Page 356: Well-Oiled Conversations
Well-Oiled Conversations
Summary: Sterling joins a discussion among Charltons, Freys, Naylands, and Terrick-sworn.
Date: 12/07/2012
Related Logs: None directly.
Harold Serica Sterling Nathaniel Jocelyn 
Crane's Crossing Inn, Stonebridge
While Crane's Crossing is technically an Inn, it caters to the traveling nobility almost exclusively. The floors around the hearth are finely crafted stonework, as are the slate blocks that the firepit is constructed of. The rest of the floor is done in stained oak that matches the few long tables and the chairs. The rest of the main room is furnished with plush couches and seating to entice visitors to delay their leave. A full service kitchen provides food of all kinds as well as high quality ales and wines. Also available are several women to provide hospitality to the lonely or those in need, the quality of them to be beaten by but a few in the Riverlands. A hallway near the kitchen leads off to the rear of the building and several up-scale rooms.
12 July, 289

Ser Harold rose smoothly from his seat as Jocelyn approached, offering the Lady a bow of knightly courtesy. "I am he," he said with a pleasently deep and welcoming voice. There was a crack of a welcoming smile lurking at the edge of his lips, though it had not grown up quite yet. "With Master Corbitt." A polite nod in the courier's direction. His steady grey gaze slid back to her, direct without being too intense. "And now you've got us at a disadvantage, my Lady. Who do I have the pleasure of making aquaintance?"
"Jocey!" Seri's voice flowed from the kitchen doors as she stepped back into the commons, having found a smile from somewhere to plaster upon her face. It put a bounce to her step that had previously been missing as she aimed to close the distance, that even a glance in her husband's direction couldn't take away, even if it put a measure of tightness into her jaw. It's a wonder she's not ground her teeth to bits.
There are quiet people and quiet presences. Sterling is the latter. The door certainly opens for him, and his boots no doubt thump on the hard wood floor of the common room, but he just sort of blends into the background noise. He doesn't sneak, he doesn't sidle, he just moves unobtrusively, even here where his rough attire and raw-boned features are out of place. Apparently, however, he is known, as when he stops one of the serving girls with a touch to the arm, she doesn't pull away or start, just listening to his quiet words, nodding, and bobbing a curtsey, tucking away a few copper coins as she goes.
Nathaniel follows Ser Harold in standing to welcome Jocelyn. He bows to the lady, and greets. "I am honored, lady" WHen the knight introduces him. When Seri bursts through the doors to approach Jocelyn, he smiles warmly, and then looks at the old knight. "It's good to see ladies who are truly glad to see each other, is it not?" he asks. "They're like the birds of spring, filling the woods with their joy." He looks past the women to watch the next patron entering. He studies the man's movements with a thoughtful eye, and smiles at the traveler's familiarity to the barmaid. 

         Jocelyn glances again from Harold to Nathaniel and smiles, "I hope the day finds you both well. I'm Lady-" before she can introduce herself, her name is shouted from the side of her, taking her attention. "Seri." she say says, not so loudly as the shout that was just offered in her direction. Laughing softly, and then turning back to the men again. "Lady Jocelyn Nayland. There, we are at the same advantage now." A hand is outstretched and offered to Serica as she begins her approach to them. "I've just met your husband." she tells her friend.

Harold watched with a benign expression as his wife rushed Jocelyn and interrupt the introductions, standing at ease and waiting until the two old friends had done their intimacies. "A pleasure, my Lady. You're all that Lady Serica said you would be." A second bow followed the words, and when he straightened out he made an inviting wave of his hand to their immediate surroundings, encompassing the fireplace, the chairs, and the pitcher of wine at the ready. "I'd be happy to have you join us." Briefly his gaze slid off the girls to track the stranger who'd entered, following his movements and his posture, before sliding back to his entorage, and appearing to have put the fellow out of his mind already.

Serica, meanwhile, carefully wove her way across the room, with a sidestep and a quietly, politely murmured, "Pardon me, m'Lord," as she drifted around Sterling and the barmaid with whom he was speaking, offering a warm smile as she passed. When she was near enough, the girl took Jocelyn's hand and leaned in to offer a kiss of greeting to her cheek, before following her husband's gesture of invitation. "Yes, please. Join us." And if it seemed like she'd completely ignored the statement about her husband, it was because she had. "I was wanting to talk to you and see how you felt about perhaps working together to put together a fundraiser of some sort, to help the commonfolk of the Roost."
Sterling glances around the clientele as the girl steps off, then looks down to the nails of his left hand, which are improbably clean and neat for a man wearing a leather jack into an inn like this. HAs Serica moves past him, the man dips his head, muttering, "Milady." No noble-born there, unless he's putting on a mummer's show. He moves over toward a chair nearby the collection of nobles, unbelting his sword and leaning it against his leg once he has settled into the plush comfort of the chair. Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the redheaded man has placed himself within easy earshot of the conversation, although he doesn't pay them undue attention, instead looking over toward the hearth in apparent idleness. The serving girl returns quickly enough with a tankard of ale, which the raw-boned man lifts in some sort of a salute, then lifts it to his lips.
Nathaniel waits until the barmaids have brought more chairs for Jocelyn and her entourage. Then he smiles and incense his head when Seri and Jocelyn come to the hearth. When everyone has settles into setats, he glances around the room and spies Sterling more clearly. A smile of recognition flickers over the young couriers face and he nods to the man before he finally reclaims his own seat and settles on the endue of the gathering by the hearth.

         Accepting the hand that is placed into her own, Jocelyn gives it a squeeze and wraps it around her forearm in a close gesture of friendship. Inclining her head to Harold that the invitation, "You are kind. Thank you." Shifting her steps so that it allows both Serica and Jocelyn to walk together in making for a seat.
         Releasing Serica's hand so that she may sit and and arranges her skirt to fall around her, Jocelyn response to her friend. "I wanted to talk to you too, about another matter. However, the answer is yes." a smiles spreads her lips, "I would above all things very much like to help with that. Tell me what you'd like me to do, and I'll arrange for it to be so." Though after it is said she glances at men again, lifting her eyebrows, "I'm sorry, I hope you do not find this conversation exclusive."
         A flicker of her eyes lands on Sterling, since he had passed Serica and so she regards his movements, seeing him settle not too far off. It doesnt seem to bother her and her attention is then moved to Nathaniel. "Did I not see you at the Tournament at Seaguard, Master Corbitt? During.. What was it now? The Jousting? My memory can be faulty at times, I apologize."
Once the Ladies were seated, Harold settled back into his chair once more. Looking comfortably relaxed and at ease, he seemed more than content to let the girls bear the weight of the converastion, and at Jocelyn's apology he merely grunted a quiet consent. His fingers closed around his half empty cup of wine, bringing it up to his lips for the kind of slow sipping that gave him something to occupy himself with while listening.
"Ouh?" Seri inquires, when Jocelyn says there's something of which she'd like to discuss, and while the curiosity remains, there's a warm smile on her face that only grows with the woman's agreement. "You will? Oh Jocely, that's fantastic!" So that she is all but glowing as she takes a seat; one near that they sat in accord. "Master Corbitt was going to help me arrange it," he'd done no such thing. She'd not even asked. "Twas the ladies there that offered inspiration and then a conversation with Mistress Dania that left me with several thoughts. Think you your regent has a few hens to be spared?" She teased, but there was a truth in it too.

        Serica is not so completely exclusive however and she notices the flash of recognition on Nathaniel's face, and follows his gaze towards the gentlemen once more, so that her own settles upon Sterling again and she offers him a smile. "If you are familiar with the gentlemen, Master Corbitt, feel free to invite him to join us, there is more than enough wine to go around for all and good company is always welcome," the invitation is extended in the wake of Jocelyn's question, and while she'd left it to Nathaniel to make the offering, her gaze, the smile warm and steady had never wavered from Sterling's face.
Sterling's face maintains that comfortably polite blankness one usually has when staring through a wall, and he lifts his ale up to his lips again. His eyes flicker over to the nobles now and again despite his impassive features. At the talk of inviting him over, however, he turns his face toward the quartet, "Master Corbitt," he hasn't been introduced, but there are benefits to being in earshot of an ongoing conversation, "and I don't know each other. He eats as much road dust as me though." His baritone is deeper than one might expect for his lanky frame, his tone flat and courteously impersonal. "Milord, Miladies, you were talking about help for the Roost?"
Nathaniel leans his head forward to Jocelyn. "I was at the tournament, lady," he answers, "serving Lord Ser Justin while his squire was ill." When Serica addresses him, and offers an opportunity for him to invite Sterling, he rises and bows to her "You have my deep thanks, lady," he answers. Then he inclines his head to Sterling. "I'm sure that we've passed each other often, but never had this pleasure. However, Lady Charlton has arranged for that by her exceeding graciousness." He bows to Serica. "Please, do join us."

         Seeing that their conversation was causing no cause of irritation to Harold, Jocelyn has no issue in continuing it with her friend then. "I'm sure we have. Its just a matter of arranging, though since it is your idea I'll just gather things together and lump it in with whatever it is you've decided to do." as for her own little bit of information she says, "This actually sort of goes hand and hand with what I wished to tell you. Since, I had been told you moved back to the Inn." There is something in her voice, was it irritation? Frustration? Whatever it was, she did well to conceal it quickly enough. "I wanted to tell, I'm to leave for roost today. The sentencing for those bandits is being held there. They get what they deserve after all they did to me and those other Ladies." That wasnt very lady like to say outload, but oh well.
         At Sterlings interjection, its obvious that he had been listening in. Jocelyn's eyes flicker to him once more, "Indeed, we were." Carefully watching his reaction to see what his will be to it.
         Hearing the words from Nathaniel as he leans to forward to tell her, "Ah! Yes!" she smiles warmly. "That is right. Its is good to see you again."
Ser Harold seemed at length to take note of the glowing warmth Serica was extending towards the unfamiliar swordsman, his gaze drawn from the fire to give Sterling a second look. A far more invasive scrutiny this second time around, steel grey eyes weighing and considering, then sliding from man to his weapon. It ended with only the slightest inclination of his head, an acknowledgement, no more. Certainly no enthusiastic invitation. His fingertips drummed the side of his cup.

        "We had intended to make the travel to the Roost, also," Harold said, when Jocelyn mentioned her trip. "Early in the morrow." There'd never been a flicker of guilt at having stolen Serica from her friend at the Tower.

They had? How kind of him to mention it to her. The fact that Serica hadn't previously known they were going didn't show on her face. All he'd done was save her the trouble of having to ask for his /permission/ to go. Yet she gave a nod to Sterling for his words, even as his sense of humor produced a grin. "You are a courier as well then?" She asked, and there was, unlike her husband's delightful scowl, held no sign of judement what-so-ever. "Please, join us if it pleases." And there is the sense, that when she speaks she means it, for it's devoid of artifice.

"I find that there is too often strangers to be met, when so easily they could be friends." How sweetly naive of her, and speaking of friends, her attention flits to Jocelyn then, for whose hand she reaches to offer a gentle squeeze when she mentions her abduction; a quiet give of support and lack of judgement for the somewhat unladylike proclimation. "If you care to wait, Jocey, perhaps you could travel with our party instead and that way we'd both have someone to visit with?" And she'd not be left alone with only Harold for company. "And you," her gaze touched on Nathaniel's then, "If your business should happen to keep you here in Stonebridge overnight." She'd have made the same offer to Sterling too, save she's no clue if he'd be going as well.
The repeated invitations cause Sterling to nod slightly, setting his tankard down on a side table and rising to his feet, his left hand bracing his sheathed sword upright as he does. There's a momentary burr of wood on wood as he twists his chair around to face the gathering, and then he sits down again, letting the sword once again rest against his knees. The plain-faced man bears up remarkably well under the scrutiny, spreading a look of surprise across his face at Jocelyn's statement, "I'm sure the Terricks'll love Nayland help, Milady." That might be dry because he's not putting anything into the words, or because they're more than mildly sarcastic. It's hard to tell. "And the Charltons too. Quite the pairing." What with the recent near-war and all. Jocelyn's words about the abduction draw one corner of his lips down ever-so-slightly, "Too much bother, really. Should have just questioned and killed them when they were found if you ask me." Which no one did.
Nathaniel inclines his head deeply to Serica. "I did plan to stay, lady," he answers. and depart early on the morrow." He then turns to Herald and defers, "If you agree, Ser, I would be grateful to ride with your company. I carry coin that would tempt bandits if I were alone, and although a good courier knows his route will enough to be wary in certain places, there is safety in numbers."

         "You are?" Jocelyn says to Harold, then glances at Serica, seeing the look pass over her that she might not have known that information. If she had, she more then likely would have told Jocelyn. She makes no comment about that part. The invitation from Serica warms her and she considers. "I think I might be able to arrange that." Taking the hand that is offered for comfort. "It would be nice to have that time with you."
         Then Sterlings scarcastic words are heard and Jocelyns eyes dart to him. Her own gray eyes narrowing slightly at his comment and her lips falling intoa straight line. Even the grip that was on Sericas hand is loosened. Falling silent for a moment and just stares at Sterling. Inwardly she was tossed between wanting to slap him and also agree with him about the Bandits.
         At last her gaze is lifted from Sterling and moves back to Serica, forcing herself to ease the intensity of gaze and warm it when looking to the woman. "There are ways around such things." she says, trying to keep the irritating from her voice.
Ser Harold finished his cup in a low swallow, then swung it out on an extended arm with the expectation that it be promptly filled. As soon as he felt the added weight of further wine, he took to his cup again. His eyes passed evenly from person to person gathered around his and Lady Serica's spot at the hearth, but he didn't seem to feel any obligation to add anything. There was a slight reserve, too, that had crept into his demeanor. Which was not to say that his small and courteous smile had faded; it had not. It just didn't look particularly earnest as the topic of helping the Roost grew in vigor.

        Sterling's dry commentary brought him out of it, earning a quiet snort and a chuckle that fought itself free of his subtly shaking chest. Hah. "I'm sure they would. But you're wrong on account of the bandits. It ain't enough to do justice; the people have to see it be done, too." He scratched at his cheek, his humor slowly fading. "Now, what's your name? I don't drink with men I don't know who are."

        And almost as an afterthought, Nathaniel got an amiable - if slightly dismissive -: "My wife has offered invitation. It would be rude of me to deny her. You may join us if you wish."
Serica, who'd chosen that moment to take a small sip of her water, made a very decided choking sound, that turned into a small cough, over which she delicately blushed while color threatened to rise up to her cheeks. The choking at least, gave a shake to her body which did help hide the fact that they'd been shaking already with surpressed laughter and over the top of her glass before it lowered, those hazel eyes glowed with unspoken amusement offered up only to Sterling before the humor faded and she gently pressed a hand to the hollow of her throat, "Excuse me," came sweetly begged from her lips.

        And all the while her gaze flowed there amongst the small grouping, from one to another. A glimmer of a smile at Nathaniel, perhaps because the courier at least, knew his proper place and the squeeze that Jocey gave her hand brought the woman's attention back to her; her own smile growing when it seemed that she might take her up on the offer. "I would be most delighted to have you there, my friend." Though to Sterling she supplies, as if it might help, "I was a Frey, before I was a Charlton." Was that a wink? It was gone quick as she realized her husband had drawn humor from the same thing she had, as if being in agreement with him on anything was something that could simply not be done.

And then, as if to help matters along, if such matters might be chaos, she said simply, "When I spoke with Ser Mallister yesterday, he seemed to welcome the notion of aid. Exceptionally kind gentlemen, he was."
Sterling flickers his eyes over to Nathaniel at his mention of carrying a good deal of money, but quickly looks back to the nobles, bowing his head in the face of Jocelyn's anger. "Sorry Milady. Didn't mean to offend. I forget that Westerlanders are blunter than Riverlanders sometimes." By all indications, it is a sincere apology, just shy of syncophantic, but he is quickly moving on to look to the Lord of the group, "Ser Sterling Sharpe, Milord. And begging Milord's pardon, but that's what heads on spikes are for. Less fuss than dragging some poor f — " he looks to the ladies and corrects his wording to "sod out to be chopped or dropped and risk him saying something embarrassing." Serica's laughter seems to surprise the man, but he presses a smile onto his lips at her admission of birth, "The Freys're a good, solid family, Milady. Smart." Which obviously isn't a widely-held belief. "Rare to hear a Mallister bein' kind to a Frey, if y'don't mind my saying."
Nathaniel pursees his lips for a moment, and then stands. bowing to the group, he apologizes, "I should make arrangements for my horse for the night. Please excuse me." He pauses for a moment before he heads for the door.

         In acceptance of Sterlings apology, Jocelyn inclines her head, murmuring a "Its fine." Though her smile did not return and thats all that she says. Choosing to remain silent again. Lowering her gaze she untangles herself herself from her friend and stands to move to pour herself some wine.
         Picking up a cup, Jocelyn takes the pitcher and pours herself some. The movement seemed to help her, whatever had entered her mind at Sterlings words were slowly starting to release her. "Would anyone else care for a bit of wine?" Since she is waiting for their reply, she lifts her own cup to her lips and takes a drink of it.
From afar, Serica would need an assurance that she'd not be implicated, also in writing.
Serica had to look down, she did, she looked down and she lifted a hand to brush her fingers against her brow in an attempt to hide the grin that was threatening to make her face hurt. One, for hearing someone speak back to Harold. Someone with a Ser attached, common or know. Noble born or not, that Ser spoke of skill and Sterling looked like he had more than enough to back up whatever he might want to say. At length the hand lowered from her brow, to her mouth when he all but cursed and then it was so that she could give a nod that was almost somber and refused to match the grin. At least her hand hid it now. It fell away completely though so that she could return his smile, "You might say I'm unquie then," came the counter, and it was almost a playful tease, "or 'sharp'. But you are the smart one, aren't you." And her eyes glowed for what wasn't said. Though she'd not forgotten herself, or where she was, "My husband could use more men like you around to keep him company. Men with sense, and humor. Dine with us tonight?" Though the girl does slant a look in Jocelyn's direction, her eyes touched with concern.

"Heads on pikes, never out of fashion," Ser Harold said somewhat drily, before adding in a bit more serious voice: "But justice is justice, and to be carried out to the letter. More, a ready made corpse doesn't give folk watching the same sense of community as a decent trial and hanging does. In watching another die for his crime, people get reminded of their own place. They get to feel righteous and superior to those condemned. It's an important civic moment, not to be trifled with." He'd given Nathaniel a small nod in aknoweldgement when the man took his leave, as much as was expected of him to offer a commoner, no more but also no less. Then his eyes returned to the group.

        "Thank you, my Lady Jocelyn, I think I would." Somehow his cup had already been emptied. For a moment he looked like he might've frowned at the bottom of it, but then a shrug rolled off his broad shoulders in indifference.
Sterling lifts up his tankard of ale at Jocelyn's invitation, shrugging a little apologetically. Once more the mug rises to his lips, then settles back down on the side-table, the man carefully drying his hand off on his pants in a precise little gesture. "I think mostly, Milord, the peasants of the Roost feel hungry." He bows his head, "But I'm sure Milord knows best." That's definitely beyond the border and into obsequious. Serica's compliments cause him to bow his head just as Jocelyn's anger did, and he murmurs, "Thank you, Milady. My Ma often says so." That causes one corner of his lips to rise almost infinitessimally, the slighest suggestion of emotion on his features for the barest moment. "I'd be honored to share a meal, Milady. I haven't had the chance to go to Hollyholt yet. Supposed to pass Lord and Lady Banefort's compliments that way at some point."

         At his words, Jocelyn sets down her own cup and takes up the pitcher of wine once more. Walking around to Harold, tipping the picture and filling his cup of wine. During this time she had listened to what Harold had said and found herself pleasantly surprised to agree with him. "I must say, I agree, My Lord." The pitcher is lifted and she returns it to its spot on the table. "To some, this sentencing could be just what they need. To others its even closure for what happen. Justice."
        Since Sterling had his Ale, she turns to her friend. Catching the look from Serica. Picking up her own cup of wine, she steps back over and sits beside her friend again. Leaning in close to Serica, murmuring something softly to her. Keeping one hand firmly around her cup and the other arranges her skirt with the new position of sitting.
There's a flicker of something in her eyes then, at Sterling's remark in regards to the peasants that softens her expression in regards to him and puts compassion in her eyes, so that her head dips in a quiet but obviously respectful bow. She shot a pointed look at Harold just as soon as it was done, as if to say, 'See, he understands, why can't you'. But didn't say a word, except to address Sterling again. "She knows what cleverness she's raised." Offered and then, well, her tongue might have just slipped away from her; a sign that at least in someone's presence she felt comfortable enough to speak her mind, even if she'd probably pay for it later. "I'd look for a polite excuse to leave too, if I were you. It'd likely end up boring what with everything that everyone isn't supposed to say, full of the sort of repetative converesation that politely tiptoes around issues and gets very old, very quick." Because that obviously shouldn't have been said either, she hides behind her cup and takes a small sip, in part to keep her expression even when Jocelyn sided with Harold. Though she did offer her friend her ear at that.

         A sudden snort of laughter escapes Jocelyn randomly, turning to hide her face against Serica.
Serica looks innocent as to the cause for such an outburst.

Sterling senses: Serica had offered a single tiny little wink in the man's direction though, after her more than blunt spiel.

"Thank you, my Lady," Harold said as Jocelyn filled his cup, inclining his head. He scratched at his beard, just where he'd a scar, and it wasn't the first time he'd done it either. Old as the nick was, it had never been able to leave him alone. As his nails made a scritch-scratch sound, he told Sterling: "I fail to see how that affects anything. Being hungry doesn't mean a man does not want justice, too. The world is not one or the other." It wasnt quite a frown that followed, but any hint of a smile had gone, and it wasn't Sterling who'd drawn it from his lips. He gave his wife a look that said he thought she'd more than said enough about that topic, and his fingers closed a little tighter around the cup he'd been holding. Still, he didn't outright comment on it. And when the two girls burst to laughter, the smile returned. "You are in the Banefort's service, then?"
Sterling lifts tankard to lips once more and sets it down. The more observant (nosy) might note that despite the number of times the common knight has raised the mug to his mouth, only a finger or two of ale is gone from within. The laughter and innocent look cause Sterling to half-turn his head to glance behind him, as if looking for the cause or target of the laughter, but he quickly looks back to the nobles arrayed before him, "Not trying to avoid, Milady. How people avoid topics they don't want to talk about's interesting." Shifting his attention to Harold then, he bows his head once more, "No offense, Milord, but I'd say that depends on how hungry you are." The question, however, draws his head up again and he nods sharply, "Yes Milord. Lord and Lady Banefort're interested in friendships up in the Cape. They weren't too happy the courtship between Lord Walder an' Lady Saffron fell through."

         Whatever had transpired between the two women, the random bursts of laughter and the innocent looking faces that, lets be honest, werent all that innocent looking. Jocelyn seems to have returned to the person she was when she first arrived at the Inn. All smiles and warmth feeling her, giving her a glow about her and light in her gray eyes.
         "At least the Lady Saffron is happy." What a womanly thing to say. "She is postively glowing in the sight of her new betrothed." Her cup is lifted and she drinks more wine at her leisure. Turning to Serica she says, "She held a Tea Party not long ago. Had these sweet white cloud looking things that you had to set on fire, blow them out and then eat them. Very tasty."
Well, Jocelyn was glowing, but Serica wasn't. In fact, the new topic and mention of shifting bethrothals and happy women, only made her look all the more unhappy. "Yes well, some marry for duty and not pleasure." But because that sounded a very..bitter thing to say she said, "How lovely that she's happy though. I'm glad that you enjoyed her party, Jocey." Because Seri's glass of water had suddenly become the most interesting thing in the world.
"Don't take well to yielding an argument do you, Sharpe?" Ser Harold asked with a brief flicker of humor, his gruff voice ladened with more of the same. It didn't seem he had much issue with being countered, as long as it was done with the appropriate deference to his rank. "Fair enough, though. A man who cant think for his hunger, and whose children have bellies swollen, is more like to take to banditry than care who the Lord hangs for the same crime. Then again, a Lord who can't feed his people might just deserve just that." His eyes slid towards Serica, then, giving her a small smile. "But all the more reason to be grateful when others are willing to pick up the slack. To bottomless generosity, eh?" A lift of his cup, to that, toasting it with a small curve to his lips.
Sterling nods to Jocelyn, "Whipped sugar." Well, he is from the Banefort, after all."And good luck to the Mallister. Maybe the gods'll see fit to spare him." There's no venom or rancor to the statement. If anything, there's a bit of dry amusement there. With that cryptic statement stated, he looks over to the Charlton man, bowing his head again, "Just like to see all the information considered, Milord." The toast causes him to raise up his ale, "Bottomless generosity." And then he takes a sip, settling down the mug with his right hand once more.

         "Ah, yes, the whipped sugar. Lady Saffron treated her guests very well that evening." Jocelyn notices that its Serica's time to lost her smile and her hand is taken. "Seri, would you come with me? I need to see to my herbalist in the square." her eyes flicker to Harold, "If you would not mind, My Lord, I will not steal your lovely wife for long. I do promise to return her in one piece and unharmed." the sweetest of smiles is offered to him after the request is granted. Just in case there is a possibilty that he could actually decline her request.
         Acting as if he will not though, she stands from her seat, setting her wine cup down and looking back down to her friend. "There is also this fabric I /must/ show you. It would make the most beautiful dress."
Serica had, no sooner than Harold had spoken, leaned in to have a quiet word at Jocelyn's ear, though she straightened just as quickly and though her smile was both tight and so thin her lips were nearly white, she bowed her head in response and said, "My Lords are too kind." She humbly differed the compliment of the toast, though as Jocelyn spoke, a measure of her smile returned and following Jocelyn's lead, Serica rose up to her feet brushed her skirts straight. "I would be delighted to accompany you," before dipping into a deep curtsy that was be default of manners extended to both men before she rose. "I leave you to the good company of each other." And linking arms with Jocey, started towards the door…
Harold rose to his feet when Jocelyn made her intentions of leaving clear. For all that he had been drinking heavily since early, there didn't seem to be any slur in his voice, just a distinctive softening of the predatory alertness that usually accomonied the greying knight. "I'd be selfish to the extreme to deny you, my Lady Jocelyn, even if my wife's departure aches my heart." Not that it looked like he really cared that his wife was gone, but it was smoothly said and with a timbre to his voice that was almost - if not quite - authentic. Perhaps he really -had- had too much to drink. He gave them each a bow. "Enjoy." He wouldn't sit back down until they were both removed from the table proper.
Sterling rises to his own feet with alacrity, his left hand once more steadying the pommel of his sword as he stands. "Lady Banefort's made a good impression even on her nieces, Milady." That to Jocelyn, although the excuses of the women draw a certain dry amusement to the lines about his eyes, his lips almost lifting. He bows to the ladies as they make their departure, and then settles back into his chair, quite properly after Harold himself does. Once more, the sword is balanced against his legs, the belt drawn up across them idly with his left hand. "II'm surprised, Milord, to see a Charlton working with a Nayland to help the Terricks. I'd think you'd want to take the credit for your own house, advance your cause." Someone mentioned bluntness earlier, right?

         "Kind of you, Ser Harold. Thank you." Jocelyn says, lowering herself into a curtsey, but before she can really say much more, she is being linked armed with and Serica is walking towards the door, so it is moving her in that direction too. To Sterling she inclines her head, "Good to have met you." she says on her way away from the two men. Laughing just softly under her breath. Falling into step with her friend and exiting the Inn.
Ser Harold's sword was resting up against his chair, the pommel ever near his hand, even if he did not appear to put much concious thought to it. It was a workmanlike sword, for all his high birth, and he'd damaged the original hawk motif by smashing it against something hard. Or someone. At one point there'd been gems for the bird face's eyes, but they were both hollow sockets now. Truth was, he seemed more at ease once his wife was gone. His shoulders lowered, an easy smile on his lips even if it couldn't quite make his gaze more than politely reserved. His chest rose and fell evenly. "Do you think my cause would be advanced by being seen a friend of the Terricks?" he asked. "Not that it matters much. My cause is whatever cause my brother, Lord Keegan, deems it to be. As is the duty of the younger brother." And if his lips curled with a slightly sardonic smile, well, he might not be as good at hiding his feelings as he'd liked.
Sterling raises one hand to make a dismissive sort of gesture at the suggestion of personal causes, "Sorry. Wasn't clear. Your house's cause. Thought I suppose it ain't the Terricks you need, but the Mallisters. Get them to stay out of it, get the Erenfords and the Haighs to stay out of it… of course get the Freys to do the same," he gestures again, this time toward the door the ladies just left through, "which your young wife'll help do, I'm sure, Milord. Get all them out, and you can make the Naylands dance whatever reel you want. But I'd have to say what your Lord Brother wants is the twenty-dragon question, Milord. He seems to be steerin' this ship." In a fighter's eyes, there's not actually that much to be seen in the common knight. A rangy sort of strength, sure, and the usual callouses of someone practiced with a blade, but no scars, either upon himself nor on his plain sword. There are the stains of sweat and blood on the leather wrapping the hilt, but they're old and faded.
"You've got a clever tongue, Sharpe," the Charlton lordling said, as he reached for the pitcher and poured himself another cup of wine. Though this time it merely lingered in his palm, a big and meaty one. "It cuts to the point. Though I queston what the fuck," and though he'd been unfailingly courteous while his ladies were present, a matter-of-fact soldierly demeanor seemed to settle over him now that they were alone. His gaze, when it was not flickering about the room in absent habit - something it admittdly did half the time - was direct and went for the eyes. "Makes you want to point such things out to me. Assuming it's not thought of already. It proves you're bright, sure enough, but what's there for you if such a situation were to unfold, eh? And don't give me no gabarge about it being just casual conversation. Casual converastion involves where a man fishes, or fucks."
Sterling drinks down a good bit of his ale, still cradling the mug in his right hand despite the left-hand draw of his sword when he walked in. "My Ma always told me so, Milord." To the comment about the clever tongue. "Usually right before my Da hit me upside the head." The common knight leans forward then, keeping the hilt of his sword encircled by his arm as he rests his forearm on his knee, "Didn't think I was saying anything but the obvious though." The fingers of his right hand flicker out in an almost insubstancial gesture around the room, "Or I wouldn't be saying it in an inn in Stonebridge. Like I said, Milord. Lord and Lady Banefort are looking for friendship among the houses of the Cape. They've married a daughter and a niece to the Terricks an' Mallisters. But there's a whole lot of Frey-aligned houses on the Cape. If the Lord an' Lady Banefort knew what was goin' on among them, they might be willing to help out."
"A father's right," Harold said with quiet steel, the kind that cut two ways. He'd given a stretch to his legs, his head rolling back into the support of his neck. His eyes still kept check on STerling, though, abeit from the periphery of his eyes. "And it's not quite obvious. More than one way to look at things, didn't you say? But," he lifted a finger as if to forwarn further argument down that line. "Assuming it was, let's face it. Most people don't look too closely at what's infront of them. If they come looking for a diamond, they see a fucking diamond. If they come looking for a frog, that's what's infront of them. If the frog looks like a diamond, it's a frog with diamond-like shells." He scratched at his beard, took another sip from his wine. "People see what they want to see, expect to see, desire to see. Or just fear to see. What's right infront of them matters a whole lot less."

        "But I'll keep in mind what you said of the Baneforts, and perhaps keep you in mind, too. As a smart fellow."
Sterling nods his head at the other man's words, "but takes another swallow of his ale, his eyes flicking past the other man to where a rather drunken man is being helped out the back door of the inn. Looking back to Harold, he slips an obsequious smile onto his features, "I'm always looking for ways to advance the cause of the Banefort." He doesn't say, but quite loudly doesn't say, 'And the cause of Sterling Sharpe.' Setting down his tankard with a good couple of swigs of ale still in it, he rises, collecting his sword in his right hand, "If you'll excuse me, Milord." There's no reason for the excuse given, but once he's allowed for any response, the common knight heads toward the back of the inn, buckling on his swordbelt as he moves.
"My wife will be disappointed," that he wasn't staying for dinner. Though truth be told that didn't realy seem to bother him all that much when all was said and done. "But fare you well, Shape." With a moderate nod of he head - an advantage on what he'd offered Nathaniel earlier, if still not *that* much beyond what he'd expected to offer as minimal courtesy - he bid the sworn sword of Benfort a good day. The solitude he was left with didn't seem to bother him the least. Infact he cracked a small smile, one that suggested - finally - and took to wine once more.