(121-12-06) Hellan's Return
Hellan's Return
Summary: Lady Hellan Stark returns to Oldtown, finds familiar faces, and learns what has been befalling the Starks there as of late from Ser Malcolm.
Date: 06/12/2014
Related: Silk Plot

Weirwood Manse Old Street
Sat Dec 06, 121 ((Sat Dec 06 18:42:08 2014))
It is a summer evening. The weather is hot and overcast.

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.

There is a greet deal of bustle about and servants are scrubbing at dried blood stains in the downstairs rooms. Most of the guards have a sheepish air and some Targaryen guards are mixed in with the Stark House Guards, but not many. A tall man in leathers with striped hair and beard and a Braavosi sword is carrying a tray towards the stairs with the sort of foods a recovering invalid might take to build up strength.

Hellan Stark has not been back in Oldtown for long by any means, and the city's seen better days since she last lay eyes on it. The same can be said of the woman herself, who, if it were possible, has a further hardened look to her chiseled face. It serves to cast her in an even more regal, perhaps even crueler light, though at certain angles she looks paler, sicker — yet never weak. Her shoulders are still square under her travel cloak, lined heavily in fur, dappled by wet and mud and fraying at the bottom. Word was that the lady nearly died before the plague struck, then left with her family to escape death's clutches again. It's alone she comes now, save for her escort, to the weirwood manse. Her notice of the Targaryen guards is immediately, but silently, critical. It's a Stark house guard she addresses, with naught but the announcement of her name so as to alert the inhabitants of her presence. She may be one of them in name and family — if not blood — but she hasn't lived among them for some time.

Malcolm looks that way and double takes at the announcement of the name. He sets the tray down carefully, so as not to spill soup, milk, or tea. He has a swordsman's bearing and an efficient sort of grace. He steps forward and gives her a deep and elegant bow. For all his Braavosi styling, his accent is of the StormCoast, and not particularly elevated, the sort of thing lower gentry might have in the South. "I am Ser Malcolm Storm, bodyguard to Lord Carolis. I fear you have found us in uncharacteristic disarray. Is their ought I might do for you?"

The stoic stance of a person waiting to be recognized, Hellan stands still as an iron post until she's drawn in by the welcome. It's her ice grey eyes that move first, taking in what she can glimpse of the manse's bottom floor and its goings-on with an exacting attention to detail. It's this attention that is transferred duly to Malcolm and his fashion. If the lingering sharpness in her eye is any indication, his flair doesn't pass her standard. Her response, however, is not unkind — though it isn't precisely kind, either, in her deep voice. "Ser Malcolm," she greets him proper. "Is your lord in? I have come recently from the road in recent days, and should like to stay among Starks." There's something deeper beneath those words, more than what she's given.

Malcolm straightens and there is a disciplined stillness about the young man and a deferential tilt to his head, "I fear My Lord is still easily tired after his illness and being a Stark will not yield easily to nature. He sleeps just now, though I will tell him of your coming when he wakes. If you like, I could have a second floor chamber prepared for you. Most of the sevants are recovered and the upstairs rooms were untouched by the recent unpleasantness."

Eonn slips in from the street, near silent on his soft-soled boots. He pauses, to look about at that unusual disarray.

A smile touches the corners of Hellan's broad lips over news of Carolis; not for any oddly placed thrill that he's been sick, but in understanding of Stark nature. And her own. The expression is a fleeting one. She nods, curt. "That would be fine." Though Eonn is nearly silent, she spares him slow glance; there, her eyes are not so watchful or critical. There's more ease in the way she seems to try to glean what the quiet man might be thinking of the manse's disarray. "There is no need for hurry," she tells Malcolm, and stalks few paces past him, into the room, with an air quite like she's been here all along. "You're clearly in the midst of something, and I am in no hurry to retire. Perhaps only some wine for myself and Eonn." She eyes a scrubbing servant. "Is that … blood?"

Eonn looks surprised, and. Delighted. He takes quick steps toward Hellan. For a moment, it seems that he's about to hug her, his long arms spreading. He stops himself half a pace away from her, but he grins. "My Lady!"

Malcolm smiles crookedly, "It's aftermath, more than crisis at this point. First we had to get all the supplies out of the cellars ahead of flooding, then there were the assassination attempts, which is how Tellur Snow, our Master of beasts was so badly wounded along with several guards. The blood is from the poisoning, which is also why we ended up with the extra guards. We didn't ask for them, but the Princess Visenya sent them around and it seemed impolite to refuse, so I was planning to send them back tomorrow so they might have time to feel useful.

Turning to Eonn, Hellan's smile appears for an instant and disappears, only to return at fuller strength, as if it had been suppressed since her awareness of Eonn's presence. It truly warms her cool face, all teeth — oddly faintly reddened inside the corners of her mouth, as if by blood or sourleaf, but her teeth are bright. This, while Malcolm tells of the stresses the house has been suffering. She extends a long hand toward Eonn. "Eonn," she states with a depth of understated welcome. "You will sit with me, won't you, while Ser Malcolm explains to me why there's assassination attempts."

"I will," says Eonn, taking her hand. He doesn't kiss it, but bows his head to press one side of his face against her hand and wrist. "Of course I will. I am so pleased to see you, Lady Hellan. I feared you lost."

Malcolm bows again, "Certainly, My Lady. Would you like refreshments? I'm not sure how much you heard about the Silk Plot, but there was an epidemic of poisonous silks several months ago."

Hellan looks down the length of her arm at Eonn in that moment, and her expression may even be fond. "Not lost, only hidden along the road and tired of inns. I shall not slip away so quietly." She takes Eonn's wrist, squeezes it once, drops it and moves to the nearest seat, whereupon she nods to Malcolm and replies. "I've heard words. It sounded ludicrous. Poisoning silk. Has the point of it all yet been uncovered?"

Eonn withdraws when she drops his wrist, and looks at her, "I would not necessarily have known had the plague taken you," he says. "I feared it." He moves to sit alongside her, at a politely respectful distance, now looking between the two of them to listen.

Malcolm says, "We took their hideout a few days past. The one in charge was killed in the fighting, but the Second was taken. He's under Hightower guard and not talking as yet. They were using an old Mullendone Manse, long abandoned when the undercity fell to decay. The were targetting us as we are holding a witness Tellur Snow captured in July or August, apparently. We were keeping him under guard in the cellar, but he was rather forgotten for a bit, but after he finally talked, they started trying to kill him. Lord Andolin killed the first two assassins, so they set an archer on a nearby roof and had thugs waiting to try to storm the doors, which is when Tellur snow was shott. The poison was the third attempt. it didn't kill outright, but there were a number of injuries and stabbings before the night guards could contain the day guards and staff….Luckily, the second assassination attempt gave them away and we could attack them in their lair in force. Lord Andy-olin led the archers, I lead the frontal assault, Squire Edwyn Lannister attacked the stables where they brewed the poison and the Princess Faelyn with her guards and the mob attacked the kitchen entrance. All are dead or captured."

After Eonn speaks, Hellan fights subtly between a smile and a frown; the expression makes her distant from Malcolm briefly, but soon vanishes as her focus mounts. How could it not as such a tale goes on. "Gods. I have chosen a fine time to return, haven't I?" Sarcasm or not, her bold brows press in seriously. "What was the point in all this, this Silk Plot? It sounds as though it was chaos."

Eonn lifts a hand to touch his lower lip, then gestures with that finger to Malcolm — probably he means he wishes to whisper to the other man.

Malcolm sighs, "Someone will have to question the second in command. he fought well and was likely the one organizing the dyeing and selling of the silk, he certainly was behind the killing of witnesses and was likely key to things like procuring and distributing the poisoned wine and ale. The problem is he was wounded in the battle and will not speak. As a result no one knows why exactly it happened. I know Maester Garth was doing much of the investigation and questioning up to the point Tellur had the assassin followed home."

Malcolm steps closer to Eonn.

Eonn half rises to whisper to Malcolm.

Eonn settles back, seeming satisfied that whatever he meant to communicate has been taken care of. He looks at Hellan, his normally chill blue eyes warm.

Calm but narrowed eyes of grey blue follow Eonn's intent. Lady Hellan, after all, does not like to be left out — but she spends the moment considering the news from the knight. She sits back in her chair after the whispers are through. "Unless his tongue was removed in battle, there ought to be someone, better than a maester, who can convince words from this captive," she says, not shying away from such matters.

Malcolm bows to her, "If My Lady would like to try her hand, it can be arranged, I am sure."

Eonn raises his eyebrows. He doesn't comment, though. It's hard to say what he really thinks about this.

A sly smile sharpens the edges of Hellan's mouth as she silently investigates Malcolm, as if to determine whether or not his offer was true or in jest. She, however, is not joking. "I have killed more men than interrogated them," unusual conversation, for anyone who doesn't know Lady Hellan was once known as the Battle-Axe of Bear Island, "but put me in front of him and I will see what he says then. Perhaps it would do him good to see a face he doesn't know." She twists her dark head about; at the immediate moment, she has more important things on her mind, such as, "Where is that wine…"

Malcolm's expression is open and friendly enough. Eonn's expression gets a crinkling of his brow, but her explanation clears things up, "so you are a kinswoman of Lady M…. Right. Would you be wanting to do the questioning here or at the lock up?" He signals for wine and a servant is quick to bring. it. In the time they have been talking, order is noticeable reasserting itself. the furniture being sturdy, most of the damage was to people. "We also have a half barrel of poisoned ale if you'd like to examine it, but best to be careful about getting it on your hands. The results are oiften violent and undignified."

Eonn looks at Malcolm, curious. "May I have some of it?" he asks. "Did you determine what the poison was?"

Remembrance of the so recently referenced poison causes Hellan to eye the wine she's taking into her hand now with some innate suspicion, but she's rather quick to put it to her mouth despite her misgivings. "I prefer my drink unpoisoned and my violence elsewhere," she states, looking to Eonn, curious over his curiosity. "As for the other matter— I leave the whereabouts in your hands," she defers as a courtesy, or perhaps she doesn't care one way or the other. She sips the wine. "Or whomever's in charge of this strange matter."

Malcolm actually blushes in response to Eonn's questions, "We have not tested it, but judging from the results, they combined the two poisons they used at festival. One makes a person..uninhibited, focused, prone to violence, unable to stop moving and the other grants visions. Together…. chaos. If you would like some, Eonn, I can arrange it. Again, be careful. It had rather distressing effects on the Lannister men who were exposed." He takes a cup from the tray and sips without sign of worry, "Don't worry, none of the wine was tainted and this is an older vintage anyway. I'm not sure anyone is in charge. The Guards are still overwhelmed, what with many dead or recovering and the looting in the undercity and the need for extra hands to unblock the waterways.

Eonn smiles at that, amused. He has a swallow from his own glass of wine and says, "So, not a killing poison."

"Someone ought to put themselves in charge," Hellan points out. "Chaos," she repeats a pause later, above the rim of her drink. "I may have been gone for some time, but it seems to me someone wanted to strike the city when its knees were already trembling." The way her chin raises is almost languid, but her gaze is calculating on Malcolm. "Did you succumb to this poison, ser?" she dares ask. Why else would he blush just there a moment ago.

Malcolm shakes his head, "Those who got large doses were unwell physically as well as mentally, but I think you'd need a very large amount to really kill someone directly. The danger is more them hurting themselves or others." Again a blush can be seen under his dusky tan. "Imagine a fully armed guard, who believes all are enemies and who simply can not stop. We are lucky that no one was killed out right. Luckily Andolin noticed fairly quickly and was able to rouse the night guards who hadn't drunk from the same barrel. Luckily most of the household follow Lord Carolis custom of well watering their ale." he looks genuinely embarrassed at the question, looking down at his hands, "I was poisoned by both drugs separately during Festival. The one that gives visions had no smell I could discern. The more dangerous one… I could not smell it through the wine, though Tellur's hound can, which is how we discovered the tainted barrel. The amount in a dose is small, but later one can smell it in a sufferer's sweat and the stable where they brewed it… There was no mistaking and the foul air within was strong enough to cloud a man's mind."

"Sounds terrible," Hellan says. If she meant it to be a sympathy, she forgot to inject the appropriate well-meaning into her voice. Thoughtful, she continues to down her wine portion by portion with enough space inbetween to remain moderately ladylike.

Eonn downs wine in an unladylike fashion. He's sitting beside Hellan, far enough away from her to be respectable.

Order is beinginning to reassert itself downstairs as most of the servants are back on duty and working hard to get the bloodstains up and all put to rights as much as can be with the cellar still half flooded. There are some Targaryen Guards mixed with the Stark ones, but the guards that weren't injured during the poisoning chaos are back on duty. Lady Hellan, Eonn of Rills, and Ser Malcolm are drinking wine and conversing, while on the second floor they are airing Lady Hellan's room and getting all ready for her occupation.

Andolin's been out all day to god knows where, and when he comes back in his shirt's a little damp and hanging crooked, and he looks like he's in high enough spirits. When he actually gets inside - with a wary look toward the poor servant girl who's now milling about - he starts meandering upstairs, favoring his leg as always. The noise of conversation on the second floor - a rarity - causes him to pause, reroute, and glance in — and blink. "Lady Hellan? I haven't seen you in a while." Since roundabouts the Wildling hunts, most likely.

Malcolm looks Lady Hellan in the eyes for the first time and says with the firmness of absolute conviction, "People could have died. We are all very lucky it was only the enemy who did." Then he resumes his polite young man demeanor and sips his wine. Then Lord Andolin is there and he stands, giving him a formal bow in greeting. "We were discussing your recent quick thinking and heroism a few moments ago, My Lord."

Hellan regards Malcolm directly back, eye to eye, her own gaze inscrutable. After he's said his piece on the seriousness of the situation, she nods subtly once — approving. The new presence causes her to slowly sit up straighter in her chair, not that she had slouched; fur from the cloak she's kept on grazes her sharp jaw. Icy eyes squint, as though it takes her a few seconds to place Andolin, separating one young lord from another in memory. In true, it's the favouring of his leg that solidifies her certainty before her eyes quite focus on his face. "Lord Andolin. You'll be seeing more of me; Ser Malcolm has been kind enough to see to it that a room is prepared for me here among the Starks. Yes, he mentioned you leading archers."

Eonn stays silent, though he looks at Lady Hellan. He seems fond of the woman.

Andolin tugs at his shirt, unconsciously trying to straighten it, though it'd take a bit more than that to make it look particularly presentable. He gives Mal a smile, which then transfers over to Hellan a bit more fully. "It's a pleasure to have you back here in Oldtown, my Lady, and even more of one to have you here in the house. I only got back here a bit ago myself." He acknowledges Eonn, and then the smile goes a little crooked. "Yes, I did. We had quite a fight. It seems like everything's calmed down after."

Malcolm's clever eyes have not missed Eonn's looks at Lady Hellan, but he neither comments nor reacts to it. He is in polite young man mode in front of an obviously important stranger, after all. "Without the archers, the defenders would have been firing down on the men manning the ram and the flanking force around back. As it was, people were wounded on our side, but none died. There is also the matter of you foiling the first assassins and quickly spotting the trouble the ale caused." He knows his Starks don't brag, so does it for them as a good sworn man should.

"I should hope it has calmed," Hellan says before a sip of her wine. She sounds unconvinced that things will remain calm, and briefly looks to Eonn as if to determine his thoughts. She listens to Malcolm's telling with a true interest, not one contrived to only seem intrigued by tactics and battle. This is her language, too. "It seems they put up quite a fight." She nods to Andolin. "Drink with us, Lord Andolin. To victory, for now, against this strange enemy." Accolades and toasts do not fall naturally on Hellan's tongue, and it may simply be an excuse for more wine to fill cups.

Eonn just looks amused. And when it's time to refill cups, he moves to do so. His own is left for last, but he does not forget it.

Andolin smiles a little crookedly. "I appreciate the words, Ser Malcolm," he offers, and then makes his way into the room proper at the offer, limping his way over to a seat to sit back into it and claim one of the empty cups; he's not one to argue a glass or three. "They were well camped in there, and prepared for an attack. But, yes, I'm hoping that will be the end of it." And then, more curiously, "Did you only just arrive back in town?"

Servants come with an extra cup and another decanter in case the first runs low. Ser Malcolm has drunk sparingly, small sips much as his Lord does. He bows to Lord Andolin again, and takes his seat when the Lord does. "We were lucky in the flooding. They had a trap to the sewer."

"Yes," says Hellan, "I convinced Wylliam to continue north back to Winterfell," she explains with a faint edge to her voice — an additional one, that is, to the edge that exists to most of her words. "Gidion accompanies him on the road." Thankful for her filled cup, she drinks of it heartily. "I told Ser Malcolm I should like to visit the prisoner who does not speak."

"The house is old," says Eonn quietly. "I am sure it has weathered worse floods." He shifts his weight in his chair a bit, then leans back and swallows more wine.

Andolin's features don't change much when Wylliam is mentioned, and he merely nods and takes a sip of his wine. "I admit, I don't know a lot of the background to what's going on. I would like to hear of anything he says, but I don't think I'd be good at questioning him." And, he looks a little wry at both Malcolm and Eonn. "Yes, likely."

these are just names to Ser Malcolm, who really only knows three starks well, not counting Carolis' younger brother whom he met on his visit to Winterfell and some of the older women of the house who were there as well. His expression is polite as they catch up on news, "Shall I have him brought, My Lady?"

Hellan thinks for a long moment, the sharp, pale knuckles of the hand that isn't engaged in clutching her wine brushing her chin. "Yes," she determines, sounding distant but decided. "Once all is settled." Her in the manse, the manse itself— though the latter seems to be cleaning up nicely.

Eonn nods to Andolin and is silent again, drinking wine.

Andolin looks a wee bit uncertain, glancing aside to Malcolm. "Is that the one that Tellur had been keeping?"

Malcolm shakes his head, "Tellur's prisoner's laid up with a leg wound from the second association attempt. It sounds like Maester Garth got all the information he had. I feel sorry for the retch to be honest. He's terrified of Tellur, apparently. It may be Maester Garth knows useful things, but you know how things are up at Citadel with half the Maesters gone or recovering. This is the one Princess Faelyn took when she stormed the back of the house." He nods and sets his wine aside to go give orders for the important prisoner to be fetched from the Guards.

"Terrified of Snow?" is what Hellan chooses to hone in on, as if the notion is preposterous, though truly she barely knows the lad. Anyway, she waves the line of thought off as unimportant seconds later. "I will have my own look at this new prisoner." Her tone has a way of making her sound both curt and unconcerned in the same breath, and more of both when punctuated with a drink. "For the time, however, I believe I will go acquaint myself with my quarters, as it has been a long day." She nods to Andolin as she starts to rise, as if to apologize for departing so soon after insisting he come in. Another to Malcolm. "Ser Malcolm, my gratitude for everything." Eonn receives no nod nor words, but a knowing smile that is grateful in its own subdued way — and then she fills her own cup few inches more. For the road. To her room.

"Ah, right," Andolin says to Malcolm, and then transfers that look over toward Hellan, rising as she does to stay polite. "Not a problem. I'm just glad you're back with us. It will be good having you stay here with us, and I hope to see you around more."

Eonn watches Hellan, and nods to her, but he doesn't move. He seems like it might be that he's sorry to see her leave his presence, though.

Malcolm bows deeply to Lady Hellan, "The Prisoner will be moved so that you may question at leisure. It is my pleasure to be of service, My Lady."

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