|On the Road|
|Summary:||Maldred catches up with Lyanna on the road to Highfield.|
|Related Logs:||Memoir: Young Weasels|
|Worn Road, Wilderness|
|A point of land between Terrick's Roost and Stonebridge, one can travel to either of the two from here, by travelling west or east, while north takes them to Highfield and south to Seagard.|
|19th October, 289|
While the sun and the blue sky are hidden away by thick grey clouds, a light wind blows over the lands between Terrick's Roost and Stonebridge, the threat of rain hanging in the air. Nearing a crossing in the Wilderness is a small group of riders, led by Lyanna Frey. Her practical riding dress in the blues and greys of her house is partially obscured by a cape of deep vivid blue, her dark brown hair tamed into a single braid while a few strands fall over her forehead. The lady brings her horse to a halt. She seems to be in good spirits, the enthusiasm sparkling in her eyes evident as she casts a glance about the area before she turns her head to look at her small retinue - two guards, a maid and a septa - awaiting their lady's command.
It's a queer kind of crossroads the orderly little Frey party has reached, not one marked by even a lean-to post, let alone a written sign, nor by any sign of human habitation - a bare spur where all roads tangle by chance. Brooding northwards stand the dark spikes of conifer, signifying the former domain of the defunct House Camden, now under new masters. Southward, though a more clement prospect, shows itself hardly more welcoming, grey and drear moorland and patchy stretches of pathway. But from this direction now sounds fresh hoofbeats, coming from a steed larger and fleeter than any in Lyanna's service.
The horse may be, roughly, white, but the cloud and the dirt both do their part in diminishing the drama of its materialisation. In that, the destrier is similar to its rider (though arguably better bred and gentler reared). The newcomer could pass at a glance anywhere from sellsword to free lance. His garments seem designed to evade notice but a hood is hanging disdainfully aside at his back, revealing his light hair, pasty complexion, and chilly demeanour.
"An insufficient guard, yours," he calls out as he overtakes them, "until I arrived. Ser Symeon of Sevenstreams is to bolster us later, though I hear some woman's gouge left him hardly able to mount. You well, Lady Lyanna?" There's a cheerfully sharp catch to that final honorific…
The sounds of hoof beats make Lyanna turn her head. Studying both the dirty horse and the rider atop of it, her face lightens up as she recognizes her cousin, although this one's blood is not as thoroughly noble as her own. "Insufficient, you say?" she replies, leaving out the greeting as Maldred has done before. The Frey lady looks to her two guards who have already their hands on the pommels of their swords. "They are ready, but they have not drawn their swords yet. They will do so, if my life is in danger. I doubt that it is at the moment." The Frey lady's gaze is back on Maldred and she adds with a gentle smile: "Who would dare attack me if I am so skillfully guarded? I am happy to see you, Ser Maldred Rivers. And glad you are well after all this dreadful business with the Charltons and the Naylands." There is a brow raised as Maldred mentions Symeon, and why he is late. "He is one of ours, I assume? I have not met the man yet, but if you trust him, I will trust him as well."
The grubbily accoutred knight reins in his enthusiastic mount's pace, and falls into almost delicate step to settle beside his cousin. "You hear merry enough talk about the roads, these days," he remarks airily. "Bevies of ladies seized, lordly heirs tucked into watery beds. There's safety in numbers, and with that, for all his might, my lord father," he coughs with just a faintly sardonic stress, "seems to have neglected to supply you. One of Lord Tully's new vassals, Ser Harold Charlton, just went riding this way with five-and-twenty armed horse! Ah well, lady coz, you shall have me instead, as you say, so we shall go as safely and rather more speedily…"
A spark of genuine enthusiasm, reflecting almost his kinswoman's genial temper, seems to touch Maldred's face as he breaks into a staccato laugh at her words. "Why, coz, I was in no peril! I spent the duration of the late troubles quite safe at the Twins! As we must remember to inform our…friends up north…and Ser Symeon…I think he'll pique your interest. Born under an ill star," he muses in a mock-dreamy voice, "and the eaves of Harrenhal…quite the romantic past. As I say, just your kind of thing, if I recall aright, my lady…"
Maldred's mention of Ser Harold Charlton and the size of his retinue does startle the young lady, slightly diminishing her air of political determination that would be fit for her new function as ambassador of Lord Frey. A simple "Oh." escapes her lips and a worried frown appears on her features.
The short moment of insecurity passes quickly, though, as Maldred continues about Ser Symeon's past. Lyanna's deep blue eyes lighten up and looking intrigued she inquires with hardly contained, almost girlish, excitement: "Harrenhal? You must tell me everything about him. I am sure he was befallen by an ill fate? Has he seen the ghosts? There are ghosts in Harrenhal, I have heard,…" Her excited avalanche of questions is interrupted by a sharp glance of her septa, who has been quiet for now. Noticing Mariah's silent rebuke Lyanna's demeanour sombers slightly. The gleam in her deep blue eyes remains, however, as she adds with a little more composure: "If he is to ride with us I need to know everything about him - as I said."
Lyanna's reactions to the sadly mundane present and to the suggestion of the alluring past seem to stir precisely the same vein of tolerant amusement in the bastard, and where the septa dampens her charge's enthusiasm with a stare, he keeps them somewhat at bay with a curt shrug.
"I'm sure you shall, my lady, but from him, not me, for I've little to add. Spindly man, bit sickly looking, and apparently, as I say, lately got bested by a noblewoman, but I've seen him fight and fight horribly well, too. When we met lately he took one of my comrade's heads. Or rather, do excuse me, he would have done, had I not been safe at the Twins, rather than messing about fighting for the Naylands, as I say," he adds with a grim chuckle. "What more? Think he's some kind of half-bred-Whent, but the Sevenstreams kinsman who dug him out for me to swear into father's service was some low minstrel called Tom."
Dismissing the rest of that subject with a throwaway swing of one long arm, Maldred perseveres anew, "I'd rather hear about you, though, than yarn about some sworn sword. Where have you been entertaining yourself of late? What are you planning for this…embassy, and what has father commanded you to tell these…Ashwoods?" It's clear Maldred can't quite enunciate that last word without a snort.
As little information as Maldred offers about Symeon, it is most eagerly received by the Frey lady. She casts Maldred a bewildered glance as he continues. "So you were not at the Twins, as you claimed to be? You were fighting for… the Naylands? Is this some secret ploy of my grandfather's making?" Shrugging lightly Lyanna chuckles. "He would not be happy, I suppose, without his intrigues and mysterious plots. Although it is true that I am most grateful for" - she hesitates - "our grandfather's decision to send me - of all - to… Tanglewood Manor, is it? Yet it came as a bit of an surprise. I was so certain that this missive carried other news. But none of those were mentioned, and I am truely thankful for that. By the Seven." Smiling at Maldred, she pauses for a moment, her thoughts lingering perhaps on what her cryptic remark hinted at.
Replying to Maldred's last question, Lyanna continues: "They have sworn loyalty to the Freys, have they not? Lord Walder wants me to observe if the Ashwoods are as loyal as they claim to be… And to assure Lord Aleister and his kin of Lord Walder's support by my presence. Whether he surely supports them,… only the Seven might know that."
Those eyes, murky and cold as river ripples, roll in Maldred's head skywards at Lyanna's thrilled expostulation. "Say it louder, cous, do, please, your septa may be growing hard of hearing and might not have heard the first time! My dear lady," he insists, gnashing uneven teeth slightly, "understand this. I fled to the Twins when war broke out; at the Twins I remained. Are you listening, septa, men, and you, girl…?" he breaks off to ask of the chastened little escort, ending with the maid. "Good."
"If I *had* been in Stonebridge all along, fighting for the Naylands," he continues patiently to Lyanna, "that would have been entirely my own decision, and quite against father's instructions. It would have needed care, and disguise, and I would be very eager to have it *not talked about*, especially on the way to stay with the lot I was *shooting* a month ago…got it, my lady…?"
His exasperated sigh softens to laughter as he catches Lyanna's shy smile. "Yes, seems you escaped the knot and the cloak this time, cous. Congratulations. Maybe if this embassy goes well, father," that understated dispute trundles on, "will let you stay a single shuttlecock forever, bouncing from hall to hall to weave your fairy stories in his cause. Would you like that, sweet cousin…?"
The septa's mouth, thin as line until now, twitches into something like a smile. "Lady Lyanna's safety is my concern. Not any political entanglements, I assure you, good ser." The guards are quick to nod at Maldred's words. "Aye, ser. Of course, ser." The maid however seems intimidated by the bastard's presence. She stares at him for a long moment until she nods as well, trembling slightly.
"No need to worry." Lyanna says, turning to her small retinue, giving her scared maid a reassuring wink. "I know Ser Maldred very well and know his word can not be doubted. We are in safe hands, I am sure." And turning back to her bastard cousin, she adds: "And I assure you, I will not tolerate any talk about this matter, neither on our way to Highfield nor during our stay there. How ever long it might be. You. Were. At. The. Twins."
"I will do what serves our House best." Lyanna replies to her cousin's last question, her lightness from a few moments before vanished, her cheeks a bit rosy as she catches Maldred's hint. "As you will, I suppose? I gather you are not too fond of those Ashwoods, cousin?"
Maldred removes his baleful surveillance from the handmaid, evidently as a result of a fierce internal struggle, though probably only his cousin will perceive that he is suppressing mirth, not fury.
"Well, Lady Lyanna, things are neatly accorded now," he comments with cheerfulness tinged with his usual acidity. "Did you know your aunt Lady Firth is playing the very same role over at Stonebridge? So Lord Frey remains," he concludes archly, "impeccably neutral…"
Picking up a little spurred speed on Graymalkin, the destrier, so that his bedraggled figure edges into the lead of the party, he jibes over his shoulder, his words carrying for all the rising wind, "Not very fond, no, cous. Though of course I'd be happy to wed one, should our Lord request it…"
"No, I did not know, Maldred. Aunt Firth? I am sure she will do fine as ambassador at Stonebridge. And this neutrality - it will ensure peace. Would that be such a bad thing?" Lyanna replies, falling in line behind Maldred, leaving him to lead the way. "And I only require you to not cause any trouble while we are at Tanglewood Manor at the moment, no need to marry any Ashwood ladies." she adds in a dry tone. Her retinue follows her, their steeds trotting to match Graymalkin's pace.
"Peace!" is the bitter splutter that meets Lyanna's question, as the bastard gives his steed another zealous spur, apparently this time involuntarily. "Peace…for me…ha! As good ask your septa to live without praying, or you, cous, without reading…but I have my suspicions it won't last overlong."
Maldred slows a little and bows shortly in stiffly satirical respect, "…and trust me, my lady; if my prophecy comes true…'t won't be any fault of mine!"