|Not To their Credit|
|Summary:||Bruce catches up with his former master.|
|Related Logs:||Lord Paramount's Council|
|Battlements - Riverrun|
|Crenelated sandstone, flying red and blue leaping trout banners.|
|09 November, 288 A.L.|
The Lord Paramount has gone largely unseen since the day of the first meeting. Scribes and retainers have been coming and going in a flurry, but one of the advantages to being patriarch of your House is that others can be assigned to the tedious work of research and study. It is during the Lord's semi-daily exercise of walking the battlements that a particular former master of foot might catch a moment with the Lord of Riverrun.
Bruce is wearing a freshly cleaned tunic with his own knightly heraldry as well as House Nayland of Tordane's badge, sewn into the corner. He looks as if he's just come fresh from a bath and is both well rested as well as alert. Naturally sleepy looking blue eyes dart to and fro around the room, before they rest on Lord Hoster Tully. An easy smile comes to Bruce's lips, and he offers a curteous bow. "M'lord. Afternoon."
"Ahh, Ser Longbough," Hoster greets, huffing only slightly from the mild exertion, his own lined face creasing in a smile. "Up, up," he bids Bruce rise from the bow with a small motion of his fingers. "Have you come to reconsider your departure, Ser?" he wonders, with a knowing grin warming the words.
Bruce chuckles as he rises up from his bow, offering an amused shrug. "I fear that were I to do so, m'lord, my wife would beat me over the head for moving her and Tim around the Riverlands so. She's pregnant again. But, on the whole, life here was certainly easier."
"Good news, very good," Hoster voices to word of another baby on the way for his former retainer. "Does Stonebridge agree with her, then? Or would she be irate simply out of principle?"
"A little bit of the first, a little bit of the second, m'lord. She yearns for Riverrun but likes the simplicity of rural life, I suspect. As do I." Bruce pauses for a second to consider a thought before continuing. "The position is not nearly as defensible as here, and I've only twelve professionals to work with, including myself and my good brother. But I suspect the challenge does good for me. I hope I will never have to rise to the occassion."
Hoster Tully motions for Bruce to walk along with him, a pair of steps ahead of the guard and attendant who follow Lord Tully about on his exercise. "You should have little need of them," the Lord opines of Bruce's dozen professionals. "That number is more than enough to deal with the odd bit of brigandage, and nothing worse has threatened the inlands for over a hundred years."
"To be truthful, they are more cautious than most, the Naylands that I now work for, m'lord. Which isn't a bad thing." Bruce matches Hoster's easy pace, clasping his hands behind his back. "The levies are drilled weekly. At first, the residents didn't appreciate that. But, if there ever was an attack by sea brigands, or who knows who… well, that would serve them well. I think they are unfortunately maligned, though of course, I'm now working under a bias, m'lord."
Hoster Tully's reaction is one half between disdain and disregard. "Sea brigands? Really, Ser Bruce. Stonebridge sits upriver of Seagard, the best defended castle in the Riverlands after my own. I think we can both acknowledge that it is their neighbors, not the Ironborn, who your new masters fear. Rickart Nayland, for all his sloth in answering my own summons, is more hawkish than the emblem of the Terricks will ever be."
Bruce has lost his smile, dipping his head in acknowledgement. "You're right, but I think it's part of the story. And I also suspect that them being slow had much to do with them being under House Frey… I don't remember seeing the two towers until after our last charge, at the Trident. But that's past." He rubs the back of his head. "Still, yes, they do live in permanent caution of the Terricks, something that's unfortunate. I think the status of Stonebridge has much to do with the current problems… Still, if sea brigands were to land at the Cape of Eagles and not Ironman's Bay, then they would be able to simply bypass Seagard and strike inland for plunder. It would not be without precedent, m'lord."
"Bah!" Hoster grunts, with an annoyed expression twisting his features. A waved hand accompanies his next words, "Of course they waited on the Late Lord Walder. That is not to their credit, Ser." As for Bruce's mention of Ironmen bypassing Seagard, "Jason Mallister is the First Guardian of the Riverlands, not Rickart Nayland. And certainly not his insolent traitor of a nephew."
"You're right, of course, but others than the First Guardian must prepare? A defense in depth, m'lord. Strong in many places. With a well trained levy, which by my eyes Stonebridge and the Mire are, we could hold out until Lord Jason would be able to show up and destroy the enemy. Or perhaps they would move on to easier picking, and slowly bleed off their strength until they are easier dealt with. We've been having… issues, with bandits in the area. A local concern, but it shows that there are the normal problems." One might note that he had included himself in the 'we' part, reckoning his strength among the Naylands. Bruce frowns. "I don't think I'm doing a very good job of ingratiating myself to you anymore, m'lord." His lips invert back into a smile, and he chuckles.
Lord Tully sniffs shortly, huffing aloud, "I should say not, Ser," to Bruce's last chuckled words, which do manage to steal back at least a small measure of Hoster's humor. "You're repeating the words of men who have made themselves a thorn in my thumb for years, and now stand to threaten the peace of my domain. Tell me truly: if it were announced that the Terricks are to have Stonebridge, would not the Naylands break peace with their neighbors, to keep it? How a house with so little can keep so much pride I shall never understand."
"M'lord, I will answer honestly - I do not think they would. They would be angry, yes, and we know of their self-righteousness, so there would be that too… but they would not be as stupid as to defy the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands and his judgement in such a matter. Regardless of their past, they came here for a fair judgement because they know you are a just and fair liege lord. I can vouch for that. It's rare that a man of my birth would rise to be Master of Foot of one of the Seven Kingdoms' regions, but I was, because I had a just liege lord." Bruce looks over to the Lord of House Tully, once more serious. "My personal opinion, as someone who came from the outside and has no desire to see an important bulwark of the Riverlands sundered based on petty disputes, is that the matter has become too confused with mutual hatred and distrust at the local level. Had Jaremy Terrick married Lady Isolde Tordane as Lord Geoffrey so put into his testament, then Ser Gedeon likely would have came to the Naylands for help. It almost feels like someone who is a veritable outsider stirring ancient animosities for his benefit, does it not? It has certainly worked, with both House Terrick and House Nayland. But who benefits, ultimately? Ser Gedeon. Not the region."
"That is a pot which stirs itself, Ser," Hoster grouses at the mention of stirred Terrick/Nayland hostilities. He frowns in further thought as more steps are taken. "Your masters have done themselves no favors in bringing this forward now, Ser Longbough: it paints Valda Tordane as faithless, even while they claim her to be faithful." Another dismissive motion. "I do not wish to further discuss this matter, Ser."
"You're right about that, m'lord. It's unfortunate that neighbours don't want to be civil… I saw enough of that where I was born, between my House Blackwood and House Bracken. It does us no credit, as Riverlanders." Bruce shakes his head. "I understand, m'lord."
Hoster Tully groans again at the mention of Blackwoods and Brackens. "I can only be thankful that Terrick and Nayland are not so powerful as Blackwood and Bracken. Why must I be surrounded on every side by bannermen so keen to cut each others' throats?" he bemoans with a rueful smile. "Is it too much to expect that after such a war, I be granted a few years of peace?"
"I think it's our lot in life, m'lord, to be constantly foiled. I would blame somebody specific, but I doubt that it's that simple, so I offer alms to the Gods and hope they will sort it out. Doesn't seem to be working." Bruce laughs. "Maybe I'm too insignificant."
The Lord Paramount exhales, with the words, "I am weary of this," non-specific as to whether he speaks of the topic, or his present walk. It is to the latter that he calls upon his attendants, "I will return indoors. Have a small supper prepared." Answered with the expected bow and words of obedience, Hoster looks back to Bruce. "When you return to Stonebridge, tell your wife that I will have a prayer to the Mother given by the Septon on her behalf. Luck be with you, Ser Bruce."
Bruce appears a bit taken aback by Lord Hoster's offer of prayer; he bows at him. "I'm honoured. As always, House Tully remains in mine. I wish you well and a good eve then, m'lord."
Hoster Tully nods to Bruce's bow and words, offering a brief smile, and pat of his hand to the knight's shoulder as he turns to take his leave. The strength of the Lord Paramount's hand is noticeably less than it was in years past, despite his added weight.
Bruce notes the weariness of his former lord but says nothing, moving off where he came from. He's got much to think of.