A March to the March

A March to the March
Summary: Collette finally reaches Estermarch with her entourage to ask the head of the Lohstren house, her brother, to allow her to live. Here also, do those who came to stand up for her face also the consequences of their actions.
Date: 12/11/2013
Related: [http://gameofkings.wikidot.com/admissions-of-the-heart]
Collette Eldrick Jaren Merrick 

The Gates and Keep of Estermarch
November 9 1329

It is a fine day over the seat of Estermarch, House Lohstren's ancestral dwelling. In the sun is high, the clouds are sparse, the air passes quickly, granting the soft kiss of a breeze through the streets of the castled town…in which the distinct sound of clopping hooves is never far away. And, closer the the great gates…a small party of guards awaits, Lohstren men-at-arms dressed in their finest, highest polished armors, with tabards and surcoats displaying their allegience proudly as they wait.

For this party has been set at the gate ever since news trickled down from the North that the now 'Mistess' Collette would be returned to the South - and there they have stood, day after day, waiting to recieve her…or for the order to go and collect her, whichever did come first.

The young girl is steping in the guest's manner is stepping closer near the gates of the place, which once was her home. Collette's gaze curiously runs across the walls, guards and each object around, as she would be seeing all this first time in her life.

The serpentine dark curls, cover her shoulders and sways playfully with each step. The girl is dressed in quite good and perectly made ridding outfit. It was a gift from Mistress Leof Eadberht, which makes the young girl be more similar to a lady, than a commoner.

Two friends are stepping after Collette. Sir Jaren Cassomir is walking on one side of the girl, while Brother Merrick Wulfgard on the other.
It looks like that the road near the gaze, where the guards are standing, lasts eternity. Though, finaly she is close enough and offers a curtsy. Then she bites her lip pondering what to do next? WHAT TO DO? Her amber eyes are staring at the guards.

Sir Jaren moves alongside Collette in silence, dark eyes watching their surroundings with considerable alertness. Their horses were stabled in the town beyond (after all, you don't bring your horse to an audience with a Lord). As they approach the gate, Jaren pauses while Collette makes her curtsy, then steps forward, inclining his head to the men, "Sir Jaren Cassomir, standing as escort to Mistress Collette, and accompanied by Brother Merrick Wulfgard. The woman seeks audience with his Lordship, Sir Eldrick Lohstren, Protector of the March. If it pleases him." Identities and business stated, Jaren waits to see what the response will be. Will he see her?

Brother Wulfgard has never been south of Laketown before, so each sight upon their venture to the castled town of Estermarch has enlightened him some in certain aspects. So it's likely that his looks, as they sweep back and forth, are suspicious as much as they are curious. There's certainly a level of appreciation for Estermarch despite the reason that they have come to see its great keep and the walls surrounding it.

He's come dressed in leathers, the heavier plate and most of the maille was left back in Laketown, considerably more at ease in lighter weight armor despite the tradition of plate for those of the Order. Still, he wears a surcoat over it, displaying the sigil of the Chosen in silver embrodery on a field of black. At his hip is his broadsword, while his dirks are kept on a sheath belt strapped over the back of his shoulders, easily accessible, around a hood which can be propped up if so needed.

Merrick's gaze falls back forward to assess the guards who are standing watch at the gate. He says nothing, allowing a proper introduction come from someone of the South rather than himself. He merely inclines his head respectfully once he has been addressed by Sir Jaren. Now the wait is on, while Merrick keeps alert for signs of trouble. He quickly looks toward Collette, and should she catch his eye, he will bob his head and hopefully she will recall the council given upon the ride here.

The party of Lohstren men-at-arms glower quietly at the entourage the Mistress has elected to bring along with her; the former Lady's identity is not questioned, as a few amongst them have known Collette for a number of her adolescent years and further, and seem content not to demand any proofs.

The rest of the party, such as it is, is not so lucky. "Cassomir? That's the best she could get?" can be heard from behind the leader of the guards, who grants his approval of the statement by promptly ignoring it as ever having been said.

"Cassomir. Right. I'll be needing proof of your 'heritage before I allow you any farther, or else you can just stay back. As for /you/," he glowers further, rounding upon Merrick, his armor clinking against itself as he turns, and his brow furrows. "A 'brother', is it? The 'Chosen'? I don't need to see much proof from you; our links to the Temple have already informed us that if the lady was to be brought, it wouldn't be by one of their own. Which means you're either here against orders, or are impersonating a Chosen for the lass' benefit. In either case, you're under arrest, and you can tell whatever story you've got to Captain Heral down in the cells. Mortimor, Derran…escort the good 'Brother'," he orders, turning to a pair of his men who, as instructed, move forward to take Merrick into custody.

Collette listens for the guards and with each word from them, girl's eyes widen. She moves a bit to step between guards and the Chosen. "Please," she tries to talk firmly, "They came not as enemies, they came as friends. My friends. You don't have to do that… They can go back from there they came. Nobody is against anybodies laws… I just… Took friends with myself. I will see lord alone, if he wishes, just… Let them go, please," and the girl stabs her eyes at the one guard, who she very good remembers from her childhood. Her gaze is full of naive hope that she may change something.

Jaren's expression doesn't so much as flicker at the derisive commentary from one Guard in the back. Instead, he reaches to a small leather pouch he's wearing around his neck, extracting the signet ring that marks pretty much all that remains of his birthright, and extending it towards the Guardsmen who queried him, "Will this suffice?"
When Collette makes her pleas, Jaren shakes his head, "Mistress Collette, please…" He flicks a glances towards Merrick, having been unaware that the man was not here with the Temple's permission. There's no judgment in the gaze, though…just a brief look to see whether or not the man is likely to get violent. "If there has been some misunderstanding, then it will be sorted out, and the Lord-Protector sees only who he wishes, regardless."

As he's addressed by those glowering guards, Merrick seems to be caught unaware by their sudden animosity toward him and their abrupt accusation that he was impersonating a Chosen or he was in fact here against any order from the Chapters. He hadn't anticipated this at all and so soon even at that! Yet, with a stubbornness that seems to be inspired by the crest that he wears, he tells them after Collette pleads, "The Four have guided me here to defend the weak, to be the shield against injustice, and to remain faithful to my pledged word and if that is in fact against the word of the Temple, it will not be your place nor that of your liege Lord to deem it so." His eyes watch carefully as Derran and Mortimor move forward toward him. To Collette he murmurs, "Be strong my Lady, for you are under the Guardian's protection," is all that he really tells her because now he's dealing with the two that are moving as instructed to take him into custody. But hopefully the smart ones in the group will acknowledge what that means, even if he isn't a Priest. Yet, Merrick isn't about to make the situation worse by resisting, for it would be unwise to do so, outnumbered as he is with no grounds to attack. Resisting would only prove their point that maybe he isn't a true Brother. He makes that indication by extending his hands fingers spread away from his hips.

"No surprise the true knight's the only one in the lot with any sense," the same guard who scoffed at the Cassomir knight's name a moment ago scoffs again, flipping his position only so to afford himself the luxury of mocking the others.

"You're right, cur. The Temple's word isn't ours to decide. But here, Lohstren law /is/, and that's what you're answering to. Run along now," he grumbles, in a tone weighed heavily by the labor of needing to explain oneself to someone clearly thought to be inferior. An eye is granted lazily to the signet ring, then; the expected courtesy for the expected proof, before the guard leader nods his assent. "As good as any are like to get these days, Sir…what was it? Jaren? Right then, if you two'll follow me…"

If Brother Merrick is shown scorn for his position, the former lady is shown even worse - for the guard refuses even to acknowledge her protest, her attempt to stand between his men and their orders…and when he does speak, he tends to address Sir Jaren or both of them, and never just Collette as he leads them past the gate and into the castle proper…

Unafraid of the law that he is evidently being held accountable to, Merrick watches the guard who addresses him, tension running along his jaw, but when those two make to escort him off, he goes steadily forward without further protest, though not before he tells them all, "May the Four watch over you." His eyes linger some on Collette and hope to catch Jaren's in a brief instance, but, his direction is soon split from that of his companions, and so too his fate.

Castle Estermarch is much different from the luxury of Castle Wolveshire - where the Varghems seek to show off the power of their affluence, the Lohstrens instead seek to show off the power of their cavalry. Where the Varghems would have ornamental vases, flowerpots, hanging gardens…the Lohstrens have tapestries of heroic deeds, empty suits of armor, and statuettes of knights calling forth a charge whilst reared back on his steed. But more than just ornamental difference, there is also a certain practical difference too - the Lohstrens have out their best rugs only where the dignitaries of visiting Houses might stay, for example, whereas the Varghems would not spare a room of their finest quality…but such is the nature of the place. There are almost more guards than servants. An overall more…martial feel.

And the guard captain, who had been so bored and distasteful at the gate, is suddenly more regal now in the eyesight of his fellows - his posture is suddenly more rigid, his step more inclined to be called a march than a walk…as he leads the pair through the halls and into a small chamber barren of anything but a couch and a window.
"You two may wait here, until the Lord is ready to receive you," he offers, before heading out of the opposite door and into a chamber beyond.

Collette clasps her hands, on her abdomen and bites her rosebud lip quite firmly. She stands straight and her breath is a bit quicker than it should The girl feels quite angry, but then she turns to sir Jaren. her amber gaze stares straight to the man's eyes and slowly, she calms down, saying him without a sound, "Thank you…" and then she turns back to the door.

"No thanks are necessary, Mistress Collette." Jaren notes quietly, after having given the guard captain another nod as he departs. "Just remember that until he tells you otherwise…he is not your brother any longer, nor are you of equal station. Do not speak unless or until addressed. You've no doubt seen petitioners come to your Lord father or brother before…this time -you- are the petitioner. Remember how they behaved." He knows she may well not be given any leave to speak her piece, but best that she make the effort to appear contrite and well-mannered regardless. "I will make the introduction, unless the Lord-Protector indicates otherwise."

When next the door opens, it is not by the man that led them here - it is by one of the castle's many heralds, who motions silently for the pair to come through the door, and announces their titles to the chamber at large as they pass through - "Sir Jaren of House Cassomir, on behalf and with the Misress Collette formerly of House Lohstren."
The chamber the titles are announced to is not an overly large one - the far wall is dominated by a high backed chair that reaches almost to the ceiling. Not quite a throne, it is instead a particular kind of seat - the kind the Lohstrens have used when passing judgement. And there, on the chair, sits Sir Eldrick Lohstren himself…his countenance as solid and unmoving as if it had been carved from stone. The Captain of the Guard stands to his right, while the knight who led them here stands to his left…and the others in the room, on either side of a great rug that makes an aisle leading up to the chair, are knights and Lohstren clingers-on of all ranks.
Eldrick, once the pair has approached, begins with Jaren. "Sir," he begins. "I do give thanks for troubling you to bring my ousted kin here for judgement. Have you anything to say in her defense, or are you merely her escort?"

Jaren bows deeply from the waist, the proscribed distance away from the chair in which Sir Eldrick is seated, when he straightens, his own face remains perfectly composed as he speaks, "My Lord, I cannot rightly plead any defense, as I have not been privy to what has transpired beyond rumor. I confess that I hold a degree of sympathy for any that have lost family…regardless of circumstance." He hopes the glance he directs towards Eldrick properly conveys that the sympathy holds for both the disowner and the disowned. "Hence why I agreed to escort Mistress Collette to face your judgment. However, with your permission, I believe the Mistress would wish to address you directly." He shifts a half-pace to the side and pivots to face inward, to permit Collette to come forward.

Collette takes one step, closer to the sir Jaren. she lowers hersel into the deep curtsy. "My lord…" Collette whispers and waits for the permission to speak. Her head is lowered and amber gaze hidden under the curls, but the girl can't stop herself from peeking one brief time at the man, who is no longer her brother by the law, but still is by the blood.

"Does House Cassomir often permit traitors to speak in their defense?" Eldrick asks, his tone firm. "I am well aware of the suffering your House has had in terms of loss of kin…but tell me, Sir Jaren, how many times did one of those kin sell valabule information to the enemy? How often did you have to lay awake fearing for the lives of your loved ones, not by the hand of the enemy, but by the hand of your own blood?" the lord continues, his itching rising at the recollections, "How many times has House Cassomir been beseiged with rumors of its ladies' infidelity, their unchaste behavior, and watched their marital contracts dissolve in front of them? How many times has a member of House Cassomir brought you to your /knees/ in /shame/ before your Queen, for how /drastically/ the plans for our realms were shattered by someone so close to you?" - he stops, abruptly, and breathes deeply. "I care not which of you speaks. But your defense will be short or it will not be at all. Make it now, before I send her to the Traitor's noose."

"My lord," speaks Collette, "The only thing I can do is to make sure I am not a traitor, not a word left my lips. I was but a fool of love. I quickly understood /that/, when prince Jerric put the lifes of your men and his own on the card, troying to see where my loyality lies. He gave a mission for lord Augustus and my word had to make decision, who will have to die. I knew I already made too many wrong decision led by advices from wrong people… That is why I chosed to lost my reputation and betrothal, that both sides wouldn't have to bleed…" She lowers herself back to the deep curtsy, "And that was the only right thing I made…"

Sir Jaren remains silent and motionless as Eldrick lists off the pains and embarrassment Collette has caused him and his family, only inclining his head slightly in acknowledgment of his words. Then Collette makes her statement, and he continues to listen in silence. When she concludes, however, he clears his throat and adds, "My Lord…I cannot speak as to the truth of these words she speaks, but it -is- true I can only imagine the pain and embarrassment this whole affair has caused you. It is also true that only you can know what measure of a Knight's mercy…if any…could be warranted here. The Mistress has been young and foolish by her own admission, and while it is true that foolishness can cost lives both on and off the battlefield, one final truth remains: Should this woman's life be ended, then there will never be any chance…however small it may be…that she may one day prove to be a woman worthy of the blood she bears. None of us are the same person we were ten years ago…ten years from now we will not be who we are today. Whether Collette deserves some small chance to redeem herself in your eyes…is a decision only you can make." He bows once more, and falls silent.

The Seat of Judgement is silent for a long while after the words are ended; the rest of the room follows suit, and for that stretch of time in which all things are weighed, no sound is made by any - no whispers, no shared hopes…the silence becomes an almost tangible thing. The first sound to pierce through, after several long moments, is the sound of a dry tongue attempting to wet dry lips, before Eldrick speaks again…and again, to Sir Jaren. "Sir, I have one more order for you. You are to escort the young mistress back to the border and see her to other side of it, to begin an exile. Your words may have bought her life, but nothing can buy her freedom here in the Summerlands. Queen Regina has already given her permission, should that be what I have decided, and it is. /But,/" he begins, his voice deepning into something more akin to a growl, "Spare her only if you are prepared to take responsibility for her actions. For if another rumor of that woman's misdeeds crosses my seat again, Sir Jaren, so help me…House Cassomir will find its end much sooner than intended. Are my orders clear, sir?"

That brings a momentary flicker of confusion to Jaren's face. Not the orders themselves, but he thought House Cassomir was all-but-ended already. Still, his expression schools back to its stony impassivity once more, and the knight bows deeply, "Your orders are clear, my Lord. Before I depart, shall I also see Brother Merrick off to face his own judgment from the Laketown Temple, or do you wish the Constables to handle the matter themselves?"

"Brother Merrick will be seen to. Laketown must need send an envoy for him. There are protocols to observe when dealing with the Temple's own lands," Eldrick adds, quickly, quietly.

Collette's eyes widen, when she hears the decision. She does not look at sir Jaren,when her life is put in his hands, jjst when he takes all that risk, the young girl glances at the man and some tears can be seen in her eyes, but still not falling. She offers a deep curtsy for the lord again and mobes closer near sir Jaren.

"As you will, My Lord." Jaren inclines his head once more, takes a step backwards, and bows, "By your leave then. We will tarry only long enough to resupply for the journey and then be on our way." With that he pivots to depart the chamber, pausing only to allow Collette to make her own proper curtsy and catch up, and then for the guard to properly escort back to the gates.

After Collette and Jaren take their leave, a short crashing can be heard from the judgement chamber, as though somneone has just thrown a candabra across the room…

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