Page 190: Discussions With My Favourite Handmaid
Discussions With y Favourite Handmaid
Summary: Belle has some news for Luci. Luci wants some advice from Belle.
Date: 23/Jan/289
Related Logs: Siege logs, wedding logs, Anton logs, lots of logs!
Lucienne Belle 
Kitchen Garden, Four Eagles Tower
Vegies, Herbs, all in short supply
Approx 23 Jan, 289

The day is grown long, the sun's rays given to that lovely orangey glow of the late afternoon, and Lucienne is to be found in the kitchen garden. Inside the castle, the folk are abuzz with news of the battle of Seagard, but out here, things are much calmer; cooks wander about, picking greens and vegetables, and the Lady Luci is meandering about the herb pots. "Thyme," she names one, quietly to herself before moving on to the next. "Dill."

The timing, admittedly, is imprecise: one can only guess that it takes so many days to march to Seagard, then perhaps a day to siege and gain foothold in the city itself. Belle has been an attentive handmaid, for the most part, but it's easy for anyone to tell that her eyes are on the sky, and every time a blackbird or grackle flies by, her heart leaps. So it's not surprising that she's taken to spending her hour or so of liberty in the evenings haunting the rookery, rather than the kitchen for supper. And on this particular evening, it seems, her patience and preoccupation have paid been rewarded.

Down the stairs, through the great hall, through the kitchens and out to the garden she flies, her skirts bunched in her fists to lift up as she sprints. "Lady Lucienne!" she cries, racing out into the garden. The news can only be good — she's beaming. "My lady!"

"Rosema-" The naming of yet another plant is interrupted by a flying Belle, though Luci doesn't seem to mind, especially given that smile her newest handmaid is wearing. "Gracious, Belle," says she, smiling in return, albeit puzzedly. She lifts her skirts in kind and scurries to the end of the potted row to meet the slightly older woman, wondering, "What is it?"

Belle clasps Lucienne's hands and bounces around in a circle, like they're both little girls playing ring-around-the-roses. "The siege was a success!" she gasps in delight. "Your brother, your father, Hardwicke, sweet Patrek — all are well! The savages that didn't flee are entrenched within the walls, but our army has a foothold and should dig them out in the coming days!" She pauses to breathe. "The worst is past, my lady. We are so fortunate!"

"Oh," says Lucienne, giving over her hands as she's whisked into the bouncy circle-dance. "Oh!" And just as promptly as that, she's bouncing too! Her brows lift oh-so-surprisedly, and her smile curves in delight, and she tugs dear Belle about enthusiastically. "Oh, praise the Gods! Praise our men, too! They're well, they did it, Belle!"

Laughing and radiant, Belle nods, catching her breath and finally ceasing to manhandle her better so. She drops Luci's hands with a quick squeeze and drops into a (much belated) curtsy. "They did! The merciful, benevolent Seven and our fine, fine men." She's aswoon with pride, pressing her hands to her stomach to quell the giddies. "The first report from the front says very few men were lost of any account, and none of our own. Forgive me for my unseemly conduct, my lady — I was entirely overcome." The huge smile doesn't look anywhere near contrite, but she's trying.

"None of our own," repeats Lucienne in amazement. "The Gods be good," she murmurs, lifting her eyes to the heavens briefly, her own hands joining in a prayerlike gesture. "Oh," she says again, as Belle apologises. There's a shake of her head, and she breaks into another smile. "Nothing to forgive. And anyway," adds the dark-haired girl, sweeping a conspiratorial look about the gardens, "I don't many people saw us. Oh, what wonderful, wonderful news!"

Belle clasps her hands together beneath her chin and spins, then laughs again and massages her cheeks and jaw. "I think I've sprained my face, smiling so much!" She grins. "But I thought that after my wedding, too — it always seems to bounce back." She hesitates a moment, then says, gently, "Word was brief, as by raven it must be, but there was no mention of Lord Ser Anton. I think, however, if the news were ill — there would have been."

Lucienne emits a low breath of a laugh, watching fondly as Belle spins and rubs her smiling cheeks. "You look so lovely with that smile," she observes, reaching out a hand to plant on the other girl's shoulder. Her touch grows a little heavy at the mention of her own knight, but she holds her smile, if a little dimmer than before. "I'm… sure he's just fine," she says bravely, lifting her chin in resolve. "He fights better than anyone I've ever seen."

"Were it between Lord Ser Anton and King Robert, himself, I'd be hard-pressed where to place my coin, my lady," says Belle with the utmost sincerity. "Lord Valentin is a swordsman without peer and a horseman to match." She takes the hand from her shoulder and clasps it in her own. "And with Ser Alek Coope at his back, nothing will touch him short of the Warrior Himself." She quirks a tiny, rueful smirk. "Though I think it would displease my husband to hear me speak in praise of Ser Alek, so let that stay between us only."

"The Blacksword is a cad," says Lucienne quite firmly, relenting only to add: "Though a fierce one, you're right. I'm sure they're wreaking havoc in the ranks, wherever they are." She gestures toward the back door to the kitchen with her free hand, and takes a short step. "Come, shall we find some tea? I should like your thoughts on some things, if you'll oblige me."

"And fanatically loyal to Lord Valentin — that is a quality beyond price," say Belle of Alek Coope, accompanying her lady wheresoever she leads. "Whatever else may be said of the knights of Oldstones, they are a loyal pack of wolves. Bonds forged in blood and flame, as they say." She dips her chin in a nod. "Of course, my lady, my thoughts — and whatever other humble office I may provide — are ever yours."

She leads toward the kitchen doors, as suggested, but pauses a moment before stepping through them. "Do you think… given this war, the town, everything else - do you think the match with the Lord Valentin is really wise, Belle? I know the boys don't much like him, and they tell me Oldstones isn't much more than a ruin, and I can't help but think…" Lucienne trails off, mostly run out of breath as she casts a worried look to her handmaid.

Belle listens, pausing as well, showing no shock or judgment, merely attentiveness. "What is it you can't help but think?" she prompts, gently.

"I can't help but think they won't let me wed him, after all this," Lucienne concludes, obviously unhappy. "And I'm not getting any younger, and I really think I… well." A hot pink flush fills her cheeks, and Luci dips her head abashedly. "I'm not certain the Lord will want so badly for the match anymore, anyway, given we won't be building his castle anytime soon."

"What's most important is what you want, my lady," says Belle with simple assurance. "And if Lord Valentin is that, we'll find a way to make him yours. But," she pauses, searching her lady's face with concern. "Is he? Surely, he is a charming suitor, and handsome, and certain to make any maid's heart race — but he offers little more than that. A ruin and a timber hall, a dream that may not see fruition in your lifetime, or in your children's." She takes a breath. "If it were a love match, my lady? Love would make the timber hall a palace and find beauty in every crumbling stone. But if it is simply the fluttering of infatuation, and you — to him — simply a prize… that hall will be a cold and bitter tomb."

Lucienne lifts her eyes to watch Belle's face as she responds, chewing down on the inside of her lip in uncertainty. "I… when he laughs at me, my cheeks feel all hot and prickly," Luci shares, in the smallest of whispers. All girlish embarrassment, she drops her eyes to her feet, scuffing one toe along the ground with a scrape. "And when we talk, I feel all excited, Belle. I would love to be his wife, I think, in a way I couldn't ever have thought I would. I feel like he understands me. But I know," she lifts her chin again, frowning, "I know it's not best."

Belle sighs, nodding, her brows drawn up in sympathy. "Oh, my sweet lady," she sighs. "It's a delicious thing to feel so, and nothing to be ashamed of — love can grow from such delightful feelings, and sustain them." She reaches for Luci's hand again. "But you must be careful, for there are men who know just how to make a woman feel so when they feel nothing at all. It's… a tactic in their campaign for a bride." She shrugs lightly. "He might feel the same for you — and if he presses his suit, when Terrick's Roost can offer him nothing to build his home but your own lovely hand? And if he does not…" She shakes her head, looking sad. "If he does not, then he is despicable and deserves nothing but a scathing pox on his loins. And we will find you better."

"I suppose we'll see," admits Lucienne, a tiny tug at the corners of her nervous frown for the idea of a pox on anybody's loins. "All this waiting is terrible, but goodness knows there's plenty to worry about in the meantime. Where in Westeros our next meal is coming from, for one," she laments, with an overlong sigh. "The Naylands brought us some supplies, bless them. The Naylands, Belle." Dear Lu can't seem to wrap her pretty little head around that one.

Laughing, Belle gives Luci's hand a quick, impulsive kiss. "They're not all bad," she whispers, conspiratorially. Then, smiling warmly, "I was quite fond of the Lady Dowager." She releases her lady's hand, then, and says, "My granamere used to tell me, 'Though weeping persists the night, in the morning there is joy.' It doesn't quite work on that scale of time, I've found, but…" She meets Lucienne's dark eyes, her tone gentle and certain, "Whatever comes, my lady, you deserve that joy. You can do right by your family and yourself, as well — we shall simply have to be patient, and clever." She smiles, adding, "And drink a great deal of tea."

"The ones I've met have seemed mostly human," Lucienne retorts wryly, "And then there's Issie, of course. Bless them, seven times and again, when they're sincere." She smiles gratefully, for all the reassurances come from her new (and shall we name her favourite, too?) handmaid, and gestures again to the door. "Shall we? I do so enjoy a warm cup of tea." And over the threshold she steps, into the bustle and collection of good smells that is the kitchen.