(121-02-27) Protection
Summary: Silence speaks louder than words, but the secrets unexpectedly shared between Lady Hellan and Maera's quiet sellsword are just as powerful.
Date: 27/02/2014
Related: No Disturbances

As the evening wears on, at least one of the familial guests of Lady Mormont's manse returns home. However, the presence of the Lady Stark — absent for some hours in the day, though it is nigh on difficult to tell, given that she spends much of her time secured away in her room — is not clear who is lurking around. Hooded in shadow, she's nothing but a few footsteps near the entrance from the stables, despite not being preceded by the sound of hooves; a rattle of the door, opening and closing like a haunted thing no one passes through.

There's somebody in there, next to the big white mare that lives there, in her stall. Someone tall.

The figure trying — and failing, it seems — to get into the manse takes a few moments to realize she's not alone. Horses notwithstanding. Perhaps she's not even sure when, with a quick spin, she turns to stare into the stable's corners, her eyes flashing like the whites of a mare's. Hellan is pallid in the dimness, shining like a ghost, her skin looking sickly from the coating of warm, dewy rain, strands of dark hair travelling across her forehead in veins. Her hand presses behind her to the door inside, the other holding tight to a small, folded paper bag from a shop. The lady seems out of sorts, jammed between fight or flight.

"It's all right," says the someone. "I am Eonn. Lady Maera's sellsword. I'm meant to be in here." He's standing right next to the big mare's head, and he moves to the stall rail, more or less showing himself. It's just dim.
Maera has connected.

Hellan narrows her eyes on the shape that proves to be a tall man. She straightens, coming into her posture, shoulders square and head held high beneath a light hood trimmed in fur — but there's a tremor to her hand that's not from fear, a crackling tension to her form, putting too much effort into the act of standing straight. "Do you make a habit of hiding in the shadows, Eonn?" she counters, crisp. Her bravado is not false — it's just too strong.

"Actually," says the man, "Yes. But at the moment, not exactly. I just don't light lamps in here with all the straw, and I am in here a good deal. Come, you wish to sit inside." It's not really a question.

"Perhaps I also want to stand in the stable, in the dark," Hellan replies, her voice bold and barbed. She's stalling. Taking a heel's worth of a step behind her lets her lean rather heavily against the door while keeping her tenuously straight-backed poise. Her fingers crinkle into the bag, her grip is so firm, yet her other hand is prone to a tremor. Each breath measured, she just eyes the sellsword.

"If you like," says the man. "You may take my bed, if you prefer it." He points to the area where the fresh clean straw is kept piled. Indeed, there is a dent in it.

"I have no need for your bed." Nevermind that she truly does eye the quaint pile of straw for a brief moment. Her jaw clenches, a hopping shadow in the dark. Hellan turns decisively to, indeed, enter the manse proper, but the woman's will is stronger than her body currently seems, and the mere effort of opening the sturdy door unsteadies her feet.

Eonn steps out of the stall and moves around to open the door for her, quick. He's tall and he looks like he moves slowly, but somehow he's there.

Hellan grabs the inner edge of the door as Eonn opens it, keeping her upright. The man's quickness surprises her more than his courtesy; the first earns him a stare, the second a taut straightening of her mouth. Up close, she is strong and sharp of feature, bearing some family resemblance to the She-Bear, though numerous years her senior. Icy grey eyes take in Eonn with concise calculation and a hint of softer hesitation that abruptly fades off as her gaze goes distant, dizzied. She can't or won't find it in her to say thank-you, it would seem, as she simply barrels unwisely ahead.

Eonn bows a little, not low, and follows her in in a couple of long strides. One of the cats that was out in the stable slips in with him, but he manages not to trip over the thing.

So does Hellan, if only because she marches ahead so. Her course is determinedly set, but she makes it only as far as the very nearest chair before collapsing into it. She can't even pretend she meant to sit there so fast, fallen at an angle against the arm of the chair, the skirt of her dull green gown askew. Breathing too heavily to be healthy, she looks at Eonn — and the cat — not entirely certain what to do with either of them.

Eonn shuts the door behind himself, and says, "Wine, my lady?" He appears to be ignoring the fact that she's collapsed. No need to pay it any mind, since she collapsed into a chair. He doesn't look like a good wine-steward. Too shabby. Possibly intimidating.

Wine is wine. "Th," she swallows determinedly, bringing about a hop-skip-and-easing of breath. "That would be lovely," she replies, as normal as she can manage; as if there were nothing, in fact, abnormal about her or the unlikely wine-steward.

The man nods, and turns away to fetch just that, leaving her, for the moment, alone with the cat.

Hellan grips the arm of the chair tightly until, with a wince of pain — shown freely to the cat — she sits up properly. She also seizes the moment to slip shaky fingers into the bag on her lap, retrieving a small, dark glass bottle that she fights to uncork. She sneaks just a tiny, fleeting, but so very important sip of the murky liquid before stuffing it back in the bag. "What are you looking at. Get off with you," she murmurs to the lingering feline.

The cat continues to stare at her. Eonn, though, takes rather a long time in the kitchens, leaving her to bask in the creature's yellow gaze.

Already, the tremor in her hand starts to ease; not stop, but slow. Her fingers bump and graze her forehead lightly as she pushes her hood back off her head and stray strands of hair with it, near-black smoothing over the hints of silver. The rain on her skin dries, but a glisten remains; sweat, adding to her unwell pallor. Her eyes hovering half-mast, Hellan engages in a vaguely indignant staring contest with the cat.

Eonn comes back, eventually. A few minutes have passed. Surely longer than was needed. But he's got a wineskin, and two goblet, and he moves to pour for her, silent and solemn.

Hellan watches Eonn go about the business with more respect than previously. The break did her well, as does his solemn silence — and the promise of wine. Her gratitude for his manner lies within her own solemn silence, and is easy to miss.

Eonn doesn't seem to mind. He just pours for her, and sets the goblet on the end table near her hand, rather than directly offering it to her. That done, he takes the skin and the other goblet to go sit on the hearth, where he pours for himself before corking the wineskin. The cat stops staring at Hellan and trots over to jump up and crawl into his lap. He ignores it.

Hellan's "Thank you," is more than perfunctory, less than warm. She spreads her hand out on the arm of the chair as if she could iron out her body's tremors by such a gesture; in lieu of that, she takes the goblet anyway. This is a hand very accustomed to clinging to goblets and pretending it does not shake. She drinks long and hearty and substances combine to find some measure of peace in her bloodstream. "If you live in the stable," she pipes up, as if they were mid-conversation, "I imagine you're well-aware of the comings and goings here and know who I am, but I apologize for the lack of a proper introduction. Lady Hellan Stark; I'm your Lady's aunt."

"I have been, mmm, absent," says Eonn. "I sometimes sleep in the stables, sometimes in the little room here." He gestures to the door near the fireplace. It might well have been a sewing room once, that little chamber, but there's a narrow bed in there now, which she may or may not have looked in on. "My honour to meet you, Lady Hellan."

"…hmm…" Hellan replies, a distant, breathy, almost dreamy murmur … her voice gone one second, present the next: "How long have you been in the employ of Lady Maera?" More than simple small-talk with the sellsword, there's something purposeful to her question, perhaps even protective.

"Four months or thereabouts," replies the man. He has a swallow of wine. "I do not know if that is long, by your standards."

"I find it is often not how long, but how much transgressed within a time that matters." Hellan's second drink is nearly thirsty enough to down the rest of her wine. Pressing a hand to her midsection, she watches herself twirl the goblet as she says off-handedly, "On my way South, I heard a rumour that sellswords might carry a plague."

Eonn stands, picking up the wineskin. "It's almost certain that some of them do," he says. "Or, all of them depending on what sort of plague it is." There's something sly about the way he says that last bit. He moves to refill her goblet.

She picks up on that slyness and watches Eonn with a look in her eye that could turn into amusement but doesn't quite. She manages to hold the goblet still, although she nearly moves it to herself before he's finished filling it. "As long you're not contagious from there," wine-pouring distance, "I don't care what you're carrying around." She's more likely to be accused of carrying a plague, the way she struggled.

Eonn chuckles. "So far, nobody's gotten sick from me. Unless it's the plague of having a sellsword around. They are not known for being respectable. Or so I have heard." He shrugs a bit. "I must agree. Based on experience."

Hellan takes a drink from the freshened goblet and starts to smile, a breath of not-quite-laughter in her throat. The line between true entertainment and the lull of wine and drugs is fine. "Are you truly loyal to Lady Maera?" she asks point-blank; there's an unspoken, perhaps unfounded, threat behind her words. He better be. Unmatched to the darker study in her gaze, the sharp corners of her lips remain ever-so-slightly upturned even so, as if she forgot them there.

Eonn corks the wineskin and says, simply, "I love her." It's simply stated, flat. He almost certainly means it.

Hellan goes still; she hardly seemed to be moving at all before. Expression vanishes from her face. She stares long and deep at the sellsword, her grey eyes inscrutable. For a long moment, she doesn't even drink.

Finally, she gives a slow, understanding nod. "Very well."

Eonn stops what he's doing to look back at her while she stares at him. His chilly blue eyes are quite pretty. They are also sad.

Hellan is quiet for another long moment, regarding him not as Eonn the sellsword but Eonn the man. She asks simply, solemnly, "Does she know?"

"Yes," says Eonn. "Though probably I ought not to mention it to you." He offers a faintly apologetic smile. It's brief, and rather humourless.

"I won't tell a soul," she replies, her warmest words yet, and the woman gives another of her almost smiles. "I have no reason to speak of such things anyhow. I will tell no one of this, and you will tell no one of how I…" Her brief pause to summon proper words is nearly statuesque. "Happened through the stable."

"I would not tell of that, regardless," says Eonn. "You need make no promises to me to ensure my silence. Now, or any other time you might choose to take a moment in there. I am." He smiles a bit. "Very often silent."

To accept would be to acknowledge her own illness aloud, and so she does not. Again, her gratitude is in Eonn's language: silence.

"I believe you," she does say, "although you are a disreputable and heavily plagued sellsword." Is that humour in her eyes, the little tip of her chin? If it was, it's gone now, hidden by the dip of her head toward another long sip of wine.

Eonn smiles at that, and nods. "Just so," he says. "Are you comfortable, here? If I pretend to dislike you in front of her, I expect the cook might be eager to serve you a little better."

"I am … as comfortable as can be, under the circumstances," she replies and, after a sip, clarifies, one of her dark brows jutting up into a point, " — away from home." If Hellan is fully comfortable anywhere, it would be a miracle. "But how could I say no to such an offer?"

Eonn laughs at that, softly. "Ah, well, since you are not immediately uncomfortable, I'll save it for a less contrived moment," he says. "The morning. If that suits you, my lady."

"To breakfast, then," Hellan says with a slight raise of her goblet in a show of good spirits. Whether or not she is conscious by morning is another matter entirely. "For which I will now await, and retire." Polishing off her wine, she sets the goblet down and rises with a tight grip on the arm of the chair. She certainly holds her wine well, as it's seemed to boulster her rather than cause her to waver, though the lady does move slow, making for the stairs. "Good eve, Eonn."

Eonn nods gravely. "Thank you, Lady Hellan," he says. He starts back to the cold hearth, then pauses, "Might I offer you my arm?"

Hellan, too, pauses. She looks sidelong, her eye not quite catching Eonn. Her jaw clenches in conflict, sending a rivulet of tension all the way down her neck that eases a second later. "…No," she says, having considered. She looks away. Her voice lowers, certain, yet more vulnerable than the whole of the woman, allowing, "Perhaps when you ask me again … the next time." She nods, more to herself, squares her shoulders, and continues alone up the stairs, step by determined step.

Eonn nods. "Of course," he says. He turns and sits on the hearth, where he drinks wine and does not watch her. He produces little bone needles and thin, but coarse, black yarn from somewhere inside his studded leather jerkin, and begins to knit.

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