|Summary:||Aubra talks of her lost love. Hardwicke and Jarod brood, one with more practice than the other.|
|Reading Room — Four Eagles Tower|
|The room has a large glass window and seat that looks out partially over the cove, in daylight hours the sun provides illumination to the room. Other stools and chairs linger in small groups as shelves along the walls are littered with scrolls, books, letters and documents. The contents are a modest collection of local records, histories, and literature offered to both the family and guests of Four Eagles Tower.|
|Mon Dec 26, 288|
Jarod Rivers is in the Reading Room. Something of an unusual event, in and of itself. He's not big on tasks that involve a lot of sitting still and being studious unless pressed to it. He's combing the shelves today, though, squinting at an old scroll with a furrowed brow. It's around midday, past lunch, but this part of the castle is never all that busy. He's alone at present.
The library, not somewhere you'd always expect a certain older lady either. Aubra, though, sometimes like to check on the fire of the reading room, making sure it's going, and if it's not, set it up again. Besides, there's comfy chairs in this room to sit in front of the fire on. So, she opens the doors to the little library and immediately makes her way to where the fireplace is, not paying all too much attention as to whether anyone else is here, not expecting that there is.
"Huh…" Jarod mutters into the document he's taken off the shelf, doing more squinting and brow-furrowing at it. Though he's not so deep into it that he misses the sound of another person entering. He looks up, face breaking into a broad grin when he spots Aubra. "Mistress Leetdan." Despite the respectful enough titling, his tone for the old woman is warm. "Didn't figure I'd see you in this bit of the tower. You looking for something particular?"
Aubra turns around slowly as the voice speaks up. "Well, well, well. If it isn't little Jarod. I didn't think I'd be seeing you in here either, hmm? Not like you're the kind for books." She smirks. "Little Jarod Rivers in a room meant for reading. Never in my days of helping raise you up would I expect to see you in a room like this willingly! Ha!" She shakes her head. "Nothing but the fireplace, if I be honest with you. That's all I'm looking for."
Jarod takes his document, which is a ledger on recent trade with the surrounding land holdings, and heads over to sit by the fire. "Little? Been taller than you for well over ten years now." He chuckles, shrugging. "Never really saw much use in studying more than I had to. Figured I wasn't going to ever do that sort of work. Might have to brush up on it now, though. My lord father's got a new assignment for me." He sounds rather daunted.
Making to bat Jarod, she holds her hand back and smirks at the young man. "That may be true, that. But I still remember when you were no taller than my knee, and pudgy as all could be!" Aubra laughs. "Oh, you could roll around better than any of your siblings, you could!" She shakes her head, taking her own seat. "So, little Jarod, what does bring you so willingly here?"
Jarod holds up a hand to playfully try and fend off the old woman's batting, not that he tries very hard. He laughs again. "Early armor, that was. Took me a few years to grow into it, I'll admit. And the rolling was highly useful." The last question gets a more serious answer. "Lord Tully ordered us and the Naylands to be a bit more neighborly after Riverrun. They want us each to send an…ambassador of sorts down Stonebridge way. Get trade relations a bit more open, and basically make nice so we don't start killing each other when King Robert decides…whatever he decides about the place. Lord Jerold's sending me, along with Lady Lucienne."
"Early armour? I used to say it was just more of you to jiggle what you got bounced on a knee!" Aubra cackles. "Oh, you used to jiggle something aweful! But now you're all grown up and you don't jiggle as proudly any more. Not now that you're a strapping young lad!" She shakes her head. "You and Little Luci are being sent down to Stonebridge? Pah. It doesn't need Terricks! I think some of them Naylands should come up here! But what do I know? I'm just a doddy old lady who helps take care of the Terrick household."
Jarod blushes at all that. "I did not jiggle! And I certainly don't anymore, thank you very much." He firmly proclaims this. "Aye. We'll be leaving on the morrow. How well I'll do at it I'm not sure, but Luci'll be there to help me, at least. I figure the Naylands will send someone up here soon enough. Not sure who. And you're hardly just a doddy old lady." He smiles. "How are you these days, Mistress Aubra? We all see you but rarely anymore, feels like."
"Of course you jiggled! Jiggling Jarod. That's what I called you sometimes!" Aubra states firmly, though there's a little twinkle in her eye. Perhaps she's just joking around? But, she could very well be serious as well. "If either of you miss some properly cooked meals, just call for me and I'll get transportation down there and cook you both some food. Who knows how well the cooks at Stonebridge are!" She nods firmly. "No…I'm a doddy old lady who can cook and patch people up and make clothing." She waves a hand dismissively. "Well you're all so busy these days that I'm surprised I get to see you at all! But I've been as well as can be expected. I'm keeping on doing what I'm doing." Pausing for a few moments, staring at the fire, when she talks again, she doesn't look away from the fire. "What do you know of this Lord Valentin?"
"Lord Ser Anton Valentin?" Jarod asks specific on the name, though there's really only one. And his tone is a bit guarded. "Not sure quite what to make of the man, to be honest with you. He's the sort, I think, who doesn't entirely like people to get a complete read on him. I know he's a great warrior. He broke a rib of mine in the Stonebridge tournament near six months ago, but it was the best fight I've ever been in. I also know he's got eyes for Luci. Not sure how I feel about that."
"Aye, I suppose that's the one." Aubra nods in acknowledgement. "I have been told that he and Luci have been getting to know each other better, and I want to make sure that he's not some fool…and that she's not a fool to be falling for him!" She finally turns away from the fire and looks at Jarod. "So he'd be able to protect her. I'm glad to hear it. At least we know that. I'd care to get to know more about what he's like on a personal level. What kind of…person he is." She takes a deep breath in. "You'll keep me informed if you be learning about him, won't you?"
"Falling for him?" Jarod frowns some at the notion. "I know he courts her with the intention of marriage. Not sure what her feelings on the matter are, though he's very…impressive. Aye. I suppose he'd be able to protect her. As for who he is personally…he and those in his service impress me as the sort of man who takes what he wants. How he treats it when he has it…I am less sure on." He looks into the flames himself, settling back. "Though I suppose some woman want a man who is not so…biddable. And find such treatment as Lord Valentin and his like give attractive. I don't know much about that sort of thing."
"She seem to be wanting to continue with their relationship." Aubra replies. "I'd rather get to know him myself, if I could. I may be just a servant, but I feel close to all you. I helped raise you. And I'd be horrible if I didn't want the best for you all." She shakes her head. "I guess I'll just have to keep prodding people and find out all I can." She murmurs. "Tell me, Little Jarod, are there any young women on the forefront for you?"
"You're no more just a servant than I'm just a bastard boy," Jarod says, looking up from the fire to offer Aubra a warm grin. "And…well, perhaps we are both that, but we're all grateful for you just the same." His grin fades at that question, and he shakes his head. "No. No, I do not think so, and that's for the best, I figure." Though he can't help but sound a touch deflated about it. He pauses a beat, eyes going back to the fire. "Have you ever been in love, Mistress Aubra?" Randomly.
"Anyone worth their knowing anything would know you're more than just a bastard! Well more than that!" Aubra says with a firm nod. Listening quietly to the young man, she raises an eyebrow. "For the best? Don't you ever let me hear you say that! For the best! Puh! Yes, and it's for the best that ants eat our food and wild animals attack us while travelling!" She shakes her head. "No, you'll find a yourself a lass, even if I've got to be the one to set it up!" She does seem quite firm in her statement. Her own gaze flicks back to the fire as she takes a deep breath in and lets it out slowly. "Oh, yes, young one. I've been in love. I've even married. But that was oh, so long ago."
Hardwicke arrives from the Angled Corridor.
It's around midday, a little past the lunch hour, though this area of the castle is relatively quiet. Presently only occupied by Jarod and Aubra. Ser Rivers has a document of some sort in his lap, but he's not paying much attention to it, settled in on a sofa by the fire and talking with the old woman.
To Aubra's words, he snorts a laugh. "That sounds almost like a threat. I should be scared. But, nah, I've no want to find a lass now. Maybe when I'm one-and-thirty and want a few sons, but I can't think of any other reason to bother. Seems to just get people hurt when they stop being practical about that sort of thing." Nevertheless, he does ask, "Would you tell me about it? Like it was a story, if you want. Been ages since I've heard a proper story from you, may as well be that as any other."
"It should sound like a threat! I'm a mean old match maker, I'll have you know!" Aubra lets out a little cackle once more. "Beware. I will have my eyes open!" She sighs heavily and keeps watch on the fire. "Like a story?" She pauses and takes a deep breath in before starting. "It was ages ago, on the shores of Pyke where this story begins. I had been living there for a few years and learning the ways of a herbalist who had taken me in, after I foolishly stowed away on a vessel bound for there. I was near the docks on a sunny day. The gulls were squawking, looking for some food to steal off the fisherman or some wary traveller. Me, I was purchasing some fish to eat for supper. There he was, a strapping young man from over 'round here who was working on a trading vessel. Over another visit or two from him, I fell in love. I moved back from the Iron Islands and we settled down here in Terrick's Roost. You should have seen our wedding. For that of a commoner, it was a beautiful sight."
Hardwicke is usually an awkward sort of presence in the quiet, kept serenity of the reading room, and today is no exception. Likely he enters with a purpose — why else would he be here — but he pauses after sliding through the door to land his gaze upon the two occupants already here. "Mistress Leetdan," is a particularly respectful greeting for Hardwicke, though not when directed at her — her age and years of service have always seen such behavior from him. "Rivers," is a bit more casual.
"The Pyke? You lived on the Iron Islands? Stowed away?" Jarod smirks. He sounds unsure if he should believe a word of this or not, but he's sure as Seven hells listening. "What was his name? This fellow of yours who stole you away from the Pyke?" Though before he gets an answer, he glances up at Hardwicke. The other knight is eyed, expression moderating to something more polite than friendly. Though he adds a cordial, "Ser Blayne."
"No need to trouble yourself. I can manage." Hardwicke sidles over to a particular shelf to begin his search for whatever record he's looking for, but his head is tipped just slightly towards the old woman and her story.
"Ah, good Ser! If there's anything you need, be sure to let me know." Aubra stands and gives him a little nod and sits back down. "Yes, I stowed away on a ship that went to Pyke, where I lived for a few years. The Iron Islands were quite different from what I'm used to, I'll say!" She scratches over her left eye before continuing. "Oh, he was a good man, my husband. Gregorn was his name." Taking a deep breath in, she says, "I started working here, for the Terrick's when we settled down. And…he worked as a messenger. Unfortunately, one day he disappeared and was never found."
"What is the Pyke like?" Jarod asks, settling against the corner of the sofa, resting his chin on his fist as he listens. "To hear the Harlaw woman, Lady Kathryna, talk of it, it's a freer place in many ways. Though it also seems the sort of land where all men just…take what they want. I'd not want to abide there, for my part." As she mentions the fate of her husband, he bows his head. "I'm sorry, Mistress Aubra. Can't even imagine losing someone I cared for in that manner. And there was never any trace of him? Didn't anyone search at all?"
"As you wish, Ser." Aubra turns he attention back to Jarod. "An Ironborn would definitely see their lands as freer than ours. And they are fierce there. It was not a friendly place. I was lucky to have found anyone to take me in at all!" She smiles a crooked smile. "There is much more fighting there than there is here. Much more are trained in the art of a sword and spear. Most are, in fact. It is seen as a dishonour, in a way, if a person can't fight for their own." She shrugs. "Their ways are different." She bows her head slightly to Jarod. "There was a search for my husband, but he wasn't ever found."
"They certainly like to point out how different they are when they come here," Hardwicke says in quiet little commentary as he shuffles through parchments.
"And you never remarried." It's an observation from Jarod rather than a question. "He was it for you? Far as the whole love thing was concerned? If you'll forgive me for saying it, Mistress, not sure why you're eager to make matches for others then. I've never met anyone love ended well for." He flicks a look back to watch Hardwicke shuffle, but the main of his attention remains on Aubra.
There's a glance back toward where Hardwicke is located. "Yes. That may be. And it's true. They mean well, but it's hard for either side to understand the other, which makes diplomacy much more difficult!" Aubra shakes her head. "Not that that is any of my issue. I serve, I don't negotiate! I'm no fool of a fallen house!" She nods firmly. She wouldn't exactly say this in front of someone with the title of Lord or Lady, however. Not under normal circumstances. "I never remarried. Never felt as if I wanted to." She raises another eyebrow. "Why? I never said my relationship with him ended terribly. I still love him to this day! If he were still alive, I've no doubt we'd still be together! And just because a relationship didn't end well, doesn't mean there's not still love there for a person! It's better to have loved than not!"
"You're not old enough for that yet," Hardwicke notes dryly with a glance in Jarod's direction. He pulls out his desired parchment, doubtless some records to do with his new position.
"Not old enough for what, Ser?" Jarod asks the elder knight. As for the rest of what Aubra says he just frowns, mostly to himself, and looks down at his hands. It's a long beat before he says anything again. Like he's turning that over in his head. "Maybe, Mistress. Maybe." It's agreed low, and like he's not too happy to admit it. "But what do you do with all that? All you feel for him, when you know he'll not be yours ever again?"
Leaving the comment from Hardwicke to be spoken between the other two, Aubra thinks over the question posed to her. "I put it to other uses. Instead of mourning his loss in a never ending bout of sadness, I take that and put it into…making a delicious pie. Or when I raised you, and Jaremy and Jascen and Lucienne and all the other work I did. There is always a use for that emotion. Always. You've just got to find the right place!"
"Jaded bitterness," Hardwicke tells him, a bland tone to his voice. He has his parchment, yes, but he doesn't actually move to leave. His dark gaze slides to Aubra, studying her with something wry in the quiet puff of breath through his nose.
"Other uses…huh…" Jarod considers this, and finally has to nod a little. "Yeah, that does…I mean, I'd imagine that's a better use for it. Well. Glad you found some of your right place in the lot of us, Mistress. I hope we didn't make you tear your hair out too much when we were children. Was a long time ago, and we're not children anymore." That last is half-aimed at Hardwicke, and he looks up to regard the other knight. There's not offense in his expression, precisely, but his green eyes are steady. "How do you know what I'm old enough for, Ser?"
"You children? Make me tear my hair out? Goodness no! Besides, that's what calming solutions are for." Aubra says in a serious tone, but her eyes betray a joking manner. "Besides, Jiggling Jarod couldn't ruffle me in the littlest, he couldn't!" She lets out a cackle of laughter, obviously finding that thought quite funny. Shooting a glance at Hardwicke, she says, "Don't you even get started! Or I'll have to get started on you, Ser Blayne! I know where your heart lies, and has been laid out in the past! It was never meant to be and you should just get over that!"
Hardwicke looks just about to offer Jarod a particular pointed retort when Aubra's interjection brings him up short. With a rare flush and a less rare scowl, he says stiffly, "You don't know anything except whatever ideas you've gotten into your head."
"I'm old enough to know more than I care to, Ser, though I'll admit I understand less than I'd like." Jarod's retort is given to Hardwicke, though it's said half to himself. He clears his throat, looking back at the old woman. He half opens his mouth to ask what she meant by that aside to Hardwicke. Then he closes it again. Looking back at the fire.
Aubra eyes Hardwicke with a stern gaze. "Them ideas I've gotten into my head are closer than you'd like to openly admit, aren't they? Ol' Aubra sees more than others would care to admit and would care to know that she knows. You may be bitter about your own lot in love, and you may wish to try to fool others, myself included, but you can't fool yourself!" She ends her tiny speech with a little nod and turns to Jarod. "I've known of Hardwicke longer than he'd care to admit, young Jarod. But don't let his own bitterness stop you from finding love. It can appear out of nowhere, it can!"
"I'm not bitter," Hardwicke grumbles, and there's actually some touch of sincerity to the words under the usual covering of grouch. A hint of newer, if reluctant, quiet. "I'm just saying /he's/ young to be." He almost seems younger around Aubra, in the manner of one who has known her from too young an age.
"Found love, Mistress Aubra, but it found me not to its liking. And she found more of what she wanted with another bloke. So there's that." Jarod looks up at Hardwicke on that note. It's all very, 'So there, I can be bitter, too!' He clears his throat. "I'm finding some other…stuff to put my energies about it into, though. We'll see how it works out."
"No? Not bitter, you say? Hmph. Of course your not. And I make mediocre tea." Aubra mutters, though the hint of sincerity isn't lost on her. "You better not be holding on to some bit of longing, that's all I'm saying." She offers a shake of her head. "Bitterness will come when it comes, no matter how old or young a person is." She sighs deeply, leaning back. "Love doesn't find a person not to it's liking! People find others not to their liking. Or they don't see that the other person is the best person for them, so they choose another. But love always knows what it wants, much like a giant spider finding its prey."
Hardwicke blows out a quietly frustrated breath as he turns his gaze away from the old woman. His only response to Jarod's look is a distinct snort. All of his communication seems to be unvoiced.
Jarod gives Hardwicke a "Hmph" of a snort in return. He contents himself with that answer to the other man. To Aubra, he half-grins. "You ever seen a spider web after they're done with their prey? They suck the blood out of other creatures, leave just husks behind when they're done, that break if you touch them." He considers that. "Not a bad metaphor for the whole business, all in all."
"I've seen more spider webs, and cleaned more spider webs, than you've got years under, young Jarod!" Aubra says with a shake of a finger in his direction. "It sometimes leaves you a husk of a person, it does, but not always! It can fill you up so much, you feel you'll explode!" A look is given to Hardwicke. "Oh, didn't like me voicing that, did ya?"
"I'd appreciate you not throwing about your ideas of me in public," Hardwicke tells the woman dryly. "People might start believing you."
"I'm not that young anymore!" Jarod retorts. Almost to the pair of them. Though there's no real bitterness about it this time. A look at the old woman. Then at Hardwicke. Long look there. "Huh." It's muttered to himself, and who knows what it means. He clears his throat and stands, taking his paper. "Anyhow, Mistress Aubra, I'd best be getting on. Off to Stonebridge tomorrow and I'm not really packed yet. Thanks for the conversation. We'll have to talk again when I'm more pleasant company for it."
"Of course you're not that young any more! Don't be ridiculous! You're old enough to be hurt by love, and that is old enough in any means!" Aubra responds. There's a shake of her head to Hardwicke. "Jarod here wouldn't have a clue as to what I'm talking about! And this is hardly in public!" She offers a smile to Jarod. "Oh, good day to you. I do hope I'll be able to see you, even if it's just on visits back. Be well in Stonebridge."
Hardwicke offers an inscrutable, narrow-eyed gaze back at Jarod for his long look. All he can do to discourage him from thinking things, at least. He stays quiet as the younger man says his goodbyes, his arms crossing over his chest with the parchment tucked into one hand.
Jarod looks less-than-discouraged in the look he returns Hardwicke but, if he thinks anything, he keeps it to himself. About that, at least. "I'll visit frequently, I suspect, to report to Lord Jerold and the others here. I'll see you soon, Mistress Aubra." To Hardwicke, "Is there anything you require of me before I depart, Ser? You know the patrol schedules and the state of the equipment well enough, so I don't figure it'll take you long to get up on how the guards've been managed. I have been trying to recruit volunteers among the smallfolk for a local militia, of sorts. To assist the sheriff's men keep the peace some, drill once a month. That's proceeding slow but it's proceeding. I'll leave you all the details before I'm off."
Standing slowly, the old woman walks over to Harwicke and pats him on the shoulder. "Don't worry," Aubra whispers to him. "You're secret will remain with me." She looks around. "I should get back to my own chores. The kitchen needs helping this time of day. I'll be off my self. But, Ser Rivers and Ser Blayne, should either of you need my services, it will be certainly easy to find me."
Hardwicke's jaw firms, and his shoulder is stiff and hard where Aubra pats it. He offers no reply to her whisper, but tells Jarod, "I believe I'm as up to speed as I need to be, Ser."
Jarod eyes Hardwicke a beat, like he's going to say more, but he finally just sighs and shrugs. "Fair enough, Ser." And off he goes.