|Summary:||A while before the battle of the Trident, a bastard Frey squire converses with his legitimate cousin - the namesake of the war's cause, Lyanna…|
|The Great Hall of the Twins|
|Early in 283|
So far, the war of Robert's Rebellion has involved, for members of House Frey, far more feasting than fighting. Lord Frey has called his banners, sure enough, gathered and mustered them at his seat, and entertained them in a style of hospitality which is unwontedly lavish…and he has left it at that. It is cheaper, he deems perhaps, feeding a court, albeit a busy one, than an army.
So it is that on this bitter early spring morning, the Great Hall at the Twins presents a disordered sight, of overturned luxury; raiment and decoration mussed about; scraps of banquet unattended. It is a time for hounds, and for bastards. Alone, as far as he knows, in the Hall and this moment, Maldred Rivers paces down its centre. But he does not prey on leftovers, only oversees the chaos, his thin mouth slicing about in irony.
The tapping sounds of swift steps approaching can be heard from the hallway before a young maiden enters, looking about with the slightly rushed look of a young deer that is being persued by a pack of hungry wolves. Although she wears her dark brown hair in a long braid falling down her back, her deep blue eyes are partly obscured by some strands falling over her face. A face which shows the beginning bloom of beauty, only dimmed slightly by a tiny pimple here and there. The colours of House Frey are present in the dress she wears, although it is one more suitable for everyday tasks than grand occasions. Clutching a heavy worn book with almost affectionate tenderness, Lyanna turns, eyes growing wide as she realizes the place is not as deserted as she had expected. "Good morning, ser." she offers a greeting and a curtsy, blushing. "I did not expect anyone here at this… early hour."
The bastardling's whirl to face her is fluid and prompt as a dancer's, though somehow with none of such a performer's expression of joy. "Nor I. The Hall after a hog-out is too messy for little ladies, would've thought." He doesn't correct her style, but at second glance it's fairly obvious that this youth of contested birth is not yet a knight, and, were it not for the uncertainties of war, might not have ever had a hope even of so being. But now he shows the cocky precision of movement and word characteristic of many a squire from the Twins. Too cocky or too precise; someone, Bastard Walder most like or perhaps Ser Hosteen, has paid for such service with an enormous, dark, spreading shiner, over his left eye.
He takes a long step closer in Lyanna's direction, cuffing a wolfhound which whines as he passes, and stares at her with an inspection whose keenness is no whit diminished by bruising. "You're one of the Swann ones. Not too many of you about." A sardonic pause, before the statutory, resentful "M'lady."
The young Frey maiden's eyes flicker with a hint of unease as she becomes aware of her mistake, recognizing the man. And although she does not try to show it, her unease increases with every step the bastard approaches. His keen inspection only makes her blush even more. But it arouses her anger as well. In a wave of revolting stubbornness she returns his stare, trying very hard to give off an air of an arrogance that is suitable for a lady of her station. "Oh, tis you. The bastard squire." Lyanna remarks with a thin smile. "And I am not 'a Swann one'. I am Lady Lyanna, granddaughter of Lord Walder and Lady Cyrenna of House Swann."
And Maldred nods, smirking, as if, without proveable if with obvious insolence, to reply, "Exactly. A Swann one." But what he says is, "Aye, the bastard squire, my lady, precisely. My mother named me Maldred, but there is, of course, no need for one so high-blooded as yourself, Lady Lyanna, to follow her example."
When the implicit barb is shot, the young man's temperament seems to improve mightily; he heaves himself casually down into the nearest oaken seat, which could certainly be construed as a minor insult to the lady, who yet remains standing; he kicks a smaller dog, a brachet bitch, out of the way of his freely swinging legs.
"My dam houses by the Dragon's Den, Lady Lyanna. The Dragon's a Swann one too, Lady Trant as was, you know? Your own dear aunt, I s'pose. Lyanna. Funny sort of name they gave you, the Swann ones, didn't they. Maybe there's been a mistaken identity and this whole war is really about you…"
"Very well, Maldred." Lyanna replies, and seeing the bastard takes a seat, does so as well, picking a seat opposite of him and not commenting on the implicit slight of his action. She puts down her book on the table between them and nods as she hears him mentioning her aunt, a sudden smile appearing on her face and softening the arrogant expression she tries to uphold. "Lady Jaimera is my aunt. Although I was not aware you were in her service as you claim to be. And…" The young Frey maiden's expression hardens again. "The reasons why my parents picked my name are none of your business. They liked the name and they thought it appropriate. And I do as well."
"Aye," the bastard cuts back like an eating knife diving into a steak, in reference, presumably, to Lady Trant, "and she's mine, too. I'm not her lacquey." Whereas there has been something genial at the bottom of even his most provocative teasing until now, anger, in this moment, gleams through his pale, mere-like eyes. "The Lady Jaimera favours me, Swann or no Swann. You would be wise to depend upon that, little Lady."
Certainly, Maldred's *mother*, since she became too fat and slack to whore, has resided close to Lady Trant's lair and attended to menial demands, but the bastard, trained for arms as he is now, sees his own service, evidently, as constituting some higher and more intimate category.
"Did you know she was to be wed again, years ago…?" he goes on, his stare wild but his voice quietened, seeming to muse half to himself. "Among the Rygers, of all braggart troutlicking fools. But then she…wasn't…"
Once again Maldred's chain of reminiscence seems to have mastered his uncertain temper, and it is coolly curious as he enquires, "You came here to read, …my lady coz Lyanna? On what matter? Not a war, I hope. 'Twould seem almost unmannerly to read of wars with such a fine one betiding all about us…"
The young Frey maiden stares at the bastard with an intent glare. She reaches out and picks up the little dog Maldred kicked - by accident possibly - a few moments before and places it on her lap. Maybe it is a gesture of her taking the dog into her protection, maybe having a living being on her side gives her a reassurance she might be in need of at the moment.
Lyanna seems to relax slightly, though, as the bastard continues. "I did not mean to insult you, cousin Maldred." she throws in, noticing the squire's touchy reaction. "I am sure my aunt would not have picked you, if you did not deserve her trust." And she shakes her head, when the subject turns to her aunt's marriage that did not come to be. "Indeed, I did not know. And you are right," she adds, her deep blue eyes wandering to the book lying before her. "I came to read. But even more, to escape the grasp of my Septa. And tedious hours of needlework…" And suddenly Lyanna's face lights up in a smile, as she becomes aware that her plan apparently has worked.
The young Rivers obviously seems much mollified now. It is a curious coincidence that his bastard status appears to have won him a certain independent identity, albeit debased. His bold tongue's effect is all the more emphasised by his livery; as Bastard Walder's squire (and, possibly, son), he wears that reversed ensign that sets him apart from most others in this prodigious household.
"No Septa ever trickled as far as our…apartments…" he jests sourly now, "but I have heard this proverb - Child, keep a tight hold on your Septa - / for you'll weep when you wish you'd kept her. Bollocks, I imagine," he determines cheerfully, "brewed up, I shouldn't wonder, by one of the holy sisters in question. And needlework! They say it takes as much skill as swordplay. Well, maybe. But can you avenge yourself on an enemy, or hold a fief, with a tapestry's tool? You chose well, lady. Better brood on feats of arms in story books than wear your fingertips out sketching 'em; more comfortable, I'd guess."
When Maldred recites the proverb about the Septa there is a short flicker in Lyanna's eyes, as if the her feeling of unease from a few moments before might return. It is gone as quickly as it came. Her glance becomes hard and determined instead, when he inquires about her ability to defend herself. "My brother Tytos showed me some tricks when I was younger, cousin. And though I do not know how to wield a sword - I would be a fine lady if I did - I am capable of defending myself with a dagger - at least to some degree."
Deprived of the young lady's attention the little dog on her lap starts whimpering a little, and Lyanna quickly resumes stroking the little animal with her hand, when a thought seems to cross her mind. "Noone will ever want to marry me. As poor as my talents for stitching and embroidery are… And I do prefer riding out and being outside in the fresh air to those tedious activities - those dancing lessons as well." She rolls her eyes in horror. "Some ladies seem to be born to wear nice dresses, converse politely about tedious things. I clearly am not!"
Somewhat older and harder lived as he is, Maldred does not even bother to try suppressing the chuckle that arises in response to Lyanna's harsh self-denunciation. "You think men, and knights, marry ladies mainly for their seamstressing? Or did your septa tell you that?" he jibes. "No, m'lady coz, in marriage the men wield the needle…and out of it too, else I'd hardly be slouching opposite you today…"
His sharp, granitic words slump back into laughter for a bit before he is able to add, "A fine example our betters are setting us, besides. Lord Robert and Prince Rhaegar, after all, fight over your namesake, a Northern hoyden who's rumoured to have unhorsed a knight of the Twins, and one of our Haigh vassals, herself! Yet it seems she doesn't lack for suitors. Take heart, coz, remember your name and take heart…"
Maldred's slow, sly grin makes it hard to be sure if this is meant as comfort or another elaborate stitch of mockery.
Being the young innocent maiden that she is, Lyanna's face turns a deep red at Maldred's remark about men's needles. So she obviously has heard hints about that matter before. There is a relieved chuckle as her bastard cousin continues about the Northern lady sharing her name. "I doubt anyone would fight for me." There is no envy in her voice, rather contentment. "I hope I will never have to marry. The only husband I would be content with would be a huge library. Alas I doubt neither Lord Walder nor my father Ser Jared would approve of such a marriage." The young Frey lady looks at the bastard sitting opposite of her with a little sad smile.
"A dusty husband," is Maldred's verdict on *that* plan. "And I am to embrace a bloody wife, the battlefield." The hyperbole and melodrama of this declaration sounds perfectly conscious and amused with itself; but it has a more realistic sequel. "In the unlikely event that our lord…progenitor decides to work out among which army he means to marry his sons! But these are strange times, Lyanna the younger. Mayhaps Lord Walder will back the wrong side, and those of us not killed will be headed or hanged for traitors, like the Darklyns. Mayhaps some victor with a soft heart will decree you alone to be spared of all the Freys, and you'll be married off to a Prince. You never know, lady coz."
Maldred shrugs as he rises now, looking just a little sad as well as satirical, and absent mindedly being less than totally horrible to a passing hound, caressing its slobbery nose and jaw. "Anyway, I must be off to find a second black eye as beautiful as my first, at Ser Hosteen's noble hands. Enjoy your reading."
"I am sure Lord Walder will make the right decision. And if it where the only way to ensure my House's welfare I would marry - even a prince." As her cousin rises Lyanna inclines her head in a polite goodbye. "I hope he will not be too hard on you, cousin Maldred. I have enjoyed our conversation very much." She seems to be surprised by her own words, yet they are true. The smile is still on her face as her eyes follow him while he moves towards the Great Hall's exit. It vanishes very quickly, though, as she sees a woman clad in the white garb of a septa enter - a woman obviously very displeased. "There you are, Lady Lyanna! I have looked for you almost everywhere! A young lady like you. Just think of all the vile things that could have happened to you!" The septa gives Maldred an especially cold stare a she passes him, before her eyes return to Lyanna looking very worried.
The bastard breaks into laughter again at Lyanna's courtesy with its touch of genuineness…and, just so, his own mirth has a hint of surprise. The uneasy position of not being antagonistic is fleeting, as the septa presents a new target, and Maldred makes an effort to leave rapidly, rudely, and with a glance to the septa that shows off his own full range of hauteur, contempt, and black comedy.