|When the Bough Breaks.|
|Summary:||Hollyholt's switched alliances, Highfield stands to bear the cost.|
|Related Logs:||I am Merciful.|
|Courtyard, Highfield Keep|
|The courtyard opens up into a barren expanse of well-trodden, hard-packed dirt underfoot. Surrounded on three sides by the looming structure of the Keep, and on the fourth by the outer wall and gatehouse, the courtyard benefits from both sunlight and shade at most hours of the day, illuminated in the evening by well-placed lanterns. Through the western wall, an arching, covered walkway leads to the paddock and stables beyond, by way of the Lord's kennels and hawking mews, while the opposite building houses the Keep's barracks and armory. The main building looms tallest, dominating the area with it's weighty double-doors - easily twice the height of a man - at the pinnacle of a clean-swept set of steps.|
|Oct 8, 289|
Two men at arms are reasonably quicker at keeping up than the two ladies who're trying to match Aeliana's pace. It's been a quick one and brutal but for all of it, the littlest Charlton who sits astride a courser with all the ease a full fledged knight might doesn't seem to show it. She'd been forcing herself to stay caught up with her party, until Highfield came into sight and then? Simply let Stranger have his head. It meant she'd spilled into the courtyard beneath the sharp heavy clatter of hooves; the hood of her cloak blown back and the fact that…she was riding not, in a dress but in leathers that were reinforced about both thigh and knee to ease some of the pain of long hours in the saddle, was decidedly obvious. For once Aeliana didn't look flamboyant as she slung down; boots thumping onto the ground; a black tunic dancing against her thighs. She just looked furious, where the gleam of her eyes was as steely as those dual pins that ran through the bun of her hair.
"Is Lord Aleister back yet?"
It's a timely arrival all round, then. For as the clatter and clamour heralding the little Charlton's return to Highfield rings around the courtyard, the heavy double doors of the Keep are flung wide, preceding a similarly less-graceful-than-usual entrance from the Steward. Attired in silver, with her raven tresses spilling down to her waist, loose and wild, Ceinlys at a glance appears as well-presented as ever, despite her swift, purposeful stride out of the hall and down the steps. Only close scrutiny might reveal the telling trace of shadows beneath her vivid blue eyes, or the vaguely ashen pallor of worry, despite all her outward mien of calm reserve. Aeliana's enquiry is met with the simplicity of a level gaze and a shake of her head as others gather.
Ser Erik, the new Sheriff of Highfield, is seen walking slowly across the courtyard from the direction of the Entrance Hall with some parchments in hand, which he is showing to his squire and berating the poor youth. "Dammit, Joseph. I swear if you don't get this, I am going to clout you again. You are to go into town and find these three men for me, find out where they are staying and let them know that the Sheriff wishes to speak to them. And no, they are not in trouble. Then I want you to see if Ser Harold is still in these parts and if so, ask the knight if he has the time to see me for I have some questions."
Before any other instructions can be given or the Jast Knight could physically clobber his squire, the familiar sounds of hooves causes Erik to snap his eyes up to see who is returning, perhaps the Lord of the Keep is back. But no, it is the youngest Charlton but that still an important event, especially the last bits of rumors they have heard around these parts. Changing directions and making his approach on Aeliana, Erik bows his head respectfully to the young Lady, "Lady Aeliana! Welcome home and we are pleased to see that you are safe. And that the rumors have been greatly exaggerated."
Walking within arms reach of Ceinlys, her escort appears to be battle-ready, though for what is not obvious. The clink of chain and plate precede the armored Knight as he follows Ceinlys into the courtyard. An expectant eye warrily watches at the thunderous entrance of his younger sister, relaxing ever so slightly once its obvious that the rider is not a threat.
A blonde head peeks out from around a door jamb, tilted sideways, the barking of hounds slipping out past the now open heavy door that usually bars the entry into the kennels. Only way to keep the noise down, really. Quick eyes take in the gathering in the courtyard, though the courier has none of the look up agitation, distress or general aggravation that seems to have overtaken the keep. Eyes follow the Charlton lady as her party arrives, before Petra's head ducks back into the kennels.
Well at least the Lady Ceinlys' presence has kept her from yelling; a faint but curt nod is given in reply for the offer of an answer that was never given with words. The warmth of her expression though, flickers to something chill when those dark eyes pass over Bastien and then slid on to the Jast Knight without ever missing a beat.
"I am not broken, Ser Erik, but between us," the lady lowers her voice, "The Seven be damned thing hurts like the devil at the moment." A very tiny ahem, "But riding is not so bad as walking." Indeed, deft fingers pluck at the glasp of her cloak and it's discarded with a toss across her saddle, before she begins tugging off, finger by finger, her gloves. "Do the patrol know to signal back upon sign of the Lord's return?"
An immediate summons from Lord Walder is not something that one taries with and as such, Aleister had departed with only a handful of his men .. with word left that he would return when he could. Of course, it's on that trip to The Twins that the messenger speaks of the summons .. of the course that Lord Keegan had taken and it had only served to /worry/ Aleister. He was gone hours, then. Longer then he should have been, though not quite long enough for people to truly grow concerned over his condition. And then, shortly after the arrival of Aeliana and as others begin to gather in the courtyard, one of the lookouts upon the wall calls out, "Lord Aleister returns!"
And return he does. In fact, his entry into the courtyard is quite similiar to that of Aeliana. The pace brutal fast, as if the Lord had been chased by an unseen foe and it's one that his guards even had trouble keeping up with and when the Lord clears the gatehouse and enters into the courtyard proper, the horse is reared to a stop, hooves clattering against the ground as his horse sounds it's protest before beging to slow and stop. It's then that he's sliding himself from the horse, his cloak flowing and billowing against the black and blues of his tunic. As a retainer comes forth to claim the reigns of his horse, there's a sharp, "See well to my horse or I will have your head." It's only then that he's turning to stalk towards the keep .. or rather, the group of people that his gaze comes to fall upon, though he issues no greeting as of yet.
Making his way out from the general direction of the stables, Robben pauses a few moments as he sees the people present, including the one that's just arrived. Heading over in their direction rather quickly now, but otherwise keeping silent at the moment. But it's clear from his expression that he's fully paying attention now.
A glance and a gesture is enough to bring a few of the servants hastening from the mews to take the reins of the exhausted mounts in Aeliana's party.. though all balk at the sight of Stranger, hanging back to see which of them, if any, is unfortunate enough to take charge of that creature. But such things are far from Ceinlys' concern, for the moment. Content enough with the security of Bastien's towering form nearby, the contrastingly fragile young lady draws to a halt as her booted feet encounter the hard dirt of the courtyard, folding her arms across her slender midsection and allowing other greetings to be made and discussion to fade before offering her reply.
"The routes are always patrolled, my lady. As soon as your brother sets foot upon Highfield lands, if not before, we shall know it." Timely again. She seems to have a knack for amusement, that way. The lookout makes his call and the Steward's gaze rises that way, before looking past the figures as best she can toward the gatehouse, without actually moving. No, that would be a far too unseemly display of actual worry. And Ceinlys does not worry. Alright? "It would seem you just missed one another." she remarks, drily, though with a soft tone belying at least some understanding for the other's plight. Damned men, gallavanting off at a moment's notice.
Resting his sword hand on the pommel of his longsword, Bastien stays beside his charge as the gathering starts to grow. A strangely notable coldness seems to pass over him whenever his eyes happen across his younger sister, though the sight of Lord Aleister and Lord Robben seem to calm the noble Knight. Despite all the commotion, the large man keeps silent, settling into his role as a quiet observer.
The admittance by Aeliana of how hard riding is only has Erik grinning in amusement, his shoulders rising in a short shrug, "It takes a lot of riding to have your muscles get use to their unique use." Before the Sheriff could answer the young Lady's question, the lookout sounds the call of Aleister's return and the Jast Knight can only incline his head to Aeliana as if to say, 'There is your answer'.
With that said, Erik steps a little bit away from Aeliana to prepare for the Lord of Highfield's return and when the Lord appears at full gallop, the knight stands to attention in silence. When Aleister finally dismounts, the Jast Knight offers the Lord of the Keep a respectful bow in greeting, "Welcome back, My Lord Charlton." Though that is all he leaves it that, not wanting to inquire on how the trip went despite being extremely curious as to what news may be shared.
The courier finally steps back out of the kennels, stripping off the leather apron she was wearing and tossing it onto the bench just outside, eyes finding Aleister now, but not paying him much mind at all Not in that worry sort of way, at least. Clearly, in Petra's world, the possibility that the Knight of Highfield might not return was well, not a possibility. She does approach, however, just in case the Lord has papers he needs tending to.
"Ryken," the little Charlton's voice is quick, as a bare hand reaches out to stroke against the courser's neck. Her fingers, at least, he is not fond of trying to eat, "See that Stranger's brushed and cooled I'd do it..," as she always does. Except..there are matter's here more pressing.
"We but came in different directions, my Lady. You're looking well," and Aeliana, for how precisely polite that perfectly eloquent bit of wording was given to Ceinlys…still reached up to cuff Erik in the back of the head. "I was talking about my ankle, you…knight. I near broke it. It doe…I give up." Huffed up in Erik's direction before she turned her attention towards Aleister.
"The next time, brother-mine, you might simply send a letter that says you miss me, instead of finding some disaster to call me home. Wars, dead babies, now this?" Oh dear. Her snark is up. And it's off color today.
The nicety offered by the sore noblewoman - her ankle, of course - is received with an unperturbed smile, tugging at Ceinlys' lips a touch distractedly. Genuine. Just.. absent-minded. And the snarking goes uninterrupted by the Steward. Is it not a sibling's place to voice the thoughts others must, by the demands of propriety, bite back? That ice between the youngster and her other brother doesn't go unnoticed, either.. but that's a matter for another time.
Raising a hand to tuck a stray ebon curl back behind her ear, Ceinlys merely remains standing at the threshold, her eyes drifting in swift assessment over Aleister - upright, walking and looking mightily annoyed - before settling to observation of those waiting in his path.
The Knight of Highfield continues to stalk forward, his eyes flitting over those that have seemingly gathered in the courtyard and there's naught but a simple nod of his head as a greeting to the group. Fury rages in those brown eyes of his and for a change, there's no smirk upon his lips. In fact, there's little of any expression upon his feature. That is, until Aeliana addresses him in such a fashion and when he turns towards it, it's with a sneer of his lips and an almost hissed, "If this were by my design, /dear sister/, that would be called for. But it would seem that our …" He fumes for a moment, that sneer holding his lips before he's all but snapping out, ".. our fucking Lord Uncle has decided to elevate himself at the cost of our future." He does draw himself to a halt, though, hands working to remove the riding gloves from his hands, even as he once more begins to look to the others that have gathered .. but only so that he can call out, "Wine. Someone better get me wine. Now." Someone is clearly not impressed.
Unable to hold back a brief smile as he hears Aeliana's words to Aleister. "Ah, but doesn't disasters make you feel special?" Robben remarks, rather lightly, trailing off a bit as he hears Aleister's reponse. Expression turning more thoughtful as he listens now, looking between the others rather carefully for the moment.
It's hard to look all formal and proper when one is being cuffed by a young Lady so the image is more or less ruined as Erik winces, more at the thought of his reputation being ruined than being hurt as he glances at Aeliana, managing a grin as he rubs the back of his head, "I beg for your forgiveness, My Lady Aeliana, I was mistaken…" But if she's being this energetic, then her ankle must have healed up nicely though at the mention of dead babies, the Jast Knight can only wince.
However, when Lord Aleister approaches them from where he dismounted and passed off his mount, Erik immediately notices the Lord's mood and the light mood that Aeliana had caused quickly evaporates. The Sheriff's expression grows serious though he maintains his silent, eyes focused on Aleister now as apparently the meeting at the Twins did not go well. With the news about Lord Keegan throwing this House under the horsecart easily translates into possible trouble in the future, on their lands. Something Erik will most likely be worried about.
No papers then. Shame. Ah well, Petra steps up beside her Lord, holding out a hand for his gloves, "I will bring your wine, my Lord." She doesn't mind being a gopher, it comes with the territory, really. The banter between siblings, the barbed comments, the courier seems disinclined to add her own voice. She's happy to have a job to do that won't end up getting her killed. Exit stage left. Wine cellars, ho!
The back of Bastien's armor opens and a pair of brilliantly luminescent wings unfurl and expand. Opening his mouth, words alien and meant to never be spoken tumble their way out of his mouth, causing the earth beneath the group's feet to rumble. As cracks in the gravel start to form, chasms open up permitting clawed hands of shadow and smoke to snake their way out, grasping at the hearts and heads of those in attendance. Bastien's eyes roll up into the back of his head, the end has cometh, and…oh wait, no. Bastien's daydreaming stops as he snaps back to reality with the rather vicious expletive exhaled by his brother. Narrowing his eyes, the large man tilts his and clears his throat. "Clarify, brother?"
Seeing as Aleister himself voices the demand for wine, Ceinlys doesn't bother to echo it. Though she does allow her eyes to drift toward one of the nearest onlookers - commoners are such rubberneckers - and offers them a subtle nod. You. Go. The youth, looking a little wide-eyed already at seeing his Lord in such a fit of pique, scrambles off into the Keep to do as he is bid. Oh, the scribe's going too. Good girl. Wine all round. She could certainly use some.
It's almost a pleasant thing, having the Charlton surrounded by others with the right to question and push. It saves her a task, later and allows the Steward time to absorb what is said and, no doubt, form her own thoughts on the matter. A sidelong glance is stolen toward Bastien, though, perhaps merely because he's closest, and one palm skims lightly across Ceinlys' midsection, smoothing the already pristine fabric of her bodice. Habit. Her own reaction is carefully neutral, otherwise.
Aeliana doesn't so much blink in the face of Aleister's sneering hiss, instead she simply moves forward as if he'd not been snapping at her at all and extends her arm. That there is in fact a faint hobble to her steps where her weight is moderated on her left ankle and the boot, if one looks close appears to be thicker where it'd been doubled wrapped before she'd set out. "There now," that sweet voice draws, as she reaches to pat Ale's forarm. "You've been wanting to rage, I'll wager you feel a bit better. But in the meantime…in the meantime, dear brother, aside from throwing you to the wolves, our dear…Uncle's forgotten one very important thing, I think." the little Charlton draws in sing-song, dark eyes all but glowing with mirth laced cruelty. "But I wouldn't fret. Not really. Not even a little, honestly. If the Frey didn't take your head off at the shoulders he's not going too yet and there's time. We can do…amazing things with time, Al. All sorts of things, even."
It doesn't take very long, before Petra and the boy sent by the Steward return. The boy carries out a box filled with wine cups, because really? Moving at speed with empty glasses on a tray? Not as easy as it sounds. Petra also has a box in hand, but she's got the good stuff. And behind them, some of the women from the kitchens. Nobles don't serve themselves! The commonfolk get to doing what they do best, handing out filled glasses to whomever might want them, as skins are opened and bottled uncorked. Petra serves Aleister, though she gives him a choice. A filled cup in one hand, the wine skin in the other.
There's no sating that fury within Aleister's eyes and as Bastien asks for clarification, his gaze snaps to that of his brother, "Clarification!? What more can be said other then what has been heard? Keegan .." He doesn't even give their uncle the benefit of being called Lord at this moment, ".. has broken vassalage to the Frey's and sworn directly to Lord Tully." Aeliana's approach and that … pat of her hand upon his forearm draws his eyes down and then up and it's then that a smirk dances to his lips, though it hardly holds the .. warmth that it normally does, "I have my head for one week, sister. /One week/." Anger seethes in the words and for a moment he looks to Ceinlys, "Lady Ceinlys. You need hear this."
And suddenly, there is wine and judging by the fact that Aleister claims the skin over the glass, he has need of much wine. It's opened and lifted to his lips, a healthy sip taken and when it comes to be lowered, he's looking amongst the others, offering to all, "Lord Frey has given me one week in which to bend knee in vassalage to his house. To break from that of House Charlton. If we refuse, he will rally all of his banners and march on Highfield."
Hearing the news twice certainly deosn't change its contents and Erik's lips thin though any words that are at the tip of his tongue is held back, as it is most likely more fitting for only family to be speaking now, in this impromptu meeting. When the 'one week' is mentioned though, the Jast Knight has a feeling it can only be more bad news, which indeed is proven true as the most dire news is shared. "One week… and the strength of the Freys marches. And no doubt the worms that were saved by Lord Frey would come with, or worse, strike from the south." Fortunes reversed in such a manner, unthinkable, unimaginable. It is as if they were left with no choice.
The corner of Bastien's eye twitches as his brother snaps at him. The words that pour out of Lord Aleister's mouth set his brow to a furrow as his brain wraps around this world altering news. The man is no politician, and his home is on the battlefield. As such, the reasoning for their Uncle's are lost on him. The sight of his brother so angry seems to stir a frustration in the second oldest of the Highfields siblings. "Why would he do such a thing?"%r The mention of Aleister losing his head causes Bastien to narrow his eyes as he takes a step further, ignoring the offered wine. Tightening his grip about his pommel, the large man gives a curt shake of his head. "You will not lose your head." How he plans to avert this isn't said, but there is a sureness to his words that speaks of courage and little thought.
Ceinlys' own eyes, going unobserved as they are for the moment, narrow almost imperceptibly in consideration. Of what, who can say. But her gaze has returned to Aleister.. and there it's holding. Few things are so calming as the Lady Aeliana's voice, when she's not snapping. Or cuffing people. And the younger woman is right. Amazing things can be done with time. The twitch of a smile quirks at the corner of her lips at something in those silken words, though it's swiftly stifled.
Drawing and loosing a steadying breath - or perhaps a discreet sigh of relief - the Steward sets her shoulders back a little, almost as if bracing herself for a fight. Not that she'd be up to much - hers is the sort of physique that would lose to a stiff breeze, if caught off guard. As the kitchen-maids quietly see to it that everyone has the opportunity to sup, the ebon-tressed Steward merely extends a hand.. then seems to think better of it, waving away the brimming cup. Then the Knight of Highfield voices her name. Best pay heed.. why would she have to..? oh. Oh.
Lesser women might quail at such an ultimatum. It can't be said that she doesn't react at all, for something certainly flickers in those cerulean eyes. But Ceinlys keeps her focus upon Aleister as he speaks, almost unnervingly still now, despite the certain discomfort of fingernails digging into forearms. "..that may be enough time, if not for amazing things, then at least for.." She ventures a faint answering twist of her lips, her tone even and contemplative. "..practical measures." Her gaze flits belatedly toward the sheriff at his comments, then to Bastien. Whether she agrees with either one of them goes unsaid.
Robben frowns as he listens now. "One week…" Quietly repeating the word at the moment. "That's…" Trying to find the right words to use now. Nodding a bit as he hears Erik's words. "No doubt they will be all too eager to take part in this." Another brief pause as he hears Bastien, and then Ceinlys.
"Mistress Petra!" Aeliana greets warmly, now that her thoughts are properly aligned. There is a plan. Aeliana always does better, with a plan. "I missed you," Ae offers softly with a quietly amused smile while Aleister politely goes off on Bastien about their current worries. "I do hope we'll get a chance to catch up this time, while I am here?" Hopefully inquired, before she collected a glass of wine from another passing servant and took a small sip.
Her attention rose back to Aleister aftwards, the coolness of his smirk only feeding into the quiet of her mood. "You're going to have your head for far longer than a week, quit fretting. You're just going to have to get your knee dirty first. And you -will-, because we've lost all close support and are surrounded by our enemies. That war was a mess," it's matter-o-factly given. "This is the price. But not the end. You're going to collect some debts and gain some new debtors first. Send a raven. Bid the Lord…bid the Lord his blessing upon the 'union' perhaps, by hosting a Tourney. Here. One that he foots the coin for as a gesture of good faith. Let our 'friends' come see how loyal those of Highfield can be. They'll come just to watch and pour money into merchants, the inn, the land. They'll come just to see you in the hopes that it goes wrong, but they'll come and we'll turn a profeit for it."
"Oh," it's an almost careless thoughtful little question that's tossed out, "I can't remember, but…wasn't Keegan's…daughter staying with us? My this is good wine!"
Petra serves her lord as he has need. The cup she passes off to one servant or another, before she goes to find an as yet unopened skin, in case he finishes the first, and all. Still no comment from the courier on the matter. She hasn't been asked. What she has been tasked with, she'll see to well enough, making certain all of the nobles are tended to. "I hope that we will, Lady Aeliana. I am only here at Lord Alric's sufferance. He send me back with his reports as soon as we received word of Lord Charlton's infidelity."
"Oh. I have no fucking intention of losing my head," is what Aleister snaps out in the direction of Bastien and when his gaze flits to Ceinlys. He doesn't immediately answer her, though, for he's looking to Aeliana, listening to what she says and it's then that he's looking back to Ceinlys, to offer a quick, "Lady Ceinlys, fine Young Lord Alric and tell him that I wish his presence. /Immediately/. Find the Flints, too, and tell them we need to speak." His gaze then shifts to Petra, "Consider your service to Young Lord Alric broken, Pet." It's only then that he's looking to Erik, regarding the man for a moment before giving a slight nod of his head before he's directing his attention to his sister, "I have no intention of standing with our Uncle, sister. He has left us in a precarious position and one that he can support. He knew this, when he made his decision and as such, we are left with little choice but to swear to House Frey. But in doing so, we forsake the Charlton name. We will be forced to choose another to represent Highfield and will no longer be able to draw aide from those that we called family." Now, his gaze begins to flit amongst his siblings, even as he continues with, "Our father will stand with Highfield, I believe. The question becomes; Will you?"
Though Aleister's words are directed at the Steward, it's Petra's voice that pipes up first, as the courier works her way back around to Aleister's side. She seems to be planning ahead, because she offers the second wine skin even as she begins speaking, "I can ride to the Lord Alric at your word, my Lord. But I am afraid the Young Lord did not return to Highfield, but has chosen to remain at the Roost. I brought his missives with me.And I think I know his mind on the matter such as has been decided." She doesn't say it out loud, because, well, it might not be everyone's business. Until Aleister makes it so. But that sort of pales once Aleister makes his demand. They can discuss the Fenster another time, surely?
Well, isn't this just.. not the sort of whirlwind young ladies daydream about? It's a flurry of horrible excitement for all the wrong reasons. Fortunately, these are the sort of situations ceinlys is well-accustomed to, by now. Meeting that brief glance, then inclining her head respectfully at Aleister's order - not without a subtle tensing of her elegant jawline - the Steward pivots on a heel in a whirl of silvery skirts, to make her way inside the Keep without further ado. The doors are hauled open for her, of course. Though they aren't quite closed before her voice can be heard inside, issuing further curt instructions to those she has need of.
Interesting thing, when you find yourself needing help, isn't it? And if the Charlton's shall no longer hold Highfield.. then who will?
When the Lord of Highfield's decision is made to stand with Lord Frey, Erik silently releases a long breath, perhaps one in relief because it means that they will not have to fight against impossible odds with no support. The Jast Knight is a skilled knight, but not /that/ skilled. But cutting themselves off from Hollyholt's aid will make their rise to power much harder, since it means one more neighboring ally lost, but it is certainly better than the other option. When Aleister asks his kin of their position in this matter, Erik remains silent though his eyes do move to the other Charltons present.
As he hears Aeliana's words about Keegan's daughter, Robben nods a little bit. "She's still here, I believe. Unless she left today." A brief pause, before he nods rather carefully at Aleister's words. Looking between the others for a few moments, he focuses on Aleister now. "I will stand with you and Highfield, brother. No matter what comes."
"I'm quite pleased that you plan on keeping your neck," Aeliana replies, and her smile grows greatly when after just hearing mention of Alric's sufferance on Petra's movements Ale suddenly releases her. "Look it's…," but Aeliana doesn't finish. No. Instead, after those orders fall it's a much more potent set of words that fall against her ears. Robben's quick, too quick perhaps to decide and Aeliana has no doubt as to where Bastien falls but…for Aeliana?
"We'll have to discuss it, Lord Aleister. Most likely in private." Because it would be uncoth to demand compensation in public, wouldn't it.
Bastien does not follow Ceinlys into the keep, the large man a bit more pre-occupied with the current chain of events than fulfilling what is mostly a purely aesthetic duty. He does not reply to the question of who he will stand with. It is quite obviously not because of doubt, but because he does not feel such a question warrants an answer from the young Knight. He has not and never will, from the looks of it, turned against his older, even if he's bitten in the frustration of his older sibling.
Watching Ceinlys take her leave, Aleister is then pivoting to regard Petra, eyes narrowing a touch in her direction. But, he does give a nod of his head, "Go. Fetch the Young Lord. Tell him that I request his presence and wish to speak with him. And then, when that is concluded, Pet, your service to him is finished. You will no longer answer to him." He then looks to Robben, to give the man a nod of his head and when his gaze falls to Aeliana, there's a curl of his lips to a smirk and a curt, "Of course we will, Ae." He looks to Bastien and when no answer is forthcoming, he's simply nodding towards him as well. Finally, he looks to Erik, "Sheriff. You swore your oath of service to Highfield and will be held to it. Your first order of business will be to round up the few Knights from Hollyholt that are within our walls. Bid that you need their help and take them from the walls of the Keep. We can not have my Uncle's men, within, when we issue our decision."
"Yes, my Lord. I will bring him back to Highfield." Petra doesn't bother saying anything else. The wine she hands off to whomever might be closest, moving without pausing to get anything from within the keep, immediately towards the stables. The up side to just having come back from a trip? You're still packed for the next one. Into the stables she goes.
With the clinking of chain and plate, Bastien strides forward as Aeliana's answer reaches his ears. The look on his face speaks of violence as he approaches the much smaller woman, and the grip on his sword pommel is white-knuckled. "You will have to -discuss- it?" The normally quiet and almost sheepish man's rage is palpable as he raises his voice towards his sister. "You would bring terms upon your own brother?! The man upon who's shoulders you've ridden this far is no horse to be put down and abandoned the moment things look grim. If I did not love you, I would stake you to the spot, Child." Subtlety? Yeah, they never really taught him that.
Robben listens for now, stepping back a bit, especially as he hears Bastien's words, remaining in the area for now, keeping quiet.
When the Lord of Highfield finally turns his attention on the Jast Knight, Erik does not shy away nor is there any sign of his loyalty wavering, only waiting for instructions. When orders are given though, the newly minted Sheriff bows his head as to show that Aleister's instructions are understood, "My oath and my sword is yours, no matter what changes, My Lord. And I will gather the knights, I am sure they will be more than willing to ride out on patrols with me, especially when the hear that there are bandits and questionable men out there preying on our honest citizens." The good knights always try to do the right thing, the heroic thing, it should not be too hard to pry them from the walls within this keep.
"And this is why I lo…," whatever else Aeliana had been about to say was cut abruptly short when Bastien came stepping forward. A single brow climbed so high it threatened to disappear beneath the wild fluff of her bangs and for a moment, her attention rose up towards Aleister before it settled, once more, on Bastien. "You are causing another scene, Bastien. And this one far more public than the last. You will mind your tongue with me and your threats, and you will learn to do it soon." Like a prim mother, correcting an errant child. Light the tone, frothy! But her arm had gone particularly tight around Aleister's; like she'd not mind tugging him in front of her to be a sheild if necessary.
Fwah! Anything that Aleister might have offered to Petra or Erik is promptly cut off by Bastien and before he has a chance to venture into the fray, Aeliana is making her thoughts known. A growl sounds in the back of his throat and for a moment, his gaze flits between his two siblings before he simply says, "Enough!" A warning glance is shot to Aeliana before he's looking to Bastien, "Baz. She will stand with us. She simply wishes to ensure that I will not toss her to the wind and use her as a political pawn to strength Highfield's position. A viable concern, in these uncertain times." A look to Erik, comes, followed by a nod, "See no harm to them, Sheriff. But when you return, take them to the Inn. They will find no room or board in our barracks."
When the courier next returns, it's, well, as far as she knows, to a scene not much different than what she left. But truth be told, the distance between Highfield and the Roost is long, and if she wants to give her Lord as much time as she can, she can't linger overlong. But she does wait for a few minutes, hand light on the reins, time enough to get any last minute instructions from Aleister, before she sets off.
Bastien growls in response to the scolding given to him by his sister. "Yes, I am. It does seem you so easily drive me towards such things as of late." An accusatory venom leaks from the man's words as his grimace turns into a scowl. "Mind my tongue with you? Who the bloody hell do you think you're talking to, Aeliana?" For all the man's rage, the fact that he has not lifted a hand to actually harm her is a show of willpower at least. "You've no merit to order or demand anything of me, or the way I act around you, Aeliana. You lost that when we last met." His dismissal is cut short as he opens his mouth to speak once more and is interrupted by the Lord Knight's angry voice. Simmering down ever so slightly, his uper lip quivers angrily before the knight's attention moves back towards his brother. A slight bow of the head is given. "Even still, the least she could do is show her support for you in times as trying as these." Taking a deep breath and sharp exhale between his teeth marks the beginning of a displeased silence as Bastien backs down.
Erik pretends to ignore or not see the outburst by Bastien, nor the byplay that is exchanged by the siblings, as if the words flowed over him instead of into his ears. When Aleister addresses the Jast Knight again, he nods his head once more, "Understood, My Lord. I will go see to it now." Either he is eager to get things rolling, the sooner the earlier they will be leaving Highfield, or he wants to be away from here to give the Charlton nobles their privacy to discuss what they need to discuss.
Aeliana's smile is nothing short of absolutely serene. For all there is no warmth in her eyes, no rise of her voice nor shrill fit to correct even Aleister's misinterpetation of the situation. It's…with that smile and a light and airy tone. "I do hope that you ride safe in your journey, Mistress Petra. And that you, Lord Sheriff, when you are collecting knights, should leave Ser's Lorcan and Farrell alone. They are sworn to me, so their colors, as yet, match mine, when my good brother would do well to remember." The green and gold of Hollyholt.
It's only when that's settled…that her attention returns properly towards her brothers. Both of them. "Oh no. I -am- a pawn. Most assuredly, but I am aware. I will go to the one who may use me the best and in turn, see that my own ambitions stay met. Though if I may suggest," Aeliana turned her eyes up towards Aleister again, "That we…host Keegan's dear kin a bit longer? To show there's no hard feelings, of course."
Petra's is given a momentary look. A simple nod of Aleister's head and then he's turning his attention to Erik, to offer another nod and just the hint of a smirk. It's then that he looks to Bastien, that smirk growing upon his lips before he offers, "Brother. She does what she does, to see to her own safety and future. I will not forsake her for such a thing. After all, I would do much the same thing, would I have the chance for it." His gaze then flashes to Aeliana, so that he can incline his head towards her, that smirk dancing to his lips in full force before he offers, "Oh, they will remain. I intend to speak with the Lady Alys and Uncle Harold. But Keegan's knights will not be allowed to remain within my walls. When word gets out that we will swear to Lord Frey, I do not want them getting the idea that they might seize one of my kin to hold in ransom."
"I must always travel safely, my Lady. My Lord would be terribly put out if I did not return to him in the same condition in which he sent me off. But your well wishes, I gratefully accept." A ghost of a smile in Aleister's direction, before the courier kicks her palfrey into motion, leaving the siblings behind to settle their own affairs, which are, frankly, thankfully, none of hers.
"Her own safety and future should be aligned with the safety and future of yourself and Robben. I would normally include myself, but she has made it quite apparent that I am not within her sights." The serene smile seems to only draw more tinder upon the writhing flame within the man. "That you would think you need to do the same is…disappointing." Shaking his head, Bastien turns away from the couple and starts to walk towards the keep's entrance. "I'll be back to my duties, as you've asked them of me."
"Oh now Bastien," Aeliana's nose wrinkled in his direction. "Is this really necessary? You're acting petty just because the real world is very much full of things to be considered. Just because we have ambition and yours doesn't know how to extend beyond us!" He's managed to annoy her, so much, in fact that she's found the bottom of the glass before she meant too and with the worlds most pathetic pout, held the empty one out towards Ale to refill since he'd the skin. "He annoys me," she complained. In part because there was just a little twinge of guilt that came with it, damn him.
Aleister looks to Bastien first, giving his brother a slight shake of his head, "I ask such things, Bastien, because those who stand with me, will find themselves with a chilly welcome within Hollyholt. We will no longer be considered family, in the sense that we once did. A final choice. A chance for people to choose where they will stand." Then, there's another shake of his head and it's followed by, "You are released from your duties as the Lady Ceinlys' guard, Bastien. I have need of a Master at Arms to train our Knights, both existing and new that will come to serve us. You will take this position." It's then that he looks to Aeliana, the wine skin raising to fill her glass, even as he offers, "All that we have known, Ae, is about to change. That is enough to unsettle the best of us." But, his attention does shift back to Bastien, to see if he continues walking away or turns to answer.
The large knight's steps come to a halt as Aleister does what he can to explain things. Turning around, the Knight shakes his head. "They are not my family. You are my family. Robben is my family. Even Aeliana, despite the pain she causes me, is my family." The knight's scowl has disappeared, replaced by something far less angry and far more…down. "My ambitions were neutered by those at Hollyholt, and the three of you were all I had to keep me sane when every cousin and uncle were driving me towards being something which I did not wish to be." His fingers slide down along the hilt of the sword, grasping it like a safety blanket as the man shakes his head. "Forgive me for remembering, cherishing, and being being influenced by long nights spent talking and what few pleasant childhood memories I have." The words seem less meant for Aleister, and are aimed towards Aeliana. The promotion itself recieves little more than a nod. "Whatever you wish of me."
"Shut up." Aeliana said it plainly, but there was a little crack to the girl's delicate composure. "Shut. Up." Where it rose in volume the more Bastien spoken; just a little. Not too much. It wasn't bouncing off the walls yet, but her jaw had gone hard and her eyes had narrowed off. "You sniveling little waste of good blood. Oh it was so so hard to be you. They wanted you to be more. They expected it. You stand there and tell me that you do not have more choice over your life than I ever had of mine, simply for that useless bit of skin there between your legs," she all but hissed it now; hardly more than a whisper that was almost impossible to catch beyond the small group. "So shut that uneducated mouth of yours and keep your judgments far far from my life."
"Tell me, Aeliana. At which point did father and mother demand that you dedicate your life to murder?" The kindle within his eyes has exploded at Aeliana's words, and walking back towards the younger woman, Bastien lets go of his sword to point an accusing finger at his sibling. "Tell me when a sword was shoved into your hands against your will." He swipes the hand through the air in retort. "You were born to the fate of a safe life, destined to be married off to some man who would likey leave you to your own machinations, with little more responsibility than having a few children, and you want to tell me that I had more choice?! Would you like to change positions, then? Here, come, take my armor. Take my sword. March off to die at a moments notice for the sake of the political ambitions. I'll go bite the horrid bullet of birthing a child and living a relatively posh existence." His fingers fly up towards his chest piece and unclip the bands that keep the plate on his arm in place. His other hand draws his sword and offers it, hilt first to Aeliana.
"Where we are family, Bastien, so are they. We are here, because of them and that can not be forgotten. That is why a choice was given. A choice I expected you all to make and answer as I thought you would. There is nothing more to be implied by such a thing." The words that Aleister offers are cool and collected for the moemtn and when Aeliana begins her little foray into things, his other hand is lifting to settle on her arm, "We have little time for family squabblings at this moment and have a much bigger issue to worry about. When that is resolved, we will settle whatever difference remains between us." His gaze then snaps back to Bastien and now Aleister all but growls, "Enough! I have no time for this nonsense. Not when I must decide our fate; one that has the point of the Frey sword at our throats or the loss of Charlton support and name to us all!" Fury flickers in his eyes before he's snapping out, "Bastien, go tend to the Knights and get drunk. I will find you later to discuss what all we will face in the coming weeks."
It was Aleister's steely grip there upon her arm and only that which kept Aeliana from reaching for the offered pommel, with the sort of settled look in her eyes that would have seen, with the armor peeled way and steel in her hands, that particular problem settled once and for all. Nothing more was said though, not a word nor a peep and the only sign of the girl's betraying temper came in the form of the blood that began weeping past the corner of her lip to stain against her chin. She'd not just bitten her tongue, in an effort to keep silence, she'd bloodied it; for all that her nostrils flared as she drew in one deep steadying breath after another. It was a good long moment, before she could ever speak again at all. "Our fate has been decided, Aleister. You take knee to the Frey's and turn focus to drawing wealth to the land. Highfield can survive without Keegan's support and I shall tell you what I learned long ago, of names. They change. They will always change. You shouldn't let it bother you. It's no different than what women have been doing with marriage for hundreds of years. But I need a stronger drink and we need to Talk. Now."
Bastien sheaths his sword and quietly does up the clasps on his shoulder. A grunt is emitted from this throat and turning towards Aleister, he bows his head. "As you wish." Without another word, the man walks off towards the barracks to do as he's told.
Watching Bastien redo the clasp at his shoulder and sheath the sword, Aleister offers a slight incline of his head and then there's a quick, "Thank you, Bastien," in response to his compliance. When his attention shifts back to Aeliana, it's to give a flash of a smirk, a dance of fury flickering within the glacial brown of his eyes as he murmers, "I know it has, sister. But it does not change the fact that the action I decide on this day, sets our fate in stone for years to come." That smirk dances more dangerously to the last of what she says and he's giving an incline of his head, "Then let us retreat to the keep, sister. There is much that we need to discuss about this and there is much drink that will need to be hand with it, as well."
"Our fate," Aeliana says bluntly, her tongue dipping out to touch against that crimson drop there upon her chin, "was sealed before today, beloved. Long before today. But with Bastien and Robben following along as needed, you've now two men who can be easily married off for dowries to Highfield and alignments there. And of course, you have me." And thus, with a stubborn grit to avoid the way her ankle panged with every quick determined step, Aeliana hastened their pace into the keep and down. Down down down towards the dungeons. It was that sort of mood.