|Summary:||Ceinlys visits Ilaria at Terrick's Roost, with an interesting proposal.|
|Rockcliff Inn — Terrick's Roost|
|The Rockcliff Inn is one of the better inns within the town and it shows with the well-lit interior and the relative cleanliness to the other locations in Terrick's Roost. The tables are polished with oils and the floor regularly swept. A set of booths towards a darker rear of the Inn's bottom floor, just beneath the staircase, are where whores generally socialize and eye prospects from when not waiting tables. Signs over the undersized bar area advertise prices for ales and wines as well as several different choices of food to be served at the small eating area by the bar or in the main open area in its comfortable seating. A door behind the bar leads to the kitchen and cellar while another near the staircase leads to a private room that would appear to be off-limits to the 'wait staff' except for food and drink service.|
|October 13th, 289 A.L.|
"The line of life is a ragged diagonal between duty and desire."
Today Ilaria's only companion appears to be Septa Shiella, who has opted for the more silent role among the two. The women are seated at an otherwise open table, sipping tea from mugs while the young Haigh prattles on about how she used to miss Stonebridge so much, but now she really prefers the company at the Roost. "It is only too bad that Lady Rebecca was so confined for those days, although it did give me an excuse to take up rooms at the inn once more," she offers to her Septa, and the older woman grins cheekily before replying, "I am sure it is more than just the Lady Rebecca who intrigues you." Ilaria blushes and looks away, falling silent and staring into her teacup.
It's late afternoon by the time the small party arrives from Highfield - the Lady Ceinlys, Lord Anders and Ser Bastien at the forefront, accompanied by a small retinue of guards and the woman's ever grumbling handmaid. There's just no getting rid of her, alas. An hour or so later, with their horses suitably stabled and tended, Anders departs for his business at the tower. The Steward herself, dusting off her riding skirts absently with a swipe of her gloved palm, strolls into the Rockcliff Inn as if she did so every day of her life, leaving the formidable silhouette of her masculine chaperone outside the door. Bastien will no doubt enjoy a new place in which to glower at passers-by.
Vivid blue eyes scan the quiet establishment, swiftly settling upon her dark-haired cousin where she has taken seat at a small table. Despite the tiresome journey here, and the likely ache in her slender muscles as a result, Ceinlys' lips curve in a warm smile. It has been too long since they last met. With Brigid trailing in her wake, she strides gracefully toward the seated pair, peeling off her gloves and greeting the youngster. "Cousin. You're looking well."
Ilaria looks up at the greeting, her expression blank but a faint smile in place. The voice is familiar enough, but—ah! At the sight of Ceinlys, she lets out a yip of excitement and pushes away from the table. Her skirts swish dramatically, thwacking Septa Shiella as the young lady circles the table and holds her arms out for her cousin. "Lady Ceinlys! I could say the same for you. It has been far too long. When did you arrive at the Roost? I had heard rumors, but, well, you are here now. Please, sit! Would you like some tea? Or they have good wines; Terrick land, after all."
Though it's rather a breach in decorum for the usually composed noblewoman, Ceinlys relents with a good-natured smile in the face of her cousin's enthusiasm, opening her arms and wrapping her in a light embrace. Still attired in her riding habit - which is undeniably elegant - she's perhaps aware that she has the distinct odour of 'horse' about her. Ugh. Still, can't be helped. "Hello, dearheart. And thank you.." As she draws back a touch, the ebon-maned woman's gaze flits to the table. "..a seat other than a sadlle would be almost as welcome as wine."
Looking back to Ilaria, and ignoring her own attendant who draws to a halt nearby and primly folds her hands, she gently chucks the girl under the chin with a knuckle. "We arrived a short while ago, but we wished to see the horses settled before going our separate ways." Pausing a moment, capturing her lower lip between her teeth, the Steward casts a thoughtful glance about the interior of the inn. "..is there somewhere less 'public' where we might catch up?" Understandable, really. She is the target of many a gossip, these days.
Pleased, Ilaria steps back from the embrace, hands still resting on Ceinlys's forearms, to admire her cousin from head to toe up close. "You must teach me the trick to riding astride all day and still looking as if you just stepped out of your chambers, dear cousin," she compliments before clasping her hands together against her chest.
Despite disliking being treated like a child, the chuck under the chin causes Ilaria's smile to widen. "Less public? Oh, my room will do. I have a tea table there. It's just up the stairs if you want your girl to bring our things up." She steps toward the staircase, half-turned in preparation to ascend. "Septa Shiella will see to it that we are not disturbed, of course."
The noblewoman offers a personable nod toward Ilaria's chaperone, seeming in a fine enough mood if she's being so sociable. Though her cousin's words elicit a soft laugh and a shake of her head, blue eyes drifting ruefully down over her attire. "I think I'd be flogged, if this were how i looked upon emerging from my chambers at Highfield. But thank you for the kindness." Tucking a stray lock of glossy hair back behind her ear, Ceinlys nods in approval of the suggestion, calmly following after her cousin and leaving Brigid to gather their cups and such. She manages to do so with only a very faint sigh. It's a hard life. "So, how are you enjoying your time here at the Roost?" enquires the blue-eyed lady, as they ascend the stairs, one hand grasping the fabric of her skirts to keep them a few inches above her booted feet. It wouldn't do to trip.
"Oh posh. A touch of a comb and you would look ready to go riding again," Ilaria replies quietly, flicking the fingers of her left hand to dismiss Ceinlys' modesty. Turning, she leads the way up the stairs with a light tread, slippered feet making nearly no noise as she flits from step to step. Her skirts more than make up for the lack, however, with the raucous rustling one comes to expect from women's garments. "I will admit when I was first sentenced to stay, I was so bored that I entertained the idea of joining the Sept," she admits, crossing the hallway and stopping outside of the door to her room. With her hand lingering on the latch, Ilaria glances to Ceinlys and flashes a grin. "Thankfully the men came home and changed my mind."
An amused arch of a single brow answers Ilaria's remark. "Indeed? I am glad the eye does not go wanting.. that is some comfort, at least." Pausing as her cousin does, Ceinlys glances back across a shoulder to ensure her attendant is keeping pace. Almost. Maybe a little slow, as she balances the cups. Once the door is open, the noblewoman glides into the well-appointed chamber with only a sparing look over the furnishings as she speaks. "Thank you for indulging me.. I've little desire for our conversation to be the subject of the morn's tawdry murmurings." One hand passes back over her hair, absently smoothing it as she pivots on a heel to better face Ilaria, coming to a stand by a chair at the table. She waits, though, for her hostess to take a seat first. "No doubt you've heard the latest of my apparent 'escapades' at Highfield. Added to the strain of Lord Keegan's decision to ally with the Tully's.. suffice to say I am rather glad for a chance to escape, if only for a night." Still smirking a little, she returns to a further note of her companion's jest. "And a face so fair as yours would be utterly wasted in a motherhouse, sweetling.. I am glad you endured."
Listening quietly, Ilaria clears away her books and papers from the table and shoves them haphazardly onto the bookshelf in the corner. From inside of her sleeve, she fishes out her own miniature prayerbook and places it atop the precarious stack of miscellaneous writing supplies. "As like you, I have an equal desire to remain realtively inconspicious; the women around here can be quite vicious - literally. One attacked a visiting knight - did you hear?" Clucking her tongue chidingly, the girl slides onto one wooden chair while gesturing for Ceinlys to take the other.
Ilaria's expression grows somewhat sober as her cousin mentions escapades, and she glances away while shaking her head in a rather disapproving manner. "I have heard, unfortunately, and have done what I can to squash the chatter. People have ceased speaking of such things in front of me, at least. I put no stock into anyof it." Her frown disappears, however, and she shakes her head agin while folding her hands together in her lap. "I am glad for you that an escape was arranged. What brings you to the Roost of all places, though?"
"I did." News, good or bad, travels fast in the Riverlands; almost a currency amongst smallfolk. At the gesture, Ceinlys eases down into the indicated seat, clasping her hands loosely in her lap as she leans gratefully back. "Oh, my legs ache.." she admits, with a slight grimace, but that's as far as her complaints go. She doesn't bother, either, to confess or deny, as far as the rumors go. Not immediately, anyway. Regarding her young cousin across the table, the noblewoman is silent for a moment, before offering a reply regarding her reason for being here. "You."
Her head cants a little to one side, as if she's carefully considering her words, readjusting her weight subtley in her chair. "Where to begin.. well, with the defection of Hollyholt to the Tully's, the way is cleared for another House to become the favored vassal of Lord Walder. I am sure you've come to that conclusion yourself." It's not really a question. She expects any kin of hers to be politically savvy. "And, of course, relations between our family and that of Aleister's are much improved, of late, given that they joined forces in the march upon Stonebridge." The young lady doesn't seem to notice her familiarity in referring to the Knight of Highfield. Or maybe she's just that comfortable in Ilaria's presence. There's no need for masks, here. But so far.. what does this have to do with the youngster?
Ilaria watches as her cousin's servant sets out their tea things, staring absently at the plain cups and saucers. When everything is settled, she offers Brigid a smile and lifts a finger in a sign of dismissal. Apparently the serving of the tea shall be her privilege this evening. Taking up the pot, she pours it carefully into Ceinlys' cup first and then her own before gesturing to the the other little amenities. "Cream, honey? The Roost has come into its own, as you know, and we can have these treats now," she murmurs in a lull in the conversation, but she stops and stares wide-eyed at her cousin's last word.
"Me?" Ilaria echoes, her expression carefully neutral while behind her eyes her mind is racing to uncover any tiny little tidbit or rumor that would clue her in to the purpose of this visit. Ceinlys' continued explanation does not do much more to shed light onit, either. Pressing her lips into a thin line, Ilaria nods once, slowly. "Except my uncle just cut his ties with Hollyholt, cousin. I am not sure what this has to do with me…"
Ceinlys idly glances toward the indicated treats, but merely shakes her head. "No, thank you.. just as it is." Leaning forward, propping her elbows on the tabletop, she levels her striking blue eyes now upon the youngster's features. "I regret, my visit is not simply for the want of familial company.. much as it warms my heart to see you looking so happy. You have wished, as long as I can remember, to be considered a woman and not a girl." A strange wistful note in her voice betrays that perhaps she herself once felt the same way. "Well, it would appear you are ready."
Pressing her lips for a moment in a firm line, Ceinlys reaches for her teacup, drawing it closer but for now settling for just inhaling the soothing aroma. "You, I'm sure, can see how fearsomely important and precarious the coming weeks shall be for the Haigh family. And now I must shift the feminine side of that burden to your shoulders. My father has the opportunity to build our House into something both great and powerful.. and it begins with you, sweetheart." Softening her demeanour, offering a half-smile, Ceinlys studies the woman opposite for her reaction thus far. "A proposal for a union has been put to us. A request for your hand in marriage. In my opinion, it would be a pleasing one; bringing with it both station and security. I would not be here otherwise."
Ilaria's smile is sweet as Ceinlys admits her regrets, and the girl shakes her head quickly before taking up her tea to sip carefully from the cup. The heated liquid is soothing, settling in her stomach like a warm balm, and she cradles the cup in the palm of her hand to spread the warmth through her chilled fingers. "I am more ready than some ladies five years my senior," she admits, although her tone is much more matter-of-fact; she does not appear to be bragging about her own maturity. "I do not know why father sent me here, though…"
The girl's words trail off as her cousin resumes, and she stares silently at Ceinlys while absorbing each and every word. Her breathing grows more rapid and shallow, and the knuckles of her right hand turn white as she grips her teacup tightly in her fingers. Slightly pouty lips part in anticipation, but despite half-knowing what the verdict shall be, the words still hit Ilaria as a sudden shock. "To whom?" The words are nearly warbled with the tremor in her voice, and she carefully sets her cup upon the table lest she spill it in her lap. "Has—has it been put to my father?"
Reaching across the table, extending a slender arm, Ceinlys gently rests her fingertips upon Ilaria's white knuckles, still smiling softly. "Gods, you look as though you've seen the face of the Stranger.. please don't sicken yourself. I am here to help you, and shall be as long as you have need of me, do you understand?" Drawing back again as the questions begin to come - no doubt the first of many - she resettles herself in that slight incline, drawing a deep breath of the tea's sweet scent. "It has already met with the approval of the family. All that remains is your consent." The Steward is watchful, well aware of how it feels to have such grave requirements asked of you, at such a young age. "..Young Lord Alric, heir to House Fenster. They have sworn vassalage to House Haigh, and a sizeable dowry, should you agree to the match. Bear in mind.. you would be, in one fell swoop, taking one of the most noteworthy vassals of Hollyholt for your own family." A pause. "That is something far greater than I have accomplished. I hope you understand the honor inherent in having been chosen by our Lord. He must have great faith, in your piety and potential."
Admittedly, Ilaria's hands do tremble a bit. She returns the smile faintly and shakes her head, reaching up to touch her throat as her breathing returns to normal. "No, no, I am not afraid cousin, I swear. Just startled, truly. I had expectedI had expected my sister to be officially betrothed first, but…" Stopping, she presses her fingers together against her mouth to still her words and resume listening intently. Her expression is anticipatory, eager, ready to be delivered the great newsand then she hears the name.
For a moment, Ilaria is quite still. Perhaps she misheared? But no. As Ceinlys continues speaking, praising the noble qualities of the Fenster line, warning bells are chiming in Ilaria's head. Her hands drop into her lap and her smile disappears. Narrowing her eyes, Ilaria listens and offers a single nod, worrying her lower lip between her teeth. "Noteworthy vassals of Hollyholt? You mean formerly of Hollyholt, don't you? I met Lord Alric Fenster. Did you know he came to the Roost after being dismissed from Hollyholt? Yes, he was most willing to share with the Young Lady Anais and myself about how it was all quite unfortunate but that he and his were actually dismissed. I met his disgusting cousin, the scarred one who follows him around like a puppy - but he is much more macabre."
By now, Ilaria is nearly hyperventilating with a mixture of anger and anguish, and she pushes her chair away from the table before rising out of her seat. "It appears my father is resigned to using me as a way to secure the vassalage of the poorest House in the Riverlands - something that my mind cannot even begin to comprehend the importance of. A House that was brought into existence by the very Charltons who have summarily dismissed them. Does he mean to insult me? No. I do not acept."
"Calm yourself." The tone now is firm, though not unkind, and Ceinlys is plainly taking on board everything her cousin says, some of which she has to struggle with - a smile threatening to surface. "And yes, I've met his cousin too. But you've not been offered his hand." Settling back in her chair, Ceinlys at last takes up her teacup, calmly blowing across the surface and taking a tiny sip, blue eyes upon Ilaria as she rises. "This is the way of things, Ilaria. All daughters of noble houses are expected to marry, for the benefit of their family, you know that perfectly well. You could do far worse.. and those who have no use, I can tell you in honesty, often find themselves in the motherhouse whether they choose it or not." Savoring another sip of tea, she then sets it lightly down, her voice never rising above that even, velvet cadence. "..unless you've another, incredibly powerful and well-established House in mind that would swear to House Haigh..?" Propping one elbow and resting her jaw in the cup of her palm, Ceinlys thoughtfully watches the young woman. "I know. We all dream of passion, of whirlwind romance. But the reality of it, for women like us, cannot be so frivolous."
"I am calm," Ilaria replies vehemently, demonstrating by her red face and stiff form that she is, indeed, anything but. Still, her cousin's steady voice does much to force the girl to inhale deeply and then exhale, and slowly she begins to relax. In fact, she sags a little and drops into her chair with a graceless thud. Leaning forward, she rests her elbows atop the table and her chin in her hands, echoing Ceinlys's posture. "No, my lady," comes her near-whispered reply, followed by the poignant sigh of a suffering teenager. "I haven't another match in mind…"
One pale hand is lowered, and Ilaria drags a fingertip along the rim of her teacup. "I am not so silly as to want passion or romance - I do not believe either exists for noblewomen. No, I do not know what I want." Her tone is nearly glum now, but her body language communicates complete resignation. "Father wishes me to be useful, and if this is what our family needs, then I will give it."
A slow nod of approval is Ceinlys' only initial response, cerulean eyes remaining upon the woman opposite. "I have never considered you silly, Ilaria. Far from it. And I would far rather you be trusted with this vital position than, I am afraid, Katrin. You know better how to conduct yourself, for the good of your House." There's a dark note of warning in the Steward's voice, though plainly not directed toward Ilaria herself, and that vivid gaze turns equally sombre for a fleeting moment. But back to the matter in hand. "..this is most certainly a benefit for the family, sweetling. But.. I think, given time, you will perhaps find yourself pleasantly surprised. I know it all seems horribly daunting, at this moment. Remember, I was wed to an Erenford when I was even younger than you are now. I won't promise you it will be easy.. only that I genuinely believe you will be happy. If you give him a chance." Still with her jaw resting on the heel of one hand, the noblewoman permits a slow smile as her cousin's agitation fades. "You will not be alone in this. I am under instruction to help you, in the coming months, with the preparations and such. anything you need. Even if only an attentive ear for rants over the tailoring."
Ilaria balks visibly at the mention of her sister, shaking her head and leaning back in her chair. With a sigh, she takes up her tea and sips at it, only to wince in disgust at finding the liquid cold. "No, my sister would not be the most appropriate choice when her head and heart are in different directions. A third party would probably kill her." Dry lips curve upward into a tremulous smile, and she looks up from beneath her lashes to meet Ceinlys' gaze. "Good, I need you. I haven't the foggiest what I am doing, and I know very little about planning a wedding. Kat - well, I had assumed that I would learn with her wedding first."
Ceinlys chuckles softly, an upward quirk of her brow belying agreement, even if she doesn't voice it, and a smile afforded to match Ilaria's own. "All I can tell you thus far is that the ceremony will be in three months time - after the proper betrothal period of two, of course." She glances to her tea but, considering her cousin's reaction, doesn't bother to take it up again. "First things first. I will send word of your acceptance, following which I expect there will be several finer details to be hashed out between the families. I will keep you updated as best I can as things progress.. and I'm not so far away. I doubt Aleister would mind you paying me a visit at Highfield now and then, or my travelling here to aid you with planning." Unbidden, her smile warms slowly, and her gaze turns vaguely coy as she looks across the table to the other through dark lashes. "Assuming I am not too busy with my own.."
The elder woman watches the play of emotions across Ilaria's features with a fond air. It should be exciting! A wedding, and a celebration and a husband to buy one lovely, sparkly things! She, of course, remains as unruffled as ever, beyond that faint smile. "Honestly, you are perhaps the only one of my cousins I would have no qualm about introducing to him. As I said, you conduct yourself beautifully. A credit to our House. And you know me.." That curve on her lips turns briefly wolfish, a swift grin revealing a glimpse of white teeth. "..I would not say so if I did not believe it. And we shall have more room shortly, once the Lady Cherise.." There's emphasis placed on the Cherise. Not Ashwood, or Highfield. "..departs, along with her household."
She pauses, as it occurs to her perhaps news doesn't travel quite that fast. "Have you heard? Their marriage is officially anulled. On account of her being a thundering loony, as far as I can gather." Yes, Ceinlys is chuckling again, sitting back in her seat and calmly folding her hands in her lap. "So much is going to change, for both of us. I, for one, look forward to it." Having wandered in musing, her gaze now flits back to her cousin. "For now, you have little to concern yourself over. Everything will be taken care of. I suggest you perhaps.. make use of the time to have some new gowns made, or.. well, anything that pleases you and gently ushers in change. You are going to be a Young Lady, after all. One day, Lady of your own House. Enjoy it."
Yes, lovely, sparkly things! Ilaria clamps down on the enthusiasm as much as possible, bringing herself down to normal human levels; once she has resumed the air of a woman experiencing only a moderate level of interest, she straightens her back and folds her hands together primly in her lap. No, there shall be no squealing. Of course, the talk of Lady Cherise is quite effective at making Ilaria more sober. "I had - then the rumors are true?" The girl's expression is far more pained than her cousin's, and she reaches up to cover her trembling lips with her fingertips for a moment. "Oh, the poor woman…"
Approximately two minutes are devoted to feeling concerned before the conversation turns once more to the finer things like gowns. Gowns! Oh goodie. "Yes, of course, I will have several made. Lady Anais has directed me to Lady Saffron, for she is, apparently, the last word on the finest tailors available. And - and I am wondering, is the Young Lord aware of this match yet? I would like to become further acquainted with him if I can, but…" Her voice trails off and she glances down to the tabletop, perhaps unsure of how to phrase her request.
"..you want to spend a little time with him." Ceinlys translates for her, in her soft-spoken way. All thoughts of the upheaval at her back in Highfield are dismissed, for the time being, as she nods her understanding. "Of course you do; you need to get to know him." Considering this for a long moment, lightly smoothing the fabric of her riding skirts with the fingertips of one hand, the ebon-tressed woman eventually answers, "He is no doubt aware by now.. and superbly happy, I should expect. Once things are set in motion, I could likely arrange a few reasons for your paths to cross, in suitable times and places. And.." Her gaze wanders back up, only a little mischief apparent in the glacial depths of her eyes. "..he has spent considerable time between here and Highfield. I could learn his interests, so you will have easy routes to direct conversation and.. show that you would be a considerate and compatible wife. If you like. Perhaps you'd prefer to learn from the young man himself." Suddenly, her hand rises, delicately lain across her lips to stifle a soft, but rather wide yawn. "For the moment, though.. I really ought find some rest for the evening." Her attention strays toward her own chaperone, who's perched on a stool by the door and has been since she served their tea. Head lolling, Brigid looks about to topple off at any moment, so precarious is her posture. The sight rouses a smirk across the Steward's lips, which she shares with Ilaria in a sidelong glance.
Ilaria exhales a breath she did not realize she was holding, and her smile is one of relief. "Yes, of course, if ever you learn about him, I would be most curious to know what he is like. I have only seen him once." She blushes, bites down on her lower lip, and looks down at her hands again. "I have much to think upon for the time being, and it will be hard to keep this news to myself. I hope my sister will be happy for me."
With a shake of her head, Ilaria disrupts her internal musings and looks up in time to see Ceinlys yawn. "Oh! Of course, how rude of me to keep you for so long, cousin, after such a ride. Please, I hope I can see you again before you return to Highfield. Perhaps I can visit soon, as well. I wish I could go with you right away, but I would like to stay and offer my support to Lady Anais. She is - she is still waiting on word about, well, you know." While she is speaking, her gaze drifts over to take in Brigid's sleepy roost; her response is a smirk nearly identical to her cousin's. "Go, my lady, and I will see you again before you leave."