Page 408: Only Blood
Only Blood
Summary: Meeting where neither expect to find the other, outside Stonebridge, Sers Maldred and Justin enjoy themselves with another little duel of quips.
Date: 02/09/2012
Related Logs: Raptors in the Rain
Maldred Justin 
Outskirts of Stonebidge
Hot, dusty
2nd September, 289

The heat of the day is passing its peak, but still cloying and strong, increasing the sweat and discomfort for a man at arms fully accoutred; such as the knight on the white horse who seems to be patrolling about in a mood caught between aimlessness and vigilance. Indeed, the horse and rider are possessed by a similar spirit, the pale destrier snorting and padding its proud hooves, the knight staring skywards in annoyance - watching for ravens, perhaps? His head is unarmed, coif back and helm at his saddle-bow, showing Ser Maldred's main difference from his horse. For all his pallor, his face is more vulpine than equine.

There is another rider upon the road, with a few men-at-arms and Ser Kamron's squire Percy. Justin Terrick leads the small group, himself kitted out in his partial plate armour, oiled and sooted so not to gleam very brightly. He wears a surcoat over it yet steel is at shin and shoulder nonetheless, his helm and crossbow secured to his saddle. The knight and his fellow travelers have passed through Stonebridge briefly and now turn to the eastwards, headed deeper within the cape upon some errand of their own rather than back towards Terrick's Roost. The group is well armed, wearing the colors of Terrick and Mallister plainly.

As Justin's own gaze settles upon the rider, he studies the man as they draw closer. The heat of the day makes the Terrick Sheriff's dark hair, recently trimmed a bit shorter than his usual, slightly damp and curling with a light sweat.

Ser Maldred is also displaying his surcoat - and it must indeed be one of the few consolations for a knight in this heat, soaking up some of the sweat secreting from his mail and generally keeping him infinitesimally cooler and cleaner. Indeed, the bastard variant of the arms of the Crossing is already glowering from sky to navy blue with damp staining. But Rivers pays such niceties of toiletry no mind as he turns from his vigil with every sign of politeness and relief, to greet the oncoming leader.

"Well, well, Ser Justin Terrick. A controversialist…when all flee this troubled fief, it seems you swoop in, instead…and then some. What fair business drives you toward our bountiful eastern riverforks? Perchance you ride to woo one of my lovely sisters?"

Ser Justin and Ser Maldred's conversations have been few but revealing, so it's likely the Terrick will correctly identify that last aside as a joke.

There is a short laugh for greeting, "As it happens, I just departed the fine company of a sister or cousin of yours this morning at Seagard, a lady Aralima?" Surely a prettier example of the Frey blood than most and surprisingly fair haired like a Lannister. Justin slows his horse from the trot to pause near to the bastard knight and allow the men to take water from their skins a moment. "We have business in Heronhurst, and as you might guess, press for time to attend to it and return home ere the bridge here may no longer be crossed. I assume you labour with Ser Bruce and others to prepare for what comes, or do you merely watch and wait, Ser?"

Maldred, himself is also fair-haired, or fair-ish, though his head is so rarely kempt it hardly shows to advantage; probably if it were clean it would show itself closer to the pale colour of his mother, rumoured to be a Lysene, than Westerland gold. As it is, it might almost be mouse or sand.

"Lady Aralima is, as I recall, a great-grand-daughter to Lord Walder," he explains to Justin in the detached, unemotional tone the spawn of the Twins often come to use when rehearsing their fiendish family connections, "and so of almost as small consequence even as I; I'd seek heiresses elsewhere, ser knight! I last saw my lady sister Firth, Firth Grell that was, riding to that marriage too. I'm sure she heaped blessings on the union by her presence, and example."

As the Grell marriage was one of the most epically disastrous matches in the Riverlands in recent times, this too is a marked quip. His satisfaction from jibing once extracted, Maldred listens soberly and with understated interest to Ser Justin's account of his movements, but upon his question, frowns and pauses ere his reply. "The Twins take no part," he answers quickly, drily, and apparently in dead seriousness. A few moments pass.

"Under my lord father's policy," Maldred qualifies quietly and suddenly, "House Frey resembles, in some respects, if not in others, your noble brother's order, the Night's Watch…" A favourite subject for needling - but this time it seems perhaps the Terricks are not Maldred's main target; rather his own 'father'.

Amused and in good humor, Justin almost laughs a second time, "No, I seek not marriages, Ser. Such will be sought by my House for me, or by other Houses to approach mine. I have other, more pressing matters to attend to for now." Yes, indeed.

This Terrick sobers where he sits his horse and nods, "Yes, but it was not your House to which I put the question, Ser, but yourself. I am aware that some of your kin serve the Lady Valda and her interests, no matter Lord Walder's take upon these matters. Yet, as said before, I see the value of ravens as you like, to keep watch even if they take no direct part themselves. To do so, you are liable to be presumed to be hostile, at least by the Charlton host and their ilk."

"A more pressing matter than marriage?" Maldred enquires with mock-astonishment. "To hear the rustle of my sisters' riding skirtlets as they bestowed themselves to Seagard with all the speed and grace of gulls, one would doubt any such thing possible! Though, on consideration, it must be so. Where would your own Half-Eagle brother in Nayland employ, where would I be, if nothing was ever more important to lordlings than marriages…?"

"And Lady Valda?" the bastard presses on, "what is she to me? Only blood, after all." After so much teasing against his siblings and even their father, the precise value in which Maldred holds this commodity is opaque. "We both have blood in that town and in danger, Ser Justin; but I shall be surprised if either of us is caught drawing steel in that blood's defence…"

With this gloomy acceptance of political concerns, Rivers appears to tail off, even turns his horse away slightly, before he appears to change his mind, and swivels back towards Ser Justin. "So, no. I have no martial intentions at all, here. I merely canter about…for my horse here's sake. A good steed, Greymalkin, but passionate. It seems he has taken to the grass hereabouts. Especially since he scents so many fine baggage mares coming, perhaps. So I will ride here, and not cross my horse. If any hollyhocks choose to cross him, well, that's their judgment, and I shall see that they reconsider it."

Maldred's wit seems to go well with Justin's humor most of the time for the Terrick Sheriff laughs briefly again, "To a young woman who dares not to become a dowager spinster, time is short to plot her placement. She is wise not to loiter in such matters. As for myself, I have had my fill of betrothal negotiations gone sour to last me a while, yet, Ser. I will perhaps allow my head to be turned to such matters once more, but only after this leg of concern over Stonebridge is past. For now my focus is upon restoring the strenth and seeing to the needs of my own people, who have fields to plow and plant. That is far more pressing unto me, Ser, for I am not my father's heir who needs to beget children for the succession." At least, not yet while Jacsen still has that chance.

There is a nod from Justin, "So be it. Ride well, Ser. The Warrior will surely be watching." Turning his own horse, the Terrick Sheriff adds, "Now if you will excuse us, we need press on for time is against us and we hope yet to return and pass through unscatched, if we might." With that, Justin sets his horse to the trot to head on out the east road, a few knights and several men-at-arms to go with him, all of them kitted to fight if needbe even if they hope yet to avoid it.

"Ah yes, your fields, those tender maidens waiting to be tickled with Charlton wheat," the bastard observes with more poetry than decorum. "Well, Ser Justin, don't let me keep you. Enjoy the peaceable company of the waterfowl knights; perhaps you could enquire whether they're expected here anytime soon? It seems certain Naylands are rather impatient for their conversation," he observes. "Until your return, I shall be equally so for yours. Good fortune." There wasn't a single crack in that last sentence, though the tone was unavoidably sneering, and as Ser Maldred Rivers watches Ser Justin's troop pack up and depart, one might be forgiven for guessing that his prejudice against one Terrick, at least, is a thing of the past…

"I bet the Naylands are impatient for Erenford company!" Justin throws back over his shoulder. He raises a hand in polite farewell to the bastard knight and heads his company to their errand.