(121-05-27) Dinner for Ravens and Wolves
Dinner for Ravens and Wolves
Summary: Richerch and Ainsley join some Starks for dinner.
Date: May 27, 2014
Related: Crowded Island, This Too Shall Pass

Weirwood Manse — Old Street

This is one of the oldest houses in the city, a large square structure of pale grey-brown stone, squat and heavy. On its facade is a mosaic of small, thick, white and red bricks, set deep into the stone facade of the rowhouse. They form a mosaic image beside its door — a weirwood tree with its white trunk and branches and its red leaves. The image doesn't have a face, but from time to time someone will paint one on, and someone else will scrub it off. Like most houses in Oldtown, there are few windows on the street level, only small high ones to let in a little light. The upper stories have unevenly sized and spaced windows that from the outside appear to be caught in the weirwood's branches.

The living space in the ground floor consists only of a single large hall, with a massive hearth, a long plank trestle-table, and a group of leather-covered chairs set off to one side. There's a spot on the back wall where there used to be a door but it's been filled in with stone blocks, probably when the garden became the jumble of buildings that stand there now. The rest of the bottom floor is taken up by a smallish kitchen and a large private stable that one can access from outside or from a narrow door beside the stairs. The staircase is wide, made of blackened wood that's aged hard as stone but bears dips in the treads from centuries of feet.

Dinner time at Weirwood Manse. Though people do come and go, and not everyone arrives at the same time or stays to sit with the rest. The cooks have roasted a big hunk of pig, spiced and seasoned nicely, with roasted apples and root vegetables. There are loaves of hearty bread for sopping up juices, and some interesting Southron cheeses because Carolis is mildly addicted. And, of course, flagons of honeywine. Carolis is dressed far more casually than when he's out on the town, and much more like a Northron: a light woolen shirt, supple leather sleeveless jerkin all dull greys and browns. A few massive war dogs snooze on the floor by the hearth, and loafed on the mantle is a grey cat with white snippets, dozing lazily.

Andolin's probably dressed nicer than either of the two Riverlanders have seen him in, considering he's not in a war camp or covered in sand. Even so, he's just in a linen shirt, because seriously it's hot. He's in a bit of a weird mood, too, something that's settled roughly between thoughtful and perplexed, but the mass of food being spread out takes him out of that into looking a little surprised. "What's going on?" he wonders as he limps downstairs.

It's not exactly inviting yourself, if you were invited prior, is it? Surely not. This is, anyhow, Ainsley's reasoning as she and her brother arrive at the Weirwood Manse, Ainsley looking more like she's planning to go tracking than sit with polite company. Her hair is back in a plain braid, and beneath a light cloak she wears a dark red tunic, black leggings and well-worn brown boots. A silver belt cinches around her hips. She smiles as she steps into the dining room and offers a curtsy to Lord Carolis and then to Lord Andolin. "Good evening, my lords. We're running away from Oldtown, my brother and I. Tonight, after dinner. Will you join us?"

Accompanying Ainsley Blackwood is a by-now-familiar figure at this point. The attendees have seen him painted up like a questionable approximation of some warlord from the Age of Heroes, a fancy-clad lordling in finery, and everything 'in between.'

In fact, 'in between' is a good description of Riderch's garb, here. He's wearing a long, black tunic of a breathable fabric that looks like something a Lord might wear in his solar, but with boiled leather sewn in. It doesn't have the actual sigil of Raventree Hall but his personal one, a black raven standing alert with a defiant gaze, over a circular red blazon. His boots are polished, and breeches also looking something like he was prepared to go riding. A silver chain-link belt is slung about his waist, and one of the first things he does is remove his sword from it when entering and placing it reverently aside. It is a symbolic gesture. "Thank you for playing host to us." He adds, looking at Ainsley now that she has already said the relevant things. Anything more would be redundant. "Good to see you!" And now he's all smiles.

A standing invitation means come on over! Carolis tells Andolin, "We're having dinner." And then the guests arrive, and he takes it all in with warmth, of course. His friends! "Come in, come in. You're just in time." As he leads them toward the table, he's humming a waulking song under his breath. It's got a steady rhythm and a repetitive tune that is light and chipper. "Where are we running away to?" he asks.

Andolin can at least take things in stride, as he sends Ainsley and Riderch an easy sort of smile of greeting. "Evening," he offers, and then limps over to the table and to take a look at the spread with some amount of curiosity. "Yes, where are you running away to?"

"Oh, I don't know. The woods. Somewhere. Any place where camping in fine," Ainsley replies airily as she removes her cloak and drapes it over one arm. Andolin's limping gait gets a brief, quizzical look before whatever question she has is brushed aside. "Too many walls. Not enough space."

"Fewer people, maybe?" Riderch chimes in, not even missing a beat. "Sometimes I cannot hear myself think, here. Which leads to things that are often entertaining, but —" He doesn't finish, really, letting that sloppy grin spread further over his face. "Lord Andolin. It's good to see you when we're not stuck in a miserable, dreary camp." "Lord Carolis. It's been so, so long." He adds, wryly. The elder Blackwood is also wearing his slightly flamboyant raven-feather cloak, which he likewise removes in a slow imitation of his sister.

"Oh yes, let's go camping," Carolis says with a sudden, broad grin. Whatever dark mood came over him last night, it seems to be gone, or at least squelched. "Andy, will you come with us? I'll leave a message for Tellur, see if he can track us." He sees to his guest being seated before he takes his own place. The cloak gets an admiring look, truth be told. Amused, but admiring. He laughs then, and he says, "Ser Riderch, it's like a thousand years have passed and yet you don't look a day over… however old you are." He doesn't stand on ceremony at home. Drink is poured, food is grab what you please. "It's a pity we can't take Shadwick with us. He'll miss me terribly." The cat on the mantle flicks an ear at the mention of his name, and is otherwise giving of zero fucks.

If Andolin notices the quizzical look Ainsley gives him - she only saw him on his horse, after all - he doesn't make a deal of it. "That sounds good to me," he says with a grin, and then snags a drink. The grin sobers a little into something a bit more wry at Riderch's words, and acknowledge them with a lift of the drink. "Very much so," he agrees, and then eyes Carol's cat. "He'll hardly notice we're gone I think."

"And if he does, I am sure he will leave an extra mouse in your shoes as recompense, so all's well," Ainsley replies, sitting down and taking a deep breath of the appealing aromas wafting up from the dishes available. "Is your Tellur Snow a good tracker, or shall I drop breadcrumbs behind us?"

"I've found that cats are happy where the warmth and comfort is. And this city is ridden with pests." Riderch opines, on the subject of cats. And for what it's worth, the creature appears highly pleased at its lot in life.

He creeps up towards the table and spies what's cooking. Or what has been/ cooking. One reliable thing about Riderch Blackwood is that his hunger is legendary. It may have been a fatal mistake for House Stark's larders to invite him //anywhere.

"You can't go wrong, except for the dead things in the shoes," Ainsley points out. "That's a bit wrong, you ask me." She gives a small nod as Tellur is proclaimed fit enough to locate them without any aid. "A man fonder of open spaces, too, is he?" She begins serving herself, choosing portions considerably smaller than Riderch. Then again, Ainsley is considerably smaller than her brother, so…

Settling into the table, Riderch starts tearing off a piece of pork after helping himself to the wine. "Hmmm. This is — well, considerably better than what I am used to these days, but that is largely my own fault." He's polite enough to talk between bites and drinks. "I think I need to change how I have been doing a few things. I don't trust Tel to handle things like the market, unfortunately." he gives Ainsley a sly smirk as he makes small-talk.

<FS3> Carolis rolls Animal Handling: Success.

Carolis says, sounding a titch defensive here, "Shadwick gives you gifts because he likes you. He's hunting for you so that you don't starve. The ones he leaves Cregan are still a little bit alive. He thinks Cregan is the better hunter of the lot of us and can finish it off. But he is providing for his family, and don't you say a thing against him." He eats. Boy, does he eat. The spiced pork is pretty incredible, and it goes in the face where it belongs. His manners aren't rude, though. Just casually Northron. He nods to Ainsley then and says, "Tellur hates walls more than I do. I think if he had his way he'd just be a wolf, trot off into the forest, and never come back." He waves a hand toward Riderch and says, "You have to delegate."

"Yes, well, if you started leaving dead things in my bed I'd lock you out too." Andolin gives a bit of a grin, and he piles some food on his plate. He otherwise lapses into silence to nibble at his foods.

Ainsley glances up from cutting her meat at Carolis's comment about Tellur becoming a wolf, and blinks once before smiling faintly. "Perhaps we've all had a wish like that at one time or another." With a glance to Shadwick, she adds, "if your mouse catcher cannot realize you are not in need of food, when we sit here eating a feast right before him, I'm afraid he's a bit of a dullard, my lord." She smirks over at Andolin before informing her brother, "As I am here staying on, I'll see to the food. Let Tel have a rest from it."

"Jorah is good at keeping unwanted people out." Riderch remarks casually, hacking apart a hunk of cheese with a knife, in a methodical way. It looks like a soldier on the battlefield taking an opponent apart, given the level of concentration. "And distracting others. It's something in his visage. When you have a man who carries himself like a warrior who looks like he's willing to lose an eye and is still standing, it sends a sort of message. Between him and a certain archer I know," with a glance to his sister to clarify exactly who this is, "we could probably keep a small army out of our house."

He downs some more wine. He is not quite gulping it down like a man dying of thirst, that would be rude. But he is ready for his first refill and pours himself some. "See what my sister does? She comes and saves me from greasy mutton. We should aim for more of that pheasant, by the way." This topic broached, he looks at the Stark men inquisitively. "Any plans for a certain type of game?"

"Shadwick is brilliant," Carolis says, "you just have to think like a cat. It's not that he thinks we're starving; he thinks we don't know how to hunt, and hunting is woven into their very spirits. He is trying to impart his wisdom to what are obvious bumbling oversized kittens." The man knows almost nothing about horses and dogs, or even ravens, but mention cats, and he's an expert. And a staunch defender. The cat meanwhile radiates an air of blithe authority as he sleeps. With a gesture to the sleeping dogs, Carolis says, "They're a fair dissuasion, and if someone is foolish enough to break into a house full of Starks, I don't know what to say." More spiced pork goes in the face, and he washes it down with a swallow of wine, which he paces himself with. He glances at Andolin then. "What do you think? Pheasant? Rabbit?"

Andolin arches his brows up at Carolis a little, and then they wrinkle a little. It's almost like he's worried about his cousin's feline expertise, but at least it's in this mildly amused way. He reaches over to pour himself a bit more wine, at any rate. "That sounds fair to me. We'll see what we can find."

"I think if Shadwick presumes we are bumbling, oversized kittens, this still does not point to any great intellect. I do hunt, Shadwick, thank you kindly. Just not with me teeth," Ainsley opines, taking a small bite of pork. She smiles over at Riderch for 'certain archer'. "Let us hope it never comes to that, brother. Or, at least, not until I've had a chance to boil the pitch." She listens to thoughts of game before adding, "I'm partial to pheasant and partridge, myself, but that's because of Esra. I'm sure we could get a brace of rabbit, too."

Cats and rabbits and pheasant and partridge and all manner of birds and beasts are mentioned as Riderch's eyes dart to and fro, helping himself to wine and cheese and a small piece of the spiced pork, gesturing with whatever free hands between bite and drink. "We should have a feast in the forest then." He offers simply before moving on.

"You should lend Shadwick out as a guard, too. Along with the burning pitch —" He shakes his head an gives Ainsley a flat glance with no small, crooked smile. "Relax, I don't think Little Lord Fartbreeches and his phalanx of pointy hats is going to be kicking our door down any time soon." Another gulp. "Which reminds me. You know Bledin's Tower, down by the Honeywine?" Oh, here we go, story time. "In the Age of Heroes, Bledin was just a farmer, supposedly. He and his family of — ten? I forgot. Held off a band of a hundred men. With arrows, spears, and whatever else they had at hand. Now there's a tower there with his name, even if it's half ruined." What he doesn't mention was probably the tragic fate of the Bledin clan but that is neither here nor there.

"From a cat's perspective," Carolis mentions. This point is very important, see. So important he'll gesture with his meat-cutting knife, and that's a whole second or two where he's not cutting meat. Serious stuff. "He's brilliant among cats, and you have to admit, among cats, we're the idiots." Guess which animal among the lot gets relentlessly defended and can do no wrong ever. Go on, guess. The name Lord Fartbreeches gets raised brows from Carolis. Storytime is well and good, but that name, he'll get back to that name.

"I still don't want dead rats in my bed, brilliant cat or not," Andolin says, wry, and then he looks over toward Riderch for storytime— Lord Fartbreeches gets a brow-raise from him, too, for what it's worth. An amused one. "A group of archers, no matter how small, can certainly worry a group of larger men."

"From my perspective, Lord Carolis," Ainsley replies with a small, bemused smile, "I remain unimpressed." She has another bite, nodding towards Andolin for his statement of dead animals in bedsheets. Her brother gets a slightly petulant look for that flat stare of his. "It was only a joke about the pitch," she murmurs, falling quiet when Riderch begins his story.

"Sorry." There's a bit of color in Riderch's cheeks as he looks among the little gathering. As if asking 'what? What?' His voice is playfully abashed but there may be a hint of truth to that sound. "But the pitch was a good idea, Aine." This last is delivered as an aside as he works on his wine. "I was just thinking about Great Deeds, is all." He pauses a beat or two. "I don't want Lord F— anyone to kick our door down. Ever. But like you said, some of these people aren't trustworthy." Oh hey, more wine. He starts peering about for a bit of bread to go with it.

Carolis gives poor Shadwick the Maligned a sympathetic look. The cat continues to sleep, unperturbed. "At least the Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North knows your worth," he tells the cat. He stabs into a roasted apple with his knife and takes a bit of it, then says, "At least with this fellow you'd hear him coming." He glances at the three of them. "How long shall we be gone for? Until we have stripped the land of game?"

Andolin tips his wine toward Ainsley in acknowledgement; it's a sort of 'see, she agrees with me' thing. "As long as it takes to get a decent haul, I assume," he says, though he looks to the other two for their responses as well.

Ainsley laughs softly for her brother's comments, pressing her fingers over her lips, though her mouth is empty. And then Carolis gets another laugh. "If not smell him," she agrees around her smile. "Until we have more than we wish to carry home, or we risk spoiling food by hunting much more," Ainsley opines.

"Let's not kid ourselves that we're out there for the food. We go until we have to go back." Riderch says, presenting this response as a sort of self-evident truth. He leans back in his seat now, having cleaned most of his plate and cradling his wine cup. "I favor fowl myself, if we were still taking suggestions. So — how have you been keeping busy? Lord Carolis, I know what you have been doing but Lord Andolin, I haven't seen you since we were passing around those bottles of rotgut in my camp and my ridiculous little Cousin Robb tried to claim he was an ancient hero and fell off a damn wagon. That fool." He gives Ainsley a small pause. She's probably had to deal with Cousin Robb before and it's anyone's guess if she finds him as annoying as Riderch does.

Carolis laughs at the mention of poor Cousin Robb. "That was a good night," he says. He'd lost nearly enough blood to kill him and can't remember half of it, but never mind. Details. He considers the question over another bite of the roasted apple. After he chews and swallows, he says, "I read a lot. Our library is nice, and there are books in it we don't have in Winterfell, and of course I study at the Citadel." He considers further. Hmm. "There are the social events, too. The Targaryen's party is the last I've been to. With Ser Malcolm traveling and Tellur busy with his duties here, I don't go out a lot. They're my best guards."

Andolin grins. "That was a good night," he agrees with Carolis, leaning back a little now that he's done eating and taking a drink off his wine. "I've been learning a bit of swordplay recently," he admits. "It's slow going, but it turns out it's more fun to do than I thought it would be. Not that I'm any good at it yet." He pauses, considers. "And yes, just getting out a bit more socially. Nothing terribly interesting."

Ainsley looks back over at Riderch as the mention of Robb, sighs softly and shakes her head. Oh yes. She knows the lad. "I would say he fell on his head as a wee child, but that would be an insult to boys who actually did." She looks over at Carolis as he mentions reading. "Oh, do you? Have you found many books about the traditions of the First Men? I love those topics, their myths and magic, especially." With a glance to Andolin, she says, "I was thinking of learning a bit more of the sword, myself. Perhaps we might practice some time, my lord?"

"Oh yes, there are the social events." Riderch offers, with a roll of his eyes sharply in the back of his head. "I hadn't planned on going to that thing, but — sometimes things in life just fall on you." As the second cup of wine is downed he stops a moment before reaching for a refill. And sets it down. He considers it again but only pours a half cup. And of course, Riderch goes through a second helping of pork, because he inherited the Blackwood Tapeworm.

And this neatly dovetails to following up on his sister's statement. "I really, really wish you'd been there with me for that. Maybe you'd have been able to answer Tellur's questions. About the First Men. Questions I couldn't answer. All I can talk about reliably is the sad, sad story of who killed whom over what bloody hill." Sure. He gives her a screwed-up semi-grin before clearing his throat. "Robb managed to not get hurt, and one of his men took a spear through his leg but it missed anything important." So that was a victory.

Finally, he looks at the two Stark boys. "You're bemoaning a lack of a knight. Not to question Ser Malcolm's skill, but if you're concerned about travelling without someone who can fight around town? Or maybe a little practice?" He's offering here. Yep.

"Cregan has been sparing with me," Carolis says with a certain degree of doom in his voice. "He has a point. I do need to fight better hand to hand. Not all enemies will stay at a polite distance for me to shoot them." He's been eating steadily, but he tapers off as he hears murmuring from the servants that dessert is coming. Fruit tarts, lemoncakes. Why yes, he would like some very much, thank you. "We have a few," he says, of the books. "I know the stories, though. The problem is the history wasn't written down until well after the fact, and in the language of the Andals. The runes of Old Tongue aren't terribly expressive and mostly mark territories and issue warnings, the ones that even exist still. But the stories do survive."

"That's the reason I need to learn more, as well," Andolin agrees to Carolis, wry - not that he looks the type to last long in a brawl, considering how skinny he is. He looks up, too, at the mention of dessert, but Ainsley's offer earns a definite perk of interest. "If you would want to, I would be happy to. Most the people I've been practicing with absolutely trounce me." And, back to Riderch, he gives a small smile. "We'll keep that in mind, definitely. Especially with Malcolm gone at the moment."

Ainsley gives an approving nod to her brother for such an offer, smiling gently as she sets her own utensils down on her empty plate. Hello, dessert. "Tellur likes such stories as well? I really should like to meet this fellow." To Carolis she asks, "How did you learn your stories, if not from books? Tales passed down through your family?" Andolin gets a small laugh. "I am sure, my lord, I will not be doing any trouncing. Not with a blade."

"What can I say? I know what I am good at." Riderch offers dryly. Very dryly, as he hides his face in his cup and leaning back in his chair, having already classily burned through 'seconds'. There's a slow smile blooming there as he stretches out in his chair, keeping his eye on dessert. "He does, Aine." He notes to his sister, addressing her question. "He was even conversational after he got doused with the wine."

He does give a brief nod to Andolin regarding 'trouncing.' "It's never too late to start. The key is, if you look like you know what you are doing, you're less likely to — well. Have someone try to trounce you." Yeah.

Tellur comes in from outside, muttering to himself lightly. He was supposed to be here on time, he was! The man is accompanied by his new pets, both of them - an owl and a pup at heel. And he is pushing the hood of his drenched cloak back - a light thing, for the heat, but enough to keep the rain off.

Dinner is in progress. There is spiced pork, roasted apples and root vegetables, bread, cheese, and now servants are bringing out more wine and desserts of fruit tarts and lemoncakes. There are dogs asleep by the hearth, and on the mantle, Shadhwick snoozes, unconcerned. "I wouldn't mind the company at least, if not the guarding," Carolis tells Riderch. "There haven't been any more incidents, and I hate being treated like a child who can't take care of himself, but betters safe than sorry I suppose." He helps himself to a lemon cake, then he says to Ainsley, "Don't let Andy lie to you. He struck a hit on the Maiden Knight." He licks his fingers of lemony sugary goodness, master of etiquette that he is. "There are books on the histories, and I've read those, but there is just so much lost that was never told. But of the old gods and the children of the forest, and the greenseers and skinchangers, and the horrors beyond the Wall, I learned those stories from the boos we had and the Maester, though he discounted it all as rubbish. He's an Andal. He doesn't know."

"And he was in a circle, and I was not, and I got lucky anyway," Andolin laughs, and then yesplz desserts. "There were a lot of stories we were both told as children," he adds. "Then we can practice," he adds with an easier smile. "Practice is good either way. Which," he adds to Carolis, "we should practice more often, speaking of."

Andolin also looks up as Tellur comes in, offering the man a bit of a smile, as well. "Evening."

"You would think a man of learning, in a house of the First Men, would be wise enough to occasionally keep his mouth shut and his ears open," Ainsley opines tersely for such a maester. She looks over at her brother and then, well, speak of the fellow, himself. In steps Tellur Snow with an owl and a puppy. Ainsley smiles softly at the image, or maybe just at the owl. To Andolin she nods. "Then so we shall. Until we can all trounce each other, even if no one else."

"I'm sure he did." Riderch observes, wryly. There's a little flicker of a smile inside the cup as Andolin's exploits are discussed. "I've seen it happen, but that is a good start. What you want to really worry about is Viggo Cockshaw." The elder Blackwood's probably still a little sore that this knight bested him that one time. "That man never fights sober. I was sober. That was probably my mistake." The cup is brought down with a slight 'clunk'. "But anyway, being confined is maddening. I had 'guards' until I became old enough to — mm should I say, 'get around them?'" Sidelong glances are shot to Ainsley here but he doesn't really go down this road. As the topic goes to Old Things, Old Tales, Greenseers and the First Men he just sits back and listens, emptying out his wine cup. And then he spies Tellur. "Well, looks like you have your chance." He did roll his eyes at the Maester story but this elicited no comment.

"Lord Andolin," Tellur says to the man respectfully. Though he lifts his brows at Viggo Cockshaw. "Cockshaw or Cocksure?" he wonders, before noting Riderch's glance "Should I be concerned? Ah. Excellent, dinner." And the Master of Hounds sheds his cloak, hanging it up before taking a seat near the others "My lady. My lords. A pleasant evening?" This is Tellur, so his amiable comment comes out in the sort of tone other people would use to announce genocide.

Carolis says, "Not many people believe the old stories. He told them to us, he just didn't want us to get our hopes up that they were true or to be kept up at night scared of Others from beyond the wall." His defense of the Maester of Winterfell is not as robust as his defense of Shadwick, but to be fair, Shadwick is a lot fluffier and cuter.
"I lose my guards all the time," Carolis says, but then he spies Tellur and amends, "Through no fault of my own and then I look for them, because safety is of utmost importance, I am the heir presumptive after all. Oh, Tellur, hello. Come get some dinner, won't you?" He rises to his feet and says, "May I present Lady Ainsley Blackwood, Ser Riderch's lovely sister? Lady Ainsley, this is Tellur Snow, our Master of Hounds here at Weirwood Manse."

"I think fighting drunk could go either way," Andolin grins, and then he sighs. "I'm going to get a few things ready before we ride out," he says, pressing a hand on the table and levering himself up, still clearly favoring his right leg. "I'll be back down in a bit."

"Oh, the man himself," Ainsley says, looking over at Tellur, smiling and offering a nod of her head. "Hello, Master Snow. We're going hunting. You're coming with us." To the others she says, with a small sigh, "Guards are a bother. At least you lads can outgrow then or out… sword them. I'm quite stuck. It's dismal."

"Cockshaw. I don't name these people." Riderch murmurs, clarifying. "I know what you mean though. Sometimes in the old places. Not like here, but the old ones, you can see things at night. Out of the corner of your eye. Almost. If you're looking just right, you know you can see something? It's like that, is it not?" He's a little flushed here — going for a little more wine. Again, only a half-cup. All the talk of guards suddenly gives him a pause. It's a sympathetic look he gives his sister. But there isn't a further comment.

Tellur Snow receives a raise of the Riverlander's cup, but this is after moments of pause.

"You're the heir presumptive in that you presume a great deal, Lord Carolis," Tellur says dryly to the young man "But at least you leave me some fiction to coat my tender worries in - I know you lose your guards, as they come to me sometimes under the bizarre assumption that I will know how to find you." The owl on his shoulder bobs and weaves as it maintains its balance. Tellur settles down, and attempts a smile at Ainsley, which on another face would be a snarl. Then he says "I should very much enjoy a hunting trips, as would the occupants of the kennels." She speaks of her woes, and he says "Perhaps sword lessons?" As the Riverlander speaks, he says "In the far North, I think, sometimes things do not need you to even look in their direction."

"Will you get my bag, Andy? It's just inside the door of my room." Make the cripple do it. Hey, he said he didn't want to be babied. He takes his seat again so that he can stuff more lemoncakes in his face. He must burn fuel like dragonfire through an orphanage. As he pours Tellur mead, he says, "All I know is that I don't think Bran the Builder constructed a seven hundred foot wall that spans the breadth of the land to keep out small raiding parties of primitively armed Wildlings." He smiles kindly at Tellur. "You always manage." The mead is placed before him. "It's not so bad when the guards are pleasant company," he tells Ainsley. "I only have them because of this silly little incident that will blow over."

Andolin gives Carolis a bit of a Look at that. "You're saddling my horse," he says, though it's not cranky. Give and take! And, with that, he excuses himself and limps on upstairs, seeming in reasonably decent spirits.

Ainsley listens to the pair of them bicker and smiles faintly, sipping her own honeywine as she listens. "Master Snow," she asks in a brief lull, "well met. Do you hunt with an owl? And yes, we were just discussing that. Though in the south, not even ladies who can wield a blade would get away with it. It's as much about reputation as safety." To Carolis, she asks, "What incident was that?"

"This is something I've heard." Riderch says intently towards Tellur. Usually something more of a talker, he's now crossed over somewhat to the realm of 'listener.' This isn't /quite/ his territory and he looks between the remaining guests, poking a bit at his wine as he lazes back in his chair.

Tellur says gravely to Ainsley "No, my lady. Owls make extremely poor crossbows. I hunt with a shortbow myself, from horseback, normally. After one attempt to take a boar with a spear, I am disinclined to try again." He nods to Riderch, and finally he says "I believe in most of the stories - or, rather, I believe there was a kernel of truth, since distorted in many tellings. For someone who knows things more accurately, there is Lord Carolis here. Even so, there are a lot of stories passed down in different professions - horsebreaking and smithing, and so forth."

Carolis waves a hand vaguely and says, "There was an attempted kidnapping with a little stabbing, it's nothing." He settles back with a full belly, mead in hand. "Ainsley is a falconer as well," he tells Tellur. "After dinner we're riding out to the woods and we're going to camp. I was going to leave a message with you telling you to track me if you can, but I see you've beat your own record." As for knowledge of the old tales, he gives a small, modest shrug. Yeah, he might know a thing or two.

Ainsley's brow lifts for Tellur's reply and she looks, briefly, unimpressed. "Well. My silly mistake then." She lifts her wine to her lips for another swallow. To Carolis she says, "We ought to exchange stories, then. It's just the right sort of thing for over a campfire." She blinks and then laughs softly for Carolis's "little" incident. "What a dreary life you live, my lord."

"With a great bloody big falcon at that." Riderch intones, bemusedly. And smiling a little bit. The flush in his cheeks indicates that he's normally something of a happy drinker. This would be in accordance with that trend. There's someting in Tellur's words that /almost/ elicits comment. But only almost.

"Kidnapping? Seriously?" Oh, but this does.

"Ah, excellent!" says Tellur to Carolis' comment about falconry. As Ainsley speaks, and looks unimpressed, he looks faintly confused, himself. Her question was answered fairly…well. Literally. He finds himself saying to Carolis, distracted "But I wasn't tracking you, milord. I was coming home after seeing a man about new tack for the beasts, with the Stark motif. This city _costs_ an awful lot." And then he says to Ainsley "I have no falcon myself, but Lord Carolis' hawk is here. And possibly will even restrain herself from flying off into a stand of pine trees if released on jesses, or assaulting her handler violently. She is not a large falcon. She is just very…" He tried to find a word "…she is like his horse," he decides. And as Riderch speaks, Tellur says to him "Yes. It is a worrying thing." Well, _he_ worries.

"Spirited," Carolis supplies. "She's spirited. So is my horse. He's not a bad animal. He's just spry. My hawk is enthusiastic." His cat is a misunderstood vicious serial killer, there's a theme developing here. He smiles wryly at Ainsley. "It has its moments." He shrugs then. Tellur worries more than he does. "The day before we left for battle, two men tried to take me from the docks. They didn't manage it, but one gave me a shiv in the side for my troubles. A punishing thing, meant to hurt, not harm. They said someone wants to talk to me. I didn't have time to worry about it because a few hours later we rode for the camp."

"I only brought the one, but Esra will hunt for others if I ask her," Ainsley replies, giving her brother a thoughtful glance for the flush in his cheeks and the number of glasses he's drunk. She frowns softly at Carolis, asking, "Whatever have you done to your hawk, to make it behave so?" To Tellur, she asks, "But if you do not hunt with your owl… is he a pet?" And there is something a touch scandalized in the question, as if she was asking if he, say, kept a person as a pet. And then, back to Carolis, "You never learned who was behind such a thing? I can understand why your man worries for you."

"And this is why you need to be able to —" Riderch says, swiping his hand through the air in a pantomime. It is slashy slashy, stabby stabby. "At least look like you mean it. Even if you don't spend a lot of time on it. Otherwise some damn fool —" Suddenly he catches himself. "I sound like my father. I honestly — Oh dear gods." He's not incredibly inebriated, but crossing over the threshold by having any more in the next short while may result in certain consequences." His eyes narrow a bit as he studies the other Northerners.

Ainsley's question about birds and pets earns a clearing of his throat as he glances at her now in askance.

Tellur gives Carolis such a bland look as his litany of animal serial killers and kidnap attempts. Whereas most people would be stuck wondering if someone was boasting, the man's defence of it all merely has Tellur making mental notes about heavier armor. Such peculiarities are outside of his comprehension - but the hawk question he answers easily, this topic of interest to him "She is young and very proud of herself, but she was quite afflicted by parasites during some of her training. The kinks will be worked out over time. I hope." Then he lifts a fragment of meat up to the owl on his shoulder "This one? No, she is not a pet. She is a…she is an owl," _now_ his voice is apologetic "They are not really very smart. They would not make good pets. I think falcons are much smarter." The animal looks oddly relaxed, and Tellur says to Riderch "More wine?" Soliticious. Annnnnd pretty clueless.

"You do sound like someone's father," Carolis says. "I got out if it, though. I used my wits and the opportunities at hand. I'm not saying you're wrong. Why else would I let my brother wipe the floor with me every other day? But I'm not helpless." He gestures to Tellur with his cup. "She's young," he seconds. "There's nothing wrong with her." His gaze shifts to the owl, bland, and he says, "It's like having a pet rock that sits on your shoulder."

"No more wine," Ainsley advises her brother. "Try a lemon tart, they look lovely." And then she blinks. What? What? It was a perfectly valid question. The answer which has her puffing out a sharp breath and then looking at Carolis with wide, scandalized eyes. "Parasites? Well, no wonder she would claw you as soon as work with you. You cannot treat any ally thus and expect trust." Her hand brushes sharply down her other arm as if flicking mites away from her own skin. "Falcons are very clever," she agrees to Tellur. "As for owls, I cannot say. I have never known one well. Still, if you think so little of her, why not return to her her freedom?"

But — Well, Riderch's been something of an enthusiastic fan of the wine in his life, but he's been going for the gusto. And as Tellur offers, he reaches for it. And — well, there goes Ainsley, being the responsible sibling. It's good that someone is. His hand falls to the table and he wrinkles his nose. Maybe a lemon tart will be a good substitute. He starts nibbling on it, just brushing the crumbs away.

He flashes a toothy sort-of-smile at her protest over the owl.

Oh, and Carolis? "I'm not anyone's bloody father. Still — Good thinking, I suppose?"

"I think a lot of her, but I do not think she is smart, milady," Tellur says simply "Which is no problem for an owl - the machinery of their bodies is so fine that they do not need to think so very much. As for her freedom - she is welcome to go wherever she wishes. She is not confined." He bends down, now to feed his huge (_giantic_) puppy a little meat, and he grins at Carolis "You are not helpless," he agrees. Mead, meat, and the sugary treats go ignored for the moment, and Tellur says "Wits are a good thing, but trained flesh responds without the mind - like this pretty girl here, and her mice. Human wits _and_ training make the Shadow Cat deadly." He amends "Deadlier."

Carolis's brow knits and he eyes Ainsley oddly. "She had the parasites when we caught her," he says. "We treated her for them, made her better. Tellur exaggerates because he likes to poke fun at my beasts, just like I call his owl stupid. One could imply many things about our House, but that we mistreat our animals…" He shakes his head slowly. No. That's not on. The good-natured Stark sits up a little more, his poise a touch more stiff. "Perhaps you misunderstand my man's humor, such as it is."

"Perhaps I do," Ainsley allows, "or simply do not find such jokes especially humorous. If they cannot rib us back, it seems more like bullying to me, to make these creatures the butts of humor." This from the girl who called the cat a dumb-dumb. Her brows furrow as she looks from Carolis to Tellur. "You keep a shadowcat as well?" Regardless of her advice to Riderch, Ainsley has another glass of wine.

Here's where Riderch, flushed cheeks or no, gently arcs his hand through the air to tap on Ainsley's shoulder reassuringly. He doesn't really burst into the conversation here. Also he has a mouth full of lemon tart. That is rude. And then he swallows. And after a moment, cuts in. "What I am seeing here is a room full of people expressing more or less the same thing, if I'm reading this right. And if I'm not, well, —" he lets loose a laugh. A slightly tipsy one. All jokes aside, he's sort of expressing where his loyalties ultimately lie. "I think they probably rib us all the time, though. What do you think Esra thinks about me? The man who can't hit a bloody pheasant?"

"I don't have much of a sense of humour," Tellur says agreeably "Nor can I tell if people are joking, it is true. But I do not mind, since I cannot tell when they are _not_ joking, either." Then he adds "Her Ladyship - I mean the falcon - does have the problem of not having been trained since the day of her hatching. I know that is best. But it always feels to me, perhaps I am sentimental, that taking a brand new nestling from a bird is cruel? Then again, so many die in the wild…I do not know. There is a lot of cruelty in nature." He says to Ainsely "No, but he is the Shadowcat - or was called so. Most Starks, we are compared to wolves, eh? Hungry, obsessed with family, and when we fight, the call goes out - everyone called Carol here - I mean, uh, Lord Carols - the Shadowcat, as he was so very different. He was being teased. Like when I was called Carolis' Hound, or Carolis' Dog." As Riderch speaks, he smiles, despite himself "I think most _cats_ think we are very sad creatures who must be fed mice and small birds, because we are the most hopeless kittens there are."

Carolis looks at Ainsley. Looks at the cat who still gives no fucks. Looks back at Ainsley, and that perfectly Starkian brow arches. Really? Really. "They don't know what we're saying. The language they speak is in the treatment, isn't it? I can call this owl a dumb old thing, but I would never let her starve, nor abuse her, nor let her grow sick and go untreated. Those are the words she understands." The look he gives the bird is fond despite himself. Then he smiles slowly as he says, "Now they call me the Shadowcat for other reasons."

Ainsley glances over at her brother as a hand is rested on her shoulder and she exhales, forcibly relaxing her shoulders. Smiling faintly she says, "Esra doesn't care a whit whether or not you can strike down a pheasant, so long as you can flush them for her properly. Falcons are not sentimental." To Tellur she says, "I wonder the same on occasion. Those birds caught from the wild have more anger in them at first, but then again, they can easily be turned loose after a season or two of service, better and stronger hunters for the partnership we forced on them. Esra, and birds like her can never quite… connect with their kind. We have taken that from them. But neither do they long for that freedom the way the caught hawks do." She speaks as if she's had such discussions with the birds themselves. How silly. To Carolis she says, "You're right, my lord, they do not speak our language. But we do, and our actions become colored by the words in our thoughts. Those we speak of unkindly we are more likely to treat unkindly." One brow lifts. "Why, then, do they call you 'shadowcat'?"

The hand is retracted after a tipsy Riderch carefully (?) studies the situation and confirms that his sister is not going to suddenly explode into an angry raptor of some kind. Or maybe he just dotes on her a little. This is all open to interpretation. This done, he returns to sitting lazily in his chair and more or less absorbing the conversation.

"We've a large, fat, orange cat that lives outside the manse now. I don't think he really cares that much about anyone but the cook that I had hired at the time. She brought him along, after all." He pauses a beat. "You know who I sometimes does not think trust me? My horse. Poor Lil, though, I can't really blame her."

"It is because Shadowcats also often do not wear breeches," Tellur says, _quite_ under his breath. He has managed to get some food down, now, and he is sharing with his beasts. His massive puppy lolls around at people's feet, contentedly. His owl stays still, really - her eyes are half-closed, and she looks quite relaxed. As if it never occurs to her - as it would to certainly any usual raptor - that anything here is a concern, raised voices, strange people, or no. Finally, Tellur himself says to Ainsley "It is very interesting to me, because I can train Grace here - the pup - very easily. My own horse, even more so - but Carolis' mount has more wild blood in him, and it is harder. Why should blood make the difference? He has never _been_ wild, himself. And yet he has a very great fire. Both he and Loathely are very smart as horses go, and have never felt the ill touch of a hand - and they both see battle. But they think so differently!" He says to Riderch "Is she the one you rode into battle? Lil?"

And after all this, Riderch's face just screws up in a lazy smile."Could /you/ blame her? You saw that charge." This is delivered towards the Northmen.

Carolis looks to Tellur pointedly and says, "She speaks sense. Kind words breed kind deeds, and harsh ones cruel." Those brows, they express so very much. He then says, "My experience with my hawk — and I'm not saying this is universal by any stretch — is that we found her when she was sick and hurting, and we nursed her back to health, and she has since seen us as a reliable source of food and shelter. I don't tether her. If she flies away someday and never returns, so be it, but so far she has come back." Tellur gets another look. He's wearing breeches. What. He clears his throat pointedly and says, "They call me Shadowcat because I prefer ambush and stealth to an outright charge, in battle and hunting. The enemy that never sees you is the enemy that doesn't get the first strike."

Somehow, although Tellur's critique is a very quiet one, Ainsley smiles briefly when it's uttered. "Blood makes all the difference," she agrees. "Blood is what separates a wolf from a dog, no matter if you raise that wolf up from a pup. Wild horses must be much the same." She looks to Riderch and then to Carolis. "I should like to meet your hawk. Speaking of which," one hand pats down on the table, "Shall we be off? Our pack of wolves and ravens and shadowcats? It will only grow darker, and I should like to sleep in the woods, tonight."

"Blood is what separates ravens from crows." Riderch suddenly utters in a weird echo of Ainsley's tone. There's something eerily similar about these two at certain times. And with that suggestion, he lurches forward and ambles to his feet. He's not unsteady per se, but a little slower than he would be. "Well, that should be it then? That was some hospitality befitting a Great House. And the first I've dined with here." Which is a roundabout way of getting to what he was trying to say all along. "Thank you." There. His eyes are a little narrowed here and he rolls his shoulders back in a stretch.


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