(121-02-18) The Dire Arrival
Dire Arrival
Summary: Family unexpectedly arrives on Maera's doorstep for reasons that startle even the She-Bear herself.
Date: 18/02/2014
Related: http://gobmush.wikidot.com/north-south

This modest stone manse is well appointed, with three levels, each about thirty feet square.

The lowest includes a main hall with a massive stone fireplace, and an exit into the stable. There are no windows facing the wynd, but an arched door and wide windows give a view of a walled garden in the back. The back garden wall is the wall of a house the next alley over, and its windows and those of the surrounding residences might offer a view of the garden, but no access.

The floors above house several chambers of varying sizes, a few with fireplaces joining the single big chimney.

A smallfolk maid will show Hellan and whoever else may be with her into the Manse. It seems to be rather utilitarian for Oldtown. Indeed, the sort of Manse most Mormonts would like. Maera will be seated at her desk when Hellan comes in, and when she sees the woman she'll stand up, and give her an astonished look, "Aunt. Ah…what are you doing here?"

What, indeed; Lady Hellan Stark stands in several paces across from Maera's desk, looking as regal and cool of temper as the last time the Lady of the House saw her. Behind her, young lady Genevra — no more than twelve — and a young man, Wylliam, who must now be at least sixteen, linger respectfully. The room is quite full of Northerners all of a sudden. All of the visitors appear worn by the shadow of long travel. "Maera, it is good to see your face." A face which bears resemblance to hers. Bold in feature, pale of skin, a similarity in the set of their eyes. "Apologies for the unexpected visit," she goes on, sincerity in her voice — that too is bold, strong, commanding. "I'd have sent a raven, but I didn't know for certain where to send it. I'm afraid we left home in a hurry."

Maera's eyes the increasing number of Northerners filling her Manse. She says to her servant, "Go have food brought for everyone, and see about which rooms are empty and where people can be fit. Undoubtably, my Lady Aunt and cousins are tired, and her men road-weary." Her voice is flat. Monotone. Her voice was flat even when she was a little girl. It gives her a perpetually bored sound, even when she's not bored. She walks to the sideboard to begin filling cups with wine, watered for the children, "In a hurry? Why would you leave Winterfell in a hurry?"

"On the fact that my husband is a fool who makes poor decisions." Including marrying her, some might say — and have — but of course it was a choice for neither of them. Hellan's blunt, and quite frankly bitter, response is tempered — barely — by the smile that edges of her travel-dried lips ever-so-slightly for her niece's hospitality. Her children shift somewhat uncomfortably amongst themselves. "A conversation best served with wine. But I don't want to be a burden on your business here— "

"Nonsense. You are no burden." Maera says to Hellan as she passes out wine to her and her children, and offers them a place to sit at her big table, "Your husband is a fool? I will not comment on that, but surely you could explain what you mean?" She takes a sip of her own wine, and sits down at the head of the table.

The youthful, dark-haired Starks sit quietly at the table, thankful. Even Wylliam, old enough now to be a man, is quiet while his mother takes precedence. "You are a blessing." Hellan, again smiling for Maera's hospitality — though the expression is weary — reserves reply until she takes a seat. However, in her steps toward the table, her tightly wound stature unravels for an instant, and she seems to trip in place upon the floor before grasping the edge of the chair around the corner from Maera.

Maera does not rise to catch Hellan for she knows such a movement will prove more humiliating for the woman than anything else. She does give the woman a concerned look before glancing down at the tabletop briefly while the woman regains her balance. "Whatever the issue is you are welcome to stay with us as long as you need."

Hellan does not acknowledge her trip nor Maera's subtle concern; she simply takes her seat, lowering into it slowly but with dignity. "What I'm about to tell you does not leave these walls," she says as though it's already a fact, slowly casting her gaze around those homey — to her Mormont blood — walls slowly before settling upon the Lady of the House. "Gidion," she speaks of her husband, cousin to the Lord Stark, "had a friend in the Night's Watch. I say 'had' not because their friendship is broken, but because it remains strong. He helped this friend escape the Black." Her voice is steady, but the ire is there beneath the cool surface. "Knowing full well the dishonour it would bring to his family, he sent us away to escape the consequences of his actions."

It takes a lot to astonish Maera. The Lady Mormont has been a warrior leading men to battle since before she was Wylliam's age. Very little causes her to startle or gasp. What Hellan tells her causes her to put her hands over her mouth in horror. "Old Gods save him! Why would he do such a thing?"

"I interrogated him myself, but all I can determine is that his heart has become too soft. He will be lucky if he is not given the same fate as the deserter, though I am not sure he does not deserve it." Bold words about her own husband, father of her children. Such is the direness of the crime, though her youngest looks decidedly distraught. Hellan doesn't glance her children's way, instead taking a liberal sip of her wine. She shakes her head while the liquid sits on her tongue. "To put this man above his own family."

"There is a difference between having a soft heart, and being a fool. Life in the Night's Watch is not some horror." Maera shakes her head in disbelief, "I do not know what the laws are for giving aide to deserters. I've always simply executed the ones that arrived on the Island." She bites her bottom lip, "I think such a ruling will be up to Lord Stark as he did not violate the oath himself." She gives her younger cousin a sympathetic look.

Hellan lowers her head in a nod of agreement, slower to lift her chin once more. Her gaze goes distant over rim of the wine goblet. "The laws on the matter are known by few — in all my years I've never heard of anyone aiding in such a disgraceful abandonment of duty." After her next drink of wine, the older woman closes her eyes. Even that mere moment is a rare show of emotion for Maera's aunt. Battle-Axe of Bear Island. The moniker has taken a meaning separate from that of a warrior since her younger days. She opens her eyes on the end of a silent sigh. "But it is out of my hands. Perhaps Oldtown will be a good change of pace." Her attempt at optimism sounds skeptical instead. "For the children."

"That Lord Stark would bring punishment down on you or your children is unbelievable, but know that you are always welcomed on the Island, or where I make house." Maera says. She looks over Hellan briefly before saying, "You are hungry and tired. I shall have a place for you and your children made ready to sleep in, and have my servants draw you a bath. We'll speak more on this later."

"I'm confident the Lord Stark would spare us, but shame would not. Thank you, Maera. I was glad to hear you still made house here." A deeper nod gives Maera gratitude, a shimmer of warmth in the ice shade of her eyes for thought of a bath, while her children also give thanks to their cousin for being able to stay inside her walls.

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