Page 146: Where Rumors End
Where Rumors End
Summary: Jarod and Hardwicke go to see the source of the rumors.
Date: December 08, 2011
Related Logs: An Early Return, Comfort Wolves, Down at the Docks, Investigations
Jarod Hardwicke 
Rysann's House — Stonebridge
It's seen better days.
December 8, 288

The red door of the small home is a dingy thing, in need of a fresh coat of paint and a good washing. The whole house, which was likely once a tidy, cozy home, is the same in the dirt that has found it's way crushed into the corners of boards and the sills of the windows. For all of that, smoke drifts from the chimney, hinting at a fire laid nice and warm inside, the windows brightly lit by torches.

Jarod proceeds straightaway with Hardwicke to the mysterious Annie's house. The look of the place draws a small frown. "Girl's fallen on hard times, from when she once wasn't, from the look of things," he observes. "Wonder if the Naylands might've made use of that."

Hardwicke takes in all the details of the house's outward appearance with a narrow, dark-eyed gaze, but soon enough he's approaching the door with Jarod. He grunts a vague reply to the younger man's thought and knocks on the door.

The 'girl' that answers the door is as well-worn as the house, built like one as well in the short, squatness of her frame. She can't be any younger than her thirties, though one could easily place her in her early fifties, though it is hard to tell under tanned skin and layered dirt. It is unlikely she's bathed within the last month, hair oily and lank where it is pulled back. Whatever is on the heart smells much more appetizing, a thick stew that is not quite enough to drown out the smell of rancid meat coming from somewhere else. The pale blue eyes flick between the two men, lingering on Hardwicke with a widening of surprise before Rysann barks out a demanding, "What d'ya want?"

Jarod manages a boyish grin, whatever the look of the woman. If he was expecting more of the likes of Sal and her readily visible cleavage, he at least hides it well. "Wanted to talk a bit. There's coin in it for you, if you give us an ear for a spell. You're Annie, aye?"

Where Annie's eyes widen, Hardwicke's narrow. There is a sense of quick-moving thought, an attempt to place, though it does not come immediately. He studies her intently as Jarod speaks, though, memory working.

"Yer here 'bout them rumors, 'n I tell y' I'm not sayin' anythin' that's not within' my rights to say, so," Rysann states defiantly, though the offer of coin does get a reaction in the press of her lips, in the flicker of interest over Jarod. "If y'wanna pay me to talk, I'll talk, but y'better be showin' the coin now."

Jarod jingles his purse, opening it for the woman's inspection. He did bring some silver along, not that the young Captain of the Guard has a ton to spread around. This adventure may deplete him of what small savings he has. "I wouldn't mind sharing some dinner with you, at least. Smells good. What is that?"

Don't worry, Jarod. Hardwicke's temper might be about to save your purse: recognition comes quick and sudden, riling and bristling his muscles. "Annie," he says, as if the name means something entirely different now. He moves quick to shoulder and force his way in, attempting to grab her by the arm and pull her with him inside the house.

Rysann answers, "Rabbit." Though, whether one wants to know the truth of that statement is uncertain. She even starts to turn to let the two in, but then she's being manhandled. She squawks with indignation, proclaiming, "I'm not doin' nothin' that isn' within' my rights!" Surely that will matter to the knight.

Jarod is too surprised, and curious, by Hardwicke's sudden roughness with the woman to do much to stop it. He steps quick out of the way, and into the house, closing the door behind him. "I think you should perhaps start talking, Mistress. We don't want this to get ugly." A look to Hardwicke. They don't, do they?

"It is within your rights to slander the good name of your former mistress?" Hardwicke snarls, his hand a painful vice on the woman's arm as he yanks her inside, mindless of her own comfort.

"Ye'hurtin' me, ye'hurtin' me!" Rysann continues to protest, trying to wrench away from the knight and his bulk with a panicked glance shot towards Jarod at his words. "Y'haven' even asked any questions!" You know, except the one that seems rhetorical from Hardwicke.

"Ease up, Ser Blayne!" Jarod's tone is sharper as Rysann protests that she's being hurt. "No need to hurt her too much. Yet." He tries to sound as if he's implying there may be a need later. How serious he is about that is debateable. "We hear you've been spreading some tales about the Lady Evangeline Terrick. And her daughter, the Lady Lucienne. How about you talk on that?"

It is a long moment, something dark seething in Hardwicke's glare, before he finally lets go of Rysann. He stalks away from her, putting distance between himself and temptation as Jarod asks questions.

"There wasn' nuthin' I didn't say that wasn't true," Rysann answers with a figurative spit in the direction of the two knights, dropping like a lump of coal into one of the rickety chairs at her table. "That baby is a bastard, and she aint got no right to be lookin' down on others."

Jarod puts himself between Hardwicke and Rysann. Though he doesn't, as she speaks, have any hesitation about looming over the woman. He leans on the table, still standing, in toward her. "Who are you and what do you know about the Lady Evangeline?" A side look to Hardwicke. "I'm starting to get the impression I'm the only stranger to you in this room."

"A former chambermaid with no sense of loyalty or honor," Hardwicke spits, glaring sharp at the woman.

"I'm not anyone's lap dog unlike y'knight here, especially not t'a family that kicked me to the streets. Y'wanna talk to someone 'bout loyalty, y'should talk to y'bitch of a Lady," is said just as sharply back, though Rysann leeeaaans back in her chair with a cringe at the hovering. "I worked in the Roost, long enough t'know the truth about Lucienne."

Jarod's jaw gets very tight. He turns away from Hardwicke entirely, fixing that tight-jawed look on Rysann. "What truth is that? That she dallied with Lord Geoffrey Tordane? I would like to believe Lord Jerold's best friend did not make him a cuckold." He snorts. "Though friendship, loyalty and love are cheap things, I am learning. That strikes me as a convenient story, though, given the situation in Stonebridge now."

"I hope you held out for generous pay from the Naylands," Hardwicke growls.

Rysann snorts at Hardwicke's words, though her attention quickly slides back to the knight currently in her space and looking very tense. "The baby isn' Lord Jerold's. I know she was spreadin' what's between her legs around, and the poor lord only got it, what? Once, twice? From the ice queen," she starts saying, quick and lively as she talks with a wave of hands in gesture. "The late Tordane was there 'round the right time, might well be his."

"Why now?" Jarod asks, tone low and rough. "Why start talking now, after all these years? How much did the Naylands offer you?"

"/How/ do you know?" Hardwicke presses with a snap. "Other than the convenience of poverty?"

"Y'wanna know how much I was paid so y'can just write off my words?" Rysann questions with a toss of her head, arms crossing her expanse of her bosom stubbornly. "A chambermaid sees things and knows things, knight. I know when the lord and lady slept together, and when she slept elsewhere, after the other bastard was born."

"I want to see if we might match it," is Jarod's reply to Rysann's first to him. "And I want to know why you waited eighteen years to slander the Lady Lucienne. You done it when she was sired, might've done some good, given Lord Jerold time to find a wife with some trace of fidelity to him. No reason for it now that I can figure. So, help my figuring out."

"We're not giving this bitch coin to reward her rumor-mongering," Hardwicke immediately protests, bristling with banked anger.

"I been sayin' it f'years, but no one been listenin' but Sal. Then some night couple weeks past, was jus' me and Sal and a man in the bar, says we should tell people 'round the Masked Ball, spread the word 'round. Might be some coin is in it for us. Do not know if he was Terrick, Nayland or a damned Baratheon, though," Rysann admits with a dismissive shrug, all measure of defensive in the way she shifts in her seat.

"Lady Evangeline might feel different on that score," Jarod says. In reply to Hardwicke, though he doesn't take his eyes of Rysann. "We'll see how it plays." But he's more interested in what the woman is saying. "Describe the man. Age? Height? Build? Coloring? Was he dressed as lordling or common? What was his accent like?"

Looking frustrated and furious, Hardwicke nonetheless grinds his teeth down to silence and listens.

"I don't know, he was a man. Middle-age, brown hair and brown eyes. Riverlander, I know, from his accent and dressed like anyone else who goes to the bar," Rysann answers in turn, her own tepid blue eyes sweeping from Jarod to Hardwicke and back again.

"He local? You seen him about Stonebridge town before?" is Jarod's next question. His posture is still all of controlled tension. Hardwicke's teeth-grinding is ignored. His eyes are all for squat Rysann.

Hardwicke begins prowling the small, dank home, anything to burn off the winding tension. It is a bit like a wolf stalking his prey as he watches Rysann.

Rysann shakes her head, quickly as if delay might provoke these two men into violence. She answers, "No, not in my part of town, 'least. Likely not native, I'd say."

"He give a name, or anything about himself?" Jarod asks, pressing a little closer. "You can either cooperate with me, Mistress, or I can leave you to my friend over there. And he's feeling a little less chivalrous than I at the moment, I think."

Hardwicke continues in bristly silence, one hand resting on the hilt of his sword as he prowls.

"I didn't ask after a name, not when the man offered me coin to simply tell my story," Rysann answers, with a frown as she glances towards Hardwicke. "Look, I don't got nothin' for ye. I told'y I haven' been doin' anything wrong. Y'wanna go fight with the Naylands over Stonebridge or what ever sel, y'go ahead, but this is just the truth comin' out."

"Will a silver stag buy your silence for a fortnight?" is Jarod's next question. And perhaps his last.

"A knife would," Hardwicke says in a low voice.

Fear shoots through Rysann's expression as she springs to her feet, surprisingly quick as she tries to gesture and push Jarod out. "Look, I won't be sayin' anythin', if y'want, but it's already out there, but y'two need to leave," she insists desperately.

"We're knights, Ser, not back-alley cut-throats," Jarod says, turning his head now to look at Hardwicke proper. The squat woman's quickness does surprise him, and he half-steps, half is pushed out of her way as she stands. He fishes into his purse and plucks out a silver piece. "This has been illuminating, Mistress. I think we're done here. Aren't we, Ser?" *re*

For a moment, it doesn't seem that Hardwicke hears him. His gaze is trained steady on Rysann. Then he tells her, "The next time you think about opening your mouth to spread slander, consider your life." And then he turns to stalk out.

Rysann's mouth opens as if to retort that message, but it snaps closed just as quickly, perhaps considering how much she values her life. Instead, she mutters under her breath a moment before saying, "Y'will not hear 'nother peep from me." This directed towards Jarod and his coin.

Jarod nods short to Rysann, and takes his leave of her hovel. He stalks out behind Hardwicke, closing the door again as he exits.

Hardwicke is silent even after the door is closed, his manner guarded and withdrawn over a sense of roiling, frustrated anger. He offers no commentary on the situation just preceding.

"I will not take this to Lord Jerold, that I promise," Jarod says low once they're outside and on their own again. "I will not be the one to tell my father his lady made him a cuckold."

"You will be telling no one anything," Hardwicke says quietly. "What is left to take care of we have seen to."

Jarod says nothing on that. He just keeps walking. Conversation with Hardwicke is done so far as he's concerned.

Not as far as Hardwicke's concerned (although almost): "Including Luci."

Nothing. Jarod walks away from the other knight, at a quick clip. Where he's going is unclear. Maybe back to a tavern. Just…away.

Hardwicke slows. And then he stops. Finally, he snorts a disgusted breath and whirls to go away — somewhere in a different direction.