|What's Love Got to Do With It?|
|Summary:||Katrin and Daryl try different approaches to get under Ceinlys' well=practiced armor.|
|Related Logs:||Aleister's Death|
|Library and Study — Tanglewood Manor|
|Floor to ceiling windows line the walls either side of this chamber; overlooking the courtyard on one side and the Keep's paddocks and stables on the other, were one to gaze through the wavery, leaded glass. Almost every other spare inch of wall is crammed with books on every conceivable topic, save an expanse of wall above the hearth - perhaps awaiting a family portrait, or a scenic portrayal of Highfield itself. Past dusk, illumination is provided by candleabras rather than sconces, even some stubby and well-used candles set by themselves on the mantel, dried wax creating odd patterns around their rims. At the far end of the long room, a grand table serves as reading and writing desk as well as a place to spread maps, when the need arises; overlooked by a few carved, high-backed chairs with plush cushions and thick padding for comfort during longer meetings.|
|January 10th, 290 A.L.|
Do you really think it is weakness that yields to temptation? I tell you that there are terrible temptations which it requires strength, strength and courage to yield to.
~ Oscar Wilde
Mid-afternoon sunlight pours across the courtyard of Tanglewood and in through the vast windows that line the opposing outer walls of the library, casting their cheerful radiance across the floors. Alas, their mood doesn't seem contagious to the sole occupant of the gand chamber. Seated at the desk, the fingertips of one hand splayed across her brow as she regards a number of parchments spread before her, the Lady Ceinlys, at a glance, might be described as distant. Not melancholy, exactly. But clearly with her thoughts elsewhere rather than upon the same line she has now reread five times.
With a sigh, the young woman leans back, tossing the sheaf lightly upon its companion and raking her hands back through her hair. Inevitably, those icy blue eyes do wander to the leaded glass, lingering within those unexplainable thoughts. Having returned a few days ago to help the new Lord with the arrangements required for the passing of his predecessor, the former Steward has smoothly returned to the household. No fanfare, no fuss. Just getting the job done, as she always has.
But has anyone seen her cry? Or lash out? Not a one. If anything, her pale features, always fair, now seem overlaid with winter's frost. Utterly impenetrable. Clasping her hands comfortably over her midsection, Ceinlys seems content to take a moment of solitude, in the quiet of the library. She's earned it, after all.
Perhaps earned her solitude, but it shall not be granted to her for overlong. The door quietly opens a small crack, just enough to allow the small frame of Katrin Haigh to slide into the room before she shuts it again with a very distinctive snap. Silence reigns between the two cousins. After all, their previous meetings of late have not necessarily been the most pleasant. And yet, here she stands now, the younger Haigh's face full of the open sorrow that her cousin cannot or will not show.
"Ceinlys…" Katrin finally speaks, her normally cheery voice barely above a solemn whisper. "I… I wish I had been able to send you better news. Please forgive me." She lets her words hang in the air as she slowly places one foot in front of the other, each step bringing her closer to the silent woman and a reaction Katrin could not even begin to gauge.
Ceinlys doesn't immediately look up, not even when the door is closed with such.. finality. Nor does she turn her head when she's addressed. No, she lets her cousin finish, before slowly letting her gaze wander to meet the familiar features. The obvious upset Katrin reveals doesn't seem to perturb the elder of the pair, eliciting only the faint quirk of one brow.
"Katrin." The greeting in kind is pleasant, warm even. That quiet confidence the Steward speaks with has been laced, since her arrival, with a softer embellishment of sympathy. Not something that comes naturally, but given the tragedy that has befallen her sometimes home, it seems fitting. And it lingers now for her kin, after seeing her expression. "There is nothing to forgive, cousin. What happened was not your fault. And you sent word to me without hesitation, as I understand it. I could ask no more of you." A vague wave of her hand gestures her visitor to the chair opposite, if she so desires. But the raven-haired woman herself rises, taking a few steps toward a pitcher set off to one side on a small round table. Brigid, while present as always, looks far too comfortable in a high-backed armchair near the doorway, dozing lightly with her knitting in her lap. "Would you care for some strongwine..?"
It's almost unnerving, that calm of hers. Doesn't she care? Of course, Katrin is perhaps the only one who knows the answer to that. Having asked her cousin outright, once, how she would feel if she lost the Ashwood Lord.
"I would have ridden for Broadmoor myself if i could have kept the pace," Katrin replies quietly. "You deserved to hear the news from someone who loves you and understands the pain you must now be experiencing." Her lips twist downward into a frown. "Ser Bastien… I did what I could for him, Ceinlys. He was almost beyond sanity in his grief." Her head shakes as she plods her way over to the chair to sit. Each movement seems to weigh on the girl. After all, she now carries with her a memory that can never fade from her mind. "How are you, Cein? And do not even think to give me some political line to push me aside. I know how you are, but i want to hear you speak the words."
<FS3> Katrin rolls Alertness: Success.
Long distance to Katrin: Ceinlys' pupils are unnaturally dilated, considering how bright the room is.
"You did well. Truly." Turning now that she has a full goblet, Ceinlys offers her cousin a trademark half-smile, her gaze lingering upon the younger woman a moment while she takes a seat. Stealing a tiny sip of the rich and potent drink, the Steward then continues. "And thank you. For Bastien. I shall do what I can to ease his troubles, as I may. But I cannot remain here forever. He will have to take on the full responsibilities, when he has mastered his grief."
Rather than return to the desk, Ceinlys rests a shoulder to the stone edging of the window, standing in sunlit profile to look down on the courtyard far below. "How am I? Perfectly well, thank you." Her manner is strange. Even by her usual standards. Dreamy, almost. "I've no desire to push you aside, Katrin." she continues, "But there are matters that must be attended to. And in the absence of anyone else willing or able.." The rest is left unsaid. Aleister's former wife is long gone. His family in tatters. His darling Castellan nowhere to be found. The duties must fall to someone and, like it or not, she's the obvious choice. Still, a lengthy sigh escapes her as she raises her cup for another sip, still gazing through the wavery glass of the tall window.
Katrin's keen sight takes a closer look at her cousin, eyes narrowed as she studies her sunlit profile. "You are not fine, Ceinlys, of this, I am certain," she speaks quietly. "And I will not depart until I am sure of your health. You are as dear to me as Ilaria or Ian. You needn't ever hide your pain from me."
But something makes Katrin rise from her seat to get a closer look at Ceinlys. Perhaps some instinct or just a hunch. All at once, a forceful grip comes down on her cousin's slender arm and holds tight. "What have you done to yourself, Ceinlys?" she hisses out, voice not rising, only growing in intensity. "What foolishness have you plunged yourself into in your own grief?"
Normally, such a grip would likely result in an abrupt shake-off, if not a stinging backhand across the cheek. But today, the noblewoman only seems to notice the touch after a moment, dazedly looking downward to her cousin's hand, then up into her eyes in detached surprise. It gives way, a beat later, to a sudden, humorless laugh. "My health? Do I not seem perfectly hale, to you?" Granted, she's always been on the fragile side. But, beneath that vise-like hold, her slender arm might be hollow, light as it is. Like a feather. Shaking her head as the amusement fades, Ceinlys averts her gaze once more, seeming to lose interest.
"I can't afford to think about it, Katrin. Don't ask it of me." Well, there's a change. The barest flicker of a falter, the tiniest waver in her words. Setting her jaw determinedly, the woman fights back the reaction. "No foolishness. I just needed something to.. let me work. Unhindered." Unhindered by what? Pesky things like feelings? Regardless, she's defensive about it, beginning to frown a little now. "Don't, Katrin. You're asking me to be weak. And I refuse."
"To any who did not know you as I, you are perfect!" Katrin replies. "But you cannot be perfect. Not now. Not in the face of what has just happened." Her head shakes, dark green eyes blazing with her growing anger. It burns away the sorrow she has dwelled in for the past few days, clearing the cobwebs that might have slowed her mind. "This is not you, Ceinlys," she snaps. Fingers tighten slightly on her arm. "What kind of woman are you if you let yourself fall back on the use of drugs to give you strength? That is no strength, merely an illusion that can crumble so easily. It alters who you are, dulls your wits, makes you placid." Clearly, the younger cousin is upset. "LOOK AT YOU!" She half-shouts. "The Ceinlys I knew and loved would have slapped me back to my place in Broadmoor for ever touching her as I have." But Katrin steps back, releasing her arm and looking back toward the door. "This version of you is weak and pathetic. Not the fiercesome lioness that surely made Aleister Ashwood love you in the first place. It is a relief he is dead or surely this pitiful sight before me would kill him just as surely as the blade that took his head."
Well, that one landed. Katrin may as well have slapped her cousin full across the cheek, such is her reaction. Those vivid eyes, cast midnight-blue by the unnatural expanse of her pupils suddenly spring wider still, a gasp tearing from her throat. For a long moment, she simply stares at the other young woman, incredulous. But even through the haze of whatever it is she has taken, a sudden surge of rage and yawning despair, formerly smouldering, now rises in answer.
Oddly, her voice never rises. If anything, it lowers a touch in very blatant warning. "..how dare you say such things to me." Maybe rousing the wrath of one not entirely in control of her senses wasn't the wisest idea. But at least she's reacting to something, at last. "I rid him of his fool wife. I build him a home to call his own. I provide him with everything, and am left with less than NOTHING!"
A sharp motion, and her goblet is hurled across the room, clattering across the surface of the table before tumbling to the floor at the far side. "HE DIDN'T LOVE ME! HE NEVER LOVED ME!" The words rise now in an uncharacteristically open display of the very raw hurt that lingers, always, just beneath that perfectly polished veneer and Ceinlys' strides, faltering at first, now gather momentum as she advances upon Katrin, upper lip drawn back in a silent snarl of fury.
As she reaches the dark-haired creature, so similar to her in looks save that woeful scarring and olive complexion, the Steward halts herself. "..but I loved him." The admissions is barely above a whisper, and even now it's a grudging revelation. As is the tearshine that threatens to overflow her blue eyes. "And I left him and now he's dead. And the only thing I can do is pick up the pieces for everyone else!" She tries to regain her composure, she really does. But instead, a wretched, strangled sob frees itself of her throat; the gravity of it bringing the woman to the floor as her legs simply give way, in the end, to the burdens she's been carrying. Gathering her full skirts in handful atop one knee, Ceinlys can only stifle her tears in the fine fabric.
It is unlikely Katrin quite knew the full extent to which Ceinlys would react to her words, even if she did poke and prod at all of the right buttons to lure the ever elusive emotions out of the other woman. As Ceinlys advances, she holds her ground, never moving even a muscle for fear of inciting further rage. Her face is one of open sympathy and love for the grieving cousin, even as she sinks down to her knees beside her, attempting to gather the deflated Steward into her arms to hold.
"I cannot speak for the dead, dearheart," Katrin murmurs quietly. "But it seems as though men are never quite certain of what they love and what they lust for. But you, darling, are stronger than this. Aleister surely loved you in the ways that he could. What man could not? You are so very intelligent, beautiful and the most resourceful woman I know. And if he were fool enough to not love you then he deserved what happened to him ten times over for sheer idiocy." Gentle fingers stroke through Ceinlys' dark hair. "You don't have to do this alone. I will be there for you no matter what."
"I never meant to love him." Letting the younger girl wrap her in an embrace, much as it pains her, Ceinlys takes a moment to catch her breath as the brief torrent of tears begins to calm. "I was never supposed to. But I believed him, when he told me such things. Me. You'd think I, of all people, would know better." A soft exhale, that might have been a laugh that never came to anything of note, escapes the ebon-maned woman. Swiping at her cheeks with her fingertips, she withdraws just a short distance from Katrin; haunted, red-rimmed eyes searching her cousin's face through a few tousled wisps of hair.
"..don't ever fall in love, Katrin. It's simply not worth the risk. The pain. It's unbearable. Much like life, once you've known it." A new dawn of resolution seizes Cein's expression as she considers her own words. "I will never be so foolish again. You're wrong about one thing, cousin." Sniffing once, hard, the Steward musters some semblance of a smirk. "I do have to do this alone. Because they all believe, in one way or another, that I'm stronger. Better. And they have to keep believing it. Or everything has been for naught." Her gaze flits absently toward Brigid, who has roused from her dozing but has had the sense to give the pair their space, this time. "..and don't call me dearheart." A last lightning-flash of sorrow streaks through those glacial eyes, before the storm is banished. For good. "..that's what Aleister called me."
"No one ever means to fall in love, Ceinlys," Katrin muses with a touch of laughter hiding in her affectionate gaze down to her cousin. "I never meant to fall in love. I knew what it would do and potentially take from me. And it has. But i cannot regret it. Not when I know of the happiness I had, even for the briefest of moments. Don't let go of that. Because yes, in the end, it will end in tears, but the time getting there is always so glorious." The smile she offers is gentle. "In public you must carry a certain burden on your shoulders, but not in private." She smiles warmly. "Let me help you, Ceinlys. Please. I do not wish to see you crumble like this under what you must carry, nor House Ashwood because you are not there to hold them steady as they take their next steps forward in this world."
Within the sunlit library, bathed in the mid-afternoon illumination, two figures are seated on the floor, speaking in hushed tones. Fine skirts pool around them on the floor, crumpled in places; suggesting perhaps a less than graceful descent brought them to their current position. The Lady Katrin Haigh, with her back to the door, is in earnest conversation with her cousin, the formidable former Steward of Highfield. At least so a newcomer would guess, judging by dark hair and attire.
"No.. in private, too. I can't rely on you for such things.. nor anyone else. Please understand, Katrin. I.. can't express how much I appreciate your understanding." Ceinlys' voice sounds strange, a little hoarse. And something else. Just different.
Pushing back her silky black tresses, the noblewoman releases a sudden, vehement sigh, glancing toward the tall windows that overlook the yard and allowing herself a further pause. "Maybe you're right. Maybe it was worth it. But it won't be again. Not ever. I couldn't do it again." She seems about to speak further, looking back to her younger cousin. But then the door to the beautiful chamber begins to open beyond Katrin's shoulder. "Fuck." This hissed curse precedes the blue-eyed woman abruptly turning her face away, a hand raising to press cool skin gently to the otherwise flushed pallor of her complexion.
A gentle smile arises. "I understand," Katrin assures. "But just know that I am here," is all she says as she begins to push herself back to her feet. When the door begins to slide open, the younger Haigh turns swiftly and makes a movement forward to place herself between any newcomer and her cousin trying to regain composure. "Yes?" is her brusque greeting, hoping to draw attention to her first. "Have you never learned to knock before entering a room with a closed door?" Nevermind that it is a public room…
There's a sound outside the chambers, as if a pleading and stammering. A few muffled voices, hardly distinguishable, before yep. That door opens, and there stands Daryl Ashwood, in all his…'Mourning glory'. He wears a black tunic underneath his hardened leather armor, black pants, and his sword is sheathed, peace-tied at his waist. Oh. Well. Maybe this is why that retainer never made it, or if she did…Had the sense to give the women some privacy. Not Daryl Ashwood, sure he can talk a smooth game, and walk the walk, but when it comes to truly understanding the deep complexities and hidden compartments of a woman's mind…? -Especially Haighs!- It looks like Daryl's face screams 'fuck' non verbally just as equally, when he realizes what he has walked in on.
Its too late. He's in the jam, and he doesn't think fleeing now would be the best move. Think…Think of something clever to sayyy…"Well…Normally i'm the only one too be in here, and…" Daryl fails, looking between them and clearing his throat, "I…I can leave, really." He seems ready to make escape.
Having risen to her feet swiftly, Ceinlys has by now reached the desk at the far end of the room, one hand braced upon its surface as she draws a few deep breaths and smoothes back her hair. "It's alright." Her gentle tone is directed toward her protective cousin, and slowly, the elder Haigh turns, pivoting to face the others. Leaning her hips back against the edge of the desk, she folds her arms across her midsection, summoning a calm smile for the poor Ashwood who chose the wrong room to stumble into. "Good afternoon, Daryl. I do apologise for the intrusion, if this is your chosen place of quiet. I understand the need for it."
Damnit. A sideways glance of her vivid eyes takes in the lingering destruction of the fallen goblet on the floor, the wine spattering the parchments and edge of the table. Looking sharply away, the Steward flicks a look to Katrin, then back to Daryl.
There is a suspicious gleam in Katrin's eyes but she gives a small nod in Ceinlys' direction. But then she sees the broken glass. Oh no! "Please forgive the mess, Lord Daryl. I was so beside ,myself for what has happened in the past few days that when my cousi. tried to calm me, I broke one of your glasses." She gives a weak smile. "But you clearly have business with my cousin! I will depart for now. Cein, perhaps you will be free for a meal later?"
Daryl looks from one to the other, as if the two were about to jump him or do something else otherwise unenjoyable. He relaxes some visibly as he realizes his heads not about to be ripped off like a male praying mantis'. His eyes observe the goblet, the spill and the parchments, and then he slowly closes the door behind him, hoping to save anyone else from suffering this same fate. He almost tiptoes around them, not literally but with a casual stride he makes his way towards one of the bookshelves and reaches to pull one out, after eyeing the selection a few seconds. He acts as if he's not even in the room; invisible. Not a threat to their conversation at all. All thats lacking is an innocent whistle. He almost cringes from his hiding spot behind the shelf as he'd addressed, and then slowly, his head peeks around the corner, demeanor quite nonchalant, and doesn't even bother correcting the title, "Hm? Don't even worry about it, M'lady. I've broken my fair share, trust me." Then he's back to hiding, perhaps giving time for them to wrap up whatever it was they were talking about or doing.
<FS3> Ceinlys rolls Performance: Great Success.
"Don't worry over it, cousin. These things happen." replies Ceinlys, too, in an airy manner; one hand waving in dismissive gesture. "Brigid can see to it." This is plainly aimed at her handmaid, who obligingly rises from her quiet seat in an armchair near the door, nodding in assent and padding across toward the mess. The raven-maned Haigh drifts forward, away from the mess of the table, offering a familiar and fond look to her close kin. "Dinner sounds lovely, Katrin. I'll have something brought to my chambers, if you like, so we might speak without so many pairs of eyes upon us, hmm?" A seemingly placating hand rises to lightly sweep down over Katrin's upper arm. Oddly concilliatory, that mannerism. For a woman like Ceinlys, that is. "Everything is fine, now." Such confidence, even in so quiet a tone. Try as he might to disappear, she's still very much aware of Daryl's presence in the library, a glance flitting his way, then back to the young woman before her.
Katrin smiles. "I will depart until then, cousin," she says. "Lord Daryl." A quiet farewell to both before she steps out the door, pausing long enough to nudge her dozing Septa who had been waiting outside.
"Ah here it is." Daryl finally states, looking through whatever it is that he selected and stepping out from his spot between shelves. His eyes look down at his book, then up at her briefly, then his book…There's an odd moment of tension almost before he asks, "…Everything alright?" Despite the situation, his words do carry an undertone of genuine concern. Idly he paces nearer, but opts to lean against the windowed wall nearby, flipping through pages. He stops at one and then gives her his full attention.
"Fine." replies the young woman, gazing distractedly at the door as it closes behind her departing cousin and only eventually turning the full force of her azure eyes toward her new companion. "More than one Haigh in a room often leads to flaring tempers, that's all." A sedate stroll carries her in Daryl's direction, the handmaid in the background grunting softly as she lowers to her knees, gathering broken pieces of the smashed goblet into her apron carefully. "And yourself?"
As she draws close enough, Ceinlys extends a hand, her fingertips angling the book he holds upward a little by the edge of its cover and peering at it. One eyebrow arches in perhaps faint amusement or surprise. "..The Practice of Herbalism? That's an.. interesting choice." Holding off on outright mocking him? Something really must have her off-color.
Daryl idly glances out the window a moment, looking over the courtyard and leaning against the window with an outstretched arm, hand firmly on the glass while the other holds the book. It's the stables side, and his eyes follow a certain horse as it gallops playfully around the paddocks, bumping and teasing another one and then darting off in swift retreat. A very faint ghost of a smile plays at his lips, but his attention shifts towards Ceinlys when she looks his way, their gazes colliding at just around the same time. He watches her approach, almost carefully, but thats not quite the tell behind his eyes. When she touches the book and lifts it, he just bears a smirk- that all too familiar smirk and looks away again. "Teasing me, M'lady?…It was a childhood hobby that became something I was rather good at. Remember I wasn't training to be a knight, so there was free time."
He looks back at her and chuckles a touch, mirthlessly. "I wanted to wait until I was a grown man for that." Referencing the knight comment.
Moving to the other edge of the same window, arms folding once more, Ceinlys rests a shoulder to the wall and follows the man's gaze of a moment ago down toward the horses. Her own gold palfrey is down there, somewhere.. the first gift she ever received from Aleister. Oh, but she's not dwelling on that train of thought. At his question, though, she looks up and holds the Ashwood's look with an unperturbed curve playing across her lips. "Always." That's left to hang a mere moment before she's continuing. "I've actually an interest in such things, myself. Far more useful than embroidery, I find." The attempt at humor is met with a faint tilt askance of her head, leaving her dark tresses in a tumble across one bare shoulder. The choice of dramatic hues are a strak contrast against her porcelain skin.. but it's an appealing sort of severity, on her. "Hmm. How much longer do you think that may be, then?" She caught the smirk. And it's just too familiar to look upon for long. Averting her eyes, this time toward Brigid, she continues in a more 'proper' manner. "There are a few matters I ought to discuss with you. But they can wait for another time. I feel we may both be here for respite, not further.." What? Pain and depression? Well, nobody enjoys that.
Again that horse out there gets his attention, but this time it is much more fleeting, and soon his attention returns to her…It was hard not to, really. But she always seemed to have that effect on him.
Dark green orbs trail her figure from the hip up. A pause, and he remembers how Miranda would always catch him doing that, and when it was a noblewoman, she would always scold him for it. Remind him to look them upon the face.
That's exactly what he does, though sometimes he would find her eyes just as captivating. A glacial blue, so alluring in it's odd color…And now with Aleister out of the picture…
His face visibly winces for a half second, that is all. What was he thinking? Save for that small shudder his countenance had been rock solid. Cold, almost. "Who knows how long…I am squiring under Lord Ashwood himself, and I will commit to it no matter how long it takes." As she suggests bringing up certain matters, he averts his gaze as well, (better that way) and responds, "Whenever you need to. Matters do not slow for my mourning new Lord Ashwood and I would not see them slow for me either." Something's different about him…Though its hard to put a finger on it.
"That time, I was teasing." Ceinlys relents to a small smile, as he misses her jesting implication of childishness on his part. With a soft sigh, she gives up the pretence of fascination with anything beyond the glass and turns to settle her back against the wall instead, calmly studying Daryl in profile as he seems to avoid looking at her as much as he can. Did she notice that wandering of his eyes across her slender form? Who knows. She's hardly the sort to slap him in offended outrage even if she did. "Bastien is a good man, and a fine tutor. I have little doubt he shall instruct you to the best of his ability. But Daryl?"
Her tone invites him to meet her gaze, but she continues whether he chooses to oblige her or not. "..if you seek to live by the blade with notions of vengeance.. I can only beg you not to." Ebonesque lashes shadow her cheeks briefly as she flits a look downward, almost demure. But then the crystalline hues of her eyes rise and hold his steadily. "Believe me.. I can understand. It's likely the most we've ever had in common with one another." Lowering her tone as her handmaid troops past, heading for the door with the wine-stained fragments she has gathered, Ceinlys hesitates long enough to capture her lower lip between her teeth. This close, there's a haunted look to those angelic blue eyes.. and a telling redness about their rims. It hurts. Even the ice-queen has been affected, even if no one would believe it possible to thaw tears from her. "Don't let this be your undoing. Have it be the making of you." That subtle smile turns wistfully bitter, for a fleeting second. "..then we'll have two things in common."
"We have a more than a few things in common, I would think," Daryl belatedly adds, but doesn't elaborate on, "…And indeed I would agree it has its uses." Before he does anything else, he sets his mind to a new priority, as if he had forgotten to do it earlier and was just now remembering. The Ashwood reaches into a compartment on his belt, thumb and index fingers entering and pinching something, exiting with a small bracelet, meant for a child. It has entangling 'vines' of gold and silver, with little red and white blooms that sprout out along the entire length, interchangeably.
Handing it to her, he explains, "For Hafwen." That is all he says, as if not wanting to speak any further on it. If she really takes the time to look at it, on the inside there's a small gold plate that says, 'From Daryl' on it…Suggesting it may've been a gift given a long time ago…To a person who no longer needs it. "I am becoming a knight as a punishment," He says firmly, and indeed there's no more playful grinning and charming smiles, not now. "Though i've come to realize it is a blessing in disguise. It will forge me into the man I need to become."
He ventures to look at her then, and even in his cold demeanor she can see the ghosts of a smile, but its far from its usual warmth. "…I can see it in your eyes too. Just like my family." The Deputy steps right beside her now, but again there's that averted gaze. The stables. "You cared for him deeply."
Ceinlys extends a hand unthinkingly, accepting the trinket in the cup of her palm and gently caressing one of the red blooms with her thumb as she regards it for a long moment. "It's lovely." The murmured words are simple, but she evidently appreciates the sentiment behind the gift. It's not the sort of thing a man would keep, unless it held special meaning. Tearing her gaze from it and meeting Daryl's eyes again, her smile warms a touch. "Thank you. I'm certain she'll adore it." She doesn't pocket the braclet, instead simply closing her fingers over it and idly toying with it as the conversation moves onward.
She does listen, of course. She grew up with brothers and knights and knows well the solemnity of accepting such a life for one's own. But there's a question in her eyes that eventually has to be voiced. "..the man you need to become for who?" The implication being that perhaps he feels he must become someone else, for the acceptance of another. "I would not think to deter you from a chosen path." She hastens to add. "I only wonder whether it's one you would have taken for yourself, if things were different."
Ahh, but people keep pressing her on this matter today.. as the topic returns to their late Lord, the steward's jaw tightens visibly and a trace of that detached calm, ever-present, creeps back into her quiet, velvet tone. It doesn't matter that the Deputy looks away from her, for her eyes lower now too, to his booted feet. "..there was a time, when he intended to marry me. Promises were made.. and subsequently broken. I suppose it is my punishment.." Swallowing, she hesitates, then makes the decision to say it. "..to always be the one left behind."
Man that outside sure is interesting. He finds looking away from her while talking gives him more clarity of thought, it seems. Or maybe he just likes horses. Either way, the times his orbs do land on her, it isn't longer than a few fleeting moments.
"The man I need to become for Miranda. For my family. I owe her that. And I have to redeem my title, my name." His eyes do look upon her then, as her's slip to her feet, with an emotion of compassion. "I had not known that…I'm sorry to hear." He risks a half step closer, and sets a hand on her arm, despite Brigid's ever watchful eye, "Left behind…?" He exhales lightly, shaking his head, warming his expression, a ghost of his former self. "…I do not think that will be your fate. You have far too many admirable qualities to you…You'll just have to be open to it rather than shutting it out." Easy for him to say, he doesn't have a dead husband and dead lover.
Brigid, now returned to the desk and mopping at the wine spilled upon it, does frown slightly across at Daryl when he ventures that next half-step.. but purses her lips and says nothing. It's been a strange few days for everyone, her mistress included. Ceinlys herself looks up, though doesn't seem startled, when the young man rests a hand to her bare skin. Her expression has definitely sobered, though. "There's such a fine line between things. You can admire qualities in all manner of things and desire them. But that sort of collecting is only truly craving the envy of one's peers. Not for love of the thing itself. That was the difference between Aleister and I. In the end. But.." Determinedly, she straightens her shoulders and tilts her jaw upward in silent defiance against all the world and anything else fate may decide to hurl at her. "..everything is a lesson. Even the ones that bring us to our knees will strengthen us, in some way. Like you."
It's an odd habit, the way she turns seemingly aimless contemplations into poignant comparisons. Tightening her fist over the little bracelet, still held fast in her hand, she regards the young man in proximity with a fresh sense of scrutiny. "..you will be forever changed. But you won't shatter. Not everyone will be able to say the same. And I.. well, honestly? I will always shut people out. Because letting them in is a weakness I cannot afford ever again." A forefinger rises, intended to halt any argument he may voice. "..I don't ask pity for that. It's what makes me who I am. And perhaps.. I simply have a different future than my cousins." Katrin and Ilaria. Both viable choices for betrothal and the bearing of heirs. But it would be a great thing to ask of any man, if he had the wits to think of it, to take on a creature like this.
Daryl bites his bottom lip just a bit as he his eyes wander a bit more, not in a shameless manner, but indeed a flattering one. He seems almost confounded by her statements, though he nods and acknowledges her as she speaks intently. He listens. He finally meets her gaze, feeling it rude to look away now, despite how easier it was for him to do so. Obviously this was a topic of importance to him." He shakes his head a little, deep green clashing with light blue as his arm falls. "I do not offer pity, Lady Ceinlys. I'm quite the realist. Should you choose to not let anyone in, even if your heart calls you, then…Yes. That is your punishment." It sounds harsh, but that is not how he intends it.
His arm goes to his side, but he remains close, "I realize you may have your reasons for doing so, of course. But I truly hope that is not what you finally decide, even if it is on your own accord." His expression softens, his head tilts, "…Because you deserve so much more than that. I would hate to see you face the rest of your life alone." His words seem genuine enough, his stare unyielding, compassionate.
"It's the lesser of two evils." Also a fair point. The hurt of love and loss, or the loneliness of neither. And, suddenly, she's smiling up at him. "Daryl.. are you asking me to place my trust in a man?" The incredulity is, at least, generously edged with something akin to affectionate amusement. Yes, they are very alike. And that's exactly why they shouldn't trust one another. "Every other lady I know has to rely upon a husband to make her anything remotely resembling important. And even then, it's mostly just for the carrying of their heirs. I tried that life.. and you see how well it turned out." Hmm. Dead husband, disowned wife. Questionable daughter. "Aleister, even at the worst of times, treated me as an equal. That's the best I can hope for. Because love.." Her upper lip curls with distatse as the word passes. "..just makes a mess of everything."
A brief pause as she draws breath, searching Daryl's green eyes and daring him to argue with her. It's ever a dangerous path, with her.. between verbal sparring and spoiling for a fight. Particularly when she's covering upset. "..you'll understand, when you marry your Erenford. Or one of you will." Is that a note of bitterness, hidden within the words? Either way, she belatedly seeks to soothe their sting, drawing and loosing a slow breath before reaching to lightly rest the fingertips of her free hand upon the man's cheek. "I don't deserve anything, Daryl. Not now. All I can say is I hope you never have to feel this way. Nor have to live with causing such pain in another."
There's a moment where he gets caught up in her gaze again. Why was it this always happened with her, and really only her? Any other woman it was -his- charm that swayed, his smooth talking and natural smile that ruled the conversations…Including his postponed betrothed Aemy. His jaw tenses for a half second as he tilts his head forty five degrees down and past her shoulder, masking the averting his gaze as a runaway train of thought, biting his lip just a bit as if seriously considering something.
He composes himself and stays focused, as recently he's been doing that a lot, with or without the Lady Ceinlys' presence…Whether it be that nightmarish image of his sister's head burned into his mind, or a once pleasant now painful flashback, its almost like his mind was no longer his own in his fresh grief, constantly having to usher his mind back, like a wandering child from a parent.
"You make it sound so awful," Daryl notes softly, and that affection and amusement draws something out of him. A bit of his former self, former emotion. His lips play into a charming smile, and he tilts his head, "Like no one has ever fallen in love and been happy, for a long time." The Deputy doesn't seem to back down, not aimlessly defending the constitution of love for its own sake, but for what may become of her if she goes through life without it. Even her mentioning Aemy, something that usually draws his ire, he shakes his head, "I think, Ceinlys…Not that it is not cut out for you, or something destined not to happen, but rather…" His eyes level on her steadily, "…That you are one of the few unfortunate enough that has had to be hurt too many times before finding the right -one.-"
Her touch against his skin sends a shiver down his spine, his cheek -almost- leaning into it. "…Perhaps we're not as different as you think." He eyes her meaningfully, before taking a half step back. He was getting too close already, and the shiver reminded him of it.