|This Horse Is Not For Jaremy|
|Summary:||There is a new horse in her father's stables, which Lucienne intends to claim. Ser Hardwicke helps her make his acquaintance.|
|Date:||27/06/2012 (OOC Date)|
|Stables, Four Eagles Tower|
A younger man in a more peaceful time, Hardwicke has yet to grow the beard he will sport in later years. He's prone to stubble in this decade of his life, although today has caught him on a fresh-shaven day, leaving his cheek bare. In the stables, he is drawing a brush briskly across Delylah's flanks, in the habit of grooming her, squire or not, stableboy or no. He murmurs to her in a low voice as he does so, more soothing noise than anything comprehensible. He's out of armor for the task, the neck of his tunic tugged open, the sleeves rolled off of his forearms.
Not yet in her teens, Lucienne is a fragile little thing, all pale skin and slender limbs under a mop of unruly black curls. A gentle child, easily led, it is not often that the storm of her temper rages - but today, it is raging, and she stomps her small slippered feet into the stables with an almighty frown upon her face, a harried-looking Septa (whose services will be traded for those of a handful of handmaidens in years to come) following after. "He can't have him," insists little Luci crossly, her hands balling fists by her sides. "I won't let him! Jaremy's a… a… he's a terrible brother! The worst!"
Though it's not an expected state to find Lucienne in, Hardwicke doesn't look more than mildly surprised. But any more than that might be beyond his reach, after all. He pauses in his task, blinking over at her. "Something amiss, little Lulu?"
Oh, Ser Hardwicke is here! Lucienne hastens her steps over to her favourite knight, eyeing Delylah sidelong. "Ser Hardie," she says, plaintive and whiny. "Jaremy says that the new horse in the stables is for him. He says I'll never be able to ride it. He says he's not the kind of horse little ladies know how to ride." Her frown is deep, and wounded tears well in her eyes. "But he already has a horse!"
Delylah stretches her nose in Lucienne's direction in a familiar manner, but she's not a bitey sort of horse. "That he does," he agrees in careful fashion, drawing up closer to look down on her. "Why wouldn't you be able to ride him? You're a fine rider."
Unphased by Delylah's curiosity, Lucienne continues to whine at Hardwicke. "I'm a better rider than Jaremy!" She insists, setting her little hands upon her hips. "He says father would never let me have him, the horse. But I want him, Ser Hardie. I want that horse so badly, and I… I could do it, couldn't I? I'm sure I could!"
"Well." Hardwicke crouches down next to her, elbows on his knees as he brings their heights a little more in line. "What does your lord father say about the horse?"
"He says -" Lucienne stops, her eyes darting about uncertainly. "I don't know what he says," she admits, ducking her head to hide a flush of embarrassment in her cheeks. She nudges the toe of one slipper against the ground bashfully. "Could we try?"
"Well, who is the horse for?" Hardwicke asks more gently. "I don't suppose it showed up for nothing, hm?"
Lucienne looks up again, hope lighting in her dark little eyes. "Is it…" She pauses, biting down on her lip. She doesn't seem to want to hazard her guess, lest she be wrong.
"Did you just see him and take a liking?" Hardwicke surmises, arching a brow. "I'm not in charge of your father's horses, little Lulu."
"I saw them in the yard," Lulu says, a little cautious. "And I said… I said when I get my very own horse I want one like that. I don't want a silly for-girls-horse. Please let that horse be for me, Ser Hardie. Pleaaaaaase."
Something in Hardwicke's expression softens as she stands there pleading with him. "A spirited horse can be hard to handle," he warns her. "You have to not be afraid of him. He'll only bend to a firm hand that leave him with no doubt who his master is."
"I can be firm!" She's nothing if not eager, puffing out her chest and standing tall, chin up. Lucienne's brows shoot up, looking for reassurance on how firm she looks. "Let's go see him, and I'll show you!"
"Well." Hardwicke straightens up and glances over at the stall holding the newest addition to Jerold's herd. "Let's see, then."
Her excitement is palpable, and little Lulu impulsively reaches for Hardwicke's hand to drag him over with her, a bright grin spreading across her delicate features. A few steps from the stall, she stops. This is something she has to do alone. She looks, sizing up the gelding in his stall with narrowed eyes, then to Ser Hardwicke as if to say, 'are you watching me?' The septa looks worried, spluttering a few exasperated sounds of protest.
Hardwicke does not look back to the sputtering septa, his gaze too intent on Lucienne as she approaches the gelding. His body is held with cautious tension as he watches her, but there is a certain level of trust he's extending the girl — that she likely doesn't receive often as a noblewoman. "Just like we always talked about," he tells her. "Move slowly and where he can see you so you don't spook him, but don't be afraid of him. You're in charge."
Luci bobs her head, and takes a deep breath as she slides her first step toward the horse. He holds all of her attention, and she holds her head high, sliding another step, then another. Slowly, she raises up an arm, and turns her palm toward the ceiling as she stretches it out toward him. "Come now," she says, reaching over the side of the stall's half door. "You're going to be my horse, aren't you?" The horse merely stomps a hood and snorts in response, and Lulu frowns.
"Just you wait," Hardwicke murmurs encouragingly as she frowns. "Don't take your eyes off him. He'll figure it out."
Lucienne holds her hand there insistently at Hardwicke's instruction. Her eyes never leave the horse. She beckons carefully with her fingers, and informs him, "You're a very pretty horse and I should like to ride you. I promise I'm better than Jaremy, you can ask Ser Hardie. I smell nicer, too."
Hardwicke watches the gelding with a careful eye, wary of the self-imposed distance he's left himself with. Hopefully the horse doesn't bite Lucienne's hand off. That might get him fired.
Obviously, the horse does not ask Ser Hardie if Lucienne is better than Jaremy. He stomps again, and bobs his head in a horsey nod, hoofing forward to nudge at the silly girl's hand. Luci practically pees herself with excitement, leaning in further to try and pet him. "He came to me!" She yelps to Hardwicke, before vowing solemnly to her horse, "You are my most favourite horse ever."
"Stay calm, little Lulu," Hardwicke says warningly to her. "You don't want to spook him by getting too excited. He might think you want to scuffle."
We all know he ends up named Ticker, so let's just call him that. Ticker resists being petted, baring his teeth to snort again at the animated girl invading his stall. She tries to calm herself, taking another deep breath and holding her hand ever so still. "I don't want to scuffle," Lulu promises. "Just to go for a ride. I'm a very fine rider, you can ask Ser Hardie. We could go see the cove together."
"You tell him no when he does that," Hardwicke instructs her. "Don't yell at him; just be firm. He's not a kitten for you to coax."
She wants to badly to look back over her shoulder at Hardwicke, but Lucienne forces herself to keep eyes on her horse. "I don't like seeing your teeth," she tells him firmly, "No. You put those away. I'm going to open this door shortly, and I'll come into your stall, and we'll go for a ride." As if confirming her plan of action in her mind, she bobs her chin into a nod. A firm one. Ticker turns his head to regard her with one dark eye, and… dips his neck. Is he cowed?
Clearly he is cowed, because Lucienne is just that fearsome a little lady. Hardwicke draws slowly closer so that he can be within easier distance once she finally does open the door. She is terribly small, after all. "Aye, there's a good sign," he murmurs.
Lucienne puffs up her chest proudly at Hardwicke's encouragement, and slowly reaches to undo the door's latch. The hinges creak a little as she swings it slowly out, her other hand still stretched toward Ticker. "I'm coming in," she warns him, all matter-of-fact. "So you watch where you put those horsey feet of yours, because my slippers are brand new and my toes are still very small." The gelding at least seems to tolerate her entry, though he grumps a wary sound with his neck still bent. "No," says Luci. "Don't do that."
Hardwicke can't quite help the twitch of his lips as Lucienne informs Ticker exactly where to place his horsey feet. "Very good, little lady," he tells her. "A snappish horse is just looking for someone to tell him no."
Boldly, she lays her hand upon his nose, curling her fingers gently. "See? This is much better. Ser Hardie," Luci dares a quick look over her shoulder toward the knight. "Will you help me up?"
"He'll need to be saddled and bridled, little Lulu," Hardwicke tells her reasonably. "If you like, I can have one of the boys bring his equipment."
"Can't I just hop on?" Lucienne's little brow knits frustratedly, and Ticker seems to catch on. He huffs.
"No," Hardwicke says firmly. "You'll not be riding a temperamental horse bareback, my lady."
"I could, though," little Lu insists, as fiery as her horse when it comes to this instruction. "Look, he likes me." He tolerates her, anyway. Barely, at this point.
"But you won't," Hardwicke says with an air of distinct warning this time. No bareback for you, Lu. Use protection.
Lucienne heaves a precious little sigh, and steps in closer to Ticker. "Ser Hardie says you need a saddle," she shares as close to his horsie ear as she dares. "And we have to do as he says. But one day, perhaps when I'm bigger, we'll go riding without one." Ticker doesn't particularly seem to care, but he does sniff at the little lady's scent.
"Maybe if you manage to sneak off so that I'm not around," Hardwicke says, sounding particularly skeptical of this idea.
Lucienne looks at Ticker. Lucienne looks over her shoulder to Hardwicke. Lucienne shiiiiifts her eyes back to Ticker, and smiles. "Ser Hardie is my favourite knight, even out of the Kingsguard knights, and all the ones in the stories," she murmurs, sliding in a little closer. The gelding grumps again, and she frowns. "No. Don't do that. — Can we fetch him a saddle, Ser Hardie? Really?"
Hardwicke takes a moment to respond, perhaps hedging the likelihood of him getting into trouble for enabling. But eventually he turns to find the nearest stableboy and bark a few quick orders about saddles and shit. She did just call him her favorite, after all.
How exciting! No wonder Hardwicke is her favourite knight. Luci wraps her little arms about Ticker's neck, forgetting his tetchy nature, and scolding him for his resistance. But the most important part of this scene is what happens next: she skips gaily out of the stall, unworried about the potential for a horsebite on her bum, to wrap her arms about Hardwicke, too. Ignoring the complaint of her septa, she envelopes the Terrick knight's middle in a fierce hug.
For a very brief moment, there's something very raw on Hardwicke's expression. Still in the fierce wrap of the little lady's arms, he hesitates before finally bringing a hand up to smooth gently, almost tenderly, at her hair. "All right, there," he murmurs. "They boy'll get him saddled up, and then we can see about you riding."
"Come, child," bids her septa, adding an apologetic, "Sorry, Ser." Lucienne squeezes a little tighter just to have her own way, before letting go and edging a step back. "I'm so excited I could just burst," she babbles happily. "My very own horse. My very own!" If Jerold had intended Ticker for some other purpose, too bad. HE IS CLAIMED.
"No, it's fine," Hardwicke says to the septa once he remembers himself. He watches Lucienne in her babbling a moment longer before he looks over to supervise the stableboy handling the readying of the temperamental beast. Eventually he's fit for a lady to ride, and they even manage to take a turn about with no bitten fingers. All those horse lessons Hardwicke gave her over the years, naturally.