|Summary:||Some truths are better left unsaid….|
|Related Logs:||Many Rivers to Cross|
|Northern Flood Plains - Geoffrey's Grave - Stonebridge|
|Through small foot paths north lead to flood fields, some rolling hills but treachours areas where the rivers filter in to create small marshes. The area is hard to navigate if one has not traveled it before. A few scrub trees mark the landscape but on the higher hills stands of majestic beeches and oak offer shade and canopies for weary travelers.|
|Sun July 31, 288|
Early. That is what can be said as the moisture from the fields begins to rise like a slow lingering fog around the knolls, the small troup of sworn escort Igara and Isolde to the grave of Geoffrey and Geonis. The morning light is cold yet, even in the humid air and its golden feel reaches out like a brilliant eye opening to paint the land in glory. On such a day, after the tourney, after announcements, the Lady Isolde bids her companions rest and stay at the bottom of the knoll crowned with noble blood. Roses in her hand, the Lady of Stonebridge dismounts, her dress of pale creams and golds is matched by the golde circlet and cream veil that falls partially over her forehead and about her face. Her dark waves of hair shift down her back and a carved wooden box is wrapped on a leather string about her wrist.
Bidding Igara gently, the Lady takes to the hillside, climbing a well worn path up it. Her skirts in hand, she makes the ascent as she has nearly every week sine their death. Atop the hill are the stone graves, stems and past rose petals shriveled and spent, testament of her visits through even just this season. Isolde lifts her gaze, her reason this time is to speak matters of the heart, to find conncil with her dead father.
It is early, isn't it? And on such a day as this, with long preparations and ribbonwork having kept her up long into the evening directing and preparing the garden for the ceremony, Igara is still a sleepy-eyed child, letting a sworn take hold of the reins of her little pony and lead it along to save her having to direct the thing, discreeetly trying to hide a yawn behind a kerchief even as the yawn rushes at her ears and squeezes sleepy tears into her witch-hazel eyes. Wet eyes meet Isolde's, and she lowers her chin in a silent and reverent nod, content to remain at the bottom of the hill and let her cousin visit her father on her wedding day in peace.
That it would be some other day. That it might be some other place. But it is the here and now, among the mists of sunrise, that one more lone figure crests over the beaten footpaths and strays into the haze and dew of the northern flood fields. If Gedeon has never, yet, set his eyes on his father and half-brother's grave, it seems he at least knows where and what it is. He's dressed in plain and simple clothes this morning, nothing more than a small dagger at his hip. At the foot of the grassy knoll he stops to study the small entourage in attendance to the Lady of Stonebridge. "My name is Gedeon Rivers," he says, his solemn gaze suited for the misty grave, "and I would speak with your mistress."
Igara becomes slightly more alert when there's an unknown person approaching the group, casting a look toward him from a distance before she straightens her back, clutches both horn and flare of her little side-saddle and cants her head to an appropriately demure angle. "Gedeon Rivers," she processes the name, "You entered into the melee of yesternoon," she realizes aloud. "I am the Lady Isolde's cousin, and I wait upon her on the day of her wedding. She visits with her lost beloved, the noble flower of her family fallen before its time. She would be alone in this; I pray you not to disturb her, but to wait, good Ser, for her return."
Cresting the top of the hill, Isolde has no notice of Gedeon or his address of her followers. The Lady of Stonebridge is silent and reverent at first, holding the roses as she approaches the first grave that is her brother's and pauses there to rest what gift she brought for him. Her green eyes gaze over the carved stone, a faint whisper to spirits moved on is offered as she closes her eyes. What strength she would need is here and in memory of these men. Slowly her gaze opens and she looks to the larger of the two, moving further down to seek her father's presence. As intangible as it may be, it is still fulfilling for the Lady in question. Dusting away some dried petals from her last visit, she moves along the stone relief of Goeffrey Tordane the motto 'While We Live' carved about his head.
"I did, Lady," Gedeon agrees, bowing his head in a courteous nod, "though I'm afraid that's about all that can be said of my showing in it. I… would visit those fallen with her, if you'd reconsider and grant me leave. We shared a father and a brother, and we share their loss."
"Ah— gentle Ser," Igara lowers her head further. "It is not a Lady's place to say a good knight, a loyal son and brother nay. And yet I fear 'tis not my leave to grant. The Lady my sweet cousin has asked for her lonesome in this, and I would not take it from her on this, the day of her wedding, when much, surely, must be on her mind. Please Ser, I pray, do wait 'til she has had her peace alone with those restful shades."
Through the air the voices carry finally and Isolde turns to gaze down on those below just for a moment. The Lady hesitates upon seeing the head of blonde and then moves to the first decline of the knoll, away from the graves. Her smile grows and there is a look of happiness where she once was solemn and silent. "Gedeon?" She calls do the group, trying to garner his attention. It had been quite so many years since she had last seen him. "It is alright, he may join me. We have something to share and it will make my visit easier." She extends her hand in invitation then beckons him up, waiting for him as she does so.
Gedeon looks up as his name is called and offers his half-sister a smile that is soft and perhaps a little sheepish. "My Lady," he calls before offering a bow. Igara gets another, slightly smaller, bow before he makes his way up the knoll at Isolde's bidding. At closer and proper inspection, he breathes out a soft sigh and shakes his head. "Isolde. How you've grown."
Igara lowers her head in a gentle gesture of gratitude to the Knight for not waxing wroth with her, a small smile setling in place as the kin are re-united, finally casting her gaze up the hill after them, watching with a silent interest and a warm watchfulness.
As Gedeon rises to join her at the hilltop, her hand remains extended towards him to take. Isolde's smile is filled with warmth as she looks over her long lost brother. At his comment, she laughs a little, "As have you, my dear brother." She gazes over him and says, "I am sorry for your absence and our inability to watch each other grow to the people we have become. But come, join me. I have many regrets, Gedeon. For now, let us just be brother and sister and remember our family together." She holds the rose yet in her other hand.
Gedeon draws in a soft breath, as if he might speak. But, instead, he clasps Isolde's smaller hand in his own roughened one and offers a silent nod. "I have never seen this place," he confesses softly, "much as I wished that was otherwise. You've honored them well."
As her slender fingers curl around his hand, she looks to the graves. "I wish we could have done more…I wish you were there…" Isolde starts, her face falling some, but comfort yet there. "I missed you…mother got even more..cold to me after father's death. But I have managed." She offers him a renewed smile, pushing that aside and giving him a gentle tug to start their walk closer to Geoffrey's grave. "I can't imagine how father's death hurt you." She says softly and silences for a moment or two as they draw beside the grave. Her eyes look up and aside to him.
He walks with her, Gedeon's attention caught on the stone likeness of his father, the family crest haloing his brow. "It hurt me more than you know," he agrees softly. "I am sorry I couldn't come back, not even to see them buried. It was impossible. A part of me fears I have no right to be here, now. Tell me something, Isolde." He turns suddenly away from the graves to study his veiled and living sister. "Are you happy, now? Will this union with Ryker Nayland please you?"
There is a sympathetic smile at his words and Isolde bids to speak but his question forestalls her. Her smiles fades and she dips her head a moment, rose lifted so she can inspect the petals. "Gone for years and already you are so ably informed." There is a faint smile on her lips and she draws her breath. Withdrawing her hand, she moves about the grave to set the flower atop near her father's hand. Her gaze looks over the relief and she answers him faintly at first. "Though I do not love the Young Lord Nayland, for an arranged marriage I could not have found a kinder man." She says and gazes up at him, "He's not Jaremy.." She admits with a smile, "But he has been good to me in the time we have spent together. Even stood to the Lady Valda when she had mind to reprimand me with forceful means. I think he of good heart…though I may not be ready…I find him agreeable and with time, I think I may even come to care deeply for him. Should his manner remain as it is."
"I heard the announcement at the melee," Gedeon points out softly, "and I remember the promise Lord Geoffrey made, as well." He listens to his sister's words and his smile, when it appears, is a sad and rueful thing. "That wasn't much of a declaration," he points out for Isolde's assessment of her betrothed. "He never wanted Tordane to belong to the Naylands, Isolde. Whatever else Ryker may be, he's a Nayland, first."
The truth she knows very well is offered to her by her brother and Isolde turns to look back down at the weather worn relief of their father. "Gedeon, these are things I know. Do you not think it hurts me to see Stonebridge break its oaths withthe House Terrick?" She draws a breath and rests her hand at the edge of the stone, fingers brushing at it before she looks up to him. "Lord Ryker.." She says pointedly, "May be a Nayland but he is no cold hearted Rickart, Gedeon. Though they lose land and taxes, I plant to make what I can of this. I promised Jaremy, I promised I would see to my father's oaths in some way. I will not be an idle wife to a Nayland. My father's blood still runs through me and I am a Tordane. There may be no Lord Tordane but it doesn't mean I am any less of one for not being a man."
Gedeon is quiet for a long moment. He loos out over the hills and up at the sky where the sun lifts slowly higher, the heat of the morning beginning to chase the mist away. "What price would you pay," he asks her softly, "to keep from breaking with Terrick? There is a way, but it chased me from the Trident five years ago, and it will demand a price of both of us. A great one, from you."
His reaction is a curious one and Isolde's brows furrow before he even speaks. The Lady tilts her head, uncertainty there. "I am hoping breaking will never happen even with this union." She admits, "I hope to bring peace to the area, to find Nayland and Terrick not so much rivals as allies…" But her breath hitches, her head turning to look down at her father, "But for my father's oaths, I would give much to see his word remain as sacred as he once spoke it." It is an honor to her father she wishes to give and then adds, "To break this union, Gedeon, it is foolish….the Tully's have given their name to it. It would dishonor father more if I were dishonor such an agreement."
Ser Rivers listens now with that same quiet intensity he held as a child. He draws in a soft breath, opening the pouch at his hip to draw out a small package of aged letters. "Read, then, what I was given when Lord Geoffrey fell at the Trident, his heir beside him, and tell me what you would then do." The little bundle is offered to Isolde.
The collection of letters, carefully folded, are relatively well-preserved for all they must have survived the battle of the Trident and five years traveling around with a sellsword. They are all old, though the first is newer by some years, and all are in Lord Geoffrey's handwriting. On each, small, shredded remains of the Tordane seal linger, still.
The first, the 'newest' is written to Gedeon. In it, Geoffrey explains that, much as he has loved and will always love Isolde, he has known since her birth that she could not have truly been his. That, with his and Geonis's deaths (for they must be dead if Gedeon holds this letter) he is the remaining child with his father's blood and the heir to Stonebridge. It begs him to care for his sister, to remember the lessons of honor Lord Geoffrey had tried to instill, to be a fitting Lord to Tordane. The remaining three letters, far older, are written from Geoffrey to Valda. They are sweet nothings, news of who and what he's seen at a tourney at The Crag. But the dates… they are all over the month when, by Isolde's birth, she must have been conceived.
Looking down to the letters and then up at him before she slowly reaches for them. Isolde takes up the letters with care. Turning the over slowly, she unfolds the top one, looking the newest. The Lady falls to silence as the morning air threatens to ruin her concentration by playing with the edge of the parchment. She smooths it back with her fingers and begins to read, her green eyes take in each word, pausing to cipher through the script. She smiles at first to whatever is written and then with each passing moment her face grows more drawn and her grip does not grow more strong, it lessens and the wind starts to force it's hold on the letters. The Lady does not even get so far as to read the other letters, the first stopping her heart and breath. She swallows and through the sudden pain that seizes her chest, she grips the letter anew and rereads in utter silence until she starts to sway a little. Her gaze lifts and she stares out over the fields and the dawn. She has no answer for him at first, the wind grasping at the letter from her hand, threatening to tear it away as she stands in shocked silence.
"Isolde," Gedeon murmurs once she finally looks away and at the sky. He settles a hand over her arm to steady her, the other goes over her hand (and the letters) in the offer of added comfort. "I'm sorry. You know, now, why I couldn't come home. What I did not yet dare face."
There is a faint shiver that rushes through her and his touch spikes a tingle along her skin. Isolde bows her head. "Do you have such malice for me, Gedeon?" She whispers. The tears are all but ready to fall and she forces them back as it still eges around her voice. "Such malice that you would show me this? To take the one man who loved me for all I was without need or want of anything?" She looks down to the relief of her father's face. "He's all that I have prided myself on…all that I hoped to be as the Lady I am. But I am not even that now am I?" She says with a bitterness. "All a lie to me…" Pain crisps her words, makes them sound old and jaded.
"No." Gedeon insists softly, not yet releasing her. Rather he turns to face her properly, the hand over hers moving to curl around her other arm instead and give her a very light shake. "Isolde, no. Look at me. In his heart, you were always his daughter, and that's who he raised you to be. It would never have mattered if Geonis had lived, neither of us would have ever known. But, it's only us, now. Only us to honor him and to guide Tordane as he would have seen it cared for. I'm so sorry, Isolde. What would you have me do, shall I burn them? Shall we leave the ashes here, beside your roses?"
Unresponsive at first, it is the slight shake that wakes her from her spiraling thoughts. Numb at first, she lifts her gaze to meet his. The Lady of Stonebridge looks to Gedeon. "It makes it no less true…" She whispers, her very strength stolen. Then there is a ironic sad realization, "We are not even brother and sister…" They are by all actions and bonds, but not by blood if the letter is true. "I don't know.." She admits, her head shaking as she has to look away at first. "All these years.." She starts, pain eating away at anything left of what is left of who she is. "It is not the wealth or title…I feel more lost now than I ever have…Gedeon…" She curls her hand into the letter more tightly. "I need time.."
"And you deserve time, but there isn't any time to give," Gedeon says, gray-blue eyes widening. "You're meant to be married today, and if you wed Ryker, he'd be obliged to contest Lord Geoffrey's words. If the Terricks support him, support…" Gedeon ducks his head as if he's almost ashamed, "support me… that is a war between the houses ripe and ready to happen. We both know how little it would take."
At his last, her brows furrow and she stares at him. Isolde once happy to see her brother instantly feels the hole of betrayal. "These are my people, Stonebridge is my home and I have done all I can in my father's absence to see to them…" Her father. "I wish to continue to do so." It can't be real. Her head bows to gaze at the script. The implications, the impending nuptuals. "You would go to them…and ruin me. Not only would I be labeled a bastard, but now I am untitled noble…things will no go fairly." Lost. She's lost who she is and now he wishes her home from her too. It's too much. "I can't do this….." Her fire starts to blossom within her. "These are my people, Gedeon. If this was all true, why, why did you stay away till now? Why not stab me right away while the wound was fresh of losing him from the living? It may have hurt less."
"Gods, Isolde," Gedeon whispers, stepping back and releasing her as if this sudden fire of her spirit has burned his skin. "You can ask me that? My father and brother slain before me, and you wished me to break my sister further than that news would already? You think me so cold? So cruel?" He looks away, his jaw clenching as he stares at the graves of Lord Geoffrey and Geonis. "What did it matter then, when I was little more than a boy and you were pledged to Jaremy Terrick? Stonebridge would be safe, the secret would die with me, and what could it matter? I was no man, then. No one worthy of Tordane. But they are my people, too, and I would keep them true to their oath. I… I would protect you, Isolde. You think that I would not?"
Sorrow mixes with her anger and Isolde shakes her head. "I do not know what to believe, Gedeon. My life by this letter is all a lie…I am not who I claim to be, by no fault of my own." She breathes, her gaze following him and she turns away, holding the letter still to stare at the soul searing thing. "It is not your fault that you were kept away, Gedeon, but I have been here. I have lost Jaremy already…and I am to lose more. I am to lose me." She turns back to him, having stepped away. Now there is distance between them. "I had hoped to be the connection between Nayland and Terrick, to bring peace and find a fairness so that they all could prosper. I was going to fulfill father's oaths in a way none of us had forseen. Now I am unseated and not so much from power as within myself. Stonebridge is safe. I would never allow it to be otherwise, and for you to think I would go quietly…" She shakes her head, falling silent as amid her anger, tears well in her eyes.
"I think you would be married to Ryker Nayland," Gedeon replies, his voice gentling, "and if, as you say, he is the kind, benevolent man you believe him to be, perhaps you're right. Perhaps this could have been some kind of peace. But if he is not, or if he keeps counsel with those who would steer him away from his better qualities, what then? You would be his wife, Isolde, and in the end, how could you stand against him if he broke his promises? Stonebridge would be his, and once there were children, it would always be his. We are not Nayland bannermen."
She stiffens at his words, even as he tries to be gentle. How can one be gentle about the matter? Isolde hesitates a moment but at his words near the end, she sets her chin. "No…we are not." She breathes. Not yet. "No matter who I marry, there would be no bannermen…and you. You are sworn of Oldstone so I am not certain where this 'we' is coming from." For all her claims to being her father's daughter, she does have his strength but part of her mother gives her the steel backbone that once and a while makes an appearance. Like now. "Gedeon, I love you like a brother…even in the face of this. You are dear to me." She tells him but her gaze says there is something coming. "Lord Ryker Nayland is an honest man…he has shown me nothing but utter compassion and I have seen men lie and hurt. There is no ill intent in his eyes when he looks at me I believe in the the promise he gave me, that STonebridge would be mine. He bids of me strength and a voice to the point he would stand to my Lady Mother. While you have been away, I have indeed grown…" Needing to reassert herself in a new fashion with the hobble of her blood being in question, the Lady pauses and then breathes, "Though this letter tells me I am not Geoffrey Tordane's daughter. I am in so much as he has raised me. These are my people and even if the hands that brought the Lord Nayland and I together are malicious in make…it makes him no less who he is…and this makes me no less who I am." It is said with a steady certainty, obviously something she needs with the trail of a tear sitting on her cheek. She turns then, taking hold of her skirts to head back down the hill.
He listens, the young knight's chin lifting as Isolde speaks and her words more and more clearly declare her decision and her allegiance. Perhaps Gedeon is shocked enough to stand silent, but when she turns to walk away, he leans forward to try and stay her with a careful but firm hand on her arm. "If that is the choice you make, then so be it," he tells her softly, and now it is his turn for hurt and anger in his voice, "but those letters were meant for me, and I will have them back."
As he goes to stop her, Isolde turns partially skirts with letters still in her had. The Lady meets his gaze and for a moment, there is a look of regret before she jerks away from him. "If these letters are to be my undoing…then I want them looked at by others than just me. Gedeon, I will not release them." She says firmly and starts down the hill again, trying to shake him off as the sworn take note of the interaction.
"If those letters will be your 'undoing' as you say, they will have to be looked at by eyes other than yours," Gedeon points out, not yet willing to relent his hold, "and if either one of us has reason to preserve them, it's me. You may send whatever Nayland you like to see them, but they are mine. Please. Return them."
Igara has been keeping an eye on the pair unobtrusively for some time, singing lightly to herself, a song of the sea and coming home again. When she notes the others in the train beginning to look in that direction, she lifts her eyes there, wide and wondering as she sees the man lay hands upon the Lady of Stonebridge, and she clutches to her saddle with one hand while her other hand flies, terrified, to her mouth, and she lets loose a scream worthy of a damsel in distress.
As she can't get rid of his hold, suspicion grows deep within. Isolde stares at him, "Gedeon…" The scream cuts through her words and she gazes back down the hill towards Igara and the sworn. They start to move, a chorus of steel ringing out as swords come clear of sheaths. It is not a rush but they start up the hill towards them. Her gaze turns back to Gedeon. "You told me you would see them burned …if that is what was needed. I won't burn them.." She promises him.
One knight with a dagger versus a handful of them with swords. It's not exactly appealing odds and Gedeon releases Isolde's arm with a shake of his head. "You may not," he says, "but do you expect the Lady Valda will be so honorable? I will keep them safe. I have until now. What do you imagine I would do with them that hasn't already been done?"
Her arm her own again, Isolde takes a few steps back and lifts her hand to forestall the sworn. She releases her skirts but holds yet to the letters. "I need to know for sure…this is my home you threaten to take from me. I will not stand by and let you do so. This is all I have.." Her voice is low for him only to hear and she looks back at her cousin. She hesitates again, turning to look at Gedeon as she seems all the more tired and lost than before. "The letters will be in my care and my Lady Mother will not so much as touch them without me present." Pain still echoes in her eyes and she takes a step back and begins to turn, letters yet in hand.
Having deployed the majority of her breath, Igara is fallen upon by a dread swoon, eyes rolling upward and arm flailing up over her head as her slight form crumples back atop her pony. Fortunately the toe of her boot is firmly wedged into the toe-cup at the end of the lower of the two stirrups, and so she ends up draped over the broad flanks of her plump little pony rather than on the ground.
"And once you've satisfied yourself I'm telling the truth?" Gedeon asks as she turns away. "What will you do then, Lady?" The title is not spoken in spite, but it is just gently emphasized. A pronouncement of who she still insists she be in spite of the evidence and a reminder, too, of her father's tutelage.
She pauses, not turning as the evidence of that title spoken to her as he does, wounds her. Isolde looks back over her shoulder. "We will address it then…till then, wait to hear from me. I would not wish you to be taken by the sworn." She dips her head and turns back, starting down the rest of the hill. The sworn part for her and look back to the Ser who stands alone. As she reaches her horse, she tucks the letters to her stomach and climbs atop before movng closer to help one of the sworn revive her Lady Cousin.
Gedeon stays atop the hill, before the graves of his father and half-brother, watching Isolde depart. The words he says are dry, bitter and so softly spoken, they likely aren't meant for anyone but himself. "Would you not, 'sister'… would you not."
TO BE CONTINUED…