|Of A Certain Age|
|Summary:||Aftermath of the issued challenge. Valda disapproves.|
|Related Logs:||Immediately following Answered As A Knight|
|Guest Suite - Tordane Tower|
|A modest room but with a large high bed that is set with four posts in rich mahogany. A blue rectangular rug is angled in the center of the room. A chest for storing the visitor's goods is at the foot of the bed and a grey blue cover settles over the bed. A hearth to the right of the windows which rests between it and the bed is done over with a iron screen meant to be removed when in use. A pair of chairs rest near the window and about a small circular table set with a candle. On the same wall as the door rests a low chest of drawers, a basin for water and a few wooden mugs rest there for use.|
|23 April, 289 A.L.|
Rygar had seen Lady Valda delivered to Tordane Tower, before turning the steed over to his squire to care for, and retiring to his borrowed chambers to remove his armor. The squire was bade not to join him, leaving the severe nobleman to attend his own harness.
Valda sees to her hawk, then cleans her face and hands. Taking a page out of the Sheriff's book, she knocks thrice, then walks in and closes the door behind her. "What is your plan to ensure success?" She folds her hands and stands rigidly, looking at him with a sharp gaze.
Rygar glances to the door at the knocks, but as Valda enters even as he draws a breath to bid her, "Come," he sets aside the maile hauberk worn beneath his coat of plates. Clad in gambeson, leggings and boots, the knight answers, "I am a gentleman of quality and a warrior proven, standing against a dissembling craven. It is a more noble end than he deserves," the nobleman concedes shortly.
"You are a man of a certain age going up against an honorless boy in his prime," Valda corrects. Taking two steps forward, she speaks more firmly. "I ask again: what assurance do you have of your victory? That you will not die?"
"I am not yet grown so weak, my Lady," Rygar answers with a dry curl to the words as he answers the mention of his age. As she steps closer, he answers plainly and a slowly drawn breath through flared nostrils and a match of his stare with hers, "I have no such assurance to give."
"You risk your life for what? Pride? To make a point? You have bought no time, for the Tullys will not arrive so soon. Not to mention that piece of filth is likely to use poisoned weaponry to take you down with him, even if he succeeds." Valda's cool voice begins to waver as her rage goes from ice to wildfire in a split second. "What were you thinking, Rygar?"
"That the Tullys shall not arrive in time was the point, my Lady," Rygar replies, words remaining level and stony. "Should the Pretender die before becoming invested, then there is no break in rule, nor precedent for further contest. If he dies in a legal challenge, the ire of Tully and Baratheon will be directed against me, but not the whole of my House, nor will there be whispers or further accusations against either your reputation or that of House Nayland." A sharp breath is drawn in, as he states crisply, "I undertake this not for pride or mere ire, but because this is the last honest course. Should I fear to stake my life upon a just cause?"
"That will make a moving speech at your funeral, ser," Valda quips wryly as her cerulean eyes turn nearly clear. "And there will always be whispers of poor reputation, but you already know that. So, it is a matter of honor, then? The last honest course, you say." She sniffs sharply and moves toward him.
Without asking, her deft fingers move to slip under the seam of his gambeson, attempting to untie any strings and allow the man's body to breathe in normal clothing again. Every movement jerks, threatening to tear apart anything her hands touch. "And on the off-chance you should fail, that he should live and you die, what then? Is the great Rygar Nayland truly out of ideas?" From this close, he can hear every inhalation grow sharper, every exhalation a bit shakier.
Rygar does not interrupt the Lady's movements, drawing and releasing a breath before answering. "Should I fail, and the Pretender outlive me, then justice is already dead. I have prepared the weapons for another to wield in my absence that shall reduce the Bastard and those who prop him up to ruin, the sword is poised at the Twins." A drawn breath. "Until such blows can be directed against him, the Naylands shall withdraw all wealth and folk of quality to the Fortress of the Sevens."
"No. You will not do this." Valda speaks as though she were a queen in her throne room. "Is that understood? I am certain your lord brother would agree." As the garment loosens fully, she wrenches it off and sets it down. At least, she means to. In actuality, it is tossed halfway across the room.
"Roland, for his other qualities, is not a warrior," Rygar states plainly, rolling his shoulders and moving to assist the removal of the gambeson, only briefly breaking eye contact. "My Lord Uncle would approve, as the failing in matters coming so far is seen to be with me. My cousins would agree, as I hold no place in the line of succession." He regards her plainly. "I will meet the Pretender or his champion, and I shall be redeemed or dead."
Valda's eyes narrow as he calmly explains the situation. Her jaw clenches and she hisses, "You will NOT do this thing! I forbid it!" As if she had any say in the matter.
"It is already done, my Lady," Rygar returns with the same calculated cold he had maintained thus far. "All that remains is to prevail."
"And if the decision is reversed? If you simply could not wait to meet the Stranger and it was all for naught?" Valda is quivering with barely-contained rage, her knuckles white as her hands clasp one another.
"Baratheon stole his own crown, and has decided the question against us despite every good service this House has offered, in war and peace. My Lady is possessed of an artful wit, but such pearls are wasted upon swine and stags. Your letter will do little more than kindle the fire beside which the Usurper beds his next whore." A sharply drawn breath, "There is no justice to be had in the Realm save that won through arms, or grovelling for favor. I have no taste for the latter."
"Just as I have no taste for seeing a man of quality throw his life away needlessly. Even if you kill him, you are dead, for he follows no rules of honor and is cowardly at heart." Valda growls. "Do not speak to me of justice, for that is not what you seek. It cannot be found in this life for any of us. You cannot deprive your House of the brightest mind it has. Send another Nayland in your stead. One of brawn and little brain."
"There is no other," Rygar maintains stubbornly. "With the insult I have given him, the Pretender will be pressured to accept this challenge himself. My House numbers many bold men, but none other who could best the Knight of Oldstones. If the Lady would esteem my mind so highly, she must also see: my judgement in this matter is cold and correct. The wretch who has stained your household and slandered your name will be within my reach. I do not intend to let him escape."
"I would keep the stain and slander if it means keeping you as well, you blind fool!" In the silence that follows those words, Valda realizes what she has admitted. Her anger redoubles out of sheer humiliation, causing her to grip her skirts harshly and turn to head for the door.
Rygar's stoneface does not slip, even as Valda's choice of words does. Whether for courtesy or distaste, the stern Nayalnd turns his eye away from the withdrawing Lady, not speaking to hold her while shamed.