Page 033: Murder at Rockcliff
Murder at Rockcliff
Summary: Dark words reach Four Eagles Tower about the brutal death of a Nayland man at the inn.
Date: 08/14/288
Related Logs: None yet, many likely to come
Anais Jaremy Jarod Lucienne Ryker 
Entrance Hall — Four Eagles Tower
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.
Sun Aug 14, 288

This time of morning, Lord Ryker is still trying to convince himself to wake up. Most vigerous, active Lords are up before dawn and claim to be wrestling bears before the Lord even gets around to breakfast. But he's up a little earlier than usual, the man planning to depart for home today. With his entourage packing in the courtyard, the Lord of Stonebridge is lazing in the pleasant coolness of the air, just inside the Entrance Hall. One of his guards is just moving off from a short conversation before heading to the carriage.

Sleep is an elusive thing for Anais Banefort. One moment it's there, and the next it's nowhere to be found. And once it's fled for certain, she often gives up in favor of walking. Which would explain why she's walking the halls at this early hour of the morning wearing a simple linen gown, her hair down, with a light shawl wrapped over her shoulder and faint bags beneath her eyes. Her brows rise when she catches sight of the Nayland lord, surprise slowly crossing her features. "Lord Nayland," she calls softly, padding toward where the man stands. "Leaving so soon?"

Jarod has been up early. But he's been up early since the many, many guests of Terrick's Roost took up residence there. He's not left the castle since Ryker's arrival, in fact, though the coming of a rider from town about a quarter of an hour ago did prompt him out to the gates. He's returning to the house now, however, with a commoner in a leather jerkin trailing him. The morning doesn't look like it's agreeing with him so far. His sun-touched face is a shade paler than usual, green eyes hard and somber.

Ryker yawns, stifling it with a fist. Eyes lazily survey the scene until he sees Anais and he dips his head to her. "Good morning, Lady Banefort." At least he sounds like he means it. "Yes, actually. We had been planning to only stay a few days. My business here is done, though. Introducing Igara to Rowan was just a formality. Our discussion earlier was more to my interest." He winks and looks up to see the approach of a soured Jarod. "Ser. You look as though your morning began with a bowl of bad fruit. Hopefully that was not the case."

"I was hoping we might have a chance to properly finish that discussion," Anais shakes her head, smile slipping apologetically crooked. "I'm sorry it grew heated. All of this has been…a little overwhelming. I just want to find a way to make everything /work/." As Jarod approaches, her brows furrow, a glimmer of confusion in her features. "Ser Jarod," she greets slowly. "Is everything all right?"

"My Lord Nayland, there is news from town," Jarod says, with a quick bow to Ryker that's lacking in either flourish or stiff pointed propriety. His tone, usually glib, is grave. He looks to the commoner behind him, who hastily bows (rather clumsily) to Ryker and Anais and looks to Jarod to do the talking. Which Jarod does, after a long, drawn breath. "I'm very sorry to be the one to have to inform you of this, my lord, but there's been murder done at our inn, Rockcliff. One of your men is dead."

"There will be time. If you and Jaremy would like to come to Stonebridge and discuss the matter with my wife and I, I would be pleased to receive you. I just hope it can be a discussion finished soon, lest I be proven right — a situation that as much as I might enjoy being smug about, would mean trouble for your future home. ..And my own." Ryker tilts his head forward with it, keeping his eyes on her. "Discuss it with Ser Jaremy if it sounds like something you would be interested in. I know he may very well be." The Man clasps his hands in front of him and looks to Jarod. He quirks a brow at the notice of news, watching the Captain of the Guard's movements. But the loose smile on his face falls rather fast. He does not say anything but by the look of him, he wants details. Right now.

"I'm not sure how Lord Jerold would take a trip to Stonebridge now," Anais shakes her head. "But I do hope you and Lady Isolde will come for the wedding and the tournament. No doubt it will be even busier here, but I would appreciate it nonetheless…" She trails off as Jarod starts to deliver his news, looking to the man behind him to try to see if he has other thoughts. "What?" she asks softly, raising a hand to cover her mouth at the shock.

"Little is known at this point, my lord, though I intend to ride into town soon as I leave you and see what our sheriff has learned thus far," Jarod says, getting through it all as starkly as possible. "Name of the man was Jen Howard, who I understand is one who came with your entourage, though he was staying at the inn in preference of the castle. You'd know more of his reasons for that than I. It is my understanding the body was found just this morning, in a room your man was renting. You'll pardon me for putting it so bluntly in front of the lady, but one of the helpstaff found him stabbed in the throat, so I'll not argue it could be anything but murder done to him."

"If Lord Jerold wants to mistake me for my father, he's welcome to be that way. But this is business, not pleasure. We may eat dinner together, but the point is not to socialize. As for the wedding, I will do my best. I may even compete in a tournament this time." The words are tempered with the same gruffness that's overtaken him since Jarod mentioned the words about his man. So when his eyes fall back on the bastard, the man narrows his eyes. "He was tabbed in the throat?" Ryker repeats. "Yes, he was staying there because as I understand it the castle had run short on rooms, though he may have just preferred to be close to the ale and whores." Its flatly delivered. "When you ride, take Ser Addison Brody with you. He is one of my sworn and a man I trust. You will understand that prudence demands I have at least one of my men here with you to assist in the investigation." There is little in his tone that seems willing to debate this point.

"Lord Ryker, I…" Anais is at least momentarily at a loss for words, blinking a few times at Jarod. "I am sorry. This is- I'm sure this is highly irregular and- And Ser Jarod will see to it that justice is found for your man." She takes a half a step back, glancing over her shoulder as if in search of someone who knows what's to be done in these sorts of situations. "Did anyone see anything? Do we know?" she asks quietly of Jarod.

"Prudence demands it, my lord," Jarod agrees without any hesitation. "I figure you should pick a Nayland or Tordane man or two to assist us in investigating this matter. I'd not expect you to trust what we made of it otherwise. If Ser Brody is your preference that's all right by me, if it can be vouched that he was in this castle and did not leave this castle last night. I am implying nothing of your men's involvement in this affair but they'd be the ones who knew Master Howard best, so we should figure out where all of them were just as a point to start." He looks back at the commoner who's trailing him, then to Anais, shaking his head. "It's my understanding the answer to that is no, my lady, though as I said little's known yet. Man was having some drinks in the common room last night, went upstairs, was found undressed and stabbed to death in the neck this morning. Man rode out here soon as he was identified to see that Lord Ryker was informed. That's all I can say on it for the moment, but so far as I can tell the sheriff's got no one in custody for it at present."

"Damned right this is irregular. And you know damned well who I suspect is behind this!" Ryker locks his eyes on Anais. "Its just as poor that I can't blame them out loud. But this only lends weight to my theory. This could, in many cases, be considered quite a dangerous loss. Especially with tensions where they are." There's distinct bite to his voice, the man then rounding his attention back on Jarod. "Ser Brody will stay on. He was assigned to my personal detail last night. I believe Mister Lakes is roomed with him here. I will line my men up and have them account for the presence of each other perfectly. If I find anyone suspicious, they will be remanded to the custody of Ser Brody. I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my new Captain of the Guard. If he is in Stonebridge on my return, I will send him along with Ser Rygar."

Anais presses her lips together at that look from Ryker, catching the inside of her cheek between her teeth. "Lord Ryker, please," she says softly. "I know this is-" It would be inappropriate for her to say 'a fucking mess.' She shifts the shawl around her shoulders, uncertain. "I should find Jaremy and let him know," she says after a moment. "Will you be here a little longer, Ser Jarod? Lord Ryker?" she asks.

"If you have suspicions, my lord, I'd appreciate you make them known to me, as it does little good to play games with niceities as this stands," Jarod says. "It's rather important whoever's done this be found quick, give them less time to cover their tracks for it. And aye, in that case Ser Brody'll do just fine. I'd like to have one of our men with him while he questions your entourage, though my thought it those who were in the castle can do little but tell us as to Master Howard's character, or if he had enemies in town. If you've any more people at the inn…well, my lord, that's where my concern would be. And where the best information among your people would likely be found." To Anais, he nods. "I needn't run off, my lady. Need time to figure if the Nayland folk in the castle might know something useful about this, at the very least. Lord Ryker, I'd request the body be kept in town for now, to be examined. Once that's done I can ask him prepared for burial by a septon and sent wherever his kin would be able to see to him."

"My apologies, Lady Banefort. I do not mean to explode at you. But this is pretty bad. We lose a man in a place like that? And it no question being a murder? That's audacious. It might even be meant as a message." Ryker grumps. His face thins out, too. "I need to leave as soon as I can to get my man replaced by Rygar or my new Captain." The Lord looks to Jarod: "If I can send him, his name is Ser Bruce Longbaugh. He is not a Nayland but a man of my trust from Riverrun." To the rest, he takes a breath and nods. "You will have our cooperation in this matter and anyone who decides they do not want to, send word to me. I will release them from my employ and then you can do with them what you will." Whoa. Ryker isn't fucking around. "As for my suspicions, I believe it may be one of the Valentins or one of their men. I have absolutely no proof of this, though. None whatsoever."

"No, it's entirely understandable, Lord Ryker," Anais says quietly, taking another step back. "If you'll excuse me. I'm just going to see if I can find Jaremy. You should- He should-" She clears her throat, then turns to go. She did /not/ get enough sleep for this!

In true, comical fashion, Jaremy enters the room from the opposite direction that Anais has just left looking for him from. There's no chance she'll find him now. Cleaned from his earlier ride with Ser Anton, he's dressed in a clean, gray silks and comfortable breeches, sword on his hip as usual. The loud voices are hard to ignore, as already the rumors of the murder at the Rockcliff have reached Four Eagles Tower. On a course to move to his brother, Jarod, he nudges the man with his elbow as he comes to a stop. "What do we know so far then?"

Jarod nods to Ryker. "I can understand your haste to depart, my lord, but those in your entourage must be questioned, at least. As for the Valentins, what is the reason behind your suspicion? Beyond that question, they are guests here and we're familiar with those men Lord Anton has had with him in his employ. Openly, at least. Should be a matter not much more difficult than finding out what your men were up to last night, finding out what they were doing. They'll be questioned about it, for certain. I would ask, my lord, what was the nature of Master Howard's employment with you? The name is known to us. He came here with Ser Rygar on his last visit, so he may've made associates in town he quarreled with. If it's as simple as a quarrel between men. For my part I'd doubt it, but it's possible."

At Jaremy's entrance he turns, taking a deep breath. "Very little at this point, brother. Word only arrived at the castle a quarter of an hour ago, I just informed Lord Ryker of it now. A man in the Nayland's employ who was happy drinking in the Rockcliff common room last night, found dead by a staffer at the inn in his bed this morning. Stabbed in the throat, so it can't be called anything but murder. The Sheriff's men are already at the inn, is my understanding, and I'll be riding out there to ask further on it as soon as things're settled here. Lord Ryker is leaving one of his own men here to take part in investigating, which seems to me right and proper."

The early morn sees Lucienne's hair set in a fashion that must have been attended by only herself, judging from the lack of intricacy of her braids. Perhaps she'd have been better breaking her fast in her chamber, rather than descending the stairs to make an appearance, for she's certainly a bit bleary-eyed. By the time she's past the last few steps, she's noted the gathering of her brothers and Lord Ryker, and heads that way with a grave frown. Knowing her place in such a meeting of men, she hovers back a step or two and introduces herself with a quiet, "My lords," and a nod, keeping quiet other than this.

Ryker nods to Jaremy when he see's the man. "Young Lord," he greets. Its not cold, but it is simple and efficient. Now is not the time for pressing palms. Ryker seems far too unhappy with what has happened and the anger is bubbling. "If I am not under suspicion, clear four of my men right away and I will ride to Stonebridge quickly. The rest can stay with Lady Igara and escort her home. As for the Valentins? I suspect they harbor ill intent towards the Riverlands. Specifically towards your family and my own. That theory has a lot to it and a lot of speculation, but it is one I feel strongly enough about to mention it." The Lord of Stonebrige seems quite precise with his words there. "Jans is a- was a guard who worked for me. I suspect Rygar wanted him to watch me."

Jaremy turns to listen to Jarod while watching his sister approach. Her grave facial expression is mirrored in his own, and to greet her, Jaremy sends a 'this is not good' frown in her very direction. "Good call, Jarod. I will remain at the keep with our guests and ensure them their safety while this matter is investigated. Let's hope that there is something at the scene of the murder that gives evidence as to who deserves the Lord's justice and hope this wraps up quickly."

Turning his head from Jarod's shoulder, Jaremy steps a bit closer to Ser Ryker with a pair of kit brows and a strong, resolved tightening of his jaw. "Ser Ryker…I am just as surprised by your loss as you are and I assure you that Jarod, the Sheriff, and their men will investigate this tirelessly. They are good men, and I'm quite confident in their abilities. Please, if you've any concerns about the safety of yourself or Lady Igara, please accept my request to see to their safety personally on the road to Stonebridge."

"Can't call you under suspicion personally, my Lord, I know myself you never left this castle last night," Jarod says. "Though I do think if anyone knows anything personal about the dead man's associates in town, it'd be your men who know it, so I'd want to speak to them myself before you leave. Along with the man you're leaving here to look into this, of course. I'd give you reason to question our conduct or seriousness in this matter. Your men were under our protection while they were within our borders, my lord, and now one of them is dead. That's to our honor and reflects on us poorly, regardless of who put that knife to him. We are not a lawless place, and I'll do all I can to see his killer hanged."

Jarod pauses again, frowning. "So Master Howard was Ser Rygar's man rather than yours? That may make it harder to get a good idea of what personal dealings he might've had in town, but we'll do as we can. If may be necessary to have words with Ser Rygar himself if this isn't settled in a day or so, my lord. If he's not at liberty to come here, could myself and perhaps another of my father's men meet him in Stonebridge to talk on this? Or with those who might've known him better. Though I pray this nasty affair has a quicker resolution than that."

Lucienne catches that frown from her lord brother, and thus keeps her ears perfectly attuned to the low carry of the assembled voices. It is true, then, the grave news that interrupted her morning prayers. She listens, and listens some more, and when an opportunity presents itself she offers, "If it please my lords, I would attend the Lady Igara and explain this news, and your wishes, to her. And anything else I might assist with, you shall only ask." A rather deep curtsy is afforded Ryker, along with an expression of her sympathies upon her face for his predicament.

Ryker shakes his head. "No, Jaremy. I appreciate the offer, but if there is someone out there willing to kill members of my group, then they very well might be willing to try and kill you in order to get us to fight. You must be kept safe. I have my concerns, but I have no doubt in Ser Jarod's ability to keep this tower secure. Members of my entourage staying elsewhere took their own risks." He then looks to Jarod straight away and he shakes his head. "This could happen in Stonebridge. Ser Jarod, I am quite angry. This is plain. But I hesitate to hold you or this family accountable for anything. I would be quite put-out if you came to Stonebridge and lost one of your men and automatically assumed that we had failed or were at fault. I will not stand for this here or there. But should that be the need, I will order Ser Rygar here. If he cannot, bring two men and ride straight to the Tordane Tower. You will have access to him, one way or another." The Lord seems quite miffed about this, obviously wanting a name right away to rip into. But with Luci's suggestion, he takes a calming breath. That would be appreciated, Lady Terrick. I fear I am not in the best mindsets to deliver information like that as it should be given."

All before morning tea, no less. Jaremy can't help but bring his hand to his forehead and brush through his hair, thoroughly woken up by the bad news. "If Master Howard was Ser Rygar's man then he should have left with Ser Rygar. I'd be curious to ask Ser Rygar why one of his men stayed behind after he left, were you aware that Master Howard was at Terrick's Roost when you arrived, Ryker?" Jaremy asks, eyebrows rising as he shifts his weight to his other foot. "At any point, though, I'm going to insist myself and my sworn see your entourage and any other leaving to the border. Jarod is right in this matter. This is a killing on our land and it needs to be investigated, regardless of the motive. You will be escorted to your borders as clearly you suspect treachery. Complain all you want Ryker, but these are Terrick lands and I will escort you whether you like it or not." He takes a step back, nodding to his siblings. "Please do extend my personal apologies for the disruption to the Lady Igara, Lucienne, and Jarod? Thank you for your vigilance in this matter."

"It happened on our land, my lord, so I'll hold us in poor account for you until this villain is found, even if you'll not," Jarod says to Ryker. "Anyway. We'd best settle up with your men here quickly, then your Ser Brody and I should be off to town. Perhaps the Sheriff will know more by then, or have someone in locks for it, the Father willing." The Father's face of the Seven, he means, not his own. Not that he sounds particularly optimistic. To Jaremy he says, "It's my understanding that Master Howard came to town with Lord Ryker on this errand. Though he had visited the Roost before with Ser Rygar. Anyway, Jaremy, I'll like not be about the castle much longer, could you make sure Father knows what little of this there is to know? And when Jace wakes, best get him up to speed about this as well. Might do better for him to get a handle on where the Valentins were when all of this occurred than me. Jace - Lord Jacsen, that is - is another of our brothers, Lord Ryker. He's a bit more…subtle than me." Hard to imagine someone less subtle than Ser Jarod, of course.

"Of course, Lord Ser Nayland," returns Lucienne with a dip of her head and another, shallower, curtsy. "Anything I might do to assist you after such a shock. Do you require assistance to ready yourself and your party for the trip home? I can see to that, too, if you've need." Going out of her way to be polite, all spoken with the smallest of smiling curves - just enough to sympathetic. "Of course, m'lord," is her response to Jaremy, and to Jarod she adds, "Lord Jacsen has been anticipating an audience with Lord Ser Valentin since his return, I am certain he would welcome the opportunity to involve himself in the resolution of this matter."

Ryker shakes his head. "Master Howard arrived with me, as Ser Jarod has indicated. He left for Terricks Roost with me and returned with Ser Rygar the day I departed. I recall the displeasure on his face at turning around and heading back out. Rygar was unaware of my travel plans when he returned to Stonebridge. As for the escort," the Lord levels his eyes at Jaremy, "I do not want you risking yourself but as you have stated, for once you may be able to provide me dictates." He then looks to Jarod and nods. "Do as you must, Ser Jarod. Do not allow me to keep you from your work. As for your other brother, well, may he have better luck. I will keep my distance from the Valentins for now. I believe seeing them might cause my blood to boil over." He angles himself lastly to look at Lucienne. "No, I will be fine. Though I need to attend to a few things as I will be departing in haste once Ser Jarod has spoken to my men." He dips his head as if preparing to go.

"Regardless of your suspicions, Ser Ryker, I would invite you to view this as a fault in our security before allowing your blood to boil over the edge as neither my Lord Father or myself would allow fighting amongst our guests. I thank you for your current, admirable restraint. If there is fault in this murder by any of our guests, rest assured that my brother will find it, but as it stands just yet the reason behind this death has yet to be discovered. I will have some of our sworn provide you with additional security should you leave the safety of Four Eagles Tower." Jaremy gives Ryker the famed 'Jerold Stare', pointedly reminding Ser Ryker of the rules behind his stay. Turning back to his siblings, he issues the pair a sharp nod and turns to leave. "If Father and Jacsen are not yet awake I will make sure that they receive a missive. Seems our day has begun early. Best of luck to the both of you."

Jarod nods to Jaremy and Lucienne, and on that note he'll be off with Lord Ryker to see what can be made of the Nayland men in the castle.

"Lord Ser Nayland," allows Terrick's daughter, as the man prepares to go, though it sounds more a stay than a farewell. "Do accept my congratulations on your new union, and if it please you, convey them to your wife, the Lady of Stonebridge. I only regret that you have not the inclination to linger here, that we might be better acquainted. May the Seven see these matters resolved properly in good time, Lord Ser. We've been honored by your presence." Lucienne dips yet another curtsy, having kept Ryker long enough with her incessant girly chatter. Jarod receives a bow of her head to take his leave. Deciding to forgo her fast breaking a little longer, she offers to Jaremy: "I will take with me an attendant and see to it the Lord Jacsen is risen. He would be most upset to have lain idle with sleep while we act upon this." Inviting no argument, she moves to retreat as the others do. What a busy day ahead at Terrick's Roost!