|Tales of Service|
|Summary:||Petra and Aeliana get to know each other; Harold comes and Ae gets a present.|
|Related Logs:||Don't Sit On My Chair|
|Rooftop of Highfield Keep|
|There's a little bit of Rookery, a little bit of parapets.|
|23 September 289|
There seem to be few quiet places, in relative terms of course, around the keep just as it happens this afternoon, what with the Lady and her injuries and the people returning to the keep and the general bustle about. But at least in the rookery, it's only the cawing of ravens that shatter the silence. Petra seems to have sequestered herself here, or at least she's standing at one of the tables, working on a missive in one of the many cipher scripts the Highfield Knight makes use of.
With the way that Aleister had jostled her guards around and made their number seem to multiply over night, the Lady Aeliana seems near to wits in and they're walking entirely too loud today. It had been a long night, the resulting day has left her with a headache that says she feels it. Deeply. So tis with a cup of tea in her hand, laced with willowbark since she's only been risen long enough to put herself together properly, that the lady climbs the stairs. Stairs that have no less than four guards at the bottom ensuring no one else follows her up. It's not her fault she's got to have them tail her even in the keep, unless you count her stabbing her goodsister. It's Ale's. Yet she appears as put together as always, in the drape of her gown and the picture of elegance presented. The only notable difference is that she's felt the need to return to wearing those steel hair pins - perhaps because they were never pins at all.
The sound of her presence can be heard on the parapets, proceeding her; no stealth involved. And for some time the lady simply seems to stand, taking in the silence. But then she moves again and not to leave this time, but the rookery.
Petra looks up from her writing, turning to face the door more fully, eyes finding the approaching noblewoman quickly enough. It's bright and there's little to hide behind in the open walkway. The quill the courier sets aside, taking up, instead, the sand with which to dust her parchment. She won't walk out to meet the woman, but she will remain to greet her when she comes close enough. A hand touches one of her inner pockets, before it settles back to rest fingertips on the table. Thankfully, the courier is as common born as they come and has neither guards nor any handmaidens of her own.
"Mistress Petra," Ae murmurs her voice faintly rough around the edges; like whiskey it's smooth with a bite. "I confess when my brother told me that I may enjoy you, I had anticipated meeting you under slightly different circumstances," she muses, humor in the tone with the suggestion of laughter touching the edges barely retrained. "I do hope I made a good first impression." And while she'd seemed remorseful perhaps, to most at least, the night before; there was absolutely no sign of it in the here and now.
"Lady Aeliana." No bow or inclination of her head. Perhaps they already have each other's measure, or perhaps there is simply no need for the niceties that audiences and prying eyes demand, "My Lord is always kind with his flattery." But her voice is as smooth as ever, the accent of the Landing unmasked, no trace of any pleasure in Aleister's compliments making it into her words, though there is a matching humour in it. "I disagree. I find situations that allow one to show the truth of their nature are always the most entertaining." A hand slips into a pocket, retrieving the dagger and setting it out on the table. "Though I must admit I put on a poor showing last night. I usually do not need two blows to fell my opponent."
"Flattery, Mistress Petra, is naught but lies and while my brother may weave such falsities to others, there is no need for you to be humble. In this case he speaks true." But it's casually given; a faint shrug of her shoulder that seems to imply it doesn't matter to her whether the woman takes it to heart or doesn't. But mention of the night before, that courts her smile; an impish thing, mischevious and somehow sweet all at once. "It certainly was entertaining. The shrill voice Septa gave it a nice dramatic flare." Another sip of tea followed it; a deep draught of the bitter brew. "Ah, and you've my blade. Thank you for that." A dip of her head then and the lady reaches to claim it; only so that it disappears into the folds of her skirt. "We make do with what we have when we have it, I suppose. I don't like to get dirty where people can actually see it."
"Alas, I had planned to be the most humble woman you were like to meet in these parts." Yes, there's definitely humour there, "For when you grow weary of peacocks and strutting flesh on the hoof. Now my plans have all come to ruin. And I must needs find some other way to entertain you." With the parchment dried now, practiced hands begin rolling it, though the courier keeps most of her attention for the Charlton lady, "Do you think they require a shrill voice when they done those robes? Or is it a gift from their gods…I thought the woman would burst my eardrums." Once the blade is retrieved, Petra nods. One duty fulfilled, "Nor do I. I have found that hidden blade often works better than the flashing sword, but I do as my Lord bids me. Even when I find his wants disagreeable." A moment, "Have we recieved word on when we can expect a Maester for Highfield?"
The sound of Aeliana's laughter rolls a quiet backdrop to Petra's words; while the smile that flits her lips is one of amusement that…with mention of other entertainment turns almost shrewd. "I am sure, if hard pressed, a clever woman such as yourself could certainly find a way," where those dark eyes so alike her brother's own sweep the woman from head to toe and not, to admire her gown. "You could go offer to feed the sickling her meals, for example." Yes, that was definately a Charlton smirk to follow it. "I have ever found the religious particularly…amusing. In fact, I named my mount after one of their gods - Stranger." Irony amused her, entirely too easily. A little nod there, regardless though, for mention of service. "You do serve him well," a high compliment indeed, but then her joy wanes, a low and tragic sigh. "He's coming with my Uncle Harry."
Petra seems to take no offense at the laughter, nor even to accept it as her due. She simply allows it to wash over her. This is a woman of few vanities and conceits. Certainly she takes no offense at being looked over like a side of beef, "I will not waste my time with liabilities." And that's all she has to say on the count of the woman abed by the hand of the Castellan and the Lord's sister. "I prefer to spend my time and energy cultivating my Lord's ambitions. Though, I will admit, the death of the child has necessitated that I look a bit farther afield than I had intended. If it is the religious you find amusing, there if a fallen Septon that might provide some amusement, for a night or two. If he ever crawls out from under whatever rock the 'Lady Tordane' has slithered under." A tilt of her head, "He comes as a herald of ill tidings. Leading an army whose legs have been cut out from beneath them by the late Lord Frey, I have heard tell."
But a very lovely side of beef; at least there'd been no small appreciation to the look. "The world is full of liabilities, unfortunately. I love him, faithfully and devoted but he has certainly picked up one or two." A sigh at that, but one that says he's forgiven, if anything because he is a man and men are often led by lust. Yet, at mention of the child…, "Would you really want something of such decidedly ambitionless blood to lead after he's gone?" The tone says 'tsk' even if she doesn't. "There are commoners with more in their little fingers, than she. Think of it…as a creative use of your abilities." Ae suggested, her expression turning thoughtful with mention of the Septon. "Mmm, I should like to meet him, I think. It's only a pity he lingers at someone else's heel. I could use a man like that. What is his name?" But a pleasant conversation can never stay pleasant, can it? "Aye. He does. But he has filled his end with honor, at least. The rest can wait…for now."
"One I know for certain. I am still not assured of some of his other choices, including this old dove so recently returned to the cote. I mislike some of the rumours I have heard about her, and have yet to take the measure of the woman. After all, the Lady of Highfield was once thought to be close to my Lord's equal in wit and ambition." A lift of her shoulders, as she turns, sliding the message into one of the raven's leg pouches, and lifting the bird to send it on its way, before she turns back, "I care not for the child. If it came from such inferior stock, better it died now when the death was easily managed, then when it might have proved a more difficult prospect. My concern is in securing the legacy of my Lord with more suitable blood." Not an easy prospect with Cherise still living. Sadly. "His name is Ser Marsden Streem. The Tordane woman certainly holds his leash, though I have not determined if she has it wrapped around his neck or his cock." A smile, pleasant despite the downturn of the conversation, "Patience has ever been a virtue of the Knight of Highfield."
"I have found her…pleasant," Ae offers, "I find few people pleasant, they tend to disappointment. But we shall see what time makes of her; if her ambition exists for the man alone and tapers off as Cherise's did once she had him. I do not believe that hers will, but then, I have had time to come to know her." And that was something Petra would have to do for herself. Besides, Aeliana found herself agreeing to her thoughts in regards to breeding stock, as well. Though to leashes she said, "I have found with men the two are often one in the same. I doubt we see him until we see her and as I have never met her, I certainly won't hold my breath." Yet talk of patience makes her smile; a low bow of her head in agreement. "You know, Mistress Petra, if ere you found his situation settled enough to content you, I would not mind taking you with me when I traveled if you were of a mind to go."
"If ever I should have the opportunity to meet her, I will take your own assessment into account. But in such matters, I find that my common birth does not always allow me the same confidences as it might if I were of nobler blood. To be certain, I have no wish for some higher place. I have found there is a freedom in being as I am that makes me useful to my Lord." with her work done, Petra sets aside her implements, "Shall we adjourn to the seat?" There is one, a small one, by the door, still in view of the full parapet, still close enough that the ravens might mask the sound of their voices. "Alas, those sorts of games have never been one he has played with me, nor I with him." She really can't help it, there's that humour again, "So I cannot speak to my Lord's abilities to hold a woman's interests." A wave of her hand, "I do not know if we will ever see the Tordane woman again. She came out long enough to make promises of fealty and then slunk away in the night once she had secured our forces to her cause." A smile, not sad, but just settled, "Whether or not my mind was bound to go, I belong to my Lord. Should he choose to release the dog from her chain, I would go, but I have want of no other master. Your brother is my Lord and I am his, to do with as he sees fit. But the offer I will take as high compliment."
"You mean what you say," Aeliana surmises and there's something of…mild surprise in her eyes. It's gone just as quickly. "You're happy." Perhaps there is a hint of envy within it as well, to be just that. Perfectly content with one's station and one place but…, with a little nod of her head in agreement towards the seat, Aeliana is stepping in that direction even as she asks, "But if I may pry, how…do you keep from getting bored?" That part seems wildly beyond her. Settling. How strange. And then there is shock, so true it's not bothered to be hidden. "Perhaps I might hold yours instead," but it's meant as a tease, as the Charlton moves to sit. Her expression instead gone thoughtful and deeply considerate. As such it's a moment again before she speaks, "My brother owes me a favor, Mistress Petra. A high one, for the freedom I've granted him. If it became your wish to go…then I would gladly demand your leash. You might even manage to lead me around by it. But I think you're wasted here in Highfield." Uh-oh. Aeliana's almost decided there's something that she wants.
Petra leads the way, but allows the Lady to seat herself first. It may be a wooden bench, but even benches can have choice bits. Only once Aeliana is seated does she settle herself. There's a soft, musing quality to her words as she considers the Lady's comment, "When I came to my Lord I was less than nothing. And in the six years since he took me into his service, he has remade me in the image of his mind's eye and has given me the most precious gift such a man can give. Not his love, but his loyalty. And all he has asked in return is that I return that loyalty with my own. Perhaps it might seem that I am as base as his Lady. That I have no ambition. That I am content, perhaps, to be his dog? I would counter that I have ambitions. But they are for him, not for myself. I am a whore, a murderer, a liar, a thief, a little bird. I was all of those things before your Lord brother met me. He made me the best that his mind and his means could make me. I cannot live a life better than I have. But I can have the world, through my Lord and his successes. I cannot have his glory, as perhaps you could, being of the same power and station, but I can have some small portion of it. And for this dog, that is the world." Full laughter now, as she considers, "Life with your Lord brother is never boring. His world is wheels within wheels and each day is a new maze to unravel." A tilt of her head, as the courier looks back at the Lady, "Would you promise not to pull too roughly if I promised not to lunge?" A glance away and back over the walls, towards Tall Oaks that was, "But there is time yet, to see what will become of Highfield. It might yet surprise both of us. And we will see what there is to see."
"Oh my darling Petra," Aeliana speaks to correct in the wake of that eloquently revealing explination, "That you were without ambition was never my thought. I admire you far too much to insult you, so crudely. Your loyalty was shown last night; twinfold. Both in how you moved at his whimsy and perhaps, less telling, in the way once you had me, you put yourself between me and the guards. The man has made you, I will not deny but…I find myself wondering if he realizes, precisely what it is that he has made. You will never be like Cherise, nor the Castellan that he's fucking. You will not be like Ceinlys, either, I think. Of the lot your passion is the most pure, because it isn't for -him-. Would…," the lady's hand rises then and in a moment where her eyes never leave Petra's own, moves to attempt stroke in against the delicate curve of her cheek. There's no condenscenion in the gesture, it's not tainted with lust. It is the look, the gesture of one admiring a very fine, very rare piece of art. "..but that your ambition were for Charlton." Softly spoken, so softly, a hint of regret perhaps there and hope as the fleeting warmth of her caress shapes a jawline ere it isn't avoided completely, before it falls away.
"You do what you do because you are good at it. Few, I think, could do it better. And that feeling of success you get, I would give you a world full of more than simply Highfield to offer it. Rough only when it might bring fire to your eyes." A small smile flirted at that, before the focus of that look fell away and her voice lost the hint of thrall that it had taken. To her teacup then and contents gone cold; cast without care with due aim over the edge of the parapet. The cup retained within her palm. "So much talent…," and a hint of disappointment in the sigh that came with it; the words spoken to herself more than they were meant for her company. "Pity about the funeral."
The courier remains still, not as stone, but rather, as one simply content to remain as she is where she is. Her gaze still lingers out into the distance, seeing everything and nothing in particular. "Guards are capricious things. Often too concerned with acting than thinking. I could not risk injury to yourself, over what the Lady brought upon herself. And I could not allow you to slip away, until I knew my Lord's mind. I would not have wished to hunt you through the halls. Nor to allow such an action to taint you in the eyes and minds of the Keep with the patina of guilt, as you were blameless." A slow smile, as she looks back at the woman seated beside her, "Were you not, Lady Aeliana?" In so many words indicating that she had intended to thwart Aeliana's escape if it proved necessary, but seeming for the best intentions. "He does seem to have a penchant for blondes, does he not? He seems to collect them like charms on a belt. But I think we needs must expand his stable, if we are to secure him a broodmare." Being a blonde herself, but not part of Aleister's collection, well, she's safe, hopefully. The touch is accepted, the tilt of her head almost imperceptible. Accepting, but with an easy grace but with no baser emotion, "My ambitions do not need to be for Charlton, and they would be poorly served by my hand, Lady Aeliana. Those ambitions will be guided by your hand, as will Highfield, I have no doubt and your hand will ever be more than mine ever could. And if my Lord succeeds, then so will Charlton. He and I are but pieces in the greater game." A hand reaches out for the cup in Aeliana's hand, "Do not fret, Lady. Wheels within wheels."
Aeliana's smile is a slow thing, but it spreads out much as a rising sun might at dawn, until it's appreciation has lit up her entire face. "You were exactly as you should have been," comes the rich approval of her voice; a glow for the slow smile on Petra's face. "As a newborn babe, Mistress Petra, even my brother was calling for his guards. There was nothing for it." The sigh she gave then, was a tragic thing; a little put out, but not quiet. "Yes. So many. If only he could pick them with personalities as charming as their looks. You seem to be the exception. Perhaps you should do his selecting for him," and while it came with a hint of a chuckle, it was sincere, too. But to hear such an offer so tactfully declined… "They do not need to be, but they could be. My brother," the cup is released, as Petra reaches for it, gently slipping away, "..is more gracious than I at accepting no, Mistress. Would you serve with just as much loyalty if he let you go? If you could serve as his ears from afar in places I could take you that he can not. His interests and mine, as one. If I picked up your education where he leaves it…would you serve?"
"It is not so difficult to find ones who might be suitable if we cast the net wide enough. The difficulty would be in securing the use of their wombs. And ensuring that the question of true birth did not come up afterwards." Petra turns the cup in her hand, the way one might turn a worry stone, listening to the question that follows. "I would do as my Lord commanded me. But I will not betray him. Nor," Petra continues, as she looks over towards the Lord's sister, "Would I be half so useful to you if my loyalty could be so easily swayed. If my word and my deeds could be turned to a new master as easily as sheets are turned down on a bed to hide a stain. He has never found any cause to question my loyalty or my dedication to service, nor would you."
"Minds are pliant things, like clay I've found. Easy to shape and mould, to bend. It would not take much, ere you first found something appropriate but it will not…come within these walls I think. Too much jealousy would issue, too much drama. Without," a nod then; while her hands smooth idly against her skirts as she rose to her feet. Listening yet, ever listening but drawn to the parapet where she came to rest her hip. "You would not be useful at all. But if you were of a mind to use me instead, you could have said that you would be." Ae smiles, warm; affectionate even. "When you come to me, I think, it will be because you are ready."
"I have often found that the most drama ensues when the mares in their traces will not yield their head to the lead. Freedom is not a limitless thing, and the game is not easy, or everyone would play and win." Petra sets aside the cup, but remains seated upon the wooden bench just outside of the rookery, as Aeliana rises to stand at the edge of the parapet. The ravens are especially loud this late afternoon, now, covering the sound of any conversation that might drift in quieter air, "I promised my Lord to only ever speak truth to him, and never to couch my words in comfortable lies. How could I begin my relationship with his sister with lesser terms than those?" Petra returns the smile, only inclining her head at Aeliana's final words.
"I shall be most interested to see how the current…engagement plays. One will push for the lead, but polite, her ways you'll find not unlike my own. Another," it came with a lazy chuckle, "Well, all those blonds have a theme between them aside from color, do they not?" With an airy gesture, the lady reached up to brush her hair in behind her ear, as wildly fey as ever without proof of Cherise's damage, unless one looked for the damnable clawmarks. "I enjoy the truth Mistress Petra, I enjoy those who wield it without lie because a true master may give the truth and yet still mislead his prey. I find you so blissfully refreshing. The exception to the collection that my brother seems to hold."
"I see," Ser Harold said in a quiet tone of deep displeasure. After all these were men he knew, by name. Every one of them, whom he had trained or trained with, and snarled orders to on more than one occasion. His brother's men, and of recent, his nephew's men. The greying master-at-arms stared them down with flinty annoyance. "Let me clear up your orders, then: 'Nobody' does not include me. Now bloody move aside before I take issue."
There was a sound, then, of heavy footfalls climbing up the rookery to follow, creaking wood yielding beneath six feet four frame bound by heavy muscle, and rumbly puffs of breath as Harold was reminded on why he hated stairs. They made his knees click and creak and pop. Hadn't always been that way, but each year was getting worse.
"Though I have never truly been placed in such a position, I have to confess that I cannot understand this desire not to keep duty separate from desire. One clouds the other. Especially in such lives as the lives of the nobly born. A marriage is not made for love, so why try to put love in a place where it does not exist? And there is no bridging the divide between nobleborn and commonfolk." Petra lifts her shoulders in a shrug, "Such is the legacy of stories of gallant knights and their ladies fair." A chuckle, from the still seated courier, "No lie is ever so effective as the truth." But if there is anything else the woman might say, it's forestalled by the sound of the bellows making its way up along the stairs. And though she cannot yet see who it might be, she does rise to her feet.
"Too many bard's tales," Aeliana muses, "Too many soft hearts that long to be different. To be the exception to the rule. Too content to take the very act of settling with a man to mean that they have accomplished any goals they may further have in life. I do not intend to leave but a child, I will not be more than fond memories that pass in too few years. When I pass, Mistress Petra, it will be in flames and I will leave a legacy." A grin at that, teasing with just the faintest hint of her tongue peeking through. "Lies make things soft, I think. The truth kills." A pity it needed help in Cherise's case. But the sound of weight shifting on the steps brings a furrow of her brow and a hand to rub up against her temple.
"The guards have moved. But there was no fighting. My brother is not so heavy so that leaves…," and then the man's head crested into view and Aeliana's smile warmed completely before it threatened to freeze. "Uncle Harry." But whether she was pleased or slightly worried that tone make it in the moment remarkably hard to tell.
"I hate.. stairs," Ser Harold Charlton declared with a vehemence as his crested the final step. He paused for a moment, bending over to rub at his right knee with a disgruntled grimace, then belatedly straightened out to look at the two women. He'd a calm and solid gaze, the kind that made little fuss, but still seemed to take in everything. It swept Aeliana over first, from head to toe and back up again, before settling on her face. Looking for signs of injury, perhaps. The glance in Petra's direction was briefer, but not dismissivly so.
"Ae," he greeted his niece with, and dipped his torso into a proper bow. Harold wasn't quite polished enough to ever pass as a courtier, but he managed the courtesy well enough all considered. With long strides, he walked over.
"Everyone wants to be different. But most choose only the poorest path to greatness and then are surprised when they fail." Laughter then, but soft and low, "Thankfully, I am no party to that." A tilt of her head, "In flames with all of the Seven Kingdoms in ashes around you, I have no doubt." Petra remains where she's standing, watching the knight make his way up the stairs. It would be rude to suggest adding a basket like they have at the wall, wouldn't it? She keeps her mouth shut. Petra acknowledges the knight's glance with brief dip of her head, before she pushes away from her place, "I believe I shall take this time to go and see the Maester and see if he can give us any indication on when Old town will send our own."
Ser Farrell Keane tromps up the stairs into the rookery a bit later than the rest of Harold's entourage, quickly making his way to stand nearby as guards tend to do (even if his station is technically /better/ than a guard). His nose scrunches up as the smell hits, but he doesn't complain and he settles in with his stony, vigilant expression. He nods his head to Harold apologetically. "Sorry, M'lord. Had to get my war wounds looked at one last time, good as new."
Aeliana had meant to look properly..alright, moderately remorseful before her Uncle and yet, with the image that Petra painted the laughter slipped out before she could help herself. So it was rosy flush cheeks to meet his inspective gaze and smiling lips. "Tomorrow I mean to go to town, Mistress Petra, if you are free I should find it most welcome ere you joined me," Aeliana offered one last question since the courier seemed intent to take her leave, before those dark eyes flittered over towards Harold.
"Uncle Harry," the girl murmured and now there's a touch of guilt that seems to be mixed with the hesitation of her tone and for once, she doesn't go to meet him. Not at all. She stands tall and proud and perhaps, perhaps just a tinsy bit in fear of his judgement. "Are you mad?" That there was someone with him…for all that she'd have -loved- to peek, at the moment there is Harold's eyes and his answer. Petra's too, because if Harold says yes, well, there may well be a quick escape root.
"The Maester rode in with us, and looked like falling off his horse in the end. He rides like a girl," Harold said with distaste. Though what could you expect from a man who wore a dress? (That they called it robes made no difference.) His eyes remained on Aeliana as he forstalled any outburst she might make in regards to girls being poor riders: "Excepting my niece, who rides like a warrior." He blew out a rough snort of grudging gruff bemusement. A slight incilnation of his head said that Petra was infact excused.
"Furious." He told Aeliana, blunt and to the point. "I've just not decided who I'm furious at." A mildening of his features, a mellow fond warmth that said Aeliana had no need to worry about his wrath. Probably.
"I would be glad to accompany you. I could do with some more supplies. And good company is always welcome, Lady Aeliana." Petra keeps her pace slow and deliberate. Surely she's not making sure she's still around in case Harold decides to throttle his niece? Surely not. No, she's just being careful not to get toppled over the edge. That's her story and she's sticking to it. But she at least won't try to interrupt their conversations as she tries to head for the stairs. "I will be sure to bring wine to fortify the maester before I begin questioning him, Lord Harold." The knight wearing Ser Harold's colours gets a curious look, but no word. And once it seems the younger Lady won't be strangled, she slips away.
Farrell doesn't have much of anything to add, here. Nobles engrossed in conversation means he keeps quiet unless spoken to, which he does. His hands are folded behind his back and he glances idly around the Rookery.
There might have been a measure of pride there at least, when he complimented the way she rode; a smile threatening warm but it retreated quick enough in the wake of his blunt statement. So much that the girl shuffled from one foot to the other. "It wasn't my fault." That is her story, the one that she will stick to until she dies. "Ale had invited me to help entertain the Mallisters and the had left and we were discussing Walder's letter and she just…" No. Ae can not dissemble like that before her Uncle.
"She came up and wretched her hand into my hair and drag me to the floor, even Aleister with all his strength could not remove her. My scalp was bloody for it. He was yelling for guards, the Septa was screaming…No one could get her off of me. She wouldn't let go. There was nothing I could do and she didn't seem to feel anything. She is not right." Aeliana said it flatly, not defensive, not entirely. But Blunt.
Aeliana peeked past Harold too, after she'd answered him; a long hard look in his follower's direction. One that suggested she was weighing his worth and possibly, if he was the gossiping sort, his weight. It was a long way down.
"Extra guards," Ser Harold noted, glancing meaningfully over his shoulder at the stairs leading down. "A lot of extra guards, way more than a girl needs to keep a grief mad good-sister away." It wasn't really too hard to put two and two together, not in a House that had more than its share of the scheming and ambitious. Harold might be a fairly honorable dealer himself, but he was not oblivious to the capricious nature of his kin. "If Cherise attacked you, she attacked you. Nobody is required to suffer the assault upon their person by another. Whatever injuries she suffered in response, is hers to blame. Or more to the point, whoever the fuck let her out of her rooms if she is in this state."
His eyes followed her stare in Farrell's direction. "My apologies. Lady Aeliana Charlton, may I introduce you to Ser Farrell Keane. Ser Farrel Keane, my niece, Lady Aeliana Charlton, daughter of Ser Jon, sister of Lord Aleister."
"Ser Farrell is a member of my personal lance, and fought with us at Stonebridge."
"Aye, M'lady, and I was honored t'do so. Most Lords are all flash and no fury, Ser Harold's among the best warriors I've ever met in my life. And I have met a /lot/ of warriors," Farrell pipes up once he's mentioned, offering a polite smile to Aeliana and bowing his head to her. "Originally of Flint's Fingers, a free lance in both Rebellions and a sworn in Ser Harold's service for awhile now. Pleasure t'meet you, M'lady."
"Six." Aeliana answered him. "He gave me six." Atop the four that traveled with her about the Riverlands. "And I am not supposed," because saying allowed made her sound weak, "To move even about the keep without him. Who knows what friends my good-sister keeps? But it was the Septa who let her go free. Enough to embarass our house further in front of the visiting nobles." Harold at least would not have to even ask just how well she appreciated it. The answer was not at all. "She attacked me. The grand hall was full of witnesses, thank the Gods I have strong lungs, even if they all turned out to be bloody useless. Twas the courier that you just saw, who put herself between the guards steel and I before Aleister heeled his men."
Yet, with Ser Farrell's introduction the lady offers courtsey as befitting one of his stature and no more; though her smile warms considerably despite the grave nature of the topics when he speaks of her Uncle with such praise. Her eyes dance back to him then, and she lets that pride fill them up. "My Uncle is a very accomplished man, Ser Farrell. If he has found you worthy enough to keep as a member of his lance, that speaks more than well of your talent. Though I would but wish to meet you beneath less auspicious circumstances, it is a pleasure all the same," the lady smiles, "Tell me though, Ser Farrell. Are you fond of gossip?" Young she may be, there is nothing of youth in her eyes. Those are sharp and dark and too aware, always too aware for her own good.
"Too many," Ser Harold said with a frown, at the number of guards set to protect her, because it made the rift all too obvious. More than just a mad spree of malice, induced by grief, if the fear of further escalations required ten men to look after her health. He scrubbed at his chin thoughtfully. "Well, I doubt the embarrassement will be too big, at least for that. She's lost her child, a certain leeway is given, but if you walk around with an armed force that nearly outnumbers the total men-at-arms of a lesser House, that will draw a lot of attention."
He shook his head, then fell silent, his eyes passing between his niece and the knight consideringly.
Farrell chuckles a bit at Aeliana's question, giving her a look of consideration before he replies, "M'lady, I was a mercenary for nine years and a free lance for five after the Rebellion. Considerin' the wide concern impedin' employment bein' that hedge knights are untrustworthy and will run off to the enemy, only reason I've lived long as I have without becomin' a rock miner is my reputation. And that reputation does not exist if I go around spreadin' what I overhear."
"Yes well," Ae began, a gentle sigh in her tone. "That's me, isn't it? A veritable treasure," her eyes rolled with it. Aeliana was not that self inflated. "I was only supposed to be here until the funeral. But that brother of mine has pushed it off. Or his castellan, who knows." Aeliana gestured about vaguely with her hand. The only thing that spared them both one of her oh so eloquent rants was the fact that Farrell weighed his reply so very well and touched upon a cord that she found pleasing. "Ah, Ser Farrell. We speak a language then, for there is nothing that I value more than my reputation. A lady's reputation is a reflection of her House. I trust we understand each other? And it is going to gnaw on me like a toothache if I do not ask. In the Rebellion, upon whose side did you fight?"
"Aye, a reputation is difficult to cultivate, but harder to maintain," Farrell replies in agreement, still keeping his friendly smile and nodding slowly to the girl's last question. "King Robert, M'lady. Knighted by a Bolton durin' the Battle of the Bells."
"Ah," is the whisper of a telling reply, if one knew how to read it. "Still, it sounds like a noble way to earn one's spurs. But…I am an ever curious creature, are you really going to give me nothing but this absolutely polite face of proper answers that paints you a silent noble soul?" Though at that point, Aeliana glanced back towards her Uncle and shook her head with a hearty chuckle of amusement. "Of course you are. The look he would give you if you offered a more colorful description would look much akin to…," at which point in discourse Aeliana does her absolute very best Harold impression. Brows dropped together just so, lips pursed, nostrils flared; the promise of gathering storm clouds in her eyes. And she stared and she -stared- and she stared to see if he would crack.
"That's not what I bloody look like," came Harold's bark, while he unwittingly set his expression into exactly the kind of gruff and unamused frown that she had done her very best to imitate. It was one he'd practiced so long and with such good effect, it came without a thought. A frown to turn his squire and page into frightened rabbits, and a frown to send his servants and sworn men-at-arms into finding better places to be.
"Now stop acting like a fool." He turned towards Farrell. "I was meaning to speak to you, Ser Farrell, about your service." Casually he walked towards the parapet, one broad hand closing over the wooden screen, while he gazed out across the rolling landscape of Highfield. "I hired you for the duration of the war, which seems to be coming to a close. Once the armies here are dispersed, I intend to return to Kellen, my lands by Hollyholt, where I have in truth little use for another sword." A thoughtful scratch to his cheek. "However, you have given me good service, and I am loath to let a decent man live off the hedge after he's proven himself with blood for my cause." He glanced at Aeliana thoughtfully.
"As a mercenary, M'lady, y'know your place. Didn't change much when I got knighted - just better jobs and better gear," Farrell answers, raising his brows afterward to Harold in slight surprise but that, honestly, is quite slight. "A shame to hear, M'lord. You've been a good liege to me and my associate," he speaks politely still, not appearing broken at the news. He's spent the last five years travelling between merchant to merchant and Lord to Lord, he likely expected to go back. Harold's look to Aeliana, however, intrigues him. "Hm, are you implyin' the Lady here may have need of me? I don't want to go assumin' anything, but that is certainly something I'd be interested in."
Aeliana, beneath the weight of Harold's look…even despite being called a fool…fell into a fit of giggles. The laughter shook her shoulders, sent a flush into her cheeks, before she attempted to hide the fact that she was laughing behind her hand before she got it under control. That it was exactly what Harold looked like she had the good grace not to point out. "Oh Uncle," was all the chide he got for his bark.
When she fell quiet then, it was to listen, intently as she watched between the pair and even hearing Harold talk about leaving drained all evidence of her humor more thoroughly than his frown had. Regardless, she caught the look and more, the sworn's slip of curosity. "There would be considerable travel," she warns, before things can spin too far. "Often on whimsy. And given the nature of my typical company, if you set yourself out to charm and seduce every woman you meet, -not-, Ser Farrell that I am assuming you do, but I would expect discretion upon your part to the extreme. I will not be talked about for keeping a man in my company who makes sport of my companions. It looks absolutely terrible to have it crop up over tea."
Some of that brusque demeanor faded when Aeliana started her fit of giggling enjoyment, to which end her uncle merely snorted, and ignored it. She'd teased a smile along the corner of his mouth for it, though, even if he hid it well behind his natural stony sternness.
"Aye. Taken into Charlton service on a permanent basis, and outside of war, with the duty to look out for my niece. Provide protection and assistance as she requires it. Men-at-arms and regular guards may only go so many places. That ser infront of your name will let you into company it would otherwise be improper to bring a sword. If you find yourself willing," he glanced at Aeliana, "despire her harsh rules of courtship, then I would have you swear two oaths. One to House Charlton and myself, and one of protectorship to Aeliana personally."
Aeliana's talk of travel earns another chuckle from the common-born knight, his smile remaining sure and comfortable. "Travel's no stranger t'me, M'lady, basically been my entire life. Been all over the Riverlands, even out to the free cities once or twice. Could probably pitch a tent quicker'n anybody in this keep…if that were a skill anyone really needed, which it usually isn't," he muses, glancing briefly over to Harold. "…and as Ser Harold can attest, record keepin'. Just the parts folk want people hearin', tho'. As for women, I prefer to keep an…incredibly large divide between my business and anythin' approachin' that sort. Won't be a concern, as Ser Harold can tell ya. Usually I'd have to show you my references, but there's one standing right here."
Farrell's brows raise further - the idea seemed far less…tangible before, but now it's right in his face. Farrell grins widely. "Aye, Ser Harold, I'll take that offer gladly - keep her well and good away from anymore knives, should the Lady wish it."
Ignoring the look her Uncle gave her for her 'rules of courtship', Aeliana marked the knight's expressions instead. After all, she didn't want a reputation like Danae. Hmph. "Tent pitching is, on occasion, a remarkably useful skill to have." It is at least something else in his favor and her smile is one that's lending itself towards pleasure at the animation that takes him. So there was a personality hiding in there yet! Ah-ha. "Discretion would be appreciated as I said and I can certainly not deny your reference." There came the soft warm sound of her laughter at that.
And it flirted towards a grin in full, when he made his promise to keep her away from knives, for it brought a: "You may keep me away from knives, Ser Farrell, so long as you do not attempt to keep me away from my own."
"Very well. Ser Farrell Keane, it seems you'll in my colours longer than expected. I shall leave the two of you to consider the details of your new duties, however, as I feel the need to take a bloody bath. We'll see about the swearing in later." He gave the common knight a brisk nod, then looked at his niece. "I should like if we could sit down and talk and catch up some later, Ae. But for now, my body is screaming for a proper soak. Riding hard is a young man's pursuit." He snorted, then crossed the distance to his young kin. With the fondness of a far too indulgent uncle, he brushed his hand through her hair, and gave her a kiss on the forhead. "I'm glad you're well," he told her.
Then he'd make his departure.
"If you need one while I'm around, M'lady, I ain't doin' my job right," retorts the common-born knight, bowing his head to Harold as he goes. "Aye, M'lord. Thank you for the opportunity - few have done as much for me, know I'll be at the ready if you need to ride once more. Evenin' to you, M'lord."
With that he turns to Aeliana, bowing to her as well. "If you don't mind, M'lady, I've a few things I need to see to as well at the news, if you don't mind dealin' with your entourage a bit longer. I'd be able to see you again quite soon to take on the duties official-like."
"I'll go have a word with the maids," Aeliana replied to her Uncle, it was out just as soon as he said he wanted to have a bath. In part it was because she knew who the help -was-. "And bring you some salts for your aches. I shall see that you've a meal made ready too, with…the same courties, Ser Farrell." It would be quicker than searching for the Steward, whom she knew was busy and the Castallen.
"I'm glad I'm well to though," Aeliana replied with all due heartfelt consideration to her Uncle's words, leaning in to his kiss as she wrapped her arms around him for a hug. If she was keeping the knight, he may well get used to her demeanor. "And we'll talk soon," she promised and then drew away to face Ser Farrell.
"If you are sincere and truly, then I may bide my entourage for another day at the very least. Will this be sufficent time for you to handle your affairs? You will be a very busy man, for the next few months, Ser Farrell." It'd take that long at least before Aeliana would let her guard ease, until she knew who all the connected pieces were. Perhaps longer. "And while you seem a man to discount rumors, there was some truth in what you heart and that which my Uncle and I discussed. The Lady may well have friends and I am terribly attached to my life. We can discuss your duties and you may take your oaths come morning, if it suits you."
"If you have needs for more time," Aeliana adds, "Then but tell me now so that I know how I need to work my own arrangements with those who already flank me." What a tired and tedious task.
"Suits me indeed, M'lady. I'll speak to you then. G'evening," Farrell speaks with a final bow to Aeliana, turning and making his journey down through the keep and to the ground floor.