|Remains of A Heart|
|Summary:||Riordan and Danae confront each other, what has happened and what they are to become.|
|Related Logs:||All Riordan/Danae logs, but especially: The Sweetest of Words have the Bitterest Taste, Till Your Last Breath, Till We Run Dry, and Gate Keeper of the Skies.|
|East Bank — Stonebridge|
|Pavilions still stand on the east bank of the river.|
|May 1, 289 A.L|
For once, the Regent has gone forth from the tower without the trappings of his position. No guards, no fine horses, no chains or fine clothing or watchful eyes. Though not specifically being sneaky, the serviceable yet-well made earth-toned clothing helps lend an air of unimportance to the boyish-featured man as he walks across the bridge with the days traffic. He could just be a traveler. And besides, the Regent is known for his smiles and his easy attitude, and the man now moving to the Tordane camp is a man who is as firmly restrained and subdued as he can make himself, though the underlying tension radiating him is fairly palpable for those who get close enough to look in the man's eyes.
The Tordane camp is quietly busy, things being shifted around in preparation for something with several people about and bustling to-and-fro. It is most likely due to the Lady Charlton's particularity, but the approintment of the general campground is finer than it has looked in previous days. The flaps to the Tordane tent, banners still flying, sift as Danae presses them back with her wrist to exit. Her pale eyes blink rapidly at the shift of light, blonde hair twisted back and neatly pinned atop her head and jewel toned gowns exchanged for a widow's simple black. The Westerling pendent with its dangling shells has been removed from her throat and wrapped around a wrist to act as a less dramatic braclet.
Ser Alek is a dramatic picture as he flanks Danae from the tent, all snapping grey eyes and wrapped in the black drape of a cloak over his shoulders for all that it is flung back from maile he wears even now. He steps forward as they exit with a murmured word to the lady. He has been imbibing, that much is clear by the lingering smell of wine about him, but he does not seem drunk. At least not yet, though later, perhaps.
Though most have no reason to look for Riordan in this particular camp at this particular time, hence why he likely goes mostly unnoticed by the majority of those around - helped by the dinstinct lack of flair that the Lord Regent travels with this day. But, since meeting at the camp was Danae's idea, she will likely be expecting him. And if the Nayland knight does not look best pleased by the location as he moves towards the tent, well, there simply is not much that best pleases him, the last couple days. Eyes locked on the diminutive figure in black, Riordan comes to a stop near to her and her sworn sword. Absently brushing his cloak aside to show he carries know weapon, the only courtesy that Riordan shows the armed figure, he instead remains with his gaze fixed on Danae. The sight of her in black, siluhueted by Gedeon's tent and banner, brings a tighteness to his eyes, the emotions he has bound so tightly threatening to break through. "My lady," he greets, simply. The strain in his voice, in all of him, likely makes the words sound harsher then he intented.
A light touch is given to the knight's elbow at his words to collect his attention so that she might meet his gaze and offer a whisper of response. Pale blue eyes lock with steely grey but for moment before Danae shakes her head in simple, silent disapproval. No one barrs the Lord Regent's presence as he enters, it garners a few curious looks from those about but no real comment. At Riordan's address, Danae turns slowly towards him and clasps her freckled hands together as she looks to him with a cool eyed gaze. "Lord Regent," she returns softly, inclining her head graciously. For all that her dress is of a fine black and her hair elegantly bound atop her head, the days have not worn well on the former Westerling; her small shoulders bear a grace that is less vibrant that before.
Whatever Alek may have to say further to Danae is cut short by the lord's greeting, that harsh address earning an automatic response from the knight where he steps forward before the lady. His hand falls with careless ease to the sword he wears on his hip, all lean violence as he steps in front of Danae. "Nayland," is all he says, the one word holding a challenge to it.
Riordan's eyes flicker to Alek's as the man steps in his way. He does not meet the challenging look, or tone, with one of his own. His own eyes, though full of tension when directed at the lady, is thoroughly devoid of anything when gazing at Danae's newest sworn man. It is not certainty in his own ability that makes him meet the challenge thus, nor is it arrogance, or the knowledge that he is safe behind his title and family. Quite simply, it is utterly clear that at this moment, Riordan Nayland just does not care.
For a moment Danae uses Alek's shielding form to observe Riordan with quiet consideration and more than a touch of trepidation, with her vision partially blocked by the his cloak. Heart hamering in her chest, she needs it to gather her nerve to face a man whom only short days ago she named 'love' and taken in the changes that have harried him since their parting. It is a moment, but no more. In a graceful whisper of skirts, Danae steps forward and briefly touches Alek's arm with a genle, "He does not come as a threat, Ser." Gentle as her voice it, it carries no doubt in her meaning: Stand Down.
Alek's lips twist into a smirk at Riordan's reaction, those grey eyes narrowing on the man as he almost laughs. But, Danae's word and touch calls him back, not quite comfortable in her service yet to disobey even so soft a request. He sweeps a mocking bow towards the Lord Regent, drawing back and away to an appointed distance from the pair, not so far that he cannot watch them but much father than he'd like.
Simply waiting for the dismissal, as if he expected it, Riordan turns his eyes back to Danae. He has never looked at her thus, before, with a gaze so full of so many things that, in the end, it is near impossible to determine what he is thinking or feeling. For the usual heart-on-his-sleeve Regent, it is definately a new trick. "We need to speak alone," he says, simply. "What I have to say, I do not think either of us want heard." His voice is flat, almost lifeless, for all the earlier tension.
When Alek withdraws, Danae flits a glance his way with an approving angle to her jaw that is more subtle than a nod and folds her hands back at her waist. If there is a newfound complication in Riordan's gaze, twisted and swarming to the brim, there is a sad simplicity to her own. Pain, overrides all other emotions that bubble under the surface. "Of course," she says calmly, words carrying a courtier's grace as she gestures towards the trees. "There is a small break there, and a clearing beyond."
"Fine," says Riordan, breaking their gazes with a jerk of his head at the look in Danae's eyes. "Leave him behind," he says, simply, likely meaning Alek, though he does not actually look at the sworn sword. Instead, he moves past Danae, and walks towards the indicated clearing, not even looking back to see if his words are heeded or not.
Danae cants a brow back at her sworn sword, inclining her head towards the trees in a directive gesture. Alek should follow, but remain at distance — assuming that she could convince him otherwise. Needless to say, the Tordane lady does not bother to inform Riordan of this despite his off-the-cuff order, gathering her skirts in a hand to follow several paces behind the stalking Nayland lord. Her feet make little sound on the soft grass, skirts rustling. She moves at a pointedly slower pace than Riordan, neither adjusting her small step for his greater strides nor hurrying to move in unison. The trees offer a brief obscuring barricade, but moving through them to the clearing is a simple endeavour.
When he gets to the appointed spot, Riordan simply waits for Danae to arrive. When he turns to her, he does flick his eyes back the way they came - but if he notices the guard, he doesn't say anything. Instead, his eyes turn back to Danae, and he studies her with his tumultous dark eyes, that only short time ago, gazed at her as if she were the center of his universe. "How long?" he asks, simply, softly.
So arrive she does, settling her ebony skirts in a small patch of sunlight within the copse. It causes Danae's blonde hair to ring about her feaures like a halo, sun dappled skin appearing pale against the sweeping black shade of her gown. Blue eyes that would have turned away or flushed at his regard now only meet it with a steady gaze, however hazy with emotion they may be. It is no longer a maiden that stands before him. "The proposal only came after Ser Rygar challenged him to a duel," she replies quietly, truthfully.
"So you knew when we were together? Is that why you left me in my sleep, as if I were a two penny whore?" Riordan asks, his eyebrows raising at that, anger simmering to the surface in his gaze, never far out of reach. "And how long after my your body cooled from my touch did you wait to find that bastard's marraige bed?" He shakes his head sharply, to shake the thoughts loose from his skull. His words remain quiet, for now, but only just. "Did he know what we had? Or did you tell him lies as well?"
"And why would I not? You had already made one of me as readily as I made one of myself, Riordan," Danae replies coolly, a shard of bitterness embedded in her voice curled around her disgrace. The words of a two-penny whore. A icy tension curls through her still figure, the crack in ice that at any moment could be brought to breaking. "That bastard waited for marriage to take me to bed, at least. Although perhaps he would have reconsidered it if he knew otherwise." A scowl twists her lips as she adds, "You certainly did."
"Well, I am sorry that my loving you made you feel dirty," Riordan said, the restraint he is currently using to bottle himself up showing in the darkening of his face, the muscles in his neck straining as he clenches his jaw against his words. "I am sorry that I actually believed you when you said…" He cuts himself off with a sharp clamp of his jaw, the sound of teeth clicking loudly audible. A second later, he lets out a snort that is almost like a short laugh, but one utterly bitter and devoid of humor. "Gods, I was such a fool. Do you know, I was so at peace Danae, so utterly devoid of anything other then you at that moment, that I would have granted you anything. It is just as well you left when you did. I would likely have taken any further lies you spoke for the words of the Seven themselves, and wounded my family deeper then you already have."
Watching Riordan with sad blue eyes, Danae listens fully to all his words and makes no move to interrupt nor motion to depart. She simply stands. "You would grant me anything, but you would make no move to make me yours by your own hand. I heard you speak once we lay…did you think that I was asleep then, Riordan? Or was that cruelty your intent?" Her voice breaks, sharp and soft on the crisp pronounciation of the word.
"What are you talking about?" Riordan asks, genuine surprise momentarily interrupting his anger and hurt. He looks at her for a long moment, before he seems to realize. "…Danae Nayland," he repeats. He stares at her, his expression one of utter amazement and disbelief. "You are right, I had thought you asleep. But did it not occur to you to ask? We both knew where are duty lay, Danae. You as much as I. So no, I would not have thought to ask you for your hand until I could be assured that my family might hold Stonebridge. Until you had made it clear to me that you would have been willing to risk it. All you had do was say something, anything, and I would have mounted us on our horses, and ridden straight for the Mire. I would have done anything to convince my father that the alliance of our houses was needed, and I would have done anything to make it true." He shakes his head, his anger coming back even more so then before, and his voice begins to rise. "But instead, you abandoned me for my houses enemy. You lay with me all the while knowing that the day after, you would be married. You told me lies of love and promises of devotion, and even when that bastard lay dead on the stones you SET YOURSELF AGAINST MY FAMILY! AGAINST ME!" His eyes blaze with rage, fueled by an unended source of hurt and despair, as his voice finally cracks out like a fiery and loud whip.
"Danae Nayland," she replies, the flavor of the words as bitter as ash on her tongue. "What did you call it, a daydream?" There is a tremble to the line of Danae's jaw, quivering with tension as her own anger is put down. "I am not a daydream. I would have done anything to make you see me as that on your own, anything had you just not spoken those thrice damned words and reminded me what a silly girl I was. That, you would bed me, but you would not fight for me, Riordan. That I was nothing that would do your honorable house proud. No matter how much I loved you. That any child that might have come from such a tryst would be a disappointment, a bastard, no matter what words of love we spoke the haze of the sun." Ever soft voiced, there is nothing to hide the steel beneath the silk of her words. Her eyes dart over his features as she considers her next words, mouth tight with tension under the heat and fury of his cry. "I am a practical woman. I told you no lies, Riordan. I cast you no fables and I held you to no rights. I disgraced my own honor in your arms, by my choice, and I loved you then as I might still love you now, but Gedeon would have me. And whatever else he might have been—" She shakes head head, gripping her skirts with white knuckles as she finally breaks Riordan's gaze to look away, haunted by his body on the stones of the bridge.
"I did not call it a daydream. All I said was that I doubted the God's would be so kind to me. Nobles are not supposed to marry for love, Danae. But that does not mean I would not have tried." Riordan shakes his head angrily. "You didn't even give me the chance! You say you love me. If that were true, then why did you not trust me!? And when that bastard died, why did you not come to me first, instead of announcing to the world what you had done!?! Sweet Seven, Danae, but even now, even after you have ripped out my heart and given it to that BASTARD, I am trying to protect you! What will it take…" His words, still loud with anger, take on a desperate edge before he cuts himself off. The next words out of his mouth, though, are oddly soft, though no less filled with the emotions that bind them at this moment. "You say those words like a curse, Danae. Did you truly think that becoming a part of my family was so bad? Do you hate us so much? Or is it just me?" Even when she looks away from him, Riordan continues to stare at the fragile woman before him, as if he simply is unable to tear away his gaze.
"Is that so different, Riordan? The gods, an afternoon's dream, both seem so powerless to aid us towards anything we want when looked upon critically" The corners of her blue eyes are tight with pain as Danae speaks, looking directly at him as if to sear into his soul. No more shy glances. Never again. "I would have let you go. I would have held onto that afternoon as a dear, sweet memory to cherish…just why did you have to say that name?" Her voice breaks off in a whisper, smile more broken than any jagged tears could make it. "Gods, I wanted it more than you can imagine. And to have that even scrap of hope ripped away after—" After the highest of highs, a lover's embrace. She shakes her head. It was more than her heart could take.
A bitter laugh, torn and wordless falls from Danae's lips in disbelief as Riordan announces her tearing of his heart. "Come to you and what, Lord Nayland? I had just watched a man who I called both friend and husband die on that bridge under your cousin's pike. Think you my senses so strong as that?"
"WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO MAKE YOU UNDERSTAND!?!" Riordan roars, his face flush, his knuckles white. "YOU DID NOT TRUST ME." The Nayland knight clenches his jaw, visibly restraining himself against everything inside him that is screaming to get out. "You betrothed yourself to my family's enemy, and did not trust me with that. You left me without giving me a reason, without giving me a goodbye, because you did not trust me. And when you were hurting, you did not trust me with your pain, or with your protection." He shakes his head sharply once more, his nostrils flaring. "So do not lay this on my feet, Danae. Those words were spoken out of love for you, and my family. The two things I hold most dear to my heart. Or did, before you I still had one." Finally, Riordan looks away from her.
For a second, the Regent's figure is nothing but a tight, contained coil of rage, and hurt, and betrayel. And then, he simply slumps in on himself. The tiredness on his face becomes evident, the lines that indicate sleepless nights and restless thoughts, the bend to his shoulders that betray the weight of things he can no longer bare. "I depart for the Fortress of Sevens tonight. I would have you with me, when I discuss events with my father. I would protect you from the repurcussions of your actions. But I will not break my father's heart, as you did mine. So if you set yourself against him, you set yourself against me. And even though it will destroy me, I will do my duty." His words are said almost by rote, with no real feeling behind them, other then simple despair.
"You consider me a much stronger woman than I am," Danae says simply, staring up at him with wide eyes as she takes a step forward into his rage. The grass would sway with his bellows could his voice so carry and the trees would lash around them at the intensity of the emotion. "Or a weaker one. To think that I could suffer such a heartbreak as the one you rendered and come begging you for favor when I can see myself worthy of none in your eyes. If yours is so shatted, beloved…then mine mirrors it," she challenges, words falling harshly from her tongue as she watches him with sharp eyes. A whispered, "Twice," following that harsh lash, fingers gripping her skirts. It does not count him. "I wished for a partner, a friend in things and maybe even a child that would not be a bastard, after you shattered my heart and I got a corpse. I wished for a love, even if I could not have you for a husband, and I got…gods. I think the gods have a cruel sense of irony in their dealings."
At his offer, Danae brows rise in desbelief at his gracious offer. "Tell me, do you intend to see them slay me or merely imprisonded at your familial home?" She looks stung by his offer, retracting a hand that she had extrend while speaking to curl back against her palm. The steps she had taken towards him, unintended but incapable of resisting at seeing him in such rage and pain, seem a poorer choice now and her shoulders sink.
Riordan doesn't respond to Danae's rebuttles, any of them. He simply does not seem to have it in him. In fact, it is only at her question that he turns to her, and so perhaps missed the unintended movements. "No," he says, simply. "I would see if I can convince my father that making you my wife will see an end to this matter." Those words spoken, though likely not in a way either of them likely expected them to be said, he continues in the same tone, so weak, and tired, and despairing of anything good just now. "But if you can not trust my intentions, simply ask for bread and salt when we arrive." Even though the tradition of guest right is usually observed rather then spoken of, even though the deliberate asking for such would betray a lack of trust in one's house, at the very least it is still an inviolate ritual, and would ensure Danae's safety beneath the Nayland's roof.
"Oh," Danae whispers, the word breaking like a crack in the earth. It is near enough as it seems to take the ground out from beneath her feet as she plummets abruptly to her knees, sinking into a pool of black. Covering her face with her hands, her shoulders shake in uncertain emotion, shoulders hunched as she looks toward the ground. A sound hitches up from her thoat, somewhere between a sob and a laugh.
Seeing her like that, it finally breaks Riordan. His mind no longer works, and he simply moves on instinct alone. Two long steps take him to her side, and without a care drops to his own knees before her, taking her into his arms. He doesn't pause to consider anything. Not propriety, not all that has passed between them. Not even the very skilled guardsman with the very sharp sword lingering nearby. He just offers what comfort remains for him to offer in the warmth of his arms.
No tears dampen his doublet as soft pitchy sounds rise in the back of Danae's throat, fingers pressing against her skin almost hard enough to leave marks. Her small frame shakes in his arms, trembling like a leaf in a strong wind. A muttered whisper hitches against her skin — too soft to hear.
Riordan doesn't speak. He may in fact be incapable of it, right now. So he just keeps his arms around the frail lady, one hand moving up to rest against her head, holding it to his shoulder. Holding her against him. And for now, that is all he does. Offering what little comfort and protection he can with his arms, and his embrace.
It is some time before Danae ceases to shudder or to make those little hitched sounds in the back of her throat that notes of a near hysteria played out against his tunic. Body loose and pilable in his hold, forever how much her mind is unattaineable for the moment. Eventually her hands come away from her face with the exhale of a breath that has the same ring of a death keel. "The gods have a cruel sense of humor," she whispers, pushing at Riordan's shoulder. "That you would marry me now."
Perhaps allowed enough time to regain some semblance of his thoughts, Riordan relaxes his protective hold from Danae. It would not be easy to escape him, should she wish it, but nor does he seem overly anxious to let go of her, either. Her push merely succeeds in causing him to rock back, slightly, as his dark eyes find her light ones again. "I would have married you before," he repeats his earlier statements, the words cracking dryly in his throat, and barely above a whisper. "I would have not have wished this bitterness on our union, though. Gods, I only ever wanted to do the right thing, but it is so hard to see what that is…" Now that the barriers have been well and truly broken, there is no restraint left in the Regent of Stonebridge. His eyes reveal everything he has been feeling. Almost everything, anyways, as none of the anger has survived the last few cathardic moments. Indeed, there is even the glimmer of unshed tears in his eyes. "I am not sure what this will do to us, Danae. But I know that I will fight for you, if you let me. I always would have, if you'd just given me the chance."
It is a gentle push with her arms so trapped between them; her small body rocks back with the momentum as she looks up at him from under blonde lashes. Danae does not seek to escape him, not immediately as she tips her chin up to fully meet Riordan's dark eyed gaze in what is perhaps an attempt to discern the truth of his statements. There is no more blind hope or belief left within her. "There is no right thing. Your family would not have us, you know that even if you are willing to fight for me now. I would die or my child would and I am no oathbreaker. You will not act against them, for that would destroy you just so surely as the bitterness shall end us both, when you take your words to your father," she states, lifting a hand to sweep a lock of hair back from his eyes and cupping his cheek. The gentle stroke of her thumb can be felt along the line of his cheek bone, just below his sad eyes. Rising up on her knees, she places a skiss on his supplicant brow, mouth brushing the arch of it in a smooth stroke. "You will tell them that I laid with you before my marriage and I will deny it with my every breath," she whispers in his ear, fingers curling into his hair in a light grip. It is a statement, not meant in anger or rage, just sorrow. A lock of his hair is smoothed with her fingers, then she seeks to withdraw from his hold. "One way or another, I am shamed. This is what this will do to us." This. Here and now.
Riordan actually shudders against Danae's touch, and the tears that he has been holding in threaten to break free. "The right thing is to stay alive, to have a future. To end this torment for all our families, and the people of Stonebridge, and finally find peace. And to, perhaps, rebuild the pieces and find a chance at happiness," he says, meeting her eyes with his own glistening dark ones. His hand reaches up to hers, trapping it against her face for however long he can. Maintaining that touch and their closeness as if it were a lifeline, and he adrift and alone in a dark sea. At her further words, he shakes his head. Not in denial that her words are untrue, but rather denying they are the only way. "No, Danae. Come with me," he pleads. "If you swear that your marriage was unconsumated, and that you spoke in grief and anger, the marriage can be annulled. We can be married. If it means a final end to all this, Father will agree." Whether that is the truth, or just what he believes, is another matter. But he truly seems to believe it.
"Please Danae," Riordan says again, not content with only the single plea. "If… if Gedeon truly wanted this for you, then he is not the man you describe. To trade a secret day's marriage for a lifetime of uncertainty and loneliness… for the both of us. Please." Somehow, from somewhere deep inside, Riordan finds the strength to say Gedeon's name and speak of their marriage without flinching, though the pain of his words is palpable. "Do not do this. Take a chance with me. Trust me. I beg you." All the carefully arranged facts, persuasions, and arguements that he had come here with in his head, that he had begun to build up, simply leave him, and all that is truly left is that last, heartfelt plea.
Her blue eyes are undampened as she looks on him, not without affection but that which has been subsumed by solemnity, cool in colour and in demeanor. Danae has shed all the tears that she will cry for Stonebridge, for Gedeon, and for the future that might have been. There are no more left. Her thumb brushes against his cheek, warm palm trapped hand against Riordan's cheek for a moment longer. "Beloved. Once beloved," she murmurs with a jagged smile.
Danae shakes her head in denial of the truth of his words, long lashes brushing against her cheekbones as she seeks to withdraw her hand. "I could say all those things, Riordan…what would be left of me? If you could even convince your family of this…" A shake her offers what she thinks of that, unlikely that she might survive the meeting and more so that they would approve of the babe. He offers no guarantees to the contrary. "I am married and witnessed in the light of the Seven. There is no lie to that and I will not voice it. Gedeon was a man who would do right by me and I will not foresake him with his body barely laid." The thread of belief that runs through her voice at the idea could be made out of pure Valyrian steel underneath a tone that is soft as silk, not meant to wound him more than she must. Leaning in, she places a soft kiss to the crown of his dark head. "I have no more chances left to give. I trust you will do as you must, as will I for my child. That it could have been different, once love," she whispers, lips brushing against his skin.
Silence meets Danae's pronouncement, silence and the closing of Riordan's eyes. His body nevertheless leans in to her ever touch, as a plant leans towards the sun. Only after all her words, and that final kiss, does he open his eyes and meet the lady's gaze once more. Gone is the threat of tears. All that is left is a tired echo of the look he gave her only a few days ago, during their sweet summer's moment. "My love is what would be left to you, Danae. I made an oath too, in the eyes of the Gods. I swore my heart to you, forever. Even if you must forget your love for me to survive, I will not." Riordan, like her, leans forward to place a soft kiss on her - but rather then forehead or cheek, he would take one last one from her lips, for however long she allows. "The offer still stands, until I leave for the Mire," he will say, once it is done. And just like that, the embrace is broken, and he will stand. "And whatever you decide, whatever words leave my lips after this day, you are still in whatever remains of my heart." He will move to leave, after that, his last parting, bittersweet words spoken in simply truth.
Her blue eyes regard him steadily; the love that lingers in them not even an echo of what he saw just one sweet summer afternoon reflecteing his own gaze back at him, it is merely a whisper. No blues like the sky, only that tumultuous colour that coats the sea. Danae smiles softly at his offer of forever love, only kind to him in this. That she swill not lift her voice to deny its claim. For all that this kiss is likely to be their last, it is soft and brief as a pair of lover's lips meeting for the first time. No move is made on her end to deepen it beyond that — sweet and subtle, pulling back with a sigh. Danae rises to her feet and folds her hands at her waist, shaking her head sadly at his offer. "Goodbye, Riordan. I will miss you." It is all that she offers in place of a reply, to his offer, to his vows, to his parting.