|Summary:||Jaremy meets Anais by the sea. He confides in her about Gedeon's letters, a plan is hatched.|
|Coastline — Terrick's Roost|
|The Cape of Eagles looms out over Ironman's Bay, a vast, blue ocean inlet, that spreads its watery depths out beyond the horizon. The path that leads down to this coast winds down behind the towers for several hundred meters before arriving at the rocky water's edge. Rather than sand, the coast is covered with innumerable smooth and rounded stones about palm-sized. They stretch up and down the coast in all directions with the battered remnants of driftwood scattered about. Above the beach, one every mile or two, are towers with a large bell and mallet atop them which are to be beaten to warn of an incoming invasion.|
A morning ride with Lucienne served to acquaint Anais with the area immediately around Terrick's Roost. And after they returned, the young Banefort lady lingered only briefly within the walls before gathering a pair of guards and riding back out once more, letting the guards at the Roost know that they were on their way to the shore.
Anais has found herself a spot by a large piece of driftwood, a blanket folded underneath herself as she leans back against the wood. The guards are mostly at their ease at a comfortable distance, and there's a basket that might include snacks off to one side. Anais…may be sleeping. Her eyes are closed, at least, her breathing regular, as the breeze off of the sea tugs at her braid, freeing strands of hair to cast their own halo in the sunlight.
From the direction of Four Eagles Tower comes the faint sound of horse hooves crossing over the grass at a leisurely pace. The leather of saddlery straining against metal clasps and catches is distant, as is the murmuring of the house guards. A new arrival has come in the form of Jaremy Terrick and yet another pair of sworn swords, defending him as he rides to the shore of the Cape of Eagles.
The sound of footfalls comes nearer as spur scrapes over the soft, rounded stones of the Terrick coastline. Jaremy unhooks his sword's scabbard from the sword frog on his belt, taking the weapon into his hand to carry. Pausing near her, he looks to the basket and her blanket. He's stopped moving. Instead of disturbing her rest, he stands to gaze over the waves, watching them roll in.
The Banefort guards straighten up as the other riders approach, though there are respectful nods rather than any real wariness between them. It isn't so much the sounds of hooves that wake Anais, as it is the whinny of greeting from her mare to the arriving horses. "Hmmm?" she asks, shifting and opening her eyes. There's a brief moment of tension, of wariness, but as there doesn't appear to be panic around her, it eases away with a deep breath.
"Oh, gracious," she laughs softly when she looks up to see Jaremy, smoothing a hand over her skirts. "I must look like a half-drowned rat."
Jaremy's eye tilts down to her, watching her collect himself before he turns his attention back to the sea in front of him. The side of his mouth tugs into a wry grin. "No…no you don't. You had a peace about you. I wasn't aware you were resting when I walked over, and I didn't have the heart to wake you." He chuckles, moving around behind her to the opposite side of the driftwood, setting his sword to prop against it. "How did you sleep last night? Were you able to get to sleep eventually, or did I just come upon you catching up on lost hours?"
"I did sleep," Anais answers with a nod, running a hand over her hair just enough to discover the network of loose hairs. Doing her best not to call attention to it, she quickly undoes the tie at the end of her braid, shaking it out. There. Now it can /all/ stick out. "Though it was late before I did. I thought I might see if I could make up for lost time," she admits, laughing low. "It's peaceful here. Your watchtowers look strong," she adds, nodding toward one.
"Yeah…the entire cape has them at intervals." Jaremy begins, scooting past the basket to rest against the other side of the driftwood. Bringing a knee up, he braces his elbow around it and lazily motions down the coastline. "They're lined all up and down the coast and are manned. Always better to be safe when the Greyjoys are concerned, but the longer we go without seeing one of their ships in the distance, the less likely they are to turn their eyes to Terrick's Roost." His eyes turn to her, tracing the profile of her face. "I didn't see you when I was practicing in the yard this morning. Did you ride out early, or did I just not see you?"
Anais's smile curves as she looks over toward him. "I'm waiting until you take on the Knight of Oldstones," she teases. "So that I can appreciate you in your full glory, lest too much of a good thing make me lose sense of the wonder." She holds silence for a beat, a challenging quirk to her brow, before giving up with a laugh. "No, we rode out early," she admits. "It was a beautiful morning, and my head was too full of thoughts to let my stomach rest easy with breakfast. Which is why I brought a few things," she adds, twisting toward the basket. "If you don't mind sharing."
"Ah, the knight of Oldstones." He bares his teeth in a feral grin. "As I said I would, I had the raven sent out, now we'll just have to wait and see how long it takes to get a response. Oldstones is down the coastline, and if they have an invitation to visit with Lord Mallister they'd be able to make the rest of the journey up here with relative ease. You may have to wait a little while, though." He pauses, bringing his other knee to rest his leg against his propped up leg, watching her busy herself with the basket. "I don't mind sharing at all. What of these thoughts, though, Anais. Are there any that you can share with me?"
"More of the same," Anais confesses, pulling out a loaf of bread and passing it to Jaremy before turning back to the basket. "My head is…spinning. Thoughts of arguments, of law, of what could be done about Stonebridge. They marched in their soldiers, you know," she notes as she pulls out a small crock of some soft cheese rolled in herbs and pepper. "We saw them as we were leaving. One doesn't march in soldiers unless one intends to use them."
"After the duel with the Greyjoy bastard, the Greyjoy broke camp and returned to Pyke rather quickly. Lady Valda Tordane took the matter to my father as fifty soldiers from House Nayland moved to the opposite side of the bank. She suggested we increase security, due to the threat of Greyjoy reprisal at the tourney. My father told her that while Tordane was still a vassal to Terrick, Nayland soldiers would remain on the other side of the river. They were quite sore about it." Jaremy turns the loaf of bread over in his hands, reaching for a knife to cut the bread. Carefully, he leans over the bread, cutting away the heel. "After the wedding announcement and the wedding of Lady Isolde, they were no longer Terrick vassals, and thus the troops were moved over to guard Stonebridge." Setting the heel of bread aside, he looks forward to the sea, watching the gray-blue water roll in. "I think the Tully's are blind to what's falling into place, here, but the Naylands and Tordanes are also suffering a setback. We've some breathing room to prepare."
"I still don't believe it should matter if Nayland marries Tordane," Anais wrinkles her nose as she settles back against the driftwood once more. "Stonebridge is still Terrick land. Lord Ryker can rule Hag's Mire as Lord of all he surveys, but he still should be required to bend the knee to your father as Lord of Stonebridge." She pulls out an apple next, and a dull knife for the cheese. "Though I've a feeling that he'd only laugh at that argument, and soldiers from someone or another would be required to enforce it."
"Yeah, they would, although the smallfolk of Stonebridge favor the Terricks, as I'm sure the Naylands are going to have to work to earn their trust. So aside from that damned dock and the ferries that come through, they don't have really any land to claim aside from what's at Stonebridge itself." He sets some slides of bread aside, carefully returning the knife. "Make no mistake, though, Anais. The Nayland and Tordane houses are a house divided, with Valda fighting with Isolde and, as it appears, Lord Ryker fighting with the rest of his house. We've made preparations on our eastern borders to watch their movements. My father is furious at their arrogance and their open disrespect, but I've seen something deeper there. Something that may be a danger to themselves."
"Good." Anais reaches for a piece of the bread then, smearing some of the cheese over it. "Here, try this," she offers the crock over with a small smile. "It's something we make at home. Well. It's something the smallfolk make. I tried once. My father was kind enough to eat it, but even at nine I could see just what it was costing his tongue," she laughs, rueful. "So what are your plans, then?" she asks with a quirk of her brow, though she pauses as soon as the words are out of her mouth. "If you don't mind me asking, of course."
Jaremy can't help but to shoot his eyes to hers at the mention of her father's tongue being causted by the cheese. An unsaid 'are you sure this is safe?' crosses over his features before he brings the bread to his lips. Taking a bite, he chews it quietly, eyes craning to the corner of their sockets while he critiques it. Satisfied, he nods a few times. "It's good…" He clears his throat, swallowing. "…very good." Leaning up, he glances back to the guards in the distance, checking to see just how alone they are. "While my father is still lord of Four Eagles Tower, it's not my place to make his decisions for him, but I am bending his ear. He's angry. He's ready to settle things, and I fear whatever passion I displayed our enemies will play into with his hand as well." He pauses. "Nayland has no cause to declare war, but if they are going to encroach on our lands it'll be done on the range, at our eastern farms. I've sent men there. In the meantime I intend to keep close watch on this internal matter of theirs while inviting said 'unknown' elements to visit us so that I can know their face. I may, in fact, duel one of them to win a dance with a Lady."
"That would be terribly brave of you," Anais nods somberly, the faintest glint of humor in her eyes. She takes a bite of the bread and cheese herself, chewing in contented silence as she looks out to the sea. "Do you ever go swimming out there?" she nods toward the waters, shifting on her blanket so that the tiny stones can find other places to press into her skin.
"At the very least it would give me a chance to meet Ser Anton. He has eyes for my sister, and it seems one of his sworn may have eyes for Stonebridge. So when I look out to the east I'm seeing movement, movement worth watching closely while making preparation." Jaremy admits, pausing to take another bite from the bread. Chewing slowly, he swallows and follows her gaze to the water. "From time to time…there's a small cove up the way where the ground beneath's a bit more stable." His eyebrow lifts slightly, an amused look forming on his face. "Are you comfortable swimming in cold water, Anais?"
"We used to spend weeks at a time swimming," Anais laughs, tipping her chin toward the coast. "Your waters are a little more northerly, of course. But they're rarely /warm/ around Banefort, either." She arches a brow at thim then, smile crooked. "I'm not swimming with /you/ until you marry me, though," she announces, tipping her chin up. "So you'll just need to be having a few talks with your father." She waves a hand in a get the hence motion, though there's too much humor in her smile to give it force. "Eyes for Stonebridge, though, you say?" she asks more seriously. "How so?"
"My father is already in negotiations with your father, from what I understand." He flashes a grin back at her, doing his best to appear fully innocent. The thought did, perhaps, cross his mind. "Though I have spoken with my father, and have told him that if your Lord Father would be so willing, I would be proud to take your hand. Ravens are coming and going from the rookery, many of them flying in the direction of Banefort." He slows his words, turning his attention towards the rocks. The water brushes over the coastline, filling the cracks between the soft stones as he takes another bite of his bread. Still, he hesitates until he swallows his meal down. "I should not involve you in this, though a part of me would love to know your mind's take on this." He looks back to her, searching her eyes.
For all her jesting, Anais' cheeks flush at the talk of negotiations and ravens flying back and forth. "I wonder if it always feels as though it happens this quickly," she murmurs, more to herself than to Jaremy, setting her bread down to clasp her hands together. When he looks to her, she looks up to meet his gaze, her own open to reveal the nerves beneath the wit, the uncertainty behind the boldness. "You…should do as you feel fitting," she says after a moment, slowly tearing her gaze from his to turn back to the sea. "It would probably be wisest to wait until there is some formal agreement. Or announcement. Wisest. After all, even should I have some idea, it would be awkward to present it to your father, no?"
"You're right…" Jaremy replies, flattening his lips. Careful of his spurs, he turns to sit partially on his hip, facing her more directly. Leaning his elbow against the driftwood, he watches her gaze out to the sea. "…though if you've a suggestion for him until then, pass it through me. I value your thoughts, Anais, though it would be better received that way. Damn…" He scoffs, shaking his head. "…part of the reason the marriage happened so quickly, it seems, is because there is a man contesting Nayland and Tordane rights to Stonebridge."
Anais's brows rise at that news, and she shifts to face him more fully. "Nayland /and/ Tordane?" she echoes, tucking hair away from her face to better focus on Jaremy. "Nayland I understand. At least I think I do. But what's the claim about the Tordanes?" Her brows furrow at the question, a slight wrinkling of her nose with the expression.
Jaremy leans in closer as if the waves themselves are able to listen to his words. Slipping the last of the bread into his mouth, he flips up a stone for skipping while he chews and sends it into the ocean. Politely not speaking as he finishes his meal, he swallows and turns back towards her. "The Naylands now have Stonebridge, but certain documents have come into play that allegedly contest Lady Isolde's heredity, suggesting that she is illegitimate. To add to it, these documents, held by Geoffrey Tordane's bastard son, claim that he should hold the seat of Stonebridge." He locks his eyes on hers. "You can tell no one of this, but I've set Jarod to searching the maester's logs for validity of these claims that Lord Geoffrey was at tourney without wife when Isolde was likely conceived."
Anais blinks, taking that in for a long moment. "That's…an interesting development," she says after a moment, shifting to lean back against the driftwood once more. As she thinks, she chews on the knuckle of her thumb, an absent-minded habit. "Hard to prove, though. /Especially/ given the situation. It will look like a last, desperate attempt coming from Terrick, even if you /can/ prove it." Her brows furrow again, confusion flickering across her features. "Did no one know how to count twenty years ago, that it took this long to come out?"
"My thoughts exactly, Anais. It's rather convenient that these documents arrive on hand just in time for the announcement and the wedding itself. My father…" He tilts his head to the side, cringing. "…has not yet been informed. Seven, he'd run me through for this, but the truth is that I fear he'd jump all too quickly at a chance to unseat Ryker Nayland that if these documents are found false we'll only provoke them into outright hostility. At least as it stands now, Ser Ryker and I have an accord of the sorts. Yes. We met." He leans back on the large driftwood log, folding his arms across his chest as he turns his eyes back to the sea. "And thus, Jarod is meeting with our maester to check the logs. If this is a very forgery, it could be this bastard's own doing, though he's sworn to Oldstones. If we can discover anything independently it would be not only just to do so, but would allow us to see the field more clearly."
"It might," Anais allows slowly. "Though I'm not sure how you could effectively bring it to light." Catching herself at the chewing, she quickly moves her hand away, clasping them both together. "The best way would be to bring up something /else/ that they would willingly prove. But in such a way that this would have to come out as a side effect." She tilts her head to one side, pressing her lips together. "You might ask your brother to see if Lord Tordane came to any agreements that would be to the current benefit of the Naylands at the time he was away. Especially if they had to do with taxes or the disposition of the bridge. Something the Naylands will /wish/ to defend and prove. And if it comes out in the meantime that Lord Tordane had to have been /away/…Well, goodness. How could that be?"
Nodding towards the water, Jaremy brings his knee up once more, allowing his elbow to wrap around it. Seeming to like the idea, he narrows his eyes, the wheel inside of his head churning. "Not a bad idea, though first we'll have to see what sort of logs or timelines we have involving the Tordane's at that time. For all we know Valda Tordane was accounted for. If that's the case then there's no possibility that these documents aren't a forgery. Again, another cause for caution, as we'd have to consider just how deep this ploy goes." He turns back to her, head tilted in a discerning manner. "Again, Anais, you can tell no one, but knowing this also allows you to ability to watch for your sisters. So you see why I've seen Nayland slowed by this." He offers her his hand. "I offer you my trust in this…"
"Where was the tournament?" Anais asks, looking over. "Perhaps my father might have some records regarding that time period as well." She nods to his warning, then shakes her head just as quickly. "I won't tell anyone," she promises. "Though I thank you for your trust in it. It's still a delicate thing," she cautions, looking up to him. "If they feel too cornered, I'd not be surprised to see them come to arms. Where law fails, strength prevails."
"The tourney was at the Crag, in fact, just south of your father's seat." Jaremy blinks, a torch seemingly sparking to life in his eyes. "Anais…the tourney that Lord Geoffrey went to was in the Westerlands, and he'd have likely traveled from Seagard and around Banefort itself on the way there. There could be answers in the records that the Banefort's maester keeps, but if anything is to be gleamed from this you would likely have to word your request for information very, very carefully." His eyes lighten, smile returning to his face. "If you would not look into this because you've no long love for the Riverlands, Anais, would you risk such for me?"
"Or because it's a mystery and a challenge?" Anais' lips quirk, a hint of a smile at one corner. "For one reason or another of them, I'll do it. You'll have to guess which of them, though." She finally reaches for her bread again, taking a small bite and chewing it over as she thinks. "Again, though, I think it will go better for you - for us - if the Naylands are the ones who bring up the topic that reveals it. Let them hang themselves with their own rope, and your hands will come away clean."
"I'll have to pay close attention then, perhaps I'll be able to figure out just which one you're doing it for." Jaremy retorts, eyes narrowing slyly. Reaching for the apple, he takes it up along with the knife and starts to cut them some slices, hungry for something moist and sweet to wash the bread down with. "I've no interest to bloody Terrick hands in any manner over this unless it's absolutely necessary, and I risk angering my father by not telling him. What we don't have is information, and that is the difference between all out chaos and good maneuvering in this situation." Jaremy tsks. "Nayland doesn't seem to lose as much as Tordane from this deal, but others are likely to gain. The lot of them appear hungry to me." Slicing the apple with thumb and forefinger as a guide, he offers her a wedge of the fruit. "But if their eyes aren't pointed here, then we can see what they're looking at that much easier."
"Why aren't you telling your father, again? You think he'll react too strongly?" Anais asks with an arch of her brow, reaching for one of the slices of apple. "You know, Jaremy, I've gotten the sense that perhaps your father is already not thrilled with you," she notes, carefully modulating her tone. "I…can see how that would lead you to want to prove yourself to him by figuring this out yourself. But I'd be careful about discounting the resources you could tap with his support and approval." She takes a tiny bite of the apple, then lifts one shoulder in a shrug. "And the longer you work on it, the harder it's going to be to hide it from him. And that would only make /my/ father angrier, though I can't speak for yours."
"I just wanted a little information before bringing it to him, but yes, I was worried he would overreact given his temper as he left the tourney. I've no mind to keep this from him for any longer than the time it takes for Jarod to get back to me from the maester's logs. In truth, if he got the impression that I was trying to run the Roost over his head, Jarod and I would both be skinned because it was brought to me before it was brought to him. You see…the Terricks have always cared deeply for the Tordanes. Now…some do and some don't. It's…sensitive." His brows knit together. "I'll ride back soon to speak with Jarod and then we'll take our findings to my father."
"Don't let me keep you," Anais urges with a wry smile of her own, giving his shoulder a gentle shove. "Go and be lord of the castle and solve all of your father's problems. I'll work on composing a letter for my father," she adds, sobering at that thought. "I'll tell him as it looks as though I may be staying here at Terrick's Roost, I was hoping to learn more about the family and the surrounding holdings, and would he perhaps have any records about the tournaments at the Crag and the Banefort a few years before I was born? If he wonders why, I doubt he'll ask. I've always been collecting stories."
Jaremy grins broadly at the shove, and although he doesn't budge much, he allows himself to rock at the hip. Toddling back towards her. "There's never a dull moment, is there?" He laughs, reaching for his sword's scabbard. Daring to do so, he reaches out to brush his hand over her upper arm, a slight display of affection that can be afforded during their courting. Turning his heels, he rises to his feet and nods his head towards her. "Tomorrow let's range through Terrick's Roost. I'll show you more of these lands and the people." With that…he turns to leave.
Anais' cheeks flush at the touch, though there's a smile as well. "Tomorrow," she agrees. "Take care, Jaremy." When the young lord departs, her own retainers move a little closer once again, even so far as to share in what remains of the picnic. It's a pretty enough picture, the girl on the beach, to leave behind.