(1866-09-03) Amidst Fire and Storm
Amidst Fire and Storm
Summary: After returning from the tavern, Eduard encounters Lasair. They speak of pleasant things, at least until talk turns to a sensitive subject, at which point all their complications and tension comes to a head.
Date: 1866-09-03
Related: Drinks and Plans and pretty much every Lasair and Eduard log.
Lasair  Eduard  

Guest Suite - Gerrell Manse - Sunsreach
The antechamber of the guest suite in the Gerrell Manse.
Septembre 03, 1866

The sun is still very bright in the sky, if starting to dip slowly towards the west, as Eduard returns to the Gerrell manse. He is walking straight and seems quite normal - unless you count the smell of ale and wine coming out of his pours and staining his breath. Not to mention his over-bright eyes, and the song whistled with much vigor. Not the first time he has whistled a tavern song, to be sure, but any familiar with the popular ones will know this as one of the racier ones.

Eduard's squire follows, torn between looking amused and a touch nervous, quietly urging his lord to perhaps change his tune. After all, even if Ned does not seem concerned with anything in the world at the moment, his squire knows all too well who they might run into now that they are back at the manse.

Well. Lasair had been enjoying some peace and quiet this late afternoon.. or the ever-busy sort of quiet she enjoys, given the opportunity. Within the antechamber that precedes the Lord's assigned suite in the manse, the blonde is seated in a comfortably padded and high-backed armchair, a skein of white fabric draped across her lap and a needle and thimble in hand. Clear and keen eyes would establish that she's mending the snagged hem of a vast table cloth, no doubt in preparation for the upcoming festivities of Eduard's social debut. But are his eyes clear or keen?

Arching a brow, Lasair raises her head at the sound of that jaunty whistle; an expression of amused enquiry seizing her features. Someone's in a good mood. As is she, all told. The room is pleasantly cool thanks to a tall window left ajar, billowing gauzy curtains now and then in idle dance with the sea breeze. She's attired informally, having no further need to venture beyond the homely comforts of the noble house today - a sturdy bodice of off-white, embroidered (likely by her own hand) with wildflowers in dreamy, sombre hues, and light, airy skirts of duck-egg blue, her hair left casually loose. Quite the picture of serenity, about to be faced with merriment personified. That should be interesting…

"Oh, hush lad," Comes Eduard's voice, the whistle finally cut off as the squire's tones take an almost pleading note. "You act as if we are trying to sneak past a troll or something…" It is then that the door opens, and Eduard cuts off as he spots Lasair. Unlike previously, it has absolutely nothing to do with the strained distance that has settled between the pair of late, most especially with the advent of their daily dance lessons (today's mercifully being scheduled for later, thank the One). No, it instead has everything to do with just how damned beautiful she looks. Content. Peaceful. As if she belongs.

There is the briefest moments of silence as Eduard just stands there, half in, half out, hand on the door latch, with mouth partially open from when he stopped speaking. Behind him, his squire at least has the grace to murmur an apology to Lasair, though it is hard to tell if it is for his lord or himself for being present just now.

"Said troll would need to mercifully deaf, dumb and blind for that endeavor to succeed." The soft-spoken tease lightly assures Ned that yes, she heard him coming. But she doesn't seem perturbed, otherwise. Her Lord has every reason to be pleased with the progress being made during this visit.. and it's always a rare enjoyment to see, or in this case hear, him being jovial. The initial tense awkwardness of their daily lessons has eased enough after a few sessions to have the hour spent in companionable focus and, truth be told, Lasair has come to look forward to it every day. It's.. it's fun. A little window of time spent away from the cares and concerns of the world.

Having lowered her gaze once more to her work, the priestess pokes the needle through the fabric and draws the strong thread upward with a practice, unthinking sort of ease that comes only from hours of practice. Idly, she has pondered adorning the linens brought to her by the manse' servants with a flourish of detail. But it's not really her place. Besides, there's much thought and preparation to go into the party without worrying over such minute details. That's just how her mind works - constantly in motion and ever considerate. Gradually, she becomes aware of the drawn-out silence and the weight of a stare upon her. Did her words cause offense?

Raising her lashes, she warily eyes Eduard's open-mouthed features, then relents to a faint, uncertain smile. "..what?" The smile is extended to the squire, absent-mindedly, with a brief glance, though she doesn't yet see quite why he's apologising.

"Hmm?" Eduard is roused from his reverie by Lasair focusing on him again, and he can't help but smile fully in response. Shrugging off his own sense of awkwardness, he simply enjoys the warmth that wine and the sight of her bring. "Ah, nothing. Just lost my thought for a moment. And thankful that there are no trolls in sight." Glancing over his shoulder at his squire, the lord rolls his eyes good-naturedly. "Oh, be off with you then. Take the rest of the day for yourself, but be ready early to help with the preparations for both the party and our travels."

That dealt with, Eduard commits himself wholey to Lasair's company, stepping into the antechamber and closing the door behind him. Eduard is, as usual, clad in unadorned black, including his boots which he now pauses to remove - and in doing so, shows a bit unsteadiness, revealing that while he may not be wholly intoxicated, he is still a bit over his usual limit. "I was out with Aidric," he says, by way of explanation, even as he focuses on steadying himself.

Lasair wrinkles her nose ever so slightly as the lingering perfume of rich wine and ale drifts across to her sharper senses. "..in a brewery?" Spiking her needle through the unfinished hem, she loosely gathers the cloth into half-hearted folds and sets it aside on the arm of her chair in order to rise to a stand. She offers no distinct reaction in regard to the choice of company; her expression carefully schooled to one of neutrality. It's not her business, really, if Eduard chooses to spend time in an alehouse. She only hopes it to be at least one of good repute and not with.. the sort of 'feminine', pox-ridden wares often available in the other sort. Not that she has the footing for opinion on that, either, mind you.

Resolutely pushing such concerns to the back of her mind, the petite young lady arches her brows as she watches the Lord struggling a little with the arduous quest of remaining upright and steady. "Shall I have the servants draw you a bath, m'lord?" The implication, while subtle, is clear enough. It won't do to have the Lord of Blackstone wandering about reeking of drink. Folding her bare arms across her midsection, Lasair relents to a quiet chuckle, shaking her head up at Ned as she approaches him unhurriedly. "You are remembering we have a lesson this evening? Or are you finding them too easy now, hm? Decided to practice your footwork with the more realistic likelihood of being in your cups..?" The tone is only mildly disapproving.. it's hard to maintain any semblance of displeasure when he's smiling like that.

"The Gold Dragon," Eduard says, in his and Aidric's defense, though it is likely not much of one since both he and Lasair know that Ned would be perfectly at home in a less reputable inn too. "And no, I've not forgotten. I shall be bathed and ready on time, I promise." Having removed his footwear, he turns to Lasair, and eyes her expression of amusement. Not the least discomfited, he instead strides to meet her - if a little less quickly then he might sober - and reaches out for her hand. "Shall we practice now?" he asks, his own spark of amusement bright in his eyes, sharing space with the light cloud of drink.

A disbelieving quirk of brow accompanies a quiet 'hmm..' from the young lady. "Promises of a wine-laced tongue, says I." she counters. The cheerful banter between them is so much better than the alternative, and she holds her own quite admirably. Priestess she may be, but she's no shrinking little violet. And men are more inclined to heed the words of one more independent and strong-minded, in her limited experience. More likely is it's just that streak of noble pride that convinces her of this.

"Practice what? Keeping you upright?" Lasair laughs, the low-throated sound rich and velvet and really rather rare, nowadays. Still, she allows the Lord to take her hand and bring her into a waltzing posture, distantly wondering how the denizens of the Gerrell household feel about playing host to such unseemly loons.

Unseemly? Quite possibly. But they are behind closed doors, so Eduard seems to have not a care right now - and it is doing wonders for his demeanor. Taking her hand in his, he dutifully places his hand on her waist, and grins broadly at Lasair. He then stomps on the floor, once, twice, thrice, and does his best impression of Master Gorgio, their dance-master. "Now remember, my lady, you must flow like water and be as swift as the wind. And my lord, you must struggle not to be a troll in the face of such elegance." Winking at Lasair, he sweeps her off her feet with little warning - quite literally, scooping her close to him and spinning them around while continuing his mimic, "One two three, one two three, one two three."

Lasair tries, really she does, to maintain an expression of gentle reproach for his poke at the absent tutor. Poor Gorgio. He should have been a poet, really. But the impersonation is sharp enough that she can't help but grin. Playing along, she struggles to assume an air of mock-solemnity, nodding her understanding of the 'instructor's' demands, clearing her throat and dutifully straightening, setting her shoulders back and meeting Eduard's stormy-hued gaze. The visage is shattered, though, when he brings her abruptly up and against his chest; the motion elicits a sound of protest and amusement both, almost a yelp that's not exactly becoming of a proper lady.

The counting ceases soon enough, replaced with the music of Eduard's laughter to accompany their 'dancing'. The spinning stops when Eduard places a foot wrong and almost stumbles - he is able to recover, but it is enough to remind him that it is all too easy for him to get dizzy right now. Still clutching Lasair too him, steadying himself, his laughter subsides into a chuckle before he pulls back slightly so he can look at her. "Thank you for the dance, my lady." The formal words are couched in very familiar and jovial tones, an apology for his awkward formality at their first dance lesson, as well as a poke of fun at it as well.

"Err.. my pleasure, m'lord.." Pointedly, Lasair swings her feet gently to and fro, slippered toes just barely grazing the rug, given the height disparity between she and the man who holds her. "Though I think perhaps my steps were lacking. You know.. given they were in midair." With one palm yet braced at his broad shoulder, having settled there instinctively with that unexpected swing, the petite blonde doesn't seem overly perturbed by such raucous hilarity. There's time enough in the day for a little laughter, always. "Do you think Master Gorgio would approve..?"

Softening, she regards Eduard in this slightly improper proximity, her own features smoothing as that grin fades to a faint curve. Funny how realization only ever seems to dawn belatedly, with her. It's always the same. Being close and familiar with the tall Lord comes as naturally to her as breathing. It's that self-inflicted mask of dignified indifference that's the falsehood; just another adornment on her Priestess' raiments, though not one that can be removed and set aside so simply as the heavy pendant settled in her decolette.

"I fear his cane would splinter. Probably on my backside," Eduard notes, chortling with mirth at the image his words conjure up. He stares at her for a moment longer, loath to set her down even when it would ordinarily dawn on him that she might begin to be uncomfortable. In his wine-sodden state, however, he is simply enjoying that familiar moment with her, unapologetically.

And yet, set her down he eventually does, and he loosens his hold on her as well, though does not fully remove his arms just yet. "I suppose I shall have to endeavor to be on better behavior when he is present. I think perhaps he is not as forgiving as you of my faults." His own grin may have settled into a light smile, but it is certainly not gone, and neither is that good mood of is. It is stubbornly stuck to him, as surely as that lingering smell.

"Mmm, perhaps not.." concedes the blonde, as she's set down onto solid ground. "..but at least you can count upon his insults being beautifully worded." Now that she needn't rely on Eduard and his rather tenuous hold on balance, she lets her hands drift down over his arms, settling in the crook of each. Following the motion of one with her gaze, Lasair idly plucks an invisible speck of something or other from the Lord's sleeve before looking up to meet his gaze, relaxing in the wake of his self-deprecating words to smile again, shaking her head.

"I know your flaws, Ned, and they are few, if they can indeed be consider such at all. You've no need to mumble gratitude at me." That's a point she's made many times before, but it seems she will always have need to remind him: she helps him because she wishes to.

There's a fleeting increase of pressure from her fingers as she uses them as a point of balance, impulsively rising on tiptoe to place a kiss of peace upon the former Paladin's cheek. "Hmm.." Dropping back to her heels, she eyes him, without any intentional guile and adds, "..I should perhaps call for a barber, to attend you while you bathe." Is she learning those elegant insults from Gorgio, as well as the waltz?

Thankfully Eduard is not too far gone, or he might have done more then simply leaning in towards that peck on his cheek. "You have a very polite way of telling me that I am hairy and I stink," he tells Lasair, though there is utterly no heat in the words, as he reserves all his current warmth for the affectionate smile he gives her. Releasing her, though the reluctance is plain - he lacks for guile even more just now - Eduard takes a step back and runs his hands through his overly disheveled hair. "But yes, I suppose you are right. As usual."

"Just a suggestion." replies the young lady, airily.. though was that a flicker of mischief in those big dark eyes? Well, he does smell of wine.. and though the rakish look of shadow about his jawline is not unappealing, it does tend to get a little out of hand if left unchecked. Drawing away now that she's released from the circle of his arms, Lasair strolls toward the window, smoothing the huffing curtains out of her face and casting a glance out over the city as she pulls the window closed a little. No sense in chilling the hot water she's about to call for. "I intend to visit the market again tomorrow." she informs him, pleasantly conversational. That's the best way, she's learning, to sidestep any potential tension between them. And she's become remarkably adept at keeping a very tangible wall between herself and the Lord, occasional skirmish and banter aside, since that misunderstanding a few days ago. ".. most of what will be needed in the hall is already here in the manse, of course.. but there are a few finishing touches I would like to add. With your permission, of course." Looking back toward those stormy eyes, she folds her hands in her lap and perches on the corner of the windowsill, arching her brows as she awaits his word.

Waving a hand through the air, both cutting through any lingering tension on his own part and also waving aside the notion that she requires his permission, Eduard says, "Lasair, we're in private, so you need not ask. If you want to take the matter in hand, then do it. I trust you more then myself in such thing. Just keep it casual." They both know he means casual by court standards - his own version of casual is the reason he is not arranging everything himself.

Settling into the chair that Lasair abandoned with a sigh, Ned closes his eyes, lest he be draw to stare at Lasair with the desire he feels - his blood is a tad heated with wine, and their earlier proximity did not help matters. "Aidric and I ran into Broderick Tracano at the tavern," he says, without opening his eyes. "And Tiadora too, but that came later. We spoke of the Sorez children." He had mentioned them to her in brief yesterday, when he relayed his meeting with the Vigilant knight to her. "I mentioned to Aidric that I would be willing to take them in as vassals when they are grown, should all parties consent. And that in the meantime, should the girl need a place, she might find it with us. I figured you could use an assistant, and she is more likely to learn how to be a strong woman with you then with some other northern woman." Not that all Normont women are the shrinking violets his cousin Tiadora is, but Lasair is the strongest one he knows. Though he is admittedly biased.

Lasair's lips twitch in a brief smile as he waves off her question, much the way she imagines a dismissive husband might sidestep a nagging wife. "Casual. Of course." She even nods to punctuate her agreement. But the subtle gleam in those brown eyes suggests that even casual can be splendid, if someone is skilled enough to juggle the two. Remaining otherwise quite still, she watches Eduard, her features turning quietly contemplative as she catches him in a moment of vulnerability; his eyes closed and tongue loose. "If you wish to offer them safe harbor, then of course I would accept the girl. Though it ought be made clear her place would be in service to you, to House Farrant. Not to myself or the church, unless that is her desired path." Everyone should have some say in how their life will be laid out before them, after all. An oddly forward thinking stance, from a Gerrell. But then, she always did share Symon's sentiments on the way ahead.

Eduard shrugs his shoulders, the gesture as much to further settle himself into a comfortable position in the chair as much as in response to Lasair's statement. "As you say, though it makes no matter to me who she is in service to so long as she is useful to you and is as safe and happy as can be." The former bastard has shown a perhaps unsurprising protective streak towards the two orphaned children, feeling a kinship with their plight. "Anyways, Aidric and Broderick will be seeing to the details with Lord Carling. It is probably best that I do not interact with my Uncle directly on the matter, lest our first meeting go awry and muddy the waters." Their first meeting since Eduard's birth, anyhow.

Cracking an eye now, he directs it towards Lasair to gauge her reaction as he says, "I have invited Aidric and Broderick to travel with us for the first part of the journey at least. Aidric wishes to head to Falconmount and convince Symon to attend the tourney. I figured the least I could do was offer them hospitality on the way from Bendingbrook Faegate, since the route will carry them through the Black Hills." He pauses, about to await her reaction, before remembering to add, "Oh, and Tiadora has agreed to attend the Tourney with us."

"It might not matter to us.." replies Lasair, gently, "..but if it avoids a bone of contention down the line, then it may still be best to offer such certainty now, to ease the concerns of those involved." She smiles to herself, watching him settle, then turns her gaze back to the view through the window, quite content. "It is kind of you, regardless, to even entertain the idea." There's obvious approval in the Priestess' words.. she's not just saying so in flattery.

The plans don't seem to unduly concern her, either. Aidric has been welcoming and helpful, thus far. And she can overlook any misgivings she may harbor for Eduard's sake. He's clearly beginning to adapt to his role, now that he's amongst his peers. "Indeed.. let them see the hard task you have undertaken first hand and pay heed to their counsel. There are many facets to the governance of Blackstone that may be more apparent to fresh eyes. Besides, I cannot claim to be of much use when it comes to matters of defense and arms." Sweeping aside a stray lock of honey-blonde as the breeze casts it across her cheek, the young lady glances back toward Ned, brightening more genuinely at the prospect of having another female to converse with. "Good! It will be a fine opportunity for her. She deserves to see more of the world." Spoken as if she herself were worldly-wise. Not quite the case… but she's less sheltered than some others of the Gerrell bloodline.

Snorting lightly, Eduard eyes Lasair with fondness as he opens them fully to meet her gaze. "Yes, assuming she does not die of fright in the process." Shaking his head, he almost growls out his next words, betraying a light simmer of anger that threatens to wipe away his earlier joviality. "I dislike speaking ill of the dead, save perhaps of my Uncle Trevor, One preserve his soul, but what the late Duchess did to her children…" He sighs away the rest of what he might say, and tries to regain what remains of his good mood.

"I am hoping that in our company, yours especially, she will find her courage, and perhaps even an opinion of her own. It is clear that until her parents died, she lived to bend to their will, and now she puts Symon on that pedestal." Forcing a smile onto his lips, he adds, "But, I made it clear that she needed to make the choice on her own, for herself, and she decided to come. So that is something, yes?" Something, but is it enough? The question lingers unasked between them for a moment as Eduard then falls silent, waxing thoughtful.

"I think she has courage.. just of a different sort. Having to endure her parents and upbringing.. one would not be capable, if they didn't have strength within them." A pause. "And her piety is an admirable trait, also. Given time, it may gird her against the troubles of the world that she finds, for now, overwhelming." Is that how it went with Lasair? Unlikely.. her own parents did an admirable job of raising her, even within the rather insular environment of Falconhome. She has tact and etiquette in spades but the quick mind and will to balance it. Even if she bites her tongue in public, more often than not, Eduard knows well just how keen he will find the edges of her wit, the time she takes in contemplation of even the smallest matters.. down to the re-hemming of a tablecloth, lest that tiny, insignificant detail somehow conspire to overthrow his valiant efforts.

"Symon will take care of her, and see well to her interests." Lasair plainly has trust in her ducal cousin, judging by the dismissive gesture of the fingertips of one hand, and the serene smile cast toward her tipsy Lord. "In the meantime, I would be happy to be in her company. She is not alone, paddling out into the shallows of these unknown waters, Ned. I'm adrift, too." That smile deepens just a touch, just for him. "..I am simply fortunate to have such a fine captain." Those damned books.. they even influence her metaphors. But that can, perhaps, be overlooked given the affection in her dark eyes making a rare appearance now that they're behind closed doors and not pushed together in an awkward dancing embrace. Silhouetted at the sunlit window, the salty sea air stirring her golden tresses, now and then drifting the gauzy curtain before her features, she seems content.. and oddly ethereal for it, for a fleeting moment. But then she's looking away, lest her gaze linger overlong upon him.

Eduard lets out a second snort, though this time in amusement. So damned adorable when she makes those metaphors. "Some captain," he mutters good naturedly, though he is by no means displeased with the comment. He does however add, "If I am captain, then you are the navigator, for I surely would be lost at sea without you."

"As for Tiadora, you are likely right. And though I doubt not Symon's ability to protect and guide her anymore then I doubt ours to do the same in his absence, I still wish her to stand upright to the world, because I fear she will one day need to. Our duchy is without strong friends just now, and who knows what kind of alliance Symon will have to make in order to secure his position." An alliance using Tiadora as the bargaining chip. Eduard does not begrudge it, it is custom for nobility, but he knows well that the harsh realities will not treat his sheltered cousin well if she goes to it unprepared.

"Oh.. then I shall keep my gaze ever half upon the stars, lest you lose your way in the storms ahead, my captain." The teasing response is testament to Lasair's genial mood, though she doesn't turn from the window for now. That tranquil expression does fade slightly to a more somber mien, though, as Eduard presses the concerns for her Lady cousin and the softest of sighs escapes her, after a moment. "Such things are the prerogative of women, Eduard. You know this. Tia knows it. We must do our duty, as would the most loyal knight, for the love of our house and family. No doubt, sooner rather than later, she will be betrothed. And that decision will be made with the benefits and boons to Falconhome in mind, not bardic sonnets of romance. Such is life, for ladies of noble birth. But I still doubt Symon would see her wed to some.. some.." The little blonde hesitates, seeking words more tactful than the rather crude ones that came first to mind. "..some slovenly, unkind beast. Perhaps whatever match is made will prove to be the making of her. Sometimes all it takes is trust and faith in another, to bolster the spirit."

For a while, she lapses into musing. One might be forgiven for thinking the matter closed. But one ought to know better. "..it may be that I will serve the same purpose, some day. Though my standing is not so prized as Tia's, Symon could.. and more importantly, should.. take advantage of every piece he has on the board, to fortify and unify his duchy." Her fingers twine together, unconsciously wringing a little in disquiet. "I never said such things were easy.." she murmurs, "..only that they must be done. Marry well, conduct yourself with grace, submit to the will of your husband.. and birth as many heirs as your body can bear. That is what is expected of women. Anything else is either a means to an end or a pleasant distraction until our fates are decided for us." Would that her father were still alive. /He/ wouldn't pack his eldest child off to the highest bidder. But with him in the ground, her own future remains something of a question mark. And for a woman like Lasair, that notion is evidently unsettling.

Until now, even the uncertain future of his kindly cousin did not rouse little more then a light stir from the otherwise content and amiably tipsy Eduard. And yet the talk of Lasair's own future draws him back to himself in a rather quick rush. Where before he contemplated the ethereal form of Lasair in appreciation, now he almost glares with fire in his eyes. "So if you received a letter from Symon tomorrow, saying that you must leave me and go off to the other end of the kingdom, or even Couvierre, and marry someone of his choosing, you would do it without complaint, without even trying to convince him of an alternative that could suit both you and him?" He shakes his head, suddenly finding himself far too sober. He looks around, but not finding anything suitable to drink, he simply lurches up from the chair and moves towards the empty fireplace. "I had not realized that you had changed that much." There is a bite to his words, a definite change from his earlier demeanor.

The shift of his mood is palpable, and Lasair glances toward Eduard only to find that furious gaze upon her. She doesn't recoil from it, despite the flicker of surprise and dawning awareness as she's roused from that bitter reverie. Gathering herself, she stares after the Lord as he strides toward the cold hearth.. and then slowly begins to rise from her perch at the corner of the window. "..do you honestly believe that? Or has an overindulgence simply numbed your wits beyond all hope of salvation?" The tone is harsher than he's heard her use before. Ever. And this time? That's absolutely her intent. Indignant ire has the young lady drawing herself up to her full, still woefully inadequate height as that temper gathers in a maelstrom, permeating her entirely. "How dare you, after all we have been through, accuse me of cowardice or.. or.." Clenching her hands to tight fists, she glares across at Ned, inwardly and somewhat unfairly blaming him for her sudden lack of words to hurl in response. "I am no simple fishwife to be led about! I am the daughter of Paul Gerrell and so help me, if you ever speak to me thus again, you will be sorry. Of course I would complain. And of course I would plead my case in another direction."

Reaching the boiling point of her fury, she storms across the room to the chair, snatching up her half-mended tablecloth and flinging it to land at Eduard's feet. "All these months I have shown you nothing but dedication, given you no cause to doubt me.. and for WHAT? For you to look down your nose at me for considering the unhappy plight of women who share my blood? Do forgive me, my Lord, for mistakenly believing you understood even the first THING about me!" With that, and a snarl of disgust, she pivots on a heel and starts for the door.

There is no recoiling from Eduard either, and at first he does not even turn towards her, instead holding his contemplative gaze of the dead hearth while trying to gather his wits. With his back to her, it means she will not see the look of relief crossing his expression as he hears that fury in her voice, and the denial of her words. Even as she continues, where most sane men would wilt under the deluge, Eduard does not. He simply turns towards her, meeting that rage-filled gaze with his own. His anger may not be burning as hot like hers, but there is definitely a storm brewing in them.

He does not speak in response at first, merely weathering the onslaught of her words like a rock against the waves. It is only when she moves to leave that he acts, moving past her on his longer legs and firmly planting himself in front of the door. Crossing his arms in front of himself, he looks at her and says, "No." Just that one word. And yet it echos with authority, the likes he never has had cause to use on anyone in Lasair's hearing, and yet it is strong and bright and sure, like a bolt of lightening launched from his stormcloud eyes.

"Move aside." The instruction is neither calm nor overly vehement, with her scowling gaze leveled at Ned's chest; the abrupt halt leaving her skirts swishing lightly about her legs. After a moment, when he shows no signs of doing as she demands, Lasair grudgingly raises her head, meeting his stormy eyes with ire still burning fiercely in the fathomless depths of her own. "Get out of my way, Eduard." Or what? With her hands still balled into fists, the young lady fights down the sudden surge of awareness, knowing she can't make him do anything but determined to hold onto her outrage all the same, revealing it in the ferocity of her expression. "Now! Or God help me.."

She's not afraid of him. She's not. Willing herself to remain unrelenting, Lasair stands perfectly still. She won't lower herself to trying to fight her way past.. especially because that would be both unseemly and futile. She's used to getting her own way, even without resorting to a full-blown temper like this one. And so, haughtily, she will wait for him to acquiesce.

Few people know this side of Eduard, but it is exactly what Sir Gregory saw that made him know that he was a born Paladin. The compassion of a saint, that others see often. But beneath it is the steel determination that would allow him to fight for peace in a world bent on war. "No," he says again, softer but with no less certainty. "I will not move, not until we have both said our piece. We have danced around this issue for too long, and it will tear us apart if it is not addressed now."

His anger is still very much there, but it is tightly grasped, his voice strained but controlled. "You ask me why I should show surprise and doubt on what your reaction to such a scenario, an order of your marriage, would be. Very well, I will tell you." He holds her gaze, not breaking it once, as he continues. "I expressed my doubt because although I do know you well, through our many letters, and our time together before and now, there are still parts of you that I only glimpsed of. Parts that never belonged to me. I was there the day they broke, and I was the reason they broke. But their deeper meaning? Or what has filled that place? I know not."

There is little doubt that he is speaking of the part of her that belonged to the other Paladin that occupied a place in her heart, the man whose death is on Eduard's soul, and to whom he owes his life. "So yes, to hear you speak of marriage, and how you should be married off to advance Symon's position, I was surprised and angry. Do you truly fault me for that? You, the woman who wished to wed a common born Paladin, now speak of nothing but duty? So yes, I needed to be sure. I needed to be certain, because although I know you to be stronger then anyone I have ever met, I know not if you are willing to be strong in this."

As his quiet tirade continues, the strain in Eduard visibly strengthens, and he is fairly shaking by the time he reaches the crescendo. But he continues on, unabated, unwilling and unable to stop himself from saying, "I needed to know this because I have been planning to ask you to be my wife, and I will not have you do it simply out of duty and suffering. You cared for me once, and though I know I lost your love long ago, I know we have found care and respect despite… despite Kael's death. Despite that it was I, and not the man you loved, that returned. You stayed with me anyways. And I needed to know that it was for more then just duty. Because I can find another wife to merely secure my position. But if it were you, who cared for me and called me friend and shared my mind in all things…" And here he stops, because he never meant to go that far, and now it is too late to take it back.

She knew he was capable of it, that commanding presence. But she hadn't expected to find it turned upon her, and not for these reasons. Refusing to be cowed, Lasair keeps her jaw tilted upward just enough to convey her defiance, regarding the Lord with narrowed eyes through this monologue. The mentions of Kael sting. That much is obvious only because of the flicker of hurt in her dark eyes, the subtle downward twitch of her lips. It prompts her to interrupt, or try to; something her good manners would usually prevent. "Yes, I would have married him. But I didn't. That puts me back on the playing board and I am perfectly aware of it. So, what? I shouldn't think to mull it over, what might become of me? You self-indulgent little hypocrite! That's all you did for weeks after you were given your title!"

When he doggedly continues on, though, the young lady falls to glowering silence, likewise holding his gaze, even though her own has turned somewhat sullen and wrapping her arms in a fold about her curvaceous waist. At one point, she parts her lips with the intent of arguing again. But why bother? He's clearly on a mission, blazing a trail with his words and intent on reaching his conclusion. The expression of his doubts and concerns in regard to her strengths threaten to rile her back to that ferocious outburst of a moment ago, judging by the darkening of her features, the tightening grasp of her fingers upon those bare upper arms. But all is waylaid by Eduard's explanation, at last.

The shock has her eyes widening, expression smoothing as she searches the taller Lord's features. He's joking. He has to be.. no. There's not a trace of humor or jest in that steely countenance. She shakes her head gently, looking all of a sudden utterly bemused. It takes an uncharacteristic long moment to gather her scattered wits enough to speak, which leaves them staring at each other in silence in the interim.

"Ned.." she begins, hesitates, then braces herself and forces the words to come, contrastingly soft now. "..what happened to Kael was not your fault. We both knew the risks, or we would not have been there in the first place. And he could just as easily have given his life to protect someone else. It was a tragedy not of your making." Well, that's one point calmly dealt with. Now what about the rest? Flicking her eyes downward, biting gently on her lower lip, Lasair draws a slow, steadying breath. "And, despite all of those words, you still do yourself no justice. For in the assumption that you ever did, or ever could, lose my love, you cast yourself as either liar or fool." Forcing herself to look up, reluctantly, into his handsome, intense features, she fights against the sudden lassitude in her limbs, having to concentrate on merely staying upright. And without a single drop of wine.

There is not an ounce of give in Eduard, not at first. He may not have originally wanted all those words to come pouring forth, but they did have to be said, and he meant every one of them. Just as he was unyielding to Lasair's interruptions, so too is he strong in the face of his guilt. He knows what he did, and what he cost her. No, it is the last that starts to produce cracks in his armor. The brief flicker of uncertainty is clear in response to her assertion of love. But then his resolve steels again, though this time almost in desperation, lest he allow himself to hope.

"Lasair," he says, his words measured, steady, even as his fists clench tightly against the strain, which is still present in him. "I will always bear the burden of that day. But I can not bear to pain you more with explaining why. So all I can tell you is that while I know I can not nor should not ever replace him, I still want and need you at my side. Part of it is selfish, I will admit it, for I have never stopped loving you, not once. Yet I also meant what I said. I need not just a wife, but a partner. My equal and my opposite. Someone who can make up for where I lack and yet work with me, sights on the same goal."

Taking his own steadying breath, he says the last words, straining against the emotion of all that it means. "I need you."

"And you think I am free of guilt..?" The reply is soft, her dark eyes searching Eduard's. "To have given my word to one man, when the first glimpse, the first moment spent with you again told me, without doubt, where my heart truly lay? Is that not the greater sin than to be victim of forces beyond your control? Placing myself in your service, by your side, knowing it was out of far more than duty or obligation.. I was a fool, too, to think it would not somehow bring about a reckoning. I just.. contented myself to live with the burden of that knowledge. In order to furnish my own selfish desire to remain with you, regardless of whether I believed you would ever return my-…" Trailing off, she looks down and away, one hand rising to impatiently swipe away a glimmer of tearshine from her cheek.

"You will always have my friendship, Ned. And my loyalty. And my heart, though I know I ought not.. no matter what happens, you must know this. You have me." She pauses, swallowing hard and half-turning from the Lord, ashamed of the tears that threaten. "You needn't make such declarations to ensure that. Not when we both know the world will push you toward better choices, regardless of what we may.. desire. Or hope for." She doesn't believe him. Not deep down. It's painfully clear: she thinks a better option will present itself and these fanciful notions of romance will be abandoned. "I need you, too, Eduard." That last, helpless statement is given in almost a whisper. "But I won't be the reason for you failing. If a better prospect is put forward, you know I will make you take it."

To Eduard's ears, there is a sound of armor tearing away as Lasair's words strike him true. Ned stands there, eyes wide, heart pounding, and utterly poleaxed. It is only for a moment, but like the silence brought on by her only a short time ago, this one forces them to just stand there; him staring at her, her turned away.

And then he moves to her, closing the distance. Unarmored, unarmed, he stands before her, and wraps his arms around her. "Lasair… it is you who misjudges now. You see not your worth to me, to my people." Looking down at her, should she look back, he shows her a face without guile, without anything but love for her in his eyes. And yet, behind that love is a man who has thought long about this. He is no love-struck youth, not now. He knows what he wants, he knows who he wants, and he knows that it is right to fight for it, because it is good for not just him but for his people and his position. "You have my love, as you have theirs, and Symon's. Do you not see? If we join, not only do we gain each other. We also gain further ties to Symon. We gain your connection to the Howletts, who would otherwise seek to take my land given the opportunity. We further strengthen the ties to the Church, which are needed both to support Symon's position and to strengthen mine with the Havers, who distrust the Farrants but love the One and his servants."

He leans down, his hand cupping Lasair's chin and tilting her face even as he brings his to within inches of it. "There are many practical reasons for this, and should you put that beautiful mind and unquestionable will to the task, I am certain you will find more that I have not dreamed of. Together, we will convince whoever we need to: Symon, the Church, even the Holy Father himself if need be. But practical reasons aside…" Ah, he can not stop himself, not this time. "…I love you."

And he closes the last of that distance.

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