|Summary:||Ceinlys considers her place, following Aleister's return to Highfield|
|Related Logs:||I Am Merciful|
|Ceinlys' Chambers — Highfield Keep|
|September 9th 289 A.L.|
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.”
The bustling activity of the day is still ongoing at Highfield Keep, despite the hour being long since past twilight. The chambers of the Steward, however, enjoy a little tranquility, with couriers and servants dismissed save her chaperone and handmaid, Brigid. Not that she's much company, snoring gently on her pallet. The loss of Bastien's stoic presence, for all that the young man can be aloof and cheerless, has been felt, moreso perhaps than it might have been under other circumstances. But the show must go on, as a minstrel might gaily point out. That's what it's all about, when you've the weighty mantle of a House's reputation about your shoulders.
Seated at her broad table, which serves more often as a desk than a dining place, Ceinlys lets her quill fall lightly to the surface as she finishes yet another draft of a particularly delicate missive, leaning back in her tall chair with a sigh and a hand rising to rest, just for a moment, at her brow before sweeping back across her ebon mane. The day has been long. And for those in Lord Aleister's service, is still far from over. With only a brief hesitation and a passing glance over the parchment, it's ink still catching candlelight as it dries, the young lady grasps and crumples the sheaf, tossing it across the expanse of polished wood. That's the trouble with being a perfectionist - no rest will find you until the job is done just so. And Aleister knows it. It's a cruel necessity that such tasks must fall to the young woman. But if not she, who else? His invalid wife? Overworked Castellan? Fiery sister or enraged brother? No. There is no other choice. And now is hardly the time for his trusted retainer to waver in her duty.
Reaching for her goblet only to find it emptied, her lips twist in a fleeting expression of displeasure, blue eyes flitting toward her slumbering companion. No point waking her. She'll only start nagging again, urging her mistress to sleep. Instead, the Steward rises, albeit wearily, and takes the scant few steps to the pitcher, content to serve herself, behind closed doors. A grateful pull is taken of her strongwine, dark lashes fluttering to a momentary rest upon her pale cheeks.
"I will not see all that we have built crushed in an instant." Unbidden, fragments of that earlier conversation drift back to her. Seeing him in the midst of genuine ire has always, oddly enough, had a calming effect on Ceinlys. But never before have their fates been quite so intrinsically joined. There's no going back, once she chooses her path.
Turning from the table, the young lady crosses the floor in long, quiet strides toward her favored window - the one that looks out over the herb garden far below. A dry, warm breeze stirs through the fragrant plantlife, rousing intoxicating scents to sweeten the balmy night air as she gazes unseeingly through the ajar glass. Clad in a gauzy chemise and a calf-length jerkin of softest kidskin, with her glossy black hair tumbling loose about her shoulders and rippling to the small of her back, the slender creature certainly doesn't cut the imposing, cunning figure that may be painted by less informed eyes. Nor the harlot, nor temptress, nor conjurer of traitorous schemes. But society will envision as it pleases, and if Ceinlys is to be dubbed a murderous, heartless villain.. then so be it. She can be both of those things. Has been. May be again, if her Lord asks it of her.
Tilting her head a little, resting her temple to the surround of the window, Ceinlys allows her angelic eyes to stray further afield, beyond the walls of the Keep, beyond even the reach of the horizon. So much gained. So much to lose. She can't come this close only to stumble in the dance at the last flourish. But how will the music end? Just how committed is she to remaining in stride with her partner?
"To see you elevated to Lady of a House would be a grand thing for the Haighs.." Aleister's words reverberate through her mind. Spoken in truth and conviction, as is always his way with her. Though, there are questions that a man might easily overlook that tug at the fringes of a woman's heart and mind. Is he the right choice? Will he betray me, as he did her? Would I survive in such a position, given the murmurings of the smallfolk already..? The Steward takes a slow sip of wine, her eyes narrowing a touch at the bittersweet tang on her tongue. Of course she would survive. Doesn't she always? The question is.. does she wish to do so here. With him. Or do her aspirations soar higher still? He has queried that very thing, in the past. He knows her mind as well as his own. So, it stands to reason he would already have realised the epiphany that has been worrying at his young mistress all day.
For the first time, he genuinely needs her. The fate of a House, of a family.. she could perhaps cast both into ruin on a whim, if she so chose. All it would take is the gentlest.. little.. push.
Unseen by the world of eyes outside, Ceinlys' lips curve in a slow smile. Drawing the window quietly closed, she turns from it, returning to the waiting warmth of candlelight, and the promises of further pleasures, before the night is over.