|The Siren and the Whitecloak|
|Summary:||Before the last feast of the tourney, Anais visits Jaremy at the Terrick tents to discuss the future. The first moments of a new alliance are set into place.|
|Outskirts of Stonebridge — Stonebridge|
|The roads are worn and well tended here and the fields on either side are lush and filled with wildflowers. The tournament tent is set up just north of the road and a grand pavilion rests to the central right of it, set with the colors of House Tordane. Knight's tents are being set up everywhere there is room and high ground. They dot the countryside and near the Tordane tent there is a cart of water and food, a small general area for the nobles to greet the hosts and partake in food to ease their journies.|
The sun has fallen and the torches have been set, and the many guards keep watch over Stonebridge as the night begins. The banquet itself, acknowledging the end of the tourney and the impending marriage between Lady Isolde and Lord Ryker, has yet to begin.
At the Terrick camp, Ser Jaremy Terrick sits in one of a small number of chairs overlooking a fire pit. Dressed in one of his finest cuts of clothing, he's resting one elbow on the armrest, gazing into the fire, with a small, red rose in his other hand. The time has not quiet yet arrived for the feast to begin, though it appears his conversation with his father has recently passed.
Many people move through the camps, especially with the chance of a banquet to be had. Among them, Anais and a single of the Banefort guards make their way toward the Terrick camp. Anais has changed - perhaps even /washed/ - in preparation for her own tilt here. The dress is silver as promised, a pale grey silk whose cut is plain with long sleeves that fit close to her arms, pointed at the tips, and a neckline more wide than deep, almost baring her shoulders. Pearls and pale embroidery adorn the neckline in a two-inch band, and more weave intricate designs over the backs of her hands, while a matching sash slings low at her hips. Her hair has been brushed to a pale gold sheen, left loose save for a pair of locks at each temple drawn back.
"Don't you look dashing," Anais murmurs as she draws closer to Jaremy's shoulder, offering a small smile to the young lord. "I daresay you're likely to enjoy the banquet more than the battlesore participants of the melee."
Jaremy has been washed and his hair has been cleaned, and over his shoulders he wears a long, sleeveless overcoat of dark purple with charcoal and pale yellow embroidery. The overcoat is held closed by a sash over his hips that has been carefully placed with his peace tied sword and scabbard. Peeking from the neck and the sleeves of the overcoat is a tunic that ties at the neck and wrists in the predicted light brown color that matches with the breeches and charcoal boots on his feet. His hair is straightened, and the whiskers have been recently shaven from his face.
His eyebrows twitch as he suddenly finds that he is not alone. Recognizing her voice, he turns his head to her and looks up to her face from his seated position. At first he takes in her face, but then his eyes fall to the dress, pupils widening as he rises from his seat. "If they're not sore from the melee, my Lady, they'll surely be jealous of me for the beauty that will be seated beside me." He replies, shifting his weight to his other hip. His arm rises, offering her the small, red rose. "It is early, in fact I was just about to head to the Banefort tents to call upon you. Are you here by yourself, or have your sisters come as well?"
"Just me," Anais laughs, grin flashes and mischief in her eyes. "Bruce and I slipped out. They were so busy deciding what to wear and wondering where they'd be sitting and trying to decide which jewels to wear…Nobody noticed." Her cheeks flush at his compliment, and she glances away a moment. "You are much too kind," she murmurs, though her smile returns with the rose. "If you stole this from your sister, I am going to laugh," she warns, even as she carefully twirls the bloom between her fingers.
"Oh, I should have, and maybe for a second I thought about it, but then I thought you might get offended at being offered a stolen rose." He maneuvers past the fire to stand at her side, the fire in the direction of his shoulder. They're close enough to feel the warmth from it, but not too close that it's unbearable and hard to see through the rising smoke. "But noo…I made my way to the town square, there was a vendor there selling them. I took my time in picking what I felt was the right one." He returns her smile, glancing to Bruce in the distance and then casting his gaze to the ground beneath his feet. He shifts his weight, brushing a small rock over towards the fire. "How was your time with my sister? I haven't spoken to her yet but you and I are both rather bruise-free, so the conversation must have ended in a civil manner?" He looks up, grinning with his sarcastic joke.
"It would be a very male thing to do," Anais chuckles softly. "And I have four brothers, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise. Which is why I only threatened to laugh at you," she points out with some amusement. "Your sister and I had a very nice conversation. About you, as a matter of fact," she adds, tipping her head to one side as she looks up to him. "She spoke very well of you. I, on the other hand, said terrible, catty things that insulted the very essence of your manhood. I was so frightening, though, that your poor sister could think of no way to defend herself."
Jaremy blinks, the smile fading from his face as he looks deep into Anais' eyes. His eyelids narrow, flit down to the rose in her hands, and then to her eyes once more. "If that's the case…" He starts slowly, arms quietly folding across his chest in a posture of true defiance. "…then I'm going to have to ask for the rose back, Anais. That and you can sit next to me at the feast…" He holds up his index finger, slowly lowering it in her direction "…but only because tragically it's so late that we couldn't find you another seat." His severe facial expression is on the edge of faltering. "And no speaking."
Anais's lips quirk, though she tries to hold back the burgeoning grin. "Well," she replies, jerking her chin up. "You could /try/ to enforce those sorts of rules. But I'd only be forced to use the wicked powers of the sirens whose blood I share to wrap you around my little finger." She reaches up to hold said little finger in front of his nose with the threat. Which might still count as threatening. Until she wiggles her finger, and loses all ability to keep a straight face. Giggles are rarely threatening.
Jaremy's eyes lower to her fingers in front of his face, and as she cracks, he starts to crack. The dominos come crashing down and he is forced to turn his head to the side, a rumbled laugh coming from the center of his chest. Planting one hand to rest over the hilt of his sword, he rubs his goatee and shakes his head. His long, dark brown hair sways from side to side as he laughs openly, glancing down to his feet to shuffle them. "Siren's blood, you say? What are these sirens you speak up? Do they breathe fire? Do they walk in shadow? Or do they have the power to see into the future and use such knowledge to win bets and dancing?"
"They're like mermaids," Anais declares, stepping back, though her chin stays up. "Only /meaner/. And more magical." There's a wiggling of all of her fingers at the last, as she laughs. "Legend has it they haunt the rocky, dangerous shores, luring sailors to their doom with beautiful faces and songs so sweet no man can resist them. But when they seek the sirens, their ships are dashed upon the rocks, and they meet their dooms at the hands of the hungry sirens, who feast upon their flesh." She pauses then, lips twitching as she arches a brow. "I don't suppose they'll be serving sweet man-flesh at the banquet, will they?"
"Well maybe perhaps the boar was male? Perhaps it traveled by sea?" Jaremy grins, teasing her with a lull of his head, hands clasping behind his back. "I don't remember hearing of anyone actually dying this tourney, so since there's no lack of beast about I'm sure they didn't have to compensate. So no, sadly, Anais, you'll have to settle for less than your usual faire." He pauses, eyes narrowing with curiosity. "How did I go so long never hearing about sirens? I've heard of mermaids, of course, though we don't overlook the sea, do we?" He turns, glancing back to the chairs and then to the darkening sky.
"I don't think that it's starting just yet, but if you are hungry I could fetch something to tide us over by the fire while we wait?" He turns his gaze back to her. "Would that be…acceptable?"
Anais sighs dramatically at the proclamation that there shall be no sweet man meat served at the banquet. "I think the mermaid-siren divide is really a regional thing," she muses. "Though I think mermaids are more something you find on warmer shores, while perhaps sirens are more rock-based. Like…gulls? I'm working on this too hard, aren't I?" she finally laughs, shaking her head. "I don't mind waiting to eat. But I'd be glad to sit with you for a bit. Before we're at the banquet, and have to put on our masks and be very, very careful."
He tilts his head once more, lips flattening. "Yes, there is that isn't there. It's like to be loud and in all fairness there's no telling if there will be any Nayland grandstanding over the division. I intend to get that dance with you before some of the older knights get too drunk and the place gets…less masked." He turns, holding one of the chairs in place so that she may sit. "I've been worried that you might assume I've a strong public face. While we've been talking a lot, we did get interrupted by Lady Igara Frey just as we were passing the mask point ourselves, weren't we?"
"There is a woman with a strong public face," Anais murmurs, glancing over her shoulder toward the Frey camp in the distance. "Too sly by half, if you ask me." She catches her lower lip between her teeth, settling into the chair and smoothing a hand over her skirts. "Always whispering, too." Looking toward Jaremy, she laughs, her smile wry. "No, though. I suspect if anything you're more prone to wearing your heart on your sleeve, my lord."
"Which is something that I've begun to learn is like blood in the water." His voice trails from behind her as he travels past her shoulders and into her field of vision. He sits across from her in a heavy, wooden chair, but not before he removes his sword to rest at his side. "She's taken a great interest in the way the manner with Ser Tierney was handled, and whether or not it was the knight that claimed she was a noble, or she who did. I saw the question coming, three or four questions prior, but the damned girl seems so innocent in the way she asks her questions, doesn't she?" He lowers his voice. "If I didn't know better, I'd assume she was more interested in learning who you were for her sister, Lady Valda's ears."
"Oh, do you know better?" Anais asks, smile touching one corner of her lips. "It wouldn't surprise me. Some women have a greater hunger for gossip than others, and while you can go into the field and tilt at other men, we women have only the one event. You play the game of thrones, and we play the game of hands." She looks away, shrugging one shoulder ruefully. "You should be careful, though. This whole arrangement…It smells of womens work, not mens. And women can be far, far crueler."
"It is women's work, Anais. In truth, the Naylands only had to be there to accept the proposal. I was able to have a rather short conversation with our host. She's been keeping this breaking in mind for longer than I've been involved in the design, and seems to have no love for my House." His voice is kept low, allowing the roaring of the fire to mask their rather private conversation. "When we arrived their banners faced north so that their crane's eyes would point east to Hag's Mire. We've a rivalry with the Naylands, Anais, a rivalry that's been strengthened since the rebellion and they fought alongside Aerys. Though we've been able to prepare. We had a rather…blatant hand played just a week prior. This tourney, despite the good it's brought, has been a test of tempers."
"Not the Naylands alone." Anais grimaces faintly, propping her cheek against three fingers. "We're none of us spotless, I think. I could pretend to fault the Freys, but my father rode with Tywin Lannister to the sack of King's Landing, and when he returned, he would say nothing more than that war is full of ill-done deeds, and best that it was over." She turns her gaze to Jaremy once more, watching him closely. "The currents run as deep as your rivers here. You'll be tested again, and with more than taunts and insults to pride."
Jaremy's light brown eyes lock onto hers, diving in to read the weight behind her words, knowing well she's telling him to be careful. He doesn't shy from her, instead, he braces himself and leans forward to rest his elbows on his knees. "You…mentioned it briefly yesterday, and I'm not sure exactly what the rumors you heard on the ride were, but if any of them were that I was spirited on my arrival, you didn't hear wrong." He nods softly, eyes still meeting hers. "I've been watching, listening, and paying attention. Though the tourney's about to come to an end, they will expect me to be passionate. I should prepare for this."
"Spirited," Anais echoes, that smile playing about her lips once more. "I heard that you and Lady Tordane had been promised or implied to be promised for years, but that it looked like it might not come to pass. I'd heard that the two of you cared for each other, and reasoned that it might mean this was something of a tinderbox." She laughs, a soft, amused sound. "I heard there had been Greyjoys, and a confrontation over them overstepping their bounds. That perhaps there had been questions of jurisdiction in this area, which /very/ much implied that the Tordanes were interested in breaking away. That in itself is a blow to your reputation and your father's. But responding…passionately? I think it would not help matters. Tywin Lannister never yells. He whispers. And men listen."
"It would be rude to not offer you honesty at this point, Anais, and as you said given the possibilities abound it would be better to be just that: honest." He tilts his head, gazing back to the camp to ensure that they've got some privacy. Even Bruce is far enough away to give them some room. Once satisfied, he sits up a little more in his chair, eyes on hers. "Everything was peaceful until suddenly it wasn't. I'd relied for far too long on assuming Isolde and I would always be promised and was trying to prepare myself to be ready to be the heir of Terrick's Roost, that I'd set aside my progeny-based duties. Isolde and I did wish to be wed, this is true, and her and I were both angry to learn that her mother had become ambitious." He clears his throat. "At each corner of the pass, the Tordanes and Naylands, save for Isolde, have been attacking our reputation. Without notice a Nayland was sent by Lady Valda Tordane to Terrick's Roost, demanding rather publicly that we hand over one of our smallfolk on a bogus theft charge. It was a masterful move, and I had to choose between giving one of our smallfolk up to a loud, boastful Nayland and show hesitation in the face of their new arrangement, or stand my ground to defend our people." He pauses, watching her face. "You are right to say…this is not the last of it."
Anais presses her lips together at Jaremy's description of events, still resting her cheek against three fingers. "Or you could have invited them to bring their claims to you for justice." She sits up a little straighter, this time not looking away from the young lord. "You can't keep waiting for them to bring the fight to you. You can't keep leaving everything in /their/ field. Take ownership. Stop /waiting/. Stop putting things off. You may have already lost your love, and forgive me for saying it out loud, because I know it must hurt." There's a glimmer of sympathy in her eyes, but something fiercer still behind it. "But you can't be passive. Not when everyone else is fighting for what they want."
"Aye, there are only excuses to be given, the first round was won by them, but it's a thought that's dominated my mind since the joust. Waiting at this point is folly…and I've a few ideas as to what will come next that I'm already preparing for. Waiting is what's caused this to begin with, and House Terrick can no longer afford to be passive, as soon our grand opponents will be on our borders." His words slow, letting a moment pass between the two of them without words. "My father intends for me to wed into a line that strengthens our defense, likely to hold our enemies in the Riverlands at bay with a new element. It's what I would do. It's the smart thing to do."
"The Banefort is not so near as these lands," Anais allows, a rueful smile touching one corner of her lips. "But we would be a new alliance. An unknown element. And the Lannisters look out for their own. It's a double-edged sword, of course," she cautions. "We're not Riverlanders. And it would be unwise to call to the westerlands for aid for anything less than a dire situation." She looks down to the rose in her lap then, brushing a finger along the edge of the petal. "And, as you can see," she continues, a touch of humor in her voice, "I am just full of unsolicited advice. I'm told it's not necessarily a trait that's /sought/ after in a wife, but it /is/ prone to cropping up eventually."
A thoughtful expression crosses over Jaremy's face, reading her response for what it is. The conversation has slipped from diplomacy, directly into the concept of what would be faced if the two of them were wed. He quiets, turning his head slightly to watch the way she gazes down the rose that he's given her for their evening at the banquet. "Though it would be a trait that I would welcome." Jaremy replies, his words softened a bit by the likely definitive moment. "What was once a peaceful, lazy Riverlands is about to become something else…something more tense. Something more challenging but still something manageable." He unfolds his hands, resting them on the arms of his chair as his eyes raise from her rose.
Anais laughs. It's perhaps a surprising sound, as such genuine, grave moments are rarely meant for laughter, and there is no attempt to hide the surprise and amusement in the sound when she looks up to Jaremy once more. "Banefort sits on a peninsula, my lord. One where, on a clear day, with a good looking glass, you can almost see Pyke. We spend our lives preparing for raids from the Ironborn, and we rarely find our preparation wasted. If we were not born to fight, we are still raised to it." Her smile twists, and again there's that fierce gleam in her eyes. "I am not afraid of what may come to the Riverlands."
"You're not?" Jaremy's eyes narrow, his hair hanging to his left as his head tilts. It's a testing look at best as he breathes slowly, getting to the heart of their conversation. Taking in her expressions and her body language, the young lord leans forward in his seat, pressing an elbow into the arm of his chair, stealing away just a slight bit of the distance between them. "I'm sure having dealt with the threat of Balon Greyjoy these insults and mummer's acts you've seen here seem childish. Though they may return to the western coast one day. You would be an asset to us, but that would be the diplomatic, dutiful response wouldn't it?" His eyes remain. "…the question of conscience is, have you yet stepped over to hoping for it?"
"It's never a mummer's farce when people start playing with the Ironborn," Anais shakes her head. "They follow no scripts. Though I'll confess, it's less frightening than the sounds of scaling axes and grappling hooks on the walls, and the screams of reavers and their victims." And yet, it's Jaremy's last question that sobers the young woman, earning a long moment of silent consideration. "I told you I would strive for honesty. I /like/ you, Jaremy. I want to see you succeed. I want to see your vision grow here. I suspect it will be very hard." She pauses once more as her smile tugs at one corner of her lips. "And, since I promised to be honest, when my sisters were talking about how they could catch your eye, there was a little twinge somewhere here," she adds, tapping the rose over her heart.
The glow of the fire pit steals away the slight blushing that forms on Jaremy's cheeks at her wording. His eyebrows rise and fall quickly in acknowledgement of such an honest moment having come and gone, resulting in a blanket of silence falling around their conversation. Ignoring the occasional interruptions from the crackling of the fire, he slowly returns her smile. "And since I promised to be honest as well, Anais, the first moment that I found myself hoping that my father had not yet made other plans for me, was that look you gave me when I tried to duck out of the conversation with Lady Igara." His smile broadens, eyes tilting to the fire as his teeth come together, making a quiet 'tsk' sound. He breathes in audibly, eyes locking with hers once again. "Your sisters never caught my eye. Nor will they."
Anais laughs again at Jaremy's answer, reaching up to press a hand to her cheek as she glances away for just a moment. "And here my mother swore if I didn't learn to stop doing that I'd end up with a reputation as a harpy." Another laugh and she looks back to him. "I'll have to write and tell her she was mistaken. The harpies are on the other side of the river." Humor sparks in the firelight, and she moves to stand, offering a hand toward the young lord. "Come. We should be at the banquet. You're the young lord-to-be of Terrick's Roost, and your men acquitted themselves well here, however others might frame things. No one can embarass you unless you let them. So don't."
Reaching for Anais' hand, Jaremy rises from his seat to stand before her. A certain confidence has rejoined his features over the course of their conversation, one he's sure to wear going into the lion's den that this final banquet would be. "You're right it rather likely has begun by now, we're going to end up making a rather fashionably late appearance won't we?" His eyes narrow slyly, his lips crossing into an almost mischievous grin as he offers her his arm. "Besides, the first dance will be a paying of my debt, but the second won't. Let's enjoy the rest of the night while we can." He turns around the fire, leading her towards her guard, Bruce, and to the tower beyond.