|Summary:||Aubra checks in on Hardwicke.|
|Date:||December 29, 2011|
|Related Logs:||Belle/Hardwicke logs and the Ironborn attack, bur particularly Ties That Bind directly preceding.|
|Hardwicke's Chambers — Four Eagles Castle|
|Bare and worn.|
|December 29, 288|
Evangeline has come and gone, though she's done her best to avoid notice of her visit to the Captain's chambers. Hardwicke is left sitting on the edge of the bed, his injured arm curled careful and close on his lap, the other hand rubbing slowly at his forehead.
Slowly, the door to Hardwicke's room creaks open. Only this time it isn't the Lady of the Roost who enters the champers of the captain, but rather the old maid, Aubra. She has in her hands a tray with a tea pot and a mug. "Ah, good. You're awake. I brought you some tea. Regular tea. It doesn't have any use as medicine, though it helps calm a person down a bit." She gives him a little nod. Despite her occasionally harsh or straight forward ways, she does have a spot of caring in there. "How's the arm?"
Hardwicke's head does lift quickly, bristling with renewed wariness until he recognizes who it is. He watches her a moment, squinting, then seems to remember himself. "Fine," he says shortly. His body is taut with some contained mess of emotions, his expression hard with it despite his attempts to present her a more neutral visage. His voice is quieter when he says, "Thank you, Mistress. That is kind of you."
Placing the tray down nearby, Aubra pours some tea into the mug and holds said mug out for Hardwicke to take with his more usable hand. "You're welcome." She nearly smirks at that, but attempts to hide it with a stern gaze. "And how are you doing outside of the arm? Hmm?" She takes a seat in the chair near the bed. "Anything interesting going on in that great, dark haired head of yours, or am I wasting my time even asking?"
"I thought you already knew everything that goes on in here," Hardwicke says, a touch dry, but mostly weary. He takes the cup of tea, forcing his hand to steady before bringing it carefully to his lips.
"Maybe I do. Maybe I don't. Indulge me, won't you? If people don't, I just get bored, and then I start making wild accusations. Nobody wants that!" Aubra places her hands gently in her lap and gazes intently at Hardwicke with her two differently coloured eyes. "You can be free to tell me to leave you alone, or that there's nothing. Just as equally, I can sit here and talk about who knows what until the horses have their breakfast."
Hardwicke is silent for a good stretch of time, looking down at the cooling tea in his hand. Then he heaves a long, quiet breath. "Evie is displeased," he says plainly. "And when Evie is displeased, there is little to be done."
"Hmph. And what's the good Lady Evangeline displeased about then? Is it the Ironborn? No, I suppose that would be too obvious, wouldn't it?" Aubra twitches her nose and leans back. "Is it that you had to disappoint her and say you'd be unable to go out and fight some more?" She snorts, shaking her head with the tiniest of smirks on her face. "Lady Evangeline is particular. It's not a bad thing. It's good to have a ruler over an area who knows what they want and who does not waver."
"Lady Evangeline is particular," Hardwicke agrees quietly. "But more, Lady Evangeline is demanding." He is silent for a beat, two, three. "She has never before found something to ask of me that I have refused to give."
"What did the Lady Evangeline ask of you that you would dare refuse? Hmm? Did she ask you to kill her husband?" Aubra raises a questioning eyebrow. "Or did she ask you something more much more…personal?" She cackles. "Did she ask you to fight all the Ironborn off once your arm was healed? That is something, I think, I would enjoy seeing someone attempt."
"She has no need to ask me to fight Ironborn," Hardwicke says, his voice firm. "I will do my duty as far as I am able." His glance at Aubra holds an edge of annoyance, a riling of frustration. "She asked—" He pauses. "She instructed me to get rid of — Mistress Beckett. In less polite terms."
"The young woman from House Nayland?" Aubra asks tentatively. The servants talk, obviously. "House Nayland and House Terrick have been fighting for some time." The old woman closes her eyes. "You care for this young woman, hmm?" She opens her eyes once more and sighs. "I am sorry, Ser Blayne. I would not wish that on you."
"I know they have," Hardwicke says, with a hint of temper not really directed at her as much as a churning internal frustration that has been eating away for some time now. He says nothing to her question, but looks back down to his tea.
"And? Do you know what you're going to do?" Aubra makes no mention of loyalties one way or the other. She knows that he is more than aware of what his duties are. "It must not be easy, having this to fill your thoughts with the current invasion of the Ironborn. If there is anything I can do to help, let me know. I'll be there."
"I know what I'm going to do, and I told Evie—" Hardwicke pauses and swallows, as if letting go of something very old. "I told — Lady Evangeline. She — gave me her blessing." He hesitates. "And took her confidence with her."
Giving the man a little pat on his shoulder, Aubra shakes her head. "I know I tease you often, but I am sorry to hear this." She murmurs. "I know that, however you feel for this other woman, you've got a deep caring for Lady Evangeline. It cannot have been easy for you to make this decision. For her to, as you say, take her confidence with her, must not have been an a task you wished to partake in."
Smiling at her in a dry, wan sort of way, Hardwicke shakes his head and gulps down the rest of his tea as if it might heat through his tension. "Well, it's done now. More important things at hand."
Not missing a beat, Aubra is up, getting the tea pot, and pouring Hardwicke another mug of tea, whether he wants it or not. Once back in her seat, she says, "Yes, yes. We've just been invaded. I know. And what are we going to do about it, hmm? Any thoughts in that marvelous mind of yours? How are we going to repel the Ironborn?"
"I just wish I knew /why/—" Hardwicke shakes his head, oblivious to Audra's pouring. "They never stayed before," he says. "This is different. Not just raiding."
"Maybe they're wishing to claim these lands? Or maybe…well. Anything is just speculation. And I'm just servant. I'm not a military mind!" Aubra shakes her head quietly. "Makes me curious. I suppose it wouldn't a good idea to go out there yet. But at some point, I'd care to find out. Although, we may all end up finding out, depending on how this ends."
"If we have something they want, we'll eventually find out what it is," Hardwicke says grimly. "Every skirmish has a purpose."
"Any thoughts as to what they want now?" Aubra is a slight busybody, a nasty habit she's gained over the years. "They just showed up suddenly, without warning. Although, I suppose that is an excellent strategy. I would assume anyway."
"The castle," Hardwicke surmises. "Why else would they stay?" He shakes his head and sets his tea down, causing a quietly hissed inhale as his muscles pull in an objectionable way.
At the little hissing inhale, Aubra tilts her head. "What is it? Perhaps I can help." She looks at him with curious eyes. "I know I'm no Maester, but I do know some chuirgeonry. Enough to help people."
Hardwicke laughs a dry, voiceless breath. "What it is is torn muscle and split flesh." He shakes his head again. "It is nothing, Mistress. Just a fresh wound that needs resting."
"If you require any medicine, and should the Maester be busy, please do not hesitate to call for me. I am able to administer it just as well." Aubra stands and pats Hardwicke on the shoulder of the uninjured side. "I'll be off, much more people to get tea and scraps of food for."
"Very well," Hardwicke replies, perhaps a bit automatically. Even his good shoulder is hard and tense beneath her hand. He is quiet a moment, then says, "You have been here far longer than I have, Mistress. You have seen a lot of me. And I have told you some over the years. And now. I would — appreciate this being kept quiet."
Looking Hardwicke over and shaking her head, Aubra says, "I wouldn't think of speaking of it to anyone else. And I am very serious in that. You may not have the Lady Evangeline's confidence any longer, but you may be assured that my confidence shall remain for now." She offers him one of her rare smiles. "Be well, Ser Blayne. Maybe the Seven watch over you and bless your days." And with that, unless he wishes to say any more, Aubra putters away without another word.
He doesn't, apparently: Hardwicke watches her go, but he stays silent. Even after she's gone entirely, he watches, until finally he shakes his head with a weary slump and slides carefully back down on the bed.