Page 560: Groves Dinner
Groves Dinner
Summary: During a dinner at Braeburn House some wine is spilled and something lost is found, betwixt the usual tensions and exchanges of pleasantries.
Date: 03/02/2013
Related Logs: Recent logs of the participants, especially perhaps A Kinsman's Grace and A Kitchen Maid's Honour.
Kerrigan Nikolus Julia Rebecca Leon Evayne 
Grand Hall, Braeburn House
Description is in the scene set.
February 3rd, 290

The Grand Hall of Braeburn House is capable of hosting many a grand feast, with nobility from all over the Cape attending. Alas, when no such occasion is to be had, four of the long tables along with their benches have been moved to the far end of the hall as they are not needed, leaving only two tables to the regular residents of the Keep. Now with the time of dinner nearing, the Grand Hall, lighted with the warm flickering light of several torches, is entered by a reasonable number of empty stomachs that can't wait to be filled, regardless whether they belong to nobles or commoners. And although they seem indiscernable in their hunger, they filter to the two huge tables perfectly, those of higher birth to the one on the dais, overlooking the other table with common knights and other retainers. Not all residents however are as fortunate as to partake - those entrusted with serving the food and refilling the cups stand at the ready, with their backs to the walls that are covered with tapestries and banners carrying the sigil of House Groves.

Shepherding a pair of children into the great hall, Julia is speaking in a quiet voice as she eyes one twin then the other, back again, before she and both of her children take a seat along the table that will soon be populated with other members of the Grove's family. A glance to her left is aimed at her daughter, the glance to her right is aimed at her son, her instincts as a mother carefully focused on the well behaved, cleanly dressed and attired children who are - to those same senses - entirely to well behaved at the moment to be up to good (in the long OR short term). However, having learned to pick her battles carefully, she is apparently enjoying it while it lasts. That she carefully checked their seats to ensure there were not flagons of ink waiting to be sat upon is merely coincidence. Honest.

In a place of high honour but a certain loneliness, as the other nobles of her family are inclined to judge her swiftly and warily, Lady Rebecca Nayland is already seated, her tall, lean frame severely bolt upright. This is the first time Rebecca has dined outside her old chamber since her return to Braeburn House, and she has still lacked official reception by the old lord or the young; her choice of a night when both are absent might be thought to be tactfully calculated as a compromise, or else picked out as a sign of her enduring irritation at that slight.

The lady's handmaiden, Samphire Rivers, is notionally seated at the lower board, but in fact that poor girl spends more time on her feet, as Rebecca hardly touches her food - whenever a spoonful of broth is about to reach her mouth, she lays it down and beckons her maid instead, sometimes to adjust her copious and fiery hair, others to fetch a new cushion, yet others to partake of whispered exchanges with her mistress.

The imported Frey and her weaselspawn are not dignified with any address from Rebecca, who still regards her own fortunes as ruined by Lord Walder's malice.

A few key faces would be absent this evening, unfortunately. Particularly the heir duty bound by the unknown that beckons him. Which leaves Nikolus to oversee the daily functions of the manor house should the desire be so. A task he did not recall volunteering for. The one eyed Groves limped subtly into the chamber due to the boar wound that was healing nicely. "What has the kitchen prepared for us tonight? Is it lamb?" He asked those present while shuffling for a chair. "I've requested lamb for the past four nights. Tell me we are having lamb tonight."

There is the sound of raised voices just outside the doors, cut off abruptly by the arrival of Kerrigan Groves. His look of irritation is unmistakeable, but if there's anything that can cheer him up, it's the prospect of a good meal. Even if he does have to attempt to survive civilized company at dinner. Feeling eyes on him, Kerrigan clears his throat and offers a distracted: "Evening, everyone," before finding a seat.

Among those present is Ser Leon Undyl, seated at the commoners' table and rather enjoying the meal, though he watches his sister darting about this way and that way with a slight frown. When he isn't watching Samphire or talking to the other knights sitting around him, his eyes trail the Great Hall as if looking for someone.

Entering from the double doors are a few servants, led by a young woman clad in the garb of a kitchen maid, known to some of the people present as Evayne Potter, assistant to the cook. The servants carry large platters with an assortment of smoked ham and bits of a cheese of moderate smell to tease the appetite and as a first means to appease the most hungry until the first warm course is served.

Evayne casts a glance about the Hall, her gaze lingering on Kerrigan and Nikolus for a moment with a slight frown. That frown stays as she beholds Lady Rebecca Nayland, but disappears when she catches sight of her firend Samphire. Evie moves to the side of the lower table, overseeing the work of the servants from afar, while the men carry the platters to the High Table first before they continue to serve the retainers at the lower table, and turns to offer Leon at the Commoners' table a warm smile if she should catch his gaze.

Julia directs the placement of food onto the plates of her children, knowing what they will and will not eat, and takes for herself what she has a chance of eating while still warm. The arrival of other family members does not escape her notice, a measured nod offered to those she has had chance to speak cordially to over the years. That she doesn't spend a measure of time, wasted or not, attempting to be cordial friendly or even civil and such to the Lady Rebecca is merely expedient. Not rude or a deliberate slight. Merely practical.

Though Lady Rebecca's stance and manner are aloof, her glance is still inquisitive and mobile - more than mobile enough, anyway, to catch the kitchen maid's sullen, shifty and fleeting look in her direction. Samphire is bidden right back over again, and Lady Rebecca complains loudly enough to carry to more or less everyone - "Don't let your little scullion acquaintance stare at me in that ingrate manner, my dear. It's quite enough to put me off this in any case rather inadequate potage."

Kerrigan's eyebrows lift faintly. "I happen to find," he says, in response to Rebecca, and thus just as loudly, "the meal to be quite excellent. You will give my compliments to the cook." The latter is directed at Evayne, as he bids her to stop in passing. Then, he stabs at his meat.

Since Leon has been looking out for Evayne, it is easy for her to catch his gaze and he winks in response to her smile, then busies himself with that greasy leg of ham he is currently munching through. Though when his neighbor elbows him, he leans over to chat to him quietly, answering questions apparently.

If Evayne notices Rebecca's reaction to her stare, she does not show. Those cheeks remain an unobtrusive palish colour for the moment, whereas Kerrigan's remark earns him a hushed: "She'll be glad to hear it, m'lord." and a well practiced if slightly slurred curtsey. Her face takes on a rosy colour as she notices Leon's wink, and grabbing a pitcher of ale she approaches the lower table to give him a refill - even if his mug is still almost full. "Ser Leon. I hope you are not mad at me?" she offers, biting her lip as she addresses the hedgeknight. "I did not mean to laugh at you the other day."

Seated beside his cousins, Nikolus is yet again disappointed. No lamb. He stared at the ham on his plate like some pouting child, without the overexaggeration. "It will do." He resigns, food was food. In reaching for his ale this Groves male casts a single glance towards his kin. "Ah cousin Julia, I heard you and Harper will be residing here." Then to the offerspring. "With children. Won't this make the days interesting."

Julia sets a glass of cider in front of each child and lifting a cup of tea for herself and turns a smile toward Lord Nikolus, "I've found, Lord Nikolus, that they make my life interesting. Harper and I are happy to share the entertainment value with all of you," she replies with a nod. A fine gleam of amusement colors her tone of voice as she adds, somewhat dryly, "After all, it'd be rude of us to keep all the entertaining moments to ourselves, but we're ever so happy to be here."

At the request of Kerrigan to refill his already emptied cup with wine one servant steps forward, the flagon in his hands shaking slightly. The lad is young, rather pale, inexperienced perhaps. His hands seem to tremble a little as he takes the cup in one hand and lowers the flagon to fill it. Evayne shoots the lad an alerted glance, her jaw tightening slightly as she perceives the servant's difficulty. Then her glance darts to another standing close by and with a wordless cant of her head she signals him to assist before the pale servant's endeavours go astray.

Alas, too late! First the cup escapes the servant's grasp and falls onto the floor, spilling its contents over the poor lad's breeches. And then as he bends forward and tries to catch it in a desperate attempt to save the cup he happens to swing the flagon in his other hand in an unfortunate angle, showering himself with even more of the red liquid.

"Well, at least somebody is pleased," Rebecca comments with more than usual asperity, dropping her pretence of addressing only her maid, "though the true Lords of our House appear to find the palette our servants offer too bland for their taste. They say cousin Stafford only eats straight from the fair hands of his betrothed, these days, and my dear uncle is abroad likewise so rarely I am beginning to suspect the Freys have had him poisoned…"

This last is added with an almost conversational emerald flicker towards her good-cousin from the Crossing. At this Lady Rebecca rises with languor from her place at the high dais, and calls, "Samphire, come aside with me, and bring away some of this dreary provender. I am going up to dine with my mother for a time. We shall return when matters are more seemly." Her servant perforce at her side, the demi-Nayland retreats - perhaps temporarily, perhaps not - in a swinging, dreamlike whirl of red hair and green fabric. Like a banner of the Mire.

Leon smiles when Evayne turns up beside him and shakes his head. "I know you did not, Mistress. I apologize if my brusque words caused offense." He might say more but then the young boy servant makes a mess of refilling Kerrigan's cup and he laughs softly to himself. "I guess I should be glad to be served by you, Mistress.", he comments and takes a sip.

Kerrigan cringes at the boy who spills the wine — though, less out of concern for the mess, and more out sympathy for the embarrassment of it. "No trouble," he says. "It is fate's way of telling me I need to moderate my drinking." He does not (surprise, surprise) look terribly sad to see Rebecca go. In fact, the tension in his shoulders goes, and he seems to relax.

"That is too kind." He replies to Julia with a teasing tone which may question his tolerance for children. "It will be good to have his opinion on some matters we are pursuing. Which may include a visit to Seagard unfortunately." He was reaching for a fork to start on his dish until the mishap occured with a nervous young servant. Nikolus snorts, "It's pouring a drink lad, for fuck's sake. Not spearing a man with a sword."

"Why waste a perfectly good poison," Julia wonders in a not entirely quiet aside, "when her tongue is more than adequate to the task at hand. To the Lady Rebeccca, her sunny disposition, charming manners and ever friendly, cordial and downright amiable conversational style," she offers the toast with her cup of tea slightly raised. She feels the children to her left and right start to twitch a little with laughter at the sight of the boy with the now-wine soaked clothing. The subtle twitches are responded to with a pointed glance (right & left) at the ink stains still smudging arms and other visible areas; the glance is enough to get both pairs of eyes focused on the food in front of them rather suddenly. "I'm sure my Lord Harper won't mind sharing his opinion, Lord Nikolus, especially if you happen to have a bit of wine to spare while discussing these matters," she offers in return, a bit of humor aimed (in absentia) at her husband, something of a 'in-joke'.

Evayne, shifting her attention from the poor servant to Leon, returns his smile, but after another glance over to the high table she shrugs with obvious regret. "I would gladly serve you, Ser, alas, that boy… I fear I must attend over there…"

The servant, soiled from the wine and looking quite disgraced, is swiftly sent away to change into a tidy garb, his place at the table however needs to be filled, and so Evie moves over shooting the passing servant a sympathetic glance and a shake of her head. Accepting the flagon from him - half empty as it is already - she approaches the table to finish the poor lad's task, and fills a fresh cup for Kerrigan, keeping her gaze down as not to offend the gathering of nobles - or maybe even as not to attract unwanted attention from the Groves lord.

The double doors are opened for the next course. Two large wooden trays with several wooden bowls are brought in, each carried by two servants. The soup contained within the bowls emanates a most tasty smell of mushrooms, vegetables and a hint of garlic. Starting their round at the High Table where the attending servants are quick to serve the bowls to the nobles, the kitchen servants soon continue on with their tray to the lower table where the commoners help themselves from the bowls that are left. To accompany the soup slices of bread, fresh from the oven, are offered.

Kerrigan drains the recently refilled wine glass, and steals a slice of bread before extricatin himself from the bench. "Well," he says. "It's been great. You all stay out of trouble." He waves his piece of bread threateningly, before starting to head out.

A small portion of his plate has been cleared by the time Kerrigan announces his departure, "No promises." Nikolus returns, his mouth half filled with chewed meats. While it was odd for Rebecca to remain quiet throughout this dining opportunity, he then revives dining coversation. "You." He points to Leon with his fork, a morsel of some small little piggy is skewered on it. "I do not know your name but have you the fisherman's skill?"

Leon has been busy with his food, when he is suddenly spoken to and looks up at Nikolus. "Ser Leon Undyl, Ser.", he introduces himself, "I am a knight. I am not a … fisherman."

Julia's general air of mild amusement remains as she enjoys her dinner, the food warm and - thus far - nothing set on fire, no one running about (screaming) while on fire, or anything else seriously amiss. She keeps a watchful eye on her children throughout the meal and prudently eases the bowls of soup away from elbows or potential spilling slips of hands that would make for a mess.

Now that Kerrigan leaves a slight tension seems to vanish from Evie as well. Curtseying as the Groves lord passes by her attention is then drawn to the exchange between Nikolus and Leon, which she observes with attentive eyes and ears. But then she notices Lady Julia's almost empty cup, and approaching she glances to the children with that special smirk that parents share before she addresses the lady. "Would you like more tea, m'lady. Or anything special for the little lord- and ladyships?"

Nikolus perks up a little, feigning amusement. "Is that so? I am not a whore and yet I happen to be passingly fair at their boasted trade." The fork was dropped onto his plate as the soup came by. "Then you've never acquired the skill." He starts to turn from the man before adding, "Catching fish that is." Now facing Julia the Groves male continues, "A small example of what I have to propose. We have the sea, littered with food and too few persons with the skill to harvest the waters. There's potentional there. For both food and riches. Surely you have a passion for the pearls Lady Julia?"

Julia smiles at Evie as she nods, "More tea would be lovely," she replies and glances left & right again, seeing twin faces (literally) that hold expressions of carefully contained hope that spurs a laugh from Julia. "Chaos and Confusion," speaking of her daughter and son respectively, "have bargained for dessert on the grounds that they would behave themselves all the way through the meal. So, what would happen to be the chefs delight this evening?" she wonders. Her attention slides toward Nikolus as he wagers his question and gives a small nod, "What lady doesn't, my lord? Though, I have more of a fondness for spices than pearls. Why, the cost of a ounce of nutmeg, for one thing, let alone saffron or ginger can come quite dear to a well equipped kitchen."

The main course is being brought, roast pork with mashed neeps and rosemary potatoes. In the wake of the servants carrying the platters, and obviously not part of the menue, follows a young maiden, her eyes alarmed, the gnawing on her lower lip a sign of distress - and a family trait perhaps. Her gaze darts across the hall and connects with Evayne's, and the girl's unease seems to transmit itself momentarily onto the kitchen maid.

Inhaling deeply, her grey eyes widened by a sudden worry creeping up on her, Evie casts a hurried glance about the High Table, looking if anyone pays her any attention at the moment. Then with a desperate glance to the nearest servant she cants her head in a silent plea before she moves towards her sister, keeping close to the wall as to not attract too much attention; for an exchange of words, with the intention of keeping it at a low volume. Alas, emotions seem to boil high as the whispers turn to hisses of accusation.

Nikolus laughs, "True. Though it is to the vain I regard. The ones who are easily distracted by a glimmering obj-" The his amusement is cut short by something obstructing the path of his feet beneath the table. "Trinkets." The retort is completed however his tone is cautious. Nikolus then peers under the table, tilting his frame to the right as the chair no longer hosted his cousin Kerrigan.

Whatever the Groves lord might have expected to see under that table - it was probably not an infant boy of almost a year of age, perched atop some kind of dirty cushion - which upon closer inspection reveals itself to be some sort of puppet, sewn from old scraps of cloth. The boy, little disturbed by his surroundings, let alone the chatter that fills the Grand Hall at this hour, seems to sleep peacefully - and even Nikolus foot could not rouse him from his slumber.

Once Nikolus reemerges there is something sleeping in his arms rather than being cradled. The small infant is held outwards, at a distance, as one was estranged to the methods of handling a baby. "What the hell is this?" He asked pointedly. Not to his noble kin of course as he doesn't recall any of them bringing infants here.

At the Groves lord's question, loud enough to be heard by anyone in the hall, all conversation seems to fade as all eyes are suddenly on Nikolus and the infant in his arms. Which seems to stir suddenly, perhaps due to the unusual smell of the nobleman. And opening his eyes the little boy lets out a displeased howl as he beholds the one-eyed and unkown face in so sudden a proximity.

As if the voice of the noble had not been enough to catch her attention, Evayne turns and as she sees and hears her son a tear of relief runs down her cheek. And rushing towards the noble her cry resounds through the Grand Hall. "Rychard!" she exclaims, taking the child from Nikolus' grasp and holding him on her arm, she turns to utter some sort of apology. "I don't know how that could happen, m'lord. Rychard was with my sister in the servant's quarters. She fell asleep and when she woke up he was gone!" Her eyes return suddenly to her child, wide with wonder. "No… not gone. He must've crawled away on his hands and legs. But how he got here, unnoticed by anyone…"

The child was given over without hesitation. Nikolus sighed heavily, soon sinking back into his chair as the kitchen maid prattled on about the how and whys of this babe's appearance. "He was stealthy enough to get past the lot of us." Now diving back into his meal, "See that it doesn't happen again? I don't want to be known as one who kicks babies in their crowns." Which had almost happened had he not realized something all too soft was beneath the table. "Go on, see that your son is settled Little Bird."

"It won't, m'lord. By the Seven, Carys will pay better attention next time, I promise!" Evayne replies, holding her child with one arm and wiping her face with the sleeve of the other. "And I will." And after casting a glance about the hall and seeing that there is still a sufficient number of servants present to attend to the meal she adds, a bit hesitantly perhaps: "I thank you. M'lord." And inclines her head with a curtsey.

As soon as the double doors have closed behind the kitchen maid, her child and her sister, things swiftly return back to normal and the hall resounds with chatter again. The topic? Anyone's guess really.