|The Upper Hand|
|Summary:||Riordan requests Anais' company for a garden stroll, to speak further on their possible alliance.|
|Related Logs:||Pure Intentions|
|The rose garden of House Tordane is about three hundred square feet and hemmed in by walls about eye level to keep out the attention of wildlife. Bees hum about the area and around the stone archway which has seen the flowers grow up over and nearly encase in solid vine. The scent is sweet, mixing with the air coming off the water to produce an atmosphere some might find extremely calming. Stone benches have been chiseled out and placed along the path for visitors to relax on.|
|Tue May 08, 289|
Dressed in a finely made green and embroidered doublet, with tan trousers, Riordan almost blends into the garden as he waits at the back end of it, among the roses. Fingers play with the petals of a single rose still attached to the vine, his expression thoughtful. And yet, even thoughtful, a small smile plays at his lips, as if he is privy to some secret joke. That smile grows larger still as his thumb lowers down the petals, to the stalk, and slowly and deliberately, presses his flesh against a thorn. As blood wells up, a chuckle grows from deep inside him, until light laughter begins to play on the summer wind.
Out of sight of the Roost, with the excuse of not wanting to overburden the servants of her host with laundry, Anais has changed out of the drab mourning colors of black and grey. Instead, she wears a high-waisted gown of pale gold silk with a layer of sea-blue underskirts, the sleeves short. With her hair twisted up off her neck, she looks even younger than she is…though perhaps that's the effects of not running the keep for a few days as well. At the sound of laughter, she steps around a bend in the path, followed by the usual tail of guard and handmaid. A smile is already in place, though it turns quizzical when she finds Riordan here alone. "Is everything all right, Lord Riordan?" she asks, perplexed.
A single guard is posted within sight of Riordan, but seems to have no issue letting the newcomers pass. For his own part, Riordan turns at the sound of the voice that greets him. Likely, the sight of blood against his skin can be seen, before he puts his finger in his mouth to clean it off. "Ah, Lady Anais. Yes, everything is just fine. Life is as it ever is." And with that mysterious statement, he executes a courtly bow, before clasping his hands behind his back, the war-wound on his finger forgotten. "Thank you for agreeing to speak to me. I would have additional words with you, regarding our discussion of the other night."
"Of course," Anais smiles easily to the request, drawing closer and taking a look at the roses before casting a sidelong glance toward the lord. "Did you forget that roses have thorns, my lord?" she asks with an arch of her brow, brushing a few leaves away with the back of her hand in search of a few of them herself. "I should say something about grasping things too tightly, but I feel as though it would be trite. Do you need a handkerchief?" she offers.
When asked about forgetfulness, Riordan lets out a small laugh again. "Once, but never again," he returns cryptically, with a bemused smile. He shakes his head slightly, saying, "Thank you, but no. It is just a scratch. I shall have to learn to endure worse, before this is all done. We all will." The Regent falls silent a moment, then, really seeing Anais for the first time since she entered the garden. "You are breathtaking," he tells her, quietly, simply, directly.
Anais blinks, a rush of color brightening her cheeks as she looks away. There's a warning arch of a brow from her guard, though he doesn't move to interfere just yet. "Thank you, my lord," Anais says as she recovers herself, looking back with a small, polite smile. Trying to look as though it's a compliment she receives all the time. "But if that is the case, I suppose I've managed to wear the wrong thing," she continues, applying a liberal helping of humor to the situation. "I fear a lack of breath interferes terribly with conversation."
And still again, laughter is produced from the Regent's lips, his eyes sparkling as they regard Anais in response to her humor. "Indeed, perhaps so. That only means you have managed to gain the upper hand in the conversation. Was this your intent?" A large smile follows his words, before it fades just enough to show the conversation changing to a more serious tone. "What I have to say is for your ears alone," he says, quietly, glancing to her escort.
"My lord, a lady /always/ has the upper hand in conversation," Anais assures Riordan with a small smile, though she looks over her shoulder at his latter words, falling silent for a moment. "Kincaid has been at my side since we were both children, as has Nina," she says when she turns back to Riordan. "They are my friends as much as they are in my employ, and I trust them completely." Her smile slips crooked, apologetic, as she ducks her chin with a slight shake of her head. "And I cannot afford to allow any semblance of impropriety while I am here. Our families are too much at each others' throats to survive it."
"They may stay within sight," Riordan allows, with a small nod, after inspecting the pair. "But until our plans are enacted, I would prefer that as few people know them as possible. For both our families." He will wait, then, to await her answer.
Anais tilts her head as she considers, catching the edge of her lip between her teeth. She almost seems to hold her breath, scanning the garden for observers, before she finally nods. "All right. Though I expect it to be some very impressive conversation to make up for it," she challenges, only half joking. "You'll have to regain the upper hand, I think."
"I shall endeavour to do so," Riordan says, with another small courtly bow, his expression only half-joking himself, as he says, "Though I expect that shall ever be a losing battle, when it comes to facing off against you. Better still that we remain as friends." He smiles, then, and will offer his arm to the Lady before beginning a meandering path through the garden for their conversation. Once they may speak privately, he says, "I sent a raven to my father, and recieved word back. I have gained his permission to speak with his voice, as envoy for him and my family in regards to forging alliances. I plan on traveling to the Roost and speaking with Lord Terrick immediately."
Anais hesitates, but takes the offered arm before following, nodding over her shoulder to the guard. He and her handmaid take up a similar stance, following closely enough to watch without listening…probably. They do seem to be talking amongst themselves as they walk, though. At the news, her brows rise in surprise. "That is…very promising, my lord," she murmurs, hazarding a faint smile. "If a little surprising. What of your elder brother, Lord Rutger?"
"I will be speaking to my brother before we depart. I will be asking him to look after things in my stead. I have not yet decided how much to tell him," Riordan says, expression thoughtful as he keeps his eyes focused on the path ahead. His words are pitched low, to make it difficult for anyone to truly eavesdrop. "I am not yet sure if he will disapprove, or insist on taking over. But… the very fact that I am no diplomat may allow me to succeed where generations of others far more skilled then I have failed." Glancing aside to Anais, he murmurs, "And besides which, if it all comes tumbling down, I would rather it my own head upon which it all falls. And if it succeeds, perhaps I can put it all on Rutger, and see him finally elevated in our father's eyes to where he should be." He smiles at the thought, genuinely pleased with the idea.
"No diplomat," Anais echoes, lips curving in a wry smile. "That is not quite how I would have described you, I think." She watches him as they walk for another moment, considering. "I imagine he may feel overlooked by your lord father. Perhaps unduly powerless. And potentially frustrated. As a younger sibling who's jumped the line, I can assure you that not every sibling appreciates being passed over. Though perhaps he'll be relieved. As you say, should it fail, it would be on your shoulders."
All channels have been gagged.
Laughing quietly, Riordan says, "For all my appearances, my lady, I am a tourney knight. I am no great commander, nor a careful and skilled courtier. I ride pretty horses wearing pretty armor, blowing kisses to the pretty ladies and bringing pretty but overall meaningless honors to my home." Though the words might sound bitter from another man, that is not the case with Riordan. "And I am good at it. Something I find to bring passion and joy to my life. The rest… the rest I do for my house. I have filled the roles that needed filling, and I have done all I can, with the one obvious exception, for my family." With his free hand, Riordan gestures idly up at the Tower. "The truth is, I never wanted this. And having had it, I want it even less. If all goes well, it may be that Rutger can take over my role, and he is welcome to it. If all goes well, I can go back to doing what I am good at. For now, however, I will do what I must, and make no apologies for it."
"My lord, I think you are likely stuck with Stonebridge, at the current rate," Anais observes with a shake of her head, though there is some humor in her tone. "Your lord father could pass it to your brother, yes. But he has heirs already, who are now heirs to the Mire. And Lady Isolde's child, should it be male, would be heir to Stonebridge. Any children they might have together would stand for both, potentially, but…" She trails off, lifting one shoulder. "I believe you yourself posited that you might find yourself with Lady Isolde. Besides, no man can ride in tourneys and play at knighthood his whole life. Jaremy's attempt to do just that is what has left all of us in this sorry situation."
"Yes, well, perhaps I will make such a charmer of myself, I will find myself married to the Lady Lucienne with Lord Jerold's blessing, and the rest can go stick their heads in the sand," Riordan posits, though with little seriousness to the foretelling of a possible future. "Though yes, it may be that you are right. Whatever happens, though, I hope my brother will see that what I do is not for me." Then, using his free hand to gesture once more, this time waving away the sentimental thoughts, he says, "So, we must do this soon. Shall we plan to depart on the morrow?" he asks, glancing to Anais.
"We," Anais echoes, smile quirking. "I suppose if you are heading for the Roost, then there's little reason for me to stay here when you leave. Besides, that would mean we'll be having guests at the Roost, and I'll be needed to see to hospitality." She takes a few more steps considering. "Though perhaps the day after tomorrow might be better. I believe Justin was headed back here tomorrow with plans of his own to return to the Roost once more. We could all travel together. Given the threat of bandits, it might be prudent."
"Well, I will certainly need you with me," Riordan says, nodding with a chuckle. "I hardly doubt the Lord Jerold with treat with me quite so willingly if you are not there to play advocate." He considers her words then thoughtfully, as they continue to walk slowly through the garden. After a moment, he asks, "Justin? One of your goodbrothers, yes?"
"He is, yes," Anais nods. "The next brother on down the line." There's wry amusement in her words as she shakes her head. "Though I think if I break the second one, the Terricks are unlikely to let me have another." She trails her fingertips over the petals of a rose as she passes, a delicate touch. "He was squired, but I don't believe he was knighted before everything went mad."
"Ah. Then he will be one who will need to get to know my sister, Roslyn," Riordan says, simply, and with a nod. Her last comment raises a slight eyebrow, as he says, "Truly? I take it then he is no longer squired to a knight? That might tie us closer together further. I am myself without a squire, and it would help build further trust between our families." Regardless, the Regent does not linger on the thought for long, instead focusing on their travel plans. "My only worry is time. Every day counts. If we do not get ahead of Tully's decision, it will all be for naught." A pause. "But, I was hoping to bring my sister with me, to meet any potential prospects, and for her to help ease any suspicion on Lord Jerold's part. But she is hosting a Nameday celebration in two days for the Lady Rosanna Groves, and we had worried about the timing." Riordan falls silent, after that, pursing his lips in thought.
"Given the way the last squiring exchange between our families ended, I'm not sure that would be the wisest course of action," Anais points out, not quite able to hide her amusement as she arches a teasing brow his way. "Though I suppose there's less of a risk of you and Justin running off together. I'm reasonably certain you're both men, at least. Not that that matters to some men…" She clears her throat, a sound suspiciously like laughter, before pressing on. "So perhaps we leave after the lady's celebration. It's only one day longer."
"Well, not having met the man, I can hardly make any promises," Riordan says with a snort, a mixture of surprise and amusement at the comment from the Lady, before he gives Anais a nod. "Very well. We shall all four of us travel once the celebration is done."
Anais pauses by a bush that holds tiny roses in profusion, turning to Riordan. "May I?" she asks, framing one of the blossoms between two fingers. As she waits for his answer, she considers the delicate golden blossom, brushing a thumb over the edges of the petals. "I'd like to stay for the celebration anyhow," she adds, a small, private smile touching her lips. "I imagine there will be dancing, after all."
"Of course," Riordan says, smiling with easy grace to Anais. He begins to nod at her further words, but then falters at the last comment. Horror building in his expression, the Regent says, "In that case, perhaps we should leave immediately." Knowing Riordan's ignorance and lack of talent when it comes dancing, the comment might seem entirely believable - at least until one notices the spark of amusement in his eye.
Anais arches a brow, smile wry as she plucks the rose and tucks it into her hair. "Fine," she declares. "I'll just have to borrow Lord Rutger from Lady Rosanna for a dance or two. Two. One for himself, and one for you. You'll pay for your dance by keeping her busy and making sure she doesn't take offense." A dimple flashes in her cheek as she smiles, then starts to move along the path once more.
"No," Riordan says, adamantly, with a shake of his head. Even though his voice seems serious though, his good humor is still firmly in place. "I may be the most awful dancer in the Seven Kingdoms, and I may crush your feet to dust before the night is done… but the least I can do as repayment for the hope you have provided me, for my family, is to keep you entertained and happy while you remain beneath my roof." He turns to her, then, looking at her fully with a gentle and genuined expression. "Thank you for this, my lady. Truly."
"I think I could say the same, my lord," Anais says softly. "It is easy to forget sometimes, in the wake of occupation, what rich lands the Riverlands are, and what peace awaits us. As I've visited here, I've been reminded. And in remembering, I am even more determined to find peace." With that, she pauses, taking a step back and looking to her guard and handmaid. "But it is time I should find my rooms once more, I think. The heat of the afternoon draws nigh, and there are missives I must see written."
"Together, perhaps we shall bring the Cape, at the very least, back to it's full glory," Riordan says, with intent and hope in his voice. "Seven willing." He then dips his head in a nod at Anais' further words, and says, "Of course. I would appreciate it if you keep knowledge of the true intent of my intended visit to the Roost to as few people as possible. Until I can speak to Lord Jerold in person, I would rather not advertise the specifics of our plans." He offers the lady a bow, and bids her, "Good afternoon, Lady Anais. And again, thank you."
Anais holds a finger to her lips as she steps back, breaking the line of her smile. "Until we reach the Roost, then, my lord," she murmurs. "Take care." And with that, and a polite curtsey, she steps away to rejoin her own people, whereupon there is quiet discussion and laughter. It seems she spoke the truth about their relationship, for as they walk away, they seem as much a group of companions as lady and servants.