Page 467: Of Gods and Men and Duty
Of Gods and Men and Duty
Summary: When Einar comes looking for Nerys, the conversation tuns to Serious Things(tm). Anathema doesn't help at all.
Date: 02/11/2012
Related Logs: None specifically.
Anathema Einar Nerys 
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.
02 Nov, 289 AL

Hard work and industry, seems to be the call for the day, at least if the sounds coming from the guests room set aside for the youngest Flint in residence at Tordane Tower is any indication. The door to the chamber itself is left open, allowing a breeze to come in from the window. But it's the presence of Nerys' sworn, Josef, settled leaning against the doorjamb, looking in on the activity in the room, more than anything else, that indicates that the woman is also within. For the woman herself, she's dressed in a light, comfortable working shift, seeming less concerned with the breeze or the activities without as she is on the tapestry she's weaving on her loom. The image itself is a forest scene, tall, dark oaks, circling around an old, venerable weirwood. The face a kindly one, benevolent. "Jaqlyn, do you have the next spool of cloth of gold ready?"

It hardly seems any time at all since Einar arrived at Stonebridge, and yet he's already planning his departure back to Highfield. It looks like he'll be riding back with a few more people than initially planned though, as the Lady Steward and her brother have been penciled into the party as well. The final member of the entourage, not counting the maids and armsmen, is his little cousin, even if she might not be quite such the little cousin as he remembers anymore. Approaching her room his step is light on the floor of the corridor and he gives Josef a brief nod in greeting before asking, loudly enough for his voice to carry inside, "Is Lady Nerys in?" Of course, he knows the answer without having to ask, but it should give those inside enough time to prepare for his entrance should they need to.

Sadly for the Tower gossips, Nerys is much too mundane in her day to day life to do anything scandalous that might need cleaning up before the arrival of a guest. And so, the answer comes quickly enough, "Cousin, I'm here, you're welcome to come in." Most of the lady's things, such as she will need for the ride back, are already packed. What isn't packed is currently under Marisa's baleful eye. It's likely Nerys would not look half so put together, if not for the fashion sense of her lady's maid. "I'm trying to finish. I'm not certain…well, it will have to be done by tomorrow. It's for her hope chest."

Einar gives Josef a quick 'carry on the good work' smile before pushing the door open a little further so he can enter. "Cousin," he offers with a warm smile, before striding over to take a look at her work. "Tall Oaks?" he asks after a moment's consideration, knowing enough out the forests to identify the trees. "I'd offer to help," he then adds, "but I fear I'd slow you down more than aid. Is there anything else I can do though, to help? I traveled light so need little time to prepare my own things." Marisa is given a brief nod in greeting as she is spotted, although most of his attention remains on Nerys.

Josef returns the nod, his expression still slightly amused as he looks in on his charge. Nerys, for her part, just keeps weaving, finding some comfort, perhaps in the steady movement of the shuttle as she seems to be working on edging the tapestry, the main design having long since been finished. "Yes…I know it won't, couldn't be the same, but…perhaps she will not look at it unkindly." The girl does have her heart in the right place, even if she doesn't always get the gestures right. "Oh, I only have to let Marisa choose the dresses I will carry back with me. I won't be staying for long beyond the festivities. Did you know there's to be a craft fair in the next few sevendays? But you're very kind to offer." She sets aside the shuttle, rising to make her way to her cousin, standing up on tiptoes, briefly, to kiss his cheek, if he allows, before she stands back to study the work from a distance, "Will you come back to Stonebridge with me?"

Einar has found, that having tried, he can't actually remember much about how Tall Oaks looked, he hadn't been often, and not for along time. Now though, all he can think of when he brings it to mind is what little remains. Nodding his understanding he offers what is hopefully an encouraging, "I think she will appreciate it greatly," Tia after all, not generally being one to get touchy about such things. "I have heard of the fair, what merchants are about have been talking about it all the time I have been here," he answers, still smiling. He does not move to block the kiss, just looks faintly awkward in the way that some boys do. Moving on from that quickly he answers with, "I don't know. Last time I was out there the progress on the port was going well, but Anders might need me there, or there might be developments with Corrie. It can not be long now after all."There's worry in that last bit, not that he's an expert, but as Anders has said, the Young Lady of the house has not had an easy few months.

Nerys seems not to take notice of her cousin's awkwardness, or perhaps she just knows not to mention those sorts of things, and she's quickly enough returning to the loom, settling back into the process, "I hope so. I knew her for only a short while." Before both of their world's change. And not entirely for the better…or for the worse, "Yes, I suppose Anders will want you with him. Or else how will you learn to be a great knight?" Once she's comfortable, she looks over, leaving off long enough to indicate one of the seat or the bed, "You don't have to stand. And I've been seeing what I can find out about the sort of trade that passes through Stonebridge." Silence, a heartbeat, before she picks up again, "Einar, will you do something for me? Since you will likely see the port long before I do? See they build a new gods wood, and leave room for a weirwood?" As for Corrie…Nerys nods, "It has not been easy, but only the gods can decide her fate now."

"He may do," Einar answers with a brief nod, "or he may decide to see how I handle things without him. With him devoting so much time to the building he's been doing that more recently, although I suppose that once it's up he'll want to teach me to run it, or at least have a hand in it." Not that Einar's sure if this intense concentration on Ander's part is a result of the project finally being underway after all the months of southerners faffing, or a distraction from the problems he can not solve for Corrie. Selecting the window seat he makes himself comfortable before continuing, "do you think it's worth it cousin? I mean, teaching me to be a great knight, given he's allowing me to take the cloth afterwards? I can see that leaving it unfinished after all this time would be a waste and I'm going to see it through, but is it a waste of his time?" He looks thoughtful, as is often his way, although her company means he doesn't retreat entirely into his own thoughts. That and her request pulls his attention back to the present, "I will do what I can," he offers sincerely, "I would image that if he intends to spend any time there himself, and I believe he does, then he will plant one anyway. I know being so far from one for so long has been a cause of pain for him, and for Corrie since we left the Finger."

"Is it a waste to teach someone to read, to write, to read maps, to know the people and the lay of the land? Is it a waste to learn to protect yourself and others under your charge? Those are skills every noble learns. Some put them to use running a House, others use them hardly at all, and instead partake in feeding their base needs and desires. You will never run your father's household, if you take the cloth and dedicate your life to your seven gods, but why would everything you have learned before be wasted? Your experiences in war and in service will allow you to counsel those who come to you from a place of experience. You will share with them what you know, not just what you believe because you have read it in books. You will have lived and learned, before you set yourself away from the world and its troubles. To my mind, that makes you more useful than most of the septons I have met in my travels, limited though they have been. And Anders' time will not be wasted either. Because he will have learned patience, tolerance and the understanding that it takes to be a teacher, long before his children are old enough to need his guidance." Nerys nods, considering Einar's words between her own, "I sent Mattias and three of the household men back to the North. They set out along the King's Road. If the gods are kind, they will bring us back a sapling for the godswood." A journey of months upon months, to go that far north, far enough to find a weirwood still a sapling. "They have promised to write, to send word when they can."

Einar listens intently, and in silence as Nerys answers. It's a fuller answer than he was expecting thats for certain, although it contains the arguments he had mentally assigned to that answer, and a few new ones besides. After a moment of mentally filing away the sections of her answer he replies, "I think your brother is a more patient man than you might remember, and I can not claim to be the cause of all of that but yes, I concede to your points. All of them." As for the sapling search he runs through a mental map of the settlement, both what he's seen in plans and on the ground, "I think I know somewhere where there is space, where it would be fitting. When we are back to Highfield this weekend I will ensure that it is set aside and made ready for when they return south. Possibly also I should ensure there is a place, or a room at least for a sept, so wherever the merchants and sailors are from they can find their Gods, even if only for a short time."

"Well, it stands to reason. He is the Young Lord now, in truth, not just in name. And father has given him a great responsibility. He will not always remain in the south, of course. He will have to return to the Finger one day, to take his place as head of House, but perhaps by the time that time comes, he will have found someone to manage our House's affairs for him." Nerys pauses, the shuttle hanging loose in her left hand, "These Riverlanders are a strange folk. Always plotting. Always acting. As if truth and honesty were some foreign thing, as foreign as we are. I do not like it here. I miss looking into a man or a woman's eyes and seeing real honesty there." A snort, as Nerys tosses her head, flicking her hair out of her face, before she starts her weaving again, "I would be glad for a little place. And I think it is a good thing, to build a Sept as well. Your Gods are not mine, but I would give them as much respect as I would give my own, and I know Anders would feel the same."

Einar nods to that remark about respect, "especially as the land is technically southern, a fair amount of the traffic, either by land or sea will not be our kinsmen." It's be a bit of a rubbish port if there were after all. "I know what you mean about the southerners though, and I believe our cousin the Lady Steward still struggles, even after all this time. She is hoping to come with us, I'm not sure if I mentioned, with her brother. She worried that as a Nayland by marriage she might not be welcome." Hence Emrys as escort, not her husband. "I think perhaps that your brother was hoping I would fill that place," he answers, switching back to the previous conversation thread, "I think though that it might be an outlet for Anselm. I regret I did not get to know him well, but his time with my mother's house should have prepared him to handle southerners on a day to day basis. I worry what my Lord Father will say though, and must confess that I haven't told him yet. Perhaps if a husband he approves of can be found for Elissa then he will not take it so hard." He;s not sure yet if his father will be there at the wedding or not, so partially his words are a warning to Nerys that some news has not travelled north to the family elders.

"We all have our duties, Einar." Nerys pauses, looking up from her work and over towards her cousin, where he's sitting at the window. "Mine is to defend my home, wherever that may be. And to spread my legs for whomever my father or my lord brother decide. What I want, what I hope, what I dream for is of no consequence. But that is the choice I have made, to be the daughter I was born to be and not the woman I might otherwise make for myself. It seems to me, that you too have your duty. But perhaps your duty is not to the Blind Lord's Tower. And perhaps it is not being your father's heir. I do not know you well, but you seem to have no great desire to walks the row your father has plowed for you. You have been given a chance to do as your duty and your heart and your faith bid you. That is not a gift that many ever receive. It would seem a churlish thing to set aside your dreams and your duty for the sake of your father's wishes. You might well become the heir he wants you to be, but you would not be happy in your place and in your life. And in the end, your 'duty' would destroy you." Nerys slides the shuttle through the threads before she continues, "Even Anders, the Young Lord of your House has seen where your true duty lies, and he is willing to accept the loss of you to our House to allow you leave to follow your heart. Why do you continue to question your road?"

"Our duty is to be useful, not according to our desires but according to our powers," Einar quotes, in a rough imitation of his father's voice. "Those were the first words my Lord Father said to me when he returned from King Robert's war. He didn’t shirk in repeating them either, until Anders agreed to take me on." He pushes himself to a standing position and moves closer to the loom, taking a seat where he is nearer to his cousin. "I think," he starts, with a degree of certainty that indicates he's thought about this a lot, "that it boils down to one thing. Is it bravery and strength of will to turn from what is predestined and forge your own path, or cowardice to turn from a duty that needs doing but offers no satisfaction? You say my duty is to my faith, my Lord Father says it is to the family. Anders gives me the freedom to choose." He then adds, more academically than emotionally, "I will be frank with you, if I may cousin, and admit that I do not know if it is a bold move or if it is cowardice, and that is why I continue to question. My Lord Father is no fool, and he seems so adamant. I am certain that he already plans which ladies I should court once my knighthood is granted and I am no longer bound to your brother's side. He thinks of grandchildren and a continuation of his line, but he also thinks to the good running of the land your father grants him."

Nerys doesn't stop Einar, nor dissuade him from his imitation of his father's voice, or his approach, "And who decides what our powers are? Is the ability to minister to those in need not a power? Certainly it is not a power that has been given to many, or the world would be overrun with holy men and women." Nerys does stop in her weaving, setting aside her thread and letting the loom fall still to give Einar her full attention. "Einar, Cousin. There is no predestination in the life into which we are born. The very House that has granted us guest right bears that out. There was no House Ashwood until choice and the good grace of a liege Lord saw fit to allow them to continue as a noble House. A name, a noble title, these are not things given to us by the gods, as the gods have given us hearts and minds and bodies to do their will. We are the Flints of Flint's Finger…and yet, before our ancestors left the First Flints to strike out on our own, we did not exist. And if King Robert or the Lord Paramount of the North should decide that we no longer deserved the privileges of nobility, we would be cast out, no better than our smallfolk. Noble titles, Houses, heirs, these are things men have built, not the gods. And only the gods can create and shape our true destiny." Nerys holds out her hands, palms turned up. Smaller and more delicate than Einar's, perhaps, but no less calloused. No noblewoman's hands these. "It is cowardice to turn away from the paths the gods have chosen for you. It is bravery and strength of will to take the hard road. The road that leads to your true path, come what may. Your Father sees only to the preservation of his line. He cannot be faulted for that. That is his way. That is the way of most Lords, who are bred to think only of the preservation of their House. But take heart in knowing that House Flint will not fall because you choose to walk the path that has been set out for you." Nerys' lips quirk into that wicked smile, so very different from her brother's normal dour expression, "After all, we survived Rodrick Flint." And that's saying something.

Einar takes Nerys' hands in his and speaks openly and without pretense. "I must confess cousin, that I do not know. I have had time enough over these past months to think it over and I am still unsure as to what is right. I know what I wish, it is what your brother has allowed and the path I intend to take, for good or ill." Releasing her hands he stands once more and paces back to the window. "My concern is that I do not know what my Lord Uncle will say, should he hear. I hope and pray that he will let Anders' decision hold, but should he find out while your brother is in the south and there is only my Lord Father to offer him counsel.." He lets that hangs for a moment, reckoning the implications obvious enough. "Now, you might argue that such would be a temporary setback at worst, until your brother is Lord, but I fear what use would be made of that time." His tone is still very academic, and he's expressing scenarios that have occurred to him rather than making an emotional appeal. "I am certain that I would be married, your Lord Father is showing no signs of slowing so it is not out of the question to assume children. Could I then abandon them for my own wishes? I honestly can't say that I could or could not and such is why I have endeavoured to prevent the news spreading north until my choice can not be challenged." He turns back to her with a faintly amused smile and adds "oh, and thank you for comparing me to Rodrick, I would be flattered were it anyone else."

Nerys' hands are strong, her grip firm, as she listens, "If you intend to walk the path, Einar, then your decision is made, whatever the cost to the family." Once her hands are free, Nerys rises as well, following her cousin back to the window, looking past him, and out to the view of the land beyond it. "You are unsure if the path you intend is right, because it is also what you wish. Perhaps that is because we do not live the way we wish. That is the onus of being noble. We look down on our smallfolk, and yet…" Nerys looks back, to where Josef is standing, his expression ever watchful, and then to her maids, bustling about the chamber. "We look at them as a class beneath us, and yet…what freedom they have…to live as they choose, to love as they choose…to walk the road that suits them best." She smiles, catching her sworn's eye, then turns back to her cousin, "You should not concern yourself with my Father. He will understand. He has a good heart. And he could have made many demands of you that he did not make. He did not have to allow you to squire with Anders. Flint's Finger is full of men at arms that might have taught you what was needed. He might have demanded that your father return you to the Finger and that you marry your goodsister. But he has not. Do not judge all men through the eyes you see your father with, cousin." That smile returns, at his thanks, "I did not say you were Rodrick, Einar, only that in the light of that catastrophe, your own choice is not such a difficult thing to recover from." Nerys tilts her head, studying Einar's face, "Do you hear your gods, Einar? Do they speak to you?"

Einar had not expected Nerys to follow him, but that's not to say it isn't a welcome gesture. His gaze follows hers to Josef at the door and then to the maids and he gives a thoughtful shrug, "I suppose, although I will admit that I had never thought about it in that manner." It's his cousin that gets his attention then as he gestures for her to sit before he does once more. "You know the mind of your Lord Father better than I, so I will take your points." They make sense as well, which helps, even if he's still not convinced he wants to risk work leaking back to his own father. "I do not that, that much as we care for each other as family, that myself and Tia would have made a very good match," he continues, "but you are right the he could have. Emrys suggested the same as it happens." As for the Seven, he shakes his head at that, although it's not an ashamed denial, nor one that seems to be of issue to him. "No. Not in that way that the Old Gods speak to Corrie, or as I heard, the Lady Steward, they have not the same tendency, even to their priests. I see the results of their actions though and feel their guidance at times. I don not know cousin, how much you are aware of their nature, so forgive me if I speak it simply, but I open my heart mostly to the Crone, she who brings wisdom, for if I can see a path clearly then there may be no need of the Warrior's strength or the Father's judgement."

"Most do not think of the smallfolk." It's not said with any amount of heat, as Nerys settles into the window seat Einar vacated not so long ago, smoothing the fabric of the plain working shift she's been weaving in, settling so that Einar has enough room to join her. "She has a gentle heart, that much I think has not changed. She would have been a good match for you. But she was also given a gift, was she not? To marry as her heart dictated?" It is said that the Flint woman and her Ashwood Lord are deeply in love, "I know only some small amount. But I think few speak to the Old Gods as the Young Lady or Auntie Ana do. Certainly they have never spoken to me that way. But they speak in other ways. In subtle ways." A nod, as she listens to Einar's explanation of some of the aspects of his gods, "You pray to her for wisdom, but do you open your heart to hear what she would say to you? Or are you too caught up in your fears to hear? One lesson I learned at Lady Maege's table…fear has a way of drowning out the sounds of all good sense around us."

"The Gods do not always speak in words, my dears," comes that smooth and rich contralto from the opened doors. Anathema Nayland stands just within the threshold in a gown of deepest green. Her dark hair is up in a careful twist. She is wearing a relaxed smile that gently touches the corners of her dark eyes, exposing the only hints of wrinkles her usually smooth and ageless face hides. She nods her head gently to Josef as she steps inside further, casting a quick glance about the room before she focuses her attention once more on the pair.

Einar seems almost faintly troubled by Nerys' first statement, it's something he's tried to consider when he can, yet it seems he was concentrating on only a part of it, the part where the smallfolk are the most important responsibility of a lord, not how they might feel or be themselves. It's something he will have to think on but given there is conversation he puts it to the back of his mind. Perhaps it'll be something to ponder over on the ride to Highfield. As for the Crone, the best answer he can give to that is an honest, "I try to. I can not always claim to manage, but then we are none of us perfect and able to do everything all of the time." Anything else he might be likely to add to that is cut off by the voice from the door. Glancing back that way, almost guiltily he spots Anathema. He's momentarily unsettled, not sure how much she heard, nor the degree of a relationship she has with his father. He pushes those thoughts away though and rises politely to his feet again, smiling as he greets the new arrival, "Cousin, do sit, please." He, he is man, he will stand. Or maybe get a chair.

"Just so, Auntie." Nerys too rises, out of deference to the older Flint (FLINT damnit, not Nayland) woman's age and status. "We must look and listen for them in all things, and filter them from yourself." But on the subject, for the moment, she says no more. Save only yo answer Einar's comment, "I do not think the gods ever expect us to be perfect. If we were, we would be gods ourselves." As Einar is handling finding Anathema a seat, Nerys turns to something else she heard, "Auntie, Einar tells me your brother is in Stonebridge. Have I met him?" Only once and with no more attention than any twelve year old who registers 'another adult she doesn't know', in passing in the wake of the Rebellion. "And you'll go to the wedding with us?"

"Einar, do not look quite so conscience-stricken," their Auntie Ana offers with a comforting smile. "The Old Gods are not ones to begrudge a man of the Seven anymore than thunder begrudge lightning." She then releases a bit of a laugh at Einar's words. "Sit, young Cousin… I'm not too old yet to stand on my own." Though she doesn't object if the boy goes to find her a seat, allowing them all comfort. She regards Nerys now, bowing her head a bit. "Emrys Flint. You may have met him before, dear girl. But he was also fostered up at the Mountains for a time." Then she bows her head a bit. "Emrys has agreed to be my escort so I may be apart of the Flint contingent."

Einar maneuvers a chair closer to the window, he'd meant it for himself so that the two ladies could share the window seat, but if Ana seems set on it then he'll move back to his previous position beside Nerys. "I think you are right cousin," he offers to Nerys, then stops himself realising that this could get confusing very rapidly. "Nerys," he changes that to before turning back to Ana and looking faintly apologetic, "such were not my exact thoughts.." and there's that awkward pause again. Cousin? He's not sure he knows her well enough to use anything less formal, so it's either that or moving in the opposite direction towards Lady Steward or such. "Cousin" it is then as he then continues, "but you are correct. Corrie has said the same before. HE smiles at the news that the others will be joining the ride, the more of the family that can be gathered the merrier after all. Well, mostly anyway. "I am glad well shall have your company," he offers, including Emrys in that as well, "the road seems shorter with more to share it with."

Nerys settles back into her seat, Einar the seat beside her, "We were discussing two paths. Following the will of the gods, or following the will of men, Auntie. Which do you choose? The path that is expected of you, or the path that the gods have ordained for you? And if you should follow the gods, how do you reconcile the loss to men?" Again, that thoughtful expression, "I know his name…but I cannot place a name with a face." A hand rises, waving away the frustration. "I suppose I will have to wait until tomorrow."

"How do you not know that the path you follow is not the path ordained for you?" Anathema inquires as she takes her seat, resting her hands in her lap with those long and pale fingers folded neatly together. She looks between the two Flint youths, and then she offers them both a smile. An admiring gaze looks down toward the tapestry, and she finds her heart weighed with a sense of longing. "My grandmother always said that the Old Gods are there to guide, but they are also there to test."

Einar nods as Nerys neatly sums up the discussion they'd been having, grateful that she's phrasing it in abstract terms. He does not know Anathema well after all. Not, when he thinks on that, does he know Nerys that well either, a little better perhaps but not much. Hmm, interesting. Once again though he stops himself from retreating down his own line of private though and turns his attention back to the conversation at hand. "I think same could be said of all Gods," he offers to Anathema, "well, yours and mine. From speaking with Septon Ulf on Harlaw I do not think perhaps that the same could be said for the Ironmen's Drowned God. Interestingly enough though, he does share several things in common with the Warrior and those of the islanders that do follow the Seven, do so in a way that I might almost have described as a cult to that one aspect." He stops himself there though, conscious that while he could go on much longer, it's a definite tangent from the main direction.

Nerys lifts a hand, gesturing with a flourish at Anathema as she asks her question, silently, though, the gesture clearly saying, 'See? That's just what I said.' But she at least has enough tact not to belabour the point, perhaps hoping that a woman of wider experience might be able to settle her cousin's mind, "Not the Drown God, no. The Drowned God orders, and tests the worthy by drowning them in sea water. They say, 'What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger.' Their religion is not a religion of free will and easy choices." Nerys smooths her hands over her skirts, pausing before she continues, "But that is not the answer to the question. What if the path of the gods is the path you were born to walk, and not some selfish desire? Would it be so wrong then, to have your head and your heart entwined?"

"I don't know much of the Drowned God," Anathema confesses. "Just as I don't know much of the Seven. My heart will always be with the weirwoods." She tilts her head a bit as she regards her lady cousin. "Well, but then you must ask why is it that men go bad, Nerys," she offers with a hint of devil advocacy. She does not provide her own answer yet as she waits to hear what the youths have to say.

"If you wish to Cousin, I could tell you what I learnt," Einar replies to Anathema, "although some other time perhaps." At the question of evil he falls silent, thinking for a moment before offering his own thoughts. "I would say that men go bad when they put their own needs and desire forward to the detriment of others. That is not to say that a man, or woman, choosing their own needs or their own advancement has gone bad, only if such a move hurts those they are responsible for. Smallfolk, family and the like."

A shake of her head, is Nerys' answer, "I think men go bad when they do not listen. When they do what they think right rather than what they know is right. Let us say, for example, that Anders did not wish to be Young Lord. But…he knows he must be Young Lord because that is what he was born to do. He hates the thought of it, but he believes that he has a responsibility to the family and to the smallfolk and so, he does it, regardless of his hatred for the task. But that hatred would soon turn to bitterness, first focused on himself and his place and then on the people around him, and then to the people of his holdings and on to the smallfolk. If you would be a good and just ruler of men, you must want to be god and just ruler of men. If you rule and have no heart for the task, then you do yourself and your house a disservice. And by extension, the smallfolk that look to you for safety and succor. As well, when one chooses to walk the path of the gods, whether as a septon of the seven, or a servant of the drowned god, or even as a priest of one of the many gods of the free cities? Do those priests and septons and servants not also minister to the people? The only difference is they do not see themselves as responsible only for the smallfolk that belong to a single House. They see themselves as responsible for all people. Even, in some cases, those who do not follow their gods. Is that responsibility any less important than the responsibility one has for a House's smallfolk?"

Anathema Nayland, though amongst her family she is truly and honestly a Flint, regards her cousins with a thoughtful air. She first considers Einar, but it is Nerys's words that draw much of her attention. "So much of our ways have been lost over the passage of time, with the end of the Heroes' Age. Though my mother's kin have always tried to uphold whatever teachings remain, the Old Gods are more companions and challengers compared to that of the Seven. They talk of Hells and Heavens, and of a Stranger who is only honored by silent women and outcasts. For those of Northern faith, in death, we merely hope that we remain that way." Dead, that is. Perhaps some have forgotten while Northern tombs are sealed in iron, but Ana hasn't. She then considers Nerys' questions. "I cannot speak for the New, but the Old have never really seen nobility."

Einar eyes Nerys a moment as she starts her example, marvelling for a moment at the glorious unsubtly of it. He almost corrects her at one point, to say that 'hating the thought' is possibly too strong, but figures that if she's one to the trouble to switch the dilemma to a hypothetical Anders then he probably shouldn't spoil the illusion. Turning to Anathema as she speaks, he listens quietly to her as well, both out of deference and interest in what she has to say. As she speaks though, he frowns a little, he accepts the validity of her points, yet fails to make anything more than a tenuous link from them back to the previous line of conversation. Once she's finished he remains silent a moment, mulling the words over again to see if there's something there he's missed. "I do see a difference," he starts, slipping back a little into comparative theology, "in the way the Stranger is venerated here then he is back in the Finger. It seems such a large change over such a relatively short distance but I think you might have a good insight there into the cause. In the same way that the follows of the Seven on the Iron Isles have a version of the faith that reflects their underlying culture, so I think do those of us in the North. I am no outcast, nor," he adds with an amused grin, "a silent sister, yet I ensure I honour him as the others. I grew up with the tails and the histories though. For those who are taught them only as a means to scare them into behaving as a child I can see why it might not be so much an issue."

Nerys seems content to divide her attention between her cousins, settled comfortably on her seat. "Can you not see the reason for the change in how they view the Stranger, the fear they have towards death? In the North, the threat of death is something we live with every day. Whether it is death by reaver, death by snowcat or bear, whether it is by the cold. Every day we must look it in the eye. We do not hide from it because we cannot hide from it. But here…this is, in many ways, a peaceful land. Death is a thing removed from them. They do not even tend their own dead, but summon sisters of their Faith to wash and cleanse the bodies. But Auntie is right on one account, and it is a point I made to Einar just shortly before you came, that it is not th Gods who created nobility, dictated that we should live in Houses and concern ourselves only with the success of our families and our smallfolk. These are things created by men. And you are still avoiding answering any of our questions, Einar."

"I cannot speak for the Seven," Anathema agrees with a tilt of her head. "We would have to ask the Andals, but just as the Children of the Forest are unfindable, so are them." Or at least true Andals, in Anathema's opinion. She casts a glance toward Nerys briefly. She does not speak more, almost intrigued to see the interaction between one of the Old and one of the New, and both young. She leans back in her chair now.

Einar nods his agreement to what Nerys is saying regarding the differing realities of death, the difference between the southern boundary of the North and the northern boundary of the South being surprisingly profound. Her comment about him avoiding questions though brings him up short, and he rejects anything else he might have said, opting instead for an apologetic look and the simple query of "Which questions cousin? I am sorry, I thought I had answered them all."

"The first question," Nerys offers, her tone still soft and conversational, "was, 'How do you not know that the path you follow is not the path ordained for you?.' The second was 'What if the path of the gods is the path you were born to walk, and not some selfish desire? Would it be so wrong then, to have your head and your heart entwined?' And the third was 'Is the responsibility a servant of the gods, whichever gods you follow, to care for all of the people of the realm any less important than a 'lord's' responsibility to care for only such smallfolk as his House supports?' These are not, granted, easy questions, but I think they are questions one must answer if you mean to choose between serving the gods and serving man."

It is about at this time that a man older than Tyroan, wrinkled with war and duty, steps into the threshold. He bows his head a bit. "Lady, your husband requires your attention," he says in a stony voice. Anathema looks toward the other two with a bit of a smirk on her lips. "Of course, Morgan," she says seamlessly before she starts to rise with a glance toward her cousins. "The Steward summons." There is a quirk of knowing amusement in her voice. "Nerys, be sure to tell me what Einar's answers are."

"I would counter the first with one of my own," Einar replies, "how do we know we are ordained a path at all? What if the options we have available are simply that, options, and part of life is learning to make those choices ourselves, so the Gods know who we truly are. I am not certain that we are ever born to do anything immutable." He ponders best how to explain that then decides to piggyback onto Nerys' 'example' from earlier. "Take the dilemma you put Anders in earlier, he was born to be Young Lord, but that does not mean he will not deviate from that path. Or another example, I do not believe I was born to follow the Seven, it is simply a choice I made, so the choice to walk the path of the gods rather than that of man is simply yet another choice, not something we are born for." He pauses there, uncertain if he's actually answering the questions or not. "Does that make sense?" he enquires briefly, before tackling number three. "I would say the responsibility is no less important, merely different. The Lord's responsibility relates more to the worldly needs, food, shelter, protection and so on, while the septon's is to the spirit and the mind. It is their task to bring comfort or provide spiritual guidance, provide an example for others to follow and such forth. Different, yet complementary responsibilities. In an ideal world perhaps the responsibilities of the Lord would be a matter of course, but we do not live in such a world and so it is that both are required." As Anathema rises he does do, the same deference as before on display as he nods his parting to her. Turning then to Nerys he checks, "does that answer your questions cousin?"

Nerys listens, quietly, attentively, as Einar puts his answer to her questions. She does not interrupt, correct or interject. A nod, as he asks if his words make sense, but nothing more, until he's finished. And even then, it's a small while before she answers, as Anathema is called away, and Nerys also rises in deference to the older Flint(FLINT damnit, not Nayland) "The work of a Lady Steward is never done, I am certain, Auntie. We are both very grateful for your company." But finally, as she remains standing, she turns to Einar, "If there was no path created for us, we would not use such words as pre-ordained and duty. All of life has choices. But some thing are chosen for us. Some things choose us. Whether we will or no." The smile returns, though not so wicked as before, "You say you do not believe you were born to follow the Seven….I will counter with this…I once had a woods witch tell me that it doesn't matter if you believe in the gods. They believe in you." But at the end, the smile softens, and Nerys reaches out to offer a light pat of Einar's arm. "It is enough for now. We will have time to talk again, I do not doubt that. Even if you will not be returning to Stonebridge with me."

"Many men, and women, great thinkers and tavern drunks alike have discussed the nature of duty before us cousin," Einar replies with a smile, "yet I do not know of anyone who claims to know it in its entirety." With the possible exception of his father that is. "You are right though, I have taken enough of your time away from your work. Perhaps this is a discussion to continue on the ride?" That said he moves from the window seat a final time, "We will need to make an early start in the morning I think, but such details can be finalised at dinner tonight. Until then I shall bid you goodbye." The maids get another nod, as does Josef and then he's gone once more into the corridor and the tower beyond.