|Seen and Not Heard, Bastard|
|Summary:||The arrival of Lyanna and Maldred at Highfield doesn't go quite as smoothly as hoped.|
|Related Logs:||On The Road|
|Courtyard — Tanglewood Manor|
|The courtyard opens up into a barren expanse of well-trodden, hard-packed dirt underfoot. Surrounded on three sides by the looming structure of the Keep, and on the fourth by the outer wall and gatehouse, the courtyard benefits from both sunlight and shade at most hours of the day, illuminated in the evening by well-placed lanterns. Through the western wall, an arching, covered walkway leads to the paddock and stables beyond, by way of the Lord's kennels and hawking mews, while the opposite building houses the Keep's barracks and armory. The main building looms tallest, dominating the area with it's weighty double-doors - easily twice the height of a man - at the pinnacle of a clean-swept set of steps.|
|October 21st, 289 A.L.|
"The sufficiency of my merit is to know that my merit is not sufficient." — St. Augustine
Another peaceful day so far, the lazy tranquility of a midday hangs in the air of Tanglewood Manor. A tranquility which is perturbed by a sudden racket nearing the keep. Through the gateway the sounds of hooves can be heard, announcing the arrival of a rather small party, slightly enlarged with the men of the escort Lord Ashwood had sent forth to greet them. The first rider to appear is Lyanna Frey. Wearing a practical riding dress in the blues and greys of her house, partially obscured by a cape of deep vivid blue, her dark brown hair tamed into a single braid while a few strands fall over her forehead, the young lady of House Frey brings her white palfrey to a halt and casts a curious glance around the courtyard of the place that was known until very recently as Highfield Keep. Almost keeping up with her is another descendant of Lord Walder, Ser Maldred Rivers, emerging with a rather grim expression on his face atop his steed Graymalkin. The rest of the retinue is comprised of a woman in her mid-forties, wearing the characteristical white of a septa, a maid and two guards in Frey colours.
Having received word of the approaching Frey contingent, Aleister had sent a small group of men to see them safetly through his lands and to provide them escort to the Courtyard of the Keep. As the retinue emerges from the Gate House and into the Court Yard proper, Aleister is emerging through the double doors of the keep, hands clasped idly behind his back for the moment. He's clad in simple finery of azure and vert; the colors of House Ashwood and there's a flowing cloak that is held in place at his shoulders with small gold claspes. Brown eyes flit amongst the riders, moving over the servants and guards until they come to settle upon the Lady. It's there that a couple of steps come to be taken and as he begins to move closer towards the group, he's offering a respectful incline of his head, followed by, "Welcome to Highfield, M'Lady of Frey."
Recently returned herself from Terrick's Roost - for who knows what purpose - the Lady Ceinlys is well settled back into her duties as Steward. And as such, she too is prepared for these new arrivals, in her own way. A step or two behind Aleister as he emerges, the young woman likewise inclines her head toward the gathering, though as he moves forward she lingers upon the steps, hands clasped loosely against her skirts. Perhaps in light of the speculation that surrounds her true position here, she's attired, as has become her habit, in neutral hues of ivory and silvery-gray; a well-fitting bodice and practical riding skirts that trail a little in the wake of every graceful stride.
Her quiet presence is a near constant within the walls of the Keep, though her silence ought never be mistaken for lack of attention. Dark-lashed eyes of a striking azure take in each of the new faces with an expression of polite interest, levelling upon Lyanna herself last of all. A murmured word and a sidelong glance is enough to send a dawdling servant inside, no doubt to fetch some wine. Riding is thirsty work, after all and the Ashwoods are nothing if not hospitable, when it comes to visitors. Most visitors.
Lord Frey's putative by-blow has been notably taciturn since the embassy's party was enlarged by their host's escort, louring and brooding at his high(er)-born kinswoman's flank. Occasionally he has leant in to mutter the odd suggestion to her, but even this tendency has been less pronounced as they drew nearer the keep. His leather riding hood thrown down, he glances about unfixedly, edgily, dust of the road marring the pallour of his face and the light of his disarrayed hair, dust which he does not care to brush aside. He lets Lady Lyanna begin proceedings, at least for the moment, though in another mood he might have taken it upon himself to announce her, leaning an inch or two back in his saddle.
The saturnine gait of his master has given the white destrier an unusually rested look, and Maldred's frame looks relaxed too…were it not for those tense eyes, with which he examinies Knight and Steward of Highfield as if they were so much horseflesh for breeding. If rumour speaks true, indeed, such they are…
Lyanna's deep blue eyes take their time as she scans the yard, shining with hardly contained curiosity as she notices the Lord of the Keep on the stairs. There is a light blush at Aleister's polite greeting and a pause - hinting that she still might have to get used to her new position - until her face brightens up with the kindest of smiles as she inclines her head to the lord as well. "Lord Aleister Ashwood, I presume? I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I bring you the best wishes of my grandfather Lord Walder. And his thanks, that you stay true to our House, while… another House related to you does not." After a short moment of hesitation she makes a gesture to her own escort "This is my cousin Ser Maldred Rivers and Septa Mariah over there insisted to accompany me." Leaving the maid and the guards unintroduced, of course, Lyanna returns Ceinlys' nod, her eyes gleaming with friendly curiosity.
At her presumption, Aleister is offering another inclination of his head and when she comes to make introductions, he's offering a paltrey glance in the direction of Maldred before letting his attention shift to that of the Septa, to give her a slight incline of his head; one in which he did not offer to Maldred. When his gaze returns back to Lyanna, it's with a hint of a smile upon his lips, "That House in which you have spoken of, my Lady, is of no relation to mine anymore." Content with that, he half turns to motion in the direction of Ceinlys, "This is the Lady Ceinlys Erenford, Steward of Highfield." Turning back then, he lifts a hand in the direction of Lyanna, no doubt to help her from her horse should she choose it, "We are honored that Lord Frey would grace us with your presence, my Lady, and I hope that your journey was an easy one."
Well, at least the Frey bastard's eye will not go wanting, between Lord Aleister's finery and Ceinlys' elegant ease. Noting his gaze, meeting it just once and deliberately holding her attention upon him for a pointed moment as the young lady makes introductions, she then returns the focus of her thoughts to Lyanna. Blushing, how enigmatic. Or a very clever wolf in a pretty sheep's clothing. It never does to judge a book by it's cover, nowadays, and that has never been Ceinlys' habit anyway, as a rule. Still, her greeting in kind, when it's offered after Aleister's introduction, seems genuinely warm; uttered in the soft-spoken, velvet cadence that comes most naturally. "Lady Lyanna. Well met. I do hope our grandfather is of good health and cheer, in spite of the recent happenings." Ceinlys' mother, of course, is Walder's eldest daughter.. and quite the cunning manipulator she is, too. Family trait?
Beyond her bare, slender shoulder, the servant returns with a brimming wineskin, but hovers properly until the time is right to bring it forth to the visitors. More than one set of eyes are regarding the arrivals, from windows and shaded doorways around the courtyard, but they're easy enough to ignore.
Now is the moment Ser Maldred appears to take as his cue. With a smile as thin as the blade of a misericorde, which nonetheless enacts a considerable change on his aspect, curdling it from mere gloom to insinuating mischief, he leans in the Steward's direction while seeming to answer, instead, the Knight of Highfield's enquiry. "Even the smoothest ride stirs up an appetite, my lady, don't you find? I'm sure your lord's own men are as famished as we are…yonder wine's a fine start, but might we trouble you for a few capons to go with it?"
The smile gets wider and more genial as Maldred rounds familiarly upon the rest of the mounted party, before settling back upon the Steward. Certainly, the latter is easy to look at, but even that does not quite explain Maldred's assiduous engagement with her to the exclusion of his…host. Probably her undoubted Frey lineage means he regards her as a more even prospect. "I was grieved at your good-brother's passing, my lady," the bastard adds, though with more of a social than stricken air, in truth. "A stout captain and a high heart, the darling of victory…truly, the Stranger staggers in as odd a path as any drunkard."
Although the smile remains on Lyanna's face, there is a slight flicker in her eyes as she observes Aleister's reaction to Maldred's presence and she nods to his remark about House Charlton. Inclining her head in Ceinlys' direction as Aleister introduces her, she replies: "Oh, the journey was pleasant enough. An enjoyable ride to both me and my horse. The fresh air, the pleasant view of what nature has given us… " Lyanna's cheeks are rosy and healthy, very unlike her paleness from two weeks ago. She notices Aleister's offered hand and decides to accept his assistance in dismounting her horse - although she probably does not need it. "
"Lady Ceinlys, well met indeed. And yes, he is," the Frey lady replies to Ceinlys with a good-natured chuckle. "You know Lord Walder. I can hardly remember a time when he was sick. May the Seven preserve his health for many years to come."
Maldred's request for a little food and wine is met with an enthusiastic nod. "As refreshing as the ride and the fresh air have been, I must confess I am starving." She raises a brow at Maldred's last remark about Ceinlys' good-brother's death as she is obviously not as well-informed as her relative of lesser birth.
"I am pleased to hear, Lady Lyanna, that you journey was pleasant enough and without incident." Aiding her from her horse comes with another slight incline of Aleister's head before he's casting a glance in the direction of Ceinlys before his attention shifts over to that of Maldred, "Baseborn should be seen and not heard and most surely should not make requests of their gracious hosts." There's a flicker of a smirk that dances to Aleister's lips and once he's aided Lyanna and stepped back, a hand lifts to motion in the direction of the barracks, "Your meal will be prepared and delivered to the barracks, along with meals for the rest of the guard." He offers nothing in the way of conversation on the death of the Erenford and when he looks back to Lyanna, it's to lift a hand and motion in the direction of the keep, "Chambers have been prepared for you, Lady Lyanna, and I will see a proper meal prepared for you as well. Whereas, later this evening, we will have a feast in which you can meet the rest of my House."
"Their gracious hosts," Ser Maldred repeats quizzically. "I see my lord is as gracious as ever. My lady," he appends lightly, turning halfway back towards his now dismounted kinswoman, "I shall attend you wherever and whenever you wish, though I do not account myself bounden upon the words of any of our House's…loyal…and avowed…bannermen."
Still ahorse himself, Maldred veers off at a walk someway to one side, drawing a little closer to the Steward. "I saw Young Lord Marvish last upon Alderbrook fight, my lady. Leaders with such acuity to win battles are rare, and I fancy we shall all miss him sorely ere long." This can hardly be aught but a rebuke to the Head of House who has lately missed one such battlefield triumph…
Gracing Aleister with a grateful smile and a nod, Lyanna lets go of his hand as she stands now beside her white palfrey. Although a slight frown appears on her face as she overhears Aleister's rebuke of Maldred's behaviour. "Do not be too harsh on my cousin." she throws in, adding with an apologetic smile: "He may be a bastard, yet I am sure I do owe most of my safe arrival here to him." There is a quick glance in Maldred's direction and a light shake of the head as her gaze meets his as if to remind him not to cause any trouble. Her attention is quickly back on Aleister, and she smiles, obviously very pleased with the promise of a meal. "You are very kind, my lord. I thank you for your hospitality and would be very thankful if someone - " her gaze jumps to Ceinlys - "might show me those chambers you are talking about." A swift gesture with her slender hand, and her septa, the maid and her guards dismount as well. Her bastard cousin's words are received with a nod of amused gratitude, as she does note the diplomacy seasoned with a bit of irony in them. "I will send for you." Lyanna says plainly in a soft voice, before she turns her attention back on Ceinlys, waiting for her to show the way to her chambers.
A low chuckle begins to escape past Aleister's lips as he turns more fully towards that of Maldred, his head coming to cant just a touch to the side, "That is right. You were at the Battle of Alderbrook, weren't you." A pause comes to pass and it's followed by another chuckle, "Saddled amongst the Armsmen and Bowmen and not even given the right to ride with the Knights under Ser Ryman. A fitting place, for a Bastard. Not even worthy to ride with the Knights of the House that he is sworn too." That smirk deepens upon the Lord's lips as he regards the Bastard Knight and after another moment, he's simply lifting a hand, to give an idle wave, "A cot has been prepared for you in the barracks. See your horse stabled and your effects deposited. My Steward has matters more pressing then the likes of you, Bastard."
Now, he's turning back to regard Lyanna, a slight incline of his head coming to pass, "The fact that he saw to your safety, Lady Lyanna, is why he will be allowed to bunk in the barracks and not send scrambling to the Inn." Now, his gaze shifts to that of Ceinlys, regarding her a moment before lifting a hand to motion her forward, "The Lady Steward will see you to your chambers, my Lady, and will see to any need that you may have, if I am not available."
Ceinlys listens with apparent good nature to the other young lady's reply, regarding their mutual grandfather, nodding and echoing her soft chuckle. "True enough. I hope we shall find time to speak in more depth of our kin, Lady Lyanna. But for now.. of course.." Her blue eyes flit idly toward Maldred, though she doesn't deign to respond to his none-too-subtle demands of sustenance. "..we ought see to having you comfortably settled in your chambers. There is time enough for all needs to be met." Should Aleister permit, she seems content to show their noble guest to the aforementioned accomodations. But apparently she's still being addressed.
Raising her gaze to more evenly regard Lyanna's companion, unperturbed by the proximity of his grey mount, the Steward offers him a cool smile, leaving a breath between the Lord's icy response and her own, only slightly thawed one. "Indeed, the loss of Young Lord Marvish has dealt a terrible blow to my former good-parents, Master Maldred. Fortunately, they ae not short of skilled and loyal sons. In that, House Erenford and Haigh share a common bond." Anyone who has spent any time on a battlefield would well know the reputations of her own brothers. Not that Aron Haigh is likely to expend much energy in befriending the likes of him. With that, and a shared glance between she and Aleister, she inclines her head, extending an open hand in a sweeping gesture of invitation toward Lyanna. "Come, my lady. I am sure you have sore need of a comfortable seat and.. a little peace and quiet."
"I chose the left flank, …ser," Maldred answers in the same neutral tone, neutral as a scythe, in fact. "A word of counsel from one veteran to another…victory can oft be acquired from the most unusual places. My lady," he goes on, switching his head and his horse both back in Lyanna's direction, "permission to resort to the very inn our kind host just mentioned…I hear the most remarkable things about that establishment, and should like to see them for myself…"
Once, or if, that permission is granted, it looks as if Maldred is quite willing to ride off the way he came…though he does spare the Steward another reminiscence. "Aye, my lady. I well recall Ser Aron, and Ser Harlyn, him too."
"…forgive me, I mis-styled your brother…*Lord* Harlyn."
"Oh, I would be most grateful." Lyanna replies with a friendly smile to both Aleister and Ceinlys. "Although I have missed being outside, I feel I am easily fatigued and could use a bit of rest." Her weary gratitude seems stirred however as Maldred suggests that he will stay at the inn. Her deep blue eyes turn to her bastard cousin, flickering with a strong sentiment while she upholds a forced calm in her bearing. There is a pause before she shakes her head slowly but with determination. "Oh no, Maldred. I cannot allow you to refuse Lord Ashwoods hospitality. I insist that you stay here with me…"
There's a slow turn of Aleister's head back over in the direction of Maldred, to regard the man another moment before offering, "When I want the counsel of a Bastard, I will command it. Until then, do not seek to offer me such things; lest I take offense and see your tongue cut from your mouth." A flit of his eyes comes to Lyanna, "It is of no consequence, Lady Lyanna, and of no offense." He looks then to one of the Ashwood armsmen, "Since the Bastard does not require our hospitality, see him escorted from the Manor grounds and to the Inn. Ensure the Gate Guards know that he is not to be given entry to the Courtyard unless word comes from myself." Then, he's looking back to Lyanna, to take a step back and offer a slight bow of his head, "Please, do enjoy your chambers, Lady Lyanna and when you are ready to speak further, I will be available. For now, if you will excuse me, there are a couple of other matters to which I must attend to."
"It seems my cousin would rather I remain, ser," Maldred dissents jovially. "I believe my father recently, if word from the Twins ran true, offered with his characteristic generosity to rearrange your fine new hall. I believe that if word reaches him that his grand-daughter has been forcibly separated from her protector and kinsman …or indeed that the said kinsman has been separated from his tongue…that offer could well stand. I shall stay. I much look forward to enjoying…what was the Knight of Highfield's picturesque phrase?" he enquires aside of the Steward…
Forced to a pause once more, one slender brow arched expectantly, the Lady Ceinlys waits to ensure the matter of the 'knight's' arrangements is settled, calmly studying the man's expression. It's an impressive mask he dons, spitting barbed words and thinly veiled insults as if he were a courtier born. Judging by the momentary twitch at the corner of her lips, the Steward finds it oddly entertaining to see him trade words with her Lord. She has had no need, as yet, to take him in hand herself.. not when Aleister can do so with such effortless grace.
With a soft sigh, though no particular urgency, Ceinlys looks between Lyanna and her companion, then to the armsman waiting to act upon his orders, offering the latter a fractional nod of added assent. Why oh why would she be a touch keen to see Maldred escorted from the grounds, when he is so undeniably charming? With Aleister having taken his leave for the moment, it falls to the noblewoman to solve the matter. "Seeing as you are so dilligent in your duties, Ser.." she intones, softly as ever, "..perhaps you ought oversee the organisation of your lady's household, while I see her to her own chambers. Layton here.." She indicates the solemn armsman. "..can aid you. And when your presence is required within the Keep, you will know of it promptly." Guiding Lyanna gently once more toward the stairs and the waiting doors, the ebon-tressed woman lingers just a little longer, to add in an undertone, "..and perhaps you might practice better guarding your tongue. Lest it's removal upset someone of genuine standing? The generosity you are offered, while you remain here, is that of my Lord. You would do well to recall the notion of gratitude."
Turning back towards Maldred, Aleister takes a step towards the man, hands once more easing behind his back to clasp together. Gone is the smirk, replaced by something a touch more .. wicked and there's a slight shake of his head as the Bastard Knight speaks, "And I'm sure that Lord Frey would be most distressed to hear that one of his servants has offered grave offense to Lord Ashwood." Another step comes to be taken forward and now, that smirk returns to his lips, "After all, it was your Lord who elevated me to Lord of Highfield, Ser Rivers." A third and final step carries him a touch further to the bastard, "Offer veiled inferences again or a single further offense or insult, Bastard, and I will see you forciably removed from my lands. Now, remove yourself from my presence."
"Oh, I'm sure. Most distressed," the bastard Frey agrees, now openly succumbing to mirth. "Farewell, cousin. Enjoy the banquet, and the wit and gallantry of your - our - new friends. Come, my good fellow villeins," he condescends to the Ashwood soldier and the pair of Frey guards, before turning the destrier Graymalkin at hitherto pent-up fleetness towards the stables, "you heard the Steward, we have errands to attend to." And attend such chores he will, with an…adequate…outward grace.