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There is much noise in the early afternoon within the Baratheon manse at the arrival of Sarya Baratheon. Maids were putting finishing touches on her room, luggage was brought in and deposited within.
In the main parlour, just off to the side of this maelstrom, is a small haven of serenity. Within, Elanna Penrose sits, begarbed in black, her hair in intricate coils about her pale face as she hums a small tune, and steadily pushes and pulls a tiny bone needle in and out of a piece of fine cloth.
Entering the room from the path leading to his own quarters, Tancred Baratheon seems to be in a rather good mood this daym, which can be seen by a touch of happiness on his face and a small smile that seems to constantly linger on his lips. His eyes follows the servant maids being busy setting up his sisters room, walking here and there, carrying this and that.
When he eyes his aunt he walks closer to her and greets her, “Good morning dear Aunt..” He offers her a smile while his eyes are drawn away briefly by two servants huffing and puffing while carrying a heavy piece of funiture through the parlour, “.. One is not left with any doubt that it is a young woman who has made her entry this morning, have you spoken to my dear sister yet?”
“Good afternoon, Tancred,” Elanna replies, focussing briefly on setting a stitch correctly, “I have seen her. She attended upon me at the quintain yard and we spoke briefly before she accompanied me back here.” She looks up at him.
“You seem in a fair mood, nephew? What is it that puts you thus?”
“Oh, is it that obvious?” Tancred cannot help smiling a little at her remark, “.. and I who try to keep a grave expression on my face.” His eyes are looking back at Elanna again and he moves to sit in a chair standing not far from hers, “.. It is the expectation of seeing my sister, of course.. She would bring news from home and.. well.. I enjoy her company.” His hand quickly brush a few strands of hair away from his brow as he leans back in his chair. For a few moments he doesnt say anything but then his face suddently turns serious, “.. Dear Aunt.. Since the moment you.. met Ser Bryce and I near the Sept, I have been worrying a little. Do you have doubts in me, and doubts in my ability to one day take my lord fathers seat?”
Elanna frowns then, and pierces the needle into the fabric, laying aside the pile of pale cloth. She folds her hands neatly in her lap, it is some moments before she speaks.
“Tancred, I have every faith in the Father that he will give you the wisdom and skill to lead Storm’s End and its Stormlords. One day.” She pauses, still watching him with steady equanimity.
“For now, I still see you as a boy finding his place in the world.” She holds up her hand as though to stay a reply.
“I know you were knighted, I know you have slain men in the field. But there is a difference between skill at arms, and skill within the feasting hall, or the council hall and I -think- you realise that. There is so much to learn in becoming a Lord. Your Lord Father was less than ready himself when our parents, rest their souls, was called to the Seven. We spoke often once, you and I, when we had lesser cares in the world. Perhaps…” she slightly smiles, “I had hoped that one day you would listen when cares grew heavier and there was need for you to learn even more of the seat you would one day hold.”
Tancred remains silent as she speaks with a neutral expression resting on his face and his eyes fixed on her. When she finishes, his eyes remain on her face, sparkling a little in the light filling the room. “I am a man grown, dear Aunt,” The words fall softly on his lips, “.. Both in the eyes of my Lord Father and in the eyes of those relying on the strength of our house.” He pauses for a moment while the serious expression lingers on his face, “You speak of the time I squired to your late husband, and speak of our relation then as one where we both had lesser cares in the world.. Dear Aunt.. I feel that you do not know me?” He tilts his head a little, looking at her gravely, “Since the first moments my mind remembers, I have had heavy cares.. I have carried my duty from the moment I could speak, the honor of my house means everything to me, the strength of my house means everything to me, and my duty to my house means everything to me.”
The young heir continues to look at her with the expression he wears most often, a grave and serious one while he leans a bit forward in his chair, “I know I still have much to learn. I have never claimed otherwise.. But I have always strived to do what is expected of me and not take actions that could hurt my house. I were never an irresponsible youth, I have never had lesser cares..”
Elanna raises a hand to her brow and rubs their briefly as though vaguely frustrated. “Tancred…” she sighs, “I do not question your duty or your honour.” She opens her eyes and looks upon him with clarity.
“Do you feel confident that right now you can stand before men like Sarmion? Like Almer? Like Jonald…like all those aged and experienced Stormlords, they who are men grown many years past and convince them wholly that you can lead them into battle? Could you convince them when they oppose you on something to see your ways?” her eyes are watchful upon him, wary, “Are you -very- sure that you understand how to do that? This is not about honour and duty to your house. This is about leading men who do not HAVE to follow you, but do so out of loyalty. This is not like house guards who follow you unto death in battle. Could you have stayed the Stormbreaker’s blade in the quintain yard the other day, nephew, had he chosed to draw it? I saw you there, but you left. Why?”
“I left because it is Ser Sarmion who take care of my lord fathers business in Kings Landing, my Lord Father has appointed him and I have been sent here to learn from him as well as making acquaintances at court..” Tancred voice has lowered enough to prevent nearby servants to hear him, but loud enough for his aunt to hear his words, “.. What Ser Sarmion were doing that day posed a dilemma to me, I could either choose to stay there and accept and support what was taking place before my eyes. I could have stayed there to make the attempt to stay his blade had he drawn it. Had I done that, then I would openly had challenged Ser Sarmions authority on behalf on my lord father in this city, and all who were watching would get the impression that we do not stand as one in our house. I made the choice to turn and leave, thereby I did not question Ser Sarmions leadership, I simply made the choice that I did not need to learn the sort of lesson he was ‘teaching’ that day and had to return to my duties.”
Tancred falls silent for a few moments looking at his aunt with a serious expression on his face, “If I were to take my lord fathers place today, dear Aunt, then there is no doubt in my mind that I will be able to fullfill the task, I would still need to learn, but I have been trained for what I am bound to become for my entire life.”
Elanna stands then, her eyes disappointed, “I understand and accept your reasoning for not interfering upon the quintain field.” There is no other expression in her face.
“But perhaps you should have stayed to see its outcome to learn from it,” her voice is soft, “A Lord would have done so. Nay, perhaps not interfered, but Dondarrion are Stormlords. It would benefit you to know what outcome there was and Sarmion’s feelings on it. Have you spoken to him privately? Asked his reasons?”
“No, I have not spoken to him, and I have not asked his reasons.. My lord father appointed him to this task, and it is not my duty to question his actions. When he insulted the Dondarrion knight during the great feast, by shouting an insult for everyone in the room to hear, then I did not approve of it.. because as you just said, the Dondarrion is a Stormlord.. I told him then that I did disagree with him doing that, but I did not bring it further than that, because as I already said, Sarmion is in charge in this city.” He pauses for a moment and looks up at Elanna as she has risen, “Have no doubts, I look up to my Uncle, there is no finer knight defending our house than him, but in this situation he was not defending our house, he was creating conflict. I have been told, however, that the Gold cloaks interveined and that my Uncle apologized.” He offers Elanna a polite smile.
“Why is it you do not like me questioning you, Tancred?” Elanna asks softly, her hands clasped gently before her, “Is it because I am your aunt? The wife of the man who was once your knight not so long ago? Or you feel it is not my place?” She considers the youth thoughtfully.
“The Dondarrion knight ran off sobbing when your uncle refused to draw his sword and strike him down. The kingdom would not have been served by the Blackbolt’s death. Your uncle would have told you that. Ser Doran insulted this house, and the men within it to my face, and aloud so that all might hear it. The Goldcloaks did not stay the Stormbreaker’s sword, his own honour did, long before they arrived.”
“To my knowledge it was not the Dondarrion knight who started this when insults where launced against him, it is of course honourless of the knight to throw insults in return, but like many others he grieve because of the war, and being insulted because you grief is the worst insult that can be given.” Tancred speaks politely to Elanna, his voice low to keep this an intimate conversation, “I do not mind you questioning me, dear Aunt, but I mind you questioning me infront of Ser Bryce, who is a Stormlord also, and who is a trusted friend of me. If you wish to question me, then do so in a private conversation like this.”
He offers her a genuine smile, “I care for you, lady Aunt and I appreciate your advice and your thoughts, and I always enjoy our conversations.. When talking like this there is room for us to disagree, but when we face the other houses, we stand like one.”
“Indeed, it was unkind of me to query you so in front of Ser Bryce, I was surprised by your words and it was thoughtless of me. You have my apologies for it,” Elanna nods her head gracefully, her words smooth but still distant.
“But, Tancred, I fear that you know not the whole story of this. For it was the Dondarrion knight who cast the first stone,” her words were soft, “He calls the Baratheon riders ‘butchers beneath his contempt.” She regards her nephew then with consideration, “Tell me, is that an insult excusable by grief?”
Tancred nods slowly, “Your apology is accepted, dear Aunt.” Tancred replies quietly, “Concerning the Dondarrion knight, then such an insult is not excusable by grief, he has acted foolishly.. and I fear that there will be some adressing to this entire issue by our King next time he holds court.” There are a few thin lines forming on his brow as he thinks, “Yet I wonder, do you know when he named our men butchers beneath his contempt? Did he do it before the feast or subsequent to the feast?”
“He said it to my very face the day before Sarmion’s challenge,” Elanna’s voice was soft, “When he refused my offer of allowing them to assist another knight in preparing for the quintain. I did not tell Sarmion of the insult, but his riders were present, and might easily have spoken.”
“He had no right doing so, there were butchers on both sides.. There are butchers in every war, but our soldiers fought honorably, I saw that with my own eyes.” Tancred remarks softly, “Yet he gave his insult after the great feast, where Ser Sarmion named him ‘Boltless’ because he had wept due to the death of some of his family members during the war. His mother is Dornish, is she not?” He tilts his head as he often does while speaking, “Of course Ser Sarmion was not the first to insult Ser Doran, many others had mocked him as well.. Should he have ignored them? Should we have ignored him?”
Elanna regards the Baratheon scion thoughtfully, “It is not only that his family died, Tancred. But that he killed them. He is called kinslayer also, and that, in the eyes of many, is a gravest of sins. Nor do they respect a man who will fall into weeping and run when his deeds are brought into question. So easily might he haved saved face, Tancred. So easily might he still tongues should he show himself firm, but nay, he forsakes it, weeps and ignores his betrothed for a Dornish mistress.” She pauses, eyeing his response.
“Is this a man with honour, nephew? Is this a man to be held above the Stormbreaker and told ‘aye, he is a truer knight’? For he claims that also, that your uncle and those who follow him are not true knights.”
“I am well aware that he killed some of his family, that would be inevitable in a war where he has relatives on both sides.” Tancred seems to ponder a little before he continues, “In this situation he had no choice.. he had to chose side. Yet it cannot be denied that he is a Kinslayer, and he has truly shown that he has an unusual view on honor.” Tancred nods slowly at Elanna, “There is no doubt that Ser Doran, willingly or not, have been the cause of this trouble, and it angers me when he forgets the honor of his family and creates the impression that there is turmoil in the Stormlands.. because as we both know, there is none, and should he fail to act with more honor in the future, then it might be that his own family might turn against him.” Tancred gestures at the chair, as if suggesting her to sit down again, “Concerning the matter of being a true knight or not.. I have been taught that a true knight never claims himself to be a true knight, but that such a title lies in the judgement of others.. I hope to one day be considered a true knight, but I cannot claim to be one myself.”
Elanna smiles at Tancred then, perhaps the first time warmly, but she does not sit, “There are foolish men in this world, nephew, that believe a certain view they have of themselves, wherein they claim they have the love of those around them, and they should look a little closer. They believe so firmly in their own lies that it becomes truth to them.” She pauses.
“It helps to know who they are. To be able to recognise them.”
Nodding slowly, Tancred replies, “And I admit that I have much to learn in that regard, which is why I believe my Lord Father found it wise to send me to Kings Landing for awhile to learn more about the hidden games played at court, and to learn to recognize the kind of people you speak of.” Tancreds eyes drifts briefly to a candle lit on a table close by before they drift back to Elanna, “My Lord father also send me here for another reason, as you might well have realized, I believe it is his wish that a suitable candidate is found for marriage.”
“There are many worthy maids,” Elanna’s eyes gain a brief hint of amusement, “I am sure you will find one suitable and approach her family to request courtship honours. The heir of Baratheon is a worthy match.”
Tancred looks like he doesnt find the thought much amusing, though he cannot help smiling a little by watching the expression on Elanna’s face, “I am aware that I am a worthy match, but it is also required of me to find a worthy match.. I have no illusions of finding love, it is politics and it is a manner of honor.” He falls silent then, his brow frowning a little again. “It will not be easy,” he murmurs.
“Oh, Tancred, I do not laugh at you, truly,” Elanna chuckles, “But at the situation you are in. In my position I am afforded a step backwards and can watch with amusement the goings on of the young.” She folds her arms across her chest, “And ‘tis best you think it that way. Some of these young roosters are going entirely the wrong way about it. They seek to woo the maid before finding out if the parents agree to it. Best to do it the other way, I should think.”
“Yet for some reasons, some parents of these ladies have send them to court, making it rather difficult to speak with them before speaking to the maid - I doubt though that many parents would disagree with an arrangement with the heir of Storm’s End” Tancred replies in a low voice, “Many of these maids are not.. unappealing.. but in the end that doesnt matter either, unappealing or not, it is the alliance we need, and it is most of all needed that I get an heir.”
“Ravens will find the family, no doubt,” Elanna replies thoughtfully, “Of course, some idea of the girl’s regard is always useful, and there is time yet. Your father is not at all ill. Best to be prepared, but Baratheon is strong.”
Tancred nods in agreement with that, “.. Baratheon is strong indeed, and Baratheon will always be strong.” He smiles up at her and moves on his feet to offer her a polite bow, “I must admit dear Aunt, that I have missed talking to you the way we spoke before the war. Much have changed, but it is my hope that we will find more moments like this, as you help me consider matters from another angle than the one I first took.” He smiles at her while a few strands of hair now falls down over his brow again, having been loosened when he moved on his feet.
“Then you must forgive me, nephew, when I remember you as a mere lad struggling to bring Jerion his shielf before a tournament, or to barely hold aloft his blade when first he let you hold it,” Elanna’s eyes twinkle, “So it shall be my pleasure to offer you counsel should you need it, for I only wish you to be the very best Lord of Baratheon you can be.”
“Hmm.. Some of that happened before I my lord father finally agreed to let me become his squire, yes,” Tancred replies, not able to hide a slightly red color rising to his cheeks, “back then he was one of my heroes, which he still are.. and I were so happy when my lord father and Ser Jerion made the arrangement for my squirehood when I was around eleven.. I was excited for the entire year until I travelled to you to become his squire..” Suddently he chuckles, “.. and the first task he gave me was to attend to his horse to teach me humility.”
“That is one of the finest lessons a squire can learn,” Elanna replies softly, even as her eyes darken just a little at the reminisence, “Humility. ‘Tis a shame that when the spurs are donned. So many forget it. I will hope you never forget any of the lessons that Jerion taught you, no matter how small.”
“I will not forget, dear Aunt.. I have been taught many important lessons, and your late husband were behind some of the finest.” Tancred smiles at her, “I miss him too, but I am glad you are still here to share your wisdom with me, I truly both value and appreciate it.” He offers Elanna another polite bow and a warm smile, “I thank you for this conversation, milady.”
“You are welcome, Tancred,” Elanna arches her head in reply, a smile on her own lips, “We should speak again soon. But for now, I should see how Sarya is progressing. No doubt she is either lost, or examining the tapestries in the Great Hall.” And with that…the Penrose widow is gone with a whisper of silk.
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