|Summary:||At Tordane Tower, the new Master at Arms gives the newish Maester a melancholy task. All the same, some entertainment is had.|
|~ Tordane Tower, rookery|
|The center built rookery is in the shape of a square. On all three sides that the door is not on, nests and cages are settled, marked with sigils or names to show where the raven within is ready to go. Many have two or more when they are of import. Feed and water is kept below the cages and are often refreshed daily.|
|3rd September, 289|
Taleryth has been Maester of Tordane Tower for scant months as yet, but even so, he has succeeded in posing one serious riddle among inhabitants of Stonebridge high and low. Older and wiser maesters than Taleryth all over the realm generally appear to be daubed in filth, paying far more attention to industry than personal appearance. They are stained with ingredients, sweat, and, most pervasively of all, raven shit.
Yet, while Taleryth is no slacker or simple fop - Tordane's ravens are well attended and efficient, and the maester very often out of the way quietly concentrating on his duties - the young scholar is still virtually never sighted in a robe other than pristine. How does he contrive it?
A visitor at this stage of the afternoon will find few answers. Taleryth is at work on the functional, not the domestic side of ravenry at present, seated at a desk not far from the raven mews sorting out various papers and possible missives. A distinct croak pierces his diligent silence often; perhaps he finds the song of his messengers a stimulating influence.
Bruce has never liked ravens. Perhaps its their association with their bigger cousins, the crow. Perhaps its their beady, black eyed, unrelenting gaze. Or maybe their incessant croaking. The Master at Arms looks distinctly uneasy when he enters the Rookery, leaving his shield and helmet at the door. "Maester Taleryth." He calls.
The entrance of an armed warrior, his battle-trained voice's volume intensified by palpable if surprising nerves, is as failsafe a way as any to distract a Maester from his errands; and Taleryth springs up to his feet. He's quite tall for a Maester, only an inch below six feet, but his tentative, stooped stance makes that much less noticeable. "Master at Arms," he says ceremoniously, in that formal, slightly foreign voice of his; no doubt he aims to compliment Ser Bruce's new eminence. "May I be of service, or are you merely offering me welcome distraction?"
"A little bit of both, I imagine. You don't need to use that title when no one else is around, you know." Muses Ser Bruce, relaxing only a tad. He casts suspicious gazes to some of the ravens present before returning attention to the young Maester. "Firstly, I need you to prepare a message. It's the last resort, end of the bad day message."
"Ah. Right. My apologies, Ser Bruce," Taleryth hastens to add, though with barely less of a flourish. "I thought you might like it. But…" A queer look crosses his youthful face and his eyes shadow in apparently disagreeable memory, "come to think of it, when they said I was to be a Maester no one else called me anything but for a week. And it was most annoying. So, yes. Quite. As I said. Apologies." His smile is quick and thin and flickers on and off his mouth like a silverfish.
The hint of an actual command stops the young Maester from digging his hole. Obviously he's competing with the knight in the field of nerves, but a task settles his mind. At once he sits, selects a clean sheet of vellum, and poises the quill he had been employing on another, interrupted letter.
Bruce's mailed shoulders lift up and fall once. "Eh, nothing to worry about. Anyways, on to that. The message is to read - Stonebridge has fallen. Charltons to take Tower." He pauses to let to words sink in, a frown settling on his face. "Where do our ravens go?"
Taleryth writes before replying, rapidly, his hand fair and not too tiny, with no more apparent concern than if he were signing some trivial bill of credit. Then he lays down the quill and looks long and solemn, first at the page, and then at the knight.
"A strange thing," he begins another possibly irritating digression, "but they say Archmaester Obderic discovered the sixth principle of anatomy while sketching his own bastard daughter's corpse. While he busied himself drawing those precise, scientifical lines, he knew no emotion. Then he put down his pencil and wept…"
Taleryth does not weep in turn though, as he peruses his quick handiwork; indeed he laughs, first mirthlessly at their predicament, then more jovially at Bruce. "No one can say you aren't a commander with foresight, ser. As to that last rather broad question…we have certain precious birds that can go to pretty remarkable places. The Mire, Heronhurst, the Twins, Riverrun, all those go without saying. The old Tordane family's breeding stock, they still seem to remember the Roost and Seagard, too. But at need, I can even dispatch missives to the Grand Maester at King's Landing, or to Castle Black. Not that I suppose you'll require that, ser! But I thought, perhaps, it might be of interest…"
He doesn't mention his favourite raven, a sleek, sly creature that knows its way to Oldtown.
Bruce's eyes don't betray any emotion as Taleryth talks about some old archmaester sketching his daughter's corpse. In fact, while his mouth opens in a strange cross between puzzlement and incomprehension, his sleepy blue eyes seem to glaze over. He snaps to once the conversation returns to the matter at hand. "Ah, yes, well thank you. That message should probably not need to go to the Grand Maester or Castle Black although… perhaps the King would be interested to hear that his peace and law have been broken. Hmm, on the other hand… Anyways, please draft up enough of those messages to send to all the important actors around here. The Mire, Terricks, Seagard, Heronhurst, the Twins, Riverrun and… Hollyholt."
This time there is no diversion; Taleryth's response is immediate and sceptical. "Hollyholt, ser? Surely it would be somewhat otiose, in this, ah, hypothetical eventuality, to apprise Lord Keegan of his kinsman's victory?" The maester's surprised glance has a streak of conscience in it, too. He *had* expected to send some such missive…but only when taking orders from, perforce, a new lord.
"While I'm an educated man of common background, I don't know what the word otiose is. Unfortunately, the purse of Blackwood yeomen didn't extend as far as to hire Citadel trained tutors." Bruce responds wryly. "If you think that there's no point, or its redundant well… it's true. But it would be an amusing last point, and it would rob Lord Aleister of him sending a message on his own. And then he wouldn't be able to gloat, because he'd have no raven to travel to his uncle's hold. A final slight from the grave."
"Do you think adding something like, 'So falls the King's Peace' would be too much? We may as well make the message entertaining as well as informative." Bruce queries.
The young Maester's whole expression lightens like a fresh dawn as he appreciates the sheer, ingenious, legalistic pettiness of that manouevre. "Admirable," he breathes, already at work scribbling more copies (on the same sheet, to be, no doubt, neatly sliced into strips later), "admirable. Serving wit as well as steel is a true pleasure, ser. And I like that, yes. Perhaps, ser, I might employ the rhetorical device we at the Citadel call 'zeugma'? 'Stonebridge, and the King's Peace, have fallen.' What do you think?"
"I think that's splendid. Zeugma and otiose… I'll have to remember those, if I make it out." Bruce smiles broadly, nodding in appreciation. "You're a great deal more witty and intelligent than our last Maester, you know. I think our short time together will be quite enjoyable." Well, this one's definitely a fatalist.
Taleryth flushes with an almost confused pleasure, and demurs hurriedly, "I'm sure not, ser. The Citadel only sent me because it was an emergency, you know, the new Lord Tordane needed a new Maes…ah, anyway," he swallows, going rather red, "I'm much too raw for this post, officially…and evidently. I hope I shall survive to accrue more tact. And you too, ser, to keep thinking of jokes and courtesies, all while preparing for…" death? "…valiant endeavour."
"We'll see how valiant an endeavour it really is, to be fair. I'm willing to bet that it'll be about as valiant as most times I've fought - not very. It's hard to remember the virtues of knightly duty when you see a young man take a spear in his gut, collapse to the ground and scream for his mother until he expires and shits himself." Says the knight matter of factly. "In any case, I'm sure you'll make it out of here. A Maester serves a fief, not a master. You'll get good use no matter what happens. Just remember that… they'll be as good and bad to you as the Naylands have. The difference is in banner. These Frey houses are almost all of the same feather." He motions at one of the ravens.
The immaculately robed young Maester is probably even less inclined to go near a battle after that particular emphasis, and his smile is definitely a weak one. When Ser Bruce kindly shows that he knows and does not resent the situation uppermost in Taleryth's mind - that soon he will likely have to serve the conquerors of the household he has known here - the young man's grin becomes clearer and more grateful, and he lets the bleak moment pass. Soon his hazel eyes look greenish with curiosity. "So you haven't always served the Freys, Ser Bruce?" he guesses. By some fluke, the raven Bruce has just disturbed reveals, as, annoyed, it bustles a foot or so up in the air of its cage, the clearly delineated tag of Raventree Hall, the seat of Blackwood.
The rustle of the cage causes Bruce's normally sleepy blue eyes to widen and dart over. They catch sight of the tag, bringing a further smile to his face. "No, Maester Taleryth, I did not. I was brought up here," he motions to the raven so disturbed, "and served them during the King's War. Then Lord Hoster decided he'd inquire as to my Lord Tytos if he could have me as his Master of Foot, who acquiesced. No, I came here last year, on the request of my friend fair Ser Ryker Nayland, as he was known then, and with the blessing of my former liege lord, the Lord Paramount. Ha!" The laugh is one note, short and sharp. "If I'd only known, hmm? Now Ryker is dead, and Lady Isolde, who I'm sworn to, is not looking long for her post. Well, at least my wife and children are nestled comfortably at Raventree, I imagine."
"Why, for one as newly arrived as myself, Ser Bruce, you seemed quite part of the armoury," the maester joshes. "Yet you are hardly more entrenched here than I am, and you have known what it is…to serve under different masters." If not to serve under actual, consecutive, sworn enemies. "I shall…value your counsel and your kindnesses all the higher, then, ser knight. It is…interesting. To see that men can be capable, intelligent, and brave in a cause that sometimes seems…almost accidental."
The maester returns to the letters, which he is readjusting to add the zeugmatic touch, before glancing up again, after a hard swallow, and asking something that gives him pause.
"I did wonder, ser, whether you wanted me to undertake to assist with the armaments, ballistae and the like? Does the Tower possess any such? I have never before had to enquire. I am no expert, do not even possess a grey iron link, but…I am fully trained in military strategy, in theory. And know a smidgeon of field armaments and machinery. I serve this House still…even if we both know it is only for now. Should you require it, I can serve on the walls as well as within them."
"I'm quite sure Lady Danae tried to woo me from my oaths a few months back, when she was camped out by Stonebridge and waiting on her claim. But, oaths are tricky things. Until they expire, the men who swear by them are damned to do as they say. Or, and I've always held this belief close to me, the Gods have nasty bits in store for them. A Godsfearing man as I am, I wouldn't seek to tempt them. So I thank you for the complement, Maester Taleryth, but perhaps I'm not quite so forward thinking as you'd suppose." Bruce smirks, tapping the site of his nose and offering the younger man a wink. "As for the artillery, I'd inquired where Lord Rickart would part with sending us some of it from Hag's Mire but I don't think that's happening. So on that end, I'll have to decline, if only for now. As far as the other side, why yes, I could use your help. We're fortifying the Tower, the waterfront and the walls. We're also ditching the outside of Stonebridge to try and funnel the Charltons in attacking us at a point, at the front gate. Our pikes have nasty teeth, especially when one locks horns head on. The Ironmen found that out."
"Mmmm," Taleryth murmurs with concision, "hence those rather…impressive…decorations on the Stone Bridge…" Impressive they might be, but tarred heads obviously make him shudder slightly, or at least, if they're impaled on a building rather than dissected in a study. "As for the artillery train…it is hardly inspiring, is it? Do you think the Lord of the Mire has…himself found his hope fading? Wouldn't he give this fief his all, …if he thought he could hold it in so doing…well, never mind that. You shall know where to find me, ser."
Maesters are sworn to serve, but even the lowliest of their order possess a slight measure of intimidation, simply by the act of settling down to absolute and dedicated labour. Those hazel eyes swoop down, dun and detached, and Ser Bruce shall well know that, enjoyable as he may have found it, young Taleryth is not prepared to delay in this idle chattering any further. He does not and could not, of course, say anything along the lines of "You are dismissed". But the peremptory croak of the Raventree Raven perhaps does that for him.
"He has to defend his own fief, you know, and if the Charltons loop around and march through the swamp then he will." Bruce offers a shrug. "Well, I'll leave you to it then. Gods keep." And then he's out.