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Thread: Welcome to Wherever You Are [9.10 - Maera, Bradyn, Talia, Trina]

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    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Welcome to Wherever You Are [9.10 - Maera, Bradyn, Talia, Trina]

    The carriage jolted violently as they moved up the road and Satrina resisted the impulse to groan. "For all the gold the Hallwards have, you'd think they could spare some of it to construct a real live road instead of this..." She waved her gloved hand disdainfully. "...trench that we're going through."

    In truth it wasn't that bad, but it would be horrible for Trina not to have something to complain about. She glanced at her grand-daughter Talia and rolled her eyes, as if they were sharing some sort of inside joke. "Perhaps we can get Maera to do something about it. How are we supposed to come and visit if we can barely get up the hill? Heavens... ah, but there it is. Do you see it?"

    Trina leaned over to Talia's side of the carriage and pushed the curtain back and pointed. "I forget - have you ever been to Stone Forge, dear?"

  2. #2
    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Indeed it was a fairly bumpy ride, and a few times Talia found herself knocking up against the side of the carriage from where she sat. When her grandmother made a sharp quip about the roads, Talia could only look back at her and playfully grimace as the two shared a silent moment of amusement over the matter. A few times she bumped into poor Trina along the way despite trying not to barrel her over.

    “Maybe that’s the point?” Talia said with a giggle, “Perhaps instead of building a moat, their methods of defense are intolerable roads that give you whiplash.”

    She couldn’t help but take in mutual amusement with her grandmother before Trina pointed out the window and asked if she had been to Stone Forge before. Following her hand, Talia glanced out and scanned the area they were currently moving through, and she bit her bottom lip in thought before eventually replying, “I think so. It looks a bit familiar. But I am not really sure. I think I did when I was little.”

    Pulling away she looked over to Trina and shrugged, “Maybe something will click when we finally get there?”

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    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Trina frowned thoughtfully, squinting at the towers and spires of the city in the distance. "Well I'm sure we'll be back many times. After all, Maera and the babies are here and of course she'll want us to visit all the time. Better us than Delaney," she added with a smirk. And since she was bringing Maera a gift, she was sure that her granddaughter would welcome her anytime -- which would be helpful whenever she had worn out her welcome with Grant, Bosleigh, and the wee baby Seamus.

    "Perhaps something will be jogged when we arrive. I'm sure the family will be out to receive us." This was to be expected, thought Trina, and therefore if they weren't then there would certainly be hell to pay. Maera of all of her grandchildren was the most proper, most conventional, and most traditional. She had faith. "At any rate it will give us a chance to visit the new babies, which Maera insists are quite the beautiful little boys. They would be... what, your second cousins? Family trees can be so tiresome."

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    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Just the thought of being able to see the babies made Talia all giddy inside. She adored their chubby little baby cheeks and cute little fingers and toes! Satrina’s quip about Delaney was kind of amusing, and it made her wonder what her grandmother thought about her mother and father behind closed doors. Everyone know that was just how Satrina was. Prim and proper was the way to be, and Talia tried as hard as she could to please her, but it didn’t always go as planned.

    “Don’t let Grant hear you say that.” She smirked back as she remembered that her cousin often griped about the overbearing elements of Satrina’s need for him to finally settle down and have children. Thinking on that, a flash of memory sprinted through her mind.

    “Oh, that reminds me. How was the party in Welch Run?” Talia wanted to go so badly but she was feeling under the weather a bit and with the plague running about, there was all sorts of bustling around her over the semantics of a slight fever and dizziness. The summer sun was a bit intense this year which was why Talia didn’t feel well, but that caused her mother and father to forbid attending with her grandmother and cousins.

    It frustrated her because anywhere that there was a party there was a chance to meet someone; perhaps THE one. Despite encounter after encounter always going awry, Talia had hoped to go to the party to mingle with the other nobles. But alas it was not meant to be, so she hoped she could divulge some kind of information from her grandmother to see what all she missed. “Is everything okay there? Are the Peregrines really gone?”

    The last question was more out of concern than anything else. It was a bit troublesome that a family of knights just up and usurped a noble house. It kind of made her wonder what kind of people they were. “Anything really interesting happen while you were there?”
    Last edited by Talia Hepburn; 03-30-2014 at 03:42 PM.

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    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    "Oh, you know how it is when these little jumped-up families make their debuts," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Gold for days, but is there any substance to them? That remains to be seen, I suspect. The food was..." Trina inclined her chin and shrugged delicately, and decided to be charitable: "...adequate, although the wine left much to be desired. But then again not everyone has the gift for building a cellar that your grandfather did." She sighed wistfully, and neglected to add that she suspected Delaney was drinking her way through it this very moment.

    "It's difficult to say what will come from it all. The Peregrines were quite something in their day, but..." Her voice trailed off wistfully, but anyone who knew Trina knew that when she was wistfully silent, she wasn't wistfully silent for long. "So much has changed since my day. It's a brave new world for you young people. Certainly it's troubling that these... people are coming up the ranks. It should certainly put Grant on edge, and I'll be telling Maera to have the conversation with Bradley as well."

    She paused and drummed her fingers on her knee. "Which is really why it's so critical for Grant to finally settle in. It doesn't matter with whom just that it happens. Why is your cousin so stubborn? I ask!"

  6. #6
    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Despite Trina’s brief dismissal of the whole affair, Talia couldn’t help but continue to wear a smile as she listened to every word and try to imagine what it would have been like. She loved parties! The music, the atmosphere, and all of the people that were there. It was like an endless sea of opportunity, and though her grandmother had seen and done it all, she was still young and full of wonder to wanting to experience it all every chance she had.

    When Trina mentioned the wine cellar, Talia could only smile back and reply, “I haven’t had the pleasure, but maybe someday?”

    However it seemed that the older woman wore a look of consternation with afterthoughts kept only to her own mind after mentioning the wine cellar. But Talia didn’t have to wait long before those thoughts revealed themselves. Clearly the fact that common-born individuals were becoming lords bothered Trina a great deal. Talia wasn’t entirely certain if she agreed or not with her grandmother and wore a look of pensive thought to mirror things a bit. “I guess we will just have to wait and see what the De Angelis’ are like?”

    How did the Hepburns become noble? Or any other family for that matter? Clearly they were all people before they became elevated at some point, even if it was ages ago. But these were thoughts she kept to herself. Her grandmother seemed to be quite incensed about another topic which also came to light in a heartbeat: Grant Hepburn. Once again she was put in a situation where she had to come up with some viable answer, but Talia really didn’t have anything to say on it. Her cousin lived his life by his own terms from what she gathered; and she was not privy to much of it in regards to providing reasoning to Trina’s questions.

    “Maybe it’s a rebellious phase?” She shrugged with a sort of expression that gave off the impression that Talia was totally coming up with random reasons at this point. “Perhaps he has performance anxiety in living up to everyone’s expectations?”

    That last bit was a total pot shot to Grant, but she prayed in her mind that the gods would forgive her for it. Talia couldn’t resist cracking a bit of a joke at her cousin’s expense.

    Suddenly Talia saw through the window, in her grandmother’s direction, that they had cleared through the gates. Halting her conversation, she changed directions and looked behind her to see if she could get a better view and flashed a bright smile before placing a hand on Trina’s and replying, “We’re here!”

  7. #7
    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    "Yes," Trina said dryly, watching out the window as the castle came in full view. They were still a ways off from the castle proper; the carriage banked along the mountain road overlooking the canyon. But Trina could see, in the distance, a row of flags, and she suspected (or rather, she expected that the castle's servants would be lining the castle's entrance courtyard to welcome the guests. Maera and Bradyn should appear as the carriage pulled to a stop -- it was only the proper thing. "I see it, dear. How do I look?"

    The elderly woman straightened and adjusted her hat carefully, then turned to her granddaughter, raising her eyebrows inquisitively. When she had been set right, she reached over and attempted to render some unsolicited assistance to her granddaughter's appearance, straightening her hair and collar. "There we are, dear, we do want to make a good impression, don't we?" She smiled breathlessly and then craned her neck to look out again.

    "Leave your cousin's disposition to me," she murmured pleasantly. "It wouldn't do for you to worry Maera about it." Not when I could be worrying her about it to much better effect, was the silent addition. She reached over and took Talia's hand between her wrinkly ones. "What an adventure, my dear. Look, I think I see Maera, do you see her? Of course my eyesight isn't what it used to be."

  8. #8
    House Hallward Maera Hepburn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Maera stood in front of the looking glass as Rosamund finished lacing the crimson gown she was wearing. "Right back to your fighting weight, then, milady," Rosamund commented with a smile. The last traces of stubborn baby fat were apparently gone, as Maera's old dresses now fit without the telltale discomfort or bulge. "I doubt His Lordship minded, but I know that's a weight off your shoulders, milady - if you'll pardon the expression." Maera's dark and critical eyes surveyed her appearance and the corners of her lips turned down.

    "I suppose the dresses don't lie. Why, then, do I still feel so massive and bovine?" She sighed and pushed her hair back from her forehead. "Do something with this, would you? I think the silver and ruby combs, don't you?" Rosamund agreed and selected the items that her lady had instructed, working the elegant combs into Maera's luxuriant chestnut hair, pinning it back in the style that Maera usually wore. Afterwards, the lady's maid settled a stunning rubie necklace around Maera's throat.

    "Is it all to your satisfaction, milady?"

    "I suppose," Maera repeated, pursing her lips for a moment before turning to face Rosamund. "Granny didn't say whether she'd be bringing a maid and I don't know whether Talia's got one. Are you absolutely certain that you've trained Elin and Jana properly, just in case they're needed? Best to send Elin in with Granny - she'd eat poor Jana alive and I don't think Talia is one to bellow." They left Maera's dressing room, heading for the main hall, Maera fiddling with her wedding band as they took the stairs down. "Where is His Lordship? The steward went to fetch him when the sentries caught sight of the carriage. Send one of the hall boys to see where he's got to, would you?"

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    House Hallward Bradyn Hallward's Avatar  

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    The young Lord of Stone Forge was smiling as he came in from the yard. It was a sunny day and he had been enjoying some fresh air. He had a feeling that everything was about to get a lot more stuffy in Firefell. Looking up to find his wife and her maid descending the stairs, Bradyn paused and leaned against the high stone arch of the room. "You decided against the orange dress then?" There was a soft chuckle that accompanied the question, as the man well knew that Maera had never been fond of her family's colors. She may have married him just for the red of House Hallward.

    In a few steps he had met her at the base of the steps and took her hands in his. Kissing her cheek, he smiled. "My lady," he said while turning with her toward the door. "Should only be a few minutes now before the carriage makes the top of the hill. Are you anxious to see your grandmother?" Maera hadn't really discussed it, but Bradyn knew that his wife had mixed feelings about her family.

    Slowing his pace, he lingered just behind her and turned to appraise her bottom. "Hmmm," he said appreciatively. Perhaps we might just turn them away under the pretense of having other business," he offered, knowing that Satrina would just beat the gates down with her cane. "There were dispatches from your brother," he added. "Lord Hepburn graciously requests that the topic of his marriage not be broached. And to feel free to marry off Bosleigh or Seamus, if you get the chance."

    Pushing the door open for the woman, the two of them stepped out into the shaded archway that the carriage was approaching. The rest of the household was already assembled outside to await the approach. Bradyn could spy Maera's younger cousin looking out the window as they came up, and the telltale sign of Satrina's hat. Taking a deep breath, he smiled and waved. "Ready," he asked his wife through his teeth.

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    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Her grandmother was quick to dismiss most of the conversation again but it didn’t bother Talia in the slightest. She was busy looking out the window in wonder before being asked about appearances for presentation. Looking over, Trina always was impeccably dressed and presented from the tip of her hat to the bottom of her shoes. Even the gravel seemed to be afraid of mussing up anything she stepped upon. Perhaps someday Talia would be as pristinely put together, but for now she had to concentrate on making it out of the carriage in one piece.

    “You look simply perfect!” Talia replied with genuine flair and a happy disposition before she allowed herself to be picked and preened by her grandmother’s scrutinizing eyes. When asked about making a good impression, she was quick to reply, “Of course, Grandmother Trina.”

    In the back of her mind, though, she was simply praying that she would make that impeccable impression because she didn’t want her grandmother thinking the worse of her. As the carriage approached the front of the castle, Trina murmured softly about being the one to in charge of the destinies of her grandchildren and Talia nodded in agreement before looking back out of the window.

    “Oh yes! I think I see her too! She’s wearing a lovely crimson dress…and there’s Lord Hallward!” Since she could see him waving at the carriage she excitedly waved back. However she wasn’t sure how much they would be able to see given the size of the window, but she didn’t much care at this point. They were almost there!

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    House Hallward Maera Hepburn Hallward's Avatar  

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    "I don't even own an orange dress," Maera replied with exasperation, her eyes rolling. It was true; she had disposed of all things orange shortly after arriving to Stone Forge. She turned her cheek up to receive Bradyn's kiss and favored him with a smile. "You may go," she told Rosamund, who curtsied and headed for the door. She took her place with the rest of the senior staff on one side, between the castle's steward and Bradyn's valet. Maera turned her attention back to her husband and smiled pleasantly. "Very handsome," she said approvingly, reaching up to flick a bit of fluff from his shoulder.

    "If it were only that simple, I would be greatly in favor of my brother remaining a bachelor for life. But if he should die without an heir, then one of my other, less dutiful brothers would take over the running of Maple Glade. It would be madness. Someone has to be responsible and think ahead and it looks like it's going to be me. Again." Maera breathed out a sigh; she had done her bit and given her husband an heir and a spare. For Grant it would be a lot easier and a lot less painful. What was taking him so long?

    "Try not to antagonize Granny," Maera said as they turned towards the door. "At least not in front of Talia. It wouldn't do to set a bad example for her." They strode into the sun as the driver came down from the carriage and pulled open the door on Talia's side. Maera took a breath and inclined her head, ready to welcome her cousin and then grandmother.

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    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Trina couldn't help but smile at her granddaughter's enthusiasm. This is what family should be like, she reflected: eager to be reunited after time spent apart. Too often, particularly in the Hepburn family, ambivalence was the order of the day. She suspected it was much to do with her son's choice of bride; Delaney did not inspire warmth or confidence as much as boredom and spite. It was hard to look forward to being reunited with someone like that, and the children that she raised could be ... well, a challenge.

    Still, with Talia at least there was hope, and while Maera might not be the most warm individual, she was at least dedicated to her family. And Grant was not a bad seed. Not entirely.

    Whatever her granddaughter's intentions, it was Trina who descended the step from the carriage first, her dark violet dress swirling around her ankles as she once again found herself on terra firma. She was pleased to see that Maera had done it just as was expected. The servants and guards were all in attendance, in a show of respect for the house and their guests. Trina inclined her head; there was a hesitant moment when she and Maera simply regarded one another looking blankly pleasant before both broke the ice with a smile and walked forward to embrace. "My dear, I find it literally incredible that you are a mother of two. Bradyn -- forgive me, Lord Hallward -- how well you look. Aren't you going to kiss me?"

    She turned and swept a hand back towards Talia. "Of course you remember Maera's cousin Talia. Come and kiss your cousins, my dear."

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    House Hallward Bradyn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Bradyn had always loved watching the dynamic between the two women of House Hepburn. By rights, he and Allison had a relationship that was relatively businesslike. She had her own ventures and he had his, and very rarely did they intersect. So much so that his younger sister kept a separate residence in town lately. But he and his sibling were practically warm compared to the relationship of the Hepburn women.

    Bowing the the matriarch as she approached, Lord Hallward smiled. "Bradyn will do perfectly," he assured her, and stepped forward to kiss her on the cheek respectfully. Turning back to Maera, he nodded. "Can hardly tell, can you? She'll be ready for two more before you know it." Bradyn fixed his wife with a wink that told her that he knew he would be in trouble later for that statement, but for now he was enjoying himself.

    When the younger woman emerged, Bradyn nodded. "Of course," he said pleasantly. "We met at the Harvest Festival, two years past." Motioning to the servants, Bradyn had umbrellas brought to shade the three women while two of the hands removed the horses and carriage. "We are happy to welcome you both to our home. Maera has been positively bubbling with excitement to have you here."

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    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    It didn’t matter where Talia had grown up from; she was always enamored with the different lifestyles of her relatives and that of other noble lords and ladies. As the carriage made its way to the front of the castle, she let her grandmother go first since it was only right that she be the one to lead the visit. Carefully Talia reached over and pulled some of the excess skirts away from her grandmother’s feet so that the elderly woman would not get snagged by the carriage with them. This was something she performed quietly and unnoticed while Trina was making her way out.

    The initial welcome was neutral at first, but soon Talia could hear the happy tidings of Trina’s overjoyed words raining praises upon her granddaughter’s double blessing. It was something that brought a smile to Talia’s face as she watched from within with calm bliss as she watched the scene play out in front of her. This was something she wanted for her future as well, but something that might take a while given her opportunities or lack thereof. To some degree she envied her cousin; married to a handsome lord, and now a mother of twins. She could only hope that she would have the same opportunities in due time.

    But when Trina gestured in her direction, Talia suddenly snapped out of her trace and hurried herself along. Not paying attention to how she was getting out, she went to take her steps out of the carriage and must have caught herself by the skirts. With a hook of her shoe and tug of her dress, Talia was about to make her glorious exit out to join a welcome to her cousins with a grand smile upon her face. However that was not the ending that was granted to her.

    Instead she felt her foot buckle, and with hands flailing she tumbled forward. A servant saw the scene in slow motion and reached out to help, and Talia’s fall was now broken as she was face-first upon a strange man’s chest.

    “Ow…ow-ow-ow….” She muttered softly to herself before realizing what had happened. Mortified, her eyes snapped open and she immediately pushed herself off of the gentlemen who had gone to be her savior. “Sorry!”

    Now she felt utterly embarrassed as she looked at her relatives whilst dusting herself off before looking back at the carriage and then forward at her grandmother. Her mind raced to come up with an excuse of any kind to make reasons for what had just transpired. “I believe…that step might be a little broken. It…caught me by surprise. I don’t remember it being like that when I got in. Maybe it loosened on the way…here.”

    As she tried her best to look as unhinged by the major fall, she looked over at the servant who was getting up and gave him an uncomfortable nod, “Thank you for…breaking my fall. You have my sincerest appreciation.”

    ‘Gods this is embarrassing.’ Talia thought to herself as she nodded to the man to dismiss him before slowly making her way over to her family and putting on a forced smile as though her tumble had been no big deal.

    “Lord and Lady Hallward, it is so good to see you! Congratulations on the new babies!” Talia replied with excitement that would hopefully steer all of them away from thinking upon that wretched display of faltering grace.

  15. #15
    House Hallward Maera Hepburn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Maera nearly leaped forward, but the quick thinking of her staff made the move obsolete. While Granny clucked and shook her head, muttering that it looks perfectly fine to me Maera walked over and took her cousin by the shoulders, nodding her thanks to the man who had helped her. She bent and kissed Talia on both cheeks. "It looks downright hazardous," she told Talia with a smile. "I shall have Lord Hallward's carpenters make repairs immediately. And please, you must call me Maera.

    She looped her arm through Talia's and drew her over towards Bradyn. "You know my husband, Bradyn, Lord Hallward? Cousin Bradyn, I suppose, when we're en famille," Maera amended at Trina's cleared throat. Of course, Maera didn't need to be told how to run a proper household, but she gave Talia the benefit of the doubt as well. "The babies - yes, they are a sight to see. You'll have lots of opportunity to see them while you're here. They are the most darling little boys, and I'm not only saying that because they're mine." Maternity had grown on Maera, and at the discussion she was almost incandescent with pride.

    "Come inside, do," Maera instructed, leading Talia towards the door and leaving Bradyn to escort Granny. It would serve him right for that crack about another two babies. "Have you both brought maids? I've asked Rosamund to instruct a few of the senior maids to look after you if you haven't. If you want to go and wash the dust off we'll be taking tea in the drawing room before luncheon."

  16. #16
    House Hepburn Talia Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Naturally she met gazes with her grandmother who clucked her tongue in a disapproving fashion. All Talia could really do was blush and look apologetic about it along the way. Luckily Maera didn’t seem too phased by it, and greeted her with kisses to which she was grateful that they could sweep this whole embarrassing affair behind them. In fact, Maera went so far as to go along with her stating that the carriage looked hazardous and that someone would take a look at it.

    “Oh yes, that would be a wonderful idea.” Talia replied back, eventually looping her arm with Maera’s as they went along inside. Talia wiggled her fingers at Bradyn as he was being introduced to her again and now it was all girl talk from here on out!

    Discussion of the babies came up, and she couldn’t wait to play with them, “I don’t think it is being biased at all. They’re probably the cutest boys in the whole of Tuneric! Especially with you and Bradyn’s mannerisms and looks, they’ll be sincere heartbreakers when they get older.”

    She was teasing, of course, but Talia couldn’t wait to be married with a family of her own. For now she would live vicariously through her cousin and dote on the little boys. When the conversation moved on to the maids, Talia paused and replied with a low tone, “I believe grandmother brought hers, but my maid is shared with my other siblings so I couldn’t bring her along. I would be greatly appreciative of one of your senior maids if that isn’t too much trouble.”

    Talk of tea sounded delightful and Talia put on an expression of nostalgia, “Oh I would love that, Lady Maera. Yes, I will go…clean myself up.”

    Looking down she noticed that her tumble had made a bit of a mess of her dress. Giving her grandmother one more sheepish grin of apology, Talia would make quick claim of cleaning up before tea.

  17. #17
    House Hallward Bradyn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Bradyn was forced to admit that he had been expecting a little more fanfare than he had witnessed thus far. But that was fine by him. Nodding sagely at his wife's comments on the steps of the Hepburn carriage, he smiled and returned Talia's little wave. Allowing the younger women to go before them, Brady proffered his arm to Satrina. "I think you will quite approve of Stone Forge since Maera has taken over the role of Lady of the House, Grandmere," he told her. "I know my father would have approved."

    Bradley had been dead only six months, and it pained the son a little that the man had not lived to see his grandsons. But the gods had a certain way of ruining all the best laid plans, and there was nothing for it but to continue with his father's plans. Bradyn had consolidated his holdings, and grown their fortune in the time that Maera had been with child, and things in Stone Forge were as strong as ever. His sister had grown more distant, but he only supposed that she was doing her best to avoid his prospects for her hand in marriage.

    "I trust the rest of your family is well," he asked as they moved inside. "Lord Grant has been a valuable ally, and a kind brother since my marriage. I must compliment you on the job you have done with your kin."

  18. #18
    House Hepburn Trina Lallersby Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Trina took Bradyn's arm and shifted her cane to her other hand. "Oh yes, well I've heard that she has been busy learning the ropes, as they say," she said with a shrill tone. "I was never quite sure, and of course Maera's breeding is much, much too good to say so, but I was always curious about the role of the Dowager Lady Hallward," said Trina. "Is Maera in command of the setup here at Stone Forge, or has the Dowager Lady Hallward kept the reigns held quite tightly?" The old woman leaned heavily on Bradyn's arm. "Do you know, I found it quite difficult to give up the reigns to my daughter-in-law." She paused and then leaned over. "You're family so it's not letting the side down to say that the woman is a complete fool. I was surprised to find that Hepburn Castle has survived this long, but then again my son always did listen more to me than to that woman. My grandson too, thank heaven."

    They continued along the way. "Oh yes, they're all well for better or worse. I keep trying to get Grant to commit Bosleigh to some order of monks or another, but so far no dice. You know, it's high time Grant was settled, don't you think? Do you have any thoughts on who might be good? He had such a head for it when dealing with Maera - if you don't mind my saying, Lord Hallward, you are as charming as you were an advantageous match. I hope it is not vulgar in me to observe. Anyway, he seems hopeless when it comes to arranging his own match. If only my son had handled it before he died." She sighed quietly.

    "Any rate - how are you? How do you find fatherhood? I think it suits you, you look well."

  19. #19
    House Hallward Maera Hepburn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Maera pulled her cousin closer and murmured, "Don't let the old bat get you wrong-footed. Like all grandmothers, she needs reasons to interfere. Combine that with a chronic need for being needed and we've got ourselves quite a character on hand with Granny. But don't worry, you won't need to see a lot of her while you're here if you don't want to." She gave her cousin a conspiratorial smile, then dragged her index finger along her bottom lip before laying it vertically across her mouth. "No names, no drill."

    She led the family up the stairs to the guest rooms. The Hepburn retinue would share a suite of the better guest rooms, a bedroom with attached sitting room for each of the guests, sharing a common area that Maera had stocked with items that might interest them - needlework supplies, books on a range of topics, and dried flowers for Trina's use in arranging. Maera was pleased to see that the trunks had already been delivered and the maids were busy unpacking.

    "If you pull the cord by the fireplace, a footman will come to you. Of course you are free to explore the castle as much as you wish - not the dungeons, of course, you'll understand - but I would suggest ringing for a footman to escort you to dinner or the library for tea or wherever you're going until you get acquainted with the place. I've already alerted them and they will be happy to assist you." She crossed the room to indicate the cord, a richly embroidered tapestry that, when pulled, would ring a bell in the corridor. The hall boy would then dash down to the servants' hall and request a footman. It was all rather genius, Maera thought. "If you need a bath drawn or anything at all, just pull and someone will be by presently."

    "Right then. Shall we settle downstairs for tea in about half an hour? Will that give you enough time to recover from the journey?" She clasped her hands in front of her and gave her visiting relations a smile.

  20. #20
    House Hallward Bradyn Hallward's Avatar  

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    Bradyn didn't mind the old woman at all. She was direct, but he had always been one to appreciate a blunt conversation. "The Lady Jane is enjoying her retirement," he said with a smile. "She spends a lot of time at my sister's estate, but Maera has done a good job of pretending to solicit her opinion in matters of no consequence. Just to make her feel useful. Your granddaughter is quite in control, my lady." The tone in Bradyn's voice made it sound as though he were quite proud of the fact.

    As she commented on Leigh, Hallward couldn't help but chuckle. "Ser Bosleigh is a bit of fun. I could see why he would be problematic when it came to high politics." He was shaking his head with a smile, patting the older woman on the top of her hand. "As for Lord Grant," he said, his face sobering a little. "Any wife whose name is not Shellten would be beneath him," he said, paying a serious compliment to his brother in law. "He is handsome, noble, and kind. King Cailen would be foolish if he didn't make sure one of his sisters went to Maple Glade."

    Stopping to take a look down at himself, Bradyn nodded his agreement. "They are my prides and joys. For all the rambunctiousness of my youth, I must say that I am the happiest I have ever been. Perhaps my old man knew something after all," he conceded with a smile.

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