|Summary:||Anais runs into Rowan in the reading room, and they discuss recent events while searching for a book.|
|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.|
|August 19, 288|
The long-disused reading room of Four Eagles Tower is a work in progress, crates, both open and closed, scattered everywhere as the piles of tomes make their way back to the shelves. Rowan Nayland is wandering among these disordered stacks, occasionally pausing for a lusty sneeze and sniffle, a touch allergic to all the dust that's kicked up in his search. He opens a crate and peers at one of the titles, shouting, "Ah-HA! Westeros in Pictures…" he picks up another. "What Noble Ladies Know that Every Woman Should…" And another. "How to be a Targaryen or Look Just Like One?" He drops the book in disgust, kicking up more dust and sneezing again. "Fuck me in the eye, who packed this mess?"
"My lady, are you all right?" The handmaiden assigned to Anais today clearly didn't expect to be spending time in the reading room. She looks as though she's girded herself for a three-week camping trip, between the sturdy dress and the battered shoes and the satchel of Seven only know what. Anais, in contrast, is wearing one of her nicer dresses, and entirely ladylike slippers. None of which does anything to soften the veritable rime of ice over her demeanor.
"I fine, Elise," Anais replies quietly, slipping into the reading room and closing the door behind herself. "Frustrated, but I can't imagine that's killed anyone yet." She pauses at the titles, then again at the other frustration, ice cracking with the faintest smile. "Yet," she repeats, amused. "Looking for something in particular, Rowan?"
Rowan jumps about a foot, whipping around and staring at Anais a moment. "Sod all, how is it I manage to have my foot in my mouth every time you appear?" he laments, blushing fiercely and sweeping a flourish bow that's the mirror of Jarod's signature move. "My lady. Please forgive me. I am, in fact. Looking for something particular." He straightens, tilting his head to the side. "And yet, if I may be so bold, you seem… not entirely yourself. Are there kneecaps you'd like me to break for you? Dragon slain? Dangerous riddles answered? I'm particularly good at those."
"It's a gift," Anais answers the first question, picking her way through the stacks of books and somehow managing not to knock over a single one. "I really do bring out the best in people." Blue eyes scan the various piles, trying to discern any sort of pattern to it. "Honestly, Rowan, I'm a bit frustrated, and I find my usual outlets for those sorts of feelings currently blocked. I thought the least I could do was remove myself to somewhere I'd be less likely to snap at the innocent." Another look at the piles, and she arches a brow at the squire. "What was it you were looking for?"
"Ah," Rowan sighs, glancing at the boxes and disarray. "Waterdancing: The Meditations of the Braavosi Masters," he says. "Which was why I was a bit excited to find what seemed to be the crate of double-yews, a moment ago. But alas. It was a cruel ruse." He stretches out a hand, gallantly offering the lady a hold to step over a particularly troublesome spot. "There is certainly much to do here, my lady. If we work side by side, we might find peace in our labors. Why, you might even choose to confide in me, since we were this close to being family. I only beg you remember I am one of those innocents that you don't want to snap at." He puts on a winning smile.
Anais takes the offered hand, though she relies on it little as she hops over a stack of books. "Waterdancing," she echoes, looking over the chaos of the room in progress. "Well. There can only be so many books, right?" She wrinkles her nose then, rolling her eyes a bit. "I imagine this may sound silly, Rowan. But right now, I find myself wishing I could avoid the company of other women. If they aren't foolish, they're catty, and if they're kind, they're delicate. And above all, they're all very interested in controlling what other people do. Because if they can't be happy, then no one can." And as though she was simply talking about the weather, she moves on. "Is there any actual organization going on right now? Alphabetical? Subject matter?"
Rowan tilts his head, considering Anais' lament with apparent sympathy. "No all women are so, Lady Anais. But… it is true that most women, especially high-born ones, trapped in a man's world… they become conniving to survive, I think. It's no necessarily their fault, but… it can certainly be unpleasant for a lady cut from simpler cloth." He smiles faintly, shaking his head. "I mean straightforward and honest by 'simple' not… intellectually lacking. You are referred to all over the Tower as 'the pretty, clever Banefort girl.'"
Anais blinks once at the last, the faintest touch of color in her cheeks. "Am I?" The faintest smile touches one corner of her lips, and she shakes her head, turning her attention to the books. "Promise not to think less of me for feeling a little better for hearing that?" There's another smile as she looks over, but she largely busies herself trying to figure out what's been done with the books in their stacks.
Rowan smiles in return, warmly. "They do. And I certainly do not think less of you, my lady. We are so free to express frustration and criticize one another, sometimes. Yes those compliments and sweet, encouraging things we say about others are frequently said in secret. It's a strange way to do business. It's nice to hear the good things, sometimes, as well." He takes a knee and begins rummaging through the box that seemed so promising at first. "Josse will likely come along behind us and re-order all we've done," he says, smiling fondly as he speaks of the septon. "He is exceptionally particular."
"Well, I suppose that's reassuring," Anais laughs softly in regards to Josse, finding a reasonably clear space within arm's reach of several piles. "At least we aren't likely to permanently ruin anything." She starts at the top of one pile, lifting a book to her lap and checking the title page before setting it aside. "Do you know anything of the relationship between Lady Liliana and Jaremy, Rowan?" she asks after a moment. Despite the obvious reasons for that sort of question, she sounds more irritated than truly concerned.
"Oh, you mean Princess Hayseed?" Rowan bites the inside of his cheek, paging through a book of his own before putting it aside. "Not really. I know she thinks very highly of herself, for a minor lady hailing from the arse end of nowhere. She likes to correct people. I suppose it makes her feel superior." He looks up, raising his eyebrows. "I mean, she's been a ward here three years on. Wards are almost like family. But, like family, just because they're in your heart and home doesn't mean you have to like them."
Anais closes her eyes over the book in her lap, pressing the back of one hand against her lips as her shoulders shake. "You're nearly as bad as Cayt," she murmurs from behind her hand, not quite hiding the sound of laughter. "But you've gone and put your finger on it all the same." She sets the current book aside, reaching for another. "I'm sure you've heard we had a visitor last night?"
Rowan nods, plunking himself down on his backside and stretching out a slender leg. Getting comfortable. "Something about it, aye. Some lady of Oldstones rose in with a bunch of Ironborn and told Jaremy they were planning on invading, or something? And he banished them from the Riverlands." He smirks, looking wry, clearly aware that whatever he's heard has been mangled by many whispered repetitions.
"Oh, is that how it's going now?" Anais laughs, shaking her head with a roll of her eyes. "Something like that, at least. Her guard did look suspiciously Ironborn, but he also looked simple. Apparently, the lady had followed a man back here. A man who'd been found at Oldstones, but insisted he was a nobody from nowhere. Except she followed him back to Terrick's Roost. So she rode in suggesting we had been spying on Oldstones." Another book dismissed, she carefully restacks it. "She did so, of course, in the time-honored manner of insult only thinly veiled by the forms of courtesy. And Jaremy told her she could leave if she was going to be rude. She insisted she was being terribly polite - as if there's a polite way to accuse someone of spying - but she left. I tried to salvage what I could of the situation, but she kept pressing."
Rowan raises his eyebrows, looking concerned. "Huh," he says, at length. "Well. Uhm. Were we?"
"Not on my orders," Anais snorts. "Why send someone to spy without a cover? It isn't as though it would be hard to come up with one. Not with Ser Anton courting Lady Lucienne. Why not just send someone in all honesty?" She lifts a book, considering. "This one's on the Free Cities, at least. Anyhow. The steward was sent packing. After which Lady Liliana promptly accused me of betraying Jaremy and making him look a fool." The decidedly unladylike snort that follows thoroughly conveys her feelings on that matter.
Rowan yips an incredulous laugh. "Oh, that sounds like her," he replies, mirthfully. "Seven bless. How in the hells are you supposed to have done that?" he asks, clearly not buying it.
"By displaying some sympathy for the lady," Anais drawls, dry as the Dornish deserts. "And pleading with Jaremy to be more kind to her." She sets the book on the free cities aside, then continues her searching. "And given the particular way in which she scolded me, I was wondering if perhaps she hadn't shown signs of having feelings for Jaremy herself. It's one thing to have feelings for someone who's been promised his whole life. Easy enough to come to peace with that. Another to find him free, then taken again in a week's time."
The Nayland boy mrmphs, a philosophical sound, pulling out another book to examine. "Lil is nobody from nowhere, and she knows it. If she had ideas she might marry a first born heir, she's delusional." He sighs, wrinkling his nose. "But if love isn't mad, what is it?" He shakes his head in sympathy. "If she does have such feelings, she'll get over it. But I can tell you true, after three years living with Baroness Backwater's airs, she just likes to puff herself up. Act like she knows better than everyone else."
"Maybe." Anais shifts, turning to face a different stack. "Though to be fair, she seems to have taken a good deal of the hospitality responsibilities of the house under her wing. To have me showing up and start taking things over is probably…not comfortable for her. I mean, imagine if Cayt just started taking over everything you used to do, and you didn't have Ser Gedeon willing to take you on. You'd feel a bit insecure, wouldn't you?"
"Your brother has taken over everything I used to do," Rowan observes, his tone in turn quite dry. But the rest of the point he concedes. "It's a bad feeling, not knowing where you're going to land. But Lil's of an age to marry, and it's time Lord Ser Jerold starting looking at prospects for her. That way she can resume her duties, but in her own household, as is fitting." He takes an armful of books and squints at the shelves, guesstimating where they might belong. "You have a kind heart, though, my lady. That you have sympathy for her position tempering your ire over her behavior."
"Ah, well." Anais looks over her shoulder at Rowan with a wry smile. "It's easier when you're willing to say everything that the little unkind voice in the back of my mind has been muttering at me all night. You start a feel a little crazy when you're just having that discussion with yourself." One more stack dismissed, she reaches for another, flipping through the cover page. "Why would there be a book on waterdancing in the Terrick library, anyhow?"
Rowan laughs, flashing a cheeky grin. "My lady, I will ever happily give voice to your inner snark, that you may always be known solely for your better nature. And not be taken for a muttering madwoman." Having shelved his burden, he returns to the crate he's been unpacking. "I don't know," he admits, pulling out another tome and checking the title, then sorting. "But it was in the index." He gestures over to a huge book, so large it needs its own table.
"Huh." Anais continues to flip through the books, methodical in her search. "Not that I'm not still irritated with her," she admits, wrinkling her nose. "Honestly. I can't believe she had the /balls/ to say that. To my face. To Jaremy. That I /betrayed/ him." She snorts, shaking her head. "If that's betrayal, then these halls could use a little bit more of it."
"If that's betrayal, Jaremy could stand to be betrayed on a regular basis," opines Rowan, appearing to be inordinately interested in an illustration. He turns the book 90 degrees. "I had no idea that was even possible." Then, snapping back to the topic at hand, he quickly closes the volume. "So. Right. What I mean to say is, my lady… you've spent enough time now with your betrothed to get his measure, I think. He's got a lot more good heart that he has good sense. He needs people like you and Jacsen. You keep doing exactly what you're doing." He looks down, blushing a bit. Then putting the book aside and reaching for another. "Not that it's any of my business. Forgive me. I just… I think you're doing the right thing, being gently candid with him. He desperately needs a partner and an equal, not a simpering miss that's going to let him play at being strong while he smashes everything around him to bits."
"He needs…" Anais trails off, waving a hand in a circle as she searches for words. "He needs to be a /man/. But he's never really left here, has he?" she asks, glancing over toward Rowan. "He's been here his whole life, and so has everyone else here. So when they look at him, they see the little boy running around in ripped breeches, or the teenager who gave people roses. They don't see a lord. And there's no time for him to go away and come back a man. It's too late for that. He's…set in their minds."
Rowan looks up from the latest volume in his hands, regarding Anais steadily. He nods. "You aren't wrong, my lady," he says softly. "And… how people see him can change. But he needs to — he needs to stop playing the fool. And behaving erratically. And flying off to do — just whatever he feels is right in his gut. The wisest rulers have wise councilors. And heed them well. Jaremy believes it better to beg forgiveness than ask permission."
"There are few things that people will believe have changed a man," Anais muses, sighing as she pushes a stack she's already checked toward Rowan. "War. Travel. And a woman. If I have to be a reason for people to believe Jaremy's changed, I will do that." She pauses, lips quirking. "That, and hopefully change him a bit. You're right. He's trying /so hard/. Too hard. He's so desperate to prove himself that all he's proving is that he's desperate."
Rowan smiles faintly. "Ah, my lady, you are everything they say you are and more. That's quite an insight." He places the book on a shelf, and takes up yet another. "Few things will quickly convince people a man has changed, Lady Anais. The slow road is… slower. And difficult. But consistency, proof over time, will do much the same." He sighs, opening the cover of this latest volume. "Keeping him consistent, making him think, seek counsel — that will be like herding cats. Oh!" He looks up, smiling. "I found it."
"What, the cat herding manual?" Anais asks with a rueful smile, pushing herself up carefully so as not to knock over any stacks of books. "I presume you mean your waterdancing book," she adds as she brushes off her skirts, sending up a few puffs of dust. "Though if you happen to come across a cat herding manual, I suspect I could use it."
Rowan smiles wryly. "Yes. The waterdancing book." He hugs the volume to his chest, looking down a moment. "Lady, you are truly a remarkable woman who are strong enough to be yourself, but patient and loving enough to be Jaremy's wife. There is much to love about him, as I'm sure you know. But it's not always easy. We're lucky — " he stops, twitches a faint smirk. "The Terricks are lucky to have you."
Anais's smile slips crooked, and she looks away a moment. "Well. Thank you," she says, taking a look around at the stacks of books. "For all of everything, I'm still glad to be here. This is…I love the Banefort, Rowan, but it's isolated, and lonely, and sometimes very, very boring. If nothing else, it is never boring here."
The Nayland lad hums a brief note of understanding. "I miss the Mire, often." He smiles. "I suppose it's hard to credit how one can miss a fetid swamp, but it had its beauty. And its music." He shifts his weight. "But it was often very lonely."
"Home is home," Anais shrugs simply. "You can never quite take it out of your heart. And I can't imagine you've been lonely here," she adds with a rueful smile, looking around the reading room. "This may be the first time this week I've not been dealing with a crowd or a crisis."
"No…" says Rowan softly, wistfully. "I was never lonely here." He gazes down at the book in his hands. "I'm glad this dusty room and I can grant you some measure of peace, my lady." He glances up, mirth in his eyes. "Or, if my lady prefers, I can devise a crisis."
"Seven help me, Rowan, if you do and I can't catch you, I'll send Cayt to dunk you in the water troughs," Anais threatens, laughing. "And if I do catch you, I'll do something truly horrible. As soon as I come up with it. Or worse, whatever comes to mind at that moment."
Laughs, Rowan holds up his hands in surrender, book tucked beneath his arm. "Peace, lady — I cry mercy!" He adopts the most innocent of smiles. "I only thought to make you most at east, Lady Anais. Some people, after all, thrive on conflict."
"Some people," Anais agrees, starting to pick her way around the books. "I can't say it isn't exhilarating in its own way. But I think I've had my fill, and there's going to be more coming now, I fear. Anyhow." She brushes at her skirts once more, smile easier and the ice melted from her posture. "Thank you, Rowan. I feel much more…stable, now."
"You strike me as an autumn maiden, lady. Not giddy spring or languid summer, but crisp and clear and sensible — and lovely: crimson, orange, and gold." Rowan smiles. "Winter does not suit you, so I was glad to help the thaw."
Anais laughs, smile flashing. "Careful, Rowan," she wags a finger, even as she nods to the handmaiden knitting near the doorway. "You'll flatter me into love, then break my heart when you leave for Oldstones. I knew you had to have picked up more than bawdy songs from Ser Jarod," she sighs dramatically.
Rowan chuckles, his smile tinted with rue. "Yes. I daresay I did learn a thing or two of love from Jarod Terrick." Playing the bold and gallant fool, he takes up her hand and makes a great show of kissing the air above her knuckles. "My affection for you, dear lady, is as chaste and seemly admiration can be. Yet I assure you, were Jaremy to make a dog's dinner of this match, you would not have to even leave this tower before a half dozen new suitors would be at your feet." He winks.
"Seven save me from such a fate," Anais rolls her eyes with a laugh. "I can't imagine having /choices/. Besides, if I get to have choices, I'm afraid Jaime Lannister's going to have to leave the Kingsguard, and the King will be all the worse for it," she declares airily.
"Aim high, my dear. Aim high," Rowan agrees, grinning. He steps over the piles on the floor and offers Anais his hand. "Now I must study as I promised my knight I would. May I escort you to your next destination, before I hit the book?"
"No, it's all right," Anais assures. "I've got Elise." There's a gesture to the girl by the door, who rises with that look of concern again. This was a lovely interlude. No doubt the next step will involve messy, inappropriate things. "Thank you, Rowan. And do enjoy your book," she adds.
Rowan mrmphs, flipping through the tome. "I am not a fan," he notes of books in general. "But I shall try." He flourishes a bow to Elise, taking her hand to kiss the air above her knuckles as well. "Thank you for your vigilant and discreet chaperone, Miss Elise." He flashes a smile back at Anais, looking quite the scamp, then ducks out the door.