Page 184: Where Lines Lie
Where Lines Lie
Summary: Anais and Evangeline test their respective authorities. Hardwicke makes a final request of his lady.
Date: January 17, 2012
Related Logs: Together Again, Staying and Going, and (Mis)coordination for the Flint lines. Ties That Bind for Hardwicke/Eva.
Anais Evangeline Hardwicke 
Stables and Kennels — Four Eagles Tower
The Tower's Main Stables are nestled into the corner of the courtyard near the portcullis to facilitate quick, easy exits when required. The rear of the structure is backed right against the interior wall of the castle with the heavy wooden roofing gently sloped down towards the slate out front, the floor of the stables kept to dirt. Thick wooden beams are plunged into the ground and serve as a base for the walls between each stall. Hay serves as most of the flooring in the area with a large stack of it off to the side. Each stall has a thick layer on the ground to serve as bedding, with most of the space dedicated to horses though a few have pens of dogs and hounds. An enclosed structure at the end serves as dry storage for riding equipment and saddles.
January 17, 289

Bright daylight filters through the sparkled motes of dust in the stables, only a single figure occupying in a lull of activity surrounding the recent activity. Her slight figure is held steadily in front of a stall of her favorite horse, a mostly white mare whose velvet muzzle sniffs at her overturned palm to find what sugar she has snuck from the cellars. The Lady Evangeline wears her mourning black well, the folds of the heavy fabric drapped carefully despite the relative casualness of the setting, curls spilling free.

Anais has spent most of the day keeping Lord Rickart company and making certain that he has whatever he needs before he thinks to ask for it. It certainly explains the faint tension at the corners of her eyes, betraying the nascent headache building there. Thankfully, the Nayland lord is involved in military proceedings at the moment, and so she's stepped away, slipping into the stables for a quiet moment. She's surprised to find Evangeline there, blinking, but moves toward the other woman once she recognizes her. "Lady Evangeline?" she asks softly, drawing closer. "Is everything all right?"

Whatever memories that currently haunt Evangeline are chased away by that soft voice, her fingers almost brisk as she pats the side of the mare's head and pulls her hand away. "Quite fine, gooddaughter. Simply taking a moment to enjoy the privacy while I can," she answers dismissively, polite as she inclines a nod towards Anais. "How fare our guests?"

Anais smiles faintly at Evangeline's response. "I came for the same reason," she admits, rubbing two fingers at her temple. "Our guests are well," she answers quickly. "Though I could wish Lord Rickart could laugh a /bit/ more softly. Still, he's not so different from Papa in his own way," she sighs. "How is Lord Jerold holding up?" she asks, joining Evangeline outside one of the stalls. "I hope having them here isn't too much stress for him?"

"He will live. And the news that our family is safe and whole has brought him some measure of comfort," is replied in a mild murmur, Evangeline's lips remaining set without a smile. Her fingers fold into the black of her skirts, held clasped there as she slides her attention back to her mare. "I am sure they will leave shortly. There is still a war, so long as Ironborn remain at Seagard."

Hardwicke's manner is mildly tense as he strides into the stables, but what else is new. He's stripped himself of breastplate for the visit, though he's still clad in jerkin and Terrick livery. He pauses upon seeing the two Terrick ladies when he enters, lips twitching in a faint downwards direction before he manages to offer a stiff nod. "My ladies," he says evenly.

"No doubt," Anais murmurs in regards to the safety of the family. There's a flicker of a shadow in her eyes as she looks to the horses, then back to the older lady. "Do you- Do you know if he's planning on riding with the men? Or sending Jacsen?" For all her boldness in the last weeks, there is, in that, a flicker of fear, quickly pressed away when Hardwicke arrives. "Ser," she nods politely.

"I doubt my lord husband will send his son and heir with the men, Lady Anais. Not with the—difficulties it may present with his condition," Evangeline assures the younger woman, pausing only briefly at Hardwicke's entrance to incline a polite acknowledgement of the man. She continues, sounding suspiciously like she knows something as she says, "As for Jerold, we shall see."

"He wouldn't do much good in the field, my lady," Hardwicke says quietly on the subject of Jacsen as he moves to the stall where his own mare resides nearby.

"And selfishly, I'm glad for it," Anais admits in a low voice at Hardwicke's words. And then she looks between Evangeline and the knight, pressing her lips together for just a moment. "Please don't tell him I said that. I know it- He'd want nothing more than to be able to be of use in the field."

Lips pressing softly together, Evangeline disagrees mildly as she says, "He can lead men, he can be give orders just as well as any man." Her dark gaze finds Hardwicke for a moment before sliding back towards Anais. "But he is Lord Jerold's heir. Who would you suggest to lead our men in the field, if neither my husband nor my son go, Lady Anais?"

Hardwicke's lips thin in turn, and he looks close to a retort before he restrains himself. He shakes his head silently as he collects a brush and other grooming gear.

"One or the other must, my lady," Anais agrees softly, reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear. "The men should have someone of Terrick blood to follow. Jarod's heart doesn't seem to be in it anymore, and I'm not sure he ever really had the knack of command. It would have to be your husband or mine." There's a quiet sympathy in her eyes as she looks to the other woman. "And I think Lord Jerold more likely to go himself."

"Do you?" The words are polite, reserved, as Evangeline meets sympathy without any readable reaction. "We shall see," she repeats again. With Hardwicke so near, it is a perfect time to inquire, "I have heard rumor you are planning to use our stores for a wedding?"

There is something of a bristle to Hardwicke's manner as Evangeline brings up certain topics. He glances over his shoulder at her with a firm-jawed expression before his gaze flicks to the younger of the two women in anticipation of her response.

"Yes," Anais answers Evangeline simply. "It's one meal for the people of the Roost. Even if there weren't the hope of a new wedding to add to it, I think it's the least we could do for the people who lost their homes, their livelihoods…everything, and suffered under the occupation as well. This will remind them that there's something to rebuild /for/."

"You have my permission, Lady Anais, though in the future, do try to receive it before you commit to such things," Evangeline replies slowly, a bare inch of her brow upwards though she allows a small smile for her gooddaughter. "If you do not mind, I shall step in to be sure everything is prepared as it should be. I am sure you have other worries in planning for the festivities than to miss the duties of the meal itself."

"There's certainly no need for a big production," Hardwicke mutters, clearly discomforted at the feeling of himself in the midst of something. He slips into Delylah's stall.

Anais says absolutely nothing about permission. Given she's spent the last few days keeping Rickart Nayland happy, glossing over things is probably second nature right now. "Of course, Lady Evangeline," she smiles sweetly to the other woman. "And if you find yourself in need of more fresh game, I know that Lord Flint has offered to share some of the game his men take as well. And his wife, Lady Cordelya, offered to help with arrangements as well. I think everyone is glad to plan for something /good/ in the middle of all this. Oh, speaking of the Flints." She takes a step back to peer into Hardwicke's stall. "Did you have a chance to speak with Lord Flint, Ser Hardwicke?"

With a slight nod of her head, Evangeline says simply, "I shall keep them in mind." Where Anais turns her attention away, she makes no move to join her in that shift, instead turning back to her mare with a sharp eye towards her stall. Hopefully it's been cleaned recently, or a stablehand is likely to get yelled at.

Hardwicke sighs a bit at the question. "I did, my lady," he tells Anais. "Looks like he's already achieved most of his own — arranging. Kept asking if you had something /more/ in mind, but he agreed to keep me apprised of their movements and findings, and I've spoken with the smallfolk who've been working with his men to see about where they've been looking and where else they might try."

"More like what?" Anais asks, brows furrowing in confusion before she shakes her head. "Ah well. I'll speak with him and make sure everything is in order. Thank you, though, for speaking with him," she adds with a small smile. "I do appreciate it."

Evangeline's presence is only a shift of black skirts as she remains intently focused on her horse. She even expresses some amount of affection as she strokes the mare's muzzle carefully.

"Teach our smallfolk how to fish?" Hardwicke says, somewhere between baffled and insulted. "I am not certain, to be honest, my lady. He clearly had some sort of expectation that I was not fulfilling." He does tip his head in acknowledgment of her thanks. "Of course, my lady."

"Teach them how to fish?" Anais echoes in much the same tone. "Huh." She spends a moment, brows furrowed, working that over. "We must not quite have understood each other." A flick of her fingers dismisses the issue, and she sighs softly. "Well. I should get back to the keep. Good evening, Lady Evangeline, Ser Hardwicke," she offers with a small smile.

"Please inform my lord husband that I have gone for a ride, if you see him before my return," Lady Evangeline answers to that goodbye, inclining her chin in a polite dismissal of Anais though without even the softening of a smile, this time. Instead, she turns to retrieve her own tack, given that their servants are likely busier with more important things.

"Yes, my lady," Hardwicke confirms somewhat blandly. He tips his head politely to Anais as she begins her exit before his gaze flickers back to Evangeline.

"I will, my lady," Anais promises, nodding once to Evangeline before slipping out of the stables.

Even without the Lady Anais's presence, Evangeline's attention does not waver to meet Hardwicke's, instead struggling with the weight of her saddle and being unaccustomed to actually doing so. It is unlikely that she has the reach to heft it up on the horse in any case, given her petite size.

Hardwicke is attempting to start grooming Delylah, but with Evangeline so obviously at a loss, he eventually sighs and slips back out of his mare's stall to approach her. "My lady, might I be of assistance?"

Under the fan of lashes and with a tip of chin, Evangeline's expression hardens in what is likely something Hardwicke has seen before, a steeling of her will as she answers flatly, "No, Ser Blayne. I would not ask anything of you." The saddle is dropped to the ground just outside of her mare's stall, gaze torn away to flick about the stable for a stool.

"Oh, stop it," Hardwicke says in a rather familiar sort of snap. Without waiting further for invitation, he moves in to collect the saddle from the ground and settle it onto the mare's back. His jaw is hard and his movements jerked with tension as he secures and cinches it with an expert hand.

"I made my promise and I intend to keep it, just as you intend to marry this woman, ser," Evangeline insists with her own soft edge of keen interest, sharp as a knife's. She doesn't make any move to stop Hardwicke, however, as he takes care of her saddle.

"Which you intend to make as difficult as possible," Hardwicke retorts. His hands still on the saddle, Hardwicke's shoulders tense, and then slump. "For gods' sake, Evie," he says quieter. "Why is this such a crime?"

The Lady Evangeline's jaw tightens, her brows lifting in a question as she says softly, "How did you expect me to react?" She pauses, her fingers tightening in her skirts. "No, I doubt you thought of me at all when you pursued this woman, much less to think how I would feel."

"Perhaps I thought you cared enough to see me happy," Hardwicke says, his voice heating with frustration. "I guess I overrated your sense of compassion." With one final tug, he secures the saddle and goes about handling the bridle next.

"I thought you were happy to be my lifelong confidant, my friend and family. Barring that, yes, I would rather see you miserable without me than happy," Evangeline assures Hardwicke quietly, the tension in her words a weight to them as she stares steadily at the man.

Hardwicke goes quite still at her words, the indications of his temper clear in the clench of his fingers, the bunch of his shoulders. "You are the one drawing these lines, Evie," he says in a low growl. "Not me." He fits the bridle to the mare, barely restraining himself enough to work gently.

With only a slight shake of her head, Evangeline counters, "The lines have always been there, Hardwicke, but I am the one to point where they lie." She waves a hand to brush Hardwicke away as she steps forward to take over the task. "You are the one who choose to cross them."

His voice suddenly drops to a low, vicious pitch. "I have given my entire life to you," Hardwicke tells her. "Give me this one thing that can be mine." He refuses to quit the mare when she brushes at him.

"No. I cannot," Evangeline answers in turn, her own tone dropping where his does as her fingers catch at a strap of leather. "If you choose her, truly, it will hurt too much. If you commit the rest of your /life/ to her, I will never forgive you."

For a long time, he simply looks at her. Then, with eminent restraint as he unpries his fingers from the leather, Hardwicke whispers, "You truly are a heartless bitch, Evie." Without another word, he abandons any earlier thoughts of grooming Delylah and turns to go.

The remark strikes home, Evangeline tensing as if shot as she takes in one sharp breath. Where he leaves, the is no one around to see the woman bury her face in her horse's neck.