The scent of her perfume took him back to the last time he’d been here, to his Uncle Jon’s funeral. It had been a strange day, full of ice-cold sunshine and more old men than he’d ever seen outside of the Lords. Sansa had worn black — he’d never seen her wear black before, and his father had retreated further into himself, though there were many who would have wanted him to speak. Rickon had cried, though he had barely known why, and no one had slept a wink that night whilst their aunt went howling through the cavernous rooms with only her sister to soothe her. He remembered, in the morning, that his mother had looked older than he’d ever seen her.
The memory gave his heart a sharp twist and he gave his aunt a squeeze, her soft skin giving way beneath his fingers. He could not have said much for how well he knew her, but his mother cared for her very much, and for that he would say he loved her. He wouldn’t mention her late husband if he could help it. He didn’t want to see her upset.
“We’re well, thank you, auntie,” he said when he stepped away. He glanced back at Sansa, who had given her most polite dip. “Aren’t we?” He went back to his aunt. “How have you been keeping, Lysa?”
“I’ve been all right, dear, I’ve been all right. All things considered, at any rate. I suppose one can only be as all right as one can be!” Lysa felt almost immaterial when touched; strange, because there was certainly a lot of her, a substantial volume to her, and yet at it was like she were a gossamer web or a windsock doll, something moving and smiling but not quite there. Her powdered skin glistened under the lamplight from a wall sconce — electricity had been installed at the Eyrie not a year prior, and while Jon had always preferred the quiet, somber light of the candle-wick, Lysa thrilled at the power of the electric bulb. Since his death the Eyrie had been much brighter in appearance, if darker in tone.
Turning, Lysa gestured to a table setting; cakes and tea brought up by one of the footmen. ”Do help yourself. Sansa my sweet, if you should like to go see your cousin you may find him in his chambers. He’s just finished with a nap.” Young Robert Arryn’s naps were a regimented affair, a small and ever-creeping reminder of his ill health. Lysa, as was ever her wont, simply pretended he was a sensitive boy who loved to spend as much time as possible in the world of dreams. ”I trust, Robert, that your other siblings are quite well? It has been ages since I have seen little Brandon!”
Robert ran a toe through the thick layer of gravel while Egen helped Sansa from the car, worrying at buttoned sleeve. He made a mental note to leave a note for Jeyne when they got in.
Once they were both disembarked, he followed the butler in through the wide front doors, twisting a little as he went to give Sansa a not entire admonishing look. The Eyrie’s welcoming hall was warmer than the outside would suggest, with mahogany tables and chairs polished to a rosy shine and portraits of the Lords of Arrynvale ascending up the main staircase. The only sound was that of the grandfather clocks, two on either sides of the hall, ticking in unison. Rob wasn’t sure what he’d expected; it wasn’t as if their cousin Robin was apt to rushing in to embrace them about the legs with abandon. He turned at the opening and went into the drawing room, removing his hat.
The years had been unkind to Lysa Arryn, once a bright-eyed girl with rich red hair and long, birdlike limbs that matched her sparrowlike gait. Robert had known that girl, once, when he was very young and she was still full of hope, but that had been long ago. The woman who sat in one of the Eyrie’s opulent hand-carved chairs was puffy and drawn, simultaneously bloated and bony, shrunken and swollen. The make-up that caked her face had the effect of making her look not younger, but rather like a grotesque of the young, like a store window mannequin with aspirations of burlesque.
“Rob!” she said, as if by announcing his presence she created him there in the air before her. ”And dear sweet Sansa.” Rising from her seat, she opened her arms wide to embrace her oldest nephew first. ”It has been so long! I trust you are both quite well?” The heady odor of her perfume, thick and floral, filled Robert’s nostrils.
(OOC NOTE: Shall we wait for Sansa’s player to return from her family stuff before we continue this, or…? Also, for the record, Lysa’s son will be called ‘Robert’ here; ‘Sweetrobin’ is his nickname, but his actual name is only ‘Robin’ on the television series. Lysa therefore refers to Robb, as I’ve done in my telegrams to Littlefinger, as ‘Cat’s Robert’.)
The atmosphere in the automobile was tense. Sansa’s mood had turned quite foul, and Robb could sense it. Easily. She wasn’t the type of girl who liked to be carted off place to place.
Arrynvale was a beautiful place. There was no denying it. The Eyrie, on the other hand, stuck out like a sore upon the landscape. All that grey, and all those railings - pitch black. Why, the house resembled a prison more than somewhere livable. She had heard her brother mention the word fortress many times in the past. And she couldn’t disagree. This place was a fortress.
Sansa had never been particularly fond of Aunt Lysa. She was a pleasant woman, but not without her quirks. Sansa found her very worrisome, paranoid. This was probably the point in her living so far away from anyone, in a type of house like this. Ever since her Uncle Jon has passed, she became even stranger. And then there was her cousin, Robin. Sansa may have been spoiled, but Robin Arryn was spoiled. She couldn’t remember a time when she had visited that he whined and complained constantly about something that wasn’t going his way. Sansa clutchedthe bag of sweets in her lap, praying they would be sufficient.
Turning her head, she looked at Robb. “Even Joff wouldn’t keep me interested 5 minutes in this place.” She shivered, turning back to the window. “It frightens me.”
At the gate — and oh, what a gate; Bedlam never had such a gate — they were met by Mr. Vardis Egen, the Eyrie’s butler. A plain-faced man with a stocky build and silver hair, Egen had never been known for his warmth, and the lovely summer day seemed to have absolutely no effect on his generally dour outlook. ”Young Master Stark,” he remarked, stiffy, before extending a hand to help Sansa out of the automobile. ”Lady Sansa,” he granted her. ”Lady Arryn is expecting you both in the drawing room.”
RECEIVED MOST CURIOUS LETTER FROM CAT (STOP) WHAT IS THIS BUSINESS WITH SANSA (STOP) RAISING PLENTY OF EYEBROWS AT WINTER HALL (STOP) DO RESPOND PROMPTLY (STOP)
YOURS ALWAYS L ARRYN (STOP)
TELEGRAM TO L ARRYN FROM P BAELISH, THE SAME AFTERNOON
SUPPOSE IT WOULD BE FOLLY TO THINK THAT MY CORRESPONDENCES TO EITHER TULLY SISTER WOULD BE KEPT QUIET (STOP) IF THE STARKS ARE TO BE IN LONDON FOR THE SEASON I SEE NO REASON WHY I SHOULD NOT OFFER TO LEARN YOUR NIECES AND NEPHEWS SOME SKILLS IN ADMINISTRATION (STOP)
TIMES ARE CHANGING LYSA (STOP) YOU ALWAYS WERE A REALIST BUT EVEN YOU MAY NOT WANT TO SEE THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER (STOP) DOWRIES AND WINDFALLS MAY SOON NOT BE ENOUGH TO ENSURE OUR CHILDRENS FUTURES (STOP)
I WOULD OFFER THE SAME FOR YOUR ROBIN, BUT HE IS YOUNG STILL (STOP) PRAY HE COMES OF AGE AT A SIMPLER TIME FOR OUR NATION (STOP) YOU MAY CONVEY THAT SENTIMENT TO YOUR SISTER AS IT APPEARS SO MUCH MUST BE SHARED BETWEEN US ALL (STOP)
EVER YOUR SERVANT,
TELEGRAM FROM L ARRYN TO P BAELISH, DATED THAT EVENING
NO NEED FOR SO MUCH SALT IN YOUR TONE PETER DEAR (STOP) I MERELY FELT I OUGHT TO KNOW WHAT YOU WERE UP TO AS CAT HAS ASKED ME WHAT SORT OF PERSON YOU ARE THESE DAYS (STOP) I HAVE BEEN DISCREET AS EVER WHEN IT COMES TO YOUR AFFAIRS (STOP)
TOLD CAT THAT YOU ARE A VERY RESPECTABLE MAN NOW (STOP) SANSA AND CAT’S ROBERT ARE CALLING TOMORROW AND I SHALL SAY NOTHING OF THIS BUSINESS UNLESS PROMPTED (STOP) SIMPLY UNSURE OF WHY YOU WOULD APPROACH MY SISTER WHEN IT HAS NEVER BEEN IN HER NATURE TO GIVE YOU THE TIME OF DAY (STOP)
How very queer that Peter would contact you! I have seen him about in London, of course, and we have had occasion to speak a few times. He seems quite well, and he has established himself nicely in the city. I must say, though, I too find this offer rather curious. What sort of position could he wish Sansa to serve? Surely he is not so presumptuous as to think Lord Stark’s daughter would deign to work as his secretary? Do keep me abreast of any developments on this matter. Would you like me to inquire after it with him myself?
It would be just lovely for you to join us for dear Sansa’s season; I am sure she will catch the eye of many a lad in the coming year, just as her mother did when we were young! I am sure Sweetrobin would be delighted to have a playmate, as well. With regard to Jon, there is not much to say, but I appreciate as ever your kindness. It is true, no one in our family could ever abide solitude.
Bravery is one thing, and foolhardiness is another. I shall do my best to advise your son of that when he arrives, I should think! He is a strong and intelligent lad, and he ought be careful not to get overhasty. Every man has his chance to go to war, eventually. No need to hasten the process.
I fear I am quite despondent without Jon; I am uncertain I would call it illness, but in my heart it is a perfect emptiness, a certain queer calm that comes to nausea. I must manage the household entire, now, which has left me quite exhausted and with little time for correspondence. My apologies, sister, if you have found me less than dutiful! Sweetrobin is doing quite well, at least, the poor dear. It was quite a shock to lose his father at such an age, of course, and you know how delicate he can be emotionally.
So far as I am concerned, this matter on the continent is something for the continent to deal with. What should we care about Belgium? I daresay I enjoy a good waffle as much as the next woman, but I don’t see any reason to ship off our lads. Your lad, at least — thank the Lord mine’s far too young. How is young Robert taking all this uneasiness?
If my presence is desired at Tully House, I shall make my way down. Perhaps on a day Father is indisposed, if at all possible — do let me know when would be most convenient for us all. You and your children (and Ned) are of course welcome here at the Eyrie at any time; this big house feels so terribly empty these days.