she grabs the goblet again and takes yet another gulp. There is something about the calmness of her husband that just seems to set her into a tizzy, "Campbell! How can you be so… so calm? Our son, our poor baby, he does not deserve this… this… dishonor. I -demand- you do something. Why do we not have anyone at the Roost keeping an eye upon these things, hmm? We should be honored guests there. They -owe- us!"
Stafford's lips briefly twisted in a sneer when the Mallisters were mentioned, even if he quickly schooled his expression back to neutrality. A sore point. "The Mallisters giving us back our lands?" He shook his head. "I'll take any opportunity to please them if I can, because they are our Lords. But Father.. We aren't going to get anything that we don't take. Not from the Mallisters. Both them and their pet Terricks have little regard for us, the proof of which is how they've handled this thing with Lucienne."
He blinked at his mother's admonishment, realizing that he had let his tongue get the better of him. "Of course not, Mother," he harrumphed. "What I meant was, she wasn't shy about trying. I turned her down. But what I took for enthusiasm was obviously simply.. a ruse, to give the impression that all its early arrival, the child would have been 'mine'."
He scowled at his mother's demands, though. "I am a grown man, Mother. I can handle it myself. I'll attend the funeral, and see the reactions then."
That frown only deepens upon Campbell's lips as each of them speak and when they are finished, there's a curt shake of his head and it's followed by an almost sharp, "Caution." He leaves that word to bare for a moment before following it with, "We must take caution in what we do. We can not afford to simply react and respond as we once have." Now, his eyes play between the two, "They have made a mistake, yes, in their dealings with this daughter of theirs. But then, have we not made mistakes as well?" His hands come to clasp together on the table before him, "When they were starving, we opted to not aid them with a single shipment of grain. Instead, we sold to the highest bidder, to see our own coffers grow. And still, we offered no support to them." His hands unclasp, coming now to settle his palms against the flat of the table, "We must see old wounds healed and alliances restored. We can not afford to be apart from our leige or his vassals."
"I think it was a perfectly fine decision to deny them grain. Nothing is for free, Campbell, and we give far too much in charity as it is with that sister of yours and her bastard daughter," Ada replies almost as if her opinion is the most natural and widely accepted one in the world, eyes returning back to her son as she issues him the look one might set upon a poor kicked puppy dog, "My darling, you are never too grown for a Mother's love. Do not worry, we will find you a fine bride and one worthy of giving us many healthy grandbabies. Is that not right, Campbell?" He gaze slides to her husband in passing, not really waiting for confirmation before she turns to talk of Mallisters, "I think perhaps it is time we open our manor to guests from House Mallister. I am told that they have family in residence with the Terricks - it is only fair they have some in residence with us as well. Perhaps that one knight… what's his name… Ser Marvyn… or Ser Mackrel? Oh, I do so forget the name of all these knights galloping about. The one brother of that Lady Moira or Mura… or… well her."
"We were in negotiations with them," Stafford said dismissively. "It's not our fault the Terricks valued their land more than food in their bellies, and dithered so they could try to get cheaper grain elsewhere." With a sigh and a grunt, he lifted his hand up in warding. "Aye, I know in Seagard they see things differently. That's my point, however. Terricks can do no bad, but no inch will be given us. And so aye, we can let old wounds heal and alliances restored. We should, infact. But Father.. it wont give us our lands back. It'll merely keep the Mallisters off our backs."
"Ser Martyn. The one who attempted single battle, and had to be saved by his cousin."
With a look towards Ada, Campbell regards her a moment before giving a slight incline of his head and a murmured, "Of course, my dear." Then, he's looking back to Stafford, that slight frown returning to his lips once again, "Can you blame them, my son? We have turned against them at every pass and so, they wait for us to do so again." No response is necessary to that, for he's immediately following it with, "Show the Mallister's that we desire to make our peace with them. Show them that we wish only to serve their interests and aid in their cause." At the mention of inviting Mallister's into the house, there's a quick nod of his head, "Find this Knight, son. See him invited. It would do well for us to have a Mallister or two in our halls, as your mother has said."
"Marvyn, Martyn, whatever… he's a Mallister and thus should be our guest," her hand waves idly in the air as Ada polishes off the last of her goblet and waits for its refill. "We would do well with more guests all around. If we must house Sylvainne and her bastard under our roof, I see no reason why we should not seek to entertain others. At the very least they are bound to be a fright more pleasing in company than those we have." Pausing she looks back to her husband, "Campbell, dearest, we should approach Lord Patrek and request a ward from his house. He gave one to the Terricks, surely he owes us one as well. And now with Jerold gone, if rumors are true, well - hopefully that favor will be gone as well." Her sharp eyes turn back upon her eldest son as she beams with a motherly smile, "My darling, you should go to the Roost and impose upon their hospitality. I am told that they entertain Rebecca and the Seven only knows what continued damage she might be doing over there. We should -not- be represented by a bastard, by any means. Then, like your father said, find this Marvyn/Martyn and bring him here. Perhaps he has friends that will follow."
"Aye, I can blame them," Stafford answered bitterly. "We dishonored ourselves in the Blackfyre Rebellion, but half the Houses in the Seven Kingdoms did the same, Father. We learned from our mistake, we kept honor. If all title and nobility descends from the crown, then those who act against it have no claim to loyalty -or- obedience. Smaller loyalties must break before greater ones. They're self righteous hypocrites."
He deflated once that rant had run its course, shaking his head and bowing before his father's seniority. "Aye, Father. And don't worry, I'll befriend them.. and never speak a word of anything but chargrin for past.. 'mistakes'." Self-conciously he scratched at his shield arm, and the long scar there taken in the Rebellion.
"Nobody thinks Rebecca represents anyone, Mother. But aye, I'll see about imposing my hospitality on them after the funeral. The one they set aside seemed a decent enough man, when I met him at our border."
"But I do not care about other Houses, Stafford. I care about ours. I care about what we will become and about the return of our land. As such, we will see that we fall in line with the Mallisters, as we should have done in the first place. We are their vassal and they are leige. We will respect them as such and we will do as they command." Campbell's eyes then flit towards that of his wife, so that he can offer a nod of his head, "I will see a letter penned to Lord Patrek this eve, so that it can be delivered in the 'morrow." When he returns his attention to Stafford, it's with just the hint of a smile, "You are our future, my son. Represent us well with the Terrick's and the Mallister's and in time, we will be as we once were."
An audible harumph escapes Ada as she all but sneers at her son's remark about Rebecca, clearly not believing the words but not about to dwell upon them any further where her bastard niece is concerned. Mention of the other Terrick brings a roll of her eyes, "Yes, well, the harlot Lucienne seemed quite nice in passing as well. Those Terricks wear niceties like wolves wear sheep's wool." Almost as if sensing her husband's gaze upon her, she relents with a sigh, "Alright, your father is right. We should wait and see what this new leadership has in store. I do still think they owe us compensation, and they will need to pay something. But we cannot afford to anger the Mallisters any further than we already have. This is -our- time to rise and my darling son, you are the star that shall bring House Groves back into the light where it belongs."