1867-06-19: Stag Party
Stag Party
Summary: In the few weeks leading up to their wedding, Jonathan t'Maren attempts to figure Alexandra t'Artan out. His first mistake was bringing along his hand cannons.
Date: 6.19.1867
Related: None.
Players:
Alexandra  Jonathan  

It says something about Jonathan t'Maren and Alexandra t'Artan that they've at once come very far and not far at all.

They've spent quite some time traveling together, after all, and quite some time alone together at that. No doubt the rumormongers will have a field day, but it's not as though the heir to Bloodfield has ever paid them much mind. In truth, however, their journey together has been rather less scandalous than one might have hoped. They've ridden together, they've hunted together, they've spoken a great many words - and traded a great many jabs, one assumes - without actually communicating all that much.

And now they're in Bloodfield itself - where all that is about to change.

The t'Marens are here, of course, and if the t'Artan delegation hasn't arrived yet, they're expected at any moment. The wedding is mere days away, after all. And so, as they reach the crest of a hill, sitting astride their horses, Jonathan looks out over the lands he was born to rule - and then back to the woman who has been chosen to rule them with him. He pushes himself to give her a little half-smile.

"Still early," he says, softly. "We can afford to take the long route, at least."

It doesn't really say all that much, though, if we're honest.

Alexandra t'Artan is an efficient woman who needs to get to the point, always. He's been pussyfooting around this whole marriage thing since the announcement was formally made, and it's annoying the crap out of her. She agreed to ride with him this morning because it was that, or stay back at the castle and tell the delegation where they needed to and what else needed to be done, because servants were pretty much useless.

"Can we, though?" She turns her head, auburn braid snapping over her opposite shoulder. She looks frustrated, and the horse beneath her nickers in its awareness of her angst. "We always seem to have this glut of time and no idea how to spend it. What about saving? Always been taught that was frugality at its finest." She looked away.

"If you'd prefer otherwise…" If Jonathan t'Maren is off-put by her response, he does a fine job of hiding his displeasure. And if she'd prefer to take the shortest route, he's willing to show her the way, nudging his horse toward the road that leads directly to the castle.

But… "Time isn't like coin, you know. It's always spent, one way or another. How does one 'save' time?" Careful there, Jon. Start waxing philosophical and she might just ride off. Shaking his head - to clear it, not to express disagreement - he looks back at her for a moment, watching that auburn braid flip through the air. "I do pay attention, you know," he says, and as though to underscore the truth of those words, he fixes his eyes on the road. For the moment, anyway. "You prefer to use your time efficiently. I can respect that."

He allows himself a little smile as he glances back to her. "I shall /have/ to respec that, I suppose." Rolling his shoulders once, he continues, "So, let us get to the heart of the matter. We are to be wed. Our fathers' choice, not ours, and yet we are not without choice in the matter."

She always prefers otherwise. If she hadn't suggested it, it wasn't what she wanted. But, she's a polished woman of high rank and tact was something she generally prided herself on. Alex just looked at him as he began to urge his horse onward, waiting for him to express some sort of broodiness in his typical, sort-of-entitled way.

What did she expect from another noble? She isn't any better. It's just a matter of fact.

"I could spend it faster if I spur him into a trot," she warns, eyeing him sidelong as she comes up beside him again. "Your point isn't lost on me, but I would prefer not to be mocked for my preferences, regardless of whether or not you choose to respect them."

The closer they get to the wedding date, the more edgy Alexandra becomes. It's frustrating, but it's what cornered animals do. They are the most dangerous, after all.

"That you could." Jon's shoulders roll in another shrug. There's perhaps a hint of frustration creeping into his voice, but he chokes it down. "My intention isn't to mock you, even if it seems otherwise."

They're just talking, aren't they? On a certain level, Jonathan can understand why she's so on edge. It's not as though he isn't feeling some of the same things. But why must this woman be so damnably difficult about it?

So he'll handle her the only way he knows how: by pressing forward.

At least it means he'll get right to the point. She'll appreciate that, right? "My mother and father's marriage is far from a happy one," he begins. Perhaps that's not the wisest of things to say, politically, but everyone in Bloodfield already knows that much about the Baron and his wife. And she's about to be part of the family, isn't she? Better that she know. "He - my father - has made his choices. I intend to make mine, now." An eyebrow quirks upward as his eyes flicker over to rest on hers. There's still frustration in them, but it's mixed with something else. Is the heir to Bloodfield almost hopeful? It's tough to search out - his expression is fairly dour - but there's a little sparkle in his eyes too, if she cares to look.

Slowly, through her nose, Alexandra exhales a warm, drawn-out breath. There's something dramatic and irksome about the knight opposite her that rubs her the wrong way. Did no one bother to knock him down the pegs he needed knocking down? Much of his history is unknown to her, minus his tourney renown, and this isn't really helping to paint a better picture of him. How will he be different from any other random knight she could have been betrothed to? His lands are lovely, true. And it's a nice part of the country. But everything is tainted by his mother's rigidity and his father's blustering, or so she's seen in the few days she's been here, and given the theatrics she's getting from him now, this isn't boding any better for their future together.

Snapping her eyes over to him, she sighs. "What exactly did you have in mind, sir? What were you taught marriage was? What new hopes do you have that you think your parents did not?" Clearly he was eager to have the conversation, maybe almost as she was to avoid it. These things were all glossable subjects that didn't need to be discussed. This was a business contract and, while she didn't see any point in not being friendly - sabotage, really - she didn't see the need to rush into being best friends.

She kicked her heels in and her horse sped up.

Jonathan t'Maren has been knocked down plenty of pegs in his life. The irksome thing, probably, is his tendency to respond to being knocked down by hitting back. Harder.

"That it was a contract," he replies, meeting her eyes. That sparkle is there in his own eyes again, muted though it may be. "That is as much as my father taught me, in words. And in deeds?" There's another shrug. "That it was a contract, some of the terms of which are more important than others. The bond between houses matters - you won't find a dearer friend to the t'Synclarres than my father. But the promise of fidelity, of devotion to one's spouse?" Jon just shakes his head. "Doesn't matter."

He lets those words hang in the air for a few moments, insofar as they can when they're punctuated by the sound of hooves striking the ground below. Hooves that are starting to quicken, as it happens, with Alexandra spurring her horse forward - and Jonathan matching her, easily guiding his own mount to pick up speed. "The strange thing," he says, and his voice becomes a little shakier, as though he doesn't /quite/ believe every word he's saying. "I was squired to my father, you know. He taught me that a knight keeps his word, that he - or she - fulfills promises once given. That if your word is not your bond, you have no honor, no integrity, no value." The smile curling Jon's lips is different, now - it's more of a smirk than anything as his eyes drift over to the castle. "Knights keep their promises."

A pause. Eyes sweep over toward Alexandra, and even though his voice shakes a little, the intensity in his gaze is there. It's a quiet thing, but not at all subtle - his eyes veritably bore into hers. "We will make promises to one another in a few days, Alexandra t'Artan. I will choose to fulfill them. All of them."

Is he really mansplaining this to her right now?

Her father had taught her similar things, of course. It was expected. She'd pictured this would be what her betrothal would be like, thought she had had hopes when he seemed to be less brutish and smarter than her mental image.

He wasn't doing himself a whole lot of favors right now.

"Socially accepted infidelity is suddenly on the chopping block for you, sir?" Her tone has turned from cagey to sarcastic, and the look she gives him next comes with its own raised eyebrow. There's a cocktail of emotions in there, not least among them a certain measure of 'sucks for you.' "You think our little lordlings will be raised with the same opportunities?" It seems rhetorical, and she looks ahead to the path while she waits for him to answer. Let's change the subject a little because good lord, he's droning.

"Mmm." It's not that her sarcasm is lost on Jonathan - it's that he stubbornly refuses to acknowledge it. Perhaps she doesn't like who he is, at least not at this moment, but even she can't deny that he's sticking to his guns.

Guns. Hold that thought.

He's not entirely unfamiliar with the concept of a rhetorical question, though. And he's evidently not completely immune to social cues, either, because he's about to completely and unequivocally change the subject. Slowing his horse for a moment, he reaches into one of his saddlebags - he has quite a lot at the moment - and draws out a thing. A long, metal thing, inlaid with lightsilver and gold. It's a long cannon. Must have just barely fit in there - has he been lugging it around this whole time?

She'll know where he got it, of course - the Venderos tourney. He evidently sees no need to call attention to that fact. Instead, he pulls up his horse alongside hers, extending the weapon pommel-first toward her.

"Now that we're in Bloodfield, I ought to learn to shoot," he muses. She'll know, of course, that that was one of /four/ cannons he won at Venderos - the one long one, and the three shorter. "I hear Sir Gabriel wants his knights to be a bit more… versatile, after all. And I thought you might like the opportunity to do so as well." There's a long pause, and then he adds, "Then, if I bore you with my droning, you'll have a simple way to put it to an end."

Did… did Jonathan t'Maren just make a joke?

It's probably a joke, and Alexandra laughs at it more probably because it's stupid and lame than anything else. But pretending she's cooler than him isn't going to salvage their marriage, or even this ride she doesn't know why she agreed to go on, so she snorts and takes the hand cannon with an ease that indicates familiarity. "I've held such a thing before. This isn't new." And it would be like her to understate, too, which appears to be what this is given the cool-as-a-cucumber demeanor she's adopted in the wake of this new challenge.

"They make a fair bit of noise, though, and if the horse isn't used to it that won't end well for you." Green eyes look down at Jonathan's mount in appraisal, and she takes the animal in in all his glory. "Don't want that to step on you." So, she swings a leg over her saddle and slides off, keeping the reins in hand to keep walking toward the castle. If he's stubborn, she's moreso.

Hey, he made her laugh. That's something. All it took was handing a woman who doesn't particularly like him the means to potentially blow his head off. If nothing else, one cannot claim Jonathan t'Maren isn't the sort to take a risk.

"You're right, of course. But men can adapt, and so can horses." It takes only a moment before he dismounts alongside her, taking his own mount's reins in hand. At the thought of being stepped on by said warhorse, he just presses his lips together in a smile that's not at all mirthful. "I've had worse happen than that."

There's a few moments of silence as he falls into step beside her. The heir to Bloodfield, for one, appreciates the quiet. And then…

"You know, Sir Alexandra," he says, his tone as calm and even as it's been all day. "There are many knights of great skill here in Bloodfield. And yet, I don't think /any/ have tested me the way you have, at the tourneys."

His eyes land on hers for a moment, and an eyebrow quirks upward. "I should like to spar with you once or twice, I think. As long as you find yourself up to the challenge." No, he's not particularly humble. But there's real respect in his eyes, even interspersed as it is with the closest Jonathan comes to teasing.

"Horses adapt better than men can," Alex asserts, walking upright toward some spot off the path where it'll make sense to tie hers up. His boasting of worse things is summarily ignored, for now, and the only thing that breaks the silence is the thud of hooves and boots on earth.

Until.

He opened his mouth again. Alexandra doesn't bother looking at him this time. She ties her horse to a low branch when she reaches it, keeping the gun in hand and waiting for her betrothed to follow her away from their rest spot. When he ultimately does, she kicks a clod of dirt with her boot and sighs, whirling around to face him. "Jonathan t'Maren, flattery does not suit you." Beat. She shifts her weight from one foot to the other. "You will not build me up to challenge you in doing so, either." Another beat. She watches his face. "You saw me land on my ass as many times if not more than others in Venderos. You know luck has much to do with it." Here she takes in a deep breath and exhales. "And if you're as hopeful as you claim of making different your marriage from your father's, perhaps you should actually pay attention to who I am instead of talking down to me like I'm some other lady in your court with half a brain and no idea how to work this fucking thing."

With that, Alex takes the gun, stands upright, braces against the kickback such a weapon will provide, and shoots a well-aimed hole in the nearest tree.

Jon's horse whinnies in the background.

He got comfortable. That was his mistake. He can't ever be comfortable with this woman, can he?

For a few long moments, Jonathan was, for once, pleased with how the conversation was going. He made her laugh, even if it it was a somewhat derisive laugh. She accepted his gift. And she hasn't given it back, so at least there's that. Although she did use it to put a rather impressive hole in that tree…

Well, at least said hole isn't in his head. That would be worse. Probably.

"Hmph," he replies, bluntly, after his ears stop ringing - and his horse calms down, for that matter. "I do not flatter, Alexandra t'Artan. I say what I mean." His brow furrows, and his tone drops a little - his words are quiet, but the tension in his voice is almost palpable. "And I pay more attention than you give me credit, I think."

Beat. Jonathan is nothing if not a blunt instrument. If she thinks he's not paying attention, all he can do is try to argue otherwise. "You're a fighter, by inclination as well as training. You value efficiency. You are supremely self-confident. You understand the value of tact, but you'd just as soon lay it aside when you have the chance, because that's not who you are. You say what you want." Beat. "And if you weren't so damned difficult…"

His voice trails off. For a moment, it looks like Jonathan isn't even there. Physically, of course, he still is, but his eyes go unfocused, as though he's not looking at anything at all.

Sigh. He looks down for a moment, and then his eyes wander back up to meet hers. It seems he's not inclined to open his mouth again, not yet. She might appreciate the quiet.

It's not that he can't be comfortable. It's that the ruts in which he finds himself most comfortable are offensive to the woman beside him. Nostrils flaring, she regards him. He doesn't flatter? Then all the more reason for him to pay attention. He knows what he's seen, not what he needs to know, and she's spent the better half of the time they've been in one another's company trying to convey that.

Clearly, when he's called her 'difficult', to no avail.

She chooses to let it slide, the anger within her growling and pacing within its cage as she smooths her hair back with the free hand. The hand cannon is replaced in his hands from hers, thrust at his chest until it makes contact with his pectorals.

"I recommend, Sir Jonathan, that you begin asking me more things rather than just making declarations. You might learn a thing or two."

Like maybe how she learned how to work that thing in the first place, or what her favorite color is.

Thump.

Having a hand cannon thrust at his chest is, to say the least, jarring with Jonathan. If he was angry before, he's fuming now. His whole face seems to darken, the furrows in his brow deepen, his hands tighten around the barrel of the weapon until the knuckles turn white. For a moment or three, he just glares at her, and then…

Beat. His eyelids close, slowly, as though he's dragging them through molasses.

Beat. A deep breath, through his nose, his chest rising and falling, his hands gradually unclenching until it nearly looks as though he'll drop the weapon.

Beat. His eyes open again, but he's staring straight ahead, like he doesn't see Alexandra at all, even though she's right there. Even though his eyes are pointing right at her.

And then he snaps out of it, so to speak. Sighs. Shakes his head. "I… forgive me." The long cannon is left to hang loose in his off-hand. That little fugue moment might require more explanation, but he's not offering it now.

Right. Asking questions. That's a good idea, isn't it? Why didn't Jon think of… don't even finish that question. He knows nothing. At least he can acknowledge that he knows nothing. "Where did you learn how to shoot?" he begins, tentatively. "Hobby of yours?" He'd assumed she had the same interests he does - after all, they're both knights. And we do know what happens when one assumes…

The topic of her favorite color, for the moment, goes unaddressed.

Oh, if he'd been happy before at getting her to laugh, however forced, he should clap himself on the back now. Alexandra stood opposite him smiling openly in victory.

His buttons had been discovered, duly noted, and summarily pushed.

"You're forgiven," she offers, looking him up and down with a newfound sense of assurance. Her confidence was boosted, and so was her ego. She could do this. She could win. "Though 'learn' is a strong word for it. We'd a traveling band pass through and stop by when I was younger, had just started my training for knighthood. I was especially eager to prove my worth." Combing a hand up through her flyaways, she tucked some loose auburn tresses behind an ear. "One of the party showed my father, and I watched. Intently." So what she's saying is that this is utter luck. "Honestly I'm impressed I didn't kill a horse. I hadn't fired one of those before, but I remembered my father's stance and the advice of the traveler, and likened it to a crossbow."

It's like one of the walls between the Edge and the damned Etharian Empire had come down.

Sure, she's smiling in victory, but that doesn't mean Jonathan has been defeated. Far from it. It's a victory they can share… for the moment, anyway. His head bobs up and down as he listens to her story, and he cracks a pretty substantial smile when she gets to the end. "I suppose it's not /that/ unlike a crossbow. But I believe hand cannons kick a little more." And are more prone to, well, literally blowing up in one's face. "Clearly you have a knack for shooting. I'm sure the trainer from Venderos will enjoy working with you - if you'd like to borrow his services, of course."

But there's something else from her story that catches Jonathan's attention, something that gets a quirked eyebrow. "Were you always as eager to prove yourself as I was?"

Walls?

Meh, maybe. She doesn't look that impressed when he lights up. He might not see it in himself, but she sees the optimist there, and it makes her sigh. His compliments are accepted with a nod, and then his question is met with a shake of her head.

"Not once he allowed me the space to train, as I should have been all along." There's a long string of unsaid words that follow, but there's time for that on another day.

"Mmm." Well, at least she was smiling at one point. Baby steps. "That is the way it goes. We are so driven to impress our fathers to a point, and eventually, things change." There's more to be said on his end, too. But it goes unsaid for the moment.

Still, he flips the long cannon over in his left hand - surprisingly adroitly - and offers it back to her. There's a little nod, but no words. His eyes just meet hers, and it's clear what they have to say. Take it.

A few moments later, he speaks again, slowly, as though he's choosing his words very carefully - perhaps in an effort to make his speech more efficient, at least in number of words if not in length of time. "We have duties. In a few days, when we marry, certain ones commence." There's a long pause. "Still. Behind closed doors, what we do is our business."

It's obvious, by now, what he's talking about. Jonathan shakes his head. "You are an efficient woman, and I imagine you may prefer to be expedient in that regard. But I…"

Another pause, but this one's shorter, as though he's pushing himself to speak quickly. His dark eyes meet hers, and there's /weight/ in his expression. A deep earnestness, and not an especially happy one, though it wouldn't be fair to say he's sorrowful, either. "If you wish to wait until you are more comfortable. Then I will wait, without complaint. Not because I think you weak, or unable to do what must be done. I know you are not. But…" Slowly, his lips curl up into a little smile, though again, it's not an especially happy one. "That choice is yours."

No, she isn't mad.

She regards him across the pommel of the proffered weapon before taking it, scoffing briefly.

"Jonathan t'Maren. If I don't want you to touch me, you won't. I do appreciate the acknowledgment of that fact, though, and your good natured acceptance." Turning, she shoots another hole beside the original one before handing the hand cannon back to him again and making for her horse.

Welp.

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