Page 281: The Tenderest Touch Leaves The Darkest of Marks
The Tenderest Touch Leaves The Darkest of Marks
Summary: With rumors circulating, Riordan and Danae speak in the stables.
Date: 26/4/2012
Related Logs: The Distance Between Us and Riordan/Danae logs.
Danae Riordan 
Stables — Tordane Tower
Where the horses go. It is kind of smelly.
April 26, 289

After all that has happened lately, Riordan needs time to unwind. Sadly, he has not had the time for a pleasure ride since the King's letter reached Stonebridge. And, frankly, he is now hesitant to go too far from Tordane Tower lest more fall apart in his absence. So, instead, he has made time to visit the Tower's household stables. And, as this is a chance for him to be alone and destress, he has sent all the grooms and stablehands away for now. He is dressed simply, and is currently brushing the coat of the warhorse he rescued on Harlaw, around the time his own black destrier died. With his back turned to the doors, he likely appears a stablehand more then a lord or a knight.

It is a dusty, travel worn group that trundles into the Tower's stables led by a man in Westerling livery. Although the ride from the Roost is moderately lengthy, it takes its toll much more fiercely upon a recalcitrant a rider as Danae. Still clutching the reigns in her hands, almost too tightly white knuckled, the small lady offers her guardsman a weary smile as he comments on the lack of grooms and stablehands in residence. It is swiftly followed by the man's promise to collect them, should his lady wait — neither marking the simply dressed stablehand that tends warhorse. "I'll fetch you down in a moment, my lady," the guard promises, sliding off his horse with the easy grace of a well practiced horseman and seeing thta his own mount is secured.

As the newly arrived group settles itself, realizing that his moment alone is gone, Riordan clucks his tongue to his horse, and lightly pats it's haunch. The beast gives its new master a nuzzle and obediantly backs up into it's stall. It is only once Riordan has closed the stall and approaches the racks nearby to replace the brush, that he happens to glance at the intruders of his safe haven. Pausing in the shadows, there, he gazes at Danae's face for a long moment. His expression moves from his instinctual smile, to less so, as recent events and rumors settle in his mind. Finally, the Regent of Stonebidge steels himself, and approaches the lady. "My Lady Danae. Welcome back to Stonebridge."

The lady's horse — one Delphine— whickers quietly as the guardsman goes to set away his own horse, used to having its needs attended first, thank you very much. The spirited mare stamps it's feet impatiently, leading Danae to loose her death grip on the reigns to give her horse a hesitant pat on the neck. Dressed in a simple brown travelling dress to mask much of the dress, however fiercely embroidered, she bites her lower lip and awkwardly shifts her saddleside position slightly as she prepares to dismount. The uncertainty of the act makes her look much younger than she normally seems, blue eyes wide and wary as her guard rejoins her and reaches up to help her dismount. At Riordan's voice, she looks up abruptly and startles half-in and half-out of the saddle, with a soft, "My Lor —" She doesn't quite manage to rest of the greeting as her fingers begin to slip.

<FS3> Riordan rolls Alertness+Reaction: Great Success.

Having been around horses as much as he has, Riordan sees the telltale signs even before the others. With surprising quickness, Riordan is by the horse's side, and his arms are there to catch the lady. Though he is able to surpress any grunting as the light weight of Danae pulls slightly on his healing chest muscles, a slight tightening around the eyes might indicate something. However, the rest in his eyes are simply emotion as he holds the Westerling lady for perhaps a moment longer then necessary. Caught up in the moment of their bodies held together, the feel of her in her arms. "Are you alright, my lady?" And then, becoming aware of himself and the situation, he sets her gently on her feet, and assuming she is alright, will step back to an appropriate distance.

A small squeak escapes from Danae's lips as she tumbles from the horse in a flurry of heavy skirts and flailing limbs. One arm snags tightly around Riordan's neck as his arms wrap around her in turn, the other clutching at the shoulder of his simple garb. Her face pressed into the divot between his neck and shoulder, she misses the emotion in his gaze, feet dangling in the air as she clings to his solid frame. Pressed tight together, her heartbeat racing most unbecomingly, it takes a moment for her to loosen up enough to be seat back on her feet and a breathy note of relief is her only response to his question. Eep. Once on her feet again, Danae's cheeks flush pink with embarrassment and she attempts to look anywhere /other/ than Riordan. "Yes, thank you. I am — fine."

The releasing of Danae is most decidedly a matter of regret, Riordan's fingers managing to brush her hand discreetly even as he withdraws. Nothing to see here, Danae's escort! "Forgive me," he offers gently. "It was not my intent to startle you."

The touch causes Danae to look up at him from under her lashes, skin still pink enough to cause a rather striking contrast with the fair blonde hue of her hair. If Riordan looks — Danae's escort merely looks relieved that his lady managed to stay her death at the hands of the foul equine beast once more. "There is little to forgive, my lord," she replies breathily, placing a hand against her breath as if to still the beating of her heart slightly. "As well you know…I am not the most accomplished horsewoman, I am grateful for the rescue. Welcome back to Stonebridge, I should hope you found the Mire well?"

"Well, as you are more recently returned then I, it really should be me doing the welcoming, as I was attempting to do before…" Riordan's words fade off as he gestures to the horse. Moving past Danae, giving himself something to do, he gently pats the muzzle of the beautiful beast, murmuring encouragements. "But thank you." Taking ahold of her horse's bridle, he will inquire with a smile, "Will you assist me in seeing to your horse, Lady Danae? It seems that some thoughtless soul has sent all the stablehands away for want of privacy. We shall have to make do ourselves, I think." Given that he doesn't wait for her to respond as he is already moving the horse to the stall next to his own, it is likely he doesnt actually expect her to assist. But it gives them a chance to talk out of earshot of her escort.

"I did miss your return by a bit, I believe," Danae offers softly, brushing her fingers against her skirts attempting to rearrange them after her fluster. The horse is actually a fine pedigree for all its spirits, strong lines and a healthy mane. The grooms have been seeing to it aptly. Delphine blows out a puff of air, happily following the guide of Riordan's hand towards the stall. Yes, this is how things are supposed to be. "Oh." She eyes the horse and the steady hand that Riodan has upon it for a long moment before quietly following after them. "I — certainly? That want for privacy can be difficult in a place such as Stonebridge."

"I have gotten used to finding ways to enjoy small moments such as these. Growing up a son of a lord, with scores of servants and numerous siblings constantly underfoot is certainly one way to get used to living with little in the way of privacy," Riordan says with a smile, as he gracefully tends to the mare. "There's a good lady," he says to the horse, as he removes the bit and bridle, and offers up a carrot in treat. When he speaks next, it is to Danae, though he keeps his eyes on her mount as he continues to get her settled. "It also means that I am used to being in, and hearing of rumors. Like the one of you and Ser Gedeon going around town." The words are said casually, though perhaps with a hint of tension bleeding through.

Shaking her head with a soft sigh, Danae watches the sight of his easy tending of the horse with quiet amazement and leans against the edge of the stall. "I can only imagine. I have far less siblings than you are, but there is always a way to find yourself underfoot of someone in a hold." Delphine takes that carrot with a dainty crunch, masticating happily as she swats a fly away with a flit of her tail. Riordan's ministrations are judged to be acceptable by the normally unruly mare. "Stonebridge does seem to be a particular haven for rumors, doesn't it?" The curve of her mouth is somewhat wry at the thought of the rumor of circulating rumors. "Oh?" Her brows rise in quiet bemusement. "And what do they say, these rumors?"

"You really are a beauty," Riordan tells the mare with a chuckle, his smile easing to his usually lopsided boyish one as other emotions are left by the roadside as he engages in work that is not only familiar, but pleasing. Once the saddle is removed, he begins brushing Delphine down, as he answers Danae. "Indeed. One of the perks, or perhaps punishments to being relatively unfamiliar here unless I am dressed in my Nayland colors is that I have heard more rumors since coming to Stonebridge then ever I did at the Sevens." He lets out a chuckle, and as he continues to brush Danae's horse, he finally looks back to the lady, considering her as he answers her question. "That you were summoned by Gedeon shortly after my cousin confronted him. I overheard one servant insisting that he had asked you for a favor, and another saying that it was a request to wear your favor in the coming duel."

The horse whickers agreeably to Riordan's assessment. While Riordan busies himself with the mare, Danae beings to pluck pins from her disheveled hair in an attempt to right it somewhat. "The commoners and the servants do gossip, do they not? I've met ladies who collect them like playing cards — although it does you no harm to remain appraised." Pin after pin is removed, allowing a wave of blonde to fall about her slender shoulders. Pale blue eyes meet him directing when his gaze finally shifts her way. "That I was summoned is true enough, it was a Nayland guard who delivered the summons. I never did catch his name."

"You do not have to tell me the rest if you do not wish, Lady Danae. I know that…" Riordan trails off, leaving off on the brushing for now to face Danae fully. "I know with how we left things, what we had between us may have faded for you. I hope not. In the garden, the other day, I thought perhaps…" For once, Riordan seems at a loss for words, and he fights to find the right ones. "Whatever happens between us, I just want you to know that I trust you, and you have not faded from my thoughts." His hand reaches up to instinctively touch at something under his shirt, resting just over his heart. "Or my heart." His words are soft as he says this, though his eyes do not leave hers. "But please Danae. Not him." The last is said softer still, and is a truly heartfelt plea.

"I do not a favor to give, my lord. Whatever the rumors may say I did or did not do that day, you know well and fully it is still in your possession," is her soft reply, gaze downcast as she fills his loss of words with her own. Danae shuts her eyes, seeming to wince as Riordan continues with his words and shaking her head in denial of them. "Please." The word wavers as little as it meets the air. She looks at him with sea blue eyes, bright with emotion and utterly solemn; gritting her teeth as she shakes her head again. "That is unkind. You cannot promise things that I can not hope to claim. Whether or not he survives the duel, you shall still likely be wed to your goodsister or some greater lady of better standing."

"And it has never left such," Riordan says, in regards to the token in his possession. "It kept me safe." He says this simply, studying her with eyes that are just as solemn and full of emotion as the blue eyes that look up at him. Letting out a sigh, he nods. "You're right, of course," he says. "I can not promise that I can wed you." Anger enters his eyes now, his knuckles tightening around the horse brush in his other hand before he sets it down. His tone, though, is something else. A different mixture of emotions and passion. "But that does not mean I am not free to promise you my heart." He pauses, before adding in a soft tone," And I would rather the bastard get Stonebridge then you." And that is as close as he will ever come to openly defying the wishes of his family.

At his claim that it kept him safe she simply shakes her head, her mouth opening and then closing again before any words can arise from it. Struck with out them by a mixture of hope that it might be the truth and disbelief that any token could have such powers. "No. You cannot promise that. And I, for all my freedoms cannot make it be elsewise." Danae's agreement comes on a bitter tongue, fingers curling around the pins in her hand. Her blue-eyed gaze never strays though, even as anger burns and coils in Riordan's dark brown eyes and even as hers softens in pain. "Please. Don't. Riordan. Just don't." Do not promise her that. Do not make her believe it could be hers. "In the end…that is not a deal that you could make," she says quietly, sensibly, voice nearing a whisper as she finally looks away. It is a deal that he would not make with familial pride above all.

"Danae…" Riordan begins. At her pleas, her words though, his own fail him again. Instead, he reaches up once more, and pulls at the cord that is always at his neck, pulling out the pouch that was resting by his heart. The material is a bit worse for wear, stained with a dark substance, and what looks like a light tear having been crudely stitched by a hand unfamiliar with a needle. But for all that, the token is lovingly handled. "It rests by my heart, always, as do you." All the rest is left unsaid, as he moves to return the pouch inside his shirt, and turn away. "Again, I am sorry Danae. I did not mean to cause you distress." Whether he meant the horse, or the rest… is unclear.

It is not the call of her name, but the rustle of fabric that draws her gaze back towards Riordan. The call of her name only leads her to avert her eyes more fully, hand sliding up to cover her mouth and stifle further words on her part. Danae watches with wide eyes as he tenderly handles the token she gave him — so long ago in memory but not in time. "It is not fair," she whispers bitterly, almost childishly; rubbing away the moisture in her eyes with the touch of her hand. She lingers a moment over the point on his breast, taking to memory where it lays against his heart. "There is little left for us but distress, we both know that is the truth. Better to admit it now then —"

"Part of me selfishly hopes that should the Pretender keep Stonebridge, I may become insignificant again. Enough so that Father would allow me my own choice…" Like Riordan once thought he had. Back when he was only the third son. "But… that would mean my house would suffer, and my cousin would die. I…" his words trail off, and he just stands there, turned away from her, but not moving. "I do not know what to wish, Danae. Before I saw you in the garden, I had my duty wrapped tight around me. I still do. I know what needs be done. And yet…" And yet. "I can not stop what I feel for you, any more then I can put aside my duty." He looks to her then, and the smile on his lips is bitter. "But know that it will destroy me to see you on any other man's arm. To see you smile at another. To know…" He shakes his head, stopping the train of thought. "Does that make me selfish?"

"The Seven will decide that. It is their judgement now. I respect your cousin, I do not wish his death any more than I wish Ser…Gedeon's," Danae says quietly, hesitating over the appropriate title for the knight who would be Lord in front of Riordan. Gedeon Tordane. In the end, it comes off more familiar than she might intend, however more accurate. "And yet — how funny all our conversations seem to go that way of late." She laughs softly, the sound flat and without real mirth. "Yes. It does. Selfish, although I — cannot say I do not understand." Blue eyes blink, looking up at him as she leans back against the solid wood of the stall as if it is all that is holding her up. "And yet, I will still marry. At some point."

"Then so be it. I am allowed a bit of selfishness now and again," Riordan says. Despite his words, he frowns, and turns away again. When he speaks, it is while studying the tack hanging up nearby. "I know you will. But for whatever time we still have…" He turns to her suddenly. "I know how you feel about the subject, but… come riding with me, one last time, before all of this is taken out of our hands? If we must part, let it be as we met. A ride, and a picnic. Tomorrow, or the next day. Before…" Before the duel.

"I would rather happiness for you," Danae breaths, leaning her head back against the solid cool planks of wood. If he is listening — her words can just be heard, near a whisper as they are. Selfish. Joyful. Her eyes have drifted halfway closed when he turns back to her, causing them to flare wide and open once more. "I…" Licking her lips, she swallows thickly and considers the offer. "Yes."

"We both know that will be denied me," Riordan says, his words just as quiet. He is listening, he always is, when it is her speaking. His eyes look down into hers for a long moment, silence reigning after her agreement. Finally, he nods, saying simply, "Until then… My Sweet Heart." These words are said just as soft as he reveals his hidden name for her, the one never spoken until now. And then, with a last gentle pat to the horse that has observed this emotional moment, the current (though perhaps not for long) Regent of Stonebridge moves to depart.