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Thread: Like Taking Candy From a Baby - 11/9, late morning, Shellten Observatory - Bosleigh/Aloise

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    House Hepburn Bosleigh Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Like Taking Candy From a Baby - 11/9, late morning, Shellten Observatory - Bosleigh/Aloise

    "Let me get this straight," the man looked at his older brother skeptically. "You want me to harass a fourteen year-old girl, and try to make her cry?" Bosleigh turned to look around himself to see if there was something more elaborate going on. Grant was clearly trying to implement some kind of practical joke to which he was the victim. Sensing that they were very much alone though, he turned back to the other man and frowned. "On purpose?"

    Grant's arms were folded across his chest, and his face betrayed nothing. There was a small shrug in his shoulders, and Bosleigh just shook his head in disbelief. "And you're gonna keep Seamus away from me?" Because having Leigh drubbed by his kid brother would probably be the only outcome that could give Grant any pleasure from this twisted game which he was playing. But the older man nodded and Bosleigh sighed in exasperation. "There's nothing about politics that I'll ever understand," he finally conceded, before strolling past the man and into the library where Aloise Peregrine was sitting and reading one of the many books that Bosleigh refused to touch.

    Taking a seat on one of the couches opposite the girl, Leigh put his feet up on the table between them and draped his arms across the back of it. He sat there for a moment, just staring at the girl, until she finished whichever sentence or paragraph she was on and flicked her eyes up to recognize him. "So...you Seamus' girlfriend or what," he asked, only partially sure that she was not. She was petite and shy and not at all the kind of woman that he expected his younger brother to find attractive. But the baby of the family was an odd duck, so Leigh couldn't really be sure.

    "There's been a strange influx of women in the house lately, and for some unknown reason, they all seem to end up in someone else's bed but mine," he added, making it clear that he was not at all pleased by the scenario. "You another Remington outcast? I didn't realize we were all getting one," he told her, curling his fingers in front of his face and examining the nails for dirt. "I hope the one I get is a little more curvy than you last two," he told the young Peregrine, before he added, "No offense, of course."

    He leaned forward a bit, trying to read the title off the back of the book in her hands. "And less literate," he opined, wondering how people had so much free time in their lives that they insisted on leafing through books. "You moving in full time," he asked her, waiving for the door. "It seems the other one lives here now too. Although I don't know if she is returning with us to Maple Glade after the coronation. I haven't really been briefed on the whole, 'This is your new Remington bed warmer' policy, you see."



    @Aloise Peregrine

  2. #2
    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Even though she held a book in her hands, Aloise was only partially focused on its contents. How could she devote her full attention to it, when there was so much else to think about? She had to make sure her posture was right, that she was holding herself properly, that she didn't look troubled or distracted. At the same time, she was fighting to ignore the constant litany of doubts and horrors that played in her head, all day every day. No matter how much work was put into her this week to try and prepare her for her meeting with the Queen, it was really just building a hollow shell of propriety and confidence; the real work of rebuilding her personality, comfort, and autonomy would come later, and take much longer.

    One trait of her fear that she was using to her advantage was a heightened awareness of where people were, when she was alone especially; she tracked where the servants were, who came and went, their proximity to her. As such, even though she didn't look up from her book, she noticed the moment Bosleigh entered the room, and when he flopped down across from her. She could feel his eyes on her, but she waited a moment before she looked up at him.

    His question caused her to wrinkle her nose at the absurdity of it, but he kept talking before she could wrap her mind around an answer. Delaney had said she'd get along with Bosleigh, but if this was the sort of man he was, she wasn't so sure she wanted to spend enough time with him to find out one way or the other.

    She could feel the panic rising up her spine, not only at the obvious implications he was throwing all over the place, but also at the prospect that people actually thought she was...involved...with Seamus. Was she really giving that impression? Would that hurt her case with the Queen, if people thought she'd run away with Seamus? But while her panic might've shown in her eyes for a moment, Bosleigh kept talking, and it gave her a chance to clamp down on it. When she felt lost, she defaulted to trying to do whatever Delphia might've done, and she'd seen her sister deal with people like Bosleigh before.

    There was a subtle shift in her demeanor, a cooling in her eyes, and she waited until he was finished before she even tried to speak. "No, I'm not Seamus's girlfriend. I'm also not a Remington, or offended at not being curvy enough, or a...bed warmer."

    She paused there, her distaste for the euphemism behind the last two words clear. Delphia wouldn't have given him any more than that; she hadn't had time for anyone she found bothersome. But Aloise could, in theory, end up seeing Bosleigh quite a bit if she ended up truly becoming a Hepburn ward, and if she was honest she didn't really like being false to anyone, even if it was good practice. When she spoke again, she'd softened a little back into something more natural, some of her vulnerability leaking through even though she knew she should be working harder to hide it.

    "I...don't know how long I'll be staying. I suppose it depends. Although your mother did invite me to come visit Maple Glade, so perhaps I will be traveling with you when you go back." Delaney had actually invited her to come live there, but her fate depended on what Delphia wanted to do; even if her sister wanted to settle somewhere else, though, Aloise was definitely going to Maple Glade to visit, that much she knew.

    ----
    @Bosleigh Hepburn

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    House Hepburn Bosleigh Hepburn's Avatar  
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    The entirety of the whole thing bothered Leigh a little. Had he made a living breaking the hearts of innocent girls all over the island? Yes. But he had never meant them any harm or ill will. And while the man thought that he had a good idea of what his brother was trying to do, Bosleigh was acutely aware that this little foray into Aloise's psyche was entirely likely to make him look like a very bad guy. There was a big difference between being the charmingly lovable bad guy, and the unnecessarily malicious bad guy.

    Leigh knew of course that Grant was at the door listening, and he would be in trouble if he just abandoned the mission. It was difficult for him to reckon that he was in any way helping the child, but he wasn't the political operative. Everybody had a job to do, he supposed. "Just as well, I guess," he told her, allowing his eye to leer at the girls ankles for a moment. "Ain't really much of you there. Seamus always had an odd eye for women, but you ain't to his fancy anyway, I don't reckon. Still, pretty enough in the face. In a few years I reckon you'll think differently about it."

    Leigh didn't know the girl from Gisela Darktide, though. For all he knew she was so damaged that there was no hope for her romantic prospects. If she was older, she likely would have suited his kid brother. If he hadn't spoiled her for him. He shifted his weight a little bit on the sofa so that he leaned more along the length than upright. The stance was less confrontational, but that hardly mattered. "So who are you and why are you here, if not for my brother's amusement? Any agreement to ward another noble wouldn't have slipped by me, I don't think. Let me guess..."

    The man closed his eyes and seemed to consider it for a moment. "Obviously not a betrothal. I can't imagine Grant offering much for you, even if it meant the opportunity to punish myself or Gavin. So...runaway? Nah. Grant's got too much at stake to harbor the vagrant child of another noble. Bosleigh started to count on his fingers aimlessly. He stopped, looking at the girl again. "Bastard daughter?" He did the math again. Unlikely. But he would wait to see if she reacted to it anyway.

    Giving up the game, Bosleigh let his eyes settle on her, almost accusingly. "Orphan," he finally said at last. "Nowhere else to go, huh?"

    @Aloise Peregrine

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    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Aloise looked both insulted and vaguely disgusted as Bosleigh appraised her like she was some market pig. She felt intensely uncomfortable under his gaze, and she shifted in her seat a little, wishing she could protect herself somehow from his leering. It reminded her too much of the looks she'd get from Ethan; often he'd give her a hungry look when he was busy with something else, like a promise that he'd find her later, and it would leave her in terror. Leigh's comment on her face made her shudder, and she turned to look away, trying to hide how close she was to breaking.

    It took some doing, but Aloise managed to get herself back from the brink before so much time had passed that it would have drawn question. The fact that Grant had promised she'd be safe here helped, but even more helpful than that was the fact that she knew Seamus wasn't far away. He wouldn't let his brother hurt her.

    When she looked back to the man reclining across from her, she looked distrustful of him, and displeased, which even in and of itself was an improvement from before. That she felt entitled to object instead of just cowering meant she was remembering her worth. She let him prattle on with his guesses, flinching a little each time he flung a casual insult at her. Finally he seemed to settle on what he seemed most likely, casting the word "orphan" at her almost like an insult.

    "My parents are dead, yes." There was the barest hint of a sneer in her voice, a glimpse of the attitude she might grow to wield when she was stronger. For now, though, it lacked any bite, but kept her from sounding shattered. She wasn't really motivated to tell him anything further; she didn't owe him anything, he wasn't here to help her, and frankly he seemed content to make up answers to his own questions without her input. But maybe if she humored him a little, he would find her boring and go away.

    When she spoke again her voice was flat, although whether it was to get some emotional distance from what she said or because she was just sick of dealing with Bosleigh, it was impossible to tell. "I am Aloise Peregrine. Lord Hepburn is helping me with some business, and has graciously allowed me to stay here until it's resolved in a few days." It wasn't technically a lie, but she didn't feel safe telling him any more than that. "I'm sorry if my presence here bothers you, but I'll do my best to stay out of your way for as long as I'm here." If she was honest she would be avoiding him more for her own benefit than for his, but she couldn't very well just say that she found him incredibly unpleasant to be around.

    ----
    @Bosleigh Hepburn

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    House Hepburn Bosleigh Hepburn's Avatar  
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    The subtle shift of her body was enough to cause Bosleigh to abandon his staring. He wasn't attracted to her, and he very much disliked the way her discomfort made him feel. He was more than capable of being insensitive without actually being deplorable. It was clear that nerves were being struck, but if Grant was trying to test her resiliency, Leigh had to give the child credit. She may have well been a little bit intimidated, but she was managing to hold up relatively well.

    Pushing himself up off of the couch, Leigh strolled casually around to the bookshelf that was behind where the girl was sitting. He didn't look to see if her eyes followed him. The fire that was at her back was warm, and the room was far more comfortable than either of it's inhabitants. "Raw deal," he said, referencing her status as an orphan, even as he pretended to look at the tomes that were lined up on the wooden racks. "Though I guess you lucked out in the end, finding a well to do family to attach yourself to in the meantime. Guess if you are resourceful enough, you can make the best of any situation." In the end, Bosleigh couldn't say if that much was true or not. He was certain that if given the choice, Aloise would rather have her parents alive and well. But, being with the Hepburns was never dull, and a lot better than most other scenarios.

    There was nothing for the man on the bookshelves, a fact to which he was well aware. He had kept a brandy flask behind one of the works, but Thomas had found it ages ago and moved it on him. "Peregrine? Of the Welch Run Peregrines," he asked, as though there were Peregrines in every city on the island. "I didn't think there was any of you left. Probably squired with a couple of your cousins. Good men, the lot of them. Learned quite a bit about wenching from the Peregrine lads." Not that Bosleigh had to suppose, but if the fall of House Peregrine was based at all on how some of their men treated the local tavern girls, it wouldn't surprise him at all.

    Bosleigh was somewhat impressed that the girl had the wisdom to try and hide behind Grant. It was the closest thing to diplomatic immunity that she could hope to access while in Hebron. But, since Bosleigh wasn't his brother's biggest fan, that wouldn't stop him from throwing a few extra jabs. Especially with the older man in earshot. "With all due respect, Lady Peregrine," Leigh said with a chuckle. "I have known Lord Hepburn my entire life. He is shrewd, callous, and manipulative. And you have nothing that I can see to offer him. What you are doing is not conducting business. The question is simply a matter of what he is using you for," the knight offered. "Because Grant Hepburn doesn't do business without a profit."

    Turning to look at her where she sat, Leigh shook his head. "Whatever you were trying to escape, you have escaped. If you knew what was good for you, you would run now before you are caught in a completely different trap."

    @Aloise Peregrine

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    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Having Bosleigh cross to linger behind her almost made Aloise more uncomfortable than she had been when he'd been staring, and she was at a loss about the proper way to deal with it. She wanted to keep her eyes on him, but felt like she wasn't supposed to act wary. Grant had stressed the importance of confidence, and it was what she struggled the most with; it wasn't a skill it was easy to acquire quickly, and the added pressure of the deadline and what was at stake did not make things easier.

    The man's words, with the implication that she was leeching off the Hepburns, stung, and it was good that he couldn't see her face anymore; she was fighting hard against tears, and largely losing the battle. It seemed to her that the Hepburn brothers' personalities came in degrees, with Seamus on one end of the moral spectrum and Bosleigh as far to the other as he could get, and Grant somewhere in the middle. There was no way Seamus could have spoken so callously, wielding a casual cruelty as he spoke with surprise that there were any of her family left alive. "There are only three of us," she said quietly, almost under her breath. "All the men are dead."

    Aloise was reaching her limit. Bosleigh's comments stung at her from different directions, picking apart her looks, her worth, her family, and now her safety. The blood was rushing in her ears as it always did when she was getting overwhelmed, and she was having more and more trouble fighting the anxiety back. Clamping down on it wasn't helping, and the way the man spoke these insidious things as simple given truths was getting under her skin in a way she couldn't ignore.

    "You think I don't know I have nothing?" Her posture had gone rigid and tense, her hands on the edge of the couch and her gaze on the floor in front of her, and her voice, when she spoke out, was louder than even she had expected. As she went on there was a level of restraint that was gone now, and she was almost shaking with the effort of keeping control, her words coming fast as her thoughts began to race. "I don't need someone to tell me that I'm nothing and have nothing to give. I can't pay back the debts I'm gathering, but I can't just stop now and let the only family I have left stay where they are. I'll do what I have to, but I won't run. I can't run. Nothing can be as bad as what I left. I won't live through that again."

    ----
    @Bosleigh Hepburn

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    House Hepburn Bosleigh Hepburn's Avatar  
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    As the girl started to falter, Leigh was glad that she hadn't turned to follow him with her eyes. He wasn't sure that he could have stood up to seeing the hurt in them. Aloise had done nothing to him, and she certainly did nothing to warrant the emotional abuse that he was putting her through. Test, or no test, there was no convincing him that what was going on here was for a good purpose. Perhaps the Peregrine girl had to trust Grant, but Bosleigh was less obliged to follow his orders blindly, and in the younger knight's mind, this had gone on far enough.

    "I know," he said. Leigh had a good portion of the Peregrine story straight from some of the men who had been there when that family was put to the sword. Including Danush DeAngelis. Of course, it had been easy to not see the Peregrine girls as real people until one of them was sitting near tears in your house. It wasn't until just at this moment that Bosleigh Hepburn had to wonder what it might have been like for Talia and Maera, if he and Grant and Seamus had been murdered by rebellious peasants from outside Maple Glade. "I'm sorry," he told her, knowing that his condolences were far too late to mean anything.

    The girl's diatribe caused the man a small smile, and even as she spoke venom at the ground by her feet, he began to move back around her couch to where he had originally began speaking to her. As she finished, Leigh tilted his head slightly and looked down at her. "Is that it," he finally asked, folding his arms over his chest. As strange as it was for Leigh to feel compassion for other human beings, or for him to discern what was right and wrong without being told, he had to fight the urge to go to her side and hug her. Grant had worried about getting too close to her, as she was skittish. And after how he had just acted, even though it was a farce, attempting to force her to deal with him at an intimate range would have been cruel.

    Shaking his head, Leigh gave her a warm smile. "Nobody here is interested in what you can offer them, Aloise. Despite what I said, or what you may have heard, there is no cost associated with being a Hepburn. And we aren't the kind of people who worry overmuch about the worth of our friends. Though we do prefer them to have a better idea of their own value than you do." Looking down at his belt, Bosleigh began to unbuckle the scabbard that was attached to it. The blade inside of it was heavy in his hand, and would certainly be more than the girl could easily wield.

    Kneeling down on his side of the table, Bosleigh lowered his head so that she couldn't avoid seeing his face any longer. "If my siblings were trapped in a dangerous place, and I was their only hope, I would hope that I had your courage, Lady Peregrine. I would pray for your conviction and selflessness." Placing the weapon on the table in front of her, Leigh stood up to his full height once more. "My sword is yours, Aloise. Without debt or expectation."

    Leigh could sense Grant entering the room and looked over his shoulder at him, a small glare in his eyes. Neither of the brothers spoke, and the younger looked back to the girl sitting across from him. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings, Lady Peregrine. It wasn't my idea, and I didn't much like it. I hope that you will forgive me," he told her, turning to look at his brother again.

    @Aloise Peregrine

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    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    "Is that it?"

    Aloise's head snapped up, anger flashing in her reddened eyes and her face strained with the effort of keeping herself even remotely together. She didn't understand the expression on his face, or the change that had come over him. Why was he apologizing now, after everything else he'd said? He'd already made it clear that he didn't care about her, about the death of her family or the situation she was in. She wasn't about to believe his niceties now.

    She listened warily as he echoed what she'd heard from every other Hepburn: that she owed them nothing, and that she needed to realize her own worth, but coming from him the words seemed hollow. There wasn't really any way she could believe him, and if was true that he'd squired with Peregrine men he would know better than the others why she had such a hard time grasping the idea. Her anger with him was at least giving her the benefit of something to focus on, staving off the panic attack that had been enveloping her only moments before.

    As he looked down to his sword belt and she heard the buckle click, though, Aloise cringed away and whimpered as though dealt a physical blow. That was how it had started, the night they'd been dragged into the De Angelis's poached bedrooms. She could clearly remember how slowly Dastan had removed his sword belt, laying the weapon aside in clear view so they could see the blood that stained it even though the blade had been cleaned. Even though she sat in the library, in her mind she was there in that bedroom again, paralyzed with fear.

    Something in her mind was still present in the real world, though, because she registered Bosleigh coming closer, and her distrust of him pulled her back up through her nightmares into reality. His words were kinder than she would have expected from him, and he said her name without any sneer or implication of insult. She looked from the sword on the table back up at him, her confusion as clear on her face as her hurt. Unusually, she hadn't noted someone else enter the room, but seeing Leigh look over his shoulder she followed his gaze.

    Grant's arrival did not bring the girl any comfort; even though she was slightly more comfortable with him than she was with Bosleigh, she was immediately struck with the worry that he would be disappointed with her. They were running out of time, and here she was falling to pieces, no matter how justified she felt she was. But he said nothing, and as Leigh spoke she turned her attention back to him.

    "Wasn't your idea?" She looked from one brother to the other, hoping one would have an answer for her. "Why would you...why would you say all those things, if you didn't mean them and didn't want to?"

    ----
    @Bosleigh Hepburn @Grant Hepburn
    Last edited by Amy; 03-07-2017 at 11:41 AM.

  9. #9
    House Hepburn Bosleigh Hepburn's Avatar  
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    There was a long moment that passed as Bosleigh considered the girl's question. It would have been easy to just tell her that he had been sent here to test her. But perhaps it was something she needed to figure out on her own. If Grant had been nearby for the entirety of the exchange, that should be enough of a giveaway as to the method that was being implemented in order to prepare her for the detractors that she would face in the court proper.

    "Men will say things they need to say, in order to reach the ends they seek to reach, Aloise. Men will lie. You need to be prepared for that if you are going to survive here in Hebron. If you think me mean, I fear that you haven't seen anything yet." Dastan's family and their allies would not be kind to the girl. And when they had finished with their accusations, they would not be as quick to apologize as Bosleigh had been. "More than this, you must think of yourself as a warrior, Lady Peregrine. You can not go into battle without the proper training. Just as Seamus and I can not go to war without being prepared. Sometimes, knights get hurt in the training yard. Their sparring partners might not mean to hurt them, but it happens."

    Leigh straightened himself and smoothed down his tunic, before rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "I do hope that we can be friends, Aloise. I would like that. And maybe, when all of this is done, you and I can sit down and talk more," he said hopefully. "Like I said, if you need me, I'm here," he told her, looking down at the sword, but making no move to take it.

    Turning, the man made his way toward the door. Grant opened his mouth to say something to him, but Boseligh crossed his jaw with the fist of his right hand before his older brother could even get the words out. "Go fuck yourself," he said, before exiting the room and leaving Grant holding his hand over his mouth, as small drops of blood formed on his lip.

    The Lord of Maple Glade made no move to chase or chastise his brother, and only ran his tongue over his lip to help it stop bleeding. Lifting his hand to hold his sleeve against it, Grant looked at Aloise. "You alright," he asked.

    @Aloise Peregrine

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    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Aloise didn't move much as she listened to Bosleigh, both because she was trying to note what he was saying and because she needed to calm down enough that she could think straight. Walking back the panic and anxiety was extremely difficult, but she was getting a little better at it with practice; and, when it came down to it, she was more resilient than she had been when she'd arrived in Hebron. Bosleigh didn't quite have the right of it - it wasn't that she couldn't handle people being mean, but rather that she hadn't expected it from him. Delaney had given her the impression that she'd get along well with the middle brother, and there had been no warning that the first real interaction they'd have would have him being awful to her.

    His parting words for her did dampen the anger she felt a little. He certainly didn't seem at ease with what he'd done, and he sounded genuine in his hope that they could find themselves on better terms. She almost tried to stop him as he left, but the sudden violence as he passed his brother was enough of a shock to keep her from speaking out. The sound of the impact made the girl jump, and she watched the exchange with a startled bewilderment. Was this...normal, for these people?

    "I will be," she answered carefully, her brows knit in concern for what had happened. It would be stupid to ask Grant if he was alright, since she'd just seen him get punched in the face, but she did reach into her sleeve and pull a clean handkerchief out, holding it out for Grant to take if he wanted.

    She sat in silence for a long moment, thinking back on what Bosleigh had said. "Sometimes, knights get hurt in the training yard. Their sparring partners might not mean to hurt them, but it happens." Grant had shown up when she'd started getting really upset and when Bosleigh had changed his tune, and while it might've been tempting to think he'd simply been passing by at the right time, Aloise was starting to get a picture of things.

    "Were you there the whole time?" She didn't ask with dread in her voice, like she was ashamed of what he might have overheard; rather, it seemed a formality, to confirm her suspicion. If this really had been like a sparring match, she was afraid she hadn't done very well, but little as she wanted it she knew she'd need the criticism she was bound to receive.

    ----
    @Grant Hepburn

  11. #11
    House Hepburn Grant Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Grant looked at the young woman offering him the handkerchief and shook his head. "Thank you, no," he told her calmly. "I deserve a little worse than just a soiled shirt for what I put you through," he added, answering her next question by default. He moved slowly to the bookshelf and pulled out an atlas, tossing it on the floor. Reaching behind where it was, he pulled the flask that Bosleigh had been hiding on the shelves above the book of maps. Grant dabbed a little of the brandy on his sleeve before touching it again to his lip. An audible hiss escaped his lips as the alcohol stung the open wound. Before he capped the metal flask, he took a sip and gritted his teeth against the taste of it.

    Picking the atlas up, he placed it back on the shelf and moved over to the couch where Leigh had been sitting. "Yes, I was," he confessed, without even bothering to look the least bit chastened by his brother's actions. "And I'm proud of you, Aloise. I just hope you understand why I told Bosleigh to talk to you in such a manner. He would never actually hurt you, I have to tell you that. It would be unfair of you to hold what he said against him." There was a small roll of his eyes and then he shook his head. "After all, if you give him enough time, I'm sure he'll find a more innocent way to annoy you."

    Sensing that his lip had finally started to clot, Grant put his arm down and leaned back on the couch, obviously more composed now. "Well," he said, crossing his leg over his lap. "Would you like to start breaking down what just happened? What you did well, what you need to work on? How you feel, how Bosleigh made you feel in the moment?" This was an exercise they had yet to engage in, but Grant seemed to think that it would serve Aloise well, if she could not only control her emotions, but if she could understand why and how she had. Or where she had gone wrong.

    Thomas was bringing in tea and cakes, and gave Grant a small look of wonder when he saw his lip, but he made no comment. He set a small plate of treats in front of the girl and nodded to her. "My lady," he said, all sincerity in his voice. Thomas was a professional valet, and he had cast no disparagement on Aloise since she had arrived. In private conversations, he had told Grant that he was hopeful for the girl, but he hadn't really had the opportunity to tell her in person. With a final smile, he disappeared from the room once more, leaving the tea setting between the two of them.


    @Aloise Peregrine

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    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Proud of her? Aloise was sure that she'd failed that little exercise, now that she knew what it was; after all, she'd lost her composure, let herself get angry, and almost lost herself completely there at the end. She could still barely look at the sword that was still on the table in front of her for what it was, without her mind overlaying the image of Dastan's sullied sword onto it. But there was a stubbornness building in her about it, and without realizing it she'd resolved that she would bring it herself back to its rightful owner.

    "He was saying things that other people probably will, like you did at our first meeting," she began, giving her view on why he'd made Bosleigh come talk to her so it could be corrected if she was wrong. At least she had lasted longer this time; Bosleigh's attacks had been less articulate than Grant's, but they'd come from different directions, like he was trying to find where her flimsy defenses were weakest. It had certainly worked, and it would take some doing to remind herself that the things he'd said weren't things he was happy about.

    The last thing Aloise wanted to do right now was to pick apart what had happened, but the way Grant asked left only one real option. Oh, sure, he probably wouldn't have stopped her if she'd said no and started to leave, but she would be a fool if she didn't take all the help she could get.

    Before she could answer, the valet came in with tea and cakes, and she was glad for the interruption. She gave him as warm a smile as she could and thanked him, and wondered what he thought of the situation before him; Grant with his split lip, her no doubt still red-faced, and Bosleigh's sword left on the table. Would he make the connection that all three were related? As Thomas left, Aloise leaned forward and poured them both a cup, leaving Grant to dress his as he liked. Taking her own, she sipped at it a little, her throat still too uncomfortably tight to even attempt one of the cakes yet no matter how good they looked.

    "Where should we start?"

    -----
    @Grant Hepburn

  13. #13
    House Hepburn Grant Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Grant was growing rather fond of the girl, and despite the momentary hiccup just now with Bosleigh, she had already grown in leaps and bounds since she had arrived. Her eyes grew brighter with each day, and as more and more time passed she seemed to have a better understanding of what she must do and how she must prepare to do it. If it was odd for her to think him proud, then she didn't look at herself through the same lenses that everyone else seemed to.

    "Bosleigh is a good knight, and a fine brother. And he will serve you well as a friend. But I think you knew this going into the encounter. Which is what made it an important exercise." He took the tea cup she had poured him and gingerly lifted it to the portion of his lips that wasn't busted. Thomas had the good sense to not bring it in piping hot, which was good, considering he likely would have had it dribble out the side of his mouth in a most undignified manner.

    Setting the cup back down, Grant continued. "There will be people who you assume are to be trusted, who may see in an advantage in betrayal. At moments like these it is easiest to give in to our emotions because we have been dealt a terrible blow, and we might find ourselves shaken. Just as my brother just gave into his," he said, smiling as he pointed to his lip. "But with all that being said, you didn't do too terribly."

    Her question made him glad to see that she was not too defeated to stay and talk. He gave her a short nod and then shrugged as he leaned back into the couch. He wanted her to feel at ease, and so he relaxed his posture so as to be unassuming. "Well, before I try to understand your thought process," he told her, sensing that she didn't want to begin by talking about herself, "Let's start from the beginning."

    Thinking back to how the encounter unfolded, Grant closed his eyes for a moment to help himself remember. "Okay," he said, opening his eyes. "For starters, this was your first encounter with Bosleigh. Until you know that someone is not your equal or better, you should always endeavor to rise when they enter the room. You never know when you might give the wrong impression among mixed company."


    @Aloise Peregrine

  14. #14
    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Cradling her teacup in both hands, Aloise drew comfort from its warmth even though the room wasn't at all cool; weeks spent in a cellar room with no heat had left the girl with what seemed like a permanent chill. She tried not to focus too much on Grant's swelling lip, but she couldn't help but notice the careful way he drank his tea. It was odd how unfazed he seemed to be by the whole thing, even smiling as he referenced it; it made the girl wonder if he was just hiding his anger, and would get back at Bosleigh when she wasn't around. Even if he thought he deserved it, could he really let such a thing go unanswered? It would have been unheard of in her family, but Aloise had to consider that things might really be that much different outside the walls of Welch Run.

    Grant's relaxed posture did make her feel a little more at ease, although in truth she still found the Hepburn lord quite intimidating. For her own part she'd settled on sitting straight and a little forward, the attentive stance helping keep her focused and engaged. It was harder to retreat into her own head if she at least put on the display of confidence she didn't come close to feeling.

    "Rise for equals or betters," Aloise repeated, nodding rather than trying to explain why she hadn't stood when Bosleigh had entered the room. Really, she didn't have that solid a reason - even though she hadn't met him yet she'd still known who he was, and since the rest of the family encouraged her to be informal with them, she'd extended that to him, too. But the matter of equals, no matter how unlikely it might be that she'd run into one at court, brought up a somewhat difficult question. "Would I...do I still count as a lord's niece, even though...? Or does Veronica count as the head of the Peregrine family now, and I'd be the head of house's cousin?" She wasn't even sure if there was a right answer to the question, considering Veronica was still in servitude to the family that had made every effort to eliminate Peregrine's standing. "I guess it's not so big a difference as to matter much...especially since I don't know who a lot of people are, so it's probably safer for me to just stand when pretty much anybody enters the room." But even as she said it, Aloise wasn't sure of her logic, especially if she had to convince others of her noble standing. "Right?"

    -----
    @Grant Hepburn

  15. #15
    House Hepburn Grant Hepburn's Avatar  
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    This was precisely the kind of thing that Rubianne should have her hands in, but Grant wasn't sure where she had gotten off to. That, and he didn't need the woman to see him taking a right cross from his brother. She had enough reasons to dislike Bosleigh without adding fuel to the fire. But the intuition she had developed after years of service in Princess Vivienne's household probably gave her added insight into how one could tell the difference between the castes of Tuneric.

    Grant was about to begin to give Aloise some tips about how to tell the difference, when her question literally knocked him backward. His feet came off the ground, and nearly spilled his tea in his hurry escape his reclined position so that he could lean forward and look the girl in the eye. "You listen to me, and you listen well, Aloise. You are the Lady of House Peregrine. And that is what you tell anyone who asks you, regardless of the fact that they might know better. For all intents and purposes, you are the head of your family now." Grant set his cup down and rose to his feet, putting his hand on his forehead and pushing his hair back in mild frustration. It wasn't Aloise's fault, but it was a reminder of how many details there were to consider and how little time remained before their introduction to court.

    Pacing a few steps around the couch he had been sitting on, Hepburn set his hands on the back of it and looked back to where the girl was sitting. "If yours is the only Peregrine voice that the court will ever hear, then you need to put as much strength behind it as possible, child. Usurping the authority of others may, in your mind, feel uncomfortable and wrong; but make no mistake Aloise, the last thing we need is your words cast aside as a messenger." More accurately, Grant Hepburn had met Veronica Peregrine. And he didn't need her summoned to court to make a mess of what he was trying very hard to get under control.

    That settled, Grant took a deep breath and focused again on the question at hand. "It's more a matter of good manners," he explained and then paused to consider an example. "As the head of a major house of Tuneric, there aren't many people on the island who would be considered my betters, in the eyes of society. That said, if you or Lady Remington were to enter a room where I was sitting, it would be polite of me to rise, especially if we were in mixed company." Thinking a little more, he raised a hand in front of himself and ticked off a few others. "If a man is wearing a sword, but not a uniform. That's a good sign they are a noble. If someone refers to you as my lady instead of m'lady, its a good sign that they are a noble. Thomas excluded," he amended. The valet had been treated more like family than help for years, and he had come to adopt the more formal addresses for the other members of the house. "The exception here, is any member of the DeAngelis family. I don't expect you'll encounter them outside of the Queen's presence, but if you should, you need not rise. They are a family beneath you, regardless of what has passed this year." That would be a real test of her control. Silently, Grant hoped that there would be no need for it though.

    Setting the matter of how to treat other nobles aside for the moment, Grant tested his lip with a touch again, and then frowned. It would be swollen for a day or more. "More to your conversation. When did you feel your control slipping away? What are the buttons we need to examine, so we can adjust how you react when people push them?"


    @Aloise Peregrine

  16. #16
    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Grant's abrupt shift in posture startled Aloise so much that it was only by the merits of a mostly-empty teacup that she didn't end up spilling her drink all over herself. After the stress of earlier, her reaction wasn't as composed as she would have wanted it to be, but it was better than it could have been; she couldn't keep her eyes on Grant's, and she leaned away from him slightly, but otherwise she kept hold of herself. In her mind, on the other hand, she was utterly reeling. She couldn't possibly act like she was head of her house! She didn't know the first thing about holding that kind of authority, and who would believe her?

    It was amazing, though, how quickly something could be reconciled and explained away, when the mind required it. She wasn't the rightful head of her family, but this wasn't a normal situation, either. They were a family without a head, without a seat, without a home. Maybe Veronica wouldn't be found suitable to be her father's heir - even Aloise couldn't deny her cousin was unstable, and she'd been accused of terrible things that wouldn't leave her guiltless when all was said and done. But no matter how things shook out in the end, none of it would happen if Aloise allowed herself to be dismissed. She had to borrow authority she didn't have, in the same way she had to believably conjure confidence and dignity. She would be able to give the title back to the one it belonged to once her job was done.

    As Grant ticked off examples, Aloise nodded to show she was following. It was a lot to remember, but she was hopeful she wouldn't have to mind it for long. She wasn't eager to stay at court much longer than she needed to, and then it would be someone else's job to remember when the head of a minor house should stand or sit or whatever. Her expression visibly darkened at the mention of the DeAngelis name, but it was hard to tell whether it was apprehension or anger behind it, and she didn't make an effort to comment on it.

    Taking a deep breath, Aloise braced herself for the task of reliving the previous conversation. "The whole time," she answered honestly, although she knew that wasn't helpful. "The way he was staring at me, like Ethan used to. Like it doesn't matter if I'm dirt, he's still got a use for me anyway." When she spoke there was an echo in her mind, Ethan's voice overlaying her own, and she took a shaky breath in as she tried to move on. "It was...I could get out of it, because I knew I was here, and if I was really in trouble I could scream and someone would help. But that won't work when I'm not here, or when I'm on my own."

    -----
    @Grant Hepburn

  17. #17
    House Hepburn Grant Hepburn's Avatar  
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    At first, Grant wasn't entirely sure what Aloise meant. Mostly he had been eavesdropping on she and Bosleigh, and had therefore failed to pick up much of what was conveyed with body language or looks. But the wording she used to describe it now that he was there made his eyes go wide. Holding up a hand for her to pause, he shook his head. "Let me assure you, Lady Peregrine, that my brother has no such use for you," he said, not sure if the clarification was necessary. Bosleigh was a creep in his own right, but he wouldn't even consider a girl Aloise's age, and Grant knew it. Even when they were younger men in the Reach, Leigh had no interest in anything other than the most voluptuous of maidens. And usually, he preferred they not be maidens at all.

    As for Ethan DeAngelis, Hepburn was not entirely sure he was the man to give Aloise a lesson on what young men want, and the reasons they want it. That was a chore for Delaney or Remington, depending on where the girl was when the conversation was warranted. "Say it again," he said to her unexpectedly. "How Ethan used to look at you." He was so busy defending his brother's lack of intentions that he hadn't completely heard her turn of phrase, but the prose and sequence caught in his head and he wanted to hear it again. That was the voice he needed. It had taken him two days now to get it out of her, but there it was.

    The matter of her safety was not one that concerned him, but she would need to learn that even in the larger world, she would never be caged again into her cellar hovel. "You won't ever be on your own again, Aloise. You have two families now, and there is no reason for you to face any trial without people who love you standing at your side. Which is why Seamus and I will be there when you meet the Queen." He hadn't made that revelation to her previously, now that he considered it. But their presence served multiple purposes. Seamus to give her comfort. Grant to give her strength. Both of them to step to her defense if necessary. And to offer the hobelars of Maple Glade in any action the crown would take against Welch Run. Hepburn may be counting his chickens before they hatched, but he was unconcerned.

    Considering the matter in his own mind for a moment, he finally decided to reveal what he had been thinking for the last couple of days to the girl. "Aloise," he said, his tone more serious now that it had been. "I've been speaking with Bosleigh and Seamus. If for whatever reason, Queen Vivienne decides that the status quo should be maintained, the three of us are still going back to Welch Run for your sister and cousin." He was talking about open defiance of the crown, and as much as he hoped that it wouldn't come to that, he already had Seamus drawing up plans for an assault on the keep. It might be political suicide, but the men of House Hepburn took their oaths seriously.


    @Aloise Peregrine
    Last edited by Rick; 03-11-2017 at 03:40 PM.

  18. #18
    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    Although she felt like she'd just been answering his question honestly, Aloise saw Grant's reaction and felt like she'd done something wrong. She shook her head as he defended his brother, trying to convey that it wasn't necessary, but she waited for him to finish speaking before she piped up. "I didn't mean to imply-" Stumbling over her words a bit in her haste to clear the accusation, she found it hard to articulate herself to her satisfaction. "It's not that I thought he would, it was just the look on his face," she finally ended up with, not adding that Bosleigh had made it beyond clear that she wasn't his cup of tea even if the difference in their ages hadn't been utterly inappropriate.

    "Say what again?" She was taken aback by the sudden turn, confused by his request. "He was staring at me like Ethan used to, like it didn't matter if I was dirt he could use me anyway?" It struck her as weird that he wanted her to repeat that bit, and she let the question of why play clearly on her face. Why was that detail important?

    The revelation that Grant and Seamus both would be with her when she met with the Queen was a welcome one, and relief washed over her. She had thought - perhaps more hoped, actually - that Grant would be with her, to make sure she didn't make a mess of things. Knowing that she would also have Seamus with her, too, made her feel better about the whole thing. While it was true that she knew she'd have to do most of this herself, just having the two Hepburn men at her back meant she would be much more confident, which, considering Grant's goals for her, could only be a benefit. "I'm glad to hear that," she said, although Grant would be able to tell that already.

    As Grant's tone changed, Aloise grew a little more tense again, but by now she was quite good at listening well to things she wasn't sure she wanted to hear. When he'd finished speaking, she could hardly believe what he'd said: no matter what, Delphia and Veronica would be saved. It was an enormous weight off her shoulders, but that burden was partially replaced with a complicated guilt; if they had to take it upon themselves to retrieve her family, they would be acting in aggression against another house of the realm. Even if it were possible that they could justify their actions and sway public opinion just as the DeAngelis family had on a smaller scale, they would still be acting contrary to the crown's wishes, and that...well, that threatened the security of the whole Hepburn family, in every way possible.

    Aloise couldn't find words just yet to answer him, but she set her teacup down on the table and stood. She crossed to the couch Grant was on and sat down beside him, facing him, and with a small measure of hesitation she wrapped her arms around his shoulders. It was the first time she'd chosen to get close to him, and she wasn't entirely sure he would appreciate the gesture, but she had been an affectionate child, once. "I could never ask you to risk so much to save the fragmented remains of my family," she said quietly, without pulling away, "but I'm-" She was about to say she was grateful, but she could hear him in her mind from days before, telling her he knew she was grateful and that she needed to be a little more entitled. Never in any way the world could rebuild her could she ever take such a thing for granted, though, and she struggled to express herself.

    Sitting up, she scooted a little back and pulled her hands back to rest in her lap, and although she looked a little unsettled and uncertain she stayed close to him. She was pushing her boundaries more and more, trying to regain herself, and now her recovery was perhaps even more important than it had been. "I will do everything I can to persuade the Queen to help," she promised, and while that had been the goal all along, it now wasn't her family that was going to pay a heavy price if she failed. It was his.

    ----
    @Grant Hepburn

  19. #19
    House Hepburn Grant Hepburn's Avatar  
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    Grant didn't honestly think that he needed to worry about Aloise's ability to deal with Bosleigh. This had not been an exercise in coping with his halfwit brother. Holding his hand up, he shook his head. "First, Lady Peregrine," he told her, "Never apologize for how you feel, or for how someone else makes you feel. It is far more noble to say what you mean, and then treat someone's denial as an apology. Better to say that you are glad for their clarification, than to make it seem as though you had jumped to the wrong conclusion." He knew that such would be difficult for her, given her recent state of mind. "That is not to say that you should never apologize," he told her. "What you do with family or friends, is different than you handle political relationships."

    The comment about Ethan was important in so much that if it was delivered properly it created an intense visual that was sure to play on the emotions of those who heard it. But it needed to be conveyed without the hesitation of her second delivery. "You know how horrible it was for you, Aloise. You lived it every day, and still haven't finished suffering through it. But you have to understand that the people you need to convince can't even begin to fathom what you have had to endure. And they likely won't understand it if you tell it plain. But when you say things like, It didn't matter if I was dirt, he could use me anyway, you send very powerful descriptors. You don't want these people to pity you. You want these people to be outraged for you. Do you understand?"

    Grant made no issue of her thanks, as none was needed. He was the head of one of the high families, and him standing with Aloise would be important. It would likely be enough to sway Vivienne alone. In fact, had he or any of the others put their foot down when House Peregrine fell, it might not have come to this. They had turned a blind eye to the problem then. He would not let the good eye be put out now.

    When the girl moved to his side, Grant allowed her to put her arms around him. Instinctively, one hand came to the center of her back and rubbed it in tiny circles reassuringly. "You should never have had to ask," he whispered softly. He held her close for a little while, glad that she had come to trust him enough to get this close. "Your family is my family now. And mine is yours," he told her as she pulled away, his own eyes threatening to mist up on him.

    When she stated her intentions in dealing with Vivienne Shellten, Grant marked her determination and nodded his head. "I know you will," he told her, before patting her on the knee. "Enough work for now. Go have some fun," he told her with a smile. "I'm sure that Bosleigh or Seamus would be happy for someone to distract them from their chores.


    @Aloise Peregrine

  20. #20
    House Peregrine Aloise Peregrine's Avatar  
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    There were so many things to learn and remember, so many lessons, and so little time to get them all straight and memorized and seeming natural. But if nothing else, Aloise was trying. She took in everything she could, and tried to apply the corrections Grant gave her with the situation that had warranted correcting, almost rewriting them in her mind. If she could remember that she'd done something wrong, but more strongly recalled the right version, she could more easily conjure it up later when it was relevant. And so it was with this lesson, even though this one would be tricky later. Still, she nodded, her silence meaning, broadly, she didn't have any questions.

    "I think so." In order to convince people to help her, she would have to describe her torment, not just tell of it. "I've only...ever really spoken about it to Ser Seamus, and even then only the once." She didn't know if the way she'd told it had been plain or descriptive, but it had certainly been enough to outrage him into action. Even she knew, though, that she couldn't count on the nobles having his sense of honor. "I'll keep that in mind, as I think about what I'm going to say." Little as she wanted to, she knew if she went in without giving any thought at all to what she was going to say, it would be a disaster. Part of feeling confident was being prepared, and she was going to do her best to keep from stumbling and sounding unsure.

    With a timid but genuine smile, Aloise nodded and stood from the couch. She felt good, both from the progress they'd made and from the hug; it might've seemed silly to be moved by such a simple thing, but for one who had gone so long without positive physical contact, gestures like that were all the more powerful. The girl crossed back to her own seat and plonked down for a moment; she'd come back later for her book, but the plate of sweets was something she wasn't willing to leave in its current state. Reaching out, she popped a small cake entirely into her mouth without a care for how unladylike a move it was, and she took up a larger one in one hand as she rose from her seat. "I think I need to bring this back to Bosleigh," she said, taking up the sword from the table by the belt and knowing full well she could probably just leave it for him to retrieve later. But it was important for her to bring it to him herself, to show there were no hard feelings, and in a way it was pushing herself again, to handle a thing that she had some measure of fear of.

    As she made to leave, Aloise paused at the door and turned back to Grant. "Thank you. I'll...see you later." The last was delivered with the awkward phrasing of a child who felt she should say something but wasn't sure what, and it was only made a stranger picture as she dipped a curtsy, cake in one hand and sword in the other. She didn't linger long, though, and soon she was walking down the hall trying to keep from getting crumbs all over herself and everything else. Her first destination was the kitchen; she didn't really know where Bosleigh would have gone after socking his brother in the face, but the kitchen seemed to be a hub of the house more than it was in most noble homes, so it seemed a good first try. And, even if he wasn't there, maybe Thomas would be and she could ask if he'd seen him. Worst case, there might be more cakes.

    -----
    @Grant Hepburn

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