(122-12-06) A Tale of Two Brothers
A Tale of Two Brothers
Summary: Marsei has made sure to acquire an unusual guest, one who must be kept under guard, and she finally meets the subject of her benevolence, Istor Fossoway, face-to-face.
Date: 06/12/2015
Related: Amity, so much more Fossoway plot I don't even

The Hightower has seen an influx in guests today, arriving for the vast hospitality of the Hightower before the wedding events in a fortnight. Most of them were from Cider Hall. The Fossoways do still treat Marsei as family, after all. She's welcomed all of them — all but one. Down a maze of dark corridors, she approaches an out-of-the-way room under guard and is let in.

Lord Istor must have heard Marsei's approach. What with the shifting of the guards and their muttering to decide whether it's all right to let the lady in alone, and asking her directly whether she'd like an escort, it's no surprise that he is ready for her. He's sitting up straight in the room's chair, and his clothing looks fine and brand-new. Obviously he was given something that would be appropriate for the wedding. But looking at him, one can tell that he's a little thinnot starved, but drawnand pale. He still resembles his older brother, with the same brown hair and hazel eyes, but has none of that man's martial sturdiness about him, now. He is cleanshaven. "Lady Marsei," he greets. He tries to appear entirely at ease, but someone as observant as Marsei may see that he is very much on edge. "I am told I owe you thanks."

Caution keeps Marsei's steps slow. She isn't sure what kind of man she'll meet inside. She shuts the door behind her without taking her eyes off of Istor, having given the guards quiet assurances; if she needs them, they're not far away… behind that closed door. She looks over the man she knows by name and takes the time to put a face to him, smiling her gentle hello. "Lord Istor." She looks at him as though he's familiar, though she studies him only now. Not only by his reputation, but how much he looks like a Fossoway, she reflects. "I feel as though I should already know you. It is so good to meet you," she expresses. "I hope you've found things to your liking…?"

Istor laughs immediately at the last question, an explosion of sound that he quickly chokes back, putting a hand over his mouth. "Forgive me. Yes. How nice. There's even a chair." He looks thoughtfully at Marsei. "You're related to us, they told me. Now who was it— they told me— that you were married to?" He waves his hand. "Nevermind. By marriage. So perhaps we met. Was it before? You'll forgive me. Time is somehow disordered. You've come to see me," he says, almost as if to set the conversation back on track, though he can't help asking, "Did you speak to my good brother before you did?"

Marsei takes a quick little breath in, glancing aside at the room — on the small side, one of the tower's less lavish accommodations, but of course it would be a dream compared to a dungeon, of course. She looks down as though to apologize, embarrassed for asking, but not for long; she listens to Istor as patiently as though his words weren't confusing. Disordered. She looks inquisitively at him though it's he who's asking the questions. "I was married to Lord Jarvas, of the Golden Orchard Fossoways," she provides first before going on softly, "Your good brother?"

"Of course," Istor agrees, nodding once. "Jarvas. Seven rest him." So he's up to date on that, at least. Despite his brief outburst, he doesn't seem maliciously inclined toward Marsei. But he does assert: "If you know about me, then you know about my brother. They told me that I'm attending instead of him, but I don't believe it for a moment. He'd never let me this far out of his sight…" His gaze has wandered, but he brings it back to Marsei with some effort. "And I imagine you've talked it all over with him."

"Oh," Marsei voices quietly, "Your brother. Well… not as such," she admits to Istor, her tone one of reassurance. She comes slightly closer. Though she looks down on him while he sits and she stands, however unimpressive her height, there's a kindness in her gaze that seems to level them, as though she were sitting across from him and they were no different. "You need not worry about your brother while you're here." She ventures with faint hesitation, "Do you fear he will interfere?"

Istor looks suspicious, but he tries to contain it. On being asked directly, however, he can't keep entirely quiet. "He'd have my throat slit in a trice," he assers. "I would think they brought me here to have me quietly killed, but Camillo would never allow it." He rubs his chin absently. "Still, Camillo has a simple nature and could be fooled." He fixes Marsei with a sharp gaze.

His assessment of Camillo brings a fleeting shock to Marsei's face more than the thought of the Fossoway brother slitting Istor's throat. A sympathetic frown turns her lips down and she gives her head a shake in the face of his sharp gaze. "No, your trust in Camillo in safe … and you may trust in me, Lord Istor. He came to me with a plea and I vow to keep it and give you this moment's freedom, as it's all I can. I feel for what you have gone through— it seems … unjust, to me. I love the Fossoways, but I have no allegiance to your brother. I do not know him. But I know Camillo."

Istor laughs. "I don't mean Camillo would /do/ it," he clarifies. "He would never. Don't you find him trustworthy? He serves you now, doesn't he? Or the house. Your brother. I meant he'd stop it if it was their plan." He smiles when Marsei calls his treatment unjust. "You are kind; I believe your vow is honest. I am not easily fooled. But I have been away from people for some time. Forgive me if I have been rude." He inclines his head politely. "I have not congratulated you on your upcoming marriage."

Marsei gives her head another small shake and her budding smile says they are on the same page. "Of course. Camillo is loyal. I only meant— there is no trick," she assures. "You needn't apologize, Lord Istor, for what you've been through. Thank you — less than a fortnight now," she says cheerily, going on as if it's smalltalk; a common conversation. But that ends nearly before it's begun, as she ventures, ever gentle in her prompting, "If I may… ask… the incident between you and your brother. The reports are so varied and confused…"

Istor's gaze occasionally wanders, to the door, to Marsei's fingertips, to the wall, back to her face. But he smiles when she asks about the facts. "I thought he was unfit in many ways as heir," he says. "I thought I must remove him before my father dies and I attempted to do so with the help of some friends. I believe my father implicitly agreed with me. But in the end he called on friends of his own I hadn't anticipated and my force was not victorious. I was captured." It's a pretty calm description of events. But not exactly motives.

Moving only to nod thoughtfully when Istor mentions his father, Marsei listens as calmly as he speaks — but her curiosity is a clear and vivid thing in her gaze. Her hands are folded lightly in front of her; they shift upon the seeming end of Istor's explanation. For a moment, her lips press on the verge of words. Whatever words she thought to form, they aren't the ones she voices when she asks, "Why do you think he was unfit?" No suspicion taints the lady's voice; rather, she has an innocent-sounding wonder that seems, at least, to unquestioningly believe him.

"He is a demon from the depths of the seven hells," Istor says calmly in a tone that suggests he does not mean that metaphorically, "But it took me time to see that. At first, I saw just that he is lazy, he is stupid, he has monstrous lusts, and I am free of such evils. Why should I not lead the house instead of him? I have a better head for strategy. I do not lash out with temper. I can manage diplomacy with more than a fist pounding on the table. I see danger coming. I am wise with money. He will lead the house to ruin, half an animal that he is!" Istor spits out, face momentarily distorted by rage. But he sits back again and takes a breath to conclude more quietly. "It would have been best to remove him."

Istor's tone may remain even in his harsh evaluation of his brother, but the exactness, the conviction … the rage he shows toward the end— Marsei almost steps away from him. She sways ever-so-slightly on her feet and steadies. Her gown, soft and pink, flutters. As eager and curious as she was to take it all in, worry crosses her face. The lady appears stricken, caught off-guard for a moment long enough to utter without thinking, half beneath her breath, "Lord Haemon resembles my husband." Surely the former and not the future. She regrets the words and is in a hurry to move on from them. "I am… sorry, things could not be as you wanted," she says, sincere, if vague. She's not exactly endorsing removing anyone. "The gods provide us difficult paths."

Istor looks interested when she mentions her husband resembling such a description, but he is too polite to press for more, there. "Indeed they do," he agrees. "But I am grateful that you have arranged me this respite. Camillo speaks very highly of you, by the way. He tells me I must be worthy of your hospitality. And he does not often advise me on how to behave."

Marsei is easy to smile when Istor brings up Camillo. "Camillo has been so good to me in such a short span of time. You must know him very well," she prompts.

"Extremely well," Istor agrees, nodding once and sitting back again. "Possibly better than anyone. He is the most valuable investment I ever made." He can't resist leaning forward a little again. "If you show him the slightest kindness, you'll be amazed at the loyalty you are earned in return. Or so it was with me. With a purpose in mind, he will throw himself into anything. He would dive down a well if you told him it was important." There seems to be both appreciation in this and a hint of superiority.

Marsei covers a wince with a smile, off-put. "I shan't be doing that," she says, good-natured all the same. She cannot help her curiosity; she must ask, "Did you say investment?"

Istor lifts his chin slightly, a form of hesitation. "Well. I hope it won't harm his position with you, but when I found him, he was imprisoned. I paid a fee to save him from the noose. At the time I just took pity on him. Little did I know he would prove to be the asset that he is."

She only smiles, appreciative toward the servant they speak of, even caring. "It was a kindness," she compliments Istor, studying him again through different filters. Light, dark. She bows her head to apologetically depart. "I do not wish to leave you without company, Lord Istor, but I should take my leave. The Hightower is awash in food for all the guests — do tell Camillo your very favourite things when he visits next, as I'm sure he will."

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