|Summary:||Liliana and Jacsen meet in the reading room. Neither of them walk out in a huff.|
|Reading Room — Four Eagles Tower|
|The room has a large glass window and seat that looks out partially over the cove, in daylight hours the sun provides illumination to the room. Other stools and chairs linger in small groups as shelves along the walls are littered with scrolls, books, letters and documents. The contents are a modest collection of local records, histories, and literature offered to both the family and guests of Four Eagles Tower.|
|29 Aug, 288 AL|
Morning. The morning after the departure of Master Garret Longshank, King's courier, back to the King's Road, for the return to the Landing. And no doubt bent not only on the return, but a report of what all he saw of House Terrick. But with the courier safely farewelled and on his way, Liliana has time to catch her breath, and return to the library the not small collection of books that were left for his perusal in the east retiring room, where he spent quite a bit of his time following the pronouncement of three evenings past.
The young woman, it seems, has been left to her trust in those senses besides sight, the stack quite high enough to impair her vision, requiring her to balance them while peeking around the corner to gauge where she's placing her feet, as her Elise pushes open the door and allows her to walk through. The handmaiden's own hands are full with her own load, though not so large as her lady's. But it isn't far inside the reading room that Liliana seems bound for. Rather, she pauses at the first free table she encounters, the books set down with a rather resounding thump.
There is a faint start from one of the corners of the reading room, the sound of a single book tumbling to the floor a faint echo of the greater thumb the Camden Lady's stack of tomes produces. "Hello?" Jacsen calls as he leans forward in his seat to pick up the thick volume he'd let fall and place it on a table beside him.
"Ah, Lady Liliana," Jacsen greets, once he's twisted some in his seat to get a better vantage of the doorway, his smile a touch bashful. "I think I must have fallen asleep, despite myself…" he chuckles a bit, wiping a bit of sleep from his eye. When he's satisfied his eyes are clear, he asks her with a pleasant manner, "What is with the rather outsized stack of books?"
"Oh! Lord Jacsen, my apologies." Liliana reaches out a hand to steady the stack of books that look fit to slide right off and create an even greater racket. Thankfully, the crisis is averted, and the stack broken down into more manageable parts, "I did not realize there was anyone in the reading room so early. If I woke you, I am sorry."
At the question posed her, she looks back down to the books, "Well, the reading room is still in such a dreadful condition." Not that there hasn't been a concerted effort to put it back in order, "I thought it unseemly to tell Master Longshank if he should wish a book, he must dig through the piles himself. And so I had a selection that might be suitable to his tastes sent to the retiring room closest to his chambers"
"Thankfully, he's now departed, and we have only the aftermath to deal with." Which, is both a relief and a greater trial, depending on which member of the Terrick brood or the Oldstone contingent they're speaking of. "I am sorry I was not there to offer my support at the reading of His Grace's message and in what followed, but your Lord Father bid me attend him." The courier that is.
Jacsen's small smile is warm enough when he offers a dissenting shake of his head. "No, it's no trouble at all, I really do not need to be sleeping right now," he assures her, casting a scathing look at the book he was reading. "A dreary tome, and not as useful by half as it ought to be."
The matter of Master Longshank is one that hangs on the Lord's mind, clear enough, his blue eyes lidding momentarily as nods his agreement. "Better to be on to what comes next, than to dwell on what already is," he agrees, "For better or worse, at least there is ought to be done about it."
"Truth be told, it was perhaps better you were not there," he tells her, shaking his head slightly. "It was not a pleasant thing, that."
"Perhaps it was not, Lord Jacsen, but I did not agree to set my mind and my efforts to the betterment of this House only in times of ease, when I was made a ward of your Lord Father. He did me a great honour, in allowing me to attend His Grace's courier and in that way, to act as a representative of this House, but would that I could have been there with all of you to offer my support. I have never been given to believe that your siblings view me as Lord Ser Jerold does, nor how I view myself, but that is what it is."
A nod, however, follows, as Liliana begins to work her way through the books she brought in, seeming intent on returning them to their proper place in the room. "The road back from the King's ire, will not be an easy one. And some of the business, particularly that of Amelia is bound to be unpleasant indeed, especially if some of the impulses of your Lord brother's cannot be tamed."
"You know… I have not been so long returned from Seagard, my lady," Jacsen reminds her, "But this is hardly the first time in our few conversations that I have heard you make reference to the matter of my siblings, and their thoughts towards you." He tilts his head in consideration of the woman, a lone index finger tapping at the arm of his seat. "Is there something between the lot of you I'm ignorant of?"
"As to my brother and Amelia… You are not incorrect at that," Jacsen remarks, no matter that he is not well pleased at how accurate her assessment might be.
Liliana continues to move, from this place to that, as she sets things books back to rights, as best she can, the pile she and Elise brought with them slowly diminishing, "No, there is nothing between us that being away at Seagard has caused you to miss, Lord Jacsen." A perfectly polite reply. "But I have been given to the feeling that there was something about our last conversation, and perhaps this one that displeases you."
He shakes his head slightly, his blue eyes tracking her movement back and forth across the reading room floor. "Displeases me? No, not quite my lady. I neither think myself of a station or familiarity to express any such feeling for my father's ward." Jacsen's finger continues to tap at the arm of his chair, as he ponders his next words. "But I should like to understand you, you whom claim no issue with my kin, after saying something so suggestive as never having given yourself to thinking my siblings see you as my Lord Father does, nor as you do yourself." He pauses a moment before adding, "Those words sound like the words of one who is less than content, would you not agree?"
There's a smile, soft, as Liliana moves, seeming well content with the simple pleasure of working. It has not been long, since Jacsen Terrick returned from Seagard, but perhaps long enough to notice that Liliana is not a woman given to the idle fancies of most women of noble birth. More often than not, she's better suited, in so much as it keeps her in a pleasant temper, to manual labours than wiling away her time. "Your Lord Father counts me as one of his children, and I count him as dear to me as my own true father, Mikah. A child that he has chosen to love, true, but he has never seen fit to treat me any differently for all that we share no blood. But not all of the members of this House have been so open as your Lord Father. I have always gotten the feeling that, in many ways, moreso than the strictures of noble conduct, I am and likely am always to be 'that Camden'…when people are being generous, and when they are not, well, I will not suffer your ears to hear the names they call me. Always within the House, but not a part of it. Perhaps part of it is that I must still abide by the rules of decorum. I cannot, for example, remain within a room alone with yourself, or Lord Jaremy or Ser Jarod, as your sister Lucienne might, as I do not share your blood as she does. But it saddens me, because this is my home now, for all that I miss the home of my trueblood kin."
"And so, I extended a regret that I could not offer my support and perhaps my counsel as your own true sister Lucienne might, while accepting that it might well not have been welcome."
"I am pleased that you are kept in such regard by my father, my lady," Jacsen tells her, his manner honest in the saying of such, "And that you hold him to such tenderness in return. He is an honorable and good man, my lord father." His smile is small, but it is certainly present. "As for my siblings, I could not speak to the relationship you have shared with them these years, and will only speak to my own. I have but known you a very short while, and while I've no ill feelings towards you… we've yet to build the bonds of trust and camaraderie between us that I share with my good sister Lucienne, or with either of my brothers." He lifts one shoulder in a half-shrug. "But that is not to say we could not, nor that we will not." He gestures to the space between them, wide as it might be, "After all, why should I ask after your feelings, lest I should wish to better know them?"
"I would not expect my relationship with you to be what it—" Liliana begins to speak, but then stops herself, lifting a hand as if to provide some sort of added distance between herself and the man seated at his ease in the room. Once it falls, her expression smoothes, not the easy smile of a few moments before, but still open and engaged, in the conversation, "I apologize for misspeaking myself. I am certain your mind is turned towards repairing this situation between this House and that of Oldstones, as well it should be. Would that I knew how I could help to appease the Lord Valentin. But I knew nothing of the situation beforehand, and I fear speaking without full knowledge would not aid in your attempts to broker some new peace between the two Houses."
Jacsen's deep blue eyes consider the Camden woman for a long moment, his manner smooth and his form still as he does. "Please, my lady, I should rather like that you finish expressing your expectations, or lack thereof," he invites, "Rather than speak to facts we both know of the matters between Oldstones and the Roost."
Liliana pauses, hands resting lightly on one of the last books to be placed back on the shelves, such as they are, given the room's condition. Her eyes, hazel and green to his blue, are frank, when she does finally meet his gaze. "As you say, Lord Jacsen, we have not had the proper time to get to know one another. You were two years at least, already at Seagard, when I arrived from Tall Oaks, and it seems that you have had little chance since you returned home to set your mind to doing aught else but putting out the…brushfires that have been springing up around you. I have no right to have any expectations of you at all. But only, perhaps, a hope that I should be judged on my own merits, and that we should have a chance to get to know each other." A moment, "But I was wrong to express myself as having any discontent in this House. Everyone has been kind to me, and forgiving, of my more unladylike qualities. And that is no small thing."
"I should think you've no reason to suspect you would be regarded any differently, Lady Liliana," Jacsen informs her, "Than by the merits you yourself offer. I am not so intellectually lazy as to let another formulate my measure of a person, be they lady or lord, smallfolk or ser. You can rest assured you've the same of me." His lips quirk a fraction, his gaze keeping hers so long as she thinks to match him. "As to these unladylike qualities, I confess, you've piqued my curiousity."
"Truly, Lord Jacsen? And you have never known people to be prejudged based on stories of their family or tales of their exploits?" Liliana's expression lightens, humour obvious in her expression. "I am certain that the Naylands will be glad to hear that." She does not, however look away from the Lord, intending perhaps a contest of will or perseverance. "But your reassurance does lighten my heart." As to her unladylike qualities, "I hunt with bow and hawk, dress after the fashion of men, when I can get away with it, and my skill with needle and thread is a much lamented tale told by my handmaidens."
The smile Jacsen wears turns wry at that. "Hawking and hunting with a bow, and dressing in clothes more comfortable than functional? Oh, it might be a touch unusual, but I don't find myself very shocked, and less than appalled," he assures her. He comes to addressing her first comment after the last, though, propping his chin up with his elbow. "Of course I've known people to be prejudged, my lady, but that is hardly the point. There is a difference betwixt my knowing a Nayland as such and treating them accordingly, and in deciding how I would treat a ward of my lord father's, whatever their origin. Such was true of Rowan Nayland, and the same is true of you, Lady Camden. Whatever your name implies, your status here is to what I'd referred. I do not think my father's house to be one in which a ward should expect to be thought of unkindly, whatever the reason. Lord Jerold's hospitality is all our hospitality."
"I do not think that I expected you to be either. But I am well aware that it has, perhaps led to quite a bit of consternation within the hall. My poor Elise," here the handmaiden peeks up, long enough to grin and roll her eyes a bit indulgently, should anyone look her way, "Would likely welcome a turn as some fish-mongers daughter, if only it meant she needn't tromp through the forests and watch me gut carcasses quite so often." Still humoured, she continues, "I do try to be what I have been bred to be. But sometimes…a person wishes to be what they are." A slow smile crosses her face, and for a moment, she's very much the young girl in demeanour, that she perhaps is not so much, now, in years or bearing, "My Lord Ser Jerold has granted me permission to compete in the tournament. He says I may participate in the archery and the hunt." All said in quite the conspiratorial tone, as if it were yet a secret.
"I did not say that I expected to be treated unkindly, Lord Jacsen." Liliana's good humour fades a bit, "I am not certain if you look at each of our conversation as a way to take subtle insult if I should speak a word that paints your family in less than a glowing light, or if you simply find some sort of pleasure in attempting to 'win' any argument by dint of seeking to wrongfoot those whom you are speaking with."
"No, my lady…" Jacsen reaches for his cane and begins rising to his feet. The good humor he wore as she spoke of the hunt, and so almost girlishly and warm, fades. "Neither is the truth. What I intend, since it seems I would do us both a service by speaking plain as I might," he tells Liliana, his voice firm but not unkind. "When we have both spoke of late, you have seemed somewhat distant, and mentioned more than once the view in which you seem to think my kin hold you. I've asked the questions I have in an attempt to understand why you might think such, because I hold it of import that you feel welcome in this adoptive home. I am not certain what I've managed to do to make you think differently, but I hope you understand that was never my intent."
Liliana lifts a hand, stepping away, even as the man moves to rise, "Do not trouble yourself in departing, Lord Jacsen. You were here before I was, and my errand is completed. I should well be about my duties." Her hands reach down to flick her skirts into order. "Perhaps you have learned a different way to interact with people, in your years at a larger court than any I have ever known, but I cannot help but feel that whenever I meet you, I am being judged by you and found lacking. Of what, I do not know." Liliana, well stripped of what humour she had only a few moments before, dips into a polite curtsey, before she moves to turn and depart, Elise surely to follow after, "I will do my utmost to find whatever quality it is I clearly do not possess and acquire it, and allow you the peace and freedom of your house until such time as I do."
"Now, I think you either jest with me, or are being difficult for the sake of causing me some distress," Jacsen says, his forehead wrinkling where he draws it together in some consternation. "I've just said that my intent is to see you feel welcome, a part of this house… and your response is that I judge you and find you lacking, and you'll try your utmost to find whatever it is I think you lack? Honestly, my lady… You seem intent on twisting whatever I say into a slight." He steps forward once with his cane, his gaze remaining upon the woman. "You seem nice. I would like to see you feel welcome in my father's home." He laughs, a bit exasperated. "Alright?"
"I am not given to jesting about such things, Lord Jacsen," Liliana offers, as she turns back to face the man still standing, hands held steady only by the fact that they're currently holding up her skirts to make walking easier in a room filled with landmines in the form of bound books and parchment. "Nor do I think I am trying to be difficult. Perhaps it is not you intention to seem as though you are judging me. But the way in which you approach me seems bound to give me that precise impression. Still, I am not so badly tempered that I could accuse you of lying to me. If you say I have the wrong impression, then I must give you the benefit of the doubt. Clearly, I have been rather bad tempered myself of late, and that is hardly a help to the situation. So perhaps we would be better served wiping the slate clean and beginning afresh." She does glance down, noting the cane, "Have you had occasion to ask your brother for the unguent I made for him?"
Jacsen shakes his head slightly, looking a touch embarrassed. "I have not, fool that I am… It's bothered me more of late, and I should be eager for any opportunity to ease it." He smiles a bit, despite himself, and asks, "Where did you learn of the unguent, my lady? Are you familiar with more such things?"
"I have some small store of it remaining in among my things, a small jar, but it does not require much. And my Lord Uncle's steward was kind enough to send me some of our stores to replenish my supply, as a number of the components grow only far to the north of our lands, in the marshy land where our woods meet the lands of the crannogmen, when last the journey was made from the Oaks to the Roost." Liliana certainly seems more comfortable, talking about, well, 'real' things, as opposed to things like her 'feelings'. "My cousin Alyse is the one who has the greatest skill of we cousins. But I have had a number of years of training in the ways of herbs and chiurgeonry. But we have very different approaches. Her training is more in the ways of tools and surgeries." In getting the news of the Roost, it may or may not be that Jacsen has heard the story of the accident with the honey merchant in the town, "Mine favours the use of herbals and natural healing, relying on the body's natural ability to repair and heal itself." A moment, "If you should like, I can retrieve it for you."
"If it would not deplete your stores too badly, that another in more urgent need would not be able to partake of it," Jacsen says, the dipping of his chin a less noble agreement, perhaps, than his words. "Is it usual for women of Tall Oaks to learn such practices, my lady? Or are yourself and your cousins more of a rarity in that way?"
"If there were someone in more need, it would have been given them long ago. Well, perhaps if your Maester allowed it." But there's humour there. Maesters will be Maesters. "But there are times when the men of Oldtown can get help from other quarters. Will you remain here, or would you prefer to meet me in the hospice rooms?" A dip of her head, at the question, "It is the usual course of things. Alyse is fortunate, because she spends most of her time at the keep and has had opportunity to study with our maester and with those who come to visit us. But as you can imagine, given our isolation," and Tall Oaks is isolated, despite the fact that it is but a day's ride from the tower of the Terricks to the Camden's keep. "We have all had need to learn to do work which might not, in other lands, be considered right or proper. Our men range far from our lands, when needs must, and it falls to us to be prepared to defend our holdfasts." It is no secret that Tall Oaks has few sworn, and even fewer knights.
"Intriguing," Jacsen remarks, shifting a bit between his good leg and the cane that makes up for the lack of his other, "I'd heard that it was not as uncommon in the North for women to take on such roles, especially in the holds were there were precious few to take them where some might even learn to be warriors." He gestures to the chair he'd left and says, "I'd rather remain, and sit, if it is all the same. Could not your maid fetch the unguent, so that we might continue to talk?"
Liliana's laughter comes light and bright, "Certainly not. And risk the ire of your Lord Father?" Yes, she's teasing, but she soon turns to Elise, "Eli, will you ask one of the retainers to find Vena? And have her bring my bag?" The young girl nods, rising from where she's been flipping through a book of romantic stories, moving to the door, and when it opens, she stands well within the door, the better to keep an eye on her lady, but calls as she's been asked. For her part, Liliana returns to Jacsen's proximity, settling herself into one of the free seats opposite him, "Tall Oaks is in a strange position, perhaps, we are not of the riverlands, wholly, but neither are we of the north. Our lands straddle the borders of the riverlands and extend far north of the neck. We have had to learn to live as those lands dictate. Most all of our women are trained as warriors, though we tend to spear or bow. My Lord Uncle Dafydd has good skill at sword, but that is a skill growing only slowly among our rangers."
The Terrick Lord seems grateful for the excuse to recline in his seat again, letting out a slight breath as he finally takes all the weight off his leg. "Well, that explains your penchant for the bow," Jacsen remarks with a faint chuckle, his eyes remaining more or less upon the Camden woman whom sits his opposite. "Is it true that these rangers are your main line of defense? I've heard it said that Tall Oaks fields few sworn men at arms, and almost no knights?"
"We have natural and built defences, of course, but our strength is in our rangers. if you have been to our lands or near them, you would know that we have not the open fields and free spaces of your own lands. Horses can grow clumsy in our woods, if they are not raised to them, and the traps that can befall them, in root and bog and ground cover make it not ideal for war horses and men in full armour. The woods is a place of secrets and stealth. Our men at arms and our knights are small, true, but we have had little need for such. We are not often bothered by outside forces, and we do not tolerate well breaches to our peace."
"Interesting," surmises the youngest of Jerold Terrick's boys, while he rubs idly at his chin. "And the stories of the neutrality of Tall Oaks? I know those are true, without a doubt, but I've often wondered how and why the practice originated," Jacsen concedes. "It's not a terribly popular, or expedient path to walk after all."
"There has always been a need for peace in the Seven Kingdoms. The ways of our House have remained the same for all the years of our history. Perhaps it began as a way of protecting ourselves. Our lands are not rich, and we are well isolated from many who could be considered out allies. A prime target for those who would come to our lands and pillage at need. I do not know for certain, though I think my Lord Uncle certainly would. Or perhaps it was a way of maintaining our autonomy. We hold part of the Neck, which makes us part of the barrier that divides the North from the South. But the why is not so difficult. We have always been a place where warring parties could come, knowing that they need fear no betrayal. That they would be defended as the rights of Guest Right dictate. Those who break out peace find themselves escorted into our wilds, less everything they brought with them, save their bare clothes and left to find their way back to their own lands. Could you imagine some of the lordlings of Seagard's court weaponless, armorless horseless? Making the journey from the Neck to Mallister lands?" A lift of her shoulders, as Liliana considers, "We are a place where all can come and be heard. A sanctuary at will and need. And no, it is not popular, in places where law is steel and blood and might. A raised sword is easier to wield than an open hand."
"I think some might debate the finer points of that sentiment," Jacsen admits, at the last of her statements, on the ease of wielding swords or open hands. "Though I do not think any should argue that it is the more preferable of the two, though some surely would." Jacsen is an attentive listener, and one whom seems genuinely interested in the answers provided him. "My brother and I have talked about visiting your lands," he observes, "Jarod, that is to say. I think it would be a most interesting place to see, so long as I am not, as you say… left with nothing but the clothes on my back in the wilds of Tall Oaks." He chuckles, at the last.
"I think the way of the sword is…easier. It's always easier to allow our base emotions to run rampant. It is easier to lust, to hate, to distrust, to argue, than to love, to listen, to trust. The former take hardly more than a thought and an impulse, the latter take time and consideration and a sacrifice of yourself into the endeavour. But the way of the sword is the way, in most of the seven kingdoms, and so those who turn away as much as the world allows them, are looked down on."
It isn't so long, before Vena returns to the reading room, handing off the bag to Elise, the latter carrying it over to her lady, "Thank you, Eli. if you wish for the rest of your evening free, you may ask Vena to stay with me. I know that you had a…visit you wished to make." Elise flashes a smile to her lady, "Yes, my lady. Thank you." She fairly scurries off, dark-haired Vena taking the place of the fiery redhead. "Now, if you'll give me a moment," Liliana begins rummaging, the bag seemingly filled with a wide variety of jars and pots, bags and folded cloth covered in oilskin.
Jascen leaves the philosophical talk to the side as the lady's maid returns with her bag of remedies and the like. "Have you done much collecting in the surroundings of Terrick's Roost, for your medicines and the like?" he wonders, the question idly put to Liliana as she rummages through for the unguent she offered him.
"I know that you would all be welcome at Tall Oaks, at need or simply to enjoy the sanctuary. Both of my Lord Uncles have extended the invitation. And Jaremy has also indicated his own desire to visit our holdings. And unless you did something awful, I do not think you would be left in naught but your clothes." Humour there, as she finally finds the jar she's looking for. It's a simple clay thing, handed over. The unguent within is snowy white, but has a rich, green and earthy scent, like fresh moss and deep water. "I have not had opportunity to examine your injury so that I could fully assess your needs, but this should help with the muscle stiffness and ease some of the pain in the muscle and the joint." Liliana is nothing if not observant, when it comes to watching how people move and using her knowledge to deduce from there. "There are also some massage techniques which can help to alleviate some of the pain."
He leans forward to accept the clay jar, taking a slow sniff of the contents as he reclines back into the seat. "I've learned some fo the techniques for massage, such that I can apply myself," Jacsen informs her, "Mayhap this unguent will help with that." The jar is lifted slightly, as he says, "You've my sincere thanks for the thought."
"As it pleases you, Lord Jacsen. But if you find that you have need, there are a few of the retainers who serve the maester with whom I have shared the techniques with, and I can direct you to them, or they to you. I could assist you myself, of course, as I would if we were at my family's holdings, with Vena to assist me, but I can understand if that would make you uncomfortable." A light lift of her shoulders, "But you are of course welcome. If it suits you, I can replenish your supply when you run out. or adjust it to better fit your needs." A tip if her head towards the jar, "Some of the ingredients I did gather from the area around the Roost, but there are a few which grow only in the boglands that border our forests. it is an unlovely place, but the crannogmen know many useful herbs and treatments for what ails."
"I will attempt the unguent, and be sure to let you know if I should require changes, or further instruction," Jacsen says with a grateful nod, turning the clay jar over in his hands once, and sniffing at its contents again. "How do you replenish such supplies when the time comes? Do the crannogmen trade in these things with Tall Oaks and its people?"
"Of course, Lord Jacsen." With the jar successfully delivered, Liliana begins to replace everything back into her bag, taking honest care to see that the items are not damaged or unintentionally left open, "What we cannot gather in our own borderlands, we trade for. And we given them what they need in return. They are our closest neighbours, with the exception of House Terrick. House Flint is…from the centre of our holdings…perhaps the distance as if we were to travel from…here to…Fairmarket? From the keep itself, the distance greater than the journey from here to Seagard? To our west, above the Greywater, only Moat Cailin, and White Harbor beyond that. And the chill of winter is ever in those lands, and the journey is difficult." Indeed, most of Tall Oaks' holdings are in the north, which might or might not be odd, that given their similar fath and their location, they do not bend knee to Winterfell and House Stark. "So we trade with those who we can readily access."
It's a similarity and strangeness that does not pass the Terrick lord's notice, and with the unguent in hand he does not hesitate to ask after it. "Do you know the tale of how your kin came to bend knee to the Tullys in Riverrun, Lady Liliana?" Jacsen wonders, considering the woman. "From all that I hear, and that you share with me now, it would seem as if the Direwolf of Winterfell would be the most likely lord for Tall Oaks, much more fitting than the Fish of Tully."
"I cannot say that there was much of an interesting story to House Tully's claim to our allegiance. The majority of the lands in which our people live and where our keep is built, are within what area of our holdings reside within the Riverlands. So, in effect, they are Tully lands, to lay claim to the allegiance of our House. Our northern holdings are for our rangings, and for the manufacture of our trade goods. Perhaps, if we had built our Holding near the northern edge of our lands, House Stark would have claimed the precedent for our allegiance. And perhaps the Tully words speak more to our own beliefs than those of the Starks. But Lord Tully does not have much interest in our House, despite the allegiance we pay him. And Winterfell has host enough of bannermen. Perhaps, in the end, it was only that we were too small and too insignificant to be of interest either way." Liliana, having set aside the bag, has settled in to sit comfortable in her seat, having long ago perfected the art of sitting with her legs tucked up beneath her, while using her skirts to drape and hide and preserve her propriety.
He nods to that, listening to the woman's explanation of how the allegiance of Tall Oaks was claimed by one House rather than another, his eyes and manner very attentive. "I think it is, at times, the small and seemingly insignificant houses that can have the most unexpected influence… especially upon those that seem not to realize that ability until it is, well, almost too late," Jacsen remarks. "I think Oldstones sets a fine example of that."
Liliana considers, hand folded onto the top of her silk-covered knees, "But perhaps Oldstones would not have had much significance, if it had not been given such by rumour and conjecture. Tell me true. If this situation with Jaremy had not come to a head, how much would House Terrick really have been concerned with Oldstones? I hear tell that the Naylands are thought to be building a trade road to Oldstones, but what could Oldstones offer the Naylands, that would put Terrick at so great a disadvantage? Stonebridge, at least, was strategically placed. While I will not disagree with your belief in the potential value of small Houses, and while I worry that my own Lord Uncles have now been thrust into this fray between Terrick and the Naylands and Oldstones besides, I wonder if that House has not been built up to be something that I was never meant to be, or else, could not have been for many years."
Jacsen, although he does not seem to share her sentiment, does give her the decency of pondering her words. "Mayhap there is some truth to that," he decides, "That Oldstones is not quite the seat the furor about it might suggest. But I think it just as much the events of late that have conspired to make it so as blame could be placed at my brother. All eyes watch Nayland and Terrick, to see where the pieces shall fall betwixt them. And in a game with such few pieces to move, even one such as Oldstones carries with it an outsized influence. While it might offer little in materials, for now, it offers much more weight in projecting strength, and halting the shifting tides of the Riverlands."
"And there are other Houses which might offer the same, but neither Nayland nor Terrick has ever reached out to them. Significance is only what a greater House chooses to make of a lesser one. Lesser in true power or lesser in perception. House Camden is strategically placed, to allow a House of the Riverlands a point of entry into the north, and the wealth of trade to be had there, our own materials as well as those coming from the northern holdings beyond, and the opportunity to stage a defense of the Neck if needs require. And yet….never has a match been made or offered between a Riverlands House and my own. I was surprised, even, to hear that Lord Ser Jerold had accepted me as his ward. So I still cannot say that Oldstones is truly as significant as events would make them seem. Certainly not enough that I could see wedding your lady sister to their Lord." Liliana seems comfortable enough staying where she is, and the rumour that Lord Valentin courts Lucienne is not so much a rumour as an established fact.
"Oh, I do not doubt the importance of Tall Oaks, my lady, and I suspect my lord father is of a similar mind, such being a key reason he's was honored to accept a Camden ward to his court," Jacsen informs her, his hands folding across his middle as he remains, comfortable in his chair. "But recall that we have no rival in the North, as Terrick does in the Naylands, as even Seaguard might be said to have in the Twins. We are peaceable with the North, and so if eyes go to strength of arms, it is to consider the salt waves that crash upon the coast, and the Ironmen that live beyond." His lips curve, however faintly. "Though your insight is not misheard, or disregarded. I think well of stronger ties betwixt Camden and Terrick, though I think it offers yet only modest advantage. What advocate can be made of a house that prides itself on not taking sides, after all?"
"The power and influence of a House is not always dictated by the strength of arms it can gather to itself is needs should arise, Lord Jacsen. True, we have no great host of knights, or men at arms, and our archers are bent to defense and not to war, but how much could we offer a house in areas that fuel a House? In trade and finance and wealth to fill a declining treasury. And yet, you prove my point. House Camden is considered lesser than Oldstones, because it cannot provide some strategic military advantage. But it is not always strength of arms that win battles. An army must have food, a treasury must have coin to outfit its legions, to pay its levies. An army must have safe passage to position its forces." Liliana's lips turn into a light smile, "You are kind to speak so, but I think perhaps you gentle your words, in the hopes you will not offend me."
"You might think such, but you know me very little, nor the avenues my mind travels down," Jacsen assures the woman with a small smile, his correction made with no offense in his tone, taken or offered. "I might once have been a Terrick like my brothers, head filled with thoughts of lances and swords, horses and banners," he offers, "But long since has life and the Seven saw fit to show me there is much more. All of these things to which you speak are true, and I hold them as such, these are the reasons by which I am eager to meet Lord Camden himself, and begin what quiet talks we might. But I cannot forget the contest that is vied betwixt Nayland and Terrick, of which Oldstones plays an outsized role. The better trained, fed, armed, and armored force is like as not to win the day, but we only see the battered and worn men of whichever side wins it, no matter their merits." He threads his fingers through one another, the laced digits lounging across his stomach. "As my father has thought to look to the Banefort in the south, I have not forgotten to look to Tall Oaks in the north. What will come of it, none can say, but it is my hope there is something in the telling."
"Nor you me, Lord Jacsen. Whatever I might appear to the members of this House, I am not the 'Princess Hayseed' that some of your house like to call me when they think I cannot hear." Again, that faint smile, though not nearly so pleasant as it was, "Or perhaps that has fallen out of favour, in exchange for Baroness Backwater. That ones seems to be gaining some traction, among the nobles of the House at least. I have not heard tell that the smallfolk have yet dared to call me that, but the years are still young. Who knows what other titles I will acquire, before I leave your Lord Father's care." Well, it seems, is the foundation for Liliana's belief that she is not so well received within Terrick as appearances might wish to convey. "My Lord Uncle travels to the Mire, or so he was, when last I spoke to him, I have not had a raven in many a week. But I have no doubt that he will pass here again, before he returns to his own halls." A light lift of her shoulders, at the last, "I am not privy to such discussions, or the directions in which this House looks. For your sake and the sake of your House, I hope that what you wish for might come to pass, but I have little ability to influence such things. I will do my duty as I am bidden to."
He smiles at that last, and reaches for his cane. "Whatever the names you have heard of others…" Jacsen tells her, using his cane to leverage himself up to his feet with the assistance of the chair's arm, "Know that you will be only Lady Liliana Camden to me." He nods once he's straightened and says, "I should like to speak again, and hear your mind on such things. It is an invitation I made when last we spoke, and I meant it no less seriously then… though now I think I have a keener appreciation for your insight," Jacsen remarks. "Thank you for waking me from the malaise of my book, my lady, and for sharing such tales of your home with me."
Liliana rises, as well, a show of respect. She still makes no move to assist, unless it is requested. "For that, I do thank you, Lord Jacsen Terrick. And know that I do not now, nor have or will ever think you a lesser son of your noble House." A dip of her head, "As my Elise is want to say, when her duties to me test her mettle, "I do what I can with what I have been given to work with. But know that I am always free to speak with you, if you have the mind to. I am not a difficult woman to find…on most days." And that, is followed by a fainter smile, "Even when I am roaming." But she allows the young Lord to make his departure, with no further attempt to stay him.