Inouv 41, 228: Man To Man

Man To Man
Summary: During the Kincaid Open House, Duke Aidan manages to speak to Sir Shepard Kerrigan and discovers much about the young Kerrigan.
OOC Date: 02/01/2014 (OOC)
Related: Kincaid Open House, Kincaid Soiree Continues, For The Love of Kincaid
Aidan Shepard 
Kincaid Manor - City of Stormvale
Before you is a villa style home that is set in behind hedgerows. It is low to the ground and has smooth orange rust colored walls. The roof is made of terra cotta tiles, stacked atop each other. Directly in front is the large wrought iron gate with sturdy wooden slats spiked onto the gate to make what lies beyond a secret. From the gate, the wall spreads to either side and then turns sharply to form a square, at the back of the square, the only raised structure and just barely visible from the front. The 2 story main section of the villa stands directly opposite the gate. In peeking through the wooden slats of the gate, there is a glimpse of a lush courtyard and the open-air rooms that make up the sidewalls, as well as the face of the house proper. Plain and even drab from the outside, clearly this place saves its beauty for within.
It is day 41 of the month of Inouv, 228 2E

The party has lasted well into the wee hours of the night, and many nobles have come and gone from the festivities. By this time, however, most have either headed out, or drunken themselves into near-stupor and have retired to Duke Aidan's generously-offered guest rooms. A few remain here and there, in isolated pockets of conversation, but clearly the affair is on the wane. If one has been observing, Lord Shepard Kerrigan has been unfailingly courteous and sociable for the duration of the evening, conversing easily with Lord and Lady alike, and indulging more in tea or chocola than wine, though a fair amount of that has been drunk as well over the course of these few hours.

Now? He's actually standing alone for the moment, finishing off another mug of chocola while he looks out the window, mentally preparing himself to make his farewells and head back to Darfield Castle.
The Duke had spent a great deal entertaining the guests, from the influx throughout the night, he had to take to each one in turn. It happened that he spent a great deal longer with the nobles who appeared in his age group, likely caught up reminiscing about their glory days, because let's face it, their time is ending within the next decade or two, needing to pass the torch to the younger generations who are eager with ambition. It hasn't been that Shepard has been ignored exactly, but the chance to approach him hasn't come up or in fact, Shepard was seen to by other nobles. Yet, as the Duke is the host of this party, he refuses to retire for the evening until every one of his guests have been seen too properly - given use of a carriage to get them home safely if they do not wish to stay, providing his guards and knights as escorts, to his own quarters for guest residences. He is still going through the motions of being a respectable party host as he wishes one last pair a final farewell and a blessing for coming to his Household this evening.

Minutes later, about the same time that Shepard is looking out the window, the Duke walks up to stand beside the other. His eyes also peer out the windows where the silhouette of the castle breaks up the horizon, seen as a cold shadow in between the flurries of snow. But it was there. Ominous over the presiding town below it. For a long while, Aidan stands near shoulder to shoulder with Shepard, eyes drawn to the swirls of snow and the cold frozen world that seems to be Inouv's playground. In those pensive moments, is hand pulls an item from his pocket, a chess piece from a Kincaid playing board -specifically a black knight, made of marble and with specks of white opal blended in. "Knights," the head of House Kincaid speaks in a lowered philosophical murmur, "Most have been forgotten. Most deserve to be forgotten. The heroes will always be remembered. The best. The best and the worst. And a few who were a bit of both." His eyes turn toward Shepard, as his fingers curl around the knight chess piece, recalled to some far away memory, "I find myself recalling my brother Desmond on evenings such as these. His smile would light up the room but he was steadfast in the heat of battle."
Shepard nods to Aidan when he approaches and offers a quiet "Your Grace." He does fall silent though, when the Duke seems to simply enjoy the silence for a few moments. Still, there's a clear flicker of surprise when he spots that little chess piece, and then again when Desmond is mentioned. "I…Your Grace…" He pauses, collects himself, then looks to Aidan again, "Did my father tell you the reason he met with you first, Your Grace? I suspect not as he did not mention it to me when he spoke of your negotiationslikely he thought it best that you hear it from me. Suffice to say it was more than simply the prestige and power your House and name commands, though certainly that was no small part of the affair." Shepard glances towards Aidan, his expression shifting to something somber as he turns to look out the window, swirling the wine in his cup a moment, "I knew your brother. I was there when he fell." Shepard lets that potential bombshell sink in a moment, taking in a deep breath and exhaling slowly.

Aidan stands there a resolute reflection of strength and ease, looking quietly down at the chess piece in his hand that bears more significance to him than just being a chess piece from some board that now lacks a full set. The chess piece eventually disappears into his pocket again, while his face continues to turn out toward the evening night, even as Shepard speaks of why his father came. There is silence from the older man, his face hard with rumination. The bombshell that was supposed to explode and make the Duke suddenly show some swift change in his demeanour initially does not provoke any change. The battle of Westgate was one that he will never entirely shake from his mind - but like most war heros, he refrains from talking about it. His lips do thin a bit and only the slight shift of his gaze toward Shepard suggests that the Duke is interested to hear more.

"I suppose to present a clear picture, I should start a bit further back: As you well know, Greenshire is not a County that is famed for its' Knights. We have few of them, and most often in the past what little Knights and cavalry we have have been detailed as augmentees to the forces provided by the Duchies. While many of those Knights of Greenshire have not performed particularly poorly, neither have many of them gained particular distinction. So as a boy, after witnessing my first tournament, it became my wish to change that perception." Shepard looks back out the window, studying that silhouette of the castle beyond, "My father saw fit to indulge my desire, but being without sufficient Knights of our own, and having the need to also keep me relatively close to home that my education in matters of stewardship would be sufficiently served, my father chose the rather pragmatic option of sponsoring a Knight of common birth in exchange for that particular Knight, Sir Alton Tasker, to take me as a squire and teach me the ways of Knighthood. So while I choose to see the term as a mark of distinction rather than derision for reasons that will soon become quite clear, I was squired to a Hedge Knight." This isn't exactly unknown, but it is a detail that is often overlooked when Shepard's name comes up in Knightly circles these days.

"Sir Alton was a good teacher, regardless of his birth or his history: Chivalry and swordplay, honor and horsemanship, courtesy and the lance…he was nothing if not thorough in his instruction, as I believe his gratitude to my father for his good fortune was immense. Regardless, by the time I earned my spurs, I was of sufficient skill that I soon won both the the tilt and the melee in no less than three tournaments, and the tilt alone in three more besides, the melee in one. I placed highly enough in the other tournaments, and endeavored to show much courtesy to victor and vanquished alike. After a time I thought for certain my accomplishments and reputation would be such that the land of my birth and the nature of my squiring would no longer be a source of derision, but I was mistaken." Shepard quirks a half-smile in a faintly sardonic expression, "Everyone was courteous enough…if only just enough to meet the demands of propriety, but the condescension was readily apparent from most: Knights of Rioga and Rose and Horse…proud orders with proud histories, not so much the son of "gentleman farmers" from a land many would foolishly consider the backwater of the Kingdom. "The Green Knight" they called me when they thought I couldn't hear."

Oddly, there's no bitterness or anger in his tone as he speaks, and indeed a trace of humor again enters it when he looks to Aidan and notes, "It made me furious, and like any young man full of hot blood and piss and wind, I resolved that I'd show them all!" He mocks shaking his fist in umbrage at some unseen heckler. "So I rode north to Weston, resolved to distinguish myself in the fighting there that any doubts as to my worth would be allayed. It was there that I met Lord Desmond, and Gods only knows why at the time, but he must have seen some potential in me that others did not, for he resolved to take me under his tutelage and make me his second." Shepard shakes his head in wistful amusement.

Aidan wasn't anticipating a full blown history, though he settles his hands behind his back 'at ease' while he listens, face turned toward the window, expressions showing not if he is pleased by the history or not. He simply holds that familiar look of stone, giving away nothing, his eyes sharp and brooding as ever - though that just comes with the territory. The traces of humour in Shepard's tone at the recollection of him being an ambitious young man full of hot blood, does earn a considerate glance. Something behind his gaze says that he knows some of what Shepard is talking about, nodding actively at least to let the younger know he's paying attention.

"Lord Desmond taught me much: About leadership, about being a real man instead of a boy playing at one and about the hard decisions that a commander must sometimes make. He also taught me the game of Chess, which I would imagine comes as little surprise…he was a masterful player. I saw him play many games, and played against him many times myself, but only saw him defeated once. Two days before he fell." He pauses, a bit of a hitch in his voice when he speaks again, "It was I that bested him, whether simply by some degree of luck or some distraction on his part or otherwise, I certainly make no claim at being as skilled a player as he was, even now. I remember his laugh when I told him of the checkmate, in a tone of voice that was on my part likely so disbelieving as to be well worth ridicule, he clapped me on my shoulder and congratulated me on my victory." Shepard reaches to a small pouch on his belt, fishing for something, and then withdrawing a well-worn but clearly well-crafted White Knight piece, wrought in a style Aidan would no doubt recognize, as he likely played against his brother using his brother's personal chessboard many times. "Then he gave me this. He said the piece represented me…the White Knight: The protector of the innocent and defenseless. That it represented the virtues of Knighthood that I must strive to uphold each and every day. I have had it ever since." He does not always carry it with him for fear of losing it, though, not that he says as much.

All this was to be expected, of Desmond. Desmond would seek out great potential in the younger faces of those around him. It made Aidan smile quietly to think of Desmond again, always trying to lighten up the mood between Aidan and his own father, Daemon. He was missed, greatly, but nothing in the world would bring him back. These too are the lessons to be learned - the hardships of battles, the measure of what one has to lose to prove his fealty to those he serves. A great commander, a great brother, was lost. And that small smile fades, a respectable nod to his brother's memory.
It's only when Shepard starts speaking about chess, the Kincaid household game, does Aidan really begin to focus in on what Shepard says. The reaction to hearing that Desmond fell in battle after he was beaten in the game of Chess has an immediate reaction for the superstitous Aidan. His body lurches forward to the point that his hand has to steady himself on the frame of the window panel, head bowing down as his jaw tightens. His fingers flex and almost seem to claw at the window frame as Shepard continues to go on about his brother laughing and congratulating him on the victory. Something has stolen his breath, haunted by the abrupt realization that Shepard was the one. Hazel eyes snap toward the White knight piece that Shepard shows him, the motion noted. "That was it then, Desmond knew…"

Aidan's voice a whisper, knowing now that his brother had anticipated that he would not survive and despite that, went roaring into battle, leaving only a clue of his laster letter for Aidan and the rest of the family to grieve over.

Failing to explain, Aidan looks rattled, not something that anyone's been privy to see - other than when his wife died of course. He pushes away from the window and moves back into the room, gesturing quickly for some wine and sitting down heavily, leaning his head over his knees for a hand to brush through his hair, anxiety eventually waning away for silent acceptance. His voice carries back, "Sir Kerrigan, we have a few things to discuss." A gesture then toward the opposite chair from him, as he regains his composure.

"Your Grace?" You'd have to be a fool not to notice Aidan's distress, but he doesn't move to help the man unless he truly seems he needs it, and then when he speaks again, Shepard moves over and seats himself in the opposite chair, waving off the offer of wine for himself as well, "Of course, Your Grace." He frowns a bit, looking back towards Aidan with open concern, "It was not my intent to discomfit you, Your Grace. My apologies…"

Aidan rubs his forehead again before the wine is brought over him and he consumes a vast amount of it on the first gulp. It makes him grimace to do such a thing as he comes up from the cups. His gaze then settles on Shepard as he seats himself, the Duke gesturing with his free hand, "You obviously do not know what it means, your father however, seems to." He frowns a little at the reason, as if he's being played a piece on his own great board of chess. He sighs, "Unfortunately I cannot explain it to you, as you are not Kin and therefore, it would not make sense to you." He again seems dismissive of the subject and settles back, looking up toward the ceiling as if some sign would drop down on him. Or perhaps it already has and he is silently praising the Eight. Eventually, his gaze focuses back on Shepard, "I appreciate the knowledge however, since I would otherwise never know." He follows this up quickly with a question, "So tell me, Sir Kerrigan, what do you think of my niece, Lady Faerinia and my cousin's daughter, Lady Sorcha?"

Shepard does indeed look puzzled, "My father?" He shakes his head slightly, falling silent again and waiting until Aidan asks his question. Shepard leans back in his chair, looking thoughtful. "Lady Sorcha is among the fairest ladies I have ever met, Your Grace, and clearly she is intelligent and learned. Speaking frankly, she seemed somewhat retiring at first introduction, but we enjoyed a pleasant conversation later on." Shepard considers after a moments' pause, "I also will not deny that there is something striking about Lady Faerinia, and I have little doubt there is much of worth behind those red eyes of hers, even if our conversations have been brief. However, I would have some mild concern over how she might be received by the people of Ashenfell and Greenshire at large, though. The Riverwynds made a terrible mess of Blackforge, and in so doing many of the rightfully disgruntled and wary have spread to other corners of Greenshire. However unjustly or unfairly, the people may be deeply wary of someone so…" He searches for the kindest word he can think of in the circumstances, "outwardly exotic as she. Granarians can be a superstitious people, and while some may choose to see her as fae-touched, which could work well in her favor, many might be quick to invent darker rumors, however unfounded…particularly should my family be given charge of the Barony of Blackforge, though I do not know the Count's thoughts on the matter and certainly do not make any assurance that such a turn of events is imminent."

Aidan doesn't respond to the puzzled response from Shepard. There were things which could only be shared with a Kincaid, otherwise, it might be for certain taken as a sign of weakness. Thus, Aidan doesn't allude to anymore than he has already done. Instead, now, he listens as Shepard answers honestly about the ladies in question, to which were on the 'list' as it were. Aidan's brow twitches some while Sorcha earns a passing accolade from the knight, nothing that would outwardly express with enthusiasm the desire needed to wed. Most certainly the 'pleasant' conversation bit earns a reluctant frown, perhaps as if Sorcha had somehow failed to impress. Even worse is Faerinia's odds with the knight, as her red eyes would no doubt be put to question by every greenshire man. The rest of it gets a nod as he hides his thoughts behind the veiled lift of his wine glass. After such a moment, he cants his head, "It's hard to tell what young men are looking for these day out of a wife. What do you search for, if not exotic or learned?" As if, he some how assumed neither trait appealed to the younger man.

Shepard meets Aidan's gaze for a moment, steady and unflinching before he nods. When he speaks, his voice is quiet, but the intensity of his tone grows more passionate as he speaks. "I am a Knight, Your Grace. Much of my life has been dedicated to that pursuit, and I am proud of what I have achieved upon that path. But while I am confident of my ability to guide my house, no man can be all things, no matter how hard we try. This is why I need far more than simply a mother for children and a warmer for my bed. I need a partner, Your Grace. I need someone that may see opportunity where I might not, and challenge me to pursue it when she does. I need someone that can walk amongst any other noble family of the Kingdom comfortably, who knows the world beyond Greenshire and can serve as an ambassador for the interests of our House. I need someone that can be the guiding hand upon my House in my absence, and if the worst should occur can groom an heir for his responsibilities even without me. I need someone that will not be afraid to give me a thumping, verbal or otherwise, if I am either overreaching or being too conservative in raising the fortunes of our family…though of course the thumping should preferably occur away from prying eyes." He notes that latter with a bit of that warm humor that seems to come naturally to him, flicking his eyes towards the Duke for a moment, but his manner shifts back to a more serious mien almost immediately.

"As I know my father said to you, we have no illusions of what we have to offer you. We do hold more wealth and influence than nearly any other vassal house of our size, but aside from a potential, yet indirect, tie to Count Aldren, there is little we possess that you either do not already receive in trade or could not easily procure through other means." Shepard's wry, perhaps a touch sardonic half-smile reappears, "So again, most of what wewhat I offer is simply the intangibles of holding a greater voice in the guidance and development of our house than any Lady in question might enjoy if wed to a house of greater prestige and fortune. Also deeply pleasant lands over which to rule and within which to raise our family, where she will no doubt win the love and respect of the people that serve her, and, I should hope, a greater chance at the ever-ephemeral possibilities that are genuine love, fulfillment, and happiness than may be found in some other quarters." He shakes his head slightly, chuckling, "I realize this may ring as little more than sentimental or romantic twaddle to your ears, Your Grace, and apologize sincerely if you feel I am wasting your time, but these are things my family has ever prized."

"Either you are being sincere, or you have done well to play the game—" Aidan's tone is a tad cold, for there was too much coincidence involved. Shepard had not only played into the part of Aidan's superstitious hand, but now too, the boy is feeding him the right things a man needs to, to win Aidan's blessings. From the fact that a strong woman was needed, not just for her child bearing hips - to the point about genuine love and fulfillment. Could there have been spies in his own House that would help the other players of the great game to succeed in learning so much about himself and House Kincaid that such a lad would be put before him, like a sparkling gleam of some rare stone. Though, even if such things could be learned from clever spies an general talk with the Court and those who knew Aidan, there's one burning question he needs to ask, non-commital to all the rest to pointedly target one nagging thought, "Why does a man, who claims to be just and in such, wishes to be held to the highest regard any Knight can be held too… stand to watch the burnings of men on the stake? An crude form of punishment usually meant for those of the dark arts?" A beat, as the normal laws state that it's often the block or by hanging murders get punished, "Your father believes it was because your liege lord commanded you to, yet even so, you could have refused the post of being by his side while he enjoyed the ritualistic nature of his vengence." He is careful here, including, "The Crown has all the right to do as they please to criminals of the realm."

"I was not ordered, Your Grace. I chose to stand beside him." Shepard's expression looks somber, "It is a foul business, and a tradition I would much rather do without. Aldren's zeal was excessive, but I believe by the end he saw the heaviness of the deed and was…perhaps…a bit chastened." He looks back to Aidan and notes, "But that does not answer your question." He looks away, solemn still, "After the battle at Northwatch…the bodies were separated by nation, and then burned. Some few…to include your brother…received an individual pyre. One way or another…nearly all the deaths were in some way or another my responsibility…whether men I had led in Lord Desmond's stead, or men that we had fought against, so I lit the pyres myself. I had survived two days and nearly three nights of brutal fighting. I had seen nearly every manner of injury or mortal wound that can be seen, and had held firm, but that…the stench…even the sound…it nearly unmanned me. It certainly cost me what little food and drink I'd had that morning." There doesn't seem any shame in the admission, and he looks back to Aidan, "And for that reason, I stood beside my Count at the sacrifice to Inouv, because though the circumstances were vastly different, no man should have to face such a grim task alone if it can be avoided. I did not do so as an endorsement of the means of punishment, but in support of my friend and liege lord, and of some measure of justice being enacted, even if in a far harsher manner than I would have chosen myself."

The first sentiment out of Shepard's mouth earns a speculative brow lift, a quiet judgement forming behind those brooding hazel eyes that seems to have a time limit on it before the matter is completely sealed and his opinions formed. Hearing his brother's funeral rites again, to which he loathes to know about, because his body should've been brought home and sent into the middle of lake Kincaid to join the flow of ancestors, there's a tightness of his lips and jaw to hear it again. His brother, burned like a commoner - hence, his ire when it comes to such rituals. Religious decrees may have their say about how a person should receive funeral rites, but in Kincaid, their hearts were to cast a funeral boat into the middle of the lake while spectators watched from surrounding boats and paper lanterns lit to herald the way. Yet in battle, some would never see such end. Still, it makes the Duke turn his eyes away less he fail to keep his blame from the younger Kerrigan for that matter as well. It takes another series of wine gulps for him to resign himself back to the purpose of this conversation, eyes drifting toward Shepard at the last conviction the man makes. "You are a fine young man," he decides to say at last, "Any of my Kin would stand well beside you, with the blessings you have received from my brother Desmond alone, it stands to reason if you were to choose a lady of Kincaid, she would bring with her the strength of all of us."

"I gathered Lord Desmond's ashes, Your Grace. When I was in the healer's tents a few days later, I managed to gain the attention of a Lakeshire Knight and explain the situation. Sir Ashton Porter…he swore to me he would see the Ashes returned to your family. Shamefully…I do not know that the task was ever accomplished, and…I fear it may not have been." Shepard sighs, then lifts his head, "Thank you, Your Grace. Lord Desmond was a great man…a great knight, and he is remembered. I hope you will not think ill of me when I say that I feel I carry some small measure of his valor and honor close to my heart, and that whatever glory or honor I claim for myself…past, present, or future, is in large part owed to his memory. It seems, to my mind proper that at the very least your proud house should be offered the right of first refusal if naught else."

Porter. That name strikes a chord in Aidan and he quickly seems to store that information away for later. He says naught if his brother's ashes were ever restored to the family, as his previous words would've alluded to the fact that they had never quite made it. There's a soft shake of his head that will pass by the matter. No ill will can be held toward the knight sitting across from him now. Honestly speaking he nods, "You do carry a measure of him. It is like I, carry the reminder of my father in mine own pocket. It is a tradition, I assure you, that is very dear to the hearts of all Kincaid's." He again doesn't explain it fully, instead, nods, "I do not refuse you Sir Kerrigan. It is now up to you, to refuse us." Then he stands, noticing another guest moving to leave, "If you would excuse me, I need to wish my other guests a good evening. Our talk has been enlightening, I assure you." A slight tilt of his head, "Feel free to stay longer if it pleases you."

Shepard nods, rising to his feet and placing his hand to his chest, bowing slightly from the waist, "Thank you, Your Grace. I…must confess that there was one Lady but…while honesty compels me speak it…" He shakes his head, "No. I should not waste your time. Or offer insult, however unintended."

Aidan pauses for a moment as he hears the half tongued confession, turning on his heels in a straight backed pivot, waiting for a further explanation. "I'm sure that none of this has been a waste of time and while you still have my attention, speak what you need to before it is too late."

Shepard didn't get this far for a lack of spine, so he straightens and looks to Duke Aidan, meeting his gaze resolutely, "Your daughter, Your Grace. Lady Lynette. Lady Sorcha's conversation was pleasant. Lady Lynette's was…considerably more than that. She showed spirit, warmth, good humor, intelligence and wit…and all well within the bounds of propriety." He adds, "And her beauty is…" He shakes his head, managing to barely keep a hint of wonderment from his voice despite that, "Without compare."

"My daughter…" he sighs quietly, as if fearing as much would be brought to light, though with great patience and delicacy, he nods, "I understand your preference." He looks off toward the window then back, "I admit, I have already been in negotiations with someone else for her marriage and I currently wait to hear of his decision." There's a hint that he's waiting for a reaction from Shepard, though he adds lightly, with some matter of encouragement in his tone, "It would be the reason why I did not include her name when your father came by. If such negotiations fail with the current prospect, there may be some room for us to speak further about Lady Lynette. Until then, I imagine I should hope you to be spending more time with Lady Sorcha." As Faerinia seems to be off the table, due to the red-eye thing. And that in itself is a troublesome trait to deal with.

"Ah, I see." There is, perhaps, a glimmer of disappointment at the announcement that a negotiation is underway. But the further words do prove a bit heartening, and he inclines his head towards the Duke once more, "Thank you, Your Grace. I should think I will take my leave shortly, but I am grateful we had this opportunity to speak. Perhaps I will suggest my sister invite the Lady Sorcha for tea. And there is the New Year's celebration to come, as well." He inclines his head once more, "Good evening to you, Your Grace."


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