|Integrity and the Blade|
|Summary:||Aeric and Liliana take a trip to the sea and talk of the days to come.|
|Related Logs:||Where There Is Hope.|
|The Coast — Tall Oaks|
|The coast where the holdings of Camden meet the sea. Green and vibrant, rocky and untouched.|
|14 Feb, 289AL|
It has been a wearying month. First the invasion at all. Then the burning of Tall Oaks. Finally, the driving of the Ironborn from Westeros proper. It is not over but at least there is a lull to bury the dead which, in Tall Oaks especially, were prolific. Still, even the depredations of the Ironborn could not fell the forest in its entirety nor could they destroy the spirit which lay within it. Now, Aeric has invited Liliana to the shore to view the sea and its unpredictable tempest or calm which he takes upon himself as a challenge.
He is horsed. It is not something that many are used to seeing from the Sealord. In fact, he's grown more accustomed to the saddle this last month. As he dismounts, it would seem that he has left his heavy armor behind in favor of a simple chain shirt though his great sword still lays slung against his horse. He moves then to assist Liliana from her own mount. "I am left to wonder at life." He offers with a hand outstretched and a smile.
Silent, thoughtful, considering. All those words might be applied to the Lady riding beside the knight and Captain, as their horses, complete with a small retinue of the necessary retainers, have made their way away from much of the destruction of the riverlands, and to the, relatively, untouched coastline. Odd that. That where the ironborn made entry to the mainland should show so little hurt from their passing, in contrast to the land further inland. But there you are.
The smile, however, is answered, as Lili slips down from Tanis, settling to her feet, before the hand is accepted, allowing the knight to choose his direction, "Is there must left to wonder about, my lord?" There's that touch of humour, in Lili's voice.
Aeric allows a small laugh. "Oh there is much." With a twinkle in his eye, he turns to face the sea. "There is always something left to wonder at. For instance, what the Greyjoy hoped to accomplish in their rebellion. They had not the support nor the numbers to wage a successful war against the crown. It makes me wonder what the greater game is that is being played. And to use the Riverlands as pawn? It incenses me. To say nothing of the lives lost for no good purpose and.. your losses." He gives her hand a gentle squeeze. "But also to brighter things such as you." Shifting his regard from the sea to Liliana, he continues. "I had resolved myself to dying in battle.. but now I am resolved to dying an old man in a keep built by my own two hands. Our hands."
Liliana does not look back, towards the destruction, towards the past, but seems intent, instead, on focusing on the sea, and on the promise of the future it and the knight beside her have promised. "Did King Robert have much more support when he sought to depose the Mad King? What hope did he have of victory? Only a fool's hope. But it was victory he won and the crown and the kingdoms to go with them. Including the Riverlands, which once belonged to the Iron Isles, when they were their own kingdom." Again that humour, but with clear affection, at Aeric's revelation, "If only our four hands shall build this keep, my lord, you will have to make me a promise to live to be a very old man."
"Hah!" Aeric expounds to the heavens. "If you do not work me to an early grave, Lady." Still, he looks down upon her with a fondness. "I have spoken to the principles. Lord Tully. Lord Jerold. My Lord Nephew." The latter seems to draw a moment of silence. He and Jason had been close like brothers. "There is no objection save perhaps one of propriety. One which I feel I must tell you for I know the care for which you hold your lands." He takes up her other hand in his and regards her squarely. "I will not be permitted to take another name. You shall become a Mallister with all that entails. Are you comfortable with that? Please know that I do love you, Liliana, and will do my best to honor you."
"Older perhaps, even than the Lord Frey, who seems to have discovered the secret to eternal life." Indeed, Walder Frey is ancient by anyone's standards. And still fathering children. "If I should work you more than you have a mind, you may always escape to the sea. I can swim only poorly at best, and could not catch you." Liliana pauses, settling herself as Aeric turns to face her squarely, hands small but strong in his. "It gladdens me to know that they do not object to our wedding. Nor to the lands of my family becoming your lands." Mallister lands. A moment, to consider the revelation before she nods, "I knew there was little chance that it would be so, or that the name Camden would live under these trees. I had thought…just after…of perhaps marrying someone of common blood, to give them my name and my title. And in that way to keep a Camden under the trees. But it would have been a lie. For I have wanted no other since I met you, though it took me long enough to realize it." A smile, warm and genuine, "And I love you, Aeric. And if I must be a Mallister," and that said with humour, "So long as I am the Lady Aeric Mallister, I imagine I shall be able to make do with what I have been given."
"It gladdens me to hear you say so, Lady, though I know the burden it places upon your heart." Aeric observes with a warmth to his regard. "With my Lord Nephew as liege..we shall see. My lord cousin and I knew one another well. Lord Patrek is young. He will need my counsel as much as we shall need his support. Everyone is reeling from conflict but with victory comes hope and opportunity. Soon.. soon I sail for the isles but I would have the bans read ere I depart. And upon my return victorious, we shall wed."
"Lord Patrek will have need of you now..and for many years to come, I think, if he is to become the Lord and the Knight your Cousin was. I would not take you from your family completely, even if, if the Gods are good, I will hope to give you one of your own. And there is hope, as you see fit to remind me when the days look darkest." A frown, worry, but held at bay for the sake of the happiness of the day, "Soon you sail, and sooner you will return. And I will be waiting."
Aeric brings a hand up to cup her chin and cheek with a smile. "Come now. I have known dark days and this is not one. Already we have claimed the greater victory. Taking the fight to the Grey Isles is a matter of honor not risk. Still. A blade is sharp even in defeat. I shall be wary. But do not fret about such things. We have a future to plan and live. It is something I have not had in a long time and I shall not have it wait long. Not for my sake or yours. I only wish that Jason had lived to see the day." His caring eyes grow sad a moment but the smile remains.
"There are days when I think men think too much of honour, and not enough of the things that truly require their attention. What is honour, if you have no one to share it with? What is victory, if it tastes of ashes. I wish you would not sail to the Isles. It is not a fair thing, to ask me to see you sail, and not to know if you will return. " Liliana does not pull her chin away, but there's defiance in her eyes. She will not, it seems, be one of those women who sits meek while her lord rushes into danger. "I too, wish your Lord Cousin had lived to see you wed. I hope that he would have been happy for your sake."
Aeric takes a deep breath, considering her words. "Liliana.. in these days.. indeed in any day.. that which separates a man from a monster is the honor which holds him true to his purpose. That is why we fear and loathe the Ironborn so, is it not? There is nothing which can bring back your family, true. War and death will not bring them back. Nor is the risk of my life at cost to you still a comfort. But you also know that the honor which demands justice for your family and mine also means that others in the days ahead will not have to suffer grief and death at their hands. The Ironborn must be crushed now or else they will recover from this loss and strike again. Perhaps not in our lifetime but will you sacrifice a moment of peace now to know that our grandchildren will know this suffering which we have so bitterly tasted?" There is reason in his eyes but also resolve. "I am a Mallister, Liliana. We are not fabulously wealthy. We are not renowned. But we are known for these." He holds up two fingers. "Integrity of steel and the blade of resolve."
"That…is the sort of answer I would expect from a knight." Of course, though there are many men in the North who hold such ways, few are knights,as the men of the North do not worship the Seven. "I will not argue that the Ironborn threat must be dealt with. I just…" A shake of her head. This isn't an argument she is ever going to win, "I do not love war. And I do not love the risks you are taking. Even if some part of me does acknowledge that they are necessary. "I know you must do as the men of your House have always done. I will not tell you do not go." A moment, as she looks back towards the sea, no turning so forcefully, that she would remove herself from Aeric's grasp, "Your ship…what is her name?"
"She was named Greybane by the Banefort before being made a gift to the Terricks." Aeric offers with no small amount of irony in his expression. "Please, Liliana, do not misunderstand me. I loathe war as much as you. Perhaps more so for I have tasted it upon my tongue many times over. I just know men. Men who fall to vice and avarice and learn to savour it over compassion and honor. It is against these that I have placed myself. There is a reason I do not suffer court kindly. Fat and loathesome men grow so upon the backs of those they would suck the marrow from." He steps behind her and brings his arms about her waist to look out to the sea over her shoulder. "Now.. I have not the luxury of such cowardice. I must face them in their words and deeds through diplomacy as much as the blade. I will need your help in this. I have something to lose now." There is a tender squeeze as though to suggest she is that which he must protect.
Liliana stands still, lifting hands to rest them on Aeric's forearms, as he comes behind her, some of her weight coming to rest against his chest, "That is a dark name for such a brave lady as that one. A lady that carries a precious cargo across the seas." A snort of sound, at Aeric's estimation of the life at court, "It is not only the men. Believe me when I tell you, that the women are worse. Men at least, have such things as martial duties to occupy their time. Imagine the women left behind, with nothing to do but plot and work their petty machinations. And most have developed too much of a taste for such courtly intrigues."
"That which a blade cannot bend.. poison consumes…" Aeric seems to be speaking to the wind before he exhales heavily. "You speak truth… for I have seen it." Bending his gaze to her shoulder, he presses his cheek to hers. "You are wiser than most in that you see it and know it for what it is. In that, I have faith in your strength and resolve when faced before such trials. But I ask you.. when faced with such weapons as these.. will you fight? I would know your mind, Lady."
"I have fought this battle all of my life, Aeric. I am no child of Mallister, or Terrick, even Nayland. I have lived with the hatred of my House all my days. And I have had to face it since I came to live in Lord Jerold's House. They think I have not heard their whispers, the things they say about me, about my House. But I would not stoop to that level. I was raised with more honour than that. So yes, I would fight. But I would fight as I have always fought, or tried to fight. With honour and dignity and respect."
There is a nod from him which she can feel more than see. "And I would have it remain so." Aeric straightens. "I know what my Lord Cousin thought of the Camden. That diplomacy which sacrifices duty is a slap in the face of honor. Principle is often set upon the pyre of necessity. But never fear. Hold your honor and dignity. Integrity cannot be taken from you and so do not give it. In that, you will become the stronger and the more respected and the more feared. Fear, too, has its place. It is a weapon which bleeds as surely as a blade but causes not death and so it is the greater.. and the least for once lost it creates a disadvantage. Men fear me… but not without reason. Whether that reason be my skill with a blade or their dishonorable nature." He laughs. "But I digress. I was not able to take but a small measure of your uncle and so I ramble on now as though you know little. I will not dishonor you so but instead trust to my own instinct in your ability. In that and you, I have faith."
"Your Lord Cousin knew of my House only what he wished to know. He did not agree with our ways, and so he devalued them. That is not a new thing. We all do it , in small and not so small ways every day of our lives. It is a game with as many pieces and as much peril as the game of thrones that our Houses play. I had no hatred for your good Cousin, now or then. Nor do I for those who chose to see my House only through the lenses of their own beliefs and experiences." Her hands tighten, just for a moment, on Aeric's forearms, "And it matters little now. Once we are wed, Camden that was will be an extinct House. And the House we build together will be something else entirely. To rise or fall on its own merits." A frown, a shake of her head, at Aeric's words, "You do not dishonour me. I would never think it so, when you choose to instruct me. I am a woman grown, and yet barely more than a child. You have lived longer and seen more than I. Indeed, if you had known it, you are barely a few years younger than my own father. There is so much that I can learn from you. I do not begrudge you the teaching, though you might come to, as the years pass."
"I only begrudge those who refuse to listen." Aeric offers with a dry laugh. "Thank you for humoring an old man." He releases her then and moves to stand tall beside her. "Come. Let us walk, you and I, side by side, and I shall show you what I may. I would have you be strong in youth when I grow senile." It is a jest.. yes?