(122-05-15) Just When You Think It's Safe to Eat Custard....
Just When You Think It's Safe to Eat Custard….
Summary: Lord Carolis stops at a Castle on the way to White Harbour and discovers intrigue there.
Date: Date of play (13 and 15/05/122)
Related: http://gobmush.wikidot.com/plot:something-is-rotten-at-winterfell

The road wends South and a bit west. In a valley in the Southernmost foothills there is a lake with fine fishing that is a tributary to a large river that eventually feeds the broken branch. Overlooking this lake is a small, but well built castle called Raven's Eye, belonging to a very minor house called Ellyswood. They owe allegiance to a Lord who owes allegiance to the Manderlays to the South. The hills here are covered with good timber, though the one can see the fine grain country stretching out in the flatland beyond the hills. The mouth on the stream runs mostly Easterly, and odds are the sunsets are spectacular, but alas, evening is falling rapidly, and the woods growing dark quickly. There is a small inn by the lake surrounded by cottages, or one might take the winding path up to the castle.

Carolis sent half his men on to Castle Cerwyn to inform them he will be coming after seeing to some business with Manderly. The few he had left he had scout about while they rode. He needed time to himself to brood. The North was not populated by wolves. The North was populated by *cats* and he was their lone shepherd. In any case, the sun is getting low, and need to shelter somewhere for the night. He sent word up ahead to see how receptive Raven's Eye would be to receiving a Lord of House Stark. Normally he wouldn't bother, but allies were in short supply, and news of this region in shorter still. He waits at the in for word, and he has himself a pint of whatever's in the keg. He wears nothing ostentatious, though even with the hood of his winter cloak pulled up, it's hard to hide entirely those soft, fair features.

A boy of ten or eleven turns up on a rather nice hunter. He's sturdily dressed in green and brown. He is rather tan and the sun has lightened his brown hair. He is clearly well fed and the quality of his clothes suggests he might be from up the fort. The locals all tug forelocks and the like. His rather imperious blue eyes scan the room and he spots the obvious noble amoung them, and strides that way.

Carolis knows it's only a matter of time, and when he spies the youth heading his way, he arches a brow. Still wet behind the ears and striding forth like he's so fine? Carolis half-smiled. Thank the gods *he* was never an arrogant little brat like that. All right, maybe he was *exactly* a little brat like that. He touched fingertips to the top of his hood and inclined his head.

The boy looks him over, "Are you Lord Carolis? Come on then. Grandfather offers you our hospitality and there is to be a really nice custard afterwards, so best to be coming along."

Carolis rises to his feet, and he draws back his hood. It is indeed a very tall Lord Carolis who gazes down at the boy. He's also well fed and in good health, and unmistakably a Stark in bearing and features. For those who hadn't noticed before, he's quite a sight to see. His attention is on the boy, however, to whom he says gravely, "We mustn't be late for custard." He gestured for the youth to lead the way. He'd already arranged to have Midnight saddled and ready. Poor sap, whoever it was, who had to keep the bitey gelding in check.

The boy flashes him the grin of approval due an adult who grasps the important things and strides back out. The terrified stable boy with the bloody hand is pleased to be turning the evil horse over to his master. The boy says, "I'm Rikkard, by the way, in honor of the Lord that was.

Carolis winces on behalf of the poor stable boy, and he offers him a few coins, more than enough for his trouble, though if one can buy off a bitten hand is up for debate. He can certainly afford to get it treated now. "There are those who think he's a Southron devil," he confides. Then he tells the noble child, "Well met, Rikkard. A fine name and a fine honor." He swings into his saddle, and his horse nickers a complaint. Carolis was gone for a trillion years. Midnight counted.

The wary stable boy does bow before scurrying off with the coins, lest Lord Carolis changes his mind and leaves the devil there. The boy challenges him, "Want to race?"

Poor stable boy. Carolis knows that scurry well. "You're terrible," he murmurs to Midnight as he pats the beast's mane. He grins then at Rikkard and says, "All right." He'll give Midnight free rein. The devilsteed is nothing if not agile and fleet of foot.

The boy's horse is not as good as Midnight, but he and the horse both no the road and it's turns and pitfalls, so they make a fine showing nevertheless. The boy rides well, having grown up ahorse.

Midnight needs the run, to be honest. He's been reined in and plodding along for days, like he were some sort of transport beats instead of an archer's mount. Carolis laughs as they both make a fine showing, and he sidles up to clasp the youth on the shoulder, mindful not to let Midnight get in a position to nip. "Well done, Rikkard. You would give my cousin Andy a run for his money, and he's practically part horse, himself."

Rikkard grins up at the Sstark, pleased with the compliment. "That is a wonderful horse!" After a pause he squints and pops out the thing really on his mind, "Are you really to be King of Winter?" The courtyard here is of wide slabs, likely mined in these hills, and the walls are a sturdy looking grey. They've an Andal style keep, though the walls and great hall have a pre-invasion look to them. Stable boys approach unwarily, not know the horror midnight holds for them. Dogs run barking to meet the young Lord and his guest. A curvy blondish woman of about thirty in what is likely her best kertle of teal comes forward to greet them. Two handsome young men, both with dark brown hair, a great deal of cheekbone and blue grey eyes size Lord Carolis up, the older from the door of the Keep, and the younger from the door of the great hall. The older is dressed in navy and grey, the younger in green and a medium blue. The older is likely early twenties; the younger about Lord Carolis age. They can not be other than brothers from the look of them, and their clothes have the sturdy, well made look, favoured of Northern lower nobility. The Lady gives Rikkard an alarmed, warning glare.

Carolis's brows lifted. So it was not only to be Warden of the North, but King as well? He told the boy the most honest non-answer he could think of at the time: "I'm sure the Targaryen king would be tepid to the idea." He dismounts, and he warns the stable boy, "This horse is bred in the North but has the soul of a Southron devil." He slips the youth a coin in advance, and from the denomination, hopefully he'll take the threat seriously. He pats Midnight's neck and deflects an attempted nip at the stable boy's hair. That business done, he turns to greet the Lady, blithely unaware (or seemingly so) of any warning glances given to anyone. "Milady, you honor me with your hospitality."

Carolis takes in each brother with a glance, guarded but no less friendly for it. He's already learned it's the female of the species one really must watch.

The boy looks disappointed, but the blond woman, whom Rikkard resembles, looks relieved, "We've made up a room for you and we will sup at your convenience." She curtsies, "You honor, us, My Lord." She's trying to look bland, but her cheeks are flushed, and she's a rather flustered look. The stable lad bobs his head, pleased enough at the coin, and not yet grasping the danger to his fingers and privates. Said lad manages to resemble both Rikkard and the two older nobleman rather more than the two resemble Rikkard. The Lady turns to the older of the dark brothers, "Why don't you show Lord Carolis to his room?" The dark brother's glare at each other, but the older straightens, and steps forward, bowing smoothly, "I'm Lord Bran Ellyswood, My Lord." There is a hint of mischief in his eyes, "Yonder is my brother Ned, pouting. I take it you've met our Rikkard already." Rikkard lifts his chin defiantly at at the Ellyswood heir, who ruffles his hair fondly enough, much to the lad's disgust.

The stable boy will learn. As so many have learned. A Snow, no doubt, the lad is. Carolis inclines his head to Ned. "Lord Eddard," he says, in hopes that some formal recognition may smooth things over somewhat. He can't help but grin at poor Rikkard's disgust. His own little brother back in Winterfell endures the same cruel fate too often. "Your Rikkard is quite the horseman," he says. "I had to ride for my life to break even." Not that he's at all tired, and Midnight sorely needed to bleed off all that energy. "Shall we?"

The Lord Eddard seems to have lips made for pouting, but being acknowledged by the heir of Winterfell, steps forward to give his own graceful bow. If it weren't for the difference in age and Lord Bran's slightly squarer chin, they could be twins. Up close there very dark brown hair has a reddish tint in the last light before the sun drops entirely behind the castle. He studies Lord Carolis under the curtain of his hair, with obvious curiosity, "We are honored by your visit." The Lady beams at the praise of her son, who puffs up under the attention, "I'm sure you are very kind to notice, My Lord." Lord Bran leads the way into the dark of the keep, taking a lantern with him to light the Stark's way. No protective cliff here allowing large windows, and there is a bare bones feel about everything. The stair is uneven and defensively spiraled, and the whole place has the sort of wear you get in a place where multiple sieges have been fought. "What brings you our way, Lord carolis, or is it rude to ask?" Lord Eddard trails a distance behind, with an elaborately casual air, suggesting he only just happens to be walking this way, but is in no rush. The night falls quickly in these hills, though through the arrow slits one can catch light ion the grain growing to the South.

Carolis's head tilts as he considers the quiet young lord with the pouting lips. His smile is soft but amiable. Then he is following Lord Bran, casually watchful. Who knows who his allies are anymore, and who is enemies. Lord Mouston's castle proved enlightening in so many ways. "Not at all," he tells Bran. "I'm traveling to the coast to meet with some associates. I sent my men ahead so that they'll expect me, but I thought it better to overnight somewhere secure, times being what they are." It's almost startling, how quickly night comes on here in the North. Carolis had gotten used to those lazy, hot summer days that seemed to last forever in the South. "To tell you the truth, we've been riding hard, and I could use a good night's rest."

Lord Bran comments, "You were lucky to catch me home at all. We've been gathering men to ride to Ramsgate to help with the Coastal raiders, and my father is in the east with the Army." Which army, he does not specify. Down below, there is a snort. From the look of it, the room given Lord Carolis belonged to young Rikkard. The bed is rather short for a man Lord Carolis' height, though as neither dark brother nor the Lady Elliswood are tall, it may be no bed long enough would have been on order already. There are a fine set of ten wooden soldiers, five Northmen and the other five clearly meant to resemble a man of Ib, an Essoi pirate with blue hair, and three assorted Wildlings. Here rests the lad's bow, practice sword and gear. The arrow slit faces the Northern hills. Someone has dragged up a hip bath. The water is warm, the soap rough, and there is a bit of a puddle where someone sloshed and didn't notice in the rush to fill it. "You'll be safe enough here. The river's too shallow to attract raiders."

Lord Bran comments, "You were lucky to catch me home at all. We've been gathering men to ride to Ramsgate to help with the Coastal raiders, and my father is in the east with the Army." Which army, he does not specify. Down below, there is a snort. From the look of it, the room given Lord Carolis belonged to young Rikkard. The bed is rather short for a man Lord Carolis' height, though as neither dark brother nor the Lady Elliswood are tall, it may be no bed long enough would have been on order already. There are a fine set of ten wooden soldiers, five Northmen and the other five clearly meant to resemble a man of Ib, an Essoi pirate with blue hair, and three assorted Wildlings. Here rests the lad's bow, practice sword and gear. The arrow slit faces the Northern hills. Someone has dragged up a hip bath. The water is warm, the soap rough, and there is a bit of a puddle where someone sloshed and didn't notice in the rush to fill it. "You'll be safe enough here. The river's too shallow to attract raiders." Another snort might be heard from the younger brother, lingering in the stairs just outside the door.

Carolis's gaze flits to the door, then to Bran, and he arches a brow with amusement. He hangs his cloak, and he begins to loosen the sleeves of his doublet. That hip bath is the finest thing he's seen all day, and he wants to put parts of his body in it. "I would break bread with you, Lord Bran, in part because I am famished. I've no treachery in mind. We're all good Northron men."

Lord Bran gives Carolis a 'Little brothers, what can you do?' look, which lingers assessingly as Lord Carolis begins to loosen his sleeves. Out on the landing, Ned is doing his own measuring. Lord eddard says with some bitterness, "We are _all_ honorable men."

"Of course," Lord Carolis says. He unlaces the front of his doublet, and his gaze shifts from Bran to Eddard, back to Bran. One couldn't pinpoint anything provocative about the heir to Winterfell's gaze. He has the aloof cool of his kin, but there's that banked glimmer of humor that makes it somehow… warmer, if not welcoming. Not *un*welcoming, perhaps. "We are all honorable Northron men."

Lord Bran's gaze, while intense, is ambiguous as to meaning. "One can only hope so, Lord Carolis. I will leave you to your freshening." He sweeps by, something in his bearing suggesting where young Lord Rikkard gets his. Lord Bran and Lord Eddard exchange glares as Lord Bran sweeps past his brother without other acknowledgement. Lord Eddard then turns raised eyebrows and a sardonic smile on Lord Carolis.

Carolis tilts his head as he watches Lord Bran go. "Being a younger brother has its moments," he said wryly as he tugs off his doublet and unlaces the shirt beneath, then tugs it off, too. So pale, with scars one might associate with a man whose spent his adult life at war. That wound in his side at the battle with the Wildlings nearly ended him, and there's the evidence etched into white skin. Well-formed, though, he is.

Neither brother closes the door, though it is only the younger of the two who leans against the wall, all casual like, boldly watching the heir to the North undress with a hard to read expression in his pale eyes. Like his older brother, he is well formed, but not above 5' 9" in stature. He has the look of a man who's done much riding and sword work.

Carolis has ridden with armies enough times, and shared close quarters in winter, to not get too hung up on modesty. He flits Eddard a brief glance, brows lifting a touch. He too can play inscrutable. He washes up, not trying to pry conversation out of them, though nothing about his body language implies he's not amendable to listening.

Lord Eddard makes a very good effort at Starking, all silent and inscrutable, but he is up against a professional Stark and a Shadow Cat to boot. He lasts until Lord Carolis is nearly done washing before inquiring with elaborate casualness, "Why are you riding South instead of North to meet your army?"

That's right, boy. No one out-Starks a Stark. Once he's done bathing — and it's all so picturesque, surely by coincidence — he dries himself off. "I've some business with an associate of mine. My men have their orders. I shall meet them soon enough."

The lad hesitates, checking up and then down the stairs before stepping in and closing the door behind him. He closes the distance between them quickly. Though his is well armed he draws neither knife nor sword.

Carolis's gaze is sharp and his hand quick. He stops short of grabbing up the knife from his clothes nearby. The brother's stride is all wrong for an attack.

Ned drops his eyes and whispers, "Might I ride with you, My Lord?"

Carolis tilts his head, and he all but towers over Ned, considering him for a long moment. His gaze flits to the door. He's a sneaky one by nature, and keeping an eye out for listening ears has become second nature. "What is your cause, Lord Eddard," he murmurs, his voice all silky smooth.

Ned looks up at him rather pleadingly, "I…I'd like to serve you, My Lord and fight for you and… and make my own name, instead of staying here in my brother's shadow."

Carolis studied his face, touching fingertips to his chin to make sure the youth didn't look away from him. "Do you know my intentions, Lord Eddard? Would you follow me whatever my cause? It would be dangerous. I couldn't guarantee your safety." The words are kind, but those intense blue eyes are like glaciers.

Ned's eyes are steady enough, "I know you are the liberator of Hunter's Home, A Stark of Winterfell." His pride is stung, "I'm a grown man! An excellent shot and strong sword! It's not about safety! It's about honor."

"Then you must know I ride forth to honor the name of Stark," Carolis keeps an ear on the door, listening for footfalls without, "After our campaign, we ride to Oldtown. It can be a savage land, Highgarden."

Ned murmurs, "You will be like Bran the breaker, bringing the unjust to their knees and putting all Westeros to rights."

Carolis smiles wryly as he says, "I'll at least try to sort out our own Northron land. The gods take these Southrons and their ways."

It is at this moment that a loud knock strikes the unbarred bedroom door. Rikkard calls, "hurry up! They roasted a whole boar!"

Carolis's calls, "I come anon," he calls. To Eddard, he says quietly, "It looks like these negotiations may go well into the night."

The lad nods, "I hope so, My Lord." Rikkard is clearly fidgeting out there. "Come oooooon!"

Carolis says, "Best appease the High Minister of Custard. There's to be none until we've had our boar, don't you know."

Lord Eddard stands behind the door so as not to be visible when it is open, and there is Rikkard, with face and hands fresh scrubbed and a 'what is wrong with you there is going to be _custard_ why are you slow' expression on his face.

Carolis grins broadly and lays a hand on Rikkard's shoulder as he says, "Lay on, young lord. I promise there won't be any more delays." At least from him, because let's face it: custard is pretty awesome.

Rikkard beams up at him and then scurries on ahead with his lantern to light the dark stare, lest the heir of Winterfell break his neck and they be forced to explain it.

There is a very soft sound as someone steps quietly out of a door behind them one floor down and a subtle swoosh of fabric/

Carolis tilts an ear toward the sound. Is his knife in his belt? Yes. Dagger? Yes. Swords are a little hostile for dinner, but he has yet to break bread here. Still, he's left it behind. Daggers are better in close quarters anyway.

A very sharp stiletto is suddenly at Lord Carolis' neck and warm breath is at the back of his neck. A slender hand captures his wrist as he reaches for his weapon. The light of the lantern dims as the boy makes another turn in the spiral, humming happily to himself oblivious. A voice whispers, "Not a sound. Back slowly up two steps and left into the room."

Carolis stops. His hands lift to show he's not going for a weapon. Whoever has him can't be taller than he is when on even ground. Few men are, and no woman or child he's ever met. As he counts the steps, one and two, and turns toward the room on the left, just like he's been told, he's thinking. Once they're on even footing…

Indeed as he rises, the other struggles to keep the knife on his neck and is forced to shift position for a kidney, leaving a good opening.

At some point, there isn't even indignation. Of course it's bad form to attack Carolis. He'd prefer it not happen, were anyone to ask his opinion. However, after awhile, the bitter sting of rage just isn't there. He just acts. The moment there's an opening, his knife is in his hand and he turns press the advantage, looming over his would-be assailant with the sharp metal of his blade pressed against their vitals. Whitewalkers have nothing on his glacial gaze.

And yet, no bread or salt were eaten. The girl looks to be fourteen or fifteen, and she's the cheekbones, lips, and dark hair of what are obviously her older brothers. She's an athletic thing, but all of 5' 4 or 5" and hampered by a well embroidered blue gray gown that matches her furious eyes. She gets in a scratch to his ribs in the scuffle, but freezes as he touches her with the weapon. Seeing her defeat, she drops the blade with a clatter. If Lord Carolis is White walker glacial, her eyes are the hottest part of a blacksmith's fire.

This is why Carolis doesn't wear his dress doublets when he travels North. Not only because they make him look like a Southron ponce, but it's always with the slices from knives and the getting torn by bracken, jagged rocks, and furtive horses. When he sees who his assailant is, his brow furrows. The blade is kicked from her reach, and he keeps his own at the ready. "What are you about, then?"

Lord Rikkard is long gone, but Ned might turn up any second, depending on the length of his toilet. She spits at him, a big healthy gob, and hisses, "Traitor! You disgrace to the Stark name!" If looks could kill, Lord Carolis' lips would be turning blue.

Carolis wrinkles his nose in disgust, and he presses the knife in just a little. Not enough to hurt her, but to remind her he *is* armed. He wiped his cheek off on his shoulder, then steered her to the corner to box her in. "And just what do you know, little bit?" he growled.

The young Lady lifts her chin proudly, "I know you are raising an army to destroy the rightful Lord of Winterfell. Go ahead, kill, me traitor! You're surrounded here and vengeance will be swift!" A door opens and closes above. The Lady is a spirited one and no coward. "I was going to make you confess so we might send your brother your head to show our loyalty."

Carolis nods once, and he lets up. A little. "I'm not going to betray my brother," he said, quiet and calm, "and if you send him my head, he would be rather put out. Have you ever heard of a double bluff?" He jerks his head toward the door opening and closing. "This castle has ears, mind what you say and to whom." He looked her over with severe disapproval. "Now get ready for dinner. She cooked a whole boar and everything."

She's no easily cozened Sothron girl. She narrows her eyes at him, "How do I know you tell true?" Her shoulders sag though and she looks ready to give in and eat boar with the dubtful guest. It is at this point that Eddard Ellyswood turns the corner with his lantern and stares at them both in shock.

"You're alive, aren't you?" Carolis said lowly, and he arched a brow. Then Eddard is there, and Carol turns and smiles at him. Knife? What knife? That is tucked into his belt one-handed as he turns, the action hidden from view. "Our Minister of Custard got ahead of me," he tells him. "I heard this one and thought she might know a better way to go." She gets a sidelong Look.

The girl can think on her feet at least and has her hands and a carefully tucked handkerchief over the bleeding scratch on his arm in a flash and is giving her brother the most innocent and enthusiastic of smiles, "Lord Carolis is quite charming!" And there is Lord Eddard's glare and pout again.

"Your sister here is a darling girl." His smile turns sweet as honey. Hear that, Janice? Girl. Child. It's not like that. She was just trying to assassinate him. Like kids do. "And I am famished. I don't suppose you'll lead the way?"

Ned seems somewhat mollified, but wary as he leads them to dinner in the Great hall. He does keep glancing back to make sure Lord Carolis is not snogging his baby sister. They've pipers to play them in, but not the elaborate entertainment of Hunter's Home. The younger members of the household are out in force, to at least get a look at the Stark heir before bed time. This includes a blonde girl of seven, a toddler, and a lap baby all in care of a nurse and in their nightgowns. The older Ellyswoods are at the high table, including young Rikkard allowed to sit at the feast despite his young age. It looks like Lady Ellyswood and Lord Bran are presiding with Lord Carolis offered the place of honor.

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