|Summary:||Ser Justin pays his goodsister Anais a visit to discuss what's next and he seeks her opinion as well as her help where the Charltons are concerned.|
|Related Logs:||Aeliana & Justin logs.|
|Lord Jacsen's Chambers|
|Room desc goes here! (Yeah, Anais!)|
|September 22nd, 289|
Jacsen, it seems, is not improving. Or perhaps the Milk of the Poppy has worked its way through his system and now it's all just recovery. Either way, he's still in his childhood rooms, while Anais occupies the marital suite. With the Charltons in mourning, there is less work to be done here, less stress over Stonebridge, and so Anais is recently returned from a trip out to the Green and the woods to practice her archery. The maids are starting water for a bath, though she's purloined a bit to wash her hands with. The windows in the room are open, letting in a cool breeze off the water and the sound of gulls on the shore.
There is a firm knock upon the chamber door, clearly a man's knock. And when admitted it is likely no surprise to see it is Justin himself, "Anais?" Stepping in, her goodbrother looks carefully to see if there is any sign of his own brother here, "Is Jacsen here?" The door is closed behind him. Standing there in his muted purple surcoat and off white long sleaved shirt, his hair trimmed a little time back for the Mallister wedding, Justin studies his goodsister. What he sees makes him smile faintly, "You are looking better. Do you have a little time to speak with me? I should like to discuss a few ideas, things we should try to set for new goals."
Anais looks over her shoulder at the knock, a small smile born at Justin's entrance and dying with his question. "No, not yet," she answers, drying her hands on a length of towel by the basin. "He's…still struggling, I'm afraid." She tucks a piece of hair behind her ear, summoning up another small smile and gesturing to the seating area by the hearth. "I've plenty of time. It's going to take a while for the bath water to get hot, I'm sure. How fares the justice of the eagles?"
"Well," he says by way to start his answer. Justin lightly clasps his hands behind his back and slowly paces through her chambers to idly look around, "I'm seeking information on a man who made his way into this tower, claiming to be my squire. No one seems to know who he is, or what he was up to. He apparently spoke to the lady Muirenn whom informed me of his presance by a note she left ere she departed with the Malliters on their trip. She said he seemed to be trying to pass himself off as a younger man than he actually was, and he was a commoner of perhaps good fitness. Beyound that I have no description of him from her so I am qustioning the Household staff and guards as to who let him pass into the tower. He seems to have disturbed nothing and departed after speaking with her, as far as we can tell." That in itself is a little unsettling.
Pausing to look out her window, Justin partly turns to add, "Also, the lady Katrin was attacked. Her face slashed - and there's rumor of bandits. I am trying to speak with her but she was holed up in the inn and would see no one, as yet. Time is wasted. I might have been hot on their tails if I could have spoken with her when she was first brought in. As of yet, I do not even know if it took place on Terrick lands."
Anais sighs softly, moving to the chairs and settling into one of them. "Lovely," she murmurs, in such a way that it's clear that's not exactly what she means. "So obviously we'll need to be having a chat with the guard about things like that. I'd imagine we'd all know if you took a squire. And Lady Katrin…I can't say I'm surprised she won't speak with you. She would hardly speak with anyone after the whole sugar incident, so anything more drastic would no doubt cause a similar reaction. Have you spoken with Ser Martyn? Perhaps she'd speak with him? Or has that all gone up in smoke as well?"
Justin stands by the window, half of his attention looking out from it to watch the sea and half of his attention directed back to Anais as she speaks. "I will get the lady Katrin to speak with me even if I have to speak with her through the door of the room she's staying in at the inn. I do not have to see her face to get the answers I seek, Anais. I will not be thwarted so easily."
He draws a breath, "I have spoken with Household staff and the House Guard both. Strangers are certainly not permitted to wander through the tower without our permission or escort. I am questioning them for who saw him to gain descriptions that I might try to find him." Justin is of course not pleased by whomever's audacity. "The lady Muirenn in no way felt threatened by him, whoever he was but she didn't believe a word he said of course and had no idea what he was playing at. Why on earth /she/ did not call the house guard while he was yet here, I do not know. She departed with lady Saffron and Ser Kamron and only left me a note about it." Somebody is so in for a scolding when she gets back.
Turning his grey eyes back to looking out her window, Justin pauses. "Actually, neither is what I came to speak with you about, Anais."
"Please don't tell me what you actually came to speak about is something more dire still," Anais replies, her voice quiet and her smile faint, some of the weariness showing in the set of her shoulders. She moves to sit cross-legged in the chair, pulling her braid over her shoulder to start drawing it loose as she watches him.
"No, actually not the least bit dire." Her goodbrother offers that easily and Justin even smiles warmly at Anais. He has been far less grim of late. "What I wished to speak with you is at least two part. First, we obtained a few oxen as discussed. Now we lack the seed to do a serious planting. It trickles in with the monthly Accord shipments but it will be some months before we have enough to make any real impact. While we begin to prepare our fields now, I'd like to see us working on shoring up the security of our sitation and begin focusing more on future trade. We need our docks finished, Anais, we need more seed to plant, and we badly need fishing boats to bring in catches - enough catches that we could begin export to inland Houses. All of that takes money."
There he pauses to study his brother's wife, "Would you agree?"
"I would," Anais answers, smile flickering. "I recently met with the brewers," she adds. "They were searching for something to keep their business going. I told them we could spare some of what's meant to be used for fodder for the animals, since they can actually return it to us after the fermenting process for the same purpose. So once that's going, we should have more profits from it. Are the Erenfords still interested in selling some grain? I mentioned the docks to the Charltons, but they weren't particularly interested."
"The …" Justin turns fully from the window to give the conversation his full attention as he tries to remember the family's name, "Hungtingtons?" He nods, "Mash, they call it? Yes, I could see that being useful to both of us. I think I remmeber some old farmer mentioning how he used to get mash from the brewery and how it was more digestable to the livestock. That is an excellant idea, Anais. The Seven know we are in need of our brewery to be up and running and it would add to our possible export stock to lure in future trade. I know nothing of Erenford grain, however." Justin hadn't heard that part.
A slow nod, "You are the administrative brains of this House, Anais. This is why I come to you. I help with overseeing what rebuilding I am able, and I deal with the issues of law and permits. Yet the rest weighs upon my mind as well. I have a proposal I wish to put to Father that could get us the money we need without a loan, perhaps with the planting seed. If he agrees to allow us to try, would you be willing to travel to Holyholt to negotiate a betrothal …. for me?"
Anais' brows rise at that. "Money I can see them offering," she says slowly. "More seed, I have doubts. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with how closely we've already tied ourselves to them, though there were few enough other options." She clasps her hands in her lap, tilting her head as she looks back to him. "Which lady is it that's caught your fancy, if I might ask?"
There is no evasion. Justin meets Anais's eye boldly enough, "The lady Aeliana Charlton." Yet before she might object, he holds up a hand and presses on, "She is Lord Ser Aleister's sister, and Lord Ser Keegan's niece. While not his daughter, it would tie us to both Houses. Whether or not the lady Danae produces a living child, male or otherwise, much of House Nayland are very unfriendly unto us. And I will not trust them again, Anais. I would rather we ally ourselves with the stronger house opposing them, who are also our close neighbors no matter how Stonebridge turns out. They have no lack of wealth to fund her an ample dowery."
Justin adds low, "If they /do/ aquire Stonebridge, they will control all possible trade routes for us, except the sea."
"I don't disagree with any of that," Anais says slowly. "She seems a fine lady. Although I think that perhaps we should be cautious. We made the accord with the Charltons because we had no other viable option, not because they are any more trustworthy than the Naylands. They moved into Tall Oaks on their own, and they've moved on Stonebridge as well. I'd prefer to maintain what space and independence we can, lest they come to look on us as a part of their holdings as well. Losing Stonebridge is one thing. Bending the knee to a different house is another entirely, and one I'd like to avoid." She shakes a hand through her hair, then levels a steady eye on Justin. "Is there aught to it aside from thoughts of alliance?"
"I agree entirely. But if one of theirs marries into our House, they are less likely to covet what we hold. It secures our position with them so they may focus on other things, and so may we. Caution is always wise and you'll have no argument from me there. However, what other house could give us more security to ensure we'll /not/ be bothered while we strengthen ourselves, and even help us regain that strength? Even the Mallisters can't or won't do more than they have already, Anais. Highfield is a very fragile House itself, newly built, few people and very limited ability to reap it's resources until she grows. If we weaken and fail, she is more liable to as well - especially now as Lord Aleister has lost his heir." Justin makes a dismissive gesture and starts to walk a few steps across Anais's chamber, "I think this would bring us more than any other marriage. I have no strong feelings for her, as yet. I do find her likable, smart, an acutely insightful woman who's unusally adept at reading people. I would rather have her in our house to help us than in another to scheme against us."
"If they marry you, they don't need to covet it, Justin. They already have it." Anais reaches up to rub a finger at her brow, looking down at the floor. "It's no secret anywhere that Jacsen is unwell, and we've not been able to provide an heir to the house. Anyone playing the long game will be willing to gamble that either Jacsen or I or both can be removed, leaving you the heir and your wife holding your ear and influencing the policies of the Roost. I don't think there's anything to be gained from the Naylands at this point, but I would rest more easily with a lesser connection to a house that might balance the Charltons, even if it were from a distance."
"Perhaps, though I would like to think I am not as pliable as all that, Anais." Justin chides her, unruffled. "There also isn't a daughter available of a wealthy house who could help us as much that is liable to be open to negotiating a marriage with us. Who would you suggest, Anais? Ilaria? She's .. rather quiet, not out going or strong, I think. I looked to the Erenfords but I think the lady Emylie is tied up in some negotiation or another already, and there's rumor the lady Aemy may be as well. And now they are tied in closely with the Naylands. We need this marriage to help the Roost prosper Anais, so I ask you to consider it. I intend to speak with father about it as well, among other things."
"I would ask you not to speak with her father about it," Anais says quietly, looking back up to him. "If you go searching to negotiate your own betrothal, it's like to make us look desperate, and we're like to get less out of it. It's not as though you're going to become an old maid, Justin," she points out. "And yes, we could use the money. But marriage is a one-time proposition. You have to make sure you choose wisely." Speaks the voice of experience?
Justin moves his head negatively, "No, no, I mean to speak to Jerold, /my/ father. There's no point in my asking you to feel out the Charltons on my behalf if father won't go for the idea. -That- would make us look foolish, to open negotiations only to have my father say no. I'm not going, I can't. This is why I came to ask if you would be willing to do it, Anais." Justin isn't flustered, he looks amused. It lightens his eyes, laughing silently. "I have no intention of traveling to Holyholt to arrange this and, should you continue to have reservations, it does no harm to consider it for a while. Discuss what other options are open to us."
"Oh," Anais laughs, smile sheepish for a moment. "Yes. Well. That is true as well." Her smile fades, growing rueful as she looks out to the window. "Perhaps he might find more comfort in a gooddaughter who reminds him more of his wife than he does in me. Gods know, he deserves some happiness." She draws a deep breath, letting it out in a careful sigh. "As for Hollyholt, I think it might be best if we gave them at least a week or so to recover from their recent losses."
"Of course. There are several good reasons not to rush into this. I do not … actually know how the lady Aeliana would take the idea herself. I rather thought not to ask her, actually. Let it be decided between the houses and her own can ask her if she would be agreeable. Unless you think that unwise?" Justin is calm, proposing ideas. He goes back to idly pacing Anais's chambers with his hands lightly held behind his back in a pose his father has often undertaken and likely picked up from Jerold unconsciously. By this son, anyway.
"I am certainly open to other possibilities as well. We need a loan of /money/ to fix our other needs, or we can drag our feet and hope in another couple of years we can acrue enough harvests and regain more crafters to start up trade. I'd rather not wait years if we can give things a little healthy kick." There's a careful sideways glance towards Anais, "And though I am very fond of you, my goodsister, our House is in some dire need of children. If something should happen to me before I marry, and you and Jacsen do not have issue, do you really want to see Lucienne inherit this House? Or Dmitry?"
"Dmitry might learn some responsibility," Anais allows. "Lucienne, no." She unfolds from her chair, pacing to the window herself to look out over the water, leaning a shoulder against the frame. "I am worried as well about your wife," she admits. "For much the same reason. Should something happen to Jacsen, then she becomes lady of the Roost and your children and hers will inherit your father's place. And I have nowhere else to go," she adds, softer.
Ah. Well, that has been on Justin's mind as well. He leans his head over slightly to study her, then walks over to lay both of his hands lightly upon her shoulders, if Anais will let him. "You are my good sister, and I trust you more than anyone else in this house. I hardly even know my father and though I trust him in many things, he is not the man I remember anymore. You and I have to look out for each other, so … it is important to me that you approve of whomever I might marry. You would share this house with her. Which is all the more reason I think the lady Aeliana may be a good choice. She is very likable, proper, friendly, very intelligent, and not inconsiderate of others. I'm rather surprised myself to say I find her quite remarkable and not like anyone I have ever met before, Anais. She isn't like what you would expect of a Charlton at all."
Justin gives Anais's shoulders a light squeese, "I would like it if you would try to get to know her. See how you feel about her, yourself. There is no need for us to rush into things here." More softely, Justin adds lower, "I would not see you pushed out of this house should my brother falter, unless you wanted to go."
"I met her," Anais says, turning to look back at him with a faint smile. "And she's very nice. I did tell her she was welcome to stay here if she sought peace from the Stonebridge issue. I've just come to be more cautious about my first impressions about people. Not everyone is what they seem at first meeting. And thank you," she adds, reaching up to give his hand a gentle squeeze in return. "Though I'm not sure how I would feel, lingering around after being replaced, it is good to hear there is someone who won't see me cast out."
"No, as far as I am concerned, you are my sister, Anais. Unless you wished to remarry, there's no casting you out. I would go toe to toe even with my father to keep anyone from doing that to you. You are family. More so than even my brother, to me. I like to know that I can depend on /someone/ in this house, who I know isn't going to try to stab me in the back, or be blind to Luciene's manipulations." Justin twists his mouth wryly, then steps beside Anais to stand at the window with her, "So I seek to share my ideas with you. You seem to put up with me all right."
Justin shrugs and adds, "Besides, you might pull Jacsen through yet."
Anais laughs softly, shaking her head as she looks out at the water. "You, I understand," she admits. "You're more like Jaremy was. More like my brothers. Jacsen is different. I thought…" She trails off, resting her temple against the window frame. "I thought maybe it would be all right. Better, even. But sometimes I think that he's spent so long training himself to rely only on himself that he's forgotten that there's anything to be had from anyone else. I don't think I'm what he hoped for in a wife. Which makes me defensive, which doesn't help."
Heh. Comparing him to his elder brother makes Justin arch a dark brow at his good sister, and under the circumstances of what Jaremy did to their House, thin his mouth as well. "Jacsen may be different, but I won't thank you for comparing me to any of my brothers, Anais. I was very fond of Jaremy, but I do not care to be like him." Justin shifts his jaw and looks out over the sea view, "You deserve better, Anais. Jacsen had so much promise before his injury, but he's changed most of all. I do not know him any more."
"Jaremy was a fool, but at least he was a noble fool," Anais sighs. "And there is something to be said for that, no matter how his choice may have hurt." Or at least that's what she's telling herself, apparently. "I was in a hurry to get married, Justin. Afraid to end up like Elinor, determined to prove I could do it. And when Jaremy ran off, I felt like I had committed to this course, and couldn't just walk away. Especially not after Jaremy did. So I went through with it. And now I truly am committed to this course. So if I deserve better, then I shall have to make Jacsen better. There is no other choice."
Justin gives a slow nod, "That is very commendable of you. Though, if Jacsen does not recover, you could still do better, Anais. You are young and lovely. And none I think can saddle you with the handle of barren when my brother can hardly get out of his bed, let alone father children. I have my doubts as to his fitness to be my father's heir, even if he weans off of the Milk of the Poppy. What man can have healthful mental balance with himself, let alone others, if he is in agony and angry at everyone else for his handicap?" Justin frowns and turns from the window, "That is my father's choice to make. And yours to do, if you can save my brother. But we may well be past that point now. He's been on the poppy a very long while."
A few steps across her chambers and then he pauses to look back to her, "Try to spend some time with the lady Aeliana and consider my proposal. And should you come up with other ideas of how we may raise the funds to complete the docks, to acquire fishing vessels and more seed to plant, do share them with me, Anais."
"Believe me, there is nothing I would like more than to see thriving docks here," Anais says with a small smile, rueful. "I have thought on it, and will continue to think on it. And I will try to meet with Lady Aeliana as well. As for Jacsen…" She looks out the window, then toward the bedroom. "I can only do what I can do. Beyond that, it is in the hands of the gods. Take care, Justin," she adds, looking back with a small smile. "Keep a sharp eye for bandits."
Ha! Justin gives a laugh to her last, "I will do more than that. I intend to hunt them to the Stranger's doorstep. That is the kind of hunt that really stirs my blood, and they deserve hunting, /if/ it was bandits. Yet again, I do have my doubts. They are all too convenient to blame to cover up fouler deeds." With that, Anais's good brother inclines his head with respect to his goodsister, "Give it a few weeks, then let me know what you think of the lady Aeliana." Justin turns and takes his leave.