Inouv 39, 228: Bonds of Family

Bonds of Family
Summary: Two Dukes meet upon the road to Sutherland and discuss the Bonds of Family, and concerns of Sutherland, and Royal Court intrigue.
OOC Date: 28/12/2013 (OOC)
Related: None particular
Aidan Ronan 
Darfield Sutherland Road, Darfield
This road connects wooded Darfield with open Sutherland and comes close along the coast. To the west the Pine Mountains loom while the east drops off in low cliffs to the sea below. The wind blows almost constantly from the sea by day and out to sea by night to ripple the tall grasses like silk to the traveler's eye. It is but a narrow neck of the plains that reach this far north and east for forest once again rules to the south.

Travelers will find small settlements with farmsteads scattered. Sutherland's famous horses are not to be seen as no herds are kept close to the coast due to raiders. Here the land is gently rolling and the road well maintained, if narrow.

Inouv 39th, 228

Morning early at what /would/ be first light if these were not the Days of Darkness in the month of Inouv, saw the Sutherland party depart Darfield castle early in the bitter cold morning. Ronan himself with his squire, 6 Sutherland knights, along with their squires, a few Ranger bowmen, and a small assortment of man servants with pack horses makes for a party of 18 in all, well armed.

The Duke himself rides out front in his plate and maile with a thick black cloak lined with black wolf pelts. So thick it is against the cold it makes the Crawford look larger than he already is in life. Beside him rides his squire, Kierne Kincaid, and behind them the first knight carries a banner pole with the blue, white and red heraldry of House Crawford.

Iron shod hooves walk over the icy, mud rutted road towards the south. It is not pitch black but it is very dim and fairly dark. Not the best time of year for travel. Ronan does not care and dares any man who might care to test his arms against himself and his knights on the road. It will take them several days, about a week's travel to reach Trueborn.

As promised, the Duke of Lakeshire has come to ride out with his nephew, for how far, is yet to be determined. After all, there was a burning later that he needed to attend, so if anything it would just be a short distance from the City before his party would swing back. His group is much less, considering their intent is not to ride all the way to Sutherland of course. A handful of knights is really all there is to the Kincaid party, five by the count, with a squire or two behind. A bannerman is left to bear a flagpole, the colours of Kincaid snapping against the cold wind of this day of nights. The Duke himself is wearing an overcoat of fine black felt and endearments of silver, flashy enough to be presented as a well to do noble, over which a heavy cloak hangs, hasped closed at the neck and chest.

Aidan lifts his hand in greeting as he comes toward the party on his warmblood, hooves free of iron so that the horse can better handle the ice. The men behind him assemble closely with the group of Sutherlanders, though they make their own train to stay close and alert. The days of Inouv are unlucky for many, after all. "Nephew," Aidan greets politely as he reins in his mouth beside the other, turning the beast with a flip of rein against neck, "A cold day for a ride, but I came as I bid due." The man sits forward a bit in his saddle, the leather creaking, "I had hoped for more time to speak with you. Though we shall talk as we ferry you homeward."

When the other party is noted and coming their way, Ronan slows their pace that had been a trot coming out of Stormvale. Dropping to the walk, they settle to a slow pace while the others catch up to join them. Ronan likewise holds up a gauntleted hand, "Welcome, Uncle. Aye, it is good to see you for however long you care to travel the road with us." Once Aidan's horse rides along side his own, opposite of Kierne, Ronan chuckles, "It is no matter. You should come south later and see me in Sutherland. Especially if I ever get this bloody marriage alliance sorted out." A breath of a sigh in annoyance with that.

"Anyway, you have your own needs to attend to. There will be time enough for us to speak upon the fields of war." A careful looking over of the older man, "I assume you /will/ take the field with us, will you not, Your Grace? You, your brothers, and your sons."

"I will travel south soon, regrettably only after some business of mine can be seen too here," Aidan's tone is armoured, though polite, and it extends to Kierne, "Pleasure to see you as well, Squire Kierne." He cants his head toward the boy, yet as the warmblood is urged forward with a squeeze of thighs, his attention drifts back toward his own men - lacking a squire at his own side currently. The line of Kincaids is close enough and in order to appeal to the Duke, upon which the conversation carries around the clodding hooves, clatter of steel, and the flapping of banners. "So your marriage alliance is what troubles you? I take it, only such frustrations come at the hand of Royals," he guesses, from the conversations in the Salon the previous day. "What's the delay?"

As for his own matters, he raises a hand dismissively, "Perhaps not. The fields of war are quite limiting." He quirks his mouth at such prospects, "Generally there is not much to do but plan how to stay alive and ahead of one's enemy." As for the assumption, he nods, "When has the House of Kincaid's ever failed to be?" He doesn't give indication of how many of them will be on the battle, surely not all the heirs, "I've survived Westgate my boy, what battle will ever be worse than that?"

It amuses Kierne no end to hear Ronan call his Uncle, Uncle as well. The young man smiles and bows his head, "Uncle, so pleased you could join us." He looks pretty happy despite the cold ride ahead. He doesn't look to be lacking for anything in gear or warm clothing.

"I know you did, Your Grace. I was there also. Barely knighted, the spurs hardly put to my heels when we held back the Laniveer and harried them until reinforcements came." Ronan frowns, "I would hope we would see you upon the field. Your experience would be valuable and you /do/ have heirs. I will ride in the King's service of course, for I am Rioga ever before I became Duke." And he has /no/ heir, not yet.

A brief pause to thin his mouth before he answers the rest as Ronan adjust his hands upon the reins. "Yes, the King has bade me to make marriage for the good of Mobrin. He proposed an alliance with the filthy Kundari of all people!" Surely Aidan is aware of the long animosity between Sutherlanders and the Kundari, and the death of Ronan's own mother when taken by Kundari raiders. The Crawford frowns, "I admit the Princess Nima is … not what I expected. A fine woman, and quite lovely. But Kundari all the same. I have agreed to the match, but only if we gain their Laniveer war ships as dowry. All was proceeding well but now we have news that some or all of those ships were damaged or destroyed in storm."

A look back to Aidan with a grimace, "Question is whether it was storm or intentional. The negotiation has stalled, awaiting further news … and the King's pleasure to come out of his chambers to deal with business. Callem has locked himself away again for weeks, seeing no one."

"It is much better for a man to die afield than in his bed," or by Kincaid standards, poisoned. Aidan rests his one hand on his hip, while the other holds the reins and settles on the horn of his saddle, looking rather comfortable in the saddle, "It is my duty, Ronan, to lead my House and aid my liege Lord by calling our banners. I will lead my men in battle if it comes to that." Something in his tone suggests he'd rather War hold off for a little longer, at least. Affairs to put in order of course.

The warmblood beneath him shifts as it picks her way over the snow and muck covered ground, hooves bouncing rock and ice off with every step. As for the venom toward a Kundari, Aidan seems rather impassive to the spite. Kincaid's have about one of everything in their bloodline, if one were to trace the roots. Kundari as well as other nations, offer Lakeshire trade just the same as any Mobrin House. Though the animosity in which Sutherlander's have is not lost on Aidan. "Then the price of dowry is unfulfilled?" A question about the damaged ships, "Are you considering a break in the contract?"

"Kings are allowed to do that-" he says for the manner in which Callem subjects himself, "Time unfortunately, is on no one's side. A reason I fear being in Darfield in the darkest days of Winter. I had wished to speak to the King on matters of war and marriage negotiations myself… though if he is as you say, squared away, it may be too late for that."

Ronan frowns at what he's told, "Good luck with that, meeting with the King. That is why I depart for now. Tend to Sutherland's business and when King Callem comes back to his senses and will speak with me, he can summon me." Yes, he's not pleased at so much time wasted. "We shall see about the ships. Nine were offered. If at least four or five remain I would have enough to patrol Sutherland's coasts. The Crown is supposed to send Naval ships to do so but have been lacking, hense the sacking of Trueborn Keep and the murder of my family." Ronan has a very cold, hard eye as he says this, "Though I am aware the Mobrin Navy has suffered losses. My thought had been to give the other four or five ships to the King. Now I am uncertain what will be done. I wait word on the condition and number of remaining ships, though /nothing/ can be done until Callem comes out of hiding to finalize or dismiss the alliance."

Very not pleased. The Crawford Rioga has kept his baritone low. As they proceed down the road, he adds, "Even I see we need this alliance with the Kundari. Formerly they were sided with the Laniveer. We can ill afford their turning back to side with their former allies. The alliance would stop the Laniveer from bringing Kundari raiders to Sutherland." One hopes.

"Let me worry about my luck," says the man with a lucky charm in his pocket, an easy reply though for an aged man who has survived being the Kincaid Duke up until now. He senses the tone in the other's voice and just makes an agreeable nod, "If you have been here since the first of winter, or even since autumn, I would say that I would have to agree with needing to tend your own House." Being the last great House to arrive lends credence to his experience in of matters of war, to the fact that Kincaid's house was prepared before the Duke needed to leave at the cometh of the Prince's banner call. And even when Aidan did arrive, it wasn't with a large party, only enough to suit the Household of a Duke for a stay over in Stormvale. The Kincaid army was back in Lakeshire, until commanded directly to march them through the snow, they are safe in their beds with their wives, where winter will not fell a man from cold.

He listens wisely to what Ronan has to say, nodding a bit at the terms of giving over ships to the Crown and what had happened at Trueborn Keep. The loss was quite apparent on Ronan, it cut deep and started to harden the boy to what he would have to do and who he would have to be in the coming months. "I'm sure that is why I'm here," he says at the state of the Mobrin fleet, his own fleet commanded by his brother, still large enough to make a dent in any coming War.

"An alliance of the sort is needed," Kincaid's have done so before, "My brother's wife, Senga Kincaid, is herself a Laniveer, even though we wish not to deal with them… it was an attempt at peace once." He shakes his head, as if that had ever worked out to keep Kincaid from fighting Laniveer. "It is wise to try," he shrugs, "Though if it is ships you wish to have and Crawford blood to keep strong…" he lets that dangle again. A thought, amongst all others. Possibilities were endless.

The last few parts Aiden says has gotten Ronan's full attention. He studies his Uncle, a man far more experienced at this whole being Duke responsibility than the few short months it has been thrust upon the younger Crawford son. Ronan takes a slow, deep breath and looks on down the road a moment. "I need a few war ships to protect Sutherland interests and trade. And what I need more are a few good shipwrights to establish shipyards that we may, in time, build our own. We do not lack for some of the finest timber, nor for gold to pay men for the work."

Another pause and he frowns, "My cousins are scattered and I know not if I have a male cousin still living and unwed to arrange a marriage. If you yet think we might come to some arrangement, you certainly have my attention, Uncle."

Beside him Kierne is very quiet, listening with great interest. He says nothing at all but does look serious.

Thrust into the position himself when he was young, Aidan knows the hardship of suddenly having to be the one with all the answers, the one that everyone looks towards. It was difficult, no matter the design of the House, to leap into a father's shoes was intimidating. Without the support of his own uncles, brothers, and eventually his wife, he would've been a miserable Duke and Lakeshire would've crumbled. So, that he has earned the attention of Ronan now seems fitting, coming to the man in his time of trouble, playing part of Uncle. "War ships we have, shipwrights as well, harbour masters too… and many wishing for a quick promotion," he rides on with a look forward at their trail, letting that come to his nephew as a better alliance than some Kundari royal pawning off borrowed Laniveer ships.

"My children carry the Crawford line within them, you know this. They are your cousins," a beat, "My sons do not carry the Crawford name, but they carry the Crawford line just as well as the Kincaid line. I do have a daughter still without prospects," and while they were cousins, it wasn't out of the ordinary in such circumstances to keep bloodlines going. "There is also a niece to consider, not of the Crawford line, but possible to still have the same … dowry that would assist your household."

The Sutherland group, along with the Kincaids, continue south along the road but only at the walk. The Crawford at the lead along side Aiden has grown quiet, thinking. Two Dukes riding side by side, two related greatest Houses of Mobrin, sans the Royal family.

It is a fair while before Ronan will say anything. The cold wind blows, the sea warmer than the land and drawing the breath of the wind out to the water east of them. "Lynette." The name is simply said, turning his head to look at his Uncle. No, marrying a cousin is nothing so unusual among noble houses. "Or the lady Faerinia?" Yeah, that second one doesn't appeal to him, but let's face it, the Crawford is aware he may not have many choices, pleasant or otherwise. "Let me … consider it. The King presses me towards the Kundari alliance, and … we may need it. I can not likely rebuke the King for he has made it /very/ plain that my House shall have his disdain and anger if I refuse him. Yet if I take the Princess Nima to wife, or if that should fall through… I should like to consider your offer and discuss it further, Your Grace." His voice has dropped in volume.

Silence is a good thing. It means that the idea hasn't been so swiftly rebuffed and that the nature of it is at least intriguing enough to give pause. Aidan continues to keep his mount beside the Sutherland Duke, so that they can speak and that their voices wouldn't have to be too loud and carry back to the men behind them - all of which are of course, regardless, sworn to loyalty and in that, discretion.

"Ronan…" Aidan says with a heartfelt moment, genuine and not masked by political agendas, hoping it would gain the other's attention, "The attack on Trueborn keep has aggrieved me deeply." He lets this sink in, "My late wife would have been enraged by what had happened to her good nephew. She would have Lakeshire align with Crawford to see these villains on the block. The fact that -they-" and with the emphasis he puts on that, it's obvious he implies the Royal seat, "seek vengeance so swiftly for the kidnapper's of the Voice… and the Count's sister… has me wonder why there has been little in the matter of your family's murder?" He inclines his head to keep that part lowered, though his gaze toward Ronan is expressive enough, "If it is not an alliance of marriage between our Houses, I would have us align by other means. Solid relations, without hesitation, can ensure swift measures on either side of our borders. We have the numbers to help replace what you lost… we have the ability to set into motion our armies against those who razed Trueborn. For my late wife, for my children, for you… I would see us tie to one another as strongly as we can." He isn't pleased either, by the lack of response to aid the Crawford son.

"And what about your disdain?" He lets that hang in the air before he says strongly, "You are the man of your own House Ronan. In the end, you decide the strength and direction of it. You are the only one who will see it rise or fall, regardless of the intentions of all others."

A breath expelled, "Mine is a House near death, and much weakened. Sutherland lost a great many men fighting with Laniveer when my father was killed, and more since. A good many knights when the keep was sacked. That was no light hand's doing, some of the finest knights in the realm, smote in a quick and decisive strike. There is rumor someone in the keep let them in, Aiden. A traitor." Ronan thins his mouth hard in quiet, cold anger. But he is also a man with a hard fist of his own to keep his temper in check, most times.

"No, if the King sent anyone, no trail was found to follow. It took weeks for the news to reach me up north along the Jadda border, and weeks more for me to come south to Trueborn. And no survivors to tell the tale dependably of what even happened? Aye, every bit of it smacks of murder and stranger things, Uncle." Ronan's tone is subdued, rather quiet. "There is much here I do not understand." And looking carefully, the Crawford adds lower still for Aidan's ears alone, "To make things stranger, the Queen has recently offered me the hand of her daughter, the Princess Roslin, in marriage. And while I am fond of her, it makes …. no sense. House Kilgour stands to gain nothing by it they do not already have of me and Sutherland, when they could use her to secure a foreign alliance. And I would get no ships." His dark eyes go to Aidan, "Say nothing of it for it is supposed to be a secret that they offer her to me. I think the Princess Roslin will refuse in any event. She seeks to marry a foreign Prince and become a Queen, and Gods know… despite her young age, she is a remarkable young woman." Ah, there could be a trace of longing there. If there is, Ronan stomps it down hard for next he says;

"I must think of what is best for Sutherland, as well as Mobrin. I do not think our King will give up claim to the Laniveer throne even though the Laniveer have sent not only a daughter, but their own heir to us to negotiate for peaceful resolution. You be careful, my Uncle. Strange things are afoot." The Rioga pauses ere he adds low, "I came into this a loyal man, so willing to serve my King. The treatment I have received from King Callem thus far … has not been friendly. This sudden change makes me very wary, my Uncle."

Aidan exhales long enough that plumes of white mist stretch out in front of him before being whispered back and aloft toward the sky in Inouv's grasp. "Sutherland must retain who it is, the Crawfords must carry the name forward. Otherwise," he turns to look at Ronan, "If one great House can be conquered, whoever responsible, will seek to further the ruin of Mobrin by going after the others. My father Daemon, hunted down every individual he could when our vassal House DeSalis, the Queen's relatives, were poisoned unto death." He grits his teeth at the memory of what his father had told him of it when he was older, "We cannot afford to be divided or weak," he shakes his head, "We have long since relied on having the Knights of the Horse beside us in battle… My own land does not have an order of Knights, but I imagine there are many who wish for greatness beyond what they can hope to achieve in Lakeshire. Ours is a land of trade, of economy, of science. Men will leap at the opportunity to gain honour of a strong and reknowned knighthood. I would send soldiers to you, to have trained. Of those you train, the best can be knighted to have your numbers grow."

"Of ships, it would take a while to sail them around the coast from Lake Kincaid to your beaches, though I'm sure my brother keeps many of our fleet in sail, all year round. -It- can be accomplished quickly, if soon, before war breaks." He straightens in the saddle, looking fiercely over at Ronan, "I like my father before me, will not suffer our kin or vassals, or any of our family, even if by marriage, to be so wounded. There will be vengeance for your father, your mother, and your siblings. I knew them and it chills me to the core to hear of their demise and to know that four months later, their murderers are still free." Here he lowers his tone, "I would've said as much in a letter, but I do not trust them any longer. Too many interruptions could occur." His shoulders rise up and he exhales again, as if keeping calm that rage within him, even if his mare is picking up on it, prancing now as she walks.

"Every bit of it." He repeats in agreement. And then it is his turn to listen to the matter of Roslin. That does intrigue him, his brows knitting as he contemplates the matter. For a minute. "Kierne, go see to the back of the line, why are we slowing?" This to get the boy back so that he can speak to Ronan without the younger Kincaid hearing. Waiting until the squire does go off, in a private tone he says to Ronan, "What do you know of your father's relationships before he… was struck down?" This is important to understand, even if accusations of betrayal and scandal are swiftly entering his thoughts. "I would have to wonder if there is another House playing favours and wishing to be granted a Duchy," his lips purse, "Which Houses would benefit if you did not have time to make an Heir with a Kilgour?" A beat, the answer short in coming, "Think of it Ronan. You are the -last- Crawford who can possibly claim the Duchy lands of your fathers. Unless you can find your cousins…" he narrows his eyes, "They would not risk a foreigner if there are still designs to eliminate the Crawfords." The default of losing a Duke with no Heir is to the Duchess. The dots are being put on the page, the lines connecting.

"You must think for your own survival as well," Aidan says cautiously, "This is the game I have played since I was birthed. You must learn to play it as well. We are all loyal men, serving our Liege Lord, the King. But if we fall out of favour to the King, we are replaceable. For that, we must think to be our own Kings, secure our lands to us by the vassals on our lands, the neighbors we have, the alliances we can forge. I will be your friend Ronan, for my late wife will never forgive me if her line ends and I did nothing to stop it." As for the last sentiments, he nods, "It is good to be wary, in private. In public, you must retain your loyal stance. Your frustrations, your anger, don't let it get ahead of you - and especially not so in front of a King or Q

Queen. Push them into disfavour and they will see to it that someone else holds Sutherland."

There is no objection to Kierne being sent back and the lad goes without question, plenty sharp enough to know what's going on with the request. He's a good lad. Ronan is very quiet, attentive to Aidan's words as they ride quietly ahead of the rest of the column. "Aye, that is my concern also. That if this can happen to one strong House, it can happen to another. It did so very quickly." Ronan does look shocked at the offer of top soldiers who might like to try to become knights, to bolster Sutherland. He is in fact rather speechless for a long moment, that anyone, kin or otherwise would make such an offer. So he listens.

"We … could use a few ships. We are plagued by pirates and have no Navy to deal with them. I can pay well for their lending until we can build our own. I'm not a man who would have handouts and not be expected to show due appreciation, Uncle." Ronan tries not to grit his teeth as the talk turns to the murders of his family escaped without harm, "I investigate, but I have few leads. They came by ships at nightfall, and somehow came through the city and up to the Keep without raising alarm, and into it. As if welcomed. Then the slaughter began, and not one man, woman, or child was sparred and none were known to escape. And then, taking the wealth of the Keep as well as a number of horses, they departed. Some of the town was put to flame but more likely for distraction and escape than further looting. They took to their ships and fled with the dawn. I do not even know how many ships. Two, three, four? I know not."

After a pause and hearing Aidan out, the Crawford Duke frowns at the road that lays before them. "You have said much I have already had upon my mind, and more that I need think upon, Uncle. I do not think the Princess Roslin has ill in her heart for me, though I do not know the hearts of women well enough to say I could not be fooled. I do wish I could speak with the King and I do not understand why he holds me and all else at bay."

Ronan adds, "No, I am not aware of my father's alliances or plans for he was always close with Cedric, not myself."

Aidan seems to sense the shocked nature of his nephew at the offer of soldiers, "Your father's sister was my wife," and for some reason that is repeated, and if to answer, "There is no other woman in the world like her. She married me as a weakling pup, who had no head of his own, but was dancing on puppet strings. She helped make me realize the Kincaid I am today, the man I am." Even if he's not mourning her any longer, it had been a period greater than customs dictated and this is the true given reason behind it, she was an equal in his heart. "The soldiers I offer, would be to secure our Houses once again. If I were in need, I would require your aid. That is all. It is not a handout, but an investment with a neighbor." He nods, "If you are plagued by pirates and criminals, your lands are not secure, your people will see you as weak, your King will see it as well. The ships will be sent." There doesn't seem to be a request in that, "Lend them if you will. These men in my House are just as loyal to my wife as they are to me. They will sail for you." He sounds confident in that, "My brother Arlen can assist you. I recommend him as an advisor for your fleets as they are being built."

As for the matter of the investigation, Aidan grunts at the tale of the invaders coming to the keep without effort. "Dismiss any man or woman in the service to your House that was on duty that night, if you have not done so already. You cannot trust them. Unless there is evidence of who is at the root, you have to dig it out and plant another seed." His lips are set into a grim line, "Are you in need of other resources, for I can lend what I can until you are on your feet." There is no doubt now that in his mind, there had been someone on the inside. It bothers the Duke of Lakeshire. Still, "I do not know Roslin personally, but I doubt she would be of ill perversion." A look ahead to the road, "I will do what I can in the capitol while I'm there. To see if I can find out any more information and to what the King is thinking." He notes the distance they have gone already, "Kincaid stands with Crawford, if Crawford stands with Kincaid?"

Ronan is quiet for the first part, only listening. A nod to the part of weakness, "Aye, and why I have spent so much time in Darfield trying to gain ships. It can not be tolerated." It seems he and his Uncle are of the same mind down to the details. "I … have had no one I can trust, Uncle. Even my sister died these past weeks, upon her birthing bed. She was a strong willed woman and I must wonder if there should be suspicion even there, for had she born me a nephew, even if the King had ordered her children could not inherit, a nephew would nonetheless been valuable to my House."

A breath is huffed out, "There are none to dismiss. They are all dead who were at the Keep. I /have/ dismissed my Captain of the Watch in the city, and ruthlessly questioned all others who should have know what was happening. Those who came were cunning, for my Rangers can not track ships upon the waters."

Ronan looks back to Aidan and says firmly, "Crawford is with Kincaid, and even before your offers to assist. We have blood ties that bind, Uncle, and more. Aye, learn what you can for perhaps your eyes will see more clearly than my own, or learn of matters I have no yet heard. The Royal court is not something I have experienced much, until recently. I know that I am lacking in trustworthy friends and information, so what you offer is … deeply appreciated." Finally, not alone in trying to face all of this by himself. Ronan adds, "You seem to be on excellent terms with the Queen. If there is anything to be learned from her that you feel can be trusted…"

"We could spend our lives seeing suspicion around every corner and we would always find something," he pauses as the mare he rides on must be adjusted some, wandering a bit from the path, "Your aunt, could very well have suffered the same, if we were to see it," Aidan shakes his head softly, "Yet, women die all the time of child bearing issues, young or old." He sighs, knowing his own was such a great loss to him. As for who to trust, he nods, saying in kind, "Trust carefully Ronan. Only with action, do the words men speak have any merit."

As for the matter of Trueborn, he nods, "I am gravely sorry for all that has happened to you my boy. It is not the way one would hope to be raised. I will aid you as I can and one day, should my House need it, I hope to have it returned. My sons, may need it more than I." As if this would be a life long debt, or a debt that would continue through generations until the favour could be used.

"I am glad. We need to have relations that keep when the men themselves do not," as if to speak of what has already been witnessed and observed. He is in fact setting up his own sons to have relations with the younger Duke should Aidan not make it through the spring Wars to come. "Arlen will be the best support I can offer you beyond the ships and soldiers," his mount paws at the ground and he controls her with another twist of the reins, "Kincaids and Crawfords look out for their own. Family is all we have son." And such is why Houses are constantly trying to tie together to forge relationships that build with new generations. "The Queen's parents were once a vassal House to our Duchy, she and I are childhood friends. I am on terms with her, though that doesn't make her any less the Queen she is." A Queen that burns people on the stake. "This is where I must leave you," he looks back toward the way they came, "The ships and soldiers should be there in a few weeks. We have the fastest ships after all."

Finally, "Keep safe Ronan."

The Crawford stops his horse when it looks as though Aidan will take his departure. Anyone else call him 'boy' or 'son' other than his father might get him to draw his blade, but not so with his Uncle. Aidan has the right. "You will, if ever it's needed. I will make certain it shall not be forgotten, lest House Crawford perishes or should the world should end. I will bind my sons and daughters unto it." The Rioga Duke means it, nothing more important than a man's word be upheld. Before Aidan might turn his horse fully away, Ronan urges his dappled grey stallion forward. Alanza's ears are pricked, dark eyes bright, for he though yet young, is truly among the finest of Sutherland's breeding.

Ronan offers his right hand to Aidan, to bind fast words with a grip, if his Uncle will accept it, "I pledge it, Uncle. You also be cautious and keep safe, lest our words here fall to nothing ere they may take effect. I shall return to Darfield in few weeks and I will certainly let you know when men and ships arrive. Thank you, Uncle. Do not hesitate to call upon me if ever I can aid you."

It is more an affectionate title than anything else, come to be given to one that he has an understanding for, that he associates with being part of the family. "We will not allow your House to perish," he pauses, his lips turning up, "Though the world ending, there's not much we can do to stop that!" He laughs a bit, trying to take the edge off their conversation for the rest of those who were in the columns behind them. He does not move his horse as he watches the showmanship of the younger, approving, for that is the Sutherland's way.

The right hand is accepted, swiftly as he anticipated it. There's a warmth behind his smile that is sincere, gripping the other's hand to bind them. "As do I, my good Nephew. We will see your House grow and foster once more." All that has been said has been said. "Truly, we will find some flavour of vengeance by not allowing your defeat, if it is the least I can do." As he releases the grip, he nods, "I will see you in a few weeks, if not before. Safe travels and may the Eight show you favour in these days of night." Only then, will he ease his mare out of the way for the passing column, so that he may sit and watch the passing of the Crawford men and it would seem by a look of a few of the passing knights, that they know some of what has transpired here today. Respect is shown and given in return.

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