|Blood in the Water|
|Summary:||Riordan and Anais dine semi-privately in his chambers, and enjoy an honest discussion about the matters that touch their lives, especially the rift between their two families.|
|Related Logs:||Justice and Charity|
|A modest room but with a large high bed that is set with four posts in rich mahogany. A blue rectangular rug is angled in the center of the room. A chest for storing the visitor's goods is at the foot of the bed and a grey blue cover settles over the bed. A hearth to the right of the windows which rests between it and the bed is done over with a iron screen meant to be removed when in use. A pair of chairs rest near the window and about a small circular table set with a candle. On the same wall as the door rests a low chest of drawers, a basin for water and a few wooden mugs rest there for use.|
|Sat Apr 21, 289|
After a busy day of holding court, Riordan has retired to his chambers. The paperwork that has so recently taken up residence in these rooms have been put away, and a more suitable table for dining replaces the one by the window. Candles provide warm light throughout, and small loaves of fancy bread already sit before the two chairs set on opposite ends of the table. Riordan is currently awaiting his guest to arrive, dressed in a fresh surcoat of dark green embroidered with white and gold, his arms folded behind his back, as he gazes out the window to the town below.
Ever mindful of propriety, Anais still trails a guard and a handmaid when she arrives at the suite, though she wears a gown of lighter grey than what has been her wont. There are only so many dresses suitable for mourning, and being social requires on to change and change often, after all. "My lord," she greets as she enters, dipping into the polite suggestion of a curtsey before arching a brow at the room at large. "Such hospitality you've shown. Perhaps the Terricks should have gotten themselves a wife to play diplomat some years ago."
Anais is allowed entry into the room, though when her escort attempts to do the same, the guard at the door moves to prevent this. The movement draws Riordan's attention as much as Anais' words, but it is to the lady he speaks first, before addressing that issue. "Tordane Tower, and Stonebridge as a whole, as ever offered hospitality to the Terricks, and indeed all of noble blood and purpose who come to call. Should that change because the name of those ruling here has?" he queries, offering her a warm smile. "Lady Isolde is a friend of your family. As I rule here by her grace and by her side, it would be sheer audacity and boorishness on my part to do otherwise, even were it in my nature to do so." Now, and only now, does he address the matter of her escort, speaking to his guard first. "Oh, let them in, Jerard. You may remain as well if you feel you must." He then addresses Anais' guard and maid directly. "See that you remain on that side of the room. If you must ascertain my gentlemanly qualities for yourself, then do so. But I will have no dropping of the eaves on our conversation." Then back to Anais. "Please forgive me for addressing your servants directly, my lady. It is just I had hoped to keep this evening as private as possible. After so many a public spectacle of late, I thought it might be a pleasant change of pace."
"I understand, of course," Anais smiles faintly, nodding to her tail in agreement with Riordan's words. "But I'm afraid gossips don't much care for polite conversation. It would be much more interesting to come up with some wild tale of inappropriate behavior, after all." She steps forward, extending a hand in polite greeting to the lord. "And," she continues with a light laugh, smile dimpling, "I am not so well-behaved on my own as to be above reproach. I'm sure you understand such things, my lord."
Letting forth a mirthful chuckle, Riordan gives Anais the full force of his boyish smile, infectous and good-natured, as he takes the offer hand, bowing over it lightly before releasing it. "All too well. Though I am not overly familiar with any gossip regarding myself, for which I suppose I should be thankful, I have heard much and worse in regards to members of my own family. It would have my Lord Brother slaughtering women by the dozens, and my Lady Grandmother spitting fire when not drowning servants." Though the words are said in mirth, the Regent's eyes hold sadness as well. "I wish the world could see them through mine own eyes. To know the loves that each in my family holds for the rest, the sense of community that brings us together to support eachother, and those who rely on us." Whatever meloncholy he feels on the subject, he shakes it off, and gestures towards the table, before moving to pull out Anais' chair for her, himself. "Please, have a seat, Lady Anais. I am pleased that we can now talk without the theatrics of politics, at least for an evening."
"Ah, well. I'm just a heartless opportunist," Anais replies lightly to Riordan's catalogue of rumors about his own family, settling smoothly into the chair when the lord pulls it out. "Seeking out poor, vulnerable Jaremy and then jumping over to his poor, bereaved brother when no one was looking. Dreadfully unladylike of me." Her smile slips crooked as she waits for him to sit, and shakes her head. "Politics are everywhere, my lord. But it is my hope that friendship can likewise be everywhere."
Once Anais is seated, Riordan pours the wine himself into their drinking goblets, and only then will settle himself into his seat. "Perhaps. Contrary to the spectacle of earlier, as well as the one at the feast, I much prefer other pursuits, myself. More honest ones." He keeps his voice pitched relatively quiet, maintaining the premise of a private conversation between two individuals. "Jousting, riding. Hitting things, especially those that hit back, is hard work. But at the end of the day, at least you can look on their bruises and know they are bruises. In politics, I am finding, that is not always the case." He breaks the bread in front of him, pouring a dollop of honey on a piece, and taking a generous bite.
"No," Anais agrees with a soft sigh, lifting her glass and spinning it between her fingers, watching the wash of wine against the clear glass. "Politics is very sharp knives in the middle of a complex dance, and you don't even know you're bleeding until you've switched partners three times." Her smile quirks as she looks up from the glass. "But for those of us denied more physical pursuits, it's the only sort of game we get to play. I agree, though. The simpler tasks…They give you a sense of something accomplished. I can count the rabbits in the hutches, or see the town grow by timber and beam."
Closing his eyes briefly as he enjoys the simple, yet glorious taste of honied-bread, Riordan nods at Anais' words. Washing the food down with a small sip of wine, he says, "Well, for what it is worth, tonight I plan on none of that, and would invite you to speak plainly with me, for tonight at least." Looking across the table, the Nayland knight gives the nee Banefort Lady an encouraging smile, before inquiring, "So I must know, and I hope you tell me true, how many times in total did you want to hit me, between the feast and this afternoon combined?" His eyes dance in the candlelight, as he waits for the answer to his question.
"I don't hit people," Anais replies lightly, flashing an innocent smile that's all too sharp on its own. "Knives in dances, remember?" She sips at her wine, then sets the glass aside, folding her hands in her lap. "You surprise me, Lord Riordan. I'm not sure yet whether it's a pleasant surprise or an unpleasant one, but you seem to approach this entire process differently from the rest of your family."
The Lady's response produces a happy laugh from Riordan. "That isn't what I asked," he points out, with a salute of his goblet, before taking a long sip and then responding to her comment. "Are you exactly like the rest of your birth family, Lady Anais, or your new one, for that matter?" he then asks, though the question seems largely retoracle, as he speaks further. "If you mean that I am not as silent and dissaproving as my cousin, Ser Rygar, or as… well, whatever it is you would say to describe my brother, Lord Rutger, then I suppose I can agree. Most say my temperment is similiar to my Lord Father's, with a fair dose of my Lady Grandmother's sense of humor. But on the whole, I like to think I am my own man."
"I got along well with your father when he came with the forces that liberated the Roost," Anais dips her chin, plucking off a piece of bread and dipping it carefully into the honey. "He's not so different from my own father, if a bit more flamboyant. And I've not had the pleasure of meeting Lord Rutger, though he and Jacsen seemed to get along all right at Riverrun." She neatly twists the bread, letting the honey coil safely around it before taking a bit. "Lord Rygar did not seem inclined to…negotiate, however," she points out afterwards, smile quirking. "I think politics is not his preferred game either."
"Well, then if that is so, you should not be at all surprised at how you find me, Lady Anais. None of us are the boogie men that rumor in the Roost would have us to be, most especially my father," Riordan says, smiling in a most pleased manner at her words about Rickart. The bit about Rygar draws another laugh from him, and he adds, "Well, perhaps Rygar is, just a little. A boogie man, that is." He winks in the Lady's direction, though hides it from view of her escort, as he says, "Though only to those who run afoul of his vision of the law. One of the reasons I appointed the Lady Isolde and I appointed him as Sheriff, in fact. Perhaps not as adept at hidden words, but for straight truth, and swift justice, there is no better."
"Ah, but I'm sure we could speak for hours on the meaning of justice and the place of mercy in it," Anais smiles crookedly, unabashed by the wink. "All the same, the choice of Sheriff is yours. How fares the Lady Isolde?" she asks, reaching for her wine once more. "It's strange, sometimes. I've hardly met her, and yet I think I live very much in her shadow at the Roost. Everyone there expected to see her where I am now."
"Not my choice alone, but I take your point," Riordan says simply, though says no more on that subject as a knock sounds on the door, and a moment later a pair of servants enters, carrying trays bearing the main courses for tonight's meal: baked salmon, braised lamb, and a small helping of cheeses and a more hardy type of loaf then the sweet appetizer they had been enjoying. Not overly large helpings of each, as the meal is for two, but enough to send each to bed full and well-fed. "My Lady Goodsister is well, though looks forward to when she can rejoin the world, and present us with her and my late brother's true heir," he says, as the food is served, and a new pitcher of wine is served, one better suited to the meal now before them. As the servant's leave, Riordan gives the lady a bittersweet smile, saying, "I know the feeling all too well." Which, given the role he finds himself now in, is not a surprising sentiment.
"Please give her my regards when you see her?" Anais requests, though she falls silent as the food arrives, not quite able to hide her appreciation for the courses after months of thin soup and hard cheese. "So if we aren't to talk politics," she smiles faintly, settling in to enjoy her meal, "What shall we speak of, then? I'll warn you, I may have forgotten how to speak of things without consequence, if I ever truly knew."
"I will, of course," Riordan promises Anais with a nod as he takes a sip from the new wine, before helping himself to a bite of salmon. "If we were to speak of no politics at all, I suspect this would be a very quiet dinner meal indeed," Riordan says after sampling of the food a bit, with a bright chuckle. "No, my only stipulation is to speak honestly tonight, Lady Anais, without fear of consequence. If you must speak of your opinion of my House, let it be your real one. The same should apply to the matter of Stonebridge, or anything else, of great import or small," he says. "Though, if you happen to have an eye for horseflesh, riding, or the jousts, I will gladly speak of those things for hours on end," the Regent ammends to his earlier words, with a wide, lopsided grin, as he tries the lamb.
"I do, actually," Anais laughs at the last, picking delicately at the food. "If I am going to be completely honest, I must confess that the opportunity to see more jousts, dances, and minstrels was one of the reasons I was so keen to leave the Banefort for the Riverlands. The other being that suitors for some reason didn't seem to be in any hurry to visit us there, and I had no intentions of becoming an old maid, of course." She tilts her head to one side, arching a speculative brow toward Riordan. "What about you, my lord? Still unwed by choice, or by circumstance?"
"Well, it has been some time since the last joust here abouts… yours being the last, if I recall," Riordan says, giving Anais his broadest smile yet, at the reveal of shared interests. "I only regret that I could not make an appearance next time - though I hear my brother Rowan made quite the impression." He grins, shaking his head. "Every man on the path to knighthood should at least get one oppurtunity to play the mystery knight. I tried once, myself, but it alas was a fool's errand. Most on the tourney circuit at that point had already seen my style, and made me the second I rode out on a less-then-tame stallion." Still, the memory draws a laugh from him. As talk turns to the romantic, Riordan takes a long sip, considering the woman across the table from him. It may at first seem like he will decline answering, but seeming to remember his own rule, he speaks at last, prefaced with a small chuckle. "Both, I suppose, at least in part. Third sons are often afforded the chance to earn their name, and by the time I did… well, my father being who he is, and having so many sons, I had let myself think that I might have the option of making my own match. Perhaps even the rarest of matches, one of love." Riordan pauses briefly, before adding, "Indeed, it is entirely possible that I did have the option." His smile turns bittersweet once more, and he takes another draw from his glass. "The Seven had other plans for me, it seems. Now I know that when my match comes, it must be made solely for the betterment of my House."
"Rowan was indeed my champion," Anais agrees, raising her glass in a salute to the absent brother. "I'm very fond of him, actually. And I've hardly had a chance to congratulate him properly on his knighting." She takes a few bites as she listens to his latter words, less sympathetic than curious. "You're a brave man, Lord Riordan, to think to marry for love. Careful." Her smile twists as she looks up. "That helm you wear may be wearing off on you."
"Not brave, just blessed with a father who wishes for nothing so much as the happiness of his family. It is not as if I would go against his wishes, or embarress the family, and he knows this," Riordan explains, with a lopsided grin. He considers his words as he takes a bite of cheese, before saying, "I suppose the best way to explain is that, having no real prospects of my own for position or power, nor any real wish for such, it was an unspoken agreement that I would benefit from a little more freedom then most. And I was forunate enough to enjoy the illusion, if for a brief moment." Riordan offers a small shake of his head, waving off the thought. "I knew ever since knews arrived of Ryker's death, however, that everything would change. And I will admit to some regret. But I have never hesitated in my duty to my family before, nor plan to now. I won't be surprised if I am betrothed soon, and married with a child on the way, in a years time." The comment about the helmet draws a laugh, however. "Do you know, I wore the thing but once. It's been gathering dust since. Odd notion of ghosts or some nonsense, I suppose. Even had the rest of the gods-damned plate decorated with harpies and the like to ward them off - whatever superstition might take hold, I wasn't about to set aside the gift of plate my father honored me with." Riordan lets out a small snort. "Still, perhaps I was right. A reaver tore into the plate, right where the biggest harpy of them all was sitting. Cracked several of my ribs, and near ripped out my sternum." Riordan lets out a laugh at the memory, before remembering himself. "Forgive me, my lady. I forgot myself for a moment."
"I'd stop using it as well, after that sort of experience," Anais laughs softly, rueful. "Though I imagine there are some who would say it's as much as you deserved for taking it at all." Even that is softened by a crooked smile, as though amused by the follies of those who seek strife over peace. "I think you might be surprised, though. Assuming that Stonebridge remains in Lady Isolde's hands, you'll be a regent. Your children won't inherit the land. Not that you won't still be a worthy match, of course, but…" She trails off, lifting one shoulder. "You may still have freedom, so long as your siblings are still available for matches."
"Some may say that, though not many. Not even your goodbrother, Ser Jarod, faults me for wearing it," Riordan says, his words mild on the subject. "For those who say I took anything that was not mine is lying, Lady Anais. I did not know Jaremy Terrick well, and I am sorry for the way that his fate affected you. But I will not apologize for wearing a gift from my father, that had become lawful property of my family after we took him in for his crimes." He pauses, taking a sip of his wine, before saying, "I had hoped, however, that we had done away with rumor and supposition for the evening. The only two opinions that matter tonight, at this moment, are yours and mine." Waving away the subject, the Nayland knight returns to the other topic. "I am afraid in this, my lady, that while your logic is not flawed, the end result is. I know my father, better then most, even amongst my family. My father has always held me in high esteem, and just as that once might have given me the freedom you speak of, now it holds me ever tighter to my duty." He inclines his head to her, saying, "And as for the matter of Lady Isolde… since the theme of tonight is honesty, I would have your honest opinion. What is you thought on the matter? Would you find more favor in the thought of her continuing to maintain her rightful place, or the raising of the Bastard to that position?"
"Jaremy…" Anais trails off with a soft sigh. "Jaremy was a very sweet fool. And I don't begrudge anyone the consequences of his foolishness. Not when I've been the victim of his thoughtlessness as well." She takes a sip of her wine at his last question, watching him over the rim with eyes as fathomless as the sea. "I would have Stonebridge look to the Roost, my lord, as it has for generations," she admits. "As to who holds it while it looks to the Roost, I have no real preference. But I cannot be content to see this town as a boot held to the throat of my family."
Riordan simply inclines his head at the topic of Jaremy, focusing instead on the Stonebridge matter. "You see it as a boot, Lady Anais. I can see that. And if this were a year ago, and that 'boot' were lifted, your family would thrive," he says. "The sad fact is, that were it lifted, rather then a boot, you'd find Stonebridge to be a stone, and you would have tied yourselves so tightly that when it falls into the water, your family will be dragged down with it. And it surely will. The Tordanes barely managed to keep it together. Tordane's bastard has even less experience. And your family simply does not have the resources to support him, not after all your losses. It is Nayland blood and Nayland strength that has made Stonebridge the jewel it has become in the last year. Hardly any crime within it's borders, and increased revenue which has not been seen in this area for a generation, if not more. If my family is forced to leave, do you truly think you will even have a few months from which to benefit from the holding?" These words are said with true and utter conviction, while the last question is asked with genuine curiousity.
"Assuming your family doesn't decide to take matters into its own hands militarily, yes," Anais answers with equal conviction, taking another sip of her wine before shaking her head. "Although I still think this is all…a bit absurd. Why turn this into a fight? Why force the people of these two towns to fight each other, when they'd rather trade and mingle as they've been doing? I admit, I still don't entirely understand how Stonebridge came into Nayland hands to begin with." She picks at the bread, pensive. "Lord Tywin would never let things come to this sort of pass. But it seems to me that if Isolde were the heir, then whoever married her would, like her, still owe allegiance to Terrick's Roost."
Riordan actually laughs, shaking his head. "Militarily? The Terricks are more like to attack Nayland colors then the other way around, Lady Anais. If Tordane somehow did get ahold of this, we'd have less then a year to wait before before it would be back under our protection. All we would have to do is sit back, and wait. And honestly, if I did not care for the well being of these people and truly wanted to see the end of your family, I might be inclined to give it to Gedeon and your family just to see your strength wasted. We would control the lands from the Mire to the Roost and everything in between within two, three years at the most. And not a single blade lifted on our part to achieve it." Riordan shakes his head, finishing up the remainder of his meal and setting his knife aside. "Truly, Lady Anais, I have no wish for that. If Stonebridge remains as it is, your family will benefit, not suffer. But your Lord Goodfather hates my father so much, and has told his stories so well, that he can not see past it. I will admit, my own father does not love your Lord Terrick, but when I asked him leave to make my gifts to you, he agreed. Would Lord Jerold have, if situations were reversed?"
Riordan lets that question hang in the air a moment, before answering her question. "The reason is simple. Though Tordane was sworn to Terrick, Nayland is sworn to Nayland. When my brother and Isolde married, they became their own new house, a cadet of that of Hag's Mire. It is not the first time such has happened, nor likely the last. In the Riverlands, or any of the other Seven Kingdoms. It is not as if we shifted the borders or declared ourselves a seperate entity. We are still sworn to the Lord Paramount, through our liege, and the King beyond him." Riordan gestures, driving all the previous points away, as he says, "And even if none of that were the case, the most simple and vital laws of the Kingdom state that land is held in trust for the crown by the lords under him. Whosoever holds the land and can work it, and bring revenue from it, shall keep it. Tordane was not doing this, his bastard will not be able to do this, and your family simply can not afford to do this. Meanwhile, Nayland already is, and well. This is the most basic law of nobility, from which all others are derived. Even if all else were not true, nothing overrides this law." It helps when one pays attention to a certain advisor of a Cousin.
"Mmmm." Anais does not look particularly impressed by that argument. "In that case, my lord, I'm not entirely certain why we bother with hereditary lines within the nobility. After all, whosoever holds the land has the right to it." She taps a finger on the edge of the table, watching him still. After a moment, she shifts in her seat, setting her glass aside. "Tell me, Lord Riordan. Do you know the nature of this feud between the families? Where it started? What drives it?"
"Well, in most cases, hereditary lines ensure the hold over a land, and so enforce the law. But when a noble house fails in its duty, it is not only the right but the duty of a house that can to uphold the law, to do so. Thankfully, though, House Nayland has more then one law to support our right to Stonebridge. Where as Tordane's bastard has only one, a thin one at that, and in his case his claim to such is not only suspect, but irresponsable." Riordan continues to meet Anais' gaze frankly, and openly, as he has done this whole time, while raising his glass to his lips as he considers his guest's question. When he speaks, it is with the same continued frankness that he has given her the entire meal. "I am not sure even my Lady Grandmother knows the answer to that. Though, did you know, my father, in his youth, had hopes to end it?" He shakes his head. "He does not talk about the specifics overmuch, but what is certain is that whatever Lord Terrick did to rebuff him, it refueled the fires of eneminity between our two Houses."
"Forgive me, but I fail to see where Lord Jerold or Lord Tordane failed in managing Stonebridge," Anais replies in a low drawl. "From what I've heard, it was doing just fine before Lady Valda decided Isolde had waited long enough." She raises a hand then, flicking her fingers in a dismissive motion. "I'm not interested in arguing. You asked how I would like things to be resolved, and I answered. Ideally, I would like to see Stonebridge back in Terrick hands. Not because I have any feud against your family, or have been conditioned into believing you're all evil. Good or evil is moot, save in terms of the consequences of things. But because it is in my interest for my own children to inherit a holding that is stable, peaceful, and rich. Stonebridge would help with that. I am assured, however, that in a year's time, or two at most, the Roost will be fully recovered from this little setback. These lands…These lands aren't rich in the way of the Westerlands, but no one here need fear starvation for long."
"The short answer, to avoid arguement then," Riordan says, a dip of his head in acknowledgement of Anais words, "Is that Lord Tordane allowed lawlessness to reign and revenue to drop during his tenure, and Lord Jerold allowed it. My family hasn't increased revenue through trade, but simply by enforcing the law." He considers the Lady Terrick for a moment, and gives her a smile. "For what it is worth, my lady, I understand your position. I truly and honestly do. It is mine own. I want my family to grow and prosper. I want to see all I love and care for protected. Stonebridge can ensure that." His shoulders give a small shrug. "I asked my question, and sought to know your mind, first out of curiousity, but second so that you would understand a fundamental truth that those of us born into these families take for granted. That truth is this: No matter the fact that we are all similiar, and work towards the same goals, for so long as there are Terricks and Naylands on the cape, we will always be at cross purposes. It is not because our families are different, but because they are so alike. We are all of us loyal, steadfast, and strong when it comes to family. Some of us more then others, but when push comes to shove, each and every one of us will give our last to protect those we love. To do less means to lose it all." He takes a breath, and adds, softly, "But that does not mean I wish suffering on the undeserved. That, among other reasons, is why I wished you to have my gift today. For whatever other reasons it serves, and we both know there are plenty, that is the most important. Because I do not wish others to die needlessly for our two families' folly."
"And I will respect that, and be grateful for it." Anais dips her chin to the lord, even if reluctantly. Quietly, she picks at her plate for a few moments before she speaks again. "I hold no grudge against your family, Lord Riordan. I respect you and yours. In many ways…I think you are more like my own family than like the Terricks. But as foolish as they may sometimes be, I think there is also a place, perhaps even a need, in this world for that sort of foolishness. And if for no other reason than that I've bound my future to them, I will not see it pass from this place." Granted, the sentiment might be more impressive if it came from anyone other than a pretty slip of a girl, but Anais is enough her father's daughter and has faced enough in the last few months for the words to carry /some/ weight, at least. "I would prefer that your family and mine might be allies here. But I fear the elders of the family…might be too entrenched."
"It is a happy thought, but in truth little more then a daydream. The river has become too red with blood," Riordan says, quietly, musingly, as his belly warms with wine, good food, and pleasant company. "The truth is, even if our words here tonight, and my actions earlier, were to soothe things over for a time - and we both know they are not likely to - something will happen to stir the water more, and see the blood rise up to the top once more. If not Stonebridge, then something else. For all we know, as we sit here now, something else already has, and we merely wait for word of it." He shakes his head, and lifts his glass in toast to Anise. "But even should that be the case, know that I shall always hold dear this night, my lady. And curse the bitter twist of fate that saw you on Jacsen Terrick's arm, and not… a Nayland's."
"All a matter of timing, I suppose," Anais laughs softly, shaking her head. "I'm afraid I arrived just as the Nayland with a castle was claiming another castle by marrying here. And I'm afraid ladies don't quite have the luxury of waiting for a marriage to come to them," she adds, claiming her glass once more for a small sip of wine. "You can still make a fine marriage at your age, but I'm afraid I'd have had trouble if I waited much longer." Because eighteen is totally an old maid. Totally. "Still," she muses. "I wouldn't give up hope. It seems to me that the children of Lord Jerold and Lord Rickart may be more flexible than their fathers ever were."