(1868-02-25) An Unexpected Guest
An Unexpected Guest
Summary: While dealing with family business, a guest arrives at Highwater Castle
Date: 1868-02-25
Related: none yet
Alina  Enrique  Corvin  Gabriel  Lucas  Catrina  Alec  

Family Tower - Highwater Castle - Couviere
The small dining and sitting area in the family tower of Highwater Castle is quite well-furnished. The mid-sized room on the second floor hosts a carved oaken table that can seat eight comfortably, twelve if pushed; a pair of butler tables to hold whatever has come up from the kitchens on, and a large carved hutch that matches the table and chairs elegantly that holds a variety of dishes to make serving and eating food a quicker process when needed, on the half of the room nearest the heavy doubled doors.
The back half of the room held a large stone fireplace with a large stone mantle, a set of fainting couches, three comfortable chairs, and a smattering of small side tables for ease of setting a wineglass down. A small table with a well-worn chess board is flanked by two chairs like the ones at the dining table, the chessboard set for a new game, one side's pieces lapis lazuli with gold and silver sunbursts, the other side onyx with golden wyverns.
Outside the main sitting area, there are stairs leading up to the family suites and bedrooms.

The main room of the family tower is somewhat bustling today. Food— though blander fare than usual, as trade has not quite caught back up to whereit was prior to the plague— has been set out on the butlers for those present to eat.

Duke James is nowhere to be seen, so likely in his private study, as usual. He has been spending more and more time there of late, since his own convelesence and the death of his wife… one of the few people who could convince him to take a break from his work every so often.

However, the duke's brother, Enrique, is present, sitting at one end of the table, scribbling on a wax tablet and all but ignoring his plate of food. Beside him at the "head" of the table is the duke's heir, Lady Alina. Unlike a day she is planning to make court or hear petitions, she is dressed relatively plainly… in fact, she is wearing an undyed shirt tucked into a pair of breeches similar to those her brothers wear when not bothering with courtly matters. A pair of simple slippers grace her feet.

Behind them both on the rug before the fireplace, Leonard and Eduard toddle around ungracefully under the watchful eye of Lady Catrina l'Saigner, Alina and Lucas's cousin and Enrique's youngest daughter, though older than Alina herself by three years. The toddlers each have a small, toddler-sized wooden sword made from the purple wood that grows in Fauven, and are swinging at each other with them… sort of. Very little hitting is actually occuring. But that doesn't stop the boys from squealing with delight every so often. Their little brother Arthur watches from his seat on the couch beside Catrina, giggling.

"I'm glad cousin Harlan was able to come to an accord with Lord Thaddeus," Alina replies to Enrique. "Those two carts of fruits will go a long way to staving off any further sickness after the plague, but it's not enough. Trade through Lonnaire is all but at a standstill. And spring is coming early this year… which may mean we did not have a long enough winter to truly kill off the plague at all."

"Spring also means needing to send men out to repair the roads," Enrique says with a frown. "Do we have enough of our roadmen still surviving? Or will we need to draw more from the lands and have them trained?"

Alina sighs. "I don't know, Uncle. The death tolls were higher in the city proper than out of it. I'll have Rickard look into that this week."

"My Wraiths have been telling me the towns nearest the city didn't seem to suffer as badly as Lonnaire did, and the further out you go, the better off they are, but there are still a lot of towns and villages on the outskirts of our holdings that haven't been struck at all yet." Corvin Fremont notes from where he's seated, over against one of the walls, where he's…mostly just watching, for now. There's a glimmer of amusement at his nephews, but his manner grows more serious as he looks back to Enrique and Alina, "But that's just based on rough guesses based on who they see about when they pass through."

Lucas l'Saigner is a rare enough site around the family keep on the best of days but during the plague he was gone more often than not. Unlike many he escaped the sickness unscathed and so in part to keep it that way and to otherwise make use of him, he had been going from one end of the duchy to the other on errands for the family. Now as things have begun to die down he has returned to Highwater and his home routine of practice in the yard and generally wishing he was elsewhere. Though today he seems in higher spirits sitting crosslegged on the floor watching the children, occasionally spooning honeyed porridge into his mouth from a bowl set beside him. "It seemed that way to me when I was out there last," Lucas concurs of the outer villages. "But as Corvin says, it's just a rough guess, I didn't stop to count them."

Gabriel sits near his wife, his attention currently on his two sons who are enjoying themselves with their little toy swords. Talk of trade and the plague grabs his attention and he looks to the others. "That's good news. About the towns and villages on the outskirts, I mean. I had some concerns that if they were hit by the plague, that might leave openings for some to take advantage of the borders, but that leaves us to focus more of our attention on Lonnaire itself." He looks down at his bowl of porridge, sighs, and spoons a healthy amount into his mouth. It really wasn't his favorite of foods, but he'd eat it.

"That's good to hear," Alina concurs with her husband. "I very much hope it stays that way, but with an early spring…" she shakes her head. "It could be fine, or the plague could rear back up again in the outer towns and villages."

Enrique nods grimly. "Well, there's no use borrowing trouble," he advises. "Either the plague is finished with us or it's not. We have enough oranges and limes to help strengthen those within Highwater. Silver willow bark…" he grimaces. "Well, lets just hope there's no need of more of that—"

The door to the room swings open, and Ivan steps inside, concern on his features. "Lady Alina. There is an unexpected guest in the main foyer. I went to let His Grace know, but he did not answer my knock—" he glances to Corvin in as apologetic of a manner as he can manage, then back to Alina, "so I followed protocol and looked in. He's… indisposed for the next day or so, of course. Big Pie and I moved him to his chambers, and then I came to speak to you."

This was not an all together entirely uncommon occurance. Duke James had a Neversleep habit. When the crash came, it came whether he willed it or not.

Alina frowns and sighs softly. That means for the moment, she is in charge. She nods to Ivan. "You did well, Master Ivan. Who is our uninvited guest?" Already the wheels are turning… whether to house them in Highwater or in one of the manses in the city, how to politely deflect queries about the Duke for a day or so…

"A… Lord Sir Alec t'Cadri, my lady." Ivan looks a bit perturbed. "He apparently rode all the way from Murnord. At least he told the grooms his horse was weary when he reached the gate and handed the beast over to them." At that, Ivan looks amused. It's quite likely those grooms were somewhat gobsmacked at a random knight showing up and expecting them to stable his horse. Not exactly something that happens in swampy Lonnaire. Not that they wouldn't do their best— the l'Saigner are nobles, after all, and do adhere to most propriety. Most of the time.

"Alec…? t'Cadri?" Alina's face crinkles as she attempts to place a face with the name. Nope. No luck. "The t'Cadri are… borderlanders up north, aren't they? What's one doing down here?"

"Put one of our juniors among the servants attending him." Corvin notes to Ivan, "Just to keep an eye out and look for anything unusual. Beyond a knight of the Far North showing up on our doorstep unannounced." Corvin looks a touch wry at that, but does turn his gaze to Gabriel, "Is this someone you know, Sir Gabriel? Paying a very odd social call?" Someone sent by Duke Cesare would have had word sent ahead…unless James passed out before he got around to that bit of correspondence.

Lucas doesn't remark on the news of the new arrival. The others have said anything he would have said anyhow. Instead he quietly stands, picks up his bowl and moves it to the table out of reach of the children. That done, he takes a spot by the wall and waits to see what comes of this mystery visitor, a small frown forming on his lips.

Gabriel squints in thought, then slowly nods. "Yes, I gave him a horse I had won during a tourney some time back. He had proven himself quite well during some of the events and I thought it appropriate that he be rewarded for his efforts. Well, that and I had plenty of horses as is." He grins slightly. "I'm curious as to why he's arrived here though, at least unnannounced?" He asks around, brows raised.

Alina glances down at her clothing and mutters a curse under her breath. She isn't suitable to be presented to people outside the family… but this could be important.


The Wraith snaps straight. "My lady?"

"Have Lord Sir Alec escorted to the Grand Study. Leave Small Pie with him for now, and then do as my brother commanded. Have Marie find appropriate servants to work with your junior. Dismissed." Ivan nods, bows slightly, and departs. Alina's gaze slides over to her brothers. "Lucas, Corvin. Have someone grab a couple bottles of wine— do we have any more of the Rivanan stuff? If not the t'Salvetore whites should be fine— and meet you both in the Grand Study. Keep him occupied for a few minutes while I change into something appropriate. Catrina?" She glances to her cousin. "Watch the boys for us?"

Lady Catrina chuckles darkly and nods. "Better toddlers than knights," she replies dryly.

"Gabriel, dear, come with me while I get dressed. It's best if we enter together after all." Alina rises. "Uncle, after I'm done we'll go back over the numbers."

"I'll see to the wine." Corvin notes, moving away from the wall, "I think there's still some Rivanan Red in the cellar. Aside from the Tracano, anyway." That tends to get held for more auspicious occasions. In any case, Corvin moves off to find a servant versed in such things to fetch some proper beverages…and what light repast can be managed given the imbalanced foodstuffs available.

Gabriel pushes his bowl of porridge away from him and stands up. "Of course, dear." He steps away from her to approach his sons and bends down to gently place a hand on each of their heads and murmuring something about them behaving themselves. Stepping back over to Alina, he extends an arm to her and gestures. "Shall we?"

With Corvin handling the wine Lucas detaches from the wall with a quick, "I'll meet you in the study," to his family then he's off at a loping trot off to his room to dress more like a noble for their mystery guest. It's unlikely the man means to cause trouble, but all the same Lucas' a conceals a pair of slim blades amidst his noble attire of black and purple velvet, and when Lucas makes his way down to the study, his sidhe steel dagger rides his hip. It never hurts to be ready for even the most unlikely of problems.

They all depart in their different directions. Alina and Gabriel make their way up the stairs to the second to top floor, and Alina changes as quickly as she can into one of her gowns— one that's suitable, but not necessarily very complex to put on properly. Besides having Gabriel pull and tie the back lacing, she manages quite well on her own without any maid to help.

She does not bother with hair or makeup other than to run a brush through her long locks— patchy as they are in places due to her bout with the plague. There's not really time for much else.

As soon as she's ready, the future Duchess and Duke of Lonnaire make their way to the Grand Study.

A suitable repast has been hurridly made— mostly cheese, some breads, and wedges of oranges to go with the Riverhome Red found in the winecellar. Alina stifles a wince as she sees how threadbare the offering is, being used to far better.

Lucas and Corvin (and Small Pie, leaning against a wall casually with his armband prominently displayed) have already arrived, of course. Attempts to make small talk with the young man have not been met with overmuch success.

Lord Sir Alec t'Cadri is a well built young man with sandy blonde hair and piercing stone-grey eyes. He is dressed severely in a black doublet and breeches tucked into well-made, well-used boots. The back of his doublet has the white wings of t'Cadri embroidered onto it. He is quietly waiting there, saying not much more beyond simple pleasantries, obviously with something serious on his mind.

When Lady Alina and Lord Gabriel step into the room, he immediately bows. "My lady. My lord the Red Knight."

"Be welcome, Lord Sir Alec t'Cadri," Alina replies in her "court" tone. "What brings you to Lonnaire?" She gestures first to Lucas, then to Corvin. "These are my brothers, Lord Lucas l'Saigner, and Master Corvin Fremont. How long do you plan to stay?"

Alec swallows, then nods to Lucas and Corvin in turn, though his nod to the latter is distinctly shallower than the one to Lucas. "Lord Lucas— you were part of the scouts who came north during the troubles a few years ago, weren't you? The Legion usually does not have much good to speak of the Wraiths, but you and your men were very helpful at keeping the barbarians from ambushing our men."

Lucas had expected to be a looming fly on the castle wall for this meeting, seeing as most knight business pertained to Gabriel rather than him, so when Alec turns his attention to him and brings up the late war Lucas' face registers his surprise. "Yes, I was there," he says stepping away from the wall while having a closer look at the t'Cadri knight. "And we were glad to help. You notherners fight well. Though what's this about? Have the barbarians returned?"

Corvin cants his head slightly, but remains silent, instead glancing towards Alina. Mostly for some cue as to whether she'd prefer he press the fellow for not answering her questions directly, or if she wants to remain diplomatic for the time being.

Gabriel studies the youth for a few moments and nodding. "Sir Alec, so you were knighted then? Congratulations, I'm sure the Argent Legion will come to rely on your sword and your courage, sir." He offers a small smile as he comes to stand at Alina's side, glancing to Lucas with a small nod. "I hope the barbarians are not the reason you have come to speak with us, Sir Alec. Tell me, how are things in the north? I've been so busy as of late I haven't thought to ask for news of my former home."

"No, Lord Lucas. The border remains quiet of late. Very quiet, actually. Most members of the Legion are torn as to whether that means we've beat them back for good, or if they bide their time and lull us into a false sense of security." Alec frowns a bit. "I think they are beaten. Maybe not for good, but for now."

He turns to Alina and Gabriel. "I…" He smiles at Gabriel's conratulations, but his expression falls flat when the man refers to Alec joining the Argent Legion. "Things in the north go well. Valetta is still without a leader, but the Viscount is making sure it is cared for nonetheless. I earned my spurs two months ago." He looks uncomfortable suddenly. "But it is not the Legion I wish to serve."

He drops to a knee in front of Gabriel, drawing his dirk (which is far more socially appropriate than the sword at his hip in such quarters) and bearing it point down before the future Duke and his wife. "Lord Sir Gabriel— news has travelled throughout Couviere that you seek knights to serve you. They must be bold, courageous, and strong. That you seek Champions to defend Couviere, not on the tourney field but wherever they are called, be it frozen Murnord, the plains of Ostvor, the fields and vales of Rovilon, or the swamps of Lonnaire… or beyond. To stand firm against Tirian, Brolunder, or even the demons of the abyss themselves. That you seek only the best for your Amethyst Guard." He swallows, gritting his teeth and summoning up his courage. "I wish to submit myself to your testing, my lord Champion of Couviere!"

Alina stares at the young knight, dumbfounded. "…what?"

They had sent out a few people to help look for knights that might be suitable to the guard, of course. But they were looking for— well, a mobile, small, household guard with the capacity for field combat. Perhaps better than what many houses could bring to bear in quality, but certainly not quantity. And… wait, to fight in other duchies or outside Lonnaire? Alina grimaced. If that was how rumor has twisted things, she suspected she would need to make a trip to Rovilon soon to speak with the King and reassure him Gabriel wasn't trying to take over the kingdom.

Though she also suspected Jean-Paul would get a good laugh out of it.

"Huh." Corvin chuckles, "Guess it's a good thing I didn't place a bet on your reasons for being here, Sir Alec." He glances to Lucas, a touch bemused. At least outwardly.

Lucas looks visibly relieved to discover he had mistaken courtesy for the cause of the man's visit and there was no new attack. He was about to say as much when the man's real purpose is revealed rather dramatically. "What?" he says surprised then as realization hits he chuckles sharing that bemused look with his brother. "Knights," he mouths to Corvin, when Sir Aric isn't looking, it wouldn't do to hurt his feelings after such an embarrassingly earnest declaration.

Gabriel nods slowly upon hearing news from the north. Alec dropping down to a knee in front of him is something of a surprise though, and he blinks a few times, lifting a hand to scratch at his chin as he gives himself a moment or two. "Sir Alec, I seek men to be the defenders of Lonnaire, that much is true. There may come a time and a place when we go forth to defend Couviere, but what I have been working on is a small and elite group of knights. I cannot promise that the training will be easy, but if you wish to be tested, but if you wish it, I will test you. I will not turn away any man that wishes to carry a blade in the defense of others. Please rise. We can talk more on this over some refreshment, yes?"

Alina coughs to stifle a laugh. "Excuse me. Yes, refreshment. Please rise, Sir Alec, no need for so much formality."

Alec rises and resheathes his dirk, feeling a little light-headed but grinning broadly. "Thank you, Lord Gabriel." He pauses and hurridly adds, "And you as well, Lady Alina." He waits until the others start moving towards the refreshments before he does the same, looking at once both slightly embarrassed and as proud as a knight with his first tourney win. "I will not disappoint you, Sir. Ah, either of you."

Alina takes a glass of wine poured by Small Pie, who has a perfectly neutral face. Nope, he is not laughing his ass off internally, not him! She takes a very large swallow of it. She cuts her brothers a look that clearly states she's using all her court-trained abilities not to laugh at the kid.

She takes a wedge of orange and bites into it. "So, Sir Alec… did you ride here from Murnord? The faegate is quicker, after all, but I know the gate between Murnord city and Lonnaire city don't link. Or did you take the south Murnord gate?"

Alec takes and orange wedge and bites into it himself. "Very sweet—" he says to himself, then looks up to Alina. "Yes, my lady. I rode here. I left from just south of Tirhold two says after I was knighted. It's a long journey overland, especially in the winter." He grimaces, embarrassed. "I… didn't have the resources to take the gate."

"You…crossed the entire Kingdom in Winter during a plague?" Corvin stares somewhat flatly at Alec for a moment, then shakes his head, chuckling, and looking back to Lucas, returning the mouthed "Knights" towards him.

Lucas smiles behind his hand as he rubs his jaw. He turns back to Sir Alec though when Corvin asks his question, curious if it was true. If so the knight had more valour than sense.

Gabriel pauses, looking as if he's unsure whether or not he heard correctly. "You have ridden all the way here in winter with all that has been happening? By yourself?" He shakes his head slightly. "No one can question your dedication to this path, Sir. Now let's have some wine, eh? I'm sure it will be welcome after so long on the road."

Small Pie fills a glass for all the nobles (and Corvin) before returning to holding up the wall of the study.

Sir Alec nods. "Yes. It was more difficult through The Hearth than I expected, but travel through Three Rivers was quite easy— the roads are very well maintained. Of course, I had Viscountess t'Corbeau's men stopping me every so often to ask me my business, but when I said I was on my way to Hightower they let me pass without incident." He takes a sip of his wine. "Fauven was… unpleasant. I stopped to sleep for an evening there in the woods, and…" he shakes his head. "Well. Those purple trees gave me the creeps, I admit." He straightens up, clearing his throat. "But nothing I couldn't handle, of course, my lord."

Alina takes another drink of her wine. "Not surprising," she shrugs. "Everyone knows the purple groves of Fauven give nightmares. That's why the wood is called nightmare wood. Of course, once its cut down and turned into boxes or toys or furniture, it loses that… property." And was very expensive and highly sought-after. "You should have stayed in town. I'm sure Great Lord t'Picot would have found you a place to sleep for the night." She eyes him. "We may not be as prickly about honor as you northerners are, but we do abide by the laws of hospitality."

Gabriel takes his glass and nods to Small Pie. "I'm sure it was quite a journey and you must be exhausted from it." He takes a small sip of the wine and nods. "Alina, we should have a room prepared for him, yes? I'm sure Sir Alec would like to spend a couple of days in a warm bed to get the chill out of his bones, eh?" He smiles at her, and moves to take a seat.

Lucas takes the wine and moves back to the wall. Riding through the plague and spending the night in the Nightmare Wood, that tipped Lucas' appraisal over to foolhardy rather than brave. "Indeed it is always best to stick to the roads in Fauven and besides Lord t'Picot sets a good table," Lucas offers before taking a sip of his wine. At the mention of setting up a room for their new guest Lucas downs his wine and offers "I can pass the word to the servants, I have some things I need to check on anyhow."

"Thank you, Lucas. We'll set him up near Sir Vorian's quarters if you will?" Alina nods to her younger brother. "And then I'm sure Gabriel will set you up for your… testing in a few days time." Whatever that means. "Until then you're welcome to join us for breakfast in the mornings in the Great Hall."

Alec bows. "Thank you, my lady. Lord Lucas." He bows to Gabriel as well. "Lord Sir. I will get some rest and be ready when you summon me."

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