|When Civility Goes Right|
|Summary:||Returning to the Inn after an outing of sorts, Lady Briallyn Haigh finds a surprisingly vulnerable Lady Cherise Charlton lingering in the hallway not so far from her own chosen room.|
|The rooms at Crane's Crossing are of the finest quality to be found at any guest quarters among the Riverlands, though not as finely done as those in the castles — by far. The rooms are spacious with plenty of room for not just a noble but a small entourage to gather in. The sprawling beds are finished with fine sheets and goosedown-stuffed pillows. Rugs are lain about except nearest the door with a few couches placed to one corner for guests of the room holder. Chambermaidens are on call at all hours to clean and refill the wash basins or provide new washclothes - or to even take sullied clothing for cleaning. The windows are set out a bit from the wall to provide bench seating that overlooks the sprawling green of meadows, distant forests, and bubbling creeks.|
|16th April, 289 A.L.|
With a shoulder pressed against the wall Cherise held one arm embracing her large belly as the other laid comfort over the rapid beating of her heart. Septa Enya, garbed in simple attire, was offering her hand to soothe the noblewoman's back while very little was said. Her two handmaidens eyed each other with extreme caution as the Lady Charlton's eyes remained heavily closed. "If this was true, they would tell me would they not?" She asked the Septa for the other two servants lacked any useful insight or words of encouragement.
"Is it not bad enough to stay in that man's /room/?" The voice isn't shrill. It's stern, uncompromising, unkindly, and laden with disapproval. The reply is less so, a sultry voice limning each carefully selected word with dry contempt and irritation. "Dear Septa, I assure you that if you are so concerned that the Knight is sprawled naked on the bed, you shall be first to see it. I merely like the room. Is that a sin?" The sound the Septa makes is an unpleasant one, to which there is no response.
In good order, the cause of the voices soon emerges as the Lady Briallyn steps into the hallway with a dour, unattractive, and aged woman on one side, and the younger, slightly taller, lady's maid on the other. The young Lady Haigh purposefully keeps to one side of the hallway, avoiding a specific room with too much obviousness for it to be mere circumstance. However, the appearance of Cherise stalls her quiet foot steps, and Briallyn stands there a moment, poised on her heels. One finely arched brow lifts, but the young woman's countenance is mostly serene but for the hint of annoyance no doubt lingering from earlier statements. "Why, Lady Cherise," Briallyn observes mildly, lowering her voice appropriately.
Her name spoken, Cherise opens her eyes, unfocused at first before she may recognize the the young female before her. "Lady Haigh." Such resolve in her tone is blatantly lacking. Seeking to correct her poise she does so lazily, tired and couple with recent misgivings. "I should offer you congratulations upon your soon to be nuptials. My cousin should be happy, with any that may provide it to him."
Those dark green eyes, always intense, always invasive, scour the pregnant woman openly with turmoil brewing in their depths. Her full lips purse as she studies the other Lady, and the Septa murmurs something that sounds suspiciously like a blessing. There is a measure of conflict in Briallyn's voice, reserved mistrust and a certain pleasure at the mention of Ser Garett. "My thanks, Lady Charlton, I am quite pleased with the arrangement. I am sure my Lord Garett will be, as well, once he returns from Riverrun." Pause. "Admittedly, I did not expect to see you here." The probing is hardly subtle, but there is very little about the woman that suggests she cares for such things.
"Adelia, it would please me tremendously if you could see to it that the room is properly ready," Briallyn suggests to the nervous maid, turning her head just so to direct her with a nod towards the appropriate door before her attention settles firmly on Cherise, again. "You do not look well, my Lady. Is it wise to be out and about in such a state?"
Cherise nods at first, a small one. "I am sure of it too." She relays until there is an inquiry about her wellbeing, prompting a round of nervous laughter. Septa Enya steps aside for now, lips pressed to a close while the handmaidens accompanying Cherise do the same. "Expect the unexpected…" The lady's eyes draw to a brief close, blurring her view of the noble Haigh before her. "I am sure it is not wise and yet here I stand." The Lady Charlton lazily gazes over her shoulder, "Will you see that the room's dues are paid in full. I should be at the tower." Relaying to one of her headmaidens, the brown haired girl who bobs her head, darting off toward the Innkeeper's desk. Afterwards her gaze returns to Briallyn, full and less than alert. "I see that lady Tordane's encouragements have been adhered to. This is a good thing."
"I've little choice in the matter, Lady Charlton," Lady Briallyn retorts tersely, ignoring the sternly disapproving stare burning between her shoulders where the Septa stands guard behind her. There is nothing kind in the elder woman's eyes, nor pitying. "There is a great deal of curiosity about the state of my virtue, such as it is, and I've no cares to give further ache or irritation to either your House, or my Lord Garett." As soon as Briallyn falls quiet, the Septa clears her throat gruffly. As she speaks, the hairy mole atop her lip trembles distractingly. "And yet, you insist upon inhabiting the room that he-"
The Septa is abruptly cut off. "Should Ser Garett master a way to appear in two places, miles upon miles apart, at once, I think we shall have more concern than what room I am choosing to sleep in." Briallyn lifts a hand to forestall any further argument, and the Septa directs a withering stare, but holds her tongue. "Truly, you look fatigued, Lady Cherise. And here? You have a way of pricking my tender curiosity. Would you at least have a seat with me? It is the least I can do, given your state. You look bloody exhausted." With a small gesture of a well groomed hand, Briallyn motions towards the room to which Adelia has long vanished minutes before.
Cherise clicks her tongue, "Come now Lady Haigh, these are the roads we must travel upon to ensure good fortune is indeed in our path. Surely guaranteeing that your reputation and virtue is maintained before your wedding night is not as much as a trial as you project." She smiled just as her handmaiden returned. "You should have great cares for otherwise… unsavory talk fuels malicious actions from those seeking to exploit it. This was a kindness, Lady Haigh, not an act of spite. Some of us depend upon the reputation of our houses especially when they cannot afford the shields from scandals." Her tone is soft as fatigue claimed its strength. While Briallyn chastised her Septa more or less, Cherise offered nothing. Quiet again until addressed. "Of course." The thought of sitting was delightful while laying down had been a considered a dream. Her gaze moves slowly to the room indicated, nodding as her Septa played the role of escort, leading the lady discretely by her arm to the chamber and then the chair. "Do I?" Briallyn was asked before the Lady Charlton had sank slowly into a chair.
"Naturally, my Lady," is all Briallyn immediately responds with, before turning her attention ever so briefly to the sour faced Septa. "If it please you, I would prefer you find a place in the common room so I can have some measure of privacy with the Lady Charlton." The woman looks to be made of iron, unmoving and unflinching. The Lady Haigh lifts a hand and lightly pinches the bridge of her nose. "Very well." There is a suspicious whisper of 'bloody woman' beneath her breath, but Briallyn falls into step behind Cherise as they make a slow procession to the room in question. It's clear that her belongings have been moved to the chamber recently, for very little has yet to be unpacked.
A number of chests and trunks are stacked for easy access, and a scattering of silken cushions and pillows lie upon one of the twin beds within the room. The hardfaced Septa takes up a position at the door as it is shut firmly, sealing in the occupants of the room. With a gesture before seating herself, Briallyn murmurs something to Adelia that sends the lady's maid into a flurry of collecting some of those embroidered cushions to ease Cherise's comfort within the chair, arranging them carefully and dutifully.
"I am afraid that such talk is already commonplace. Hence my desire to avoid further troubles. But, I've no interest in speaking on that. People who can only speak of others have little of importance to say. You look exhausted, you sound exhausted, and I cannot for the life of me imagine why you would come /here/ when the Tower is more comfortably furnished. So, yes, my Lady, you've piqued my curiosity." As she speaks, Briallyn plucks a woven basket from the floor by her chosen seat to draw forth its contents between her slender, but deceptively strong hands. For all intent and purpose, it appears to be needle, thread, and a small expanse of silk fabric, darkest blue.
Seated Cherise all but melts against the chair's rest, her full length pregnancy robes fan widely about her limbs as she releases a lengthy breath once in comfort. "It comes and goes Lady Haigh." She shares, drawing both hands to rest upon her abdomen. Within the chamber both her handmaidens and Septa had followed, ever present shadows in lieu of the lady's condition. "The alternative is to lay about and grow larger than the bed that holds me?" She laughed, "No, a short walk here and there is good, should my legs forget their purpose."
As her small retinue took to standing near a wall, eyes occasionally switching targets between the noblewomen, when breathing became easier Cherise then continued. "But as you wish, we will will not speak of it." At least she had a Septa following her. "Allow me to be entertained for the moment, if you will. It is not wealth you desire for well…" A hand makes a gentle fluttering motion in the air, signifying the importance of House Westerling's wealth. "Then it must be something else? Ser Garett is not the most skillful courtier." She smirks, heavy eyes staring back to the Haigh woman.
"No, I cannot imagine lying about is terribly entertaining, no matter who you have to speak to. I could not imagine doing it myself, either, some day." Although not entirely docile, Briallyn begins to do something strangely feminine. The cloth within her lap, dark blue, shows the beginning marks of embroidery. A closer look might reveal a few birds, rather than flowers. Her deft fingers move the needle smoothly, and for a moment, it is nearly believable the young woman might be a Lady. She weaves the needle and thread through the fabric with quick, precise motions, adding a flourish of russet colored thread to whatever she is presently depicting. "Of course, Lady Charlton, anything you might-"
At that particular question, a flood of scarlet flows to her face and tarnishes that lovely complexion of hers. And that ladylike poise is spoiled by a rather unladylike curse, drawing a dagger filled glare from her Septa in the process, as she pricks her finger with the needle at Cherise's rather blunt question. It would appear that the Lady Briallyn is not entirely without some girlish behaviors, after all, beyond a sharp tongue. "No, my Lady, he is not." Pause. "That is part of what makes him attractive. He is honest, and blunt. You know what he thinks of you, and he has no cause to hide it. It is not as simple as that." Pearly white teeth nibble delicately at her lower lip, worrying at it as if suddenly nervous.
"He is a very… intense man, my Lady, and genuine. Beyond that, Ser Garett is also highly intelligent." As she speaks, Briallyn carefully fabs her pricked finger and returns to the task at hand. "The cause of the nonsense that now pervades my life is that I did have many conversations with him. None without my bloody chaperone, mind you, but I did find him fiercely intelligent, yes." Another pause is punctuated by a nervous laugh. "And while I am sure you've no opinion on the matter, I find him ruggedly handsome." Lips purse, and Briallyn glances up from her lap with a piercing stare for the pregnant woman, now comfortable. That is quite a lot out of the youth on the matter, and she appears to know it, a clear sign of how abominably smitten she is.
A small smile deepens in the corners of Cherise's cheeks as Briallyan practically gushes over the 'attractive' qualities she finds upon her kin. "Notable traits of worth." She returns easily, idly smoothing over her stomach in the meantime. "A chaperon is needed Lady Haigh. It is necessary. Surely there is nothing you would say or do any differently if one was not present?" Her brows perk upon her inquiry, her tone measured into a serious nature for this was her kin, her lineage. "We all have our parts Lady Haigh, otherwise how are we different than the barbarians of the south or across the narrow seas?"
It is not Cherise that draws the answer from her, but the intent stare that the Septa affixes Briallyn with. Those dark green eyes, weighing, flit from the Lady Charlton's face to the forbidding countenance of the aged, unappealing woman standing guard at the door. A flicker of a smile appears, turning up the corners of her mouth into a practically vulpine grin that vanishes almost immediately. "Why, of course not, Lady Cherise. What else is there to do?" That voice is convincing enough, just the right amount of ignorance and innocence intoned, but the young woman downcasts eyes that are inappropriately heated. The needle pierces the fabric a few more times as she returns her attention to the embroidery in her lap.
"Ser Garett is a most honorable man. Truly. He was never forward with me, nor pursued anything beyond the company of our conversation." The Septa offers a grunt, whatever /that/ is supposed to mean. "Why, I surely could not say, my Lady, on that count," Briallyn quips breezily as Cherise turns her attentions to cultural difference. "But, I am certain they feel much the same way about us. Either way, I do not live there, and thus ruminating on those differences is intellectual fancy at best. Irrelevant, at this time, to my continued existence."
The looks and stares from Briallyn's Septa do not go unnoticed, but from the Haigh woman's words Cherise continues her own lingering smile. "Of course." She repeats. On the matter of barbarians and lesser people the Lady Charlton raises a hand to guide back the golden mane atop of her crown, "It may be relevant someday Lady Haigh, there is no harm in exploring the 'intellectual fancy' of entertaining thoughts. Besides, you will need to spend your days doing something other than waiting for your beloved's return."
"Beloved?" She echoes the word, turning her attention from the russet tail feathers of a hawk to peer at Cherise with a quizzical smile. "Oh, I've no disagreement on either count of that, my Lady. I often find that now that I can no longer hunt, dice, or play cards, my pursuits are often of an intellectual bent. I could not bring any of my preferred reading materials, and I-" The Septa butts in abruptly, her expression as stony and unforgiving as ever. "My Lady should find time to read her prayer book, then." Briallyn holds her tongue and tries to draw a quieting breath with some subtlety.
Instead of remarking on the Septa's observation, she very calmly continues to draw the reddish orange thread through the dark blue cloth. "If the Lady Charlton keeps interesting books, I might beg to see them? Moreover, I do have this, of course. It's… quite engrossing." It is a definite struggle to keep the dry humor from her voice as she lifts the sample of embroidery as example. Despite Briallyn's seeming lack of passion for it, there is more than a hint of skill. Perhaps she simply has clever hands.
Eying the display of her work thus far, Cherise's brows lift during her survey. "Very nice." She compliments while it was proving difficult to beat back the evidence of amusement between Septa and unwilling participant. "I do have plenty that may be of use Lady Haigh. Poetry, fables, history… I do not mind to see that they are lended. Perhaps.." She taps her chin on a brief thought. "You should seek the Lady Cordelya Flint as she has amassed quite a collection. You should inquire about her foreign series." Nothing more was truly said on that topic.
"That would suit me well enough. I do rather enjoy history, foreign culture is pleasant, and anything about…" Her voice trails away at the memory of the Septa. "Nevermind." Briallyn continues to stitch the tiny, painstaking stitches to render the image desired upon the cloth, but it is an unsurprisingly long process, and she doesn't appear to be making enormous progress. "In any event, Lady Cherise, I think a question for a question is fair enough, don't you think? I answered about Garett-" "Ser Garett," the Septa offers in a nearly scandalized hiss. "Lord Westerling," Briallyn says primly, but flatly. "So, I feel like I am entitled to at least ask what has you looking so worn down within the hallway of an Inn you do not have a rented room in?"
"Yes, quite fair." She agrees, pressing to the armrests of her chair to sit upright, her color was returning and the lady was indeed gaining some strength from her rest. "It is nothing, truly Lady Haigh. I had not taken account of the weather before over exerting myself." She smiled softly to the woman, even raising hand to fan at her face. "Perhaps it was the wine, or the lack of mid-day meal this day. I am fine now. I can take a meal in this inn before returning to the tower. These discomforts come and go, one of the blessings from being with child."
"Well, if you're certain." It's clearly from her tone that Briallyn doesn't fully believe the Lady Cherise, but she pries no further. "You're welcome to stay as long as you desire, and I can send Adelia to fetch you something to eat." Her gaze lifts from the fabric to study the other woman thoughtfully. "Is it so terrible? Being with child, I mean. I imagine I will have to do so some day, presuming I am able, but I do not see why I wouldn't be." Stitch, stitch. "Though, I still wonder that your maids haven't taken better care of you. You look like death."
Cherise eyes her septa for a moment before answer, "A small loaf of bread will be suitable Lady Haigh. I only need but a moment to regain myself before we should return to the tower." As if asking for permission her eyes changed to her Septa, a nod returned in answer. "It is not terrible, really. At first I was… oh it was awful. I was ill most of the day and unfortunately the more interesting times came once the men were marched for Seagard. You feel not yourself at the lowest of moments however once you are reminded by an absent kick to your ribs or another vital part of you, you're eager to feel it again. At least knowing there is still life within you."
Adelia, wordlessly, departs from the room quietly, hunched and mousy. Although she doesn't look at Cherise as the other woman speaks, Briallyn listens intently, drawing the needle through the fabric a few more times. It's easy to see the needlework isn't enough to keep her fully distracted, as her heel is tapping lightly at the floor, likely unconsciously. "Really?" Ah, a topic upon which the young woman knows very little. "Nobody ever seems to talk of that, but I've never known any pregnant women. None that I was close to. I've no sisters, and I was my mother's last child." Idle chatter, at best, until the lady's maid returns with a small loaf of bread, partially sliced, secured in a tucked napkin. "Thank you, Adelia," the young Lady Haigh intones warmly without glancing up.
She smirks, still rubbing her belly like some obsessive pregnant woman. "No, they do not really. I was talked to all to quickly about some things that would happen as early signs of pregnancy but nothing could prepare me for the actual events. Still as miserable as I held them, I would do it again." Cherise relayed pleasantly after glancing to the door for a moment. "Perhaps you may find some interest in serving as a lady to one with a child, at least to better familiarize yourself with the area."
The hand bearing her needle falls still, poised above the dark azure colored silk. The tone with which she speaks is not so light as it was mere moments before. It is reserved, cautious even. "I am not certain I am at liberty to determine such things for myself, Lady Charlton. I know that you have forbade that I be a lady to the Lady Erenford. I've no quarrel with that, but I do not wish to be looked at as if a pawn. Surely you understand?" There isn't fear in her voice, but it is laced with reluctance. Briallyn does not resume her needlework, going so far as to carefully fold needle, thread, and silk before placing it back into the woven basket near her feet. "But, you put me in a bind. There are not many of your station, or my own, experiencing such things. And I've no desire to be ignorant of a state I will likely come to know eventually."
Cherise sighs softly, "No, not a pawn Lady Haigh. I have my own personal reasons as to why I wish you not under her employ, especially when you are to wed my kin. Had you the insight as I, I believe you would do the same to take great care for those you care for deeply." Her brows perked a little before settling. "I do not mean as a Lady to me, but to another. Perhaps to Nayland? The Lady Isolde is quite kind and she is to be expecting soon. She is near the same age as I so there will be naught that much of a difference. It will be beneficial for you to see how others may condone themselves for while Garett may not be a lord of a keep both your actions and his own, will reflect upon each other and House Westerling."
"I don't know if I am suited for such things," Briallyn breathes quietly. Mostly quiet because she's clearly trying to avoid the prying ears of the Septa nearby. Adelia comes to stand still beside the Lady Cherise's chair to hand over the bread. Once that task is accomplished, the maid dutifully sets about rearranging cushions and pillows. "I value my freedom highly, something no noblewoman is oft allowed to do," the young Lady Haigh intones hollowly. "It is part of what is so very desirable in Ser Garett. I can be simply be.. myself. I suppose that is an illusion, for I've no true freedom. Yet."
"I see…" She intones, eying the young female with some interest. "I suppose the lack of eyes and ears ever about is appealing to some. But what of Ser Garett? Supposedly Westerling, the Seven forbid, happen to fall? He will have but a name and his skills as a swordsman. How are you to live if you are considered the 'unladylike' noblewoman wed to a pauper? Who would want either of you about?" She asked before adding, "I am being honest because perceptions are everything here Lady Haigh, whether you wish to embrace them or not. Remembering that you are lady will provide gains for you and your soon to be husband. It is a necessary trait that only we are afforded. It is to be embraced with pride, not shunned."
"If you are asking whether or not I find that acceptable, I do. My interest in your cousin is not one that lies in Westerling, or in his purse. I am interested in Ser Garett, for himself. No matter what becomes of him." Briallyn pauses, folding her hands quietly in her lap, intertwining her fingers. "But, I suspect that is not what your question is aimed at. I respect propriety for the sake of my House, Ser Garett's reputation, and the sake of House Westerling. As for my impropriety, it is only my penchant for preferring Ser Garett's company to a room full of ladies that has me in deep water. Once I am properly wed, I will likely be viewed as an eccentric. At least insofar as such matters go." The young woman looks away, gaze directed at the window so that she needn't look at the Lady Cherise for long. "But, I'll not play at politics. Not for my own sake."
Further poses redacted for safety.