Page 289: The Meaning of Life
The Meaning of Life
Summary: Cousins talk about life: past, present, and future.
Date: 4 May 2012
Related Logs: None
Anais Saffron 
Stables Loft - Four Eagles Tower
The area aboves the kennels and stables is reserved for the rooms of the Master of the Stables and the Hounds as well as a few squires and grooms. The squires having their own rooms and the grooms to sleep in a bunklike style at the fore of the loft. It's a simple make with the plain wood floors strewn with hue and worked over by the boots of those passing. The smell of the animals rises, and sometimes the temperature can get unreasonably worm. But the A-frame ceiling has hatches that can be opened and propped to lift portions of the thatched roof.
May 4, 289

Warm milk and heavy wine has given Saffron a moment — a mere breath — of freedom as the sun begins to set over the Roost. She had left Mistress Morla slumped in her chair by the hearth, drooling and snoring. She may have been questioned or even stopped from leaving the Roost's courtyard without an escort if it weren't for the independent and meaningful strides she took. Certainly she was given a glance, but the cloaked Banefort must have looked as if she was off for an important meeting—in the stables.

Through the doors and passed several stalls, she keeps on path until she reaches the loft. It is given a cautious look over before she closes in to take a seat on one of the sallow-colored bales. She looks suddenly relieved — relaxed — without her minder nor her guards. It is a comfortable kind of expression that adds another layer of youth to her almost ageless features. She doesn't fidget as she waits, left to wonder if the scullery maid had not chickened out in quietly delivering her note to Anais to meet her in the stables—a covert request, it would seem.

"If that dreadful woman wakes up, would you please tell her everything is fine?" Maybe Anais was lucky in the people assigned to her. Or maybe she just has a gift for winning people over. Either way, both her handmaid and one of her guards were childhood companions, and she and her other guard have manipulating each other into compliance down to a fine art. And as a married woman, she enjoys a little more freedom than she used to. "Saffron?" she asks softly as she makes her way into the loft, leaving handmaid and guard behind in the stables below. "Are you up here?"

The redheaded Banefort straightens up as she hears her name, and only relaxes once more as she recognizes its voices as Anais. She smiles from her spot on the haybale, propping one elbow on a knee to hold up her chin with the other draped across her thighs. She gives her cousin a simple, dimpling smile that has just the faintest touch of amusement. "I am. All alone, and without a chaperone… wouldn't that give everyone a fright?" She inquires in good fun as she breathes out a sigh through her nose. "I'm glad to see you got my note, Cousin… the girl I gave it to turned as white as a sheet when I asked her to quietly slip it your way. You'd think I'd have asked her to try on your favorite pair of shoes."

"Well, you're welcome to those," Anais flips a hand with a low laugh, moving to join her cousin on the hay bale, drawing her knees up toward her chest. "I sent Derek," the elder and more responsible of her guards, "To keep an eye on Morla. It's not as though you're going to get into anything inappropriate with your married cousin." Which would be a more reassuring statement if she didn't have that glint in her eye, or wasn't grinning quite so broadly. Or hadn't gotten into quite so many inappropriate things with Saffron in the past. "And I know how maddening it is to be followed around all the time," she adds with a roll of her eyes.

"You know that is what my mother said when we first became playmates," Saffron points out idly. "And we both know how that turned out, what with her finding out about my swords and your bows. I don't think she's ever really forgiven Father for treating us like lords instead of ladies." There is a small pause as she blossoms a grin toward Anais. "Though you are turning into a beacon of hope for my poor mother… if you can become a responsible lady, I am not a lost cause." She taps the side of her nose with that dimple still neatly indented on her cheek. Then she gives a small huff, arms folded now at her knees. "She's a dragon," Saffron states plainly about Morla. "A fire-breathing, stone-melting dragon." Then she sighs out her nose again.

"Responsible lady might be a bit much," Anais smiles crookedly, reaching over to tweak at a lock of Saffron's hair. "It's just different, you know? I mean, I asked your father to teach me to use a bow because I wanted to be able to /do/ something, to be useful. To not have to be shut away for my own safety. And I can do that here. Now, at least. Not that it didn't take some…work." She laughs at the last, the corners of her eyes crinkling with mirth. "She's not nearly imposing enough to be a dragon. You should hear Lady Rebekkah Nayland talk about dragons. I'm sure she'd be dreadfully insulted by the comparison."

Saffron smirks. "Well, I could think of other ways to compare her, but then you'd find out how my vocabulary has grown." The Banefort now musters a touch of seriousness, though that amused laugh continues to dance about her pale eyes. "Speaking of wanting to be able to do something, I actually did ask you to speak with me in private for a purpose… two in fact." She begins to worry a bit at the black wool of her dress, rubbing the fabric between her fingers. "First… what with us now staying in the Riverlands indefinitely, I must do something with my time. Morla is content dressmaking and individual studies, but by the Seven, I'm going to start praying to the Stranger if I don't find myself something to do." She looks to Anais fully now with a tilt of her head. "As the Lady of the Roost, I ask you to give me a cause… there must be something I can do here."

"Start praying to the Stranger?" Anais asks, teasing, though she sobers quickly enough at the request, tipping her head to one side. "Well, what would you like to do, Saf?" She tucks her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around them as she looks back to her cousin. "I thought you might want to be free to- Well, you know. We both know you're here to make a match, and sometimes it's nice to have the time to do that sort of thing. Though I suppose the men don't have much leisure for it right now either. Muirenn's been working on a garden. I've been…" She pauses, puffing her bangs out of her eyes. "I've been doing a lot of everything. I'd offer to let you balance the books, but I doubt you'd enjoy it much."

Saffron casts her an amused look at her teasing, though she shakes her head a bit. Then she begins to rub at her chestbone as if just talking about finding a match causes a bit of tension. "If I can be honest — " And she knows she can. "Finding myself a match has never been in my own hands… I'm assuming that Lord and Lady Banefort will let me know when a suitor has been found that will best expand their holdings." There is the smallest touch of bitterness there, but it is mashed up with reproachful acceptance. Then she twists up her mouth a bit in thought before she looks over toward Anais. "The Roost has been struck hard, and when I wrote home to Claira — " the youngest of Lord Bernard's daughters " — all she wanted to know was what happened to the smallfolk families." She tilts her head a bit. "I would like to start there. Especially if there are orphans who need to be tended to."

"It doesn't have to be just in their hands," Anais shrugs, then pauses, tipping her head to one side. "Although, to be fair, I took things into my own hands and you can see where it got me. So maybe Papa really does know best." She nods to the last, unfolding a bit. "There are orphans. Not as many as there might be, but…the reavers weren't exactly smart about things. For all they talked about holding the land, I watched Maron Greyjoy order the deaths of thirty men and women in front of the walls. Trying to get us to come out." Whatever she feels about that, she closes her eyes to hide it, falling silent for a long moment. "I've been having the single women bring the children to the keep most days," she finally continues. "It gives the parents a chance to work on the rebuilding, and they know if anything happens, their children will be safe here. I'm sure the elder's who've mostly been watching them would appreciate the help."

Whatever Anais may hide, Saffron knows enough to curve an arm around her cousin's shoulders and lean her head temporarily against her own. She allows Anais whatever moment she needs before the conversation continues, and she straightens to nod her head a bit. "Give me a gaggle… I will look after them," Saffron says with a genuine smile on her lips. "Give me boys over girls and I will be even more content." Too many sisters will do that to a woman… She then nods her head a bit. "I will see if I can provide more assistance there, and perhaps even do what I can to look after those who are more desperate for the attention." She pauses then with a small half-grin. "Do a bunch of children count as chaperones?" The question is provided in pure and utter jest.

"They count as better conversation than Morla, that's for sure," Anais giggles at Saffron's question, grin flashing. "It's all yours, then. I'm sure the elders will appreciate the rest. So long as you don't go teaching them too many of our old tricks," she adds, a twinkle of mischief in her eyes. "No fish in people's beds. We need them for dinners." She settles comfortably against her cousin, pensive. "It's not so bad, you know. Being married."

"Fine, fine… but, I'm teaching them the one about the yarn and the maester." Saffron grins to meet the twinkle of mischief before she releases a small exhale, nodding her head gently. "I know its not, Annie," Saffron says quietly, "but I want to marry for, well, my sake… not anyone else's. Ser Etin wasn't even mine to marry… he was Terra's. She was suppose to be his wife and mother of his sons… I was just a close-looking replacement. How often does that make for a good wedding bed?" She then smiles, tilting her head a bit.

Anais arches a brow at Saffron's question, silent for just a moment to let that question settle in. "As someone who's been on the other side of the bait and switch equation, I'd like to point out that at least I got a castle out of it," she notes, dry, before shoving her shoulder against Saffron's with a crooked smile. "No, it's not that bad. Jacsen's just…Prickly, is all." Her smile fades, and she fidgets with the hem of her sleeve. "I feel like a last-minute, second-class replacement for Isolde Tordane — whose main redeeming quality, so far as I can see, is inheriting Stonebridge - and I suppose he probably feels like he doesn't compare favorably to Jaremy."

"Yes, yes… a castle. With a stables. And a sept. With an ocean view." Saffron looks over at her cousin with a faint twinkle in her own eyes as a relaxed smile holds her lips. Then she shakes her head at the mention of Stonebridge, breathing out a loud rush of air. "From what I've heard of Jaremy, Jacsen is far more favorable. Jaremy made bad choices — the Roost has merely… had bad luck." Though that feels a little hollow compared to the actual state of the Terrick's holding. She reaches to gently take her cousin's fidgeting hand, giving it a squeeze. "And I should scold you attributing such things as 'last-minute' and 'second-class' to yourself. Maybe we should go hunting for bandits… it would make you feel better to string that bow of yours."

"Jaremy was biddable," Anais grimaces. "Sort of. Although, to be fair, it all started with Jaremy's bad decisions, so I think you're probably right there." She returns the squeeze, wistful at the talk of hunting. "I'd settle for a hawking trip," she admits. "Or a nice, long camping trip. A trip into the woods, a swim in a lake or a river. Climb up a few trees. Eat food cooked over the campfire, and fall into blankets and a camp bed pleasantly exhausted at the end of the day."

"Then we should go hawking… take a couple days, a handful of guards, head into the woods. The Roost can do without you for two days, I am certain." The Banefort smiles broadly to her cousin, tilting her head. "It would do you good, Cousin." Then something sneaks up into her brain, reminding her that she did have one other thing to inquire to the Lady of the Roost. "Anais," Saffron says with a suddenness in her tone, "I have… a question for you… and you must promise not to read anything into it, and by the Seven, please keep this to yourself — don't even tell that sly Ser Sterling." It is her turn to fidget a bit. "Do you know… if any of the ladies about the Roost or Stonebridge have shown any interest in Ser Kamron Mallister?" Her expression remains open with arched brows and slightly pursed lips — though nothing can hide the small pink that colors her cheeks.

"I think with bandits about, now is probably not the best time for a hunting trip," Anais sighs, though the thought brings a smile. A smile that only grows at the question that follows. "Ser Kamron Mallister?" she echoes, arching a brow and crossing her arms loosely over her chest. "Well, I might be interested, but I think Jacsen wouldn't be too happy to hear it. But no, I don't think anyone has her hooks in him just yet," she muses, looking up to the ceiling as she thinks. "That I know of, at least."

Saffron gives Anais an imploring look. "Doesn't meant we can't hunt bandits," she says in an innocent tone. Though she does suddenly look sheepishly to Anais as she speaks of her interest in Kamron. "I'm certain I needn't worry about you, Annie… though I don't blame you. He at least is quite nice to look at." She fidgets a bit with her black skirts, clearing her throat a bit. "Well, if you hear of anything, let me know? For my own edification, of course… I plan on doing nothing with the information…" Nothing permanently damaging, at least.

"Mmmhmmm," Anais hums, the sound bubbling into a laugh. "Would you do something terrible to another interested party?" she asks with vicarious glee. "Slip some ink into her tea? Re-hem all her gowns to be too short?" There is a reason Saffron wasn't included in the initial find a husband party, perhaps.

Saffron actually blushes fully up her ears this time. "Annie!" She nearly gasps, shaking her head. "No! I would… very… diplomatically… deter her from continued interest in Ser Kamron." She purses her lips a bit, looking a touch reproachful. "I hear he sings insufferably horrid songs… and that he snores…" Though she does add a very soft breath of words at the end. "And perhaps inking her tea if she finds that all terribly attractive…"

"Saffron!" Anais exclaims, grinning as she swats at her cousin's shoulder. "How would anyone know if he snores? Just who are you talking to about him?" Lady of the Roost or no, she's all giggles now. "Besides, there are all sorts of things to make up for snoring," she adds with a wicked grin. "Some of the many reasons getting married isn't so bad."