|Summary:||Aleister and Ceinlys begin the journey to Hollyholt.|
|The road from Seagard to Hollyholt.|
|February 14th 289 A.L.|
No one gossips about other people's secret virtues. ~ Bertrand Arthur William Russell
It's a pleasant change of pace, not having a carriage and a little convoy of carts in the wake of the travelling party. It affords the freedom to simply enjoy being astride a horse, to pick up speed as and when the mood strikes, to idly regard the surrounding countryside and the little steadings passed through on the journey. The Lady Erenford isn't the sort to expect a carriage, and not just because she'd likely be denied if she requested such extravagance. Seated atop her gorgeous golden palfrey, the young woman keeps pace easily with Lord Aleister and the numbers he has chosen to accompany this impromptu - apparently - venture to the seat of his House; Hollyholt.
The countryside is hardly unfamiliar to her, of course. Broadmoor is practically a stone's throw from the Charlton keep. Perhaps that's the explanation for the lady keeping her own company for much of the day; cerulean eyes distant, though not morose, hands resting lightly upon the powerful neck of her palomino mare. It's relatively late in the afternoon before she gently heels the creature into a graceful trot, bringing herself up alongside the Charlton knight and passing him a serene smile. "We are making good time." she remarks, amiably enough. Always attired for any given occasion, Ceinlys is once again in her riding habit. Those garments seem to have served as something of an omen, in the past, when it comes to her being in the presence of the Charlton. But, needs must.
The entourage that was chosen to accompany Aleister back to the Charlton Keep consists of a few knights and their squires, a few men at arms and a few house retainers, who are there for the sole purpose of tending to the Lords and Ladies when a stop is required. While some are afforded the chance to ride on horseback, there are others who are forced to amble along on foot, something that Aleister doesn't seem concerned with, even if he urges the pace to quicken from time to time. As is normal for his time traveling, he's clad in that of his armor, all of which has been repaired or replaced.
The Charlton is oddly quiet as of late and this ride is no different. For most of it, he's kept his attention to the fore, speaking only time to time with his squire and another of the knights, before silence is once again resumed. When Ceinlys urges her mare along side of him, there's a flit of his attention to the side as his head comes to dip into the slightest of nods, "Indeed, we are, Lady Erenford. It will not be long until we've reached Hollyholt. Though, I fear our stay will not be long enough to enjoy the pleasures that the city has to offer."
No doubt, for all their care in attendance, some if not all of the retainers on this little trip have strongly formed opinions on just why their Lord has seen fit to bring Ceinlys along. Not that they'd ever voice them out loud, of course. And she quite plainly pays such matters no mind - the woman is well-used to being at the center of scandalous speculation. This is at least on a small scale. Sort of. Reining her mount a touch closer to his with an easy gesture and a shift of weight in the saddle, the raven-haired handmaiden permits herself a soft sigh, regarding her companion openly in profile, seeing as nobody is lingering particularly close by either of their horses.
Shaking her dark tresses back with a subtle wrinkle of her nose in the face of a suddenly dancing breeze brazen enough to defy her, she bites gently at her lower lip in consideration for a long moment before simply coming out with it. Given how rarely the woman speaks plainly, it may come as a surprise. Doubly so, when it implies.. actual concern for someone? "Aleister..?" With a slight tilt askance of her head, she contemplates his expression, difficult to read at the best of times. But, admittedly, she has perhaps taken to observing him with closer scrutiny for reasons that remain her own.
Again: Sort of.
"..what is troubling you?" There's no delving into explanation of the nuances she has noted, or the quiet, or the sombre progress of the journey. She recognises a shift because they're similar. And that is a matter that is already very well examined. So no, she doesn't waste time dallying with feminine tact, this time. It would irritate her, were the roles reversed.
For the most part, the retainers that have accompanied them on this journey have been free of harassment from Aleister. Even when they'd stopped for a reprieve, they'd been free to tend to their duties at their own pace, rather then one that was set by him, so it comes as little surprise when Ceinlys voices that concern and it's enough to have the Knight's shoulders lift into the hint of a shrug, "There is nothing that troubles me, Ceinlys." A faint sniff is taken amongst the breeze, his head turning back to the fore to 'brave' it a moment.
Then, he's looking back in her direction, the hint of a smirk dancing upon his lips as he offers, "There is simply much that I wish to accomplish. Much that will be left undone before the ships arrive and we set sail to the Iron Isles." It's the truth, at least. That much is clear. As he looks back to the fore again, the smirk fades from his lips, "A shame, really. So much planning will be wasted as a result."
She takes him at his word, inclining her head in a slow nod of acceptance before turning her gaze likewise to the path ahead of them. As they pass into a lightly forested area, a rutted lane marking the way forth, dappled sunlight filters through the canopy overhead and shimmers upon the glossy coat of her palomino, as well as Ceinlys' own raven locks; discovering rainbows in the hues merely with the change of illumination. "Mmm, true. A terrible pity. If only you had someone you could trust to tend your affairs in your stead." The words are borne upon a teasing lilt.. but there's just a trace of 'what if..' beneath their surface, accompanied by a sidelong glance from the young woman, a wry twist upon her lips mirroring Aleister's trademark smirk.
Returning to less pleasant topics, however, she flits a look back over her shoulder, likely ensuring that her words remain soft enough to be audible to the Lord alone. Apparently so. "..particularly, if I may be bold.. when the allegiances of some may be questionable." She heard his fight with Cherise. Until now, she has made no mention of it. But the woman blatantly proved her to be right. It's with no small amount of curiosity, albeit it tempered with wariness, that she now comes to speak of it, in relative solitude. What methods so easily averted his wrath? Because it was damn well obvious, that night..
A hand is lifted from the reins, coming to smooth through his hair, or rather, where his hair should have been. A gesture that he clearly grew accustomed too and hasn't yet broken from. When the hand begins to lower, there's a return of the smirk and a slight incline of his head as he offers, "Indeed. Unfortunately, such affairs will need to wait for my return, for there is no other that could further them but I." The words end with a faint cluck of his tongue, a deepening of the smirk and then it's fading once more.
The mention of allegiances draws a scowl to his lips, one that comes with a shake of his head and a firming of his hand upon the reins of his steed. Eyes shift back in the direction of Ceinlys and when he speaks, his voice has been lowered to that of a murmer, "Indeed. Allegiences are certainly in question. Given time, though, we will most surely see where they come to pass." Now, the smirk begins it's return, broken only as he continues to speak, "There is one thing that you can do in my absence, Ceinlys. One thing that I can trust to no other .." He stops there, eyes coming to focus entirely upon her now.
Ceinlys' gaze wanders upward in the wake of his hand, briefly lamenting in silence the loss of his thick mane. But it will return. Eventually. Absently, she leans forward a little in her saddle, smoothing her palm along her palfrey's arched and muscular neck. It's a calm creature, given its tender years.. and the young lady very obviously dotes upon the animal. She almost misses that stern look from Aleister, glancing up at the last second to catch it and offering him nothing more than a slow, languid smile in return. The truth will out, as they say. He is quite right. And she will have the glorious position of 'I told you so..' when all is said and done.
Straightening, she rests a hand on the pommel, reins loosely clasped inthe curl of her fingers, while the other rises to sweep her long hair forward over one shoulder, loosely twisted to better settle there, against the pristine fabric of her attire. Only a fractional flit of long lashes betrays a swift appraisal being taken of Aleister's expression yet again; that enigmatic curve across her lips turning wry of its own accord. Does it bother her, having him look at her so intently? ..unlikely. especially considering she holds his gaze steadily in kind. Never backing down is dire in its importance, when it comes to the Charlton Lord, and she knows it. Even in the smallest gesture. "..and yet, when you say it in such a way, I'm inclined to assume you are either about to find humor at my expense.. or task me with something you know I will dislike."
This section has been heavily edited for plot purposes. Apologies for any inconsistencies.
Even as she begins to answer him, Aleister's gaze doesn't relent in the intensity, nor does the smirk begin to drift from his lips. If anything, that smirk begins to deepen a touch more before he's giving a slight shake of his head, "You think unjust thoughts of me, Lady Erenford. I would ~never~ find humor at your expense, nor task you to something to which you did not like." It's only when the words slip past his lips that he's looking back to the fore, to the path ahead and then down to his steed. "I simply need you to gather some information. Important information."
There's a moments silence, as if that is all that he was going to offer, but his head eventually turns back towards her, the smirk still held upon those lips of his and when he speaks again, he's doing so with a very slight lean towards her. "I need you to travel while I away. Speak of pleasantries and the like"
The silence is allowed to pass comfortably enough, with naught but the weighty hoofbeats and swish of long tails to mingle with the birdsong in the light forest they ride through. All told, Ceinlys appears perfectly at ease, both in her surroundings and her present company. Why wouldn't she be? She's been in far more precarious situations than this and emerged unscathed. Sweeping her mare's mane across to lay all along one side, nice and proper, the woman then returns her vivid blue eyes to Aleister's darker hues, nodding gently to convey her understanding.
"Very well.. your dear wife will not be displeased at my absence, given her 'delicate condition'?" Whether she means her pregnancy or the woman's sanity is left open to interpretation. It also seems fairly inconsequential to the Lady Erenford, either way. If Aleister tells her to journey somewhere, she will. Hormonal tantrums and foot-stamping be damned. "In truth, I would enjoy the chance to spend time away. I will do what I can, ser. If it please you." Shifting her weight a little causes the palominos ears to perk briefly. More speed? No. Maybe not.
A dip of his head comes to be offered in her direction and when it lifts, the smirk has returned to his lips, even as he comes to give a slight shake of his head. "If she is displeased, she will no doubt voice it. But, she will not counter what I have commanded." That comes to be offered with a sure certainity, as if he's well aware of the route Cherise will take.
Ceinlys mischievously quirks a brow, grinning just a little back at the Lord as he chuckles at her, quite unabashed. "Mhm." With a soft, contented sigh, she allows herself to be gently lulled, for a time, by the steady rocking motion in her saddle. It has been a long day, even for one accustomed to riding. The notion of a hot bath and a featherbed becomes more appealing by the hour. But she still focuses upon the Lord's requests, all the same.
"Pleasant is all well and good, as a means to an end. I, myself, am perfectly pleasant much of the time. As are you, Aleister." At this, she casts him a glance aside, unable to entirely quell the humour that tugs at her lips. "If the company enjoys fiction, then why not? Personally, I prefer to see the raw truth of things." Hence why that facade drops so smoothly behind closed doors. "But yes. I will gladly venture and make smalltalk over wine with sweetling children. Assuming they have wine.." Well, -there's- an unpleasant thought. Ceinlys almost frowns as she ponders a few weeks without a drink to steel her against the simpering sycophants of the world. "..how long will you be gone?"
Again, there's that ring of genuine interest, her gaze returning to Aleister thoughtfully, smile waning a fraction. "I am not sure I can remain sane, if I must be pleasant all the time. Do at least try to return in one whole, conscious piece, at least. If I may ask that of you."
A simple nod of his head was given in response to her returning the favor, though there was a slight tug of his lips to a grin, though it was a fleeting thing, dashed away by the return of that smirk, "Excellent. I do so look forward to hearing what you have uncovered upon my return, Ceinlys." Now, he's looking back to the fore and to the path ahead and a clearing that begins to approach. But, his attention is quickly pulled away by her question and request, "Oh, I intend to return hale and whole. I will not fall for the same trick that allowed Lord Volmark to land such a blow upon me."
Now, his attention returns to that clearing and with a slight movement of the reins and his feet, he's setting his steed to move a touch faster. "It is hard to say how long we will be gone. At minimum, a couple of weeks I would imagine. Or, a couple of months. It all depends on how things go." Now, there's a turn of his head back towards her, that smirk growing upon his lips as he flashes a quick wink, "More then enough time to plot against me and mine, I'm sure." There's a soft jest in those words and when he looks back to that clearing, he's then calling out, "We'll stop here for a bit. Let the horses rest and take a meal."
Urging her mare to a gentle, loping trot, Ceinlys keeps a deep seat in the saddle, choosing an elegant gait for both comfort and the sake of appearance. Though, the increase in pace does send her thick, glossy tresses behind her once more, jostling softly against her back with the steady two-beat motion. "Fortunately, I expect those who would seek to usurp you will be on the boats, also. So you need not concern yourself for the matters left behind, Aleister.. only for your own neck. I would urge you to remain vigilant." Reluctantly, she offers a smile. "..not that remaining a step ahead of those rivals is particularly difficult. Your interests here, as far as I am allowed to know of them.." She playfully narrows her blue eyes, tilting her jaw down slightly to affect an air of feigned scolding toward the Charlton knight. "..shall be in safe hands."
Looking ahead, she spies the clearing he has chosen as a temporary halt, and her features brighten in apparent approval. A chance to stretch her legs, at last. "I had thought to ask whether you desired a new favor, to carry with you. But it seemed not to grant such luck as I had hoped for, last time.." As if she's to blame for Volmark! "Perhaps I shall simply say, instead.. that I will look forward to your return." A brief pause, and she adds, "..you never did say precisely why you wished me to accompany you on this last foray, Aleister. Not that I am displeased that you did." Slowing her golden mare as she enters the clearing, the young lady brings her to a halt beneath the dappled shade of a towering tree, settling her attention on Aleister as she awaits his reply; not dismounting as yet.
A low laugh begins to sound in the back of Aleister's throat as he offers a quick nod of his head, "Indeed. Many of them will be. And, perhaps, some will not return." The words are offered within a dangerous tone, but it's washed away as aquickly as it came, "It's good to know that such things will be in safe hands. There are few who know of what I have planned, Ceinlys. Such things would not be well received and would provide people time to .. recover and prepare."
Bringing his steed into that clearing ahead of the rest, Aleister draws the creature to a slow trot before he's casting a look back over in her direction, "Oh, your favor did much for me. In the end, it was my arrogance that got the best of me, I do believe. But, such a thing will not happen again." Now, he moves to follow Ceinlys to where she slows her mare and when he comes beside her, he's dismounting his horse, a hand coming to pat lightly at it's neck as he leaves the creature to graze for the moment. "Do I need a reason to find myself in your company, my dear?"
"Based on past experience; yes." replies the young lady, smoothly. Though her smile suggests she's teasing, only - flattered whether it's true or not. After all, even false flattery is sometimes nice to hear. Gathering her reins idly in one hand, she swings a leg smoothly across her mounts back and dismounts, sliding lightly to the ground and pausing briefly to stretch; taking almost feline pleasure in the freedom to arch and elongate her weary back. Likewise offering a grateful pat to the palfreys neck, Ceinlys then draws the reins over the creatures heavy, roman nose and loops them lightly over a low-hanging bough, her skirts swishing and rustling just a little in the long grass of the clearing. She doesn't seem to mind. It's actually a rather pretty little glade. Smoothing her riding coat with a sweep of both palms, she looks over the area distractedly, before flitting a thoughtful to the knight nearby. The retainers and guards are catching up, albeit with less enthusiasm. It can't be a particularly enjoyable jaunt, on foot. But who cares?
Unperturbed by the notably formidable expression, fleeting as it is, from Aleister, the woman passes him a coy smile before turning to her mount again, turning her back to the Charlton Lord in order to unbuckle her girth. The animal will enjoy being free of the burden while she grazes, surely.
"A wise response, Ceinlys," comes the murmered reply from Aleister before it's followed by a soft chuckle, "But in this instance, I thought that you might like a moment away from things. And it afforded me the time and pleasure of your company, to speak of such things as we just spoke of. Away from the prying ears of others." Giving his steed another quick pat, he's then moving away from the creature, apparently quite confident that it's not going to take off, but then again, it's probably been trained to remain near enough.
As she begins to turn away from him so as to tend to her mare, Aleister casts a look in the direction of the road before his attention returns to her. Then, there's a couple of steps in her direction as he reaches up to loosen the buckles that hold part of his breastplate together. "I do imagine, my dear, that you will look forward to being within an actual city again."
"Any time away from prying ears and gossiping mummers is a pleasure, Aleister.." comes her reply, though she's still concentrating on her task, jerking one of the sturdy leather straps upward in order to loosen the pin of the buckle. That done, the girth falls loose and she reaches up to grasp the saddle in both hands, hauling the weighty thing free of her palominos back. Only now, does she venture a look toward Aleister, seeing as she half turns to settle the contraption down on the ground. The horses aren't so dim-witted that they'd trample it. Besides, it's taking a toll on her arms. "..that it comes with your company is merely a boon."
Her eyes absently follow his glance to the road, though they find nothing upon which to linger and merely drift back as his own do. Straightening unhurriedly, Ceinlys remains where she is, allowing the knight his approach and beginning to smirk, just a touch, as he loosens his buckles. It must be so uncomfortable, riding all day in armor. Sometimes, being born a girl has its benefits. Though she would have made an undeniably ferocious opponent as a rival Lord, it must be said. "Oh, Gods yes." she answers, upon a quiet laugh, in regard to the joy of being in a 'real' place again. For a splitsecond, her posture implies she might intend to aid the man's task with deft and practiced hands. But she refrains. He's a big boy. "At this rate, I'll end up naught but a heathen fisherwife. I can't remember the last time I bought a bolt of fine cloth, or a new necklace.." Ah, simple pleasures.
With a slight laugh, Aleister is dipping his head into a nod of agreement and the movement is followed by a murmered, "Of course my presence is a boon. That's to be expected, after all." A flash of a grin makes the jest clear. He doesn't move to help with that saddle. After all, she's quite capable and his hands are currently occupied with their own tasks. Something that he's intimately familiar with, for it takes only a moment for the buckles to be undone and then he's shrugging the plate from his body so that it can be lowered down to the ground, leaving him in a simple undershirt.
"You do know there are merchants in Stonebridge, my dear? Ones that have necklaces that might catch your fancy?" With the breastplate aside, he takes a moment to stretch one arm before moving off to the side, eyes looking to the tree and to the shade before flitting a glance back in her direction, "I think you will quite enjoy my home, Ceinlys, though it's a shame that such a thing cannot be enjoyed for any length of time."
"Oh, -Stonebridge- merchants. Half of them are charlatans. I haven't seen any trinkets that took my fancy in quite some time, alas. But I have high hopes for Hollyholt." She teases him right back. But she does genuinely seem to be looking forward to the visit. Raking both hands up and back through her dark hair a few times, shaking out the lustrous waves, she unthinkingly just follows after the Lord as she speaks. "Perhaps there will be another opportunity to visit, upon your return. For celebration, if nothing else. "With wine and dancing… how I miss dancing." For once, she means really -real- dancing. Not the dangerous games they play. One hand drifts to settle at her nape for a time as her gaze wanders, becoming oddly distant when a vaguely wistful smile appears upon her lips. Still, it's a balm to the senses, the whispering breeze through the forest and the cheerful birdsong soaring high above. Even the occasional contented sighs of the horses. Everything's just.. peaceful. And that's a rarity in itself.