|Matters of Affection|
|Summary:||In which the Dowager Nayland and Lady Igara Frey talk about love. And the Kingsguard's effectiveness as a beard.|
|Foyer — Fortress of the Sevens|
|The foyer to the fortress is a functional room to the castle with its own heavy portcullis and massive oak doors at the entrance. The interior is done in the same heavy wood construction that reinforces the stone walls at several points as well as serving as the flooring away from the stone entrance. There is a reception area with comfortable couch seating for up to a dozen people, as well. The room extends farther back with stairs up to the Great Hall in addition to a heavy iron door that is bolted securely into the stone.|
|01 January 289|
The Fortress of Sevens is a hub of activity at the moment. News has come from Stonebridge of an attack by Iron Islands forces on the coast, so the household men-at-arms and nobles are in various little councils together, preparing for the Mire's response. Nobody is counseling with Lady Rebekkah Nayland. However, the old dowager is out of her rooms today. Something of a rarity. She's had a servant cart her down to the foyer, an old leather-bound book in her lap and a cup of tea within easy reach. She reads with less-than-rapt attention. She is probably here to lurk, and and hear more proper news of what is happening than Lord Nayland tends to bring her.
Igara had been left here by those returning to Stonebridge or to points elsewhere, Isolde having a few ladies in waiting without her, since she's been stricken with one of her bouts of ill-health that has kept her largely abed these last few months, under the care of a Septa. But she is recently recovered what little health as once she had, and has taken to strolling the palace in order to build up her strength and get some fresh air. Her dainty little embroidering basket on her elbow, she makes her way in the midst of a few other young girls, the miniature flock largely ignored by the men who have more pressing issues on their minds. The virtuous little Frey, of course, keeps her eyes downcast, listening more than watching, though when she spots the Lady Rebekkah there, she excuses herself from her protective herd and comes to stand respectfully by, dipping in a courtsey. "My Lady," she greets her, demure as ever, and perhaps even more so with the pallid shade of the evening of her illnes still cast upon her.
Rebekkah's beady blue eyes tick up quite instantly from the book she was looking at but ignoring. She offers the little Frey an inclination of her old head. "Lady Igara. You are recovering from…whatever was the matter with you, I trust?" There's vague concern there. As much concern as Rebekkah deigns to show for anything. "Sit, if you like. I am not averse to company. You are perhaps fortunate you were so stricken to be robbed of Lady Isolde's companionship. Have you heard the news from Stonebridge?"
"I am feeling a good deal recovered, my Lady, and thank you for your concern on my behalf," Igara answers. "I have heard whispers; I hoped that in coming down here I would be able to hear the news to a less scanty extent," she admits, turning and stepping smoothly into place, settling into a prim perch on the edge of a chair. "What has happened? Is the Lady Isolde quite safe?"
"Sit down, dear," Rebekkah says, first and foremost, gesturing to a chair beside her. "And I would appreciate it if you endeavored not to faint." Her tone is just a touch wry.
Igara pushes to stand up from the chair she'd settled on before, in a swift flit of motion settling instead on the chair right beside the lady Rebekkah, her clear brow worried with the serious, steely narrowing of her eyes. "Yes, my Lady," she answers. If Rebekkah's tone is wry, hers is erfectly earnest. "What has transpired at Stonebridge?"
Rebekkah nods shortly as Igara resettles from one chair to another. Always pleased to have her whims obeyed. Before she answers the (much) younger woman, she sips on her tea. From the smell of it, it's flavored with a good bit of brandy today. She seems to be very much enjoying it. Though her tone is sober enough when she finally does reply. "I gather the barbarians on the Iron Islands are no longer content being simple raiders," she says, tone filled with disdain for those barbarians. "Talk is they have attacked the coast of the Riverlands in force. There were parties of them as far inland as Stonebridge, though I gather our men their repelled them well enough. Those closer to the seas, it is said, were not so fortunate. The Ironmen have come not to raid, but to conquer. Or attempt to." She snorts. "They shall not find that so simple a task, I would wager."
Igara takes in a slow breath when Rebekkah reports on the Ironers' activities, but then lets it out again as she is assured that the forces at Stonebridge were enough to repel them. She slowly executes a nod of her head. "No, they shall not. To take a fight overseas to the foe is never a favorable proposition, as they will have all their resources on hand, and yours will of necessity be sapped in short order. If they were rebuffed at Stonebridge it is unlikely that they will find the wherewithal to carry on further, but they will have their strength tried holding the lands coastwards of there." Which, being Terrick and Terrick-aligned, is naturally of very little consequence whether it gets trampled or not.
There is a slight glint of surprise, followed by an affirming nod from Rebekkah, as Igara replies with something resembling an understanding of the difficulty of the invasion. "The forces of the Riverlands shall repel them from Seagard and the other coastal holds once they are mustered, I have little doubt." Only Seagard is deigned worthy of recognition in Rebekkah's view, and her concern for it is of a coldly tactical nature. "We are ourselves quite fortunate. Hag's Mire is not the prettiest of locations in a bog, but it is the most unfriendly of lands to any enemy who tries to enter it, and the Fortress of the Sevens is unassailable. Even my typically useless son is already on the move." She is not a particularly loving mother to Lord Rickart. "He gathers the Nayland forces to march with the rest of the Frey vassal captains to Stonebridge and see the slaughter of the pirate rabble begin." She sounds rather pleased about the prospect of slaughtering pirate rabble. She sips her tea.
"I feel rather as though my duty lies in going to the Lady Isolde's side, now that I am risen from the sickbed once more," Igara begins, chin tipped up to negate the slightly tentative tone of the words. "And yet I would not desire for worlds to get underfoot of any manner of slaughter. Do you think it safe to proceeed thither, my Lady? Or advisable?" she asks. For all the woman is brusque and cold, Igara, at least, seems to hold her opinion of worth, and her wisdom and insight as something to be guided by.
"I would on this occasion actually ask Lord Rickart," Rebekkah replies. "As he shall be apprised of the most recent news. Stonebridge is not a coastal town and its defense has held. Yet it is of some tactical import, with its established crossings, particularly that which goes south to Seagard. But Lady Isolde herself has not been summoned back, and neither have her ladies-in-waiting. It is less safe than the Mire itself, but not intolerably so. It is commendable that you hold the Lady Nayland in such affection as to consider the journey. If you are to make it, you had best decide soon, so you can travel in escort of the men-at-arms of Nayland and the other Freys who march in that direction."
"That is what I had in mind," Igara admits, in re: going under the protection of the troops. She may not be much game for long, hard-paced riding, but there comes a time when keeping up with the men with the weapons is worth the extra pains, and an invasion by the Ironers is definitely amongst those times. "I will write an enquiry to the Lord Rickart, as I am certain he is too busy to give an audience at this time." She pauses, then, expression becoming somewhat more guarded. "Is there any word of the Lord Rowan?"
Rebekkah shakes her head, as to Lord Rowan. "Last I heard of youngest grandson he was still tied to the belt of that would-be-usurper bastard, Ser Gedeon," she replies, with a snort as she is forced to utter the usurper's name. "Oldstones is even farther inland than the Mire. I cannot imagine they shall be troubled. Lord Tully shall call them to muster along with the other banners, I've little doubt. Perhaps you shall find more word of him in Stonebridge, as Seagard shall be where our Lord Paramount sends his defenses, and that is the logical place for forces from this region to gather to head there."
"Well, if I think to ask after him," Igara equivocates, suddenly sounding almost her age as she strikes a churlish note in her feigned indifference in her fiance. "For all that he has ever asked after me," she sets her jaw in a look of somewhat bruised pride. "In any event, I should be at my gentle cousin's side, unless she is to be called back to the Mire."
"Do your affections cool toward Lord Rowan?" Rebekkah asks Igara. She sounds neither particularly sympathetic nor particularly disapproving. "Has he done anything specific to displease you? He was ever a strange boy, and I cannot imagine time with the puffed-up hens of the Terricks or their pet usurper bastard he now serves has improved him."
"He has done nothing to displease me," Igara replies, with a tone about the statement as though it contained something of a riddle, which she does on to explain, "He has done nothing at all. I write to him and I write to him, and never comes there word back from him. When I have gone to see him, he seems nothing but imposed upon and comes up with every excuse neither to see me— nor indeed to ever be wed to me," she lowers her voice a little bit at that last, as if she thought it improper to discuss the wedding in public. "He is a fine Lord. He fights well on the field and is wonderous fair to look upon. But no flame of affection can manage to thrive with this degree of a dearth of fanning, I should think."
Rebekkah snorts a cackle-like laugh when Igara calls Rowan 'a fine lord who fights well on the field.' "If he is all that, then the years have changed him much. When I last saw the boy, he was a skinny little nonce who cringed at the idea of manly activities. And who I am still quite convinced is a bugger." She sips at her tea. "Which would explain why he does not return your passion, I note. You are young, dear, and should be capable of finding another match, should you wish to make one. My children have spawned many young men. None of them particularly impressive creatures, but you may find one better-suited."
"That is well how I recalled him, as well, from when we were children together," Igara replies. "I barely knew him, to see him at the tourney at Stonebridge. How he took down two men in as many blows, despite being shorter than both of them," she smiles a little despite herself at the thought. "And his face… there is something so lovely about his features. I can't quite put a name to it," she muses, then shakes her head, remembering to be angry at him. "Well, it doesn't matter. He is determined to find his way out of this match, and so let him join the Guard, or what he wills."
Rebekkah drinks some more of her spiked tea as Igara goes on about Rowan's features, nodding along patiently enough. "You will forgive my bluntness, dear. I try not to speak too much on the peculiarities of my progeny. It is unseemly. But Lord Rowan would not be the first man who fled to the virgin-white Kingsguard because that which lies between a woman's legs terrified him. Ser Jonothor Darry was a distant cousin of mine - I am a nee Darry, you see - and rumor has it he fancied Prince Rhaegar Targaryen in a way that was not strictly out of duty." She cackles. "Well, it matters little. Even men who fancy proper things will go to great lengths to make themselves unhappy in the name of duty. They have a great talent for it. If it makes you feel any better, dear, they all end up bitterly regretting it in their older years."
Igara goes a little pink at the cheek as Rebekkah puts a finer point on Rowan's probable preferences. "Well— even if he is afraid of… marriage…" she euphemizes quietly, "All the better. I shall certainly not bother him if he does not wish to be bothered. To be honest, if he is afraid of it, I am at least as much so. I hear that a marriage is a painful thing to endure, and I have always been fragile. Let him ignore me, if he wills it, but let him do it as my husband."
Rebekkah eyes Igara narrowly throughout that, nodding some. And drinking her brandy tea. She snorts. "Well. Perhaps you two are well-matched, then. The duties of marriage are often less-than pleasurable. Childbirth, surely, though I did not find the other parts so awful to manage. Lord Darron Nayland was not an unkind or intolerably ill-favored man, and we understood what was expected of each of us. It was an equitable arrangement." She speaks of her marriage, and dead husband, with all the passion one might a household accounting ledger. "Whatever becomes of Lord Rowan, if you seek a husband who prefers…other sorts of company, I suspect another could be found. Most noble families are at their wit's end on what to do with such sons. It would have to be arranged quietly, of course. The highborn are loathe to admit their own perversions."
"A great deal of my… personal illness… seems to stem from the womb, my Lady, if my many doctors are to be believed. They are of mixed opinion as to whether or not I would be able to conceive a child… but they are all of a mind that I should likely not survive giving one its birth," Igara admits in a low, peaceful voice, despite the dire nature of the words. "And yet I long to be the lady of a household… to put its affairs in efficient order and to make it thrive, as you have done. Alas that it is so hard to do without a husband at one's side."
Rebekkah nods to that in understanding, and now there is true sympathy in her expression. "The world is unkind to women who would put themselves to better use than spitting out mewling cubs for their lords. Well, dear, you are young yet. Have you considered entering the Sept? I toyed with the idea myself, after…" She sighs. "…after a man chose duty over me. I have never quite been able to make myself believe in the pretty myths of the Seven, however. Still. I sometimes regret not taking that path even so, as it is a way for a woman to engage in quite a wide range of scholarship, and gain some modest amount of power in a household. But it is not the equivalent of being lady of a house. I was happy in my time when I managed this household, I will admit that."
"I do not aspire to such heights as to be the Lady of a House… but a good, prominent household, here with Rowan in order to augment Nayland's wealth with my talents, or, if not here, perhaps to travel further abroad and create ties with some house yet unaligned with my own. I wish to do well by my father, to make change in the world, not to go about with my nose in a book and give advice which most will only ignore." No, the Sept holds no great appeal for the girl, who holds a good deal of ambition for a child her age, after all.
"That I understand, dear." And Rebekkah does, though her understanding is touched with an edge of regret. "I shall wish you good luck in finding some outlet for your ambitions. If it makes you feel the better, if Lord Rowan is still the mewling brat who could not even withstand a beating from me after overturning my cyvasse board…" She frowns. Still angry, after what is perhaps near a decade, of the boy's abuse of her board//. "…then I doubt he shall have much luck entering the Kingsguard. Perhaps when his ambitions utterly fail, he shall find marriage to you and a life of equitable partnership is better than foolish dreams he shall never hold."
"I think…" Igara begins slowly, "I do think that that man can do about anything he sets his mind to," she has to give him that. "But we'll see. In any event, if he does enter the Guard, I will as yet be only sixteen, there will still be time to find a good match." And that seems to cheer her a little bit, or at least to soothe her worries. "In any event, I need not worry about it for the time being. Things are settled, and before I find out whether or not he has extricated himself from the arrangement there is not any need for me to think of another. I will not wait for any letters, and I will busy myself helping my gentle cousin."
Rebekkah snorts. "What men 'set their mind to' is very often folly. And by the time they realize that, dear, what they truly want is often gone." The old woman finishes her tea in one long gulp. "But, yes, you are very young yet. And there are many dainty lordlings who have…difficulty finding understanding ladies." She smiles. "If it comes to that, I shall help you find one. As it is, I am sure Lady Isolde will find you a comfort in this difficult time. You are pleasant company. And a cannier creature than you would like most to think." Which makes her smile. She appreciates Igara's subtle canniness.
Igara's eyes sparkle even as her long, dark lashes flicker instinctively to hide it, then rise again, putting them on display, quite frankly, with a keen edge to the glance that not many thus far have been permitted to spot in those wide doe-eyes. "I find it best, on the whole, to let men think what they will. But I am glad for you to know my mind, and if you find it to be suitable to the pursuits I seek, I am all the more glad, for I know that you are long practiced in them, and vastly skilled. I only hope to one day be as successful as you have been."
"I have taken what life has given me and made it my own," Rebekkah says, with a certain amount of satisfaction. "It is not what I had dreamed of when I was a girl in King's Landing, but I have made my peace with it. And I have known love, my dear, believe it or not. Even if it was not from the man who spawned my children…well. I have made my peace with that, too. And I can honestly say, it makes me happy even now."
"I do not know if I have ever been in love," Igara is thoroughly sincere on this point, if still quiet and reserved. "I was perhaps more fascinated with Rowan and the possibilities he might open for me than I was terribly fond of him," she realizes. "There was one other, I thought I might have loved, but I have so little experience of such things, I cannot really say whether it was so or not."
"I fell in love when I was thirteen years old," Rebekkah says, without a doubt of it. For a moment she almost does look a sweet old lady in a sincere way, rather than the caustic, canny way she typically does. "And I have remained so my entire life, and he to me, I think. Though it was not to be as either of us wished, it is the one thing in my life in which I can say I was ever happy. If you have had that, my dear, treasure it. Whatever form it took, or what comes of it."
"Oh, I was very happy," Igara admits. "But I don't think he felt the same way. I seem to have that effect on a gentleman, don't I?" she smiles, as though amused by her own ill-luck. "It doesn't matter," she repeats, as though it were her very shield against any hurt. "There are more important things to worry oneself about, aren't there?"
"Far more important things, dear. It still matters, though." The dowager seems to want to leave it at that, grasping her cane and getting to her feet. And promptly yelling for a servant to assist her. One scurries to do so, of course. Rebekkah is still a somewhat feared figure among the Nayland servants, withered as she is. "Now, if you will pardon me, I would like to check the rookery. I want to see if my raven has come today."
Igara stands up, herself, in a sign of respect for the older, wiser woman as she stands. "Yes, my Lady," she dips into a courtsey. "If I do not see you before I leave for Stonebridge, I wish you well, and would very much enjoy to be in correspondence with you while I am away, if you would be amenable to the arrangement."
"I would like that, yes," Rebekkah replies, as to correspondence. "I do enjoy my letters. They pass the time. I will look forward to reading of what you make for yourself out there." With that, she dodders off.