|Of Finery and Armor|
|Summary:||Maldred and Ceinlys continue to judge one another with care.|
|Fountain Court — Broadmoor|
|Room desc goes here!|
|November 28th, 289 A.L.|
“Politics doesn't make strange bedfellows, marriage does.” ~ Groucho Marx
A pleasantly warm and still afternoon has settled upon Broadmoor, with the tell-tale long shadows of later in the day now cast across the stones of the Fountain Court and the Long Gallery that overlooks it. Dinner preparations are underway, armors are being attended to, messengers have been dispatched and all in all, this hour finds a scarce lull for the occupants of the Keep. Seizing upon the opportunity, perhaps, for a little solitude, the Lady Ceinlys is seated on the edge of the opulent carved fountain, fingertips of one hand idly trailing back and forth in the cool water, stirring ripples to life and watching with thoughtful eyes as they perish all too swiftly. Such is the way of the world.
While her chaperone shadows her, as always, she remains at a discreet distance for now, allowing her charge the illusion of time alone, away from the cares and concerns freshly burdening her shoulders as Steward of the stronghold. Far grander than Highfield, is her family's seat.. and in the absence of several of her brothers it is to the only daughter that these responsibilities fall. It doesn't seem to matter much to the young woman. Better than simply being married off and having nought but embroidery to amuse her as she grows fat with child. No, thank you. But she's been undeniably reclusive, all the same; content to keep her own company unless propriety dictates otherwise. Attired in modest hues of olive and copper and so winsomely preoccupied, Ceinlys looks all of her twenty and one years today, and not a day older. It's easy to forget, for so formidable a creature, that she's truly little more than a girl.
The voice that ruptures the reverie has little volume but much edge, and a certain, arrow-like ability to carry. "Seems you took my advice after all, my lady - family, family, family."
As Ser Maldred Rivers strolls to the Steward's side by the fountain's glimmering surface, he presents a figure barely less scruffy than usual, but faintly more emollient, perhaps soften by wholesome rest and hearty fare, and also with a passing nod to chivalric rank in the deep blue surcoat hastily pulled over the all-but-black leather. His hair, however, stringy and filthy, has made not the least of diplomatic concessions.
"I could scarcely deny I was pleased to hear of your decision, Lady Ceinlys," he perseveres with a joyless grin. "I found quite a few boors amongst the wolves, but did not number you amongst them, and conversation with you promises to wipe clean the road's dust in my head. As for me, it seems I was such a success Lord Frey has decided no ambassadorial introduction is quite complete without me. I wonder if he's joking. What a charming place; did you fish here as a child? A pleasant picture."
It's as if the Frey bastard is fully aware he is the dissonant note in her idyll, and quite happy to draw out the disharmony by fluent talk.
Well, it's nice that he's making some sort of effort. After all, he's housed this time in far nicer quarters, rather than a barracks, and expected to dine and socialise with the other guests of the Keep. Forcing herself not to start, nor immediately raise her gaze as that familiar timbre assails her ears, the young lady instead permits a cool smile to play about her lips before eventually turning glacial eyes upon the 'Frey' as he comes to a halt beside her. "There's only so much that can be done to heave a beast out of a mire. And, frankly, I'd not rish the fabric of my skirts on aiding a creature that may yet prove to be lame and of less worth than the ropes it's strung upon." Withdrawing her hand from the waters, lightly sprinkling droplets from her fingertips then clasping them with the others upon her lap, the noblewoman regards her new, albeit uninvited, companion with a contemplative air.
"Hello, Maldred. You're looking well." Aside from your hair, says the pointed glance to his straw-like tresses. But she's not going to be outdone on the social niceties, however thinly they veil her unease in his presence. A glance toward Brigid, as the handmaid moves with intent to rise from her bench in the shade is followed by a subtle shake of her mistress' head. She doesn't need numbers to handle this one. Or at least, that's the impression she is resolved to give.
"I trust yourself and the Lady Jaimera are comfortably settled." Of course they are, this place is a palace. "As for my presence here, I travel wherever my Lord father has need of me. Not unlike the Lady Lyanna, I suppose." A faint smirk twitches at her lips. "Though perhaps less well received, at times."
A laugh, no louder than the bastard's speaking voice but unusually appreciative, is the only answer the Lady Steward's first…virtuoso speech of a reply extracts from Maldred. He is so tickled that it is quite clear he relishes the way Ceinlys' answer could stand for a fish, the Ashwoods, or himself. The compliment receives a brusquer, more superficial smile, before Rivers receives a cue for a little gossip.
"A Stormlord's seat did not satisfy my aunt," he reminds Ceinlys, before correcting, "our aunt, at that. Still, she was gracious enough to rmark that given the adequacy of the bedding here, it was a miracle and a testament to Ser Leslyn's economy how sparce the comforts were in the inns on our way…"
The bastard shrugs, "But that's her view, of course, an ageing lady's caprices. For myself, I'm contented, most grateful…and when I think of the last household to receive me, most amused. You must have influenced the …Lord of Highfield less than they all said, given the difference between your courtesy here and his churlishness there…" Always keep the last arrow till the end of the snipe trail, eh?
"Alas for Lord Aleister, my place was not as his tutor. He will learn, as the heads of all new houses must. By his mistakes." There's a faint half-smile for Maldred's laughter, which she has no doubt is a rare thing, or more often feigned for some other purpose. It remains a guarded circling of one another, for now, doesn't it? Does he fancy himself a lion, to her she-wolf? That would only grant her an easier strike for his throat. Maybe she was toying with him. Maybe she was offering an insight to her opinion of the Ashwoods. Maybe it was nothing more than idle observation in small talk. Who knows. As for Jaimera..
A throaty chuckle is loosed from the noblewoman. "Our aunt, indeed. With standards as high as my mother's, if not a touch more.. expectant." If it's good enough for the Lady Perriane, then her younger sister cannot be entirely displeased. But it's likely she just chooses to be so. Sibling rivalries never die. But back to Maldred's favourite topic. "You were equally uncouth, in your arrival to Highfield. Had you spoken in such a manner to my father, I would have reprimanded you. Just.. more elegantly than perhaps a former Charlton and now little vassal might consider necessary. I am glad, for that reason, that you find your accomodations pleasing.. and the company passable entertainment."
Maldred's no lion, to be sure. He (sort of) comes of a line which illustrates itself with architecture, not bestiaries, and in any case he has the natural son's casual distrust of heraldic pride, his own escutcheon functioning in much the same way as a thief's brand. No, he would claim no animal's guise; he's just a man, a hunter, with tools and old tricks, being improved upon day by day. And whether Ceinlys is woman or quarry…well, isn't that an over-complicated question? What are noblewomen but the royallest quarry of all? The bastard smiles again.
"The pair of them have chosen to conduct most of their loving reunion behind draped tapestries, haven't they? Ah, that first struggle in my lord father's bedchamber, Royce against Swann, conducted so long ere either of us were spawned. I shall be glad to watch it should they let me. Most impartially, and quietly, and…I assure you, couthly."
An unusual thing happens. Revealing a glimpse of white teeth, a flash of a grin as azure eyes meet paler ones, Ceinlys laughs gently; emboldening her humorously faux disbelief. "Maldred.. are you professing to know of gentlemanly courtesies and courtly manners? I think I may fall in the fountain, if such is the case." When one considers it, the Haighs emblazoning their arms with a tool used for jabbing and sifting is as little surprise as the bastard knight's beloved, sombre Towers. For all her candour and charm, when she's of a mind to stoop to such wiles, this is not a daughter who will be easy quarry, regardless of the hunter's skill. Indeed, it seems less and less likely that Lord Leslyn will ever consider any man worthy of his treasured little girl.
With a soft sigh, the young lady moves gracefully to a stand in a rustle of skirts, smoothing them with an absent sweep of one palm. "I am of a mind to take a ride, Ser Maldred. Would you care to accompany me, for a short while? If you need attend to your charge, I shall take no offence.. I simply feel the need for some fresh air ahorse." The best kind.
Is the slightly stung intonation in Maldred's riposte mocking, or more genuine than he'd admit? "In a land where your wolfshead knight is called a lord, lady coz, I should think I could pass for a gentleman at least. And if you fancy a plunge, you have a true knight here who would happily loiter to dry you off!" Probably his tongue, alternately wicked and lascivious enough to satisfy any amount of bastard folklore, slithers with all the more liberty for the fact that no noble father would consider him worthy, unless perhaps at swordpoint.
The Steward's equestrian suggestion catches his interest. "Will you be on the steed whose acquaintance I briefly made, my lady? Forgive me for forgetting its name; I know full well gentlemen lag far behind lady's horses in precedence."
Whether the riposte was genuine in origin or not, it has the good fortune to find the tinest chink in the Lady Ceinlys' usually icy and aloof armor. And, for once, she either fails or simply doesn't care to mask it. Stiffening almost imperceptibly, having straightened, the young lady pointedly meets Maldred's unperturbed gaze once more. "..he is not my knight. He's not anyone's. He's just a son of a secondary line who found fortune in his familial lack of loyalty." Reaffirming her composure after a fleeting moment and a soft inhalation, Ceinlys rearranges that half-teasing expression upon her features, playing the fickle little noblewoman to perfection. "..and I shall restrain myself. Seeing as all you have to hand for the purposes of drying is your fine tunic." It's far from finery, in her eyes. "Not to impugne your honor, Ser."
Not yet heading off toward the stables, rather casting her attention skyward to gauge the lateness of the hour, the ebon-maned creature nods, folding her arms comfortably about her waspish midsection. "Sweetling, if you refer to my gold palfrey. Yes, she remains my favourite. And yours was.. Grey something..?" A brow arches enquiringly as her eyes lower back toward Maldred.
"Well, he wears armour damn fine enough to make one wonder who paid for it, however little I might care for what lies inside it," Rivers quips back with a possibly placatory form of humour. "And, well, certainly I'd use this newly pressed surcoat. But perhaps you'd rather not be cleansed by the bar sinister's caress," he concludes with a reasonable air. "And aye, my lady, Greysomething, a steed of legend; anyone can see why they made you Steward; memory like some Maester's tome, eh? Let us be going!"
And Maldred strides into the lead towards the stables, not neglected to direct a brazen wink at that discreet and mature handmaiden.
Blinking as Maldred maintains his usual diffidence with aplomb and.. actually ventures to tease her, the young lady is momentarily at a loss, remaining frozen in place. Dismissing his 'reasonable' summary of how she may or not feel, regarding that hypothetical display of chivalry, Ceinlys first frowns a touch, a mere shadow across her brow, then just shakes her head, calmly starting after the errant knight. "I.. you.. oh, hush." Forced to drop her long-sleeved arms to a swing as she keeps the pace he sets, the Steward looks to her chaperone with a curt nod. Yes, Brigid, you have to saddle up, too. fortunately, perhaps, it seems the noblewoman missed the wink directed toward her poor servant.
Without further ado, the small party disappears into the long gallery, and out of sight.