(121-05-15) Neverending Story
Neverending Story
Summary: Two men with heads stuck in another age chat beneath a Weirwood tree.
Date: Date of play (15/05/2014)
Related: I don't know. Really I don't. Do you? :(


Isle of Ravens The Citadel

Thu May 15, 121 ((Thu May 15 20:08:04 2014))

It is a summer evening. The weather is hot and stormy.

This little island is linked to the eastern bank of the Honeywine by a weathered old drawbridge. It is usually kept down, but is in working order. The stone stronghold that covers most of the little spot of land is the oldest of the Citadel's buildings, and while it is sound, it shows its age and the effects of centuries of weather. It consists of two moss-covered towers. The Eastern one houses the black ravens, and the western one the white. In between is a walled courtyard, home to one of the only Weirwood trees remaining in the south.

The isle is a noisy place — visitors are constantly serenaded with the quorks and creaks and odd speaking voices of the ravens.

The cool summer breeze whips through the air, causing what foliage is here to bend a little. Well, /most/ of the foliage, that is. The defiant sound of feisty ravens rips through the windy air, letting loose a series of 'QUORK' 'QUORK' 'RAWWWRKs' giving it all an eerie flavor.

Amid it all is one man clad in black leather and a lightweight red-and-black tunic sitting cross-legged upon the ground in front of that one piece of immutable foliage. One of the last Weirwoods of the South. Riderch Blackwood sighs a little as he gazes upon it, his face screwed up in a particularly pensive expression. There is a sheathed sword lying upon the ground beside him.

Carolis follows the sound of croaking. He's dressed more like a Northerner in style if not warmth. He hesitates when he sees he's not a lone, but then when he recognizes the man, he smiles and comes forward. He's unarmed aside from a small knife. He's not supposed to be traveling without guards, and yet here he is. Without a word, he sits cross-legged, not far away, and he turns his attention to the tree.

The wind howls a little bit. "Tell me then." Suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, the silence is broken with three little words, from a voice that Carolis has undoubtably encountered before under difference circumstances. Riderch certainly doesn't look the same as he did the last time they saw one another — Blackwood is not girded for battle and looks cleaned up, although the stubble on his face and close-shaven head indicate this is wearing rather thin. "Or don't. I know what this is." These curious utterances are passed through his lips until he leans forward some and spies an interloper — well, no, not an interloper, but someone he /does/ recognize, giving Carolis a wordless glance. He knows why the man would be here.

Carolis tilts his head quizzically as he glances Riderch's way. "Do you," he says quietly. He looks to the Weirwood again, takes a deep breath, and lets it out again. For a long time, he just looks at it, studies each line and curve, every flaw in the wood. "I have no idea what I'm doing," he whispers. He smiles though, and when he exhales, there's a tremor of laughter.

"There're no easy answers, there there?" Comes a slow, laconic reply from the Riverlander. "A Wolf is good company on a night like this, Lord Stark. I should say I'm surprised to see you here, but I shouldn't be." In the moonlight, the man's smile is a little off-kilter. But maybe it is just a trick of the moonlight. "Welcome. It's the last one, you know." And just like that, it appears that Carolis' laughter is a little contagious. But this is Riderch were talking about. The man probably popped out of the womb laughing. And it happens here, a short, raucous thing. "I don't think the Gods mind, do they? Would they? /Why/ would they?"

Carolis's own laughter is a soft thing. It's barely audible save for how it makes his voice shake. "Sometimes I think we protect the North from more than what lies beyond the Wall." He considers the question for some time, quiet as he studies the tree. "One could make the argument that if they weren't happy with the situation, they would do something about it. There's nothing that hurts them wot doesn't hurt us worse first."

"And sometimes I wonder how you make it all work up there. I have only heard stories. I've never made it north of Frey lands. and —" Riderch's voice is caught in a sudden cough. "I mean you no disres" more coughing "pect, I'm not conflating you with those people /at all/." There's a snicker buried in the coughing fit, but it subsides. "There's something about it all. When you look at it. It's like it's staring back at you. But it's not paying attention. Maybe an empty stare." He's again talking about the Weirwood. "I miss it. A real Godswood. What are yours like up there?"

Carolis waves it off with a flick of his hand. "No disrespect taken. You're speaking geographically, of course." The snicker brings another quite laugh from him, and he shakes his head with a hitch of his shoulders. "We hold it together because we're bred to. We have no choice. We're Starks." He tilts his head and studies the face. "Its awareness is beyond your ken," he says. "But this one does look like it's asleep. The Godswood in Winterfell is profound and…" He shakes his head. "You'd have to see it to grasp it. In fact, you should come to Winterfell anyway."

"Heh. Heh heh." This isn't to the question about Winterfell, necessarily, it's more of a general response. But this falls away as Riderch Blackwood chews on Carolis' words, pensively. He leans forward with his hands tucked around his knees. "We've one of the biggest Weirwoods on the continent. But it's dead. It would be nice to see something different. And that's — family is family. You know? We usually have to carry whatever silly burden was handed to us one way or another. But — I'd be interested in going that far north one day. If it came down to it. I should probably get all the travelling out of the way soon." He pauses some, letting in a gasp of air in a little 'hmm.' "So how did /you/ end up down here, so far from home?"

"Family is family," Carolis echoes with a small smile, though in the moonlight his countenance, eerily pale, fades into a shadow of bleakness. Family is also, apparently, saddening. "We carry them while there is breath in our body," he says. When he looks back to Riderch, there's a glint in his eye and his smile broadens. "I want to return soon for a visit. Come with me. Ser Malcolm will follow me wherever I go, and I think Tellur Snow would come as well." He draws his knees up to rest his arms upon them. His injuries have improved to a point where he doesn't rip a stitch doing it. "The Maester of Winterfell said my mind was wasted in the North, and that the Citadel was where I belonged. I'd never been south of the Neck before, so I figured why not."

"Hmph. Don't I know it. My cousin's a bumbling fop who I cannot help but like, no matter what he says or does. More than /one/ cousin, in fact. My brother was a ponce. My bastard brother is half-barbarian. My father has a pole up his arse. My mother does the work of ten men, and my sister should have been my brother, and my other brother can't stop wetting himself. Where does that leave me?" Riderch's surprising litany is delivered switfly and suddenly as he studies his Northern compatriot while still leaning forward, his head bent in a sharp arc not unlike those ravens on his sigil and those ravens screaming defiantly in the night. He stretches out lazily, still smiling all the same.

"And yet, I wouldn't change any of them. I wouldn't know what to /do/. But you're right. We are what we are. And I'm honored by the invitation. If you would have me, I might be easily persuaded to go. I want to see the Wall. My uncle Hugh is there. Old and worn down, but still standing. Like us."

He finally /truly/ addresses Carolis' words now. "That's quite a contingent. And we all had our reasons for coming south. Mine were just — hidden, I think. This 'trade negotiation' mess was clearly a cover for something else. I think Father wanted me out of his hair while he could. I might study at the Citadel."

Carolis laughs, shoulders shaking and his breath hitching. "That could be." He finds a fallen leaf on the ground, and he picks it up, twiddling the stem idly. "You should study at the Citadel. And travel. Enjoy your days while you have them. We all end up growing up eventually and glued to some title or duty. What was the trade negotiation?"

"I have to sit on a seat that doesn't even fit me." Riderch's comment now comes swiftly as he sits upwards in an attempt to look somewhat dignified. His chest puffs up. The odd-looking Riverlander wedges a bootheel in the dirt. "Two years ago I was bashing heads and playing at being some kind of warlord of yesterday. Now /this/." He lets out a 'pfft' sound as he thumbs the sheathed sword's blade next to him in a series of idle gestures.

"I don't want any of it, but I realized — I'm what's left. And we do what we do because we are what's left. And you just answered my question. I think." There's mirth in his eyes, but it could just be a trick of the light.

"Oh — this was plotting a trade route out of Seagard's port, straight into Oldtown. Bypassing some of the nastier things in the West. That's when the ships were still running." There's some trouble there and the visible mirth is dampened. "But — you're right. I wanted to study with the great Maesters of warfare at the Citadel but realized I need to learn economics. Something more of statecraft. Pump out a couple heirs to make everyone happy, that sort of thing." He rolls his eyes.

"Are you next in line?" Carolis asks. The leaf flicks back and forth in his hand as the stem is rolled between thumb and index finger. "I came to learn history, languages. If the gods be willing — and that is why I come to pray most nights — my brother's life will be long and fruitful, and I will have a dozen nephews starting very soon now." A crooked smile tugs at the corner of his lips. "You're wise, Ser Riderch. There are noblemen and kings throughout history who never figured out the necessity of economics and statecraft, and it doesn't tend to end well for them."

"It is just me. And believe me when I tell you my father is /furious/. He just does not quite know how to deal with it, and we have enough family sitting around all over the place to keep things running in case something happens to me — little Benjicot might surprise us all if that happens." Riderch's shrug is an incredibly lazy thing, as he sits back now, crossing his arms behind his head. "Pffft." There's that sound again. "If I were really wise I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing. I just know when time is running out. And what I don't know."

"I used to be like you, in that. I think. Probably not as schooled. But my people are warriors, we always /have/ been, and I felt the call. It's just strange when you run out of things to fight. But these things you talk about. History, languages — stories. These are the things that I remember as a child. Why I listened to Maester Waeyt."

Carolis watches the leaf idly as it flicks back and forth. "I was never the warrior my brothers were. Are. That my brother is. Our mother kept me close and indoors with nothing to do, while my brothers were outside beating one another with sticks, and her stories and songs kept me from losing my mind. By the time I got well enough to go play with swords and whatnot, I didn't have the body or mind for it." That crooked smile never really leaves his lips, not entirely. "What's your favorite story, Ser Riderch?"

"So maybe we traded places a little. That was the problem, though." Riderch admits, with a slow, hesitant sigh. "I fell in love with this idea. 'Knighthood?' Tewdric wanted what I had and I didn't want at all of what he had. There were some confusing things done." The Riverlander's admission comes pensively. "I got a little of everything when I was younger before, but when you're part of a House who's greatest achievements were with spears and swords?" He helplessly shrugs now.

"My big brother wasn't much for them. But I was." This spoken, he abandons the topic. But, Carolis' question /does/ ring in his ears. "Stories? There are some. This was something from closer to my home than yours, though. Brynden, King of the Hill and Valley, King of the First Men. It was in the last days, when the Andals came."

Carolis tilts his head and regards Riderch with sharp-eyed interest not too unlike one of the ravens causing a ruckus around them. "Will you tell me it?" he asks. "I don't know nearly enough stories from the South, at least not heard from the lips of a Southron."

"Hmm. One might make an argument it's a story for /both/ our peoples' considering, well, obvious things." Riderch considers lazily. But he's in quite a mood and doesn't hesitate before simply elaborating. "The Andals had come. King Brynden was a king, but not a king. He was the king-that-never-was. And yet the peoples in all the lordships nearby looked up to him. As much in war as in stewardship." He stops to observe, dryly, "Why are these bloody ancients good at /everything?/ Just to make us look bad?"

This observation is banished, however, as he continues. "He was at war with some of his neighbors and made a peace with them, made friends out of enemies. One of his greatest, Garis, was a youngest son of his greatest enemy, Urren." He pauses a bit. "Hold on." He barks a laugh. "It's been a while. Still recalling."

Carolis grins and says, "We only remember the good ones. Somewhere, in some dusty library, there is a book on the history of mediocrity. They say no man who has picked it up has been able to finish it. But yes, also to make us look bad." His gaze goes a bit distant as he thinks, himself. If he does know the tale, the details are so fuzzy he doesn't seem to show any sign of it.

"Hold up on that, because the scribes are not done." On the subject of mediocrity. Riderch says this with a sort of matter-of-factness as he continues. "Brynden was fighting in the south — in what is now known as the Westerlands, where he encountered a man - an Andal. An Andal who was so impressed by the resilience of the people he was in an army to kill that he stopped, laid down his weapon in service to the King-that-Never-Was. And he turned. Not as a traitor, as a convert. This man was Lancel."

The Riverlander now eagerly narrates it all, sitting up and gesticulating wildly. "Garis and Lancel were bound to Brynden's service. A warrior named Beddur, from what is now the Reach, one of the First Men whose lands were lost to the Andals. His gracious wife Ghaile, who was not only beautiful but wise and charming, able to win over the men that Brynden was not, and keep the peace amongst his forces, who otherwise would have spilled each others' blood. Nimna, the wise woman, who was forever at Beddur's side, and her teacher, the Greenseer whose name was not remembered or written."

"This was a time and place where the First Men held the Andal advance. And they had even a peace. A real, honest peace."

Carolis stops twiddling the leaf and tosses it aside. He's even forsaken the poor Weirwood in favor of giving Riderch the whole of his attention. "A victory won with wit and words," he says. "But it didn't last, did it? It couldn't have. The Andals eventually swept over everything south of the Neck."

"That is true. And it wouldn't /be/ much of a story if it did. That's the thing about these. Nobody wants a happy ending."

And with that, Riderch goes through the motions and the outline of the story, telling a bit more of it. How Garis was the greatest and most deadly of warriors but headstrong, who nursed a hatred of the Andals and yet became best friends with Lancel, the Andal Who Turned. The graces of Queen Ghaile. The exploits of Beddur and his beloved, Nimna, who held back one thousand Andals with fifty men in a mountain pass. He smiles a bit, getting lost in all of this.

"But Brynden had a son. Meryn. Meryn was lost to him — sent as a hostage to a great Andal war-king away from his other sons. Rather than mistreating him, the Andal King raised Meryn as his own — he had a hatred of Brynden. One that could not be quenched." Of course, there are embellishments. He skips over some of them. "This is a tale that will take days to tell." He says, waving his arm, that's if he even knows it all. Blowhard.

Carolis is, if nothing else, an avid listener. Sober, he's even a quiet one, and his eyes have a sharp intelligence about them as he considers the words told to him. When the man stops at the hatred of Brynden's son for his father, the young lordling laughs and flicks a bit of leaf litter at him. "Then you will have to take days where you come to see me and finish the story," he says. "If you don't, I'll look it up in the Citadel, but you tell it better."

It's entirely possible that Riderch Blackwood too is stone-cold sober. At least, there's no smell of drink about him and he's not slurring his words. Still there is a little bit of a touched aspect of his story. He has his arms clutched around his knees. "I might do that. If only to get away from the — blankness of this place. There are only a few things that take me away from it, to be honest." He admits. "This Weirwood. The simple appletree in my backyard. Watching my brother throw his filth out the window instead of doing it properly." He laughs, in spite of himself. "The lake. H—." These random things are all rattled off and it's entirely possible that Carolis has discovered Riderch's secret. Despite his often ridiculous, sardonic demeanor, the man holds a lot of strongly developed aesthetic tastes. He's not a good poet, per se, but maybe in another life he could have been one.

"But — since we've gone this far, there are a few things about the story that matter. Everyone wanted something different. Brynden and Ghaile wanted to build a new kingdom, after Brynden's great battle on the mountain where he crushed the Andals for ten years. Garis wanted to kill them all. He had even crushed the Grey King's forces as they betrayed Brynden, as the Grey King was wont do to." Did you see a veiled jab at the Ironborn coming? "Lancel thought they could make peace with them. Beddur and Nimna wanted to just — live a life in peace. None of these things would happen, of course." He narrates some more, rattling off the details. He's actually doing this well enough to convince an onlooker that maybe he's practiced once or twice. "And — Hey!" He catches the leaf as it bounces off his shoulder and he throws it back ineffectually. "I guess. Maybe I should spend more time telling how the story unfolds later. But it ended in tears and fire, as it always does. Or so the story says. I'll save you time by saying this — all of these things happened. But the tale survived. Your people survived. /My/ people survived. There's one lonely, defiant tree here still standing and still growing, but /it/ survives." What happened to storytime? "I think I have my answer."

Carolis might just have learned Riderch's dread secret. He might not tattle, though he is a little brother, at heart, and they're known for that sort of thing. For an energetic youth, he's awfully well-suited to sitting still and listening with an air of serenity. The crack at the Ironborn gets a quiet huff of a laugh from him, and there is no remorse. None. For the throwing of the leaf. "We do survive," he agrees. He holds out a hand to clasp wrists. "I think I have my answer, too."

"Then I can't tell you the end of the story, because it's bloody wrong." The Riverlander is in surprisingly good spirits here, returning the gesture heartily as wrists are clasped with a firm, broad shake of his arm. He grins a mischevious little grin at Carolis. He takes his time in rising, and truth be told, the man is in no hurry. "Then it would stand to reason that maybe?" He says, groaning a little after he releases it and slowly ambles to his feet. "That they /are/ listening? And maybe we did all this right in the first place?" The moonlight highlights half his face as the wind blows harder and the ravens scream angrily. "That's — a lot to think about."

"You move like an old man," Carolis points out, and there's a glint of cheeky humor in his eyes. Not that he rises all that spritely himself. The wound where he took an arrow deep into his leg isn't letting him forget about it just yet. "Come to our Godswood," he says. "You will see that they still listen. They will listen while there are still First Men to speak." The confidence of youth. There isn't a scrap of doubt in him. As the ravens scream and the wind kicks up, he squints as he looks around. "We must meet again, Ser Riderch," he says. "But I fear I am overdue for home. I didn't exactly tell Ser Malcolm I was leaving."

"I /am/ an old man. Look at me." Riderch admits, stifling a snort. "And I've got more holes in me than a sheep in Hoster Bracken's bloody bedchamber." He pauses suddenly. "Wait, have I said that before?" He asks aloud, scratching his chin with a rough digging of his nails into the stubble. "All we have is a dead Weirwood and a score of birds that come to roost and remember. And maybe /that/ is enough, so I would imagine Winterfell is a thing I must see. Soon." He considers, his eyes widening a little as he looks down at the Stark Lordling.

"Understandable. I'm headed sort of that direction myself. If you want to get away from it all, there's a manse flying the Eagle of House Mallister and the Ravens of House Blackwood just on Appletree Wynd, you'd be welcome. In the meantime.

"I have a dream to go dream. And hopefully forget." This is a quizzical statement but he does not elaborate, simply stooping down once to pick up his sword and fastening it on his belt. "I think there's some Dornishman selling chicken. I also think that I am hungry." He muses aloud, grinning wildly.

This time, when Carolis barks a laugh, it sounds above the level of a rasp or chuckle. It's still not what one would call boisterous, but it's a startled and delighted. Take that, Hoster Bracken. "I don't think you have," he says. He then claps the man on the shoulder and says, "I will take you up on that. And you must come to Weirwood and I'll tell you a story of the North." He utters another, quieter laugh when the mention of chicken is made. "I'm off to sneak back inside and steal a plate of lemon cakes from the kitchen. It's good for a man to have a plan. Farewell until then, Ser Riderch."

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