Lara kicks off her shoes as they walk back into their rooms at Eorthwick, 10 days without needing to wear such things has made them feel strange on her feet. She glances over at where Edan is dumping their luggage by the walk in robe, and catches sight of their reflections in the mirror. Both bronzed by the sun and glowy with the memory of their time away, if a little more subdued than they were before their talk with Esmond. She grins as Edan looks up and catches her gaze in the mirror, dropping a quick wink at her.

A knock at the door gives her a start and she shakes herself out of her reverie. One of the household staff, Fergal, is there with what appears to be a sheaf of papers for Edan.

“No rest for the wicked then Fergal?” Edan accepts the papers with good grace, though Lara can tell he’d hoped for a bit longer before diving back into the role of the Duke.

“No Sir, nor for the good such as yourself.” Lara hides a smile at that, Edan’s people do rather worship him, “or your good lady wife.” Lara looks up curiously as Fergal continues, addressing her now, “There’s a letter for you as well your Highness.”

“Oh, thank you Fergal, and please call me Lara.” She says the last with little hope he will do so, all the staff have been calling her ‘your Highness’, it’s even worse now that she’s the Princess Royal. Perhaps she can get them to compromise on Lady Lara?

Fergal hands her an envelope, addressed to her in Sioned’s free flowing hand, gives a small bow and leaves the room, closing the door behind him.

Edan has already sat at the desk in the far corner of the room, a slight frown on his face as he reads one of the documents. Lara sits on the bed and opens the envelope, reading the missive from Sioned within. A smile forms as she reads and a small laugh escapes her lips as she gets to the part about the mud pit and scuffling. She quickly finishes the rest of the note, humming to herself at the last sentence. Sioned obviously knows there is something going on with Esmond, but Lara would bet she has little idea what’s really behind it all.

“Everything ok?” She glances up to see Edan looking at her with a cocked eyebrow.

“Oh. Yes, I think so. It’s a note from Sioned. She was wondering whether we’d mind if she stays here in Eorthwick for a while, it seems your Aunties have taken quite the shine to her and she prefers it here to the palace. It’ll be ok for her to stay here, won’t it?” Lara knows they have spare apartments in the castle and doesn’t think Edan would have a problem with setting aside some for Sioned, she knows he’s fond of her.

“Yeah, of course, she can stay here as long as she likes,” Edan gives her a wry grin as he continues, “it may even keep the Aunties distracted for a while, it won’t be long til they start making noises asking about when the children are going to appear you know.”

Lara suppresses a shudder, “I know.” She and Edan do plan on children, of course, but not for a good while yet; she’s glad they are both of the same mind on it.

“Alright, I’ll ask Mairead to open up the apartments in the east wing and then I’ll Trump Sioned to let her know.”

Lara walks towards Edan as he nods in agreement with her plan. She stops just in front of him, resting her hand on his face.

“Did she say anything about Esmond?” Edan’s tone is tinged with concern, she knows just how worried he is about Esmond, as is she. Though he seemed calmer when they left him, she knows that he has a way to go before he can admit to himself, let alone Sioned, what he’s really feeling and why.

“Not really, she just mentioned that she might need to talk to me about boys being weird.” Lara sighs, “I really hope they can make it work, they do love each other and that’s so hard to come by, I just want them to be as happy together as I am with you. I’ll help them any way they ask.”

“I know, love, I know. I can’t believe how lucky we are we found each other.”

Another knock on a door interrupts them. “Your Grace, do you have a moment?” It’s Edan’s secretary.

“Back to reality huh?” Smiling, Lara leans in and gives Edan a kiss. He hugs her in tight for a few moments, before letting her go.

“Unfortunately,” he waves a hand at the documents on the desk, “nothing too serious here, thankfully, but I should get on with it. See you at dinner?”

“Of course.” Lara drops another kiss, this time on his nose, “see you then,” and heads out of the room to find Mairead.


The rooms she’s chosen for Sioned are bright and airy and look away from Kolvir, instead facing into the Vale of Garnath. Lara sits on the large window seat fitted just below the sill. The view from the window shows the river Oisin and further onwards to the great forest. She’s also made sure that the rooms are one of the ones with a large soaking tub in the bathroom. Hopefully Sioned will find them comfortable enough.

Pulling out her Trump deck she quickly finds the picture of Sioned and concentrates on it until it goes cold.

 


More light creeps over the horizon, and the dull grey of pre-dawn begins to retreat. Sioned unfolds herself from her perch and stretches her arms to the sky, rising on her toes on top of the balustrade before jumping lightly down and re-entering her room.

Esmond is in a state of hurried undress as she enters.
“Shit, shit, shit. I’m late…” he glances over at her as he buckles his belt around his waist. “How far is the sun up?”
“Only a little, you’ll have time…”
“Damn it, I shouldn’t have stayed so long. Julia’s going to have my hide…I’ll have to take the long way around to stay in cover.” He pulls boots on as Sioned observes him with an amused smile.
“Bye!” He gasps, pulling himself to her roughly and hesitating only a moment before stealing a kiss.

He opens the door to find Melisandre on the other side of it with her hand raised to knock. A too and fro ensues as each tries to get out of the other’s way, to little avail. Eventually Esmond manages to squirm past the disapproving maid and is half way across the outer room before Sioned calls out.

“Oi!!”
He makes a face in frustration, but turns back anyway, to find her standing not far from where he left her, holding a trump in her right hand.
“This might be easier, don’t you think?” and places a trump of Arden in his hand. He smiles lopsidedly at her, slightly abashed and mutters his thanks before sloping off at a more sedate speed.

Sioned shakes her head and then stares gently off into the distance as a trump call starts to come through. She misses his backward glance.

Lara’s face swims into view
“Hello. You back already? That’s an impressive tan for a day and a half!” Sioned jokes.

“Heh, if only all day and a halves were so long and relaxing” Lara responds with a smile. She looks at Sioned more closely, trying to gauge her reaction as she continues, “I got your note.”

Sioned blinks blankly for a second until she remembers her note.
“Oh! Oh yeah.” She grins broadly. “So is it ok? I mean, obviously I wouldn’t dream of being in yours and Edan’s pockets or anything. I’m sure you guys are going to be insanely busy. I’m happy if you wouldn’t mind me taking up one of the guest rooms. Oh, and maybe Oliver? I haven’t asked him yet, he might like to stay here. I’m not sure how his gossip mongering pass-times are going these days. Oh, and I probably should ask you both about my conjuring testing experimenty things, because I don’t want to upset anyone by scaring them or accidentally setting them on fire…not that it’s likely to happen or anything like that, I’m not really working with fire much these days. And there’s the hanging out with Edan’s aunts, they are extremely awesome btw – aaand I think they’re going to be asking you guys about kids soon, just a heads-up. Oh, and I’d love to spend time with the Curahmen doing some light cavalry training – if Oliver wants to come, otherwise I may be asking to borrow a horse too…sorry…and I’m talking too much…huh. I haven’t even had breakfast yet…Breakfast?”
It’s one of those mornings, of which there had not been many lately, where Sioned’s enthusiasm and brain run at a million miles an hour, and her communication matchs, much to the chagrin of anyone she is talking to. It’s always a touch overwhelming, but also, given everything that had happened lately, reassuring.

Lara laughs at the onslaught of information from Sioned, much more like the Sioned of old than the troubled woman who Lara had last spoken to and she wonders what has caused it. Holding out her hand across the Trump she confirms, “breakfast, we can do that.”

“Brilliant!” Sioned reaches forward but then stops. “Hang on, let me put some shoes and a cardi on.” There is a disconcerting tilt and skew of vision as Sioned finds shoes to pull on, and shoves her arms into a long line cardi. Then a moment when she remembers to grab জ্ঞান, another muttered reminder to pick up her trumps, which she folds eye bendingly away into a pocket, five seconds scratching her cheek, eyes flickering around the room to see if there is anything she’s missed.
“Ok, I think I’m good.” She smiles at Lara and reaches out to take her hand.

Melisandre opens the door just as a filtered eddy of rainbow light fades from the room. She smiles primly and sets about tidying, having neither ordered food nor bath water. The Lady Sioned may not spend much time at the palace, but her maid knew her. Routine and Sioned were erstwhile companions, and only ever martial ones. More often than not she is gone before breakfast and back well after dinner, if she returns at all. If anything, being Sioned’s maid is more about esp than service.

The light in the room Sioned steps through into is warm and golden, and faint birdsong is audible through the open window.

Lara studies Sioned as she steps over to the window and sticks her head out to look at the view. Certainly there is a lightness to her that hasn’t been there for a while, but Lara is worried that it might only be a thin veneer, ready to crack the moment stress is put on it. She decides to let Sioned lead the conversation, not wanting to push too hard, lest those cracks form.

Sioned whistles appreciatively.
“Nice view down to the river there! Hope I can get a billet just as sweet.” She pulls her head back inside and winks at Lara.

Plonking herself down next to her friend on the window seat, Sioned sighs and wraps an arm around Lara’s shoulder.

“So, there was talk of breakfast. And then you can tell me all about your honeymoon… well, not all about it, I don’t think I could look Edan in the eye and not giggle if you told me all about it.” She grins. “And then I’ll clear off and let you get back to whatever your new duties are as Giant Important Person who I just happen to know.”

There’s genuine good-humour in her. How deep it goes is something Sioned is actively not thinking about. Right now, she’s tired of the undercurrents and is happy to play in the shallows, at least until the morning whiles itself away.

Lara wraps her arm around Sioned’s waist and gives a light squeeze, “I’ll let you in on a little secret.” She suppresses a grin at the way Sioned’s eyes light up at that and continues on, “these are your rooms, if you want them.”

Sioned raises an eyebrow in mock appraisal of the room as she peers about. She nods slowly and then stops, as if having a sudden thought.
“Wait…where’s the bathroom?”

Lara points her in the right direction, and Sioned goes forth to inspect.

A few seconds pass before Lara hears Sioned call out, her voice distorted slightly by the hollow echo of sound on bare surfaces.

“Oh fuck yes! Sold!!”, and she quickly returns, bouncing on the balls of her feet.

“Excellent, I’m glad you approve!” Lara says grinning at the still bouncing Sioned, “not that I thought you wouldn’t, but you know, it’ll be good to have you here.”

She hears a loud rumble and laughs out loud as Sioned grimaces and makes a movement with her hand as if to hush her stomach, “So, do you want breakfast here, or in the hall with everyone?”

“But lead me to the food, oh mighty ruler of the brekkie, and I’ll follow you anywhere.” Sioned winks.

Lara mimes putting on a crown saying, “well then, breakfast beware for we shall be joining the fray with a view to subjugation.” She laughs at her own ridiculousness and links her arm through Sioned’s as and they start walking in the direction of the main hall.

“Show me where the bacon’s at! Crown or no crown, I can subjugate the hell out of some crispy bacon right now.” Sioned’s stomach rumbles again and they both laugh as the door of the room closes behind them.

 

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