Page 369: Reports to Make
Reports to Make
Summary: Following the meeting with Ser Harold, Justin goes to find his brother Jacsen and instead runs into Lady Anais receiving Ser Kell's report on his trip to Heronhurst.
Date: 25/07/2012
Related Logs: Follows Pressing for Commitments
Anais Kell Justin Kamron 
Reading Room, Terrick's Roost
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.
July 25th, 289

When word came to Anais that Kell had returned to the Roost, it travelled right back to the courtyard with the same servant, a breathless boy somewhere between childhood and teenage years eager to feel important. He brought an invitation for the knight to the reading room, where Anais waits with tea and water at the small desk she's claimed for her own in a corner by a window. She looks up when the boy comes running ahead of Kell, a faint smile ghosting across her features before she tidies the piles of parchment on the desk in front of her in preparation for the news.

Whether Anais had expected Kell to return this soon or not, the knight is indeed back at the Roost just two days after he departed with the other Erenford Knights and instead of seeing to the stabling of his steed himself, the knight hands it off to a stable boy before following the young man. The Terrick Sworn did not take the time to make himself more presentable, instead choosing to meet with Lady Anais in his leather jerkin, worn for some protection but also ease of riding as well as his Terrick colored riding cloak. Entering the room, Kell thanks the young man for guiding him to the Reading Room before directing his attention Anais, giving her a respectful bow, "Lady Anais, I have returned."

"So I heard," Anais says with a small smile, not quite able to hide her nerves. She gestures to a chair on the other side of the desk, reaching to pour a cup of tea. "Please don't keep me waiting, Ser Kell," she asks, smiling crookedly as she looks up from pouring. "How was the letter received?"

Moving to the chair that is guestured to, Kell slips into the seat though he sits on the edge of it, no longer breathing hard, in transition to controlling his breathing from the hard ride from Heronhurst. "I was able to gain audience with Lord Miraz Erenford yesterday and I have good news. They are willing to offer us a loan but they do have concerns, concerns in regards to the Charlton's recent actions against their lands and people." For now that is what the knight starts with, to give Anais a structure on where the talks went.

Anais catches the inside of her cheek between her teeth, lips pursing as she parses that news. "I don't particularly blame them for that," she agrees slowly, fingers tapping on the table. "I don't trust the Charltons very much either. First they occupy Stonebridge, then they ride through the Erenford lands and take hostages, and now they're grabbing up what's left of Tall Oaks. Frankly, I don't think anyone's interested in supporting them. They've made a lot of enemies lately."

Anais sits at the desk she's claimed for herself, in a corner by a window, with Kell sitting across from her. The knight has only just returned from Heronhurst, and there's a tea set on the desk instead of work, though papers are piled neatly to the side. "What sort of terms are they asking for?"

The door opens as they are discussing this news and in steps Justin carrying a big, thick law book which he's been trying to study most evenings. He stops as he sees who is in here, catching some of what they are discussing. He quietly closes the door behind himself and walks over to set the heavy book down lightly. The Sheriff says nothing as yet as he's interested in listening, pale grey eyes slipping from Anais to Kell, then back to her.

On the subject of the Charltons, Kell's expression darkens momentarily but the knight keeps his own thoughts on the Charltons, especially Aleister, in check by not voicing what he is feeling which would most likely be rather inappropriate. "That is what the Erenfords are afraid of, which is why the loan would have to come at a price, because if there is a possibility of open conflict with the Charltons, then they would need the gold and food stored up to pay and supply their men."

There is a pause though as the door to the reading room opens which causes Kell to turn his head. Seeing who it is, the Terrick Sworn quickly rises to his feet again and bows his head to Justin, "Lord Justin. I have just returned from Heronhurst with news of the initial discussions with Lord Miraz Erenford." For now, Kell remians standing, perhaps waiting for Justin to relieve himself of the burden of the book and then to join them if he chooses to.

Anais glances up as Justin enters, offering a small smile toward her goodbrother. "Justin. Come join us?" she invites. "Kell was just telling me how the trip to Heronhurst went." At the talk of a price, she draws a deep breath, reaching for the tea cup to take a careful sip before she speaks again. "What sort of price, Ser Kell?" she asks, bracing herself for the possible answers.

"Ah yes, everyone is so eager to gouge us. Please do continue, Ser Kell." Justin inclines his head politely to the man's bowing, sharing then a look with his goodsister. Even though he does not care for tea, Justin steps over to pour himself a cup.

Kell finally takes his seat again as Justin joins them in the discussion of a possible loan from the Erenfords and the knight turns his attention back to Anais as she asks her question. "The price can be considered high, though at this point it seems like one that is dwarfed by our current situation. Lord Miraz has offered two possibilities, M'Lady. Either we accept the present rate of interest where current loans in the Riverlands are concerned, which I've been informed is absurdly high, or, and this is actually the preferred option, a solid written commitment of support in the form of knights and men-at-arms from us and if possible, the Mallisters as well, should the Charltons grow bold once more."

Once more Kell pauses before looking back to Justin, shaking his head slightly, "I believe that if it wasn't for their current situation with the Charltons, they would've offered a loan at a very reasonable rate, in search for friendship, but they are now between a rock and a hard place. It seems like they want to help us, but are also afraid of what may happen to them in the near future. With their second offer, it sounds like they are more interested in finding true allies, not just Houses to build loose ties with." The latter part of Kell's words seem more like the knight's own opinion from what he has gathered during his brief time spent with the Erenfords.

Anais pressed the side of her thumb to her lower lip, then absently bites the nail. "A commitment of martial support," she repeats slowly, thinking it over before casting a sidelong glance Justin's way. "That doesn't seem untenable to me. What do we have to lose by it? Even if our lands were turned into a battleground, there's little enough left to destroy. And there's just as much chance that no conflict comes of it and we get what we need at a reasonable cost. /And/ we continue to build alliances in the process. Justin? What do you think?"

Tea in hand, Justin refrains from interrupting Kell as the man speaks, tempting as it is to make an interjection. He quietly bides his time, taking a drink if it's not too warm to quafe off half of the tea in a few swallows. After working in the town all day, Justin is far more interested in hydration than savouring a taste he doesn't like anyway. It's safter than drinking unboiled water at any rate. After a pause, he finishes off the cup and pours himself a second to listen to Anais's thoughts - at which point she asks for his own as well.

Justin watches them both, then sips the second cup of tea. Lowering it, he says, "It also means we could be drawn away from /here/ to go help them elsewhere, leaving the Roost essentually undefended with Aleister Charlton for a very close neighbor. However, after a /most/ interesting discussion I had with Ser Harold today, we have a critical situation on our hands and very, very little time left either way."

Kell certainly doesn't look pleased when it appears that another critical situation has risen up, especially after so many other critical situations have just been slammed on the Terricks over and over again. For now the knight remains silent, waiting to hear what this new problem would be that may require immediate attention.

Anais pauses at Justin's words, concern flickering across her brow as she continues to worry at her thumbnail. "What now?" she asks quietly, watching her goodbrother.

Well, he may as well take a seat for this whether they are seated or standing. Justin takes the padded window seat if it's not already taken, leaving the desk and table chairs to them. "Well, I've been watching Ser Harold closely on his two visits here, trying to be friendly and feel the man out. Honestly, incase we might have alliance prospects even with them if we had to, but more because I don't trust them. I can tell you right off that Ser Harold /loves/ our view and he has greedy eyes for our lands. He's also been keenly interested in the cliffs and how we stood up to the Ironborn siege with more or less a handful of knights in the tower against hundreds with siege engines. Yes, much too interested. Further, both visits he's shown a strong interest in trying to barter for /people/ with skilled labour to help his cousin, saying how we can't feed to many mouths and wouldn't it be helpful to work out a deal where the Charltons would take some of them off our hands to put them to work in Highfield. All polite like, mind you."

Now Justin pauses to take a drink. He watches both of them, but apparently trusts Kell to speak to plainly before the other knight, "Now we all know if the Charltons offer good pay, land to work, and plenty of good food, they can steal a good number of our smallfolk from us and further weaken us. They are playing /nice/ for the moment but I'm not blind to that threat. So we have little time to secure a loan and get food coming in if we have any hope of keeping them from taking our people. And without people to work and hold our land, we all know what that means. If we -thought- the Naylands were ambitious, the Charltons can teach them volumes more."

That is definitely not good news and Kell's brows can only furrow further into a frown as more Charlton business seems to intrude now onto the Roost. "The Charltons has the money to back up whatever they want to do where as the Naylands don't, atleast not to what the Charltons have in their gold chests." For now, the knight can only shake his head slightly in disappointment at the news, when things go wrong, they really go wrong. "Though, if the Erenfords hear of this, they may be more than willing to ally with us as we may end up having a common enemy. Plus, if it does come to hostilities, having to fight a two-front war is definitely not something any intelligent field commander would want."

"I think that should make our decision an easy one," Anais says quietly, looking to the window for a long moment. Whether it's memories of the siege or thoughts of another war, she's occupied as she mulls it all over. "If the Charltons want to play the villains, it should be easier to make our own alliances. We already know the Naylands have reason to dislike them. So do the Erenfords. The Groves…" She lifts a hand, wiggling it from side to side. "We may be trying to build an alliance with them through Luci's marriage, but once they have their fiefdoms back, I doubt they'll be interested in anything other than the possibility of getting more. And if something should happen to the rest of the Terricks, I imagine the Groves would quite sorrowfully take on Luci's inheritance. Diminished, of course, by the part the Charltons might take, because they couldn't possibly handle /all/ of it." Her eyes narrow on the horizon as she works through the possibilities.

"Do we have reason to suspect the Groves are in bed with the Charltons? They certainly are in with the Naylands." Justin has already finished his second cup of tea and he fingers the empty cup idly, but doesn't move to refill it again now that his thirst has slacked. Nevermind his empty stomach. "The question then becomes, would the Erenfords back /us/ against the Charltons in turn, to protect their loans? Very likely it wouldn't go both ways, so we need to find out. I think it may be wise to see if we can get food shipped in through our docks because if we can't, our food lines will be cut off when fighting breaks out over Stonebridge. And I think there's no if about it anymore. None of us really think the lady Danae is going to show up not pregnant by /someone/ and it's easy enough to find a boy infant to put into her arms if she birthed an unwanted girl instead, now isn't it? She might never do such a thing but I doubt the Charltons intend to give her choices in her future, whether she knows it yet or not."

Kell can only nod in agreement with what Anais says as if he is coming to the same conclusion that she is. "The reavers failed against our walls, the Charltons will do the same if they try. And not only will they lose men at the attempt, but I am sure King Robert would not be pleased that someone else is breaking the King's Peace, especially after what the Ironborn have done." As for whether or not the Erenfords would back us, the Terrick Sworn can only nod again, "If it is a written agreement, I am sure it would go both ways, Lord Justin. Because if we are pledging men-at-arms to each other's Houses, then it would be a formal Alliance. The Erenfords would not want to announce to the Riverlands that they do not uphold their Alliance agreements, it would be very bad for any future prospects for them. They definitely seem the honorable type."

"I think the Groves are in bed with the Groves," Anais grimaces to Justin. "Which means they'll take what they can, when they can. They'll stay out of it until they can't lose. Any alliance with the Erenfords would have to be mutual," she agrees with Kell. "But we have to be aware and guard our backs as we can. The very reason they would want the Roost works in our favor, in terms of being difficult to assault. But it also means we keep our guard up outside the keep. Lord Jerold would give the Charltons anything if they took Luci."

Kamron arrives from the Angled Corridor.
Kamron has arrived.

Justin tries not to roll his eyes at the last part about Luci, "Well, /that/ aside, I otherwise agree with all points. So, what we need to do is take this to father at once." There's a careful look to Anais, "While I know my brother is also… in the loop, he's been procrastinating as much as father has been. We can't put this off now. We need to send someone back who can negotiate with the Erenfords to hammer out the details concretely and not pussyFu… foot around and screw this up or drag it out. What we seriously don't have is time. The moment the Charltons get whiff of this, they won't be waiting with their thumbs up their … eh, backsides." Yes, lady presant. Justin as leaned forward in his chair window seat, "Gods, Jacsen needs to go and he won't likely. He needs send me, but I know he won't. We dare not send Luci."

There's a knock on the door, and Kamron sticks his head in, looking about quickly. Spotting Justin amidst the others, he steps in, "Justin. Lady Anais. Ser Kell." Percy peeks in behind Kam, then shuts the door with the squire still on the outside. The Mallister knight steps into the room more fully, "Sorry if I'm interrupting. Justin, you said there was something urgent?" His eyes flicker over toward Anais and Kell, then back to the Sheriff with a bit of a question there in his eyes.

Now Kell is actually glad that he chose not to delay his return and left his packhorse as well as some of his belongs back on Heronhurst land. Bringing the negotiation news back from Lord Miraz was important enough, it was just by pure luck on the Terrick Sworn's part that it coincides with the news that Justin has brought. "We can protect Lady Lucienne if things do get worse, I am sure we can convince Lord Jerold that his daughter would be much safer within the walls of the Roost, with guards. And I also agree that we need to return to the Erenfords as soon as possible, not just for the Alliance, but the sooner that we can get the gold or food we need for our people, the happier they will be to stay here in the Roost than get poached away by the Charltons."

Once the door opens again, Kell turns his head to see who this new arrival will be and as it turns out to be Kamron, the Terrick Knight inclines his head respectfully to the other man. "Ser Kamron."

"So I'll go," Anais replies, reaching up to rub a hand at her brow. "Everyone's been saying I ought to go away for a little bit, take a break. If the Roost needs to be defended, we'll need you here," she points out to Justin. "But I didn't marry Jacsen for nothing. I'm his wife. I can negotiate on his behalf. Besides, I sent the letter in the first place. I've laid the groundwork." She looks up as Kamron answers, pausing until she hears his words. "Do you want to summarize for Ser Kamron, Justin?" she asks, reaching for her tea to take a bracing sip.

Unable to sit now, Justin has moved to stand when the door opens. Thankfully it's only Kamron, whom he gives a curt nod, "Aye, Ser. I certainly don't want this leaked around, it's very sensitive, so while we all trust you I think it best the Mallister womenfolk not be in the know." Justin glances to Anais and gives a nod, "I'm comfortable with that, Anais. If Jacsen will let you, I know you are sensable and won't be stupid in negotiations. I certainly wish to go as well, but you are right that I probably should keep alert here. Jacsen would not let me go anyway so best I don't fight that."

Slow breath and a nod to Kell, "Thank you, Ser Kell, for bringing this timely." Justin takes a few paces to cross the room before he looks back to Kamron, "Ser Harold asked me to meet with me today. He and I have spoken before and I have been keeping a close eye on that man, but friendly like. He's a very canny soldier, that one. Been eying out defenses, interested in how we held off the Ironborn with so few in the tower, real interested in the cliffs, and having eyes generally for our land. Very enamored of the 'view'." Justin drawls, "Both times he's asked about the possibility of pressing us for our smallfolk. Skilled labour, maybe make a deal with us to send people to Highfield. Asked me to put this to my father and brother, and in return they'll give us limited hunting rights to former Camden lands and the like. But the threat that I heard, even without him saying is that good food, land to hold and excellant paying work will rob us of our smallfolk if we don't make an agreement. How we have too many mouths we can't feed and wouldn't they be helpful to take them off our hands? But if we don't have enough folk to hold our own land, we all know what that means."

So, Justin indicates Kell with his chin for Kamron's benefit, "Ser Kell here informs us that the Erenfords are willing to give us a loan, or maybe food and supplies in exchange either for a high interest rate, or … a martial alliance pact to aid them if the Charltons move against them." There he pauses so the others can interject more details if he left something out.

Kamron frowns slightly at Justin's mention of the other Mallisters, but he still nods. Ser Harold's deal causes him to shake his head, "I hope he doesn't actually think that we would send smallfolk away from the Roost to Highfield." Yes, he's part of 'we' and has been for some months. The further information, about the Erenfords, causes him to frown a bit more, "If the Terricks come into any war, the Mallisters will be pulled in too, and the Erenfords know that. I heard that Ser Dmitry and Ser Inigo went to Kingsgrove to see about terms from the Groves. We can compare them, at least. But if the Erenfords are that worried…" He's thinking now, a frown creasing his face.

When Anais suggests that she be the one to go to personally negotiate, Kell's eyes widen slightly since he sees her as a person of importance to the Roost, and with possible Charlton shenanigans, she would be willing to risk her own safety. But this is a matter of utmost importance. "Should have told Ser Harold that any one of the Roost's men is worth ten men of any House." The common knight manages to say with a grin, perhaps trying to keep the atmosphere from growing too serious and heavy. He does incline his head to Kamron again, remembering that the Mallister is here, "No offense intended, Ser. Present company excluded of course." Kell does also add a little tidbit to Justin's summary, "Speaking with Lord Miraz Erenford, he is certainly interested in a solid Alliance, House Mallister included, Ser. Not just improving relations. Since their lands and people have already been intruded on once already."

Justin paces a few steps back across the room, his hands now clasped behind his back, "Yes, but it's we who suddenly need alliances against the Charltons ourselves. And food brought in at once, if we are not to start loosing our smallfolk to Highfield. We have no hope of keeping them from slipping away in the night if they are starving here, but offered better there. It isn't even far to go. And as for any fighting right here for our own lands, we can be certain the Groves won't be eager to come to our aid when they want their share back. So we need the Erenfords, and if we find a way to sort things out even temporarily with the Naylands, well, they did come to aid us against the Ironborn in our time of need." Despite bad blood between their families, Justin hasn't forgotten that.

"The Groves want their land, they're willing to take Luci for it," Anais answers Kamron's other question, grimacing faintly. "And, as I was just speculating, she's not exactly a loss for them, either. If something were to tragically happen to the rest of us, the Groves could claim the Roost through her. And they could split it with the Charltons if they wanted. The Groves are in the business of business, not friendship. Not real alliance. If the Erenfords are willing to make us a loan on good terms, though, for alliance, there's a chance we might be able to get what we need for almost nothing but promises. If we can play things right. We get food and seed, and the Charltons lose their leverage. Which the Erenfords should appreciate in and of itself."

Kamron shrugs slightly at Kell's boast, "Any House but Mallister and you've a deal, Ser Kell." His faint smile disappears quickly, however and he nods to Justin, "So long as they aren't actually starving, I doubt that the smallfolk would leave in any numbers. And I bet that the Groves won't be so quick to refuse any call from Lord Mallister, not after the last time." He reaches up to scrub at the back of his neck, frowning again by now, "If we can get food and seed with a loan from the Groves or someone else, we remove the threat from Highfield, without embroiling ourselves in a possible war."

For now, Kell finally remains silent as he seems to have nothing else to add currently as he has reported what he needed to do and also added his views to the discussion. It appears he is waiting to see what the finalized decision will be and what their next task at hand will be. However, after Kamron speaks of the possibility of war, a thought does enter the Terrick Sworn's mind, "I am not one for war, far from it. However, this may be a rare opportunity for us and for the Cape, to finally form a unified front against a common enemy. If a formal Alliance is drafted between between our House and House Erenford, with House Mallister included, with the cause being the Charltons. The Naylands may also be inclined to join as well, since they have had trouble with the Charltons as well, especially with the Tordane issue… unresolved. This may be the best and one of the only times we can solidify ties with our neighbors in good faith, strengthening our bonds for now and for the future."

Listening, Justin frowns, "I think … Highfield is more a threat than simply luring our smallfolk away, Ser Kamron. And I think there will be war over Stonebridge if a child can be produced. Which will cut off our food once more, even if we got the loan from the Groves, which they will only give us in exhange for their lands back. But if we alliance with the Erenfords in this matter, they will have an interest in helping to be certain we /do/ get our food even if the Charltons try to cut us off." And then Kell's speaking up and Justin nods in agreement. "I'd love to have Stonebridge back in /our/ hands, but I don't forsee it. I'd rather the Naylands keep it if they must than the Charltons get even richer, wouldn't you?"

"This should help /prevent/ a war," Anais shakes her head to Kamron. "The Charltons are attacking where they see weakness. Not where they see strength. Even when they struck at the Naylands, it wasn't in Stonebridge and it wasn't in the Mire. It was in Erenford lands, where they thought they had the power to do what they wanted. It's been in Tall Oaks, where there's no one to fight. The Charltons don't want a war. They want what they can take without one."

Kamron frowns at Kell's words, "And where do the Freys come down in all of this, Ser Kell? What if it really comes to war? Any such alliance would win, so long as the Freys didn't come into it, but at what cost? How many of our smallfolk die? How many of us do?" He nods a little warily at Justin's words, and at Anais, "It may, Lady Anais, it may. It's a gamble, though. And yes, it's better the Naylands hold Stonebridge than the Charltons." Rubbing at his temple, the knight grimaces broadly, "Hells… this is a knot. Do we know where the Haighs, Flints, or Freys might jump?"

Kell does incline his head to Kamron as the other man makes a good point, but Anais does reinforce the issue that this could prevent the war, "Hopefully it will not come to that and the Freys… they haven't seemed eager to come down on any side if there is conflict, Ser Kamron. Hopefully they won't have to as the Charltons will see no benefit in going up against a united front."

It is all grim news and Kamron adds good points, "Aye, the Freys… we don't know. But the Flints were, and mmay still be, trying to open a port on Camden lands. They are fairly good friends, though … I can't say that my father or my brother have been graceous to them of late. Ser Anders has been here for months to try and speak with my father or brother, and ignored. The Haighs … want to be friendly and if need be, I think they hope to offer the lady Ilaria in marriage to myself. We could bind them to our side against the Charltons as well, perhaps." But it still very much leaves the Freys the wild card. Finally Justin retakes a seat and nods, "I think the Freys will wait and watch, which seems to be their usual game. They seek profit more than conflict."

"Walder Frey will wait to see who wins. That's what he does," Anais grimaces. "My first instinct is that the Flints would be with us. They've been friendly, and they're honorable sorts. Especially if the Charltons seem at all underhanded in the way they go about their plans. But I think Lord Anders and Lord Aleister are or were close, so that might be a push. The Haighs…" She nods to Justin. "I think the Haighs could be won over easily enough. Lord Haigh seems to prefer Ser Martyn to Lord Rafferdy, and Lady Ilaria is one of the options we've been considering here."

Kamron shrugs one shoulder at Kell's words and Anais' too, "They let the Charltons through the Twins last time. It wasn't to fight a united front, granted. And if the Charltons find allies, the Cape could burn." He nods to Justin as well, "Or Lady Katrin to Martyn." He chuckles a little dryly at Anais' mention of the Haighs, "Except Ser Martyn — as of two days ago — had not actually requested the match of Lord Mallister. He means to, and I'll push him to do so more quickly. Lady Katrin thinks that her father prefers a Mallister match to a Nayland one, but does not know about her Lord Uncle's preference."

"Lord Aleister," Kell says with a bit of bitterness in his tone, "Was certainly close with Lord Anders, especially during the Ironborn conflict. So it is hard to see which way they will tip." As for the Haighs, he can't say anything about them since he doesn't know the Haighs very well, only rumors and what not which he doesn't put too much substance to.

To that, Justin nods, "I'm not … in a hurry to marry. Not after the Naylands played us so. I'd be happier if it works out between lady Katrin and Ser Martyn. Other, better options might serve my house later in a betrothal." Kells words though pause him. Justin has nothing to add there, not knowing Anders well himself.

Justin adds, "But let us also be clear that we need to be VERY quiet about this alliance, if we seek it. If the Charltons hear of it before it's done, they might move to try and stop it somehow."

"Simply put, the only way this ends in war is if the Charltons were going to start one to begin with," Anais points out, leaning back in her chair a bit as she looks between the men. "In which case I doubt Lord Jerold would be willing to sit it out anyhow. At least this way, we get something out of it." She draws a deep breath, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. "I'll leave tomorrow. I'll say I'm going to Seagard to get away for a bit and circle back toward Heronhurst after Stonebridge. I've had at least four chatty people suggest that I do something of the like in the last week. It's believable."

Kamron nods to Kell, then chuckles wryly at Justin's mention of marriage, although the amusement fades as the Sheriff continues, "I don't know that I agree with you, Justin. I think if there's an alliance, it should be loud and public — once it's settled, of course." Anais' suggestion draws a bit of a chuckle and a helpless, or even apologetic, shrug. He settles down again, "You don't think Lord Jerold would be willing to sit out a war pitting the Charltons against the Naylands and Erenfords, Lady Anais?" This time, his shrug is a bit doubtful, "You know him better than I do…"

As Anais makes her decision on when to leave, Kell nods as official plans are finally being made, "I am ready to depart whenever you wish, Lady Anais. If necessary, I can wear a regular guard's kit, if we wish prying eyes to see that I have not left the Roost to bring word back to Heronhurst." He is glad that they are doing it quietly but also quickly as time is of the essence, especially when it comes to hungry villagers and as more time passes, more chances for someone to pick up something. Kell does look to Kamron, "Ser Kamron, do you think Lord Patrek would wish to send a Mallister to Heronhurst as well? Since when I spoke to Lord Miraz, he had stated that a martial alliance could include both Terricks and Mallister?"

There is a lifted brow at Anais about everyone suggesting she get away for a break, but as it serves their purposes, Justin retakes his seat and leans back. "Well, being all friendly and practicing my political poker face, I have gone and invited Ser Harold to dinner here at the tower with his lady wife. Since you dear goodsister will be absent, I suppose I'll have to entertain him myself. Perhaps I can get Lucienne to bat her lashes at him a lot and Ser Dmitry to … joke with him. The man is sharp and has a sense of humor. And he beseached me to speak to Jacsen and my father to carry his proposals so, I'm to do that." Yes, shiny. "Jacsen has forbidden me to actually speak politically with anyone without Lucienne presant so I'm sure he'll be positively livid if I don't invite her." Which for some reason amuses Justin.

There's a nod to Kamron, "Oh, I agree - once it's settled. Public and loud it must be, but until that's done we need to be very careful." Justin looks between Kamron and Anais, "Father … would sit it out if he can. But it would cut off our food supplies if we can't bring them in by sea. In that case, can we afford to sit it out?" The Terrick knight gives Kell a nod, "She must be kept safe."

"You forget one very important detail," Anais points out. "Lady Liliana is Lord Jerold's ward. He takes that sort of thing incredibly seriously, and is no doubt feeling a good deal of guilt over not having been able to prevent the loss of her familial lands. Had they left Tall Oaks alone, I think he would have sat it out. Now? He'll feel honor bound to do something." She frowns slightly at Justin's words, shaking her head. "I don't think that's what he meant, Justin," she says slowly. "I think he meant that you shouldn't be negotiating your own betrothal, that's all. We're not so flush with negotiators that we can afford to forbid you not to."

Justin makes a dismissive gesture towards Anais, "It wasn't only about betrothals, goodsister. My brother and I butted heads, hard. We shall see."

Kamron chuckles softly at Kell's question, "There are several cousins who might make the trip permanent, Ser Kell. I bet Lord Mallister would be interested, but I can't be sure." Justin's repetition of Jacsen's words cause him to blinks hard, and he opens his mouth — probably to curse, if his expression is any indication — but he glances over to Anais and swallows whatever he was going to say. Instead, he rubs at his temple again, driving his knuckles to white, "Hells. I'm sure that Lord Mallister has already heard the general thrust of this," because he's got spies, right? Right? "but I'll send a courier to him to make sure." He draws in a long breath, then lets it out, "So all three of you think we should ally with the Erenfords and Naylands?"

Kell gives Justin a firm nod in regards to keeping Lady Anais safe, "Of course, M'Lord. On my honor and on my life." As for his opinion on whether or not an Alliance with the Erenfords and Naylands, he can only shrug his shoulders slightly. "I wish we had more time to thoroughly talk this over, Ser Kamron, but it seems like our situation grows more dire with each passing day and more bad luck pressing on us. For better or worse, right now the Erenfords seem like the best ally we may be able to make. The Naylands, that may be icing on the cake but it isn't out of the realm of possibility."

"We have to ally with someone new, Kamron." Anais takes a sip of tea, then sets the cup down. "The people we're already allies with have nothing to give us for any price. The Naylands only have the Groves surplus, and little in the way of coin after they bought it. If I have to make an alliance with someone, I'd prefer it be with someone who actually needs it as well. They'll be much less likely to turn on us at the first opportunity."

From where he is now seated, Justin shrugs to Kamron, "I don't trust the Naylands. We should continue to be very careful of them, but if it comes down to it, I'd rather not have the Charltons on two sides of us." After a pause, Justin adds, "A courier … might be stopped, bribed, robbed, or indiscreet. It may be wiser to send someone you trust to take the information personally, Ser. I think it's that touchy."

Kamron nods to Justin first, "I didn't mean a hired courtier. I'll send one of the Mallister guards from here. With Percy alongside." He lets out another hard breath, "Well, at the least, we might be able to negotiate for at least a couple of months' worth of food just for offering our support. If not everything we need from the Naylands and the Erenfords alike. If they're connected already, we should be able to get concessions from both houses if we do ally with them."

Kell is more keen on listening now as his eyes moves from person to person as they speak though there is a slight interruption as a gentle rumbling comes from the knight's stomach. Which causes him to actually look embarrassed as he looks down at his stomach then back up at the others, "Er… excuse me. Apologies for that."

Anais smiles faintly at the rumble from Kell, some of the tension in her shoulders easing. "Go eat, Ser Kell," she laughs softly. "You've time for that. Thank you. I can't tell you how grateful I am for everything you've already put into this."

Truth be told, Justin's stomach is as empty as Kell's. And his belt is already tightened a couple of notches more than he used to wear it. He glances aside to the other man and says low, "If you haven't had your second half ration yet today, you've certainly earned it, Ser Kell. Get yourself to the kitchens, if you like." (Ah, and he and Anais agree, almost speaking at once)

As for himself, Justin moves to stand, "Now all that remains is … I need to make a report to Jacsen and father. Tomorrow." He's too tired to do it tonight, "Unless you have further use of me, I'm badly in need of some sleep."

Kamron nods as Justin and Anais both speak up to Kell, agreeing silently but not saying anything himself. Justin's words draw another nod from the man, "With your permission, I would like to tell Lady Saffron about this, to ask her opinion on the situation. She may not know the people involved, but she has a keen mind, and it would be good to have another person to bounce my thoughts off of."

"Thank you, I will take my leave then and after I finish my meal, I will go about acquiring some guard kit for half a disguise when we are to depart for Heronhurst." Kell says as he slowly rises to his feet. He does bow his head to each person present, "Lady Anais, Lord Justin, Ser Kamron." As for being grateful for what he has done, the knight can only offer a smile, "I am glad to be of service."

"Saffron would be helpful for the cover story," Anais muses at Kamron's request, though she looks to Justin as well. "And I know she'd never do anything to risk my safety or the Roost."

A hand is lifted to rub at his face, tired and the sweat of working in the heat has left his brows gritty. Justin refocuses on Kamron, "The fewer who know the better but I do trust your judgement as long as you stress to her the great need NOT to go speaking to anyone else about it, please. And… I owe you an apology for my short temper, last evening. I've had a lot on my mind. We all have." Justin looks to Anais and nods, though he's still uneasy about most women keeping their mouths shut. He leaves it, and offers a weary smile to Kell, "Maybe I'll come down to the kitchen with you. See if I get my knuckles rapped by the cooks if I try to get something before bed." He grins, having missed his evening ration for the day.

Kamron blinks at Anais' words, "You mean to bring Lady Saffron to Heronhurst with you, Lady Anais?" His words are quietly both shocked and dismayed. He nods to Kell as the knight departs, then looks back to the Terricks — born and married-in — "I'll stress that the news is not for sharing beyond the ears of the two of you." Waving Justin's apology off with one hand, he adds, "I should apologize too. I spoke rashly myself."

"Not with," Anais assures Kamron, shaking her head. "What I mean is that if Saffron says she asked me to go to Seagard to help with something for her wedding to force me into taking a vacation, I think people will believe it," she explains, smile quirking with rueful amusement.

Kamron relaxes at Anais' words, "Sorry. Just got a little worried there." There's a pause, and then he bows his head, "Good luck, Lady Anais. I hope you have an opportunity to enjoy the trip a bit yourself."

"Perhaps." Anais doesn't seem to think that's particularly likely, but she smiles all the same. "I should go and speak with Jacsen. And prepare." Gracefully, she pushes out of her chair, stacking the papers and tucking them neatly away. "Good evening, Ser Kamron. Please give my regards to Saffron."

Kamron nods his head, "Of course, My Lady, if you'll do the same with Jacsen." He offers that up with a bit of a smile, then steps aside so that she can depart.