|In The Entrance Hall|
|Summary:||Several people run in, in the entrance hall.|
|The Entrance Hall is more than two dozen feet high with ornate columns hefting the fresco ceiling above all. Plush seating is arranged around one side for visiting nobility while the other has less comfortable slab stone or wood benches for the peasantry. Alcoves dot the walls for more private discussions and sworn Guards patrol this hall at all times and especially during court. Several hallways and doorways lead off to different areas of the castle with a spiral staircase carved neatly into one corner that winds its way up.|
|Fri Oct 14, 288|
The afternoon seems, today, to be taking a lifetime to come to its conclusion; outside, the summer sun is fierce and hot, and inside the castle is not much better. Gentle notes of a harp melody reverberate within the walls of the entrance hall, a soft accompaniment for the comings and goings and idle conversation being had by the various retainers that mill about. Lucienne is the harpist, seated with her instrument on the nicer side of the room, her handmaiden Hattie just feet away with her nose buried in a book.
Where Alek enters, it is without pomp or presence, slipping into what little relief can be bought within the castle walls without a word. A leanly muscled man, his clothing is less than rich, simply cut and of rough cloth without any badges or heraldry sewn on his breast. His jaw holds stubble, hair dirty with dust and sweat of riding all day to arrive for his first time at Terrick's Roost. There is a quiet focus to the moent of pause he takes to assess his surroundings, seeking out a servant with a brief touch to stop one.
Though the strings of her harp hold the majority of her attention, the dusty, unfamiliar newcomer to the hall earns a brief eye from Lucienne; she continues to play a few more bars whilst he speaks with the servant, her gaze flicking between Alek and her instrument.
Whatever answer he earns is obviously displeasing to Alek, a flicker of a frown touching at his lips as his fingers linger longer on the sleeve of the servant. He speaks again, the next answer bringing his gaze to lift towards Lucienne at her harp before he allows the man to escape. His approach is sure, confident, in those few feet he closes between them managing an almost arrogance. "I am led to believe you are a lady of this house," he says, regardless of musical instruments.
Anais arrives from the Courtyard.
Anais has arrived.
She pretends not to have been watching, engaging her attention fully upon her music as Alek starts over. Lucienne bends forward a touch, from the waist, to reach some of the front strings with her slender fingers. The melody stops, not quite as abruptly as her plucking does due to the linger of the notes in the air, as she's addressed. "I am," she can confirm, though without knowing anything of the man before her she offers no polite address in return. Just the upward inflection to turn her answer into a question.
"Perhaps I can beg your hospitality for a glass of wine," Alek says dryly, both amusement and the dust of the road rasping his throat. His lips lift lightly at a smile, crooked and comfortable like old leather. "I only intend to stay until I can speak with Lord Anton Valentin. You do not know where he would be found, do you?"
"They saw him on the coast," Anais says to one of the Banefort guards as they enter the hall. "Which means that Father should be here within a couple of days. And if Father is arriving, then that means the others will be arriving soon. Please go check on the status of the green?" she asks, earning a nod as the man steps back outside. Once he's gone, Anais pauses, pressing the back of one hand to her brow as her eyes unfocus a bit, pensive.
"Certainly," Lucienne returns, slightly more cordial. "Hattie," the handmaiden looks up, "Please see about having some refreshments brought us?" There's no argument, obviously, and the plump girl hurries off to be about that duty. Her lady offers a blithe smile to Alek. "Might you be so kind as to inform me who seeks our hospitality, and the Knight of Oldstones?" Her eyes flicker only briefly to Anais, the faintest crease at her brow for the worn look the other lady wears.
"Why, will you deny it to me if I do not?" is a warm murmur of a question, humor almost infectious in Alek's words and in his tone as grey-green eyes slide brazenly over Lucienne's soft features. Where her gaze flicks away, his does as well, catching on Anais with his smirk still lingering.
Caught in arrival by two sets of eyes, Anais blinks to refocus on them both, a faint smile curving her lips. "Evening," she greets them, cheerful enough for all she may look a little worn down. Absently, she brushes her hands off on her skirts as she starts toward them. "Ser," she nods to Alek. "Luci. Was that you I heard from the courtyard? It sounded lovely."
"It was," she says, nodding to Anais. Then Lucienne shifts her creased look back to Alek, her chin lifting to look up at him from her seat at the harp. "I would hardly be a good hostess if I disposed the Lord Valentin to any and all who did ask his name upon arriving here," she explains, her smile returning insistently.
"I did not realize so many knights came calling with the Lord of Oldstones' name upon their lips," Alek counters as his knuckles drag absently over his own jaw as he claims a seat predatorily, all lean muscle sprawling over it. "Good afternoon, my lady," he offers to Anais, absently, less than strictly polite.
Anais tilts her head slightly at the interplay between Lucienne and Alek, a faint narrowing at her eyes before a small smile touches one corner of her lips. "Well, I hope you'll continue sometime," she says lightly. "The music is…so relaxing. Forgive me, Ser, but I don't believe we've met," she adds to Alek, smile easy. "I'm Lady Anais Banefort. And you are?"
Lucienne simply watches Alek, studying the way he moves to claim that seat, and turning in hers to better face him. "Not so many do," she allows, "But even fewer who'd refuse a lady's request. Lady Lucienne Terrick," she adds to Anais' self-introduction.
So assaulted by both ladies, who'd dare refuse them? Instead, Alek offers a murmured, dismissive, "Ser Alek Coope. Or, if you would rather, I am very thirsty as well." His name has likely proceeded him, at least, renown won on the battlefields of Robert's Rebellion, recognition of his prowess with a sword. It does little to explain his plain clothes, his lack of a badge.
"Well, welcome, Ser Alek Coope," Anais greets the knight, smile comfortable. She pauses then, eyes narrowing slightly with concern. "You're not- You're not actually here for the wedding already, are you?" she asks, looking to Lucienne for confirmation. "It isn't for another week yet, and I think it's likely to rain in the next couple of days, so the Green may not be the most comfortable."
Lucienne meets Anais' concerned look with a lift of her brows; she's not entirely certain, no. Hattie comes trudging back out from the kitchens balancing a silver tray with wine and water and cups upon, the act of which looks a chore. "A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Ser Coope. The Lord Ser Valentin is being accomodated in our castle, of course. Are you a friend of our lord's?"
A charming smile flashes towards Hattie at her appearance, Alek flitching a cup of wine with a flourish that raises it in a tip towards the handmaiden before he wets his lips on it. "Merely a vassal," he answers lightly. "Though my lady can be comforted by the assurance that I will not be staying on the Green. Surely a room is still available in town."
Anais can't quite help her sigh of relief at Alek's answer, though she softens the sound with a swift, warm smile. "Thank the Seven. It's much too early to start feeling like a failure as a hostess." She moves to claim a seat for herself, sinking gracefully down with her hands folded in her lap. "There should be plenty of rooms right now, yes. You'll be lucky there."
Hattie perks up a little as Alek smiles at her, the plump girl's lashes a-flutter as she gazes back at him. Lucienne ignores it, and doesn't take up a drink, either. "A knight in the service of Oldstones, then," she presses, curious. "I do hope there's nothing too pressing that brings you to seek our lord?"
"Would you like to discuss it, my lady? Perhaps in your bedchamber?" Alek questions, wry humor brushing warmth against suggestion in his words where his tone dips low. His smile is a sliding thing, slipping away as he drains the wine in one long drink as if one of the women may take it away with his bad manners. "I've heard excellent things about the Rockcliff."
One pale brow arcs upwards at Alek's words, and Anais shoots a sidelong glance toward Lucienne. "I doubt Lord Anton would appreciate that," she says after a moment, picking her words carefully. "Less for the discussion of his business and more for the you in Luci's bedroom, I suspect. You're rather bold, aren't you?" There's a glimmer of amusement in the question and the tilt of her head.
Lucienne does not find Alek humorous, though Hattie keeps a little smirk mostly to herself. "I will pretend you didn't just say that," says the Terrick girl as pink creeps into her cheeks, her brow creasing again and a frown found itself upon her lips.
A tip of his chin is a gesture of allowance to Lucienne, a 'do as you like' to her pretending. His attention, instead, redirects with a small, crooked smile that meets Anais's accusation as Alek murmurs a light, "Only as bold as need be, my lady. I find things can get too mundane without it." Politely, he offers, "Perhaps when you can be spared from your hosting duties, I will explain the philosophy."
"I'm afraid it's going to be a while before that happens," Anais shakes her head with a rueful smile. "With the wedding in only a week, I expect people will start arriving in the next few days, and I'll be lucky if I have time to sleep. And when it's done…" She trails off, then shrugs one shoulder slightly. "I'm not sure what Lord Anton's intentions are, so far as remaining here at the Roost," she muses with another sidelong glance toward Lucienne.
Lucienne's brows both lift, and she studies Alek some more, her expression dry. She offers Anais a glance and a shrug, and picks up the front of her skirt clear of her toes that she might stand up. "By your leave, good Ser," bears little conviction, "And my lady Anais, I might see if I can't fetch your lord for you?"
"If you would fetch mine as well, please tell him I'll be staying at the Rockcliff. They have the cleanest whores," Alek answers, his crooked smile all the warmer for Lucienne's response. He rises as she does, offering a bare sketch of a bow to her and then another to Hattie with a wink for her. Because she's not as stuck up.
"Mine?" Anais' brows rise at Lucienne's words, surprise crossing her features. "No, I'm-" She watches the other woman, holding back a confused frown. "No, there's no need to disturb him. I think I've taken care of as many things as I need to in regard to the wedding, and I'm sure he has enough things to worry about as well."
Her eyes widen considerably. The cleanest whores? Lucienne blinks long, allowing herself a breath to recover from that, and forces herself to dip Alek a curtsy. "That's who I meant," she says tartly to the knight, offering Anais the courtesy of a strained smile. Hattie beams her own grin back to Alek, and gives him a perky little wave. When her lady isn't looking, of course.
Jarod has arrived.
Clean whores are important, otherwise you might catch something. There is a devilish flicker of humor in grey eyes where they meet Lucienne's, however, his smirk all the more amused as he allows a generous, easy, "Thank you, my lady. It was a pleasure." The general statement does little in the way of politeness other than being—blandly polite. The man turns on his heel and moves to retreat from the castle before a brother or father comes to beat him up or something.
Anais is left sitting in the little circle of chairs, looking vaguely confused as both Lucienne and Alek depart in separate directions. "Pleasure to meet you, Ser Coope," she calls after him, leaning over once both are gone to claim a leftover glass of wine for herself. And there she sits, bemused, to enjoy a cup.
Jarod misses any discussion with his lady sister on how to pluck the best prostitutes, alas. He comes striding in from the courtyard, whistling something that sounds - as ever - suspiciously like 'Lord Jerold's Lament'. Though he breaks off the whistling to offer a polite "Ser" and inclination of his head to Alek as he passes the man. All of good manners for his fellow knight, after all.
Lucienne grabs for Hattie's arm, yanking the girl toward her for a scold as they retreat toward the spiral staircase - perhaps Anton is up them. Or perhaps she's looking for somewhere more appropriate to slap her maid. Whatever the case, she's off with a very dark look upon her face and at a brisk pace.
Alek does offer a brief smile and a tip of his own head in a recognizing nod towards Jarod. Knight-bro, or whatever.
"Jarod!" Anais calls to the entering knight, raising a hand to wave with a small smile. There's a beckoning motion to the wave, whatever confusion she may have had abandoned in favor of conversation with Jarod. Who usually makes sense.
Jarod is just in time to catch the acts of abuse departing Lucienne is visiting upon her handmaiden. He stops, and frowns. "Huh." That strikes him as odd. He proceeds toward Anais with a shrug, flourishing a quick bow to her. "M'Lady Banefort. Something the matter with Luci. She looked…somewhat frightening."
"The Knight," Anais notes, nodding after Alek, "Was a bit rude. Well. Bold, at least. He didn't want to introduce himself, said he was here for Lord Anton, and then suggested that if she wanted to speak with him, they might speak in her room." She glances toward Lucienne, then back to Jarod. "I don't think Luci took it well. Though to be fair, I'm not sure if he was joking or not."
"Huh." Muttered again as Jarod crosses his arms along his chest, frowning as he listens to Anais' account of the knight's behavior. "Joke or not, that's hardly a chivalrous way to treat a lady of the house you're entering. Perhaps I'll have words with our mysterious knight later." He squares his shoulders, as if gearing up for those 'words' whenever they occur.
"That is true," Anais agrees. "Though apparently he's part of the Oldstones retinue, which makes the entire situation all the more touchy." She takes a drink of wine, then sighs, leaning back in her chair. "It's always complicated though, I suppose. Come sit with me for a bit?" she invites with a small smile.
"I don't see how. Hardly gives him right to be rude - and improper - to our Luci," Jarod says firmly. "I told Lord Ser Anton that if he showed my sister any disrespect I'd break his face. I see no reason to hold his knights to a lower standard." It's said with no particular ire, though he doesn't appear to be joking. Though he grins at the invitation. He goes to sit. "I've a moment to spare, I suppose, and I thank you for the offer. I didn't realize how long I'd been gone from the castle. I mean, the older guardsmen can generally run things just fine themselves, but it seems like little things pile up even if there're no big things while our back is turned."
"Inevitably," Anais nods, falling silent for a moment afterward. Her polite smile fades away as she watches Jarod, then sighs. "You didn't find anything, did you?" she asks in a lower tone. Though there may be disappointment in the words, there's also acceptance. She knows what the answer is likely to be.
"Of Jaremy? No, m'lady," Jarod replies, his tone apologetic. "You'd have been told if I had. By your brother Caytiv, surely, perhaps before even myself. Jaremy's gone into the air. I found traces of his passage through Stonebridge, though precisely what direction he went and what manner of business he was up to there, I couldn't say. He didn't make enough trouble to get himself tossed in a Nayland cell. I suppose I should thank the Seven for that. For the rest…" He shrugs somewhat helplessly. "May the Warrior guide him." It's said with a wry sort of humor.
"Mmm. The Warrior." Something in the way Anais says it suggests she might have another of the Seven in mind, and it's probably not a loving one. She takes another drink, then sets her glass aside, folding her hands together in her lap. "Well. I suppose that's just as well then," she murmurs. "It would have been awkward at this point."
"That's how he signed his farewell letter to us. All of us. May the Warrior guide me." Jarod snorts. "I was…I don't know. I thought he might've left something more for me, or for Luci but…doesn't seem so." He shrugs. "Guess he just wanted to get away from everyone. Everything here. And aye. Better for this family to move forward. Though he owed words to our lord father, and Lady Terrick, after all they've given him. There were ways to renounce his title that wouldn't have been just running off like a thief in the knight. And he owed you and your father some sort of explanation, m'lady, if I may say. Even if you'd have been to marry Lord Jacsen in any case, you and yours deserved a better parting from him, as did me and mine."
"I-" There's a flicker of something across Anais' features, her usual composure marred for just a moment by a glimpse of the young girl whose feeings were hurt by the disappearance of her betrothed. "I can't think about that, Jarod," she finally says. "I have to focus on the now. Even if it's a little bit frightening. At least with Jaremy I could tell myself I'd had some choice in the matter, that there was a little…I don't know. Possible feeling. Right now…I can't help but wonder if being pushed into this will color everything for Jacsen, for- well, forever."
"Let me tell you something about my elder, m'lady," Jarod says, tone getting low, and rather serious. His green eyes seek to meet hers across the table. He takes a deep breath. "And I'll…I'll thank you not to tell my family I've spoken so but…Jaremy…I love Jaremy. Love him even now, even after all he's done. And I pray that he finds what happiness and purpose he couldn't find in these halls out in the world. Part of me's proud of him, for finally manning up and doing what he's talked of doing since he was a boy. Renouncing his title and going off to be a knight. But Lady Anais…Jaremy says 'I love you' very easily, and perhaps he even feels that way but I can't help…I can't help but think that he doesn't take care very well of the things he claims to love. This family. Even now, people speak of he and Isolde Tordane as if they were some great love affair, some fairy tale, that somehow broke his heart and set him to all this. But I'll tell you this, m'lady. After the Trident, after Lord Geoffrey Tordane and her brother Geonis died, when both his duty and what he now claims was in his heart should've driven him to marry her, he chose to spend his nights at the Rockcliff listening to Amelia Millen sing and…and doing much else with her, too, even if he wasn't these last years. And so he kept on, until he woke up one morning and on a whim, seems to me, decided who his true love was. If that is the possible feeling you wanted, Lady Anais, if a life with one such as that was a comfort to your mind…well. Jaremy would've spoken a very nice fairy tale to you, which perhaps he may've even believed, but…well. Didn't come much for Isolde Tordane in the end, did it? Perhaps it's for the best he wasn't wed to her when he got bored of her and fell in true love with whatever new story he fancied this month."
Anais's lips curve briefly, rueful. "I know that, Jarod," she confides in an equally low tone. "But…Well. I /knew/ that. And even if the thing you know isn't a great thing, at least it's the thing you /know/. Jacsen…" She glances around the hall a moment, considering her words. "I suspect that it will be much harder to truly know Jacsen. Which makes me so much more nervous than Jaremy ever did."
"And let me tell you something about my little brother," Jarod says, tone still low, but rather warmer. "Aye. It will be harder. This isn't what he wants. Jaremy's problems, his obligations, his girl…he had some freedom to make his own life, as the spare and not the heir, and that's gone now. So…aye. That'll make things harder for the both of you, and that's not fair. But he's a fine, highborn lad. He never figured he'd get to choose his wife, not really. And he's smart enough to know you're a fairer option than most he could end up with. And he's not so complicated as he'd like people to think. He can play the courtier, for which we're all the better. But under it he's got a very good heart. A better one than Jaremy's perhaps, in some ways. I think Jaremy sometimes blinded himself to the pieces of people he didn't want to see and so it was always…a little bit pretend, you know? Jace and I got on easier these last years, in some ways, because I always got the feeling he loved me even though he knew what an ass I was." He grins. "Just saying, m'lady, that of the two you could've gotten he'll make you the better husband. If you're good to him. And if you're not…" He considers that. "Well, he's my little brother. I probably won't break your face, but I could find some way to defend his honor, I reckon." Said with a smile, though he's not joking at all.
There's that flicker of a smile again at the last, and Anais shakes her head. "I wouldn't dare risk a face-breaking at the hands of the great Ser Jarod Rivers. Mostly because your face is much too pretty for my brothers to break," she adds, reaching up to pat a hand at his cheek in a teasing manner. "I want it to work, Jarod," she adds more seriously afterwards. "I do. I just- Well, I wonder if the two of us won't just outsmart ourselves trying to run circles around the other. Promise me one thing?"
"So you figured Jaremy'd be the better husband because he's a fickle idiot?" Jarod asks with a snort. "Women scare me, m'lady. This I'll confess. Anyhow. Just be kind to each other. I figure that's usually all it takes with people, though it seems hard for most in this world to manage." As for the promise, he shrugs. "If I can."
"I figure Jaremy would have been…easier," Anais shakes her head to Jarod. "Which is probably just everything looking rosier in hindsight, to be fair, because I'm reasonably certain that a month ago I was wondering how he could possibly continue to make things more difficult," she adds, wry humor in the words. "Anyhow. I suspect you're right about Jacsen. I just…I like him well enough that I don't want to be something he resents, I suppose. So if- So if you happen to know, or see, or hear that I'm doing something to make it more difficult, you'll me, please?"
"All due respect, m'lady, if after what Jaremy's put you through you think he'd be easier on you as a husband…" Jarod shrugs. "Well. Then you've a funny idea of easy. But I'm sorry. I don't mean to speak ill of him. I do love him. I just…I wish he'd done different these last months, is all. Last years, really. But no changing it now, and maybe he'll find himself a better person out there. And as I said before, I think the best you can do for Jace is to be kind to him, and to be honest. This isn't what you'd planned on either. He understands that."
"Does he?" The words are soft, and Anais' smile is wan. "I'm not sure." She's quiet for a beat, then looks away with a shake of her head, reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ears. "Anyhow. Don't mind me. I don't think I've slept the last two…or is it three? The last few nights, now. I should go and try to sleep now, before I get any less sensible."
"I think sleep'd do you well, m'lady," Jarod says simply, standing and offering her another flourishy bow. "I'll leave you to it." And off he goes.
"And you, Jarod," Anais offers with another small smile and a dip of her chin. "It's good to have you back, at least." And she's off to the stairs.