Page 543: Celebrating Life
Celebrating Life
Summary: Maldred meets and baits Laryssa.
Date: 17/01/13
Related Logs: Aleister's death and its aftermath
Maldred Laryssa 
Ash and Oak Inn
From the courtyard before the L shaped inn, the Ash and Oak opens into a sprawling taproom designed to house both commoner and noble alike; dimly light, the atmosphere within is one of intimate privacy, with tables arrayed in such a fashion that they each seem to linger within their own shadow, while the bar itself stands out under the illumination of several brightly burning candles opposite the main door. To the right of the bar, one finds a hallway leading back into a section marked strictly for employes and to the right? The kitchens. A large hearth sits on the wall to left, lending its warmth and glow before an assortment of benches and its heat is pushed to the rooms for the smallfolk that sit above the stables; small spaces not meant for the claustrophobic. Curling up to the very rooms themselves weaves a staircase, where only two at a time can walk if they don't mind their shoulders touching. On the right, coming off the wall itself rests a wide staircase, leading up to the more lavish rooms designed with a noble's comfort in mind.
17th January, 290

While Ser Aleister Ashwood lived, the roads were clear, the harvest gathered, the skies blue…and Maldred Rivers was not much seen in Highfield. With the self-made lord now a weeks-old and mislaid cadaver, though, the bastard Frey - while he still keeps lary of risking the township's keep and manor-house - has taken to rather enjoying a beverage at the Ash and Oak now and again, just to remind the locals that times are changing. Reclining on one stool, he's hoisted up one mailed leg to bestraddle another, at ease and apparent langour, a night-dark ale to match the evening in his right hand.

From without enters a recent visitor to Highfield. The young Haigh woman has been visiting for a couple of weeks now and mostly kept to herself, save for a few notable exceptions. Behind the Lady Laryssa enter a pair of guards that split off to haunt a spot near the bar. The woman herself pauses within the main room of the Inn. She's holding a journal, pen, and inkwell and appears for the moment uncertain of her next move.

A move which the gallant knight is more than happy to prompt. Maldred is the only other occupant of the taproom to look even half-way well-bred, and his eyes, roaming cold and free, quickly find a resting-place on this daughter of Haigh strayed so far from home. Her writings in particular would appear to have stimulated his mischievous glance in her direction. "We're a long way from the Citadel, m'lady…got yourself lost?" he enquires with facetious concern.

Pale eyes shift towards the knight and Laryssa regards him for a moment. There's a small, polite smile in response to his words and she takes a few strides nearer. It wouldn't do for a lady to raise her voice. Especially not when the room is so quiet. "Not in the physical sense, ser. I've simply overlooked planning my evening."

The stranger knight's laugh is scarce softer than his stare, though it's sooner over. "And what sort of plans do you make when you do remember, m'lady? Did such plans waft you from Broadmoor's excitements?" That last word would appear to be sarcastic. Presumably the knight discerned the girl's House in his earlier inspection of his surroundings, by noting her attendant guards' livery…and perhaps she could do the same for him, if she cared to notice the strange variant on Frey towers over his torso. "I came that way myself a while back," the knight persists, however. "I heard someone had been hard at work making corpses, and that's a craft I hate to miss."

"Usually I find myself with a partner for a meal or tea," Laryssa says, lips curving in a small smile. "But I declined all offers today as I wanted a more quiet time to reflect." The Haigh woman steps nearer to the bar and sets down her burdens, however light they may be. She makes no move yet to take a seat anywhere. "I am not one for such a craft myself."

"That is a great relief; I can drink in perfect safety, knife sheathed," the other replies in a tone of exaggerated seriousness. "Reflect here a little while, why not? I have a siege prepared 'gainst your coming…" He swings the leg he was resting on the stool beside him back down to deign to touch the floor's board and rushes. "And though I couldn't tell which Haigh bore you, I'll be bound I'm suitable company. I'm your liege's very get, Ser Maldred…of the Crossing. I'd be honoured by your like acquaintance…"

There's a slight tilt of the blonde's head as she regards Maldred. Perhaps trying to pinpoint the man and his own personal heritage. Whatever she finds (or perhaps inspired by his own words) seems well enough that she moves forward to take a seat at the bar herself. Making sure her writing materials are within reach should she desire them. "Lady Laryssa Haigh. Of Lord Raldon and Lady Amellia."

She's made a frightful mistake if she takes his words at face value, of course. A trueborn nobleman would hardly stress his mere knighthood…while appearing strangely averse to his House name! Nevertheless, he seems pleased that he has either convinced her, or she has agreed to tacit collusion; his manner becomes more casual, even faintly courtly.

"You have a sister to be wedded down Stonebridge way, I think? It's not yet my first charge to learn all the names, but perhaps that'll follow…mine aunt is House Frey's ambassadress to your House, you know. Perhaps if you ever tire of teas over here we might see each other there."

Maldred gulps a healthy inch of ale, drinking with more speed than relish, before adding, "Your lady coz Ceinlys Erenford is a fair acquaintance, as well as cousin, of mine. Stranger knows what that makes us. And I saw the neat-and-tidy one, whom your old uncle yoked to the Fenster ditherer, up at Highfield's keep just the once. I hear that wedding's to be celebrated soon…if that's the right word…"

"It would seem we are well-familiar without being aquainted," Laryssa offers after a moment. She adopts a small, easy smile. Perhaps it is a relief to be able to converse with someone not tied up in the local drama. Or someone well-familiar with her particular branch of the family. Not everything is about Perrin. Or is it? "My sister is to be wed soon, you are correct. There are… a deal many weddings happening in the near future in these lands, it would seem."

"Tiresome occasions, to my mind," Maldred opines in a bitter tone, "but when young fools insist on dying, old fools insist on whoever remains wedding. As if a groom's cloak or a bride's dower were some golden shield against misfortune…" He scoffs forcefully, "Furthermore, damnably few weddings have the spirit to entertain us with tourneys and melees these days. I thought we were supposed to be living under Good King Robert, but I've hardly drawn a sword, loosed an arrow or broke a lance other than in earnest ever since the Greyjoys came a-calling…"

Lips press into a thin line as Laryssa listens to what Maldred has to say. The woman's hands settle into her lap, lithe fingers curling against her palms. "There is a need to celebrate life in the midst of all the death. If we did not find reasons for joy, we would all be consumed by sadness."

"Celebrating life, poor thing though it be, I am willing to do," Maldred concedes, "but I shall do that here - ", he swills the small remainder of ale left in his tankard, "or yonder - ", he gestures up towards the inn's bedchambers, "not in the boredom of a sept and the farce of those trading charters they call marriages. One day, my lady Laryssa," he seems to have remembered her name with surprising fluency, given the general drift of his conversation, "you'll be put in a new dress and a stranger and his friends will maul it like drooling hounds. You won't feel then, I think, that you are…what was your delightful phrase?…celebrating life. Unless you've had the good sense to practise first, I suppose."

There's a color to pale cheeks and Laryssa looks away, beckoning the barkeep. She orders some wine and distracts herself in watching her order retrieved. "Though marriage is a poor thing in your eyes, it is a goal to many others. Including myself. It may be best to reflect upon the fact that desires and interests run as wide and varied as the stars in the sky."

The knight's teasing eyes blink at that, though soon the mocking stare is constant for that. "Of course; though that's a shame, in a way. You have some wit and more dignity for a chit of a thing of your time o' life; you'll be wasted on some fool of a lord, when you could out-preach any septa I ever stumbled on with fine words such as those…"

Maldred has finished his ale, and rises to his feet, apparently supple enough to keep the mail's clanking almost silent. "Come back to Broadmoor as soon you may, and don't let them match you with an Ashwood, my lady, for they're but embers now. Why, come all the way Twinsward and we'll see you a Frey yet. For now, my lady Laryssa, the tenderest of farewells." But he doesn't linger to judge that parting's effect. He must have settled in advance, for a few long strides takes him back into the night without any hindering his going. Or perhaps they're all pinned by collective relief…

His words draw another expression of pursed lips. Uncertainty within eyes. "Though such a thing may be pleasant." To be wed to a Frey, well above her station, "I will not pin my hopes upon such. I will trust upon the will of my family and their judgement in such. In the time I am given, I will strive to make myself the best representative I may for my House." She tilts her head towards the night. "Fare you well, ser. Our paths will surely cross again."