Page 523: Confusion of Weasels
Confusion of Weasels
Summary: At a secret, almost conspiratorial meeting in an inn at Stonebridge several members of House Frey exchange news, seek and receive counsel and make wild speculations concerning Lord Aleister's disappearance over a cup of chilled wine.
Date: 28/12/2012
Related Logs: None directly although several common themes are adressed
Firth Lyanna Maldred Aralima 
Guest Room, Crane's Crossing Inn
The rooms at Crane's Crossing are of the finest quality to be found at any guest quarters among the Riverlands, though not as finely done as those in the castles — by far. The rooms are spacious with plenty of room for not just a noble but a small entourage to gather in. The sprawling beds are finished with fine sheets and goosedown-stuffed pillows. Rugs are lain about except nearest the door with a few couches placed to one corner for guests of the room holder. Chambermaidens are on call at all hours to clean and refill the wash basins or provide new washclothes - or to even take sullied clothing for cleaning. The windows are set out a bit from the wall to provide bench seating that overlooks the sprawling green of meadows, distant forests, and bubbling creeks.
December 28th, 289

Message had been sent via a guard and a private room has been set up in the Crane and it is under Firth's name. Food has been ordered along with chilled wine. Firth sits quietly in the room alone. She is dressed in a midnight blue silk gown, with a grey silk mud guard. Her cane rests against her chair in which she is seated in. Her eyes have a thoughtful look in them and she is alone and her guard is downstairs.

On a chair opposite to the one Firth has chosen another Frey lady sits, this one slightly younger and with less experience in the field of politics, for which she tries to make up for with enthusiasm and a strong pride of her House. Lyanna has chosen a simple attire for this meeting, a practicial riding dress, the blue of her cloak a clear sign that secrecy and disguise are a concept quite foreign to her as of yet. Her dark brown hair though is styled less formidable today, in a simple braid hanging down her back. The food before her still untouched, Lyanna raises her gaze to meet that of her aunt, raising a brow, as they still await the arrival of one important person before this rather consprational meeting will truely commence.

And as the occasion demands, both guards and other unwanted witnesses are absent. Master Tollard guards the door to this chamber from outside, while Master Grimes keeps Septa Mariah company downstairs by the bar.

The harsh voice plays the herald to the hardly apologetic latecomer, "Pray pardon my tardiness, lady cousins." One's a sister or aunt, the other's a niece or cousin; Maldred Rivers has on balance picked the most neutral collective for these fair ladies of Frey. The bastard knight does not join his kinswomen on any actual, proper chair after loping in, but merely slouches against the chamber's hither wall. After a time in the saddle, perhaps he enjoys a decent stand. His often idle right hand plays with the pommel of an eating knife cum dirk, fashioned in silver and the guise of a stoat.

"Before you ask, by the way," he begins cheerily now, "no idea where the churl of Ashfield, or whatever he's called, is. I promise if I knew, …no one else ever would!"

"I am hoping he is dead." Firth tells him in a quiet even voice. "Would either of you care for chilled wine?" She asks him. "Either way it may cause issues for Stonebridge. They will look here first, for that matter brother it will cause you and I a few headaches my love and your love for the Ashwoods is Legendary among them." She pauses as she pours three glasses. "What are your theories? Niece what news do you have from there?"

Straightening a bit in her seat as her former protector enters, Lyanna's demeanour brightens at first, although as she takes in the changed appearance of her relative the open question seemes to be etched onto her face. "Cousin Maldred." she greets, in accordance to the official relation to this bastard of House Frey, with a warmth that hints at how thankful she has been to have him by her side - but that was weeks, or almost a month ago.

The mention of the head of House Ashwood however, calls forth a look of worry on her young and unspoiled features. "Lord Aleister." Lyanna says with a hushed voice, as her deep blue eyes jump from Maldred to Firth. "I hope nothing serious has happened to him? And to Lady Miranda as well? As far as I can tell she seemed to be such a pleasant company. A nice person." The regret in the Frey lady's gaze seems genuine enough, although it appears to focus on the Ashwood lady more than on the Ashwood lord.

Lyanna accepts the offered chilled wine with a grateful nod, although Firth's first remark has her wince a little, as does the following analysis of who will be suspected.

"I'd forgotten the maid - or is she a widow, I forget," Maldred contributes in a leisurely timbre, leaning towards the board and outstretching a lean, long left arm - "and, m'lady sister, I'd be grateful for the thirst slaker, aye. Well," he ruminates, "I'd not say know to finding the girl. No doubt she'd, ah, gratefully wed her rescuer, and her House would perforce recall its place. Yet I'd be happier still to see the long lost lord. He and I have much in common, you know. I think I'd fit that fine equipage he wears very nicely…"

Accepting the wine and sampling it with evident relish, Rivers now shrugs, "Broadmoor is a right backmarsh; I've lacked decent sport far too long. I hear the whole cape lost its head and went child-hunting while I was gone?…eccentric. I prefer men's games to childer's."

The wine is handed out and Firth then takes her own cup and then she takes a sip. "Niece I would not trust any in that house. Their words are laced with poison and they have hidden daggers. I do not think any of them will jump to your aid if you were in trouble my dear." Firth tells her gently.

She looks at her brother. "Mally you they did a good deed by keeping the rabble from rising though I have notice much of the trouble still comes from Roost and Highfield. I only wish they would have reacted more quickly, then again many view their smallfolks as chattle. Those places seem to be cursed. What has been happening in Broadmoor? Is our Lady sister well?" She studies him with her green eyes. "I wonder if he and his mistress ran off to be married?"

"The children have been saved, thank the Seven." the younger Frey lady offers, shaking her head lightly as she tries to envision Maldred as a possible future husband for Miranda Ashwood. Turning to her aunt she replies: "I try to keep my eyes open and observant, Aunt Firth. I am sure allies can be found in any House if you care to look closely enough. And no, I do not believe these outrageous rumors, that Lord Aleister and Lady Miranda might be romantically entagled." Lyanna shakes her head again, with notably more determination this time. Looking pensively from Firth to Maldred she continues: "There are other tidings as well, of a plague troubling the site of the Northern Encampment. They say it has already claimed the first victim. A poor child." Lyanna seems a bit shaken as she offers this piece of information.

"I hadn't heard anything half so entertaining," the bastard delightedly concedes, "and besides, I thought Lord Churlfield only liked blondes? Lady Ceinlys aside. She tends to be an exception to such rules. Besides, isn't the missing girl his sister, or something?" he enquires in a voice heavier with languor; he never bothered studying lineages carefully. "Does Churlfield think himself a Targaryen now?"

Knocking back a healthy gulp more gold, gold vintage, Maldred adds, "What I resent is that my lord father chose to inform none of his envoys out here of what he wanted with Ser Aleister in the first place when he summoned him. That would have been most helpful to know…especially for Lady Lyanna here. Did you manage to exchange a word of business with th wife-eater in the end, cousin dear?"

They are in a private room. Two are seated and one is standing but they are all drinking wine. "Bother that has not stopped others." Firth points out; a guard is seated outside of the room keeping people from eavesdropping. "I like your nickname for him. It suits him well. Personally, I have others."

Her green eyes rest on Lyanna for a moment. "You are right; there are allies to be found in any house. Just be careful." She says to her. "I will not argue with you there. Just do not take her into your council too much when it comes to Frey business. I know I sound harsh."

She pauses and she takes a sip of her drink. "A death, that is not good. Hopefully it will not spread. We do not need a plague outbreak in this area."

"Lady Miranda is his cousin, dear cousin Maldred." Lyanna replies, slightly amused. "So no, he is not in trouble of carrying himself as a Targaryen in that way." The Frey Ambassador to Highfield takes a sip from the chilled wine before she continues: "I was a bit taken aback as you two probably were. By this sudden move to pay Lord Walder a visit at the Twins…" Lyanna bites her lip. "Apart from a short exchange with him shortly after my arrival, I haven't had much of a chance to speak with him though. I have tried to excuse that with what was going on back then. Lady Ceinlys left, and then the vanishing children… But I have to confess, this lack of interest in my person on Lord Aleister's part… it makes me doubt that I serve my purpose at Highfield the way I should." Lyanna's deep blue eyes cloud as she blinks away what might be a tear but manages a little brave smile.

"Ah. Cousins. Most respectable. As long as the Charltons practiced more…clarity about such relations than their old overlords," Maldred remarks with some circumspection. "Still, he'd be a fool to wed the girl, even, or especially, if he's already sampled her. Lady Ceinlys made it fairly clear to me that he'd spurned her hoping for a larger dowry, and he'll get none from some chit of an Ashwood." Clearly, the bastard is speaking with such bitter speed that he's forgotten just this once to permutate the upstart House's name. "And as for his rank discourtesy to you, lady cousin…you should write of it often, and strongly, in your dispatches to lord father…let him know that his professed vassal drags his heels. Ser Aleister may have even made out already, for his own reasons, that the fault and foot-dragging lies with you…such vile lies may explain his sudden journey to the Twins, circumventing your authority."

"My dear child Mally is right, Aleister is doing this on purpose. He is trying to avoid answering questions. He believes he is above everyone as he is the head of a house. His father is no better." She explains. "How aware of you of the political maneuvering that were happening before you arrived?" Firth asks her.

She then looks to Maldred. "You are aware that is how many of us noble women are treated. We are prized brood mares that are to be traded and sold for gold and land." She tells him. "As horrible as it sounds the marriage bed is rarely comfortable for many of us and for some it is deadly." She says in a soft manner. Before she goes to refill the wine glasses. "He is notorious for doing this. I would start looking to those that work with him or close to him to see if you can get proper news or information."

There is a tiny knock at the door, and in peeks the small blond head of Aralima, she smiles and says, "Good day to you all." She slips in the rest of the way, leaving her guards outside, she gives a wrinkle of her nose at what Firth says but keeps quiet as she smooths out her skirts, "I see I've stepped into the fun meeting."

"Oh, I already have." Lyanna is quick to reply, her eyes sparkling with subdued anger. "And I was not aware of many things before I came to Highfield. But I think Lord Walder sent me to see and observe, which I do. While I am getting acquainted with the various members of the House." Lyanna snorts a little at Firth's remark. "Yes, I am aware of that second purpose grandfather might have had in mind when he sent me. Alas, I do not seem to catch the Lord of Highfield's fancy." She shrugs lightly and leans back in her chair. "I am still curious what happened to his former heir. That poor child. And that poor child's mother."

With these rather dark themes being discussed at the moment, Lyanna seems more than pleased as Aralima enters. "Dearest niece. We are talking about politics and such subjects that must appear tedious to you." And she gestures for the youngest Frey that is present in the room to join her, as she points to the chair beside her own.

So now the various scions of Frey present are equally divided 'twixt dark and light…of hair, if not heart. The bastard Frey lolls still more at his ease against what looks like the unforgiving support of the stone wall behind him, and puts away another half or so of his adroitly refreshed cup. "Ah, Lady Aralima. Aye, let's talk of some more pleasant subject. Who do you fancy wedding?" The abrupt, short query is of course heavy with the political charge Maldred has just claimed to abandon…

"From my understanding she was harmed by someone in her household." Firth explains. "I would not be surprised if they also killed the poor child." She shakes her head. She then grows quiet as she sips her wine, she offers a bow of her head to Aralima. "My dear girl please come in and be seated would you care for some watered down wine?"

Aralima smiles as she steps in and looks around the room, "My apartment is much more spacious, why have you not adjourned there?" She settles in and says, "Wine would be lovely Great Aunt." She blinks at Mal and cocks her head to one side, "Well I am not sure, I had never thought it'd be up to me, there are several who have caught my eye with their kindness, but that is not for me to decide."

Maldred's question to Aralima has Lyanna raise a brow. "My niece is right. She will have as little say in the matter as I…" She smiles as a recent memory crosses her mind and she winks to her bastard cousin as she remarks, a bit cryptically perhaps: "One can't be always as fortunate as to flee successfully an unpleasant betrothal."

"Who has caught your eye?" Firth asks Aralima and she nods. "Indeed not all our." She has grown quiet again and for now she is just listening to the three others speak of marriage.

"Aye, coz; and at times one must be so unfortunate as to flee from three fair kinswomen," Maldred teases right back, as he lays an empty wine vessel down. "I must be ahorse ere my presence takes on too…official a character. Though I shall be most saddened," the bastard intones most solemnly to the youngest of these Freys, "to miss these apartments that boast such comfort. Next time, should you be still maiden by then. Farewell, ladies."

Long steps expedite an exit whose agility keeps its mail-clanking discreetly low…

Aralima flushes and says softly, "I have told you several Lady Aunt, Ser Justin Terrick, Lord Robben Ashwood is a nice man as well, and I recently met Ser Perrin Haigh.. though I doubt any of those would be a good match for our House." She plucks at her skirts and looks to the two older women as she watches the Bastard Rivers leave.

Lyanna chuckles at Maldred's oh so well phrased reply to her little insinuation. "It has been pleasant talking to you, cousin. And enlightening. As always." she says as she inclines her head slightly in a friendly goodbye. "Robben Ashwood is a nice man." she remarks to her niece as soon as the bastard has left the room. "Charming and with common sense. He's had another admirer, I think. Lady Aemy Erenford, before her betrothal to Lord Daryl was announced."

"Mally you and I will talk more later." Firth says to the departing man. "I know you have but I am making sure that the list has not changed. As for who will be suitable it is not for me to decide. It is for my lord father to choose." Firth says in response. "All of those at the moment are not great political matches. But, they are men of good moral character." She leans back in her chair and continues to sip her wine. "You need to be socialized and we need for you to get you into society. We need a good ball that is not a wedding."

Aralima nods her head and says, "Yes it is for great grandfather to choose for us.. but there's nothing I can do here, the Naylands I think only have me for the stipend, seems to be the only coin they have coming into this place. I've still never been formally welcomed, and I thought the Naylands were our allies, the last batch treated me better then this one."

"A ball?" Lyanna echoes looking not too pleased with the idea. "Do not expect me to enjoy such a festivity. It is known I am not a great dancer." Her deep blue eyes lighten up as her gaze turns to Aralima, assessing her for a short moment with a light smirk. "But then, maybe the impending danger of a dance with me might drive them right into your arms, Aralima." Looking a bit thoughtful as she takes a sip from the wine, Lyanna inquires: "What about the Naylands? The Stonebridge Naylands? Does their family offer both politically and morally acceptable candidates?" Hearing her niece's words, Lyanna shrugs with a sad smile. "It seems we share a similar fate there. At least to some extent."

"There was a time I could have taught you Lyanna." Firth says gently. "It is not just the dancing but the mingling and the conversation. Honestly the lord here is drowning in woman. I feel sorry for the poor man at times." She looks between the two of them. "My dear girls, I would not be in such a hurry. You go from one gilded cage to another."

Aralima shakes her head and says, "I am FAR from ready to marry, while it crosses my mind from time to time, I'm more than happy to let you Ladies go first." She smiles sweetly and flutters her eyelashes before lifting the glass to her lips and taking a drink giving it a funny look at how watered down it is, sipping it again she says, "I have my medical studies I'd like to learn before being tied down with kids."

"Medical studies? A most useful thing. I have gathered some experience as well in that area." Whatever Lyanna was about to say next, her words are silenced by a loud sound at the door - the most familiar knocking of Master Tollard. "M'lady, it's getting late. Only few hours of light left." Lyanna rises, the regret about having to leave written all over her face as she puts down the cup on the table with the food - that she hasn't touched at all. "Dear aunt, dear niece. I envy you. There are two of you here at Stonebridge, while I am often feeling lonely and on my own at Highfield. But I feel our conversation has already given me the strength to return to my duties. And return I must. Before nightfall, if possible. I will do all I can to find out more about this ominous disappearance of Lord Aleister and Lady Miranda. May the Seven keep you safe." And with this last greeting she hugs her two relatives, first her aunt and then her niece. And then she heads towards the door, which has already been opened by her guardsman to see her out.

"I will come and visit you my dear." Firth rises to give Lyanna a hug if she is allowed. "Be safe, and I will ride out." She goes to take her seat again and she then looks to Aralima. "I have been married once and I do not wish to be married again. I am hoping they do not see any use in sending me down that path again. My husband was not a nice man." She does not explain anything more on that topic.