|Summary:||Aeric returns to the Roost with a ship full of Westerlands men and inconclusive bad news.|
|Courtyard — Four Eagles Tower|
|The Courtyard of Four Eagles Tower is floored with a fine grey stone that match the color and tone of the interior structure of the castle's yard. Plants have been potted and placed around the entrances to add some color, the greenery accompanied by several trellises of flowers that climb the support columns. The most prominent structure in the area is the set of large slab steps that lead up to the great oak doors of the Great Hall. Several hallways and accesses lead off into different sections of Four Eagles which makes this the hub of noble activity when court is not being held.|
|January 17, 2012|
It's been a busy few days for Anais, with the liberating army camped not far from the Roost and the destruction of the town adding even more pressure. Every now and then, though, she gets a chance to take a breath. At the moment, she's found herself a seat by one of the potted plants near the entrance to the keep, looking up to the stars as her guard lounges against the wall nearby, inspecting his dagger.
Sail! At first the word brings panic but soon to follow is word of the banner of Ser Aeric Mallister. He has returned! By the time the lord captain arrives at the keep, nearly the full story has passed into gossip. The ship is largely hale but with some battle damage. Mostly, there are wounded and hungry with bannermen from the Baneforts, Lannisters, and Westerlings all numbered among them. Aeric, himself, rides into the keep with as much of his noble bearing as he has remaining. He's sitting upright on a horse while wearing his armor.
Ship! There's little else that could bring Anais so quickly to her feet after the last few weeks, but word of the ship that was part of her dowry and countrymen returning has her waiting at the gate by the time Aeric rides in, her gaze searching the faces of those who come with him. "Ser Aeric," she greets, relief and anxiety alike in her smile. "I cannot tell you what a relief it is to hear you're safely returned and see you here."
Thirst. Weariness. Those are the expressions of the men who come in with him. Many of them ignore any offers of aid in favor of drinking from troughs. It would seem it was no easy fighting for them and with little supply. As Aeric dismounts, he removes his helm and looks to Lady Anais. "That the Roost remains standing is a relief to me, also, Lady."
"Gods, of course," Anais presses the heel of her hand to her brow, turning to send servants for buckets of fresh water for the men who are arriving. Servants and squires be damned, she moves forward to take the reins of Aeric's horse so that he can dismount. "Are you- The ship- I heard you had Banefort and Westerling men. What happened? The Golden Fleet, we- Please."
"The King's fleet is nowhere to be seen." Aeric observes with a sort of grim irritation. "Even were it mustered the day of their landing, now would be too soon. Our own fleets were burned at moor, treachery. I…" He turns to regard the men and the sea. "Have done what I could." There's a deep breath. "The coast lies burned, Lady. Lannisport is sacked, Westerling and Banefort lands as well. There are many Ironborn who will not go to sea again…but it is a trifle. There is little I can do with but one ship that I have not already done."
The color fades from Anais' face, any hint of a smile erased as her fingers tighten around the horse's reins. "Sacked?" she echoes, voice gone small. "You don't mean- The Banefort itself?"
Aeric moves to extract her fingers from the reins of his horse so a squire can take them. "I cannot speak to the Banefort inland, Lady, but the coast was ravaged enough. I was loathe to make request for supply of those who remained but that I was at war."
"My parents' keep, Ser Aeric," Anais asks grimly, unweaving her fingers from the reins as though she's forgotten they're a part of her. "My parents. Lord and Lady Banefort. My brother, Ser Quentyn. Shayla, she went home. Evan, and Joseth, and Justin?" She looks from him to the others, increasingly desperate. "Does it stand?"
"I do not know, Lady." Aeric's words are almost apologetic. "I had not the force of men to dare inland forays nor would I trust the word of those ironborn we interrogated for their words were lies and venom. Take care, Lady. Send a raven if you must. Even so, there is a present which must be attended to. Seagard must be freed."
"We've sent ravens. There's been no answer." There's a half a moment, a shakily drawn breath, where it seems Anais might falter, before she manages to shore up her own defenses. "One ship is hardly going to free Seagard, Ser Aeric. But there are some three thousand men massing at Stonebrdige to advance there." Her voice is wooden, the words delivered automatically. "They'll be leaving in the next few days, I believe."
A flagon Aeric has though he's drank little of it. This he takes from his saddlebag before the horse is led away. Such, he offers to her. "Lady, the back of the Greyjoys must be broken before we can be allowed to grieve." He brings a hand to rest upon her shoulder. "And grieve, we shall but also, I am told, there is hope in no news. Is it not uncommon for ravens to be hunted during times of war? Uncertainty breeds fear and that is often weapon enough to use against us. Steel yourself. I will travel in haste to Stonebridge to give what information I can of Seagard's approaches."
"There's no need to travel to Stonebridge," Anais replies, shaking her head to his offer of the flagon. "Lord Rickart Nayland is here, as are the Frey lords who'll command the host. There's supposed to be a meeting of the commanders in two days time. It will be here at the Roost." She draws another deep breath, bracing herself. "I'm sorry, Ser Aeric. It's only that we just received word a few days ago, with the arrival of the troops, that Elinor had perished along with Tall Oaks. Delivering that news to Gwyneth and Caytiv was hard enough. I- I'm not ready to tell them that everyone else is gone."
Aeric nods, a little relieved to know that he can have a day's respite anyway. "Then do not until you know the truth of it." He cautions. "And not all was lost in the Oaks for did not the Lady Tiaryn Camden survive? She, at least, carries on the line though perhaps not by blood."
"She did. And Lady Liliana remains here," Anais agrees, quietly. "Neither of them, though, is my sister." She presses her lips together, then turns, taking a few steps back. "Excuse me, Ser Aeric. I should see to arrangements for your men. I'm sure they're in need of rest after whatever they've been through."
Reminded yet again, Aeric closes his eyes and exhales slowly. "Yes…this is so. And she will be missed." He opens his eyes and brings a warmth to his face that is an effort. "I..am sorry, Lady. Thank you.. for your consideration."
Anais pauses, reaching out a hand for Aeric's arm. "I'm sorry. I…I am truly glad that you're back, Ser Aeric. And I can only imagine you'd braved a great deal to return safely to us. Thank you. Perhaps we can talk in the morning? I want to know what's happened, I just…There's a lot to take in right now."
Aeric looks down at Anais' touch and frowns. "As you say, Lady. I apologize. I am overweary and my armor becomes a burden. Upon the morrow then." He withdraws then, moving to speak to one of the men in Lannister colors whom he arrived with.
Anais nods once, turning to move inside. The guard who was with her starts to follow, though there's a brief conversation between them and the young man instead moves to meet Aeric and his men. Kincaid is a friendly fellow, and he's gotten to know most of the staff of the Roost. He's well able to get everyone in touch with the right people to be settled in.