|Summary:||Rutger pays a visit to someone he's not seen in a long time.|
|Related Logs:||All the Stonebridge Ballyhoo.|
|The Timber Hall — Oldstones|
|Several days after Remembrance Day|
There is a flurry of movement, what few servants there are hurrying to find someone in charge, as the Oldstones has themselves a guest. While squires and pages seem content to be out and away in the yard with the horses, their leader has squirreled himself inside, and out of the heat of the long's summer's sun. Dressed for travel, there's nothing really that gives the rider a look of importance, save for the medal hanging around his neck-complete with the Harpy engraved there on.
Rutger remains quiet as he looks out towards where his men are being seen too, before he is moving further into the small entry all. Apparently the knight doesn't mind waiting, and slowly moves to pull off the cloth hanging around his neck, if only to dab at his face and wipe his forehead. As to what business has brought him here? Some would suspect it has to do with Lord Ser Anton's support of Gedeon Rivers.
It takes a few moments for anyone to come assess the situation — during which time, Lord Nayland and his entourage are the subject of much scrutiny and whispering, speculation of a most unsubtle kind. But all those about, even those armed and wearing the crest of House Valentin, are smallfolk, tradesmen, and those who should be knights are nothing more than a rag-tag militia composed of the same. Finally, from the first floor of the famed Timber Hall — a thing which resembles nothing so much as a sprawling barn — comes the Mistress Steward, Castellan — rat killer, frog catcher, bee-keeper, and Girl Friday. She's tall and pallid, with a wild, witchy riot of hair and eyes like pale jade. She wears a gown of scarlet silk, one of the house colors, which unfurls like a banner in the breeze, as does the black mane that nearly reaches her waist. A few of the more senior members of the household trailing in her wake, she executes a deep and proper curtsy, her posture imperial and perfect. The rest of the household follow suit.
"My Lord Nayland," says the castellan in a voice clear and carrying, rising as she speaks. "Your arrival is unexp — " And then, only then, does she see which Lord Nayland is before her. To her credit, she's given only a flicker of (visible) pause. "Most. Unexpected," she pronounces each syllable distinctly. "But to you and your men, of course, I extend my Lord's warmest welcome."
Yes, he would probably argue that his presence here is not well received. But luckily no one on his end is standing around with their hands on their swords or other weapons. Eyes seem to be doing the work of daggers today as men on both sides are content to stare as if they were cutting meat, as opposed waiting for the hospitality of the Lord here. For all the ill ease that the summer's breezes can blow about them, the leader remains stoic, and calm. His face unreadable, as his eyes take in the various small folk and rag tagged archers and spearmen who are content to stare and gawk at their northerly neighbors. The raggedy green scarf is pulled back to rest about his neck, as he turns, catching the sounds of dress and shoes skittering along the hewn floor. Eyes slide to the other members of the household before eyes take in her.
It had been years hadn't it? He would smile, but it seems his humor cannot even come up to reach his face. His breath catches, before he is politely bows. His grey blue eyes continue to hold the Castallan for the moment before his own smile tries to show. "Mistress Steward, I thank you and your Lord for his welcome. My men and I do not plan to stay long, just enough to see to their horses.." Whatever meagerly can be provided. "And I..had matters." A pause "Here." Though not with Lord Valentin.
Anneke folds her arms, the better to display her signet ring, and lifts her chin, assessing the number and needs of the Nayland entourage with a crisp glance. "We can care for the horses here," she states, giving a nod to what might be the Master of Horses. "We've room in the stable, at present. Those of your men we cannot accommodate here in the Hall will find comfortable lodgings at the First Man's Folly. We are a bit out of the way for most folk, but enough of a curiosity that the inn prospers and has become rather fine." As the men dismount and the horses are seen to, the castellan offers, "If you will come with me, my Lord?"
Eyes slide to the ring, before Rutger simply nods. There's a motion made back to the men behind him, and in somewhat unison they dismount, save for one squire who struggles due to his foot being caught in a stirrup. A look over his shoulder and Rutger frowns, before he is moving to come closer to Anneke. "I am sure the inn will be fine. I would not burden you with them, as we do not plan to stay very long." An inward cringe at the choice of words, still with a nod the Nayland is quick to follow. "Lay on, please.."
Once a little distance has been afforded them, Rutger is quick to speak back up. "Is your Lord here? If so-please do not send him to be roused. I am not here to trouble him, or Ser Rivers." he adds. "I am not here on House or even my family's business."
The dark-haired, scarlet-clad woman stops and turns abruptly, arms folded again, and looks her better straight in the eye. "Pray tell what brings you here, then, Lord Nayland?" she asks, her voice over-mild. "If it is within the power of Oldstones to provide, I will see you have what you need — the better that you are not obliged to tarry."
It's the stop that bring Rutger to a halt. Eyes look back, and then they narrow for a moment. A turn to look over his shoulder before he is nodding his head, as if to get the Castallan to move further along-but that is like kicking against the pricks, is it not? "What brings me here, Mistress Steward, is my own business." Ah yes, that little cryptic reply will only go so far. His jaw tightens visibly before he relaxes. "I came to speak to you." After so many years "And not of any business that our Houses are engaged in. This is of a matter that I've needed to rectify for some time, but never have. We can continue this discourse here if we like, or you can tell me to leave." The option there.
Her lips part slightly — a very subtle drop of the jaw, shock and skepticism and a good deal of disdain. "To me, my lord?" she murmurs, edges of frost on her words. "Well, then this should not tarry you overlong, indeed." She turns to lead him the rest of the way into the Hall, to a makeshift study, where the doors are shut behind them. Like a proper hostess, she pours wine for both — from the same flagon and well within his sight. She drinks first, then offers him the other.
Had he thought the Oldstones would poison him, well…Either way he watches the wine and watches her drink before he is simply moving to take the cup A slight raise, but it is soon drowned down. "Anneke.." The pretenses of politeness and station dropped once the doors are closed and the life outside shut away even if just a little. "I did you.." his voice stops for a moment and eyes are content to hound his wine as if he could glean something from it. Augury with bones and blood-though this with wine. "Fuck." hissed out before he is turning from the woman-looking for a place to sit. "Believe me, you will find me foolish and hateful, that I deserve. I did you no kindness when we were younger, nor did I ever try to endear myself to you in the time between then and now." And he lowers his head, before finally looking up to the woman. "Call me coward, as now I am only talking to you. Fine. But, believe me that this day though dreaded, I have been looking towards."
His own words feel like a thick morass in his mouth, mired down by whatever troubles him. "I am most, sincerely and utterly a fool." said softly. "And I have come to apologize for.." though he does not finish.
He says her name and it nearly causes her to flinch. Instead, she takes a deep breath and downs her wine, as well. Several long swallows and done, a flash of her pale throat. She puts the goblet aside and leans against a large desk, gripping the edge on either side of her. Pale green eyes track him as he wanders and curses and contradicts himself, then trails off. She is silent, her face impassive as though it were carved from marble. Finally, she stands straight and goes to the side board, pouring from a decanter something amber-colored — and doubtless stronger. Again, she has a healthy swallow before handing him the other glass. And yet she says nothing.
This is not easy for him either. And so when the other glass is offered to him. Whatever is left of his wine is dashed down rather quickly, before he is reaching for the other with a croaked: "Thank you." No cleansing of the palate before he is taking the stronger liquor down. "I know it seems that I used you- and I was not kind in how things ended between us before. I wasn't. I did not speak truth to you, when I ended our courtship, nor did I speak truth to my own wife when I took vows at the Sept." A tilt of his head for a moment. "I say that I was a coward, because- I was. I did as my father asked in order to do right in his eyes-do right by our House, but that is no excuse."
Silence before he is draining down the rest of the amber Liquid and Rutger glances back to her. "This is not what you wanted to hear, nor want to hear is it? That I'd come back and say I am sorry-let alone seek to repair anything.." A trail off. "I am not doing you kindness here now, am I?"
"I have no idea what you're doing here," says Anneke, taking another swallow of what is a rather fine whiskey — considering their parlay in a glorified barn. "Whatever it is, it's not for my sake. You may have gotten yourself out here by telling yourself you owed me something — closure. Apology. Penance. But those things are for you. Whatever conscience you possess finds itself afflicted — though why now, I can't begin to guess — and wants to be absolved. And if I will not forgive you, you will at least have seen me — that I am alive, and unbroken, and sleep in the comfort that what you did to me was long ago, and I've moved past it." She lifts her glass to him slightly. "We were children, and it's a tale so old I cringe at the cliche. You weren't the first high-born brat to make a common girl believe you loved her — you won't be the last. It's good sport. A proper hunt. And you were splendid at it."
Rutger looks up. "Oh Fuck off." Yes, that is the response given back towards Anneke. "Fuck off. You make it seem so bloody fuck and dry." he replies easily enough, as his temple flares and he leans up from where he was seated. "I came here for my own reasons, yes, but not to fucking lord it over you and make false niceties in order to sleep at night." a shake of his head. "Believe me this was not to pat my back and be off on the road again with a godsdamned whistle in my step, because I saw you doing well and strong."
And there he tenses and he is moving for more whisky-it seems he will not wait for the kindness of his hostess there. "And it was not a hunt for me-thank you." a bit colder there. "But I did a fine fucking job at cauterizing that wound didn't I?" It sounds cruel, and maybe it slightly is. "I don't want penance, Anneke. I have done nothing in my years deserving of penance."
His initial response startles a laugh from her — a bitter one, but a laugh nonetheless, and a smirk tugs her lips askew, putting a dimple on her cheek. She sits on the desk properly — or improperly, as the case may be — and crosses her legs, resting her weight on one hand as she takes another swallow from her cup. "Very well, good my lord," she says dulcetly. "We've established very firmly why you're not here." She lifts her chin and lofts a brow. "Then. Why. Are. You?"
"Because I did want to see you." said plainly, as he is quickly pouring and then taking a sip before he is waggling the flagon in her direction. "In a purely selfish motive, I wanted to see you, because Since I had to do-what I did." And there he watches her, his own half smirk seems to be out of exasperation than anything else. "Because I've wanted to see you, and be close to you since then." A sniff and he is draining down the rest of his glass again, as if he needed courage. "Because I didn't mean a damned word I said as a child and now have to live with that amongst all the other shit that clings to me like flies. But at least-" And Rutger moves closer to the desk where she's perched herself. "Because at least now, I found my fucking balls to say it after all these years.
Anneke shakes her head slowly. "Did you drink a great deal before you arrived?" she inquires, mildly. Without waiting for an answer, she goes on, "You might think you've found your fucking balls after all these years, good my lord, but I beg to differ. You speak in circles and say nothing. You've wanted to see me and be close to me? What does that even mean? You didn't mean a damned word you said when we were young? Believe me — I know." She drains her glass and comes to fetch the flagon from him. "Perhaps you've inherited some of your father's senility — pity you've none of his charm."
Rutger shakes his head. "I've not a drop since I left the mire a few days ago." He responds softly, before he's quickly run over by the words that she starts spinning out. As she moves for the flagon his glass is set down, but not dropped. He's quick, but perhaps not as quick as the castallan—as his own hand moves out to catch her wrist. As if that would either endear her or keep her close. "My charm bled from me, when we broke. And I never recovered from it. Now, Anne. Please stop" voice a little like ice. Cooler, but can you even be warm when in a discussion like this? "You want to know what the hells, I mean? The first empty your vitriol on me, before you drink down some courage.." Eyes narrowing for a moment. "And let me say my piece so I can finally fucking stop worrying about doing more damage than I have already done."
Her eyes flash and her jaw tenses as he renders her name so familiar; she glances down at her wrist, then back to him. She makes no move to escape his grasp, but she certainly looks less than endeared. "I'm listening," she says, soft words nevertheless glittering with their edge.
"It hurts, when I say that, doesn't it? Because despite my deliberate use it hurts to say it. It's like pulling out stitches and reopening scars I tried to close." And fingers lessen their grip, to where he is letting go. "I came to tell you, that even while I was married. I never stopped loving you. That I wish my children were yours. And despite over whatever odds there are or hate, blinding and burning. That I want." and his voice softens, as emotion is swallowed back. "I want you back." Rutger's voice barely above a whisper. "I know knights and lords do not beg for chances-nor do they deserve them. So I will ask knowing what my answer probably is." And there his shoulders slump. "I will not lie to you, nor will I kiss your ass in hopes you find my words pretty. But know, from when I left you and drove my daggers in, that I hated it. And were you ever to produce a miracle and forgive me. Utterly forgive me, which you are well in your right not to do. And try…I would never stray - for any reason again."
Anneke is very silent and very still, but throughout his speech — there's been something of a thaw in the pale northern woman. Her eyes are softer, dark brows knit in wary bewilderment. "You… actually loved me," she ventures, very softly. Carefully. As though anything between them were ice that might crumble under her feet.
The knight for his part keeps his pale eyes on the paler woman. As her brows knight, his own relax. He can't speak at first, but acknowledges in a nod. Only then does he reach out, as if to support her should she fall. "..I never stopped.." said after a moment, before Rutger is reaching for the flagon to set it aside. " That is why I needed to see you. And I would come at such a time, even if it might look poorly on me or not be welcomed because of disagreements with your Lord."
And she is unmoving yet — though not, perhaps, unmoved. Only the flutter of her pulse in her throat, the sweep of her lashes her eyes follow his movements, differentiate her from exquisitely rendered stone. "You ask much of me," says Anneke, lips barely shaping the words.
His movements are slow and easy to follow. As hands move to arms. A brush, stroke of material, but he doesn't move fast. Instead he will bask in the closeness that is being allowed right now. Like he was keeping warm by a fire. "I do." Rutger agrees, "I do, because it means that much to me." And there he wets his lips. "I am not expecting to sweep you from your feet or from here. But, I am hoping for the chance to try again and mend the hurt I did to both of us."
One hand does move up to catch some of that wild hair which falls to her waist. and move it from her visage. "And we can move slow, if you are willing. Write letters—for I will be in King's Landing for an undetermined amount of time. but when I can..I will come up to call on you, if you would like.."
"I…" Anneke swallows softly, blinking and veiling wet, over-bright eyes with her lashes. "You…" She takes a deep breath. Slowly. "How can I possibly trust what you say, my lord Nayland?" Still not daring his name. "You remain you father's son. I remain… beneath you. He would never allow it."
"I am my father's son." he replies. "But, I have already given him the heirs he seeks, should I fall my sons would take up in my place and be lords over the Mire. He cannot seek to move me their as he has what he wants." Whether that is naivety or perhaps rebellion talking, one will not be able to know. "But, Anne, this time I am going to fight for what We want, instead of folding. I am stronger now, than I was as a youth." Rutger falls silent for a moment, one hand coming up to reach for the corner of her eye. "Please."
Slowly she lifts her eyes to his; his thumb catches the edge of a tear that was clinging to her lower lashes. "Show me," she whispers, both a command and a plea. He is a knight who has just asked a lady's favor, and though she is simply a common girl from the swamp, she wears every inch of the influence into which she's come with grace and dignity. And pride. A woman who knows her worth. She reaches for his hand, taking a hesitant half-step closer. "Prove to me, Rutger, that you're not longer the boy you were — that you are a man capable of defying your father… that you will fight, this time, for what you want. Show me that… and you'll have the heart that died the day you spurned it." She lowers her dampened lashes and laughs softly, mirthlessly. "Perhaps it will even beat again."
The warmth of his hand holds there at her cheek, careful as if he's afraid he might break her. "Show you." parroted back, as that thumb moves to caress over her cheek bone, and then there is a simple nod. "Aye, Anne. I will show you. And on that day, I'll come and ask for your favor, so that I may wear it proudly. And you I will clothe in the colours of my house." said before lips simply brush at her temple. "I would not come here in fear of being further humiliated, or thrown out if I was not serious.." his voice soft, as if there were ears in the walls. Or perhaps because it is merely meant only for her. "I will show you, I promise."
Anneke turns her head very slightly, her wet lashes brushing his cheeks, her nose grazing his. When she names her tribute, it's spoken against his lips. "Convince the king Stonebridge belongs to Gedeon Rivers."
The silence that lingers almost seems painful. Still Rutger clings to her, before he is kissing her lips, softly, tentatively. "I'll do what needs to be done." whispered back, softly. As to what that is exactly, well when the decision comes down, it should prove enough.
There's a soft, mournful sound in her throat as he kisses her — as though he's touched a wound. She blinks her eyes open, searching his. "It's the right thing to do," she whispers. "Please. What your father wants is wrong. Again. Don't let him use you to wrest Stonebridge from the heir Geoffrey Tordane wanted. If you can make this stand at least against Rickart's tyranny… then I will know you have the courage and conviction to stand for me, as well."
The sound that vibrates off his lips, seems to be nothing, compared to the touch to his own wounds. Eyes search back, as his jaw tightens for a moment before he is nodding. "I will see what I can do. But, at the same time, you know my father won't stand for this new house to bow to the Terricks." As if she could convince Gedeon to ever come and stand along under the Nayland Banner. Still the Knight nods. "I will do what I can in this case." Rutger adds, finally.
She nods, drawing a steadying breath, as though it takes a great steeling of her will to step back from him. She folds her hands before her, each grasping the other to keep them from trembling. "My heart goes with you, my lord," she says, softly. Then, with a faint, brittle wisp of humor, "Please… try to return it in on piece, this time."
There is a nod there. Rutger's hands moving to her arms, before he simply clasps back. "I plan on returning it whole, and with my own to you, this time." that said, a smile does come up on the Nayland's face, as his own smile shows through. "I'll keep you updated as I can. And shall write to you.." silence before he is looking back to the doors of the study. "I will need to leg on, I am sure amongst my own, my father has placed eyes and ears."
She nods. Once. And then she's in his arms, kissing him with all the wild, tameless passion of the girl she once was. She twines around him like a honey vine, drinking his mouth like sweet wine, a drunkard who hasn't touched a drop in all these years.
One cannot argue with those results. Lips catch and hold. And his arms are over and around her, as if he's clinging to the mast of a sinking ship. Lips cling and he drinks back, a man finding water after so long in the desert. Respite for both comes with it's price. A damnable high one.