|The Good Son and the Hag|
|Summary:||The Dowager Lady Nayland and her grandson, Ser Riordan, wait in the Mire for word of a war in which they take no part.|
|Fortress of the Sevens — Rookery|
|Ravens. Kitchen maids.|
The year of 283 was one of momentous turmoil for most of the Riverlands. Robert Baratheon of the Stormlands raised up rebellion against the Targaryen kings, joined quickly by the Vale and the North after Lord Rickart Stark and his eldest son and heir were burned alive by the "Mad" King Aerys. Lord Hoster Tully joined not long after - in exchange for the marriages of his two daughters to the wardens of North and East. The banners of the Riverlands were called to Rebellion and many marched to it. But some did not. A handful took up arms for the Targaryens. And then there was Lord Walder Frey, who has sat at the Twins immobile, while both his lord paramount and his king called for swords. He, and his banners, have held back. And so, it was a more quiet time in the Mire than in many houses. Some knights have taken arms - Ser Rygar and Rutger Nayland for the Royalists, Lord Rafferdy for the rebels - but most sit in the Mire and do little while their Frey overlords do not call them to war.
The Dowager Lady Rebekkah Nayland spends most of her days in the rookery now. Garbed in widow's black and tending to her small personal stock of ravens. She watches the swamp outside the tower window as she holds one of her prize birds on a withered old finger. Blue eyes distant and thoughtful, though Seven only knows what the Hag of the Mire is thinking.
Only a Knight for two years now, Ser Riordan Nayland has still made a fine showing in the lists at Tourneys, or at least, he did before war broke out. Now, as with most of his kin, he spends his days waiting. He does his duty to his Lord Father and his family, assisting with the organization of patrols, helping keep the men ready. However, he is a twenty year old man, and one forbidden from going to war when the rest of the world, it seems, is doing nothing but. So he finds amusement where he can. And, judging by the girlish giggling and the throaty male chuckle that can suddenly be heard right outside the rookery door, that amusement likely has a name.
Rebekkah has been up here long enough that it is quite likely anyone who snuck up here to canoodle might've forgotten her presence. She's making little noise inside the rookery. She just tends her ravens, watches the skies, and waits. Waits and waits and waits for whatever obscure correspondence she still keeps up with the outside world. The sound of the giggling outside is met with a snort at first. A soft one. She's not so sheltered a creature that she doesn't know what she's listening to. So, she waits for it to really get going. And then, she uses her cane to hobble over to the rookery door and open it. With a pointed creaking. And an even more pointed clearing of her throat.
The scene before the Nayland matron might have soundeded like one thing, but it turns out to be something else entirely. Riordan is seated next to one of the daughter's of the cooks. And though she is a lovely and plump in all the right areas, all they are doing is sitting. Well, that, and making sounds like they are doing more then that. "Oh, why, Riordan," she is in the midst of giggling, before turning a shade of pink when the door opens. Riordan, meanwhile, has his hands behind his head, eyes fixed on the door. "Oh, Ginny, you minx," he says, even as his grandmother fixes eyes on him. He smiles broadly at his grandmother, then begins to laugh. Ginny begins to giggle for real now as well, though in a slightly more self-conscious way. "Took you long enough, Grandmother. Thought you had fallen asleep in there," he says, as he hops up to his feet, moves over, and will attempt to plant a kiss on Rebekkah's cheek. Clearly, he thought this would all be very amusing. "How are the birds?" he asks, attempting to peek around her to the rookery beyond.
Rebekkah actually lets out a reptilian sort of chuckle at the scene she does not interrupt, tilting her wrinkled cheek for Riordan to kiss. "I'm glad I don't have to scold Rickart's Favored Boy for neglecting to make use of the local brothel for his entertainments. I dislike lords who don't support the local tax base. Now, run along, dear, and make me some tea." The command swiftly given to Ginny. She directs her beady gaze at Riordan. There is amusement in her eyes, but there's the impression she's laughing at him, not with him. "Are you bored, Rickart's Favored Boy?"
Ginny blinks, and almost begins to look at Riordan for permission, before thinking better of it. She executes a hasty curtsey, and then scurries back down to the kitchen. Riordan watches her go for the space of a heartbeat, not unappreciatively, before turning back to his father's mother. "She and her sisters are nice to look at, I'll grant you. But laying with a woman who doesn't know how to be professional or careful is liable to give you bastards, and I'm far too young for that yet." He grins his lopsided grin at Rebekkah, before answering her question honestly. "Yes," he says, simply. "You didn't answer my question, dearest grandmother," he points out.
Rebekkah glares at Ginny's departing back, gaze going flinty at that look for permission. Yes, you'd better run. "I will give you the same advice in such matters I gave your highlord father," she says hobbling back into the rookery proper. But she leaves the door open, and jerks her hand as if inviting him - or ordering him - to join her. "There is nothing in men's appetites that can shock me. Just don't acknowledge the bastard puppies you will inevitably spawn. It muddies the waters." As for his question. "My birds are also bored, Rickart's Favored Boy. It has been too long since I used them. But perhaps my raven will come today." Her raven. There's a note of almost passionate possessiveness about the way she says that.
"Of course, Grandmother. Should it ever come to pass, I would not wish to dishonor the Nayland name with such actions," Riordan says in answer to his Grandmother's advice as he follows her into the rookery, closing the door behind himself. If her comment makes him curious just how many half-brothers or sisters he might have, though, he doesn't say. "Your raven? The one from you Cyvasse partner in the north?" he asks, not bothering to hide his curiousity.
Rebekkah snorts at the word "dishonor." "It's politics, Rickart's Favored Boy, not honor. A line of succession should be tidy. When I was a girl in King's Landing, the court was filled with stories of low-born brothers or cousins or bastards trying to…jump their place. It could make for some very…mess family trees." She hobbles back to the window, glaring at the sky as if willing her raven to come. "It has been his move for some months now." She does not deny it's her mysterious cyvasse partner she waits for though - as always - she offers no details. "Since the Baratheon traitor raised his rebel host. I wonder if he's not gone to war, like all the real men in Westeros." The barb is not subtle, though she sounds a mix of both hopeful and grimly worried that her speculation might be true.
"As you say, Grandmother," Riordan says, bowing his head to Rebekkah's superior wisdom in the matter of politics. He has cousins and brothers much more suited to that sort of thing, and he has never pretended to be overly interested in such. Moving to stand beside his grandmother and look out the window with her - though he himself gazes not at the sky, but at his beloved Mire, his home. Her barb actually elicits a laugh, and her arm in hers if she will allow it. "If Aerys Targaryen were not mad, I'd say he should have the wisdom to pluck you from here and place you on the front lines. Baratheon would not stand a chance against your stings and nettlres, dear lady."
Rebekkah does allow her grandson's arm around her shoulder, though she does not respond to it with any particular warmth or affection. Her gaze is far beyond the Mire. "Aerys Targaryen should have never sat the Iron Throne," she says, firmly, and with a bitterness that touches on regret. "But. He is the king we are stuck with, and fealty is not so easily broken as this. Prince Rhaegar should have called the lords paramount of the land, to move to take the throne himself, after the atrocity with the Stark lord. They might have listened then. Perhaps they still will, when the Baratheon is put down."
"Maybe the rest of them, not Baratheon. The others hate Aerys, Lady Grandmother. Baratheon, he hates Prince Rhaegar. I was at the tourney of Harranhal. I saw the Stark girl, and how they both looked at her. Rhaegar naming Baratheon's betrothed the Queen of Love and Beauty was bad enough, but what he did after…" Riordan snorts to himself, shaking his head at the follow. "Whatever the rest of the lords and knights on either side think, Grandmother, for Rhaegar and Baratheon, it's about a woman. They should have just challenged eachother, and been done with it. Instead of that, the whole of the Seven Kingdoms is now at war, and family's, like ours, are starting to break apart." Despite his light-hearted attitude of earlier, the absence of his family members on different sides of the war, all in violation of their father's word, is not a happy subject.
"If this all really is just about whether Prince Rhaegar Targaryen or Lord Robert Baratheon get to stick their cock in the Stark girl…" Rebekkah snorts derisively. "Well. That is men. And that explains a great deal of why the world is as it is. Well. Perhaps your brother Lord Rutger or cousin, Ser Rygar, will bring me a rebel head as a present. I would like that. Unless it's your brother, Lord Rafferdy, of course. Perhaps he will come to his senses in time to be spared a traitor's death. His sons bleed on far off fields, your brothers bleed on far off fields, and still Rickart does nothing…" Her clawlike hands tighten into fists.
For once, Riordan has no words. He has always trusted in his father, and always will. But that doesn't always mean he doesn't feel for the kin that are out there, while he remains home. Waiting. Suddenly, he turns to face his grandmother, and by necessity letting go of her arm. "Would you like to go for a ride, Grandmother?" he asks. "You have been cooped up in this rookery for far too long." If there is anything that is more pleasant then a horseback ride to clear the head, Riordan has yet to meet it.
Rebekkah shakes her head. "I want to wait for my raven. The time when its absence would have done any good for the Seven Kingdoms is long past, and I hope my game continues. Enjoy your horses, though, Rickart's Favored Son. I will speak with your lord father again this evening, and perhaps you can finally ride to war." And she will have yet another screaming match with Rickart about their uninvolvement in the war. And it will, yet again, come to nothing.
"Don't be too hard on him, Grandmother. He does his best." It's more a wistful plea then one with any real hope for fulfillment, that comes from Riordan's lips. He leans in, planting another kiss on his grandmother's withered cheek. "I hope your raven comes today. And when it does come, you should come riding with me." With that, he will quietly leave Rebekkah to her silent vigil, and just as quietly exit the rookery. On his way down, he passes Ginny coming back, finally, with the tea. 'Careful' he mouths, silently, in warning to the poor girl. And then he is gone, Rickart's Favored Son, off to play with his horses, and wait for the day when he will, finally, ride off to war.
The Dowager Nayland's raven doesn't come that day, and her vigil in the rookery will continue. For about another week, until it arrives, with the next move in her far-flung cyvasse game. And if she's not any happier with the state of affairs in the Mire after that, her own mind seems a bit easier for it.