Page 537: Fighting the Chill
Fighting the Chill
Summary: On a very late evening Lyanna pays Firth a visit at the Ash and Oak Inn and converses with her over a cup of tea about the current situation at Highfield, Firth's health and past, Lyanna's upcoming visit to the Twins – and the case of the Ashwood deaths.
Date: 14/01/2013 and 17/01/2013
Related Logs: To Bear Such Weight, Awake or Not and logs dealing with Lord Aleister's death.
Firth Lyanna 
Guest Room at the Ash and Oak Inn, Highfield
The rooms at Ash and Oak Inn 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 11th, 290

It is raining and the hour is late. Firth had long since retired from the common room after drinking with both Rafferdy and Daryl. She is now sitting by an open window sipping water and staring out at the rain. Her long hair cascades down past her waist in thick heavy curtain auburn. She is dressed in a linen robe that is s a soft sage green color. She smiles to herself as she watches the rain tap against the building and the shutters. She does not seem to notice the windowsill is getting wet.

The hour is late indeed. But there is a knock on the door, followed by a question. "Aunt Firth? Are you there?" And awake, the voice should probably add. It belongs to a young female, sounds very similar to that of Firth's niece Lyanna even. Into the silence that follows another voice can be heard, female but showing the ripeness of a woman slightly advanced in years - and the doubtful tone of a woman who has faced many a disappointment before - although a recent experience of being drenched by rain adds to her sour mood apparently. "It was a bad idea after all, my lady. Lady Firth is most probably already asleep."

"Lady Firth is hurting and is awake, enter my dear. Your septa as well, there is no sense in her sitting out there. I have tea that you are both welcome to. I am not sure if it is hot anymore." She does not get up to answer the door. The door is unlocked and she waits for her niece and her septa to enter. "The maid should be bringing up hot water soon." She adds.

The door is opened and Lyanna enters, her deep blue eyes glowing, her cheeks that have been rather pale lately showing some colour from the hurried walk from the keep to the inn. Below a dark cape, dripping from the rain, she wears a dress in sombre dark blue and grey. Her hair has stayed dry, thanks to the cape's hood, apart from a few wet strands on her forehead. Her guard stays out side, while the Septa enters with a slightly grumpy face behind the young Frey lady, although her demeanour does lighten up considerably when she greets the elder Frey Ambassador with a curtsey. Lyanna cares less for formality when it comes to greeting her aunt, and she embraces her in a fond hug if Firth will let her. "Thanks to the Seven. You're still awake." she says, smiling brightly, before she adds in a slightly lower tone: "Mariah would have killed me if we had taken this walk through the rain upon us for naught!" Sparing her septa an equally fond smile.

The hug is returned with equal warmth and a warm smile lights up Firths face and eyes. "You both are wet, hang your cloaks up to dry, I will get you both some hot tea and I am certain they will bring up some honey and bread if it is wanted." She says to them both. "What is brings you out here at this hour. I hope the manor has not burned and there are no more deaths. Please make yourselves comfortable. Septa, thank you for escorting her out this way. So, my darling niece how are things going at the manor? I have yet to set foot there."

"Oh, indeed we are." Lyanna replies rolling her eyes, but smiling none the less, her mood obviously not dampened by the dreadful weather, and removes the silver clasp in the shape of the twin tower from her cloak, and places it over the back of a chair standing before the fireplace. "But it takes more than a bit of rain to keep me in that keep. I needed some fresh air and thought I could pay you that visit I owe you. I would have liked to seek you out much earlier after we've met here at the inn three days ago… Alas, much talking is to be done at Tanglewood Manor. And my presence was required."

Mariah follows her lady's example, removes her lightgrey cloak and assumes a seat to the side of the fireplace, enjoying its warmth in silent contentment.

"What has been said over in Tanglewood?" Firth asks her as she shifts her weight in her seat. Her green eyes rest on Lyanna and she studies her in what some would deem an unnerving manner. She then blinks and looks through the open window. "Have they had any more news as to what could have killed Aleister and the girl? Or have they stopped looking?" She pauses. "There is no need to aplogize to me. I have been talking to many people as of late."

Lyanna looks thoughtful for a moment as she sits down beside her aunt. "I wish there were any news. I spoke to Lord Bastien shortly after our last meeting. Lord Robben had asked for my assistance, as the new Lord of Highfield had retreated to his chambers with… said chest containing the heads…" A shadow seems to pass over Lyanna's face, reminded of the most dreadful sight she had ever experienced, but nodding firmly she continues: "We got the chance to speak to Lord Bastien, and I inquired if he would investigate the matter and recommended a certain Fenster knight who has offered his services in this." Looking a bit uncertain she turns to Firth. "I… suppose Lord Bastien took my meaning. And I have not been very gentle with him, I'm afraid."

"Assistance in what way?" Firth asks her. She then nods. "Now that is more than just a little morbid and the smell, because of the weather." She frowns a little. "Did he say why he was retiring with the heads?" She asks her. "Robben, I met him briefly, he know his place. What exactly did you say to Bastien and which Fenster knight?" The maid pokes her head into the room and seeing Firth has company goes to get that hot tea.

The younger Frey swiftly shakes her head at one of Firth's questions. "There wasn't a smell, and I could not spot that chest anywhere in the room, so maybe it has been all a bad rumor? As for why he had retired… I suppose he needed some time for himself. To deal with his grief. And his new position." Asked about the kind of assistance, Lyanna hesitates before she gives her answer. "Ser Trajan Fenster is a man with quite an experience in the field of questioning villains, versed in the ways of torture. He has offered to take a look at the heads, to find any hints about who did this." Lyanna shudders and nods as she notices the maid who appears to disappear again.

"Very interesting, I would like to meet him and get a measure of him. Be sure to mention him in your report to Lord Walder." Firth looks amused at something. "The Fensters have a spine after all." She pauses. "So it will be interesting to see what he comes up with as there is no love between those two houses. Then again the Aleister collected enemies like I collect scars. But, show me a lord who does not have them and will eat my stocking." She leans back in her chair as she talks her voice is a low murmur and would be hard for others to overhear. Moments later the serving girl appears with a tea tray that has some biscuits on it. The girl exchanges the old tea tray for the new tea tray then she disappears.

"He has already offered a bit of his thoughts when I discribed the faces to him." Lyanna says, as some of the recently acquired colour leaves her face. "Ser Trajan assumes that Lady Miranda was killed first. To torment Lord Aleister." The Frey lady's hand moves up to cover her mouth, remaining there for a short while until she continues: "As if whoever did this had a very deep hatred for him, and wanted to make sure he suffered - mentally and emotionally before… he would face his end."

"What exactly did he say?" Firth asks. She then frowns her green eyes start to look out the window again. "It would make sense for them to do it that way." She frowns. "Poor woman, she did not deserve this. Someone has created quite a web, it is just a matter of time, before they are either caught up in their own web or we fall prey to it to it in one way or another." She shakes her head. "You are a dear, try not to dwell on it. Remember them as they were, I know it is easier said than done. But if you keep thinking about it could fester."

Emitting a sigh, Lyanna turns her attention on the tea, and pouring her aunt, her septa and herself a cup, she seems quite content for a moment with this simple sort of occupation. "I try not to, dear aunt. But when I go to sleep the images of their faces are haunting me. Alas, I hope this will cease, after the funeral."

"I know you do my dear, have you gone to the Sept and prayed?" Firth asks her in a gentle and loving manner. "You are doing very well here my dear. You will continue to do well here. You will shine like the brightest of stars." She assures her. Then a kind smile. "Have you tried their apple brandy here? I was thinking of taking a bottle back with me." She changes the topic for just a moment.

"I have been to the Sept. I met Lady Ceinlys Erenford there." Lyanna replies, her gaze growing pensive as she recalls the encounter. "Now, I truely do not see through that lady's motives. But her return to Highfield would only be of a passing kind, she assured me." And sipping from her cup, the young Frey lady returns Firth's smile.

"No apple brandy for me, Aunt. Tis too strong for me, I'm afraid. But we have been talking about me now all the while, what about you? How are you? How is your head?" Lyanna continues, eyeing her aunt with concern. "You seemed a bit confused lately, to say the least. First the letter, speaking of visiting Wayland at the Roost. Then… you failed to recognize Master Garion… Whom you've met both at the Roost, and, more recently, at Stonebridge. He has accompanied us to Brylie's wedding, he even performed a song there at the feast, remember?… I am slightly worried, Aunt Firth."

"I am not confused, just a little lost at times. Please do not say anything to anyone. I am still able to function. I am not in good standing with our family. I had my marriage annulled." Firth tells her and her ring with truth. She rubs her temples. "I have a headache; I went to sleep with one and woke up with one. I am sorry I cannot and do not recall ever meeting Master Garion. But Wayland was at the Roost, but he left here. I do not recall Bry getting married but I remember that she is married; I even know her husband's name. I know that I am ambassador now. I know that I am not fleeing my former husband's lands. I know what happened in Stonebridge and laws that bind it and why there is a divide in the Nayland house." She tells her. "I am doing fine. I would worry more about the power plays that are going to be happening with the death of Aleister. Child do not worry for me, the headache will go away, I will find another guard and life will continue."

"So… a headache? It has to do with your recent fall off a horse, I am sure?" Lyanna replies, sipping from her cup of tea and putting it down on the table before her, shooting her aunt an affectionate glance. "Do not tell me not to worry about you, Firth. I am your niece and depend upon you and your political insight - greatly. Let us hope this state of 'being lost' does not worsen with time. I remember the Maester at Stonebridge told me that a fall on the head might cause some loss of memory which might be recovered. It has happened in some cases." Then a little pause. "But you do remember that you are the Ambassador to Stonebridge, don't you?" And a nod. "Aye, Lord Aleister's passing will cause a lot of trouble." The Frey lady pauses again, pondering on Firth's last remark. "Maybe I could ask Lord Walder to send you another one when I pay him a visit at the Twins."

"I fell from a horse." Firth frowns and then she laughs. "I have been told enough times, that I know I am. I am still not certain why I was appointed. But, I know what needs to be done. I have had much schooling in law, trade tariffs and taxes. Stonebridge is rich and stands at the crossroads. There is much to be gained there. He who holds the land will be rich. It is part of the reason the Charltons went after it. It truly was not their honor at stake. A lot of gold and silver go through that land, never forget that. The other Nayland's that held stewardship over Stonebridge emptied the land's treasury. They are broke; they are working on gaining money, hopefully without borrowing." She leans against her chair and she moves to pick up her glass and take a sip. "I hope the Maester is right. I need to get a guard. I wrote to Maldred but I fear he may either be ignoring the letter or did not receive it. I should look for some ready to retire but still has a strong arm. We will see. I have not seen my Lord father nine years, tell him I hope the best for him." There is bitterness in her voice. "No, I do not ask my Lord Father for anything for myself. I am worthy of it and have brought shame upon myself. But, I am comfortable with my standing."

"You were not sure why you were appointed, aunt? You have so much knowledge in these things. I was so surprised when I received Lord Walder's appointment - lacking both in years and in experience. In fact, I've suspected him to not care how well I would carry myself as an Ambassador - hoping rather perhaps that I would be able to catch Lord Aleister's eye and attention." Lyanna frowns slightly. "Little did he know that I would hardly get the chance to converse with the man. And now he's dead…"

The Frey lady's demeanour darkens slightly, as that image of Aleister's head reappears in her head, and trying to shake it off, she continues: "Forgive me, Aunt Firth. But I do know little of your marriage - and what circumstances led to its anullment… But I would not think Lord Walder would have given you this office, if he did not think you'd be up to the task."

"My father loves only himself and his riches; I am but pawn in his plans. My former husband was married twice before. His wives did not live. I have no children. But he would not touch me after the riding accident. Though the accident was of his making, he found another who shared his taste and I enjoying breathing blackmailed him into annulling the marriage and returning my dowry." Firth tells her. "Walder uses people, as I said before we are all pawns to him. There is no love between us. I am loyal to the house because I love some of my brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews." She says gently.

"My dear child you need to let it go, do not let it haunt you." Firth tells her. "You have more skill than you think. You are an asset to him. Diplomacy is something that cannot be learned. It is instinctual. Knowing when to use it and when not to. You have a gift."

Lyanna takes the cup from the table and sips from it in silence while she listens to her aunt's words. Only pausing for a short moment as Firth talks about her marriage, and lifting her gaze to meet that of her aunt's, the expression in her deep blue eyes is nothing but sympathy, but she smiles at the mention of love for some of her relatives. The younger Frey stays silent for a while after Firth has finished, and puts the cup back onto the table, now empty. "While I am sorry for the fate you've had to endure, I thank you for your kind words regarding my gift - if it is one. Alas, I would not call it diplomacy, rather observation. As for our Head of House - who am I to judge him? So I'll say only this: Perhaps it takes a cold mind to make the decisions that will move our House's fate into the most useful direction. As emotions might cloud one's judgement." There's a little pause. "Speaking of observations - what impressions have you gained during your stay at Highfield so far?"

"I agree but disagree with you, the coldness can also lead to death, though he is cautious, sometimes too cautious. The other houses are just waiting." Firth points out and she shakes her head. "Do not pity me and I do not need sympathy niece. I am alive, the other two are not." She tells her.

"My impression is that they have been caught off guard and are not certain, I have yet to talk to the new Lord, but there also might be a reason for it." Firth tells her. "But, they are in waters they did not forsee. Wait until the shock wears off and then we will be able to see if the new lord is capable."

"The other two?" Lyanna inquires, her eyes wide with incredulous shock. "You mean he…" She breaks off as Firth's meaning dawns on her. But out of tact she decides not to remain on the topic any further. "Off guard, aye, that's the impression I got as well. And this 'not being certain' part is what troubles me, aunt. They need to investigate this. There are too many questions unanswered. First, of course, who is to blame for this atrocity? But other things remain also unclear so far, such as why did Lady Miranda accompany Lord Aleister on this particular visit, and… What purpose will those disappeared Highfield guards' armour and tabards serve? Is this not a hint, that there are more assaults planned on the Ashwoods in the near future?"

"I would bet money on it that there will be assaults in the future, especially if they took the guards armour and tabards. They can be used for infiltration." Firth says in pragmatic manner. "That is something many of us have wondered about, why she was going to the Twins with him. The only idea I can think of is marriage. Walder I am sure knows. If you meet with him ask him what the meeting was for. I also would not be so hasty as to dismiss the Charltons and or one of the Ashwoods."

Hearing Firth's comment on why Miranda possibly accompanied Aleister, Lyanna nods slowly and with a certain determination in her eyes. "Funny, but I thought so, too. That there was some betrothal contract to be agreed upon. Probably to one of our male relatives." As for her aunt's other remark, Lyanna nods again. "They say the Charltons must have a deep hatred for the Ashwoods - they stuck with the Freys while the Charltons abandoned us. But one of the Ashwoods?" The Frey lady's gaze flickers lightly in an open question as she looks at Firth.

"Aleister was not a well liked man." Firth points out. "There are many who would rejoice at his passing. I hope you do not think that he was all roses and rainbows? I hate to tell you this, but he he was not. No lord is." She chuckles at that. "No Noblelady is either." She adds. She looks at her niece. "What did the new lord say to you?"

Lyanna chuckles lightly at Firth's words about Aleister. "I have hardly had the chance to exchange more than a few words with him, Firth. But I have heard at least one dreadful thing about his character. And I understand he's had many enemies. Even the Naylands probably weren't too pleased when he showed up at that trial and thwarted their plan to send Lord Rafferdy to the Wall." Pushing a strand of dark brown hair from over her eyes back into place, she grows a bit pensive. "He had many enemies, it seems, whereas she…" Her gaze moves to the fire in the hearth as she seems absorbed by the display of flames for a moment. Until her aunt's question seems to pull her away from her thoughts. "Lord Bastien? Nothing much. He is… paralyzed by his grief, but slowly moves back into action. I hope that he'll be a little bit more talkative after the funeral."

"I would start with Daryl, she was pushing for him to have his titles stripped of him so he could turn a new leaf. That tells me she was into something or doing something." Firth tells Lyanna. "Also my dear niece, be careful. Already one has gone missing from here on their way to the Twins I do not want anything to happen to you."

Thoughtful as her demeanour was, Lyanna's gaze is on Firth now, that she tells her something that she had not been aware of before - quite obvious from the incredulous stare she gives her aunt. "No… You mean to say that Lady Miranda wanted him to be stripped of his titles? Which indeed did happen, after they had left for the Twins. Why, by the Seven, would she have done such a thing?"

There is a light sound coming from the chair where Septa Mariah is seated, a clearing of a throat. "M'lady. It is getting late. And it seems, the rain has stopped." Lyanna moves to the window and opens it to cast a glance out onto the town square, before she turns to her aunt with a sigh. "Mariah's right, of course. Although I would like to stay a little longer. Alas, tomorrow is the funeral, and I'll need all my strength to represent our House. Seven, I do abhor funerals." Donning her cloak, now slightly drier than when she had arrived, she adds to her aunt's advice: "And certainly I won't travel to the Twins unguarded. I trust Lord Walder will send an escort when the time is nigh. In a week or so, probably. At least a dozen guards, I suppose. He will not have me face the same fate that befell the last two unfortunate souls on their way to speak with him. I am sure."

As Mariah readies herself as well for their departure, Lyanna extends her arms for a hug, if Firth will permit it. "Aunt Firth. Again, it has been a delight talking to you. You give me strength in these dire times. I treasure your advice. Rest well." And with these words, the Frey Ambassador to Highfield walks towards the door, her already very sleepy looking septa in tow.