Page 142: Taking Stock
Taking Stock
Summary: Evangeline and Hardwicke discuss the kiddies.
Date: December 5, 2011
Related Logs: Letter from Riverrun, News on the Roof, As the Lady Wishes
Evangeline Hardwicke 
Cellar — Four Eagles' Tower
The Cellar's stairs drop down from beside the kitchen entrance and drift below ground as a shallow angle. The dirt floor in the basement provides just enough dampness in the air, mixed with the cooler temperatures, to help keep the goods stored down here somewhat fresh. The foods are kept to one side and down a set of halls while the casks of wine and mead are kept closer to the stairs.
December 4, 288

Already returned from Stonebridge despite a long night of such celebrations to the Stranger, Evangeline has eschewed further traditions to instead settle in the cellar, a sheet of papers in her hands as she scans what inventory there should and what they have in actuality. Her skirts rustle softly in the dark quiet, only a candle lighting the shadows of the room consisting of casks of wine that she is in, the mirrored dark gaze roaming sharply over the wood.

It is not immediately clear what business Hardwicke has in the cellars. Perhaps he is used to giving withering glares to any of the younger boys who might sneak a drink, or maybe he's actually looking for Evangeline. Either way, he slips into the darkness. "You might light a few more of the lanterns, milady," he suggests in his low voice.

"I can yet see," Evangeline answers to the familiar voice, taking another moment to make a mark of ink against the sheet of writing before she turns to face Hardwicke in the flickering candlelight, a smile curving her lips briefly before it disappears. "Ser Blayne."

"Lady Terrick." Hardwicke watches her scribble and marks the flickering smile. "Not too many years left of that, I imagine."

"What must be true for me is as true for you, ser," is replied with a steadiness, Evangeline sweeping closer in a swish of heavy velvet skirts to see the man more clearly in the dark confines of the cellar room. "Did you come to remind me of my age?"

"You are still older, milady," Hardwicke reminds her with a touch of smug, familiar humor.

Perhaps it is the privacy of the cellars, or rather lingering relief and good mood, that brings a laugh from Evangeline. It is soft and quick, disappearing quickly as she challenges, "By only a number of months, Hardwicke. You cannot use that to hide from your own old age."

"I've been this old since I was born," Hardwicke says, unbothered. His hand rests idly at his swordbelt, thumbing the hilt. "I'm not too worried."

Her gaze falls inevitably to Hardwicke's hilt and the movement of his thumb, curious where it lifts again to find the knight's gaze. Evangeline points out smoothly, "You never answered what brings you."

"Your gooddaughter," Hardwicke tells her, actually sounding a little amused by the whole thing with words crisp and precise, "is in want of your esteem."

"And she has convinced you to come to tell me of her worth?" Evangeline questions, reserve sliding into place almost audibly as she turns away from the knight. She shifts with a sway back to the casks, touching one to inspect the seal of it.

"No," Hardwicke says, snorting lightly and sounding faintly baffled when he continues to say, "She wanted my /advice/."

Dark eyes search through the shadows to find Hardwicke, resting only a moment before Evangeline returns to her study. "And what advice did you give? She does not seem to want mine, but perhaps you had better luck," she answers with a bare hint of frustration, the tone one that would likely go unnoticed if only Hardwicke did not know her more than half her life.

Sounding rather pleased with his own "wit," Hardwicke replies, "I told her to be more like you." After a beat, he adds, "Or Luci."

"A dose of proper behavior for a lady would do her good. She is too willful, too stubborn to do what is expected of her," Evangeline answers slowly, her fingernails digging into the oak of the cask as she shakes her head. Obviously, Lucienne and her are both very pliable, proper ladies.

"You weren't always so perfect, Evie," Hardwicke reminds her gently, shading into the more intimate conversational tones of a long friendship.

"No, but he drove me to—," is begun with a toss of dark curls as Evangeline shakes her head in immediate disagreement, gaze raising sharply, the midnight eyes studying Hardwicke. "I want better for Jacsen, a woman who will love him and give him everything. Does that make me wrong, to want perfection for him, at least?"

"He is already wed, milady," Hardwicke reminds her, still even, near mild. "She might give him everything he wants, if you give them time. At any rate, scolding the girl certainly won't fix her."

"I have never scolded the girl," that she'll admit to, "I have simply asked her to be willing to learn, to be respectful of my household and my person in it. I am still Lady of the Roost until she replaces me," Evangeline answers in precise words, each stated with enough force to make them a weight onto themselves.

"Mm." It's a rather noncommittal sound, but it's the only commentary Hardwicke offers.

"Stop that," is snapped in frustration, Evangeline's shift a sudden thing where she steps forward. Her fingers tight on her papers, she stops in front of the knight with tense silence. She breaks it to carefully state, "She is not the weak, innocent girl you need to protect from a horrible goodmother, ser. I have made attempts to bring her under my tutelage and care."

Frowning down at her, Hardwicke says, "I would never call you a horrible goodmother she needs protecting from. Don't put words in my mouth, Evie."

"Did you need to say such, Hardwicke?" Evangeline questions with a press into the knight's personal space without regards to propriety or comfort, her hands burying tightly into her skirts. "Reminding me of my mistakes, telling me not to scold her."

As she grows closer, Hardwicke grows tenser. "Really, Evie," he snaps. "I brought it to you because I thought it was /funny/. I wasn't talking about anything you love calling a /mistake/."

Evangeline stills, though she does not step away despite Hardwicke's tension, close enough for the brush of her skirts to rest in a velvety weight against Hardwicke's legs. She says slowly, neutral almost, "It is not a situation that I take lightly, especially when she is destined to replace me."

Hardwicke watches her in tall, erect silence, so carefully aware of her proximity. Finally, he says, "You can't really think I would take her side over yours."

"No, of course not," Evangeline replies quietly, fingers lifting to slide in an apologetic gesture against Hardwicke's arm before she finally turns away to retreat back to the casks. "I am still on edge from yesterday. I met with Ser Rygar to discuss Jaremy and the debt owed for sending him to the Wall."

Hardwicke exhales slow relief when Evangeline finally turns away. His gaze follows her in the dimness. "And his answer?"

"Only that Jaremy will live and that the price will be one a mother would be willing to pay for her child," Evangeline answers in low tones, as if even in the depths of the cellars, someone may overhear the conversation. "I will not know more until he calls upon it."

Hardwicke frowns with a quiet bristle. "I don't like this," he says. "He could call for anything."

"Not anything. I have made it clear I will not let harm come to the other children over this." Evangeline draws in a breath, a steadying thing where her fingers rest against the solid warmth of wood. She adds, "And anything else will be worth the price of Jaremy's life, Hardwicke." The weight of her gaze slides back to him as if she expects him to object to the statement, already prepared for defensive of it.

"As you say, milady," Hardwicke says, his voice growing quieter. He watches her a moment, then adds, "I pray that's still true when you learn the price." He tips his head in a quick sketch of a bow before turning to leave.

"I do as well," Evangeline admits in a rare moment of hesitation, the depths of her worries vulnerable for a moment in the shadowy cellar if there were anyone looking to see. She does not call back to the knight or bid him to stay, however, steeling her resolve quickly to turn back to the task at hand. Inventory.