|The Beauty And The Beast|
|Summary:||After returning from a visit to Heronhurst Castle, Lyanna has an encounter of the chilling kind with Trajan Fenster and learns a disturbing detail about the Lord of Highfield.|
|Date:||05/12/2012 and 13/12/2012|
|Related Logs:||None directly|
|River Walk Inn, Heronhurst|
|As with the plaza outside and many of the buildings here in Heronhurst, the main floor of the Inn is paved with flat tiles made from river stone that is a pale color, the edges cut into neat squares fitted one alongside the other to form a flat surface upon which the foundation of this tavern is built. A long table runs the length of the northern edge of the room with chairs and stools interspersed among long benches arranged for seating. Small tables take up more of the open floor space with a random number of chairs tucked around, the tables often moved about on whim or to suit the needs of the patrons, though the central line from the door to the bar is mainly kept free. The bar itself takes up the entire length of the eastern wall, a massive affair of polished oak whose surface gleams in the warm light of countless candles and torches during the evening hours. More stools are found there, tucked beneath the edge of the bar, and the staff move at a warm but efficient pace that gives patrons time to enjoy the evening along with a word of conversation or gossip. The kitchen doors to either end of the bar are often in motion, serving staff moving in and out with food and drink. A large fireplace takes up most of the southern wall, the mantle above which is decorated with the banners of Heronhurst and the mounted head of a truly impressive stag. A set of stairs is found to either side of the fireplace, leading upward to the rooms found on the second and third floor, customers easily sorted by class and coin.|
|December 4th, 289|
It is evening, a few hours past dinner time, and the Riverwalk Inn is still filled reasonably with guests at the tables, some even hanging out in front of the bar. Two serving wenches are moving around the tables carrying heavy pitchers of both wine and ale while the barkeep keeps an eye on things from behind his counter.
The door to the Inn is opened, and five people enter the place. Leading the little procession is Lyanna Frey, wearing an elegant dress in the blue and grey of her House below a blue cape, followed by her two guards and her septa. The other two are guards wearing Erenford colours and are dismissed with a polite nod by the lady. "You have seen to my safe arrival at the Inn. Please do convey Lady Bryliesa Erenford my thanks." One of the two casts a quick glance about the room, and as it seems their presence is no longer required, he replies: "As you wish, m'lady." before the two of them leave as swiftly as they have entered.
In the darkest corner of the room there is a dark figure - one that as soon as he is noticed lowers the temperature in the room several degrees. His face occluded by a hood the Dark Jester spouts one of his many poems dry and cold with desolation and exile. "Took from me all that I had; Left me cold and dead inside; Killing everything in me; What was one used to be free. Now to drive away the pain; I'll destroy all I disdain; I'll become what I despise; Living someone elses lies." The words seem to carry across the bar very well bringing a chill to alot of the locals who avert their eyes - and some who whisper the word 'Jester'. The voice is accentless but perfect in its enunciation like it came from a spirit rather than a man - and it fills the room. But the figure remains occluded - just a dark hood in a dark corner.
Lyanna turns as she hears the recital, the chill of the poem's words reaching her as well. Her deep blue eyes narrow as they try to make out the hooded figure in the corner. Her Septa puts her hand on Lyanna's arm, murmuring something with a light shake of the head into her ear and pointing towards the stairs leading up to the guest rooms. But despite whatever Mariah tries to warn her against, the young Frey lady turns to said corner once more, the stubborn flicker in her eyes indicating her refusal to be frightened by the strange man. "You may retreat, if you wish, Mariah. I am guarded well," she says, pointing to Master Grimes and Master Tollart. "Oh no my lady. If you mean to stay here for a bit, I'll stay as well." is the Septa's reply, the forced casual tone of her voice in contradiction to frown on her face.
Lyanna approaches the man, eyeing him with a bit of stubborn curiosity before she remarks: "A poem that surely does not aim to please, rather to intimidate. Or… to tell the story of a tortured soul. Who might you be, and did you write this… piece?"
"The countenance and bearing of one Lady Lyanna Frey whom I have observed from a distance but never spoken to." The mechanical exactitude of the dark mans speech is almost inhuman filling the room but remaining quiet and subdued at the same time. "But I will endeavor to be other than rude - I am Ser Trajan Antabolis Fenster," a formal introduction from the Dark Jester. The name itself for anyone on the coast evokes a plethora of images - war hero in Roberts Rebellion on Roberts side. Then something happened to him - dark and terrible involving his house. Then a war criminal of the worst kind committing dispeakably terrible atrocities on the Ironborn during the Greyjoy rebellion. But noone cared because they were Ironborn. Then a Charlton/Highfield enforcer and torturer. And finally now presumably something similar for the Haigh's now that the fenster allegiance shifted. Lyanna may know none or all of this. But if she knew some she'd be on her way to an explanation.
Perhaps not as taken aback as she should probably be that the man knows her identity - she's a Frey, and the Ambassador to Highfield - Lyanna rubs her hands in front of her, as if the chill from his countenance might be able to spread to her. But what does surprise her is that the man sitting there in the dark corner, almost hiding there perhaps, is of noble blood. "Fenster?" she repeats, pausing for a moment as she places the House's name in the political framework in the Riverlands. "Ser Trajan, I am sure we have not met before. But I know Young Lord Fenster. You do not look very similar to him, so I wonder… In what way are you related to him?" Her tone is cautious yet polite - and lacking her usual friendliness.
"Perhaps the half of my face that is intact does. Lord Alric is my cousin. And my charge - a part of my burden. His ambitious uncle is my father and Lord Jek has precious few competant swords. Thus my hatred for my brothers over my mutilation becomes the impetus for my protection of dear Alric. That and he is my friend. I always protect my friends." The half man shuffles some cards, "I like to stay in the darkness - but I like to think I am still a face card."
Nodding as Trajan explains his relation to Alric, Lyanna then arches a brow with baffled concern. "So… you owe this to your brothers?" Keeping silent about how out of place it seems to her to emburden passing acquaintances with one's personal grudges, she adds regarding Alric: "You seem to take your office very seriously. I am sure Young Lord Alric can feel very safe when he is in your company… But you have not answered my question about the poem, Ser Trajan. Was it you who wrote it?"
"Oh indeed and my wife all put me on the table of that master of mutilation Bren the Handsome - it was a Charlton secret but I told anyone who cared to hear. It's just that noone cared about that strange thing we call justice." Smiling horribly, "Yes I write poetry - my brother's thought it horribly effeminate and maybe they were right. But I do it still. But my present prose differs radically from where I began."
Lyanna hesitates for a long moment, but finally takes her seat at the table where the Fenster is seated. Her eyes looking thoughtful at Trajan's words she folds her hands in front of her and remains silent until he has given his reply. "These are gruesome stories indeed. And they have to be true as they explain your appearance, your bearing - everything. Even the style of your poems I am sure." she says, finally accepting that Trajan is confronting her with rather personal matters. "But do you think it wise to wear this horrible story around you like a cloak? You hardly know me, ser. But still you tell me all these horrible things - for what purpose? To gain my empathy? To shock me and frighten me? I wonder… are there many people you call your friend - apart from Young Lord Alric? I wager you have a hard time making new ones… the way you carry yourself, ser."
"Like so many things friends are trifling things and I for one cannot disguise my inner nature it so resembles my outer. Why should I lie? Even to strangers? Are there any likely to believe a lie from this face?" He smiles which is awful to observe, "I prefer to beat people down with the truth. If truth were a club it would be one of the purest valyrian steel." Wiping a thin line of black from his forehead, "To gain your reaction. I care not for sympathy. On Bren's table I saw myself and where I was headed - for the sin of worthlessness would you believe? Noone can make things worse or better for me."
"Now that is a valiant thing I suppose…" Lyanna replies, averting her eyes for a short moment as the smile on Trajan's face is indeed too much for her to observe from such close a distance. "To use the truth as a club…Would I not know better I would assume you were a septon, had there not been those disturbing revelations just before. And if it was my attention you were seeking - you were successful, at least in this, ser. You have it now." The Septa starts moving uncomfortably, standing somewhere behind Lyanna and still refusing to take a seat. The lady however seems to be little impressed by that, and tapping her index fingers against each other she continues: "So… You are a torturer and enforcer you say? Now that is not a very honourable profession. Does it not trouble you to create echoes of your own… fate, passing on those horrible experiences you've suffered yourself?"
"It's the most dishonorable profession of all. But then we are awash with knights that force themselves upon common girls and call that 'their right'." Taking a sip from his single cup of pure Arbor wine he says, "But it is the only work available. And I get to do bad things to bad people. Things others might never concieve of doing caught up in their hypocrasy and pretense of morality. The same knights who defile common girls."
"As for how it should trouble me I could explain it in a story if you'd care to hear?"
Finally Lyanna appears less appalled and more intrigued by the Fenster lord, now that the first stage of 'frightening others' and 'catching their attention' seems to be over and leaves the room for a discussion of a more philosphical manner. "I would very much like to hear it." is her simple reply, now with a touch more friendliness to her tone.
"You ask if thing's like the things I do should trouble me. Well it is a question of perspective. One should be even if one is not troubled by what one does troubled by what other's think of what one does. Therefore what you could gain from them. Imagine for argument's sake you are not a striking young woman but a hunchback - been ugly as hell all your life. Shunned - given coin occasionally out of pity. But you are an especially ugly hunchback so the prettier hunchbacks and beggars get the lion's share of money - because you have been reduced to begging."
Continuing the story, "But you've sat by taverns and begged near the keep and heard fairy stories about this thing called love told to noble and common girls alike. Implied in the boys stories. You decide to experiment. You know that animals care about what gives them sustenance rather than the appearance of their care giver - so you find a discarded kitten. Not too hard. What is hard is your foregoing meals and other things that sustain you - but you find the kitten milk. You keep it warm. It half kills you but you do it just to see if something could love you let alone experience the feeling yourself."
He continues, "The cat matures and one day you reach down as you are feeding to pet it and it lashes out at you. It wanders off and you observe it being openly petted by a lovely young maid and her paramour. And what grows in you is the knowledge that you are not only ugly but condemned to an ersatz existence. The cat will never love you but it can hate you and you can hate it. That might not be the best thing to feel but it is the second best thing. And you realise that you are forever an exile - the last, weakest, ugliest and most despised of all your brothers and sisters. And will always be. And that weighing down on you might have been arbitrary but it is as pure a judgement as any that has been laid down by the Seven. What rules are left for you?" He leans back.
Lyanna listens attentively to the Fenster's story, leaning forward now and tilting her head, as she tries to discover the deeper meaning whithin. "What you mean is… you have offered kindness and where pushed back. But that would neither explain nor excuse the use of violence to others - except for some kind of revenge… Which is always pure folly, I would think. And I do not think being an outcast alone would sufficiently explain how to discard the rules of humanity, chivalry and mercy." Gnawing thoughtfully on her lower lip, Lyanna leans back in her seat, curiously waiting for Trajan's reply.
"Everyone has rules my only one is no women or children. To that extent I agree with chivalry - but an Ironborn champion who had raped a common girl whose only aspiration was to be a septa. Well I broke every bone in every limb of his body. And handed her a torch after drenching him in oil. I'm pretty sure he begged - might have been chivalrous to be merciful. But where is the retribution?"
"I am glad you see it that way, ser! But is it not natural? Who in these parts would really hurt women and children - intentionally?" the Frey lady exclaims at Trajan's declaration - revealing once more that her sheltered upbringing has shielded her like many a noble lady from knowing much if anything of the atrocities that are committed in times of war, especially against the weakest members of society. As the knight continues Lyanna's hands hold each other in a firm grasp, the knuckles turning almost white, as her countenance is challenged once more with gruesome details she was not very keen on to be acquainted with. Her gaze fixed on the Fenster she stays silent for a while until she clears her throat and gives her reply, carefully picking her words. "Ser Trajan. Rape is no chivalrous deed, so… perhaps one could argue that a knight who does not act according to the code does not deserve to be treated with chivalry. Yet there are laws - and there is justice I am sure. What you describe here is the act of revenge… committed to help that poor girl find a way to deal with her fate. As such, your deed can not be condemned completely perhaps - although I still do not approve of it."
There is a short pause as Lyanna's gaze drops to her hands, relaxing their grasp a bit, her demeanour receiving a fresh spark as a thought crosses her mind. She looks up again, her gaze locking with Trajan's cold stare. "But… as a torturer and enforcer you are not the one who picks your… objects to interrogate. You can't be sure that you'll get only the most rotten creatures. You are to obey the orders of your master. What would you do, Ser, if you were /ordered/ to torture a young girl, a servant maybe, to tell the secrets of her lady? Would you deny to do it? Or let him be a male servant, maybe, young and innocent. So if you obeyed the order, would that not make you feel bad and… guilty afterwards? Especially after seeing him in that… totally broken state that you are responsible of?"
"You're assuming I would follow the order my Lady Lyanna. In the end such is my nature that I can not be bought, bullied or impressed into any service. And at the moment my house may be bound in vassalage but I am not bound by oath to anyone. I pick my targets." As for the Ironborn, "No not at all. I helped beat back those animals - showed them something that made them afraid for once. You do not want to know what they did to noble women such as yourself that they captured."
Her gaze was flickering a bit while Lyanna waited for the Fenster's reply, the grasp of her hands tightening slightly. Hearing his reaction she seems to relax however, although that remark about what Ironborn did to noble ladies earns a swift shake of her head. The Frey lady does not know, nor does she wish to know. Leaning back in her chair she assesses Trajan for a short moment before she leans forward again. "I am glad you put your principles above what your liege lords tell you then, Ser Trajan. Little as it might commend your service to them." A sarcastic smile appears on her face. "As soon as the case I just described occurs you might find yourself without service - perhaps bringing your own House into trouble by disobeying orders…" Lyanna lets that assessment hang in the air before she continues. Her deep blue eyes are on the Haigh vassal as she gnaws pensively on her lower lip. "I wonder if this encounter is a product of pure chance, Ser, or of design. You a former enforcer of the Ashwoods, the former Charltons, and me, the current Ambassador to Highfield…? If there is anything on your mind, ser, a bit of information perhaps, or an offer of some kind… Now would be the time to come forth with it."
"I'm here looking for the missing children my Lady," Trajan says without much delay. "Of the Ashwoods? They are an unprincipled bunch with unusual relationships. At least two of the household of women fawn over and worship the ground Lord Aleister walks on. I do not share their assessment of him. During the war with the Naylands he openly suggested violating Lady Jocelyn Nayland to avenge his defeat when she was captive."
Lyanna's demeanour sombres a little as her gaze shows concern. "Ah, yes. I have heard about those. A horrible story indeed. I hope the children will soon be found and returned to their families." Obviously unaware of Lady Hafwen's disappearence at this point in time - the daughter of another acquaintance, Lady Ceinlys Erenford - Lyanna leaves it at that and listens attentively to the information Trajan has to offer about Lord Aleister. She nods to the first part about the women in his household. "Aye, I have heard about that. They say even the former Steward was in love with him. Silly rumors…" She chuckles lightly and waves that part off with a dismissive gesture. But the second piece of information is new for her apparently, as her eyes grow wide and she slowly shakes her head with an incredulous expression on her face. "He truely did suggest /that/?" Lyanna's voice fails her, and so does her eloquence, as she has difficulty in finding the right words. After a pause she inquires, a little flatly: "This is the truth, Ser? You have heard it with your own ears?"
"Contrary to popular opinion my insanity such as it is has not hampered my ability to hear. In the camp it was his uncle Harold who cut that idea down. I fear now with the Charlton's split with the 'Ashwoods' as they call themselves taking Harold out of the equation means no similar constraints will govern Lord Aliester's behaviour in future. Worse yet it was said within earshot of Lady Jocelyn herself. She has been a captive more than once and was especially distraught at the suggestion." Trajan cants his head, "I pity you having to negotiate the pitfalls of this bawdy house…"
Nodding slowly to Trajan's words Lyanna's gaze drops to her hands for a moment. But there is a sudden stern expression in her eyes as she raises her gaze to the Fenster again. "I believe you, ser. I tells me a lot of the character of a man I have yet to get to know, it would seem. And perhaps, if there is an opportunity I will hear his side of the story. At least I will have an eye on him." Not that it would help much. Lyanna shrugs lightly before she continues with a sympathetic smile: "And as distraught as Lady Jocelyn may have been by the threat… She was lucky that it was not followed by the deed itself. I hope she will recover from that dreadful experience nonetheless."
Trajan laughs, "I'd love to hear 'his' side of the story as well. It'd be good to hear him attempt to justify his plan. I doubt there would be much that he could say… if he even had the moxy to admit it." As for Jocelyn, "How would you know? Jocelyn plays things pretty close to her chest and has been known to conceal truths from friends and protectors in order to prevent further conflict."
There is a nod, nothing more to the Fenster's remark about Lord Aleister. Lyanna is tired of the topic and unwilling to discuss it any further until she has had the chance to sleep over this new information about that dark aspect of his character. As for Jocelyn… Lyanna clears her throat. "I was assuming it was a threat, nothing more, Ser Trajan. And I understand you see yourself as a protector of Lady Jocelyn." A little smile appears at the corners of Lyanna's mouth. "So what you imply is that she might hold something back, to keep the peace? Then that is what she will gain strength from, I am sure. I would love to meet her once, this Lady Jocelyn Nayland. She seems to have an impressive character."
Trajan smirks, "She is a friend," is all he is willing to say. As for Jocelyn and wanting to meet her, "I am surprised you haven't already. Obviously she stays clear of Highfield - though she came to the recent wedding."
Raising a brow, Lyanna smiles at his short assessment of his relationship to Jocelyn but does not inquire any further on the matter. "The wedding… yes, it is possible. But I have not been introduced to her, and if I have… so many faces and names…" The Frey shrugs lightly, looking suddenly a bit tired. "No… weddings are not a good opportunity to get to know others, rather glimpse them while they glide past you. So yes, her face might look familiar - but I do not remember at the moment which one was hers." Lyanna leans back again, silently staring at a point on the wall behind Trajan. It is then that her Septa clears her throat again. "Lady Lyanna. The hour is late. You should rest, before we travel all the way back to Highfield tomorrow…" And so Lyanna rises from her seat, offering a weary smile and a hint of a curtsey before she leaves, as that is all she probably is capable of. "Ser Trajan. It has been interesting to get to know you. My septa is of course right. We have a long journey ahead of us." And then the Frey lady turns and walks towards the stairs leading to the guest rooms of the inn, her septa and the two guards in tow.
Trajan rises and bows, "Fair journey then my Lady," monster he may be but an exquisitely polite one. Sitting again Trajan goes back to his poetry.