Page 174: Sharing Burdens
Sharing Burdens
Summary: Aubra comes across Anais in the cellars and offers comfort and advice.
Date: 7/1/2012
Related Logs: Invasion logs
Anais Aubra 
Cellars — Four Eagles Tower
The Cellar's stairs drop down from beside the kitchen entrance and drift below ground as a shallow angle. The dirt floor in the basement provides just enough dampness in the air, mixed with the cooler temperatures, to help keep the goods stored down here somewhat fresh. The foods are kept to one side and down a set of halls while the casks of wine and mead are kept closer to the stairs.
January 7, 289

The keep is full to the brim of defenders and smallfolk, and there are very few places that might be considered private. One of the last places to seek out some silence is a back corner of the cellars where wine is kept. The good wine. The kind of wine that isn't likely to be sought out in the middle of a siege, with food in potentially short supply. Anais is not completely unreachable. She's left one guard at the top of the stairs, able to point her out in case of emergency, and another stands near the bend in the hall that hides her little place from the cellars at large. Inside, though, it's mostly silent. Mostly, save for the occasional sniffle from a dark corner, behind a rack of barrels.

It is most certainly difficult to find a private place in this hectic time. But Aubra is not one looking for a private place. Not at the moment, anyway. No, she's looking for supplies of varying kinds. Which is why she is in the cellars in the first place. Though her curiosity was piqued by the guard at the top of the stairs. As she putters her way through the cellar, she calls, "Hello? Is there anyone else down here? I believe you left a rather boring looking fellow at the top of the stairs. Although, if he is boring, I can understand why. Don't want him for company, I wouldn't imagine."

There's a shuffling from behind the barrel, a moment as Anais wipes her face with her sleeve. "It's all right, Aubra," she calls back, pushing up and brushing off her dress. "It's just me." Her eyes are a little red, but she seems otherwise in good shape. More or less. "Were you looking for something?"

"Ah, m'lady." Aubra comes around the corner, giving Anais a little curtsy. "Well, I was looking for some food. But maybe there's something more important that needs doing." She looks at Anais and shakes her head. "Sit down, m'lady. Tell me what's wrong." It doesn't sound so much like a request as a demand, which is unusual coming from a servant. She slowly brings herself to her knees, using a barrel of wine to help support her while she does so.

Anais doesn't seem inclined to argue. In fact, her eyes water a little as she sits back down. "Everything," she answers, her voice small. Quiet, she rubs at her eyes, only the pattern of her breath betraying the threat of further tears. "I'm supposed to be brave. I'm supposed to be- supposed to be a pillar of strength, and an inspiration to the people of the Roost. But I'm scared. And Jacsen- And-" There's a pause as she takes a deep breath, still trying not to cry. "I don't know how I can do those things /and/ help him, because they seem like they're opposites."

The older woman listens quietly and shakes her head to what the younger woman says. She is silent for a few minutes, but when Aubra does speak, it is not to chastise or openly scold Anais but rather she speaks in a thoughtful tone. "I remember hearing a story when I was a child. It was a story I often had my father tell me." She seems to gaze past Anais, and past even the wall behind her, into the days of her childhood. "It was a story of a young woman. Her own life was in ruins. Many of her town had been slaughtered by looters, raiders who would come every few months and steal what had been amassed, killing all those who got in their way. She and her husband had taken it upon themselves to help lead the town and protect the others, their neighbours." Aubra scratches the back of her neck. "Slowly her husband and her began to drift apart, not by choice but by happenstance, as the stress of their situation was getting to them. The woman shouted to the Seven, 'What have I done to deserve this? How can I carry on being strong when the walls of my life are crumbling before my eyes?!" Aubra looks at Anais straight in the eyes. "Can you guess what happened next?"

"Something worse, I imagine," Anais murmurs glumly. "That's how those stories always go. And then the young woman realized that it was her own fault and she tragically continued her life knowing what she'd lost." She wipes at her eyes once more, shaking her head. "I know it isn't about what any of us deserve. It's just what happens. And the only thing we can control is what we do about it. I just don't-" She shakes her head, looking away. "I just don't /know/ what to do about it."

"You'd imagine wrong, if you imagined that." Aubra states firmly. "A few nights later, an elderly woman walked into their town with nothing but a latern to guide her way and some scraps of food to keep her fed, and with a curious sword hanging loose against her back." The reference of the old woman, except fot the sword, seeming to be a reference to one of the Seven, The Crone. Continuing on, she says, "This old woman knocked on the door of this woman, begging for a place to stay for the evening. And not being one to turn away a person in need, the woman welcomed in the elderly woman. Finally, they got onto the topic of the town and all its troubles, and the woman told this stranger all her problems. After a while, the old woman said to her, 'Be not afraid, young maiden. Your husband still loves you dearly, but is afraid of letting you get close to him in these times, for he does not wish you to have so much grief should he die in these uncertain times. And he is afraid of disappointing you should he not succeed in saving this town.' And the old woman smiled softly and continued one saying, 'I have heard of this towns plight. And I have come bearing a gift from my own son to save this town.' She pointed to the sword which she had been carrying. 'It is a sword of strength, a sword of power and might. All who wield it shall not fail.' The old woman patted the younger one on the shoulder and said, 'The Seven have heard you, and will not forsake you. Spend tonight with your husband, let him know your fears and your weakness. Let him be your strength, and let the sword be his.' And with that, the old woman walked out the door, and was never seen again. The town heard this, and their courage was bolstered. They defeated the raiders, and the town grew again, and the husband and wife…well, they were grateful for what they had."

Anais smiles faintly to the woman, drawing her knees up toward her chest. "And where did you learn stories with happy endings, Aubra?" she asks, weary amusement in her voice. She falls silent, resting her chin on her knees as she lets the story sink in. "Do you think that's it? I don't know. I just…sometimes I think he resents me. I know I'm not the person or the future he chose. I was Jaremy's choice. His father's choice. And I don't know how to be what he wants me to be. He wants me to- He wants me to do nothing, Aubra. To ignore what's happening beyond the walls. But how can I do that? How does that help him? I know this is hard on him. Here we are under attack, and he can't- He can't do the things that Jaremy or Jarod could have done. He can't ride out on sorties, and so it's him, and it's his father, and Lord Jerold- Lord Jerold is too old to be leading his own assaults. And I know that must be hard for Jacsen. I just don't know how to make it better."

"I'm smallfolk born and bred, m'lady. We thrive on the stories with happy endings. Makes us think we can end up as happy as you nobles are supposed to be. Of course you nobles get just as miserable as the rest of us, but most smallfolk don't want to see it!" Aubra lets out a harsh laugh at that. "I don't know that he resents you. But I know that it does you know good to ignore what's on the outside. But, perhaps, don't press him so much about what is going on? It already weighs on his mind much as it is, he doesn't need reminding by the person he's married to. At least…not as much of a reminder. That's not to say you shouldn't speak of it, but allow him, more often than not, to bring the subjects up, instead of pressing him about him. That just adds to the stress. And I know, marriage is a two way street. He needs to support you as well." She eyes Anais. "You want me to talk to him for ya? I helped his mother raise him, I can try to get through to him." She sighs and shakes his head. "Perhaps he lives in the shadow of his father. And that is hard to do. All I can suggest, at this point, is support him. We women are better and supporting the men than the men are at supporting us! We're much stronger than they give us credit for." As she gazes at the tear-ridden Anais, she attempts to offer a kind smile, though with her eyes and somewhat crooked teeth and the general ambiance of the room, it might possibly come off as more frightening than anything. "That doesn't mean, however, that we don't break down and cry. We all need a good cry. It means we're still human. It means we haven't lost our souls to the harsh reality of the world. If you weren't being affected by all this, I'd question your sanity!"

"I don't know /how/ to support him," Anais shakes her head. "I thought I /was/ supporting him. I thought I was doing right. And then he comes back and he's angry with me, and it doesn't matter what I try to do, because it's the wrong thing every time." She sniffles softly, pulling out a handkerchief and wiping at her nose. "We're in the middle of a siege," she says quietly. "The last thing he needs is his nurse coming to tell him he's making his wife cry. I'm reasonably certain of that, at least."

"As I said, don't talk about what's going on outside unless he brings it up. I know it's hard, but it's a way to try. And…" Aubra takes a deep breath in and sighs. "He is just stressed. I know that doesn't make things easier, but he is not good under stress. Most of us aren't! He has to put a brave face on for the people he leads, but it bursts at times, and who does it get directed at? You. Why? Because it's the easiest. Should he be like that toward you? Maybe not, but it is what it is at times." Her nose twitches. "You think I'd tell him you were crying? No. I wouldn't. I'd tell him that I heard the two of you arguing and that he should be kinder on you, that you are feeling the stresses of everything just as much as he is."

Anais blows her nose into the handkerchief, then dabs at her eyes with the hem of her sleeve. "Thank you, Aubra, but it's probably best to leave it be," she sighs, moving to stand once more. "Thank you for listening to me, though. It…I'm trying to hard to be strong for everyone. Sometimes I just feel like I'm going to lose my mind trying to keep up with it."

Supporting herself once more on the barrel, Aubra stands as well. "M'lady. I will…do my best to heed your words." Though something in her tone might suggest that she's thinking of talking to Jacsen anyway. "One more suggestion, m'lady. Being strong is important. But showing emotion to the people, I think, can be just as equal of a show of strength. Or…show the people that you share in their pain and suffering. Your little…expulsion of food was nothing to be ashamed of. If I'd been in your shoes, I would have done the same." Though it might beg one to wonder why she didn't seem to be as bothered as others. "I am here to be of service, m'lady. Whether it's to listen or to give husbands a stern talking to or even to make a cup of tea."

Anais flushes slightly, sheepish. "Perhaps. But I think there are probably better ways to show emotion to the people than getting ill." Summoning up a small smile, she tucks the handkerchief away, then rubs at her eyes once more. "Do I look all right?" she asks quietly, glancing down at her dress to make sure it's still clean.

Wiping away a little bit of missed evidence that Anais had been crying, Aubra smiles. "Maybe you're right. But it certainly did have some…noble quality to it." Was that supposed to be a joke? The older woman is cackling away, anyway. After a moment, she gives a firm nod of her head. "You look like a princess on her wedding day, m'lady. Nobody'd know that you'd been in the cellar, crying your little heart out. Except for me and the guards of course."

"That was rather the idea," Anais admits with a crooked smile. "Though forgive me if I admit that it feels a little better afterward for being caught and talking to someone than just letting it out." One more brush of her skirts, a deep breath, and she's almost back to normal. "Now, what was it you were looking for? Something more useful than weepy young ladies, I imagine."

"Well of course it feels better afterward! It's much better to speak of your problems than to keep them all in!" Aubra says with a firm nod. She raises an eyebrow, though looks around at the mention of looking for something. "Oh. Right. Yes, I suppose I was looking for something." She looks about. "Oh yes. I was going to get some wine and take it around to the lords and ladies."

"Let's get one, then." Anais turns to the racks of wine on the shelves, looking over what remains. "I suspect a little something decent will make everyone feel warmer." And with that, she's back to supplies and rations. They, at least, are simple and straightforward. Unlike relationships such as arranged - and re-arranged - marriages.