Page 460: Dawn of Possibilities
Dawn of Possibilities
Summary: In which Stafford, Aeliana and Nedra discuss entirely too much to early in the day.
Date: 26/10/2012
Related Logs: Shoes and Monsters
Nedra Stafford Aeliana 
Crane's Crossing Inn, Stonebridge
While Crane's Crossing is technically an Inn, it caters to the traveling nobility almost exclusively. The floors around the hearth are finely crafted stonework, as are the slate blocks that the firepit is constructed of. The rest of the floor is done in stained oak that matches the few long tables and the chairs. The rest of the main room is furnished with plush couches and seating to entice visitors to delay their leave. A full service kitchen provides food of all kinds as well as high quality ales and wines. Also available are several women to provide hospitality to the lonely or those in need, the quality of them to be beaten by but a few in the Riverlands. A hallway near the kitchen leads off to the rear of the building and several up-scale rooms.
Oct 26, 289

Not everyone is a morning person. In fact, by and large, most people don't like morning people. Probably because they're cheerful, which Nedra decidedly is. And rather determined about it, as well, which Nedra manages to restrain herself from being. But no matter the weather or the current political situation, Nedra finds a way to take the time to go for a early morning ride, usually dragging along her maid Shalla and one (if not two) of her armsmen, depending on how determined they are about safety measures. Having indulged in such a ride, almost early enough to have made it to the stables before the stable lads were getting ready to brush down the horses for the early riders, Nedra is just now returning to the Inn, ready for breakfast.

Another to be counted among the horrid morning people was Stafford Groves, who generally rose at the first sign of dawn's gentle caress, absolutely irregardless of how late he might have stayed up the night before. At least knight was considerate enough not to press upon his surroundings any kind of insufferably and inappropriate cheerfulness, however.
His routine was unchanging from day to day. He woke up, he trained or rode depending on the day and the weather (today he had trained), he ate breakfast. If he was home, he would also have been going over ledgers and notes regarding his lands. He'd spent too many years away traveling to be considered a great administrator, but being a dutiful son, he was making up for lost time.
When Nedra returned to the inn, he was already seated at one of the tables, a healthy set of breakfast spread out infront of him that he ate with perfect courtly manners.

One not generally prone to rising early and yet, awake today, seated neatly opposite of Stafford, was Aeliana. Her hair was spread wild and fey, moreso than usual and if she did, on occasion, look wistfully towards the stairs and think of the soft warm comforts of the bed left behind then, well that's what happens when she roused before she wants to be. The silence might also be a lingering effect of that. As such, her focus seems to be on the absolutely bitter tea that was pushing life through her veins rather than the meal, which looked as if it would weigh her down rather than lift her up. It left her in what could have been a bubble of solitude for all that she was quiet; her septa nad maid both looking to be more inclined to enjoy being awake that early. Didn't people understand that breakfast was optional for those who didn't rise at brunch?

Nedra is speaking in a quiet, though very animated, tone of voice to the senior guard about, of all things, the bridge. ".. absolutely must find time on the way back from Heronhurst," she is saying as she removes her jacket, gives it a brisk shake as she stands just inside the door, before folding it over one arm and continuing on. "I simply must find the time," she adds emphasis to the word 'must' this time around as she trades looks with Allain, knowing full well that her travel plans are as much up for debate as the position of the sun rising and falling is up for debate. "And if no one actually asks whether or not I'll be headed immediately back to Stonebridge, then it isn't really a matter that becomes issue worthy," she hedges her side of the debate all the same.
Nedra does, however, know when to stop when she's ahead and, with this notion in mind, turns to sweep a curious look around the room and spots Lady Aeliana, Ser Stafford, and the assorted entourage that accompanies both. Nedra has seen that look, the focus on the cup of tea and the amused expressions of others near at hand and, with a smile already starting to escape, Nedra makes her way over to the table where Aeliana and Stafford are seated. "Good morning," she declares with a curtsy of greeting, "Lovely day, is it not? Perfect for a nice ride in the crisp morning air, just the right sort of weather that bodes well for the day and the ride to Heronhurst."

The only entourage was Aeliana's, with Stafford's people occupying a different table a polite distance away. Three of the senior Groves men at arms, and the last retainer was a valet, as Stafford had neither squire nor page. Not since the last one had died during the Greyjoy rebellion, the same war that had put Stafford in his bed for months.
Stafford was politely pretending not to notice Aeliana's introverted mood. His brother Kittridge was notoriously lazy about getting up, too, so he had some experience in dealing with her kind. The best method was to pretend that being surly and unwilling to do anytihng but put one's head back down into the pillow, was perfectly acceptable. Now was not the time to point out what a wonderful morning it was.
Except Nedra apparently thought differently. At the sound of her voice, Stafford rose to his feet and made her a bow. "My Lady Nedra," he said warmly. "Would you like to join us?" A gesture to an empty chair made promptly with the invitation.

Aeliana's entourage was a different table too, thank you very much. Two men at arms and a cheery Septa who knew that if she liked her head attached it was best to steer well clear. Rayleen, her handmaid, was of course taking stock of Stafford's men, because she'd seen her own more than plenty and much as bulls liked new pasture, so did heffers. At least Stafford had the right idea of going about it.
Slowly, with painstaking effort, as if someone had failed to give Nedra the memo, Aeliana's head rose up from behind that tea cup and those dark eyes swung in the lady Nedra's direction. "Lovely." An agreement of sorts, be it for the day or the ride, or the fact that she wanted to dunk her head into something cold. "Care for some fruit?" Ae had a bowl that hadn't been touched and looked, when her head dipped into a low bow in lue of a curtsy since she was sitting, as if she might curl her head up on the table instead.

"Thank you, Ser Stafford, that would be lovely," Nedra replies as she takes the empty chair that is gestured to and tucks the jacket over the back of it before peeling off her riding gloves and tucking them into one pocket before she takes the seat. Her maid and both of her guards sort themselves accordingly, greeting exchanged and such as Nedra tries not to let her amusement be to terribly obvious. "Fruit is a good way to start the day, and some good strong tea as well," she agrees. "I'll have to see what the breakfast menu looks like," she admits as she smooths her hair back from her face with both hands. "I have a few last errands to tend too before wrapping up the presents and preparing to depart for Heronhurst. If I leave early enough I should be able to take some time to get a good sketch or two of the Bridge itself before the light is entirely wrong. I can't decide which angle is going to be best, I mean up river or down, that is. It'll depend entirely on the way the light casts the texture of the shadows, of course, but.." and her fingertips fairly twitch with the need to start sketching, "it's such a challenge. I can never resist a challenge. Perhaps I could share the road with you, Lady Aeliana, Ser Stafford?" she asks in a hopeful tone of voice.

The knight's eyes flashed with shrewd amusement as he watched Aeliana's reaction, and then the way Nedra just went on with bubbly enthusiasm about her day's possibilities. For his part he stayed silent, just concentrating on finishing his breakfast. A spread of bread, some olives, a few cuts of meat, and some fairly decent cheese. The fresh and soft kind, rather than the moldy hard type with too much smell.
He made a non committal sound at the Mallister joining them. It wasn't really his call to make, was it? Not when he was merely an escort. It was Aeliana's trip, and mission. He was just coming along to take advantage of the pretty women available for dancing. And the food. Let's not forget the food. And the drink. Even if the twins were barely of age, they would have wine and beer, right? Anything else would have been a complete and horrible disaster.

"Of course," came the reply, as if there'd been nary a thought to be had in regards to whether or not Nedra could join them; though the aware might notice the answer was given only when she realized there was a decided lack of answering coming from Stafford's direction. Women weren't supposed to speak in place of men, were they? Hrm. Oh look, there was tea.
"But only if you promise the sketchings on the way back and not this morning."

Nedra waves down one of the serving girls and puts in a breakfast order that consists mainly of toast, more of the fresh fruit and a handful of other simple breakfast items, no olives for her, or moldy cheese either for that matter. With her own cup of tea now Nedra smiles at Aeliana, "Thank you," is said simply. "And that's a rather easy promise. I plan to make a rather extended study of it on the way back anyway. It's not the sort of thing that I can just do a quick line sketch of and paint from. I really think I'm going to have to make a day or so of it, when it all boils down. I just can't capture the right light, colors and the shadows from a sketch. I wonder if there's someone I ought to be asking permission of before I set up camp along the river bed," she muses, her expression thoughtful. "Better to ask forgiveness than to make the extended plea for permission, though."

Stafford too was into his tea, though his was a less tongue curling flavor than the brew Aeliana was going for. He'd apparently taken Nedra's inclusion into their group all but for granted, and showed no surprise at Aeliana's immediate agreement.
His gaze shifted in Nedra's direction as she got herself comfortable, and continued to prattle on about painting. "A pretty Lady who decided to camp down and immortalize their prize namesake? I'd say you're of little danger of being run off their lands, my Lady Nedra," he mused with a small wry smile.
"Unless you're horrible at painting, of course, in which case they might take offense if you intend to show it to anyone. Are you?"

The words float round her head like smoke from a lazy pipe, aimless and without any real direction or connection to the world around her. Aeliana is a member at the table, she hears them too, but…for the life of her, they're not connecting. Not a little. Not even at all. And then, somewhere between camping and asking for forgiveness; the flint struck true to the steel and where there was smoke, there was suddenly fire. "Oh. Oh oh oh! Oh you paint! I need to talk to you about something sometime, when it's not, you know, breakfast. And….I've had more coffee. Though it does sound like it would be lovely to camp. Oh, but..," foiled, again, but remembering where she was. "Later." That one seemed resigned, given over to giving up and simply listening instead. After all, the answers would be useful to the aforementioned but not yet conquered discussion.

"I used to be," Nedra admits quite readily. "Some of the earlier things I painted were best consigned to a tidy fire. A habit I keep to this day. If it comes out wrong, and I can't flip the canvass and re-use it, it's best to burn these things than to leave them around and hope no one spots it." She gives a quiet chuckle of amusement. "I'll hope that you're right, Ser Stafford, about not being run off, it would be absolutely impossible to explain away in a reasonable manner as to why I've been forbidden to visit Stonebridge again."
The sudden flash of fire in Aeliana's eyes that indicates that, however briefly, all the fires were turned up and the lights were on, makes Nedra turn to nod at Aeliana. "I do, yes. Paint, sketch, a number of entirely useless but time occupying little things. Granted, painting a fresco the size of a barn would take years, please gods may my lady mother never think to make me do that in penance for something," said in a fervent but amused tone of voice. "Later it is, certainly. And it would be lovely to camp. Certainly now that things are settled in this area there's no crushing danger, right?"

"Depends on how close you intend to set camp by the town, my Lady," Stafford said with a casual shrug of his lean shoulder. "It is not so long ago that the countryside was full of men intent on kill and pillage, and those were only in addition to the normal line of bandits. I'm not sure enough time has passed to consider it safe beyond the immediate vicinity of the town. It was on the road to Heronhurst that Young Lord Marvish came to his end, after all."
The last of his tea went down, washing along with it the last bit of cheese. "So are all your paintings and sketches of landscapes, or do you do people as well?"

"This is true," Ae nodded in the wake of Stafford's shared wisdom, while her mind turned back to those men who'd been camped and her expression fell, her eyes turned distant and her smile found itself tempered about the edges before she went back to her tea cup. And she finally started poking about in the bowl of fruit once more; content to listen to the flow of conversation around her.

Nedra ponders the logistics, and from the pensive expression on her face and the slow tap of one fingertip against the edge of the cup she's holding, it's no small amount of pondering. "Perhaps half a day to determine the best angle and the best possible light, do the preliminary sketches to decide which angle is best. Another day to get in position before the sun strikes the right angle and to use the best light of the day to do as much work as possible, must not rush these things," she muses quietly, "two days then. Maybe three. Reasonable," she decides before she blinks slowly, logistics suitably sorted to her frame of mind.
"A valid and very logical point, my lord," Nedra admits in turn to Ser Stafford's very logical point about safety. "I'll simply have to go out of my way to be both inconspicuous and to entirely boring to be worth bothering. Boring, after all, is my specialty," she suggest with a trace of a grin. "But, as to subject, all of the above, and really anything else that catches my fancy. As I said, I happen to adore a challenge. Try capturing a ship, with full sails rigged, in just the right light without casting the sails at the wrong angle or some such idiocy. It's a challenge. People more so. We never quite see ourselves the way others see us, or - more accurately - most people tend to see their flaws first and foremost. Eyes to close together, nose to long, ears to big, chin to small," she makes a vague gesture with one hand, "all the small things that most see first that stand out in our minds before the sum of our features are taken as a whole." A small frown forms on her face, "And then there's the challenge presented by painting the image of those who have been .. wounded, say, damaged perhaps being the better phrase, and somehow creating the truth." She draws a deep breath and summons a smile again, "At any rate. My painting is much better than my needle point, to say the least. "

Stafford's dark eyes went from Aeliana to Nedra and back again, a small crooked smile on his lips that whispered droll amusement. He asked in a quietly conversational voice, perfectly polite: "Are you sure you shouldn't just plan a whole week? You never know when the clouds might stream overhead, or the rain might drench you. Or a great roaring flood lifts the river off its bed and washes away the whole bridge, requiring you to wait until it's rebuild." Helpful, was Stafford, his expression perfectly composed into mild attentiveness. Except for ihs eyes, which might have been alive with tease.
"Boring, my Lady? I fear I must protest. That's *my* speciality. Our Lady Aeliana has made as much clear in private, and as of last evening, even in public. To my great horror." He shook his head with disappointment.
"Though I don't think it would be your personality that attracted the bandits in any event. So much as your horse. Dress, jewelery.. hrm, do painting utensils cost a bit? I expect so. I can't say I've seen a lot of peasents engaging in the passtime. So they'll probably nick those, too. Infact I'd say your personality is probably the only thing they'll pay no mind to at all, my Lady. So, if you would would take a sometime slayer of bandits' advice; camp right on the other side, a shout away from help." He chuckled.
"Then you should paint Aeliana sometime." Challange!

And my needle point is far better than anything I could ever dream of sketching," Aeliana mused, with a faint chuckle. "It was the one thing even my Septa couldn't say I'd gotten wrong or needed to devote more time too," mused, with a whimsical smile for the straying memories of youth. Though she nearly choked on her tea as Stafford went through all the possible things that could go wrong and change a scene, though the bridge washing away was the most outragous and left her giggling quietly behind the curve of her hand.
An accusatory look was offered Stafford then, before she turned with helpless desperation towards Nedra. "I didn't say he was boring all the time, though in my defense, if you had seen him, you would have found him more than just a little stuffy. But he loosens up quite well, I think. Quite the adventerous streak," she teased, glancing in the lord's direction with the statement and her smile, bless it, helped somewhat to hide the yawn that wanted to sneak past the corners. She missed her bed. Wait…paint her? "What? Do you know how long I would have to sit still?" She didn't either, but Nedra had been talking days for a bridge and it didn't move!

Nedra may not know Ser Stafford very well at all, but she does know the signs of droll humor and the conversational tone to match it. "If three days does not do the job, Ser, then I will simply have to amend my time table accordingly at try again at a later date. The bridge, after all, isn't really going to be decamping any time soon and taking off to find another stretch of river to be emplaced upon," she remarks in turn, her own humor rising to the surface, a challenge after all had been offered. "Now, as to which of us is more boring, we'll have to have Lady Aeliana decide," she suggests before that thoughtful look, again, settles in place. "Hmm, more wisdom, and most welcome at that. So. Do not bring any mounts of particular noteworthy value, the most plain fo clothing, no ornaments and nonsense at all. But I simply can't use just any cheap brush or paint or canvass. Hmm. The merits versus the end result. Perhaps," and she lets the word stand for itself as she turns toward Aeliana and grins wryly only to laugh at the look on Aeliana's face.
"Oh, how rare, the look!" she says between laughter and gasps for breath, ending up with one hand carefully setting the cup down, the other pressed to her side as she laughs softly still. "The challenge of painting such a large thing like the bridge, my lady, is that there is a great deal that surrounds it that must be done just as well as the bridge. The river, the sky, the land itself, the shadows, the small and intricate little details to make everything as lifelike as possible. It's not the same as, say, painting a single rose bush. It's a landscape, and all it entails. Now, painting a person.. .. to be fair, i usually do a series of sketches first and find one that we would both agree upon and then work from that in the general outline before painting the details in with a final sitting. And you wouldn't necessarily have to sit still, mind, just don't gallivant about the room constantly," she suggests, that grin of amusement still tugging at her lips.

"At which point you will be mistaken for a commoner, and accosted by the first drunk peasent coming home from whatever disreputable taverns can be found around here," Stafford countered when Nedra suggested going for the common touch.
"Now Lady Aeliana, that is patently untrue. I was merely being a courteous host, offering you all the pomp and etiquette that such an esteemed guest's presence demanded." He sighed the sigh of the injustly accused and judged, before stealing some of the fruit that Aeliana hadn't bothered to touch. His own plate was empty already.
"See? She already has a vision. Will you stand in the way of true inspiration, Lady Aeliana? I thought better of you!"

"What I believe, My Lord Stafford is trying to say is that, it may be best instead to retain rooms here at the inn and simply, since you seem such an early riser," and a far too chipper one at that, "Ride out and pass the day before the light fades doing such…," a hand rose, waving about to encompass all the various things that Nedra had tried to work through and explain once or twice already, "Without putting yourself at more risk than is necessary." Finished with a sage nod before adding, "And I suspect he may well be right, if only for selfish reasons. If the experience of camping is something you desire though…I know just the place."
At which point she flashed a grin in Staffords direction and then a look, for his theft before nudging the bowl in his direction so that it sat readily between them and within easy reach for both as she snagged a grap. "Still, if I am to sit for a painting then…I would demand the right to pick the location. No chairs, no boring studies, no posing with needlework in my lap, no dogs at my feet. I refuse to have such a pet until such a time as I marry and may keep one without traveling hither and yon. But I do…have just the location in mind. Are you familiar with the ruins of Witchwind Watch, my Lady?"

Nedra does another of those slow, and terribly thoughtful, blinks - this time a good bit startled and a shade perplexed, "Hmm. While I don't see the actual probability fo that being all that high," she muses in return, "it's another point that I'm not prepared to defend against, at length." Her attention shifts back toward Aeliana before she gives another of those slow nods, "Perhaps that would be more prudent. I'd best schedule this for after the wedding then. I doubt there will be many rooms left for the taking after the nameday event at Heronhurst. Between then and the wedding, it's going to be more than just a bit crowded."
Nedra curls both hands around the cup of tea she's nursing along, letting the warmth of it seep into her hands as she shakes her head. "Those dreadful studies, please, blessed gods, save me from such. Absolutely not going to do one of those horrid stern sketches in a severe high collar dress with your hair all scraped back like so or, worse, sticking out to either side, head tilted up to give the ridiculous snooty look. No," she agrees, shaking her head again. "I'm not familiar with the ruins of Witchwind Watch, Lady Aeliana," she admits in return, "but it sounds like either a great challenge to paint or something that defies it's name by being a tame tumble of old crumbling stones cast in perpetual sunlight of summer."

"It would be more comfortable, if anything. I confess I don't mind a bit of camping myself, to be honest, Lady Nedra, but I prefer to do it surrounded by at least half a dozen who I know can protect me or in the company of somewhere quiet, Uncle Harold had such a place in Kellen. But you have just given me the perfect idea of a gift for his soon to be new born child. His lady wife is due at the end of January, which is a pity, I've told him because if he had simply aimed for December, then it could have shared a birthday with me," she laughed, amusement in her eyes. "But to have a picture of he and his wife, of his first son before his home," her tone had gone sweetly nostalgic, "Because it simply must be a boy, I think he would really like that." Which meant she had to conspire to arrange it. "And I may just get you to do the shopping for the kidlet," she flashed a grin at the end of it, amusement putting crinkles at the corners of her eyes.
"Witchwind though…is beautiful. It's ruins are ancient, though it stands at the point where the Groves land touches both Mallister and Terrick; near the sea where the cliffs are jagged and less kind than those one might see in the Roost. It's walls long since crumbled, it's floor an ode of tilting stone slowly being consumed. Though…there is another place I'm fond of, a little stream in the King's Grove proper, that reminds me of Kellen, since Kellen itself is entirely too far for either of us to run off to, at the moment. Are you sure, truly you'd not mind doing a painting?"

"I would be happy to, on all counts, to be honest," Nedra says, laughing a bit at the thought of doing shopping for the kidlet to be. "I don't normally shop with any measure of skill, I must confess. But I so look forward to becoming Aunt Nedra that my usual lack of skill in this area is being set aside for the special occasion. And, the tiny shoes! They're to adorable to resist," and this is where she just can't help it. "The look on your face yesterday, Lady Aeliana, was just to priceless. As though the shoes were for a child much nearer and dearer than a nephew or niece," again that laugh and a gleam of mischievous humor in her eyes. "Yes, though, quite most certainly yes, I'd be happy to. Are you sure though that I wouldn't be a burden?" she asks, worrying over the thought of her guards, her maid and septa, being guests as such while Nedra works on the paintings.

Stafford blinked a couple of times when Aeliana mentioned that particular ruin, surprise briefly taking contorl of his normally so well composed features. Then he was back in control, clearing his voice and nodding with mellow agreement. "It's a pretty location, if somewhat out of the way. I don't think anyone goes to that tower anymore."
He immediately offered his invitation when the suggestion of doing the painting at the King's Grove, though. "It would be my honor to offer hospitality to a Mallister, and you in particular, Lady Nedra." He added a flick in Aeliana's direction, with a wry smile. "You already know you're welcome, anytime. You can even camp quite safely. The banditry that has plagued the greater cape region has avoided Groves lands." Just as the war itself had mostly done so, except for a few outlying farms burned and pillaged. "And it's within walking distance of Braeburn House, for all that it'll feel as if you're in the deepest wilderness once you're beyond the first trees. House Groves was founded upon maintaining it exactly as it was in that past Age, and we've been dutiful about it."

"It works out perfectly then!" Ae mused and at least had finally come 'round to being properly awake for the conversation. "We can go down to Kingsgrove after the wedding, because…," and her she leaned conspiratorally in Nedra's direction, "Honestly the time I spent there was mostly cooped up following the Maester's orders to keep from forever ruining my foot and my adventures consisted of…sitting in the court yard or shut in with my foot propped up. I haven't even had a proper chance to explore the village yet and I've a feeling there are several pieces of knotwork that's harbored locally that I'm itching to find someone to teach me. There were the loveliest little designs on the pillows in the guest room," she sighed, for all that she'd not been able to find someone in the household to tell her how the particular bit of cross stitching had been done.

Nedra gives a glimpse of a smile that conveys a measure of apology and amusement toward Ser Stafford, "Then I am most honored to accept your offer of hospitality, though I promise I didn't mean to box you in like that. I blame Lady Aeliana," she says with a grin at Ae. "Once she dangled the idea of somewhere new to paint, and now it sounds even MORE Of a challenge than it did at the first couple of words, there was no way I'd be able to resist without having to do something unfortunate like cover my ears and try to not hear it," she suggests with a laugh. "Of course," and this is now aimed at Aeliana, "we'll have to camp, too, since it sounds safe enough to do so. And…" she nods slowly as she's tilted her head to catch the conspiratorial words regarding knotwork, "maybe we can both learn the secret. The only knots I'm terribly good at are sailing knots and coils," she confesses. " That and tying a good lure when fishing, which is the other utterly non exciting talent that I must now confess too. And it sounds perfect. My cousin, Lady Muirenn, will be swamped with all the visitors and family that'll be coming to help plan her wedding to Ser Otto at Heronhurst in the next few weeks or so. The further away I am from the crush and absolute dizzy madness of that, the better!"