Page 184: Fascination
Summary: Aron and his sister discuss their plans for the Charlton household.
Date: 17/01/2012
Related Logs: Asking Favors and Tea and Honey
Aron Ceinlys 
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.
January 17th 289 A.L.

Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principals which direct them. - Napoleon Bonaparte

It's been a rough war for poor Aron; to be unhorsed by a scratch, and then cut down by an Ironborn far too quickly.. how embarrassing. Having arrived back in Stonebridge the night before, Aron has not been seen by anyone since - he disappeared into his own room and locked the door, without even the company of wine. But it is dawn now, and a man cannot hide forever.

Moving with a stiffness that even his fine clothing cannot hide, Aron tentatively makes his way down the hall. He hesitates outside Ceinlys's room before finally raising his fist and knocking lightly. "Sister? May I come in?"

The door is drawn open fairly promptly. Though it's the sour face of Brigid, his sister's handmaiden, that is revealed within, initially. Dipping a curtsey, the older woman then steps aside, keeping her beady eyes lowered as she allows the young lord to pass as he desires. No doubt she heard he was returned. In fact, most everyone probably knows, given the thrum of excitement from the 'ladies' who frequent this particular inn. But none were summoned? How disappointing.

Inside the chambers, Ceinlys is seated at a table, parchments spread out before her. Looking much improved now that she has reclaimed her usual standard of attire and appearance, the young lady looks up at the intrusion, then simply drops her writing, forgetting it in an instant as she rises to her feet, a ready curve already tugging at her lips. "Aron.." Crossing the floor toward him, she opens her slender arms to offer him an embrace, the draping bell cuffs of her sleeves trailing in the wake of the motion.

Brushing past Brigid as though she weren't there, Aron fails to even deliver his usual taunts to the older woman. The young Haigh looks pale and drawn - unsurprising, given that his innards were recently hacked at - but beneath the stiffness of injury, there is something further gnawing at the man.

He steps into Ceinlys's embrace without a word, wrapping his arms around her in a bear-hug, ignoring the wince that crosses his features - and clearly, again, not all of this pain is physical. "Oh, sister.. I failed." The sheer embarrassment in his voice is not at all like the usual hauteur the man wears like a shield.

Ceinlys wraps her elder brother in her arms and, for a moment, simply remains perfectly still and silent, letting her eyes drift closed. She knew he was returning, but the real, physical comfort of having one's family again is worth savoring, at least a little. "I think not.." she murmurs, likewise ignoring her chaperone as the woman quietly closes the door and returns to her needlework, settling down to a seat atop a broad trunk with a quiet sigh. " survived. Others did not."

Reluctantly drawing back, the young lady looks up into Aron's pale blue eyes, noting the tightness of pain around them and affecting an intense expression of sincerity. "You did not fail. Your pride has merely taken a little battering, sweetling. As I understand it, other Houses suffered losses far greater." Standing on tiptoe, she brushes an affectionate kiss across his cheek, before retreating further, folding her slender arms across her snugly corseted midsection. "By all means.. air your grievances or perceived weaknesses in -my- presence, brother.. but not to the world beyond these walls, do you understand me..?"

With surprising meekness, Aron nods. "I understand. But, sister.. I was doing so -well-. We rode in, perfectly ordered. I nearly took their leader, but it was as though my lance were battering against stone. And then some little -bastard- managed to knock me end-over-end." He trails off, flushing again as he remembers, his hands clenching and relaxing.

"I am a -good- warrior, sister. One of the best of our generation. With a lance in hand, on a horse, I am close to perfection. Or if I am not.. then what am I good for?" He winces, turning toward Brigid. "Get me some wine, woman." A bit of his fire returning, at least. "-You've- seen me ride, sister. You know I'm good. It was just so.. random. A horrid fluke."

Retiring back toward her chair, Ceinlys eases smoothly down to a seat, her golden skirts falling in a sweep. Reclining comfortably, she studies her brother with her crystalline blue eyes, clasping her hands and not interjecting in his demand for wine. Brigid promptly rises to her feet again - poor, put-upon old thing - and, following a curtsey, strides briskly across the chamber to the waiting pitcher of wine. Maybe her mistress prefers to drink here, rather than in the common room? For the most part.

"All life is a game of luck, dear brother. And yes.. I know full well how skilled you are. It was an unfortunate accident. Could have happened to anyone." Shaking back her dark tresses, Ceinlys sighs.. then begins to smile slowly. "You will not be a tourney knight forever. As it happens, I have set some ideas in motion, in your absence.." A hand rises, raking through her pristine ebon locks; a habitual, thoughtful mannerism. "..Mother wished me to secure some manner of allegiance with a powerful House, and I have done so. With luck, I am to enter the service of Lady Cherise Charlton.. and I have reason to believe her husband may desire to take you on. Provided such a thing would please you, brother."

"Aleister Charlton.." Aron smiles slowly at this, reaching aside to take a goblet of wine from Brigid. He paces toward his sister, wincing a bit as he raises the goblet and takes a lengthy draught. "He's willing to take me on, despite.. what happened in the battle?" The knight's eyes twinkle with a wicked mischief as he studies Ceinlys up-close. "If you intend to go to the Charltons, sweet sister, I would be remiss to not protect you."

"After all, they're wicked folk. And my poor innocent sister alone among them? It hardly bears thinking. Charlton hasn't been doing well in the tourneys, either. I'd be a valuable addition." He grins at Ceinlys, a wicked edge to his voice. "I think that you and I would do very well among our new friends, sweet sister. And away from our dear father for a time."

"Indeed." The young lady permits a calm smile to play across her lips as she watches her brother. "I told him I would make mention, but would leave the discussion to be held between the two of you. It is hardly my place to conduct it on your behalf and.. well, perhaps you will have chance to take measure of the man. He's intriguing." Looking to the papers spread out on the table before her, Ceinlys reaches to brush her fingertips lightly across some of the uppermost. "He is also, I believe, close to the heir of Hollyholt himself, Ser Andrey. Do I recall the pair of you competing in the lists, a while back? Regardless.. I will write to mother of our progress."

Adding, almost as an afterthought, "She was due to birth our newest sibling, the last I heard from home." As if Aron cares of such things. "And Hafwen is improving from her brief illness, thank the Seven." Those fingers withdraw, now lightly touching to her sternum in supplication. For all her airs and graces, Ceinlys is a protective mother… it has obviously weighed upon her, being so far from the child.

Sipping his wine, Aron casts a glance over at Brigid, pursing his lips. The desire to force the woman out of the room is almost -palpable-, but he somehow manages to keep his mouth shut about it. For now. He smiles at his sister and carries on the conversation in even tones. "I unseated Lord Andrey, I believe, at Harrenhal. Not a bad man in a tourney, but a far better soldier, from what I recall."

"You say Aleister is.. intriguing? Perhaps the man has ambitions of his own. He may need new friends to help them manifest." Reaching out lightly, the man brushes his fingertips across Ceinlys's belly, speaking as an afterthought. "..And I am glad to hear your daughter recovered."

Ceinlys merely smiles up at her taller sibling for his words and the affectionate gesture, before moving on to other matters calmly. "No doubt he is a man of ambition. He also spoke against the Erenfords rather plainly, though I do not yet know him well enough to trust the sincerity of such words. Time will tell. For now, it is enough for me that I may be raised in esteem above them, in any small way." Her eyes wander vaguely about the chambers as she considers the implications. "..I have not yet met his lady wife, either. I can only hope she is.. suitable. And that she desires a companion of another of the Frey lineage, rather than her own Westerling kin."

Returning her attention to Aron, she flits a glance over his form. "I trust the healers tended you sufficiently, dear brother. Do your injuries yet trouble you?"

"They ache, yes. But the worst is the -itching-, sister. No one ever writes about how much a wound itches when it knits back together." Aron smiles, his even features fortunately unmarred by battle. "Oh, my sweet sister. Yes, let us hope Lady Cherise is.. suitable. I do hate it when you get catty." His tone is patently false, sparkling wickedly.

"And if Ser Aleister is ambitious, sweetling, why.. we shall offer him our hand, to boost him ever higher. Assuming he's genuine about hating the fucking Erenfords, of course." The profanity flows evenly off the man's lips as he carries on. "And of course, someday, we'll just…drop our hands." Aron beams at Ceinlys, absently rubbing at his gut.

This time, the young lady offers only a soft 'hmm' of apparent agreement, not looking even remotely convinced by Aron's professed dislike of her darker tendencies. "For the time being, though.. it will raise our standing, being associated with the greatest House among the vassals. So.. play nicely. And do try not to sleep with his wife? That would be rather a swift route to ending any agreement our families have." Pushing to a stand, seeming a little restless, Ceinlys takes to pacing slowly back and forth along the length of one of the rugs underfoot, arms folded and fingertips drumming lightly. "I still fail to understand -why- his kin thought it worthwhile to wed him to a Westerling.. what are your thoughts upon it, dear brother? Are they well-landed? Have they formidable forces at hand? It makes no sense to me at all." A pause. "Maybe he truly loves her." She flits Aron a glance, holding a straight face admirably for a short time before relenting to a soft, throaty laugh. How many unions are based upon romantic desire, after all?

"Well, sister, he -is- just a cousin to the heir. Perhaps he simply wasn't important enough to merit a valuable bride. And while the Westerlings are not the most powerful House, in themselves.. they are vassals to the Lannisters." Aron frowns down at his shirt, which is showing a faint brown stain, as though his wound has seeped through the bandage. Perfectly natural, but given the man's fastidious nature, probably disgusting to him. After a hesitation, he continues.

"Any sort of connection to the -Lannisters- brings with it advantages. Perhaps Aleister hopes to break free of his vasselage to the Freys and move in with the Lions?" He raises his eyebrows at this, reaching up to rub his chin. "..Actually, that'd be a dratted clever move. Of course, it's only a guess. Most likely answer is that he simply didn't merit a better bride. Or perhaps the Westerlings -are- stronger than we think. I'd have to ask."

With a deep sigh that heaves her slender shoulders a little, Ceinlys turns to pace another few steps, glancing to her brother as he regards his shirt. " ought to wear black, sweetling, until your wound closes." Reaching up with both hands, she draws her heavy tresses away from her nape and pulls them forward over one shoulder, absently running her fingers through the lengths, occasionally twirling a lock around one digit. "If I am to be a lady in waiting, brother, no doubt I will learn -something- of the Lady's circumstances. Why else would I even entertain the notion of serving?" True, she's not exactly the modest, dutiful companion type, by nature. Needs must. "And you will wrangle details from Aleister that would not be loosed so freely in the presence of ladies." That's not a question.. she's telling him his task.

With a sudden swerve, she changes topic, airily enquiring, "Did you sleep with that young healer, then? A tumble in the laundry, perhaps?"

"Of course not. The bitch is a spy for that knight, Gedeon Rivers. I pretended to be a horsy fool who knew nothing of politics." Aron grins mischievously at his sister, studying her expression before taking a sip of wine. "I'll get our friend Aleister talking, never fear. Tell me.. are you intending to sleep with him? You seem absolutely fascinated with the man."

There is that warning note in his voice; the man's mood is good, but a wrong answer could swerve him about as swiftly as a ship in the wind. "Or, for that matter, our wounded friend Ser Gedeon?" He smiles as he speaks, sipping his wine. "No, I suppose not Gedeon. He's far too low-brow for you, isn't he, sweetling?"

Halting her strides, Ceinlys turns a look of irritated disgust upon her brother. " the same breath, you think to ask me if I would become a mistress, or a whore to a bastard? It's truly charming, brother, the regard in which you hold me." Turning away from him in a swirl of gold velvet and raven locks, she takes up her pacing again, this time with an air of annoyance lingering about her as she mutters something viciously under her breath. By the time she about-faces, though, her expression is as unreadable as ever. "It is my lot in life to learn everything I can about either enemies or allies of our House. You know that full well. And I imagine the tables would turn somewhat, if Ser Rivers -were- ever recognised in his claim to Stonebridge. For the love of the Gods, Aron, try to think ahead, as I always must." She fixes a level gaze upon him. "The man could uproot the Nayland hold upon this place. Does it not serve us better to count him among our friends, should that ever come to pass?"

"Sweet sister, I'm afraid you missed my point. Of /course/ you didn't sleep with them. Any more than I had an interest in sleeping with the laundry girl-turned spy." Aron's manner grows more reasonable, the angrier Ceinlys seems to get - as though it truly had been a hypothetical question on his part. Still, the faint glint in his gaze warns against her tone.

He sips his wine casually, watching the woman, and offers out an olive branch. "I've not taken a woman since the war started, sister." Pacing closer to the woman, he says "I've no cause to dislike Gedeon Rivers - and I think he *will* take Stonebridge, in the end. He can have it. You and I are destined for bigger places than this."

"I do not see that you -made- any worthwhile point, brother. Unless you wished merely to rouse my ire. Brigid." Ceinlys' icy eyes flash toward her chaperone, who still sits quietly with her needlework, summoning her to attention. The elder handmaiden rises, setting down her embroidery on the trunk where she had been sitting. "I take my leave. I have arranged with the stablemaster to view a few of his palfreys this morning." Gesturing absently over the chambers, the young lady steps smoothly away from her sibling as he advances, still visibly bristling at his sheer nerve. "Help yourself to the wine, or any other comfort you require. The servants here are surprisingly useful should you have need of anything further." With that, she's drawing up the deep velvet hood of her dress, covering her silky tresses as she strides for the door, weighty skirts trailing a little in her wake.

Mutely watching the woman leave, Aron seems more astonished than angry. He exhales slowly, pacing over to the wine and refilling his goblet before muttering under his breath. "I wager that's a damned expensive palfrey I'm buying her." Despite himself, the man smirks, cold and hard in the empty room as he paces back to the bed and settles down atop it. Looking down at his wine, he remarks "Well, old friend.. It's you and I this afternoon. Help me rehearse my speech for the Charltons, eh?" A mouthful of wine is swallowed. "Ah. Thank you."