(124-06-14) A Matter of Honesty
A Matter of Honesty
Summary: The Hightower stables get a few visitors.
Date: August
Related: Fossoway Folly plot

Battle Island - Oldtown

Battle Island sets in the Whispering Sound near to the mouth of the Honeywine. It has no banks nor beaches, only great basalt cliffs that tower a hundred feet or more above the water, depending on weather and tide. The only easy access is a wide arched bridge of white stone leading to the harbourside terminus of Hightower Street. It is guarded day and night by knights loyal to House Hightower.

The island is dominated by the Hightower itself, a stepped tower over seven hundred feet tall made of bright white stone. Its top tier houses a great beacon fire, visible for miles out to sea.

Except at the site where there are mule-powered pulleys to lift the wood for the beacon fires off the ships that bring it, there are little walls around the island's edges. They're white stone, and low, just enough to keep House Hightower's smallest members from venturing over the cliffs. Aside from the stable and one small guardhouse, the island is dedicated to gardens with flowers of many colours, fruit trees, pretty paths of white cobblestones, white fountains, and white stone pavilions.

It's morning. The air is crisp and the fog is beginning to lift off the Whispering Sound, surrounding the Hightower in clouds although the sky above is clear. Lady Jana Fossoway has just departed Battle Island's stable on her fine horse, earlier than has been her habit during her extended visit, what with the promise of a warm fall day. She's still visible, crossing the bridge into the city. The Fossoway stableboy Chass has been tidying up, already anticipating the lady's return.

It is suspicious to be tremendously friendly one day, and then disappear after confidences are shared. Maintenance is required. And so Camillo turns up on this autumn morning, bringing with him a saddle of Lord Ormund's that has recently had its stitching repaired. "Morning, Chass," he greets.

"Oh, hello," Chass greets in return, turning with a slight start from his task. He has a relieved smile. It's nice to have a friend on unfamiliar territory. He does shoot a nervous look over Camillo's shoulder; he's just a nervous sort and it can't quite seem to be eased out of him, not entirely. The noise that threatened to spook him turns out to simply be the mild commotion of the Hightower guards changing shift. He rubs the back of his neck. "All right?" he asks congenially with a glance to the saddle.

"Just fetched it from the saddlewright in case his Lordship would want a morning ride," Camillo answers, hoisting it onto a stand built to house noble tack. "And you? You seem a little nervous. Lady Jana very strict, is she?"

Chass shakes his head easily. "Nah, she's a treat compared to some, but not the kinda lady you wanna make mad all the same, y'know?" He gives Camillo a knowing look — one of comraderie between serving men with demanding masters. "She likes things to be in proper order on time, is all. I s'pose I've got it in the back of my head she'll start askin' me questions."

"Oh, I know," Camillo says. "You upset Lord Dhraegon and he won't come out for days, sends the whole tower into a tizzy." He picks up a bucket of water and some saddle soap. "What do you think she'd be asking you quetions about?"

"I know she were close to your Lady Marsei," Chass replies uncertainly as he picks up a broom leaning against Glory's empty stall door and goes about sweeping away any uneccessary detritus. "But I saw her chattin' all quiet-like with Roberd more'n once, so, y'know, my mind runs itself in circles."

"Circles about what?" Camillo asks, soaping up the saddle with great care so that he might put a shine on it for Lord Ormund. "Surely you don't think the Lady Jana's made a plot with Roberd to cast Lady Marsei's reputation into the mud? It's true that ladies can be terrible jealous, but—" He pauses. "Yet…Lady Jana did seem to take a big change toward Lady Marsei around the time she got married. To a Prince."

"I dunno. You're right," Chass admits, the finer points of ladies and their potential jealousies beyond him, though he furrows his youthful brow at the thought. His voice instinctually hushes. "If she were to up 'n' ask me what I saw … that is— " He looks at Camillo and determinedly gains confidence, squaring his shoulders a little bit, "What I might've seen. What I might not've seen. I mean— see? I'm worried I'd say the wrong thing," he frets.

Camillo puts down the soap and turns toward Chass. "Well, it's true there can be right and wrong things when it comes to whether you'll be punished or thanked by your master. But…'course, in the eyes of the Seven, there's only one right thing to say. And that's the truth. If you don't know, you don't know."

Chass gets a determined look about him, though it doesn't exactly counteract his nerves. Without the balm of alcohol in his veins, consequences feel a bit more urgent. "What if I'm punished for tellin' the truth?"

In the midst of the changing of the guards, one of the Hightower's residents made their way through the enormous doors, and now a hooded figure closes in on the path toward the stables. Their shape is far too slight to be Lord Ormund out for a morning ride, but they share the same shade of hair, that Tully red that's made its way into the proud Hightower line.

Lady Marsei slows before she reaches the stables, gently holding her hood against the light breeze. Her cloak is a deep blue that matches her dress, which is ever-so-slightly shorter than her usual fashion, sweeping the ankles of a pair of proper riding boots. It is a rather unprecedented visit; unlike her former goodsister, she can count the number of times she's ridden a horse in the last three years on one hand. Looking in on the horses from afar with a hint of trepidation, it's unclear whether or not she's noticed the men. The Fossoway stableboy is slightly wide-eyed before ducking his gaze politely down. A Hightower stableboy walking a horse around the yard slows uncertainly.

"Then that's sin on their heads," Camillo says. "But if you are brave, and Lady Jana an all-right sort as you say, then I think you should make sure she's the one you tell, not this Roberd who was so pushing you. Your courage might show her she's been on the wrong path. If things are very bad, run away. I'll find you employ here or somewhere else if you ever need it. An honest lad is a treasure in a noble house." He looks over his shoulder, then bows his head. "Lady Marsei," he says. "I am only just putting a shine on Lord Ormund's saddle, back from repairs. Is something needed?"

"Oh, good morning," Marsei smiles, looking to Camillo. She lingers where she stands at first — not wanting to interrupt what might be an important conversation — but she approaches the familiar face, folding her daintily gloved hands in front of her. Her expression is warm, even though, up close, she looks a bit too pale and worn. She has not been outside in some days. "Yes," she answers matter-of-factly, "I should like to take a horse out." It is Chass she looks to when she speaks again, however, spending a moment looking at him to ascertain whether or not he's the right stableboy. "Lady Jana has just ridden out, yes? To town?" she asks gently, prompting a nod out of him.

"Of course, my lady," Camillo says gently. "Lady Jana has just gone out a few minutes ago. Young Chass here tacked her horse for her. Let me go and get the mare," he says, opening the door to a stall. "Chass, might you help me tack her up a little faster?" He starts with the bridle.

"Thank you!" Marsei turns away from the stable, looking out across the island while she stands and waits patiently on part of the grounds that is free of mud and manure.

"Uhh…" Chass hems even as he's already on his way to helping Camillo with the mare. When he thinks they're out of earshot of the lady (who he nevertheless gives a wondering look to; she's curiosly out of place, at least as far as he's seen in his time here), he resumes their conversation. "I dunno about courage, but … you're right," he says, not for the first time, in a quiet voice over the shuffle of tack and horseflesh, "And you're kind to want to help me out if things go south. Are you… you sure you can do that?"

"Very sure," Camillo says. "I know people here and there even outside the tower. And I can write. A letter of recommendation on paper counts for something."

Chass is so overcome with simple gratitude that he drops the saddle in the process of picking it up. Marsei looks over her shoulder at the noise, but only gives him a forgiving smile. "I-it's good to know I have somethin' to fall back on, y'know, 'specially… turnin' down Roberd's…" he hesitates, wincing over his word choice, "… offer like I have to," he says. "I thank the gods for my luck."

Camillo smiles at Chass. "Don't worry yourself, lad," he says. "You're just like I was when I was your age. I'll make sure you don't go hungry. Just don't go to Roberd first if he's untrustworthy. Could get you hurt, if he's the type to try to hurt even someone like Lady Marsei." He stoops to help Chass pick up the saddle.

Chass nods hurriedly, understanding. "All right," he agrees, making sure to rub a bit of dust off the saddle once it's secured.

As patient as she's been, Marsei is gripping her hands a bit too tightly in anxiety to get going by the time the mare is nearly readied up. She chances a glance over shoulder, trying not to look too urgent.

Chass glances at Marsei afterward and whispers sideways to Camillo, "Does she… normally ride?"

"Yes, the lady likes to ride, though not every day." He checks the tightness of the girth. "Is she ready?" he asks Chass.

The stableboy does a quick but thorough once-over of the horse. "Ready," he confirms.

Camillo leads the mare out of the stall and hands the reins to Marsei. "My lady," he says. "Have a pleasant ride."

Marsei takes the reins. "Seven bless you," she imparts to Camillo and Chass behind him — and perhaps the mare, too, as she and greets the horse, smiling into her big gentle eyes and stroking her neck. She steps into the stirrup with relative ease despite the height of the animal contrary to hers, but there's a rather uncertain halt as she considers the saddle. Side-saddle just won't do if she has any hope of catching up with Lady Jana. She swings her other leg over, and although her posture on the mount isn't one of a well-practiced equestrian, what she lacks in skill she makes up for in determination. And the mare seems to like her. With a flutter of her cloak, she rides off toward the bridge in something of a hurry.

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