Page 310: Strong Enough
Strong Enough
Summary: After getting kicked out of the Twins and wandering for a time, Riordan finds some small pleasure with the commoners. And Anais joins him.
Date: 25/05/2012
Related Logs: Taking place after The Last Dance
Anais Riordan 
Town Square — The Twins
The garlands, with their sprays of coloured flowers and ribbon, have been rescued from the tourney grounds to decorate the town square, peppering the stoney streets with bright spots of colour. A motley band of musicians have been rounded up, each keen to out do the other with ever quicker tunes to make the dancers twist and turn. Ale, and a lick of something harder, has been set out to make the most of the merriment. The town girls are in their sweetest skirts and ribbons and the lads are pressed and sharp as they can manage, hoping to make a presence despite the surfeit of dashing knights.
Fri May 25, 289

Even as the feast and ball held for the nobles wind down, the one in the town square seems to still be in pretty full force - or, as near as can be told. With the alcohol flowing the feeling of festival in the air, it's entirely possible that many who were here earlier have since been replaced by others. There's enough people dancing and laughing and just generally making merry to make it a bit difficult to find one person, perhaps - and yet, Riordan has a way of standing out in a crowd. For one, it helps that he still looks every inch a noble lord, for all that there's the stain of blood on the color of his doublet, which has since been unbottoned enough to reveal his undertunic, and just the slightest bit of exposed chest. And for another, the Regent's current attempts at dancing also draw the eye. He's either in a truly good mood, or has had a fair bit of alcohol - whatever the case, it makes him utterly at ease with his terrible dancing style.

By all rights, Anais should be exhausted from all the dancing she's done already this evening. The dancing, the flirting, the making nice with every house in the Riverlands. But those who know the lady know that she and sleep are not well-acquainted, and so the guard who trails her at a respectful distance doesn't seem terribly surprised to still be out and about. A thin cloak over her finery helps the lady to blend in with the crowds as she weaves her way through, pausing here or there to admire a dancer, or laugh at a joke someone is telling. She stops short, though, when she sees Riordan, a faint smile twitching at one corner of her lips, bemused.

Somewhere nearby, a laughing man in Stonebridge colors dances as well, Riordan's guard having been convinced by his lord to join in the merriment for the evening. Perhaps it is irresponsable of them both, but for once, Riordan is simply focused on having fun. Indeed, with all that has happened recently, it is likely the first time since before the Duel of the Bridge that the Regent has seemed so young and carefree. As the music wanes, and a new tune is struck, Riordan pauses to offer his partner a bow - which, given that she is a comely peasant woman, is perhaps slightly ridiculous. Indeed, the young woman gives up trying fake a curtsey, and the two simply break off into bright laugher. Then, the girl is swept off by a young tradesman, and Riordan himself turns… and spots a familiar face. Instead of breaking whatever cover she enjoys by bowing, he merely quirks a grin at Anais, his eyes bright with good cheer, and perhaps some alcohol besides.

"Well, I'm glad you haven't missed out on all the fun," Anais laughs as Riordan catches sight of her, working her way through the crowd until she's at a comfortable speaking distance. She tilts her head, leaning a little closer to get a look at his fat lip. "That's a bit ugly, though. What in the name of the Stranger was going on there, anyhow?" Straight to the point. The guard with her - red-haired Kincaid of the mischievous smile, doesn't actually look very happy to see Anais running into the Nayland here. Fortunately for her, there's a pretty girl who's very interested in distracting Kincaid, and doing her best at it.

"It's how we Naylands greet family. Perhaps you haven't heard of my first encounter with Ser Jarod after he married my sister?" Riordan says all this with bright humor, though the smile he gives is rather wry. "Rowenna did about the same as this, in fact, the first time I saw her after that." He gestures to his lip. "Admittedly, it might have had something to do with me punching her husband." Offering up a chuckle, he then extends his hand, "I seem to remember we did not do so badly the last time we danced. Shall we tempt fate?" No titles are offered or expected. It is a Dance of Commons, after all.

Anais looks around herself, making certain that everyone is well enough involved with their own partners before taking that offered hand. "I make it a habit never to say no to a dance," she agrees, smile warm. "You never know when you'll get your next one." Kincaid, flustered by the attentions of the common girl, finally surrenders enough to dance himself…hovering nearby, that is, where he can watch things. "Did someone even say anything?" she asks as she steps into the dance. "I mean, I was across the hall, but I didn't even hear any shouting before people were throwing punches."

<FS3> Riordan rolls Dancing: Failure.

"You surely know how to make a man feel special," Riordan notes with wry warmth, still managing a truly genuine smile even as he complains. Taking Anais' hand, he leads them into the mix of smallfolk, tradesman, and anyone else who happens to be dancing. "I think Rowenna was cursing a bit, at one point, maybe?" Riordan doesn't seem terribly concerned about it all at the moment. Likely he will later, as he was before… but for right now, he seems to be enjoying the company of the nee Banefort Lady… and attempting not to step on her feet, as makes his best attempts at dancing. And, as always, not making a terribly good showing of himself.

"Well, it would be a lie if I tried to tell you I only wanted to dance with you," Anais laughs to his words, doing her best to mitigate the damage he can do with his feet. Or his elbows. Or - was that a knee? "It isn't as though I didn't dance with almost every man in the hall tonight." There's a faint flush at that, though she can't seem to muster much embarrassment over it. "Besides, it's probably better we dance here anyhow. I don't think your sister would be very pleased to see us." Sort of like how her guard doesn't look very pleased with the current arrangement.

"Sometimes, I curse myself for ever insisting that there be truth and trust between us," Riordan complains further, in a mock-woe-is-me voice. His eyes continue to sparkle from the heady joy and amusement, however, and his smile remains warm. "Indeed, and I imagine she would not be the only one." They continue to dance, regardless of anyones disapproval, even as the music increases in tempo… and yes, that was possible a knee. Still, Riordan is trying, and so far between their concerted efforts, no bones have been broken. Though, as Riordan stumbles back in an effort to avoid Anais' toes, he bumps into a man behind him, who is going in the opposite direction. The end result is Riordan coming back to Anais with startling speed, and though he is able to prevent himself with colliding into her, the joining of their hands prior to that means that when he flies to the side and pulls himself to a stop, he pulls Anais to him - possibly bringing them rather close together, even if only for a moment.

"Oh!" Anais laughs, her hand tightening on his and her weight shifting just so to bring them spinning around and out of the way of the bumped party. Granted, keeping his center of balance near her center of balance means she has to stay close, and when the spin is finished, she's still pressed up against him, a little breathless as she finds her feet once more. "How can you be so good with a horse and so terrible with your own body?" she accuses through a laugh, glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one is coming for revenge. One fight in an evening is quite enough, after all.

"One of the many jokes of the gods, no doubt," Riordan says, laughing as well, even as his eyes study hers as he finds himself pressed against Anais. Indeed, he doesn't seem overly inclined to rush away from her, either, and so perhaps lingers in that posture a little longer then he should. "Besides, would you notice me half so much if I were a good or even adequete dancer like the scores of other men you danced with? At least when I do something, I do it spectacularly. Even in failure," saying the last with a rather broad grin.

"I might…" But Anais pauses, considering her response before her smile gentles somewhat, rueful. "It's probably best that you aren't such a skilled dancer," she admits. "Else I might try to dance with you even more, and that would likely land us both in all sorts of hot water." She lingers there for a moment, gaze flickering to his split lip, before she takes a measured step back. "Shall we try again?" she suggests, smile crooked. "Or do you surrender?"

Riordan simply smiles in response, his smile growing, tugging at the split in his lip even as Anais looks at it, and he studies her in return. And then she steps back, and he simply dips his head in response, saying, "One more try, I think. I am not one made to so easily surrender. Besides, when the white flag comes, I think it shall be in your hands." A challange made with a lopsided smile, even as he extends his hand anew.

"You do recall where I come from, don't you?" Anais asks with an arch of her brow, humor rich in her voice as she takes the offered hand. "Surrender simply isn't an option. We are where men break." Her chin rises slightly, even as she moves into the steps of the dance once more, graceful as ever. "I stood and watched Maron Greyjoy slaughter men, women, and children in front of our walls, and the gates stayed closed." That smile flickers. "I do not surrender."

<FS3> Riordan rolls Dancing: Failure.

"Is this where you punch my arm again?" Riordan asks with his own arched brow. "Don't think I've forgotten that, or my promise of repayment," he says, half threat, half promise, and all good humor. For his own part, Riordan is still as bad as before, but he does at least try and steer clear of the other dancers - consequently, they slowly move to the edge of the gathering, as it's really the only way to avoid such.

Anais' brows rise with a laugh at the threat. "You don't hit women!" she protests, absolute certainty in the claim. "Certainly not once you've been a champion at a tournament, anyhow. After that you're limited to revenge like…Well, like not dancing with her. Or being snooty at tea. And you'll really have to take lessons on that from Rosanna," she giggles, her cheeks flushed with dancing and wine and freedom.

"I don't," Riordan agrees readily enough. "Though I seem to remember frogs being mentioned as a possability too. And if you visit the Mire soon, well…" he grins all the more broadly, before breaking out into open laugher with that. "Indeed. Snooty." More laughing, as Riordan makes a few more passable attempts at twirling Anais about - even if he can't dance, he still aims to please and to make sure his partner is having fun. "Don't worry though. I'll think of something."

"Oh, not frogs," Anais says in mock dismay, humor sparkling in her eyes. "I couldn't possibly handle frogs." His attempt at a twirl brings sudden laughter, though Anais has enough brothers to at least know how to swing when spun about. "We were planning on returning home through the Mire, though, actually," she adds more seriously. "Jarod had said something about accompanying us. I don't think he trusts us any more than your sister does."

"I doubt there is little in this world you could not handle, Anais," Riordan says, the look he gives her after such words not only laced with humor, but a warm fondness that is no doubt a part of the cause for the worry of their kinsmen. Her latter words bring a snort, even as the song around them comes to an end. Riordan's hand lingers in Anais' for a moment longer then strictly necessary, as he says, "My sister doesn't believe that anyone can be as strong as I told her you are. She thinks you doomed to fall to my charms, despite my assurances."

Anais considers that for a moment, tilting her head slightly. "That is…interesting," she muses. "If only because it implies that your sister has some concern for what might happen if I did. And the only reason I can see for her to worry about such a thing is the danger it would represent in terms of bringing our families closer together." As to whether or not she's going to fall to said charms, that is left unsaid.

Riordan rolls his eyes at Anais and actually looks a little annoyed. "Oh, stop it, Anais. You act surprised, but I've never been anything but honest with you. And I hope you the same with me." He holds her gaze for a long, steady moment. "You know full well that we both, you and I, want this to work. Do you think I would have suggested marrying Roslyn into your House if she did not support it, and thereby risk the alliance before it could be properly begun?" He runs his hand through his hair, once it his free, before shaking his head in a sharp gesture. "If you have a question, ask. Otherwise, leave supposition alone and just enjoy my pleasant company and conversation, as I enjoy yours." His smile reappears, showing that he is not upset, and actually means it. He likes talking to her.

"There is a difference," Anais notes, smile faint, voice gentle, "Between what a woman wants to do, and what she will do for her house and her family." She lifts one shoulder in a shrug, glancing back to where Kincaid still hovers. "And yes," she adds. "I do think that you might ask your sister to marry into the Terricks not just because it would be a cornerstone of a peace, but also because it is insurance and a potential investment for your family." At the edge of the circle where the dancing takes place, she slips aside, finding a sheltered spot away from the strongest torchlight. "Surely you don't think I don't see the ugly truths as well, Riordan."

"You are not wrong," Riordan says, following Anais into the shadows to keep conversing with hers. "But if she found the match greatly unappealing, there would be great risk. This is a tenous proposal as it is, if it can even be agreed upon. And, more then that," Riordan says, unabashedly, "I love my sister, and look to her happiness as well as that of my family." He peers curiously at Anais when they finally come to a stop in the sheltered spot. "What ugly truths do you mean?" he asks, quietly.

"That I'm not pregnant, for one," Anais answers honestly, though she doesn't seem terribly upset about it. "That Jacsen is lame. Should something happen to him, should I never bear him a child, then if Roslyn were to marry Justin, her child would inherit the Roost. And what a coup that would be," she sighs softly, crossing her arms loosely over her chest and drawing her cloak a little more tightly around herself.

"Ah," Riordan says, simply, understanding. "Yes, I noted the same to my father, in trying to persuade him," he admits, freely and openly, even as his expression bears a sad sort of sympathy. "I love my sister, Anais. I want her to marry well. I want her children to be important. To think of a nephew of mine as a peacemaker, a herald of a new age free of this feuding, and lord of his own holding… how could I not want that?" He pauses, and almost without realizing, reaches a hand out to Anais, gently touching her arm. "And yet, I also wish that doing such would not make you unhappy. For all that you have been through, you deserve to not only do your duty, but to find some happiness as well." He pauses, searching for something to say, before saying, perhaps lamely, "Whatever your state of marriage, it is not your fault. Even as I told my father of your plight, I said the truth of it. You are beautiful to behold, and are built for the bearing of children. If a man can not get you with child, he has only himself to blame."

"Perhaps," Anais allows with a faint smile. "Or perhaps a siege and the hunger that follows aren't really suited to begetting a child, either." Without thinking, she reaches to brush a thumb over his sleeve, gaze downcast. "I saw you carried Lady Isolde's favor into the joust. That was…very proper of you."

"I know, I was rather shocked myself," Riordan says with a chuckle, focusing on that rather then the other line of conversation. "As it was, it was probably a close thing. I had not thought it a possability, so I was either leaning towards filial duty and carrying my cousin's favor, or…" The regent pauses, his gaze caught on her hand on his sleeve, and his on hers. He does not move, lest he break the tableau. "Well. I may have found myself in your vicinity a time or two."

"That would have been a dangerous thing," Anais says softly. Almost, likely, as dangerous as continuing to brush her thumb over his sleeve. "Not that it couldn't be done. It just…" She looks up, smile quirking. "I enjoy a challenge as much as the next woman, but there are some things that are very hard to spin appropriately." She's quiet, holding his gaze for a long moment in silence. "Why are you…"

"I can only imagine," Riordan agrees with both assessments, quirking a small grin as he returns his eyes to hers. Holding her gaze just as surely as she does his, he asks, softly, "Why am I…?" Even as asks this question of her, his fingers continue to brush lightly, but gently along her arm, over the material of her sleeve.

"Riordan, I enjoy your company," Anais says softly. "But we both know that nothing can come of this. Even spending time together is foolish. No matter how strong you think I am." Carefully, she starts to draw her hand back, eyes fixed on her own fingers, as though to make certain they don't betray her. "If this peace is important to both of us, then we should be more mindful of our actions and where they might lead."

Despite her words and despite himself, as Anais' hand withdraws and Riordan's own leaves her arm, he does yet another foolish thing. He catches her hand in his, should she allow, warm skin to warm skin. "You are right," he admits, even as his actions are contrary to his words, even as he lifts her hand up to his lips, and will press a kiss within her palm. Holding Anais' gaze, his smile quirking bittersweetly, he says, "I enjoy your company too." And with that confession, he will release her hand, unless she stops him, and will take a step back.

Anais tenses when he takes her hand, though there's a different quality to it when he presses his lips to her palm. But she closes her eyes, and holds true to her promise to be strong, drawing her hand back slowly. "I would be lying, though, if I said I didn't enjoy being treated like…" She pauses, smile faint as she opens her eyes once more. "It's nice to be courted," she says softly. "Even if I shouldn't be."

"Just as it's nice for me, to be around someone who…" Riordan too pauses, quirking a regretful smile. "It's nice to be appreciated," he simply ammends. He stands there for a long moment, just holding Anais' gaze. When he finally speaks again, his words are soft. "I think, perhaps, it is time to say good night. Lest neither of us be as strong as we need to be."

"Probably," Anais agrees with a soft sigh, adjusting her cloak once more. Kincaid, at least, seems pleased by the current situation, taking advantage of the pause to step forward and offer a hand to Anais' elbow. "My lord," he nods to Riordan, respectful. He even holds back the dirty look. "Meet in the morning?" Anais suggests with a small smile. "We can coordinate the departure for the Mire."

"Of course," Riordan agrees, simply. He barely even acknowledges the guard's presence, offering him a distracted nod. "Have a pleasant evening, Anais," he murmurs to her, maintaining the familiarity of their conversation this last time, even as he offers a slight bow. And, with that, he will turn and head back towards the crowd - though, likely more in an effort to track down his own guardsman, then to attempt a rejoining of the festivities himself.