Page 442: The Craven Will Fall
The Craven Will Fall
Summary: Aleister and Ceinlys discuss the Charlton betrayal.. and the future.
Date: 09 September 2012
Related Logs: I Am Merciful and When the Bough Breaks
Aleister Ceinlys 
Ceinlys' Chambers — Highfield Keep
This private suite enjoys arguably one of the best views of the entire Keep. Upon entering, one is greeted with the illumination offered by tall windows, lining both of the outer walls. Those that overlook the garden and trees below, though, additionally have plush benches within their alcoves; an ideal spot for reading. Given the vast shelves that dominate the segments of wall in between, that is a near-constant pasttime for the Lords Steward. With the chamber cleverly designed in an L-shape, the main body of it is a fairly modest affair, with only the occasional evidence of a womans touch inherent in small details - the golds and silvers of the thick damask curtains, the finely polished oak of the grand table upon which numerous parchments lie neatly rolled and tomes properly stacked, the sweet fragrance of herbs wafting inward from a window left ever so slightly ajar. Around the corner, the sleeping alcove is separated by layers of gauzy muslin curtains, mingling together enough to become almost opaque; disguising the raised, comfortable bed beyond, without entirely diminishing the light. A servants cot rests along the foot of the platform, presumably for a Ladys attendant.
September 8th 289 A.L.

Confidentiality is a virtue of the loyal, as loyalty is the virtue of faithfulness.

With all the sudden commotion centering around Highfield Keep, with the orders issued and conveyed, men sent out and women brought in close.. with the Lady still abed, hovering ever precariously closer to death and the Lord and his brothers waging wars of words in the courtyard, while their little sister looks on, clad all in leathers and the Sheriff spoke sense and poor Robben just kept his head down.. frankly it was a blessing to be dismissed. Ceinlys does better with something to occupy herself, not the petty bickering of siblings. She thought she'd left all that behind, with Aron off doing whatever takes his fancy (or whoever) and Harys no doubt embroiled in aiding their Lord father. Regardless. Work to be done.

Having dispatched her own couriers and any other able bodies in search of the Flints, with strict orders not to return without them, the Steward has now withdrawn to her private chambers and the piles of parchment and books that she finds so comforting. Seated at her table, goblet of strongwine in hand, she peruses the same sheaf for perhaps the hundredth time, blue eyes really unseeing but merely enjoying the habit. This is spiralling out of control. Out of hers, even out of Aleister's. Neither of those please her. But this is emphatically not the time to falter. Indeed, it may be the opportunity she has so patiently waited for.

Her attendant has been sent to the kitchens, likely to fetch more wine. A rare moment of solitude, despite the storm raging outside these four walls. With a soft sigh, the young lady pushes to a graceful stand, keeping her goblet held close as she turns to stroll without purpose toward one of the tall windows and lean a slender shoulder to it's surround. Cerulean eyes take in the gardens below, the walls that enclose, the wilds of the land beyond. To build all this, only to bear the threat of it being snatched away again.. No, she can't think about that. Strength. It's what her Lord demands and the trait she most prides herself on. So it's with silent reflection that she ponders this latest news - not with tears or hysterics.

There was indeed much to be done and even more still to do and as such, Aleister had spent much of his evening delving into family matters; for the path that they were to walk would see them seperate from the bough of Charlton and set out on their own. With a divide now cast amongst his siblings, he had sought to speak of them individually, a task which had taken a fair portion of his time and it's only when he's finished; or finished for that particular moment, that he makes his way back into the keep and to the second level, to no doubt visit his chamber.

It's on this journey that he comes to pass Ceinlys' room and with the door open, he's pausing there, eyes flickering within; to catch sight of her before one of the tall windows and for a moment he simply watches her; looking to her back and the fall of her hair. When that moment ends, he's turning to move through that door, to offer a faint clearing of his throat before he's following it with, "It would seem, my dear, that our course is set." Were she to turn, she would see the flicker of a smirk to his lips in that dangerous fashion, "One that will see us set apart from my brethern. One that will force us to establish a name of our own."

For once not feeling those dark eyes upon her, Ceinlys is caught in a brief tableau; the elegant young lady, admiring her domain. Or so it might seem, to the uninformed observer. To Aleister, perhaps, the subtle nuances of a quiet sigh, a slow sip of wine.. even the way she holds herself.. might all betray her genuine tension. That leoline indifference is a mannerism strongly shared in her own brothers. One of whom, of course, the Knight of Highfield loathes. But at least he doesn't cause scenes about it.

Of course she turns, at the welcome sound of Aleister's voice, though that shoulder remains lightly pressed to the frame of her window as she does so, leaving her in a slight lean against the narrow bookshelves occupying the wall at her back. A single drum of fingertips upon her goblet and the Steward is mustering her typical, wolfish smile in return to that familiar smirk upon the man's own lips. "So it would seem.." she echoes, softly. "Apparently your Uncle was too shortsighted to consider the possibility that we might elect a different path than he." Still, while she does seem to share the anticipation of the things to come, there's no denying her unease. "I just.. dislike having our route so forcibly chosen for us. Relations with our observers are tenuous at best, close to breaking point at worst. Ser Erik was correct in that - if they ever plan to strike, they will do so now." Glacial eyes search Aleister's features, calm in spite of her words. "And if they do? What if others follow Keegan? What if.." Rather uncharacteristically, she trails off for a moment, before finally saying aloud the crux of the matter that troubles her. Quietly, of course, given that the door remains open. "..what if my father refuses our match, now?"

Those glacial brown eyes of his remain fixed upon her, watching the way that sigh moves through her, the way that cup lifts to her lips, the way she simply looks out over the land with that quiet tension. And when she turns to face him, shoulder still against her perch, he's moving further into the room, his cloak swirling around the lower portion of his legs as he does so. "Short Sighted? I think not, my dear," is what he's countering with, "Keegan would damn well know the consequence of this. He would know that there is no chance of us remaining with him, for all of the Frey's stand between Hollyholt and Highfield." That very thought of that draws the hint of a growl to his lips, but it's whisked away with a shake of his head.

"Regardless of our likes, dearheart, our path is set. Lord Frey has at least /given/ us the choice. Or the pretense of a choice. Stand with Keegan and face the consequences of Charlton's betrayal or stand with Frey and become what we will." Further into the room he moves, angling to make his way towards her, eyes settled upon her own, even as hands settle behind his back, "Unless your father seeks to side with Keegan, Cein, he would be stupid to refuse a match. To see you elevated to Lady of a House would be a grand thing for the Haighs and it would see an alliance cemented with another vassal of the Frey's." That smirk doesn't falter. Doesn't fade one bit from his lips, "We are hindered by this move. But we are not weak. We will find our ground. We will make alliances with our neighbours and we will /prosper/."

"What could have been offered by Tully that would incite a betrayal of one's own kin?" In that, at least, she and Bastien share a similarity. Ceinlys would never do anything to harm her family. "And who is to say it could not be offered to another?" Noting the promise of a snarl upon Aleister's lips, the young lady gently shakes her head, her expression softening a little. Odd that she should warm to him when he is at his most dangerous, his most infuriated. But such has always been the way of things.

Taking a moment, with a tilt askance of her head, she listens and seems to consider things from the alternative perspective offered by her Lord. "..I await word from my father, my love. But.. no. He may be ambitious, ruthless beyond measure.." the raven-haired creature relents to a fleeting smile at this. "I do, after all, inherit those traits from somewhere.. all that taken into account, I still refuse to believe he would agree with Keegan, in this." Add to that the fact the Haighs, while wealthy, are not so secure as the Charltons. Or they weren't. Perhaps now that will change.

Oh, but there's another matter. Isn't there always? "I wish to learn more of Highfield's defenses, Aleister. Had you not returned, I would have had to rely upon Bastien and Ser Erik. Not a position I desire to be in, particularly with the murmurings of ill-feeling regarding my presence here. I must know what I'm doing, in the event you disappear again." It's a rebuke.. but there's affection at the heart of it. She was worried for him. "Sometimes I think your people may prefer your dim-witted, invalid bride to make their decisions."

At the mention of what could have been offered, Aleister simply offers the hint of a grunt, only to follow it with, "Coin, no doubt. After all, that is what Keegan strives for. He no doubt pays less tithe's now that he's paying them directly to Tully and not Lord Frey. He has made his fortune by playing these games, dearheart, and it would seem that he seeks even more." A shake of his head follows the word, just a touch of anger seething into those words of his now.

Foot steps see him drawn closer still and when he's come to be relatively near to her, he's finally slowing and then stopping, hands disappearint beneath the folds of his cloak to no doubt settle against the small of his back, "Of course you do, Cein and of course your father will not. But even still, a void as been left at the top of the Frey vassals and now, we will find the others vying and fighting amongst each other for the favor of the Frey. In this, your father will seek allies outside of Erenford and Nayland. To see his position strengthened and to see House Haigh elevated to the spot that Charlton once had. A fitting thing, when you consider." A flash of that smirk and then a cold chuckle begins to escape past his lips, "Defenses? Yes. I will see you educted on things. Or enough so that you can understand it. But it will be Bastien who leads the men on the field and the Sarjents beneath him who keep order."

Casting her concerns aside, the young woman replaces them with disdain at the mention of those who would oppose her House. "Naylands and Erenfords.. now those are folk too shortsighted to see what lies under their nose." And that, it seems, is that. Dismissed in an instant, those 'lesser' families. Watching Aleister draw closer still, the impulse to cross the remaining distance to him plays openly across Ceinlys' porcelain, icy features for a moment. But that door's still open. And she is his steward. Why fuel the fires of gossip, unnecessarily? That's Aeliana's job, judging by the not so subtle advice given to their Lord earlier, out in the courtyard. Dirty his knee, indeed.

"I've no intent of donning plate and charging into battle, Aleister." The notion does rouse a low-throated chuckle from Ceinlys, though, as she regards him. "Only to better prepare for what may need to be done from here." Alright, one step closer. She pushes away from the wall and permits that much, if only for the intensity of her words. " may not be recognised yet. It may never be. But in my heart, I love Highfield, and consider it as much mine as yours. I have watched it grow from the dirt upward. I would give everything I had, such as it is, to protect what is ours." A brief pause, and she continues, again in that velvet tone that's intended for him alone. "..and the same I could say of you. I have watched you fight, heard you plan.. prayed when you were assailed and rejoiced when you emerged, time after time, victorious." She doesn't tell him she loves him. Doesn't need to. "..anything you need, Aleister. As always, you need only ask."

"Even still, dearheart, they will be the ones with which we must break bread and treat with. To ease tensions and establish … friendships." The last of those words is almost hissed past his lips, as if the very though of such a thing is one of sharp displeasure to Aleister. But he doesn't linger on the topic and nor does he seek to draw himself closer towards her. After all, enough gossip surrounds the two and this is not the time to have servants idly wagging their tongues.

But, she does take that single step closer and there's just the hint of a chuckle in the back of his throat before he's giving an incline of his head in her direction, "No, you will not. I would not tolerate such a thing. One bitch in armor is more then enough for the Riverlands, dearheart." A flash of a smirk and his eyes shift to the window, resting there a moment before looking back to her, "You will have what you need to know in due time, my dear. With this sudden change, even the facet of our defenses will be forced to change; so that our routines are not known by Keegan's men." A sniff; cluck of his tongue and then he's watching her intently, that smirk holding his lips in that dangerous little curve, "It will not wither and die, my dear. We falter with the course that we must take, but that is all. We will compose ourselves; we will gather our allies and we will grow. I will not see all that we have built crushed in an instant." A flash of fury rages in his eyes as he falls silent for a moment and when he speaks again, it's a low thing, intended for her alone, "Draw up a letter to Lord Frey. Tell him that we will swear vassalage to him and to House Frey. But before such a thing can be sent, we must speak with others and find out what name we will go by, for once such a thing is finalized, we will no longer be welcome to be Charltons."

Another slow sigh escapes Ceinlys, as she finds a strange comfort in the Lord's harsh words, and her gaze drifts past him to the table and the doorway beyond, where sunlight streams through the windows of the landing. "We will. Of course we will." she murmurs. Because he's right. They will flourish. Haven't they both faced worse than this before? ..probably. Nothing comes immediately to mind, though. Tilting her jaw up a little, in mute defiance of unseen opponents, the Steward flits her striking blue eyes back to Aleister's features, studying him now with the faintest of smiles and tucking a stray ebon wisp back behind her ear.

"You have no proposals, thus far, in regards to a name?" She seems surprised. But then, this is hardly one of their best-laid plans. "I could browse old records of the area, perhaps find something inspirational.. though.." That smile turns to a slight grin. "..the only one that appeals to me, in the matter of moments I've had to consider? ..Wolfe." She lets that linger a moment, accompanied by the cheerful birdsong from the trees beyond her windows, one of which is slightly ajar, then Ceinlys is moving forward.. and brushing past the Lord, toward her table, wine still well held. "I will see to it, m'Lord." Knowing her, she may already have begun drafting that missive. Her long silver skirts trail ever so slightly in her wake, with her unbound tresses spiralling into the small of her back. She never was much one for pins and baubles, unless the occasion calls. "It is, as you say, a mere bump in the road." Ceinlys doesn't glance back across her shoulder, instead setting down her goblet and gathering some parchments into a loose pile, clearing space for when her task begins. "And there have been plenty of those, before now. And besides.." Her smirk is evident in her tone, even if he can't see it. "..this bitch has no need for armor."

He doesn't shy from her gaze as those sriking blue eyes shift back to him; to study his features with only the hint of a smile; his lips remaining curved in that smirk, even as he comes to offer the slightest of inclines once again, "Indeed. We will." Then, there's a flash of a chuckle and a shake of his head, "No names have come to light as of yet, my dear. But it has not been given proper consideration until this moment. But it must be decided." Her suggestion draws a sharp laugh from his lips and then he's watching as she moves forward and when she brushes past him, he's simply turning to follow her with his eyes.

"Wolfe .. how fitting that would be," comes to be offered, though it's followed by, "Such a thing will need to be considered and decided, for it will need to be included in our letter to Lord Frey. He will need to know what his vassal has chosen to be called." Now, he begins to follow her towards the table, watching with an intent gaze as she gathers those parchments, "We are not ones to stumble and fall from a mere bump, are we?" It's a question that requires no answer, in reality and when she finishes with that final statement, there's a laugh that sounds past his lips; one that holds a measure of warmth amongst the sharpness of the sound, "No, she does not. A simple quill and her mind is more then armor enough."

"Hmmm.. or Ashwolfe..? Perhaps.. no.. oh, I've enough whirling my thoughts already. I shall endeavour to write a list of suggestions tonight, before I take my rest." If she is perturbed by the intensity of the Lord's gaze, Ceinlys makes no mention, simply setting her less important papers in a more orderly pile to one side and, with a last glance cast across the created opening on the surface, straightening slowly to full height once more. "Unless you wish to call a more formal meeting, for such a discussion." Surely not - he has enough on his plate.

Drawing a breath, the Steward half-turns to somewhat face the brooding man again, rewarding him a slow curve of her lips for that compliment. "As you ought know better than most. Though speaking of such.." One hand rises, raking back her lustrous raven locks with the fingertips, her habit when something mildly irritates her. "..ought any further correspondence be sent, in regard to your dear wife? Indeed, did anything ever come of the Castellan's original draft?" Well, may as well cover everything while she has him here. And the languishing Lady Highfield is, like it or not, an unfortunate thorn in the side of a nameless House that can afford no such weakness.

"Draft your list of suggestions, dearheart, and I will give them consideration and will speak with my family on them, as well. They should, after all, have a say in what the will come to be known as." He continues to watch as she shuffles those papers and when she finally straightens and mentions a more formal meeting, there's the hint of a grunt and a slight shake of his head, "No. No formal meeting will be conducted for this. I will meet with those who must be met with and ask their thoughts. Then, I will make a decision. In the mean time, there is much more that must be done. My other Uncle must be spoken with and I must see to Keegan's daughter, as well."

That half-turn towards him and the slow curve of her lips draws just the hint of a chuckle from the man and it comes with a slight incline of his head once more, "Of course I do." That said, he's almost glowering at the mention of correspondence and his wife and his hands finally unclasp from behind his back so that one can lift to give an idle wave, "Forget such things. Keegan will not approve them now and they will sit with Walder for months before he dares look at them. My wife will meet her end due to the wound and when she does, I will play the part of grieving husband for a period of time. To show all that I am not entirely heartless."

"Very well. I'll send it along as soon as I've time to come up with something." Ceinlys doesn't seem to mind the influx of odd little jobs. Rounding one corner of the table, she reaches across to straighten a waiting tome, still open to the page last looked upon. Maps, at a glance. Beautifully etched ones, too. Is there anything that doesn't interest this young woman? Oh, yes. Some of their guests. "Mmm. There's plenty of room in the dungeons." The offhand way she says it makes it impossible to tell if she's joking. Maybe that really is how she would 'see to' little lady Alys.

Glancing absently in Aleister's direction as the conversation continues, the Steward catches that momentary thundercloud across his stern features at the vague mention of Cherise. Don't push, an inner voice warns. She slowly inclines her head, to convey understanding and.. well, at least partial agreement. Difficult to play a convincingly distraught widower when the world speculates about your mistress.

It's at this moment that Brigid, the long-suffering handmaiden of the Lady Ceinlys, chooses to return; huffing and puffing from her ascent and carrying a tray in hands that aren't entirely steady. Lucky for her that the door is open. She strolls briskly in, and somehow manages, at first, to entirely miss the fact that Lord Aleister is present; addressing her mistress in her usual, half-scolding way. "..brought your wine, m'lady. And I took the liberty of fetching a few 'erbs, to help settle your stomach in the mornings.." Oh shit. That's the only way to describe the rheumy eyed servant's expression when she finally, having set down the tray, looks up and notes that Ceinlys is not alone. The latter, thank the Seven, keeps her composure flawlessly, even interjecting gently. "..yes, thank you, Brigid." Returning her attention to Aleister, the young lady smiles charmingly, an elegant trailing gesture of her hand in midair indicating the door.. should it please him. "Well, my dear Lord Highfield.. unless there is anything further.. I will see to these matters as swiftly as I am able."

A slight bow of Aleister's head comes to pass and it's followed by the hint of a smirk, though that's broken by the chuckle that sounds past his lips, one that comes with a shake of his head, "No, she will not find her way to the dungeons. Such would be viewed unfavorably by the other nobles. Should we seize her, she will be regarded as a noble guest, one who is sequestered to her room and not allowed visitors." Nothing further comes to pass upon the topic of Cherise and with it, his hands returns beneath his cloak, to clasp along with the other one.

Brigid's arrival does not go unnoticed, for his eyes flash to her, regarding her for a moment, even as the smirk begins to dance upon his lips once more; this time showing in full force. He doesn't interject to make his presence known and it's only after the tray is settled and the servant looks up that he's offering the simpliest of nods to her. Then, it's to Ceinlys that he looks, "When you have your suggestions, Lady Ceinlys, find me so that we can review them. The same applies for the draft that will eventually be sent to Lord Frey." Now, he offers a slight incline of his head, hands unclasping from beneath his cloak so that the edges can be grasped and then pulled a bit more tightly around him, "Until then, I shall leave you to your tasks." And, with that, he's turning to make his way back towards that open door and the hallway beyond.