|Harts And Hearts|
|Summary:||Anais slips away from the chaos to vent her frustrations with Kain.|
|Related Logs:||Yes, but just read what's been going on.|
|Woods — Terrick's Roost|
|Trees and stuff.|
|October 7, 289|
The Roost has been full of people, certainly by far too full of people to play home to Kain for very long. But as more and more news has come back and more and more demands have been made on Anais, it seems she finally reached the same threshold as the hunter, and sent someone to find him with a message to meet her on the green early in the morning, just pre-dawn. When she arrived, it was with bow in hand and only guard and handmaid in tow, all three dressed in old, worn clothes suitable for hunting - including pants for the women. She didn't have much to say at first, only enough to indicate that she needed to get out, and it's a few hours into the trip before she really says anything meaningful. "I couldn't stay there today," she admits, once they're out a ways, her voice quiet. "I was like to snap at someone, and not in a good way."
It's hard getting ahold of Kain. It means that someone has to actually find him, and that in itself is a large enough task. If the ranger doesn't want to be found, he simply won't be. So perhaps it was good that he was caught, traveling the road to the Roost, another wagon full of kills for food. Hearing the message of what was requested, he nodded once, then proceeded to deliver his food before vanishing again. On the day and time indicated, he was there, waiting for Anais and her entourage, a silent sentinel. There was nothing said from the time they met up to the time they left the town, only speaking after Anais feels like opening up. "I don't know what's going on, my Lady." he offers. "And from the looks of it, maybe it's best that I don't." Pause. "But, you do not look well." the man states. "You haven't been sleeping, have you?"
"That's not terribly unusual," Anais points out with a wry twist of a smile, stepping lightly through the woods. She isn't as silent as the hunter, but she doesn't stumble about either. "But no, it's been worse than usual." She takes a deep breath, forcing it out slowly. "We got word that Lucienne was dismissed from the Groves first, after throwing some sort of fit at Lady Groves. But she didn't show up at the Roost. The next night, Jacsen disappears. No word. No note. When Justin and others asked around, it turns out he stopped to tumble one of the maids, then rode out. They've been searching, but no sign of him. So they went to Middlemarch. There they found Jacsen's horse, with a ransom note. Some bandits want four hundred dragons for him, which we all know is impossible. Or else they say they'll kill him. Which would be difficult enough, except that when they reached Middlemarch, they found Lucienne. Pregnant. With what she claims is Jacsen's child."
Listening, Kain's movements are virtually nonexsistant as he walks, all the while still on the look out for a particular large bunk that he had been hunting for over a month. They had picked up the trail earlier in the day, and by the indentations it made in the ground, it is a very large buck. When Anais continues to drop preverbial bombs, he slows his steps slightly, inside his hood, shadows shift. "Madness." he utters. "First off, it's laughable that a ransom would ask that much. Even if all the minor houses in the Riverlands combined their fortunes, it still wouldn't amount to that. And Lady Lucienne is Lord Jacsen's bloodsister, yes?" There's something about his tone when he asks that doesn't require him to say it outloud. It's disgust. "Why would she do such a thing? Why embarass her own family and house in such a way?"
"Oh, well. She also claims that she and Justin are bastards," Anais clarifies helpfully, stepping up onto a root and balancing there for a moment, as though the act helps her focus. "So technically, she and Jacsen are only /half/ siblings. And it's my fault, apparently. For not being able to produce an heir. Which I'm sure was entirely on me and had nothing to do with the fact that Jacsen was busy spreading his seed anywhere he could whenever the fancy struck him." Her jaw sets as she steps down from the root, eyes fixed on the forest floor. "Lord Jerold's brother has returned to the Roost as well, bringing his five sons and two daughters with him. In addition to the constant visitors. I just- If one more person had the gigantic stones to complain to me about anything today, I was just going to rip their face off."
"Incest." Kain spits. "You'll understand if I look at your sister-in-law and your husband in a…unpleasant light." He shakes his head, almost as if trying to get something nasty off his body. "I'm sorry there's little I can say to make you feel any better, my Lady. If there was, I'd surely say it. I will say that you deserved better than what you've received. Far better. Just know that I remain loyal to your efforts. I know the good you've done for the Roost. It hasn't gone unnoticed." He kneels down to study a set of tracks that he'd been keeping an eye on while they've been talking. "Is there anything you need from me?" As he's kneeling, he looks up at her, and out of the way of her guard and maid. A look that suggests all kind of things. Wouldn't it just be grand if Lucienne just magically 'disappeared'?
Anais catches that look, then bites down on her lower lip, coming closer to take a look at the track herself. "Possibly," she murmurs once she's closer, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, a wisp escaped from her braid. "I'm not inclined to see the fruit of their union come to light," she admits. "Given my choice, I would see that avenue well closed to them. But I know very little of herbs and plants and how to prepare them, and I can't exactly go into the village and ask for the appropriate things. I can't even send Nina. Everyone knows how close we are. They'd suspect."
"There are reasons I linger from the Roost, my Lady." Kain states quietly. "And reasons I stay away from you, in specific, as much as I may care for you." That could've certainly a declaration of affection for the women, or it just how much he values her friendship, either way, he's not saying. "If there are things you require, I have more than a few methods of aquiring them. Also," he lowers his voice even further, "there have been more than a few times I have stalked your tower's halls unseen, as a personal test of my own abilities. Entering and exiting undetected is not as difficult as one might think." A gloved hand touches one of the prints. "He's close, I can smell him."
Anais stills at his words, head tilting slightly as she looks more closely at the man. "Thank you," she says quietly, leaning in to rest a hand on his shoulder and brush a kiss against his cheek if he'll allow. "I'm sure I can get it into her food, if you can get what's needful. It's best for everyone if she never comes to term." Her touch may linger a moment longer than it ought to before she's rising and stepping back to test her bow at his pronouncement, no longer looking at him.
There are few times in the rangers's life where he's actually gone stiff from surprise instead of the usual fluidity that he always seems to carry. When she presses her lips against his cheek, there's sharp intake of air, as if his breath was taken away. "Were you to ask it, she would enter her room and never emerge from it." he murmurs to her when she gets that close to him. "I will get what you require, just say what." That close to him, she can clearly see his face, two unnaturally bright cerulean-colored eyes looking at her. It's only be sheer effort of will that he's able to tear them away from her, leather creaking as his glove wraps around his bow. Back to the hunt. Have to clear his mind. He walks at a slight crough when he hunts, and after another hundred feet of watching tracks, he sharply holds up a hand, then a gesture to get them to go down.
Anais does watch him at his offer, and in that moment, all of the flawless facades she usually wears falling away. What lies behind them is not the same friendly, warm, light-hearted girl that everyone sees. There is a cold ruthlessness there, and also a raging fire of temper. If that's what lies beneath the surface, it's all the more impressive that she so often manages composure. But she follows in silence, and crouches in turn when he raises his hand, carefully drawing an arrow from her quiver.
And there is nothing but ice in Kain's eyes. That of a calculating hunter. An assassin. There are reasons he stays away from people. Because he can't stand the majority of them. This is just another sickening reason. At least animals don't hide what they are. Whatever facades Anais lets drop, he is unmoved by them. If anything else, it almost looked like he was expecting something like that. Some kind of unseen satisfaction. But it's gone as he becomes a bit more job-orientated. Compartmentalized.
And there that buck is. Just down from the top of the hill where they're crouched. It is a massive and magnificent buck. Twenty-six points on a wide rack of antlers, drawfing any other buck that the ranger had brought in in months. He had been very careful to make sure they were downwind of the deer in their hunt. So slowly, he starts to draw back his bow. Then…stops. His hooded visage turns back to gaze at her. He points at her, then down at the buck. He wants her to take the shot.
Anais' brows rise slightly at the gesture, but she doesn't protest. If only because she's not quite able to figure out how without risking scaring the buck off. She does take a moment to draw a deep breath, centering herself once more, before taking careful aim. If the buck wears Lucienne's face for a moment, well. No one could blame her for that. When she releases string and arrow, the shaft flies swift and true at the buck's heart.
She could've shot better, is probably what Kain was thinking, but then again, she could've shot worse. And the arrow sinks into the bucks chest, the sound akin to a man being punched. There's a loud squeal and cry, and the bucks manages to take off for about twenty yards before slowing, then toppling over altoghher. "Not a percise heart shot, but you hit something vital nonetheless." Kain says, already on his feet and moving swifter than his feed would suggest. By the time he closes in on the deer, a long hunting knife has been produced in his hands. "Thank you, noble creature. Your death is life as it is with all things." he says quietly to the dying buck. "May you run the fields with the Old Ones for all time." Then, with a flick of his wrist, he slits the buck's throat.
Anais is still new enough to hunting that she has to stifle a cry when the buck starts to run, and grins when he falls. She's a little slow to follow Kain, though she sobers when she arrives to hear his blessing, bowing her head respectfully. Once the deed is done, she moves closer to get a better look at the catch, head tilting curiously. "He's /huge/," she murmurs, reaching out to brush the tip of one point between two fingers.
"Yes, he is. Sire to many of the young deer and fawns in the general area. Or one of the major sires." Kain says, as he starts to field dress the deer. He pauses, looking up at her. "You may not want to watch this part, my Lady. It gets a bit messy." Turly, his hands are already wet with red, steaming blood. "The problem arose a few months ago. I was seeing far too many dead deer with antler wounds. It happens sometimes. When one gets too large and claims dominance, other smaller males vie for domaince. If too many die from nature means, there won't be enough left for us for food. But we can't kill too many and devastate the population. The next alpha male should be able to control the herd without so much violence." He has to put his hands into the carcass now, to seperate the lining from the body and vital organs, so they should all stay in tact and not ruputre and thus, ruin the meat.
Anais doesn't seem terribly concerned about the field dressing. In fact, she walks around behind him and crouches where she can get a better look at the process. "So what you're saying is, we just took out Aleister Charlton," she summarizes, a touch of a wry smile tugging at one corner of her lips as she turns a sidelong glance his way.
Kain pauses in his dressing to spare a very low chuckle. The ranger -never- chuckles. About anything. Ever. "Yes, in a manner of speaking, yes, it would be. I've been hunting this one for some time because of all the herd infighting. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it can really hurt the herds numbers. Besides," he gestures at the rack. "That's something to be proud of. Should take that a trophy, my Lady." With a grunt, he manages to pull out a white-fleshy looking sack that takes up almost all the chest cavity. "Internal organs. Although…" Taking the knife, he cuts into it, having to sort through organs until he making a few more cuts. With a hand, he pulls out a large heart. "The rest can go to the crows and scavengers to eat. This though. Heart meat is good." Setting that aside, he takes a loop of roop, getting ready to hang it in an effort to drain all the blood out of it.
"Oh, well," Anais observes as Kain pulls the heart out, tilting her head. "Clearly we didn't get Aleister. That's a huge heart." As he sorts though the organs and breaks out the rope, she shifts to sit cross-legged on the forest floor, watching the process with curious interest. "You can call me Anais, you know," she adds after a moment. "Or Annie, if it's easier. Especially while you have your hands full of guts."
Tying the rope around the hind legs, he tosses the bundle over a thick enough to support the deers weight. "Yes, well, I've never met the man. But from all accounts, I shouldn't want to. Though I did manage to hear his child died." With a grunt, he slowly starts to haul the deer into the air. It's a hard thing to do. Given the weight of the animal, using the limb as a pulley helps, but it's still a lot of weight. Good thing Kain is a bit of mountain man and has the strength that belays his rather lithe figure. Upon getting it high enough off the ground to hang, he ties it off. A bag of salt is taken from his bag and is spread generous around the inside of the carcass. "Hard thing for me to do, my La- er, Anais." he stumbles a little. "Since you've decided that we should be on a first name basis, I have to ask. Which is Anais is the real one? The one I speak to on a regular occasion, or the one that stalks on the outside edges? Or is it a mixture of both? You're a kind woman, but I'd rather you be honest with me if it was a false one." he states in his same never-chaing tone of voice while he continues to work.
Anais is quiet at first, thinking the question over. "Honestly?" she says after a moment. "Even I'm not entirely sure. Sometimes I think I've just convinced myself to be someone else. And if I've really convinced myself, then is that pretending anymore?" Leaning over, she plucks up a fallen leaf, starting to peel the flesh away from the veins. "I have no trouble thinking about things that are…less than kind or polite. I have more trouble following through with them, though sometimes that's as much about ability as anything else. I do what must be done. And though I may want things to be softer, or gentler, and though I may feel bad about it, I don't regret it, generally speaking. I watched Maron Greyjoy execute those townspeople outside the wall without flinching. And then I was sick in the stairwell. And then I went back to business as usual. Because what use is it to be upset about something you can't change?"
Kain nods. "I had suspected as much, but it's not really my place to lecture you on how you should act or be. I've already given you enough advice on the topic in the past. Bear in mind, I like both of you. I think if you can, you should try to be both and I do think, that is something you've been doing, even if you don't really notice it. But bear in mind, Anais," he comes back over, in the midst of making a fire ring and points with his knife at the large heart that had been cut out of the buck. "It is not a far stretch to go from having a heart to none at all, claiming there was only 'business as usual'. You don't want to turn into the kind of person Lord Charlton is, do you?"
"No," Anais agrees quietly, looking to the heart. "I don't." She leans forward, propping her chin up in her hand. "But sometimes I'm afraid if I let myself feel it…Right now it's like a maelstrom inside of me, Kain. I'm angry. I'm hurt. I'm terrified. I've given everything to this place. To keeping it going." Falling silent, she reaches up to smooth both hands over her hair, pulling her braid over her shoulder and fidgeting with the end of it. "And it's all falling apart anyhow. And Jacsen…" She presses her lips together, looking away. "I am a noblewoman. I was raised to know my place. To understand that I wouldn't marry for love, but for politics. For advantage. So I never expected a husband to love me. I just wanted to be respected. To be able to work with him. And maybe…maybe to be wanted, if I couldn't be loved."
"I try to keep that in your mind when we talk. I see the turmoil you have to deal with, and believe me, you deal with more than most." Kain replies quietly. It's an almost mystical thing how he can get fire going with nothing but two sticks and a handful of leaves, but within a few minutes, there's a fire going. "Sometimes, beyond our best intentions, there is nothing we can do but watch things fall apart. It doesn't make you less of a person, Anais, but one person with a bucket against a flood, you cannot be expected to drain a flooded field. Those who put any blame on your are fools, and clearly don't know the entire story. But then, I consider the majority of noblility fools. Take this recent war as an example. You and Ser Justin are a handful of ones that have actually earned my respect." With a waterskin, he takes time to wash his hands of blood. Then, quietly, on silent footsteps, he lowers himself to a knee before her. "You have lived a lonely, loveless marriage, Anais." He pulls down his hood. "But you have been wanted. Even if you never noticed it."
Anais looks up at his words, braid still caught in her hands. "This is a dangerous time to tell me that sort of thing, Kain," she murmurs, reaching a hand out toward his cheek. "I feel like I have nothing to lose. I'm desperate. I'm angry." And yet her gaze is steady, even if there's still a fine tremor in her hand.
"And don't you think that there isn't anything I wouldn't do to help with that?" Kain replies. "Perhaps I know that too, but I thought that if I didn't say anything now, I might never get a chance. And perhaps that's wrong. The last thing I would ever want to do, would be to take advantage of a situation like that. And that's -not- my intention. It was to get you away from that cesspool of worry and anger and frustration. Maybe," he pauses to look at her, returning the gesture with his hand. "Maybe, I just I wanted to give you a day and a night away from it all. So you could be someone else. With no regrets what happened during. And maybe. Maybe I want to give you strength. To tell you know that while you may think that you're alone, you're not. You never have been."
Anais lets out a slow breath, turning her cheek against his touch. "Not someone else," she murmurs, looking back at him with a flicker of a smile. "Myself. More myself than I can be in the castle, surrounded by Terricks all bound up in honor and pride until they can't see anything around themselves." Her thumb brushes over his cheek, fingers curling at his jaw in a slow, cautious exploration. "When I was younger, I used to go hunting with my brothers all the time. We'd go out into the mountains, spend a few days running around, climbing trees. Doing some actual hunting. There were guards, of course. But we were family. We did what we wanted, because we were family."
"I know the person I speak to on the castle ground isn't the person you actually are." Kain supplies, tracing his index finger slow down the side of her earlobe. "That person always seemed trapped. Like a chained wolf, made to look groomed and proud, and yet felt so terribly trapped within it's own skin. I could tell that from the moment I saw you take up a bow in your hand." Listening to her, he nods. "Sounds like good times. Sounds like it was how a family should be. Not what you've been apart of and witness to. I understand your anger, Anais. And I understand your frustration. If I'm able, I will take you out here as much as I can. Consider me…consider this, a shelter from an emotional storm. Where you can be you, and not some person that you have to be because it's demanded of you." He scoots a little closer to her. "If you want me to stop, I will. But, more than anything, I want you to feel wanted for change. They way you should've been."
Anais' lips curve slightly at his comparison, a glimmer of humor in her eyes. "We usually go with lions in the Westerlands," she murmurs, laughing softly. "But I feel that way sometimes. My mother…My mother always seems to do both so well. She can be the perfect lady without giving up anything in ferocity. She's not a chained wolf. She's…a wolf that chooses to walk among the sheep." She doesn't shy away from his touch, though she lowers her gaze, shaking her head slightly as she lets her hand fall from his cheek to his chest. "I don't want you to stop," she admits in a low tone.
"That comes with experience. Time. And you're still young, Anais." Kain points out. "You will have time to learn, even if it was unfair to thrust you into such a position so early. But, given that, you've done an excellent job. Imagine how good you'll do once enough time passes. All I can say is don't rush yourself so fast to become your mother. You're your own person too." That said, he nods at her, moving to sit next to her. It's almost as if he's about to lean over to gently kiss her when, he pauses. "Uh, Anais," he murmurs. He just realized that her guard and maid aren't too far off, somewhere, even if he can't personally see them. He makes a vauge gesture with his head in their general direction.
"It's okay," Anais shakes her head, turning to look back to where the pair waits. "They can handle themselves. Nina and Kincaid have been with me since before I can remember. We're friends. They can keep watch." She nods toward them, and though the guard gives Kain a long look, he nods after a moment before turning and moving away a short distance. When she turns back to him, Anais leans in closer, curling a finger to trace it along the line of his jaw. "I've never…I only ever gave myself to Jacsen," she admits, her eyes drinking in the small details of his features.
"I don't mean to insult either of them," Kain says, looking at them both turn away, before looking back at Anais. "I can't help how I've felt. And I've done my duty and to my station. I kept it inside, I didn't act upon it. I didn't think about it. I didn't do -anything- about it. But when I see you like this…." he shakes his head, almost at a loss. "I didn't know what to do. I wanted to make you happy, even if it was only for a single night." He has tanned skin. Unnaturally dark, as if he came from somewhere south. The only differences is the lines of imperfection that run over his collarbone and hide beneath his shirt. They look very much like claw marks from a bear. "And I only gave myself to Dania, but…it didn't work out between her and I." To try and put her fears and nervousness at ease, he leans to gently kiss her. "You hold all the cards, Anais." he says softly, after breaking away. "This is your time, afterall. It happens or doesn't happen by your word. But if I'm allowed to speak for myself? I've never wanted anything more in my life."
Anais doesn't seem afraid when he leans in to kiss her, her lips soft and warm beneath his. Her fingers rest over those lines of scar, spreading to fit where the claws might have and tracing to the edge of his shirt. "You're allowed to speak for yourself," she murmurs against his lips, shifting to move closer and claiming another kiss, this one bolder. She may have only ever gone all the way with Jacsen, but she certainly seems to be a practiced kisser. Breathless, she breaks the kiss only long enough to duck her chin and scrape her teeth against his jaw. "You're allowed to do whatever you want."
There's something feral about the way Kain kisses. Maybe it's all the time he spends out in the wilds. Maybe it's the way he hunts, stalking prey from the shadows. He doesn't smell dirty. More like a mixture of pine and burning sage, but nothing that would border on unpleasant. Between her words is light growl, somewhere that rumbles from his chest. And the way he looks at her, there's a hunger in his eyes, intertwined with a sensation of affection and respect. "Then if I never have you again," he voice is rough, spased between a series of kisses to her neck, "then I want this night to last as long as it can. What I want," he states putting a hand to hem of her tunic shirt. "Is to make you feel better than you've ever felt." A small nip to her collarbone before he pulls her down onto cloak, which he had laid earlier to not get in the way of his work of deer-cleaning.
Anais smells of juniper, pine, and amber, an unusual scent here in the river lands, too wild for most of the ladies. But it's something from her own home, hoarded soaps used sparingly so that only a hint of the scent lingers on her skin. A soft sound catches in her throat at his nip, surprised and pleased, her hands tightening in the fabric of his shirt to draw him with her as he pulls her down. "Don't be careful," she murmurs, her own hands slipping beneath his shirt with a pleased sound as her fingertips find skin. "I want- I want to surrender. Not worry."