|Summary:||Lady Lucienne and Se Hardwicke share a short conversation in the stables.|
|Stables, Four Eagles Tower|
|The Tower's Main Stables are nestled into the corner of the courtyard near the portcullis to facilitate quick, easy exits when required. The rear of the structure is backed right against the interior wall of the castle with the heavy wooden roofing gently sloped down towards the slate out front, the floor of the stables kept to dirt. Thick wooden beams are plunged into the ground and serve as a base for the walls between each stall. Hay serves as most of the flooring in the area with a large stack of it off to the side. Each stall has a thick layer on the ground to serve as bedding, with most of the space dedicated to horses though a few have pens of dogs and hounds. An enclosed structure at the end serves as dry storage for riding equipment and saddles.|
|Mon Nov 28, 288|
Despite having grooms and stablehands available to him, when Hardwicke returns from working his horse this afternoon, he sets to grooming her himself. Stripped of armor for the training and subsequent cleaning, he works in trousers and tunic, his hair still drying from the exertion of the exercise. He murmurs quiet words to the mare as he brushes down her hide.
Lucienne often brings with her a subdued, solemn mood, and today is no different; perhaps worse, given the circumstances about the Roost. Trailed by a dark-haird, dark-eyed handmaid slightly taller than and as thin as she herself, the Terrick girl brings with her a long, gnarled carrot, the top sprouts and damp earth still clinging to it. She wears a frown, the expression mirrored on her handmaid's face, and they both make straight for Lucienne's horse's stall.
Hardwicke glances over at the quiet sound of the ladies' entrance, his eyes lighting on Lucienne with something of affection in his usually withdrawn gaze. "Lady Lucienne," he greets her.
It's Celine's sharp gaze that swings first to Hardwicke, though her lady is not far behind. Lucienne summons a small, blank smile for the Terrick sworn, and bobs a shallow curtsy. "Ser," she returns, hesitating to return to her errand. The very sound of her voice draws a whinny and the shuffling of hooves a few stalls down the line.
Hardwicke counters the sharpness of Celine's gaze with a rather bland sort of indifference. "You look particularly thoughtful today," he notes, his voice habitually pitched low and quiet with an age-worn rough edge. He draws the brush down his horse's hindquarters.
"It does not feel so much like home here, anymore," Lucienne admits bluntly, the soft, melodic timbre of her voice leeching some of the impact from the words. She darts a look down at the twisted orange root in her hands, and Celine edges a deferent step back. "My worries are trifling in comparison to some, Ser. My lady mother…"
"Will do whatever it is in her power to do, yes," Hardwicke agrees, something wry in the twist of his syllables. "But it does not mean you're not allowed cares of your own." He studies her, his dark eyes tracing the lines of her expression.
Lucienne frowns, and forgetting herself for just a moment, mutters, "Would that my fool brother had spared her but a thought in all his questing." No sooner than the words are spoken, her eyes widen then narrow, and she offers an apologetic shake of her head. "Might I beg a question of you, Ser?"
"Would that he had," Hardwicke agrees in a low muttered reply. He pauses in his work, settling a hand across his mare's back in continued contact. He considers the young woman, but does not hesitate to say, "Of course, my Lady."
She wanders a step closer, her skirt billowing gently about her ankles. Lucienne studies Hardwicke a moment, considering her question, or perhaps just the familiar lines that make up his features. "My brother," she says, finally. Though they may not be entirely of each other's blood, she makes not that distinction. "Ser Jarod, the Captain of the Guard. He is particularly troubled by it all, is he not?"
"I don't claim particular intimacy with your — brother," Hardwicke says, his words coming slow and careful. "But they were always close."
Lucienne nods her head slowly, just the once. "I suppose what I mean to ask you, Ser, is do you think that is all that troubles Ser Jarod? Perhaps I read too much into it, but I could swear he was less bright even before the news from the Naylands."
"Perhaps," Hardwicke says, a bit drier, "he is feeling the weight of his new position. He is rather young for it."
Lucienne tilts a measuring look at Hardwicke, the corners of her mouth tugging ever so slightly. "I see," is what she says, though there's a wealth of words gone unspoken that flash in her gaze. "The Captain has certainly been tested, of late."
After a moment of Lucienne's measurement, Hardwicke relents a touch. "If he has," he tells her more generously, "I'm not who he would share it with, my Lady."
"Thankyou for indulging me, Ser," Lucienne replies, the smile that threatened not a moment ago curving now. "By your leave, I should like to attend my horse, now."
"I serve at my Lady's pleasure," Hardwicke replies with the slightest hint of a smile in response. "As always."
The curtsy Lucienne dips into is deeper this time, slow and elegant. "Good day to you, Ser Hardwicke," she bids to excuse herself, short strides then carrying her down to Ticker's stall with her carrot. Celine lingers to steal a last appraising look at the knight, before gliding after her lady obediently.