|Summary:||Anathema tells Sabriel why her father sent her to Stonebridge.|
|Date:||13 October 2012|
|Anathema's Menagerie, Tordane Tower|
|This room was once meant to be a sleeping chamber for one of the household nobles. It has been stripped down to it's bare stone walls and floors, most standard furniture having been replaced with odder pieces. The center of the room is consumed with a wooden table that perhaps could seat up to ten individuals had there chairs around it. The wood is stained dull crimson in places, though it does not smell of blood despite wildly accurate assumptions; instead it smells of soft rosemary oil with a hint of dewberry. The windows are paneled in natural-colored gossamer with heavy curtains that are often pulled closed to cast the room into darkness during the day, but left drawn wide to let in the night. Candelabras of various size and capacity are the main sources of light. Stacked along the interior wall are various cages, crates, and baskets of animals — rodents, birds of various sizes, and the occasional reptile. Lining the wall where a bed instead would be is a heavy wardrobe flanked by bookcases full of jars; they contain herbs of various natures as well as things best left unidentified. There is a small hearth along the wall where there is oft a fire burning.|
It is evening, and the sunset ignites the gossamer curtains in fiery hues. The doves are cooing softly in their cages, and a young lizardlion is curled up in it's shallow trough with only it's tail sticking out in view. Lady Anathema Nayland is standing before one of the windows watching as the sun goes down. Whatever haruspicy she has practiced today has already been cleaned up, but the omens she found were decidingly troubling. She wears a firm frown, one arm folded across her midsection while the other has it's elbow perched on her fist and fingers tapping at her chin. A kettle of water boils over a small fire burning in the petite hearth, and it looks as though she is preparing some tea.
A thunderstorm this morning saw Sabriel returning from a morning walk with a wet dog, though she was little more than damp herself. In the interim, she's paced most of the halls of the tower, made a brief exploration of the garden, and been down to the village and back. Apparently she is not very good at sitting around and waiting. Now, though, she's made her way to Anathema's study, having left her dog back in her own chambers. To his credit, there's been no howling. Yet. Sabriel stops just outside the door, knocking lightly on the frame and waiting outside. While she waits, though, she takes in the various contents of the room, both animal and vegetable, with an avid gaze.
The knock at the door draws her head around toward it; she actually stares at it for a moment as if it is often not knocked upon. "Come," she calls as she drops her arms to her side. She steps past that enormous table, pausing to stroke the feathers of the crippled raven Balerion who is picking at a bit of fresh meat. She now turns to regard Sabriel as she enters, and she offers her a calm little smile. "Lady Sabriel, an pleasant and unexpected surprise to see you."
"Unexpected?" Sabriel replies, though she sketches that awkward curtsey again. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to interrupt anything," she murmurs, though she's still looking at everything. The stains on the table don't seem to bother her. In fact, she draws in a deep breath as she steps inside, glancing to bundles of herbs to identify what she can. "I just…wanted to see if you knew when someone would be coming back to Broadmoor," she explains, looking back with a flicker of a smile. "I can see that you're all busy here, of course."
The woods-witch measures the girl's reaction with a trained eye, and once she seems to be comfortable in this strange little room, Anathema steps toward the hearth. She uses a well-insulated mit to fetch the kettle off the fire, turning toward the table once more where the teapot and cups await her. "You mean when you will be returning to Broadmoor?" She inquires as she pours the hot water into the teapot. There are no tea-leaves within the pot as dark lumps of the dried herbs are instead in the cup. "Tea?" She looks up toward her with an arch of her brows.
"Well, me and whoever you wanted to send as an envoy," Sabriel replies with a small smile, stepping inside and untying a small pouch from her waist. "I brought a few of the teas I've gathered at home," she offers. "There's one with some dried strawberries in it that's very nice when there isn't sugar or honey to be had. I heard you enjoyed studying the local flora and fauna." She's a bit awkward as she sets the bag on the table, straightening it a few times before forcing herself to take a step back and leave it alone.
Anathema pours the hot water over her own tea cup, letting it stir and steam without her even having to lift a spoon. She is quiet for a moment as she studies the swirling waters, and then she looks up toward the young and wild Haigh girl. "I suppose it is best if I am the honest sort, considering the reason you are actually here." She does not add any sweetener nor milk, taking it a little bitter. She brings the cup to her lips, sipping softly. "Your father sent you here to stay, Lady Sabriel. In a few months time, once enough time has passed, official negotiations will be done to bind the Nayland and Haigh Houses together through the marriage of you to my son Aeron. That is why you are here."
"The reason I'm-" Sabriel pauses as Anathema elucidates, brows furrowing and a whirlwind of emotions crossing her features. "You must be mistaken, my lady," she says after a moment, taking a half a step back, as though she might run. "Maybe he meant Ilaria. She's a sweet girl, I'm sure she and your son will get along just fine. Besides, he said I was just going to come and bring- He said-" And then it starts to sink in and she falls silent, suddenly indignant. "He /lied/ to me!"
Dark, watchful eyes track the girl's reaction even as she sips at her tea. Then she releases a soft and flowing laugh. "Fathers tend to do that, Lady Sabriel," Anathema points out as she sets down her teacup. "I wish I could say that I was mistaken, that perhaps you are not the daughter meant to be here, but that isn't the case." She folds her fingers together, her gaze never leaving her. "The missive that you carried, and handed to Ser Tyroan, has unoffically sealed the deal. In four months, the proper contract will be drawn up."
"He lied to me and made me do it myself! Why that- that-" Sabriel blinks a few times, hands fisting at her sides. And yet, underneath the anger, frustration, and betrayal, she can't quite suppress a little bit of rueful admiration. She has been well and truly outmaneuvered. Crossing her arms over her chest, she turns a steadier eye on the older woman, stalking a few steps on the opposite side of the table. "Ilaria really is much nicer, you know," she says, not giving up just yet. "I mean, I'm half Terrick. We've all heard how mad they are anymore."
"I'm sure that Lady Ilaria would have made a fine match," Anathema says, perhaps with a hint of patronizing. She shakes her head a bit as she takes another sip of her tea. "You aren't mad. There is nothing about you that speaks of madness." She shakes her head a bit before she casts her gaze out toward the fiery-colored windows. "How old are you, Lady Sabriel? Twenty, perhaps twenty-one?" The question lingers long enough for an answer before she continues. "I was nearly nineteen when I was summoned from the Mountains of my mother's kin, only to be told I would be continuing south to Hag's Mire to wed Ser Tyroan Nayland. I was furious, just like you are."
"Twenty-one," Sabriel admits, grimacing. Old enough to have thought she might be out of the woods, apparently. "He doesn't want to get married again, you know," she says, looking back to Anathema and trying another tack. "He loved his wife. And he's very much not finished mourning. He's got…" She waves a hand near her neck. "Honestly, I think it's some of her blood that he wears around his neck. That's definitely a sign of not being ready for another wife."
Anathema tilts her head a bit, and she offers the smallest of smiles. "My son will always love Falliah Flint. She was a woman of the North, a woman of the First Flints, a woman of great wildness and heart. I do not seek to replace that, but it is the duty of our status to marry — and not because of love. The Haighs and Naylands were at war just a few weeks ago, and now we seek an alliance to see that. Lady Ilaria will marry into another House, but you are the one your father sent to wed into the Naylands."
"He probably thought you'd say no!" Sabriel tries to object again, pacing a few more steps. "Aren't you all supposed to hate Terricks? My mother's a Terrick. And I'm not a very good lady." She pauses, looking around the room as her earlier interest turns to some dismay with the realization that that's probably not a huge issue here. "Couldn't you all just agree to be friends, like responsible adults?"
Anathema looks quite amused now, taking another sip of her bitter tea. "I've never really been one for hate, though it is mostly Lord Rickart who does not like the Terricks, though his hate seems to be focused on Lord Jerold and his offspring than anyone else. No, I have no hatred for the Terricks." She takes another sip of tea. "Oh, we are… and what friends don't want to see their children wed and happy? It furthers a friendship, dear girl." Again, the witch takes a sip of tea. "Have you other reasons you would care to attempt to rationalize?"
"I'm sure I can come up with some," Sabriel mutters, skirts swishing as she paces. She's quiet a bit longer, then finally slows, trailing her fingertips over the edge of the table. "I don't believe you're a witch," she says, looking back with a steadier look in pale eyes. "No more than I am. I know you're not going to turn me into a bird and shove me in one of these cages."
Anathema laughs, her laughter as warm and flowing as the wind through wooden chimes. She takes another sip of her tea before she manages to drain it, and she sets the cup down into it's lightly chipped saucer. "You have given me no reason to cage you. Besides, it is only the ones from the First Men who were those kind of weird sisters. Too much Southron blood has dimmed those gifts, but my mother's kin have been blessed by the Gods themselves." She steps toward the girl now, crossing her arms along her chest. "But are a Southron. My Gods are heresy to yours."
Sabriel wrinkles her freckled nose at talk of the gods. "Or they're just other reflections. It's not exactly a big leap from seven facets, seven faces, of one power to other gods being faces of the same." She pauses, brows rising in consideration as she looks down at the older woman from the not inconsiderable height difference. "Why, is that something that bothers you? You want your son's wife to believe in the Old Gods?"
Ah, so the girl does have a bit of some free thought. Anathema smiles. "No." The woman steps up to her crippled raven; Balerion has been quite quiet and calm up to this point. Was he listening? She offers the raven her fist, the bird bouncing onto her fist before she draws him up to place on her shoulder. Balerion stretches his wings, the broken one quite obvious due to the strange angle it is held. "My husband is of the New, and I am of the Old. Believe what you wish, my dear."
Foiled again! Although Sabriel waits until Anathema's back is turned to make a face. She's not done yet, though. Unfortunately, she's not very good at hiding the furious thought going on inside her head, either. Balerion offers some small distraction; she winces at the sight of the wing. "What happened to him?" she asks without thinking, taking a step forward and reaching out toward the bird.
"A storm," Anathema explains as she pets the old raven's throat. "He was a raven for the Maester of Hag's Mire, and he was trying to deliver a missive in the middle of a storm. He broke his wing, and it has never healed properly. The Maester would have seen him put to death, but… I have a soft spot for broken things." She looks at the angry, wild girl with a tilt of her head. "Be angry, girl. Go to the floodplains, scream into the wind. Do not become one of those miserable, permanently bitter women."
"It took me several tries to get broken wings right," Sabriel admits, looking to the bird with some sympathy. "It's hard to get it splinted and bound right. I'd think it would be even harder with a raven. They're smart enough to undo things if they aren't comfortable." At the advice, she falls silent, watching the other woman for a long moment. "He's not going to want to do it," she finally says, circling back to her earlier argument. "And you can talk of duty all you like, but he's your son." There's a subtle emphasis on the possessive there. "Surely you don't want to cause him any more pain than he's already in."
"Marriages are never about wants," Anathema says, and there is something almost heavy in her voice. Certainly she has found a way to find happiness in the marraige with Ser Tyroan. They function so wonderfully together, and have for over twenty years. She turns her gaze from Balerion toward the girl. "As I said… marriages are never about wants… even the wants of a mother." Balerion stretches his neck, ruffling up his feathers before cawing his favorite word over and over again: home.
"His was," Sabriel points out, quiet. "You don't want me to be a miserable, permanently bitter woman. I'm sure you don't want your son to be a miserable, permanently bitter man." She reaches out a finger to stroke along the raven's wing, then steps back with a deep breath. "Does he know yet?"
Anathema does not seem unsympathetic to her son's plight. It even perhaps pains her, but there is nothing for her to do now but accept it. She watches the girl and Balerion, and the raven seems to settle into comfort at the touch. His eyes close, head tilted toward those scratching fingers. "No, but I will tell him. It is perhaps best if you do not."
"Perhaps," Sabriel agrees, fidgeting. "Why me?" she asks, stepping back and moving to the wall of cages, looking at them and their occupants in a new light.
"That is a question for your father," Anathema says honestly. "Or perhaps for your Gods." She shakes her head a bit as she steps closer to the girl. "You are one and twenty, you should have known this day would come. You will be looked after here. There are worse places to be."
"I'm one and twenty, I thought this day was past," Sabriel murmurs in a low tone, making a face at a finch. She looks back to the older woman, not so different from some of the creatures in their cages before her. "Will you try to shove me in a stone cage as well, my lady?" she asks. "Clip my wings so I'll not fly away?"
"No, my girl," Anathema says without hesitation. "But, I won't need to." She does not let her gaze fall from the girl, watching her as she watches her caged creatures.
"What do you mean, you won't need to?" Sabriel steps away from the cages as she turns to face the other woman. Uncertain, she crosses her arms over her chest once more, rubbing her hands over her upper arms as though to ward away a chill. There's still a slight edge to her, as though she might break and run at any moment, though she does her best to keep it under control.
Anathema casts her a knowing smile that lacks that once sereneness. She sweeps Balerion off her shoulder, setting the crippled bird on the perch. "Because here you are with kindred spirits." She lifts her gaze toward her. "There will be four months before a marriage contract is signed. By then, you will want to stay."
There's a glimmer of hope in Sabriel's eyes that recognizes the truth of those words, much as she might want to fight it. Not that she's going to admit it. "We'll see, my lady," she says quietly instead, taking another step back toward the door with a faint frown. "I should send home for more of my things, if I'm to be staying here." And to give her father a piece of her mind, no doubt.
"You should," Anathema says, already assuming the girl will be off soon. She is stepping toward one of her bookcases, removing a rather heavy tome from the shelves. She casts a glance toward her. "And visit the floodfields." She steps back to the table, setting down the book before she opens it. It is filled with various oddities — feathers, leaves, flattened satches of something or other, and lots of tight dark script. She looks up toward Sabriel, silent now.
"Perhaps I will. Good day, my lady," Sabriel says quietly, slipping out of the room. She doesn't make it through the hall before her footsteps speed up, though, echoing behind her. Run away, run away!