|Last To Fall|
|Summary:||Justin brings word of the results of the search to Anais.|
|Related Logs:||Disappearance logs|
|Anais and Jacsen's Room|
|It used to be Evangeline's, but there's less scandal these days.|
|October 5, 289|
Anais has tried her best to be patient and calm. And she's performed fairly well in public. But as hours have ticked by, she's gotten more snappish, and after a brief interlude with Gaelena, she finally retreated to her own quarters, where the threat of snapping at someone innocent is at least reduced. Even her guard and handmaid are outside the room, in deference to the building thunderclouds around her. They'll show Justin in - Kincaid with a sympathetic look that's meant to be reassuring - but won't follow. Not for this, at least. Inside, Anais sits in a chair that faces the hearth and the window, her knees drawn up to her chest and arms wrapped around them.
One supposes he should have points for trying to see Anais sooner, after their arrival, but Justin has been absolutely swamped with people trying to have a piece of his time since he got back. Mobbed is a suitable term. Finally he comes and behind him come two house staff carrying boxes. Not one, but two, stuffed full of papers, folios, scroll cases, all manner of parchments and calf skins. Justin motions for them to be set down and that the boxes be left while the servants depart.
His own gaze turns to study his good sister. Justin's face is scratched up, the left side gouged by what might have been a woman's claws - much like Ser Symeon's face except with a lot less dramatic damage. The bright red marks have darkened to scabs and aren't deep. "I am sorry, Anais. I have failed, thus far, to find Jascen or the Seal." He cuts right to the point, "But we'll keep looking. He /did/ go to Middle March to join Lucienne. She and her servants admit to as much. And then they claim he departed again to return to the Roost. However, we found his horse not far down the road, tied to a tree with a note."
Justin's hand moves to his belt to draw forth a piece of calfskin, neatly folded. The thin vellum is opened and dropped on the table for her to read for herself.
The contents of the letter are as follows:
If you ever wish to see the Young Lord Jacsen Terrick again, you will submit payment in the amount of 400 gold dragons to a courier that will arrive within the Roost on the 13th of October.
Failure to submit payment - the Young Lord dies.
Should the courier be harmed or detained - the Young Lord dies.
Should anyone seek to follow the courier - the Young Lord dies.
I think by now you understand our position. 400 Gold Dragons, non negotiable, if you ever wish to see the Heir to Terrick's Roost again.
* Signed with a blood-stained 'R' *
Anais remains still as the servants bring in the things, waiting until the door closes again to unfold gracefully from the chair. For all her self-control, there's something fragile about her, a sense of tension stretched to the breaking point. Without saying anything, she reaches for the letter, pressing her lips together tightly and nodding at the words there. "As well ask for an actual dragon," she says quietly when she speaks, setting it back down and going still again. "Jamie Lannister wouldn't ransom for that much." Her eyes move toward the pile of papers, but nothing else does. "What's all the rest?"
"Indeed, there is no way we can, nor will, pay the ransom. I wouldn't even if I had the coin - men like this deserve nothing but the sword, Anais. We /will/ find them." Justin takes back the letter and folds it, putting it back into his belt, "I'm not certain I will show the letter to father. I suppose I must, but .. if we had not gotten Lucienne back, you can be sure I wasn't going to tell him. If he thought she was also captive, he'd sign anything to get the money promised. Give the Roost away for her."
Disgusted, Justin turns to the boxes and simply starts to upend them. All the things fall out to scatter over the floor but most of all, beneath the papers, folios, calfskins, scrolls and whatnot are heavier, smaller things that strike the floor with the sound of metal.
Jewels, trinkets, clasps, rings, brooches, earrings, necklaces, jewelry of all kinds both valuable and less so spill out. A modest bit of wealth but even so, nothing remotely close to piles of gold dragons. "Lucienne's hoard, at Middle March. I thought perhaps you might find some of this worth something - to sell, and have badly needed funds for the Roost, Anais. The papers are her own personal letters, records, and whatever. I thought perhaps you and I could skim through them and see if we might find out more of what she and Jacsen were up to."
Alas, it is shock after shock that he must deliver. Justin is not pleased to be the bearer of this news. "She's pregnant, Anais. Showing … which explains why the Groves were so insulted and sent her back. Now we have a political mess to clean up, their House duly insulted."
"I heard." As the papers and trinkets spill over the floor, Anais sighs, pushing a few out of her way with a foot before lowering herself to the floor to start picking through them. "At least the fact that everyone knows I've never cared for her should finally be worth something. Did she say anything about who the father is?" Steadily, almost automatically, she starts to pluck the jewelry out of the mess, setting it aside without looking very closely at any of it. "I'd like to know whose ambitions we may need to face next."
"Some … some of those things .. the nicer pieces, were probably my mother's." For some reason, Justin suddenly has trouble speaking. And he doesn't look choked up about his mother as much as he looks, well, pissed. A muscle in his jaw ticks as he bites down against saying anything else for a breath or two.
A nice, slow breath before he raises his eyes back to Anais. He frowns, "Yes, she did. However, she has … spouted so many lies, Anais, I do not think I can believe her. She .. claimed… that only Jacsen was sired by my father. That all the rest of us … were her mother's bastards." Justin's eyes belay his anger, his voice steely, "I know this is not true, but I do not understand why she would insist upon such lies. Why? I am told I closely resemble my late uncle, Revyn."
Yes, somehow in all of that he managed /not/ to answer Anais's question.
Anais isn't looking to notice the change in Justin's features, fixated on slowly sifting through the trinkets and the papers, sorting them into neat piles by some system known only to her. "I'm surprised she allowed Jacsen to be legitimate," she murmurs in a bland tone. "Besides, if she's pregnant with someone's bastard, she'll want to make excuses for it. It's not so bad if everyone else is doing it." She draws a slow breath, then looks up to him, eyes as hard and impenetrable as the Wall in the north. "Who did she claim was the father, Justin?"
Yes, he is fond of Anais and does not wish to hurt her. Should he tell her or … well, he already admitted that Lucienne told them who she claimed the father to be. Justin presses his mouth into a hard line, his hands had already been gripping his sword belt far too tightly. He watches her and simply says quietly, "She .. says the father is Jacsen. Lucienne claims … they had some plan, to … that their child would inherit, since you and Jacsen hadn't produced. A pure Terrick heir. But she is full of lies, Anais. Vile, terrible and twisted to say such a thing. I think she's not acting sane at all."
He lifts a hand to his face, "She did this, clawed me. I…" Justin glances at his own hand, "I put my hands around her throat and I was so angry, I was going to break her Gods forsaken neck. But Ozric pulled me off of her."
Anais hears him out, then closes her eyes slowly, lowering her head to drop her brow into one hand. She's quiet for a long moment, before there's finally a soft, low sound: a single laugh, devoid of anything resembling humor. "Of course," she murmurs. "Of course." When she stands, it's in a single, fluid motion, papers fluttering in the wind of her passing on her way to the hearth. She holds to the mantle with both hands, white-knuckled as she looks up at the stone. "I have been such a fool," she whispers.
For a lingering moment, Justin is caught up in the fact that he almost murdered his sister. While that may be nothing to Anais, it's … rather profound, to him. It bothers him, but not nearly as much as if he had done it. Her recation though, that draws him from his introspection to refocus upon her.
Justin watches Anais, frowning. Her words draw him to walk over and come up behind her, "Jacsen hasn't been found, Anais. This could all be lies - he is not able to refute what she says. Whether it /is/ true or not hardly matters if he's not found. What does matter is that this MUST be kept quiet. Even rumor of such a thing would be … terrible for this House, Anais. So I have Lucienne locked up with no one permitted to speak with her. Not even my father, Anais - not until he will speak with me, first. My cousins back me, I think Ser Bolland will as well, and Ser Kamron himself is taking turns to watch her chambers. No man or woman is permitted until I say otherwise else steel will be drawn. My father will have to see reason, this time. I will not back down in this matter. I can not."
Does she even hear him? Is she so wrapped up in her own grief that she even cares about this House? Justin probably wouldn't blame her if she wanted it all to burn to the ground as ashes, though he would fight to keep his House alive even if it meant doing horrible things to make it so. Silence drags then between them lest she yet mutters.
Anais must hear him. Perhaps she even understands, because she nods to his description of the defenses around Lucienne. "I suspect it may be a bit late to hide word that she's pregnant at this point," she replies in that same, carefully cultured tone. "Though perhaps it might be time for her to join the Silent Sisters." Although there's a certain glint in her eyes at her next words. "I'll have to make certain her meals are prepared and delivered by only the most trustworthy servants."
Justin steps rather close, putting his hands on Anais's shoulders and then sliding them down a little to her upper arms, "You are not to poison her, Anais. I doubt you even know how, but you won't. Her meals are already seen to. A motherhouse though, that is what I think is best also. We can't keep her pregnancy quiet, but we can try to keep her claims silent. If word must, we can let it be known that she isn't of sound mind. That at least is clearly true." Justin shifts his jaw, "I will have to go to meet with the Groves and see what amends I can make with Ser Stafford. But not before I deal with father and get Lucienne sent off. Are you going to be able to hold together, Anais? I know … it is asking a lot, but I need you strong, not to fall apart."
Anais is as hard as diamond beneath his hands and cold as ice. "Fall apart?" she echoes, voice distant. "I didn't fall apart when Jaremy left. I didn't fall apart when the Ironborn besieged the keep. I didn't fall apart when I was taken captive by bandits. I didn't fall apart when we were starving. Why should finding out that my husband gave himself to everyone except me cause me to fall apart?" Slowly, she releases the mantle, turning to face him, her chin lifting with stubborn, brittle pride. "I am a Banefort. We are the last to fall, though the world may crumble around us."
If only he knew how to give her some comfort. In the face of all of this, how? Jerold Terrick's youngest son studies her, meeting her gaze with his own. Justin gives a small nod, "You are the strongest woman I have ever met, Anais. I admire your strength, and yet you also have not become cold, hateful, bitter. I admire you the more for that, also. Do not give up hope. Nothing is finished yet, though I will say, things .. will not go back to what they were, either."
Well, he's said what he came to say, and more. Justin removes his hands from her and turns his head to look at the papers stewn about, and the jewels. Without saying anything else, he turns and goes down on one knee to pick the things up and put them back into the two boxes so that if nothing else, he's not going to leave her with a mess to pick up. It's doubtful Anais is going to want any company and Justin should go also, to let her deal with her grief.
"Riordan used to say that." Anais steps forward to help with the mess, taking care to preserve some of the initial sorting. "You're the strongest woman I've ever known, Annie." It's the least strained thing she's said yet, though she doesn't look at him as she works, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. "I did want him. But I never acted on it. Because I was a married woman. Because I knew what it would do to Jacsen, and to this house. And so he left, and from what I hear, he's made himself very happy with Isolde. And as a reward for my fidelity," she laughs softly, "Jacsen fucks every maid in the tower and his own sister before getting himself ruinously kidnapped." Stacking papers carefully, she shakes her head. "The gods certainly have a sense of humor, Justin."
His hands still, him pausing to watch her when she mentions Riordan. Justin's face is closed, his mouth a slash. Which seems is becoming habitual with him since his return. There's no point in telling Anais that rumors have Isolde recalled to the Twins and Riordan in great disfavour with his House, his position revoked. Nor that rumors whisper that it is Ser Rutger who will marry the lady Isolde, who may well be a bastard herself if Ser Gedeon's letters to the King are real. No point at all.
Justin keeps his silence and goes back to picking up the papers and baubles. After he's put several things into the boxes, he licks his lips before he speaks, "I know. I am sorry, Anais." Sorry of course fixes nothing. The box is picked up. Justin stands and sets it on her desk to deal with later. "I can take these papers if you prefer … not to read them. Maybe you shouldn't. But the trinkets you should sort through. See what they'll sell for. Gods know the state the Roost is in, we can't afford to keep .. heirlooms, even if some of it belonged to my mother. Maybe they'll fetch enough to finish the docks."
"I'm not. Sorry," Anais clarifies, straightening when he does. "The reasons don't change because Jacsen- because Jacsen wasn't what I'd hoped he'd be. I did the right thing. Someone has to." She reaches out to take the box of papers, shaking her head. "I want to read them. The things you know don't hurt. It's the things you don't know that let your drug-addled husband wander out into the bandit-infested woods in search of another night between his sister's legs." Maybe she's gotten a little bit cold, hateful, and bitter. "There aren't enough jewels here to finish the docks, though," she adds with certainty. "If there's something of your mother's you want kept, maybe for your own wife, I'm sure we can spare it."
"You have done the right things, most of the time. That's the best we can do, isn't it?" Justin's not feeling very philisophical though. Not really feeling anything. "I have no idea, Anais. Maybe if you see something especially nice, but I'd rather have the docks more. If it's not enough to pay for finishing them, it'll help us get there the sooner. And we will. The Gods know I don't trust the Naylands but they brought us seed to plant - and plant it we will. The oxen I brought back plow the fields and Seven willing, in five or six months from now we'll have our first harvest." No, he's not thinking about wives. Or well, maybe he is when Justin looks back to her. Because his look might suggest appraising, weighing.
The boxes are left for her, his hands allowing her to take it from him. "It's been a long day and tomrrow awaits. I will bid you a good night, Anais." Justin movse to head for the door to let himself out.
"Good night, Justin," Anais murmurs, smile curving more by reflex than anything else. "Don't let her get in your head," she adds, holding the boxes in her arms. "She's not worth it. And she's certainly gotten enough rope to hang herself at this point." A deep breath, and she stands a little taller. "Neither of us has to do this alone."
He is tired. Anais's good-brother stops at the door, looking back to her. "No, though it's mine to do, to face my father, and if he is returned, my brother also. Whatever happens, I'll either be heir within the month, or I'll be stripped of my family name, my spurs, and everything else." Or maybe dead. Justin smiles a little anyway, "So we'll see, won't we?" Fuck it all, that twist of his lopsided smile says. He's commited now.
The door is closed quietly behind him.