|Until Morale Improves|
|Summary:||Anais throws a party in the village! Oh, and Hardwicke and Belle get married. To cheer everyone up.|
|Date:||January 18, 289|
|Town Square — Terrick's Roost|
|The town square of Terrick's Roost was once considered well-kept. The stone streets run right up to the building fronts around the edge and the locals have kept the spaces between free of grass and weeds that might otherwise sprung up between them, although dark streaks of stubborn soot have crawled in between the stones. There are several homes and shops located here which show the scars and cinders of the sacking of the town at Ironborn hands. The ruin of the town's Sept can also be seen from here with its ornate stone front rising above the surrounding structures just down the cobblestone road.|
|January 18, 289|
The wedding ceremony is lovely in its simplicity, bearing little evidence of the speed in which it was put together. It is marked by the look in the Captain's eye upon seeing his bride dressed and lovely, the couple's smiles — yes, the groom can smile — as the septon takes them through the ceremony, and a particularly warm kiss to mark their union that sees Hardwicke gathering up his new bride right off her feet. The ceremony no doubt flows seamlessly into a reception under the guidance of two Terrick ladies.
The celebration is a simple one. There is only so much of anything to be had, after all. But with soldiers, come tents and pavilions, and those have been easy enough to set up in what remains of the town square. Garlands of greens and summer flowers serve to decorate the tents, a reminder of summer's warmth and new life, no matter how hastily they may have been gathered.
The real draw, though, is food. The Ironborn were kind enough to do the slaughtering on their way out, which means there is a good deal of meat in danger of going bad. And rather than let it go bad, the cooks of Terrick's Roost have made the best of it, providing a wedding feast rich in beef and pork…and light on greens and grains. There is, however, plenty.
As the sun starts to set over the Cape of Eagles, guests and servants alike light torches, casting a far more pleasant glow than the destructive flames that so recently graced the town. The new couple has a place of honor at the high table, surrounded by the various lords and ladies in residence, while others mingle.
On the edge of the town, there is a Nayland camp, where all the levies and Guardsmen are quartered. It makes sense, then, that to secure provisions they have to go into the centre of the town. Ser Bruce Longbough is now organizing a party of Nayland men, mostly levies with one or two professional soldiers mixed in, to load some food and clean water into barrels onto a cart drawn by two mules. Ser Bruce appears to be paying little attention to the ceremony which is going on.
For the wedding, Hardwicke has managed to tear himself away from arms and armor to dress instead in his best finery — which really just means his cleanest clothes. There is the hint of Terrick colors in the crisp, pressed lines, if they're not his more standard livery. He is uncommonly prone to smiling tonight, which is certainly not unreasonable, given the occasion, and has been caught admiring his bride — well, for most of the night. If he feels some discomfort in the place of honor among nobles, he is distracted enough from it by a night of rare lightness.
The Dowager Lady Rebekkah Nayland arrived in the Roost the previous evening with a small entourage of attendants and imposed herself upon the place. All to personally view the bliss of her long-time servant, Belle Beckett. She attended the ceremony with four of her servants carrying her around on a cushioned orange-and-green palanquin. She has only left it to impose herself on a seat at the high table. She sits there now. Because who says 'no' to her anymore, really? She eyes the groom in a beady sort of way, hands resting upon an elaborately-wrapped package she's toted with her throughout the day. "That is a great deal of meat you have here, dear," she notes sweetly to Anais at the first opportunity. It seems to be a compliment. Probably.
Having made it through the ceremony without fainting or fumbling, the newly minted Mistress Blayne is the picture of radiant bliss. Flushed with laughter and sweet wine, she presides merrily over the high table — though her eyes, and her smile, are overwhelmingly for her husband. She offers him delicious bits of this and that dish wish her fingers, kissing him often and rather shamelessly. Ah, l'amour.
Harlyn has watched the ceremony from some distance, and continues to watch. He has a certain bolt of uninspiring cloth, but at least it is recognizably cloth and he seems to have clipped off all the stray threads. He also has a bag of something or the other, who knows, slung next to his leg.
"I'm afraid it's what the reavers left us," Anais smiles ruefully to Rebekkah, looking out over the celebration with a weary sort of satisfaction. "And I'd rather it feed our people than the crows." She takes a sip of wine - obviously the drinks have come from the Roost's stock - and shakes her head slightly. "I'll be damned if I let anything they've done stand as an evil if I can turn it to something good." Her smile eases as she watches the newlyweds, contented. "And this is something good."
Jiae had cleaned up a touch by clearing away the dirt streaks across her face and hands. By the generosity of some of the townfolk her hair was brushed to at least seem somewhat presentable among the varying levels of status conjoined under this single event. The opportunity for free food was too good to pass up and so when warranted the young woman had served herself up a plate of various consumables.
Seated at one of the lower tables where off-duty guards or other knights may have gathered, Kell isn't too talkative tonight though he appears to be enjoying the festivities, rare as it may be with what is happening on this part of Westeros. The ale is certainly imbued, especially when toasts are made and so is the hot slabs of meat, a nice feast indeed. Sometimes he would share a word with one seated next to him or listen in on some bawdy joke which he responds with a smile of amusement but the Hedge Knight seems more in control of his manners than some of the others who are already deep into their cups.
Surprising to some, rather unsurprising to others, the Lady Lucienne is here, too. She's abandoned her seat for the moment, in favour of touring the square of her hometown and mixing graciously with some of the smallfolk. Of course, the topic on most tongues is that beautiful bride, so every so often she's obliged to look over her shoulder toward the high table and smile, not that the latter is an effort considering the sight.
It is not so surprising that the Lady Evangeline Terrick graces the wedding of her Captain of the Guard, though she has been blissfully (for some) silent through it. No tears were shed on her part during the ceremony, her natural reserve remaining firmly in place. But now, as guests settle for the feast, she watches them with a sharp eye, only once her gaze slipping to the newly married couple sharing her high table as she leans over to murmur quiet words for her husband's ears alone. She is, despite the occasion, still firmly adhering to the dresscode of mourning for her late goodbrother, the black fabric heavy on her slight frame.
Seated with the other nobles, Muirenn seems to enjoy herself. The ceremony was beautiful, the couple happy, and though there is much to be sorrowful for it seems everyone is glad of a chance to celebrate Hardwicke and Belle's happiness. Delicate bits and bites she takes along with sips of sweet wine, though her appetite is not great. More interesting is watching all the other guests from her perch. Beside her are two packages. One wrapped in soft linen, the other in a piece of silk.
Hardwicke endures being fed this and that from his bride with a sort of dry, long-suffering manner that absolutely fails to shadow his general warmth of the evening. (Nor, perhaps more pointedly — or with more effort — does the presence of Lady Evangeline.) After swallowing one of them, he tells her, "Your former mistress does not look particularly pleased with me," before glancing down the table at Rebekkah with a hint of a smirk.
"Is any of it Ironborn meat?" Rebekkah inquires sweetly of Anais. As if she's hopeful to be cannibalizing the reavers. "I would not mind roasting the lot of them and feeding them to the crows, I tell you what, child." She is joking. Probably. It's a little hard to tell. On a more serious note. "Imminently practical. One is only defeated when one allows themselves to be cowed, dear. Remember that." She nibbles some of the meat on her plate, as if to emphasize she's not bothered by her suggestion of eating Ironborn. Though mostly she is just drinking from a large cup of tea that smells a lot like brandy. Her attention drifts from Anais to Hardwicke and Belle again, rolling her eyes at the open display of happiness. She clears her throat pointedly at the bride in a 'Pay attention to me!' sort of way. Hardwicke is just smiled at. It's not a very sweet smile.
Caytiv has made some effort not to be covered in soot, and his sister has aided well in the effort, sending him on errands in a soot-free region of a morning so that when he turns up in his Banefort greys he at least doesn't match them. He stays clear of the feasting, for the most part, even if in a fit of adolescence he might well be able to tackle a side of meat on his own— or maybe for precisely that reason. With one elbow crooked behind his back, he grabs at the other elbow, stretching his shoulder back and keeping post somewhere on the edge of the merriment.
"Well, of course not — you've stolen me away," Belle tells her husband, grinning. At the familiar throat clearing, she looks down the table and smiles warmly. "I should circulate a bit, probably," she says to Hardwicke, giving him a parting kiss. Since that's better form than shouting down the table at people. And then she's up and off to greet her former employer, crouching beside the Dowager Lady Nayland's chair and kissing the woman's withered cheek. "My lady," she says with open affection, "it's such an honor and a pleasure to have you here."
The Nayland men finish loading up their cart and strapping the cargo down, so it doesn't move too much. Bruce mumbles something to one of the Guardsmen of the group, pats him on the shoulder and sends him off. Then, the Stonebridge Captain of Guard turns to face the large group of people, squinting to make out details.
Anais has been making nice with Lord Rickart all week. What's one more cranky Nayland? "My lady, I'm afraid we don't have nearly enough wine to wash down the taste of Ironborn," she answers Rebekkah easily. "Not that they didn't do their best to marinate themselves while they were here." She smiles warmly back at Belle when the other woman approaches, taking the chance to enjoy a little bit of the meat for herself.
Those close to her will notice an odd piece twined around the Lady Lucienne's little wrist - two curiously-shaped white blobs of enamel on some sort of chain, a very odd bracelet indeed. She lays that hand upon an older woman's shoulder, the baker's mother or some such, and thanks her for some kind words uttered. "Please," says the lady, "Do go partake of the meal, Miss Jennyne?"
As bride and groom part, the Lady Evangeline finally stirs from her seat, though it is only to rise gracefully with the metal goblet of wine held between her fingers. "Excuse me," she announces slowly, each word precisely pronounced, waiting as at least some eyes fall to her. "It would please me to say a few words on behalf of my lord husband and myself, at the marriage of our captain, Ser Hardwicke Blayne, and the Mistress Belle Beckett." It seems the time for toasts is in order.
When Evangeline stands, Hardwicke's gaze flicks her way at the movement. When she begins her announcement, his expression goes a bit — guarded. He gulps down another swallow of wine and watches warily.
Rebekkah kisses Belle in return, a very slight compression of her withered old lips. It can be called affectionate, and genuine affection from the old creature looks almost odd. "You look lovely, dear. I had planned on coming here to scold you for abandoning me in the twilight of my life for that middle-aged lump…" She looks past Belle to smile some more at Hardwicke. Then back to Belle. "…but, change is the only constant in life, I suppose. I got you a present." She nudges the parcel toward Belle. It is book-shaped. "This is for when he becomes tiresome and you need something to entertain yourself. It will happen very soon, I assure you, but enjoy the bliss while it lasts. It's from my personal library, and it is one of my favorites." She eyes Evangeline getting up to toast with great annoyance for interrupting her…own interruption of the bride and groom. "How very rude, this is present time," she grouses under her breath to Belle.
Raffton is here, technically off-duty, dressed in his cleanest clothes that aren't Terrick livery. He's keeping an eye on the proceedings, ever the watchful guardsman, and maybe a bit concerned for his own safety as well. He helps himself for a drink, and lingers around a bit awkwardly, listening as toasting begins.
Seems like it is toast time and Kell, along with those who are seated near him turn their focus to the head table where the Lady Evangeline has risen to make the announcement. Cups of Terrick Ale are of course refilled to the top because that is what is required for toasts. Putting the cut of meat he had made for himself down on the plate, the Hedge Knight grabs his newly filled cup and awaits to see what words of wisdom or blessings the Lady of the House has to share with everyone.
"Thank you so much, my lady," whispers Belle, placing a hand over Rebekkah's to assure her present-time will recommence shortly. She does, however, stand and turns her attention politely to the Lady Terrick. She doesn't look nearly so wary as her husband, but that might just be practice.
"As many of you know, the Ser Blayne has been with me since I was a small thing, scared but not alone as I left Middlemarch Keep to come to Terrick's Roost. He has taught my sons to fight, danced with my daughter, and has been trusted with our lives. He is, in every sense of the word, family," Evangeline begins softly, her lips curving finally into a smile as her gaze lingers on the knight to which she speaks, tipping her cup slightly before her gaze sweeps unerringly towards Belle. "It is with a great pleasure that we welcome Mistress Belle to that family, knowing that she will always have a place in the depths of our affections." She pauses, raising her glass and taking a sip in the toast, before continuing rather than returning to her seat, "A wedding is a time to celebrate, to bask in all things that are good. With that in mind, I would also like to announce our family will be further expanding, as the Lord Ser Jerold and I are expecting a child, once again."
Anais was holding her breath. And then she was letting it out. And then she froze. And then she drinks.
Hardwicke slowly eases as Evangeline's speech continues with every indication that she is, as always, going to cleave to propriety. Only for his brows to spring upwards in blatant surprise at the final announcement — and, perhaps, a touch of frozen irritation. His fingers tighten on his glass, and he says nothing.
"Well done, dear!" Rebekkah shouts at Evangeline, lifting her glass and 'applauding' on it using her spoon. 'Tink, tink, tink.'
Bruce removes his helmet and props a leg up on a nearby staircase as his troops roll to the east, watching the speech with mild interest.
From her place amongst the smallfolk, Lady Evangeline's only daughter leads an almost inappropriately enthusiastic round of clapping for the toast - well, no. For the announcement! Lucienne flushes, whilst old Jennyne wraps a wrinkly hand about the girl's shoulder and starts to gush about the possibility of a real live sister.
As the toast is made, Kell along with many others raise their drinks in cheer for the blessing of the newly wedded couple as well as the announcement that the Lady of the House is now expecting. And to finalize the toast, as tradition dictates, the Hedge Knight brings the full cup to his lips and proceeds to drain its contents as failing to do so would be wrong.
Belle glances at Anais, then — placing a hand on Rebekkah's shoulder that indicates departure and promises return — returns to her place beside Hardwicke so she can take up her own glass and properly toast the announcement.
Raffton turns with a look of some surprise towards the Lady of the Roost, and then lifts his tankard with the rest of the assembled, adding a cheer before he drinks, and then glances around to see the reactions of others.
This was joyous news wasn't it as Jiae brings her hands together in applause, joining the fray of the masses congratulating the couple along with another special announcement.
Perhaps Belle's return is something of a reminder of the proper etiquette of the moment. Or perhaps he simply needs it. Either way, Hardwicke drains his glass.
Anais is drinking. To the toast, of course. And smiling. Nevermind that her smile muscles are frozen in place from playing diplomat to the forces the last few days. "What a blessing, Lady Evangeline," she even manages warmly. "It will be as though our children are siblings. I know how much Jacsen appreciated having Jarod to play with as a child."
"I suppose she isn't terribly old to still be fertile," Rebekkah chats in an undertone to Anais, whether Anais wants to chat about this or not. "I could have had more myself, I suppose, but once I'd provided the heir and an equitable number of spares for the old Lord Nayland I decided I was done. Being pregnant is a very disagreeable condition. And I never cared much for babies. Rickart in particular was such a disagreeable child, always red-faced and crying…" She rolls her eyes. "What I would have done without my servants I can't even imagine, I will tell you."
There are many things that Muirenn was expecting to hear as she held her glass up for the Lady Evangeline's toast. That Hardwicke was a valued member of the family, that Belle was now welcomed a member of the family…and so it goes. The Mallister maiden lifts her cup to her lips, ready to take a sip of her wine half-listening when the other family member is announced. The sip turns into a choke and the lady Mallister sets down her glass and grabs a napkin to dab her lips delicately. Managing to collect herself, she takes a long drought in honor and celebration of the toast in its entirety. Leaning back, the rather innocent teenaged girl murmurs near inaudibly to her own maid serving her, "I did not realize that could happen when…well I thought you had to be younger." Setting the cup down, grey eyes glance over to Anais.
The Lady Evangeline takes another long swallow of her wine cup, settling slowly back to her chair with a small smile towards Anais as she answers, "Truly. I am certain you shall find yourself with child soon enough, Lady Anais."
Ser Bruce Longbough appears to lose interest in the festivities - that, or he has other things to attend to back at the Nayland camp. He does an about turn, puts his helmet back on and walks away to catch up with the men and the cart.
"Truly, my lady," Anais smiles back at Evangeline, then leans closer to place a hand to the other woman's arm. "Of course, at your age, we must be very careful. It would be a tragedy if the stress of caring for things after the siege caused you to lose the child. What fortuitous timing, then, that you should have a gooddaughter to see to those things for you while you focus on the new life you carry."
Belle takes Hardwicke's hand and threads her fingers through his, then leans over to kiss his cheek. She whispers to him as she does so, catching his gaze after, eyebrows lifting a touch.
Lucienne untangles herself from Jennyne's grip, dipping a low curtsy to excuse herself. The old lady doesn't quite take the hint, though, following the Terrick daughter along through the press of the mingling crowd towards the high table, and her dear mother. Someone, somewhere catches her wrist for a better look at that odd bracelet, but Luci yanks her hand back and continues on.
Belle whispers: What's the matter, love?
"I am certain I can leave what tasks I cannot manage in your capable hands, Lady Anais, but I have carried five children before without such help around the Roost," Lady Evangeline replies neutrally, her smile lingering only for another moment on her gooddaughter before she catches sight of Lucienne's approach. She rises immediately again to capture her daughter in a hug, only drawing away to invite, "Come, my dear. Sit beside me. I have missed you sorely."
Hardwicke just shakes his head to Belle's whisper, though he squeezes her hand. "Nothing," he says aloud. "What did your former mistress want?" His gaze goes distinctly subject-changey to Rebekkah.
Rebekkah watches the interplay between Anais and Evangeline with a little smile, sniggering. "These people are more amusing than Rickart claims," she says to no one, drinking a little toast to Terrick-provided entertainment.
As if to ease whatever tension has come from the toast, a crew of makeshift musicians starts up in the center of the square where a dancing space has been roped off. There's a fiddler, a drummer, and what looks like someone playing jugs and spoons, and a flute. It's simple music, and hardly skillful, but it's enough to dance to.
"If you'll pardon me, my lady," Anais turns that polite smile on Rebekkah, draining what remains in her cup. "I think I see Lord Flint down that way, and I did make him promise me a dance earlier. Please do try the herbed beef, cook was pleased with the range of flavors she managed."
"To wish me well, of course," Belle says to Hardwicke, smiling. "And give me a gift — for when I tire of you." Smile, smile, smile. She kisses him sweetly, gives his hand another squeeze, and says, "Your wife will want the next dance, so drink up." Another kiss, and she returns to Rebekkah's side to unwrap her gift.
"Oh, my dearest lady mother," gushes Lucienne, not yet sparing another look for the bride nor groom. Sorry. "What wonderful, wonderful, news. Congratulations. Are you well? Oh, how I've missed you all. Annie! I mean - my lady Anais, don't go, not yet. Sit with us? I've hardly had the chance to tell you how wonderful your celebration is."
Hardwicke scowls just a touch at the nature of Rebekkah's present for his wife, and looks just a little pained at the talk of dancing. Oh no not that. He looks down at his empty glass, and stands to go in search of something to fill it with. That will just not do.
As Hardwicke leaves the table and his bride for a moment, Raffton takes his chance, heading up towards the guard and reaching a bit hesitantly into a pocket. "Captain, ser," he says, intercepting him at (but not before!) the alcohol, "Congratulations, ser."
Rebekkah waves Anais off with a waggle of her wrinkled fingers. She is, of course, not dancing. "I suppose it's all very well and good to pile a happy occasion on top of a happy occasion," she notes to Belle. "Still, this is your day, dear. Don't forget it. Anyhow, I hope you find some small enjoyment in it. It seemed timely. But where is your husband? He has not met me yet. Come and meet me, husband!" Called to Hardwicke.
Harlyn stoops to pick up his canvas bag, then idles his bolt of cloth over his shoulder. He makes an excessively casual route Hardwicke-ward. He may never get there.
Hardwicke glances between Raffton and Rebekkah, only just filling his glass from a pilfered flagon. He considers the Hag of the Mire and her smiles for a moment before holding up a hand in a clear just-one-moment gesture. Looking mildly satisfied with himself, he turns back to his guardsman. "Howell, yes," he says with a rare smile. "Thank you."
"I feel—tired," Evangeline admits, a mere whisper to Lucienne so as not to overheard as she leans into her daughter. Perhaps more wine will help, which certainly seems to be her plan as she reclaims her glass.
"I'll be back," Anais promises Lucienne with a warm smile. Nevermind the extra glance to Evangeline. "You know how parties are. They never quite run themselves." And the Young Lady Terrick skips down from the high table toward the dance floor, exchanging words with Lord Flint for a moment before he, too, is called away. She's on her way back to the high table when a glint of fair hair catches her eye, and she turns toward Caytiv with a small smile. "Hey, Cayt."
Belle sits beside Rebekkah in Anais' vacated chair, giving the Hag of the Mire another kiss for the present. "It's perfect — and very timely. I'll treasure it, my lady. Thank you." Watching Hardwicke get intercepted by menfolk, Belle murmurs to Rebekkah, "I expect he's quite terrified of you, my lady — which speaks highly of his intelligence, don't you think?"
To prevent from being sour company, Kell had enjoyed the different cuts of meat that was of abundance at tonight's feast, eating his fill. He had also drank a few cups of ale as well, either from the toasts offered tonight or to just be friendly to the men seated at his sides. By now though, the Hedge Knight had stopped eating but is still sipping at a newly poured cup of ale, unsure when to excuse himself from the party though the timetable may have been sped up when music starts and some couples begin moving to the dance area, always a bad sign.
Silk whispers softly as Muirenn rises. Her hands pluck up the parcels beside her. This is perhaps one of those occasions where etiquette would dictate that a servant would take the gifts down; however, being a Mallister the redhead usually does what she wants when she wants it. Making her way along the table, she pauses beside the Lady Evangeline and Lucienne, "Good Evening Lucienne, it is a pleasure to see you whole and safe here at your home. It was unfortunate that we were not able to visit before you had to leave." Her attention turns towards Evangeline, "My Lady Terrick, what surprising and joyous news that my Uncle's bannerman is to have another addition to his family. I offer you and Lord Terrick the congratulations of House Mallister." There is a pause as the tall young woman glances towards Belle at the table, "If you both will excuse me though, I have a bit of a trifle for the beautiful bride and her groom."
Caytiv is still standing at his post, the festivities and associated news sort of floating in one ear and out the other, though he's keeping an eye out on the folk assembled, watching this one and that one, Bruce, in particular, holding his attention for a long while before his sister calls him and he cranes his neck to look to her. "Ay, Annie."
Oh, look. There is a prowling, mooch of a knight in the crowd of smallfolk, perhaps not Alek's best idea after only days past trying to convince the bride to come to his bed. There is, however, free wine and it is unlikely that he would not show. He claims a wine glass that has been abandoned by someone that has left to dance, sliding towards Anais and Caytiv as he tries to blend in to the wedding.
The eats were plentiful and Jiae was certain to have her fill from the various offerings. While no faces were familiar but one she had decided on drawing closer to that particular hedge knight, pausing only when she was standing near his side. Fingers interlocked with one another as her arms laid downcast and against her torso. "The townfolk have done well wouldn't you say Ser?"
Raffton smiles at Hardwicke, and then glances over his shoulder, saying, "Oh, sorry, ser. Don't mean to hold you up. I, uhh…" he spreads his hands a bit, a dismissive sort of gesture, and says, "I just kind of… made something up. If you like it, I, uhh— I can paint it on for you? But if not, no worries, right? Just… messing about. Anyway, here you go," he says, handing over a folded up piece of scrap parchment. "Congratulations, captain," he says again, before ducking quickly away into the crowd.
Rebekkah glares at Hardwicke. Affronted. People don't 'just a moment' her. She snorts. "I know this is a place of rebel sentiments, dear," she says to Belle. "But I trust you have spent enough time with me that you can make them appreciate its import. The Riverlands were not conquered by the Targaryens, after all. They were liberated from the chains of the Iron Islands by those dragons, as those reavers burnt them away with fire. I mourn that we lack for dragons in this land now. I pray we can find other sources of fire for those accursed pirates, just the same."
"Of course," says Lucienne, though is that to Anais? Or her mother? Whichever it is, a slender hand moves to settle upon the Lady Evangeline's nearest forearm, a gentle gesture of support. "Whatever I might do to help you, my dear lady mother," she assures, tone equally low. And then Muirenn appears, and so does Luci's smile, warm as she looks up. "My Lady of Mallister, thank you for your kinds words. I do hope we'll have a moment to catch up on all that's passed, and soon - at your leisure."
"Thank you, Lady Muirenn," Evangeline accepts politely with a small smile, her glass raised in short order to her lips. Her attention returns quickly to her daughter where the other lady excuses herself.
Harlyn has by this point nearly reached Hardwicke, just passing by Raffton as he does. And, of course, he is already talking. "Well, hello, my fine knight and mentor. If I'd've known you were getting married, I would've brought something more impressive— but, as is, I'll only take a moment of your time." He could sound more like a salesman, possibly.
It takes a moment before Kell realizes he was being spoken to and he turns to see who it is. When he sees that the source of the voice is Jiae, the Hedge Knight inclines his head politely to the young woman, "Miss Hazari. Yes, it would seem like it, certainly a grand affair with good food and good ale." There is a pause as the knight turns to his table companions to excuse himself, rising from his seat before grabbing his cup of ale, making certainly not to forget that. "Are you enjoying yourself tonight, Miss?"
"Of course—" Hardwicke starts to say, but Raffton is already ducking away before he has the chance to even unfold the parchment. With a quiet snort and a shake of his head, he unfolds the paper to examine it a moment. A hint of a smile touches his lips before he tucks it away in a pocket, only to be confronted with Harlyn next. God, people and their gifts, amirite? "Harlyn," he says, glancing once again towards Rebekkah, perhaps considering the potential for deeper insult than initially intended. "I hardly got married for the presents," he says, setting his gaze more squarely on his former squire.
"Oh good," Harlyn says with due cheer, "because these are terrible presents. But here." He unshoulders the bolt of cloth. "You can get all kinds of nice, sensible clothing sewn for your children out of this, and I have some herbs and vegetables left." He drops the bag next to the bolt of cloth. "And I got these both at premium price, lest you doubt."
Anais takes a moment to look her brother over carefully, making her sure he hasn't managed to damage himself in some way in the last two days. "How are you holding up, Cayt?" she asks. "Are you sleeping all right?" Gods know, she doesn't.
"The food is certainly good. I should trust your words on the ale." Having none yet herself, Jiae occasionally glances to Kell when speaking. "I am." Surprisingly. "It would seem this was good thing, to momentarily forget one's burdens."
"Sure you want to give up sellable wares?" Hardwicke asks Harlyn, just a little dryly. But he does tip his head and reach to clasp his fellow knight's forearm. "My thanks, Harlyn."
With a nod, Muirenn moves towards Rebekkah and Belle. Honoring them both with a graceful curtsey, she smiles warmly "Please forgive the interruption Lady Nayland. I had a small token for the bride and groom that I wished to give before they abandoned the guests for the dancing." Her grey-green eyes dance in amusement as she looks over at Belle before introducing herself to the elder lady, "I am Lady Muirenn Mallister, Lord Jason's niece and ward."
"It's a small sacrifice," Harlyn says with a slight hitch of his shoulder. He returns the forearm clasp. "Enjoy your wedding, Ser." And then he's withdrawing back into the crowds himself.
Nodding in agreement, Kell's eyes do take a look around the event at those gathered, "It certainly is a pleasant interruption to what has become daily life of mourning, loss, and rebuilding. I am sure everyone is glad that there is an excuse to lift their spirits for something more pleasant." It seems to be a one-two combo, the wedding and also the announcement of a new child on the way for House Terrick. Eyes do drift towards where the man of the hour is but the Hedge Knight remains where he is for now, seeing that the groom is a source of attention right now. Congratulations can be offered later.
Once again shaking his head, Hardwicke picks up bolt and bag to shoulder back to his table. He manages to catch a servant to take care of it before finally — finally! — turning to make his way to Rebekkah where she's flanked now by both Belle and Muirenn. "Lady Nayland," he greets her, his voice polite enough. "My apologies. People keep giving me things."
"I am sure there are a number of lovely things I could find that'd be willing to help him sleep," Alek drawls as he comes closer to the siblings, amusement a tangible thing even as he glances towards the Lady Anais. He sketches a bit of a salute, the flicker of his fingers drawing a sharp line. "Lady Anais Terrick."
Belle stands and curtsies to the Lady Mallister, keeping a hand on Rebekkah's shoulder — just a little token of attention and preference, perhaps to take some of the sting from her husband's delay. "Lady Muirenn — how kind. It's a delight simply to have you here."
"So, you are robbing me of my favored girl," Rebekkah says to Hardwicke when he finally approaches her. Eyeing him once again in that beady fashion. "Tell me. Do you love her?"
Obviously, Lucienne is in quiet conversation with her mother, but her player is more interested in watching Alek hit on Anais, so we're not going to pose that for a little bit.
Quiet, secret conversation in which they discuss everyone else. Secretly.
"As we should be. Life will ever continue." Jiae replies while turning partially to the knight, far better dressed than she as she had only wiped the dirt from her face and had batted away the dried mud on the edge of her skirts. "You have an open employment do you not? Are you bound to these lands?"
Hardwicke arches an eyebrow at Rebekkah's frank question, settling himself at something of a parade rest with his hands crossed at the small of his back. "I do, my lady."
"Well." Rebekkah takes a moment to eye Hardwicke some more. But, finally, she nods. And smiles. The expression, again, is rather bizarre on her face, as it does seem genuine. "That is a precious thing indeed, then. Treat her well." And that is all she has for him, it seems. She acknowledges Muirenn with a little dip of her chin. "Lady Mallister. I am Lady Rebekkah Nayland. Lord Rickart's mother. Not that I am here on my son's behalf, Belle is far better reason to travel than that one."
Caytiv doesn't seem damaged. Not outwardly, anyhow. Though there might be something wrong with his mouth, as he's not going at the vittles like a fieldhand. His answer to his sister is slow in coming, and finally outpaced by Alek's offer, which he meets with a flat, uncertain gaze, "… ay?" he asks, not quite understanding, but seeming to sense some jest about the man, looking to his sister for some cue as to how to act.
Anais doesn't actually seem averse to Alek's suggestion. But then, she does know her brother. "Ser Alek Coope, wasn't it?" she smiles faintly to the knight. "You were one of the winners in the melee at my wedding tournament. From Oldstones." A few context clues for Caytiv, at least. "Welcome back to Terrick's Roost. We were glad for the help of your sword lifting the siege."
Belle glances down at the dowager lady with a warm smile, then winks at Hardwicke before returning her attention to Muirenn.
With a smile, Muirenn merely inclines her head "If you say so my Lady. Mistress Belle is of great worth." The silk wrapped parcel is handed to the bride. "Mistress Belle, I am very much aware of the debt that we owe you for everything you did over these last days. You have my gratitude. As Anais has oft told me, if wishes were horses the small folk would ride…but I wish that there had been markets and shops open for me to get something to express my thanks and congratulations more fully, however, it is my hope that you will nonetheless enjoy this token."
A laugh warms grey eyes as they slide over the lady in interest as she makes no objections at his comment, Alek answering with a wry, "As was I, though I do wish the Ironborn had lingered to meet more of its steel." His gaze flicks around the festivities, before returning to his new companions as he sips at the stranger's wine. "A wedding is a rather lonely place to be alone. You are not with your husband, my lady?"
"If what you're asking is if I am sworn to a House, then you are right. But I am bound to the vows I made when I was knighted." Kell answers in turn to the Dornish woman, "Though I have a feeling that soon, I may be bound southward to Seagard. But, between then and now, I may be of service, Miss." He adds, perhaps predicting that Jiae may need assistance with something as he brings his cup of ale to his lips for a long sip while keeping his eyes on Jiae.
"I will, my lady." Hardwicke seems unfazed by the idea that Rebekkah is now done with her. As Muirenn offers her own present to his wife, he slips closer to Belle to set a light hand at the small of her back. Look at him, all husbandly.
The young lord Patrek has dressed himself up in finery for this happy event and watched with a sort of pride as Hardwicke and Belle pledged themselves to one another. Now, he's enjoying the merriment of a modest post-wedding (and post-siege) feast, and doing as any teenaged boy would do. He's working through the food on offer at a dogged pace in an attempt to fill his hollow legs.
Belle tips her head back to smile up at Hardwicke, then unwraps the silk from around a beautiful stoppered jar of perfume. "Oh, Lady Mallister, how kind!" says the bride, removing the stopper and wafting the bottle beneath her nose. "It's absolutely lovely. Thank you." She applies the scent to her wrists and tests the subtle alchemy of perfume and flesh, then gives her wrist to her husband so he can appreciate it as well.
Jiae nods briefly. "Of course Seagard is a priority. Though afterwards, should you see to returning here, I would require a sword as escort. For what little remains of my wares are still bound to Seagard." Dark brown brows raise a touch, "With so many who struggle I would fear they may not survive the voyage in my sole hands."
"Lord Jacsen is seeing to some of the arrangements for the march to Seagard," Anais explains to Alek, though she does look toward the road that leads to Four Eagles for just a moment. "He spent several years there after the Rebellion, and is familiar with the city, the keep, and the roads around it. I'd heard the Lord Anton had gone to fetch Lady Lucienne from Stonebridge, but I don't see him, either. I trust your lord is well?" she asks, smile polite.
Caytiv watches Alek even as Alek takes his time looking upon his sister. His sister he knows well enough to take care of herself, at least in matters of menfolk, and so he doesn't go all Brotherly on the matter, finally breaking his stoic mask with a smile, "Ay, would've liked t've made the fields rich wi' a few layers more a' flesh, had they stayed on. Yet thanks be for their leaving up about th' place earlier than later, ay."
Hardwicke looks a little surprised to be presented with wrists to smell — of all things! — but sniffs obligingly. "It smells — very nice, Lady Muirenn," he says a touch awkwardly, like what is this women stuff anyways. "Thank you."
The green in her eyes twinkles as Muirenn passes the linen wrapped parcel to Hardwicke, but then her gaze "I misjudged you Ser. The Roost has a very strong foundation on which to rest. No one could have asked for a better Captain of the Guard. I also owe you my thanks." The linen wrapped parcel is presented to the Groom. "May you find good use for this."
"My lord finds business of his own, with the approach of further battles," Alek allows slowly, lips twisting into an almost boyish grin before his attention redirects towards Caytiv. He shrugs, carelessly. "We will find our satisfaction at Seagard, I believe."
As the request is laid out to him, Kell seems to be considering Jiae's words silently as he thinks of an answer, one that he can keep to but also one that won't disappoint. "After Seagard, if I am able to return here to the Roost, I can give you my word that I will seek you out so we may speak again on this issue. Will that suffice, Miss?" This is at least something he can promise since he does not know his plans for that far into the future.
"That will be more than enough. It is truly no rush Ser. My belongings are safe in Seagard.. or they should be." Suddenly growing uncertain of this Jiae casts a glance to the gathered crowds, throngs and couples of conversation, dancing, and drinking. "I should be here for a lengthy amount of time."
"If half as many Ironborn die as I've heard promises to kill them all, we'll still run out of them first," Anais replies to Caytiv and Alek alike, taking a glass of wine pressed into her hand by the guard that hovers at her shoulder. "But I don't think anyone will complain overmuch." Her swallow is somewhat more than a sip, bracing, as she reaches to give Caytiv's hand a squeeze. "Have some dinner, Cayt," she urges gently. "You'll need your strength."
"I see I've finally found a lady who does not appreciate my promises," Alek teases warmly, words drawn out in a murmur of amusement. Lazily hooded eyes slide over Anais thoughtfully, though he only smiles, the line of his lips comfortably familiar.
Hardwicke unwraps the linen Muirenn offers him with deft, careful fingers. His brows raise at the fine craftsmanship of the leather dagger sheath. He turns it over for a moment, examining it. "My thanks, my lady," he finally tells Muirenn. "The work is very fine."
"Very thoughtfully done on both parts, Lady Mallister," says Belle, regarding Muirenn with a warm smile. "Thank you so much for your kindness."
Nodding and adding reassuring words, Kell says, "I am sure they are safe, Miss, Seagard was built to guard against attacks like these from the Ironborn. The barbarians picked the wrong place to attack because they are only walking to their own doom. So I will seek you out then when we return and I will let you know if I am able to assist you or not." Depending on any other engagements of importance that may have risen in time.
Caytiv looks for a sip from his sister's cup, a familiar gesture, as he doesn't even seek to take the cup, but to drink out of it while she's still holding it. "Ye shall have a fair time on't, ay," he tells Alek. He won't be going.
A nod of approval and a happy smile, Muirenn replies "You are welcome. I am very happy for you both and pray to the Seven for more joy than sorrow and more laughter than tears in your marriage." The heartfelt blessing is given and the girl relaxes and grins, "Please enjoy, I wish I could do more." She makes a shooing motion with her hand and adds, "Go dance!" and turns to go disappear into the throng of people.
"I'll appreciate them when they've been delivered," Anais smiles ruefully to Alek, eyes narrowing thoughtfully as she looks back at the knight. Surely he isn't… But then she's sharing her drink with Caytiv, and poking a finger at his stomach. "I meant food. The wine's for me." She allows herself a brief, glum look into her cup, then a glance toward the high table from beneath her lashes. "Ser Coope, do you dance?" she asks when she looks back to the knight.
"I shall," Alek assures Caytiv with a laugh to his words, already moving to draw a light touch of fingers to the man's sister's elbow at her question. He leans closer as his words drop lower in wry admittance. "Not at all well, but I can manage something, my lady."
Belle laughs at Muirenn's parting command, turning and leaning up on tiptoes to twine her arms around Hardwicke's neck. "Will you dance with me, husband mine?" she asks him sweetly, brushing the tip of her nose against his.
Hardwicke's smile flickers a little caged and tight at Muirenn's final order before she scoots off. (Oh no, danciiiiing.) "Well," he begins to say to Belle, his hands sliding obligingly about her waist. A clearing throat nearby offers him a moment's relief before he turns to the older man beside them. Looking somewhere in his sixties with grizzled hair and white stubble marking his cheeks, the man is not quite of a height with Hardwicke, and he's built on leaner, whippet lines, but his arms are wired with muscle. "Gods above, child," he says, peering at Belle with clear, pale blue eyes. "Look at you. Twice as pretty as he deserves." Hardwicke's expression is lightened in surprise, and it's several moments before he recovers himself to say, "Belle, this is — Colyn. My father."
"Thank you Ser." Jiae bows her head slightly before the music has changed tunes and she is glancing to the dance floor. "Until such time, I should wish you a good evening. And my prayers to a swift victory." Her frame dips in a parting curtsy to become lost within the many groups of gatherers.
Having eaten enough (for now), Patrek moves away from the tables where the food has been arranged, and makes his way towards the group of people congratulating the bride and groom. With a soft smile, he waits for his opportunity to do the same.
"Your — ?" Belle begins, gaping a moment. Then, beaming, she throws her arms around the older man and hugs him tightly. "What a lovely surprise! Welcome, Goodfather!"
Caytiv lets his sister's rebuke roll off of him, only reaching about to give her a swat to the rear, goading her on to the dance with Alek with a tired smile.
Colyn Blayne does not seem quite so awkward as his son, or maybe he just appreciates the embrace of a pretty girl, because he pats Belle's back obligingly when she hugs him. "Aye, aye. Middlemarch isn't all that far when there's no Ironborn in your way. And I thought I might as well bring your presents as not, hm?" He pats Belle affectionately on the rear before pulling out of the hug and unshouldering the long leather pack on his bag. Hardwicke looks caught between exasperation and irritation.
Dipping his head respectfully to Jiae, Kell gives the Dornish woman a thin smile, "Good evening to you too, Miss, and thank you for your prayers." Now the Hedge Knight turns and takes a long sip from his cup of ale before walking away from the festivities to get some air.
"I'd rather a good dancer," Anais admits to Alek, but then Caytiv swats her and she yelps, giving him a dirty look over her shoulder. "But you are the only one who seems to have the courage to offer." Smile flickering, she tosses back the last of her wine before passing the cup to Caytiv. "Eat," she instructs her brother once more, then offers a hand to Alek.
It must be said that the appearance of Messire Blayne brings the dark gaze of Lady Evangeline nee Middleton, curiosity only brief in her gaze before she retutns to her quiet conversation with her daughter. She does not interrupt the moment between father, son and bride to question him of her home.
Where Evangeline looks, so does Lucienne - but only briefly, lest their combined attention be enough to distract the older man.
"Papa, that's so kind of you," Belle says, all aglow and delighted, elbowing Hardwicke subtly to prompt — something. Anything? Meanwhile, she multi-tasks, reaching out her hands to invite Patrek over. "My Lord Mallister, this is my goodfather, Colyn."
"Sometimes, my lady, you must take what you can get," is all low and suggestive as Alek claims Anais's hand to lead her to the space reserved for dancing. He is—passable at it, though the easy humor and dry commentary makes up for what he lacks in skill, not to mention the fact that he flirts outrageously, probably complimenting her eyes and hair at some point.
Gosh, look how popular Colyn is. He doesn't seem to be paying much attention to it, digging in the pack as he is. "My son mentioned you have a bit of a bad habit. He doesn't seem to appreciate it much, but." He pulls out a knife, its sheath not near so handsome as the one so recently gifted to Hardwicke, but when he unsheathes the blade and places it across his palms to present it to her, it makes up for it: it is finely crafted, sleek and balanced and perfect for embedding into the necks of Ironborn. He glances at Patrek, his silvered eyebrows lifting in a manner that marks a distinct familial resemblance to his nearby son. "My lord," he says gruffly, eyeing the boy. Hardwicke — clears his throat.
Anais is more than willing to take the sop to her wounded pride offered by dancing with the Oldstones knight and his outrageous flattery. It's a welcome distraction from thoughts of sieges, supplies, and pregnant goodmothers. And Anais is a skilled enough dancer to slip past any more forward attempts from Alek as well.
Though pulling Patrek in appears to have socially short circuited the situation, Belle blithes onward — obviously pleased with the gift, beaming. "Oh, Papa, it's beautiful! Thank you!" She takes the knife and tests its balance, tossing it into the air, end over end, and catching the hilt unerringly. "What fine work — I'll carry it with the utmost pride."
"A pleasure, hello Master Blayne," Patrek greets, offering the other man a small bow, "and welcome to the Roost on such a wonderful occasion." Never mind, please, the half-burned buildings and razed sept. "Your son and Mistress Be-…" he pauses, smiling, "the formerly-named Mistress Beckett are a well-suited match." To the bride and groom in question he says, "A lovely ceremony. I wish you the happiest of lives together."
A bit dryly, but not without a certain hint of affection, Hardwicke says, "Thank you, my lord." Colyn snorts. "Any girl who puts up with my son's disposition has to be suited for him. The sun never did shine but he found a cloud to put in front of it." He dimples a weathered smile at Belle. "But you're welcome, child." He digs back in the pack to come up with a much more substantial item this time: a longsword. He offers it hilt-first to Hardwicke, holding the sheath steady. For a moment his son just stares at it, then he sets a hand to the hilt to draw it slowly out. The blade is sleek and bright with youth, unadorned but well-made. He looks at a while before saying quietly, "Thank you, father."
Belle simply glows as she observes the moment between father and son, leaving them to that moment (for a moment!), turning to curtsy very formally to Patrek. "Thank you, my lord. I'm so delighted you could be in attendance." She flashes a big, warm smile at the boy. "I am saving you a dance, by the by — I hope you'll claim it?"
There is a laugh from the Young Lord Mallister as Colyn describes his son, though the amusement softens into something maybe a little melancholy as he observes the sword being offered. "Oh," Patrek murmurs to Belle as she mentions dancing, a little bit delighted and a little bit surprised. He smiles brightly as his cheeks color just a tad. "Of course, Mistress. I'd be honored."
"Well, that's it, then," Colyn announces, shouldering the empty pack. "You best get dancing before they run out of music, hm? Here, I'll put them with the rest of your things." He recollects both knife and sword, offering a swift clap to his son's back before tottling over to the table to set the gifts away. Hardwicke watches him a moment, then turns to look down at Patrek. "Just remember she's a married woman now," he tells the young squire. "My lord."
There's more dancing. And more drinking. And even more drinking. The party wears on, and at some point, Anais' guard is at her side, gently guiding the Young Lady Terrick back to her horse and the path to Four Eagles.
"Hardwicke!" Belle laughs, both rebuking (and perversely pleased by) his jealousy. She takes his arm and warns him, "You had better claim your dance, then, before I give it to someone else." Patrek's will come after, and Colyn's after that — and by the time Belle Blayne is done dancing, she will realize the actual reason grooms carry their brides over the threshold. Very. Sore. Feet.